Grazhir :: Final Fantasy :: Kaleidoscope :: 06 :: Temples

Kaleidoscope :: 06 :: Temples

Bevelle: “So,” Tidus said in a low voice, “what exactly is in there?” He nodded at the entrance to the Chamber of the Fayth.

“A Fayth.”

“Yes.” His mate gave him a frustrated look. “But what are they? Do you know what they look like?”

“I suppose that depends. In this case, the Fayth within takes on the form of a young boy wearing a hooded robe that hides. . . .” He trailed off as Tidus’s expression twisted. “What is it?”

“A purple robe? With gold trim?” Tidus whispered. “Funny design on the back?”

“Yes. How did you know?”

“Because, I’ve seen him before,” Tidus whispered, then added, “In Zanarkand. I saw him that night, when Sin attacked. I saw him a couple of times.”

How was one supposed to adequately respond to that? Seymour contented himself with simply breathing for a few moments, then continued with his explanation. “Fayth are—I should say were—people. What remains is their souls.”

Tidus furrowed his brow and glanced away. “But not like Unsent.”

“Only superficially. An Unsent is someone who, at death, refused to settle. They might have died an unclean death, or had some task they felt so strongly they must complete, that they remain behind, not as a fiend, but almost entirely as themselves. Take your Sir Auron as an example. It is likely that he became an Unsent due to either Lady Yuna or yourself, because he was charged with the care of one or both of you.

“Now, a Fayth, on the other hand, is a person who agreed to be . . . transformed. Lady Yuna is inside the chamber, praying to the Fayth. And if it accepts her, it will join with her and lend her its strength. When she calls, when she summons, that Fayth will respond with a corresponding Aeon.”

His mate shook his head, obviously still a bit confused. “So, uh, is there a boy in that room? A lady at Macalania? They just . . . exist there?”

“They are bound there, Tidus, in stone. Statues hold their souls, their essence, and where those statues rest is simply where they are. The only time they leave those chambers is when summoned. And you must understand, these people chose to become Fayth.”

“No, that doesn’t make any sense,” Tidus insisted quietly. “If who I saw is who is in there, then no. How could this Fayth appear to me in Zanarkand, Seymour?”

Seymour spread his hands in a helpless gesture. “I honestly do not know.”

“Can’t we ask? I mean, you are a maester of Yevon.”

“The only people allowed inside a Chamber of the Fayth are summoners. Only for summoners will they appear.”

His mate frowned and glanced over at the entrance, rocking slightly. “Maybe, but he appeared for me,” Tidus said suddenly, then dashed across the room and began muscling the barrier open.

“Tidus!”

His mate looked over his shoulder even as he kept straining to move the barrier, his gaze briefly apologetic. “Sorry, but I don’t care what Yevon has to say about this.” Then the barrier gave just enough and Tidus had rolled inside.

In the split second of time he had to think about it, Seymour decided that Rikku would be mildly shocked, but otherwise uncaring. Lulu would be troubled, but thoughtful. Kimahri would say nothing, but very probably move closer to the entrance. And Wakka. . . . Wakka would probably gape at the utter blasphemy of his friend’s actions.

And he was right.

After a good ten seconds of shocked silence the four guardians all turned their gazes on him.

“What happens to him now is at the discretion of the Fayth,” he said sagely, then crossed his arms over his chest, hands tucked into opposing, voluminous sleeves.

*

Interlude: Tidus came out of the roll on his feet and surged forward, determination written in every line of his body, though tainted by confusion. It took only a few steps for him to enter the chamber itself, and there he saw Yuna kneeling before a horizontal high relief statue surmounted by a low, translucent dome of swirling pastel-coloured light.

Hovering above it was the figure he remembered.

Tidus stopped dead to take in the scene properly, then jerked in surprise when the Fayth’s hooded head swiveled toward him.

“Hello again,” it said.

“Uh, hi,” Tidus said weakly, having the strangest feeling that the boy was smiling at him.

“I’m sorry, I can’t really talk to you right now,” the Fayth continued. “But I will. Don’t cry. I’ll find you.” And then its head turned away, and the figure crouched slightly before launching itself at Yuna and disappearing.

She sagged and crumpled to the ground, so Tidus rushed over to make sure she was okay.

*

Seymour lowered his arms as the barrier swung smoothly out of the way and Tidus appeared with Yuna cradled against his chest; Kimahri relieved the young man of her weight without a word. Seymour extended his hand toward his mate and waited, feeling a rush of pleasure when Tidus came to him immediately.

“What were you thinking, man?” Wakka asked. “Going in like that—it’s forbidden!”

Tidus spun around to face his friend. “Forbidden? Where I come from none of this exists! Whose customs am I supposed to follow, Wakka? Am I supposed to follow Yevon simply because they have the most power? Or should I follow the customs of the Al Bhed, who are at least honest about their use of machina? Should I follow the customs of Kimahri’s people, or the Guado?

“Where I come from machina is an everyday fact of life! We have machina to brighten our way in the dark, inside and out, and to heat and cool our homes. Machina is what allows the blitzball stadium to work, gives us transportation, and helps us cook our food. There is no Yevon in my home.

“But you know what? Yevon’s prayer? That, in my home, is the symbol for a victory in blitzball! The Hymn of the Fayth? My old man used to hum it all the time. And what about here, Wakka? Yevon converted the other races to their teachings. Ronso, Guado. . . . When did that happen?” Tidus looked back to Seymour and said, “Your father, was he the first, the tenth. . . ?”

Seymour arched a brow and replied, “My father was the first Guado maester of Yevon, and was the one who brought the teachings of Yevon to our people. Lady Yuna’s father, Lord Braska, was sent at one time to the Al Bhed to attempt to do the same there, though I believe he genuinely wished for peace between the races. And yes, someone was sent to Mt Gagazet for the same purpose. All within the last century, less really.”

Tidus gave him a sharp nod and turned away. “So, I’m supposed to follow the teachings of Yevon, huh? Yevon, who only just recently managed to bring in two other races. That’s a heck of a long time for such disunity, don’t you think? And Yevon doesn’t even follow its own teachings! Yevon says that Sin came about because of machina, that if we all abstain from its use and atone, Sin will disappear.

“And yet, you’ve seen that even Yevon uses machina, and right here at the heart of it, in Bevelle. Yuna and I have seen that Yevon’s warrior monks use machina weapons away from the public eye. So I don’t care about forbidden, Wakka. And I’m sorry, because you’re my friend and I don’t want to fight with you, but I refuse to blindly submit to an ethos that displays such hypocrisy.”

“Yeah, but—”

Seymour cut Wakka off with alacrity. “No. This is neither the time nor place to continue such a conversation. We will leave here and continue on to the Calm Lands. With Lady Yuna’s permission, that is?”

*

Macalania Woods: The glade was a peaceful place. They had quietly removed themselves from Bevelle and stopped there to rest for the night, not having wanted to remain in the city. Seymour was pleased that his advice had been followed, as he had not wished to find out what might happen to them should devout followers of Yevon have overheard anything sacrilegious.

The fire pit had been put to good use and even then a stew was bubbling away, near to being done, and tents had been set up for the coming of night. There was . . . very little conversation as they ate, though Wakka looked as though he was about to speak on several occasions, and Kimahri ate quickly before taking up a watchful pose at the entrance.

“Can we . . . take a short walk?” came Tidus’s soft voice.

Seymour looked at his mate and smiled. “There is a branch of the lake just a short distance away. Will that do? But we cannot be away for very long. It is the duty of a guardian to protect the summoner.”

His mate returned the smile and turned to speak briefly with Yuna, who sat to his other side, then got to his feet and paused, waiting for Seymour to stand. Seymour led his mate out of the glade and along the path to a branching, then headed toward the lake. It was just as beautiful as he remembered.

As they came to a stop at the edge he said, “There is something on your mind.”

“Yeah,” Tidus admitted, then plopped himself down on the ground. “Seymour, I don’t think I like how things are turning out. You said the Fayth were once people, that they choose to become one. Lord Braska died when he defeated Sin, and somehow . . . somehow my old man became Sin.”

“Yes,” Seymour said, admitting to nothing in particular.

“People become Fayth. The Final Aeon is required to defeat Sin. Did. . . . Did my old man choose to become a Fayth? Is that . . . what the Final Aeon really is?”

Seymour sighed and sat down beside his mate, wrapping an arm around the young man’s shoulders and pulling him closer. “And if that is the case?”

“I don’t like it, it’s not right. I’m”—his voice dropped to a whisper—“afraid of what we’ll find in Zanarkand.” Tidus cleared his throat noisily and continued, “The Fayth in Bevelle, it said it was sorry that it didn’t have time to talk to me, but it would find me later.”

Seymour stared at the water for a time, thinking, then said, “It came to you before, in Zanarkand.”

“Yes.”

“You had never heard of summoners prior to arriving in Spira? Or Yevon?”

Tidus shook his head, but his words belied his action. “I had, but it was all very distant, so unimportant. I didn’t really know anything. Well, just blitzball. I didn’t even really know how to fight. When Sin attacked and Auron found me, he gave me a sword.

“The Fayth, though, came twice that I remember, once when I was getting ready to go to the stadium. Some of the kids wanted me to teach them how to play, but the Fayth said I couldn’t, not that night. I don’t know why I agreed so easily now that I think about it. I put the kids off for the next day.

“It came again after Sin’s initial attack. It was like time stopped or something. People were frozen mid-stride as they ran, and I was the only one who could move. Then the Fayth appeared briefly, said not to cry, and time went back to normal again.”

“Why would it say that?”

Tidus ducked his head and snorted. “That’s easy, I guess. My old man thought I was too sensitive, a crybaby. But that’s not important, okay? I just don’t understand, Seymour. If the Fayth are bound in place except when summoned, then how could it come to me in Zanarkand?”

“I am sorry, my sweet, that I do not hold the answers you seek. I myself am at a loss to understand this.” And he was. The truths he was aware of, those that Yevon hid from the people of Spira, did not provide enlightenment. The Fayth were bound to stone, never to move under their own power.

And yet, it almost seemed that all of them, Fayth, Sin, and Unsent, could travel across time as though it was merely a stroll along the Mi’ihen Highroad. “However, the Fayth said it would find you. Perhaps then it will have time to give you, and you can present your questions to it directly.”

His mate pressed a bit closer before saying, “Maybe. I hope so.”

“We will enter the Calm Lands in the morning, where many a summoner and Sin have battled to the death. Despite its use the Calm Lands is a peaceful place, and I think you will like it.”

“What’s it like?”

Seymour chuckled slyly and said, “So impatient, my sweet. We will be there soon. If you want to know so badly so quickly, perhaps you should encourage me to loosen my tongue.”

His mate’s head turned and tilted back, his gaze upon Seymour filled with sudden mischief. “Encourage?”

“Why, yes,” Seymour said with an innocent smile.

Tidus pulled away so he could scan the area and paused when his gaze reached the area behind them. Seymour looked back over his shoulder to see about what he expected, two of his Guado visible a short distance back.

“It’s too bad you aren’t a blitzball player,” Tidus commented with mock sadness. “I could have shown you some really interesting encouragement, there, under the water.”

He chuckled and drew his mate close to capture his lips, totally ignoring their guards, and kissed Tidus until they were both breathless. By the time he pulled back his mate was clinging to him limply and the sun-kissed skin of his face was tinted with a cast of red. In that moment he wanted nothing more than to push Tidus to the ground and take him, guards and guardians be damned.

Tidus let out a sound somewhere between a moan and a groan, then slowly opened his eyes to stare at him dazedly. “You don’t want encouragement,” he accused. “You want me distracted and moaning your name.”

He arched a brow and smirked. “Correct, my sweet. And were it not for the fact that we are outside, in the middle of a fiend-infested forest, and hardly alone, you would be.”

His mate smiled ruefully and tilted his head. “I wish . . . we could.”

“The next inn we will reach is in the Calm Lands. Believe me when I say I will not wait much longer.” Seymour looked up at the sky and nodded slightly. “We should return. It is getting late, and we too have to take watch just like the others.”

*

The Calm Lands: The demarcation between the forest and the plains was odd in Seymour’s opinion. The icy perfection of the woods gave way almost abruptly to desolation, a tiny canyon carved out of reddish rock; beyond that one could see lush green.

As they emerged and continued forward up the slight rise, Tidus bounded forward, then came to a dead stop at the edge of the hill. Though really, they were standing at what was almost the top of a cliff. To the west the ground angled downward and formed a path to the plains, and to the east. . . .

Lulu spoke, interrupting his train of thought. “The Calm Lands. Long ago, the high summoners fought Sin here. The road ends here. Beyond, there’re no towns, no villages. Only endless plains.”

“Many summoners stray from their path and lose their way here,” Seymour added almost absently.

Yuna flopped down onto her back on the grass and said, “I’ve always known where to go.” Then she sat up suddenly and said, “Maechen!”

Seymour looked over to see an elderly human approaching; when the man got close enough he could discern the unmistakable scent of the Farplane.

“Lady Yuna, how nice to see you again. And your companions. Perhaps you would like to know a bit more about these plains?”

“Do tell!” said Tidus.

Maechen nodded, looking pleased at such fervor. “As you know, these plains were once a battlefield. A great battle between Bevelle and Zanarkand, a melee of machina! That war left this place a barren, lifeless land. Then, time passed. The summoners took note of this uninhabited land. Great battles could be fought here, with no harm to the common folk. Perfect for the final battle with Sin, as it were. Summoners wait here, ready to perform the Final Summoning.

“Ah, to know what they must feel! In any case, when Sin is defeated here, the Calm will visit Spira once more. That’s why this place is now known as the Calm Lands. Exactly who dubbed it so is unknown. And that, as they say, is that.” Then he blinked and added, “Oh dear, I almost forgot to tell you something. There’s a chasm, a great rend in the earth, in these parts. A scar from High Summoner Gandof’s bitter battle with Sin, four hundred years past.”

“A machina battle?” Wakka asked. “They both . . . used machina?”

“Indeed!” asserted Maechen. “And now, I must away. Journey well, Lady Yuna.” The old man bowed and walked away slowly.

Tidus reached down to assist Yuna to her feet and said quietly, “I. . . . I won’t let you die. We’ll find a way, somehow.”

Yuna graced him with a smile tinged with sadness. “Let’s go.”

They ambled down the sloping path with no particular sense of haste; at the bottom they paused as a machina vehicle powered by a large fan approached and came to a stop nearby.

The driver hopped out and said, “Rin’s Traveling Agency, at your service! We offer fine goods at reasonable prices. Please consider making a purchase before crossing these vast plains.”

Wakka’s face scrunched up in obvious distaste for the blatant display of machina, but said nothing as several members of the group investigated what the man had for sale. When they had completed their shopping the man concluded the transaction by saying, “There is a conventional agency a ways to the north of here where you can rest if you need. Have a safe and pleasant crossing.” He nodded sharply and clambered back into his vehicle, then whooshed away.

“Right!” said Yuna. “We’ll head there first. The fiends here might be really tough, so. . . .”

It took some time for them to arrive, and by then they were all ready for a break. Seeing the travel agency loom up ahead was a welcome sight even for Seymour, though he did notice that there was a woman standing off to one side, a short distance away.

Yuna obviously recognized her, as she changed direction on spotting her, and greeted her cheerfully. The two women chatted for a minute, then Yuna waved everyone back. And by then Seymour was beginning to wonder just how many Unsent were wandering about Spira; he really needed to get out more if this was a prevalent sort of phenomenon.

They proceeded to fight a friendly battle of Aeons (which Yuna won), and after exchanging parting words, Yuna rejoined them. “She has told me that there is a hidden temple around here, called Remiem Temple,” she said as she scanned the edges of the plains. “You can only get to it by chocobo.”

Seymour arched a brow and turned to the southeast. “Such as, that area over there?” he said, pointing at a series of staggered grass-topped mesas with chocobos hopping and fluttering between them.

“Hm. I wonder if the agency has any chocobos we could use,” Yuna said thoughtfully. “Maybe we could visit this temple, then return here to rest?”

And they did, though it was not quite that simple. The proprietor of the agency pointed them to the northwest edge of the plains, so they went, battling fiends the entire way, including the very nasty malboro. On arrival they were freshly tired from their efforts, but hardly exhausted.

A woman was there with a chocobo at her side, and quite a few more resided in a makeshift pen. “Hello!” she greeted them.

Yuna performed Yevon’s prayer in greeting and said, “Do you have any chocobos we could use while we’re here in the Calm Lands?”

The woman glanced inside the pen and shook her head. “The ones I have aren’t trained yet. They roam freely in this area, and it’s generally a case of simply catching one, but it takes time to get them accustomed to being used as steeds. It’ll be some time before I have this bunch ready. It might be faster for you all to walk than to wait.”

Tidus bounced over to the edge of the pen and stuck out a hand; one of the wild chocobos stalked over and said, “Kweh!”

“This one seems pretty tame,” his mate observed. “I want to ride one!”

The woman’s expression was somewhere between frustration and amusement. “They need to be trained. Are you offering to help?”

“Sure!” Tidus enthused, then rounded on his friends. “C’mon, it’d be fun! You know you want to!” He sidled up to Yuna and whispered something in her ear that made her laugh, then grinned innocently.

“If you’re sure. . . .” The chocobo trainer vaulted over the side of the pen and began harnessing the birds, then led them out one by one, handing the reins for each to a member of the party. “Okay, the most basic lesson for these beauties is about control, about understanding what their rider wants. So, I’m going to take my chocobo over there”—she pointed—“and wait. You’ll go one at a time and guide your chocobo so that it runs between me and mine, getting them used to the reins. Untrained chocobos have a tendency to run every which way, so. . . .”

It took approximately an hour for them to finish, and the task had involved a great deal of laughter as the riders tried their best to get their mounts to understand and behave. Wakka landing on his backside at one point caused Yuna and Tidus to descend into a fit of giggling, with Rikku not far behind.

It made Seymour wonder if that was exactly what had been hinted at earlier. The blitzball player was rather graceful and assured in the water, but on land Wakka was somewhat clumsy at times.

“All right!” The chocobo trainer looked at them all with approval. “I really appreciate your help, so please feel free to borrow these beauties while you’re here, okay? I’ll handle the remainder of their training once you’re done.”

That being the case, the party mounted up and loped off back to the ramped earth and up, bypassing the way south toward Macalania Woods. They didn’t stop at all, but continued east, and many of them shrieked (either in fear or with delight) as their chocobos launched themselves up and sailed over the minor chasm before them, using their wings to assist and guide their descent to the other side.

There, ahead of them, was a wondrous sight; a magnificent temple rose up from the center of the space before them. Reddish rock formed high cliffs in an almost complete circle around the temple, which in itself almost appeared to be suspended in thin air, though Seymour could see that it extended quite a ways down. Rather similar to Macalania Temple in a way.

Directly in front of them was a rope and wood bridge that extended across the yawning chasm, the only access to the rock formation the temple rested on. “I suggest we leave the chocobos here for now. There are plenty of places we can loop the reins over so that they won’t wander off while we proceed,” he said.

And so they did, taking the bridge one at a time, to eventually arrive in front of a set of massive doors. As Yuna approached several symbols lit up, expanded, then faded out, and the doors swung open of their own accord. Inside was the woman again—Belgemine was her name—and she initiated another battle of Aeons with Yuna. Several, in fact.

In the end Belgemine had a request. “I have done my duty, and I believe you are ready for the trials which await you. You will defeat Sin.” She paused before saying, “I have been overlong in this world, Lady Yuna. I request that you perform the sending so that I might finally journey to the Farplane. And once you are done”—she made a half turn and gestured gracefully at a set of doors—“please pray to the Fayth that reside here. I am sure their help will not go amiss.”

“Perform . . . the sending?”

Belgemine smiled and nodded. “Even the dead must rest sometime.”

“I. . . . Yes, of course. I shall do as you ask,” Yuna said firmly.

When they returned to the travel agency a while later it was to refresh themselves, particularly with food, but also for those in the party to internalize what they had so recently experienced. Yuna had come away from the temple with a new Aeon, though it might be more accurate to say Aeons. A set of three, the Magus Sisters, difficult to control as they had a mind of their own and frequently worked in concert or to support each other, but still a very valuable set of allies.

“Well. . . .” Yuna seemed to be at a bit of a loss.

“What now, Yunie?”

“Mt Gagazet,” Seymour said, “is not a place to be taken lightly. I would advise that we begin that portion of your journey in the morning, as it is a long and perilous undertaking.”

Kimahri nodded. “Sacred mountain is harsh. Kimahri think Yuna should be well rested before attempting.”

“There is . . . one thing we could do,” Lulu said diffidently. “We have the entire afternoon ahead of us, after all. Though, I suppose, we could fight the fiends around here to become more experienced.”

“What is it?” Yuna asked, looking intrigued.

“There is a cave between the Calm Lands and Mt Gagazet, down in the gorge. Somewhat frightening, actually, given that there are tonberries within. But . . . also within is a Fayth.”

“What? Shouldn’t I have kn—oh, is it like Remiem Temple?”

“What’s a Fayth doing in a place like that?” asked Rikku.

“It is said that it was stolen from a temple long ago.”

“Huh?” said Tidus. “Why would anyone steal a Fayth?”

Seymour decided to field that one. “With no Fayth, summoners cannot train, and without training, they cannot call the Final Aeon. Without the Final Aeon, they cannot defeat Sin. That is why.”

“‘Cause then the summoner won’t die!” Rikku exclaimed.

“That must be what the thief was thinking,” Wakka offered.

“I kinda agree with him.” Tidus sighed and picked up a piece of fruit to bite into.

“Be that as it may,” Lulu said coolly, “should Yuna wish to acquire another Aeon, there is no harm in doing so.”

Seymour gave the black mage a searching look, remembering what she had told him about that particular cave, and what had occurred there. Lulu returned his gaze calmly, a gaze that was distracted away by new arrivals to the agency.

“Father Zuke!” Lulu greeted. “And Baralai.”

“Long time no see. You are Yuna? Hmm. . . . I had hoped to meet the daughter of High Summoner Braska, but I’m afraid I was unable to while you were still in Bevelle.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you,” Yuna assured the man, her gaze flicking only briefly over to Baralai.

“We came,” Zuke said, “to inform you of the unrest that broke out in Bevelle. I did not want for any of you”—his eyes strayed to Lulu and Wakka for a moment—“to be caught up in any of it should you realize you needed to return there for some reason.”

Seymour privately wondered if that was a reference to the man’s own failed pilgrimage (and even possibly a mild dig at his former guardians, Wakka specifically).

“Unrest?” Wakka asked.

Baralai stepped forward and said in his soft voice, “Word has leaked out among the populace regarding the attack on Bikanel Island. While many Yevonites feel that the Al Bhed should submit to the teachings of Yevon and cast off machina, many also feel that the attack was immoral and an affront to decency. It is, after all, bad enough that Sin kills indiscriminately. Those of Yevon should not be adding to the death toll.”

Seymour narrowed his eyes faintly at the former Crimson Squad candidate. Baralai’s voice might be soft and his general air modest and unassuming, but there was something about the young man’s carriage that nearly screamed of prideful deception and satisfaction. And, given Baralai’s voiced views on Yevon and Bevelle, he had to wonder if the young man had had a direct hand in leaking information Yevon would prefer be left unknown.

“They have been recalling warrior monks from the nearby areas to augment the forces in Bevelle,” Zuke continued, “and some people have decided to decamp and find other places to live. So, should you have need to return to Bevelle for some reason, please exercise caution.”

“We are grateful for this news and appreciate the advice,” Yuna said warmly. “And that you traveled here to tell us.”

“Well, I admit that I was somewhat chagrined when I realized that not only had you and your guardians come to Bevelle, but had left before I had a chance to give my greetings. And besides, I wished to say hello to Lulu and Wakka, as well.”

Zuke turned to Baralai and performed Yevon’s prayer, then strode off back in the direction of Bevelle.

“You are staying?” Yuna asked Baralai.

“Yes, Lady Yuna. It was my intention get in some training in the gorge with the Crusaders. I felt it would be best to leave Bevelle for the time being given the burgeoning situation there.”

Seymour gave the man another assessing look, though that time it was noticed, as Baralai seemed to shrink in on himself slightly.

“Oh? That is where we were headed.”

Baralai looked puzzled at that. “May I ask why?”

Yuna explained briefly, then said, “As you are headed there already, why don’t you travel with us for the moment?”

“I would . . . be honored, Lady Yuna.”

It was a very long walk to the northeastern corner of the plains, but it was not unpleasant, and they were shortly entering an area that denoted the start to the sacred Mt Gagazet. They crossed a bridge and wound back around to walk down the sloping pathway beneath it to emerge on a wide ledge of sorts that stretched off for a distance to the south, its irregular edge marking the height of a sharp cliff.

Somewhat off to the north was the cave Lulu had spoken of, and after parting from Baralai (who had proved to be an excellent warrior) they entered and made their way to the back end, solving puzzles along the way and battling the myriad fiends which infested it. In point of fact, Rikku had a grand time stealing from a whole new crop of fiends she had not yet encountered.

However, just prior to entering the Chamber of the Fayth pyreflies swarmed to perform a spiraling dance.

“Peh! Another fiend?” Wakka said.

Kimahri shook his head. “No. Unsent.”

A lady emerged from within the concentration, the pyreflies swirling around her and making up her misty substance.

“It is. . . . It’s you, is it not, Lady Ginnem? Forgive me. I was too young,” said Lulu.

Yuna stepped up to perform the sending, but the lady made a sharp gesture with one hand.

“There is no human left in you now, is there? Very well, then. Allow me to perform my last duty to you. My last as your guardian.” Lulu nodded as an Aeon appeared, dressed much in the manner of a foreign warrior.

After the Aeon was fairly defeated in battle Lulu said in almost a puzzled tone, “Strange. I thought it would be sadder, somehow. Maybe I’ve gotten used to farewells.”

“You’re stronger now.”

“Wakka, I hope you’re right. Yuna, the Fayth is inside. Go do what you came to do.”

Oddly, or not, Tidus chose to accompany Yuna into the chamber, and they returned a short time later, far sooner than usual, truth be told. Yuna nodded to show she had succeeded, so the group made its way out of the cave and out into the open air. She delayed briefly to speak with Baralai, and then they returned to the travel agency, to rest against the coming of the day.

And, of course, Seymour took advantage, not only of the situation, but of his tempting mate; he made sure they had one of the end rooms.

Seymour slowly stripped off his clothes after they retired for the night, eyeing his mate steadily, who was waiting in the center of the room. Once his clothes were in a neat pile on a lone chair Seymour advanced to strip Tidus as well, preferring it that way, that he did so. He liked to tease the clothing off, stroking and caressing his mate, making the blond shiver and breathe raggedly over what was to come.

And that taken care of, Seymour pulled his mate close and began kissing him while his hands roamed freely over the golden flesh, waiting until Tidus was moaning softly to walk him backwards to the bed. He did so like the sight of his mate sprawled on the bed so wantonly, with eyes hazy with desire and need, just for him.

Seymour knelt on the bed, staring down at his spouse, and said, “You’ll have to try to be quiet, my sweet. While I do not care if we are overheard, it would be thoughtless of us to keep those in the next room from their well deserved rest.”

“Yes,” breathed Tidus.

Seymour smirked and leaned in. “Then let us see just how well I can shatter your control, my love.”