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As much as I want to hurry to find Trancy and remove her spell, and spare me from growth-wracking pain, Shiva convinces me that this spurt—which is obviously taxing my body, if not my senses—is incredibly exhausting, and if I don't sleep, I may collapse.

"You will rest," she tells me, hands animate with her words, "regardless of if you choose rest, or if rest is forced upon you. So why not sleep in a bed?"

"I have a bed of hot coals at home!" Ifrit shouts. "If you cast Float—"

"That's advanced white magic," Shiva interrupts. The coldness in her voice sends shivers through my spine. "She needs to be focusing on black magic. You cannot possibly expect her to be brilliant at everything."

"No bed of hot coals," I stammer. "And no casting Float. Is there an inn around here?"

Further in the Land of Summoned Monsters, several stories of natural wood houses—and even wooden bridges, walkways, and stairwells—ascend in a multi-tier city connected by stone gray teleporters. The teleporters use spaghettification to thin the mystical creatures of this place into vines, then unwind them into their whole form on the other side.

Just as I'm trying to figure out if I'm up for a slab of rock slenderizing me into a noodle, a blue-fire Bomb speeds past me, skipping my heart a beat. I leap into Shiva to hide from my fear, and the blue-fire Bomb laughs hysterically. Then it rocket-launches to another layer of the city.

So not everyone needs to use the teleporters. I guess that's nice.

"Can Float fly us up...?" I start, but Shiva hushes, "No," and her chilly hands burn icily into my shoulders. "Besides, the inn is on the first floor."

In my time with Cecil, Edward, and Yang, we rested at inns next to stables clucking with chocobos; we even stayed at an inn with a big, fat chocobo that stored potions under its bum; but this is my first time seeing two chocobos behind a counter, sorting stacks of money with the blue-robed, box-shaped man in the middle, talking like people, like the birds are chum.

The blue-robed, box-shaped man's eyes glow with bright yellow torches, a fiery glare perilously cut off by the brim of his hood. "Twelve hundred Gil a night," he says. "Are you staying?"

"Qwark!" one of the chocobos feigns, until I say, "I saw you talking, when we walked in," and the bird stares at me square in the eye, replying, "Well aren't we the little miss eavesdropper."

"Hey now," the other chocobo squawks. "I know her! Rydia of Mist, right?"

A smile sneaks up on my face. "Are you the chocobo I keep summoning?"

The yellow-feathered, ostrich-critter perks up, the plumes on his chest fanning open. "That's me," he announces, and even Shiva can't help but laugh at how ridiculous he looks, beaming.

I reach into my pocket and pull out seven Gil. "I don't have that much," I murmur. "The economy outside of Leviathan's stomach is pretty terrible right now."

"Outside of Leviathan's stomach?" the box-man parrots, and Ifrit lifts a finger to his lips.

Why's Mr. Loud Mouth telling the innkeeper to hush?


Author's Note

Thank you so much for reading this far! I sliced this chapter off an older one I drafted back in June 18, since I wanted to give Rydia's Chocobo a unique space to make an appearance.

I used Rydia's Chocobo summons the whole game, even when it wasn't very strong anymore!—I couldn't help it; he's so cute, streaking his 16-bit feathery butt across the television.

First draft: August 18 

Word count: 586

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