Categories > Games > Final Fantasy X-2 > The Confessional - Continued

Part Nine

by Ikonopeiston 0 reviews

They begin their trek into the desert of Bikanel

Category: Final Fantasy X-2 - Rating: R - Genres: Drama - Characters: Baralai, Gippal, Nooj, Paine - Published: 2005-07-02 - Updated: 2005-07-02 - 2574 words

The Confessional

Part Nine:
It is mid-afternoon of our first day on this mission. A great deal has happened in a short while. The sun is high and the temperature is very hot so we are taking refuge in this cave system until the day grows cooler. I may decide to keep us here until the sun sets since we can travel more quickly during the dark hours and this place is not only extensive and cool but has a vigorous spring in the inner section where we may fill our water containers and wash away the sweat and dirt of the morning's march.

Another reason for traveling at night is so that Baralai can check my calculations for direction. It has turned out that the priestling studied the stars when he was being trained by the hierarchy - something to do with auguring and prophesy. So he knows the skies and it was not surprising he had picked up some knowledge of how to navigate by the position of the pointer planets. As I mentioned before, it is astonishing the variety of talents which one finds in a random selection of persons. Gippal trapped a few of the inhabitants of these caves and roasted them on spits over the fire with some moss Paine collected from the area near the spring so we have fed well and are refreshed. For a miracle, there were few fiends in residence here and we had no difficulty in disposing of them.

During the cleaning out session, I carefully observed both Baralai and Paine. There was no need for the woman to fight, since we had such feeble foes but Baralai held his own nicely without having to resort to magic. He laid about him with his staff and did not retreat even a foot when the creatures attacked him. He is gaining in confidence and skill on a daily basis. It is well.

I have explained to the team I am keeping a journal of the training in order to validate any of our actions which might later be questioned. They seem comfortable with this and give me privacy when they see me take out this device. It was going to be too difficult to keep it a secret in these close quarters, so rather than be discovered surreptitiously muttering into the grid, I chose to reveal a reason for my actions up front and openly. Too much secrecy can harm a unit. The Maesters should have learned that.

The result of my openness is I now have the leisure to record what I have learned and what I suspect without having to wait for the shadows. So - to begin... We set out at the dawn this morning and made good time. Better than I would have thought, given my physical difficulties. I am taking great care to avoid stirring up sand in order to avoid the inevitable contamination of my prostheses. Damn them! I would far rather be dead than condemned to this continual worry about moving. It makes me feel old and I am not! This should be my prime. And look at what I am ... Enough!

We quickly lost sight of the other five groups. Apparently we were each given slightly different maps since I could clearly see each leader choose a different heading. I have an unusually precise sense of direction and was able to keep the four of us on track. I shall confirm my instinctive choice once the stars are visible.

Aside from fighting the occasional fiend, we passed the tedious hours of sand-slogging by observing our less than fascinating surroundings. There are some plants even in the most barren areas and both Paine and Baralai check out each one. It seems Baralai is taking samples from any he recognizes or finds intriguing in order to compound drugs and medications for later use. He has commandeered a largish mesh bag to hold his gleanings until he can reduce them to powder or otherwise prepare them to go among our medical supplies. Paine is no alchemist, although Baralai is teaching her the rudiments, but she has a gift for discerning which herbage is edible and nourishing. She says she grew up in a poor family in a poor section of Spira and learned to eat what grew easily and freely. For whatever reason, it is convenient to have a herbalist in our company. At least we won't end up expiring ignobly, rolling on the sands as we helplessly attempt to empty our bellies of toxins.

Gippal did most of the fighting against the fiends in the open desert. He has the advantage of the rest of us in that his eye is already adjusted to detect the subtle signs of the beasts against the unchanging but disguising background. Years of practice and experience go into developing that sort of quickness. Shortly before we found this refuge, I was beginning to be able to pick up on the clues to the presence of enemies. I am eager to continue with learning the skill. One problem - Baralai gets so absorbed in his plant and mineral analysis he forgets to be alert to the constant danger. I must chide him on that - for his own safety.

Paine told me she was given a short directive from the Maesters just after we broke camp and started out this morning. They commanded her to make sure each individual in the team - I'm not sure if they mean us three males or if they include our Recorder - is clearly filmed stating his name and some identifying phrase. I suppose 'Nooj the Undying' or 'Nooj, the Crusader' will do for me. Gippal could say 'The Cyclops', 'the Al Bhed', or some such. And Baralai - ah, Baralai? 'The Alchemist', 'the Soft-Handed', 'The Staff-User.' I wonder why they want that on record? Paine thinks it's to be used as a recruiting device, to show how people of all races and persuasions are banding together into a common force. I am not sure. ... Perhaps I should identify myself as 'Nooj the Deathseeker' and see what they make of it.

I am quite certain now the Maesters are designing a series of trials which will weed out the unadaptable and the unimaginative. They have some project in mind and it is not training a corps to command the Crusader remnants. These games they are playing do not serve to do that. They are the sort of tests one would give to choose an elite group to perform a dangerous and undefined mission, like sneaking into a fortress and conducting acts of sabotage or working behind the front lines as spies or agents provocateurs. Then why let me in on it? I cannot disguise myself, being instantly identifiable anywhere on the planet. There is still some darkness in their methods although I am convinced I see their broad plans clearly.

Enough brooding. I think I have this up to date and now I want to explore this area a little better and then enforce some rest on the crew so that they will be fresh to move in the dark hours.

This resting place we have found consists of three 'rooms'. There is the outer area which is little more than a shelf of rock protecting a shallow space which affords shelter from the blazing sun and a location from which one can crouch and keep an eye on one's surroundings. Behind a jumble of stones of various sizes is a narrow slit which admits an adult into the second chamber. This one is lighted by the subdued glow from the outside and is empty of any unusual formations. It is fairly large, would easily hold four sleeping bags and the floor is both smooth and level. Behind this area is the spring, just past a short twisting path between rocky walls. The space suddenly flares out into the largest of the rooms with a gushing flux of water at the far end. This space is clean, mostly free of sand, cool and dimly lit by light seeping through various crevices. The entire complex would make an excellent camp for any company exploring the surrounding terrain. Naturally, there is nothing to survey in the surrounding terrain and, so, this splendid natural base is useless.

By common consent, Baralai has been encouraged to perform his alchemical miracles in the antechamber, the one most open to the air, since his various experiments with plant and mineral are inclined to stink. He is trying differing combinations in the hope of discovering some fresh potions which will be of help in what we may eventually face. Paine has brought him a beaker of water from the spring to wash out his mouth after he tastes some of his concoctions. There is a great deal of spitting involved.

After my survey of the surroundings, Gippal and I sat down and talked while Paine and Baralai played with their collections. It will be useful to have Paine versed in Alchemy as well as her natural talents for finding food so I am not discouraging the lessons Baralai is giving her. Gippal remains fixated on the manner in which the prostheses work so I tried to explain to him the mental controls by which they respond. Since this is not my field of expertise, I do not know if he understood a word of what I said. He wanted to do some probing and testing but I am not inclined to be a lab animal any longer and refused. With courtesy. I think ... at least I tried. The Al Bhed seems to look upon me as an opportunity for exploring the nexus between flesh and machine. I am both more and less than that but he is blind to it. So far we have been able to treat one another with what passes for courtesy. He is young and, if he is permitted to grow up, he will learn manners or spend his free time dueling until he loses the other eye.

If we are to journey through the night, it will be necessary to sleep soon. My first thought was to order separate sleeping arrangements but greater reflection has convinced me we are unlikely to find so comfortable and suitable a camping ground ahead of us and this may well be the last opportunity one or more of us will have to express our affection toward our partner, so I have abandoned that plan. We shall sleep as we will and for me that means in the arms of Paine. Naked.

We are making good time, moving in the darkness. Gippal has night vision almost equal to mine so we are able to set the pace for the other two. The only disadvantage to moving during the night is the danger of encountering a group of fiends - or for that matter, fellow recruits - without seeing them from a distance and being able to prepare. I am willing to chance that for the greater ease of movement without the excessive heat and the less pervasive risk of running out of water.

We woke easily at our predetermined time and washed in the icy water of the spring. In the close confines of this training mission, we have shed whatever modesty we had and practice custody of our eyes instead. I try to hide as much of the ruined portions of my body as I can without making it even more noticeable but I no longer obsess about it. My actions are solely for the comfort of those who may not want to see what happens when flesh melts. Clean, refreshed and heavy with supplies of drinking water, we have found the way surprisingly easy. I can hear no sounds of humans in the quietness of the desert and that leads me to believe the other teams are continuing to sleep at night and sweat their ways onward under the unforgiving sun.

We shall try to march through the midday unless we find a halting place as perfect as the last one. I must remember to have us do the identification drill so that Paine will not get into trouble with our masters. I have decided simply to call myself 'Nooj' with no further identifiers. If I with my uniqueness am not known - who is? Paine has told the others what is required and it is up to them what they want to call themselves. The information is bound to be edited before it is disseminated anyway. I don't think we have had any honest news on Spira since the resurrection of Sin.


We have fought our first night battle and fared not too badly. Paine dropped her recorder at the beginning and only recovered it after disposing of several of the band of fiends which ambushed us. There were about twenty of the creatures, moderately sized lizard like beasts expelling poisonous fumes and attacking with sharp claws on all their extremities. Gippal recognized the type if not the exact species and immediately warned us not to inhale the cloudy vapors which surrounded them. Baralai performed creditably as well, lashing about with abandon and crushing skulls with his staff. He was right in his assessment of his skills. He is doubtless better with the staff than with the gun, at least in the dim light of one moon.

Gippal and I killed the majority of the assailants, since we have the sharpest vision in darkness. I was satisfied with my performance even though I would have been happier with a sword. The night gives me a small advantage which I had not anticipated. I will pass muster in this new discipline; that is now proved.

We took a few minor injuries - Paine has a scratch on her upper right thigh and Gippal was punctured in the side by one of the fore-claws of the last fiend he slaughtered. I think he was being careless when it happened. The salves Baralai compounded earlier were of great value. The wounds were not poisoned or infected because of the rapid care we were able to supply. Oh, one other thing - before I could get my gun raised, I pummeled one of the beasts to death with the cane. I suppose that makes it a weapon too. Whatever works.

We were slightly euphoric with our victory and toasted one another with water from our supply. I had to stop excessive use of the water since I do not know when we will find another source. Happily, the discipline I worked so hard to instill back at the base camp seems to have taken root. The other three obey me without protest. We have rested enough now and must be on our way if we are to cover the required distance before we must make camp.

I should be pleased with the way the unit worked together and held its ground and I am. Still there is the voice in the back of my head mocking me for my participation in this series of games and continually pointing out the fact I am only a shadow of the Warrior I once was. I was Nooj the Undying who led scores of men and now I am a crippled freak, commander of a Cyclops, a failed priest and a woman. I am a broken tiger, now the lord only of my narrow cage.
Sign up to rate and review this story