Setting: FFX, somewhere in the Calm Lands
Theme + Number: Slow and Steady (47)
Summary: The pilgrimage is a process for Guardians as much as for Summoners.
"That's it." The mage folded her fingers with delicate precision around Rikku's wrist, adjusting her hand's position minutely. "Turn from the wrist, not from the elbow. Now breathe out."
The girl was trembling but determined. Lulu had suggested starting with water, since it held less terror for her than other elements, and had the added attraction of being something an Al Bhed looked upon as a blessing.
The sputtering spell's yield was no more than a bucketful, but Wakka's yelp at the rude awakening was something both women would later laugh about. Not that it was funny at the time. Lulu's withering, "Really, Wakka, one would think you'd never been in a blitz sphere," finally sent him away muttering.
"Stop." Auron's gloved hand clamped onto Tidus' shoulder, shoving him roughly so that the boy staggered. "You're pressing again. Balance matters far more than speed."
"You'd know all about that, old man," Tidus quipped.
The embers of the fire had burned low in the late watches before dawn, but Lulu remained with her back to the fire, arms folded against the chill. "They'll be ready," she confided in a low voice. As so often, the mage and swordsman had exchanged curt notes about their charges during the watch they shared. "One step at a time."
She arched an eyebrow. "After two pilgrimages, I had better be."
He grunted. "I don't mean firepower, Lulu."
There was a telltale pause— whatever had happened in the Calm Lands before, it was clearly still gnawing at her. "I know where we're going, Sir Auron," she said finally, "and what will happen. I did not start a journey I would not be able to finish."
No, you don't, he wanted to say. Yevon's bark is flaking away from you piece by piece, but you still cling to the last few scraps, even knowing the Maesters are corrupt. You don't yet know the root is rotten.
Auron's resolve wavered for a moment. Did he still doubt her? She had absorbed Maester Seymour's betrayal and the discovery of Bevelle's corruption with dispassionate pragmatism.
Not yet. Tempting as it was to enlist her wisdom against the trap that lay ahead, he could not risk the chance that she might turn aside, might even be able to shake Yuna's convictions with the full truth. She has to find this out for herself, one step at a time.
Auron caught Lulu watching him instead of scanning the shadows. Confound the woman. She was more shrewd and more unpredictable than he had guessed. He had feared that these slaves of Yevon would insist on a Sending, if they knew what he truly was. But prizing out his little secret had simply drawn her to him like pyreflies to a moon-lily. Better not to let anything else slip.
With a grunt, he turned and hoisted his sword, tromping off on another prowling circuit of their camp.
Lulu sighed and turned back to face the enveloping darkness. Piece by piece, she was beginning to chip away at that mask of his. He still kept a few spheres hidden in his sleeves. Didn't he trust her yet, after all that had happened? But perhaps she had been rash to bridge the gap between them with passion's fleeting touch. Her lips curled at a memory. Oh, yes, they had been rash.
It didn't matter. Sooner or later, she would chisel through his brittle silences and veiled hints. She had a feeling Sir Auron expected no less of her.