Without mysteries, life would be very dull indeed. What would be left to strive for if everything were known?
Charles de Lint
Paine walked briskly through the sliding door of the Bridge, “Brother! Let’s go already!”
“Paine! I am leader and I say I’m not ready yet!”
The warrior grabbed the Al Bhed by his suspenders and shook him. “I don’t care what you say. I say we leave now. End of discussion!”
She threw the man back down in his pilot seat and glared at Buddy. He quickly turned away and started typing furiously. “Um, there is a sphere near Kilika Woods. Head there then?”
Brother was slumped in his chair, pouting, arms crossed. Paine hit him on the back of the head. “Eyah! Fine! We go! But not because you said so! Because I, leader of the Gullwings, decided we were ready.”
“Good,” Paine said with a wry smile.
The silver headed female walked back to the elevator and took it up to the cabin. “Tysh, Brother. Oui zicd kud dumt.” (Damn, Brother. You just got told.)“Kyr, E TET HUD KAD DUMT! E zicd vekinat ed fyc desa du ku huf.” (Gah, I DID NOT GET TOLD! I just figured it was time to go now.)
Buddy scoffed, “Hmmph...frydajan oui cyo syh.” (Hmmph…whatever you say man.)Shinra turned around in his chair and looked at the other two. “Cra fyc y meddma suna ykknacceja dryh iciym. Oui drehg cusadrehk ec ib?” (She was a little more aggressive than usual. You think something is up?)
The three friends shared an amused glance. “Naaahhh!”
The elevator stopped at the cabin and Paine didn’t move. Instead she pressed the button for the deck. The doors slid open and she walked out into the morning air. “Rikku?”
The thief wasn’t near the ornament. She probably went back into the cabin then. “Hyrah! Got cha!”
Paine side stepped and watch the blonde fall face first into the deck. Her feet hung in the air for a second and plopped down into the floor with a loud thud. Groaning she moved, rather twitched, slightly and mumbled under her breath. “You and your reflexes.”
The warrior smirked and lifted the girl to her knees and examined her face. A tiny bruise was forming on her jaw line already. She rubbed it lightly and looked into saddened eyes. Immediately her heart sank. “What is it, Rikku?”
“How is it you always manage to stay ahead of me? I can never seem to sneak up on you but you so easily can do it to me. I’ve always prided myself on being able to sense people and know when they are near but not with you. Even with your loud boots, you can still manage to sneak up on me. And by Spira I can never seem to catch you off guard,” the blonde huffed.
A small smile grew on the older girl’s face as she shook a few strands of hair away from her eyes. “You want to know my secret?”
Rikku’s eyes widened and she leaned forward with a nod. Paine licked her lips and whispered into the Al Bhed’s ear, “I’m a ninja.”
The younger girl burst into a fit of giggles and fell back. Paine tilted her head and studied her friend with amusement glittering in her eyes. Cute. Rikku’s fit finally calmed down and she wiped a tear from her eye. Her smile was still wide and her cheeks still rosy. “So, kunoichi, you have any tricks of the trade?”
A thin, silver eyebrow twitched and raised. “Perhaps.”
“Uh huh? Care to share?”
Rikku scoffed and was suddenly sent hurling forward. She smashed into Paine and the two went sliding across the deck. Both of them slammed their bodies close to the ground and tried their best to hang on and not be thrown off to the land below. “Damn Brother.”Reaching for her mike, Rikku yelled into it, “BROTHER! FA'NA UH DRA TALG!” (WE’RE ON THE DECK!)
Some static and an insouciant answer came back, “Fryd? Drana ec duu silr feht.” (What? There is too much wind.)
“E CYET! FA YNA UH DRA TALG!!” (I SAID! WE ARE ON THE DECK!!)
A panicked sound came from the microphone and the Celsius slowed immediately. Rikku grabbed Paine and they went inside the door. “After everything we’ve been through, to die because Brother threw us off the ship.”
Rikku grimaced slightly and hugged Paine closer, still trembling. But if we had been thrown off…it would’ve been okay because I was with you. If only you knew how much I like you. Paine sensed Rikku was troubled and stepped back for a moment. “Rikku?”
The blonde shook her head and forced a weak smile. “Come on…let’s go lie down for a moment.”
Paine allowed herself to be led to the cabin and once they arrived they went up to the couch. Rikku sat down and patted the seat next to her. Paine sat down in the corner and Rikku curled up against her with her head in her lap. She closed her eyes and gently stroked the warrior’s knee. Brother’s voice broke the silence, asking if they made it inside safely yet. Touching her intercom, Paine responded with a monotone, “yes.”
The airship shifted in gear and continued on toward its destination. Both the girls relaxed into each other and the couch and drifted off into a light sleep.
Paine stirred as the Celsius slowed down, causing the blonde to shift. She now looked up towards Paine. “I can see up your nose.”
The warrior shook her bangs out of her eyes and tilted her head down. A calm smile formed on her face and a gleam of mischief passed quickly through her eyes. She took her hand and cupped Rikku’s face gently. As the Al Bhed closed her eyes she moved her hand and grabbed the girl’s nose and pulled. Rikku whined nasally, “nnnn Peaine! Lnet go!”
The silver hair girl chuckled quietly and released her nose. Rikku tapped it and flared her nostrils to make sure they were still working. Now sitting up, she glared at Paine who returned an innocent look. “Don’t give me that look, missy! You‘re not so innocent.”
Paine softly tilted Rikku’s chin up and leaned in for a kiss. The thief quickly gave in and returned her show of passion with ferocity of her own. They separated, breathing slightly labored. The warrior took one more quick kiss and stood up, holding out her hand. Rikku formed a wide smile and took the hand gratefully. You’re such a softie now, Paine. Both girls thought in unison.
Down in Kilika Woods, they passed Donna and Barthello. Rikku made small talk about the competition, sphere hunting, and what was new. Paine waited patiently and only added input when Rikku brought her into the conversation. After a bit, the two were off on their mission once again.
“Paine…I don’t see any cave.”
The warrior had been silent since they passed through the gate and into the woods. She used to play there as a kid and knew exactly the cave Buddy was talking about. She found it while playing hide and seek with Tarja, her best friend, and they covered it up expertly so no one else could find it. Judging from the area around the opening, they had done a pretty good job hiding it. Only minor scuff marks that could’ve been made by a Squatter monkey easily. “Here.”
Rikku turned her head towards Paine and moseyed up behind her. “Wow. How’d you know it was here?”
“Lucky guess,” Paine replied in a low voice.
The blonde sensed something was wrong and she was guessing it had something to do when she was younger. She touched the warrior softly on the shoulder and turned her to face her. Grief appeared in her eyes briefly before being replaced by a callous expression. Rikku pleaded quietly with her eyes and the once cold expression turned benevolent. She smiled down at the younger girl and urged her forward. Inside the cave was cool and damp. Just as Paine had remembered it. The women followed several twists and turns, searching for a glowing orb. “Wait you two.”
Buddy’s voice had surprised both of them and they jumped ever so slightly. “The sphere should be located to your right.”
The duo looked right and then at each other. Rikku shifted her weight and answered back, “uh…Buddy…there is only a wall there.”
A chuckle could be heard over the microphone. “Well, looks like you two better start digging.”
Rikku grimaced and Paine sighed. They walked over to the wall and began to remove some of the dirt. “If this thing caves in on us I’m going to haunt you for the rest of your life, Buddy.”
A soft laugh was all that answered. Once the two took away about five inches of dirt, they hit rock. Wiping away the grime, they found something to be written illegibly on it. The word ‘to’ could be read and an ‘a’ and an ‘e.’ “To something something something comma a word with an ‘a’ and an ‘e.’ Wow, that doesn’t really help us does it, Paine?”
“No, not really. Let’s just get the sphere and go.”
Rikku nodded and grabbed the brick. “We should take this to Shinra to see if he can find out what it says.”
Upon pulling the brick out, a red sphere dropped to the ground below. Paine picked it up and she and Rikku headed back out. Once on the airship, they gave the brick and sphere to Shinra and waited. “This should only take a moment.”
A fuzzy image popped up on the screen and Rikku leaned heavily on the chair to try and get a better look. A figure of a woman could be seen. She had long silver hair and garnet eyes. She was on her knees bowing down to someone. There was another shadow beside her. The silhouette looked like a man. He, too, was on his knees bowing. The image faded away and came back to the woman staring at the sphere recorder talking. “What is she saying? Say Paine…that woman kinda looks like you. Paine?”
The older girl stood there stunned. Her eyes flickered back and forth as her gaze penetrated the screen, unblinkingly. Rikku turned her away from the screen and shook her lightly. Her expression unchanging, Paine closed her mouth. She looked down at Rikku’s feet and then back at the screen. “Mom?”