Title: Love Her and Despair
Chapter 7: "We Interrupt This Broadcast"
Final Fantasy X
Characters: Isaaru, Maroda, Auron, Pacce, Elma, Lucil
Word Count: 2300
Summary: Arrival in Luca with more fanfare than one could wish.
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Map of Pilgrimage - Links to All Chapters
The Story So Far: Thirteen years after Yuna falls defeating Sin, Grand Maester Isaaru resumes his pilgrimage with his brothers, investigating rumors of Sin's return and a heretical Cult of Sin. After dealing with Sin-attacks on Besaid and Kilika, they arrive in Luca.
Despite Isaaru's pleas, Kiyuri insisted on flying Bevelle's banners for arrival in Luca. The grand maester would have his due, even if it dashed his hopes of slipping through the city quickly and quietly. Judging by the din from the docks, he would do neither. Other towns welcomed maesters with hymns and ceremonial. Only Luca could sprout souvenir stands and hawkers in the time it took for the S.S. Konna to hoist sails and put into port. Cheering crowds waved prayer flags. Sphere cameras flashed up and down the waterfront like so many pyreflies. Children clutched collectible summoner statues and played dueling aeons while waiting for the ship to dock. Over the general hubbub, the public address system blared a breezy patter, the local equivalent of pious homage.
"Ladieeees and gentleman, we'll return to the pre-game show shortly. But first, here's an exclusive update on today's developing news story. The S.S. Konna has arrived at Dock Three. We can now confirm that Grand Maester Isaaru is aboard. We repeat, Grand Maester Isaaru has arrived! We missed him at the High Summoner's festival, but he's joined us for Luca's most famous tournament, the Eleventh Annual Sir Tidus and Sir Wakka Memorial Cup! And it looks like all Luca's turned out to welcome the ruler of Yevon and the undisputed leader of Spira!"
"While we wait for the maester's party to disembark, Jimma, this is a good time to remind folks of the new security measures in place at the stadium for our fans' safety. All bags will be searched, and machina not approved by Yevon will be confiscated. Sphere cameras with Yevon's seal are permitted. If you're wearing goggles, please remove them as you approach the turnstyles."
Isaaru waved to the crowd placidly while the crew secured the moorings and lowered the ship's gangway. Maroda shook his head at the broadcast. "It's only going to get worse, the longer Sin's out there."
Isaaru nodded. "One more reason to be on our way."
"Some people are saying the Al Bhed are planning to attack Yevon," Pacce told Auron. "They've almost disappeared in the last year. The warrior monks say they're up to something."
Auron snorted. "Keeping out of Sin's path."
"We know that," Maroda said. "But the rest of Spira needs a scapegoat."
"The maesters know it too," Isaaru said firmly. "There will be no war between Yevon and those who should be our allies, Maroda, I promise you."
"That depends on your replacement," Maroda said. "I still think you shouldn't step down."
Captain Kiyuri, barking orders over her shoulder, careened between guardians and summoner. "Hey! Get that dock cleared before you drop a gangplank on someone's head!" She turned to Isaaru. "Almost ready, Your Grace. But I wish you'd reconsider. The repairs should only take a few days. Seal a few seams, replace a few beams— we can catch up to you in Djose, bring you the rest of the way home to Bevelle."
"Nay, Kiyuri, you've played your part. Mine is to tread the summoner's road. Yours to keep your ship intact. Your chances of that will be better without me aboard to draw Sin's ire. If you would yet serve Yevon, hasten to Bevelle and bring tidings to the other maesters. Tell them what we have seen of Sin and advise them to evacuate the citadel in preparation for an attack on the Tower of Light."
"Yes, Your Grace." She bowed. "We'll pray for you. And... you, there! Where'd you learn to coil a line like that, Besaid's weaving guild? It's rope, not a rug!"
Isaaru pinched the bridge of his nose and resumed waving, his smile fraying ever so slightly as the announcers' commentary washed over them.
"Lord Isaaru replaced Grand Maester Mika thirteen years ago at the beginning of High Summoner Yuna's Calm, and no maester has done more to restore Spira's confidence in Yevon. He's always on the move, visiting villages and ports to help Bevelle keep in touch with all of Spira."
"Speaking of High Summoner Yuna, wasn't Lord Isaaru a summoner himself once upon a time? No wonder he treats his maestership like a pilgrimage."
"That's right, Jimma! And by the way, it looks like his old guardians are with him today. The man with the tan is Maroda, captain of the Yocun Crusaders who've finally made the Calm Lands live up to their name. On the right is their little brother Pacce, fresh from training and a full-fledged warrior monk of Bevelle!"
"Quite an accomplishment at his age, Bobba. You know, by my calculations, he must have been less than seven years old the last time he was a guardian—"
"Stop puffing," Maroda muttered. "You look like a rutting chocobo."
"Do not!" Pacce said, glancing furtively to see how his hero was handling the publicity.
Auron seemed oblivious, slouching with his arm slung in his coat and a bored expression. He stirred when the gangway came to a stop. "Let's move."
Isaaru strode to the top of the ramp and paused for a sweeping bow, conferring Yevon's blessings on the crowd below. A spreading ripple of bows flowed out across the dock. At the foot of the gangway, an officer in a red uniform stood at attention, surrounded by a semicircle of Crusaders holding back the crush. Isaaru was spared the need for speechmaking by the loudspeaker crackling to life again.
"Hoooooold everything, folks, do you see what I see? It's the one, the only, the legendary Siiiiiiiir Auron, guardian to both High Summoner Braska and Lady Yuna, the most successful guardian in history!"
"He sure is, Bobba. It looks like Grand Maester Isaaru's pulling out all the stops to add 'High Summoner' to his resumé."
"I keep tellin' you, Isaaru," Maroda said. "Spherecasts use forbidden machina. For Yevon's sake, ban them."
"Your Grace," the waiting woman said, dissolving into a broad grin as they drew close. "About time you got here. Follow me, please. The general sent me to make sure you didn't get away."
"Thank you, Elma," Isaaru said. "Maester Lucil is here, I hope? We've much to discuss."
"Yes, sir. I hope you've got a speech ready, sir. She's expecting you at the stadium. There'll be time to talk once the game's started. This way, sir." Shooting Sir Auron a curious glance, Elma gestured for her Crusaders to surround them. She set off at a brisk clip.
Just in time: a reporter with a cameraman in tow was using a large microphone like a ship's prow to cleave a path through the crowd. "Your Grace!" she called after them. "We'd just like a quick interview... Lord Isaaru, please!"
"Don't look back," Maroda growled. "Whatever you do, don't make eye contact."
"I trust you to defend me, my brother," Isaaru said with serene dignity, "even from those who wield such fearsome machina."
"Phew," Pacce said as they broke free of the press of people on the dock. "Almost as bad as the field exam."
"Congratulations, by the way," Elma said.
"Thank you, ma'am!"
"You owe me fifty gil, Commander," Maroda said.
"Not until I see his sword-work for myself," she said affably. "Gotta make sure they didn't go easy on him for your sake."
"Like we'd pull any strings."
"No, but those machina-wielding sissies spend all their time playing temple doorposts and escorting dignitaries in places that never see fiends. They're probably terrified of Captain Maroda and his gang of Calm Lands thugs."
"Elma, please," Isaaru said in a low voice. "I lost several warrior monks on our voyage. Good men and women."
"Oh...dear. I'm very sorry, Your Grace."
"...Isn't this exciting, folks? And now we continue our live coverage of the opening ceremonies. Be sure to stay tuned at halftime for all the latest news on Besaid and Kilika. We'll have interviews with the crew of Lord Isaaru's vessel, including an exclusive eyewitness report giving a play-by-play of a guardian's epic battle with Sin!"
Elma raised an eyebrow. "Epic battle?"
"Sir Auron, of course," Isaaru said. "We'll tell you the whole story."
"You'd better. We feared the worst, Your Grace, when your ship didn't turn up for Lady Yuna's festival."
"Didn't you get my messages?" Isaaru said, dismayed. "A merchant promised to relay them. I pray he did not meet with some mishap!"
"We got 'em, sir, but the general was fit to be tied when she heard where you'd gone. If you hadn't turned up today, she'd have sent me after you as soon as the tournament was over."
Auron, who had been scanning the tide of faces flowing past, broke in. "Wakka. Is he here today?"
"Not that I've heard, sir," Elma said. "The tournament was named for him and Sir Tidus, but he's not been seen in Luca in twelve years. Don't you know where he is?"
"We... parted ways after the pilgrimage."
"Ah." Elma frowned and exchanged glances with Maroda, who shook his head.
Isaaru was starting to lag behind. "Commander," he called, "not all of us are trained to keep up with chocobos."
"Oh! Pardon me, sir." She dropped back a few paces. "Wish I could've met you with some birds, but there just isn't room for 'em in town."
For a time they were carried along by the late crowd rushing to the stadium, until a jam outside the entrance caused another check. Elma veered off and led them around to a side door, surprising a sentry. "Miyu— yep, we've picked up a stray maester. Have stadium security on full alert. Don't let Shaami and her reporters in here. Use batons if you have to— this way, Your Grace!"
Isaaru masked his fatigue when they emerged from the stairwell into a barrage of sound. While the crowd's roar threatened to shake loose the forcefields holding the sphere pool suspended, the beaming maester led the way around the stadium's perimeter. He paused now and again to grasp someone's hand or bless a toddler held out to him. In front of the maesters' box, he stopped once again to shake hands with all the team captains before they exited to their locker rooms. Finally he mounted the dais where Lucil stood waiting, fist raised in a military salute despite the maester's robes she now wore. Her eyes flicked from Isaaru to those behind him, resting a beat on Sir Auron. She bowed stiffly and pushed herself away from the podium, inclining her head towards it. Elma moved unobtrusively to her side and escorted her to her seat. Isaaru strode forward confidently and took Lucil's place.
"People of Spira! Glad indeed are my brothers and I that we could be with you today by the blessing of Yevon, despite Sin's obstructions." Murmurs swirled around the stadium. "I will not keep you long from the day's festivities. But I have heard your pleas in my travels, and I understand your fear. Therefore it is my humble honor to announce that I will be stepping down as maester in order to resume my pilgrimage. In Yevon's name, I vow to do all that lies in my power to shield you and serve you as Lady Yuna and her noble father did before. With Sir Auron and my brothers at my side, I have no doubt we shall succeed." He raised his hands, waiting for the roar to ebb.
"But for today, even the rigors of pilgrimage should be set aside to honor the glory of blitzball and the celebration of life which is Luca's finest art. I'm sure that Sir Tidus and Sir Wakka, who once played in this very stadium, would say that the game is another form of courage in Sin's despite.
"Last but not least, it is my great delight to introduce to you a man who needs no introduction, mentor to Sir Tidus and guardian to Lady Yuna and Lord Braska, the legend himself. Sir Auron, would you care to share a few words with us about your fellow guardians, in whose honor today's tournament is named?"
Auron gave him a withering look and stepped forward into the range of the microphone. "Two," he said. "As Wakka and Tidus used to say before battle: 'Let's blitz.'"
A thunderous burst of applause crashed over them. Isaaru sank into the seat next to Lucil. Guardians fanned out on his right while Elma's Crusaders sealed off the left side of the platform. The buzzer sounded. Lucil turned to Isaaru as the match began.
"Resigning, my lord? That idea should have been broached first with your fellow maesters. But I am glad to see you and your brothers in one piece, and Sir Auron as well."
"My apologies, General, but there wasn't time. Sin's stepped up its attacks. Besaid is gone. Kilika was spared, apart from the temple. We fear Djose will be the next target."
"If so, it will pass here first." Lucil glanced at Elma.
"The watch is on full alert, ma'am. We'll know the instant Sin shows so much as a scale."
"Very good, Commander. All right, my lord, tell us your tale."
Next Chapter: Best-Laid Plans
Illustration: by auronlu (Full-sized)
NPC Trivia: Shaami is the reporter filming Yuna before the blitz tournament and doing a post-game wrap afterwards in FFX. The announcers here (Jimma and Bobba) are the Luca announcers in the original game. Miyu is a very minor npc at the Moonflow, a Crusader who survived Operation Mi'ihen.
Originally posted (as Chapter 9): Jul 4, 2008 (comments)