"Tell me again," the tall woman says, her eyes gazing down at me in this weird sort-of-fond way, "why "Tell me again," the tall woman says, her eyes gazing down at me in this weird sort-of-fond way, "why...why you're so scared of lightning?"
It's like invoking the name of some evil god or something because as she says the word 'lightning' this huge flash comes bursting BOOM across my vision and I leap about three foot in the air and screeeeaaam.
Lulu grabs my shoulder. Her long purple witchy fingernails dig into my skin. I shriek again.
She lets a little chuckle escape her lips. "There's no need to be so jumpy..."
"I've told you, OK?" I scream at her. "I've told you!! My stupid stupid dumbass brother tried to cast the spell but missed! I was in a coma for three days, Lulu! Three days!"
She touches my shoulder again, softly, her face thoughtful.
"Perhaps you should appreciate the fact that he was trying to help you, Rikku."
I let my head hang. "I know, I know, it...it's just..."
"It's a phobia."
"An irrational phobia," Lulu continues, lowering her hand, "caused entirely by your imagination. You believe it shall cause you harm. Even though you know it won't, there is...a spark within you which will always believe."
I gaze up at her. Witch. How can she be so cold and uncaring can't she see how much it hurts me I AM RIKKU HEAR ME ROAR - orsqueakandhidelikealittlemouse which is what I do as the thunder suddenly bursts out again. I let myself curl myself into a ball.
Lulu gazes at me through cool red eyes. Red eyes...it's a discolouration caused by being very close to lots of magic for a long period of time, or so the Al Bhed think. But then again, Al Bhed eyes don't discolour or change. It's just one of those...things.
"Listen, Rikku. It seems hard, but you must...you must get over it. It isn't healthy to live with a phobia. It...it changes the way you live. For the worse."
I look up at her.
"I know that...but..."
"It's in your mind, Rikku. All in your mind. Thunder can't really hurt you, especially not here. Besides," she says, a smile appearing on her face from wherever it'd been hiding all this time, "it's worth learning a little electricity magic. It's very useful. Your phobia will get in the way of that."
I don't move.
"Let me show you," she says, and lifts my hand. "It's easy...once you get the hang of it - "
"Don't come near me. DON'T COME NEAR ME what you're doing is WRONG it's WRONG I won't let you YEEEAAAAAAGH!!"
OK...not the smoothest thing I've ever said in my life. But she did back away.
"You don't get it. You just don't know what it's like! I KNOW it's stupid, I know it's irrational, but still, it...just saying the word lightning or thunder makes me want to scream. The Al Bhed say that there's a little gland in your body which makes a chemical called/ ytnahymeha/ that makes your heart beat faster when you're scared...I know the Yevonites say that all emotion comes directly from Yevon, but who cares? It's...you just...there's like this big lump of fear in your throat all the time and whenever anyone so much whispers the word it sets it off. Knowing it's irrational means nothing, there's nothing I can do. I'm sorry, Lulu, but it just...you don't get it."
She lowers her head. She has a very beautiful face, I think. I think she's the most beautiful woman I've seen, even more beautiful than Yunie. I'd love to look like her.
She speaks softly now, softer than usual.
"I do know. I've had my share of phobias, too." She lifts her head, now, and takes my hand. When the lightning flashes again, I don't flinch. With a smile, she presses a small brownish glassy lump into my hand. I lift it to look at it and see it's perfectly round and shines with an inner iridescence. A strong feeling of electric melancholy waves over me as I focus on it.
can/ never HOME want life LIFE go home want GO life home DIED/
"It's...it's Pyreflies, isn't it?" I say. The feelings of the Pyreflies - no, the feelings I imagine a dead person would have - disappear instantly.
"Yes," Lulu says. "It is a pyrefly that is currently residing in a piece of lechatelierite - a sort of natural glass made when lightning strikes sand. The floor of the Thunder Plains is almost entirely made from it."
"Then why's it so round?"
"The pyrefly in it changes the density of the material. It's like...it's the same reason a bubble is a perfect sphere. A sphere is the easiest shape to be in. So why shouldn't it form that shape?" Lulu is smiling. It's a sweet, soft, I-am-your-mother smile.
"It's like a marble...or something," I say.
"Yes. That's what they call them. Lightning marbles."
As she says the word lightning a bolt comes shrieking down really really close and it makes a noise like a bomb going off.
"Fiends are attracted to them. It is fair that you release the pyrefly before the marble becomes a liability," Lulu continues.
...Release the pyrefly?
Why is it I don't like where this is going?
"The pyrefly has trapped the moment of intensity when the lightning first struck, recording it like a sphere. That means it will reproduce the exact lightning strike that formed it...again and again. It's a very powerful weapon in the right hands. Break it open."
I shake my head. "I can't."
"...Are you scared you'll break a fingernail?"
"Well, then, break it. Break into the bubble of rock. Free the pyrefly."
I look at it in my hand. It's so pretty, so oily-looking in the light. Lulu looks at me impatiently. I squeeze it tight, and feel a sharp tang of static electricity dig into my hand like a thorn, and yelp.
Lulu laughs. "Go on," she commands. "Break it."
I wrap my hand around it so my fingernails dig into it. It's hard, but I can feel it's thin and brittle because of the pyrefly inside. I squeeze it tighter, a little tighter, so there's three little parenthesis-marks cut into its shell.
And then I drop it.
I can't do it.
It's so humiliating. It's a horrible feeling, like the pit of my stomach has been torn in two with shame.
Lulu sighs, and picks it up, and gives it back to me.
"Keep it. When we meet a fiend who hates lightning, you may want to break it then. I suppose...I suppose trying to cure you now was too much to hope for, Rikku."
I give the marble a lingering look and put it in my leather pouch along with my lucky old Al Bhed coin and a hairclip and a piece of red fluff and a little half-sucked minty sweet. I felt I ought to keep it.
Lulu rose. "I have to see what Wakka's been up to."
"Wait - !"
Lulu freezes. "What?"
"You said...you said you have a phobia. What's yours?"
She breathes in deeply, then kneels next to me and whispers in my ear.
"I'm scared...of...of death. Almost everyone I cared for was claimed by it - my parents, my summoners...now Yuna is going to walk into its jaws. And I know...I dream every night that...I - I know that when I start...when I start enjoying myself, when no-one I know has...been claimed, I know that I will then be taken." She stands again, and runs her long painted fingernails through her loose strands of hair. "Lightning seems very trivial now, doesn't it?"
As she goes, I feel the marble in my pocket.
I won't break it now. Not tonight. I can't do it tonight.
I know I can do it tomorrow, though.
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