// Oerba, Gateway to Eden// Story: Twilight the Traveler// by ilbgar//——————————//
The first thing she noticed about Oerba was the crystalline sand threatening to engulf it as they descended from the tower. Maybe when you turned to crystal, the crystals started to break down if you didn’t turn back? She didn’t think she wanted to know. The second thing was the occasional little blue spark of light floating about, something about them was melancholy. It was as if they were mourning souls, trapped here. The third thing was that the village was in ruins, that was visible even from this distance.
“Sorry, guess Oerba got hit by whatever it was too.” Twi apologized. Some things were fairly intact by the look of it, so it was likely that the people had simply abandoned the village or died out. Perhaps they’d been hit too hard by the losses incurred in the war and gone into decline? Then again, the fal’cie had taken a fair amount of material from Pulse, so that could be it too. Maybe both?
“What are you sorry for? This isn’t what we were hoping for, but it’s still home.” Fang said solemnly.
They walked a bit farther, fending off the hordes of cie’eth wandering the village, which raised unpleasant thoughts of the villagers’ fates, especially with the looming prospect of it happening to them. She really didn’t want to know if they’d all been made l’cie then failed their Focuses, or been massacred by cie’eth who’d then made this place their home, or maybe some of both. The buildings hadn’t been abandoned long enough to completely cave in, but the paint had all been worn off long since , and the metal underneath rusted. They seemed well constructed, but the layer of dust on everything but the floor showed that no one had been here in living memory. Well, normal human memory anyway.
“So, which one is your house?” Hope asked Fang and Vanille.
“What do you mean, which one is ours? All of them. They’re all ours.” Vanille said, making a sweeping gesture.
“How does that work?” Twi asked, curious. A communal village?
“Everyone in the village lived together.” Fang explained. Ah, it was communal then.
“One big, happy family?” Snow asked.
“One heck of a lot of places to hang your hat.” Sazh commented.
“We’re back.” Vanille whispered as they all started to walk forward.
“So, want to take a look around?” Hope asked.
“We’d better, got to find something to help us lose these brands.” Fang said.
“That’s not the only reason we’re here. You’re finally home. Make the most of it.” Sazh said
“I’m sure you have a lot of great memories of this place, so take a little while to travel down memory lane.” Twi said. ‘While you still can.’ was left unsaid.
They split into two groups, Lightning, Hope and Snow would take a closer look around where they’d already been in the village, while Fang, Sazh, Vanille, and herself would take a look around the rest of Oerba. They took care of a few more cie’eth along the way, and looked inside a couple houses. They were fairly homey for being several centuries in disrepair, and, in the second, they found a little robot.
It was an orange (though that might just be the rust), boxy little thing on treads, like some kind of miniature tank with the gun removed. Vanille seemed to recognize it. “Bhakti!” Vanille called out in recognition.
The little robot rolled forward as Vanille knelt down in front of it. “Friend of yours?” Sazh asked.
“Yeah!” she nodded at Sazh. She laid a hand on top of Bhakti, causing it to chirp in response. “You’re okay, I was worried.” she said, only for Bhakti to shut down within seconds of her saying that.
“Looks like he wanted to say goodbye.” Fang said.
“Poor thing, he’s been alone for so long and he turns off just when some of his old friends come back.” Twi said sadly. That was just cruel.
“He’s not ready for the scrap heap just yet. A bit worse for wear, yeah, but nothing I can’t fix. Just need to track us down some parts.” Sazh said.
“Let’s get tracking then.” Twi said.
They added the parts Sazh said he needed to the list of what they were looking for, and got some help from the still-functioning units wandering the village, Lightning’s group brought back the last part they needed, and Bhakti was soon up and running again. “Thanks Sazh.” Vanille said, while playing around with Bhakti, who seemed very happy. The other units didn’t seem to have to much in the way of emotions by comparison. Perhaps Bhakti had evolved beyond it’s programming over the 500 years since the war, and the others hadn’t? They hadn’t seemed to care when Fang and Vanille returned after 500 years, so she had to assume Bhakti’s bond with them was responsible.
“You’re welcome, but we need to hit the road.” Sazh said.
“He’s right, you can come back for Bhakti when we get this mess cleared up.” Fang said.
“Alright, be good Bhakti. I’ll be back soon!” Vanille told him.
They searched the whole village like their lives depended on it, because they did. By the time they were done, there wasn’t a single cie’eth left in the area, and the only place left unchecked was a broken highway with a chunk missing in the middle. “That’s the only place left to look.” Fang said slightly morosely. It was unlikely they’d find anything there, and if they didn’t, they really were done for.
They started walking down the highway, careful to avoid any holes or broken glass when, as they neared the broken end of it, they started to hear a familiar voice. “Ragnarok. Come Day of Wrath, O Pulse L’cie…” That was a very familiar girl’s voice. “…Embrace thy fate, thine home to burn…”
‘That sounded like- but it couldn’t be.’
‘I’m getting nasty vibes.’ Arcana said warily.
“…That fallen souls might bear our plea…” “…To hasten the Divine’s return. O Piteous Wanderer, Ragnarok…” Serah, who they’d seen turn to crystal, appeared in a burst of light.
Lightning stiffened, as did Snow, there was something off about her, and this couldn’t really be Serah, but she certainly looked like Serah, right down to the pendant around her neck. The couldn’t-be-Serah person almost whispered the last few lines of what sounded a great deal like a prophecy.
“… Make of this day, a brave new epoch. Deliver the Divine, Ragnarok.” the Serah doppleganger finished.
“What?” Lightning asked in shock.
Snow started to walk forward. “Serah! How did you-?” he trailed off.
“I was waiting. For you to open your eyes.” something was off, she was certain, but she couldn’t place it. Not-Serah stepped over to Snow and hugged him.
“All the time I was asleep, I knew what was happening. I kept trying to think of a way to save Cocoon- together.” Not-Serah said.
“Serah?” Snow asked, noticing something wasn’t quite right. He pushed her away.
The owl-like bird that Barthandelus had had as a familiar glided by overhead. “You get it now. There are no gods with miracles to save us, no matter where you look. That’s why we have to call one. Destroy Orphan. We’ll save the world.” Not-Serah paced in front of them as she said this, Twilight was almost completely certain she knew who this really was.
“Stop it!” Light called, reaching for her gunblade. They were all logically aware that this wasn’t Serah, but it looked like Serah, so Lightning and Snow would hesitate to attack, just like Lightning was right now. She hadn’t even actually touched her gunblade. Twilight wasn’t entirely willing to attack someone wearing the face of a family member of one of her friends either. Just in case.
“You can’t do that. You love me too much.” Not-Serah said, more than a little bit of a sneer in her voice. Twilight thought she was getting a handle on what she was missing. “You do, don’t you Claire?” Not-Serah asked.
Snow stepped between them. “Listen up. We’re all shooting for the same goal here.” Snow said.
Twilight’s eyes widened as she finally figured out the scrambled signature coming from Not-Serah. Her eyes narrowed, that confirmed it, this was Dysley. A wave of purple magic flowed from the disguised fal’cie, before revealing the form he’d taken as Primarch. “And this is the result of that.” he said.
“Is there anything you won’t stoop to!?” Twi asked angrily. That was low, even from a guy who’d ordered mass-murder.
“You son of a-” Snow tried to punch Dysley in the face, but he teleported out of the way. Snow tried again, only to be blown backwards by Dysley’s shield. Twilight quickly used Cure on Snow, letting him shake off the blow.
“You betray your fal’cie to chase after dreams and shadows. The world you claim to wish to protect now faces the end of days with no hope of salvation.” Dysley said sternly.
“I thought fal’cie couldn’t destroy Cocoon because they don’t have true free will in regards to it.” Twi said.
Dysley smirked, “Oh, it won’t be fal’cie who destroy her. For centuries now, Cocoon has provided generously for her human inhabitants, their every want and need, in fact. You might even say, coddled them. This has resulted in their deep-seated fear and hatred of change and all that is alien.” His owl-like familiar, a rukh, she realized (that had been bugging her), settled on a metal beam behind him as Dysley talked.
“Fed, nurtured, and ready to detonate at even the slightest of sparks. The seeds of destruction take root, even now.” there was a hint of triumph in Dysley’s voice.
“What did you do to Cocoon?” Light asked, pointing her gunblade at the deranged fal’cie.
“I simply resigned and appointed my l’cie Raines as Primarch in my stead.” Dysley explained.
“Raines? He’s alive?” Snow asked.
“I restrung the puppet to serve my needs, yes.” Dysley answered, prompting scowls and sad looks from the group. “Though it’s eyes had long since turned to glass. Of course, the Cavalry’s eyes will see our friend as nothing more than a traitor to their cause.” He pointed his staff towards Cocoon.
“They’ll say ‘The fal’cie got to him too.’ or some such drivel. And imagine- when I spread word that Orphan is the one tugging at his strings- what happens next.” he finished.
“You’re gonna use the Cavalry to take that thing out?” Sazh asked.
“Perhaps. Or perhaps I’ll feign the howling of Pulsian wolves, and let the fear-addled sheep slaughter each other instead. Either way, the end is at hand.” he laughed evilly.
Twilight decided she really wanted to hit him with Ruinja, repeatedly.
“But what of yourselves? Will you enjoy the festivities beside me? Or perhaps…” he rose into the air and began to shine as his rukh flew towards him. “Greet the end here, in the land where it all began?” he asked.
His fal’cie form had changed somewhat, his coloration was now white and gold, his adornments were gone, and his face was missing. It looked like that first form was not his real one, and that was at least part of the reason he’d survived the first time. They readied themselves in the usual manner, buffs and Libra.
“Why not destroy the world that despises you?” Barthandelus asked, as he fired a relatively weak laser.
“Like we’ll go along with you after everything you put us through! He’s weak to Deprotect, Deshell, and Imperil!” Twi called out.
Once those were applied to him, they rained attacks on him, dodging the occasional laser. Then his face appeared, and he used a strange attack that removed their buffs, and his debuffs. Then he used a laser attack reminiscent of Thanatosian Smile, Thanatosian Laughter. It was much stronger than the first encounter, but so were they. Still, a Gatling gun but with lasers was no laughing matter.
A first set of adornments appeared on either side of his head, and their damage-dealing dropped drastically. They kept up their assault, until a second set of adornments appeared, and their damage dropped further still. Barthandelus’ own damage-dealing was rising however.
Twilight moved up to the fourth tier spells, mainly Ruinja. Barthandelus started to use Poisonga, Cursega, and Dazega, which poisoned, dealt set damage over time, or threw you off like you’d just taken a hard blow to the head, respectively, and his normal laser attack began inflicting Pain and Fog, status effects that put you through and made it difficult to withstand any significant amount of pain, and temporarily blinded you, respectively. They smashed him with magic and En-buffed attacks. Finally, they finished him, and he dissolved into light.
Still, none of them were surprised when he reappeared, unscathed. He’d survived a similar beating before, why should this be different?
“The time has come.” Dysley said. They raised their weapons, and pointed them at him, in case he’d decided to go all-out on them for round three here and now. “Allow me to extend my invitation. To save a people beyond hope of salvation, there is only Ragnarok.” he tapped his staff to the ground, causing the rukh to reappear. It morphed into a fighter again as it flew over to the edge of the break in the bridge.
“Cocoon suffers. Release her from the pain.” Dysley said, before disappearing.
“So, this is the end of the rainbow, huh?” Sazh asked as they stood in front of one last cie’eth stone, a purple one. “Here’s hoping the pots full of tips on dealing with crackpot fal’cie.” he said.
“You know, I don’t remember this being here before we fought Dysley, guess it’s new, huh?” Fang asked.
“Yeah, must be. I suppose it could be a record of what happened. You know, after we turned to crystal.” Vanille said, before walking over to the stone and touching it, she backed off as it started to glow green at the spot she touched, before a green circle was projected from it. Old Pulsian writing began to appear, and Vanille started to read it.
‘Cocoon, where the slaves of Lindzei dwell, is the enemy of all life fostered by Pulse’s sacred hand. So our fal’cie determined Pulse’s will, chose l’cie and gave them a Focus: Become Ragnarok, and bring an end to Cocoon. And so the beast arose, defeated Lindzei’s hateful fal’cie, and prepared to tear apart Cocoon.
But Her Providence betrayed our l’cie, draining Ragnarok of strength. Their Focus only half complete, the l’cie were taken to the enemy’s land… by Barthandelus, curse his name. And the Goddess said: “L’cie who rest upon Cocoon will reawaken, however long they may wait. And Ragnarok will rise again, to tear the land from it’s seat in the sky. Her word… is absolute.'” The projection faded.
“Guess the jig is up.” Sazh said, sitting down.
“Cocoon is done for, isn’t it?” Hope asked.
“Hey, don’t sweat it. If we go ahead and smash Cocoon, you know some Maker’s sure to roll up and save the day!” Sazh said, with some sarcasm evident.
“I suppose that’s not impossible, but somehow I doubt it. Besides, isn’t the Maker the one who made the fal’cie?” Twi asked. If it hadn’t shown up by now, she doubted it would show up for anything short of the destruction of the reality it had supposedly created.
“As long as fal’cie are around, this fight is never gonna end. So let’s finish it. Let’s get Dysley.” Snow said. He had a point.
“So what do we do about Orphan?” Sazh asked.
“We help Orphan. What else can we do? If we can manage to keep it safe-” Fang was interrupted by Lightning.
“Another war breaks out somewhere down the road. We’re l’cie, it’s not like we can make people stop fighting.” Light argued.
“Lightning, you told me on Cocoon, it’s not a question of can or can’t. We just do it! Maybe it won’t do much, maybe only one person will listen to us, but even then, isn’t trying better than doing nothing?” Hope asked.
“Because ripples can make waves!” Vanille said, grabbing his shoulders and giggling happily.
“Well, the kids have gone crazy, but for once, going crazy doesn’t sound too bad.” Sazh said, the ghost of a smile on his face.
“Revolutionaries always get called crazy.” Fang said.
“It’s true, always at least once.” Twilight said. The others all gave her the same look. “What? I’m in. If we convince everyone to stop fighting, then Barthandelus’ and Orphan’s plan falls apart.”
“When I was on Cocoon, I wished on those fireworks. I wished, to not let anything happen to Cocoon this time. But I shouldn’t have wished for that.” Vanille said. There were various exclamations of surprise in response to that. “Wishing isn’t enough on it’s own either. I’m making a promise this time: That I will keep Cocoon safe, I promise, no matter what.”
“Guess it takes losing everything to make you realize how much you have to fight for.” Sazh said
“And we’re the only ones who can do it. Right?” Snow asked.
“Right.” Hope answered.
“Alright then, let’s tie up loose ends.” Light said.
They all responded with various affirmatives, before turning to the ship. They walked up to it, climbed aboard, and let it carry them towards Cocoon. This was it, either they stopped Dysley’s plan, or everyone, including them, was doomed. Twilight taught the others the third-tier spells they didn’t already have (all their non-specialties) as the ship headed for Cocoon. They’d need every advantage they could get.