A Tale of Two Sisters
There were few things in the world as peaceful as curling up underneath a warm quilt with a book, especially on a cold winter night. But Lightning had a feeling that her peace wouldn't be lasting much longer. The pitter-patter of small feet came from outside her door, and there was only one person in the house with feet that small.
Lightning smiled. She had to hand it to Diana. Normally, her younger daughter was quite noisy. She liked to throw what little weight she had around. It probably made her feel bigger, which was something that Diana wanted with every fibre of her being. But Diana could also sneak around when she had to.
It was just a pity that Lightning was used to people sneaking around – she happened to be married to one of the sneakiest people in the world and her sister-in-law was almost as bad. So Diana had a long, long way to go before she would be able to sneak up on Lightning. Not that Lightning minded her trying. Diana was at her most adorable when she was trying to get one up on her parents and older sister.
Still, it was well past Diana's bedtime. Lightning had already given her a bath, read her a story, and tucked her in. If Diana was awake again, there had to be a reason. A bogeyman attack or bad dream would normally have sent the little girl straight to her older sister for comfort and protection, but Averia wasn't home. Fang had taken the older girl out into the wilds for a week to teach Averia more about the Yun way of life.
With Averia and Fang gone, Diana was left with only one person to turn to – Lightning. Naturally, things weren't that simple. Diana was trying her hardest to be a big girl, and big girls didn't go to their parents whenever they had trouble sleeping. Diana would either try to sneak in or come up with some obviously fake excuse, and Lightning would do her best to humour Diana without making it too clear that she could see right through her.
Small hands turned the doorknob and eased the door open just wide enough for a little girl to sneak in. Lightning glanced up from her book. Diana had wrapped herself in Averia's blanket and was no creeping through the door and over to the foot of the bed. Keen to avoid being spotted, Diana pulled the blanket over her head and slunk across the floor on her stomach.
In Diana's mind it was the epitome of stealth. To Lightning's well-trained eye, it was the very opposite. Not only was the blanket making a lot of noise as it rubbed against the carpet but blankets also didn't just move across the floor on their own. And there was no missing the two plush toys – Mr Snaggles and Mr Gorgy Sharp Tooth – that stuck out of the blanket.
As stealthily as she could – which wasn't very stealthily at all – Diana lifted up the bottom of Lightning's quilt and began to crawl her way up the bed and over next to Lightning. Each movement was accompanied by the loud rustling of cloth and the muffled growls of a little girl who was getting more and more tangled in her sister's blanket with each wriggle.
Barely able to hold back her laughter, Lightning was sorely tempted to ask Diana if she really thought she hadn't been noticed. Halfway up the bed, the movement came to a stop and there was a frustrated sigh. Lightning had to stifle a chuckle. Diana must have gotten stuck. Oh well, it was time for mom to come to the rescue.
"What's this?" Lightning asked with as much curiosity as she could muster in her voice. "Did a mole sneak into my bed?"
Tugging the bundle under her quilt further up the bed, Lightning felt around until she found Diana's sides. Then she began to tickle. Diana giggled and tried to squirm away, but the blanket might as well have been a straightjacket.
"Stop it, mom! I'm not a mole, I'm your daughter!"
Lightning lifted Diana up and untangled Averia's blanket. "I guess I was wrong. It wasn't a mole – or maybe it was." She grinned as Diana wrapped Averia's blanket around her shoulders like a cape and scowled. Diana had stated on many a previous occasion that tickle fights were intrinsically unfair for size-challenged people like her. Lightning with her longer reach and greater strength was a horrible, horrible person for picking on someone as cute and cuddly as Diana.
"I'm not a mole, mom! Moles aren't cool, and it would be boring to live underground."
"The word 'mole' can mean more than one thing." Lightning hid a smile as Diana continued to scowl – even as she settled down on Lightning's lap. Apparently, the warmth of Lightning's lap excused her parental treachery. "A mole can also mean someone who is a spy."
"Really?" Diana perked up. "Then maybe I can be a mole, or maybe even a ninja mole – a ninja spy!"
"Yes, well, ninjas don't go around in blankets." Lightning moved her book onto her bedside table and wrapped her arms around Diana. Diana, never one to turn down a cuddle, made herself right at home. In what the girl likely believed to be an incredible display of generosity, Diana even adjusted Averia's blanket so that it was wrapped around both of them. "I thought I tucked you in, Diana. What's wrong?"
"Nothing." Diana pouted.
Ah. There probably had been a bogeyman attack then or perhaps a bad dream. That was almost certainly why Diana had come wrapped in Averia's blanket instead of her own. It was funny, though. Diana actually spent more time with that blanket than Averia since she was forever stealing it whenever she snuck into Averia's bed. The older girl was, apparently, as warm as a furnace even in the dead of winter – which had led to her becoming Diana's favourite source of warmth when it got cold.
Perhaps Averia had inherited that from Lightning? Fang was always telling Lightning that she was the hottest thing in the house although that could just have been an excuse to justify draping herself all over Lightning at every opportunity. Lightning had lost count of the number of times she'd woken up to find Fang wrapped around her, not that she minded much.
"Diana, it's okay if you were lonely."
Diana shook her head. "I wasn't lonely, mom. I never get lonely. But I thought that maybe you were lonely, so I came to keep you company." Diana nodded firmly, utterly convinced that she'd managed to fool Lightning.
It took a great deal of effort for Lightning to keep a straight face as she replied. "Maybe I am lonely," she said, voice grave. "So, I'm glad that you came to keep me company."
"It's okay." Diana patted her on the back. "Everybody gets lonely sometimes." She reached over and positioned her two plush toys on the pillow nearby. "Even Mr Snaggles and Mr Gorgy Sharp Tooth get lonely."
The two plush toys met Lightning's gaze evenly. As always, Mr Snaggles had the dignified expression of an elder statesman, but Mr Gorgy Sharp Tooth had a much more playful look. Vaguely, Lightning wondered how Diana would react if she was allowed to let the real Bahamut sleep next to her. Knowing Diana, she'd never go to sleep again without the Eidolon curled up beside her.
"At least there are four of us now." Lightning leaned back, running her hands through Diana's hair. The only light in the room came from the lamp on her bedside table. Diana went quiet for a few moments and then inched up so that she could play with Lightning's hair.
"What book were you reading?" Diana giggled and threw one leg across Lightning's stomach. The girl seemed to find the difference in size between them amusing and annoying. Still giggling, she grabbed one of Lightning's hands and moved the fingers into a claw-like position before pretending to fight off the purloined limb.
"I'm not sure you'd like it. It's a book about the changes in economic and social policy that have come about since the resettlement of Gran Pulse." Lightning laughed at the perplexed expression on Diana's face.
"Are there any guns in it?" Diana continued to grapple with Lightning's hand, which, in her mind, was bent on strangling her.
"Actually, they do talk about guns."
"And dragons?" Diana made choking noises and thrashed back and forth as she pushed Lightning's hand against her neck.
"They do mention at least one."
"Maybe you could read some of it to me." Diana flopped across Lightning's legs. Evidently, the deadly power of Lightning's hand had been too much.
"Not until you're a bit older. I think you'd find it boring. Even I don't think it's that interesting." The book was well written and soundly researched, but the language couldn't have been drier. Still, it had made a number of very good points. She might even talk over a few of them with Fang.
"Mom, how come we couldn't go with Averia and mommy?" Diana fiddled with Averia's blanket.
"I had work to do, and you're still too young." Lightning lay back on her pillow and pulled Diana up to lie beside her.
She and Fang had thought long and hard about which aspects of the other woman's heritage they would share with their children. There were some things that would obviously have to be left behind. They could hardly teach the girls that everyone from Cocoon was evil and deserved to have a spear in them.
According to Yun custom, Diana should also have made her first kill by now, most likely by slitting the throat of an animal that a more experienced hunter, namely Fang, had already disabled. Neither Lightning nor Fang wanted that for Diana. When the time finally came for Diana to learn how to hunt in the traditional manner, she would do it when she was old enough to really understand and appreciate what was happening. Both of them, however, had agreed that the girls should learn as much about surviving in the wild as possible.
"Remember, Diana, your mommy comes from the Yun clan. Part of being in the Yun clan is learning how to live in the wild, even when it's very cold. You're still too young for that kind of training, but in a few years, your mommy will teach you everything you need to know."
"I guess." Diana frowned. "But does that mean Averia doesn't have any TV or stuff right now?"
"No." Lightning laughed. "Part of living in the wild is learning how to survive without any electricity or magic because you won't always have those things. It might even be snowing out there, so your sister has to learn how to keep warm and even make her own shelter. One day, you'll learn how to do those things too."
"But if there's no TV, I won't be able to watch Gary." Trust Diana to worry more about Gary than freezing to death.
Lightning smiled. "That's right."
"That sounds bad." Diana huffed. "I don't like the wild."
"Yes, you do." Lightning ignored her daughter's glare. Diana wasn't anywhere near big enough to be threatening. "Remember when we went camping? You weren't complaining about no TV then."
"Because camping was awesome. We went fishing. We saw chocobos. And there was lots of other cool stuff to do. I even caught a sea monster."
The sea monster in question was a foot-long fish that Diana had caught. In the manner of most fishermen, Diana had spent the time since the camping trip steadily inflating the size of her catch until it was an aquatic behemoth ten times the size of a house that she'd only captured after an epic battle spanning fifteen hours. What scared Lightning was the fact that Diana and Vanille were completely consistent in describing the make-believe details of the catch. Was it a game of theirs or a shared hallucination? It was likely a bit of both.
Lightning yawned. It was getting late, even for her, and it was hard to stay awake with Diana next to her. Her daughter was too cuddly for her own good.
"Can you tell me a story, mom?" Diana swallowed a yawn of her own. She climbed on top of Lightning and settled her head on her chest. Diana's small frame moved in time to each of Lightning's breaths.
"A story?" Lightning patted Diana on the back. She was too tired to really think of a story, and she didn't want to get up to find a storybook. But there was a story she could tell although she'd have to change a few of the details.
"Please," Diana insisted. "It's the weekend tomorrow, so I don't have school, and… and look." She pointed at the plush toys. "I think Mr Snaggles and Mr Gorgy Sharp Tooth want another story too."
"I suppose I can tell you another story – and it would be a shame to say no to those two."
"Will it have magic in it? And how about chocobos? Oh, and could it have a dragon in it too?"
"It will definitely have magic in it, and there will be at least one chocobo. I'm not sure about a dragon though." Lightning smiled. "But I think you'll like it."
"I always like your stories." Diana looked up at Lightning and frowned. "Except for the one about the girl who liked doing her homework and never asked for candy. That story was lame."
Lightning winced. That particular story – a tale about a girl who was suspiciously similar to Diana but loved doing her homework and never asked for candy – had not been well received at all. Then Fang had found out about it and told a story of her own – one about a wife who was suspiciously similar to Lightning but never went to work and instead spent all day in bed with her spouse.
"This is a story about two sisters that loved each other very much."
"Cool." Diana sat up on Lightning's stomach and waved her arms around. "Is it about two awesome sisters except the younger one is a little bit more awesome and one days ends up being way taller and –"
"Diana," Lightning said. "Let me tell the story." She smiled. It was obvious how Diana wanted things to turn out. Sometimes, Lightning wondered if Diana would consider her entire life a success so long as she ended up taller than her sister. If that ever did happen, Diana would probably gloat for years about it. "But, yes, the two sisters are pretty awesome although the younger sister doesn't end up being taller."
"Yes, I do!" Diana covered her mouth with her hands. "Oops. I mean… yes, she does."
"Anyway," Lightning said. "The story takes place a long, long time ago in a faraway kingdom. The kingdom was very far to the north where it was very cold. Because of that, they called it Iceland. But even though it was cold, they still had spring and summer, only they were shorter and cooler than here."
"Iceland is a cool name." Diana snuggled back up to Lightning. "I bet they had heaps of ice."
"Oh, they did – during winter. Iceland was a peaceful and prosperous kingdom, and it's king and queen had two daughters. The older daughter was named Levina, and the younger daughter was named Soraya. Although they weren't the same age – Levina was three years older – they were the very best of friends."
"Like me and Averia!" Diana folded her arms over her chest. "Except for when she won't share her candy."
"It's her candy – she doesn't have to share all of it, and you don't always share your candy either."
"But she's already tall." Diana nodded sagely. "I need more candy so I can get bigger."
"Candy won't help you grow taller." Lightning smiled. "That's what milk is for. Anyway, Levina was special. She had magic powers. She could make things colder. She could even make snow and ice. Although some people might have been afraid of Levina's magic, Soraya loved it. She thought it was the best thing ever, and she loved it when Levina made lots of snow for them to play in."
"That sounds awesome." Diana's eyes were wide. "If I could do that, I'd never lose to Aunt Vanille in a snowball fight." She gestured wildly. "I'd be like, take this, Aunt Vanille! And pow! I'd get her with a million snowballs, and she'd have to surrender to my awesomeness."
Lightning raised one eyebrow. Diana plus Vanille meant trouble every time. "One day, Soraya woke her sister up extra early so they could fill one of their castle's rooms with snow. For a while they had a lot of fun. They made snowmen and snow castles and snow everything. With Levina's magic, they could do anything.
"But then something bad happened. Soraya got so excited playing with all the ice and snow that she forgot how dangerous it could be. She slipped, and Levina tried to use her magic to save her from falling. But even though she saved Soraya from falling, she hit her sister with some of her magic."
Diana wasn't smiling anymore. Instead, she was leaning forward, intent on every word. "Oh no! What happened?"
"Luckily, Soraya wasn't killed, but her parents didn't know how to undo Levina's magic, so they took her far away to a secret valley filled with trolls."
"Did they get eaten?" Diana was horrified. "Did they?"
"No. These were good trolls, the kind that help people. The trolls cured Soraya and took away her memories of what had happened. Then they warned the king and queen that Levina needed to learn how to control her powers. The king and queen promised to help Levina learn, but they were also scared. If Levina's magic could freeze the rooms in the castle, then maybe one day it would strong enough to freeze rivers and lakes. And if it could make snow, then maybe one day it could make blizzards. And if it could freeze one person… maybe one day it could freeze an entire army."
"That sounds horrible! But Levina wouldn't do those things, right? She was nice, wasn't she?"
"Yes, she was. In fact, Levina was just a scared little girl. But she was strong too. She promised to learn how to control her powers so that she would never hurt her sister again. But Levina was so worried about hurting her sister that she locked herself away and wouldn't play with her anymore."
"That's so sad." Diana sniffled. "This better not be a sad story, mom!" She paused. "But if Soraya didn't remember, then wouldn't she think her sister didn't like her?" Diana seemed to be having trouble wrapping her head around that concept, and Lightning's couldn't blame her. At no point had Diana ever thought that Averia didn't like her. Sure, they got annoyed with each other sometimes, but that didn't meant they didn't like each other.
"That's right. Soraya started worrying that her sister didn't like her anymore. But Soraya loved her sister so much that no matter how many times her sister sent her away, she kept coming back, hoping that would day her sister would be her friend again. Then, when the princesses were still very young, something even worse happened – their parents were on a ship when a big storm came and sank the ship."
"No!" Diana grabbed Lightning. "Mom, this is a super sad story. You have to make it happier or something." She clutched onto Lightning tightly.
Lightning patted Diana on the back. She could understand why Diana was upset. But she wasn't going anywhere and neither was Fang. And anyone who even thought of harming her family was in for one heck of a fight. "I promise it will have a happy ending, Diana. With both of their parents gone, Levina and Soraya were on their own. Levina knew that one day she would become queen, and she would have to protect not only her sister but also all of Iceland as well. So instead of just learning how to hide her magic, Levina started learning how to use it for other things. She learned how to use it to fight."
Diana's lip trembled. "That's so sad. She just wanted to make snowmen and do nice things."
"That's right. But even though she only wanted to do nice things, Levina wanted to protect her sister even more because she knew that bad people might come and hurt them or their kingdom. But because of how much training she had to do, she never had any time to speak or even see her sister.
"Finally, the day came when Levina was old enough to become queen. She opened the gates of her castle, which had been shut for years, and invited guests from all over her kingdom and from all the other kingdoms nearby. She wanted to show them that she was good enough to be queen.
"At first everything went well. There was good food and drink and even dancing. But, unfortunately, not all the guests were friendly. Some of them had come with an evil plan to take over Iceland."
"Oh no!" Diana reached for her plush toys. "What happened then?"
"The evil guests attacked Levina, and she was forced to use her powers. It was the first time since she lost her memories that Soraya had seen her sister's magic, and she screamed. When she heard her sister scream, Levina was sure that Soraya hated her, so she ran away. Levina was so upset that she lost control of her powers and froze everything around her. Levina's magic sent Iceland into the coldest winter that it had ever seen.
"But Soraya hadn't screamed because she was scared of her sister – she had screamed because she was so shocked at getting her memories back. She still loved her sister, so she ran after her."
"But how, mom? Wasn't everything frozen?"
"It was, but Soraya loved her sister so much that she had to try anyway. But it was hard, and she didn't' have magic like her sister, so she fell very far behind. She even got lost as she tried to follow her sister up a mountain. She might even have frozen to death, but she was lucky enough to meet a kind, old man and an ice harvester named Tuhin."
"An ice harvester?" Diana giggled. "But everything was frozen."
"That's right – there wouldn't be much work for Tuhin to do if everything remained frozen. Soraya told the kind, old man and Tuhin her story. The old man let her borrow a special mountain chocobo named Cheep who could run right through the thick snow."
"Cool. I wish I had a chocobo who could do that." Diana rubbed her cheek. "Maybe I could ask Chirpy to try. I bet he could run through snow if he wanted."
"Tuhin and Soraya rode Cheep up the mountain and ran into Mog, a magical snowman that Levina had created with her magic. Mog was worried about Levina, and he could see how much Soraya loved her, so he agreed to show them to the ice castle that Levina had created on top of the mountain.
"When they got there, Soraya begged her sister to come back with her. But Levina was still scared – she hadn't forgotten how she'd hurt Soraya when they were younger, and she never wanted to do that again. She also so how close Soraya and Tuhin had grown during their journey up the mountain, and she was afraid that they had fallen in love."
"Was she afraid that nobody would love her anymore?" Diana asked quietly.
"A little bit. So she tried to push Soraya away but ended up hitting her with her magic. When she saw that, Levina knew she had to get Soraya away from her before she accidentally hurt her even worse. To do that, Levina created a giant knight made of white ice, which drove them away."
"A knight made of white ice? That sounds kind of like Odin." Diana hugged Mr Snaggles. "But a dragon made of ice would have been cooler."
Lightning sighed. Honestly, did both Averia and Diana have to like Bahamut more than Odin? Couldn't one of her children have preferred her Eidolon to Fang's?
"I guess it does sound a little bit like Odin. Running away from the ice knight, Tuhin noticed that Soraya was slowly freezing. He took her to the trolls, and they told him that because Levina's magic had struck Soraya's heart, she was going to freeze unless an act of true love could save her."
"Why is it always true love?" Diana made a face. "I bet ninjas could have saved her. And she would have been fine if they had a dragon. A dragon could have warmed her up." Diana winced. "Or maybe not a dragon – a dragon probably would have burned her."
"Probably." Lightning patted Diana on the back. "Although Levina had sent her sister and Tuhin away, she felt bad about what she'd done, so she left her ice castle to go find them. But along the way, she was ambushed by Anders, the evil councilman that had once served her father. You see, he had promised to help the kings of some of Iceland's enemies capture her if they made him ruler of Iceland instead of her.
"Anders knew how much Levina loved her sister, so he said lots of mean things to her. He told her that she had killed her sister, that she was a monster, and that no one could ever love someone like her."
"He sounds mean." Diana growled. "I hope she punches him in the face!"
"Levina was so sad about what he said that her magic stopped working. Anders was getting ready to kill her when Soraya and Tuhin came. When Soraya saw what was happening, she threw herself between Anders and her sister. Instead, of hitting Levina with his sword, Anders hit Soraya, who turned into ice just as his sword hit."
"No!" Diana grabbed Lightning's arm. "That's not how it ends, is it? Soraya has to be okay!"
"The story isn't finished yet." Lightning soothed Diana. "Anders was thrown back when his sword struck Soraya. He hit his head on the ground and was knocked unconscious. Levina began to cry when she realised what had happened to her sister, but just as she was about to lose hope, Soraya came back to life."
"You see, by sacrificing herself for her sister, Soraya had done something out of true love, which was enough to save her from her sister's magic. Levina was so happy to see her sister alive again, and she realised something very important. Love was the key to controlling her magic. The reason she'd had so much trouble controlling it was because she'd cut herself off from the person that loved her most.
"Levina finally stopped the horrible winter that had fallen over Iceland because of her magic. Anders was sent to prison for trying to overthrow her, and she got rid of all the people who had tried to help him, warning them that she would use her magic to fight them if they ever came back. From that day onward, she ruled Iceland wisely and well, and everyone lived happily ever after."
"Cool." Diana yawned. "But I still think that ninjas should have helped. Maybe ice ninjas." She lay down on top of Lightning and went back to using her chest for a pillow. "That was a good story, mom."
"I'm glad you liked it." Lightning sighed. "Remember, it's all about not giving up on people even if sometimes they do things that annoy you."
"Like when Averia doesn't share her candy with me."
Lightning chuckled. "Or when you don't pick up your toys and I trip on them, or you argue about eating your vegetables, or –"
"But all of that doesn't mean I love you any less." Lightning wrapped her arms around Diana. "No matter what, you'll always be my daughter, and I'll always do my best to protect you, and I want you and Averia to always do you best to look after and protect each other."
"We will, mom." Diana tried to wrap her arms around Lightning. "Even if she is a grouch sometimes."
"She is, mom." Diana giggled. "But I love her anyway. Good night, mom."
"Good night, Diana."
Diana closed her eyes as Lightning turned off the lamp on her bedside table. "You're warm, mom."
"So are you." Lightning found herself slipping off into sleep, the small, familiar weight of Diana held against her. The last thing she felt was some of Diana's hair poking her in the chin. No wonder Averia always complained about it.
X X X
"Mom! Mom! Wake up, it's snowing!"
Lightning covered her ears and curled up into a ball as Diana jumped up and down on the bed before somehow managing to drag her off the bed, across the floor, and over to the window. There was no way someone as small as Diana should be able to do that. Then again the thought of fun had given Diana superhuman strength in the past – like the time she'd dragged both Fang and Lightning to the park last autumn so that she could jump in all the leaves.
"Look, mom! Look!"
Rubbing at her eyes, Lightning pulled herself up off the floor and looked out the window. Her eyes widened. A thick carpet of snow had fallen overnight. Their front lawn had transformed into a winter wonderland.
"It's just like Iceland, mom!" Diana had already changed out of her pyjamas into her winter clothes. "Let's go out and play!"
Lightning threw on some warmer clothing and then followed Diana outside as the little girl almost tore the front door off its hinges in her haste to get outside. With a cry of delight, Diana threw herself headlong into the snow, flailing her arms and legs. Her happy shouts turned into a shriek as some of the snow slid down the back of her shirt.
"Well, it is snow." Lightning helped Diana back onto her feet. Her daughter grinned. "What do you want to do?"
"Do you want to make a snowman?" Diana had the most hopeful look on her face.
"I wouldn't mind."
Five minutes later, Lightning was forced to admit that her snowman-making skills were sorely lacking. Simply put, she was terrible. Diana, however, was incredibly good for a six-year-old. In fact most people would probably have gotten their snowmen mixed up, attributing the good one to Lightning and the weird-looking one to Diana.
"You're not very good at this, mom." Diana tilted her head to one side as she regarded Lightning's snowman with an expression somewhere between pity and dismay. Then she smiled. "But that's okay. I'll help you. We can work together to make a really big snowman. You can gather all the snow and then lift me up so I can do the rest."
It was kind of humiliating being outdone by a six-year-old, but at least that six-year-old was her daughter. And Diana did have a point. Due to her short stature, her snowman was more of a snow-dwarf. Together, they could make an appropriately large – and appropriately well-shaped – snowman.
When they were finally done, the two of them stood in front of a scarily accurate snow-Lightning and an almost equally scary snow-Diana. The only major flaw that Lightning could see was that the snow-Diana was a good six inches taller than the original.
"We're done." Diana nodded firmly. "And they're exactly the same as we are." Lightning's lips twitched. Diana was standing right next to the snow replica of herself. The girl's eyes widened, and she folded her arms over her chest. "I said, they're exactly the same as we are."
"Of course they are." Lightning grinned. Diana hadn't noticed it yet, but a familiar trio were ambling down the sidewalk toward them: Averia, Fang, and Vanille. "You might want to look over there, Diana."
"Why? What is it? Oh!"
Lightning chuckled as the front gate swung open. Fang was the first one through followed by Vanille – and Diana ran past both of them to tackle Averia to the ground. The older girl gave a squawk of outrage that was quickly muffled by several inches of snow.
"You're back!" Diana had ended up sitting on Averia's back.
"Yes, now get off me." Averia squirmed out from under Diana and scowled. Her face was covered in snow. "So… did you miss me?"
"No!" Diana scowled. Averia raised one eyebrow. Diana's scowl deepened. Averia tapped her foot. "Okay, fine… maybe a little bit." Diana grabbed Averia and dragged her over to the snow people she and Lightning had made. "Look what we made. And mom also told me this awesome story about two sisters and…"
Lightning was only half listening as Diana gave a heavily abridged – and heavily edited – account of her story that somehow twisted the moral of the tale into the importance of older sisters always sharing their candy with their younger sisters. Averia weathered the storm with her usual expression of faint amusement and exasperation.
"So, how did it go?" Lightning asked, pulling Fang in for a quick kiss as Vanille went over to talk to Diana.
"It went well. Averia's a natural although I guess that makes sense considering who her parents are." Fang smiled. "I have to admit, I was a little worried when the snow started to come down, but she did everything I taught her. We even managed to snag a few rabbits."
"Just don't tell Diana that." Lightning let Fang pull her into her arms. "She'll claim you're some kind of monster for hurting the cute, little bunny rabbits."
"Averia didn't mind." Fang leaned down and whispered into Lighting's ear. "She quite liked the taste of rabbit stew."
"You two are horrible." Lightning glanced up as Vanille knelt down to take a closer look at the snowmen that she and Diana had made. Diana grabbed a handful of snow and crept behind Vanille. As the redhead was about to stand, Diana shoved a handful of snow down her back.
Vanille shrieked and rounded on Diana. The chase was on. Unfortunately for Diana, she wasn't about to outrun Vanille through the snow. In almost no time at all, Vanille had Diana tucked underneath one arm as she applied a very thorough hair-ruffling to the mischievous youngster.
"Fang," Vanille said with utmost seriousness. "I demand vengeance. As your little sister, I am asking you to take revenge against Diana for me." Vanille tickled Diana. "I would prefer something horribly bloody, but I'll settle for something less fatal, like handing all of her candy to me."
"You can't do that!" Diana thrashed. "You can't!"
"Vanille, are you seriously asking my to take revenge against my own daughter?"
"Of course I am. And while she is your daughter, I've been your sister longer than she's been your daughter, so I totally have dibs on you for revenge purposes."
"Is that how it works?"
"I see." Fang eased Diana out of Vanille's arms. Then she picked up two handfuls of snow and dumped one over Vanille and one over Diana. "There, that should make you two even now."
"You put snow on me, Fang."
"You put snow on me, mommy."
Vanille and Diana looked at each other. A spark of understanding flashed between the redhead and her loyal minion.
"Get her!" Vanille shouted.
Vanille went right for Fang's legs as Diana jumped at her middle. Fang flopped into the snow.
"Prepare to die, Fang!" Vanille was shovelling snow onto Fang as fast as she could.
"Eat snow, mommy!"
"Averia," Fang said. "Help your mommy."
Averia's response was to half-heartedly lob some snow in the general direction of Diana and Vanille.
"Traitor!" Fang reached out to Lightning with one hand. "Some help here?"
"I suppose." Lightning's lips twitched. "Or maybe not."
After several minutes of flailing around in the snow, Fang and Vanille retreated to the porch for some hot chocolate with Lightning. In a bid to reclaim a victory of sorts after being utterly mauled in the snow fight, Fang stole Vanille's marshmallows. She would have stolen Lightning's as well but one look at the pink-haired woman convinced her otherwise. Nobody touched Lightning Farrron's marshmallows and lived.
As they savoured the hot chocolate, Lightning reflected on the story she'd told Diana. There was a part of her that still wondered what she would have turned out like if she hadn't been forced to grow up so fast, if she hadn't joined the Guardian Corps and turned herself into a soldier. But it was only a small part. In the end, things had worked out. Serah hadn't given up on her, they'd beaten the bad guys, and they'd both ended up with their happily ever afters, Serah with Snow and Lightning with Fang.
She hoped that Averia and Diana would never have to go through what she and Serah had. But looking at them now, she had a feeling they never would. Averia wasn't nearly as closed off as Lightning had been after her parents died even if she could be grumpy. And Diana was too much a force of nature to ever let her sister push her away. And of course, Lightning and Fang would be there every step of the way to watch over them – and so would the others. After all, Vanille couldn't let anything happen to her favourite minion, now could she?
"What do you want to do now?" Averia asked. She and Diana had just finished poking all of the snow out of the lower branches of the big tree in the front yard.
"Do you want to build a snowman?"
X X X
As always I neither own Final Fantasy, nor am I making any money off of this.
This chapter has been a long time coming – although that's the nature of the beast with this story, which is very much episodic in nature (even more so than Ordinary Heroes). In any case, it is nice to add another chapter and to go back to the girls' childhood after spending quite a few chapters elsewhere in the future.
This chapter is a companion, of sorts, to Chapter 3 of Ordinary Heroes. But rather than having Lightning and Averia, it features Lightning and Diana. Perhaps it's a little strange, but I've found that the chapters focusing on Lightning with the children are amongst the "softest". I guess it's because that's the side of Lightning that the kids bring out. Serah might have seen it before too, but Serah and Lightning's relationship was always kind of a mess since Lightning had to act as her sister and her mother (and the two roles don't really fit well together at all for the Farron siblings).
Lightning's story is heavily based on Disney's Frozen (which I don't own either). Seriously, Frozen could almost be one big metaphor for how Lightning and Serah's relationship fell apart (the ice magic could be viewed as symbolism for Lightning's transformation into a soldier). That said, I did change the story up a bit to make things a little more Lightning-specific.
As you know, I have a thing for choosing names. The names in this chapter are no different. Levina is a name of Latin origin meaning "lightning bolt" which is a reference to Lightning (since she plays the Lightning-like character in the story). Soraya is a Persian name meaning "princess" (and Serah's name means princess). Tuhin is an Arabic name meaning "Snow" since Tuhin plays the part of Snow, essentially, in the story (note how poorly Levina takes it when she thinks that Soraya and Tuhin are in love). Anders is a reference to Barthandelus who poses as a wise and noble Primarch – Barthandelus's name comes from Baldanders, a mythological figure.
And yes, Sazh was the old man and Cheep is basically Chirpy (the snow version).
Finally, I'd like to mention that I'm running another promotion for my original fiction on Amazon. Not sure if you'll like my original fiction? Then now is the perfect time to try.
This Saturday 18th January, The Last Huntress will be available on Amazon for free. And who knows, you might like some of my other original fiction too! The promotion starts at 12:00 AM Saturday 18th January and ends at 11:59 PM that same day (Pacific Standard Time) although there might be a few hours give or take each way due to Amazon's scheduling system. And if you don't have a Kindle, don't worry – you can download a free Kindle app from Amazon that let's you use anything (PC, laptop, mac, ipad, iphone, phone, etc) instead. I already have a link to both of those (The Last Huntress and the app) in my profile, but I'll be updating my profile with more visible links once the promotion starts.
As always, I appreciate feedback. Reviews and comments are welcome.