Grazhir :: Final Fantasy :: Kaleidoscope :: 05 :: Reunion

Kaleidoscope :: 05 :: Reunion

Macalania: The ceremony was, of necessity, very private and very quietly done, though none of the details were skimped. Yuna stood as the only witness, but that was enough. Seymour and Tidus were joined in a traditional Guado ceremony of marriage shortly after the noon meal, and they sealed it with a brief, chaste kiss.

They spent the afternoon and well into the evening plotting, trying to make a plan for every possible contingency they might face once they reached Bevelle. When they had exhausted all avenues that they could think of Seymour gave orders to his men again, this time sending his spies to scatter in the hopes that they might have the luck to find any of the missing guardians and bring them up to date.

Tromell returned to Guadosalam with some of Seymour’s personal guard, and that left the three of them alone again. Dinner was just as quiet as lunch had been, and Yuna retired to her room for the night, what guards they did have immediately closing ranks to provide her the best measure of safety.

And that left two.

Things were slightly awkward at first. After all, it wasn’t every day a person got married. Seymour broke the ice, so to speak, by pulling his new spouse to him and kissing him senseless. He waited until Tidus was moaning softly through the assault before switching to his mate’s neck to further inflame his lust.

Eventually, however, he pulled back and waited until Tidus gave him a hazy look. “I would not rush you for the world, my sweet, so don’t—”

Tidus silenced him with a finger. “Seymour? You’re crazy if you think I’m going to play the coy virgin. I’m not one, remember? And”—he paused to lick his lips—“I fully expect you to make good on our earlier joining, this time in the literal sense. Okay?”

Seymour smiled against his mate’s finger, then licked it, slowly drawing the digit into his mouth teasingly so he could suckle it. When his mate’s eyes nearly drifted shut in reaction he let go and murmured, “Well, in that case. . . .”

The next morning they could no longer delay; the monks were quite insistent, after a second trip down to the bottom of the lake, that there was no sign of any guardians. Of course, neither Seymour nor Tidus were bright and chipper, not after a very long night involving multiple acts of sexual athleticism that finally caused their mating-induced lust to settle into the background like a pleasant hum.

Yuna joined them for breakfast, and after that they stocked up on supplies, gathered up both Guado guards and warrior monks, and headed out from the agency. In contrast to their earlier passage through the forest, Seymour was pleased to point out a pathway of light that stretched overhead, bypassing the fiends entirely.

They used that instead, and made excellent time back to the southern end of the forest where they could, instead of going south to the Thunder Plains, head northeast along the road to Bevelle and circle around the inland lake.

As they approached the turn-off north toward the Highbridge to Bevelle, the monks noticed that the glade often used as a campsite for travelers was occupied and brought it to Seymour’s attention. In consequence, the entire party came to a halt so he could investigate, with the monks forming an outer cordon and the Guado inner.

A lone man looked up from what appeared to be his lunch as Seymour entered the glade with Tidus and Yuna to either side of him. And then he spoke. “Maester Seymour.”

Seymour eyed the man carefully, a thoughtful frown on his brow, then nodded. “Crimson Squad candidates?”

The man nodded. “Yes, Your Grace. I am Baralai. I would be happy to share my meal with you, as I have plenty.”

Seymour considered that for a moment, then glanced at his two companions, who both nodded faintly. “Yes, but we carry our own supplies.” He turned back to the men behind him and ordered, “Take a meal break, half and half,” then accepted a pack from one of his Guado before moving fully into the glade.

The logs positioned around a central fire pit had more than enough open space to seat all of them, and Seymour made introductions as he handed the pack to Yuna first. “These are the Summoner Yuna, on pilgrimage, and one of her guardians, Sir Tidus.”

As he waited for Yuna to fetch out what she wanted to eat, he could not help but notice that Baralai seemed to be rather fascinated by her, and when she happened to glance up for a second and noticed his interest, she blushed faintly and ducked her head. By the time the pack was given back over to Seymour she looked perfectly composed again.

It gave him an absolutely wicked idea.

Seymour fetched out some fruit from the pack and handed it to Tidus, then also gave him a flask of tea before fetching out a similar meal for himself. The pack was set on the ground next to him for the time being.

“Please forgive me for prying,” Baralai asked softly, “but you are traveling to Bevelle?”

Seymour nodded.

“May I beg your indulgence, then, Lord Seymour? I am also headed there and would welcome company on the remainder of the journey.”

He arched a brow and deferred the decision to Yuna, given that it was her pilgrimage, and she might not want a stranger along, even for such a short time. She had no choice about the monks, but this. . . . “Lady Yuna?”

She blinked and cast a quick look at Baralai, then nodded. “I don’t mind, Lord Seymour. If we can help, I would be glad to.”

Baralai smiled and nodded his thanks, and their meals were consumed nearly in silence for a bit. Seymour pondered his options, then shot a sidelong glance toward the road, noting that only his Guado were within hearing distance.

“How did you come to be here alone?” he asked Baralai eventually.

The white-haired man looked up in surprise and said, “I was with the members of my squad, but after we recovered from the trials. . . . Well, I was the only one headed for Bevelle, Your Grace. My friends had other destinations in mind.”

“You must be . . . intelligent, strong, and skilled to have not only survived the trials, but also made it this far on your own,” Seymour said smoothly.

“I am flattered you think so, Lord Seymour,” was the faint response.

Tidus shot him a peculiar look, but Seymour was forced to more or less ignore that for the moment. “Does your return to Bevelle mean you will be seeking out Maester Kinoc, then? Or did you have other plans in mind?”

“I am . . . unsure.”

He was beyond relieved when Yuna ventured a question about the Crimson Squad. While Baralai’s attention was taken up with the summoner, Seymour was able to, without obvious rudeness, lean sideways and whisper to his mate. “Did you see the way they look at each other, my sweet?”

Tidus blinked slowly at him, then smiled. “Oh,” he said, putting a wealth of meaning into it.

“Indeed,” Seymour agreed and reached down to pick up the pack, then pulled out a small loaf of bread. “Are you still hungry?”

“Yeah, a little. There’s several of those? And any cheese?”

Seymour nodded and handed over the loaf, then produced the desired cheese. For himself he chose more fruit, then set the bag back down. “Wouldn’t it be interesting,” he murmured, “if those two became attached to each other?”

“Yeah, but, what you said about. . . .”

Seymour looked at him squarely and said with conviction, “I believe there is a way.” And after flicking his gaze over to the potential couple he added, “Either way, I am presently wondering if he could present us with a welcome complication, you see? If Lady Yuna is being courted by someone, well. . . .”

“Other than you.”

“Of course. Then again, it might come to be that I must tell a different falsehood, and boldly lie when I say to Maester Mika that I asked and was refused, but will remain with the pilgrimage.”

“Um, why didn’t we think of that before?” Tidus questioned him teasingly.

Seymour arched a brow at his mate and said, “Who in their right mind would refuse . . . me?”

Tidus laughed, attracting the attention of an openly astonished Baralai, then had another bite of his bread and cheese.

“Would you like more, Lady Yuna?” Seymour indicated the pack, then nodded when she shook her head. “Then when Sir Tidus is done, we shall move out.”

*

Bevelle: Seymour strolled toward his suite within the palace almost lazily, though inwardly he was anything but composed. He had come away from his audience with the grand maester in a lousy mood and suffering from a horrific headache, but he could not afford to show any weakness in public.

It had taken all his control to appear to be his usual self, and he had spent the better part of an hour persuading Mika that a wedding between himself and Lady Yuna was not to be. Had they met prior to the start of her journey. . . ? No, he had assured the elder, the Lady Yuna was adamant that marriage was a sacrament and to be revered, and to wed without love, merely for the purpose of giving the people the thin semblance of hope, was to dishonor it entirely.

Seymour had, however, slyly insinuated that there was hope for the underlying plan nevertheless, as Lady Yuna was not at all adverse to his continuing company. In that way he convinced the maester that he had every intention of following through with his original plan to become Sin and wreak vengeance upon the people of Spira.

In fact, he received the distinct impression that Mika was vaguely amused by him for some reason, perhaps due to the overweening arrogance he customarily displayed. But if it served his purpose, and if it meant the elderly man backed off from that specific part of the plans, so be it. Marriage had originally been Seymour’s idea anyway, so Mika would suffer no great loss should it not come to pass.

He was far more concerned at present, finally being free of the grand maester (and glad that he had not been forced to throw an innocent Baralai into the equation), with the issue of the missing guardians. He paused at the door to his suite, his Guado guardians falling into position around it, then assigned two of them to haunt the city entrance. Should, by some miracle, the guardians return, it would be wise to make sure that the Al Bhed girl, Rikku, could be brought in without attracting undue notice of the staunch Yevonites.

He paused again, once he was safely inside and the door was closed, to release a sigh.

“Seymour?”

He blinked and looked toward the voice, to Tidus, and summoned up a smile. “Not to worry.”

“You look pained,” Yuna observed. “Is there anything I can do?”

Seymour crossed the room and took a seat at his mate’s side, then nodded slowly. “If you would, please. I’m afraid my head is throbbing quite badly.” He sighed again after she worked her magic on him, this time in relief. There were drawbacks to having focused so heavily on one type of magic, as he could not heal himself without the use of potions and the like.

“Thank you,” he said sincerely. “You will be happy to know that Maester Mika has been convinced to drop the wedding idea. That being said, it should not present a problem, entering the temple.”

“Well, no offense intended, but that’s a relief,” Yuna said with a playful smile. Then she sobered. “Has there been any word?”

“Not yet, but I have sent more of my Guado out. Feel free to disagree, but I believe it would be wise, Maester Mika notwithstanding, to remain in Bevelle for several days before even thinking about continuing on to the Calm Lands. This is probably the first place that Sir Auron and the others will look for you. We can visit the temple at any time before we depart.”

“Yes. And, well, it’s been a long time since I’ve been here. Maybe you could . . . show us around? I don’t remember much.”

“Certainly.”

And that is exactly what they did. The next two days were spent roaming the streets of Bevelle, with Yuna unintentionally lifting the spirits of the city’s residents simply by being herself. Seymour had met his share of summoners, but none of them seemed to relate to the people quite the way she did. Far too many summoners considered the pilgrimage almost to be a race against others who might reap the dubious honor of being named High Summoner in their place.

They had just finished breakfast on the third morning when a knock came at the door of the suite’s reception room, and Baralai was ushered in a few seconds later by the Guado guards. He seemed almost shy as he approached the arrangement of chairs and sofas, and then performed Yevon’s prayer.

“To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?” Seymour asked.

Baralai cleared his throat self-consciously, then said, “I know that Lady Yuna will be journeying on soon, and I wished to both thank you again for letting me join you earlier, and to express my sorrow that. . . .”

“They’ll turn up. I have faith.” Yuna’s smile was slightly forced. “We were going to spend one more day in the city. Would you like to join us?”

“I . . . would be honored, Lady Yuna,” Baralai said with a bow.

Seymour smiled inwardly, then turned his head sharply at the sound of a commotion outside. A second later someone rapped on the door and opened it, and several people piled in noisily.

“Yunie!” Rikku nearly ran Baralai over as she shot across the room to pull her cousin up and then practically swing her around in dizzying happy circles.

Lulu crossed the room quite a bit more sedately, while Tidus bounced up to dash over and give Wakka a manly sort of hug, then clasp Kimahri’s forearm briefly in greeting. It took quite a few minutes before everyone had calmed down enough to take seats, and Yuna ended up wedged in between her cousin and Lulu, while the Ronso took up a position behind them. Seymour unobtrusively gestured an uncertain Baralai to a seat as well during the confusion.

It was about then that Tidus looked around in confusion and asked, “Um, where’s Auron?”

The ebullient mood brought on by their reunion fell abruptly flat, and Rikku burst into noisy tears. “I think,” Lulu said, “that we should start at the beginning.”

“What? What happened?” Tidus asked.

“After we fell through the ice, and Sin came, we woke up in the desert. Once we found each other Rikku was able to tell us we were on Bikanel Island, though how exactly we ended up there is anyone’s guess. Having no better place to go, and because Rikku was worried over something Maester Seymour had said, we headed toward the Al Bhed city.

“When we arrived it was under attack by warrior monks and seemingly endless fiends. There were dead everywhere. We rushed in, to help, and Rikku’s father, Cid, found us and told us we needed to evacuate, that he had a way to get us all out of there. So we agreed, and Rikku led us down into the depths of Home, to the Summoner’s Sanctum, where the kidnapped summoners had been taken.

“Many Al Bhed gave their lives to protect the summoners from the fighting.” Lulu paused for several long moments before continuing. “Before we left to board the airship that Cid had waiting, the summoners did what only they could. They performed the sending. The thing is. . . .”

“Sir Auron Unsent,” Kimahri said.

“What!?” said Yuna and Tidus as one.

“Sir Auron was an Unsent,” Lulu confirmed. “And, I’m afraid that with several summoners at work, he . . . had no choice.”

“But, he said something before it was too late,” Wakka added.

“Yes.” Lulu turned her gaze directly on Seymour. “He said, ‘Tell Seymour to use his best judgment.’”

“He . . . stood so far away, at Mushroom Rock,” Yuna said softly, “on the beach. And he refused to enter the Farplane in Guadosalam. How could I have not seen it?”

“I always wondered. . . .” Tidus frowned. “He was there with me, for ten years, in Zanarkand. He helped bring me here. I guess now . . . I understand how, how he kept his promise.”

Several minutes went by before Seymour said, “What happened then?”

“We evacuated onto the airship, everyone that could fit, and we left. Home blew up as we flew away, and we were nearly caught in the blast, but the pilot managed to mostly outfly it. After that, we went looking for you guys. Cid had some machina onboard that could locate people.

“When we approached Bevelle, though, there was a huge fiend in the air, preventing us from getting too close to the city, so Cid veered off and landed in the Calm Lands long enough to let everyone out. We came here immediately. Guado at the city’s entrance escorted us in.” Lulu turned her gaze directly on Seymour again and said, “Thank you, Your Grace.”

Seymour nodded. “Given that Lady Yuna has an Al Bhed guardian, I wished to make sure that your party would not suffer further delays once you arrived.”

Tidus made an odd sound in his throat, capturing everyone’s attention. “Don’t you think it’s weird,” he said, “that there’d be a huge flying fiend guarding the city? I mean, it almost seems like Yevon was expecting something . . . that wasn’t Sin.”

*

The next morning dawned and brought with it a beautiful day. Any dimness among the reunited friends could be associated with the knowledge that Auron was gone, and with him the loss of his wisdom and skill.

Seymour was on his own. He did, actually, agree with Auron that there was a time and place for certain truths to be revealed, and to share too early on was to invite major discord among the group. Granted, when they did eventually arrive in Zanarkand they would learn one of the ultimate truths about the pilgrimage.

Prior to that. . . . Both Yuna and Tidus had become peripherally aware that the soldiers of Bevelle were not limited to so-called approved weaponry thanks to Seymour’s habit of taking alternate routes through the palace. Subtlety was an art, of course.

Eventually it was time to visit the temple, and Seymour once again chose a route that was not standard in order to get there, within the Tower of Light, having explained that as it was their last day within the city, they should be treated to the spectacular views afforded from its heights. At that, they took the long way, the vista unfolding to greater beauty with each step they took.

At length they arrived at the upper entrance to the tower, and after soaking in their fill of surrounding landscape, Seymour led them within, and was pleased when Rikku took only a few seconds to notice something peculiar about the place.

“Huh?” Rikku strode quickly toward a panel attached to the wall that formed an archway leading to a set of spiraling stairs. She fiddled with it while the others approached, a look a concentration on her face.

“What’s a machina doing in the temple?” Wakka asked.

“I suppose it comes in handy,” Rikku responded absently, still focused on the panel.

“That’s not what I mean! The teachings! What about the teachings?”

“Hey, don’t look at me!” she objected, turning a mild frown on him.

“The panel controls the staircase,” said an unexpected voice, then Baralai stepped into view. “I like to come up here to think,” he explained. “That panel turns the top four steps into a platform which will glide down to the bottom of the tower. The priests, they aren’t fond of exercise.”

He walked over and glanced at it, toggled a switch, then nodded when the platform smoothly formed itself. “Here,” he said, “everyone get on. I’ll send us all down.”

There was enough room, barely, though it took a bit of convincing to get Wakka to join. Baralai hit another switch and the platform slowly began to move. He stepped off at the bottom and gestured at a doorway with no visible handle.

“I guess this is where I leave you. Blessings on you and your guardians, Lady Yuna,” he said softly and performed the prayer. “Maester Seymour,” he said just as softly.

Yuna was giving the young man a faintly troubled look, but her attention was pulled away when Wakka said, “Another machina? Man. . . .”

Seymour realized the blitz player was exclaiming over another panel that Rikku was investigating. She fiddled with it, then grinned when the door slid open. “What’s this stuff doing here, anyway? Isn’t Yevon against this?”

“This is Yevon’s true face,” Baralai almost whispered. “They betray their own teachings.” And after a somewhat fearful look at Seymour, he vanished into the darkness.

Seymour came to realize after a moment that both Tidus and Yuna were giving him a look, which was hardly surprising given that he was a maester of Yevon. He arched a brow and gestured at the open door. “Shall we? Who knows what might await us?”

Through the door was the entrance to the Cloister of Trials, and the more customary entrance that summoners and their parties normally used to access them. Seymour was not looking forward to it, though mainly because out of all the trials a summoner must participate in, Bevelle’s was the most annoying one to suffer through.

He decided from the outset that Auron would not have guided them through the trial, so neither would he. Lulu and Wakka also held back, which made him recall that they had been guardians for a different summoner. With that in mind he gestured the black mage over.

“This must be a difficult journey for you in more ways than one,” he commented quietly.

“It is, Lord Seymour. More so than either time before.”

“Please, when it is just us, there is no need for formality.”

She inclined her head in acknowledgment, then said, “If they have too much trouble, I suppose I shall have to give them hints.”

“Verily. If it is not too painful a question. . . .”

Lulu looked at him directly for a moment, then gazed back toward Yuna. “The first time, we never made it up onto Mt Gagazet. Down in the gorge, where High Summoner Yocun used to train, there is a cave. Lady Ginnem died in that cave. And after that, up until about a half year ago, Wakka and I were guardians for Lord Zuke, but he ended his pilgrimage in the Calm Lands. He’s a monk now at the temple here in Bevelle.”

Wakka seemed to be well enough occupied with his blitzball-turned-weapon, so Seymour simply nodded. “The summoner’s path is not lightly walked, for anyone.”

“And for you?” she asked quietly.

Seymour chuckled with only the faintest hint of bitterness. “I sincerely regret . . . that I cannot tell that particular story just yet. I did, obviously, turn from that path, though. I went into training as a warrior monk after Lord Braska brought the Calm and my father was ordained a maester of Yevon. I rose quickly through the ranks, I’d like to think through my own merits. I confess I felt little surprise when, after my father died, I was ordained in his place.”

Lulu brushed one of her braids back, and when she spoke, it was to change the subject. “For a time there I thought you were interested in Yuna. But . . . I see how he looks at you.”

Seymour opened his mouth to respond, but she cut him off. “You don’t need . . . to explain. I was concerned at first. I thought he would be . . . disruptive. I thought he might make Yuna weak, or Wakka due to the similarity in looks to Chappu.”

“Chappu?”

“Wakka’s elder brother. He died. He set aside his sword and took up a machina weapon, and died during an attack on Sin. Wakka gave Chappu’s sword to Tidus. Still, I’ve grown to like him for who he is.”

“He is aware now,” Seymour offered vaguely.

Lulu shot him a quick look, then nodded. “Had he been with us, he would have learned anyway, there in the Summoner’s Sanctum.” After a pause she said, “Lord Issaru suffered a minor breakdown and had to be sedated once he realized what had happened to Sir Auron.”

Seymour wanted to laugh, he really did.

They were not yet through the trial when she voiced another question. “Do you know that young man well? Baralai, is it?”

“I knew of him. We came upon him on our way to Bevelle, when we stopped for a quick meal. What of him?”

“Yuna seems overly interested in him. And he seems to lack faith in Yevon’s teachings.”

Seymour made a show of looking around the trials before facing her. “Any person who has access,” he said delicately, “to the inner workings of Bevelle. . . . For instance, Baralai was a candidate for the Crimson Squad. Their final testing took place during Operation Mi’ihen, right there at Mushroom Rock.”

“Oh?”

“Indeed. Though, they were not a part of the operation itself. Maester Kinoc was in charge of both, however. The Crimson Squad candidates were in the bowels of Mushroom Rock, which would be why you never saw them. That would also be why you were not aware that they were, each of them, trained in the use of machina weapons.

“Yevon teaches that machina is the underlying cause behind Sin, and that if we stop using machina and atone, Sin will be defeated forever. And yet, Yevon has approved the use of certain machina, has it not? The stadium in Luca is one such example. And even here, in the heart of Yevon. . . . The Palace of St Bevelle, the Tower of Light.

“Machina exists. People such as Baralai question Yevon due to the hypocrisy they perceive. The Al Bhed question the need for summoners to sacrifice themselves, and for guardians to give their lives in that service. In any case, I believe that Baralai is rather smitten by Yuna.”

“Why . . . do you tell me these things?”

“Because. I would prefer to believe that it is more than flattery when I say I think you’re an intelligent young woman who will not remain blind to the truth of the world.”

“Auron knew something, something important.”

“He did.”

“But you know more,” she asserted.

“I do.”

“Then what?”

Seymour shook his head. “One must learn to crawl before walking.”

That proclamation earned him an actual frown from the usually expressionless Lulu. However, before she could respond, Tidus yelled, “Yahoo! We did it!” And indeed, they had arrived at the final walkway and could proceed to the Chamber of the Fayth.

Rikku dashed off in the wrong direction the second she stepped onto it, across a panel of pure light, and skidded to a stop next to a chest, which she quickly opened. A moment later she fetched out a lance and danced back over to the party, did a little bow, and handed it to Kimahri. “Cool, huh?”

“Kimahri thanks Rikku.”

“Well, let’s go. The Fayth awaits,” Yuna said.