Adventure's Eve NSFW
The little cafe's environment was peaceful and quiet, perfect for a fledgling mage's first spell.
Aivivih bent over the spell scroll, studying it intently. Her catlike Mithran ears stood up beneath her hood at the tingling feeling of its energy rushing into her, her tail fluffing out. The magic in it carved pathways into her mana circuits as she read it, soft white light enveloping her as the scroll absorbed itself into her and evaporated into the air. Her first taste of real magic... Up to now she'd been learning theory of magic and channeling practice, ways to charge her body with mana, what foods to eat to optimize mana flow, but she'd not been trusted with any real spells. Oh, sure, she'd read scrolls before, learned tiny cantrips, little ways to use the power inside her... but never anything that would actually be useful.
She lifted her hands to chest height, closing her eyes. Clearing her mind. Focusing her spirit, gathering her potential and searching for that new outlet... "Cure," she murmured, and the floodgates opened. Warm energy rushed out of her, washing through her body and soothing her body's aches. She'd been sitting all day for the graduation ceremony from the Aurastery - but it was well worth it. She was officially a White Mage now! A fledgling one, yes, a novice, but it was official all the same.
Beside her, Annabelle clapped. The dark-haired Hume girl was dressed in her own robe-and-hood getup for the graduation, and tucked somewhere in her backpack was a scroll case containing a scroll of Stone - her first spell as an official Black Mage. "Bravo! Bravo! Good work! Do me next."
"I'm going to try to do it without invoking its name this time, watch," Aivivih said shyly, pushing her glasses up her nose. Again she calmed herself, steadied herself, rid her mind of thought, and...
A leather-gloved hand clamped down on her shoulder, startling her and breaking her concentration. "Well, well. I finally found you. And who knows what I'll do to you after you kept me waiting so long..."
"H-Huh?" Aivivih froze solid.
Annabelle leaned over so she could make eye contact with the newcomer. "Hello. Do you know my girlfriend?"
Aivivih turned around, craning her neck to do the same. It was an Elvaan woman she'd never seen before... long, silvery hair down to her shoulders, leather armor from head to toe, a sword strapped to her side, and a playful expression on her face that quickly turned to horror once she met Aivivih's eyes. "Oh n- Oh Dawn, I- I'm sorry, I thought- You-"
"It's not a problem," Annabelle said smoothly. "Sit down, maybe we can help you."
"I'm very sorry. Please don't glower at me like that," the Elvaan said, bowing deeply before taking a seat beside the others.
"Umm, she's just looking at you," Aivivih murmured, trying to overcome her nerves.
The Elvaan looked to Annabelle, whose sunken eyes and slightly downturned lips gave her the look of a brooding loner with a tragic past, then back to Aivivih, doubt written all over her features.
Aivivih smiled. "Annabelle just looks like that. She's very sweet though..."
"Who were you looking for?" Annabelle asked, flagging down the waitress to take the Elvaan's order. "And, perhaps more importantly, who are you?"
As the waitress left to prepare a cup of San d'Orian tea, the Elvaan woman dove into her story. "My name is Araignaise, formerly of the Royal Knights. I was stationed here for the past few months as the outpost guard, and during that time, I..." She picked up a stirrer, fidgeting with it. "... became fond of a Mithran woman with hair as warm an orange as the gentle embers of sunset, drawn back in a ponytail. I could describe her clothes, but they were always changing... Name of Srelle. She... convinced me to desert, to see the world with her." She dug in her backpack, pulling out an official-looking notice with the magicked seal of Heavens Tower glowing softly at the top. "I wished to share the good news with her - that I have renounced my San d'Orian citizenship and become Windurstian."
"Srelle, huh..." Annabelle mused. She racked her brain, eyes screwed up. "I haven't encountered her, but if you like, I can search for her and alert you if I find her."
"Please," Araignaise said, inclining her head toward Annabelle gratefully. "I am somewhat lost here in Windurst... it's nothing like the capital city of San d'Oria, where I grew up."
"I've never been." Annabelle leaned forward, fire igniting in her eyes. "But I'd like to go. I want to see the world beyond this little forest."
"Srelle assured me she was a very capable traveler," Araignaise said with a laugh. "And I still believe that she will take me to see more of this world. Though... I admit that my first assessment of her was that she was flighty and doubtless unreliable."
Elsewhere, in the cargo hold of a ferry bound for Selbina...
A shivering Mithran girl sneezed hard, rubbing her nose a moment before her body was racked with two more sneezes. "Ugh, shud up," she whispered to her body. "We don't want that thing to know we're down here..."
She closed her eyes, focusing hard on her destination. Was there something she was forgetting? She didn't think so...
While Annabelle and Araignaise shared stories of places they'd heard about, things they wanted to see, Aivivih pulled out a small blue clamshell. Wriggling her fingers inside, she prised free a single blue pearl, letting it roll down her fingers into her palm.
"Um..." She hesitated a moment, waiting until all eyes were on her, then offered it to Araignaise. "Here. This is a linkpearl. Because Annabelle and I are going to go traveling, too, and we might need some more support. I-I mean, two novice mages... this world would eat us alive."
"Literally," Annabelle added. "From what Ivy's told me."
Aivivih blushed hot, not having intended to talk about that in front of their guest. "Er, well, some of those stories were a little exaggerated... but yes, that is a danger."
"A linkpearl," Araignaise murmured. She set down her teacup and plucked the pearl from Aivivih's palm. "So... I can touch this and speak, and you'll be able to hear it?"
"That's rrrrright," Aivivih purred with a delighted nod. "And so long as you're wearing it, you'll be able to hear us, too."
"Good, then, I'll be able to pull you out in case one or both of you goes and gets yourself eaten," Araignaise muttered, tucking the pearl away. She grinned smugly at Aivivih's reaction to the tease. So easy...
"Do you have a place to stay?" Annabelle asked. When Araignaise shook her head, she continued, "My parents have made arrangements for a mog home which has become our base of operations. There are a few additional beds open, if you'd like to stay. Since it sounds as though we're all working toward the same goal..."
"That's quite the offer. Thank you," Araignaise said. "I admit, I didn't expect such generosity from the land of savage beasts and little sorcerers."
Aivivih winced. Not unusual for someone from San d'Oria to have such a dim view of non-Elvaans, but...
"Though I suppose my upbringing was a little harsh on this place," Araignaise added, a sheepish smile sliding onto her face. "Sorry. Old habits die hard."
... she would get over it with time, Aivivih decided.
The trio paid for their drinks and left, heading across the bridges of the Waters district to Annabelle's home. Annabelle and Araignaise continued chattering about plans and histories, and Aivivih fell behind, an irrepressible smile on her face. This was really happening...
I just want a chance to do it over again. Please. Just one more chance. I don't want this to be how it ends...
Aivivih jerked awake with a start, a deep ache of longing and loss in her heart. Gasping for breath, like she'd just run all out for her life.
These nightmares kept happening... nightmares about places she'd never been. Always ending in the same place, in a spiderweb of caverns, a knife in her chest. Her body always felt too large, too lanky when she awoke.
She pressed a hand to her forehead, trying to calm herself. As her breathing and heart rate returned to normal, her gaze swept across the room. Araignaise's armor and the cat-claws she had bought after selling her sword hung off a stand beside her bed, though she wasn't in it - instead, she was sitting in a nearby rocking chair with a book turned face-down on her lap, wearing a body-hiding set of pajamas and fast asleep from the day's wandering of Windurst. Annabelle curled up beside her, chest rising and falling peacefully as she slept, her fine silken nightgown doing little to hide her curves. The window was open - perhaps the source of the chill Aivivih felt - and in it was a stock-still Mithran woman with red hair pulled back in a ponytail. A knife in a sheath strapped to her side. Not even breathing, like a statue.
Aivivih's breath caught, but something about the woman seemed somehow familiar and stayed her voice. Why does she...?
Her instincts reasserted control. Odd memories weren't going to help her here, and she was about to scream for help when a thought occurred to her.
"Srelle?" Aivivih whispered.
"Yep. And you must be Aivivih, Araignaise mentioned you in her moogle mail," Srelle whispered back, relief showing on her features as she lowered herself down through the window. A large and heavy sack of gil clinked at her side as she landed. "What are you doing awake at this hour?"
"What are you doing breaking into our house at this hour?" Aivivih hissed. She was absolutely not in the mood to tell a stranger about her recurring nightmares.
Srelle shrugged. "I, uh, forgot to tell Araignaise where I was going... But I got her messages when the ship arrived, so I rushed straight here!"
Shaking her head, Aivivih decided to move her focus to the bag at the other catgirl's side. "What is that?"
From the way she looked at the sack she was carrying, you'd think she'd just noticed she was holding it. "... Oh, uh, this? Gil. For the journey."
"That's a lot of gil," Aivivih whispered, eyes narrowing in suspicion. "Where did you get all that gil?"
Srelle's guard went up. "I got it from someone."
"An illegal someone?"
"Altana on high, you ask a lot of questions," Srelle said, carefully setting the sack down without a sound.
Aivivih didn't let up, though. "Do you sell drugs? Araignaise said she thought you were mixed up in some things..."
"No! It's a gift from someone who owed me a favor, that's all," Srelle insisted, her voice rising slightly. "Take a hint already!"
"Was the favor because you sold them drugs? Or smuggled drugs into Windurst?"
"Shut up about the drugs! It's not from drugs!"
"What about prostitution?"
The sound of Araignaise clearing her throat split the midnight quiet. "If the two of you don't shut up and go to sleep, I'm going to cut this adventuring party down to two before we even set out. And Srelle..."
"Ehehehe... sorry," Srelle said sheepishly, her hands adopting a cutesy cat-like "paw" shape and coming up near her face. "I kind of got caught up in adventure and forgot to let you know..."
Araignaise sighed, getting up from the rocking chair and moving toward Srelle to embrace her. "There's a lot for us to talk about. But... tomorrow."
"Missed you," Srelle said, throwing her arms around Araignaise and looking up at her with a sweet look on her face. "Promise that won't happen anymore... much."
"I'm going to have to pin your feet to the ground with my sword when I take my eyes off you," Araignaise said with an affectionate laugh. "Ah- but I sold the sword. So you get off easy this time."
As the giggling couple took the other bed and settled in to sleep, Aivivih tried to lower herself back into bed and do the same. Images were already filling her mind of what tomorrow might bring, though, and it was hard to let her mind rest...
But it was even harder to not give in to the peaceful energy of the sleeping Annabelle beside her, and Aivivih drifted off before long. There were no more nightmares for the rest of the night.