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.

Title: A Secret Journey (Rikku's Story)


Summary: The story of the pilgrimage told in Rikku's words, and what she learns on the way.
Classification: FFX fic, AU, Rikku/Auron relationship, story, romance
Rating: PG13, higher rating (up to R) for future instalments
Disclaimer: The characters in this story belong to Squaresoft, but the story
is mine. (actually Rikku's, but you know what I mean. : )

Feedback is welcomed at tuatha@caloundra.net


A Secret Journey

Part Three

The next morning was bright and pleasant. A soft mist had dissipated after
dawn, leaving everything in Guadosalam sparkling with dew. It was a pretty
city after all, and I felt happier than the day before. Everyone's spirits
seemed lifted, even Yuna, who seemed to be facing whatever Seymour had in
store with a little more equanimity than yesterday.

After breakfast Tidus and Lulu asked me to go with tto tto the Guado edas
cduna, the item store. He thought we would need some new equipment. Lulu was
responsible for the money, she had a good head for figures and knew to the
last gil how much money the party had at any time. As we walked through the
town she was chatty and pleasant and I came to like her quite a lot.

She'd seemed cold and distant at first, but that was her way of dealing with
the pain of everything she'd been through. Spira was full of the walking
wounded like that. My people were obsessed with technology, we tried to
control science and nature because we couldn't control Sin. It gave us
something to hope in, just like the Yevonites had their hope in the
summoners.

People like Lulu and Auron hid their grief inside and tried not to let it
show. Tidus was the one who didn't fit in here. He was expansive and open
with his feelings, letting the world in fully to his senses, and letting
everything he felt out. He was like a child, but a child who had never lost
a mother or father to the catastrophe of Sin's attack, a child who had never
screamed helplessly as the people who loved them were torn from their lives
in a sudden violent explosion that erupted from nowhere and was as quickly
gone, leaving an aftermath of destruction; our towns, our buildings, our
lives all held hostage by a force no one could control or predict. I could
almost believe Tidus came from another world. He didn't have the mark of
sorrow that infected us all.

I don't know if Lulu sensed what I was thinking, but she'd been watching him
too. "He's irrepressible, isn't he?"

I nodded agreement. While we walked he'd been exploring everything around
us. Wandering over to a fence to inspect the insects that buzzed around huge
yellow bellflowers, dipping his hands into a fountain then taking great
handfuls up and splashing his face and hair, stopping to pet a dog that
watched us amicably and took Tidus's affection as his due before stalking
off with dignity to rest in the shade as we continued.

"It makes a refreshing change. If he knew..." She broke off suddenly as
though she hadn't meant to say that.

"If he knew what?"

She frowned, her good mood suddenly fled. "I don't think Tidus realises
what's ahead of us. He takes everything so lightly, I'm not sure if it's
bravado or simple ignorance."

I thought that was kind of harsh, and didn't say anything further, but I
wondered if that was all there was to it.

Once we reached the store we were all absorbed in discussing what kind of
equipment might be useful. The owner had some nice armour, imbued with
lightning marble, and I was hoping we'd get oneh. Lh. Lulu was haggling over
prices. I don't think we had enough gil to equip everyone and she was trying
to get the price down enough so we could get the lance there for Kimahri,
whose weapon was falling apart after an encounter with a particularly tough-skinned
bunyip on our way here.

"We'll need some potion, and some phoenix down too." Thner ner brought down
a box of potions from the top shelf for inspection. I wondered why they had
so many lightning defensive items and I asked him while Lulu was selecting
the rest of our equipments.

"Most of our customers are on pilgrimage to Macalania Temple" he explained.
"The thunder plain is quite hazardous and we advise all our customers to
equip themselves accordingly. The ĎBoltbreakerí armour is our most popular
range."

"Thunder Plain?" I was really worried now. "Isnít there a way around it?"

He looked at me and blinked rapidly. "Not really. No direct way. It would be
certain suicide to go via the cliffs of Hildieggegar. Earthquakes, you
know."

Lulu was doing a very good job of seeming reluctant to part with our money,
selecting a shield for Yuna, the lance, and a waterball for Wakka. I was
amused by the last, since on our way here she'd told me she'd vowed never to
bring Wakka on a shopping expedition again, since he always seemed to
believe he needed every ball in the store to be adequately equipped for
battle. I know she would have liked the sword they had there for Auron. It
was a fine, deep blue mythril alloy, with a wicked sharp blade,
but he was more than capable with the sword he already had, so the expense
couldn't be justified.

I went over and looked at the targes. There was one that warded off
lightning. I would have killed for something that would absorb the shocks
entirely, but we couldnít even afford this.

"Is there a problem?" Lulu asked me on her way back to the counter.

"I hate thunder." She didnít look very convinced. "I hate lightning. Please,
canít we get this?"

She was adding up in her head, I could tell. I checked my pouch as well. "Ií
ve got 500 gil from a chest I cracked open on the way here." I handed it
over. "Please?"

She relented I think because I sounded so desperate. "I think so. If we can
persuade the merchant to give us a discount." She took the targe over to the
counter, and I followed. I was prepared to get down on the floor and beg,
but it didnít come to that, and he was happy to give us a tenth off the price of
the lance since it was such an expensive item, and the same discount on the potions, since
they were dusty from being on his shelf so long. When we left the store Lulu
told me they seemed to have lost none of their potency despite their age, so
she was pleased with our trading.

I carried my targe and Yunaís ring, Tidus had the box of potions and Kimahriís
spear over his shoulder. Lulu cradled the parcel with the phoenix down as
we walked back to the inn. When we arrived Yuna was laughing as she brushed
Kimahriís coat while Auron looked on tolerantly. Wakka was outside
practicing some blitzball moves but once we showed Kimahri his spear he was
eager to practice with it, so we all went out into the garden where Auron
and I had our talk last night.

Yuna tried the ring on, and stood in the sunlight beside the bench while
Lulu and I sat watching the others. Yuna was praying, her eyes closed, her
face lifted to the clouds that skittered by on the upper air. Kimahri
practicenginnging and defending with his new weapon while Auron and Tidus
engaged in swordplay, and every so often the clash of metal rang out loudly.
I watched as Auron demonstrated a move, lunging forward with a downward
slash, then back and across before jumping forward with a stabbing motion.
Tidus copied his actions, Auron correcting him each time until he had the
motions down perfectly.

Lulu was our magic user, when she fought at all she used her golem, in our
language it was called kumas, an inanimate object given the power of
movement but with only the will of the user to guide its actions. Yuna was a
summoner, although she used her staff for striking it was not her primary
role to fight, only to defend herself if she had to. But I was a fighter, so
I shouldnít have been lazing on the bench with them while the other
guardians honed their skills.

I stood, but I felt self-conscious about practicing in front of everyone,
and there really wasnít enough room for me to work out too so I went outside
and followed the building around to the back. There was a garden there too,
but it was unkempt and deserted, unlike the garden used for the guests.
There was plenty of room though, so after I limbered up for a while I
practiced my usual attack, a fast run in, and then a turn with a sharp
downward strike that my enemies usually canít see until after Iíve hit them
and jumped away.

Iím not sure how long it took before I realised I was being watched. I
turned my head to see Auron standing there, assessing my moves. Once he had
my attention he came over and stood where my imaginary foe was.

"Show me again, from this angle."

I nodded and moved back to my starting point, then focussed on the target. I
sprang into action, twirled and struck, then realised he hadnít moved away
as I thought he would when I started. I struck his chest before I could
arrest my movement, horrified at my mistake.

He grabbed my arm, his fingers digging in sharply, then he took my hand in
his other hand and let it fall gently. There were two indentations in his
armour where my weapon had caught him, and drops of blood welled from each.
I must have looked shocked because he reassured me. "Donít worry. Itís just
a scratch, Iím fine."

"Iím so sorry." I touched the wound gently, wiping away the red that was
there. No more blood appeared, so I was relieved that he was telling the
truth about the minor nature of the injury. "Why didnít you move away?"

"I was going to, but I was distracted. Donít you think itís a little dangerous to
turn your back on the enemy halfway through your attack?"

I knew it seemed that way but Iíd never found it so in practice. "No, itís
the element of surprise. Doing the unexpected means a fiend can never be
prepared to counter it."

He shrugged, but I didnít think he was convinced. "Lunch is ready. I came to
get you. You can show me that move again after lunch."

Again with the orders, I thought, but he didnít seem to mean anything by it,
it was just his way of addressing people. He didnít seem to use the word
please much with anyone.

Our lunch was in the courtyard today. There was fresh shoopuf cheese with
bread, and roasted meat served on a platter. Auron bought several jugs of
cider to share between us, but I only had a small cup since I was going to
be practicing again, and didnít want to fall on my ass in front of him. I
was glad for my forbearance since he asked Wakka and Tidus to watch me as
well. So in front of everyone I worked out, using my signature move as well
as a couple of variations.

"Wooo, Rikku! Those fiends wonít even see whit tit them." I was getting the
idea that Wakka was easily impressed. Tidus watched with his arms folded
over his chest, and Auron studied me with the same dispassionate scrutiny
that I was beginning to become accustomed to.

"Sheís pretty quick." That was Tidus. Auron came over to me again. "Show me
your ankles." I raised my eyebrows at his demand, but he was oblivious to my
displeasure. He leaned down and felt my calf, running his hand down over my
ankle, then doing the same with the other leg as if I was a racing chocobo.
I stood with my mouth gaping at his effrontery, then Wakkaís laughter made
me look over at him. Lulu was smothering a grin behind her hand and I
blushed furiously, not sure if I was angry or embarrassed or both. Auron
knelt on the ground before me and peeled my stockings down to examine the
bracers I was wearing. Tidus and Wakka both came over to look and when he
was done, he began to draw my stockings up again. I edged away from his
grasp and leaned down to fix them myself. He knelt there, his head bowed for
a moment as though he could feel the force of my disouragement.

I began to feel sorry for my reactions, not sure why my feelings were so out
of control when he was around me. My anger was mollified but I didnít know
what to do about how my reactions affected him. When he stood his knees were
covered in dust from the ground, and I toyed absurdly with the idea of
brushing the dirt from his trousers. It was what he would probably do if he
were me, treating me like an animal that could be poked and prodded with
impunity, but I couldnít touch him like that without feeling as though I was
being presumptious and rude. I didnít think heíd stand there docily while I
made free with
his person, which made me wonder why I hadnít kicked him before when he was
taking liberties with mine. While I was pondering this he explained his
actions to me and the others.

"I was worried about what would happen if you twisted an ankle executing
that spin. I didnít want us to have to stop and toss coins to decide who
would have to carry you to Zanarkand."

I found myself fuming so much I wondered if I had red steam pouring out of
my ears. He was infuriating, seeming concerned one minute, then arrogant and
pigheaded the next. He stared at me without a hint of apology in his eye, so
I brushed past him as though he didnít exist and stalked into the inn.

I threw myself onto my bed, and tried to breathe deeply. It wasnít tha
ma
made me angry, it was my expectations that kept changing. I was constantly
fooling myself into thinking hs kis kind and thoughtful, and then I was
caught off guard when he acted like himself. Like a pigheaded toad, I
thought, and the mental image made me laugh a little and calm down, even if
it wasnít being fair. To pigheaded toads that is.

Yuna came in then and sat beside me. "Sir Auron didnít upset you, did he?"

I felt better and I wasnít going to admit, even to Yuna, how unbalanced I
felt when I was around him. "No, Iím fine. Really."

She smiled, relieved at my response. "Iím glad. He can be a little brusque,
but really heís just trying to help." Her voice took on a reflective tone.
"Heís really a great man."

I studied her thoughtfully. "You knew him before...your fatherís
pilgrimage?"

"Oh yes. Sir Auron and my father, they planned for months before they began
their journey." She laughed and her face became playful, remembering that
time. "I used to interrupt them all the time, and Sir Auron would get
impatient, but father would take me on his knee and ask me ĎWhat do you
think, Yuna? Should we...í" here her voice took on a lower register,
imitating the voice of a man she hadnít heard in ten years. "íhurry up and
make a decision, before snow falls in Bevelle?í

"He was making fun of Auron, but I didnít know that then. I would say ĎYes,
we should make a decision before the snow fell.í and Iíd ask when we would
see the snow. He would laugh, and Auron would laugh too, and mess up my
hair. Heís still as impatient as ever, but I wish I could hear him laugh
again like he did back then."

Her smile faded and I hugged her awkwardly and patted her shoulder. Yuna
took our happiness so much to heart. She wanted to please everyone. It
worried me that we had so much power over her own happiness. What happened
later proved that fear accurate. But for now we had said all we knew, all we
could guess of the future.

"We should all rest for a while before tonight. Iím going to have a bath
first though, steamy hot water, and who knows how often weíll have that from now
on?" she asked.

Hot water became a luxury, and during our rest stops we all tried to
take advantage of all the amenities available. I remembered something I had
in my kit, and checked through it, a packet of bath salts from Sanubia, with sprigs dramdramic and myjahtan. "Try this in your bath, youíll like it, itís very relaxing."

She seemed surprised and absurdly pleased by such a small kindness. "Okay,
I will. Thanks, Rikku."

I lay back and placed my arm over my eyes, resting quietly. When both she
and Lulu came back in later I was drifting away, too relaxed to acknowledge
their entrance. Yuna crept over to me quietly and leaned down, and I could
smell the clean scent of the herbs wafting over me like a pleasant dream.

"The bath was wonderful, you were right. Thanks." I smiled, and murmured
ĎYouíre welcomeí but I donít know if it was audible since I was fast falling into sleep.

I dreamed that Auron held a sprig of leaves under my nose and demanded to
know what it was. I recognised the sight of them and their scent, but couldnít
put a name to them. I sniffed and sniffed at them knowing how impatient
he was for an answer but I was lost in the scent. We needed to start our
journey but then I realised why I couldnít recognise them. Snow was falling
like tiny white clouds obscuring everything including their scent. All I
could see around me was Auron, who was now kneeling before me as he had done
in the courtyard. He looked up and looked at me with disappointment, as
though I had failed and some terrible catastrophe had overtaken us. Our
journey was over, before we even started and it was all my fault.

I woke with a shudder as Luluís hand left my shoulder. "Are you okay?"

I tried to reorient myself. We were in Guadosalam, and it was just a dream,
brought on by the events of yesterday, and Yunaís reminiscences. We were all
safe. I nodded at Lulu. "Just a dream. Iím okay."

"We need to get ready to go soon. I thought you might like to have a bath
first."

"Ummm, yeah, thanks."

I felt a lot better after I bathed, and we were all ready well within time.
When I came into the main room, Auron gave me with a significant look. I
couldnít read it, but tried not to let it worry me. He also studied Yuna
with the same searching gaze, and it seemed that he was looking for
weaknesses in both of us. Yuna because she was, well, Yuna, and me because
he didnít know me very well. I was a new addition to the group and he wanted
to make sure I was going to fit in, and not cause any problems. Thatís how I
explained it to myself anyway.

When we got to the palace of the Guado we were met by Tromell, Seymourís servant.
The place was like a mausoleum. It was palatial but cold, and the impression
wasnít helped by the massive portraits of dead Guado that adorned the walls.
We waited, again, and were eventually ushered into the banquet room. I was
nervous, so I stood by the table and tried out the food. I also
surreptitiously checked various offerings to make sure there was nothing
untoward. By this stage I wouldnít have put it past Seymour to have laced
the food with poison. He gave me the creeps.

He tried to act all suave and sophisticated with Yuna but he just seemed
cold and calculating to me, as though he was trying to work out what size
fish hook to use to reel her in. Whatever he said to her made her start back
like a nervous rabbit, then she moved away from him with alacrity, her face as red
as a beet.

"He asked me to marry him." She told us. We were all shocked. I looked at
him and he was standing there smiling absently, as though he hadnít realised
she had reeled away in shock from his bizarre proposal. If he had begun
drooling on himself I wouldnít have been surprised, since he obviously wasnít
all there in the head.

We left as soon as we could, after Yuna made some excuses about thinking it
over. I would have rejected him outright, but Yuna felt the need to let him
down gently. I donít think she was afraid of his power as a maester,
although in hindsight she should have been. As I said, she wanted to please
everyone, even a lunatic like Seymour Guado.


end of Part Three


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