Chapter XI - Aurora Borealis

Her shrill scream broke through the thunderous sounds momentarily, resounding sharply off the fractured ramparts about them. She heaved herself forward at a momentous pace, causing herself to stumble now and then on her crazed journey. She skidded to a halt a few feet away and dropped instantly to her knees, scooping up a fallen man into her trembling arms.

"Keyack! No, please!" Her desperate cries reached deaf ears, as a roaring explosion sounded above. Keyack shifted uneasily, pain etching his youthful features. Rikku smoothed back his askew flaxen locks, to receive a better look at her friend.

"Fryd ec kuehk uh?! Fru tet drec?!" She asked frantically in her native language. Keyack uttered a lengthy groan and a tattered arm gradually raised itself upwards, as his hand gently gripped her arm. Rikku blinked her swirling emerald eyes frantically to help fight back the forthcoming tears.

"Yevon.the Guado." His voice came out grated, as evidence of his relentless agony. His grip tightened on her arm, as his face winced in suffering. Rikku pulled the young man closer, her fingers trailing gently across his forehead, wiping away the blood that was pouring from an ugly lesion.

"A war between Yevon and the Al Bhed.?" cogitated a raspy female voice from beyond Rikku. Rikku was waiting for Wakka to pipe in with some rash comment about the Al Bhed being at fault. To her surprise, she was met with merely the rumbling of explosions and the unsteady breathing of Keyack.

"Oui cdyo cyva.Rikku," murmured the fading Keyack softly. Rikku nodded her head, biting her lip to stay strong for her friend and for her home. Keyack uttered one last protracted breath before his grip upon her arm failed and his body went limp. Rikku stifled a sob and brought herself to the dead man's chest, holding onto whatever friendship had existed once within his lifeless form.

Tidus and the other guardians stood in disconsolate silence behind the two; too distant to mourn, yet too involved to merely walk away. The atmosphere was stifling and profound, beating down upon their backs like a relentless barrage, with no evident escape in sight.

The moment of peace was broken almost rudely, by a raucous detonation at their sides, followed by the frantic pattering of hastened footsteps. A group of three men were running at a rapid pace, two continued on toward the doorway a ways off, yet one remained. The man hovered over the mourning Rikku, a hand clasping roughly onto her shoulder. Rikku looked up with a start, unsuspecting of the sudden contact.

The man knelt down briskly, inspecting the face of the fallen Al Bhed. A cloud of rage seemed to glaze over his verdant eyes momentarily. Rikku turned her attention back toward the guardians, as she rose from her position and gently lowered Keyack to the ground.

"Dra Guado yna dnoehk dy kad dra Summoners!" The kneeling man shouted at Rikku. Rikku glanced askance at the man, giving him a nod. He promptly stood and approached the guardians. The man was a moderated height, with a smooth head and traditional Al Bhed garb. An azure tattoo scrawled itself across his right brow and a pair of swirling emerald eyes completed his no-holds-barred Al Bhed look. The very air about the man dripped with magnitude; he was truly a charismatic figure.

"You with Rikku? Get off your asses then and help us!" He growled waving a motioning hand towards them and running to regroup with his soldiers. The guardians followed in suit, Rikku leading them. They reached the ruined plaza within mere moments. The man stood before the two Al Bhed, arms poised boldly before his chest; he was barking commands to the men in frantic Al Bhed and they were off in separate directions to do the man's bidding.

"The Guado are trying to get to the Summoners. We need some more fightin' force to hold 'em off. That's where you kids come in!" With that final command he ran off into the fractured sliding door before them; leaving the group alone in the desolate quadrangle.

"Who was that?" Tidus piped in, breaking the eerie silence of the square. Rikku was still staring at the doorway, a faraway look gripping her hazy emerald eyes. She swallowed hard and barely looked up at the boy.

"Cid; Head of the Al Bhed tribe.and my father," She answered, her voice a mere shadow of her normal chiming tone. Rikku lowered her head once more, attempting to push away the dismal cloud that was raining sorrow upon her dispirited heart. Keyack had been her childhood friend. She had known that boy since they both had the same short flaxen hairdo. Twins; that's what everyone had called the indistinguishable pair. It was painful to reflect on such happy times at the moment. Every memory seemed so much darker now, even if it was fundamentally cheerful.

"We should go," Lulu suggested, placing a hand gently upon Rikku's turned back. Rikku's posterior muscles tensed at the external contact, but her head nodded none the less. Thus the small group began its short trek toward the fractured doorframe.

Rikku lagged behind; her head bowed in deep reflection, she didn't even notice the presence of another beside her. She uttered a bleak sigh and raised her eyes toward the pantheon above.

The sky was misted with thick gray smoke, clouding her vision of the higher heavens. Unsystematic detonations sounded from all over the dying Home, voicing its death throes. The figure beside her caught the corner of her eyes, pulling her full attention towards it. It was Auron. The older guardian had fallen in step with the Al Bhed's sluggish pace, his lone russet ocular trained upon the crestfallen girl.

"I.I don't know what to do, Auron," She whispered, her voice cracking a bit at the end. She was gradually losing her protective damn that was hardly holding back a salvo of tears. Auron released a brief sigh, his eyes not wavering from their target.

"The pain will go away over time. All you can do now is focus upon the task at hand," Was Auron's gruff reply. Rikku sucked in deeply, halting the harsh words that wished to pour from her mouth. His reply was cold, but correct all the same. She couldn't dwell in sorrow; it would only bring her further down. Yuna needed her, as much as she needed the others. Pain was a fleeting sensation, better to forget it's current existence then to sink into the depths of despair. Once more the proficient guardian's wisdom shone brightly.

Rikku turned attention up the rapidly approaching doorway. The others had already retreated indoors, and she and Auron were once more left alone. If only this could occur at more opportune times. Perhaps, she could strike up a decent conversation with the man.perhaps, of course, the key word.

The two paused before the opening and Auron turned toward the petite Al Bhed. Her hair was still a bit askew from the close encounter with Sin, and various minor bruises and cuts lined her exposed arms and legs. A more predominant ebon bruise stained her left cheek, looking more like a smudge of dirt than a painful contusion. Auron, himself, was not in any better shape than the young guardian. The times were trying upon both the physical and mental form; a few bruises were trifling to what was looming on the horizon.

Rikku looked up at the man; that overpowering feeling sluicing over her yet again. His gloved hand rose from its usual spot at his side. The cool hand clasped lightly onto her forearm, the deep raven clashing vastly with her sun kissed skin. Rikku's jade eyes wandered slowly towards his hand, surprise rooted deep within.

"Don't let revenge blind you," He stated softly, an almost unperceivable tinge of empathy trickling into his sonorous voice. The grip loosened as quickly as it had gripped on. He turned briskly and his strident footsteps resounded off the lofty bulwarks, marking his egression.

Rikku muttered a gentle sigh, her hand coming to rest upon the chilled skin on her forearm. With one more scan of the square, she entered the metal bound room at a hasty past, catching up with the other guardians in little time.

The group was standing wordlessly in the center of a circular platform. Several offshoot paths lead down to more fractured sliding doors. Electrical cords hung from the ceiling, shooting lethal sparks erratically toward the metallic terrazzo. A cyclical voice echoed continuously throughout the cavernous room, buzzing every now and then. A yawning hole was situated at the right side housed a rampant inferno, which spit out it contents fitfully, articulating its evident ferocity. To put it bluntly; Home had morphed into a blistering maze of death.

"Yuna!" Wakka cried into the smoldering abyss. His only reply was the angered hissing of the flames, which openly mocked the man's turmoil. He turned to the others, his bronzed eyes downcast in defeat.

"The Guado have gone too far." Wakka affirmed, as he turned toward Rikku. Rikku nodded at the man, a bittersweet simper etching into her face. It seemed out of place amidst the suffering and destruction, like a lily among daisies. Its existence was short-lived. Upon hearing the nebulous crackling of the loud speaker, her expression turned staid, as she gazed up into the rafters.

" ar.e," The booming of the speaker drowned out the crackling of the blazes momentarily, as the jargon of speech poured into the space. There was a harsh peal that ripped through the speaker, causing all with in the radius to place their hands over their ears.

"Rikku, lyh oui rayn sa?" Sounded the voice once more, yet it was clear as daylight this time.

"Oui kioc kuddy kad uidy rini! Home ec tuha vun!" The discernible voice was Cid's. Rikku ran towards the far exit, her head directed towards the rafters, making sure she could hear every words. Things were definitely not improving. Not in the least.

"Let's go, we gotta get to the Summoner's Room quick!" She cried, running out the door hurriedly. Everyone followed closely behind, not wanting to linger further in the smoldering area. Rikku's speed was rushed; she didn't want to arrive at the Summoner's Room to find that she had been too late. She was a guardian and she would do her job properly; No matter what. The echoing of multiple footfalls behind her signaled her companions' pursuit. She could see the distant doorway of the room. It was blackened and the door hung limply from the frame.

Rikku's speed simply increased at the sight, and she skidded to a halt upon entering the doorway. The stairwell downward was still intact, yet littered with various metallic debris.

"There is nothing we can do here." Wakka stated breathlessly, as he entered through the doorway, followed by the rest of the guardians. Rikku moved toward the nearest banister and paused briefly to catch her breath. Her emerald eyes were brimming with dismay, as she examined a particularly loose tile upon the floor.

"I know." She sighed, snapping her head upwards causing her aching neck to crack. Wakka was right, there wasn't anything that could possibly salvage this burning ruin. It was a shame.

"This wasn't our original home, though. We left our older home a while ago, and everyone scattered. It was my dad, Cid, who finally reunited everyone here. He told us, after all those years we finally have ourselves a new Home," Rikku reminisced with a faint smile upon her lips. She remembered coming to this place, as if it were yesterday. She had been around six, still a young age, but it was memorable all the same. Her mother had still been alive then.

"He made it all possible to restart our spoiled lives. And then.... why? Why does this have to happen...!?" Rikku cried, jumping up from her stance and kicking a nearby pole. She retracted her foot in pain, but anger was still visibly etched into her expression.

"Damn them." She mumbled heatedly, glaring daggers at the pole she had just attacked. Tidus came up behind the infuriated Al Bhed and placed a reassuring hand upon her shoulder. Rikku heaved a heavy-handed sigh and turned toward the golden-haired guardian.

"Rikku, what is the summoned room?" Lulu asked abruptly, stepping forward from her outlying status.

"We keep the Summoner's safe there and try to keep them from traveling to their deaths," Rikku stated plainly, as if it had been recited to her many times. Lulu stepped away, returning to her thoughts. Her displeasure of the Al Bhed actions was evident, but the black mage seemed rather hesitant to voice such. Perhaps, she feared Yuna's death as much as Rikku.

"After you kidnap them, of course." Wakka added, not shamed to voice his condemnation of her acts. Rikku shook her head and walked closer to the stairwell, her eyes tracing the trail down gradually.

"You don't understand."

"Yeah, well here's something I don't understand," Tidus interjected. Possibly to avoid conflict between the two, or perhaps he was truly curious.

"You don't want them to die on their journey, so you kidnap them? But then, how can they defeat Sin if they can't go on their journey? I can see why you're worried, but isn't that why the Guardians are there? If they do their job right, no way the Summoners will die!" Tidus ended his spiel, his arm slicing through the air for extra pizzazz. Rikku stared at the boy with vacant eyes. No one had told him. What a sin this was. No one had told him what happened when Yuna reached Zanarkand. No one had told him she was going to die...

"Right!" Tidus exclaimed again, his voice faltering this time. It was apparent by the thickening air, that they were holding information from the chirpy guardian. Tidus's azure eyes scanned the circle of guardians around him, finding no encouragement of his confidence.

"The fighting has stopped, Kimahri go now," The towering beast padded down the steps toward the room.

"Yeah, let's go," Rikku piped in, her voice devoid of all emotion. She followed the Ronso towards the room listlessly, her step heavy and grim. She was afraid her fears would be confirmed the moment she walked into the room. All she could do was hope Yuna was well and their journey hadn't ended as quickly as it had begun.