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Prelude to Pilgrimage

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Luzzu writhed against the leaves in stoic silence. Lulu drew her knuckles to her mouth, barely noticing the sting.

A heavy shape lurched out from the shadow of her hut's awning. The mage watched impassively as a spear arced down towards the Crusader's back, but as the point came to rest between his shoulderblades she held up a palm and shook her head slightly. Kimahri retreated a step, staring unblinkingly at the odd tableau.

"I'm sorry, Lulu," Luzzu coughed.

She turned away from both of them, folding her arms in dismissal. Kimahri reached down and lifted the man unceremoniously to his feet. With a courteous nod, the Crusader gave the bowstring-taut figure behind him one last glance and limped off.

Lulu stared past the darkened hut and into the jungle beyond. "Go."

"Need to talk," the Ronso replied gruffly.

"This isn't your concern."

Kimahri whuffed softly. "About pilgrimage."

A different sort of tension settled on her shoulders as the woman turned swiftly towards him. "Is there a problem?"

"Wakka's new friend playing in tournament."

"What?!" Lulu's fists clenched again, and she took a step towards the Ronso, fury diverted towards a different target. "Wakka! His mind is still on the game more than Yuna! Why bring that idiot along?"

"Not idiot." The Ronso leaned on spear. "Can fight. Has a weapon. Good sword."

Lulu stared. "Now, Wakka neglected to mention that little tidbit. Did you learn anything else about him?"

Kimahri fell silent, gold eyes fixed on her.

"So." The mage folded her arms, disdain dripping out word by word. "On the very day of Yuna's first Summoning, Sin drops a stranger on our doorstep. A fighter. A star blitzball player who just happens to look like Wakka's brother. A fool who knows nothing of Yevon and has the gall to call Zanarkand home. He brazenly bursts in on Yuna's trial, and a stricter priest might have ruled a forfeit. Now, both Wakka and Yuna are going to have their minds on this boy, as much as the road ahead." She paused, chewing her lip. Through the trees, the bonfire was beginning to die down, and boisterous cries of "Victory!" from throats who ill-deserved to use the word drew a frown to her lips.

Train of thought broken, the mage shook her head. "I don't know, Kimahri," she said finally. "What do you think of him?"

The Ronso growled softly. "Will find out." His fist clenched around the spear-haft.

She looked up at the warrior with a cool smile. "You do that," she murmured.

He nodded and melted back into the shadows of the forest, white tuft of his tail whisking from view.

Lulu waited with eyes narrowed, watching through the interlaced branches as the blond-haired boy headed back towards Wakka's hut. One by one the last of the revellers began to drift away from the fire. Yuna was slipping a knot of well-wishers and walking serenely towards the temple, where she would spend her final night in her own bed.

Wakka, returning from escorting the young Summoner, was heading not for his own tent but for the Crusader's lodge where the boy from the sea was being quartered. Lulu frowned and strode determinedly towards the fire to intercept him.

"Wakka," she snapped.

"Oh, hey, Lu!" He turned, the smile dying on his face. "Why weren't you at the party? Yuna was lookin' for you--"

"I was consulting with Luzzu. A Guardian should know what is happening on the roads we are to take." She glared at him. "Not recruiting for a blitzball tournament."

"Hey, hey, what was I supposed to do? You didn't see how dis kid can shoot. He's really somethin'."

"So you're going to put him in Chappu's place? Just like that?"

Wakka scowled. "Oh, c'mon, Lu. My little brother woulda loved 'im. I'm just trying t'do what Chappu--"

"He's dead, okay? Dead!"