Chapter VI - Amantes sunt Amentes

The metal tracks of the speeder lanced through the colorless snow, launching sprays on either side. Echoes of the final speeder could be heard faintly, signifying that Lulu was successful in her efforts to force Wakka upon the illicit machina. A tiny grin crossed Rikku's now blue tinted lips. She was.to put it plainly, a block of ice. Both the effects of the artic air and the frosty wind were taking its toll upon her exposed skin.

"Pretty chilly, huh?" She stated, as another involuntary shiver undulated down her spine. Her only reply from the austere guardian was a repressed grunt, affirming his agreement. He, on the other hand, was most likely much warmer than the scantily clad girl. All Rikku could do was cling to the foundation of warmth before her, hoping that a bit would radiate onto her.

If she hadn't been so cold, she could have been deliberating over the man she clung to. How it felt shamefully delightful to wrap her arms about him, or about how he was in such incredible shape for his perceptible middle-agedness. Nonetheless, thoughts such as these still managed to squeeze into her iced up mind, in spite of all desperation to shut them out.

"He really seemed to hate us," She mused, attempting to clear her mind from such disgraceful thoughts. She could feel Auron shift his position a bit, causing his muscles to tense in the process, hence sending a light tremor throughout Rikku's lithe frame. She was thanking the biting cold, or else it would have been noticeable what the shiver had been triggered by.

"You shouldn't let it affect you so," He reproved, his voice raspy from the palpable cold.

"I guess." was her breathless reply. She was still trying to decipher the true origin of her breathlessness, Auron or the stinging chill. She decided on the latter and the safer of the two. The development of a crush on the older guardian would only lead to more chaos, in their already overly chaotic lives. It was simply the cold and the intimate contact clouding her mind.

However, despite all her self-warning, she couldn't help but notice how surprisingly good he smelled. His rustic scent reminded her of the Macalania woods; dark, but appealing at the same time. She subliminally tightened her grip about his waist, reveling silently in the warmth and feel of his body.

"What?" Auron asked out of nowhere, causing Rikku to pull away from the cozy folds of his coat.

"Hm?"

"You said something." He started, obviously confused about whatever she had uttered. Rikku's eyes widened clearly, as violent blush raced across her cheeks. She hadn't said what she thought she said.had she? How utterly embarrassing.

"Er.nothing." She mumbled, too mortified to hide in the folds of his coat. Her grip on him loosened unmistakably, as she attempted to distance herself from him as much as she could without falling off the speeder. She must have said that he smelled good out loud. Maybe she should just let go, save herself the embarrassment of facing his incisive gaze face to face. Unfortunately, the gods were not forgiving and the speeder began to slow noticeably.

They were there. Great. Well, she just would get off, not look at him and proceed straight into the temple. No biggy, no worries.

Rikku practically threw herself from the speeder, when Auron brought it to a stop before the temple. She quickly ran over to the gathering of the guardians before Auron could even look or say anything to her. A big grin slopped itself on Tidus's, as he saw the girl walking up hastily.

"Hey, Rikku! Why's your face all red?" He inquired, brushing past Kimahri quickly to examine his now even redder-faced friend. Rikku swiftly buried her face in her hands, taking on the childhood view of things. If I can't see them, they can't see me. Unfortunately, for Rikku, that saying never was true, and this circumstance wasn't going to be any different.

"Did Auron say something?" Tidus queried loudly, as the legendary guardian himself strode up behind the two. Rikku wanted to jump off the cliff beside them; it would be less painful than this experience. She heard Auron's weighty footsteps pause for a moment, then continue on. Oh, thank goodness for his secrecy. Rikku looked up, seeing that Tidus had followed Auron toward the doorway. The whirring of a motor behind her, told her of the arrival of Wakka and Lulu. She emitted a long sigh, before trudging through the ankle deep snow towards the doorway.

"Halt!" Barked the temple guard with enthusiastic vigor. The band paused as he had commanded, staring up the stairwell at the man with quizzical looks.

"Al Bhed are not allowed to enter here," The guard stated with a disgust-lined voice. Rikku's eye's blazed once more, the prejudice merely feeding her already lit fire. She was about to march up the stairs and give the bigoted bastard a piece of her mind, when she was interrupted by the crunching of another's footsteps. Rikku paused to see Auron push through the group and stride straight up the stairs.

"She is a Guardian for Lady Yuna," answering the guard's question more calmly than Rikku could have even dreamed of doing. Rikku gazed up the stairwell in wonder, shocked that the man had defended her. She had expected someone more like Tidus or even Lulu. But not Auron.

"An Al Bhed...a Guardian? I cannot believe it," The sentry stammered, glancing to and fro between Auron and Rikku, his eyes wide with astonishment. Rikku merely grinned smugly, crossed her arms, and nodded in agreement to the sentry's garbled question.

"So it goes. A Guardian cannot be held back from their duty," Auron added, stamping the seal on the envelope. The guard couldn't refuse now, the teaching clearly stated thus, and said nothing about disallowing Al Bhed guardians. It was in the bag.

"S...seems I have no choice," The guard spluttered, moving from the entrance to allow the guardians passage within. The rest filed in quietly, Rikku bringing up the rear. As she passed by the guard, she offered him a puckish grin and a condescending pat upon the shoulder, eliciting a low growl from the man. Rikku hurried into the temple foyer, avoiding any more conflict from the angered gentleman.

She gazed up in amazement at the sight before her. Despite her minimal respect for the Yevon religion, she still loved the architecture of the temples. She adored the high ceilings decorated with beguiling engravings, being held up by ornate buttresses and Corinthian columns. She loved the way the burning torches always seemed to give off enough light to bask the entire atrium in a appealing ginger glow. Rikku's widened mouth twisted into a grin, when she looked over to see Tidus getting mauled by the priestess, Shelinda. She seemed to still be a bit bothered by him lying to her on the Thunder Plains, but all the affable Tidus could do was grin and shrug his trim shoulders.

Rikku shook her head, and turned her attention back upon her ornate surroundings. That was, until she was erupted by a high-pitched shriek deriving from one of the antechambers. A woman ran from the room in a huff, and fell to the floor as soon as she reached the end of the short passage leading to the side room.

"It's Lord Jyscal!" She exclaimed breathlessly from her fallen spot. Rikku instantaneously glanced over to her comrades, noticing they had already begun a hasty march toward the antechamber. She followed in their wake, rushing into the small room.

The group was crowded around a sphere Auron held skeptically in his black-gloved hand.

"This can't be good," Tidus ruminated quietly to Rikku, as she moved beside him. She nodded vaguely, furrowing her brow, as Auron placed the orb upon the table. Instantly, a miniature image of the late Guado Maester zoomed into view. Rikku noted, he appeared even creepier looking than his son.

"I am here to speak the truth that has been hidden away. Thus I swear on the honor of the Guado. Listen well, for it concerns my son, Seymour. Whatever it is he is thinking, I do not know. I only know that it is a dark flame indeed that burns in his heart. He has used Yevon, the Guado, and the Summoners as well.As it is... he shall bring down calamity throughout Spira on any that would oppose him... Indeed soon...I shall be murdered. Through a wound from my own son.I must accept my fate. It is through my own foolishness, that he could have inflicted...such suffering on me. I could not protect him and his mother from the ways of the world. Thus, I must accept this death, this fate that has befallen me... You must stop Seymour. My son...I beg of you." Thus the image faded to nothingness, leaving the room in an uncomfortable quiet.

Rikku brought a tiny hand to her lips, shocked to the core of what the so-called Maester of Yevon had done. Everyone simply gazed at the cerulean sphere with wide eyes, shocked beyond all compare.

"So this is how it is," Auron cogitated, his lone bronze eye locked upon the space previously occupied by the deceased Maester.

"Will Yunie be okay?" Rikku asked, her voice brimming with concern. Auron gave the girl a sidelong glance, shaking his head faintly.

"A reasonable question.." And with that, he turned on his heels and headed out the doorway, one could only guess towards the Cloister of Trials. Rikku nodded her head to the receding figure, and began to follow in his stead, along with Lulu and Tidus. Wakka, on the other hand, was still transfixed upon the incredulous sphere.

"Wait! Where are you going?" He called to them, looking up.

"Going to save Yuna.duh!" Tidus answered, looking over his shoulder toward the dumbstruck blitzball captain. Wakka's mouth only dropped further at Tidus's brusque response.

"But.but he's a Maester of Yevon!" Wakka cried defensively, perceptibly struck deep by the actions of the man, but not struck deep enough.

"Fine! Stay here then!" Tidus called running out. Rikku looked over toward Lulu, who was staring disapprovingly at Wakka, like a mother's glance at a disobedient child. Rikku suppressed the urge to giggle at the two. They way they interacted with each other was priceless.

"Wakka, let's go," She ordered, walking out the doorway, fully expecting the man to follow closely behind her; he did of course. Therefore, Rikku was left alone with the wretched sphere. She gave it a long sideways glance, studying it with utmost care. Perhaps, this wasn't such a good idea.