So I'm back… and to work on Final Fantasy X, at last. The sad thing is that this story was born because I didn't want to write a Final Fantasy X-2 story first. I do love X more, though.
(That and the FFX story that's really on my mind isn't being cooperative.)
I listened to a lot of FFX music while writing this (unintentionally). My iPod's Shuffle seems to be very intuitive. When I had Tidus say "I'm looking for…" I was listening to The Sight of Spira (that'd be the music you hear in Kilika). At the moment I wrote it, the part of TSoS that is basically Yuna's Theme inserted in came on. Yes, Tidus, that is who you're looking for.
Yuna's Theme came on while I wrote this, too, as Yuna was speaking.
I was finished with Auron later in the fic… only for Auron's Theme to come on. So… I had to write one more sentence where Auron points Tidus in the right direction.
When Tidus asked Rikku how much farther it was to Zanarkand… you guessed it, 'To Zanarkand' came on, followed by 'Someday the Dream Will End'.
When I wrote this, it was seven pages long. One for each of the party!
End of hilarious things.
Saying Tidus's name as much as I did was… it was weird. I wish the game didn't have that 'make your own name' option. Just once, I wanted Auron to frickin' say 'Tidus'.
Spoiler ahead. Keep in mind that at this point in the journey, Tidus has no idea that Belgemine (the summoner whose aeons you can challenge) is dead. Spoiler has ended.
Insert disclaimer here. I'll parody this story on my profile shortly, so let's begin.
Make A Wish
"Tidus—you can't wish on pyreflies."
"Why not?" he asked defiantly, but with cheer ever-present in his voice. It didn't sound impossible, after all.
Rikku put her hands on her hips and huffed. Her green eyes sparked with irritation. "Because—because—they're the spirits of the dead, for goodness' sake!" She lowered her voice to a whisper and spoke fast. "It doesn't really bother me, of course, but Yevonites would really frown on you doing something like that. And Yunie's counting on you—so don't mention it anymore, all right?"
Tidus nodded—but he couldn't get the idea, the longing, out of his head. Why can't I? he wondered, had wondered constantly since they had so recently crossed the Moonflow. If I need something important, something vital… why can't I pray to Spira's departed, seek their help?
Zanarkand didn't have pyreflies running rampant through its streets.
Zanarkand… my thousand-year-old home.
He went to Wakka next, full of hope and maybe a little bit of overconfidence. Surely his blitzball brother would understand. They would return together to the Moonflow, sit at the banks, and Wakka would wish for Chappu back and Tidus would wish for—
Wakka was not at all receptive.
"It's just not done, you know? The pyreflies are one of Spira's longest-lasting mysteries. No one messes with them, ya? I know the toxin's taking a while to wear off with you, brudda, but one thing you cannot do is anger the maesters and other followers of Yevon. They're not as understanding as I am—you've seen that first hand. They might excommunicate you—and then where would you be, ya?"
"Wakka—" Tidus protested. "I've been praying at the temples, of course—you've seen me. But this is very, very important to me! I have got to make sure this wish comes true. Isn't there any way that I could—?"
"Stick with prayin' at the temple," Wakka insisted stubbornly. "If what you want is really that good, and it follows the will of Yevon, it'll come true, ya?"
"…Yeah," Tidus sighed. "Yeah, I guess it will."
It hadn't, though. So far Tidus had prayed at the base of Kilika's temple, inside the Cloister of Trials (he shuddered just thinking about the place), and again on the way outside.
Okay, so maybe I had some thoughts about beating the Luca Goers in the tournament mixed in there—but surely Yevon should have seen past my selfish wish to my unselfish one?
And they had beaten the Goers, too. If Yevon could bestow some simple blitzball victories, why not grant more important ones?
Tidus went to Kimahri, and found the pensive Ronso staring off into the woods. He approached hesitantly—Kimahri spoke to him now, if only in short phrases, but Tidus still didn't know where he stood with him.
Kimahri turned and pierced Tidus with his golden eyes. Tidus blinked, but didn't look away.
"I want—ah—I want to wish on those pyreflies back there, the ones at the Moonflow. I have a very important wish, and… I think they can grant it."
Say yes. Come on, say you understand. Say something positive. Anything.
Kimahri considered the boy for a few moments. Something akin to a smile on a human seemed to cross the Ronso's face, and for a short while Tidus had hope.
Eventually, though, Kimahri spoke. "Kimahri knows Tidus means well… but Kimahri does not think this is a good idea."
And that was the end of that—Tidus knew better than to even argue.
Tidus had prayed at Djose Temple, too.
Lightning had crackled around him as he closed his eyes and murmured silent appeals to Yevon, glancing every so often at the girl he was protecting. It had been a quiet, important time.
The events that had happened back at Mushroom Rock Road were still raw and vivid in everyone's minds. Everything chewed away at everyone—the number of dead, the loss of friends and of hope, and the sheer amount of sending Yuna had to do.
God, I just wish she'd stop dancing.
But that wasn't the strongest wish in Tidus's heart.
Lightning crackled and the temple loomed high above his head as they left, and Tidus thought about his father, Jecht.
He flinched. The idea repulsed him as much as it drew him in.
The whys and hows and whats of it had long become irrelevant, or so Auron led him to believe. What mattered was that summoners like Dona and Belgemine and Isaaru and Maester Seymour (as much as he disliked the man) and Yuna had to be protected from Sin, from Tidus's father, until they could fight back and win.
It wasn't enough, obviously, to just be a guardian. Otherwise, why would there be so many stories of failure to hear, if one only walked along the roads of Spira?
Why were there so many summoners anyway? Where did they go once they defeated Sin?
…Maybe they're taken to Zanarkand?
It was an interesting idea… except that he had never met Braska, Yuna's father, or any others claiming to come from a place called Spira. (Except Auron, of course.) And that still didn't explain what the hell had happened to Jecht.
But you already know the answer to that, don't you? Somehow, he's become Spira's monster.
Tidus shook those thoughts away. It was all too much. Yuna's father defeated Sin and vanished, Auron ended up in Zanarkand with him, and his father…
The point was that summoners were way too vulnerable, even with their guardians. Tidus couldn't do anything about it… unless the pyreflies could do more than just foster mystery.
Especially since the idea of Yuna alone in Zanarkand, without him or anyone else at her side, made Tidus want to stop her pilgrimage and send her back to Besaid.
Lately Lulu had been very patient with Tidus, teaching him the things he did not know about Spira's people and places and culture without once frowning or speaking coldly. Even yesterday, when Tidus had joked that he must have killed enough Sinspawn to be allowed near Yuna without supervision now, she had only chuckled instead of hitting him with a Thunder spell.
He went to Lulu now with the hope that she would listen with her heart as well as her ears. Tidus was tired of being accused by everyone else in Spira of rocking the boat with questions and obvious reasoning—he was only trying to help.
Lulu was setting up tents on the very edge of the road to their next stop, Guadosalam. Tidus hurried to help her—they unfolded tents and rolled out rugs in silence, but not an uncomfortable one.
The sun was setting over the trees, casting an orange glow over everything below. Lulu's skin, unusually pale for an islander, seemed darker, setting off an odd contrast between skin and black dress. Tidus was glad that he'd gotten better at not staring at her.
When they put the last tent up, Lulu said quietly, "Thank you."
"No problem," Tidus replied, more confidently than he felt.
She looked him over once, and smiled. "I doubt you came over here just to help me set up our sleeping arrangements… you've seen me do it before."
Tidus kicked his heels into the dusty road, feeling suddenly shy. It crossed his mind that she was an adult, very much so, and he basically… wasn't. He also felt annoyed, too, rebellious against everything. "I don't want to be blown off again."
Lulu's ruby-red eyes went wide. Tidus was exuding an air of exhaustion that was uncommon in him. "Tell me what's bothering you."
"So you can tell me no, too?"
"I promise to explain my reasoning to you if I do say no," Lulu told him. She sat by the tents, spreading her dress, and invited Tidus to sit with her—he did after a moment's hesitation.
"Speak. You can't afford to have something else on your mind while you're serving as Yuna's guardian."
Tidus told her everything that weighed on his mind, from the pyreflies that fascinated him to his wish and the reason behind it. It felt strange, but necessary, to bare his soul like this—next to Yuna, Lulu seemed most fitting to hear it all. He heard Rikku out in the woods somewhere, stealing from a fiend, and he heard Wakka hurrying to kill the fiend before they were down one new guardian, but he didn't pay either any mind. He just talked to Lulu, remembering that it had been her that introduced the pyreflies to him in the first place.
The sun had sunken a little more by the time he finished, and a little more by the time Lulu had thought Tidus's words over.
"I've… never heard of anyone wishing on a group of pyreflies before. I don't know if they would honor your wish, or if they have the capacity to… as I said earlier, no one knows what they truly are. They may be the souls of the departed, or some whole new being."
"They feel… I feel… connected to them, somehow. I can't let them go, Lulu. I have to know if they can help us."
Lulu nodded. Her dark hair bobbed along with her head, and beads clinked. "They are very magnetic… they exhibit a pull on us, you know. Yevon himself wondered at the pyreflies, and wrote songs to be sung to them, and stories to be told about them. Some wonder even now if he didn't try to find some way to join their dance in death, and that that is why people's souls look like pyreflies when they are Sent."
She's proceeding carefully, Tidus thought, and sagged as he realized what that meant.
"Yevon won't approve," Lulu said gently, "but I'm sure you were already told that." He blushed, realizing that she had been watching him all afternoon. "I don't have a problem with it personally—I can see that you're serious about being a guardian, and that is what I wanted from the start. I know that Yuna is safe in your hands. Even so, we need all the help we can get, and if pyreflies help…well, you've already given us Rikku."
Tidus laughed nervously. "I'd call that more of a 'happy coincidence'."
Lulu smiled. She lowered her voice, even though Wakka was busy unknowingly ruffling the Al Bhed's blonde hair several feet away. "She saved your life, and you later saved Yuna's… I think it is a blessing. Add to that the fact that she is Yuna's cousin…"
Tidus let himself grin. "I'm just glad that I got to see her again, to thank her for taking me in before."
Reluctantly, Lulu returned to her earlier point, while casting Fira on some dry wood that Tidus and Rikku had collected that morning. "My number one concern in this is Yuna. If you think this will hurt her chances of defeating Sin in any way—or hurt her directly, or indirectly—you must not go through with it. And, of course, before you go through with this, you must get the approval you really need."
"What?" Tidus asked, blankly.
"You know who I mean," was all Lulu said, and she waved him off.
Tidus was forced to wonder at her oblique answer all the way to the other side of camp.
The approval I need most…
He was at a loss.
"You look a little lost."
Tidus jumped—Rikku was at his side, shaking his shoulder.
"Sorry," Rikku said, and then pushed at his shoulder again. "So… what's on your mind?"
"I'm looking for…" Tidus shook his head of blond hair. "Never mind. I don't know."
"Okay then. Hey… have you seen Yunie? I can't find her, and I've looked everywhere!"
Tidus started. Lulu's words became very clear to him then, mixed in with newborn fear as Rikku's sunk in. He had to find Yuna. He had to let her know why he had been so distracted lately—for she had asked, and now he had an answer for her.
And…I've got to make sure she's safe.
"I'll find her," he promised Rikku. Something else crossed his mind. "How much farther to my—to Zanarkand?"
Rikku looked sad. "We won't be there for a while. There's still two more temples and two more aeons for Yunie to get…. But that isn't forever, either, you know?"
Tidus nodded, puzzled at why she seemed so downcast all of a sudden. It made him wonder why so many of her fellow Al Bhed were kidnapping summoners all over Spira. If Rikku wasn't with them now, would she be trying to take Yuna from them, too?
"Don't stay up all night," Rikku teased him—just like that, she had reverted to her bubbly persona. "We'll all need rest for the remainder of the journey."
"Maybe you will, new girl," Tidus joked in return—but he was already thinking of finding his summoner, and so he left without any proper goodbye.
He couldn't find her.
It was making Tidus anxious—Spira was a big, unfamiliar place, and he hadn't even seen most of it yet, and Yuna—Yuna—was lost somewhere in that big, wide world beyond their campsite.
What was the use of pyreflies if he lost the keystone of his wish?
Tidus went deep into the forest, so deep that he did not know his way back out. Still he pressed on—he would not be known as the guardian who lost his summoner. He knew why Kimahri had been so insulted by the thought of it when Biran and Yenke had brought it up.
Tidus could not find Yuna, but he did find the last person he expected to be lost in a forest—Auron. In fact, he bumped right into him.
The red-coated guardian turned around and lowered his shades ever-so-slightly. "You look like you've lost your summoner."
Tidus ducked his head. There was no use in trying to fool Auron. "…I don't know where she could have gotten to, without anyone noticing…"
"There." Auron pointed up ahead, to a place with fewer trees, all lit up like a clearing.
"Wh-what?" Tidus's heart had started to thud faster in his chest, and disbelief mixed with relief filled him.
Auron sighed impatiently and pushed Tidus forward. "Yuna is safe. I followed her here."
Tidus sagged with now-complete relief. He had been considering calling Lulu and Kimahri and searching for Yuna with them as he had before, and cutting down anything or anyone who got in his way. Auron had just saved him a lot of time and trouble… but…
"I wish you'd said something before," Tidus heard himself saying, and he realized that his worry had quickly become irritation, as worry often does. "Just a quick 'Going into the woods with the summoner, not to worry' would have kept Rikku and me from worrying, you know!"
The older man just stared at him, as though he was making a fool of himself (which he probably was). He might have even been hiding a smile behind that high collar of his.
That only made Tidus angrier. "Auron! Yuna really had me worried for a minute there, and you're smiling? I know this is her pilgrimage, but she could at least tell her guardians where she was going before just leaving them waiting…!"
It didn't help that losing Yuna was the number one thing that woke him up in cold sweats these days. First his dreams, then pyreflies—he didn't know if he could take it anymore.
Auron stood silently, listening to Tidus rant. At that point in it, however, he interrupted—by chuckling, of all things. "Funny."
Tidus was so puzzled that he ran out of steam. "What's funny?"
He felt a hand pass through his hair, and tried not to show the shock he felt—Auron hardly ever touched him, and affectionate physical contact was even rarer. "I used to think the same thing when you would disappear, back in Zanarkand."
Tidus didn't know what to do first—express shock that Auron had mentioned his Zanarkand, had mentioned that they had shared a common experience at all, or defend his actions as a kid. "What—you—I—well, that was different—"
"How was it different?" Auron's eye was very brown. Tidus didn't often see it, and so it was all the more eye-catching.
Tidus spluttered. He couldn't explain why his right to move freely was different than Yuna's obligation to her guardians—for it put her in the right and him in the wrong. He wasn't stupid—he should have been more respectful to Auron—but in Spira's culture, Yuna didn't have to do anything as a summoner except travel, send the dead, help the people, pray at every temple, gain an aeon from each fayth, defeat Sin, and (most importantly) not die.
"Fine," he mumbled sullenly. "It isn't different. She has the right. I… didn't."
Auron just put his shades back on. He hadn't been scolding or looking for an apology, but he'd gotten one anyway. Either way, he won.
Tidus sat down in the grass with a huff. What use am I if I can't win against Auron's logic or find my summoner—or know she's missing? Even Rikku knew that Yuna was gone before I did.
A single pyrefly flew past his head—he stared at it with wonder. Auron backed away, watching it from a safer distance. It came back and circled Tidus's head, making that strange noise that all pyreflies made—he grinned and blew at it, and it went spinning away. He got up to follow it without thinking.
"Where are you going?"
Tidus shrugged in Auron's direction. "To find the rest of the pyreflies. I need to…"
It was like he was with Jecht in Zanarkand again—Tidus lowered his voice to a mumble, feeling a bit resentful, and wondered if the idea wasn't stupid after all. "To wish on them. That's all."
Auron studied him silently. When Tidus didn't move another inch, he said, "Well? Why haven't you gone after it?"
He hesitated again. "Everyone else… says I shouldn't, for different reasons. Yevon wouldn't approve of me praying to pyreflies, for one—"
"Then do it."
Tidus was thrown. "Huh?"
Auron moved back to his original spot, just steps from the clearing. When he got there, he spoke again, as clearly as before. "There is no harm in it. The souls of the dead do not care how they are called—if you need them, they will come. So—wish, or pray, or whatever you're planning."
Tidus blinked. That was, next to Lulu's, probably the best advice he had gotten all day—and the only 'yes', as well.
"Thanks, Auron," he said, trying to inspire some more conversation. It was a good day indeed when Auron decided to talk to him—especially with how distant he had been since their reunion in Luca.
But all Auron did was push him away and say, "Go bother Yuna."
Ah, well, Tidus thought. At least he'd gotten more out of Auron than he would have on any other day. Maybe he could let Auron guard Yuna personally more often, if it mellowed him out that much.
"Leave, or I will make you leave."
Or maybe not.
Auron used as few gestures as possible to point Tidus in Yuna's direction. Tidus was so glad to know where she was that he didn't even notice Auron's irritated expression at the time.
I'm coming, Yuna.
And this time he would not let her go. Tidus didn't want to ever feel the gut-clenching fear he had felt earlier again—no matter how inadequate he still felt, he would stay at Yuna's side from now on. He really wouldn't be a true guardian if he stayed away out of fear and some fiend got her…
She was there, in the clearing, lying down so that he could see the profile of the right side of her body. Her skirt had been spread out, so that purple overlapped the green grass. She heard him coming and turned her head—her blue-and-green eyes fixed him in place.
"H-hey." It was all Tidus could manage.
Yuna smiled at him. "I hear you've been looking for me…"
"Come sit down." She went on after he made himself comfortable. "Isn't it wonderful out here? I wanted to watch the stars… it felt like the right think to do."
Tidus let himself smile, but sadly. He wondered how many times, if ever, she'd been able to watch the stars when she was studying to become a summoner. Yevon doesn't seem too keen on stargazing. He couldn't help but think, bitterly, that the maesters of Yevon could never appreciate something as beautiful as Yuna's smile—not when they were too busy teaching her that she must atone for the sins of those who were long dead.
How could they think that someone like Yuna would ever hurt someone else?
…How could I possibly fail to protect something so precious?
"Why are you sad?"
Tidus jumped. Yuna was looking at him—straight at him—with those big doe eyes. He couldn't not tell her everything about himself when she looked at him like that, and she knew it. And he had promised to tell her why he had been so out of sorts lately.
So far he had never broken a promise to her—why start now?
"I guess… everyone's been telling me 'no' in one way or another today—or 'Go talk to someone else', or just 'Go away'. I want something really simple—"
"What is it?"
"No… it's silly. You don't want to know."
"But I don't know what it is yet!" Curiosity lit her eyes.
Tidus stared straight into those eyes and felt a little of his own excitement return to him. "I wanted to know… if I could wish on pyreflies for the success of your journey, Yuna. I feel like they can hear us… maybe they could help us along…"
But I understand if you don't agree.
Yuna did not disagree. Her eyes began to sparkle; she clapped her hands together like a child. She opened her pale pink lips—
"Well, why not?"
"There are some pyreflies here—did you see them when you came? Let's wish on them now! You can wish for whatever you wanted…"
Hope and renewed joy spread through Tidus—he gazed gratefully into Yuna's eyes and felt his own curiosity sparking anew. What would she be wishing for?
I know my own wish. And now I can finally make it—thank you, Yuna, for giving me a straight answer… and the right to protect you.
She laid down in the grass—so did he. She prayed to the whirling, multicolored pyreflies, wishing for who-knew-what…
Tidus watched her before making his own wish at last—to be strong enough to protect Yuna forever. He would not be the guardian who failed his summoner—no matter what, he would be strong enough. No, stronger.