Chapter IV - Sub Rosa

Rikku lingered a moment longer in the peaceful cover of the trees, savoring a few last minutes of some type of warmth. The snow glittered appealingly before her, and with a small sigh she crunched into its sparkling beauty. A shiver instantly climbed up her back, and spread through her veins, carrying the chill swiftly throughout her entire body. She wrapped her arms snugly about herself and tromped on, attempting to catch up with the rest. Goodness, what she would have done for a coat right now.

Thoughts of a coat brought her mind exactly where it did not want to go, straight to Auron. She still felt greatly culpable for cracking down on him like she had. He hadn't even offered her a glance for the rest of the trek through Macalania Forest. It some ways, she probably didn't deserve one. Yet, she wasn't all to blame. If he weren't always so cruel, perhaps she wouldn't have snapped at him. Damnit, why did the man have to be so stubborn!

Maybe she should apologize. Would that really help things, or would Auron only nod and not really illustrate if he had forgiven her or not? Damn her conscience and damn his resolve, as well.

She kicked some snow up into the air in frustration. The crystalline flecks danced in the air in front of her eyes, sparkling like tiny stars before assimilating themselves back into the ground. A small grin curled the corner of her ruby lips. She worried far too much these days. It was so unlike her to beat herself over her actions, yet she wasn't always confronted with such an enigmatic individual as Auron. She would apologize; it was the least she could do.

She looked up, realizing once more, that she was lagging behind. She sped up, reaching the huddle of companions in moments. Yunie and Tidus lead the pack, stealing gazes at each other once in awhile, when they were sure the other was not looking. She couldn't suppress the tiny giggle that escaped from her lips. The two were head-over-heels for each other and everyone but they knew it. It was a crime that Yunie had to marry Seymour, breaking their love before it had even sprung into full bloom.

Kimahri followed closely behind, watching Yuna with his ever-vigilant eyes. She had taken an odd liking for the faithful Ronso. He had so little to hide and so much pride in his duty. He looked pretty cool, too. In his wake, followed Wakka and Lulu, one more budding romance that snuffed before it could even begin. Something was obviously prohibiting the two becoming anything more than friend, well, on Lulu's side at least.

Lastly, Auron followed bringing up the rear. His gait was slow and steady, and his heavy boots crunched more stridently in the fresh snow than the others.

Rikku sucked in deeply, savoring the wave of cool air rushing through her lungs. Surely, when she confronted Auron, once more, her breath would be thin and her words short. She was seeming more hopeless than Tidus at the moment. Thus, she padded up beside Auron, clearing her throat politely to receive his attention. The man offered her not a look nor evidence of whether he recognized her presence. Rikku heaved a noiseless sigh, yet did not give up, just yet.

"I'm probably not someone you wanna talk to right now, but, I wanted to apologize. I was out of line back there.and well..I'm sorry," She voiced almost silently. She didn't want the others to hear her apologizing, she still had some ounces of pride left somewhere; and she was going to protect it with all she had.

Surprisingly, Auron glanced at her a wide grin crossing his lips. Rikku looked up in shock. She hadn't actually expected him to forgive her, or even acknowledge her existence for that matter.

"You sounded more confident when you were insulting me," Came his subdued reply between chuckles. Rikku grinned sheepishly. She had meant to sound sincere now, perchance she had been afraid of his reaction.

"Heh, well."

"Why, Lady Yuna, I was just coming to find you," Interrupted a familiar voice. The groups had stopped and were being greeted, at the moment, by the Guado they had met at the entrance of Guadosalam. Still looking as uncanny as ever, Rikku mused in her mind. She had her doubts about most of the Guado she had met; Twamell was no different.

"We were hoping to receive your answer sometime soon. It is a little unexpected, as a matter of fact. But as Seymour could not be here himself, I have come on his behalf,"

So the slave driver had arrived to pull the unwilling away bound in chains. Rikku's eyes narrowed on the Guado. Boy, what she wanted to do to the creep at the moment. Yuna would probably flip a casket, however. So, despite her strong feelings of odium, she pushed her thought to the back of her mind. Maybe, if she adapted Auron's way of thinking.It's none of our concern.none of our concern.

"That is alright. But..I would like to ask one thing," Yuna replied graciously. Ah, so it was time for the last request. Hopefully the executioner would show a shred of mercy.

"Whatever you'd like," Came the nasal reply of the Guado.

"I would like to continue my journey even after being married. Would Seymour be willing to allow it?" .Most likely, after he was done doing all those repugnant Guado things to you. How could Yunie take this so lightly? She was getting married; the guy was going to have to kiss her. The thought of that creeps lips on Yuna's made her want to hurl. Did she have no pride?

"But of course! Seymour wishes you to be able to do just that," Twamell answered, his tone as regal as ever. All Rikku could do was wonder how many sticks were shoved up the man's ass to make him act thus. Slight feelings of nausea began to skulk back into her stomach.

Rikku glanced around at the other companions. They were taking this whole affair more lightly than she; and Yuna was taking it like it was any other normal matter. Getting married, Naw! This was more like waking up in the morning to her. Rikku watched on with wonder, she would be running for dear life in the opposite direction at this moment.

"Then, as is customary for the Guado, I'd ask that the rest of you just wait here a short time. We shall send an envoy for you before long," Twamell stated grandly, waving his outsized hands about in gesture.

"Is that okay.?" Yuna asked quietly, turning toward her montage of guardians. A few nodded, Rikku simply shook her and turned to survey the snow plain beside them. Auron, however, stepped forward nodding the girl forward.

"A Summoner can always trust in her Guardians. Do as you like," He stated, the only one brave enough to say anything at the moment. Tidus shuffled the snow around beneath his feet, keeping his gaze lowered.

"Alright." Yuna replied uneasily, moving from her Guardians slowly to follow the Guado diplomat. Rikku scoffed under he breath.

"But of course!" She mocked the civil servant quietly, waving her hands about unceremoniously. It was the most she could do to avoid running after her foolhardy cousin. She kicked at a stalagmite of ice angrily. Instead of relieving her anger, it granted her a side order of pain.

"Tysh ed," She swore a bit too loudly. She immediately ducked behind the safety of the very icicle she kicked. She chided herself inwardly, angry at her foolishness. Not everyone in her band appreciated the Al Bhed. It would do little good to inform them of her heritage.

She unleashed a labored sigh and leaned back against the icy barrier. It was then she noticed three crafts leaping over the snowdrifts. She stood at attention at once, looking around in desperation. The others had seemed to notice, as well. She followed in their stead, running directly where Yuna and the Guado were.

"It's the Al Bhed!" Wakka bellowed, his voice dripping with hatred. Rikku's gaze shot toward the rise, seeing one of the few people that could blow her cover.

"Rikku!!" Growled the man; glaring down at her with the same disapproving gaze she received from father often. Why the hell was he here? He was ruining everything without knowing it. She had it all covered without his help.

"Oui ryja paah fedr draca kioc!" He accused, anger filling his voice. Why did her brother have to get protective of her and Yuna at the most inopportune times? Rikku shook her head, not wanting to reply. For if she did, surely Wakka would figure out who she was, from the fact that she could speak the language. She glimpsed over at Tidus, who was looking to her for clues to what was going on. She was about to reply, before he blasted brother decided to mess things up further.

"Hu suna icahk sykel, yht Cissuhat Paycdc duu!" He declared, disappearing once more over the hill. Rikku's mouth fell wide open. He must have hit his head on the ride here. He could get one of the group killed, maybe even Yuna killed. No, he didn't care, just as long as he got his precious Summoner to safety. Rikku almost spat on the ground, cursing his actions.

"What's going on?" Tidus demanded, rushing over to her. Rikku looked up at him, the desperation she felt, reflecting in her fascinating emerald eyes.

"He's going to seal our magic and summons!" She cried, running closer to the hill, glancing up at the mammoth. The ground was beginning to grumble in reply to the heavy load that was approaching at a fast speed.

"Kyaa!!" Rikku exclaimed, rushing back to the group, just as a gargantuan contraption dropped straight onto her previous occupancy. A hush fell over the guardians, as they watched the machina pull closer to them.

"Wonderful." Tidus ruminated under his breath, as he unsheathed his sword and shifted into attack position. Rikku clenched her fists; she would fight her brother then. And she wouldn't feel bad about it either.