Epilogue: For All Things
The Summoner's staff swung in a graceful arc, scooping up a particularly tenacious clump of pyreflies and dispersing them into the air, adding new voices to the chorus that resounded throughout the ruins of a Yevon compound. Isaaru, former Summoner-Protector of Bevelle, stepped gracefully through the dance, his bare feet passing over rocks and shattered glass, and yet his face did not flicker as the shrapnel cut into the soles of his feet. Summoners danced upon water, through fire, sometimes in unnaturally precarious stances atop stone cairns that no normal Human could have held. Little broken shards would hardly bother one of them.
There was a weariness on his face, a certain resignation, a face that had seen too much and longed to see no more. There were dark patches staining his sleeves, and his hands. If he had been wearing his over-tunic, doubtless it would have been covered by a rusty-hued discoloration.
Shelinda marveled that she could discern such things through the grainy images of a hurriedly filmed sphere recording.
She watched the face of the man she was showing it to; she had already seen the recording, many times in fact, and the motions of the Summoner and his Sending were tattooed into her memory. As was the sad look upon the face of the young Al-Bhed girl (was her name Rikky?) as she had pushed the sphere into Shelinda's hands.
"You made sure we knew the truth," the girl had muttered, "Now make sure everyone else does."
Shelinda hadn't known quite what to do with the sphere, especially after she had seen it, and felt her stomach turn to ice at its content. She had walked out of Bevelle, abandoning her post as Captain of the Guard without a second thought and taking to the road. She walked and walked, more in a trance than anything, her mind churning as she tried to think what to do with this incendiary material.
She blinked as the lighting in the room changed. The sphere recording had changed from an exterior view to one of a plain, unadorned chamber, and in it was a priestess, young by the looks of her, relating the plans of the Yevon church, in regards to the army they had been building in their secret island base, and what it had been used for.
Shelinda had been mulling on just this scene when she had made her decision. She had hitched a ride with a caravan of traveling traders, and they had made the trip from the Moonflow to Luca while Shelinda had been with them, trading her healing services for passage. At Luca she had disembarked, wandering around, and it had been as she walked around the docks, looking at the ships, that she had glanced up and seen the Sphere, and the local news that it was displaying.
An hour later, she had been standing in the office of one of the largest Sphere Network broadcasters in Luca, showing the recording to Jameso, the Editor-in-Chief of the organisation, a corpulent man who had practically walked through a wall to get to her when he realised what Shelinda had with her.
The recording was in its last phase: a short word from the Lady High Summoner about what had happened, the battle, and what they had stopped. The young girl looked grey-skinned and shaky. The recording was taken with her lying on a bed. Shelinda hoped that whatever injuries Lady Yuna had suffered during the battle were not too serious.
The room darkened as the sphere recording came to an end, and the projection disappeared. Shelinda shook her head to lessen the disorientation of suddenly being returned to reality, and tried not to twist her fingers in anxiety as Jameso plucked the sphere from his desktop, turning the pale blue object over in his hands. He looked at her, and Shelinda held her breath.
Jameso shook the sphere recording, gripping it tightly in one meaty fist. "You know what this is, girl? This is like a firaga spell in a box! This is explosive! This could be the end of the Yevon church as we know it!!"
Shelinda grit her teeth. The remnants of her devout faith quailed within her at what she was doing. But when she had learned the truth, she knew that she could no longer bear to serve such a corrupt organisation. "I know. I'm sorry for what I'm showing you, but I cannot-"
But she broke off as Jameso laughed, a short sharp bark that sounded more like the victorious yelp of a fiend than an expression of mirth. Shelinda thought that quite appropriate, what with the feral grin the man was sporting. "Sorry? Why in the name of all that's holy are you sorry, girl? This is the stuff that journalists dream of! We'll be the only Sphere Network to carry the truth, the real truth! Think of the viewership! I think we now know why we've had all those clergy types mysteriously resigning en masse. It's a conspiracy, I tell you, a conspiracy just waiting to be uncovered! And reported on! By us!!" He leaned forward, that grin still firmly in place and, if that was possible, growing larger. "You ever think of becoming a journalist, girl?"
Feeling unaccountably pleased, Shelinda found herself smiling.
It was night time in the Bevelle region. Ismene, a priestess, or rather, former-priestess, of the Yevon church, was not to be found in that holy city, however. She had removed herself to a small mountain outpost, little more than a cabin with only two rooms, that lay to the west of the Sacred Mountain, Mount Gagazet. Far enough that she could be safe from the mobs that now tore through the Temples, shrieking with anger and rage at the depth of the betrayal that Yevon, with she at its head, had planned to perpetrate against them. Sphere Networks all over Spira carried the story now, the images and testimonies of an army ready to kill, and the confessions of key members of the church who had gone along with Ismene's plans to keep the populace in line burned into their collective consciousness.
Acolytes reported burned their robes to prevent themselves being identified with the church. Priests and Priestesses who wouldn't give up their faith went into hiding, lest the masses get to them. There had already been reports of deaths. Mostly they had been accidental, people crushed by falling masonry as people attacked the iconography in the lesser temples, or there were the weak who were unable to follow the crowds and had wound up trampled. But there had been cases where panicked warrior monks turned their machina weapons upon rioters, after those same rioters had torn apart a compatriot.
Spira was in turmoil. But it would pass, Ismene was certain. Their shock would pass, their grief and denial would die down, and acceptance would creep back in. They would see what had become of them when they turned on the church. The world would hurt, but with time the pain would be but a memory, and they would return to what had sustained them. The riots were the fault of the faithless, the heretics, and Spira would see that.
And so Ismene slept easy, under a rough blanket and atop a lumpy straw-filled mattress.
She did not, however, foresee that she would be awoken in that very dark hour, just before the sun starts to move towards the dawn, at the very darkest point of the night where the starlight is enough to see by, and there is an eerie stillness to the air.
Ismene heard the soft noise on the edge of her consciousness, and it was enough to nudge her into wakefulness. She froze, barely daring to breath, as she listened with every fibre of her being. She heard the sound of something large, but soft of tread, resettle itself upon the creaking floorboards.
She opened her eyes and sat up in bed, the hessian blanket falling away, leaving her exposed to the chill of night. Ranged around her bed, she could see six pairs of lambent amber eyes reflecting starlight. There was the glimpse of dark fur, but it was too dark for her to discern the colour properly.
She didn't need to wonder what had happened to the two warrior monks who had supposedly been on guard in the adjoining room.
"Yevon Priestess hurt Lady Yuna," said a deep, growling voice, "No longer."
Ismene closed her eyes slowly and shook her head. It wasn't fair. It simply wasn't fair.
Yuna stood surrounded by pyreflies, and the pyreflies, for their part, studiously ignored her. Here she was again. She had returned to the Farplane, attempting to find the sense of closure she had felt before. But it hadn't felt this painful before.
Perhaps she needed more time, argued Lulu, backed up by Cid, of all people. Grief and pain did not leave one overnight. She was allowed her time.
It was because her grief was still fresh that she needed to go, she had argued in return. If she waited to long, she would never be able to screw up enough courage to return.
In the end, they reluctantly agreed, but had forced her to wait until at least a month had past without another outbreak of violence occurring.
Spira had been shaken to its very core by the revelations of what the church had planned for them. Violence had erupted, and barely a day went past without hearing of another riot around one of the temples, of an attack upon a follower of Yevon, or even of defacing of religious statues. The only places that had emerged unscathed had been the Fayth Temples. Apparently the people of Spira held the Summoners in even greater reverence now than in the past, now that the truth was out about what they had been forced to serve under, and yet still sacrificed their lives for the people.
Yuna felt a certain amount of relief. She could not have borne the thought of her father's statue being dishonored, damaged or destroyed.
Slowly, though, it seemed that the collective anger of Spira had burned itself out, the people seeming to wake up to the fact that the old religion was gone. The priests had either been killed in the riots, or they had fled. Ismene, the head of the conspiracy, had simply disappeared. Many of the younger students of Yevon renounced their faith, many publicly, proclaiming themselves to be in the service of Spira now. But there were mutterings, now that time had lessened the pain, that a few of the devout young acolytes would continue practicing their religion, but conscious of its flaws, with the aim of correcting the mistakes of Yevon's past.
Yuna didn't care. She never intended to be associated with Yevon ever again. Or even to be associated with the conflict. Thankfully, in the confusion, her role within it had seemed to be forgotten. People were more concerned with their own lives now, what they were to do without the church, without Sin, and the violence had seemed to jog them into realising that they were responsible for the future. There had been no calls to her home on Besaid Island. And for that Yuna was grateful.
She had needed time to shed her own tears, to throw her own pots, to beat her fists uselessly against Isaaru and Wakka and Cid, and for Rikku and Lulu to stroke her hair, hold her, and mutter nonsense at her to calm her when she awoke in the night sobbing. Even though the tears had stopped now, Yuna knew she would never be over the loss of her daughter.
But she wondered if she could find some closure.
Yuna climbed the stairs to the Farplane viewing platform. She knew that she was the only one there; the Guado guard had made a comment about no one choosing to visit the Farplane at 'this time of night'. Which was precisely why Yuna had chosen to come then. Rikku had insisted on accompanying her, and the girl was fully armed, protected and ready for action. She was determined not to let anything happen this time, even to the degree of following Yuna as she made to enter the Farplane proper.
When Yuna had expressed her shock, Rikku stubbornly said that no silly memories were going to get in the way of protecting her cousin. So she followed, even if it was at a distance.
Butterflies fluttered in Yuna's stomach as she ascended, a lump sitting in her throat that she couldn't swallow past. She reached the top step, and stopped dead.
A little girl, with blue hair and a faint tracery of veins about her temples, the mismatched eyes of her mother, and holding the flowers of the Farplane clutched in her hands, stood in the centre of the viewing platform, pyreflies drifting around her, one or two dangling from the braids in her hair, giving her movements iridescent trails as she bounced upon the balls of her feet cheerfully.
Yuna fell to her knees. Rikku shifted nervously behind her, unable to see what Yuna saw, being as she was below the level of the platform. Yuna waved her back with barely a thought, not even turning, and unable to stop tears running down her face. The most she had hoped for was a faint clustering of pyreflies, the barest hint of an essence that was the unborn child she had carried. She realised now how she should have known better. Her daughter had dreamed, had been the power behind an Aeon, how could she not be here, full formed?
It was perfectly possible, Isaaru had gently explained to her, when she had finally ask him, that her child had become a Fayth. Now he knew the truth of Lady Yunalesca, and the Final Aeons, he had quickly realised what Yuna had done. Summoners could manipulate pyreflies, yes, and forge armor, but Yuna had realised that she had not been deceased, and so could not alter her own body to accept a grafting of armor. But the the substance of every living thing was those glowing motes of life. When Yunalesca created the Final Aeon, she had bound the Summoners to to their Guardians, had made the Summoners realise the dreams, and direct the pyreflies of the Guardian to become those great creatures. What was left of the Guardian was nothing more than stone and hollow rock, with only dreams left to sustain them, and when the dream ended, they faded.
Yuna had done what only Yunalesca had ever done. She had created a Fayth, and it had been her daughter.
Yunalesca had chosen her husband, Zaon, for the bond that bound them was strong enough. And Yuna had, unconsciously, chosen her daughter. Their bond was closer than anything that could be achieved, after all, Yuna carried her daughter within her. She had enabled her daughter's dreams to become reality, binding her daughters pyreflies to those of the surrounding air, granting power that such a young life should not have possessed.
It could not be sustained. The child had only one dream, and once it was over, she had faded, and died. The trauma had nearly sent Yuna to follow her. Only Isaaru's healing skills, and the expert emergency care of the Al-Bhed medics had ensured her survival.
Yuna wanted to run to the girl, jump over the side of the viewing platform, perhaps, and join her daughter. But something held her back. She imagined she heard a voice, whispering over the song. Her father perhaps? Her mother? Not her time to join them, she knew. She would be strong, because she had to.
But Yuna still wept, even though her throat refused to give voice to her sobs.
And then she saw something that surprised her.
She had only ever seen static images on the Farplane. Figures hovered over the side of the platform. Sometimes they shifted slightly, as if uncomfortable at holding one position to long, like anyone having to pose for a family sphere recording would do. There was a slight impatience, an intolerance of having to deal with the living, that she had always experienced. As if the phantoms were humoring them, but really, they did want to get back to being dead and ethereal.
Perhaps what she saw, she saw because she was the only one there to see, or perhaps Yuna was hallucinating.
Never before had she seen a phantom sweep across the platform, to grasp another in its arms and twirl it in the air. The girl's mouth opened in silent laughter, and flowers flew from her grip as her father swung her in the air before setting her in his arms and turning towards Yuna. Her chest felt tight as she realised she had forgotten to breath.
Seymour regarded her for a long, solemn moment. Then he closed his eyes and bowed his head slightly in acknowledgment.
Behind them, ghostly images formed from the Farplane mist. A hooded child, three sisters, a man and his dog, her father and mother, a man in a red coat, a woman with a spiny bracelet, others. Their eyes bore into Yuna's very soul, and she heard their voices whisper through the song.
/She is family. She will be loved./
And then they were gone.
"Yunie! Oh no! Yunie, are you alright?"
Yuna cracked open her eyes, and realised from the uncomfortable kink in her spin that she was lying at an awkward angle on the Farplane's platform, her cousin anxiously kneeling over her.
"Guh?" she asked, inarticulately.
"You just kinda keeled over," Rikku said, grasping Yuna's arm to help the High Summoner to her feet. "You okay?"
"I'm... I'm fine."
"Good, but... um... maybe we should, you know, get out of here. This place gives me the creeps."
Yuna smiled at her cousin, and made an effort to scrub the tear streaks from her face. "That's okay. I think I've seen everything I need to."
She found Isaaru at the banks of the Moonflow, crouched down, watching the sheer beauty that was the river at night.
"All done?" he asked, his voice deceptively light.
"I think so," Yuna said, rubbing her arms against the chill of the night. She had packed a shawl, but had failed to bring it out with her. "Are you coming back to Besaid with us?"
Isaaru stood up, his knees making cracking sounds with the movement. "I think you'll do just fine without me, Yuna."
Yuna nodded slowly, biting her lip as she looked over the beautiful vista of the Moonflow. "What are you going to do now?" she asked quietly. It would have been selfish to ask him to stay, she knew, simply because she had grown accustomed to his presence.
"I don't know. Go find my brothers, maybe."
"That's not what I meant."
Isaaru smiled slowly. "You mean, what is the answer to the same question that every Summoner asked themselves when they realised that Summoners were no longer needed? I'm not sure. Maybe I'll go out, get a job fishing in Kilika. Maybe I'll get married. Maybe I'll get a dog." He gave her a sidelong look. "Maybe not."
Yuna glanced away, pressing her lips together to stifle her smirk.
"Whichever way it goes, I do want to thank you, Yuna." He approached her, laying his hand on her shoulders. "For, if nothing else, showing me the folly of doing what people tell me."
Yuna had no tears. She had cried herself out on the Farplane, but she still threw her arms around him, barely able to stretch them about the bulk of his robes, and she felt the gentle squeeze as he returned the embrace. She didn't even object when, as he drew away, he placed a chaste kiss upon her cheek.
"I'll see you around, Lady Yuna," he said, before drawing away, and starting away down the bank towards where the Shoopuff sat waiting to take passengers across the wide river.
Yuna turned back to the Moonflow, and wasn't sure how long it was until she heard the footsteps of the girl she had told to wait for her back in Guadosalam.
"Yunie?" Rikku walked up to her cousin's side, following her eyes outwards to see what it was Yuna was looking at. When she failed to see anything noteworthy, she frowned and looked at Yuna's profile. "Ready to go?"
Yuna took a deep breath. "Yes," she said, "I'm ready to go home."
- The End.