Yuna stepped out of the Celsius and onto the Highbridge, shading her eyes from the sun and squinting at the glare off Bevelle's highest tower. This, she thought, would likely never be her favorite place in Spira. Too many memories, mostly bad ones; a few good ones, but those hurt too, a little. But the High Summoner could never stay away from Spira's capital entirely, so she might as well make the best of it. And there were benefits to coming here.
Though she was not quite ready to admit that aloud.
"Ooooh look, there he is!" Rikku came up behind her and elbowed her in the ribs, and Yuna shook her head with a sigh. Never mind what she felt; it seemed that Rikku was more than happy to admit it for her. She wished Paine were here -- she would have been more discreet, and likely gotten Rikku to keep it down, too. But Paine was busy helping Nooj with new recruits to the Youth League, and so it was just Yuna and Rikku on this trip: Rikku to help with repairing ancient machina systems in the temple, while Yuna would meet with the New Yevon council. And Baralai.
Baralai, standing outside the gate in full dress robes, a guard on either side. Baralai, his dark brown eyes warm as he smiled, and bowed to them both. "Yuna, Rikku," he said. "Thank you for accepting my invitation."
"No problem." Rikku lifted her hand to her brow, tossing an irreverent salute in his direction. "Your message came just in time to get us out of Besaid before the Aurochs could rope us into another blitz season."
Baralai chuckled. "I do hope that our little problem holds your interest. Follow me?"
The guards stepped aside at Baralai's gesture, and Yuna walked through the heavy door that led into the temple courtyard, just behind Rikku as Baralai fell into step beside her. "So," she said. "How can we help?"
"It's the inner sanctum of the temple," he replied. "The Cloister of Trials. You are aware, I expect, that the Cloister in this temple made use of machina: elevators, moving walkways, force fields."
"Right." Yuna nodded. "But many of the mechanisms don't work anymore."
"Correct. After you Sent the fayth, the walkways ceased to function, as did most of the elevators. We installed a few new lifts, but the original machina remain frozen despite all our efforts. It seems that the fayth of Bahamut itself provided the power for the system. Rikku, we were hoping that you might be able to find a way to tap into the temple's old power systems and make them run again."
"Hmm. Maybe." Rikku looked thoughtful. "From what we saw in the subbasements and the Via Infinito, Bevelle must have plenty of working electrical systems."
Baralai nodded to her. "A few people with some small mechanical knowledge have been looking at it, but your assistance would be invaluable."
"Sounds like a good challenge." Rikku cracked her knuckles. "But then, why is Yuna here?"
"That was the council's idea." Baralai turned to Yuna with a solemn look and another small bow. "Who is more qualified to examine the inner workings of the temple than the High Summoner?"
She shrugged. "I don't know that I'm anyone special anymore, at least not as far as the temples are concerned, but I'm happy to take a look." She looked around, in search of familiar faces but saw none. "Is Isaaru in Bevelle? What does he think?"
Baralai shook his head. "Isaaru went back to Zanarkand with a delegation from the Guado, in search of a way to stabilize the Farplane."
She raised an eyebrow at him. "New Yevon has been busy," she said, infusing her words with an arch tone that she hoped was worthy of Paine.
Baralai chuckled, his eye twinkling at the imitation. "Indeed. We have allowed too many things to get away from us while the world was changing. Time to step forward with the rest of Spira, don't you think?"
"I do." Yuna emphasized her words with a strong nod. "And if I can help with that change in any way, so much the better."
"Good." His smile was warm, and she found the warmth spreading from her face to her chest and out to the tips of her fingers. He really was attractive. If only she felt right about flirting with him. If only she knew how to flirt with anyone. If only she could be certain which of these feelings were really hers.
She shook herself from her thoughts, realized she had been staring, and now the heat on her cheeks was from a blush. Behind her, she could hear Rikku's quiet giggle, and she looked away, mortified. "Nothing! Nothing, I was just... thinking. Shall we get started?"
They made their way into the old temple and to the room once known as the Maester's Court. It was this room where Yuna had faced the judgment of Maester Mika, all those years ago during her pilgrimage. The statues of summoners and guardians still loomed overhead, solemn stone eyes turned on the balconies below, and no one seemed to linger here, only a few men and women in robes and guard uniforms hustling through on their way to other places. In the center of the room was a lift, and that lift went both up to the temple spire and down to the inner sanctum. A woman was standing next to the rail, and she bowed to Baralai, then Yuna.
"A pleasure to meet you, my lady High Summoner," she said. "My name is Tavvi." She bowed to Rikku next. "You are the Lady Rikku? You and I will be working together on the schematics of the electrical system."
"You?" Rikku raised her eyebrows, looked closer, then jumped back. "Hey! You're Al Bhed!"
"In a sense," Tavvi replied. Yuna then noticed the other woman's hair was indeed blond, though darker than Rikku's, and her eyes bore the telltale swirl. "My parents were Al Bhed, but they converted to Yevon and moved to Bevelle before I was born. Influenced by your father, Lady Yuna," she added. "So I grew up here. I know a little more of machina than most in of New Yevon, but there's no way I can tackle a project this huge on my own. Which is why I asked to have someone with more experience called in."
Rikku pulled her shoulders back. "Then I guess I'm your girl. Okay, let see what's going on down there." She jumped onto the lift and beckoned Yuna to follow.
Yuna glanced over her shoulder at Baralai; it felt a bit odd to go into the temple's inner sanctum with someone who was not a guardian, and who had been an official of Yevon -- except for Paine, somehow Paine was different. But he smiled at her, encouraging, and so she stepped onto the lift and rested her hands on the rail. Tavvi and Baralai followed, and then the lift lurched up before it started gliding downwards into the mist. The Maester's Court disappeared around her, replaced by the dull glow of the Cloister. The glass walkways still flashed with geometric patterns, but they no longer moved, and the lights had dimmed. It was pretty, but that was all. The magic was gone, or the mechanism broken. Yuna wondered which it was.
The lift landed, and the four of them stepped out onto the platform. Tavvi gestured toward the right with her chin. "The control panels are behind us, back at the old main entrance beneath the temple spire. That's one of the lifts that broke, which is why we put in the one at Maester's court -- otherwise, we wouldn't be able to get in here at all. But they're powered with batteries; it's not a solution that will last forever."
Rikku unhooked a tool from her belt and tossed it in the air with a spin, then caught it . "Lead the way, and we can get cracking." The two Al Bhed turned and disappeared through a door; once they were gone, Yuna walked to the crumbling pedestal that rested on one of the landings.
It was just like the marble pedestals in all the temples, complete with the now-empty niches, each one sized to match the pale blue temple spheres. She raised an eyebrow at Baralai. "The spheres," she said. "Do you know what happened to them?"
"A team of Seekers took them," Baralai said. "Led by Nooj, if you can believe it, back when he was still working for New Yevon. They scoured all the temples when it was discovered that most of those spheres held recordings. Some were destroyed by Trema; others were taken by Nooj and the others who left to found the Youth League when they discovered the extent of his destruction. Regardless, none of them are here. When I asked Nooj about it, he said they had already lost their power to activate the Cloister's doors and pathways by the time he came."
"Ah." Yuna ran her finger along the curve of the niche; it came away covered in a fine dust. She looked around, took in the muted colors, heard the heavy silence in the air. A far cry from the glowing temple that had overwhelmed her on her quest for Bahamut, nearly three years ago. Out of habit as much as anything, she closed her eyes and listened for the fayth, but as always, there was no longer a reply. "I suppose we could try the Chamber of the Fayth."
Baralai gestured down one of the ramps. "Lead the way."
Yuna held the rail of the steep ramp as she walked down it, taking careful steps sideways -- this trek had been much easier when the walkways were still running. They reached the lift and rode to the top level without speaking, the soft thrumming of its mechanism dwarfed by the silence. When they arrived at the stairway, she jumped out, and he hesitated. She looked the question at him, and he spread his hands apologetically, then stepped forward. "I must confess, even after all this time, all that has happened, I still feel a trifle odd about being down here. I have been neither summoner nor guardian; there's a part of me that suspects that someone will strike me down the moment I take a step too far."
Surprised to hear him restate her own earlier thoughts about his presence, she had to fight back a giggle, and he smiled. "A bit silly, isn't it?"
"I think I understand," she said.
Baralai looked upwards, and Yuna followed his gaze overhead, to the coiling mists that obscured the ceiling and made the cavernous space seem far larger than it ought to have been. When he spoke again, his voice was soft. "Perhaps it's a sign that I'm still too tied to Yevon's past. And I suppose this is presumptuous of me, but I miss the fayth. The cycle of Sin was a horror and it was time for it to come to an end, for the fayth to be free. I know that. But it was comforting to know that they were watching over us, over Spira. Now they're gone, a gaping hole to the Farplane in their place, and after what happened down there last time..."
He closed his eyes and looked away, and Yuna remembered that it hadn't been so long ago that he was taken over by Shuyin and almost forced to destroy the world. She stepped closer to him, matched his hushed tones. "No one blames you for what happened."
He let out a sharp laugh, and his eyes hardened. "Could have fooled me. You'll see it, the looks on everyone's faces, when you come to the council meeting. It's like they're expecting me to snap and turn on them at any minute." He looked down at his hands and, flexing them, held them away from his body, as though he wasn't sure they properly belonged to him. "Sometimes, I wonder myself."
"I remember what that was like." Yuna put her hands behind her back and stared up at the glyphs on the ceiling, just flat paint now, no longer glowing with the pale blue light they had shared with the Bevelle spheres. "For the first year or so, after defeating Sin. My mind would sometimes get lost in the past, wandering through memories, searching through the empty places where the fayth once lived." She shook her head. "My friends worried that I might never come back."
They had reached the entry to the Chamber of the Fayth, and Baralai stepped up to the door, then turned to look at her. "What convinced them, in then end?"
Yuna smiled. "First I had to convince myself. I had to search for my past before I could find my future. Once I had done that, I was able to let them both go."
Baralai looked down at her, eyes bright. "How do you do that? How do you forget?"
"You don't forget." Yuna hesitated, then laid a hand on his arm, her fingers closing around the soft fabric. "You remember; you'll always remember. It's okay to look backwards sometimes. As long as you keep looking forwards as well." She squeezed his arm, then brought her other hand up to her heart. "My memories are in here, not in my way."
His answering nod was slow, thoughtful. "I think I understand." He turned to the doorway and squared his shoulders. "So, shall we see what's in there?"
Yuna considered Baralai, the shadows under his eyes, and remembered what it was like to see that darkness in a mirror. Then she shook her head. "We already know it's nothing. Memories won't power the machines. Let's go see how Rikku and Tavvi are doing. If there's a solution to be found here, it'll be with them, in the wires."
Baralai looked at the door, then back at her with a nod. "You're right. My lady, I thank you."
"You're welcome." As they walked back toward together, her hand stayed on his arm, warm and solid, and she found herself reluctant to let go.