Darkness Falls Part 3
Chapter 21: You’re What?
Rikku dodged out of the way as the huge monster fell, neatly sidestepping it’s tail as it crashed to the ground, eyes bloodied and shattered by the battle. She coughed and sat down on the floor, legs barely holding up from the curse that had been placed on most of them.
Yuna walked around the group, using all the medication and spells she dared to stop the group from collapsing around her. She sat at the battle out mostly, Aeons useless against the things hexes. She was trying to make up for it though. She was exhausting herself just running around the clearing where they sat.
Finally she approached Rikku and looked apologetic. Rikku stared at her for a few seconds, then figured it out.
“Sorry Rikku,” Yuna said, out of holy water.
Rikku shrugged dismissively. “S’OK. Just as long as everyone is alright,” she said breathlessly. Damn. Now she would have to live with this damn bad mood for the rest of the trip. Just great. Well, she was suffering from worse, every day. She gave a deep sigh and let her head droop; entirely happy to go to sleep there and then, Unfortunately Auron had other ideas.
Rikku felt a hand on her shoulder and she nearly screamed. Anticipating what the man was going to say she just stood up and got ready to move out.
“We rest on the borders of Zanarkand,” Auron said, proving Rikku right.
“You have gotta be kiddin us ya!” Wakka exclaimed. “We just beat down that monster and now you want us to keep going?”
“Yes,” Auron replied, and began to move along the mountainside. Rikku sighed in exasperation at the man and ran to catch up, adrenaline making up for what strength in her legs her lacked. When they got to Zanarkand she was going to collapse though. She saw him standing on a ledge overlooking something, and she ran to catch up with him. She opened her mouth to speak, but it just plain dropped open when she saw what he was looking at. Arranged below them was the Ancient Machine City Zanarkand.
Buildings lay broken and in ruins below her, roads and streets long since given over to decay and the elements. What beauty remained was in the higher buildings, ten-story towers with sharp peaks, seemingly the only things t survive destruction, and then still with scars. It was a damning sight, and depressing as the Farplane.
“It’s so desolate,” Lulu whispered behind her. Auron stayed quiet, just staring at the grim scene. Rikku lopped her hand into his, and he gripped back as if falling from a high building.
“Always the same,” he whispered.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Nothing moves here anymore. This is Yunalesca’s prison, and she will not allow change.” There was a lesson in that, but its significance missed both of the figures standing over it.
Rikku heard a small gasp, and turned to see Yuna and Tidus standing together, hands also linked, staring out at the same scene, one looking at his broken and ruined home, the other staring at the place of her death. Rikku felt herself becoming angry. She was angry at Sin for causing all this, angry with Yevon for encouraging it, but most of all, angry at the world for believing it. She turned to Yuna. “You’re not doing this,” she said, voice calm, but seething on the inside.
Yuna turned to look at her. “What?” she said, not sure what she had heard.
“You can’t throw your life away for this,” Rikku said, indicating Zanarkand in particular and the entire Yevon theocracy in general.
Yuna blinked. Rikku’s voice had an edge to it she had never heard before. Maybe it was just the effects of the curse. She really should have brought more holy water. “Rikku I have to,” she said softly.
Rikku walked towards her and grabbed her by the shoulders. “No you don’t!” she said, holding back tears. “There has to be another way!” She turned on Auron. “Why did you bring him here if there wasn’t?” she asked, gesturing at Tidus. The boy swung around to look at them, suddenly drawn into something that hadn’t seemed to involve him a second ago.
Auron turned to look at Rikku. “I brought him back here as a promise, nothing more,” he said shortly, unwilling to say more, lest his real feelings escape. He had been through exactly the same speech with Braska and Jecht here, minus the bit about Tidus, obviously.
“I don’t believe you people!” Rikku said, backing away. “You let one of your best friends die just because ‘It Is Written’?”
“Rikku, calm down,” Lulu said.
Rikku rounded on her. “No! I don’t want to calm down! I want a second option!” she said.
“There isn’t one,” Yuna said, firmly but gently, and Rikku knew her argument was lost. She backed away from the others and went down the hill, walking towards the outskirts of the city. Yuna began to walk after her, but Auron put a hand on her shoulder and stopped her.
“Give her space,” he said softly. “Let me talk to her.”
Yuna just looked at Auron, then at where Rikku was disappearing into the distance, then at Auron again. She looked indecisive until Tidus wrapped his arm around her waist and nodded. She stopped pulling against them and sighed.
“It’s best.” Tidus said, as Auron walked down the mountain after the young Al Bhed. The others began walking also, but at a distance.
Rikku walked down the mountain path in large strides, trying to get as far away from the others as possible. She knew Auron would follow her, but she had no wish to talk to him right now.
She stubbed her toe as she walked down, but hardly felt it, engrossed in her own angry thoughts. Everything was going wrong. Unsent, dead, unable to prevent her friend from committing state-encouraged suicide, and now she was… but that thought was to horrible to think about.
She reached the bottom and sat down on a rise in the hill, chin rested on her hands, silently weeping.
How did things turn out this way?
“I wish I had never me Yuna.”
“Don’t think that,” Auron’s voice said from in front of her.
Rikku looked up at him. “If I hadn’t been in that craft, none of this would have happened,” she said simply.
“Yuna would still die,” Auron argued.
“But I wouldn’t have been around to care!” Rikku said angrily. She felt Auron sit down next to her and she leaned in to him, accepting his comfort as he wrapped his arm around her.
“We would have missed you,” Auron said.
“No you wouldn’t, ‘cuz you would never have met me in the first place,” Rikku said through closed eyes.
“I would have missed you,” Auron whispered.
“Can a man not make any romantic and dramatic speeches anymore?” Auron butted in testily.
Rikku got up and stared at him. “Did you just make a joke?” she asked.
“Maybe,” he said grudgingly.
“That’s two! I’ll make a human of you yet!” Rikku said cheekily. She wiped the tears from her eyes, with the help of Auron’s jacket.
“Hey!” he said.
She quickly jumped up and ran from him before he could grab her. She stuck her tongue out at him, “Missed!” she said. Auron made to stand up and chase her, but looked over her shoulder and instantly flipped his internal switch from ‘human’ to ‘cold emotionless legendary guardian’. Rikku sighed and turned around, seeing the others walk towards them. Wakka looked angry.
“We camp here for the night,” Auron said, before anyone else could. Tidus looked relieved, and just sat down on the nearest clean stretch of ground. Yuna did likewise, as did Lulu, but Wakka seemed to have something to say. Auron noticed it to.
“Spit it out,” the older guardian said.
Wakka seemed glad to have a forum for his worries, and instantly rounded on Rikku.
“You’ve been talking about us not caring. Well, we care! Just because we don’t say anything, you think we’re willing to let Yuna die ya? Well you’re wrong! We love Yuna, and there’s nothing that we wouldn’t do, but she chose to do this, and she knows the risk, and… hey, are you listening?” he asked.
During the tirade, Rikku had picked up Wakka’s discarded Blitzball and had begun to try and spin it on her finger. “I’m listening,” she said, eyes on Wakka.
He shivered. She was doing it perfectly, with one hand. Freaky. He shrugged it aside and went on. “We tried to talk her out of it, but Yuna wouldn’t listen, and if it’s here choice we’ll follow her to the ends of Spira and back if it’s what she wants!” Wakka said. He then drew a deep breath.
Right, her turn. She threw the ball to Wakka, who raised his arms and caught it. “If you care so much why are you not trying to find another way? I haven’t figured anything out yet, and neither has Tidus, but at least we’re trying! Has Yevon brainwashed you so much that you can’t even consider another option?”
Wakka threw the ball back and Rikku stumbled back as she caught it. The man threw hard. “Maybe the reason you haven’t thought of another reason is because there isn’t one! Maybe the Yevon way is the only way, and that’s why people use it!” he said.
Rikku threw the ball back, the other watching the system. Whoever didn’t have the ball seemed to be the one allowed to speak at that minute. It was like a public debate. “That doesn’t mean you should stop trying! Sin just comes back, and if anyone had bothered to investigate then I bet someone would have found a way now!”
He threw the ball to her. “You got no proof! Yevon’s way has worked for centuries! Why change what works?” he threw it back.
“How many high summoners are there? Four? In centuries, it only worked four times? How many people died trying to fight for something that would have only killed them anyway and not worked in the long run? Summoners might as well shoot themselves in the head and save themselves the journey!” She threw the Blitzball. The others just looked on. No-one tried to interfere.
Wakka caught it. “What do know about sacrifice? You Al Bhed always go on about the wonders of machine, but you never cam up with an alternative to the Final Aeon! You talk about them dying, but what do you know about dying for a cause?”
She threw the ball, and her eye narrowed. The temperature in the clearing dropped several degrees. “More than you do,” she said, and something in her voice made the others focus on her, and the scar down her body. Tidus remembered their first meeting, on a blood-soaked beach by the Moonflow.
Wakka threw it back. “Then tell us ya? What do you know about it, Al Bhed, that makes you such an expert on death?”
She caught it, and this time only prepared to throw it. She didn’t raise her voice, but spoke the next sentence calmly and without hurry.
“Because I’m dead.” She threw the ball.
Wakka didn’t catch it. For a second he looked like he hadn’t believed what he heard. Instantly everyone’s heads except for Auron’s snapped up and stared at her in disbelief. The only noise in the clearing was the Blitzball as it fell to the floor and rolled away, making a metallic noise that was deafening in the silence that surrounded the blonde Al Bhed and the orange-haired Blitzer.
“What?” Wakka said.
“I’m already dead,” Rikku repeated simply. She felt a hand on her shoulder, and turned to find Yuna staring into her eyes.
“This is a joke right?” the summoner said.
Rikku shook her head slowly. “I’m an unsent.”
Yuna jerked back as if physically struck. They had thought she was dead – when they were in Bevelle – before, but this… and they never suspected… Though now it seemed obvious… Talking fiends, talking to fiends, it was so obvious…
Lulu sat at the edge of the clearing, eyes closed, thinking. She looked up at the Al Bhed. “When?” she asked.
Rikku turned to her. “Does it matter?” she asked softly.
“It matters to me!” Wakka said, a look of panic on his face. Rikku knew what he was thinking, and she stopped it before it consumed him with guilt.
“In Bevelle, when I went missing. I woke up and I just knew…” she said. Wakka risibly relaxed. Rikku looked to her left, and saw that Tidus had done the same. She heard sobbing and turned to see Yuna crying. She went over to her. “Don’t cry Yunie, it’s OK,” she said, trying to comfort her. “I’m OK, really.”
“No you’re not!” Yuna said through tears. “Why didn’t you tell us?” she nearly screamed at her. Rikku hugged her, and felt tears fall onto her shoulder. “Why not…?”
“Because I was afraid,” Rikku said, truthfully.
“You never had to be,” Yuna said softly.
Rikku felt tears run from her eyes and wiped them away with the bottom of her t-shirt. She felt as if a burden had been lifted from her back. She looked across the clearing, seeing the looks on the others faces. “Guys…” she started, then her words caught in her throat, and she couldn’t go on. Something gently pushed Yuna aside, and Rikku felt strong hands guide her to a nearby rock. She didn’t complain as Auron sat down next to her, she just put her head in her lap and fell asleep within seconds.
The others looked at each other and Rikku, each thinking more or less the same thing: What do we do now? Did they carry on as normal? No-one knew what do to. In their souls they knew that Rikku was still Rikku, but their minds told them something else branded into them by centuries of Yevon teachings. Except for Tidus.
“So what’s the big deal?” he asked. The others looked around at him as if he was deaf.
“Did you even hear what she just said?” Wakka asked incredulously.
“Yep. So?” Tidus went on. Yuna stared up at him first in confusion, then love as she realised that he really didn’t care about the girl’s condition.
“What do we do with her?” Wakka asked.
“Think about what you’re going to say before you open your mouth next time,” Auron said, cradling Rikku’s head in his lap and staring at Wakka dangerously.
He got the hint instantly. “But what if she turns into a fiend? You do remember the cavern don’t you?”
“Yes, we do,” Lulu said.
“Then what if she…”
“She will not,” Auron hissed at him. Wakka closed his big mouth. That was the first time any of them had seen him really lose his temper. “I will make sure of it,” Auron finished. “Now, I think we all need some sleep, we have a long day tomorrow, especially you Yuna,” he said, and closed his eyes. Wakka’s face said that the argument wasn’t over yet, but he didn’t try to push his luck. One by one, the group fell asleep, lying under the eternal shadow of Zanarkand.
Rikku yawned and stretched her arms. Funny, I had the weirdest dream…
Her eyes slammed open and she stood up, looking around at the others.
“Morning Rikku,” Tidus said, also yawning.
“Erm Tidus?” she asked hesitantly.
“Yeah?” he replied.
“Did we have an almighty argument last night and I said something about me?” she asked.
“Yup!” he said cheerfully.
Rikku groaned and sank back into her pillow, which promptly stood up and shoved her off. “Hey!” she said as Auron stood, and nearly sent her falling to the floor.
“My apologises,” he said, making no secret of the fact that he had meant to do it.
“Meanie!” she said. She sighed and shook her head clear. “Tell me I didn’t tell everyone I was unsent last night?” she pleaded with him.
“You didn’t tell everyone you were unsent last night,” Auron replied.
“Did I?” she asked.
She growled at him and punched him on the shoulder. “Don’t do that” For just a second there I thought… forget it. Lets go,” she said.
The others were already waiting for the two. As the group walked to Zanarkand, and the end of their journey, Auron grabbed Rikku and waited until the others were out of earshot.
“Why didn’t you tell Wakka and Tidus…”
“That it was their fault?” Rikku finished for him. She waved her hand in his direction. “Look at us, we’re barely hanging on to what cheer we have left, I couldn’t to that to them.” She turned to look at Auron.
“They must never know. Never.”
Auron hesitated, the nodded, and the two linked hands, walking towards Zanarkand, and the end of their journey.
Chapter 22: I Won’t
“You actually grew up in this place?” Rikku said incredulously.
“There were a lot less fiends back then!” Tidus argued.
The group moved into the temple, towards the chamber of secrets. Rikku had gotten the chills from watching Braska’s pilgrimage played out in front of them, and several times had felt Auron’s hand turn to ice in hers when he had watched his old self beg Braska and Jecht to turn back.
Finally the team emerged from the ruins and faced the entrance to the Cloister of Trials. Rikku and Tidus breathed a sigh of relief as they wreckage of the old city thinned out and presented them with a passage down into the ruins.
“Old memories huh?” she asked Auron.
“Bad memories,” the guardian replied.
“It will be fine this time,” Rikku whispered. Auron just grunted and moved down into the ruined trial.
“Good job none of us had epilepsy,” Tidus said as they made their way into the centre of the platform.
“Speak for yourself, my eyes hurt,” Wakka replied, rubbing them hard. He blinked. Damn colours.
They moved onto the platform tiredly. It had taken them two hours to figure out the correct positions of the shapes, and another fifteen minutes to activate the glyphs. Damn Zanarkand! Why did they have to make everything so long and boring?
Rikku and Auron moved next to each other. The man seemed… subdued.
“Nervous?” Rikku asked quietly.
Auron turned to her and shook his head slightly. “I do not want to have to go through this again,” he said, so quietly that she had to strain to hear him. She gripped his hand tighter.
“Yuna won’t do it. We’ll think of a way before she tries. I promise,” she said.
Auron looked at her and smiled. “I know, you won’t have to watch her LOOK OUT!”
Rikku’s eyes widened as Auron suddenly grabbed her by the midriff and slammed her aside, the huge tentacle that had just come out of nowhere barely missing her.
The other had heard Auron’s shout and were already dodging to the sides. The air shimmered, and they watched, mouths open, as six copies of the glyphs from the floor of the Cloister appeared in the air before them.
The others looked across to see Tidus disappearing into the floor. Wakka and Yuna gave a cry and jumped towards him, puling him out. Auron looked around and saw the platform they were standing on begin to fade, and he began to sink.
He looked across at the glyphs that had appeared, and frowned. This didn’t happen the last time… He heard a crash and looked across to see huge pieces of rock fall into place around the glyphs. He took a long step backwards, and then jumped towards the slab of roc that was closest to him. He turned back to face the others, who were rapidly disappearing into the floor. “Jump!” he shouted. They didn’t need telling twice. The floor was becoming as resistant as water, and they didn’t hesitate to leap the gap between Auron and the place they were standing. The entire team watched as the universe dissolved around them, to be replaced with a bright orange landscape, the six glyphs all began rotating around each other.
Rikku stared at the weird scenery as something huge and spiky hove into view, revealing it to be a fiend. With teeth. Lots of them.
“You gotta be kidding me!” Wakka shouted as the thing opened its mouth and screamed at them, revealing even more teeth.
“Guess not…” he said, and drew his Blitzball.
How much punishment can this damn thing TAKE?” Rikku screamed inwardly. One hour and the damn thing was still standing. Then again, they had spent the first five minutes cowering on the far piece of rock and not daring to step onto the glyphs until Wakka had fallen off and grabbed one with his arm. Damn freaky universe… They had been even more surprised when Yuna had tried to run to Tidus to heal him and had simply disappeared, appearing again right next to him.
Auron took a swing at the thing, but it simply moved backwards, and his sword went wide, leaving him open to a counter-attack, which it did, raking its claws against his side.
“Auron!” Rikku screamed, running to his side. She was beyond surprise when she merely warped right next to him. It made no sense whatsoever, but she wasn’t complaining.
“I’m fine,” Auron said through gritted teeth.
“You’re not,” Rikku said, running her hands over the slash and reaching into her pockets for a bandage. Gripping one end with her teeth she tore off a long strip and wrapped it around Auron’s side, sealing it with sticky tape. She heard a scream, and looked up to see something white and sharp fly at her face. She felt something flash past her face and Auron’s sword suddenly appeared in front of her, the beam flying into it and rebounding from the Reflect spell Lulu had cast on it. She turned to Auron. The entire thing had happened so fast… She turned to Auron, who stared back.
“Watch where you’re watching,” he said, and winked. Rikku gulped and turned back to the battle as Auron got up and staggered onto the nearest glyph., hoping Rikku would not notice.
“No you don’t!” Rikku said.
Auron frowned as Rikku lopped his arm around his and steered him to the glyph farthest from the creature, and behind it. That done, Rikku turned back to the battle.
Tidus swung at the creature, hoping to catch it with even the edge, but it moved backwards. Wakka was waiting for it and threw his ball at the creature, scoring a direct hit on its spine. It bellowed in rage and rounded on him, swinging its tail around in a lethal arc. He jumped sideways and the magical warp mechanism that operated the glyphs teleported him to the next glyph. The creature didn’t even stall, just carrying on its arc and slashing Wakka across the chest. He stumbled backwards and would have fallen off the thing if Lulu hadn’t been behind him. He recovered his balance and ran to the glyph closest to the creature. It wheeled quickly, trying to keep him in its sights, and momentarily forgot that Tidus was also behind it. Wakka swung the ball at it, not letting go, and again it moved away. Tidus jumped at it, grabbing onto the things tail. It screamed in rage and tried to shake him off. Tidus hung on for dear life and climbed it’s back. He used his sword as a pike, jamming it into the thing’s hide for purchase. He reached its neck and ran the blade across it, slitting its throat. As soon as it’s blood started to gush from it’s ruined throat the glyphs began to fade below them. As one the team looked down as their feet began to fall through the floor. It came as a relief when the normal world flashed into existence around them, and Zanarkand soldiered under them.
Rikku turned to Auron. “That was weird,” she said, rather dazed.
“You think?” Tidus said, picking himself up from where the fiend had fallen. He brushed himself off and walked over to Yuna, who was examining her ruined staff. “Told you that you should have stayed back,” he said, with a smile on his face.
“Well excuse me for trying to help!” Yuna said crossly. That had been her favourite staff…
“We’ll get a new one back in… wherever we go after here,” he finished lamely.
Yuna glared daggers at him and moved onto the platform without another word. The others prepared themselves for another bout of the universe going AWOL again, but were relieved when the platform simply sank down into the depths of Zanarkand.
Rikku sat down opposite Auron so that their backs were leaning against the others, each providing support.
“Was this how it happened the last time?” she asked him.
“There was less shouting, and also a lack of world-dissolving trips,” Auron replied.
Rikku twisted around to face him. “What’s with you all of a sudden?” she asked. “You’ve been like this ever since we got to Zanarkand, what up?”
Auron sighed. “This place, these memories, they don’t sit well with me,” he said.
“Was it hard?” she whispered.
Auron closed his eyes and remembered back to that day…
There has to be another way!
Auron, old friend, this is the only way. Would you allow Sin to survive?
It comes back, always! Jecht?
I dunno know Auron, if this is the only way we have, then we gotta use it… Braska?
Auron opened his eyes.
“Yes, it was hard,” he said. He turned his head as a deep brummm noise sounded from the hole in the floor, and Yuna came back up, eyes wild and panicked.
“Sir Auron, everyone!”
Immediately they all stood up and ran onto the platform, the stone circle carrying them down into the heart of the Yevon faith.
Rikku almost sighed when Yuna made her proclamation, but didn’t, for fear of being shouted at. It’s just a statue, it doesn’t work, and the Final Aeon isn’t here.
Yunie is gonna live.
Her hopes were short-lived.
“That fayth lost its power long ago,” a voice said behind her. She whirled to see the old man from the outside of Zanarkand looking at them with sad and old eyes, staring at Yuna.
“Then the Final Aeon?” Yuna asked, the look in her eyes clearly saying; let there be another fayth. It was almost enough to make her cry.
“The Lady will explain all,” the man, said, and walked back through the door – Rikku squinted. OK, the portal then – that he had came through. Yuna practically ran through after her, and the others had no choice but to follow.
She closed her eyes and felt a strange floaty sensation as she came through, opening them again to find herself in a huge chamber that would have been light and airy if it hadn’t been clogged with cobwebs. She turned to look at the others, and found them all staring at something in front of them. She followed their gaze, and gasped. At the top of the stairs was one of the most beautiful women Rikku had ever seen.
Yunalesca stood surveying them, long white hair rippling in some unseen breeze, tendrils of clothing floating in some unheard rhythm, eyes staring past them at some unseen wonder. She looked like a queen of Aeons.
But the more she stared, the more she saw that the woman’s beauty was merely cosmetic. She was pretty, but like an old and revered antique rather than as a person, and her eyes had their own special voice; I am better than you because of who I am and what I do. Try me if you will, but you will fail. The more she stared, the more she detested the woman.
Yunalesca took the stairs one at a time, gaze fixed on Yuna.
Yuna looked at her and said one word.
Yunalesca smiled at her.
Then she began to explain.
“No!” Tidus shouted.
“Tidus,” Lulu warned.
He rounded on her. “I can’t believe you’re going to go through with this!” he shouted.
“It’s the only way!” Lulu said. She turned to Yuna. “I volunteer,” she said simply.
Yuna looked devastated, told that to save the world she would have to sacrifice one of the people she loved most. “I…” she whispered.
“Yuna, if this is the only way, then we gotta do it, choose me,” Wakka said.
“I can…” Yuna said, not hearing.
“You can’t be serious!” Tidus said. “Yuna?” he asked the summoner. “Are you?”
“I… can’t…” Yuna finished.
Lulu and Wakka just looked like they hadn’t heard right, although they had suspected as much. “Yuna, you have to.” Lulu said softly.
Yuna turned to face her, determination in her eyes. “No! None of us are dying for something that only works in instalments!” she said.
Tidus let out a sigh of relief. Thank whoever was watching over him right now…
Rikku gave a silent shout of glee as Yuna turned to walk to the huge doors separating them from Yunalesca’s chambers.
“I won’t,” she said, and they couldn’t see the tears on her face as she walked to face the Yevon prophet.
Rikku smiled and ran after her, Auron not far behind. The sight of two of their friends running after their summoner was all they needed, and the other three pushed the doors aside, to reveal Yuna and her namesake, the old summoner facing away into oblivion.
Wait a minute…
Rikku looked down at the floor, and then at the walls – or lack of them – and finally the lack of ceiling. The world had changed again, and they were floating in space this time. At least it was better than disappearing floorboard.
“Whom have you chosen to be your fayth?” Yunalesca said simply.
“No-one,” was the reply from Yuna.
Yunalesca turned to face the young woman, and for a second Rikku could have sworn she saw a look of thankfulness on her face before a look of pity replaced it. She made ready to draw her weapon.
Yunalesca tutted. “In that case…”
The huge medusa-head that had been Yunalesca crashed to the floor, letting out one final scream as the eons-old summoner dissolved into pyreflies before them.
Yuna turned and walked out, not saying a word, too shell-shocked to speak. The others all followed, too tired and bruised to say anything. Rikku and Auron linked hands and walked out, weapons holstered and out of the way.
“Now what do we do?” Wakka whispered.
“We find another way, like we said we would!” Rikku and Tidus said in exact timing. They glanced at each other and smiled slightly before looking away and back towards Yuna. They were worried. They all knew what she was thinking; what if there isn’t another way? What if we’ve doomed Spira?
“Wait,” Auron said. He stopped in the middle of the floor, almost jerking Rikku backwards.
“What?” Wakka asked.
Auron just turned to Tidus. “I want to tell you something. Something private,” he said. The others, even Rikku, shrugged and walked away, leaving the two to talk.
“There’s another way, there has to be,” Lulu whispered. The group stepped onto the elevator and rode it up back into Zanarkand, Auron and Tidus joining them a second later, neither saying a word, and Tidus looking even worse than he had.
They walked out as they had come in; silently. On the way in contemplating the death of a friend who still walked, the way out contemplating the death of a ritual anchored in so much time it wasn’t even visibly until you right down into it. Into the dirt.
Rikku leant into Auron and sighed, holding back tears. She was glad the evil creature – not a woman, never that, not after what she had told them – was dead, but she understood that for many the world of rules and comfort they had lived in would be forever shattered, if they didn’t find another way. A better way.
They had to.
She felt rather than heard the airship descend towards them, and Cid standing on the deck, arms crossed. She could only guess how angry he would be. He would get angrier, for many reasons.
“Yes?” he replied t her question.
“We have to keep looking,” she said.
“…I know,” he said slowly.
“E muja oui,” She whispered.
“What?” Auron asked.
“I love you,” she said again.
Auron hugged her to him tighter, and his peripheral vision saw Cid walk down the ramp of the airship towards them. He turned to face him, Rikku still held against him. Before Cid’s fist flew towards his face, he whispered back.
“I love you too.”
Chapter 23: Well?
You have got some explaining to do miss!” Cid shouted at his daughter in Al Bhed.
They stood around the bridge, leaning against wall and surfaces. Except for Cid and Rikku, who stood in the centre of the centre, facing off against her father. The others couldn’t hear what was being said, but they guessed.
Auron stood in the doorway rubbing his jaw. The man had a punch. The group had entered the airship in silence, Rikku seething at her father.
“You had no right to do that!” she shouted back.
“You’re my daughter! I have every right!” Cid replied.
“I love him!”
“You’re only 16, do you even know what love is?” he asked incredulously.
Rikku tired a different angle of attack. “How old was mother when you married her?” she asked.
Cid spluttered for a few seconds, then recovered smoothly. “This is not about your mother! This is about you and him!” he shouted. Smooth Cid, real smooth, he thought.
“Why won’t you understand?” Rikku said desperately. “What does age matter? I thought you wanted me to be happy!”
Cid took a deep breath and calmed down. “I do, but you can’t know what you’re talking about.”
Cid did not have an answer to that.
Rikku also stopped. She looked at the others, asking them a silent question. As one they nodded and began to walk from the bridge. Cid looked around, wondering what was going on, and then seeing that everyone was frowning. He looked back at Rikku, who was staring at him.
Rikku didn’t even look around. “Auron, please,” she said. Auron grunted and walked out, closing the door behind him.
Cid looked at his only daughter. “What?” he asked.
“There’s something else you need to know,” she said, so quietly that Cid almost didn’t hear.
Cid grabbed Rikku’s shoulders and forced her head up, so their eyes met. “What?” he asked.
The other stood outside the bridge. No-one spoke. They had managed to accept Rikku’s state, but they doubted her father would be so forgetful.
Tidus looked at Yuna. He found his thoughts directed to his father. He had no idea how Jecht would have reacted to the news if he had suddenly told him he was dead, and he honestly would rather not know. He doubted it would be in the way he hoped, if there was a good way to accept the news.
Cid’s reaction, based around what the team knew of his personality, was predictable.
The door to the bridge slammed open and Cid stormed out, eyes scanning the team. They fixed on Wakka and he started walking towards the blitzer.
Wakka noticed the look in the man’s eyes. “Hey, is there anything…”
He never got farther. Cid punched Wakka in the side of the head and he went down hard. Khimari’s eyes widened slightly – which wasn’t saying much – and he walked over to Cid, pulling him off Wakka before he got off another punch.
Wakka scrambled out from under the old man. “What in the Farplane is wrong wit you man?” he said, rubbing the side of his face. There would be a big bruise there tomorrow.
Cid just stared at him and tried to pull himself away from Khimari, back onto Wakka, but the Ronso’s arms were too strong. “You killed my daughter! I’ll kill you!” he said.
Wakka’s eyes widened as everyone looked towards him. “What? No! It was Seymour!”
“LIAR!” Cid shouted. He finally got control of himself and stopped straining against the Ronso’s arm.
At that second Rikku ran out of the room and grabbed her father. “Vydran!”
“What?” Cid said, though – the others saw – he spoke less angrily at Rikku.
“Leave Wakka alone!” She leant over and whispered into his ear. “It wasn’t his fault. He didn’t know.”
“He damn well did! What the hell did he think was piloting the thing?” Cid shouted, glaring at Wakka.
Wakka just sat there, brain ticking away furiously. Craft… Pilot… Wait a minute! He turned to Rikku. “I did it, didn’t I?” he said softly.
Rikku cursed and turned to Wakka. Could no secret be kept longer than three days among this lot? “It was an accident. You had to rescue Yuna right?” she said.
Cid brushed her off and stood there, Khimari ready to jump back on him in a second. “Don’t expect me to forgive you,” he whispered.
Wakka just sat there, not getting up, staring alternately at Rikku and Cid. “I…”
Rikku cut him off. “Don’t say you’re sorry, you have nothing to be sorry for,” she said.
Auron stared at the scene, and the three main protagonists, especially Rikku. It was amazing how serious she could be. He was reminded of Braska’s dead wife. As graceful as a willow and with a heart to match, but cross her and you would soon regret it. He sighed and walked up to Cid. “Cid…”
Cid rounded on him. “Don’t you tell me it’s all OK because it’s not!” he said. “My daughter is dead and…”
Rikku patience snapped. “I’m not dead! I’m standing right here! If you need to punch something use the wall and not my friends!” she screamed.
Cid looked at her in shock. He had never seen her shout like that… Before he could say anything Rikku had stormed off. The others just watched as she stormed from the corridor, and no-one saw the tears that were falling from her eyes as she did.
Rikku slammed the door behind her and fell onto the bed, weeping. Damn that man! Why did he have to be so tysh stubborn?
He’s right though.
I’m not dead!
Yes you are. It’s true. You know it. They know it. He knows it.
“I’m not…” Rikku whispered into the pillow.
“No, you’re very much alive,” a voice whispered.
Rikku felt a hand on her shoulder pull her up, and she fell into Auron’s embrace. She cried into his shoulder. “Then why…”
“Because he is crushed. The only person he has left is dead. How would you feel if your family died?” he asked softly.
Devastated… she thought. She had never known her mother that well, and had been unaffected. “I thought… never mind,” she said.
“What?” Auron asked.
“I never thought it would be like this… We were all supposed to come home and live happily ever after…” she said dreamily.
“We still can,” Auron said.
Rikku looked up. “You really think so?” she asked, and Auron knew what she needed to hear.
“I promise,” he said, and kissed her. Rikku kissed back, and the pair closed their eyes as Auron’s hands reached down to embrace her waist. Her legs curled around his on the bed, and for a few hours the two found peace in each other’s arms.
Cid paced the bridge, Brother staying well out of his way.
Rikku, dead? My little girl?
He was burning himself out, walking back and forth on the same piece of deck, wearing out his nerves.
Brother split his attention between the window in front of him – which was full of clouds - and his father, watching the man pace back and forward, his feet making the same damned noise over and over. Finally he couldn’t stand it anymore.
“Will you quite that damned pacing!” he shouted at Cid in Al Bhed.
Cid turned to him. “Just pilot the damned ship! Are we at Bevelle yet?” he asked.
“The amount of pacing you’re doing you’ll hole the deck, and we’ll never get there!” Brother said back.
Cid took the hint and stopped. He went to the window and looked out, resting his elbow against the glass. “What am I supposed to do about this?” he asked.
Brother was surprised. His father had never shown less than a ‘hard-man’ image for most of his life, – excepting ‘psychotic rage’ of course – but even the toughest of men could be broken, and this had done it.
“There is nothing you can do, except let her live in peace,” Brother said, The Voice Of Reason.
“And that’s the damned problem isn’t it?” Cid growled.
“Let them be,” brother said, and tuned back to the controls. He had said his piece.
Cid looked out at the clouds and saw the unmistakeable shape of the Holy Capital below him. He sighed. Throughout all his years watched summoners die and guardians protect them he had always held the hope that Yuna Would Win. After watching for years, trying to change it and failing, he had to face a new thought. Yuna Would Die And So Would Rikku. He punched the glass.
Part two is done you old fool. Now you’re taking your niece to follow.
She will change it. Her and that boy…
Too late her Rikku though…
“If she is happy,” Cid said quietly.
Brother caught it, and glanced at his father. Realisation is the hardest part. At least if his father accepted it, it would make letting go of his daughter so much easier when the time came.
A quiet knock on the door was all it took to bring Rikku back to consciousness. She lowered the covers from over her head and stared as the door opened slowly. Before someone did something they would regret she said; “Come in.”
The person on the other side sighed and opened it further. Wakka walked into the room and blushed. Rikku smiled. “Yes?” she asked.
“Erm, we’re at Bevelle, Yuna is gonna go talk with Mika. You two wanna come?” he asked Rikku, and, indirectly, the other person under the covers.
“Sure!” she said cheerfully. Just… um… give me a few will ya?” she asked sheepishly.
Wakka nodded frantically and turned to go. Before the door had closed he turned back. “Rikku?”
Rikku turned back and pointed at him. “Don’t you dare try and apologise for anything,” she said.
Wakka looked hesitant, then nodded and walked out.
Rikku sighed and punched the covers above Auron, and he stirred. “We’re at Bevelle, come on,” she said, getting up and starting to put on her clothes.
The others were noticeably silent as Rikku and Auron walked up to them on the Highbridge.
Tidus nodded as they approached. “Get a good night’s sleep?” he asked, then realised what he had said and blushed.
“Pretty fair,” she said, holding Auron’s hand, as Shelinda approached them.
Chapter 24: Return To Bevelle
Rikku stared around the sweeping curves and majestic figures of Bevelle and shivered,
“I hate this place,” she whispered. She moved closer to Auron and gripped his hand harder, resisting the urge to run back to the airship.
“It’s OK, I’m here this time,” Auron whispered back.
“You let them kill me I’ll haunt you forever,” Rikku joked. Then she stopped. Why was she making bad jokes about that subject?
Rikku and Auron swung back to face the front instantly, hands near their weaponry, to see two guards pointing guns at them.
“Why, when we can beat huge monster with a flick of our wrist, do we always freeze when guns are pointed at us? It’s against all experience,” Rikku muttered darkly as the guards walked slowly towards them, guns trying to aim at them all at once and failing miserably.
“Great…” Tidus whispered. Rikku reached behind her back and unhooked a grenade from her belt. She was about to throw it when another voice shouted, and they knew this one.
“Wait!” Shelinda shouted. Instantly the guards took their fingers from the triggers and lowered their guns. Shelinda walked past them and turned back. “You may go, lady Yuna is no traitor!” The guards made the prayer of Yevon and walked out. Shelinda turned back “I apologise for your greeting my lady, but with the temple in uproar there is only so much we can do at once.” She bowed.
Yuna resisted the urge to laugh. “No apologies are necessary. What is going on?” she asked formally.
Shelinda looked exhausted. “The Maesters have all disappeared! Master Kelk has left for Gagazet, Maester Kino has vanished and Maester Seymour is nowhere to be found! Only Maester Mika is left, and he refuses to see anyone! They had to appoint me Captain of the Guard because the old one has also vanished! No-one knows what is going on!”
“Calm down Shelinda,” Yuna whispered.
Auron stepped forward. “We need to speak to Mika,” he said.
Shelinda looked up. “He is not seeing anyone.”
“He will see us.” Auron stated.
Shelinda turned back to Yuna, who nodded. “Very well. I will see what I can do. Beware, there are supposedly evil Al Bhed spies everywhere.”
“…What?” Rikku asked.
“I will go and ask Maester Mika, please wait here.”
“What did you say about evil Al Bhed?” Rikku asked to Shelinda’s retreating back. She turned to Auron. “Evil?”
“Ignore them, they know no better,” he whispered. Then he walked off.
“She told us to wait here y’know,” Wakka said as Auron walked into Bevelle.
“Then let’s wait inside, in the warm,” Auron said, and pushed the door aside.
Tidus looked around and shrugged. “Sounds good to me,” he said, and walked after Auron.
Lulu shook her head. Boys… she thought, and followed.
Rikku stood at the edge of the dais and looked up at the huge tower/temple and shivered.
Yuna saw her hesitating and held out her hand. “We’re here this time,” she said. Rikku hesitated for another second, and then took the offered hand, walking through the huge doors, and into Bevelle.
“Maester Mika, Yuna is here to see you,” Shelinda told the old man.
Mika stood up. “Does she have the final Aeon?” he asked quickly.
“She did not say sir, she only came to Bevelle just now.”
She must have it. Mika stood. “Tell them I will be there shortly.”
Shelinda bowed and walked off, leaving Mika alone with his thoughts.
Why did things turn out like this? We wanted stability because change is impossible in our society, so why waste time trying? The Final Aeon is the only way, so why bother looking for anything else. That works.
Of course it does.
Then what is Yuna doing? What if she and the others succeed? What if Sin is killable? What will happen then? Our entire way of life is based around the truth – or we think truth – that there is no other way.
What if there is?
Mika knew what would happen. Spira would look to them for answers, and they would have none to give, for centuries the world had worked the same way. Yevon protected the people, and the Al Bhed and Sin gave them something to unite again, so was Spira kept from war. But what happens when the threat is taken away? People don’t argue over food when there is little to go around, it’s only when they’re lots that they start to argue over who gets what.
He stood up and walked through the corridors to where Yuna and the others waited, hoping that everything would still turn out alright.
“Have you done it? Have you got the Final Aeon?” Mika asked Yuna eagerly.
“We met the Lady Yunalesca…”
“And we defeated her.”
Mika suddenly had the look of a man who had just had the world yanked out from under him. Suddenly his face fell, and his full age showed. “What?”
“There will be no more sacrifices!” Auron said.
“You fools! Now there will be no stopping Yu Yevon!” Mika screamed.
“There has to be another way to kill Sin other than the Final Aeon!” Tidus said.
Mika looked at him like he was retarded. “Sin is Yu Yevon’s armour, and the only thing that can penetrate it, you have destroyed!” he shouted. He turned away from them and looked out at Bevelle from the parapet. My beautiful city… Goodbye.
“Hey, where the hell do you think you’re going?” Wakka asked, as pyreflies emanated from Mika body, and he dissolved into brightly coloured mist. “Coward,” Wakka whispered. “So, what do we do now?” he asked.
“OK,” Tidus said.
“OK what?” Wakka asked, turning to him. Then he saw Tidus wasn’t looking at him, but at a piece of thin air. “Who you talking to?” he asked.
Tidus looked around. “Just, erm, myself,” he said nervously. “Look, I gotta do something, I’ll see you guys at the entrance, OK?” he asked, and took off, not waiting for an answer. Yuna took one look, and then ran after him.
Wakka looked at Lulu. “S’up with them?” he asked. Lulu shrugged and they began walking back to the entrance together.
Rikku caught up with Auron and stayed next to him. “Auron?” she whispered.
“Yes?” he replied, just as quietly.
“What if Mia is right?”
He barely missed a step. “He is not.”
“But nothing!” Auron said sharply. “If there is, and there is, then Sin is dead, and Yuna is alive If there is not, then Sin will stay, and there will be no more Calms, but Yuna will still live. Spira will live just like it always has, in fear!” he said.
Rikku looked down. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
Auron suddenly stopped. He sighed. “No, I am. I just don’t want to think about what would happen if he was right,” Auron said.
Rikku wrapped her arms around him and hugged him. “Don’t worry, he won’t be. I can feel it,” she replied.
“Me too,” Wakka said.
Rikku turned. “You were listening?” she said, panic in her voice.
Wakka smiled. “I heard Auron,” he said, pointing that the man, who frowned.
“I feel it too,” Lulu said.
Everyone looked at each other, and smiled.
Rikku closed her eyes. If I had the chance to do all of this again.. I could never go on the mission, I would live, and I would have a life…
I would never have met Auron, or Yuna, I would be dead, but I would be happy. I am happy. Would I change my decision?
She heard footsteps, and turned to see Yuna and Tidus walk towards them, holding hands. She smiled and ran up to them. “Where’d ya go?” she asked cheerfully.
Tidus brushed it off. “Just wanted to find something out,” he said offhand. “Come on, lets get out of here, this place gives me the creeps.”
“I’ll take that,” Wakka said, and walked out of Bevelle.
Rikku left the Highbridge and stretched, looking around at Macalania forest. She smiled, then ran to Auron and grabbed his hands as the team walked toward the Calm lands, and the familiar figure of the airship sitting on the plains.
She turned to the others. “Wait,” she said.
They all stopped and looked around at her.
“What is it Rikku?” Lulu asked.
She looked around at them all, in turn. “If you had another chance to make the decisions you made that brought you here, would you make different ones?” she asked.
They all stopped and thought about it.
“Whoa, deep,” Wakka observed.
“Not a chance,” Tidus said, looking at Yuna.
“Nor I,” Khimari answered.
“Then what would we have done to pass the time between Blitz games?” Wakka asked.
Lulu punched him, and then turned to Rikku. “I never regretted any of it. Why do you ask?” she said, puzzled.
Rikku shrugged. “No reason.”
“You gonna stand there all day or are we gonna get this show on the road?” Cid shouted from the airship ramp.
The other all walked away, all except Auron.
“What made you ask? Having doubts?” he asked.
Rikku turned to look at him. Suddenly she hugged him fiercely. “Never,” she whispered strongly. “Never.”
Cid was standing on the ramp as they finally arrived, and frowned when Rikku and Auron approached, still holding hands. Tough. Get used t it.
Just before the ramp closed, and they took off, Rikku took one last look back at the land, the vast an rolling grass of the Calm Lands, the shining and reflective spikes of thee Crystal Trees, and the distant spires of Bevelle.
Would I change my mind?
Not a chance.
She smiled and laughed, and then bounded up the ramp to the bridge, as the airship ascended into the sky, looking for an answer to a question that hadn’t been known to have one for more than a thousand years.
We will find one.
I feel it.
Chapter 25: Into The Beast
Rikku stared at Sin, which stared back. Unconsciously she took a step back, only to bump into Auron. She turned and looked at him as if to ask; do we have to do this?
“Yes, we do,” Auron replied to her unanswered question.
The wind blew her hair over her face as Sin grew larger, and she nervously brushed it out of her eyes, making sure her claw was ready to be drawn out in a second if she needed it. And she would.
“You won’t be needing this, right?” Tidus asked.
Rikku looked over to se the boy holding a plain movie sphere in his hand and grinning. Yuna was looking at him as if she had just been told her entire family had been killed, and spluttering. Tidus grinned and took a long step back, winding up his arm and throwing the sphere into the sea of clouds below them. She glared daggers at him, but he just smiled and turned back to see Sin growing ever closer ahead of them.
“You…” Yuna began, but then she stopped and smiled at him.
Rikku giggled and turned back to Auron, who was staring ahead. Quick as a flash she reached up with her hand and stole his glasses. Again. He turned instantly and caught her hand on the way down.
“Don’t make me throw you off the airship,” he said stoically.
“You’re kidding,” Rikku said. “Right?” she asked nervously.
Auron chuckled and let go of the hands, taking the glasses with him, and placed them back on his face. “One day you’ll get glasses of your own,” he said sagely.
“But I want yours!” Rikku said.
They turned, and saw the others all standing next to the edge of the ship as Sin turned side on and kept pace with them. Rikku looked up and for the first time was struck at just how tyshat big the thing was. She drew her glove quickly and ran alongside with the rest. Strange… It didn’t seem like it was going to…
She fell off her feet as Sin rammed the airship, and a resounding crash knocked them all to their knees. Sin drew back and suddenly vanished from view as Rikku tried to clear the stars from her eyes.
“Where’d he go?” Wakka asked as the wind flew across the deck. His question was answered when half a second later everyone was suddenly airborne as Sin hit the ship from beneath, sending them back to earth with a sudden thud.
*Kill that thing! Y ship can’t take much more of this!* Cid’s voice shouted from over the intercom.
“Easier said than done!” Wakka screamed back. He turned. “What are we gonna… Auron!”
Rikku whipped around to see Auron stood on the edge of the deck, calmly staring down into the clouds. Without giving any words of his intentions, he jumped off.
“Auron!” Rikku screamed, and ran to the edge. She looked over to see Auron falling directly onto Sin. He landed feet first and was running up the creatures back even before his second foot had touched the ground. She watched as he ran up to what looked like some sort of giant… thing… and hit it. Hard.
Instantly Sin roared and turned, coming level with the airship, Auron riding it like some sort of demon-surfer.
“Are you coming?” he shouted to the others.
Rikku sighed in relief, then smiled and took a running jump at Sin. She flew through the air and landed on Sin’s back. She stumbled for a few seconds on the edge, arms spread out. Auron caught her and hauled her back to him. They locked eyes for a few seconds, and then the others were landing among them and drawing their weaponry. Rikku sighed in exasperation and followed the others up to Sin’s head.
Rikku stopped when she saw what Auron was heading towards. What the ramm?
Before them was some kind of bluish flower hidden behind a huge plant. With teeth.
Why do these things keep hounding us? Rikku wondered as she ran forward and prepared to strike.
“And that is why we rock!” Rikku shouted gleefully as the grenade exploded in the centre of the huge flower-like fiend. It gave one final scream, and then its petals – or whatever – withered and the colour faded as it died, dissipating into pyreflies in front of them.
She turned to the others. “Now how do we get back up?” she asked the others. She turned to Auron. “You had considered that when you jumped off right?” she asked.
“Not particularly, no,” Auron said calmly.
Lulu sighed and walked back down the catatonic Sin’s back. Luckily they seemed to have placated it. Now they had to figure out a way to get off, and in. She looked over the edge, and the blue sea below. She looked up suddenly. What the… She looked around for fiends, but all there was were Sin’s hard armour and the sky. Then where…
She stood back just in time as the airship reared up in front of her, scaring the living daylights out of the group.
*You might want to get on, I don’t know how long this things’ gonna stay quiet!* Cid’s voice boomed over them, as the airship pivoted and the tip of the deck rested against Sin’s bulk. Without hesitating the entire team made a run for it as the airship wobbled precariously, balanced on air and subject to Sin’s mercies, of which there are not a great many.
Auron caught her hand again as Rikku jumped across to the deck, glad to be back on something that wasn’t made of metal or moved without the use of engines. As they did so Sin moved away, and they watched as it slowly fell down, heading straight towards Bevelle.
“Oh no…” Yuna breathed, as Sin spiralled down onto the holy city, smashing homes and old monuments as it carved a path down the mountain towards the centre of the metropolis. Then they breathed a sigh of relief when it slid to a halt barely a few hundred yards from the city centre, and did not rise.
“Did that do it?” Wakka whispered.
Rikku fell to her knees and sat on the ground, arms supporting her back. She looked up at the sky and laughed. After all that, and we did it… She looked down at Sin, and could barely see the people of Bevelle leaving their homes to take a closer look at the behemoth. Rikku smiled as she saw people pointing up at the airship and cheering. She vaguely saw one blowing kisses. Then the world spun.
Everyone was thrown backwards as a wave of energy ran through the airship. Tidus jumped up and ran over to the airship, staring down at Sin, which was…
Slowly, ever so slowly, Sin was levitating off the ground. Fist the tail started to whip around, and the people scattered as it thumped down around them. Then the massive head rose, and where its arms had been huge silvery translucent wings grew from the gaping holes. Sin flew back up, and perched neatly on the top of the Bevelle temple.
“Aww…” Tidus said, as it turned to face them, watching through emotionless eyes at the airship.
Rikku turned to the intercom microphone. “Vydran! Can you use the cannons?” she asked.
*Nope. They’re busted. You’re on your from own here on kiddo.* he sent back.
“Great…” Wakka sighed. “I thought we had the thing then,”
“Obviously not,” Auron said.
“We should head back and think of something else,” Wakka said.
“No!” Tidus shouted. Everyone looked at him.
“What do you mean?” Lulu asked.
“When you got the ball, you gotta score! We need to finish this thing off now!” he said, hitting his fist into his palm. “We got this thing on it’s knees, so we’re gonna get rid of it once and for all.” He looked around at the others. “I promised.”
Auron sighed to himself. Kids…
Rikku saw the look on his face and turned back to the intercom. “Take us in,” she said.
“You heard dad, go closer!” Rikku shouted at the small microphone on the wall.
*Fine! But don’t blame me if it kills us all!* Cid shouted back, and clicked off the intercom.
Suddenly the ship lurched forward, and Rikku flew backwards into Auron’s grasp as the ship surged towards Sin, watching them. As the massive face sprung into view it slowed, and the airship slid smoothly to a halt right in front of the thing, which opened it’s mouth in reply. Rikku got a real bad feeling about that.
“Down!” she screamed, hoping the microphone was still receiving.
Luck, Yevon, or the Great Pumpkin must have intervened because instantly the ship slewed sideways, just as something spherical and black barrelled past where the ship had been seconds before. Rikku looked at its passage and saw that the air and clouds had been warped around it, making a hole where there was nothing. Even the clouds had huge circles cut in them. The airship swung back to face the open-mouthed Sin, and without having to be told the engines cut in and everyone hung on for dear life as they barrelled straight ahead, aiming right for Sin’s face.
The ship crashed into Sin at several hundred miles an hour, shaking loose machinery inside the ship and shaking loose the people outside it.
Auron was braced for the impact, but it was still a shock, and the vibrations of the hull shook his hand from the deck. He slid down towards the edge of the ‘roof’. He felt something grad his cloak, and looked back up to see Rikku clutching his arm with one of hers, the other still gripping the hull. She winked at him.
The airship pulled away, and they saw they had left a gaping wound in Sin’s body that was leaking something blue and glowing.
*Once more!* Cid’s voice shouted across the air, and this time Auron got hold of something more substantial as the airship rocked with the impact. This time when it withdrew Sin shuddered and sank down a few metres, not even trying to counterattack. The blue glow intensified, to the point where it was hard to look at.
“Now! Take us in!” Auron shouted. The airship powered forward, and, ignoring all rational explanation and several laws of physics, flew through Sin, and into the blue glow that was emanating from it.
Rikku opened her eyes again to see the ship flying through the most beautiful landscape she had ever seen. Stars glittered in the midnight sky and soft clouds whooshed past below them. She got to her feet and looked around in awe. How could something like this be inside something? she wondered. The others were also looking around, and they didn’t see the storm until the last minute.
Rikku was the first to look ahead, and therefore the first to see the whirling hurricane of red light as it moved towards them. Before she could cry out it was upon them, and the ship was buffeted by winds that made them hang on for dear life again. They were doing that a lot recently. Inside the storm there was nothing except red light, and a familiar-feeling presence…
Auron and Rikku looked out onto the misty landscape alone. The others were outside looking around and testing the ground.
“This is it,” Rikku whispered. “We’re here.” She held his hand tighter ad Auron tighter and Auron understood what she was thinking.
“Rikku… you don’t have to leave once we’re done. Just because you are what you are doesn’t mean you have to follow what others do,” he said.
“But, Belgemine, Lulu’s old summoner…” she began.
“Rikku, you can’t leave me alone here,” he whispered. “You haven’t turned into a fiend, so you can damn well stick around a few more decades,” he said forcefully.
Rikku hugged him. “Thank you. For everything,” she whispered t him.
Auron put his hand under her chin and raised her head so she was looking right at him. “Rikku, I’ll be here for you, always,” he said, and kissed her.
Rikku opened her mouth as if to answer, but then he kissed her, and she closed her eyes and forgot about Sin, and Yevon, and Yuna, and everything else in the universe except for him, for a little while.
Chapter 26: You’re Mine
They walked through Sin, their rational minds screaming at them that this was not possible. A place like this could not possibly exist inside a beast not even the size of a village, let alone a city. Yet as far as they looked, they saw fog and grey waterfalls, and Yevon symbols guiding them… somewhere…
Rikku shivered and hugged closer to Auron. She could see fields skulking in the distance, and even though she had seen fiends with stranger shapes and more teeth, these ones freaked her out. They seemed more, lost, was the only way she could describe it. The stares in their eyes were not as sharp as other fiends, and instead of attacking they just watched. It was unnerving.
“What is it?” Auron asked quietly. Even if the fiends didn’t seem that hungry, no need to take chances.
“This place just scares me,” she said. She saw movement to her left and her head whipped around to see a strange catlike creatures watching them, just watching, as they moved through the misty landscape.
“We’re all here, you don’t have to worry,” he said.
“I just feel like one of us is going somewhere,” she said.
Instantly Tidus’ head swung around to look at her, and he opened his mouth, about to speak. Auron glared at him, and he shut it. She didn’t need to know yet.
Rikku didn’t see either of this, but she felt Auron move. She looked up. “Auron?” she asked.
“It was nothing, I just thought I saw a fiend,” he said.
Rikku accepted this explanation without argument. This place made her quiet enough as it was.
“Did Sir Jecht do this?” Yuna whispered under her breath.
“Looks like something he would do,” Tidus replied.
“But why?” Lulu asked.
“Jecht would not have wanted to us be unduly delayed by strange pathways,” Auron said. He alone did not seem to be affected by the strange effect that made everyone speak in whispers. It was like trying to whistle in church. The brain told the body to do it, but the body didn’t listen.
No-one spoke, until;
“That’s kinda depressing,” Wakka said.
Tidus glared at him, and he said no more.
“Jecht doesn’t want this any more than we do,” Auron said.
As if in answer, the fog suddenly began to swirl around their feet, ebbing and flowing into recognisable shapes and patterns in the floor.
“Don’t look at them,” Auron whispered.
“Keyakuu,” Rikku whispered, looking down at the face or her late brother, hidden in the patterns in the unholy fog. Suddenly Auron reached down and slapped her across the face. She reeled.
“It’s not him, don’t look at the shapes. That goes for you as well Wakka,” he said sharply, noticing his gaze wandering.”
“What are they?” Lulu asked.
“They are the memories of those Sin has killed, and those killed by other means, taken from your memories and made real by Sin. It is like the Farplane, only designed to distract you from your goals. Don’t look at them,” Auron said.
On his own part, Auron was looking dead ahead towards the next floating glyph, knowing that if he looked down he would see the spectres of Jecht and Braska hovering there, waiting for him to look.
“We press on,” he said quickly, and began to move, staring dead ahead at the horizon. The fiends around them followed and watched, never getting close enough to be worth fighting, but there, on the edge of their vision.
“What are they waiting for?” Yuna whispered.
“They wait for their release from Sin,” Auron replied. “Everyone killed by Sin becomes a part of it, in some way. These just… more… than others.”
“That’s terrible,” Yuna whispered.
As if responding to her words, the fog stopped swirling, the faces disappeared, and the world returned to normal. Rikku let out a deep sigh and leaned against Auron for a few seconds.
“I’m worry I slapped you,” he said.
“S’OK, I understand,” she whispered. She laughed. “When we get back, we’re gonna have a big party, just like Tidus said we would, understood?” she said, imitating Auron’s voice.
Auron smiled. “Perfectly ma’am,” he said stoically.
Inside his mind was spinning. What am I going to tell her?
Tell her you old fool!
But what if she hates you for it?
Idiot! She’s unsent as well! How could she hate you?
I never told her.
Tidus doesn’t care, and Rikku loves you! The only thing she’s going to hate you for is leaving her!
What do you think is going to happen, when she watches you fade away, and she’s left alone, betrayed by you?
What could you possibly say that could surprise her anymore? She nearly started becoming a fiend!
“I can’t do it,” Auron whispered.
“What was that Auron?” Rikku asked lightly, looking up at her lover.
Auron looked down at her, surprise on his face. Had he said that out loud? “It was nothing. I was just thinking to myself,” he said.
“Liar,” Rikku countered.
“It was nothing, I mean it,” Auron replied. He looked up. A fiend stood directly n the path of the team, and this time it didn’t look like it was going to move.
Rikku’s gaze swung from Auron to the fiend and she sighed. A Chimera, great, my favourite kind of fiend.
Wakka, Tidus and Auron drew their blades, Yuna and Lulu hanging back to support with healing spells and the medicine they had stocked up on.
To their surprise, the fiend gave no move to attack. It just stood there, all three heads – and the tail – regarding them with something like curiosity.
Auron walked up to it, blade ready in a second to swing down and slice the thing in half. The Chimera stared at him with one head, the other two fixed on Tidus and Wakka, and the tail looking at Rikku, hissing occasionally.
“Damn fiends,” Wakka muttered. “Wherever we go, there they are. I swear they have some kind of transport to get to where we are first.”
Though they had seen Sin half-blown up, Rikku dead, crystal forests and ships that flew through the air, for some reason a talking fiend was still able to faze them.
Yuna just stared at the thing, which stared back.
She felt an elbow in her side, and turned to Rikku. “Answer it,” the blonde Al Bhed whispered.
Yuna looked at the beast and cleared her throat. “Yes?” she asked hesitantly.
All four of the Chimera’s heads were fixed on her now. “You SeeK tHE HearT OF sIn,” it said through two of its heads. The effect was unnerving, as if two people were reading different parts of the same script, and one had bronchitis, and the other a sore throat.
“I…I do,” Yuna said, more confidently this time.
“yoU May PASs.”
Yuna blinked. Out of everything, she had expected a fiend to give her its permission to travel through its territory. They were more into gunboat diplomacy then anything else.
“Thank you,” she managed to say.
“Don’T MentIoN iT,” the Chimera said, and wandered off again. They watched it leave and disappear back into the fog. Almost at once the fiends that had been dogging their heels since the airship snarled then bounded off into the distance, away from them.
“That was... unusual…” Wakka managed.
“Don’t count your Chocobos,” Auron stated, and walked on.
Soon they came in front of something that had frankly no reason to be here.
“Anymore than lots of fog, fiends, and a place the size of Luca, does?” Rikku asked when Wakka made his observation.
“Yeah, but… stairs?” Wakka said, gesturing at the object in question.
Before them stood a flight of stairs that lead upwards out of the fog. On either side was a burning torch that flickered in an unseen wind.
“The stairs are here, so we go up them, that’s logic,” Tidus chipped in.
Auron grumbled in exasperation at Wakka’s stubborn refusal to accept the existence of stairs, and proved him wrong my promptly walking up them, Rikku following.
Wakka sighed. “Can they do that?” he asked.
“Wakka, these are stairs, deal with them,” Lulu said, and followed.
Wakka took one look at the stairs and tentatively placed one foot on the bottom one. When the universe failed to dissolve around him he placed the other foot on. When the universe still showed no sign up upping the sticks and leaving he followed after the others.
He really hated this place.
Rikku stood, weapon out, and an expression on her face that could have melted glass and made charging Behemoths freeze and reconsider trying to eat this particular person.
“Seymour,” she said quietly, and both syllables were full of enough poison to knock out a Blitzball team.
“My dear Rikku. And Lady Yuna!” Seymour said brightly.
“I thought we finished you off at Gagazet,” Tidus said, drawing his sword. Wakka and Auron did the same. The Maester seemed unperturbed however.
“So you made it this far?” he said. “I must thank you. Now that the Lady Yunalesca has been destroyed, the only means of killing Sin has forever gone. We are invincible!”
“Sin absorbed you!” Tidus shouted.
Seymour shrugged. “I can learn to control it from within. I have all the time in the world!” he shouted.
Tidus snarled and took one step forward, sword out and ready to swing. Rikku stopped him before he had taken two steps.
“He’s mine,” she said, and Tidus knew better than to argue.
Seymour smiled as Rikku walked up to him and faced him. He shook his head. “You could have had so much Rikku. We could have been together. Instead you go with this gutter-trash,” he said, pointing at Auron.
“If he’s that, then that makes you the thing’s that crawl around in the gutter,” Rikku said, and ran at him.
It was almost pitifully easy. Seymour raised his staff and tried to fire a beam of lightning at Rikku, but she ducked under it without stopping and smashed her Godhand into his face. Seymour reeled backwards and just stared. He snarled and raised his staff to strike her, but she merely raised her hand and the staff caught on the spikes. She pirouetted and the Maester’s weapon was pulled out of his grip, flying away into the darkness beyond the plateau they stood on. Without it he was merely a badly defended target, and she treated him as such.
Seymour lay on the ground, one hand clutching his heart where the holes from Rikku’s glove had punctured his chest, the other supporting him on the floor. He looked up at Rikku. “I didn’t… this can’t be… I was supposed to live forever,” he gasped.
Rikku merely stared down at him. Wordlessly she held out her hand, and without speaking Auron held out his sword to her. She took it, not even noticing the weight of the thing, and held it over her head.
Seymour looked up. “You could have had everything.” he whispered. “We could have been together.”
Rikku snarled and swung the sword over her shoulder. She struck once, and once was all it took.
“Missing you already,” she whispered, as the Maester’s body disappeared into the air around them, the pyreflies already fading on their journey to the Farplane, where she had no doubt he would receive a… heartfelt… greeting.
She turned back to the others, and lifted the sword up, slamming it into the ground point first, where it vibrated for a few seconds. The others just stared back. They had never seen so much hatred so… concentrated.
Rikku turned back to the others, took a deep breath, and smiled.
“Well? Shall we go on?”
Chapter 27: The Heart Of Sin
“And now a city?” Wakka said incredulously, as huge buildings soared around them.
“Don’t start that again,” Tidus groaned.
“I’m just saying ya?” Wakka said. “Cities just don’t…”
Then no more sound came from him. His mouth moved, but the words didn’t form. Wakka frowned and looked across at Lulu, who had subtly placed a Silence spell on him. Wakka just stared at her in disbelief, and then started to shout at her. At least, he tried to. The others fell about laughing while Wakka just stood there screaming noiselessly at the Black Mage. They got the feeling he was shouting some quite nasty things at her.
“Let him go,” Auron grumbled.
Lulu looked as if he had just spoiled the best fun she had ever had, and clicked her fingers.
“…And another thing!” Wakka shouted. His eyes widened in surprise and he stopped shouting. They burst out laughing, and then stopped instantly when something whispered from behind one of the buildings.
“What was that?” Rikku whispered, making sure her glove was in easy reach.
“I don’t know and I don’t actually want to find out,” Tidus said quietly.
“We move on,” Auron said.
As they walked through the city-cum-illusion, Yuna was struck by how much it reminded her of Bevelle and Luca, with all the colours drained from it, and she remarked this.
“Reminds me of Zanarkand more than anything else,” Tidus said. The tall buildings and harsh corners reminded him of home.
Rikku didn’t say anything, but the shapes and machina-look of it reminded her of Home.
“It is designed like that. Sin is just one big collection of pyreflies and lost souls, and when they gather in great enough numbers things like this,” he tapped the wall, which made a hollow-sounding noise, “are formed from them. Think of the inside of Sin as one big Farplane and you have it,” he said.
“You know an awful lot about this place,” Tidus said.
Auron chuckled. “I had to travel to Zanarkand in it, remember? Of course, it looked a lot different then. It changes according to the person who is looking.”
“Kinda like; the beauty is in the eyes of the beholder?” Wakka asked. The others looked at him. “What? Am I not allowed to make an observation once in a while?” he asked.
“He is correct in any case,” Auron said. Wakka beamed.
They moved silently through Sin City (AN: Not a reference to Saigon), their hands close to their weapons and so tense that they could have held onto a pneumatic drill and made it go still. If even a harmless spider had stirred in the shadows it would have been in serious danger of being fried by a well-placed Flare.
When an attack did come, it was a relief, and they fell on the unfortunate subject like the Wrath of Sin, alternately blasting and freezing the thing until it died or crawled away.
Rikku swung around the giant creature and dodged around its large feet/hands/dreadlocks, swinging her glove at its side. To her disappointment her glove just bounced off the armour that surrounded it, and she had to duck to avoid a swing from the appendages.
Auron ran in and swung at its now-unprotected belly, his huge sword gouging the carapace for a good few inches. It roared in pain and turned to him, but he ran backwards out of its reach. It roared again, and suddenly it’s arms swung inwards. Its stomach just popped open, and Yuna’s eyes widened as a glowing white sphere flew upwards and towards them. Rikku dived for cover behind the nearest building as the mortar exploded amongst the group, sending shards of tile and metal everywhere. She heard a scream, and turned to see Yuna clutching her stomach, blood oozing from a deep gash across her midriff. As she watched the summoner closed her eyes and gritted her teeth. A soft blue glow flowed through her arm and across the wound, sealing it and cleaning it at the same time.
Lulu’s eyes narrowed as she dropped her Mog onto the floor.
She ran for it, and dived just as a massive green explosion appeared, right where the beast had been. She hit the floor and rolled, running away as the Ultima spell disintegrated, tore apart and incinerated the thing all of once. She felt something hot and liquid fly over her head and make a wet slap against the wall in front of her. She ducked and tired to make herself as small as possible as the after-effects of the spell faded, and the noise of a thousand grenades exploding faded, leaving a ringing in her ears, and bits of fiend all over the landscape.
Tidus ran over to Yuna, who still had one hand over her ruined dress. It was covered in blood, both hers and the monsters, and would need cleaning. “Are you OK?” he asked, bending down and helping her to her feet.
“I’m… fine,” Yuna whispered through clenched teeth.
Tidus looked across at Auron, who looked back and nodded.
Auron turned to the others. “We rest up here for a few hours,” he said.
“But we’re so close!” Wakka said.
Auron looked at him. “Sin isn’t going anywhere. And even if it did, we’re in it,” he said, and looked for the nearest price of rock that didn’t have bits of fiend splattered all over it.
Rikku wandered over from behind her building and sat down next to Auron, leaning her head against Auron’s shoulder. “You know this t-shirt was white when I joined up with you,” she whispered, pointing at her red and dripping t-shirt.
“What happened?” Auron asked quickly, turning to face Rikku an checking her for wounds.
Rikku shrugged. “I was a little too close when the fiend exploded,” she said offhand. She grinned and suddenly shook her arm in his face. Blood flew off her and scattered across Auron’s face. He quickly took a step backwards and looked at her.
“Not funny,” he said, brushing blood from his eyes.
“I think it was,” Rikku said. She laughed. “Now you’ve got red streaks all down your face.”
“Your playfulness will be your undoing,” Auron said dramatically.
“And your stuffiness will be the death of you!!” Rikku said, smiling.
Suddenly Auron lurched forward and run his hand down Rikku’s hand, and flicked it in her face. She blinked at him.
“I can’t believe you just did that!” she exclaimed. Quickly she flicked her wrist at him, but he ducked, and the now semi-liquid blood hit Wakka in the face. He spluttered and fell backwards off the fallen pillar he had been sitting on.
He got up and stared at them. “Guys!”
“Sorry Wakka,” Rikku said, waving sheepishly at him. She turned back to Auron. “That was your fault.”
He looked surprised. “My fault? You threw it!”
“But you ducked.”
“But you got soaked by the blood.”
“But the fiend exploded.”
They looked at each other for a few seconds, then;
They walked through the innards of Sin; now rested and healed up from what seemed like days or walking through city, but what had actually been a couple of hours.
Slowly they moved towards the huge tower in the distance, Tidus seeming reluctant to continue as it grew. No fiends attacked them here, and the air had a stale, almost deathly, quality to it, that made them glance behind them every few steps in case something waited to pull them back away from their goal.
Yuna grasped Tidus hand as they walked through scenery that increasingly remained him of his old home in Zanarkand. The semi-circle in the corner over there, the way certain buildings were put together, the way light – what light there was – bounced around the walls and illuminated the darkness around them.
Rikku stared around her at the grim place. If Tidus’ father had to live in here day in day out she could see why he was making it so easy for them. And there was something else… Whenever she looked at Auron she got a feeling of sadness. Love as well of course, but she couldn’t help but shiver, as If he was going somewhere. It scared her.
They approached the huge tower, and Tidus felt an incredibly strong urge to step away from it, turn, and run like hell back to the airship. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t run away, not now, not when he was so close to ending this.
“We finish this today,” Auron said, seeing his hesitation.
“I know,” Tidus said. He took a deep breath and drew his sword. “I’m ready,” he said.
“Good.” Without another word, he stepped forward and touched the large glowing glyph at the base of the tower. Instantly he vanished. The others drew back suddenly. Then Rikku took a deep breath and ran at it, hitting it with her fist. She also vanished.
“Erm, do we gotta do that to?” Wakka asked.
“Unless you want to stay behind,” Lulu said, and walked into the glyph.
Wakka sighed in exasperation and followed on. Khimari, ever silent, followed them. Only Yuna and Tidus were left, staring at the tower where the others had disappeared.
“Are you coming?” Yuna asked.
He looked at her. I want to, but I don’t want to leave you. “…Yeah,” he said. Together the two teenagers walked forwards. She put her hand in his, and the two touched the glyph together.
Instantly the world faded from view, and they got the sensation of rushing down something. Suddenly the world snapped back into view. They looked around, and saw everyone standing in front of them, staring at a figure in the distance, the old Zanarkand Blitzball stadium behind him, coated in fire. Yuna looked around and saw Zanarkand surrounding them, lights off, sitting there like some sleeping swarm of bats.
Tidus however had eyes only for the figure.
“You’re late Auron,” Jecht said.
“Sorry,” the guardian replied.
Jecht turned to face the guardian, and his eyes widened when he saw Auron gripping the hand of a small blonde girl. He just stared, and then he started laughing.
“What’s so funny?” Rikku asked.
Jecht wiped the tears from his eyes. “Congratulations girl, even Braska never managed to crack through that shell of Auron’s!” He turned his head, and saw Tidus glaring at him. “Hey,” he said, instantly serious again.
“Hi,” Tidus said.
Jecht looked his son up and down. He grinned. “You got big but you’re all bones! Auron been feeding you right?” he asked.
“I hate you,” Tidus said simply.
Jecht sighed, and they saw his face fall. “I know. Listen, we’re going to have to finish this.”
Auron drew his sword, and the scraping it made was the loudest noise they could hear.
Jecht turned back to Rikku. “So, you and him?” he asked nervously.
“Yes,” Rikku said simply, grasping Auron’s other hand.
“Then tell one thing, please,” Jecht said, holding up one finger.
“What?” Rikku asked.
“You probably don’t want to go for a drink after all this is over?” Jecht asked.
“She’s taken,” Auron said, smiling. Some people never change…
“Shame, she’s cute. Nice going Auron!” Jecht said, winking at the older man. Auron rolled his eyes and Jecht became serious again. “We gonna do this?” he asked, and turned away from them, walking to the edge of the platform and staring out at the vision of the ruined stadium.
“I suppose…” Tidus said. He reluctantly drew his sword.
Jecht didn’t even turn around. “One last thing, when I change, I won’t be able to hold back. No freebies this time around.”
“That’s enough!” Tidus shouted. “Lets just finish this,” he said, with tears in his eyes.
Jecht turned around, and they saw that his eyes were glowing.
“Then lets go!”
And he changed.
Chapter 28: The Dead Rest
Rikku and Auron stared as Yuna twirled around on the roof of the old stadium, dress and ribbons whirling in the air as she performed the final sending Spira would see for a long time.
“Is it over?” she asked, barely daring to believe it.
“It’s over,” Auron replied softly. He felt Rikku’s hand grip his tighter and his heart was almost torn in two.
“What now?” she asked.
Now? You go back to your life. I have nothing to keep me here any longer, except you… “I don’t know,” he whispered.
Rikku looked up at him. “Are you OK?” she asked, concern in her voice. “You seem a little sad.”
Auron lied. “Jecht was a good friend, I regret his death.” I should have told you earlier, but I was a coward, and I don’t dare.
Rikku hugged him. “I understand. I miss my friends as well.”
We have to go Auron.
Auron looked across at Wakka. “What?” he asked.
Wakka looked back and shrugged. “I didn’t say anything,” he said, puzzled.
Auron frowned, he could have sworn…
Auron, this isn’t our place anymore, Jecht’s voice whispered through his head.
“But I don’t want to go,” he whispered to the air fiercely.
“Sir Auron, we have to, we can’t be here when Sin is sent,” Yuna said.
Auron looked at her and realised that he had spoken the last few words aloud, and the others were moving towards a blue cloud of light at the opposite end of the platform. He looked back at Yuna. “I apologise, my mind was drifting,” he said, and walked slowly towards the ‘exit’, Rikku gripping his hand.
They moved through Sin silently, mesmerised as fiends that had once attacked them from miles away just sat and turned to brightly coloured dust before them. Soon it was as if they were walking amongst some kind of moving and swirling rainbow, the pyreflies floating away to the Farplane, carrying the souls of those killed by Sin as they were finally freed from it’s thrall.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, as they walked through the maze of mist and lights.
Auron looked down at the look of worry on her face. She knows something is wrong.
How do I explain?
You’ll have to sooner or later.
But what if…
It’s too late to change anything. The last thing she deserves is to see you leave suddenly, without any warning.
“Rikku?” Auron began.
“Yes?” Rikku asked quickly.
“There’s something I need to tell you,” he said quietly.
Suddenly Rikku looked ahead and smiled. Auron turned and saw the familiar sight of the airship ahead of them. She smiled at him and ran towards the airship. She turned back and laughed. “Tell me when we’re out of this place!” she shouted, and ran onto the ship.
Auron sighed and followed. This was not getting any easier.
They looked around, shielding their eyes from the glare of the lights, as around them the Aeons dissolved into dust. Rikku wiped tears from her eyes as creatures she remembered fondly helping them in battle and protecting them from their enemies disintegrated in some kind of obscene fireworks show. Although she wasn’t too sad to see Shiva go, that woman had always given her the creeps, and Ifrit seemed to be staring at her, roaring, and then they both went, to wherever it is Aeons go to die. She looked across at Auron.
She looks so happy, what am I supposed to tell her?
“What is it you want to tell me?” she asked cheerily. “Auron?” she asked.
Auron just stared at her, not speaking. I can’t do it.
“Auron, what is it?” she asked.
Tidus looked at Auron. “We should go,” he whispered.
Rikku whirled on him. “Go where?” she asked, puzzled.
Tidus’ eyes widened. “You didn’t tell her?” he asked. Then he slapped his hand over his mouth. Oops.
“Tell me what?” Rikku asked Auron, panic in her voice, as Yuna danced on.
“Auron, what’s going on?” she asked.
“Rikku, there’s something I need to tell you,” he said.
“What?” she asked, walking up to him.
Yuna finished her dance, and turned to look behind her. She saw the team talking, and the others looking on, wondering what was happening, and Tidus watching Auron, unsmiling.
She saw Rikku’s eyes widen, and the girl turned to look at Tidus, saying something to him. Rikku turned back to Auron, tears in her eyes, and shout something at him. She had a pretty good idea what. The others looked shocked, and Rikku fell to her knees in front of Auron, and started weeping.
“How could you?” she whispered.
Auron knelt down next to her. “I’m sorry,” he said. He didn’t know what else to say.
Rikku looked up at him. “Let me go with you,” she said.
Auron took off his glasses, and for the first time anyone else had seen, he looked at her directly. “Rikku, you have a life here,” he said. He took hold of her face and lifted it so their eyes met, wiping the tears from her eyes. “You have all your life ahead of you, you can’t leave now.
“But I want to be with you,” she said.
“No! Auron, you’re not going!” she whispered through sobs.
“Rikku, I have to.”
“Why? Give me one good reason!” she shouted at him. “You’ve got at least one good one to stay here!”
“Rikku, we have t go now,” Tidus whispered. He looked across at Yuna, who was staring back with much the same expression as Rikku. He cringed. At least she had some warning. Rikku had nothing.
“You can’t just go! Not now, not after everything!” Rikku shouted, getting up and backing away from Auron.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. Auron began to glow with an inner light, and pyreflies came out of his body. “I can’t stay any more.”
“Don’t leave me like this,” she whispered.
Auron took one last look at Rikku and turned, closing his eyes. He felt his body weaken, and he felt the now-irresistible tug of the Farplane, and peace.
Suddenly a hand grabbed his shoulder, and he was turned on the spot. Rikku clasped her arms around his waist and kissed him, tears streaming from her eyes. Auron kissed back, wrapping his arms around her, and not letting go.
She disengaged her lips from his for a second. “E muja oui,” she whispered softly.
“I love you too,” Auron whispered, and pressed his lips back against hers, praying this moment could last forever. He became transparent, and Rikku’s hand fell from around his shoulder as he faded into darkness. He turned to face away from her, not wanting to look at her face, and walked to the edge of the ship, staring out at the Calm Lands as
In that moment, Rikku made her decision. She turned to Yuna and the others. “I’m sorry. Goodbye,” she whispered, tears in her eyes. “I’ll see you all someday.”
Yuna just nodded.
“We’ll miss you both,” Lulu whispered.
“Take care,” said Wakka.
Auron sighed and closed his eyes, ready to leave this world. He vaguely heard Rikku say something to the others, but he didn’t hear what it was. Then…
He felt a hand on his shoulder. Blinking in surprise, he turned to see Rikku smiling softly at him. How did she… Then he looked, and saw that her hand was translucent, and pyreflies were also flying out of her.
“Because I won’t stay if you don’t,” Rikku whispered.
“I never regretted anything, and I won’t regret this either,” she said. She leant forward and kissed him again. He kissed back, and they forgot everything around them as the world turned white, and they made their final journey together.
The last view, before the pyreflies obscured the pair, was of Auron and Rikku locked in a kiss. The pyreflies sped up their paths, and a bright flash of light blinded the others as Rikku and Auron travelled to the Farplane together, the pyreflies weaving and dancing around each other as they disappeared into the beyond.