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

Part Eleven

by Ikonopeiston 0 reviews

Water and a duel.

Category: Final Fantasy X-2 - Rating: R - Genres: Drama - Characters: Baralai, Gippal, Nooj, Paine - Published: 2005-07-11 - Updated: 2005-07-11 - 3307 words

The Confessional

Part Eleven:

I am finally clean again, physically if not morally. I have found a place in this new refuge to be alone and try to adequately describe for the record what has taken place since the last entry I made into this journal. It will take a while. I note the time stamp has advanced so, technically, what I am about to describe happened yesterday. I shall report what occurred as clearly and succinctly as possible, not to make a record for the Maesters and their masters but to assure my own role is not misunderstood.

We were floundering through the sand without much direction or purpose when we spotted another group of four on the horizon. It was evident we were converging and, since I could see no reason for us to do so, I was about to direct our team to turn a little aside when Gippal began half-loping toward an outcropping of rock to our left. He disappeared for a moment and then emerged crying out he had found a roomy cave with a spring! Naturally that galvanized the other three of us and we plunged headlong into the pit he had discovered. We were splashing ourselves with the first cold water in eight days when we began taking fire.

The other team, Paine later told me it was the renegade Group Three again, had obviously decided to try to exterminate us and claim the water for itself. As a Warrior Captain, I was inclined to invite them to share since I long ago learned it is unwise for a force to attack those on its own side. However, the instructions from the Maesters were clear. We were intended to struggle team against team for all resources. So we fought and we won. We killed one of the opposition, the one whom Baralai had healed on the boat, the one who had accosted Paine. Whereupon the leader of the team, declining to cut his losses, took umbrage and - I expect because he seems the weakest of us - accused poor Baralai of murder and challenged him to an individual fight to the death.

Before I could intervene, the priestling accepted. I have no doubt at all Baralai could have easily taken the other had he been at his full strength and unwounded. But he had been shot in the hip during the melee and was limping worse than I.

Since I was the only regular military man in attendance, I stepped forward and, proclaiming myself (thank Ixion, the other captain knew of my reputation), took charge. I commanded both sides pull back until the proper conditions for a duel could be established and also instructed the recruits present - all of them - be permitted to freely partake of the water and fill their canteens. By this time, two more teams had appeared and all seemed duly impressed by my sense of impartiality and devotion to the common good. I am in line to become vastly more popular than the Maesters and may, upon consideration, usurp their authority. (The last sentence was an attempt to interject some humor into this entry. I wish I knew how to do selective erasures; that does not belong in this journal.)

After the other eleven men had refreshed themselves, I ordered them to leave the cave and pitch their tents outside while our group made ready for the encounter. I sent the body of the slain man with them since it was adding nothing to the atmosphere of the cave. I would think they would give it a proper burial; bodies do not keep well in this heat - dry as it is. In the humid confines of this chamber, the putrefaction would have been accelerated.

As soon as we were alone, Gippal tackled me with the not unexpected proposal that the Judas pistol be brought into play. Baralai, who with Paine's help, was tending the wound in his hip, insisted he did not need the gun and would fight with his own staff. Technically, the choice of weapons is his - he being the challenged party. Gippal became quite heated, pointing out Baralai was not physically capable of close quarter fighting with a staff and another blow to his buttocks would disable him entirely. Paine agreed with Gippal, having taken for granted the loathsome pistol would be the weapon of choice, and bent her charms toward the task of persuading the priestling.

I stopped listening to the arguments, knowing the final word would be mine. I am a man of honor whose probity is known to any who know my name. I have never in my career as a Warrior fought less than fairly. This was not my personal fight here and now although it involved my team and a young man for whom I have a certain respect. It would be a shame to lose him to a bully and a liar. Since my private plans had been aborted, I had formed a firm intent to get the others to the designated destination intact. It had become a point of honor for me. ... So, in effect, I had no choice.

But to take advantage of so vile an object as that bedamned pistol! How could I countenance that? I would not deign to use it to defend myself; how could I permit another, one under my command, to touch it? His chances without some sort of edge were slight, given his wound and his experience. In addition, the challenger outweighed him by at least a hundredweight. If he were whole - but he wasn't.

I knew perfectly well when I told the assembled teams what the conditions for the duel were to be, they would trust me to be fair because of my reputation. I am universally considered to be the exemplar of honesty in the Crusaders and, hence, even more so amongst this untested mob. Was it worth committing the first truly disgraceful act in my life in order to save this boy? This was my dilemma.

I cannot possibly capture in this uninflected journal the battle I fought with my self. On the one hand, I had my loyalty and responsibility toward the three who depended upon me to lead them through these absurd tests and trials. I owed each of them my best efforts to protect them no matter what the conditions. On the other hand, I had the image I hold, held, of myself. For all my life, I have sacrificed and labored to preserve that image of the chivalrous Warrior , the man who prizes honor above life. Everything I have ever done since I took up this profession has been done in furtherance of that ideal - yes, even those things which haunt my sleep were done against the enemies of my sworn allegiance and, by implication, at its behest. And now I had to choose between the death of a young one who wanted to live and the use of a device which would besmirch any who knowingly accepted it.

Reliving that time makes me want to reverse everything which has happened since I went to Mushroom Rock Road. I should have resisted the pressures to try out for this misbegotten position. I should have contented myself with fighting on the edges of a regular force until I could find a way to die. It was an error to accept the captaincy of this crew. I have permitted myself to grow too attached to them. Never in my career in the Crusaders would I have even considered the use of such tactics to win, no matter the case. ... It is far too late to second-guess myself; I must carry the burden of my decision until I take that leap into Nothingness. Let it be soon! Let it be soon!


I am a fool. Nothing is served by brooding over a decision made and acted upon. I shall make this report without further justifications for my actions. I have done what I have done and it cannot be undone. It was my private choice and I shall live with it, privately.

I asked Gippal for the case holding the dueling pistols. I then instructed Baralai in the subtle differences between the two guns. In addition I told the priestling to aim wide so that only one bullet hole would be found in the body of his enemy. It would not do for there to be two. It was my intent to hold the box between the antagonists so that the weapons lay with neither nearer either's hand. The safe pistol was to be positioned so that it would be natural for Baralai to grip it with his favored hand, the right. I would count down to three and at my word, each man would take a pistol, turn so his back touched that of the other and begin walking, again at my word. When I reached 'ten', they would turn, raise their weapons and fire. If my instructions were followed, it would not matter how badly Baralai aimed; if his opponent held his gun properly, he was a dead man. So I sold my honor for the Yevonite's life.

It all went off as I had planned. Everyone played his part to perfection. Baralai had been conditioned to obey me by the arguments of the other two and so was no real problem although he grumbled a little. As I expected, my presence gave guarantees of fairness to those gathered as witnesses and no cry was raised against my instructions. No one seemed to like the captain of Group Three much anyway. He was a braggart and a wastrel with no leadership qualities from what I heard afterwards. As he lay dying on the sand outside the cave, the fatal pistol fallen from his hand, I beckoned to Gippal who - quick to understand as usual - scooped up both guns and, returning them to their box, hastily vanished back inside the shelter. I could not afford to know where they were in case the Maesters questioned me.

That is what happened as clearly and baldly as I can tell it. After the other teams retreated to their beds, fat with the water I permitted them to take, we of Group Five came into the rear of this cave and, silently, stripped off our filthy clothes and washed in the icy water gushing from the alcove. I stayed longer than the others, shivering and gasping, trying to wash away not only the sweat and dirt of these past days but the viler stain on my soul. Hopeless. It is my burden now. Baralai must never know what I paid to make that choice. It has become just another reason for me to tear off the garment of flesh I wear with such unease.

When I at length emerged and pulled on fresh clothes, Gippal came and, without speaking, knelt at my feet and tended the sand contaminated prostheses. I can use them fully again and expressed my gratitude for his services. He just looked at me with what seemed to be compassion and went away. As it come to this, that my own followers pity me?

It is as though he knew what the decision cost me and, if he knows, soon so will the others. He is not the most perfect repository for secrets in this world. How does he know my private struggle? Am I only reading my own thoughts in his actions and glances? Am I imagining I am so transparent as all that? Rather than accept his condescending pity, I would bash my brains out on this wall before me. Stop! He cannot know; there is no way for him to know. I am making too much of a stunned glance. Of course, he is solemn; we all are.

Now I shall try to sleep. I shall take Paine in my arms, if she will have me, and relish the life in her body and then, setting my nightmares far to the back of my mind and holding her as an amulet against the horrors, try to sleep.


The messenger who serves the Maesters just appeared, puffing and blowing as though he had run all the way from the first beach. It seems the Mighty Ones, the Speakers of Truth, the Guardians of the Faith want to see all four of us tomorrow - that is today - at mid-morning. They have set up their headquarters a mile away and will await us in their tent. To hell with them! I am going to bed with Paine; I'll think about them later.


Another hurtle leapt. We have been interviewed by our Maesters. Separately, of course. They are marginally smart enough to know they should not let us conspire together. Had I been managing the situation, I would have called the four of us in immediately after the duel was completed, before we had a chance to synchronize our stories and make them proof against any outside prying. But these idiots do not know how the minds of those bonded in battle work, how comrades cleave together against all others. Fools!

Baralai was interrogated first. He says he simply told them he was in a state of shock after the event and remembers nothing until we held him under the cold water and he collapsed with relief. I can just see the faces of the overlords hearing that disingenuous statement. The boy has a talent for subterfuge; he will go far.

Paine was next. She reports they seemed to have little interest in her, she being only a Recorder. She answered all they asked in monosyllables, volunteering nothing and they soon released her. Since she was of no further value and they were ignoring her, she casually picked up a couple of bottles of decent brandy on her way out, handing them to Baralai to conceal in his voluminous robes. Thievery was the one skill I did not suspect of her.

Then Gippal swaggered into the Presence and lied like the professional he is. Later, he spent some time regaling me with the details of the story he told the credulous numbskulls about how the pistols had been found half-buried in sand as we struggled along on the trek and how they had mysteriously vanished while everyone was ministering to the fallen man. Oh, it was quite a tale and someday I hope he will find a way to set it down for it belongs amongst the legends of these times. Yes, he and I are talking again. Things seem more of less mended between us now that I have made it so clear my allegiance is to my dependents. That appears to outweigh the fact I am a Deathseeker in matters of the trust they repose in me. In fact, at one point, the Al Bhed addressed me as 'Taydrcaagan' in tones of respect. I think that means 'Deathseeker' in his barbaric tongue. I have heard it whispered by the other three with sidelong glances in my direction.

I was the last to be summoned before the panel. As is my custom at such affairs, I was taciturn. I have been questioned by many boards of inquiry and have learned that one never gets into difficulties with what one does not say. I told them only those things they already knew. Since I had carefully preserved my ignorance of what happened to the pistols, I was able to look them in the face and swear I had no knowledge of their whereabouts. Fortunately, they did not know which questions they should be asking and which areas were worth exploring. They do not have subtle minds. In addition, I could readily tell they were in awe of me and dared not venture into any place I implied to be off limits. When I had finished telling them what I was willing to tell, they thanked me profusely, almost bowing when I turned on my heel and left. My very limp and the sound of my cane were reminders to those cowards of what I had sacrificed for their purposes and served as a reprimand for their own aversion to military duty.


The brandy was a pleasant treat after this tiresome, useless pilgrimage across the tedious desert. It seems we are to stay in this location until the morrow, which is a relief. That gives us time to wash and dry our spare clothing, absorb as much water as we can and rest. Baralai is busily sorting his samples and compounding what nostrums he can while he has the leisure. The entrance to this cave is a wide, low slit so he can work near the opening and keep the living area free from his alchemical stenches. He is an earnest lad and, once he had absorbed enough brandy to stiffen his courage, came up to me and proclaimed he had made a remedy for my discomfort on the boat. If that is so, he is worth the effort I made to save him.

Gippal is sleeping off his share of the intoxicant. Like all Al Bhed I have heard of, he indulges when he can and does without when there is no source for drugs. He has been oddly respectful since the duel - a fact which makes me somewhat uncomfortable since I still do not know how much he has guessed about the situation. Paine is curled up against his back, sleeping like a kitten. I don't think she is accustomed to strong drink and she had too much in her excitement.

I - I am trying to sort out ideas the way Baralai sorts out leaves and minerals. It is still strange to me I would make a choice like the one I did. I cannot justify it to myself and my mind shies away like a nervous mount when I try to force it to consider the ramifications. I quite literally cannot think about it. This has never happened to me before. I have always had the courage of my decisions and have never found it difficult to contemplate my own thoughts. Now I am incoherent even in my own ears! This is too deep for words, too tightly woven into who I am ... or was. Am I the same man who held his honor so dear? Have I become just one of those common Warriors who do what must be done and think no more about it?

The most acceptable way I can look at what I did is to tell myself I shall die before too much longer and then nothing will matter. When I am dead, I shall not care about what reputation I have left behind - I will not know about it. My honor was of value to me because it kept me upright and functioning in the midst of the maelstrom of war; that was its purpose. Now I am nearing the end of that task, I can manage to continue on my own impetus. ... The fact is - I could not sacrifice the Yevonite on the altar of my principles. That is the truth of it. I do not have the right to impose my moralities and ethics on any other person. If I could have arranged the duel as it worked out without involving myself personally, I would have no qualms now. It is a pity it took my own hand to make it work. Nevertheless, it is done and I must live with it as I can. For the short time I have yet to live.

Paine accepted me last night with enthusiasm. She is a wonderful aid to forgetfulness. She may even be willing for dalliance in the afternoon. I shall suggest it to her. I do not want to think anymore.
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