Chapter Two - "A New Calling"

 

Ever since the Great Race, Lulu had traveled around the Heavenly Palace with a doleful face and a low head. Even though she knew she had always been a slow runner and figured she was probably destined to be in last place, it was disheartening. To encourage herself, she chalked up the outcome to the features she had been born with and the natural advantages of the other animals. How could she be measured against so many great talents and skills?

But, she still wondered, “Was that all?” Hadn’t she ignored the fact that she had always been reluctant to go the extra mile in almost everything? Perhaps. Wasn’t she usually putting forth the least amount of effort possible? Maybe.

Unfortunately, it was much easier to attribute personal failures to something that seemed beyond her own control.

However, deep in her heart, Lulu had always felt somewhat conflicted about the entire race. Secretly, she wished that she could be different and that she hadn’t been the last animal. It was true that she was a very kind and loving creature, despite being a bit hot-tempered and impulsive every now and then. Maybe that was hard to see sometimes. She truly, always cared about others and had a genuine, compassionate heart.

Lulu somewhat regretted falling asleep during that race too.

“But there was no way to change the result anyway.” Lulu sighed. “No point in dwelling on it,” She told herself as she shook her head and paced through the Heavenly Palace. Whenever she did this, she was rarely heading in any particular direction. It was an aimless kind of walk. Sometimes she would run into the other animals, but that was a mixed feeling.

Lulu enjoyed being around the other animals. Although, it was usually because being alone seemed so singular and isolating. The others didn’t exactly instill joy. Most of them didn’t even like to play with her. Maybe they didn’t enjoy spending much time with someone who considered herself a failure and treated herself like one.

Rat was crafty – could fit into places that no one else could – and excelled at trickery. Tiger could climb with his razor-sharp claws, sneak up on anyone, and was astoundingly brave. Dragon could fly, was selfless in the face of danger, and was more powerful than any of the other creatures. Dog was even a professional swimmer.

Lulu tried to be clever like Rat, but usually tripped over her words. She even tried to be brave like Tiger, but found that dark corners in the palace were enough to frighten her. Lulu also attempted to be strong like Dragon, but she would usually end up hurting herself when she tried.

Even when they didn’t want her around, Lulu tried to be like the other animals. Granted, she knew she was kind, but she didn’t see how that would make her as good as the other animals. What could kindness provide in comparison to attributes like bravery or cleverness?

When she was alone, which was often, Lulu would wander through the Heavenly Palace. Then one day, she saw a stunningly beautiful and exuberant Butterfly. Something about its brilliance and light made Lulu want to follow it, but she paused in her tracks.

Lulu wondered if she could somehow mess this up too. She might not be fast enough to keep up or she might even scare it away. She thought about what to do as she paced around and the Butterfly fluttered above her.

For some reason, the Butterfly’s light sent a wave of hope through her. Yet, she wasn’t sure why. Even though it was little more than a small hope, Lulu eventually smiled and nodded. It was enough to reawaken her curiosity and it made her perk up.

Running after the Butterfly, she chased it all the way through an elaborate string of doors and tunnels she had never taken before. Eventually, all the running led her to a vast pool of water she had never seen either. Reaching the edge of it, Lulu stopped running and tried to remember the complex path that brought her here, but it was hazy at best.

The pool stretched out from the Heavenly Palace and went further than she could see. The endlessness of the pool was awe inspiring. The pool resembled an ocean more gorgeous than any expanse of water she had seen before. It was not tumultuous or wild. It was calm and serene – a true extension of the palace itself.

Despite all this, Lulu still didn’t know this place and she thought she had been everywhere in the palace. How had she never discovered this place? The seemingly sudden appearance of a new area left her anxious.

Soon after, the Butterfly also paused and started to shimmer.

“Don’t be afraid, my friend.” The Butterfly spoke with a warm, crystal clear voice.

Lulu gasped and backed away from the Butterfly, asking “Who are you?”

“I am Gabriel,” the Butterfly said, “Archangel of the Heavenly Palace.” The pool suddenly trembled at that title. “And I’m here to help. I’ve watched over you since before you were born, hoping for your health and upholding good faith in your heart. I’m sure this will feel confusing – or even scary – but I only have goodwill toward you and your journey. And…speaking of you and a journey…” he smiled warmly, “…I believe it is time for us to move forward.”

Lulu stammered and shook her head. All the marvelous light of the angel was beautiful, but startling. Blinking her eyes, she expected everything to disappear like a strange dream when she opened them, but nothing changed.

Instead, she kept listening, trying to understand all the wondrous things before her.

Gabriel continued, “Destiny is calling to us and I doubt it will be what you thought it was. I have sought you out as a friend and a comrade because this mission is much grander than any one of us. I do stress that I have not come to you with orders. I have come to you with hopes for the future. Your behavior – and the behaviors of the other Zodiac Guardian Animals – directly affects the behaviors of human beings.”

For some reason, that knowledge reminded Lulu of the Jade Emperor and the Great Race.

Gabriel went on, “People who are born in your years hold the same strengths and weaknesses found in your traits. This is the same for the other zodiac animals and the people born in their years. However, all the shortcomings in your personality are causing much greater chaos in humans than your strengths right now.”

Lulu sat back and tried to imagine how her behaviors could be affecting humans. It left her head spinning when she kept coming up short. At the moment, she couldn’t piece together how that worked or even made sense.

Still, Gabriel explained, “The human world is subconsciously heading down a dangerous path. If this path is not altered as soon as possible, they will eventually destroy themselves. To change their path and fix this problem, the energy of the human world must be rebalanced. Destiny is asking you to make that change.”

Gabriel’s appearance was powerful and glorious, but overwhelming. He shone like a star and Lulu’s eyes widened with fear. Sick to her stomach from the mounting responsibilities, Lulu’s mouth was ajar and trembling.Lulu’s face went pale and she swallowed. What could she possibly say to all this? Her legs became wobbly and her throat went dry. She didn’t believe in what the Butterfly said. Unfortunately – and more truly – she knew this was because she didn’t want to believe it. Who would desire such a burden?

Unable to handle anything more, she backed up, turned away, and tried to run. However, Gabriel stopped her and floated to the earth. His smile was frighteningly bright, but more soothing than the dawn’s light.

Gabriel spoke again, “Please wait, I must show you this.”

The Archangel drew a circle in the air with his glowing hands. That circle – like a mirror – instantly revealed to Lulu what would come to pass in the future, if the current path wasn’t corrected.

“Close your eyes,” Gabriel said, “then you will feel what I show you as if you were there. That impact will reawaken the purpose inside you.”

 

(To be continued...)

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