Chapter X - Ut Ameris, Ama

The sun was ruthless. It beat down upon her still body, painting her exposed skin a pale crimson. A low groan escaped from her cracked lips, allowing a few grains of the brittle sand to slip into her mouth. She sat up slowly, spitting the specks of sand from her mouth forcefully.

The sun was blinding, forcing her to place a hand to shield her eyes from the sun's cruel rays. How long had she been there, only the fates could really tell. Yet, the burning sensation positioned all along her, informed her it had been quite some time. She released another groan and attempted to push herself into a standing position, only to fall backwards onto her rear.

"Tysh!" She cried coarsely, her voice a mere shadow of her normal chipper pitch. Instead, of rehashing her attempt to stand, she took this moment to take in her surroundings.

She was in the middle of a dessert, obviously, due to the sand that filled her every nook and cranny. A few dilapidated machina were scattered over the dunes, as well as manifold makeshift signs. She was in the Sanubia Sands located upon Bikanel Island. She was home.

That revelation seemed to bestow her with the necessary strength, aiding her to a standing posture. She stretched her tiny hands toward the heavens, cracking several neglected joints in her weary back. After a few more minutes of examination, she could safely deduce that she was alone. Sin must have brought them here. How, she did not know for sure? But, how else could they go from the dead of winter to the heart of summer.

With a quick sigh, she was soon on her way, trudging through the tumbling sands of the blistering desert. Every now and then, she would peer backwards, in hope of seeing one of her comrades, or perhaps another soul. They Al Bhed would most likely be snooping around the area, so it wouldn't be a surprise if she did come across a group. Hopefully, a troop of Al Bhed would not come across a dazed Wakka. That would not be pretty.

Luckily, it did not take too long to find an Al Bhed rest station. Upon sight of it, Rikku broke out into the closest thing to a run she had the strength for. After stumbling quite a few times, she reached the station and proceeded to throw herself into the safety of the shade. The cooler air of the tent, hit her like a wave; a very fresh and revitalizing wave. It was fantastic to be out of the sun's ruthless glare and Rikku relished in respite. She may as well remain here; perhaps someone may stumble upon her. She also, didn't want to go back into the sweltering heat of the sands.

Unfortunately, when one sits about and has absolutely nothing to do, one's mind tends to wander and contemplate upon things that perhaps one would rather ignore. Things such as Auron. Was he all right? Was he even on the island? Well, no matter where he was, he was most likely safe and sound. Auron wasn't the type to be killed in such a trivial way. He had probably found Yuna and the rest of the group and they had abandoned her, a superfluous member of the crew.

She blew out a puff of air and crawled over toward the entrance of the tent. At least, if she sat out here she could watch the Zu's soar by and her friends not come for her. She would wait here until nightfall and then if they still had not come, she would head towards Home. Yet, she could still hope.

Her mind backtracked from the panicky fear of abandonment, toward the queasy feeling she received whenever she thought of the stoic guardian. Yet, the pointlessness of that feeling always seemed to shock her. She knew very well, that it was inane to fall in love with the man. She knew very well that she would most likely get rejected. Yet, did her heart know? No matter how much her mind yelled and screamed at the insanity of her actions, her heart merely sighed and reminded her of the warmth of his touch. It was a hopeless battle she would never win. Her mind would always call foul when she stole a love-filled gaze at the guardian, but her heart would stick out a disobedient tongue and return to its insolent actions. She was lost.

"Great.we're lost aren't we?" Chimed a smooth voice from around the bend of a towering sand dune. Rikku perked up immediately, forgetting her despondency momentarily. She knew that endlessly chipper voice anywhere. As if to confirm her thoughts, a very confused Tidus came lumbering around the corner, followed by Lulu, who was desperately fanning herself; Wakka, who was staring up into the sky, a hand shielding his eyes, seemingly looking for a swooping Zu; A demoralized Kimahri, hanging his head in defeat; and a somber Auron, bringing up the rear.

A brilliant smile traipsed upon her face, as she began waving frantically at the quickly approaching group. Tidus was the first to notice her, as a smile slapped itself upon his boyish face.

"Rikku!" He called, jogging over toward her. Rikku was bursting with relief. They hadn't forgotten her, or at least she met up with them before they could. Either way, she was happy to be reunited with the rag tag group.

"Hey guys!" She cried cheerfully, ending her frenetic waving. Gradually, the rest of the group caught up with the two. Lulu acknowledged the girl with a friendly smile, Wakka grunted, and Auron simply nodded. Everyone seemed fine, no mortal wounds.but, where was Yuna?

"Er.where's Yunie?" Rikku queried, looking about to be sure she hadn't simply over looked the passive summoner. She hadn't.

"We're not sure," Tidus replied, his cheerful mood faltering. A small sigh escaped from her lips. Yet, if everyone else had made it onto the island, Yuna must be somewhere. Maybe, a group of Al Bhed wanderers found her and brought her to Home. It was a comforting thought and had every possibility of being true.

"Okay, then! I have an idea!" She spouted, waving her hand toward the others, as she began walking off down the sandy trail. The remainder shared curious glances, yet followed Rikku all the same. At least someone knew what was going on.

"I'm gonna tell ya something, but well.you see, you can't tell anyone," She asked, her request posed for the whole group. The request was truly aimed at Wakka. His avid belief in Yevon worried her. She couldn't have him running off telling every Maester the home base of the Al Bhed; or.it may happen all over again.

"This is the Isle of Bikanel. The Al Bhed have their home here, but if Yevon found out we were here."

"You talk as if Yevon are they sinners. What are you sayin' Yevon would do?" Wakka interrupted angrily, his bitterness toward her tribe shining like a new penny. Rikku rolled her eyes and placed her hands upon her slender hips. She wasn't going to let Wakka's discrimination get to her this time.

"They did do something, something horrible. Okay, so I don't want that happening again. My people know enough pain, without Yevon hounding down our backs," Rikku snarled, taking Wakka completely by surprise. His russet eyes widened, however, he still folded his arms about his chest in obduracy.

"Only because the Al Bhed started things." The blitzball captain muttered crossly. Tidus released a petulant growl and threw his hands up in the air. It seemed Rikku wasn't the only one fed up with Wakka's doggedness.

"What does it matter now?" Tidus cried, not attempting in the least to hide the impatience in his voice. Wakka released an angered sigh and gave Tidus a quick glance. It seemed that the Yevon lover was quite out-numbered.

"Just Promise, okay?" Rikku implored, her tone dreadfully staid. Wakka remained with his brawny arms folded mulishly across his chest, glancing about the circle of guardians about him. Did he really have any choice?

"Fine, Let's just go, then," He grumbled, releasing his arms from their death grip about his chest. A small grin emerged on Rikku's previously serious countenance. She clapped her hands together, and began her trek toward the infamous Al Bhed Home; being entirely certain that Yuna was within.

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No matter how much Rikku adored Home, she came to despise the desert very quickly. She had never been out in the blistering heat for extended periods of time, with out some type of vehicle of course. Yet, here she was, trudging through the rolling sands of Sanubia, abhorring every second of it. The only comfort she had was not being too far off from Home.

She could here snippets of a conversation beside her between Wakka and Lulu, Wakka still seeming quite skeptical about Rikku's reliability. Rikku wanted to interject; yet she might as well forget it. It would only lead to another futile argument, which would have to be broken up by another guardian. She was sick and tired of fighting with people who were supposed to be on her side. Saving her energy for Sin and protecting Yuna was her main priority. As long as she kept this view, she would be fine.

Glancing around, it seemed Tidus was lagging a bit behind; most likely thinking about the lost summoner. The poor guy, he was head over heels for a girl that was journeying to her doom. Yet, did he know that? The most likely answer was no. The way he acted around her did not reflect a boy knowing his friend was branded with death.

Rikku released a sad sigh, just thinking of Yuna's tragic fate brought down her mood measurably. It just wasn't fair that she should have to sacrifice herself, just so Sin could come back ten years later.it just wasn't! The others may think it's kidnapping, but the Al Bhed was simply trying to save the summoners from themselves, at least until a way could be found to defeat Sin without sacrificing summoners.

Her scrutinizing of the group left only one left; Auron. He was walking at a steady gait, not too far from herself. His head was bent, seemingly in thought. Whatever he brooded over at times like these was unknown. Perhaps, the past with Braska and Jecht.that would make the most sense. In essence, the man was truthfully a tragic figure. Soul survivor of his encounter with Sin, the salvaged third wheel from the wreckage. Perhaps, it was his poignant existence or his steadfast resolve, but she was clearly drawn toward him, if not only to help him. He needed aid, in more ways than one, and he was too proud to call for it. So, Rikku would help him.whether he accepted her comfort or not.

A raucous detonation resounded stridently across the desert, pulling Rikku and everyone from their contemplation. The explosion had sounded from over the far sand dune, from where Home was located.

Rikku released a strangled cry and began to run rapidly toward the dune, not caring whether her companions were following at the same speed or not. When she reached the dreaded sandbank, all she could do was stand in silent horror, a single hand placed to her gaping mouth. What she laid her eyes upon was simply; utter chaos.

Enormous Zu's soared over head, only to dive toward the unprotected fortress below. Capricious explosions resounded all over, coloring the air with intense scarlets and gingers. Smoke poured freely from cavernous holes in the once great structure, sounding its imminent defeat.

Rikku exhaled shakily, her body quivering noticeably from the shock of the situation. The rest of the guardians had appeared at her side by now, an each watched on in horror as the slowly Home was meeting its gruesome end.

"No." Rikku mouthed quietly, shaking her head repeatedly, stuck between devastating grief and overwhelming rage. She had to fight a brutal inner battle to keep the pending tears from rolling down her cheeks. She had to be strong.

"Rikku." Tidus said quietly, placing a comforting hand upon her trembling shoulder. Rikku glanced over at him; her verdant eyes stained a pale cherry with crystalline tears threatening to pour any moment from the corners of her eyes.

"Let's go," Auron stated blankly, beginning the trek down the sand dune toward the worsening battle below. Lulu followed in suit, offering the beset Rikku a comforting nod.

"And you say Yuna's in there!" Wakka exclaimed, trailing hastily after the others. Tidus curled his arm around Rikku's shoulder, proffering a gentle squeeze. Rikku nodded weakly and the two started after the others, aware of the inherent danger that was creeping rapidly towards them.