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The monster that was Yu Yevon wouldn't die. The fighters kept hacking away at it, and Yuna, bless her, had taken to Lulu's lessons like one born to it, raining down dark magics now that her aeons were gone. The two of them fought side by side, light and dark sisters. The whole sky of this strange nightmare world shook with thunder, cracked from one horizon to the other with every flare and thunderbolt they cast. Clouds of impossible hues swirled above and below them, and stars whirled dizzily on all sides. The giant stone sword beneath their feet quivered and groaned beneath the thunderous impact of battle, and the massive chains encircling the blade rattled ominously. There was no telling whether or when the impossible laws governing this place would fray and send the unearthly platform plummeting from the sky.

They were whittling away at their hideous opponent piece by piece. The writhing black mass kept healing itself, clawing and struggling for one last blasphemous moment of its un-life. Every time they wore it down, it drained them of their magics, nursing its wounds. Again and again Lulu returned the favor, reclaiming a part of her power from the black pulsing mass and casting back her defiance with the fury of the seas, the storm, the blaze of the sun. Yet the fiend seized those precious moments when she and Yuna were weak in order to renew itself, and came boiling back at them while they paused to recover their strength. Her friends were fighting beside her, beaten back time and time again; it healed almost instantly from every physical blow. It was no small miracle that Lulu's and Yuna's companions had not been vaporized by the fringes of some of their spells.

Auron, however, was moving like a whirlwind more swiftly than her eyes could follow, his black blade flashing again and again as he dove into the heart of the maelstrom and struck at the pulsing shape of their foe. That sword could slice through metal, tear the earth asunder. How in Spira or out of it was Yu Yevon keeping pace with him?

Strangely, a part of her wished the battle would go on forever. Deadly danger crashed around them, yet she felt no fear, only exhileration, the power crackling in her hands, the thrust and explosion of flame and thunder, her skin flushed with the effort of channelling utter devastation through her fingertips. Auron was magnificent. Out of the corner of her eye she watched and exulted in his last deadly dance, the parry and thrust of his sword, the more-than-mortal strength in his arms. Had anyone else guessed his secret? Did they realize the cost of this victory?

Don't think. Feel.

Lu staggered again as the unholy god sucked out her living magic to renew itself, leaving her empty and vulnerable for another gutwrenching moment. If she could just—

Auron paused in his frenzied attack, and suddenly he was beside her, pressing something into her hand. "Don't hold back," he whispered.

The elixir's warmth burned its way into her palms. Lu closed her eyes and mustered that cold anger that made most of the living fear her and keep their distance. Her eyes flashed open. Thunder roared across the sky, and a great hole opened before them, the very fabric of space torn to ribbons by the force of the blast. Yu Yevon writhed in the midst of the maelstrom, trying to heal itself—

Now.

Her hands clenched. A second vortex shattered and split open inside the first, and the shadowy sky of that nightmare world burst with every color, then went black, then white. It burned their eyes and flung them off their feet. There was a clash of stone falling against stone as if the world had split asunder and then rammed the two halves of its broken heart together. When their vision returned, all they could see was the last of Yu Yevon coming down in a fine grey dust...

It was done.


Yuna was dancing the Sending, the ritual to banish unquiet ghosts whose time was past. Lulu stood among her friends, dizzy with the deafening silence after the battle's end, watching the summoner letting go of all her spirits, all her allies, all her foes for the last time. Everyone stood dazed and stunned, gaping at Yuna's graceful movements. Was this a dream? Would they wake up? Would Tidus vanish now? Their wondering glances darted towards him now and then, but he stood with arms folded, as solid as ever.

Lulu's attention, however, was painfully divided. She stood rooted in place, but she wanted to step to Auron's side and shield him. No chance of that. Her powers were for death, not life. Even as she watched, the spirit-lights were beginning to flicker and rise from his face, his shoulders, and his form began to fade before her eyes.

Yuna paused open-mouthed, seeing it too.

"Don't stop," Auron said gruffly. "It's all right."

Stop. Let him be. So many lives cut short by Sin... cannot we let this one go? How dare we take what's left of him and snuff it out! Hasn't he given everything for us?

Lulu held her silence, hands clenched at her sides.

"But I..." Yuna protested weakly.

"It's been... long enough." Slowly, with the same eerie self-control that had sustained him even after death, he hefted his sword on his shoulder and strode away from them, unhurried strides taking him across the broken stones of the fading dream-world. He was fading with every step. Beyond Yuna he halted and turned back, his good eye meeting their horrified stares of disbelief with quiet equanimity. Or was he looking at the one who had seen through him, dreaded this moment? "This is your world now," he said firmly.

Just an old soldier. His armor was battered, his hair grey at the temples, and the scar across his right eye spoke of a hard life and very mortal years. But he had never truly been here, never as more than a memory of someone slain when the rest of them were children, the legendary Sir Auron of whom so many tales were told. In death, Braska's Guardian had served his daughter Yuna with the same quiet devotion, and brought them here to finish the task his master could not.

Yuna clenched her jaw, nodded, and resumed her dance, twirling the staff in her hands, spinning, dipping, leaping, painting the air with grace and strength and sorrow and gentle leavetaking, a mute homage to all of the slain, to Braska, to Jecht, to a Legendary Hero who had overstayed life...

Lulu watched, erect and unblinking, as Auron's form faded into a swirl of tiny glowing ghost-lights that spiraled outward like wisps of smoke and melted into the sky. No power she wielded would ever equal their delicate, ephemeral beauty. It was life. It was death.

Lulu smiled.