Chapter 14: "Domestic Interlude"
Final Fantasy X
Characters: Auron, Wakka/Rikku
Word Count: 1800
Summary: Rikku picks Auron's brains and gives him a piece of her mind.
Navigation: Previous Chapter | Next Chapter
Map of Pilgrimage - Links to All Chapters
The Story So Far: After another messy operation in Djose, Auron and Elma get swept up by Sin and carried to Bikanel, where they find Wakka and Rikku have made a new life for themselves.
The children were a blessing and balm to the spirit, apart perhaps from Etta, who had roused Auron by targeting his belt as a landing pad. They swirled around the dining table, under no particular orders to stick to their own seats or plates as long as no food wound up on the floor or in each other's hair. (This latter rule required occasional reinforcement.) The younger children's chatter was largely in Al Bhed, apparently reflecting a switch in the household's primary language. To Wakka's annoyance, Yuna latched onto Auron with a child's knack for sensing parental disapproval. Her father monitored every word with a glower while Auron answered endless questions about Ronso cubs and snow.
After the meal, Auron atoned for trespass by washing dishes. Rikku set to work on a new batch of potions. Fleeing the stench of Al Bhed alchemy and their unwelcome guest, Wakka took the children out to the oasis for a swim. As soon as they were gone, Rikku cornered Auron in the kitchen and proceeded to grill him. For once, he was willing to speak frankly. There were few secrets that Rikku did not already know. His report on the Djose operation left her shaking her head.
"Agh! Stupid Crusaders. Didn't they learn anything last time?"
"They learned to duck."
"Fat lot of good that does when Lulu kicks into overdrive. Walls block some energy attacks, but when she goes Ultima on your ass, you'd better be ten miles away. That Lightning Shield sounds buff, though. I'll have to smuggle somebody over there for a look. Of course, for all we know, she just soaked it up and shot it back at you."
Auron shrugged and moved to the flatware. "That's possible."
"Rrrgh! Getting usable intel out of you is like getting intelligence from my brother." She looked up from the pot she was stirring. "So anyway. My real question is, what brought you here? And if you say 'Lulu,' this spoon is going right up your nose."
Auron applied himself to the scouring-rag.
"Hmph," she mimicked. "Okay, Mr. Legendary Pants, I want an answer. Lulu's steered clear of Bikanel for years. In fact, we think she's been trying to shield us; she targets Yevon ships every time they come this way. So, did you put her up to this? Why?"
"Yes. You know why, Rikku," Auron said. "I need your help. I need Wakka's advice. He knows her best."
"Wakka won't help," Rikku said. "Unless you've got a plan to free her. But even then, he wouldn't trust you."
"Of course not!" She rapped the back of his head with the spoon. "You'll do whatever it takes. Whatever you think is necessary. We've got family to think about. And Wakka, he..." she sighed. "Look. It's not fair to leave Lulu like this. But killing her isn't the answer. After the kids are grown, maybe Wakka and I can find a way to get her out. But we're not gonna help you kill Lulu just so you can put someone else in her place. Who's it gonna be this time, Auron? That Elma lady...is that why you're travelling with her?"
"No. Her abduction by Sin was an accident, I think. But Lulu needs our help now. It's not just Djose that's been hit. Lulu's been targeting all the temples. Soon, summoners will no longer have any aeons left to fight her."
"Well, good!" Rikku said. "Wish she'd listened to me sooner. I don't see the problem, Auron."
"Dozens died at Djose, Rikku," he said. "Hundreds more on the islands. She obliterated Besaid. This isn't what Lulu wants."
"Ugh. I'm sorry, Auron, but that's what Sin does. You know what your problem is? You know Yevon's a sham, but you still think you've got some righteous mandate to fix everything. You can't stop the weather, you can't stop people being idiots, and you can't stop Sin. They're just—" Rikku paused. "Ah, hell. She's targeting the fayth?"
"Vilg." She dropped a lid over the pot. "Watch this. I need to make a call. If it starts to boil over, turn the heat down to sixty. If it does boil over, run."
Hurrying to the other end of the room, Rikku reached for a sphere sitting on a table. There was a flurry of curses. After rummaging around for a base to set it on, she tapped the sphere and plopped down on a chair in front of it. She switched to Al Bhed for the call, but Auron could follow most of it.
"Linna? Hey, Linna— yeah, what? Sure, everything's cool! It's just that... oh. Oops. Sorry, Wakka left the sphere off the charger again. Could you get Pops? Great, thanks for warning me." Sprawling sideways across the armrests, Rikku kicked her feet and waited.
Finally, Cid's voice bellowed through the static. "Rikku! Where in Spira have you been? We've been trying to raise you for hours!"
"Sorry, Pops. I left the commsphere off the charger. We're fine, okay? Sin didn't touch us. But listen, Pops, I've got news. Sin's attacking all the temples of Yevon. All the fayth. It may be headed for Baaj next."
"What? Are you certain? Who told you this?"
She hesitated. "Sir Auron, Pops. He just washed up."
"You're kidding! Why didn't that blockheaded husband of yours—"
"Pops. You have to evacuate, NOW. I don't know how much time you've got."
"Roger that." There was a pause. "You all stay put, kiddo. No sense in coming down here 'til Sin's blown past us. Hug your babies for me. But once this is over, you bring Auron to me. You hear? He and I have unfinished business, and it's long past time for him to pay up!"
"Uh," she said, glancing towards the kitchen. "Okay, Pops. Now scram, please?"
"You bet. Home out."
Rikku trotted back just as the lid began to rattle ominously. She seized the pot and transferred it to a cool burner. "Sorry," she said. "You wanna take your chance with the sand worms, you know where the door is."
A chime sounded.
"It's all right. I should apologize." Auron toweled off the last plate and put it away. "Your people have time to evacuate. It will take Sin several hours to reach Baaj."
"Well, yeah, but you've been here for hours." She sighed. "No, you're right. They'll be fine. Pop's got a good evacuation plan. I just hope she doesn't wreck everything. This Home's even better than the last one." Setting the pot on a centrifuge, she moved to the sink to wash her hands. "There. That alarm means Elma's awake. Wanna check on her?"
Rikku led Auron into the back of the house, opening a door at the end of the hallway. "Whoa-whoa, lady, don't you be gettin' up yet. You'll pop a seam." She moved to the side of the cot which filled most of the room. A crib— decked out with blankets and a mobile of ribbons as if awaiting another occupant, Auron noticed— had been shoved into the hallway. "Hiya. Name's Rikku."
Elma, struggling to sit up, started when Rikku slipped an arm behind her. "Thanks." Her face was covered with green ointment, and her arms and upper body were wrapped in bandages that disappeared under the blankets, but she seemed to have all her limbs. "Don't…remember you, soldier. Good work."
"We're not in Djose," Auron said, standing in the doorway.
"S-sir?" She turned her head and winced. "Status report, please?"
"We were carried to another place by Sin. Rikku is Al Bhed. Guardian to Lady Yuna."
"Ah... oh?" Elma peered at the woman's eyes. "Thought that name sounded familiar."
"Ex guardian," Rikku said. "Nevermind. Look, Auron's filled me in. You might pass out before you dig the whole story out of him, so basically: a pack of sinspawn pulled you off the wagon and nearly tore you in half, Sin dropped a cliff on Djose Temple, we don't know how many Crusaders were squashed, and Sin yanked you halfway across Spira. I found you here the next day bleeding on our front porch. Here being Bikanel Island." Rearranging the pillows one-handed as she spoke, Rikku eased Elma to a sitting position. "Did you get all that?"
"I think so." The woman sat staring at the blankets, absorbing the news. "We failed, then. Failed them." She tried to raise her arms in Yevon's prayer, but got only halfway there before she shuddered and grabbed the sides of the bed. "Yevon guide the fallen," she said through gritted teeth.
"I'm sorry," Rikku said with some feeling, reaching for a bottle on the nightstand. "Here, drink this. It'll settle your stomach. I had to use a lot o' potions on you. Ours work faster and pack a lot more punch, but they're rough on the system after the buzz wears off. You're gonna feel like crap for a while."
"Thanks." Sipping it slowly, she sounded less shaky when she spoke again. "What about Isaaru?" Her voice rose and cracked. "Lucil?"
"Unknown," Auron said. "The wagon was hit by lightning. Isaaru was farther away than I. Lucil was closer."
"No." Elma's eyes squeezed shut, damming tears. Rikku took the bottle slipping from her hand. "How far is it back to Djose?"
"Far. We're several days west of Moonflow North by ship. I'm sorry."
"Huh?" Elma's jaunty smile looked ghastly under the green salve. "Oh, don't worry, sir. The general's alive. I'm sure of it! I'm just worried about my troops."
"You still suck at cheering people up," Rikku muttered to Auron.
The front door banged open. The sounds of shrieking, laughing children carried down the hallway. Elma gave Auron a bewildered blink.
"That was quick," Rikku said. "Excuse me. Gotta corral some cactuars. Back in a minute. Move, ya big meanie." She squeezed past Auron and hurried down the hallway. "Hey, hey, no running— Vidina! Mbela! You're soaking wet! Everybody up! Get towels and dry off before you sit on the furniture! And put some clothes on. We've got guests!" The sounds of chaos faded several decibels as she took charge.
Moments later, Wakka stormed down the hall, halting behind Auron outside the door. His hair was dripping, and he was clothed only in a towel and sandals. Breathing hard, he drew himself up for another explosion, then spotted Elma sitting up against the pillows. He ducked his head. "Uh. Hi. Sorry, ma'am. Good to see you're in one piece." Then he turned on Auron, growling, "Didn't think to mention you got a new summoner, eh?"
Next Chapter: Attack of the Cactuars
Originally posted as Chapter 18, Nov 2008.