Mages and fighters should not spar. It's in the teachings, or if it isn't, it should be.
Which is why two are locked in a deadly dance on the beach, under the moon.
One is steel and sinew, a shock of silver hair and flashing metal. She moves by angles, strikes in arcs.
The other is all curves, round hips and necklaces and breasts and skirts, with swinging black braids like whips and fire that falls from above.
Both dress in black and white. The mage bathes the warrior's shoulders with fire. The warrior's sword has carved a red splash across her thigh.
The soft footing favors the mage, despite her dress. The warrior underestimated her, scoffing at evening wear in battle. But her skirts play tricks. They snag a sword-blade and make it hard to judge where Lulu's legs are.
"Is that all?" Paine snarls. "Either take your doll home or stop playing." Her shoulders are pink from fire's kiss, but so far Lulu has refrained from stronger spells.
"Says the girl who poses for a picture after each stroke. Very well." Lulu points skyward. A wheel of lightning closes around Paine like a noose and explodes. She staggers and drops to one knee.
Lulu folds her arms. "Too much?"
Paine shoves off and lunges, this time sweeping the blade in a wide, low circle. That works. It catches Lulu's leg through the leather. She goes down, clutching her calf. The Onion Knight drops and rolls on its side.
"Touché?" Paine says, walking over. She holds out her left hand, keeping the sword cocked for a swing. "Both knees on the ground. You lose."
Lulu reaches out, but her hand darts sideways; she caresses the blunt edge of the blade. There is an orange flash.
Paine drops the sword with a curse; the metal is red-hot. The weapon falls with a soft thud. Paine falls too, tripping over the damned doll. Lulu is a well-padded landing mat.
Paine seizes her braids and yanks. "No cheating. You were down first."
"Penalty?" the mage says coolly.
Paine grips her chin. The kiss is no more gentle than her sword-work. This, too, is a duel: give and take and foreplay and fighting for air. Paine's hand has found an opening in Lulu's armor, the belts encircling her thighs. Lulu is still cheating, but the ice across Paine's burnt shoulders probably feels divine.
"Lulu?" Yuna calls across the beach. "Paine? What's going on?"
"Damn." The silver-haired woman disentangles herself.
The mage smiles. "I...needed to stop anyway." She picks up the doll, leaning heavily on Paine as the woman helps her stand.
Yuna jogs over, eyes widening. "Goodness, what happened? Lulu, you're bleeding."
"Paine was teaching me sword-work. I...slipped."
Cura is quick, and shadows hide multiple "slips." The two women's eyes meet in silent challenge as Yuna bends to check her work. "My hut," Lulu mouths.
Paine mouths back, "Leave the doll."