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To Love & Lost

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(Warnings: T, crash depiction]


Mousy brown hair spilled in sheets over her shoulders, suspended and unmoving as meditative breath seeped in inhales through her nostrils, exhales through lips only slightly ajar. Utilizing breathing exercises she’d learned in her youth as an ambitious young summoner, the quiet she felt in the Chamber of the Fayth was eerie without the dulcet refrains of Valefor inundating the air with perpetual, dreaming hymns. In a moment of impasse, her mismatched eyes opened to the pulsating stone, an aura of gold that shone upon an empty, unpainted relief. Following the ragged crags in the stone, fissures made it appear far, far older than it had looked just years ago. Yuna’s hand reverently touched the glass, remembering the aeon that had beget from it, the precious being she’d first gained on her first Pilgrimage, still bowed over it in worshipful prostration. It was difficult to believe it’d been three years since then, and only one prior from the horrors of Vegnagun that had been staunched only months ago.

The priestess was haunted, her expression seeming nearly vacant as the voices she’d been shutting out entered through her periphery; argumentative, alarmed voices that bespoke of what she’d seen on the Moonflow just days before with a boy who would’ve become a summoner and a girl who worked for the Spiran Council. Her heels clicked as she arose, sleeveless kimono wound by a simple obi that seemed reminiscent of her own summoner days fanning from her, its simplicity and muted blue palette better reflecting the sobered woman she’d become since even her adventurous self just a year before. Yuna’s hair was longer, reaching past her shoulder blades sans the long queue had been worn before. She looked more mature, yes, but in this moment she felt more like her seventeen year old self than she had in years. Sin was back, but the fayth weren’t—it made sense that she would.

“Yuna, I’m glad you could come,” Lulu greeted from the sparse bench she’d seated herself on when Yuna arrived at Lulu's homestead minutes later, smiling quietly and speaking in her level, husky intonation—perhaps to the benefit, too, of a sleeping Vidina she cradled on her lap and the sheaf of papers she was dexterously signing with her free hand. Occasionally, she tossed one of her braids again over her shoulder when it cascaded too far. However, when Yuna lowered herself into a cushion, the scratch work of the quill paused and silence fell over the women.

“I’m going to fight Sin again. I have to,” Yuna said without greeting, hands clasped anxiously together, lifting her gaze to match intently with the former Guardian’s, lips pursed and pensively working as though she were trying to resist standing up to formally bow in apology, Lulu assessing that much as well. “I saw it. Exactly how it used to be. And...I know. I have to fight it, even if I go alone.”

“You won’t be alone, Yuna,” the mage gently chided, reaching across as subtly as she could to perch a hand on the former summoner’s shoulder. “I just don’t know if Wakka or I will be able to come with you this time. Have you spoken about this with Rikku, Tidus—the rest of the Gullwings yet?”

Yuna uttered a distinctly hopeless sigh, her head shaking. “Rikku I think would come, maybe Paine, but… I don’t know where Tidus is. We...had an argument almost a week ago, in Bevelle.” The argument where she’d lied through her teeth, claimed that they’d grown apart, when in fact she was scared. Even with Yunalesca perished, the means to this end a mystery, part of the priestess was still terrified that he’d be used as a countermeasure like in the creation of Final Aeon. That the one closest to her would have to be sacrificed. Chuami had accused her of focusing too much on her relationship woes rather than the dire problem at hand, when the girl couldn’t be farther from the truth. She just didn’t want to have to sacrifice the one she loved, something Tidus had taught her to rebel against. But now, stymied as to where he could even be through this new insurrection, she feared the worst. “I think...we both knew he couldn’t stay. I just didn’t think it’d happen so soon,” Yuna confided, hands clenching together.

“You don’t have time to be looking for him, Yuna. You need to focus on helping Spira vanquish Sin once more.” Noting Yuna’s melancholy, Lulu amended, “You’ll just have to look for him along the way.”

The brought the priestess’ gaze back up again, Yuna smiling with a blossoming sense of resolve. “You’re right. With everything going on, I have to be strong. Thank you, Lulu.” Even if it couldn’t staunch the foreboding sense of dread fluttering in her breast that Tidas really was gone.

And she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to get him back this time.


Being aboard the Celsius again felt as reassuring as returning to Besaid, somehow. When she'd called, they'd come running;her old Gullwings family back to help her save the world. The airship had felt like a secure, if stylish, aerial fortress that was more solid than immobile stone or tents canvassed in material that felt so flimsy in the wake of Sin’s return. As the gears of the lift whirred and florescent lights passed brightly over her countenance, when the door lifted and the bridge was within sight, instead she was greeted by a wild mane of blonde hair.

“Yunie!” her cousin cried out in enthusiastic greeting, Yuna just having caught her in the nick of time for an engulfing hug. Even Rikku’s ensemble had matured, the freshly-turned nineteen year old clad in a clay-toned leather sheath bound by several clasps from throat to the dress’ hem, yellow chaps tethered around her legs and overlapped by thigh-high brown boots and partially over the dress while her old, puffy sleeves remained as a leftover from her Thief dressphere, her hair kept in a single, loosely bound thick braid instead of the tangled mane from before. Yuna couldn’t help but laugh, feeling welcomed all at once, Brother whooping from the bridge whilst Buddy tactfully reminded him to keep his eyes forward so long as the Celsius wasn't on autopilot. Even the reserved Shinra waved from his seat, hands perched on its back like the kid his intelligence belied he still was.

To think, the last time they’d seen each other was scaling the heights of Iutycyr Tower almost a whole year ago, and then it had been tense. But as Spira rallied around a new cause, it would seem that inseparable bond all them knew existed in some capacity had magnetized them together once again.

“You look so different! You look like, like—“ Rikku began jubilantly, voice gregarious until it quelled, smiling sheepishly and gazing away, “like Lenne.” Yuna could only smile distantly, nodding. She had taken on more aspects of the ancient songstress than she’d thought, hadn’t she? Almost fitting considering she and Tidus were almost perfect mirror reflections of the ancient couple. She only hoped their fate wouldn’t be shared.

Even if Tidus was… No, she didn’t want to think about it. Yuna didn’t want her resolve broken.

“I know,” Yuna acceded quietly and tersely, Rikku tepidly peeling herself away as though she’d been the human embodiment of flypaper. “Is Paine on board?”

“Nuh-uh. She’s been with the Spiran Council a whole lot lately, helping Baralai and Nooj and stuff. Kinda like how you have with the Yevoners.” The Al Bhed girl visibly crinkled her features at that, as if she’d inhaled a whiff of a Marlboro’s noxious plumes. Yuna smiled tensely, expecting that Rikku wouldn’t have taken too well with the news. For all the progress they’d made, from Yevon to its progeny, it would likely take the blonde a few Calms’ worth of acclimating to this reality. Especially where her cousin was involved. You’d think her first and only Pilgrimage would’ve shaken away the last of it, but...she’d been wrong. Now more than ever the familiar was what Spira needed, for now.

“Oh, well, it least we—“ Yuna didn’t have time to finish the sentence as the Celsius suddenly plunged forth, Brother shouting garbled Al Bhed whilst both girls yelped in surprise, clutching together as they bounced like rubber before smacking harshly against the thick, metallic threshold encompassing the corridor. Yuna cried out as they stopped, body thrashing with the metal before a moment of vertigo harshly realigned her senses when Brother shouted out, the dizzy emerald swirls of his eyes fixated ahead of them, Yuna scampering to her feet to see while Rikku dizzily used her cousin as a crutch while she calibrated. Before them, the familiar, enormous snout of Sin seemed poised within the distance with its rostrum just a kilometer from the Celsius. The myriad eyes embed into its tough, wrinkle-whorled hide swerving without focus before honing in unison upon the loudly decaled, crimson airship. Yuna froze with anticipation, remembering the last time they’d been so close to Sin. Her mind raced, wondering who it was incarnated as this time, fingers ghosting over her garment grid to engage the Floral Fallal as if they were on the deck, everything so painfully familiar.

“Rikku! Yuna! Rumt uh du cusadrehk!” Brother called over the deafening, cauterizing screech of metal as an artificial gravitational pull insistently favored against the strain of the Celsius’ engines, Brother fighting tooth and nail to pilot it away before an extreme was favored.

“We’re going to have to make a nosedive! It’s the only way we’ll be able to utilize the Celsius’ weight as counterweight against Sin’s hold on us!” Buddy informed them above the cacophony, the blast of cobalt jettisons from the oscillating fore-mechanisms working at overdrive to achieve the crazy plan Buddy had concocted. Even Yuna could see that the only thing that could possibly save them was the trademark ingenuity and inventiveness of the Al Bhed, to put in euphemistically. Yuna and Rikku reflexively embraced one another, their hands clenching at the exposed piping and meshes of wires roped strung within the bridge corridor.

At the very last minute, Shinra sprinted towards the two and both girls engulfed him in their embrace, protectively so. While Rikku buried her head with Shinra’s for cover, only Yuna craned far back enough with a strained expression, brows furrowed deep as a lingering view of the brown, craggy texture of Sin’s hide lurched sidelong with each violent sway of the airship, they weightless in these moments before the final drop would come.

Yuna’s stomach floated weightlessly into her throat as they plunged into a free-fall, gravity light as the inertia dragged them incrementally backwards from its sheer momentum and velocity. Rikku whimpered as she clung tightly to Yuna, their legs crumpled beneath them as leather failed for purchase, skidding were it not for the vice both girls maintained until their knuckles blanched. The scream of wind rose in cacophony as the speed accelerated and the disembodied howl of a tortured Farplane emanated from Sin, and even in that split second she knew something was different, was wrong. But there would be no time to think as she bit her tongue until it bled, they all unbelievably silent as the lamenting wail of the dead screamed in horrified unison for them.


It could have been to easy to make believe it was the prelude of another sleepy dawn, that she’d find a face full of sunlight asleep and snoring softly with tufts of flaxen locks pressed against her face as they’d awake a tangle of warm limbs and innocent giggles at what state they’d found themselves in this time. Nose rubbing against nose before she’d awake, sometimes questioning who really embodied the sun and moon. Whatever the answer was, neither would argue for or against the fact most mornings saw them some shade or another of happiness.

This time, she awoke to plumes of smoke and morning fog skirting across her field of vision a bleary eye could manage, a single eyelid cracking open as her body halted itself against any sudden movements. Yuna groaned and with it, stones slammed upon her joints and breath struggled into her lungs, dust and smoke taking precedence as each loud and dusty cough made her body spasm in pain, a paroxysm of it that awakened her fully to consciousness in the worst way possible. The priestess gathered her legs beneath her, gasping the incantation for Cura that flooded pristine white light in an undulating wave over her. It was enough to cure the worst of her, sometimes a superficial panacea for wounds that ran deeper. But it was enough as she dusted away pebbles that had embed in her skin, rivulets of blood cauterized whilst her sleeveless kimono was torn in places. Sharing material with the halved skirt she’d worn with the Gunner dressphere, it wasn’t hard to see why.

As she wobbled to stand, it was what had become to the Celsius that awed her—and not for the better. The mechanized fore that resembled a duel-axis motorcycle on enormous dials had collapsed, one toppled over in a heap over underbrush while the other towered uneasily from the canopy of what could only be a forest. The fuselage was collapsed in a deep depression, as if a hammer had smashed roughly on the hood. From the earthbound view did Yuna seem impossibly small, her chest cold with fear as she wondered what had become of Rikku, Shinra, and the others. The Celsius was utterly trashed in the wake of its own destruction, the priestess’ mind frantic as she worked where they could’ve possibly gone. Or, worse still, what had happened. It was with a distant and numb shock that Sin swam through the beginning of the stars as night fell, through a weightless sea as it moved more effortlessly than any airship before. Tail undulating and fins propelling its direction, she felt tears bead angrily within her eyes.

“It’s—the same exact same as before. Nothing has changed, e-except—“ Yuna stammered to herself, collapsing to her knees. She scrubbed her eyes from the tears that doomed them, smearing dust and soot across her light skin. Except that she was alone. Clenching her teeth, she resolutely stood, cupping her hands around her mouth and yelling after Rikku, Shinra, Brother, Barkeep—all of them as her voice seemed to blend with the thick plumes of smoke that obfuscated they very sky, it dyed a milky, cloudy gray that sickly framed the silhouette of the destroyed airship.

Her heels crunched on charred underbrush and the enormous clouts of loam and stone that had been upset from their haphazard fall from the sky, recognition alighting on Yuna’s features blearily making out just where they were. She reckoned it was early morning, at least, and by the spurs of a mountain pocketed by gorges and high plateaus. The Calm Lands that had been shaken from their names temporarily. Her hair billowed from behind as the woods of Macalania rose twisted and crystalline into the sky, but...something seemed different with them. Different than they’d been following the coming of her Eternal Calm, of how they’d been irreparably fading as a result of the fayth fading. But, with all that had occurred, was that the case any longer?

“Y-Yunie…!” A guilty jolt made the priestess realize she’d been lost in a daze when the most prominent of her priorities had been neglected. The woman ran as fast as she could towards the voice, realizing it was Rikku just a meter or two away from the fuselage. With her synthesist abilities, it was easy to deduce that she’d composed a concoction that had restored her health even if both women were still dusty and caulked with mud from the botched landing. Rikku herself trotted towards her cousin, both girls embracing from sheer relief for a moment before Rikku urgently plead, “Yunie, we have to find them! We’ve gotta find a way on board the Celsius!” Yuna glanced up at the ship, face sympathetically drawn. Her feelings were mutual. After the destruction of Home, the loss of her cousin and so many people she had never gotten the opportunity to meet, the thought of losing Brother or Buddy and Shinra, who had become an impromptu family, made her heart lurch. But, her breast burned with fortitude as she placed both her hands on the shorter girl’s shoulders.

“Come on, Rikku. We’ll find them, promise.” Rikku nodded, gnawing her lower lip in worry. Even if Yuna was more reserved with her emotions, she felt exactly the same as Rikku did. Managing to climb and leap their way atop the fuselage, the view was hardly stellar. It really did look like something out their machina excavations and it gave Yuna a sinking feeling—moreso than how wretched both girls already felt with Sin’s resurrection. Thy picked their way through the collapsed hatch, using both leverage and Rikku’s machina know-how in order to manipulate it enough for both to squeeze through. Though the inside was pitch dark, save for some exposed wires sparking caustically and lights that flashed eerily. A Fire spell ignited and maintained in Rikku’s palm allayed the worst of it.

“Shinra!” she suddenly cried, the flame suddenly extinguished as Rikku hurriedly dashed towards the prone boy with Yuna in tow, a Phoenix Down and Hi-Potion shed in order to progressively revive him. Both women were on their knees, Yuna turning him gently on his back to cradle him in her arms, a maternal instinct admittedly flaring as both anxiously awaited for him to awake. If there was something they could be grateful for, however, years of adventuring had stocked them generously with abilities and replete items that could keep them going for quite some time.

“Hngh...Yuna?” the boy managed, hand foggily coming to touch his helmet. “...I think the CommSphere broke.” Yuna smiled at this, glad that it seemed he’d made it through fairly unscathed. Proved by his primary thought since awakening regarded his technology, even as Rikku hovered over them both.

“Shinra, did you see Brother and Buddy at all?” Rikku asked after him, eyes wide and worried and lip being chewed as though she might bite it off through her worries. The boy shook away the after-healing clouds in his mind, lifting himself up.

“I’m just wondering how we ended up like this. By the looks of it, you and Yuna landed outside the Celsius, and I’m up here. That shouldn’t have been possible. Unless there’s something behind it? Like, some kind of interference.”

“Wait, so does this mean Buddy and Brother could be anywhere? What about Barkeep?” Rikku pressed, hands clenched into fists at her collar, knuckles blanching from her worry.

Yuna gazed thoughtfully down, realizing that Shinra could really be on to something. “Sin transported Jecht, Sir Auron, and even Tidus from Dream Zanarkand. Maybe the same happened to us even if it wasn’t for as far,” she deduced thoughtfully, even the Al Bhed boy folding his arms contemplatively.

“That could have happened. We did get extremely close to Sin, after all,” Shinra agreed. Yuna nodded, distantly wondering if that hadn’t been what happened to Tidus. Even if it wasn’t the time to be wondering about it, her heart still clenched with worry over him, over all this.

“Alrighty, we have an idea! Why don’t we split up? Yunie, how about you go look outside? Shinra and I oughtta look inside the airship, just in case! Y, R...um, S! Let’s boogie!” Rikku crowed, posturing her hand before her and expectantly waiting for Shinra and Yuna to stack theirs over hers, Yuna doing so without needing prompting and with a huge smile, no less. She remembered how her old Pilgrimage had been filled with smiles and laughter despite the pain, how her Gullwings days had been full of fun despite the threat of Vegnagun. Why should this be any different?

Shinra regarded them in bemusement before joining in, more reserved like how Paine had always been. “1, 2, 3—go!” Rikku counted, pumping their hands up and down before releasing and shooting them up like fireworks, hopping between her feet as Shinra still seemed dubious.

“Shinra, what’s wrong?” Yuna took notice, worry gently circulating across her face, leaning down some to gaze eye-level with the boy. Rikku grew quiet and twiddled her thumbs, wanting to bolt off and begin their search however they could.

Glancing up at her, he confided, “I don’t like what’s happening, Yuna. I have a bad feeling about this.”

“What can be worse than divebombing from an airship and crash-landing? You worried about Sin? Trust us, Yunie and I are Sin experts,” Rikku interjected, braided hair animatedly bouncing with the firm nod she gave. Her smile was there, but they’d be lying if both women didn’t share that fear. For it truly was different this time. They seemed as anxious as they’d been after rejecting Yunalesca and the act necessary to create the Final Aeon. Even if the solution had come later, this time was different. There were no aeons, and it seemed totally unclear as to how Sin had been beckoned in the first place. Yu Yevon had needed aeons to possess and souls to amass, but there had been no Final Aeon for him to manipulate. Unless...no, she didn’t even want to think it.

Shinra took notice of Yuna’s recession into her thoughts, pointedly glancing at Rikku. “The last time you took down Sin, Yuna had aeons for Yu Yevon to possess until you wore away at the final defense he had. How are you going to defeat it this time without them?”

“Who did he possess it order to make Sin so...real?” Yuna wondered aloud in lieu of that thought, matching gazes with the boy.

However, Rikku shook and shattered their thoughts, stamping her feet and clapping her hands loudly between their faces. “Um, hello, earth to Yuna and Shinra?! We have to find Brother, Buddy, and Barkeep! Can’t this wait?!” The other woman huffed, taking Shinra by his arm and leading him insistently away. “Geez, you’d think you both were swamped with Sin toxin by how off you’re being!”

Rikku was right, in a way. It wasn’t like her to be so despondent when such an emergency was still paramount. “I’m sorry, Rikku!” she called after the girl, both tinkering with the elevator shaft in order to at least open the hatch, knowing they might be in for a climb ahead of them, not receiving a reply from the blonde.

Ever since that last mission they’d embarked on together half a year ago, things just hadn’t been the same between them. Even if Rikku wasn’t the sort of person to hold on to a grudge, what had been said still stung and dredging up those revelations had exposed them; the wounds inflicted still smarted and scarred. Yuna joining the Yevoners hadn’t made it any easier, that likely a sorer spot than even that argument. After what they’d gone through for Spira, Rikku wanted nothing to do with Yevon or its resurgence and Yuna couldn’t blame her. That didn’t make her want them to be any more distant, however.

It was times like these Yuna wanted to take Tidus’ old advice and just yell. Loud and long and into some great expanse of sky. She didn’t let these thoughts deter her search, however. Leaping from the sunken in fuselage muzzle, the decals trailed behind her as she began her search. Overturning hunks of steel and stone and calling out their names, those calls were fueled by her consternation and worry. In a way, she was yelling like Tidus had at Kilika Temple, only it coming out as her friends’ names. Minor spells of Fire burned away detritus while Blizzard and Watera quenched minor flames still fumigating in the wreckage. The damage that had been dealt was enormous, noticing they’d been precariously perched on a cliff side that leaned into the beginnings of Macalania Woods, a wellspring of nostalgia flowing just from sighting its chilly crystal borders.

“Lady Yuna! Is that you?” Yuna finished overturning a slab of metal plating, it collapsing noisily upon rubble before she turned, almost melting with relief when she saw who it was.

Just dismounting from his armored chocobo, Clasko had barely changed over the three years she’d come to know him. Plucky, hard-working and dedicated, the former Chocobo Knight had graduated on to becoming a chocobo breeder and the venture had paid off. Chocobos had been in resurgence, now more for the sake of pleasure than practicality as most Spirans utilized machina transportation anymore. But in the time of Sin’s return, much of her knew that they’d find use once again.

“Oh, hello Clasko,” she greeted politely, inclining her head whilst managing a weak smile, imagining she still looked somewhat worse for wear. The wreckage of the Celsius would only confirm that.

“Lady Yuna, I’m glad you’re alright! I heard the crash and came as fast as I could. Some people from Rin’s Travel Agency doubled over, and they’re with me, too.”

Yuna’s face brightened with relief, clasping a hand she held at her breast, bowing low and deep. “Thank you, Clasko! Thank you. I’m sorry we had to reunite like this, but with everything going on...” Shaking her head, she backpedaled. “Have you seen Brother or Buddy, or maybe a hypello? His name is Barkeep, and...” Her face fell, wringing her hands together.

“Sin is back, Clasko. The reason we crashed is because of it. We tried to evade its pull, but—this happened. I’m sorry,” she said quietly after a long moment, head bowed from her abject shame. Even if the crash hadn’t been her fault directly, somehow it felt like it was.

Clasko neared her, scratching the nape of his neck as he bit his lip, unsure of what to say. Seeing her forlorn expression, the man forcefully smiled and cheerily said, “No need to worry, Lady Yuna! Things are different now, aren’t they? Spira isn’t like how it used to be. With everyone as united as they are, we’ll take down in Sin in no time at all! Just watch, you’ll see!”

Yuna worked up a small smile, nodding. “You’re right. I’m sorry for doubting, Clasko.”

The brunet softened his expression, adding, “In fact, I was just on my way to Bevelle to transport these chocobos to the reforming Crusaders. Apparently, there’s a lot of old branches of the Youth League reverting into new chapters. I’m gonna join again, this time as a chocobo supplier. Heck, don’t be too surprised if you see the Chocobo Knights racing down Mi’ihen Highroad like before.” Even his chocobo mount warked, bouncing between its feet as the bipedal avian voiced its agreement.

This voice alone of confidence was enough to reapply herself to the search, smiling gratefully at the breeder. “Thank you, Clasko. Could you maybe give me a lift to Macalania Woods’ border? I’d be grateful, and I want to try searching for them there.”

“Anything for you, Lady Yuna,” the man acceded with a hearty nod, offering his hand as he helped her mount, joining her from behind and spurring the chocobo at a steady canter before it fluttered from the precarious cliff and down the path that would lead to Macalania.

If there was any place to begin her search, it was here. At the place where so many things seemed to tie together.


 

Chapter Text

 

(Warnings: T, graphic battle depiction]


Whatever ominous feeling had been welling it Yuna, it was poignant now more than ever. The priestess carefully toed her way into the woods, of the perpetual vale of an amethyst and sapphire twilight, twisting veins of crystal grown to mimic bark ensconcing enormous, spherical vessels of light whilst silvery leaves obfuscated the sun except that which was ushered down below with a lunar filtration. Something didn't feel right, and much of her questioned what had occurred since last she'd ventured in. It must've been about a year ago when she did, when Bayra had informed her that the woods would die within days, if not months, because of the fayth's absence. But walking here, she could see the inverse was true. The crystal spires grew taller than ever, perhaps more so than when she'd last remembered. Spots of sky could be discerned back then, but the leaves grew in clouts so thick no sunlight could trespass any longer through the boughs, the floating fractals giving the canopy the illusion of it being a night sky more than before.

It made her wonder: had the fayth been reawakened, too?

With the woods abandoned by the guado whom had ventured back to reclaim their home of Guadosalam, many of the musician species either incognito or staying away from sight, the woods were eerily silent. But, even Yuna knew better than to think that. She stopped short when an apparition teased from the sidelines, her focus towards finding Barkeep, Brother, and Buddy temporarily halted when she saw what appeared to be a guado woman beckon to her, only to dash away towards Macalania Spring, the wellspring of sphere water that shone pale and stark and blue in her memories.

Why a woman was here, she couldn't say. Even with Tromell's efforts to rejoin the guado with with the rest of Spira, even without being overtly xenophobic they were as reclusive as ever. "Hello?" Yuna ventured when she came to the font proper, the tree fixated as a focal point where a spherical bloom of light was centered, outlining the silhouette of the guado woman even more starkly.

The woman turned, and Yuna balked somewhat, but softened her features. For all the guado had done, Yuna had found it in herself to forgive as much of them as she could, despite being responsible for Home's destruction and the near annihilation of the Ronso. Her elfin face and upturned nose contrasted with the thick locks of aquamarine hair that grew in a shock from her scalp, elongated fingers clasping joyously together. Even though Yuna seemed confused, she supposed it wasn't unheard of for the guado to linger in Macalania.

"M'lady, thou art far from Guadosalam! Thy lord-husband would be most distressed to see thee venture so far," the woman began, confusion knitting her brow as they furrowed together. Smiling encouragingly, she continued, "Aye, Lady Cydia, 'tis only a matter of time 'til you must leave, nay? With thy son to the Isle of Baaj..." Her intonation suddenly became low and quiet, clasping her hands together with her pale face becoming crestfallen.

"Um, excuse me? Lady Cydia?" Yuna repeated, folding her arms in bemusement, growing worried.

"Aye, 'tis thy name, is it not? Mayhap sleep hath escaped thee too much, m'lady. Aye...t'would be understandable. 'Tis such a cruel hand fate hath conspired against thee..." she sighed, Yuna's chest twinging with a creeping realization as to who Cydia was. If it wasn't said frankly enough, Anima's fayth came into remembrance, and there was a dawning sense of shock—with her longer hairstyle and the clothes she wore, blue with the lightened skirt, she could've passed for Cydia, couldn't she? She swallowed down this fact, trying hard not to think of the man it brought inevitable connotations with.

"I'm sorry, but I'm not Cydia. I think there's been a misunderstanding," Yuna apologized, smiling apologetically even as the guado's face fell, shattered as if a stone had been thrown at a pane of glass. Cydia. The words the fayth had spoken to her, the actions she'd seen recorded by the pyreflies in Zanarkand, it all made her chest ache. Above all, all she could really quantify was that they were left with as gaping an unknown as it'd previously been. All she knew was that she was meant to search for Brother and Buddy above all else, before she could scramble together some shreds of a plan. With Wakka and Lulu preoccupied with Besaid, she couldn't think of petitioning them, either.

Three places stood out among her mind as to where she could go for answers, all of them cloying and clawing through her breast. Urgency took a tailspin and she felt as though a fire of guilt and nervousness had been lit.

"Prithee, I beg thee—please, forgive me. I did not mean to mistake thee, child, but thy countenance—" The guado choked on a sob, sinking to her knees as her enormous hands engulfed Yuna's for some scrap of comfort. She coldly realized that these were not the hands of someone living. "Isa is my name, dear. I beseech of thee—please, do not forget it."

A long moment passed and she placed her hand on Isa's shoulder, shuddering with wet sobs. "I won't, I promise. I...hope you find Lady Cydia. And that everything goes alright for you," Yuna consoled, visage visibly gentling in spite of the shock that still lingered in her mismatched eyes.

"Thank thee..." the unsent woman whispered gustily, her sobs quelling before pyreflies began seeping from her body, their iridescent glamour shining as they faded into the stars, her silhouette becoming progressively opaquer before fading away completely, released as pyreflies and drifting away. Yuna sighed as she stood, gaze still fixated on where the woman had been standing. These weren't illusions anymore, were they? Ghosts with physical forms, able to touch and feel and seem as alive as anyone until they were sent or finally released themselves from what had bound them in the first place. The wellspring glittered an an unnatural glow sourced from below the water, trickling waters that burbled and filled the silence in her place.

Buddy, Brother, Barkeep. Those three names were resolutely set in her mind once more, nodding firmly to herself. She had to find them—this mystery would just have to be tucked away until she could find herself able to deal with it again.


Being too unnerved from what she'd witnessed, concluding that Macalania wasn't the place to look for now, it was with brooding steps that she returned to the wreckage. At the very least, she knew Brother and Buddy weren't likely there. The pair tended to be gregarious, and even after the calamity of their crash, there would be at least a fit of passion from Brother. He'd been the very same after Home's destruction, sadness unable to linger long on him. Externally, at least.

The trip back was fairly uneventful, save for a few encounters with churls and even some chimera, the fiends being relatively sparse. Yet, even a few scales from Sin spawn had been decimated, likely the consequence of the other day and with how Sin always shed fiends with it. Thankfully, the years spent fighting unimaginable threats had fostered strength in her, power that existed outside even the aeons; exactly the thing she needed in order to persevere.

The wreckage of the Celsius was outlined in a sheen of bright orange, likely the sunset that was coloring even the cliff walls with a burning tinge. She didn't even need to bother rounding the aircraft before a blast of static spooked her, fumbling through her obi and procuring her CommSphere. "Yuna? Shinra to Yuna, do you read?" came the boy's familiar voice, muffled by spurts of static.

She couldn't help but smile despite their situation, responding, "Yep, this is Yuna, reporting for duty, sir!" with a chipper note.

"We were able to find Barkeep, but...that was it. Did you have luck finding Buddy or Brother?"

Yuna sighed sadly, bowing her head. "...I haven't. I'm sorry, Shinra." The silence that followed was deafening, until a brief spat heard Shinra's CommSphere being snatched up, likely by Rikku.

"Heya, Yunie, don't you worry about it! Buddy and Brother are Al Bhed, see? One little crash won't hurt them, y'hear?" Rikku proclaimed, her spirits enough to lift Yuna's head at least, despite the guilt flowering sickly in her chest. "Anyways, come on down to the agency. Rin and some other guys managed to help find us, so you should skedaddle here, too. There's got those snacks you like~!"

Yuna chuffed a small laugh, rejoining, "Alright, I'm a little tired anyways. I'll see you there, Rikku!"

The trek there seemed long, but the fiends were relatively simple to strike down. The worst of Sin had yet to awaken the worst of them, and the abandonment of the Monster Arena lessened the worst of the outbreaks. When she arrived, warmth washed over her in waves as she'd entered and Rikku waved enthusiastically, palms wrapped around a steaming mug of tea while Shinra spoke amicably with the receptionist. Barkeep was content to simply stand from a corner and observe the rest of them. The hypello looked unfazed despite the accident; that, or he was just better at hiding it than them.

"Hey, you alright? I told you not to worry, 'member?" Rikku prompted as soon as she sat down, Yuna perceptibly weary that even the blonde present could catch easily upon.

Lowering her voice, Rikku leaned in, understanding her want for confidentiality. "When I went into Macalania Woods, I didn't see any sign of them, but I met an unsent guado. A woman named Isa, and I think she knew Seymour's mother. She said her name was Cydia and that…I looked like her," Yuna confided, mismatched eyes flickering over to Rikku's green whorls, waiting for her reaction.

And it was strong, her hands clapping over her mouth as the energetic girl gasped loudly, drawing brief stares from the rest. "Really?! She mistook you for Seymour's mother?!" Rikku whispered loudly—a bit too loud, but one she silenced with a squeak when she caught on to the others' staring. Then, she sat up a bit, glancing back at Yuna. A few digits came to curl around Yuna's considerably longer hair, devoid of the long queue, then a bit lower at her sleeveless kimono. Even though she didn't don detachable sleeves like Cydia did, the dark-hued arm wrappings were close enough. "I mean...if you don't, and I mean really, really look, you can pass for her. Man, maybe we oughtta stay out of Guadosalam anytime soon. That, or we give you a make-over," she amended brightly. Anything to get rid of her Yevonite trappings, right?

Yuna smiled, but shook her head. "It doesn't really matter. I'm pretty sure she must have passed on awhile ago. I doubt she's the first to be brought back and think no time has passed at all," Yuna theorized instead, patting Rikku's forearm. Still, that made her wonder: maybe the younger guado wouldn't make the connection, but older guado like Tromell probably would. But in the grand scheme of things, did it really matter? Did one little resemblance really take precedence over what had to be done?

Out of everyone of her old Pilgrimage entourage, of everyone who wasn't bound by office, Rikku was one of the few people she could include on this quest. Tidus and Auron were gone, maybe for good; Kimahri, Lulu and Wakka were obligated to the people they governed, and that only left Rikku. Maybe Paine, but with the Spiran Council was still in its fledgling stages and the original members of the Crimson Squad needed each other now more than ever. Part of her wondered if that was such a bad thing. Dona had set out with only Barthello, and her father had embarked on his pilgrimage originally with only Auron before they'd picked up Jecht along the way. She couldn't risk taking Shinra, for though the boy was a technological prodigy and dear friend, she refused to allow the welfare of a child to be put at risk over something so dangerous.

"Yunie?"

Yuna covered one of Rikku's hands with her own, smile grave and expression serious that elicited pinpricks of worry highly readable on the Al Bhed's face. "Rikku, this...it's going to be a lot bigger than just looking for Brother and Buddy. I have to fight Sin, but I can't do it alone. Would you...come with me? You're the only person in the world I can depend on for this." Her voice was solemn, but something oddly serene lingered. Something she was said to have inherited from her father.

Instead of letting the mood dampen her, Rikku grinned and shot up, nearly upsetting the table and her drunk, liquid sploshing messily over the sides. Legs akimbo and arms firmly planted on her hips, she crowed, "You can depend on the ol' Rikkunator, Yunie! Legendary Guardian Rikku at your service!" This earned a few rounds of laughter from the other Al Bhed, gossiping of Cid's daughter to themselves. "Hey, I heard that!" She spun around and pouted indignantly at them which earned even more gregarious laughter. Still, Rikku managed to turn even the teasing on its head, adding, "You hear that, Yunie? That's just a preview of what our, uh, not-really-Pilgrimage is gonna sound like! All laughter and smiles, like you wanted way back when. Hey, you're smiling, too!"

It was true. Giggling into her hand, modestly hiding her own smile, Rikku's high spirits were infectious. Maybe it was too soon to let go of the Gullwing side of her just yet. Oh, forget all those old fights! Rikku was family, and sometimes differences might set you apart, but in times like these, they couldn't become divisive. That would be lethal to their spirits.

That night, Yuna and Rikku shared a room and a bed. It was warm between them, both girls huddled together and sharing in their communal body warmth in spite of the thin sheets and even cooler air. Rikku slept quietly, snoring softly even as Yuna had stroked through her hair, that being what allowed her to drift off so soundlessly. Even if they were only cousins, being so close to Rikku over the past three years made her see the younger Al Bhed as being more akin to a sister than anything. The thought caused a wave of warm tenderness to wash over her, easing her into a deeper state of relaxation. The girls had often bunked together like this in her first pilgrimage, and she'd cherished it then as she did now. To think, she'd gone ten years without realizing she had other family outside of Wakka and Lulu, and there she was, washed up like a miracle after trying to save her. The fact that Tidus had befriended her first admittedly made her throat close, but it was different now.

Whatever happened, Tidus never really had left her behind. He was always there—she was sure of it.

Even if, deeper down, she longed to have him back again.


After awakening in a congested fog of Rikku's blonde hair, both girls had showered and felt more human than they had since crashing the day before. Over breakfast, her cousin had distractedly braided small ringlets in Yuna's hair, letting them fall free between bites of their food. Until, she heaved a sigh. "Yunie, do we even know where we're going?" Rikku suddenly asked, pausing in her efforts as Yuna looked blank for a moment.

That's right.

"I have some ideas," Yuna supplied, placing her spoon down again. Suddenly, the warm bream of her soup seemed unappetizing, stomach twisting in knots. For one of the first times in her life, she wouldn't have a set itinerary. On her first Pilgrimage, it wasn't until near the very end that everything became thrown from its set path, but she'd almost always had a helping hand to usher her along the way. With the Gullwings, Buddy and Brother had helped in directing her course, and even Rikku's spontaneity had more logic to it than Yuna's own path. Or, at least than the one she was attempting to forge. "You might not like it, but right now it's a toss up between Guadosalam or Zanarkand."

Rikku set her own spoon down with a clatter, gazing sidelong. Maybe once she would've objected to the idea of either, but with how the wild horse of Spira's unknown had been effectively wrangled within the past few years, neither seemed as daunting as they used to be. Even if Guadosalam had been effectively depleted of sphere hunters, Tromell had assured the girls the xenophobia from before seemed to be greatly diminishing.

"Right now, I think Guadosalam might be the better choice. I dunno, if a lot of people are coming back, I don't wanna think what Zanarkand might be like. Especially if Yunalesca is back, too," Rikku figured while making a face, nose wrinkling. Yuna could hardly blame her. The first and last time they'd encountered the first vanquisher of Sin had been to effectively kill her once and for all—well, as permanent as the Eternal Calm was supposed to be. "Although...that must mean the Farplane is just bursting at the seams."

Yuna sighed, propping her chin on her palm, joining Rikku in her oblivious, daydreaming stare. "There is...one other place." Rikku's head snapped back to attention, leaning in intently. "Baaj Island. Now, before you get too jumpy, that's...it's where Tidus first appeared, remember? I remember, Cydia was meant to be made into a Final Aeon for Seymour. Maybe one of the only ones that was. If she's back, too, maybe she'll have some answers."

There was something more to it, too. Even though Seymour was despicable in every meaning of the word, his mother was not. Like her own, they'd married people they weren't supposed to, and Yuna supposed she felt a strange affinity to the fayth. Back or not, playing this journey by ear meant a guess was as good a lead as any. And right now, her hunches seemed to be the only form of guidance they had.

"I might have to ask Pops for help then. The Celsius might be totaled, but the Fahrenheit is still running pretty well. Besides, we'll need a strong rig for what's out there now. And Sin was bad enough in the water!" Kilika was one of the strongest examples of this.

Within the hour, the silhouette of the Fahrenheit appeared on the horizon, Yuna and Rikku standing in the yard of the travel agency as the hulking behemoth lowered itself enough just for them to climb a rope ladder, the airship itself still too old fashioned to navigate as lithely as the Celsius. The crimson airship looked even more pitiful from aloft, Yuna's heart lurching when she saw the extent of the damage. Cid, himself, would likely be devastated when he saw it if he didn't already. From the heavy drafts of the air, Yuna was unburdened when a hand clutched manfully around her forearm and assisted in hauling her up, Yuna smiling gratefully as she spied the enormous distance covered between them and the ground.

Both girls were greeted rather joyously, Yuna having missed the natural radiance of her people. It seemed strange to say that since, over ten years ago, that wouldn't have been the case. Her being as accepted as she was. But a lot had changed since then, and even through the suffering and loss, she wouldn't trade the happier byproducts for anything.

"Yuna, well, as I'll live and breathe! It's been a year hasn't it? Commere!" Cis greeted them with thundering volume, heartily embracing his niece as Yuna laughed rather joyously, before withdrawing and drawing in Rikku as he draped his arms over their shoulders. "Hard to believe you two are back at it again! It's a good thing I kept this old girl in mint condition. Her firearms won't fail us like last time. We'll fell that bastard from the sky just like before!" His conviction earned a sunny grin from his daughter.

"Yeah, yeah, Pops, but maybe Yunie and I will deal with that big stinky poop monster first.~" Yuna couldn't help but laugh at the descriptor, and though it was childish, it really was accurate. Yevon knows what the Kinderguardians could've come up with.

As the airship lifted off, the quiet thrum of its machinery lulled her. Taking a seat on the considerably smaller bridge, Yuna was content to watch the scenery race by while Rikku pompously showed off the prowess of the garment grid, bragging on Shinra's behalf. The small bevy of other Al Bhed gathered around her pridefully beamed at the technology, glad knowing it had come from one of them, something she and Yuna utilized with pride. Only Paine was the other one with a garment grid left, the trio having split even on them and the dresspheres in their personal possessions. Rikku was probably the best off for wear, as continued interaction with Shinra had her swimming in other dresspheres to her ears, practically.

Peaceful thoughts never seemed to last.

The quiet was naturally never destined to last long. Shouts in Al Bhed and a sudden lurch of the airship, followed by a hollow thunder and metallic groan that sounded atmospherically, Yuna felt her heart climb into her throat once more. Sin? In the radial focus of the enormous projection of the world outside, tentacles were beginning to obscure the view, but what was most frightening of all was the familiar apparition.

Evrae's brightened and pastel hide glanced sunlight sharply off its scales, pearlescent as its wings furled and the creature began clawing at the Fahrenheit's flanks, digging into the torpedo silos and utilizing such leverage to forcefully raise the tiered deck that kept them contained. The screeching intensified as the beast of Bevelle tore it cleanly off, Yuna gasping as she and Rikku stood up sharply.

"That old beast again?! How th' hell—"

The Fahrenheit sharply pivoted before jettisons of flame tore through those tubes, melting many into congealed hole puckered too tightly for salvos to be launched. "We have to stop it! Uncle, any more and it'll tear the whole airship apart!" Yuna bewared, her gaze meeting Rikku's who understood without another word needing to be spoken.

It was strange how the most unexpected of things felt familiar to them. As Evrae tore and seared shut the salvo launching points, both women hastily outfitted themselves with as many concoctions they could carry, their Celestial Weapons being the weapons of choice; namely, Rikku's Godhand and Yuna's Nirvana. Standing upon the platform as it ascended with a speedy whir, Yuna smiled at Rikku. "Ready for this? It'll be just like old times."

"You bet! Just don't get too discouraged if I take it down first, Yunie~" the Al Bhed smirked haughtily, posing dramatically before the hatch lifted open and the Evrae was the first sight they saw. Not just its imposing and serpentine form cinched around the girth of the Fahrenheit, but an enormous maw that unleashed a spray of photons that lambasted the narrow container with searing, incinerating heat Yuna and Rikku just barely escaped. Leaping and recovering with a swift dodge roll, she noted with dismay that their means back down appeared destroyed. First, it was Sin. Now this? Her mind rationalized that it seemed to be the Evrae she'd heard about before when her guardians had rescued her. Unthinkable to think this beast, that had learned from its last experience, had resurrected as a tactician.

Using her Mix ability, the Super Mighty G was concocted and Rikku tossed a philter of it at Yuna, the priestess downing the potion quickly and feeling its effects instantly. Her speed hastened and her mind raced with clarity, health being continuously bolstered from the Regen and others effects it guarded them with. Rikku then took the moment to hastily build mana to cast Demi, just as its Photon Spray was unleashed upon them, dealing ample damage even before the dark miasma could afflict the wyrm. Yuna cried out as it hit her, even though the worst of it had been avoided. Charred points of impact stung her soles as she realized her default form simply wouldn't cut it.

Light embroiled her, small rays of it emitting whilst her body became enveloped in a cocoon of shimmery iridescence that gave way to her Black Mage class, Yuna unable to help the faint smile at how ridiculous she felt in such a wide-brimmed, conical hat again. "Alright, time to put you down again!" Yuna called over the whiplash of the wind, readying her Nirvana as she built up energy to cast, to what would culminate to be Ultima.

However, just as she came to the culmination of her split-second casting, the Evrae dislodged itself from the airship with a screech, just in the nick of time when Ultima gathered power and was unleashed. Though the scintillating wyrm managed to extricate itself with a furious buffet of its wings, by the hind legs did it severely capture the fiend and induce a catastrophic amount of damage, Rikku whooping victoriously as it careened away. The consuming ring of static violet hadn't been enough to blast it from the very sky.

"Be careful, you two! I don't think it's down for the count yet!" Cid bellowed over the intercom, Yuna and Rikku taking sharp notice and readying for whatever assault would come.

He was right. From below the enormous Bevellan beast rammed into the underside of the Continental Circus, throttling their balance and causing the mighty airship to nearly capsize on its side. Rikku yelped as she dug her Godhand into the metal for purchase while Yuna caught herself on a beam of corrugated metal, watching helplessly as the impact caused one of two enormous firearms was forcibly evicted from the impact, metal showering and splintering screeches painfully resonant as the beast tore haphazardly into the ship like a predator goring open its latest prey. Port holes in the flanks of the ship were opened as manual mortar fire blasted from the openings, Al Bhed stationed at them firing in time with Cid's ragged and hoarse commands.

"Fire!"

Pummeling thunder erupted from the ingresses in the wake of smoke too quickly whisked away to plume. Projectiles were launched and embed deeply into the Evrae's hide, the beast now clutching to its holds gouged into the airship whilst pyreflies helplessly swept away from catastrophic wounds that wept from them. Yuna had remembered tale of just how difficult the Evrae had been to defeat and now it was apparent why. An elemental fury of the likes Lulu could use in their earlier days was cast when the aircraft righted itself, a furious succession of Gravija that cracked the air and electrified the very strands of their hair with its corrosive, indomitable energy. A consuming pith of raw energy erupted at an epicenter where the beast was, shrieking with each crackle and whorl of energy, knowing that its end was near.

Rikku really did keep true to her promise.

The blonde sprinted towards the Evrae when it attempted to weakly arise over the buffet of retorting mortar fire, hapless as Rikku shouted a battlecry, ramming the heavy Godhand in succession between its skull plating and eyes, beating through the plate and collapsing the skull, Yuna agape as she watched the raw power, catching glimpses of tears shining in her eyes. And the priestess knew why. Slowly reverting back to her default garb, Rikku shouted out in Al Bhed with every blow, the limpid Evrae dead and trickling away with pyreflies from its corpse. It wasn't until a final blow socked into the metal of the airship that the finality of its death was apparent in a final burst of whirling pyreflies.

Rikku crumpled to her knees and her shoulders shook with unexpected sobs, sobbing profusely. In less than a week she'd already nearly lost her cousin, her brother whose fate was uncertain, and just now her Father to an unprecedented attack. For the weight of so many years could only weigh so much.

"Rikku— Rikku!" Yuna called above the wind tunnel that practically sucked away the volume of her voice, dashing over to the girl. Rikku continued to cry and Yuna felt herself feeling more stricken with every passing moment. Engulfing her in an embrace, the girl reactively clutched at Yuna's arms and curled around, burying herself in her cousin's embrace and weeping even harder even if her cries became more muffled. She understood how it felt, the reawakened hardship that came with Sin's return.

And unfortunate for them both, it was only the beginning.

Chapter Text

 

(Warnings: T, no triggers]


The remainder of the trip to Baaj was by no means languid, the damages endured on part of the Evrae catastrophic. The entire deck of the fuselage needed to be replaced, the torpedo launch bay reforged and the enormous gun replaced—thankfully, while plausibly reparable for the extraordinary talents of the Al Bhed, it was fortunate it was to Baaj they were headed, around the site where the Fahrenheit had been discovered in the first place. The plan had been set: while Yuna and Rikku explored what they could in the ruins proper, the enormous treasure freighter would temporarily house the Fahrenheit while replacement parts were salvaged.

"Dang nabbin' beast of Bevelle! This is gonna cost us a goddang fortune to repair," Cid exclaimed whilst he read the extent of the damage inspected upon by his crewmen, many having disembarked from the airship to begin preparations for a dive. Yuna held her chin with concern, canting her head before she saw a wily grin split his features. "'Cept, maybe this ain't so bad after all! Mark my words, girls: we're gonna bring back the old girl better than ever before. She'll be a lean, mean Sin-fightin' machine!"

It warmed Yuna to see her uncle's spirits still remained intact, even as Rikku waved her cousin over to the platform where their small vessel was stationed. It was almost hard to believe the Al Bhed had come so far, this freighter being far more enormous than the treasure ships she'd encountered just a few years ago. Rikku noticed Yuna's open admiration and grinned. "Maybe we oughtta get you into treasure hunting. Not just for spheres, but real Al Bhed-worthy level stuff. Might do you some good," she observed with a frank giggle, eliciting a bit of a flush from Yuna.

Yuna politely waved her hand dismissively, smiling sheepishly. "Knowing you, you might just see it happen. Oh, you just love taking me on wild adventures, don't you, Rikku?" she teased gently back, features relaxed.

"Hey, you're one to talk, taking me on another sorta-Pilgrimage!" Rikku sniped back, poking her tongue out petulantly before swiveling her gaze to gander at the foggy silhouette of Baaj lapped at by a seemingly endless, melancholy gray sea. Rikku shuddered and reflexively rubbed her crossed arms for friction in a semblance of maintaining warmth. "Brrrr! Man, this place still gives me the creeps. Honest, I think another camping trip on the Thunder Plains would be more bearable than this place."

Yuna nodded in quiet accession. It really was creepy, wasn't it? Distantly, she remembered that Cydia and Seymour had been sent to live here, of all places, in a long and lonely exile. She could only imagine how it must've been for the woman, so far away from her husband with no friends in sight except for those who likely came with provisions. And now I'm going to this place again, too, Yuna thought to herself, reflexively shivering as she swallowed down her faint trepidation. You'd think years of being in even Bevelle's underground would've warded this foreboding feeling away, but if anything it only bolstered it.

A crewman leapt from the freighter to the helm of their small tugboat, waving at them to indicate its readiness for both girls to board. "You ready, Rikku? There's really no turning back, huh?" Rikku groaned with a fall of her head, shaking it as to though to ward off nightmarish thoughts.

"Let's just get this over with, Yunie. The sooner we get back, the sooner we can get some nice zango to munch on." For once, Yuna agreed. With or without the inclusion of the spiced jerky Cid was adept at preparing.

Before they could board, Cid perched his hands on each girls' shoulder, leaning down to confidentially accommodate for the height difference. "Now, you girls keep those CommSpheres up and runnin', y'hear? Second something goes wrong or you wanna leave, we'll come lickety-split! Anything big and bad creeps outta that place and we'll blast it down."

Yuna smiled, turning and smiling gratefully up at her uncle. "You can count on us, Uncle! Besides, don't you trust Your Friendly Neighborhood Gullwings?" she quipped with a teasing smile and slight pose, one Rikku wrested his grip from to mirror the pose, both girls shoulder to shoulder. Cid couldn't help but laugh at their old antics, eliciting a sunny grin from his niece. Waving them off, bidding some last farewells, their pilot helped them on board.

The disparity between how much the sea bobbed their much smaller vessel like a cork compared to the stolid solidness of the freighter was enormous, Yuna wobbling before she was safely deposited, Rikku leaping enthusiastically aboard even if its swell on a cresting wave upset her landing a bit. Huddling within the small cabin, both girls rode near a window they closely observed their passage, the occasional Sahagin flashing its dorsal fins before plunging back into the depths. Releasing the tethering ropes, the vessel thrust away from the freighter and gradually receded back into the fog. Save for the lights dotting along its exterior, it looked like a derelict ship lost at sea before disappearing into the fog altogether. Rikku propped her jaw on her hands as she looked out, blinking slowly but surprisingly quiet. Yuna's attention pivoted towards their pilot, he in the same state. Even if she had a mind to instigate a conversation, her mouth remained clamped shut.

She must've dozed off as Rikku furiously poked her arm, shaking her some as the priestess blinked away her sleepiness. "Wha, huh?" she queried sleepily before shaking it off. "Oh, are we there?" Blinking owlishly at Rikku, the blonde nodded and chirped confirmation. Trepidation seemed enough to awaken her, a remedy for the lingering tiredness as it swirled electric in her gut. It was no anticipation of fiends that roused her, but what they might discover.

Their pilot had temporarily moored them on an outcropping of stone that fed into a path that led into Baaj, still entrenched in a smoky fog that only the ground-level appointments were made visible of. The ancient edifice stood alone and proud, if lonely above the ruins of what were once a grander city. Yuna swallowed down her trepidation that replaced itself with a braver anticipation, following Rikku as the more intrepid of the two was the first to alight to the land. Yuna followed suit, and when their pilot received confirmation they'd landed safely, they waved him off as the vessel gradually disappeared back into the fog.

Beginning their leaps and bounds over the stony outcroppings like stepping stones, Rikku asked conversationally, "So, what are we lookin' here for anyway? Treasure? Some sign of Tidus, maybe?"

Yuna landed solidly on her feet, facing Rikku once they matched paces. "Mhm. That, and if the fayth are back, Cydia might have some answers for us. I think she's of one of the only Final Aeons that didn't get used in the Final Summoning. Maybe she knows something, if she's back. We'll just have to wait and see," Yuna surmised, receiving a hearty smile from Rikku.

"It's alright if you don't really know what we're doing, Yunie. Guardians always follow their sum—er, priestess wherever she goes no matter what, right?" Rikku amended cheerfully, smiling brightly at her cousin. Yuna nodded and returned the smile brightly before sobering, both girls continuing on their way.

The stopped before the entrance, Rikku already attacking it with her Godhand after minutes of frustration trying to open it. When a final blow was rebuffed, the recoil sent her landing on her rear, the blonde exclaiming, "Oh, poopie! How the heck did Tidus get in this dumb old place, anyways?!" she huffed in frustration, righting herself back to her feet.

Yuna held her chin thoughtfully before her gaze ascended, seeing a flapping and mottled curtain buffeted by the wind at least four stories up. Tapping Rikku's shoulder and pointing at it, the girl's gaze followed Yuna's finger. "There! We'll climb up there," Yuna said, gaze still locked above. "And...let's not make it a race to the top, please?" Her smile was sheepish at Rikku.

"Aw, spoilsport," Rikku pouted before windmilling her arms to warm up. "No problemo, though. This'll be a slice of cake."

Yuna was thankful the facade of the spire was just craggy enough for runnels and cracks to have formed for purchase, proving to be rather perfect means of ascension. Though climbing was neither girls' fortitude, they weren't exactly poor in the area, either. It was only a few minutes later before Rikku poked her head through the aforementioned window, sputtering as she whacked the nuisance curtain aside and pinned it between a lodging of a felled wardrobe and the wall, huffing in satisfaction before tumbling through and hauling Yuna helpfully through, the priestess climbing over the windowsill with relative ease.

It was just in the nick of time as a streak of lightning bolted across the sky, darkening in its wake as Rikku started in surprise, rain beginning a torrential downpour that coldly berated where they stood too close. Yuna's breath misted before her, the cold of Baaj just dawning as her skin began to prickle with goosebumps. She didn't need Rikku's prompting to turn towards a doorway that led into the upper galleries that encircled the foyer Tidus had found years before, Rikku following suit as both girls gazed below, only to be haunted by what was seen.

A lone fire crackled forlornly amid the bed of rubble, at the epicenter of the clearing. Yuna herself stared on in horror while Rikku gaped in shock, both forgetting to breathe for a moment. Laying on his side and presumably asleep was none other than Seymour Guado, a gaudy and vibrant contrast to the dull ruins that spanned in a wide radius around him, the cascading water that coolly fell to the ruined ground below loud and stifling, something Yuna was grateful for when even the slightest whispers carried loudly. The shock faded for a strange sensation of worldliness, a surreal and distant pity she'd felt even then. To think, this enemy that attacked her Home and the Ronso had been brought back while a true hero had been taken away made her clench the railing with a dull ache in her breast. Tempestuous hate was such a slippery thing for her to think of grasping on for very long.

Rikku tugged Yuna away by her arm as Yuna suppressed a gasp, mouthing, "What?" at Rikku while taking a cursory look back.

"Yunie, we have to leave!" Rikku hissed lowly, expression frantic. "The last thing we need is that bozo getting all creepy-crawly over you! You know how he was!" Yuna's expression faltered, but she understood. From the first time they'd really spoken, it'd become more apparent. Of how his diminishing sanity had evolved the potential of something tender to fiendish possessiveness over her. Like dark claws that had clung to her while the sun was within such close reach.

"I'm sorry, Rikku...but I can't. I came here seeking...something, and he might be it," Yuna said with a quiet sense of resolve, Rikku pouting and glancing worriedly towards the banister that plunged down to him. Before she could whine otherwise, Yuna promised, "If he tries anything, I'll send him. The aeons aren't here anymore, and it's us against him. He wouldn't stand a chance!"

Rikku heaved a sigh, nodding her head numbly. "Alright, but the second he does anything, we're moseying, answers or no!" Yuna smiled reassuringly and nodded, seeming enough of a vote of confidence for her cousin.

Yuna was the one to lead them down the misty, twilit stairwell still gray from the squalls of rain and occasionally lit brightly by the perpetual lightning storms embroiled in the brooding skies, a brave front forwarded as she openly carried the Nirvana in her right hand as she usually did. She was so much stronger compared to the girl of three years ago, a matured woman who had saved the world twice and was prepared to do so for a third. From porcelain, to ivory, to steel; her will was iron and nothing would shake it off. Seymour wasn't capable of frightening her any longer.

The priestess made no attempt of disguising not quieting her footfalls as she entered the central atrium, visage set with determination and her Nirvana glancing the firelight with its own thrumming power. The Celestial Weapon was unmatched in its power, something she took heart in. She had faced Sin and prevailed. She had defeated Vegnagun and ushered in another time of peace. This time would be no different.

But even under all this bravado, her heart nearly skipped a beat when she saw him stir, the man slowly aware that he was not alone. Righting himself to sit, then to stand, pivoting to face his adversary with his usual churlish smirk, it crumbled as soon as he saw Yuna. The former maester's amethyst eyes gradually opened wide and his smirk thinned into a tense line, unblinking for several long moments before their gazes matched and his expression receded into his one of a feline mischief. One she could never bring herself to trust.

"Ah, so the Lady Yuna has come to send me? Why, I'm flattered that you would come all this way to dispatch me," he said frankly, speaking candidly and in the soft, spidery silken timbre she remembered all too well. The last she'd heard of it was a sphere where Baralai and Seymour were negotiating, taking the young man under his wing.

Yuna's expression frosted over, her own voice firm as Rikku stood defensively at her side. "I should send you, shouldn't I? But I have questions, first. You owe the people of Spira, Seymour! You owe them this!" It was strong, the way she spoke. All signs of faltering had died a long time ago.

Seymour laughed softly, a chortle in his throat that made Rikku visibly bristle. She'd never liked the maester, even before his treachery had been made apparent. And with good reason, too. For a girl as readable as she was, Rikku was better at reading people than they gave her credit for, especially times such as these.

"And why should I refuse? Truly, speak your mind, Lady Yuna. I have no reason to decline." His softness and polity were deceptive, but both women knew better.

Reluctantly, Yuna lowered her brandished staff which earned a cant of Seymour's head, but nothing more. Rikku maintained a fierce expression that might've been effective were it not so comical, Seymour unfazed but with his gaze was trained with uncomfortable intensity upon Yuna. "Why did you come back? Why are so many people returning from the Farplane? Why is Sin back?"

Seymour looked surprised at the last, the slight of features that availed it; he was readable if one knew how. "Sin has returned? Hm...I wasn't aware," Seymour's voice lilted, clasping his elongated hands behind his back, head bowed thoughtfully. His profile was glimpsed over his shoulder, gaze meeting Yuna's. "As for the rest, even to that I cannot say. I awoke here just days before with no recollection of anything except...what I last saw while conscious, in a manner of speaking." He didn't need to say anything else for Yuna to understand, but it didn't lessen the harshness in her voice. Well, as harsh as someone like Yuna could get.

"Your mother? What about her?" she demanded, the command in her voice still strong.

"Ah, yes—the aeons. You think they've returned, haven't you?" Seymour simpered, turning back around to face them. "Pardon the disappointment, but I visited her chamber. The statue remains unpainted, dull as when you sent her and the others for good. I think they're quite enjoying their rest in the Farplane. Certainly not enough to want to save Spira again."

Violet eyes seemed so full of condescending when they met with Yuna, it alone sent Rikku over the edge. "You, you...you shouldn't even be allowed to look at her for what you've done! Murdering so many people...forcing us to destroy Home! Yuna's Home, our Home! You destroyed it, killed so many Al Bhed—our people! I bet you have no idea how much she hates you, do you?!" Rikku railed, hands balled into fists and tears erupted from shining eyes. "And I bet Sin coming back is all your fault, too!"

Even though Yuna turned away to avoid his gaze—those eyes she couldn't bare to look into—with her mouth pursed, it alone was enough to confirm that the feeling was mutual, agreeing with everything her cousin voiced that which her heart was too abashed into saying.

She then turned back to look at him, eyes steely. "Seymour Guado, in the name of the Spiran Council and the citizens of Spira, you are under arrest! You will be put on trial for your crimes and executed if you do not cooperate, do you understand?" Though her words sounded so cold, even to her, it was all he deserved.

Seymour himself became unreadable, but submissive. "My fate is in your hands, Lady Yuna," he acceded in hushed tones, Yuna unwilling to meet his gaze even as his continued to search for hers. Rikku bristled and tugged Yuna away from him, glowering defiantly and frowning fiercely, truly enraged. She was drawn away without complaint, all before Yuna lifted her gaze to look conflicted upon him, brows furrowed deeply and old hurts welling in shining eyes that she turned away from before he could look too long.

Straightening, Yuna walked behind him while Rikku was all too efficient in contacting Cid, her gaze hard upon his back. "You took so much from me, but in the end, you returned while he was taken away. It's not fair," she murmured with a quivering lower lip, voice cracking as her throat closed.

Seymour craned his neck, trying to look at her, but stopped and bowed his head. It was all he could do in lieu of the punishment to be meted.

Chapter Text

 

(Warnings: T, none]


Everyone had been surprised when they saw Yuna and Rikku stoically emerge with Seymour in makeshift shackles, things Rikku cobbled together and was all too happy to make as cumbersome as possible. Seymour's back bowed from their weight, but his face was devoid of his catty smirk and instead he looked forlorn, detached. As if his mind were elsewhere. Yuna resolved not to look at him, for though all he'd done was despicable, her compassion sometimes made her slave to its wiles to forgive and move on. Tromell and the other guado had been easier, genuinely contrite for the sins of a man who had led them down a path of ruin. They'd been willing to be slaughtered without fighting back, and though it had been too much for Yuna to fathom, their redemption had been harder won than the impossibility Seymour's would be. Genocide was something she couldn't allow, but even his people's extremes dwarfed the likely unapologetic stance that would be received from the Council.

In spite of the emotional outburst, Rikku seemed dreamily content on their journey to Bevelle. With the Fahrenheit too damaged and the freighter too unwieldy for Bevelle's smaller ports, they'd been gifted a treasure ship manned by a small crew. Seymour had been locked away in the brig, many of the crew having spit and cursed on him in passing, something even Yuna couldn't blame them for doing—as wrong as it felt to her gentle-hearted nature.

Yuna and Rikku occupied the open-air deck, the sea breeze refreshed once they escaped the foggy clutches of Baaj. Gulls wheeled playfully and even dolphins leapt from the waters, playing the wake of the ship as ionized breezes billowed through the girls' hair. "Hey Yunie, how do you think Paine's been doing?" Rikku suddenly asked, glancing pensively at Yuna.

She really couldn't blame her for asking. Rikku and Paine had dated during their time in the Gullwings, only breaking up during their last mission together, acknowledging that their lives took them too far apart to remain together. But, they'd ended it as dear friends, same as before. Rikku had been happy with Paine, and that had made Yuna happy. It really was no wonder Rikku seemed antsy to see the swordswoman again.

"Hm, well, she's been working as an informant for the Council, working with Nooj the most, I think. I haven't spoken to her in a while, really, but I'm sure she'll be happy to tell you all about it," Yuna said hopefully, smiling cheerily at Rikku who broke out in a giddy grin in reply.

Both girls lingered on the deck, even deciding to perch upon the crane and sprawl on it like cats, Yuna a little more decorous than Rikku who splayed every which way. They'd even fallen asleep like that watching the stars, some of those on night watch charitable enough to spread blankets over them, chuckling in amusement at Rikku's haphazard way of sleeping while Yuna was more reserved, curled in a fetal position and sleeping deeply despite the person they shared the ship with. It wasn't until dusk that they came upon the citadel of Bevelle, both girls awake by then, the enormous city rising elegantly and commandingly into the Spiran sky, red as the haori Auron had always worn like a trademark. Once, Bevelle had vacillated uncertainly as to how she felt. At once it was her hometown, a testament to what her father endured, a dark place full of treachery and now...now, she wasn't sure.

Its principal spire reminded her of that wedding—that horrendous, odious wedding—and she had to look away. To think of something else, like the people who commandeered it now. The seat of a reformed Yevon, the seat of the Spiran Council, and a place of renewed hope.

Yuna stood upon the deck, leaning on the rail as the turquoise waters of one of two principle harbors bustled with peoples from all over Spira, the old air of religious fear banished away. Now, it felt warm and inviting, a place that housed many of Spira's people who were learning not to live in fear. But now, even through all this hope, fear still remained; new in the wake of Sin's new plight. Among the crew members it seemed prevalent, a major attack having razed upon parts of the Calm Lands. With Sin now being airborne, it seemed the damage it dealt was far more brutal than what had been conducted while at sea. It made this mission all the more urgent.

Yevon warrior monks, having since been reformed in the last year, formed a colorful barricade of crimson—adopting the old uniform in Auron's honor. Seymour was the first to be transported off the ship, shepherded and separated from the main group into a waiting vehicle with a large cab on its back undoubtedly where Seymour would be herded into while transported to the dungeons. With him out of the way, and quietly absconded into Bevelle's jam-packed thoroughfares, that left Yuna and Rikku behind to be greeted by a zealous crowd of worshipers.

Though the bulk of them were Spirans, from among the faces Yuna could pick out many of the Al Bhed, localized due to the merger in the last year. Some hypello lingered further back with even the odd Ronso here and there. Maybe not as populous as they could be, but Rikku was overjoyed to see fellow Al Bhed in the Yevoner capital, of all places. Yuna and Rikku cheerily waved, the Al Bhed jumping joyously before the two were politely corralled into a hovercraft that could deliver them to the capital.

"Man, so many Al Bhed! Must make the old fogey Yevonites really wanna squirm," Rikku quipped with a delighted spitefulness, smiling unabashed. She seemed riled from the attention, however, jittery in their seat that caused the vehicle to bob when stopped.

"Maybe, but don't you think you should straighten up a bit? Paine's gonna be the one greeting us," Yuna teased with a smile, offering her a compact mirror.

"Oh shoot, you're right!" Rikku exclaimed, snatching the small mirror and furiously unbraiding her loose braid, threading her fingers through the strands and wincing when she hit snags. Once she was satisfied, she began the swift task of braiding it again—doing all in under three minutes, a new record, Yuna observed with a laugh. "Hey, what's so funny?"

"Oh, nothing," Yuna recovered, waving it off with a secretive smile. "You just seem so happy, I think it's spreading."

"You betcha it better be! As your Guardian, it's my solemn duty to make sure you smile a lot. And not just forced smiles, either! I mean, genuinely, really, really happy smiles, y'know?"

Yuna just acceded with a laugh, Rikku heartily joining in with her. By the time they rolled to a stop, they came to the Highbridge which spanned grandly before them where Seymour would be openly marched to the main palace in tow of Yuna, Rikku, and their other temporary retainers. Thankfully, the entourage wasn't enormous, mainly consisting of warrior monks and some senders with magic proficiency that could easily curse Seymour long enough to debilitate him should anything be attempted. But the half-guado was resigned, even Yuna somewhat disturbed by how submissive he was being, and the silence could be easily mistaken for conspiring machinations, something none present doubted.

"Hey, if it isn't the Lady Yuna come to make these old stiffs feel a bit younger again!" Gippal greeted first, flanked by Nooj and Baralai, Paine striding towards them—towards Rikku before all. "So, you girls been keepin' real busy, huh?" He circled his arm around Yuna's shoulders, something she was surprisingly amicable to, jerking his thumb at the shackled former maester.

"Gippal, please," Yuna laughed, modestly covering her mouth with a blush.

However, the penetrating daggers in Seymour's stare bit into Gippal's nape, the man visibly flinching. Turning warily, Seymour's lips were curled in a slight frown, eyes full of a jealous anger that Gippal met with a cocky smirk. "Good work, ladies. I oughta treat you to some nice margaritas later—as a little thanks on behalf on the Spiran Council, that is," he simpered, clearly aware of Seymour's jealousy—Rikku had likely keyed him in to Seymour's sentiments towards Yuna, something the priestess feigned ambivalence to for now. He seemed all too happy to spite Seymour any way he could, something no one blamed him for considering Seymour had been the one to unleash fiends that had forced the Al Bhed to destroy Home, so a snub seemed the barest recompense.

Baralai seemed the most conflicted, Yuna and Rikku aware of how Seymour had taken the man under his wing after the attack in the Den of Woe, though it did little to absolve the warning looks Rikku shot him. But, the dark-skinned man seemed unperturbed as he detached from the main group to stand before Seymour, the warrior monks just barely standing aside.

"So, this is how it has to be. I'm sorry it's come to this, Seymour," Baralai addressed him frankly, though soft-spoken. The gentle sort that opposed the duplicity of Seymour. He seemed genuinely strained, even as Seymour appraised him indifferently.

"The world has changed much in my absence. I only hope your faith is as strong as the Lady Yuna's sense of justice," Seymour replied obliquely, churlish smirk returned as his gaze met Yuna's, Yuna averting hers almost punishingly. "You've grown much, Baralai. I see being your benefactor has benefited you greatly." Each word was a purposeful barb, and they knew it.

"I won't refute what you did, Seymour. And it is because of this that you await trail. I only hope you'll be guided well through it," Baralai replied diplomatically, gaze hardening as he turned on his heel back towards their entourage, specifically towards Yuna to whom he smiled apologetically at. "I'm sorry for whatever you've gone through, Lady Yuna. Please, I implore you to rest. While we gather the evidence, witnesses, and testimony, it might be a bit of time before the actual trial. Bevelle is at your disposal until then." Bowing neatly, he turned away with Nooj and Gippal back into the palace.

Yuna nodded and watched their receding backs, Seymour corralled into a lower entrance where the dungeons were. Even as Seymour passed them, his presence breezing past the pleasant scent she remembered, Yuna's stomach churned sickly. Something deep down told her that Seymour had been brought back for reason, that he really knew more than he let on. That he might even be invaluable, loathe as she was to admit it. Yes, she could forgive, but how could she do so for someone who wasn't sorry in the first place? Who championed for nothing but death to all of Spira and had done so without remorse? All while pursuing her like some object to be won.

At Rikku's insistence, she was reunited with Paine, the three heading out into the city for some air away from the imposing palace that seemed to suck the very air from her lungs.


It was no later than twilight that Rikku and Yuna received their subpoenas to appear in court just two days from that day, Yuna critically studying hers while she, Rikku, and Paine occupied a nondescript bar they were left relatively alone in, part of a restaurant they were lingering in. Having occupied a dim, candlelit booth, the mood was amorous enough for Paine and Rikku to hold hands underneath the table, feigning normalcy even as Yuna smirked secretively at their not-so-covert display of affection. Paine, as usual, was stubbornly ambivalent to Yuna's unspoken teasing.

"I don't like it."

Paine's disquieting dissent shook the content silence the girls had been enjoying until then, Yuna's attentions snapping to the warrior's who was practically glaring down at Rikku's subpoena. "Don't like what, Paine?" Yuna echoed gravely, brows furrowing at the slightly younger woman.

The silver-haired woman worked her jaw before speaking. "Maybe you've been too caught up in all this to notice, but the people of Spira haven't been that happy with you, Yuna. Apparently, saving it twice isn't enough for them, but Sin's resurrection in such a short span of time is having them criticizing you. The short story being that there's a growing population who thinks you shaking it all up wasn't worth it. That Yevon was better off before your Pilgrimage changed everything and offed Yunalesca. I think it's connected to this trial, too."

Yuna's face fell as she bit her lip, a white hot clench of guilt and shame burrowing into her breast. She remembered this feeling and it wasn't one she liked. Probably stemming from Rikku's former accusations of her being too stationary in one place, of even Chuami's of her doing nothing in the face of Sin. Sighing, she opened her mouth to speak before Rikku interrupted.

"Must be the same of fogies who don't like Al Bhed or our sacrilegious machina—that they happen to be inconveniently benefiting off of, I might add!—in Bevelle, either. Well, they can stuff it, right Yunie? Because we're gonna save Spira again and make them eat their own words," Rikku interjected indigently, the girl huffing as she gulped down a dreg of her fruity drink. Paine admittedly smirked in amusement before she schooled her features to their usual seriousness.

"Um, how is it connected to the trial?" Yuna asked timidly, even through the growing clout of anxiety in her breast. It wasn't that she was ignoring Rikku's words, rather that she was taking this reality to heart. Auron had told Tidus she shouldered too much without asking for help, and maybe he was right. Right now, she was anxious with thoughts of how to rectify this mess Spira had been embroiled in again.

"It's a circus, a diversion. The Spiran Council needs a distraction to quell peoples' discontent, hence this. People want a scapegoat they can temporarily point their fingers at even when greater danger looms. It wasn't any different one or three years ago, Yuna. They get that and Spira gets its own mini Calm until they're roused to really fight Sin." Paine was right. What had begun with such sureness was dwindling the further and closer she scrutinized it. Even though having faith in what lay ahead was the key to their success, it didn't seem any different than the former Yevon that blamed the people of Spira for Sin's continuous revival, not the Pilgrimage that sacrificed a summoner and one of their guardians to simply abate Sin for a short time—a ritual of their make they had full knowledge of. A Calm, or just a brief quelling?

"I know, but what can we do about it? Stop it? Even if it needs to be stopped, Seymour deserves judgment. He deserves to see the fruits of his treachery," Yuna admitted quietly, glancing furtively back at Paine who grunted, the warrior unable to argue with that. If he ever deserves forgiveness, he needs to give back as much as he took from us, she amended mentally.

As neither woman really able to counter what was spoken, they consumed the dinner before them in quiet and ruminated deeply on what was to come.


The two days that passed were spent in rather obscurity, neither Rikku nor Yuna interested in venturing out except to visit Braska's old apartments—which had since been converted into a museum—and his memorial both left a bouquet each at. Even though the weather was beautiful and sunny, the most they aspired to doing was sitting on the balcony with just enough room for a cafe table and two seats to watch the bustling port below, to predominantly read or go over old spheres, even discussing inconclusive, upcoming legs to their journey. Rikku preoccupied her time with synthesizing as many unneeded concoctions as possible, and augmenting effects on to existing equipment. The necessary concentration kept her quiet and sane, the Al Bhed unable to cope long in total silence without conversation or something to keep her hands and mind busy.

The morning of the trial came with a longer grooming ritual for them both, Rikku having exploited Baralai's charitable offer as much as she could, squeezing as many expensive soaps and lotions and shampoos as she could from local boutiques just so she and Yuna would be the cleanest, most expensively outfitted girls there. Yevoner robes had been requisite for Yuna, modest garb that Rikku was all too content to bastardize. Seeing as they would be worn once, and over their existing default outfits, Yuna didn't advise her to do otherwise. Rikku had her pride as an Al Bhed and no amount of blasphemer's warnings would ever prompt her to give a damn.

Knocks came to the door that startled them both, Rikku flinching while Yuna merely raised her head from the desk she'd seated herself at, standing to answer it. When an armed guard revealed to be on the other side, Rikku jumped from her unkempt bed and kept her features as neutral as she could despite the anticipation and lingering sense of dread in them both. A vehicle awaited them outside their hotel and tinted windows made it impossible to see, both girls just journeying in uncertain silence instead.

Instead of traversing over the Highbridge, they were led into another entrance of Bevelle Palace where Yuna and Rikku would be stationed at Baralai's side, until they'd be called to the stand—in the same niche Grand Maester Mika had once presided. The enormous domed antechamber with its vaulted ceiling of stars languidly passed constellations, the moat of fog that fed into the dungeons below seeming to be the sole source of light, ensconced crystals casting meager coronas of it. Standing to the right, all rose when Baralai entered, Yuna and Rikku to his right while Gippal and Nooj presided to his left. Below, on the ground floor, an enormous bevy of people from the three factions were stationed, Yuna espying Dona, Barthello, Isaaru, and Shelinda. She surmised they were the jury.

"People of Spira, we come to you presenting our case: Spira vs. the former Measters of Yevon. Too long has judgment of them been forestalled, and today they will answer for their crimes!" Nooj began, a hand raised as he addressed those present, leaning on his cane for balance. A ripple of scandalized gasps arose from the audience, Yuna's head swiveling to stare in bewilderment at Baralai who impassively kept his eyes trained forth. Even Chuami and Kurgum, standing at a gallery level below their own, seemed just as shocked.

Before any more questions could be stirred, from the depths rose not one, but three platforms outfitted with high, narrow bars and a caged ceiling. Rikku whispered how she could make out the sight of enchanted runes, likely curses that would keep them from scattering away into pyreflies. Yuna's brows furrowed and her lips pursed, but she knew she could say nothing lest she be complicit with impeding justice.

As they arose higher, the trio of them paused just feet from the main pulpit the five of them stood, the occupants being Wen Kinoc to their right, Yo Mika in the middle, and Seymour to the left—Yuna inwardly relieved that Seymour was the farthest from them in spite of his eyes she could still feel on her, something she was growing uneasily accustomed to of late. The murmurs only seemed to rise in volume until Nooj pounded the gavel for silence, effectively doing so.

"These men will be judged before you—all of you—for the crimes and offenses they have instigated against the people of Spira. As former mevyn of the Youth League and now presiding judge to this trial, I speak as but one of many whom have been damaged by what these three men have done in the name of power and deceit," Nooj continued, voice carrying a collected strength throughout the chamber, those of the jury awed by his presence. Seymour, however, only seem to regard him with his trademark conspiring smile.

"As chancellor of the Spiran Council, on behalf of all Spirans, human and otherwise, I will read to you the offenses you have committed," Baralai spoke after Nooj, his former teammate regarding him gravely, as they all did. Even Gippal bore no traces of underlying amusement or arrogance he was keen to sport. "Yo Mika, former Grand Maester of Yevon, you have been condemned for treason, the enabling of mass murder through the falsehoods of Yevon, unlawful duration of office, the sacrificing of innocent lives in unlawful ploys, and countless other crimes too exhaustive to be listed here. You, Wen Kinoc, former Maester and Minister of Military Affairs, are to be persecuted for treason, the formation and subsequent slaughter of the Crimson Squad, the conduction of Operation Mi'ihen, the kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, and endangerment of High Summoner Yuna and her guardians, and countless other offenses too long to list here. Lastly, you, Seymour Guado, former Maester of Yevon and Minister of Temple Affairs—"

However, Baralai was cut short when Gippal touched his hand to the chancellor's shoulder, a mirthless grin on his tanned visage as he condescendingly snapped his fingers for Seymour's attention, the half-guado dispassionately regarding him in silence. "Yeah, yeah, that got your attention? You goddamn duckfaced, antennae freak?" A shocked silence spanned, but neither Nooj nor Baralai interrupted him, both likely curious as to what Gippal had to say. Most likely approving, even if they wouldn't admit aloud. "Remember me? Y'know, one of those heathens you Yevonites like foisting all the damn blame on? Yeah, one of those. Kinda like those two ladies over there, one of which you keep staring at like she's a goddamn piece of meat." Admittedly, that banished the smirk that had been present on Seymour's face.

"Yeah, you smug bastard, you wanna tell the nice folks here all about how you unleashed fiends upon Home? How you almost killed High Summoner Yuna's cousin, probably a lot of other folks that might've been her family? What about how Rikku here nearly lost her father? Oh wait, folks! How could I have forgotten how you sacrificed the guado, the people you were supposed to lead, to this goddamn little scheme of yours all just so you could get Lady Yuna in the end? Like it never fucking occurred to you those were her people, too, huh? Or what about Maester Kelk Ronso who you murdered on Gagazet along with his people, almost to the point of extinction? Man, wonder if I should continue to mention while you were off in fucking la-la-land over in the Farplane, your people waited to be butchered, to atone for your crimes while you fucking ran with your tail between your legs! Man, you piece of shit. You goddamn piece of shit," Gippal concluded, grinning wolfishly and bitterly, perhaps one of the only modes of revenge he could muster in this situation. But, his green whorl gaze remained transfixed on the half-guado's, angrily fearless.

Those present had quailed into silence, the shock read on everyone's faces except on those whom already knew. Sphere recorders who'd been recording the entire ordeal gaped in shock, no one seeming to move. Yuna bowed her head bitterly while Rikku gazed on to Gippal with a conflicted look of concern and agreement, her anger matching his own. Yuna felt guilty, even if it weren't her fault. It was because of her that all those Al Bhed, guado, and Ronso perished in those dark weeks. Tears bitterly stung in her eyes, but she wouldn't allow them to be shed. Not yet. Furtively, she turned to Seymour whose facade seemed to be breaking, unable to match eyes with anyone in the pulpit. Wen and Mika were similarly cowed, though they hadn't said a word since appearing, either.

"To think, you would raise the dead only to butcher them like lambs to a heathen god once more," Mika observed darkly, sagely, after an uncomfortably long pause, shaking his head with a grandfatherly loftiness. Almost as if he were blameless.

Kinoc chuckled sarcastically while folding his arms. "Well said, Mika. You know, once these kids were part of the Crimson Squad. Now look at them, playing pretend at the helm of Spira. And people wonder why Sin is back." Seymour was the only one who was completely quiet, almost to the point of despondency. "This is foolish. Just kill us like you meant to and let us become fiends, or send us off. It doesn't matter in the end."

After the brutish statements were spoken, loud jeering erupted from the audience, many throwing debris at the three cages and earning nothing but derisive indifference from Mika and Kinoc, Seymour numbly positioning himself away from the worst of it, but not much else. "Children will be put in their place. Sin has returned because of your transgressions. We were brought back to save it, but if it continues like this, you will doom yourselves," Mika orated, hands extended as if preaching to his submissive crowds from just years before.

"Keep talking, but they won't listen. Just let them play cops and robbers and we'll find rest, eventually," Kinoc said dismissively, turning to Mika and shaking his head in egotistical disappointment.

Rikku was the one who reacted the worst to them, shooting before Kinoc and Mika with anger surging in her eyes. "How dare you! How dare you say those things and think they're okay! What are we to you?! Your mindless, expendable rabble to play dollhouse with however you want? Don't you realize what you've done, how many innocent people you've killed because of your selfishness? So many of my friends and people I loved are dead because of you—same goes for Ronso and Guado and hypello, too! You evil, sick, twisted psychos!" Rikku railed passionately, shouting through a furious stream of tears as her lower lip worried and she sniffed loudly, wiping away in futility as they just rushed down harder. She hiccuped as her throat closed, all before dashing off into the shadows where no one could see her, where Paine waited to capture her in a protective embrace. Gippal trailed after them, rubbing soothing circles into Rikku's back while he and Paine traded pained expressions.

"Order! Everyone, be quiet! The next person who speaks out of term will face a sentence in the dungeons!" Nooj thundered, clapping his cane furiously in place of the gavel that seemed too meek in comparison. His expression conveyed his unstoppable order, Yuna watching on with a stricken expression at Rikku's passionate and utterly tragic tirade. Even when it ended, she felt guilty for not having said anything.

Silence ultimately prevailed, the air thick with a dark tension that not even the maesters sought to speak out against. Nooj's expression hardened as a recovered Baralai cleared his throat, folding back the scroll where the charges were written as it seemed useless now. Sucking in a breath, he spoke officiously: "In light of these charges, your fates have been decided: there will be a public execution at dawn tomorrow by hanging. Each defendant will be hung before the people of Spira, then sent on to the Farplane. Their guilt has been made apparent and...I rest my case."

"Chancellor, I object!"

It was their turn to be shocked as all eyes trained upon Yuna, the woman's eyes pleading as they locked on to the men, they receptive but waiting. When it dawned on her that the outburst had been vocalized, Yuna sighed deeply and recomposed herself, continuing quietly, "Chancellor, nothing about this trial was fair. There were no witnesses, no testimony, no evidence—nothing. I'm sorry, but I must object."

Though Nooj postured to speak, Baralai stopped him, a hand outstretched as if to stop the brunet. "Lady Yuna, as unusual as the circumstances were, the trial has been conducted. Two key witnesses spoke, and the defendants have voiced their own guilt. I know, perhaps...it wasn't fair as it should be, but these men are guilty and the people of Spira, especially you, are evidence enough of their crimes. Nothing more needs to be done."

"I object," Yuna repeated firmly, hands clenching into fists. This seemed to draw Seymour away from his detachment, watching Yuna with an enraptured gaze, even hope peering blearily from those hard, amethyst eyes. "Your honor, I'd like to negotiate a different sentence for one of the maesters." Though most present looked surprised, they were still listening. Gaze sinking down, she continued, "Seymour Guado has committed many atrocities, but I'd like to request a different course of action. To atone for his crimes, I ask he join me on my mission to rid the world of Sin again. I'll take full responsibility for him, and send him if anything happens. Let me deal with him, Chancellor, in exchange for his release."

The quiet that spanned was palpable, but those disquieted by Yuna's words even though her eyes burned with implacable resolve, Baralai and Nooj in disbelief at what had just been spoken. Baralai's brows furrowed together in bemusement before he ventured, "Lady Yuna, are you absolutely certain of this?"

Yuna nodded her head firmly. "I know...it's not the sort of thing you'd think I'd do, but I have a hunch he knows a lot more than he lets on, and that he could even be instrumental in helping us defeat Sin. Please, just believe in me. That's all I can ask of you."

Nooj uttered a long sigh, then gesturing for the three cages to be lowered again into the foggy, bright pith of the waiting dungeons. Then, for those present to be corralled away and herded out into the streets to disburse. After a long moment when most had been cleared away, he fixed his gaze on her and laughed wryly. "Lady Yuna, you are full of surprises."

Yuna puffed indignantly at him. "Well? Is that a yes or a no?"

Baralai and Nooj exchanged looks, Nooj throwing his free hand up in defeat while Baralai laughed softly. "I'm afraid it wouldn't be in our best interests to say no, and there aren't many people alive left who have faced off with Sin personally. ...I trust your judgment, Lady Yuna. I just hope you won't turn away our aid in these troubled times. The fight with Sin isn't just for the Summoners any longer. It's all of Spira's fight."

Yuna smiled hopefully at Baralai's words, beaming up at him with a coy smile. "Thank you, Baralai. We'll do our best, promise. And I won't let Seymour have his way, either."

Nooj had already began to stalk away, likely to prepare for the executions tomorrow, as guilty as it made her feel. She sighed, left alone with Baralai in his wake.

"I don't doubt you. I don't think any of us know what to expect this time, but perhaps doing unorthodox things will be what pulls us through," Baralai postulated speculatively, Yuna resuming her soft smile.

"We're just playing this by ear, aren't we? But...I have faith we'll pull through alright. If my father beat Sin while disgraced, with a man from Zanarkand and an ousted warrior monk, why can't I be a little unorthodox, too?"


"Yuuuuuuniiiieeeeee, please tell me I didn't just hear that!"

Rikku's whine pitched high as she unceremoniously dumped herself in her bed, Paine sitting halfway upon it and nearby, looking disgruntled. Yuna was sheepishly smiling at them with her legs crossed on her own bed, admittedly blushing.

"I'm sorry, guys, but I really think he could be what helps us defeat Sin. Plus, he actually was absorbed by it for a time. Maybe he has some insight," Yuna supplied meekly, twiddling her thumbs. Maybe she really hadn't thought through her plan after all.

"I'd buy it if that plan involved strapping some deadly enchantment to his back and launching him down Sin's throat or something," Rikku dully quipped, head turned in profile enough for her words not be muffled by the sheets, Paine drumming her fingers testily on Rikku's back in lieu of a table, frowning deeply.

"After what he did to you, I don't see how having him part of your team will help," Paine replied dryly, scrutinizing Yuna intensely that caused the older woman to avert her gaze. "How do you know he won't try to kidnap you again and destroy Spira in the process?"

Yuna bit her lip, ceasing her thumb twiddling. "It's...just a hunch. When Gippal went off on him, he seemed...affected by it. Guilty, for what he'd done. Maybe it's a stretch, but I think it got to him."

"It's Gippal! Whenever he's mad, he usually means it! He's not as much of an airhead as people say he is," Rikku retorted, rolling on her back while Paine's fingers absently stroked along her navel and through the intricacy of her outfit.

"I know, but it's Seymour. Maybe he changed while in the Farplane. If he didn't, he would've joined in the other maesters' deprecation of us, I'm sure of it."

Paine grunted in accession, knowing that Yuna was likely right. Rikku, on the other hand, sighed loudly and in clear exasperation. "That's Yunie for you! My cousin, the golden-hearted girl who sees the good in everyone!" she proclaimed sourly and with arms raised in mock exaltation before flopping them back down at her sides dramatically, earning a crooked smile from Yuna while even Paine snorted in amusement.

"Mm, it's late out. Gosh...I'm so sleepy. Why don't we hit the hay?" Yuna offered, her bed suddenly looking like the coziest surface Bevelle had to offer.

Paine raised her hand in intercession, then directing it towards Rikku. "I'm staying. If Rikku's going to be having nightmares, someone has to keep the Seymour-boogieman away and you need your beauty sleep," Paine simpered dryly, earning a delighted squeak from Rikku who affectionately wrestled her down to cuddle like an octopus with her, Paine chortling and kissing her brow as she drew the quilt over them both.

Yuna giggled fondly at them, heart warming to see them so happy. Even if the journey ahead would be filled with uncertainty, she had the utmost faith in her friends to help carry them through.

"Good night, you two."

Chapter Text

 

(Warnings: None, T] 


 

The morning dawned with a sensation of adrenaline coursing her veins the moment she awoke, Yuna weighed by the gravity of yesterday’s decision that hit like a stampede of shoopufs on her mind. Had it really been so wise to conduct? The picturesque window that fed out to a gorgeous view of Bevelle below was still enveloped in a sleepy darkness, the sun blearily cresting the horizon that blurred the distinction between sea and sky, some stars still spangled above. Barely any lights of the city were on below, but even in a mind still clouded with slumber did Yuna know where she had to go. Swiftly did she change from her nightgown to her travel outfit, a cursory rake of her fingers through her hair comprising the morning’s grooming.

 

It didn’t take her long to traverse through the streets of Bevelle’s uptown, able to do so without throngs of people crowding before her. Some guards patrolled the streets, but few took notice of her in spite of the controversial trial that had occurred just hours before, Yuna feeling as though it had all been some surreal dream. Though...her heart panged. She had only started believing in dreams after she’d met Tidus, after all.

 

The Highbridge had a man stationed on one of the gliding platforms that would breeze her to the entrance, the pilot keeping things gratefully silent in the short duration there. Guards stationed at the front had been informed of yesterday’s proceedings and were likely to be extra vigilant, but at the sight of the priestess, they allowed her through without any trouble. Inside the Court of Yevon was dark, its usual perpetual gloam that yesterday had barely interrupted like a pebble tossed in a steadfast stream. The platform that would take her below awaited her, as if cognizant of her coming. Yuna swallowed down her trepidation, stepping on it and coordinating the controls to take her to the appropriate level.

 

It was almost like crossing back into Bevelle’s Underground, the true mechanical heart that had supplied the Machina War a thousand years ago. But, Via Infinito was further away and she wanted to stay as far away from it as she could help being.

 

A guard met her at the passage where the maesters were being kept in solitary confinement, Yuna partially glad of it. In the dim corridor, the last thing she needed was commentary from Mika or Kinoc, Even if the mode of their passing was to be too harsh, it was for the better that she focus solely on Seymour, the man she’d sworn into her custody.

 

“You’re brave for doing this, Lady Yuna,” the guardsman complimented, smiling kindly beneath his visor that typically made them appear utterly stoic.

 

Yuna bowed her head modestly, as if ducking beneath the praise. “Doing the right thing is brave. Like what you dedicated your life to doing,” she rejoined, smiling shyly. However, the smile evaporated when the machina hatch containing him behind a cell door revealed Seymour limpid in the corner, Yuna excusing the guard with a gesture who complied, albeit with permeable reluctance on his part. It was when they were assuredly alone that Seymour pivoted his gaze at her, face devoid of his usual smirk. Yuna braved matching his gaze, her silhouette cast upon his person from the single ray of light that shone from the lonely corridor at her back.

 

“Seymour,” she began officiously, “do you know why I’m here?”

 

“Another time, perhaps, I imagine it would have been to gloat, Lady Yuna,” Seymour replied with a mirthless smile. “Were it not so against your character, nor what I heard decided the other day.”

 

Yuna sucked in a breath, tilting her chin up. Part of her was grateful he wasn’t standing; it was difficult to be intimidating under such a height disparity. “You owe me your life, Seymour. I saved it, and I think it’s only fair.” She sounded braver than she actually felt.

 

A weak strain of chuckling was heard, he gaze becoming inexorably soft, something that made her cheeks inexplicably heat up. But it was involuntary, something she could feel easily, she sternly reminded herself. “I’m unsent, Yuna. There’s not much of a life to be saved. But, please,” he extended an elongated hand invitingly, “tell me more of this mission. I’m afraid it was difficult to hear through the abhorrence vocalized by your friends.” That was said with an underlying bitterness, she noticed, shifting uncomfortably. But...he didn’t have a right to be bitter! Not one bit!

 

“In exchange for your life, you’re going to serve me, Seymour. You’re going to redeem yourself this way, by discovering how we can eliminate Sin. And if you defy it, well,” she trailed, swallowing hard; it was difficult to even sound cruel, “I’m going to take it back. Again.”

 

He laughed again and she could feel herself grow indignant at his reaction. “Do you imagine that I’ll be indebted to you for this noble deed, my Lady? You may be courageous, Yuna, but sometimes you’re so...dreadfully shortsighted. Only willing to see the troubles around you when you can’t see them in yourself. Or of your immediate...companions.”

 

Yuna’s hands balled into fists, grabbing one of the cell bars and clenching it so hard her knuckles blanched. “Stop that, what you’re doing. Stop pretending you know me better than I know myself!”

 

Seymour turned in profile, smile dwindling perceptively. Where the light touched his skin, Yuna could see how pale he was, how devoid of light his eyes seemed, and it wasn’t because of some imagined evil or insanity. It was more...a profoundly deep loss. That same that had touched her, but had been saved before she’d lost everything. “You say that, yet...look at us, Lady Yuna. Two impossibilities who rose so very high. You, with your Al Bhed mother; I, with my Guado father. Both hated and alienated as children, sentenced to live ostracized until our parents sacrificed themselves in some effort to eliminate Sin, until our fathers became heroes to Yevon did we finally become accepted...” His head bowed, a wolfish grin returning as his gaze become nostalgic, Yuna’s vice on the bars loosening until she became damnably receptive to his words. “Were it not for them, you and I might not have lived past childhood.”

 

His words made her flinch, swallowing down thickly. “You’re wrong. My father loved the people of Spira, all of them. And I inherited that from him. My family loves me, and...” The truth hurt to hear. Words no one else had the mutual experience nor wisdom to understand. How she..no, she didn’t hate it. Begrudged it, maybe. “I don’t understand how one man can be filled with so much hate,” came her confession, eyes lifting to his, Seymour meeting it with a hollow smile.

 

“I wasn’t born full of hate, Yuna. It came to me, but not by choice. Did you not see the pyreflies’ reconstruction at Zanarkand, what Anima showed you when you received her?” Her brows furrowed, trying to understand what he elaborated on; likely the first time he had in many, many years—if at all. All who knew had already been in his life to begin with. “A boy, conceived of between the Guados’ leader and a human mother, that already beginning as a taboo. I was exiled to Baaj before I could spell my own name, and I was forced on the Pilgrimage when I was only ten. At my mother’s urging for Spira to finally accept the forbidden son of Lord Jyscal Guado. That his son and wife’s sacrifice would install him as a proper maester of Yevon and leader of the Guado. Then, only then, would father accept son.” Yuna become entranced by imagining it, too much aligning so well with her own past. How Bevelle had shunned she and her father, her mother having perished after her birth. But...even before then, the Yevon clergy and Al Bhed alike disdained them. Braska for eloping with the Al Bhed leader’s sister and the clergy for him wedding a heathen woman, the epitome of taboo. And their daughter, a half-breed who was abhorred by both. Even if Cid and her mother’s side had long since welcomed her as one of their own.

 

“How disappointing it was the lamb would not follow the ewe into the slaughter. That he would rather return to total isolation and loneliness for eight years until his father could finally accept him, could finally see him as more than simply a strain to his power. That Seymour Guado could bear his name proudly. How long it took, indeed.”

 

Yuna’s brow furrowed, her expression bemused. “Why are you telling me this?” she demanded, flinching when she realized Seymour was standing before the door, looming tall over her. She swallowed nervously, a blush slowly creeping when she realized the back of his long digits were caressing those that still clutched around the cell bar, too paralyzed to wrench her hand away. Yet...the gesture wasn’t lascivious. More like she could feel the aching loneliness that lurked beneath his skin, a blush suffusing at the realization of…how this didn’t feel as unpleasant as it should’ve.

 

Internally she berated herself, wrenching her hand away that caused his to recoil back, eyes of amethyst searching hers for what seemed like the answer to every question he could ever have. Hers clasped at her breast, before lowering to her fore, feigning composure he could see through. It caused him to smirk forlornly, receding some ways back into the cell, Yuna’s expression guarded once more. “We’ll be journeying together, Lady Yuna. In the spirit of Mika and Kinoc’s executions, I thought it best to be truthful instead of grafting more lies to my person as Yevon encouraged us to.”

 

Yuna’s eyebrows knit together, glancing down before it returned sternly to him. “I see.” Heaving in a settling breath, she announced, “Then please prepare yourself, Seymour. We’ll be leaving by noon. Perhaps you can leave the rest of your secrets in this cell as well before we go.”

 

Twisting around with her back to the cell, hydraulics worked as the heavy hatch gradually swung shut, locking mechanisms sounding as her pace broke into a run, dashing from the lower level and back into the world topside.


 

Yuna’s heart pounded into her throat by the time she made it back into an abandoned corridor of Bevelle Palace, heavily winded from exertion. An elevator lift had taken her to the utmost height of Bevelle, where the upper palace of St. Bevelle was located before feeding into the temple below. As she quietly beckoned a door open, a grand and ornately painted edifice, a wind buffeted her until the disparity balanced. The blood in Yuna’s veins froze when she saw the view that had been walked upon, the soaring height that plunged wildly into the luxuriant sprawl of Bevelle below. The staircase she’d stood upon three years before looked untouched, serenely maintained as though their assault had never taken place.

 

The same place where Tidus and her guardians were forced to watch her be humiliated by Seymour, of having her dignity shred from her with an audience no less, as the man she loved could do nothing while it transpired. She swallowed thickly, reflecting on what Seymour had told her while so visibly broken, a shadow of himself without his position and respect of both Yevon and the Guado, nothing without that stature. But, she bitterly reminded herself, she couldn’t afford to pity him. Not before he proved himself worthy of it.

 

Taking ginger steps did she stride down the same aisle she’d proceeded during the wedding, the details achingly clear. Walking as though she still held the bouquet, retracing her steps from memory, she could still see him at the zenith of the stairwell and how different he was from the man of just minutes ago. Proud, assured of his machinations would be unfailing until he’d been devastatingly proven wrong each and every time. Now? Now it were as though that man she remembered was nothing but a distant memory.

 

Alighting the stairs, the wind gently billowed through her long hair and she felt her heart climb into her throat with her as she ascended. Walking by him had felt suffocating. Like being drowned relentlessly and unable to breathe. By their journey’s start, would it be the same? Or would being dragged back into Spira finally rob him of that old and twisted ambition? Mounting the last stair, she stopped, remembering something different.

 

The kiss. The gloating one merely meant to wordlessly boast to Tidus and her guardiand, to almost say she somehow belonged to him. It had felt cold, or...had it? Yuna had only been seventeen at the time, too young to be wed to a man of his age. Overpowered and...wrong. Disgust had filled her so violently that leaping had felt more like an escape from him than trying to extricate herself for some wild way out. To continue her plot to destroy Sin, at all. Yuna shuddered in revulsion, wishing there was some way to expunge the memory from her mind. Thank goodness Tidus had kissed her that night, she smiled secretively to herself. Her first, real kiss that had felt like the most beautiful dream. Being with someone who loved her simply for who she was, not what her reputation would bring…

 

Twisting around to sit at the top stair, Yuna brought her knees to her chest and hugged them to her, gazing at the pristine night sky with child-like wonder. A smile on her face, the nebulae swirled acrobatically, like pyreflies in space and the bright constellations that shared it with them. The moons, the night sky...it filled her with a greater sense of peace than she’d felt in weeks.

 

“Um, Lady Yuna?” Yuna balked when she heard the voice, twisting around some to see herself just a meter or two from Chuami, the girl gazing with her face skewed between stubbornness and concern—rare, considering she didn’t seem to like Yuna from her first impression of the older woman. “Can I...sit here with you? There’s kinda something we need to discuss,” the girl explained frankly, contrasted with how reserved Yuna seemed to be.

 

“What seems to be the trouble, Chuami?” she inquired kindly after the girl as she smoothed her skirts beneath her, staring distantly into the Bevellan horizon, mismatched gaze waiting intently.

 

“I just finished speaking with the Chancellor and it seems I’m going with you.” Pausing, glancing cautiously at Yuna before she flared and waved her hands before her. “But before you get any ideas, it’s not like I want to go! I was assigned to it. Not as your guardian, just as the pilot of the airship he wants you to take. I’m a good pilot, alright? And Kurgum is a good co-pilot. So he’ll be coming, too.”

 

“I see. Thank you for telling me, Chuami. It’s good to be honest for the sort of trip we’ll be going on, you know.”

 

Chuami sighed and gazed sidelong, expression drawn. “Pardon me for saying it, Lady Yuna, but...you’re doing it again. Treating me like some groupie you have to shake off before you get on to more important things.”

 

Yuna’s expression became guilty, sighing deeply and gazing up at the sky before it returned to the girl. Resolutely perching her hands on her knees, propping her chin on them, the girl had to fight back a laugh. This famous high summoner looked so beguiling it was almost ridiculous! Yuna took notice of the smile she fought back and smiled encouragingly. “Alright, let’s start over. You’re going to be our pilot, so why don’t you tell me about yourself?”

 

Even though the advancement seemed positive, Chuami bit her lip uncertainly, face hard and defensive. “You’d laugh at me, or mock me. I’m not sure which would be worse.”

 

“Try me. My boyfriend was from a thousand year-old dream of the fayth. Sure you can top that?” Yuna sighed, smile faltering some in its spirit.

 

Chuami gaped at her in disbelief, brows deeply furrowing before she stubbornly clamped her mouth shut. “Alright, well...” she heaved a sigh, breaking eye contact, still guarded. “Sir Auron was my father, okay? That ridiculous enough for you? Long story short, Auron fooled around with a high priest’s daughter when he was eighteen—you know how guys are at that age—and my grandfather tried to force him to marry her to recover her lost honor because she lost her virginity to him. Then...I happened. But, my mom kept him a secret lest she be disgraced for having a child out of wedlock, and my grandfather upheld it, too. Auron lost favor in the warrior monks for refusing, and went on Lord Braska’s pilgrimage—you know that whole story, so I don’t need to explain.” The last came in a rush, Chuami flustered at having confessed the whole story at once. She deflated, sighing in exasperation. “That’s why Lulu never believed me, because I was kept secret for so long. He disappeared for ten years anyway, so it’s not like it mattered by the time he came back or anything. And my mom wasn’t going to tell him then, either. Heck, we thought he was dead!”

 

“For what it’s worth, I believe you.” The auburn haired girl’s head shot up, a look of hope startlingly present. For the first time, someone actually believed her? And that person was as important as Lady Yuna, no less… “Ever since I found all of the spheres of my father’s pilgrimage, I re-watched them so much. Looping them over and over...” Yuna explained dreamily, then smiling at Chuami. “You really remind me of Sir Auron when he was younger. Before he became so cynical and grumpy, that is.”

 

Chuami laughed at that. “Yeah? My mom told me he was a real sourpuss, even at my age! Well...guess that makes me one, too, huh?” the girl conceded with a sheepish chuckle.

 

Yuna’s gaze traveled dazedly out, Chuami’s own features opening, leaning towards her. “Lady Yuna? If you don’t mind my asking...why did you intercede for Seymour? Bringing him on this whole mission and all?”

 

Yuna nodded and sighed heavily, eyes sinking closed. “At first, I wondered the same thing. But the more I thought on it, the more I think it’s just the right thing to do. Not only can he help our cause, but I think he needs to see Spira through different eyes. Not the ones that led him to believe we were trapped in a cycle of sorrow and death in the first place.”

 

The younger girl nodded in understanding, crossing her arms and leaning forwards. “Not because you think he’s got some good in him or something? I know Kurgum would see it that way, the sap,” Chuami said with a disdainful grimace Yuna could tell was comical, eliciting a giggle.

 

“I think that had a little to do with it. Maybe I just put too much hope in people. Someday it might ruin me, but until then, I’m just going to keep smiling and do what’s right.”

 

Chuami suddenly stood tall, hands on her hips as she gazed commanding from the top stair, short skirt being ruffled by the wind. “Alright, Lady Yuna, you ought to start getting ready, then. This is no vacation and we’re leaving at noon sharp. Get everything together, and especially make sure our newest member is ready himself.”

 

Yuna stood up and playfully saluted her, chirping, “Aye-aye, captain!”

 


 

By noon, everyone seemed prepared to disembark. While still in the privacy of their room, Paine and Rikku had shared a passionate, romantic kiss Paine would’ve threatened bodily harm on anyone but Yuna to have witnessed, the Al Bhed lingering and burying her face into Paine’s neck in an embrasure the warrior gladly prolonged. Yuna’s brows creased, finding herself honestly a bit jealous. With Tidus gone, it felt a little bittersweet to be leaving without some sort of farewell of a more amorous nature, but she swiftly chastised the thought. She was a priestess now. She couldn’t afford to get hung up over such trifling things, even if her heart countered with love still strong for the blitzer.

 

Their luggage predominantly consisted on that exorbitant amount of potions and paraphernalia they’d been gifted, the girls lucky a wardrobe change was just a node away depending on whatever dressphere had been decided to be worn. The Spiran Council had been generous, and neither was willing to turn down items that might prove difficult to procure later on.

 

It was at the launching bay that their airship waited, gratefully open air when Yuna was more than sick of anything that resided below ground as a trip through Via Purifico had been enough for a lifetime. It was the appearance of Seymour had caught Yuna off guard, the former maester clad in a greatly understated variation of what she remembered at the wedding that greatly covered him up, the hairy appendages that had comprised his bang and outer antennae—Yuna unable to shake the term—forcibly braided in a flowing side braid that greatly disguised his presence, making him stand out less which she knew would be vital later on. Inwardly, Yuna approved. The less garish and modest garb suited him and his new position under her wing for a change.

 

“Ah, Lady Yuna, rather punctual today, are we all not?” he greeted when she approached, standing before him fearlessly whilst warrior monks warily presided around them. His hands clasped behind his back, leaning forward down some to say, “I apologize on anyone waiting on my behalf. You see, I was made to attend the curious spectacle with Mika and Kinoc. Thankfully, I believe it put many people in rather good spirits.”

 

Yuna’s eyes narrowed and she stepped away, looking away from him. “I’m sorry, but we don’t have time for small talk, Seymour,” she excused herself with a diffidence that belied her typically light and melodious tone. “Please, get settled on the airship. I still have to speak with our captain.”

 

Seymour’s lips quirked, eyes honing on anyone but her. “As you wish, my Lady,” he murmured aloofly before obeying, doing so with a bowed head.

 

“Hang on, was that—Maester Seymour?!” Kurgum sputtered in disbelief, the man in question thankfully far from earshot by the time he made his observance. Chuami sighed angrily, rolling her eyes.

 

“It’s just Seymour now, remember? He’s basically Lady Yuna’s lapdog, so no need to get so starry-eyed—especially considering all the horrible stuff he’s done to Spira, to boot!” the girl sharply reprimanded, a hand on her hip as Kurgum was cowed into silence.

 

Yuna found the pair, Kurgum sheepishly blushing while Chuami was left to converse coherently. “Lady Yuna, everything’s all set. We’ll depart within ten minutes after everyone’s settled.”

 

The priestess smiled approvingly, then dipping away to board the airship where she found Rikku suspiciously eyeing the corridor that fed into individual rooms, and the levels above and below that. Her expression looked distressed, trotting towards Yuna with a desperate plea in her voice. “Yunie, I can’t sleep here! I don’t wanna even be in a mile of him! Can’t I just sleep on the roof or engine room or something, please?” she whined, clutching on to her cousin’s hands as if begging for her life.

 

Yuna leaned in, whispering in Rikku’s ear. “I thought you might feel that way, so there’s a secret bunk I had prepared that’s up there—above the bridge. It’s nice and high, but the sort of a place a thief can access,” she added with a wink, Rikku grinning gratefully.

 

“Thank you, Yunie!” she whispered, trying to look as covert as possible. Sneaking away to perch on a lone seat behind the two piloting modules, humming as she tinkered expertly with the navigation console stationed at the right. A spot that always seemed natural for the Al Bhed.

 

Thankfully, the rooms themselves were a floor below, meaning that no one had to suffer Seymour’s immediate presence at least until nightfall, or whenever it was decided some couldn’t hold out any longer. With she, Rikku, and Seymour formally on the main team whilst Chuami and Kurgum manned the airship and support, that increased their number to five. It was better than two, but Seymour’s loyalties were still up in the air and Chuami and Kurgum, as she could see, weren’t as experienced in combat which still dialed them back by three. Essentially, back to where she began only with an addition of a working airship.

 

“Lady Yuna, according to these coordinates, our first heading is Guadosalam, right?” the girl asked with a note of incredulity, gazing dubiously back up at the priestess from the screen.

 

Yuna leaned down, her expression perfectly serious. “Yes, it is. Will that be a problem at all?”

 

“No, it’s just...there’s no place other than the Moonflow to land an airship this big. Not to mention, I really don’t think they’ll be too happy to see him again. Are you really sure that’s such a good idea?”

 

Yuna nodded with conviction, causing Chuami to raised an eyebrow at her. “Alright. I just hope you’re sure of this, Lady Yuna. Anyways, buckle up! We’re going to be taking off now.”

 

Kurgum hastily settled in the co-pilot’s chair while Rikku took to the navigation, cuing in commands like a natural with the same alacrity as Chuami and Kurgum. The aircraft roared to life, and before the underside’s egress latched closed, the shouts of men to vacate the premises sounded loudly. As the engines warmed and thrust off, people scattered and a red flag was waved by a machina droid where Chuami would be able to see it and discern the best time to leave.

 

The airship’s dial spun with a rotary speed, inertia building as they soon were airborne, Yuna watching delightedly as Bevelle began to shrink under them in the most childlike sentiments any girl would have while flying. Even if she feared attack by Sin, air traffic having cut down considerably, it still didn’t stop her from having this ship chartered. A plane of flawless azure scattered with clouds soared past them, all on board seeming relaxed from the ship’s mechanical whirring and hum.

 

Seeing as it would only be a matter of time before their arrival, Yuna propped her arms on a metal surface and found herself falling fast asleep.

 

Chapter Text

 

(Warnings: T]


 

It would be a long flight before they made it to the Moonflow, Yuna having gotten acclimated to the Spartan quarters she would be occupying, roughly a dozen similar cells in all. Each bore a porthole in which they could gaze upon the passing landscape of Spira, verdant where it was not otherwise occupied by long, inexhaustible swaths of ocean. Journeys that once took weeks or years were now diminished to but hours, Yuna wondering how long it would truly last before they would be forced to continue on foot. She knew it was detrimental to her own morale if such thoughts were entertained, but Auron had always said in one way or another to be realistic, to banish the cloudy trains of thought in exchange for a clearer, more solid reality. That fate didn’t exist except for what one made of it. It was easy to think it was so easy, but part of her believed she was the one destined to fight Sin in the wake of these resurrections, wondering if it would be cyclical like the old cycle.

Yuna couldn’t afford to let dalliances distract her, peering down to the world below as they were piloted into a short descent upon an airfield that was beginning to be cleared along the banks of the Moonflow, but not so large that it might destroy the forests encompassing a place of such natural beauty. The airfield was devoid of all airships except their own, a sinking feeling brewing in her stomach. If Sin was amphibious as well as aerial, it meant that both modes of transportation would be paralyzed on a scale much worse than before.

“Yunie, come on, we gotta go!” Rikku urged from behind Yuna’s closed door, the priestess bolting from her bed as receding footfalls could be heard, likely being the young thief herself. Hastily she made a cursory check of her equipment, making sure her pouches weren’t depleted and that all her dresspheres were there, thrusting it open only to be met by a similarly emerging Seymour.

She stopped short before him, his gaze fey and enigmatic as it met hers, mismatching eyes switching towards the stairwell that would take them to the bottom level to disembark. “Um, the exit is that way,” she managed before ducking, partly feeling too shy to be speaking alone with the man.

“We are to be journeying to Guadosalam from here, correct?” Seymour inquired of her neutrally, politely as he always seemed to.

Yuna balked, paused with her head partly inclined towards him but avoiding catching sight of him. “Yes. However, it’s late so we’re staying at the Moonflow for the night. It’s twilight so…we’re just heading outside to enjoy the scenery before we head to bed.”

Seymour scoffed some in amusement, smile becoming incrementally smug. “If I am not to be left to my own devices, I imagine that means we must spend the evening together,” he observed, canting his head closer to her own eye level, seeming to inwardly delight at her shyness. As if it were a contest of wills.

She inhaled at the realization, then exhaled slowly when she remembered he was right. Seymour couldn’t be left alone, and he was in her custody now. “That’s right. Because of it, I think you should be more than willing to answer any questions I have, right? Not to mention, we have to discuss what I expect of you when we reach Guadosalam.” That seemed to put a damper on his smugness, lips falling back into a neutral line even as his towering form followed her.

Chuami and Kurgum had already departed, a porter having been given instructions on how to tend to the airship. Rikku had likely bolted away before any of them, likely to locate Tobli and catch up with the diminutive entertainer she’d become surprisingly good friends with. That left Yuna alone with Seymour, suddenly becoming excruciatingly self-conscious of the man that would be persistently tagging along her side.

Even the woods were beautiful, at least. If it weren’t for Seymour’s own footsteps shuffling through the dusty, trodden roads she might have fancied it being a secretive promenade, something that admittedly had always made her feel a little mischievous, childish as it was. Hands clasped behind her back, Yuna hummed a sweet tune as pyreflies weaved among the verdant leaves ignited a light jade by the setting sun, even Yuna knowing that it would likely be dusk by the time they arrived at the Moonflow proper.

“Lady Yuna, the things you wished to discuss?” Seymour prompted, she realizing with embarrassment that he must’ve seen her like that! Swallowing down a light flush, she spun around to face him.

“There is something I want you to do in Guadosalam, but what it is—it’s to apologize. You hurt your people, Seymour, and I think everyone deserves to hear your contrition. If you really want redemption, well…you’re gonna have to prove it to me. And admitting all the crimes you’ve committed is going to be how it’ll start, understand? Even if no one forgives you, it’d be better than nothing at all,” Yuna said assertively, locking eyes with him and forcing him not to avert those violet eyes, a hand clenched before her in earnest conviction, daring him to defy her even a little. Her strength wasn’t domineering and brutish, but it was there.

Seymour looked drawn for a long moment, gaze traveling over her towards the Moonflow just beginning to ridge its way from the forest, then meeting hers in the incisive, penetrating look of his. “The things you’ll demand of me, Lady Yuna. And yet, I can’t find it within me to refuse you.” His smile was distant, knowing.

Yuna’s brows furrowed and she stopped short on him, looking truly angry and frustrated with him. “I don’t want you to do it just because I want you to! Don’t you feel even the least bit sorry?!” she fumed at him, glaring in open defiance.

The half-Guado uttered a soft sigh, eyes sinking closed. “It’s difficult to think of them like that. For all my life, they abhorred me. It wasn’t until my father realized my worth eight years after a failed pilgrimage that I was accepted. After my mother sacrificed herself for us to eventually die simply so he wouldn’t face so much social insurrection. As for them, well—they were not much different. They only followed and accepted me after a matter of convenience.”

Yuna fell silent at that, gazing sidelong and away when the truth of his words sunk in. It was hard to deal with the enormous gulf between them, the one where a split had come when he’d been sentenced to another exile and Yuna had found a home and people who genuinely loved her like she was blood family. People who didn’t expect anything of her, but encouraged and supported her in what she chose to do. It was difficult to fathom the inverse, of the likes what happened to Seymour that bred such deep hatred for Spira and its people.

“What about the people who did care for you? I mean, really cared. Lady Cydia, Tromell, that old man with the thick brogue, the students you taught, the people who learned to see past your differences—those people. Can’t you apologize to them, at least?” Yuna sighed heavily, gazing up at him imploringly. “After you did what you had to the Al Bhed and the Ronso, they fled to Macalania Woods waiting for death. They were willing to atone for what you did. Even if you don’t think so, those people deserve your apology.”

Seymour looked thoughtful, considering it with a straightened back as her words seemed to be sinking in. It was hard talking to someone who seemed to be in another realm except reality, living behind a veil of hatred and a perspective so bastardized it was a wonder how he functioned at all. Yuna just couldn’t imagine being poisoned by so much hatred.

“I don’t recall ever telling you my mother’s name, Lady Yuna. How did you learn it?”

“Don’t avoid what I said to you, Seymour. I can tell you afterword,” she replied firmly, unyielding.

“For them…yes, I believe I can be earnest to them. And through them, the rest of the Guado who were shamed,” Seymour acceded, uttering a soft sigh.

“Good. As for that, well…in Macalania about a week or so ago, I met a Guado unsent named Isa. She was a maid, maybe even a caretaker. But…she thought I was Cydia,” Yuna recounted, sounding mystified as a curled hand was brought before her mouth, an unconscious gesture of thoughtfulness.

“You are dressed in a fashion similar to her, and your hair—the mistake is easy to make if not scrutinized closely enough,” he rejoined with as much neutrality as he could despite the restlessness she could hear in his voice.

“I know. But, I’m not changing it. I like it, so don’t bother protesting if you don’t.”

“I never intended to. In fact, I think you look quite attractive like this.” A blush bloomed on Yuna’s cheeks as she hastily turned away from him, inhaling shakily as she willed herself not to be so affected by him. They were just words, nothing more. Guilt crept in after, ashamed that he could elicit such a reaction from her at all.

“We shouldn’t delay so much. Night is falling and fiends will attack us if we linger here,” Yuna numbly said, resuming her walk before she slowly paused, her gaze creeping to meet with his once more, at least partially. “…Seymour. Are you…really going to listen to me? Or are you just going to betray us later and try to join with Sin again?”

This caused the air between them to crowd as Seymour neared even closer, causing her skin to prickle from his presence, bristling when his breath ghosted near the crown of her head. “In the eyes of Yevon, we are still wed, Lady Yuna,” he murmured inexorably, a finger coming to absently twine a lock of her mousy brown hair. “I will do my duty as Lord Zaon did long ago and obey you as a proper husband should.” His words were a husky caress against her ear, she involuntarily shuddering before pulling away with her hair dribbling away from his digits.

“Please, aspire to be like Lord Zaon. He was an honorable man, one I think you should strive to be,” she responded aloofly with folded arms, unsure where she could look where his eyes wouldn’t follow.

Seymour couldn’t help but chuckle, still such a dark element contained within it. “How is it we stand before the same picture but see such different things, Lady Yuna?” His voice was still soft, intended for only her to hear.

Her shoulders sagged, lifting her head bravely, trying to suppress the trickling dread his words had made her feel. “That’s because you’re inventing what you’re seeing, Seymour. I’m going to the Moonflow now, so please don’t linger too far behind,” she instructed coolly, taking long, brisk steps as she tried to outpace him. All before she broke into a long-strided run.


 

As it turned out, Seymour hadn’t followed her that night, something she was relieved to hear. Instead, by word of mouth he’d returned to the airship and had holed himself away in his cabin, something Yuna couldn’t have been gladder to hear for once. What annoyed her was that, in a way, he was right. To Yevon, they were considered to be lawfully married, something she’d blissfully forgotten in the wake of how fraudulent it was, of how genuine Tidus’ feelings had been for her. But for tonight, she could thankfully forget he existed for now.

Rikku had procured some sparklers and repurposed Al Bhed grenades that had been redesigned into makeshift firecrackers. “Yunie, look at me! I’m one of those big old cyborg thingies!” Rikku crowed as she twirled in a dizzy circle, Yuna catching her while the girl dissolved in a fit of hyena-pitched cackles. They seemed alone until Tobli dizzily greeted Yuna, the pint-sized entertainer gushing at her while pumping her hand furiously.

“Whoa, Tobli, might wanna cool it there,” Rikku placated, laughing as she bridged a divide between them with her hands.

“Oh, you two have saved the day, the night! I was just going to stage a show tonight, but my performers’ airship went down just outside of Bevelle! Oh, the shame, the shame! Truly, you being here is a lifesaver! Might you be willing to sing a song or two? Pretty please, oh, I would be forever indebted to you both!” Tobli pleaded, seeming ready to prostrate at their feet.

Rikku grinned mischievously as she circled Yuna and perched her hands on the older girl’s shoulders that caused Yuna to flinch, then giggle. “We should do it, Yunie! Come on, pleeeeaseeee! I miss doing this sorta thing!”

Yuna couldn’t help but stifle a laugh, but placed her hands on her hips that Rikku mimicked, dramatically posing back to back and forming fingerguns with their hands, winking in unison as they proclaimed, “Leave it to your friendly neighborhood Gullwings!” in tandem.

Within minutes a floating, spectral blue platform manifested above the Moonflow as the manifestation of the pyreflies increased not only the beauty of the concert venue, an audience beginning to gather, Yuna sensing that several present weren’t even alive, but—that didn’t really matter, did it? The plan was simple: they’d transform once they got on stage, the lights of the transformation would summon the spotlights floating above on standby. Part of her wondered if they’d really be able to pull it off, the musicians and some additional machina ones looked different from the ones she was used to.

“Rikku, what number are we doing?” Yuna hissed softly as Rikku clumsily shuffled through the selection of a sphere, hunting for a good opening act.

“Found one!” Rikku crowed as she paused it, shoving it towards Yuna.

The woman clutched at the undulating sphere, casting plays of light across her face as she scanned the lyrics. “Magic?” her voice lilted, though it seemed to be a note of approval. From what she saw, it seemed upbeat and energetic, her favorite sort.

“Uh-huh! Nabbed it from the Luca Sphere Theater. I’ll give it back when we’re done with it,” she conceded sheepishly, Yuna guffawing at Rikku. Sometimes her thieving took her a little too far, but she’d be lying if it weren’t a little funny. “Anyway, check out the playlist. The songstress dressphere was updated a bit, so the lyrics’ll just beam into your mind along with the melody. Neat, huh? It was a little addition I suggested to Shinra myself.~”

Yuna smiled broadly in approval, then handing off the sphere that would likely be passed on to the DJ that commanded a place behind the main stage. She was excited; it’d been a few years since that level of excitement and Yuna admittedly missed the thrill that came with being up on stage.

The chorus arose from an ensemble of Macalanian musicians, Yuna and Rikku rushing on stage while it was still dark and the overture gradually rose to an orchestral crescendo. As the first few repetitive lyrics were sung by the back-up singers at their flanks, rising in passion before the dresspheres were activated, Yuna allowing the familiar sensation to wash over her as the crowd lit up, applauding prematurely through the introduction as Rikku soon followed suit, eruptions of light summoning the spotlights to hone on them as the girls began singing into the wireless microphones that came with the dresspheres.

It’s not the way you wear your hair, or your dress cut down to there—wh~oa~” Yuna began, the lyrics and timbre and tempo all flowing freely into her mind, legs dancing to the beat as she twirled in the short skirt and cascades of petal-like cloth sewn into the hem of its halter top.

Rikku giddily leapt in, joining in with, “It’s not the way you move your eyes, though it took me by surprise—oh no~” Yuna couldn’t help but smile giddily at Rikku, impressed by how good her voice sounded.

Together they joined for the refrain, belting out, “Before the night is over, I’ll pull your body closer~ I wanna give it to you, I wanna give it back~” They then proceeded to twirl each other around, the chorus picking up for them as Yuna and Rikku giggled through their antics before resuming the song. People in the audience had begun dancing alone or with a partner, the pyreflies seeming to join them. The audience had grown beyond what either girl could see, but Yuna couldn’t begin to bring herself to care even as her skin bristled, writing it off as adrenaline from having so much fun.

Before long, they admittedly lost track of time. Having sung their way through at least a dozen songs if not more, the audience was growing raucous but excited, moshing and jumping as the spotlights began dizzily strobing and arcing into the very sky. Thankfully, the bothersome feeling from before was either forgotten or the perpetrator had simply left, to Yuna’s relief even as she lost herself.

Some of the numbers became what Tobli had referred to as electroswing, something Yuna and Rikku almost lost breath dancing so erratically and energetically to. And though the songstress dressphere had great stamina for long and energetic concerts, by the last number Rikku and Yuna collapsed to the stage, breathless and laughing giddily. Their massive audience burst into loud applause, heard across the Moonflow practically, they leaping enthusiastically despite the tremendously late hour, Yuna sheepishly noticing the sun blearily beginning to crest the horizon. Standing one last time, Rikku and Yuna raised their clasped hands before dramatically bowing, more a mock to formality from the sheer amount of fun they’d had.

“Yunie, let’s make like a banana and split before Tobli gets the idea to line everyone here up for autographs!” Rikku hissed with a grin, waving before they both deactivated their dresspheres and made a break through the tight throng of people just starting to disperse. When they came to the border of the line between the embankment and the path leading to the airfield, Chuami was waiting for them, unfolding her arms as she seemed stern for a long moment before her face split in a grin.

“I almost forgot you sang, too,” Chuami simpered at them, Rikku pouting until Chuami paid her mind, too. “You were great, too. Man though, you guys might not be getting much sleep! We have only three hours at the most before we’re supposed to set off for Guadosalam tomorrow.”

Yuna laughed modestly, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear. “Thank you, Chuami. I almost forgot how fun that was, and I hope I can do it again soon, if I’m honest. Hopefully, not into so late until the morning.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t regret it one bit! It’s nice we can beat away the stuffy Yevoner and bring back good ol’ Gullwing Yunie!” Rikku interjected, grinning massively as she then glanced at Yuna, tapping her shoulder before bolting away. “Last one to the airship is the slowest shoopuf!”

Yuna was quick to follow suit, picking up her long skirts and breaking into a sprint after Rikku, peals of laughter shared between them as Chuami rolled her eyes and smirked at their antics, placidly walking back instead.

They would be in for quite the day ahead, that was certain.


 

Though next to no one had gotten the adequate amount of sleep—save for perhaps a certain unsent—it was barely enough to cap the bright mood. Yuna and Rikku had awoken within minutes of each other, preparing breakfast in tandem whilst singing the Gullwings’ theme song a capella, likely a bit of a squeeze in the small kitchenette situated in the galley that would host the dining room adjacent to it. Both girls sang in unison, dancing productively in the midst of preparing ingredients for a breakfast worthy of any Al Bhed, recipes from Rikku’s own design. Though it was a light breakfast, it was summing up to be a flavorful, colorful extravaganza of finger food.

“Alright, this looks fantastic! You know, I’ve never had authentic Al Bhed food before!” Kurgum exclaimed as he bounded next to Yuna, the woman smiling while rocking between her feet from one of last night’s numbers.

“Well, you’ll love this! Would you mind grabbing me the rosemary from over there?” she asked of him, hands preoccupied with a pan soaked in olive oil and sizzling spinach leaves drenched in delicious spices.

“Hey, the falafel’s all done,” Rikku chimed in, placing a deep bowl on the table while taking a mental litany of what was there. “Pita bread, tomatoes, yoghurt, spinach leaves, kus kus, aaaand—everything else! Looks like we’re ready to eat!”

Yuna had just finished with the portion she was preparing to set down when Seymour ascended from the stairwell, observing the food spread with avid interest and smiling at Yuna just as she was setting down her baked spinach leaf contribution, her expression faltering before she hastily looked away. A niggling voice at the back of her mind prayed that he wouldn’t be thinking some obscenely domestic thoughts, but she shut down the intrusive idea as she motioned to sit next to Rikku at the end of the table while Seymour took the head.

“You seem rather well-rested in spite of the late night, Lady Yuna,” he conversationally broke the silence, Yuna flinching as Rikku helpfully hunched over in an attempt to reduce his view of her cousin, she passing him a silent glare while Kurgum was more polite in offering a plate the half-Guado had motioned for. “It’s rather interesting you’ve taken an interest in the performing arts and...new modes of dress.” This caused Rikku to clangorously drop her spoon in her yoghurt, huffing.

“What, didn’t you see the concert? How Yunie and I were singing all those songs in micro-skirts all the guys were ogling at? Yevon forbid Yunie embrace her Al Bhed heritage and show some leg, right? Since you Yevonites still think we’re heathens and all,” Rikku flared defiantly, causing Kurgum and Chuami to glance at each other mid-chew. Seymour, too, grew quiet and his face deadpanned.

Seymour’s eyes visibly darkened and Yuna dared to peek at him, noticing his slight frown and the dark look of jealousy heating his normally cool gaze. The jealousy dissipated to disgust as it met Rikku’s defiant one, inundated with silent challenge. Fixing his gaze to his assortment of food, he softly rebutted, “How Lady Yuna wishes to conduct herself is no business of mine. However, I do believe keeping the breakfast mood to be anything but amicable will sour the appetite. It’s a tradition native to the Guado, and I believe it rings true even here,” he said, voice forcibly kept level.

Rikku smirked at her little victory, exchanging a grin with Yuna that she admittedly met gratefully. She was happy she had Rikku on her side, that someone could fearlessly stand up to Seymour and not be afraid of him. But his words in their belief of them still being lawfully wed made her shudder in revulsion, Rikku bumping their shoulders together reassuringly. No, it was just talk. If it made him obey her all the better, than she supposed she’d just have to grin and bear it until Sin was defeated again.

Yuna could feel Seymour’s eyes on her head as Rikku walked by her on their way to Guadosalam, both women fronting their entourage. Kurgum and Chuami closed in at a close second while Seymour brought up the rear. They happily babbled about last night’s concerts, Chuami and Kurgum throwing in remarks that sometimes had them laughing together while Seymour remained resolutely quiet. Beneath the shady approach to Guadosalam, it really felt as though things could go well.

When they came to the entrance, however, the Guado guards brandished their spears and trained them on Seymour who only chuckled laconically at their hostility, both guards shouting expletives that didn’t seem to faze the man whatsoever. However, Yuna bolted before him, arms extended protectively between him and their spear points. “Enough! Please, put down your weapons! He’s with me,” Yuna pleaded in exasperation, fixing them with pleading looks that saw them gradually lower their weapons. Turning to glance at him, she could’ve sworn Seymour mouthed his thanks, but Yuna ignored it and they proceeded on through the hollowed tree base that fed into the underground city.

The streets were devoid of life, all visible homes sealed tightly that Yuna didn’t need to ask the reason behind. The perpetual sense of twilight that moored in the city betrayed none of the tension they all felt, all before Tromell emerged from the palace flanked by two guards, he bidding them to stand aside as he gazed long and hard at the man who he’d once been a dear retainer to, the elderly Guado’s face tight with emotion. “Lord Seymour, it is good to see you again,” he greeted with a bow, Yuna furrowing her brows in shock at him. “Please, do come inside. Let us speak in private.”

They did as commanded, but the Guado paused before entering the enormous dining room. “Please, Lady Yuna, I ask your friends wait outside. I wish to speak to you both alone,” the leader requested politely, Rikku’s mouth gaping and poised to protest.

“It’ll be alright, Rikku, I promise,” Yuna smiled, even though Chuami scowled at the decision.

“You look rather well, Tromell. How have you been these past three years?” Seymour inquired smoothly once they were inside the dining hall with Yuna in tow, the air of tensity palpable. There was much indecision on Tromell’s part, the man’s face conflicted from what she could see that wasn’t obscured by his sea-green beard. He appeared troubled where Seymour looked nearly unperturbed.

“My Lord...why have you returned?” Tromell inquired, his voice having aged in the breadth of a moment, turquoise eyes that were utterly weary when resting upon a formerly deceased lord, a maester who’d been condemned to another death just days before. “I heard news of the preceding in Bevelle and I...assumed the worst.”

“Did you now?” Seymour’s eyebrows lifted sarcastically, looking like a predator circling his prey. “And I see you’ve taken my place as leader. Have you assumed this palace to be your new homestead as well?”

“Seymour! That’s enough!” Yuna chastised sharply, then walking between them and lifting one of Tromell’s hands to clasp, her gaze earnest and gentle. “Lord Tromell, I’ve come with Seymour so he can express his remorse to your people for all he’s inflicted on them. He’s in my custody now, as it was decided on by the Spiran Council. I promise you, we’re here to make amends for all he’s done!” She bowed low, Tromell’s bushy brows lifting in surprise at the sudden show of reverence.

“Lady Yuna, please, you do not need to apologize for me,” Seymour broke in, catty smile still present, spindly fingers clasped conversationally behind his back, thick robes making it somewhat difficult. “Was this not my endeavor?”

“Then why aren’t you doing it? Why do you look down on him like...like he’s some kind of insect?” she demanded, fixing him with a hard glare. Tromell fell silent, unsure of what to say.

“Forgive me. I have yet to acclimate to my newfound station, Lady Yuna,” Seymour apologized, avoiding the question that caused her gaze to turn resentful before she looked away altogether. “Lord Tromell, please, if it would not be too much trouble, I would like an audience with the people of Guadosalam at the soonest possible convenience.”

“Yes, but of course, Lo—Seymour. It will be done,” Tromell agreed, nodding his head absently before his expression brightened on Yuna. “Thank you, Lady Yuna, for all you have done. Wait here and I will inform you of when we are ready.” His footfalls seemed to echo cavernously throughout the vividly colorful room, soon only the swinging pendulum filling the silence.

Yuna sighed, a mere exhalation through her nostrils, brows furrowed as she held his gaze fearlessly. “No more of that, do you understand? You don’t rule them or anyone in Yevon anymore and you should stop acting like you do,” she said assertively, folding her arms under her bosom.

“It’s only a force of habit, Lady Yuna. And habits are quite hard to break, wouldn’t you agree?”

“That’s not a habit. You were doing that on purpose,” she shot back, arms unfolding and hands balling into fists. Their eyes met and what simmer in those amethyst eyes made her take an involuntary step back, unwilling to name what she saw. “Stop treating people like prey to be hunted. Me included,” she murmured quietly, head bowing some. She thought she heard the folding of cloth as he bowed, but she didn’t care to look back and confirm.


 

The gathering in front of Guadosalam’s palace was nothing short of impressive. The masses came in droves to see their disgraced former leader stand before them considerably humbled next to his former butler, the Guado who now led them. Chuami, Kurgum, and Rikku had flanked the right to the podium politely while Yuna stood directly to his right. The sea of pale faces and assortment of blue to green-hued hair and beards with matching eyes reminded her of a seabed, they like seaweed tangled atop similarly elfin features only Seymour really seemed to defy. Yuna’s head was bowed, feeling a secondhand sense of scrutiny that she knew was rightfully directed at Seymour. But, remembering Paine’s deduction towards Spirans’ sentiments towards her perceived failure in Sin’s early return, she couldn’t help but wonder which portion of audience scrutinized her just as critically.

Seymour presided over them regally, even in robes that better suited a simple monk than a man of his former glory. Even as he moved to position himself before the podium, the Guado present were enraptured, still seeing a vision of Jyscal in spite of the man having been murdered by his own son. Yuna cast a downwards glance towards him, wondering what he was formulating to say. Unless he’d planned last night, she hadn’t exactly been around long enough to know. It made her anxious, one Rikku cast a sympathetic glance towards in a silent measure to soothe her cousin’s trepidation.

Donning no smirk nor visible expression of smugness, he kept his head bowed before he began speaking. “Three years ago, I once stood before you as leader and maester of Yevon. Our future looked quite bright then, didn’t it? We, the Guado, finally rising in stature in the sphere of Yevon’s might. What promise we had in those days,” Seymour began, his voice audible but hushed, Yuna watching him intently. Was he lying? Cherry-picking words that had no real meaning behind them? Her lips pursed trying to figure it out. “I...wronged you. A faithful, loyal, powerful people in both Yevon and themselves whom came so very far in our vision for this magnificent future. I became blinded in my zealotry towards Yevon. Sending such brave Guado to entrench themselves in the Bikinel Desert, fighting a battle we had no place in, no right for me to direct you...towards your deaths. I cannot bring back the dead. I cannot repay for those lives lost, not for what chaos I took part in. For those loyal many who placed...insurmountable amounts of faith in me. I betrayed you, wielded it against you and in doing so...committed the worst of treason. I wish to apologize. I wish to bow before you as you so willingly gave your lives and loyalty for me.”

Yuna moved aside as he skirted around her, slowly genuflecting to one knee with a serene countenance before murmurs arose as he bowed as flat as he could whilst genuflecting, her arms unfolding as her breast swelled with indecision. She wanted to trust him. She wanted to believe he meant everything he said. But he had seemed so good until his treachery was revealed and he unveiled his true colors as a cruel and callow man, arrogant and believing death was the only salvation for Spirans. A hand rose to clutch at her breast, lower lip worrying as those thoughts made her swallow down a dry clump in her throat.

After several long moments, he rose. Slowly as he’d descended in the first place, all present fixated on him in silent awe. Walking with an almost reverence back to the podium, his arm extended towards Yuna, she starting as he neared her in a way that made her speechless. “The Lady Yuna, in all her kindness, interceded on my behalf when I was slated to die. It is why I walk with her, serve her, and shall die for her in our endeavor to eliminate Sin once more.”

A long silence ensued as a polite albeit forced applause sounded, barely lasting for a moment before Tromell replaced Seymour at the podium, regarding him once before he openly embraced Seymour before them all, Seymour frozen by the sudden contact, frowning. “Lord Seymour...you are banished from Guadosalam. Do not return unless you have defeated Sin, by virtue of your life. Should you dare, you shall be executed on sight,” the elder Guado whispered in his ear, Yuna turning in shock as she heard the exchange. As Tromell released him, Seymour tensely smiled as the Guado applauded to a loud roar this time at the selfless kindness of their leader, Tromell smiling broadly.

Yuna applauded politely as well, everything in her wondering if this had truly been enough to absolve him, or if would prove nothing at all. Lips still pursed, the idea would haunt her for what seemed to be the remainder of the day.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

(Warnings: T, intense battle sequence]


 

Even though the venue had taken a steady trickle to see itself depleted, as though he were the walking embodiment of a curse did the Guado tactfully avoid the streets, children ushered away while those that did linger seemed to solely engage the effort to survey Yuna before an incorporeal sensation of avoidance filtered thickly through the city once more. Yuna, her impromptu guardians, and Seymour were allowed back within the palace for a brief respite whilst Tromell prepared for an evening of work ahead of him. Though generously allowed to stay, it was at Seymour where the invitation wasn’t obviously extended. The dining room fell into an uncomfortable silence as Rikku, Chuami, and Kurgum had departed at Yuna’s insistence to explore the city, something the two youngest of their party seemed eager to do. That left Rikku as chaperon to supervise the two teens, something she took on fairly receptively.

 

Yuna had seated herself at a table and let her eyes absently wander among the colorful assortment of foods that never seemed to be in short supply, her stomach rumbling in protest as she belatedly realized how late it really was. In the deafening silence of the room, the shuffle of Seymour’s robes elicited a turn of head while his hand came along her periphery, an apple proffered for Yuna to take. “Don’t worry, it’s not poisoned,” the man lightly teased, Yuna taking it only after a moment’s deliberation. Seymour rounded into her view, stooping over as he attempted to see what was besetting the priestess. “You seem troubled.”

 

Rolling the apple between her hands, she finally heaved a sigh and glanced up at him. “I have to go into the Farplane,” she said finally, raising the fruit to her lips and taking a nibbling bite.

 

“There’s nothing stopping you, Lady Yuna. You could go whenever you please.” Gradually, a chair of his own was procured, sinking in a reasonable distance away from her, something Yuna was inwardly grateful for.

 

“It’s not that. More...there’s something I have to confirm, but I think I’m too scared to,” she answered vaguely even though no question had been overtly asked. Her mind veered away from that, she then venturing, “Seymour?” This brought his frustratingly enigmatic gaze to her own. “Do you...really want to save Spira?”

 

Seymour looked away in profile for moment, formulating an answer he seemed to need little thought for. “No,” he responded softly, then returning his gaze towards her. “Not in the way you wish. We already differ on how it might be saved, is that not so? However,” he paused, inquisitively canting his head at her, “I am curious. If death has failed in saving it, I wish to see what life might do. To see what you will do.”

 

Yuna’s lips pursed, feeling slightly nauseated by his answer. She supposed there really was no way of altering what couldn’t be. Her understanding of him was just beginning to scratch the surface, indecisiveness taking its toll on her. Had she made a foolish decision in allowing him under her custody?Yuna wanted to believe some good still existed in him, that it was there, buried beneath his past. But even if it was there, would he ever wish to be the good she wanted him to be? Not the good that believed destruction was the only means to the end. “I...still don’t understand you,” she modulated slowly, gingerly.

 

Seymour reached over near her, causing her to balk before his fingers gently curled in, feeling them tilt her chin to gaze frankly at him. It could easily be broken, but she was strangely allowable of it. Brows furrowing, she said, “I’m afraid that bringing you with me was a mistake. That everyone thinks what I did was a mistake, that...it was all in vain. How am I going to move forward if I fail everyone? I...don’t know how I could live with it!”

 

Those fingers were dropped, Seymour’s expression becoming thoughtful, eyes still so penetrating. “And I wonder the same,” he admitted candidly, leaning back into his seat with a soft creak. “Do you believe I was brought back for a reason, Lady Yuna?”

 

She shook her head, these thoughts troubling her that earnestly expressed across her countenance. Her hands wrung together anxiously upon her lap, lips pursing. “I don’t know. I don’t understand why any of this is happening.”

 

“Perhaps this is where I might come to your advantage. Before I returned, I believe I...remember some of the Farplane. And the spirit of Yu Yevon festering. Perhaps that has something to do with it.”

 

Yuna’s head shot up, rising from her seat and standing before Seymour, suddenly burning with revelation. “Do you think Yevon has been amassing the pyreflies to reform Sin?” she said aloud speculatively, the corners of Seymour’s lips twitching upwards in amusement. “Maybe...maybe it’s why the fayth haven’t come back. Maybe he absorbed them, too!”

 

Seymour’s shoulders rose in a languid shrug, eyelids drifting almost dreamily over violet eyes. “Your guess is as good as mine, my Lady.” Though, it lowered, the amusement drifting away from his countenance. “However, that is an astute observation. Sin possessed such an ability even before this current incarnation. Being in the Farplane could have likely amplified that power.”

 

“You know about this, don’t you? I remember, you were the Minister of Temple Affairs, and leader of the Guado. Don’t they have records of the past?” Yuna pressed, her eyes locking with his resolutely.

 

“Yes, but it’s been years, Yuna. And I have no way of accessing them. Not now, at least,” Seymour softly subverted, though he hardly seemed opposed to keeping this closure, seeming to quite revel in it.

 

When it dawned on Yuna how close they were, she startled back, guiltily remembering Tidus. Her hands clenched together at her breast, one lowering as she kept her head down, brows working together. Whatever barriers had been temporarily dropped were raised on their hackles again, Yuna standing crisply as she stood with her back to the unsent. “Seymour, I think it’s best if we honored Lord Tromell’s wishes. Please stay with Rikku, Chuami or Kurgum until we’re ready to leave. In fact, I think you should get a head start on returning to the airship with them. I’ll be joining you shortly.”

 

Hearing him rise and bow before his formerly occupied seat, he replied with a low, “As you wish, Lady Yuna.”

 


 

She’d needed that. To escape. The city of Guadosalam was just beginning to emerge in the wake of Seymour, she having been assured that Kurgum had been the one to guide him back, something about that alone taking a tremendous amount of trust. The tiered and sloping streets steadily disgorged the population, many of the Guado greeting her affably, perhaps there an element of distance between them. For though the Gullwings had helped spare them from extinction at the hands of vengeful Ronso, they avoided her. Not because of disdain or resentment, but maybe because assuming her previous role as Sin’s vanquisher had elevated her too high again. To think, she’d thought her time as a sphere hunter would’ve allayed that, even a little.

 

The guards at the Farplane’s entrance inclined their heads at her, she catching a glimpse of a stolen smile that she kindly reciprocated. Yuna came to the unnaturally formed stairwell that fed through the portal that would lead her on, the priestess’ heart hammering apprehensively in her chest. It felt like the slow peal of thunder with each step she took, trudging upwards as images of Tidus filled her mind. Of his bright, sunny smile and those eyes that sparkled like the sea. But, what she dreaded was what she might see in the Farplane.

 

Morbid curiosity and fear drove her, a curled hand gripped over her heart as though it might burst past her sternum. Another pressed through the opaque violet barrier that kept spirits from escaping—or unsent from passing through. Like a wall of incorporeal water did it wash over her as she passed through, never having been so reluctant before. And like a dream did the meandering corridor pass her by, walking as though a phantom guided her feet.

 

Finally, the floating land mass was finally passed upon, that which was suspended hundreds of feet before a whorl of luminous clouds, cascading into a valley of innumerable blossoms and waterfalls that flowed beneath it. Columns of scintillating steel blue obelisks struck into what could only be called the sky, Yuna grateful to see she was the only one present.

 

It took considerable resolve to approach the edge, knowing exactly who she was solely there to beckon, heart tearing itself apart in her dread. Squeezing her eyes shut, she counted down from ten, feeling her anxiety rocket as her heart stormed in her throat. Her mind fixated on him, the only one able to occupy her mind.

 

She opened her eyes.

 

There, floating with a neutral smile on his countenance, was Tidus. For several long minutes she felt her mind pass in and out of reality, caught between unfocused sight and a sharply blurred view. But...that wasn’t her losing consciousness. A tearful whimper broke the silence, Yuna’s shoulders beginning to shake as the tears poured down her cheeks and singed them red. “I—“ she stuttered out, her throat closing, “I never even got to say good-bye. Tidus—I’m so sorry!” It was gasped out as she stumbled towards the vision of him, lower lip lowering as a sob choked out from her throat. “I never got to say good-bye!”

 

He’d always said how their time together was limited. How there was never a certain date, but she’d known. Even if parting would’ve never been easy, her heart burned with sorrow and she felt as though she was beginning to drown in her remorse. Yuna wept heavily into her hands as she sank to her knees, crumpling as her strength seemed to sap away. Maybe it was more than just his loss, the culmination of many years of strife, but his was the freshest for her to feel. Yuna’s shoulders shook with heavy sobs, eyes burning with rings of fire she felt so profusely.

 

“Yunie?” The gentle query came accompanied by a familiar hand on her shoulder, then the silent marvel of what her cousin was seeing. “I’m so sorry,” Rikku murmured softly, similarly sinking to her knees and circling her arms around Yuna, the older girl succumbing to Rikku’s embrace as Yuna had done for her just a little over a week ago. The illusion of Tidus continued to bob like a cork in the water, listless and unresponsive.

 

“I-I didn’t get to say good-bye!” came Yuna’s torrid whisper, hiccuping painfully. Rikku soothingly rubbed circles in her back, the priestess inwardly grateful for the comfort in spite of her distress.

 

“Are you...gonna be able to keep going?” Rikku asked suddenly, forlornly.

 

Yuna jumped from the question, extricating herself from Rikku’s embrace and fiercely scrubbing away her tears, eyes raw and red. “Yes! I’m going to keep continuing; I must! I can’t give up! ...He’d want me to keep going.” Drawing in a shaky inhale, she gazed mournfully at Tidus, stray tears dribbling from her eyes. Rikku reached for Yuna’s hands, holding them comfortingly as Yuna managed a meager smile even through the last of her mourning. “I’ll be okay, Rikku. Promise.” Her head lowered, sighing wistfully. “I love him. I always will. If he’s in my heart, I can keep going no matter what,” she promised, Rikku smiling sadly at her.

 

“He’s never gonna really be gone, Yunie. I bet he’s super proud, too. One foot in front of the other, right? We’ll figure this out together, promise!” Rikku comforted with a chipper note in her voice in spite of the sympathy riddling her sunny countenance, sighing softly.

 

“Right,” Yuna affirmed, gazing back at Tidus, a smile fondly affixed to her features. “Let’s head back with the others, Rikku. And...thank you for this. It means a lot.”

 

“Anything for you, Yunie! ‘Sides, you did the same for me recently. Can’t hurt to return the favor, right?”

 


 

Within about a week of the incident at Guadosalam, word had spread and reporters had been on site, avidly recording the news of what seemed to be an almost miraculous turn-around in Seymour’s character. News had spread and from what Paine had informed them via CommSphere, Yuna’s public image seemed to be steadying out as her travels were rapidly becoming the primary focus of media sensation. Their journey continued without incident, which made people wary. Former manifestations of Sin used be to far more ruthless, without premeditation in its attacks. Now, it seemed parallel to an army biding time to attack at just the right moment. It was partly the reason Yuna and company were wary at the prospect of venturing to Luca.

 

“I don’t like it,” Chuami stated bluntly as she scanned the skies, Kurgum peering towards the auburn-haired girl with concern writ on his features. “We’ve been traveling for over a week with no sign of Sin. Something’s wrong. I have a bad feeling about going to Luca, Lady Yuna.” It was said briefly over her shoulder as the navigational console indicated their approach to the blitzing capital of Spira, Yuna studying it intently.

 

“I agree. But we don’t exactly have a choice, do we? They want me to speak at the opening ceremonies for the tournament, and not attending might...sour things,” Yuna replied slowly, deeply contemplative as she lost her gaze in the undulating sphere.

 

“You shouldn’t have to worry about public image! Your job is to vanquish Sin, not juggle social engagements like some socialite,” Chuami fumed, knuckles blanching as her told on hhe steering column tightened in a testy vice. “I mean, it’s not like you had time to worry about it even before, after Lord Braska brought in the Calm and all.”

“Chuami… Things just—are the way they are. There’s nothing we can really do about it,” Kurgum replied gently, smile placating and his gaze honest upon his friend. That only earned him a fierce scowl from the spirited girl, she grunting her consternation.

 

“Whatever. We’re almost in port, anyways, so I guess we might as well get ready to get off,” Chuami said dismissively, earning a fractured look from Kurgum. Yuna smiled gently at him that seemed to soothe his ruffled feathers.

 

The hover struts of the airship carefully maneuvered on to a raised platform suspended precariously near the sea, Chuami’s face screwed in concentration as the weight was finally distributed evenly and the aircraft landed soundly. Several whirs and clicks entailed the bottom gangway being lowered, the brine of the sea refreshing through the confined quarters, Rikku the first one to bound away. Yuna lingered behind, but a placating wave to Kurgum and Chuami saw them leave without questioning her.

 

“Are you coming?” she asked aloud, knowing he was present. At her beckon did Seymour emerge from his lingering on the stairwell, his trademark smile ever present that brought a slight pucker to her brow. “You can come out with us, you know. It’s just the yearly blitzball kickoff, Seymour. I don’t think it’d hurt.”

 

Seymour gazed out at the bustling airstrip other airships were being tended to, to the cargo traveling among the many lots. Then, it returned to her. “The Lady Yuna, with a traitor at her side? My, whatever would they say about it?” he considered speculatively, long digits curling thoughtfully about his chin. Yuna shook her head and smiled at him.

 

“A lot of people saw your apology in Guadosalam. I think they’ll leave you be, at least,” she reasoned while trailing up to him, Seymour shaking his head with an indulgent smile.

 

“Still so naive...” he murmured to himself, gravitating closer to her that made her bristle in anticipation; though things had improved between them, it was a far cry from her trusting or feeling comfortable completely around him. “You believe I’ve...changed, haven’t you? Through your idealistic lens I must be striving to be a better man, no? That the want to do good is surely, slowly, wiping away the evils of the past.”

 

“What do you mean?” Yuna questioned defensively, her features becoming progressively bewildered and even angered, bristling sharply.

 

He paused with his back to her, watching the world outside as if they were a sphere recording, distant and faraway, transient from the ivory tower he mentally resided in. That was something Seymour did when talking to people, making her think he did so out of arrogance. And she was hardly wrong, either. “Did I not tell you? You believe I’ve changed since the Farplane, that I have been...humbled. That what I believed in has been utterly shaken away. Once, I wished to save Spira. Now, there is only one person I am willing to do so for. One person I cannot bear the thought of being without. That through remaining at her side I might truly save Spira as she wishes it be.” His arms remained at his sides, sometimes expressively gesticulating as if to emphasize his words. “And she is quite aware of who she is,” he concluded smoothly, glancing over his shoulder whereby only his eyes could be seen, Yuna’s breath hitching in her throat. Poignant and desirous, Yuna dipped her head away.

 

“Do you still want to be like Lord Zaon?” she mustered in herself to ask, unable to bring herself to match his eyes.

 

“Yes. And this surprises you?” The volume of his voice easily overtook her own, then looking away again out to the air port. “Recall my words, Yuna. Even if I cannot become the end result, I will not have you deny they are there. No more of this avoidance. Child’s play is for children, which we are not.”

 

Something welled deep within her. Shyness, bewilderment, discouragement, pity, even fear—they all pedaled through her with such rapacity it could put Rikku’s mixing ability to shame. In other occasions, she’d avoided it. Turned away and continued on as if she could keep erecting barriers that would one day be thick enough to repel him. But he spoke so candidly about it, even if the words she heard were what he wanted to see in her, the object to be placed on a shelf and admired. Not treated like a person. He wasn’t infatuated with her. Seymour merely idealized Lord Braska’s daughter, the woman whom had vanquished Sin without sacrificing herself or any of her guardians.

 

“You speak to me as if I’m not really there. Like a sphere that plays back what you think you see. That picture you think is the same is totally different, and you don’t even realize it,” Yuna began, her courage building momentum in her, raising the timbre of her voice to sound anything but meek now. She thought of what she wanted to ask, of the connotations they bore. Of the boy whom had come into her young life so unexpectedly and lit it up like a supernova, made her feel more than just the sun. Made her fall in love in a way she was sure she never would be able to ever again. That’s not what Seymour saw in her and sh knew it.

 

“Do you love me?” she blurted, voice withdrawing to somewhere brittle again. All before she felt a flare of passion well in her. “Can you even love at all, Seymour? Even since then all I’ve ever felt like to you was a prize to be won, some object for you to eventually claim. Have you ever even seen me as a person?” It grew, by the Fayth, it seemed to grow and grow as all the years of reservations shed like molted feathers. Still, adrenaline caused her hands to shiver, made them cold and clammy. The tensity in the air could be sawed through with a knife.

 

Seymour seemed taken by surprise by it, turning around sharply with his visage guarded in a hard mask, emotions welling in his eyes before being suppressed away harshly. It wasn’t stoniness, but rather, he was looking through her just then. A ghost that was more real than she for a split second. “Love.” He said the word, as if to taste its syllables for the first time in years. His brows furrowed, something beginning to glimpse through the mask. Dredging its way through. “...It was taken away from me when I was only a child. Lies upon lies told me I would be accepted once I sacrificed my life for the sake of Spira. The one I believed to love me banished my mother and I, and in turn, she left me to be. Can you imagine, Yuna? A child, ushered by love to Zanarkand. His mother driven first for the slaughter.” Seymour smiled grimly, a flash of teeth bitterly shown. “My father endorsed this pilgrimage, Yuna. He wished for my death. He wished for the abomination and his mother to die,” Seymour hissed blithely, voice pitched an angry, vitriolic low.

 

Yuna was shocked into speechlessness by the time he concluded. The pyrefly memories, Anima’s own testament—it didn’t compare with hearing it from Seymour himself. What it did was coalesce them together in a way that juxtaposed with her own past, of what became of her own father and mother. The priestess raised her head as he slowly swiveled away, losing his elevated aura and becoming entrenched in a dark cloud Seymour would not visibly relinquish himself to.

 

It was a defiant wish as she appeared from his periphery, Seymour watching her silently as she stood before him, a dark cloud in his eyes that made him appear gaunt, drained. Reticently Yuna raised her hand, gingerly and incrementally reaching to cup a cheek. She flushed when he let the sensation sink in, leaning into it with a deep, laden sigh. His own massive hand engulfed hers, holding it there as Yuna could distinctly feel his skin warm to her touch, swallowing thickly while he seemed totally enraptured.

 

“Out of everyone in Spira, why must my greatest enemy show me the most kindness?” Seymour inquired thickly, eyes still closed in rapture as though it were merely a dream. Maybe it was. Maybe they would reawaken to before any this happened, before Seymour’s reawakening or Sin’s resurrection. Reverently did Seymour allow her hand to return, gazing down at Yuna with eyes that seemed calmed, but not alleviated of their inner turmoil. As if something so brief could heal away wounds so massive and irascible. “Such gentle hands that hold so much power...”

 

“I think I have to go. Before the others begin to worry,” Yuna whispered, keeping her head bowed.

 

This caused her to withdraw entirely, such words making her feel alienated, reminding her of what had been said earlier. Seymour took notice as Yuna began her delicate retreat, having meant to leave his sight before he took notice. But, it failed. “Yuna,” he broached, stopping her in her tracks. “Even if I cannot yet give you every secret you seek, you must know: I do want you. Even if I cannot have you, that will remain unchanged.” It was no declaration of passion, but it was enough to cause a shiver to run the length of her spine. He couldn’t help but scoff in amusement at her tepidness. “I see we both have things we will eventually have to face, do we not?”

 

Yuna simply glanced back over her shoulder once, before accelerating down the stairwell and into the main thoroughfares of Luca, intending to lose herself in the crowds before the tournament began.

 


 

“So much has happened to Spira leading up to this point in time.”

 

Yuna’s voice projected in broad diffusion into unseen microphones, the audience that encircled the stadium, her carriage true and the kindness she was known for conveyed with a quiet strength—the sort her father exerted when he’d still been alive. Momentum had been built as she did, her newfound guardians standing at her flanks. Seymour, of course, resided in the dark corner where no audience member could see him, but Yuna knew was there. How fitting it seemed it was, that he would be more akin to a shadow than one who would frankly stand at her side, in the blinding sunlight. “But even in the midst of this turmoil, this danger, Spira will remain strong! I will stand by it, and fight for you—for my home, for my friends and family...everyone! Sin will not defeat our spirit. Sin will not take away our happiness and our hope!”

 

The conclusion to Yuna’s speech came with thunderous applause and cheering throughout the stadium, likely transcending the watery, undulating barrier above with the exuberance and hope she hoped to generate. Yuna glowed from the adulation, smiling at Rikku who whooped and cheered with the audience, Kurgum joining in more sedated than the Al Bhed while Chuami politely clapped, smiling but still resolutely stoic as her own father would’ve been.

 

No time at all passed before the beginning ceremonies flagged the first game of the blitzball season, teams amassing in the spherical, underwater field that brightly refracted sunlight. For the first several minutes, it passed without incident. Blaring horns and shrill whistles announced the first inning, though Kurgum was the first to notice. Creeping towards her, he leant over to whisper in her ear. “Lady Yuna, do you...feel that?”

 

Yuna’s brows furrowed in bemusement, but he was right: the air seemed electrified. More than what was normal. Her hands gripped the armrests and she began to stand, only for them to be brokenly jarred by a force of incredible magnitude. Patrons in the audience screamed and the blitzball game came to a halt, referees frantically rushing for the players to evacuate the field as much as guards did the stadium. “Yuna!” Seymour called from behind her, hovering protectively while she was momentarily distracted by what had shaken them in the first place.

 

Sin’s enormity was incalculable as it was suspended grandly above their heads, Yuna instinctively reaching for her Nirvana and her remaining guardians keeping closely by. Sin’s shadow utterly blotted out the sun, casting them in a premature night. Dorsal fins and its enormous, bulbous appendages ruptured through the stadium roof while tonnes of gallons of water spilled mercilessly, cascading with deadly weight that caused Yuna to gasp. Sin was here, and it was there to attack and kill them all.

 

In a previous time, both of them would’ve begun the Summoner’s dance to summon their aeons, it feeling like an impossibility to face Sin without.

 

“Kurgum, Chuami: please help evacuate people to safety. We’re going to remain here and fight!” Yuna proclaimed with resolve, Rikku flashing her gaze between the pair but not questioning the battle that would go underway. While Chuami and Kurgum broke into matched sprints, Yuna glided her hand along the Unerring Path garment grid she’d equipped, glad she’d listened to the feeling of foreboding from before. This way, the Floral Fallal would be easily accessed as much as Rikku’s Machina Maw, two she felt they’d be in dire need of. “We need to ascend higher or else we’ll be at a disadvantage.”

 

Seymour placed a hand on Yuna’s shoulder, directing her to follow the point of his other forefinger, directing her gaze towards a stairwell that would take them to where they needed to be. “There!” he shouted in direction of above the cacophony, Yuna nodding sharply before taking off with Rikku and Seymour in close tow. Her breathing was hard as she sprinted fast, casting black majick to demolish their way through the lesser Sin scales that contorted to life, only to be struck down again. Seymour directed his aim above at larger aerial fiends, casting Gravity to plummet them into bursts of pyreflies. Though they were powerful in their own rights, she knew it wouldn’t yet be enough.

 

At the highest vantage point, one of Sin’s highly muscled and dexterous pectoral fins vertically cleaved through what remained of the stadium’s aquatic shielding, a deafening roar and wall of white thundering down as Yuna was forcibly prostrated, crushed by the enormous weight and feeling all the air beaten from her lungs before being thrust at least two levels below, gasping as her body limply tried to recompose while she gagged on water. The crush was immeasurable, world sealed in white, heavy noise until it finally subsided. Sin bellowed with deafening dissonance, Yuna forcing herself to stand.

 

“Yuna!” Seymour called, vaulting over the level divisions and carefully helping her to her feet, a white wave of Cura washing over her as Yuna nodded her thanks, reeling back at the destruction.

 

“Seymour,” she gasped, parting some ways between them. “Please, stay out of my way.” In the haphazard confusion had she activated the secondary node of her special dressphere, the male spreading out as he engaged the fin of Sin with a trio of deadly black majick, Ultima and Holy cast in mere moments of each other as Seymour’s brows furrowed from the exertion.

 

The special dressphere was activated with a dramatic, incandescent flourish of petals and the enormous flower blooming at her back, Yuna suspended in midair. It seemed to work in her favor with the debilitating affliction from before nearly gone in the wake of the transformation. Though Seymour marveled for a brief moment, Yuna was wholly concentrated on giving her all for the fin’s decimation. Yuna began with a higher grade of the Lightning Whirl, concentrating raw power that she focused on what appeared to be a weak spot high above. “Alright, time to go for a whirl!” she whooped, smiling with the elemental attack unleashed in succession upon the epicenter of the fin. Lightning flared from the focal point and caused Sin to flinch in repetition, which only served to anger it. The fin began to swing like a pendulum, a great swath causing the superstructure of the ring that arced above the stadium to become wholly dislodged, steel beams and enormous plates calamitously crashing in a heap below. Yuna winced visibly as shrapnel tore open her skin, rivulets running thickly down her thighs and arms, pain shooting throughout her body.

 

The steel that had fallen became a conductor for Rikku’s own ascension, her Mix ability prompting her to chuck several offensive concoctions, lobbing them with shouts as some landed, others fell out of reach to detonate harmlessly away. “Yunie, it’s getting too high up there!” Rikku panicked, Sin bucking downwards before the tail smashed into the harbor, the screams outside denoting that several ships had been struck and likely sunk from the monstrous bludgeon. In a violent attempt of extrication, several blocks of seating were destroyed and rubble flagrantly flung, Yuna casting Shield on the trio on pure reflex, guarding them from the worst as it deflected or they were otherwise only grazed. Rikku fell with a scream, catching herself but looking on hopelessly.

 

“Hang on, I can do this!” Mustering the mana again, Yuna unleashed a Flare Whirl on the escaping Sin, stopping it in its tracks just long enough. Though the damage was likely infinitesimal, it was better than nothing at all. Barrages of the attack bombarded the fin, loosening greater fiends she realized would need to be defeated. Desperation colored her actions as even Seymour, engaged in the preliminary cutting down of the lesser, noticed she was losing traction on the escaping Sin.

 

“Yuna! There may be something yet I can do!” Seymour called above the chaos, of the derelict bellows emitted lowly by Sin. She threw an incredulous look at him, questioning.

 

Recognition flashed when she realized what he meant, Yuna shouting, “Please...don’t make me regret this!” at him even while he smiled somberly at her. Sin roared again as Rikku had managed to land hits with the Dark Knight dressphere activated, having found a sound platform in which to wage her war, Black Sky utilized to rain chaos from above.

 

Walking with an eerie stride did he walk to where Sin was dealing considerable damage to the surrounding area, tail lambasting wave after wave in the surrounding harbors, screams seeming incessant. Seymour raised his staff high, smirking grimly before pyreflies of deceased victims were drawn in an unnatural osmosis to his body. With more than the previous assault years ago, there came an alteration as he roared into the scintillating transformation. The dull, statuesque persona and headpiece bacame vividly colored as a physical representation of a higher plane of power. Mortibody looked larger as well, air around them both crackling dangerously.

 

Without even waiting did Seymour cast Multi-Blizzaga with a flourish of an elongated hand, glacial attacks manifesting in several deadly parameters along the fin, Sin thrashing upwards. Yuna had wondered why Sin had been unable to leave, but the collapsed superstructure that had held the aqueous shield aloft trapped it, and by the sadistic glee Seymour radiated it seemed the half-Guado would wield it to his fullest advantage even at the expense of lives. It made Yuna seethe inwardly, but for now, there was nothing she could really do about it.

 

The Right Pistol of the Floral Fallal dispersed Tough Nuts to reduce physical damage whilst the Left struck the fiends nearby with Half-death Petals, many suffering complete loss or at least being greatly staggered. Fiends honed upon the super-powered pair, the most they could muster without the aid of long-gone aeons. Seymour’s laughter tore with deranged peals, apparently it having been a time long since he’s embraced power even greater than before. Banish slaughtered many fiends in successive castings, pyreflies erupting from the felled before Seymour absorbed them again. From aloft, Rikku’s spam of attacks on Sin became interrupted by the frenzy of fiends, Yuna realizing with draining color that Sin was overproducing them to keep them occupied.

 

“Seymour! Rikku! We have to attack the fiends! Any more and Luca will be overrun!” she bewared loudly, flinching as a volley of poison barbs struck her from the scaled sinspawn. Shuddering from the pain beginning to drain her, she redoubled with an Aqua Whirl that drowned some Fire Elementals that had reared their heads, silently counting the dozens they would have to slaughter. With a final, concussive effort did Sin dislodge itself, a mighty thrash of its tail before iridescent lavender wings brought it airborne.

 

“No, no, where are you going?! Come, face your death, Yu Yevon!” Seymour hissed mechanically, madly with a frenzied Firestrike striking the fin one last time before it was too far from their reach. From far away, the thrum of an airship hummed above them, Yuna realizing in horror that it was their own. Piloted by Chuami and Kurgum as the duo charged the massive Al Bhed cannons affixed whereat electrical charges massively thundered until bolts of lightning arced through the air and was held in a stalemate with Sin’s gravitational shield, lightning ricocheting atmospherically and violently. Thunderously did a magnified charge tear through the shield, razing against Sin’s hide whilst the massive beast screamed in ghostly pain, disembodied voices that bled from the freeing pyreflies.

 

All before the shield amorphously ballooned towards them and a pulse of Demi, supercharged from Sin’s power, struck the slowly yielding airship too slow to avoid the attack. A burst of light and showering of sparks rained heavily from the sky, the airship’s nose plummeting first as explosions socked the air. Yuna cried out again, focusing her desperation into her attacks as her vision became a field of pyreflies, numbly fighting through scores of them as it became frenzied, sloppy. Hardly even noticing the damage being inflicted heavily upon herself.

 

Seymour regained health from those shedding pyrflies, seeming to fuel an endless want to fight. Their battle became a chaotic dance, the three of them. Rikku grimly fought on a leveled stadium where the blitzball stadium had become a hollow shell in the wake of Sin. They fought continuously, for what seemed like ages until, finally, the last was felled and the mournful song of the pyreflies dissipated into the air. Yuna deactivated the Floral Fallal and fell heavily to her feet. Seymour languished in the drunk wake of his victory, not noticing Yuna as she tried to exhaustively push her way through the rubble. From where Rikku was, she anxiously called out to Yuna, noticing her nearly prone condition. “Chuami...Kurgum! Rikku, I have… I have to—!” she uttered before collapsing to her knees. Tears bubbled in her eyes as the last of what she’d seen of them railed in her mind, of what could only be narrowly inescapable. Collapsing to all fours, her shoulders shook as she bit back a sob.

 

Seymour Natus had finally been revoked, the original collapsing to his knees as he weakly propped himself against a fallen cinder block, proving to be a vestibule of relief. Gasping for breath, face gaunt and eyes rheumy, the over-exertion wore at him extensively. Numbly did he watch as Yuna collapse where she she’d stood, gaze hardening with a distant sense of remorse at how he’d lost himself to the rush of power that came from his higher forms. A necessary evil, he would call it later.

 

Even Rikku could barely walk, breathing hard and leaning heavily on a pile of corrugated steel that might’ve been part of the bracer. She gazed despairingly into the sky, at the utterly ruined stadium hollowed and ballooning with debris, rubble, and enormous clouts of shrapnel. The firmament at Luca’s center had been utterly ruined with nearly nothing to speak for it.

 

Forcing herself to a stand, Yuna wobbled to keep herself upright before collapsing to her knees again like a newborn filly. Involuntarily grounded to her knees, Seymour haplessly and despondently watched her in her despair, brow crinkling but too weak to do aught else. Rikku eventually sank to sit on the stony concrete, on rubble just smooth enough. None of them could urge themselves to stand, utterly spent from the hopeless battle.

 

The only things that interrupted the silence of the wailing pyreflies was the muffled sounds of Yuna’s profuse sobbing.

 

Chapter Text

 

(Warnings: T, none]

 


 

In chaos following the attack on Luca stadium, Lucans were thrown into a bed of coals salvaging what they could. It was said that were it not for Yuna and her guardians (the moniker becoming unshakable from their group], the destruction to Luca would’ve been far more wholesale. In this case, the harbor and several airports suffered the worst in damages, but casualties were purported to be down. It was an optimistic outcome compared to Sin’s other assaults, but it called into question just how much one group of people, though powerful, would prove when the solution was still nowhere in sight.

 

Several buildings had been converted into hospitals, residing in the heart of the urban sprawl that had been largely untouched, save for residual Sin toxin that looked harmless compared to the wider swaths of destruction that could’ve been caused, like the failed Operation Mi’ihen or Kilika Island. The one that Yuna and her guardians were quarantined in was not only for the luxury of privilege, but because of how exceedingly close they’d come to the manifested blight. More than anyone, much depended on their full recovery.

 

Yuna had been lost to a stasis of deep slumber, sleeping for so long and deep that when she awoke, she momentarily forgot where she was and what she’d been doing. Then, she jolted upright, calling out, “Chuami, Kurgum!” fearfully when their fates rushed to the fore of her mind. All before she was arrested by a discombobulating sense of vertigo and an inward trill that deafened her for a long moment before fading gradually away. Groaning softly, she settled amid the white sheets again.

 

“Lady Yuna, don’t hurt yourself!” Shelinda’s voice interceded as she hovered worriedly near, coaxing the priestess to lay back down again which Yuna did reluctantly.

 

“Please, you have to tell me where Chuami and Kurgum are!” she pleaded, fixing Shelinda with a worrying gaze that admittedly facilitated guilt in the temporary nurse, but as soon as she recognized the names she sat on the side of Yuna’s bed pivoted by her waist towards her.

 

“They’re fine, Lady Yuna. They sustained some heavy injuries, but we have the best healers on the job. Give it a few days or more and they should be awake,” Shelinda quieted reassuringly, nodding towards the two occupied beds closer to the picturesque window. “Unfortunately, both are out cold. You four have been asleep for the past few days now.”

 

Yuna felt a cold sensation creep up her spine at the mention of them, eyes downcast as she sighed and felt an overwhelming regret that clenched hold of her throat. “I’m sorry,” she croaked out, biting her lip as she felt her eyes become misty, burning with salt. “So many people died and there was nothing I could do.”

 

Shelinda’s expression became immediately sympathetic, reaching for one of Yuna’s hands and holding it tenderly, stroking calming circles with her thumb. “Please, don’t blame yourself for this. You actually wound up saving so many people, Lady Yuna. Many, many more would be dead. It was just the stadium that was affected, really. And those people who passed on have been sent. They’re in a better place now.”

 

Yuna heaved a calming sigh, wiping away the beginnings of feeble tears and mustering a soft smile, trying to brighten her countenance. “You’re right. We’ll just have to keep on fighting, won’t we?” Though the smile was heartbreaking, it caused Shelinda to manage one of her own.

 

“But of course, my Lady. We’ll pull through it, I know we will.” She paused, looking thoughtful for a moment before realization struck her. “Oh, I forgot to mention. Seymour was the first to awaken. He’s been wandering here and there, but some Crusaders have been keeping an eye on him,” the acolyte admitted, holding her chin. “Thankfully, he’s been keeping to himself. He’s been coming here the most to watch over you, Lady Yuna.”

 

The priestess felt a slight roseate color her cheeks at the mention of it, but it evaporated away at such reassurance. Sighing in relief, her gaze was grateful on the brunette. “Thank you. I suppose I just have to join everyone once I’ve rested here, haven’t I?”

 

“Please do. I believe Rikku is still resting, too. We were able to move her to another room once the worst of the Sin toxin passed, and she seems alright, if a little cooped up.”

 

“Knowing Rikku, don’t mind her if you get an earful about it,” Yuna admitted with a breathy giggle.

 


 

It was by dusk that Yuna felt her eyes crack open again, the whispery brine of the sea overlooking the city through picturesque, open windows allowed for its freshness to filter through, ornately colored curtains riding on those breezes for a mellowing, enchanting effect. Soft sheets were rolled back and Yuna stretched, yawning hugely before letting her limbs flop down again and feeling considerably refreshed from before. Blinking owlishly, Yuna noticed with a start Seymour silhouetted by the window and gazing peacefully out on the horizon, listening to the baying gulls wheeling in the sunset’s long rays. Unwilling to break the silence first, she studied him, something entrancing about seeing him so deep in thought—an observation she wouldn’t repeat aloud, of course.

 

“Ah, you’re awake,” he noticed crisply, unfolding his arms and striding towards her, sinking down into a chair near her bedside that seemed to be a practiced routine for him by now. “Asleep for almost three days, you had many people worried. I imagine you have questions.”

 

Yuna’s lips pursed, wondering what prompted such care over her person. Even if she wasn’t exactly complaining, remembering his conduct during the battle still eked a small flare of mistrust in her, one that demanded resolution. Still, she released the tensity for now, it not feeling like the time nor place. “What’s the news? Has there been any other signs of Sin?” she asked first, those niggling loudest in her mind.

 

Seymour reclined back, making himself comfortable for what would likely evolve into one of their conversations. Legs crossing and hands resting on his lap, he began with his gaze wandering out the window again. “I imagine the nurse, Shelinda, mentioned something to you. Thanks to our efforts, casualties were far less than what they might have been. Pity about the stadium. It’s fortunate Bevelle’s is nearly complete. As for Sin, no. They suspect it might have retreated into the sea.”

 

Yuna breathed an honest sigh of relief, taking that much to heart. Even though those who’d lost their lives weighed her personally, there was still a chance for redemption and to fuel it into a stronger effort in their fight. “Has there been anything on the news?”

 

Seymour glanced at her, shifting some. A fog horn sounded loudly on the water before he spoke again. “Yes. A stray sphere camcorder miraculously caught much footage of the battle before being destroyed in Sin’s escape. A live feed no less, can you imagine? A show for the masses,” he remarked, smirking in amusement. He seemed to be acclimating the reality of his station better than she thought. Was he gratified? Did it make no difference, or grate on his psyche? It was impossible to tell.

 

Yuna quirked a small smile, bringing her legs over the side of her bed and feeling like jelly, the long sleep having numbed them. “I can’t help but wonder about Bevelle’s stadium. The last I heard from Chuami, it wasn’t finished. And it is one of the only places besides Luca in Spira that looks like teams will be able to compete at. I suppose it’s a little far-fetched to hope it might somehow be done soon.”

 

Seymour canted his head, smiling enigmatically and abruptly changing the subject. “Did you not hear the news? There’s to be quite a gala in Bevelle a week from today, Yuna. A formal dance for the elite of Spira to pool their resources to aid Luca.”

 

She started at this, gazing perplexed at him. “A ball? And a week from today, no less. Hm… I suppose that sounds like the sort of thing Spira might need,” Yuna commented neutrally. Sometimes it was easy to forget the existence of social divides, of castes and classes when Sin and her vagabond ways seldom saw her staying in more than one place to notice. Still, it made her stomach turn uneasily. For the social distinction she bore throughout Spira, there had never really been much of a chance for her to experience such things. Summoners had never been very high in the echelons of Yevon, and High Summoners never survived long enough to reap the fruits of their status. Even if she was a first, Yuna liked living quietly. New Yevon and the Youth League had certainly attempted to have her attend formal events to curry favor, but she’d always declined.

 

And when Tidus had been with her? Well, not much existed except for blitzball and living quietly together. It was a life she enjoyed, anyways. Even Rikku was likely better keyed in for such things with her busy lifestyle. A fond memory lit her up with a smile, Yuna laughing to herself while Seymour canted his head in silent inquiry, gaze steady on her. “I remember when I was a little girl, my father would sometimes teach me dancing. He was so tall compared to me, but, you know—he was so gentle. I’d usually cheat and stand on his toes, but I don’t think he minded much.” Yuna’s eyes crinkled at the corners from her smile, bright and happy. “I tried teaching Kimahri later on. I don’t think he caught on quite as well.”

 

Seymour seemed to grow distant at the mention of her father, of them altogether, Yuna cognizant as to why. Then, he offhandedly quipped, “I imagine you’ll need to attend with a date, is that not so? And so much to do to prepare. A dress, hair-styling, make-up—quite a lot in order for the priestess to look her best.”

 

Yuna made a face at him, rolling her eyes exaggeratedly. “I think I’d rather not. The last thing I need is to appear with someone who’d treat me like an accessory. If it’s in Bevelle, I’ve got the Gullwings, anyways. And, you know, that’s why we have dresspheres~! I’m sure Shinra’s got something he could cook up,” she replied with a playful laugh, rising from her bed and bouncing on her feet upright. “Yup, I’m going to go find Rikku.” She needed a bath, anyways. You could only spend so many days in bed before it began to feel crummy, after all.

 

Seymour chuffed a small laugh once she’d bounded from the room, an energetic aura swathing the woman even he could feel in her wake. For it would seem they were in for quite the soiree in the coming week.

*

The week had passed restively, a surprising notion when Sin was still a tantamount threat upon every horizon, but hardly any Lucan could think to protest. Just a few days before there had been a televised vigil where the exact number of victims saw paper lanterns lit for, situated on small plates of buoyant wood that would carry them out to sea, Yuna presiding and saying the rite that every faithful and not could find some measure of agreement with in their hearts. A way to mourn the those dearly departed whom had lost their lives, but also a show of gratitude for those spared who would keep the fight on for their sake.

 

Chuami and Kurgum found themselves in full recovery for their heroics, accolades having been gifted to them for their bravery, and promotion for both within the Council. Though their duties were frozen for now, it seemed in agreement among their superiors that the pair could consider themselves fully-fledged guardians, fighting to protect not only the priestess, but the city of Luca and all Spirans who called it home. Seymour had become acclimated to a near-constant state of seclusion, dedicating his time to studying whatever records their level of clearance allowed them to have with the Council, proving to be the best person armed to the task. Being a former maester of Yevon had its bounties, after all.

 

The opportune time would come, after so long. As their former airship had been totaled, it was a slow travel by sea that would carry them through the night on a stately machina ship outfitted for them and the other notables of Luca who would be attending, making several stops along the way to Bevelle. A day and night would pass before the morning would see them arrive, cresting through foamy waves through the bustling traffic centered on one of many harbors situated beyond city walls. Already Yuna was gripped in trepidation before they’d disembarked, the ship slowly sculling its way through water traffic that seemed congested to the brim with those possessing fame and fortune throughout Spira.

 

Still, her spirits weren’t totally dampened. With sphere hunting having created a craze, Al Bhed machinery flourishing, a new middle class had emerged in the past few years. New money that could flaunt itself as par with older families that otherwise traced themselves to either Bevellan aristocracy or Zanarkand ancestry, both of which were startling and new to Yuna.

 

The ship loudly bellowed its pass through the straits, Yuna people-watching from the high decks with Rikku at her side, the girl leaping enthusiastically and blowing kisses to onlookers who recognized the legendary guardian with ease from the docks and piers. “Not too much. Rikku; they might start asking you for autograph,” Yuna teased, ribbing her cousin with her elbow, eliciting a hearty giggle from the blonde.

 

“Like you’re one to talk, Miss I’d-rather-live-quietly! Seems to me you’re fitting into the status of a celebrity pretty well, huh?” Rikku nudged back with a wink, Yuna flushing and shyly gazing away.

 

“Not that much! What, do you think I’m going to let this go to my head or something?” Then, as she was caught up in waving to a crowd of spectators that whooped in her direction, she acceded with a giggle, “Alright, maybe a little. But that’s our little secret, okay?”

 

As they began to disperse and the ship slowly directed itself for its moorings behind Bevelle’s even higher walls, Yuna sighed as they looked sky-high at the wall of inclined crimson until it stopped where buildings were perched, using her hand as a visor where to see where sky still was bright. It was hard to believe she was back again so soon, and something edged in her was uncomfortable with how commonplace it was becoming. Before, when she’d still been sphere hunting, neutrality had been a breath of fresh air even above the political upheaval. Now, it felt as though she’d be sharply polarized once again even when divisiveness was the last thing Spirans needed in a time of Sin. You’d think that wouldn’t be the case with a unified Council and Yevoners being but a philosophy to live by instead of a world power, but even she could feel the tension. Part of her wondered, if when it was all over, how Spira would be transformed once again. Of what would survive and what would undergo a drastic metamorphosis.

 

As if reading her mind, Rikku leaned with her back to the ledge and faced Yuna, face turned towards her. “Hey, Yunie—where’s Seymour, anyway? Isn’t he supposed to be like your shadow or something?” Rikku asked, her features not exactly expressing happiness to be speaking about him, but she’d asked all the same. “Is leaving him alone such a good idea? I mean, how do you know he isn’t planning to blow Bevelle up or something?”

 

Yuna smiled almost smugly at her cousin, a hooking finger directing her to lean nearer, as if to receive a secret. “You’re not going to believe this, Rikku, but I think he’s taken on Kurgum as a sort of apprentice. The Spiran Council said Seymour needed supervision from one of their members, so I guess our official sender is doing his duty, in a way. Anyway, I’m glad. If they can search for answers together, I think we’ll really get somewhere.”

 

“Huh, guess it’s not so funny,” Rikku said, shrugging her shoulders and staring at the whorls in the water the slowly pivoting ship was producing in its sidelong docking. “I mean, wasn’t he Minister of Temple Affairs before? I heard he used to oversee the training of summoners.”

 

“That could explain it,” Yuna agreed neutrally, propping her chin on her hand, rocking some on her feet. Even though she wasn’t exactly sure if she’d really begin to trust Seymour, this new development showed promise. Before Kurgum had been licensed as a sender, he was an aspiring summoner just as she’d been, as Seymour had been. Kurgum deserved that, even though Rikku’s disapproval of Seymour’s influence exerted over him was palpable.

 

A staggering vibrato of the engines sounded whilst the ship buoyed itself one last time before a gangplank was noisily lowered, Rikku one of the first to bolt off the ship, likely glad to be off. Though Rikku had a strong stomach, she detested sea travel. Too slow and boring, she complained. At least, that was the most common complaint. Yuna lingered while other passengers departed in their ostentatious robes and wealthy finery, feeling relieved at how plain she was garbed. Even the thought of having to bedeck herself for this event made her feel wary. It was only another moment more before Seymour emerged from below with Kurgum in tow, the pair animatedly conversing with each other, Yuna hearing snippets about the beasts of yore, the aeons. She couldn’t help but smile, one that Seymour caught sight of and smugly so.

 

“You seem to be having fun.” Yuna smiled at him, a rare moment of levity to be shared between the pair. Seymour took his place at her side, towering over her but leaning close to hear her better.

 

“Even though Spira’s summoners are gone, those once destined to become them have very engaging minds, Yuna. Surely even you can agree,” Seymour chuckled in his manner, Yuna gazing back over the crowds just barely thinning, wondering if now wouldn’t be the time to walk. Just as she was preparing to do just that, he added under his breath for her to hear, “...Had I ever fathered a son, I wonder if he would’ve been like Kurgum.” This caused Yuna’s eyes to widen, but she pretended not to hear him, even as Seymour’s eyes intently rested on her before he made his descent from the ship even before she.

 

Yuna exhaled shakily, not even realizing she’d been holding her breath at all.

 


 

Rikku had guided her cousin into their shared room with a certain degree of nervousness, Yuna perplexed as to why, but when the door was closed as soundly and silently as possible, her heart fluttered in anticipation. “Pops heard about the ball, and well, he kinda...told me there was something he wanted you to have, Yunie,” Rikku began, smiling feebly as she stood before a wardrobe, pressing aside the gowns she and Paine were slated to wear, Yuna’s heart pounding into her throat.

 

With an exceedingly reverent placement upon her bed, Rikku dutifully laid down the skirt, halter top, detachable sleeves and other accessories. When Yuna realized what it was, her eyes began misting, smiling through it. “Rikku, it’s...beautiful.” What lay before her was a close approximation to her mother’s outfit she’d seen on the Farplane only glorified in beauty. The skirt was sheer with one beneath stopping at her thighs, glistening in the light whilst the halter top sported sheer material gossamer in the right lighting. The sleeves were still solid, but ghostly light with how easily they flowed, how their movement was entrancing.

 

“It used to be hers, but Pops wanted you to wear it. Especially for this.” Though Rikku’s voice was soft, it brightened a bit cheerily. “Knock ‘em dead, y’know? Something to stuff in the crotchety old Yevoners’ faces,” she added cheekily, receiving a playful smack to her arm that felt more like a tap. Upon a vanity Rikku had lain some jewelry, and seeing as Yuna’s hair had been lightly twisted into a low ponytail, crystal jewelry fixed at several points, both simply knew the ensemble would really dazzle. With Rikku similarly clad in clothing that exclaimed her heritage, both girls knew they’d make a real entrance.

 

It would be another hour until it began, Yuna’s throat tightening with nervousness even as Paine had joined her, completing the trio. Although Paine and Rikku were closed about their relationship—as broken up as they were supposed to be—Yuna already knew Rikku simply wouldn’t dance with anyone else if it came to it. Guests were being called by name atop a grand staircase, sweeping on to a ballroom floor where vaulted windows were consumed with the view of the Bevellan night. Ornate artwork and vaulted ceilings were painted with ornate imagery of Yevon, reliefs of the fayth swirling in a Farplane far above their heads. It was beautiful to behold, honestly.

 

This was the Upper Palace of Saint Bevelle, she recalled. Just a few levels below where she had been three years before, trying to not allow the memory prematurely spoil the evening. Paine looked irritated as to what was taking so long, Rikku antsy, while Yuna was just as anxious as they were. Though the ensemble she’d worn was far more beautiful than preconceived, compared to those in the ballroom proper, they could pass for plain morning doves among a throng of vibrant peacocks. When a bellboy gestured at them, Yuna hissed back, “It’s our turn!” while fumbling to compose herself. Rikku made a furious last few adjustments before they were set to descend the stair.

 

The doors opened and they rounded a short corridor, Yuna slowly emerging as light poured on her and she stood at the focal point, drawing a ring of gasps from among the crowd. Holding her head high, she willed herself to ignore any gossiping, Rikku mentally coaching herself to do the same. “And here we present to you the Gullwings! The acclaimed sphere group composed of High Summoner Yuna, legendary guardian Rikku, and the sphere huntress, Paine. Together, they defeated the threat of Vegnagun, and three years ago, the previous downfall of Sin.” Yuna became admittedly flustered by the praise, Rikku waving shyly while Paine was nonplussed, likely because she appeared modest compared to her friends.

 

Their heels clicked as they descended the stair, Yuna gazing through the crowds for familiar faces and seeing none, though she internally prayed the Spiran Council would be making an appearance, else she feared she’d be stuck with her friends in the sea of unfamiliar faces.

 

One did strike out the most, however. Close to the right of the banister was Seymour, eyes unable to leave hers as a smile quietly found its way to his lips. Yuna almost didn’t recognize him in the robes he donned, but his height spoke loud enough for him, dressed in a proud Guado fashion she found surprising given his past resentments. Maybe, she thought, the reason he did was the same as her own for sporting her Al-Bhed heritage. The man wasted no time as he separated from the crowd, turning so that Yuna would be at his side by the time she reached the floor, his elbow slightly jutted as invitation to loop her hand through.

 

Even though she paused in trepidation, nothing about his air felt particularly ominous to her, something she wanted to place faith in. Swallowing down the brief moment of timidity, she looped her arm through and found herself guided to the dance floor, others lining in symmetrical arrays for what she assumed would be a waltz.

 

“I see dressing modestly wasn’t on the agenda tonight, huh?” she quipped up at him with a small smile, Seymour chuckling. It was true; some of his old fashion had returned, including the exposure of his chest and its tattoos, all the way down to his navel. Through the robes were different, the form hardly seemed to be.

 

“Could I not say the same, Lady Yuna? It seems we’ll be tonight’s epicenter of conversation,” he noted, many pairs of eyes fixated upon them. Yuna only sighed, praying for the orchestra to begin playing. “At the very least, I will have the honor of your first dance tonight.”

 

“Honor, huh? Well, don’t let it go to your head. I’m going to dance with as many people as I can tonight and that’s a promise.” Though it sounded stronger than she meant it, any premonition she might have had in regards to his jealousy or rudeness seemed absolved for the night, the polite man she’d met before his treachery shining through. Even if it was only a falsity for the night, it was better to enjoy his good behavior while it lasted. If it would ever turn sour again, that was.

 

Seymour seemed oblivious to her decision for the night, far more absorbed in the moment as he took her chastely by her waist and hand, guiding her fluidly as the orchestra began its dulcet sonata until other instruments arose from the overture, said orchestra exclusively played by the Macalanian musicians. His eyes didn’t leave hers, and her toes had become smart enough not to stomp on to his feet by mistake, something she silently marveled at. Gently, he remarked, “My mother taught me well.” To this, she smiled as the waltz began in truth.

 

It was gentle music led by a piano, almost as much of a sonata as it promised to be. The lights lowed and the other dancers began to steadily trickle away from them, but Yuna didn’t question it. Instead, Seymour raptly held her attention, her feet easily following his as he led her, twirling her with a whirling note from a passionate violin, unable to help the slight smile from vertigo. Her long skirt and sleeves moved like blossoms around her, being guided through a dance as though it were practiced. “Everyone’s staring,” she murmured under her breath as Seymour twirled her back in, the man seeming unperturbed.

 

“And why wouldn’t they? High Summoner Yuna waltzing with a man barely redeemed within an inch of his life. Controversy abounded from the first day of your noble undertaking, Lady Yuna.”

 

Just as she’d thought to comment, the hand guiding her gently squeezed it, out of a reassurance she could only presume. “I— ...Do you think this...any of this…is really worth it?” This was cause for a brief frown to cross Seymour’s face, the jocularity cooling from his features.

 

“Are you truly asking me, or simply reflecting what you cannot ask yourself?” Yuna’s jaw hitched shut, brows furrowing together. Maybe it was simply because his absurd nihilism couldn’t contrast well to her deep love and hope in Spira, or maybe because it was his words from before. He wasn’t anything like Tidus. It hardly took even the shortest glance to confirm that, she knew. Her expression hardened and she found herself going cold in his, forgetting his gentle gesture just now.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said forcefully, “but I think I’d like to dance with Chancellor Baralai for the next dance.” Seymour’s own became languished, grim with regret as the realization of his mistake began to sink in, in the words chosen too harshly.

 

Just as she was about to stride away with the song’s conclusion, his gentle grip around her hand stopped her. It engulfed hers, Yuna frozen in place as she realized...his hand was warm. Most of all, it wasn’t possessive. It didn’t convey a want of ownership, of suffocation like it’d felt in the past. That her power, her reputation, and her endgame was all he wanted. To be at the side of Lord Braska’s daughter and maybe...maybe...fulfill that prophecy from years ago. Of his mother’s wish for the Pilgrimage to save mother and son. Though it didn’t completely lower her moment of steely reserve, her brows puckered together, staring away. “What is it?” she murmured, mismatched eyes searching his own.

 

Seymour remained silent for a long moment, the words working upon still lips—she could see it in his eyes. Expressive eyes that betrayed what a cheshire cat grin couldn’t guard. Finally, lips pulled from their pursed line and he turned to her, sighing inaudibly. He bowed, neatly, in his fashion with a hand beneath his chest. “I beg pardon, but I must retire for the evening, Lady Yuna.”

 

Her expression is level if not carrying tinges of disappointment, nodding her assent. “I see. I will see you tomorrow then, Seymour.”

 

Then, he would depart with a look back, questioning glances at his person from a man unwilling to answer.

Chapter Text

(Warnings: T, severe dissociation, nervous breakdown]

 


 

It would be hours until Yuna would return from the ball, Paine and Rikku departing together in what she imagined would be an amorous night together, something she couldn’t blame them for doing. In the hectic turmoil evidenced throughout all of Spira, any chance to steal away was a precious moment she was certain they couldn’t afford to squander. But as things were, something had been decided in the several dances she’d engaged with Baralai, they feeling more like private conferences that neither felt abashed for utilizing. The dance floor was a fast-paced whirlwind and they were both competent dancers, making it almost more cloistered than a closed room. It was decided their new base of operations would be in Bevelle for the time being, seeing as the city was routinely the safest from attacks by Sin, for its fortified walls and lack of excessive machina made it a haven that they couldn’t dare think of passing up. Baralai had granted she and her guardians unrestricted access to both Bevelle and its resources, making the city at their very much-needed disposal.

 

It was on her way to her room that Yuna would pause in the crystal-lit corridors, the hum of discreet machina the only thing to stave away the maddening silence; though, it too steadily became a nuisance on her anxious mind. Turning and noticing that she was near to Seymour’s room, the woman balled her hands into fists and her expression became an impassioned sort of irritation that she easily acted upon. Storming to his door, she furiously rapped her knuckles on it and called, “Hey you, open up! I’m not finished with what I had to say, you know!” She then retracted her hand and folded her arms resolutely, feeling a prickle of belated embarrassment at having dropped her composure like that.

 

The door swung open a moment later, Yuna regretting her words as he looked down at her, thankfully not coldly. He’d changed from the formal attire and into what he’d been wearing before, regarding her receptively but with a sort of despondency. Then she really began to feel ashamed, loosing her arms and feeling her moment of passion wink out. But, it still didn’t stop the words she wanted to say from being softly spoken. “I wanted to apologize, alright? I wasn’t being fair, but…can I come in? It’s cold out here.”

 

Seymour quirked a small smile that made her sigh internally with relief, opening it fully and revealing the hallway that fed into his chambers. “But of course, Lady Yuna. Please, forgive the mess you’ll find inside. Research has never been an organized endeavor for me.”

 

“Research?” she echoed as she stepped through the threshold, walking through the corridor incrementally lit by ensconced crystals. When she came to the living room, it was disarming how lived in it looked. Papers were stacked in discordant piles, spheres piled on several furniture pieces and spilling on to the floor, both types of models glistening gold and blue. The lighting was soft, dim, as books were the most profuse. It really was a huge mess, which elicited a soft smile before hearing the door close and Seymour’s footfalls following indicating he’d joined her.

 

“Forgive my lack of organization, Yuna. Had I known you were coming, I would’ve at least made an effort to be neater.” She couldn’t help but smile and turn at him as she struggled to lift an enormous tome, regarding him sheepishly.

 

“How do you lift all these books? They’re so heavy!” she exclaimed before placing a stack back with a thud near several opened ones. “All this, and we’ve only been here for two days?”

 

Seymour cleared space on a nearby couch, stacking several more tomes and papers with a motley collection of spheres on a coffee table, Yuna doing the same with an armchair directly across from it. She sat neatly, fingers twiddling together with her busy mind. “Bevelle has an extraordinary font of knowledge if one only knows how to access it. Being your guardian, as they insist, clearly has its advantages.”

 

Yuna pensively regarded him, murmuring, “So, you’ve accepted this?”

 

Seymour couldn’t help but chuckle softly, shaking his head. “As I’ve only asserted several times through these past several weeks.”

 

The priestess admittedly flushed in embarrassment, nodding mutely. Even if it was a roundabout dodge to her question, it made her dig a little deeper, press a little harder. “So, you’re willing to give saving Spira a shot, even if it contradicts who you used to be? To place some hope in life,” she surmised slowly, glancing at him as Seymour nodded in confirmation.

 

“I suppose... However, if we are to show our hands, perhaps I ought reveal mine.” Yuna felt herself tense, sitting ramrod straight with anticipation. “I do remember much of my time in the Farplane. Akin to a dream, I wandered in and out of consciousness, and these past three years have…altered my perspective.” He was right, wasn’t he? Although unsent were technically immortal, they still aged. Even before her, three years had passed and it showed, physically making him appear more tired aside from older, almost. Tired? Have I just noticed that now? she pondered in surprise. Maybe it had been their tenacious contention that had overruled such an observation.

 

“You remember things. What kinds of things?”

 

Seymour pursed his lips thoughtfully, eyes traveling down. “Nothing organized. Places, locations, conversations—and those were many—faces and times past. The past, the present. As disorganized as what you see before you.”

 

Yuna leaned forward some, pressing on, “So, what you’re saying is this you trying to remember? That this is all you trying to connect the pieces together.” She was avidly interested, something Seymour was keen to notice with a brief shadow of a smile.

 

“Yes. You may think this a selfish endeavor, but should you ask Kurgum, you will find we’ve amassed many notes. Notes of correlating things that may be invaluable to our cause.”

 

It made Yuna wonder about Kurgum. Though still young, he had a good heart. After living through Sin twice, as many Spirans had, part of her knew he’d be able to pick up on any signs of deceit or treachery if they ever became manifest. At least, she hoped. A soft heart was easier to manipulate, she reflected bitterly. Trying to soften her own edges, at least for this, she couldn’t help but ask, “Seymour...your pilgrimage. What was that like?” with some recalcitrance.

 

How this spanned a pregnant pause between them.

 

“Lonely, at first,” he said without missing a beat after a long moment, expression becoming detached. He had never truly told anyone, not even his father. “My mother was the sole person I truly loved in the world. A boy of ten, abhorred by both facets of his heritage, was finally...accepted, to some degree. Transformed from an abomination to a kindling hope. A lamb to be sent to slaughter. We journeyed throughout Spira, and as summoners do, I attained the aeons. One by one, inching ever closer to Zanarkand,” he paused, his visage becoming visibly darkened. “It was there I learned the truth. That in sacrificing my life, and that of my dying mother, I would...be free of pain. That Spira, too, would be released from its cycle of death. However, I could not. Even a boy, you see, had little desire to sacrifice himself to people whom hated him so. This I realized in the eight long years I survived on Baaj, alone.” His violet gaze hardened, a hand curling lightly to clench.

 

“I remember the visions at the Zanarkand dome. I saw you, and Lady Cydia,” Yuna admitted, wresting Seymour from his dark cloud, the man gazing dispassionately even as something stirred beneath. “I think…I think I understand how she must have felt. She must have felt pain, too, knowing she couldn’t be with the man she loved, nor raise her son like other children. Yes...it hurts a little, doesn’t it?” She smiled sadly at him, Seymour stirring with a sympathy faint in his eyes, nodding.

 

“I remember when I first heard of you, Yuna. It was after I’d been ordained a priest of Yevon, and after Lord Braska defeated Sin. I didn’t think there was another like me in the world, hated for what we were. Perhaps...for the first time, I didn’t feel so alone,” Seymour admitted slowly, Yuna gazing at him in surprise. She blinked it away, head bowing downwards as she nodded.

 

“It’s funny, isn’t it? What living in pain can do to you. It made my father so kind… My mother, too. He saved the world in spite of it. I might have gotten left behind, but he did it out of love for us. I don’t think I could ever thank him enough,” Yuna admitted, a brief smile quirking before it fell. “I had Kimahri, Wakka, Lulu, Chappu—and Sir Auron, in a way.”

 

“Loneliness, harshness… I do not need to say what it did to me. However, the years I spent in the Farplane made me realize: No one is free from death. Not even Sin. It is a cycle of sorrow no one can end, break nor hasten. Would you scorn me for taking heart in this, Yuna?” he asked unabashedly, Yuna staring in shock at the admission. It seemed that no amount of change would alter this in Seymour, at least...not yet.

 

Yuna pursed her lips, studying her fingers twiddling together. “Not really. I realized from the beginning I wouldn’t be able to change you, no matter how much I wish I could,” she confessed, smiling tightly. However, the closure between them increased when she looked up again, following his eyes as Seymour genuflected before her, Yuna’s skin flushing. She swallowed thickly, her gaze unable to turn away from his own.

 

Slowly, inexorably, he caressed the side of her face, Yuna realizing as to why. Living as he had had seen him without this contact with anyone. However, it did little to abate the blush that suffused. Gradually, she let herself relax, breathing calmly as elongated fingers gently carressed against her cheek. His expression was serene before he broke the contact again, standing to open two pairs of doors that led on to a balcony, the cityscape of Bevelle lit for them to see. “Ah, you can still hear the music from here. Even from afar, the orchestra still permeates throughout the city,” he observed. A gasp broke from Yuna’s lips as she struggled to regain her breath, willing the flush away.

 

After a moment, she came to where he stood and tapped his shoulder. Her hands clasped behind her back, tilting her head at him. “Why don’t we dance, then? One more—just one,” she negotiated firmly, though the offer was hardly met with refusal.

 

“Why, Lady Yuna, it would be my pleasure.”


 

“Yunie, Yunie!”

 

Her body seized in a cold sweat, thrashing as pain lobbed needles at her, sinking into tender flesh. Rocking her body as though she were being tossed at sea. Yuna didn’t know where she was, what she was—what anything was. She couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, couldn’t feel—couldn’t speak. Only soundlessly scream in a thick, asphyxiating heaviness. She couldn’t breathe, didn’t know her own name. All she was cognizant of was utter terror.

 

“Rikku, let Kurgum through! He can help.”

 

The blinding and sweating pain suddenly became replaced by a sensation of relieving weightlessness, her limbs calming from what had felt like a brutal thrashing. Her person slowly came back to her, feeling heavy and clammy, sore and unreal. Breathing was still frantic, likely catching her breath after feeling so strangled. Gradually, slowly, even though she felt sweaty and miserably sore, her emotions numb from what must’ve been profuse sobbing, she was grounded again.

 

“I think Lady Yuna is coming around again,” a voice observed somberly, Yuna recognizing it as Kurgum’s. Mismatched eyes blearily opened, air stinging harshly as she blinked for several long moments. Finally able to keep them open, she became aware of how she was bathed in perspiration, the air feeling incredibly cold.

 

“W-What happened?” she croaked, voice rough with disuse. Yuna tried sitting up only to be encouraged back down by Rikku, her face torn apart by worry for her cousin.

 

“Yunie, I heard you thrashing and calling out! You said...you couldn’t breathe or anything. It got really bad,” Rikku explained to the older woman, swiping away a moussed lock of sweat-drenched hair that had plastered messily across her face. “Are you okay?”

 

Yuna looked bewildered as Rikku explained what had transpired, mind sharply aghast as what she’d been dreaming of slowly filtered back into her mind. It’d been dark, and she’d seen faces. So many faces of people she’d met, people who’d been sent, people...she loved. Her mother, father—even the aeons! All tormented in this hell she couldn’t explain. Kurgum sat at her bedside, flanking it in a stool he’d drawn to her side.

 

“Lady Yuna, do you remember what triggered this?” he asked gently, Chuami standing with her brows knit and arms folded just behind him against the wall. Yuna sighed, but tepidly reiterated what she’d seen, from everything perceived to the faces, the aeons...all of it. Until her voice became hoarse and Rikku held a glass of water she drank deeply from to soothe her parched throat.

 

Swallowing down the last of the water, Rikku set the glass aside. “...No. I feel asleep, and woke up to this nightmare. I’m sorry, Kurgum, I guess I just don’t really remember,” she answered with a wan, apologetic smile. Chuami sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose.

 

“Maybe it was just stress,” Chuami offered, shrugging.

 

“Yunie’s been stressed before, but it was never this bad,” Rikku said worriedly, biting her lower lip.

 

Yuna was silent for a long moment, staring down at the sheets folded over her lap, thinking deeply. “It was Sin.” Everyone’s gaze shot to her, stunned. She looked at them each with conviction. “We’ve been in it before, remember, Rikku? This feeling…it was almost exactly the same. Like I was inside it,” she extrapolated, gaze then dropping. “I think…I think those faces were people. Their spirits, those who’d been absorbed by Sin.”

 

“Hang on a second, does this mean you’re mentally tied to Sin now or something? How do you know it’s not just lingering Sin toxin reawakening old trauma and giving you nightmares?” Chuami challenged, folding her arms and frowning deeply.

 

The priestess looked down, knowing Chuami was right. Before she could speak in her own defense, Kurgum piped up. “No one’s saying you’re wrong, Chuami. But, maybe...we could at least keep both in mind? See which one might be right,” the young man said placatingly, smiling at his childhood friend.

 

Chuami snorted, then huffed, “So, you’re all seriously entertaining the idea Lady Yuna’s some watered down Sinspawn now? This is all so absurd. I thought we were done with being superstitious when Yevon fell three years ago.” The disdain was evident on her face, flaring defensively. Yuna sighed, knowing she couldn’t fault Chuami. Since her mother had been killed by Yevoners it was unthinkable she’d remotely agree with any ideas reminiscent of what Yevon espoused just years before.

 

“I’m sorry, Chuami,” Yuna said, shaking her head. A smile remained gently forced on her face, though it arose more from Yuna’s persistent habit of being the peacemaker instead of instigator of conflict.

 

However, it was Rikku who flared in response, the Al Bhed’s face darkening with a scowl. “Instead of shooting our ideas down, why you actually contribute something for once, huh? Stop acting like you know Yunie so well! If you’re gonna take this seriously, just stop it!” the girl exploded, gesticulating in a way that only served to enunciate her anger.

 

Chuami’s features fostered their own sense of ire, folding her arms and jutting out a hip. “Oh yeah? You know, for someone who is supposed to take this seriously, you sure don’t act like it, Lady Rikku.”

 

Just as Rikku was staged to launch her own furious rebuttal, a booming command of, “That’s enough, both of you!” tore their argument to shreds. All eyes honed on the doorway where Seymour stood, expression disdainful. Though the door was open, it seemed nobody had noticed him come in. Rectifying that deficiency, the half-Guado closed it soundly behind him. “There is no point in arguing now. Not when it would compromise Lady Yuna’s health,” he chastised softly, Rikku looking down in shame while Chuami simply snorted acerbically, saying no more.

 

Yuna seemed to relax when she saw Seymour, the man having come with pouches of healing implements and poultices. Setting them on Yuna’s nightstand, he regarded Kurgum with a nod. “Thank you for informing me of Lady Yuna’s condition, Kurgum. I believe we should be able to treat her from here. In fact, I believe I do have a solution for our conundrum.”

 

The silence that ensued was speculative, Seymour taking it as initiative to continue. “I believe I should monitor her in my quarters, tonight. To ensure it won’t happen again.”

 

“What?! Are you crazy?” Rikku exclaimed, standing up and shooting Seymour an incredulous look the man was condescendingly aloof to.

 

“For once, I actually agree with her,” Chuami agreed, folding her arms and fixing the man with a harshly scrutinizing look. “We still don’t trust you, what with your past motivations. What was it, claim her dead or alive, as I was informed by Kurgum? Not a chance. This is literally the worst idea yet.”

 

“Chuami, Rikku, I’m sorry but…he’s right. I think it would benefit me to sleep in Seymour’s room tonight.”

 

Rikku gaped as she stared at Yuna, the priestess keeping her lips pensive and eyes low to her lap, Seymour smiling smugly at her resounding agreement.

 

“What the Lady Yuna has not yet explained is that with my connection to the Farplane, and having once been part of Sin, if this is more than a nightmare then I would be the best choice to ascertain the validity of her theory. And with my considerable reserves of knowledge in other areas, I would be able to handle any threat that plagues her,” he explained with his typical, catty smile—only earning a seething, resentful glare from Chuami.

 

Rikku’s face became crestfallen, heaving a sigh. “Yunie, y’sure about this? I mean, can you really trust him?”

 

“I know we’ve all had…struggles with Seymour. I don’t think anyone can deny that, however…I’ve spoken to him several times. He’s taken on the mantle of being my guardian and wants to see this through to the end. Even if his motivations might be different, I’m going to trust him. Can you guys at least have a little faith in me?” Yuna’s smile was unerringly gentle, the same sort that could melt the thickest block of Shiva’s ice.

 

“I believe in you, Lady Yuna. And I trust Seymour, too,” Kurgum said, flashing a hopeful look at Seymour that was met with an incline of the half-Guado’s head in acknowledgment.

 

“…I don’t trust him. Maybe I never will, but we’re your guardians, so…I’ll go along with this. But the second he takes a step out of line, that’s it. I wouldn’t hold back if it came to that,” Chuami said lowly, refusing to meet Seymour’s violet gaze.

 

“Yeah, what she said!” Rikku chimed in with boisterous agreement, folding her arms.

 

Yuna smiled softly, her shoulders sagging with relief. “Thank you all, truly.”

 


 

It would be several hours until she would see Seymour again, hours that Yuna filled to the brim with much-needed research. The Palace of St. Bevelle touted an incredible and hidden library Yuna hadn’t remembered from former misadventures, becoming the venue for them pouring over primers and spheres, many spheres themselves ancient in lieu of a faith that had once kept its own history in a stranglehold. Chuami and Yuna had taken to study there while Kurgum retreated with Seymour and Rikku with Paine, both women likely conducting investigations however they could.

 

By the fall of evening, when the hours were late and Yuna was growing weary from watching spheres so long, she rubbed her eyes as gongs throughout the city tolled the hour. Even though Chuami saw Yuna off with mistrust riddled in her eyes, it served more of a crop to compel Yuna to proceed faster rather than slower.

 

“Thank you so much for this, Seymour!” came Kurgum’s withdrawing voice as Yuna sidestepped in surprise away from Kurgum, the sender laughing as he nearly collided into Yuna with his arms cradling several tomes, a knapsack full of spheres, and several miscellaneous paraphernalia Yuna couldn’t immediately name in the split-second he wheeled back on his heel to regain his balance.

 

“Oh, Lady Yuna! Good to see you look better,” Kurgum greeted, recomposing himself enough to stand fairly well. “Ah, I’d love to stick around, but we learned so much today I’ve got to jot it down before I forget! See you!”

 

“Alright, Kurgum, don’t trip!” Yuna giggled after him, passing on a small wave before he finally retreated from sight, Yuna still happily aglow from the mirthful moment.

 

“Knowledge is quite the stimulant if one knows how to make it useful, wouldn’t you agree, Yuna?” Seymour broke through, the taller man having swept back the door further so that she could pass through with ease. He seemed amused, his usual smile pressed genuinely upon his lips. “Ah yes, I had the bed remade and made clean for you. Being unsent has the advantage of requiring no sleep, fortunately.”

 

Her moment of happiness passed into one of trepidation, Yuna’s head bowing and the woman sighing shakily. She wasn’t above saying she was nervous, but if the aforementioned theory was true, then it meant the possibility of her being connected to Sin...somehow. And that scared her more than anything. Seymour stood aside and ushered her in as he had the night before, doing so with a dutiful pretense as if the warmth that had managed to build between them fizzled into dissipating sparks. Or maybe, he understood. Maybe he was trying to.

 

Seymour’s room was as untouched as promised, noticing the bed bore no imprints of previous occupancy and only the desk was littered with needless paraphernalia. Things she needn’t pay any heed to. The curtains had been courteously drawn, warm and fiery light suffusing through their translucence but otherwise left the room fairly dim. It wouldn’t be long until only the nocturnal cityscape of Bevelle would be seen, and Yuna waited with anticipation.

 

She made herself comfortable on Seymour’s bed, pillows propped beneath her head and laying on her back. After a long sigh and finally feeling at peace enough, she turned to Seymour who regarded her quietly. “Do you think...it might really be true? That Sin is connected to me?” she wondered aloud, brow puckering with worry.

 

“It’s not impossible. The aeons Yu Yevon possessed were yours, and it takes a powerful link to be established between summoner and faith—a link he might have left a lingering maleficence over. And with Sin’s return, it may even be using you as a medium.” Seeing Yuna’s worry, he amended softly, “Please, it’s only speculation, Yuna. My guess is as good as any.”

 

Yuna steeled herself, hands balling into fists as her determination became hard set on to her face. “I can’t keep running. Even if it is true, I will fight. On any battlefield.” As Yuna clenched her eyes shut, what began as resolution gave way to a genuine exhaustion. The past weeks had greatly weighed on her, and last night’s nightmare saw her get no rest. Sleep could not have come more desperately, with greater yearning.

 

Mismatched eyes saw themselves in a cloudy woodland, crystalline trees arcing into a misty sky that hung too low to the earth. They were amethyst and ultramarine, colors undulating together with unnatural glows permeating throughout. The foliage above tinkled as a breeze blew through their boughs, carrying something ominous. The ground beneath was wet, but her feet picked up no dampness. No birds chirped, no crickets or cicadas rustled through the underbrush. In fact, walking through the glass elicited sounds of glass shards shattering underfoot.

 

“Lady Yuna, what are you doing here?!” Blearily did she peer through until a shadow burst through the woods, it being none other than the fallen Crusader, Luzzu, the red head’s face contorted with worry. “We have to hurry to the Command Center before Sin comes! You’ll be much safer there.” As Luzzu reached for her hand, Yuna sharply stopped him.

 

“Luzzu...we’re not on Mushroom Rock Road,” she said finally, the man’s eyes slowly opening in horror. She swallowed thickly, bowing her head.

 

Luzzu gaped at her in shock before crumpling to his knees, holding his face in his hands as he began to hopelessly sob. Yuna bit her lower lip and touched his shoulder, a cold sensation rippling through her as the phantom shimmered before dissolving into pyreflies, causing her heartbeat to catch in her throat before she swallowed it down. Remembering Operation Mi’ihen dredged a slew of old feelings: of guilt, of powerlessness, weakness and grief...so many things that made her feel wretched. But, then she remembered sunlight. A sunny smile, eyes bright and blue as the ocean, a voice that told her to keep going—

 

When her eyes opened, the scene had shuttered darkly and a new one had been constructed. Zanarkand Dome loomed lonely and ruined before her, a cool, damp darkness extending for miles from the interminably vast and ancient machina city now as vividly real as the first time she’d sojourned there with her guardians. The dread from before was replaced by a vaster unknown, one that kept her going forth even if her heart beat wildly in her chest.

 

The path she trekked was old and remembered, pyreflies lighting her way with memories reliving themselves as Tidus took center stage, Yuna unable to keep herself from watching him with misty eyes, his essence captured to well it made her heart sorely ache. But, she couldn’t remain. Something had brought her there and she needed to see what. She continued along the unstable path, letting herself be guided.

 

It came to Yuna’s surprise when no cloister of trails awaited her, no different from the deactivated one that came following the Eternal Calm. Instead, ancient machina whirred to life, lighting a path that deviated from the usual. A screen with a choppy picture bore a glowing imprint of a hand, Yuna pressing hers to it and watching as the heavy stone barrier shuddered before raising. “I wonder what’s here...” she asked aloud, glancing over her shoulder before stepping through the inky black corridor that lit her way along shards of light at her feet, the door eventually rumbling as her way out was shut. Still, she knew there was no way of returning just yet.

 

Eventually, a rounded corridor revealed an opaque light bleeding through shades, Yuna drawing away the curtain and freezing with what she saw. Before her was the room she remembered preserved from the sphere projection Seymour had demonstrated to she and her guardians years before. Only, this wasn’t a projection. It seemed all too real. Yuna found her feet moving of their own accord when she stood before the vanity, seeing herself no different than usual which brought silent relief to her. A girlish wile wanted her to sit at the vanity and simply explore what was there, even as a cold sensation burned at the nape of her neck.

 

The distinct clangor of heavy armor rattled in her periphery as she saw a man emerge from the ingress at the other side of the conical room, freezing when she realized who it was.

 

“Lord Zaon,” she breathed, unable to turn around. The man came closer, his eyes eerily shielded by his visor as a heavy hand menaced on her shoulder, nothing benign about it.

 

“You killed her. You killed my Yunalesca. You have doomed us,” his voice stuttered in his grief, throaty and clenched. Yuna wanted to move, wanted to profusely apologize and explain herself, but not even a whimper could escape her throat. That same hand suddenly clenched around her throat, asphyxiating as Yuna soundlessly gasped for air, eyes wide before squeezing shut and she was hauled from the vanity inexorably with her face beginning to phase blue. Clawing at his hand and face, Zaon need only crane his neck away before his arm extended and Yuna was lifted into the air, thrashing wildly as the air wouldn’t come to her lungs and her face burned red from the blood constricted there. “This cannot begin to repair what damage has been done...”

 

Her vision started to go black as she gradually lost consciousness, and from the dream to reality did she return. However, wild unrest reigned as Yuna thrashed as violently, crying out fearfully, the sheets tossed and foggily hearing the sounds of Seymour’s alarm. The half-Guado had embraced her in order to restrain her, clutching her close to his chest before her lungs could realize she wasn’t choking, that she could still breathe.

 

Gradually, so gradually, both relaxed as the violence ebbed away. Yuna blinked back tears from her eyes, mousy brown hair plastered and moussed to her skull from perspiration, feeling herself shudder from both the sudden cold and weakness that poured alarmingly through her.

 

“It’s over now, Yuna. You’re here. You’re awake,” Seymour murmured thickly, long digits caressing through her hair as he embraced her tightly, but not enough to suffocate her. Inexorably, she wound her arms around his neck and buried her face against it, feeling her shoulders quake with sobs as they came, hot and salty, down her cheeks. The sounds of her frightened sobbing were muffled by the embrace, but Seymour could only think to tuck her closer, trying to make the worst of her wretched lack of feeling grounded be alleviated, of the terrifying vision of Lord Zaon. It had all been too much, both of them knew.

 

“I-I’m...so sorry!” Yuna choked out, even as Seymour’s lips pursed and eyes closed tightly, bidden to silence and only prolonging the embrace instead. Because it was what she sorely needed.

 

Chapter Text

(Warning(s]: T, dissociation, intense battle]


 

It was several moments before Yuna was able to calm this time around, shuddering as Seymour held her closely to his chest. Even if he wasn’t truly alive, the calming thrum of the Farplane itself was enough to anchor her down again. Simply the strength of him being there, the scent that was so calming, the sensation of someone bodily shielding her from these terrors...even if all she could do was numbly blink and breathe away that night’s terror, it was enough. Blearily did Yuna finally and gently extricate herself from Seymour’s arms, the man coaxing her back to the softness of the waiting bed roughly tousled from the night, but still better than wheezing roughly while being upright. The former maester did his best to make her comfortable, she watching his face drawn so seriously while doing something tender, of the sort no one else had seen of him before. Almost as if someone else had taken over his body.

 

“Are you well enough to speak, Yuna?” he asked after her gently, the sheets and quilt having been pulled over her person enough to blanket her from the worst of her own cold, it difficult to recoup without someone so near. When she blearily shook her head, Seymour sighed. “You need water. That much I can do.”

 

As his back retreated towards the small galley adjacent to his bedroom, her gaze shifted out the window where it was still dark, opaque white curtains translucent and bleeding in the outside, colorful lights like ink stains on parchment. It was calming, almost as if pyreflies were drifting past. Yuna still didn’t know what to make of the vision. Did Zaon really know of Yunalesca’s death? Maybe they’d met in the Farplane. Even after he nearly had tried to kill her, Yuna couldn’t bring herself to blame him for it. He loved Yunalesca more than anything. And she’d been the one whom had slain her, alongside her guardians years before.

 

When Seymour returned, he had both a glass of water and bowl of steaming soup, both set on the nightstand flanking the bed. Yuna motioned for the water, a glass she was able to procure and drink from herself. When she set it aside, her thirst slaked, could she finally speak. “I saw Lord Zaon,” she began, sat up and with her hands clasped on her lap. “He tried to kill me by suffocating me to death.”

 

Seymour sat at her bedside in an instant, expression grim but concerned. “Let me see,” he ordered firmly, brushing away her mousy brown hair and tilting her neck just enough, Yuna visibly wincing and he frowning deeply. “There are marks, and they will only bruise darker.”

 

When his inspection concluded, Yuna re-affixed her hair. “It’s not a dream. It just can’t be,” she murmured, numbly touching the pads of her fingers against the bruises still tender, skin smarting with a sting enough to bring tears to her eyes. But, what was a reflexive reaction became fueled by her emotions. Her shoulders began to shake, throat closing and her eyes became helplessly blurred and burned with their sensation. “It’s real, it’s all real! He...he could’ve killed me,” Yuna sobbed brokenly, burying her face in her hands. Everything hurt. Everything was too real… Sin she could fight. This? How on earth was she supposed to fight in her dreams?

 

“I won’t let them. Not when we know what this is. I won’t let them harm you,” Seymour vowed in a harsh murmur, jaw set and temple throbbing. His long nails dug into his skin as his hands clenched into fists. Yuna heard him, tepidly lifting her gaze enough to look at him through even her choked sobs.

 

The man softened upon seeing her, cupping her face in his elongated hand, leaning near and swiping away some of her tears with his thumb. Yuna bit her lip to keep the worst of the sobs at bay, but he shook his head. “You can be vulnerable with me, Yuna. Please...do not hold yourself back.” She didn’t understand. His voice sounded so sincere, even through her pain, she could tell. They were like opposites, but could read each other so well. Was this real, the way he was looking at her? Through the High Summoner’s daughter, through High Summoner Yuna, through the Gullwing and priestess—he was looking at her, truly. Not the woman he’d wanted through his obsession. It felt so surreal, like gazing over the edge of that platform in the Farplane back in Guadosalam. Was this just another dream? She couldn’t tell. But...this was kindness. This was what her heart had been aching for.

 

So, she did. Her face crumpled and she sobbed harder than she had in so long into his shoulder. If this was a dream, she’d awaken soon. That much was certain, wasn’t it?

 


 

When Yuna had finally emerged through the worst of her catharsis, Seymour lent her his bathroom and she scrubbed herself down as much as she could in the shower, changing into a new dress and trappings that made her feel rejuvenated. The soup was lukewarm by the time she got to it, made no doubt by Seymour, but she heartily slurped it down until not even a drop was left. She’d been so preoccupied that she’d underestimated her own hunger, that much was for certain. By the time she was done, the sunrise was just barely peering over the horizon and outcropping of stately edifices crowning the high walls that guarded the city, even though not a wink of sleep had been missed. She’d likely feel the effects later, however.

 

Seymour was found in the living room pouring over old parchment when he lifted his head in acknowledgment, lowering it and smiling tiredly at her. A rare allowance, but Yuna found herself relaxed enough to proffer a small smile back, sinking next to him on the couch soundlessly.

 

“It’s unmistakable that your night terrors are evidence of your strange new connection to Sin. Of how your consciousness is being channeled into it when you sleep. The question is how this might be assuaged,” Seymour stipulated thoughtfully, glancing speculatively at the smaller woman. Yuna looked pensive, staring blankly at the grains within the vibrantly painted coffee table before them.

 

“Defeating Sin, ultimately,” Yuna said softly, gaze remaining unbroken. Seymour regarded her and the heaviness that weighed like an oppressive cloud, but his expression was indiscernible even if it didn’t catch Yuna’s eye immediately. “What do you think, Seymour?”

 

“Sir Auron was able to sojourn to Dream Zanarkand as an Unsent and live there for ten years, transported by Sin itself, was he not? Yuna, there stands a possibility that I may be able to journey to your dreams with you, even if only to make sense of them myself. The link should prove to be enough of a bridge to facilitate it,” Seymour reasoned, turning an undulating gold sphere distractedly in his hands.

 

That seemed to garner her attention, hope present in those mismatched eyes. “Do you really think it could work?”

 

“It’s our only theory so far. And Yuna,” he trailed off, gazing with unremitting tenderness at her that elicited a faint blush, leaning nearer to her. Enough that her senses became flooded by him, only without the terror that had obfuscated them before. Their eyes were locked, nostrils flooded with his scent, his warmth permeable in waves. Seymour leaned in close enough to kiss, barely inches away from her lips even as Yuna’s face heated up even more intensely. “...I will not have you face this alone. If I am to truly be your guardian, I must be willing to make the appropriate self-sacrifices. Even if it means losing myself to Sin.”

 

Oh.

 

Yuna’s face became suddenly very crestfallen, unable to meet his eyes as she became torn apart by her own conflict. If they went through with this, Sin could possibly absorb him? She remembered the last time she’d finally sent him. Not a word had been said, and her heart had already been occupied by Tidus. But, this...she felt so rotten. Like she was betraying her own heart. Seymour was willing to sacrifice himself, and yet, something in her didn’t want it to come to that. That he’d filled an important role, one that would be strange to be without. Through the weeks, through these days, things had changed. Even if she couldn’t put a name to what it was, she couldn’t deny that a small fraction of her needed him.

 

“...I don’t want to lose you,” she admitted forlornly, at a loss. Those were words that the rest of her guardians would be scandalized to hear, and that realization her flush sharply in shame. Seymour’s eyes widened and he was admittedly taken aback, but he otherwise looked composed, keeping his true sentiments guarded—under a lock and key only he possessed. “As my guardian, you can’t to lose to Sin!”

 

That made him smile enigmatically; the same, frustrating sort that made it impossible to tell what he was truly thinking. “I can only honor your wishes as best I can, Lady Yuna. As a proper guardian ought.” Even though her willpower and displays of strength had been what enamored him to her all those years ago, here it only made Yuna feel bitter at the distance it’d placed between them again. Of how that order starkly reminded them of the formal niches they occupied, of the gulfs that spanned between them. Even if he hadn’t meant to offend her, she couldn’t help but think of what a bitter mistake had been made. That it wasn’t him she was concerned about, but the role of a guardian he filled.

 

Brows furrowing, Yuna rose with a coldness on her shoulders from the couch, the depression she’d made quickly filling as if she hadn’t been there at all. “Thank you, Seymour, for what you’ve done tonight. I’m going to return with the news,” Yuna informed him with a meager, but formal intonation. It felt so wrong! Why did this feel so wrong?

 

She didn’t know. Her mind too stressed from two sleepless nights, she wordlessly departed from Seymour’s quarters without so much as another word.

 


 

The nest few days proceeded like the last. This time, Yuna called for private meetings with the Spiran Council heads—predictably Baralai, Nooj, and Gippal—as they embarked on a day-long conference to discuss their findings. Though Yuna was beyond exhausted, everyone was mindful not to comment on the priestess’ condition, of the bags beginning to form beneath her eyes, of the slight redness taken to the coronas. Rikku, especially, had hammered that much into Gippal’s skull not to remark on, and so far he hadn’t.

 

“Yunie, you need to slow down. You’re stretching yourself way too thin,” her cousin ventured with concern, the conference on recess for the next few minutes whilst everything discussed was being furiously recorded by secretaries that had been present.

 

Yuna could only shake her head weakly despite sinking tiredly into a wooden stool just outside the meeting venue, Rikku hovering protectively nearby in spite of the looks some wandering acolytes exchanged with them, gossip that would likely spread like wildfire. “I can’t rest. The people need me, Rikku, and if they still think I’m to blame then I just have to make things right. No matter the cost.”

 

Before Rikku could even think of interjecting, a bell was rung and they were summoned back inside. Yuna flanked Baralai while Nooj took the head of the circular table, Gippal to his left while sphere recorders and transcribers were at the ready. Just as all had been seated, a mighty tremor shook the conference room, lambasting them with a disorienting vibration that rocked them all. “Baralai, go see what this is! There’s something attacking Bevelle Palace!” Nooj bellowed above the cacophony, standing sharply and grabbing for his cane before it could be displaced. However, another barrage and he tripped and collapsed to the ground.

 

“Hey, hang on there, Nooj! Can’t die on us yet,” Gippal swore beneath his breath as he gathered Nooj up to dangle an arm over his shoulder, hefting the prone man enough to use his younger friend as a crutch. “Lady Yuna, Rikku, I think we all know what this is!”

 

“Sin!” Yuna and Rikku said in unison, exchanging resolved, grim looks.

 

“We have to find the others. Then, we have to go to Saint Bevelle’s,” Yuna said, hastily checking her equipment, equipping her Heart Reborn garment grid with the Floral Fallal inevitably linked. They would need their strongest trump cards, she knew. The floor at their feet vibrated, displacing their steps and causing dizziness, but Yuna wouldn’t allow it to disorient her.

 

“Yunie, there’s no time! They’re just gonna have to find us,” Rikku replied urgently as Yuna took her by the arm and they located a mechanized stairwell that was disabled from the assault, rushing headlong up it.

 

They suddenly screamed in tandem as the platform that would’ve been situated in the portal at the epicenter of the conical stairwell plunged downwards, clipping off an enormous chunk of the stone platform that Yuna happened to be standing on. The priestess yelped out in shock as she fell back, only to be caught by the hand by Rikku who hauled her up. Dousing her in one of her alchemic medleys, she felt much better than before. “Thank you,” Yuna thanked in exasperation, glancing back into the fathomless hole that gaped in their wake. Swallowing thickly, they resumed their mad dash upwards again.

 

The open air of Bevelle greeted them with a deceptive zephyr, the horizon to the east completely consumed by the silhouette of Sin, its enormous snout blotting out the sun like it was a solar edifice itself. The sun had long since set, lingering pastels on the horizon, and was cloudless. It made the sight of the airborne tyranny all the more stark. From the city below did terrified cries fill the twilight with horror, Yuna swallowing down deeply. She brandished her Nirvana, Rikku taking her own battle stance and poised to shift between her dresspheres.

 

However, just before Yuna could think to activate her own grid’s nodes, Seymour emerged from an opposite egress and sprinted towards them with surprising alacrity, alighting to Yuna’s side. “Yuna, come! You are not strong enough to face it this way. There is another!” Though she gaped at him in surprise, Yuna’s hand was taken and she was jerked back, Rikku following in suit only out of the split decision.

 

Once sheltered past the portico and near the spiral staircase they’d exited from, Seymour released Yuna and gravely addressed both women. “The only hope we have in staggering it is through that link, Yuna. You must fall asleep and I must accompany you in order for us to face it,” Seymour explained over the roars of Sin, almost as if it were indignant at them for absconding temporarily from the battle.

 

“Are you crazy? Do you have any idea what that could do to her?” Rikku railed, glancing furtively back outside.

 

“We have no choice!” Seymour snapped, causing Rikku to balk defensively. “If you wish to be useful, guard the entrance against sinspawn. Yuna will need you to while she sleeps.” Hurriedly, he removed his cloak and motioned for Yuna to lay on her back, which she obediently did. For once, he was right. They couldn’t fend off Sin alone, and as last time had proved, the only way would be to hit it from the inside. Without an aeon to host Yu Yevon, they couldn’t fall back on former tactics. There really was no other way.

 

A spell to induce sleep was cast, and as it befell her, she could swear Seymour murmured that he would join her soon after. With the connection made, the terrain was different. A shade of Zanarkand sprawled before them; Dream Zanarkand in pristine condition, like it had been. Even though part of her belatedly wondered if Tidus had been absorbed with Sin, she knew it was foolish to search, and even more foolish to hope. If the aeons hadn’t returned, who’s to say he had? Though her heart twisted, she suddenly felt more alone than she ever had. As if a wintry coldness held her in its unforgiving clutches.

 

However, Seymour’s manifestation suddenly lifted that pall as he materialized just paces away, a disjointed look settling on his visage before he sighted Yuna and strode protectively near. “I see this has been your dream state? ...How terribly real it is.” Yuna could only nod absently before he began walking in tow of her, neither knowing where to go except forwards. “Do you know what we should be looking for?”

 

“I...don’t know,” Yuna confessed, glancing at Seymour in confusion. “The dreams always changed. People came and left, some at the time of death, thinking they were still alive. I saw Luzzu several nights before, and...” She sighed heavily, the encounter still having rent a deep mark in her heart. One of failure, of how many souls died because of Sin and continued to be tortured because of how directionless they were. Seymour nodded and guided her by the small of her back, she listlessly going along with it. Being in Sin reminded her of how alone she really was.

 

The scenery began to oscillate and change, both pausing as the worn path at their feet became a vibrant pool of myriad lights, Yuna agape in wonder before she looked up, remembering the initial scenery from the sphere Seymour had shown her in their first true meeting. Highways crossed above, arches of water scintillating higher still whilst interminable buildings like tiered saucers soared over them, boxing them in among the throngs of people that canvassed the thoroughfares. Yuna’s chest tightened when she remembered that Tidus had promised to take her here, even if it was all just a dream that deserved to be put to rest. Her hand clutched at her breast, glancing down. Seymour noticed, brows furrowing in concern.

 

“Let’s try the stadium. I think we might find something there,” Yuna suggested automatically, heart thundering in her chest. If this was really Tidus’ Zanarkand, then maybe he’d be here. If not… No. She didn’t want to think that far ahead.

 

Seymour never objected, following in silent retinue.

 

The journey there was boisterous and loud, Seymour and Yuna passing through like ghosts in spite of the people that clamored bodily around them. All she could think about was Tidus, of the anxiety that tightened in her chest. She couldn’t tell if it was induced by delirium, but here she clung tighter than ever to his memory, fervently hoping. Once or twice, Seymour almost lost her. But, he didn’t. When they came to the stately facade of the stadium, the rabble pushed harder through, the blare of announcers and horns from initial games played sounded loudly, making her head throb.

 

“You gotta ticket, lady? Cuz we ain’t got much seats left,” the man manning the box office lazily said to her as they came to it, Yuna looking desperate even for her.

 

“East block, in the front row, fifth from the right. Please—do you have it? I have to sit there, I just have to! I’ll pay anything!” she pleaded, tears bubbling in her eyes as she fished through her pockets, pouring out more Gil than it honestly cost, but the man’s shocked expression at her emotive display and outpouring of Gil caused him to glance furiously around to make sure others wouldn’t see.

 

“Alright, alright! You got the seat. Tickets for two?” he amended, glancing offhandedly at Seymour. “Sheesh, crazy-ass fangirls.” Printing and passing along the tickets, Yuna snatched them and dashed inside the stadium, not even bothering to wait for Seymour.

 

Hastily did she find her seat, wincing as the wave of light washed over them from the jolt of electricity, reflecting brightly from her face and causing her heart to race faster—but not from excitement. More of a nauseating mix of dread and anticipation, terrible enough on their own. As the sphere of water became steadily filled, the holographic field alighted in the water, much to the fans’ zeal. Yuna stopped short when she saw the Zanarkand Abes’ symbol on the scoreboard, heart hammering into her throat by now.

 

Both teams entered the field with great fanfare, Yuna’s hands clammy as they wrung together and her mismatched eyes were practically unblinking as she scanned every person she could find, Seymour seated dully beside her and watching her intently instead. Suddenly, and totally by surprise, a familiar head of spiky hair and tanned skin, in black shorts and boots, shot into view with the alacrity of a hypello. Yuna gasped sharply and felt her legs practically wobble into jello. With shuddering hands she tucked her forefinger and thumb in a familiar motion against her teeth, tearing up and feeling those tears cascade warmly down her cheeks. She blew, hard, sputtering at first and quiet before it gathered strength, as loud as it could be.

 

Through her tears, the blond slowly pivoted towards her in the water, and she could almost collapse to her knees. They locked eyes and Yuna’s breath hitched in her throat, scrubbing away the tears that congested her vision.

 

“It’s not him. I’m sorry, Yuna,” Seymour apologized, no look of crowing triumph on his features to speak of.

 

Her fingers trembled as they left her lips, knees knocking together. Some within the crowd murmured speculatively, spreading with mentions of Lenne resounding loudest of all. But, Yuna didn’t care. She didn’t care about resembling the past songstress and any other connotations they could attach to her. That wasn’t Tidus. It was Shuyin, and it broke her heart knowing he was so impossibly far from her. Almost like before.

 

“Yuna!” came Seymour’s authoritative demand to attention, breaking her from her mournful rapture. Through her tears, Yuna fell silent. All activity within the stadium ceased, everyone except them frozen. She, Seymour, and Shuyin. The man had become enshrouded in a hazy pall of fog, his teammates and opponents swimming past obliviously, even if none of them could really see him. Her Nirvana manifested, true and thrumming energetically. Seymour’s own staff manifested, just in time as Shuyin began to twist and contort. His shadowy form extended outwards, taking upon a twisted appearance. An echo of Vegnagun, growing taller and higher until it consumed the volume of the very stadium itself.

 

As Seymour had been able to, the souls trapped in time became absorbed in an enormous, wailing morass of pyreflies. Seymour pulled Yuna protectively behind him, the priestess unable to mourn any longer. Though her face was streaked red from tears, eyes puffy and red, it wouldn’t stop her from fighting. “He looks like Vegnagun!” Yuna shouted above the whirlpool of chaos, the blitzball arena shattering like glass and dousing them with water.

 

Nodding tersely, Seymour wasted no time in a preemptive strike, casting a Thundaga Fury, five successions of the spell cast upon the machina—thankfully far less to scale with the original. Fruitful, each blow critically barraged Shuyin, causing him to cry out in a robotic burst of static, likely pain. “It seems weak to the electric element!” he called over the chaos towards Yuna, as its animatronic limbs tore apart several struts that brought a shower of debris and fatal rubble raining upon them. “We must leave! To continue the battle here would imperil us!”

 

“Right!” Yuna affirmed strongly. Rapidly did they navigate through the base of the stadium, emerging through the other side which promised to lead away from its confines, a large space even like that claustrophobic when compared to the sheer enormity of their foe. Yuna was panting by the time they’d finally paused, enough to see the stadium loom over them from a widely projected pier, study enough for them but far enough away from the treacherous battle. However, steel groaned and screamed as Shuyin punched through the exterior, the superstructure bowed as more supports were blown clean into the enormous lake the machina city was situated upon. From afar, the city was so idyllic and almost heavenly, a nocturnal cityscape that shone starry from afar. The paradise they still only dreamed of.

 

“Ready yourself!” Seymour called as the walled embankment and archaic superstructure collapsed in a calamitous wave of water, surging towards them and just barely avoiding a harsh brunt of that which was trapped in the wave. Shuyin roared guttural and long, emerging with vengeful direction towards them. Yuna set herself a few paces away as the Floral Fallal was invoked. Whilst the enormous, violet hibiscus bloomed with her inside, Seymour smiled grimly.

 

From the waters did Mortiorchis emerge, the construct like the anatomy of an ear’s innards whilst Seymour hovered in the air, electricity spanning between him and the seeming destructive vehicle. Rapidly did his features petrify, like an exoskeleton that hardened on his skin and made him stony and his form like an impregnable fortress. From Yuna’s memory, she knew that Seymour Flux had been one of the most difficult of his forms, if not the most of them all. Thankfully, he wasn’t on the side of Sin and showed no signs of betrayal—yet.

 

The multiple limbs Mortiorchis wielded in conjunction with Seymour himself made for an imposing enemy, one Shuyin regarded with haughty indifference. “Here you shall die!” the former maester snarled telepathically, the enormous mecha responding with an ionic beam, sizzling the water and causing Yuna to flinch as it strafed one of the pistols. Though she cried out in pain, she responded with an Electric Whirl, successive electric attacks electrocuting the menace even from afar. Seymour followed suit with the Lance of Atrophy.

 

Rapidly, Yuna cast Scan upon Shuyin, surveying the mecha and seeing trace parallels that crossed with that of the original battles with Vegnagun. “Seymour! We have to attack each limb before hitting his torso and head! That way he can’t recover as easily,” Yuna instructed, readying another Electric Whirl. It was unleashed almost superfluously, but not before Shuyin lambasted Seymour with a counterattack from the left arm, the half-Guado grunting in pain. Yuna knew better than to think a single attack would be enough, but between the two of them, they already seemed to know how to execute their attacks.

 

Yuna focused hers on the right arm and leg, she at Seymour’s right to begin with. The Right Stigma was unleashed upon the right arm, the Ash Floralysis upon the leg. Though the paralysis failed to inset, it was still enough damage to be considered deadly. Seymour Cross Cleaved through both the arm and leg on his half, only for Flare to be cast in rebuttal causing significant damage to the Mortiorchis.

 

Yuna gasped as Shuyin suddenly pinned her to the pier with his clawed appendage, alike a tail while casting Silence in succession upon her Pistols, then Paralysis that rendered her immobile. Seymour roared wrathfully, levitating towards the mecha that held her there fiendishly, then crushing the hibiscus and forcefully deactivating the Floral Fallal.

 

“You truly believed you could steal Lenne from me? Just who do you think you are?” the Zanarkand man demanded incredulously, laughing in shocked disbelief. Both their voices were equally bastardized by their present forms, making Seymour’s growl all the more menacing—especially when Yuna finally passed out from the stress.

 

“To think, we share that much in common!” Seymour rebutted, all before Total Annihilation became the next course of attack. Mortiorchis’ lance was brandished to a deadly sheen, all before it rushed Shuyin and plunged the sharpened tip straight through the mecha’s breast. A contusion of metal and screeching steel sounded from the blow, Shuyin agape in disbelief as he stared listlessly down, jaw working but unable to enunciate words.

 

Pyreflies bled from unknown orifices, small explosions ricocheting the listless air and causing the illusion to gradually enfold in upon itself. Limbs writhed and twitched, all before the eyes lost their light and caved in upon itself, cleaving the pier from the enormity of its weight and visually being consumed by the churning waves. Seymour rushed to extricate Yuna before she could be wrenched into those very waters, transferring her from Mortiorchis’ arms to his own, the expressionless face of the man still sighing, the waters of the lake slowly recomposing their pristine still as Shunyin’s mecha became lost to the waves. Though the impact had been harsh, it was nothing that couldn’t heal in the waking world.

 

Irregardless, they had lingered too long as it was.

 


 

Yuna awoke with a strangled gasp, a small whimper escaping as she clutched at her skull. Rikku was still heavily engaged in combat outside, her cousin just barely aware of reality itself. Seymour gradually manifested in turn, panting harshly from the efforts their battle had extolled. When he’d recovered, pointedly did he check Yuna over and quietly cast Cura that dealt away the worst of the injuries she’d sustained.

 

“Whew, I’m bushed! Those sinspawn were sure tough this time around!” Rikku exclaimed, collapsing in n exhausted heap. Yuna’s hand was on Seymour’s arm in a steadying gesture before she reflexively withdrew, all before Rikku could see. Still lain upon her back, her very spine was sore from the hard tile that was painful against her frame. “Oh, Yunie, you’re awake! How did it go?”

 

Yuna blearily sat up, blinking owlishly, still clearly exhausted. “It’s...better. The theory is true, at least,” she supplied, still drained and exhausted from the sleepless nights. “Is Sin still here?”

 

Rikku sighed, still very much concerned. “Mmmm, nope! It disappeared a bit ago, but—Yunie, are you sure you’re okay? You don’t look so good.”

 

And it was true. Yuna looked somewhat haggard compared to before, skin taking on an ashen pallor. Though she hadn’t awoken screaming or thrashing or even choking, it had done nothing alleviate the complete lack of sleep she’d been experiencing. The priestess sighed deeply, leaning against Seymour heavily, the man gladly accommodating her weight in spite of worry clouding his undoubtedly dispassionate features. “I don’t know. Only time will tell, won’t it?” Her smile was tired, but it was all she could manage.

 

Forgoing usual travel, Seymour hoisted her in his arms bridal style, Yuna compliant without complaint in spite of the protests Rikku was prepared to lodge, though forcefully silent as long as she wasn’t against it. With Yuna’s state as it was, she was too weak to walk. To anyone else, this was a guardian enacting on his duty in spite of the deeper feelings that were running between them of late, of the late argument that had riven them away from one another.

 

Though her eyes welled with threatening tears, she couldn’t help it. Tidus was truly gone this time, wasn’t he? For that wasn’t Dream Zanarkand. Like a sphere’s reconstruction based on memories, it had been an extraction, the remnants of someone’s dream. But not of the fayth, because they were truly gone. They flowed noiselessly, Yuna too exhausted to even sob. Seymour glanced down at her, worry tugging at his lips that wished to console her, but it was difficult; there had been no friendliness shared between him and the son of Jecht. The boy had been no more than a gnat in his way, vying for Yuna’s affections even when she’d fallen hopelessly in love with the blitzer. It was a guilty jealousy that consumed him, if only on Yuna’s behalf for how selfish it was to feel.

 

As they lapsed into the spiral staircase and away from the chill of the outside air, Yuna managed to allow her eyes to sink closed, not daring to do more than doze in Seymour’s arms. He was a strong man, that much was a given. Despite all the conflicted looks Rikku openly cast her cousin, she knew she had to trust Yuna’s judgment. No matter how many times he defended the priestess, it was evident to everyone in the party why he did what he did. Hell, he’d explained it himself! It was for Yuna and none else. No wonder she and the others could barely trust him.

 

But now, their bulwark needed them. Downstairs, turmoil had been evident. Sin had caused enormous damage to the city for the first time in years. Just a few years ago, Sin had been felled on the outer shoals away from the city, almost harmlessly so. People ran amok as medical provisions were being secured, Spiran Council agents being dispatched alongside Yevoners and loyalists to the other factions. Even though Yuna stirred and mentioned wishing to help, Seymour dissuaded her, and for the first time Rikku agreed with him.

 

The trio departed for the infirmaries, the whitewashed walls being an acute relief. Yuna had been settled upon a gurney and taken away to be healed, Seymour waiting pensively.

 

“What happened to the Lady Yuna? We became concerned when she suddenly disappeared,” Baralai interjected as they waited outside Yuna’s room, Seymour regarding the younger man with a sense of indifference.

 

“We battled Sin, however, it was unlike how it was conducted in Lucca. It was through a psychic connection Yuna shares with Sin that I journeyed into its realm with her. We fought a sinspawn. That is all,” Seymour reiterated dismissively, eyes narrowing as he gazed into Yuna’s room, eyes stubbornly affixed to the priestess.

 

“...I see. Thank you for informing me, Seymour. Lady Rikku,” he nodded in acknowledgment to the younger guardian, then taking off at a brisk walk down the corridor, Seymour not so much as sparing a glance to the Spiran Council head. His jaw was set, hands clasped behind his back almost with impatience; even it predominantly served to disguise his worry for Yuna.

 

Rikku bit her lip, feeling the air become uncomfortably stagnant. Seymour’s airs had always felt so oppressive to her, but here and now she wasn’t sure if she could remain. Not when there was still so much to be done! Yuna wouldn’t want her to wait around, either.

 

“Alright, bucko, you’d better keep a good eye on her, y’hear? I’m gonna go find the others,” Rikku informed him assertively, hands on her hips. However, if Seymour had heard her, he gave no indication. The man remained stubbornly statuesque, keeping vigil over Yuna.

 

Part of her doubted he’d respond until Yuna came to. Pursing her lips, the Al Bhed simply sighed and took off at a sprint, not bothering to even look back.

 

Chapter Text

(Warnings: T, none]

 


 

Two days would pass before Yuna awoke, sleep surprisingly undisturbed. A spell had been figured by Seymour had allowed for this; or rather, a precise concoction of potions, Rikku’s synthesizing knowledge quite the conduit to the discovery. It was sleep she desperately needed that none were eager to disturb, even if all were concerned with how she’d be upon awaking. Bevelle had been shaken by the attacks, but the citizens had been able to coordinate reconstruction efforts that were swiftly underway. Even for something so unprecedented as an attack on Bevelle, they would recover just as Spira always seemed to. A cycle of regrowth and rebirth from the ashes.

 

Yuna arose stiffly, small sounds of disquiet obvious as she stirred, a hand coming to her brow. Blearily did she blink away the sleep, attempting to sit up even as her vision swam with a disorienting graininess that she waited a moment for to subside. It had been strange, this dreamless sleep. And, quite honestly, she felt sluggish. But, it had been better than nothing. The translucent white curtains billowed gently in a calming morning breeze, Yuna’s gaze clearing enough for her to see it. However, a familiar hand on her shoulder caused her to flinch, only before she saw who it was. “Oh, Seymour,” she croaked, voice rough with disuse.

 

The man smiled pleasantly, offering her a glass of water she drank greedily from. “Thank you,” Yuna said as he retrieved it and set it aside. “How long was I asleep for?”

 

“Two days. Two very needed days, I might add,” Seymour amended, sinking into a chair at her bedside.

 

This caused Yuna to appear visibly distressed. “Two days? Oh, goodness! I can’t be here! There are so many people to help! I have to get to them! I’ll shower and eat quickly, but—I must get to them!” she exclaimed frantically, throwing off the sheets and clumsily snatching articles of clothing in her hospital gown, appearing quite comical. But, Seymour knew better than to laugh.

 

“Please, do not overexert yourself, Yuna. The Spiran Council has been handling the disaster relief rather well. There is no need to worry,” Seymour placated, Yuna blinking vacantly at him.

 

“I know, but I can’t just stay here. There’s still so much to do, and I’ve wasted too much time as it is,” Yuna deflated, heaving a sigh as the raiment in her arms lowered, gaze transfixed to the floor like an abashed child. Still, she looked up hopefully at him. “That battle with Shuyin—did that really cause damage to Sin? Enough to repel it from the city?”

 

“I believe so. In fact, if Yu Yevon is possessing avatars as he formally did, perhaps he’s possessing several and spreading his essence among them. Or, he’s moving between hosts. It’s too early to say.”

 

Yuna beamed at him, smile sunny for the first time in days. “But, hey—it’s something, isn’t it? We oughtta try this again soon!” She pumped a fist, rocking between the balls of her feet and seeming truly energetic. The color had returned to her cheeks, and the bags beneath her eyes were largely gone. It was enough to compel Seymour to chuff in amusement. Then, she put her hands on her hips, brows furrowed and a slight pout taking to her lips. “Hey, you can’t be in here while I’m getting ready! Go wait outside, please,” she huffed, only broadening his smile.

 

“But of course, Lady Yuna. Do inform me once you’ve finished,” he scoffed warmly, smile catty as he disappeared through the machina door, Yuna able to breathe a sigh of relief once he had.

 

A quick shower and some breakfast and she was sure to feel human again.

 


 

“Lady Yuna! I heard about what happened. Are you guys okay?” Kurgum queried breathlessly, catching his breath while Chuami raised a disgruntled brow at him. “Me and Chuami were just helping out around the city. There weren’t that many people to send, thankfully.” His soft smile was enough to earn a reciprocal one from Yuna, the priestess appearing grateful. At least some within their troupe were helping out in exactly the way she needed to.

 

“Yes. Thank you, Kurgum. How have you both been these past few days?” Yuna asked kindly, hands clasped together decorously.

 

“We’ve been fine. There’s been a lot to sort out, but this attack wasn’t as serious as the one on Luca. The Praetor even thinks we might be able to recover for the losses in a week,” Chuami interjected, folding her arms and squinting at Yuna. “Just what did you do to ward off Sin, anyways? No one’s told me anything and I didn’t see you guys fighting.”

 

Seymour and Yuna exchanged looks, prompting Yuna to explain. “Seymour and I went into Sin via that connection. We fought a version of Shuyin that looked like Vegnagun, and were able to defeat it. It...looked like he used Vegnagun’s parts.”

 

“Whoa, whoa! What do you mean, Vegnagun’s parts?! Do you mean Sin absorbed it, too?” Rikku interjected incredulously, looking absolutely flabbergasted.

 

Yuna’s lips pursed, and she glanced at Seymour, searching him for an answer as he met her gaze in turn. Returning his amethyst eyes among them, he explained, “It is...possible. However, I am unfamiliar with this Vegnagun. But, seeing as Sin has been absorbing a terrific amount of souls, even the memories of it might be enough for it to manifest in Sin.” Though the explanation was speculative at best, Yuna knew it hardly sounded that far off.

 

“We should report this to the Council. Chuami, could you call a meeting, please? There’s a lot we have to discuss,” Yuna implored politely of the girl.

 

“Funny you should ask. I was actually on my way to tell you they wanted to see you. Might as well head over, now that you mention it,” Chuami said with a slight roll of her shoulder. Jerking her thumb over her shoulder, the others began to follow suit, a note of trepidation lingering in Yuna’s breast.

 

It was enough that this connection had been steered in their favor, but would it be enough? Already, they’d fought Sin twice, with varying levels of success. Luca had seen them devastated, while Bevelle had seen the fewest casualties to date. But, would she and Seymour be enough? Unless other unsent joined them, neither Rikku, Chuami, nor Kurgum would be able to fight alongside them. And with their foes only becoming stronger, a clout of worry beat in her chest. They could only play by ear for so long before even more people got hurt. The thought caused Yuna to purse her lips and wring her hands together, Seymour touching her shoulder and smiling reassuringly. It was funny how much she found herself able to depend on him. Dare she say she was beginning to trust him?

 

They came to the meeting room from before in due time, inflamed with crimson and the vibrant colors and tapestries famous to Bevelle. The earthquake from before had rent fissures in marble floors, something that caused Yuna to step over them warily. After nearly falling into that abyss two days before, she didn’t want to risk it again. Construction workers filed out as the Praetor, Meyvn, and Leader were seated in their usual formation. “Please, sit,” Nooj directed, gesturing outwards. His smile was tight, Yuna feeling a faint trepidation stem from it. They did as directed, Seymour sitting at her left while Rikku took her right, Kurgum and Chuami seated after her.

 

“I’m glad you could all make it. However, there’s something we’re rather curious about: how you managed to ward away Sin this time,” Baralai said, smiling affably.

 

“Yeah, cuz according to Rikku here, you didn’t engage it directly. You...established some kinda psychic link? Mind if you told us more, Yuna?” Gippal followed suit, leaning back in his seat, green whorl eyes fixated on the priestess.

 

“Yes. Seymour and I discovered I’m connected to Sin. That I can even enter into its realm and face those absorbed by it directly. Specifically, those possessed by Yu Yevon. I...don’t understand much, either, but we faced Shuyin again. He’d become a fiend like Vegnagun, only much smaller. Seymour, who is Unsent, was able to accompany me and we faced it together,” Yuna explained, Seymour nodding his affirmation.

 

“Yes, as the Lady Yuna says, we battled Sin this way. In fact, we believe this to be the vehicle to its defeat,” Seymour supplemented, the three leaders leaning over and convening among themselves until Nooj soundly gazed over them.

 

“So, we have a weapon against it. This is reassuring, but how long will it last? Is the connection permanent?” Nooj replied, bridging his fingers and resting his chin on them.

 

“We think it’ll only last until Sin is defeated. Until then, we’re not sure,” Kurgum interjected meekly, sheepishly avoiding looking at them directly. After all, to them, he was still only a sender. Not someone who could speak his mind, let alone being Yuna’s guardian that honestly relegated him that much privilege. “B-But, it seems to be one of the best offenses we have against it right now.”

 

“...I see,” Nooj said after a moment’s pause, brown eyes glancing over to Yuna. “Would it be too much to ask for a demonstration? I’d like to see this for myself.”

 

Seymour’s countenance instantly darkened, elongated nails digging into the table’s grains, his brows furrowing deeply and frowning. “Perhaps, Meyvn, this might wait for another time. Yuna is still weak from her former trials. To simply have it be done for the sake of spectacle makes me question the Council’s true intentions towards her welfare,” he snapped, words tightly clipped. The softened nature of its timbre was abandoned for flintiness, all present training their eyes upon the half-Guado.

 

Baralai raised a hand placatingly, the brunette and former maester locking eyes in a contest of wills, but neither seemed deterred. “Please, Nooj, perhaps we might do as Seymour says? The Lady Yuna must still be weary from the previous battles.” Though Seymour seemed satisfied with Baralai’s defense, someone else cut them off.

 

“I’ll do it,” Yuna acceded quietly, gazing upon both men willfully. “I’m alright, I can do it.” Her gentle smile seemed the panacea needed for their tension, even if Seymour sighed ruefully.

 

“Very well. I’ll accompany you, Yuna, like the time before,” Seymour said, but only begrudgingly. He seemed to be willing to broker no argument otherwise, even as Yuna lightly frowned.

 

“No...I’d like to go alone this time. Please.” Mismatched eyes met his, even as Seymour’s darkened tempestuously. It was enough he wasn’t accompanying Yuna, but allowing this to proceed like some demonstration at a fair grated on him; a mere spectacle for their verification. Even he wouldn’t yield, but it had to be endured in silence in spite of the dark waves of ire radiant from his person. All Yuna could do was her best to ignore it.

 

Breathing in deeply, she climbed halfway upon the table, positioning herself so her legs dangled modestly over the ledge, for her skirt was long. Her boots swung some as she heaved in a breath to steady herself, hands folded below her bosom. She felt Rikku’s hand warmly touch her bicep, Yuna’s head rolling enough so she could direct a smile at her, all before her eyes honed again upon the ceiling. The vaulted ceiling with myriad colorful frescoes overhead drew her eye to them, and spheres that provided light undulated a watery sheen, enough that it lulled her. Closing her eyes, she willed herself to relax and let the transference come.

 

Several long moments passed and Yuna cracked an eye open, seeing that it was the same. Huffing, she tried again, this time settling herself in deeper, trying to focus on the Hymn of the Fayth that soothed her many a time to sleep. However, nothing. She tried digging deeper, searching the recessed of her mind for the connection.

 

After what felt like several minutes, Yuna shot up and pivoted on her waist to fix her eyes on Nooj pleadingly. “It worked before! I-I don’t know why it’s not working,” she exclaimed in befuddlement, hands clenching into fists. Then, she gasped. “The reason I slept so well wasn’t because of the potion Rikku made. It was because the connection was severed!”

 

“Oh no! What are we gonna do?! How are we gonna beat Sin now?” Rikku wailed, melodramatically clutching at her skull, then wringing her hands together. She groaned, planting her face first into the table.

 

Seymour sighed aggravatingly and pinched the bridge of his nose, eyes closing as he deeply ruminated. “I don’t think it’s anything to worry about; maybe it only works when Sin is near,” Kurgum supplied, swallowing down his trepidation.

 

“So, what you’re saying is Yuna lost the connection and no one knows how to get it back?” Chuami asked with furrowed brows, folding her arms. She huffed and rose from her seat. “No point in sticking around here, then. Come on, Kurgum, we have work to do.”

 

“But—Chuami! We haven’t even been dismissed yet!” Kurgum protested as Chuami seized his arm in a vice, hauling him upwards.

 

“You’re dismissed. I apologize for keeping you two from your duties,” Nooj said mechanically, his tone enough to encourage both youths to leave, Chuami not so much as acknowledging the Meyvn while Kurgum hastily bowed before being towed away, leaving the six of them left in awkward silence.

 

“Lady Yuna, please—don’t be discouraged. You still have done Bevelle a great service. Much more would have been destroyed if not for your efforts,” Baralai praised gently, even if it still made Yuna smart from his words. As if she was being patronizing for trying. As if it was all she was capable of without her former guardians. People who had become like family to her. Now? They felt so inexperienced. Even with Seymour, she felt like an astronomical failure.

 

“It can’t end like this,” Yuna said softly as she’d settled back in her seat, hanging her head in defeat. Seymour’s earlier ire had dissipated enough, keeping his eyes staunchly on her. “We just have to find another way, don’t we? This would’ve helped, yes, but...Yu Yevon is different this time around. It’s like he’s learning from the past. Because the Pilgrimage is no more—maybe he’s stumbling in the dark as much as we are. Unsure, utilizing whatever comes to mind first.”

 

“So, what you’re saying is he’s got the wool pulled over his eyes as much as we have? Damn. Not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing,” Gippal remarked, propped his feet indecorously on the table, though on one bothered chastising him for it. Head supported by his arms folded back, the picture of laziness belied the Al Bhed’s genuine thoughtfulness.

 

“It could be used to our advantage. Maybe we have to make him think he’s got the upper hand, then strike. Before, the Pilgrimages created a pattern. No matter what was done, he knew he’d come back. Why wouldn’t he be arrogant? With the old process gone, and having learned better from Yuna’s pilgrimage, we have to shuffle a new deck—get some new trump cards on the table,” Nooj added, folding his arms on the table and leaning on them.

 

“Um, hellooo! You know, we’ve got a big fat ace right up our sleeves? Seriously, you guys should consider us Al Bhed! We’ve dredged up a lotta cool stuff lately, too! Weapons, airships; the kinda stuff that give the average Yevonite fogey a heart attack, but still! Right, Gippal?” Rikku jumped in eagerly, grinning cattily and with jubilation.

 

“You’re on to something, Cid’s girl, I’ll admit that much,” Gippal smirked, scoffing in amusement.

 

Rikky beamed at him, then leaning over Yuna and clasping her hands together, her puppy eyes at full force. “Can we pretty please get Shinra in on this, Yunie, pleeeeaseee? He’s got Rin and everything, so it’s not like he’d be going it alone. ‘Sides, he and Rin are on to something big, last time I checked! We oughtta go say hi!”

 

Yuna feigned a grim contemplation, before a grin quirked and she canted her head at her cousin. “Oh, why not? I kinda miss Uncle Cid already. Plus, it’s been awhile since we last saw Shinra. How long has it been? A few months since the crash?”

 

“Yoewch, I think so,” Rikku winced, before she finally took her seat again. The amount of time that had spanned between then and now dawned on Yuna, leaning into her hand incredulously. Had so much time passed already? She still remembered her first pilgrimage and how the time just flew by, much like her time with the Gullwings. And now? Being caught up in the same thing was almost mind-boggling.

 

Seymour craned over, gazing at Yuna, but still appearing if only mildly troubled. “Yuna, are you well enough to advance? Perhaps you need to recoup a bit longer—“

 

Yuna shook her head, but smiled disarmingly up at the older man. “Seymour, I’m sorry, but I’d like it if you stayed behind this time. We’re going to go to Bikinel, but I think you should stay here and continue researching things with Kurgum.” As gently as she worded it, Yuna knew how voraciously the Al Bhed would react if she brought Seymour in their midst. At best, they would shun him, even if he went with her. But for all the progress they’d made in repairing what little of a relationship had been there before, she still couldn’t bring herself to ever want Seymour back on Bikinel Island. Not after all he did, after all who died in his name. The gravity of her decision weighed in her eyes and even Seymour seemed affronted by it.

 

“I...see,” Seymour said haltingly, brows furrowing deeply together. Schooling his features into an expression of dark impassivity, he rose from his seat and bowed formally to Yuna, keeping his eyes downcast and away from hers. “Then I shall do as what is instructed of me. We shall inform you of our findings upon your return, Lady Yuna.”

 

She knew he was aware of how this was one wall he’d likely never be able to surmount. Maybe it was a tenderhearted vengeance. What had been the accidental raising of barriers before was purposeful this time. Yuna wasn’t a petty nor vindictive woman. But she would’ve just as disallowed him from venturing on Mount Gagazet, either. Even if guilt twinged in her heart, remembrance of how triumphant he’d been over their deaths pushed it aside far more. Of how his idea of mercy had been killing Kimahri, to put him out of his misery like some rodent. Even if he was changing, even Yuna didn’t know how many lives he would have to save to make up for those he stole. Maybe these were breaches that would never see closure.

 

“Thank you, Seymour,” Yuna murmured, watching his back as he departed. Glancing at Rikku, the girl’s brows were furrowed, frowning slightly but seeming stalwart. Righteous, if she had to pin a name to it. Her tanned hands were perched on the back of Yuna’s seat, protectively, her jaw set. Yuna sighed, looking away again. She doubted Rikku would ever want to see Seymour anywhere except in a dungeon cell, rotting away, or being sent by Yuna once and for all. Or something crueler. It made Yuna feel guilty all over again, questioning herself. She hadn’t spoken with Cid since before the verdict of the trail, and word had to have spread by now. If not by some cheap tabloid, then word of mouth. Cid was well-traveled anymore and little escaped his notice, let alone something as monumental as this.

 

“C’mon, Yunie. Let’s just get out of here,” Rikku said mutely, glancing down at her cousin. No humor was evident in her voice, still appearing withdrawn. Yuna bit her lip pensively, but nodded as she excused them and turned to leave the three men to their own delegations.

 


 

“There you two are! All this time and too busy to say hello?”

 

Cid’s thunderous greeting as both girls boarded the Fahrenheit’s bridge was enough to alleviate Yuna of every worry she had concerning seeing her uncle again. The man embraced them both in a great bear hug, releasing them after squeezing tight. His arm remained draped on Rikku’s shoulder, his daughter beaming up at him affectionately.

 

“It’s good to see you, too, Uncle Cid,” Yuna laughed, admittedly flushed with relief. It was hard to believe it had been a few months already. However, the affectionate greeting hung coldly in the air as what felt like her guilty secret was suspended. A secret everyone was aware of. “Um, Uncle Cid—“ she gingerly broached, but was cut short.

 

“You two oughtta know, no matter what happens, we’re family, y’hear? I’ve heard a lot lately, but y’know, sometimes we just gotta bite the bullet when times get tough. Yuna, you’re my little sis’ kid. You’ve been through the wringer enough. With family, ya ain’t gotta worry about that. You can tell us anything, alright?”

 

Yuna seemed overwhelmed by his spiel, rendered speechless. But, she worked up an uncertain smile, unsure as to what should really be said. “Thank you, Uncle, but...are you sure? About everything? Even...him?” Recognition lit the older Al Bhed’s features, knowing what she meant.

 

Sighing deeply, he loosed his arm from Rikku’s shoulders and placed his two large hands on her shoulders, looking his niece square in the eye. “Yuna, a long time ago I exiled your mother for marrying your father. Even for havin’ you. But—that was a long time ago. Your old man wound up saving us, and I think that’s something little can really repay. Sin took them from us, from you. If you have to bring back some big ugly to get the job done, then to hell with it! Long as he’s kept in line and far away from Home, then I can’t complain. Hell, he ain’t here now, so that’s good enough.”

 

“Ooh, big ugly? I think I might just file that away for reference~” Rikku remarked slyly with a smile to match, eliciting smiles from them both. The man clapped his hand on Yuna’s shoulder one last time, earning a laugh from her.

 

Cid returned to piloting the Fahrenheit, leaving Rikku and Yuna time to recoup in one of the Fahrenheit’s cabins, knowing they were in for a long trip. Situating themselves in one with a scenic view, Rikku asked out of the blue, “Hey, Yunie? Do you think we’ll ever find Brother and Buddy? It’s been so long and...I’m so worried that Sin absorbed them.” The blonde was slumped in her seat, holding her own face in her hands and sighing miserably.

 

Yuna felt herself pale at the mention of them, remembering: they hadn’t even been found yet. She bit her lip, extending a hand to rest soothingly on Rikku’s shoulder. “We’ll find them, promise. They’ll be safe and sound, too. Once we get the Fahrenheit back, it’ll be just like old times.”

 

Rikku noticeably brightened. “Really?” she asked hopefully.

 

Yuna nodded firmly. “You bet!”

 


 

Both girls had settled in for a long nap for the rest of the duration of their journey, Yuna admittedly grateful for a restful sleep in spite of the edge they’d lost. Sin had to have been aware of her in it, she was certain. How else had the link been consciously broken? Part of her was still wary, wondering how on earth they’d battle it now. Right now, their best hope was in Shinra and the cumulative genius of the Al Bhed as a whole, and it seemed like a sound foundation. The pilgrimage years ago wouldn’t have been half the success it’d been in the last leg if it hadn’t been for her family and the Fahrenheit itself. Maybe they were destined to use this airship for the duration of their journey out for a reason.

 

When both awoke within minutes of each other, they would still have some time to kill before the Fahrenheit docked itself at what was beginning to be the restoration of Home. Steely constructs corrugated from the very sand, like the base of a baobab tree, portly in shape but sturdy in construction. It was still half the size their former Home had been, but Yuna knew better. Much of the original was underground and three years was a long time to these innovative people. They could accomplish anything in that time frame. Yevon remembered the Fahrenheit had been refurbished in record time, and she actually felt excited to see the Al Bhed’s new homeland. Hers, if she wanted, Yuna thought with a small hint of pride.

 

To pass the time, both girls played a few rounds of Sphere Break before disembarking, then emerging into the warm sunshine as they descended the gangway. Yuna trotted out with Rikku, smiling broadly at the gathering of people. She was being greeted like a hero here. Unlike the undercurrent of discontent that permeated from forced polity and formality on the mainland, they were genuinely glad to see her. Yuna knew it was authentic, too. She remembered how, when she was still small, how Cid and her mother, Nikki, had meant to reconcile before Sin destroyed the ship destined for Bikinel. Yuna couldn’t help but feel a bittersweet smile span her features.

 

In its own way, things had finally come full-circle after so many years. Yuna was her father and mother’s daughter. All at once this was a reconciliation and reunion, one she felt proud to take part in. Glee hit her like a truck as she grinned brightly, furiously waving her arms and shouting as many greetings as she could in Al Bhed. Rikku had joined alongside her, shouting above them, “A real hero’s welcome is pretty nice, huh? No stuffy old Yevonites greeting my cousin to-night~!” Rikku cheered with her, all before looping their arms and leading Yuna on to the waiting sand.

 

“It’s so good to be back. I can’t wait to see Home!” Yuna said cheerfully, hopping once and practically dancing between her feet, as excited as Rikku could be. Rikku joined in, both women hopping like rabbits while Cid laughed loudly, clapping Yuna on the back that almost knocked her over, Rikku thankfully there to catch her.

 

“Careful, Pops! Yunie’s made of tough stuff, but I think you’re a bit tougher,” Rikku teased, helping Yuna who seemed mostly unfazed by her uncle’s particular brand of familial affection. “Why don’t we get going, though? I bet Yunie here can’t wait to see Shinra again.”

 

All of them piled on to sand cruisers, Yuna sharing one with Rikku and Cid, the vehicle thankfully large enough to accommodate them all. Those whom had greeted them, save for a few, dispersed back to the lower decks of the airship hangers situated beneath the sand. The priestess couldn’t help but glance left and right, to the point of making herself dizzy, as she watched the sandy landscape blitz past. Rolling dunes with several habituated zones peeked from behind rolling sandbanks, Yuna trying to steal as many looks as she could before they advanced onwards. The sky was a peerless azure, intense juxtaposed to the pale sand. It was a unique beauty, one it seemed only an Al Bhed could appreciate.

 

Home rose like a citadel among the sand dunes, rusty red like its predecessor, but equally as proud. It stood as tall as a Zanarkand spire and just as regally, despite how roughly shod it was. But, the fortress was home. Skidding to a stop in a bustling lot, an ingress of double, sliding machina doors yawned as Cid led them downwards, several other Al Bhed traveling between the surface and the depths below in their wake. “C’mere, girls, look real lively! This here lift still has some kinks in it, but it’s real safe. Safer than the crap in Bevelle, I’ll tell ya that much!” Cid hooted, ushering them both on.

 

Yuna lurched forwards as the elevator platform did, shuddering before it made a creaky descent. Gears whined before the sound dulled as they descended into a yawning abyss that became lit soon enough. For what looked to be a full mile was an enormous forum, a bazaar constructed of dozens of tented stalls lined several streets, home constructed on several lanes. Rerouted light from above alighted on several gardens, profuse with verdant life rare for a desert civilization. But, it was beautiful, something the Al Bhed could easily boast pride in.

 

“And this is just the main part! Amazin’ what some smart salvagin’ from old civilizations can lead fer you.”

 

Yuna almost fell over the rail she was leaning in so far, openly marveling at how far they’d progressed in such a short period of time. “Uncle, it’s beautiful! You did all this in under three years?” Yuna beamed proudly at him, Cid coughing roughly, scratching the back of his neck as he became flustered. “This could put the Bevelle Underground to shame, I bet,” she added dreamily, turning heel to gaze back. However, their journey didn’t stop. Rikku and Yuna both looked confused as they continued their descent, eyes trained on Cid as his expression suddenly became solemn.

 

“Hey, why so quiet, Pops? You’re really scaring me, y’know?” Rikku demanded from her father, folding her arms. Cid could only sigh as he affixed his gaze ahead, Rikku and Yuna following it.

 

Both girls gasped in shock at what they saw, of the familiar and recumbent face of Vegnagun that reposed right before them in all its maleficence, as grand and terrible as it’d been since they’d seen it on a sphere almost two years ago. Yuna’s eyes widened and she shot Cid an imploring, almost betrayed look. “Uncle, why? Why is Vegnagun here?” Her voice cracked, hands balling into fists.

 

Cid’s green eyes remained hard, his jaw set. “’s just like I told you, Yuna. If you have to bring back an old, big ugly to make things right again, sometimes that’s just what it takes.” He sighed gustily, folding muscular arms across his broad chest. He looked conflicted, even as Rikku and Yuna were aghast, but he was still stalwart. “That kid Shinra wanted to use it to extract something called Mako energy from the Farplane, but when the kid put a lid on the project cuz it didn’t work, I thought: we have a former weapon intended to be used against Sin. Why not put the damn thing straight with new protocols? Shinra already did the legwork. Hell, we’re almost ready to commission it for battle. There’s just some scratch work left to do, and we’re all good to go.”

 

Yuna sighed in defeat, studying the colossal machina. “How were you able to decommission its sensitivity to emotion? It won’t let anyone near it if it senses hostility.”

 

“You’re not serious, Pops, are you? You’re really gonna use Vegnagun to fight Sin?” Rikku whimpered at her father, puppy-dog eyes in effect once more. “I mean, it’s kinda cool you got it here, but still! Isn’t this dangerous?”

 

Cid quirked a slight smile, a bit of pride glowing on his countenance. “Shinra took care of it. Y’see, Yuna, Rikku—back in the day we Al Bhed were known as the Bedore. We were the lowest of the low in Bevelle over a thousand years ago. Thing is, we were the ones that made this big ol’ bastard. He found some old primers that were instruction manuals to this damn thing, and he was able to bypass it with the help of Rin’s people. Once Sin came back, we reassembled it here in Home, and what you see if what we’ve got. Our ultimate weapon even our ancestors couldn’t figure out how to use. Without it being charged by the Farplane, it’ll be a lot easier to control, too. Heh, to think: only the formerly most hated people in Spira know how to use Bevelle’s precious ol’ weapon!” He laughed loudly, sobering as the platform eased itself into a docking bay, rails lowering that prompted them all to get off.

 

Yuna was still dubious, but she remembered this was exactly why they were here in the first place. Vegnagun loomed powerfully over them, its intimidation no less manifest than it was from when they destroyed and disassembled it over a year ago. To think, this monolith still existed, intact, and had been the conduit of so much distress and even evil. But, here it was, being turned against everything it had previously known. “Almost like Seymour,” Yuna muttered inaudibly under her breath. When Cid flashed his eyes to her, having heard her speak, she piped up with, “Uncle Cid, please—promise me, after we defeat Sin, promise me you’ll destroy Vegnagun once and for all.” Her eyes were pleading on him.

 

Cid’s lips pursed, genuinely moved by his niece’s plea; she looked so much like Nikki it was difficult to say no.

 

“I hear ya, sweetheart. We’ll turn it into scrap metal after the war, I swear it.”

 

Yuna heaved a sigh, smiling gratefully at him while sagging under the weight of sweet relief. “Thank you so much, Uncle.”

Chapter Text

(Warnings: T, none]

 


 

That night, Yuna slept fitfully. Vegnagun had been an entity she thought long since put to rest, but it still vividly haunted her. She remembered the long, strenuous battle they’d engaged with it. Had fought tooth and nail to defeat. She didn’t doubt that they could dispatch it again if it came to that, but she certainly hoped it wouldn’t be the case. The room she and Rikku occupied was Rikku’s own, nowhere near as Spartan as their room aboard the Fahrenheit had been. It was vividly decorated in fullest Al Bhed flair, concoctions and stolen goods strewn about like a mermaid’s cove, glistening and honestly pretty. Clothes were strewn messily, but thankfully for Yuna, Rikku had charitably straightened up Yuna’s borrowed half. The bed certainly had needed to be dug from amid the heaps of baubles and raiment that had piled on it. A single window looked out on to the town they’d seen before, still bustling in the midnight hours with procured finds from recent excavations, looking like a sky spangled with stars with how many lights were lit. It certainly helped lull Yuna to sleep. Rikku, on the other hand, had been out like a light the minute her head touched the pillow.

 

Part of her wondered: would this finally be it? Would this refurbished Vegnagun be enough to destroy Sin? Would she and her guardians be enough to overtake it, as well? With Seymour using his forms that he’d used against them in the past, it was proving to be a powerful asset.

 

These restless thoughts lapsed into a dreamless sleep, and by the time she awoke, she blinked to see Rikku animatedly windmilling her arms and jogging in place. “Rise and shine, sleepyhead! Come on, we’ve got a lot to do!” Rikku goaded when she was finished, jostling Yuna awake whose face scrunched up. She was almost tempted to petulantly yank the sheets back over her head, but she decided against it.

 

“Okay, I’m up!” Yuna laughed as Rikku finally stopped, threading her fingers through her mousy brown hair to untangle it. Bouncing to her feet, she stumbled into her boots, lacing them up quickly. “So, what are we doing today, anyways?”

 

Rikku flopped to sit on her bed, parallel to her cousin. “Um, do you remember the Omega Ruins? Weeell, we’ve been getting really strong readings from there. In fact, we think the Omega and Ultima Weapons have been brought back. Pops wants to capture them and use them in an offense against Sin.”

 

Yuna’s face fell, blinking in disbelief at her cousin. “Wait, so they’re going to try and repeat Operation Mi’hen again?” She felt her chest clench at the memory of the disastrous mission and how many people had died. Of Gatta’s despair when Luzzu died; it still haunted her to this day.

 

“Kinda? Our idea was more to, um...kinda turn them against Sin. Have some really powerful fiends duke it out against lesser sinspawn to condition them to hate Sin, eventually. Y’know?” Rikku elborated meekly, smiling uncertainly. “I mean, aside from Vegnagun, it’s the best we’ve got. Better than being sitting ducks!”

 

Well, Yuna couldn’t blame her uncle for trying, could she? After all, all of Spira was playing it by ear as much as they were. Anything they could get their hands on was their best bet. “I see what you mean. So, when are we going?” Yuna conceded, smiling kindly.

 

Even if it seemed extreme, with the losses the Al Bhed had suffered, tamed fiends were as good as soldiers at this point. Would it even work? No one could truly say, could they? Not even Yuna really knew.

 

“Pops said we’d leave as soon as we’re ready. So get what you want, Yunie, then we’ll be off! We’ll probably be able to see Shinra, too. Kinda miss the little guy myself.”

 


 

The journey there took longer than expected, but Yuna remembered how faraway the Ruins were, especially compared to where they were in Bikanel. Even though she wished to see more of it, there just wasn’t the time. The hours seemed to draw nearer, Sin’s attacks growing more frequent. As both girls were too anxious to bother occupying some quiet corner, they’d instead chosen to listen to things on the airwaves. Sin had struck land not far from Kilika, and was predicted to roll through like a storm. Yuna’s heart lurched and she knew she couldn’t remain silent on the matter.

 

“Uncle, please, can’t we turn around? We have to do something! We just...we just can’t leave Kilika to fend for itself!” Yuna railed, a hand clenched at her sternum, Cid sighing deeply. The man patted her hair soothingly, stroking through a father would to lull his daughter to sleep.

 

“I’m real sorry, kiddo, but by the time we’d get there, it’d be too damn late. I’m sorry,” Cid apologized with a heavy sigh, unable to bring himself to even glance at Yuna’s agonized expression. Dejectedly did Yuna find a place to seat herself, fighting back her frustrated emotions. She couldn’t be here. She just couldn’t! Seeing Yuna’s torn up state, Cid sighed again and lumbered towards the young woman. “I’ll send out a freighter out there stocked with weapons and help, alright? There’s some nearby. They’ll keep those folks safe. Just keep your chin up, alright, kiddo? Last thing we need is you tearin’ yourself up over every little thing you can’t prevent.”

 

Just as Yuna was about to rebut, the intercom suddenly crackled to life. “Why hello there, ladies and gents! This is your temporary new captain speaking. Today it’s super sunny, and super warm. We’re gonna have a nice trip to Kilika Island, that’s for sure!”

 

“Rikku!” Yuna cheered, pumping a fist victoriously.

 

“Oh, and, uh,” Rikku continued skittishly, stammering through her words, “if any grumpy dads are listening, pretty don’t toss my chocobo feather collection? Because I worked reeeeally hard on it, okay? Please?” There was a muffled sound of the intercom shutting off, Rikku darting away to be met with a fiercely scowling father.

 

However, he only sighed in defeat. “Alright, the Omega Weapon can wait. That’s where we’re going straight after, y’hear?” Yuna and Rikku vigorously nodded their heads in accession, but looked relieved. At the very least, Kilika wouldn’t be left hung out to dry.

 


 

When they arrived, it was already too late. Like the scene of ruin from years past, homes had been torn apart, pyreflies wailing over the sea in haunting wil-o’-wisps, reflections distorted as the sound of the Farplane itself they exuded. The town was completely dark, all lights extinguished with very little kept on. Yuna numbly toed along the pier that was barely clinging to the pales that supported it, her countenance frozen as she gazed on at the destruction mutely. The stars and galaxies were beginning to emerge, but there was nothing serene to it. It was only the blanket that silenced these lives for good.

 

“Whoa...” Rikku murmured, swallowing thickly. Remembering the Sin toxin, it was likely it would be exposed to them, but she doubted Yuna really cared at this point. “Yunie? You okay?”

 

Yuna barely glanced over her shoulder, shuddering a shaky exhale to calm herself. “We have to go see who we can help,” Yuna managed, even though her walls were crumbling. They couldn’t prevent Sin from attacking this time. It was enough to cause her knees to buckle if she were weaker, but she wasn’t. She couldn’t be.

 

Rikku began by diving into the water, retrieving people who were gratefully still alive, but unconscious. A phoenix down and potion was enough to revitalize them, and Rikku thankfully had them both in abundant supply. A hulled out home, still sturdy enough to support the weight of several people, became their temporary sanctuary—many had been stripped of their memories, and though they’d return, for now some didn’t even know who they were. Yuna kept them together, and with their efforts, in half an hour over a dozen people were saved.

 

“Got him!” Rikku hauled another man to the dock, Yuna tending to him. “That’s it for tonight. I’m sorry, Yunie, but it’s too hard to see otherwise.”

 

Yuna smiled endearingly at her cousin. “It’s alright, Rikku. Let’s just focus on helping who we can tonight,” she replied, having procured a blanket that she wrapped around the shoulders of an elderly woman who had been rendered mute in the attack. Rising from her crouch, Yuna took a seat on the landing on the stairs. Thanks to her own exemplary cooking skills, Yuna had thrown together a rather hearty stew that all those present rather openly appreciated. “Mm, it’s so chilly tonight.”

 

Rikku took notice and sank next to Yuna, conserving body warmth by being so near. Neither had bothered getting a blanket for themselves, after all. Not when the others needed them far, far more. Rikku rested her head against Yuna’s shoulder, Yuna leaning hers on Rikku’s in kind, an air of watchful contentment spanning between them. Paper lanterns had been lit and strung from exposed rafters, making them not completely victim to the darkness. With everyone huddled so near, having fallen asleep from exhaustion, at least the night wasn’t so harsh on them as it might have otherwise been.

 

In the distance, the Hymn of the Fayth rose from the forest, Yuna craning to look around the fractured staircase to see lights ascend from it, past the gate and dispersing among the many boardwalks. When she squinted to peer closer, it looked to be none other than priests and acolytes from the temple, enraptured by what they did. Pyreflies seemed to react, and in their wake, at least half a dozen senders began their sendings. Rikku watched as well, both women transfixed.

 

“Look at how many pyreflies there are,” Rikku marveled lowly, but it wasn’t from amazement. Gravely, Yuna knew that there had been many casualties, perhaps even more than last time as Kilika Village had grown since the previous Calm. The sky became thickly inundated with them, Yuna bowing her head in shame. They shouldn’t have gone to Bikanel at all. They shouldn’t have gone Home. Huddling into herself, she suddenly felt as though all of this were her fault.

 

“Yunie?” Rikku queried forlornly, having broken her observance of what was culminating to be a funeral procession. She appeared worried, the timbre of her voice causing Yuna to put forth a false pretense.

 

“Hm? Oh, don’t mind me; I was just praying,” Yuna lied, forcing a smile. Thankfully, she hadn’t felt tears prick in her eyes, which made her feigned reverence all the more convincing. In truth, she knew praying wouldn’t help now. But, they weren’t sitting ducks. There was more that could be done. “Rikku, can you stay with everyone? I need to discuss things with the Yevoners and the Spiran Council chapter here.”

 

Rikku looked perplexed, but she understood. Her cousin was still a priestess, after all, and officially a consultant to their order. Loathe as she was to admit it true. “Okay, Yunie. Just don’t be gone for too long, alright? I think everyone would miss your stew if you did,” she teased to lighten the atmosphere, earning a smile from Yuna.

 

Carefully navigating through the scattered, asleep array of people, Yuna dashed down a boardwalk until she stopped short of a sender concluding her dance, politely performing the prayer motion as she did. It was only respectful to do, after all.

 

“Oh, so now the Spiran Council finally sends someone to save us? What fortunate timing,” a voice from behind sarcastically drawled, Yuna starting before seeing just who it was. It was none other than Dona, former supporter of the Youth League and a former summoner. Even if her attitude grated, sometimes, she was still a familiar face as far as Yuna was concerned.

 

“Wait, you mean the Spiran Council hasn’t done anything yet here?” Yuna asked incredulously, brows furrowing together. The dark-skinned woman peered over Yuna’s shoulder, spying the Yevoners who cast furtive glances at both women. Dona huffed and gestured to Yuna to follow.

 

“Not here. There are too many uninvited ears who are attempting to listen in on us,” Dona said pointedly, brown eyes glowering at those Yevoners before she turned on a heel and strutted away, not waiting for Yuna. Glancing once over her shoulder, almost apologetically at them, Yuna followed suit after the older woman. Their own walk was quiet in lieu of the procession, and when they came upon Dona’s home, even it hadn’t escaped the carnage. The domed home had its western front shorn off as if by a razor, splintered wildly and with tapestries and tarp dangling limply yet colorfully.

 

Both women entered through, Yuna noting Barthello’s absence. As if having heard it aloud, Dona shrugged nonchalantly. “Barthello is a Yevoner, as I’ve heard you are. He’s assisting in the funerary arrangements. Funny how they obsess over the dead instead of those who are still alive,” she remarked bitterly, lips drawn into a scowl.

 

Yuna balked, but politely clasped her hands together. “You mentioned the Spiran Council hasn’t come here yet? Why is that?” she ventured, mismatched eyes meeting those of Dona’s almost reluctantly. She did have a rather powerful personality, after all. Sometimes it made her intimidating, if she was honest.

 

Dona sighed irately. “You heard me correctly. Apparently, the Spiran Council is so preoccupied with Luca and Bevelle’s restorations that some backwater island is the least of their worries. Nevermind the Yevoners holing themselves away during the attack and only appearing once the worst of Sin’s toxin dispelled. Quite the example they’re setting.” A bronzed hand was raised to her temple, the woman then letting it fall. Her words were dry, anger still present on her coppery visage that Yuna couldn’t blame her for having.

 

The priestess’ brows furrowed, and she sighed herself. Then, she bowed lowly, which only prompted a quirked eyebrow from the former summoner. “I’m sorry, Dona. On behalf of the Spiran Council and the Yevoners, I’ll do my best to rectify everything.”

 

Dona couldn’t help but smile sarcastically, seating herself on a small bench and crossing her legs, seemingly unimpressed. “I don’t know what you’re apologizing to me for, Yuna. Aren’t you a bit busy being the savior of Spira once more? Why apologize on their behalf? Unlike them, you’ve got more reasons than they do not to be here. Reasons that are understandable.”

 

Yuna rose from her bow, looking conflicted as to what should be said. Was Dona being sarcastic? Sometimes it was hard to tell from her. “I know, but...I’m still a Yevoner. And am more or less backed by the Spiran Council in defeating Sin again. I can’t help but feel responsible,” Yuna admitted, smiling sadly at Dona. Sometimes, old habits were hard to break. Including disconnecting from things that weren’t always her fault.

 

Dona merely shrugged her shoulders. “If that’s what you want. At least you’re doing something about it, I suppose. Now, if you’re going to really apologize, at least you’ll stay for some tea. To make up for all this,” Dona said, rolling her eyes at the gaping hole in her home. But, Yuna supposed she could.

 

Giving a small smile, quietly she said, “Thank you, Dona.”

 


 

It was for about a week that Rikku and Yuna remained in Kilika, Cid more than willing to give an extension on their works there. Through it all, time flew by with Yuna and Rikku becoming heavily preoccupied to the point of sleeping deeply at night, their repose mutually dreamless. They awoke before dawn, setting out and helping with reconstruction however they could. For Yuna, it was surprisingly rejuvenating. Barthello had been temporarily sent away, he likely in conflict with Dona again, but both Rikku and Yuna knew better. She lent them his room, providing a place to sleep where all else was booked solid with patients that needed care. On the seventh day, while still hard at work, Kilika was beginning to regain some of its former spirit again. Even the Kilika Beasts had begun practicing in the waters of Kilika Port, bringing cheer to the townspeople as blitzball always seemed to.

 

In the late evening, Yuna and Rikku had just gotten off their shifts at the makeshift hospice run by the Yevoners at Yuna’s insistence. Both girls were contentedly tired, and happy with all that had been done. “Hey Yunie, race you to the port! Pops is there and waiting~!” Rikku called out, setting off at a sprint and ducking under beams and dodging construction crews, Yuna laughing in delight.

 

“Hey, no fair! You’re getting a head start!” Yuna called out in protest, but Rikku was a blur of blonde locks by then, subverting Yuna who would have to double down her efforts to keep up. Even if it seemed childish, seeing the amused faces of the townspeople made it more than worth it. Which only brightened her own mood, as tired as she was from a week of straight working. Even if she wouldn’t admit it aloud, it was nice being able to be away from Bevelle. That city still held on to so many conflicting memories and it crept on her unpleasantly. But, being here made the problems she dealt with larger than her own personal ones, and for that she was ultimately grateful.

 

By the time the two of them had boarded the Fahrenheit, Cid greeted them with his usual bear hug, having heard about their good deeds in Kilika. But, as promised, they were bound for the Omega Ruins to capture the Omega and Ultima Weapons for Cid’s grand experiment. As far as they were from the ruins, with the Fahrenheit rigged to fly faster than usual, it would be a matter of hours.

 

“Now, I think I oughtta brief you girls while you’re still bright-eyed and bushy tailed. See, thing is, we don’t need you to actually fight ‘em all that much. Just exploit their weaknesses—maybe a good bout o’ paralysis or sleep oughtta do it, and it’d be enough. We’ve got explosives rigged to blow the roof off that place so we can transport ‘em on the freighter we’ve got waitin’. Think you can manage all that?” Cid explained some hours later, right as they hovered over the Ruins themselves, Yuna feeling a sense of trepidation flutter in her breast. It had been years since they’d been to these ruins and she couldn’t help but wonder how much had changed in this time.

 

“Of course, Uncle Cid. It sounds pretty simple, actually,” Yuna remarked neutrally. But she couldn’t help but wonder: would it really be so straightforward? Rikku looked a little uncertain, even if the two of them were more than capable of taking down the fiends. After all, they’d done it before.

 

After outfitting themselves with more than enough necessities, maybe more than what was really necessary, a rope ladder was lowered to the peaks below they would traverse to the entrance. The winds that awaited them were brisk and chilly, fluttering the rungs of the ladder to the point of nearly whipping it. Yuna shuddered, wondering if her dress was really thick enough, or if her sleeves would really enough to keep her warm. But, there was no time to speculate as the pair made their descent.

 

The entrance hadn’t been difficult to locate, as camouflaged as it had been the last time, but Yuna’s memory was good. Stepping inside, it was marginally warmer, but the ambient dampness made it admittedly more unpleasant than before. A salty brine accompanied it, soon to be replaced by a stagnant mustiness. “Phew, you’d think someone would do some spring cleaning around here after seven hundred years,” Rikku grimaced, nose scrunching at the unpleasantness of it.

 

“Yeah, no kidding,” Yuna quipped with a smile. Nirvana in hand, Rikku wielding her Godhand, part of her wondered if their dresspheres would even be necessary. “Let’s get going. The more fiends we can avoid, the better.” Rikku chirped an affirmation, both women setting off quietly.

 

For the first hour, it seemed, they encountered minor fiends. When both stopped for a breather after what felt like a gauntlet of them, they’d chosen to leaning against a wall. Rikku shuddered when she felt something uneasy, and slowly looked upwards. “Um, Yunie? I don’t think this is a wall,” she gulped, as a pair of spectral red orbs set in what looked like an enormous ram’s skull met her own. Rikku yelped and leaped back, Yuna matching the action reflexively. “Demonolith!”

 

As if answering her, the sentient edifice encrusted with bones replied with a deep roar, Rikku reflexively lobbing a Shadow Gem at it, casting Ultima and resulting in blindness. “Rikku, look out!” In indignant rebuttal, the Demonolith swiped its enormous, bony claws at her which she barely dodged, strafing her greatly. The girl was sundered for a long moment, all before a foul miasma exhaled from the fiend. The worst of it avoided her, but washed over the felled Al Bhed, petrifying her.

 

Yuna raised her Nirvana and cast Holy on the foe, the achromatic orbs of light from the heavens striking it with a retaliatory vengeance. Reeling from the blow that afflicted it, Yuna hastily cast Esuna, bringing Rikku back while the girl hastily chugged down a Hi-Potion. “Thanks, Yunie,” she said before fishing through her pockets and hurling a Frag Grenade, resulting in more damage while they could distance themselves. “Hey, Holy works really well on it, remember? Try hitting it with that again!”

 

“Actually, I think I know of something better,” Yuna simpered, remembered the Fury ability Lulu had managed to teach her. As the Demonolith side-swiped them clumsily in its Darkness, Yuna took a deep breath and built the mana in her to cast a Holy Fury, successive Holy attacks that she knew could deal impressive damage. Both girls sidestepped as the behemoth roared furiously in pain, Yuna clipped by its claw in a final, desperate attempt to deal damage. However, before the last Holy could be cast, it burst into a cloud of pyreflies and dispersed harmlessly away, Yuna breathing a sigh of relief but wincing from the attack. A quick Cure seemed to be enough to remedy it, however.

 

Rikku trotted to where it fell, picking up a Mana Sphere and two Petrify Grenades. “Hm, not bad, but maybe I can synthesize something better from these later,” she said, mildly unimpressed after the exertion taken to take down their foe. “Ugh, at least it didn’t rip my clothes too bad. I think I might have to mend these later.

 

Yuna puffed air that caused her bangs to flutter, shaking her head in amusement at Rikku. Ever the treasure hunter, always wanting only the very best. Not that she could blame her. It seemed like a modest drop for such an encounter. The continued along in restive silence, until Yuna became wary with just how quiet it was. “Rikku, are you noticing this?” she queried, gazing around speculatively. They met gazes, knowing exactly what the other was thinking: what happened to all the fiends?

 

A distant, oppressive roar sounded from behind a vale of swirling crimson and violet clouds that whirled sickly together. Rikku and Yuna remembered it well, parting the mists to see a waiting Ultima Weapon. Yuna balked and swiftly cast Protect on her and Rikku, remembering this foe well. “Rikku, look out!” Rikku reacted too slowly as its foreleg pummeled her against a wall, then rapidly pinning Yuna beneath its oppressive weight. The Protect she’d cast on them both evoked a bright barrier where the Weapon’s paws oppressed them both, Yuna hacking from the weight just inches from crushing her. Rikku just barely managed to cast Silence on her end, barely able to concentrate enough to do so. The Ultima Weapon roared as it took effect, unable to cast spells on them now.

 

“Hey, Pops! Are you there! Yunie and I are trapped, and, u-um—OWIE—“ punctuated loudly through the Ultima Weapon pressing down upon them harder, Rikku thrashing as much as she could in vain, “please just do what you meant to right now! Y-You’ve got our coordinates so hurry!”

 

The ceiling overhead suddenly imploded over them, raining rubble and boulders upon them, halfway burying the Weapon that bellowed in surprise. Yuna and Rikku were just barely cleared of the blast radius, extricating themselves as the Ultima Weapon lost its grip on them as the ceiling caved in. Both of them coughed hard as plumes of dust nearly suffocated them, blearily watching as the dust cleared and open sky greeted them, the blinding silhouette of the Fahrenheit above them looming a great shadow. From aloft, the rattling of a descending chain like an anchor calamitously plummeted from the sky, a great claw affixed to it. As though sentient, it seemed to thresh through the rubble before it gripped the Ultima Weapon in a vice, hauling the shocked fiend into the very sky.

 

“Whoo hoo! Thanks, Pops! Remember to cast Silent on that thing, because it’s pretty immune to everything else, got it?” Rikku whooped, leaping from her feet in victory. Using her hand to shield away the harsh rays of sunlight, Yuna could make out the telltale sight of not only the dazed Ultima Weapon being raised into the sky, but at least three more claws of a similar make in wait at the Fahrenheit’s underside. As far as things were going, her Uncle’s crazy plan was a shoe-in for possibly even working.

 

Waving away the dust, Yuna smiled at her cousin. “One down, one to go!” This earned a cheer from Rikku who began bounding over the rubble and towards the exit, back into the Omega Ruins.

 

“You ready to face the real thing, Yunie?” she nudged, ribbing Yuna with a catty smile. “Nothing’s too big for the Gullwings!”

 

The next leg of the Omega Dungeon was a bit more harrowing, the paths thinning and darkening as they adjusted to the dark once again. The silence was haunting, but when the glowing violet cloud from before came into view, both girls stopped short and checked the area over. The chasm that yawned on either side of them was inky with blackness, seeming to crawl up the sides of the pathway, but that hardly stopped them from making a dash for it. They stopped short of entering through the miasma, Yuna passing Rikku an encouraging look. “Ready?” she prompted, receiving a firm nod from her cousin in kind before they pressed through.

 

The Omega Weapon pivoted on all fours, lumbering to view them. “Yunie, I think the Omega Weapon is stronger this time!” Rikku called out to the brunette, whisking back to a defensive stance as it sized the pair up. “Silence isn’t gonna work this time, either!”

 

Yuna remembered well. Even if this incarnation was stronger than last time, she still remembered the battle with it. “Should we call on Uncle Cid sooner?” she replied back, leaping back before it could land a blow on her, hastily casting Protect. Rikku took a turn to synthesize another Mighty-G, downing a portion and chucking the rest for Yuna to finish off. The combination of the positive effects gave her a sharp burst of energy. As they weren’t trying to defeat it straight away, as it stood, the best they could do was keep it distracted as bait. “Do it, Rikku!”

 

“Gotcha!” she affirmed, before being knocked against a pillar, dazed until a round of Regen that came with the Mighty-G regained some health. “Heya, Pops, we’re here! Mind doing the thingy you did last time?”

 

A sharp burst of static blasted over the intercom, causing her to flinch. “Sorry, girls, something came up! The explosives ain’t detonatin’, and well, we might have ta blast a hole through that damn ceiling with the missiles.” Rikku swallowed and glanced at Yuna fearfully, who heard every word.

 

“Okay, gotcha, Pops. Just hurry!” Rikku pleaded frantically, dodging another swipe of its claws, wind howling in the wake of where she’d been standing a minute before. “We’re on our own, Yunie!”

 

“We’ve got this,” Yuna said resolutely, casting another round of buffer as theirs expired. The Omega Weapon became still, both perplexed until it cast Ultima of them, both flinching from the damage that tolled high on them. The enormous sphere of dark energy dissipated, Yuna rebutting with Flare. The catastrophic spell blazed an inferno that exploded on the Weapon, the beast roaring from the damage exacted. Overhead, dust cascaded and the ceiling crumbled, raining damaging stalactites that buffeted the Weapon they avoided themselves.

 

From the intercom, static through the noise was heard of Cid shouting another command, unleashing another salvo of missiles. Moments later, the tremors became more prominent, the dust more rampant and stalactites raining in at greater volume. Plumes of dust clouded the air, the Weapon’s eyes glowing with ire. This time, it cast Shimmering Rain upon them both, a maelstrom of luminous energy that surged like rockets on them. Trained well, several managed to connect even through the girls’ best efforts to avoid them.

 

The final pinned Yuna against a pillar, she sagging to all fours while the damage was sustained and sank in, squeezing her eyes shut as a tremor of it rocked her. Rikku was no worse for wear, the Omega Weapon looming over them both with every intention of crushing them like insects. However, it was halted when the ceiling finally caved, just in the nick of time, too. Sunlight poured in on them both, rubble crushing the Weapon in the undertow. However, just before she could see the blurry vision of it ascending into the sky, thrashing wildly, everything went black.

 


 

“Is she gonna be okay? She just blacked out!”

 

“’Course she will. Just needs a good ol’ Phoenix Down. Hell, she’s coming around already!”

 

Yuna’s eyes blearily cracked open, formless shapes crowding her vision before on looked recognizably blonde, the other bald and sporting a dirty blond beard. She started with how close they were, nearly conking her head with her Uncle’s, but the man drew away in time before she could, laughing heartily. “What’d I tell ya! Good as new!” he crowed, hands on his waist rather boastfully.

 

“Geez, can’t you be a little quieter, Pops?” Rikku groused with a pout, then withdrawing to give Yuna some air. “Man, we barely made it outta there. But, at least we got both Weapons, I guess.”

 

Wearily did Yuna sit up, bringing her legs over the side of the makeshift bench. “Did we really? How are they keeping them from destroying the airship?” Yuna queried groggily, shaking away her impromptu sleepiness.

 

“We’ve managed to fit them into steel cages, kinda like what was used back during that Operation Mi’hen. They’re bound so tight and in such dark cages, they won’t know what the hell they’re supposed to do. Plus, we got the Hymn of the Fayth playin’. Seems to be keepin’ ‘em real quiet. That ol’ monk used to be a Yevonite, right?” Cid interrupted, both girls glancing at him. “We’ll get ‘em to Bikanel, then I’ll drop you two wherever ya need to be.”

 

It dawned on Yuna just how long they’d been away from Bevelle. It had been over a week, and by the look of the twilight beginning to span on the horizon, that had tacked on another day and a half from the sleepless Omega Dungeon mission. Maybe her being knocked out wasn’t entirely attributable to the finishing blows of the Omega Weapon against the girls. Distantly, she wondered about Kurgum and Chuami, of even Seymour. He suddenly crowded her mind, even after she’d barely thought after him in the past week and more. Their last encounter had been bitter, but for once, she didn’t feel as guilty as she could’ve. Her not taking him along was wholly justified, and in such a short length of time, they’d accomplished an impressive amount.

 

“Uncle, can we go back with you to Bikanel? We didn’t get to see all of it, plus, I still want to see Shinra again,” Yuna suggested, glancing furtively at Cid who grinned broadly. Rikku seemed similarly enthused that they’d been avoiding Bevelle for just a little while longer.

 

“’Course you can come, kiddo! Sure beats that stuffy old Yevoner capital any day, I bet!”

Chapter Text

(Warnings: T, none]

 


 

“Oh, so you’re here,” Shinra greeted as he peered over the workbench he’d been leaning over, holograms flickering to his sides whilst hoards of machina crowded around him. Yuna couldn’t help but be amused. Since they’d last been around each other more than two months ago, hearing what he’d undertaken impressed Yuna. Vegnagun’s transformation into a viable weapon being the most impressive of them all. “Your Garment Grids are still working, right?”

 

“Aw, gimme some credit, Shinra! I’m not that bad at maintaining them!” Rikku protested, poking her tongue out at him which earned her a muffled laugh from the boy. “Still can’t believe you got Vegnagun up and running, of all things. Y’think it’ll really work?”

 

“Of course. If it hadn’t, it would’ve fled by now. Not many people had fond feelings when we brought it here, after all,” Shinra dismissed, transfixed on a gadget he was working on, practically glued to his efforts. That was, until Yuna circled her arms around his neck from behind, in the same sort of way a mother might, stooping down some to accommodate for the shorter boy. Shinra leaned back in the embrace, it enough to stunt his efforts for the time being, sighing contentedly. Being an orphan, he wasn’t used to such maternal affection.

 

“I’m glad you’re okay, Shinra,” Yuna murmured lowly, cheek resting on the top of his helmet, closing her eyes. If she were honest, Yuna had been afraid of losing him. After Buddy and Brother had gone missing, she wasn’t sure how she’d deal with losing him, too. He’d become like family to her, after all.

 

“Same here. I wasn’t sure what to think when you both went off to the Omega Dungeons,” Shinra confessed, worming around in her arms to toss his arms around her neck, nuzzling.

 

Of course, Rikku couldn’t help but want to tease, providing some much needed comic relief. “D’aaaw, you guys look like mother and son! You gonna adopt him, Yunie?” she teased, grinning at them both.

 

Yuna couldn’t help but shoot Rikku a smile, intending to rebut, yet—how suddenly those words weighed her. Her own family had been gone for awhile, but in Wakka and Lulu she’d found siblings, with Rikku, Brother, and Cid being hers by blood. Her uncle had nagged them awhile back about settling down and getting married as opposed to something as supposedly frivolous as sphere hunting. Maybe...maybe it was time she could welcome a child into her life. That is, if Shinra was willing. “I might,” she replied enigmatically, Rikku gaping at how point-blank it was said. “That is, if Shinra would want it.”

 

The boy pulled back and she could feel his gaze brimming with hope, even beneath his thick gas mask that prevented her from even seeing his face. “You mean it, Yuna?” he asked, voice so sure, even happy.

 

“You bet! Uncle Cid always nagged me about settling down, anyways, so why not start now?” she beamed at him, smiling brightly. “That would kinda make the Gullwings a family business, huh?”

 

“Am I really seeing this?” Rikku thought aloud, then catching herself. “I mean, not that it’d be bad! You’re kinda already part of the family. This just makes stuff more official!”

 

“I’d like it a lot. I’ve always wanted a family. Especially...after I lost mine in the attack on Home,” Shinra said lowly, sniffing quietly. “Thank you...Sudran. Maybe I’ll even live with you guys on Besaid after all this is over.” Even if he did, he’d likely still be working with Rin, Yuna knew with a small smile.

 

“Oooh, let’s tell Pops! I bet he’d be really happy to hear, even if a hubby isn’t part of the deal,” Rikku laughed, bouncing to her feet and dashing from Shinra’s workshop.

 

“Maybe you should consider making a home for yourself here, too, Yuna,” Shinra added as an afterthought, having since broken the embrace and renewing work on his gadget, as if it would usher in Sin’s defeat even faster.

 

“You know, I think I will, Shinra.”

 


 

When their tour of Home continued in full, Cid had received the news of Yuna’s adopting of Shinra with zeal. And of the potential of her possibly carving a niche for herself on Bikanel to finally be a part of the people she’d only recently gotten in touch with again. With an Al Bhed child to call family, a place she would never have to worry about being displaced from, it was no wonder she was still glowing with happiness even on the return trip to Bevelle a few days later. And what a busy few days it had been! Shinra had shown her his lodgings, of how there was an untouched room he wasn’t sure what to do with. But, with their new officiated status as family, it was decided it’d be Yuna’s room, something she’d gladly arraigned to. Of course, Rikku generously donated a great few of some gently-used belongings to give it a credible Al Bhed flair, and by the time it was done and slept in for a few nights, it genuinely looked lived in.

 

“Man, it feels weird going back. How long has it been? A few weeks now? Wonder if anyone missed us,” Rikku mused idly, staring out the enormous bridge window where the scenery of Spira whizzed indecipherably by. They both occupied a space to the right of the piloting console, unused and perfect for the two to lounge.

 

“It does feel a little strange returning, doesn’t it? But, maybe it’ll be nice,” Yuna replied, a small smile thoughtlessly flitting across her face. Admittedly, and secretively, her mind wondered how Seymour had been. If whether he’d missed her or not. It was a strange line of thought to entertain, but for once, she allowed it instead of being so guiltily jolted. If Yuna were truly honest with herself, maybe she even missed him. Though her feelings towards the half-Guado were justifiably conflicted, at least now she wasn’t running from them any longer.

 

The airship lowered its rope ladder on the aerial pathways between the tricorne points of the zenith of the Palace of St. Bevelle. The upstream drafts from being so high up made the journey downwards unsteady, but it wasn’t anything the girls couldn’t handle. And, this way, they wouldn’t be mobbed by awaiting crowds should they have disembarked on the docking bays situated near the harbors of Bevelle. The cloudless blue sky seemed open enough to swallow them, or it was just Yuna’s own heightened anticipation painting it that way.

 

When they’d both landed soundly and waved the Fahrenheit off as it soared away, they began their descent into the palace proper, Yuna’s heart climbing into her throat the whole time. She knew why it was, even if the face attached to it was one she kept suppressed from her own mind. She was nervous, yes, but even she could do her best not to let it show.

 

“Hey, the reigning champs here again! So, how was Bikanel, Cid’s girl? Home looking like something yet?” Gippal grinned as they both finally came to the foyer of the palace, displaced from the more public venues. His arms were folded across his chest, but the Al Bhed looked as cocky as ever.

 

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Rikku rejoined, raising her chin high teasingly, her mode of defense against the Machine Faction leader. Still, it was a farce she could barely contain for long, hopping exuberantly in front of him. Clapping her hands and grinning she burst, “It’s amazing! Jealous you couldn’t see it, huh~?”

 

“Don’t you know it,” Gippal smirked at her, then noticing Yuna follow up the rear behind Rikku, looking pensive; it gleaned a knowing smirk from the younger male, suddenly draping his arm across her shoulders that caused the priestess to flinch. “So, what’s got you looking so high strung?”

 

“Oh, um—do you know where Kurgum is? I have to speak to him about things,” Yuna stammered out in a rush, just barely disguising her true motives. “It’s important,” she added, recovering herself.

 

“In the library, with Seymour,” Gippal answered, removing his arm. “And m’Lady Priestess, you owe me a drink and nice long convo about Home after this, alright?” He winked and clucked at her, Yuna shyly giggling and eliciting a dramatic eye roll from Rikku.

 

More or less given an excuse to depart, Yuna did with eager steps. Perhaps she walked a little faster than she meant to, bypassing machina units and acolytes and council agents who gossiped at the priestess’ reappearance after suddenly disappearing off the map, practically. When she came to the enormous, impressive library, her heart hammered in her throat and she knew he was here. This she was absolutely sure of.

 

At a table pouring over documents and reviewing spheres in a console, she saw Seymour and Kurgum, the boy entranced while Seymour hovered over him like a teacher, Yuna knowing he’d essentially become a mentor to the sender in the predating months. When Yuna’s footfalls alone broke the contemplative silence, Seymour lifted his gaze and they locked eyes, the man’s lips slightly slackening. Yuna proceeded to their table uninhibited, Kurgum waving in greeting that Yuna reciprocated even if her eyes never left Seymour’s for long.

 

“Um, Seymour, may I speak to you in private?” she asked demurely, her gaze suddenly averting from Seymour’s.

 

“Of course, Yuna,” he replied without so much as missing a beat. “Come, behind the bookcases. I assure you, we won’t be interrupted there.” And he was right; the library was practically deserted except for them.

 

Trailing behind him, by the time they were there, as he turned around to face her he suddenly swept her into an engulfing embrace, Yuna reciprocating as if by instinct. Her arms flew around his neck, burying her face against his own as he stooped over so she wouldn’t have to crane so far. Seymour inhaled her scent in deeply, embrace tightening, some of her hair becoming tangled in his long digits. “How I missed you,” Seymour breathed, enraptured.

 

Yuna had felt startled at first, but how quickly that emotion betrayed her for warmth. Something cloying and calming, what she so desperately wanted after so long. “...I missed you, too,” Yuna confessed forlornly, blinking back a warmth in her eyes, feeling like tears, even though she knew better. She was happy. Happy to see him. Could she really fathom even that?

 

“When I’d received word of you at the Omega Ruins, I feared for the worst, Yuna,” Seymour professed lowly, exhaling deeply as he pressed their foreheads together. It felt so strange. They’d bid farewell on grounds that felt like enmity, but here, now? It was as if all the conflicted emotions she’d been holding back sagged, her knees buckling. What she felt so long ago hadn’t been fully absolved, no, but with Tidus gone Seymour felt like the only one left who understood her. Of what it was like to straddle the line between worlds and not belong to either. Their pasts, their present; they were inexorably tied together and it felt fruitless to fight any longer.

 

“I did, too. But I’m okay, aren’t I? I’m still here,” Yuna replied, her hand stroking through his light cobalt locks, the man sagging in contentment against her. It shouldn’t have felt so right, but it did. She wanted to trust him. Seymour hadn’t betrayed her, yet, and every part of her wanted to believe it was true. That his loyalty to her was as unwavering as a true guardian’s should be. That, and...maybe something more. Something she didn’t have the courage to name just yet. Head lowering, she murmured, “People will talk, we should—“

 

Let them talk. It’s all they’ve done our entire lives,” Seymour hissed, holding her possessively, eyes swirling with both anger and contentment, a strange mingling that he didn’t care to fight. Here and now, he didn’t have to disguise is motives, didn’t have to veil his persona. She’d only seen him as the maester, as the madman broken by his own death. Of how his own carefully coordinated machinations collapsed in on themselves and he’d been cut at the knee and left to crawl forth on his own base instincts. But with Yuna, she brought such a strange sense of serenity. Then, even now, Yuna and his own mother had been the only two that had ever filled his heart and in such different roles.

 

“Seymour, please,” Yuna implored, pressing both of her palms flat against his chest and pushing him away some. Her eyes fixated intensely on his tattoos, but not his eyes, jaw working worriedly. Her voice was quiet, but not quivering. “Not now. There’s still too much to be done.” Eyes of violet locked tiredly with her own, Seymour’s expression drawn in a way that conveyed an exhaustion she’d never known him to display before. His head bowed, stooping not just for the sake of her reach, but because he hadn’t been at rest in so long. As if he were staggered from a vitally critical blow.

 

“I have waited for so long. Why should I wait anymore?” Seymour growled, the same madness of times before brewing in his gaze, a bestial nature that belied the man usually so composed. Yuna’s brows furrowed together in disbelief, pushing him away even more. Obsession. That’s what she saw. That dark place he wanted to claw into and spill on her, even if he couldn’t drag her into it anymore. The game had changed, and he knew it. But that wasn’t enough so undo something seemingly set in stone.

 

Stiffly, she withdrew from the embrace entirely, Seymour’s arms slacking without resistance. But she could still see his digits twitch like a feline tensing to pounce on his prey again. Then, her expression became firmer, unyielding. “There’s too much that needs to be done.” She shook her head, sighing in exasperation. “I don’t… I can’t. Try and understand, Seymour. Please,” she implored, features softening.

 

The man straightened back to his full height, mouth drawn into a displeased frown, canting his head at her. “What am I to think of this, Yuna? We vacillate so very much, you and I,” Seymour said after a long moment, the tone of his voice causing Yuna to feel cold with a burgeoning sense of guilt. But...why should she feel guilty? She had no reason to be at all.

 

“Am I really at fault with that? You… It’s been almost three months and I still don’t know what to think of all this. Seymour, it still seems like you think you might get me in the end. That you haven’t given up on that fallacy even after all this time.” Yuna paused, softly amending, “...Even if I wasn’t at your side in the end, would you still continue with this?”

 

Her words dispelled the undercurrent of tenderness, the rare vulnerability that had flourished just a moment before. It suspended a challenge; something precarious that even moved Seymour’s expression vicariously between rumination and indigence. “You ask the strangest things of me, Yuna,” Seymour laughed airily, even though her furrowed brows and clenching fists sobered him. “You fascinate and elude me like none else. We embrace in a fashion reminiscent of lovers,” the word caused Yuna to visibly flinch, Seymour narrowing his eyes closely at the observance, “and yet you seek to throw obfuscation on to what lays so obviously before us.”

 

“Friends and family can embrace like that. But I doubt you know what that’s like,” she replied bitterly, glaring up at him fearlessly.

 

Seymour smiled a predatory smile, knowing he had found a weakness to what he saw as a charade. A show of strength between their contention like a cat with her hackles raised. “Are we either, Yuna? Certainly not family, but—friends?” He chuckled in amusement, hand moving to hold his chin in mocking consideration.

 

“My guardians before were both to me,” Yuna flared quietly, hands balling into fists. “Even Tidus was my friend before we became something more.”

 

The mention of his name caused Seymour’s fiendishly amused expression to flatten, almost deadpan, but she knew how it got to him. How Tidus had been insignificant to Seymour’s machinations before. But, he knew how she felt towards him. How she loved Tidus like he was the sun incarnate. Even if he was gone now, nothing could change the fact that he was her first love. The love that the heart would always remember no matter what.

 

Seymour pulled away, gazing sidelong. “What are you saying, Yuna? That we must become friends?” he sneered, gaze returning defiantly to hers. His mouth was pulled into a frown, but Yuna met his eyes with a palpable glower in return.

 

“That’s exactly what I’m saying. That’s what I thought we were becoming before you decided we suddenly weren’t!” Yuna shot back, folding her arms beneath her bosom, enunciating her anger. Her consternation with him.

 

This took Seymour aback, enough that it sedated his conniving ploy, his attempts to worm beneath Yuna’s defenses. Then, he grew very quiet, sighing deeply. “And if I have no intention of wishing to remain friends?”

 

Yuna huffed, trying to hide the flush that coated her pale skin, gnawing on her lower lip before mustering the nerve to speak. “Then—you’ll just have to work for it, won’t you?” she said with conviction, brows still furrowed but not nearly as angered as before. Part of her couldn’t believe what she was saying. Was this right? Finally admitting that, maybe, there was something between them? Something inexorable and undeniable? Reflecting on the past encounters with Sin with him by her side—which amounted to at least two, so far—he hadn’t sought to undermine their efforts. He’d fought hard and manfully. It was enough to think that maybe, just maybe, he was turning around. Enough for her to have faith, to begin really trusting him. Or was she despicable for this? Turning to the most loathsome of people she’d ever known when Tidus still occupied so much of her heart, had disappeared after what had felt like barely any time at all. Her heart throttled into her chest, unable to know as to what she was supposed to think, supposed to feel.

 

Seymour nodded slowly, hand lowering as he neared her, features softening. “You ask me to win your heart then, correct?”

 

Yuna started guiltily, feeling a cold dread fill a hollow pith in her breast, unable to meet his eyes as defiantly as she had before. But, she still had to answer, didn’t she? How heavily the weight of his presence weighed on her. The sun, the moon; they were like halves to a whole that couldn’t be without. Tidus was gone, but was he really? What if he came back? Back to this, back to what could only be the ultimate betrayal? It made her afraid. Made her feel small and weak and powerless. Sin was something she could grapple with palpably, had the entire world backing her. Even if it was a cumbersome burden, it was one she bore gladly and would never relinquish. But...in this? Yuna was alone. She was anything but weak, but faced with such a decision was like deciding between the brink of chaos and oblivion.

 

The woman sighed hopelessly, shaking her head. “I don’t know. Seymour, I don’t know,” she professed in hushed tones, eyes downcast and barely able to look up past his shoes.

 

“Then perhaps we should simply start with being...friends, as a guardian should be to the one he’s sworn to protect,” Seymour reasoned, prompting Yuna to lift her gaze hopefully, coming to Seymour who was no longer was entrenched in his penchant for dark obsessions. At least, not now. “I believe that should suffice for now.”

 

Yuna almost gaped dumbly, but only her eyes widened partly, locking with his violet own. Shyly nearing him, the man remained where he was, gaze following her as the proximity between them increased. Fingers clenched lightly near her lips, a modest gesture, and she sighed imperceptibly. “I thought we already were. A little, at least.” Mismatched eyes dipped once before rebounding to meet his, Seymour’s softening in a way that made her feel shy.

 

“I suppose we are,” Seymour laughed lightly, Yuna deciding she liked the sound of it. One that was actually pleasant and not maniacal nor sadistic. Natural. To think, all along this was the man she wanted to see. The man, not the maester nor the madman.

 

“You know, it is nice seeing you again. These past few weeks were nice, but I think I like being here again,” Yuna conceded with a smile that broke down the last of her tension, Seymour even appearing pleasant compared to just moments before. Receptive, too. This was so much better to Yuna, to be able to speak pleasantly with him without being guarded nor defensive. “I have another place I can call home. I even have my own family now.”

 

That, however, brought a jolt of jealousy to Seymour’s eyes. “A family? Whomever with?” he asked, sounding markedly constrained that caused Yuna to balk some.

 

“On my sphere hunting team, the Gullwings, we had a kid that was involved with our tech stuff. He even was the one who developed the Garment Grids and dresspheres,” she explained cautiously, side-eyeing Seymour for the most minute of his reactions. “Well, it was supposed to be a joke on Rikku’s part, but...I adopted him. Kinda fitting, don’t you think?”

 

This caused Seymour to relax some, but something odd stirred in his eyes, making him look disembodied from reality. Perhaps the conflict that came from it was just how much Yuna had come to unconsciously resemble his mother, and now that she had a son of her own, she was cognizant of how many parallels that might sharply arise. His hands clasped behind his back, glancing away and focusing his gaze among the books. The many titles that he wasn’t even truly focusing upon. “The boy will need a father, don’t you think?” was asked a slow moment later, Yuna covering her mouth with her hand and looking away.

 

“He has Rin, but he’s more of a business partner than a father figure, I think,” Yuna conceded, huffing internally. Honestly! She shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells around him, let alone when it concerned Shinra! The Al Bhed was just a boy, after all. If Seymour truly understood her, or was trying to, then he had no right to feel as he did. “I don’t think we’d have gotten as far as we had without him. You know, he refurbished Vegnagun and it’s gonna be our main line of defense against Sin. No one else before him could pull it off, but he did.”

 

Seymour stiffened at the mention of this, at a child being so instrumental against Sin. How it reminded him of his past, conjuring images within Zanarkand of a dying mother wanting to become a fayth simply so her child could be sacrificed in the fight against Sin. To redeem them both somehow. Jaw clenching he uttered harshly, “I certainly hope this child is not being utilized as some sort of weapon.” His lips pursed grimly.

 

“Oh, of course not! No, I would never. He’d never be on the front lines,” Yuna replied quickly, then sighing. “I wish he wasn’t involved at all, but it had already been done by the time I was able to see him again. But, what else can be done? All I can do is keep him safe from harm. And where he is will be safe, I think.”

 

This caused the man to ease away the tensity, nearing her with an idle caress of her cheek that didn’t linger, but the warmth of his touch certainly did. Warm as an unsent could be, at least. “You will be a wonderful mother, Yuna.” Seymour smiled affectionately at her, earning a light blush that coated her cheeks. It was such a demure gesture, even if a clout of doubt still fluttered in her breast. She had to remind herself they were simply focused on being friends and nothing more.

 

“I think...I should report to the Council. They’ll be wanting to see me,” Yuna excused herself, bowing to Seymour informally and turning away to depart.

 

If anything, she really needed time to think, more than anything.

 


 

“I wonder if this will even work.” From within the former Cloister of Trials, they are gathered, dressed incognito. The light ringing the domed glass barrier separating them from the fayth’s statue pulsed intermittently, having only been recently restored. But it was not the statue that drew their interest. The cobalt light illumined the faces of eight captives who were unconscious and bound by luminous rings, of special make that stunted the use of abilities or magic. Nooj observed them deadpanned whilst Baralai appeared conflicted, brow creased by worry.

 

“They came to us, Baralai. Obviously it’s not without reason,” Nooj cut through, leaning upon his cane and hobbling nearer to the dark-skinned man. “When they’ll awake, I promise you, they’ll be treated well. This is just a precaution, for now.”

 

Baralai sighed deeply. “You’re right. I just never thought we’d find old gods incarnated into beckoned unsent like this. Almost like how Shuyin possessed us.” His deep brown eyes furtively watched as Nooj crouched down as best he could, pressing his fore and index fingers to the neck of one, then meeting Baralai pointedly when he straightened.

 

“These aren’t unsent, Baralai. They have pulses, and not just like what you usually feel. They feel solid and warm,” Nooj extrapolated as his head turned downwards to the one he’d tested, a cursory look towards the tanned, dark-haired woman who was unconscious and slumped against the form of a earthy-toned man. “They’re flesh and blood.”

 

“Not even Jushin…?” Baralai marveled closely, then leaning in closer. “How? They only manifested in the Underground a short while ago.”

 

“I’m not sure.” Nooj gestured for a warrior monk to his side, the armored man silently awaiting the meyvn’s orders. “Get them to the dungeons near Via Purifico. And bring some senders with you to cast wards so they won’t escape.” The monk saluted to Nooj who turned back towards the group imprisoned here, gaze enigmatic that even Baralai couldn’t discern. His glasses sharply reflected light, making it even more difficult to see.

 

“Should we tell Lady Yuna? I imagine she’d want to know,” Baralai said, glancing at his compatriot, the man sighing distantly.

 

“No. Not even Lady Yuna. Not until we decide how they can be useful to us, let alone who they are,” the brunet refused, extending a hand as if a motion to cease. “They’re here for a reason, Baralai. We need to find out that reason above all.” The lights dimmed sharply, casting Nooj in an ominous shadow. Baralai’s lips thinned, brows furrowing in consternation and folding his arms.

 

“...Alright. In fact, I’ll interrogate them myself when they awake. You’re right. Maybe they can be of some use to us,” Baralai conceded softly, bowing out as he left the Chamber of the Fayth, heart still a turmoil of doubt. Of whether he was truly doing the right thing or not.

Chapter Text

(Warnings: T, none]

 


 

“You wanted to see me, Chuami?”

 

The auburn-haired girl flicked her brown eyes at Yuna while seated on a stair near the High Court room of Yevon, seeming to be brooding more than anything. Or, as Yuna charitably thought, merely avoiding the worst of the crowds that came with the hustle and bustle of the palace complex. Her expression, as it continually seemed to be, was tense with annoyance. But, that was nothing new. She claimed it was a ploy to keep people from needlessly annoying her, after all. When she sighted Yuna, she scooted enough on the marble stair to allow Yuna room to sit, which the priestess neatly did.

 

“I don’t need to hear about Home, if that’s what you’re thinking. Or Vegnagun. Rikku wouldn’t shut up about it,” Chuami huffed, appearing cross, even though Yuna had come to know better. She just seemed prickly, that much was certain. “I...might have made a mistake.” Her expression flitted to that of a deeper annoyance broken somewhat by tensity, Yuna leaning in, concerned.

 

“Chuami, what happened?” Yuna queried, a slight frown appearing on her countenance.

 

Chuami suddenly stood up in a rush, folding her arms and pacing. “Look, it was a mistake, alright? And I didn’t mean to do it, either! It just...happened,” she flared defensively, pacing sharp and tense like she was walking on hot coals.

 

Yuna stood, cornering her with her gaze, but not in a fashion meant to be intimidating. Simply so that the girl couldn’t avoid looking at her. “I think I might have accidentally beckoned my dad. I got a report from a lower ranking officer from at eyewitness saying they spotted him,” the girl deflated, averting her brown eyes from Yuna’s.

 

The priestess became sympathetic, smiling feebly. “Maybe it was just someone who looks like him? The warrior monks do have a rank that adopted his old uniform, after all,” she brokered, trying to ease Chuami’s chagrin.

 

Chuami tugged at her own braids hard, the girl groaning in frustration. “No, it is him! The way he wears his haori, the Masamune, the little details—everything!” she sputtered, then heaving an exhalation as she collected herself again. “He’s bound to hear about me. The council knows, so do a lot of my friends here, and… Yuna, what if he doesn’t accept me? What if he rejects me?”

 

Yuna perched both her hands on Chuami’s shoulders, as a sign of conviction and reassurance. “Don’t worry, Chuami. We’ll make him see the truth, alright? I mean, he’s bound to see it!”

 

Chuami quirked her lips in a slight frown, looking dubious. “You don’t know that. My mom’s gone, and if he rejects me...I won’t have anyone. It’s enough he’s good as dead,” she said in defeat, jaw working.

 

It was here that Yuna seized her in a tight hug, Chuami flinching but not outright extricating herself from it. Instead, she could feel the teen sag in her embrace, Yuna intensely relating to the emotion as many orphans in Spira did. That want just to be accepted anywhere as a family, to have it. Slowly, like a sloth did Chuami gradually return the embrace, finally surrendering to such a sisterly gesture. “It’ll be alright, promise. You have us. We’ll be your family, too,” Yuna avowed before gently pulling away, the redhead working up a meager but reassured smile. Stroking away some stray bangs from Chuami’s forehead, the girl smiled authentically, probably the first Yuna had seen in quite some time.

 

“Let’s go find him, Yuna.”

 


 

It was funny how things could manifest. It had been in a concealed rush that both girls had left the estate of the palace and descended into the city, to the many thoroughfares and marketplaces that were populous at noontime. The air was clear and sky sunny without many clouds loitering in the expanse of blue, juxtaposed sharply with the many crimson buildings and edifices that existed in abundance in Bevelle. Many denizens cheerfully greeted them as she and Chuami troweled through the city, canvassing exactly where Auron had been purportedly spotted. If Yuna were honest, she wouldn’t mind it all if his reappearance turned out to be true. The old guardian had been a boon during her last pilgrimage.

 

“I think we’re getting closer,” Chuami noted, pointing to a high spire that had formerly been a Yevonite house of worship.

 

“I think if there’s anywhere he could be, it would be my father’s,” Yuna supplied, glancing at the girl. This district was certainly familiar. Home to the lower middle class, her father had lived nearby. It was all he could truly afford after the miscegenation that had caused intense scandal throughout the clergy. But, it was home. Curiously, as they rounded through several damp and dirty alleyways that had been shortcuts for the priestess as a child, she stopped short to see a gossiping crowd thronged outside, a colorful rabble where a particular name could be heard most poignantly of all.

 

Carefully, they picked their way through the crowd, murmurs arising at Yuna’s presence as she heedlessly entered her own former home, through stripped trappings that had once been so familiar to her. A modest living room and open air kitchen that adjoined it was moderately split by a spiral staircase leading to her and her parents’ rooms, colorfully appointed in spite of how little she’d had growing up. But, there, clear as day, was Auron with his fingers ghosting over a picture of him, Jecht, her father, and himself—with a small Yuna endearingly seated on her father’s lap while his guardians proudly flanked him. Auron looked severe in the photo while Jecht had his muscular arms folded arrogantly over his barrel chest and grinned cockily.

 

“Do you remember what Jecht said right before this photo was taken, Yuna?” Auron asked preemptively without even glancing over his shoulder at them, Yuna barely able to see him in profile.

 

“Shoopuff milk!” Yuna exclaimed, grinning at the memory while Auron chuckled sedately. “It still makes me smile, even to this day.”

 

The air between them grew quiet as the legendary guardian turned slowly to face her, scrutinizing her over the rim of his sunglasses with his sole, good eye. Though his high cowl prevented her from seeing the lower half of his face, the corners of his eyes crinkled somewhat at a rare smile. “Three years. To think, I was guiding the three of you in fighting Vegnagun only a year ago,” Auron reminisced, gazing at Yuna in earnest.

 

Only when the pensive sounds of footfalls emerged did Yuna realize Chuami hadn’t entered the room with them, the redhead avoiding revealing herself directly. However, all it took was a glimpse for Auron to fall completely silent, the swordsman looking Chuami over as she passed furtive glances at the man, her usual boldness completely silenced.

 

“You look exactly like your mother. But I see you inherited my eyes,” he said after a long moment, gaze steady upon the girl now. “What’s your name?”

 

Emboldened by what seemed to be acceptance, Chuami entered the room in earnest, skirting around Yuna while her thumbs twiddled together. She looked very much like a girl backed into a corner, tensely watching Auron’s body language. It was hardly different from Auron’s own mannerisms, something Yuna distinctly remembered from the spheres taken on her father’s pilgrimage. “My name’s Chuami,” she answered, then adding, “Wait...you know who I am?”

 

“I imagine your mother told you the story. Of how we were meant to be wed, but I turned it down. Of how her pregnancy was kept secret, and how she disappeared from Bevelle’s higher circles to raise you in peace.”

 

Chuami’s eyes rounded hopefully, her lower lip slightly worrying as relief and realization surged all at once in her. “Why didn’t you come sooner? Didn’t you care about us?”

 

Auron’s unwavering gaze took a downturn, the man admirably or frustratingly stoic; neither girl could really tell which. “I didn’t know. After I died at the foot of Mt. Gagazet, I left Spira to sojourn to the Dream Zanarkand to help raise Tidus. Your mother never told me,” he explained softly, though still assertively. The answer still upset Chuami.

 

“So, you could risk it all for your friends’ kids but not your own flesh and blood? You didn’t even bother trying to get in contact with mom? Some hero you are!” Chuami shot back, eyes brimming with tears and smacking away Yuna’s hand as the older girl attempted to comfort her. Her eyes were fierce and she flashed her clenched teeth even through her tears.

 

“I had no choice. I already said that,” Auron retorted icily, eyebrows furrowing as the man stalked nearer to them even as his aura and anger were so precisely controlled. “Don’t assume I wouldn’t have sacrificed anything if I had known. If your friends sacrificed themselves as Braska and Jecht did, you’d understand.”

 

“You want to know what happened to her after all these years, thanks for asking?! She died! She was killed by Yevoner hunters! She’s gone and you probably could care less!” the girl railed back, inflamed. The air hung heavily, Chuami and Auron at a point of contention. Those outside drifted their gossip through the pregnant silence, the swordsman growing utterly quiet, but by no means cowed by his daughter’s outburst. For he’d faced much worse, and the fact she was alive at all meant something. Something monumental.

 

“...I’m sorry,” Auron said heavily after a long pause, eyes sinking closed. His hand hung at his sides, but he seemed as composed as ever. Yuna knew he wasn’t exactly the most spectacular font of emotion, except when she’d seen him in the Zanarkand memories that preserved in the dome. That had been a younger Auron, more emotionally frank and cutting. Here, now? It were as if all the grief in him was incapable of bowing his back anymore, and maybe Chuami thought it meant he didn’t care.

 

The girl’s gaze hardened and she bitterly withdrew into a shell, feeling insubstantial and out of place. Scrubbing away what little tears had been shed, hard red coronas and the puffiness ringing her eyes denoted as much even if she refused to allow it to show any longer. Especially to a man who seemed completely indifferent to them. “Yuna, I’ll meet you back at the palace,” she said collectively after a long moment, turning hard on her heel and stalking away, likely to the scandalized murmurs of those who were waiting outside, even if their volume was considerably less. When the air of tensity was able to disperse some, Yuna finally glanced at the older man sympathetically.

 

“Her mother was the same. Always so frank with her emotions. To think, I’d been that age when we met, when Chuami was conceived,” Auron ruminated after a long pause, then flicking his brown eyes back to Yuna. “You must have questions. I don’t think they should be answered here. Come.” Without even waiting directly for Yuna, he set off from the former homestead, Yuna still dazed by all that had transpired.

 

Sadness hung a little thickly, after all. Especially when it felt so, so familiar.

 


 

If Rikku were present, there was but one word that would best quantify this encounter: disasteriffic. It had much less to do with physical threats as it was a verbal volley, a ruthless exchange between two men who couldn’t get along even in the most agreeable circumstances. And this certainly wasn’t one of them.

 

“Why, Sir Auron, what a pleasure it is to see you so soon,” Seymour’s voice lilted sarcastically from without the palace library, in the sumptuous corridors native to the palace. His study with Kurgum had ceased by twilight, a reprieve that had been welcome. So it was fate that her return with Auron would be precluded by Seymour’s conclusion for the evening, begetting a confrontation one could cut with Auron’s celestial weapon, the Masamune. “Yuna, what an unexpected guest we have this evening, wouldn’t you agree?” His smile was positively churlish, mien entirely intent upon antagonizing the older man.

 

“A shame you couldn’t have stayed dead,” Auron replied coldly, nonplussed. However, Seymour could tell it had its effect on the guardian, especially as he circled and stood with familiarity at Yuna’s side, canting his head speculatively towards Auron.

 

“Truly, you must regale us with how you returned, Sir Auron. I’m certain you would be as interested in hearing of how Lady Yuna ushered me from certain peril after my own beckoning—an execution, no less—by making me one of her guardians. Tasked with saving the world from Sin; it makes me wonder what yours entails.” Auron’s gaze was utterly impassive upon the former maester, chuckling under his breath. It made more sense now. With Yuna’s penchant for unremitting second chances, even after she’d come to hate him so passionately, it made far more sense as to why Seymour had returned and hadn’t been sent by now.

 

Impassive, Auron tilted his chin up, visible expression one of usual unreadable merit and even some degree of impassivity. “Are you done, Maester?” he queried blandly, all before he walked past the man without further regard.

 

Yuna spun on her heel away from Seymour, fixing him with a glare. “You had no right to do that!” she chastised sternly, then advancing hot on Auron’s heels, away from the half-Guado. Seymour could only think to frown, but didn’t bother formulating some acerbic response trained on Auron. Now simply wasn’t the time, was it?

 

“Sir Auron!” Yuna called after him, trotting after the man whose strides ate up the ground even when he merely walked. She balked when he turned to face her, silently receptive but otherwise unreadable. Yuna sucked in a breath through her nose, then clenching a hand at her collar, gaze drifting down. “Sir Auron, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before, it’s just that—“

 

“What’s done is done, Yuna,” he cut her off, but not entirely rudely. She knew better than to think him a truly conversational man. But, how her head lifted hopefully, thinking that he wasn’t so disappointed in her as she initially believed. “Will Seymour continue to hinder your mission? I need to ensure he won’t become a turncoat.”

 

Yuna blanked on the question at first. It had taken considerable time for her comrades to warm up to the idea, let alone even tolerate him that she knew Rikku and Chuami did little of. Even Yuna had taken time, seeing as he’d wanted her in the most despicable of ways and under the most terrifying of machinations. But, Auron was here now. Yuna felt as though a weight had lifted off her shoulders, solely because Auron was so dependable. Like he could guard her against Seymour’s worst, even if she had been doing a fine job herself already. “It’s been three months, maybe a little longer, since Seymour returned. But...he’s helped. And he hasn’t turned on us, yet. I think he won’t.” Oh, how she desperately wanted to have much faith in her own words as she seemed to!

 

“I’ll keep an eye on him all the same. Perhaps even give him a reason to worry,” Auron simpered lightly, but Yuna knew it wasn’t some malicious promise. Hanging a threat so culpable might even help, as much as she wouldn’t admit it out loud. She giggled, as their conversation seemed to be coming to a close. It always felt like that with Auron, at least. “...As he should. Kinoc’s death was on his hands.”

 

That seemed to chill the air between them, Yuna’s smile faltering. Edging nearer to him, she timidly asked, “Are you going to avenge him, Sir Auron?”

 

Auron’s gaze shifted cryptically towards her, but there were undercurrents of resentment she knew better than to think were directed at her person, but somehow it felt like it still was. Being as empathetic as she was, Yuna couldn’t help it. Tensity prickled on her skin, making her nervous. “I heard of how Kinoc and Mika were killed again recently. Forcibly beckoned, then executed before being sent. I wonder if vengeance was exacted for what they did,” he replied succinctly, brows furrowing, Yuna feeling more uncertain than ever. As if she could’ve put a stop to it.

 

“There was a trial, awhile ago. When I found Seymour on Baaj, we brought him here to be tried. I hadn’t known Mika and Kinoc were brought back, too, and—I should’ve put a stop to it. It wasn’t right, what happened to them,” Yuna said, staring at her own feet. “They should’ve had a real trial, and served time in a dungeon.”

 

“The people of Spira were restless, I imagine. People seldom remain peaceful when the return of Sin hovers over them, especially now when the old means of dealing with it are no more. Sometimes, they simply want an effigy to burn.” Auron hefted the Masamune on his shoulder a little higher, perhaps it feeling like a reassurance. Yuna certainly understood when it came to the Nirvana.

 

“Seymour still has so much to make up for. For all the evil he’s done. Sir Auron, do you think I was wrong to save him? To take him in with us?” Yuna asked honestly, seeming to bide for an answer.

 

The man’s shoulders tensed, and much of her knew why. But, it seemed as though the only way to make it work was to delve deep; to mend any smarting wounds in their efforts that could ultimately incapacitate them. “You believe in second chances, Yuna. Guardians are meant to protect their summoners, and if you deign this the wisest choice, then I will only act if he raises his hand against you,” Auron explained steadily, Yuna finding herself able to breathe again. He trusted her. Even if it wasn’t perfect, it was something. “He will be in for a rude awakening if he thinks his old tactics would work any longer.”

 

“I still have so many doubts. Everything is so different this time around, isn’t it? What do you think of it all, Sir Auron?”

 

The man took her question into consideration, a wide swath of thought silencing the air for a long moment. It seemed as though the answer was there, just buried deep inside him. “Three times I’ve seen Sin resurrected. How it’s gone from how it used to be for over a thousand years, when it was dismantled entirely, to stepping into the unknown. You’ve walked in the unknown before, Yuna, as we all are. I suppose this means we’re all starting from ground zero. All I can hope to do is perhaps provide some direction along the way, as I have before,” he said after a long moment, brown eyes cast to gaze deeply into her own. Even he didn’t really know, it made Yuna feel less as though she were alone in blundering through the dark.

 

“It’s so good to have you back, Sir Auron,” Yuna beamed at him, smile soft and sure.

 

“All this time, and you still resort to formalities,” Auron chuffed, shaking his head in what only could be amusement. “You don’t have to do that any longer, Yuna.”

 

“Okay, Auron. And...thank you very much. For everything.”

 


 

It hadn’t been difficult to find him. The Palace of St. Bevelle was outfitted with an enormous glass-enclosed biome in its inner sanctum, heavily forested beneath the rays of sunlight that filtered through. The light was golden with the beginning of the early evening, suffusing green and jade through the umbrage above. A meditative labyrinth could be walked at its center, interwoven with cobblestone paths lined with vibrant blossoms. The air was humid and warm, but not unpleasant, the tang of water sourcing from streams that ran unseen through the thick underbrush. It was a beautiful place she’d discovered awhile ago, but to Yuna, it was new. For one of her guardians, it had been a frequent haunt for as long as he’d been in Bevelle.

 

Yuna came to a grove of trees that ringed a small clearing where stone slab benches were situated, viewing small memorials of past maesters and even High Summoners, Seymour seated upon a stone bench and studying newly erected ones for Kinoc and Yo Mika, the priestess taking pause. It was a wonder they were there at all, seeing as both scions of Yevon had been tried as war criminals. Then, her gaze alighted upon two others for Kelk Ronso and Jyscal Guado, Yuna understanding why he was here now.

 

“Seymour,” she greeted simply, voice neutral, but it only gleaned a scant turn of his head before the man gazed anew on the memorials, she wondering what he was even thinking of.

 

“I wonder, after this whole affair is over, one might be raised in my honor,” he speculated, moving enough on the bench, only able to accommodate for two. Yuna seemed to take the hint, decorously sitting next to him with her hands on her lap.

 

“You’re still here. It wouldn’t make much sense to do that now, Seymour,” Yuna said, turning to search for an expression, he seeming almost detached. “It’s a privilege. One you have to earn.”

 

The man chortled airily, a smirk quirking on his lips. “Kinoc and Yo Mika were criminals, and yet they are preserved here, of all places. I imagine they’ll be wiped from history soon enough,” he remarked, seeming amused, still. It caused Yuna to study them, noting that they were indeed there in places of honor. Even among those who better deserved it.

 

Yuna knew he was stalling, trying to elude her from the inevitable topic at hand. Huffing slightly, she began, “Auron is joining us. But, you can’t keep trying to antagonize him. Promise me you’ll at least try to get along,” she supplicated, folding her arms resolutely.

 

“All this time, and you still have such...redemptive expectations of me. I released Kinoc from his suffering, and Sir Auron insists upon seeing it as some great crime. Yes, they were friends, but I saw differently of him. He wasn’t the man Sir Auron remembered, and I did him a great favor,” Seymour said, sounding all the more self-righteous. He hadn’t changed. Thinking death was the only relief from life. However, when his violet eyes met her purposefully, a deepness in them, her own narrowed.

 

“You didn’t kill him to release him. You killed him because he got in your way,” Yuna replied softly in hushed tones, breaking their eye contact, fixing it instead on Kelk’s monument. “...I still remember what you said to me on Mushroom Rock Road during Operation Mi’ihen. Was any part of it real? Before you became what you are?” She shirked away from him, denying him the pleasure of such close proximity. All the little things to punish him, it seemed.

 

Seymour gazed ahead, mouth set. “To you, those words were true. I would not have said them to anyone else,” he replied softly, Yuna wondering if he were even being honest.

 

“You would have said that to any summoner you meant to become the Final Aeon of. Don’t lie to me,” Yuna said bitterly, reproachfully. Her arms loosed, hands on her lap but body tense.

 

“Yuna.” The sole address of her name caused her to reticently turn her face towards him, finding their eyes locked together. Before she could process what was happening, Seymour leaned towards her, haltingly, with their faces inches apart. A hand lightly touched around her shoulders, Yuna finding herself overwhelmed by him again. The kiss he pressed to her lips was not rough and flaunting, like the last time. Slowly, they met, experimentally touching. Only a beat long, but she could feel a wellspring of passion seemed to beat against it. Even as his eyes sunk closed, she couldn’t. She wouldn’t be lulled; couldn’t, shouldn’t…

 

Apace of a moment did her eyes suddenly crack open, startled even as she felt a gust of damp, cool air replace the bodily heat and sweetness of Seymour’s, blinking hard. He was an unsent; yes, disappearing suddenly could be done, but even such a realization did little to calm the hammering of her heart. Slowly, reality rushed back to her in waves, her face reflexively blushing and still feeling the lingering sensation of his lips on hers. She promised she wouldn’t, but it had happened. Her heart hammered into her ears, making it almost impossible to think. But, her subconscious didn’t want to forget, causing her to heat up even more.

 

Hugging herself, the priestess sighed shakily. “I can’t—I won’t let him get to me like this,” she swore to herself with a rough, shakily exhalation. Even though, it seemed as though he already had. All in the attempt to feint against her.

 

Back bowed, she let the silence and quiet judgment of the memorials fill the space instead.

Chapter Text

(Warnings: T, none]

 


 

“You feeling okay, Yunie? You’re lookin’ really flustered over there.”

 

The door to the girls’ room had just shut as Yuna walked through and dumped herself unceremoniously upon her bed, muffled groaning suffusing before it stopped, Rikku badly suppressing giggles from an action that seemed so uncharacteristic of her cousin. Better this than coming in in various stages of exhaustion that the Al Bhed was more attuned to notice than what others gave her credit for. “You wanna talk about it?” the blonde added, rolling on to her stomach and propping her chin on one of her hands.

 

Yuna sighed before she flopped on her back, bed springs squeaking in protest as she did, eyes fixated on the ceiling as the events from barely an hour before milled through her mind like a hive of hornets. Seymour had kissed her. The sensation was still as fresh as if it’d happened but a minute before. Even though it’d taken almost an hour to walk off the worst of her flush, to process what had just occurred. “If I do, promise you won’t get mad?” Rikku nodded in affirmation, Yuna pursing her lips before she decided to speak.

 

“Seymour kissed me.”

 

“WHAT?!” Like a cat that had been doused in a bath of ice water, Rikku started and sat up straight, eyes wide as saucers before her expression of shock soon lapsed into one of indignant anger. “Oh, screw it! I’m gonna find his blue hide and tan him!” The girl paced angrily between their beds, simply laying down not an option when this was what was divulged.

 

Yuna sat up right then and there, hands held up in placation, to stop Rikku before she could begin. “Rikku, wait, please—let me explain.” Explain? What was there to explain? And what was she supposed to say? The honest truth was that she’d firmly told Seymour they would build a friendship instead of plunging headlong into his old obsession over her. But, how could she tell Rikku that she’d also gave him the green light to more or less court her? She couldn’t withhold the truth from Rikku, true, but how could she word it before her cousin would go on a tirade to bloody and bruise the former maester? Sighing, Yuna swung her legs over the side of her bed, slouching under the weight of her own thoughts. Rikku pursed her lips uncertainly, but sat across from Yuna on her own bed, twitchy but receptive.

 

“I need to tell you the truth, Rikku. Things...aren’t that simple. Especially where it concerns Seymour,” Yuna began pensively, feeling that wellspring of what she’d been bottling so persistently under the weight of denial and duty surge and ready to pour from her lips. “I mean, it’s no secret we’ve been getting close, right? You probably picked up on it, too. But...there’s more you don’t know. More even I don’t think I’m aware of.”

 

“Yunie, are you trying to say you have feelings for that guy? After what he did to Home and us, to Kimahri’s people—to you?” Rikku demanded incredulously, sounding betrayed and hurt. That hurt worse than anything Yuna could have realized, feeling her eyes moisten inevitably, something even she couldn’t stop. “And you can’t keep saying it’s complicated! You can’t keep hiding behind that excuse!”

 

“I’m not trying to hide! I don’t want to hide, it’s just—!” Yuna balked, trying to stave away tears before they could be shed. “I feel so alone, Rikku. I know, I have you, the people in Besaid and Home, and so many people in Spira. But, I feel so alone without him! Without Tidus!”

 

Rikku sank back to her bed, brows furrowing and folding her arms, wanting to speak but letting Yuna continue. “I don’t think I can get him back this time. The Fayth are really gone, and their dream is over. I tried looking for him in the Dream Zanarkand I saw in Sin, but I couldn’t find him! I look for him everywhere I go, but everywhere I try and look, he’s not there! And, Seymour…”

 

“If that’s how you really felt, there’s so many other people in Spira who understand what you’re going through. Former summoners, guardians, people who lost family to Sin. Hell, I bet someone like Baralai could be good for you. Even Gippal! And that’s a ton, coming from me!” Rikku exclaimed in exasperation, arms shooting outwards in emphasis before flopping back to her sides.

 

“I know, but...he’s told me a lot since coming back. I know, he shouldn’t be trusted, even if he is my guardian now! But...how many people understand me? Seymour and I—we had so much in common, I didn’t even realize it before. And, I think...that’s why things are so complicated,” Yuna deflated, eyes feeling hot as she just let the tears fall, enough to disarm even Rikku who fell quiet, even if her aura was palpably resentful. She needed the chance to just cry, as she was often denied the want to before. Folding her arms, Yuna bowed her head, finally allowing what she’d been denying for so long. “I hated him before. Or maybe, that’s what I kept telling myself. I just...I felt sorry for him, for so long. Angry at what he’d done, even if part of me understood as to why. Especially now.” She had to keep pushing, to allow that fatal truth to finally be spoken. “...I don’t want it to be there, but it is. I do feel something for him. I hate it so much! But, I do! Rikku, I’m so sorry!” It was all she could take. Gathering her knees to her chest, arms folded on her kneecaps, it provided a hollow space she could just cry. The priestess’ shoulders shook with sobs, poorly attempting to keep them as muffled and quiet as possible.

 

Rikku was silent for a long time, staring at Yuna in hurt disbelief. Could she really accept how Yuna felt about that monster? Another facet of her was angry at him, because of how he toyed with Yuna’s overwhelming, even hobbling, sense of compassion. Doing so much good made her believe he was turning a new leaf, instilling a sense of trust even Kurgum was duped enough to believe. But it wasn’t for the reason she believed. It wasn’t good for goodness’ sake; it was just another form of manipulation to get Yuna to trust him, to open her heart to him again. This time, in earnest. Not just out of a sense of righteousness like he’d made her believe during their first real meeting in Macalania three years ago. Rikku just didn’t know how or if she could forgive this. Yuna? Easy. She was a victim in this. It was Seymour she was pissed at.

 

Deliberately did she switch sides and gently pull Yuna into her arms, embracing the older woman and cradling her near, Yuna’s sobbing quieting from the silent forgiveness. She embraced the Al Bhed around her rib cage, Rikku reciprocating the embrace tightly. “I can’t forgive him, Yunie. I don’t think I ever can, even if he were defeat Sin itself right now. But...for chobobo’s sake, you’re family. It’s like what Pops said. I can’t turn my back on you—not now when you need us the most. But him?” She sighed deeply, Yuna having quieted through her talking. “I hate him, and nothing’s gonna change that. But...hearts’re kinda rotten, aren’t they? And you’re in a hard place. With everything you told me, what with you having so much in common, I’d kinda feel the same way if I was in your shoes, too.” Loathe as she’d ever be to admit it.

 

After a particularly pregnant pause, Yuna’s profuse sobbing had dwindled to minor sniffles, extricating herself slightly from the embrace and appearing grateful in spite of the hard red lines that stained her pale cheeks, the puffiness that ringed her eyes. Rikku released her, both still close. “Thank you, Rikku.”

 

Rikku stood up and groaned loudly in exasperation, throwing her hands up in defeat. “Ugh, my cousin, the hopeless romantic! That’s Yunie for you!” the girl proclaimed, letting them fall limp at her sides as she practically belly-flopped on her bed, bouncing a few times in recoil before settling.

 

Yuna scrubbed away what remained of the tears, a small smile flitting to her features. “I forgot to mention, but I did tell him that I wanted for us to get on a more friendly level first. Instead of just going headlong into...that.” It seemed keeping what she’d admitted of her growing feelings for Seymour as euphemistically as possible was a silent motive to keep the peace between them, especially now.

 

Rikku groaned again, almost rolling off her bed she was so precariously sprawled on. “Seriously, Yunie? You’re actually gonna go through with...being with him?” Rikku sputtered rather indignantly.

 

Yuna grew quiet for a long moment, sighing deeply. Rikku would never let it go, would she? And she had every reason not to. Just as much as anyone in Spira didn’t have to forget or forgive what he’d done, let alone his worst victims, the Ronso and Al Bhed. “Do you remember when we went to Macalania Forest and found what remained of the Guado there? How did you feel about them, then? When we did battle with Garik and convinced him not to attack? Saw the Guado return to their homes?” she queried suddenly, catching Rikku off guard.

 

“I—ugh, well!” Rikku ventured clumsily, trying to find that particular train of thought. When it threaded through her mind, she clung to it and dragged it back. Sometimes it was hard to control when your thoughts went a million miles per hour. Then, she grew quiet herself, the emotions of that day flooding through and sobering her. “I...I remember feeling really bad for them, y’know? Especially with what Tromell said. Just saying you should forget them and let them just...pass on.” Her eyes widened pleadingly. “But, Yunie, that was different! The Guado that attacked Home on Seymour’s orders died when Pops blew it sky high. The ones that returned were the innocent ones, y’know? And Tromell? He’d been duped! Same as what’s happening to you, right now!”

 

Yuna gathered her knees to her chest again, resting her chin on her kneecaps. “Am I really?” she asked aloud, brows furrowing. She never felt more in the wrong as she did now. “I want to believe there’s good in him, Rikku. I want to believe that there’s someone deep inside who cares for Spira. Who wants to save it, not plunge to into total annihilation. I think he wanted to save it. It’s just...the way he wanted to accomplish it was despicable, evil.”

 

“Yunie, just—try to see it the way we do. Seymour doesn’t want to save Spira. All he wants is you, and you’re playing right into his hands. I know you think you can see through it, have a lid on it all—but, do you really?” Rikku implored, eyes full of worry that was enough to cause Yuna to look away from how guilty it made her feel. Wanting to take Rikku’s pain away and make her happy.

 

“I know what he wants, and Seymour knows it, too. I remember him telling me he’d be like Lord Zaon, and that he’s my guardian now. That he has a new duty. He knows that I know, Rikku. Just because there’s a little something there doesn’t mean he has some grip on me. I won’t let him,” Yuna swore with conviction, gazing at the blonde with full earnestness in her eyes. Enough that it convinced Rikku, at the very least. The Al Bhed visibly sighed in relief.

 

Growing contemplative, Rikku resorted to playing with one her braids as a means of distraction, to gather her thoughts. “Say he does pull through as a hero and we all defeat Sin. And that we all make it through okay. Do you honestly think you and him could have some kinda life together after all this?”

 

It was here that Yuna’s expression became heavy again, as though she’d shouldered something enormous in that instant. “...I never thought about it. I could think of only two. That he’d either sacrifice himself fighting Sin, or I’d send him once and for all. The idea of a life with him after never crossed my mind,” Yuna admitted, sighing deeply. “Feelings or no, he can’t live beyond this. Spira isn’t his world anymore.”

 

Without even saying it, she knew this was true. As happy as having beckoned Unsent in Spira made those who’d lost people precious to them, they couldn’t stay. Yuna still remembered the final Sending she ever danced, of the enormous scattering of pyreflies that was of a like Spira had never seen before. The spirits of the aeons, Unsent, and all else dissipating in the sky so brightly it caused the night to appear like day for the longest instant. To float upon a sea of gold, illuminated clouds that was from that final dance, was something she’d never forget. At the very least, it caused Rikku to sag in relief, even if her cousin was polite enough not to gloat.

 

“Why don’t we get to sleep?” Yuna suggested gently. “Tomorrow’s probably gonna be busy, anyways.”

 


 

It was barely past midnight when Yuna felt compelled to awake, finding herself locking eyes with a woman with dark, clay-hued skin and light blue eyes. A single finger was raised to her lips, the priestess feeling a faint tremor of shock in spite of the woman’s beckon. In tandem they glanced at Rikku who was so heavily asleep that one of her flash bombs could detonate and it was unlikely she’d do more than roll over in her sleep. Bidding silence, Yuna arose from the bed and stood before the woman, about to ask who she was before she shook her head and pointed at the door. “Follow me,” she murmured, but Yuna was unsure if anyone but herself had heard her.

 

The brunette beckoned for Yuna to follow as she passed transiently through door, Yuna having to open it. Once in the quiet of the outside corridor, she finally asked, “Who are you?”

 

Her guide was silent for a long moment, ensuring they were alone. “I am Meiyou, the old goddess of light. I cannot explain now. Come, we must descend to the Underground,” Meiyou said firmly, Yuna nodding in comprehension. From what she’d learnt of the history that Bevelle had long kept locked away, before Yevon came into being the ruling theocracy, there had been a pagan faith. One she couldn’t believe existed. But, who was she to know? Still so much was hidden away, and she wanted to trust this woman. Especially when so many unknowns still existed, they had to take whatever they could get.

 

Both women journeyed in companionable silence, Yuna silently marveling at how deserted the way below was. They took turns that averted from the usual ways she knew of, first thinking of the platform in the courtroom that served as the primary way to descend. When she realized they weren’t headed towards the Underground, she pressed her guide with a questioning gaze, Meiyou deciding upon answering. “We are going to the dungeon nearest Via Purifico. You know of it.”

 

“I do, but what’s waiting there? Can’t you tell me that much?” Yuna queried, brow puckered in bemusement.

 

Meiyou ushered them both to a caged lift, barring it shut as the machina it utilized shuddered to life. They began their descent, the light disappearing into darkness, save for a single overhead light that kept them illuminated.

 

“My brethren. I am not alone in my pantheon. However, I was the only one able to escape. You will meet the others, for we have been waiting for you, High Summoner. You are the only one we can turn to for help,” Meiyou explained, the lift then shuddering to a halt and both disembarked.

 

Via Purifico was always familiar no matter the circumstances. Especially considering her trial there years ago, the priestess always felt a strange sort of trepidation at being here, especially since she avoided it for years. Now, it had less to do with fear than a faint sense of anxiety. Rikku had often teased her of being a busybody where other people where concerned. Would it be a trap? It wasn’t Meiyou she distrusted; it was the fact anything could be waiting for them. Anything that could shake them off their original trail and render them lost.

 

Meiyou seemed to know where she was going as the metallic tinge of fountain water seeped through her nostrils, cool and ionized. The setting became gradually brighter until the dark, stony corridor gave way to suspended cages too small for normal movement. Yuna remembered these. It was where candidates for Via Purifico were kept until their trial began. From at least four, she could see seven prone forms slumped against the bars, one of them broken through that she could only assume Meiyou had escaped from.

 

The priestess dashed to there proximity, turning anxiously to Meiyou. “How do we free them? We can’t just leave them like this!” Despite Yuna’s worry, Meiyou seemed calm and collected. Was she sure of how they’d escape, or was Meiyou only putting on a brave face for her own sake?

 

“I was awakened for one purpose, High Summoner. As you once communed with the fayth, I ask that you take upon yourself our spirits. Take us and let us journey with you in your endeavors to defeat Sin. We are not fayth, no, but we worry for Spira’s fate just as much as you,” Meiyou explained with a sense of finality, Yuna gaping at the taller woman.

 

“...I haven’t summoned fayth in so long. How do you know this will work?” Yuna asked, staring at Meiyou’s fellow gods and goddesses with doubt in her voice, a hand clutched at her chest.

 

“Pray, summoner. Pray for our spirits and we shall assimilate with you. Just as you bonded with your fayth to together manifest the aeons of yore, so shall we. Our bodies shall disappear, but we shall finally be free.”

 

Yuna bit her lip in consternation, wondering if it would even work. A summoner praying to multiple fayths at once to gain the aeons was unheard of. But, this? Would it be the same and tax her to a level she wouldn’t be able to handle? As much as she missed having aeons to fight by her side as comrades, as much as they could potentially be instrumental in the battle against Sin, would she lose her life in the process. She voices this worries aloud, Meiyou smiling enigmatically at the young woman.

 

“Do not fear us, summoner. You will not die. But, you will not be unchanged from housing us, either,” the goddess replied with an amused chuckle, the smile crinkling the corners of her ice blue eyes.

 

Breathing in deeply, Yuna squatted on the thin bridge, doing the prayer motion and holding it. She bowed her head and waited, heart hammering into her throat. Beyond her sight, the sound of orbs whirling around her head became apparent, spinning faster and faster until electricity was conducted, feeling it raise the hairs on the nape of her neck, goosebumps forming wherever there was exposed skin. She braced as well as she could, but nothing could prepare her for what was to come.

 

Those orbs collided with her brusquely, Yuna jarred sharply to the left. She nearly screamed from the pain as it jolted throughout her body, electrifying her. Before she could recover from even that, the next washed her and made it seem like she was drowning, buffeting her to the right. The buffets continued in rapid succession, conscious becoming more and more difficult to contain. A thousand years of memories collided within her mind, making it difficult to sort through them and her own consciousness, nevermind the pain that was so searing it was blinding. Even though she couldn’t hear herself, Yuna screamed each time, her caterwauls loud and despairing. So much so her throat felt raw, as if it’d tear itself from her trachea itself.

 

Guards finally heard the commotion as the orbs continued their assault, shouting over her screaming, especially when they realized who it was. “M’lady!” they cried out in unison. “Someone get over there! We have to save the priestess!” The orbs still ringed her like those of a cosmic planet, a force field preventing them from procuring the brunette in all her agony. The butts of their rifles were slammed against the force field, only to uselessly ripple like the water’s surface. Some even resorted to firing shots well above the summoner’s head, only to fail.

 

For several more minutes it continued, until the last orb assimilated with her, its brunt being forceful. The force field faded and the recoil was immense, Yuna sent sailing over the edge to the waters below, completely unconscious.

 

And there was nothing they could do to save her.

 


 

“Whoa, whoa—hold your chocobos! What do you mean Yunie just fell over the edge and you can’t find her?!”

 

Rikku’s hands were on her hips as she glared down a quailing guard, the man stammering his replies out at the guardian. Baralai was with her, the man acting as a mediator, as he often did. All were within the courtroom, standing before the platform that bobbed languidly in its pool of illuminated fog before them that the guards had just returned from, more assumed to be below and still searching.

 

“Please, calm down, Lady Rikku. We’re seeking to rectify this as best we can. From what was witnessed, she seemed to have been—“ Baralai barely began, only to be cut off again.

 

“I see the Spiran Council is still as stunningly incompetent as their predecessors,” Seymour cut in acerbically, wearing a deep frown and visibly glowering at them as the towering man strode towards them, purposefully menacing. Enough so that the guard took a few steps back while Rikku and Baralai held their ground, Rikku folding her arms irately. “Where is Yuna? Tell me.”

 

“Why don’t you listen, you big, blue slug? Baralai was just explaining!” Rikku snapped flippantly, Seymour meeting her glare with his far stormier glower. The man in question silently gawked at the pair before his window of opportunity to speak finally reopened.

 

“She was reported being trapped behind a force field and being attacked by at least five glowing spheres. Maybe more. After the assault was finished, the final one connected and she plummeted to Via Purifico below. Thankfully, there was water. Enough that she couldn’t have been injured too much by the fall. But, the currents… We’re not exactly sure where she might have washed up,” the praetor finished, finally allowing either guardian a turn to speak.

 

“Yunie never said anything. We were talking for awhile last night, but we both went to sleep, and when I woke up, she was gone!” Rikku said in exasperation, wringing her hands together. “And she didn’t say anything about wanting to go anywhere, either!”

 

Seymour furrowed his brows deeply, violet eyes wandering to the platform itself. “I shall look for her, then. Seeing as no one else is competent enough to,” Seymour said, voice flinty and cold.

 

“Um, hello, Spira to big blue? I happen to be a two-time guardian, plus I’ve been down here from start to finish! Betcha you aren’t even aware of Via Infinito, either!” Rikku shot back to Seymour, the man visibly grimacing.

 

“I was aware of it as much as Bevelle’s Underground. Are you done?” he inquired scathingly, Rikku seeming smug at the reactions she was eliciting from the man. After all, there was no love lost between the leader of the Al Bhed’s daughter and the man who orchestrated the destruction of their original Home. Baralai could only sigh. Even he thought they were arguing like children, but given the circumstances, with Yuna having disappeared it was justified for once.

 

“As her guardians, the responsibility of finding her falls to you both. Perhaps splitting up might be an option? The Path of Repentance does diverge, if I remember correctly. In two ways, so you both can search it as you see fit,” Baralai brokered to them both, then glancing at the platform. “This leads to the labyrinth. Perhaps you might take that route, Seymour? I can take Lady Rikku to the water path, then.”

 

Rikku grumbled under her breath, turning to her back to him but seeming to accede in agreement. To Baralai, at least. “Fine. All the better so Yunie wouldn’t have to worry about Beckoning him again,” the blonde groused, the insinuation absolutely clear. This earned a narrowing of Seymour’s eyes, but he said no more. He knew better than to antagonize Yuna’s closest confidant, loathe as he was to admit it.

 

Sighing irately, the man alighted to the platform that waited, manning the controls. Though the agreement was clear, he had no desire to exchange words further with either of them. All he desired was to locate Yuna and ensure she was safe. And if it meant doing so alone, all the better. Yevon knew he wouldn’t last more than a minute if he were forced to remain with Yuna’s cousin any longer.

Chapter Text

Warning(s): T, none


This place hung with death and a false promise of redemption, a flagrance that brought him back to those early days when he remembered this sort of cold in the wake of an island destroyed by Sin. Treading through the dark, Seymour wondered what Yuna had thought of Baaj. In its own way, it was a truer expression of his psyche than anything. The cold and lonely desolation and the backdrop of a storm and fog and sea. He recalled the days and nights spent beneath tarp, cobbling fishing lines and nets, trapping seagulls to devour within the same day of being so ravenous. Making spears of stone and flint, twine and broken chair legs. Suffering through nights of cold when there was nothing left to burn.

 

And those fools thought Via Purifico the epitome of suffering. To him, this was just another leisurely walk.

 

In an expansive atrium did a figure stand alone, Seymour’s brows furrowing. Weren’t the dead supposed to be immune from such ghosts of the pasts? How did one spirit haunt another?

 

He’d loved Isa, once. She’d been like an aunt to him, giving him his ability to weave magnificent stories Guado children had been utterly enraptured by. The way their eyes would widen so innocently, the former master had sworn them the only innocent lives truly worth saving as their adult peers almost ached for death. Isa had taught him what stories widened those eyes, what made them bright for promises of sugar or the boogeyman to hide from.

 

Oh, but things changed, did they not? They always did. He’d been young and naïve then, led to believe he had two women whom loved him even though, in truth, did they? That towards his mother was begrudging. In her mind, his existence had devolved from that of a son to that of a pawn to redeem them both. A woman who foolishly craved the love of a husband that was no more. Willing to sacrifice her son for her vanity and own death-seeking. Selfish and unremorseful.

 

But Isa? Surely she was a voice of reason? No. Private journals found after the woman’s death revealed a stinging abhorrence of him, that her love of him had cultivated and crafted duplicitously so that she could pass on with some sort of weight lifted from her conscience. As she’d lied as much as his mother had.

 

Yuna, compared to them, had never lied about how she felt, or her actions. The steadfast and honest young woman who had been the heroine to his villain. His sweetest obsession.

 

“Lord Seymour? Oh, how long it has been!” She looked so much like a woman who would claim that she loved him, that she’d been like his aunt, when the truth couldn’t be further from it. A lie. Her words, her melodies and stories, and her love had all been a lie. He’d promised that he’d changed. He’d promised Yuna he was changing, but the world looked all the same to him. Though his feelings for her were true, Spira was still as irredeemable to him as it’d been then. If there was anyone to save it for, it was her and perhaps its children. Innocent conduits of change that might live to see lives without the plague of the Pilgrimage or Sin hanging over them. Death came. It would always come, and the cycle of sorrow might come to an end.

 

This woman? She was part of it. She was guilty and didn’t deserve to face mercy.

 

“All this time, and you seek to greet me as though I am still favored. Didn’t you teach me it is dishonorable to lie, Miss Isa?” Seymour began in his feathery soft lilt, his feline eyes and waning excuse of a smile. Things that did little to offset the burbling resentment in him. “You shouldn’t lie when speaking to me. You should be honest, just as much as your journals were in your abhorrence of me.”

 

Isa’s expression fell and the drags lining her features were dragged by an older age. “Lord Seymour, please—I was a younger, foolish woman then! I—” When Seymour’s gaze bit into her like venom, she stopped and sighed heavily, tears shining in her eyes. “…At the time, before I  truly knew you, I did abhor you—it’s true. I thought our leader marrying some damn…human woman was the greatest of disgraces. As though they were crowding into our diminishing people. I thought, how could Lord Jyscal do this to us? Betray us for some fickle tart who only wanted his reputation and fame? And naught else. I didn’t know Lady Cydia, not truly, yet—”

 

Seymour backed away some when she advanced, but found himself oddly lulled when she took one of his hands. “The journals you found, that I hid away: I did that because I was ashamed of them. There were others. So many others, my dear boy. It took time, yes, but as I grew to know you both did I understand that you weren’t some…crime against nature, but a boy. A sweet, shy little boy who was so, so very brilliant and loved his mother. Yevon was the Spirans’ faith, and I realized that if Lord Jyscal and out people could accept it, why not you? Why could I not accept the flesh and blood of our beloved leader? My love for you was no lie, my dear child. I loved you like a mother, and that is the truth. I only wish I could’ve alleviated your suffering, if—I’d only known!”

 

She… How did he know she wasn’t lying? Engineering some platitude so that her own skin might be saved from his wroth? Killing her could be easy when they were both dead, nothing flesh and blood about them. Only pyreflies and consciousness. Mistrust filled him, and an instability in his hate. He thought of Yuna, of everything they’d done defending Spira. Saving life instead of taking it. Seymour was her guardian, but she couldn’t change him. Not irreparably. Violet gaze fell to the floor. For the past several months, they’d been saving life, not taking it. Even if she was already dead…

 

“I’m so sorry, Lord Seymour. Yevon as my witness, I am! I’m sorry for what you endured, but I love you like my own child! That hasn’t changed!”

 

In the early days, Isa hadn’t disguised her contempt. As Tromell’s wife, she’d served them out of obligation. She’d been distant, answering them both in clipped polity, but polity nonetheless. It had changed a year or so into their exile, when she’d caught Seymour reading through her personal trove of stories. Personal works saved from previous generations she’d wished to set in something far more permanent. Seymour remembered how she’d been poised to chastise him, but hadn’t. Instead, though cool, she’d loaned him several of the books. Though there had been little warmth in regarding him, there had been something. Stirring, in her eyes. He hadn’t mistaken it.

 

Then, when he’d returned, she’d loan him more. Little by little, week by week, something began to give way. One night, she asked him how his writing lessons were going. When he’d answered well, Isa had nodded distantly and dismissed him with his books.

 

The next day, she’d informed him she’d be taking over his writing lessons, that he would learn the tales and history of their people, as well. That had seen him brighten from a meek boy to one who bloomed in a smile that thawed away her iciness. They’d become very close, after that, even declaring to Cydia one day that the woman was his Aunt. She’d smiled so much when she’d learned, a tear forming in her eye. When Seymour asked what was wrong, she said she was very happy. Though he’d been too young to ask further, now he knew better. That him being accepted was the cause behind it.

 

How his mind had buried those memories beneath his hatred. How almost a decade of loneliness had twisted his mind away from it. Yuna had believed he was changing. Perhaps there was nothing to change. Maybe it lay in remembering what had been forgotten.

 

With a sour, bitter heart did Seymour sigh. He could’ve killed her vengefully, and she could’ve faded for awhile, to come back. He could send her, but how would that be done without affecting himself, too? Striding towards the older woman, some distant want for mercy ebbed in place of that bitterness. It couldn’t wholly forgive, it couldn’t wholly forget and absolve his hatred, but it was something. Something he could do.

 

Isa gasped when she felt Seymour’s arms wind around her, of how there was tensity and peace all at once. As contradictory as his heritage. Hers wrapped around his waist, her sobs subsiding and shaking with the emotion that roiled through her.

 

“Be at peace, Isa. All is forgiven.”

 

Isa hiccupped brokenly and sobbed what sounded like relieved laughter until he felt her grow ghostly and limp in his arms, pyreflies singing as they dissipated into the ether, until there was nothing left to hold and he felt himself step forward in her absence and vanish away entirely.

 

If he listened closely enough, he swore he heard a disembodied voice thank him.


 

Groggily did Yuna awake, coughing roughly as her throat stung from the water that sputtered, eyes watering from the effort. How she hadn’t drowned, she couldn’t say, having washed ashore on some outcropping of tile and stone she hadn’t recognized. The water seemed to glow with a light of its own, casting scaly outlines of light that undulated upon the mosaic walls. It was the only source of light there was, Yuna noted. She felt like a drowned rat.

 

Rolling on to her back, she winced at tender spots along her spine. How long had she been unconscious, anyways? It felt like hours. The priestess lifted her fingertips, there a tight pressure where they’d become pruny as only someone in the water for too long would experience. She felt waterlogged and dirty, as though she’d rolled through sometimes filthy. Which didn’t surprise her. The waters of Via Purifico weren’t known for their cleanliness.

 

It hurt. Her soul hurt. It felt as though living things had slotted themselves in the empty places that had been there before, remembering how it felt when she’d lost her aeons. Beings that filled niches in her soul, Yuna’s hands trembling as her chest throbbed.

 

She’d missed it so much. After Sin’s first defeat, she hadn’t understood why she’d felt so empty. Why everything had been so colorless after, but this made so much sense. Even though it felt so much heavier, she felt like there was something in her again. Yuna wanted to double over and sob her eyes out, but she couldn’t. She had people looking for her.

 

“We’re in this together, right? Let’s stay together forever,” Yuna murmured affectionately, smiling to herself as she passed a hand over her heart before gripping the ledge of the sewer and heaving herself out, nose wrinkling at how musty and muddy she smelled. She’d need a long shower by the time this was all over!

 

Water dripped from her person as she trekked the lone corridors alone, reminded of her first perils through it. Though it was lonely, at least she had something in common with those days: she had summons roosting in her soul that didn’t make her feel so afraid. That she had friends by her side.

 

Suddenly, a piercing, shrill whistle tore through the vale of silence. Yuna stopped short, eyes widening. “Tidus?” It sounded again, louder than before.

 

“Tidus!”

 

Heedless, Yuna broke into a long sprint and tore down the dark corridor, only able to think of Tidus as her mad dash made her heedless of the fiends she dodged acrobatically, until she rounded a corner and slammed bodily into a solid wall of a person that barely reeled back a step while Yuna bounced back on her rump.

 

“Ti—” she tried addressing to the solidness, hope desperate in her eyes until she lifted her gaze and saw it wasn’t Tidus, but Seymour. The former maester appeared enigmatic until her expression crumpled, shoulders shaking. “When will it stop? When will I stop chasing after someone who isn’t coming back?”

 

Seymour wasted no time in genuflecting to engulf Yuna in an embrace, the priestess clinging to the front of his robes and both disregarded how sopping wet she still was. “I cannot say, Yuna. But, you are grieving. It will not come at once, but you will move on. In your own way.” Even if it made him bitter to know her heart was still full of that boy, that nuisance. He couldn’t deny that Tidus had changed Yuna, perhaps for the better. Allowed her a fire that rote adherence to the teachings of Yevon might have never opened up for her. It was because of that reason he could console the woman he loved without scorn on his tongue for the son of Jecht.

 

“It’s been three years—three years! I knew it couldn’t last, I knew! But…what we had felt so perfect. Like it would last forever and ever. Even Chuami thought my life revolved around him! I can’t— I can’t keep chasing shadows! I love him, but this has to stop!”

 

Seymour wished he knew what to say. In spite of all his research, every battle he’d fought with her, every moment spent defending her and redeeming himself in every way he would as she prescribed—it wasn’t enough. Infinitesimal compared to a Dream of the Fayth who had never lowered himself, who had never been her bane, but her glory. The sun to the moon. All the bitterness in the world couldn’t change that irrevocable fact. Even if they saw a flourishing of something amorous, it might never be enough. It couldn’t contend with a first love that had changed her so much.

 

“Then save your tears, Yuna. Cease crying and fight. Mourn not for the loss of the dead, for they shall know peace when Sin is gone forevermore. Your love will never be extinguished, and I’m certain he wishes for your happiness, for you to live how you want and not in misery of his loss. If he is the sun, then look to it. If he is the ocean, then swim in it. But you will have neither if there is nothing to save and Sin ravishes the world.”

 

He hated his tongue for those words, as if nothing more sour couldn’t be spoken. But, what could be done when Yuna held his heart in a vice she wasn’t even aware of? There was no way he’d be a notable contender if he continued shadow boxing with someone who was gone, a first love. What could be said when Yuna had been his, twisted as it was? But, here and now---he reminded himself—it wasn’t Tidus that had been saving her. It wasn’t Tidus that had seen Yuna have a change of heart in the hardest matters of them all, towards an enemy? Showing him more kindness than someone born altruistic and good could conceive? That took far more strength than anyone could know, and he’d witnessed it.

 

Yuna could only nod blearily in his arms, wiping away her tears resolutely. “…Thank you, Seymour.”