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Darkness Falls Part 2

Chapter 11: Boom

Rikku looked around the room, and fell to her knees. They had been too late. She ran around the room, searching every corner, looking for any sign that the summoner had been here, but there was nothing.

Meanwhile, Tidus seemed to be thinking about something. 'Rikku, you said that you protect the summoners, right? But guardians do that. You’ve got no right to kidnap them like this.'

Rikku looked back at him in puzzlement. Didn't he know?

Tidus continued on, oblivious. 'If we guardians do our job, the summoner will be safe, right?' Everyone looked at him. No-one spoke. 'Right!?' Still no-one uttered a word. 'RIGHT?!'

Rikku looked at Lulu. 'You didn't tell him?' she whispered.

Lulu shook her head slowly. Tidus ran forwards and grabbed hold of Rikku's shoulders, shaking her and demanding an answer.

'What is it? What are you hiding!?' he shouted at the world in general and Rikku in particular.

The young Al Bhed looked at him blankly. 'The Final Aeon always kills the one who summons it,' she said simply.

Tidus jerked back as if visibly struck. He looked at Rikku, then around at the others in disbelief. 'She's lying,' he said, wanting someone to agree. Lulu shook her head. 'Why didn't you tell me!?' he shouted to the room.

'We weren't hiding it..,' Wakka said.

'...It was just too painful to say,' Lulu finished for him.

Tidus looked around at them, seemingly angry and/or crushed. He walked up to Rikku and looked like he was about to hit her when a massive crash resounded through the building they were in. Rikku and Tidus both stumbled, and then they heard Cid's voice over the PA talking in Al Bhed. Rikku forgot all about their argument and cursed.

'What is it?' Auron asked.

Rikku turned to look at him. 'Cid’s sent the auto-destruct sequence, we have to get out of here!' she said.

Auron nodded. 'Which way?' he said.

Rikku pointed to the way the others had come in. 'Airship is that way,' she said, and ran through the door. 'I'll tell Cid to hold off a little longer!' she shouted as the door cycled shut behind her.

Tidus turned to look at Auron. 'You knew all this didn't you?' he said angrily. The older guardian nodded. 'Then why didn't you say anything!? You knew I didn't know!' Tidus shouted.

'Would you still have come here if you knew?' he said. Tidus was about to reply when Rikku ran back in to the room.

'We've got ten minutes, so let's argue on the ship please?' she said, glancing back at the door. As one, they nodded their heads and ran out through the door.


Ivan sat down on the dune, well away from Home, and watched the firework display. Caryl looked up from her scanner. 'Look at all the pretty colours,' she said sarcastically. Ivan nodded. It was a damn shame.

'What now?' someone whispered behind him. It sounded like Kirsten. He shrugged.

'We meet up with Team-2 as planned, then find the nearest salvager and go to anywhere that will take us.' He heard a siren, and turned back to look at Home. 'Self-destruct, we'd better make tracks.' he said, and ran down the next dune, his squad following close behind.


Rikku ran up the stairway to the airship, the others in close pursuit. She turned back to look. 'Guys? A little faster if you wouldn't mind. I don't want to be here when these things go off,' she said.

'We're going as fast as we can,' Wakka said, out of breath. Not everyone had Al Bhed agility, and they had had to take two detours around battles or collapsed corridors on the way here.

Rikku shrugged and climbed up the access hatchway into the ship. Leaving the panel open for the rest of them to climb in, she ran through the airship, dodging other panicked Al Bhed, searching for the bridge. She thought she knew where it was, but everything looked different when it wasn't submerged in water. She ran through a large red doorway and came across a large room with windows that looked out onto a solid wall of metal.

The cockpit. She breathed a sigh of relief. She saw a figure standing near the driver's seat, and shouted to him. He turned around and she let out her breath. 'Vydran!' she said.

Cid looked at her and also breathed a sigh of relief. He moved around to her, and Rikku saw her brother in the driver's chair, powering up the airship's systems. 'Rikku? You OK?' he asked.

She waved to him and, heard the door behind her cycle open again. She turned to see the others walk into the room, looking around at the machina displays, some in wonder, some in confusion, and one in suspicion. That blitzer would never change.

Cid looked past her and saw them as well. 'These your friends?' he asked in Spiran. Rikku nodded. 'Nice to meet y'all. Sorry about the greeting, but we don't have much time left,' he said, and turned back to Brother and started shouting instructions at him.

'Why do we not have much time?' Auron said.

'Because Home will blow up in about two minutes,' Cid said without looking round, then went back to shouting at Brother.

Wakka's eyes went wide. 'What?! Then why are we still here?!' he asked, panicked. In answer, the ground beneath them started to vibrate, and Wakka grabbed hold of the nearby work-surface, luckily he missed pressing any buttons. Rikku ran up to the right-hand board and looked out of the window.

'Erm, why is the ground falling away?' Tidus asked.

Rikku smiled. 'It's not. We're rising,' she said. As she spoke a long shaft of light appeared on the wall opposite them as the hanger doors began to slide open. Rikku looked at the catwalks on the wall as they rose from the hanger where the airship was stored, and saw the bodies of those either too slow or too unlucky to make it. She sighed. Damn Yevon. She was about to turn away when she saw something on one of the higher 'walks. She squinted her eyes and gasped. It was the Chimera, and it was looking at her. They observed each other for a few seconds, and then Rikku held out her hand and gave a small wave. In reply the Chimera reared up and gave a huge roar, then it passed out of sight.

Wow, she thought. She looked around at the others. Wakka and Lulu looked slightly scared, although she knew they would never admit it. Tidus was looking out the nearest window, an expression of disbelief on his face, Strange; you'dve thought they would have had airships in Zanarkand. Auron, as usual, just looked bored.

The airship swung round to make it's escape, and Rikku got one last look at Home before it was destroyed. She saw the fiends fly around the once great but now wrecked spires, and the bodies that littered the ground. She looked at the display. Ten seconds. She braced herself for the explosion, and heard Cid tell everyone else to do the same. When, after ten seconds had passed and Home still stood, she heard Cid say one word in Al Bhed.

'Missiles.' Brother looked as if he was about to complain, but one look at their father's face convinced him otherwise.


'It didn't blow up,' Ivan said from the desert floor. They had clapped when the airship had risen from it's hanger, and had all thought; 'Why weren't we on that? But they had chosen to go through the desert, and no-one could follow them there. Ivan sighed. 'Never mind, lets go,' he said, and turned to head out. The SAS commandos were heading up the side of the next dune when they heard a whoosh above them, and as one looked up to see the airship streak over their heads, contrails coming out of it's missile pods.

Alexia was the first one to look back, and her eyes went wide. 'Erm, sir?' she said, backing away from the direction of Home.

'Yeah?' he replied, looking around. He heard a boom as the contrails reached the building and exploded. It was like someone had fired some kind of detonator into Home, and suddenly there was a huge wall of red and orange fire, advancing towards them across the desert.

'Go, go, GO!' he screamed at the others, and they ran for the top of the dune, jumping over the summit and burying themselves in sand as they hit the ground. A few seconds later, the shockwave passed over them, and they all felt a blast of heat slide over their backs. After a few seconds they tried to stand up, and to their surprise the sand shattered around them. Kirsten was the first to speak.

'Was this glass desert here a minute ago?' she asked, looking across the transformed dunes.


Rikku shielded her eyes as the place she had known as home all her life blew apart from the combined assault of twelve charges placed to bring down the individual spires and the few dozen missiles fired from the ship.

She heard Wakka's voice behind her, and felt his hand on her shoulder. 'Never mind. Boom! Like happy festival fireworks ya?' he said to try and cheer her up.

She looked up into his eyes with a gaze so full of sadness and rage you could turn to dust just by looking at it. 'You can cram your big festival fireworks you big meanie!' she shouted at him, brushing off his hand and running from the bridge. He went to go after her, but Auron put his hand on her shoulder.

'Let me talk to her,' he said. Wakka nodded, and stood back as Auron left the bridge to go after the girl.


Rikku ran through the airship's corridors, trying to outrun her tears. Eventually though they caught up with her in the engine room, and she lay against the ancient machina and wept.

Damn Yevon, damn the Guado, and damn you Seymour! She hit the wall with her fist, and because she couldn't think of anything better to do she did it again. That felt better. Why did everything have to turn out this way? she asked the world. The world had no reply that she could hear. She composed herself and turned to go back to the bridge when the door slid open, and she found herself face-to-face with Rin.

The man just looked at her for a few seconds. 'I am sorry for your loss,' he said.

Rikku blinked and wiped away tears. 'Thank you,' she whispered.

He placed his hands on her shoulders. 'Do not worry little one, you will survive. You are strong like that,' he said, a smile on his face. 'We can always build a new Home.'

She laughed slightly and grinned. Rin patted her on the shoulder, and then cocked his head. 'I believe one of your companions searches for you,' he said.

Rikku simply nodded and walked past Rin, back towards the bridge. She stared at the ground on her way back, and so didn't see Auron until she was right on top of him.

'Woah!' she said as she barely stopped in time to avoid hitting the sword-wielder.

'Rikku, are you all right?' he asked.

Rikku looked surprised. Compassion? From Auron? She shrugged. 'I just needed some space,' she said simply.

'I told you not to worry about Wakka, he does to put his foot in his mouth a lot,' he said. They both smiled.

'Yeah, I noticed,' Rikku replied. They turned and began walking towards the bridge again. She looked across at Auron, and noticed that he was looking at Rikku strangely. 'What?' she asked.

'Rikku, what did that fiend in Home mean?' he asked.

Rikku stopped and turned to look at him head on. 'What do you mean?' she whispered.

'I heard what it said, what did it mean 'as we are, so you will be?'’ he asked, no trace of menace or suspicion in his voice.

‘It's nothing, just some unsent who got turned into a fiend probably,' she said. Then she realised she had said more than she had meant to. Lulu stared at her.

'Rikku, is there something you're not telling us?' he asked quietly.

Rikku just looked at him. 'No,' she said quietly, and walked off.

Auron stood there watching the girl walk off. No. It couldn't be.

Could it?

Chapter 12: Up On The Roof

Rikku walked until she was sure that she was out of Auron's field of view, and then ran as fast as she could away from the man, mentally kicking herself. I did not want to say that! she thought over and over. What had she given away, in just that one sentence? She ran up to the elevator on the observation floor and took it up to the airship's deck. Looking out over the side, all she could see was water, moving past them at insanely high speeds. What was it with her father and speed? She approached the bow of the airship, and looked down to see the slope of the layered rows of metal as they tapered down to the edge. She sighed, and sat down on the ledge, legs crossed. Anything that happened now would happen. Cu pa ed. She heard the deck's huge door cycle open, but didn't turn around.

“Rikku?” Auron asked. Rikku lowered her head slightly. “What is it?”

“It’s nothing,” the Al Bhed girl replied quietly, not looking around.

“I don't think so,” Auron said. Rikku stood up and turned to face her.

“Auron, sometimes we have to deal with things on our own, OK?” she said.

Auron started, he had never heard the girl speak like this before. He understood though. He nodded and turned back to the elevator, leaving Rikku with her thoughts.

Actually, probably not the best thing to happen. Thinking only made her worry.

'As we you will be.' It couldn't have meant that, could it? Could it? She looked back down over the airship. Why her?


When Auron walked back onto the bridge, Cid and Tidus looked like they were arguing. He caught short snatches of conversation through her thoughts.

“I'm not going to let Yuna die!” the young blitzer shouted to the older (and bigger) Al Bhed.

“Words! Show me actions!” the man shouted back.

Tidus walked up to the man so they were right in each other's faces. “Watch me, pops,” he said.

The other Al Bhed looked around. “Do you know what happened to the last Spiran to call me pops?” he asked. Tidus shook his head. “Well, neither does anyone else, cause he was never found.” Tidus got the hint and backed off. “We're going to find Yuna alright, and then I'm going to stop her from this damn-fool death-journey she has!”

“You would go against her wishes?” Auron said from his new vantage point in the corner of the room.

“Damn straight!” Cid replied.

Auron shook his head, although Tidus seemed to agree with the man.

Lulu shook her head as well. It was so obvious to her, yet the others didn't seem to have noticed his affection for Yuna. She walked up to behind Wakka and watched the three men argue, seeing how long her patience would last.

Ten seconds, she thought. She raised her hand and fired a small fireball into their midst. They separated instantly and stared at her. “Are you three going to fight like little schoolboys all day long? Or can be actually get on with rescuing Yuna?” she asked acidly. As one they all backed away.

“Woman's got a point,” Cid whispered, then turned and went over to the blue glowing sphere in the centre of the room. “This will help us find Yuna, if she's out there, this thing will get her,” he said, and began to push buttons. “Give it a few minutes.”

Auron walked off towards the door, and was about to go through it when Rikku walked in. She looked at him and smiled slightly, then walked past him into the bridge.

Cid turned to look. “Rikku?” he asked.

“Are we looking for Yuna?” she asked. Cid and Tidus both nodded. “She's in Bevelle,” she said.

Auron raised his eyebrow. “And you know this how?” he asked, but not doubting that the girl was right.

Rikku looked across at him. “Because that's where Seymour is,” she said. The others all looked round at her.

Auron still wanted to know more though. “Do you know why?” he asked.

Rikku nodded. “Because he needs her power,” she said, and walked back out.

Tidus turned to Auron. “Just what was that all about?” he asked.

Auron shook his head. “That's for her to reveal when she wishes,” he said, having a pretty good idea of the connection the teenager and the Maester shared. Tidus looked at Auron funny for a second, then shrugged and carried on as normal. Auron made her excuses to the others and walked out.


Rikku sat down on the floor of the deck again. She knew where Seymour would be, maybe she could talk him out of whatever he was doing. She heard footsteps behind her, and this time she turned to see Auron sit down cross-legged next to her. “Hi,” she said.

“Hello,” the man replied. He waited a few seconds before asking the question. “Did you love him?” he asked.

I only knew him for a few days! But... “Yeah,” she replied quietly.

“We all make mistakes,” Auron said.

“I should have been smarter. I should have seen something before.” She whispered.

“You cannot always tell someone's intentions when you've just met them.”

“But I could see he cared! He didn't have to help me in the Thunder Plains! He didn't have to protect me during the battle at the temple!”

Auron glanced at her. He hadn't known that. Although now he came to think about it, Rikku had been a lot less injured at the end of the fight than the others… “Do you know what he wants?” he asked the young Al Bhed.

Rikku gave a small laugh. “I think so.” She did not extrapolate on this.

Auron sighed. The girl could go from one opposite to the next in seconds. It was infuriating, yet endearing all the same. He would get no more out of the girl. He got up and turned to go. Before he reached the door, he heard Rikku call him back.


He turned around, and Rikku swivelled to face him. “The power fixation isn't everything. He wants someone to share it with, someone who understands him. He needs a partner,” she said. Auron nodded. He understood loneliness, and what it could drive one to do

“I know about your conversation with him at Guadosalam, and your rescue at the Thunder Plain,” he said “Why does he care about you?” he asked, this time genuinely curious.

“We are the same now, we’re alone together,” Rikku said, and would say no more.

Auron walked off. That may not be as true as you think. He thought. He just needed some more information.


Tidus was staring at the display on the sphere-oscillo-thingy when Auron walked back in. Cid had taught him to recognise patterns in the 'matrix', which indicated Yuna's location. It had something to do with energy and vibrations, but the technical facts were all beyond him. Lulu looked at Auron. “Anything?” she asked.

“She says that Seymour has a flaw in his personality,” he said, and shrugged minutely.

“So what does this mean?” They all had them.

“So he fears being abandoned. If we can find out why, we have leverage on him,” said Auron, amateur psychologist. Lulu looked at him.

“What does Rikku have to do with this?” she asked.

“They are the same,” Auron said, and refused to explain further. He didn't entirely know herself, but he had a good idea. Poor girl.

Tidus gave a whoop, and they all looked around to see him staring over the sphere. He turned to them with a grin on his face. “I found her!” he said.

“Where?” Auron asked instantly.

“Bevelle,” he said, less enthusiastically.

Wakka groaned. “Great, the Holy City, and we're going to invade,” he said.

Cid looked across at him. “You would prefer we do nothing?” he said, deceptively quiet.

“No, no!” Wakka said, shaking his hands at Cid. “Just we gotta get past the entire Yevon priesthood, the Warrior Monks, and Evrae!” he said.

Tidus shrugged. “So, what's the problem?” he asked. Wakka spluttered for a few seconds, and Tidus went on; “Yuna's there, so, we go and get her!” he said. “That's all that matters!”

Cid laughed. “Boy, you got guts! Brother!” he shouted to the pilot. Brother responded in a stream of Al Bhed. “Full speed ahead to Bevelle!” Cid shouted, Brother nodded and reached for the nearest big red button.


Rikku felt the surge of acceleration from her 'seat' on the deck, and grabbed hold of the nearest edge to avoid slipping off. They were on their way, and she knew where too. She smiled and walked back into the airship.

Yuna, don't worry; we’re coming for you.

Seymour, if you're there, I'm coming for you.


From his rooms in the Bevelle Palace, Seymour stared out at the sky. He smiled and walked out of his accommodation, and into the corridors of the Holy City. Eventually he came across the room where Yuna was being 'protected' from those who would wish to kidnap her. If that meant that the door had to be locked and guarded, then so be it. He motioned to the guard posted outside, who saluted and opened the door with his key. He saw Yuna sitting on the bed on the other side of the wall.

She saw him come in and immediately stood up. “You're not going to get away with this,” she said, predictably.

“Lady Yuna, you have no idea what it is I have planned for you,” he said reasonably.

“I don't need to, to know that you're planning something big,” she said angrily. “If you think enforced marriage will change my mind about you, then...”

Seymour cut her off. “Lady Yuna, it is not you I am after,” he said.

She closed her mouth and stared at him. “Then why all this?” she asked. “Why all the show?”

“Because I need a summoner,” he said. “But I do not need you for your company, for that, I have someone... different... in mind. She will understand in a way that you cannot.” Yuna just looked confused. “Do not worry, your friends are coming to rescue you. You will understand shortly, I assure you,” he finished, and walked off, nodding to the guard to lock the door behind him.

Chapter 13: Guys! A Little Help Maybe!?

Rikku stood on the bridge of the airship, watching the clouds fall past them as they flew through the air at several hundred miles an hour. After they had went full-speed the engines had nearly feel apart, and Cid had ordered a much slower pace, lest they shake themselves to pieces. She sighed and tapped the dials. Apart from the occasional winged fiend, nothing showed in the viewscreen except for clouds, clouds and more clouds. Oh, and had she mentioned the clouds?

Rikku jumped to her feet and stretched her legs. Lulu and Tidus looked across at her, then looked back at the viewscreen. Wakka seemed to be cowering in perpetual terror that the airship would suddenly realise that no, nothing metal flew, and would fall out of the sky. So far the ship was playing dumb. Rikku walked out of the bridge and went towards the observation deck. Even watching the clouds fly sideways instead of towards them would be a nice change. She reached the lift in silence, and was about to go out when…

“Rikku, wait.”

Rikku turned around to see Auron walk towards her, sword on shoulder. What was he doing here? “Yeah?” she asked him.

“I want to talk with you,” he said seriously.

“Suits me fine,” she replied, leaning on the wall.

To her surprise, Auron shook his head. “Not here. In private.”

Rikku blinked at that. What could it be? She nodded and stepped onto the elevator, Auron following close behind. They rode the lift up to the deck in silence. Rikku glanced across at Auron, but as usual he just looked blank. As the door to outside cycled open she breathed in fresh air for the first time in hours. She wondered why she had not come out here earlier.

She walked out halfway onto the deck and turned to Auron. “So?” she asked lightly.

“I need to know you have your mind on the task at hand,” he said.

Rikku looked puzzled. “What do you mean?”

“I need to know you will not be distracted by Seymour when the time comes.”

“You figured that out huh?”

“It was obvious.”

“The others don’t think so. They haven’t figured it out.”

“They are suspicious, especially after Macalania. How were you fooled?”

“He knows my secrets.”

“You are unsent.”

Rikku stopped dead and turned around on the balls of her feet, glaring at Auron maliciously. “How did you know?” she asked, voice as cold as ice.

Auron shrugged. “The fiend at Home, your comments a few hours ago.”

Rikku cursed. She knew she shouldn’t have said that. Outwardly containing her turbulent emotion, she asked; “Do the others know?”

“I did not tell them. That is your own decision.”

Rikku bowed her head and looked at the ground. “Thank you.”

On his part, Auron was surprised. He had expected denials and shouting, then a demand not to tell Wakka and the others. Instead she was being remarkably calm about the whole thing. Maybe he had misjudged her. Had the whole cheery-airhead-teenager routine been just an act? “When?” he asked.

“The Moonflow. I didn’t think you would understand…”

“I understand better than you know,” he said simply. He wasn’t going to tell her about himself, not quite yet.

Rikku walked up to him. “Show me your face,” she asked.

Against all his instinct, Auron did, and Rikku looked into his eyes. Her scrutiny was unnerving. It reminded him of something…

Rikku looked into Auron’s eyes. He stared directly back at her, and through all her differences, their viewpoints on life, and their completely opposite demeanours, Rikku sensed that here was a kindred spirit. She didn’t know how right she was. Auron was the first to look away, and Rikku grinned. Not such a cold-hearted guy after all are you? She thought to the man’s back. Suddenly Auron turned around and looked back at her.

“Care to spar?” he asked.

Rikku looked confused for a second. She could have sworn she had heard something in his voice then. Must have been her imagination. She nodded once. Auron looked away, not letting Rikku see his face, or the fact that he had went slightly red. He was embarrassed? Him? He counted ten steps, then turned and faced Rikku, who was drawing her glove from her thigh-sheath and checking the points.

Rikku looked back at Auron, and specifically the sword on his back. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea… But then a little voice in her told her she would be all right.

Auron turned back to Rikku and bowed. The young Al Bhed did the same. He straightened back up, just in time to see her swipe at his head. Unfair. He didn’t have time to bring his sword up to bear, so he just ducked, Rikku’s fist passing over his head. He swung his sword from his hip at her, but she easily dodged it.

At first glance, it looked like a horribly unfair fight. He was much taller than her, and his blade was bigger, but it took time for him to prepare his swings, while she could slip in and out of his defences. She jabbed him in the side with her fist, and he had to ignore it to prepare his swing. He hated to admit it, but she was going to win. The match ended after about ten minutes of sharp jabs in the side.

Rikku was tired though. Her style of fighting was much more tiring than his. She looked up at Auron. The man seemed to have infinite stamina. “How do you do that?” she asked, out of breath.

“Do what?” he asked, not tired at all.

Rikku sighed and was about to go inside for rest when a distant roar sounded. She spun around to where the sound had come from, which happened to be somewhere in the clouds. “What the hell was that?” she asked. Then she heard the ship’s PA crackle to life above her and Cid’s voice speak in Al Bhed.

“Rikku? What’s going on up there?”

Rikku looked around for the PA’s speaker. She saw it, and the microphone next to it.

“Vydran! Something shouted through the clouds!”

“Get back inside! We’re approaching Bevelle!”

At the word ‘Bevelle’ Auron’s head swung around to look at her. “What about Bevelle?” he asked Rikku quickly.

Rikku turned to look at him. “Cid says we’re getting nearer, why?”



Tidus and Lulu looked out at the clouds, specifically at a small dot on the horizon that seemed to be getting bigger. The young blitzer turned to the Black Mage. “And that is..?”

“The guardian wyrm Evrae. It defends Bevelle from intruders.”

Tidus squinted, then turned back to Lulu. “And exactly what is the point of having a flying guard when there are no flying attackers?”

Lulu frowned. “No-one is sure. Fiends was the explanation until now. The only people to attack this way in the last century have been, well, us.”

“Hedging their bets?”


Cid turned to look at the four remaining guardians. “Well?” he said.

“Well what?” Wakka asked.

“Are you going to go and fight that thing or what?” he asked, as if it was obvious.

Wakka looked like he was about to complain, then shut his mouth and sighed, walking off to the hanger. Tidus looked at Lulu and shrugged, following.

“Doesn’t want much does he?” he whispered under his breath.

Cid waited until they had left before turning to Brother. “Are the missiles prepared?” he asked him. Brother nodded.

“All we have left.”

“Good. Give them their chance first, then fire on the thing when it gets close.” He turned to the PA system.


Auron and Rikku looked at the dot that was Evrae, one that was rapidly turning into a line. “And Evrae is…?” she asked him.

“It protects Bevelle,” he replied.

“Oh. Well, that clears it up, thanks.” She turned to go back to the elevator, and was surprised when it didn’t open. She nearly whacked into it. Looking back up at the PA’s mic, she cupped her mouth in her hands and shouted to it: “Hey Cid! Open the door!”

She waited for his reply. None was forthcoming.

Auron watched Rikku try and hail her father, and then walked over to the door. When her shouts didn’t hasten it’s opening, he reached down and tried to work his fingernails under the door. Seeing what he was doing, Rikku bent down and tried the same thing. After about a minute of heaving and straining, all they had found out was that it wasn’t designed to open like that. Rikku fell back against the door, looking out at the approaching form of Evrae. She turned to look at Auron.

“I think we have a problem.”


Tidus stood next to the heavy-duty door leading to the lift. “Cid, open the door please,” he said for what must have been the third time. He tapped his foot on the floor to emphasise the fact, looking up at the PA. Cid might not be able to see him, but he knew he could sure as well hear him.

Wakka ran up beside them from looking out the window. “Er, guys? That things getting mighty close now, and I wouldn’t want to be there when it gets here,” he said.

Lulu instantly looked around at him. “Aren’t Sir Auron and Rikku…?” she asked quickly.

Tidus just stared back at her for a few seconds, and then ran back towards the bridge as fast as he could go.

Wakka looked at Tidus. “They up there?” he asked. Tidus nodded.

“Rikku went to cool off. Auron followed.”

Wakka cursed. “Great. That huge thing coming at us like a bat out of the Farplane and we stuck here inside…” he kicked the nearest wall, and got a stubbed toe for his trouble.

On his part, Cid was wondering why the door to the deck wouldn’t open. He could have sworn that he seen Brother cycle the lock, but he couldn’t see them. And no-one was speaking to them on the PA. He was about to ask Brother to run a test when Tidus ran back into the bridge, looking upset. “What now?” Cid asked.

“Door… won’t open.” Tidus panted. He paused to get his breath back, then continued. “Auron and Rikku are on the deck, and we can’t get out there.” Cid’s face went slightly paler, and he instantly turned back to Brother, shouting a stream of Al Bhed at him. Tidus only picked up about half of it. Something about the door and a ‘system-check’, whatever that was. Brother shouted down to the Al Bhed to his left, who took the controls. Brother immediately walked over to the next panel and ripped it from the wall. Revealing a mass of circuits and wires. Tidus couldn’t see a thing, but he knew something must be up, as Brother turned back to Cid holding two wires that Tidus thought looked the same, but must have had some importance to Cid, because he turned back to Tidus.

“The door and PA are broke,” he said simply.

Tidus groaned. “Can you fix ‘em?” he asked.

Cid nodded. “Give us a minute. Tell the other sot be ready. That thing will be here in about…” Cid turned back to see how close Evrae was to the ship, but didn’t finish the sentence, because at that moment the entire ship shook, and they saw Evrae’s claws slicing at something on the deck.

“Rikku…” Cid whispered, then went back to trying to fix the door mechanism.


Rikku dodged below Evrae’s claws, hearing them gouge through the metal behind her. She ran away from the huge creature to where Auron was still trying to open the door. “Any luck?” she asked.

“Guess,” he said, still calm.

Rikku groaned and turned back to where Evrae was trying to wrench it’s hand from the deck. She looked at the PA. “Where the hell are you!?” she screamed at the small black object, willing the others to appear. Rikku cursed her father. She had told him to make sure everything worked before they flew it! He hadn’t listened of course, and now she and Auron were trapped, alone on deck, with a huge monster entirely capable of reducing them to a bloody pulp. She saw it raise it’s tail and swing it around at the deck. She ducked, and then felt the air over her whoosh past as the tail whirled over her head. She rolled and stood up, Evrae watching her from a distance. Suddenly it bared it’s teeth at her and sunk under her field of view. She was about to go when she heard Auron behind her.


Rikku turned, and saw that Auron, instead of trying to open the door, had smashed a nearby panel, revealing a bunch of wires. Rikku sighed and ran over to it. Here was something she could do. Shooing Auron away she sat down on the floor and went to work on the panels.

Auron smiled and turned away. So serious when she had to be… He turned back to the now-empty sky and scanned the horizon. He walked up to the side and looked over the edge. He heard a crackle and turned back to where Rikku was smiling and pointing at the PA. Seconds later they heard Cid’s voice boom out from the speaker.

“You OK?”


“We’re fine!” Rikku’s voice shouted back, and Lulu and the other let out a sigh of breath. They could have both been killed and there would have been no indication. Tidus turned back to Lulu. “How long ‘till he gets the door open?” he asked her. As if she knew.

Lulu shrugged, and went back to looking out of the window. She saw a shape slide by her and looked down to see Evrae flow under the hip. She whirled. “Cid! Let them it’s coming out from under them!”


Rikku was back to trying to fix the mess of wiring and boards that this ship had as an excuse for automatic doors when she heard Cid’s warning. She turned to where Auron was standing and was about to shout him when…

Auron didn’t even see it coming. He felt a sudden breeze on the side of his head and was about to turn when something hit his side with the force of an angry mountain. The world spun and he seemed to fly through the air, landing painfully on his side near the edge of the airship.

Rikku dropped what she was doing and ran to Auron’s side. She couldn’t see any blood, but the red coat was probably hiding it. She slid to a halt and knelt next to Auron’s prone form, reaching into her pockets for a potion, and realising she had only expected a friendly match, and not to be fighting for their lives. She screamed in exasperation to the air and looped her arms through Auron’s, dragging him off to the (relative) safety of the doorway. She forgot about the huge dragon-beast behind her.


Everyone looked around as the door slowly began to cycle open. In relief they all ran forwards and got on as it began it’s slow trip upwards.

“I hope they’re both alright,” Lulu said under her breath. As one the others nodded. They all reached down to their weapons to check that everything was there. Although Khimari didn’t seem to have pockets he always seemed to be able to keep much the same inventory as the rest. Tidus wondered how this was. The lift ground to a halt and the door slid open. Tidus instantly ran out, to be greeted by Rikku dragging a wounded Auron towards them. She looked at them through gritted teeth, and no-one had ever seen as great an expression of relief as the others saw on her face. Tidus smiled back, then looked behind her. His expression turned from greeting to horror as he saw Evrae puling its head back and taking a deep breath. Rikku looked back in time to see Evrae throw it’s head forward, and covered Auron with her body just in time for a flow of poison washed over them both. The other could only watch as they were engulfed by Evrae’s breath. Khimari roared at the creature and charged straight toward it, ignoring the stinging pain from the foul liquid and throwing his javelin straight at Evrae. It caught in the beast’s eye, an it screamed in rage and it altered it’s path, flying parallel to the ship, but several hundred metres away. Lulu and Wakka instantly ran to Rikku and Auron’s side, Lulu taking Rikku and Wakka taking Auron they hoisted them up by their arms and supported them to the doorway, getting them safely out of harms’ way. Two Al Bhed who had nothing better to do were waiting there with expressions of terror on their faces, and Lulu walked right up to the nearest one. “Spiran?” she shouted.

The first Al Bhed nodded. “I know… a little.”

“Good! Take them below! Care for them!” she said, slowly so they would understand, and loudly so she could be heard over the engines and Evrae’s screams of pain. The Al Bhed nodded and took the weight off Lulu’s arm, leading Rikku off. His companion did the same, and Lulu whispered a small prayer to Yevon for their recovery before turning back to the battle.


Rikku opened her eyes, and saw green. She frowned and reached up to rub here eyes. She felt an unpleasant itching all over her skin. She tried to scratch, but moving only made it worse. The itching turned to heat, and the heat turned to burning. Rikku whimpered, and tried to see through the green haze in front of her eyes. She felt something grab her hand, and looked sideways to see a shape in, probably, red grasping her hand. Rikku squeezed back, trying to compress the pain and the burning into the space in front of her. She felt Auron’s hand squeeze back, and she leant back and closed her eyes again, trying to block out the green burning substance. She didn’t know when she feel asleep, but she must have, because the last thing she remembered was her hand going limp in Auron’s.


Tidus wandered into the medical bay after the battle, looking for the closest thing this ship had to a healer. They had barely beaten Evrae, a lucky strike from Khimari’s lance knocking out the thing’s other eye and sending it crashing down to Bevelle, dead or useless, who knew? He walked into the bay, using his sword to prop himself up. He looked around for the medic, and saw Rikku and Auron lying on separate beds, hands clasped together. Tidus smiled and turned to walk out. He would find the medic later. There were still a couple of hours till they reached the Holy Capital’s temple. Right now he would sleep.

Chapter 14: Well, It’s A Start…

Rikku groaned slightly as a light shone into her eyes, waking her from the deep slumber that was too rare on a summoner’s pilgrimage. She began batting away the irritation with annoyance as the illumination passed over her face, screwing up her nose to show her discomfort. The disturbance was duly removed and she rested the previously flailing limb over her eyes, muttering darkly in Al Bhed. She lay motionless; her eyes still closed as she concentrated on listening to the rise and fall of her chest to try and lull herself back to sleep. The rhythmic breathing she heard was not her own; she realised with a start. It was more measured than her own hyper, spasmodic breaths and was infused with a slight snuffle, perhaps a light snore. She realised that only the hand she had used to rid herself of the light was free, the other was held in a firm, callused grip. Rikku was torn between opening her eyes and risking disappointment, or leaving the verdant oculars firmly closed and daydreaming about whom her “mystery man” could be. She decided to let herself dream a little longer before the disappointment.

Rikku wiggled her fingers tentatively in the man’s grasp, feeling her own small appendage dwarfed in comparison. She heard a light sigh from the direction of the sleeping male and she froze, wilting a little with relief when he grunted before shifting only slightly. She felt her hand rubbed being rubbed in gentle spirals as a gesture of comfort (For whom? Him or me?) by a battle-hardened finger and was touched by the unconscious act. The young Al Bhed grinned, cracking open her eyes and turning them to face the man who looked so tender as he slept.

It was the last person she would have expected and yet…she was glad it was he. The feeling took her by surprise, she was unaware she had let anyone intrude into the confines of her heart, let alone this man. She expected the displeasure to set in presently, but the elation held firm. Could it be that I actually have feelings for him? I didn’t even think I liked him! Well, like tytto says, look where thought got you, Rikku. She made a face at the thought before turning her attentions to the man, studying his prone form greedily.

Salt and pepper hair flopped softly into his eyes; the well-defined eyebrows for once not knitted together. His face was relaxed as he slumbered. In it, she could see the traces of youth that still lingered, despite their having been stolen so cruelly by circumstances that forced upon him a life of hardship. The deep frown lines were gone and peace was at home on the handsome visage. The strong, dignified nose made shadows dance over the scar that ran from forehead over eye to end on his cheek, mingling with the shades cast by his long, thick eyelashes. His chiselled jaw, rough with stubble as always, worked slightly as he ground his teeth as he dreamt. Rikku ran a finger over his generous lips gently, surprised at how soft they were against the delicate fingertip. On impulse, she leaned forward; pursing her lips to brush his own and trailing a hand lightly down his face.

The russet eye snapped open, his hand catching her wrist in a painful grip as she squeaked in surprise. As he fully awakened to take in Rikku’s blush he released the limb and sat upright. She scurried back to her own cot, nursing the wrist he had grabbed. Then she heard it. A slow, deep rumbling at first, building to a gravelled chuckle. He eyed her in amusement as she narrowed the verdant spirals at him, sticking out her tongue in a fit of childishness.

“Is this always how you wake those unfortunate enough to share a room with you?” He asked dryly, an eyebrow quirked as he watched the colour rise up her neck.

“Tysh ed, Auron! You scared me half to death!” She folded her arms across her chest and stared resolutely at the wall.

“Not really a problem, Rikku.” He quipped.

She glowered at him, a death glare he would have been proud to call his own. “Shut up.”

The two sat in silence for a moment before the older Guardian cleared his throat. “I’m sorry. That was…uncalled for.”

“Yes, it was.”


She regarded him coolly. “Well what?”

He rolled his eye. “Do you accept my apology?”

“I’ll think about it.”

Fine. Have it your way, the hard way as usual.”

The quiet invaded the room once more, and Auron again found he felt the need to break the reticence. “You startled me. I’m not used to having a pouting Al Bhed in my face when I awake.”

“I’m not used to having a grumpy Guardian holding my hand when I wake up!” She shot back, watching in smug satisfaction as he realised that he had indeed been clasping her hand.

“Well, then we’re both not used to it.” He stated triumphantly. He frowned inwardly as he realised what he had just let spill from his mouth. He knew it didn’t make sense but he wasn’t about to back down. He groaned as she giggled.

“That doesn’t even make sense!”

Auron threw his hands in the air. “You drive me to distraction! No wonder I don’t make sense anymore!”

A half smile tugged at her lips and she placed her hands on her hips. “Did you ever make sense? I’ll put a hundred gil on ‘no’.”

Despite himself, he felt the smile work its way onto his mouth. “Whatever. Believe what you will.”

Rikku edged cautiously toward him again before balancing herself next to him. She tickled him under the chin despite the glare she received and laughed. “You know, you’re kinda cute when you smile!”

“Cute?” He despaired and batted her hand away playfully. Auron can be playful? Have fun? Well, this is a first!

“Yeah, with those big ol’ dimples!” She pinched his cheek and grinned at the confusion on his face caused by her antics.

“Rikku, you are…something else.” He shook his head and swung his weight from the bed, shrugging into his robe before affixing the belt and jug deftly.

He looked around for his glasses before noticing them perched precariously atop the blonde’s head. He sighed and made to remove them, frowning as she hopped back a step away from his reach. She giggled as he tried again with the same result.

“Rikku, give me my glasses.” His tone would have warned most people that his orders were to be adhered to and were not open to discussion. Rikku wasn’t most people.

“You have to catch me!” She trilled in a singsong voice.

She jumped away from him, laughing as he gamely took up the challenge. She scrambled from bed to bed, her delight showing in whoops and spontaneous fits of giggles. Auron tried to figure out a pattern to her dash and soon realised that there was no logic to her dart, she was totally random as she jumped gaily from one bed to another. Gritting his teeth, he waited until she came near and lunged, knocking her on to her back with ease. Auron pinned her small arms down with one strong hand and grinned in triumph as she ceased her wriggling beneath him. Rikku looked up at him, flushed with exertion and laughter, her eyes twinkling.

“Ok, ok. You won!”

He retrieved the spectacles from her head, frowning when he noticed they were bent out of shape. He showed them to the Al Bhed with a raised eyebrow. Rikku bit her lip, trying to smile innocently.


Auron nodded sagely, the words foreign and thick on his tongue. “Big oopsie.”

She grinned in return. “Sorry, I’ll fix them! No problem for the great Rikku!”

She noticed he was staring at her strangely before he turned his head abruptly. She took a deep breath and brought her lips up to meet his, brushing them with the lightest of kisses. To her surprise, he responded, his burnished bronze eye closing as he caressed her lips with his own in return. Hesitantly, she probed the inside of his mouth, freezing when she saw his eyebrows shoot up in shock. To her relief, his tongue intertwined with her own and the two began a dance of sorts, darting in and out as each scoped the others tender hollow.

“Rikku, I…forget it. We’ll talk later, after Bevelle.” Auron broke the kiss abruptly, apology in his eyes and fled the room.

She was left sitting on his bed, touching a finger to her tingling lips. Why did he leave? What was he going to say?

Outside, Auron leaned against the door heavily, cursing himself. What the hell was that? Why did you leave, Auron? The girl’s slipped under that barrier you built up around yourself, hasn’t she? You wanted her to, so why are you resisting it now when she comes to you? Gods Auron, you are a stubborn, stupid asshole. He nodded in agreement to his inner monologue and began bracing himself for their next meeting, glowering at Tidus as he strolled past innocently. The young blitzer thought about talking to the Guardian, deciding against it when Auron began to look pointedly as his sword. He gulped and backed away slowly to the bridge, muttering under his breath.

“Crazy, he’s absolutely nuts! Damn freaky Auron…”


Rikku walked onto the bridge last. Seeing everyone was already here, she quietly moved into a corner and listened to Cid’s plans to rappel down to the temple. She vaguely heard Wakka complaining of the plan’s implausibility in the background but she wasn’t really listening, instead thinking to herself about what had just happened.

What changed? He always seemed so cold before… Is it because he knows I’m unsent? I know he felt something there, but will he do now?

She was jolted from her thoughts by Lulu’s voice behind her. She turned to face the older guardian.

“Are you alright now?” Lulu asked.

Rikku nodded. “Yeah, I was a little fazed, but we’re fine now.”

Lulu raised an eyebrow. “’We’?”

Rikku silently cursed, she had meant to say ‘me’. “Me and Auron,” she said grudgingly.

Lulu nodded like she understood. “We go into Bevelle in a few minutes, be ready,” she said simply, and walked out of the bridge.

Rikku frowned slightly. She didn’t think they would get here so quickly. She had wanted to talk with Auron first. Sighing In resignation, she got walked off the bridge, towards the door to her room, to prepare the equipment for the coming confrontation with Seymour.


Auron stood on the observation deck, looking out of the windows, silently berating himself.

You were foolish. You let her get to you. You shouldn’t have responded.

What if I wanted to?

You can’t! You have a job to do!

Where does it say that I’m not allowed to care?

Loving her will cause you pain. You can’t protect her like you protect Yuna.

I can protect her…

Then you’ve failed before you started. She’s already dead.

Auron felt a hand on his shoulder, and turned to see emerald-green eyes staring into his. He tried to say hello, but his tongue froze up and he just stared. Rikku seemed to see his indecision and broke the uncomfortable silence.

“We’re going down,” she said quietly.

Auron nodded. Rikku turned to walk away towards the deck they would be descending from. He watched her leave. Do it now you fool! He shouted at himself. “Rikku!”

Rikku stopped and turned around to face him, hope in her eyes. “Yes?” she asked.

“Take care.”

Rikku’s smiled faltered slightly, returned, and she walked away towards the elevator onto the top deck. Take care? It wasn’t much.

But it was a start.

Chapter 15: Descent into Bevelle

Rikku looked down on the great capital city of Spira as the airship hovered on the periphery of the palaces defences. She leant over the huge chains that they would have to slide down, and she turned back to Tidus.

“Was this your bright idea?” she asked him testily.

The young blitzer looked offended. “Can you think of a better one?” he asked.

“Rikku, what’s wrong? You seem more… angry… lately…” Lulu commented, also silently wondering how she was going to get down there in her dress.

Rikku shook her head as if to clear it of whatever was making her so ratty. “Sorry, I guess I’ve just been worried,” she told the others.

Tidus crossed his arms and looked around the others. “Are we gonna go or what?” he asked them.

Auron grunted and moved towards the chains. When he walked past Rikku, he whispered you her; “Take care,”

“You too,” she quickly replied.

“Are you sure this is safe?” Wakka asked Brother, who was watching from the hanger door. Rikku shouted the same question in Al Bhed, and got a reply.

“Perfectly!” Brother replied cheerfully.

Yeah, like Keyakku’s machina craft was safe… Rikku silently thought to herself. She relayed the answer to Wakka.

Wakka still looked sceptical. “I dunno man, sliding down these things, what if we fall off?” he asked nervously. Lulu pointed, and they saw Auron hunched down over one chain, tying something around his foot, and the other end to the chain. Wakka finally gave up and moved towards the chain. Tidus gave a whoop and nearly ran to it.

Rikku watched him and sighed. Why can’t I get that excited? she asked herself.

I could have, once… she thought, then approached the chain. She heard Cid’s voice over the PA.

“Guys! Ten seconds! Get ready!”

About nine seconds later she heard a resounding thump throughout the hull, and the grappling hooks on the ends of the chains flew towards the temple, embedding themselves in the stonework

Rikku put one foot on the chain, ready to push off the airship. She looked directly at the other end of the chain, at the guards, and, taking a deep breath, moved her other foot off the airship. Gravity instantly took hold, and she slid down the chain towards Bevelle.


Seymour watched with interest as six small dots flew down the long thin wires towards the temple entrance. He had to admit he was surprised that they would do something so forward and daring. If it had been him he would have came in via the city proper, rather than rappel straight into the heavily armed temple. He watched as the guardians fought their way through the assembled masses of Yevon guards. Pathetic fools, he had told them to create some more Evrae’s, but the other Maester’s had vetoed the proposal, saying it would be too expensive to sustain more than two of the beasts. He sighed in exasperation as one after the other all his troops were defeated. He heard a chuckle behind him and turned to see Yuna staring at him, an expression of humour on her face.

“You’re in trouble now,” she said, grinning out of character.

Seymour frowned at her and made his choice. He grasped her hand and virtually dragged her towards the alter where Mika was waiting patiently with an I-could-wait-here-all-day look on his face.

“Having trouble with your wedding guests Maester?” he asked him.

“Quiet and do the ceremony,” Seymour replied shortly.

Mika sighed and was about to begin the chant when he heard the shout behind him.


Tidus and the other stared at Seymour with hatred in their eyes as he stood at the top of the walkway looking down on them, holding Yuna by the arm.

“Let her go!” Tidus shouted.

“Or?” Seymour asked him.

“We’ll kick your ass!” he replied.

Seymour snapped his finger and Rikku heard footsteps behind her. She turned to see yet more faceless and identical Yevon guards running up the steps towards them. Then she realised that there was no more walkway, and the only way out was through the soldiers.

“Uh, guys…” she said quietly.

Seymour heard her voice and turned his attention to her. “Rikku!” he said softly. “How nice to see you again.”

“That is not going to work anymore Seymour,” she said, voice as cold as ice. “I know what you tried to do.”

“Rikku, you have to understand…” Seymour said.

“No, she doesn’t.” Auron said, stepping forward.

Seymour looked at Auron. “Do you presume to think you understand her like I do? I know…”

“I know her well enough,” Auron said, stepping in front of Rikku.

“Then you know that she is…” Seymour began, only for Auron to quickly cut him off.

“I know it,” he said.

Seymour smiled at her. “I am disappointed Rikku, I thought you…”

The others watched the three-way confrontation in confusion. “What?” Tidus asked Lulu, who shrugged.

“Stop!” a voice shouted from behind Seymour. He wheeled, to see Yuna stood on the edge of the platform, ankles hanging in space. Seymour looked at her and sighed in exasperation.

“All right, where are you going with this?” he asked Yuna.

She looked at with resolve in her eyes. “Let my people… I mean friends… go, or I jump,” she said, and took another small step into the air.

She was barely keeping her balances, Tidus saw. “Yuna!” he shouted, approaching her, only to be stopped by an armed guard.

“This is foolish. If you fall, you’ll die,” Seymour said slowly. In reply, Yuna took another step backwards. Seymour sighed again and waved to the guards. They lowered their weapons, and the guardians slowly edged away from the scene before them, albeit hesitantly.

Yuna looked at them. “Don’t worry, I can fly,” she mouthed to Tidus. “Believe,” she said out loud, and fell backwards off the ledge.

Yuna!” Tidus shouted, and was only stopped from running up to the ledge by Auron’s restraining hand.


Seymour watched as Yuna fell.

Pity. I needed… wait!

He watched as four balls of light flew upwards to the sky, and then a sleek shape fly down from the heavens and catch Yuna in its wings.

Valefor! Seymour thought, recognising the Aeon. Damn! He watched as the Aeon flew away, Yuna riding it. He sighed and waved to the guard closest to him. The guard approached hesitantly.

“Sir?” he asked.

“Kill the guardians, I have no more use for them,” he said.

The guard nodded and was about to turn back towards when a voice sounded out through the air.

Cover your eyes!”

Seymour heard something make a tinkling noise near his feet, and watched as a small object rolled next to him. He barely had time to cover his eyes as the flashbomb exploded, engulfing the area in light and sound. “Don’t let them get away!” he shouted, pointing at the fleeing guardians. As the guards gave chase, Seymour blinked and tried to clear his eyes. He reached behind him and removed his wand from his cloak. Aiming in the general direction of the other guardians, Seymour cast the strongest Demi spell he could, and watched.


To the fleeing Rikku, the effect was as if someone had reached into her chest and tried to physically remove her heart. She gasped and stumbled as the shard of metal in her heart was wrenched backwards in the direction that the gravity spell had been cast. She fell other knees and put her hands on her chest, as if by covering the area she could make it stop. She saw the others running, and tried to call to Auron, but all that came out was a feeble “help…” When the next spasm came she fell over and rolled onto her back, staring at the sky as the metal dagger near her heart wriggled around in her vitals. She closed her eyes and bit her lower lip, drawing blood. She felt something tear, and distantly felt blood wash over her hands. She opened her eyes and saw a shadow cast across her. She saw a Yevon guard look down on her, his feet on either side of her body, and raise his rifle to her forehead. She looked him straight in the face, waiting for the final bullet, but instead he merely reversed the rifle and hit her with it, the pain fading as she lost consciousness.


Seymour saw the guard club Rikku unconscious, and then raise his rifle in both hands like an axe, ready to deliver the killing blow. He quickly raised his wand again and a jet of fire scorched through the air towards him, knocking the rifle out of his hands. The guard turned in anger to find out who had stopped him finishing off his victim, but stopped when he saw Seymour staring at him dangerously. He quickly made the prayer of Yevon and backed away to pursue the other escapees.

Seymour walked up to Rikku’s bent and broken form and looked down at her. Strange how people looked so peaceful after being brutally attacked. He brushed a few bloody hairs from her face and called to two more guards.

They approached him slowly. “Sir?” one asked.

“Carry this girl to the infirmary, fix her up, then take her to Room 101. Make the Doctor wait for me there,” he said. He did not have to tell them which doctor it was. Certain rooms carried their own reputations, and Room 101 was such a place.

“What about the blood sir?” one asked.

Seymour looked down at the pool of dark red liquid. “Leave it,” he said, and walked away. One of the soldiers picked up the unconscious Rikku and carried her away, and the other looked at the pool of claret that remained behind, but did not comment. The last soldier, who had clubbed Rikku, stayed behind to see no-one remained to threaten the Maester. He heard a whistling noise behind him and was about to turn around, but something hit him on the head, and he heard no more.


Tidus ran into the room last, closing the door behind him as he caught his breath, staring at the others. “That, was close,” he said, wheezing. Why did they have to build Bevelle with so many stairs?? He could have sworn they had went up stairs on the way towards the Maester, but some freak of physics had made it seem as I they were also moving up as they had run away. This place made no sense. No looked up in a haze, and saw Auron looking at him.

“Where is Rikku?” the older guardian asked, slight panic edging his voice.

Tidus frowned, hadn’t she…? “I thought she was with you?” he asked.

Lulu shook her head. “We saw her behind you,” she said.

As one, all heads turned to look at the door. Suddenly, Wakka reached for the door and before anyone could stop him he had ran back outside into the clearing smoke. Those Al Bhed built good flashbombs.

Wakka ran out into the stairway they had run up to get in (and out, freaky…) to Bevelle. He scanned the area, looking for more traces of Yevon guards/machina remaining. As he saw it, he had finally realised that maybe he had been too hard on Rikku. He had treated her like a sub-human, and he had some catching up to do. He ran through the stairway, expecting bullets to zing over his head at any moment. Instead he was greeted by silence. He walked forwards calmly, and if he had really been looking he might have seen the blood before he stepped in it. He heard a squelch noise, and lifted up his foot to see exactly what he had stood in. Doggy do, great… he thought, then saw that it was red ad dripping. He started to put down his foot and, taking a deep breath, Wakka looked down, and saw the pool of blood that was slowly flowing down the stairs, he dropped his foot and slipped, throwing his hands out to stop his fall. He looked around and saw the pool of blood that had flowed down the stairs and stopped at the bottom rung. If their had been any observers, they would have seen Wakka nearly float up, so fast did he raise himself up off the ground. He looked at his hands and attempted to wipe them on the floor, only succeeding in getting them even more red-stained. H backed off, fast, and literally threw the door open, closing it behind him with a slam. He took a deep breath of clean air, then looked around.

“Well?” Lulu asked, and then saw the blood on Wakka. “Wakka! Were you attacked?” she asked.

Auron, in his gut already fearing the worst, walked straight up to Wakka. “Where is she?” he asked.

Wakka shook his head and held up his dripping-red hand to the others. “Rikku won’t be joining us,” he said quietly.

Auron jerked back as if physically struck. No…

Crap!” Tidus exclaimed. Lulu and Khimari just lowered their heads and said a prayer for the girl’s soul. Wakka said nothing.

Why does everyone I care about die! Auron asked himself. His parents killed by an attack by Sin on their village while he was away playing, Braska, Jecht, and now Rikku. Was it some kind of curse, was he damned to lose everyone he loved…

Wait, loved? He cared about Rikku, but did he love her? They had hared one moment on the airship after Evrae, and before they went into Bevelle, but did that qualify as love.

He looked at Tidus. He had found it unusual at first that the boy had seemed to willingly to sacrifice his life to protect someone that he had barely met. Even after Rikku’s revelation at the collapsing Home that Yuna would die when the pilgrimage was completed, he had still vowed to follow her, and to help her find a way to survive. Even Auron could see that it went deeper than mere hormones. Was love the willingness to let yourself go to someone, and give yourself up so that they might have a chance? If it was, then…

Yes. I do.


He walked past the others, and turned to face them as he went down towards the Cloister of Trails. “We have a summoner to find,” he said.

“Yeah…” Tidus said, still upset, but reassured by the need to save Yuna. The others followed his lead, and they walked down the spiral stairway, into the bowels of Yevon’s home.

Auron walked ahead, so the others did not see the expression on his face. Rikku. I’m sorry. If it’s any consolation, I’ll save Yuna,

I promise.

Chapter 16: Saving Private Rikku

Auron stood back as Tidus and Khimari levered open the door to the Fayth. The Cloister here had been pure hell to get through the last time as well. Being thrown about barely visible pathways on a disk the radius of his sword hadn’t been any more comforting the second time. He stared at the pair as they worked, not really seeing, instead wondering to himself what had gone wrong.

If I had looked back. If we hadn’t threatened Seymour. If Yuna hadn’t jumped off the roof. If…

But there were too many ‘ifs’ that were unchangeable, and thinking about them would only drive him crazy. That didn’t stop him though. Somewhere deep down in his heart he couldn’t stop thinking that Rikku’s death was his fault. The only consolation he could think of was that at least she wasn’t suffering anymore.

Some consolation.


Rikku woke up, and hurt everywhere.

At least, it felt like everywhere. For second she imagined she was back underwater, dieing in her metal tomb. She curled up tighter and willed the feeling to go away. She knew it was a feeling, this time. She was alive (sort of) and she was here. And that was what mattered. She took a deep breath, gathered what little strength she felt she had, and opened her eyes.

She nearly shut them again, the exertion of that one simple act nearly exhausting her, and she view not helping. She stared around as much as she could, but everything was blurred and it only gave her a headache. She sighed and lay back, trying to get some more sleep. She opened her eyes wide in surprise when her head immediately fell forward again.

She shook her head slightly, giving herself what felt like a minor lobotomy, but clearing her view somewhat. The view made her wish she hadn’t. She found herself staring at some kind of machina. Then she heard a click, and a voice speak up from the side.

“Subject is semi-conscious. Correcting.”

Rikku saw something flash past her vision, but it moved too quickly and was gone before she could find out what it is. Suddenly she felt a sharp pain in her arm and a weird feeling as something was injected into her upper-arm. She sighed as a warm fuzzy feeling descended on her, and the pain vanished. She closed her eyes and lay back, savouring the warm feeling. Then she felt another jab in her other arm, and the feeling vanished, to be replaced by the cold hard surfaces and colours of reality.

“Painkillers and Stimulants administered, subject is conscious and responding to normal stimuli.”

Rikku looked around to see who was talking, and was confronted by a small an in a white coat wearing thick glasses. She saw he was looking at her intently, and tried to wave to him. She couldn’t move her arm, and turned her head to try to look. Her entire arm was encased in various straps and buckles. She began to panic, and looked at her other one. The same. She looked down and saw that both f her legs had been strapped together. She was held upright on a metal bed, in some kind of cross-shape. The small man noticed her panic, and approached her. He wasn’t much bigger than her either.

“Are you awake?” he asked. She didn’t reply. The man sighed in exasperation, and then slapped her across the cheek. She looked surprised for a second, and then he raised his hand.

“Yes,” she said quickly.

The doctor smiled. “Excellent.” He picked up what Rikku recognised was a small recording device and spoke into it in precise tones. “Subject zero-seven, Al Bhed. Beginning tests.” He walked over to her left, and Rikku watched him move over to a small table. She tried to look past him, but he was obscuring the view. Then he turned back, and Rikku saw he was holding something. Something small and sharp. The man started to walk back towards her, instrument in hand.

“Wait!” Rikku shouted desperately.

The man paused. “What?” he asked testily, continuing his approach.

“What are you doing?” she shouted to him as he came closer.

The man looked at her as if she was mentally-deficient. “I am a scientist, and I have been given permission by the Maesters… well, three of them… to investigate the physical processes and changes within the Unsent. This I will do,” he said simply, as if giving a presentation. He raised his arm and spoke into the recorder again. “Beginning preliminary exam, subject is alive and conscious. I shall begin with an examination of any differences in internal structure of the Unsent that may result from the dying process.” He switched the recorder off and put it on the table beside him. Rikku’s attention as forcibly drawn to the fact that the entire work surface was an incredibly dark red in colour. And she didn’t think it was paint.

The doctor raised the small scalpel and looked at her. Rikku breathed a small sigh of relief. Then he reached behind him and brought a small mask from his pocket. He looked back up at her after putting this on.

“We used to do this with anaesthetic, but we discovered it gave inaccurate results. Now close your eyes.” He said.

“Why…?” Rikku said weakly, looking at the thing in his hand.

The doctor reached down and raised Rikku’s t-shirt, putting the small scalpel to her ribcage. “Because this is going to hurt.”

“A lot.”


Auron stared at the guards impassively as they pointed their guns at them. Somehow he didn’t think they were going to get out of this one quite as easily. Tidus stood behind the others, holding Yuna in his arms, and looked defeated. Wakka and Lulu were staring past the guards at Kinoc, who stood there with a look of smugness on his face so solid it could have been punched. They dropped their weapons at the barked command and just stood their, glaring at the temple guards.

Auron walked past the guards, who tried to stop him, but Kinoc waved and the guard stopped. Auron walked right up to the Maester’s face and stared at him balefully.

“What is it, old friend?” Kinoc said mockingly. He knew he had won.

“Since when were you a pawn of Seymour?” Auron asked simply.

Kinoc’s eyes flashed, and he nodded to the guards. They moved forward, guns armed, motioning to the prisoners to move off. Tidus looked for a second that he might resist, but he was carrying Yuna, and Auron shook his head at the boy. Tidus glared at Auron for a few seconds, then realised that he couldn’t resist even if he wanted to, and followed the rest towards the door.

As he walked along the corridors of Bevelle he felt Kinoc fall into step with him. Auron did not turn to loom at him.

“What do you think you are going to change?” Kinoc asked him, and then answered his own question. “Nothing, that’s what, the cycle will continue regardless of any petty measures that you try.”

“Yuna will stop it,” Auron replied, so quietly the others did not hear.

Kinoc shook his head in amusement. “One person cannot change the natural order of things,” he said, and speeded up to go to the head of the miniature convoy.

Auron watched him leave and wondered about the man’s last comment. Was it true that one person couldn’t change anything? Was everything they were doing for nothing?

He stopped there, before he let his thought processes get away from him. If nothing could be changed, then why had he followed Braska? Why did he follow Yuna, and why had Rikku died to protect the young summoner? If nothing was worth anything, then he had wasted half his life in pursuit of an unreachable goal. He didn’t believe that.

Kinoc stayed at the head of the line as they trooped down towards the holding cells. He passed the only door in this particular corridor, marked ‘Room 101’. He was puzzled by the lack of guards here, but then remembered that no-one liked to guard this particular chamber of horrors.


The doctor washed the blood off his hands in the sink in the corner of the room. Remarkable. The Unsent were, to all intents and purposes, alive. What made them unsent had to be some kind of mental rather than physical alternation, and he needed a Monk for that. Metaphysics were not his job. He turned back to look at the small Al-Bhed girl. Pretty little thing if you ignored the scarring. He had been told her history, and knew them to be from her violent underwater encounter that had killed her. Well, at least he could heal the incisions he mad made. He stroked her gently on the cheek, but she was too far gone to respond even to that. He wiped the blood trickling down from her mouth and dribbled some water into her throat. She coughed and stared at him. He clicked his fingers in front of him and she barely responded. Perfect.

The doctor went across to the wall and lifted up the small communication device attached to the wall. The doctor had no particular love for the Al Bhed, but he was a scientist, and forbidden technology did not even faze him. He dialled the number for the person he had been told to contact after the ‘examination’ had been concluded.

“Get me Maester Seymour. No, I don’t care If he’s busy, he’ll see me! Fine! But tell him this, exactly this; the girl is ready. Thank you. You have a nice day now.”

He put down the phone. Damn bureaucracy. So many cutouts and underlings it had almost impossible to get what you want.

He sat down on the chair and waited, observing the girl. She just stared straight ahead, occasionally coughing. He couldn’t blame her. The examination had been… thorough. As an afterthought he called for an orderly to clean up the mess around her. Sanctioned or not, it would not do for the Maester to come in here and think him a torturer.

Oh no, not him.


Auron sat in the cage next to Tidus, watching as Kinoc approached from the walkway. He stared impassively as the Maester walked up to him.

“So, when’s the execution?” he asked Kinoc casually.

Kinoc looked hurt. “Auron, what kind of person would execute a dear friend?” he said mock-wounded.

You would,” Auron replied, voice like acid.

Kinoc merely laughed and walked off, leaving Auron to his thoughts.

Damn that man! They both thought of the other, but for entirely different reasons.


Seymour watched impassively as the trial continued without his contribution. He had replied to the Ronso Maester’s shocked query, but his mind was on other things. He had received the message from the doctor, and was now thinking how he could extricate himself from the boring spectacle without arousing suspicion. Technically torture was banned under Yevon, but medical experimentation was not.

Thank Yevon for semantics.

Seymour simply walked away after the short trial was over, the prisoners and Lady Yuna taken to the waterway where they were to be left to die. As he walked through the corridors to the doctor’s lab he thought to himself. It was a shame that Yuna had to die, but he would find some way to fool the others and save her. He had long ago stopped belief in Yevon and gave scant lip service to its practises, preferring either technology or people to fulfil his dreams rather than some mythical deity who in reality had himself created Sin. What irony.

He reached the doctor’s ‘operating room’ and opened the door. He saw the doctor sitting down on his chair, and the man waved at him slightly, not taking his eyes off the figure strapped to the upright operating table. Surely it must have been easier to do it with the subject horizontal, but the doctor said he preferred his patients to be upright. Seymour had not bothered to try and change his mind.

He stared at Rikku, seeing past he blood and healing incisions on her chest and abdomen. He brushed a few strands of hair from her eyes and looked at her. Suddenly her eyes opened and she looked directly into her eyes. Seymour took this one chance to stare directly into them looking for signs that… yes, there they were. Normal doctors would not have caught them, but he and she were the same, and Seymour could see the small yet significant things that told him what was happening to her.

Eventually something happens to all the dead. They started off relieved at their release form life, eager to be sent. But after several weeks, something changes, they become restless and ratty. Eventually they exist in a perpetual state of anger, snapping at everyone they know, even their friends.

The final stage in an Unsent’s existence begins to emerge. They slowly, fast enough so that it can go unnoticed if no-one is around, yet so agonisingly slow that the victim knows exactly what is happening to them, they become fiends.

Seymour looked deep into Rikku’s spiralled eyes. They different from normal human eyes, he could still detect the minute traces and signs that showed that the process had begun it’s slow and inevitable transformation of Rikku’s body.


Seymour frowned at the girl. She couldn’t still be lucid, could she? Seymour was well acquainted with the doctor’s practises, and they weren’t conductive to keeping his patients conscious. Or alive.

“Rikku?” Seymour said softly.

Rikku’s head swung up. “Who…?”

“Shhh, stay quiet Rikku. You’ve been through a lot. I’m here to make the pain stop,” he said, beginning to run through his technique. He gestured to the doctor and the man gave him a syringe. He carefully injected the painkillers into her arm.

It was a simple technique. Deliver her from pain, then make someone else hurt her, setting up an angel-and-devil link in her mind, with Seymour as her bright and shining savour from the evil doctor. Soon she would be his.

A chime sounded, and the doctor picked up the phone.

“Yes? …yes, he’s here. Of course.” He handed Seymour the phone. “It’s for you,” he said.

Seymour took it. “Yes?” he said, voice not betraying his anger at the interruption.

“They’re approaching the gate now my Lord. Do you wish us to kill them?” an anonymous guard asked.

Seymour thought. “No. Let them through. I will be there shortly.” He handed the phone back to the doctor, who hung up. “Keep her here. I will return shortly. Administer the toxins,” he said, and simply walked out.

The doctor watched as the door closed, then picked up a syringe and turned to Rikku, who was watching him with concern in her eyes. The doctor smiled. “We’re going to have some fun,” he told her softly. Then he frowned and corrected himself.

“Well, I’ll have fun. You’ll mostly be screaming.”


Auron followed Yuna from behind. Soon after being thrown into the viaduct he had found her wandering the corridor, the Aeon’s Shiva and Bahamut watching her in turn. They apparently made great guards, because the only fiends he came across had been alternately frozen or blasted apart. He chuckled silently to himself when he recalled Issaru’s Aeons being crushed under Yuna’s. It hadn’t been particularly difficult, just tedious. He had watched from the sidelines as she sent her Aeons out one after another.

A jolt jerked him awake from his reverie, and he looked to see that Yuna had hit him gently on the chest. He looked up to see a small dot of light ahead of them. The exit.

Tidus, Wakka and Lulu waved to them as they approached. “Hey! You made it ya!” the orange-haired blitzer exclaimed. Yuna hugged them both, then turned to Lulu.

“Where were you?” she asked.

Lulu shrugged. “I thought this was where you’d be,” she said simply, and left it at that.

Together the group pulled open the doors leading to the Highbridge, and prepared to make their escape to Macalania.

Auron squinted with his one good eye, and noticed several figures moving toward them.

“Seymour,” he said, knowing whom the interloper would be.

Sure enough Seymour walked towards them, Kinoc and several guards in pursuit. He smiled at them all, and then clicked his fingers. The man immediately behind Kinoc let go of something, and the man fell to the floor, an arrow stuck in his back. Auron did not react. Kinoc had been his friend, but he was damned if he was going to show emotion in front of this man.

A brief conversation was held between Yuna and Seymour that Auron did not really pa attention to. Then he heard a roar, and looked up as Khimari ran forwards and jammed his pear in the Maester’s heart. Seymour did not seem to react. He just stared at the Ronso, and then he changed.

Suddenly the guards on either side of the Maester started screaming and clawing at their chests. Yuna watched in horror as they literally exploded, the pyreflies flowing around Seymour, who was looking to the heavens. Suddenly a figure began to materialise behind the Maester, and Seymour faded form view, to be replaced by some kind of steel demon with the man’s face.

Auron sighed and unsheathed his blade, preparing to destroy the crazed Maester once and for all.


The doctor looked up from his tending of the girl’s wounds. He didn’t want to kill her, only cause her agonising pain. He heard some guards’ race past his room and mentally shrugged. If someone were attacking, they would hold him or her off. He wasn’t worried.


Auron swung his blade at the Seymour-creature, ignoring the snake-like thing that surrounded it and piercing its armour straight to the heart. The thing gave one last scream and collapsed to the floor, whatever had been levitating it gone. Auron snarled and ripped the sword from its body, swinging git to rest over his shoulder and turning away. Seymour began to dissolve to pyreflies, panting and arching it’s back as it vanished into brightly coloured baubles. Just before his head vanished though, he said one last thing that even through all the noise Auron heard clearly.

“YouR WomAn LiVes.”

Auron spun around instantly, but the Maester had already evaporated. He stood staring at the spot for a few seconds, not daring to believe what he had heard. Suddenly he turned back to Wakka.

“Wakka, did you actually see Rikku’s body?” he asked.

Wakka suddenly looked relieved, gladdened and furious at himself as he answered. “No.”

That was all Auron needed. He turned and began to head back into the temple. Tidus went to follow, but Lulu grabbed his shoulder as he passed. “This is for him to do,” she whispered. Tidus looked confused for a few seconds, but then relented and sat down on the floor. The panic resulting from their escape would prevent any guards from making their presence felt for some time, so they were momentarily safe. He hoped the same would be safe back inside the temple.

Auron ran through the temple, dodging running guards and fires, running to the one place he knew Rikku would be kept if she were alive, the one place that Seymour would have taken her.


The doctor wiped his the girl down, It had occurred to him that he had not bothered to discover the name of the person he was torturing/brainwashing, but that wasn’t really important no, was it?

The doctor heard something creak, and turned around to see something silver fly through the air toward him. In an automatic reaction he raised his hand to ward it off, but the blade sliced clean through it and carved through his skull.

Auron let the blade fall to the group with the corpse of the doctor. Instantly he turned to look at the figure on the ‘operating’ table.

It was Rikku.

In that second Auron felt an almost overpowering sense of relief, and would have fallen to his knees if he hadn’t been in Bevelle. Without thinking he unlatched the restraints holding her to the table and she fell forward into his arms. She flinched and frowned but Auron could tell she was unconscious. He lowered her to the ground and went over to the door to see if the way was clear. Before he got even two steps he felt something grab hold of his arm. He turned back to see Rikku’s hand gripping his lower arm in a death grip. He looked at her eyes and the sight almost made him wan to cry in both rage at Yevon for doing this to her and relief that she was all right.

“Don’t leave me here,” she whispered to him, eyes wide and pleading for him to stay.

Bending down, Auron gathered Rikku up in his arms and shouldered the door open, running back through the enclosed citadel of Yevon back to the others.


Yuna looked around when she heard footsteps to see…

“Rikku!” Tidus shouted in relief.

Yuna turned to see Auron running towards them, Rikku cradled in his arms. She ran towards him and looked at her, moving her hair away from her face. She drew back then she touched her and Auron had to whisper to her softly to let Yuna touch her. Yuna closed her eyes and chanted silently to herself. Instantly a soft blue glow enveloped the girl as Yuna used her strongest healing magic. The blood stopped flowing and some of the more minor cuts sealed themselves. More serious injuries would have to be taken care of later. She looked at Auron and he nodded.

He looked around and gestured at the others, face now composed again. Together, they ran out of the Holy Capital, towards the Crystal Forest, and safety.

Chapter 17: Love Blossoms

Auron lay against the tree in the clearing, Rikku’s head resting against his chest and his arm around her shoulders. After Yuna had healed the girl’s wounds she had fallen to sleep almost straight away.

Auron stared at her, not saying a word. If anything happened that would separate them again, he wanted her image printed on his mind now, forever. She frowned slightly in her dreams and wriggled around trying to get more comfortable. Auron smiled a little as the girl settled back down and she relaxed, perfectly at peace with the world. He heard a small cough and saw Lulu looking at them both, a small grin on her face.

“She will be fine,” the Black Mage said.

Auron nodded, but did not move. He looked around the clearing where they were camped out. “Where are Tidus and Yuna?” he asked.

Lulu shrugged. “Yuna went to the sphere-pool, Tidus followed soon after,” she said.

Auron chuckled slightly. Those two were so obvious. Then again, so was he. He felt a movement against his chest and looked down to see Rikku open her eyes and yawn. She suddenly stopped, stared straight ahead, and then instantly bolted upright, eyes searching. Auron held her tighter and whispered in her ear. “Shhh. It’s OK, you’re safe now,” he said.

Rikku looked up at him. “You came for me, I knew you would,” she said wonderingly. Lulu saw the need for privacy and left. Rikku continued to stare at Auron. “What happened?” she asked. She shifted slightly and rubbed her chest, wincing when she felt fresh bruises.

“You were taken by Seymour,” Auron said, seeing no reason to hide the truth.

“What did they do?” Rikku asked.

“Better you don’t know,” Auron said. Rikku seemed to accept his explanation and closed her eyes, leaning back against him.

“E muja oui,” she said sleepily.

“I love you too,” Auron replied. Rikku smiled at him, then levered herself up so that their faces were level. Slowly, she brought her lips to his, and for a few minutes Auron’s impassive façade dropped, as the two shared one long moment of togetherness.


Lulu and Wakka watched the two. Well, they were trying not to watch, and failing miserably. Wakka looked apprehensive for some reason. Lulu sighed to herself.

“OK, spit it out,” she told the taller man.

“It’s just, he’s old enough to be her father,” he said, not taking his eyes off the pair.

Lulu made a dismissive gesture with his hand. “You know what happened to get him ejected from the temple. He deserves some comfort.”

“Yeah, but…”

“Wakka,” Lulu said warningly.

He gave up. “OK OK, but I don’t have to like it!” he said before he walked away.

Lulu watched him leave, then turned back to watch the pair for a second or two before moving off to another part of the campsite, and give them some privacy.


Auron withdrew from the kiss reluctantly, and looked back at Rikku. She stared back straight into his one good eye for a second, and then lay back down against his chest.

“I didn’t know what to do,” she said softly.

Auron wrapped his arms around her and hugged her. “I was always here,” he replied. “I just didn’t know it at the time.”

Rikku grinned at that. “All because I stole your glasses!” she exclaimed cheerfully.

Auron just had to smile at that. “Imagine the result if you hadn’t,” he said.

Rikku stood up and grinned at him. “I better make sure then.” Her hand swept by him, and suddenly Rikku was standing a metre away from him, holding his glasses in her hand. Auron looked surprised for a second, then rallied admirably, getting up and attempting to grab them back. Rikku dodged under his arms and came back up near his face.

“Stealing your glasses seems to work,” she said impishly.

“Maybe,” Auron replied. Suddenly he swung around, and he snatched the glasses from her hand and placed them back on his face. This time it was Rikku’s turn to look surprised.

“Meanie!” was the reply. The rest of her sentence was cut short however, as Auron took advantage of her state of shock and kissed her again. Rikku did not even attempt to resist. She put her arms around him and they just stood there in each others arms, quite happy to let the world flow on by them, as long as they could stay together.

This time it was Rikku who drew back, due to the fact that she was trying to keep her eyes open, and also failing. She yawned. “M’Ok,” she said, fatigue slowing her senses, and then her legs buckled. Auron quickly put his hand behind her and swept her upwards into her arms. She smiled her thanks and closed her eyes, head against his chest. Auron moved over to the group’s single tent. He lay her down on the sleeping bag and she was asleep before she touched the ground. He watched her as she slept, and swept some stray strands of blonde hair from her face. This time she did not respond, exhausted as she was from the doctor’s sadistic torture and her rescue. Auron stepped out and pulled the tent flap back into place. He stood to see Yuna and Tidus walking towards him. The two were walking side-by-side and talking. More importantly, they were holding hands. Auron chuckled slightly as they approached. They noticed him looking and instantly let go of each other.

Tidus looked embarrassed. “Hey Auron,” he said. Auron nodded.

“Sir Auron,” Yuna said, blushing a deep crimson. Auron smiled at the two from under his high collar. It wasn’t as if he was their parents or anything, although maybe that was how Tidus saw him… He nodded to them both, then leaned back against the tree he had spent much of the night against, the tent Rikku rested in front of him. He saw something in his peripheral vision and turned to see Yuna looking at him.

“How is she?” Yuna asked. She was slightly worried. Her white magic could cure wounds and destroy infections, but internal injuries and broken bones they couldn’t do anything about, and they were something they could not detect with what they had.

“She is fine Yuna, get some rest,” Auron said. Judging by her brief performance earlier, Rikku was fine. She was better than fine. She was amazing.

Yuna nodded and left in the same direction as Tidus, leaning against the boy as he slept against the tree. Auron smiled. They looked like the perfect couple, and it had taken them this long to realise it. He looked across and saw Khimari watching them all. The Ronso glanced at him slightly and nodded his head in private greeting. Auron nodded back, then sleep overtook him and he shut his eyes.


Lulu watched the sleepy panorama from a soft patch of grass near the clearing’s edge and smiled. She had been wondering how long it would take for Yuna and Tidus to realise they matched up, and had been holding a private bet with herself. Auron and Rikku now, that had been more unexpected. The two could not have been more different in their attitudes, but something had happened there, and they seemed happy together. She sighed.

Even through all the pain and hardship, everyone seemed to have found something that made life in Spira worth fighting for.

Turning from the scene, she lay her head against her moogle doll she had propped up against a nearby rock as a pillow, pulled her makeshift blanket over her, and tried to get some sleep before facing the Calm Lands in the morning.


Rikku awoke in bed, and opened her eyes to see light streaming into the room. Cursing softly, she was about to pull the sheets back up over her and go back to sleep when she heard a familiar voice outside, and remembered where she was. Not in a nice cosy bed at Home, but stuck in a tent in freezing Macalania. Tysh. Slowly she levered herself up and wandered outside to greet the morning. Tysh the morning.

Lulu looked over as Rikku left the tent. “You’re up bright and early,” she said. Rikku glared at her with a look of such hostility that she wondered what she had said. It hadn’t been that sarcastic a comment had it?

Rikku saw the look of surprise on the older woman’s face and waved her hand in Lulu’s general direction. “Sorry. I hate mornings,” she said as way of an apology and explanation. She still couldn’t think clearly though. She cursed again, drawing a slightly shocked glance from Lulu, but smiled and shrugged. She went over to the nearest tree and lay back against it, closing her eyes against the harsh glare of the sun being amplified through all the clear crystal. She just stood there silently for a few minutes, ignoring the world, until she heard someone approach. She opened her eyes and smiled. “Hey Auron,” she said quietly.

“Hey. Are you feeling OK?” he asked.

She nodded. “I’m fine. Tyshat Yevon torturers,” she said with venom in her voice.

Auron started. He had never heard her talk that before. Ever. He shrugged it off. “We move in a few minutes, be ready to go,” he said. He turned to go.

“Auron, wait!” Rikku said suddenly. Auron turned back to see Rikku’s gaze on him. “Did you mean that, last night?” she asked.

Auron just looked at her for a few seconds, then realised she wasn’t talking about what he had said, but what he had done. He nodded. “All of it,” he said.

Rikku grinned, then ran up to him and hugged him. Auron looked pleasantly surprised for a few seconds, then hugged back.

Rikku stood in tiptoe. “Don’t leave me,” she whispered into his ear.

“I won’t if you won’t,” Auron said, then smiled to show it was a joke.

They heard a whistle, and turned to see Yuna smiling at them and waving cheerfully. The others stood by, Tidus also looking rather put out about being waken so early, Wakka and Lulu just staring at them, a look of amusement on her face. Auron sighed and walked over to them. He felt Rikku’s arm thread through his own and turned to see he hanging off his arm. He shook her off, but she only re-attached herself like some kind of blonde-haired limpet. “I’m not going to walk for you,” he said.

Rikku stuck her tongue out at him, and then ran ahead to join the others, her brief annoyed spell forgotten. Auron shook his head. She could go from serious to carefree in a second, and not see anything wrong with it. He moved off to join the others, and together they moved off down the path, away from Bevelle, and towards the Calm Lands, and their destination: Zanarkand.


Tidus and Lulu hung back slightly as the others walked off, Tidus looking at Yuna, Lulu looking at Auron and Rikku.

“So what’s your opinion?”

Surprisingly, the question came from Tidus.

Lulu smiled slightly. “Whatever makes them happy,” she said simply.

Also to her surprise, Tidus nodded. “Yeah,” he said simply, then turned and caught up to Yuna, who saw his approach and smiled at him as he ran up to her.

Lulu resisted the urge to laugh. She knew how they felt. Just because she put out the personality aura on an ice queen didn’t mean she was totally unfeeling. She watched the two couples and remembered how she and Chappu had been much the same, not caring how the world felt. She said a short prayer. Not to Yevon (not anymore) but to whatever benevolent deity might be watching the group.

Let them have their time together in happiness while they can.

There would not be much opportunity for it later.

Chapter 18: Calm? Yeah Right…

Rikku stared out at the vast plains that made up the Calm Lands.

What a dump, she thought.

And they had to cross it. The others walked slightly ahead of her, Tidus not leaving Yuna’s side for more than a few seconds. The group just stood there, staring out at the huge green fields, not speaking. Suddenly Yuna fell backwards. Khimari jumped toward her to catch her as she fell, but Lulu stopped him before he got more than a few paces towards her. Yuna lay on the floor, just staring up at the sky. Tidus knelt down next to her and put his arms over his knees. Rikku saw that they weren’t going to be going anywhere soon and sat down on the driest piece of grass she could find. Auron took the hint and sat down next to Rikku, crossing his legs and staring out at the plains, occasionally glancing across at Yuna. Rikku leaned into him and rested her head on his shoulder. She always felt more peaceful around him for some reason. She had been feeling really irritable lately, and it was confusing. That just made her more irritable. She angled her head up to look at Auron.

“Was it like this when you came here?” she asked.

Auron looked down at her as if just realising she was there. He sighed and looked back at the plain before speaking.

“No. It was different then. People had camped out here when they heard that Braska was almost finished.” He pointed. “You see those ridges up there?” he asked. Rikku looked across at them lazily and nodded. “There was people camped out all across them, wanting to be there when Sin was banished again.” He sighed again. “I remember when we actually passed through. A little girl came up to us and asked Braska whether he would ‘make the bad thing go away now’. He looked down and just nodded. The look on the girl’s face as she ran off was so happy, she didn’t know it would come back…”

“You remember all that?” Rikku exclaimed, eyes closed and head still against Auron. She felt him sigh.

“All of it,” he said quietly.

“Is it any easier this time?” Rikku asked.

“By miles,” Auron said, and wrapped his other arm around Rikku. She shuffled along the grass and moved closer to Auron. A quick glance around showed that no-one was especially willing to move. Lulu in particular seemed in no great hurry to get going, which puzzled Rikku. Usually she was the one who advocated speed, along with Auron. She close to ignore her thoughts, and just sat there on the floor next to Auron, neither of them speaking.

A voice jerked her out of her silent reverie, and she looked up to see…

“Beautiful isn't it?”

And again with the broken record! Rikku thought angrily as Maechen approached from the rampway to the group. Yuna stood up to greet the scholar. Rikku reluctantly rose up from under Auron’s embrace and took a few steps towards the man.

“This, Lady, is where the first high summoner’s fought…”

It was predictable to the extreme. Rikku showed as much irritation as she dared, wishing the little green old guy would just go away and let them continue. He seemed oblivious to her thoughts though and talked for what seemed like hours about the History of the Calm Lands. She looked around at the others. Wakka and Lulu were listening politely, Yuna as well. Tidus actually looked like he was listening to the speech. No surprise, he wasn’t from Spira, he wouldn’t know. She felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to face Auron.

“Annoying isn’t it?” he said wryly.

“You too?” she asked gratefully.

Auron nodded. “Braska and I got the speech when we passed through here. No matter how fast we travelled he always managed to arrive ahead of us. Jecht was always asking him how he did it, but he wouldn’t say.”

Rikku giggled slightly. From what she had been told and had seen about Jecht, he would have used anything to make the trip easier. And it was good to know someone else was as bored as she was. She watched as Maechen finished his impromptu lecture and began to hobble off, in the direction of Bevelle. She wondered what chance he would stand against the fiends there, then thought that he would probably be fine, if only so he could annoy them in the future.

The group turned to look at the Cal Lands in its entirety. Rikku stood there looking out over the vast and tranquil plain thinking: How hard can it be?


Rikku ducked under the fiends blow and sliced its stomach open, dodging away to stop it’s entrails spilling all over her.

Tranquil. Yeah right.

Rikku had lost count of the amount of fiends they had dispatched over the last hour. Whatever had been done to turn this place so flat and empty, it had drawn fiends by the thousands. Rikku only had to look around to see the things crawling, flying, and walking along the ground. Most were far enough away that they were ignored, but some. Rikku wiped the blood from her glove off on the grass and secured it back to her though, not keeping the holster too tightly bound, in case, not, make that when, she needed it again.

She looked back to up see the others moving off, all desperate to reach the sanctuary of the small trading post, at least for a while. She saw Auron standing there, between her and the others, waiting for her. She smiled and ran to catch up with him. They moved off when she caught up, walking to reach the others.

“What was it like watching Sin die?” Rikku suddenly asked.

Auron did not look around. “Didn’t Maechen explain that?” he asked, no emotion in his voice, and Rikku feared she had hit a nerve.

“I’d prefer a more personal explanation,” she said. After Auron was silent for a few seconds; “Don’t make me steal your glasses again,” she warned him.

He smiled. “It was amazing and horrible. I watched Braska used the Final Summoning, and Sin was utterly destroyed by the Final Aeon, but I also had to watch as the Final Aeon turned on him and consumed him.” Auron did not say any more, and Rikku had to poke him.

“Do you want to tell me?” she asked softly.

“It was hard,” Auron continued as way of an answer. “We didn’t speak much after we had obtained the thing; we just went to the Calm Lands. By the time we got there it was swarming with people. A Ronso must have informed someone of our return and the word had spread that a new Calm would begin. Everyone cheered when Sin was banished, but no-one paid any attention when Braska fell, they were to relieved.” The last sentence had almost been spat out, and Rikku knew what had been going through his mind when he had watched his best friend die. “They stood and they watched and they thanked their precious God that the monster was gone and they didn’t even spare breath for the summoner that had saved him, they just assumed that there always would be one handy when Sin came back, and it never even occurred to them to find another way,” he said, voice becoming more and more acidic as he talked. He stared ahead, remembering the looks of joy on the faces of the people as the light had flashed over them all and their worst fear had vanished. No-one except him had cared. They put their statues to him up and proclaimed him High Summoner, but he was dead, and everyone just accepted it as The Only Way. He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked down at Rikku, who stared back.

“Some of us believe there is another way,” she said softly.

Auron looked at Rikku, and was reminded of a girl Braska had known when they were both children. She had also been against the Pilgrimages, and had objected to Braska becoming a Summoner. When Braska had been adamant about going, she had left, giving as an explanation only ‘I do not want to watch you die for life.’ Braska had later met his future wife. Auron had once tried to locate the girl, and had discovered the Maesters had executed her for heresy several years later. He had quickly forgotten about the entire thing when Braska had announced his marriage to an Al Bhed. Rikku brought the episode flooding back, and Auron knew that the forgotten woman had been right.

“I know,” he whispered. He linked hands with her. Well, he would have, if at that moment a fiend had not jumped them.

“Auron!” Rikku screamed, as the beast knocked the man down with a single blow to his unguarded side. Auron’s good eye went wide as the wind was knocked out of him and he fell to the ground. The yell alerted the other. Tidus looked around in puzzlement, then instantly drew his sword when he saw the huge thing rear over Rikku. She took one step back, and was unlucky enough to trip against a bump in the field. She fell on her back and stared up at the thing. She instantly recognised it. It was a Chimera.

She looked up, at any instant expecting the final blow. She looked across at the others, but they were too far away to be of any help this time. Rikku slowly reached down to her holster and glove. Before her hand had moved too inches the Chimera’s growl intensified. She slowly removed her hand, and it returned to normal, just staring at her. Finally she became sick of the things. Home, here, Macalania, everything just came to a head.

“What do you want from me!?” Rikku screamed at the creature. The creature drew back slightly, then resumed it’s impassive stance. Rikku stared at it for a few seconds, then looked into its eyes. As she did so, she saw something that chilled her to her core.

The Chimera’s eyes were blue and black swirls.

Her breath caught in her mouth, and she didn’t move an inch, she just stared into those so-familiar eyes and was silent.

Tidus ran back to Rikku bit stopped when he saw the strange sight clearly. Why wasn’t it tearing her to shreds? He and the others just stared at the two figures, one small and blonde, the other massive and inhuman. Yuna walked over to Auron slowly and got him to sit up, whispering softly. A small blue encased Auron’s side, and soon he could stand up. Suddenly Wakka spoke up.

“What the hell!?”

They watched, speechless, as Rikku lifted her hand to the Chimera, as if to shake it’s hand. This in itself was weird enough, but then they all were silent as the Chimera slowly extended it’s own arm, and helped Rikku to her feet. She brushed herself off calmly, as if a huge monster was not standing in front of her, and looked at it. She said something the others could not hear, and the Chimera turned, slowly moved away from the group and out into the open fields of the Calm Lands.

Wakka and Lulu just stood there, staring alternately at Rikku and the Chimera as it lumbered off into the distance. Finally Yuna plucked up the courage and the vocal commands to speak up.

“Rikku? What happened?” she asked.

Rikku turned to look at Yuna, and the summoner noticed the far-away look in her eyes.

“I asked it to help me up,” Rikku said, then walked towards Auron as if in a daze. The team watched as she reached the man and looked up at him. Without warning, she suddenly collapsed into him and started weeping uncontrollably. Tidus took a step towards the pair but Lulu held him back. The blitzer turned to complain, but Lulu shook her head slowly, and he stood back.

Yuna watched as the two just stood there, Rikku crying into Auron’s jacket. Auron whispered something into her ear and she stood away from him, wiping her eyes and sniffling softly. Eventually, she turned back to the team.

“Can we keep going?” she asked.

Yuna nodded, and the group continued on to the trading post, occasionally taking quick glances at Rikku, who did not smile for the remainder of the trip.


Auron and Rikku walked side by side, behind the others, Rikku held her head down, staring at the ground and saying nothing. Auron did not ask her what had happened between her and the Chimera. He had no idea. Fiends speaking was strange enough, even for a man who had travelled through time to Zanarkand and back, but one actually helping someone up was just impossible. Fiends were not friendly citizens. Rikku took in a breath, and she answered the question he would never have asked.

“It said it had not known I was one of them when it knocked me down, and would I let it help me up to say sorry,” she said.

Auron just stared at her. Fiends thought? Throughout all of Spiran history fiends had been seen as the unfortunate dead, unthinking and jealous of their living cousins. Rikku, in ten minute, had blown that theory to hell and back.

“What else?” Auron asked, and then cursed himself for his bluntness.

Rikku did not seem to notice. “I asked it what it was,” she said.

“What did it say?” Auron asked softly, seeing the distress Rikku was in.

“I aM lIKe YOu, I HAvE nO HoPE.”

Auron shivered slightly. It wasn’t the reply that made him do it, but something else. Rikku had replied…

But she had replied in the exact same voice as the Chimera.

Chapter 19: A Light To Light The Way

Rikku stared at the entrance to the cave nervously. She hated caves, and this one was sure to be full of nasty, smelly, evil fiends. And there was also the fact that those same fiends seemed to be actually quite friendly now. It freaked her out.

Auron glanced across at Rikku. He walked across to her and tapped her on the shoulder. She jumped away from him as if he was made of acid. She saw it was him and the look of relief on her face was touching.

“Auron! Don’t sneak up on me like that!” she scolded him.

“I apologise. Are you alright?”

She looked back at the cave entrance. “What’s in there anyway?” she asked.

“An old Fayth, that was stolen from its temple and left here,” he said. “Legend has it that the Fayth itself became bored of life in the temple and one day simply got up and left.” Rikku giggled. “What?” he asked.

“You sound like Maechen,” she said.

Auron chuckled slightly. “Then kill me now.”

Across from them, Yuna stood back up. “We’re going to get it,” she said, and then looked across at Lulu. “If that’s alright with you?” she asked.

The Black Mage nodded. “I got over her death a long time ago,” she said.

Tidus looked across at Wakka. “What?” he asked, puzzled.

“Her first summoner died here,” he replied, looking at the woman, who was just staring at the cave.

Suddenly Lulu walked into the cave. Yuna looked up, hen quickly ran in after her. The other soon followed, not wanting to be left behind. Auron gestured to Rikku, and she ran in last, following him.

The first thing she thought when she walked in was; where are the lights? The whole place seemed to be illuminated with some sort of lighting system which made the place seem as bright as day.

Lulu caught her looking around and whispered to her. “The crystals reflect light from outside into all the corners of the cave.”

Now that her eyesight was adjusting to the occasional glare, Rikku could e that dotted along the walls were large lumps of crystal that seemed to glow. She whistled in awe and kept walking, aware that Auron was just in front of her.

They came into a large cavern that literally glowed with radiance from the crystals, and Rikku had to squint to see in front of her. That was why she didn’t see the creature until she was right on top of it.

She stumbled against something and fell forwards. She heard a quiet thump behind her as something else also fell down. She rubbed her head where she had hit her it on the ground and turned around to see the rock she had tripped over.

At first glance, it looked slightly like a rock. Then it turned around, and Rikku was that it was a fiend. Only it couldn’t have been, it was far too cute. It was small and green, wearing what appeared to be a small potato sack. It was holding a lantern in the other and a small knife in the other, like a butcher’s knife, only smaller. She leaped back up and away from it, anticipating a possible attack. Instead it also rubbed the back of its head, then looked at Rikku. She saw it had small all-yellow eyes. The two stared at each other for a few seconds, then the small creature shook it’s fist at her.

Rikku blinked in surprise. Then she decided what the hell

“Sorry about that,” she told the small green fiend.

In answer, it shrugged and brushed the dirt from its small robe.

“You OK?” she asked. The thing nodded its head, and then began to waddle off. Rikku waved, and it waved back before disappearing into the shadows. Rikku watched it go, and then turned around to meet the gazes of the others.

“I’m not even going to ask,” Wakka said, then turned and kept walking. Lulu also turned and followed, but not before giving Rikku a look that said; you and me are going to talk, real soon.

Yuna walked up to Rikku and stared at her. ‘Rikku…?’ she began.

“I think we should continue” Auron said, putting his hand on Rikku’s shoulder. Yuna looked from Auron to Rikku, then back again. Are you sure?

Rikku nodded. Later. I promise.

Yuna also nodded, then smiled weakly and walked on Tidus falling into step next to her.

Auron looked at Rikku. “They suspect,” he said simply. “You’re going to have to tell them. And your father.”

Rikku instantly swung her head around to look at him. “I don’t want to. Why can’t I just stay like I am?” she pleaded.

Auron shook his head. “Haven’t you noticed? Talking fiends, speaking back to them. Rikku, something is happening to you.”

Rikku and Auron began to walk while they talked to avoid falling too far behind. “Rikku, you cannot pretend this is happening,” Auron told her quietly.

“But I want to. I’m scared Auron,” she replied.

Lulu glanced behind her at the pair, watching them talk and straining to try and hear. No luck. She felt a tap on her arm and turned to see Yuna smiling at her.

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you eavesdropping is rude?” she said.

Lulu frowned. “I know, but I’d give my place in the Farplane to know how she does that trick,” she said.

Yuna giggled. Seeing Lulu when she wanted to know something was more fun than hiding secrets. She always wanted to know them. To be honest though, she wanted to know just as much.

Auron linked hands with Rikku. “I’m here. You don’t have to be afraid.”

Rikku gripped back, and Auron winced when his hand was nearly crushed. She wasn’t that strong, was she?

The group continued walking until they reached another cavern. This time Rikku shielded her eyes. She looked at the ground to avoid hitting any more small green fiends, so instead of tripping she walked straight into Khimari. She looked up at the Ronso, but he was looking at something in front of him, and he had his halberd drawn. She drew her own weapon and squinted around at the scenery, trying to see. She gave up after about a minute, and reached into her pouch. She carefully drew a small packet of explosives she had been carrying in a padded container and mixed them into a small grenade.

“Guys! Heads up!” she shouted, and hurled the grenade into the centre of the room. Three seconds later it went off, and Rikku coughed as dust was thrown from the floor and went into her lungs. It also had the effect of covering some of the crystals, and the room went into a perpetual twilight. Rikku relaxed her eyes and stared around.

“Thank you Rikku. Now we’re nice and dusty, and I never did like my eyebrows anyway,” Wakka said angrily. The others all looked around to where a very put-upon and very eyebrow-less Wakka was standing glaring at the Al Bhed. They all burst out laughing. “Very funny guys! Next time why don’t you… whoa!”

The other immediately stopped laughing as a ghostly figure appeared right behind Wakka and put a hand on his shoulder. He shivered and jumped forward away from its grasp. He rolled and came up facing the pale figure. “A fiend?” he asked.

“No, an Unsent,” came the reply from Khimari.

Rikku shivered at the word. Unsent. Dead. Not alive. She backed off a few steps and stood so Auron was between her and the spectre. Auron noticed and did not move.

“Are you OK?” he asked.

“I’ll be fine when that thing leaves,” Rikku said, and then stopped when she realised she had called an Unsent a thing.


“That was the stupidest Aeon I ever fought,” Tidus said.

“It’s the only Aeon you ever fought,” Lulu replied.

“Yeah, but why bother getting his dog to bite our ankles when he had that huge sword?” he asked.

“Maybe he gets tired easily? That hat must weigh a ton,” Wakka pitched in.

“She,” Tidus corrected.

“What? What makes you say that?” Wakka enquired.

“She was wearing platforms!” Tidus argued.

“High shoes do not a woman make.” Rikku said sagely. The others looked around at her. “What!? I bet plenty of woman wear normal shoes as well!” she said, pointing at her own boots. “Right Lulu?”

“Don’t ask, no-one’s ever seen if Lulu even wears shoes,” Wakka mock whispered. In answer a rock whizzed by his head. “Sorry Lu!” he shouted. Lulu glared at him and went back to staring at the others. Tidus looked sceptical, but stayed quiet.

Suddenly the glyph on the floor glowed, and Yuna appeared. She looked very put-upon.

“Hey Yuna, what took so long?” Wakka asked, then stopped when she saw the look on her face.

“He wanted paying,” Yuna said, finding a moderately clean rock and sitting on it.

“How much?” Tidus asked, taking a gulp of water. Foolish boy.

“Two hundred thousand,” she said crossly.

Tidus sprayed out the water he had just swallowed and coughed. “Whoa!” Even he hadn’t got paid that much when he had joined the Abes.

“How much money do we have left?” Auron asked.

“About sixty thousand,” Yuna replied.

“It is enough,” Auron said, and stood up. The others groaned slightly, but followed his lead and started to head out. The thought of sunlight and air after this damn cavern was enough to get them out without convincing anyway.


“What do you mean lost?” Lulu said testily.

Tidus looked at her and spread his arms. “We came in this way!” he said.

Lulu advanced upon him. “Well if we had we would have been out by now,” she said. Tidus backed away until he was against the wall.

“Erm, sorry?” he said. The others groaned.

Rikku lay back against the opposite wall and watched as the others contemplated torturing the boy. Auron followed suit and the two watched the show.

“He was always terrible at directions, trouble was, he didn’t know that,” Auron said quietly.

“And you let him lead us in?” Rikku asked.

Auron shrugged. “A momentary lapse of sanity.”

Rikku sighed and closed her eyes against the wall. Personally she didn’t have much of a problem with darkness. It was just being alone in it that got to her.

She heard a small noise and opened her eyes. She frowned when she heard it again, like a loose sandal flopping around on the sand… She looked around for the source of the noise, and she a small flame. She frowned, then recognised it for what it was. She tapped Auron on the shoulder and pointed down at it. He stared for a few seconds, and then drew his sword.

Hold on… Without thinking, she walked past the man and approached the small green creature she had met earlier. It saw her approach and turned to face her. She bent down near it.

“Do you know how to get out of here?” she asked it.

The others all instantly stopped shouting at Tidus and looked across at her, wondering whom she was addressing. When they saw it was the Tonberry, reactions varied. Tidus just looked relieved he wasn’t going to be hung there and then.

The creature nodded. “Can you show us?” Rikku asked. It nodded again, and began to walk down the corridor. Rikku turned back to the others. “Well, come on!” she shouted, and walked after it.

Wakka looked at Lulu. “And we should do so… why?” he asked. Auron suddenly got up from his place against the wall and started after her.

He glanced back at the others. “I assume you want to get out of here?” he said, and walked off after Rikku.

As if on cue, the others all sighed, shrugged, and ran after the two.


Rikku stared up at the sun and breathed a deep breath of dust free air. She turned back to the small creature and waved. “Thanks!” she said. The fiend waved and walked back into the cave, passing the others as they ran out. They stopped and stared at her, but she refused to turn around to meet their gaze. Her mind was racing. Make something up, anything up. Say anything but the truth.

“Rikku…?’ Wakka begun.

“I can talk to fiends, alright?” she said quickly. Niiice going girl, that was real smooth. She thought to herself.

To her surprise, the others took this entirely in their stride.

“Is that it?” Tidus asked.

Rikku turned around to look at them. “What did you think it was?” she asked, curious now she seemed to be out of trouble.

He shrugged “I dunno, something sinister I suppose.”

Lulu seemed more serious though. “Why didn’t you just say that before?” she asked.

“I was afraid of what you would think,” Rikku said, which was true enough anyway.

“Well, I think it’s pretty cool,” Tidus chirped. “Saved us some trouble a few times.”

Auron suddenly spoke up. “We should be going,” he said.

The others all nodded. Rikku was silently relieved. Her improvisation was about used up, and she hated lying to them like that.

Auron fell into step next to her as she walked. “Very good, slightly obscure though, I wouldn’t bring attention to it again,” he said.

Rikku hit him on the arm. “Very funny. It was the best I could do on short notice,” she said. Auron smiled slightly in acceptance.

“You should still tell them. It will only be harder the longer you delay,” he said.

“OK OK! I’ll think about it!” she said.

As they walked Rikku became aware that it was becoming colder. She shivered slightly and looked up at the cave (?) they were approaching. Then she looked above it.

“Erm, Auron?” she asked.

“Yes?” he replied.

“You wouldn’t happen to have a spare coat would you?” she asked, as she stared at the snowstorm raging on Mount Gagazet.

Chapter 20: Because It’s There…

“Tell me again why I joined with you guys?” Rikku asked Tidus.

“Because you wanted to protect Yuna?” the blitzer replied.

“And why did you let me?”

“Because we like your perky sense of humour and your, ehem, unique abilities?”

“And why am I still with you guys?”

“Because you got the hots for Aur… OW! You kicked me!” Tidus exclaimed, rubbing his foot.

Rikku didn’t waste any more breath, and instead concentrated on moving up the path away from the other Ronsos. The meeting had been long and boring (if you weren’t Khimari, otherwise it had been long and painful) and had entailed her standing around in the cold for an hour listening to Yuna argue theology with the Ronso Maester. She ran up the path, not so much to catch up with the others as to stay warm. She knew she should have gotten a coat in the trading post! But now the opportunity was lost and she had to run up and down the snowbound paths to stay warm. She shivered and ran up to Auron. He heard her coming and turned in time to have her run up to him and hug him tightly.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“S’cold,” she said through gritted teeth.

Auron put his arm around her and hugged her to his chest. She sighed in thanks and stayed there. She shifted her body around so that she was under his left arm, but still wrapped in his coat, and the two moved off together through the snow.

“S’it this cold last time?” Rikku asked quietly through clenched teeth.

“Mostly. It rained that time though,” Auron said. “It was cold, but it was also damp. We had the misfortune to come during summer, and…”

“Wait, hold on,” Rikku said, “It only rains here in summer? What happens during winter, which is what it is now?” she asked.

“It’s just damn cold.”


Several hours later, and with no sign of the summit in sight, Auron noticed that the others were becoming very sluggish, and Rikku was seriously lagging behind, to the point where she occasionally had to lean against him for warmth. Her attire was doing her no favours. Auron noticed a dip in the path, leading to what he thought he remembered as a small cavern. A small sheltered cavern, and he immediately started to move ahead of the rest, leaving Rikku behind slightly. He motioned for the others to follow and they all angled towards the dip, wondering what he had seen. When they moved under the protection of the cavern then, they were all relieved. Lulu went over to a moderately dry patch of floor and raised her hand, casting a large fireball onto the bracken on the floor. It sprang to life, and the others all moved towards it. Rikku came in last, several seconds behind the others, and she went over to the fire with only a small “hi” to the others and sat down next to it, trying to get as much warmth as possible from the small blaze. Auron sat down next to her and she leaned into him, resting her head against his forearm. She as asleep in seconds, and Auron smiled at the peaceful look on his face from under his collar. His look did not go unnoticed by the others and they all secretly smiled at the couple the two made. Somehow, it worked, and Tidus was glad to see that the old guy had some feelings left in him. They all sat there, in the small warmth the fire provided, and sank into their own silent reveries, as the blizzard raged outside.


Rikku awoke in relative warmth, wrapped up in part of Auron’s coat, the rest of it wrapped around Auron himself. She stood up groggily and looked around. The others were all standing and preparing their equipment. Rikku realised that they were getting ready to head out, and went over to Lulu. “How long were we asleep?” she asked.

Lulu looked up from packing her small set of potions and ethers. “About five hours, we all needed it,” she said. She jerked her thumb, and Rikku looked across at see Tidus laid against the wall, Yuna’s head against his chest, both still sleeping.

Rikku went back over to Auron and shook him awake. She had never seen the legendary guardian wake up, and it was an amusing process.

“Wht? Whzzat?” he whispered. Then his eyes snapped open, and he was instantly alert. “Rikku?” he asked, voice betraying none of his momentarily sleepiness.

“We’re going,” she said, gesturing towards the others. Auron looked across and swept his cloak back around himself, ready in seconds, and once again waiting for everyone else, as he always seemed to be. Rikku realised that he was always ready first, bit because he was more alert or up earlier, but because e had nothing to get ready. She giggled at this silent observation and drew looks from the others.

Auron glanced at her. “What?” he asked.

Rikku smiled at him. “Oh nothing, just the great Sir Auron just became suddenly less mysterious,” she said.

“I’m sure you’ll tell me what that means later,” Auron said, and moved out of the cave. Rikku followed, and gasped when she walked out. The fire had given the illusion of warmth, but only because out here it was so tysh cold! At least this time there was no wind. Thank the Farplane for small favours.

The group trudged through the vast icy snow cone that was Gagazet, occasionally stopping when a small cave or overhang could shield them from the cold, which wasn’t often. Mostly they eschewed them, and carried on, most wanting to just get the hell off this mountain. Everyone was thinking the same thing, how could the Ronso live in a place like this? It defied all common sense. Even Khimari was shivering, the farther up they went, and the thinner the wind got.

Rikku was doing the worst. Al Bhed were not adapted for high altitudes like most of Spirans, and her clothes were not helping. BY the end of what seemed like the twentieth mile, but was actually the third, she was wheezing and had to be helped along sometimes by Auron, By the end of the next, Auron was seriously worried for her safety, and was staying permanently at her side as she walked along. It was a relief then, when they finally reached the near top of the mountain, and their destination came into view.

Rikku stared up at the summit of Mt Gagazet, one hand over her eyes to shield her from the sun’s glare, and another to steady herself against what she thought was the wall, but was in fact Auron. She was too far-gone to realise.

“And we have to climb around that monstrosity of snow and rock?” she asked Auron incredulously.

“The heated tunnels straight through the centre are blocked off in winter,” Auron replied deadpan.

Rikku looked across at him, momentarily forgetting her near-frostbitten condition. “Did you just make a joke?” she asked in disbelief. Auron said nothing. Rikku grinned. “You did! Wait till I tell the others!” She would have bounded ahead, but Auron put his hand around her and held her back.

“Let… me… go!” she said, trying to wriggle under his grasp.

“As you wish,” he said, and released her.

Rikku squealed as she fell headfirst into the snow. She blew it out of her mouth and stared at him, not believing that he had just done that. She got up and brushed rapidly melting snow off herself. She bent down and carefully scooped up a handful of the stuff “I’ll get you for that!” She started to draw her hand back, then frowned in concentration. Auron realised his mistake instantly. Near-frostbitten already, he had let her fall into a freezing snowdrift. Idiot! He scolded himself.

“Auron?” she said sleepily.

“Yes?” he said, seeing the dreamlike look on her face. He started to move forward almost unconsciously.


Then she toppled, and Auron ran forward, reaching out to catch her as she fell into his arms, shivering uncontrollably. Auron grabbed her around the waist and hugged her to him. He couldn’t feel any heat coming off of her and her lips were turning blue, eyes following suit. He drew her back slightly and looked into her eyes and saw that they were staring into space, not really looking at anything. He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see Lulu pushing him aside. He yielded reluctantly and moved her away from his body. Rikku convulsed slightly, and he resisted the urge to hold her closer to him. Lulu held up her hand and a small fireball sprung from it and hovered just above Rikku’s head. Instantly some of the blue colour left her features and her frost-coated eyelids fluttered open. She coughed lightly, and Auron did the only thing he knew would help. He kissed her.

He ignored the cold sensation of her lips on his and pressed her mouth against his, breathing in warm life giving air into her lungs. He felt around for a response, any response. He felt a hand at the back of his head, and disengaged to find a very shell-shocked looking Rikku staring at him. He breathed a silent sigh of relief. Before he could say anything though, her hand pressed him back against her, and they kissed again, but this time both were active participants. Auron vaguely knew he should be pressing on, but at this moment, he honestly couldn’t find the time to care.


Rikku and Auron moved up the mountainside together, neither moving away from the other. The rest moved either ahead or behind, but none strayed more than a few metres from the others. After Rikku’s apparent close call they were staying together. The group moved around the next bend, and then suddenly Tidus shouted something gleefully and ran ahead. Wakka sighed in exasperation, then he moved around, and his face also looked relieved. A moment later they knew why.

Auron and Rikku walked over to the two blitzers to find themselves at Gagazet’s summit, staring down at the mountain. Two final peaks made a natural canopy and the ground was only partly snowbound. It was, quite literally, all downhill from here. The pair moved to the edge to stare down at what they had walked across and Rikku gasped.

“No way did we do that,” she exclaimed in disbelief, and so she should.

Below them lay the most torturous and twisting sets of pathways she had ever seen. They winded in and out of each other, none staying straight for more than a few dozen metres. Wind howled down through them, and they could hear it’s passage through the clefts and loops in the mountain as it flew through the sacred land. Rikku looked back to see the others staring out as well, equally spellbound. It did look beautiful. She would have enjoyed it more if she hadn’t just had to climb it though. She looked across at Yuna, who seemed to in some sort of trance. Rikku’s mood instantly deflated when she remembered why they were here, and where they were going.

The others began to move off silently, all too tired to speak. Eventually Rikku was left alone, with Tidus.

“Hey?” she shouted to him.

The blitzer looked back. “Yeah?” he replied.

“Any ideas yet?” she asked hopefully.

The boy shook his head. “None.”

“It’s just we’re nearly at Zanarkand, and I can’t think of anything!” she said grimly.

Tidus looked down, but wasn’t beaten yet. “We’ll figure something out in Zanarkand. Everything will come together there. I know it,” he said confidently.

Rikku looked at him critically. “Hey, just then, you sounded like a leader!” she said, amused at the blitzer’s mood.

Tidus struck a pose. “Star of the Zanarkand Abes, didn’t anybody tell you?” he said, grinning.

Rikku gave a short bow as the blitzer passed, showing mock deference to his ‘talents’. The man she saw when she stood back up was not who she had expected.

Seymour stood before her. He had his arms by his sides and was smiling evilly at her. He was dressed in his normal blue robe, and he looked like he should be ridiculously cold. He didn’t seem to be though.

“Tidus!” Rikku shouted.

He turned. “Yeah? What’s wro… whoa!” he exclaimed when he saw the Maester. He turned to Rikku. “Get the others, go!” he whispered at her. Rikku turned to run, but had not gotten 10 steps when she hit something solid. She stumbled backwards and stared as something faded back into transparency.

“Would you mind leaving us for a moment, boy?” Seymour asked. Tidus stared at him for a few seconds, then at Rikku. She nodded, not taking her eyes from Seymour. Tidus took off, slowing as he approached the place where Rikku had been halted. He reached his hand out and took another step forward. As he did so, something flowed around him, and he came out of the other side of the barrier unharmed. He took one quick last look at Rikku and Seymour, and then ran to fetch the others as quick as he could. He dreaded having to tell Auron he had left Rikku alone with a killer. He ran faster.

Rikku stared at Seymour, hatred in her eyes. “What is it you want this time?” she asked dangerous, glove on her hand and ready to be driven into the Maester’s windpipe.

Seymour smiled at her tolerantly. “I had great hopes for you,” he said sadly.

“Happy to disappoint you!” she shouted back.

He started to pace up and down the cliff-edge. “We could have done so much together, you and I. We could have conquered death, and controlled it. I would have ended the suffering of Spira, and you could have been there to watch. Instead you chose them, and to follow your useless concept of hope.” He nearly spat the last word out, as if it was something contagious. Rikku kept a good distance away from him as he ranted. “We could have saved the world together Rikku.”

“I would never have helped you,” she said.

“That will be your final mistake,” Seymour said quietly. “Do your friends now about your unusual condition yet?” he asked, smiling.

For a second Rikku might have stopped breathing. She was so still. “If you dare…” she began.

“Do not worry, your secret is safe with me, but how do you think they will react when they find out?” he asked rhetorically.

“Seymour!” she warned him.

He carried on regardless. “Poor little Unsent girl, she doesn’t belong anywhere. Can we trust her? Maybe she’ll turn into a fiend!

This time, Rikku did stop breathing. “What did you say?”

Seymour smiled wickedly. “Oh? You didn’t know? Been feeling ratty lately? Strange things happen?” he asked.

Rikku shook her head. “What are you taking about?” she shouted at him.

“Being unsent is only one step away from being a monster. You feel it in your heart. Allow me to demonstrate!

Then Seymour stepped off the cliff. Rikku stood there, not daring to see him hit the ground. She didn’t have to. A second later a rumble sounded through the cliff, and a sharp point rose up from the edge. It rose further, and Rikku saw that it was just the tip of a huge lance, and the creature holding it was… Well, it was Seymour, but only barely recognisable, his hate turning him into something huge and intricate, like a massive sculpture, but with swords. She stared at the massive thing as it looked down at her, and it hissed at her.

“SeE YoUR FaTe.”

NO!” Rikku screamed at the thing, and turned to run. She hadn’t gotten a step when she hit something. She looked up expecting it to be the invisible wall, but it was Auron, staring at Seymour’s form and holding Rikku across the shoulders. The others ran ahead.

“Are you alright?” he asked her, concern in his voice and relief that she was all right.

“I’m fine,” she said, staring back as the group set upon the Maester for the third time. “He said things,” she whispered.

“I’m here now,” he said reassuringly, hugging her closer to him. Rikku accepted the comfort he was offering, and the two sat back, watching the battle. Yuna called her Aeons, only to see them be destroyed one by one. Finally she called the one she had not yet used, because after all, ice wasn’t much good on a mountain, was it?

Yuna stood back from the rest of the group as three huge icicles slammed into the ground behind her. They shattered, the fragments missing the team by a mile, somehow. A woman stood in the centre, throwing her cloak aside into Yuna’s arms. She stood up to the Maester and raised her arms. Then she paused.

Rikku frowned as the aeon Shiva did not attack, and instead looked around her surroundings, as if searching for something. Her gaze fell over the others, who were all wondering what was going on. Then her eyes fell on Rikku, and the young girl shivered. She hated that Aeon. Back to the incident at Macalania Temple, she had always got the feeling that the Aeon, when summoned, had been staring at her. She hated that thing.

It didn’t last long anyway. Shiva made just one attack before being blasted back into the ether by Seymour. Rikku hated to see them go like that, but was secretly relieved that the frosty Aeon was gone.

Auron stood up. “I have to help,” he said. Rikku nodded and he moved towards the battleground, swinging under Seymour’s lance and scoring a blow against the strange symbiotic creature that was wrapped around him. The thing screamed and suddenly thin beams of light emerged from it and flew towards Seymour. The man/fiend suddenly looked drained, and Auron sliced at Seymour’s head. The man didn’t see it coming, and the blade scored a deep cut against his head. Seymour screamed, and exploded. Pyreflies emerged from his body and flew off into the air as the monstrous hulk sank below their view.

Tidus stared at Auron, panting. “And you couldn’t have done that earlier? Would have saved us just a little bit of trouble you know, with the fighting and the aeons and everything.”

Auron did not reply, but moved back towards where Rikku was sitting against the rock wall of the mountain. “Can you walk?” he asked her. She nodded and stood to her feet, stumbling into Auron. He steadied her then let go, letting her make her way down the mountain by her own steam.


“What the ramm are those?” Rikku asked, jumping back from the figures glued to the wall.

“They are fayth,” Auron said for the benefit of everyone except Yuna.

The walls of the mountain were covered in bodies. They were stuck there, faces turned in to stare at rock, a blue glow flowing over them.

“Who is using them all?” Lulu whispered.

“Whoever it is, they’re summoning something big,” Yuan whispered. For some reason everyone found himself or herself unable to speak normally, like the same effect a church has on people, trying to whistle. Your mind can’t bring the mouth to do it.

“Freaky,” Tidus said.

Auron glanced at Rikku. “What’s the matter?” he asked, seeing the pale look on her face.

“I hate fayth. I always think they’re going to reach out and grab me. They look so… alive…” she said.

“You’re seen fayth before?” Auron asked, surprised.

“Once, I snuck into Besaid, while we were on a scavenging trip. Cid would have killed me if he had known.”

“What did you see?” Auron asked, curious.

“ It was large, had wings, and it was stuck to the floor. I ran. I was never so freaked out in my life,” she said. Auron chuckled and she hit him on the shoulder. “It wasn’t funny!” she said angrily.

“Yes it was. Fayth can’t move, even if they wanted to. They are eternally trapped in the Chambers. They can’t get out.”

Rikku stared at the people on the walls, and shivered, and it wasn’t because of the cold. “How sad,” she whispered. She shivered again, and watched as Tidus reached out to touch one. The boy just stood there for a few seconds. Then, without a sound, he fell backwards.

The others looked across when they heard the thump of him hitting the floor, and Yuna ran over to his side, feeling for a pulse. She visibly relaxed when she found one, and tried to shake him awake.

“It won’t work,” Auron said.

The others looked around at him. “Why not?” Yuna asked, worry in her voice.

“The fayth are talking to him,” he said simply. Yuna looked puzzled for a moment, then realisation dawned on his face, and she settled back into a more comfortable position, and waited for Tidus to wake up of his own accord.

They waited for a while. Their occasional attempts to snap him out of it failed, and so it came as a complete surprise when he just woke up of his own will, jumping up and stretching his arms. Enquires were shrugged off, and he just kept walking. Yuna glanced at Rikku, who shrugged and continued to walk. The others all followed suit, and they moved into the last part of the mountain. At least this place was sheltered.


By the time they approached the small, intricately decorated red diamond-shaped pad near the end of the cave system, she was ruing her last observation. Never had she had to walk through a more confusing maze of puzzles and tests. The damn place kept shifting around them.

“Tired?” Auron asked.

“D’ya think?” she replied sarcastically.

“We’re almost out, get ready,” Auron said.

Rikku looked across at him. “What do you mean ‘get ready’?” she asked.

Auron shrugged. “Do you hear that?” he asked.

Rikku stopped dead and listened as hard as she could. She turned back to Auron. “Huge thing up ahead?” she asked. Auron nodded. “Cred.”

“Guys! Come on, we’re almost out!” Tidus shouted. He would have run on further, but suddenly a blue blur fell out of the wall and knocked him to his feet. Yuna gasped as the thing reared up behind of him and he scrambled to his feet, nursing a cut across the back of his head. Damn Grendels. The others drew their weaponry and prepared for a fight with the thing.

Wakka looked across at Rikku, as if expecting something.

“What?” Rikku asked him.

“Can you, erm, tell it to go away?” he asked, blushing.

Rikku just stared at him, then she sighed. “Alright alright! I suppose I could try.”

The others watched in hope and disbelief as she walked ahead of them, weapon sheathed, and stood before the horned beast. As before, it did not attack, but just stared at her as if expecting something.

“Leave us alone!” she shouted at it.

It didn’t budge.

Rikku sighed. Toughie. She had an idea. If coercion couldn’t work, maybe bribery would? She reached into her pocket and withdrew a single gil. “See the shiny little circle? You want it?” she asked.

To her surprise, the attention of the fiend was rooted on it. She smiled. “I’ll give it to you if you leave us alone,” she stated.

Wakka looked across at Lulu. “Is she doing what I think she’s doing?” he asked her. Lulu just shushed him and kept watching.

Rikku saw the fiend was not going to be convinced by a single gil. She reached into her pocket and withdrew more gil, moving her palm so that they were reflected in the light. “If I give you these several dozen shiny circles will you leave us alone?” she asked it tiredly.

In answer, the fiend stood aside. Rikku sighed in thanks to providence and dropped the gil on the floor, moving away from the fiend and towards the cavern door. The others soon caught up.

“Rikku, you have got to teach me that ya?” Wakka said enthusiastically.

“Me next!” Tidus shouted form near Yuna. She punched him playfully on the arm.

Rikku turned back to look at the others. “Lessons are fifty gil a time!” she shouted at them, smiling.

“Hey! Surely we get a discount for being your pals?” Tidus argued.

“That is a discount, usually I charge…” She didn’t get a chance to finish a sentence.

At that moment, they emerged from the cave, and something huge, grey, and winged roared at them. Rikku covered her ears and ducked down slightly. The others instantly drew their weapons and backed away from it, Rikku not far behind.

Auron looked at her as she drew her claw and went down into a fighting position, ears still ringing as the massive creature opened its wings and roared again. “You’re not going to try and buy it off?” he asked.

Rikku glared at him evilly, preparing her store of grenades for action. “I don’t think he’s for sale,” she said, as it attacked.

Part 3

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