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 Nine

The desert was a much more pleasant place to be during the night. The stars glowed brilliantly above, and the sands were warm enough to counteract the chill of the night air. It could get very cold early in the morning, but I planned to set up camp just before dawn so we could sleep before the day got too

We walked pretty much in single file, quietly, as I was worried that we might come across other Al Bhed and that could prove difficult to resolve without resorting to violence. I wanted to avoid that at all costs.

I was using Al Na'ir as our guide, and I instructhe ohe others how to locate the star and steer by it, so I didn't have to be constantly in the lead. The dunes were close packed here and fairly easy to navigate, but it was still hard work for anyone noed ted to it. When Tidus unpacked one of his water bottles and began to drink from it deeply I ran over to stop him.

"Tidus, no." He stopped, surprised by my warning. "You mustn't drink too much now. If you have to drink, only take enough to moisten your mouth. The rest needs to be saved till morning."

"Why? We're carrying plenty of water, you said so before."

I wasn't sure how to explain it. There was a saying of my people, which I told them. "You must keep your water in it's skin."

Everyone stared at me blankly, and I found myself unable to think of a way to tell them what they needed to know. I felt my face growing hot then spat out some words in my own language, defeated by the impossibility of saying it politely. Auron harrumphed, the first sign of humour I'd heard from him since before we'd entered Macalania temple.

I ran away, and waited at the top of the next dune, but before I did I heard Wakka ask in a wondering tone "Did she just swear at us?"

After a moment Lulu came up to me, and put her arms around me. "Sir Auron said you would explain anything I needed to know."

"Oh. okay. Ummm...if you need to go to the bathroom...you know, you have to wait..as long as you can." It was strange how much easier it was when it was another girl, my grasp of the language returned as if it had never failed me.

We continued soon after, and I kept moving forward to avoid being near enough to converse with the others but of course Auron found a way. Kimahri loped up to me. "Sir Auron asks: to speak to Rikku now."

"Okay" I squeaked back. I couldn't hope to ignore his summons, so I faced the music. When I fell in step with him he did not look my way. "I explained to the others. About the desert beasts that do not piss their water away in the sand."

His tone sounded vaguely amused by the topic, but I was miserable because of my failure. "Do not worry. I told them to consider your advice an order from me. They will do as you say."

I nodded my thanks. We walked in silence for a time.

"Rikku, you couldn't begin to understand how sorry I am..."

I shook my head. It was all my fault but it was typical of him that he tried to shoulder all the responsibility anyway. I fought back my tears. I was giving him up, not for the reasons he'd given me, but because I'd put my feelings ahead of his, and refused to let him go when he'd all but begged me to. But he didn't need to know how weak I was still, despite knowing it was the right thing to do.

After a short silence all he said was "It's for the best."

My voice was hoarse and low when I replied. "I know."

After that we both avoided each other for the rest of the night.

We had not travelled as far as I had hoped we would. It got cooler in the latter stages of the night, but everyone except Kimahri tired quickly and our paced had slowed considerably. I wasn't worried too much. We would still make it to the next cache of water before the second morning, so as soon as it was light enough I began looking for a good place to set up our camp.

When I found a place I began to dig at the base of the dune. Tidus helped me, and then we set up the tent. We would get several hours of shade, well into mid-morning. After we ate a little of the food and some water I provided some further advice. "Everyone, you should try to keep at least two bottles of your water till this evening. Drink as much as you like of the rest during the day. If you go outside or move around you need to keep below the level of the sand dunes, since we don't want a bunch of scouts descending on us."

I thought that was everything I needed to cover. "We should all try to sleep now while it's cool enough. It would be a good idea to strip down so you can sleep longer, it will get too hot otherwise."

Kimahri declined and said he would keep watch. It was unlikely that fiends would find us while we rested dg thg the day, but still a possibility. I think the Ronso were able to sleep standing up, part of their minds completely at ease, but still instantly aware of everything within range of their senses at need. It explained how he was able to guard Yuna night after night but still be able to travel on the pilgrimage by day. Or the reverse under present circumstances.
e ote others followed my advice and were soon lying down, but Auron sat still, staring out of the tent flap at the bright ochre sand, the cerulean sky. I knelt beside him, my hands curled palm up in my lap like a supplicant. I kept my gaze and my voice lowered. "Sir Auron, your armour..."

I spoke in a low tone, not wanting the others to hear my question. There were so many things none of us spoke of during that journey. Like the final aeon and what would happen if we defeated Sin. And Tidus's devotion to Yuna. It was too painful to put into words. This was another. Everyone could tell there was something wrong with him, the way Auron held himself, his arm at his side. The pain he hid, but which infrequently escaped him. During a battle his will was strong enough to overcome his injury, but afterwards he would be drained and edgy. It was something that none of us asked about because we knew he didn't want us to. We all wanted to avoid pity, and Auron was no exception. It was a common trait among the people of Spira.

I hadn't really expected a reply, so after a moment I rose and found a spot for myself near the wall. First I took my own advice. I had a bikini which I'd donned the day before in preparation for my aborted search. Now I turned my back on the others and stripped off my top. My shorts followed and I stretched out on my stomach.

The others all settled ind ind it became quiet. I was glad that Kimahri had stayed outside, the little tent was crowded as it was. I closed my eyes, but after a few minutes Auron spoke to me quietly. "Rikku. E haat ouin ramb."

I turned to see him still sitting in the same place, but his armour was unfastened on his right shoulder. I knelt once more beside him. "You have to tell Kimahri, that I have no armour, and if fiends come he and the others will have to fight alone while you help me." I nodded and looked outside. I couldn't see the Ronso, but I whispered his name. Within moments he returned and came over to me. I quietly repeated Auron's message, and he stared at me impassively while I spoke, then loped away as quietly as he'd come.

I returned to Auron, and began to unfasten the other shoulder and side, still averting my gaze from his face. He kept his arm held against his side firmly. "Pull it free." I did so, sliding the material sideways. Then I gasped at what I saw. He had several scars on his chest, but the worst was a gash that ran down his right side, following the line of the scar on his face. It began just below the level of his breastbone and did not trail off until it almost reached his hip, becoming a shallow sickle at the lower end. Scar tissue formed a wide furrow over his ribs and it appeared that most, of not all of them had been severed and crushed by whatever hit him. It made me want to weep. I couldn't help myself from looking at his face. His heas bas bowed, his brows drawn together in concentration. I wanted to reach out and touch him, with everything in my heart. I wanted to take him in my arms and never let him go. Instead I sat with my arms extended, feeling frozen and sick at heart. He moved carefully, lying down with effort and closing his eyes. I crawled back to my place next to his and closed my eyes again. After everything, he had shown me all his weaknesses. He trusted me to see him as he was, and to lie beside him, and to protect him. It was an honour I felt unworthy of, but I wanted to deserve it with all my might. After that it took me a long time to finally fall asleep.

I don't know if he slept at all. His hand squeezed my wrist, and my eyes opened. When I turned he was levering himself upright, and I guessed he wanted to cover himself before the others stirred. I looked across and Tidus was kicking slightly in his sleep. I wondered if he was dreaming of blitzball.

I quietly picked up the pieces of reinforced fabric and began to help him refasten them. We didn't need words, we still had this understanding between us. It must have taken enormous effort from him because once we were done he didn't try to hide his exhaustion, lying down again.

I whispered "Did you sleep?"

"A little." was his reply.

I guessed that to mean not at all. My waterbottle was close by, so I sat up and poured a little water into my hands. "Try now then. I'll watch." I stroked his brow and temples with the cooling water, running my fingers through his hair several times, and it seemed to ease his pain and he dozed off for a while.

The others woke one by one. Lulu first, and she muttered something incomprehensible then sat up. When she looked our way I stared back impassively, dg heg her to make something of the fact that I sat crosslegged beside Auron and was stroking his hair while he slept.

It was a tactic I used successfully several times more, and we all sat quietly, thinking our own thoughts and quietly sipping water. Everyone else left the tent for short periods, but soon returned to avoid the sun and heat outside. When Auron woke I moved away, not wanting to feel that I'd stolen the chance to touch him while he slept, but afraid he would think so and push me away again if he knew.

Wakka and Tidus talked for a little while about blitzball again. They liked to plan strategies, plays that were tailored against one or another of the other teams, and their talk became quite technical at times, but I don't think either of them had their hearts truly in it today, their talk petered out.

After a short silence Wakka asked "You think Yuna's alright?"

"Yes." I wasn're hre how much to tell them. "A scouting party would have found her and taken her to Home."

"Are you sure? She's not lying in the desert somewhere?"

I explained. "If she was moving around during the day my people would see her. Remember I saw you first that day, but the tent is the same colour as the sand, and you didn't see me until I moved. The Al Bhed move at night, and we watch during the day. Yuna would have been spotted from miles away. We would be too, but we're at the bottom of a dune, and keeping still."

After that the afternoon droned on slowly. I kept nodding off, then coming to with a start. Occasionally someone would start a topic of conversation, but no one inclined much to finish one and we trailed off into silence several times.

Finally the sun cleared the edge of the dunes, and I set out our food. Wakka went to fetch Kimahri, and when they returned we ate. We were ready to move again as soon as the sun had reached the horizon. Making an early start meant we could reach the next cache, and then make camp shortly afterwards. We all needed more rest than this morning, and I thought we could still get to Home by the third morning, even if we had to walk through part of the day.

End of Part Nine

Al Bhed primer and translation guide:

E haat ouin ramb = I need your help

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