Disclaimer: Final Fantasy XIII and its respected characters are the property of Square Enix, Inc. This is a work of fanfiction, and no profit has or will be made off of the work. By stating this disclaimer, I refuse to be hold liable of violating copyrights.
Warning(?): This work features the pairing of Snow x Lightning, and will have adult situations in the future. The game only takes place in Final Fantasy XIII and will not consider XIII-2 at all. The story was actually conceptualized before XIII-2, but since there are elements that coincidentally collided, I just borrowed the names.
This chapter will have more rapid switches between Lightning and Snow’s point of view to move the story forward. As always, comments are loved and welcomed and worshipped! ^^
“When I couldn’t see a future and I was afraid. When the future was clear and it hurt to see, I’d just close my eyes and lose myself in happier days.”
With a crisp chime, the elevator door opened to the floor of my destination. I adjusted the strap of my backpack as I exited, and strode leisurely down the pristine hallway that held two conference rooms and three large offices for the leaders of the Academy. I knocked on the one at the farthest end of the hall, and entered without being acknowledged. The usually cheerful and chirpy girl behind the reception desk looked up, and pouted at me as she stood with her hands on her hips.
“Oh, Snow! You never wait until I say come in!” Selphie cried, her upward-turned brunette hair bounced on her shoulders as she stomped her feet like a petulant child, which looked somewhat ridiculous given her neatly-pressed pantsuit that was supposed to make her look professional.
I grinned, making a dramatic bow to Lightning’s rather bubbly secretary, wondering for the millionth time just how did she become the stoic beauty’s assistant of three years. “My profound apologies, m’lady,” I said, and she laughed as she sat down, waving toward the sofa on the other side of the expansive front office.
“Commander Lightning is finishing a call, so have a seat, big guy.”
I nodded, and tossed my backpack on the floor before sitting down on the sofa. It wasn’t as comfortable as the one in Light’s dorm, the leather more rigid and the cushion hard, and I wondered mildly if the intention was to intimidate the ones sitting as they wait for the Commander of Academy Guardians?
As time ticked by, I couldn’t help but let my mind drift. It inevitably focused on the conversation that I had last time with the other two men of our ex-l’Cie group. Light had already excused herself back to her apartment, but not before warning us not to drink too much despite it being Friday. We all dismissed her with a wave and a whine, so she couldn’t help but glare at us half-heartedly before closing the front door behind her.
Hope lingered his eyes at Light’s path of retreat form long after she left, and shook his head. When I pressed, he refused to say what was on his mind at first, but my nagging eventually worked and he let out what he was thinking.
“I just feel sorry for Lightning… After all she went through, she doesn’t deserve the way Serah has been treating her, leaving for Cocoon and barely calling, if at all. I think Light would want to be with her more.”
“What do you mean?” I had asked.
“She only mentioned it once,” Hope murmured, more to himself than to me. “She dropped out of high school to join the Guardian Corps when she was 15… After her mother died. Something about the Corps paying more for soldiers than civilian jobs, and has less requirements. She never said more than that.”
All week this new information occupied my every free moment, as I berated myself for being the dunce Fang once accused me of. I was the only one with that knew the Farron sisters the longest; Serah and I dated for three months before she was crystallized. Serah had mentioned that she was raised by her older sister, and therefore it was important for us to receive her approval. Prior to that, I’d met Lightning when she was transferred to Bodhum after her promotion to Lieutenant, as a “get acquainted with the local gang leader” type of meeting. Her beauty aside, the strongest impression I had of her was her cold demeanor and no-nonsense attitude. My feeble, idiotic mind just never registered that, given her age, Light was barely a teenager when Serah and Light’s parents passed away, and what strength and dedication she must have had to be so young and take on such responsibility.
And what was I doing when I was 15? Right… Running around Bodhum causing trouble and trying not to get kicked out of high school. How I graduated I have no idea, but the NORA gang all managed to finish high school before we began our “civilian patrol”. That was just several years ago, but it feels like a lifetime ago.
“Oh!” Selphie’s high chirp snapped me back into the present, and I looked up as she smiled at me. “Commander’s ready to see you now, Snow. So, go on in.”
“Thanks, Selph,” I smiled at her easily, before grabbing my backpack and heading through the heavy double door. No matter how many times I visited Light at her office, and I’ve had a few opportunities, it never ceased to amaze me that Light was able to make this office so instinctively hers, despite the architecture being ornate and overboard extravagant, the interior was clean, comfortable, and efficient. A large glass-top desk sat in the middle of the room, which the gorgeous woman sat behind on a white-cushioned chrome chair. Thin, silver-framed glasses sat on top of her nose, and she frowned as she studied the tablet in her hand while typing some notes on the display next to it. I crossed the pristine floor past the meeting area with four armchairs of the same design as her desk chair around a square table, and sat down on one of the two wooden chairs across from her. Light looked up at me, her lips curled ever so slightly in acknowledgment, before she returned to her reading. I set the empty, extra-large backpack down on the floor next to my chair, and studied the woman in front of me. She somehow gave off a different aura than when she did as a l’Cie. Still a strong woman, no doubt, her brows furrowed in stern concentration, tearing apart whatever she was reading mentally as she analyzed and synthesized the information. Yet, she was so much more… Feminine, even without trying. Her ponytail draped over a shoulder as usual, her bangs long enough to fall to her eyes, much to her annoyance, and she still refused to wear any make-up on her face. She looked exactly the same as three years ago, yet so much different.
Or maybe I could just be looking at her through pink, lust-covered lenses. That too.
Pulling her keyboard closer, she quickly typed up something on her display, and I simply admired the way her slender, long fingers danced on the keyboard gracefully. I thought about how deceitful those digits looked, delicate and almost frail, hiding the damage they could cause; especially since I had been on the receiving end of her tight fists many a time, and was probably the only one that lived to tell about it.
I snickered at the thought, and earned myself a half-hearted glare from the goddess in front of me. I smiled shamelessly in return, and she looked at me almost exasperatedly before returning to her task.
I knew I was staring, maybe even ogling, but hell, she hasn’t verbally complained, so I take whatever I can get and thanked Maker for giving me these rare chances of simply enjoying her presence. I studied the glasses she wore. Thin, silver-wired, half-frame computer lenses that almost made the spectacle nonexistent, a new addition to her wardrobe, added just recently. She had complained when I went with her to the optometry office, at my insistence of course, after mentioning headaches after staring at a display all day, and refused to even consider another frame that was slightly heavier, but so much sexier and much more expensive.
There was no way she would spend 600 gils on anything other than survival supplies and medications, she growled at the time.
“Seen enough?” she asked, a tinge of annoyance in her voice as she tapped her display a couple of times to send the stuff she was typing off.
I grinned, giving the Commander my best, cute, innocent look (which I’ve been told was just the opposite) as I shrugged, “Mmm… just five more minutes.”
“Mm-hmm,” Light dismissed my charade by standing up, and strapped her gunblade that rested on the wooden file cabinets behind her to her waist. She brushed past me as she headed out the door, her tablet in her hand as she gave some last-minute instructions to Selphie. I followed closely behind before the swinging door could hit my face, and I waved good-bye at the bubbly secretary as she waved back, wishing us good luck on our expedition.
Trailing behind Lightning’s perky ass down the hallway, I couldn’t help but notice that she was wearing her battle outfit from our l’Cie days – white sleeveless vest, auburn turtleneck, short-as-hell cargo pants that showed off her long, toned legs deliciously, and completed with her red cape and red leather sack she strapped on her hips. Even her signet of Guardian Corps was still there, which I couldn’t help but jogged up so I stood next to her and tapped her shoulder plate curiously. “Still wearing that?”
She glanced at the two yellow stripes adorning her green metallic pauldron, and shrugged. “When you’ve spent eight years trying to accomplish something, it’s not easy to let go.”
“Even when PSICOM and Guardian Corps were technically working for Barthandalus?” I asked, just enjoying her voice and casual conversation.
She thought about this for a while, and nodded, “…The Corps gave me a chance to provide for Serah, and for that I will be eternally grateful.”
I couldn’t help but imagine a little Lightning, wide-eyed and innocent, with anything but stern determination as she stood among large men older than her in line for basic soldier training that most men couldn’t endure, all for the low pay that was just slightly above minimum wage. It was no surprise that Light fought vehemently with Bartholomew and Hope when it came to intro-grade Academy Guardians’ salary, relentless on giving them the compensation and benefits they rightfully deserve, even during tight budget times. Hope had shuddered when he retold the story, claiming that he understood what Orphan must’ve felt when facing the Soldier Girl’s wrath.
And to think that Light wasn’t always the soldier that she was today was difficult to fathom. When we were remodeling the old Farron house, I found a picture of Ligh— No, Claire, holding a much younger Serah, as she smiled at the camera. She was probably no more than 13, and she looked absolutely adorable with sparkling eyes and a wide smile. Both she and Serah were dolled up, with cute dresses and bows in their hair, and matching necklaces. It was difficult to look at little Claire and compare her to the woman who took the name of Lightning and saved the world.
“It must’ve been hard to be in the military as there were very few girls at your age,” I found myself saying.
Her eyes glazed slightly, a look I learned to signify when she started reminiscing, and I had to grab her shoulder because she nearly ran into the elevator door. She shrugged me off, and my eyes could be deceiving me, but I thought I caught a small redness across her cheeks. We were quiet as we rode down the elevator, and just as the cart slowed to a halt, she spoke softly, “…It made me a better soldier,” before exiting.
I fell into pace next to her smaller strides. I dared not imagine how difficult it must have been for Light throughout those years as a greenhorn cadet. Men don’t like to be challenged, and I knew that those in the military were even worse. I often overheard soldiers in Bodhum talk about girls in derogatory terms, and more than once did I and Gadot throw soldiers out of the club we hung out in angrily after they made advances toward Lebreau that were extremely inappropriate and downright disgusting. To imagine what kind of bullying a little girl like Claire got would break my heart, but it also made me respect the woman next to me even more.
We were walking out of the Academy main campus building when I finally found my voice and asked the question that had been burning in my mind for a week, “Did you ever… regret it?”
Light looked at me, her eyes widened slightly in surprise by the question. She understood what I referred to – it would’ve been so much easier for her to let the Children Services of Eden take her and Serah and place them in a foster home, but she refused to let anyone else take care of her little sister. She shook her head almost immediately, and it took her some time before she answered, “It made me strong enough to save Serah. How can I complain?”
And yet, all I could think of was the expensive blue Eden purse that Serah loved that first day I met her, the one that I was still saving after two years of marriage to try to buy its twin in red, that she continued to tote around daily whenever she went out of the house, and a little Claire swinging her practice gunblade in a class with leering brutes laughing at her mercilessly.
I eyed the brute next to me as we walked towards the helipad on the other side of the Academy, the man awfully quiet for a change. It was somewhat surprising, the series of questions he asked since we left my office, and he had inevitably dredged up memories of the past that I would rather forget. As the only girl of my class, the teasing and sexual jests never stopped with other Guardian Corps cadets, especially when I had proved my endurance and tenacity for the job. Too many times I had to struggle and fight my way out of the congregated group who wanted to “show me what girls are good for.” For too many nights I hid in the darkness of my dorm room, the door padded with extra locks to give me a sense of safety, until I was finally strong enough physically and emotionally to promise bodily injury or worse to any men that even dared to look sideways at me.
Even though it meant to put numerous proverbial seals on my emotions until I could no longer remember or feel them anymore, it was worth the survival and my dignity.
I sighed at the memories, and my hand couldn’t help but reach behind me to thumb the handle of my trusted Omega Weapon. Picking gunblade as my choice of weapon was almost instinctive, the weapon being the hardest to master and therefore had the least amount of students in the class. The instructor didn’t care if it was hard to even lift the damn thing, let alone control its many mechanics, and he expected all of his students to know the weapon inside out. Whoever thought of combining a gun and a sword together and make them work in sync must have a sick sense of humor. But, after a month of taking apart the practice blade, putting it back together, and nearly losing my finger several times, I had to admit, I enjoyed the empowerment the weapon gave me. The respect from other cadets of a gunblade wielder and the solace from the distance that people put around me was gratifying.
The gravel crunch of the ground as opposed to smooth cement underneath my soles signalled the changing of our surroundings slightly from the quad towards the helipad, and I shook my head quickly, much to Snow’s confusion, to clear away the dark thoughts of the past. It was almost too easy for me to slip into brooding over the childhood that I sacrificed, even when I knew it was all worth it when Serah smiled at me happily, it was still a constant struggle for me to remind myself that, what happened didn’t matter anymore other than the fact that it made who I am today. Now that I was surrounded by people I could trust, I finally felt like I could relax and become… normal again. Besides, dwelling in the past would never yield any positive results, anyway, as I’ve learned in life.
I looked on ahead to the waiting transport and Sazh not too far away, the man had mentioned earlier that he would come see us off, before I was promptly tackled by a small figure with a thick afro like his father. Dajh clung to my legs with a bear hug. The boy had a wide smile that was pure joy and excitement, and exclaimed loudly and proudly as he waved his tablet above his head, “Auntie Lightning! Auntie Lightning! Look! Look! I got a 100% on my math test!”
I smiled, taking the tablet as I made a show of examining the test result, before returning the device back to Dajh. “Good work, Dajh. Congrats.”
He grinned up to me brightly, and I found it easy to return the smile. Since we relocated to Gran Pulse, I found myself becoming more attached to Dajh, especially after Serah had asked me not to interrupt her life. Hope had commented that I’ve been substituting Serah with Dajh and trying to compensate for my lost years with her by spending time with him, and I couldn’t find any argument against that. Fortunately, Sazh didn’t mind, and thankfully, Dajh certainly enjoyed my company.
The boy suddenly yelped in delight when Snow plucked him off of my legs by picking him up by the waist, and promptly hoisted the lad over his head so Dajh could sit on his shoulders. “All right!!” the man laughed loudly, “This calls for a celebration!! How about a ride on Uncle Snow til we reach your dad?”
“Yeah!!!” Dajh squealed happily, bouncing on Snow’s broad shoulders as he gripped onto the man’s wild mane like a rein. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the pair’s excitement over something so silly, and stopped them to take the boy’s backpack off his shoulders, just so he doesn’t break his Uncle Snow’s back. Snow glared at me with a smile that had a hint of something else I didn’t recognize, probably at my reference to him being old, but otherwise said nothing as he cheered, running as fast as he could in circles with a squealing little boy on top of his shoulders, before promptly dumping the boy into Sazh’s arms, the old man complaining loudly about the tactics, not afraid to use his age as an excuse as the two ‘boys’ laughed.
I shook my head as I approached them casually, holding the small, chocobo backpack in my arms. The setting sun cast a glowing orange halo around the men and the transport, and I couldn’t help but thank the Maker for my family, and wistfully wish that Serah was here to share this moment with me.
“…Your trial will begin when we arrive at the location. While I will follow you on your trek, you should act as if you are out in the field on your own,” Light cast a serious look at the three boys that sat in the small debriefing room of the transport. “Your entire behavior in the field will be graded based on the rubric you received prior. Use the time before we arrive to prepare for your mission.”
I watched with interest as the boys saluted Light before she headed to where I was, a small seating area that was designated for the leaders of the squad, complete with classified communication panels and a small sofa for resting. I patted on the cushion of the sofa next to me when Light came in, and she hesitated, putting her tablet on the desk first before watching me warily.
“C’mon, I don’t bite,” I teased, and she rolled her eyes at me before crossing the few steps between the desk and the sofa. She sat down next to my sprawled self, and leaned back against the seat in a relaxed pose after seeing I had no intention of sitting up straight just because she was there.
“So,” I started the conversation again, enjoying the feel of how close the object of my obsession was to me. “How long’s the ride?”
“About an hour,” Light answered, covering her lips to stifle a yawn. I raised an eyebrow curiously – it wasn’t every day that I got to see the tough Commander look so tired. Light looked up at me, almost sheepishly, before she looked away, her ears gaining some color, which was just simply adorable. “I was up rechecking the rubric for this test.”
“Which you probably had checked three times already, before,” I grinned, and grunted when the woman delivered her elbow to my stomach none-too-gently. Rubbing the painful spot, I enjoyed knowing that Lightning no longer stays as far away from me as possible, or hated my guts so that she never talked to me. For the past months, we’ve become closer as friends. She treated me just as I would with Gadot. I was both grateful for the friendship she showed me and disappointed that we would never be anything more. “Why don’t you get some shut-eye? I’ll wake you up when we get there.”
Light glared at me half-heartedly as she contemplated the thought, before she nodded and closed her eyes. I watched as she slowly relaxed even further, until her breathing slowed into a deep sleep. I moved slightly to give myself a more comfortable position to watch the sleeping soldier, and the fact that Light didn’t jolt awake in alert filled my heart with warm, tingling feelings that I would savor for later. It was hard to contain my feelings for her. I felt like a teenager once again, falling in love for the first time, but that was what got me into a marriage that’s on the brink of failure right now. The best thing I could do right now was keep my feelings to myself, no matter how much I wanted to tell her, to hold her in my arms and to touch her, because one wrong step would destroy everything she worked so hard for. Even if that means I would always wonder how she would feel under my fingers.
Light sighed softly as she shifted in her sleep, and whether it was a miracle of the Maker, or it was just Lady Luck taking pity on me, the transport jolted abruptly due to turbulance, causing Light to slide in her seat until her head stopped on my shoulder. It was the closest that I’ve ever been with her off the battlefield, since dragging her injured self away from harm so Hope or Vanille could cure her didn’t really count, and I couldn’t find it in me to push her away. I moved in the seat, instead, so Light could rest more comfortably. She whimpered softly at the adjustment, but thankfully did not wake up. I observed her gorgeous, porcelain face that was framed by long, unruly pink hair, her lashes fluttered as she dreamed, and her pouty lips formed a thin line that was still somewhat tight at the edges. She was always so uptight, even when she slept, and for once I would just like to see her fully relaxed, putting the weight on her shoulders down so she wouldn’t have to fight anymore.
I don’t know how long I was staring before I found myself pressing my lips on the top of her head, and I closed my eyes, losing myself in the fantasy that I had every right to do so, and that the woman resting against me was mine, and mine alone.
Trailing behind the three cadets, I took note of their actions under strict scrutiny, especially their battlefield analytic skills, all the while ignoring a smirking Snow who walked behind me and seemed to have no qualm of reminding me of my embarrassment with his electrifying gaze. While the three boys demonstrated sufficient techniques and knowledge, they seemed somewhat distracted and nervous. Perhaps it was because they were going through the field exam themselves as opposed to with a larger group. Marking another error of taking a wrong turn and encountering a fiend that was unnecessary, I subconsciously scratch my ear, hoping the heat I still felt would cool down already.
Berating myself for the millionth time about losing the steel grip on myself and my emotions, I told myself repeatedly that I must have been more exhausted than I realized. It all started so innocently – just a nap before we arrived, he said. I wanted to laugh at his ridiculous notion of sleeping right before a mission, even if it was an easy one, but decided to indulge him when he looked at me like that. Almost… warm, a look that I had only dared to dream about. So I agreed, and I had just wanted to close and rest my eyes for a minute. To wake up on the transport after falling so deep asleep was something that never happened before, and I was dazed and confused for probably a minute at the warmth and sense of safety that enveloped me. Until it dawned on me that the pillow under my head was actually Snow’s broad shoulder, the pressure on the top of my head was his chin, and the blanket that draped on me was his trench coat. I jumped away from the precarious position unceremoniously, his coat pooled to the ground by my feet as I felt intense heat gather on my face, and for the first time in years I did the one thing I despised of doing – I fled.
By the time I managed to will away the burning on my cheeks, I managed to convince myself that it would be best if I could pretend that nothing had happened. That the fraction of illusion where Claire was alive again and had been cared for was just another flittering dream. I was just having it in the daytime, that was all. The man took his sweet time to exit the transport, an amused smirk on his lips that just baited me to punch him. He strolled over to me, and I couldn’t find it in me to tighten my fist and beat that smile off his face. Thankfully the cadets came out just as he reached me, and I was more than happy as I turned, ignoring Snow as the cadets gathered, and went over the mission with them again. For this test, since there were no Academy Scholars that needed the make-up exam, I would substitute as the scientist that they would escort to the temple ruin within Mah’habara, and guard my safety as I take samples around the site. I reminded them that Snow was here for another mission, and to treat him as if he wasn’t here. While the comment was meant for the cadets to not seek the experienced Sentinel’s help, it probably came out as more irritation than not, causing the man to give me another amused, knowing smile.
Why did I fall in love with this idiot again?
Growling internally, I nearly missed the intersection where Snow would depart for the unexplored ruin, and I called out for the cadets to stop and wait. Turning to the large blonde, I pointed down the dark, untraveled tunnel to our left. “You have the map?” I asked, taking in several mind-clearing breaths before I was able to look him in the eyes.
“Yeah, got it. You sure the bombs are okay to use in this tunnel?” He patted his backpack, which was mostly empty save for the explosives I gave him on the transport so he could make his way to the sealed temple ruin that lay beyond the path that had already been opened and may contain information on freeing our Ragnorak friends.
I nodded, “Should be. Just be careful and go easy on the bombs so you don’t kill yourself in the process.” I paused, and gave the man a threatening glare, one that only earned me another soft smile on his thin, luscious lips. “Bring back everything you find remotely suspicious, got it?”
He grinned, and did a mock salute to me before walking away, waving his hand as he disappeared into the darkness. I watched his disappearing form, my gaze lingering a second longer than it should, before I turned to follow the cadets down the main path of the ruin’s tunnels. The Mah’habara tunnel had been explored by the Academy after the Fall of Cocoon to a certain extent, focused mainly on the path that the ex-l’Cies had travelled to build a formal road to connect the Archylte Steppe and the Sulyya Springs. Electric cables had run along the walls with lights hung to illuminate the passage, and the road had been extended wider to allow a larger traveling group and small vehicles. Fiends were still roaming around, mostly left for training purposes, but the site had been modified by Academy design so it became a good evaluation location for both Academy Scholars and Guardians. Unfortunately, it also lacked the threat we had encountered when we first took the path as l’Cies.
The new passageway that Snow took was first opened after my seekers had found the anomaly within the cavern, and the stone and brick wall that blocked the hidden road was blasted away by the cadets of Academy Guardian that were here for their exams a couple weeks ago. What lurked behind the wall were roads uncertain, and even though I trusted Snow’s ability to take care of himself, it didn’t stop me from worrying for his safety. The man was reckless to begin with, and even though he claimed otherwise, his philosophy of ‘charging in, guns ablazing’ never changed. My only solace was the radio strapped to my waist, which I hope he would have the brain to use if he ran into any troubles.
Our path soon opened to a large, circular dome. The ruin was a temple of the Ancients, with a large statue of some sort of deity in the farthest wall, and numerous tables of worship artifacts. I stood by the entrance as the cadets cleared the room of the few low-level fiends that littered the area, scoring their battles as I waited. The three boys were decent fighters for their level, their mastery of their weapons was impressive, but their field experience was still lacking from earlier observations. It was still too early for judgment, but the three boys should be able to pass the exam at provisional status, meaning they would need some remedial courses before they could move onto the next level completely. They might not like it, but it’s for their safety.
Once the area was secured, I walked into the dome and began taking pictures and samples of the temple as an Academy Scholar would. It wasn’t anything complicated, but I took my time, measuring each step carefully to simulate a real scientist as Sazh had required. The old man was a stickler when it came to these assessments, drilling into our heads that they need to be as close to real-life scenarios as possible or it wouldn’t count. While it made the assessment much more interesting than when I was in the Corps, it also gave me another degree of headache when designing these exams. However, since Gran Pulse was more dangerous than Cocoon by default, and Sazh had an uncanny way of nagging until he got his way, I don’t mind making an effort of emulating whenever I’m asked to.
Sudden shrieks interrupted my sample collection, and I looked up just in time to see all three cadets run one after another into the opening. One of the cadets, a boy no younger than eighteen with long, greased honey-colored hair, half ran and half staggered back into the dome, screaming incoherently. Another cadet of short, military-cut black hair wasn’t so balanced, and managed to run into the third cadet, tumbling and rolled until they hit a column. I didn’t need to inquire why they screamed, since the dome started shaking as a loud, ominous foot stomped the ground behind them, followed by a deafening roar.
“Fall back!” I cried, and drew out Omega Weapon in time to face a very pissed off Behemoth King. Arm extended in balance, I sped forward, swiveling my blade in time to block the swiping attack the beast swung towards the two cadets. The sound of claw against blade was screeching, sparks flew and burned my cheek. The sheer force of the beast pushed me backwards, and I dug my heels to hold my ground. The two boys whimpered, and I cast a glance at them to make sure they got to a safe place. Realizing the costly mistake a little too late, I felt the burning pain of Behemoth claw buried in my right shoulder before I was flung towards another column. I heard the sound of cracking when my back slammed against the column before I felt the sear. Sliding to the floor, I quickly transformed my gunblade into a pistol, and fired at the beast. The beast stopped its advance towards the two trembling cadets, turned around and roared at me.
I circled the growling beast, looking for an opening. The fiend sneered at me, fangs protruding from its widened mouth. Drool dripped to the floor, and it pawed the ground as it studied me. I bent my knees before rushing forward, swiping in a wide arc at its snout. The blade cuts into its nose as if cutting into metal, and the fiend roared as it lashed out. Its claw buried into my cape and my wounded shoulder, and I was thrown across the dome towards the statue. Ignoring the throb, I twisted in mid-air, landing and using the statue as leverage as I sprung forward. I sprinted towards the charging monster, and ducked low when it swatted at me. I swung my gunblade in practiced moves, slicing its right front leg until the last swing cut the paw clean off. The behemoth howled, and I backflipped out of its way as it stood up on its hind legs. Recognizing its raging state, I tighten my grip on Omega Weapon and relaxed my muscles, ready for the second round of battle. The behemoth pulled its long sword off its forehead, and roared loudly, causing the entire shrine to tremble. It swung its large blade at me angrily, and I darted out of the way, dancing from side to side as I led it in a circular chase. Several times the Behemoth stopped, its body spasming, an action often associated with its thunder magic attack. Both the fiend and I seemed confused when no magic came, but I couldn’t afford being distracted anymore. When I saw the fiend’s blade drawing down torward me in my peripheral vision, I seized the moment and leapt into the air. The monster struggled when its sword got stuck on the brick-tiled floor, and I ran up the wide expanse of the back of the blade. I bounced into the air and twisted my body in time to dodge the fiend’s angry swipe, though it managed to hit my thigh and its face at the same time. Blood spattered onto its face and coated its claws. I straddled the behemoth’s back, transforming my blade into a gun. I squeezed my calves and rode the berserk monster, it writhing back and forth to try to throw me off. Then I aimed my gun at the back of its head and emptied my entire magazine into its brain. Death was instantaneous, the monster stilled for a fraction of a second before collapsing to the ground, sending me rolling several feet away as life flittered from its body.
Panting, I walked toward the large corpse with a stagger. Clutching at my bleeding waist while ignoring my shoulder, I examined the damage that was more serious than I had imagined, and sighed mentally as I missed the thrill of the kill as a l’Cie, especially in a paradigm that worked like a charm. Fang would often assist me in keeping the fiend mid-air as I staggered it for the final kill, as Hope kept our health up while casting dispelling magic to weaken the enemy. Working flawlessly as a team, we’ve rarely faced any fiend that made us bat an eye. Once we got to Gran Pulse, Fang, Sazh and Snow began to congregate often to talk about different battle strategies, ranging from great, practical ideas to idiotic and insane suppositions. While never participating in the discussion, I enjoyed listening to my friends bicker and argue as they tried to find better paradigms to use, until we would find the ones that we felt most comfortable in when facing different enemies. A fiend like the Behemoth King I just killed was child’s play in the past, but now it seemed more difficult than before, especially with just myself.
“I…. Is it dead?” the youngest cadet, Tsia, I believe, asked as he approached the fallen beast gingerly.
“Yes,” I said, before turning around angrily to face the three pale-faced cadets. Along with Tsia, the one that had led the behemoth to the opening, the black-haired Maik and redhead Cerdic followed close behind, each trading glances between myself, the fiend, and the blood covering me and pooling on the ground. Though slightly light-headed from the blood loss, I couldn’t help but delay healing myself as I turned to the three boys who were no more than six years younger than me. I tightened my hold on my waist to stop the bleeding with little success. I asked, my voice heated and raised, “What happened?”
“I… I don’t know…” Tsia stammered, taking a few steps back from my seething glare. “We… We were just looking around… an… and… Cerdic touched something on the wall… and this fiend came out of nowhere!”
“Touched something?” my eyes narrowed as I glared at the cowering boys, and I did my very best by counting to ten before I continued. “Are you idiots?! Have you forgotten your basic training, or were you just trying to be cute? What did your instructor say when exploring an unfamiliar location?!”
“….Never to touch anything without knowing what it is…” the three boys mumbled, their heads bowed in shame. They knew their mistake was fundamental and fatal, and had they come here alone they would have been that Behemoth’s lunch and dinner. I glared at them until my vision started to blur, then cursed mentally as I tried to cast Cure on myself. While the low-level magic wouldn’t seal the wounds, it would help stop the blood from flowing and give me enough stamina so I could use the hi-potions I have in my pouch by the altar. When no magic came, I frowned in confusion – this location had never been known for its magic-blocking attributes. Luck or not, it must’ve been the reason why that Behemoth King wasn’t able to cast its thundaga on me earlier.
I started walking toward the altar for my discarded pouch when a sudden blinding pain coursed through my body, and I screamed before I felt myself crumble to the floor, my body convulsing uncontrollably. Omega Weapon flew from my hand, clattering to several feet away despite my effort to hold onto it. I couldn’t think, my vision was white, and the loud, buzzing sound almost deafening.
“Quick! Grab her legs and the hammer!” someone was shouting, and I felt heavy weight pressed down on my arms and wrists. I kicked against the hands grabbing my ankles, hearing a satisfying crack and my assaulter’s howl. I blinked wildly to try to clear my vision, then another blinding pain of electricity coursed through my body. My ears rang with the echoes of my scream, and whatever resistance I had mustered was lost. I collapsed to the floor, and hands were on me immediately, flipping me over onto my back. I was pinned down again, weight on my knees, ankles, and wrists so I couldn’t retaliate.
“Where? Here?” another voice asked, the sound distance and almost surreal.
“Yeah, I think that’s what she said. Hurry up!”
Before I could comprehend what the words meant, crippling pain flared from my lower legs, accompanied by a thunderous cracking sound. The weight pressed down on my wrists lifted briefly, but was immediately replaced with crushing pain that rendered my limbs immobile. My body arched in agony, but no sound came out, and I struggled to hold onto my consciousness. I was looking up at the three cadets, my vision blurred, and I was hearing sounds of something ripping. It was when the chill air touched my breasts, followed by groping hands, that I realize what was happening.
I felt bile pooling in my throat and I tried to turn to the side, even just a little, to heave the disgust I had inside. My body refused to respond no matter how much I tried, it was as if I were exiled from my own body. Every sense was veiled, even my own emotions. I didn’t understand why this was happening, or how. The hands on my body were rough and painful, squeezing, pinching, and touching everywhere, and each nauseating second made me wish either these three cadets or I had been killed by the behemoth. I continued to fight against my own body, willing this betraying shell to move. When I finally found purchase to swing my broken hand and broke someone’s nose, the weights that pushed down on me all suddenly left. I shook my head to clear my vision, and saw the radio that was thrown a couple feet away. I focused my tunneled vision as I tried to move towards it, yet before I could reach it, the same paralyzing pain coursed through my body again. The radio by my fingertip was kicked away before it exploded before my eyes, the bullet hole in the center as if it was mocking my situation.
The men were on me once again, and I heard the shot shattering my remaining good shoulder blade before feeling the pain. Somehow the pain seemed dull compared to earlier, but I knew both my arms were immobile when I tried to use them again. When I tried to kick again, the weight on my thighs promptly shifted to press down on the broken calves, until I couldn’t move those either.
For the first time in my life, I was scared, and hopeless.
When I felt something penetrate me forcefully, all I could see was Snow in my eyes, before he was shattered into a thousand pieces as darkness finally took me into its embrace mercifully.
Adjusting the straps of my backpack, I grunt at the weight of all the artifacts that I stuffed in the poor container. The shrine was smaller than the one Light and the cadets went to, with a small statue of an unknown deity, a bookshelf filled with scrolls written in Ancient script, and an altar with ceremonial artifacts. Following orders, I took pictures of the shrine as thoroughly as possible, then managed to grab nearly everything except a couple of extremely heavy items. Glancing at my watch, I wondered if Light had finished the exam. Maybe one of her three minions will help me carry this stuff so I won’t get welts on my poor shoulders before we get back.
My mind inevitably wandered to earlier, the wondrous hour when Light fell asleep against me. The feel of her weight against my body, the rise and fall of her chest, and the little sound she made when she shifted in her sleep was like a thin, silky thread, and with each second that passed it entwined around my heart until it ached in bittersweet longing. Yet, I couldn’t find it in me to complain, and relished the brief moment of embracing Light in my arms when I wrapped my trenchcoat around her. The stolen kiss to her head would be something that I would relive for a very long time. I was almost afraid of myself, with my feelings for the Commander growing exponentially whenever I spend time with her. It was almost frightening, this attraction for her, especially when I am the last person that has any right to love her, other than being her brother-in-law.
As my uplifted mood of remembering the feel of tight muscle hidden under smooth skin of the beauty turned into depression of yet another repeated reminder that I am Lightning’s “brother”, I was confused momentarily by the lack of people in the larger shrine where Light should be with the cadets. Surely they would wait for me and not go back to the transport yet, I hope? Placing the heavy backpack down, I scanned the dome-shaped shrine. My eyes widened at the corpse of a Behemoth King that lay across the entrance of the temple blocking the rest of the room. While the beast was native to the area, they never come into the tunnels since they couldn’t move comfortably in tight quarters. It was one of the things that Light and Fang drilled into my brain – always remember the fiends native to a place so you can always be prepared. Side-stepping the beast, I was immediately on heightened alert when I saw Omega Weapon discarded on the floor. I picked up the fallen gunblade, and tighten my fist as I walked slowly towards the other corner of the shrine, being cautious of any fiends that may be lurking nearby. My mind was going crazy at possible thoughts of why Light wouldn’t have her gunblade with her. Is she okay? Is she hurt? Is she facing a fal’Cie or something greater? What’s going on?
I felt my breath quicken in near hysterics as I turned the corner, and stilled when I near a secluded column and heard noises that sounded like the cadets. For a moment, I couldn’t understand what it was I was hearing.
“Would you hurry up?” I heard sounds of panting first, before one growled in excitement. My brows furrow in confusion.
“Man, she’s tight,” with that, I paled. The reality of what might be happening dawned on me before I witnessed the cruel scene in front of me. It was only a fraction of a second before I attacked the cadet closest to me, but the sight was forever burned into my mind. Once the man was pulled off of her, I could barely recognize my beautiful and vibrant Light as the battered, naked body on the floor. Blood pooled beneath her and covered her inner thighs, her legs and hands were twisted at abnormal angles, and her brilliant rose hair stained in crimson by dried blood. There was so much blood, and her face was so pale that had it not been for her wheezing, shallow breathing, I would’ve thought she was gone already. My ethereal warrior Goddess was defiled, by monsters that only deserve death.
Something inside me snapped, of what I had no idea. Before I realized what was happening, my fists connected with one bastard’s head and another’s abdomen, sending them flying in two directions and knocking against the columns nearby. I pulled the third off of Light by his throat, the fucker kicking and gagging as he tried to pry my hand off. Annoyed, I tightened my hand, the cracking sound of the bastard’s neck snapping extremely gratifying. It was an odd, surreal feeling, this burning fire of rage inside me that threatened to destroy everything in sight, very similar if not more than the time I saw Serah’s crystallized form, yet everything I did was as if I was just going through motions not my own. I could almost hear the beckoning of Fal’cie in my mind, calling and murmuring the powers they could promise if I would just say yes. But Light’s large, soulless eyes that stared up at the ceiling, not registering, ground the vehemence in my heart. Walking towards the son-of-a-bitch backing away from me, I couldn’t hear the words out of his mouth as I put a bullet between his eyes, thinking mildly to myself that the recoil of a gunblade wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. Kicking the corpse aside, I walked almost casually towards the other jerk who was also backing away from me, the stink of his wetted pants scarcely registered to my senses.
“No! Please! D-… Don’t…. Don’t kill me!!” he shrieked, his high-pitched voice rang in the empty shrine. “I… I’ll tell you everything!!”
“Like what?” I asked, my voice oddly not the one I’m used to. It’s more… guttural. Not unlike a behemoth. Was that my voice?
“She put us to it!! She gave us everything!!” the soon-to-be-dead man rambled, his retreating form finally stopped when his back slammed against the wall. “She gave us everything! The magic neutralizer, the taser, the hammer… we just had to steal a fiend summoner… And the plan! She planned everything!!”
I tilted my head, wondering why my vision had a red hue to it. I knew I didn’t have any head wounds, and the disgusting blood hadn’t splattered onto my face. “And who’s ‘she’?”
“I don’t know!” the man gasped when I extended my foot, and ground my heel into his genitalia. He screamed in pain, cursing as he clawed at my leg, and I felt myself smiling.
“Better talk quick,” I grinned, the scent of blood making my blood boil in excitement.
“It was some chick at the bar,” when I twisted my foot for fun, he screamed before hurrying to complete his sentence, “The Scrunge! South slum of Academia! Pink hair, blue eyes, young!”
Suddenly, I forgot how to breathe. Sounds and smells rushed back to my senses, and suddenly everything felt so horrifyingly real. “No,” I heard myself whimpering, my body trembling in fear as I stared at the gunblade in my hand. “No, no, no, no…”
Somehow I held my head in my hands and covered my ears, trying to block away the voice of this piece of shit in front of me. He must have been lying, that must have been it, but why did he keep spewing descriptions that only matched the one person that I knew? And he kept talking and talking, despite my pleas of silence that went unheard, about the plan that the woman told him, of Light’s tolerance to electricity that no one outside of the ex-l’Cies knew about, and that they must use extra high voltage when they incapacitate her. They knew exactly where to hit on her legs, the once-broken limbs that were patched by Vanille, but never had the chance to rest, so on colder days she would wince in pain. Things only those who lived with her after the Fall knew. Why wouldn’t he shut up?!
“Please… let me go….” the scumbag begged, and I looked up from my crouched position, how I got that way I had no idea. I stood, and studied the boy who was merely a few years junior to me like an alien, those eyes, nose, and mouth couldn’t form a human face to me. I heard the gunblade go off in my hand, and saw him finally stop talking, the hole in his right eye spurting out blood that splattered onto my face.
Not bothering to wipe the crimson liquid off my face, I stared at the corpse for a bit, relishing in the blessed silence before Light’s wheezing breath snapped me back to reality. I whipped around, and ran to the prone body on the floor. Ripping off my trenchcoat as I knelt down next to Light, I gently picked her up in my arms. She stiffened when I first touched her body, and I froze in fear, but she shifted her lifeless eyes at me just briefly before she closed them. She breathed out shaggily before she relaxed and allowed me to wrap my arms around her. I lifted her up, tightening my hold on her battered body, and hurried out of the shrine. I stopped at the crossroad right outside of the shrine, the decision was immediate and clear to me. Taking the path opposite of where the transport was, it was mere moments before I saw daylight of the Sulyyah Springs. I found a spot near the stream that I remembered had strong, fiend-repelling magic, and nearly collapsed against the nearby wall, all the time careful to not let any sudden movement agitate Light in her blissful unconsciousness.
I fumbled around in the pocket of my trenchcoat. Now wrapped around Light like a blanket would a child, the large outfit made her look so small and fragile. Her face that was flushed with life only hours ago now paler than my coat, I felt my broken heart ache even further. Fishing out my cell phone, I speed dialed one of the few numbers programmed to it. My eyes were glued on the fallen Goddess, monitoring her breathing and scared half to death of the blood that seeped through my coat and onto my hand. I kept redialing the number when it went into voice mail, praying to the Maker under my breath that she would just keep breathing until a very irritated Hope Estheim came on the phone.
“What?!” the boy hissed in a hushed tone, “I’m in a meeting, dammit!”
“Hope,” I said, finding my voice eerily calm. “I need you, now.”
“Snow?” Hope seemed stunned by my tone, and I heard him excuse himself out of whatever meeting he was in. Soon the background noise faded, and his voice returned to its normal volume. “What is it?”
“Remind me how I should do cure magic,” I said, my mind surprisingly clear on what I need to do to help the woman in my arms. “And I need you to take an aerobike and come to the southern side of Sulyyah Springs, near the Mah’habara tunnel exit where we rested for two nights in the past. Bring your best med kit, as many bags of Light’s blood as you can, and a portable scanning machine. Don’t tell anyone.”
It took nearly a minute before Hope responded to my demands, his voice had a light tremor to the edge, “Close your eyes and dig deep into your body like you would calling an Eidolon. Your powers should be there,” he paused as I breathed in, my eyes closed as I followed his instructions. “Instead of attacking, think of it as a cleansing, healing energy, and send it out to Light, gently so you don’t hurt her. Almost as if you’re… caressing her with your mind.”
For a moment I almost couldn’t control my powers, the anger, betrayal, hurt, and sadness inside nearly overwhelmed my mind as my powers flared like a volcano ready to erupt. Hope’s voice was the only thing that guided me, he probably heard it in my shallow breaths that I wasn’t ready to heal anyone but better off maiming, and he kept his cool, calming voice going until I finally heard Light’s breath hitch, her body accepting my lifeforce into her and guiding my soul to travel through her body. It almost felt like she was clinging onto me, and for whatever it was worth, I tried to tell her that she was safe, that she would be okay, and I would be here with her, always.
“I’ll be there in 40 minutes,” Hope’s voice came from a distance, and I nodded, not caring if he couldn’t see me. He disconnected quickly, and all I could concentrate on was transferring whatever healing power I have inside me into Light. I was never a mage, my pathetic healing powers often got laughed at in our past travels, so of course I couldn’t heal any of her injuries now even as I try. My lifeforce was only enough to sustain her as she continued to bleed, but thankfully the bleeding had slackened as her own body slowly began to repair itself. Had it not been for my ex-l’Cie status, it wasn’t hard to imagine that Light would soon expire due to blood loss.
And for the first time in my life, I was thankful to Balthandalus for making me a l’Cie.
—To Be Continued
Author’s Note: This chapter is actually kind of fun to write, especially the fighting part. I learned quite a lot when doing research about writing fighting scenes, and I’m sure my attempt was amateur at best. But it was interesting to read about the how and try it out, so for that I’m pleased. I hope you enjoyed it too and that I didn’t butcher it that badly.
Thank you to all who left me reviews for the fic! I really love receiving reviews, as it gives me a chance to interact with readers and sometimes are even inspired by questions. So thank you thank you! ^^
Kind of proud that I was able to publish this chapter within May. I actually thought I wouldn’t be able to until June, but it’s nice to be on track. Hopefully the next chapter will be released in time as well! Until then, see you next chapter! ^___^