A Secret Journey (Rikku's Story)

BY : tuatha
Category: Final Fantasy X > General
Dragon prints: 1094
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy X, nor any of the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

A Secret Journey (Rikku's Story)

Part Twenty-four


Yuna shouted her defiance of the temples, standing up to the Ronso warriors
that ranged around us, refusing to turn aside from her pilgrimage. They
threatened to kill us, but she stood firm, stating she had cast aside Yevon
because of their betrayal and lies. Surprisingly Wakka was the first to
speak up supporting her charge but we all added our voices in support.

Kimahri ran forward and held a silent staring match with one of the Ronso
shouting for our deaths, but Kelk wavered, reconsidering. Lulu injected her
usual wisdom, pointing out that the Ronso Maester had left the temple but
still guarded Gagazet as a Ronso, just as Yuna was still continuing her
pilgrimage as a summoner, regardless of Mika's lies.

Kelk asked why Yuna would continue when she was a traitor, and had lost
everything, why she would sacrifice herself.

She took a deep breath. "I fight for Spira. To bring the calm. Defeating
Sin, ending pain. It is all I can do."

Kelk turned his back on us, then called out to the rest of his people to let
us pass. He said the sacred heights of Gagazet would welcome us. And so we
went on, but the two Ronso who had been our loudest detractors accosted us
once more. They stood before Kimahri, and said that Yuna and the rest of us
could pass but Kimahri could not.

They taunted him, calling him small and weak until he accepted their
challenge, his whiskers twitching with rage. Biran boasted that he'd broken
Kimahri's horn before, but Kimahri was adamant he would fight and would win.
Tidus offered to fight with him, but Kimahri refused. The Ronso have a
strange sense of honour, Kimahri had to fight alone without our support, but
it was okay for Biran and Yenke, the two other Ronso to fight against him
two to one.

I'd never thought of him as small before, but the other Ronso towered over
him by more than a head, and were of stronger build too. I clenched my fists
anxiously, bouncing on my toes, wishing I could run in and pummel them, and
at one point Auron grabbed my arm when I was almost ready to launch myself
out there in his defense.

We all shouted encouragement every time he got a good hit in, and although
the other two kept running past him in turns and attacking him from behind
he slowly wore them both down. Eventually first one, then the other hit the
snow.

It was amazing. Biran stood and faced the peak of the mountain, shouting
that Kimahri was strong, and that the mountain would know him and let him
pass. They also offered to fight any pursuers from the temple, and told Yuna
they would shine her statue brightest. She thanked them but doubted that
anyone would make a statue for her, and they proudly stated the Ronso would
make her statue, with a grand horn on her head to show their honour for her.
She was taken aback, but thanked him anyway. Again we continued, and once
more the two Ronso circled around us on the slopes above and halted our
progress. Tidus, rather exasperatedly asked "Now what?"

Then the Ronso who had gathered above us began to sing the hymn. Sonorous
notes rang and echoed across the slopes of the mountain, a song to honour
Yuna's passing among them. I could still hear the echoes long after we had
left the Ronsttlettlement below in the shadows.

The snow crunched beneath our feet and the air was still and bright, and
very cold. We made good time, Gagazet smiled upon us as the Ronso had
promised, and every step took us closer to Zanarkand, and the final aeon.

Yuna was silent and withdrawn, and even though Tidus tried to act cheery her
smile remained wan. Unable to penetrate her mood he fell back a pace and
shadowed her steps. I suddenly realised why and stopped as if I'd hit a
brick wall. Up until our confrontation with the Ronso Yuna had a choice. She
could have turned aside, eloped with Tidus and found an island to live out
her days. Or she could have simply brazened out her decision not to
continue. But now, now there was no turning back. To slink back down the
mountain, even if the Ronso let us, would disgrace us all and Yuna most of
all. We'd thought of nothing and Yuna was going to die.

"Oh no. Oh no, no, no." I shook my head, trying to shake the thoughts from
my head and replace them with something useful. Everyone turned and stared.

"We have to stop." I ran to her, and stared into her face, her eyes. "You
have to stop. We can find another way down the mountain, the Ronso won't
have to know."

I took her arm, almost ready to pull her bodily back down the path as she
stared back at me in confusion. "Just until we figure out something, a plan.
That's it, we'll think of something and then come back. Please, Yuna!" I
babbled insanely, and then she understood, that I'd just realised the same
thing she had when we left the Ronso village.

"No." Her smile was gentle and bright. And she took my face in her hands.
"No. We're going to keep going, Rikku. Everything will be alright, you'll
see."

"No, it won't. You have to turn back, for us. For Tidus. For me. We don't
want to lose you. We can't. We won't. Please..."

My tears were falling freely but she leaned in and kissed me gently on the
cheek. "I'm doing this for you. For all of you, to be safe, to have peace."

"Yuna, you don't understand! You'll die, and the people you love, the people
who love you will never have happiness again. You'll be gone, but we're the
ones who will have to live with it." I wiped my eyes furiously. "The rest of
Spira will celebrate but all we'll have...all we'll have...is pain."

I was ashamed of my outburst then because I knew she wasn't going to stop,
and I couldn't stop crying. All Yuna could do was put her arms around me in
sympathy as I released my grief. Yuna's face twisted with pain at my words,
but all she could do was hold me while I wept. After I'd finished sniffling
and wiping my nose my resolve was strengthened. No matter what, we were
going to save Yuna. Yuna held my shoulders. "We won't take another step,
until you're ready."

"I'm sorry. Let's go."

"Don't say you're sorry, not for this. I am glad to know, so glad, that you
care about me so much. But we will defeat Sin, and you will find happiness,
I promise. Now, we go on, agreed?"

"Yep! I'm all set!" My smile was shaky, and my victory salute wavered, but
there was nothing but sincerity in my voice. I was ashamed of my outburst
and tried not to meet any of my companions eyes, to see how they pitied my
lack of strength.

Our path twisted into shadow, but we continued in the cool blue light that
lasted well into the evening, as light reflected off the higher peaks much
later than it would have on the plains below. I hadn't realised but Gagazet
had many caves that meandered through its sides, some just inverted domes
filled with crystal and glitter, others long meandering tunnels that
sometimes continued for miles and opened out onto the mountain miles from
where they started.

Kimahri led us through several of the latter, gaining us many hours of
climbing, and finally we called a halt in one of the former. It was clean
and dry, the snow only collecting near the entrance but it was still
bitterly cold. We had compressed firebricks that Kimahri had been given
before we left the Ronso village and we used two of these to start a fire.
Although they were small they burned fiercely and would last for many hours.

I stamped my feet with my arms wrapped around my shoulders, waiting for the
warmth to reach me. Auron seemed untroubled by the cold but when I looked up
he was watching me. His eyes beckoned to me and he held up his empty sleeve
in invitation so I left the insufficient warmth of the fire for his better
offer. I leaned against him, the sleeve wrapped around my shoulders and his
arm around that, and tucked my hands under his arms. "Better?"

He was asking about more than body temperature."Yes, I'm better now."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive. I won't let her die. It's as simple as that."

"Rikku, you may not be able to prevent it."

"Don't say that! I can't...live with that."

"You can, and you will! Believe me, the alternative is much worse than you
can imagine..." His voice grew softer. "I will do everything I can to
prevent it too, you know, but you need to trust to fate and be prepared to
go on whatever happens. Believe there will be a way."

"Is there? Is that what you believe?"

"I cannot say what I believe."

"But you're here. Isn't that why you came back? That must mean something."

He was silent for a long time. Eventually he began to speak of the past. "It
wasn't until we reached Zanarkand, and entered the dome that I
realised...that there was no turning back. We all knew, from the very
beginning, but at some point it hits, right here..." He touched my
breastbone, gently with one finger. "You realised the truth much sooner than
I did."

After that he fell silent, but I was oddly comforted even though I still
knew less than nothing about what we would eventually have to face. It
seemed more than ever apparent that for whatever reason he was keeping
something back from us, but whatever he knew, he believed it would aid Yuna
and save her from her father's fate.

My trust in Auron was immense, but I couldn't let the issue rest in my own
mind. I thought that there must be something about the final aeon. When Yuna
prayed to Yojimbo and he accepted her prayer he turned into a spirit of
light, like a pyrefly, and then she absorbed him in herself. If the final
aeon was stronger, perhaps it was too much and that was why the summoners
always died.

But Yuna had all of us as guardians, if we interceded on her behalf perhaps
we could affect the outcome. Or we could lend her our strength to shield her
from the aeon. I wondered if perhaps one of us jumped into the aeon's path
it would help absorb the impact allowing Yuna to survive. The guardian who
did so would undoubtedly die, but I was willing to do that if it would help
to keep her alive.

The trouble was I didn't really believe any of it would work. I still had no
idea what to do, or how to help her. My head was beginning to hurt again so
I closed my eyes for a few minutes.

After we ate I lay down and fell asleep almost immediately by the fire. When
I opened my eyes again I held a vague memory of Auron wrapping his coat
around me. I raised my head to see Auron and Kimahri standing by the
entrance to the cave, keeping watch while the rest of us slept. They spoke
softly, their words almost inaudible from a distance. I didn't want to
intrude so lay staring into the flames until I heard him settle behind me. I
didn't turn, but lifted the coat and his arm came around me, his solidity
and strength soothing me in a way that nothing else could.

The next morning we ate a hurried breakfast by the fire before continuing up
the mountain. Everyone was subdued, serious and grim as we gathered our gear
together. Kimahri led the way, but unlike yesterday the weather turned
unpleasant.

The wind blew down from the peaks, sending a flurry of snow into our faces
as we struggled upward. We moved in single file behind Kimahri who would
point ahead from time to time shouting encouragement as we straggled along
behind him. I trod in Auron's footprints, his red coat beckoning me on
despite my weariness.

On our way we encountered cairns, built by guardians who had journeyed this
way before. We would stop at each, standing shivering in the cold while Yuna
prayed. It was depressing to think of those summoners who had come all this
way only to fail, to become unsent fiends.

We encountered many of them too, with our path blocked we had to fight to
continue. If there had only been one or two of us we might not have made it,
but with all of us together we were able to protect each other, falling back
if injured or weakened to let another guardian fight. But at the end of each
battle as the fiends exploded into light and pyreflies drifted into the
heavens my spirits sank even further.

Eventually the path turned and we entered the lee of an overhang. The wind
died down, and the entrance to a cave loomed above. Where we stood the snow
made a sparkling carpet until it reached the edge, falling into a deep
chasm, the rock arched above, icicles dangling and giving off crystalline
light.

The others moved on, but Tidus and I were both entranced for a moment by the
view and fell behind. Before he moved to catch up with the others I asked
him again whether he had thought of a plan to save Yuna. It was the thought
uppermost in my mind and I couldn't help bringing it up once more. He shook
his head repeating the thoughts I'd had several times myself. "We just don't
know enough yet. Until we do we can't really help Yuna.

"We'll find something at Zanarkand, it'll all come together, I know."

I was beginning to be impressed by his confidence. "You sound just like a
leader, you know." I told him. He began to walk off, but as he did so I
turned and saw Seymour and I gasped and cried out in surprise. He laughed
cruelly at Tidus, ignoring my presence. "Ahhh, the son of Jecht."

Tidus told me to run and get Auron. I protested at leaving him with the
fiendish unsent Maester. "You're not fighting him alone!"

"Just go. Run!"

So I did. I raced up the path, the cold air burning my lungs until I could
see the others waiting near the entrance to the cave. "S-s-seymour..." I
stopped, panting as I pointed back down the path. "Tidus and...S-s-semour's
th-there..."

"What?" Lulu exclaimed, but Auron was already running past me with Kimahri
close behind him. I turned and followed with the others, waving them on as I
tried to catch my breath and run at the same time. "Hurry!"

They went on ahead and by the time I reached the place I'd left Tidus, Auron
and Kimahri stood beside him while Seymour taunted them. He said that
Kimahri was the last Ronso left alive, that he had destroyed them all, one
after the other. His evil lies did not end there. He turned to Yuna and told
her she could end Kimahri's suffering with death.

"Allow Kimahri to die, and release him from his pain. Spira...is a land of
suffering and sorrow caught in a spiral of death. To destroy--to
heal--Spira, I will become Sin. Yes, with your help.

"Come with me, Yuna."

Tidus moved then, raising his sword in defiance, but Seymour had yet more
evil words to twist into our hearts. "Once I have become the next Sin, your
father will be freed again."

His father? I looked at Tidus who had stared at him for a moment before he
hung his head, shamed by the ex-Maesters words. "What do you know?"

Then he ran forward to strike but before he could reach him a fiendish
contraption lifted Seymour into the air. He hovered above us, his laughter
that of the truly insane.

"Pitiful mortal. Your hope ends here. And your meaningless existence with
it!"

I clenched my fists, looking on as Tidus, Auron and Kimahri prepared to
battle with Seymour once more.

End of Part Twenty-four


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