// L’cie// Story: Twilight the Traveler// by ilbgar//——————————//
AN: This story will be a sort of meta-crossover. I don’t know why you wouldn’t already realize this, but I don’t own anything in here and it will contain spoilers. Specifically for Final Fantasy XIII, XII, IV, III, and VII, not necessarily in that order. Though I can guarantee XIII being first. As well as spoilers for Lord of the Rings, and that’s just what I have planned so far. There will be anime in here too. I will mostly use video games and shorter anime as the worlds she’ll visit, though OCs might exist.
Each individual ‘world’ will have an exposition to explain the world’s background as well as how she knows these characters, then delve into the main story-line.
The parallel worlds in this story act like how I think other dimensions would act, separate timelines of universal evolution, they do not affect each other without direct interference from someone in one of them. However, unlike other dimensions, the laws of physics will be virtually identical. Alternate timelines may come up if there’s an idea I want to try out that didn’t make it the first time through a world.
There will also be some head-canon, though only intended to flesh things out a bit, and an overpowered protagonist who will eventually become god-like, while slowly becoming a bit darker. I’m writing this purely for my own entertainment, you can read and/or comment or not as you please. This is my first story that I’ve actually planned to put online. So, now that you’ve been warned, let the story begin!
Twilight had been sent to a parallel world by Cadance after Twilight had confronted her at the wedding rehearsal. That was when she’d realized that this wasn’t the real Cadance she was dealing with, Cadance didn’t solve her problems like that. Cadance had never been able to stand seeing anyone with anything resembling a bond fight, never-mind Twilight and her brother. She’d have cast a spell to calm them down, then had them talk the issue out. Assuming she wasn’t under some kind of spell, the Cadance she’d encountered was not the real thing. ‘Pre-wedding jitters’ didn’t account for Cadance suddenly developing a personality more similar to Blueblood’s than what she remembered. Nostalgia might have colored her perception a bit, but unless she’d misheard and misinterpreted every action and conversation she’d had with Cadance, she couldn’t be that wrong.
At any rate, she’d ended up a biologically four-year-old human girl, her outfit was a light blue shirt, a dark blue skirt, which matched her hair in color and had the starburst of her cutie mark on it, a pair of knee-high white boots, and a lavender backpack. Her lack of a horn would have freaked her out if her magic wasn’t fine, which was actually a bit perplexing, but she wasn’t going to question it, (she didn’t really have anything to experiment on it with, even if she was willing to mess around with the most temperamental function of her own body, which she wasn’t.) Anyway, she didn’t see why she should worry about her magic being intact. The odds of the cause being sinister when her magic felt exactly the same as before were… low. No one knew her magic better than her, so anyone skilled enough to fake her magic would be so far beyond her level that they’d have no trouble beating her in a fight, as such she tried not to think about it.
As for why she was human, she suspected that the same laws that had reversed her aging had also changed her into the dominant local species. That, or her species simply became human upon entering dimensions with humans. Of course, the fact that she’d been unwillingly ejected from her home reality might have something to do with it. It might be a problem if she ended up remaining human on her return to Equestria. Then again, if she’d figured out a way to return, then having been turned into a different species would be a minor problem compared to finding her reality across the infinitely vast multiverse.
She’d appeared in the city of Bodhum, a seaside town famous for its long white beaches and the annual fireworks display, and was a popular tourist destination, in the world of Cocoon, an apt name, since the people inhabiting the artificially made floating planetoid (which was hollow, with several million inhabitants living inside of the sphere) were utterly dependent on the fal’cie, god-like beings that did everything from making clothes and food, to managing the weather. They appeared to be very complex magical constructs to her, which raised the question of how exactly such beings were created. She couldn’t find any information on it in public channels such as the library or ‘internet’, and (taking advantage of her biological youth to ask questions about the world that would have sounded strange from an adult or even a child of 10 or older) no one she asked seemed to know either, which struck her as very suspicious. These people sure trusted the fal’cie a lot considering how little they knew of the origins of their benefactors. She would need to investigate.
The irony of that last thought did not escape her. Princess Celestia had intentionally allowed her origins to fade into legend to make the elements more difficult to find. The book about them from the Ponyville Library was one of less than a dozen copies in all of Equestria. It was not a coincidence she’d sent her personal student to the town closest to where the elements rested on the eve of Nightmare Moon’s return. The princess knew she hadn’t been able to beat or reason with Luna last time, and she was not confident in her abilities to do so this time. Thus, she’d gambled on Twilight not being too stubborn to realize how her companions had decided to be her friends, whether she liked it or not. Besides, she’d known Princess Celestia longer than anyone who wasn’t Luna, and spent more time around her teacher than anyone else. The Princess kept secrets from her, sure, but if the Princess didn’t want to share things from a past stretching back over 1000 years, who was she to pry? Besides, the ponies didn’t leave literally everything to the fal’cie.
She’d been put in a Sanctum facility, (the Sanctum was a theocracy with absolute legislative, executive and judicial power, although the fal’cie built Cocoon, they only rarely participated in its affairs, at least officially, which she suspected was only true if looked at in a certain light) because, as far as they knew, she was an orphan. Not that they were likely to believe her story if she told them otherwise, though they might just decide to experiment on her if they did happen to believe her and decided they wanted to figure out how to learn magic without having to fake it, so she was understandably leery of attempting to tell them.
She’d taken an interest in swordplay after seeing how effective it could be when a teenage girl with pink hair had overpowered her instructor in the use of her weapon. The man had laughed it off and said he didn’t have much left to teach her if she was better than him already, though the girl had been fairly stoic throughout the affair. Twilight had proven talented in the use of the weapon, though she also carried a pistol. She simply didn’t feel comfortable without a form of at least medium range defense.
The main reason she wanted to be able to defend herself without magic was that the magic she knew was at a disadvantage at close range. She’d learned that the hard way when the fake had snuck up behind her and smacked her over the head, then sent her here while she was dazed. If she’d been better at more physical means of dealing with threats instead of merely having a passing knowledge of the physical side of self-defense, she’d never have been sent to another world, though there was another reason she used non-magical means of fending off assault as well.
She couldn’t use magic in public because the people here were xenophobically afraid of it, though not without some cause. There was a world below Cocoon known as Pulse with fal’cie of it’s own. Several centuries ago, there had been a war between the two, which had cracked the shell of Cocoon. This war, known as the War of Transgression, had left deep scars in the form of an almost pathological terror of Pulse, and a few artifacts scattered across Cocoon. Though the giant garbage dump that was the Vile Peaks probably had more than a few buried secrets. She highly doubted the military simply missed the machines wandering the wasteland despite their periodic purges, which she was nearly certain were from Pulse. The alternative was that they were built by the Sanctum to deter scavengers or people curious about Pulse and hoping to get something out of the pieces taken to repair Cocoon, but she highly doubted that was the case.
There was a logical reason behind this terror though. The fal’cie had the ability to turn people into servants known as l’cie against their will. A person turned into a l’cie gained the use of magic, something humans generally lacked, but had to complete a task or be turned into a mindless monster, a cie’eth, doomed to wander the world until they turned to dust after their corrupted bodies could continue no longer. If they did complete their task, or Focus, they would be turned to crystal and supposedly gain eternal life.
Supposedly being the operative word, there was no mention of how long exactly a person would remain crystal, or if becoming a crystal was even continuing to live. Still, the whole ‘Pulse is the source of all evil’ thing was a bit hard to swallow, even by a large portion of the citizens of Cocoon native to it, with whom she found a few kindred spirits. However, that wouldn’t stop people from being spooked if she performed magic. She could probably prove that she wasn’t a l’cie fairly quickly, but then she ran the risk of being experimented on to figure out her powers. Magic without becoming an unwilling sacrifice or having to use technology to partially mimic it’s effects was likely too good for the government too pass up. There was a chance she’d be treated well, but the risk was too great for her to chance it.
She spent her days practicing with her sword, and eventually instructing on it’s use at NORA, as of roughly age 10, a group founded by Snow, Yuj, Maqui, Gadot, and Lebreau, fellow residents of the Sanctum facility. The name stood for ‘no obligations, rules or authority’. She wasn’t an official member, but they seemed to consider her one. It was a common joke among the official military branches that NORA members used swords instead of guns, but they generally used both unless they happened to excel in one or the other.
Lebreau, for example, was a decent sniper, though Yuj was a better shot than any of them at close-range (20 feet or so). Gadot used a heavy broadsword, taking advantage of his strength and it’s weight to strike down opponents he tended to soften up with a grenade beforehand, while Maqui preferred a rapier, landing three hits for each of Gadot’s, though he still did less damage overall and usually wore down his enemies with a lot of small wounds as opposed to a lot of big ones and avoiding being hit in return as he was much less durable than Gadot or Snow. Snow fought with his bare hands, with the occasional hand grenade used to stun his enemies or reduce them to pulp depending on their toughness, though he had his strength augmented with the same kind of technology used to mimic magic.
It was worth noting that some of the more level-headed (in combat at least) members had joined after hearing that she taught here, and these members were mostly the contacts of hers who shared her deep-seated mistrust of the Sanctum. They felt it best to join a group independent of the Sanctum, and the presence of more than a few like-minded individuals was icing on the cake. This group was mostly composed of medics and technicians, as few were confrontational people by nature, and served to patch up the combatants of NORA and maintain their gear. Though the small number of hackers trawled Sanctum channels for potential threats as Psicom was annoyed by their activities independent of the government. The Guardian Corps was fairly ambivalent. As long as they didn’t directly hinder GC forces, they didn’t care.
While some people were a bit put off by being instructed by what they believed to be a child, she quickly changed their opinion, she wasn’t a master, but she was a firm believer in practice makes perfect, and she practiced a fair amount, the near-daily sparring certainly didn’t hurt either. She was also going through the numbers for a way home for approximately an hour a day, and, when she reached the age of thirteen, working at the local library. She practiced with her magic when she was absolutely certain no one was around.
Her power seemed to have increased a fair amount since the time before she was sent here, thanks to having practiced in secret, and being given a decade or so to let her core grow. Magical cores were technically only where the magic collected, much like blood in the heart, but a larger magical core meant a greater amount could be channeled at once, essentially ‘pumping’ more magic in one instant. Magical cores grew with the use of magic, and over time. Thus, mages grew stronger with age unless they didn’t use magic at all, at least as a general rule. This was part of what made the princesses so powerful.
She was now fourteen and she’d finally finished crunching the numbers to return to her home reality, she was setting her affairs in order at this point, she’d probably come back one day if this wasn’t a one-way trip, but first she had to deal with Cadance’s impostor. She wanted to clean up the mess at home first before trying very hard to unravel the web here. She was pretty sure she’d need some support from home if she wanted to reach the heart of the corruption that seemed to be rooted in the Sanctum. As such she’d informed the others she’d be gone for a couple days, and been a bit out-of-touch with them. She didn’t exactly carry a phone around, too easy to track if her hacking was traced. She was careful to avoid leaving a trail, but someday she might go too deep and find something they didn’t want her to know badly enough to kill over. For example, she’d gotten access to the blueprints for several of the less powerful pieces of military tech, she simply lacked the resources to build one herself. She was pretty sure they could execute her for that, but she honestly hadn’t known what was in the file, though with the name ‘Scorpion’ perhaps she should’ve guessed.
She thought over all this as the rest of her mind worked at managing the library. She mainly just sorted the books and gave directions, but she still took some pride in her work. To her delight, there were somewhat more people than usual in the library today. She was a bit curious as to why this was, but enjoyed it nonetheless. Still, there were some rumors floating around that the Vestige by the Hanging Edge was under government investigation. It was a relic of days before the War of Transgression, located near Cocoon’s outer rim. The area was once a thriving metropolis, but residents were forced to abandon the location when Cocoon’s shell was cracked during the war. It was since designated a restricted zone and, with civilian access prohibited, soon became nothing more than a spot you were supposed to avoid, though the more curious or adventurous sometimes visited it to have a look. Nothing to raise the government’s suspicions though, especially after so long. Come to think of it that might be why, the history section had seen most of today’s visitors after all. …Why did she suddenly have a bad feeling? The Vestige might be from Pulse but- Oh. Oh no.
Suddenly the doors burst open and a squad of Psicom soldiers, Psicom being an acronym for Public Security and Intelligence Command, trooped in. Psicom was an army division tasked with fending off Pulsian attacks. Suddenly she had a much worse feeling. What were they doing here? Please be an evacuation and not a hit squad.
Her question was answered in the next few moments, “Attention all Bodhum residents, a Pulse fal’cie was discovered within the city, all potentially contaminated citizens are to be deported to Pulse.” the squad captain yelled over a megaphone. Oh, good, not a hit squad.
The visitors to the library began to panic as they heard they were being sent to what had been called hell by many on at least one occasion. Surely they didn’t think Pulse was all that bad, besides running around in circles wasn’t going to help anything. It reminded her of Ponyville’s tendency to freak out over every little thing, to the point a bunny stampede was treated like a massacre on the streets. “This is the will of the people of Cocoon. If you resist, we are authorized to use lethal force!” the captain said, one hand on his gun. Okay, nevermind! They could be a hit squad if everyone didn’t stop panicking! She didn’t know any other way to calm the people here down, so, slightly panicking, she did the famous librarian ‘shh!’ in hopes of at least preventing anyone from making enough of a fuss to get themselves shot. Surprisingly, everyone continued to panic, but more quietly. …Wait, how was that even possible? That made absolutely no sense! She forced herself to ignore it. That way lay self-combustion, like last time she tried to figure out how people did things that violated the established laws of reality, either through being Pinkie or experiencing intense emotions.
“Okay…” one of the soldiers muttered, seemingly just as confused as her. Realizing there wasn’t anything else she could do here, she walked over to the squad captain. She wasn’t a therapist and only knew the basics of psychology, and it wasn’t like she could sit down with everyone here. She doubted the soldiers would be that patient even if she thought she could manage it.
“Turn over your weapons and report to the train station, and don’t even think about trying to leave the city. The perimeter guard has orders to shoot first, ask questions later.” he said, she nodded and turned over her sword, pistol, and the taser she had as an all-else fails weapon. It was relatively easy to conceal, and close to non-lethal as long as she didn’t shock someone over and over.
The majority of the people in the library were calming down, though some of the very old and very young were still a bit wide-eyed and several were threatening to burst into tears. The squad captain looked to see if anyone was watching and/or listening, before leaning towards her and quietly saying,
“Sorry.” She nodded at him. The members of Psicom were people just like the rest of those present, they weren’t enjoying this.
She made her way to the same train station she always used. She noticed what appeared to be the same girl with pink hair that had inspired her, but older, and wearing a primarily white outfit with a red cape and a pair of black shorts, and Sazh, the train conductor she’d met on her train rides. The two of them were in the midst of conversation when she approached. Before she could join or even overhear the conversation, they had given their weapons over to a Psicom soldier and joined a line.
“Your weapons and personal effects will be returned upon arrival to Pulse!” a Psicom soldier announced. It seemed they were keeping track of what belonged to who as people boarded the train. She got in line behind pink hair and Sazh. A man and a woman suddenly broke out of the line and ran, holding hands. She was unsure if they were in a relationship, or simply afraid and clinging to the nearest non-hostile.
“Open Fire!” a soldier yelled as they ran. A group of soldiers that had seemingly been doing nothing raised their guns and gunned down the couple mid-stride. People cried out in shock and fear, threatening to panic and run as well. She simply stood there, the only thought that ran through Twilight’s mind was ‘I’ve never seen someone killed before. How can they just do that without a second thought?’ as a Psicom officer raised a megaphone and yelled, “Do not leave your lines!” in an attempt to regain some semblance of order. Logically, Twilight was aware that soldiers were trained to follow orders, even if that meant firing on civilians. Even knowing that, she couldn’t find any real justification for shooting people in the back when the soldiers guarding the exits would almost certainly catch any potential escapees unless the deportees fled en masse. A bubbling rage began to fill her before she forced it down. She’d only get more people killed if she lashed out now, especially if she used magic, which would likely confirm Psicom’s fears from their perspective. She wouldn’t be surprised if they called in an air strike in response to magic if this is how they reacted to people fleeing.
After the deportees calmed down to the point they weren’t about to turn and run, the line began moving again. People had a blue robe forced on them, which was shortly followed by a pair of invisible handcuffs clamping down on the hands of those wearing the robes, likely due to Antimatter Manipulation Principle, or AMP, technology carried by at least one of the soldiers. AMP technology was able to mimic the effects of several forms of magic, since it used small amounts of antimatter, and antimatter operated on the reversal of the laws of physics, though it lacked the true variety of real magic, as the manadrives created in this manner were only really able to synthesize the effects of the use of one, maybe two, types of magic unless they were very advanced. They were also slower than natural magic, but she considered the loss of flexibility the bigger trade-off. A specific pseudo-spell needed a specific manadrive, which had to be made specifically to accomplish the effect. The AMP technology that amplified Snow’s strength, for example, could only do that, and years of research might go into tweaking for those effects. It had taken 50 years of research to go from the concept to anything like today’s AMP tech, though a lot of that was spent making sure the containment of the antimatter was nigh-indestructible.
They got on the train and were seated, three guards were in their car alone, she’d seen another nine get on the train. Considering they probably had several times more bullets than there were people here, this could go very badly if someone tried to resist.
“Are you sure about this?” Sazh asked pink hair. The guards were checking on the deportees at all times, as if expecting resistance.
Pink hair shushed him by saying “Be quiet.”
“Good luck.” Twilight said, having been seated on pink hair’s other side, fairly certain that the other girl was planning to attack the guards. She was not fond of Psicom right now. She was fairly ambivalent most of the time since they’d never done anything she could say for certain was completely unjustified, but after what happened earlier, she had to admit she was kind of cheering the other girl on. Especially since if her bright-haired friend was successful, then the guards wouldn’t kill them.
There was suddenly a sound resembling breaking glass as the train crashed through something, which greatly concerned her since there shouldn’t have been anything on the tracks. The soldiers struggled to stay standing by simple virtue of inertia, which led to pink hair taking the opportunity to jump out of her seat and take out the first guard. He dropped a small gadget that glowed blue, which pink hair proceeded to smash. The invisible handcuffs on the deportees disappeared, though Twilight questioned the wisdom of having the guard with the device so close to belligerent captives in the first place. Of course, there was probably a range limit. Though having multiple in case one got smashed probably would have been a good idea.
“She did it!” Sazh said as the deportees began to get out of their seats.
“Freeze!” one of the remaining guards said as they opened fire on pink hair, who threw off her robe in the face of one and kicked him in the face with a cartwheel. A surreptitious barrier killed the bullets’ kinetic energy and prevented civilian casualties. Twilight had punched the other in the back of the head, having spent years practicing physical defenses since magic was not, generally speaking, an option. She’d also taken self-defense on her brother’s recommendation in her own world, and finally had a reason to use it where it would be slightest bit effective in this world, (possessed goddesses, ursas, dragons, and spirits of disharmony were unlikely to be more than annoyed by a punch in the face and she usually fought with weapons otherwise) knocking the guard unconscious. Human form was a lot different from pony form, but a lot of the basics still applied.
“I’m Twilight. Let me back you up.” Twilight introduced herself as she retrieved the gun of the guard she had knocked out, she had glimpsed fires and Psicom bioweapons (animals that had been domesticated, trained, and enhanced by Psicom for use as weapons) out the window when she got up. She didn’t think the Purge was really exile. Pink hair retrieved a gun of her own from the other guard. Twilight noticed that while her outfit was primarily white, she had a darker top on underneath.
“Name’s Lightning. Just don’t hold me back.” she said as they made their way up the train. Something in Twilight had shattered when she saw that couple gunned down, and with the knowledge they were probably being sent to their deaths the whole time, she wasn’t going to hesitate in at least knocking the guards unconscious.
They ran into the next car, Twilight reacted on trained instinct when the first pair charged at them from the sides and shot them dead at point-blank range, then froze up. Lightning took care of the next pair. Twilight shoved her horror to the back of her mind, not at all happy about what she’d just done despite the resolve she’d had not a minute ago.
‘I can freak out later, it’ll just get Lightning and myself killed if I fall apart now.’ she reasoned, and forced her hands not to tremble. Meanwhile, Sazh was getting the deportees out of their seats, and calming them down, many wanted to fight once they realized there was a chance, slim as it was, of escape.
Back with the girls, Twilight had retrieved another gun from one of the fallen soldiers and the two of them had made their way to the next car. Twilight took out two of the soldiers immediately, feeling slightly less guilt and self-loathing this time (but only slightly), and dealing with it more quickly. Lightning snapped her fingers and activated a type of manadrive known as a grav-con that gave a person a degree of control over gravity, hence the name. Lightning must have secreted it on her person, something Twilight had not had the confidence to try.
She glowed blue as she flew over two of the guards and smashed her foot, which was clothed in a military-grade combat boot, into the farthest one’s face, instantly knocking him out, and took his gun with some impressive acrobatics as she dodged gunfire. Twilight shot another guard as Lightning took out the last one with a hail of gunfire from two guns. Rather overkill, but it got the job done. The door to the car opened as Sazh and the rest of their fellow deportees came in. Sazh handed over Lightning’s gunblade and Twilight’s sword and pistol.
“They all want to fight.” Sazh reported, indeed the Purge victims were sporting almost every conceivable form of ballistic weapon, she could have sworn she saw a crossbow. Of course, without training, they were much less of a threat to the people they might be fighting than otherwise. Even assuming there were some people who were trained, no one besides, Sazh, Lightning, and herself appeared to have a weapon they were trained with, and very little of one’s training with one weapon would carry over with another. It was less obvious with guns since guns tended towards the same basic shape, though differences in weight and clip size would throw off all but the most experienced. The point was, civilians with weapons were much less dangerous than a group of trained soldiers would be. Then again, a random guy with a gun shooting you could still kill you with or without training.
Sazh was wearing a green coat and pants, his usual outfit, with his usual hairstyle of an afro. Lightning switched her gunblade to blade mode as she said “Good for them.” handing over the guns she’d retrieved from the Psicom soldiers to a pair of deportees. Several of their own assortment appeared to have been taken from the fallen soldiers. They got a clear view of the Hanging Edge, the area where the Pulse fal’cie had supposedly been found. It was chaos as Psicom soldiers and bioweapons clashed with the rebelling civilians.
Several fighters and bioweapons immediately began firing on them, either they had some way of knowing that the people on board had overthrown their guards, or they’d decided that it was only a matter of time and intended to sacrifice the guards. Lightning grabbed a missile launcher from Sazh with a “Give me that!” and began destroying the Psicom fighters. A bioweapon unleashed a hail of lightning and blew one of the cars on the other end of the train off. Psicom soldiers and rebels were at a stalemate in most areas, but the presence of bioweapons immediately turned the battle in the favor of the Sanctum, due to sheer numbers, and/or near-invulnerability to ordinary bullets in the cases of the canine bioweapons and Behemoths respectively.
When there were no non-humans present, the civilians did a good job of handling the Psicom forces, with support from NORA, as she had seen a large number of group members that she recognized coordinating the rebellion on other roads. She watched as canine bioweapons and Behemoths, as well as Warmechs, slaughtered the Purge victims where they were nonetheless. Warmechs were essentially robots of varying shapes that acted as tanks and heavy artillery. R and D was a priority for the Sanctum ever since the War of Transgression, though Psicom certainly got the lion’s share of the advances as evidenced by the bioengineering in the bioweapons and the advanced technology in the warmechs. What information she had on them suggested a lot of time and energy went into making them nigh-unhackable, as having their weapons turned on them would render them far worse than useless. A friend of hers had noted that you’d need direct access to the systems of a warmech for it to be possible, and their electronic security was far better than almost all of the database firewalls, the time and effort involved being the main reason why the latter’s security was abysmal by comparison. Then there was the obvious problem with trying to hack something trying to kill you.
She suddenly heard a droning noise. She looked behind them to see a Mansavin warmech approaching, a type that resembled a scorpion. This one was white and had four sawblades on each of its two forelimbs, flying over them and getting closer. “Uh oh.” she said, pointing at the warmech. It looked a bit different than the blueprint she’d photographed rather than risking a download of. Perhaps her hacking had caused some modifications to be made?
Lightning aimed the missile launcher at the warmech, “Dammit, it’s out.” she said after only getting a click out of the missile launcher.
The warmech landed on the roof of the car, and began tearing it open with its tail. “Run!” Sazh yelled. Lightning ran over to the opening and jumped up to the roof. Twilight, not about to let someone face that thing by themselves, went after her, careful to avoid the jagged metal as she climbed up. “I meant away!” Sazh yelled, his voice becoming shrill with fear. Sazh climbed up after them, just in time to see the warmech jump up and land in front of Lightning.
“Hey, hey, let’s be rational now!” Sazh said as he struggled to his feet. Lightning backflipped out of the way as the warmech swiped at her with one arm. “They’re sending the big guns out, now what?” Sazh asked.
“Watch and learn.” Lightning said, readying her gunblade.
“I’ve got your back.” Twilight drew her sword and pistol as she said this.
The warmech readied one of it’s arms, the sawblades began to course with electricity as they started spinning. Definitely new. It smashed the sawblades of its right arm into the train where Lightning had been a moment before. Lightning charged the machine the moment it pulled it’s arm back. She left a deep scratch on it’s face as she slashed it, Twilight slashed it in the other direction, surreptitiously using her magic to increase her force by about 50% with telekinesis, creating a second scratch resulting in a scar across it’s face in the shape of an X.
She silently thanked Snow for getting her on strength training. She wasn’t anywhere near as strong as him and barely on the same level as her stoic companion, but she’d be completely doomed if she hadn’t taken up conventional weapons and couldn’t access her magic. She’d mainly been focused on technique since she didn’t think her physical strength would transfer across the walls between parallel worlds. Snow had to convince her to start a heavier regimen of exercises to ensure she could hit hard enough for it to matter.
They dodged out of the way just as it fired a laser. The three of them took the opportunity to empty their clips into what was presumably the energy core of the machine. Twilight once again enhanced her attacks, this time with a small spell to increase penetration by 25%. Her pistol was meant for rapid fire and reload, and as such, had a bit less power than Sazh’s twin pistols, but her magic made up for it. The mech reared up, jumped back, and grabbed the sides of the train.
“Fall back!” Lightning called as the mech began to shake the train.
They retreated to the next car of the train. “Hey, this thing’s not so tough!” Sazh called. He really shouldn’t tempt fate.
“Are you trying to make it mad?” Twilight asked him. The rockets on the mech activated.
“Hey, that wasn’t a challenge now!” Sazh held up his hands defensively. The mech began to shake the train harder, before lifting it up.
They retreated to the car furthest from the mech, the other deportees had long since run off while they kept the mech occupied. This proved lucky as the other cars were pushed off the road one by one. Sazh was hurrying off the second to last car as it began to fall off.
“Jump!” they called. He jumped just in time, landing heavily on the car with a grunt, barely avoiding falling to his death. The mech was headed for them, though it’s flight was a bit uneven, their bullets being fired into it’s core appeared to have damaged it’s systems. That laser attack seemed like a major design flaw, one not corrected since she’d discovered the blueprint. What idiot decided exposing the machine’s major weak point was a good idea? Then again, most people would be a bit too preoccupied with getting out of the way of the giant laser to take advantage of the opening.
“Heads up.” Lightning said as the mech neared them.
“This thing just won’t give up.” Sazh said panting.
“Not to mention we’re running out of train.” Twilight said, glancing behind them to judge the distance better. Together they finished it off with a combined assault to avoid either taking a nasty fall or being crushed under it’s bulk/sliced into a number of pieces by it’s sawblades, but were knocked back as an explosion from the mech knocked it off the train car. It fell down the chasm, hopefully to be destroyed on impact.
“Oh, thank heaven.” Sazh said as he sat down heavily on the roof of the train. “We did it!” he said with a smile.
Lightning looked over the side, as if expecting the mech to come back, though this was not out of the question since it could fly, or at least it could before that last attack. A group of fighters flew overhead, hinting at the total chaos going on around them.
“Hey, explain something to me. You’re a soldier aren’t you? If you’re a member of the Sanctum’s army, why are you trying to stop the Purge?” Sazh asked Lightning.
“I quit earlier.” was Lightning’s eloquent response as she jumped off the train car to a road that was lower than theirs. Oh she was going to be a barrel of laughs, Twilight could just tell.
“Hey, where are you going?!” he called after her in exasperation. A chocobo chick jumped from his afro to his hand. “We just can’t catch a break can we, chocobo?” Sazh asked it. The chick chirped at him. “That’s a good question.”
“Come on, let’s follow her before she leaves us behind.” Twilight said as she hurried down the side of the train to the lower road. She’d seen far stranger things than a person talking to an animal that appeared to understand them. Fluttershy had done it all the time. She was curious when he’d gotten that chick though. It hadn’t been there a couple weeks ago, though come to think of it, she hadn’t seen much of him lately.
“I’m getting too old for this.” Sazh said with a sigh. After they caught up, the three of them fought their way through the forces of Psicom, dodging aircraft fire. They hid behind some debris from a lone Psicom soldier, who was guarding a transgate, a teleporter the Sanctum used to transport units long distances quickly. They had passed an unguarded one already, she wasn’t sure if the soldiers who had been guarding it were otherwise occupied, dead, or merely incapacitated, but they weren’t anywhere nearby when they’d passed the gate.
“Not wanting to get Purged, that I get, but taking on trained soldiers?” Sazh asked Lightning.
“Not to mention their pets.” Twilight said, referring to the bioweapons. Behemoths were enormous vaguely lion-like creatures that could take on a squad of trained soldiers and massacre them. They were honestly more vulnerable to swords and other melee weapons than guns as ordinary bullets and other blunt attacks tended to bounce off their thick hides, which required piercing attacks to cut through. The canine bioweapons, Gorgonospids she believed, were weaker than the human soliders, but were born hunters and pack hunters at that.
“Better to die than go to Pulse. It’s hell without the brimstone.” Lightning answered them as the Psicom soldier, seeming to sense he was being watched, used a keypad to activate the transgate and call two of their canine bioweapons, temporarily draining the transgate. Come to think of it, perhaps the guards for the previous transgate they’d come across had done something similar before being forced to leave, believing that they’d either make it back before the gate recharged, or they wouldn’t make it back at all. Either way they weren’t going to reprimanded for leaving the gate unguarded if it was useless.
“Hell isn’t sounding that bad right now, because this place ain’t exactly paradise.” Sazh said.
“Not to mention their pets.” Twilight made a gesture at the canines. She really didn’t think Pulse could be that bad. It was like they expected fal’cie around every corner, waiting for people to make into glorified slaves.
“Those are just domesticated peacekeepers, nothing to worry about.” Lightning reassured them.
“Maybe not for you, but I want to stay-” Lightning charged at the Sanctum forces. “Hey!” He called. As Twilight leapt over her cover and ran behind the enemy while Sazh and Lightning were arguing and killed the bioweapons, the soldier was turning to face her while Lightning came at him.
“Wha-?” that was all the soldier had time to say before Lightning killed him as well. They made their way across the road as the fighting continued.
They wiped out the Psicom in their path before the soldiers could kill them instead or call in reinforcements. Twilight watched as a group of rebels were slaughtered by a Behemoth that had moved to its secondary form, a bipedal sword-wielding monster. In a fit of rage, she killed it with a blast of magic, momentarily forgetting that she was trying to keep a low profile on that in her anger.
“You used magic.” Sazh said, slowly backing away, as if afraid she’d turn on him if he moved too suddenly. It hurt to see him react that way, but she could understand why. If she were a l’cie, then it was possible that all of this was her fault. She wasn’t, but she could see the logic.
“I know what you’re thinking, I’m not a l’cie.” Twilight said calmly. Panicking would make her look guiltier, so she reined it in.
“Then how can you use magic?” Lightning asked gunblade at the ready in gun form, specifically pointed at Twilight’s forehead.
“It’s going to sound crazy.” she warned them. She was really hoping to avoid being shot. Keeping the person holding a gun at her head from dismissing her explanation out of hand would be good for her continued living.
“This whole mess is crazy, try us.” Sazh said with his hands briefly thrown in the air. He had a point.
“I’m from an parallel world, I was sent here because I tried to interfere in the plans of someone. I was about to get back when this whole mess happened.” she explained.
“Makes about as much sense as the rest of this crap.” Sazh said, shrugging, Lightning holstered her gunblade.
“I need all the help I can get.” Lightning explained. Twilight was not sure if Lightning believed her, or if her thought process was more like ‘Well Psicom’s already trying to kill me, what’s the point in avoiding being around a l’cie?’ Of course, there was also the option that Lightning had been of the impression that she’d been in contact with the fal’cie responsible for this mess, resulting in said mess. Lightning might be willing to forego killing her without some kind of proof that she was a l’cie because she wasn’t a terrible person who’d kill someone over a maybe.
They continued on, Twilight was killing the bioweapons and Psicom soldiers on other bridges with her magic, focusing on the ones that were outmatching the deportees. She wasn’t even feeling the drain yet. ‘When she was absolutely sure no one was watching’ wasn’t very often, so her magic had been building up, despite her slight use of it, for 10 years. She was unlikely to feel the drain for some time. She was honestly surprised she hadn’t exploded or at least lost control from magical overload. Although her magic built up quite slowly once it hit her ‘maximum.’ Thus, 10 years of build-up didn’t give her effectively unlimited magic. More like two months worth.
There were some deportees ahead of them, but before they could reach that area, an air strike destroyed the road in the people’s area. She grabbed as many as she could see through the dust cloud and watering eyes from the blast of displaced air, telekinetically, and moved them to the remaining ends of the road not destroyed by Sanctum forces. Some of them still fell to their deaths, screaming all the while as they followed the section of road down.
The people she’d moved to either side panicked as they realized they’d been saved with magic and ran off down the road in the direction there was still road. She’d never encountered such a negative reaction to magic, as if it were inherently evil and foul, and the death all around. …She was going to have nightmares about today for a long time, assuming they survived.
“Now what, do we turn back?” Sazh asked, still coughing from the dust that had risen from the road’s destruction.
“We don’t have the time.” Lightning told him. She was right. They couldn’t afford to backtrack when there was this strong a military presence trying to kill every poor soul unlucky enough to live near the fal’cie they’d discovered. Every moment they spent here was a moment someone was trying to shoot them until they were dead, then a few more times just to be sure.
“So, what do you suggest we do?” he asked.
“Quiet.” she snapped at him. She snapped her fingers and activated her manadrive again.
“Hey, hold on, you can’t just leave us here!” Sazh yelled grabbing on to her.
“Let go!” Lightning yelled at him as she writhed in his grip.
“Hell no, you’re the only way out of here!” he yelled. Lightning kicked him in the stomach and punched him in the arm, then pushed him off.
However, having been designed with only one person using it at a time in mind, her manadrive deactivated, and she only got a blue spark when she snapped her finger again. “I think that could get us across.” Twilight pointed to a troop transport that was moving towards their side of the break, probably to investigate the magic she’d just displayed and to take care of the survivors.
She hadn’t bothered about trying to stop Lightning because she wasn’t really sure what Lightning’s goal was here. Hers was to survive and save as many people as possible. Most likely she’d join up with a NORA group, but she’d mostly just be winging it until then. Anyway, Lightning was more or less a stranger, and if she really wanted to go off on her own, Sazh took precedence as a friend and single father. …Though come to think of it, she hadn’t seen Dajh around recently. She’d ask him about that later if they lived. Besides, Twilight didn’t really have a specific destination in mind, and she’d run out of magic sooner or later, so traveling in a group of at least two would be best.
“Right?” Sazh asked, having recovered from his kicking.
“Looks like.” Lightning said in minor annoyance. They made their way to where the transport was heading, Sazh still holding the arm Lightning had punched.
A full squad was on the transport, led by an elite. Elites were a huge leap from a regular Psicom soldier in terms of physical power and weaponry. They also had access to high-level manadrives and better armor, they were the pinnacle of Psicom’s human forces. As a general rule, they wore full-body armor, but then, so did most of the Sanctum’s human forces.
“Alright put down your weapons, I’d hate for this to get messy.” the elite said, readying his spear.
“Messy? What’s he mean, messy?” Sazh asked.
“I’d say he wants to kill us without a fight.” Lightning said as they readied their weapons.
“If he expects us to do that he’s sadly mistaken about our intelligence.” Twilight said. She was worried she was starting to get jaded about mortal peril, but this guy was annoying by virtue of sheer condescension.
“Time’s up!” the elite yelled in anger at being snubbed like this by what he would believe to be ‘Pulse-tainted scum’.
He charged them using a pair of rockets on the back of his full-body armor. Twilight blocked with her sword, said sword visibly glowing purple as she reinforced it to prevent the force of a person in that much armor smashing against it from snapping the blade. “Magic…” the elite whispered in horror. She pushed harder against his spear and sliced through it, hitting the elite so hard he smashed into another road entirely, certainly dead. Their armor wasn’t that good. She inwardly cursed herself for using that much of her limited pool of magic on an enemy that didn’t deserve it. She wouldn’t have access to this much magic at once again anytime soon, so she needed to conserve it when she could.
“In my defense, oops.” she said as they wiped out the soldiers before they could radio the news that there was someone who could use magic here.
“I’m suddenly really glad you’re on our side.” Sazh said once they’d finished, looking at the elite she’d sent flying. He walked over to the carrier’s interface.
“Well, I was the personal student of the one in charge of the sun. I suppose you could say she was the equivalent of a fal’cie magically, but without the l’cie thing and nicer.” Twilight told them as they finished the last few soldiers.
After a moment of silence, Sazh said “Okay…” and turned to Lightning, apparently deciding to change the subject. “So, what’s your angle soldier?” Lightning didn’t say anything. “What, is it classified or something? You quit, didn’t you? What’s it matter now?” he asked as he began fiddling with the controls for the transport. “It’s not like I’m gonna go out there and tell everybody your secret.”
“The Pulse fal’cie.” Lightning said quietly.
“Er, what?” Sazh asked.
“My ‘angle’ is that I’m after the fal’cie.” Lightning walked to the control panel and pulled on an unusual lever, fully activating the transport. “Still happy that you tagged along?” Lightning asked as the transport began to move.
“Didn’t really have a choice.” he responded. What was he supposed to do, go off on his own?
“Well, I hope we don’t die.” Twilight said dryly. A radio could be heard broadcasting the voice of Primarch Dysley, the human head of the Sanctum.
“On behalf of Cocoon’s citizens, I would like to thank our brave Pulse pioneers, and express our best wishes for a successful relocation. Your noble and selfless sacrifice ensures the continued safety and peace of our society. Were it not for this remarkable gesture, every resident of Cocoon, your families, your friends, your neighbors, would be exposed to the dangers of the world below. By choosing to leave Cocoon and participating in this migration-” there was a screech as the broadcast cut off.
“Pretty smart, using their loyalty to Cocoon and their ties to others against them, despicable and manipulative, but smart. If they don’t lay down their arms outright, their resolve will probably be shaken.” Twilight said in a tone of mild disgust. A few minutes of silence passed. Twilight couldn’t see well enough to tell who was who on the ground from this distance in the meager light provided by the fires, so she focused on stopping the air support. However, a lot of people were still dying. Sazh watched a fighter attack a group of rebels before retreating from the area to avoid the same fate as the others.
“This is an out-and-out massacre. These people won’t even live long enough to get to Pulse, much less die there.” Sazh said.
“That was the point.” Lightning told him.
“I was beginning to suspect that.” Twilight said sadly. Twilight had shot down the nearby air support and was simply watching, mentally beating herself up for not being able to do anything for the people on the ground from this far away.
The only response Sazh could come up with was “What?”
“Sanctum logic.” Lightning said.
“It looks like the Purge was just conjured up to eliminate a threat. It does make a horrible sort of sense. Why carry the danger all the way to Pulse, when you can just stamp it out, here and now?” Twilight said in a slightly ill tone.
“Execution masquerading as exile, that’s what the Purge was from the start.” Lightning said.
“‘Relocation to Pulse’, how can the government get away with this kind of crap?” Sazh asked. He turned to Lightning, “It sounds an awful lot like you knew this was gonna happen.” he said with a trace of suspicion and narrowed eyes.
Lightning shook her head, “The Purge was Psicom, the Sanctum’s private troops, not the Guardian Corps, I was Guardian Corps.” Ah, Twilight had thought the outfit was familiar. The Bodhum Regiment of Guardian Corps had occasionally run into NORA on patrols, but they usually either supported each other in fighting hostiles or ignored each other and the Corps local commanding officer tended to look the other way as NORA was basically a militia in regards to how they acted towards the local hostile wildlife. As Snow once put it, “What kind of hero says no to people wanting to help their hometown?”
Sazh shook his head. “Psicom, Guardian Corps…” he waved his hands at each group. “Soldiers are soldiers, aren’t they? The Pulse fal’cie and their l’cie are the enemies of the state. If you tell a soldier to kill an enemy, do you really think it’s gonna matter which uniform they’re wearing?” Sazh asked.
“It might have mattered to that one.” Lightning gestured to one of the fallen Psicom soldiers on the transport. “He couldn’t shoot, so he got himself shot instead.” Lightning said.
“And what about you? Orders say shoot, do you pull the trigger?” When he didn’t get a response, he said, “Fine, forget that I asked.”
“Hey guys…” Twilight pointed to a group of flying bioweapons headed straight for them, it seemed that Psicom had figured out where what was destroying their forces was.
“Shoot down as many as you can, we’ll deal with any boarders.” Lightning said. She shot down bioweapon after bioweapon, but some still managed to get onboard through sheer weight of numbers. However, these were taken care of by Sazh and Lightning.
After about five minutes, the last of the bioweapons were killed off.
“Geez, I’d say that was overkill for one transport, but since we beat ‘em I guess it wasn’t.” Sazh said. A siren began to wail, an immense groaning noise was heard. “What’s that?” Sazh asked, pointing at to a slowly opening section of the metal overhead.
“Attention Purge deportees! Attention Purge deportees! Put down your weapons and surrender immediately. Your removal is the will of the people of Cocoon. This is no longer your home. Should you attempt to flee, the Sanctum will employ every resource necessary to bring you to justice.” A voice whose identity was unknown announced as the flagship of the Sanctum’s fleet, the Pulse Vestige where the Pulse fal’cie causing this whole mess had been found, along with reinforcement bioweapons, aircraft, and troops, came through the opening.
Twilight shot down a number of the bioweapons to try and limit casualties. The soldiers usually reached the roads, but the largest aircraft took some damage as as she attempted to force them to pull out. “Cease hostilities and surrender at once.” the announcer finished. Twilight noticed any groups that surrendered were lined up and shot, and she was beginning to see why a number of people were so cynical. She’d never really trusted the fal’cie or the Sanctum that much, but this was beyond despicable. All these people had done was happen to live near a fal’cie, or simply be near a fal’cie, since she doubted that the people who’d been visiting Bodhum were being spared.
“Is that it?” Sazh asked, gesturing to the building being moved by Psicom forces, several large aircraft were moving it with tractor beams.
“Yeah, the fal’cie is inside of that building.” Lightning told him.
“Hm, a Pulse fal’cie, huh.” Twilight said, wondering what made it any different than the Sanctum’s. Was it any better? Or was it actually worse, and the Sanctum considered all of this justified because of how bad they were? That was a terrifying thought. What could be so bad that all of this was justifiable in order to avoid it?
After another minute or so, they were hovering near a relatively clear and undamaged road. “What do you think makes the Pulse fal’cie any different from the Sanctum’s?” Sazh asked.
“You read my mind.” Twilight said.
“Well, I wouldn’t really mind if I had to keep wondering.” Sazh responded after glancing at what was going on around them.
Lightning, who was looking down at the road they were approaching, stood up all of a sudden, snapped her fingers for some reason, and said, “Time to jump.”
“Wait, hey, hang on!” Sazh yelled as Lightning jumped a height of several stories off the transport. “What the-? Hey!” he called as Lightning fell, only to activate her manadrive at the last second and land completely unharmed. “Damn.” he said, his mouth slightly agape. “Well, here goes nothing.” he placed a hand over his eyes.
“Uh, Sazh, I forgot to mention that-” Twilight cut off as he walked off the platform. “-I can teleport.” she finished lamely. She watched him fall, prepared to catch him, only for him to hit the blue bubble-shaped anti-gravity field Lightning had created. She carefully judged the distance, and teleported down.
“Hey, wait a second, could you do that the whole time?” Sazh asked in surprise.
“I tried to tell you, but you’d already jumped by the time I finished. As for why I didn’t just teleport us across the bridge, each person increases the amount of magic required for teleporting exponentially, it also increases exponentially over distance. I’m good, but I don’t think anyone besides my mentor and her sister is that good.” she explained. She’d never teleported as a group on purpose before. Spike had relatively little mass compared to 2 full-grown humans, and her teleportation was rusty as that was one of her flashier powers. Besides, bringing down fighters took some serious power since she had to throw around enough energy to shred a wing or just make the whole thing explode as she was not familiar enough with the fighters to know their weaknesses. She’d already burned through about half of her stockpile at this point. She’d need to start conserving it if it was going to last the next 24 hours, though she had a feeling it wasn’t.
“Well, you may have to do it next time, that was my grav-con’s last hurrah.” Lightning said, annoyed, as the anti-gravity field died with a fizzle. That must have been why she’d snapped her fingers on the transport, to make sure it was working. Her grav-con was smoking slightly now, obviously fried. Mechanics and electronics were not Twilight’s strong point, so she wouldn’t be able to fix it. Lightning would have to do without until they got another one, unless Lightning herself knew how to fix it.
They started off in the direction of the Pulse Vestige hiding the fal’cie. After an interval of 30 minutes, they managed to get inside by finding an opening that was less than ten meters from the road and having Twilight teleport them over before it moved away, only to be blocked by a metal door sealed with a red rune with arrows on the top and bottom. Lightning had attempted brute force attacks, but this only caused tiny crimson lightning to spread from the points of impact.
Meanwhile, Twilight had studied the seal, attempting to disable it with her magic, though she noticed the seal seemed very slightly weaker after a minute of almost continuous assault by Lightning, so she joined in with her own sword, she didn’t want to use her pistol as she only had so much ammo, and it was difficult to conjure bullets in large numbers, not to mention the danger of the bullets ricocheting.
“Still won’t budge, huh? It looks like the door’s winning to me.” Sazh had opted out of the assault on the door, stating that he’d rather not have bullets ricocheting around the room and quite possibly into them.
Lightning muttered something that sounded like “Why didn’t I listen?”
“Could you say that again?” Twilight asked.
“Beg your pardon?” Sazh said.
Lightning muttered again. “It was me, this was my fault.”
“Come again?” Twilight and Sazh asked at the same time.
“Cover your ears.” Lightning ordered.
“Blast charge?” Sazh asked. Lightning nodded. Twilight wasn’t sure where she’d have hidden that during their trip, and so, doubted the truth of that statement. However, she wasn’t going to call Lightning on it. No, she had a better idea.
“I’ve got a better idea.” Twilight said aloud. She concentrated on the seal and, with a mix of brute magical force and finesse, dissolved the seal. A blast charge had too high a risk of shrapnel anyway, and she didn’t want someone getting impaled if Lightning had managed to smuggle it in. She wiped some sweat off her head, “Phew, the fal’cie are certainly powerful when it comes to magic.” she admitted as the door opened with a clanking noise. Much as she hated the fal’cie for what they were doing (or causing in the case of the one she was dealing with) she could admit to the power and skill of her opponent. She was considered a genius when it came to spellcraft, and she’d needed as long as it took most spellcasters to learn how to cast a new spell (emphasis on how) to figure out a momentary cancellation.
“Did you just out-magic a fal’cie?!” Sazh asked in shock with a near-shout.
“Well, only for a minute, the seal will be back up soon, so we should really get through now.” she said. They hurried through the doorway, a few seconds later, the door closed back up as the seal reasserted itself. Several bioweapons attacked them almost the moment they got in.
After wiping them out. Sazh said, “If those thing are still around, then there might still be soldiers trapped in here too. Though they’d probably be l’cie now.”
“If they’ve been in here for very long, they’re probably cie’eth by now.” Twilight said nervously. She’d seen a cie’eth once, they weren’t very keen on things that weren’t also cie’eth. It had wandered out of the Vile Peaks and surrounding wastes, and proceeded to almost kill the entire patrol. Twilight being nearby and the arrival of a squad of Guardian Corps soldiers were all that had kept the patrol from being killed, and the cie’eth reaching the city. Though the squad might have reached the cie’eth before the cie’eth reached the city anyway thanks to the NORA members delaying it for a few minutes.
“Either way, not even human anymore. Just Pulse l’cie, the enemies of Cocoon. We can’t show them any mercy.” Sazh said sadly. After a few more encounters with the bioweapons, Lightning was growing increasingly distant.
“What’s wrong?” Twilight asked. Lightning had begun acting strangely after Sazh’s comment.
“I thought you came here for a fight.” Sazh said. Knowing him, he was trying to rile her up enough that she’d answer.
“My sister…” Lightning began, the pause saying nothing good.
“What about your sister?” Twilight got the feeling the answer to that question would be unpleasant.
“She’s a l’cie.” Lightning answered her. Yep, there it was.
“What? A Pulse l’cie?” Sazh asked.
“The fal’cie has her captive, but I’ll find her.” Lightning said.
“Do you know if she’s still…” Sazh left it hanging. Lightning began to walk off, but was stopped when Sazh rushed in front of her. “What was her Focus? When she became a l’cie what did the fal’cie order her to do? It wasn’t ‘blow up Cocoon,’ or anything like that?” Sazh asked.
“That seems a bit much to expect of one person, if it were ten people, I’d be willing to buy it, but one?” Twilight said reassuringly. Of course, that was assuming that the fal’cie cared if it’s new servant could accomplish the task it gave them, but Lightning didn’t need to know the other half of that thought.
“I don’t know.” Lightning said guiltily. Another door up a flight of stairs, in the shape of a keyhole, glowed red as the seal and door disappeared.
Hulking bluish-gray masses of stone and crystal mixed with corrupted flesh began spilling out of the door. Cie’eth, they couldn’t be anything else. The fal’cie was probably using them as guards since they weren’t good for much else anymore. It sickened her to know that these things all used to be people. This was worse than killing someone.
“Listen to me, here’s how being a l’cie works. When a person gets cursed by a fal’cie, they become a l’cie. Then they get a Focus.” he sighed. “How do I put this?” he asked as the cie’eth lumbered around aimlessly on the top landing like mindless beasts. “If they don’t carry it out, a l’cie ends up as one of those things. What I’m saying is, if your sister’s gone that far… I mean-! She might still-! How can I-?” he sighed again. “Oh, man. The point is, there isn’t any way to turn a l’cie back into a human, and there’s definitely no way to turn a cie’eth back. Whether she completes her Focus or not, there’s no changing her fate. She’ll live her life as a fal’cie slave.”
Lightning looked down, her breathing labored by emotional pain. “Don’t make her suffer.” Sazh finished. Lightning pushed him away.
“Why don’t you just say it?! Any l’cie, anyone who might ever become a l’cie, they should all be wiped off Cocoon!” she shouted. “People like you started the Purge in the first place.” Lightning continued just above a whisper. Twilight wasn’t able to think of a way to end the argument, so she stayed out of it. They both had a point. You shouldn’t give up on family or friends easily, but if there was no way to turn someone back from being a walking mass of violent stone, likely in constant pain and quite possibly still conscious but unable to do anything…
They fought their way through the cie’eth, more bioweapons, and a few Psicom droids until they reached a more open area, where a girl bearing some resemblance to Lightning was lying on the ground. They powered through the few cie’eth in their way and made their way over to the girl. “Serah!” Lightning called, she examined her unconscious sister for a moment, before picking her up.
“I’m no expert on the fal’cie, but that brand looks like it’s almost through to me, and I know a lot about magic.” Twilight said, more than a little worried. Lightning wouldn’t be in any state to fight if something like… that happened to her sister and she wasn’t sure she was willing to put Lightning’s sister down even if she was that far gone.
“We have to go before the army-” Lightning cut off as she almost ran right into Sazh who was staring at Serah’s shoulder, more specifically, the mark on her shoulder that closely resembled the rune on the doors, her l’cie brand. “What?” Lightning asked him.
“That’s a Pulse brand, that girl is a l’cie.” he said in a dead voice.
“I told you that before.” Lightning said guardedly. This could be bad. Twilight began to walk towards them slowly, to avoid spooking them.
“Pulse l’cie are the enemies of Cocoon.” Sazh continued in the same dead voice as he reached for one of his guns, putting one finger on the trigger.
“So you’re saying they should die?” Lightning asked angrily. She was really not sure who she’d side with if it came to a fight, so it was best to avoid said fight ever happening. Sazh was her friend, but killing Serah now didn’t seem like the right thing to do. She could just set a barrier up between them, but she doubted Lightning would take being separated from her sister when she’d just found her very well, and fighting each other would probably get them all killed in the long run.
“Listen, if she fails her Focus, you saw for yourself how that’ll end.” Sazh began.
“Which makes killing her some kind of mercy?” Lightning asked angrily.
“Okay, let’s all just calm down, before someone gets shot.” Twilight said, attempting to break up the verbal badminton before her comment came true by interposing herself between them.
“You came…” Serah said weakly, having woken up at some point during the argument. Lightning slowly put Serah down.
“Serah!” Snow called as he and a pair of children she didn’t know came down on a moving platform. The boy had white hair, an orange jacket over a white shirt and dark green pants, and there was a green scarf wrapped around his neck. Snow was wearing his usual white trench coat with black pants and a black bandanna. The girl had fuschia hair and a pink top with a skirt that appeared to be made of feathers on.
Snow ran over to Serah and grabbed her hand. “Serah.” he said again more quietly.
“Is that… my hero?” Serah asked with a smile. Snow held her hand to his head. Twilight really hoped that Serah was just saying it like that because she was happy to see him, and not because she couldn’t see anymore. She didn’t know the exact symptoms preceding becoming a cie’eth, but she didn’t like the sound of going blind regardless.
“Let’s get you out of here.” Snow said.
“Hands off. I’m taking her home.” Lightning told him. Twilight noticed that Serah seemed tired, as if she was ready to fall back asleep at any time.
“Sis, I-” Snow was cut off as Lightning interrupted him.
“I’m not your sister! You couldn’t protect her! It’s your fault she-” She cut off as Serah said, “You can save us.”
“Serah?” Lightning asked.
“You can save us.” Serah repeated. “Protect us all. Save… Cocoon.” She finished weakly.
“Serah, was that your Focus?” Lightning asked.
“Anything, I’ll do anything. Leave it to me- you’ll see.” Snow nodded as he talked. “I’ll protect Cocoon! I’ll save everyone!” he promised.
“Somehow, I’ll make things right.” Lightning added.
“You just need to relax.” Snow said gently. Serah smiled and closed her eyes.
“Thank you.” she whispered, before she began glowing blue, her brand was actually shining.
“Serah!” Lightning called as her sister began to float upwards. A surge of magic was building in Serah. Crystal fragments began filling the air around Serah as she rose higher. Snow held on as long as he could, but Serah rose too high for him to reach.
She began turning to crystal almost the moment she was out of Snow’s grasp. Her arms moved into a position of prayer. A small light detached itself from the main body of magic and spiraled into Snow’s hand before flashing brightly and turning into a crystal tear. He stared at it for a moment before he jumped up, trying to grab onto Serah. “Serah! Serah!” he called in anguish. She felt sorry for him and Lightning. What kind of cruel joke was it to be reunited with a loved one, and then they effectively die less than 5 minutes later?
“Why is she turning to crystal?” pink girl asked in awe.
“L’cie who fulfill their Focus are turned into crystal, and gain eternal life.” white hair said.
“The stories are true.” Sazh said as Serah came back down to the ground.
“Serah… sweet dreams.” Snow said softly.
“Sweet dreams?!” Lightning pushed Sazh out of her way before grabbing Snow by the collar. “She’s not sleeping! Serah’s… She’s-” she pushed Snow away.
“She’s alive!” Snow said.
“No.” Lightning obviously didn’t want her hopes raised only to have them dashed again.
“The legend! Remember the legend! L’cie who fulfill their Focus are turned to crystal and gain eternal life! It has to be the same with Serah!” he turned to them one by one. “Eternal life! She isn’t dead!” They all either looked away or at the floor. “Serah’s my bride-to-be, I promised to be hers forever. I don’t care how many years I have to wait-” Lightning punched him square in the face, knocking him on his back.
“It’s over! Open your eyes and face the reality!” Lightning yelled at him. After a few moments, the building began to shake. They struggled to stay on their feet. White hair knelt down and covered his head with his arms. Snow struggled to his feet.
“Oh! Wait!” Sazh yelped.
“What now?” pink girl asked.
“The army!” Sazh said in epiphany.
“I thought we’d have more time!” Twilight called as a small piece of masonry landed on her head, causing her to sway drunkenly.
*** Meanwhile Outside. ***
Psicom bioweapons and ground forces were readying themselves for the destruction of the Pulse Vestige. “The target is almost in place. Surface team, what’s your status?” a Psicom captain asked over the radio.
“Good to go, we took some heavy casualties in the bioweapons, and we lost a few fighters to what we suspect is magic, but the remainder of the resistance is under control. The NORA militia coordinating the rebellion has taken heavy losses and is in full retreat. The assault proceeds as planned.” A soldier on the front responded as gunfire could be heard in the background.
“Leave no trace, as far as the Sanctum is concerned, the Pulse Vestige never existed.” the captain ordered. Bioweapons fired on the top of the Vestige. Searchlights lit up the Vestige so the Psicom troops could see what they were shooting at.
“Fire at will!” a soldier called. Grappling hooks, specifically designed for the purpose of damaging the structures they latched onto, were launched from the aircraft. Huge clouds of dust and bits of the building itself rained down as dozens of impacts took place.
*** Back Inside The Vestige. ***
Pillars collapsed and pieces of debris rained down on them. Snow and Lightning did their best to shield Serah from the falling debris. Twilight was attempting to create a shield, but she couldn’t concentrate enough for it with all the knocks she’d received to the head from falling pieces of metal and stone.
“What’s happening?” pink girl asked.
“Must be a Sanctum strike, bring down the Vestige and the fal’cie right with it.” Sazh said.
“It might be the head trauma I’ve suffered, but I’m tempted to applaud the person who came up with the idea. They can’t come in without risking being made into l’cie, but they still need to get rid of the thing, so they just drop its own building on it and take care of everything at once.” Twilight said in a slight daze as she dodged chunks of the ceiling falling on her.
“But I thought they were taking it back to Pulse. That’s what the Purge was, right?” pink girl asked as she and Sazh held onto each other in an effort not to be knocked over.
“They don’t care how. All they care about is getting everything from Pulse off Cocoon, dead or alive, it’s all the same.” Pink girl backed away from him a bit. White hair grabbed her hand.
“We can’t stay here! Even if they knew we were here, they’d kill us anyway!” he yelled. The shaking began to subside, slowly. Moments after the tremors subsided, another red seal faded from a door further up the stairs, this one circular. The door opened with an ominous rumble.
“I’ll be right back. Hold on.” Snow told Serah, holding her hand.
“Hey, Trench Coat. Where’re you going?” Sazh asked.
“Date with the fal’cie, we’ve got some things to talk about.” He started up the stairs.
“What? You’re gonna ask it to help her? Have you lost your mind, kid? That thing wants to chew us up and spit us out!” Sazh told him.
“Well, then what do you want me to do?” Snow asked, snapping at Sazh. It took a lot to make Snow angry, but apparently the level of horrible of today was enough. Sazh opened his mouth, then closed it again, stumped. Lightning started up the stairs.
“Lightning?” Snow asked. Sazh shook his head and followed.
“Come on, you’re… slightly less likely to die if you go with them.” Twilight said, grabbing pink girl’s and white hair’s hands. In all honesty, there was a pretty good chance they would all die if they didn’t get out of this place now. Either the military would kill them, or the fal’cie would. Then again, the odds that they’d make it out of the Vestige in time by themselves was pretty low.
“Well, if I’m going to die anyway, I might as well be doing something, right? Just in case, I’m Hope.” white hair said in a resigned sort of way.
“I’m Vanille.” pink girl said. They ran to catch up to the others, After climbing the stairs, going through the door, and climbing down the other set of stairs. They found themselves in a dark room with a metal dome.
“So this… is the fal’cie.” Hope said, slightly disbelieving. His voice carried a clear note of ‘Is this it?’
“I have to admit, I’ve seen scarier and more impressive things than this.” Twilight said. Really, this was a bit underwhelming. Appearances could be deceiving though, and this thing could be harmless-looking on purpose to get people to lower their guard, so her own guard was higher than usual if anything. A lowered guard would be useful if they wanted to magically enslave someone.
“Serah’s a crystal now. You gave her a Focus, and she did it.” Snow pointed at the unresponsive dome. “You got what you wanted, now let her go!” When the fal’cie continued to ignore him, he dropped to his knees and begged. “Please. Just turn her back!” he propped himself up on one knee and placed a hand on his chest. “I’ll be your l’cie instead!” He still got no response.
“It’s not going to listen to you.” Twilight said, starting to get angry again. What did this thing care if one more person died? There were hundreds dead because of it already, and that was the optimistic estimate. One more wasn’t going to change anything as far as this thing was concerned.
“You go on begging, like this thing gives a damn what we want!” Lightning pulled out her gunblade, switched it to blade mode and began slashing the dome, only to be pushed back by her own force, not leaving a scratch on the dome. ‘What is that thing made of? I’d like a sword made of that.’ Twilight thought. ‘Now’s not the time!’ the rest of her mind told the part that had noted this.
“Lightning!” Snow called worriedly.
“It’s this thing’s fault the Purge started, and it’s people who are dying. Serah told us to save Cocoon. That means this thing needs to die!” she cried out.
Panels lit up yellow beneath them, gears began moving in the walls surrounding them as the room brightened. The dome opened a crack, a bright light shining from inside of it. A pair of hand-like metal constructs rose from the floor to either side of the dome. The light became blinding as the dome opened all the way. It faded to reveal a strange being.
“What the-” Sazh asked. A green being with metal all over it’s body and a purple crystal embedded inside it was levitating inside the dome. It’s only limb was an arm that ended in three blades. Hope turned as a tone sounded from the entrance, moments after the crystal embedded in the fal’cie had flashed. A red seal had appeared, he tried throwing his boomerang at it, only for it to bounce off a wall of red magic.
“It’s blocked the exit!” he called, clearly worried and frightened. Twilight doubted what she’d tried before would work again. Indeed, based on what she could glean of the barrier, it had been intentionally reworked to prevent that from working again. She probably wouldn’t have the time to study it in detail and find another way to disable it without using a blast that would kill them all. That left them with no option but to fight.
“Come on now. You really think that you can kill a fal’cie?” Sazh asked, as the fal’cie began to make it’s manipulators twitch.
“We won’t know until we try.” Twilight said, readying her sword and pistol, while eyeing the manipulators. She’d keep them occupied with her magic while the others took down the main body. It was likely that the manipulators were going to keep coming after them until the main body went down.
“I’m doing this for Serah!” Lightning said, raising her gunblade. Snow also readied himself for a fight.
Sazh looked down. Twilight thought she heard him mutter,“Dajh…” The fal’cie appeared to be preparing itself as well. Screens with the brand on them appeared around it. The chocobo chick chirped, before diving back into Sazh’s hair. “I’m in. As long as you don’t mind an amateur.” he pulled out his guns “I got these things, so I might as well use ‘em.” Twilight decided not to ask him what happened to Dajh unless he brought it up. It sounded like something he didn’t want to talk about.
Hope came back to the group. “It’ll kill us all if we don’t take care of it.” he explained as he drew his boomerang. He still seemed nervous, but not unable to fight.
“I’d rather not lose any more friends.” Vanille said as she drew an unusual hybrid of a staff and a mace. Yeah, because that didn’t raise all sorts of questions.
“Thanks.” Lightning said, genuinely grateful.
“I”ll take care of the hands, you guys go after the main body.” Twilight said. She began attacking the manipulators with magic and physical attacks, drawing them away from her companions. She’d send blasts of magic at one while hitting the other with physical attacks directly. She had to rely on barriers and shields to take the attacks the manipulators lashed out at her with, otherwise she’d have gotten a lot of broken bones.
“Are you a l’cie?!” Hope asked as he and the others pounded away at the fal’cie’s main body. He didn’t stop fighting, but he did sound rather panicked.
“No, I’m from a parallel world, everyone can use magic to some degree there.” The manipulators were continually trying to crush her, unaware that the actual fal’cie was being badly beaten by her companions. After the fal’cie took a great deal of damage, it’s crystal glowed blindingly. When the light faded, the six of them were floating in a dark void with a crystal overhead.
“Where are we?” Lightning asked as a bell began to toll.
“What’s going on?” Snow asked, the bell tolled.
“I’ve got a bad feeling.” Twilight said, the bell tolled again. A powerful burst of blue magic erupted from below them, directly into the crystal above them. The crystal shattered and disappeared to reveal a huge demonic figure. A large number of bells began to toll. They gasped in surprise, shock and/or fear.
Waves of blue magic pulsed from the creature, before tentacles of the same grabbed onto them all. These caused a great deal of pain where they contacted their skin, so she couldn’t concentrate enough to do more than struggle physically against them. The figure raised a hand, and bursts of energy flowed through the tentacles, redoubling the pain, they all cried out, a small part of her mind not occupied by the agony she was experiencing noted that it seemed sharpest at her waist.
A final pulse of energy flowed from the figure before the tentacles dissolved, and they started to fall before everything went dark. She saw a gargantuan beast destroying Cocoon in a vision, just before losing consciousness.
*** Meanwhile Outside ***
The Vestige suddenly began sprouting blue crystals, a wave of magical energy pulsed from the building, destroying the Psicom forces and the Hanging Edge. The Vestige began to fall, only for another pulse to radiate from the building as it hit a body of water, this pulse crystallized the water, before returning to it’s point of origin.
*** The Next Morning ***
They all woke up, one by one. They appeared to be on some sort of crystallized body of water. The only such body of water near the Vestige’s location was Lake Bresha, so that should be where they were.
“This must be… Lake Bresha?” Sazh asked. Lake Bresha was located near Cocoon’s outer rim, directly beneath the Hanging Edge, so that was probably a good guess. It was once a bustling center of activity, but the area was now home to monsters that lurked among the ruins dotting the shore. He looked up to the metal overhead, which had greenish light coming through holes in it. “We fell from up there and… the lake turned to crystal?” Sazh asked. “Help me out here! Did the fal’cie do this?” Sazh asked.
“I’m just guessing here, but I’d say this is the fal’cie equivalent of dead man’s grip. If it could normally do this sort of thing, it would not have been that easy to kill.” Twilight theorized. Vanille fell to her knees.
“We’re still alive, how?” she asked. Yeah, falling onto water from the height they had would have hurt like it was concrete, never mind falling on these crystals. They should all be dead, so the question was, as Vanille had said, how?
“Serah!” Snow said. “No one survives a fall from that high, not without a miracle.” Snow said, glancing up at the area from which they had fallen.
“Certainly not onto something this hard.” Twilight agreed, stamping experimentally on the crystallized water, not even scratching it, let alone cracking it. Considering the kind of force they would have exerted when they fell, she wasn’t really surprised. If that didn’t crater the ‘ground’ around them, very little would.
“Serah must have saved us!” Snow said with certainty. Well, that wasn’t impossible, but she doubted it. Serah was still crystal as far as she knew, and it was unlikely that she could do much to influence the world around her the way she was right now.
Lightning glared at him “Serah? Listen, it’s all your fault that she got-”
“Hey!” Snow called pointing at the cie’eth behind approaching from behind Lightning. Twilight noticed a mark on Snow’s arm as he blocked the attack aimed at Lightning. The mark glowed blue as he drew his fist back, the glow spread to his hand as he punched the cie’eth, sending it flying back, shards of ice flew through the air.
“How did I-?” Snow asked, holding his hand in front of his face.
“Snow, look at your arm.” Twilight said, a deep fear settling into her. There were fewer arrows, but the basic shape was the same as Serah’s brand. The mark of bondage to a fal’cie. Shit. Then again, this did explain how they’d survived. After all, it wouldn’t do if the fal’cie’s newest servants died before their task really began.
“You’re a l’cie! The fal’cie cursed us, we’re all l’cie now!” Hope cried out in anger and despair as more cie’eth surrounded them and the first got back up. They all drew their respective weapons.
“Well, first we have to deal with these guys.” Twilight said.
“Right.” Lightning said.
Their abilities had increased in physical terms, and their new magical abilities made the fight a great deal easier. She noticed her magic seemed to recharge as quickly as she used it, and was already stronger. Her physical strength hadn’t increased as much, but it had increased. Her speed and endurance for physical punishment had improved as well, as she was moving noticeably faster and a blow that would normally have knocked her down didn’t. They quickly took care of the cie’eth, then sheathed/holstered their weapons.
Snow took a good, long look at his brand. “Oh that’s just great, we really are l’cie.” Snow said. Lightning grunted.
“Looks like it.” Sazh said, glancing at the brand on his chest.
“You too?” Snow asked Vanille.
She nodded. “Right here.” she lifted her skirt to reveal a brand on her hip.
“On my stomach,” Twilight said, before anyone could ask. Hope stared at his wrist, which had his brand on it. He fell to his knees.
“Why did we have to attack that thing? I barely even know any of you! Why me?!” They looked away guiltily. Twilight especially because she’d been the one to convince him to come with the rest of the group. “Just leave me alone!” He muttered incomprehensibly for a moment. Then he got up and yelled, “All of this is your and Serah’s fault!” at Snow.
“Watch it!” Snow growled.
Hope found himself picked up by his jacket. “Now you listen to me, we’re l’cie, yelling at each other isn’t going to make these” Twilight waved the wrist that had been branded in his face “go away.” she let Hope go, he dropped to the ground and scurried back, stopping when he hit Lightning’s legs. He looked up to see Lightning glaring down at him. He moved over and held his hands to his head in a crouching position.
“Sorry.” Snow said softly.
“That was a bit too harsh.” Twilight apologized, the kid was clearly under a lot of stress. Vanille walked over and put her hands on his shoulders.
“Everything is going to be just fine.” Vanille said comfortingly. “You’ll see.” She pulled him up. “Come on, off we go!” They started along the path, fighting their way through the cie’eth and local wildlife. Apparently, the crystallization only worked on non-solid materials unless you had an actual l’cie brand on you.
“Guess we should introduce ourselves. I’m Snow Villiers.” Snow said.
“Sazh Katsrovsky.” Sazh said in turn.
“Hope Estheim.” Hope said.
“I’m Vanille.” Vanille said, Twilight noted the lack of a last name. She was starting to get suspicious about Vanille, but they couldn’t afford to divide the group right now, so she kept it to herself.
“Twilight Sparkle.” Twilight said, she ignored the looks from a couple people. Oh, because people could be named Snow, or Hope, but Twilight was weird? She really didn’t see what the problem was.
“This is ‘Lightning’ Farron, her real first name is anybody’s guess.” Snow said. Lightning grunted at him again. They continued up the slope.
“The magic is cursed, but if we’re cursed either way, there’s no reason we shouldn’t use it, right?” Snow asked after a fight with a couple cie’eth.
“I suppose not, it seems to rely on our brands as a focus point, we can probably use it from any point, but it will certainly be easiest at our branded spots.” Twilight advised.
They stopped at a ledge formed from a section of road. “So, if we’re l’cie, we have a Focus, right?” Twilight asked.
“Right, but if we don’t know our Focus, how do we complete it?” Lightning asked.
“I think… I saw it.” Vanille said.
“Saw what?” Lightning asked.
“That is how a Focus comes down, people.” Sazh held his hands parallel to the ground. “The fal’cie don’t spell it out for you with clear-cut instructions, all you get is a hazy glimpse.” Sazh explained. That seemed counter-intuitive. Why would you sabotage your own servants? Who you’d given a time limit?
“And you know this, how, exactly?” Twilight asked. That was downright suspicious. How the hell did he know that?
“Well, that’s what they say. You know, legends and all.” he said defensively. After a pause that lasted long enough that Sazh would know they didn’t quite believe his explanation for his knowledge. Lightning turned to Hope.
“Did you see anything?” she asked.
Hope considered for a moment then said, “Well… It’s all kind of foggy, but- I saw this huge, towering-”
“Creature destroying Cocoon?” Twilight asked. This was either really good, or really bad.
“W-wait a minute. Hold on. Did we all have the same dream?” Sazh asked.
“Ragnarok.” Lightning, Snow and herself said at the same time, the name had just popped into their heads.
“So, we did all have the same dream. We all heard the same voice.” Sazh said.
“Does that mean that was our Focus? But how are we supposed to know what to do from that?” Hope asked in annoyance.
“That’s the tricky part. The dream’s the only hint the fal’cie gives us, deciding what to do with it, that’s our job.” Vanille said.
“Again, how do you know about this?” Twilight asked. Vanille pretended not to hear her, and she didn’t press the issue, but she resolved to keep a close eye on their companion.
“Okay, okay…” Sazh said, before turning to them. “We’re Pulse l’cie, right? Enemies of everything Cocoon! So, does that mean our Focus is-?” Sazh left it hanging “Are we supposed to-”
“Save her.” Snow interrupted him.
“Say what?” Sazh asked.
“Our Focus is to protect Cocoon!” Snow said with conviction.
“Really? Okay, and why is that?” Vanille asked him, unconvinced.
“Serah told us. Let’s do it! We’re all in this together. I’m going to go look for Serah. She should be nearby.” Snow said before running off.
“I’m coming too!” Vanille ran after him. “Wait!” she called.
Sazh sighed. “That boy can’t stay still!” he said, before following them.
“Really…” Hope said, somewhat aggravated.
“That’s Snow alright.” Twilight said, in mild exasperation, as she followed after them. Hope was a few seconds behind, Lightning was a little behind Hope. Snow was waiting at the next ledge.
“We fight it! Ragnarok!” he jumped off his slightly raised portion of the ledge and continued. “That’s the reason we’re l’cie. So we can stop it, So we can keep Cocoon safe!”
“Really? Give us one reason, that makes any sense, to believe that? Just one.” Sazh said, raising a finger.
“Serah.” The others looked a bit confused by his statement.
“I think I get what you’re saying. Since Serah told us to save Cocoon, then turned to crystal, she must have completed her Focus.” Twilight said. That made sense. That was supposed to be how a l’cie turning to crystal worked.
“Right! Since we have the same fal’cie, that means ours is to save Cocoon. Our Focus has to be the same. We were chosen to be guardians, to defeat Ragnarok! It makes sense!” Snow said, only for Sazh to shake his head.
“The hell it does! You’re just grasping at straws there, son! Pulse fal’cie are Cocoon’s enemies, and we just got drafted by one of them.” He slowly approached Snow. “If I were the kind of man who bets… I’d put us on the other side.” Sazh finished coldly.
“So that makes Serah an enemy too? Well I don’t buy it.” Snow said loyally.
“There’s a problem with your theory Sazh,” they turned to her “the only things we know about Pulse are from the Sanctum and their fal’cie, and most of that is likely several centuries old, or propaganda. Who’s to say all of Pulse still hates Cocoon? Or even that that hatred was universal in the first place?” Twilight asked. That being said, she somewhat agreed with Sazh. If these things were benevolent, they would care more about all the lives they ruined. If they were malevolent or uncaring, that made it a lot more likely that they’d order Cocoon’s destruction, and made more sense considering their actions.
Snow turned and walked over to Lightning. He held his branded arm. “We have the power to save Cocoon. If we work together and carry out our Focus-” he cut off as Lightning drew her gunblade, switched it to blade mode, and pressed it to Snow’s throat all in one quick motion. Twilight was barely able to follow that. Lightning was both fast and quick and the brand had only enhanced that.
“Our Focus? The fal’cie took Serah from us, and now you want to help it? Whose side are you on?” Lightning asked.
“Didn’t you hear what I said before?” Twilight asked. Just because their Focus might be to destroy Cocoon, that didn’t mean they should avoid fulfilling it at all costs. If it turned out their Focus was to save Cocoon, then she’d be more than willing to do so. She didn’t care who gave her the mission if it meant saving millions of people.
“Freeze!” a soldier said. A full platoon of 64 soldiers surrounded them. Kind of overkill for a relatively small group, and it sure seemed like they’d have to check their fire to avoid hitting each other. Besides, how did they sneak up on the group. They were arguing pretty loudly, but they should have heard these guys coming since they were wearing full armor.
“Place your hands behind your heads!” another soldier said. They slowly did as he said. Lightning grunted, before doing the same, letting her gunblade fall to the ground with a clatter.
“What, you fall of the Purge train?” the captain, most probably in charge, asked.
“Maybe.” Lightning said coolly.
“Are you talking back to me?” the captain asked, walking over, pointing his gun at her neck.
“Nice gun.” Lightning commented, before disarming and knocking the Psicom captain out with a series of her name-sake fast blows.
“Stop her!” one of the soldiers said.
“Freeze!” another said as Lightning stepped on her gunblade in such a way as to cause it to lever upwards into her hands. She was clearly very experienced with it. She took out five soldiers before anyone could do anything. They all drew/unholstered their weapons and joined in. Several magical attacks hit the soldiers, a fireball, a shard of ice and a bolt of lightning.
“My fal’cie! They’re l’cie!” one said as they realized that Twilight had attacked them with magic. After a few minutes, every soldier was either dead or unconscious.
“I thought they’d be tougher than that. These guys are Psicom. They’re supposed to be the cream of the crop.” Sazh moved his hands back and forth over the nearest soldier’s mask. Vanille began praying, holding her hands in an unusual position of prayer.
“Well, we’re lcie, our brands seem to make us stronger based on how much we fight and how long we’ve been l’cie. Even though it hasn’t been a full day, we’re a heck of a lot stronger than your average human already.” Twilight explained.
“Besides, Psicom’s an anti-Pulse task force, they haven’t fought a real war in centuries, we’re better trained in NORA.” Snow said, walking over to them. “These are just a bunch of rookie troops, swinging around over-priced toys.”
“So, what you’re saying is that regular old soldiers and a militia group have more training than the special forces.” Sazh said, a slight chuckle in his voice.
“Nothing we l’cie can’t handle.” Snow responded.
“Well, yes and no.” Twilight said. The rookies and new recruits could be handled easily by most NORA members, but their commanding officers on the other hand…
“Their grunts are green, but their elites are cold-blooded monsters. If they hit the field, it’s game over.” Lightning explained. If Twilight hadn’t had enough magic to one-shot that elite from before, it could have been a tough fight.
“Uh-oh! Then let’s run away! Ciao!” Vanille said before running off down the path.
“Hey wait!” Sazh called. “What’s a man to do?” Sazh asked as they followed Vanille. After each fight, Sazh, Lightning and herself would salvage ammo from fallen enemies, Vanille would take animal parts and decorate her weapon with them, Hope would take anything that might be useful as a component and tinkered with integrating it into his boomerang.
Sazh groaned. “It’s not right. Why’d kids have to get dragged into this?” Sazh asked. Hope and Vanille were too far ahead to hear the four of them.
“Well, if it makes you feel better, I was 16, but when I got sent to this world, my age was reset to four, so I’m actually 26.” Twilight told him. “So, not really a kid.” she finished as they stared at her. She’d looked older and matured relatively quickly, so it was an easy mistake to make back home that she was in her twenties. Of course, mentally at least, she was significantly older now. Oddly, she looked her biological age as a human. She figured her genetics were just a bit different.
“Don’t worry, I’ll keep the kids out of trouble.” Snow said, recovering the quickest from that little revelation. He’d always been the quickest to adapt to changing circumstances, whether in a fight, or life in general.
“The only problem with that is, you’re one of ‘em.” Sazh said, before walking away, chuckling.
“Hey!” Snow called, a bit put out.
“Trying to take on the Pulse fal’cie, that was our first mistake. We should have left it to the Sanctum.” Sazh said. Vanille started calling them over, having noticed they were falling behind. “Why not? I mean, we’ve counted on the Sanctum’s fal’cie for food, water… everything we’ve needed from the day we were born.”
“Except me.” Twilight said. “I’ve never liked the idea of being utterly dependent on something with it’s own mind and ambitions.” she explained. Paranoia had it’s benefits sometimes. Like now.
“You still both helped us do it, the kids probably just didn’t want to die, but there must have been a reason besides that for you two.” Snow said.
“It needed to pay for the suffering and death it had caused.” Twilight said darkly. That thing might have had good intentions, but it certainly didn’t seem to care about individual humans or relatively small numbers of them.
“There might have been something. Not so sure anymore.” Sazh said, walking after the younger members of their party. They were walking down a train car that had fallen from above and was still partially above the crystallized lake. She noticed a crystal figure that looked like… “Hey, isn’t that-?” she asked.
“Serah!” Lightning called, she ran over to her sister
“Serah!” Snow called, inches behind his fiance’s sister. He placed a hand on her head when he reached her, saying “I’ll get you out of there!” he grabbed a nearby piece of metal and started chipping away at the crystal holding Serah in place.
“Let me help!” Vanille said, grabbing a knife-like piece of metal and began digging herself.
“Thanks!” Snow grunted out. Sazh grabbed a piece himself and joined in, closely followed by Twilight.
For a moment, Lightning hesitated, then, “We can’t stay here to dig her out.” Lightning said sadly.
Twilight paused, thinking it over. “She’s right, Psicom will be right behind us. We had to take out a platoon just to get here, imagine what we’ll have to deal with when they’re looking for us specifically. Besides, even if we dig her out, how do we get around without risking hurting her?” she said. Cold as it was, the simple logistics of the situation made it impossible for them to take her with them. She could levitate Serah, but it would kill her combat effectiveness, and she’d effectively become dead weight herself.
“So we just leave her here?” Snow asked angrily.
“If they find us, we’re all dead. Do you think that’s what Serah would want? I thought you were going to save Cocoon.” Lightning began to walk away, but paused as Snow said.
“If I leave her, then I’ll never know. We’ll be fine, I can handle anything they throw at us. No one’s going to die. I’ll protect Serah and Cocoon.” Lightning walked up to him and punched him square in the face. Their new status as l’cie had made them all physically stronger, but tougher as well. So Lightning’s punch had about as much effect as it had the last time. Which was to say, he was laid out on the ground again.
“She doesn’t look protected to me!” Lightning shouted at him.
“I can save her!” Snow shouted back as he picked himself back up. Lightning punched him again, sending him back to the ground.
“You’ve failed once already! What can you possibly do now!?” Lightning shouted at him.
“Whatever it takes!” he responded, a bit more weakly, thought it looked more like the pain was responsible for that than any loss of determination. Lightning slowly unclenched her fist.
“Oy, you two are hopeless.” Sazh said as he walked past the two of them. “You just can’t admit that you want to stay as much as he does.”
“It wouldn’t change anything.” Lightning said. A metallic sound was heard behind them. Sazh fell on his back as he turned to see another Mansavin model approaching. No wait, this was the same one! HOW did it find them?! How the HELL had it survived the fall, and then managed to find them again?!?!
“Not again!” Sazh yelled. An ethereal sword cut the warmech’s tail off.
“All at once! While it’s distracted!” Twilight yelled as the warmech’s systems were momentarily frozen trying to account for the sudden loss of an entire limb. They weren’t in great shape to begin with, but this was the final straw. They hit it with a full blast of magic and physical attacks, already weakened by the loss of one of it’s limbs, it was unable to adequately defend itself from them even after it unfroze and slumped over after a few minutes. Lightning was obviously making a supreme effort to keep her emotions in check as she walked off.
“You’re leaving?” Snow asked.
After a few seconds Sazh said. “We want to help Serah too… but even if we had tools, we could be digging for days and Psicom’s right behind us, not to mention our doom counters.” he gestured to Snow’s brand, referencing their brands’ countdown. “For now, we’ve gotta keep moving. Just for now.” he said a placating tone in his voice.
“So I just abandon her and save myself?” Snow asked angrily.
“What about your Focus? What happened to Mr. band-together-and-save-the-world? Isn’t that what you promised? Now you want to forget it all and die right here?” Sazh sighed as he backed off from the pair following Lightning’s tirade. “Snow, you’re nothing but talk.” Lightning started off.
“Try not to die, you won’t be saving anything as a corpse.” Twilight said sincerely as she walked after Lightning. He was too stubborn for her to convince to come with them, and of all of them, he was the toughest and least likely to get killed by staying behind.
“Stay out of trouble.” Snow told Sazh, who sighed and walked past him.
Vanille hesitated. “Get going.” Snow said, his usual grin returning.
“Sorry.” Vanille apologized.
Hope looked back and forth between Snow and the rest of the group. “Go on, we’ll see each other again.” Snow told him.
“But…” he began.
“It’s okay, Light’ll take care of you.” When Hope still hesitated, “Just save it for next time. You’ll get left behind.”
“Next time. Count on it.” Hope said before he followed the rest of the group. There was a surprisingly dark undertone there. She couldn’t help but wonder what history these two had.
Just before she was out of earshot, Snow said “I’ll protect Serah and Cocoon, that’s my promise.” to Lightning.
“Great job so far.” Lightning responded sarcastically. As they reached yet another ledge, they hunkered down as they saw a large aircraft, probably a carrier-class down in the valley below, they could see another unit of Psicom troops being given orders as fighters soared overhead.
“They must be hunting down anyone who might’ve survived the Purge.” Sazh said.
“I hope everyone made it out okay.” Vanille said softly.
“So do I.” Sazh said.
“Unfortunately, there isn’t anywhere safe for them now, Cocoonians are so afraid of Pulse that even former friends and their relatives might turn on them.” Twilight said somberly. She was afraid of what might have happened to her friends in NORA. They’d been helping the rebellion, and if they managed to survive they’d need to go into hiding.
“Damn it all! Just ‘cause they shared a neighborhood with a fal’cie… they get treated like rats, just some pests that need getting rid of.” Sazh said.
“People really hate Pulse, don’t they?” Vanille asked sadly.
“Fear would be the best word, hate doesn’t fit.” Twilight responded. Fear made people more irrational than hate at times.
“Tens of millions of people… all scared to death of Pulse boogeymen. They wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if they knew l’cie like us were around.” Sazh said, a hand grasping at his brand.
“But… they Purged the entire town!” Vanille responded.
“It’s crazy, I know… But the Sanctum’s fal’cie did nothing to stop it. Up until now, Eden’s always stepped in to correct their errors in judgement… but I guess humans just aren’t worth the effort anymore.” Sazh chuckled darkly. “They’ll probably just let us kill each other off.” He had a point.
Eden’s behavior before now mostly consisted of keeping the humans inhabiting Cocoon happy with entertainment and healthy by providing security and sustenance. In a situation like this, someone basing their predictions on the past couple decades worth of behavior would have expected Eden to curb the violent response to the discovery of a Pulse fal’cie, and it would likely have been a genuine exile. Eden had not done that. What changed? What was different about this? Could she simply be underestimating the fear, hatred, and paranoia of fal’cie native to Cocoon? Or was something else going on?
Hope got up. “L’cie are not human.” he said, far more darkly. Wow, what happened to this kid? Sure they were probably all going to die or worse, but she’d at least kept her sense of humor.
“Listen you, that’s enough!” Vanille snapped at him, grabbing his hand, only to see his brand and let go guiltily. “We’re still alive, that’s something.” Vanille said placatingly.
“If it makes you feel better, you still look, sound, and act like a human, so you’re probably still a human, albeit ones that are able to use magic and are unusually difficult to kill.” Twilight said in an attempt to reassure him while at the same time being honest about the situation. She was pretty sure she failed miserably. The area began to rumble as an aircraft approached.
“What?” Hope asked.
“Where is it?” Sazh asked.
“There!” Lightning pointed to their right. A trio of fighters passed so close that the wind knocked most of them down.
“They’re sealing off the area, must be trying to trap any stragglers.” Lightning analyzed. They all got up. “We’ve got to get moving before we’re caught in the net.” Lightning said.
They hurried, dispatching any cie’eth, Psicom, or wildlife in their way. They reached an open area that overlooked the rest of the lake, upon seeing the completely crystallized body of water, Vanille exclaimed. “Whoa! This whole place is crystal!” The power required to change so much water into crystal must have been immense, she was concerned about the effects this would have on the ecosystem though. The water table was almost certainly all messed up from Bresha being made crystalline.
Sazh said “I wonder what becoming a crystal would be like.” wondering aloud. Well, Serah hadn’t seemed to be in pain when it happened to her, so there was that.
“Are you going to complete your Focus?” she asked with genuine curiosity.
“Maybe, if I knew what it was. I probably don’t want to know though.” he responded.
“Hey Lightning, did Serah say anything to you about her Focus?” Vanille asked.
“Nothing.” Lightning responded, one hand clutching at her own brand.
“I’m sure she just didn’t want to worry you.” Vanille said, trying to lift Lightning’s mood.
“Or she thought she couldn’t trust me.” Lightning said somberly.
“Well, I don’t mean to get anyone’s hopes up, but I might be able to produce a counter-spell, given enough time.” Twilight said. They froze for a second, then all turned to her. “Under the right circumstances, I can see a spell once and replicate it. It shouldn’t be impossible to create a spell that reverses the effect since I’ve not only seen but am constantly feeling the effects of this particular spell.” she explained.
“That’s handy, but hold on a second, since you know the spell, couldn’t you turn people into l’cie?” Sazh said in mild horror. It wasn’t like there were any non-l’cie around.
She nodded. “But I wouldn’t even consider casting it on anyone. As a side note, I could also turn them directly into cie’eth by either setting the clock to zero, or not giving them a Focus, automatically reducing their time to zero. Again, not something I would even consider.” She thought it best to get the possible thoughts of what she could do with it out and refute them.
“Just out of curiosity, how many people could you turn at once?” Hope asked nervously. Maybe her strategy wasn’t the best idea.
“To answer your question, I would estimate 34, assuming I was at full power. Of course I would, again, never do that, certainly not when I don’t know how to reverse it, or even if I’ll be able to figure out how to do so before… time runs out.” They decide to avoid the subject for a while and walked on, eventually reaching a temple of sorts. It was crawling with Psicom soldiers, bioweapons and even a few elites. They made their way through with a mixture of brute force and sneak attacks.
“Are ruins like these common?” Vanille asked.
“Not especially.” Hope said. “It’s probably an old temple-city from when people openly worshipped fal’cie. They’d build and maintain the temples themselves because making the fal’cie build their own temples would kind of defeat the purpose. This sort of thing died off a couple hundred years ago though.” He explained.
This pseudo-religion had existed since not long after Cocoon’s founding according to official records, and experienced a surge in membership for decades after the War of Transgression. After a century or so, the faith started to die out, and about 200 years ago, it completely vanished. No one even bothered to maintain the temple cities scattered across Cocoon anymore. Even the religion’s capital barely received attention. The ability of AMP technology to mimic the effects of magic was believed to have a hand in this. It made the fal’cie merely powerful beings rather than gods whose feats were beyond the ken of mortals. Then again, as technology in general advanced, the congregation of those who worshiped the fal’cie directly dropped, especially after major advances. She’d like the chance to admire the sights, but they simply didn’t have time.
*** With Snow ***
Snow suddenly felt a great deal stronger, he was surprised to find he was making better progress than before on the digging out his fiance. Thinking back to Twilight’s earlier words, he thought that the others must have been doing a lot of fighting, not questioning how that was also affecting him. He shrugged, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” he said, before digging with renewed vigor.
*** Back With The Main Group ***
After fighting their way past the forces of Psicom with a mix of ambushes and direct assaults, they reached an area with large crystals jutting out, some blue, others orange, the orange crystals were presumably crystallized fire. ‘Wait, it turned liquid water and gaseous fire to crystal? How does that work?’ she wondered, slightly annoyed this hadn’t occurred to her before, and she was supposed to be observant! Perhaps it targeted everything that wasn’t solid or organic instead of just liquids? Unless there was liquid flame involved, that made the most sense.
“Hey guys, I’ve got the same bad feeling I got when we attacked the fal’cie. The something’s-about-to-try-and-kill-us feeling.” she told them within moments of getting said feeling. They drew their weapons, but put them away when nothing happened. Vanille ran ahead of the group.
“Stay close.” Lightning advised, beginning to get a bad feeling of her own.
“I want to look around.” Vanille said in a cheerful carefree manner. Twilight’s dangerous enemy had failed to materialize, so she didn’t see the harm.
“She reminds me of Pinkie, a bit carefree, but she means well.” Twilight said, still nervously clutching her sword and pistol. A warmech that resembled a flying dragon suddenly burst through the crystals, Vanille ran screaming back to the rest of the group.
“I hate it when I’m right about this sort of thing.” Twilight said as they drew their weapons.
The warmech proved little more than a nuisance at this point. It didn’t even have time to launch any powerful attacks before it’s wings were disabled by a flurry of bullets and ice spells poking holes in it’s wings and weighing it down, causing it to fall to the ground. Falling further damaged it, as it fell from a sufficient height to create a small crater, a disadvantage of the sheer mass it had. They took the opportunity to attack it with a full-force combined assault, leaving only a smoking heap.