Chapter VII - Dum spiro spero

She sucked in heartily, sending a barrage of cool air rushing into her lungs. The pain was intense, almost to the point of being intolerable. Her back was propped up against the near wall, and she watched the events play before her, like a movie in slow motion. She wanted to scream, if only to release the pent up emotion surging through her like adrenaline. She was angry. Angry that Yuna had been used so freely, angry that she had been deceived, and angry that she had absolutely no control anymore. It was as if she was hovering in the background, watching herself live her life like a marionette.

She leaned back, closing her eyes in silent reflection. She couldn't believe Yunie had shown the devil compassion. She ran to his side the moment he had fallen, in a futile attempt to heal his grievous injuries. Had she really had some form of affection for the heartless Maester? It was beyond Rikku's capabilities of comprehension to see how she could show anything other than contempt toward the monster.

Rikku tentatively opened her eyes, finding even that simple movement was painful. The whole party had taken quite a beaten when Seymour had summoned the demon Anima. Just thinking of the aeon, made Rikku cringe. Its hellish guise could freeze one on the spot, and a glance from its solitary golden eye could bring you to your knees. She could still here the ominous rattling of its shackles, as it yearned to break free, to further its path of destruction.

Rikku cringed, as she attempted to shift her position, a tiny yelp escaping from her lips. The cry had gathered the attention of a nearby spectator, much like herself. Yet for once, his mainstay seemed disconcerted. His silver streaked hair was askew and his scarlet coat still hung insensibly off his left side. He was standing against the wall, seemingly collecting his lost strength. So, that fiend had thrown even the strongest.

He was staring at her seated form now, his solo bronze eye not holding the same power it usually possessed. It almost seemed.compassionate. He offered her a reassuring nod, lending her enough power to lift herself to a warped standing arrangement. She placed her hands upon her knees, coughing a bit from the effort it had taken to stand. After a few moments of this, she looked over, perceiving that Auron was still looking at her. She was about to say something, when the far door burst open. Twamell and a few Guado sentries stormed in tersely. A gasp escaped from Twamell, when his eyes met with their fallen leader. He instantly ran to the man's side, kneeling and taking Seymour's limp hand into his oversized hands.

"What happened to him?!" Twamell cried, looking up and skimming the group with hate-filled eyes.

"We tried to reason with him," Tidus defended, stepping forward from his place beside Yuna. Twamell turned the brunt of his insufferable gaze toward the audacious boy. He seemed as if he was simply going to combust in place, his face turning so red and all.

"Yuna, send him," came the weak order from Auron. He was still leaning against the wall heavily, but the fervor had returned to his eye. Rikku nodded in concord. It was more than the creep deserved, but it was all for the best. Yet, before Yuna could even raise her staff in preparation, the two Guado guards were dragging the Maester away.

"I shall not allow such treachery near him," Twamell snarled viciously at the Summoner, basically baring his teeth at the girl. Tidus stepped forward, hand reaching for his sword, ready to defend Yuna's honor in a heartbeat. Twamell scowled at the boy for moment, before rushing out in a huff, after the guards.

"This is it, ya?" Wakka declared, his voice devoid of its usual luster. Tidus stamped his foot intolerantly upon the cold ground, the blow echoing throughout the vast space.

"No wait just a second! This isn't our fault!" He proclaimed ardently, attempting to raise the fading spirits of his cohorts.

"C'mon, we'll just explain what really happened, how could they not understand!" Tidus balled his hand up into a fist and thrust it into the air, signifying his great confidence that they could not fail. Auron merely shook his head, and shoved off from the wall. His profound boots reverberated loudly in the now silent chamber.

"It's won't be that easy, Twamell will assure that," Auron ruminated out loud, as he paused before the exit. Inside, Rikku knew Auron was right. They were dead men walking at the moment. Perhaps, it wasn't even worth leaving this chamber.

"In any case, we should leave," He said, restarting his trek toward the doorway. Not even looking back to check his following. Rikku sighed loudly, shoving off from the wall, very much like Auron had. Her muscles still ached profoundly, but what could she do. Sitting here was pointless, almost as worthless as venturing out. Yet, she followed the rest all the same, exiting the bloodstained hall.

The descent down the artic passage was silent and tense. Rikku could only wait in apprehension for what lay behind that rapidly nearing doorway. It was most likely a horde of Guado and Temple guards, each seeking their blood. They had killed a Maester; the reasons didn't really matter to the Guado. Rikku grumbled quietly, ruing the day she had met the Guado. It had been the very day the rat had proposed to Yunie. Could she have been the only one that discerned his fraudulent intentions?

Auron, who stood evenly at the head of the group, stopped before the ironclad doors leading to the main hall. Rikku stopped in turn, gazing at the austere guardian, who turned his head askance. Tidus nodded, as did Lulu, suggestive of their readiness. Auron sequentially nodded and forcefully shoved the weighty doors wide open.

Several readied armaments were their warm welcome into the chamber, halting all progression of the group immediately. Tidus reached quickly for his sword, preparing to slash through the barricade of flesh. Auron, however, stood forward, placing a warning hand before the impulsive young man's chest.

"Allow us to explain," Auron requested of the guards sternly, his eye seeking the mass for Twamell. The Guado was found in their midst, elongated arms folded across his chest in a resolute manner. It would take more than requests to convince the man.

"Save you explanations," The Guado grumbled, his face contorted into a twisted version of a scowl, downgrading his already unsightly appearance. The cluster began to slowly part, as the diminutive Guado began his advance on the guardians and summoner.

"Wait a minute! If you look at Yuna's sphere.then you'll understand!" She exclaimed, turning toward the door of the antechamber and pointing profusely. A swift jab with the but of one of the soldiers guns, stopped Rikku's actions, and sent her careening backwards, clutching her abdomen protectively. Tidus stood forward at this action, teeth bared and hand attempting to loosen his sword.

"Why I oughta!"

Twamell elicited a macabre cackle at the fumbling of the rambunctious child. One large hand reached into the folding of his clock and pulled forth the notorious sphere. It sparkled alluringly in his olive grip, as he waved it about like a prize.

"You mean this sphere?" He asked candidly. With a squeeze of his massive hands, shards of the destroyed orb glided, like glistening snow, toward the floor. This was not good.

"Problems of the Guado tribe are for the Guado to settle," Twamell declared pompously, practically writing the warrant for their deaths. At this time, a mass of cerulean muscle trundled from his silent retreat behind Yuna. His perilous spear was held steady, aiming directly for the Guado diplomat's collar.

"Stand down," The Ronso growled, his voice dreadfully low and threatening. Only a mad man would ignore the beast's request, and unfortunately for the group; Twamell was that kind of man. He flagged his hand down, ordering the soldiers to advance upon the huddle of guardians. It was flee or fight, and the latter cried death like the plague.

"Run," Came the rational command from Auron, as he himself shoved past a duo of heavily armed Guado combatants. The rest wasted no time in following his order, and each in turn shoved their way rapidly through the blockade of warriors. Rikku followed gradually behind, her previous injuries not aiding in her flight. Her verdant oculars watched as her comrades made quick haste toward the exit, not even noticing her apparent plight.

She wanted to call to them, tell them to wait for her. Yet, what use would it do in conjunction with the angry cries of the rapidly approaching guards? She would have to push herself if she wanted to get out of this forsaken temple. Slowly, but surely her pace began to increase, despite her body's disagreement. Her shoes hit the floor with light thuds, as she followed her friends toward freedom from this suffocating atmosphere.

She skidded out the doorway, her breath coming out in ragged huffs. Her speed decreased a bit now that she was beyond the temple walls. Yuna was dragging behind the retreating group, her skirt inhibiting anything faster than a hasty jog. Rikku gained on her cousin slowly, grateful to be nearer to her companions.

Yuna cast Rikku a quick sidelong glance, offering her a hopeful smile. Yuna always managed to smile, even in the direst of circumstances. It was a quality Rikku envied with a passion. She wished she could smile, despite the throbbing pain. She wished she could smile, despite the severity of their current situation. Yet, all Rikku could muster was a dismal expression. Telltale of all the agony and fears stewing within her vanishing essence.

Auron slid to a halt at the familiar blackened snowfield. Reminiscence of the prior battle were strewn carelessly across it, like a scattered child's toys spread across the living-room floor.

"Auron.?" Tidus queried uneasily. It was quite odd that they had paused, even when the Guado soldiers were still in hot pursuit. Auron raised two ebony cloaked fingers, demanding silence by the action. The silence he received was apprehensive and anxious. Other seemed to share Tidus's respects on the situation, as well.

A profound growl echoed powerfully across the plain, sending everyone senses on instant alert. The rumble of weighted footsteps deriving from beyond the snowdrift drifted ominously to their ears. Auron's suspicion slowly made its ascent to the apex of the drift, staring hungrily down upon the unfortunate troop below.