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Why must growing pains suck so much? 

My arms and legs are hurting even more than usual today, like they could pop off—like the way I used to pop off pieces of my doll, then replace them with Eidolon arms. 

Sometimes, I'd replaced the legs of my dolls with the appendages of dragons, elementals, or magical beasts. And why not? The human form is not always the best one. Right now, my human form aches everywhere, and it's horrible. 

I hug the Fire spell in my hands, closer and closer to my body, as I walk and ache, ache and walk, through the twisting tunnels of Leviathan's stomach. A few times, the Fire spell plays with the edges of my sheer green clothes, so I have to adjust where I hold my magic to keep my cloak from catching flame.

I'm not sure why I'm trying to take care of my clothes; they're covered in sea gunk. I guess, it's because this is the last outfit Mom dressed me in. I've been washing it in the rivers and seas, since I started traveling with Cecil. The bigger I grow, the more they don't fit me. What will I have to remember my Mom, after I outgrow them?

The Fire spell dances in my hand, judging me. I frown at it.

It's wind that's moving the Fire spell in odd swishes and circles—isn't it?

Or is it the echo of a Thundara? 

The air is crackling with enough electricity to explain Thundara, or even Thundaga, if the black mage is good enough. Tellah was good enough, except he didn't like Edward, so he didn't come on the boat. 

That means Tellah's alive, at least.

The thought of a friend surviving outside this sea-beast makes me smile.

Though I expected the tunnels to stay mostly the same—intestines are just tubes wrapped around tubes, right?—a gradual widening releases the walls from a shoulder-to-shoulder passageway, to a little room for my elbows to wiggle, to a canyon of vaguely acidic air, stretching, mawing. 

Why are there so many caves? 

Haven't I gone spelunking enough in my life?

By the time I notice the flicker of lights up ahead, I have my arms airplaned out, imitating the Brrzzt! brrzzt! sounds of an airship by humming against the back of my tongue. What can I say? Play-pretending helps me focus.

The lights ahead look like snow and light and lightning;

Yet outside of Leviathan's stomach, I remember the sky was glittering with summer.

And just as I convince myself, Black mages aren't inside Leviathan!—that's insane!—that's when I see her: Shiva, Goddess of Snowstorms, her icy hands moving the flow of magic, slowing the streams of bile and digestive juices at the end of this sea serpent's cavernous middle.

She turns rivers and pools of acidity into crystalline walkways, bricks of sea serpent fluids. 

Every movement of her glass-like arms is beautiful.

I have to look at her twice before I accept that it's her; after all, the neighbor summoner kind of had a crush on her. Since she was the Eidolon our neighbor was most fond of calling, sometimes I'd run into her and say hi. However, that was rare. 

Most of the time, I just felt her there.

Even through our neighbor's walls, beyond his backyard, and through yet more walls—on the way to our home—Shiva's aura kept the left side of our house cool; her presence was always so refreshing.

"Shiva," I shout, not thinking about how I, too, am a summoner.

She sits up, glances over, and appears next to me in a whirl of ice, all within an eye blink. She readily grants permission to those who call her, even people she does not quite know. She's known for this eagerness to help humans; she is a good-natured Eidolon.

I jump in my bones, but I try to be cool about it and only take a step or two back. I've never summoned Shiva before; only the flighty Chocobo and mighty Titan respond to kids. And the other Eidolon are boring. Except maybe Ifrit and Ramuh. They're kind of awesome.

"Young lady," Shiva whispers, hands on her chest; she spreads her fingers along her collarbone as she continues, "It's dangerous for someone so small. How'd you find this place?"

"Leviathan ate me." 

Shiva gasps. Then her eyes relax, and she murmurs, "Oh, wait... Are you Rydia?"

I nod a little too enthusiastically. "How'd you know?"

Before she answers, Shiva leans close, placing a hand on my lower back to draw me in. Chills of anticipation race through my bones. She smells like flowers and springtime, like berries in late winter. "Ramuh let me in on what happened to your village." Then she pulls away, laughing sadly, and adds in a much more casual manner, "How're you limbs? You growing?"

It's strange how quickly she shifted from a noble Eidolon to this we've-been-friends-forever tone, way too odd for me to brush off. I "uhh" and "umm" quite a bit, trying to adjust. "I think so." The growing pain is still killer. "I'm growing tremendously."

"Tremendously, huh? I did, too. I remember how it goes."

I wrinkle my nose. "But you're old."

"My mom was old," she replies. "I'm Shiva XIII. I'm only ten."

I'm staring at her breasts when I say, "You don't look ten." She looks more like Rosa, the sweet, white wizard Cecil was trying to help, back when we challenged the Antlion, after that fantastic ride on Edward's hovercraft. And Rosa was quite a looker.

Shiva shies away a bit, pulling her arms up over herself. Along herself. 

I hadn't noticed how gracefully she moved before. 

"You won't look ten either, once Leviathan's done digesting you," she murmurs.

"I'm seven."

She laughs louder than I anticipated. "No way! You look fifteen or sixteen."

"I do not," I start, then I catch myself. "What do you mean, once Leviathan's done digesting...?" and my words trail off, nervousness playing its fingers along my spine.

She taps her toes on the frozen juices beneath her, as a ballerina might test the temperature of a pool. "All this stuff is for digesting mortal things; mundane things. But you and I, we're Eidolon born. We're spiritual sustenance."

"I'm a Summoner," I tell her. "Not an Eidolon."

"Yes, of course," she responds too flatly, so I cross my arms. She laughs more, then continues, "We all age faster in here, see; it's how Leviathan remains immortal. But it's worth the sacrifice, because for every year you lose, you'll become three years smarter." She leans closer to me. "If you read in the libraries," she explains. "Also, you stink of Haste. Did someone Haste you?"


Author's Note

Thank you for reading this far! 

Hopefully you like my version of Final Fantasy's Shiva. 

If you liked this chapter, and you want to help other people find it, make sure you star (⭐) before continuing. Also, don't be afraid to comment on how I could make the story better—but don't feel like you have to comment, either; just having you here, reading my work, makes my heart sing. 🤓

First draft: June 18

Second & third drafts: August 18

Word count: 1198

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