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Love Her and Despair (10)

Title: Love Her and Despair
Chapter 10:
Best-Laid Plans
Final Fantasy X
Isaaru, Maroda, Auron, Pacce, Lucil/Elma
Word Count: 1300
Summary: Planning the next Operation Mi'ihen.
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Map of Pilgrimage - Links to All Chapters

The Story So Far: Thirteen years after Yuna falls defeating Sin, Isaaru sets the mantle of maester aside to resume his pilgrimage with his brothers. Teaming up with Auron in Besaid, they discover a pattern to Sin's attacks: it seems to be targeting temples and destroying their fayth statues. They meet Maester Lucil at Luca Stadium to report their findings.

The carnival ambiance of the blitzball tournament ebbed and flowed around Isaaru and his companions like another world pinned by pyreflies to a gigantic sphere. Fans screamed and cheered for their favorite players, bickered over team loyalties, lived and died with every goal. In the maesters' box, all was still.

Isaaru had been uncharacteristically stark, blunt, and brief as he narrated the bare bones of their journey. Now he and Lucil sat between two worlds, surrounded by a sea of noise, clapping when the crowd roared and feigning interest in a match that none but Pacce had actually watched, waiting for the final moments of a Bevelle upset ("That's one for the history books, folks!") to play out so that they could slip away to ponder the fate of the world.

As soon as the buzzer sounded and fans began piling towards exits and vendors, Isaaru and Lucil retired to a VIP suite below the maester's dais. The chamber was as dark as a Cloister of Trials, despite a few skylights. Luxurious furniture and refreshments could not disguise the fact that it had been built into the stadium's walls as a fortified retreat against attack— from Sin, or from an angry mob, to judge by its defenses. Years ago, Lucil had commanded the removal of all hidden machina weapons embedded in the heavy doors leading out to the stadium, but the peepholes of gunsights and the stripped mountings on the doors' inner face were a sober reminder of what Yevon could be.

Isaaru settled into a high-backed chair, his guardians forming a triangle around him. Elma discreetly helped Lucil into the seat across from him. The maester in charge of Yevon's military concealed her infirmity in public, but a chocobo accident had left her partially paralyzed below the waist. The younger woman— no longer young; there was a brown scar cutting a bare swath through her short salt-and-pepper hair, and her face had been tanned and weathered by years of riding— returned to the entrance to relay a few quick orders to the guards stationed outside, then pulled the doors shut and ambled back. "There. No one's going to disturb us for anything short of a Sin sighting. The next match is in forty-five minutes, if you mean to keep up appearances."

"Thank you, Commander," Isaaru said, forgetting that he was technically no longer the senior official in the room.

"Djose, then." Lucil steepled her hands in her lap, gazing at the wall as if her mind's eye were fixed on something past it. "Elma. Provide Summoner Isaaru and his party with mounts and escort them to Djose. Send ahead couriers to Mushroom Rock Lodge, advising the captain there to begin battle preparations and await your arrival. We will need his ground forces as well for this operation—"

"Maester Lucil," Isaaru said, half-rising from his seat. "With all due respect, what do you think you're doing? Did we four not agree that the tragedy of Operation Mi'ihen must never be repeated?"

"I do not forget a single face of the fallen heroes whom our predecessors betrayed," she snapped. "But if Sin wipes out the aeons, it will strip summoners of our only means of protecting Spira. We must defend the fayth at any cost." Her eyes flicked briefly to her second-in-command, who gave a melancholy little smile in return.

"Actually," Maroda said, "Sir Auron had an idea about that."

Isaaru's brows jerked upwards, perhaps at his brother's sudden about-face concerning their enigmatic comrade. "Yes?"

The taciturn guardian said nothing, but looked at Maroda.

"Move the fayth." Maroda shrugged. "We can't stop Sin yet. So put the statue where it can't be harmed. Hide it."

"But won't that screw up the spirit inside?" Pacce said. "I mean, can it survive without the temple and hymns?"

"It's been done before," Auron said.

"Is that so?" Isaaru leaned towards him. "I should like to know which fayth, and where. Baaj Temple, perhaps? I have been trying to pinpoint its location, but the records are imprecise."

"We're wasting time," Lucil said. "Lord Isaaru, if my Crusaders provide wagons and engineers to move the statue, can you and the priests of Djose ensure the fayth's integrity?"

He bowed his head. "In theory, I know what prayers sustain and strengthen the bond between statue and spirit, and I have a link with the fayth which may let me soothe its unease. I believe it can be done. I cannot be certain. If we do nothing, however, the fayth will almost certainly be lost, and our hopes diminished."

"Then we must deploy, taking every care we can to minimize casualties. Elma, you will assist Lord Isaaru in removing the statue to a safe location. I suggest Lord Mi'ihen's Grotto. Order Captain Luzzu to deploy perimeter defenses around Djose Temple. Your mobile units will defend the Highroad between the temple and Mushroom Ridge. Luzzu's infantry and your knights will provide cover for the covert operation, keeping Sin at bay and staging a mock-defense of the temple."

Elma cleared her throat. "Ma'am, I hate to remind you, but Captain Luzzu is still on probation for heresy. What if he can somehow tell Sin our plans?"

"I'm satisfied with his explanation that it was the toxin speaking, Commander. And if not— and if Sin really is aware— then who better to convince Sin we are defending the fayth of Djose Temple than one of its followers? The fayth's relocation will be on a need-to-know basis. Keep the statue concealed during transport. Use the pretext of evacuating the temple, its scrolls and relics."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Heresy?" Isaaru said.

"Sin sightings are frequent off the coast of Djose, my lord, as you know," Lucil said. "Our patrols are sometimes affected by the toxin when the foe comes too close to shore, and a few have fallen prey to the Cult of Sin. I confess that is one reason for our exchange program with the warrior monks. Those who seem to be suffering a crisis of faith are sent to Bevelle, where Maester Shelinda can take them under her wing."

"Or to the Calm Lands to be whipped back into shape," Maroda said, shaking his head. "I wondered why you kept sending me your scraps."

"But Captain Luzzu has commanded the lodge at Mushroom Rock for ten years," Elma said. "He's refused promotions or transfers. He's gone a little strange. I caught him up on the headland just talking to Sin one day. He said he was keeping it company so it wouldn't attack."

Maroda snorted. "Sounds like someone else we know."

Auron ignored the jibe. "Are we finished?"

Lucil nodded. "Indeed. Summoner Isaaru, have you any last objections or additions to the plan?"

"Only that I would urge you to authorize machina for this operation. Your troops—"

"—will stand a better chance than they did thirteen years ago, if we don't use forbidden machina and provoke Sin's retribution. However, this will be a good time to test the new Lightning Rock Shield."

"Anyway, Sin's not going to blow up its garden," Elma chuckled. "It's mellowed."


"Don't worry, ma'am, I'm not going to start worshipping it just because it's sending us flowers." She sobered. "So. Move statue, check. Keep it under wraps, check. Have Luzzu's lodge guard the temple, check. Chocobo Knights along Highroad. Activate shield. Fall behind the barriers the instant Sin starts glowing. Are we set?"

"You have your orders, Commander. And... Elma?"


Lucil clasped her hand tightly as Elma reached out to help her to her feet. "I will see you when this is over. I expect a thorough debriefing. Understood?"

The officer's cheeks colored faintly. "Yes, ma'am."

Next Chapter: Right of Way



( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 13th, 2008 02:50 am (UTC)
This is really getting wonderful, and deeper with every chapter...

Luzzu's alive, and maybe a little nuts too? :O

I always liked Luzzu, and I hope he's gonna be okay.

Is there actually going to be a sort of Operation Mi'Hen reprise, sorta? Kinda?

And, *WHEN* are we going to see Wakka?

Looking forward to the next chapter.

This one was marvelous!

Jul. 13th, 2008 04:15 am (UTC)
I estimate Wakka in 3-4 chapters. First we have to have the reprise of Operation Mi'ihen!

I'm having far too much fun paralleling the events of the original game, only never quite the way they happened before. ("Auron, what are you doing here?" "Waiting for a ship.") And all the maesters plus Luzzu, Maroda and Elma know exactly why Operation Mi'ihen was a terrible mistake... but they have to do it again anyway.

Bwah. *pokes characters with big sharp pokey stick of angst*
Jul. 14th, 2008 02:58 pm (UTC)
I wondered why that bit of dialogue sounded so familiar.

So, where is Luzzu stationed nowadays, and is he as badly off as the other characters seem to suggest?

Anyway, I love this story of yours...

Jul. 14th, 2008 03:11 pm (UTC)
He's the Commander of the Mushroom Rock Lodge... in charge of the regular Crusaders in the area (as opposed to the mounted Knights). I expect him in the next chapter if I don't get that far in this one.

*pokes at my habit of narrating every step of journey instead of skipping ahead*

Edited at 2008-07-14 03:12 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 14th, 2008 03:10 am (UTC)

I keep being amused by your killer sheep, by the way, and I can't remember his name. All I can think of is "Dinsdale, Dinsdale!" which isn't the sheep.

Edit: oh wait, I think it's Basil.

Human memory is insane. I've forgotten the Greek I worked so hard to learn, but I can still quote verbatim chunks of Monty Python I watched in the eighties.

Edited at 2008-07-14 03:11 am (UTC)
Jul. 14th, 2008 01:22 am (UTC)
Ack, you are doing this dialogue thing quite expertly, informing both the readers and the characters, keeping the pace and re-establishing characters while managing to keep it succinct.

I like Lucil's decisiveness --she's clearly the leader here. I take it she's succeeding Isaaru as Grand Maester? I wasn't sure if I'd missed something there.

I'm looking forward to meeting Luzzu again --this story is really making me consider the NPCs that didn't really capture my attention the last go-round. Good work.

*perches at edge of seat*
Jul. 14th, 2008 03:07 am (UTC)
Oh, whoops.

No, Lucil's not taking over as Grand Maester, it's just that Isaaru has publicly announced his resignation. Hence her comment that the maesters needed to confer before the announcement was made: it is suddenly not clear who is in charge. However, Lucil being Lucil, she's not going to waste time with political problems when there's a military one needing her attention. She's occupying Kinoc's old position.

Elma's brashness utterly charmed me, especially after hearing her delightful seiyu. Hopefully 13 years have weathered her from eager beaver junior officer to Commander Riker (Riker after he loosened up in the later seasons) under Captain Picard.

Pun not intended, but it's too apt to alter. :D

I think some of her breeziness that mneme noted is simply a mannerism to help balance Lucil's rather chilly professionalism, a sort of "good cop, bad cop" routine that they've had going for years.

I liked Luzzu a lot my first playthrough and kind of forgot about him, but there's enough complicated dynamics between him and Lulu that he made my short list of "secondary characters who deserve cameos and/or a small part in this story." Your comment about wanting Kinoc-fic actually inspired me to put even more effort into giving the secondaries meaningful if lesser parts of the story.

That's one of the things I loved about FFX -- even the most minor un-voiced, un-named NPCs often had a sustained personality and a little bit of backstory, so that now when I look at the mourners watching Yuna dance in Kilika and the random folks walking around Besaid's square, I recognize most of them like I recognize my local grocery clerks and most of my neighbors... I don't know them well, but they've become people to me not part of the scenery. That's made a huge impact in how I view and enjoy the game. It's no longer just my very favorite two or three characters... it is a world in which those characters live. That's helping (and complicating) my writing process this time.

Whoops, got passionate there.

Edited at 2008-07-14 03:34 am (UTC)
Jul. 14th, 2008 07:18 am (UTC)
I just adore the image of Luzzu camped up on the Mushroom Rock bluffs, talking to Sin, trying to keep it from attacking... this leads to the question of how he knows, and I hope we get the answer to that question when we meet up with him in later chapters.

This notion of Lucil vowing never to repeat the mistakes of Operation Mi'ihen is quite interesting, and I wonder how she's dealing with the fact that Isaaru has allowed the warrior monks to continue using machina. Are the Crusaders still carrying it? I can't remember if that was made clear in earlier chapters.

You have kept the plot in this story moving at an excellent clip! Now I'm sorry to be caught up and waiting with everyone else. ;)
Jul. 14th, 2008 03:00 pm (UTC)
Confession: to some extent I'm making this up as I go, and things like Lucil's injury and the extent of her dislike for machina are things I "discover," Tolkien-style, along the way. The question of machina is one I'm still chewing on-- how the maesters handle differences of opinion, since they're divided on the topic.

The Crimson Squad issue and its fallout are a huge question that I've only got two-thirds worked out in my head, and I've gone back and forth a lot on whether to use it at all, because Shuyin's a third villain on top of Yunalesca and Yu Yevon. But I've got a glimmer of an idea on how to handle that. I still need to think about (and understand) Nooj a lot better, and decide for sure what to do about Paine, since much as I like the character, I really don't have a role for her in this story-- yet. (Gippal has already been mentioned, by the way, but so allusively that there's no way you'd have recognized it. ;) )

That's all a challenge because I know and breathe FFX, whereas I've played X-2 twice and don't have it all in my head. I can pull in Luzzu on a whim and hit the ground running, because I remember every scrap of dialog and interaction with him, giving me a complete "resource list" of his speech patterns and personality, his relationships to main characters (if any), and what few details we know about him. I couldn't tell you what half the Crimson Spheres are about without looking them up.

Luckily I have quite a while before I need to address the Crimson Squad stuff explicitly, so hopefully it'll sort itself out. In the meantime I've GOT to read more of your fic to get a better handle on Nooj. :)
Jul. 14th, 2008 03:30 pm (UTC)
I've seen several allusions to people I thought might be Gippal. ;) I look forward to seeing which is really him.

I hear you on whether or not to use Shuyin -- would he and Vegnagun add an extra dimension and more depth to the story, or just extra complexity? Not an easy question to answer. I also really feel what you say about being less familiar with the characters. I have the same problem with the idea of writing FF12 -- I'm interested, but I know the characters and the world so much less well than Spira and its people.

Although it's not a true substitute for playing and absorbing the game, there are a number of places to watch the Crimson Spheres online, and at least one site with many more cut scenes featuring the three guys. Have you seen that before? I can dig up the link if not. It's been a godsend for me, when I've needed to refresh my memory on some detail.
Jul. 14th, 2008 03:56 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes please! I can find the Crimson Spheres on Youtube, but more cutscenes with those three would really help!
Jul. 14th, 2008 04:08 pm (UTC)
Here you go! http://nightfall.fourhobbits.net/

This is by the same person who did that "cap all of FFX" project, so we fic writers owe her *a lot*. My first born child, at least.

Enjoy! I am mad with curiosity to see how you handle this. I am especially interested to see what a Nooj who has been possessed by Shuyin for over a decade will be like. (Assuming that Shuyin hasn't moved on during that time.)
Jul. 14th, 2008 09:44 pm (UTC)

Eeeexcellent. I have watched them all over lunch, confirmed that my half-assed glimmer of an idea for Nooj/Shuyin is plausible, and now set the brain to Percolate and Distill while I pay bills and unpack the books I've collected for round one of Dissertation ("I have a topic; now what does the rest of academia have to say about it?") Note-taking.

I still want to know where Lulu and Paine came from. Somewhere out there is an Island of the Red Eyed Goth Chicks.

Edited at 2008-07-14 09:45 pm (UTC)
Jul. 15th, 2008 01:37 am (UTC)
I have FFX-2
but never finished it. Lack of Auron didn't make me like this as much. But I have seen enough to know who Shuyin is, and-more importantly-*WHO* he looks like.

If you ever want to cut the world right out from under Auron's feet, let him *SEE* Shuyin. That would do the trick, I think...

Gee, I'm nasty today...

But it would *SURE* be good drama... ;)

Jul. 15th, 2008 01:52 am (UTC)
Re: I have FFX-2
Oh, gosh, how could I possibly do anything bad to poor ol' Auron? He's been through so much already.

No, no, I did not say that with two sets of fingers crossed; I can't type that way.

By the way, Auron has exactly 1 scene on a hard-to-get sphere and a few ghostly Mysterious Voices From the Farplane In Yuna's Head lines in that game.

Which I failed to notice when playing it, until someone else told me. Gah.

Edited at 2008-07-15 01:54 am (UTC)
Jul. 14th, 2008 08:13 am (UTC)
Enjoyed this -so- much. The Tidus of this world must have made ALL the bad choices. [shakes head] So Luzzu lives ... and it makes SO much sense that he's gone 'a bit strange'. Can't wait for more!
Jul. 14th, 2008 03:07 pm (UTC)
"The Tidus of this world must have made ALL the bad choices."

Ack, true! Though he can't be blamed for Yuna choosing the Final Summoning. Poor guy, I like him, but I have trouble writing him, and he tends not to show up much in my fics.
Jul. 16th, 2008 06:19 pm (UTC)
I've just caught up on this, and I love it. How fantastic. You've given each of these characters a great voice - consistent with what we saw in FFX but with development from the ten years in-between. I love the worldbuilding going on with just this simple "what if?", and all the things that are different -- and all the things that are the same.

There's so much in here that's being hinted at, and I really want to see what's going on behind the scenes!
Nov. 29th, 2008 12:03 am (UTC)
ah when I saw Luzzu mentioned, I knew something interesting was going to grow there. *makes way to next chapter* and there's wakka wandering around somewhere! *still thinking of old plot idea for him hehe*
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
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