Setting: between FFX and X-2
Theme + Number: (35) Marked; (66) Serious(ly); (68)
Summary: Yuna and Rikku: on vows, change, and haircuts. "Al Bhed is about as far from Yevon and pilgrimages as one can get, and Yunie needs to get far, far away."
Rikku sits down on the beach beside her cousin. Besaid is beautiful and calm, an isle of wind. This is not Rikku’s desert, scratchy and gritty and littered with bits of machina and sun and hope. This sand is soft with shells and Valefor’s breezes.
The wind is blowing her hair into her face; Rikku growls and spits it out of her mouth. Yuna looks over, blinking as if she’s just noticed something.
“Rikku … your hair.”
“It’s a mess,” Rikku says, finally fisting it into a giant ponytail. “What about it?”
“It’s … long.” Yuna reaches over to tug on one of the stray braids that has fallen. “I thought you liked it short.”
“I do,” Rikku says emphatically, tucking the remains of the braids up onto her head. “If it gets too long, it gets caught my goggles and my face shield and my respirator and it tugs on all kinds of machina and it won’t stay out of my face in battle.” She scrambles in a pocket, pulling out a large headband to subdue the mess. “But I can’t cut it.”
Yuna looks over at her. It’s been weeks, but Yunie has learned not to look at everyone with sorrow written on her face like she’s a book. Yuna, the Al Bhed Primer for mourning. “Why not?”
Rikku sighs; the headband is in place and her unruly bangs have been tamed – for now. She looks out over the ocean. Besaid’s children are splashing, and further out from the beach, some of the Aurochs are splashing around on some drills.
“I took a … I took a vow, alright?”
Yuna looks at her, and it’s like her cousin can’t decide whether to giggle or sigh. “A vow about your hair?”
“No!” Rikku says hastily, and then: “well, kind of. Not really.”
The look on Yuna’s face clearly states Rikku is crazy.
So Rikku begins. “I … in Al Bhed custom … well, there’s a really old tradition, right? I mean, it’s so old that not a lot of people know about it, really, so I probably just look like I’m crazy. But … you swear something that you want to do, and you swear it on a lock of hair. And then you can’t cut your hair until you do it. It’s like a reminder.”
“What did you swear?” Yunie isn’t laughing; she’s very solemn about this. Rikku should have guessed, should have changed the subject – should have, could have.
“I swore on a plait that we’d rebuild Home,” she blurts out, all at once. “I swore it right after we had to blow it up, right on the airship. And I didn’t cut it, not once, not even a little bit.”
Yuna nods, intrigued. “So you’re going to let it grow?”
Rikku huffs, wringing her hands in confusion. “I am – I have to,” she says plaintively. “I mean – well, I don’t have to have to, but I do, for me, y’know?” She’s looking out to sea, strangely serious. “It means something to me. I swore it, and I won’t go back on it. But…”
She sighs. “Look at the Al Bhed, Yunie. Spira’s so messed up, and the Al Bhed have come a long way. I mean, this is our chance to get a real Home – a Home that lasts. If we rush it, we could ruin it.”
Yuna shakes her head in thought. She’s barely even acknowledged her own heritage. No one ever cared about the half of her that wasn’t Braska’s daughter. The idea fascinates her.
“For now,” Rikku states decisively, “I’ll just have to make the best of it.” And she yanks a braid down from the headband and chews on the bead at the end.
- - -
The next morning Yuna wakes her, very early.
“I want you to cut my hair,” Yuna whispers.
Rikku is groggy, but this makes her sit up immediately. “Huh? Why? Yunie, are you sleepwalking?”
Yuna rocks back on her heels as Rikku sits up. “I would like you to cut my hair,” Yuna says politely. “Shorter, choppier, something like that.” One hand purposefully sneaks up the back of her neck. “All but this.”
Rikku crawls out of her blankets; Yuna bows her head, gracefully, like a prayer bow. She lifts the hair off of her neck. One lock of it has been delicately wrapped in string and graced with beads.
“Yunie?” Rikku reaches out to touch it; it’s silk.
“I’ve been thinking,” Yuna says, a little frustrated and eager all at once. “I need something new. I need to start over. And what you were saying – about hair, and your vow…” She drops her hair back onto her neck. “If growing it is like working towards a vow, then cutting it – that’s like starting over, isn’t it?”
Rikku strokes Yuna’s hair for comfort, her own heart going out to her brokenhearted cousin.
“I’ve never…” Yuna’s voice is still so full of soft steel. “My whole life I’ve always been Braska’s daughter. Doing something Al Bhed…” She pauses, and glances at Rikku for confirmation: her almost-sister. “It feels right.”
Rikku nods, understanding. Al Bhed is about as far from Yevon and pilgrimages as one can get, and Yunie needs to get far, far away. Something that isn’t prayer and summon, something not tainted by Sin and the memory of him.
The Al Bhed aren’t very cultural anymore, but long ago they were a people of tradition, of ritual, of symbols. Rikku’s mother had been the one who taught her to swear on a plait, the last prophet of a race reborn. And Yuna is her cousin.
So Rikku takes the scissors and delicately cuts Yunie’s hair. She tries for something a little edgy, something with life and bounce to it – something that will clearly say this is a new Yuna without scaring her away. She does not touch the little nub at the base of Yunie’s skull.
The haircut is over, and Rikku is gathering the strands of hair – she does not want any of them to escape and make bad magic – and she sees Yunie lean over slightly, entwining that last lock of hair in her fingers.
“I swear,” Yuna whispers, so low that Rikku can barely hear, “I will find you.”