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Dissidia: Second String, Round 4

Kain
Title: Dissidia: Second String

Rating: PG, mostly for violence.

Summary: What if the heroes of Dissidia and Duodecim were replaced with their supporting cast instead?

Author’s Note:  This set has some of my favourites in it.

Previous Round



2, 6, 7

“I wonder if any of the others have found their crystals yet,” Maria mused.

“No way!” Locke declared with a grin.  “Nobody can beat me at treasure hunting!”

Aeris giggled, and his heart swelled with delight at the sound.  “Maybe we’d better be careful, in case you steal our crystals too.”

“I would never steal!  I’m not a thief!  I’m a treasure hunter,” Locke protested in mock offense. 

Maria rolled her eyes.  “I’m just saying, we’ve been travelling for a while without any luck.  We’re nearly at the Cavern of the Earth, and we haven’t seen anything but manikins, manikins, and more manikins.  How is that supposed to help us?”  She put her hands on her hips and blew a stray strand of hair out of her eyes. 

“If it were easy, it wouldn’t be a hunt,” Locke replied, and tightened his blue bandanna.  “This next gateway will have something for sure!  Let’s go!”  He rushed eagerly into the glowing red doorway.

They’d seen many shards of different worlds in the gateways.  Crystal palaces, ancient castles, volcanoes, chunks of cities filled with glowing lights and strange, smooth materials.

This, however, was stunningly unique.

“It’s beautiful,” Maria breathed, twirling in place to take in their surroundings.

A forest of crystal trees, all faintly glowing with a calm white light under a night sky.  In the distance, he could spy a lake, the waters still and deep.

It was so quiet.  So peaceful.  Locke worried, briefly, that manikins could easily ambush them in such a place – for camouflage, this gateway was second to none – but it reminded him so strongly of Sanctuary that it was hard to maintain his battle-ready tension.

Next to him, however, Aeris had gone eerily still.

“Everything okay?” he asked.

She tilted her head, as though listening to something.  Belatedly, she nodded.  “I’m fine.  You don’t need to worry about me.”

“I can’t help it!” Locke replied.  “I swore, didn’t I?  I won’t let any harm come to any woman I meet.”

He’d promised he’d protect her.  And while his memories were piecemeal at best, Locke felt, deep in his bones, that it was a promise he would do anything to keep.

Maria shook her head in amused exasperation.  “Chauvinist,” she muttered, and strode ahead.

Aeris just smiled at him though, and he wondered, if the time came, whether she’d let him.






5, 12

Faris felt awkward leaving her companions behind.  But that the kid had found his crystal before her, and Rinoa as well… that just wouldn’t do.  And as the journey wore on, she became convinced that this was something she needed to do herself.

That was why it was particularly annoying to come across the air pirate.

“I thought you were travelling with the princess and the black mage,” she stated flatly.

“I am afraid the young woman took off in pursuit of that grotesque caricature of a queen.  And we both know that Black Mage is entirely capable of taking care of himself.”  Balthier leaned back against the snow-covered tree trunk, poking lazily at the fire he’d nurtured with a stick torn from its branches.  “I might ask the same of you.  I thought the boy and the sorceress were sewn onto your rather fine hips.”

Faris glared, and couldn’t determine exactly what part of that sentence to take offence at first.  He was baiting her, she knew, but it was devilishly hard to resist biting.  “They have both found their crystals and are already returning to Sanctuary.  Auron is with them, so there is no need for concern.”  Her voice was as cool as the breeze whipping across the Elven snowfields.

“That is excellent news,” he remarked, and gestured across from him.  “You look cold.  Take a seat and warm yourself before you go on your way.”

Faris very nearly snapped that she didn’t have the time to waste, but that would, in a way, be conceding defeat to the air pirate’s silver tongue.  And though her clothes were protection enough from the icy winds of the snowfields, the warmth of the crackling flames was enticing.  “Far be it from me to not take advantage of a fire already built,” she grumbled, settling down across from him.

Balthier simply looked amused, prodding the coals once more.  The fire crackled and a fresh wave of a warmth burst over her.

“The manikins have not been giving you any trouble, I trust?”

“They’re thin on the ground here,” she replied moodily.  She almost wished she had come across some.  The battle might have been therapeutic to her still-smarting ego.  Being saved from Xande by a little kid

“To our good fortune,” Balthier remarked.  He tossed his stick into the fire, and the flames claimed it greedily.  “Though it is still dangerous to travel alone.”

“Are you saying I can’t handle myself?” Faris snapped.

But Balthier’s reply was only a mild, “I would never offer such an insult to a lady.”

She stiffened.  Faris did not go to any deliberate lengths to hide her gender beyond her clothes, but she certainly never corrected any assumptions, either.  To have the truth laid out in so stark a fashion was confronting.

The following silence stretched with tension.  Eventually, in an effort to change the subject, Faris asked, “Have you found your crystal yet?”

Balthier started twisting his colourful rings around his fingers – an unconscious gesture, by the looks of it.  “No.  I must confess, I have long suspected what is necessary, but I have been reluctant to face up to it.”  He ran a hand through his short brown hair.  “I must say, such weakness of character is not befitting of a leading man.”

Faris scoffed at the display of self-importance.  “So what is it, then?”

“…My father.”

Faris frowned.  “Your father?”

“Cidolfus.”

Her breath caught in her throat.

In the journey to Sanctuary, and later to find the crystals, she had encountered at one point or another most of Chaos’s warriors.  So the name swiftly brought to mind the sunken-eyed scientist, who commanded terrifying weapons that made a ship’s cannons seem like clumsy toys, and when pressed into a corner, the esper he called forth would drown his foes in torrents of bruising water.

She could not see the resemblance to the self-proclaimed sky pirate at all.

“He’s your father?” she asked in incredulity.

“I do my best to forget it,” was the grim reply. 

She turned her gaze from him to stare into the flickering fire, embarrassed now at her earlier behaviour.  “The gods are cruel indeed, to summon us into this mess.”  In many ways, she was lucky -  if she had to fight an ex-lover like Rinoa, or a brother like Maria, or a father like Balthier… she doubted she could have managed.  Friends, family and comrades were precious to her.  Perhaps because she could not remember ever having any.

Balthier made a small noise of agreement.  “By your earlier comments, I take it that you also have yet to locate your crystal.”

Faris grunted an affirmative.  It was becoming frustrating.  “Unlike you, I don’t even know where to start.”  And had endured plenty of taunting from ExDeath on the matter.  For a tree, he could be needlessly sadistic.

“Perhaps,” Balthier remarked, “What you most need is to know your own identity.”

She sent him a puzzled – and mildly affronted – glance.  “It’s not so easy without a memory, you know.”  She remembered her name, and snatches of her pirate heritage, but that was all.  She knew ExDeath came from her world, too, but could not figure out how she knew even that.

Balthier regarded her thoughtfully, and eyed her clothes and armour at length.  “I wouldn’t presume to lecture you, my fair lady,” he remarked.  “But a pirate who is afraid to be themselves is scarcely a pirate at all.”

She flushed, finally following his reasoning.  “How I dress doesn’t make me any less of a woman,” she all but snarled.  Were they not allies, she would be tempted to have a dirk to his throat just to drive the point home.

“The how you dress hardly matters, the same what treasure you may steal does not make you any less of a pirate,” Balthier replied nonchalantly.  “What truly matters is the why.”

Faris didn’t have any reply for that. 






9

Alexander’s wings folded around her, shielding her from the maelstrom of magic.

“Mother, why?!” Dagger cried out.

Her mother only laughed, and the roar and sizzle of magic was replaced with the report of cannons.  Dagger dove for the cobblestoned ground as shards of the castle wall shuddered and splintered behind her and Alexander’s embrace faded away.

Eidolons, magic, and cannons.  Dagger could not understand where her mother procured them from, but whatever the means, it was as unnatural as it was terrifying.  A crude, endless barrage, focused only on destroying her.

This was cruel.  This was too cruel of the Gods!

The wind began to rise, the air being sucked away in a howling roar.  Her clothes rippled in the growing breeze, the sound seeming to die away around her. 

Atomos.  Her mother truly intended to do away with her.

Dagger took a deep breath, and bit her lip.

“No!” she whispered.  “You are not… you are not my mother!”  She stood, and shouted,  “I want to survive!”

In a whirl of darkness and magic, Ark answered her call.

The maelstrom of magic was slow to build, but faster than Atomos, and far faster than her mother’s panicked attempts to evade.  Dagger remained firm, chin jutting out and eyes hard. 

Her mother screamed in terror, and at last vanished, fleeing as the magical bomb blast tore through the castle cobblestones.

The roar of destruction seemed to go on and on and on, like the crashing of the ocean.  Dagger waited, determined to stay standing strong until it had run its course.

Slowly, it receded, and Ark too faded once more, waiting to be summoned again.  Silence blanketed the ruined castle.

She dropped to her knees, letting out a shaky breath.  She would not cry!  She was determined not to.  She could be strong, and independent.  She certainly did not need Balthier to guard and protect her.

At that, the smallest of smiles graced her lips.

She’d done it, hadn’t she? She had won on her own.  She’d stood up for herself, in the end.

There was a flash of light.  Dagger let out of a surprised squeak.

Then the garnet shimmered into existence before her. 






7

When she stepped into the gateway and saw that crystal forest, Aeris knew what it was she had to do.

Locke and Maria lay sleeping, the former sprawled and the latter curled up amongst the translucent trees.  This place was safe – they would be awake long before any new manikins made their way into the area.

When that time came, Aeris would be long gone.

Her feet carried her deeper into the gateway, instinct driving her.  She left the crystal forest behind, passing through many different shards of worlds.  A burning village.  A sleek, futuristic airship that seemed to run on mist made of magic.  An ancient forest, filled with towering trees and carpeted with lush green grass.

She paused for a moment, to catch her breath and take stock of her surroundings.

Light flared before her.  The ethereal form of Cosmos took shape.

It was only a vision, but the sight was comforting.  “Cosmos,” she greeted.

“Aeris,” she greeted in turn.  “You leave your comrades behind.  Why?”

For one brief moment, doubt assailed her, but Aeris firmed her lips and pushed it back.  “Because Locke has things he needs to face – things he won’t face if I’m still around,” she replied.  “…And I have things I need to face too.”

The Goddess regarded her at length.  “Is that the true reason?”

“Lies won’t help me here.  If I were to lie to you, I would only be lying to myself.”  She threaded her fingers behind her back.  “He means well, but he would never let me go alone.  I’m sure it will hurt him… but some things are too important.  For both of us.”  She smiled, then.  “I think you know that well too, don’t you?”

There was silence, now.  Cosmos watched her, expression blank and unreadable.  Unwavering.

“I already know,” Aeris confided.  “I won’t try and convince you otherwise.  I understand.  It’s your decision.  All I can do now is hope that this will help us weather the darkness.”

This time, Cosmos spoke.  “You are very wise.”

Aeris closed her eyes and took a deep breath, sampling the clean, pure air and the subtle tang of alien soil and wild grass.  “Not wise.  Just trying my best not to be scared.”

Cosmos bowed her head, and vanished. 

The light lingered, faded, and then only the darkness of the forest remained.

It was difficult to take that step.  To let another shoulder the burden of sacrifice.

But she had to accept that there were some things only others could do, and focus on what she could do.

Aeris stepped past the tree line, into the shard of another world.

A faint light, from deep in the earth, painted the metal walls jade.  Massive pipes snaked around the room, weaving their way between pods of glowing green.  The metal catwalk clattered noisily under her careful feet.

A cat-eyed gaze greeted her, malicious and hungry.  Tentacles lashed the air, silver hair rose under static charge, and a single black wing spread wide.

“Jenova,” Aeris greeted.




Next Round

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
ratzels
Apr. 9th, 2012 01:56 am (UTC)
*incoherent glee*

Faris and Balthier combine for a very special flavor of awesome, don't they? :D
sinnatious
Apr. 9th, 2012 05:53 am (UTC)
:D

....I..I think I might have started shipping them.
kitty11chan
Apr. 11th, 2012 12:27 pm (UTC)
Oh dear.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )