*sighs heavily* Rayna's not even going to bother with excuses or justifications; she's been lazy. Thank Blue-Huntress, who begged and made me feel bad. *lowers head* Thank you, Blue-Huntress...
Final Fantasy X-2 and PlayStation are owned by Square Enix and Sony, respectively, meaning they do not belong to me. I am in no way, shape, and/or form claiming to be the owner/creator of these concepts, though I do claim any characters not apart of the original Final Fantasy X or X-2 storylines (such as Rayne and Michael) mine. As such, I would appreciate fellow authors and readers to give credit where credit is due and not steal any of my characters and/or concepts. Thank you, and have a pleasant day.
(Welcome to the Gullwings)
Rayne tensed and said nothing, afraid Yuna had recognized her.
"Heeeeeey!" Rikku said suddenly, bouncing forward and pointing to Rayne, "You're the lady from Luca, right?" When Rayne didn't say thing, the young girl went on, "We saw what you did you Leblanc and her two goons after we left. …That was you, right?"
Rayne paused, then nodded.
Rikku frowned, "What's up with you?"
"She doesn't talk much." Lulu said suddenly, standing and walking to the door, "Yuna, let's go for a little walk." The younger Black Mage glanced at the disguised older, "Walk us to the entrance?"
Rayne nodded mutely, pulling the brim of her hat down a little more as they emerged from the shadowed tent into the noon Besaid sun.
Clearly as intensely curious as always, Rikku danced around Rayne with an excited grin on her face, trying to get a peek under the wide brimmed hat, "Just what do you look like? Do you have a huge scar or something? Ooooo! Or are you a mercenary?"
Rayne just silently lowered and maneuvered her head accordingly, taking a step back when Rikku got too close.
"Rikku, stop." A darkly dressed young woman with silver hair snapped at the Al Bhed, smacking her over the back of the head before throwing Rayne an apologetic nod, "Sorry about her. She has a hyperactive disorder."
Rayne just nodded, giving an unseen strained smile and pulling her already high collar up a bit higher.
At the entrance of the village she stopped, nodding to Lulu as they walked out.
"We'll be back before evening." Lulu nodded, "And Yuna and her friends will be staying the night. Could you prepare dinner?"
Happy for something to do, Rayne nodded, turning back and heading to Lulu's hut, where she started water to boil for a stew. While she waited, Rayne made a quick stop by the Crusaders Lodge.
"Are beds still rented out here?" She muttered, keeping her voice low and unrecognizable. She didn't recognize the person now running the hut, but she didn't want any more information about the 'shadowy stranger' staying with Lulu and Wakka to get out.
"Uh… yeah." The young man behind the counter nodded, "We do. Will you be stayin' tonight?"
"I will." Rayne nodded, keeping her voice low, "I will arrive one hour before sunset and take a bed of my choosing, then?"
"Uhh…" The young man blinked, "Yeah, tha's fine, ya?"
Nodding, Rayne set a bag of gil on the counter and walked out, heading back to the hut and throwing some vegetables and meat into the boiling water.
Not long after, Lulu returned with the three young ladies in tow. Then, right after they had walked in, Wakka ran in.
"Yuna's here La—aaaa—aaa…" He trailed off, stopping on one foot and staring at Yuna.
Rayne tensed. He had come to warn her, but in warning her had nearly given her up.
"…'Laaaay'?" Rikku repeated, blinking, "Wakka, who're you talking to?"
"Daaaaah…" Wakka stood on both feet and slumped, rubbing the back of his head, "That is…"
"Lady." Lulu stepped in, nodding to Rayne, "I never introduced her, did I? Yuna, Rikku, Paine, this is Lady, a friend of ours. She was born here, on Besaid, then moved to Luca about a year before you came, Yuna. This is the first time we've seen her in twelve years."
"Oh, yeah!" Wakka jumped in, laughing and smiling a bit too excitedly, "We use to have all sort'sa fun together, eh, Lady?!" He reached out and smacked Rayne on the back, making her stumble a bit.
She had to bite her tongue, and hard, to stop herself from snapping at him.
"But…" Yuna frowned, "You've never mentioned her before…"
"Because we know how Lady likes her privacy." Lulu nodded, "As you can tell from her conservative attire, Lady is a very withdrawn person. Back when we were younger she rarely ever spoke, and since she's come to visit we haven't heard more than a 'hello, again' from her." She smirked. "The most I ever remember her saying in a single sitting is 'actions speak louder than words'…"
Twitching, Rayne contemplated flipping Lulu the birdie. 'Let's see her take that for an action and get some words out of it…'
"So, Miss Lady." Rayne turned to Rikku, who was smiling excitedly, "What's your class? Warrior? Berserker?"
"Can't ya tell by her getup, Rikku?" Wakka grinned, "She's a mage. A Black Mage."
"And a good one, at that." Lulu nodded.
"…Did you know Rayne, then?" Yuna asked suddenly.
Wakka and Lulu froze, glancing at one other.
Before either of them could stutter out any more drabble that would only make interacting with Yuna and the others more difficult, Rayne rasped, "Only briefly…"
Yuna nodded, lowering her gaze.
"Hey, Yuna," Wakka said after a minute, "Lady is pretty well traveled; maybe she would know where that sphere was recorded…"
Yuna perked, nodding and holding out an orange sphere.
Rayne took it gingerly, looking it over. It was old, she could tell that much; the color was faded and its composition was weak in her hands, the molecules that held it together long since relaxed so that her fingers went into the very sphere itself.
Spheres were made of the special water in Macalania and infused and held together by pyreflies. New spheres, where the memories that they held were fresh and strong, felt like solid balls of glass. The pyreflies of older spheres lost their power over time as the memories faded, and thus lost their composition.
"Old…" Rayne rasped, holding the sphere gently.
Yuna, who had slid over beside her, nodded, "I noticed… but—"
"Watch it." Rikku said from behind them.
Twitching, Rayne glanced over her shoulder, hunkering down when she saw Rikku and Paine hovering behind them.
Rayne shook her head, then turned back to the sphere, playing it.
"So?" Rikku leaned over her shoulder as it played, "Waddya think? Recognize that place?"
When she didn't so much as move, everyone turned to her.
Rayne stared at the sphere, mind no longer in touch with reality.
"How fares the lady Magistrix? Is she here yet?"
"No, but she should be somewhere close to the gaol by now…"
As they spoke, Rayne emerged into the great room of the gaol, shuddering as she looked upon the great mechanism that lifted and spun cages like a demented children's crib mobile…
Rayne jerked sharply and sat back, the sphere nearly falling from her hands.
"Ugh…" Rayne shoved the sphere into Yuna's hands, standing and walking to the doorway.
"Wait!" Yuna called after her, "Where is it?! What do you know?!"
"The gaol." Rayne rasped, no longer having to fake it, "The gaol…" Drained and disoriented, Rayne stumbled out of the hut and over to the Crusaders Lodge, collapsing onto the nearest bed and passing out.
By the time Rayne woke the next day the sun was high in the sky, and as she stumbled out of the lodge, fixing the bent brim of her hat, Wakka and the girls were walking back into the village, the three teens looking worse for the wear.
"Girls just beat a pretty big dragon, ya." Wakka nodded when he saw her, "Yuna and Rikku ain't lost it, and Paine is pretty good, too."
Rayne nodded, expecting no less.
"Lu wanted to talk to you, ya?"
Nodding again, Rayne turned and walked to the couple's hut, vaguely aware that the others were following her.
"Good morning, Lady." Lulu nodded to her as she walked in, "Feeling better, I hope?"
Rayne nodded once more, stepping aside so that Yuna and the others could walk in.
"We have to be going now, Lu." Yuna clasped her hands behind her back sheepishly, "We still have a lot of Spira to search…"
"Of course." Lulu nodded, smiling, "However, I do have one request."
"Yes?" The young ex-summoner immediately asked.
At this point, Lulu turned to Rayne, "Please, go with them."
The girls gasped and Rayne tensed.
"You know Spira well." Lulu said pointedly, standing and resting one hand on her stomach, "And you are an experienced fighter. Spira is changing, and I worry for them; there are people out there who would take advantage of their naivety."
"Excuse me?" Paine quirked a brow, earning a stern look from Lulu. The girl sighed and looked away.
"Please." Lulu looked back at Rayne, leaving off the 'Lady'. She wasn't asking the mask, she was asking the person in hiding.
Rayne sighed heavily, working her jaw before turning to look at Yuna.
"I don't mind." Yuna smiled, "The help would be much appreciated, right Rikku?"
Rikku grinned, throwing one fist into the air and bouncing, "The Gullwings are always willing to accept new recruits!!"
Rayne sighed again, crossing her arms and staring at the stitches in the cloth tent in front of her. She was, once again, being asked to be a guardian. And not just a guardian for anyone, but the guardian of her former summoner and the daughter of her second summoner. Not to mention, guardian for a young woman who believed she was dead…
This would prove to be an awkward assignment.
Oh, she already knew she was going to accept; there was no way she couldn't. She just… needed a moment to think about everything that could, and probably would, go wrong.
'Things could get very… strained… if she finds out who I am.' Rayne reached under the brim of her hat and rubbed her forehead, 'And I'd much rather her not know… I still can't face her. Still…'
The thought of Yuna out there on her own was… unsettling, especially considering how perilous Spira had become…
"Fine." Rayne rasped, nodding.
"Yay!! We get a new friend!!" Rikku cheered, lunging and latching onto Rayne's waist.
Rayne looked down at her wryly, 'Someone gave you too much sugar today, didn't they?'
"Well, we'll be going, then." Yuna smiled, hugging Lulu, "But we'll be back. I promise."
"We gotta come back!" Rikku nodded, "We have to see the baby when it comes."
Lulu smiled, leaning against Wakka as he wrapped an arm around her waist, "Of course you do. Good luck, and I hope you find him…"
Yuna nodded, "We will."
When the three girls had left the tent, Rayne reached out and clamped hands with Lulu, grinning sternly at her from under her hat. "I will get you for this."
"Tell her." Was all the younger mage said in return before turning Rayne around and pushing her out into the sun by her shoulders.
Rayne reached under her hat to rub her eyes, blinking when her raised hand was seized by a smaller, gloved one. She then stumbled when the hand jerked her forward.
"C'mon, Lady!" Rikku giggled, "The Celsius is going to set down right outside the village and Brother hates waiting… Not that we care what he thinks." She hissed in a fierce undertone.
A smirk quirked at Rayne's lips as Rikku pulled her towards the save point.
For a brief moment, Rayne wondered if this was, once again, a game. If Michael, Sebastian and Heather were on the outside, playing and watching.
The moment passed, though, as she reached out and touched the blue sphere, and nothing but the warm wash of refreshment washed over her. No visions. No feeling of closeness to the otherworld. The voices. Nothing but healing.
"Hey, Lady, you ready?"
Rayne closed her eyes and nodded, twitching when three other hands settled on hers and the sphere beneath them warmed up, vertigo touching her stomach as the sphere teleported them to the other sphere in the ship above them.
"Woohoo!!" Rikku cheered, seizing Rayne's hand again and yanking her onto the bridge, "Hey, everyone, we have a new Gullwing!!"
"Ya don't say…"
Rayne balked at the three eager faces that ran up to her, one of whom she recognized as Brother, son of Cid and airship pilot. The other two, though…
"Lady," Rikku began perkily, "This is Brother," He struck a pose, "Shinra," The small boy in the deep-sea divers suit nodded, "And Buddy." The tall tan man in the blue pants shook her hand.
"Pleasure." He smiled.
Rayne nodded back.
"Guys, this is Lady." Rikku concluded, "A Black Mage who came on the recommendation of Wakka and Lulu. She knows Spira reaaaaaaaal good, and—"
"Hmph, good?" Brother scoffed, crossing his arms, and looking Rayne up and down, "No one knows Spira better than Shinra! Or myself."
Rayne tensed, an action Brother saw.
"You prove otherwise?" Brother raised his brows, pointing to the globe sphere behind him, "Prove."
Narrowing her eyes and casting aside reserve, as well as forgetting that she wanted to speak as little as possible, Rayne marched over to the globe and began pointing out locations, rasping as she did, "Besaid, Kilika, Luca, Mi'ihen Highroad, Mushroom Rock Road, Djose, Moonflow, Guadosalam, Thunder Plains, Macalania, Bevelle, Calm Lands, Mt. Gagazet, Zanarkand, Bikanel."
"Pfft," Brother, who had come to stand beside her, waved her off, "Anyone can name those places!"
Scowling, now, Rayne turned to him, glaring, and now pointing without looking, "Sunken Ruins, Baaj, Omega, Cavern of the Stolen Fayth, Remiem, Mi'ihen Ruins, Battle Site, Besaid Falls, Sanubia."
Now in shock, Brother sputtered and took a few steps back.
Vindicated, Rayne crossed her arms and glared at him, knowing that even though he couldn't see her eyes—
'He sure as hell can feel them.'
Brother stared at her for a moment, then lowered his eyes and turned, heading back to his controls.
"…Well, I'm convinced." Buddy chuckled, crossing his arms and nodding, "Besides, anyone who comes on Wakka and Lulu's recommendation has to be good, right? Welcome to the Gullwings, Lady." He bowed slightly, then returned to his position in the navigators seat.
Rayne glanced at the boy, who was waving to her.
"Let's take a look at your Garment Grid." He studied it closely when she handed it over to him, "Just the Black Mage Dressphere? Well, let's get you upgraded…" She leaned over his shoulder, watching as he slid her garment grid into a slot on his computer and began typing away, a device to his right sliding open and revealing several spheres. "Here we go… Gunner, Thief, Warrior, Songstress, and White Mage. There, you're all up to date." He turned to her, handing the grid back, "It works the same way the old grids did, just without the cost; press on the sphere in use and drag your finger across to the adjacent sphere that you want to access."
Rayne nodded, taking the grid and slipping it into its pouch. She had no plans to try switching spheres out in the open, least the changes to her clothes jeopardize her hidden identity, but she was grateful.
"Congrats, Lady!" Rikku cheered, lunging and latching onto Rayne's arm, "You're an official Gullwing!"
Smile unseen, Rayne nodded down at Rikku and patted her head.
It was true; Rayne was a Gullwing.
And, once again, she was close to Yuna, even if the girl didn't know it. Yuna had yet another one of her old Guardians back.