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I'm walking up to Ifrit and Shiva just as he says, "You are too much!" and she's asking, "What's your deal?" and I think, these are the best friends. I wish I had summoned them earlier, when I was traveling with Cecil, and I needed Eidolons in the lonely nights, as I cried about my mother.

Before we leave Asura's castle—suspended between the stalactite and stalagmites, at the heart of the round buildings of the Land of Summoned Monsters—I turn to give one last, long look at the second mother I'm leaving behind.

I'll come back here someday. I promise myself that.

For now, though, my body still grows; so we have to go to the Cave of Sylphs.

Shiva and Ifrit again walk at my sides. If Asura can be my mother, then perhaps Ifrit and Shiva can be my brother and sister. My new family. Yet that doesn't sound like it fits, either. I never had brothers or sisters before, in Mist; I've never had the chance to try that feeling on.

Shiva glances at me while also huffing at Ifrit, and I can't help but laugh at the bubbled cheeks she's blown out to mock irritation. "Is everything all right, Rydia?"

I snort a little while I'm laughing, then my face falls flat as a stone. "Yeah."

"So we're going to the Cave of Sylphs," Ifrit roars, beating one fist on his chest, the other on the ground. It's as if his excitement can no longer escape through the booming of his voice; he must also rumble the earth with his body.

"I'm not a fan of Trancy," Shiva says. "But I like you. I like you more than I dislike her. So I'll stick with you until we get to the bottom of this."

I didn't think I would feel this good after Leviathan swallowed me in the deep dark sea. As our ship swerved on its side—as Fang dove in to help me, then vanished into the ocean's churn—as Edward and Cecil screamed my name from the side of the ship—

I thought that's when my life would end.

Just like I thought, then the Bombs burst through the village, that's when my life would end. Or when Cecil and Kain killed my mother, and I wept over her body; my life felt pretty awful then, too.

I blink tears away and tell myself that it's fine.

But after the Bombs burst through the windows of every house in Mist—

It's going to be fine.

After Mom's dragon died, and Mom died, and every safe place and person in the world disappeared—

I'm laughing and crying at the same time, and this sobers Ifrit and Shiva. I hate that I've sapped all the happiness from their conversation; I can't stand that, wherever I go, from now on, I'll be a vacuum of negativity, sucking life out of everyone else.

I have to get myself out of this sadness. I've no choice.

After all, negative aura aside, sadness is a heavy burden to bear; it pulls me down tenfold more than whatever bad mojo I eke out on everyone else. I just want sadness to slide to the ground, puddle in a gross pool at my feet, and never come back again. 

Instead my knees shake, buckle, and give way, and I'm the one who's puddled up on the floor, weeping. Sadness brought me down with it. What an awful emotion.

Shiva crouches next to me, and I fall into her, craving her freezing body to numb my pain. Last time I felt her chill wrap around me, she was taller, like a wiry shawl; but now her shoulder and my shoulder couldn't be more aligned. As I lay my head in the nook of her neck, she cradles her cheek near my face, in a mirrored embrace.

I sob so wholly, I don't realize the ground is quaking; I think it's my chest heaving, and my legs shaking, but it's the earth itself that's rumbling about as Ifrit greets, "Titan!—it's good to see you, my friend!"

It's difficult for me to sit up, yet Shiva's wings flutter to counteract the uneven earth; she gives me the extra support I need to not just lift myself upright, but to wobble back onto my feet as well. I smile at her a moment before turning to Ifrit, who's chatting with a towering stone golem.

Titan is easily thrice my height—even with the extra foot I've gained in growing pains—so when he slowly crouches, I feel very small. Feeling so small brings me back to childhood, and I giggle through the tears still welling in my eyes. 

"Sweet Rydia," he says. "I'm so sorry about your mother."

I summoned Titan just after the Bombs destroyed Mist. I remember. As the memory floods through me, I weep again. In the weeping, I don't remember. This is how trauma works; it's painfully cyclical.

I am worried these childhood terrors will choke me for the rest of my life.

As Titan, Shiva, and I huddle together, Ifrit shouts, "Titan! I have rubies! They're your favorite, aren't they? Yes, I have some right here—the most delicious kind," and to my surprise, Titan eats these glittering red gems from Ifrit's hands.

The roaring happiness between the two Eidolons gladdens me. I laugh, and Shiva laughs with me, the present moment pushing the past away.


First draft: June 18

Second draft: August 18

Word count: 901

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