The group had made a campfire and was sitting around it quietly staring into the fire or off into the distance. Willow got up and touched Tara's shoulder before moving up a small hill and looking over the ruins. <Zanarkand... is in ruins, I'm a dream, and I've fallen in love. Wait. Can a dream fall in love? Well, I guess I've proved that they can. I can't believe this; the world I come from is nothing but a dream... If the Fayth stop dreaming I won't be around anymore. Dammit! I hate this!>
"Hey, Will." Xander said walking up the hill. "Come back to the fire and keep warm."
"Yeah, I'll be there in a sec." she took one last look at the ruins and walked back to the fire, and sat down beside Tara. The group took turns telling stories into the night, making everyone laugh.
"Oh, come on! There's more, right? I mean like that time... uh... Anyone?" Willow said trying to keep the conversation going.
"I think we should stop, for now. You know?"
"Yes, it is time to move on." Giles said and stood.
Willow sighed and rose grabbing her sword and took the lead, as they walked hundreds of souls and pyreflies floated over the path.
"This looks just like the Farplane." Xander said watching a pyrefly hover near his face.
"Close enough." Giles said and continued on.
Willow helped Tara climb over the broken pillars littering the pathway. They quietly walked past a sleeping Ochu, so as not to wake it, and made their way to the dome. A transparent man walked out the door and met them at the top of the steps.
"Journeyer of the long road, name yourself." The man said looking over the group and then to Tara.
"I am the Summoner Tara. I have come from the island of Besaid."
"Your eyes, my dear. They show me the long road you have traveled. Very good. You have journeyed well. The Lady Yunalesca will surely welcome your arrival. Take your guardians, and go to her now." The man said and disappeared. The group entered the dome and stopped when two guards and a Summoner appeared.
"If this benefits Spira's future, I will gladly give my life. It is the highest honor for which a guardian might ask. Use my life Lady Yocun, and rid Spira of Sin." The female guard said and disappeared with the others.
"What... what was that?" Buffy asked wide-eyed.
"That would be our predecessors." Giles told her.
"She said 'Lady Yocun,' didn't she? She guarded High Summoner Yocun?" Anya asked confused.
Giles turned and looked at Anya "This dome is filled with pyreflies. It's like one gigantic sphere, and people's thoughts remain here... Forever." He said then walked down the broken path.
When the group reached the top of the path they stopped when an image of a little blond girl, and a brown haired woman appeared.
"No! Mother! I don't want you to become a Fayth!" The little girl said wiping her tear stained face.
"There is no other way. You must use me to defeat Sin. Only then will the people accept you."
"I don't care what they say! I need you, mother! And no one else!"
"I don't have much time left." The image disappeared.
"Hey! Wasn't that...?" Xander started to say then looked at Willow
"Glory? That was Glory, when she was a kid...and the woman was her...mother." Buffy said and quickly slipped by.
The group moved on close to small round doorway with no door, and Willow jumped back. "Whoa!" she said as an image of Mythe, Giles, and Ira appeared.
"Hey, Mythe. You don't have to do this." Ira said turning to the image of Mythe.
"Thank you for your concern."
"Fine, I've said my piece."
"Well, I haven't!" The young Giles said stepping forward. "Lady Mythe, let's go back! I don't want to see you...die!"
Mythe smiles sadly at the young man "You knew this was to happen, my friend."
"Yes, but I... I can't accept it."
"Giles, I am honored that you care for me so much. But I have come to kill grief itself. I will defeat Sin, and life the veil of sorrow covering Spira. Please understand, Giles." The image disappeared with the young Giles hanging his head in defeat.
Willow watched Giles as he walked by an into the hallway. Taking Tara's hand she followed and stopped when another image appeared.
"Are the trials ahead?" Ira asked stretching
"Here too. Gimme a break. I was expecting, you know, parades and...fireworks!"
"You can ask for them after I defeat Sin." The image disappeared with Mythe walking past Ira.
"So the trials are here too, huh? Well let's get to it." Willow said and walked up the stairs into a small room, with a screen on the back wall. She stepped on a glowing switch on the floor, causing music to play and sections of the floor to light up, and a pattern to show up on the screen. Looking at the pattern and then the floor, the group saw more of the glowing switches had appeared. Shrugging her shoulders Faith stepped on one of them, causing a section to light up, and a music note to be played. Getting the idea everyone stepped on the switches in the order of the pattern. Music played and a door at the back slid up revealing another room.
In the next room the group proceeded to step on the floor switches in the order the screen showed. Stepping on the final one a purple sphere fell to the floor in front of Willow, picking it up she ran up to the screen and placed it in the slot. The wall exploded revealing a chest, opening it Willow found a Magistral Rod. Stepping down she handed it to Tara as a bright light lit up the room, when the light died down there was a huge red fiend with orange wings rising from the center. Four platforms appeared around the fiend, taking Faith, Giles and Xander up with them, Willow jumped on the fourth and struck the fiend from behind. Faith jumped over a massive claw and sliced the arm it was attached to, Giles avoided the scorpion like tail and cut the stinger off. Xander threw his ball infused with a Flare spell hitting the fiend in the mid-section, and ripping a hole open. Tara was casting Protect spells from the ground, and watched as the platform Faith was standing on started flashing. The platform exploded knocking Faith off and to the ground, Buffy took her place and threw an Electro Shock mix at the fiend electrocuting it. Anya cast two Flare spells one after the other as Willow jumped into the air and cut the fiends' right arm off. The fiend shrieked and exploded.
The platforms disappeared and an elevator rose up. "Tara, it is time." Giles said and Tara nodded stepping on the elevator and went down. Tara stepped off the elevator and saw an image of her mother, Giles, and Ira speaking to a man.
"What do you mean no Final Aeon?" Ira said as they disappeared.
Tara got back on the elevator, and rose to the surface. "Everyone!" she said worriedly. The group descended to the lower level. "This isn't a Fayth... It's just an empty statue." Tara said looking at the rock statue in the floor.
"That statue lost its power as a Fayth long ago." The transparent man said stepping through the door. "That statue is of Lord Zaon, the first Fayth of the Final Summoning. What you see there is all that remains of him. His soul is gone."
"Gone!?" Xander said surprised.
"Wait, you mean there is no Final Aeon?" Buffy asked hopefully.
"Do not fear. Lady Yunalesca will show you the path. The Final Aeon will be yours to control. The Summon and the Final Aeon will join powers. The lady awaits, inside. Please go to her now." The man said and was gone.
"Tara, wait!" Willow said gently pulling Tara back, then turning to Giles. "You knew this was going to happen, didn't you?"
"Why didn't you tell us!?" Buffy asked surprised.
Giles turned to her then looked the group over "If I had told you, would that really have stopped you from coming?"
"Tara?" Faith said stepping beside her.
"I'm not going back."
"I know." Faith sighed "I will go in first, so you are safe...I will protect you till my last breath." she said and stepped through the door.
The group followed Faith into the Great Hall, and looked around; the only thing in there was a set of stairs leading to another doorway.
"Someone's coming!" Buffy shouted when she heard footsteps. They looked to the top of the stairs and saw a silver haired woman, with a black bra, and thong, with a cape walking toward them. She stopped at the top and looked down upon the group.
"Lady Yunalesca." Tara said and bowed.
"Welcome to Zanarkand. I congratulate you, Summoner. You have completed your pilgrimage. I will now bestow you with that which you seek. The Final Summoning...will be yours. Now, choose. You must choose the one whom I will change...to become the Fayth of the Final Summoning." Yunalesca said causing the group to gasp, and stare at her wide-eyed.
"You gotta be kidding me!" Willow growled out.
"There must be a bond, between chosen and Summoner, for that is what the Final Summoning embodies: the bond between husband and wife, mother and child, or between friends. If that bond is strong enough, its light will conquer Sin. A thousand years ago, I chose my husband Zaon as my fayth. Our bond was true, and I obtained the Final Aeon. There is nothing to fear. You will soon be freed of worry and pain. For once you call forth the Final Aeon, your life will end. Death is the ultimate and final liberation. Your mother, Mythe, chose this path." she said and walked away as an image appeared in front of the group.
"It is not too late! Please Mythe! Let's leave!" The young Giles said.
"And if I was to turn back, who would defeat Sin? Do you want some other Summoner and their guardians to go through this?"
"But... My Lady! That has to be some other way!"
"Giles, this is the only way! Fine, Mythe. Make me the Fayth. I've been thinking, my dream is back in the other Zanarkand. I wanted to make that girl of mine into a star blitz player, and show her the view from the top, you know. But now I know there is no way for me to return home. I'll never see her again...my dream's never gonna come true. So, make me the Fayth. I'll fight Sin with you, Mythe. Then maybe my life will have... meaning."
"No! You can't do this, Ira. If you were to live, there may be another way! I know we can think of something!"
"Trust me, I've thought this through. And besides I ain't gettin' any younger, so I might as well make myself useful."
"Ira." Mythe said sadly
"I hope you're not gonna try and stop me."
"Sorry, what I meant to say is... thank you."
"Mythe still has to fight Sin, Giles. I want you to guard her well, and make sure she gets there. Well, let's go."
"Lady Mythe! Ira!"
"What do you want now?" Ira asked turning around.
"Sin always comes back. It comes back after the Calm every time! The cycle will continue and your deaths will mean nothing!"
"Giles, there's always a chance it won't come back. It's worth trying." Mythe said putting her hand on Giles' shoulder.
"I know what you're saying, Giles. I will find a way to break the cycle."
"You have a plan?"
"I'll think of something. Don't The image of Ira laughed. Giles swung his sword through the younger version of himself.
"And the cycle went on." Giles said sadly.
"We'll break it!" Willow said forcefully
"But how?" Xander asked then gave her a sarcastic look "What, you gotta plan now?"
"If one of us has to become a Fayth... I volunteer." Anya said having made her mind up
"Yeah, me too, Tara"! Xander agreed
"Dammit! Don't you people listen? That won't change a damn thing! Sure you'd bring the Calm, and then what?"
"You wanna defeat Sin and keep Tara alive... You don't want Sin to come back, ya? That's just not gonna happen, you know?"
"If you want everything, you'll end up with nothing." Anya said and stepped beside Xander.
"But I want everything!"
"Now you're being a child!" Xander shook his head.
"That's it! I just give up!" Willow threw her hands in the air. "So, tell me...what would you adults do, then? You know you can throw away a Summoner, then you can do whatever the hell you want! You're right. I might not have a chance. But no way am I gonna just stand here and let Tara go. And what Giles said about there being a way, you know what? I think it's true!"
"You'll...think of something?" Buffy asked quietly
"I'll go ask Yunalesca, she has to know something."
"Yes, but do you think she'll help you?"
"I don't know, Buffy. But I have to give it a try. This is my story. It'll go the way I want it...or I'll end it here."
"Wait." Tara said taking Willow's hand "You say this is your story...but it's my story too, you know? It would be so easy... to let my fate just carry me away, following the same path my whole life. But I know...I can't. What I do, I do with no regrets." Tara said and then walked up the stairs with the others following.
Inside the room Yunalesca was waiting, "Have you chosen the one who is to become your Fayth?"
"May I ask something first?" Yunalesca nods "Will Sin come back even if I use the Final Summoning?
"Sin is eternal. Every Aeon that defeats it becomes Sin in its place... And thus Sin is reborn."
"So, that’s why my old man became Sin."
"Sin is an inevitable part of Spira's destiny. It is never-ending."
"Never-ending!?" Xander shouted "But...but...if we atone for our crimes, Sin will stop coming back, ya? Someday, it'll be gone, ya?"
"Will humanity ever attain such purity?" Yunalesca said shaking her head as Anya stepped forward
"This cannot be! The teachings state that we can exorcise Sin with complete atonement! It's been our only hope all these years!"
"Hope...is comforting. It allows us to accept fate, however tragic it might be."
"No!" Willow shouted and ran forward just as an image of a younger Giles ran forward.
"Where is the sense in all this? Mythe believed in Yevon's teaching and died for them! Ira believed in Mythe and gave his life for him!" The young Giles said holding his sword ready to strike.
"They chose to dies, because they had hope." Yunalesca said as Giles ran at her with his sword held high, Yunalesca raised her hand and knocked Giles back. His sword fell to the ground as Giles rolled over and landed face down, as the image disappeared.
"The teachings and the Final Summoning give the people of Spira hope. Without hope, they would drown in their sorrow. Now, choose." She motioned to the group "Who will be your Fayth? Who will be the one to renew Spira's hope?"
"No one. I would have gladly died... I live for the people of Spira, and I would have gladly died for them. But no more! The Final Summoning is a false tradition that should be thrown away."
"No, it is our only hope. Your mother sacrificed herself to give the people of Spira hope. So that they would forget their sorrow."
"That is wrong! My mother...my mother wanted...to make Spira's sorrow go away. Not to cover it up with more lies!"
"Sorrow cannot be abolished. And it's meaningless to try."
I loved my mother; I still love my mother... So I will live with my sorrow, I will live my own life! I will defeat sorrow, in her place. I will stand my ground and be strong. I don't know when it will be but someday, I will conquer it. And I will do it without... your false hope!"
"You would throw away hope...you poor creature. Well, I will free you before you can drown in your sorrow. It is better for you to die in hope... than to live in despair. Let me be your liberator." Yunalesca said and rose into the air on a snake like body.
"Now!" Giles shouted, "This is it! Now is the time to choose! Die and be free of pain or live and fight your sorrow! Now is the time to shape your stories! Your fate is in your hands!"
"Tara needs me! So, I will fight for her...and the spirits of the Dragon clan!" Faith said twirling her spear.
"I'm fighting, too!" Buffy shouted tightening her glove
"Gimme a break! We're gonna fight Lady Yunalesca!" Xander said and readied himself for the fight.
"You can always run." Anya said and turned to face forward.
"Yeah right! I'd never forgive myself-no way! Not if I ran away now. Even in death, ya!"
"My thoughts exactly."
"Tara!" Willow shouted, "This is our story! So, let's see this thing through together!"
Tara nodded with a smile and cast Protect spells on the group as Giles ran forward and hit the snake body. Anya cast a Flare spell, then infused Xander's blitzball with one as he threw it, Yunalesca screamed as both spells hit her face and body. Faith glowed as she put her hands together wrists touching, then thrust her hand forward, a shower of ice hit Yunalesca freezing her body. Willow swung and shattered the frozen body, causing Yunalesca to shake as fall forward. The snake body disappeared as her face turned gray, with yellow eyes and her hair turned to red and purple snakes. Buffy threw a Rolling Thunder mix at the giant head and ducked as the lighting electrocuted several snakes. Willow dodged and brought her sword down severing one snakes' head. Faith thrust her spear into Yunalescas' right eye, and dodged a snakebite. Xander threw his ball hitting Yunalescas' empty eye socket causing her to scream in pain. Anya cast another Flare spell on the giant head, and killing several snakes. Willow, Giles, and Faith thrust their weapons in Yunalesca’s head and twisted, the head disappeared and Yunalesca appeared.
"If I die, so does the Final Aeon. Taking away Spira's only hope." Yunalesca said sitting on the floor as souls floated up from her body.
"Then we'll just find Spira a new hope!" Willow said as she wiped off her sword.
"You fool! There is no other way. Even if there was... Even if you did destroy Sin, without the Final Aeon... Yu Yevon the immortal would only create a new Sin."
"Yu Yevon? Who the hell is that!?" Willow asked confused.
"Zaon...please forgive me... Spira has been robbed of the light of hope... and all that now remains is sorrow." Yunalesca said before disappearing.
"I-I cannot believe what we just did." Tara said in shock.
"Now, let's do something even more unbelievable." Willow said sheathing her sword, and grinning.
"What?" Buffy asked taking off her glove.
"Destroy Sin. So it won't come back, and without the Final Aeon. I don't know how just yet. But I'll find out." Willow said and walked back into the Great Hall. Giles grabs her by the shoulder as the group goes back to the elevator and goes to the Trial room.
"Willow, we must talk."
"What is it?"
"There is something you should know."
"I know... it's about you, right?"
"I am also an unsent." Giles said and watched Willow "You are not surprised?"
"I think...I kinda knew. It was Yunalesca, wasn't it?"
"When Mythe and Ira died defeating Sin...I couldn't accept it. So, I came back here... and tried to avenge them. But Yunalesca struck me down. Somehow I made my way, crawling, down Mount Gagazet. My strength left me just outside of Bevelle. That's where Faith and her mother found me. I told them about Tara... just before I died. And I've been wandering ever since, never going to the Farplane."
"Giles..." Willow said sadly.
"Oh, come now. Don't make that face. Being dead has its advantages. I was able to ride Sin and go to your Zanarkand."
"And you've been watching over me since then, haven't you? But...why? What was so special about me?"
"It is one of those things that is difficult to explain. Very well, I will show you. My memories." Giles said and kneeled as an image of him and Ira appeared.
"Can I ask you one last favor? Uh...Nah. Forget it." Ira said with his back turned to Giles.
"Out with it!"
"Okay. But listen good. I want you to take care of my daughter...in Zanarkand. She's such a crybaby. She needs someone there to hold her hand, see? So, please take care of her."
"But how am I supposed to get to your Zanarkand?"
"You said it yourself! There has to be a way to get there, right? I know you'll find it."
"All right, I will. I give you my word. I'll take care of your daughter, and I'll guard her with my life."
"Thank you, Giles. You were always such a stiff, but that's what I liked about you." Ira said as the memory ended.
"Now you know why." Giles said and walked to the elevator with Willow following him deep in thought.
When the group stepped outside the dome the sun was rising, and Buffy screamed. Turning to face the direction Buffy was looking they saw Sin watching them. The fifty-foot tall Sin looked down upon the group, and seemed to stare at Willow. Walking forward Willow stopped at the edge of the path and stared back.
<Dad? I know the Final Summoning's gone. But don't worry, I'll think of something. Just give me a little more time> Almost like Sin had heard Willow's thoughts he turned around and slowly walked away ignoring the airship as it passed by.