September 9, 2012
Chapter 5: Freedom of Choice
Yuna sat up straight, breathing heavily. Little beads of sweat dribbled down her face as her room slowly came into shape in front of her. It was a dream. Just a dream, she repeated over and over in the comforts of her reeling mind. The beast was gone and so was the woman.
The dream! Summoning was forbidden, which wasn't protested seeing as it was obsolete, ever since her father had defeated Sin once and for all. Yet, why would she dream of summoning then? And who in Spira was that woman? And why did this dream haunt her like a pained apparition. Yuna groaned, resting her head into her hands. Without warning, a loud knocking echoed through her tiny quarters. "Who is it?"
"Me!" Too impatient for a 'come in' Rikku picked the lock and entered Yuna's bedroom. "I have some great news!" Yuna just stared, the aftershock of the dream still wearing off. Taking the silence as a plea to continue, Rikku did just that. "We are being reassigned! No more sand or heat. And most importantly, no more Gippal!" She was cheery, pumping her fists and jumping up and down. All her excitement was making Yuna's stomach turn. It was too early for that. Or perhaps, Yuna feared her life's safety. She had been taught how to swim for recreation in the lakes of Bevelle, not the torrent seas of Spira. Just what had Rikku gotten her into!
The waters outside the Omega Ruins were rough and so were the fiends that coasted through the endless sea. They were somewhere in the cavernous deck of a sunken but salvageable airship. It was an exciting find because many of Zanarkand's modes of transportation hadn't survived the war.
As delightful as the find was, the girls were preoccupied by a determined Tros who was unhappy with their trespassing on his territory. The fight was dizzying as they danced around and around, trying to avoid the fiend with its long, stringy tentacles that reached out for them with great tenacity.
Rikku squirmed away from the squid, barely escaping a tentacle attack. Paine deftly dodged its strike, hacking at one of the arms, resulting in an ear-piercing howl from their attacker. With the battle turning in their favor, Yuna breathed a mental sigh of relief. Yet, unbeknownst to her, it was a tad early to celebrate. The outraged Tros unleashed an unanticipated and unexpected nautilus charge that found a home in each of the girls. Yuna awoke in a haze. Somewhere not too far off, Paine was gesturing angrily for Rikku to throw the grenade.
Rikku pointed at the pin, reacting the problem. The pin was stuck. Realizing they were in grave danger, Yuna began to search for something to attack the fiend with. Looking all around the sunken airship deck, she at last spotted a broken railing that could function nicely as a crude spear. Without needing any instruction, the ambassador trainee swam up behind the Tros and thrust the spear into the monster. A horrifying cry rippled through the water.
Paine nodded towards the high summoner's daughter, a quick throw of gratitude to the beginner. The warrior just then dodged a halfhearted swing by the Tros, who was distracted with the pain of the spear impaled in it.
Rikku wildly waved her arms, driving to gain the others' attention. Not a moment later, the blonde threw the grenade at the fiend. Of course, with only seconds to react and only a little energy still left, Yuna could not swim completely out of the blast range. The force slammed the Yevonite into the compass at the center of the deck, leaving her in darkness.
Yuna came to on the cold, metal floor of the ship's deck. Coughing, she lurched forward and threw up over the side of the large vessel. Her stomach crunched until it couldn't spasm and tighten any farther. This was marine excavation. Just as she found her balance, her knees rattled under her weight, and she grabbed the railing for support. Her eyes were dark and her face drained.
"Hey Yunie, how ya feel?" Rikku put her hand on her cousin's back, her eyes soft and warm. Yuna didn't respond, the nausea still sloshing around.
"You took that hit pretty well, given everything," Paine pointed out, making sure to throw the Al Bhed a dirty look. "All in all, not bad, Yuna." Paine had her arms crossed even when giving a compliment. It was reassuring, but seeing as she had been knocked out and someone had to help her back to the ship, Yuna wasn't feeling like she had done a swell job. By the day's end, she was still relying on others. The warrior may have seen an improvement, but Yuna hadn't.
Her thoughts were interrupted when her cousin whined, "I didn't know that she wasn't out of the blast range. I was just trying to kill the damn thing. I mean, I saved our butts." Paine was already walking away with Rikku on her tail, explaining in Al Bhed her position for taking such action. Looking out at the ocean, Yuna felt deep down that she needed to do more if she was to achieve her goal of being independent.
He was rolling, his stomach burning with nothing to soak up the juices that worked to eat through its own lining. His face was swollen from a current meeting with the proactive guards that patrolled his little cove.
He was resting on the bench that he was relegated into using as his bed. Seymour arrived as always, as it was about time to pay a visit to his captive. He talked and talked, venting and denouncing the heathens that trolled about Spira, free and unaccountable for the sinful crimes of just being born. It wasn't until Tidus was made to bow at the Guado's feet that the athlete's attention was focused on the self-appointed warden.
"Are you listening?!" Tidus garbled something incoherent. "I have grown bored of you, but it would be a shame to kill you if nothing but that your physique may be beneficial for jobs needing someone agile and quick, and would result in no cost to me if they . . . disappeared," Seymour said, the evil leaking from his voice. Tidus jaw set firm, gnashing his teeth together to keep from saying anything. "I will let your pitiful self live, if you will serve any and every one of my orders." When Tidus said nothing, instead of knocking an answer out of him, Seymour just smiled sweetly at the blonde. "I will let you ponder that as I go prepare for the Eternal Calm Ball. Enjoy your dinner." Tidus looked down to see a small moldy piece of bread on the dank floor given to him as supper.
Tidus relived the memory like a rerun of his favorite broadcasted blitz ball game. "Do I do it? Sell myself to the fiend that has the keys to my freedom," he asked himself, all alone again with a mushy, untouched, piece of bread.
The gala was a splendid event for only the select few to ever see. Decorations floated without effort high above them. The soft lights from the chandeliers and the live band were the painters of a fantasy come alive. Whimsical-colored tapestries that were draped around the expansive room, and the dance floor gleamed under all the lights. Tables set aside for dinner freckled the room, leaving enough space for attendees to flit about and mingle. People of all importance: island representatives, organizational leaders, religious leaders, tribal leaders, as well as expert sphere hunters and soldiers of the highest order were dressed and conversing with one and other.
Yuna entered arm in arm with Yiabal. She had arrived home early to check in with her parents and dress for the ball. Yiabal was in his uniform from when he was a Crusader. Allowed to keep his medals for his bravery at such a young age in the battle fought against Sin's more fierce spawn at Mushroom Rock Road, where many were killed, he was proud to show them off.
Yuna was wearing an elegant, navy dress that was cut out in the front to show up to her knees, leaving a train behind her. She matched Yiabal rather well, and was a stunning beauty for which people were awed by. Her hair was done up in a polished messiness, and she carried with her a small purse, matching the attire with silver jewelry (including her favorite necklace) and clear heels with swirls of navy blue inside.
They were paraded about, as Yiabal said hello to his fellow cadets and liaison pals that helped keep peace between the organizational groups. As they saved the most important for last, Yuna introduced Yiabal to Praetor Tont, whom Yiabal knew already through work. She had appeared beside her folks in enough time to hear a recap, as paraphrased as it was, by her father. He glossed over the scarier parts of Yuna's time at Bikinal Desert, however. "Yes, well," her father continued, "I think Yuna is about ready to return to Bevelle and finish her studies safely at home."
Yuna opened her mouth to protest. While things had been bumpy, most of her improvement had been in exploring and excavating with Paine and her cousin. Returning home now would be a disaster in Yuna's opinion. "Father, I think . . ."
"What, Yuna? What is it, Yuna, my dear?" Braska asked, looking at his daughter, as was everyone else in the small circle of the conversation.
"I think . . . I think . . . I will miss Rikku, perhaps – "
"Rikku may visit us," Kunimi intervened, touching the cheek of her daughter's face. "You have to learn both sides of your culture. It would not be fair or right to skirt one side." Her mother looked poignantly at her baby, and how could Yuna argue?
Her mother was known for her fire and feistiness, but it had been years since Yuna had witnessed that side of her. Living mostly in Bevelle had rounded off the "rough" edges of Kunimi, as the priestesses that watched Yuna would say in hushed voices to each other. Yuna never had a chance to be fiery and sassy. And looking at her mother, Kunimi knew that too. Knew that when it came down to it, Yuna needed to come home if she planned to make it to her next birthday.
Even mother thinks I am beyond help, Yuna chided herself inside her mind.
"So, perhaps next week would be a good time to start with my daughter?" Braska asked, dropping his glass on the passing tray of a server.
"I would like more than anything to gain Yuna as my pupil next week, but our meetings are to begin for the renewing and the surveying of our ministry and its progress in spreading the word of New Yevon. As well as reporting on missionary work being done to the still recovering lands from when Sin lived. I am deeply sorry, Lord Braska."
Braska shook his head in a relaxed manner, "No worries. I'm sure I can have Yuna complete her tutelage with another person."
"I would be happy to have the honor of working with your daughter," interjected Seymour, who seemed to have crept up like an unwanted fog.
Yuna stepped back, watching her mother stand taller. Years ago, the Al Bhed and Guado almost came to the declaration and act of war because the Guado had not backed up the Al Bhed on their attack on the Sin Spawn at Mushroom Rock Road. While the Guado said they had never received word from the messenger, who happened to have disappeared – perhaps having been killed on his way – the Guado had waited like logs. The tension was smoothed out, but to this day, Yuna could see her mother bristle whenever Seymour was around.
"I am going to visit my brother, band with him in conversation," she tensed, mouthing 'careful' to her daughter. Only if she knew just how flexible and trusting Yuna had become having been raised by so many priest and priestesses, Kunimi would have doubled-back and returned to her daughter's side.
"Like I was saying, I'm sure I can learn so much from Yuna's adventures as she could me," he persisted. Yuna shivered under the intensity of his stare and the slithering of his words.
"Thank you for your gracious offer and willingness to help Yuna, but I was hoping to having her study under New Yevon," Braska countered politely.
"With all due respect, I am certain you do not plan to deny her all of her Yevon heritage, High Summoner Braska. Yevon has its faults, but like you who triumphed in the most extreme of adversity, so have we."
Braska tapped his foot and nodded. "I will consider this side you have presented. Yuna should learn about both sides of Yevon. I will let you know my final – "
"With the New Yevon meetings occurring presently, I can have Yuna stay with us. Tutoring her in all my knowledge now, and then letting her go to New Yevon after the meetings over when she feels right and full," Seymour pushed, breaking eye contact for the first time with Braska's daughter.
Yuna's eyes were wide open in shock, while she was sure it had been layered in genuine concern something was wrong about it. Her mother's words rang in her head, warning her. It was then that something – someone caught her attention. Slowly she inched away. Being invisible made sneaking away from a crowd and her date very easy. Moving to the sparser area where the kitchen was still preparing the meal, she followed the stranger. She had to, she needed to, as if she was being compelled to go after him, she fled the ballroom.
Rikku was being escorted or better yet, guarded by her brother, Brother, and his friend, Buddy. She was 'sort of' attending it with Gippal like Yuna had for her parents' sake. Given that she and Gippal were not on good terms as of now.
Paine was granted the pleasure of going as an attendee rather than a guard, and so Becklam, one of the highest ranking officers and someone who her parents gleamed about, was taking her. Though, only secretly did Becklam and Paine only bare friendship, as she had made it clear that she was not interested in him in that way.
Rikku was dressed in an apple green gown that also had a cut in the front to show a little higher than her knees, allowing a train to follow in the back. At the top, ruffles lined around, and inside a separate pattern emerged. It was very cutting edge, befitting for the daughter of Cid, the leader of all the Al Bhed people. Her hair was done up with silver jewelry accenting her neck and wrists.
Standing next to Rikku, was a bored Gippal. He sported a magenta suit accented in oranges. It was loud and purposefully obnoxious. Behind them, was a plain suited Brother and Buddy, Rikku's non-official bodyguards. Brother shifted uncomfortably in his suit that was about a size too small. The sleeves ended by his mid-forearm and his pant legs discernibly showed his socks. Buddy had some more presence, going for a royal blue tux that fitted him well; though, he refused to give up wearing his sunglasses that he used for excavating.
"E lyh'd pameaja uin bynahdc ryt ic pa aylr udran'c tydac, fa'na hud veja oaync-umt," (I can't believe our parents had us be each other's dates, we're not five years-old) muttered Rikku under her breath.
"E ghuf," (I know) Gippal agreed. They stood awkwardly for a few moments, taking in the copious amount of food, plethora of decorations, and numerous Yevonites trolling about.
"Oui muug mega y lmufh, Gip," (You look like a clown, Gip) Rikku said, observing his choice of attire.
"Famm, E vaam cdibet vun ryjehk du lusa, Riks," ( Well, I feel stupid for having to come, Riks) he retorted. She tried to stop it, but she had to smile a little. They both were not fond of going to these functions, unable to ignore the feelings of unwelcome from the guests. There was a long pause until Gippal spoke again. "Oui muug hela, Rikku," (You look nice, Rikku) Gippal complimented.
Rikku smiled before acquiescing to her want to let go of her anger towards him. "Dra tyhla vmuun muugc mega y kuut bmyla du ryhk," (The dance floor looks like a good place to hang) Rikku hinted. Gippal caught on quickly, taking her arm in his and escorting her to the middle of the floor. "Cdyo!" (Stay) Rikku told her brother and his friend firmly. Brother looked about to protest, but Rikku cut him off. "Fa'mm pa veha. E'mm pa zicd yc paryjat yc Yunie," (We'll be fine. I'll be just as behaved as Yunie) Rikku assured. The Machine Faction worker looked at her skeptically as they continued on without Rikku's babysitters. "Famm E lyh dno . . ." (Well I can try) she giggled. Whispering because they were still in earshot of her brother and Buddy, Rikku said to Gippal, "Rao, oui fyhd dras mehkanehk ynuiht dra fruma desa?" (Hey, you want them lingering around the whole time) Gippal laughed, shaking his head.
Maybe I was wrong about Gippal being jerk. He is fun to hang out with, Rikku thought as they were absorbed by the crowd on the floor, no longer in the line of view of her keepers.
Paine had dismissed Becklam who was all too willing to wonder about elsewhere, in order to find the person she was looking for the most. Baralai had just departed from some women that were in the Crusader Army that had been invited for their dedication when Paine casually approached. She wore a mesh design of a little black cocktail dress mixed with a black komo embroidered with a red, fiery dragon. Checking for suspicious people, who may tattle, they relaxed. "Having fun?" she asked.
"About as much as organizing scrolls in the library," Baralai quipped. He was in his ceremonial high priest garb. Heavy robes decorated in light and dark greens as boarders to the stark whiteness of the attire. "How about you?"
Paine shrugged her shoulders, looking down momentarily before finding something else to talk about. Having spotted the Al Bhed princess with her "prince" on the dance floor alone, Paine snorted at the scene playing out in the middle of the dance floor. Baralai also caught the couple enjoying themselves out there as well, responding to their uncomfortably close dancing with a role of his eyes. "They're something else," she remarked; amazed by their topsy-turvy relationship and the boundaries they too often pushed.
"Gippal is quite the charmer. Always has been," Baralai said, his voice sounding slightly bitter. Paine, Gippal, Baralai, had been friends since they were little because of their parents having to meet so much for peace conventions held in Luca. So, they knew all about each other's good points and bad points all too well.
"You know, that charm will eventually bite him in the ass. Not to mention, Rikku has him wrapped around her little pinky. A player beat by his own game." Baralai wanted to contest that theory, feeling it may be the other way around, but Paine was good at making a point to be right. So, given it wasn't very important, the priest let it go.
"Where's Becklam?" he inquired as subtly as possible.
"Sucking up to my parents," she seethed. Baralai discreetly grabbed her hand and squeezed it, letting the woman he cared for deeply know that he was there for her.
"Come, I think the balcony is being given no attention, it will give us some added privacy," he told Paine, pulling her away from the party. As they passed, Paine recognized two of the attendees, Brother and Buddy, hanging by the food and talking. One of them seemed to be very high strung, using his hands to emphasize whatever he was trying to convince the other of doing.
"Fa naymmo cruimt pa eh drana? E lyh'd ajah caa dras eh dryd sup, " (We really should be in there? I can't even see them in that mob) Buddy panicked. Swaying from side to side, the navigator by trade couldn't find their charge they were especially assigned by Cid to watch.
"Fa'na veha. E's cina Rikku femm paryja. Oui funno duu silr," (We're fine. I'm sure Rikku will behave. You worry too much) Brother said nonchalantly, picking at the hors d'oeuvres set out for the guests.
"Ev Cid vehtc uid yhodrehk, yht E sayh yhodrehk, fahd uh padfaah druca dfu, fa'na kuehk du pa tayt sayd. Yht funca, fa fuh'd pa ymmufat du lybdyeh dryd bnuzald," (If Cid finds out anything, and I mean anything, went on between those two, we're going to be dead meat. And worse, we won't be allowed to captain that project) Buddy complained, his voice getting louder.
"Namyq," (Relax) Brother said, eyeing up some of the delicious looking food. He was starving.
"E ryda draca drehkc." (I hate these things) Buddy crossed his arms over his chest, disgusted with his friend. He peered over the dance floor, but still no sign of the couple. This was bad, very bad.
"E ghuf, drao'na cu punehk. Sicel ec paddan drec oayn, druikr," (I know, they're so boring. Music is better this year, though) Brother commented. Buddy just screwed his eyebrows together, astonished by how laid-back Brother was being.
"Ed'c zicd duu banvald - hudrehk ec drec banvald fedruid cusadrehk jema cdaanehk. Kejac sa dra lnaabc drec bmyla ed," (It's just too perfect - nothing is this perfect without something vile steering it. Gives me the creeps this place) Buddy shared, the chilling feeling of the temple and Bevelle, itself, not leaving his body in the least.
"Fryd?" (What) Brother asked, his mouth full of food to the point that crumbs were falling like rain.
"Hajan seht," (Never mind) Buddy sighed, shaking his head in defeat.
Donna was nothing but an image she created. Self appointed and self absorbed, she was the island representative of Kilika Island. Dazzling the party in a red low cut dress that swished around her as she walked, she stood with a look to kill, searching for something to dig her claws into. She had been lingering on the outskirts of the party, tired of listening to dignitaries boast of their contributions to society. It was then that her eyes found the naïve ambassador, better known as Braska's daughter – Yuna. She seemed to be sneaking off. Leaving out of a less populated archway, Yuna was not stopped or eyed up for her odd behavior. Donna would follow her, if nothing else, to watch the young woman's utter embarrassment when she was rebuked for leaving the ball to go into a forbidden area.
However, as Donna moved to pursue Yuna, a large bulk-ish man, a guard for the temple in Kilka, and on occasion, a bodyguard to the high summoner's daughter, stood in front of her. "Hi, I'm Bartello and I think that the dress you have is very pretty. Would you please give me the honor of a dance?" Of course, her irritation was pushed aside as she realized the women surrounding them seemed to be entranced by his muscular build. Cutting him down was a waste as she couldn't find Yuna at this point if she tried. Accepting his offer would anger the other women, so why not? He wasn't the most articulate, but he had the build, and looks counted for everything, didn't they?
Yuna slowly turned into the corridor that she thought she had seen him disappear down. They were in the main entrance gates, on the opposite end of the temple where the public normally enters to speak with a priest or priestess. There! The boy was standing on the lift that brought people to the upper chambers where all the rooms for the New Yevon Council held its meetings. Yet, the boy didn't rise but descended into the smog and depth unknown.
Yuna raced to the edge to see if the boy was okay. Had he fallen to his death? The elevator must have lost power. Seconds later, it returned empty, no power loss, it was an actual destination. "A secret level," she whispered. Looking around, she took a deep breath and stepped on the platform. She needed to find that boy.
The bottom level was a maze of different pathways, but she didn't worry as the strange, hooded boy waved than ran down a long sloped ramp and up another, around the corner to where it led to a t-shaped crossroads, taking the path to the right, led Yuna into a stone archway.
She stopped for a few seconds, huffing and puffing from chasing him. "Little boy, please, I beg you, stop. You and I are not supposed to be here." She hoped that if she were discovered the guards or whomever would be understanding.
As she entered the small room and then entered another stone corridor she saw a light. Someone was down there. "Hello! My name is Yuna, I am High Summoner Braska's daughter!" While she was opposed to name dropping, she was scared out of her mind. She had no clue where she was. Even so, no one answered. Inching ever so closer, she repeated herself, but still no answer. Finally, the young half Al Bhed and half Yevonite decided to confront the person.
"Ti!" she gasped, seeing his body laying on the cold floor as she came around the corner. She ran up to the cage and touched his hand through the bars. "Ti!"
He was warm, but it was evident he had been in some type of brutal fight and his body looked frail and unkempt. "Ti, please answer me." Tears began to well in her eyes and the truth turned grim. If she hadn't closed her eyes, she would have seen the glow of white that clung to his body.
A warm glow of pale light tingled and pulled at his conscious. He felt stronger in health, but his stomach begged to differ. An odd squeal cut through his blurred vision as he looked up. It was the Yevonite he met at Luca. The one who pretty much sentenced him to this 'place of no return.'
As much as his resentment for her boiled within him, he strained, "Yu . . . na?" Her angelic bi-colored eyes exploding with worry shimmered in the wetness of her tears. He struggled to sit up, and was surprised when no pain seared through him from the inside out. No broken bones and bruises. Yuna was breathing heavy and looked slightly tired. But why, he wasn't sure.
"What – how did you get down here?" he asked.
"I followed a little boy down here. You probably didn't see him . . . He must have turned back and I hadn't realized it. But I'm glad I didn't stop following him or I wouldn't have found you. Are you okay?"
"I've been better," he joked, he couldn't help it, he liked making her smile.
Yuna ran her eyes over the bars that fixed him in the cell. "What happened? I thought you were supposed to be tried. I can't believe they sentenced you down here for such a petty crime."
"What trial? I was automatically thrown in here!" he coughed. His stomach growled angrily, almost distraught for not having been introduced. Tidus grabbed his stomach, urging it to settle down.
He looked more lively, but without a doubt they had neglected to feed him. They were torturing him! "I will see my father gets you out." She stood to check again for maybe some food, keys, and blankets, but nothing was laid out.
Tidus laughed until it hurt. "Great, well tell daddy to bury me out to sea when he finds me."
Yuna's face scrunched up in confusion, "My father will help you."
"Because he's done such a grand job already," he scoffed, waving his hand out, showing off his accommodations. "Well, really that was all you, wasn't it?" he asked with an edge to his voice.
Yuna stepped back, shocked by the jab. Okay, that stung, but I deserve that, I guess. If I had spoken up . . . Her thoughts trailed off as looked into the eyes of the young man trapped behind bars. "I'm sorry," she said earnestly, "I will tell my father, wait here." She moved to leave when he stopped her again.
"Of course, you have to ask mommy and daddy. I forgot. Well, I'll be right here. Take your time, please don't rush on my account." Tidus heaved himself to stand and almost collapsed. It had been awhile since he had stood up on his own accord. He looked at her. She was infuriated. Her soft hands balled into fists.
"I said I was sorry. I am going to fix this. I am trying to help you!" she hollered. "I have to get help in order to do that. What else do you expect me to do?" Tidus nodded his head, as if he was understood her reasoning perfectly.
"No, it's just given who you are I just thought . . . but obviously that is just some fake title to make daddy's little girl feel important. Sorry, my bad," he retorted, leaning against the wall.
Yuna stood there a moment, reeling in an unbridled fury at his gale to give her flack for doing the right thing and asking for help from her parents. What else am I supposed to do? I – I, she couldn't think of a defending answer. He was right to some degree. In the future, as an ambassador, she might not have time to get help when things got sticky. She would have to do things on her own. "How would I even get you out? There's no key," she said plaintively.
Tidus was surprised his guilt trip worked, but something struck him close to his heart and he knew it was more than an injury. He had just manipulated her like her parents and everyone else did. But he was too close to earning his freedom to backtrack now.
"That necklace will work. Bend down," he commanded, sinking lower to be even with her. She did as he said. "Now use that end to put in here, and here, take that pin in your hair. That goes in there." Yuna did as she was told, trying her best to free the blitz ball player.
"It's not working," she cried out. He frowned and took her hands, standing again to see better. Working together, they finagled the lock and . . . he was free!
Tidus fell forward as the door he used to lean against swung open. Yuan barely stopped his fall, haphazardly supporting him and herself. "Thanks," he whispered.
"Hey! What are you doing?!" a guard yelled.
Uh-oh, thought Yuna as the armed Yevon soldiers raced to apprehend them.
~ End Chapter 5
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