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Triple Farron

Chapter Text

"Damn it, sis."

"You better stop calling me that, Snow. She is getting on that train, no explanations."

I stared at her. My sister, telling me that I'm getting on the Purge train. I don't want to think about it. I cannot fathom this, I cannot fathom that Lightning is saying she approves of this. "Light, look at me." All I received was a glance, she didn't want to look at me. The open kitchen window was currently getting her attention instead as a breeze came in. I sighed, "sis, I'm just in shock. You're a soldier, you know that I do not have to get on that train, I can go with you!"

Lightning's shoulders raised and fell, I couldn't tell what she was thinking other than probably "shut up". She's not happy.

Snow stood next to her, leaning against the kitchen counter and taking a peek at the news that played on the TV. More things about the Purge. They were listing off times that certain districts of Bodhum had to be at the train station by, to load up and get ready to be shipped out of Cocoon. Lightning had to be listening too when they announced what time our area had to be there by she shifted around. If it makes you uncomfortable, then don't make me. I just… she knows what getting on the train means, why is she wishing it on me? I thought maybe if Snow left the room, she would open up a bit more. I gave him a pat on the shoulder and a nod to the door. Once he left, I faced her once more. "Lightning, please—"

"Enough!" She slammed her balled-up fists into the counter as she turned towards me. Her face was as flushed pink as her hair, "I said, I am not explaining this to you. You're scared, I get that, but you know very well why you are getting on that train." Lightning's hands relaxed flat on the counter. "I know soldiers don't have to be on the train, their families do not either. You just… just do it. Okay?"

With a gulp, I nodded reluctantly. Raising your voice doesn't make it any easier to hear, sis. "... When do I need to be there?"


 

Maker, I must be crazy. 

This train, I have been on this train before of course. But not be sent to Gran Fucking Pulse. I have had trips to many places, in many trains that look exactly like this. Stepping on here was…

It's surreal. Any correlation of happiness I had to these trains are gone, wiped away the moment I put on the travel cloak a soldier gave me. I wonder what he thought when he saw me, if he was curious as to why a Farron was getting on the train. Maybe he was amused, or not, because soldiers are trained to block out emotion. At least, that's how Lightning seems to be. The soldier wore a mask, his full armor like the other soldiers. For all I know, it could have been my own sister handing me my travel cloak.

It sucks even more because these stupid travel cloaks have been designed to basically handcuff us. Not that I necessarily think we have to be handcuffed, considering we have armed soldiers watching our every move.

They want to purge us out. The l'Cie are a threat, I understand, but if the enemies are as scary as they sound, why would the soldiers risk both their lives and the innocents by possibly have l'Cie on board? I don't know. Maybe they're crazy as well.

I wouldn't doubt it.

My hands started shaking after a few minutes, the train was freezing and my anxiety started to set in- the whole concept of what was happening was setting in. I went from thinking this whole thing was absurd, to freaky. I've only heard what Pulse was like in class, what soldiers said about it, all the tales Lightning tells me… yet she's never gone either. Just heard about it the same way I did, and she still thought it was all dandy that I got on here. I wish I could just tell the driver, "Hey, make a u-turn to the Farron residence!" Sadly, I don't think that's how train tracks, or deportation, work.

A soldier walked by. He stopped, faced me with the barrel in my face and his head tilted to the side. "You know, I walked by you about, hmm, three times-"

"I saw."

"-and yet I just could not figure out who you were. Pink hair, blue eyes, that chilling look and I realized, you're a Farron. Bodhum Regiment's Lightning Farron, well, not her but her little sister. Which one are you, Serah or Faith?"

Lightning is such an amazing soldier, but god I cannot see why (or how) she works around dull-brains like this one. "Faith. I'm Faith."

He nodded. "Figured, I'm pretty sure the guys say Serah's the pretty one anyways." And with a shrug, he kept walking to monitor the other riders. "Serah's the pretty one anyways". Asshole, we all look alike. If I could, I'd—

A force threw me, and a few others, out of our seats and into the walkway. The railcar must have been hit, and it felt like the train had come off of its tracks.

"Get back in your seats, now!"

Get back in my seat? Nah man. It seemed the pressure of catching my fall with my arms made my cuffs break loose. This is what's gonna go down. And I wasn't alone. A civilian tackled the soldier, with help from some others. This was my chance. I could get the hell out of here, and I was not going to waste another second doing so.

"The car's been derailed! I repeat: the car has been derailed! Everyone remain in your seats and listen to instruction-"

I blocked out the driver's announcement at that point, the only thing I was going to listen to was my gut. It told me to run. I knew these trains too well, and there was a storage room in this car, as long as I made it to there, I had a perfect plan out.

So, that is where I went. No soldiers in my way to it, I ran in. "Where are they, where are they…?" If I could just get my weapons back, this would be easy. Sure, I'm a civilian, but I'm also a Farron. Lightning taught both Serah and I how to defend ourselves if need be, and I got an allowance.

I then spotted a reflection, a glimmer of silver, and bolted for it. "Found you!" There they were, my gauntlets, with steel blades shaped like dragon talons. I spent hard time to earn these, and for my birthday my sisters pitched in to help me get these crafted. Good times.

More importantly, though, I can fight back, and I planned on doing so.

Going back to the seating area made me feel sick. The soldiers, they started shooting civilians, even ones who weren't fighting and weren't even armed! "Stop it!" I tackled one, knocking his gun out of arms reach, and proceeded to attack.

"Bitch, get off of me!" It was the asshole from earlier, which fueled my fire more, and I slashed his helmet off to get a look.

"Huh, and you said I wasn't pretty." With no intention to perform the acts he did here, I just backhanded him, knocking him out cold. A couple other soldiers were distracted by what passengers were left, some soldiers were on the ground like this one. I started to run towards one of the armored men, have him end up like Mr. Cocky over there, till suddenly I was shot up into the ceiling of the railcar. Then into a window, a seat, and back on the ground. I heard a soldier yell, "the train is falling," and it was lights out for me.


I'm sure I broke a couple fingers, I realized, as I started to come to again. Bright lights and the sound of bombs were overwhelming as I woke up, hanging out of the window of the railcar. Definitely not on the tracks, in fact, it was probably hundreds of feet below it, in the middle of all out war between Cocoon's civilians and army. Maker, I hope Lightning is okay… And Serah- Wait! I popped my head up to get a clear view of my surroundings. "Where is it, where's the Vestige?" Lights shining from air tanks and spotlights were hard to see by, but I needed to find that Vestige. If I could find that, I had a chance of finding my sisters.

But I currently had a very low chance of finding a safe way there, if it wasn't already thrown into Pulse. I needed a doctor, I wasn't in good condition, and I had no clue where I could go. I studied Lady Luck in school, in my history class, and I just hoped maybe if she existed that she would be on my side. And maybe she was.

"Faaaaaith!" Somebody yelled for me, as I started to crawl out of the window. My sight wasn't exactly ready to make out fine details, but the blue hair was pretty recognizable. Yuj… He might know where Snow is. Yuj, and who I assumed was some of NORA ran my way. "Damn Faith, you survived that far of a fall?" He and Lebreau helped pull me up.

"Ouch, barely… Thank you." Lebreau handed me my gauntlets after I accomplished staying on my feet. "Have you seen Lightning or Snow?"

Yuj nodded. "Snow made off in a PSICOM-cycle not too long ago, told us to round up any civilians and keep them safe. Nothing on Lightning or Serah."

Damnit. I needed a ride myself. "And you wouldn't happen to have another aircycle, would you?" I figured the answer was no, and I was correct. My head dropped. "I have somewhere I need to be, is there any way you could get me another ride?"

Lebreau and Yuj looked at each other. "Some kids took Gadot's cycle… But nothing a little scavenging couldn't help."

"I'll gladly look." We grouped up and started walking opposite of the train. I had high hopes, there were army units everywhere, there had to be something I could use, a way to make sure everyone was safe. But most things we came across were wrecked, and I should've seen it coming. It's all-out-war, and I'm surprised the team even found something to drive in the first place. "I'm lucky to be alive, but it's useless if I can't even get where I need to be."

Lebreau patted my back. "Maybe your sisters will come across us, if we get back to the group. I mean, Lightning is a soldier anyways, not that that's really a good thing right now." She paused, taking a glance at Yuj. "What I'm trying to say- she's probably wanting to find you just as much as you want to find her. Her instincts will lead her to you. For the time being, be like the rest of NORA and help out who you can. Alright?"

And she was right. Lightning's part of all of this, and she would make use of her rank to get where she needed to go. If she's okay, then she would make sure I and Serah were too.

Patience. I just needed patience.

But, if being the youngest child taught me anything, it was patience has no meaning. Screw patience. "I'll go this way, if I find anyone I'll give a yell. Good?"

Yuj seemed all for it, Lebreau probably saw through it but shrugged on it anyway. I smiled at them, and with hopes I really would see them again, I left to find a vehicle. I'm sorry. Stay safe, NORA. I plan on walking in my sister's wedding, and seeing you few sitting with us. Every war has a happy day once it's over, I just have to aim to see it.

That happy day seemed to start coming closer than I thought, once I spotted a lone aircycle in the distance. There weren't any PSICOM standing around, no rebels wanting to steal it, so I quickly got to it. "Oh, please don't be busted, I need my sisters, please please please…" And I started to see why the people of Pulse had come to believe in a luck deity, I was able to switch on the aircycle. "Yes!"

"Hey, you, get away from that!" Uh, oh.

A PSICOM soldier started to head my way, at a fast pace. Must've been his cycle. Too bad I was already in it! The soldier shot at me as I got the vehicle in gear, and gained air. "You snooze, you lose, big boy!"


I circled parts of the Vestige once I was near, looking for a possible entrance. Although, I doubt the fal'Cie wanted easy passage into its shell. For me, anything opening could work as an entrance, honestly. But I had to be hasty, if the army saw me, I was done for.

I found a spot. It wasn't a clean entry, seemed like something already crashed through, but it led in. I drove through it, my heart racing. I was scared. I mean, I'm driving into the Vestige, where lies a Pulse fal'Cie. The very reason I got put on the Purge route to begin with. I just kept hope, all the hope I could muster in order to find my sisters. Knowing Lightning, she was already inside. Serah has been here for days now. I remember when Snow told us how she got here...

"Snow?" The blonde, practically out of breath and shaking, looked at us with fear in his eyes. He was covered in sand, something like soot dirtied his face, his trench coat was burned at the bottom edges. My breath hitched in my throat when I noticed he was alone. He wasn't supposed to be alone. 

"The Vestige, the fal'Cie- I'm so sorry, I tried to-"

I could feel the negative energy radiate off of my eldest sister, standing behind me. She obviously was having none of this and turned away before Snow could say any more. We had been watching about the Vestige right before Snow came barrelling through the front door, how nobody should have been near it due to safety concerns. My eyes started to burn."Where is she?"

Snow gulped. "The fal'Cie took her." I'm certain my knees gave out before he even finished that last syllable. 

"No, there's no way. You weren't at the Vestige, just viewing it from the city." He knelt down next to me, shrugging his ruined coat off. "Snow, how did this happen? What- I- why?" I could see him trying to figure out what to say, and he kept glancing past me. I figured Lightning was somewhere back there but I was keeping my focus on Snow. "Just say it. We have to know."

His eyes darted back to me, clouded with hesitation. "We were going to get arrested for viewing it- I didn't want her to get in trouble! We- I took an aircycle and just went up to it, to get us away. One of the motors had been shot. We wanted to get onto the ledge of the Vestige, in case the cycle blew out or something. I was going to call you, Light, I swear, I was going to get you to get her home! I would've taken the arrest and the blame and everything-"

I shook the memory away. "Don't worry Serah, we will find you." Once inside the Vestige, I parked the aircycle and immediately started examining my surroundings. Serah came here once, for historical research (under guidance and with other people), and even told me how this whole place was in ruins. How it's a big maze, with buttons and triggers to navigate through it. I may not know exactly where to go, but thankfully I have a clue how to get through here.

After taking some time to take note of what was around me, what my sister meant by mazes, I did happen to find many stairwells and walkways that would have been a bit difficult to work out... had somebody not apparently activated them. The floors were neon-orange, and some switches looked to be moved. Who was in here with me? Soldiers? Lightning? Maybe Serah activated them herself? I was debating on calling out and asking. If it were soldiers, I could just fight back, as long as it wasn't an entire unit. "Shoot, I'll just go for it," deep breath in, and-

"Don't worry, baby, your hero is on his way!"

"Who-" A voice other than my own startled me. But I knew that voice. "Snow?" I ran ahead a bit. "Snow!" He's where I need to head to. If Snow's here, good chance Lightning is here now too. 

Chapter Text

My nerves eased as I navigated the Vestige, knowing that it was likely Snow that activated the switches. But still, not having a map or any clue where I was supposed to head still makes me worried. What if I got lost? Being this close to the fal'Cie, if it were to turn me into a l'Cie like Serah, who knows what the government would do to me if they found me. Stop worrying, Faith. Focus on your goal, and you'll be out of here in no time. I tried to just listen to my own pep talk, hoping it would further soothe me. Being alone here didn't help. I need to find Snow, and maybe we could team up, find my sister, and leave this place.

I didn't get long to try to cheer myself up before I heard the deformed howling of a dog. "What-?" On the top of a stairwell ahead of me were two Pantherons. "PSICOM guard hounds? Why are they here?" Their howling meant they saw me and were ready to strike, I didn't have time to run or attack before one pounced on me, knocking me to the floor. Its claws dug into my skin as I tried fighting it off. I might be dead before I could be turned into a-

The hound almost flew off of me in an instant, however, going limp a few feet next to me. I looked up and the other one was dead as well. "How the…" I heard footsteps, followed by the sound of a sigh, then I got a view of who killed the Pantherons. Thank Maker. "Lightning!"

"More dogs… Yet no sign of any PSICOM soldiers." A man, dress in green attire and wielding dual guns, followed behind my sister. He looked to me. "Wait, is she-?"

"Faith." Lightning jogged over to me, briefly looking me over before helping me up. "Are you hurt?"

"No no, you came right in time, thank you. Any sign of her yet?" I predicted her answer, nope. "Well, we'll find her. I guess with the help of, uh, him?" He replied with a smile, and a tuft of yellow flew out of his frizzy hair. Hearing a chirp and I knew- a baby Chocobo!

Lightning gave me a nudge and proceeded walking before I could ask his name. "We're here for a reason, come on."


We walked down a hallway afterward, and to my surprise were these creatures… Large, gray bodies with massive arms made of dark crystal and a large red symbol lay upon their wide torsos. Their movements erratic, they grabbed at their faces like they were in pain. They were intimidating, yet they whimpered like children. I subconsciously stepped behind Lightning. "These aren't PSICOM experiments, what are they?"

The man following us stepped ahead. "As the legend tells, they are l'Cie- well, l'Cie who didn't get to complete their Focus." He didn't take their eyes off of them. "It's punishment. Fail your boss and instead of being fired, you must serve him forever as a monster."

So these are Cie'th then. Serah is a l'Cie, and when I last asked her, she didn't even know her own Focus. "But, it's not even their choice to… to become this."

"I know, but it seems they don't even realize what happens." He sighed. "You know, maybe they don't feel any suffering." His head drooped. "I would hope." I would too.

Lightning, silent, walked forward and started engaging in battle with Cie'th. Her attacks were quick and fierce, but occasionally brash and off-tempo. Our acquaintance tilted his head to the side as if he were about to question it. "Just wait it out, she must be angry." Or scared, fighting in fear for Serah. But I wouldn't talk of Lightning like that to a stranger, it would just make it worse. "Let's go help her, mm?" I grabbed for my gauntlets and quickly followed after her.

At the end of the hallway, after we cleared out the remaining Cie'th, was a platform acting as a lift. It brought us up to a short set of stairs, and-

-and there she was. "Serah!" Lightning and I bolted to our unconscious sister laying on the metal floor. She seemed so peaceful, not in pain, but I knew that brand on her arm has definitely caused her some. "Oh, Serah…" I looked her over, wanting to make sure she wasn't injured before Lightning picked her up. We both turned to leave.

"Time to go. We have to leave before the army-" The man stood in front of us, stopping us in our tracks. "What?"

He stared at Serah's tainted arm. "That's a Pulse brand. That girl's a l'Cie." He seemed to have been a bit in shock, but Lightning just shrugged in reply, saying she already told him. "Pulse l'Cie are the enemies of Cocoon." I notice his fingers twitch at his hips, above his gun holsters.

"So they should die?"

I immediately took a step in front of my sisters. "She isn't a threat."

Although I was scared he would try to hurt Serah, his face shown nothing but honest concern. "Listen, if she fails her Focus, you know how that will end." He frowned. "You saw how those back there ended up." I won't accept that, not for her.

"So killing her is a mercy?" And it seemed Lightning didn't want to accept it either. Who would? Who would actually want to accept that a human being, forced to become a weapon, will turn into one of those things because they couldn't live out possible the crimes they were tasked? Some soldiers do it, our government did that tonight, but it's different when it's an innocent university student like my sister.

"You came…" Serah? I snapped back to see her, awake and weakly reaching up to Lightning's face. So Lightning lowered on one knee to gently set her down.

"Serah!" On a lift coming down was Snow, who had brought two other individuals too. They weren't my concern, however, my concern was Serah. She was barely conscious but was trying to keep her eyes open to see us. Snow ran over, taking one of her pale hands into his.

Serah gave him a smile. "Is that… my hero?" I tried to smile as well, it was good that we were reunited again, but she wasn't in her best state.

Snow kissed her hand. "Let's get you home-"

"Hands off, I'm taking her home." Oh boy.

"Sis, I-"

"I'm not your sister."

I put a hand on Lightning's shoulder. "We can all take her home… she would probably want that anyway."

But Lightning just looked at me as if she were offended. "Why? He couldn't protect her, it's Snow's fault she-"

"You can save us," Serah spoke up. "Protect us all. Save…" She tried to keep speaking, I could tell it was difficult, though. "… Cocoon."

Cocoon? "Sis, stay with us, what do you mean?"

"Save Cocoon? That was your Focus?" Lightning held up her head as Serah started to fall back out again.

Snow huffed. "Anything, I'll do anything! Leave it to me- you'll see, I'll protect Cocoon. I'll save everyone!" His words were rushed as Serah seemed to further fall back into her sleep.

"Somehow, I'll make things right." Lightning looked longingly at Serah. She was sad, I could see it and guilt in her eyes. I recognized that feeling in myself at this moment, I wondered if there was anything else I could have done to stop this. But, I know I couldn't prevent a fal'Cie's taint.

I can't tell what's worse: questioning if you could have done something different, or knowing that nothing could have possibly stopped this. "We all will, I promise." Don't you dare cry in front of her, Faith.

The blonde nodded. He never let go of Serah's hand, none of us would let go. "You just relax."

Serah opened her eyes for a moment, taking a glance at each of us with a relieved smile. "Thank you." With that, bursts of crystal-blue light emitted from her body, and she started to float upwards.

"Serah!"

And without a second to spare, starting with her hands and feet, she slowly turned into… into a crystal. I stared in shock, as the strangers who followed us stared in awe. The words of the legend played out in my mind. A l'Cie turns into crystal, once their Focus is successfully played out. The crystal holds them and lets them live eternally. My sister, now crystal, slowly landed back onto the floor. "Serah?" I walked forward, placing a hand on the statue. A tear came down, gentle like a feather, into Snow's hand and it too had crystallized. The others began talking but I couldn't hear them over my fear. Eternal life… it still means she alive, but a crystal is fragile. If there was a chance she would come out of this, when? What if she wakes up alone, what if we aren't here anymore? What would the government do to her body while it's like this if they find us? Serah ca-

A slam on the ground next to me snapped out of it. Lightning had attacked Snow, and he toppled over. "It's over! Open your eyes, and face reality!"

"Wha- Lightning!" I quickly went over to her and put a space between the two. "Listen to yourself, sis…" I talked quietly to her then looked at Serah. It can't be over. I wanted to conjure up some words to give encouragement to Lightning, to Snow, and even the others as I realized they were scared too. But I knew that nothing could help me right now, how could I possibly help them? Even before I could think, something came crashing into the outside of the Vestige, causing rubble to fall from the ceiling. Are we under attack?

"What now?" One of the two that followed Snow here looked around nervously, and the second one fell to the ground, cradling his head. The man that came with me and Lightning, the one that almost threatened to kill Serah, assumed it must have been the army. Did they know that we were here, or were they simply trying to destroy the fal'Cie?

So, we needed to try to protect ourselves, although Serah was currently helpless. I quickly went over and shielded her head from any debris while Lightning and Snow covered the rest of her. We could take it. Serah? I don't know how strong crystal can be, especially if it's l'Cie crystal. Either way, we had to keep her safe, if there were any chance she would wake up she needed to be in one piece. I would never forgive myself if she got hurt and I didn't stop it.

The army kept attacking the Vestige, shooting large ropes through, which had barely missed the few of us. I just closed my eyes, trying to ignore what was going on around me and just focus on protecting my sister. Perhaps the army was trying to rip the Vestige apart, weaken (or even kill) the fal'Cie inside, and have this whole thing erased from existence. I know they wouldn't care if murder was a consequence, they didn't care earlier when I was on the train. They didn't care when we were simply out in the Hanging Edge, so why would they have any sympathetic thought in this?

I could hear the other three talking, one of them being the young boy. "We can't stay here, they'll kill us!" I craned my head up to look at him.

"And if we leave, they'll kill us! We're-!" More rubble fell from the ceiling, making me jump to the side. "-We're too close to the fal'Cie, they'll probably think we're l'Cie too!"

He wouldn't look at me, instead, he just held the pigtails-girl's hand and shook like a scared dog. I didn't know if we were safer in here, or if it could be safer to find a way out and sneak past the army. But our chances were low, and I just wanted to look at the now: Serah needed to be safe, we needed to try to stay unharmed, and look out for each other. That was all I told myself to do.

And soon enough, the shaking stopped, the attacked ceased, and no more debris fell; yet I was still too nervous to take a look. I was told everything is okay with a pat on my shoulder. Looking up, we all saw a door ahead; a red glow emitted from it, in the shape of a Pulse l'Cie brand, like the one Serah had been forced to receive. Maybe the fal'Cie is ahead?

"… be right back," Snow suddenly started walking ahead of us, towards the entrance. Uh…

"Trench coat," the older man seemed to be confused as well, "where you goin'?"

His words made Snow stop going, and gave a glance over his shoulder to us. "Date with the fal'Cie. Got some things to talk about…" Well, that doesn't sound so logical.

The man scoffed. "What? You're going to ask it to help her? Are you out of your mind, kid?" Probably. "That thing wants to chew us up and spit us ou—"

Snow quickly spun around. "Well, what do you want me to do?" His face turned red with anger, his fist flung back when he turned, yet I saw none of that spunk in his eyes like he was known to have. The hero was in defeat, and I could suddenly feel a pang in my chest as reflective light glimmered off of Serah's crystal form. What could we possibly do, other than coming face to face with a Pulse fal'Cie? Serah is smart, she'd know what to do. But she can't tell us. Lightning is tough and brave, but would even a soldier like her go up to that thing to fix this? I looked to her to see what was in her eyes, and she looked to me as well.

Something was there, swirling in turquoise I saw flecks of sadness, of fury. Something ignited in her, and to anyone else, she would just seem cold and quiet, but I knew those elements she expressed, and I felt it myself. Lightning gave me a quick and gentle nod. Wait, are we really…? Should I? A fal'Cie has power, maybe if we could harness it and do what Serah needed us to do, it would release her from her crystal sleep. We have to try.

And I nodded back. Lightning faced forward, it was her turn to walk ahead and I followed.

"Uh…"

"Guys?"


We were going to meet the fal'Cie—is 'meet' even the right word to use here? Does a fal'Cie speak or move, gesture or respond? I have never been face to face with one, nor have I ever thought I would consider to go up to one with hope and fear. I just keep telling myself that if I feel the slightest bit of suspicion, I'm running the hell out of that room.

Within the next few moments, we all were standing in front of what appeared to be a shell. Does it really need to be protected? It can make all of those Cie'th, I doubt it's so vulnerable. I couldn't tell if I were imagining things, but I heard a constant and eerie, low-tone chime. As if worship bells were ringing just miles away. Multiple screens, almost like computer monitors, surrounded the fal'Cie from above.

The silver-haired boy stayed to the back of the group, which I understood. I stood close to the back as well. "So this is… the fal'Cie." Biting my lip, I looked to him and nodded in response.

Snow walked forward. "Serah's a crystal now," he started, "You gave her a Focus and she did it! You got what you want, now let her go!" He paused, looking at the shell with anticipation and I did the same. Nothing came to us. There was no response, no shift in the air, no Serah walking in with a bounce in her stride. After a moment, I saw Snow fall to his knees and put a hand on his chest. He pleaded, "Turn her back! I'll be your l'Cie instead!"

"What did I expect…?"

"Fine, you go on begging." Lightning spoke up, "Like this thing gives a damn what we want!" She furiously whipped out her gunblade, and slashed at the copper shell of the fal'Cie. Her hits did nothing as the shell seemed indestructible, but I knew she didn't care. She was angry. This is how she fought the Cie'th earlier on, and it wasn't good for her to be doing this. I wanted to stop her, but I knew it would just make it worse. A few more hits until her blade bounced off the fal'Cie, creating a ripple that swung through her and knocking her back.

Damn! "Lightning!"

She stumbled back in a breathless fuss, sweat beading on her face and pink hair sticking on her forehead. Just that minute of anger brought that much energy out of her. "It's this thing's fault the Purge started, and its people who are dying," she huffed and straightened up, "Serah told us to save Cocoon, that means this thing needs to die!"

Almost immediately after she finished that statement, the floor beneath us lit up in a neon-fire glow. The monitors lit up with brand symbols, and gears shifted as the shell of the fal'Cie opened up to emit a bright, white light. Emerging from the copper was a large, robot-like… thing, with a massive arm and cluster of crystal on its chest. Rotating arms also hung from above on either side. The shell was a facade, to make us believe it was weak underneath- but it just hid the true danger.

Behind me, the young boy bolted for the exit, with the pigtail-girl not too far behind him. Lightning backed up to stand in front of me. "Go."

"What?"

She stiffened. "Go, now!"

I gulped, I didn't want this thing to hurt her! I saw Snow ready his fists to fight, and the older man said he was in too. Maybe she'll be alright… I took a deep breath and ran in the direction that the other two went in, hoping we would find a safe place to hide until Lightning and Snow defeated the fal'Cie.

But, to our disadvantage, the fal'Cie put up a barrier, keeping us from leaving. The boy had run into it, and the girl helped him up. "We can't leave!"

I looked back to my sister, who put fury into her slash at the Pulse enemy. "If you can't fight, just stay back, okay?" And I brought my eyes back to the pair. "I'll stay with you, if you'd like."

The girl glanced at the boy, then turned her gaze to me with a nod. "Okay." The younger of the two, obviously scared out of his mind, mumbled a "yeah" and hugged himself. We stayed back, keeping our eyes on the battle. I just prayed to a god, any god, that this would stay under control. 

Chapter Text

I suddenly couldn't see. Everything was… white? I felt blinded, I might've even been screaming due to how shocking the sight was. The light could have ended and I wouldn't have known until my eyes adjusted to what was happening around me. Things were blurry, and it was like all gravity left me. I was floating, cold, overwhelmingly scared, I didn't even know if I were alone or if the others were here too. I wanted to call out to them but it just seemed so difficult to speak when my senses were being filled in unequal amounts. My sight was blinded and filled with a bright light that would not fade fast enough, my ears were almost ringing, but I couldn't feel anything but the cold pinching my cheeks and my clothes gently touching my body.

I've only been this scared in odd dreams, where I was alone or being attacked, but I would wake up in a relief knowing that it wasn't real. In dreams, things were shaped and somehow I knew what they were, but a white screen is not what my dreams consist of. I felt my eyes starting to sting like tears were building up. I needed somebody.

It wasn't until I heard a gasp near me that I could feel sure that I was not alone, not right now. Taking a deep breath, blinking a few times, I slowly was able to see around me. It was dark, and I was definitely floating in an abyss. Something was above us, bells hovering over it and large, shining tendrils surrounding it. The fal'Cie! I couldn't get away, not in the middle of the air with nothing to grasp at. I tried to reach out to my sister a few feet away, who was questioning where we were. How can you keep your composure like this, Lightning? "Lightning!" I needed to be with her, I couldn't hold my fear in without her. Just calm down, Faith, you'll be okay... it'll be okay... Maybe I could just give myself a pep talk. Yeah, that could work. Although I wouldn't mind getting over there to her.

But in a flash, before I was given any time to react, those tendrils shot out, grabbing me by my arms, legs, torso, and binding me so I couldn't escape; it did so to the others, too. The grasp was so tight; I could feel bruising almost immediately as I attempted to struggle free. "Wha..." What is it doing? And within the next second, a final set of those tendrils went out for us again. A single tendril pierced me in my left shoulder, pain seared through it and I almost couldn't hear anything besides my yells, and worship bells. It lacerated and burned me like it just dipped a brass branding stick into hot, red fire then pushed it into my skin. I didn't even notice when it finally released me, and slowly, I drifted into unconsciousness.

In this forced sleep was a dream- no, a vision- I felt like I was looking through frosted glass, colors and lights were blurred together like a faded watercolor piece. Fire-oranges and copper-reds, a multi-armed monstrous figure, and bubbly eruptions of lava flashed erratically. There was nothing to make sense of, other than a faint word that repeated over, over, and over:

Ragnarok.

The vision ended abruptly as the next word I heard yelled out was, "Serah!" In a jolt, I woke up to see Snow reaching to the sky with panicked eyes. He wasn't the only one I saw either, I saw Lightning nearby, putting a hand to head.

As I gathered my bearings, I had hoped that all that just happened was a weird dream, that I just hit my head and I was still at home in Bodhum, and sitting here was just part of that dream. But the cold ground underneath me, those three strangers slowly waking up close-by, and the bruises on my limbs proved that I wasn't dreaming. I sat up to see we were surrounded by blue crystal, was it crystallized waves? The Vestige was out in the distance, crashed into the ground.

"Is this… for real?" Seemed like I was ahead of Snow already. I knew this was real, even if I didn't want to believe it. Slowly, the few of us got up and walked around to examine the area. Part of me wanted to explore and see where exactly we were, but I also didn't want to stray too far and get lost.

The older man spoke up. "This must be, uh, Lake Bresha?" As I thought about it, he was right, this is Lake Bresha! "I guess we fell from," he pointed above us, "up there, and the lake turned to crystal?"

It seemed so. "How did we survive that kind of fall?" I mumbled, walking up next to Lightning. She looked at me with a shrug, just as confused as I was.

"Help me out here!" The poor guy was still grasping for answers. "I mean, did the fal'Cie do this? How in the world did we end up here?" I wish I knew, man. He tried to go to Lightning for an answer, but she coldly just turned away, telling him she didn't know either.

Pigtail-girl started to question it as well. "We're alive. How?"

"Serah!" Snow made me jump at his sudden exclamation. "No one survives a fall from that high, not without a miracle. Serah saved us!"

Lightning stepped away. "Serah?" Bringing our sister up didn't exactly make her happy. I just stepped back, knowing if I tried to cool her off she would lose it even more. "Listen. It's all your fault she got—"

The sound of the ground cracking behind us made me quickly turn- to be face to face with a towering Cie'th. I yelled in shock, Lightning quickly grabbed me by my shoulder to pull me away, the older guy yelled "Hey!" repeatedly, and Snow ran up and shoved me and Lightning to fight off the monster. Snow threw a fist at the monster, and his hand… it… glowed? Ice surrounded his hand, and when it collided with the Cie'th, the ice shattered. He was somehow able to throw the Cie'th back with strength even Snow has never mustered up before. He pulled his hand down in shock. "What did I… just do?"

"You used magic!" Out of nowhere, the boy stood up to tell us that. More Cie'th started to gather with the noise we were making. "You used the power of a l'Cie. The fal'Cie cursed us, we're l'Cie now!" Wha… What?!

I didn't have time to ask, however, as the many Cie'th grew closer and closer. We had to fight before we could find reason. I equipped my gauntlets as the others readied themselves, and proceeded to fight the enemies. There were so many, we had to fight each one on one until they lessened. Waves and blasts of different magic flew in the corner of my eye, from a couple of different people. Can I do that? I don't even know how. I decided to try it. I took a step back to gain some distance from the one I was fighting, wriggled my fingers a bit, and ran up to slash at it. My hand intensely warmed up, heating the metal in my gauntlets, and suddenly I ripped fire through the chest of the Cie'th. "I- wha- just like that?" I became breathless in awe as the monster fell to the ground.

But apparently, I didn't know how to cool the magic off, and my gauntlet started to burn my hand. I yelped, throwing the gauntlet off. The rest of the Cie'th were picked off around me, and there were no more in sight. Which was good, considering I couldn't use one of my weapons at the moment. "Ouch…"

We all sort of became quiet, in the realization of what's happened here, what's happened to us.

"So we really are l'Cie."

"Looks like it."

I had already proven it to myself, during the fight, but I wanted to check exactly where a brand would be. It couldn't have been placed anywhere more obvious than that of my shoulder, my left one. Exactly where the vestige fal'Cie hit me. Yet another Farron, branded. Did it get Lightning too? I looked over to her. "Sis?" She didn't even look at me but nodded. After we confirmed that we were all branded, I sighed. "It really got all of us, huh." I was just in such disbelief over this.

The younger kid fell over, to his knees, I thought he was about to break down honestly. "Why me?" I'm pretty young myself, just barely sixteen, but this boy? He looks to be even younger than me. Why would it just choose little kids? But his sadness diminished into anger quickly as he snapped his head up to look at Lightning. "I don't even know you! But you had to go and attack that thing?" Next he looked to Snow. "Just leave me alone!" He just started mumbling, something about putting fault onto someone, maybe onto Snow? I can't say that anyone, in particular, deserved outright blame for this besides the fal'Cie. The boy got up to his feet and almost charged at Snow. "All of this is yours and Serah's fault!"

"Woah, kid." I frowned, becoming really disappointed in him now.

Snow on the other hand? Furious. "Watch it!" He stood tall, almost aggressive, and took a step towards the silver-headed boy. He fell back, crawling away from Snow, but ended up bumping into Lightning's feet. I didn't see the look she gave him, but it was enough to make him cower away in fear.

I shook my head. "That wasn't the best move to make…" I just folded my arms, stepping away a bit to take a deep breath. I needed to tell myself that he didn't mean it, the boy is just scared. We all are. Snow proceeded to apologize to him, as the pigtail-girl went to console the boy. What now? It seemed that the girl read my mind, and pulled the boy to his feet to start exploring the area. The man followed behind, with Snow not too far back. Lightning, however, stayed put. She didn't face the group, didn't even make a sound.

"We should go to." I decided to speak up. "We could find a way out of all of this..." She just stood there with some sort of emotion going on, possibly anger, or irritation. I could not see fear, that one was off the list. How could she not be scared, was she just hiding it? Or was she really just so mad that anything else was gone? "We have to find a way to fix this, and I just think that it's best if we stick together." That still didn't seem to sway her. "Please?" Nothing. "I need..." I glanced away, not really wanting to admit it. I really didn't want to look weak in front of the strongest person I know, but I couldn't imagine going without her. "... I can't go alone."

Lightning glanced down at me. Please be considering it. "They'll be slow."

My hopes dropped. "Maybe taking our time right now is good. Rushing into a solution isn't always the best idea." I swallowed. "I know you're fast, you're smart and yeah, you'd probably find something on your own, but- that's exactly what is needed in this situation!"

She crossed her arms. "Right." Lightning sighed. What is she thinking?  She gave my branded shoulder a glance, a hesitant pat, and walked in the direction where the group went.

I smiled, following behind her. "Besides, do you really trust Snow to lead those few?" I think I hear some form of a disgusted grumble, as she probably imagined how that could go downhill.

My mind was still racing with thoughts about all of this: getting caught up in the Purge, finding Serah, losing Serah, coming in contact with a fal'Cie, becoming l'Cie. Now we're in Lake Bresha, but it's crystallized and merged with the now-in-ruin Hanging Edge. Each one of us reacted differently to this, almost like the stages of grief. The youngest of us, being me and the boy, were both pretty scared (although I do seem to contain my fear better than him), while the pigtail-girl was quite the optimist, getting used to it quickly and trying to keep everyone happy and lively.

Not that I'm not grateful for what she's trying to do, it's just overwhelming in a way. The older man, the one with the chocobo chick as a companion, seemed to slowly be accepting it. Snow was kind of like that too, sometimes being an optimist, other times just saying things like, "we'll defeat this Focus," and saying how Serah's saved us and is our miracle. I can't tell if this sort of a hysteria on his part or what, as Snow would usually be a bit more reluctant on this kind of wording, especially about something like this. Maybe it's just the way he copes with this kind of situation.

Lightning… I don't think it helps who our company is. Three strangers, two of which are kids and the other is much older than us, she admitted that she thought they're just slow. There's also Snow, who she's been aggressive towards ever since he stepped foot into our house when we met him. Then I'm there, and I can't really tell what she thinks about me being here. Maybe she's mad that I'm involved in this, or she might even think I'm slowing her down too, who knows? At least she's still talking to me, even if she won't to the others. I wouldn't think she'd just shove me away, luckily, but she's never been bubbly and I wouldn't expect her to be now.

We're definitely an odd bunch to be picked by a fal'Cie, expected by it to be its warriors, but maybe we could make it work.


"We're all team Pulse now."

I almost grimaced. "Oh, don't say it like that, man." We're hardly a 'team' anyway. We had been venturing for a while by now, defeated a few lingering Cie'th and investigated the fresh ruins of the Purge. Nothing was helping us get anywhere, we were just walking aimlessly. But, I just felt like we were getting somewhere, even if I didn't know where that was. Intuition, I guess? Is that a perk of being a l'Cie? It could very well just be my tiredness, crying to me that we're doing fine.

Lightning walked ahead, being line-leader, and not reacting to the comments made by the others. I mean, there's not much to say honestly, everything was quite obvious at this point, they were just reacting to the problem at hand. "Trust the soldier to keep her cool through this mess." Well someone has to, right? There might be something going on in her head, but if no one else is going to keep a clear mind in case there's enemies, then she will.

But, she did bring up a good point after stopping for a moment. "Okay, if we don't know our Focus, then how do we complete it?"

I shrugged lightly. "Serah said something about Cocoon, but what if the fal'Cie decided against her? Then what?"

"I think," Pigtails started, "I saw it." Lightning questioned her, but the girl seemed to not understand it herself.

Chocobo-guy chimed in, "that is how a Focus comes down, people. That fal'Cie? It doesn't spell it out, with clear-cut instructions." He shook his head as he spoke. "No, all you get is hazy glimpse." A hazy glimpse, huh? He did seem to really understand how a Focus was given, somehow, and Lightning and Snow even looked at him suspiciously for the way he explained it. "Well, that's what they say. You know, legends and all!" He held up his hands defensively, turning away and nodding to agree with himself, mumbling about the legends. I mentally theorized that maybe he's a historian and just studies this stuff a lot, and then pushed it aside to think about the Focus.

"You," Lightning went over to the younger boy, "did you see anything?" He was a bit taken aback, probably because she was actually talking to him. He started to describe that, while his memory of it is "all kind of foggy", he saw something that must have been large, towering even.

Uh, wait, what?

"W-Wait a minute, hold on now!" The other guy walked over again. "Did we all have the same dream?" The worship bells rang in my memory as a response to what he said, a quick flash of the vision, and the relentless echo of the name,

"Ragnarock."

We all talked about the different pieces of what we saw, and they connected together to play out as the same exact vision. "So, we all saw the same dream, heard the same voice." The youngest boy questioned if it was really our Focus, but I couldn't think of what else would be. It kind of had to be.

"How are we supposed to know what to do from that?" He even sounded annoyed about it. It really was, it was an annoyance, almost like when there's a word you just can't remember but it's right there on the tip of your tongue? That feeling is what I had when wondering what that vision was telling us to do, what did fire and a monster and flashy lights mean? What is 'Ragnarok'?'

Now it was Pigtails' turn to come forth again. "The dream's the only hint the fal'Cie gives us, that's the tricky part. It's our job to figure out what to do with it!" Well, can I tell our boss to give me a promotion then? This isn't a job, it's a curse, girlie.

"Okay okay, we're Pulse l'Cie, right?"

"Uh-huh."

"Enemies of Cocoon!"

I started to tap my foot. "Go on?"

"Does that mean that our Focus is-? I mean, are we supposed to?" Snow interrupted the man with the words "save her". We looked at him a bit puzzled, who is he talking about?

He held up a fist. "Our Focus is to protect Cocoon." Now that's an oxymoron, protect Cocoon as Pulse l'Cie? "Serah told us, let's do it! We're all in this together." I started to think that Snow was just looking for any hope at this point, sadly. "I'm gonna look for Serah, she oughta be nearby…" He started running before he even got to finish his statement.

"I'll come too, wait!"

"Geez, that boy can't stay still!" The strangers ran to catch up with Snow, and I noticed that again Lightning didn't follow. I didn't want to pester, and maybe she would end up following anyways, so I just walked along as well. I didn't run, I didn't exactly feel up to it, but I did want to find Serah as well.

As we ventured forth, things became even harder for us as we stumbled upon more and more hoard of Cie'th. There were large Cie'th, flying Cie'th, ones that used magic that we couldn't use. We were able to defeat them, but it wasn't easy, and we were growing fatigued. We decided on resting at the first safe clearing when we found it, and thankfully that wasn't too long after making the decision. My legs grew sore, and I rested against a chunk of metal in the clearing. Even Lightning sat next to me, which helped ease some bad nerves I didn't even know I had at the time. She wanted to take a look at my brand, since it was easier to look at mine where it was. The little bit of attention from my sister was nice. The others rested too, chatting a little bit. We needed a small moment like this, after everything. It was quiet, still, no Cie'th nearby. We could just take a few minutes to sit and think.

Then, Snow abruptly stood up to exclaim, "We fight it! Ragnarock!" I had half a mind to shush him and tell him to continue later, but might as well let him get it out now. "That's the reason we're l'Cie, to stop it—to keep Cocoon safe!" When the older man demanded a reason, Snow replied with, "Serah". Blunt, simple, to the point, but not with any sense of finality it.

Pinching the bridge of my nose, I sighed. "Snow…"

"No no, just hear me out here. She said to protect Cocoon, hmm? And then- she turned to crystal. That's the proof right there. She completed her Focus!" Snow really seemed to have believed this too. "That means ours is to save Cocoon. Her fal'Cie was the same as ours, so our Focus has got to be the same." Well, yeah, now I guess that reasoning makes sense, but I just couldn't shake that it could be something different. The fal'Cie is who planned this, and what if it decided to change the whole thing after Serah turned to crystal? But, I couldn't bring myself to say it outloud, I knew how disappointed Snow would be if I too disagreed with him, like how Lightning has. Hearing his fiancée's sisters not hear him out wouldn't mix well with what's happened already. "We we're chosen to be guardians, chosen to defeat Ragnarock! It makes sense-!"

"Oh, the hell it does!" It didn't seem that the chocobo guy had the same thinking I had. "You're grasping at straws, son! We just got recruited by the fal'Cie, a Pulse fal'Cie. It's Cocoon's enemy!" He finished with a huff. "If I were a bettin' man… I'd put us on the other side."

Snow didn't like that. "So, what, Serah's an enemy too? I don't buy that! Sis," he walked over to Lightning, "we have the power to save this if we just work together on carrying out our Focus—" He was stopped by a gunblade at his throat. What is Lightning doing?

"Our Focus? The fal'Cie took Serah from us, and now you want to help it?" It was dangerous at this point to try to stop her, she had a blade at Snow. "Whose side are you even on?"

I was going to try to say something, to pacify her, until- "Freeze!" We snapped back to be encountered by a swarm of soldiers, walling us in on all side. "Put your hands behind your heads!" How did they get here!? I didn't want anyone to get hurt, so I followed orders, the others did the same. Except Lightning. She kept her composure for a moment, but seemed to give in, dropping her weapon and putting her hands back too. One of the soldiers approached her, "you fall off the Purge train?"

I'm pretty sure I saw a roll of the eye from Lightning, making me have to hold back a snicker. "Maybe." Her hint of sass almost made me forget about the loaded guns aimed at us, so I just bit my lip and stood straight, just reminding myself that we could possibly be stronger than them. We have enhanced abilities, we have magic. But I didn't want to lead that on, making sure I was turned enough to have my shoulder out of their line of sight.

The main soldier, I assume would be the general of the group, was not pleased with Lightning's retort. "Are you talking back to me? Ah?" He even shoved his gun into her face, which made me lose my inner laughter and replace it with some anger. I hoped he knew better.

"Nice gun."

But, he didn't. In a split second, Lightning had swiftly blazed through the soldiers on our right side, taking them out with some ease, allowing us to get rid of the rest. I wonder what they thought, as we fought them, when they saw our magic. Sure, we're really just amateurs at it, but finally we're able to outmatch these PSICOM. The Guardian Corps aren't vicious, cruel, unfair, they don't act like these guys. They don't experiment to create war monsters like the hounds and behemoths. I knew that we were hurting these people, but I just kept telling myself that they have done worse to a mass number of innocent citizens here, even just the ones from Bodhum.

Once all of the soldiers were out, the older man looked over one. "I thought they'd be tougher than that. PSICOM, right? You know, cream-of-the-crop."

"Yeah, but PSICOM'S an anti-Pulse task force." Snow brushed off his coat. "Haven't had to fight a war for centuries, just a bunch of rookies swinging around overprices toys."

Chocobo guy nodded. "Alright, so, from what you're telling me, a regular ol' soldier's got more training than special forces." He wasn't wrong either, Lightning would come home most days completely beat when she first started training with the Corps. When Serah and I would go visit her, we would have to pass the training base for PSICOM, and- well- let's just say that there weren't any sweat rags being used there.

"Well, since Cocoon's safety was never threatened by Pulse since the war, PSICOM hasn't been busy until the fal'Cie was discovered." I decided to kneel down, just felt like getting a closer look at the armor on these guys. "Just been bored, spending their paychecks on useless gear and equipment while the Corps works their asses off with real crime." Just talking about it wore me out, honestly. I was just disappointed with the people that are supposed to protect our world.

Snow shrugged. "Whether they're tough or not, it's nothing for us l'Cie to be afraid of!"

I cringed, and Lightning wasn't pleased either. "Cut the crap- their grunts may be green, but PSICOM's elites are nothing but cold-blooded beasts." She stepped closer to me, nudging the soldier on the ground with her boot. "They hit the field and it's game-over." There may not be many, but it's true, PSICOM's regulars are just pawn. The real deal is their generals and elites, armed to the teeth with deadly weapons that we may not be prepared for. I just didn't want to say it, not yet, and make everyone feel worse. But, it's probably better that Lightning got that out of the way as we all did need that reminder. We can't forget that they almost made the Purge a success, if it weren't for the rebels and fighters… the ones that sacrificed themselves to make sure we weren't sent to Pulse… yet here we are, still made into its l'Cie anyways—

"Then let's run away! Ciao!" The quick patter of Pigtails skipping away brought me out of my rut. The older man tried to get the girl to stop running, but it didn't really work out, and his little chocobo chick popped out. He just talked to it as he followed along the path, with the boy behind him, and Snow too. I took a deep inhale as I ran my hands through my curls, and started to jog ahead, Lightning's boots clicked slowly behind me.

I just smiled a little, glancing back at her. "For someone so worried about being slowed down, you sure aren't in a hurry, huh?" And guess what, I even managed to get her to brighten up a little. Sure, it won't last, but in the moment, it was nice to see.

Chapter Text

"Of all the messed-up ways to meet..." Snow had that right, we should've met in better circumstances. Like school, work, city events, but it just didn't happen like that. He introduced himself, Snow Villiers. Wonder if Serah would take his last name…?

The others did as well, and thank goodness for that. In my head, they were labeled as "the boy", "Pigtails", and "Chocobo-guy".

"The boy" is Hope Esthiem, I want to say I've heard his last name before, but I can't quite pinpoint it yet. He definitely isn't a Bodhum kid, it's so obvious that he doesn't have that sort of exposure.

Next is Vanille, the girl that Hope follows closest to. She's very sweet, but a bit mysterious, to be honest. Her accent isn't much like anything I've heard, and she doesn't dress with the style like most people in Bodhum do. But hey, it's fitting for her. I meant to ask if she and Hope already knew each other, based on how close they seem to be, but it slipped my mind.

Lastly is Sazh Katzroy (his chocobo chick doesn't seem to have a name yet), he's the wisdom of the group so far and more known to the history of the l'Cie legends. He gives me a good vibe, despite how he made me feel earlier on. I was worried after he felt the need to, uh, 'help' Serah- but I've come to understand that he doesn't like for anyone to suffer. He just thinks differently in this situation. 

Of course, they wanted to know about Lightning, so Snow introduced her as part of the Bodhum Security Regiment. "Last name's Farron. First?" He smirked at me. "Anybody's guess." Funnily enough, Snow doesn't know Lightning's first name. I know Serah is loyal, I just expected it to slip up to him at some point. Lightning changed her name many years ago, to appear more stoic. Serah and I, we're cool with it. We still fumble sometimes, calling her something else but she forgives it. It's not my right to share, though.

So I just grinned, I'll let them ponder, but I'll never give it away. "Faith—ah, that's my name, not my sister's." I almost wanted to let them know more about Serah, since they technically (and briefly) saw her but never got to talk with her. But, I didn't. Serah can tell them when the time comes, and it will come. 

Hope and Vanille starting walking forward, while the rest of us stayed back a bit to take a break. Sazh stepped over to me and tilted his head. "You must be the youngest of your family, huh?" He sighed when I nodded, turning away. "It's just not right, why do kids have to be dragged into this mess?" Yeah, I didn't like it either. Serah says I'm pretty "grown-up" compared to other kids my age, so it doesn't always occur to me that I'm just a kid myself. Sazh does have a point, why would a fal'Cie decide to make children into warriors? Hope, I think he said he's fourteen? He can't even drive! His weapon is a boomerang for Maker's sake- because you can't brandish a weapon legally on Cocoon till you're sixteen. I shook my head, I don't need to get flustered right now.

Lightning put a hand on my back, "walk ahead, we'll catch up," she mumbled to me. I didn't really get why she wanted me to go ahead, maybe she just didn't want me to hear what they were about to talk about. It was fine, I went with it and walked ahead, going close to the other two. Vanille was messing with Hope, although he didn't seem to be enjoying it too much. They're practically opposites, when it comes to being around people.

Vanille was trying to call the others over to us. I chuckled, "they're probably talking about adult stuff, just give them a moment."

She scoffed playfully, crossing her arms like a pouty child. "I'm an adult too!" Well, you don't really look the part, but I'll believe it. Her pout quickly melted into another smile. She grabbed Hope's wrist, waving it in the air to keep at grabbing the adults' attention. I had a hard time keeping my laughter in after seeing his face, while he wasn't pleased, it was still pretty funny to see his pent up annoyance behind his blushing face. He's definitely young, if he's still getting embarrassed over things like this… Unless he's just getting anxious with what's going on. My inner laughter faded away with that thought. Sazh definitely made it clear, none of this is fair by any means.

I let the thought go away, I needed to keep my focus on what to do next, instead of lolly-gagging or feeling down. While the others were talking, Vanille was still trying to get them to hurry up, I went on ahead to see what was in store for us along the path. It wasn't too long before I saw some PSICOM hounds blocking the rest of the way. Looks like some of them still made it, but I wonder if that's all of them? Stepping away, I quickly went back to Vanille, who was still pitching a fit. "Hey, I'd bring it down a couple notches, there are some guard hounds ahead."

She perked up with a gasp. "Oh, okay!" Hope seemed to get nervous when hearing me mention the enemies. "It's going to be a-okay, Hope!" Vanille patted the top of his silver hair with a smile. He took a glance between me and Vanille, quickly straightening up.


The hounds were simply no match for us now, I don't think PSICOM prepped them to fight against magic. The round I saw weren't the only ones, however, as we went on ahead there were a couple more packs of them. PSICOM were really prepared to fight- well, they prepared things like war machines and animal experiments to do their dirty work for them. In fact, I haven't seen a single soldier since the little team of them earlier, which had me inquiring if there were any more left here. Of course, there's going to be some in other areas, Bodhum was heavily damaged because of the rebellion and the fal'Cie, but possibly other areas like Palumpolum were still alright. I wouldn't doubt if the surviving army decided to head to the other cities, to try to resurrect their Purge project to get their dignity back. We're lucky to still be here, had we not gained up against the soldiers, we might be—

I had a face full of Lightning's maroon cape to cut my solemn thought off, just wasn't paying attention, really. She didn't even react, though, just standing still and staring forward. "Sis, what's the matt—"

"Serah!" Serah? Why was Snow yelling her name? I stepped to the side to see in front of Lightning and…

Serah. There she was, no harm done to her crystallized cocoon. She was frozen in place, like a painting, amongst the rest of the crystal waters. Snow had already run to her, examining to make sure everything was still in place. Lightning was still, which had me worried. Was she simply in shock? I glanced up at her for a moment before going over to Snow and Serah. He had found a large, sturdy metal bar that was broken on the end, making a jagged and sharp edge, and he was using it to dig Serah's crystal out from the rest of the lake.

Soon enough, Vanille and Sazh joined in to help. Hope stood behind them, seeming to look around as if wanting to do something too. I don't see any more of those sharp sticks of metal, is that what he's looking for? I knelt down next to Sazh, pulling out my gauntlets to see if they'd do some good too. "Hey," I called for Hope's attention, "use one of these". My hand was out to offer him one of my gauntlets, so he could join in too. He quietly accepted, going over to Vanille and working too.

Serah was so peaceful, glimmering beautifully like glass. It didn't feel real seeing her like this, she was just like an ice sculpture that never melted. The cool blue colors that were marbled in her wavy hair matched those of her eyes when she was still awake. Do you see us, sis? Are you aware of what's going on… or is it like you're just at home, sleeping in your bed? My work on trying to carve her out of the ground started slowing down, I just couldn't stop staring at her face and feeling melancholic. My sister was trapped in this stasis, and I didn't know if she was having dreams or nightmares, if she was actually conscious in this state or asleep, I was so mentally distraught. The skin under my eyes started to tingle and heat up, so I shook my head. No. No tears. If Serah really is watching, she can't see you weak… She needs you strong. When the word "strong" came to mind, I looked for Lightning to see if she was here too.

But she wasn't. Instead, she was still staying behind, and even starting to walk away. What the hell, where are you going? I stood up. "Hey—"

"Lightning, you're just going to leave her?"

She stopped. "PSICOM is going to be here soon." She kept her back to us. "If they find us, we're all dead. You think Serah'd want that? You think you know how she feels?" This isn't the time to start this again…

Lightning started walking again, but stopped when Snow began talking. "If I leave her… then I will never know. We'll be fine, Lightning. I," he put a hand to his chest, "can handle whatever they throw at us. No one will die." Snow looked back to Serah before facing Lightning again. "I'll protect her, and Cocoon." She turned, and I knew exactly the look in her eyes. It was the same look she had when Serah told her that Snow proposed to marry her, right after being branded by the fal'Cie. The same look she had when I tried to fight against her in getting on the Purge train. The same look she gave the fal'Cie after Serah completed her Focus and turned to crystal. Snow was receiving this same exact fury.

Lightning strutted forward, taking a moment to look at Snow, and then in a flash Snow was knocked back into Sazh on the ground "Does she look protected to you?"

Snow snarled, not having what she putting out there. "I can save her!"

But Lightning hit him again and put him right back on the ground. "What can you possibly do?"

"Whatever it takes!"

I was uneasy, hoping she wouldn't hit him again. "Stop- stop! Please!" I put a hand on Serah's. "How can she rest when you two are starting this again?"

Lightning was breathless, but still tried to argue. "She isn't just 'resting', Faith—"

"God, Lightning! Why are you insisting?" I wanted so badly to stomp up to her, grab her by the shoulders and shake her until she understood. "Too many people are dead, but when there's the chance that she could still be alive, you deny it? Why?" I huffed. "It's… stupid." I needed to sit down, I was too riled up and didn't need to say more or argue more.

Lightning didn't reply after that. I don't know if she ran out of words to say, or had too many that she just couldn't bring herself to say. At that point, I didn't care which one it was, I was just glad that she stopped fussing with Snow. They both needed to settle down, I needed to settle down. If Serah were watching, I know she'd be terribly upset about this, that's what I kept in mind to keep my mouth shut.

Sazh strolled away, muttering something about us being hopeless. He just doesn't know how far back our conflict with each other has been going on, Lightning has refused to accept Snow for a while, and hasn't exactly liked that I'm okay with him and Serah being together. Now we have this issue, which just worsened their tempers and decreased my tolerance for their feuding. Lightning let Snow continue on getting Serah's crystal detached from the lake in silence, Vanille kept helping too, and Hope gave my gauntlet back before sitting down to rest. I wanted to keep digging, but I didn't want to get distracted with my own thoughts and accidentally miscarve- so, I walked to Sazh instead.

"Hey."

He looked down to me. "Uh, hey there."

I pursed my lips and glanced away. "Sorry, about all that. They've been like that for… quite a while."

Sazh stood quietly for a moment, then chuckled. "Ah, don't worry about it. Family feud, I got it, I just hope it doesn't get 'em in a mess they can't back out of." He leaned against one of the waves that turned solid, folding his arms. "A mess you can't back out of."

"Yeah. Maybe we can just all watch out for each other." I nodded in agreeance to myself. "Keep each other safe."

As Sazh started to reply, a bright spotlight shone on us. I blocked the light from my eyes with my hand to try to see what was aiming at us.

"What the—oh, no no no, nonono not now!" Sazh yelled and waved at the others. On a ledge nearby was a very large, very intimidating robot in the form of some sort of scorpion or snake. It already had dents and scratches, either from the fall or having been attacking something else. The thing leaped down in front of us, readying an attack as it shook the ground beneath us. It made Hope fall over. I quickly ran over to him to pull him up and away from the enemy.

Snow told Sazh and me to stand back, Hope didn't even have to be told as he ran off to hide from it. Vanille and Lightning went up to the robot to start fighting it. I decided to go over to Serah, protect her, make sure the thing couldn't hurt her, and Sazh followed pursuit. I don't actually know where Hope ran off to, but I knew that surely he'd come back once the root was defeated. "Sazh, do you know what this is?"

"Yeah, yeah, it's a warmech! Me and your sister, we fought it back on the Hanging Edge- I would've thought that it didn't survive!"

My mouth opened. "So you mean to tell me that it survived the fall?" How in the hell did it? I don't understand how it made it out of a battle with Lightning, much less the fall from the Hanging Edge! "Should we- ack!" A solid piece of metal broke off the warmech and flew towards us. Lucky for me, Sazh was quick to jump in front and shoot the debris back into the battle. "I'm going to shut up and pay attention."

It was hard to stand back, watching the robot slash at the three below, without trying to go down and help them. But at the same time I knew I couldn't leave Serah, since I still did not know if the crystal made her invincible in this state or not. 

There was a moment that really startled me, Vanille had gotten knocked back and was barely moving after it. "Vanille! Oh my god-" Sazh shot his arms out and stepped forward. as if he wanted to run over there to help her. But instead, some fluorescent ball of light quickly drifted over to her, spreading over her body before it was absorbed. Vanille suddenly gasped and stood up, immediately looking better. "What- I- What?" Sazh was speechless, as was I. What magic was that? A type of cure or something? I need to learn to do that... It was like his brand knew what he wanted to do, so it cast out magic to do it for him. Freaky. Freaky cool

Vanille was able to get in a few more strong attacks after that, along with Lightning and Snow, and the warmech tumbled over in defeat- reduced to nothing more than scrap components. Serah's crystal was still safe and sound, no different than it had been before the fight. Sazh and I walked down to the others after they put their weapons away. Hope came out of his hiding place as well to join us, looking a bit ghostly in color. I had hoped he didn't see Vanille get hurt, but I knew better than to think he didn't.

"So... now what?" I looked over to Lightning. Her gaze was fixed upon Serah from a distance but trailed once she started to walk away.

Snow was quick to stand in her way, block her from proceeding and stared down at her with fiery eyes. "You're leaving?" The disappointment in his face wasn't easy to witness.

Sazh stepped up. "We want to help Serah too." A drawn-out sigh. "But without the proper tools, uh, we could be digging here for days. The army's on our trail, Snow. So for now, we gotta keep moving. For now."

"So I abandon her, just to save myself-?"

"What about your Focus?" Lightning chimed in. "What about banding together to save the world? That's what you promised. Now you want to forget it all and die right here?" She shook her head. "Snow, you're nothing but talk." And with that, Lightning continued to walk past him.

Snow was seething with heated anger after that, the steam was almost visibly coming from his ears. I was about to walk over to him, to calm him down, but then he called for Lightning. She stopped to hear him say, "I'll do whatever it takes". Snow promised Lightning that he would finish his Focus and keep Serah safe. Snow... I hope that's a promise you can actually keep. Lightning stood still for a moment. I couldn't tell if she was going to take what Snow said, or fight him again for saying something she didn't like.

All that came from her was, "great job so far", and she kept walking. Lightning isn't easy to read, I wonder if she really meant that? Or was it just simple sarcasm.

Sazh and Snow exchanged words before parting, and Snow told Vanille and Hope to get going. Vanille skipped on ahead while Hope tried to talk to him. Snow just let Hope go ahead, instead of telling him what he had to say. "You can tell me later, kid." Hope accepted that and ran to catch up with Vanille.

Then, there was me. "Don't wanna let Light worry too much, do you?" Snow smirked.

I was chewing on my lip, what choice do I make here? I want to stay with Serah so bad, but I don't trust myself to stay in small numbers like this. Snow's tough but irrational, and so am I. "I just... would she forgive me?" Snow seemed confused, so I explained: "Serah, I mean. If I leave her, would she forgive me for going with Lightning instead?"

He folded his arms. "Light is your best chance right now, Faith. Go with her." He smiled. "I'll tell Serah that you're coming back, it's okay."

"Alright." Deep breath in, and exhale. I peered ahead to the group as they gained their distance. "Then I better get going."

"That you should." Snow chuckled and patted my curly locks. "Go kick some ass, sis." Yeah, sure thing.


"Is all this climbing really necessary? No- phew- elevators around here?" Sazh was starting to grow on me, really, it was nice to have him try to start a conversation from time to time. It's not that I don't want him with us, but he's really not the agilest of the five of us. Lightning can literally jump from roof to roof if she wanted to, Vanille is bouncy and energetic, Hope... he tires easy, but has persistence. I'm moderately flexible, I know how to fight even if I am a slight klutz. But Sazh- he's much older than the rest of us. He has great willpower and intelligence, I can already tell, but he physically cannot withstand as much as us.

I'm not disappointed by any means! It's Lightning that I worry will have a problem with it soon. She hasn't made another comment about the group's speed in a while, I just still have my concerns. We have so much area to cover, to investigate so we do not end up victim to the PSICOM hounds and soldiers. Being caught unexpectedly again could have us end up in a tight spot, and I don't want us getting split... or possibly lowered by a number or two. Man, I really need Vanille's optimism, don't I?

Continuing forward, we would take a momentary break to catch our breath, tend to each other and make sure we were okay. Well- Lightning wasn't really involved in this. She would take a glance at me, check my gauntlets for any wear, and then proceed to scope the area until we were ready. She didn't even look herself over. I insisted that I inspect for any open wounds but she wouldn't let me.

Vanille, like a mother-hen, patted Hope's back and arms for injury, gave him encouraging words, generally just making sure he was in an 'okay' state. Hope returned concern for her, but not to the same extent. Socially, he couldn't reciprocate what Vanille was doing.

Sazh pretty much stuck to himself for any break we took. He took care of his chocobo chick, attempting to find any sort of natural life it could feed on before letting it rest in Sazh's hair. By that point, he didn't have time to run by any of the rest of us before we would have to get up and keep moving. But we didn't move for too long, due to coming across a soldier camping base. It was a sweep team, I think, based on their violet colored armor, although from the view I had I could be wrong. We were crouched down on a cliff about half a mile away from the camp, so we were able to stay out of sight- however, that distance still meant we needed to be careful.

But we didn't move for too long, due to coming across a soldier camping base. It was a sweep team, I think, based on their violet colored armor, although from the view I had I could be wrong. We were crouched down on a cliff about half a mile away from the camp, so we were able to stay out of sight- however, that distance still meant we needed to be careful.

"They must be hunting down Purge survivors," Sazh pondered, his voice low. Vanille responded, hoping that all the civilians made it out okay. He agreed, "but nowhere is safe for them now... damnit. All 'cause they shared a neighborhood with some fal'Cie- get treated like Pulse-tainted rats." Sazh beat his fist into the ground once, shaking his head with a grumble. I could see how much this bothered him, rightfully so.

Vanille seemed calm, yet melancholy. "People really hate Pulse, don't they?" The comment made Sazh sit up to rest on his knees, telling her how people didn't hate Pulse around here. People just feared it. Pulse is such an unknown yet common concept that nobody quite understands. All we know is what was recorded in history books, about the war and all. But, with politics, all these ideas could be easily biased. I wouldn't know. I've always been on the slight-neutral side, considering I've never been to Pulse. How could I hate something I've never experienced, right?

"Tens of millions of people- all scared of Pulse boogeymen..." Sazh continued on. "They'd be, well, shaking in their beds every night if they knew. If they knew that l'Cie like us were near."

I nodded. "We fear the unknown. It's like being scared of the dark, because you don't know what's there when your sight is taken." I glanced at Lightning, seeing if she understood too what I meant. All I met was her gaze being set on the soldier base.

Vanille's voice was almost a whimper. "But- they Purged that entire town!" She couldn't grasp the idea that fear was behind what happened, convincing me that she really must not be from Bodhum or its neighboring cities. Sazh kept responding to her questions, understanding her confusion about it all. He brought up the Sanctum fal'Cie, with its lack of tribute to the arrival of the Pulse fal'Cie and the Purge that followed.

"Up until now, Eden has always stepped in, to correct their errors in judgment." Eden, the Cocoon capital and Sanctum fal'Cie, what Sazh mentioned earlier. "But, I guess humans aren't worth the effort... puh." With obvious annoyance, "figure they'll just let us kill each other off-"

"L'Cie are not human." Holy shit, what the- Hope abruptly stood up, with an unexpected bold and baritone voice, making me jump.

Vanille shot up and grabbed Hope by the wrist, "listen, you, that's enough!" But after that, she went silent for a moment, no eye contact with Hope or any of us. Vanille quickly dropped his wrist and walked away a few feet. "Look, we're still alive. That's something!"

Yeah, it's... something. But I've wondered if that something is even something to cherish anymore.

The ground started to shake, a low vibrating tone was in the air, like when an airplane flies by. But, where is the aircraft?

"What? Where?" With wide eyes, we examined all around us to try to figure out where the aircraft in question was.

"There!" Lightning caught glimpse of it first, pointing out to the right of us. It wasn't just one craft, it was two- three- four- five! Five of them! They flew so close to us, the force that bounced off caused the few of us to tumble over. Then I counted even more after that, that was trailing further behind. Did they see us?  "They're sealing off the area, trying to trap the stragglers." Lightning knew exactly what the army was planning. "We've got to get moving before we're caught in the net!" 

Chapter Text

"... did Serah say anything to you about her Focus?" 

"Nothing." 

"Oh- oh! She probably didn't want to worry you, is all!" 

"Or she didn't think she could trust me." The light boot-steps faded behind me. The valley in front of us was massive, it shone brilliantly, all masked with crystal. I felt so small in comparison to the view that immersed my sight. 

I let it capture my thoughts, because anything else the others were talking about was too much. Sazh had brought up the crystal stasis, he wants to complete his Focus- bringing up the point that we still do not know what it's supposed to be. What we're destined to do. And Vanille, of course, asked Lightning if Serah ever told us what her Focus was. 

But Serah never told us. I really tried getting her to open up to me, but Serah never wanted to talk about it. 

To be honest, she told me before she told Lightning. It was shocking, I'm not the older sister, I'm not the one to be confided in- yet she came to me first about it. 

"Let me tell her, okay?"

A sigh left my lips. "You should've told her first." 
Because I'm too much of a mess right now, I thought. She scared me with this announcement, droplets didn't fall until I saw the brand on her arm. "Why am I first?" 

Serah chewed at her bottom lip, side-eying her bicep. "I knew you wouldn't yell- I can't handle two upset sisters at once." 

"Oh, sis-" I quickly pulled her in for a hug, letting her droop down onto my shoulder. "I get it, I get it." My shoulder grew warm and damp where her face lay, which threatened my eyes to tear up again. "I'm so sorry, Serah. Oh my god, I'm so sorry." 

Understandably, Lightning was absolutely furious later that day- after Serah told her- when I admitted that I already knew. That is what's left Light to believe that Serah couldn't trust her. It's false, but I knew it had to be hard to be the last in the circle. 

I was still locked in thought, staring into the frozen abyss, when there was a hand on my back. "I'm- I'm guessing you don't know either." It was Hope, to my surprise. Sazh and Vanille had already walked ahead to follow Lightning. 

Chill, Faith, chill. I blinked a few times before turning to him, "Serah... stayed quiet. Light was mad, I was scared." I gave Hope a gesture, to keep walking, while I continued. "The three of us nearly avoided each other for a few days, meaning we never got the chance to figure things out." 

"I see." His voice stayed small, so I couldn't tell if he was just trying to be polite or if he was still timid. "Can I, um, ask something else?" 

I probably won't have the answer, but go for it. I nodded.

"Could you forgive me?" Eh? "I blamed your sister earlier... you know, when we woke up. I'm sorry." The boy was apologizing, the longest conversation we've had yet and it's mostly due to him wanting to apologize. 

It was a bit hard to make a true smile come up. I knew, from his perspective, that blaming Serah made sense in the moment. I know that now, at least. "Hope-," my feet stopped, "I get it." He wouldn't look at me, though. "Look, Light will probably take a while to see it. Don't let yourself be scared, though. Truth is, anger is just her first response to everything." I shouldn't be opening up about my sister's business, but Maker the kid looked miserable and I had to do something. "I forgive you, don't worry. Serah wouldn't want me mad, so I'm not." When he still kept his gaze away I nudged him in the arm. "If you keep brooding, though, I'll have to go back on my word. Come on, we're getting too far behind." To my surprise, again, I heard a little chuckle come from the silver-haired boy. 

We caught up to the other three in a tunnel. It glittered with crystal dust, bits of yellow and white shards poked out of the walls of the cavern- pretty sure if I touched one of the shards it would cut my finger, they looked sharp. It's amazing (yet terrifying) how the fal'Cie managed to freeze this whole lake in time. 

I jutted my bottom lip out at the thought. Of course the fal'Cie could do this, it turned all of us into l'Cie and managed to scare the entirety of Bodhum for weeks. The bewilderment of the sight faded into grief. I'd rather it be just regular Lake Bresha again. 

"Listen, you, there's no need to be all negative." Sazh's comment made me pop my head up. Did I say something out loud? I hadn't, turns out he was talking to Lightning. She was still leading the group, but her head was turned down as she trodded forward. Definitely still bothered by earlier. 

She stayed quiet, instead of responding to Sazh. I was honestly hoping she would've snapped a little, or at least acknowledged that she was being spoken to. There was nothing which meant she was definitely hurt. The others didn't quite see it that way, I could tell by the looks on their faces. Sazh appeared annoyed with Light's silence, Vanille tilted her head like she was confused, and Hope folded his arms. I shouldn't expect them to have sympathy for her when they don't know her, but it's hard to watch when it's my own sister. 

I could go up to her, maybe try to talk to her about it, but she definitely would not appreciate me doing so in front of strangers. Later, you'll get the chance later. 


It was just five seconds after Lightning ordered, "stay close", that Vanille started screaming

"Vanille-!" She was in line of sight, following dangerously behind her was a winged beast that looked ready to rip the pigtail-girl to shreds. "Hurry!" The bird crashed into the ruin wall just feet away from Vanille, breaking the crystal flames so they ignited in the background. "Over here!" Sazh was able to grab Vanille and pull her behind him before the bird got her. 

It wasn't a regular bird, it was definitely some form of PSICOM experiment. Its veins glowed with artificial light, it had an electric tail, and words were inscribed on its wings in a neon color. Lightning quickly shot at it as Sazh gave Vanille a magic boost, since she managed to scrape herself up running from the thing. Hope stumbled away towards me, startled by the sudden battle. He'd have to deal with it, I needed to go up and help Light- so I did. I threw a few handfuls of fire at the bird and hoped it wasn't able to just defend it. 

It was a pattern of bullets, fire, the occasional boomerang hit, until the beast cried out and shied away a few meters. Lightning said it was charging up, for its final moments, meaning we needed to be careful as we finished it off. It had become increasingly difficult to defend ourselves, the beast had more up its sleeve than before. 

Luckily for us, this meant that physically the bird was getting weaker and weaker, despite having more magic in its arsenal. Vanille lassoed the bird with her rod, dragging it down to the ground which allowed Sazh to give one last shot. The battle was over. 

"I'm- you know- just gonna, just gonna sit for a minute," I plopped to the ground with a huff. "I don't think I like birds anymore." 

I was the only one to sit, Vanille grabbed the others' attention as she ran off. "Take a look at this!" She was waving her arms and pointing at something, so I turned my head. 

How is it possible to luck out like we do, there was an air-craft right there! It was empty, nothing looked wrong with it. I got to my feet to join them in examining the air-craft. Sazh and Lightning nodded to each other, confirming it was a perfectly fine vessel, perfectly fine vessel for us! We boarded with haste, as to not alert any PSICOM soldiers that may have still been in the area. 

The interior was not all too large, it had four passenger seats and one pilot seat, which was crazy considering that's exactly the amount of people in our group. There was a brief debate between our two gunmen, one who would pilot; Sazh managed to claim the seat, making Lightning sit in the front-right passenger seat. Behind her sat Hope, with me across from him, and Vanille in front of myself. Once the engines came alive, we blasted off to exit the ruins. 

Although I hoped for a safe travel out of there, there was no way it was going to be that good. As if they had been waiting for us the whole time, opposing air-crafts were right above us, blocking the exit. Their spotlights shone into our ship. 

We were being attacked, multiples of ships against our single one. Electric beams shot down and rattled us around. 

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lightning bolt from her seat to the pilot control panel, and I started hearing our own air-craft fight back. "Give me that!" Sazh attempted to protest but she was not letting go just yet. 

I caught sight of one of the opposing air-crafts falling out of the sky, and back into the ruins. 

"Did we get them?" Vanille had popped her head up, probably trying to get a view of what was going on. Hope cowered back into his seat and glanced over at me- I quickly shook my head, holding up a single finger. We only got one

The back of our ship rattled as it took more and more attacks, they were still behind us and were not going to lighten up anytime soon. In the pilot's seat, Sazh kept yelling at Lightning to back off, and eventually, he shoved her back. "You wanna die?" She stumbled back before seating herself. 

"Come on, come on, come on..." Nervous jitters spread throughout my body, I clutched the back of Vanille's seat and bowed my head as I kept hoping we'd get out of this. I attempted to tune out the bickering that Lightning and Sazh kept persisting. Hope kept expressing his concerns, Vanille wouldn't stop asking the same thing over and over. I eventually covered my ears and stared out the front windshield as our ship sped out of the ruin city.

Only seconds went by, seconds that felt like minutes, and we were in the sky- in the clear. The moments afterward were quiet, I think I fell into a daze as I let relief roam through me. The others were quiet too, and I assumed for the same reason. I took a mental note, Sazh is a really good pilot, Hope and Vanille complain too much under stress. I chuckled under my breath. Truly, if I spoke my thoughts, I'd be the worst out of all of us when it came to complaining. Well, Lightning could probably have me beat with her annoyed glares, those alone are heavy. 

For a while the ride was smooth, we watched the news that was currently airing on one of the channels that the ship received. The hosts spoke of the Purge, how it was 'necessary that the Cocoon citizens had evacuated' or some bull like that. The feed then turned to show a message from our Primarch- Galenth Dysley. I don't know too much about him personally, aside from remarks from Lightning. She would talk about how much of a hypocrite he was, that he was selfish. Sazh, just as Dysley was shown, expressed a negative mind about him too. Called him a "murderer-in-chief". After today, I don't blame him for saying so. 

The next few minutes suddenly went from peaceful to chaotic as we were being attacked again. I started going into a panic, becoming hyper-aware of every bullet shot into our ship, every yell from Lightning or Sazh, until something crashed into the side of us and jostled the ship. Sazh was thrown out of his seat, making the ship lose all control. 

Before I blacked out, I caught a glimpse of my sister darting over to me, but nothing else. 


I woke up to the worst headache I've managed to get. My everything was bruised. I became aware that I was lying on my stomach, before rolling over to my back to open my eyes. It was dark out, making me realize that some time had gone by since I last remembered. What time is... the ship! I brought my hands up to wipe my eyes to clear my vision and saw that our air-craft was crashed into a rock wall. Then I noticed that Hope was next to me, getting into consciousness. "Hope?" My throat was scratchy. 

Hope blinked hard as he turned to me. "What- oh, look, look!" He pointed opposite from himself, making me look back. Lightning, Vanille, and Sazh were up and fighting off what looked like the last of a PSICOM hound pack. Shit! I brought myself to feet with haste, grabbing Hope by the wrist to drag him up and over to the three. 

They were able to finish off the last round and turned around to look at us. We were all quite beat up from the crash, gaining some scrapes and dark bruises here and there. Vanille had to sit down afterward, she was still quite winded from the fall; Sazh joined her as well. None of this stopped Lightning, however, she kept moving forward. 

"What, no break?"

Lightning glanced back. "They are tracking us." 

"I know that." Lightning didn't stop for Sazh to continue. "Hey, I know that, but we," he gestured to himself and then the other three of us, "aren't soldiers. We don't have your kind of stamina!" 

I had to agree on that much. "He's right, we just fell out of the sky, sis." 

Perhaps I shouldn't have said anything. Light turned her head over her shoulder, giving me a quick (but deathly) glare before turning it to Sazh. "You've got enough to complain." 

"Excu-"

"Oh, that's- Forget it!" The older man threw his hands in the air with defeat. 

I half-heartedly expected Lightning to at least understand when said we were tired, but nope, she still moved on without even waiting for us. Not even me. "Ugh, did she hit her head or something...?" I grumbled, sitting down next to Vanille. My joints didn't feel too great from getting rattled around in the air. 

Hope finally walked over. He was rubbing his hands together, looking flustered, kept glancing in Light's direction. He's all ready to go, that quick?

I saw Sazh nod. "I'd stick with her if I were you, kid." 

This seemed to make Hope perk up momentarily. "Later, then." With that, he rushed off to catch up with my sister. 

"Mm, I should go too. Sorry, guys." I decided to get up and follow along Hope's trail. I called back to the pair behind me, "don't break for too long!" Light'll get impatient. 

Hope didn't take his time to make it up the path to Lightning, I wondered if he wasn't as busted as I had gotten from the crash- or if he possibly had a similar lack of patience like my sister. 

I could hear her just up the hill I was trekking, "Just you?" Hope had responded by asking if they should wait for the others. 

"Would've been nice if you did, sis!" Finally, I made it to the pair. "Sazh and Vanille will-" 

"-will catch up, eventually." Lightning cut me off without hesitation as she continued forward, Hope lingering behind her. "Let's keep moving, you two." 

I did as I was told, but not happily. I think Lightning is just getting angrier and angrier by the minute. She's cold, her eyes are steel, yet I could feel the heat rushing off of her. She quit waiting around, being generous with her time, and instead she just pushes forward. Doesn't matter if she walks too fast for people to follow close, Lightning would much rather be independent. Yeah, I knew this already... does that mean I enjoy it? Of course not. 

But I didn't know that she could shut me out as well through this. 

Hope, Light, and I pushed forward; we encountered different types of beasts and robotic enemies, ones that were built to withstand the new area we were in. If I remember, maps at school would state that this area is the Vile Peaks. General citizens do not come here, not usually. It's more of a material site for the army, to get resources for machinery, armory, weaponry, you name it. 

The Vile Peaks is a junkyard, to put it loosely. But that's as much as I knew, Geography isn't my favorite subject. 

Over the course of the trail, I came to realize that Hope definitely paid more attention in school than I did. He started explaining what the Vile Peaks' resources were originally from: The War of Transgression. 

The war between Cocoon and Pulse, hundreds of years ago. It struck a chord in our home, and after it was over our soldiers took advantage of the remnants Pulsian armies left. Our soldiers scavenged Pulse to fix what damage we took. According to Hope, people couldn't live near the rim because of what Pulse did to us, so we needed the scraps that were left to salvage what we had. "This is what was left: a bunch of garbage." The Vile Peaks became a debris area. 

I listened to Hope's story till we reached a dead end. We just met a wall, no tunnel or anything help us go forward. Hope suggested we go back, obviously, since there was no pressing on from here. 

Perfect moment to just sit down, honestly. I took a seat on a random steel box, really needing to rest my feet and rub out some knots in my calves. Sazh and Vanille still haven't caught up. Do they plan to, though? If they did happen to come across us, I figured there wouldn't be much achievement for them considering the predicament. 

Hope plopped down near me breathlessly. "Can we get through here, you think?" I saw him survey the wall in front of us, before turning to Lightning. 

"This thing is steep, I don't know." I gave him a shrug. I mean, for me it wouldn't be easy. For Hope, it wouldn't be easy. Of course, Lightning could probably walk right up it with no issue. 

Then Hope voiced concern, "you... know where you're going, right?" 

Lightning didn't turn to reply, but still answered. "I've been here on missions." 

"I didn't know you've been here, Light." Why didn't she ever tell me before?

"Missions, but nothing to do with the Purge?" 

Part of me wondered if maybe it did have to do with the Purge, maybe that's why she never brought it up. But she made that assumption diminish. "The Purge is PSICOM's baby." She looked over her shoulder to Hope, then forward at the wall. "Our army is split into two arms," Light started examining the junk that was collected against the barrier, "The Public Security and Intelligence Command-" PSICOM. "-and the Guardian Corps." Lightning's side. "I was Guardian Corps, Bodhum Security Regiment." 

Yep, she- wait. Was? 

"But I don't get it," I started to tune Hope out when I realized that Lightning said was, "if you're not PSICOM, then why did you board the train?" What, she boarded the train? My head snapped up to Lightning at that, my daze completely puzzled. 

Lightning didn't look at me, it felt like she purposely wouldn't look at me. "I did it for Serah." 

Now I stood up from the box. "What do you mean by, 'I was Guardian Corps'?" My arms folded over my chest. "You got on that train, why? You said you were staying back!" 

She still didn't face me. "Like I said, for Serah. I had to get to the Vestige-"

"So that meant lying to me? Making me think I was actually being sent to Pulse?" Words went straight from my brain and out my mouth with no filter or stop. "I knew there was more to it. I knew you wouldn't just send me off like that, when Serah was already screwed over because of it!" 

"Faith." Hope was the one to speak up this time. "What Lightning is saying... she got on the train to save your sister." I get that. I fucking get it. "Which is crazy. I could never do something like that." His last statement came out as a mumble, but I still heard it. 

I bowed my head. If I just knew why, I wouldn't have been so scared. Damnit, Lightning. 

There was a moment of silence, nobody brought anything up. But Lightning eventually broke it. "It's not a question of can or can't, Hope. There are some things in life," blue eyes fell on me, "you just do." Don't look at me like that. 

"Easy for someone like you to say." Hope was exactly right, it's easy for her to say that. She never hesitated with anything. She would just do anything, anything and wouldn't explain why. 

I caught a sound of irritation from my sister, and looked up to see her scaling the wall with speed. Hope bolted up and called to her but it didn't stop her. With a flash, she was gone. 

Lightning just... she just went off without us! "She left us." Hope's voice was solemnly quiet, he took a seat back on the lone rock from before. 

"She- Lightning Farron!" I kicked the metal box I was previously sitting on, leaving quite the dent. "Who the hell does she think she is? Ugh!" My legs found their way to the ground as I rubbed my face with frustration. "She's gonna get it later, I swear to Maker."