Categories > Games > Final Fantasy X-2 > Unwavering Symphony

Chapter 9

by animeangelash 0 reviews

"Come on," he coaxed, smiling in self-satisfaction. "If you think I'm crazy, you can watch that sphere and be crazy with me. I need the company."

Category: Final Fantasy X-2 - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Romance - Characters: Lenne, Shuyin - Published: 2006-06-06 - Updated: 2006-06-07 - 6860 words

Disclaimer: As before, the characters and settings contained within do not belong to me. They are the sole property of the Square Enix company.


"Don't worry about me, all right?" Lenne said, a reassuring smile playing across her face. "I'll be fine."

Shuyin stared at her for a moment, his expression much different than hers. Desperation and hopelessness were obvious in his features, etched into his brow and clouding his eyes. Hopelessly, he glanced away from her, looking off to the side. All around them, the other summoners were saying their goodbyes, consoling weeping friends and family members and sharing a few last, despondent embraces. He hadn't really bothered to notice earlier, but now he fully perceived how many people were amongst the crowd. The collective chatter, he now realized, was fed by so many voices that it was becoming loud enough to make his ears ring. However, no matter how hard he strained, he didn't hear a single one of those voices speak without a tone of defeat, bleakness, or resignation. This was a gathering of the damned, he realized, and any minute now, they would rally together and depart along the slopping path to Gagazet with Lenne amongst their ranks.

"Lenne, don't go with them," Shuyin begged. His grip on her upper arms tightened as if, were he to let her go, she would be torn away from him and drift off into nothingness, like so much smoke in a raging wind. "You could do just as much good here! You could help the younger summoners with their training. Lead them, maybe. They're inexperienced. They'll need help from a superior, right?" Even before the words left his tongue, however, he knew that his efforts would be fruitless. He'd tried time and time again to convince her to stay, to find some way that she wouldn't have to go with the other summoners to what could only be certain death. However, there wasn't anything else that he was willing to say. Saying goodbye now would be like willingly throwing away his last, tiny shred of hope.

Gently, Lenne shook her arms from his hold, then tenderly snaked them around his waist and propped her forehead against his shoulder. "No," she answered in a whisper as his arms encircled her shoulders. "I'm sorry, Shuyin." Around them, the other summoners slowly began splitting from their lamenting relatives and heading up the path to the blockade, the loud chatter of before dying away as a result. However, Shuyin gradually started to notice that the ringing in his ears, though it had come with the chatter, did not leave with it. Narrowing his eyes a bit in confusion, he quickly realized that the ringing was even louder than it had been a few moments before, and was getting louder even as he paused to consider it.

As he shook his head to try and relieve himself of the noise, Lenne released him and pulled from his embrace, turning away as she did so. "Lenne! Wait!" he called out, covering his ears in another attempt to ease the ringing, which still continued to rise in volume. To his alarm, he could barely hear his own shouts over the shrieking buzz.

Lenne, it seemed, could not hear him either. Seemingly ignorant of his dilemma, she continued up the path, breaking into a jog to catch up to the other summoners who were already making their way through the blockade. She half-turned then, raising a hand to him and waving in farewell. "Goodbye, Shuyin!" she called, with a warm smile and sad eyes. By now however, the ringing in his ears was so bad that the movement of her lips was the only way he could tell that she had spoken at all. His eyes closing and jaw setting in a pitiful attempt to cope with the agony, he fell to his knees, clamping his hands even more tightly over his ears. The chime only continued to get louder however, to the point that Shuyin felt as if his head might split clean in half at any moment. It was then that he noticed a bizarre change happening in the sound. Slowly, it began mutating into something much different than the ring that it had been before: something different, and far more chilling.

It was screams, he realized, an icy chill shooting through his bones and seemingly freezing him to the ground; tormented, fearful screams that could only come with unbearable pain, or an agonizing death. Screams from a voice he knew: Lenne's voice.

Horrific realization surging through him like reverberations through struck steel, Shuyin forced his head up, desperately scanning the sloping path before him for Lenne. She was already at the crest when he spotted her, just passing the blockade and taking up the rear of the group. Frantically, he screamed her name, his voice loud enough this time to make raw his throat, as well as contend with the voice that was resonating through ever fiber of his mind.

She faltered, apparently having heard his cry this time, and quickly turned to acknowledge him. As she did, her body lost the steadiness that it had had only a moment before, giving way to near-spastic convulsions. For an instant their gazes met, and to his dread, Shuyin saw his fear mirrored in hers eyes, along with agony even more intense than his own. Then, a flare of red near her neck caught his eye, and instinctively, his gaze fell to it.

Blood. Torrents of it, running from her chest, down her front to drip onto the dust at her feet. At the source of the appalling scarlet streak, where her heart should have been, there was nothing. Instead, all he could see there was a bloody mess of tissue, and the gray of the rocks behind her.

All breath left him as her eyes rolled back, the brown irises disappearing into ghostly white, and her knees came out from beneath her, sending her to the gravel in a flurry of white and brown and red.

He couldn't think, couldn't feel, couldn't see. Color, sound, texture, everything began to blend together nonsensically, reaching from once sense into the other until he could hear the blood and see the sound of gravel crunching beneath her lifeless body. Slowly, everything around him became like cracking glass, groaning with the effort of keeping itself from exploding into innumerable pieces. He could see the same thing in himself, tiny lines running through his body and threatening to completely shatter him along with everything else. And still, ringing clear and true above it all was Lenne's agonized screams. Shuyin was completely paralyzed. He could do nothing but join in the screaming.

And then, his head slammed against the floor with a thick, solid 'thunk'. Disoriented and still struck with an overwhelming terror, he squirmed haphazardly, his eyes frantically darting about like those of a terrified animal. A moment later, he recognized the familiar situation of his apartment, and slowly sagged onto his shoulders with an aggravated groan. Slamming his fist weakly against the floor, he slid backward some, letting his legs drop from mattress on which they had been leaning, suspended over the rest of his body. Slowly, he pulled himself to his feet, holding the back of his head where it was beginning to become tender. He'd have a nasty bump there soon enough.

Muttering a curse under his breath, Shuyin dragged himself into the other room, trying to rub the sleep from his eyes and, along with it, the memories of this latest appalling nightmare.

Contemptuously, he pondered what this one numbered. If he recalled correctly, this was the fifth such nightmare he'd had since Lenne had told him of the emperor's orders two weeks previous. Though they varied greatly in setting and situation, they all ended in the same manner. Lenne would leave him, smiling as if everything was right with the world, and then she would die. The latter was where the majority if his creativity was focused, it seemed, since her death became more and more ghastly with the coming of each unspeakable hallucination.

The screaming was new though, he thought bitterly as he slapped a wet cloth across his face. Feebly, as if the nightmare had single-handedly drained away all the energy he had gained from sleeping, he leaned against the wall, holding the cloth over his forehead and closed eyes.

A small, wishful part of him wanted to try talking to her again. It might work this time, he mulled hazily as he wandered back over to his bed and threw himself upon it in exhaustion. Unfortunately, the greater part of him was much more pessimistic, and for a regrettably good reason. Twice now, he'd tried to convince her to ignore the orders; tried to convince her to stay alive.

"You can't!" he remembered shouting after Lenne had first broken the news to him, the words echoing about inside his head now like a whisper through a microphone.

"I have to," she had responded calmly, slowly dragging her toe across the floor in a minute figure eight. "I'm a summoner, Shuyin. It's our responsibility to protect the people of Zanarkand." Then, as an afterthought, she'd added, "Besides, the orders are direct from Emperor Yevon. We can't very well refuse them."

"Yes you can!" He'd responded, all but frantic by that point. "Lenne, this is insane. You can't defend yourself and fight off Bevelle's weapons at the same time! Anything people can do will be nothing against war machina!"

"I know," she'd answered, her voice automatic and detached.

"This is . . .this isn't right," Shuyin had breathed, Lenne's neutrality working upon him like cold water on hot iron. Slowly, his hysteria began to ebb away, replaced by a nearly overwhelming sense of horror and dread. It seemingly ate away at his voice as well, turning his tone from a frenzied shout to a murmur of fearful understanding. "This is crazy. It's sui-it's suici-." He'd let the word die away in his throat then, as if speaking it would somehow give it merit. Instead, he'd let his forehead drop into his hand, staring at the floor, though not quite seeing it behind the fog of contemplation that blurred his vision.

Then, Lenne had gently brushed a hand against his shoulder, squeezing it carefully in and attempt to console him. It had had the same effect as something blunt and heavy slamming into his stomach. Even though it had been she who had just been given her own death notice, she had still been comforting him. He remembered feeling almost physically sick then. His first nightmare, unfortunately, hadn't been far behind. He'd woken in a cold sweat the next morning, hastily excusing himself from the apartment as quickly as possible and ignoring Lenne's offered comfort.

It had been a few days before he'd felt sure enough to make another attempt at convincing her to change her mind, or at the very least come up with a safer alternative to her current plan. They'd been meandering idly about a beach in D-North (despite the fact that the overcast sky hardly presented them with the most optimal weather), chatting about things like standings at the end of the blitzball season, the eventual reconstruction of the stadium, the bizarre fans that she had encountered in the last few days, and other such things that seemed wholly insignificant. At least, they were now, with the burden of Lenne's quickly approaching departure weighing so heavily upon him.

"Lenne . . ." he had started slowly, narrowing his eyes as he tried to gather his thoughts into a string of words that at least seemed coherent. He'd paused in his stride, laying down on the sand and motioning for her to follow. "Why don't you just . . .why not stay here?"

"Huh?" she had asked, taking a seat next to him.

"You said some other summoners are staying," he'd reminded her, propping himself up on his elbows to make full use of his hands. He'd begun gesturing almost erratically, as if his nonsensical hand-motions might somehow help in convincing her. "You could stay with them, couldn't you?" As an afterthought, with a finger snap he'd added, "Maybe one of them could take your place."

By then, her expression had changed from the contented one that it had been to one of melancholy and burden. "I can't ask them to do that," she'd responded quietly, looking away from him and brushing a few grains of sand off of her skirt. "It wouldn't be fair if I did that."

"It's not fair either way," he'd whispered bitterly, glaring angrily out at the sea. "Then don't ask anyone to take your place," he'd urged, refusing to abandon that pursuit as quickly as he had the one before it. "You can just stay. You can ignore what Yevon says. It doesn't matter what he wants, does it?"

"Ignore the emperor?" Slowly, Lenne had wrapped her arms about her bare legs, resting her chin on her knees. "Shuyin, he's the head summoner," she'd pointed out, as if the statement in and of itself explained everything. In a way, it did, but Shuyin had hardly seen it as a sufficient answer.

"Who cares?"

"We do," she'd answered, her voice suddenly firmer than it had been before. Taken aback by her suddenly callous tone, Shuyin had remained silent, staring at her before awkwardly glancing down at the sand attempting to creep into his shoes. "Emperor Yevon just wants what's best for Zanarkand," Lenne had continued, her voice gentle once again and equally despondent. "He just wants to keep everyone safe, that's all. He wouldn't go to these lengths if it wasn't necessary."

"But Lenne, there has to be something," Shuyin had said, letting his eyes dart about the sand as he scoured his mind for any such 'something'. "Don't we have . . . I don't know . . . war machina of our own? Zanarkand has to have something!"

"Nothing that would stand a chance against Bevelle," she'd answered with a shake of her head. "Compared to the war machina that they have, ours are about as intimidating as a bunch of old mops."

"Of course," Shuyin had muttered bitterly, throwing himself down in frustration. After glaring at the overcast sky for a bit, he'd flipped on his side, his back to Lenne, and turned his angry gaze toward the sand. For the minute or so that followed, his eyes had retained that same infuriated look, as if everything around him were somehow to blame for his and Lenne's seemingly impossible situation. For a moment, he'd even dared to silently cast some fury Lenne's way for refusing to choose her life over her duty. Why did she let herself be treated as a wartime commodity? Why couldn't she see that she was more important than that?

Then, in the middle of his angry musings, a feather-light touch had run the length of his upper arm, lightly brushing over checkered fabric and tanned flesh. Trying to fight away the chill that consequently pricked across his skin, he'd turned toward Lenne, whose hand he found resting carefully upon his elbow. "I'm sorry you're being putting you through this too," she said. "I know that it's unfair. We never asked for this. I . . . never thought something like this would happen." He saw the sincerity and regret in her eyes then, floating about like so much disturbed sand in a murky sea.

'No,' he'd wanted to say to her, his aggravation still roiling about like a snake in the pit of his stomach. 'Stop being sorry for what other people do. Stop being sorry for me! Stop being such a saint! Forget duty! Stay with-!'

But he hadn't. Instead, he'd shaken such imaginings away, letting his frustration calm and morph instead into shame at training his anger upon her. Slowly, he'd sat up, distracting himself with brushing sand off his back and out of his hair. He'd felt her hand fall away then, moving away from him to join its partner upon her knees. He'd suddenly missed the comfortable weight of it, though he'd made no move to mention that.

The two had remained that way for a time, watching the waves inch closer and closer toward them as the minutes ticked by. Eventually, as the water had begun to come close enough to soak the toes of her boots, Lenne had gotten to her feet, reaching her arms above her head in a cat-like stretch. "We should go," she'd said, turning toward him. "It's getting dark out."

That was four days ago now, and he had yet to see her since. While he'd wanted to on quite a few occasions (now being one of them), he didn't trust himself not to start another argument with her. Next to her actually leaving, that was the last thing he wanted to happen. He was upsetting her, he knew, both by starting arguments and subsequently avoiding her. Some guardian he was, hurting his summoner when he should be there to help her, he thought. Some friend, too.

Gritting his teeth and growling in frustration, Shuyin quickly got to his feet and, for lack of a better thing to do, swung out and punched the nearby wall as hard as he could. All the dejection, rage, hopelessness, and aggravation that had been enshrouding him for the past few days went into the blow, seemingly concentrating in his fist. Unfortunately, he overlooked the fact that the wall was made of metal, leaving him in a considerable amount of pain when he pulled his throbbing fist back.

He needed to get out of here, he realized. The room around him was nothing short of stifling, and even though the hottest hours of the day had already passed (he could already see the sun descending from his west-directed window) he didn't trust himself not to make it worse, even with a lack of tangible heat. He had to do something to get his mind off of everything for a while, so that he might exorcise the frustrations and regrets that were threatening to crush him underfoot.

Sifting through the clothes that lay scattered across his floor, he indifferently chose a few that were balled up near the foot of his bed, throwing them on haphazardly. Running a hand through his hair as if doing so might fix its messy state, he slid into his shoes and headed out the door, slamming it behind him.

He'd go out and do something, he decided. Preferably, something that was incredibly tiring and could be done for hours at a time. All of a sudden, as he absently punched the elevator buttons, he found himself pining for Nirui's strenuous blitzball practices. If she was in a bad mood, one of those could keep the entire team from thinking about anything but blitzball for the duration of it, and maybe for a few hours afterwards. Then again, he reasoned, blitzball practice was hardly the place to go when one wanted to be alone. Given his current agitation, he hardly felt like dealing with people. So, whatever it was that he was going to do, it had to be something that could be done alone. Unfortunately, he'd barely taken five steps outside his apartment complex when this condition was put at risk.

"Hey, Shuyin! So, you finally decided to come out."

"Oh for the love of . . ." Shuyin started before he was promptly slapped on the back by the annoyingly jovial Yasuo.

"You've got some pretty impressive timing," Yasuo commented, resting his elbow on Shuyin's shoulder (and simultaneously lessening the blonde's patience with him). "I was just about to come up there and drag you out. Three days is way too long to lock yourself up. It's not healthy."

"I'll keep that in mind," Shuyin hissed, sidestepping out from underneath the other man's elbow and nearly making him lose his balance. "Bye then." With a curt wave, Shuyin turned and quickly made for the thickest part of the crowd, hoping that disappearing into it would be enough to save him from the other man's clutches. However, when a familiar, dark-skinned arm reached out and clotheslined him, he submitted to that fact that escape was doubtful.

"Hey, I went to the trouble of coming here to see you," Yasuo said amiably, walking around to stand before Shuyin. "Running off would be just plain rude."

"I can deal with that," growled Shuyin.

"Oh," Yasuo said, the thinly veiled amusement in his voice wearing quickly away at Shuyin's nerves. "It's one of those kind of days, huh?"

"Sure," said Shuyin with a resigned shrug. "Why not?" Then, seeing the smug look on Yasuo face, he sighed in frustration. "Look, whatever you meant by that, I don't care right now. I just want to be alone. Okay? Okay."

"Alone, huh?" replied Yasuo, carefully stepping in front of the other man to prevent another escape attempt. "I'll come with you. Keep you company."

An irritated growl, another attempt at flight. "I don't think so. Thanks."

Another denial. "Oh, come on. I won't be a problem. I'll be just like a fly on the wall."

"More like a Behemoth."

"A what?"

"Never mind. Just go away."

"Why Shuyin, I'm hurt."

"Good for you."

"Come on, you know you want me to come."

"No, I don't."

"Yes you do."

"No, I really, really don't."

"Yes you do."

"No I-"



"Uh huh."

"No, I-!"

"Yes you-"

"Augh! Fine!" Shuyin yelled, throwing his arms up in defeat and drawing the stares of a few casual bystanders. "Why not? You'll just follow me anyway. Not much of a point in this."

"You know me too well," Yasuo responded, smiling at his victory over his stubborn teammate. "Lead the way, then."

As Shuyin began walking down the street, filtering into the crowd with Yasuo chattering loudly at his side, he couldn't help but think that if he'd just left a little bit earlier, he could have avoided this entirely.


"I don't want any," Shuyin said plainly, his forehead never leaving the glass tabletop on which it lay. He kept his eyes trained upon the outline of his shoe, the image grainy through the glass and shadowed by the table's base. While it was hardly an entertaining endeavor, it was better than acknowledging the clear bottle that was being repeatedly pressed against the top of his head.

"Oh come on," Yasuo prodded, grabbing the neck of the bottle and pushing it against his companion's knuckles, trying to force it into his hand.

"You know I think that stuff's disgusting," the blonde replied in a low voice, gruffly forcing the bottle away and glancing off toward the other end of the room (though he could hardly see the opposite wall due to the room's horrible lighting). Really, a club like this one, where the smell of sweat and booze was next to overpowering, was the last place Shuyin wanted to spend his evening. Though normally he would revel in such company (his moderate popularity as a blitzball player making such almost mandatory), he was hardly in the mood for it. As a result, he regarded the whole place as merely far too noisy, and far too crowded. Case in point, the amount of times he'd been recklessly bumped into was beginning to reach into the double digits, though he had yet to move more than three feet from his chair. As could be expected, it did nothing to improve his disposition.

"Oh come on," Yasuo mock begged, taking a swig from his own bottle and wiping his mouth off on his wrist. "If I don't get you insanely drunk, how am I going to get you to spill all your juicy secrets? Do you even care about my feelings?"

Immediately, Shuyin tensed, his fingernails scraping at the table angrily as his hand slowly curled into a fist, then flattened back out. Though he could clearly make out the sarcasm in Yasuo's voice, he hardly had the patience to deal with it. "Oh, I'm sorry. You want to know my secrets, do you?" he muttered, lifting his head and glaring up at the other man. "I bet you want to know why I'm not being 'sociable' too. That's it, isn't it?"

"Pretty much, yes."

"Mind your own business," Shuyin spat back, turning away and angrily glaring at the wall behind him as if it were an accomplice in Yasuo's little interrogation plan.

Despite Shuyin's biting remarks, Yasuo remained infuriatingly calm. This was probably due to the amount of alcohol he'd consumed, Shuyin reasoned. Just enough for a good buzz. Taking his time, Yasuo gulped down the rest of his drink, and then, after eying Shuyin's still full bottle for a moment, reached across the table and swiped it. "Girl trouble, isn't it?"

"No," Shuyin responded as neutrally as possible. This was easier said than done however, which was clear in how tightly he gripped the side of the table.

"Yes," Yasuo replied in a singsong voice, making the thought of reaching out and strangling him an appealing one to Shuyin. However, before he could follow through, Yasuo's next comment froze him where he sat. "It's about Lenne, isn't it?"

Once again, Shuyin's body tensed up. "What are you talking about? The songstress? I've told you before, I don't even know her."

"Oh please, Shuyin. You can't fool me for that long," Yasuo continued, almost smugly. "I'm as smart as your average dog; I can recognize patterns." Leisurely, he raised a few fingers, counting them off in an agonizingly composed manner. "The girl in the white robe that would never show her face? You leaving with her after every game? You looking for Lenne after the stadium was attacked? You spending all your time for nearly four months training to be a guardian? As much as it may shock you, I'm not stupid, and you're not very good at hiding things." Yasuo paused for a moment and swirled the liquid in his newly acquired bottle, apparently trying to give that information enough time to sink in. "Now it's just the matter of what exactly the problem is. You're afraid she's cheating on you maybe? Problems in the relationship?"

"Yasuo," Shuyin hissed, his shoulder visibly shaking with rage and uneasiness as the other man's words carved away at his last nerve, "shut up."

"No? Well, maybe it isn't anything like that." The legs of Yasuo's chair squeaked as he moved forward a bit, and Shuyin could feel the man's steady gaze against the side of his head. "Maybe . . . you're worried about her for some reason?" And the nerve snapped.

"Fuck you!" Shuyin screamed, whirling around threateningly and jumping to his feet. The frightening air about him was lost however, when his feet caught the legs of the chair and he was sent to the floor with cringe-worthy slam. A few seconds later, he was up again, ego sufficiently bruised and eyes narrowed furiously at Yasuo.

The two remained that way for a bit, Shuyin looking all too ready to come over the table at Yasuo, while Yasuo managed to keep what was, for the most part, a calm expression. "Guess I hit a nerve," Yasuo finally said, seemingly unthreatened, before taking another drink. Realizing that he played right into his friend's hands, Shuyin sighed exhaustedly before righting his chair and all but falling into it.

"You know, you could always confide in me," Yasuo commented. "That's what friends are for."

Slowly and quietly enough so that the quivering of his shoulders was the first hint of it, Shuyin started to laugh, though it was not a laugh of any genuine mirth. Instead, it was the laugh of a person that only found humor in how horrible their situation was. "Sure. Fine. Why not? It's not like talking will make it any worse."


By the time Shuyin had finished his tale-which was constantly being interrupted by Yasuo's drunken and 'witty' commentary-the two had already left the bar and moved on to Yasuo's flat. Shuyin had snagged the couch almost immediately after their arrival, and was currently laying face down in the cushions to block out the apartment's dim light. Though the smell that was seemingly weaved into the fibers should have been enough to drive him to the other side of the room, he was too drained to pay it much mind. Yasuo meanwhile, his spot on the couch selfishly taken up by Shuyin's legs, sat on the floor instead, leaning against the body of the furnishing. Now and then, his head would bob about gracelessly, illustrating both his fatigue and his tipsiness (the leniency of the second condition a miracle in Shuyin' eyes, since Yasuo had drunk enough alcohol in the last hour to down a Gigas).

"And the rest is history, right?" Yasuo slurred after a few moments of quiet.

"Sure," Shuyin answered flatly before growing silent once more. Recalling the entire hopeless situation to Yasuo had left his mouth and disposition unpleasantly sour, and he currently couldn't muster the will to say much else.

"So," Yasuo continued, despite Shuyin's rather obvious attempts to end the conversation, "what are you going to do now?"

"I don't know."

"She's not going to budge, is she?"


"She sure sounds stubborn."

"She is a little."

"You probably think it's cute though."

For the first time since they had arrived, Shuyin lifted his head, a somewhat surprised look on his face. This, in turn, was met with a lop-sided smile from Yasuo. "Just seeing if you were paying attention," he explained casually.

"I can't deal with you right now," Shuyin muttered wearily as he lay his forehead against the arm of the couch again. "Remind me to never tell you any of my problems ever again. You're bad at helping with them."

"Why, I love you too, Shuyin," Yasuo taunted, chuckling.

"Never say that again."

"Oh, that's right. Your heart belongs to another," Yasuo said dramatically, bringing a hand to his chest in mock-agony. "Oh hideous day! My dear friend has been stolen from me! Curse you, oh beautiful brunette siren!"

"How much did you drink again?"

"I'm not hearing any denial," From the way he said that, Shuyin had the distinct feeling that Yasuo was expecting a quick, rude retort. It probably came as a surprise to him then, when Shuyin said nothing at all, and instead fell silent. In response, Yasuo grew quiet too. Whatever smug satisfaction he was getting out of Shuyin's non-reaction, he kept any comments about it to himself, for which Shuyin was grateful.

"You could try joining the army if you want to go with her, you know," Yasuo continued after a moment, poking Shuyin in the knee. "I've heard that a lot of soldiers are getting shipped out too."

"Tried it a week ago," said Shuyin plainly, kicking his leg to remove Yasuo's hand from it.


"New recruits don't get passports," he answered. "Anyone who joins now gets recruited into a militia and stays behind as part of a second defense force."

"Jeez," Yasuo muttered, shaking his head bemusedly. "If I didn't know better, I'd say that the higher-ups wanted the front lines to be blown to bits." Shuyin visibly flinched at this remark, squeezing his eyes tightly closed and willing away the horrible images that Yasuo's careless statement had fashioned for him. Though Yasuo did quietly apologize when his alcohol-hampered mind eventually caught up with his mouth, the damage was already done.

"They probably don't see anything else happening," Shuyin answered solemnly. "Bevelle's too strong for us to take head on. Better to have a second group around to pick up where the front lines leave off." Prompted by this assertion, bits and pieces of his abysmal daydreams and nightmares began worrying the edges of his mind, pictures that he could hardly bring himself to imagine without being sick.

Then, a less grizzly image emerged from the mire, though when coupled with his current thoughts, was hardly less brutal then the others: a picture of Lenne, smiling sweetly and looking as if nothing could dampen her mood. Within a few months time (before they had even spent a year in each other's company, he thought forlornly), he would never get to see her smile like that again. He was going to lose her.

"Damn Bevelle," he choked, almost quietly enough to not be heard. Then, with enough venom lacing his words that it seemed they might poison him, he shouted, "Damn those sick bastards! They're going to kill the summoners and the soldiers and anyone else who gets in their way for a bunch of machina! Lenne is-she's going to-for machina! Machina!" At any other time, the cautious silence that filled the room when he paused for breath probably would have brought Shuyin back to his senses, albeit rather awkwardly. However, being in near hysterics by this point, he was all but unconscious to Yasuo's reaction. "Those scum don't deserve to breathe! Oh, if I could get a hold of one of those damn machina of theirs, they'd see how much they liked being at the other end of it! I'd kill 'em all. Every last one of them! Bevelle would be a crater before I was done! They'd have their poetic justice! Then this whole stupid war could be over, and everything could go back to the way it's supposed to be. Everything-all of Spira would be better if Bevelle was gone!" Having nothing else to say without becoming completely incoherent, Shuyin quieted, his coarse breathing the only thing that kept the silence-which was quickly becoming both uncomfortable and oppressive-from swallowing him completely.

Then, saying nothing in response to Shuyin's rant, Yasuo slowly got to his feet and headed to the other end of the room, moving with as much purpose as one could while staggering. "My gramps was a guard before he died," he said as he came to a stop at the opposite wall, standing before the closet door that was its only embellishment.

". . .What?" said Shuyin, looking rather taken aback. Though he hadn't really stopped to ponder how Yasuo would react to his tirade (and, in all honesty, hadn't really cared at any rate), talking about past family occupations was definitely not what he had expected.

"A military guard. You know, one of those really low paid ones who stand around big rusty equipment and throw themselves in the way if someone tries to mess with it," Yasuo continued. By now, he had pulled the closet door open and had started digging through the jumble of objects within, throwing some out at random and letting them fall where they would (leaving Shuyin to compensate for this carelessness by ducking whenever something came his way). "Not the best position in the world, but it made sure his family didn't starve to death or get charged with public indecency, so he was all right with it. So, one day, his higher-ups made him swear allegiance to Bevelle, and sent him downstairs to guard some super-secret weapon that the engineers were working on. The construction had only been underway for about a year, but apparently, plans were being made even before I was born.

"So, gramps was down there for about two, two and a half years, something like that. He watched the engineers put it together, and got to see the finished product. When it was finally done though, it started acting really strange, reacting to the guards like it could tell they were there and that they were afraid of it. He'd been thinking about it for a while then, but that's when he finally decided that Bevelle wasn't the best place to be anymore.

"Problem was, mom didn't want to leave. Mom had lived in Bevelle all her life, and she loved it there. She was the stubborn daughter of a stubborn man. So, gramps decided to show her what it was that made him think Bevelle wasn't safe anymore. Sometime in the night, he snuck into the surveillance booth at the military complex, and took an old sphere that showed the weapon that he'd been helping guard for so long. He'd been hoping to get a sphere of it waking up and reacting to the guards, but he couldn't quite find one in time.

"But, even when he showed it to her, she still didn't want to leave Bevelle behind. I can't really blame her though. She'd lived in Bevelle from the day she was born. She'd never even been anywhere else. Everything she knew and loved was in Bevelle. Actually, she probably wouldn't have left at all, if it weren't for me." Pausing for a moment in his inspection of an old shoe, Yasuo sighed distantly. "She was a great woman, mom. Couldn't have asked for anyone better." Then the moment was over, and he quickly returned to both his excursion and tale.

"It took mom about a month to get our bags packed and loose ends tied up. I remember her crying while we were riding the hover down the Highbridge. She was looking out at the sea though, so I figured she was sadder about leaving dad behind than leaving Bevelle. After that, she decided we'd go to Zanarkand, since it was closer than all the other cities. I've been here ever since."

With that, on a note just as outlandish as the one on which it had started, Yasuo's account came to an abrupt end. This left Shuyin with nothing else to do besides stare at the other man rather dumbly, his previous woes temporarily forgotten as he pondered whether there had been a vat of booze under the table at the club that he hadn't noticed.

"You are not Bevellian," Shuyin said, his dumbstruck mind at a loss to come up with anything else.

"No, I'm not," Yasuo responded calmly as he went through the pockets of a pair of pants at least three sizes too small. "I only lived there until I was four."

"Okay, you are way too drunk."

"I may be drunk, but I'm no liar."

"You are not Bevellian!"

"We've established this, Shuyin. Please try to keep up." However, before Shuyin could make an angry reply built of arguments that he had already used, Yasuo cut him off with a triumphant cry of, "Ah ha! Found it!" Gracelessly bumping into the door as he turned to face Shuyin, Yasuo held a video sphere up to the light, his newly made fingerprints the only blemishes on its thick shell of dust. "Remember that sphere I mentioned earlier?" he said as he meandered over to the couch, shoved Shuyin's legs out of the way. and plopped down beside him. "The one my gramps stole? Well, somehow, it got mixed in with the stuff that mom and me brought with us when we left. And when I inherited mom's stuff it was in one of the older boxes, right along with those hair clips she wore during her wedding. No idea why she kept either of them. Never looked at them after they went in that box, I figure. I would think it would be too painful for her. That was mom for you, though. Never liked to completely forget anything."

Tipping his hand to the side, Yasuo let the sphere fall unceremoniously from his hands into Shuyin's, as if it were of no more worth or importance than a few rusty gil one might inadvertently find in the cushions of a chair. "Anyway, I figured you would think I was crazy without some proof," he said, tapping a finger against the orb. Hearing the smug certainty in Yasuo's voice made Shuyin's own confidence waver, which became apparent to him when the click of Yasuo's fingernail against the glass became surprisingly menacing.

Blinking at the small globe and momentarily casting a wary gaze in Yasuo's direction (and receiving only the other man's fearfully persuasive smirk in return), Shuyin suddenly felt far more nervous than he knew it was reasonable to be. Yasuo was quite obviously drunk, Shuyin reminded himself, though he hardly needed to when his friend was in such close proximity. The many years that they had known each other had effectively taught Shuyin that Yasuo was prone to rattling on about all manner of ridiculous things when he was drunk. Still, the haughty look that the man was giving him now, along with the certainty with which he spoke, was starting to make Shuyin wonder. But, frankly, if such nonsense were by some miracle true, Shuyin thought he'd rather not know it.

Yasuo, however, would not back down as easily as Shuyin would have liked. "Come on," he coaxed, smiling in self-satisfaction. "If you think I'm crazy, you can watch that sphere and be crazy with me. I need the company." Then, feeling as if he had no other choice, Shuyin took a deep breath, told himself that it was all a sham and that he would probably end up watching some old home videos, and reluctantly played the sphere.

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