Well, I'm definitely writing these chapters like crazy. I actually created an outline, which helped a lot. But anyway, the story really begins at the next chapter, when Operation Mi'ihen plays out. I hope you enjoy this chapter!
Chapter 5: New Swords and Seymour.
Wakka and Naoma woke at the same time, exiting their rooms and rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. Wakka saw Naoma and threw his arm around her, leading her out of the back of the shop. "Have a nice sleep?" he asked her with a loud yawn. She nodded, still looking dead. Her hair was sloppily braided instead of neatly, like it usually was. "That's good. What time did you go to bed?"
"After you guys," she replied. "I stayed outside for a little."
Wakka hummed and they both entered the front of the shop. Everyone was already awake except for Tidus. They agreed to wait a little bit for him. "Man, I was exhausted yesterday, ya?" Wakka announced to everyone and no one answered. "So tired… I just felt like killing someone."
Naoma looked up at him, knowing he was using fatigue as an excuse for his irrational behavior the day before. She smirked knowingly and shook her head, looking away from him. "Excuses, excuses…" she sang. "When you're ready to apologize, I'll be waiting."
Wakka frowned and withdrew his arm from around her, putting his hands on his hips. "Excuse you!" he snapped. "Me? Apologize? Not until you do!"
"I have nothing to apologize for," she shrugged, stepping up to the counter and pulling out some money. She traded some Gil for a few potions and stuffed them in a satchel hanging from her belt. More weight. She cleared her throat and looked back at Wakka. "It was you who was completely out of line."
Wakka smirked. "Okay, I'm sorry. That good enough for ya?"
"Perfect, thanks," she grinned toothily. "Apology accepted."
"Now where's your apology?" Wakka held his chin up in the air and raised his red eyebrows, waiting.
"I'm not apologizing," snorted Naoma. Wakka raced over to her and trapped her in a headlock, causing her to laugh and her face to turn red. "Wakka – Wakka – can't breathe –"
"Ah," he waved her off impatiently. "You never were one for apologies, anyway, ya?"
"True, true," she answered with a smile, rubbing her neck. "That hurt."
Wakka flexed his biceps and Naoma rolled her eyes. The door to the back opened and everyone turned to see Tidus walking out, messing up his blonde hair. He yawned and looked around at everyone. "What'd I miss?" he asked.
"We were waiting for you," Lulu said harshly.
"Ah, sorry! You could have woken me up!"
"We wanted to let you sleep," Yuna told him. "We were all tired and deserved a break."
A scream broke the silence after that and Naoma was the first to draw her sword, running outside as the girl's screams persisted. She looked around and felt the ground begin to shake underneath her feet. Pebbles were bouncing on the earthy ground and she looked towards the Chocobo corral. "The fiend…" she said under her breath. Before she could go any further, a giant fiend approached them, gripping a Chocobo in its hand. Upon seeing the party, it dropped the yellow bird and it nearly ran over Naoma, knocking her backwards. Someone caught her before she hit the ground and as she looked up; she saw Auron's face looking down at her. He helped her regain her balance and she blushed profusely as she kept her sword drawn. "We could push it off the cliff!" She suggested.
"Why not just kill it right here?" Tidus asked, already running towards the fiend with his sword out.
Naoma grinned and followed the boy. "Alright," she shouted over the growling of the monster. "Last hit gets fifty Gil!"
"Deal!" Tidus agreed.
"Now isn't the time to be making bets, ya?" Wakka scoffed and Naoma shrugged, slashing the beast with her longsword. She turned to Wakka and grinned. He cocked his arm back, throwing his Blitzball at the fiend. It roared and Naoma winced, covering her ears.
With Lulu's magic and all the swords slashing at it, it backed away from the party slowly. Naoma was determined to get the last hit, but Tidus was attacking the fiend every chance he could get. As the fiend took another step backwards, Naoma breathed out and clenched her sword with both hands.
"Don't you dare knock it off the cliff!" Tidus exclaimed, taking another hit at the giant creature.
Naoma smirked. "It's almost there!" she snapped, looking at Tidus over Wakka's head. "Just help me push it off!"
"But that doesn't necessarily mean we'll kill it," Lulu spoke up and Naoma hesitated, looking to Yuna. Yuna failed to give her a response, standing behind Kimahri as he pierced the beast's tough skin. The summoner turned to Auron. Auron and Naoma locked eyes and he nodded.
"Tidus, we have the okay!" she said, preparing herself. "Just go for the feet!"
Tidus and Naoma ran forward and slashed at the fiend's feet as it roared and kicked. The other guardians ran towards it as well, trying to push it back as far as they could. It would hardly budge, but eventually, as it weakened, it began to move.
With a loud grunt, Naoma stuck her sword into the belly of the fiend and it waved it flailed its arms around, losing its balance. It began to fall, but Naoma's sword was still stuck in the fiend. She tried to pull it out, but it simply would not move. Her face was turning red and a vein was popping from her temple. She felt herself being pulled forward as the creature screamed in agony, dying slowly before their eyes. Her feet were just over the cliff and she still couldn't get the sword out. Her hands were covered in the blood of the monster and she felt someone's arm wrap around her stomach to catch her as the fiend fell to its death, with Naoma's sword still in its belly.
"My sword!" she cried, hearing a crash and knowing that the Chocobo eating fiend had fallen to its death. "My sword was still in there!"
The arm around her waist retracted and she turned around to see Auron. She looked almost close to tears.
"That was my sword!" she screamed again, pushing Auron back. "Go get it!"
Auron scoffed. "I just saved your life and you aren't going to thank me?"
"How am I supposed to fight now?" She threw her hands up and looked over the edge of the cliff again. "I wasn't going to fall, anyway! I would have gotten my sword before I fell over!"
"I'm sure," Auron replied coolly. "Besides, the shop will have swords that you can buy –"
"I don't want a new sword! I want that one!"
Wakka walked over to Naoma and placed a hand on the small of her back, leading her to Rin's shop again. "We'll get you a new sword," he assured her, laughing to himself. "It'll be just like your old one."
"My sword is gone," she mumbled in disbelief, opening her eyes wide. "I want my sword back…"
As Wakka ushered Naoma away, the other guardians stood around Yuna and she cured them all of their battle wounds. "What do you think of Lady Naoma, Sir Auron?" she asked him when she finished healing everyone.
He simply grunted.
"I think she's an excellent addition to our party, don't you agree?"
"I think she's cool," Tidus said with a slight smile. "She's got guts."
"But her and Wakka's relationship is…" Lulu searched for the correct word to use. "They can blow up at each other anytime. Their tempers are very short."
"That doesn't mean anything," Tidus replied. "You saw them this morning. They're friends again! It was just because they were tired last night. That's why they fought."
"We don't need distractions on this pilgrimage," Auron interrupted, looking at Tidus directly. "Those two need to forget about their different beliefs and focus more on the journey and Yuna."
"I think Naoma's main priority is this pilgrimage, not reuniting with Wakka," Lulu suggested. "She's a Crusader, which means she wants to defeat Sin." With a shrug of her shoulders, everyone thought hard about it. "She wants to be on this pilgrimage just as much as Yuna does."
"I'm just saying," Auron said again, turning his back on the guardians and walking towards the shop. "We aren't here to be reunited with old friends or to form relationships. We're here to protect Yuna and defeat Sin."
Wakka held a broadsword in his hands, pointing it at Naoma and waving it around wildly. She frowned and shook her head. "Just hold it, will ya?" he asked her, handing the sword to Naoma. "You might like it."
"I don't like it."
"How can you say that? You've never even touched it, ya?"
Naoma ran her finger up the blade and shrugged. "I don't like it."
Wakka looked it over again. "To be honest, I can't tell a difference between this sword and the last one you had."
"This one is thicker," Naoma remarked, taking the sword from Wakka's hands and holding it up. The lady behind the counter seemed impressed the way she held the sword professionally in her hands. "And it's much heavier, but still only one-handed." She held it up, weighing it.
"You like it?"
"Do you have any other swords? Longswords, maybe?" Naoma asked the lady, but she shook her head sadly.
"We don't carry many swords. We mostly sell items. I'm sorry," the lady replied. "But for defeating the Chocobo eating fiend, you can have that one at half price – if you want it."
"Half price, ya?" Wakka nudged Naoma. "That's a deal."
Naoma sighed and caved. "Alright, fine, half price it is. Thank you." She retrieved some Gil from her satchel and handed it to the lady, who thanked her.
A bell rang and Naoma turned around to see Auron walking in, closing the door, which made it ring again. Yuna and her guardians followed him and they all stared at Naoma's new sword. "Can I hold it?" Tidus asked her and Naoma nodded, handing it carefully to him. He slashed and pierced the air a few times and grinned. "This is a nice sword."
"I suppose it is," Naoma answered, taking it back from him. "Are we continuing now?"
"On foot?" Tidus complained and Naoma chuckled.
"I think I can help you there," spoke Rin from behind them all. Next to him was an Al Bhed lady with goggles and glasses. "Have you an interest in renting some Chocobos? As a token of our gratitude, the first time is free of charge."
"Riding a Chocobo?" Naoma smiled, hooking her sword to her belt. She had to get rid of the old scabbard for her longsword, but the new one dangled and shined, showing off. "I've never ridden one before."
"Then it's settled?" Yuna clapped her hands. "We're riding Chocobos!"
Naoma approached the first Chocobo she saw and smiled real big. Everyone else was still trailing behind, but Naoma was the most excited. She reached out to pet the Chocobo and it nipped at her fingers, which made her withdraw her hand in shock. "Ouch!" she whispered. "Don't do that!"
"It's only trying to play," Auron told her, mounting another Chocobo. She watched him carefully jump up on its back and she chewed on the inside of her cheek, holding steadily onto the Chocobo's feathers – just as he had done – and she jumped up, but failed miserably, landing on the Chocobo's spine wrong. It squawked angrily and threw her off. She landed on her back and groaned.
"Damn bird!" she muttered to herself. The Chocobo looked away from her, but she mounted it again – correctly. She petted it gently, trying to calm it down. "Wow…"
Everyone else was already on their Chocobos and they were waiting for Naoma. Gripping the feathers of the bird, she trailed behind everyone, attempting to keep her balance and expecting the Chocobo to throw her off at any time. Eventually, getting more comfortable with riding it, she got faster and faster, soon leading everyone down the road.
"You go much faster and you'll end up falling!" Wakka jeered playfully from slightly behind. Naoma looked over her shoulder and shook her head.
"I'm fine!" she replied. The Chocobo purred beneath her and she was immediately bumped off. She landed on her back again and growled as the Chocobo picked at the ground, eating stray grass.
The guardians and Yuna laughed – even Kimahri let out a chuckle.
"Okay, yeah, yeah, laugh all you want," she told them all angrily, attempting to mount her Chocobo again. It kept moving, however, and she could not seem to jump up on the Chocobo. "Damn this useless bird!"
The Chocobo seemed to have understood her because it ran off towards Rin's Chocobo Corral again, leaving her without a ride. She looked around at everyone else, frowning and pleading to ride with someone else.
"Why me?" she asked quietly, running her fingers through her hair and sighing.
"Sorry, Naoma," Wakka laughed, his face turning red from lack of air. "But that was entirely your fault."
"You guys are horrible!" she shot back and Auron grabbed the front of her shirt, lifting her up on the Chocobo he was riding. Too embarrassed to wrap her arms around his waist, she held onto the sides of the Chocobo, gripping feathers too tightly. "Thanks," she muttered.
Auron hummed and they all continued for a while. Naoma was getting tired and stopped herself from falling asleep on him several times, but they eventually reached a stop. Auron dismounted his Chocobo and helped Naoma down. At a large gate, a summoner and her big guardian were arguing.
"How many times do I have to tell you?" the lady scoffed. "I'm a summoner!"
The Crusader spoke loudly. "Sorry, ma'am! No exceptions!"
"You dare impede a summoners pilgrimage?" the summoner continued, placing a hand on her hip.
"Sorry, ma'am. No exceptions!" he spoke again.
"We met them back in Kilika," Auron explained to Naoma. "Not very polite people."
"I can see that," Naoma replied, stepping forward and following Yuna. As Yuna went to speak to the summoner, Naoma looked around. She nudged Wakka as she saw two Crusaders at the gate. "Isn't that Luzzu and Gatta? Again?"
Wakka nodded and they approached the two younger men. "This is the last of them," Luzzu said, tapping the large cage. A Chocobo had been carrying it and Naoma tried to peek inside, but there was no way she could see into it. It shook slightly.
"Good to have you with us," another Crusader spoke. "Go on through."
As the Chocobo carried the carriage away, Naoma gasped. A fiend from inside roared and she looked at Wakka with an eyebrow raised. "Hey you guys," Naoma said to the two before they turned to leave. "Good to see you again."
"Good to see you, too," Gatta replied. Naoma heard footsteps behind her and she knew that the rest of her party was approaching. "We weren't expecting to see any of you for… a while."
Naoma shrugged and nodded. "Yeah, well, what's going on?"
"Can't talk much," Luzzu spoke for Gatta. "We've got to go help set up for the Operation. But wait around – we'll have Sin beaten in no time."
Luzzu performed the prayer gesture and Naoma returned it. "Good luck," she said quietly as the two ran off. "Should we follow?"
Tidus led the group into the gate, but a Crusader stopped them. "I'm sorry, but I can't let you pass." The man looked everyone over, especially Naoma in her Crusader armor. "Hey… you're a summoner and her guardians, right? Sorry for the inconvenience."
"What's going on here?" Naoma asked, clearly confused. "Why was there a fiend in that carriage?"
"They didn't tell you?" the Crusader asked, cocking an eyebrow. Naoma shook her head. "We're bringing Sinspawn from all over Spira here. Sinspawn inevitably draw Sin, right? Well, we're going to lure it into a trap! This mission, Operation Mi'ihen, is a Crusader-Al Bhed joint mission…" Naoma glanced at Wakka, who seemed outraged at this. "We Crusaders lure Sin in, and the Al Bhed strike it down. You see, Al Bhed hate Sin just as much as we do. They managed to salvage ancient Machina. They say they're as powerful as the mighty Aeons. Well, you know Machina are forbidden by Yevon. Ah, on second thought, let's not go there. Better for you not to know."
"What about the temples?" Naoma asked. "What do the Maesters feel about this?" Naoma asked quietly.
"The Crusaders in Operation Mi'ihen have all been excommunicated. My own family won't even speak to me now…" He looked away for a moment and then met Naoma's eyes. "We have to beat Sin today. Otherwise, there's nowhere for us to go."
The Crusader stopped talking and turned away. Naoma looked at Wakka again. "Damn those Al Bhed!" she hissed, stepping away from the Crusader. The party regrouped a bit away from the gate.
"I can't believe they've all been excommunicated," Naoma sighed. "We've got to help them defeat Sin."
Everyone stared at her. "That's not our job," Auron protested. "We are not involved with Operation Mi'ihen. We have to escort our summoner through the Operation safely in order to get to Djose temple."
"But you heard him, didn't you?" Naoma fought back. "If they don't defeat Sin, they'll have nowhere to go! We have to help them!"
"Remember, Naoma, you're a guardian now, not a Crusader," Auron snapped. "You cannot help. We cannot help."
"I won't let you help!" Wakka told her bitterly. "There's no way I'm letting you use Machina, ya?"
Muttering under her breath, Wakka continued.
"I personally think that –"
"Maester Seymour?" Yuna gasped and everyone lifted their heads to see the half Guado walking towards them. He smirked proudly at Yuna and everyone performed the prayer gesture, bowing their heads.
"So we meet again, Lady Yuna," he smiled.
"Y – yes?"
"You look troubled," Maester Seymour said. "Is there anything I can do?"
"Well…" she stammered, glancing quickly at the gate that had been closed off.
Seymour pursed his lips. "I see."
He stepped towards the gate and the Crusader that they had just spoken to. "Maester Seymour," the Crusader said politely, saluting the Maester. "Let me show you to the command center."
Seymour shook his head. "Hold. I have a request."
"Yes, your Grace?"
"I need to have Summoner Yuna and her guardians let through to the command center," Seymour demanded gently.
"But – Maester Seymour, sir…"
Seymour smiled grimly. "Do not worry. I will take full responsibility."
"Very well," the Crusader bowed. "They may pass."
Seymour turned to Yuna and her guardians. "It is done."
"Thank you, your Grace," Yuna said, bowing lower than before. Seymour walked away and left the group alone. She didn't stand back up until Lulu touched her shoulder.
"Yuna, it's time to go."
"Oh! Right!" Yuna flushed a deep red.
"Who does he think he is?" Tidus exclaimed, harrumphing.
"He's a Maester," Wakka replied. He pushed past Tidus, still angry, and walked towards the gate, following Yuna, Lulu, and Auron. "Better get used to it, ya?"
"Stop being so upset," Naoma spoke into Wakka's ear. "The Crusaders have paid the price."
Wakka scoffed and crossed his arms. "Being excommunicated isn't enough."
Naoma frowned. "And what would an appropriate punishment be?"
"They should be excommunicated, not allowed to be Crusaders anymore, and they should be banished from their home city."
"That's harsh!" she hissed, hitting his arm hard. "You're impossible! That's completely unnecessary! Are you saying that I should – in addition to being excommunicated – not allowed to be a Crusader? Are you saying I should be banished from Besaid or Luca?"
Wakka hesitated. "That's different –"
"It is no different!" Naoma looked away from him, upset beyond belief. "I was part of a Crusader-Al Bhed joint Operation, as well! I was lucky that the Maesters didn't punish me with a death sentence!"
"You don't deserve to be a guardian, either," Wakka continued, blatantly ignoring what she was saying. "A guardian or a Crusader."
"How dare you?" she exclaimed. She felt her eyes well up with tears as she walked ahead of Wakka, following the path to the command center.
"If you makes you feel any better," Lulu said from beside her. "I think you deserve to be a guardian and Crusader. All you need to be either is the will to defeat Sin."