Chapter III - ...Statu Variabilis

Rikku lagged behind the group, as they traveled slowly through Macalania Forest, her striking jade eyes wide with awe. The beauty of these woods easily rivaled the nightly magnificence of the Moonflow. Star-like leaves littered the trees, gleaming with a ethereal shimmer. Moonflowers scattered across the path, resembling the silvery orb in all of her celestial splendor. It seemed to be eternally night within these woods, yet not in a terrifying way. The nighttime seemed less imposing lit with such radiance as such about her. She didn't want leave this forest anymore than she had wanted to leave the Al Bhed lodge.

"'s a faint hope anyway."

Rikku looked up, spotting Tidus and Auron walking a short distance before her. She lowered her head again. She still hadn't regained her wits, and after the Thunder Plains she was a bit embarrassed too.

Clutching to Auron for protection was the last thing she had wanted to do. She didn't need his help, and she didn't want him to think that. She had gone out there to confront him about his inconsiderate demeanor, yet instead had found herself clinging to the man for dear life. Pitiful, that's what she was. Just pitiful.

Tidbits of the two men's conversation drifted to her ears. It appeared they were discussing Yuna's agreeing to marry the Maester. In her opinion, she really thought Yuna was taking this pilgrimage thing way too seriously. Yes, it was to benefit Spira, but she shouldn't have to marry some man she didn't love. Besides, she could tell it was killing Tidus to see Yuna slip right through his fingertips. But, it wasn't like she was marrying the guy because she absolutely loved him. No, she said it was for the people or something. She, for one thing, wouldn't be caught dead with a creepy guy like Seymour, nevertheless, marry him! Yuna sure had some guts.

Her gaze trailed up to meet the backs of the two in front of her. They obviously had known each other before she had found Tidus in the ruins. Perhaps, he was from his Zanarkand. Despite, his tale being rather far-fetched, it would explain his unknowing of the ways of Spira. Yet, could Sin really transport one that far into the future? It wasn't like he had been thrown from Kilika to the underwater ruins. Was blitzball really that old? And how did he know Auron? Auron seemed to be from Spira, since he knew so much about the place. When he had disappeared as Yunie said, did he somehow get transported to Zanarkand? Ergh, this was all so complicated!

Rikku released a labored sigh and raised her small hands to systematically massage her temples. Everything was being thrown at the group so fast; she barely had enough time to breathe anymore. First, that creepy guy trying to escape from the Farplane, then Seymour proposing to Yuna. Why did he want to marry her anyway? It wasn't for fame, he already had that, and he wasn't after fortune. Did he love Yuna? Everyone seemed to making love seem so unnecessary in a marriage. Yet, wasn't that the reason you got married? Because you fell in love with someone? Didn't people do it to be happy? Maybe, she was the one that didn't understand. Perhaps, she was over rating love. It wasn't like she had ever been in love herself. But, well, she was sure when she was she wouldn't throw it away and marry some guy for a populous.

" will see for yourself," Assured a deep raspy voice, followed by the patter of footsteps, marked the end of the Tidus and Auron's conversation. Rikku had been so involved in her own thoughts; she had forgotten that the two had been there. She furrowed her brow and picked up her pace. She would ask Auron about Seymour, herself. He seemed to strangely know everything else going on in Spira; this no doubt, wouldn't prove her thoughts wrong.

She ran up on the left side of him, being sure that she would have his full attention. An askance glance told her that he was at least aware of her presence. She paused for a moment, thinking the phrasing of her question over in her mind. She didn't want to sound stupid and ask some nonsense question. Yet, the reason she cared so much was beyond her. Perhaps, she was attempting to regain some respect she had most likely lost a few hours before.

"Why do you think Seymour wants to marry Yunie?" Rikku inquired, not able to think of any intelligible way to phrase the question; the casual form would do, however. Rikku could see Auron eyeing her strangely out of the corner of his eye, as the walked on. He was in all likelihood wondering why she asked such an odd question. His somber gaze eventually returned to the path before them.

"It is an affair between Seymour and Yuna, it doesn't concern us," Auron replied in his usual deadpan speech. Rikku grumbled audibly in reply. Was he always so formal? Did he want to distance himself so much from the rest of them? And it did concern them! Yuna may be in danger; maybe Seymour was forcing Yunie to marry him or something. It could be anything! And all the intelligible "Sir Auron" could say was "It's not our concern," Goodness, give the isolated act a break for a few minutes.

"What's your deal, anyway?" Rikku spouted suddenly, turning on him, hands on hips once more. Auron's step faltered, and he soon stopped all together. He turned to Rikku slowly, his eye narrowing slightly.

"What do you mean?" He replied, his tone still divulging not an ounce of emotion. He was either truly dead inside, or an exceptional actor. All Rikku could do was hope that he was the latter.

"Don't you even care what happens to any of us? You know, unlike you, we do have feelings. Everything is not "not our concern". So, why don't you try acting human for once," At the moment she finished her little oration, she regretted every word she had just said. She was sounding even harsher, than the man she was admonishing.

"Oh.I.." With a raise of his gloved hand he had her quieted. She stood, awkwardly before him, shifting uncomfortably in place. There was a fine line that had been drawn the moment the two had met, and she had officially jumped far past it. She didn't even have the nerve to look up and see then mans reaction. Odds-on the anger-filled gaze for her incongruous outburst. But, she owed it to herself to look at him. She had voiced her feelings; she could at least see the outcome.

She gradually raised her gaze, trailing up his long scarlet coat, to his neatly resting arm, then finally to her face. Whatever preparation she had made in order to withstand his presumably incensed glare faded the moment she took in his expression. Instead of a stern, wrath-induced glower, she was met with a truthfully wounded gaze. It figured the first emotion she would strain from the man was pain. How could she be so tactless? She had hit a vulnerable nerve in the seemingly impassive man, and she felt terrible about it.

"Auron, I." She tried again, only to be silenced by his swift movement from her. He quickly departed, and Rikku gazed at his receding figure with tiny crystalline drops forming in the corners of her emerald eyes. Despite, all his cold actions he didn't deserve even a second of what she had just subjected him to. Slowly, she began to follow in Auron's wake, as a presumptuous tear fell haphazardly upon her flushed cheek.