Rikku made her way into class just as bell rang. Her defense instructor, Kimahri, a strong Ronso leader, glanced up at her disapprovingly and crossed his arms. "Rikku almost late." His tall, six foot broad shouldered, muscular arms was intimidating to a point, but Rikku knew how soft-hearted Kimahri could be. He didn't have it in him to be stern.
Rikku put on a charming smile. "Rikku almost on time. This an improvement, no?" Still grinning, she made her way to her seat on the floor and took out her nail polish. Applying it carefully while watching Kimahri out of the corner of her eyes.
Kimahri made his way to the front of the class and glanced around for attendance, making sure everyone was present. He didn't need a notepad for the chore; he had long since memorized all the students. "We have new student." Kimahri threw out suddenly. Gesturing to a girl that Rikku hadn't noticed before, he informed them. "Name is Paine. Transfer from Guado High."
Rikku took her gaze away from her nails for a minute to study the new girl. Paine? What kind of name was that? Rikku gave a small smile as she studied the girl. She was obviously Goth, though she didn't wear heavy black make up like most other Goths. Strapped in leather, she wore a black top that ended high above her abdomen and an equally as dark skirt-looking leather shorts. Fishnets came down from the shorts to lead out from buckles along the side that seemed to hold her outfit in place. Black, high heeled boots completed the bad-ass look and a small, blue firestone pendant hung from a chain around her neck, just below a spiky black choker. The sword that hung from her side looked large and intimidating, but Rikku found herself staring at the girl's eyes. They were crimson, staring down at the floor and trying to ignore the stares she was getting. Crimson wasn't an unheard of eye color, but it was rare and left Rikku wondering where the girl's heritage came from.
It wasn't that her outfit was outrageous or anything, it wasn't common, rare for a girl to become a Warrior. Girls usually didn't have the strength to handle Warrior weapons. The girl had unusual hair as well for one so young. Gray and obviously gelled, it was cut short and flicked back. Rikku gave a short smile; the girl must be feeling out of place.
Dona, the girl who sat behind Rikku, whispered not-too-quietly to Rikku. "Slutty Goth, huh? That's all this school needs."
Paine must have heard, Dona wasn't exactly quiet about her opinion, but she didn't turn or acknowledge the comment. At the front of class, Kimahri continued. "You be sparring today. I check your progression. Quarter of your grade." They all had their pairs, but Yuna wasn't in class today. Kimahri told Rikku to pair up with the new girl in her place.
Dona made a choking kind of sound. "Sucks for you. Girl looks like she could kick Kimahri's ass. Better not piss her off, she might kill you." Rikku didn't respond, but crossed the small distance to the girl and smiled warmly.
"Hi, I'm Rikku." Paine was standing by that time and her eyes scanned over Rikku almost dully before her gaze flicked over at Dona and back. Rikku almost missed it, it was so fast. Rikku glanced at Dona. "Did you hear that?" Paine didn't say anything, so Rikku continued. "Don't worry about her, she's a bitch. One of the Trio here, she talks about everyone. Don't take anything she says personally."
Paine remained silent. Kimahri came over to the two of them and instructed them to a corner of the gym, telling them to begin. He moved away shortly after and Rikku tried again, giving Paine another short smile. "Well? You're a Warrior, aren't you?"
"Yeah." Paine spoke her first word, glancing at Kimahri's retreating back before looking back at Rikku.
Rikku grinned broadened at her considered victory at getting the girl to speak. "Well, not that it looks like you need it, but I'll warn you anyway. I've been trained in evasion and speed. You'll need to be quick to catch me."
Paine began unstrapping her sword holster and put the weapon down. Rikku followed suit with her twin blades. "A Thief?"
The comment might have offended someone else, but Rikku was merely surprised. "How'd you know?"
"Just speculation." Paine replied simply. Rikku frowned. Was Paine prejudice against Al Bhed? Paine noticed her attitude change. "Not by your heritage or anything." She added hastily, seeing Rikku's frown. "Sorry I assumed, I just saw your blades and-"
Rikku sensed the girl was being genuine in her apology and, despite how it might appear, trusted that the girl didn't hold anything against her from her heritage. "It's okay. You must be trained to identify me so quickly. Not many girls are strong enough to wield swords that size."
"I've made it a practice." Paine admitted.
Rikku's smile returned. "Well, let's see how good you are, hmm? Don't hold back, alright?"
"You sure?" Paine asked unsurely.
"Cocky, are you?"
"Just cautious." Paine assured her. "Not that I doubt your skill…"
Rikku gave another short laugh. "It's cool. Yeah, bring it."
As it turned out, the girls appeared to be evenly matched. Rikku found herself pushing herself to keep up and Paine found a small challenge in the girl's swiftness. Paine was powerful and her hits had hurt, but Rikku was fast. She evaded many of Paine's shots, though the ones that landed had hurt and Rikku was sure she'd have bruises the next morning. Paine did end up topping Rikku after a short time, but it had been a fair fight.
Paine held out a hand to help Rikku up. Rikku took it and Paine pulled the smaller girl to her feet with barely any effort. She picked up her sword and re-strapped it to her belt as Kimahri came over to both of them. "Fight well." He commented, addressing them both. Rikku grinned broadly. If Kimahri had thought the fight was good then they had both received high marks.
Kimahri walked off to another group and Rikku turned back to Paine. Before either girl could say anything, someone unexpectedly kicked Paine in the back of her shins. Paine grunted and collapsed to her knees. "Not so tough, huh Goth?" A sickeningly familiar voice floated over Paine's kneeling frame. Rikku raised her eyes to identify LeBlanc, gloating over Paine. LeBlanc had a hand at the base of the back of Paine's neck and was applying pressure. Paine flinched and cringed back. "Pretty pendant for a Goth." She commented absently.
"Leave her alone, LeBlanc. She's new." LeBlanc looked up at Rikku's voice and released her hold.
"I guess you're right." She seemed impressed by Rikku. "You beat her like this?" She asked. Rikku shrugged. It was better just to go along with anything LeBlanc was doing. "Impressive. Well, business calls. See you later, Rikku." She left. Paine stood, but she had the distant look back in her eyes, the one she had before Rikku had got her to start conversing.
Rikku bit her bottom lip. "Sorry about that…she's another one of the Trio. You okay?"
"Fine." Paine answered shortly, rubbing the back of her neck absently.
"You don't have to take that shit from her, you know? She's not much of a fighter. You could probably take her down in about four seconds. She's-"
"It's fine." Paine cut her off. Rikku absently closed her mouth, cursing the Trio silently. Before she could think of anything else to say to Paine, the bell rang. Rikku cast one last look at Paine before the older girl disappeared out the door and she sighed heavily. So much for making progress. Oh well, Rikku made her way to her next class wondering where Yuna was.
An hour and a half later Rikku found Yuna at their usual lunch table with Gippal, Tidus, Nooj, and Baralia. She made her way over to the table and sat down next to her best friend and roommate. "So, you skipped out on Kimahri's class today huh?"
Yuna blushed a little. "I heard there was sparring today. Quarter of our grade, right?"
Rikku grinned broadly. "So you skipped? This is a new Yuna!"
Yuna turned a shade darker. "Tidus dragged me out."
"Ooh la la, whatever were you two doing?" Yuna turned a deeper shade of red and didn't respond. Tidus answered for her.
"We were studying." He winked. Rikku gave a cough-laugh and Gippal slapped Tidus on the back.
"Way to go! Whoever thought you'd be able to talk Yuna out of a class to make out with her!"
If possible, Yuna's blush grew and Rikku chuckled at her embarrassed cousin. Nooj and Baralia remained quiet, their gazes elsewhere. Rikku followed their eyes to see that they were both staring at a girl off in the corner, sitting alone by herself. It took Rikku a moment to realize the girl was Paine.
Gippal also seemed to notice Nooj and Baralia's gaze. He gave a low whistle. "Look at that! She's hot!"
"That's Paine." Rikku added helpfully. That drew the gazes of Nooj, Baralia, and Gippal. Tidus and Yuna were conversing quietly among themselves and seemed not to notice the turn of the conversation.
"You know her?" Gippal asked incredulously. "And you never told us you had a super-hot, leather clad, Warrior girlfriend?"
Rikku punched him in the arm. "When are you going to remember you're taken?"
Gippal smiled sheepishly and gave a short laugh. "Sorry Riks, you know I love ya."
"Then start acting it!" Her tone was harsh, but her smile showed that she wasn't truly angry with him.
Nooj drew her attention back. "Who is she?"
"She's new." Rikku informed. "Just moved in from Guado High."
"Guado High?" Baralia frowned. "She doesn't look Guado."
"Dunno." Rikku confessed.
"Let's keep her company." Nooj volunteered, getting to his feet with a little trouble because of his machina leg.
"She's kind of reserved." Rikku admitted.
Baralia shrugged. "Shouldn't be alone though, come on." Rikku got up too, but Yuna and Tidus remained seated.
Tidus spoke for them. "You guys go ahead. We'll catch up later. Going to give Maechen a visit."
"Have fun…" Rikku left with the others, seating herself directly next to Paine. Gippal sat down on her right and Baralai sat on Paine's other side, Nooj grudgingly took the seat next to Baralai. No food was in front of Paine, only a stack of books with one propped open against the pile. She paused at the presence of other people and glanced to her sides with a dark, yet not unwelcoming glance.
"Hey!" Rikku replied, a bit too loudly. "You looked lonely, sitting her all alone, so we've come to join you!"
"Okay…" It didn't really look like Paine knew how to respond.
"So," Baralia joined in. "You're from Guado High, huh? You don't look Guado."
Paine flinched slightly in the smallest manner possible, if Rikku had blinked, she would have missed it. "I'm adopted."
"Oh…" Baralia bit his tongue. Gippal smiled at him in a 'good going' kind of way, mockingly.
"Why'd you transfer?" Nooj asked, seeming genuine.
"For the collage." Luca High was a special school, it wasn't just a high school, it was also a community college that most graduates of Luca High attended. That way, they could keep there teachers and progress. It was really a smart idea. Friends could stay together too. Gippal, Nooj, Tidus, and Baralia were all part of the college.
"They don't have colleges near Guadosalam?" Baralia asked, trying to save his first mistake.
"No, they do. Seymour thought this school would be harder."
"Seymour?" Baralia's jaw dropped. "The Maester?"
"He's my foster father."
Baralia seemed speechless. Rikku fought not to spit out her water as Gippal began making crude exclamations. "That-That manipulative bastard is your father?!"
"Foster." Paine corrected, flinching a little. "We're not related by bloodline."
"Holy mother fu-"
"Gippal!" Rikku held a hand over his mouth and grabbed his arm, digging her nails into his skin.
Nooj was the only one who seemed unsurprised and calm about the revelation. "Is it?" He asked patiently.
Paine seemed taken aback. "What?"
"The school." Nooj explained. "Is it harder?"
"Oh…" Paine seemed grateful. "Yeah." The conversation continued. It was all small talk, but Rikku was half-surprised Paine was talking. She seemed most comfortable answering Nooj and a bit hesitant to Baralia. After Gippal's outburst, rather than stray from him, she only hesitated slightly. The bell rang all too soon, according to Nooj, and they all went their separate ways to class.
The rest of the school day was somewhat uneventful for Paine. She didn't have many more classes to attend and was done by six. Making her way outside, Paine began the strained and hesitant walk home. She was staring at the ground on the way and not watching where she was walking when someone bumped into her. "Hey, watch it! Goth."
Paine raised her head to find a girl dressed in purple with matching shorts. Around the purple clad girl were two people Paine was also familiar with. A bright red heart shone at her from the revealing chest of LeBlanc as she recognized her. "Hey, Diem! That's the girl! The Goth one I was telling you about!"
Paine tried to walk past, but the girls barricaded her way by forming a three-person human wall. "From class! I remember too!" The girl to the right of Diem spoke, Paine didn't know her by name, but she had also been whispering to Rikku when Kimahri introduced her. Again, Paine tried to push past them rather weakly, as to not hurt them, but they didn't let her. "Where do you think you're going?"
"Home." Paine replied simply.
LeBlanc seemed to be the leader of them. "Hmm, home huh?" She asked snidely, as if going home was the lowest thing a person could do. Her eyes sparkled as they fell upon Paine's necklace. "This looks a little too pricy for a Goth." She nodded to Diem and the other girl. Unexpectedly, they both lashed out. Diem landed a kick to Paine's stomach and the other girl shoved her back, causing her to loose her balance and fall back. As soon as Paine hit the ground, they were both on top of her, pinning her down.
"What the-" LeBlanc stepped forward and grabbed Paine's necklace. Callously ripping it from the back, she snatched it away. "No!" Paine's jaw tightened and, forgetting all else, she struggled to throw off Diem and the girl. After only seconds, she managed to do so, but when she made to jump at LeBlanc, LeBlanc dangled out the chain and a small fire grew in her palm.
"One step and I'll melt it down to a puddle." Paine froze, breathing heavily and watching LeBlanc closely. That necklace was a gift from her parents, her real parents. Other than the sword she constantly kept strapped to her side, she had nothing of them to remember by.
"What do you want?"
LeBlanc let her buddies rise off the ground and come to her side before answering snidely. "From you? What could I possibly want from a reject Goth?" She turned and left. Paine tried jumping after her, but she had used a protect spell to ward her off and she rebounded against it, thrown back to land harshly on the ground.
Out of nowhere, green plants shot up out of the ground and jumped at the Trio. Le Blanc screamed and threw her hands back, where one root gripped her wrist and another removed Paine's necklace. Paine watched unblinkingly as the root dove into the ground and uprooted again next to her, holding out the necklace on the edge of the vine. Paine blinked and took the necklace. The root dove back into the ground as did the others surrounding the Trio where they ran off screaming. "The Trio can be a pain in the ass. Are you okay?" Paine lifted her gaze to see Nooj above her, holding out a hand to help her up.
"What was that?" She asked, still rooted to the spot.
"That?" Nooj shrugged. "Blue Magic. It's hardly known in Spira anymore, but I find it helpful. Fighting is difficult for me because of my…condition."
Paine assumed he was speaking of his machina leg. "Oh…thank you." She allowed him to help her up only because he had just saved a family treasure.
"Mind if I walk with you?"
"If you want to…" Raised among the Guado, Paine had always been an outsider. A human in a Guado world. There were no other humans at her old school and most of the Guado just ignored her altogether, those that didn't rebuke her. No one had ever really asked to walk with her or helped her or anything of the sort. She glanced down at her chain. It hadn't broken when LeBlanc ripped it off, only unclasped. Paine fumbled with the clasp and attempted to put it back on.
"Here, let me help." Paine was about to object when Nooj's fingers scraped the back of her neck, easily fitting the two clasps together. His flesh was warm against her cool skin. Paine's jaw tightened as it fit together and he drew back. "You're alright then?"
"Fine." Paine answered a little distantly as she began walking.
Nooj seemed to understand he was very near crossing a line. "How was your day?" He always seemed to do that. Know when she was uncomfortable and immediately change the subject or bring the attention elsewhere.
"Not as good as it could have been."
Nooj gave a small smile. "Because you met Rikku?"
"Not exactly." But Paine held a small smile too. "Maybe because she pushed her friends into my life."
Nooj chuckled, something that was rare in itself. "What, you've got an aversion to people or something?"
"Something along those lines." Paine paused, she seemed hesitant. "Thank you…for the table issue."
Nooj understood at once. "About your father?"
"Foster." Paine corrected again.
"Not everyone's oblivious to the worldly news. I suspect Baralia knew as well, just didn't recognize you for it. Sorry about Gippal though," Nooj added, "He's a bit of an airhead."
Paine pursed her lips. "I understand how Seymour's perceived in a negative way." Nooj was half surprised she hadn't said 'it's fine' and cut off the subject right there. In fact, she sounded halfway…resentful?
"Do you…resent him?" Nooj asked carefully, aware he was treading the thin line again.
Paine was silent for a minute and Nooj thought he might have gone too far when she finally spoke again. In a near whisper, she could barely be heard, but Nooj caught it. "…A little bit, yes. He's…just a little harsh."
"Harsh?" Nooj asked, but Paine seemed to think she had said too much. She went back to being silent and reserved. The rest of the walk was spent in silence. When Paine finally parted with Nooj, it was short and not entirely open. Nooj bade her goodbye and left. Paine entered the large mansion that Seymour had bought in Luca just for her schooling and went immediately upstairs to her room. She had just shut the door when, not seconds later, the door to her room opened and Seymour stood in its frame.
"Paine." Paine turned her head away and Seymour's gaze darkened. Paine knew he was scanning through her mind, seeing the day played out as it was and she flinched when the tingle sensation left her mind. "Paine…how could this happen?"
"I'm sorry, Seymour. I didn't expect-"
"You should always expect!" Seymour thundered, grabbing Paine by the shoulders and turning her around. His long, Guado fingers dug into her skin. "How can you expect to be a True Warrior if you let little sissy girls at school take you down? They nearly got away with it! If it weren't for that boy, they would have! You must never depend on others, Paine! Never! If you're to be truly strong, you must only depend on yourself! And what about that fight with that Rikku?"
"I-I didn't want to hurt her." After the disaster fight with the Trio, Paine had thought he might have ignored her fight with Rikku. The mention of her name made Paine nervous.
Seymour shook his head and let go of Paine's shoulders. "Do I have to intervene again?"
Paine's eyes grew wider. "No! Don't!"
"I think I must. And…you need to train more."
"I will! Start it off right now! But don't intervene-please, don't do it!" Paine knew what Seymour's 'intervening' meant and she was afraid of the damage that would be done.
"True Warriors are never afraid, Paine." With that, he began the summoning. Paine's teeth clenched as fear gripped her. He had summoned Anima.
The room around Paine disappeared into a swirl of black and red. Anima was already using his limit? Paine hastily withdrew her sword and began slashing away as fast as she could, but she wasn't quick enough. The floor enveloped her as she sunk down. Anima's second, even more gruesome face greeted her. Paine slashed at his face, but it was too late. The chains around his fists broke and a gigantic hand grabbed Paine, lifting her off the ground. Paine slammed her sword down into his furry hand at the base of the thumb, but it made no difference.
Long hours after Seymour had left, Paine still lay crumpled in heap. Not a tear fell from her eyes, a small revolution in the battle. It didn't stop the pain.