Summary: Baralai and Nooj meet again two years after the incident at Kilika Highroad, but someone else's intentions doesn't bode well for a reunion.
Through the years, Nooj tries to kill time by counting the intensity of the waves that overlap on the side of every ship he has boarded. They resonate with each stroke on the wood, sending burst of salty spray on the passenger's face. Warms days are a blessing, when his amputated limbs don't feel under the weather.
He recognizes the distinctive white hair and dark skin first, not the green robe still full of Yevonite inscriptions. Baralai has his eyebrows scrunched at the sea, perched on the railings, probably willing in his heart for Sin to be reborn and decimate the world once more.
Nooj tries to approach him soundlessly, he knows the effort takes a lot with years of practice, but then Baralai is too cautious a man to not notice someone with a steel limb inching toward him on a wooden surface.
The lines of Baralai's face are bereft of any malice or joy at the sight of Nooj, just unsaid greetings and blankness, as if addressing a stranger.
"It's been a while, Baralai," Nooj starts, breaking the ice.
The sky is clear with two gulls flying overhead, so Nooj has to narrows his eyes when Baralai moves, his silver mane nearly blinding in the afternoon sun. The younger man's voice coalesces with the ocean when he speaks. "Two years."
This is the man who once trained, shot, laughed and lived by his side, trusted Nooj enough to show his back, Nooj recalls these with a pang and yet—the fingers of his mechanic arm twitch slowly, and something—somebody inside his mind beckons yet again.
"The New Yevon party has been busy it seems," Nooj continues, ignoring the whispers in his head, "what's your purpose this time?"
"I'll be stopping at Kilika to meet the head priest," Baralai admits, but not confiding any further. "And you?"
"An operation is underway," For seeking spheres, he does not say, "Lucil is over there, but they want me to come over."
"Delivering figurative speech and flowery words to boost the troop's morale in plundering spheres?" Baralai's nose wrinkles before he walks forward, but his timbre is flat, disinterested. "You still can't resist being the leader."
"What about you? I heard the current praetor's son ask the High Summoner's hand in marriage, but she flat out refused, and their popularity significantly drops in the party ever since. The next one in line…" here Nooj stares at Baralai, long enough to insinuate his words.
"We need a leader after Lord Trema's disappearance," Baralai tackles, waving a hand as if to emphasize his situation, "Bevelle is a vast place with intricate mazes and underground, one can easily get lost in it."
If only Baralai's pause doesn't catch on his ears, Nooj would have stop then and there, pretending the whispers in his head don't exist. "You must have infiltrated the old records, Baralai."
Slowly, a small scowl creeps to Baralai's eyes. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
From his past experiences, he knows that Gippal's the short-tempered one, but Baralai's easier to expose if he knows the right buttons to push. Especially if he's Nooj: former Crusader, deathseeker, ex-comrade-in-arms, Meyvn of the Youth League.
"You've done research on Bevelle's underground."
Nooj's last words hang uneasily between them, their silence fills with the gulls' cry and crushing waves. One of the sailors exclaims something about reaching dry land soon. Despite his chattiness, Nooj feels his head empty of his own thoughts and his mouth moving on his accord about a giant machina's specifications—a stranger is slowly invading his brain with words of guns, ancient weapon, Vegnagun, Bevelle, underground, and time, time, there's not enough time until--
It only takes a moment to realize the word comes from Baralai instead of him, the younger man has furls his fingers into fists, his dark cheeks slightly tinged. The swarm of hisses and incessant murmurs vanish altogether inside Nooj's head, and when he squints up to inspect his surrounding, he finds that the ship already reaches the port.
"I'm getting off," Baralai informs, and gestures the plank that the sailors has lowered for the passengers to reach Kilika. "After you, Nooj."
Knowing the reason to that offer, he silently backs down and digs his cane into the wooden floor to turn to the exit. The knowledge of exposing his back is vividly alarming even for him.
"I'll contact you soon. Let's meet up with Gippal again, just the three of us." Nooj watches as Baralai's façade slowly morphs into a blank slate again. "We have so many things to catch up."