Even when we find ourselves changing, there's always things about us that simply evolve. (Pre and post game. One-shot)
Now all that's left is this image of you.
-Lee Ann Womack
"Yuna? Why are you awake so early?"
Yuna, only fifteen, quickly turned to look over her shoulder, her body a black silhouette against a backdrop of the sea. When she saw Lulu, the owner of the voice, standing behind her, a smile spread across her face.
"Just watching the sunrise." She said, turning to look back out at the water. Far beyond, the sun was beginning to climb into the sky, painting streaks of red and gold across the ocean's surface and up along the beach of Besaid Island, where the two girls stood. The wind was blowing, but gently enough that it didn't bother them any.
"You seem to be coming here a lot lately," said Lulu as she walked forward, her skirt dragging over the fine sand. She came to a stop next to Yuna, crossing her arms over her chest and looking out at the sea.
"Well, I've always loved sunrises," said Yuna. "Even when I lived in Bevelle, I would sometimes wake up while the stars were still out, just so I could watch the sun come up. It's just that, until recently, I haven't been old enough to come here on my own without worrying Kimahri. Even now, I think I still worry him a little." Her smile broadened slightly, her eyes both lively and apologetic at the same time.
"There's just...something special about the beginning of the day." She continued. "It's like, we never know what will come after. Anything can happen." For a moment, she paused, then laughed quietly. She was noticeably self-conscious. "I'm sorry. That must sound...very silly." She whispered, embarrassed.
"Not at all." Lulu responded, shaking her head. "It's just your optimism at work." Lulu didn't necessarily understand, of course. She was as hopeful as anyone else in Spira, but not nearly as optimistic. They were different, after all. Hope was wanting and praying for something to get better, and on occasion, striving to make it so. Optimism, on the other hand, was knowing in your heart that things would get better. After the death of her parents and Lady Ginnem, very little optimism remained with her. Chappu was slowly beginning to reverse this process, but still, Lulu's nature was now one of skepticism and hope.
Though Lulu knew quite a bit about Yuna, this optimism was one thing she couldn't understand. Here was a girl whose parents, whom she still cared deeply for, were dead and gone, taken from her by Sin. She was an orphan, and would be so until the day she died. Unfortunately, that day wasn't too far off. Yet, still, Yuna was able to be optimistic. By now, Lulu didn't wonder too much about it anymore. She had just accepted that this was something about Yuna that she would never understand.
"Thank you," Yuna replied gently. Then, the two said nothing more, and continued to watch the sunrise.
This was the memory that played through Lulu's head as she stood before Yuna's hut, not sure whether to enter or not. Three years had passed since then, and Yuna's pilgrimage had come and gone. Thanks to her, the Eternal Calm that had so eluded Spira for a millennium past was finally a reality. Now, people from all corners of Spira came to see the young summoner and thank her for all she had done for them. Today was the same. It was hardly an hour after sunrise, before the summoner was even awake, and already she had visitors. Unfortunately, they were beginning to become very impatient waiting for her.
Truly, Lulu would have much rather left the girl to sleep. The mage could easily tell that Yuna was growing weary of these visits, even if she would never say so. Unfortunately, the visitors' incessant nagging had to be dealt with. So, with a sigh, Lulu pushed back the heavy curtain that covered the doorway and stepped in.
"Yuna?" she said, her eyes turning toward the bed. Sure enough, Yuna was lying atop her covers, her eyes closed and her body relaxed. She radiated a mild calmness, one that can only come with slumber. The corners of her mouth were gently curled upward; a good dream, perhaps. It seemed as if she were completely at peace with the world. Seeing this, it was with a heavy heart that Lulu carefully took her shoulder and shook it to wake her.
"Hm?" said Yuna, her lids lazily pulling back to reveal her green and blue eyes.
"Sorry I have to wake you," said Lulu, leaning over somewhat so that Yuna could hear her better. "But your popularity is out of my hands. You have visitors."
"Oh," said Yuna, slowly sitting up. She blinked a few times, and then turned toward the door. The light streaming in from behind the curtain seemed to be evidence enough for her that it was indeed morning.
Nobody besides Lulu would have been able to catch it. It came too quickly, and went too fast. However, for just a second, Lulu could see sadness in Yuna's eyes. Not despair, but a sort of disappointment and melancholy. Then, a moment later, it was gone, and she was all smiles.
"I guess people really appreciate what we did." She said, a grin lighting her face. "It's so wonderful to see them all so happy."
Lulu nodded and did her best to smile in return. However, she couldn't seem to pull it off, and let it merely slid from her jaw line. "I'll let you get dressed." She said, resting a hand on Yuna's shoulder. Then, she quickly turned and left, the curtain swishing behind her.
"Are you sure you haven't noticed any difference in her?" asked Lulu, her hands gently crossed over one another, resting on her knees. Beside her, lying in the shade, was Wakka, staring up at the cloudless blue sky. Besaid Island's minuscule coastline stretched out on either side of them, the sand melting into the sea in a mixture of white and cerulean blue.
"Not from what I've seen," Wakka replied. "She seems fine to me. She's happy after all, ya?"
Lulu shook her head. "I'm not entirely sure about that." She said, her half-lidded eyes trained on the sand. "She...she's stopped watching the sunrise."
Wakka blinked, looking at her curiously. "Whaddya mean?" he asked.
"She used to wake up early to go watch the sunrise." Lulu explained. "She did that for quite some time. But, recently...she's stopped. And when I woke her this morning, she looked...sad."
"Can' say I'd blame her for being sad," said Wakka, flipping over on his side to look at Lulu. In response, she turned and met his eyes. "I mean, with him disappearing an' all. You were there Lu. You saw how she was."
This was true. Lulu looked back at the sand, recalling memories of that wonderful, yet horrible day. She remembered seeing Yuna race for the retreating boy. She remembered watching him turn and extend his arms, all-to willing to take her into his embrace. Then, an instant later, Yuna lay on the floor behind him, unmoving. His arms remained outstretched for several moments, and then slowly slid back to his sides.
Those few moments forced the both of them to face the horrible reality that had befallen them. Throughout the course of the pilgrimage, neither luck nor fate had ever been on their side. He was to leave them when they reached Luca. She was to marry Seymour Guado. He was to die in the underwater chasms of Vio Pacifico, while she rotted in the labyrinth. He was to return to Zanarkand. She was to die calling the final aeon. Still, through everything that transpired, they held tight to their goal, and to each other. For a time, it seemed as if they might truly find happiness. However, in those few moments, they knew the truth. They could do nothing to stop this. This was not something that technology or magic could change. Even love, supposedly the most powerful magic of all, was inadequate in this case. As painful as it was, they had to let go.
Even now, months later, the memory still brought strain upon Lulu's heart. How helpless she had felt, watching Yuna's heart break as it had. Even though Yuna was still alive, Lulu felt as if she had failed her worse that she had failed Lady Ginnem.
"Do you think that's it?" she asked. "Do you think he has something to do with this?"
"That's my best guess, but I think you better talk to her, Lu." Wakka said as he got to his feet and stretched his arms out. "She'd understand the problem better'n I would, ya?"
"I suppose so," said Lulu, following Wakka's lead and getting to her feet. She brushed the sand off of her black dress as she spoke, "I'll talk to her tonight after things slow down and visitors stop coming."
"Sounds like a plan," Wakka answered. He put a hand on Lulu's shoulder in a gesture of friendliness. She looked at it, watching as it slid away from her after a few moments. "If there really is a problem, you'll tell me, right Lu?" he asked.
"If that's what you want." Lulu replied. Then, she headed back along the beach to the village, her stride slow and burdened. It would be quite a while until the visitors stopped coming, and she knew very well that her mind would not let her rest until she spoke to Yuna. Thus was the essence of the surrogate elder-sibling.
It was only when the sun was going down that the visitors stopped coming. Lulu stood in the doorway of her hut, the curtain held back with one hand, looking around at the village. From what it appeared, the locals were the only ones present. No unfamiliar faces plagued her vision.
This as her assurance, Lulu stepped out of the hut and headed across the village's main path to where Yuna's hut was located.
"Yuna?" she said gently, pulling back the curtain and peering inside. She expected to see the girl sitting on her bed, staring into space, or already sleeping. However, to her puzzlement, she was nowhere to be seen.
"Yuna?" she said again, turning to look out at the village, the belts on her dress clacking quietly. She leaned over, looking from the steps of the temple, to the path leading into the forest, and everywhere in between. All that was to be seen was the locals saying their goodnights before taking to their beds, candlelight casting a soft glow from behind the doors. No Yuna anywhere in sight.
"She left for the beach a few minutes ago." Said the oddly accented voice of Wakka. Lulu looked off to her left, where she saw Wakka heading towards her, stretching his arms over his head.
"And you didn't go with her?" responded Lulu, her voice quickly changing from kind and mild to somewhat harsh. "You know that the fiends are more abundant at night."
"Yuna's a big girl now, Lu." Wakka responded. "She can take care of herself. 'Sides, looked like she wanted some time alone, ya know?"
Lulu hummed a response, looking down at the sand below her feet for a moment. "Thank you Wakka," she said after a moment, and then walked around him. As she began to male her way up the path to the beach, she said, "Hopefully, she won't mind my imposing too much."
"She won't," was Wakka's response. "It's still Yuna after all, no matter how strange she's actin'."
Upon reaching the beach, Lulu was hit with the strange sensation known as dÃ©jÃ vu. Standing before the water was Yuna, her form outlined by the sunset. The wind was blowing gently, tugging at the girl's hair and clothes. The waves came in, almost reaching her feet before they were drawn into the sea again. Lulu realized right away that if it weren't for the fact that the sun was setting rather than rising, this would have been almost exactly like their strange outing several years previous.
With a sigh, Lulu headed toward the girl, whose eyes seemed to be fixed on the horizon. "Yuna?" she said as she got close enough.
The girl turned and looked over her shoulder, blinking in surprise. "Oh, hello Lulu." She said. A smile graced her lips, and her eyes shone with a strange sort of happiness; something real.
"It's not often you come down here to watch the sunset, is it?" said Lulu, walking forward and standing beside Yuna, just like she had before. "Don't you usually come to see the sunrise?"
"I suppose so," said Yuna, clasping her hands in front of her. "Just lately..." she trailed off, letting the words drift away, stolen by the breeze.
"What is it?" asked Lulu after a moment of silence passed. Yuna shook her head, the corners of her lips curled upward.
"Nothing." She replied, looking down at her fingers. "It's...it's silly."
Silence followed the statement, and it seemed as if the conversation was already over. However, Lulu wouldn't let it die that easily. "I'd like to know." She said, her voice firm. It wasn't a demand, nor was it an order, but it still made Yuna turn toward her with a bit of puzzlement in her eyes.
"Well..." Yuna started slowly, weighing her words carefully before she spoke. "I've...I've started to like nighttime, because...I can dream then. I still love the sunrise, but...it makes me sad. When the sun comes up, I have to stop dreaming. And, when I dream..."
Yuna paused, tapping her finger together. The smile had returned to her face.
"Yes?" Lulu said, pressing her on.
"When I dream," said Yuna, looking up at Lulu. "I get to see him again."
Lulu blinked. "Is that so?"
"Well," said Yuna, turning her gaze back to the sunset. "It's not really him of course. It's mostly just...memories. Sometimes though, I end up somewhere I've never been before, and he's there. It's like, he's with me again. It's nice, if only for a little while."
Lulu's reaction to this statement was one of mixed emotions. On one hand, she could easily see that Yuna was happy, so she, in turn, was happy for her. However, at the same time, a thin mist of sadness found its way around her heart.
In all the time that Lulu had known her, Yuna had only had two dreams; two things that she would do anything for. The first one hadn't even been for her. It had been for the people of Spira. She had dreamed of bringing them the Calm so that their suffering might end, at least for a time. That she had done, and more. Along with her guardians, she had given Spira the Eternal Calm, something no summoner had been able to do before. That dream had come true for her. By doing this, she should have been complete.
However, he had been there. He had given her something that she'd never had before. Lulu would have thought it cruel of him, showing her love just before it would brutally taken from her by her own death. Also, Lulu had feared that the boy acted as he did so that he could be glorified for being close to the daughter of Lord Braska. The last thing she wanted was to watch Yuna be used.
But no, that had not been his aim. In fact, he wouldn't even have known that she was the daughter of a high summoner if no one had told him. The same could be said for her expected life span. He'd never wanted to hurt her, or use her. He cared, and it was through that caring that they were able to keep Yuna alive. If it hadn't been for him, they would have followed the teachings unquestioningly, and Yuna wouldn't be standing beside her now.
She was thankful to him for this; for helping them save Yuna. However, on the other hand, she also loathed him at times for what he did to the girl who loved him. He had disappeared, leaving her to dream of him and wish for him. Even if it's not what he had wanted, Lulu hated him for breaking Yuna's heart, and she hated him for making Yuna hate sunrises.
"Oh," said Yuna, "I almost forgot." She took a few brisk steps forward, to where the waves could tickle her toes. Then, she took a deep breath, pressed her fingers to her lips, and whistled. It wasn't particularly loud, but it was a whistle nonetheless.
Lulu blinked at Yuna, her brow raised. Yuna turned back toward her, and upon see the look, tried to give a quick explanation. "It's just reassurance." Yuna said, looking back out at the ocean. The sun was almost completely gone now, hardly more than an orange speck on the horizon. "I just want to make sure he'll come. That's all."
Lulu watched Yuna for a moment, trying to understand this strange little sister of hers. Here was a girl whose parents had died long ago, leaving her orphaned. Here was a girl who was used by the very people that she had followed all her life. Here was a girl who had had the person she loved brutally and unfairly torn from her. Yet, still, she was able to be optimistic. With a sigh, Lulu turned to look at the sea. She would just have to accept that this was something about Yuna that she would never understand.