Twilight of Spira

Hello. My name is Mengde, and I recently stumbled across FF Compendium, which in turn led me here. A couple years ago, I wrote a sequel to Final Fantasy X that I called Twilight of Spira. It clocked in at approximately 72,000 words, about 141 pages. The friends who read it asked for a sequel, so I went ahead and wrote one, called Dawn of New Light. Dawn of New Light was slightly shorter, about 62,000 words (115 pages). I hope to submit these to the FF Compendium fan fiction area, but I would also like to post them here, as some of you may not visit FF Compendium or may not want to search through the large database.

The format in which Twilight and Dawn are constructed makes it difficult for forum posting in two ways: one, they were written in Microsoft Word, so all formatting is lost when it is transferred to a php interface. This is no real problem, as I can just add in the formatting again. The main problem is that I do not use chapters in my work. The entire composition is one long story with nothing other than scene changes interrupting the flow. This way, I find that the reader has an easier time just becoming engrossed in the story. Since there are no chapters, I will post about 7 pages at a time - a little more or less, depending upon where a scene change is. I will start with Twilight and if enough interest is expressed I will move on to Dawn.

One more thing to note, I wrote Twilight while FFX-2 was being developed and took nothing of FFX-2’s story into account. Dawn was written after FFX-2 was released, but it follows Twilight in its omission of any FFX-2 related material.

Now, I apologize for the long paragraph read. Without further ado…

Final Fantasy X
Twilight of Spira
Written by Mengde

The sky was a golden hue, the clouds whipping past faster than the eye could see. The metal deck of the airship vibrated beneath her feet, an occasional bit of turbulence provoking a rattle from the iron.

The Aeons, freed from their stone prisons, rose and took flight to the Farplane. The swift Valefor, the powerful Bahamut, the chilling Anima, all of them slowly disappeared into pyreflies… just as he did.

She ran toward him, tried to reach him one last time… but she fell through him, hitting the deck hard enough to elicit shooting pains up and down her arms. She didn’t notice, didn’t care. He was fading away, going… and he jumped off the deck of the airship just before she opened her mouth to say she loved him.

With a start, Yuna woke up. For a moment, she forgot everything; the pain, the burden she had been carrying. Then she remembered the events of the past three months and depression, like a lead blanket, landed squarely on her shoulders again.

Angrily, Yuna tried to get out of bed, only to discover her legs were entangled in the sheets as if she had been running in her sleep. After a split second of trying to get free, she gave into her frustration and mentally blasted the offensive bedding onto the floor. It lay there in a tangle, sparking with the energy of its exposure to magic.

Yuna peered out the window; it was still the middle of the night, the constellations readily visible. With a sigh, knowing she couldn’t possibly get back to sleep after that dream, she slipped into a robe and went outside. The breeze was cool on her face, but it did little to comfort her. Distractedly, she wandered over to a nearby fountain, all the while surveying her surroundings.

The palace of Bevelle had been too oppressive, with people in every nook and cranny, always wanting to talk to her. Yuna had decided to go back to Luca, hoping to find some peace there. Inwardly, she wondered if she ever would. Upon her arrival, the crowd was so eager to see her that it stretched for miles. So she had slipped off the boat and swam to shore.

Staring at the fountain, Yuna’s mouth quirked in a half smile, thinking that despite the fact she had grown up on an island, she had never really liked to swim. Yuna walked over to the edge of the base and gazed into the crystal-clear waters. Her reflection stared back at her, and Yuna felt like denying that was her at all; she looked tired and disheveled. Sighing, she absently lifted some water out of the fountain and formed it into a perfect sphere. For a moment, the orb pleased her… until it reminded her of things she would rather forget.

Like blitzball… she had loved the game, until he disappeared. After that, she could never find any pleasure in it. Then she thought of Sin, and the perfect globe of water it had often traveled in.

Shaking her head, Yuna allowed the sphere to lose form and fall back into the fountain with a muted splash. She began contemplating the prospect of going back to bed again when she heard footsteps.

In no mood for anyone, not even Kimahri, Yuna raised her voice and said, “Go away. Whoever you are, it would be better if I didn’t have to talk to someone right now.” Yuna reflected on how harsh and tired she sounded… but only until she realized that the footsteps continued in her direction. She turned, her bicolored gaze sweeping the area and seeing nobody. The footsteps drew closer, and Yuna, squinting in concentration, set a nearby torch ablaze.

It was only a passing man, apparently too drunk to realize that Yuna had told him to go away. Seeing the torch being set ablaze by nobody, the man let out a startled yell, then turned around and ran back the way he’d came. Relaxing muscles she hadn’t known were tensed, Yuna turned around to go back inside. That was when she saw the hooded figure.

The approaching figure was wearing a black cloak; Yuna couldn’t make out who it was. The man – or woman – hesitated for a moment, unsure of what to do next.
“That’s far enough,” Yuna told the figure, trying to put all her authority into her tone. It didn’t help, as the figure continued to approach. It was entirely silent, as whoever it was appeared to be gliding across the ground. The torch, apparently deciding to silence its own noise, went out.

The figure stopped at arm’s length from Yuna, then seemed to nod. Yuna didn’t know how to respond, so she said nothing.

In a high, raspy voice, the figure said, “Why, Yuna, don’t you recognize your old teacher?” Yuna shook her head, painfully aware the movement looked more like a spasm than a response. “You should,” the figure told her. “After all, you wouldn’t have had such a good time at Remiem Temple without me.”

Belgemine?” Yuna asked in astonishment.

“Yes, Yuna, it is I,” the figure responded. “And I have come to warn you that Luca is not safe for you any more.”

“First, tell me how you can appear to me outside the Farplane after I sent you,” Yuna told Belgemine.

Shaking her head, Belgemine replied, “It is very hard – but those with power such as mine can, from the Farplane, possess a material, inanimate object. I did not want to cause a stir, so I chose this cloak.”

“Very well. Why is Luca unsafe for me?” Yuna asked. “If there’s going to be another fiend invasion, I could care less.”

“No! This has nothing to do with the fiends!” Belgemine told her. “The order of Yevon is indeed destroyed – but the pieces that were left behind still oppose the truth. I cannot tell you more than that.” Yuna frowned, about to ask why not, when Belgemine interrupted, “Goodbye, Yuna. We will not meet until you reach the Farplane…”

“Belgemine!” Yuna cried, but at that moment the cloak suddenly dropped to the ground in a heap. The summoner that had helped Yuna so much was gone.

Her face wet with freshly shed tears, Yuna sank to her knees in front of the cloak. Once again, she’d been orphaned.

“The Beasts are sinking into the renowned Kilika Barrier Defense Routine!” Jimma shouted. “It’ll be tough for the Aurochs to get through that!”

“That’s absolutely right, Jimma!” Bobba replied enthusiastically. “We’ll be seeing plenty more action before this game is over!”

Looking contemptuously at the announcer’s box, Lulu watched the Aurochs from a walkway on the south rim of the Luca blitzball stadium. Gritting her teeth in annoyance, she turned and stared down a man who had been looking at her more than he’d been watching the game. Unnerved, the jerk quickly relegated himself to another seat. For the third time in as many weeks, Lulu walked out of the stadium.

Blitzball didn’t hold much appeal for her any more. Not since they’d returned from their quest to defeat Sin and found that the Aurochs had been crushing the competition left and right since they’d won the season championship. Not since Wakka had been invited back onto the team and was lucky if he got to visit with Lulu once a week. She’d kept mostly to herself, not having to find work as being the former guardian of Yuna meant she ate free anywhere civilized in Spira. Lulu had found a deserted lot where she could practice her spellcraft. Various objects lay littered about the place, burned from exposure to fire and lightning, or wet from melted ice or water in general. She’d even performed a few castings of Ultima… until an unlucky bird flew into the area of effect. The results had convinced her to leave out that spell in her practice sessions.

A few minutes later, Lulu arrived at the house she’d been granted by the Luca governor for the duration of her stay. Walking up to the front door, Lulu noticed a message on the mat, which was decidedly unusual. Picking it up, she unfolded it and began to read as she walked into her house.

Come to the deserted lot where you practice your spells at midnight tonight.

Frowning, Lulu turned the note over, but found nothing else written. Shrugging, she tossed it into the hearth in the den. Channeling a bit of mental energy into the hearth, she watched the note explode into flaming bits of molten glory as she ignited it.

Lulu had never liked taking orders, and anonymous notes were even easier to ignore. Smiling to herself – something she didn’t do often enough – she vowed to be sound asleep when the writer waited for her, out in the cold.

In the middle of the night, Lulu woke with a start and realized there was someone in her house.

Moving quietly, Lulu got out of bed and stepped into hall. A silhouette stood at the end of the hall, moving silently away from Lulu.

Away. Lulu frowned and wondered why, then decided it was for the better and began sneaking up behind the silhouette, hoping to identify who it was. Just as she was about to reach it, the silhouette reached out and lit a nearby lamp.

In the light Lulu saw her intruder; it was Yuna.

“Yuna!” Lulu exclaimed, her voice cracking from lack of use. Yuna nodded, smiled, and they embraced. After a few seconds, Lulu drew back to arm’s length and scolded her, “You were the one who wrote me that note!”

“Of course. And I knew that you would make sure you were in bed, sound asleep, when you should’ve been waiting for me in that lot…”

Lulu smiled at her own predictability.

A moment later the two were in the seldom-used kitchen area, where they were waiting while a local drink, called coffee, boiled on the stove. It was about halfway done, thanks to Lulu’s constant mental adjustments of the temperature to make sure the coffee boiled three times faster than normal.

Yuna, meanwhile, was sitting by the hearth, though she didn’t appear cold. She stared into the flames distractedly, apparently lost in thought. Lulu didn’t mind; Yuna obviously had a lot on her mind. She would, if Lulu had been in Yuna’s position. Lulu wondered what Yuna saw in those flames. Whatever it was, it had to be a less than pleasing image, judging from the sad look on Yuna’s face.
Just as she was about to ask Yuna what was the matter, the coffee, released from her mental grasp for a moment, hissed and a drop of water flew out of the bowl. Lulu pulled her hands back in time to avoid being burned. Angrily, she turned her full attention onto the coffee again.

Yuna sighed and wondered again why she was staring into the fire. She could be catching up with Lulu, instead… then Yuna realized that her friend had all her attention focused on the coffee pot. Sighing again – she did that too much these days – Yuna gently reached her hand into the fire and plucked out a flame. It twinkled there, in the palm of her hand, but without wood to feed it the little flame went out. Like lots of things in her life.

Like how her father had, in one moment of supreme bravery, been taken away from her forever. Like how Auron, standing before the platform where they’d battled Jecht, had told her he’d had enough of life and wanted her to send him. Like how… he had been taken away by cruel, harsh reality.

Abruptly, a steaming mug was placed in her hand. Yuna winced, then looked up at Lulu and saw the worry on the older woman’s face. She smiled, trying to dissuade her from asking what was wrong, but Lulu asked anyway.

“Everything,” Yuna replied, and Lulu didn’t seem surprised in the least. Seeing a chance to tell all, Yuna began in a rush. “It’s just not fair. First Auron decides he’s tired of life-”

“Can’t really blame him,” Lulu muttered to herself.

“- and then he, of all people, turns out to be dependent on Sin’s existence. If I’d known, if I’d had any inkling of what was going to happen if I killed Yu Yevon, I… I don’t think I’d have destroyed it. I think I would have let it live.” It was a terrible confession for Yuna, but it was the truth. “You know how I feel, don’t you, Lulu?” Yuna asked. “You and Chappu…”

Yuna broke off, realizing that she’d gone too far. But Lulu didn’t seem offended in the least.

Taking a careful, measured sip of coffee, Lulu replied thoughtfully, “I do know how you feel. I was depressed for months after Chappu died. It’s just… I suppose I have a confession of my own to make,” she said wryly. Yuna frowned, not understanding. “Do you remember back to the first time we visited Kilika Temple?” Lulu asked.

“Of course. Let’s see, there was the race up the steps… and the Sinspawn…”

“Not any of that. Do you remember when I blew up at Wakka for thinking Chappu was still alive?” Yuna smiled, then squelched the expression and nodded.
Lulu sighed, saying, “Well, I wanted to believe him. But I felt, for some reason, that I couldn’t let him know that.”

Shaking her head, Yuna replied, “It must have been easier for you. You weren’t there to see Sin kill him!”

“It’s not a question of easy and hard-” Lulu began, but Yuna wasn’t finished.

“I was right there when he disappeared,” Yuna went on. “Right there to see him vanish! We had the rest of our lives ahead of us and he left!”

Finding an output for her anger, Yuna focused in on the mug she held in her quaking hand. It began to crack and splinter, the coffee dripping out onto the hearth. A sudden cold struck her hand, which was odd, but then the mug shattered into a hundred pieces… and the coffee, frozen into a large, icy chunk, thudded to the ground, too hard to break.

Yuna looked angrily at Lulu, who must have frozen the coffee just before the mug broke. “I didn’t want you to spill hot coffee on yourself,” Lulu said pointedly. With that, the brief storm passed, and depression replaced it, as usual. Yuna seemed to shrink a bit, and Lulu went to get a broom.

Again plucking a bit of flame from the fire, Yuna dried the inexplicable tears and tossed the flame back into the hearth before it could go out or Lulu could notice. However, Lulu did notice, but didn’t mind in the slightest. Blushing, Yuna murmured a halfhearted apology.

“There’s no need to apologize,” Lulu said as warmly as she could. “I completely understand how you feel. If there’s anything I can do…”

“There’s nothing you can do,” Yuna said, suddenly standing. “I shouldn’t have come… I’m sorry!”

Before Lulu could stop her, Yuna had ran out of the kitchen and out the front door. Lulu dropped the broom and would have started after her had Yuna’s touch not half-melted the door handle, making it too hot to open the door.

Halfway back to the luxurious house she’d been given, Yuna sank onto a public bench and cried freely. Her life was coming apart. She was an idol for a people that would never leave her alone. She would never find peace, not even with her closest friends. It was just so unfair, all of it.

“Irritating, I know. Or are you afraid?”

Yuna snapped her head up. Someone had spoken, but there was nobody in the vicinity. At least, that was what she’d thought until she saw the two, luminous figures before her. One of them was Auron. The other was shining too brightly for her to tell who it was. Gasping, she started toward Auron but found the way blocked, somehow.

“Me, afraid?”

There was no mistaking that voice. It was him talking to Auron.

“Tidus?” Yuna asked, her voice shaking. She’d hadn’t said his name for months.
Immediately the figure’s brightness level dropped enough for her to recognize him; it was Tidus.

Neither of the men seemed to notice her.

“I’m going to offer my services to Yuna. Come.”

“And if I don’t want to?” Tidus asked Auron while the older man began to walk away.

“Every story must have an ending.”

“I don’t care about your stories!”

Auron looked over his shoulder, sizing Tidus up, and finally said, “I see. Sorry you feel that way.” He began walking away again and Tidus exploded.

“You make it sound like it’s my choice! But there really is no choice! I have to go with you, I have to!” A brief silence was exchanged, and then Tidus said, “I still don’t buy your story.”

Sin is Jecht,” Auron told him, putting emphasis on the words. Then he turned and walked away. Tidus, his glare drilling into Auron’s back, followed… and they both disappeared.

“Don’t leave again!” Yuna yelled at the spot where Tidus had been. “Not again! DON’T LEAVE!”

She sank to her knees, pounding at the hard, cold ground with her fist. The stone resisted at first, then began to buckle and crack with the force of her anger, not her strength.

Yuna looked up, towards the horizon, and screamed. Screamed until her throat was raw, until her voice was gone. Screamed until she had nothing more within her to draw upon.

Getting to her feet, Yuna staggered towards the way she’d been going, then put a hand on a nearby crate for support. At that moment she heard a peculiar cracking sound. Looking down, her eyes widened in horror.

That one expulsion of pure anger and grief had carved great fissures in the surrounding stone, weakening it to the point that the slightest movement would send it all falling down into the sea. Yuna, leaning heavily on the crate, took a careful step forward… and the crate fell off the stack it was on.

The next moment she was in the water, giant, jagged boulders raining down on her. Yuna dove under the surface of the water, suddenly finding energy where she thought there was none. Mammoth splinters of the walkway plummeted through the water all around her, but she was not touched by any of them.
After she was sure that all of the rock had fallen, Yuna burst to the surface, gasping for air. She just as quickly dove back under as a last, giant rock shaped like a circle fell, but this time she could not avoid it. The rock, though slowed by the impact of the water, smacked her to the bottom of the ocean, unconscious.

Lulu had sent a signal flare to Wakka, who showed up almost immediately at her front door, saying that he was in the neighborhood. She had told him of her encounter with Yuna, and Wakka seemed deeply disturbed by it. He hadn’t seen Yuna in a while, either, so the two set off after Yuna at a brisk pace. They’d rounded a bend when they saw the gap in the walkway and a huge, circular rock fall into the water.

“Oh, brudda. What’d Yuna do this time?” Wakka muttered. He and Lulu peered over the edge of the gap but couldn’t find Yuna.

“She’s probably underwater, either unconscious or-” Wakka held up a hand to stop that particular train of thought then and there.

“I’ll look, ya? In the meantime, you’d better get some night shift guards here – to erect a roadblock, or whatever it is they do when a giant section of walkway…”
Wakka stopped at Lulu’s piercing stare. With a nervous grin, he jumped into the water. Lulu, shaking her head, started for the nearest guard station… until she remembered it was on the other side of the gap.

There is the first 7 pages (3300 words) of Twilight. I hope you enjoyed reading it. The story starts off slow, but I will post more tomorrow and things really begin to move in the next 7 pages. Comments and constructive criticism are welcome, but I would just like to point out this has already been printed and given to several of my friends, so I cannot revise anything without some measure of difficulty. I would also like to point out that any sentences that may seem out of context or sound like they are something a character is thinking to him or herself, it probably is a thought and I missed it in my reformatting. Thank you again for reading.

I do hate to double-post, but I just want to know if anyone is actually interested in this… if not, then I shouldn’t really bother doing daily posting. I apologize again for the double post.

Sorry, I had planned onm reading this earlier and responding, but I was distracted by shiny objects. Anyway, it’s a pretty damn good story. And nice touch with the vision thing, for a second I thought it was a cliche “ethereal message from the ones you miss the most”, but it wasn’t, and that pleasantly surprised me. In short, if you don’t keep posting mroe of this story, I will hunt you down and Horribly rape you until you do start posting again.

:hyperven: Oh my… A/S/L? We can do this if you interest me.

At any rate, ask and you shall receive.

She was underwater, that much Yuna could tell. That, and the fact that the water was freezing.

Opening her eyes, Yuna quite literally drank in her surroundings. Her vision blurred, and she kicked herself up to the surface, coughing unstoppably.

She wasn’t under a section of collapsed walkway, that much Yuna could see. It was a far less hospitable place, with green, moss-stricken brick walls and dull illumination originating from a strange-looking pedestal in the center of room. The pedestal came up to her ankles and had four arrows that constantly glowed in synchronized order. In the shadowy corners of the room, something she didn’t want to think about stirred, and a pair of yellow eyes became visible in the dark.

Yuna recognized this place; it was the Via Purifico in Bevelle. The place Mika and Seymour had tried to banish Yuna and her guardians to for committing treason against Yevon. What was she doing back here?

Pulling her legs out of the water, she felt the soft, lead blanket of despair settle over her shoulders again. Only this time it was about something different. Instinctively she knew that Tidus was alive… but in great danger. They were all in great danger, and had to… to… escape.

Yuna shook her head; none of this was right. Raising her voice, she said, “I’ve already faced this challenge. Already faced it, and overcome it.” The bold declaration didn’t help one iota; the place continued to exist. Gritting her teeth, Yuna said louder, “None of this can be real. This is a dream… or something along those lines. Well, I’ve seen enough. I want out.” The scene before her didn’t change.

Then a man appeared in a flash of light on the pedestal. A warrior monk, apparently a high-ranking one. Before Yuna could ask what was going on, he snapped up his rifle and fired.

“…guess is that a couple of those rocks collided very violently, a piece broke off, and hit her. It’s the only…”

“…looks too clean to be made by a rock…”

“…better ideas, now’s the time to…”

Groaning, Yuna opened one eye and instantly regretted it. A light was shining in her face and nearly blinded her. Snapping the eye shut, she asked as calmly as she could, “Where am I?”

She sensed the room become darker, and she opened her eyes again, more cautiously this time.

Yuna was in a hospital room, apparently, lying in a bed. Lulu was standing by a window, having just pulled down a curtain. Wakka was standing at the foot of her bed, fidgeting nervously. Kimahri was standing beside the entrance to her room, arms crossed, the only sign of nervousness his twitching tail.

Lulu spoke first. “For a while there, I didn’t think you’d make it,” she said quietly.
“You worry too much, ya?” Wakka asked casually, and Lulu looked pointedly at something Yuna couldn’t see – Wakka’s feet, maybe? Wakka himself started to shuffle a bit, and finally said, “I… ah… heard somewhere… that pacing while someone’s injured… aah… sorta, helps them recover faster, ya?” Lulu stuck him like a bug on a wall with her gaze for a moment, then walked over to the side of Yuna’s bed.

Absently stroking Yuna’s hair, Lulu told her, “I don’t know what you did, but there was a ten-foot gap in the walkway when Wakka and I got there… and the pieces were in the water. Along with you.”

“I don’t know how you did it, either,” Wakka said, “but I’d guess you got hit on the head. By a littler rock, ya? If you’d been hit by one of the big ones, well, you probably wouldn’t still be here.”

Yuna tried to sit up, but Lulu gently held her down and told her, “We also think that you were hit by a sharp pebble going at high speeds – that explains the severed tendons, muscles, and collarbone.”

At that, Yuna sat up straight, and noticed two things: first, the bandage wrapped around the better part of her chest, and second, that the place where the rock had hit was where the monk had shot her in the dream. She told them as much, and when she was done they looked skeptical at best.

“It was nothing more than a bad dream,” Lulu said, “and when you were hit by the rock your mind incorporated that feeling into your dream.”

“I don’t think so,” Yuna replied. “It wasn’t just a dream. I felt like I really was back in the Via Purifico, with everyone in danger because of me, that we had to escape… never in my life has a dream been so real. And that monk had an odd helmet… a fancy one is the only way I can really describe it. It had wings on the sides, and both wings were emblazoned with the seal of Yevon. If it is true that dreams of so much detail have to use things you distinctly remember…”

“You’ve never seen a helmet like that before, have you?” asked Wakka. Yuna shook her head, and then stopped abruptly as Lulu sighed long, loud, and pointedly.

“I still think it was just a dream. I’ve heard that your mind can do strange things after it’s been battered with over forty two-ton slabs of rock.” With that, Lulu turned on her heel and walked out.

“Hey!” Wakka said. “That was… like…”

“Something you say, not her?” Kimahri asked. Wakka opened his mouth to deny it, but Kimahri simply stared at him wordlessly, expressionlessly… saying it all.

A hospital attendant had arrived to make sure Yuna was recovering fine, and asked Kimahri and Wakka to step outside for a moment.

“Kimahri,” Wakka said after a few moments of silence, “there’s something we need to talk about, ya?” Kimahri nodded, apparently understanding what Wakka was trying to say.

“Killing Yu Yevon and Sin was great and all, but I think it’s created another problem.” From inside the room there was a crash; apparently the attendant had tripped over something while trying to get to Yuna.

“Yes,” Kimahri responded. “You have Blitzball. Kimahri protect Yuna. Lulu and Yuna not have anything to do.” Wakka nodded; Kimahri had always been quick on the update.

“Lulu, well, for her it’s boredom. But even that’ll soon change, ya? Soon as I get a routine for the day established, I can visit Lulu. Keep her busy trying to deal with me, eh?” Kimahri had to smile a bit at that. Even though they were like brother and sister, Wakka’s antics could distress Lulu to no end. The noises from inside ceased. The attendant must have gotten on his feet again.

“Yuna has no direction she wants to take,” Kimahri told Wakka. “All directions are bad. Yuna not want to be a leader for the people. She not want to settle down somewhere and live out life quietly. All her life Yuna focused on defeating Sin. Now Sin is gone, she has no place to go.” Another crash from the room; the man must have been downright clumsy.

“Tidus would have kept her on her toes,” Wakka mused. “But he’s, well, gone. I don’t know how she’s kept herself together this long – I would have gone to pieces long time ago, ya?”

“Just because Yuna kept together for this long does not mean cannot break,” Kimahri reminded him. “Kimahri think Yuna breaking now.”

At that moment the door slammed open. The attendant ran out, flushed and out of breath. “Lady Yuna is gone!”

An immediate search of the building had been organized. The surrounding premises had been searched as well, but no sign of Yuna had been found. Wakka and Kimahri had been worried out of their minds until they met up with Lulu again, who had told them she knew exactly where Yuna was.

That had been three long hours ago. Now it was night again, and Lulu entered Yuna’s hospital room to find the young woman lying in bed – just where she had been that afternoon. Putting her hands on her hips, Lulu asked, “I suppose there’s a reason for shrouding yourself from the attendant?”

Yuna nodded, smiled a bit, and said, “I’m tired of people. Whether they’re catering on my every whim or hanging on my every word, it’s like they’re suffocating me. I need room. Luca and Bevelle have too many people. I need a vacation.”
Wakka and Kimahri entered, and Wakka told her, “No, what you need is something to do.”

Kimahri nodded and said, “Yuna focused on defeating Sin. Sin gone. Yuna have nothing to do.”

Yuna nodded and replied, “That’s what I’ve been thinking, Kimahri. But,” and at this she looked pointedly at Lulu, “I don’t think I’m the only one who needs something to do.” Unexpectedly, Lulu blushed and tilted her head in acknowledgement.

Wakka pulled up a chair from a corner of the room, sat down, crossed his legs, and said, “Superlative. Wonderful. Excellent. What are we going to do?”

Lulu stared at him, and after a dead silence for almost a full minute, Lulu proclaimed, “More multi-syllable words than I’ve ever heard him put in a sentence. I think you’re going insane, Wakka.”

Giggling, Yuna added, “But in his case going insane makes him smarter.” Kimahri bared his fangs in a Ronso smile.

Wakka, confused, looked around and asked, “What did I say?”

It was early morning, and they convened in Lulu’s home. Spreading a torn, weathered map over a table, Lulu filled all of them in on what they were going to do.

“All of us need some spiritual help right now. All except Wakka, who needs help no matter how his soul is doing.”


Smirking, Lulu continued, “We are here, in Luca. I think we should go onto the Mi’ihen Highroad. We can take a little time there to ride some chocobos, maybe explore the ruins of the Oldroad. Then we move onto Mushroom Rock Road. I wonder if anyone but me remembers that soup Wakka tried to make out of Garuda meat…”

She waited patiently while Yuna laughed, Kimahri shook his head, and Wakka told her, “Well, it smelled okay!”

“Didn’t you also have a cold at the time?”
“The map. Please.”

“Of course, Wakka. We can take a bit to explore the Djose shore – or we can just continue to the Djose Highroad,” she added hastily at the look on Yuna’s face. Yuna would probably never forget the tragedy that had occurred when the Crusaders and the Al Bhed had challenged Sin there… and lost. “After that we’ll cross the Moonflow and end up at Guadosalam. There, we can go to the Farplane. Maybe we’ll see Auron or Tidus again.” Lulu almost flinched at the palpable pain Yuna experienced every time Tidus was talked about.

Visibly pulling herself together, Yuna told her, “Sounds like a good plan. I just have one suggestion to make.”

“What’s that?” Lulu asked.

“If we could leave without any fanfare, I would appreciate it,” Yuna said dryly.

“Sounds like a good plan to me,” Wakka replied. “We can leave tonight. Before that, let me tell the Aurochs I’ll be having that vacation in my contract now.”

Lulu nodded and told everyone, “Conclude all business affairs, do any cleanup necessary, then pack your essentials. We leave as soon as the moon is visible, fanfare-free.”

They made it out of Luca fanfare-free, but just barely. A couple of men had seen them going and were about to wake up the whole town within a fifty-mile radius when Wakka had knocked them both out with a wild tackle. After that a woman and her child had seen them, and Lulu told them to be quiet or risk the “wrath of Lady Yuna”. Yuna couldn’t help but smile at that one.

Finally, they were out of the city. Away from the oppressive crowds and the bustling and hustling. Away from the devoted citizens who wanted nothing more than to catch a glimpse of her, to shake her hand.

The next day, the four of them started off bright and early. They’d only been traveling for a few minutes when Kimahri noticed that the ground was shaking.

“An earthquake?” Yuna asked in astonishment. “There hasn’t been an earthquake on the Highroad for over three thousand years!”

Peering into the distance, Lulu saw clouds of dust rising – and shapes within those clouds. “This is no earthquake,” Lulu said grimly. “It’s a fiend charge.”

Yuna, Wakka, and Kimahri looked at her in horror. The fiend charge was a dreaded event to be in front of, because it involved a suicidal rush of fiends from the region.

“We don’t have much time until they reach us!” Yuna exclaimed.

Lulu promptly blasted a large hole in the ground with a spell, then motioned everyone inside. After that, the four of them stacked mounds of dirt and rocks in front of the hole and packed it down tight, forming a crude barrier. The ground was now trembling furiously; and then a dragon – a large, slow-moving lizard with an elemental breath – jumped over the hole. Nor was it the first fiend to make the jump. Lizards, armored moles, and various flying creatures sped towards Luca. Finally, the rumbling had ceased.

They opened eyes they didn’t know were shut and looked out of their makeshift shelter.

The Highroad was trampled, grass and vegetation smashed flat everywhere they looked. And nearby stood three dual horns; enormous, scaled bull-like creatures with twin horns sprouting from their heads and fire emitting from their panting breath. Nearly immune to magic, they made fearsome opponents.

Lulu, knowing they could not be directly assaulted with elemental attacks, tried a Flare spell; the swirling, flaming vortex opened beneath one of the Dual Horns, but it dodged the attack, jumping aside as the giant chaos flame shot from the portal. One of them jumped on Kimahri, and another ran at full speed towards Wakka, ready to gore its target.

Wakka rolled to one side, dodging the attack, then pulled out his blitzball and threw it with all his strength. It slammed into the head of the dual horn trying to sink its teeth into Kimahri’s neck; the beast collapsed onto its side, momentarily senseless.

The dual horn that had dodged Lulu’s Flare came running towards her, head lowered for a ramming charge. Lulu opened another Flare vortex a few feet in front of her, but the dual horn was surprisingly intelligent and peeled off to attack from another angle as the chaos flame shot skyward and expended its energies. It was coming about for another run when Yuna, directing all her mental strength, dropped a large boulder on it. The dual horn dropped to the ground beneath the weight of the rock, instantly killed.

At the same time, the dual horn that had missed its charge at Wakka was shuffling around for another assault. Lulu’s next Flare didn’t miss; the dual horn was consumed in the chaos flame, leaving only a few charred bones behind. The one Wakka had hit with his blitzball had regained its senses and had retreated some distance. Just as Yuna was hoping it was retreating, the dual horn turned around and began charging at full speed again. Yuna mentally prepared herself for its charge – and it vanished into thin air.

Yuna turned around to see Lulu’s moogle hopping back into her arms. Lulu herself looked drained, and sweat glistened on her forehead – something that hardly ever happened from spellcasting any more. Turning back to where the dual horn had been, the air shimmered again and the blackened and twisted corpse of the dual horn hit the ground with a resounding thud.

Releasing a breath she didn’t recall holding, Yuna turned around again and surveyed her friends.

Wakka looked dismayed at the outcome and the fiend charge. Kimahri was, as usual, hiding his feelings, but Yuna could tell he was troubled. Lulu, though she didn’t show it, was inwardly reveling in her victory but at the same time puzzled over the fiend charge.

After a long silence, Kimahri spoke: “It is quiet. We go now before fiends return.” Yuna nodded in acknowledgement, and the group gathered up their things from the makeshift shelter.

Looking back, Yuna voiced her deepest concern. “I hope they don’t get to Luca.”

After a long hike, they arrived at Rin’s resident Travel Agency. It was sunset by the time they’d exchanged greetings and put their things in their rooms. Sunset by the time Yuna realized exactly where they were.

Lulu had gone outside for a breath of fresh air when she saw Yuna sitting at the edge of a cliff overlooking a large body of water. She walked quietly over and found that Yuna was staring off into the sunset, apparently unaware of her approach.

“Yuna.” Lulu said no more, but instead sat down next to Yuna and joined her in watching the sunset.

After a minute of peaceful quiet, Yuna began to speak, saying, “The first time we were here, I remember I came out here to record a message for all of you. I got to Auron, Kimahri, you and Wakka… but I never finished his. I just couldn’t find the right thing to say. Then he came over here, and we talked about Zanarkand, and Blitzball, and a lot of other things.” She paused, visibly gathering herself for something else she had to say.

“Can’t you say it?” Lulu asked. Yuna frowned at her, not understanding, and Lulu said, “Can’t you say his name? Tidus?” Yuna flinched and Lulu could see her jaw muscles tightening.

Then, apparently pretending nothing had happened, Yuna went on. “Then, when we were about to really fight Sin for the first time, he tossed the sphere off the airship… and that was when I knew I could be with him and feel totally, completely safe. He would never let me die, no matter how many others told him it was the only way.”

“Yuna!” Lulu said. “Why can’t you say it? It’s all well and good that you realized this, but if you want to be able to remember him, you need to be able to say his name. Like I can say ‘Chappu’.”

Yuna locked gazes with Lulu and held it that way for a long time. She finally told her, “I seem to have some sort of instinct to not say it. In what way will that keep me from remembering him?”

“You need to be able to remember him as a person with a name. Not just as some abstract pronoun with long-lost meaning to you. I know saying it hurts deeply, but it will get easier, over time. It certainly did for me.”

“Of course it did for you. You have the constitution of a rock. And I say that in a good way.”

“I didn’t have this constitution back when Chappu died,” Lulu reminded her. “I was much younger then. Less mature, less strong.”

“I don’t want to argue about it. Just go away.” Yuna instantly regretted her words, knowing she could not take them back, but they simply bounced off Lulu’s outer shell.

“I see. Sorry you feel that way,” Lulu replied. She got up and started back towards the agency.

Yuna was about to get up and apologize when she felt someone else next to her. She turned, annoyed, and the blood drained out of her face when she recognized Tidus.

“You know… when you’re in a game, you have to think of blitz and nothing else, you know?” Yuna vainly tried to keep her eyes from widening. “You can’t think, ‘That’s a cute girl in the fifth seat from the right’. Or, where you’re going to go on that date, because when you do, that’s when you lose. Yuna… what I mean is… don’t worry.”

Tidus faded away, and Yuna felt like screaming again until she remembered what happened to her last time she’d lost control. She turned back to watch the sunset, but at that moment the last rays of the sun were eaten up by the increasingly dark horizon. After a time, for no reason she could comprehend, Yuna whispered, “I love you… Tidus.”

“Yuna. Come back inside.” Yuna snapped her head around to see Auron.
“I don’t believe it. First Luca, now here,” Yuna muttered. “Why do I keep seeing these things?” Auron shook his head and faded away, just as Tidus had done. Seeing the wisdom of his words – especially at this particular moment – Yuna ran back inside and told Lulu, Wakka, and Kimahri about all that had happened after Lulu had left.

Wakka shook his head and said, “You must have been imagining things, ya?”
Yuna shook her head back and him and replied, “I can’t just conjure up a celestial image of Auron or Tidus and have it talk to me.”

“I don’t know,” Lulu said thoughtfully. “You say Tidus appeared to you just before the sun set?” Yuna nodded. “Well, I was just going inside at that point, and I didn’t hear anything,” Lulu said. “Though I could be wrong.”

Kimahri finally spoke up, saying, “Kimahri think Tidus and Auron trying to send Yuna a message.”

Yuna looked at him and asked, “What kind of message, Kimahri?”

Kimahri sadly shook his head in the slow, steady fashion he always followed and replied, “Kimahri does not know.”

“Well, I think we should just try to get to Guadosalam, and fast, if Tidus and Auron are appearing to you, ya?” Wakka said. “I mean, there could be something they wanna tell you.”

Lulu stared at him, then said, “In case you’d forgotten, no image seen on the Farplane by the living has ever spoken. Never in the history of Spira.”

“Kimahri has a feeling these images will,” Kimahri interjected.

Then the door burst open.

It was a group of three warrior monks, the lead one armed with a flamethrower, the other two with rifles.

“I’m sorry, we’re closed-” the Al Bhed at the counter began before one of the monks shot him.

“Watch out!” Wakka yelled and single-handedly shoved all three of them behind cover before diving for it himself.

The two monks kept up a steady suppressing fire, chipping at the counter the four had dove behind, while the one with the flamethrower could be heard walking toward them over the reports of the rifles. He had come around the counter and was about to fry them all into a crisp when Kimahri reached into a pouch at his waist and threw a handful of white, grainy powder into the monk’s face. The man screamed, then fell dead, facedown, to the ground. Yuna and Wakka both stared at Kimahri; Lulu was too busy crawling for a better vantage point to notice.
“Purifying salt,” Kimahri shouted over the noise. “Ronso medicine. One grain heal grievous wounds. Is deadly to humans.”

Yuna nodded and wondered if Kimahri would ever stop running out of ways to surprise her when Lulu shouted, “I need a distraction!”

Wakka reached over to the small sack he’d left in the lobby and pulled out his blitzball. With that, he threw it against the far wall as hard as he could. It bounced off and began ricocheting wildly around the room. The monks threw up their arms in defense and Lulu stood up, ready to cast her spell. One of the monks managed to shoot the ball out of the air and they turned their guns on Lulu, but Yuna channeled her mental energy into a barrier before Lulu, which the bullets could not penetrate. Dropping her moogle to the ground – the doll never failed to land on its feet – Lulu raised her arms above her head, the doll copying the motion. It would be funny if it wasn’t so deadly, Yuna thought.

Lulu brought her arms down in what could be considered a gesture of goodbye. The air around the guards exploded into a ball of flame, consuming the two men. With a clatter, what was left of them fell to the ground.

Slowly rising from cover, Yuna surveyed the groups’ handiwork: the two monks with rifles lay on the floor, their corpses black and burned. And the one with the flamethower…

Yuna began to kneel down, to turn him over, but Kimahri put a hand on her shoulder. Yuna nodded; she probably didn’t want to see it.

“Yuna.” It was Wakka; for the first time in a long time his voice cracked. Yuna walked over and winced. The Al Bhed had taken a bullet in his forehead – he’d been dead before he hit the ground. Wakka’s ball had bounced around the room, destroying various objects. The space around the door – where the riflemen had stood – was seared and burnt by Lulu’s spell.

Yuna closed her eyes, trying not to scream, which would undoubtedly bring down the foundations of the store. “We don’t have nearly enough Gil to pay for this,” she said shakily, “and no matter how much we give the owners, a life lost can never be repaid.”

“Not to worry about the first part,” Lulu said. She was kneeling over the corpse of the pyromaniac. Searching his pockets, Lulu retrieved a generous amount of Gil – enough to pay for the damages three times over. “Apparently, this man had been bribed or paid to come and kill us.”

Wakka spoke up from the other side of the room, near the corpses of the two rifle wielders. “These two have melted Gil streaming out of their pockets, too – whoever paid them to do this must have plenty of funds at his disposal, ya?”
Nobody spoke for a second. After that second, Lulu calmly got to her feet, deposited the Gil on the counter, then walked out the door.

And there is the next 7 pages. I think it may be a tad closer to eight, but the scene change after the fiend charge falls short of 7 pages, and the one after the attack at the agency is a bit more suspenseful. It’s good to know that you enjoyed it. Thank you for posting here, and I hope you will continue to do so. Until tomorrow, then.

Oh, the irony. 8P

Anyway, sorry it took a while to respond, I’ve been under a fairly stressful influx of work with a four hour per night sleep average. I did manage to read it though.

Anyway, this is really well written story. It keeps readers entertained but it isn’t over the top with anything, and I like how you described coffee as nothing globally popular, just a commodity. Keep it up!

Looks pretty good. I’m definately enjoying it.

As an aside, have you ever been to the Tides of Blood forums? I lurk there occasionaly, and I think I remember seeing someone with a name like yours around before.

Yup, this is your friendly neighborhood Robot Pimp Mengde from the ToB forums. I’m actually a lot more reserved than I appear to be on those forums, since I have an image to uphold there. Also note that ATM my name there has been changed to Mendge because of an inside joke. (FYI, do NOT go to the ToB forums if you’re used to a friendly atmosphere; that place is just bubbling over the brim with tension.)

I’m glad you’re all enjoying Twilight so far. I’ll post the next seven pages later this evening.

Am I the only person who was thinking this on first glance? Please say I’m not.

And Mengde, I’m 17/u/NY. But my kinda rape isn’t the fun kind. It is the kind that usually involves three bears and maybe a can of WD40, if I’m generous. Which I rarely am.

Hee, cool.
And yeah, the ToB forums are nasty. If I wasn’t eagarly awaiting news of Version N, I wouldn’t even bother with 'em. :hahaha;

You always seemed like a decent guy to me. If you have AIM or something that supports it, gimmie a buzz.

K then, this has sort of fallen and it’s time for the update, so apologies for the double post here. Look below for the next 7 or so pages of Twilight.

TAKE ME RIGHT NOW!!!1!1111one!1

And now, the next 7 or so pages of Twilight.

At first, Yuna had loved to be back on the move, with no crowd following her, no fan club presidents trying to come within an arm’s reach of her. After the encounter at the agency, however, all the fun had been sucked out of the trip – any fun that hadn’t been dispelled already by the fiend charge. What was originally planned as a vacation was quickly turning into a nightmare.

They had been walking all day, stopping only to eat lunch, when they heard the noises.

Kimahri, naturally, had detected it first; someone was coming down the Highroad. Unwilling to take any risk, Yuna had everyone hide in the nearby brush.

It was just as well. A contingent of warrior monks was tromping in synchronized formation down the road. There were twenty-four, in all; every one out of four carried a flamethrower. Yuna felt the grass around Lulu quiver. She darted a glance at her and saw that Lulu was motionless except for her smoldering eyes. Carefully, quietly, Yuna put a restraining hand on her friend’s shoulder. Lulu jerked slightly at her touch, but the fire in her eyes cooled.

After the troop had passed, the four of them got back in the road. Lulu gave into her frustration and blasted apart a large rock by the side of the road. Wakka’s jaw was clenched so tight Yuna thought the tendons would snap. Kimahri had folded his arms, remaining his usual, implacable self… or had he? Upon closer inspection, Yuna noticed that the Ronso’s claws were digging into his fur. Apparently even Kimahri was having trouble controlling himself.

They all stood there for a long time, not moving or saying anything. Finally Lulu voiced her frustration. “Some bureaucrat back in Bevelle has decided to clamp down on all of Spira, wants us dead, and we can’t do a damn thing about it!”

“Take it easy, Lulu,” Wakka said through tightly clenched teeth. “Just because there’s a traitor in Bevelle and there are warrior monks after us and there was a fiend charge towards Luca and…”

The list of things went on for some time until Lulu finally shut Wakka up by saying, “Something doesn’t make sense. If this traitor in Bevelle controls the warrior monks, then why did he bother bribing three of them to kill us?”

“That is a very good question, and I wish I had an answer,” Yuna replied. “But for now, I suppose we’ll have to travel in the dark.”

At that moment they heard voices from the way the monks had came. “…have sworn I heard something explode!”

“Everyone! Run!” Yuna shouted, knowing it would be impossible to hide from the monks when they were on alert.

They took off, running as fast as they could on the sometimes-treacherous terrain of the Highroad. They were approaching the bridges over the Oldroad, which was around twenty feet below the Highroad. At that moment, Lulu looked back… and nearly stopped dead in her tracks with surprise.

“They’re assembling some kind of weapon as they chase us!” Lulu shouted. “It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen!”

Yuna twisted her head around to look. Apparently, the weapon was complete. It was shaped like a long funnel, with a strange-looking, arrow-like metal object protruding from the front. Yuna turned her gaze forward again; they had reached the bridge. The thuds of their footfalls were drowned out by a large blast from behind them. The object shot past them, tearing through four of the nine primary support struts of the bridge before detonating, taking out another three. The explosion nearly sent Wakka over the side. He hung from the guardrail and Kimahri grabbed him and hauled him back up as the bridge began collapsing behind them.

“Jump!” Lulu shouted, and did so. All of them did so.

The bridge collapsed as they flew across the gap.

Yuna slammed into the ledge, all the wind knocked out of her. Feeling herself slip, she grabbed on and tried to find traction.

“We’re sitting – make that falling ducks like this!” Wakka yelled. “Get up, quick!” They scrambled up the side of the cliff just as the monks were approaching the gap.

Lulu was still scrambling onto firm ground when one of the monks fired, grazing the side of her head. Lulu lost her grip and fell down into the Oldroad.

Shouting something even she couldn’t make out, Yuna started sprinting towards the area where the Highroad and the Oldroad joined. Bullets richocheted off the stone cliff to their left, and thudded into the ground on all other sides. As they rounded a bend, a barrage of firepower thudded into the cliff, sending chips of stone flying everywhere. The shrapnel bit deep into Yuna’s nearly-recovered shoulder. She nearly stumbled off the cliff, but Wakka caught her.

After another bend and another spray of shrapnel, they reached the junction point. Turning onto the Oldroad, the three of them ran for all they were worth to the spot where Lulu had fallen.

Rounding a last bend, they came to the spot – and Lulu wasn’t there. Yuna looked up and gasped; the monks had apparently grappled down the side of the cliff, retrieved the still-unconscious Lulu, and grappled back up.
Then one monk walked over to the edge of the cliff. As he came into view, Yuna felt her blood turn to ice.

It was the monk from her dream.

He looked down at them and yelled, “Nowhere to run and nowhere to hide!” With a flourish, he threw a small object towards the remains of a stone lookout tower behind the three of them. When it hit, the object exploded in a shower of hellfire, bringing many tons of rock falling down to crush –

Yuna painfully opened her eyes. She was lying on the ground, everything hurt, and someone was leaning over her. Yuna couldn’t tell who the person was; the sun was shining in her face. Reverting to instinct, Yuna grabbed the figure by the throat with both hands and held on for all she was worth.

“Yuna!” It was Kimahri. He gently pulled Yuna’s hands away from the figure’s throat.

“That wasn’t nice, you big meanie!” Yuna started as she recognized the voice.
Getting to her feet – a mildly painful process – Yuna saw the figure without the sun at its back. It was Rikku.

“Rikku! I haven’t seen you in months!” Yuna exclaimed.

“Yeah, and the first thing you do when you see me again is try to kill me?” Yuna shrugged, embarrassed.

“Rikku? You bring any friends?” Wakka asked.

“Nope. Just me. I was hiking through Mushroom Rock Road, gathering samples on, well, the mushrooms, because Cid thinks they might have healing properties. I was coming into this junction, here, when I heard an explosion that sounded like an Al Bhed grenade.”

“I don’t think an Al Bhed grenade is enough to bring ten tons of rock down on us, though,” Wakka interjected.

“Actually, it was eleven and a quarter tons,” Rikku told him. “But anyway, it wasn’t just a regular Al Bhed grenade. I found the pieces of it in the rubble, and it’s a V-17 Pulse Grenade – there’s only two more of its kind in existence. Whoever threw it probably didn’t know how powerful it really was – otherwise he wouldn’t have wasted it on just rock.”

“Kimahri wonders who did it to us,” Kimahri said.

“It was the monk from my dream,” Yuna replied. “He had the same odd helmet. Whoever he is, he must be a high-ranking monk… and he probably thinks all the lies in the Order of Yevon are truths, that we were the ones that concocted the falsehoods. That must be why he wants us all dead.”

“Wait a minute,” Wakka interrupted. “If he wants us all dead, then why didn’t he just leave Lulu down there to hopefully be crushed by the rocks with us? Why’d he go to the trouble of kidnapping her?”

“I wish I knew,” Yuna replied, shaking her head.

For several hours, they’d traveled in silence. Having not been in the area for a while, Yuna, Wakka, and Kimahri let Rikku serve as their guide. Several times they’d had to hide from monk patrols, but they were never caught. One time a migrating Garuda had run into a contingent of the monks and had killed seventeen of them before retreating – not dying.

Then they reached the former command center of Operation Mi’ihen… and walked into a nightmare.

The monks had apparently made the former command center their base of operations in the area. Refurbishing the base and adding additional defenses, it was a fortress that would be hard to get through.

“Any ideas?” Yuna asked. The four of them were on a small, isolated ledge overlooking the base.

“We could steer clear of that,” Rikku said, pointing towards something on the distant shore. Yuna identified it without much difficulty.

It was the giant, machina beam tower that had been destroyed by Sin. The monks were swarming over it like carrion insects over a fresh corpse.

“They’re reconstructing it,” Yuna breathed.

“No, you think?” Rikku pulled a small pair of – what were they called, binoculars? – out of her pocket and peered into them. After a moment, she spoke up, “It looks like your head monk guy is over there, supervising the reconstruction.” She handed the binoculars to Yuna, who looked through them and found the very monk Rikku was talking about. He was standing on a pedestal, directing the workers.

“As long as the bulk of them are concentrated there, it should be easier to sneak through the camp,” Wakka said. Kimahri grunted in agreement.

“We’ll wait for nightfall,” Yuna decided.

“You don’t believe the story, do you?” asked Rikku as they sat around a small fire, well away from the prying eyes of the monks.

Confused, Yuna asked, “What story?”

“Well, people say that after the battle with Sin here, one young man dove into the ocean and chased after it.” Tidus, Yuna thought. “He’d pursued it for a short time when a fiend detached itself from Sin’s body. It was an aquatic Sinspawn. The boy had to turn around and run, because he couldn’t fight the fiend on his own.”
“That’s ridiculous. Tidus never told-” Yuna stopped, embarrassed, knowing that her assertion of Tidus being the boy showed that she was thinking about him again.

“I don’t make them, just report them,” Rikku replied evenly.

“It almost nightfall,” Kimahri said. “Kimahri think even at night it too hard to sneak through the camp.”

“I’ve felt the same way,” Yuna replied. “But I just don’t know what else to do.”

“Swim,” Kimahri told her evenly.

“But the Sinspawn!” Rikku protested.

“We kill Sinspawn before. What make this one different?”

“If it even exists,” Wakka muttered to himself, then said louder, “Kimahri’s got a point. We’ve beat Sinspawn before, and we can do it again.”

Yuna had not liked the idea of swimming to begin with, Sinspawn or no Sinspawn. It hadn’t helped that the water was freezing. Nor was the significance of the last time she’d been in freezing water lost upon her.

Yuna was just about to voice her concerns when she felt something brush against her leg. “Kimahri, watch your tail,” she started to say, then realized Kimahri was too far away for his tail to reach her. Looking around, Yuna confirmed that Wakka and Rikku couldn’t have touched her either.

Then the thing brushed against her leg again.

“Something’s in the water,” Yuna said nervously. “It’s brushed against my leg twice already.”

“Siiiinspaaawn,” Rikku said, her voice wavering in pitch.

That did it. Yuna put on her most annoyed expression and shot back, “Please. It’s probably just a fish-”

Yuna didn’t have time to finish her sentence. She certainly didn’t have time to scream.

Because that was when the thing pulled her beneath the surface.

“Everyone! Quick! Dive under and watch your legs!” Wakka shouted.

They dove under the surface and immediately wished they hadn’t.

The Sinspawn before them was giant, covering much of the visible sea floor with its sheer mass. How it had dropped from Sin’s body, nobody had any real idea. The four of them could stand on each others’ heads and still not be as high or as wide as its eyes. The eyes themselves were multifaceted, like an insect’s, bulging out of the thing’s streamlined body. It had seventeen tentacles; the eighteenth was severed at the base. Its body was large and looked like an oyster shell. Despite its size, it was hard to see thanks to its rippling blue scales, each the size of a man’s head.

It was gripping Yuna with two of its tentacles, pulling her down towards its body. Instead of a beak, the Sinspawn had a huge black hole on the bottom of its body that was lined with razor-sharp fangs that were bigger than the massive blades Auron had used.

Kimahri swam towards Yuna, swinging his halberd at one of the tentacles holding her. Despite its flexibility, the tentacle also seemed to be armored. If it had been on land, sparks would have been struck off the tentacle when Kimahri hit it. As it was, the Sinspawn barely noticed. Kimahri hacked at it a second time, and a third tentacle came. It smacked Kimahri, sending him shooting back towards the surface.

Wakka tried a different tactic, aiming for the thing’s eyes. The blitzball bounced off the eye without doing any damage. Apparently the eyes were armored too.

Yuna, dying for air, mentally smacked the ball back toward the eye going ten times faster than Wakka had thrown it. The impact spread hairline cracks through the eye’s shell but did not damage the organ itself.

The giant Sinspawn began to shake, and the water around it shimmered with magical energy. Its eyes seemed to dilate, and small whirlpools formed on their surfaces. It was concentrating on Wakka, who to its knowledge had been the one to actually hurt it.

Almost unconscious, Yuna sent a desperate mental call to Wakka. Maneuver behind the tentacles!

Wakka immediately did so, and as the whirlpools increased in size and power he braced himself for their impact, knowing he probably wouldn’t survive. The Sinspawn’s eyes flashed again and the whirlpools spewed forth like two giant missiles, heading straight for Wakka. Yuna, calling on her last bastion of strength, mentally shoved him out of the way as the whirlpools severed the tentacles gripping her legs. She swam for the surface, fearing she wouldn’t make it until Wakka grabbed her and helped her up.

Yuna broke the surface of the water, sucking in sweet, cold air. For the first time she noticed that the monks, being smarter than they looked, had realized something was going on in the water, and small groups of them were wading into the ocean to figure out what was the matter. Yuna felt the water bubbling and wondered what the Sinspawn was doing next.

Then the creature surfaced in all its destructive glory, and the monks suddenly had no reason to stay in the water.

The resulting wave washed the four of them ashore, battered and bruised. The Sinspawn descended upon the monks, pulling man after man into its gaping maw. It reached a tentacle towards Yuna, but Rikku pulled a grenade out of her satchel and let fly. The grenade exploded violently, spewing bits of armor and flesh everywhere. A swipe from Kimahri’s halberd sliced the exposed part of the tentacle off. It continued to twitch even after it had hit the sand.

A short distance away, the monks tried firing off the energy cannon. Its beam lasted but a second before it sputtered and died. Yuna thought she could make out the head monk fleeing in a hovercraft, but she wasn’t sure.

Bellowing in pain from the creature that had hurt it, the Sinspawn turned its attention on the machina. The whole length of the fiend quivered, and the air around it became searing waves of purplish energy that flew along the ground toward the machina. It was wiped out of existence, along with all the monks unfortunate enough to be caught in the blast.

“Run!” Yuna screamed.

And they ran.

They finally stopped running when they came to the Djose Highroad. From back near the shore, sounds of conflict clearly continued. Yuna was just about to take inventory on their situation when a monk staggered forward.

He was bleeding in several different places and looked dazed, but not so much that he didn’t see trouble when it grabbed him by the collar.

“Please don’t hurt me!” he whimpered. “I’ll tell you anything – just don’t hurt me!”
Disgusted, Yuna motioned for the monk to tell her what he knew.

“Well, I’m not entirely sure what was going on, but a few months ago me and my unit were approached by this arch monk named Neltharios.”

“Is he the monk with the fancy helmet?” Wakka asked.

“If you mean the wing-helmet of Yevon, yes, he’s the one. He offered us action, which there’d been almost none of, and substantial rewards should we follow his every command. We agreed, and he had us relocate here. Only when we arrived did we realize Neltharios had made the some pact with a lot of other monks.”

“So many monks, corrupted by greed… it’s astounding,” Yuna said.

The monk glared at her, then went on. “Anyway, if you’re who I think you are, Neltharios wants you alive.”

“Alive?” Wakka exploded. “But then why’d he drop a bunch of rocks on our heads?”

“It was too fun an opportunity not to take,” the monk said with a small smile. “We already had what we really attacked you for.”

“Lulu,” Yuna muttered. “This Neltharios intends to use her as a hostage, doesn’t he?”

“If needed,” the monk replied. “Though her primary role – yours too, really – doesn’t involve ransom.”

“Wait. If Neltharios wants us alive, why he bribe three monks to kill us at Al Bhed shop?” Kimahri interrupted.

The monk frowned, replying, “What? That wasn’t part of the plan-”

He never finished his sentence. A boulder, being hurled all the way from the battlefront, slammed into the rock face above the party. A smaller boulder broke loose and crushed the monk where he stood. The larger one landed off to the left.

Yuna, surprised and dismayed, looked around at her friends, who looked back just as puzzled. If Neltharios wants us alive, then who wants us dead?

Still shivering from the cold winds that whipped by, the party of four headed down the Djose Highroad. They still had several miles to go before they got to the moonflow, and it was nearly midnight. Nobody spoke, each contemplating their own thoughts.

Yuna finally took her gaze off the ground and looked at her friends.

Rikku was absentmindedly fiddling with a grenade while she walked along. Yuna wanted to stop her, but in the intent look on Rikku’s face suggested she would best be left alone.

Wakka looked worried, agitated. He was no doubt antagonizing over Lulu’s fate, and Yuna felt deeply for him.

Kimahri had drawn his brows close over his eyes, giving him a contemplative expression. Probably unaware of Yuna’s gaze, Kimahri frowned and shook his head slightly; Yuna guessed he was working on some sort of mental puzzle.

Finally, Yuna couldn’t stand the silence any longer. “I think we need to go over the things that have happened in the past two days,” she said.

Rikku looked up from her grenade and replied, “Oh, please do.” Her tone dripped with sarcasm.

Yuna ignored it and began, “First there’s a fiend charge towards Luca. Then three monks are bribed to kill us at the Al Bhed shop. After that a much bigger group of monks chases us and kidnaps Lulu. Then we run into a huge base of them and a Sinspawn nearly kills us all. Finally we learn that their leader, Neltharios, wants us alive but someone paid those monks to murder us. I just don’t know what to make of it!”

“Maybe we’re forgetting the fact that our original plan was to go to the Farplane. Are we still following through on that?” Wakka asked.

Yuna nodded and replied, “Of course. I want to see Auron or… or…”

Nobody spoke for several minutes, all distinctly aware of who she was talking about.

“Look!” Rikku said after a long silence. In a bend in the road through the glade of trees, a huge light could be seen shining through. The four of them sprinted around the bend and saw the moonflow.

It was lit up by hundreds of pyreflies, a river of moonlight that shimmered with all the colors of the rainbow. Yuna flinched, her eyes reflexively closing, but she opened them again to take in the sight. After a while of gazing at the shining river, Yuna motioned for them all to move on.

A nearby inn had two rooms available; Wakka and Kimahri shared one room while Rikku and Yuna shared the other.

Rikku had fallen asleep draped over the side of one of the two beds, completely tired out. Yuna stood by the window and gazed out at the stars. The moonflow was unbelievably beautiful.

Suddenly the door slammed open and someone fell in. Yuna whirled, expecting Rikku to be on her feet, but she was still sound asleep. The door itself was closed, too, but the ethereal image of Tidus was picking itself up off the floor. It got to its feet before disappearing.

Yuna tried to stay standing for a moment, then collapsed onto the second bed and cried. He just can’t stay with me, can he?

The time Tidus had stumbled through her door like that was when she’d been viewing Jyscal’s sphere, where the Maester implored her to stop his son, Seymour. It had been one of her darkest hours, and then Tidus fell through the doorway to momentarily brighten it all.

Crying freely, Yuna wondered if Tidus would ever do that again, if he would ever bring happiness to her again instead of sorrow. She told herself that, yes, someday and somehow it wouldn’t make her sad. Deep in her heart of hearts, however, Yuna doubted her conviction.

They set off at the crack of dawn. The inconvenient timing did little to help Yuna’s mood. The shoopuf they rode was the same one the Al Bhed had kidnapped Yuna off of, and the memories swirled around her like a fog that refused to go away.

The four of them finally arrived on the north bank. It was about four o’clock when they set off again for nearby Guadosalam. Yuna’s spirits sank lower and lower every step they took towards the Guado capital.

They were only about a mile away when Yuna stopped in her tracks and refused to move.

“I don’t want to see him again,” she said. “I think we should just skip Guadosalam and continue on to Bevelle. We can solve this mystery there and probably find Lulu, too.”

“Nice try,” Rikku said. “Well, I want to see him, and I have a feeling Wakka and Kimahri do, too.”

“Well…” Wakka interrupted her. “I’m starting to have doubts about this whole affair, too. I mean, coming all this way when Lulu is missing, monks are massing against us in Bevelle and Luca, there’s a fiend charge, and more. I’m not sure what we’re really supposed to do, ya?”

“Yuna.” It was Kimahri. “Do not forget we must pass through Guadosalam before Bevelle.”

Reluctantly, Yuna nodded and trudged on.

Guadosalam was exactly as Yuna remembered it; carved out of the living rock, brightly colored in many shades of pink, blue, green, and red. The huge cavern housed many shops… and the Farplane.

Yuna wanted to immediately proceed into the Thunder Plains, but the Guado leader, one Priester Guado, told them that a severe storm was whipping through the Thunder Plains and that they would have to stay for the night. Yuna tried to delay by insisting on going shopping or dining, but Wakka reminded her they hadn’t brought the pile of Gil needed. Priester Guado was also too busy to chat with them… Which left only one option.

As she ascended the gently curving ramp towards the Farplane, Yuna felt the lead blanket of depression pressing down so hard she thought her knees would buckle onder its weight. Kimahri was the only one that seemed to notice, and instead of putting a comforting hand on her shoulder he smiled. Yuna smiled weakly back, and felt the blanket let off a little.

She rounded the final turn and saw the huge sphere that housed the Farplane. For the first time in a long time Yuna ascended the steps to the entrance. Halfway up, she realized her friends were not following her.

“What are you all waiting for?” Yuna asked, turning around.

“You,” Wakka replied.

“I have a funny feeling you won’t get the answers you want if we’re there, sticking our noses into everything,” Rikku said.

Yuna nodded at her friends, licked her lips, and entered the Farplane.

It’s actually much closer to eight pages than seven, but a certain level of suspense is required to keep the reader hooked, and I figured the scene change as Yuna enters the Farplane is much more dramatic than the one right after she starts being plagued by self-doubt (yes, real dramatic stuff there). Thanks for your comments so far.

Heh…looking foreward to the next bit. Keep it coming!

OK, time for the daily update.

The Farplane was not as it should be, Yuna thought uneasily. Its huge, glowing waterfalls had black streaks running through it. The endless fields of flowers had huge patches of wilting greenery. The normally golden sky was a deep bronze, and the clouds were black and thundering.

It was as if the life beyond was being corrupted.

“Hello, Yuna.”

Feeling the hairs on the back of her neck tingle, Yuna turned towards the sound of the voice. It was Auron in all his unearthly glory.

“Auron?” Yuna was shaking.

“You would like me to leave?”

“No, not at all! It’s just… no image ever seen on the Farplane has even spoken. Ever.”
“Of course not. Then again, I am not just an image.”

“What are you, then?” Yuna asked, perplexed.

“It’s hard to explain,” Auron replied slowly. “Let’s just say that after you sent me, I refused to go to the Farplane. So did Tidus, in his own way.”

“It’s impossible to refuse to go to the Farplane once sent,” Yuna whispered.

“Destroying Sin once and for all was supposed to be impossible, was it not?” Auron asked, and Yuna could see his half smile. “Apparently, nothing is impossible. I could ride Sin to Zanarkand. I rode the tidal wave of magic you sent me on to this plane between the living and the dead – and went no further.”

“So you’re not dead, but you’re not alive either?” Yuna was becoming genuinely confused. The meeting with Auron was not going as she’d thought it would.

“I am indeed dead. I’ve been dead for ten years. But I am not sent. Keep that term in mind.”

She had to ask. “Where is he?”


“Don’t play dumb,” Yuna snapped, then shook her head and said, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have snapped at you. I mean… what I’m trying to say… where is Tidus?”

Auron nodded and said, “So, you do remember him as a person and not as an abstract pronoun with sentimental meaning.” Shocked, Yuna said nothing. “He’s here. But he is busy talking with his father – oh, there he is.”

Auron turned his head to look at something Yuna couldn’t see, then Tidus and Jecht suddenly appeared.

Yuna felt her voice crack and waver. “T-Tidus?”

“Uh… hiya.”

Yuna dropped to her knees and choked back tears. “It is you.”

Tidus looked pained, then turned around and slammed his first into a cloud formation. Strangely, it rebounded as if the cloud was solid.

“Yuna.” Tidus looked as if he was going to cry himself, but Jecht put a hand on his shoulder. That provoked a smile, and Tidus went on. “A day hasn’t gone by when I didn’t think about you. Sometimes I didn’t think I could go on.”

“You’re dead. It must be rough,” Yuna replied.

Tidus grinned, then continued. “I don’t want to think about how me disappearing made you feel.”

“It wasn’t your disappearance that hurt me the most,” Yuna told him. “It was you appearing to me from my memories and telling me not to worry, or sorry, or something.”

The grin on his face fading into a frown, Tidus said, “I didn’t try to appear to you.”

“Auron showed up twice, too,” Yuna said. “When I was at that Al Bhed shop on the Highroad. I was watching the sunset, then you sat down next to me and gave me that little speech about blitzball.”

“The one about the cute girl in the fifth seat from the right?”

“Exactly. Then Auron appears, tells me to come inside, and then both of you disappear.”

“I didn’t try to appear to you at all,” Tidus told her. “But I had strange dreams. I was talking to Auron, about…aah…”

“Me being Sin,” Jecht said. It wasn’t a question.

“Yeah. Only it was about midnight, not noon. And you were there, Yuna. You were sitting on a bench, watching us-”

“This doesn’t make sense. I was wide awake when I saw you two arguing at the Luca dock.”

“Well, I was asleep.”

“This is all very fascinating, but we have more important things to discuss,” Jecht rumbled in the baritone only he seemed to have. “Unless you’ve gone blind, Yuna, you can see that the Farplane is rotting at the core.”

“Yes, I had noticed, thank you.”

“There’s a very clear, obvious reason for this. Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly what it is. No doubt it’s right under our noses, but none of us can figure out why this is happening.”

“It’s sort of hard to do detective work when you’re dead,” Tidus interjected, smiling.

“Not to mention suffering from a mid-life depression,” a new voice said.

“You mean mid-afterlife,” Tidus replied; but Yuna didn’t hear that particular crack. She was too busy staring at the newcomer.

It was her father.

“Hello, Yuna,” Braska said. “It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”

“You… you died while fighting Sin!” Yuna gasped. “It’s always been said that summoners who die fighting Sin are immediately sent to the Farplane!”

“What has been said has not always been true,” Auron told her.

“Summoners who die fighting with Sin are eternally cursed for their contact with it,” Braska said. “All of us end up in the same nether-realm as Auron and Tidus trapped themselves in.”

“It’s actually pretty scenic,” Jecht said. “We can appear in the Farplane and the real world and will. It’s just hard to do.”

“Almost impossible,” Braska corrected him. “Despite that, we have been watching Spira. And we believe the cause of the Farplane’s decay is centered around Bevelle.”

The four of them paused, then Tidus said, “Yuna. Jump.”

“What? Are you crazy?”

“Jump! Before-”

Tidus, Auron, Braska and Jecht suddenly disappeared… and the monks stormed in.

For the first time since she’d fought Seymour on Mount Gagazet, Yuna felt dark power crackling at her fingertips. Unlike her fight with Seymour, however, this time it got free.

It blasted three of the monks in a swarm of purple lightning bolts, arcing from one to the other. Their agony was prolonged until the bolts finally lost their power and disappeared, then the monks collapsed to the ground, twitching… and dead.

More of them kept pouring in, and a Flare opened beneath them at Yuna’s command. The chaos flamed blasted seven of them off the giant rock platform, sending them – and the corpses of the monks hit by the lightning – into the mists below.

Yuna realized the wealth of power at her command, and it frightened her. She tried to draw back, but another group of monks perished as the ground swallowed them up and then returned to its pristine state.


Yuna turned away from the monks, looked at the seemingly endless drop, and jumped.

She had no idea how long she’d been falling. All she did know was that when she opened her eyes again, she was lying flat on her back. The ground was cold, and everything was pitch black.

Cautiously, she got up and surveyed the area as best she could. Squinting, Yuna thought she could make out indistinct shapes about a few meters away from her. She stumbled to her feet and tried to make it to them, but they simply seemed to get farther away. Yuna shook her head and realized she was walking backwards. More than that, though, the figures seemed to be upside down.

Yuna dropped back the ground, trying to sort out what she’d done. Nobody had ever jumped into the Farplane.

Well, if they did, they certainly didn’t come back to tell their friends and family about it.

Yuna blinked as she took in the fact the shapes had reoriented themselves so they were right side up. She got up and tried to walk towards them again, but they simply got farther away. Frowning to herself, Yuna tried walking backwards with the same result.

This is bad.

“Kimahri?” she called. Her voice was swallowed up by the blackness, and to make it worse no echo answered her call. Yuna thought her eyes should have adjusted by then, but she still couldn’t see her hands in front of her face. Her frown deepening – she thought – Yuna puzzled over this. If she couldn’t see her hands in front of her face after at least a minute, that suggested there was no light. But if there was no light, how was it she could make out those figures?

Mentally, she conjured a flame in the palm of her hand. At least, she tried to. The flame firmly refused to appear. Yuna was about to try again when she felt the warmth of the flame on her palm. Something had to be absorbing all the light… but the figures remained.

Yuna threw the flame at the stock-still silhouettes, and for a second they flinched. Yuna took that moment to run towards them, and she actually got closer until they resumed their silent pose. Then she started getting farther away again.

Yuna conjured a flame in both hands, paused to make sure they were there, and then threw one at the figures. They flinched, and after a moment of running Yuna felt herself going in the wrong direction. She tossed the other flame and ran. Almost on top of the silhouettes, Yuna conjured a last flame and threw it.

Suddenly she smacked into something very solid. Shaking her head, Yuna realized light was blinding her again. Opening her eyes slowly, she saw Wakka, Kimahri, and Rikku leaning over her.

Getting up from the ground where she’d fallen – though she couldn’t remember falling – Yuna tried to take in what had happened.

“Yuna! You okay?” Wakka asked.

“I don’t know,” Yuna replied.

“You went inside, and after about five minutes we heard a bunch of footsteps coming,” Rikku cut in. “So the three of us swung down under the walkway to the Farplane. It was tough, but they didn’t notice us.”

“What happened to monks?” Kimahri asked.

Yuna shook her head and told them about her use of black magic, her meeting
with Tidus, and how she’d jumped into the Farplane.

“You’re lucky to be alive, ya?” Wakka said. “There’s no telling what might have happened to you. Nobody’s ever jumped before. At least, not that anyone knows about, eh?”

Yuna motioned towards the exit, and they started towards it. Yuna went last, and just as she was about to leave she heard Tidus’s voice. “Yuna.”

She turned around, and there were Tidus, Auron, Jecht, and Braska again.

“I’m so sorry.”


Tidus shook his head and replied, “You ended up in the same nether-realm as us. Only you aren’t dead, so the trip didn’t go well for you.”

“You’re bound by your perceptions of the four basic dimensions: length, width, height, and time,” Jecht said. “Being, well, dead, we aren’t. That’s why we can exist on this plane while you can’t – at least not without some problems along the way.”

“Dimensions? You’re confusing me,” Yuna replied.

“Hopefully. At the beginning of reality, the eight dimensions that make up the fabric of existence were destabilized.” Jecht sounded like he was giving a lesson on blitzball, not discussing subjects only the greatest minds in Spira had ever dared dabble in. “The four base ones, namely length, width, height, and time, manifested themselves in Spira, the mortal plane. The four higher ones, that is, matter, energy, space, and the highest, nothingness, manifested in the Farplane – the plane of the dead.”

“Wait a minute,” Yuna said. “There are four higher dimensions? Matter, energy, space, and nothingness? Maybe you should explain again.”

“Matter is the building block of existence,” Braska put in. “Length, width, and height are dependent on it. Therefore it is a higher dimension. Energy is depended on by all base dimensions, as time cannot pass without change brought about by energy. Matter and energy are interdependent, therefore they are the lowest of the higher dimensions. They, and the basic dimensions, rely on space, because without space there could be no matter and energy, and therefore no length, width, height, or time could exist. That is why nothingness is the highest dimension: it controls the very existence of all seven other dimensions.”

Yuna’s head spun, trying to take in all she was being told. “Anyway,” Tidus said, “the reason we can perceive the four higher dimensions and you can’t is because the higher dimensions are not manifested in the living plane – and since you’re living and not dead, you therefore cannot perceive them.”

“This is crazy. Without the four higher dimensions, Spira couldn’t exist,” Yuna shot back. “I’m standing on rock, which is composed of matter. Why is it I can perceive it?”

“Because it is matter bound by the four basic dimensions,” Auron replied. “It has a length, a width, and a height. It is effected by the passage of time, although magic decreases that effect. Magic is a form of energy bound by the highest basic dimension, time. It is completely impossible for magic to exist in perceivable form by the living for an infinite amount of time, Yuna. Rather, once it has expended the time-bound energy inherent in it, the magic dissipates from Spira and must be drawn again from the dimension of energy.”

“Fine. I believe you. Just one thing… when I was in that nether-realm, I could see figures in the distance. Whenever they were standing still, I couldn’t walk towards them; any motion I made carried me away from them. But I conjured fire, tossed it at them, and they flinched. While they were in motion, I could get closer to them. I could feel the ground beneath my feet. Then I smacked into something solid-”

“Those figures were us,” Tidus said. “We had to stand still to focus the energy dimension to repel you from the nether-realm you’d fallen into. But when you focused the dimension of energy into that fire, we had to dodge it or risk killing you accidentally. Finally, when you got close enough, we were able to draw upon your natural connection to energy bound by the basic dimensions to propel you back to Spira. The thing you smacked into was the ground – we think you appeared in mid-air.”

Yuna rubbed her eyes wearily and said, “Does this have anything to do with our current predicament?”

“Which one? As I recall, you appear to be in several,” Auron replied.

Suppressing a glare, Yuna counted them off on her fingers. “Bevelle is, for all we know, in open rebellion. We have a legion of warrior monks, led by a man named Neltharios, out to capture us. There is also someone who seems to want us dead badly enough to bribe three of the aforementioned monks to kill us. Neltharios also has Lulu. Anything I’m forgetting?”

“Your emotional state,” Auron told her.

“Auron, that’s not funny,” Tidus growled out of the side of his mouth.

“But it is true.” Auron seemed to step forward and lean towards Yuna. “You must not forget to keep control of yourself, Yuna. A very wise friend of mine once said that emotions can be turned against you as easily as anything else.”

“Define ‘anything else’,” Yuna snapped back.

“Whatever you think it is,” Auron told her, and there was no mistakening the cold steel in his voice. “It can be instinct, the environment, friends, people you don’t know, the entire world. But the worst thing that can happen is to be turned on by yourself.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Yuna started to ask, but Tidus waved goodbye and the four of them vanished again.

Yuna turned around and saw Wakka standing by the exit. “I was just thinking you might want to actually leave,” Wakka said hopefully, smiling.

“I’ll be with you in one more minute,” Yuna ground out.

Raising his hands as if in surrender, Wakka replied, “Fine, no problem, ya?” He turned and walked out. Yuna turned back to the Farplane… but the four did not appear.

Yuna refrained from screaming and instead punched a rock formation near the edge of the Farplane. It shattered, the pieces shooting out into the higher realm.

What am I going to do? Yuna asked herself.

For the first time in what seemed to be forever, Lulu managed to open her eyes. The bright light made her squeeze them shut again, but only for a moment. After adjusting to the brightness level, Lulu got off the plush bed she’d been lying on for who knew how long and looked around.

She was in an opulent room, its ceiling grandly arching at least two stories high. Golden sunlight shone through the curtains on one of the two windows, revealing the large amount of furniture in the room. The décor was lovely; and there were only two things that seemed out of place to Lulu.

First was the large symbol of Yevon painted on the east – or was it west, she couldn’t tell – wall of her room. It seemed almost to throb, though Lulu suspected it was a trick of the light. Looking out the window, Lulu realized with a start she had to be in the palace of Bevelle.

The other thing that was out of place was the long, polished, silver chain. One end was linked to the foot of the bed. The other was wrapped tightly around Lulu’s right ankle. Despite the luxurious surroundings, there was no doubt she was a prisoner.

Lulu allowed herself a small, tight-lipped smile. Whoever was jailing her had to be an incompetent among incompetents, to only secure her with a silver chain. Still smiling, Lulu mentally told the chain to break in half.

Nothing happened.

Frowning, Lulu repeated her command. The chain didn’t budge.

Angrily, Lulu froze the chain with a blast of ice, to make it brittle enough to snap. At least, she tried to. Nothing happened to it.

The door on the south side of the room opened silently, and Lulu was so astonished at her failure she didn’t notice until the man who entered spoke up, saying, “You’re finally awake.”

Snapping her head around, Lulu realized the speaker was the monk who had been chasing them on the Highroad. Glaring, she made the air around the man explode in a ball of flame. A moment later the smoke cleared and he still stood tall, proud… untouched.

“It won’t do you any good, my dear. Everything in this room has been magic-proofed. The necklace I wear also grants immunity to magic.” He held up a small, silver chain necklace with one golden bead on it. “You are… Lulu, correct?” Lulu simply stared balefully at him. If looks could kill, the man would have been alternately cooked, frozen, smashed to a pulp, drawn and quartered, and eaten raw within a space of two and a half seconds. After waiting a moment, the man continued. “No matter. It doesn’t matter who you are, now that you’re here and you’re a powerful black mage. My name is Neltharios.” Neltharios’ utterance of his identity was accompanied by a sweeping bow. “What do you think of your accommodations?”

Lulu snorted and replied, “Get rid of this chain and I’ll be glad to tell you first-hand.”

“I believe that chain is long enough to give me one anyhow,” the monk replied. He had barely finished speaking when Lulu launched herself at him, hands reaching for his neck. The chain suddenly pulled taught and she hit the ground hard. Blinking away the stars that had intruded on her vision, Lulu realized that Neltharios was no more than four inches out of her reach.

“Maddening, isn’t it?” Neltharios asked cheerfully, as if discussing the weather. Lulu picked herself up as he continued, saying, “You will, of course, be treated well. Just don’t hurt my staff, or I’m afraid conditions will degenerate rapidly.” He stepped forward and grasped Lulu by the chin. She nearly spat at the audacity of the motion. “And you will always treat me with respect,” he hissed at her, charming facade completely gone. Releasing her, Neltharios turned and began to walk out of the room.

“Go to hell,” she yelled at his back.

“All in good time, Lulu,” the monk replied. “If you play your part well – which you will – then that time may never come at all.” He left, closing the door behind him… and Lulu was alone.

She sank onto a couch, trying to figure out what to do next. What had Neltharios meant about her playing her part well? If he wanted her as a hostage, she was already playing her part by simply being chained up in an admittedly luxurious cell.

Whatever her role happened to be, Lulu suspected she would not like it at all.

And there is tonight’s update. I’m in a teensy bit of a hurry, so apologies if I missed anything remformatting it. Have a good evening, everyone.

Oooh…and the plot thickens like bad oatmeal.

Your “dimentions” thingy reminds me of a few weird-yet-interesting theories a good friend of mine had.

KK, daily update time.

The door to her cell opened with hardly a sound. And Lulu knew that the time for her to play her part had come.

Four monks walked in. The one in front was a young man about Lulu’s age and height. He wore no helmet and had slightly ruffled brown hair and inquisitive, blue eyes. Looking at the name on his breastplate, Lulu identified him as Malath.

The monk looked her over for a second, then said, “It’s time to begin.” Malath had a compelling, naturally charismatic voice. He walked to the side of the bed and unlocked the end of the chain shackled to the bedpost. He then placed the cuff around his right wrist.

“Why the precaution?” Lulu asked. “There are three other men with rifles – why bother?”

Malath smiled coldly and replied, “Three reasons. First of all, I do not want to unshackle your ankle. It’s extremely difficult to attach a magic-immune chain to a black mage of your power. It was no small feat to get it on in the first place. Second, if I let the chain remain unshackled, you would have a viable weapon at your disposal. Third is nobody’s business but my own. Now, Lord Neltharios is waiting.”

Lulu nodded, wondering what the third reason was, and started out the door. As they walked, Lulu wondered what her role was. If it was not that of a hostage, what else could it be?

After about a minute, the small party entered one of the palace’s four great halls. This particular great hall was circular, with many chairs along the edge for an audience. In the center was a table for dining and entertainment that could be removed to create a stage for the aforementioned audience. Light streamed in from windows all around the room, and additional lamps lit the great hall, but the brightest beam of light came from a circular skylight in the ceiling directly above the center of the room.

At least, that was what it had looked like before Neltharios had shown up.

The chairs had been taken out and replaced with at least five hundred pedestals. Each pedestal held a magical object that increased the power of any nearby spellcasters. Upon entering the room, Lulu felt a rush of raw energy hit her. The jerk Malath gave the chain also reminded Lulu she was in no condition to use that energy. The center table had also been removed, but instead of a small stage there was a large, circular stone emblazoned with the seal of Yevon. Many glyphs surrounded the image, describing Yevon’s teachings in detail. The skylight had been expanded to light up the entire stone circle as well as a bit of the surrounding floor. All the other windows had been covered with blinds, and the lamps had been dimmed so the edges of the room were barely visible.

Neltharios stood just outside the shaft of light, another monk at his side. Seeing Lulu, he smiled cheerily and said, “Well, good morning. How are you today?” Lulu simply glared at him. After returning her gaze, Neltharios said to Malath, “Release her from the chain.” Malath bent down on one knee and unshackled Lulu. The monk beside Neltharios stepped into the light and the arch monk told Lulu, “Bare a bit of your neck, please.”

“Why?” Lulu asked defiantly.

“Because,” Neltharios said, “You are completely at my mercy and have no choice. Now do it!” His pleasant manner was evaporating like fog in a desert. Lulu did as he ordered, and the monk slipped a silver choker onto her neck.

“That little accessory will prevent you from voluntarily using any of the magic you have available,” Neltharios said. “Now, lie down on the circle.” Lulu did so, and after moving her directly onto the symbol of Yevon, the monk snapped hidden restraints into place. Lulu struggled even as she knew that there was no hope of escape. Her hands and feet were snapped down onto the stone, and Neltharios absently rubbed his hands together. “All right then, Malath,” he said, some false cheer returning to his voice. “Our lovely assistant is in position.” Lulu spat at him, but with the skylight blinding her she was fairly certain she missed. “Bind us, if you will.” Malath stepped forward and Lulu felt something being slipped onto her right wrist with a sharp snick – she couldn’t see what because of the light. A moment later, a corresponding snick sounded and Lulu guessed that Neltharios had something around his wrist, too. “Hurry it up and get the moogle. Let’s not keep the good necromancer waiting.” Lulu felt her heart try to leap up into her throat.

There hadn’t been a necromancer in Spira for over seven thousand years. The last known one to live had been Psertorpus, and it had taken the combined efforts of nineteen summoners to defeat him and his pet Master Tonberry.

A low voice sounded. “Hurry along. I’m getting impatient,” the speaker said. Though the man was obviously advanced in age, sharpened steel resounded in his every utterance. The sentence he’d spoken seemed to slice through the surrounding air, and Malath’s footsteps picked up, hurriedly walking away. A short amount of time later, he returned and the necromancer – whoever he happened to be – took something from him. A moogle, Lulu guessed.

Then a cold, skeletal hand placed itself on her forehead.

Lulu yelped in surprise, her struggles renewed. The hand pressed down hard on her skull, seemingly hard enough to break it, and Lulu stopped. “Good, child,” the necromancer spoke. His words, though they might have been kind coming from someone else, were colder than an arctic wasteland and crueler than life itself. Lulu saw his other arm come through the light – her eyes were starting to adjust – and place something small and dark on her stomach. Lulu swallowed and realized with horror it was moving.

At first, it only turned around where it was, as if taking in the world around it. Then it focused on her face, rising up on eight cloth legs. Multifaceted obsidian eyes impossibly locked on to her terrified gaze, and its stuffed body shook with excitement.

The thing was one of the five Spider Moogles existing in Spira. Psertorpus had created all of them, for they were his favorite method of focusing his considerable magic. Incredibly powerful and evil, capable of intelligent thought, they were deadly to both their wielders and those they were set loose on.

Then it started skittering towards her head.

Lulu started to struggle again, but the necromancer’s hand twitched and searing pain lanced into her head. Lulu reflexively stopped, then tried again. The pain came again, and Lulu knew a third time would completely rob her of her already reeling senses.

The Spider Moogle was probing her face with two of its legs, as if searching for anything amiss. Eyes widening, Lulu was about to open her mouth to say something – anything – when the Moogle struck faster than an eye could blink, landing squarely on her mouth. Creeping towards the Necromancer’s hand, its four rearmost legs kept an iron grip on Lulu’s lips, keeping them together and preventing her from making a sound. Its eyes met hers… then it planted a foreleg on each of her temples, all the while keeping her silent. It quivered for a moment, then was still.

Neltharios spoke up quietly, saying, “I’m ready.”

“So am I.” The necromancer took his hand off Lulu’s forehead and placed it on the body of the Spider Moogle. Suddenly the Moogle reared back, bringing its two forelegs off her temples. The necromancer was with it all the time, never breaking contact with it. After exactly three seconds of rearing up, the Spider Moogle pounced again, forelegs piercing the skin of her temples and driving deep into her skull. Its hind legs were too busy helping it in this endeavor to keep Lulu silent, and the great hall echoed with her scream…

Screaming, blood flowing freely from punctured temples, Lulu flew down a black, swirling vortex. Grasping her head with both hands, she screamed for it all to stop, for life itself to end, if not the agony.

Suddenly the vortex disappeared, and she was floating in a deep ocean, her blood turning the water a deep purple around her. Unable to stand the pain, Lulu suddenly realized that she instinctively knew what would end the agony… and she followed through on the instinct. She dove deeper down, towards the last thing a person would want to swim towards.

The Sinspawn that had utterly annihilated the Djose shore.

“The procedure obviously failed.”

“Of course it did. We obviously weren’t doing something right. Are you sure that pet moogle of yours is-”

“Yes. No matter how many times we must repeat the procedure, it cannot inflict fatal injury.”

Lulu, having barely regained consciousness, listened with half an ear to Neltharios’ and the necromancer’s heated conversation. What was his name – ah, yes, Malath – was standing a few feet away, doing his best to look neutral. Lulu half-heartedly tried to get a good look at the necromancer, but Neltharios was obscuring her view. All she could tell was that the man was shorter than Neltharios – which was not saying much – and that he was absentmindedly holding the Spider Moogle in one hand and petting it with the other. Lulu rolled her head to one side and instantly regretted it as pain flashed through her skull. Opening eyes she didn’t know had been squeezed shut, she saw the river of blood that had been running down her temples, over the stone, and finally collecting in a small lake on the floor. Shuddering, Lulu didn’t bother looking on her other side.

Seeing she was awake, Malath walked over to her and removed the restraints. He shackled her ankle to the chain again, removed the choker, and carried her back to her room.

He shackled the chain to the bed and placed Lulu on it. She collapsed into it, completely spent. Through the tears of pain in her eyes, she could see Malath looking at her with – what was it, pity? – in his eyes. After a moment, realizing she was aware of him, Malath quickly turned on his heel and exited the cell, leaving Lulu to rest her head on a pillow and pretend her head didn’t hurt.

[i]Darkness. All around. But there’s light over there… a circle. Magic is imbalanced. The dimension of energy is warped in this place.

Spiderwebs everywhere. No light to see them, but still there. Only one spider. No light to see it, but still there.

A prisoner. An unwilling pawn in fate’s vision for the world.

No! Not fate’s vision. An impostor. A trickster.

Which trickster? Too many to remember. What is there to remember?

Magic found its source through four places.

No! Five.

A prisoner. An unwilling pawn in fate’s vision.

No! Not fate. The impostor.


No! Not fate. The impostor.

A link that binds the prisoner and fate.

No! It binds the prisoner and the impostor.


A second impostor.

No! The product of the matter and energy dimensions being merged into the dimensions of length, width, and height, while the dimension of time is disconnected from all five.


The spider. The spider that cannot be seen because of no light.


A sixth source.

Yet this source is different.

It is based in the first source.

The prisoner. The unwilling pawn in fate’s vision.

No! Not fate! The impostor.


A seventh source.

The creature beneath the sea.


The first, sixth, and seventh sources close. The darkness consumes all.[/i]

With a unanimous yelp, Wakka, Rikku, Yuna, and Kimahri woke up from a dream. Kimahri, who had stationed himself outside the room they’d been given, entered and stared at the three of them.

“What… what was that?” Yuna stammered.

Priester Guado delicately held the teacup to his lips, took a measured sip, and placed it back on the table.

“What the four of you have just witnessed and shared at the same time is a Far Dream.”

“A what?” Wakka asked. He was standing in a corner of the room, arms crossed. He looked troubled, plagued by some puzzle he didn’t have the pieces to.

“A Far Dream is a dream shared by four people – no more, no less,” Priester explained. “It shows an event happening to a person they all dearly care for. Likewise, they must also dearly care for each other. The event is beheld through the eyes of those that stopped on the wave of sending magic to the Farplane.”

“You mean… those trapped in the nether-realm between Spira and the Farplane?” Yuna asked.

Priester nodded, took another sip of tea, and continued. “However, since the four of you are still alive, you see it differently. It is very hard to explain…” He rubbed his temples, and then went on. “You see, dreaming elevates your mind, in order to perceive the dimensions of matter and energy. Space and nothingness are still beyond one’s conception within a normal dream. This is why some dreams can be very strange, involving a world of pure energy or pure matter. Far Dreams are the exact opposite – a dream where matter and energy the world or place shown are perfectly equal in quantity and power to one another. This is a physical impossibility in the real world, despite what many say. For one to take precedence over the other, they must be imbalanced. A rock does not fall off a cliff unless the energy pulling it down is greater than its matter. If the matter is greater, which occurs when the cliff supports it with its own matter, then the rock does not fall. It is impossible for the rock to resist the energy of the fall on its own, therefore the cliff helps it. However, the energy can still overpower the added matter of the cliff, in which case both fall towards the center of energy – in this case, the energy of gravity, and its center would be the core of Spira. When matter and energy are precisely equal, it creates a bounce-back effect that allows a dreaming mind to perceive the dimensions of space and nothingness if it weathers the experience with three other minds. If even one more mind is present, the effect is lost because too much power from the lower dimensions are present, taking power over the higher. In most cases, the power of the four higher dimensions is equal to length, width, and height times two. Like many other things, multiplying these three lower dimensions times two is impossible, though time may be multiplied if done correctly.”

“What about times three?” Wakka asked.

Priester shook his head and told Wakka, “It is impossible to multiply length, width, or height times any number. However, it is very possible to multiply time by any number.”

“Then why don’t people do that all the time?” Rikku asked.

“‘Possible’ and ‘easy’ are not the same thing. Now, the only reason time passes in a Far Dream is because the four living minds need time to pass in order to function.”

“There seemed to be three different voices in the dream,” Yuna said.

“Of course there were. The fourth mind never speaks during a Far Dream,” Priester replied. “It is usually the mind that is the most focused, the quietest. I have heard,” and at this he turned to Kimahri, “that Ronso tend to be more focused than their human peers – and quieter, too.”

Looking around, Wakka gave them all a ‘he’s-not-talking-about-me-is-he’ look.

“This has to have been related to Lulu,” Yuna said. “After all, who else could it be about?”

At that moment a Guado entered, bowed, and said, “The storm on the Thunder Plains has lifted!” He looked bewildered and scared.

“Then it’s time for us to go,” Yuna said, wondering what had scared the Guado so much. “Priester Guado, thank you for you time-”

“You don’t understand!” the Guado shouted. “I don’t just mean the storm that was more severe than usual! It is no longer raining on the Thunder Plains! The clouds are completely gone! You can even see the sun!”

“Impossible,” Rikku said. “The Thunder Plains have been caught up in a storm since the beginning of history – probably farther back than that, too.”

“Well, the storm has lifted, now,” the Guado said.

“The Farplane!” Yuna exclaimed, remembering the black streaks of death going through its golden waterfalls. “We have to get to it!”

“What?” Wakka asked, but Yuna was already running out of Priester’s residence. Wakka took a wild glance around and saw the others doing the exact same thing he was. Shaking his head, he got to his feet and followed Yuna with everyone else.

It was just as she’d feared.

The Farplane had gotten worse in the hour she’d been away from it.

The sky was now black, completely covered with storm clouds that, for some strange reason, refused to rain. The fields of flowers were wilted and gray. Lightning pealed across the sky, sometimes striking the ground and sending burning plants everywhere.

But the worst part was the waterfalls. They had been so corrupted with death that the rushing water was too black to see. And at the end, instead of falling, they were swept upward into the clouds, feeding the coming storm.

“This cannot be,” Priester said. He was looking over the edge of the stone platform, gazing at where the waterfalls had once landed.

Yuna looked with him. Where the waterfalls had once hit the earth, forming a river, there was a long chasm leading into a surprisingly familiar place.

“The waterfalls of the Farplane were what fed the storm on the Thunder Plains!” Yuna exclaimed. “That’s why there is no more rain – the waterfalls are somehow being sucked into the clouds.”

“But what is changing the waterfalls’ course?” Priester asked, mystified. “It cannot possibly be anything on Spira, nor in the Farplane itself.”

“The nether-realm…” Yuna started to say, but trailed off when the clouds above started to swirl violently.

They created a tornado of cloud, constantly heating in the center until the water vapor boiled away there… and Yuna felt every muscle in her body go slack at the sight.

A giant, shimmering energy being was up there in the clouds, hands raised above its head. A being that was somehow familiar…

“That can’t be possible!” Wakka shouted. Yuna was about to ask him why not, when she noticed the glimmering shapes of energy protruding from the being’s head. Almost like spikes, or… hair.

Only one person in Spira had possessed hair like that – and the ability to transform into a giant energy-driven creature.


It tilted its head – at least, Yuna thought it did – towards the party. “Yuna. We meet again.”

The being was Seymour, no doubt about it. Wakka groaned and said, “Aaw, man! How many times are we gonna have to fight him, ya?”

Seymour shook his head, as if lecturing a child. “Oh, there is no way that you can fight me,” he said. “I am in what Yuna refers to as the nether-realm. The realm where the dimensions of length, width, height, and time have no meaning. The realm where the dimensions of matter, energy, space and nothingness have complete and unchallenged reign. Where I have unchallenged reign.” For a moment, Yuna could have sworn that the horror she beheld smiled at them. “And I can most certainly fight you.”

“Oh, boy,” Rikku muttered. “Here we go again.”

Seymour swept his hand across the clouds, and the buckled and stuck to his hand. He then swung his hand back towards the five of them, sending the clouds hurtling towards the platform. As they approached, they began to crackle with lightning.

“Now would be a very, very good time to leave!” Wakka said.

The five of them ran for the exit. A split second later the clouds hit.

The platform buckled and exploded into a million pieces, sending them through the exit. Four of them, at least.

Priester Guado was not so lucky. A large chunk of rock swept through his midsection without slowing down. With no more than a gurgle, the Guado leader fell into the Farplane.

Yuna stumbled back from the portal into the Farplane, feeling the small dinner Priester had graced her with try to get loose. Wakka grabbed her before Yuna could stumble off the steep stone steps to the portal. After a long time, Kimahri spoke up.

“This is bad.”

The day after the ‘procedure’, Lulu still lay on the bed in her quarters. Her wounds had healed at a remarkable rate, but she still felt drained. Occasionally she would have massive cramps; if she didn’t know better, Lulu would have suspected the Spider Moogle was poisonous.

It was near midnight, and Lulu woke from a fitful sleep. Shaking her head, Lulu began to fall back asleep until she realized someone was sitting beside her on the bed. Squinting through the darkness, Lulu realized it was Malath.

“What do you want?” Lulu asked, too tired to say anything else.

Malath didn’t answer. He simply sat on her bed, staring at her. After nearly a minute, Lulu mustered the energy to sit up and say, “I asked a question. I would like an answer.”

Malath narrowed his eyes, leaning towards Lulu. For a moment their eyes locked.

Then he kissed her.

Lulu tensed with surprise, felt herself returning the kiss… and then bit deep into his lower lip, wringing every last drop of blood from it. Malath didn’t even flinch.

He pulled his face away from hers, and Lulu’s eyes widened as he smiled, his lower lip still bleeding slightly. He looked at the bed, Lulu following his gaze. The white sheets had been stained with his blood. An unsettling image if Lulu had ever seen one.

Lulu finally got the wit to sputter, “Satisfied?” Malath simply smiled wickedly at her again. Lulu licked her own lips, wondering what he was on about… and realized he had punctured her lip just a bit, too. A drop hit the sheets.

“Blood on a white cloth. A most unsettling image if you’ve ever seen one, isn’t it?” Malath asked coldly. Lulu opened her mouth to reply, but he continued. “It could even be considered a warning. A harbinger of horrid things to come from the lands we call Spira.”

Without warning, the scene before Lulu distorted. She felt her own body begin to twist and lose shape, and she cried out.

Then blackness took her.

Lulu regained consciousness with the impression that someone had grabbed her by the shoulders and was violently shaking her. A moment later, it turned out she was right. Malath was shaking her and repeatedly saying, “Wake up!”

Lulu’s eyes snapped open and locked onto Malath’s. A second later she exploded, “You bastard! You think you can come in here and-”

Lulu stopped her tirade when she realized Malath’s lower lip wasn’t punctured.

Tilting his head, Malath asked, “Excuse me? I’ve been assigned to guard you – it’s my job to come in here and check on you when you yell loud enough to wake up all of Bevelle.”

Shaking her head, Lulu told him about her dream.

“Are you sure this wasn’t just some distorted pleasure fantasy of yours?” he asked indignantly. “Because I feel very offended to be dreamed about in such a matter. You seriously think that I would come on to you, much less while I was on duty?”

“You think I’m unattractive?” Lulu speared him. “Believe me, I had a long list back in the day, considering I lived on an island with a population of less than a hundred.”

“No, it’s not that at all!” Malath quickly backpedaled. “It’s just that I have a girlfriend of my own.”

“And I suppose she’s twice as pretty as I am, hmm?” Lulu asked.

Malath growled something inarticulate, then turned on his heel and left. The slam of the door echoed in the large room. Lulu smiled with the realization that Malath’s calm surface could be ruffled.

Turning on her side and settling into the sheets, Lulu found herself thinking instead of sleeping. She doubted it was a pleasure fantasy – Malath was cute, but Lulu had principals, and one of them was not having fantasies about a man who collaborated in making her life miserable. Besides, Lulu had experienced fantasies before – though she did not readily admit it – and none of the few she’d had ended with blood on white sheets or harbingers.

Mentally shrugging and fluffing the pillows, Lulu decided she would think about later. Within a minute, she was asleep again.

Yup. Bunch of weird stuff going on in this update, eh? And don’t worry about Seymour… (see spoiler)

Seymour actually dies for GOOD later on.

Thanks for reading and have a pleasant evening.

He damn well better. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s villains who refuse to stay dead. grumbles

Allrighty then, daily update time.

The long, barren road of the Thunder Plains was even more otherworldly than usual without its customary rainstorm. As Yuna trudged along, she constantly considered a problem with Priester Guado’s story that she had found. Though Yuna viewed it from several different angles, it seemed it was only a small anomaly with no solution.

“What’s wrong?” Rikku asked. Yuna turned her head to look at her, surprised. Rikku usually wasn’t the most observant, yet here she was, picking up on Yuna’s mood with ease.

“Something that Priester Guado said doesn’t make sense,” Yuna replied slowly. “If dreaming elevates the mind so it can perceive the dimensions of matter and energy, then why do the dead dream?”

“Maybe the dead don’t dream,” Wakka volunteered.

“No. Tidus said-”

“Wait just a MINUTE.” Wakka rarely rose his voice any more, but when he did it had the peculiar effect of causing everyone in the vicinity to stop in their tracks. “You left the Farplane without telling us that those images you saw – that they SPOKE. I wanted to see Tidus as bad as you did, ya? Why didn’t you tell us?”

Yuna suddenly felt uncomfortable, like a little kid called on the carpet for lying. “It’s because I didn’t want to hurt any of you,” she said quietly.

“Excuse me? You didn’t want to hurt any of us? How?” Wakka seemed on the verge of a full-blown rage. As if Yuna couldn’t hurt him.

“Not in the way you’re thinking,” Yuna replied. “It’s just that… well…”

Nobody spoke. It was eerily quiet.

Yuna opened her mouth again to say why she hadn’t told anyone else and a fog rolled over the horizon. She turned to it, stared at it in surprise. Without warning the fog advanced over the Thunder Plains, a fog so thick that she couldn’t see her hands in front of her face. The suddenly-sunny Thunder Plains were cold and damp again.

“Wakka?” Yuna felt around her but could see nothing through the fog. “Rikku? Kimahri?” Her voice was lost in the mists. It was eerily like when she’d fallen into the Farplane… but there was light here. And she could see herself and the ground at her feet. Most definitely, Yuna was still in Spira, but where had the fog come from?

She wandered for what seemed, by her reckoning, to be several miles. The ground beneath her feet began to crunch, but the fog was so thick Yuna couldn’t see what she was walking on.

Without warning, just like its appearance, the fog evaporated. Yuna heard voices behind her, and she turned around, the ground crunching under her feet. In the distance, she could see Rikku and Wakka heading towards a lone figure that had to be Kimahri. Yuna started to run towards them until she tripped over what seemed to be a rock.

She landed face-first in a pile of bones.

Horrified, Yuna scrambled to her feet and for the first time saw that she’d been walking in a graveyard.

Bones were strewn over the landscape. Many were odd-shaped and had to belong to fiends, but many others were different. Human. The majority were human, she thought. Looking over to her right, the majority over there were Ronso bones. She recognized them by the peculiar shaping of the feet. Searching the ground to her left, the bones were that of Guado. The unusually long fingers and the fourth bone in the ear told her as much.

Stumbling to get away from what had to have been a battleground of obscene proportions, Yuna tripped and fell again. Sitting up, Yuna wondered what had happened here. A moment later, she received the answer.

A tall figure appeared from the fog that had lingered. He was wearing a black cloak, under which all his features were perfectly concealed. Despite the bones littered across the ground, his steps were quiet as a cat’s, as if he weighed too little for the bones to react as he stepped on them.

He raised a hand and spoke words in a strange tongue that Yuna had never heard before. “Tra’liv-ad dur huntiis fertuquox, yuhiilii ponervexice. Oir dramados yr falleu drimno.”

Yuna slowly moved her gaze towards her feet, where the bones began to move. They rattled and shook, raising such a noise that Yuna had to cover her ears. Dimly, through the intense pain that somehow wracked her, Yuna was aware of the man – she was sure of that much, at least – walk over to her and put a hand on her shoulder.

Opening her eyes and not remembering closing them, Yuna saw pyreflies erupt from the graveyard, flying towards the sky. All the thunder plains had to have been lit up by it. If Wakka, Rikku, and Kimahri hadn’t known where to look for her before, they knew then.

And suddenly, it was all over.

The last of the pyreflies faded away, and bones all around her began crumbling into dust. Time dilated. What was left of the bones sparked slowly to the ground, so slowly Yuna could have reached out her hand and caught the dust between her fingers.

“I come forth now, when the great waters have been drained and the dead are needed,” the cloaked man said, his voice resonating through Yuna’s mind if not her ears. “I come from the earth where I waited, to send these souls to save the life beyond and banish evil from them for all time.”

Dimly, Yuna realized there was one last pyrefly left. The man was holding it in the hand that was not on Yuna’s shoulder.

“But, there is a visitor to this place that I did not expect,” he said. “A visitor whose soul is not yet ready to be sent, and does not need cleansing.”

Looking into the pyrefly, Yuna saw her whole reckless life, going through the shimmering colors of the pyrefly. Seeing herself step up to marry Seymour, Yuna wondered, was I really so naïve as to think I could trick him into marrying me just to be sent?

“Yes, child, you were that naïve. Frightening, isn’t it?” He took a good look at her and said, “I believe that you are still in need of this, unlike myself.” He gently blew on the pyrefly in his hand, and it glided gently towards Yuna.

A second later, Yuna leapt to her feet, realizing the man, with his strange incantation, had accidentally stolen her soul – and then given it back to her.

“Who… what… are you?” she stammered.

“Who I am is not important at this time,” he said. “What is important is what I am. And I just happen to be a yer’pulkh-nersatnoth.”

“Excuse me?”

“If you want to refer to it in a shorter term, I am a grertiam.”

“I meant… what does that mean in the language I speak?” Yuna asked.

“You would be better off only knowing that I am a yer’pulkh-nersatnoth, or a grertiam in informal terms. The closest word your bizarre language has is ‘soul-stealer’, but that is entirely incorrect. I liberate souls that were not sent and chained to this earth. This place, the pulot’yersakh’qumos-”

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Yuna interjected shyly, “but could you try to avoid speaking in… your language? For my sake?”

“Oh. I am sorry. It’s becoming rekyior huyp harder for my magic heliu translate what simu saying.”

“You’re not making sense!” Yuna said. “You keep switching languages in the middle of a sentence!”

“I do not mean to. The dimensions are becoming unbalanced because of that hyrr’bal in the Farplane.” Yuna didn’t have to guess what hyrr’bal the man was talking about, nor what the word itself meant. “Know this, young Yuna.” It was the first time he’d used her name, and for some reason it startled her. “We will meet again, and we will talk further. But, as for now, stay away from the elementals of Macalania.”

At that, he turned away and was suddenly gone.

Time came back to normal and Yuna could suddenly hear Wakka, Rikku, and Kimahri running towards her. Wakka and Rikku were shouting Yuna’s name, as well.

Getting to her feet, Yuna turned and looked at where the man had gone. No trace of him was left.

Yuna wondered privately what the man had really wanted and what he was trying to warn her of.

For a second time in as many days, Lulu plunged down a dark portal, blood flowing from her temples. The experience was unlike anything she’d ever gone through – not counting when this had happened to her the day before. It went on longer this time, the swirling energies of the nexus around her flashing by too fast to make out.

Then she hit the water, and the experience in the tunnel, prolonged for too much time, had weakened her enough that the instant Lulu made contact with the sea she blacked out.

Later, she came back and she was on the stone pedestal again. How long she’d been gone, Lulu didn’t know. All she did know was that the Spider Moogle was crawling along the edge of the pedestal she was restrained to. That, and the fact that her head hurt like there was no tomorrow.

Neltharios was pacing around the pedestal, as well. Through the searing agony, Lulu noticed with contempt the monk always made sure she was between him and the moogle. “It didn’t work. The transference took too long and she lost contact the instant it was achieved,” he was complaining.

“It is only a matter of finding the correct balance,” the necromancer replied. And for the first time, he stepped into the light where Lulu could see him.

He was a strange-looking man. He had a long mane of white hair that went down to his waist, yet the rest of him did not show such signs of advanced age. His frame was slightly muscular, his skin pale, and his face…

His face was nothing like what Lulu had suspected.

Two piercing green eyes stared out at the world from underneath bushy white brows. He had a gracefully small nose and his mouth was pursed in a grimace. His face was lined around his mouth, as if he grimaced far too often. In stark contrast to his hair, he wore a black cloak. He had a staff unlike any Lulu had seen before. At its base to its midsection, it was black and jagged obsidian. The base itself was so sharp Lulu guessed it could be used as a surgical instrument. At the midsection, the obsidian merged into finely polished and smoothed mahogany wood. That went from the midsection to nearly the top. At the top, the wood merged into a cup of fine black marble. In the cup was a jagged cerulean crystal, even sharper than the obsidian base. It pulsed with inner power, yet even as the necromancer paced it stayed rooted firmly in the marble cup, its magical power keeping it from moving even an inch.

When he saw Lulu was awake, his mouth formed into a small, cold smile, yet the rest of his face did not react to the smile. “I see you’re awake. Good.” The man leaned closer, and Lulu felt herself withdrawing – mentally, if not physically. “My name is Psertorpus.”

“That’s impossible,” Lulu rasped after a moment of silence. “Psertorpus was defeated more than a millennium ago!”

“Defeated, not destroyed,” the man said with a glimmer in his eye. “Whether you believe me or not, I am Psertorpus, both in body and mind.” At that he turned briskly around and said, “Monk! Show her to her room. Neltharios and I have a matter to discuss.” Malath came hurriedly forward and released the restraints on Lulu’s hands and feet, then carried her back to her room again.

This time, however, when he was about to leave, Lulu spoke up. “Please… don’t go yet.” Malath turned around, and for a split second worry creased his brow. Then he seemed to realize that, and his customary mask of calm was re-established.

“What is it you want?” he asked, and Lulu was about to respond when she felt darkness gripping at the edges of her sight.

She must have lost consciousness for a second, because when she came to Malath was muttering to himself. “I don’t care what that damned necromancer says,” he muttered. “But if that spider thing keeps sticking its barbs into her head… how can she survive that?”

“Why, Malath,” Lulu whispered. “I didn’t know you cared.”

For an instant, like before, Malath’s guard dropped. His shoulders drooped and he frowned. Then he straightened up, becoming a good little soldier boy again. “If you need me,” he growled, “then just call for me.” With that, he stiffly marched out. Lulu felt her strength leave her, and afterwards wasn’t sure if at that moment she was either laughing or crying.

“So you say that the guy accidentally stole your soul and then gave it back?” Wakka asked, perplexed. The four of them were sitting around a table in the Al Bhed travel agency halfway through the Plains. Bowls of hot soup steamed in front of them, but nobody was hungry.

“It was the strangest experience,” Yuna went on. “As if I was there, but at the same time somewhere else. Anyway, he said we would talk later, and he also told me to stay away from the elementals of Macalania.”

“Why would we have to stay away from the elementals of Macalania?” Rikku cut in, puzzled. “They’re just water elementals, for the most part, and a few ice elementals have been spotted by the lake. Easily manageable.”

“That’s what I think,” Yuna agreed. “But with the Thunder Plains going dry and the Farplane being distorted and warped as it is, I’m fairly certain there will be changes in other parts of Spira.”

“That’s a comforting thought, ya?” Wakka muttered almost to himself. “The whole world is somehow tied to the Farplane, and Seymour is messing it all up. As usual.”

“I agree,” Yuna told him. “It would be nice to finally end our fight with Seymour. I for one feel we’ve killed him three times too many.”

Kimahri leaned forward. “What about first time?”

“That was because Jyscal specifically asked us to kill him,” Yuna said. “But the other times…”

“Seymour’s the one with no conscience, eh?” Wakka said. “It’s not like he tried very hard to apologize to us.”

After that, silence reigned along with the occasional sip of their meal. Everyone was lost in thought, which seemed to happen more and more often as of late. What they had before them was mysteries stacked on mysteries. Times are very bad when there are more questions than answers, Yuna mused. I wonder what happens when there are more answers than questions. That particular thought took some pondering, and Yuna was just beginning to work out a scenario in her head when someone tapped her on the shoulder.

It was the Al Bhed waitress that worked at the agency, and Yuna could tell she had tried to get her attention several times. “Tu ou that y navemm?” the waitress asked. Yuna mentally compared that to what Al Bhed she knew, and guessed it had something to do with wanting a refill. Yuna shook her head, and the waitress picked up Yuna’s bowl and left.

Yuna closed her eyes and turned every thought towards Lulu. Every fiber of her being went into the effort of locating her. Yuna mentally swept Spira for Lulu, remembering the Omega Ruins, Bikanel Island, and the Baaj Temple. She remembered everywhere she’d been to, but what she saw was not what Yuna had expected to see.

A blinding light in my eyes. Something’s blotting it out – a spider! A spider made of cloth and obsidian! A Spider Moogle!

Yuna mentally shook her head as if to get the Moogle off.

Its forelegs – what does it care about my temples? It’s rearing up –

Yuna screamed and fell out of the chair she’d been sitting in, hitting the tiled floor of the agency with a thud. Blinking, Yuna rubbed her eyes, trying to clear a mental fog that persisted after the contact with Lulu. She faintly became aware that her three friends were leaning over her, saying things she couldn’t hear.

Finally Kimahri pulled an herb out of his side pouch, crumpled it between his fingers, and squeezed some of the juice into Yuna’s mouth.

Yuna sat up suddenly, trying in vain to spit out whatever Kimahri had given her. After a short period of alternately spitting and trying unsuccessfully not to gag, Yuna realized her hearing was back.

“What happened, Yuna?” Wakka helped Yuna back to her feet. Rikku and Kimahri rose, as well.

Instead of filling her friends in on what she’d seen, the first thing that came out of her mouth was, “Kimahri! In the name of all that’s good and holy on this planet, what was that herb you gave me?”

Kimahri smiled slightly and replied, “Juice of macalania tree leaf.”

“Remind me never to prepare a stew with those things,” Yuna told him.

“I think I tried to,” Wakka said. “It was worse than that Garuda stew – and that’s saying something, believe me.”

After a few moments of laughter, Yuna spoke again. “I made a mental contact with Lulu. What I saw was a blinding light in my face and a Spider Moogle. The Moogle reared up, and that’s all I remember until I hit the floor.”

“You screamed pretty loud, too,” Rikku said. “Woke up everyone in the agency that was trying to sleep.”

Yuna shook her head with regret, then said, “Whatever this is about… it means Lulu needs us. Badly.”

They set off again the next day, making for Macalania Woods. They were delayed several hours when an Iron Giant decided to take a nap in the middle of the road, because there was no way they could get around it without waking it up.

Finally they reached Macalania Wood – and Yuna started to get an idea of why the man had told her to stay away from the elementals.

The once blue, glittering forest was turning dull and gray, dying bit by bit. It was a little-known fact that the Thunder Plains’ rainstorm continued on over Macalania Wood, though the dense canopy did not let any discernable rain in. That was why the forests had flourished all those long years, and without the rain they were dying.

The fiends were by far the worst part. Many of them in this area were shy, preferring to avoid contact with humans, Ronso, or Guado that had access to powerful magic like Yuna and Lulu did. Even the huge Chimaera had avoided people with magic power, and now the forest constantly thudded with their distant footfalls.

Yuna had been hoping to take the path straight to Bevelle, but a giant tree had fallen in the way. The trees were, due to the slightly magical nature of some fiends in the forest, completely magic-immune, so they had to find a way around.

“Before I hit Mushroom Rock Road, I had to come through this wood, the Thunder Plains, Guadosalam, the Moonflow, and the Djose Highroad,” Rikku was saying. “On my way through this forest, I found another path to Bevelle, a real safe one too. You have to go through most of the forest to get to it, though.”

“Then lead the way,” Yuna said.

They had not been traveling long when they heard a commotion in a nearby clearing. Yuna motioned for everyone to stay still, then crept over to the edge of the clearing and looked in on the scene.

An elemental was floating in the very middle of the clearing. It was being advanced on by three Chimaeras.

A Chimaera was one of the most powerful fiends in Macalania Wood. It had the body of a bull, except its forelegs were long, blue-furred arms with three fingers and two thumbs, all of them ending in a sharp claw. It stood only upon its hind legs, as well. Protruding directly above the fiend’s barrel chest was a bull’s head, which the beast favored for goring its opponents. Where one head would be, there were two more. An eagle’s head was on the right, and for some strange reason born of evolution it could project a huge, crushing stream of water from its beak, smashing enemies to jelly. It also controlled the right arm. On the left side was a lion’s head. It controlled the left arm, and its roar would create a Megiddo Flame – an impossibly dense ball of fire – in its left hand, which could be thrown at enemies. It also had a long, scaled tail ending in a snake’s head, which could call upon the element of lightning to electrocute opponents.

The elementals of Macalania had been docile water elementals. Often they would actively play a form of hide-and-seek with human travelers, whether they had access to magic or not. If a Ronso or a Guado came by, they would try to hide immediately, and if backed into a corner, would put up a fierce fight. That was why the first time they’d come through the wood the elementals had given them so much trouble – Kimahri had been there, and Yuna had told him there was no apology necessary.

The elementals, like the rest of the forest, had obviously changed for the worse. Instead of a gentle cerulean hue, the elemental was so dark blue it was nearly black. Water constantly dripped off it, and where it hit the ground it would often sizzle, indicating that it was boiling. If a water elemental got too hot, it would evaporate, so Yuna guessed that it was nearly at absolute zero, because magical water could evaporate but not freeze. It was bigger than she remembered the elementals being, and its different parts continuously swirled about it as if in a fury.

The chimaeras charged as one, the first conjuring a Megiddo Flame, the second lifting its snake tail for a blast of lightning, and the third merely lowering its bull head to gore the elemental.

The elemental first threw a wave of water at the third chimaera. Its bull head was torn off in the rush of water, and the fiend, dependent on all four brains, hit the ground dead. The first threw its Megiddo Flame, and the elemental put it out easily. It then threw a torrent of water at the tree behind the first chimaera. The tree – oak, from the look of it – came down on the fiend with a thundering crash. The last surviving chimaera succeeded in blasting the elemental with lightning, but that did not even slow it down. A second later the chimaera’s soaked and half-frozen corpse hit the forest floor with a dull thud.

The elemental swirled in place, possibly taking in the carnage, then calmly, almost nonchalantly, floated away.

Yuna found that she was shaking, and told herself to stop it. She emerged from the clearing and asked, “Rikku, is this alternate road of yours… was it very safe because it passed through the main elemental nesting grouds?”

“Uh, yeah. Your point?”

Having long since known there was no way to sneak through the elemental nesting grounds, Yuna had decided to go to Lake Macalania – maybe some answer awaited them there. As they rounded the familiar bend, Yuna was caught up in a rush of memories.

Then she saw what had happened to the lake in the Fayth’s absence.

The lake, once frozen over, had become a huge pool of water. All the ice and snow were gone, replaced by grass that was now dead but had once thrived. But Yuna barely noticed any of that, because she was too busy staring in horror at the huge elemental that floated above the lake.

It was bigger than any she’d ever seen before, at least three times higher and wider than Kimahri was tall. Its different pieces swirled about the base slowly and methodically, but what Yuna found strangest about it was the fact it was not an ice elemental. It was something different.

The surface of the elemental rippled with water, but if Yuna stared hard enough she could make out tiny currents of lightning skittering over the elemental, as well as what appeared to be pieces of ice that floated around the center of its base. At the top of its base burned a small flame.

The elemental began to approach, floating over the ground between the lake and the four of them. Yuna felt everyone stiffen, mentally and physically preparing for a fight. Rikku reached into her pouch for a grenade; Wakka surreptitiously brought out his blitzball, and Kimahri simply assumed a fighting stance.

Surprisingly, the elemental stopped about one and a half meters away from them. For a moment, nobody moved or breathed. Then the elemental began to vibrate. Yuna could suddenly hear whispers that were just barely too faint to make out, and she wondered if the elemental was talking to hidden fiends.

Then the flame at the tip of the elemental’s base flared violently and the whispers became audible. Yuna could have sworn she heard the language before.

< Simi tyrr fev yer’pulkh-nersatnoth Anaroth. >

Yuna recognized the longest word the elemental spoke; it was yer’pulkh-nersatnoth. It was what the man she’d met on the Thunder Plains called himself.

“Are you talking about the man on the thunder plains?” Yuna asked.

The elemental seemed to consider that, though Yuna had no idea what gave her that impression. < Is this how you form your words, Yuna, daughter of Braska, defeater of Sin and Yu Yevon? > it asked.

“Ah… yes, it is,” Yuna replied, startled.

< Good, because we must be able to communicate clearly. I asked you whether you had met yer’pulkh-nersatnoth Anaroth. >

“I think I might have,” Yuna said slowly. “I met a man on the Thunder Plains who sent the souls of over five hundred dead. He accidentally separated my soul from my body, but he was able to reverse the process.”

< That is indeed Anaroth. I did not think he would have risen yet, but no matter. As long as all the souls of the dead are sent by the time of the Great Sundering, he will not be disciplined for coming early. >

“Wait,” Wakka interrupted. “What do you mean by ‘Great Sundering’?”

The elemental ignored him and went on, < However, his work may be wasted if you do what we all hope you do. >

“What can I do?” Yuna asked. “And what do you mean about a Great Sundering?”

< Why, you can eliminate the one who is trying to take possession of our property, the one who will betray him and take the world for himself, and he who is the traitor’s puppet in both body and mind. >

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Yuna told the elemental.

< You will within time. For now, know that the One of ages is dead, and one of you shall replace her. The world is dying, and the rebellion in the Farplane is the cause. Soon the mortal gateway will be overrun, and all shall despair at the horrors that come from the deepest places in the world. The First Race shall return and take back what was theirs, while the enemy in the Farplane will try to take what should never be his. Destiny propels all of you to Bevelle, so I shall withdraw the host for a time to allow you passage. >

Yuna had a thousand questions, then decided on one of them: “Who are you?”

< I am Cerewin, the High Element of the mortal plane, and privy to the One’s thoughts. >

Satisfied with that, Yuna was about to ask, “What host are you talking about?”, but the question died on her lips. Dozens of water elementals began to stream out of the forest, and Cerewin said, < Go now, for my grip on these foul things is tenuous at best. Go now to Bevelle. >

Yuna motioned towards the forest, and the party ran for the path through the nesting grounds.

And the story goes marching on, as our heroes make new allies and draw near to a titanic showdown in Bevelle (but the story goes far past Bevelle, don’t worry). Thanks for reading and have a good evening.

Well, I finally caught up to your posts. I’m really enjoying this.

Interesting concept about the dimensions.

Ooooh…this is getting GOOD. :mwahaha:

Sorry about missing last night, I was busy and it slipped my mind. Now then…

EDIT: By the way, for those doubting minds (if you do indeed exist), the whole dimensions theory is actually important to the story rather than just being tacked on for no real purpose.

The city of Bevelle had also changed since Yuna had last seen it. The streets, usually either crowded to capacity with shoppers or cavernously empty, were at a midpoint for the first time Yuna could remember. Buildings everywhere were decaying and falling apart. Warrior monks constantly patrolled the streets.

The Palace of Bevelle was the only building that seemed as huge and impressive as before. It faintly glimmered in the sunlight, bringing memories of past times long gone. It also had an impressive legion of monks guarding it.

All this Yuna could see from the main marketplace. They had all just stood there for nearly ten minutes, taking in everything there was to see. Finally Wakka spoke, “Yuna. If we’re gonna bust into a palace that heavily guarded, then you’ll need this.” He handed Yuna her staff, which she hadn’t used since she’d sent Jecht and Auron.

But Yuna pushed it away and replied, “We’ll never be able to ‘bust in’ on that palace. We need a more subtle plan.” She put her staff back in the sack Kimahri carried.

“What kind of plan, Yuna?” Rikku asked. “I would say we could pose as tourists, but I have the feeling they don’t let just anyone in the palace any more.”

Yuna was about to ask for a four-way brainstorm when an idea came to her on the wind, along with a loud, blaring voice. “Residents of Bevelle Palace! Need a servant or two? Well, this is the place to hire them!”

“I think we’ve just found our way in,” Yuna said.

Rikku scratched at the itchy cloak she’d been given by the store manager and sat next to Yuna on the large bench that held at least fifty people looking for a job inside the Palace. So far, however, nobody had paid the two of them the slightest attention.

“I think this is a bad idea,” Rikku muttered to Yuna.

“Silence is golden,” Yuna muttered back.

At that moment a man entered the store. He was tall, the tiniest bit large around his stomach, and wore a long, flowing satin cloak, not to mention an aura of arrogance. His eyes were small and beady, and they darted around the store until they finally settled on Yuna.

He walked over to the store manager, paid him, then walked over to Yuna, harrumphed, and said, “You are now officially my servant. Get up and let’s go.” Rikku tensed at the way the man looked at Yuna, but Yuna simply got up and followed the man out of the store.

Poor Yuna, Rikku thought, but had no time to contemplate the subject more as an elderly lady walked in. Despite the fact she was at least seventy years old, she carried herself proudly. Also despite the fact she had to be a wealthy resident of the Palace, she wore a simple cloak and no extravagant jewelry or makeup. She scanned the bench until she found Rikku. Walking over, she said to Rikku, “Let me see your eyes.” Her voice was soft, but at the same time strong and commanding of respect. Rikku looked up at her, widening her eyes ever so slightly.

The woman nodded and said, “You’re Al Bhed. I have many mechanical devices at home – I think you will like it with me.” She walked over to the store manager, paid him, and said, “Come, child. Let’s go home.”

Along the way, the woman had introduced herself as Nien, and Rikku had introduced herself. Rikku found that the woman was very likable and at the same time respectable.

They arrived at her home, and it was not the overly pompous display of wealth Rikku had expected. The four rooms that made up her home in the Palace were still large, but they were also empty, with only a little furniture and necessary amenities of life. Nien explained that her husband was a monk assigned to guarding the remote village of Galbaria ten miles due east of the Thunder Plains and didn’t receive much pay. Almost half his weekly pension was devoted to making sure Nien had a comfortable life in the Palace.

As Rikku fiddled with a small heater unit that had broken, she tried to ignore the guilt that seemed to hover overhead. Nien had paid a considerable amount for her and Rikku had to go rescue Yuna from that snobby man. Rikku screwed in a last bolt in the heater, then went to Nien’s study to find paper and a pen to leave her a note about leaving. At that moment, Nien walked in and said, “You’re not who you say you are, are you?”

Rikku froze, then, realizing there was no point in trying to preserve her cover identity, replied, “My real name is Rikku. But… I only went into that store as a way to get into the Palace without suspicion.”

Nien nodded and replied, “I suspected as much. You were going to go into that study and write me a note confessing who you really are, weren’t you?” Rikku glumly nodded, and Nien went on, “The way you fixed those broken appliances… I knew you had to have been raised by Cid. He was the inventor of that heater and consequently the only one who could teach others how to fix it. He gave me it when I was sixteen.”

Rikku blinked in amazement and said, “You knew my dad?”

“We went to school together. Back in my day, there wasn’t as much animosity between Yevon and the Al Bhed as you saw when they attacked Bikanel Island. Now then, I believe you have a friend to rescue.”

“How did you know that?”

“I have the feeling you didn’t want to get into the Palace suspicion-free just to admire the sights,” Nien replied. “Now, go!”

Rikku smiled, said goodbye, and raced out the front door.

After doing a careful inspection of the maps provided for newly-installed monks or residents of the Palace, Rikku located where the man had taken Yuna, whose name was Lohk.

Rikku boldly entered his house and noted it was almost the exact opposite of Nien’s: crammed with all the trappings of wealth, with such a strong sense of arrogance and superiority it was almost palpable. Rikku conducted a quick search of the house, locating the not-surprisingly locked bedroom door. Taking a fork from the kitchen, she quickly picked the lock and burst into the room.

Yuna was sitting on the large, opulent bed, reading a book. There was no sign of Lohk.

“Yuna!” Rikku half-shouted. “You’re okay!”

“Rikku!” Yuna replied, just as happy. “I’m glad you managed to get here so quickly.”

“Where’s Lohk?” Rikku asked, scanning the room.

“Oh, him,” Yuna said disdainfully. “I locked him in the closet after he tried to get fresh with me.”

“Fresh?” Rikku felt her hands tightening into fists. She promptly marched over to the closet, opened it, and punched Lohk in the gut. He doubled over, wheezing. “Nobody tries to get fresh with my cousin and gets away with it,” Rikku snarled. Lohk made the mistake of looking up at her, and Rikku’s boot contacted solidly with the middle of his forehead. He hit the back of the closet, instantly unconscious. Rikku slammed the door and locked it again.

Yuna watched her in stunned silence, then finally burst out laughing. Rikku made a show of cracking her knuckles, then said, “That felt good.” Yuna tossed the book onto a pillow, got up, and motioned towards the door.

“After you.”

Wakka slouched on a bench and fidgeted while Kimahri paced. They had been waiting outside the palace of Bevelle for an hour and a half and still no word from Yuna or Rikku.

Finally Wakka sat up and said, “I can’t just sit here and wait. Let’s sneak in, ya?”

Normally, Kimahri would have stoically shaken his head, crossed his arms, and put on his most imposing and forthright look. However, times were anything but normal, and Kimahri bared his fangs in a Ronso grin and replied, “Kimahri thought you never ask.”

Wakka squinted at a large sign near the main guard post outside the Palace and said, “If I’m reading this right, there’s ten minutes until a duty shift. When that happens we can sneak in during the commotion.”

“Kimahri does not know how he will sneak in,” Kimahri told Wakka.

“Uh, yeah, that’s a bit of a problem…” Wakka trailed off. Suddenly he got up off the bench and exclaimed, “I just had an idea!”

“Should Kimahri be scared?”

“Very funny.”

According to the map Rikku had used to locate Yuna, the area in the Palace that Neltharios had sealed off to anyone who did not have permission to enter was the four top floors of the palace. The entrance was guarded by two huge assault machina, but Rikku dispatched them easily, taking out vital weak points in a flurry of motion.

There was another problem, however. The entrance to the restricted area connected to a large hallway going east and west. To be more precise, it connected to the exact middle of the hallway.

“All right, how about I go east and you go west?” Yuna asked Rikku.

“We shouldn’t get split up,” was her response.

“Look, don’t think of it as splitting up, think of it as putting a little distance between us so we’re less liable to be detected and can cover more ground,” Yuna told her. Rikku knew better than to argue with her.

Going down the hallway, Rikku opened every door that was unlocked and picked the locks of those that weren’t. She could find no sign of Neltharios or Lulu. The hallway finally dead-ended into an entrance to a great hall and Rikku was thinking of going back to find Yuna when the door opened.

Rikku immediately dove behind it, avoiding whoever had come through. It was just as well, because the man who had opened the door was Neltharios. Two heavily armed monks accompanied him. Without hesitating, Neltharios marched west down the hall. The monks followed him, eyes straight ahead. The closest one slammed the door shut as he followed Neltharios. Rikku waited until they were out of earshot, then quietly opened the door and slipped in.

Immediately Rikku felt a rush of magic power, and her head spun as she tried to absorb it all. She had never been talented with magic, and this much energy at once made her positively dizzy.

Looking around, she saw that the room was littered with pedestals, each holding a magic-enhancing object. In the center of the room was a large, circular stone pedestal, lit by a shaft of light from the ceiling.

Rikku heard something skittering to her right, and she turned towards the source of the sound. Suddenly a silhouette became visible in the darkness of the room, and Rikku felt herself reflexively tense.

It leapt at her, a mass of legs and pincers –

“Kimahri does not like this idea,” Kimahri stated matter-of-factly.

“Nobody likes my ideas,” Wakka complained. “We always have to listen to Yuna, or Rikku, or Lulu, or-”

“Anyone except you?”


Kimahri tugged again at the handcuffs that bound his hands together, then looked at the unconscious monk in the bathroom stall, dressed only in a light under-tunic. Wakka had taken his uniform and armor, though frizzy bits of his hair still showed under the helmet. “If monks have any brains, they know Kimahri can snap handcuffs like twigs,” Kimahri reminded Wakka.

“Maybe a fully alert and hostile Ronso could,” Wakka said, “but not some poor drunk who got into a fight at the bar.”

Kimahri sighed and shook his head ruefully.

Yuna cautiously peered around a bend in the hallway. Nobody was present, so she continued on, cautiously peering into the rooms in the search for Lulu.

Yuna realized she could hear marching from around the bend she’d just rounded, so she peered around it again. Neltharios and two heavily armed monks were marching swiftly towards her.

Yuna jerked her head back around the corner and resisted the urge to panic. Neltharios couldn’t know they were in the palace. With no further time to plan, Yuna opened the door she hadn’t searched yet, figuring she could search the room and hide from Neltharios. As she entered, the door closed and its lock clicked.

Yuna turned around, fumbling in the strange darkness of the room, and struggled with the lock, but it was no use. She was trapped in the room. Oh, well, Yuna thought. I can just pick the lock with a fork or something once Neltharios is gone. Rikku can do it, how hard can it be?

She didn’t have time to ponder the subject further because at that instant the blinds on the windows furled up all by themselves. Yuna squinted at the light, but only for a moment.

A man stood on the other side of the living room. He was slightly muscular, with long white hair that hung down to his waist, white, bushy brows, piercing green eyes, and pale skin. He wore a long black cloak and held a strange staff topped by a glowing cerulean crystal.

“Yuna. My name is Psertorpus. I’ve been waiting a very long time indeed to meet you,” he said. His voice was could and piercing, and Yuna shuddered inwardly.

“You have?” Yuna replied, putting as much sarcasm into her voice as she could. “Well, you’ve met me. What now?”

“Neltharios, tiring as he may be, is the key to what I’ve been trying to achieve for my entire existence,” Psertorpus said. “I can’t really say life – I’ve had several lives. All but the first stolen from someone else, of course, but beggars can’t be choosers, and compared to me everyone is a beggar.” The man reeked of superiority uncounted times more than Lohk.

“You think so?” Yuna asked. “Well, what would you say if I proved you wrong?”

“I don’t know,” Psertorpus replied. “I doubt I’ll have to compose a speech, considering that if someone is to ever prove me wrong, it certainly won’t be you.”

Without further preamble, he held his staff horizontally and thrust forward, crystal first.

Yuna screamed as she felt an invisible spear go through her stomach and come out her back, bringing her to her knees. Through her pain, Yuna could make out Psertorpus’ smile. It was perhaps the most evil thing she’d ever seen, an expression showing how he reveled in the suffering and death of others.

The necromancer twirled his staff, and Yuna convulsed in agony as she felt the invisible spear twisting inside her. Psertorpus swung his staff into a forty-five degree angle to his left, still holding it horizontally.

Yuna was picked up off her feet by the spear and thrown to her right, slamming into the wall. Psertorpus swung his staff into a forty-five degree angle to his right, and Yuna slammed into the wall on her left.

Grasping the staff in both hands, one on each end, Psertorpus thrust it high above his head, still holding it horizontally.

Yuna flew up towards the domed ceiling…

“You say you caught this Ronso beating up on someone in a bar? More ridiculous than that is the fact this Ronso is drunk?”

Wakka nodded, inwardly cringing. The monk at the guard post seemed so skeptical the plan Wakka had worked out seemed ready to collapse at any second.

Then the shift bell rang, and the monk said, “All right, go on in.” He turned and half-walked, half-ran to the off-duty station, clearly because he didn’t want all the coffee consumed before he showed up.

“Told you it would work,” Wakka muttered to Kimahri out of the corner of his mouth. Kimahri simply stared at him, wordlessly, expressionlessly… saying it all.

The Spider Moogle’s chief advantage had been the element of surprise. Rikku screamed and tried to move backwards, but she tripped over an elongated support leg of a pedestal and hit the floor hard enough to see stars.

That, of course, caused the Spider Moogle to miss. It smacked into a large, dark glass orb. Its pincers sank deep into the magic object, and the Moogle shook as it tried rather unsuccessfully to absorb the intense magical energies flowing through it.

A moment later it exploded in a cloud of cloth and stuffing.

Rikku got shakily to her feet, then, realizing there could be more of the things, promptly ran out the way she’d came.

Lulu tensed, somehow knowing what was to come next but at the same time not realizing what Malath was going to do.

He bent down and kissed her.

For just a moment, Lulu felt herself returning the kiss, then bit deep into his lip, draining it of blood.

Malath didn’t flinch. He simply pulled away from her, his blood quietly hitting the white sheets of the bed.

Then the world shattered with the sound of a scream.

Lulu sat up in bed, wide-eyed and breathing heavily. It had been the same dream.

Another scream. Lulu briefly wondered who was screaming, then decided to take advantage of a possible situation: a rescue attempt.

She immediately jumped out of bed and started pounding on the wall – she couldn’t reach the door for the chain – as loudly as possible, shouting, “I’m in here!”

Wakka and Kimahri were just rounding the bend towards the restricted area when a contingent of five warrior monks ran up to them, rifles raised. “Halt!” the one in the lead yelled.

In response, Kimahri snapped the handcuffs, turned around, and took the entire squad down with a tackle.

“Nice, Kimahri,” Wakka said. “Not that I couldn’t have taken them.”

“Of course,” Kimahri replied. He motioned towards the door and the strangely disabled assault machina and said, “After you.”

Rikku was running back down the hallway at top speed, all attempts at stealth abandoned, when she heard pounding and muffled shouts. Rikku stopped and forced herself to breathe softer in order to hear better. The muffled shouts quickly became, “I’m in here!”, and the pounding was coming from a door down the hallway where Yuna had gone. The lock on the door had been tampered with, no doubt about that, but Yuna had apparently decided she didn’t have the skill to finish picking the lock.

Rikku finished what Yuna had started and opened the door.

Lulu was pounding on the wall near the door, shouting at the top of her lungs. When she saw Rikku she said, “Rikku! You’re the last person I expected to see here!”

“Would you like me to leave, then?” Rikku asked.

“No, not at all.”

“Let’s go!” Rikku said, motioning for Lulu to follow her.

“I can’t,” Lulu said. She pointed to the silver chain securing her to the bed. “It’s magic-immune, so I can’t break it.”

“I can,” Rikku told her. With that, she pulled a grenade out of her pouch and tossed it at the foot of the bed.

The explosion was loud and sent the bed toppling over and over at least five times, but in the end the chain was unarguably broken.

“Come on!” Rikku said. “We have to find Yuna!”

Yuna lay on the floor of Psertorpus’ living quarters, bleeding and spent. Psertorpus stood triumphantly over her, absentmindedly fingering his staff.

After slamming Yuna against the ceiling four times, the necromancer had brought her back down for a painful landing, then slammed her against the walls and various pieces of furniture for several minutes, all the while twisting the invisible spear inside her.

Finally, that spear had been plucked out of her, but Yuna was injured enough that she barely noticed.

“This is more than I could have hoped for,” Psertorpus said quietly to himself. “The conduit will be twice as strong, the link easier to establish. Soon, very soon, now…”

He stopped speaking and a moment later the door burst wide open. Yuna painfully tilted her head to see who had entered.

It was Rikku and Lulu.

“Rikku! Lulu!” Yuna gasped. “Get out of here!”

“Yuna!” Rikku cried, and there was no mistaking the fury in her swirling eyes.

But all Psertorpus did was calmly nod at them.

Lulu and Rikku both yelped as an invisible force slammed into them from behind, pushing them into the room. The door slammed and locked itself again.

“All right then, Psertorpus,” Lulu growled, picking herself up from the floor. “I’m not wearing a damned magic-inhibiting choker this time. Let’s go – just you and me.”

Psertorpus smiled faintly, then snapped his fingers.

Lulu promptly crumpled the floor next to Yuna, unconscious. Yuna shivered in horror. It was clearly apparent that Psertorpus had stopped the blood from flowing through every vein, artery, and capillary in Lulu’s body at the same time, just long enough to knock her out but not kill her.

Psertorpus was just turning his attention to Rikku when she tossed a grenade at him. He clenched his fist and the grenade was crumpled into what could have been mistaken for a raisin. It clattered to the floor and Psertorpus twirled his staff above his head.

Rikku was picked up by an invisible force, thrown around the room as if caught up in a cyclone, and slammed onto the floor next to Yuna.

Psertorpus stood tall in triumph.

After a minute of silence and dread, Psertorpus walked slowly over to Yuna, the obsidian base of his staff clicking on the marble floor. He stopped in front of her, bent down, and took hold of Yuna’s chin. Then he straightened up, and Yuna was pulled into the air, held aloft by the force of his magic and not his strength.

“I believe,” Psertorpus hissed, “that you have failed to prove me wrong.” He raised his staff above his head one last time, and Yuna tried to brace herself for the worst.

Then the door, instead of bursting open, was snapped off its hinges. It hit the floor with a resounding crash.

Kimahri stood in the doorway.

“Kimahri, get out!” Yuna croaked, but her warning was swallowed up by Psertorpus’ fury.

“ANOTHER INTERLOPER!” Abandoning all finesse and poise, Psertorpus slammed his staff’s sharp base deep into the marble floor. After a moment he pulled it out and there was a strange hissing noise.

Then, even as Kimahri advanced, Psertorpus pointed his staff at the Ronso. The small crack in the floor suddenly became a searing fissure of hellfire, shooting through the floor straight for Kimahri.

Kimahri leapt aside as the fissure hit the wall behind him, missing him entirely. What Kimahri hadn’t counted on was the apocalyptic explosion the fissure gave off, sending everyone within twenty meters of it with the exception of Psertorpus flying.

Yuna landed painfully on her stomach and felt one of her eight ribs Psertorpus hadn’t already broken give way. Kimahri hit the floor on his stomach, too, unconscious. For a moment, Psertorpus was blinded by the fury he’d unleashed.

That was enough time for Wakka to step into the doorway, assess the situation, and deal the necromancer a solid whack on the head with his blitzball. A moment later Psertorpus fell to the ground, knocked out. Immediately, a humming sound originated from his prone figure. It was a magic defense field, instinctively generated to keep him safe while he was unconscious.

Wakka ran in and looked around, clearly confused as to who he should help first.

“Wakka,” Yuna groaned. “Help me up.” Wakka walked gingerly over, mindful of the still-hot fissure, and helped Yuna up. Upon getting to her feet Yuna felt something start scraping in her right foreleg, but she ignored it as best she could.

“We need to get everyone up and out of here,” she said. Only about half of the words came out right, and Yuna spat out the blood that had somehow gotten into her mouth. “I said, we need to get everyone up and out of here.”

“Yuna, how are we supposed to move three unconscious people out of here without being noticed when you’ve been hurt like you have? Not to mention Kimahri weighs twice as much as I do, and we don’t know how bad they’ve been hurt.” Wakka looked angry, but Yuna understood the emotion was mostly directed at himself, for being forced to play the role of the devil’s advocate.

At that moment Lulu groaned, muttered a curse in Guado, and got shakily to her feet. “What did I miss?” she asked after a second. Then she saw Psertorpus lying unconscious on the floor, and went for his throat.

Wakka was suddenly gone from Yuna’s side, holding Lulu back. “Lu!” he said through gritted teeth. “If he’s really a necro-whatsis, then he’ll probably have some kind of magic defense field up while he’s unconscious! It’s one of the things I read during my spare time!”

After a moment more of struggling against Wakka’s grip, Lulu slumped her shoulders and replied, “I don’t remember you reading anything.”

“Yeah, I suppose not. But anyway, if you touch him you’ll probably burn your hands.”

Lulu looked around the room and her eyes suddenly settled on Kimahri’s lance. “Oh, no, you don’t,” Yuna said through gritted teeth of her own. “We can take care of Psertorpus later. Right now he may as well be a million miles away for all the ability we have to harm him or he us. What we need to focus on is getting out of here.”

Rikku began to stir. She pulled herself up onto her knees, and, holding her chest, said, “I think I’ve broken a rib or two.”

“You got off lucky,” Yuna replied. “I’ve only got seven that aren’t broken.”

“Well, assuming the people here are on alert, it’s only a matter of time before they’ll start conducting door-to-door searches for us,” Lulu said. “We need to make temporary splints for whatever bones we’ve broken and get out of the palace, preferably without raising too much of a commotion.”

Yuna looked around the half-destroyed living room and replied, “Too late.”

Will our Heroes escape from the Palace? Tune in next week… I mean… tomorrow!