Shuyin finally reaches the Calm Lands.
The Calm Lands. The irony wasn't lost on Shuyin. He was anything but calm, and so was the area he scanned carefully. Much of the grass was scorched black, thanks to the fierce battles that raged early in the war. Shuyin knew for a fact that some of those blights would be permanent, marring the the land forever. Despite his disgust, he realized that such marks would make a good reminder of what war really was. Nothing glorifying about ruined lands littered with the wounded and the dead. Too bad Bevelle wouldn't notice that. Oh no! Of course they'd grieve for their dead, while claiming that those in Zanarkand deserved to die, but victory would make it all okay. While Shuyin grieved over Lenne, the Praetor no doubt celebrated.
"The war shows extent of his fury," he remembered the Ronso woman saying.
"You're not kidding," Shuyin whispered, his voice trembling. While the harsh Gagazet region was not occupied, the Calm Lands more than made up for that. It seemed like every single person in the area was either from Bevelle or one of the few refugees from Zanarkand, who, by the way ended up dead if they were ever discovered. It was obvious to Shuyin that these people were trying to follow the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" route. A philosophy that made Shuyin's stomach turn. Apparently, it made Bevelle's stomach turn too because as soon as the soldiers found out that someone was from Zanarkand, that someone was killed and then eventually became fiends as they were never sent. He wondered if Loralai knew or even cared about this. Shuyin figured that the Praetor would no doubt know, but probably not care.
If Shuyin ever liked his cloak, he loved it now as he walked past a few Bevellian soldiers who ran their mouths about how great the young Praetor was. That too made Shuyin's stomach turn, but he still listened in on snippets of the conversations as much as he could before he could move away to prevent from being noticed.
"I'm surprised the war even lasted this long," commented one soldier, who still had his helmet on, so it was hard to say what he looked like, but Shuyin could tell that he couldn't have been beyond his early twenties. "I figured it would last, what, a few days?"
"Especially since they lost two battles for every one they managed to win," replied another. "It shouldn't be too long before Zanarkand is rubble though."
Shuyin stalked off, neither needing nor wanting to be reminded of every single battle in the war. He didn't deny it because he couldn't have. Zanarkand just didn't have the strength or the smarts to sustain any sort of lasting victory, and quite naturally, Bevelle took advantage of that. What really made him seethe in anger was the first soldier's comments. A few days? Please. A disadvantaged opponent did not a weak one make. That should have been common knowledge, according to Shuyin, as he scoured through the Calm Lands, looking for some mode of transportation, and grit his teeth as it proved impossible to find without being revealed. The Bevellian soldiers were like cockroaches; they were everywhere and what was worse was that they weren't going anywhere anytime soon. He could honestly say that at least he wasn't caught, but it was small comfort since this would clearly delay him, and the longer he took, the more likely Lenne would be dead. Speaking of Lenne, he looked over at the Southern Calm Lands Travel Agency and suddenly realized that just before the war began, she was right there on an outdoor stage performing with every inch of her life.
She looked positively beautiful in her thigh length blue skirt and her matching blouse, Shuyin recalled, closing his eyes. He realized that no matter what happened, nothing would ever take away his memory of her clear siren-like voice, her ability to make her every move seem natural, and her sheer presence as she worked up the audience. Too bad it wasn't enough to stop Bevelle. Had any of them ever seen her perform? Shuyin was sure they had. Did the Praetor? He honestly didn't know, but actually wished Loralai had. Maybe that could have stopped him from declaring war.
"Huh, yea right," Shuyin muttered. Then, the vivid memory of Lenne vanished when he heard a dragging, slithering sound from his far left. "Oh shit..." The fiend was basically a mouth, a giant mouth with lots of sharp, pointed teeth. It was green tentacles, a head like a mutated sunflower, and a cloud of brown breath. Shuyin's dark eyes darted towards the Agency. He could still see it, but it was like a distant memory. Shouting for help would do him little good, so all he could do was hope that someone, anyone would happen by and help. "I can't believe my luck," Shuyin growled, knowing full well that the charm bracelet was now useless, because not only could the humongous fiend see him, it could also eat him.
He backed up as much as he dared, but the ever hated Marlboro just kept on coming, and coming fast. He considered turning around and just running, but Shuyin was trained never to turn your back on any enemy, especially not one who could just reach out and touch you. Or worse, breath on you and cause every sort of infirmity known to man. Shuyin's jaw hurt from the teeth grinding. He didn't bring anything that could block poison, or paralysis, or confusion, or charmed, or anything that could hurt him beyond physical wounds. He simply never thought of it in his mad dash to save the love of his life and his people. Lenne would have been more prepared, and she also would have used Aeons to beat this thing, but she wasn't here, and neither was anyone else. Any other time, Shuyin would have laughed at this situation. But, now, all he could do was scowl.
/Never there when you need them/.
Shuyin balled a fist, looked right at the approaching beast, and struck out his hand. The fire gave him more time to back up just a little further as the fiend shrieked around the flames. But, it shook itself off and kept right on coming, almost close enough to slap Shuyin with a tentacle, or do much worse. Taking a deep breath, Shuyin levitated upwards. Staring right into the gaping maw, he swung his sword and unleashed hell. The Marlboro just shrugged it off, and continued making its way towards the young man.
"Oh..." Shuyin gasped, as he lowered to the ground, "No...nightmare...no..." He stepped over to the left, but the fiend followed him, blocking him. It swung out a tentacle, narrowly missing Shuyin as he jumped back. Shuyin struck the tentacle, and took great pleasure in the Marlboro's scream as he hacked it right off, only to be hit by another tentacle. He fell to the side, and rolled on the soft ground. He quickly stood up, groaning as every breath he took felt like someone doused gasoline on open wounds. The great fiend turned to him, rearing back it's mouth. Shuyin knew exactly what that entailed and he dove as far as he could, hoping that the bad breath didn't touch him, for if it did, he could die right there, unable to save anyone. He grit his teeth as he stood up, trying to ignore the throbbing in his right arm as he gripped his sword with both hands.
As the noxious breath floated in the air away from him, Shuyin took a couple steps back, sighing as he knew that he was safe to put a hand on his heart and whisper a few words. He didn't hurt too much anymore, and just before the Marlboro turned around, he unleashed hell yet again. This time, the Marlboro didn't shrug anything off. Instead, it crumpled to the side, it's movements slowed, but not stopped. This gave Shuyin the chance to do more damage, but he knew that he still couldn't get too close. Not that he wanted to. The last thing he needed was being battered by tentacles again, or worse, being shoved into the Marlboro's mouth. But, he didn't think of the stalks on top of the Marlboro's head, because one of them squirted a substance that hit Shuyin in the chest. He fell to his knees, a wave of nausea passing through him as he felt everything he had suddenly get a little heavier. Gasping for breath, he looked up and saw teeth heading right for him.
He quickly picked up his sword, grunting through the sudden weight increase, and pierced the fiend's maw. As it shrieked, the Marlboro pulled back, Shuyin's weapon stuck in the roof of its mouth. Grunting, Shuyin tried to hold on to the weapon, but as soon as he felt himself being picked up from the ground, he had no choice but to let go, suppressing screams as tentacles struck all over his body.
"Fuck..." He groaned as the Marlboro shook the sword out of its mouth and threw it about thirty feet away. Is there anyone? Anywhere? I can't believe this/. He reached for his handgun. /This probably won't do any good, but... Ignoring the pain shooting through him, Shuyin aimed the gun at the top of the now wilting fiend's head, and riddled it with bullets. The Marlboro jerked back with each strike, but it didn't dissolve into pyreflies. Instead, it just sat there, creeping as its head lowered.
Shuyin stayed on his knees, unable to move much at all, but he sensed that he had just enough energy to cast one more spell. He had two choices. He could either heal, and hope that the Marlboro didn't have the strength to do anything other than stay there, or he could attack, and hope that the fiend is finally killed. The overgrown plant made the choice for him as it suddenly lurched back, its mouth full of teeth wide open. Putting his gun back in its holster, Shuyin quickly held out his hands, palms outward, and couldn't even feel pleasure as the flames engulfed the Marlboro, finally dissolving it into blue-white pyreflies.
He took two breaths and then fell on his stomach, his brown eyes fixed on the pyreflies that drifted into the sky. Shuyin could do little else. At that point, he realized how foolish he was. Yes, he fought one of the most powerful fiends on Spira and won, but it suddenly occurred to him that it could mean his life. If the wounds didn't kill him, Bevellian soldiers sure as the Farplane would. Now they'd come. They were always there when they weren't needed. He wished a ton of things in about two seconds. He wished he were more careful, he wished he were more prepared, he wished he could have had the courage to snag Lenne and leave Zanarkand together. He just wished for things he knew would never happen.
"I'm sorry, Lenne," Shuyin barely whispered as he could have sworn he saw her among the pyreflies, ready to embrace him, to lie beside him as her black hair contrasted against the white pyreflies. Her face looked radiant as she mouthed the words, "I would need a thousand words to tell you how much I love you." He saw her hand close to her face, and he wanted to reach out and grab it, but he didn't have the strength. She did, however, and as she closed hers over his, he suddenly didn't feel anymore pain, or sorrow, or even rage. He just felt peace, the ground beneath him feeling wonderful.
"I don't need a thousand words..." Shuyin sighed, his consciousness slipping away, "I..."