Two Princes

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In my dream, I'm reunited with Yang, and we're both very confused but happy we survived Leviathan's attack. Since our ship was never destroyed, I never fell under Trancy's spell, or fell through the wormhole to the Dark World, so I should be young—but I'm not. I'm sitting with Yang in an inn, playing cards, in my adult body. 

Then Yang introduces me to another prince, from a castle that was laid to ruins just as swiftly as the Village of Mist fell. The new prince doesn't come into the inn or anything; he just materializes, as dreams are wont to do.

The strange new prince looks lovely in his billowing pants, mysterious mask, and the shawl he wraps around his torso like open robes—quite similar to how Shiva dons her robes, actually. 

I wonder if he's my imagination, trying to turn Shiva into a man, and I creep myself out so much, I damn near wake up from my dream. But I want to get to know this new prince, so I hang on, and the dream continues. 

I don't know why my mind is trying to replace Shiva with this man; Mom would've been fine with me feeling all hot and bothered over an Eidolon, whether it was Shiva, Ifrit, or Titan.

I'm not really into Ifrit or Titan, though.

I'm not really into anyone else, come to think of it. 

Shiva's really got my heart in a web. 

That's no good. 

The chances she'd return my feelings are next to none. The more I think about her rejection, the more my worries bottle up. Yet this new prince, in his rich violet pants and robes, seems enchanted by me. It actually kind of weirds me out, how he won't stop staring.

Yang asks me how I grew up, and I don't know how to explain it to him, so I just say time flowed differently for me than for him.

When I startle awake, Shiva's hovering over me, her long face framed by wisps of blue and violet hair. Part of her hair tickles my cheek; I'm fairly certain that's the tickling feeling that woke me.

"S-sorry," she murmurs. "You were talking in your sleep."

I mumble, "I was...?" while propping myself on my elbow. 

As consciousness swathes over my mind, and my dream evacuates into the shadows, I unravel her robes from pile of makeshift bedding beneath me, then hand them to her. She seems grateful to wrap them around her leotard. 

Ifrit's clothes are next to nonexistent; there's not much left under me now, and in the belly of the planet, where the earth is uncomfortably warm.

"You all right...?" Shiva asks, reluctant.

"I just woke up," I grumble.

"Right," she breathes.

It dawns on me that she said I was talking in my sleep.

What did I say while I was asleep?

"You called out my name," she starts, wrinkling her nose, confirming what I've done, just as I saturate in my fear. "I... I came over to see if you're fine."

"I'm perfect," I say, then feel like an idiot for saying so.

"Right. Umm." She drums scintillating fingertips on her knee. 

With her eyes tilted into her lap, I can see the glint of turquoise rings, rimming along the edge of her pupils, the deepest layer of her irises. It's interesting how easily we convince ourselves eyes are one flat color; how hair is one flat color; how our skin is one simple hue. On her arms, I see cerulean shadows, milky blue highlights, undertones of blue-gray, and lavender freckles.

"Rob's cuddling with Ifrit in the tent," she says with a half-smile. "He woke me up a little earlier, told me to take over watch, then zipped in there to hang out with his," and she air-quotes, "bestest friend and hero." She laughs a little, breaking the tension between us. "Rob says Ifrit's too hot for him, but I think he might be lying."

I raise an eyebrow and quietly laugh in return. "Ifrit's okay with a Bomb snuggling him?"

"He's treating Rob like a puppy," Shiva replies. Her face falls serious. She throws the edge of her shawl over her shoulder, slowly wrapping her robes around her neck. Her lavender-speckled arms. "But Rob's a serious black mage. I see him practicing."

"I saw it, too!" I say, more excited than I meant, then I put my hand over my mouth. Lowering my voice, I continue, "When you cast Slow on me, I could see it really well. He's casting like a super-huge spell."

She nods, glancing away.

"And earlier, you cast Protect." I tilt my head. "I thought you didn't like white magic?"

"I think it's a waste for you to study," she tells me, not returning her gaze, her words trailing off into nothing. She sucks in a long breath, then doesn't let it go. I stay quiet, suspended on the expectation of an exhale that doesn't come.

Until at last she breathes, "Your white magic—" Then she sucks air in again.

"Just tell me," I say.

She shakes her head. "But I'm not sure if I'm right, and I don't want to freak you out—" 

"Tell me what's on your mind," I interrupt, remembering how far Mom could wade into the depths of someone's thoughts, just by staying persistent.

Shiva closes her eyes. "There was a price to pay for that Haste, Rydia. Your white magic, and your black magic... they should be balanced, like suns and moons; yet they aren't." 

As her eyes open, and she finally looks at me again, I'm pained by the glistening sadness, the genuine sorrow she feels. Why's she so damn sad for me?

"There's a darkness inside of you," she whispers. "A black magic of greater magnitude, and higher potential, than whatever white magic you'll ever try to learn. I'm afraid, after what you've been through... your white magic will only continue to ebb away. And your black magic will grow very, very strong."

♥♥♥

First draft: July 18

Second draft: August 18

Word count: 1008

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