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

Part Thirteen

by Ikonopeiston 1 review

The team rests and prepares for the final push to the beach

Category: Final Fantasy X-2 - Rating: R - Genres: Drama - Characters: Baralai, Gippal, Nooj, Paine - Warnings: [X] - Published: 2005-07-20 - Updated: 2005-07-20 - 2783 words

The Confessional

Part Thirteen:
It is morning and we are still in the cave. I went to the headquarters tent about sunset yesterday to inform the Mighty Ones we were intending to begin our final push toward the designated terminus when darkness fell and the air became cooler. This was primarily to serve as notice we would no longer be holding the spring and its life-preserving waters as our personal property. I was told by the Military Minds who designed this murderous training program that we were to stay put for another day, that the training had been declared finished and the surviving recruits would make the last stage together in order to preserve what was left of the twenty-four who set out at the beginning. I did not deign to argue; such is not the habit of the experienced military man. However, I am confirmed in my opinion they are all religion blinded fools.

When I returned to tell my team to unpack and prepare for another day of boredom, I also directed Gippal to go tell the thirteen camped nearby they were welcome to come bathe, drink and collect water until I directed otherwise. At least I know how to treat an army so as not to break it. By such small gestures of compassion is loyalty won. Were I still whole, I would be tempted to take command and turn this little force against the Maesters, slaughtering them to the man. What they have done to admittedly raw but potentially useful volunteers is nothing short of criminal. This may be the way to create priests, but soldiers are a different case and Warriors the most different of all.

Gippal has done the adjustments and lubrication of my impediments already this morning. It has become a daily routine when we have the time. He approaches me when he sees me unoccupied and gestures. If it is convenient, I nod and he takes out his tools and begins. He seems to find some sort of arcane pleasure in manipulating the rods and pulleys and seeing how many of the supposedly necessary parts he can dispose of. I can only trust he will not simplify until I can no longer move.

Latterly, I have been having a strange series of sensations when he works on the machina. The portions of my living body which were burned in the attack have been insensate since the event. The flesh in that region is, as I have previously noted, seemingly melted and re-hardened with no nerve endings surviving. It is through this dead material the vivisectionists inserted their connectors for the obscene metal and ceramic horrors they grafted onto me. Yet, I think I can feel the fingers and tools of the Al Bhed when he touches that malformed flesh. There is a tingling, almost an erotic stimulus which makes me twitch and catch my breath. It is not exactly feeling, not exactly imagination. I cannot explain what it is save that it is affecting me on a level I have never known before. Much the same thing happens when Paine touches me there. I had thought I was fantasizing about that because I want so much to feel her caress me. Now, I can't be sure. She, like Gippal, seems to find a certain pleasure in stroking the part of my body which I had assumed to be the most repugnant. Have I become so alien I can no longer identify with what humans find loathsome? I am no longer confident of my own judgments. This cannot continue. My self-assurance is the core of my character. It is there the essential 'Me' lies.

I fear I am changing, becoming softer, less stoic. This, too, must be aborted. A Warrior cannot afford softness and I was taught as a child to endure the sort of pain which generally sends others on this planet to their beds or their healers. I cannot afford to change, especially not now. I have the respect and obedience of all those who have made it this far into the training. I cannot permit them to see any weakness in me. They will not be able to go on without someone like me to believe in, so I must be the torch, the banner before them.

I wrote last night of the pain which was tormenting me. The pain it was and is necessary to conceal from any other person. And of my intention to ask Baralai for an anodyne if I could find a way to do so discreetly. Well, a most peculiar thing took place. After I had delivered the instructions of the Maesters and had permitted the other teams to avail themselves of the spring, I went to sit with Paine until it was time for bed. Baralai and Gippal were playing some sort of dice game across the area and a halting progression of the lame and shriveled remnants of the original force was threading its way to the refreshment of the water source. It was not a time to bellow one's need for relief, not in the presence of a mob.

When I had lowered myself to a convenient rock near Paine, I noticed she was holding out her hand. (One of the things about her which pleases me is her reticence; she only speaks when it is needful.) Resting on her palm were two translucent capsules filled with an amber substance in which a number of seed-like solids were embedded. She indicated Baralai had sent them to me for an undefined purpose. I was at first hesitant to take them, not knowing what they meant or might do. I did not want to hurt the Alchemist's feelings but I am wary of what I put into my body. My thought was to pretend to swallow them but in fact to palm them and dispose of them the next time I stepped outside. But I glanced across the room and caught Baralai gazing at me with such confident trust ...

In short, I swallowed the capsules and within a few minutes, less time than I would have believed possible, the acute pain in my body was ebbing like a flood which has finally reached its zenith and is returning to its own place. The screaming in my mind was muted and finally stilled. How did he know my agony? I am certain I gave no clue to any of the others. How could that failed priestling know what was happening inside my mind and body? I do not believe in occult phenomena nor in the reading of another's mind. I can explore my own intelligence at will but no other can intrude, not even Paine. How did he know? I should take him aside and question him but I am reluctant to alarm him anew now he is just beginning to trust me. Ah, it is a conundrum which will keep me from total boredom through another day in this barren land.

The three who follow me are becoming uncannily perceptive in so far as I am concerned. Gippal seems to read my innermost thoughts; Baralai knows when I am hurting; Paine ... she knows more of me than I had intended. She is becoming a part of my life and I cannot permit this. I have no wish to draw her into the path I must follow. It is well we talk so little. I must not say to her what I am not permitted by my own strictures to say.


It has entered my mind that the increased pain and the increased apparent sensitivity may be in some way related. I was told in great detail by the vivisectionists who rebuilt me what had happened and what had been done. The ruined flesh was, to a large extent, cut away in a series of operations while I lay near death and unconscious. The decision was made to permanently attach the new devices developed by the resident Al Bhed engineers in order to see if they would be effective in re-cycling gravely injured Warriors. I was a fine prospect because of my physical strength and my emotional stability. ... How perceptive of them! So, various methods of attachment were utilized: rods screwed and cemented into the remaining bone of my thigh and rib cage, new synthetic 'bones' of ceramic clamped to whatever they could make use of. I have an entirely Al Bhed created collar bone, scapula and shoulder joint assembly on my left side. They took no particular care because they believed no sensation remained or was ever likely to return in the damaged areas. The only nerves they concerned themselves with were the connections which led from the functioning synthetic intelligence of the new limbs to my living brain. They were determined to prove they could wire their vile creations directly into those parts of the brain which directed the use of them. And they did. It worked - at the cost of making me feel like a puppet master over my own body. Now, I wonder if I am being changed by what they did, by their interventions. Are the machina poisoning me? Are they introducing a peculiar madness into my mind? Are the Yevonites right after all and is this science so evil, so totally alien to the human that no co-existence is possible?

I have told myself the increased pain is due to the inordinate exertion I have subjected my prostheses to but now I question my own explanation. How can I explain the strange sensations I have when Gippal and Paine touch me? Must I explore the very basis of my reality? I wonder what one who studied with the priests for so long as Baralai would have to say? No! He seems to be finally coming to terms with his failed faith; I must not meddle in his personal journey. And I will have no truck with religion, not now that I am so close to my quietus, my escape.


I have been out to look at the condition of the other thirteen survivors. Even though I gave them all permission to freely use the spring for several hours last evening, the majority of them remain dirty. If the air were not so dry, they would be stinking like a pile of week-old corpses. What is the matter with these men? I should have known they were badly led the instant we boarded that ship. The first thing a commander learns is to see to the well-being of his troops. One of the things I was taught was that an army cannot march if it has trouble with its feet. So I, and my fellow Warriors, were instructed to keep an eye on the hygiene of our command, especially their feet. We were supposed to make sure they washed and changed socks regularly. And I did.

The ones who took control of these recruits didn't even make them wash their faces, let along the less visible parts of their bodies. I am afraid to call for short arms inspection lest their organs have rotten off from filth. Why in the name of the entire pantheon of the Yevonite heavens did not this arrogant, ignorant contingent of High Thinking Maesters include in their number even one man or woman who knew how to maintain an army? They have taken a crowd of eager volunteers who wanted to become soldiers in order to earn a living and have reduced them to this dung heap of cast-aways. I am reluctant to even consider what those sent to wetter climates must look and smell like.

This is a total disgrace and in the Crusaders would have resulted in the wholesale reduction in rank and imprisonment of those responsible. The general malfeasance makes my own acts during my time there seem petty indeed. I never abused my own allies. Nor misled innocent men. Well, I can think of nothing else to do other than order them to go into the cave in pairs, strip naked and wash, inspecting one another. If they have fresh clothes, I shall instruct them to put them on. If not, they must wash their dirty ones and go bare until they dry. In this weather, it won't take long. They must take particular pains with their feet. At least, I shall have done my duty by these pathetic dregs.


After so carefully surveying the condition of those men not my responsibility, I felt I should take a somewhat more detailed look at my own team. Gippal remains much as he has always been. It is no surprise he survived the desert with his body and spirit intact. He was born and reared here, if what I understand of his implied history is correct. He looks like a native of this clime, being a compact mass of energy and vitality. He is always talking, seldom making much sense, but acting as a morale booster to the others much of the time. He has proven himself to be both loyal and useful to the entire company. I, personally, owe him more than I can repay for his attention to my difficulties with the machina. I do not like being in such a position of inequity with one I command. There must be some way in which I can better adjust the scales. Make a note to explore my options there.

When I look at Baralai, I find myself amazed. He has become a man in these past few days. He is taller and leaner, without the childish roundness of face he had and without that infuriating habit of looking to one side when addressed. Taller? Yes, it is not possible he could have grown this much in so short a while, so I must attribute it to his posture. He stands straighter and does not cringe as he did. His attitude no longer coveys the notion of subservience and shame. He even looks me in the eye from time to time. If his improvement is due to the relationship he has forged with Gippal, so much the better. They will both be better Warriors for it. I feel, however, I deserve some of the credit. Without my careful firmness, I do not think the boy would ever have accepted the necessity of growing up. I am proud of what he has become. He will, I believe, not fail in this venture. He has found what well may be his proper place.

Paine is looking much better after these days of rest. Her skin is the pellucid white it was at the beginning with the scarlet blotches of sun damage gone - thanks to the lotions compiled by our alchemist. She is moving with her usual grace and sureness. The only real change I see in her is a new awareness, not a softness - that will never be a problem for her. It is as if her understanding of humanity has taken form in her eyes and she looks at every individual as though weighing the soul before her, with calm compassion, not severity. When she is within reach, she is always touching me in some way. A hand on my arm, a finger against my wrist, some feathery touch to remind me she is there and she is mine. Not long ago her hand 'accidentally' brushed down the inside of my thigh and I had to turn away hastily until I could exert my will on my reaction. This has begun happening whenever I think too much about her as well. If it keeps on, I shall need to change my manner of dress, perhaps adopt loosened desert garments such as Gippal wears or, even better, the robes of Baralai. It will not do for the leader to display signs of distraction.

Now that I feel the heat of her body so often near me, I am less bothered by her interplay with the others. Paine is mine, at least for the duration of this adventure. I don't know why but I will accept for now that she finds something of value in me and is not eager to run to another lover. ... For her, I would be willing to stay in the desert forever.

I become maudlin. I have a destiny which must be fulfilled. I have accomplished what I was meant to do up until now. My group is the model for all the others. It is trained and in good health. I have done that which was necessary to preserve them. I have acted as a competent commander who cares for his charge. At this time, I am satisfied.
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