Willow was following behind the group as they headed into Macalania Woods. The trees were twenty and thirty feet tall, and the woods had a bluish overcast making even the grass look blue in spots. Willow watched as a blue butterfly flew past her face and land on the trunk of a tree. Giles had stopped and was waiting for her to catch up.
"You're worried about Tara, aren't you?"
"Of course, Giles." Willow said and stopped beside him. "Just what is she thinking?"
"I would think in exchange for agreeing to marry Glory...she hopes to negotiate with her."
"But what is she going to negotiate?"
"That is what I'm wondering about myself."
Willow looked at the ground then back to Giles. "Do you think she can? You know do this by herself?"
"Tara is a strong young woman, but Glory is the better negotiator."
"Can't we do something about it?"
"No. This is the way Tara wants it."
"Argh! I don't get it!" Willow threw her hands in the air. "Doesn't she trust us?" <Doesn't she trust me?>
"Willow, it isn't about her trusting us...It's just that she doesn't want us caught up in whatever it is she's planning."
"Yeah...but that just makes me worry about her more." Willow hung her head "She could just tell us." she said quietly.
Giles chuckles "That is just the way she is. She's naive, serious to a fault, and doesn't ask for help...and she is very easy to read."
"Yeah, she is."
"But, she is hard to guard. Willow I know what the others have told you...but please, stand by her...always." Giles said and continued on with Willow following.
"Hey, slowpokes!" Buffy laughed, "What took so long?"
"Sorry." Willow smiled and walked up the tree path over the woods.
It's funny how calm I was. Maybe it was because I'd realized that Tara wasn't marrying Glory for love. Not really. It was just her duty...something she had to do before returning to her pilgrimage. That's what I kept telling myself, anyway. And well, maybe... I realized that Tara and I'd never... You know.
The group encountered four fiends, a gray and silver bee, a white flan, a huge two headed fiend, one head was in the shape of an eagle, and the other had a bull head with horns, the tail was a long green snake. The last fiend that showed up was a white wolf.
Name: Ice Flan
Name: Snow Wolf
Xander hit the Wasp with his ball knocking it back into a tree, and stunning it. Willow swung her sword at the bullhead of the Chimera, while Faith hit the eagle head. Anya was casting Fira spells on the Ice Flan. Tara jumped to the left as the Snow Wolf attacked her, and hit it on the head with her rod. Buffy swung her gloved hand down on the wolf’s back breaking the spinal column killing it. Anya cast another Fira spell on the flan killing it. Faith dodged a clawed hand as the Chimera swiped at her, Willow flipped over the snake tail and cut the head off when she landed. Giles brought his sword down the middle of the two head cutting the fiend in half. Xander threw his ball one last time killing the Wasp. No one saw the giant eight-legged green spider with red and blue markings sneak up behind them until Willow shouted. They turned and saw her being wrapped up in the spider's web. "It's a Spinner!" Faith called out. "Anya it's weakness is Water." Anya nodded and cast a Watera spell on the spider causing it to drop Willow; Xander threw his ball hitting it on the face. Faith swung her spear in an upward motion cutting one of the large fangs off, Buffy spun in a circle hitting the fiends’ right front leg. A red glow surrounded Giles as he screamed out "Tornado!" the fiend was picked up by a huge spinning vortex of wind, and was dropped from thirty feet up it exploded in different colored souls when it hit the ground.
Tara was slowly cutting the web away from Willow trying not to cut her in the process. "Tara, please get it off." Willow said squirming a little. Tara grinned holding back her laughter when Willow made a disgusted face. With the last of the thick web cut away Willow jumped up brushing at her body. "I really hate spiders...especially ones that big!" Willow said and began walking along side Tara as the group continued along the path.
They entered the next area with Willow watching the trees for any sign of more over sized spider when she saw Angel running toward them.
"Hey! You...have you...seen Cordelia?" Angel asked out of breath.
"Cordelia? I'm sorry but we haven't" Willow said still pulling the spider web from her hair.
"What's wrong?" Xander asked worriedly
"We got separated on the way here. Dammit! I have to find her." Angel said close to panic.
Giles put his hand on Angel's shoulder "Calm down."
"But...if anything were to happen."
"Running around in a panic will not help. Right now, you have to keep a cool head, and search for her."
Angel slumped over and hung his head "Yeah, but"
"Guard your emotions, then guard your Summoner."
"You are right, Sir Giles." Angel said straightening up.
"Now, shall we help you search?"
"No thank you, Sir Giles. I have taken up enough of your time." Angel said and ran back the way he came. Buffy tried to stop him but he was already gone.
"Yo, what's up?" Xander asked looking at her
"Oh! I...uh...just wanted to...um...wish him good luck."
The group moved into the next area, Tara and Willow were watching the blue and red butterflies floating around. <Dammit! Just take her hand...let her know that you are here for her...even if she is going to marry Glory. I told Anya that it was too late...that I had already fallen in love with Tara, and that is the truth. I love her...but...I know she doesn't love me. If she did why would she be marrying that bitch!> Willow's thoughts were interrupted when Tara took her hand. Looking over Tara gave her a half smile and lowered her head. <Well at least she's holding my hand...but I want more than that!>
Anya, Faith, Buffy, and Xander were watching all of this with sad expressions.
"Willow told me that she loves Tara." Anya quietly said
"We all love her."
"Xander that is not what she meant. What Anya means is that Willow has fallen in love with her." Faith told him.
"Oh hellfire. That's bad."
"Yes, Xander it is." Faith nodded
"Oh man, hearing Tara say that she's going to marry Lady Glory must have shattered her heart, ya?"
"Fuck! Why in the hell is she going to marry her? I don't like her one bit." Faith said angrily
"Wait." Giles said from the front of the group and walked over to two trees that had grown together. "It's around...here." he swung his sword cutting the tree bark away revealing a closed off path. He leads the others into a small area with a large sparkling tree in the middle of a small body of water.
"This place..." Willow said looking around "Is just mostly water, isn't it?"
"This is what movie and music spheres are made of. It absorbs and preserves people's memories." Giles said as something rose up from the water. The fiend was a large bluish green body of water with a small sphere in the middle.
"And you just had to bring us straight to a fiend." Willow said grabbing her sword
Willow's sword went through the water and hit the sphere inside causing the fiend to shape up in a pillar and rise into the air. Willow dodged when the fiend came down almost on top of her, "Lovely! Swords won't hurt it!" Willow screamed.
"Its weakness is Fire!" Faith screamed scanning the fiend. Anya cast a Fira spell on it, the fiend shook and the sphere inside opened and changed color. Anya cast another Fira spell on the fiend doing no damage.
"Faith! The damn thing changed elements, what's the weakness now?" Anya asked and jumped back as the fiend tried to stomp her into the ground.
"Thunder!" Faith hollered and Anya cast Thundara spell.
"Willow you've got to help me!" Anya screamed. "Look inside yourself and find a gray magic spell...you'll know it. It will make me cast faster." Anya said and waited for Faith to finishing scanning the fiend. Willow concentrated and looked deep within and came to a spell that was pulsing with a green light. Willow unlocked the spell, and went stiff.
The magic flowed through her body and down to her right palm, she held out her hand facing Anya. "Haste!" she yelled. When the Haste spell hit Anya, she cast three Watera spells on the fiend killing it.
With the Spherimorph out of the way Giles walked over beside the tree, and picked up a movie sphere and handed it to Willow.
"Whoa! That is one old sphere! Don't know if ya can play it back." Xander said examining the sphere in Willow's hand.
"What is this?" Willow asked turning the sphere over in her hand.
"Ira left it here ten years ago. Play it back."
Willow presses the button and the sphere lit up.
"What are you doing?" A younger version of Giles asks looking over the sphere to Ira.
"Hey, you said it was going to be a long trip. And we'll be seeing a lot of neat things, right? So, I thought I'd record it all, and show it to my wife and kid, you know."
"This is not a pleasure cruise!" Giles says and begins walking beside a beautiful woman with long dark blond hair.
"Yo, Mythe? Ain't this some sort of grand occasion?" Ira asked looking around, "So where's the people to show you off? Ya know, the cheering fans, and the crying women?"
"You're looking at it. Too many goodbyes, and people start to think twice about leaving." Mythe said smiling.
"Whatever you say. Well, there better be a huge party when we get back. And a parade for Mythe, the vanquisher of Sin!"
Mythe turns her eyes skyward "I think we should leave. Day will be breaking soon."
[End of first recording]
"Why are you showing me this?"
"Please Willow, just watch it." Giles says and Willow hits the button again.
Giles and Ira are standing in front of an icy cliff looking into the sphere.
"Giles, would you please stand closer to Ira." Mythe asks from behind sphere, and Giles moves a little closer. "Good, thank you. And that should do it."
"What's the matter, Giles? You 'fraid I might bite you?"
"Do shut up Ira." Giles sighs and walks off screen.
"Mythe, why don't you make one, too? It would be a great gift for Tara!"
"Yes, I suppose you're right."
"Lady Mythe... We shouldn't waste our time like this!" Giles says from the side of the sphere.
"Oh, come on G what's the hurry?"
"Don't call me that! And I'll tell you what the hurry is!" Giles stepped forward, but was stopped by Mythe.
"Giles! Please, don't fight."
[End of recording]
"What's the point in watching this? He wasn't on some pleasure cruise." Willow said about to toss the sphere to the ground, but Buffy grabbed her wrist.
"I think there's more." Buffy said causing Willow to sigh and hit the button once more.
Ira is sitting in the same spot Willow is standing and looking into the sphere.
"Hey. If you're sitting there, and watching this...it means you're stuck in Spira, like me. You might now know when you'll get to go back home, but you better not be crying!" Ira looks to the ground. "Although, I guess that I'd understand if you are. But you know what? There's a time when you gotta stop crying and move on. You'll be fine. But I want you to remember… you are my daughter. And...Well, uh...Oh never mind, I'm no good at these things." Ira picks the sphere up off the ground and points it toward the trees. "Anyways...I do believe in you. Be good, and...Goodbye."
[End of recording]
Willow puts the sphere in her pocket "He actually sounded almost serious, but it was too late."
"He was serious. Ira had already accepted his fate, when he recorded that."
"His fate?" Willow asked looking up at Giles.
"He was always talking about going home, to Zanarkand. And that is why he took all of those pictures...to show them to you when he returned. But as he journeyed with us he came to understand Spira, and Mythe's resolve. It happened gradually, but Ira changed. So, he decided that he would join Mythe in her fight against Sin."
"So, he gave up on going home?"
"That was his decision." Giles said and started walking back to the path.
I guess I understood. My old man... he knew there was no way back home, back to Zanarkand. He wanted to go home, but he knew he couldn't. And he couldn't go on until he had accepted it. Besides...even if he had found a way back... I don't think he would've left his friends behind before their journey was complete.
"All right! Let's get going!" Willow said following after Giles.
And maybe I had to start accepting my own fate.
Giles was waiting beside the path when Willow approached he touched her shoulder "Wait."
Giles waited until the group was on the path before speaking "Ira loved you."
"Oh, come on, Giles."
"He just didn't know how to express it, he told me."
"Enough about my old man, okay?"
"I just thought you should know, is all."
Willow smiled sadly "Thanks, Giles."
The group moves on to the lake area of Macalania to the Travel Agency, Willow smiles when she spots William standing beside the building. William smiles at the group as the go inside to get warm, Willow stays behind and nods to him.
"Would you look at this? They're always leaving me behind." William said shaking his head, as the Chocobo ruffled its feathers. "Oh, you want me to scratch you, don't ya?" He scratches the Chocobos chest and smiles "There that's a good boy!"
"Whoa! That's cool! How'd you know what he wanted?" Willow asked watching William pet the big bird.
"Oh, I've always been able to tell how Chocobos feel. I'd probably be a better breeder than a Chocobo Knight. What do you think?"
"I think you are a great Chocobo Knight."
"Really? Wow, for a minute there I thought you'd say I'd be better off breading them." William said and shook Willow's hand. "Well I'd better get going, and try to catch up with the captain. Good luck on your journey!" Willow watched him rind out of sight before going into the Agency. Willow leans against the wall waiting on the others.
"Is everyone ready?" Giles asked standing beside the door, receiving nods he walks out the door with everyone following. Willow was the last one out behind and saw Amy running over to meet them.
"Lady Tara, we have been expecting you. We were surprised that you decided to come so soon, pleasantly surprised, of course. Lady Glory sends her apologies for having left without notice." Amy said then bowed to Tara.
"That was fine, I'm sure Lady Glory has many things to do. But, I do have one question?"
"Yes, My Lady what is it?"
"I want to keep journeying, even if I marry. Do you think that Lady Glory would let me?"
"Why of course, My Lady. Lady Glory wishes nothing else, I'm sure."
Tara turns and looks at each guardian "Goodbye."
"We must follow the Guado tradition." Amy says taking Tara's hand. "So, I must ask you to wait here, and I'll send someone to escort you to the temple."
"I..." Tara starts to say something but stops.
"Do as you will, Tara. We are all with you." Giles says and touches Tara's arm.
"Thank you, Sir Giles." Tara said before Amy led her off
Giles turns and looks at a down cast Willow "Sorry."
"Huh? What for?" Willow asks looking up.
"That was your line."
Willow looks at him and smiles, and runs to the side of the snow bank "Tara!" she shouts then whistles.
Tara turns and nods her head "I'll remember!" she says and is shoved out of the way by Amy, when a machina snow sled comes racing by.
"Oh, no!" Buffy shouts and runs off with Willow and the others following.
"Those damn Al Bhed again!" Xander curses running behind Faith.
Giles stands in front of Amy and Tara "Stand back! We'll take care of this!"
"Thank you, Sir." Amy says and try’s to lead Tara away, but Tara breaks the hold on her hand and rushes over to Willow. "My Lady! We must go!"
"I'm going to stay and fight beside my guardians." Tara says and smiles at Willow, as a young Al Bhed girl appears on the snow bank to the left.
"Buffy! Tuh'd ehdanvana un oui kad du vekrd drec!" The young girl shouted, as a large gray tank with orange and silver marking appeared. (Buffy! Don't interfere or you get to fight this!) "Fedr drec ouin bnaleuic magic yht aeons yna caymat!" (With this your precious magic and aeons are sealed!)
"Dammit!" Buffy stomped her foot.
"Umm...translation?" Willow asked looking at the machina
"She's going to use an anti-magic field on us!"
"Well shit!" Faith said and twirled her spear
"Ked dras!" The girl shouted and the machina tank rolled off the bank. (Get them!)
The tank stopped ten foot from the group, and a small round machina with a propeller on the end flew up into the air. With the small machina in the air an anti-magic barrier surrounded the group. Xander threw his ball hitting it and knocking it back. Faith tried to hit it with her spear, only to find it wasn't a long enough reach. Willow watched as the small machina floated there, and got an idea. "Faith!" she called. When Faith turned to her Willow locked her fingers together and held them down in a cup. Faith grinned getting the idea, and locked her fingers together. Willow ran over and put her right foot in Faith's hands, Faith tossed Willow up into the air with her sword drawn she struck the machina knocking it to the ground. Buffy ran over to it and pulled the wires, cutting the power and taking the barrier down. The cannon on the tank began to glow, and shake.
"Get back!" Buffy screamed and dived to the right, as the group dodged a beam shot out of the cannon and into the snow bank, melting the snow twenty feet away. Anya hurriedly cast a Thundara spell on the tank, and looked over her shoulder when she heard Tara speak.
"Ixion, please come to my aide." Tara spoke and a black portal opened in mid-air behind her. A golden horn appeared first, then Ixion jumped out of the portal, and reared up on his hind legs beside Tara, and snorted. "Use Aerospark." Tara said to him petting his face, and stepped back. Ixion bowed his head, and his horn glowed, and shot out a large amount of electricity, hitting the tank. The tank began to shake then fell silent, and started backing up. "Thank you, Ixion. You may go now." Tara said and pats Ixion on his neck.
"My Lady!" Amy ran over to Tara and checked her for wounds, and found none. "Please we must go now." She said and led Tara off. Willow watched her go sadly.
When the tank rolled to the top of the snow bank it came down the young girl got out. "Buffy! E femm damm Sudran!" she shouted. (Buffy! I will tell mother!)
"E ys Tara's guardian huf, oui caa? Tara ec cyva! Fa femm kiynt ran! Cra ec cyva!" Buffy shouted back. (I am Tara's guardian now, you see? Tara is safe! We will guard her! She is safe!)
The young girl shook her head "Drah oui du drec ymuha, cecdan!" the girl shouted and left. (Then you do this alone, sister!)
Buffy sighed and turned to Willow, who had Xander standing beside her. "I told her I was Tara's guardian...I guess I had to, really."
"Why do you speak Al Bhed?" Xander asked very confused.
"Because Xander...I'm Al Bhed. And that was...my sister Dawn." Buffy said looking at the ground.
Xander looks over to Willow "You knew?" he asks and receives a nod from her. "Why in the hell did you tell me?"
"We knew it would upset you, and you would have went against Buffy becoming a guardian." Anya said putting her hand on Xander's shoulder.
"This is just great!" Xander shoves Anya's hand away. "I can't believe that I've been traveling with a damned Al Bhed! A heathen!"
"You're wrong, Xander! The Al Bhed has nothing against Yevon!" Buffy shouts facing him.
"Al Bhed use the forbidden machina! And do you know what that means? Sin was born because people used machina!"
"Do you have proof? I want you to show it to me if you do!"
"It's in the teachings! Not that you'd know!"
"That is not good enough! Ha! Yevon say this. Yevon says that. Can't you just think for yourself, for once?"
"Well, then you tell me! Where did Sin come from, huh?"
"How the hell would I know?"
"You put Yevon down, and that's all you can say?"
"You shouldn't have to do whatever they say! Nothing will ever change that way!"
"Nothing has to change!"
"What? You want Sin to keep coming back, is that it? There just might be a way to stop the rebirth, you know!"
"The only way to make that happen is to atone for our past mistakes!"
"When, huh? And, how?
"We have to keep faith in Yevon's teaching and it will be gone one day!"
"Holy hellfire! Why do I even try?"
"That is enough!" Giles said walking over "You want to fight, then get the hell away from here. We have a Summoner to guard, and fighting each other will not help!" He said causing Xander and Buffy to lower their heads. "Buffy? Will this move?" He asked looking over the machina snow sled.
"Umm...yeah. Just let me put these wires back." Buffy said fixing the sled.
"We're not gonna use that, are we?" Xander looked horrified "Wait...Sir Giles isn't Al Bhed too, is he?"
"Dammit, Xander!" Willow threw her hands up in the air.
"This is getting out of hand...no it got out of hand when you started you screaming match with Buffy. Geez! You got along fine with her, until now."
"That's different, I mean..."
"How is it different, Xander? I don't know that much about Spira, and I know even less about the Al Bhed...but I know Buffy's a good person. She's just Buffy."
"Anya?" Xander turned to Anya.
"Well, just think of it as an opportunity to learn more about the Al Bhed."
"Ha! Yeah right!" Xander says and walks off toward the temple.
"Let him go." Giles said to Willow who was trying to stop Xander. "He needs time to think."
"I'm sorry." Buffy said looking at the ground.
"You've done nothing to apologize for." Anya said smiling at her.
"Yeah, Xander just needs to learn a few things." Faith said and jumped on to one of the sleds.
Willow hopped on the one closest to her "All right! Let's ride!" She said causing Buffy to look at her worriedly.
"Will, you sure you can drive that?"
"Yeah, I'll figure it out. Don't worry." Willow said and took off with Giles following on the one he took. Anya climbs on behind Buffy and hangs on when she takes off.
Willow caught up to Faith and drives up to her side. "Hey, what do you think about Buffy being Al Bhed?"
"My clan, the Dragon clan follows Yevon. And the Dragon clan dislikes the Al Bhed."
"No! Wait, but not me. Al Bhed is Al Bhed, and Buffy is Buffy. And she swore to protect Tara on the journey, just like you did. And I can tell Buffy is not a liar. So, she is our friend, and I like her even if she is Al Bhed."
"I think you might want to tell her that later. Buffy needs to know that we still want her here with us."
"You know? I'm surprised."
"Why?" Willow asked looking at Faith.
"Well...I think you are kind."
Willow giggles, "Just don't tell anyone, okay? It'll be our little secret."
Faith laughs, and nods her head as they reach the temple.