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

Part Eighteen

by Ikonopeiston 1 review

The Den of Woe and what they found there

Category: Final Fantasy X-2 - Rating: R - Genres: Drama - Characters: Baralai, Gippal, Nooj, Paine - Warnings: [!!!] - Published: 2005-08-08 - Updated: 2005-08-08 - 2847 words

The Confessional

Part Eighteen:
Here we are again, rushed to a place we had to be immediately and then left standing around waiting for something to happen. I found a niche among the damp columns here and thought it would be a good time to catch up on recording what has transpired since yesterday. Paine is with me, tucked under my right arm, half listening to me natter and half-scribbling in her own notebook. We no longer have any secrets from one another. I do not mind if she hears what I say into this device; I will even let her browse though the entries if she wishes. She might be amused and pleased by the things I have said about her. Ah, it is good not to have to hide any longer. It is good to have her pressed against my side, to feel her breath and her heartbeat. I grow warm when I look at her or think about the last few hours. But enough of that - she is smiling up at me and I must force my mind back to my task.

Ahem - after a peaceful and most pleasant evening spend sleeping by the pool while Baralai and Gippal found their own place to rest, we were awakened near dawn by the histrionic panting of the usual messenger. He leaned against a rocky outcropping, clutching his side as though tortured by an unbearable stitch and held out the usual envelope with the usual bulging enclosure. While Paine splashed water on the fool in a helpful attempt to revive him, I read the message. We were ordered to report to the lower level of the main Mushroom Rock area within the hour. This simple command took four pages to say in the convoluted language of the temples.

Baralai had told us about this place at the time he found the case of pistols in this general locale but it seems there is a far larger labyrinth of mostly unexplored caves and dead-end passages down here than he realized. None of us has had the time or opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the terrain, but it looks to be the exact opposite to the desert - for which I am grateful. So is Paine. We have both had enough of sand for the while. And her skin is too fair and delicate to tolerate any more exposure to the sun or abrasion from wind-driven grains. But I digress, ... it's hard not to digress under the conditions. I must kiss her and send her away for a few moments so I can get all this properly set down.


First, I want to clarify a personal matter in case I do not survive this test. For the first time since I became a man, I am moved to embrace life. Paine understands this and, I hope, realizes she is the cause. She has given me both reason and purpose and her promise to stay at my side makes death detestable. She has made me whole and I will not abandon her, not even for the goal I have sought my entire life. She must surely know this even if I have not told her in so many words. She understands me so well - better in many ways than I understand myself. I have stated this now - at this time, so that if I do not have an opportunity to tell her, Paine will know for certain that I was no longer hunting a place to die but wanted to stay with her. I did not want her to hear this nor do I choose to discuss it with her now lest I distract her from her own defenses. We must all be alert if we are to avoid the traps I am certain have been laid for us in this latest game.

Having said that, I must now record what has occurred in the world outside our cocoon of sanity. As I noted, we were wakened early and directed to this unfamiliar location within the lower levels of the Mushroom Rock Road. We, all of us - the reformed remnants from our six groups as well as those who survived the other venues - were gathered in a small open arena of sorts and shown the entrance to a cave. We were told there was something in there we were supposed to investigate. We are not to kill whatever it is, but only investigate and report back. Oh, and the same rule of competing for supplies is in effect as was ordered at the beginning of the other training event. Those two orders trouble me. Why not kill whatever is infesting the cave? Is it one of the unquestioning followers of the Maesters pretending to be a monster and given permission to slaughter every one of us for some arcane reason? And why are not sufficient weapons and other equipment supplied for all of us? With so many already dead or out of action, there is surely enough to arm and outfit those of us who remain. This sounds oddly like another ploy to further thin the already decimated ranks of the survivors of the first round. Are they intent on winnowing us down to a single man? This, from a military point of view, is irrational but when were the Immoral Servants of the Mind of Yevon ever overburdened with reason? I am now once again glad we spend so much time scavenging. Each of us, including our Recorder, is fully and properly armed. We have everything we need to prevail in a humid cave as well we did in the desiccating atmosphere of a desert. We are well trained and supportive of one another. There is no reason for us to dread this next foolish trial - which is promised by our masters to be the last. But I shall insist Paine stay behind me where my body can protect her even if it does prevent her from getting the camera angles she wants. She must stay safe!

I am drifting off topic again. When the above instructions had been given there was a disruption amongst the Maesters, a hurried conference and we were told to draw back from the cave entrance and await further orders, which is what we are doing just now. Again.


I am not altogether sure where we are. We are camping in a hidden cul-de-sac, not exactly camping - more like sleeping rough. We have been fleeing through the time of darkness and, exhausted, have found this refuge to wait out the dangerous full light of day, just as we did in the desert. Except it is not the heat we are sheltering against now; it is the pursuit of a deadly enemy, one apparently set on our extinction. We are reasonably safe from discovery, here in this canyon protected by a narrow passage choked with underbrush. We are all here, intact so far. During this enforced rest, I shall try to record what has happened to bring us to this pass. I am not sure how much I can explain because there is much which remains a mystery to me. I hope the others can do better than I. Surely their memories are not also in such turmoil.

We were on the lower level of an area on Mushroom Rock Road. We had come to the place where the narrow passage from the Road proper opens out into that wide section with the heights and the depths, the one with the floating rocks marked with glyphs. From there we had descended a natural staircase into an underworld maze of tunnels and chimneys. The Maesters told us our final test was to go inside a certain cave and investigate the fiend or whatever it was which lurked within. Any who came out with a satisfactory report would be accepted into the Crimson Squad and be assigned to command a Crusader unit. It made no sense but that was what they said and so we went into the cave. I placed Paine behind me so she would be protected and to hell with her camera angles. There were other Recorders present. I wanted her safe.

The first thing I noticed inside the cave was the presence of pyreflies. They provided the only light. I wondered at that and looked around to see if there were fresh corpses which might have given rise to the creatures. I saw none at that time, only a series of interconnected chambers with darkness in their depths.

The other candidates were scuffling amongst themselves, trying to wrestle arms from one another. That was another thing - we were supposed to fight for the available weapons and supplies, just as we had been instructed to do in the desert. Because I have good night vision, better than my day vision to be honest, I was able to see our team was not involved in the fighting. We had made sure we were very well armed before we reported for the trial. And we kept together, away from the others in the cave. I could feel Paine's breath on my back as we progressed into the dimness and was reassured by her presence. Then there was gun fire and the flashes from muzzles added to the light of the pyreflies which was increasing and, for an instant, everything was clear. The ones who had entered the cave with us had turned their weapons on one another and were firing with deadly accuracy. Suddenly the low area stank of powder and blood. I led the four of us in another direction, around the bodies lying sprawled on the rocky floor.

This is getting hard to relate; everything is confused in my mind from this point. I think we walked a long way in, away from the others and the shooting. After some time, we saw clouds of pyreflies again ... or was that before I thought I heard a snarling and became aware of a brooding monstrous presence? I can't remember exactly. I think I said something about all the dead bodies releasing the pyreflies or maybe it was Gippal or Baralai. It is so mixed up. There were so many of the things, great masses of them, looking like fiends roiling the air, taking grotesque shapes; they were blinding me. It was hard to breathe and then ...


Sorry, that was unlike me. Paine has persuaded me to lie back against the rock and drink some water. At least we have plenty of water, not like in the desert. There are springs all around the highroad and it is easy to refill the canteens and the fiends are weak too. No problems. ... I am blathering. I must finish this report. It is important. I don't know where we are headed, only that it must be away from the Maesters who want to kill us. Why can't I concentrate?

Where was I? Oh, yes ... the pyreflies. I saw out of the corner of my eye a great nearly solid clot of them nearing me, almost as if they were aiming at me personally and then they were consuming me. I did not know they could penetrate into the orifices of a living body. My mouth and nose and throat were filled with them. They smashed against my spectacles and then into my eyes. The sound of them filled my ears, all my senses. They were like needles of ice stabbing into me and then melting and with their assault all my joy and new happiness dissolved like another sheet of ice and I was filled with the familiar fear, regret and despair which had been my companions for so long. I could not be sure if the pyreflies were entering me or leaving. For a moment, I thought I was seeing my own death and I was glad. Paine, I didn't .... I was overwhelmed, shaking with cold, and felt myself falling then my mind began to divide, to split into two parts. ...

Sorry. As best I can describe what happened, I felt as though I had two entities battling in my head. Two beings fighting it out as to which would dominate. No, that is not quite right. How to explain? I knew who I was but what else was I? I fought as hard as I could, trying to hold the part that ... Thank you, Paine. Thank you. I'm all right now.

I heard a pistol drop to the floor. Why had I dropped a pistol? Was it I who dropped the pistol? I did not remember drawing one. I had no memory of the feel of one in my hand. I had slumped to the ground and was being hauled to my feet by Gippal and Baralai. I am sure it must have been an absurd sight for someone of my height and weight to come staggering out of that place, leaning on the shoulders of my smaller teammates. Paine had hooked my cane over her arm and was continuing to record what she could. Outside the damnable cave, when I had partly regained my senses, I hastened to eradicate the image in so far as I could by issuing orders and gathering Group Five together to confer on what had taken place. We had only a moment to ourselves before the Maesters summoned us to make our report to them.

This was not like lying to them about the Judas pistols. We had not had time to agree on a story and I, at least, did not know what had really happened in that hell hole. I was shaken and, as Baralai later confirmed, in shock. That is no condition for the leader of a team to be in when his group is called upon to report to the authorities. The others stalled as long as they could to give me time to recover. Paine slipped my cane back into my hand so that I could keep my balance and my dignity whilst facing the Maesters. We all did as we had become accustomed to doing - we defended one another. .... I'm not sure I'm telling this in the right order. It is all mixed up in my memory. I keep feeling I am forgetting something. Yes, Paine, I'll rest for a little while and finish this later.


I have taken a brief nap and am less exhausted. We made our report to the Maesters. I told them about the way I felt when surrounded by the pyreflies. I would not have been so open had I not been in shock. It was entirely unlike me to use emotionally charged words in a formal report. The others on the team confirmed the psychological effect of the pernicious creatures and the appearance of a shadowy figure which appeared at about the same time as well as the form of a huge shape which growled like a beast. I had forgotten that first vision until they mentioned it and then I had a mental image of a fog-mantled wraith moving before the looming backdrop of the lowering snarling object I had dimly glimpsed and could not distinguish. It was just a glancing memory and I still cannot pull it into greater focus. I shall keep trying.

The Maesters seemed as puzzled as we although I fancy I caught a look of disappointment in their eyes, but they commended us and pronounced us winners in the race to become members of the Crimson Squad. As our first assignment in that exalted position, we were directed to go off to the main headquarters and protect the other Maesters and their entourage, against what or whom we were not told. Both Baralai and Gippal clapped one another on the shoulder and swaggered away, well pleased with themselves. It was like watching a sphere play itself out. I was present and hearing all that was said but it was as if I was simultaneously elsewhere, divorced from the activities in which I was taking part. I could feel no joy in attaining the goal for which I had aimed. My feelings were flat, not even the touch of Paine, who placed her hand on my arm, could call any response from me. She led me away from the cave, through the dripping columns and up the wide flat staircase of stones leading to the surface. It was only when we reached the ground level and turned from the dark moisture-laden depths that I began to be able to think clearly again, to regain control of my movements. I drew Paine to me and, from her lips, drank comfort and reality. Then we made our way up to headquarters although I would much rather have set out for the peaceful meadow by the pond. I was not certain I could defend myself and Paine, let alone the loathsome authors of my predicament. I was limping worse than ever and still dizzy when I turned my head quickly. What poison had those needles of light injected into me?
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