In the days and months following the defeat of the Empire, and the death of the Emperor at Endor, Spira had vastly reorganized its government and military structures. The Youth League, Machine Faction, and New Yevon had united to form a single Spiran Republic, and had extended offers of membership to the Guado and Ronso, offers which both Tromell and Kimahri had accepted in a Coruscant second. The first official action taken by the Spiran Republic was the rebuilding of the areas that had been devastated by the Empire's orbital bombardments.
A few days after a hypercomm signal had been sent out by Arren, the Rebel Alliance had dispatched a small fleet to Spira to help with the rebuilding effort, and also to allow the Spiran Republic to become an official member of the Rebel Alliance. Shortly thereafter, Besaid Island had been mostly restored, thanks largely in part to the advanced terraformation technology possessed by the Rebel peace corps. By unanimous agreement, and fully supported by Yuna, the old Yevon temple on Besaid had been replaced by a Jedi temple in which Yuna could seek out and teach any other Spirans who were gifted in the ways of the Force.
The newly-formed Grand Army of Spira had been divided into its army, naval, and air force divisions, and placed under the direct control of Nooj, Baralai, and Gippal. With the induction into the Rebel Alliance, a vast amount of galactic technology poured into Spira, including more advanced military hardware, as well as comlinks, holographic communication devices, and simulators.
True, the Emperor was dead, but the Rebel leadership cautioned the Spirans that the Empire itself was still very much alive, and still possessed of a powerful military that could inflict devastation across any number of worlds. To that end, the Spiran forces taught the soldiers of the Rebel Alliance the rudimentary functions of magic, and began training and equipping their own forces should another roving Imperial force decide to come calling.
And the Spirans also picked up from the Rebel Alliance the proud tradition of military awards.
Arren, Jake, and Stev lined up in precise formation at the far end of the auditorium within the restored Bevelle palace. Arren wore his Rebel Alliance uniform, complete with the new Spiran Commander rank insignia of three stars arrayed in a downward-pointing triangle in gold tone superimposed over the image of an X-wing, all of which was placed onto the background of a black circle. Jake and Stev bore similar insignia, only where Arren's insignia bore an X-wing, the two ex-stormtroopers' insignia displayed a clone trooper helmet, and the color of their circle was green.
The doors slid open before the three former enemies, revealing the length of the auditorium beyond. The room was filled to capacity with soldiers, pilots, technicians, and other various members of the Spiran Republic, all organized in two huge formations, facing each other, allowing a single corridor of clear space down the middle between them, directly toward the huge transparisteel windows at the far side of the room. Baralai, Nooj, and Gippal stood before those windows, the setting sun behind them casting their shadows down almost the full length of the room.
The three outlanders glanced at one another, then simultaneously began to march in perfect synch toward the opposite end of the room. On either side of them, the near endless rows of soldiers stood at perfect attention, largely unmoving. As the trio reached the small platform that had been erected, they heard the formations behind them turn face with a snapping-to of bootheels that echoed proudly off the surrounding walls and transparisteel.
Baralai wasted no time with fancy speeches. "We of Spira are deeply indebted to the three of you," he said, his artificially-amplified voice audible to everyone within the chamber. "Without your help, we would surely be crushed beneath the oppressive heel of the Empire, or our planet would be barren and lifeless, a victim of the terrifying power possessed by their Super Star Destroyer."
Nooj stepped up beside the former New Yevon praetor, taking up the thread. "In honor of your courage and valor, the three of you will be the first, but hopefully not the last, to receive Spira's highest military honor, the Praetorian Crest."
By now, Gippal had fallen into line with Baralai and Nooj, carrying an ornate box which he then opened. Inside were three identical medals that would be hung around one's neck. The medal itself consisted of a tri-dimensional triangle, its point capped with a curving half-circle, with the symbol of the Spiran Republic placed in the center of the triangle. Excepting the Spiran Republic symbol, that pattern had been the insignia of the Praetorate Guard during the days before the Empire.
The three commanders of the Spiran Armed Forces each took one of the medals, and the box was taken by a nearby aide. At a hand-signal, Arren, Jake, and Stev took a step forward and lowered their heads so that they could be awarded the medals. At the same instant, Baralai, Nooj, and Gippal placed the thick bands of the medals around the necks of the honorees, then stepped back and nodded.
As one, the three turned around to face the assembled crowd, which broke ranks first into polite applause, then into less-military cheering and whistling. The trio stood looking out over the crowd, and at once felt a profound sense of peace and welcome, as though Spira was the planet on which they were intended to be alive.
Behind them, Baralai glanced over to Nooj and, making sure his voice amplifier was turned off, voiced quietly, "I wonder where Lady Yuna has gotten off to..."
Nooj's only reply was an unknowing shrug.
On the other side of Spira, Yuna and Tidus stood in the council room of the newly-built Jedi temple, exchanging their marriage vows before a priest of the former Yevon temple. Yuna was dressed in a flowing, sleeveless white gown that trailed a short distance on the polished floor beneath them. Tidus wore a formal suit that he had borrowed from Wakka, and as a result it was a few sizes too large and threatened not to stay in place on the ace blitzer.
Lulu and Wakka stood nearby, Lulu with Vidina in her arms, and Paine was a short distance from them, trying none-too-successfully to keep Rikku largely silenced. The Al Bhed girl, overly-hyper at the moment, literally bounced from foot to foot with happiness, much to the annoyance of the warrior standing beside her.
The light of the setting sun streaming in through the transparisteel windows of the council chamber provided the perfect amount of illumination, silhouetting the two lovers against the windows and seeming to perfectly frame their union. The four witnesses watched the scene before them with a sense of wonder and accomplishment, as though a destined tale has finally come to an end.
Tidus took a step toward Yuna, their silhouettes seeming to merge into one, and he leaned his head down toward Yuna, who likewise turned her head up to meet him. In one perfect instant, their lips met, silhouetted forms fully merging into one. His arms slid up to encircle her small form as her arms slipped around his own waist.
After a moment, they pulled back for air, looking deep into each others' eyes. Yuna smiled softly, and laid her head against Tidus' chest, listening to his heart hammering within. She then turned her head so that she could stare out the windows of the council chamber, and knew without looking that Tidus was looking in the same direction.
Through the Force, Yuna reached out and touched Tidus' emotional heart, feeling the love and devotion that passed from his heart to hers. Smiling, she looked out into the setting sun, and for once, she did not think at all of Spira, of the baptism by fire that her planet had passed through. No, she only thought of herself and Tidus in that moment, of the future they had now, lying open before them like the golden rays of the rapidly-diminishing sun.
This was not an end to their story, she knew. No, far from it. It was merely the end of a chapter. And tomorrow would bring the start of an entirely-new chapter, and a brand new adventure. She also knew, without even having to consciously think about it, that whatever new adventure awaited them, would be theirs. Together. A new life was waiting for them, and she knew that they were both ready for it.
A/N: Now cue the starfield, the catchy ending tune, and roll the credits! Shadows of the Empire has officially reached its end. Yes yes, I know some of you may be lamenting the end of something that is so leet, but I have good news on several counts. First off, at some point in the future (like, when Battlefront 2 comes out), I may be tempted into writing a Special Edition of SotE. ;) The other good news I will store until the end of the shout-outs/review section.
Also, if anyone noticed, I kept in the Star Wars tradition of having the final ending sequence be a scene without any dialogue. I just felt that I had to pay homage to the Star Wars franchise that way.
And now, shout-outs!
madmaz: You will be wanting to pay attention to the second piece of good news I have at the end. ;)
Euphoria's Tragedy: I was kidding about the merchandise thing. ;p I'll be satisfied with having undying loyal fans. ;) And psst...my Rebel Alliance shirt is cooler. ;p
Morgaine of the Fairies (ch. 15): Damn you for getting RotS a week early. >O Eh, that's okay. I got my advance ticket this past week, and I'm going to be flopping my happy ass down in a theater at approximately 11:45 PM on Tuesday, May 17. ;) And speaking of RotS posters, I need to get one... Too bad that there ain't m/any posters that feature the clone troopers. Because as everyone knows, clone troopers>all.
Morgaine of the Fairies (ch. 16): You try to steal my Rebel Alliance shirt, don't be surprised to find a wishbone (nickname for a Star Wars ship. try to figure it out) landing on your head. ;( There is no thieving of the coolest shirt I own. And in other news, you will also be looking forward to the announcement at the end. :D
MegIvanParagon: :O What story is this that you speak of? I could try to help, but I guarantee that my advice will probably be mostly garbage. XD
MAJORLY LEET ANNOUNCEMENT OF D00M!
It is not yet confirmed, but there is discussion in progress that seems to indicate that I may be collaborating with Peptuck, the author of the much-vaunted Gunblade Saga, in making a sequel to Shadows of the Empire that combines FFX-2 and Star Wars, again, but this time will throw in, and feature, Peptuck's rendition of the FF8 world, complete with his EstharHalo technology. More on this as it develops.