Request(s): Young Lulu learns to be a mage. It would be awesome if you could walk her through acquiring at least one of the elemental spells, and super bonus points for Chappu and Wakka, and even little Yuna showing up and turning out to be an even more powerful mage than Lulu (check the game stats she is seriously sick). Obviously I just want stuff with the kids in Besaid and magic and shenanigans, but it would be awesome to have it center on Lulu!
Characters/Pairings: Lulu, Chappu, Luzzu, Wakka, Yuna
Spoilers: I'm going to say no.
Word Count: 3565
Summary: Lulu's first steps on her path to becoming a black mage.
Notes: This started life as a backup gift, but then the original gifter came through, so I took a little more time and saved it for Chocobo Down instead. I hope it suits!! Many thanks to heyheyrenay for the beta!
Lulu is five.
She stands alone on the bluff overlooking the ruins, one hand tightened into a fist, the other clenched around her Moogle doll, the only thing she was able to take with her when the priests told them to run. A heavy hand rests on her shoulder, and it's the only thing keeping her from blowing away in the wind, floating into the sky with the clouds, tossed into the sea with the rest of the debris. She stares hard at the piles of wood scattered across the ground, trying to pick out what might be the remains of her home.
Where her parents are.
She wants to squeeze her eyes shut, block out everything, especially the sound of Wakka sobbing somewhere behind her, his choked cries echoing off the mountainside. But she can't stop watching the few surviving adults picking over the ruins. She needs to see what they might find. Or who.
"It's all right, Lulu." Sister Alia kneels down next to her, tightening the fingers that rest on her shoulder. "You'll always have a home at the temple, I promise."
Lulu nods, but the words barely register -- someone has emerged with a body slung over his shoulder. His eyes are grim as he looks up to where the children wait; then he turns and shouts for a healer as he sets his burden down on the ground. Lulu stiffens, recognizing the fall of black hair and the bright blue dress. The healer rushes over, lays hands on the prone body, chants, but it is too late. She is gone.
The nun moves closer, tries to hug her, but Lulu squirms away, still staring at the dead husk that used to be her mother. "Useless," she says, voice flat with anger. "White magic is so useless. And so is crying!" She whips around to glare at Wakka where he sits on the ground, still snuffling, Chappu wrapped up in his arms. "Crying won't bring them back, and neither will magic."
Breaking away from Sister Alia, she runs to Wakka, flinging her doll aside. She can feel something welling up inside as she grabs his shoulders to shake him, her palms growing warm with the effort. "Stop it," she says. "Stop it stop it stop it--"
"Ow! Ow, Lulu, you're hurting me!" Wakka's tears turn into a howl of pain as he wrenches free of her grasp. He stands, and Chappu falls out of his lap; Alia scoops Chappu up with one arm, and yanks Lulu back with the other.
"Lulu!" she says, sharp with rebuke, and Lulu drops her eyes to the ground. Alia turns her attention to Wakka and examines his shoulders, then stands up. "Lulu." The word sounds completely different now, filled with shock rather than disappointment, and Lulu looks up to see Alia staring down at her. "He's burned. You burned him. Why would you do such a thing?"
Lulu stares down at her hands, flexes her fingers. "My hands were hot." She looks back up at the nun. "I didn't mean to hurt him. I just wanted him to stop."
Alia looks over her shoulder at Wakka, who appears too shocked to cry any longer. The other nun who hurried the children to safety is with him, tending to his wounds. Alia kneels to set down Chappu; he runs over to Wakka, and Alia turns, taking Lulu's hands in hers. "Lulu, you just cast a spell."
Alia nods. "I know you didn't mean to, but you did. Lulu, has anything like this ever happened to you before? Accidentally lighting things on fire, freezing water solid by touching it?" Lulu shakes her head, and Alia sighs. "Early power, brought on by stress," she murmurs under her breath. Then she looks at Lulu again. "We will teach you. How to use your magic, and how to control it. But you have to promise never to hurt another person ever again. All right?"
Lulu looks at Wakka, flinching away from the healer touching the tender spots on his shoulders, which she can now see are red and blistered. "Yes, ma'am."
"Good." She wraps her arms around Lulu in a hug, and this time Lulu accepts it, laying her cheek on the nun's shoulder. Alia leans her head down and whispers in Lulu's ear. "Most of Yevon's servants are white mages, but I'm a black mage. Like you. And though you're wrong about white magic being useless, I'll let you in on a secret: black magic is more powerful. You'll grow to love it. I promise."
Lulu is eight.
The day outside is sunny and bright, but she has no regrets leaving it to walk into the darkened temple, as she does nearly every day. She has spent the last three years under the supervision of Sister Alia, and true to the nun's word, most of the lessons to this point have focused on control. It took almost two years before she wasn't setting things on fire every time she got frustrated or lost her temper, and each time Alia would tell her the same thing: "Stop. Step back. Rein in your emotions. Focus them into the magic." Lulu would do so, breathing deep and concentrating on the soft fur of her stuffed Moogle -- she started bringing it to lessons long ago, when Alia suggested that she try using an external focus -- until she felt calmer, ready to try again.
Once she learned control, she moved on to other lessons: lighting a torch, a fireplace, the campfire in the village, a fiend flying in the distance. She can never cast more than three or four fires before she feels the tiredness pricking at her spirit, but it satisfies too: the surge of energy that begins in her stomach and rushes outward, the whooshing sound of flames coming to life.
"Lulu?" Alia stands in the corner, beckons her over. "Are you ready for today's lesson?"
"Yes ma'am," Lulu replies, making a deep prayer bow as she does at the start of every session.
"Good." Alia leads Lulu to the back room where all their lessons take place. The glyph that represents Besaid Temple is carved into the floor, and Lulu takes her accustomed place standing on it, her arms stiff at her sides. Alia walks around her, prowling like a cat. "Close your eyes, and breathe. Picture the fire that burns inside you, and imagine casting it out of you. Don't actually cast; just remember what it feels like."
Obedient, Lulu closes her eyes, breathes, and sees the fire, feels its flames licking at the corners of her soul, remembers the feel of it coursing through her blood, from her heart, through her arms, into the tips of her fingers and out to its target.
"Are you there?" Alia's voice echoes in Lulu's head, as if from a long distance. Lulu nods, afraid her control will slip if she speaks. "All right. Now, picture the opposite of that."
"The opposite?" Lulu's head snaps up, her eyes open, and she stares at Alia.
Alia nods. "The opposite," she repeats. "Whatever that means for you. You must discover it for yourself. Do you understand?"
"I understand," Lulu whispers, then closes her eyes again, rediscovering her focus and the flames inside her. First she pictures a bucket of water dousing the fire, but nothing happens. Water droplets fizzle and the fire dances away, untamed.
A different way, then, Lulu decides, and she imagines cold. The chill of a winter rain, of a stiff breeze, of the frozen juice cups that the priests make every year for the summer festival. She brings all of these things together, forcing them into a giant frozen mass, and drops them onto the fire. Abruptly, it is gone, replaced by ice, slivers of it creeping into the corners of the darkness, and she shivers.
"Do you have it?" Alia's words come from even further away now, passing through the layers of cotton that surround her. "Then cast!"
Lulu drops her doll to the floor and raises her arms above her head to gathers the shards together, then pushes them down and away from her, the cold rushing through her whole body. She shudders with the effort, collapsing as the sound of a distant crash tinkles in her ears.
For a moment, silence. Then Alia is there, placing the Moogle in her stiff fingers, lifting her to her feet, and she opens her eyes. A silver candelabra that had been sitting on the mantel lies on the ground, shattered into a dozen pieces. Still shaking, she takes a step forward and touches a shard, then snatches her hand away from the frozen metal. She turns and looks at Alia with wide eyes.
Alia is smiling at her. "Black magic at its most basic is control of the elements, and all elements come in equal and opposite pairs. If I had asked you the opposite of fire, what would you have said?"
"Water," Lulu answers, her wondering gaze turned back to the ruined candelabra. "But it's not, is it?"
"The opposite of fire is ice. And you had to discover that for yourself. Both the nature of fire's opposite, and how to control it. From the looks of this, I'd say you're a natural."
Lulu tears her eyes away and looks at Alia's face, shining with pride. "What are the other elements?"
"Water and lightning, earth and air," Alia replies. "Earth and air are notoriously difficult to control, so most black mages never study them. But water and lightning are an important pairing, and you will learn them both. First things first, though -- let's get you comfortable enough with ice that you don't break any more knickknacks."
Lulu hangs her head, and Alia laughs warmly, places an arm around her shoulders. "It's all right. More than all right. Most novice mages can barely get out an ice crystal or two. You're a very powerful mage, Lulu. You just need to learn how to tap it." She hugs Lulu to her. "But I think you've had enough for one day. Go, have lunch, show off for your friends. We'll pick back up tomorrow."
Lulu is ten.
Her daily lessons over, she sits on the beach, watching Wakka, Chappu, and Luzzu kick around a blitzball. The skies overhead roil with winter clouds, but though rain has threatened all day, the storm has yet to break. On her walk here, she picked up a fallen tree branch that lay across the path; she puts the Moogle in her lap and lifts the branch up, examines the twigs and leaves growing from the main part of the stick, and with a flick of her fingers lights it on fire. For a moment she observes the flame, follows its path with her eyes as it licks up the dry wood. Then she waves her hand the other direction, and the branch is encased in a sheath of ice. The fire goes out instantly without even a puff of smoke, and she smiles.
"Hey Lu, whatcha doin'?" She looks up and sees Wakka approaching, hears sand crunching beneath his feet. Chappu is, as usual, a few steps behind his older brother, blitzball beneath his arm; Luzzu stands by the water, gazing out to sea.
Lulu sets the charred and frozen branch down at her side. "Practicing," she replies, arching an eyebrow. "Which is what you should still be doing if you expect to make the team someday."
"We're done. Plus, look at the sky, ya?"
She leans back on her hands, feels the sand damp and scratchy against her palms, and looks up. The clouds are darker now, dimming the light to near dusk even though sunset is some hours away. The wind has picked up, too, and Lulu feels lightning gathering in the clouds -- she hasn't been able to cast it herself yet, but Alia has spent the last few days demonstrating the basic spell, and she can sense its crackling energy in the distance. She sits up straight, looks at Wakka with a nod. "You're right. Let's go." Standing up, she brushes the sand off her hands, hoists the Moogle into the crook of her arm, and follows them up the mountain: Wakka at the front, Chappu at his side, Lulu in the middle with Luzzu a few steps back. Fiends are rare on this part of the island, but still Lulu stays alert, listening for any sound that might betray a predator nearby.
They have been trudging down the path for half an hour when it happens: Chappu lets out a gasp of surprise as a small deluge of water smacks him in the forehead, almost knocking him over. He flails, tossing his blitzball into the underbrush, and cries out.
"What was that?" Wakka looks up, furrows his brow. "I don't see no rain."
"It's not rain," Luzzu says, fear in his voice. "Look!"
Lulu's head snaps up, and she sees a bright blue flan sprawled over the trail, a hideous grin on what passes for its face. She draws back as she feels it gathering its power to cast again. "Look out!" she cries, jumping aside as best she can from the water that flows out of its core. Wakka and Chappu manage to get out of the way as well, but Luzzu is knocked over, sprawling face-first in the mud. Lulu is certain she can hear the flan laughing, a grotesque gurgle, as it prepares the next spell, one that will surely crush Luzzu beneath its weight, or drown him, or wash him down the mountainside.
Without conscious thought, Lulu closes her eyes and hugs her doll close, drawing power first from herself, then stretching her mind into the clouds above, calling on the energy building within them. Then she opens her eyes and flings her arm up, pointing her index finger at the flan.
It comes at her call: a bolt of lightning striking at the heart of the fiend. The flan lets out an unearthly howl, accompanied by a disgusting squishy sound as it melts, first into goo and then into pyreflies. Lulu collapses, tumbling forward as her legs give way beneath her, her hands and knees squishing in the muddy trail. She doesn't move at first, just breathes, tasting the odd sharp scent that lingers in the air. Then she feels a tap on her shoulder, which is followed by a hand appearing in front of her. She takes it, bracing herself as she stands, and she looks into Chappu's face.
"You saved us," he says, eyes and voice both filled with awe. He hands her the muddy Moogle, and Lulu takes it. Wakka stands behind him, arm around Luzzu's shoulders; Luzzu is hopping on his right leg and using Wakka for balance.
"Come on." Luzzu wipes the mud off his face. "The storm could break any second. We'd better get out of here." They start walking once again, Lulu and Luzzu each holding themselves up on one of the brothers as they all hurry to escape the rain.
Lulu is fifteen.
She sits on the hillside behind the temple, surrounded by flowers and scowling. Plucking one from the ground, she lifts it up and glares at it. Her Moogle stands next to her -- ten years of using it as a magical focus has given it power of its own, and now it can stand up, walk, even echo her spell casting movements. The doll glares at the flower as well, and, wilting beneath their intensity, it bursts into flame. Lulu tosses the charred flower aside before casting a quick ice spell to snuff the fire. It's been over five years since she mastered lightning, casting fire and ice come almost as naturally to her as breathing, but no matter how hard she tries, she cannot summon water.
She has watched Alia cast the spell until her fingers are swollen and wrinkled and the temple floor soaked through. She has swum in the ocean, in the waterfalls, in the lake at the top of the mountain; she has walked in rainstorms from dusk until dawn. She has tried the trick of bringing thunder to the edge of her consciousness, then negating it, but she either blasts her target with lighting or passes out from the effort. For awhile, she kept a full bucket at her feet every night, trying to absorb its essence, but that experiment ended when Wakka accidentally knocked it over one morning and ruined the bedding. Nothing works, and she finds herself growing more and more frustrated, scowling at the well every time she walks by.
The problem, she decides as she plucks another flower, is that she simply doesn't feel the power in water as she does with the other elements. She knows how ridiculous a thought this is -- she has seen the ocean toss boats in a storm, the path to the beach washed away by a sudden flood, and, once, Chappu caught in a rip current that dragged him out to sea and nearly drowned him. Above all, she remembers her battle with the water flan, the first day she cast a thunder spell, and the sense of urgency and danger. In her mind, she understands. But in her heart, she imagines water as an endless blue ocean, a cool drink on a hot day, the gentle patter of spring rain. How can she use it as a weapon?
The soft interruption comes from behind; Lulu sighs, then looks over her shoulder. She adores Yuna, but sometimes she wishes that the younger girl wouldn't follow her everywhere. "Hello," she says.
"May I sit with you?" Yuna stands straight, hands clasped primly behind her back. Lulu softens as she pats the ground next to her. With a few careful steps, Yuna crosses the grass and then settles down by Lulu's side. She smiles at Lulu before turning to look out to sea, hands resting in her lap.
They sit in silence, the light breeze caressing their faces, as Lulu considers Yuna. She had noticed the girl's power immediately, even as Yuna was stepping off the boat, looking around with wide eyes, her hand enveloped in Kimahri's huge paw. Yuna radiated the smooth, gentle light of white magic, so different from Lulu's own; she suspected that Yuna would have a hard time turning her skills to the raw force of offensive spells. But still, the innate ability was there, possibly even stronger than Lulu's own, and she had to fight a surge of jealousy -- that day, and every day. She took in Yuna's placid expression and wondered whether Yuna would have this much trouble calling down water.
"She says you're trying too hard." Yuna speaks without warning, not looking away from the view.
Startled, Lulu snaps her head to the side, looks down at Yuna. "Pardon?"
"The lady in the temple." Yuna brushes a lock of hair away from her face, then turns just enough to tip her gaze up at Lulu. "You can't hear her?"
Lulu chuckles, her amusement born of frustration. "Only every day, when I come in to magic lessons."
Yuna shakes her head. "Not Sister Alia. The other woman. The one who lives in the temple."
"You mean..." Lulu's brain catches up to her words, and she finds herself at a loss. The fayth? Yuna's father may have been High Summoner, but she can't already be communing with the fayth. Can she?
"She says that you can't force water. That it comes from stillness, which is the opposite of chaos." Yuna turns all the way around now, her eyes wide with curiosity. "Do you know what she means?"
"The oppose of chaos," Lulu almost whispers, a wash of realization coming over her. "It's not like fire and ice -- they don't cancel each other out. It's their origins that are opposed." Letting the flower fall from her fingers, she draws in her Moogle and hugs it tight. She closes her eyes to consider the source of lightning: the chaos of storm clouds, the speed with which the bolt courses through the air, the noise of the crack when it hits. And then she turns it upside-down. She smoothes the clouds, silences the thunder, slows down the air until it barely flows over her skin. Only when she has reached a place of perfect calm does she lift a hand and flick it sideways with a murmured command.
Yuna gasps and jumps up. "Lulu! You did it!"
Lulu's eyes fly open, and then she smiles. The bush three feet in front of her is drenched with water, the ground around it turned into mud. "I did it," she says to her Moogle, who looks back up her with its sewn eyes. She stands, turns to Yuna, and bows. "Many thanks."
Yuna ducks her head, traces a line in the grass with a pointed toe. "I only said what the lady told me."
"Ah yes." Lulu reaches a finger under Yuna's chin, lifts her face up, and smiles. "I should go pray to her. Will you join me?" Giving Yuna a hand up, she turns toward the temple to make her offering, then share the news with her teacher: she is on the path to becoming a full mage at last.