The Lava Sea, green-and-white hot even from the horizon, convinces me that the flatlands continue forever, yet as we approach nearer the waves of heat,—and the cavern subtly shifts from a deadpan under my feet, to curving stones and pebbled trails—bioluminescent moss is joined with the occasional vine; then many vines dotted with briny blue flowers; until we reach a plateau, where part of the land caves even further downward, into a nine-to-ten-foot-wide tunnel layered from floor to ceiling with thick green vines glistening in bright blue moss patches.
I tap the tip of my boot into the thick moss floor, jerking away when my sole smokes.
I'm fairly certain I can't walk on it. Bad things will happen.
"Shiva," Ifrit shouts, and my skeleton tries to leap out of my skin; none of us have spoken much in the last several hours, other than Rob rabbling something-or-another about a an old magical tome he read.
"What?" Shiva drips, also sounding irritated, yet maintaining her ever-sexy, cool composure.
Ifrit glances at me and my agitation, unhindered feelings splattered all over my face,—more and more lately, my moods feel larger than me—then he says just one notch quieter, "Can you cast Float?"
Shiva rolls her eyes. "No. Why bother learning that?" She opens the back of her robes for a moment, and a current of chilly air rushes up around her; then she drifts just above the ground. Playfulness returns to her eyes. "I'm all natural."
"YesbutRydiaisnot," Rob says.
"And I can't barrel down every hall," Ifrit continues, "or I'll knock the whole cave down!"
"Maybe I can cast Float," I offer, holding out both my hands, already drawing the building blocks of white magic to my fingertips.
Shiva opens and closes her mouth. Rob narrows his Bomb eyes, which are even beadier than they used to be, ever since I shrank him to pint-size with that chuck-and-explode on the cockatrice.
As white magic crackles from my hands, my mind fills with the warmth of Cure. Cura. Esuna. But no Float comes to me; I continue to flip through the same three pages of gentleness in my mind, over and over, then they collapse into darkness.
My hands start to burn, and I scream, "Fire!?" as a spark lights in each of my palms. So I lift my hands closer, looking into them, muttering mostly to myself, "Why Fire...?"
"Thedarknesswithinyou," Rob chatters, looking half excited, half perturbed. "It'sgrowinghot, fieryhot."
Shiva walks right up to me, so that I can smell winter in her breath. She used to be more than a head taller than me; now we're eye-to-eye. I lose myself in the deep blue of her sad gaze.
She takes both my hands in hers, and the Fire dissipates.
"Try again," she whispers, letting go of my hands.
"I—I—Umm," I stammer.
Unable to find words, I close my eyes.
Cure. Cura. Esuna. Collapsing into dark.
"Fire! ...Damn it!"
Her hands return to my hands, and I feel even hotter—like Fira might rip right out of me.
"Try again," she breathes, and her chill cools my black magic to nothing.
The third time I reach for my white magic, Rob says, "Thinkofyourmother, DragonofMist. Youcandoit, youcandoit, youcandoit...!"
When I realize my mother's face is blurring on the edge of my memory, I squeeze my face tight. I wince through the pain of her fading away, the impermanence of everything, when all I ever wanted was a safe, stable, warm—
"Think of the sky," Ifrit shouts, scaring the hell out of me again. "Think of how we come from the sky and the sea, how we float through all of them—"
And Shiva adds, "Think of how you float through your mind,—"
While Rob says, "Notyourmotherbefore, Rydia; thinkofyourmothernow."
Cure. Cura. Esuna. Cure. Cura. Esuna.
"Yourmotheriswithyou," Rob says. "Morethanmemory."
"And we're with you," Ifrit yells, his loud love on my last nerve.
"You can cast this spell," Shiva.
Why does she want me to cast white magic now, after all the resistance?
"Yourmotherwouldwantyoutofeel," Rob says. "Lightasafeather."
Cure. Cura. Esuna. Cure. Cura. Esu— "Float."
I feel weight release. I feel guilt release. I am light as a feather. I am as joyous when my mother lifted my child-body up in the air, swinging me in circles through sunlight; I am floating above my hurt, above this cave and the crashing waters that eddied around Leviathan, in the deep dark of the sea. Those moments are a part of me, but I am above all of them, and I am here, where I can swing myself up in the air without mother's help;
I am here, with the help of my friends, as Shiva holds my hands to keep me tethered to the ground. My feet dangle precariously, bending my knees, then flinging my legs up high, so it's my head that's nearest to the ground, rather than the rest of my body.
"That is a grand Float spell!" Ifrit cheers, belching an exciting flame, which he promptly cuts off by cupping his hands over his mouth.
Shiva's sideways smile penetrates me. "You might've overdone it; but hey, now I don't have to freeze the floor for you to walk."
Rob zips in circles around Ifrit. "NowRydiacanfly!"