sanctuary @lunarsparrows
a blossoming flower wow i did not expect this chapter to be so long compared to the first one but Here We Are i guess

Ziyue wakes up to sore legs and a dull ache in her neck. She doesn’t open her eyes immediately, only turns her body around to hopefully get into a more comfortable position-

 

Wait.

Wait.

 

The pillow her head rests on is warm and solid and unmoving as yesterday’s sequence of events slowly replays in her sluggish mind. Alphinaud, Tataru, and Y’shtola had talked quietly amongst themselves before Y’shtola led her to a clean inn room, a bowl of hot soup in hand. Ziyue had heard what she was saying but the words failed to cut through the haze of numbness in her mind, and an expression she’s never seen on Y’shtola before spread across her face before she gently but firmly pushed her down onto her lap…

 

And then she had cried for gods-know how long into Y’shtola’s lap. And then fell asleep.

 

Her face immediately turns red, tail fluffing up from where it’s still curled around Y’shtola’s arm-

 

“Good morning,” Y’shtola says, amusement heavy in her scratchy, still-sleepy voice.

 

Ziyue scrambles backward, nearly falling off the small sofa in her haste to sit up in an uncharacteristic display of inelegance. Her face feels hot enough to fry an egg.

 

“I-I’m so sorry, did I? Stay that way? For the entire night?” she stammers, ears pulled flat against her head and tail swishing frantically.

 

“Indeed,” Y’shtola replies, raising an eyebrow. “I’m not sure if my legs will work anymore.” Ziyue buries her face in her hands, though she can still see her amused smile when she peeks through her fingertips.

 

“I don’t-I don’t know what came over me yesterday and I’m so sorry for imposing on your time, I’ll be more careful about my emotions in the future and I-”

 

“Hey,” Y’shtola says, the amusement on her face turning into concern. “You know it was I who invited you to stay that way, right? I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t expect you to fall asleep. You were exhausted.” 

 

Ziyue’s ears perk up for a brief moment before flattening against her head again in shame. Y’shtola sighs and reaches across the sofa to pull her into a hug, hands pausing before they reach her. Ziyue lets herself be pulled into her warm embrace, all thoughts fleeing her mind: has Y’shtola ever shown her affection so plainly before…?

 

“Stop thinking with that pretty little head of yours for just a few minutes, hmm?” Y’shtola’s voice is a little teasing, fingers playing with her hair.

 

Ziyue is tense for a few moments before she melts into the embrace, ache in her neck be damned. Y’shtola hums in satisfaction as she relaxes, tail settling down on her leg. 

 

Ziyue would be content to stay this way for more than a few minutes (the end of eternity, warm arms wrapped around her, safe safe safe-) if not for the embarrassingly loud growl that interrupts the silence.

 

Both of them freeze for a split second before Y’shtola bursts into laughter, hiding her smile behind her hands as her shoulders shake in mirth. Ziyue’s face turns bright red again and she groans, burying her face into Y’shtola’s shoulder. She can’t stop the smile that rises to her lips either.

 

“Come now, it’s time for breakfast.”

 

Y’shtola rises from the sofa before grimacing and falling back down in a similar uncharacteristic display of inelegance. She sighs, wiggling her legs in an attempt to get them to cooperate and sighing again when they stubbornly refuse to do so.

 

“I guess we could call for room service…?” Ziyue says in a small voice. Y’shtola nods at that, smiling.

 


 

They talked more than they ever had before over the steaming plates of wildwood scrambled eggs, bowls of creamy stew, and occasionally a piece of buttered bread or two. Y’shtola was pleasantly surprised at how good the eggnog tasted and conceded that it was, indeed, heavenly. 

 

Ziyue had laughed at that, a sound she hadn’t heard since they returned from the Vault with her aether shot through with numb grief. The warmth she felt in her chest when Ziyue had fallen asleep in her lap last night and the only sounds in the room were her slow breathing and her own soft humming spread pleasantly through her veins like she had drunk more than a cup of heavenly eggnog.

 

The Lifestream had both taken her sight and made her spells more powerful, letting her cast a more potent version of Aethersight that allowed her to go through daily life now somewhat similarly to the way it was before the Bloody Banquet, though it came at the hefty cost of her own life force. Y’shtola can’t see how Ziyue’s eyes turn into half-moons when she laughs genuinely or the way her cheeks scrunch up, the smattering of freckles over her nose made more prominent, but she can see her aether flare up in surprised joy, her soul thrumming gold with delight.  

 

Ziyue had talked about her journey through Dravania before they plucked Y’shtola out of the lifestream. Her description of Lady Iceheart, or Ysayle, had interested her in particular, and she too offered a moment of silence for the death of another one chosen by Hydaelyn. Though Ziyue had faltered slightly talking about Haurchefant and Ysayle, her soul taking on a jagged edge of grief, the oppressive haze of white fog had lifted and golden warmth was slowly but surely taking its place. 

 

Frankly, it felt (and still feels) a little intrusive to be able to peer into the crevices of her soul, Y’shtola muses as she sips at her eggnog. The Warrior of Light had always been reserved and guarded with her emotions, though the emotional walls she put up had started to come down a little as she spent more time with the Scions. The first time Y’shtola saw her genuinely smile was when Moenbryda was recounting all the times she and Yda played harmless pranks on Urianger. After Moenbryda’s death, she had retreated back to the distance she held everyone at.

 

After her dip in the Lifestream, every emotion was now clear and plain as day. She had learned to decipher every slight waver and dip in the aether of the souls around her, and though it was overwhelming and exhausting at first, she had quickly been able to filter out the less important aether signals and instead focus on those closest to her. It was, perhaps, a blessing in some ways, though whether it was worth burning her lifeforce for was still up for debate.

 

“Y’shtola?” 

 

Ziyue’s soul had taken on a concerned hue, waves of blue worry washing over her like the tides of an ocean. Y’shtola smiles at her, shaking herself out of her thoughts and moving to take another bite out of her scrambled eggs. 

 

“Sorry, I was thinking. You were saying?”

 

 “I was wondering…” Ziyue’s tone is careful, a change from the usual calm and steady way she speaks in. “Did the Lifestream perhaps… change you physically? In any way?”

 

Y’shtola blinks. She knew there was no chance Master Matoya wouldn’t notice what she was doing, but to think someone other than her picked up on it so quick…

 

“It’s unlike you to be so roundabout when asking questions,” she says, raising an eyebrow over the cup she had just picked up.

 

Ziyue’s aether goes pink with shame around the edges. “I-yes, you’re right. Forgive me if this is overstepping any boundaries, but did going into the Lifestream blind you?”

 

Y’shtola hums, tapping her fingers on the table as she mentally lists the pros and cons of telling her the truth.

 

“You don’t have to answer if you’re not comfortable with it,” Ziyue says in a rushed manner. Y’shtola can practically see her lashing her tail in anxiety as she waits for her answer.

 

“You are correct. My dip into the Lifestream rendered me physically blind,” she finally replies after a moment of contemplation. Ziyue had trusted her enough to show emotional vulnerability last night and even felt safe enough to fall asleep in her presence; wasn’t that good enough for her to do the same? Besides, she had proven herself to be able to put her duty in front of her personal feelings several times beforehand: Y’shtola could trust her to keep a secret from the others.

 

“And yet…”

 

“Though I cannot physically see, I can ‘see’ the aether around me with the help of a spell,” she explains. “I can see the souls of living beings as you would a physical form, and I can also see the aether in furniture made of wood or animal pelts. It’s the reason why I’ve been moving and fighting like ‘normal’ at the moment.”

 

There’s silence as Ziyue takes this in. Y’shtola watches her soul shift around as if deep in thought, the image making her turn a giggle into a cough.

 

“I don’t want to pry any further, but this method of… seeing does come with a drawback if I’m thinking correctly?”

 

Y’shtola raises her eyebrows at Ziyue’s cautious tone. 

 

“Indeed,” she says, pausing for a brief moment. “Seeing the world in such a way comes at the cost of my lifeforce.”

 

Icy horror floods her soul like a sudden snowstorm and she hears a chair scrape across the tiled floor as Ziyue suddenly stands up.

 

“Y’shtola!”

 

Y’shtola holds up a hand as she sips at the last of her cooling eggnog. The air is tense between them as they both say nothing before Ziyue sits back down, whispering an apology for her outburst.

 

“You know what must be done for the good of Eorzea,” she says firmly, putting her cup down. “I know what I’m doing.”

 

A minute goes by in silence. She can’t help but feel a prickle of fear in her stomach, though she lets nothing show on her face.

 

“Is there truly no other way?”

 

Ziyue’s voice is soft, defeated. Her soul had curled in on itself as she spoke, and Y’shtola feels a dull ache nest itself in her chest at her tone.

 

“If we had more time to rest, I could probably get used to moving about and even fighting completely blind,” she replies. “You know better than anyone that we do not have that luxury though.”

 

There’s a soft exhale from the other woman and she knows Ziyue has accepted her words. A day off like this was rare after all, and they didn’t know when the next crisis would require the Warrior of Light and her fellow Scions’ presence again.

 

“Y’shtola,” she says pausing. Her tone is thoughtful and betrays no hint of the anxiety and hesitation her soul is currently immersed in, and Y’shtola feels like she’s intruding again. “When— if— at some point you and I became close enough, would you mind stopping the spell around me? When we’re alone? I could help with anything you haven’t gotten used to yet, and I really don’t want you to shorten your lifespan any more than strictly necessary.”

 

Y’shtola blinks in shock. Was Ziyue suggesting…?

 

“Y-you don’t have to do it if you’re not comfortable of course! I’m just worried about you and it’d be greatly preferable if you stayed alive for as long as possible and you know, your companionship is greatly appreciated and-”

 

Y’shtola reaches across the table to press a finger to her lips (or at least she hopes it’s her lips) and stop her rambling. Ziyue lets out a squeak, embarrassment and shame once again taking hold of her soul, this time coloring it rolanberry red.

 

“There’s no need to explain yourself so much,” she says, amused at all the uncharacteristic behavior Ziyue has displayed today, so far from her usual calm, polite, and put-together demeanor. “I’ll take you up on your offer, though not today. I haven’t quite adjusted to the disorientation between stopping and starting up the spell again.”

 

Ziyue nods very quickly, and a tiny part of Y’shtola’s brain takes note of how soft and full her lips are. She very quickly puts the thought away, making sure not to show anything on her face as she sits back down. A thin thread of something (disappointment?) laces itself into Ziyue’s soul as she pulls back and she quirks up the corners of her mouth into a somewhat crooked smile.

 

“Oh, and Ziyue?”

 

The smile turns into a small grin.

 

“You can call me Shtola if you plan on, ah, getting closer to me as you said.”

 

i took some creative liberties with y'shtola's aethersight bc the game didn't really tell us anything and i really want to expand on it more! maybe in future fics... thank you for reading! find me on twitter as @lingwens
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