Dawn sat the ship down in Macalania Woods and let the girls off, before she took off to land in the Calm Lands. Near the entrance to the temple Willow slowed to a walk and held her hand up, following her gaze the others saw Gippal.
"I wonder if Baralai and Nooj are already in there?" Buffy asked as they snuck by two guards and into the temple.
The lift was just returning when they stepped on and took it down, when the lift landed Gippal was walking into the Fayth's chamber. Hurrying along the trial path the girls took the second lift up and followed Gippal down the hole into the underground. Finding the same chain Tara slid down to the bottom closely followed by the others.
Taking a deep breath, Willow kept her eyes on the large machina guards and ran across the room, and jumped down. Tara watched a drone machina guard float by before she made a run for Willow. Buffy and Faith waited till the next two guards floated or walked by, before making a run for it. Both Willow and Tara were waiting for them near the door.
With no sign of machina or fiends the girls stayed close to Gippal as he lead the way back to Vegnagun's chamber. At the entrance Buffy and Faith hid on the right side of the door, with Willow and Tara on the left, as Gippal met with Nooj, and Baralai.
"Hey." Gippal said approaching.
"You're late." Baralai said turning toward the young Al Bhed
"If he'd been on time, I would have been worried." Nooj said keeping his back turned toward the others.
"So much for being missing." Tara whispered to Willow who nodded.
"Are you sure you should be here?" Gippal asked glancing from Baralai to Nooj. "I mean, the Youth League and New Yevon are falling apart without you to baby-sit."
"You expect too much." Nooj said finally turning around to face the other men.
"Whatever. Why are we here, again?"
"Vegnagun is gone." Baralai said looking into the hole.
"Are you saying Yevon's not to blame for that damn thing being on the lose!?"
"It's the truth! You showed up, then Tara and her two goons, no wonder it hauled ass! That thing is more sensitive than its size would lead you to believe! It detects hostility, and springs to life just like that!" Baralai snapped his fingers. "Just thinking about harming it, it awakens like frightened child."
"Goons?!" Buffy nearly shouted causing Faith to cover her mouth.
"You did your homework, I see." Nooj said laughing.
"I've had two years."
"Wait!" Gippal said stepping near the hole and looking down, "You're saying that Vegnagun woke up because someone was trying to destroy it? Who?"
"Who indeed. And that's what I'm confused about. You, Nooj came here before the Gullwings, didn't you come here to claim it for yourself? It awoke and left, why? I'll tell you why: Because deep down you hated it. Now tell me, did you come here to use it or destroy it? Well?" Baralai asked turning toward Nooj.
"What do you think?" Nooj said lowering his hand, "It was both. You may think that it's impossible, but it isn't. I wouldn't expect you to understand, since you've always been too na´ve to see."
"Then, don't expect me to trust you, now. I believed in you once... when we were training for the Crimson Squad. I thought I'd never find a better friend than you. But you betrayed that trust... ...two years ago." Baralai said pulling a gun and pointing it at Nooj.
"Baralai!" Gippal shouted shocked.
"Why? Tell me why! Why did you shoot? Why did you shoot Gippal and me? We were friends, and you shot us in the back! Answer me! Dammit!" Baralai shouted causing Nooj to laugh.
"Calm down!" Gippal said looking at Baralai before turning to Nooj, "Apologize already!" Gippal pulled his own gun pointing it at Baralai. "I will if I have to!"
Nooj's body began to glow as he dropped his cane. "This has turned out perfectly, wouldn't you think? Yes, I did shoot you." He said pulling his own gun and pointing it at Gippal. "You were easy targets!" Nooj spoke with another voice overlapping his own.
"Why?" Baralai asked again cocking his gun.
"I made him do it." A female voice said, "He was too weak to resist me." The voice said and laughed evilly.
"Nooj?" Gippal asked confused.
"I don't expect you to present any more of a challenge than he did. Not now." Nooj spoke with the female voice, as pyreflies floated out from his body and surrounded Baralai.
"You see, I found that the mind that hates and despairs is the easiest to break." The female voice said from Baralai's body, as Nooj fell to the floor. "Two years ago, it was the same with you, Nooj. Seeking your own death. Now you can have it." Baralai said about to shoot the kneeling man.
"Wait!" Gippal shouted
"Stop it!" Tara shouted running into the room.
"Girls get out of here!" Nooj shouted trying to stand as a barrier activated around the three men.
"Watch out!" Faith shouted back flipping as a Malboro charged them, and brought her spear down severing two tentacles.
Willow cast a Flare spell as she rolled to the side dodging the fiends' tentacles. Tara whirled around and fired six Holy infused rounds into the fiend, as Buffy threw a Potato Masher mix.
Seeing the Holy spells begin to work Buffy grabbed Faith and ducked, just as Willow and Tara ducked. The fiend exploded in a bright light as it disappeared to the Farplane.
Once the light had died down the girls looked around. "Where'd they go?" Buffy asked standing up.
"I saw Baralai run out the door. Nooj and Gippal probably chased after him." Faith said standing.
"So, Nooj shot them two years ago thinking he'd killed them." Willow said flopping down on the floor.
Tara looked to where the men had been standing, "Yes, but something was in him. That voice wasn't his, but a female voice."
"I don't like this. Try to answer a few questions, and you just get more questions to be answered!" Buffy said flopping down beside Willow.
"Do you think Gippal would tell us anything if we found him?" Faith asked looking into the deep hole.
"Gippal? That bastard wouldn't give you water if you were dying of thirst in the Bikanel Desert!" Buffy snorted.
Tara grabbed both Willow and Buffy and pulled them up. "Come on, let's go to Djose. We may find something there. Maybe Gippal."
Getting out of the temple proved easier than getting in, and soon they were back on the airship heading for Djose Temple. Dawn was still trying to get Buffy to agree to let her use a sword on Gippal, but she wouldn't, and said that was her job. Dawn landed the ship outside of the temple entrance and waited with a sword by her side.
The temple grounds looked like a war-zone, damaged, and broken machina littered the ground, along with a few dead men. The wounded men and women were lying to the side of the temple covered in bloody bandages. There were a few Al Bhed pointing guns at the door leading inside the temple.
"Frana'c dryd pycdynt?" (Where's that bastard?) Buffy asked approaching the other Al Bhed.
"Fru?" (Who?) One of the men asked not taking his eyes off the door.
"Tuh'd ghuf. Ra jyhecrat." (Don't know. He vanished.)
"Great! Now they're all gone again!" Willow shouted angrily
"We know something funny's going on."
"Save that for later, Buffy." Faith said as another Al Bhed man rushed out of the temple door.
"Fa dneat vekrdehk dra fiends uh uin ufh, pid... Dra fiends vuiht y fyo du sanka fedr dra machina." (We tried fighting the fiends on our own, but... The fiends found a way to merge with the machina.) The man said as he fell to his knees breathing hard.
"Well shit!" Willow said and looked at Buffy.
"Don't blame me! I'm never here!"
"I think that's our cue." Tara said and pulled Willow behind her into the temple.
With the Al Bhed keeping watch inside the temple it was an easy walk through the trials. Taking the elevator up they found another Al Bhed aiming his gun at the chamber entrance; they stepped by him and into the room. An Al Bhed man flew by and crashed into the wall, glancing around the corner the girls saw Ixion snort and stomp the floor.
"Another Aeon..." Willow said as they stepped into the room.
"And he's merged with machina." Buffy said watching Tara.
"How can this be..." Tara trailed off staring at the lightning Aeon.
Ixion stomped the floor again as the horn on his head began to glow gathering energy. The girls scattered as Ixion threw his head back, and then forward releasing his attack. Buffy rose from the floor and reached into her pouch, her eyes widened as Ixion charged at her. With a scream she began running around the room, trying to mix up a Tidal Wave.
Running straight at the wall Buffy used it to jump on then back flip over Ixion, throwing the mix at him and landing in a crouch. The mix hit the Aeon as he hit the wall, water rushed over his body followed by a Waterga spell from Willow.
Ixion shook as the water hit the electricity on his body, Faith struck twice before jumping back out of his path. Tara fired two Flare bullets into his side and watched as the magic ripped off some of the metal parts, as he fell to the ground, not moving.
As Ixion lay on the floor the girls walked into the Fayth's chamber to find another hole, and pyreflies rising up.
"I wonder what's down there." Buffy said looking into the hole.
"Go find out." Willow said keeping the grin off her face.
"Uh-uh! No way!" Buffy shook her head waving her hands in front of her face.
Tara looked down into dark depths of the hole and shivered. "Something is telling me to stay away."
"What?" Faith asked confused. "You feel something?"
Willow turned toward Tara and saw something out of the corner of her eye, looking to the chamber entrance she saw Ixion. His body was glowing with electric sparks as he took a step forward.
"Watch out!" Willow screamed as Ixion exploded.
"What?" Tara turned and was thrown back and fell into the hole.
"Tara!" Willow, Buffy and Faith shouted as she disappeared into the darkness.
"Fuck! Come on! We gotta get back to the ship! Shinra can throw one of his Commsphere's into the hole!" Faith said pulling Willow out of the chamber.
"No! I can't leave! I'll go down on my own!"
"We don't know where it leads! Tara has her weapons, she'll be fine until we get to her!"
"No, I won't leave her I..."
"Sorry, Will, but I had to." Faith said after she'd knocked Willow out.
With one last look at the hole Buffy followed Faith out of the chamber and back to the airship.
[Somewhere deep in the hole]
Tara is falling upside down in a very bright white place, with nothing and no one but herself around. Her fall suddenly stopped as she turned right side up and looked around.
"It's so bright." She said aloud turning in all directions.
"Can you hear me?" A woman's voice asked from nowhere, but everywhere at the same time.
"Yes." Tara answered.
"Ah, so you can hear me." The voice said happily.
"I can, but I can't see you. Where are you?"
"Right here." The voice laughed.
Tara suddenly opened her eyes and found herself on the Farplane in the purple shirt and gray skirt. Bright lights float around and surround her as she sat up and looked around.
The lights float away from Tara and move a twenty-feet away as a woman appears, and walks forward with a smile on her face.
"I finally found you." The woman says looking at Tara.
"Glory?" Tara whispers taking a step back.
"Glory? No, it's me Tsuki. I've waited so long, Lenne."
Tara turned away from the woman and shook her head. "I'm not Lenne, my name is Tara."
"Lenne." Tsuki continued not hearing Tara speak, "We disappeared together, but when I woke up, I was alone. I looked for you, but never found you. While I wandered, I began to realize something: Spira hadn't changed at all. Everyone was still fighting over nothing, and still dying like they used to. A thousand years have passed, and they can't leave the hatred behind them. I'm through waiting, Lenne. I'll fix it, I promise. This world continues to fail us and what's worse, I failed to protect you." Tsuki said clenching her fist as a tear fell to the ground. "But Vegnagun will make that all go away. And we'll fade together again. Help me do it."
Tsuki ran her hands down Tara's shoulder and turned her around bring her into a hug. Bright lights surround Tara's body as they fly away, as Tara lost control of her body and hugged Tsuki back.
<Are these Lenne's feelings, I'm feeling?>
"Open your eyes!" A voice shouted causing Tara to regain control of her body and pull back.
Looking over she saw it was Nooj who'd spoken with Gippal by his side. Looking up she saw Tsuki revert into Baralai, as she reverted back to her normal clothing.
"The end is not far now." Baralai said walking to the edge of the Farplane, a swirling black portal opened and he stepped through.
"Here." Nooj said handing Tara a red sphere. "It was all I could find."
"Yeah, me too." Gippal said also handing her a red sphere.
"What are these?"
"Our wills." Nooj said looking into the portal
"Don't worry, he's kidding. If you watch them you'll understand how we met." Gippal said walking up to the portal.
"We've got it under control."
Nooj turned and smiled at Tara "Take care of things topside, okay?" he said entering the portal.
Suddenly everything went black, Tara looked around into the darkness. "If it isn't one thing, it's another! Hey! Where am I?" she shouted to the darkness and fell to her knees. "I'm alone..." she said and fell unconscious. She felt herself being lifted up into the air.
"Tara! Tara! Wake up!" Opening her eyes she saw Willow kneeling over her in Vegnagun's chamber. Buffy was jumping up and down shouting happily as Faith grinned with a black eye. "You're alright!" Willow shouted happily as she picked Tara up and gave her a bone-crushing hug.
"You've been taking lessons from Buffy, haven't you?" Tara squeaked out right before getting the longest gentlest kiss she could remember.
"Come on, baby, let's get you back to the ship." Willow said picking her up, and carrying her out of the chamber.