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Once Upon a Time Beyond the Void

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Episode 1. Unseen Intruders


 

Storybrooke. Present day

The sunrise was beautiful this day: sky was clear like a crystal with no cloud in sight and a refreshing wind was gently blowing. Another summer day was coming and nothing foretold of appearance of something that was not common to either the Enchanted Forest or the Land Without Magic.

A blonde woman slowly entering the age of thirty was walking across Main Street of the town. She was reminiscing about many different things that happened in the less and more recent story of Storybrooke: Cora's pursuit for power, Peter Pan's quest for eternal life, Zelena's pursuit for the change in time. She was getting used to the danger that was always looming over the town, even though she wished for a break. Now she was heading to Granny's Diner, a restaurant of sorts which was at center of many events that transpired in the past and will surely be a center of the many to follow.

“Hi, Emma, the same as usual?” asked Ruby, a young woman who prominently featured red colors in all of her outfits.
“Yeah, and don't forget—” she started but the energetic waitress finished the sentence for her:
“—cinnamon, I know,” and both smiled. “By the way, where's Henry? I thought he'd be with you after all that time stuff.”
“He's at Regina's place. Having two mothers is not an easy task for a kid his age,” and she looked down.
“You two really changed her. If not for you we would still be under her curse and she'd be that 'Evil Queen' she always acted.”
“Thank the kid. He came to Boston and brought me here.”

Ruby gave Emma the hot cocoa and went to serve other clients at the diner. Moments later Hook came sporting a more modern, yet still leather outfit: it was a recent, welcome change for Emma since he didn't look so grim like he did in his pirate garb.

“How did I know I would find you here?” Hook asked her with smile on his face.
“Maybe because it's in my daily routine?” Emma questioningly answered.
“I'm afraid you don't understand the concept of 'rhetorical question', love.”

Emma forcefully giggled, but Hook wasn't one to be deceived by simple tricks. His pirate senses were vibrant as ever.

“What is it, Emma? Is it Regina? Or Henry? Or something else?”
“I... uh... The first two, I guess.”
“They'll be okay. It's not like she's gonna do something evil again. At least not any time soon.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Emma said gloomily.
“Worry should be the last thing a savior should do. You just did what you thought what was right, even though I warned you.”
“Just drink it,” she handed her cocoa to Hook. “I'll be at the sheriff’s office.”
“Emma!” Hook shouted as Emma left the diner heading to her work.

When she was in the Enchanted Forest of the past, locked in the dungeon in the Evil Queen's castle she was accompanied by Marian. Marian was begging her to free her and Emma did it despite the warning from Rumplestiltskin that change in the events of past will affect the future's outcome. This was the price magic had. This had large impact on Emma, Marian, and most importantly, on Regina.

On her way to the office, Emma was walking past an abandoned construction site when she noticed something strange deep within: an icy sculpture of a dreaming woman in a standing position with her right hand on her breasts. She strayed from her path and went to check out the mysterious object.

“This isn't ice,” she said when swiped her fingers across the statue to check the material. “Maybe glass. What is that thing?”

Using fire magic and some destructive methods didn't help at all: the object couldn't be smashed, let alone scratched. Trying to move the sculpture was out of the question as some kind of force was keeping it at place. Emma thought about giving a call to Regina, but quickly shook it off. There was one other man in Storybrooke whose wisdom over magic could help: Mr. Gold.

Emma quickly rushed to the pawnshop where she found Gold doing some cleanup. He looked surprised to see her. It was just few days after another conflict was resolved.

“Gold, I need your help. Something strange appeared in town.”
“'Strange', you say? I'd say that Storybrooke as a whole is quite strange.”
“No, you don't understand. I found this weird ice,” Emma was looking for some appropiate word, “I mean 'glass' statue thing.”
“I wouldn't say it's strange. Magic can take more forms than you could imagine,” Gold was growing a little irritated.
“What if I told you that magic doesn't work on it at all?”
“Miss Swan, are you taking me for a fool? Anything is possible, you're simply not trying.”
“Fine, I'll go get someone else more willing to help,” Emma left the shop slamming the door in anger.

The woman wondered about other people in the town who could use magic: Gold was out – he wasn't willing to help at all, Regina – she didn't even wanted to try speaking with her as ever since she accidentally brought Marian back as Regina could explode any moment. There was one other person who could use magic in Storybrooke and would actually be willing to help: the head nun of the local convent.

Emma then went to convent where she hoped to find help. Several nuns were tending the gardens which were overgrowing with flowers this year. Emma just entered the garden when a familiar looking woman approached her.

“Hello, Emma,” she said with a wide smile on her face. “You haven't been here in a while. Is there anything you need?”
“Why yes, Astrid,” she replied. “I'd like to speak with Mother Superior. I hope she can help me with something.”
“Mother Superior... Mother Superior... Mother Superior... Ah, yes!” Astrid suddenly said. “She's at the library, picking some books for reading.”
“Thanks, and great work on the garden,” Emma complimented on the beautiful patio.
“It's a fruit of cooperation! I'm sorry but I must return to work,” the nun replied and went back to work.

Emma was a little irritated and started to feel like she was a bail bonds person she was before coming to Storybrooke. Minutes later she arrived at the library where she was welcomed by Belle: a woman of a kind heart and gentle nature who wasn't afraid to stand and fight for what was right. Asked about Mother Superior, she told Emma she was in a department with gardening books.

It took Emma a few minutes to find said department as the library was surprisingly large and lacked many information notices. When Mother Superior's dark blue garments appeared, Emma rushed to her.

“I finally found you,” Emma said. “I need your help.”
“Emma? Good day. What is it that you need my help?” she curiously asked.
“There's this strange glass statue thing in the town. I can't get to undo it or destroy it or whatever, and Gold isn't keen on helping.”
“And you went to me? I thought Regina would be the first choice when it comes to dealing with magic,” she replied in shock.
“Regina is with Henry, doing all that heartbreak things, and besides I think helping me would be the last thing she'd do right now,” Emma's voice was slightly trembling saying that. “So you'll help me or not?”
“Well then, lead the way.”

They reached the abandoned construction site within ten minutes when they noticed that quite a crowd gathered around the sculpture. There weren't doing anything dangerous apart from gazing at it and wondering about its origin. People weren't touching it being afraid it might be some kind of cursed object which would turn them into statues or do something else.

“What is that? Some kind of a freezing curse?” Leroy was acting up like whenever some kind of sudden curse appeared.
“What if Zelena is back?”
“Maybe it's another witch?”
“Everyone, calm down!” Emma was trying to cool down the crowd. “There's nothing to worry about. Just go back to your lives. I'll handle it, with Mother Superior's help.”
“You sure, sister? Because I can't see you faring well enough in being even a family savior.”
“Hey, that was uncalled for!” the woman replied angrily.
“Everyone is dismissed. This is nothing major to be worried about,” Mother Superior said.
“They're right. Whatever they'll do it will not bring us harm. After all, Emma did help us a lot. Let's just returns to our duties,” Archie said and left with his dalmatian, Pongo.

The crowd dispersed but one person stayed: a young woman with an unusual hair color tied in a ponytail on the left side of her head. She looked at the sculpture with mixed emotions: shock, sadness, happiness. She then approached the statue and grabbed it by the other, loose hand.

“I said we can handle it,” Emma answered. “Go home, everything's gonna be fine.”

The girl was silent and wasn't paying attention to the two women who were just a few inches away. Then something caught Mother Superior's interest.

“You don't look like an inhabitant of the Enchanted Forest, young miss,” she said. “Where are you from?”
“'E-Enchanted Forest'? What's that?” the mysterious woman replied.
“I'm Emma,” the blonde woman introduced herself, “and this here is Mother Superior. What's your name?”
“Serah. Serah Farron,” she answered confusing the two.
“'Farron'? That's an unusual name. However, it doesn't ring any bells,” Mother Superior was wondering.
“Do you know what it is?” Emma asked Serah about the sculpture.
“Yes, but it's not a 'what', it's a 'who'. It's my sister.”


 

New World. Year Unknown

The battle of a woman known in her world as the 'savior' against a powerful god came to conclusion with the victory of humanity. The god was no match to the burning resolve of millions of people wishing to live a life without destiny's shackles, free to define their own future. Everyone earned their peace, even those whose lives threatened the very existence of the world. And the most important among the people was the very 'savior': Lightning.

In the new world, she lived under her birth name: Claire Farron. She abandoned her moniker as it was a symbol of insecurity and adulthood which was a replacement for her parents who died in a previous life. In her new life, Claire was running a small business: she was a florist, and quite successful one at that.

The peace seemed to be eternal, but as always there is something or someone that always imperils it. The heroes of the ages past would have yet to fight another battle. A battle that won't be won with just the magical power of friendship.

“These odinettes are really beautiful, sis,” Serah complimented on Claire's red roses with a neon green glimmer. “They shine really bright in the moonlight.”
“True. They remind me of those times which despite quite a pain are some of my favorite,” Claire smiled at her sister. “Want some more tea?” she asked her seeing her cup empty.
“No, it's late and tomorrow I start classes early.”
“And what about you, Snow?” she turned to a muscular man. He was sleeping like a log.
“Running a common for children surely is wearing my hero off,” Serah giggled. “Come on, let's go get him to bed.”

After few minutes of struggle, the two women managed to carry the man on the second floor and put him to bed. Snow's weight wasn't something to joke about, especially when you were Serah's enemy which luckily didn't apply to either of women.

Claire went to her bedroom where she changed to her pajamas and dived into her bed. Shortly after fell asleep.

Usually Claire's dreams were those goofy, abstract things that wouldn't happen in reality, at least not in the current reality. But tonight's dream was something different: Claire was in a mysterious place she never was before – an empty town with a large building with clock tower built into it. She tried to leave that place but black mist was throwing her away from every possible exit. However there was one thing where the mist was absent: the clock tower building. Despite being hesitant, she entered the building. Judging from the immense number of books, she concluded it was a library. Suddenly the books created a corridor which Claire was forced to explore as the books were slowly blocking the way she came in. Fourth time in her life, she was scared: the first was when her parents died, the second when Serah turned into crystal and she lost all hope of ever seeing her again, and the third was was when she was dragged to Valhalla to fight battle that couldn't be won. She then came to a lift. As books were closing on her, faster and faster with every second, she hopped into it just before she was squished by them. The moment she found herself inside the cabin, the lift activated by itself and took her deep down.

All of a sudden the lift stopped and when the door opened it was as if she entered a whole different world. The place appeared like a fragmented cave's interior floating within the ocean of stars. Claire carefully continued her journey through the rather surprisingly linear corridor. She walked the curvy passageway when she eventually found herself at a mysterious ethereal place: she was standing on a large circular platform adorned with the images of three gods of the past.

“Is this some kind of sick joke?” she asked herself.
“Welcome home,” a mischievous female voice rose and added after a brief moment of silence, “sis.”
“L-Lumina!?” Claire said in shock.
“That's not how you're supposed to treat your little sister, 'Lightning',” she mockingly replied.
“You were a vessel for Serah's soul, a safeguard from Chaos. You shouldn't appear, even in a dream.” She then added, “Also, I cast my past aside, call me 'Claire'.”
“Come on, give me a hug!” Lumina suddenly appeared behind Claire and hugged her.
“Stop it!” the woman yelled. “I wanna wake up!”
“But you can't just yet,” Lumina teased. “You haven't seen the best part,” and she giggled.

Lumina then briefly turned into a pink-haired woman in middle thirties. Claire stared at her for a moment, confused, but suddenly she realized something.

“Mother!?”
“You want to see her, right, sis?” Lumina asked, her voice sounding almost sincere.
“But she's gone now.”
“This is a new world, a new beginning after all. Maybe she and your father were reborn here.”
“I... I don't know,” Claire replied, her voice was filled with sadness.
“You don't know if you want to see them? Or you don't know if you'd be happy together?” the 'demon girl', as Snow once called her in the past, mockingly asked.
“Neither, the idea of those who were long gone and now are alive again is something that bothers me actually.”

Then the images of Gadot, Lebreau, Maqui, and Yuj appeared before them. Gadot appeared to be fixing a gun, Lebreau was in the middle of cooking, Maqui was tinkering with some machines, and Yuj appeared as if he was comforting someone.

“They were long gone at the time of your servitude to the 'God of Light', but here they are: in the flesh,” Lumina said. “You meet with them quite often. It's as it it isn't you, being all social and stuff,” she giggled.
“They are a different case, they were alive when the Chaos slowly flooded the world. My parents were long gone before that.”
“You became such a softie, sis. It's almost a pain to look at you now.”
“Is this why I'm here in this... dream? So you could make me go look for my parents? Is that it? Or is there something you're not willing to tell me?” Claire asked, with all the experience she had she knew that was something off.

Then out of nowhere Lumina started to fade out.

“Geez, guess my time's over,” she said with her usual quirky voice.
“Hey, don't leave me with no answer!” Claire yelled but Lumina disappeared when she finished the sentence. “Something's definitely wrong. This place is the last place I'd like to be at.”

“Sis? Sis, are you all right?”

A soft female voice sounded within Claire's head. She felt she was delicately shook.

“Wha—? Where am I now?” these were the first words she spoke that day.
“I made a breakfast and came to pick you up but then I saw you all trembling,” Serah replied. “Few minutes more and I would actually call a doctor for you.”
“I was? S-sorry.”
“What did you mean with 'where am I now' thing? Is everything okay?”
“Y-yes, everything's fine,” Claire lied.

She didn't want to worry her sister. Serah already had it hard: first she was turned into a crystal, then went on a journey to find her own sister which only ended up in her own death, and then her soul was being kept inside the mysterious girl Lumina. A crazy dream would most likely draw attention of her sister and she probably would take it as a sign of something dangerous looming over their lives again.

“All right,” she smiled. “Get up and come down for breakfast or Snow will eat everything.”
“Thanks.”
“That's what sisters are for, right?”


Storybrooke. Present day

“So you're basically saying that you come from a completely different world and before that you, your sister, and your friends fought for humanity's freedom which was under control of some gods? I got that right?” Emma was assembling the information Serah gave her.

They were at the sheriff's office were the three of them were talking about Serah and Claire's sudden appearance in Storybrooke. The construction site where statue was located had a protective barrier cast on it in case someone would try to destroy it or do something else.

“Yeah, but there's one thing that doesn't make any sense: I remember coming to that new world, living a happy life with Claire and all our friends beside me, but I can't remember how I or my sis ended up here,” Serah's voice was filled with sadness.
“But how it comes she's this 'crystal' object?” Mother Superior asked. This was a peculiar material for her and was curious about it.
“Back in the old world there were these 'super-beings', they were called 'fal'Cie'. They gave you a mission called 'Focus' and if you succeeded you were turned into 'indestructible crystal' or so the legends said. I was tasked with a Focus myself and turned into crystal, they were the saddest and loneliest moments of my life.”
“So she completed some kind of 'Pocus' and turned to crystal. That solves just one thing,” Emma was thinking. “There's still the question of how you came here.”
“Do you remember about any unnatural forms of transportation from your world?” the head nun asked.
“Yes, there was one thing that was unnatural: Time Gates.”

When her Claire's two 'otherwordly' friends saved Cocoon from crashing on Pulse, which would ultimately destroy both worlds, this was when a miracle took place. Claire, Snow, Sazh, and Hope were mysteriously released from their crystal stases and along them Serah and Dajh. Despite the reunion, Claire was taken away to a world where the concept of time was nonexistent: Valhalla. She was forced to a fight against a man who sought to destroy the time just to save a girl 'blessed' with a terrible curse. He started to alter the true timeline, creating paradoxes, which resulted in the appearance of Time Gates: mysterious portals which saved as a way to travel between places affected by the anomalies.

“Time gates? We had a huge problem with that kind of thing just recently. Bad stuff.”
“I know it all too well,” the girl said. “You try to change the events so they are true to the original timeline, but at the end of day though, it does more harm than good.”
“Yeah, seems like I done 'more harm than good' this time,” Emma said with grim voice.
“Is it possible you came through a 'time gate', Miss Farron?”
“Please, there's no need for formalities. Just call me 'Serah',” the girl's face slightly turned red. “But yes, it's possible.”
“That brings another question,” Emma said, “the portal linked to the Enchanted Forest of the past, but you say you come from a completely different world.”
“Are you implying that something went wrong with the Time Gate?” Serah asked.
“This would require some powerful magic,” Mother Superior said. “Creating a time portal in this world is difficult and wicked spellcraft and to be able to manipulate it would mean intervention of something or someone with quite omnipotent abilities.”

Hook casually entered the office, holding a cup of hot beverage. The women looked at him confused as if asking “why are you here?”. He smiled dashingly at Serah, but she just turned her her down. Emma gave him one of her “I'm-so-gonna-kill-you” looks and his face assumed the usual mysterious tone.

“I heard about the 'woman in the ice' thing. What is it about?”
“It's a long and complicated story,” Emma answered.
“To make it short: that 'woman in the ice' like you called her, is a woman turned to crystal which appeared here along with this young woman. She wants to set her free and return to her home world,” Mother Superior quickly explained.
“And who is that woman?”
“I'm Serah. Hi.”
“Well, I think I spent enough time here,” the head nun of the local convent said. “I'll be going back to my usual schedule.”
“Thanks for everything,” Serah said and the nun left. “Emma? I'd like to ask you something.”
“What is it?” Emma asked, quite perplexed about Serah's sudden change in tone.
“I want to find out why we ended up here.”
“You think someone sent you here on purpose?”
“Yes. Back in our world, there was always someone who was pulling the strings: Barthandelus, Caius, and gods, all for their own selfish reasons.”
“I have no idea who are all of them but I'll help, I'm a savior after all.”
“'Savior'? Like those who save souls from the darkness of oblivion?” Serah asked, a strange glimmer appeared in her eyes.
“I don't know how it was in your world, but here the meaning of 'savior' is quite different.”

Then a bright, orange light appeared drawing Emma, Hook, and Serah's attention. They ran out to see a towering building at the city border. It appeared like a cross, or a sword, with its arms facing upwards and emanating a fiery orange glow. Serah was terrified with the sudden new building in the town.

“It can't be...” she whispered through her tears and dropped on her knees.

More and more people were coming out on the streets and pointing at the mysterious building. It was quite an experience for most of them: first a crystallized woman appeared in an abandoned construction site and not less than an hour later a massive 'tower' materializes out of nowhere. Emma's phone started to ring and every call was the same: “What is that thing?”, “Is it safe for us?”, “Will you remove it?”.

Hook then turned to the newcomer who seemed as broken as one could be.

“What is it, love? Why are you crying?”
“It's... that thing,” she said through tears. “It was... the beginning of the end... for me... my sister... everyone.”
“Do you know what's inside?” Emma asked.
“I'm pretty sure that a fal'Cie is inside... Don't approach that vestige... Please... For everyone's sake.”
“It's dangerous?” Emma continued.
“It turns you into a l'Cie... and there's no turning back. You're done for either way...”
“I'll take her to Granny's, she needs her rest after so much shock,” Hook cut in.
“Th-thank you,” Serah said.
“I may be a pirate, but I'm also a gentleman at heart,” Hook replied. “I know when I should offer a lady good treatment,” and they slowly went to the diner where the inn was also located.


 Meanwhile other two visitors appeared in town, or to be more exact, in the forest. Both were black, a middle aged man along with a little boy, both having afro as their hairstyles, were unconsciously lying among the trees. Along with them was a small, yellow bird, round like a snowball. It was poking the man on his face, but he wouldn't wake up. The same was with the boy. Then the bird started chirping as loud as it could hoping for someone to appear and help them, and few minutes later a man came and noticed the two people lying on the ground. With the help of his companion, he took them to their camp.

They tried various ways of waking the two up: shaking, yelling, and spilling cold water, but with no success. Than out of nowhere, a woman dressed like a bird appeared and startled them.

“That's not going to help,” she said with surprisingly upbeat tone in her voice.
“Wh-who are you?”, the camp's leader asked, his son and wife hiding behind him.
“Oh I'm just an old friend of these two feather fans,” and she grinned. “They won't wake up with your traditional methods, oh no.”
“Then what do you suggest we do, 'feather fan'?” asked a bulky man with wavy hair.
“No need to call me that, friend. I am Chocolina! Lady who wishes to change the world with the fountain of happiness that runs through her very veins!”
“I am Robin Hood,” the leader introduces himself. “This is my wife Marian and that boy beside her is our son Roland.”
“Oh, what a big, happy family!” Chocolina chirped. “Like these two,” and she pointed at the two unconscious people.
“But... I don't see the wife,” Marian noted. “Is she... all right?”
“The big old fellow's wife died a long time ago,” Chocolina said sadly. “But he acts tough and all parenty like. The boy needs his dad and that fellow won't allow to make his boy sad or upset. He wants to boy the make the most of his childhood.”
“I understand that,” Robin said. “Up until I recently, it was only me and Roland... But then Emma came back and with her...” he waved at Marian.
“Quite an ordeal you had, I say. Could you look after these two?” the feathery woman asked.
“Maybe you could tell us how to wake them up or something?” the bulky man asked again.
“You see, their souls are gone from their bodies but consciousness remains. I just need to find those souls and give them back these adorable duo.”
“I wanna help,” Robin suddenly said. “They might be together now, but are not in a state that they can enjoy each other and... as a father I know how hard it is.”
“Robin, you really believe that woman? Look at her strange clothes!” the bulky man said and pointed at the feathery skirt and vest she sported, along with a peacock-like tail and a weird bird hat, all in yellowy orange colors.
“Little John, let me ask you a question: do you have a wife or a woman you adore?” Robin asked with seriousness in his voice.
“No,” the man replied, “but that doesn't—”
“Then you don't understand,” Robin said. “I trust you don't mind, Marian?” he turned to his wife.
“Yes, just don't forget about who really matters to you,” and she smiled.

Marian was feeling abandoned a bit, but understood Robin, or so she thought: he told her about the true events where she was dead and had to look after their son alone. She felt lost, or more like 'unwanted' in this whole new world. She wasn't meant to be there, she only happened to be alive because of Emma's noble, almost heroic, act. Maybe the fate was toying with her? There was no clear answer. The only thing she knew is that the events were rewritten and she possibly played no little part in that.

Chocolina bid her farewells to the group and went to the town, hoping to find clues about the two men's souls. At the edge of town she noticed an out-of-place tower-like structure on the other side, but gave little thought to that. She then continued her walk when she was passing by an abandoned construction site and something caught her eye: a crystal statue of a woman. Curious she came closer, but few yards away she came upon an invisible barrier which pushed her back.

“I see you're also here, Light,” she smiled. “And not happy to see any visitors too.”

When she was just about to pass the large gate that was leading to the construction site a blonde woman called her.

“Hey, what are you doing here?” and when the stranger turned to her she added, “Who are you?”
“Just paying an old friend a visit,” Chocolina winked. “Chocolina's the name, at your service!” and she flapped her wing-like arms.
“Are you some kind of... a bird monster?”
“A bird I may be, but certainly not a monster,” she chuckled. “Actually I'm looking for something.”
“That makes the two us,” the woman replied.
“You're too looking for lost souls?” Chocolina asked.
“Lost souls? Me? No. I'm actually wondering what's this all about. First Claire, then Serah, later this fal'Cie thing and now you. How the hell all of that comes to Storybrooke all at once?”
“I don't know, maybe you have a really strong gravitation here or something,” the feathery woman joked.
“I'm not the best person for jokes, Chocolina. By the way, I'm Emma,” she replied.
“Sure lotsa new faces here, yeah?” she responded somewhat confusing Emma.
“About those souls, what did you mean by that?”
“You know, haven't you found something unusual in your tea cup or bed? A flickering light, perhaps?”
“No, nothing like that. At least yet.”
“If you find something, just give me a holler, okay? See ya!” and the mysterious woman dashed deeper into the town.


New World. Year Unknown

The breakfast quickly flew by as Claire, Serah, and Snow were eating and having a light conversation. Snow then went to the common for children, it was reminding him of the times he used to spend in Bodhum with his band with whom they kept peace within the town mainly by occasionally cleaning the woods around the town from monsters. The Bodhum Security Regiment, a local division of Guardian Corps, the Police of sorts, was not fond of a group of civillians dealing with monsters on their own or even to have an organized group which was more helpgul than them. Serah went to school where she was a teacher: she once was in her new home on Gran Pulse, New Bodhum, after Ragnarok appeared. Back then she became a teacher to teach children about why Cocoon, their former home, fell. She wanted them to know the truth about fal'Cie and how they used the great sphere that was once floating in the air as the means of getting to their “Maker”. Now it was about teaching them of how the master of all, Bhunivelze, used her and her friends to do his bidding and that every single person in the world made it possible for all of them to live free of the god's shackles.

Claire cleared the table that morning as her sister was in a rush for school. During this chore, a memory appeared before her eyes: her birthday party when Serah revealed she was a Pulse l'Cie, the Pulse l'Cie which threatened Cocoon simply because she existed. She treated her sister coldly, like she was a criminal. Everyone on Cocoon knew the story about the War of Transgression which was a conflict between the floating shell and Pulse and than it nearly led to Cocoon's demise. L'Cie were a driving force during that time and each single Pulse l'Cie which threatened them was more powerful than the previous one. And that's how fear for the land bellow grew over the years. Pulse l'Cie was treated like a bane on the world. Cocoon l'Cie were revered as heroes on the other hand, the saviors of their own paradise, or so they thought. Claire was ready to give up on her sister. But when the news of the discovery of a Pulse fal'Cie in Bodhum were aired few hours later, she realized she made a mistake. She threw away the only person that mattered to her. She then decided to board the Purge train with hope of catching up with her sister and save her. This was when her long journey began, journey which would change the whole world.

Now another crisis looms yet again over Claire's life, although she was confused with what would actually happen. “You want to see her, right, sis?” This question echoed in her head. Lumina was always the source of chaos, quite literally. Whenever she appeared, questions rose, but answers were unreachable. She was a mystery no one could solve.

She wasn't sure if she could see her mother and father. Not after all that happened during all those years. She wouldn't be able to look straight into their eyes.

Suddenly a phone rang, surprising the woman who was lost in thought. “Did Serah forget something?” she thought and picked up.

“Hey, Claire!” a voice of a man well beyond his forty echoed in the receiver. “Long time no hear!”
“Sazh? That's... quite a surprise,” she said in shock.
“Is it? I told you I'd call you some time soon, remember?”

Then Claire remembered the big reunion party at Hope's place. They were reminiscing all the moments that were lost with the destruction of the old world. They shared their contacts with each other. Strangely, Sazh said he'd call Claire in few weeks time since there was something bothering him ever since they arrived, but he didn't want to talk about it just yet. She didn't give it much thought, considering Sazh's behavior as getting old and rusty.

“What is it that you wanted to talk with me?”
“I know I was really vague back there at the party. Sorry 'bout that, flower girl,” he teased her.
“Maybe you want to give me a pink dress and a flower bucket and sell them on the streets of some nature-forgotten city?” she replied teasingly as well.
“Nah,” he said and paused for a second. “There's something weird happening with me and Dajh ever since we came here.”

Dajh was Sazh's only family. His wife died when the boy was still little. Sazh then devoted himself to raise his son the best he could. They spent a lot of time together. No matter how hard Sazh was trying his best to hide his sadness, Dajh always saw it. He knew he missed mom but that only drove Dajh to be even more cheerful. He thought that spreading happiness all around him would make his dad happier as he believed that mom wouldn't like dad to be so sad all the time.

“'Strange'? Like what? Memory losses? Brands?” Claire asked.
“No. It's more like we're loosing ourselves altogether,” he whispered. “It's like what defines us just... disappears. Memories are intact, I think, but the feelings and everything else... It's just gone.”
“Sounds like Bhunivelze's work,” she muttered. “While I was asleep in the crystal stasis, he kidnapped Hope and remade him. He lost memories of those events and was stripped of all the emotions. He also took my emotion away. It was all done as to keep me away from straying from 'my' path.”
“So you're saying that Bhunivelze might be at large again? And using me and Dajh for some evil stuff?”
“I don't know. He might be dead or asleep again. I can't know that, I never could.”
“Is this world also doomed? Can't we get any peace now? It's like we have nothing to do but only fight those freaks with wicked powers,” an angry tone dominated Sazh's voice.
“I can't help you, I'm not the savior anymore,” Claire softly said, sadness ringing through her voice.
“Sorry to bug ya, Thunder Lady,” the man replied.
“For someone with serious problems you are a cheerful one,” Claire remarked.
“Kids teach grownups a lot these days. See ya,” and Sazh disconnected.

Many thoughts rushed through Claire's mind. Her dream where she met Lumina and was teased about her parents, Sazh and his son loosing their personalities. She started to think that something was in the works but with the world as it was now she was powerless to even try to search for the answers. Even if she did, Serah would notice that and quickly find out what Claire was really doing.

After finishing the cleanup which was interrupted by Sazh's call, Claire went to work: her florist store. It was located few streets away from her home so there wasn't any rush for her. Always on her way to work, she visited the local baker and bought a few eclairs. There was something special about them which always calmed her down or brightened her day whenever she was eating one. She payed for her simple groceries and smiled at him when was leaving. Smiling was something enjoyable for her and it always cheered her up whenever someone was smiling. Back in the old days, she rarely smiled. Then, it felt like a sign of weakness actually. She always associated smiling with those weak and helpless women she read stories about. But now it was something different.

Claire opened her store and began her everyday ritual: first she opened the windows to let some fresh air in, then she watered the flowers with little amount of water, and finally she inspected her private flower bed where the odinettes grew. Those roses were a reminder of good and bad times she had with her Eidolon Odin, a faithful stead sent by the goddess to free her from her pain and guide to a better future. The odinettes were of a beautiful burning red color and the neon green glow that mildly emanated from it gave it a really mystical look.

“Good morning!” she heard a warm welcome when the door bell rang.
“Hello, Lebreau,” Claire replied. “It's good to see you,” and she smiled. “Came for a visit or to buy some flowers?”
“Flowers, gotta keep that friendly atmosphere in the café and your petal beauties sure do the job.”
“It's good to hear that. So what is it for today?”
“I'm thinking about tulips. Patrons seem to like them a lot,” Lebreau replied. “How's the business going?”
“Hmm... What do you call it? I think it's 'blooming',” she replied with a giggle and Lebreau giggled as well.
“You got that right.”
“And how's the café? Are the guys helping you out?”
“You know Gadot, always this tough guy attitude. Besides, he's a terrible kitchen help. Maqui is not much better: if he could he'd just stay all the time at his workshop tinkering with something,” she sighed, but put on a weak smile.
“And Yuj? He's the most outgoing of those three so I think he would be actually helpful somewhat,” Claire asked.
“He takes orders and brings food to the tables. I'm actually amazed how he hasn't messed up anything. But the cooking's on me. It's not bad really, I'm used to that.” Lebreau then looked at the clock above the counter: it was ten o'clock. “I must hurry. I'll send one of the boys with the order later. Bye!” and she left, the bell ringing when she closed the door.

The day was finally looking better now for Claire: a visit from her old friend and a casual chatter were just the right things to let her loosen up. She took a quick look at the woman's silhouette which was getting smaller with every step.


Storybrooke. Present day

In the town's suburbs, in a white, elegant two-store house on 108 Mifflin Street, a woman plunged in anger and sadness was lying on the floor of the living room. She was accompanied by a 12-year-old buy, her adoptive son, Henry. He was actually surprised that his adoptive mother didn't want to throw him out: after all her heart was broke and feelings hurt when Emma came back from the time portal with no other than her lover's wife. Everyone was shocked to see Marian in Storybrooke since in the original timeline she died from the Evil Queen's hand. But most shocked were Regina and Robin, the people who came close to each other and discovered the fires of love anew. Back in the Enchanted Forest, Marian and Robin were a wife and man with a little boy Ronald. Seeing Marian coming with no other than Emma, she blamed the savior for ruining her happiness.

“Let's hope you didn't bring anything else with you,” those were her final words to Emma that evening, full of anger and hatred.

Now she was lying there on the floor, crying, and occasionally cursing Emma and Marian. Henry didn't like seeing his mother in this state, nor when she was acting like the Evil Queen she was in the past.

“Mom, you gotta eat something,” he tried to give Regina a slice of bread. “Please,” he added when she pushed it away with her hand. “I need you.”
“W-why is it always m-me?” she sobbed. “M-maybe villains can't get h-happy endings?”
“You're no villain, not anymore,” Henry silently said. “Of all the 'bad guys', you made the most effort to become a 'good guy'. Everyone needs happiness. Even former villains,” and he warmly smiled at his mother.
“Th-those are sweet words, Henry,” she replied through her sobbing, “b-but I think the odds are ag-gainst me here.”
“No, no one's against you. You're just giving up on yourself.”

He then went to the kitchen and from the cupboard he took a glass which he filled with apple juice.

“But I won't give up on you,” he handed her the juice. She took it and looked at her image in the juice.
“Wh-why did I even l-let you in?” Regina wondered. “You're nothing but an annoying soothe talker, you know that?”
“Maybe because you don't want to be alone?” Henry replied.

Despite loosing her lover, Regina didn't want to be alone so that's why she let Henry in. Now she understood it, even though it seemed she was doing things without actual conscience of doing it. Sharing your pain with someone, no matter how much it hurt, made it somehow easier for her. All the years of loneliness after the loss of Daniel, the stable boy she fell in love with and who was killed by her ruthless mother, were the kind of pain that she didn't want to feel anymore. Having someone by her side, no matter what, was the only thing she ever wanted to have.


At the same time, Serah was lying in her bed in Granny's Bed 'n Breakfast, thinking about her previous home where she lived together with Claire and Snow. And she also was thinking about this strange town she ended up. The last thing she could recall was black fog covering her world.

Then she heard knocking on her door.

“Wh-who is it?” she asked.
“It's me, Emma,” she heard a female voice.
“And her dashing pirate in shining leather,” a deep male voice with accent sounding like one of her 'otherwordly' friends spoke up.
“Don't flatter yourself, Hook,” she scolded him.
“Okay, coming.”

Serah stood up and unlocked her door letting her visitors in. Emma was holding a bag in her hand while Hook was was holding a bottle, she presumed it to be some kind of alcohol since it was every pirate's favorite type of drink, or so she was raised by reading books and watching movies in the TV.

“Is there anything you need?” Serah asked.
“You had a rough start here in Storybrooke, so we thought we could come and talk,” Emma replied.
“Actually, I do have some questions,” the pink-haired woman remarked.
“As do we, love,” Hook winked.
“You're a visitor here so you should ask your questions first,” Emma suggested.

Serah invited them inside. She sat down on the bed while Emma and Hook went with the chairs.

“What is this town? It seems like Oerba, like the time stopped here.”
“This town was under a curse, actually two,” Emma replied earning Serah's confused look. “First was a very long one, it lasted twenty eight years, and during that time this town was separated from the outside world with an invisible barrier and was actually frozen in time.”
“That sounds terrible.”
“People didn't age physically, they stayed the same for those twenty eight years. But were alive and kicking,” Emma gave a weak smile. “And their memories of their previous life was locked away with the curse.”
“It sounds as terrible as what Bhunivelze was planning.”
“I have no idea what you're talking about, but I broke that curse. And not too long ago another curse was broken.”
“What was it like?”
“It lasted only a year, but the events of that year were locked away from the memories of the inhabitants of the Enchanted Forest. My memories of Storybrooke were also locked away, so I could lead a happy life with my son.”
“But I jumped in and saved the day,” Hook intruded. “It wasn't easy finding Emma. A harder task was even convincing her to drink the memory potion so she could save the day again.”
“And you did?” Serah turned to Emma.
“Actually, it was Regina this time,” and her face saddened.
“Who's that?”
“She was the one responsible for the first curse. It was her revenge on my mother,” Emma replied. “But enough of that for now. I'm sure it starting to overwhelm you. Maybe we should eat for a change?”
“Straight to the point. We should eat before these are cold,” Hook said pointing at the bag Emma brought with her which was now lying on the table.
“What's that?”
“Chinese food, good to make you feel fresh and regenerated,” Emma said.
“You have any jugs here, love?” Hook replied. “This 'coke' won't drink itself.”
“I don't know, I didn't really checked up the things here,” Serah replied.

Emma rolled her eyes and from the bag she took three plastic cups, surprising Hook.

“Where did you get that?” he asked.
“I took them as a precaution from my apartment if a situation like this happened,” Emma replied.

Soon, they started to eat, occasionally telling a joke or two. When they finished Emma turned to Serah.

“It's our turn for some questions: where are you from?”
“I'm from a seaside town where I lived with my sister Claire and my fiancée Snow. There were also four friends that lived there: Gadot, Lebreau, Maqui, and Yuj. But it was all taken from me,” she looked down.
“What happened?”
“I can't remember exactly. There was this black fog that covered our world and that's the last thing in my memory.”
“Sounds like the dark curse,” Emma noticed.
“I don't think it's the same curse as the one you had here,” Hook said.
“What makes you think that?” the blonde asked.
“As a pirate with a ship with sail made from the feathers of the legendary Pegasus I was free to travel all across the world and I can assure you I haven't seen a person dressed quite like Serah here, not to mention even a place with people in it like her,” Hook replied.
“There are some parts of my memory before this fog came that are... locked away, and I can't recall them,” Serah silently said.
“Don't worry, it'll all come to you in time,” Emma said. “You just need some kind of trigger for that. A powerful one at that.”

Serah lied in the bed and looked at the ceiling. It had a similar look to the Gran Pulse sky night she remembered back from her old days in New Bodhum. It was a dark blue color, with large white moon and surrounded by hundreds of shiny little stars.

“I think Claire knows something,” the pink-haired woman said. “She was always the one who got caught in the affairs of the gods of our old world, same as me.”
“Right now she's not much of a help,” the pirate reminded.
“Hook!” Emma hissed thinking that his comment would make feel Serah sad.
“No, it's alright. I was scared at the beginning but now I'm calm. She was a crystal twice, and she returned to the realm of the living after each of her crystal stases. I just need to wait for that moment,” and she smiled.
“I meant to say that earlier but you handle your current situation pretty well now,” Emma said.
“It's just that I know I have people here I can count on. I'll make it through.”
“We're strangers to each others and yet you seem to trust us completely,” the blonde noted.
“Especially a pirate, this kind is not easy to work with,” Hook added.
“I know from experience that friends help, even if sometimes things doesn't work out the way you think they would,” and she smiled once again.

After that three said their good-byes and the visitors left leaving Serah alone in her room. She took a shower which that night seemed like a blessing from heavens as it allowed her to loosen up. When she went to bed, she took another look at the familiar image on the ceiling.

“We'll find the answers, Claire.”

Soon after, sleep came and it was one of the nicest ones she had: she was reunited with her sister, fiancée, and all their friends, everyone smiling, back in their home world.