Categories > Games > Final Fantasy X > Resurrection III: Stolen Fayth

Desperate Measures

by helluin 3 reviews

No time is a good time for an ambush. Seymour wants his bride back, dead or alive.

Category: Final Fantasy X - Rating: R - Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst - Characters: Auron, Lulu, Rikku, Tidus, Wakka, Yuna - Warnings: [!!] [V] - Published: 2006-05-29 - Updated: 2006-05-29 - 2546 words

The wind gusting downslope had a decided bite to it and was picking up again when Yuna's party emerged from the trees onto a wide boulder-strewn bowl. A fresh slide must have covered the trail, but Kimahri bounded from rock to rock, cutting an unerring path across the featureless landscape of teetering loose stones. The others followed with care. Wakka offered Rikku an elbow with a requisite amount of grumbling, probably to cover the fact that the nimble Al Bhed was more surefooted, and was showing him where to set his feet. Tidus and Yuna proceeded hand in hand despite Auron's orders. Lulu was lagging behind, hindered by her skirts. Pacing beside her, Auron kept one arm firmly in his coat and the other hand balancing his sword across his shoulders, but Lulu suspected that he was shadowing her in case she stumbled.

He tilted his head towards the mage, eye flicking from Lulu's wan features to the blasted, lonely landscape around them. "Tired?"

She dipped her eyes. "A little."

"Perhaps you should switch with Rikku."

"One chimera is not a calamity!" she snapped, a little color coming into her cheeks. "Don't patronize me, Sir Auron. Remember whose Guardian you are."

Half a dozen rocks ahead, Wakka craned his head around to peer at them, brow knitted. Rikku turned as well, giving the older woman a merry wink. "Keep your voices down, remember?"

Lulu ignored both of them, and Auron seemed to ignore her. He had not missed a beat of his methodical routine: pause, circle, scan behind them, take five long strides to catch up, repeat at random intervals. However, within the last few days, he had added "glance at Lulu" to the pattern.

"You seemed very keen on leaving me with the Ronso," she observed under her breath.

The older Guardian grunted. "What I want has nothing to do with it. You're of little use to Yuna right now."

She arched an eyebrow at his phrasing. "You managed just fine with Sir Jecht, who surely had his off days."

"Lord Braska," he growled with surprising vehemence, "should have left Jecht in his cell."

Auron had just let something slip. Lulu sensed it, but her thoughts were too sluggish to see through the chinks in his brittle words.

Her brooding was cut short by a faint clack somewhere on the slope above them, so familiar and yet incongruous that most of the party did not recognize the sound until Rikku squawked, "Get down!" Too tired to question, Lulu obeyed without thinking.

Not an instant too soon. Dust rose up in puffs, and chips of stone flew as a sheet of bullets exploded on all sides. The alien, blasphemous rattle of gunfire erupted across Gagazet's silent foothills and echoed from cliff to cliff. Lulu flung herself forward behind a shattered treetrunk half-buried in the rubble of an old slide. Auron staggered to his knees beside her: the slower-moving Guardian had not managed to reach cover before the deadly hail burrowed through his armor. Lulu grabbed his collar and yanked him unceremoniously to the ground, then cast about dazedly for the rest of the party. Tidus and Yuna were out of sight: she prayed that was a good sign. Rikku must have dragged Wakka down with her; Lulu could hear him cursing her and every rivet, gadget, and tool ever invented loudly enough to be audible above the barrage. Kimahri--

Lulu groaned inwardly, spotting the stoic Ronso doggedly hauling himself back over the rocks, trying to reach Yuna. Judging by the way he had hunkered down on all fours, he was probably shielding her. His white ruff was stained red, and blood was trickling down his arms. Lulu's stomach seethed. Who--?

"A welcoming party from Seymour," Auron growled through clenched teeth. "Can you take them out?"

At the best of times, that would be a tall order. Had the mage possessed that kind of power, the wedding in Bevelle might have come to an abrupt and ruthless end. But there was no time now to debate tactics. Lulu set a hand on the column of the fallen tree and eased upwards, trying to get the measure of their opponents without getting shot. A few long-limbed Guado lounged against boulders on the slope above -- curse them, it was bad enough that they had used fiends to do their dirty work in Macalania and Bikanel! The weapons-fire came from at least two dozen soldiers clad in the livery of the monastery, each one crouched down under the weight of a heavy rifle. Before Lulu could marshal some kind of magic, a near hit sent a jagged chunk of wood ricocheting into her cheek. She gave a faint cry and sank down again, cupping her hand to her face. Shaking her head as Auron reached for her, Lulu hissed between her teeth. "Minor."

The deadly rain of bullets abruptly ceased, and an unctuous voice rang out. "Summoner Yuna! You are commanded by Yevon to return to Bevelle at once to fulfill your vows."

Auron heaved himself to a sitting position. "It's difficult to wed with a death warrant on one's head," he rasped loudly.

Lulu drew her fingers into her sleeve to palm a healing potion. She bit off the cap, setting the vial to his lips. A delaying measure, at best.

The Guado laughed. "True enough! However, Lord Seymour has secured a pardon for the murder of Wen Kinoc. Maester Mika will rule it an unfortunate misunderstanding by over-zealous Guardians, provided that Lady Yuna returns with us at once."

A few of the warrior monks muttered audibly, and Lulu suspected that the over-zealous members of their order might take matters into their own hands shortly.

"I will not." Yuna had emerged from her hiding place behind the Ronso, standing straight and poised. Tidus hopped up and planted himself in front of her, sword braced as if he could somehow fend off the bullets. Lulu felt a desperate pang of pride for both of them. "Please, do not hinder me. I am on pilgrimage, and seek to defeat Sin for all of Spira, including yourselves!"

The sneering Guado made a gesture of dismissal. "Your Summoner's privilege has been made null and void by your actions. You have defiled your pilgrimage by defying the Maesters of Yevon and sowing confusion among Spira's citizens. Lord Seymour offers you two choices. Return to him willingly, and your Guardians will be spared. Otherwise, he will receive your corpse. Dead, you will have no further grounds to quibble with Lord Seymour's... condition."

"Ah, give me a break!" Wakka snapped angrily. "That's got to be against the teachings!"

"Sir Wakka is right!" Yuna pleaded, turning her attention to the warrior monks. "Listen to what you are hearing! Is this what you expect from a Maester of Yevon?"

"So say the murderers of a Maester of Yevon!" one of the monks shouted back.

Lulu's nails bit into the palm of her hand. The stinging pain of the shrapnel was a distraction, but it had helped shock her out of lethargy. In her mind's eye she recalled with loathsome clarity the unholy sight of the Guado Maester's lips crushed against Yuna's. Now her memory supplied further horrors of what might happen should the innocent Summoner fall into his clutches again. Yuna will never know of such things. Rising to her feet, the sorceress fixed cold eyes on the Guado who seemed to be in charge. Some of the rifles swung from Yuna towards the mage.

"What would Yojimbo have to say about this, I wonder?" Lulu called out icily, a message aimed at one pair of ears in particular. Auron shifted beside her. Feeling like a carrion-bird, she gripped his shoulder and glanced down, absorbing the set of his jaw, the blood pooling on the ground below his knees, his disciplined, even breaths. It could as easily be Yuna, and she did not have his stamina. And what of Kimahri? Fuming, she silently braided a mental noose of every last affront and injury.

"Silence!" the Guado thundered. "Lady Yuna, we expect your ans--"

Choked off in mid-sentence, the speaker toppled like an unseated tent-pole. A few paces away, a monk heaved forward across his weapon with a clatter and rolled down the slope. "Die," the sorceress found herself mouthing over and over as if the word were merely a component of breathing. In a pitiless trance, she watched them collapse one by one while bewildered comrades shouted the names of the stricken. Wakka's blitzball soared into the sudden chaos, striking down a few more.

Lulu found herself being yanked to the ground as a swarm of bullets erupted around her, but not before she saw the giant silhouette of a heavily-draped warrior and a flame-eyed hound materializing in the midst of their foes. Cries and screams quickly replaced the reports of gunfire. Lulu huddled against Auron, trembling, as the bitter haze of anger drained away. He put an arm around her and waited stoically for the sounds of carnage to fade to ominous silence, then brushed his mouth against her ear with a soft, "Good thinking." Releasing her, he heaved to his feet to take stock of the battlefield.

"We're clear," he called gruffly, adding under his breath, "Yojimbo's gone."

"Clear" proved to be an understatement. Shrouded in billowing dust, the entire slope was littered with strewn bodies that had been mauled or sliced in two. Lulu wished she could shield Yuna's eyes from the pitiful sight, although they had seen such horrors before on the Djose shore. For the moment, however, Yuna was busy tending the living. She and Rikku were working anxiously on Kimahri, the thief digging out bullets with thin pliers while the Summoner closed his dire wounds. Tidus stood over them, his own face rather pale as he searched the mountainside for other threats.

Wakka, also keeping watch, paced a wide circle and kicked in the dirt. He lifted his head and gave Lulu a haggard smile as they approached. "Hey. You two okay?"

She shook her head, hand still cupped against her cheek to slow the bleeding. "Sir Auron was hit."

"Get in line!" Rikku sang out cheerfully. "We'll fix it."

"Whoah, Lu," Wakka said softly, beckoning Lulu over. "Lemme have a look at dat. Tidus, keep your eyes open, ya?"

The young man stepped back from the field surgery with a nod and a raised fist. "Roger!"

Lulu wordlessly allowed Wakka to tend her while Auron looked on, leaning heavily on the hilt of his sword. The blitzer was surprisingly gentle as he extracted the large splinter, rinsed the wound with his canteen, and applied a healing salve to stop the bleeding. She noticed that he was using one of Rikku's odd concoctions now. "Damned Guado," he grumbled. "I can't believe they thought we'd fall for dat, after all the crap Seymour's put us through!"

"Apparently, Seymour thinks Yuna's will is strong enough that she might linger as an Unsent," Auron observed flatly.

"No way," Tidus said indignantly. "That's crazy! Yuna would never--"

"Hey, well, she's pretty tough, ya?" Wakka said glumly.

Lulu cut in. "We won. They failed. There's no point in discussing it."

"Yeah," Rikku said, rocking back on her heels and inspecting the Ronso with head cocked. "That's just gross. Hey, Kimahri, did we miss any? You look like an accident with a drillpress."

"How do you feel?" Yuna asked, laying a petite hand on her Guardian's shaggy arm.

"Yuna safe; Kimahri fine," the gentle giant rumbled warmly, standing and stretching. "Thanks also to Rikku."

"Then I'd... better start the Sending." Pyreflies were beginning to waft and spin around them. "Rikku, do you think you can take care of Sir Auron?"

"No problem!" the Al Bhed chirped. She hopped to her feet. "Now where's Mr. Cranky? Let me see. Ugh, take your armor off, it's probably all sticky under there."

Yuna took up her staff and began to ascend the slope with head bowed. A thought struck Lulu as she watched the hypnotic meanders of the pyreflies drifting towards the Summoner in greeting. "Rikku, Auron," the mage said in a low voice. "Get under cover. You could be a distraction to Yuna."

"Hunh?" Rikku said, peering over at her.

Auron shrugged stiffly and moved off towards the pile of debris where he and Lulu had taken shelter. "Come."

Rikku's chatter faded away, and the others turned to watch Yuna's dance in respectful silence. There was no achingly beautiful sunset this time, only the bitter wind, grey sky, and barren rocks splashed with red. Even the Summoner's graceful movements seemed more subdued. One by one, flashes of light spiraled upwards, following the loops of her staff, and faded into empty air. Lulu watched, erect and silent, noting the sprawled form of each of those she had killed as Yuna twirled past them. The Summoner's feet seemed firmly rooted to the rock, and tears streaked her cheeks as she brought her staff down in a final sweep, then raised it before her face in farewell.

Tidus hurried over to her as she picked her way back down to them. "Hey, Yuna. They were the bad guys, remember? He said they'd spare us, but really, they were sent here to kill us."

"And... we killed them." Yuna's voice was filled with dread. "What kind of Summoner defies the temple, strikes down Maesters, wipes out even ordinary followers of Yevon? Nothing makes sense."

"Yuna not to blame." Kimahri rumbled. "They use machina weapons, fire on Summoner: defile sacred mountain. Yuna speak for Gagazet, not only for Yuna."

"I...suppose." Yuna was still standing with her staff dangling in her hands, twirling it listlessly in her fingers. She raised her eyes, seeking reassurance from the silent woman watching with arms wrapped around herself.

Lulu stirred, but words did not come easily: it could just as well be Luzzu among those littering the slope above them, or even Chappu. While she hesitated, Wakka also turned towards her with a subtle but unmistakable plea. Did they think she could snap her fingers and make everything right? The sorceress sighed. "If we had not defended ourselves, some warrior monk would be agonizing over having slain Braska's daughter and her Guardians. Would that be any better?" Gliding forward, she drew Yuna into a somber embrace. "We had no choice. Remember Operation Mi'hen, Kinoc and Jyscal. Seymour means to use you, Yuna-- and Sin too, apparently -- to secure his power and destroy Spira. We must keep those two weapons out of his grasp, or many more will die."

The Summoner bit her lip as Lulu's words sank in. "If... I bring the Calm, someone will still have to deal with him."

"One thing at a time," Auron interrupted, boots crunching as he trudged back to rejoin the party with Rikku sauntering at his side. "Sin first. And it's time we were leaving."

Yuna nodded. "Yes. Lead the way, Kimahri."

"Hey, Lu," Wakka said, tucking his blitzball under his arm and falling into step beside her as they moved off. "You feelin' a little better now, ya?"

"Perhaps." She cast a quick glance over her shoulder. Auron looked solid enough. She let out the breath she had been holding. "Yes."
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