Setting: FFX, Pilgrimage
Theme + Number: (3) Scream; (49) Spheres; (84)
Notes: I am such a game-science dork.
Summary: Rikku learns to cast.
Rikku can't help but scream, a tiny little scream only, but it hurts! Her respect for Lulu has grown tenfold over the past two hours. Her stoic black mage never let on - or Rikku didn't realize, maybe - that every spell cast hurts you a little, eats away a little bit at something in your muscles and bones, until eventually you'd be empty, bereft of magical power, having consumed it all from your own body, painfully. Granted, it doesn't hurt as much as being hit with the spell, which is the whole point: but she can't help but scream, and wince, a little.
Yuna is watching with that little smile on her face that means Yuna is trying to be sly, or smug: neither of which suit her, but she tries anyway, an attempt to hit every single emotion before the Big Finale. Rikku can almost see it in her face: Yuna's remembering her own lessons with Lulu a month ago. The summoner had boldly stated that she was ready to learn black magic and so Lulu had trained her, almost gruelingly, as if there was another lesson in there besides the casting: and Yuna had come out even more powerful than the mage herself, though she tires more quickly.
But Yunie had never winced, Rikku thinks, and so she turns to Lulu (who is standing there with that look on her face) and she says, trying to keep her dignity: "You never told me it hurt!"
"What hurts?" Lulu asks in that satin voice and Rikku can't help but feel so young.
"When you cast," she says, jumping around a little to get her blood flowing again. Rikku is all energy and angles where Lulu is always smooth, gliding across the ground. Sometimes Rikku wonders whether Lulu has feet. "It - it's like, it pinches you for a second, or shocks you. Like when you put your hand on a machina battery you thought was dead, or get your fingers caught."
"There is a cost to everything," Lulu replies, and her tone of voice implies she is waiting for Rikku to say more. Only Lulu can imply with her voice (also Auron, maybe, Rikku thinks: if you can get him to say anything longer than "Go away" or "Get out of my pockets").
Rikku hops from one foot to the other, thinking. "But it's not like - it's not like getting hit by a fiend, or getting whapped in the head with Dummy's blitzball. It's like - it hurts inside, kinda."
Lulu nods, and although her face is still stony-passive Rikku imagines that Lulu is pleased with her. "Those are physical hurts, the kind that can be easily healed," the black mage says, gliding over smoothly to stand beside Rikku. Lulu is so beautiful that it hurts. "Casting does not hurt you physically, only magically."
Rikku squeaks: "So it's not just me? It hurts you? Every single time?" And then manages to check herself before she shouts: why didn't you tell me this before I swallowed all those spheres?
Lulu gestures. "Each person has a reservoir of magic inside themselves. And if you learn how to cast, every spell you cast will use a bit of that energy. Higher-level spells will hurt more, but also do more damage to your target."
"Eeep!" She can't think of anything more dignified to say, which is embarassing; so she turns to her cousin. "Yunie, does it hurt when you cast?"
Yuna nods, still smiling slightly. "It always hurts to cast, Rikku," she says: "even when I cast white magic."
"Oh, so that's why you're used to it, then," Rikku replies, but then trails off as it hits her: Yunie, hurting herself, using up her own energies to heal and protect them, and she's never thought of a better analogy and it hurts her so bad she's momentarily speechless. Rikku thinks: White magic shouldn't hurt to cast! That's totally unfair. This world is so stupid.
Yunie doesn't need any more pain.
Lulu must see it in her face (sometimes she feels like a novel around Lulu: The Book Of Rikku! Read My Innermost Thoughts Here, Written Directly On My Face For Your Benefit), for she steps forward and raises Rikku's arm, positioning her in a basic casting stance. Lulu has been a good teacher: kind but not lenient, tough but not cruel. Rikku thinks of the two weeks she's spent now dutifully swallowing all kinds of spheres, the tiny ones you find tucked away in chests or stuck in a monster's pelt, waiting and waiting as Lulu primed her body and mind for casting. She'd trusted the mage implicitly, which surprised her: she never would have let, say, Tidus feed her spheres and muck about with her brain, but Tidus has no dignity, whereas Lulu is coated in it.
She remembers waking up this morning and Lulu saying Rikku, you're almost there, and swallowing that last sphere and feeling some strange portion of her mind just melt open to her, something she'd never felt before, and a tingling in her arms. And again, Lulu must have read it in her face, for she called the march to a halt and pulled Rikku aside, Yuna following for moral support, and began slowly but surely teaching her how to pull the magic out of herself.
Rikku looks at them now. Lulu is still supporting her arm, merely waiting as the thoughts play across the young thief's face like clouds: she is so beautiful, so strong and silent and mature. Yuna is as well: more obviously encouraging, more openly smiling, but with a solemnness Rikku has never had. They both have far more dignity than Rikku has ever even known, growing up kicking sand and picking pockets with the desert kids and a crazy flamethrower dad.
Rikku wonders suddenly if it is because their natural skills both require self-sacrifice.
She steels herself for the pain and waves her arm again, and the little lick of fire rolls across the grass: Yuna claps her hands, and Lulu lets a rare smile cross her face, and Rikku winces a little, but she manages not to scream this time.