Spoilers: For Auron's backstory. Set between the two pilgrimages.
Notes: Written for muggy_mountain. This is the first FFX fic I've written in awhile, the first time I've touched Kinoc in even longer, and it felt nice to get back to them both.
"Commander Kinoc? Sir?"
Kinoc turned to look at the young warrior monk officer who had followed him to the base of the stairway. "Yes, lieutenant?"
"Are you going in? You've been standing there for awhile. Sir," he added, an afterthought, as if realizing that the question was a bit impudent. But Kinoc decided to let it go.
Besides, the man was right. He had been standing here for a long time. And putting off his duty to come here for even longer. But he had been summoned to Guadosalam to meet with Maester Jyscal, which put him officially out of excuses. "Yes, of course," he said. "Lead the way."
The monk nodded, then stepped through the barrier. Before the shimmer could close behind him, Kinoc stepped through as well, striding up the stair with purpose, betraying no outward sign of his nerves. There was no need for the lieutenant, or anyone else, to know.
In truth, Kinoc had never cared for the Farplane and avoided the place whenever possible. Bevelle stank enough of death, especially in its upper echelons; there was no need to spend even more time contemplating it. But he climbed without hesitation, stepping up to the final platform and walking to the edge. The lieutenant was already there, waiting, and Kinoc laid a hand on his shoulder.
"If you have respects you wish to pay in private, please do so," he said.
The monk bowed his head. "My duty is to guard you, sir."
Kinoc smiled. "What harm could come to me here?" He waved his hand to indicate the half-dozen mourners present, none of whom had even looked at the warrior monks. "It'll be fine. Look, that niche over there is empty. I'll meet you there when I'm finished."
He could see the exact moment that the young monk decided to give in. "All right, sir," he said with a nod. "I'll see you shortly."
"Good lad." Kinoc patted the boy's shoulder. The lieutenant saluted and left. Kinoc let out a sigh of relief as he walked away, and then wondered why; with his guard's departure went his last pretense to avoid this duty, a duty he had successfully avoided for the last five years. He turned toward the edge of the platform and looked out into the distance, into the endless cataracts of the Farplane. Muted colors, pyreflies swirling up into the fog, the rushing of the waterfalls, the soft sobs and gentle comforting words of the living, all come to see family members, friends, compatriots, lovers.
Kinoc's relationship to the man he had come to see was considerably more complicated.
He had many other overdue respects pay first, however: to friends who had died under his command, to his grandparents, to his two older brothers, lost to the sea when Kinoc was just a boy, and to his father, stern and silent in his warrior monk garb. Kinoc spent the longest with him, studying his impassive face and wondering. Did he know what his youngest son had made of himself? Was he proud? Did he even care?
But the dead could not speak, and so Kinoc would never know. And that was probably just as well.
With a sigh, he let his father go, and then steeled himself for the next man to appear. Or not appear, as the case might be. Because in the end, that was why Kinoc had come here: he had to discover for himself whether there was any truth to reports that Auron, legendary guardian of High Summoner Braska, was not to be found on the Farplane.
It couldn't be true, Kinoc told himself, just as he had told himself a thousand times before. People were mistaken, making up the story for attention, hadn't known Auron well enough to call him forth. Very few people had known him, really. But Kinoc... well, they had a history, anyway. Allies, rivals, friends, enemies: they had been all those things to one another, all those and more. Would death have washed all that away? Maybe so, maybe not, but Kinoc was willing to bet that the old connection between them was still strong. So he closed his eyes and pictured his old friend, clear in his mind, dressed in the armor of a warrior monk. "Auron? Willing to let bygones be bygones?"
He opened his eyes, and saw nothing.
"I know you're probably still angry," Kinoc said, under his breath. "Hell, I can't even blame you. But I just... I need to know that you're here. That you're safe."
Still no response, no figure materializing out of the mists. No brash young officer in Yevonite armor, no disgraced guardian wearing a bright red coat, nothing but empty air. Kinoc's hands balled into fists at his sides, and his mind raced. If Auron hadn't died, then why hadn't he returned to Bevelle? Or Luca, or anywhere else? Surely if he were still alive, somewhere in Spira, someone would have seen him and reported back.
But he wasn't on the Farplane, either, or so it appeared. If Auron was neither dead nor alive... Could he be a fiend? No, Kinoc thought, not a fiend, nor Unsent -- Auron's faith, his strength of will, had been too powerful to lead him to either those fates. Which left only one possibly, a horror creeping in the back of his mind, hanging there ever since the Grand Maester had taken him into confidence and told him the truth of the Final Summoning, and taking firmer hold in the face of this new evidence.
"No." Kinoc stared hard into the aether, whispered Auron's name again, willed his friend to appear, prayed that his worst fears were not coming true. Yes, Auron had been a rival, and he had wanted his rival out of the way. And what Kinoc wanted, he usually got, because he did whatever was necessary to make it his. Power, respect, influence, rank, a command. And soon, he was certain, the robes of a Maester, so close he could almost feel their weight on his shoulders. But not like this. He had never wanted this.
On the other hand, what use was this surge of guilt rising in the back of his throat? It was not as though he had known the fate that could await a guardian in Zanarkand. No one knew, save the Maesters and a few trusted acolytes -- and perhaps, if the whispers were true, Jyscal Guado's son, the young Lord Seymour. He had made his choices based on the information he'd had at the time, and he found he could not regret them.
So he swallowed down the emotions and closed his eyes again, picturing Auron one more time. "Goodbye, my friend," he murmured. "I hope we do not meet again." And he turned his back on the empty space as he left, letting go of his memories, his grief, allowing only certainty in their place.
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