Darkness Falls by -Pierson-

Rikku looked into the depths of the Machina, and turned to her brother, who was leaning against the siderails of the scavenger's deck.

'You sure this things safe?' She asked nervously. He smiled at her and waved.

'Perfectly, I checked it out myself.' he replied.

'Against fiends?' She asked.

'Rikku, don't worry! I went down over 1 mile with this thing and blew up some fish-fiends with it. It's safe.' Rikku still looked skeptical.

'Bro, these are guardians we're going up against, not fish.' She said testily.

It always surprised her brother, how Rikku's demeanor changed so drastically when they were out here. Anywhere else, she was so cheerful they had to hold her down, yet around anything to do with both water and metal in the same area she was always twitchy. Not that he could blame her, it was his fault she was like that. Him and his itchy lightning-finger. He looked across at the large Machina. He had lovingly hand-crafted it over the last year to run salvaging operations in deep water, and then his father Cid had ordered weapons put on, 'just in case', and now they were sending his little sister to fetch a summoner in it! One day that man's impulsive nature was going to get someone hurt. he had asked to be the one to go, but Rikku had been chosen instead, she was the summoner's cousin, Cid had reasoned, and maybe that would make being kidnaped a little easier to bear. he sighed at the teenager. 'For the love of... Rikku, it'll be fine. Trust me! We installed a safety precaution. Look, you see the place where you sit? Next to it is the escape button, you press that, and these clamps disengage, and the cockpit drifts to the surface, and all you have to do is step out!' He said , gesturing to several pieces of machinery around and inside the craft.

'Fine.' Said Rikku. 'But don't blame me when I come back all bruised and miserable!'


Rikku climbed into the machina. From the outside it had looked quite spacious, but from inside it was incredibly cramped, the various machinery taking up most of the parts. Now she knew why Cid had really chosen her to go get the summoner, no-one else would fit in this blasted thing. She heard her brother's voice over the speaker near her cheek.

*Rikku, you hear me?*

'Fine!' She replied. 'But next time, I build the ship and you drive it!' She shouted, She heard the mechanics laughter even through the several inches of metal surrounding her.

*We'll see.* She heard him say. *This thing won't transmit properly over a few meters, once you're in the mouth of the Moonflow, you're on your own!*

'Gotcha!' She said fake-cheerfully. Great. No space, and no company either... Then the entire ship shook, telling her that her brother had disengaged the clamps holding the craft/ship/boat in place, and she saw the water start to occlude the viewscreen. when the boat was completely submerged, she slowly took the guidance stick in her right hand, pressed the button for 'engines forward' and began her slow journey into the Moonflow. She only hoped her cousin hadn't crossed yet.


The plan was simple, another Al Bhed would be waiting at the Shoopuf crossing for Yuna to cross with her Guardians. He would abduct the summoner, who was known to have little aptitude for hand-to-hand combat, and take her down to Rikku's craft, where Rikku would engage what could only be described as a huge air bubble, and begin the journey back to the salvage ship, over 1 mile away. Simple. But only if she got their first.

The ship groaned, and Rikku looked up at the metal over her head. It had been making strange noises over the past twenty minutes, and she dared not go any deeper, lest the ship implode in on her. She had begun to have serious doubts about the sea-worthiness of this machine. Safe my ass. When we get back, I swear I'm gonna kill you bro. She looked up just in time to see the sun nearly run into the spire.

'Woah!!' She grabbed the controls, and angled sharply to the left, pushing back on the throttle. She stopped only a few inches from the strange underwater point. What the... Rikku looked at it, and caught something on the periphery of her vision. She strafed the sub past the obstruction to get a better look at it, and what she saw took her breath away. It's a city! She could see, where the Moonflow became deeper, a veritable mountain of buildings and houses, buried underwater. She was amazed, she hadn't known about this, no-one had told her, which meant only one thing; Machina city! She thought gleefully. She imagined the salvage they could get from this place, it looked almost untouched. She lost track of time, and when she saw the riverbed angle sharply upwards, she stopped. She was at the Shoopuf crossing. All she could do now was wait.


Rikku was about to quit and go home when she heard the vibrations of the Shoopuf crossing.

About time! She thought angrily. Can't you pilgrimage a little faster! She began the process of powering up the craft's air bubble, that would sustain Yuna throughout the journey back to the salvage ship.


She was still waiting ten minutes later when Latryn finally came down from the surface, carrying an unconscious Yuna in his arms.

Man, you have got to learn how to treat a lady. She thought to herself as she angle towards the man in the water. He approached her and went over her cockpit, out of sight, deposited Yuna inside the bubble. He turned to her, and she looked at him as if to say; about time! He began to swim off. His part in the mission was done. Phase 1: Capture The Summoner accomplished. Phase 2: Get The Hell Out, in progress. Rikku began to turn away towards the direction of the open sea when she saw 2 small shapes barreling towards her out of the water.

Guardians, great. She thought. She turned back and used the control panels she had been taught to launch some missiles out of the ship. They weren't really missiles, but Rikku hadn't bothered to learn the correct term for them. To her disappointment (but not her surprise) they just dodged around them and kept coming at her. That made her wonder whether they were blitzers. Fine. You wanna mess with Rikku, you pay the price! She turned around to face the two Guardians, and prepped her ship for combat.


This was not going well. No matter how hard she seemed to hit them, they just seemed to shrug it off, heal each other, and continue the attack. It didn't help that there was two of them, and only one of her, and she couldn't very well get out an conduct repairs on her ship in the middle of a battle.

She swivelled her craft and launched some more missiles. It didn't help that she only had five left, plus two depth charges. Her brother had obviously not banked on her getting into a serious scrape in this thing. She targeted the nearest Guardian and fired off 2, hoping to at least distract the other one from trying to peel open her engines. The blonde-haired one saw them coming and rolled under the first one, then turning to watch it's passage. He turned back just in time to be confronted by a faceful of compressed air, and Rikku saw she saw his eyes go wide as he was engulfed in a localized maelstrom. The other one behind her noticed this, and went to heal his companion, momentarily (and foolishly) ignoring the armed Al Bhed craft behind him. Rikku loosed two of her last three missiles, scoring a direct hit on the Guardian. When the bubbles cleared he was, amazingly, still standing (well, treading water). he turned back to the craft with anger in his eyes. Rikku fired her last missile at him, hoping to finish him off. At least, she tried to. The man threw his Blitzball (Who uses a sports-ball for a weapon? She thought incredulously) at the missile port. It hit dead on and stopped in the missile tube. As the missile left it's rack and began to travel down the guide, it suddenly found it's way blocked by a large object, and did exactly what it was supposed to do when it happened across large objects in it's path. Oh cred... Rikku thought. Then the missile exploded. Half the ship's was torn away,


Wakka watched the Al Bhed craft sink to the bottom, and turned back to Tidus. The boy was in bad shape, and being hit with one of the heathen's weapons wasn't good for him. He reached into his overalls and withdrew a potion, throwing it onto the young blitzer. Tidus instantly regained use of his limbs. He turned about, and noticed Wakka, and gave him a thumbs up. Wakka returned the gesture. The older Guardian turned back towards the Al Bhed ship, and immediately his eyes opened wide. Yuna! He thought. he began to swim frantically down towards the ship. Seeing Yuna lying in some kind of sphere, only designed to keep water out, not in, he grabbed her, and began to swim towards the surface, Tidus following behind.


Rikku watched the three people move towards the surface. She was still seething about being beat. Brother, when I get back, we're going to have words. She thought towards her brother, miles away and waiting for her return. Sighing, she turned to look outside as the ship settled on the bottom of the Moonflow. The creaks were growing more ominous now, and leaks were starting to appear. Rikku was not worried however.

Turning, she pressed the button that her brother had indicated as the escape button, to disconnect the cockpit from the main body of the craft. She heard the explosive bolts fire along the hull of her ship. She waited for the cockpit bubble to come loose. This did not happen.

Metal, and especially metal only a few inches thick, cannot last too long under the constant pressure of masses of water above it. Rikku's craft had been salvaged itself from another similar ship, and the designers had failed to take into account that the original craft had itself sunk. Add to that the damage sustained in the fight against the two Guardians, it was already on the verge of failure. The explosive bolts provided the last push. Instead of pulling away from the rest of the ship, the cockpit bubble cracked slightly. This changed the shape of a underwater craft that required a perfect circle to function, and it didn't hold.

Rikku only had time for one last thought, as the sphere imploded, centered exactly where the young girl was sitting.

Brother, you were wrong...


As Yuna regained her seat, Wakka heard the noise on the edge of his hearing. Leaning back over the water, he saw the Al Bhed craft collapse in on itself in a small storm of air and water bubbles. He said a short prayer to Yevon for its occupant, if any. The Al Bhed were notorious for having those clever machines that could pilot themselves, and he wouldn't put it past them to use a craft with no pilot. He turned back to the others, and did not bother himself with those thoughts again. 'How long till the shore?' He asked.

'Aboot thurty minoots.' The driver said in his strangely-distorted voice. Wakka leaned back in his seat, put his arms behind his head, and tried to get some sleep.


Rikku awoke in darkness, and screamed. She was underwater, in a metal tomb molded to her exact shape. She immediately shut her mouth to avoid losing oxygen. She struggled, and only just had enough room to move her arm down to her side. She reached into her leg-satchel, and withdrew something spherical and shiny. Calm down calm down calm down. You've been in worse situations than this before. She willed herself to pull the pin on the grenade, and shut her eyes tightly.

A blinding flash erupted around her eyes, and white-hot pain rushed through her nerves from her leg to her brain, demanding her attention now. Rikku attempted to ignore them. She opened her eyes, and the sight that greeted her warmed her heart. Light. She could see the surface through the now ruined outer shell of the cockpit sphere. She wormed her hands free, scratching and tearing flesh as she worked against the jagged edges. Rikku got her arms free, and tried to pull herself out. It was getting dark again, and this time she knew if she fell into darkness she would never climb out. She worked her legs, struggling to get them out of the crushed metal coffin.

After a few seconds she managed to force herself out of the ruined ship, and she began to kick towards the surface with her one good leg. Her lungs were on fire now, and she was desperately clawing for the surface. when she put her hand forward and met no resistance, it was like the breath of life. Her head broke the surface and she gasped air. For some reason it hurt to breathe. Rikku put it down to lack of oxygen. She resisted the temptation to laugh out loud. In your face Guardians! She thought happily to herself. She walked up to the riverbank, ignoring the pain. After she had traveled about fifty meters, the adrenaline started to fade. She began to falter, and collapsed onto her knees. She noticed the pain in her chest, and looked down.

Then she noticed the large shard of metal sticking out of her chest. Directly over her heart.

Rikku blinked, and put reached her fingers out to her chest to touch it. Even though she knew better, she began to try and tug it out. She started to weep. No, not like this! I'd survived! It's not FAIR! Her vison started to blur, and she began to wrench at the meal imbedded in her heart. This only caused more pain, but at this point she didn’t care. Finally she pulled it free, and the pain made her scream a final death-rattle to the air as her blood poured out onto the soil. She looked at the large metal spike in her hand with an odd detachment. As the pain began to ebb, Rikku finally accepted that she was going to die. Using the last of her strength, she lowered herself to the floor, lay on her side, put her head under her hands, and closed her eyes as the darkness reached out and claimed her.


Tidus was the first one to leave the crossing-station. He wandered away from the others, not wanting to be drawn into the crowd who were standing around Yuna and asking her how she was. He couldn't explain it, but he was worried. He could have swore, when he and Wakka were fighting that Machina, he had saw someone he knew within it. It was bothering him now. Wakka had told him not to worry about it though, and he was trying not to. That they had tried to kidnap Yuna helped that somewhat. The fact that he had left first meant that he would be the one to find the trail. He turned a corner in the path, that lead out to a small embankment (it was too small to classify as a shore), and stopped dead. It wasn't the scenery that stopped him though, but the trail of what was unmistakably blood leading away from it.

'What the..!' he exclaimed. He started to walk quickly along the trail. Then he heard a scream, and he started running.


Khimari's head snapped around as the scream echoed through the vicinity. Everyone stopped and turned to look, some shivered. They knew what they were listening to. He started towards Yuna, in case anything should happen to her. Lulu was the first to notice what was wrong.

'Where's Tidus?' She asked quickly. Auron looked up from his leaning posture against the side of the Shoopuf platform.

'He went ahead.' He stated simply. Yuna looked at him, scared. Auron looked back, and then began to move off. 'That was no man's scream.' He said before he walked away. The others ran to catch up.


The first thing that occurred to him when he found her was that he had never seen so much blood. He resisted the urge to vomit right there on the spot and approached the girl. She was unmistakably dead. No-one could lose so much blood, have wounds like that, and be alive. He reached out to touch the body, and got the shock of his life. The girl's left hand came up and grabbed him around the shoulder. He looked at her face, and nearly screamed. Green spiralled eyes stared into his. The girl shouldn't even be alive, yet she was looking at him like he was some kind of demon. She opened her mouth, and Tidus had to put his ear right up against it to hear her plea.

'Help... me...' She said. He heard a scream behind him, and a whispered 'Yevon...' He turned, and saw the others looking at the girl with expressions of horror, terror, concern, and indifference, depending. Yuna ran over to the two, and nearly lost her footing, the ground slippery from the young girl's blood. She knelt down beside them, took out her staff, and immediately began to cast healing spells on the girl. After the first few, she had managed to staunch the flow of blood, and the girl looked at them with eternal thanks in her eyes. Then her eyes opened wider, with something akin to recognition. 'Cous... Tid...' She began, but Yuna cut her off.

'Shhh. Stay still. It's going to be alright.' Yuna had a wonderful bedside manner, even laying on the ground next to a stream, surrounded by liters of blood. Tidus got up and walked towards the stream to wash off, sensing he was no longer needed. He went back to he others. No-one spoke, although Wakka was retching in a corner.


Wha...? What happened? Whose is all this blood? Rikku was confused and scared. She tried to move, but her chest burned with fire when she tried. She lay back, and looked up at the person who was seeing to her. Who it was nearly shocked her back into unconsciousness.

Tidus! Yunie!

Then she blacked out anyway.


Yuna walked over to the others. Tidus looked over from the tree he was leaning against. 'Well?' He asked quietly. Yuna just looked at the ground.

'She's lost a lot of blood, she's got a hole in her lung which I mended, leg wounds, the flesh on her arm has been nearly gouged off, I can fix all those, but I can't do anything about the hole over her heart. If she lives, she'll have trouble with that for the rest of her life. By all accounts, she shouldn't even be alive now.' Auron looked up at that, but said nothing.


They reached Guadosalam at dawn, Khimari carrying the young girl in his arms for most of the journey. Yuna refused to give up. She told the inn owner that he would give this girl a bed. He had refused at first, but the twin towers of Auron and Khimari standing either side of Yuna had put paid to any arguments he might have had about the 'heathen' Al Bhed. Yuna stayed up casting spells and using potions the entire night. Tidus had agreed to stay by the bed at night, monitoring the girl in case anything untoward happened.


Rikku awoke back in the submarine. She screamed again, she couldn't breathe. The craft was vibrating, shaking her around as it crushed her in it's death-embrace. She heard a voice, and opened her eyes. She found herself not underwater, drowning in a metal coffin of her brother's making, nor bleeding to death on the Moonflow's shores, but in a room with soft lighting and wooden walls, being held by the shoulders by the boy she had met before, before Sin had attacked them. She settled back down, and shut her eyes. The last thing she heard before she fell asleep, finally free from pain, if only for a while, was the boy speaking to her in an incredulous tone;

'You're... not dead?'

Guess again.

Chapter 2: What Am I?

Rikku awoke the next morning to find Tidus on a chair next to her, his head slumped over his hands. The first thought that came to her was; He's alive! She tried to stir the boy but found that she couldn't move her arm. It must have been strapped down or something. She was aware of a pain in her chest but ignored it. Must be cramp or something... She thought, and climbed out from under the covers to see where she was. She immediately hit her head on a big piece of wood. Only one place, she thought, has curved wall. Damn it! Why Guadosalam? Of all the places to wind up...

She walked out of her small room and saw a Guado standing near the doorway. He (I think...) looked across at her. His eyes opened wide and his mouth gaped. he ran out of the small room shouting in Guado for someone called Lulu. She frowned, surely she wasn’t that ugly. She ached all over. What the hell happened to me? She asked, she went to rub her stomach with her hands and stopped dead. She was covered in bandages. Uh-oh. She began to panic.

Then she remembered what had happened.


The Guado boy Lulu had asked to watch over the girl ran in babbling. Lulu looked up at him and arched her eyebrow. 'Hello, I hope you slept well. Now say all that again.' The Guado took a few deep breaths and began to tell her. Lulu's eyes widened. Awake? And walking around? Not possible... 'Are you sure?' She asked him. The Guado boy just nodded. Wakka walked into the room, having heard the conversation through the inn walls.

'What's up?' he asked sleepily.

'The girl is awake.' Lulu said simply. Wakka looked at Lulu questioningly.

'Already?' He asked.

'Apparently. Wake up the others. Auron said he wanted to speak with her.' Wakka walked off to rouse the others from their sleep. All except Yuna, who was sleeping so soundly it was hard to tell she was alive.



Rikku sat on the floor of the inn, hands wrapped around her knees.


She looked at herself in the mirror across from her. Her legs, hands, and chest were wrapped in bandages. A long roll of it ran from sown her face from her right temple, down the right of her right eyes, and, from what she could feel, all the way down, like someone had folded and creased along an imaginary dotted line.


What am I? She asked herself. Her rational mind was screaming the answer at her but she did not want to acknowledge the truth.


Tidus woke up with a start, hand already moving towards his sword-handle. He looked across, scanning amateurishly for threats. He noticed Rikku sitting on the floor and his eyes immediately widened, in concern or shock she didn't really want to know.


'Hey.' He said quietly. She tried to reply, but all that came out was a thin rasp.

'Hi...' She managed. He started to say something when the door opened and a woman in a long black dress wrapped with belt buckles walked in. Her eyes immediately went wide. what is it with these people? Have they never seen injuries before? She wondered, irritated. The woman walked over to her and looked into her eyes.

'How are you?' She asked.

'I'm...' Rikku began, but was cut off.

'Don't try and speak, your throat got damaged in the... whatever it was happened to you.' Rikku remembered the submarine, the sphere as it imploded and folded in on itself, in onto her. Possible. Rikku thought. Then the others came in. A man in a large red coat in sunglasses, a Ronso, a man in a yellow blitzba... You! Rikku screamed silently. A woman in a white dress... Yunie! Rikku silently thanked the other two for getting her out of harm's way. Even if...


Yuna walked up to her and knelt down beside her. 'Who are you?' She asked quietly.

'Rikku.' She replied.


'How are you?' She asked.

'Hurts...' She gasped, before another jolt of pain stabbed her in the chest. She doubled over even further, and Yuna went to catch her.

'You're going to be OK Rikku. The wounds will heal. There will be scars (You got that right... Rikku thought to herself), but everything will heal.' She stood back up and went over to Lulu, who was standing nearby, holding a potion in case anything untoward happened.




'You're not going to tell her?' Lulu said.

'She doesn't need to know yet.' Yuna replied. Usually cheerful, Yuna was completely serious now. Never a good sign.

'It's her body. You should tell her.'

'I don't know how...' Yuna said, biting her nails.

'Let me do it.' Lulu said.

'Later.' Yuna said warningly.

'OK. Look after her.' Lulu replied, just as serious. Just then a knock cam at the door, and everyone looked away from Rikku with the exception of Lulu. Another knock came.

'Enter.' Said Auron gruffly. The door opened and Tromell walked in.

'Greetings, bear a message from Maester... My God!' he whispered, noticing Rikku. Auron stood in between them, shielding the nearly-catatonic Al Bhed girl from the old Guado's gaze.

'An accident. She will recover. Please continue.' Tromell just nodded and carried on as if he had forgotten the scene behind Auron.

'Maester Seymour wishes to speak with the Lady Yuna.' Yuna looked at him, eyes opened wide.

'A summons? Whatever could it be I wonder?' She asked. 'But I can't...' Auron took Yuna’s shoulder and whispered in her ear.

'Lulu can take care of the girl, we must go.' Yuna looked around and saw Lulu bent over Rikku, whispering words of encouragement in her ear. She looked up, smiled, and nodded at her. Yuna nodded back, then turned to Tromell.

'Very well. Give me a minute please.' She looked at Auron, who got the hint immediately. Auron looked over at the others, and motioned after Yuna, and all save Lulu walked out and followed Yuna to the Maester's mansion.


Rikku lay on the floor. She was aware on the edges of her consciousness of 'Lulu' talking in her ear, but she couldn't hear.


'What?' Lulu asked. 'What was that? I didn't hear...

'Nothing.' Rikku said, then louder; 'Nothing.'

'You were in the Al Bhed ship weren't you?' Yuna asked.

'Yes...' Lulu and Yuna both shivered, then had heard the explosion. To be trapped in a space barely bigger than yourself, underwater, with darkness all around, and then to have your metal vehicle collapse on you. Neither wanted to know what it was like.

'Who are you?' Lulu asked, ever the practical one.

'Rikku bein-Cid.' She replied. Yuna gasped.

'Cid is your father?' She asked.


'The you're my...?' Rikku actually smiled at this.

'Yes...' Yuna sat back and looked at her.

'Why are you here? Why did you try to kidnap Yuna?' Lulu asked. Rikku looked across at her, begging her to understand.

'I don't want her to die! I want to protect her!'

'From who?' She asked.

'From Yevon!' She nearly shouted, and her throat burned, and she fell silent. Yuna looked at her, as if thinking, then she seemed to make up her mind. I can only imagine what it must have felt like, and you did it to try to protect me? All this, the scars, are because of me. Rikku, I'm sorry I did this to you.

'Rikku, there is another way to protect me you know...'


'What'dya think they're talking about?' he asked Auron.

'That if their business, if we need to know, we will find out when they tell us.' he replied stoically. Just then Yuna walked out, and lulu walked out a few seconds later, looking noticeably even less cheerful, which was saying something. All eyes turned on them, and Tromell gestured towards the mansion, but Yuna raised her hand. Wait. the Guado merely nodded, understanding the unspoken command, and he walked away.

'I have decided... to make Rikku my Guardian...' She said. Tidus gasped. Auron merely looked resigned. Khimari showed nothing whatsoever.

'Are you sure?' Auron asked. Yuna nodded.


'Fine.' Said Auron, and walked away towards Tromell.

'what happens now?' Asked Tidus. It was Lulu who replied.

'We wait. When Rikku recovers enough, we move on to the thunder plains.' She said. Tidus nodded, and walked off, following Auron and Tromell. Yuna followed. Lulu walked off, glancing back once to look at the in where the young girl stayed.

May Yevon send you rest girl. You're going to need it.


What happens to me now? A guardian! Me, an Al Bhed1 This has gotta be a first! She smiled slightly at that. Pain shot through her body and she lay down on the bed.

What am I? What happens to me? Has this every happened to anyone before? As thoughts of death and rebirth ran through her mind, Rikku lay down and closed her eyes. She fell asleep almost at once. Falling asleep would never be a problem for her again. As she drifted off, she remembered Lulu's last words before she had woken out.

The wound in your heart... The metal spike, we couldn't take it out, it's too close, you'll have it 'till you die.

She fingered the wound as she drifted off. The events of the last two days. Dying, living again (How? She thought to herself), waking up among both old and new friends. She would carry the memories of this day with her forever. She felt over her chest and pressed down, ignoring the pain, and near her heart she felt a large shard of cold, unyielding metal.

She would also carry a more painful, physical reminder.

Chapter 3: A Strange Conversation

Rikku shivered in the cold, although it was (according to the others) pleasantly warm in Guadosalam, she couldn't help but feel chilled. The place was almost imbued with coldness. She felt a tap on her shoulder, and looked across at Lulu. 'Are you alright?' The Black Mage whispered to her. Rikku nodded. Lulu smiled at her and turned back to face the Maester's mansion. They were waiting for Yuna to emerge from the house, and Rikku would be glad to be rid of the place. Everyone who passed, Guado, Human and Ronso alike, looked at the curiously, as if she was some sort of carnival attraction. In all fairness, she couldn't really blame them. In this village (she had to call it something, and 'burrow' probably wouldn't help) of straight backed men and haughty women with flawless features, she stood out a mile. Obviously branded Al Bhed by her clothes and thigh holster, and distinguishable even more by the scars from her accident that marked her legs and arms, plus the single line on her face, she was greeted with either curiosity, disinterest or outright hostility by the other inhabitants of this place. There had been a particularly nasty incident a day after she had been pronounced fit to walk by Lulu, where some Guado youths had happened to choose her as their hate-object for the week, and had nearly mobbed her. The Guado: In touch with the Farplane, calm and collected to a tee, but all that stored up hatred had to go somewhere. She turned to look at Lulu. She felt indebted to the older woman after she had helped nurse her better, and much preferred her conversation to Wakka's, who seemed to have a major hang-up about the Al Bhed. She had little reason to care for the blitzer herself.

'What's been going on?' She asked. Lulu bent down next to her ear and started whispering.

'After we were sure you were going to be alright, we were summoned to Seymour's mansion, and he and Yuna started talking. She's been going back there for the last few days, we don't know what they talk about, although she seemed quite flustered when she came out yesterday.' Lulu replied. They heard a noise from the direction of the mansion, and both looked up see Yuna emerge. 'Well, speak of the...' Lulu got up and started to walk towards the young summoner. Rikku shrugged mentally and also stood. She heard a snatch of conversation.

'...marry him...' She heard Yuna say. Rikku blinked and began to jog over to the rest of the group. Then she heard the minor explosion of Mt. Tidus.

'You cannot be serious! Does he know you have a pilgrimage? Do you even love the guy? Yuna? Yuna!' He nearly shouted, drawing annoyed yet oh-so-superior glances from several Guado. Rikku knelt down by Yuna and tried to look into her face, noticing Khimari draw ever-so-slightly closer to Yuna as she did so. She put it down to nerves.

'What did you say?' She asked her, as no-one seemed to have done that yet. Yuna did not look up. She seemed positively shell-shocked to her.

'I told him, I would think about it.' She said. Then Rikku remembered why she had offered to go with Yuna. To protect her.

'Why don't you just quit your pilgrimage?' She asked in as casual a voice as she could manage. To her surprise it was Auron who replied.

'The pilgrimage takes precedence. If Sin is dead, then would be the time to marry.' He said in that monotone voice of his. Tidus didn't seem to care though.

'But what about love?' He asked. Rikku could see where this was going to go. Having said what she needed to say, and fearing her cause was a lost one, she walked off towards the shop, and perched herself on the railing. After everything she had promised her father and herself, to stop Yuna's pilgrimage and prevent her death by Yevon's sick rituals, she was going to help Yuna kill herself anyway as one of her Guardians. She would have laughed if it hadn't been so depressing. She felt footsteps approach her, but did not turn around.

'Khimari not trust Rikku.' Rikku whirled around, and her the blue monolith of the Ronso stood behind her. She smiled wanly at him, but he didn't change the expression on his face. 'Rikku not want Yuna to travel.' He said slowly. Rikku just nodded at him. 'Rikku think Yuna throw her life away.' She nodded again, tears in her eyes. 'Khimari think Rikku good person not to want Yuna's death.' Rikku blinked. Oh... Kay... 'Khimari think Rikku will try and stop Yuna travelling. That Yuna's choice, not Rikku's. Khimari think Rikku will make good Guardian, guarding family.' She blinked again. How the hell had he found that out? 'But Khimari still not trust Rikku. Am watching you. Do not try anything, understand?' Rikku hesitated, then nodded again, slowly. Khimari nodded back, once, then turned to walk back towards the group.

Now, what was that all about? Rikku thought to herself. The message was obvious, but something about the way he had done it. He had waited until she was away from the others before approaching her, and Ronso were not known for their subtlety. Lulu had told her that Khimari had stated, quite simply, that he did not like Maester Seymour, in earshot of half the Guado populace. Something had happened there and she wasn't sure what, and that bothered her. She stared after the Ronso, then got up and walked back to the group in time to hear Yuna's proclamation.

'I'm going to see my father. I'm going to the Farplane.' She said, determination in her voice. Rikku's heart would have stopped, if it was still beating. As it was she merely went pale. Up until now, she hadn't really thought about her... condition. What would happen when she went to the place where the dead traditionally went? She didn't know, and had no wish to find out quite yet. Lulu noticed her and looked across. Her eyes widened when she saw Rikku's face, white as a sheet.

'What's wrong?' She asked. Rikku saw the others staring at her and quickly her brain went into overdrive.

'Nothing. Just a headache, it'll pass.' She said. Accepting her excuse, the others began to prepare to head off. Rikku remembered the Al Bhed explanation for the Farplane; 'It's not the dead, just your memories of them.' At that moment, if she had been a believer, she would have been praying it was true.

'Fine,' said Auron. 'we leave as soon as Yuna wishes it.' Tidus still wanted to press the argument though.

'But Auron!' The old Guardian merely shrugged.

'It is Yuna's choice, as long as...'

'I will not quit my pilgrimage.' Yuna said sharply.

'Then it is decided. We go where Yuna wishes.' Auron said. He motioned towards Yuna, who nodded at him and walked off towards the doorway. The others shrugged, glared or merely followed after her. Rikku shrugged, and walked off to join the others. She could face whatever the Farplane threw at her.

'Guys! Wait up!' She shouted, and started to walk just a little faster.


Maester Seymour Guado watched the group leave through the archway to the Farplane, looking at Yuna, with that expression of confusion that seemed to suit her so well. He smiled. She would do. With her help he could finally achieve his dream. His gaze wandered across the group, and fell onto the small blonde girl who had not been to his mansion. He had not seen her in person yet, but he had heard from the rest of the Guado about her, the 'Wounded Al Bhed' as they had almost universally dubbed her. He would have to correct that. He smiled. Her friends might not be able to put two-and-two together, but he could. He smiled again, but softer this time. When his moment came, and Yuna had helped him with is ambition, he would be lonely again. Just like when his mother left him. The Summoner Yuna was merely a means to an end.

But this one, this one had potential.

Chapter 4: Let Me Help You

Rikku stood at the entrance to the Farplane gate, and her heart would have been beating, if she had been alive. She had been hanging back from the others, trying to think up a good reason why she couldn't go to the Farplane. By the way, you didn't save me at all, I'm dead, and I'm not ready to go yet, didn't sound like an excuse she wanted to use. She found though that desperately trying to think of an excuse only guaranteed that she wouldn't. She was unsent. She'd gotten over that pretty much, all she was worried about now was what happened after. She wasn't going to go to the Farplane yet, that was for damned sure! Unfortunately, the Al Bhed hadn't been able to find a book in the Guadosalam library called; Things To Do In Spira When You're Dead. She was so engrossed in her thoughts that she nearly didn't notice that they were there. She looked up from the ground to see Lulu in front of her. She heard Auron talking, and looked at the Guardian in time to hear that he was not going. She noticed something to his left, and looked up to see the Gate to the Farplane. It was a good job that she was behind everyone else, or they might have seen that her face had gone white. After a few seconds she tore her gaze away and tapped Lulu on the shoulder. 'What, the hell, is that?' she whispered. Lulu turned slightly.

'It is the doorway to the farplane.' She noticed Rikku staring, and took it to be amazement. It was, just not the kind Lulu thought. 'Beautiful isn't it?' she said. Rikku looked at her incredulously, then asked Lulu something else.

'What does it look like?' she asked the Black Mage. Lulu raised her eyebrows. 'Please?' Rikku said. Lulu sighed, and described the colours, like oils on water, and the clouds beyond the stairway, leading through the gateway. Rikku looked back, and as hard as she tried she couldn't match up what Lulu was saying to what her eyes were seeing.

She could see the archway but that was where to Rikku similarities ended. It seemed to be covered in some kind of black, impenetrable haze, and if she looked closely she could swear that she could see things moving beyond the gateway. She shivered, and looked away, focussing on the small circles of pyreflies on the walls next to the gateway.

'Terrible, isn't it?' a deep voice spoke behind her. Rikku spun around, and came face-to-face with Seymour Guado. 'I believe we have not yet met,' he said. Rikku looked startled, then managed to recover most of her composure.

'Rikku,' she said, holding out her hand. The Yevon Maester took it and, to her surprise, raised it to his face and kissed her on the palm. She resisted the urge to giggle. Auron grunted, and got up to walk by her.

'Why terrible?' he asked, not really curious at all. The thing with Auron was, he was grumpy to everyone, and he seemed to be able to get away with it. Being known as a legendary guardian seemed to have that effect on people. Seymour just looked blank.

'All the dead, gathered in one place. Everyone Sin has made suffer, all are here. We Guado have to watch over this place, and sometimes we imagine we can hear their cries for vengeance.' He suddenly turned to look at Yuna. 'That is your task my Lady,' he finished. Yuna nodded, but Rikku still felt cold. 'Are you going to speak to lost loved ones?' the Maester asked.

'We are,' Auron said shortly. 'We leave soon,' he added pointedly. Seymour did not seem to care. Auron gestured to Yuna and the others to go ahead, and when questioned said something about memories staying where they were, and sat down on the side 'railing', well away from Seymour. Tidus turned to Rikku when she did not move.

'Are you coming?' he asked. Rikku shook her head. 'Why not?' he said, confused. To her surprise, she didn't need an excuse, only what she believed.

'The pyreflies aren't the dead, just your memories of them. I keep my memories in here,' she said, patting her hand over her heart. She gasped slightly as she felt the shard of metal in her chest grate against her ribcage, and quickly withdrew her hand. Lulu moved forwards to help, but Rikku waved her off. She looked unconvinced, but moved through the doorway. It took all of her self-control to prevent herself from screaming at them not to walk through that black cloud. She move to sit down, but instead felt Seymour's hand on her shoulder. She turned back to face the Maester.

'You see it don't you?' he asked. Rikku's eyes widened.

He knows, she thought to herself. He can't know. But then why did he tell you that? 'What do you mean?' she said, holding in her breath.

'You see the dark do you not?'Rikku nodded her head. 'It is the cries of the souls in the Farplane. They desire revenge on Sin. It is invisible, but we Guado can see it. As can those who lack a soul,' he finishes. Rikku's heart jumped into her mouth, and her breathing went out of control. 'And you don't have to do the pretence either,' he said.

He knows.

'I know, Rikku,' Seymour whispered.


'We Guado are attuned to the Farplane. We see clearly where others stumble sightlessly.' He actually smiled at her. 'No, I'm not reading your mind, but your thoughts are clear enough. You should stop that before you fill the room with fog,' he said. Rikku stopped breathing. And didn't start again. 'You see? You no longer have to rely on such things as lungs,' he said.

'How do you..?' Rikku finally managed to ask. Seymour smiled softly at her.

'You are not the first lost soul to wander through here. Most come here to die, but others find strength, and continue travelling, until they seek peace, then they return to end their existence,' he said. He glanced at Auron, but Rikku missed it. Seymour continued. 'What happened?' he asked. Rikku took a deep breath, and told him. She didn't know why, but she found herself trusting this man, Maester or not. After she had finished, she shivered, and turned to see Auron's gaze on her and the Maester. She could tell that he didn't trust the man. Seymour noticed her looking, and looked back at Auron, who locked eyes with him. They stared at each other for about a minute, and then Auron turned away, and returned to his silent contemplation. Seymour looked back into Rikku's eyes, his normal blue ones meeting her green swirls. he put his and on hr shoulder. When he spoke, it was barely a whisper. 'Death is a tragedy. For one so young as you, it is worse. If will not be able to ease the pain when it begins, but I may be able to help you find peace,' he said. He stopped, and turned. 'Your friends return,' he spoke in his normal volume. Rikku turned to see Yuna and the others walk out. She turned back to thank the Maester when she heard a shriek, and whirled back to see a ghostly form advancing on her friends. She made to run up the stairs, but felt Seymour's hand on her shoulder. She turned to protest, and the Guado shook his head and gestured to watch. She turned back in time to see Yuna draw her staff, and suddenly Rikku felt sick.

Yuna began whirling the her weapon, performing the sending for the Guado (had to be Guado). Then the sickly feeling in Rikku's stomach intensified, and turned to an unpleasant tugging sensation. She felt Seymour's hand grip her shoulder harder. The tugging turned into a burning feeling, and Rikku whimpered slightly. Yuna spun the staff faster, in more elaborate curves, and the burning turned to a feeling that her heart was being plucked from her chest. The world began to swim ,and Rikku felt the need to sleep. She was about to drop off when a sharp pain on her shoulder snapped her back to reality. She looked up to see Seymour, still gripping her shoulder. 'Be strong,' he whispered. Then as soon as it had begun, it ceased. Yuna ended the summoning, the Guado disappeared, and Rikku stopped feeling like she was being torn apart. 'The soul longs for the conscious mind to join it in death,' he whispered, 'it will become worse the longer the two are separated.' Rikku groaned slightly. It got worse than that? Seymour let go of her shoulder, and walked off. Before he went, he whispered one last message. 'Remember what I said. I will always be here.' He walked off, and left Rikku with the others. Immediately Auron walked over.

'What did the Maester say?' he asked. Rikku just shrugged, mind working frantically.

'He asked for my opinion about the pilgrimage,' she replied, then congratulated herself. Go Rikku with the good excuses! she thought.

'And what did you say?' he demanded.

'You know what I think about the pilgrimage,' she said. Auron did not look convinced, but didn't press the point. The turned to see the others walking off and ran to catch up, hearing snippets of conversation about the spectre of the dead Guado and something to do with some guy called Jyscal. She didn't listen though, her mind still running through the conversation she had with Seymour. He wants to help! And something else, that was small now but would get bigger as they prepared to leave. The Thunder Plains. Rikku cringed slightly at the mere thought of that place, and now she was going through it! She remembered that the Guado shop had sold lightning-repellent equipment, and made a mental note to stop in before they left.


Seymour walked off after the ghost of his father had appeared. That old fool, still trying to Do The Right Thing, even in death. No matter, he thought. Jyscal could do no more than watch now. Seymour thought about the conversation with Rikku, and smiled. The girl was crying out silently for help, and the only one who was even half-qualified to do so had his own demons to bear, and would not bear another's. That left him. She was on the way to trusting him already. When he and the summoner had faced down Yunalesca, and he was reborn as Sin, he would be alone, trapped as the armour of Yu Yevon, and he had no particular wish to do so alone. His mother had died so that he might gain acceptance, leaving him alone as a abnormality in a world that shunned the abnormal. He didn't want to be alone anymore.

When Jecht had fallen, and he had risen to take the man's place, Rikku would be there with him. It was only a matter of trust.


Rikku stood at the entrance to the Thunder Plains, no amount of experience able to hide the terror she felt about having to cross that barren wasteland of light and noise. The others were no help. 'Fine, nice knowing you,' Auron said, and ran to the first tower. Rikku thought him crazy to run out there, but he made it safely, and waited for the others to catch up. Khimari looked at her questioningly, and she looked back.

What can possibly hurt you girl? she asked herself. Was she not beyond harm now? The thought gave her comfort, and saw ran to the first tower. She could have swore Auron smiled at her, but it was hidden by that damned hood of his. She turned and waved back at the others cheerfully. Tidus grinned, then gaze a battle-cry as he ran out into the open space. He got about ten paces before...


Rikku cringed as Tidus flew backwards, the recipient of a vicious bolt of lightning. He sat up and looked around. Rikku could have sworn his hair was actually spikier than before, if that was possible. The others fell down laughing, and even Auron gave a chuckle. Tidus got up and started to complain, forgetting the one rule of this place; Don't stand still.


Another bolt landed at his feet, somehow missing his head. That was all the hint he needed, he dashed towards the tower, and didn't stop until he was under it. Rikku could smell scorched cloth. She grinned, and Tidus turned to her. 'And just what is so funny?' he asked. Rikku pointed to where Yuna was casting NullShock spells on everyone else, and they crossed slowly, lightning slicing down on them, only to be reflected away by Yuna's shields. The summoner looked at Tidus apologetically, then burst out laughing. The young blitzer looked to stunned to be annoyed. Rikku grinned along with the rest.

Maybe this wouldn't be so bad.

Chapter 5: Metal and Lightning; Not Good Bedfellows!

Ten minutes later, Rikku was regretting her statement as lightning barely missed her for the tenth time. Tysh it! Why does this place have to be so flat? She ran along to the next tower. So far the entire thing was like a more deadly version of a relay race, the team running to one pole one after another, then gathering strength before running to the next one, and Fate help them if they got caught in a battle halfway across. Now she knew why all the fiends here were made of metal, bones, or could fly. At least they had some sense. She cringed as lightning struck the place where she had been standing a second ago, and ran under the next tower. She sat down, her back against the wall, ignoring the metal groove running down the side. She drew in a deep breath and sighed. Regardless of what Seymour had told her, she still felt as if she should keep up at least the pretence of life, and breathing was one of those things people noticed by its absence. She lay her head against the wall and was surprised to see that Khimari was already here, watching her. She gave a small wave, and the Ronso nodded slightly. She smiled, and closed her eyes again, trying to ignore the crashes of thunder around her while the others caught up. Then suddenly a voice broke her feeble attempts at relaxation.

'Beautiful isn't it?' Rikku looked around and saw an old man dressed in green standing next to her. She got up and slowly and, out of view of the person, withdrew her spiked glove from it's thigh-sheath.

'Who're you?' she asked curiously. The man looked slightly nonplussed.

'You travel with the Lady summoner, have you not heard of me?' he asked.

'Sorry pops, never seen you before,' she replied cheerfully. The man grunted slightly and drew himself up.

'I am the scholar Maechen, I travel Spira in the search for knowledge,' he said grandly, then turned to look out at the Thunder Plains. 'There is a story behind these towers, would you care to hear it?' Rikku shrugged, and nodded. The man seemed to like the sound of his own voice, and the others weren't here yet. Why did the damned towers have to be so far apart? She listened as Maechen told the tale of the man who had built the towers, and his scorched end at the largest tower, near the exit. 'Killed, by the very event that he was trying to prevent,' Maechen finished pompously.

'How ironic,' Rikku replied, seeing if he would catch the sarcasm. He didn't, and looked across behind Rikku.

'Your friends approach,' he said simply. Rikku inclined her head to see Yuna running full-pelt toward the tower she stood under.

Ran out of whatever it is those Null spells use for power cous? Rikku asked her silently. Yuna reached the tower and leaned against it, breathing heavily. 'You OK?' Rikku asked. It took Yuna about a minute to get her breath back and answer.

'Tidus keeps getting shocked,' she said, 'Wakka and Lulu are helping him across.' Yuna looked around. 'Where are Khimari and Sir Auron?' she asked, concern in her voice. Rikku jerked her thumb ahead, to the form of Auron waiting at the next tower, talking to Khimari. Rikku had hardly noticed them leave. Yuna narrowed her eyes slightly, and Rikku could almost see her thinking; How does he do that? Yuna turned as a voice spoke behind her.

'Sorry about dat. The boy got hit again,' Wakka said, approaching with Lulu, and a worried looking Tidus behind. 'I swear that hair conducts lightning or something.' Lulu giggled slightly, and Tidus looked annoyed.

'At least mine doesn't need a kilo of gel to keep it up,' he said.

'Hey! This is natural!' Wakka complained. Lulu shook her head.

'Boys? Could we go on now?' she said testily. Tidus and Wakka looked downtrodden.

'Yes ma'am,' they both said in unison. Rikku laughed, and they all looked at her.

'You seem all right for a girl who's terrified of this place,' Wakka said.

'I have you guys to take my mind off it,' she replied, and now it was Lulu's turn to laugh. She heard footsteps, and turned around to see Auron walking back towards them. He arrived without incident, and this time, all of them were wondering how he did it.

'We have no time for talk,' he said, 'we press on. Rikku, are you recovered?' he asked. She waved at him.

'Give me a few more minutes,' she said. Actually, she just needed to steel herself to leave the safety of the tower. Auron grunted, and gestured towards the others, they nodded, and one by one made a dash for the next tower, leaving Rikku alone with Auron.

'We will wait for you at the shop,' he said, and Rikku blinked. Somehow she had thought that they wouldn't stop there. She just nodded, and Auron walked off (How!? How does he walk through this place without any lightning coming near him?! she wondered), leaving Rikku alone under the tower. She looked back at the rapidly departing shaped of the others. They wouldn't have left her unless they knew she could take care of herself she knew, and she was grateful to Auron for leaving her to her own thoughts for a bit. She leaned back again, closed her eyes, and thought about what Seymour had told her.

He said the pain would get worse. That thing in Guadosalam was bad enough, but it gets worse!? The soul wants the mind to join it in death, does that mean I have no soul? He said he had seen other lost souls come and go. Am I the first one he's actually talked to? He seemed so... honest... And he helped me when Yuna sent that Guado back. What about the other unsent? Did they stay in Spira? Did they go back to the Farplane? Did they get killed by fiends? Wait a minute... A horrible thought occurred to Rikku. Fiends are people who aren't sent, and get angry at living people because they want to live.

I'm not sent!

Her train of thought would have continued down this road if it had been interrupted as lightning chose that exact moment to hit the tower. Lightning travels to the ground by taking the fastest route, through any surface that can conduct it. The bolt flashed through the air and hit the top of the tower Rikku was resting under. It immediately started to travel down the metal groove carved in the side. This wouldn't have mattered if Rikku hadn't been leaning against it. And lightning jumps. It saw a small piece of metal leading right to the ground, and it was even connected to a mass of water, which lightning loves, and it leapt the small gap between the groove and the shard of metal resting near the young girl's heart.

Rikku's eyes slammed open as the bolt ripped through her body on her way to the ground. Her back arched involuntarily and she gasped for breath as liquid fire travelled through her veins. As soon as it had arrived, it left, and Rikku collapsed back against the ground, eyes open and staring into space. She lay like that for more than five minutes until she gained control of her vocal functions again, and made use of them by screaming.


Seymour smiled as he heard the girl's cry from the entrance to the thunder plains, and smiled slightly. He didn't like doing it, but he needed the girl to trust him. He was still a damned good Black Mage, and his Thunder spells were top notch, even over long distances. He put his staff back into his robes and began to walk towards the tower Rikku lay under, his shields protecting him from the errant lightning bolts.


Rikku lay under the tower, hands bunched into fists, head pounding. She couldn't move, the pain had passed but the shock still remained. She tried to move her arms, but found they were shaking too hard to do anything more than scrabble in the dirt. She couldn't even relax them, much less make them support her weight. She tried anyway, and was rewarded with a stinging sensation as her palms hit the hard ground. She was about to scream again, when she heard a familiar voice calling her name. She raised her head and saw...

'Rikku!?' Seymour shouted, advancing on her position. He knew exactly where she was, but Rikku hadn't known that.

'Seymour?' she managed to croak. The Maester saw her and breathed a genuine sigh of relief.

Mabe using Thundaga was overdoing it. I only wanted to cripple her, not fry her skull. 'What happened?' he asked. Rikku's eyes glared at him in annoyance. What did he think had happened? Rampaging Iron Giant maybe? He kneeled down next to her and leaned her back up against the tower's side, this time well way from that evil little groove. 'I told you I would help you,' he whispered, and Rikku smiled. He had. She tried to speak, but he shushed her. 'Don't. Here, this will help,' he said, drawing his staff and touching her on the forehead. Immediately, white light surrounded her body, and Rikku felt healed. He was obviously much more advanced a mage than Yuna. Rikku heard a dull thumping noise, and turned slightly to see Auron running back to her. Alone. Seymour let go of her and stood.

'What happened?' Auron said without stopping. Seymour acknowledged the man and turned to face him.

'She was struck by lightning, I was making my way to Macalania and saw her here,' he said reasonably.

'Alone? Even a Maester doesn't walk alone through this place,' he said suspiciously. Seymour gestured behind him, and Auron turned to see two more Guado warriors running up to them.

'As you can see, I am faster than my guards. I merely got here first.' Auron stared at him for a few seconds, then turned to Rikku, now trying to stand.

'Can you walk?' he asked, ignoring all evidence to the contrary. Rikku glared at him, and Auron accepted the ridiculousness of his last question. 'Take my hand,' he said, and without waiting for a reply looped her arm over his shoulder and began walking off. He heard Seymour's voice and turned back.

'Sir Auron! Has Yuna decided?' he asked.

'She will tell you herself, when she is ready,' he replied simply, and walked off again, his strange ability to avoid lightning bolts serving them both well until they reached the inn.


Seymour smiled at the departing forms of Rikku and Auron. Everything was going according to plan. She trusted him, he was sure of it. He turned to his guards 'Come, we must reach the temple before they do,' he said. They nodded, and began to lead the way towards Macalania. Rikku's 'accident' would delay the summoner's entourage just long enough, he guessed.


Heads turned towards the door of the inn as Auron walked in, still supporting Rikku slightly. Tidus walked towards them, concern in his eyes. 'What happened?' he asked. Rikku waved the question off, but Auron decided to stick his foot in it.

'She got hit by lightning. There were complications,' he said. Rikku glared at him, but he didn't seem to notice. His eyes swept the room. 'Where is Yuna?' he asked. Tidus went red slightly.

'She's... erm,' he began.

'Sleeping,' Lulu finished for him. Rikku wriggled her arm free, and walked off to the direction of the rooms, only to be interrupted by the owner of the shop.

'I'm sorry girl, there are no more beds left,' he said apologetically. He shrugged, and Rikku knew better than to curse him. She walked slowly over to the softest-looking wall in the shop (which still wasn't saying much) and lay her head against it. She was asleep in seconds. It had been a long day.

Chapter 6: The Crystal Forest

Rikku ran into Macalania Forest ahead of the others, joyful beyond measure to get out of that forsaken plain. She smiled happily and turned to face the others, who were also looking more cheerful that they had left the barren and scarred landscape. She waited until Yuna caught up to her and began to walk. Might as well take another crack at it, she thought, and turned to face her. 'Are you really going to marry Seymour?' she asked, as casually as she could.

Yuna just frowned. 'Yes,' she said.

Rikku could tell that she had something on her mind. 'Are you going to go to Zanarkand together?' she asked.

Yuna looked across at her. 'I'm... not sure. I think the Maester has other things he must attend to, even if I am his wife,' she replied.

Rikku tried again: 'Why don't you just leave the pilgrimage for a while and go with Seymour?' she asked, eyes focussed on Yuna's.

She just shook her head though. 'I must finish the pilgrimage,' Yuna said, almost to herself.

Rikku sighed and tried to change the subject, getting her to talk about her mother. Rikku had never met her father's sister, and wanted to know about her.

Yuna smiled. 'I didn't really know her that well before she died. I know she was a kind person, and my father was almost excommunicated for marrying her, an Al Bhed. She died while I was young, in an attack by Sin. I think that was what made Braska go on his own Pilgrimage for the Final Aeon, he didn't want anyone else to suffer by Sin, even if it meant me growing up without a father,' she said sadly.

Rikku dropped it, and slowed her pace to catch up with Tidus. 'What do you think about Yuna getting married?' she asked.

The boy's eyes narrowed slightly. 'Why is she even doing it? I know she doesn't love the guy. That sphere has something to do with it, I know it,' he whispered.

Rikku got the impression he would have been talking even if she hadn't been there. She sighed and ran forward to catch up with the others. As she ran past Auron the old guardian addressed her.

'You're feeling better I see,' he said.

Rikku skidded to a halt and turned to face him. 'Yeah!' she said cheerfully.

'Thanks to Seymour,' he said, a statement, not a question.

'Yeah,' Rikku said guardedly.

'Do you not find it strange that he should be passing at the exact moment you were hit by lightning?' he asked her.

Rikku drew back slightly. She knew what he was getting at. 'Coincidences happen,' she said emotionlessly.

'And so do 'accidents,'' he said, 'careful Rikku, the man is not what he seems.'

Rikku looked harder at him. ‘Why do you care?’ She asked.

Auron shrugged. ‘I do not wish any harm to come to you,’ he said. This time, it was he, not her, who moved ahead. He turned back to face the others. 'We move on, there is an inn at the end of the forest.' The others all looked at him.

'How long?' Tidus shouted from the back.

'One day,' Auron said, and the others either groaned or sighed in resignation. He sure was a stickler for speed for such an old guy.


Rikku was getting tired about halfway through the afternoon. The constant regime of walking and fighting was beginning to grate on her usually cheery nerves. Auron had called a rest halfway (according to him) through the sparkling forest, and they had all sat down immediately, Rikku perched on a branch up a tree, Lulu on a log (or whatever it was) and the others had sat down on the floor, the ground seemingly clear of dirt. Either this place had it's own army of caretakers, or the dirt had some kind of frictionless surface. Rikku turned to Auron, and didn't even have to ask the question.

'Ten minutes,' he said, 'I want to reach Rin's by nightfall.'

Rikku sighed and laid back down against the tree, she was becoming an expert at falling asleep against hard surfaces, and at least this one wouldn’t electrocute her. She didn't believe that Seymour had engineered her little accident, Auron had to be too paranoid.

'Beautiful isn't it?' a familiar voice said below her.

Does that man always have to open a lecture with those words? she thought, and looked down to see Maechen talking to the others. She swung her leg around and dropped silently behind Khimari, and tapped him on the shoulder. He whipped round, saw it was her, and took his hand off his weapon. Pal, you are wound up far too tight, she thought with a silent giggle. She looked back at Maechen, who was taking with Yuna. The summoner seemed to be quite impressed with his knowledge as he explained the origins of the forest.

'Legend says that Lady Yunalesca, when she became a summoner for the first time, chipped off a piece of the Fayth she had used, and took it with her as a pendant. When Zaon and Yunalesca passed this way on their journey to Zanarkand, they saw the Thunder Plains, which were much bigger then, and Yunalesca was horrified by the destruction of the area. She took her pendant and placed it on the ground, it started to glow and sunk into the soil. The entire area grew from that one small seed of hope, and that is why this place is called the Crystal Forest…'

Rikku wasn't really paying attention. She had heard all of this before from her father on their scavenging trips together. She looked around the area, and agreed that it was beautiful, but there was also danger here, as in the rest of...

'Fiend!' Rikku spun around, and saw Auron draw his sword as a huge half-beast half-bird part-snake hybrid lumbered towards them through the dense undergrowth. Rikku cursed, and drew her spiked fist from her holster, running towards the thing, checking her supplies. Only one grenade left? Where in the hell did the others go? she asked herself. The others all prepared their weaponry, and Maechen ran away, demonstrating he had at least some sense. Rikku took her place next to the others, surrounding the creature. Should be fairly easy, at least there was only one of them. The Chimera instantly debunked this theory by shooting a huge fireball at Yuna, who only just got her Null shield up in time, the impact still throwing her back. Khimari ran up to the it from the side and took a swipe at it's feet, trying to hamstring the beast. One of it's heads turned to face him and fired a blast of water at him, the Ronso dodging in time to get merely soaked, instead of drowned. The fight turned into a game of deadly who's-going-to-move-first? The beast turned slowly around, observing them all, the snakes-head tail preventing them from attacking from behind and not getting a face full of venom. Auron ducked under one of the massive claws, slicing into the thing's side, it roared in pain and threw it's fist in an arc at him, Auron abandoned his sword and ducked backwards, now weapon-less. Yuna stood at the back casting cure and protect spells on the team. Rikku wasn't really worried, until…

Thrum. She spun around, and saw an Ice Elemental shimmer into existence behind her. She turned to Lulu. 'Behind you!' Lulu turned to face the new threat, as did Yuna, both being the main magic users. Rikku turned back to the Chimera and gulped. Elementals weren't usually that smart, attacking the thing nearest to them, but if this one went for one of the group fighting the Chimera, things could get nasty. Fast. She ran at the Chimera and tried the same thing as Auron, punching the thing in the side with her spikes. It screamed in rage and swiped at her, but since her weapon was a part of her she easily withdrew it. She ducked under it’s fist and rolled behind it. She heard a hissing noise and Auron's shouted warning. She leaped to the side again; barely dodging the stream of venom the snake had fired. Auron ran in while it was still distracted and put his foot on it. Tidus moved up behind him and sliced down cleanly, serving the thing's tail and bringing down the amount of things they had to

watch out for by one. Survival of the Fittest was fine, but some of these creatures took it to new extremes. The Chimera noticed the sudden loss of it's eyesight behind it and spun around, dislodging Auron and sending Tidus flying. It reared over him and raised it's hoof to try and step on the blonde, but Rikku had another idea. Taking a deep breath, she took a running jump, and landed on it's back. Khimari looked surprised and was distracted, earning him a blow in the chest with a fireball. He yowled and began to roll around on the floor away from the beast's claws. Rikku clung on for dear life as it tried to shake her off, her hands wrapped around it's neck. She disengaged one of her arms and slowly reached down to her pockets. In one smooth motion she opened it, drew out her last grenade and shoved it right into the thing's mouth, letting go as she did so, her momentum throwing her off. The thing made a short hack-ing noise, as if trying to clear it's throat. Then it's head exploded.

Rikku whooped with delight, and turned to see how Lulu and Yuna were doing, having disposed of the damned Elemental. The former looked OK, the latter slightly cold, shivering. Maybe those Null spells weren't all they were cracked up to be. She waved at the others, who waved back. Then she felt a hand on her shoulder, and turned to see Auron looking at her.

'That was dangerous and stupid,' he said.

sRikku’s eyes widened, and she held out her hands in a semi-shrug. What?

'If that fiend had decided to use it's claws you'd be dead by now,' he continued. I am dead now you old fogey, she thought at him, but decided to say something else. 'Well, it didn't, so no use thinking about it now right?' she said.

Auron pointed, and Rikku turned to look at her shoulder. She gasped slightly when she saw a small tear in her shirt, hardly enough to scratch the fabric, but really close to her neck.

'Another inch, and we would have been reviving you again' he said simply then walked off.

Well, you didn't exactly do a great job of that the last time either! She shouted in her head at him. She turned, to see a grinning Tidus. Why does there always seem to be someone behind me when I turn around?

He grinned at her, out of breath. 'Rikku! That thing... with the... jumping, and... the hanging on, and... the boom!' he said breathlessly. 'Great job!' he finished, and then went to sit down beside a tree (or whatever they were. Is there a technical name for crystal trees?) and closed his eyes to sleep.

Auron walked over to him, shook him awake, and whispered something in his ear. Whatever it was, the boy groaned and sank back against the crystree for a few seconds, then walked up to Yuna and whispered something in her ear. She simply nodded and stood up.

Auron looked at them all and crossed his arms. As one, they all got up from where they were resting and began to walk off, Auron stopping only for a second to withdraw his sword from the corpse of the dead Chimera as it dissolved into pyreflies. They followed him to a fairly innocuous piece of dense thicket, and he began to hack through it, pausing only to say something to Tidus that Rikku didn't catch.


Rikku sat on the floor as the movie-sphere shut itself down. The fight against the giant sphere-blob-thingy had been fairly easy once Lulu had discovered it's weak point. Stupid fiend, to have weak point as obvious as that. She drew in breath and stood up. Everyone had been furious at the monster for making them fight yet another creature after that Chimera, and they had attacked and killed it with pleasure. Auron and Tidus were the last to leave the clearing, talking about something private, and Tidus had walked out with a thoughtful look on his face. Although not as downright-terrifying as the Thunder Plains had been, the forest had more fiends in it, so it balanced out. And it was always too cold. Rikku would be glad to leave Macalania behind full stop, although Auron said they still needed to cross a glacier to get to the temple.

Why the hell do they have to put these temples so far away from civilisation? And fires? she asked herself as Auron and Tidus argued with the nearby merchant. After about a minute of haggling they managed to argue down his prices, the fact that both of them had neglected to stow their swords properly added to the fact, as the merchant could see the sharp blades poking out from behind their backs. They stocked up on potions and ethers and continued on towards the forest. After what seemed like several hours they finally saw…

'Natural light!' Tidus shouted, and ran towards the end of the forest. The others also let out sighs of relief. Maybe they had been as bored as she had been in that place. She walked out into the first glimpse of clear sky she had seen in two days. She looked back over the forest, and could see the ever-lasting storm that marked the Thunder Plains behind the spiked canopy of the Crystal Forest.

Rikku wondered if they hit it with a tuning fork, would it shatter? Would make an interesting experiment. Definitely harmful to the environment and wildlife, although why anyone would care about the monsters in that place... It seemed that no matter how sensible a proposition was Yevonites could always make an excuse to say NO! Although maybe turning Macalania Forest into shards of flying crystal would be taking it a bit too far. She laughed, and the others turned their heads to look at her. She just smiled and waved back. They continued towards the inn.

Auron argued with Rin for a room for a few minutes, and then walked through the door towards one the Al Bhed man pointed out. Rikku reached hers and collapsed onto the bed, giving a small warning to Rin (again) not to tell the others about her lineage. She turned over and looked at the ceiling, closed her eyes and began to drop off. She vaguely wondered why she would need sleep, but she didn't really care at this moment. She remembered Seymour’s advice and smiled. Whatever Auron said, Seymour was the only person who really understood what she felt. She moved her hand to over her chest and felt the spike resting next to her heart. Whatever happened, at least she had someone she could go to. She remembered their conversation in Guadosalam. You are not the first lost soul to wander through here. Most come here to die, but others find strength, and continue travelling, until they seek peace, then they return to end their existence.

What Seymour had neglected to tell her though, and what Rikku could not know, was that few of those who had continued travelling had ended their existence as humans.

Chapter 7: We're Gonna Need A Bigger Can-Opener...

Rikku woke up the next day and immediately reached behind her. To her relief, she was still in a normal, nice, soft bed, and not propped up against a wall, as she seemed to have been sleeping lately. They had been here two days, waiting for Seymour's messenger to arrive. So far so boring. Though at least this way they got a break. Even Auron had stopped complaining, although Rikku suspected this was because he couldn't really do anything, not because no-one was listening.

She walked out of her room into the store to find everyone else already waiting for her, except Yuna. What is it with the inability of summoners to get up early? Must be instinct. If they got up, they would be forced to walk for miles by a certain red-coated guardian. Rikku walked over to Tidus. 'What’cha doing?' she asked. Tidus looked around at her, and it was fairly obvious he hadn't had much sleep last night, his eyes had black bags under them (So that actually happens? Rikku thought to herself) and he seemed less cheerful today.

'Nothing, just thinking,' he replied.

Not your strongest point. Although it wasn't really hers either. She yawned and went outside to stretch her legs, looking around the frozen lake. The glacier Auron had talked about must be… there… Rikku saw. Everything around here was either blue, white, or slippery. Damn climate, why couldn't they have set up a temple in Sanubia?

Because they would go and crush Home you silly girl, she answered her own question. She sniffed the air; there was a funny smell, hovering just on the edge of recognition. Something basic, but she couldn't place it. She looked back to see Clasko and his Chocobo standing outside, the young knight patting the Chocobo's side. She had heard Tidus and him talking last night, and agreed with him. The young man would make a great Chocobo-breeder. The door creaked open, and Rikku heard the long swish of Lulu's dress and belts as the woman walked into the open air. She too sniffed the air slightly. So she smelled it as well?

Tysh ed what is that stink?! Rikku wondered angrily. She pushed herself off from the doorframe and wandered closer to the lakeside.

'Mind your step,' Lulu said, unconcerned. Rikku waved back and continued walking. The day before, they had attenuated the boredom somewhat by killing every fiend in a hundred-yard circle centred on the Inn, so at least they didn't have to fear attack for now. She kneeled down and stared at the ice floe, trying to see beneath. She heard a shout, and looked upwards to see a solitary Guado figure walk towards the inn. Finally! You guys decided to show up huh? Lulu tapped on the window on the shop and Auron walked out, the older Guardian turning to look up at her before moving towards the Guado, followed by the others. Rikku watched from a distance as they talked for a few minutes. Tidus gestured towards Rikku and she waved back. Then Yuna started to walk off with the Guado, towards the temple. Suddenly the air turned acrid, and Rikku cringed and looked back towards the hill she had been climbing.

The smell was definitely stronger now, and Rikku walked farther up the hill to see whether she could locate the source. A little thought in her head was jumping up and down now for her attention, but somehow she just didn't seem able to think it. She heard a low humming sound over the hill, and walked closer to the top. She was about to mount the summit when she heard a much higher and continuous sound. Then she realised what she had smelt. Gasoline! And the sounds resolved themselves as well.


Rikku ducked so fast her feet left the floor. As she hit the ground she felt a large shape pass over her head, and looked up to see a skimmer fly over where she had been standing. She immediately got up and ran down the hill towards the inn as fast as she could. Luckily the skimmer pilot had miscalculated his jump, and the front skis hit the snow instead of the ice, and buried themselves there, throwing the driver forward and winding him. Rikku shouted as loud as she could downwind, and at once all five of the group's head snapped upwards towards her, and saw the rider. Auron started running towards her, drawing his sword, Lulu following. The rest just slid down the cliff to the ice floe. Rikku began to run down when she felt a hand grab her leg. She turned to see the downed rider looking up at her. He looked at her in astonishment, then in relief.

'Rikku! Fryd dra ramm yna oui tuehk rana?' he asked. He was further surprised when Rikku kicked him in the chest, and his eyes went wide.

'So zup, kunny,' she replied, and ran down the rest of the way. She didn't turn around when she heard more motors fly over the hill, and she didn't stop until she reached the others. The six guardians formed a circle around Yuna and the Guado (Tromell! Rikku thought, noticing who it was), more for his benefit than hers. Auron whispered in her ear; 'Can you talk with them?' Rikku just looked at him. Don't be silly. Auron just looked back. 'Then can you translate for me?' Rikku looked surprised and nodded. Auron watched as two Al Bhed walked up to them and addressed them.

'We want the summoner,' they said through Rikku.

Auron looked nonplussed. 'You can't have her,' he said angrily.

Rikku translated for the pair. One of them took a small radio out of his pocket and spoke into it. Immediately Rikku heard the roar of a much larger engine start up, and the other riders backed off. A huge tracked machina lumbered over the hill, and even Auron gave a small grunt. Then a familiar figure ran up next to it.

'Rikku! Don't get in the way or you get this!' her first brother, Brother, shouted in Al Bhed.

Rikku just waved back sarcastically, and it devolved into a shouting match between the two. Then Brother shouted one last sentence and stormed off back down the hill.

Tidus looked across at her. 'Translation?' he asked.

'They're going to use an anti-magic field on us!' she shouted back over the noise the tank was making.

Tidus rolled his eyes in exasperation and prepared to attack.


Rikku was exhausted. She had used practically everything in her incredibly deep pockets, save some potions and some spare emergency chaos grenades. She had considered doing the same thing with the tank she had done with the Chimera from the forest, except that she didn't really want to play scared-chocobo with a gun barrel you could climb into. Rikku watched from the side as Auron and Khimari dodged in and out of the gatling guns. She had had to explain what fields-of-fire was, but they had quickly got the hang of it, moving to positions where the guns couldn't swivel to. Wakka moved slower around the sides, throwing his ball at the hovering nullifier-thingy. Yuna and Lulu stood at the back; effectively useless as they were could not use their magic.

Rikku looked back at the battle to see the two larger guardians hammering the circuitry with their blades, the crawler unable to counterattack. Rikku heard a thin whining sound from the machina's innards, and shouted at Auron and Khimari to get out of the way. They both took the hint instantly, and ran for the nearest hill as the crew of the crawler bailed out and ran in the opposite direction. The tank exploded in a steel storm of scything parts and ammo. Rikku shielded her face with her hand and waited for the noise to die down. Then she remembered who had been piloting it. She stood up.

'Brother? Yna oui UG?' she shouted to the snow. She heard a muffled reply from a snowdrift, and Brother dislodging himself from under the small avalanche caused by the explosion of the crawler.

'Oui'ja kud hu nekrd du ycg dryd xiacdeuh cecdan!' he shouted back angrily. Then he changed back to Basic Spiran. 'What the ramm are you doing? I'll tell Father!'

Rikku turned back angrily, not noticing Wakka's glances of dawning realisation. 'Then you tell him I am Yuna's guardian now, and I'll do this thing my way!' she shouted back.

Brother waved in angry dismissal and ran off down the snowdrift. Rikku heard more engines rev up, and it was obvious that they had more skimmers there, in case of failure. Good job too. Rikku turned around to see how everyone else was doing, and was confronted by a faceful of angry Wakka. Great, just what I need...

'How do you speak Al Bhed?' he asked.

Rikku sighed. He still didn't quite get it, and she was too tired to be polite. 'Because I'm Al Bhed, alright!' she shouted back, and that seemed to shut him up for all of five seconds. Then he began ranting.

Rikku ignored him, it was predictable Yevonite drivel, and instantly disprovable by anyone with even the most basic knowledge of Al Bhed society. She turned to look at Auron, who stared back emotionlessly, he shrugged, and Rikku got the message; ignore it. She turned to look at the skimmers had left behind and saw Khimari do the same, and heard Wakka's voice behind her.

'Wait, we're not gonna use those are we?' he said.

Khimari drove off in answer, Yuna in tow. One thing about the Ronso, he didn't care what he used to get where he was going. Different peoples were a means to an end for him Wakka seemed to have a major hang-up though. Tidus got on the next speeder and gestured towards Lulu, who mounted the back, and they two sped off. Auron motioned towards one of the two remaining skimmers, and Rikku nodded and got on the back, not really feeling like driving. She looked at Wakka and raised her eyebrow, but the blitzer just stared at her balefully and began to walk towards the glacier, and the temple. Tidus shrugged, gunned the engine and rode off.


Rikku closed her eyes as she felt the wind run across the skimmer as they sped down the glacier. She'd say this for the guy, at least he knew when to slow down. 'Do not worry about Wakka.'

She turned to look at him. 'What about Wakka?' she asked. Auron turned his head slightly, but didn't take his eyes off the path.

'His opinion comes from personal loss and prejudice only,' he replied.

'Yeah, what's his hang-up anyway?' she said.

'His brother got killed fighting Sin, fighting with an Al Bhed weapon. Wakka thinks if Chappu had fought with his own sword, he would've lived,' he said.

Rikku's eyes widened slightly at that. She hadn't known. At least it wasn't just blind hatred, like so many Yevonites bore her people. 'That's OK,' she replied, 'I'm sure he'll get over it.' He damn well owes me one for killing me! She thought. But Auron didn't need to know that. She looked over his shoulder, and saw...

'Is that a cave?' she asked. Auron didn't look round.

'Yes, The temple is within,' he said. They reached the entrance and dismounted. The others were already there waiting for them. Auron gestured to the others, Yuna having already gone ahead with the creepy Guado guy. They walked into the cavern, and Rikku gasped. So this is where they keep their temple! The thing was huge! She walked up to the edge of the walkway, being careful not to fall, and saw a solitary Al Bhed.

'What are you doing here?' she asked.

'I lost my gang. Here you go,' the woman said, and handed Rikku a potion, then ran off.

Did that make any kind of sense? No? Thought not... she thought as she watched the woman speed off on the skimmer they had abandoned at the cave entrance. She turned, and ran to catch up to the others walking up to the temple gates. Chapter 8: Cold Voices

Tysh ed it's cold here.

Rikku had been doing her best to avoid visibly shivering, but without much success. It has to be like -20 degrees here! She thought to herself as she traipsed after the other guardians. To be honest with herself, she wasn't ideally suited to the cold, having grown up in a desert, and her clothes were not helping her out. Why didn't I buy a coat in Guadosalam? She angrily scolded herself. Just then, she heard a voice up ahead that broke into her thoughts. From right in front of her in fact. 'The likes of her are not permitted here!' shouted the angry Monk, right in her face. So, they had arrived, and she had been too cold to notice. From behind her she heard the voice of Auron, calm and authorative as always.

'She is a guardian,' he said slowly.

‘An Al Bhed, a guardian? Preposterous!’ said the Monk.

Hey! She thought. She approached the mad Monk. 'I want to protect Yuna, and that is all that is important to me,' she said, amid much shivering and teeth chattering.

'And that is all one needs to be a guardian,' Auron said, then pushed past the Monk into the temple.


And so more come...

So, what do you want little humans? The same thing as always I suppose... You want my power, that's all you ever want. Tell me, why should I help you?


Rikku stood before the fading sphere, but not seeing it. No! Not Seymour! I trusted him! She shouted in her mind. She looked across at Wakka, and for a second those thoughts were driven from her head. She thought she might have smiled at the blitzer, watching as what he believed was shattered to dust. But she couldn't, Yuna was in danger and she was a Guardian, that was all she needed to know. But it was from a person she had thought she could rely upon for some reason. She thought back to everything, their meeting at the Farplane Gates, where he had offered her his help, the Thunder Plains, where he had saved her. Had it all been a dream? Although it took Tidus a few minutes to convince Wakka of the fact, eventually Wakka surrendered to logic.

'If Seymour's bad news, then we've gotta stop him, right?' The boy argued.

'I suppose, but there's gotta be another explanation!' Wakka shouted as a last resort.

Rikku walked over to the two arguing men and decided to put aside her personal feelings for the moment. 'Erm, guys?'

They both looked at her. 'Yeah? What?' Wakka snapped.

'Nothing, except for the fact that Yuna is currently alone in a room with a man who possibly killed his father, and we're standing here arguing,' she said. He glared daggers at her, and then ran off to the trials without saying a word. For her part, Rikku regretted say it, it only made it more likely it was true.


Why should I help? You come to me with your summoners and your prayers and you expect me to help you. Not like I have a choice either. It's this or stay here, and getting out, no matter for how short a time, is preferable to this. You want me to give you my powers, because you don't have any of your own left. Pathetic. Humanity wasn't always this dependant on outside forces, at least back then they could choose whether to call us, instead of making us come at the slightest sign of trouble.


They ran towards the Chamber of the Fayth. Wakka slower than the rest. He didn't seem to believe that a Maester, one of the pillars of his faith, could be evil. Lulu turned to him. 'If he truly is at fault, he must pay.'

Wakka looked even more downcast. 'This can't be happening,' he moaned quietly.

Rikku ignored him and ran on. She wasn't going to let Yuna down, and after her, ahem, 'performance' in the Thunder Plains, she was going to prove she could hack it. She followed Auron and Khimari, and pushed through the doors, and stopped. This room was a work of art. Non-believer or no, she had to say she had never seen anything like it. Icicles hung off the walls and ceiling in perfectly ordered rows (although she wouldn't want to be under them, she saw. They were razor-sharp), the room was decorated in murals depicting what appeared to be a battle, a woman in blue fighting against a creature even Auron wouldn't have wanted to mess with. She guessed this was the Aeon itself. Al Bhed spies who had infiltrated the temples had reported pictures on the walls leading to the Chamber depicting the Aeon itself, usually in some heroic pose. She managed to turn away from the scene, and noticed she had missed most of the conversation, and Yuna was with them. She turned to Lulu. 'What did I miss?' She whispered.

The Black Mage smiled at her. 'They shouted at each other for a while, then Yuna came out of the chamber and said she would fight Seymour with us,' she replied quietly.

'Thanks!' the young Al Bhed whispered back. She turned to watch Seymour, and heard his grim proclamation;

'Well, if you're offering your lives, I'll just have to take them.' The Maester said, and raised his hands to...

'STOP!' Rikku shouted at the Maester. To her surprise, he did, and his eyes went wide.

'Rikku?' he asked.

'Why are you doing this?' she asked him, eyes wide and pleading, the others looked at her in amazement, but she carried on, heedless of their gazes. 'I thought you were a good person, was it all lies?'

'Rikku, I can explain,' he said softly, and held out his hand. 'Let me explain.'

For a second Rikku felt the urge to run to him and grasp it, but then she remembered Jyscal's last sphere and drew back. For a second she swore she could see true sadness in his eyes, then he looked back at the others and they became hard again.

'Well, if you are offering your lives, I'll just have to take them,' he said, and attacked. But Rikku knew that during this fight, no serious harm would come to her. Seymour wouldn't let it.


Interesting, hasn't been a fight in here since the execution of those spies last century... I sense great darkness from that one. You aren't real. You're dead. You two don't seem to want to admit to yourselves what you're feeling. I met you, summoner. You're a Ronso with a broken horn, good luck to you when you go home with that. You're an Al Bhed...


Rikku watched as the other two Guado carried Seymour away. As he passed her, he suddenly lunged and grasped her arm. The other stared in alarm, but she waved them off and knelt down beside him.

'What is it?' she asked gently. He whispered in her ear, and her eyes went wide as his aides carried him off. Auron also heard what Seymour said, and he blinked, but he did not comment.

Rikku didn't hear what Tromell said next, her head was still spinning from the blow Anima had dealt her in a lapsed moment of concentration. She had seen Seymour wince from it. He still cared. She knew it. She didn't like Phoenix Downs, and especially didn't like having them used on her. She looked across at the rest of the group. Wakka and Lulu were devastated by Seymour's actions, that much she could see. Khimari was watching Yuna for any sign of fatigue, ready to catch her if she so much as stumbled. The summoner in question looked like she was in a dream, not focussing on anything. Auron looked disinterested as always, unsympathetic git that he was. No one seemed to be bothered about Seymour and Rikku's short exchange before the battle.

Tidus however, was another story. 'Can't we just explain?' shouted the young blonde guardian.

Auron and Wakka looked up at him in disbelief. 'We attacked a Maester. We're finished.' Said Wakka.

Auron was not much help either. 'Seymour can say whatever he wants, the only witnesses to this are him and us, it's our word against his. No one would believe us, not under these circumstances,' he said.

Tidus did not want to give up however. 'But we have evidence! The wounds! The other Guado! Yuna, you're a summoner, people like you, they'll listen to you!'

But Auron discounted these by ticking them off on his fingers as he went, the excuses Seymour could use. 'He defended himself against an unprovoked attack, the other Guado will soon dissolve into pyreflies, Yuna will have no credibility when people find out she helped kill a Maester of Yevon.' He paused, and then looked over at Rikku. 'Plus we're travelling with an Al Bhed. That will not help our chances.'

She lowered her head. That was not what she wanted to hear. She looked around at the room again, ignoring the argument. She looked again at the murals, those figures…

She heard a noise, almost a voice, but whispered. Guado! She thought. She span around, looking for the source of the disturbance, but seeing nothing, she kept looking around, expecting to see Yevon Monks hiding in the rafters, or Guado, but there was nothing. She put it down to nerves, and started to turn back to the others. As she turned, her gaze swept over the entrance to the Chamber of the Fayth. Then everything went red.


Simple, blame the Al Bhed girl you fools. Tell them she did it. Tell them you had no idea she was an assassin. Typical summoners troupe, unwilling to sacrifice one to save the others. You all have that problem, even Zaon and Yunalesca...

Wait a minute. Did you hear that? You, girl, you heard me didn't you? No? Don't try and fool me, I know you did. Answer me! I know you heard, you're looking for me, but you won't see me, not even with eyes as good as those. I said answer me!

...Alright then, try this;



The others heard a scream, and turned to see Rikku clutch at her head and collapse onto the floor.

Yuna ran over to her and turned her over onto her side. 'Rikku what's wrong?!' she shouted.

Rikku continued to scream, the pain all she could feel.

Yuna extended her staff and tried some cure spells. They succeeded in turning the screaming into a quiet whimper. She tried to stand the young girl up.

Auron lost his look of disinterest and wandered over to the young girl, concerned for a fellow Guardian. He grasped her chin softly and turned her head to him. 'Rikku, look at me,' he said quietly.

Rikku slowly opened her eyes, and Yuna gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. Where once there had been two black spirals on emerald-green eyes, there were now two harsh red spirals on a background of pure black. They backed off. Fast.


Well, well, well, interesting. You're not who you say you are, and your friends don't know it.

Why are you still here?

You're on a pilgrimage aren't you? Inconvenient. Come back here when you're done girl, and we'll talk some more.


Rikku turned her head slowly, and looked up at the pale Yuna. What happened? She tried to say, but all that came out was; 'Wha...?'

Yuna stood over her, not a little panicked

'We don't know!' she nearly cried. 'You just fell over and started screaming!'

Rikku got to her feet, slowly, and promptly staggered into the form of Kimhari, who put his arm out to steady her. She looked around at everyone's staring faces and she closed her eyes. 'I'm OK, I'm OK,' she said, over and over, until she convinced herself it was true. 'I'm OK guys, really.'

Tidus looked sceptical. 'Are you sure, you looked like you were in a lot of pain,' he said.

'Really!' She quipped, cheerier than she felt. She was still shivering though, and not just because of the temperature. 'Lets go, it's really cold in here,' she said.

Auron moved off towards the Cloister, seemingly bored once more now that the event had passed and no one was in any immediate danger. They had almost made it to the foyer when the floor collapsed under Tidus' feet, and they had to spend half an hour solving the trial.

Rikku looked back at the closing door of the Chamber. What was that? Who was that? Then she made a decision. I'll be back, after all this is over. She walked off to stand near her summoner, as they argued with Tromell, then fought their way out into Macalania's freezing night.


Rikku reached the frozen lake last, having got in a running battle with two Guado lackeys. She skidded to a halt near the others and would have slid past if Khimari hadn't grabbed her. She was still reeling from Seymour's betrayal, and his betrayal of her. He had promised he would help her, but he had lied. She only vaguely heard Auron's warning shout as the large four-armed fiend landed next to them. Her patience snapped, and she screamed and started hurling grenades at it. The creature itself looked surprised as explosive fragments started to rain down on it. Auron and Tidus took the opportunity and ran straight at it, swinging at its eyes and chest respectively and gutting the creature.

Wakka looked back at Rikku in shock. He had never seen her like that before. Whatever she had used, it had taken care of that thing in seconds.

Rikku heard the ensuing battle as if through a muffler, and had to take a back seat as the other proceeded to pound it into dust. She looked up when she heard a whoosh, and saw the creature jump onto the pool, exactly where it had taken off from. What the? She thought, then looked down and saw the crack in the ice. She barely had time to stand up before the entire lake collapsed around her.


She woke up to find herself under a dark-blue sky, Lulu watching over her. The Black Mage started slightly when she sat up.

'Are you OK?' she asked. Rikku gulped down air and nodded. She knew where they probably were, and a look up confirmed it when she saw the thin spiral of rock that marked the base of the temple. She got up and stretched her legs, looking around her. Seems like they were all OK, small favours... She looked across at where Yuna, Auron and the others were talking, and walked over, hearing what seemed to be an argument between Wakka, who favoured turning themselves into Yevon, and the rest, who didn't want to. Rikku watched it for several minutes before getting bored and wandering off. She was about to turn around and walk back when...

'SIN!' Yuna shouted.

Rikku spun around, and saw the silhouette of the great beast hovering in the water beyond the ice. Her vision started to blur, and Rikku moved back towards the others, seeing them all clutch their heads and fall to their knees. The last thing she thought about before she lost consciousness was what Seymour had whispered in her ear as he had been carried off.

We are the same now, you and I.

Chapter 9: The Fighters In The Desert

Rikku woke up, and coughed sand out of her nostrils. She spluttered for a few seconds and sprung to her feet. There was only one desert in Spira, so...

Sanubia! Bikanel! HOME!

Rikku grinned and sat back down on the sand dune. She had never been so glad to wake up full of grit. She got back up and climbed the nearest dune. She looked out across the desert and saw only more desert. So, she wasn't anywhere near Home then. Cred.

She squinted her eyes at the horizon and saw a thin cloth strip blowing in the breeze. She argued with herself about whether to stay here and wait for the others or head for it. Eventually curiosity won and she made her way precariously down the dune-face towards the object. The walking only reminded her how thirsty she was, and regardless of what Seymour had told her (if he had been telling the truth) she needed to have a drink. That thought brought a painful jab in her heart, and not due to the metal spike.

Seymour, I trusted you, how could you? Is everything you told me a lie? You said you would help me, but you tried to kill us! Rikku drew in breath sharply. She had hoped that the entire episode at the temple had been a big misunderstanding. She still harboured the thought that he might yet be telling the truth. She didn't want him to be a monster. She wanted him to be a friend.

She reached the dune over the hill and walked down to one of the tents her people had set up for travellers of the desert. Sitting down under the shape she drew a flask of water from the trunk that was always under every tent. Taking a long drag on it, she thought about what she was going to do next. She remembered that she still needed to find the others and Yuna. Rikku searched deeper in the chest and withdrew several cloaks within, putting one on her and swinging the rest over her shoulder. Al Bhed never left anything to chance in the desert. These cloaks would keep them in shade whilst weighing next to nothing. She exited the tent, taking care to close the drapes, and walked up the sand dune. She caught a flicker of movement from her side, and turned around to see nothing.

Then she fell onto the sand as a large shape bounded into her from behind. She turned the fall into an elegant roll and ended up standing and looking at the thing that had attacked her. She raised her eyebrow in surprise as she saw a sand wolf facing her off from about a meter away. She snarled and drew her glove, preparing to attack when...


Rikku turned around to see the person who had called, and the wolf almost flew past her to a figure in a similar cloak. SAS. That made sense. Rikku sheathed her glove and walked up to the figure, which greeted her in Al Bhed.

'Greetings,' he said formally. Then he gave a small start. 'Oh, sorry Rikku, didn't recognise you for a second there,'

Rikku peered closer, and smiled. 'Hi Ivan,' she said.

Ivan lowered his hood, to reveal a man barely thirty years old, with the swirled-eyes of the Al Bhed, but his were blue instead of Rikku's green. His long black hair tied up in a ponytail and swaying slightly in what wind Bikanel Island had. The wolf bounded up to Ivan and lay down at his feet, seemingly docile. 'What'cha doing out here in the middle of the day?' she asked.

'Training,' he replied.

Ivan was a member of the Al Bhed 10-person Special Attack Squad, set up recently by Cid after the Mi'ihen disaster to be a front-line team of fighters against anyone who happened to want to fight Al Bhed. They hadn't had many missions yet, although it was rumoured that they had taken on the Omega Dungeon as a practise exercise, and had caused some serious carnage.

'We're thinking (that means Cid's thinking, Rikku thought to herself) of using the native fiends as guards. I don't think it'll come off, but the man seems enthusiastic enough,' he finished, referring to Cid. He patted the wolf, and it ran off towards the north, where Home was located.

'And what about the machina I spent all of last year setting up as guards?' she asked, hands on hips.

Ivan shrugged. 'Sand. Machinery. Guess.'

Rikku sighed and covered her eyes with her hands. All that work, wasted. 'Where are the others?' she asked. Ivan wouldn't be so stupid as to travel alone in Sanubia. She held her finger up. 'Wait, let me guess.' She pointed at an innocuous-looking dune. 'There's no reason for that to be there,' she gestured at a ragged-looking rock behind her, 'and erosion says that thing should be smooth,' she pointed at the tent she had came from, 'someone forgot to put the tent flap down when I walked in,' she continued. Ivan looked crestfallen, but Rikku went on; 'and the person behind the metal sign needs to tuck her hair in,' she finished.

'I think they need more practise,' he said testily, and snapped his fingers

Immediately sand cascaded from the mini-dune, the rock moved, the tent flap moved aside and someone jumped down from behind the sign as the other four commandos revealed or un-buried themselves.

'You weren't supposed to know we were here,' Ivan said apologetically.

She looked at the others, who smiled back. Alexia, Kirsten, Zion and… she didn't recognise the third. That completes Team-1 I suppose... The SAS were separated into two teams, so that one team could be training while the other was 'on-call'. She looked at the new arrival. 'I don't think we've met yet,' she said as casually as she could to the person who didn’t know. The soldier looked slightly uncomfortable.

'Name's Caryl,' she said, sounding slightly put upon. Rikku raised her eyebrow slightly.

'She's new, we're training her to be our tech-support,' Ivan said. Caryl lost her gloomy expression and beamed. Entrance to the SAS had been incredibly strict from the start, mainly because Ivan had gotten permission to choose whoever he wanted to be on the team, and he only wanted the best.

Rikku looked at the woman's right arm and saw the distinctive bulge of a terrain-and-lifeform scanner under the cloak. She must be pretty good then. Only those with proven machina talent were allowed to carry TAL scanners. Rikku looked back at Ivan.

'You're in big trouble with Cid, your brother told him you broke his little toy,' he said.

Rikku's mouth fell open slightly and she put on a look of innocence. 'I broke it? That damned thing nearly broke us!' she said indignantly.

Ivan looked at her strangely. 'So it's true then? You're working with the summoner?' he asked.

Rikku nodded. Ivan sighed, so Rikku looked to the others for support. Zion just looked inscrutable, as always. If the man had emotions, no-one had ever seen them.

Alexia just grinned, and Kirsten smiled at her. 'You go girl!' she said.

Ivan closed his eyes slightly. Give me strength...

'Guys!' Everyone turned to look at Caryl, who was looking down at her scanner. 'Company,' she said simply and pointed to the south.

Rikku looked, and saw five figures moving down the sand dune just south of them. She swung back around to tell them it was OK, but was confronted by air. They had taken cover under the sands.

'Erm guys?' she asked, and heard Ivan's voice reply from the ground.

'Rikku! Shhh!' she whispered.

Rikku shrugged and turned back as the other guardians approached. She became worried when it was obvious Yuna was not among them. Auron walked up to her, right over the spot where Kirsten had taken cover, and the woman gave a small 'Ooof!' Luckily Auron didn't hear. Lulu happened to stop directly over where Zion was buried though.

‘Are you all right?’ he asked.

'Where's Yuna?' Rikku asked.

'We don't know,' she replied simply.

If she's not here, then... A thought occurred to Rikku.

'I know where she is,' she said calmly, and had the instant attention of everyone. 'Al Bhed patrol's would have found her and taken her to Home,' she said. Auron walked closer to her.

'Where is Home?' he asked gently.

'I can't tell you, you'll tell Yevon, and we'll have to relocate again,' she said. Wakka frowned at her. Rikku looked back up at Auron. 'I'll only take you if you promise not to tell anyone,' she said, and looked pointedly at Wakka.

'We agree,' Auron said instantly. Wakka looked like he was about to object, but Lulu put her hand on his arm and he stayed quiet.

Rikku nodded, and began to walk towards Home, the others following.


Caryl waited until she was positive that the others had gone, then extended the antenna of her scanner and poked it above the sand. Reading that the summoner's entourage was making its way south, she gave a whistle, and raised herself from the sand. She looked around and saw the other four SAS members of Team-1 stand up, Zion holding his arm and gritting his teeth.

'Damn that woman was heavy,' he said.

Alexia looked at him. 'How can you tell it was a woman?' she asked.

'I can tell,' Zion replied, and said no more.

Kirsten went up to him; the small red cross on her cloak's shoulder identifying her as the team's medic. 'Let me see that,' she said. Zion held out his shoulder, and Kirsten took hold of it. Without warning, she gave one sharp tug, and he gasped slightly as his arm clicked back into position. He sat down on the sand.

'Thanks,' he said.

Kirsten shrugged. It was her job. She had always had an instinct for healing; maybe one of her ancestors had been some kind of mage. Kirsten was actually named for one of her ancestors, although she had no way of knowing exactly who. If she had known she would probably been more worried. She shook her head and sand fell out of her long black hair. She usually let it flow, but for missions she put it back into a ponytail like Ivan had. She squinted, and saw the guardians on the edge of her vision.

'So that was a summoner's troupe,' she mused to herself.

Ivan looked up at her. 'Yeah, and if you know what's good for you, you'll be careful. They managed to stop three attempts to kidnap her. They're something special,' he said. In Ivan's lexicon, something special meant the ability to stare death in the face and smile at it.

Caryl sat on the dune, staring at her scanner. Suddenly she put her hand over her earpiece, then looked up at the others, panic tinting her voice. 'Sir! Home reports attack by Yevon forces! They need us to assist!' she said.

Ivan immediately became deadly serious. 'Everyone pack up and move,' he said quickly and professionally. 'We're heading back, make sure your weaponry is clean,' he began to move off, and it took only a second for the others to stow there equipment and catch up.

'And we'd better get there before those guardians!' he shouted. It was a matter of faith that they were the best, and no-one was going to beat them back to their Home over their own territory.


Auron and Lulu stood side-by-side as Rikku ran up the hill ahead of them, eager to go home, to Home (Amusingly named, Lulu thought). 'She seems to have recovered well,' the female guardian said. Auron nodded, but seemed slightly distracted.

'There's something on her mind though. Did you hear what she said to Seymour at Macalania?' she replied.

Auron nodded, he hadn’t, but Lulu had told him, and he was worried for the girl. 'I'd give my blade to know what they talked about at Guadosalam,' he said.

Lulu looked surprised. She hadn't known Auron had actually had curiosity. She was about to reply when she heard a scream, and she turned to see Rikku standing at the top of the dune, looking down at something below her with an expression of terror.

Chapter 10: Home Sweet Home

Rikku stared down at the scene of destruction below her. Smoke billowed from the building she had called home, bodies lay scattered around the dunes as fiends wheeled and screeched through the sky above the huge machina towers, directing pot-shots at the defenders. She held her hands to her head in shock. No. Then the shock went, to be replaced by blind rage.

Rikku ran down the dune towards her home at the nearest attacker, who happened to be facing away from her. In one motion she drew her glove and swung it around at the Warrior Monk as hard as she could, slicing through his skull and leaving him dead on the floor. His companion was slightly luckier, hearing his partner's dying gurgle and looking around to see the young girl approach, weapon in hand. He fired his gun (A machina weapon! Rikku thought) at her, catching her in the shoulder. Rikku ignored the pain and kept running, swinging the spiked glove at him. He ducked, and instead of taking his head off it merely knocked the man unconscious. Rikku was about to pummel the man to death when she felt a restraining hand on her shoulder. She turned to see Auron looking at her. He shook his head and said one word. 'Survivors.' Rikku nodded slowly, and looked around for any Al Bhed left alive. She looked to her right, and saw a person she knew.

'Keyakku!' she screamed, and ran to her fallen brother's side. She knelt down and felt the man's pulse. Nothing. She felt Lulu's hand on her shoulder and she bowed her head, whispering to her dead sibling. She felt a shadow pass over her, and stood back up to see her father standing next to them.

'You’re Rikku's friends? Well don't just stand there! Let's kick these Guado out of our Home!' the man shouted, and ran into the huge complex.

Auron looked at her. 'Your father?' he asked. Rikku nodded slightly. Then Auron approached her. Back to business.

'Where's Yuna?' he asked gently but firmly.

She pointed towards the door, too hyped and distressed to speak, and the others ran towards it. She took a few seconds to look around her at the carnage and then ran into the complex that had once been called Home, but was now a metal tomb for the dead of Yevon's weaponry.


Rikku ran through the innards of Home, trying not to look too hard at the bodies. She and the others looked around as the PA crackled to life, and Cid made his dire announcement.

No, not after all our work! she felt like screaming to the air. But she still had a mission to do, as Auron reminded her. 'Where is Yuna?' he asked.

Rikku turned and indicated down the stairs. 'The summoner's sanctum,' she said, 'we keep the summoners there, we keep them safe.'

Wakka seemed to have a different view. 'You kidnap them,' he said, arms crossed over his chest.

'We don't think it's worth the price!' Rikku said, trying to make him understand.

Auron did not seem to care though. 'Where is the summoner's sanctum?' he asked.

Rikku pointed back down the stairs again, and he pushed past everyone and ran down. Lulu sighed in resignation and ran after, the others following. Rikku hung back for a few seconds and then ran after her, feet pounding on the floor as the group ran towards where the Al Bhed kept their captives. She turned the corner and ran across the others fighting some Bombs and a Guado. She hesitated slightly and then ran into the fray, aiming for the Guado and slicing the Bomb on the way past. The Guado saw her coming and turned to face her, bringing up his hand and directing a bolt of lightning at her. Rikku ducked and slid under the bolt, aiming a kick at the man's knees. He screamed and collapsed onto the floor. Rikku raised her fist over her head for the final blow when the Guado addressed her.

'Seymour sends his love.'

Rikku stopped, eyes wide. Auron saw this and ran towards her, shoving her out of the way and slicing down with his sword at the Guado as the bomb behind Rikku flew over where she had been standing. Rikku wriggled out from under Auron as the warrior stood up.

'Are you OK?' he asked the girl.

'Fine,' Rikku gasped. 'I just lost it for a moment, that's all,' she said. Auron smiled at her slightly, then looked at something over her shoulder, and his eyes widen.

'EVERYONE DOWN!' he shouted. Everyone looked for some cover, and leaped behind it.

Rikku jumped behind the nearest pile of rubble as the last remaining Bomb self-destructed, damaging the ceiling, raining dust and metal down on the guardians. Rikku held her hands over her head as the shower stopped, then peeked out from under them, to see that a solid wall of metal had been erected between her and the other guardians, and she was on the wrong side. 'Are you all right Rikku?' Auron shouted through the rubble.

Rikku coughed. 'Yeah, just a little shook up,' she replied.

'Can you get through?' he asked.

'No, there's too much here. Go and find Yuna, I'll catch up!' she said, then gave directions to the summoner's sanctum.

'Are you sure you'll be alright?' Lulu asked.

'I'll be fine! Go get Yunie!' Rikku shouted, and then heard the footsteps of the others as they moved farther away from her. She would have to find another way around.


Tidus jumped down the next set of stairs. 'Why'd they have to build so deep?' he asked.

'Ask Rikku when she re-joins us,' Auron said, not even stopping for breath. The group had been running for what seemed like half-an-hour, following the directions Rikku had gave and following the turns.

'If she re-joins us,' Wakka whispered.

Suddenly Tidus stopped and turned to look at Wakka. 'What is it with you two!?' he asked, out of patience. 'You didn't mind her when you didn't know she was Al Bhed, so what changed?'

Wakka looked shocked, he had never seen the boy like this before. 'It's just...' he began, only to be cut off.

'Maybe you should cut them some slack, huh? They rescued Yuna from the desert to protect her, not to ransom her or anything!'

'Yeah but...'

'Wakka, just forget about that hang-up you have and look around you. If anything, they're the victims! Yevon are destroying her Home!' Wakka looked indecisive, then just nodded. Tidus calmed down and nodded back, then they both smiled. 'Now come on, like the lady said, we gotta save Yuna!' he turned, and ran deeper into the doomed complex.


Rikku ran through the building, dodging past fiends and rubble with equal ease, trying to find the path through to the sanctum. The attack had scrambled the internal layout of Home so much she only vaguely knew where she was or where she was going. She ran around the next corner, and felt something hot whip by her shoulder. She ducked behind the nearest piece of rubble as gunfire ricocheted off the walls around her.

'Identify yourself!' a familiar voice shouted.

Rikku breathed a sigh of relief. 'Ivan! It's me,' she shouted.

'Rikku? Thank the... we thought you might be dead!' the SAS commander shouted back to her. She got up and walked back around the corner to see Ivan, Alexia, Kirsten, Zion and a haggard-looking Caryl safe their weapons.

'Good to see you Rikku,' said Zion. The others just nodded.

She turned back to Ivan. 'I need to find the summoner's sanctum, is there a path still open?' she asked quickly.

Ivan nodded and pointed down the hallway. 'Service staircase down that way leads to environment controls, from there you can get to the lower levels,' he said in the same tone.

Rikku waved her thanks and ran off. She heard Kirsten's 'Good luck!' shout as she left.


Ivan watched Rikku run off, and turned back to the others. 'She was in a hurry,' she said emotionlessly. He turned to look at Caryl, who was squatting on the floor. 'Anything?' he asked.

She looked up. 'That way, after one-hundred metres there's a way out,' she said.

They didn't think of it as running. Cid had ordered the evacuation of Home, and they were damned if they were still going to be here when it went down around their ears.

Ivan nodded. 'Lets move people. Team-2 will meet us at the Cactuar Valley, we'll take their transports to the mainland,' he said.

They nodded and followed their leader from their collapsing Home.


Rikku took the maintenance stairs four at a time, bounding down them as fast as she could.

Nearly there.

Her speed meant she wasn't looking properly when a fiend came out of a doorway to her right. She was nearly on top of it when she looked up and noticed it. She skidded to a halt barely an inch from it's tail. It heard her stop and swung around to look at her, both of them surprised at the appearance of another being right in front of them.

A Chimera, not another one... She thought.


Auron was running to catch up with the others when he caught a flash of red in his peripheral vision. Stopping, he looked through the door to her right, and saw Rikku standing in the adjacent corridor, staring at something above and ahead of her. Auron breathed a small sigh of relief. He moved towards Rikku and was about to shout to the girl when he saw the Chimera standing in front of her. He stopped dead. Then he heard something he had never thought he would hear.

Rikku stood dead still in the centre of the path, hunting frantically in her pockets for another grenade. It opened it's mouth and snarled at her. Still she did not move, there was no-where to run to. That might have saved her life. Chimeras were not usually used to prey standing up so close to them. It bent it's lions head next to her and sniffed her clothes, saliva dripping on to her t-shirt. Still Rikku did not move. It actually looked confused for a second or so, and then it did something Rikku had never heard about before. It spoke to her. It leant down again, and though it's speech was distorted by it's teeth, she could still make out the words.

'As yOU ARe, wE oNCe WeRe. AS wE aRe, sO YOu wiLL Be.'

Then it reared up, and began to move past Rikku, barely brushing her arm as it made it's way to the stairs. She just stared after it, face pale. She was pretty sure that had never happened to anyone before. She was about to turn and continue on when she happened to look through the doorway and see Auron staring alternately at her and the distant fiend. She walked up to the older guardian.

'What did that thing say?' Auron asked as she approached him, seemingly not at all surprised at the fiend’s little performance.

Rikku heard footfalls, and turned to see Wakka running back down the hall towards them.

'Rikku! You safe?' She nodded her head. Wakka gestured behind him. 'Up ahead, buttons, we can't get in,' he said.

Rikku nodded and walked off, Auron staring after her for a few seconds before walking to join the others. He finally thought he was figuring it out.

Rikku ran past everyone and up to the door where Yuna should be, punching in a code onto the keypad that had the others stumped and pressing the Door Release handle. It whirred opened and Rikku ran in.

'Yuna!' she shouted, and then looked around. Her face fell as she realised she had addressed empty air.

Part 2