Luca. Finally, Mori had reached the city where her journey would truly begin. It had been a long three days traversing the Mi'ihen Highroad, especially with those dreaded Chocobos bobbling along. Multiple people offered to give her a ride on their mount, but she always refused. She told them that she was on a journey that she must complete alone, which was true. But really, if she were honest, the Chocobos scared her. Mori was used to little creatures being friendly, not these monstrous bird things. It took all of her willpower not to pull her staff and start flinging elemental spells at them, especially when they rode up behind her. Fortunately she had kept her temper and found herself standing at the top of a large staircase leading into the city. Luca was the most impressive thing she had ever seen, full of lights and large structures. Leaning her hand on a stone, she watched the people milling around, more people than she had ever seen in her life. It filled her with courage, seeing them happily going about their lives. This is what she wanted to protect, along with her little town, and all the cities and towns across Spira. And she was one of the few who could actually make a difference. Luca was one of the larger cities in Spira, and she had been so distracted by the buildings and the people and the Blitzball arena that the ocean came as a surprise. It went on forever, and she could even see some white sails in the distance, probably coming in to port. Everything was new and exciting, but Mori knew that she needed to get to the Luca Temple to properly begin her journey. After entering town, Mori realized that finding the Temple was easier said than done. People seemed so busy that she didn't really want to bother them. Finally a balloon seller approached her, asking her to buy a balloon. Unable to say no to his earnest face, she dug into the small bit of Gil she had in her pouch, paying him for a bright blue balloon. "If it isn't trouble, could you point me toward the Luca Temple?" she asked, her fingers playing with the balloon string. He pointed her toward a large building with a spire reaching into the sky. Of course such an important institution would be in an impressive building. Thanking him, she shimmied her way through the thickening crowd. The Temple was near the city center, and the amount of people seemed to double as she pushed toward the stairs. Fortunately Mori was taller than a majority of the people milling about and was able to stay on the proper course. Before entering the large building, she passed her unwanted balloon on to a nearby child. The inside of the temple compared to the road outside was like night and day. It was quiet, reverent, and pretty empty. A few people prayed to the High Summoners of the past, their dusty statues imposing in the dim light. She wondered if she would get a statue. Would people find peace during her Calm? Would they pray to her spirit for courage? It was strange to think that she could affect so many people, mostly those that she would never meet. She supposed being a dusty statue was preferable to being a forgotten corpse in the rubble of Sin's attacks. Approaching the old man who was clearly the cleric in charge. "Excuse me sir!" she said, holding her head high. The stooped old man barely reached to her shoulder, so he had to crane his neck back to look her in the face. "I'm here to take my Summoner's challenge and gain the Luca Temple aeon!" This seemed like a powerful statement, one that she had been practicing on the Mi'ihen Highroad when she wasn't hiding from Chocobos. The old man's eyes somehow crinkled more than they already were, the unfriendly set of his lips making her second-guess her strategy of barging in with confidence. He took out an ancient staff and tapped it lightly to her forehead. She was consumed momentarily by a while light, only finding her bearings after he moved the staff. "Seems to be properly trained," he muttered, beginning to circle her like a hawk. "Yes, my village elder had me praying nearly all day and reading scripture and---" "Hush, girl," he said harshly, giving her outfit a rude look. It wasn't the typical summoning garb, sure, but it was her favorite outfit. "Where is your Guardian?" "I respectfully submit that I don't believe that I need a Guardian. I'm well versed in blac-" "No." The old man turned away, his staff clacking against the Temple floor. Mori was stunned. No one in her village was suitable to be a Guardian, so she had hoped to complete this journey on her own. She knew that she would face some opposition, but she figured she could talk with someone. "Hey, wait! You can't just say it like that! I've studied the scripture, and there isn't anything that explicitly-" The Temple priest turned, an angry expression on his wrinkled face. "I'm the one in charge here. No Temple will let you into the Cloister of Trials without a Guardian. Now either get a Guardian, or get out of my sight, you heathen girl!" Suddenly feeling very insecure, Mori turned on her heel and fled the Temple, bumping into people as she made her way toward the pier. She didn't stop until she could hear the lapping waves against the wooden docks, slowing to a standstill as she looked over the ocean. Would this be where her journey ended? Before it even started? No. Her father wouldn't have given up like this. He fought Sin with all of his might, and she would do the same. Wiping the unshed tears from her eyes, she decided that she would find a Guardian, at least for this first Cloister. The Gil she had was insufficient to hire someone, so she had to convince someone to help her out. How hard could that be? It would just be a few hours in the Cloister, she was sure, and everyone would want to help a Summoner. Feeling better about her chances, she made her way to the town square. Using her height advantage, she found a few guys in heavy armor, large swords and shields hanging from their backs and belts. Perfect! she thought, pulling her biggest smile on to her face. "Excuse me, gentlemen!" she said, waiting until there was a lull in their conversation to speak. "I'm a Summoner-in-training, and I require the assistance of a warrior to accompany me through Luca's Cloister of Trials!" The men stared at her, blank expressions on their faces. There were three of them, leaning against the wall of what appeared to be a popular restaurant. They towered over her, the largest having a deep looking scar across his left cheek. "It would only be a few hours, and while I cannot pay for your services, your charity will bring blessings from Yevon upon you!" They continued to stare, and Mori felt sweat beading at her temples. Perhaps she had made a mistake? The large scarred one shifted slightly, his hungry smile sending a chill down her spine. His heavy gauntlet landed on her shoulder, his fingers curling around the thin limb. "I'm sure we could find some way for you to... compensate us." The other two warriors started laughing, and Mori realized that she had definitely made a mistake. She tried to pull her shoulder away, but the man's grip was strong, the metal biting into her skin. "I'll... just go now..." she squeaked out, but she knew that she wasn't going anywhere. Mori wasn't sure, but she didn't think that this day could get any worse.