Chapter Four: Secret Maneuverings

Author's Note: Chapter Two has been revised quite a bit. If you have the chance, please go back and read it! Several details were added to help the flow and structure of the story. Thank you M'jai for the review! Thank you for taking the time to check out my story as well. We seem to be writing about simular subjects but after reading your story, I decided to take it in an entirely different direction.

The frigid air seemed as heavy as the ice that covered the towering mountain that stood before her. Braving the powerful frozen winds, a young woman steadily climbed the icy peaks. She stopped, at once, twirling around as her shoulder-length dirty blonde hair whipped across her rosy cheeks. She wore a royal blue knee-length chocobo down jacket with several leather belts buckling it into place across her torso. She wore a dark green and black leather headband which covered her ears. Across the front of it, a pair of blue goggles helped keep everything in place. On her legs she wore a pair of black leather pants with zippers running up the middle. The pants were stuffed into a pair of knee-high lace up boots. Small light blue pom-poms hung from the tips of her shoelaces as they blew in the wind, adding a hint of innocence to the woman's tough appearance. Taking a leather gloved hand, she brushed her hair back from her face as she surveyed her location. The pre-dawn blue sky had now faded into orange and magenta, adding color to her already flushed complexion.

"Ed'c desa." She whispered as she headed further up the mountain. However, she stopped dead in her tracks as a mammoth Ronso could be seen making his way down the icy path. She quickly ducked behind a nearby snow-covered boulder, hoping she hadn't been seen. "lnyb!" The young woman realized she had left tracks in her wake. She pulled two small daggers from the pouch that hung from the belt around her waist. She realized that the small iron blades would do little for her defence in the event of a Ronso attack. She kneeled in the snow hoping that the large beast would pass. She could hear large footsteps quickly approaching, as well as heavy breaths and a low pitched growl. It grew closer. The footsteps stopped, directly in front of where she was hiding. She could feel the adrenaline pulsing through her veins as she gripped the small weapons with clenched fists. Her heart was beating rapidly as she could almost feel the beast breathing down her neck.

"High Summoner?" The Ronso called.

"Eh? eerrr..." The woman had been caught off guard. She didn't dare look at him, as her swirled green eyes would have given her away. "I'm sorry! I'm just looking for a sphere over here." She laughed nervously as she began digging around in the snow. "Don't worry about me!" The woman's voice sounded eerily identical to Yuna's.

"Very well. Good Luck." With that, the Ronso continued down the snow-laden path towards the settlement below.

"Phew!" She sighed, as she leaned against the boulder after she made sure he was gone. "Dryd fyc y lmuca uha!" She remained there for a moment, breathing heavily before sitting up with a start. "Ur hu!" She then raced up the incline, fighting against the heavy winds. She finally made it to the rocky bridge just before the entrance to the mountain cave. She bent over, placing her hands on her knees as she attempted to catch her breath in the icy air.

"You're late." A deep voice could be heard from the direction of the bridge. The young woman looked up, to see a shadowy figure approach her in the snow.

"S-Sorry!" The woman spoke in the man's native language. "I would've been here on time but..."

"We don't have time for your little excuses." His face became clear now. His features were as if they had been chiseled into his face. His eyes were also green and swirled, but his naturalistic attire seemed to hint that he was not Al Bhed at all. He was older than the woman standing before him. A thin beard covered his masculine chin. His thick eyebrows were furrowed as he scorned the younger woman. "See to it that you don't make it a habit."

"Rodger!" She saluted him.

"You've been briefed on your mission?" The man asked of her.

"Yes. I was briefed by the captain prior to arriving here." She explained in a more serious tone.

"Good. Then this should be short." The man pulled a metal lockbox out of the green suede bag he was carrying with him. He handed the box and bag to the woman. "These are the items the captain said would be delivered to you. See to it that you don't loose them. There's an item in there of great importance on your mission. It was specially crafted and cannot be replaced. The other items are to be used in case of an emergency."

"Yes sir!" She saluted again, before taking the bag from his hands. "I'll make sure nothing happens to it!"

"Good. Now, get to your watchpost immediately. They will probably be arriving on the mountain soon. Keep your eyes peeled for anything that happens."

"Yes sir!" The woman saluted once more before heading back in the direction from where she came.

"Why did he have to hire her of all people for such an important mission?" The man muttered under his breath when she was out of earshot. He headed back towards the teleporter that lay at the entrance to the cave.

The sun had nearly reached it's high point in the sky, filtering warmth into the cabin. Tidus had been the last person that morning to wake up. Upon waking, he headed to the bar for a quick breakfast and then to a shower. Yuna was then left alone peacefully at the bar with a small pad of paper bound by three coarse ties. She had immersed herself in writing. From time to time, she would stop and hum a peaceful tune before returning the pen to the paper.

"Thash ish a love-elly tune, mish Yuna." Barkeep said, as he was busy drying a small stack of dishes with a white towel.

"Thank you Barkeep!" Yuna smiled at the Hypello.

"Will yoush be performing ish for ush?" He asked

"Maybe sometime. It's not quite finished yet."

"I shee." He returned to his work, as did Yuna. After a few moments she had completely engrossed herself in writing that she didn't notice Tidus standing behind her trying to peek.

"What'cha writing?" He asked cheerfully placing his hands on her back.

"Oh! Nothing!" Yuna blushed, quickly placing the paper and pen in her leather pouch before he could see.

"Oh, I get it!" He announced. "You're writing something naughty and you don't want me to see it, huh?"

"Aah!" Yuna blushed further. "No that's not it at all!"

"Sure it is." He rolled his eyes at her playfully. "I bet you were writing a really dirty story about me and you in that hot spring you were telling me about. You're just waiting for the chance to take me up there today and act on it." He teased.

"No!" Yuna protested. She hadn't even thought of the idea of taking him there, much less doing anything like that on Ronso sacred ground. She felt as if her cheeks were on fire. She hid her face from him in embarrassment.

"Innocent little Yuna's all grown up now." He chuckled, placing his hands just under her arms. He paused for a moment before tickling her. Yuna jumped and began struggling with him in a fit of laughter. She nearly fell off the bar stool before Tidus could grab her.

"Knock it off!" She struggled to free herself from him. She pressed her face into his chest laughing. "Please!"

"Trying to get away from me, are you?" He moved his hands to her back in compliance, embracing her tightly. He placed an affectionate kiss on the top of her head, taking in the scent of her shampoo. He smiled. "I'm just playing, you know that right?"

"Of course." She replied, feeling his warm, freshly-cleaned skin on her cheek.

"Yeah! Knock it off!" A voice could be heard from the doorway. "What's going on here, huh?" Rikku teased.

"Nothing." Tidus spoke up looking at the Al Bhed woman.

"We're ready to go anytime." Paine spoke up behind her.

"Alright! Let's go!" Yuna exclaimed, pulling Tidus along.

The trek down the mountain had not been too hard. However, finding a suitable hiding spot was another story. The young Al Bhed woman sat impatiently on a ledge that overlooked the Ronso village. Upon finding this spot, she had immersed herself in exploring the contents of the metal box. Inside was a smaller metal box. She opened it, revealing a note and a package wrapped in protective paper. She unfolded the note, reading it.

"Here is the communication device that you will be need in order to carry out this mission successfully. After you have read these instructions, please tap into unit 020 to contact me. After which, you will need to tap into the proper unit for your location. When you find the target's next location, please let me know so we can plan strategically. I've included some basic instructions and a list of all units in the network. Please do not loose these. They are vital to the mission.

The Captain"

She immediately unwrapped the package and contacted the Captain. She did not give her location, but by the surrounding area, he could tell where she was. She was told to wait, and she had been, for several hours. She had since fallen asleep using the suede bag and it's soft contents as a pillow.

"Khimari!" A high-pitched cheerful voice could be faintly heard from below. "Guess who we found!"

The Al Bhed woman immediately opened her eyes, fumbling with the device and instructions in front of her as she cursed in her native language. She pressed the buttons allowing her to view the conversation taking place below.

"Hey! Miss me?" A blonde man appeared on the sphere, waving to the Ronso leader.

"Sphere Khimari found was useful?" He asked looking at Yuna.

"Well, sort of. I found out the man on the sphere wasn't him. But as it turns out, we found him after all."

"Khimari happy to see Yuna guardian return." He smiled, revealing his sharp teeth.

"Good to see you too!" Tidus exclaimed before being pulled into the Ronso's strong embrace. "Ahh!"

"Yuna and friends defeat giant machina under Bevelle?" He asked as he let Tidus go.

"Yes! We defeated Vegnagun just a few days ago. When we came back, he was waiting there for me off the shore of Besaid, like we found him the first time. He wanted to see how everything's changed in the past two years, so we decided to go on another journey so he could find out." She explained.

"We really smashed that thing up!" Rikku exclaimed punching the air.

"Down bow." Paine attempted to calm her.

"Sphere Yuna find this morning on Gagazet useful too?" Khimari asked?

"Oops!" The woman muttered from above, which was also heard on the commsphere below, causing everyone to look at Yuna.

"Huh?" Yuna looked around trying to find the location of the voice. "I was on the ship all night. I couldn't get away from him this morning." She gestured playfully at Tidus. His behavior was beginning to rub off on her slowly.

"Ronso was on mountain patrol and saw High Summoner digging in snow for sphere."

Yuna crossed her arms in thought. "Well, there are a lot of sphere hunters. Since Gagazet is so vital to our history, I'm sure there's many sphere hunters up there looking for bits and pieces of our past."

"Perhaps Yuna is right."

"Khimari?" Yuna asked. "Any word on what's going on in Macalania?"

"Khimari not know." He replied. "No traveller to Gagazet in long time. You go to spring again?" He looked at her, concerned. Khimari remembered the night that Tidus and Yuna shared their first kiss under the light of the magical forest. He never said a word about his presence there, out of respect for Yuna. "If forest fade. Yuna go soon to see it." He cautioned.

"What? It's fading?" Tidus glanced at Yuna.

"Yes." She gazed up at the falling snow. "Now that the Fayth are gone, Macalania is dying. I've seen it a few times, but I was hoping I'd be able to see it one last time with you, now that you're back.." she told him.

"Alright. Let's go then!" He exclaimed.

"Hey! Let's stop in the Calm Lands and play some games!" Rikku exclaimed.

"Sounds like a plan." Paine shrugged.

"We'll see you Khimari." Yuna said, before giving her former guardian an endearing hug.

"Later Khimari!" Rikku also hugged him.

"See ya!" Tidus waved before the four headed down the path towards the Calm Lands.

"Captain, they're going to Macalania. I'm on their tail!"

"Good job!" A brash voice could be heard on the other end.

"Oh, and there's a blonde man with her."

"What!" The voice on the other end exclaimed.

"He's blonde and he appears to be wearing something Al Bhed. He may be a spy."

Rikku and Paine agreed to stay in the Calm lands, leaving Tidus and Yuna to themselves. The young couple decided to take a Chocobo to the forest entrance. The ride was rather quick and easy. Yuna sat closest to the bird's neck, while Tidus sat behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist. Usually Chocobos could only carry one person, but since Tidus and Yuna were both so light, it wasn't too much of a hindrance on the swift creature. They had purposely chose a larger bird so they could both ride together. Upon arriving at their destination, Tidus descended from the large bird before gingerly helping his companion down. They headed off towards the misty forest hand in hand.

They arrived at their destination within a few minutes of reaching the entrance. The two stood in an awkward silence looking at the gradually dying enchanted forest. Unable to find any other words to say, Yuna spoke up. "What was it like?"

"What was what like? The Chocobo ride?" Tidus glanced at her in confusion.

"No. I mean, the Farplane."

"Oh... that." Tidus spoke, feeling his cheerful spirit sink. He was silent for a few moments, partially trying to remember what he could of his experience there and fighting to stay optimistic. "I don't remember much of it, really." Tidus finally spoke. "I do remember... after jumping from the airship..." He stopped, and stared at the ground beneath his feet. "If this is too much for you Yuna, we can talk about something else..."

"No. Go on." Yuna replied, her voice was cheerful and full of curiosity. "I don't mind talking about it anymore, at least with you." She squeezed his hand gently, coaxing him to continue.

"I remember seeing Auron, Braska and My old man..." He said.

"So you met my father?" Yuna smiled at him.

"Yeah... I don't really remember much after that." He paused for a moment trying to catch anything that came to mind. "I do remember there were times when I could feel you nearby. I just wanted to do this..." He grabbed Yuna abruptly, pulling her close to him. He wrapped his arms around her tightly.

"All I can remember is loneliness. All I can remember is being separated from you. I just wanted to cry. But then... if I did, my old man would probably come up out of nowhere and give me a hard time about it." A million thoughts crossed his mind while part of him relived the only emotions he could remember feeling. He tightened his grip on her, as if somehow it would ease his pain. He swallowed hard. "I had a feeling that maybe you were in danger... and I wanted to help you. I think... there was another time... but I don't really remember."

Yuna looked at her companion. His eyes reflected with sadness while he expression told her how regretful he was. She could tell this was a painful subject for him. She told her experience, in hopes that it would help to comfort him. "I went to the Farplane and I saw you there, twice! The first time, you helped me escape. The second time, was when I saw the Fayth. He asked if I wanted to walk with you again, and I said yes. Then, when I came back to Besaid, you were there, like you had been waiting for me." She looked into his eyes once more. He smiled at her before letting his arms fall to his side, ending the embrace.

They stood for a few moments gazing at the misty spring before them. "In this same place, over two years ago... you kissed me. At that time, I wanted nothing more than to go to your Zanarkand in your arms. Part of me wanted to sacrifice everything just to be with you. But I knew I couldn't. After we had defeated Sin and the celebrations were over, I had continued telling myself that this one moment with you was all I needed. I never thought I would be here with you again. I had told myself that I had to let you go. But I couldn't." Yuna touched Tidus' hand, taking it in hers. "Do you remember..." She trailed off, nervously. "...What I said before you left us?"

He looked at her, knowing very well what she meant.

"I love you." She spoke barely above a whisper.

"Yuna... I-- I" He began, his voice unsteady as emotion swelled through every inch of his being. He pulled her close again. "I-- I love you too." Moisture stung at his eyes as he held her, his strength failing him. "...So much." His voice cracked slightly.

He pulled back for a moment to look at her face. Tears glistened as they streamed down her rosy cheeks, yet she was smiling. He touched her cheek, wiping away her tears, as he could feel his own forming at the corner of his eyes. She laughed, causing him to do the same in response. Tidus lifted her by the waist and twirled her around, tears of joy now streaming down his cheeks. He continued to laugh. All at once, he stopped, pulling her close, just as he had done two years ago. Their lips met again in passionate fervor. He kissed her hungrily as he stroked her hair with one hand and her bare back with his other. Yuna's arms were wrapped around him, pulling him as close to her as possible. She touched his warm skin, it was slightly rough but still gentle and smooth. She could feel his fine hairs under her fingertips as she stroked his arm. He gently lowered her to the forest floor, looking into her eyes from where he leaned on her from above. He was careful not to hurt her, as he continued kissing her lips softly, before trailing down her neck, sending electric chills through Yuna's body. She shivered, as she wrapped her arms around him begging for more of his warmth. This time, however, he didn't stop at her hood, but his kisses traveled down to her collarbone. He planted kisses all over the tender skin above where the soft fabric of her shirt began. His wayward hair ticked her chin and neck.

Tidus, afraid to go further, for the lack of complete privacy, slowly traveled back up her neck, and began sucking tenderly on her earlobe. A small moan escaped Yuna's lips causing him to smile inwardly. He settled himself on the ground beside her, never breaking physical contact with her. He wrapped his other arm around her torso, holding her arm just above her yellow vinyl armbands. Yuna was breathing heavily. She rolled to her side and began kissing him again, wanting more. As they kissed, their legs became entangled in each other.

Rikku had been busy playing games with Brother, while Paine and Buddy sat comfortably at the Travel Center engrossed in conversation. Shinra was still on board the Celsius, busy working on several projects. It was steadily growing dark. He had been leaning back in his chair deep in thought, when he dozed off. Completely unaware of the Al Bhed man on one of the surveillance cameras located by the hull of the ship. The man worked quickly, unscrewing a small panel. Underneath, there was a set of wires and circuitry. He placed a small object inside, attaching it to one of the main circuits underneath. He paused for moment, looking towards the open plains. He fumbled nervously for a moment after returing to his work. He pressed a small button on the black object after attaching it securely. He then replaced the red metallic panel and screwed it into place before quickly darting away into the twilight unseen.

"I just could never say goodbye to you. Goodbye is forever... but we're connected." Yuna spoke softly, as she sat next to Tidus on the edge of the spring. "I guess, 'I love you' was the only thing I ever felt was right to say to you. Goodbye would mean I would never see you again. Farewell would mean you would be leaving. But... I didn't want you to leave me."

"Always?" He spoke, stroking her cheek with the back of his hand. He remembered the promise he had made in this same location.

"Right." She nodded. "Part of you still lingered on with me, even though you were on the Farplane."

The young couple stared at the enormous tree before them. While engulfed in purple mist, it's remaining light still shone brightly.

"I think..." Yuna spoke up again after another long silence. "I can finally let this place go. Even though I don't want these memories we shared here to fade."

"Yuna." Tidus placed his hand on her shoulder. "They won't ever fade, as long as you cherish them. I think that's what I've realized. Besides, we can make new memories together."

Yuna smiled at him. "You know... I think you're right." She said, nodding.

Suddenly, the sound of a very large branch cracking could be heard. Immediately after, what sounded like a yelp and a the branch crashed the the ground and echoed through the still forest.

Tidus jumped to his feet and looked towards the noise. "Who's there!" He called.

"Whoo... Whoo... Who..." The voice replied a moment later.

"That's the strangest sounding owl I've ever heard." Yuna stood, behind him. "What do you think it is?"

"I don't buy it." Tidus grunted. "I'm going to go check." He picked up his brotherhood sword which he had left leaning against a tree nearby.

"I'm coming too!" Yuna sprang to his side. Tidus gave her a worried glance, until he noticed her Tiny Bees in her hand. "Don't worry. I can take care of myself." She winked at him. The couple headed towards the noise. Tidus motioned for Yuna to head in one direction while he checked the other.

The footsteps grew closer as the Al Bhed woman leaned against a tree silently cursing herself for her actions. Tidus was quickly approaching. If he came much further, she would easily be found out. She remained still. 'Twice in one day! What's wrong with me!"

"YUUUNNAAAAAA!" A loud voice could be heard from Yuna's PCS unit breaking the silence. "Is everything all right there?" Brother asked. "If he hurt you, I--I'll..."

"It's getting dark Yunie. You'd better get back to the Celsius!" Rikku called.

"Alright, we'll be right there." Yuna said. She appraoched Tidus through the thick brush. "We should be getting back. I'm sure it's nothing. Let's go."

"Oh alright." Tidus groaned. "Let's just hope it doesn't follow us... whatever it is." He took Yuna's hand as they headed towards the nearest Teleport Sphere to board the ship.

Al Bhed Translation Guide for this chapter:

Inyb! Crap!

Ed'c desa. It's time.

Dryd fyc y lmuca uha! That was a close one!

Ur hu! Oh no!

Revision Notes:

8/5/05: Added more to the last paragraph involving Al-Bhed sneakiness, as well as adding more details about why Tidus and Yuna decided to abrubtly end their little "session". ;)