A Lesson In Yun Tradition
Lightning yawned and headed outside to get the newspaper. One of the best parts of her weekend was reading the newspaper while enjoying a mug of hot chocolate and some pancakes. However, she'd barely gotten through the front door before she tripped over something.
It was only her superb sense of balance that allowed her to stay upright instead of falling flat on her face. She turned to look at what she'd tripped over and scowled. There was another dead animal on her doorstep. It was a big one too – one of the deadly predators that stalked the plains near New Bodhum.
That was the third dead animal she'd tripped over this week. Where on earth were they all coming from? This thing couldn't be more than a few hours old, and she knew for a fact that there was no way it could have gotten this far into New Bodhum without being spotted and dealt with. Someone or something must have brought it there.
If the dead animals had been smaller – birds or squirrels, for example – she would have blamed one of the neighbourhood's cats. But there was no reason for a cat to leave an animal on her doorstep, and these animals were big enough to eat a cat in one bite. The last one had been an especially menacing specimen, complete with dagger-teeth and spikes.
"This is ridiculous." Lightning poked the dead animal with a stick. It was an impressive animal, large and imposing. It was, if she recalled her discussions about native wildlife with Fang correctly, also very tasty. Well, it would be a shame to let it go to waste. She grabbed the animal and lugged it into the backyard. She could cook it for dinner, and she didn't want to terrify the neighbours.
Wait, it was probably too late for that. The kind, old lady next door was peeking over her fence with wide eyes. Lightning grimaced and then waved in what she hoped was a reassuring manner. She dragged the animal under a tree to keep it out of the sun and then headed back inside.
Vanille opened the backdoor. "What are you doing?"
Lighting nodded at the animal under the tree. It really was quite vicious looking – exactly the sort of thing to give little children nightmares. "I found another animal on the doorstep."
"I see." Vanille giggled and smiled. Lightning frowned. That wasn't Vanille's usual giggle or her usual smile. That was Vanille's I-know-something-you-don't-know giggle and her I'm-going-to-watch-you-make-an-idiot-out-of-yourself smile. She knew something, and she wasn't going to tell Lightning a thing just so that she could watch Lightning make a fool of herself. "Isn't that interesting. Maybe you should ask Fang about it."
"Fang?" Lightning's brows furrowed. "Why would Fang know anything about it?" Maybe the huntress would find it interesting, but she doubted it. Fang must have killed at least a dozen of these beasts over the years.
"Just ask her." Vanille skipped back inside. "I'll get started on the pancakes – that way I can add extra sugar, you health freak!"
Lightning snorted. "Unlike some people, I would rather not give myself diabetes." Still, she couldn't help but smile. Vanille's pancakes were always fun to eat – she always put a smiley face on hers in chocolate sauce, a smirk on Fang's, and a scowl on Lightning's.
It was another half an hour before the smell of freshly cooked pancakes and freshly brewed hot chocolate finally lured Fang out of her bedroom – or as Lightning liked to call it, her lair. The brunette stumbled down the stairs looking deliciously rumpled in a baggy t-shirt and a pair of boy-shorts.
Lightning took a deep breath and fought to keep her attention on the newspaper in front of her instead of on Fang's long, toned legs. It was criminal how good Fang looked, even with her hair sticking out every which way and her eyes half-closed in an effort to block out the sunlight coming through the window.
"Hey." Fang slumped into her chair. She must not have gotten much sleep at all. "So… we're having pancakes and hot chocolate again, huh?"
"Of course we are!" Vanille breezed into the room, pulling a comb out and wrangling Fang's hair into some semblance of order before putting a pancake on her plate and handing her a mug of hot chocolate. Sometimes, it was hard to tell which one of them was supposed to be the older sister. "Why fix it if it isn't broken?"
"You mean why change it when it's got all that sugar in it?" Fang took a sip of her hot chocolate. "Right, Vanille?"
"You know me too well." Vanille grinned. "By the way, Lightning found something interesting on our doorstep again. But I don't think she understand what it means."
Lightning glanced at Fang. "Vanille said I should ask you about it. Do you know what's going on?"
And then the most remarkable thing happened. Fang blushed. The Oerba Yun Fang actually blushed. Lightning almost spit out her hot chocolate. Either the world was ending or this was one incredibly realistic dream. Fang did not blush – that was one of the rules of the universe.
"Uh…" Fang made a choking sound and downed some of her hot chocolate before shoving some more pancake into her mouth. "Uh… I can't talk now – eating."
Lightning pursed her lips. That was… the most obvious and lame excuse ever. "Fang –"
And that was how the rest of breakfast went. Each of Lightning's attempts to ask Fang about the dead animal were deflected with all the subtlety of a grenade to the face as the other woman found all manner of interesting things to talk about. First Fang wanted to talk about the gardening that needed to be done. Then she wanted to talk about the provisions that she'd be taking on her next expedition. She even tried to move the conversation to the implications of tax reform on exports between cities. Yes, Fang was more than happy to talk, so long as it wasn't about the dead animals that kept turning up on their doorstep.
It was the second most suspicious thing that Lightning had ever seen, coming in just behind the time she'd caught Vanille and Serah skulking around the living room with a camera and some mistletoe during Christmas.
After breakfast, Fang hurried off, claiming that she had something important to do. Lightning was left staring at the door, a hollow feeling in her chest. It was the weekend. Fang was supposed to spend it with them.
"Relax." Vanille patted Lightning on the shoulder. She would have hugged the soldier, but hugging Lightning was like hugging a hedgehog – likely to result in pain. "She does have some important stuff to do."
"Like what?" Lightning asked. Fang wasn't usually this secretive. She normally shared everything she did with Lightning.
"I can't tell you exactly, but I can say it's clan business – you could even say that it's vital to the survival of the Yun clan." Vanille snickered. "Trust me, it's important."
"It better be." Lightning hadn't spent much time with Fang at all during the week. She missed the other woman – she missed her best friend.
"Calm down. It'll all make sense soon." Vanille did her best to appear wise, nodding sagely and striking a serious pose as she continued to pat Lightning on the shoulder.
"Get your hand off my shoulder."
X X X
Lightning spent most of the day working through her backlog of paperwork. As evening drew near, she roasted the dead animal in the backyard using a recipe that Fang had taught her. It smelled mouth watering, but she couldn't bring herself to eat it until Fang came home. Still, it surprised her when Vanille refused to eat it as well. Normally, she'd be fighting the redhead off with a stick.
"Don't you want any?" Lightning asked.
"No." Vanille smiled that secretive smile of hers.
"I've seen you eat this before, Vanille. You practically inhaled it."
"Yeah, but that was different." Vanille smiled that smile again. "Besides, I've got some stuff to do."
Lightning went back to her paperwork, and Vanille went into the garage to tinker with her latest project. Later in the evening, Lightning headed to the kitchen to get a glass of juice. On her way there, she spotted a large, hardcover book sitting on the dining table. It wasn't one she'd seen before. In fact, it appeared to be brand new. She was about to walk past it when she caught sight of the title: A Guide to the Customs, Traditions, and Laws of the Yun.
And the author?
Oerba Dia Vanille.
Lightning shook her head. Of course Vanille was the author. There were only two people in the world qualified to talk about the Yun, and Fang had chosen to stay silent on most things related to her clan. Perhaps it hurt her to talk about it. In contrast, Vanille had written several books on life during the War of Transgression. She'd even published several dictionaries to help the archaeologists that were currently scouring the planet for old settlements and technology.
Still, it hadn't been Vanille who'd taught Lightning how to speak and read the languages of Gran Pulse – it had been Fang. It was through her lessons with Fang that Lightning had truly begun to appreciate the beauty of the languages of Gran Pulse. The huntress could make an old bus timetable sound like poetry, and her recitation of a recipe for bread had sounded like the very pinnacle of lyrical brilliance.
Knowing Vanille, this book hadn't been left on the dining table by accident. There was even a bright orange bookmark with a post-it attached. Lightning read the note: start reading here.
Lightning picked up the book and went back to her bedroom. There was a reason Fang didn't want to talk about the dead animals. Perhaps it reminded her of one of her clan's old customs? Whatever it was, it was probably in the book. And if reading the book could help Lightning make Fang feel better, then she would read the book – even if Vanille had written it.
If Lightning had been less preoccupied with thoughts of Fang, she might have noticed Vanille stick her head out of her bedroom and smile, a bowl of strawberry ice cream in one hand and a cherry in the other. As usual, everything was going exactly the way Vanille had planned.
X X X
The section that Vanille – and it had to be Vanille – had bookmarked was not quite what Lightning had expected. She'd expected some blood-and-guts chapter about the long and, quite frankly, horrific history of the Yun. What she got was the complete opposite: A Brief Overview of the Courtship Customs of the Yun.
Lightning stared at the page in front of her. What the? Vanille had to be making this up. But then again, this was Fang's heritage. As playful as Vanille could be, she would not lie about something like this. Lightning took a deep breath. She'd just have to read it then. She could always interrogate Vanille about it later.
The Yun are a clan that values competency in combat above all other things. Some have mistaken this to mean that they are warlike, but that is not the case. Certainly, the Yun do not shy away from war and will not hesitate to fight if they believe their cause is just, but their alliances with other clans, such as the Dia, show that they are also capable of co-existing peacefully with others.
Instead, the Yun prize competency in combat because of the harsh nature of life on Gran Pulse. A skilled warrior can protect both their clan and family while also providing food. Indeed, it is not uncommon for members of the Yun clan to draw what seems, to others, a disproportionate amount of their self-esteem from their skills in combat.
As such, Yun courtship traditions focus heavily on proving competency in combat. This remains true even if the Yun involved is courting someone from outside the clan although such relationships are relatively uncommon. Few individuals raised outside of the forge that is the Yun clan can meet the stringent standards of the typical Yun warrior.
The first step in a Yun courtship involves the hunt. An expert warrior must be able to hunt well, providing for their family and ensuring their safety from the dangerous predators of Gran Pulse. It is thus not unusual for a Yun to begin courting in a relatively innocuous fashion: by inviting the person they are interested in to accompany them on as many hunts as possible. The intent, of course, is to demonstrate their prowess in hunting, and it is customary that the Yun warrior offers the spoils of each hunt to the one they desire. Slaying and then offering a particularly dangerous beast is considered a mark of great affection and esteem.
Lightning's brows furrowed. Maybe she was overthinking things, but Fang had invited her on more than a dozen hunts in the past few months. In fact, it was hard to remember a hunt that the brunette hadn't invited her on. Then again, who else was there for Fang to ask? Snow, Hope, and Sazh had never been big on the whole hunting thing, and although Vanille was more than happy to blast things with her magic or bash them with her binding rod, she preferred fishing. Yes, Fang must have asked Lightning because she was the only one who would be interested, and Lightning was probably the only one who could actually keep up when Fang really pushed herself.
Still, Fang had always offered her the spoils after each hunt, but surely that just politeness. Lightning was Fang's guest on those hunts, so it made sense for Fang to give her something. Heck, Lightning always gave Fang the spoils when she invited Fang to go with her on a hunt, so that had to be it.
There was no way that Fang could be courting her. None. Zero. Zip. They were friends, that was all – even if the looks they sometimes gave each other were far more than friendly.
The hunt also serves another purpose. In the event that the Yun's affections are reciprocated, it gives both parties the chance to see how well they fit together in combat. It is a common belief amongst the Yun that the closest bonds are those forged on the battlefield, and most Yun seek out a partner than can match them in battle.
However, it goes even further than that. The Yun believe that only in battle is a person's true nature – their heart – revealed. They believe that those who can match them in combat are destined to either be dear friends (often referred to as Sword-Sisters or Sword-Brothers) or someone they can share the rest of their life with. In fact, the few romantic tales that the Yun have focus on the moment that the hero or heroine meets their perfect match upon the battlefield.
Lightning's eyes widened. Was that why Fang had made such a strong effort to get to know her, right from the start? From the very moment they'd met, they'd fit together in battle. It was as if Lightning knew exactly what Fang wanted her to do and vice versa, and their teamwork had only improved since then. Fang had once remarked that Lightning was the only one who understood her fighting style better than Vanille. There had been a light blush on her cheeks at the time, but Lightning had attributed it to the searing heat on the plains. Had she been wrong about that too?
The first sign that a courtship is likely to succeed is usually the exchange of hunting spoils. A Yun offering the spoils of the hunt is making an overture – responding in kind is a way of encouraging the Yun to continue. It is at this point that family usually becomes involved. The Yun will generally challenge a member of their loved one's family in order to demonstrate their prowess in combat. Such challenges present an interesting situation – the Yun must prove their worth but avoid shaming or otherwise seriously injuring the family of their loved one. It is also not unusual for a Yun warrior to invite members of their loved one's family to accompany them on several hunts.
This was starting to sound far too familiar. Fang had indeed challenged Serah to some sparring not that long ago. Serah had always respected Fang's skills in battle – she trusted Lightning's judgement – but she had returned from those spars filled with praise for the huntress. And now that she thought about it, Fang had invited Serah to join her on a few hunts when Lightning was busy.
Once the Yun has gained the approval of their loved one's family, the courtship becomes a matter of public record. The Yun encourage clan members to seek out partners that can further increase the strength of the clan. A Yun warrior who is proud of the choice they have made will make their affections public while providing further evidence of their skill in battle. Such displays are intended to secure the approval of the clan.
Lightning pursed her lips. Had the Yun possessed the technology to allow two women to have children? Cocoon did, so it was quite possible that the Yun had it as well. It would explain why Fang was so open about her preferences – there was no reason for the clan to care if two women got married if they could still produce strong children. The Yun texts that Lightning had read didn't seem to find the idea unusual – one of their stories even mentioned such a pairing.
What Lightning didn't like was all this talk of getting the clan involved. Lightning was a private person, so the thought of having a bunch of people sticking their noses into her private life was an unsettling one. But Fang had always handled that sort of thing better. Not even the sordid rumours that occasionally circulated in the press about them had dented her good cheer.
She turned her eyes to the next section and then froze.
To demonstrate their affection and prowess in a more public manner, a Yun warrior will typically hunt down and kill the most dangerous beast available before leaving it on the doorstep of their intended. Such a display is meant to show both commitment and ability. If the intended accepts the Yun's affections, then they will allow the slain beast to remain on their doorstep briefly, so that the rest of the clan can see it.
It is also customary for the intended to show their esteem for their suitor by cooking the slain animal and serving it back to the Yun that is courting them. Such a meal is typically shared between only the Yun warrior and their intended. Not even other family members are allowed to partake in it.
There was no ignoring it now. Fang had left those dead animals on the doorstep. Fang was courting her. And Lightning… Lightning had taken those animals, cooked them, and served them back to Fang. And each time she'd cooked one of those animals, Vanille had refused to eat.
Lightning felt like bashing her head on the wall. There was no way she could have known. After all, this was the first time she'd ever heard about these customs – most of what she'd asked Fang about was related to combat and day-to-day life. It had never even occurred to her that the Yun might have such unusual courtship customs.
No wonder Fang hadn't wanted to answer Lightning's questions. How could she? Lightning wasn't exactly the smartest person in the world when it came to matters of the heart, and Fang must have been worried about Lightning rejecting her. They were best friends now, and a rejection would undoubtedly damage that friendship.
Lightning sighed. This was such a mess. She had to do something about it, but what? Fang wasn't back home, so she still had some time to think, but –
A noise came from downstairs. It was Fang. Lightning crept downstairs and watched as Fang stared at the food on the dining table – at the animal that she'd killed, which Lightning had cooked. Lightning's gut clenched as Fang's expression fell. It must have been horrible for her – Lightning was responding as though she returned Fang's affections, but Fang must have known that she didn't really understand what she was doing.
Lightning snuck back into her room. Fang was courting her. Fang must… love her. What was she supposed to do? The answer came with surprising quickness. When was she happiest? When she was with Fang. Who did she want to spend the rest of her life with? Fang. Who made her heart race? Fang.
She loved Fang. It was a simple realisation, but it shook Lightning to the core. True, she loved the others – even that goofball Snow – but Fang was different. She had always been different. Lightning had simply been too dense to understand how she was different. She took a deep, deep breath. She knew exactly what to do.
X X X
When Fang woke up the next morning, she was surprised to find herself alone in the kitchen. It was still a little early for Vanille to be out and about, but Lightning was usually up by now. Lightning must have pulled another all nighter doing paperwork. She sighed. She was such an idiot. Of course, Lightning didn't understand what all those dead animals on the doorstep meant. How could she? But Fang couldn't bring herself to just come out and say how she felt. What if Lightning rejected her? She'd be losing her best friend.
Oh well. It would work out somehow. It had to.
Fang made her way over to the front door and opened it to find Lightning there, dragging one the scariest, most vicious beasts from the plains behind her. The pink-haired woman looked like she hadn't slept a wink.
"Lightning?" Fang gaped.
"Here." Lightning heaved the dead animal onto the doorstep. "That's for you."
Fang's mouth went dry. "Do you… do you what you're doing?"
"Yes, I do. Someone explained a few things to me." Lightning nodded firmly. "I don't know… I don't know how everything will work out between us, but I'd like to try."
Fang's brain was barely functioning. Lightning was saying that she wanted to… "The neighbours are staring." And they were. The old woman who lived next door was peering over the fence at both of them.
"Let them," Lightning replied. "I don't care."
"Who told you?" Fang whispered.
"Who do you think?" Lightning smiled and shook her head. "Vanille likes to meddle. So… I never finished her chapter on Yun courtship. I stopped reading after I got to the part where you dump a dead animal on someone's doorstep. Care to show me what happens after that?"
Fang yanked Lightning into a kiss. "Gladly."
X X X
Omake: The Way of the Dia
"Please tell me this is a joke." Hope stared in abject horror at the book in front of him. "Fang, say something. This cannot be real."
"Oh, but it is."
"Yes." Fang smirked evilly. "If you want to court Vanille, you must first defeat a giant squid using nothing more than a binding rod while balancing a bowl of acid on your head before taming a wild wyvern and flying it around New Bodhum proclaiming your love as loudly as you can while dressed as a chocobo."
"You can't be serious." Hope covered his face with his hands.
"I am very serious. In fact – ouch!"
"Don't be stupid!" Vanille lowered her binding rod. "He doesn't have to do any of those things."
"I don't?" Hope breathed a sigh of relief.
"No, but you do have to fight one of my relatives to prove your worthiness. Pretty much anything goes except killing each other."
Hope paled as Fang cracked her knuckles.
X X X
As always, I do not own Final Fantasy. I'm not making any money off of this either.
This chapter is based on Prompt #267: Pulsian dating etiquette is a little different to those of Cocoon. Lightning doesn't really know how to react when Fang keeps giving her pelts and leaving her kills on the doorstep. Inspired by a conversation in the Korra fic "An unstoppable force" by jlbrady.
I was skimming through the prompts the other day when I came across this one. I actually thought I'd already done a chapter on this prompt, but when I checked, I hadn't. Naturally, I just had to fix that.
Anyway, this is a bit of light-hearted fun. I can definitely see the Yun having some quirky courtship customs, and I can also see Fang falling back on those when confronted with the problem of how, exactly, to court Lightning. As for Lightning's response at the end, I think that she's not the most emotionally aware person, but once she's made up her mind about something, she'll go after it with everything she has.
Keep submitting prompts, guys! And if you've got any suggestions as to which prompt I should do next, let me know.
I also write original fiction, mostly fantasy. You can find links to it in my profile. If you're looking for something fun to read, try Two Necromancers, a Bureaucrat, and an Elf, or, if you want something more serious, try The Last Huntress.
As always, I appreciate feedback. Reviews and comments are welcome.