(A/N): Hello, fellow Yunalai fans! It's been awhile since this archive's been updated... it's currently collecting dust. Lol
So entirely depreciated, the Baralai & Yuna pairing. There's too many TidusxYuna supporters, gah. Don't get me wrong, I like the main couple as much as the next FFX fan, but... Heck, even my friend agrees with me on this - there wasn't enough 'oomph' to impress us. Anyway, I plan for this story to be written within the course of FFX-2 - from Baralai and Yuna's first meeting to the end of the game when Baralai, Nooj, and Gippal are at Luca, giving their speech.
Give credit to my co-writer and close friend Razer Athane, because she basically kicks ass. XD Also, keep in mind it's a joint fic between us, so I'm clearly not doing all the work.
Disclaimer: Final Fantasy X-2 belongs to Square Enix.
The First Time
The first time I met him, the Praetor of New Yevon... I was in a state of jumbling nerves.
In any situation, for anyone… it would feel awkward to face the man, more so when I had only rejected his hand in marriage not too long ago. However, I came to realize, in time, that… they were not the same person at all.
Yuna was afraid her sudden decision in coming to Bevelle would probably give the Praetor an undesirable impression. She didn't come to visit her hometown to reconcile the marriage proposal, or to join the New Yevon cause (like that pushy, annoying priest had previously believed). She was in the neighborhood, that's all - flying across Spira in Brother's stupendously large airship. Seeing as she had just begun her sphere-hunting duties, it certainly wouldn't hurt to check out the places she has been to many times before, if only to catch up with some old friends.
She paced around nervously, hoping in some way, shape, or form that it would ease the feeling within. Her shaky steps echoed throughout the hall, and only had the strength of her anxiety unfortunately sky-rocket. She tried hard to not make her current nervousness apparent to the others, though they indeed noticed her wringing her fidgety hands together, silently awaiting the Praetor's appearance. In all honesty, Yuna wanted nothing more than to leave this instant.
Motivated by this incentive, the High Summoner rushed to her cousin's side and hastily said, "Maybe we should leave."
Of course, Rikku picked up on her obvious discomfort and gently gripped her arms to try and soothe her. Her thin fingers enclosed tightly around her cousin's forearms, giving as much support as she could to the one who currently needed it the most. "Hey, what's the matter, Yunie?"
Yuna pursed her lips and averted her eyes, not entirely comfortable discussing the matter. "Well, you see..." She paused for a moment, facing away from Rikku and her new friend, Paine; restlessly shifting back and forth on her feet. The words reluctantly spilled from her mouth hurriedly. "There was this... arrangement, um, with the son of the chairman of New Yevon…" She soon came to a stop near Paine, whom revealed little emotion on her stern face, but nonetheless was patient to hear the rest. Yuna's distinct, heterochromic blue-green eyes lowered to the ground, solemn and uncertain. "I turned the offer down, but I thought it would be kind of awkward..."
An arranged marriage - a sensitive topic that Yuna felt no desire to touch. Her first one with Seymour was definitely memorable, if not infamous. She recalled it bitterly, and every time a memory popped up in her mind because of it, she pushed it aside venomously. There was nothing of value in remembering that. All the value had been sucked dry and put into use, long, long ago. All that was left was for the memory to rot away. On account of that bad experience however, an arranged marriage was something she swore never to repeat.
While completely immersed in her thoughts, both of wonderful and horrific memories; Rikku leaned on Paine, switching her bright green eyes between the two, a mischievous, knowing smile evident on her face. "Yuuuuna..." The Al Bhed girl hummed slyly, causing Yuna's mouth to part in dread at the tone.
'Oh, no... she's giving me the look.' Yuna pouted, self-conscious, turning her face away to conceal the pink tinge on her cheeks. Rikku's bright smile only grew further on account of her cousin's actions. She felt quite pleased, proud even, at the flustered reaction she evoked. She cooed mentally, like a child besotted with a bounty of sweets. 'My beloved Yunie is growing up!'
"You're probably right," Paine said suddenly, disturbing everyone's inner peace. She uncrossed her arms. "Let's go."
There was no room for question in Paine's authority. Yuna would gladly follow her example, in order to avoid the meeting altogether. She made a mental note to thank the lone warrior later. Rikku's excitement to meet the man spoke otherwise; evident by the way she stuttered in confusion and hopping back and forth between her fellow sphere hunters, wanting them to reconsider. The attempt to change their minds soon ended with a dramatic sigh and her reluctant footsteps echoed after them.
They didn't get very far when the large titanium double doors creaked open. The trio paused abruptly to turn, seeing the heavy doors lurch forward. Three pairs of eyes were not set on the lovely designs all over the door itself, but rather on the tall, young man who exited through them.
Snow white hair swayed as he walked, completely contrasting the color of his noticeably dark skin. Yuna took notice the green clothing he wore embroidered with Yevon symbols; a thick coat and long baggy sleeves, a mid-high collar sewn with a thick scarlet thread, and the cuffs of his pants tucked neatly beneath his brown leather boots. A blue bandana was firmly wrapped around his forehead, supporting his hair, keeping it from falling flat on his face. His gentle sepia eyes glided over Rikku, lingering for a conspicuous moment on Paine, before he set his sights on her, the vastly renowned savior of Spira, she who brought about the Eternal Calm - High Summoner Yuna.
"A pleasure, Lady Yuna." He stopped to bow politely, performing the familiar gesture of respect to a fellow (former) Yevonite, before straightening himself upright. "I am Baralai, Praetor of New Yevon." His baritone voice sounded soft, deep, and tranquil - soothing music flowing through her ears. It was almost like a lullaby. The faint smile presented on his face disarmed her unease, yet she could not find the desire to return it whole-heartedly.
'So, this is the man I turned down…' Yuna thought, unaware of the fact she was observing him from head to toe. Baralai couldn't be no more than twenty years of age. Time had been very kind to his appearance.
"So, you're the chairman's son?" Rikku inquired, her high-pitched voice betraying curiosity.
From behind her, Yuna heard the sharp clicking of boots walk away, only to pause shortly thereafter. Was that Paine? She was known for being highly anti-social, but still... Yuna felt tempted to take a hurried glance, but opted against it.
"Ah. As it happens, the chairman has recently resigned. As did his son, the Praetor." Yuna returned her undivided attention to Baralai when hearing this news, curious to know why. "They were trying to take too much power. We had to ask them to leave." He appeared sympathetic for the two people previously in power, but lacked the remorse to go along with it. It didn't matter, since this meant that she was off the hook. She couldn't be any happier. "Now the younger members run the party – by mutual consensus, of course," Baralai remarked, letting the girls know their position as one of the three divided factions was more diplomatic than abusive. And Yuna appreciated that way of thinking, more than anything.
"I'm sorry to hear that," she smiled, clasping her hands together in a silent sign of relief.
Noticing this, he forced a thin smile on his face out of sheer politeness. It was nice to see some compassion. "So, you see, Lady Yuna," Baralai continued, raising a hand to his chest, "It is not I that was meant to marry the High Summoner."
"Oh!" She gasped. A hand flew to her lips, the palm itself almost covering them entirely. Strong surprise flickered across her eyes, and she felt embarrassed that he had to mention it, and could feel the heat rising to her cheeks. 'He overheard our conversation?'
"Not that we wouldn't appreciate your support. On the contrary, you'd be most welcome." He smiled, courteous and hopeful. "I understand if your feelings toward Yevon are mixed. But I would hope that you could put that aside and join our cause." Yuna vaguely recalled Maechen mentioning the New Yevon Party relying less on religion and more on the way of life in Spira. 'One thing at a time,' was it? It's a refreshing start, considering Yu Yevon's old customs, which remained loyal to age-old traditions… Until two years ago, of course, when Yuna brought the Eternal Calm.
"The world is changing, and there are many who are finding it difficult to keep up…" He strayed with his own musings, drifting himself to a slight walk. Baralai then turned to face them, his sepia eyes lukewarm with sincerity. "New Yevon wishes to help those who feel lost in the winds of change."
Something rare to come by in the steel-hardened gazes of the disciplined monks and calm, reserved nuns.
Baralai made her want to believe in his words for a better future.
"If you'll excuse me," he said suddenly, "There are matters which require my attention." She had nearly forgotten she dragged him out of the middle of his business to personally greet them. Baralai turned to leave, but halted as if something had just occurred to him. "Oh, and should you come across any spheres of Spira's past, please do let us know." Yuna most likely wouldn't, due to her lack of trust for her hometown and the people and what they had done to her prior to the defeat of Sin.
She gave a tentative smile, though, merely to reassure him, and dipped her head in gratitude of his humble audience.
"My Lady," Baralai politely dismissed himself, leaving the three girls to themselves again. Yuna watched him go, taking a few steps forward, the courage to call him back now lost. She had wanted to ask if he perhaps met her before in another time and place, but the question had died on her lips by the time he left. 'Why is it that... he feels so familiar to me?'
"So..." Rikku giggled, skipping over to Yuna's side and squeezing her arm affectionately, "What do you think?"
Yuna's eyes widened at the implication behind the bubbly youth's tone, in which the crimson blush on her cheeks once again flared. "Wh-what?" Ha! To think of Baralai in that sense... absolutely not. Okay fine, he was good looking, and by what she had seen, had a kind heart, but… Yuna's heart belonged to him. Tidus. There was just no question.
She still couldn't deny that Baralai was very striking...
Shameful of where her thoughts were drifting, Yuna rushed to her other companion, seeking advice. "Paine?"
The warrior turned her face to Yuna with bland scarlet eyes, obviously bored out of her mind.
"I think I've heard enough. What now?" 'So much for friendly advice…' Yuna thought, in dismal distress.
"Well? What are you waiting for?" the Al Bhed girl chimed.
All Yuna could give was a very unintelligible, "Huh?"
"Go and say goodbye to him!"
"B-but... he's busy!"
"That didn't stop him from coming outside to see you." She smirked, dragging her stuttering cousin to the entrance. Rikku found it infinitely amusing that she was dead set on seeing him. It was just one goodbye, goodness! Yuna's shyness baffled her sometimes. With one last push, the nineteen-year-old stumbled forward, and clumsily regained her balance by clutching onto the door nearby.
Paine rolled her eyes at Rikku's antics and crossed her arms apathetically. "Make it quick." Yuna made sure to throw a timid look over her shoulder, pleading at her friends to change their minds, before she caved in. Trotting inside the gloomy chamber, Yuna could hear few of the priests hum the Hymn of the Fayth. It used to be a melody of solace for her misery and sorrow, but now it seemed so hollow and meaningless... but still comforting and nostalgic... That too had memories rise in her mind of times past. 'Ooh... dwelling on the past for too long can be quite unhealthy,' she chastised herself, shivering.
The mysterious cold haze, which shrouded the floor of this building, wisped around her feet as she walked, causing goose bumps to erupt all over her pale, exposed skin. To gather some heat, Yuna rubbed at her arms to generate some friction. 'I never did like this place,' she admitted solemnly, heaving a deep sigh, which became a visible white puff of cold air. It took some time for the young woman to realize she didn't know where Baralai currently was. And this was a certainly big place, too...
"Um... Where may I find the Praetor?" Yuna politely asked a passing priest.
"He is busy at the moment..."
"It won't take too long," she said, wearing a demure smile. The man couldn't say no to such a pretty face, let alone the High Summoner herself.
"Ride the lift there. It will take you to him."
Yuna politely thanked him, knowing vaguely what lift he was referring to. Venturing down a familiar path, she soon reached the hovering lift and slowly slid a hand on the cold metal railing, her mind plagued with unpleasant events of the past.
It was here she had faced them, the four intimidating Maesters of Spira, desperate for understanding of her crimes. Even after learning the truth, of how Yu Yevon's strongest followers were deceitful to every hopeless believer, who acted like sheep to the guileful shepherd, Yuna was willing for a simple compromise - to fight Sin another way. They all but brushed aside her pleas, however, and left her for dead in the Via Purifico, which was infested with powerful fiends unimaginable.
She did not dare to forgive them. Ever.
But now, times have changed since the start of the Eternal Calm. Baralai had graciously made the first step towards a possible friendship and Yuna would gladly do the same, because they shared the same beliefs. It was hard not to relate to him. After all, she always fought for the greater good. New Yevon was hoping to go towards the greater good, too.
Affirmed by this decision, the High Summoner stepped onto the lift and allowed it to guide her to the platform above, where business had demanded of the young Praetor. Once off, she carefully approached them, Baralai himself and that same priest from earlier who thought she came to join New Yevon. 'Oh, joy... what will he think of me now?'
To see the Praetor personally and say goodbye to him was practically courtship in the eyes of the hopeful. Now, Yuna was nervous to go through with something this simple, if the priest would decide to make this very complicated.
"...we have to do something about the Youth League, Praetor. They left their doors wide open to encourage many young people to be recruited and their numbers are increasing at an unnaturally rapid rate."
"We shouldn't commit all of our undivided attention on the rivaling faction," Baralai advised softly, his tone firm and ridden with authority that may have even made Auron proud if he were still here. "There are minor issues, which needs tending to."
"I am well aware of that, Praetor, however–."
"Like for example, the Moonflow." It seemed Baralai possessed no qualms in cutting off the priest mid-sentence, from the way he completely disregarded the disapproving look he was rewarded with. "I hear there is a high level of banditry on the main road. Why not send some troops to defend the merchants and cargo? They can also do well to exterminate some of the fiends..." He trailed off, granting the priest an opportunity to speak.
When it came to Yuna's knowledge of politeness and its various expressions, the Praetor appeared to be challenging the middle-aged man to put in his own critical word. How bold, she mused. The priest, having no desire to push their discussion into a fully-fledged argument, forced a thoughtful smile on his face, giving the false impression he was considering it.
"You are right, of course, my Praetor. The world doesn't always have to revolve around major concerns. I will alert the warrior monks of this– Ah! My Lady!"
"Greetings," Baralai said, although grateful for the interruption.
It took a moment for Yuna to collect her nerves, before she produced a faint, apologetic smile. "Sorry, if I am interrupting–."
"Rest assured, you aren't, my Lady. The matter has already been discussed. We are merely... debriefing, is all." Despite the doubtful looks they both regarded him with, the priest bowed deeply before the two in respect - to conceal the odd, smug grin tickling his face. A romantic relationship between the High Summoner and the Praetor, two prominent figures in Spira... What potential.
Once the nuisance of a priest had begged his leave and disappeared, Yuna felt it safe to speak without fear of a third party. "You sure do have your work cut out for you." The young man chuckled in response. His laughs came off sounding awkward, but endearing at the same time. A sound, which Yuna would eventually come to like.
"They may call me a Praetor, but this job requires me to be a jack-of-all-trades." He was cautious not to show any weakness. Like, for one, his struggle in holding the weight of the world on his shoulders - the countless responsibilities people expected him to fulfill. Something Yuna saw which unquestioningly reminded her of herself. That in itself was a difficult task to endure, and she couldn't help but feel some empathy for the man.
"Is there something my Lady wants to ask of me?" he inquired, folding his arms behind his back.
"It's nothing..." she muttered, making a mental note to exact a painful and memorable revenge on Rikku later. What Yuna could do with Paine's help was absolutely endless. "We're about to depart and... it would be rude of me not to say farewell."
"Farewell, then." His facial features softened, a little flattered she would come all this way just to say goodbye. Baralai then raised his eyes thoughtfully at the ceiling, debating whether or not he should do it. He wanted to express his appreciation to her company somehow, but this might seem a bit too forward. "Ah! It's not much, but..."
Yuna waited, patient and curious, watching him fish into his pocket for a particular item. When he found what he was looking for, Baralai withdrew the item quickly and gingerly placed it in her hands. An elegant, silver tiara. She stared in silent, appreciative awe, reveling at its craftsmanship, although it came off a little too old-fashioned for her tastes. 'Maybe I can customize it into something better…'
"Here, have this as a token of my friendship." His sweet voice roused Yuna from her former admiration. She then tucked the accessory away inside her satchel, which was securely fastened beside her gun holster. Mistaking her silent acceptance for adroit politeness, Baralai worried she might've gotten the idea he planned to buy his way into her trust, let alone push her to join his party. Hoping to correct his assumption, he spoke once more, choosing his words with defined precision. "Not that I would ever think you were one to be swayed by simple gifts."
She had never thought that way either, however... It's just...
It was a force of habit never to expect gifts, because all her efforts in granting happiness to the people of Spira over her own was pure selflessness. It still flattered her, even today, to receive things so kindly given from strangers when her deeds as High Summoner was no longer needed. It was wonderful to be remembered in such a light, though sometimes, Yuna wanted nothing more than to shy away from the attention and appreciation of the people.
Her voice rang clear, "Thank you, regardless."
Yevonites weren't as bad as they used to be. Surely not every one of them possessed a black heart.
Praetor Baralai is an exception. And so am I.