Luzzu and Auron have a tense conversation about a mutual friend.
Troop deployments. Supplies. Wagons. Signals. Staging. Triage tents. Auron found the evening's business, so familiar and so routine, both restful and irritating. He was no longer directly involved in such affairs. Many might die tomorrow, and for their sake, at least, he had paid attention, but he had little to contribute— or too much that needed to remain unsaid. These Crusaders knew their business. He was mildly interested to see whether their Lightning Shield would work, and what effect it would have on their opponent.
His clenched fist brushed against salt-rimed roses hunched low against the wind. They grew here on the promontory in stubborn defiance, overlooking the beach where Chappu had met his end. Was his name etched somewhere on these cliffs, or was he one of the forgotten? For every hero remembered, there were a thousand whose names were never memorialized in scripture or stone. The only mark they left was a scar in the hearts of those left behind.
Auron took another slow drink from his jug. After riding all day, it was foolish to be sitting out here alone in the aching damp, watching the blanket of clouds rolling in off the ocean, half-dozing in the faint scent of roses mixed with the sea's tang. The bay was jet black, impossible to distinguish from the shrouded sky except when Djose Temple's lightning peeled away the darkness for an instant. The rock beneath him quivered, but that was from unseen waves striking the cliffs, not thunder too distant to hear. He kept scanning the horizon for an answering flicker. Sin, as usual, was moving on its own schedule.
Lulu could be here within the hour, the day, the week. He was not concerned about what the others might say if his prediction seemed to have failed, but it would be awkward if Isaaru chose to press on.
Slow, steady footsteps crunched towards him from the direction of camp. Auron straightened and waited, unsurprised to see Luzzu coming towards him. The lodge captain had been focused on tactics during the strategy meeting, barely exchanging two words with him, but he had watched Auron intently during Pacce's enthusiastic account of their last run-in with Sin.
"Sir Auron." The Crusader halted a few paces away and folded his arms, staring down at the bulky figure seated by the weathered stumps of Kinoc's observation platform. "I thought I might find you up here."
The man gave a bark of laughter. "No one's called me that since Lady Yuna died."
"So." Luzzu paused, staring fixedly out to sea until another fan of lightning revealed the flat horizon. His posture relaxed subtly. "Sin?"
Time for another sparring session. Auron was hardly in the mood, but their mutual association with Lulu demanded an answer and might yield a few more. "What about it?"
"Lord Isaaru said you knew... /it/... was coming here."
"It fits the pattern."
The man gave a short laugh. "Besaid Island, Kilika Temple, and that's a pattern?"
"And one other before that. It buried a fayth statue in the Calm Lands."
"Ah," Luzzu muttered, mostly to himself. "So, you've been following Sin for some time. Did you actually see it strike Besaid?"
"No." Auron could hear the strain in Luzzu's voice, knew the man was watching him as warily as the ocean, seeking some sign of Sin's passing. What did Yevon do to heretics these days, now that it was bursting with so much goodwill and reform? "She," he amended, voice softening.
"The Lady?" Luzzu demanded, making the honorific an accusation.
"She was that." A memory brushed the edge of Auron's thoughts, no more than a fleeting impression of self-possessed presence, a taut pillar of black and white holding the rearguard at his side.
Luzzu exhaled. "Not that we ever called her that."
Even now, Auron noted, the Crusader had danced around self-incrimination for heresy— barely. "Luzzu. I know who she is. It's all right."
"Like hell it's all right!" He lowered his head and brought up his fists, struggling to keep his voice down. "What's happened to her? Is she dead... unsent? Or is she a prisoner inside Sin? That's what I thought at first, but lately..." He made a harsh, angry sound in his throat. "Dammit. Lulu was a fine woman, Sir Auron. A good fighter, too. What went wrong?"
Auron hesitated, keenly aware of what had happened the last time he had answered that question. But Luzzu already knew the what, if not the why, and Auron needed information. "Sin... doesn't die. You can cut it down, but it grows back." He gestured towards the scraggly fringe of creepers spilling over the rim of the canyon. "It puts down roots in whoever defeats it."
"And you did not think to tell them this?" Luzzu said, voice quivering like a cocked harpoon.
"I told them," Auron said. "Lulu... thought she had come up with a way around it."
Wham. Even braced for it, he was rocked onto his back by the force of the blow. His glasses cracked and went flying, skittering off into the darkness. Auron picked himself up with a grunt, watching the man silhouetted against distant lanterns in case he wasn't finished.
The Crusader stood panting, hands still clenched at his sides. "They're all dead now," he said hoarsely. "Chappu. Gatta. Yuna. Kimahri too, I suppose?"
"And Lulu... worse than dead. No wonder she's so angry." He shook his head slowly as if to clear it. "You said... 'whoever defeats it.' What about the Final Summoning?"
"Lulu is the Final Summoning." Auron looked down. "Her choice. She's a stubborn woman."
Luzzu's breath hissed between his teeth, and Auron recognized the sound of a swallowed oath: what was there to swear by, once Yevon had proved a farce? "Gatta was stubborn too," Luzzu conceded finally. "That's always the way, isn't it? The young get themselves killed. We atone."
"Regrets won't bring them back, Luzzu." What was it Lulu used to say? It's pointless to think about, and sad. Yet here they were, still dwelling on immutables. It was time for answers. "You said, 'all of them.' Yet you didn't name Wakka. Where is he?"
"I'm not sure," Luzzu said. "Lulu sent him somewhere far away, out of harm's reach— and hers. At least, that's the impression she gave me."
Auron grimaced. Wonderful. Zanarkand. He should have checked, but that possibility had never occurred to him. He was so tired of going in circles.
Wakka would hate it, of course. Lulu had an odd knack for being cruel to him.
"Is there any way to free her?" Luzzu said.
"Ah." Luzzu slumped. "Maybe you should just let her be, then. She's awfully good at what she does. She terrorizes Spira, but she makes us stronger, better. Not much changed, really, from how she used to treat Wakka."
"I can't leave her like this, Luzzu."
"No, I suppose not," he said. "So. What do you mean to do?"
"Take her place, if we can't find a better way to defeat her," Auron said. "Unless... has she told you what she's planning?"
"No. At least, I don't think so. She doesn't speak to me in words. Just feelings, images." Luzzu shook his head. "The last time Lulu came by, she was brooding over the summoners she'd lost. She showed me how Lady Ginnem died."
"Ah." That explained the attack on the Cavern of the Stolen Fayth, although Auron had already guessed as much.
"Is it true what Lord Isaaru said, that Besaid's been wiped out?"
"Yes," Auron said. "I'm sorry."
"Dammit, Lulu," he said, a plea for clemency far too late. "Maybe it really is time to...end her journey."
"Past time." If not for her, for me.
"Is there anything else I should know about this operation? I'm not a fool, Sir Auron. When the orders came in, I thought this was simply a roundabout way of getting me an honorable discharge: death by Sin, instant glory. But Maester Lucil wouldn't dispatch Commander Elma out here just to supervise a temple evacuation. They're getting us out of the way so they can open that cave below Mushroom Rock, aren't they?"
"Down in the canyon. Rumor has it a crack team of Crusaders was sent in there just before Operation Mi'ihen, and none of them came out. It's been sealed off ever since. We use the area in front of it as a hazardous items dump to keep people away."
"I don't know anything about that," Auron said.
"Maybe they're keeping you in the dark, too."
"Possibly." Auron shrugged. "Just be ready to retreat, Captain. If you see that bubble start to form around Sin, have your men take cover. That's the only warning you'll get."
"Thanks." Hunching his shoulders, Luzzu turned to leave. "You planning on staying out all night?"
"Inform the sentries if you see her."