Twilight The Traveler Chapter 11 – Eden and Orphan

Twilight the Traveler

// Eden and Orphan// Story: Twilight the Traveler// by ilbgar//——————————//

People had begun gathering in a large stadium to celebrate the end of the l’cie threat. The amount of damage a mere handful of individuals had done was staggering. Hundreds of Sanctum soldiers, Psicom and Guardian Corps alike, had been felled and the lucky survivors had been traumatized by the sheer helplessness they’d experienced, finding years of training suddenly useless in the face of the very thing they were supposed to protect Cocoon from. The fleet and bioweapons were crippled by their losses, as well as the l’cie having gone through the Gapra Whitewoods and killed off most of the potential replacements for the fallen bioweapons.

However, the few weeks that had passed since the Palamecia had crashed and the l’cie disappeared had been enough time for the people to start healing. No one could really fault the former Primarch for resigning after almost being killed, that kind of stress was not good for someone in their eighties. The new Primarch, and former commander of the Cavalry division of Psicom, had become fairly popular. The race scheduled to begin the festivities opened with a speech from said new Primarch.

“People of Cocoon. My fellow citizens. We have survived the twilight, and gather now to welcome the dawn on which we decide our fate.” Raines said over a loudspeaker, and with a screen showing his face to those on the track and in the audience. The crowd was roaring in anticipation. “Many are the lessons we have learned during our long night of hardship and sacrifice.” The cars began to array themselves on the track. “And now we face choices, which must be made as our hearts dictate, and not be left up to uncaring chance. Let us forge ahead with unflinching courage, and honor the fallen with action. With theses hands, we shape the future.” he finished. Snapping his fingers, Raines signaled the beginning of the race.

At first, everything was normal, then one of the racers noticed a strange green symbol in the sky. “What the-?!” A group of seven people, accompanied by various creatures, and a ship (though that last one quickly flew off), burst through, along with flurries of things ranging from rose petals to ice shards.

“Oh damn!” The racer cursed as he swerved to avoid the low-flying ship, then got blown off the racetrack and into the air, only to be caught effortlessly by two of the creatures.

“Close call!” a man with a bandanna and white trenchcoat said from on top of the racecar. “And the hero saves the day!” Snow exclaimed, waving to the once-again cheering crowd, which was shown on an enormous screen for all to see.

“Incredible!” someone in the crowd said. The crowd thought that this display was part of the festivities, having been unannounced to make it more gripping. Then as Snow was lifting his other arm to wave, his brand came into view, and was immediately zoomed in on by the camera. “L-l’cie! That’s a l’cie brand!” the same guy said.

“Probably should’ve covered that.” Snow said with a wince.

“Great job Snow.” Twi said sarcastically as she passed him on another car, which she had commandeered after knocking out the driver. He managed to blow their cover less than 5 minutes in.

A large number of Sanctum troops and bioweapons descended on the track as an officer said, “Intruders on the race circuit! Confirmed Pulse l’cie! All units respond with lethal force!” over the same loudspeakers that Raines had used less than five minutes beforehand. That was a fast response. There were several possibilities that might account for the quick response. First, the people were still paranoid, which was not unlikely. Second, Barthandelus was manipulating things to give them a bit more of a power boost by fighting these soldiers. Third, the garrison of Eden was just that well trained. Of course, it could just be a combination of these factors, and it didn’t really matter in the end.

“Catch me if you can!” Snow taunted them over his shoulder.

Hope jumped down from a ledge overhead. The racecars avoided him, then a large bioweapon stopped in front of him, hovering. “Hi there.” he said nonchalantly. The bioweapon tried to skewer him, only to be stopped by Alexander smashing into it. “Cut ’em off!” Hope ordered hurriedly. Alexander raised his hands and started trying to stop the oncoming cars.

“Woah, I think we have a winner!” Snow said as a car that had been sent flying passed close by over him.

“This is easier than I thought it would be.” Twi said as she destroyed yet another warmech. With her allies spread out like this, she could cut loose with her magic without risking harming them. What’s more, she was keeping the non-humans of the Sanctum’s forces occupied, so she wasn’t restrained in the slightest by trying to avoid killing sentient beings. She usually tried to avoid overkill when fighting sentient opponents, so as to give them at least a chance to survive. With bioweapons however, she went straight for execution.

Meanwhile, Lightning rode Odin in equine form. “Now!” she yelled. She jumped up as Odin began to revert to a humanoid form, and then he threw her towards the oncoming cars. Lightning shot at them with her gun-mode gunblade.

She switched it to blade-mode as she grabbed the first car that came into reach, then jumped onto a passing car, digging her sword into the car. “You’re dead!” the driver yelled hatefully.

“You first!” she shot back, throwing him out of the car, then using her blade as a lever to flip the car so she was standing on top. Fang laughed as she passed by on Bahamut. They took out several drivers of the nearest Psicom vehicles together.

The Sanctum soldiers were concentrating their fire on Vanille, but had yet to get past Hecateoncheir’s guard. “Fire!” a soldier called. “Take her down!” another yelled.

“Hey! Stop that!” Vanille yelled as her Eidolon deflected bullets back at her attackers. “Uh oh.” she said, noticing one of the soldiers pointing a missile launcher at her.

“Block this!” he yelled, firing the missile and sending Vanille and Hecateoncheir flying in a ball of fire. Luckily, Sazh tore through Sanctum forces on Brynhildr’s racecar form, and caught just in time Vanille and Hecateoncheir with his own Eidolin.

“Odin!” Light called as the platform she was on crumbled. Odin reverted to equine form and leapt up to her catching her. Lightning grabbed the two curved blades this form granted her and began to dismantle the Psicom forces she encountered without missing a beat. Odin reverted to humanoid form and aided his master in fighting foes on a level platform, before once again donning his equine form as the platform lost altitude due to it’s damaged systems failing.

Twilight was still drawing most of the warmechs and heavy artillery since she proved to have the most firepower with Fallen Angel by her side. She’d discovered that while Fallen Angel didn’t have an alternate form, she could still ride her Eidolon to take advantage of her flight, and it provided her with a similar degree of healing as Fallen Angel in addition to her companion’s bombardment abilities granted by her powerful magic. This proved useful, as she sure that she would have lost consciousness from her wounds if she hadn’t been healed as quickly as she had. She could practically feel her brand amplifying their strength from all the conflict the seven of them were going through. After what seemed like forever, Phoenix brightened up for the day. They regrouped, as the forces they’d been fighting had all been wiped out.

A sound at the edge of their hearing was unnerving them all. “What’s that sound?” Light asked, trying to strain her senses enough to tell what she was hearing.

Twilight had an epiphany. “Wait, didn’t Dysley say he might ‘feign the howling of Pulse wolves’ before?” Twilight asked.

“Yeah? So?” Snow asked.

“There’s an Ark underneath Eden.” she answered him as calmly as she could. The others all froze momentarily.

“…Dammit.” Sazh said after a moment as a column of smoke rose from in the city.

*** Nearby, A Temporary Sanctum Command ***

An officer was talking to a patrol over the radio, but was having trouble understanding what his subordinate was trying to say between gasps for air and the sound of gunfire. “Say again patrol, and speak clearly.” the officer said.

“The armies of Pulse! They’re using transgates!” the soldier said, hurriedly reloading from the sound of it as his fellow patrolmen continued to fire on the monstrosities emerging from the gates.

“Transgates?! How many are coming through?” the officer asked. If there were Pulse creatures coming through then this was a full-on invasion, the l’cie were just an advance party!

“Numbers unconfirmed. But it’s a full-scale invasion! Eden’s being overrun!” the soldier responded. “Dammit! We’re surrounded!” he yelled as a scream from a soldier who was taken out by one of their enemies was heard. Across the city, strange purple portals opened up, and everything from an Admantoise to cie’eth poured out of them.

*** Seat Of The Sanctum ***

Raines waited in his office, an explosion sounded outside, visible from the office. A soldier ran in. “Sir! An army of creatures is attacking the city. It’s a Pulse invasion force.” Another explosion sounded outside. “Your eminence, we must evacu- Guh!” he shouted the last part as he was shot by Cavalry soldiers.

Another explosion, the largest yet, was visible as it happened. “So Raines, is this the Cocoon that you dreamed of?” Rygdea asked.

“My dream is but a fal’cie’s fantasy now. End it.” Raines said, eyes closed.

Rygdea took his gun out, and was about to comply when another explosion rocked the building. Winged cie’eth flew past, then were hit with massive conflagrations from the direction the l’cie were last known to be in. “Dammit Raines! You’re not getting out of this that easy. Now grab a gun, and help us keep these things from killing everyone!” Rygdea yelled, tossing Raines a gun.

Raines stared at him a moment, shocked, then nodded, knocking the gun. The soldiers didn’t question the change in Raines’ loyalties as he was originally the Cavalry’s commander.

Shooting was audible in the halls as Sanctum forces that were probably here to escort Raines as Primarch began to fall back in the face of a nearly endless assault by Pulsian forces. “Damn idealism! Feed it blood, and it howls for more!” Rygdea said as the Cavalry soldiers ran out to aid their fellow humans. They might have a different opinion on a lot of things, but they could all agree that they wanted to stay alive long enough to have the argument in the first place. That meant taking care of the Pulsian creatures and not getting killed first.

*** With The L’cie ***

“There’s too much chaos for it to just be the stuff in the Ark.” Twi said, observing the rampant fighting below them.

“Maybe the Cavalry made their move.” Hope suggested.

“Yeah, and they’re saying Eden’s crawling with Pulse nasties, so looks like Dysley did let ’em loose.” Sazh said, listening to a radio from a fallen soldier for a moment. Panicked shouts were audible from it. “This is out of control. What’s gonna happen to Cocoon?” Sazh asked.

“It’s all-out war.” Light said, thinking over how the local garrison would handle this. The Guardian Corps in Eden was well-trained, but they didn’t exactly have a lot of combat experience. Combat was very different from training, and if the panic audible over the radio was any indication, it was affecting the defenders’ fighting ability and morale badly. Of course, Eden got first pick of any veterans of the Corps, but they were relatively few in number.

“A three way war in the streets, the civilian casualties are going to be enormous even if we stopped it right now.” Twi said, gritting her teeth in frustration. Even their group couldn’t stop a force this large. If they got the cooperation of the Sanctum armies, things might be different, but they’d shoot first and ask questions later.

“Did we cause this by coming back?” Hope asked as several cie’eth flew overhead, before being shot down by Twilight. “Barthandelus prediction… it’s all coming true.” he said.

“Well his future stops right here. We’re the ones who decide what happens next.” Snow said. That bastard wasn’t going to tear apart anyone else’s life if they had anything to say about it.

“Let’s get moving!” Vanille said.

“We need to end this before these things spread outside Eden.” Twi said. They could at least keep the deaths in the thousands instead of the millions if they managed that. Preferably before the Sanctum forces were overrun as well. From the sound of the radio, the Cavalry and Sanctum loyalists were mostly cooperating against the Ark’s monsters, but they would likely turn on each other if the battle started going their way.

“Right.” Light said, nodding.

“Okay.” Sazh said. They hurried forward, taking care of whatever got in their way, Sanctum and Pulse forces at the moment. They came across a huge gap in the road that they had no hope of getting across. Their Eidolons needed more rest after such a long period of use before they became usable again. Besides which, most of their Eidoloins didn’t have flying forms. Twilight didn’t have the power to teleport 7 people across a gap like this either. “Uh, okay, I don’t know about this.” Sazh said.

“If only we could fly!” Vanille said morosely, looking over the drop-off edge.

“We can jump.” Lightning said, handing each of them a grav-con from a handful probably looted from fallen Sanctum soldiers, specifically, knock-offs of herself, before taking her own advice.

A large portion of the soldiers they’d fought had been knockoffs, and though they’d been a challenge, they weren’t much of a threat in small numbers. Still, it looked like they’d caused a shift in the battle doctrine of the Sanctum’s military. The pseudo-mages were annoyances individually, but in larger groups they brought a lot of firepower to the fight. The Lightning knock-offs, meanwhile, were adept at switching between ranged and CQC (close-quarters-combat) almost instantly, removing what had been a major weakness of Psicom’s human forces. Before, they were almost all bordering on helpless if you got in their faces. Not so much anymore. The only major downside was that the gunblades they used had smaller clips than the standard-issue arms, which made reloading an issue. A human could only reload a gun so fast, no matter how well-trained. They’d taken advantage of the openings this provided more than once.

“Nothing to it!” Sazh said, before also jumping off.

“See you ground-side!” Snow said, following them. Hope was just behind him.

“Wait a minute!” Vanille called.

“Come on, you’ll be fine as long as you use that before you hit the ground.” Twi said, pointing to the grav-con and jumping off.

“You don’t want to get left behind, do you? Just remember not to drop the gizmo.” Fang said, before falling backwards off the track.

They struggled to keep their eyes open through the wind as they fell. Sanctum forces were moving around below them. Lightning switched her gunblade to gun-mode, taking the hint, the others all got their weapons out. They soldiers were scattered as Lightning landed activating the grav-con to neutralize the momentum of the fall, which could apparently be spread around her. It had to go somewhere, she supposed. They took advantage of the soldiers’ disarray to secure their position by wiping out said soldiers in a small area around themselves.

“You could have warned me!” Vanille complained once she’d gotten up from the landing.

“That’s how they get around on Cocoon.” Fang answered.

That’s how Light gets around.” Hope corrected.

“The rest of us aren’t crazy enough to do this if we don’t absolutely have to.” Twilight said slightly sourly. She really didn’t like jumping off of high places. A primal part of her brain kept screaming that she was going to die all the way down.

Fang laughed. “Let’s go.” she said.

They fought their way through the enemies, and found a way to a lower level after watching a confrontation between the Sanctum and the Cavalry. They ended up on a little platform next to a busy road, they only relaxed when they were sure they weren’t about to be attacked. “So the Cavalry’s here to, uh… what exactly?” Sazh asked now that there was a lull in the action.

“They’re here for Orphan.” Light answered. “It’ll probably be close to the fal’cie Eden, which means they’ll be headed to the heart of the Sanctum.” Light reasoned.

“Right, and a lot of bad things will happen if they manage to destroy it.” Fang said.

“Goodbye Cocoon.” Hope said.

“Then we better get there before they do.” Snow said.

Lightning suddenly drew her gunblade an instant before a transgate opened, spewing Behemoths. “Let’s move!” Light said, jumping into the street with superhuman speed and moving in between the cars until she finally used Army of One to take out the lead Behemoth, only for the second to use it’s horn as a sword against her own, and send her flying. Lightning was the fastest among them, slightly exceeding even Fang. However, she was on the bottom of the heavy hitters in terms of strength, outmatched by, in descending order, Snow, Fang and Twilight, the simple difference in mass was also a factor, but their strength was magically enhanced, so it was less important than one might think. The Behemoth ripped it’s horn out and made it into a powersaw-like blade as it switched to bipedal movement. The others joined her, and together they made short work of the Behemoth, and started in on the rest.

Once they’d taken care of the Behemoths, they found themselves facing a group of amphibious monsters. The citizens were hiding behind crude barricades formed out of their cars, and were using any weapons they had to take potshots at the monsters from the relative safety of behind these barricades. Though they weren’t likely to last long if the monsters’ attention wasn’t on the l’cie since it was rare for any of them to have any sort of military training, even the ones with weapons were few and far between.

“We’re never gonna make it.” Sazh said, putting his face in one hand as several more of the monsters came out of a transgate. They were ‘spawning’ almost as fast as the group could get rid of them. If this was going on throughout the city, it was only a matter of how long it would take for the Sanctum forces to be overrun, and the Ark creatures took over Eden, before spreading to the rest of Cocoon.

If the way the cream of the crop military was being outmatched was any indication, then the regular military wasn’t going to be able to stop these things. The Ark was probably at least half empty by now, considering the sheer number of monsters rampaging through the streets, but for all she knew this could be less than a tenth of the Ark’s population.

“Not with that attitude, we won’t!” Vanille responded.

They fought their way through the monsters, Cavalry, and Sanctum forces, until they came across a familiar fighter. A figure they recognized from the stadium and Hope’s house stepped into view from behind it. “Rosch?” Hope asked, surprised.

“I see your power has grown, Mr Villiers, as well as that of your allies. No matter, we will lay down our lives if that is what’s necessary to stop you.” Rosch said.

‘Yeah, if they send the entire army at us, diverting everyone fighting the Pulse creatures, then they might manage to take us out through attrition.’ Arcana said derisively.

‘Stop mocking humanity Arcana.’ she thought back in a scolding manner. That was uncharacteristic of Arcana. She’d been sarcastic and didn’t care about other people’s lives, but she didn’t look down on them.

“Oh, you don’t have to worry about that, we’re on the same side here. We came back to stop all this!” Snow retorted.

“Nevertheless, you are l’cie.” Rosch said, before teleporting into the fighter, it didn’t appear to be magic, so it was probably AMP technology, or a function of the fighter itself, which Libra told her was called Proudclad. “We can trust the pawns no more than the fal’cie moving them!” Rosch said, activating the fighter. “Humanity’s fate rests in it’s own hands!” he said as the mask of a beast came down over the cockpit. The sad thing was, she couldn’t really blame him for that opinion, not after all the misery the fal’cie had caused, and the number of deaths they caused themselves. Granted, the soldiers had attacked them almost every time, but self-defense as a motive didn’t bring people back to life.

“All elements are cut in half, but attacks do normal damage otherwise!” Twi called. The Proudclad’s attacks were relatively unvaried, only missiles, and two different salvos of laserfire. A weaker one, and a medium level one. Of course, their bodies were at this point tough enough to tank attacks from the relatively small missiles the Proudclad possessed.

However, Rosch did something after their attacks began to take their toll on the machine. It suddenly launched a salvo of much larger and more powerful missiles. Hope and Twilight had to switch to healing duty to keep everyone in the fight, but the machine was starting to slow down and it’s attacks were weaker.

Finally, a voice said over a radio presumably on the Proudclad “Commander Rosch! Fall back, that’s all she can take!” The Proudclad flew away, smoking slightly.

“I don’t understand… we want the same thing! Why can’t we work together?” Vanille asked.

“These people are so completely blinded by fear that they can’t even imagine it.” Fang explained, walking a few paces in front of them. “Are we too late?” she asked.

“Not yet, and we can’t give up. We’re the only ones who know the truth. Am I right?” Snow asked.

“Only we know about the plan to destroy Cocoon.” Light said.

“Raines might, but he could be dead, with all this chaos he probably is dead.” Twi said pessimistically. Besides which, his master probably wouldn’t let him talk.

“Let’s act under the assumption we’re the only ones. We’re the only ones who know which fal’cie is behind it either.” Hope said.

“Then what are we waiting for? Time for some payback!” Fang said, hitting a fist into the palm of her other hand.

“That’s what I’m talking about. Once everything is out in the open, people will finally have to wake up from this long nightmare!” Sazh said.

“Let’s show ’em how human we still are!” Light said.

Some time later and distance away, a group of soldiers was under orders to hold off the Pulse creatures. A scout was running away from a living weapon, only to trip. The soldiers opened fire in hopes of keeping their comrade from being trampled. However, at that moment, the l’cie arrived, and Twilight destroyed the living weapon with a Ruinja. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, an Oretoise walked into view through the raised dust. The soldiers and l’cie momentarily worked together to take down the Oretoise, the soldiers taking advantage of the l’cie’s arrival to fall back.

“Suppressing fire! Fall back!” the commanding officer yelled.

They were having trouble getting through the tough hide of the Oretoise, so their attacks were doing less damage than they should have. One of the soldiers was caught outside as a gate was closed behind the soldiers, he banged on the door. “Hey! Wait! Open up! Let me in!” he yelled. He turned around as the Oretoise started towards him, perceiving him as the easier prey, but was hit with several of the third-tier spells, and a Ruinja, finally downing it.

The soldier raised his gun towards them, and said “L’cie!” his hand was trembling noticeably.

They raised their weapons in preparation, but relaxed slightly when Snow raised his arm and said, “Easy now.”

After a moment, the soldier hesitantly asked, “Are you gonna try and go through this door?”

“No, we’re going in the opposite direction at the moment actually.” Twi responded.

“Then go on, I’ve only been ordered to keep any enemies from going through this door.” he said, lowering his gun, and sitting down.

“You know that you’ll probably be killed by the next thing to come in this direction all by yourself.” Twi said seriously.

“I’m trying to protect Cocoon. I’m perfectly willing to die for that cause.” the soldier responded.

“…Let’s go.” Snow said turning away and starting off. They couldn’t save everyone, and every moment they waited was a few more people dead or hurt. After a fairly large number of encounters with the other factions, they came upon a large white gate that looked sturdy. Snow banged on the door. “So close!” he said.

“We’ll find another way through.” Light tried to calm him down.

“We don’t have time for that!” Snow responded.

“He’s right, the eyes are almost all the way open, we could become cie’eth at any time.” Twi said, glancing worriedly at her brand. The eyes were less than half an inch from being all the way open.

There was a groaning sound that had a similar effect on most of them as nails on a chalkboard. The sound continued when the gate began to rise. They readied themselves for a fight, but Twilight and Snow lowered their weapons/relaxed as soon as they recognized the figures on the other side. “Gate got ya beat? Hero?” Gadot asked.

“Pretty lame.” Lebreau commented from the hover.

“Heya Snow, where ya been? Looks like you took Twilight with you.” Maqui asked.

“Guys!” Snow laughed.

“Nice to see you’re alright.” Twi said, smiling the biggest smile she’d had in days.

They landed the hovers. “So Snow, you’re a Pulse l’cie now huh?” Yuj asked.

“Yeah. Good times.” Snow said, showing them his brand.

“Then why didn’t you tell us?” Yuj asked, walking a few paces towards Snow. “Why the hell didn’t you come and find us?” Yuj asked.

“Yeah, we’ve been waiting.” Lebreau added.

“Us and the rest of the Purge fugitives, we found an empty Vestige to hide in.” Maqui tacked on. They shared relieved looks upon finding out that at least some of the Purge deportees had survived.

“But damn, those Pulse fal’ce sure know how to pick ’em.” Gadot said.

“Yeah. Out of all the idiots in the world, they chose this one.” Light said.

“Yes, but he’s our idiot.” Twi said, eliciting laughs from both groups.

“Hey, wait a minute! I’m your fearless leader. You’re not supposed to laugh at the boss!” Snow complained. At that moment, an explosion sounded, immediately putting an end to the mirth.

“Just like old times, eh boss?” Gadot asked.

“Don’t worry, we’ll take care of the civilians.” Lebreau said.

“And you concentrate on saving Cocoon.” Maqui finished.

“We all will! Together!” Hope said.

Snow ruffled Hope’s hair. “Now, what’s our motto?” he asked.

“Fal’cie are no match for NORA!” the four of them, Gadot, Lebreau, Yuj and Maqui, responded. They turned the hovers back on, and waved, saluted, or gave a thumbs-up as they left.

They continued, reaching a point not far from the heart of Eden, and discovered little blue lights floating around like in Oerba. “What the-?!” Sazh asked, looking around.

Several of them tried to catch one, only for it to slip through their fingers. “What is this stuff?” Vanille asked.

Fang tried to catch one, and actually managed to brush it. “Huh, some sort of crystal?” she wondered aloud.

Sazh eyed the particles suspiciously. “I don’t like this. Is Cocoon falling apart already?” he asked.

“Could be. Maybe Orphan’s having trouble holding everything together with all this fighting going on.” Hope theorized.

“Well, this is probably the most chaos it’s ever had to deal with so close by.” Twi reasoned.

“The clamor of this conflict rouses the Maker.” a giant hologram of Dysley’s head said, then chuckled evilly.

“Oh yeah? Well we’ll be stopping this ruckus soon enough.” Sazh responded.

Dysley’s face shifted to an annoyed expression, then he appeared in the flesh in a flash of blue light. “Do you believe you can halt the Cavalry’s charge?” he
asked, brandishing his staff. “Filled with righteousness, they will slaughter Orphan in the name of freedom. Your only recourse will be to deliver them death, swift and certain.” he said.

“No, unlike you they’ll listen to reason.” Light said.

“We’re not going to just slaughter them if we can avoid it.” Twi said firmly.

Dysley chuckled, “We will see about that. I will savor Cocoon’s demise from atop the highest seat in all of Eden.” he said. The fires across the city were worsening since no one could take the time to deal with them. Even if they won, they’d still have thousands of civilian deaths. “You, too, should hurry along to our great capital. After all, your loved ones miss you so.” he said, grinning. They were most definitely surprised by that. He chuckled at their expressions. “Don’t be so surprised, surely you remember how the Cavalry took Serah and that Dajh was taken in by Psicom. Bringing them to a different location was a simple matter. Now come, l’cie, and fulfill your destiny!” he said, floating upward, before disappearing in a ball of white light.

“Your destiny huh? Well, we’ll decide our own destiny!” Hope retorted.

“Right, over Barthandelus’ dead body.” Light said.

“You know, I have no problem with that.” Twilight noted.

Not long after they left, an Admantoise began to take thundering steps toward them. Considering it’s massive size, they preemptively summoned all eight Eidolons. The sheer mass of the creature made it’s stomps attacks on their own, but it also tried to skewer them with it’s tusks. However, their Eidolons leveled the playing field, and after a ten-minute brawl, they finally killed it. After dismissing their Eidolons and stopping for a short rest. They continued through Edenhall, which was being used as a shelter, and out to a sort of courtyard just outside where Eden, and by extension, Orphan, was.

“So, this is the heart of Cocoon.” Fang said, taking a look at the impressive building. It almost looked like a temple crossed with a cathedral.

“It’s incredible.” Vanille said, awed.

“That’s where Eden sits, controlling all the other Cocoon fal’cie. It’s also where we’ll find the battery keeping it all running, Orphan.” Hope said.

“Good to know. So what’s our plan?” Snow asked.

“Your usual plan. We charge in through the front door, unless someone has a better idea.” Light answered him

“Right the front- Hey, wait a minute! Where are you going?” Sazh asked. Lightning ignored him and kept walking. Sanctum soldiers rushed to block their path, along with a Behemoth of the domesticated variety.

“Right.” Light said, completely unsurprised. It only made sense that they’d keep a large force back to guard Eden itself. As far as most, if not all, of the Sanctum knew, taking down Eden would be checkmate.

“Right.” Sazh said, more because he was resigned to having to fight than anything else. Suddenly a transgate opened, letting a Juggernaut through, and sending the Behemoth flying into a group of soldiers. A living weapon appeared in another transgate behind them. “I hope that’s our backup.” Sazh said.

“Well, if it is, then I don’t think our backup is happy to see us.” Light responded. After fighting their way through the two Pulsian enemies and Sanctum troops, they found themselves facing one last squad between them and the door to Eden’s throne. “Another squad.” Light noted, having reached the spot a few seconds before them.

“Okay… what are they up to?” Hope asked.

Suddenly, a bright light came streaming from the direction of Eden, and the soldiers were transformed into cie’eth. These cie’eth were pure white with the exception of the tips of their upper limbs, unlike earlier cie’eth, who had at least some coloration. Libra called them Forsaken Cie’eth. Her knowledge of the process allowed her to quickly figure out that this was what happened when a l’cie was given a brand without a Focus. She couldn’t help but feel slightly grateful to Dysley for stopping her from experimenting further with her brand if this was going to be the result. On the other hand, she was disgusted and horrified by what had been done to all these people.

“They’re all cie’eth? All of them? Just like that?” Vanille asked, horrified.

“A friendly reminder of what we’re up against.” Sazh said grimly.

“And a reminder that we’re running out of time ourselves.” Twi said, she was sure the brand would finish it’s countdown in less than an hour. They needed to finish this, fast.

After they fought their way through the cie’eth, who were considerably more dangerous than their human counterparts, they found the Proudclad on Eden’s doorstep, in a smoking heap. Cie’eth corpses were scattered about.

Looking around, Sazh said, “Looks like no one was spared.” The Proudclad suddenly turned on them, though the metal groaned.

“He really wants us dead!” Fang said. Noticing it’s form had changed, Twilight used Libra again, and discovered that not only were the elements halved, but magic was halved too. She relayed this to the others.

The Proudclad was different from before, in a strange mode that made it use a moderately powerful blaster instead of it’s normal attacks, but when it had taken significant damage, it suddenly healed itself, changed form and launched a wave of energy at them, which was difficult to withstand, but they managed.

‘Okay, that doesn’t even make sense. How can a fighter heal itself?’ Arcana asked.

‘How should I know?’ she shot back. Though Arcana was right, how did a machine use healing magic to heal itself? Magic used one’s DNA as a template in healing your body, repairing it based on the state that would be considered healthy, but a machine wouldn’t have DNA. The only explanation she could think of was that the Sanctum had managed to jury-rig something similar using AMP tech and the blueprints for the machine.

Since it’s form had changed, it suddenly lost a lot of damage resistance and reverted to it’s original style of attacks. The difference was that the group was stronger now, not to mention they knew it’s attack patterns. They soon wrecked the fighter, and Rosch dragged himself out. Rosch pulled himself up holding his chest with one hand, he coughed harshly, spraying the ground with flecks of blood.

‘Well, he’s done.’ Arcana said, unimpressed.

“Rosch, it’s over.” Light said.

“You’re not in any condition to fight any longer.” Twi said, a hint of pleading in her voice. Killing someone she knew by name was different than killing someone who was wearing a mask, and she didn’t particularly like the latter anyway.

“Never mind that, what of my soldiers?” Rosch asked. Light glanced at one of the cie’eth corpses scattered across the ground, almost involuntarily. That was answer enough. “I see.” Rosch said.

“Why are you doing this Rosch? I mean, haven’t you done enough?” Sazh asked.

“Enough? Under fal’cie orders. I’ve orchestrated mass murder. All to answer the fears of a panicked populace. For a people utterly dependent on the fal’cie, it was the only solution I could offer. Even if that solution was a farce.” Rosch answered, his words laced with bitterness.

“Then you knew the fal’cie were using us?” Hope asked.

“I had believed their rule was best for Cocoon’s present and future prosperity.” Rosch gasped out. “But it seems I grossly misjudged their benevolence. I had doubts ever since the Purge, but was still convinced that it would be best to follow the orders of the fal’cie until now. If this is my punishment, then I accept it.” Rosch finished with his head bowed.

“So you’re just going to let everything go to hell, is that it?” Fang asked.

“You’re right, one thing remains.” Rosch said, standing up and pulling out a radio. “This is… this is Psicom Director Rosch. Attention all Psicom and Guardian Corps units. Suspend l’cie operations. I repeat, suspend l’cie operations. All units should focus their attention on evacuating the civilian population. I do not issue this order as an absolute. You are free to make the choice.” As soon as he finished, he dropped the comset and fell to the ground, supporting himself with the hand that had been holding the radio.

“Rosch!” Snow called.

“Go. You’re here to save Cocoon, aren’t you? Or was that a farce as well?” Rosch asked.

Snow took a deep breath and started forward. “Stay alive. We’ll see you when it’s over.” he said, stopping for a moment.

Twilight restored him to full health with a single Curasa. “Now you don’t have any excuses for dying.” she said sternly. She’d had the distinct impression he was considering suicide by monster, and she wanted to make sure he didn’t. They’d need people like him to rebuild. People who the citizens trusted. People who were willing to believe in humanity rather than some ‘gods.’

“I’ll trust in your humanity, l’cie. Cocoon’s fate is in your hands.” Rosch said as a pair of Behemoths approached. He lobbed a grenade at them, then fired a full round from the pistol on his hip into their heads. He got to a nearby contingent of Psicom soldiers, and joined in the evacuation efforts himself. It should be noted that upon receiving his order, every remaining member of the military prioritized civilian evacuation. The fact that nearly all of the die-hard fanatics were, well, dead certainly helped.

Meanwhile, the l’cie had entered Eden’s throne room. It was predominantly red with hints of golden-yellow, and there were a few statues and the like scattered around the room. It was suspiciously empty of either people or anything resembling a fal’cie.

“Where’s the Cavalry?” Vanille asked nervously.

“If they made it this far, we’ll see ’em soon enough.” Fang said. As if on cue, thundering footsteps could be heard, as cie’eth like the ones outside lumbered into view.

“Not them too… they’re all cie’eth!” Snow said. His comment was followed by a rumbling that shook the room. The walls and ceiling disappeared piece by piece, until they found themselves in a strange space that consisted of nothing more than floating platforms and a rush of red lights on it’s edge. Twilight was interested in the mechanics of this space and it’s creation, but they had more pressing concerns.

“Where are we?” Sazh asked.

“Some sort of space Eden made, if I had to guess. It seems to be some sort of pocket dimension, likely meant to serve as a bridge for us to reach Orphan. It’s the perfect defense otherwise. You can’t kill what you can’t interact with.” Twi answered him. They gave her strange looks in response. “What? I studied various sciences relating to the dimensions and laws of physics trying to get home.” Twi explained.

Several cie’eth attacked them, but were beaten back fairly easily. “This is it. A lot of dreams died to get us here, and we can’t let it be for nothing.” Light said.

“You said it. It’s not just our future we’re fighting for anymore.” Sazh added.

“We’ll do it for everyone. Fal’cie rule ends here.” Hope said.

“It’s time to end this madness.” Twi agreed.

“Dysley! We’re coming for you!” Snow declared.

They fought their way through the cie’eth and Sanctum soldiers who were stationed here, who were probably so brainwashed that they wouldn’t believe or even care if they found out about the plan to destroy Cocoon. They certainly didn’t seem to care about the dimensional shenanigans around them. When they got to certain points, the platforms changed and rearranged themselves. Finally, Fang asked, “Where’s this end?” in frustration.

Sazh shrugged. “If there is one, I can’t see it.” he answered her.

“I can’t do this. All these cie’eth were people once, like us.” Vanille said.

“But that’s what Barthandelus is going for. Don’t you see? Make us feel guilty, lose faith… and the second we give up, it’s Focus time.” Hope said.

“Wait ’til we’re broken, then slip on the leash.” Snow summarized.

“Yeah, well, when you think about it… Having that empathy puts us humans at a big disadvantage.” Sazh responded.

“Maybe, but it’s what makes us dangerous too.” Light said.

“And what makes someone human.” Twi added, before they started off again.

Fang and Vanille stayed behind for a moment. “Fang? What’s wrong?” Vanille asked.

“Oh nothing. Just that time’s running short.” Fang said with her arms crossed and a surprising amount of calm.

“It’s okay. My mind’s made up this time.” Vanille said, prompting Fang to glance at her. “We’ll just make Cocoon our home.” she said decisively.

“Yeah. I guess we will.” Fang agreed with a small smile. The rest of the group was waiting a few feet away, having stopped before making any significant progress without the two.

After a bit more of the often-changing maze, they found themselves in a white corridor with couches on either side. “It looks like Barthandelus left us one last gift. I can sense his magic just ahead. We won’t get another chance to rest.” Twi said.

They prepared themselves as best they could, then stepped into a room with gears and strange machinery on the far wall, as well as an empty throne. “Ready?” Light asked.

“Yep.” Vanille nodded affirmatively as she spoke.

“Yeah. Ready.” Hope said, nodding as well.

They descended the staircase to the edge of the platform it was connected to, still about a story off the ground. Twilight noticed that there was a silver pool under floor around the throne. Suddenly, the whole room began to shake. “This is it.” Snow said.

“Moment of truth, Hero.” Light said, before jumping off. They followed her in ones and twos.

There were little lights like in Oerba, but this time they didn’t seem to be crystals. “Little lights. Like in Oerba… but they’re different too.” Vanille said curiously.

The room shook again, and Dysley began to speak as two larger crystals appeared. “That is because the ones in Oerba have had centuries to fade. Life’s spark shines on once removed from it’s fleshy shroud, and it takes quite some time to fade away.” Dysley began.

A little boy that looked like a miniature Sazh was encased in crystal on the left, and Serah completely crystallized on the right.

“Dajh!” Sazh yelled.

“Serah!” Snow and Light called, a moment behind Sazh as Dajh had appeared that long before Serah had. Twilight could tell that Dysley had done something, but he’d used a spell she was unfamiliar with and it wasn’t cast right in front of her, so she was having difficulty identifying it based on what she was able to glean from it’s surface since she didn’t have the time for detailed analysis, which would require at least two minutes rather than ten seconds.

The rukh flew past them and landed on the throne as Dysley appeared in a strange blueish-black portal. “Dreams, meanwhile, shatter in a flash.” he said, before banging his staff into the ground and causing Dajh to shatter into fragments as small as the motes of light in the air around them.

“Dajh!” Sazh cried, one hand outstretched in a futile attempt to reach his son.

Snow turned to Serah and, realizing what Dysley was about to do, cried out, “No!” Dysley ignored him and repeated the process with Serah.

Snow screamed angrily and charged at Dysley. The result was pretty much exactly what happened in Oerba. Twilight healed Snow and said, “That wasn’t the real Dajh or Serah. I figured out what you did Dysley. You scrambled your signature, then made copies of those two before we got here so that I wouldn’t be able to analyze the spell as you made it. Then you would torment Snow, Light and Sazh with the apparent death of a loved one.” Twi said.

“Wow, you figured all that out that fast?” Hope asked, even Dysley looked more impressed than annoyed.

“I was something of a prodigy back home, but it wasn’t until he destroyed the constructs that I could tell what they were.” Twi responded. Breaking them down gave her a better idea of what they were. It didn’t particularly matter who did the breaking.

“Yeah. They don’t make miracles, they play tricks to make you think they did.” Hope said. They all pointed their respective weapons at Dysley, while a barrier came into being above them, blocking the door to ensure they didn’t try to escape. A wise choice since at this point Twilight could have teleported the whole group up thanks to her immensely improved reserves, though it would still have been exhausting and not something to be done on a whim.

Dysley chuckled. “An impressive deduction, and spot on. You truly are talented. Perhaps if you become a cie’eth before we reach some sort of conclusion, I’ll visit your world and grab a few inhabitants to make into l’cie. You certainly turned out well.” Dysley was obviously baiting her. Logically she knew that, but she was still getting angry over it. “If you are wondering how I know about that, I had Minrva here listened to your conversations since the very beginning, parallel worlds isn’t all that far-fetched a concept to me. However, I should deal with the present before concerning myself with the future.

At last, my errant l’cie, you have arrived. Men fight men, and battle beasts, whilst those who cannot defend themselves are slaughtered by those same beasts. Cocoon wars with Pulse. There can be no end to such conflict. But Cocoon’s end is both imminent and inevitable. Will you not at least slay Orphan as act of mercy? Think of it like putting down a rabid dog if you must.” Dysley said. He was being surprisingly reasonable about this. Then again, not actively trying to force them into this from the outset was pretty reasonable by the standards she’d come to expect from him.

“‘Mercy’? You mean ‘murder’.” Light responded. “And Cocoon’s not going to die, we didn’t come here for that.” Light shifted her gunblade to blade-mode and pointed it at Dysley. “We came for you!” she finished.

For a moment, Dysley looked honestly disappointed, then his visage became cold and slightly superior once more. “Such willful insolence. Disappointing.” he said as he began to float, releasing wisps of dark smoke. “You prolong Cocoon’s suffering. And to what end? Refusing me merely condemns another to face your Focus tomorrow.” He raised his staff, which began to glow as the rukh, now identified as Minerva, and who was presumably a fal’cie with exceptional skill in hiding it’s presence flew towards Dysley. “If you truly seek salvation, you will obey!” in a flash of light, he became his final form from Oerba, but with angel wings. “Fulfill your Focus and gain eternal life!” he ordered in the distorted voice his fal’cie form always had. She suspected this was his final form.

Twilight began with Libra as Hope began buffing and the others peppered Barthandelus with attacks to keep him off-balance long enough to prepare adequately. “The same as before for elemental damage and status effects!” she called.

They attacked in earnest as soon as Hope finished buffing, but Barthandelus had by this time gotten used to the new power behind their attacks and used a new spell that hit all of them: Ultima. She copied it and threw it back at him as Hope healed their semi-serious wounds. It was technically a first-tier spell, but had power on an even higher level than Ruinja. With precision, one could take out a small building with Ultima. Once their wounds were healed, Hope began debuffing Barthandelus. However, just as he’d applied the last debuff, Barthandelus used Thanatosian Laughter, which had gotten a power boost that left them barely standing until they were healed.

After several more rounds of this, he succumbed to the injuries they had dealt him, and turned silver as his adornments disappeared, screaming in agony as he began to sink into the pool of silvery liquid. “Hey, put a lid on it!” Sazh barked, not having any sympathy for the puppet-master.

Just before Dysley’s sank all the way he stopped screaming and said, “Release! At last, release!” the emotion in his voice could only be described as joy as he finally went under.

“It’s done.” Light said, lowering her blade.

“All right!” Snow said, fistpumping.

“Fang!” Vanille said. The two Oerbans touched their forearms together, presumably something from Pulse or perhaps specifically Oerba.

“We did it, huh?” Snow asked Hope.

He nodded cheerfully saying, “Yep.”

Twilight couldn’t join in. She felt like something else was coming, something powerful. Lightning was also staring at the pool, as if she also had misgivings. The sound of flapping drew all of them to look up. “It’s that bird again!” Hope said, as Minerva flew down and dived into the pool in a burst of light.

The room began shaking again, as an immense surge of magic built up directly in front of them. Twilight suddenly felt very small. The highest amount of power she’d ever seen used was when Princess Celestia raised/lowered the sun. What was coming had about 10,000 times that much power. This made sense, since it powered the fal’cie serving as the sun, and hundreds of thousands of others. She was certain that this was Orphan. She trembled, Celestia hadn’t been scary because she was their benevolent ruler whom they’d long trusted, and there was also the fact that she was simply significantly less powerful than this thing. Orphan was about as far from benevolent as you could get. It wanted to die, and it didn’t care that doing so would kill off everyone on Cocoon, and anyone surviving on Pulse.

“A haven, yea. Yet it must fall ere we be saved.” a being with a voice that sounded like two voices overlapping said as it rose from the pool in a continuous version of the burst of light from earlier. “Too frail a shell, and humans should not thrive.” an obsidian fist smashed into the ground, knocking them of their feet. “Too stout a shell, and they would not die.” it continued as they got back on their feet and it continued to rise. “Slaughter and Salvation! Two irreconcilable Focuses we bore.” They finally got a good look at it as it stopped rising. The right half was a dark obsidian with a thick arm and red eyes, it was clearly masculine. The left half was off-white with a thin arm and blue eye, it was obviously feminine. In between them was an incredibly disturbing baby’s face with it’s eyes closed. there was a perpetually moving clock behind the thing’s main body. The bottom was formed entirely by a massive sword. “Yet bound were we, in a cocoon prison impervious to our power. And so we thank you, l’cie, for granting us our longed for birth.” it said, lacking any real sort of gratitude.

“Dysley?” Snow asked in a whisper.

“No. Not anymore, anyway.” Sazh answered him.

“Th-that’s Orphan.” Twi said.

“What’s wrong?” Light asked, noticing the state she was in.

“I can sense that thing’s power, it so completely surpasses anything I’ve ever encountered it’s ridiculous.” Twi laughed nervously as she brought her trembling body back under her control.

“That is correct. We are the Abandoned One. Born but now to die. Our name is Orphan. By our hand, the world shall be remade and know redemption!” Orphan declared, lowering itself to keep the sword that composed it’s lower body below the silver pool.

They began as usual. Twilight cast Libra, while helping Hope buff the party up. “It’s immune to Pain, Fog, Daze, and Death, all attacks are cut to half their normal damage!” she called as they finished buffing the group up. It wasn’t a moment too soon, because Orphan lifted itself up and used the gigantic sword that formed it’s lower body to attack, leaving them inches from unconsciousness or death. While they healed each other, Orphan created a globe of white light, and began to heal what little damage they’d managed to deal at regular intervals. However, it’s offensive capabilities were almost nil compared to that first attack, it just slapped at them with it’s white arm. It’s obsidian half simply did nothing. Twilight felt her hopes rise, perhaps they stood a decent chance of winning after all.

She’d honestly been terrified when she’d felt the power this thing possessed, but now she realized that the majority of Orphan’s power was tied up keeping Cocoon afloat and it’s fal’cie functioning, and then there was the fact that it wanted to lose. Suddenly it used that sword attack again, and the white orb faded, only to be replaced by a black orb on the obsidian half’s side. The obsidian half had a much stronger arm swing, and it’s orb sent lasers at them that also inflicted status ailments, keeping Hope tied up in healing and buffing to the point where he wouldn’t have had a chance to apply the debuffs if he hadn’t while the white orb was there.

This continued with it using the sword attack after the white or black orb faded and switching to the other one, until it suddenly used the sword attack, she really needed to give it a name, without the orb disappearing first, it was lucky that the sword attack only ever badly wounded them instead of killing them, or they’d all be dead by now. She suspected that was on purpose. Their evolutionary abilities their brands granted them were not immune to their own effects and almost-killing them made them a tiny bit tougher each time, and the amount increased. Orphan was going out of it’s way to make them even stronger. Seemingly just to make matters worse, she was having to fight through the most awful headache. Arcana had been strangely quiet ever since it started.

Finally, Orphan began to laugh, raising itself up like it was about to use the sword attack, but instead sent out a wave of incredibly painful magic at them, forcing most of them to their knees, with the exceptions of Fang, who was leaning on her staff, and Twilight, who was somewhat able to shield herself, but wasn’t able to raise a shield for the others with Orphan’s power suffusing the area.

“Have you ever paused to consider the reason fal’cie make l’cie out of humans?” Orphan asked as it lowered itself to it’s usual level. “We fal’cie are crafted for a single purpose, and granted finite power to that end. It is not so for men. Men dream, aspire, and through indomitable force of will achieve the impossible. Your power is beyond measure. We take l’cie in order to wield such power.” Orphan explained, answering it’s own question. “Through you, we obtained freedom from our bondage. Now only your Focus remains.”

A tiny black mote sizzled on one of the obsidian side’s fingers. “Defy it, and all will be for naught. Cocoon’s sacrifice, and that of Gran Pulse as well.” The mote expanded into a blue orb that continually caused Vanille pain, and Orphan restored it no matter how many times Twilight dispelled it, and began to adapt the spell to resist her efforts. “Yet, if we but summon the Maker, we will be given the chance to begin again. All our sins absolved! The world born anew!” Orphan upped the pain it was subjecting Vanille to, saying, “Submit l’cie! Become Ragnarok and lead us into the light!” Orphan ordered.

“Stop it! Let her go!” Fang pleaded.

Orphan regarded her as if she were an insect it was giving serious contemplation to squashing. “We have no need of flawed l’cie.” it said dismissively.

“Orphan! I’ll do it. I’ll destroy you.” Fang said.

“What!?!” Twi yelled. She couldn’t give this thing what it wanted!

Orphan let the spell end, and Vanille dropped to the floor. “Ragnarok. The will to guide a world unto oblivion. Can you bear the sin of our salvation?” Orphan asked seriously, the first hint of an emotion besides anger and arrogance visible and audible. Was that… empathy?

“You heard me. I said I’ll do it!” Fang yelled.

“No, Fang don’t! You’re playing right into it’s hands!” Twi yelled, forcing herself to stand.

“You can’t! You can’t forget our promise! I’ll be fine. We promised to save Cocoon! We promised!” Vanille said, stopping with a gasp when Fang pointed her lance at Vanille.

“I made another promise too. To protect my family.” Fang said. Twilight had cast a few Cures on herself and the others, causing them to regain consciousness just in time to see Fang raise her lance to strike Vanille. “Sometimes you’ve gotta choose!” Fang yelled.

Snow came over and latched himself onto Fang’s lance, preventing her from going any further. “Back off!” Fang yelled.

“What are you do-” Snow began to ask.

“This ain’t the place to be losing it lady!” Sazh said, having grabbed her by the waist.

“You too, huh?” Fang asked as she struggled to break free.

“What do you gain from hurting Vanille? We’re in this together!” Light said, she and Hope had forced themselves to stand, and place an arm each between Vanille and Fang. Twilight stood in the middle just behind them, ready to keep Fang from getting to Vanille if she decided to attack. She was honestly in the best condition of anyone here.

“This is my Focus, no one’s going to stop me!” she yelled. She screamed angrily, sending Snow flying with a kick. Then she launched herself upwards, and threw her staff up at the halfway point of her jump, kicking it higher, she began to glow with an orange light as she caught her lance again. She rocketed down towards them, resulting in an explosion when she landed. There was a blinding flash of light, and suddenly, there were four cie’eth in the room. Twilight, Fang and Vanille were still human, but each of the cie’eth was next to the equipment one of their friends had been using except one, since Snow used his bare hands. Hope, Sazh, Snow, and Light were cie’eth.

“Why? Is this what you meant to happen?” Fang asked.

“I can’t believe it… after everything we’ve been through… they’re gone.” Twi said, falling to her knees.

“After all we went through.” Vanille said, falling to her knees as well.

“All of ’em.” Fang said, dropping her lance. Orphan simply laughed at them.

Twilight felt a surge of rage, how dare Orphan laugh at what had happened, how dare it! This was all it’s fault! It needed to DIE! She cried out in pain as the headache became headsplitting. ‘Finally.’ Arcana said, her voice gleeful. Twilight fell to her stomach, clutching her head. Everything currently in the room felt the dark aura coming fro her all of a sudden. She let go of her head, a pleasant smile on her face, but the instincts of every cell of every living thing within a thousand feet screamed at them that they should get as far away from her as possible if they wanted to live. Orphan was not an exception.

“What is this?” it asked, curious more than afraid. It had wanted death for centuries, so it was not particularly intimidated by the threat of imminent death.

“Ah, well to start off with, I’m not Twilight Sparkle. I’m Arcana. My relationship with Twilight is a condition that schizophrenia dreams about someday becoming. I’m what’s know as an Other. We’re a defense mechanism existing in every sentient. We are usually small and unable to ever take control because a normal person doesn’t experience trauma at a rate great enough for us to achieve that level. Which is to say, exceeding the level where it can be processed in a reasonable span of time such as a decade. We are what happens to all the emotional trauma that ought to break a person but doesn’t. We’re a fragment that did break.

Our personalities are dependent on what sort of trauma we’re used to deal with. In my case, the murder, or inability to save from certain death, of hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Before that, Twilight was thrown from her world into another after getting abandoned by her friends. It therefore makes sense that I would form and achieve a level where I could overwhelm my host before any of yours did.” Arcana explained, still smiling even as she also continued to release a terrifying amount of bloodlust.

“Wait, you’re saying everybody has one of you?” Fang asked, horrified at both the explanation, and it’s implications.

“Oh yes, but don’t worry. Virtually none will ever reach the point where they can take over, or even speak to their host. I had to play the part of being helpful to avoid arousing my extraordinarily paranoid host’s suspicions, though at the very beginning, I did my part to increase the amount of trauma I had to feed on.” Arcana explained.

“When she was talking to herself!” Vanille said in epiphany.

“Bingo! That was actually me, I began acting more friendly towards her after she unintentionally let me go on a small killing spree. That platoon turned out to be closer to ten platoons, so after she got hit by a spray of bullets and lost consciousness, I took over for the first time. Unfortunately, I was forced to take a backseat again when she regained consciousness. I served as little more than an adviser while I waited until I’d gotten strong enough to take over permanently, though I may have jumped the gun just a little.” Arcana admitted, then turned to Orphan and her grin widened slightly. “And thanks to Barthandelus’ jibes and these four becoming cie’eth, I’ve finally reached that point.” She casually caught a laser that Orphan fired at her, having become tired of waiting, as interesting as it found this.

“Come now Orphan, wait just a moment and then I’ll kill you.” Arcana said, just as casually closing her hand and obliterating the laser.

“She’s got no idea what’s going on, but is piecing it together bit by bit. Her guilt and terror will cement my dominance, and I’ll be free to follow my instincts.” Arcana said, her smile widening to the point of being disturbing.

“Which are what?” Vanille asked quietly.

“You mean you haven’t figured it out?” Arcana asked curiously, cocking her head to one side, then smiling in that horrible way again, shadows covering her face except for her teeth, which showed a smile that threatened to widen beyond what was physically possible. “To kill everyone and everything in existence.” she said simply as the bloodlust she emanated spiked, before walking up to Orphan, who was smiling as it found that Arcana was casually batting away it’s attacks with ease. It was finally going to die! “Not only are you the most powerful, but if I kill you, I kill everyone on Pulse and any survivors on Cocoon.” she blinked. “Sorry, haven’t used vocal chords in about a month. Reverse the worlds and you get what I mean. Anyway, since you want to die, I’ll be happy to oblige you.” Arcana said, gleefully, before sending the cie’eth who were approaching her flying with some back-handed blows.

She sighed, “Why can’t anyone wait their turn?” she asked, before shaking her head. “Anyway, you’ll get your salvation and the sacrifice of some few hundred million people at least.” Acana said.

“Salvation is born of sacrifice. Miracles of misery. From shattered shards, a new crystal legend will arise.” Orphan said, voice rising in triumph. Arcana sent a beam of black magic at Orphan, only for it to strike a shield that it dissipated against, leaving only eggshell cracks.

“It seems that I didn’t put enough power behind it.” Arcana noted, before making a spear of black magic twice as thick as that first beam. “Let me remedy that.” she said, before sending the spear flying into the shield, obliterating it, and taking a small hunk off the obsidian side’s arm. Relatively speaking.

“Yes! The Day of Wrath is come!” Orphan cried out in triumph.

Suddenly, just as Arcana was about to send a pair of spears at Orphan’s faces to either side of the baby’s to finish the job, she clutched at her head. “Stop it!” she cried. “How are you resisting?!” Arcana asked, before falling to the ground writhing in pain as the bloodlust rose and fell erratically, before disappearing.

She got up and said, “Sorry… about that… I did not let that… thing out… on purpose.” Twilight gasped out.

“Yet again, you l’cie fail us. How many times must we be denied salvation?” Orphan asked plaintively, the white half healed her, then both halves made a dark purple orb and levitated her up, before subjecting her to immense pain, while doing the same to Fang and Vanille.

“Become Ragnarok again, or release that entity again, we care not so long as we are destroyed. Deliver us what we have too long been denied.” Orphan ordered, repeatedly torturing and healing them only so that it could torture them more. The brands were increasing their toughness in response, and it was only a matter of time before they broke from the torture. Then either Ragnarok would destroy Cocoon, or Arcana would.

“What do you want?” Fang asked, physically and emotionally exhausted.

“Steep yourselves in hatred, let it fuel your souls with the strength they crave.” Orphan said, before raising a clawed hand to continue. “Your awakening demands an offering of pain.” It said simply, before four fireballs smashed into it, causing it to drop them.

Fag was caught by Snow, Vanille by Hope, and Twilight by Lightning. …Wait, what?

“Miracles out of misery, you’ve got to be kidding me.” Sazh said, having retrieved his guns. They were back, and apparently they’re brands were bleached like Fang’s, meaning they were inactive. She once again felt a hint of the divine energy that she’d felt lingering on Fang. Perhaps… the Goddess Etro had done this? Maybe the gods weren’t so bad after all.

Hope healed the three of them. “Yeah Fang, who’d be dumb enough to swallow that crock?” Hope asked.

Lightning walked over, carrying Fang’s lance and pointing her gunblade in gun-mode at Orphan. “Sure, we’ve all had better weeks.” she said. Twilight just smiled, eyes tearing up.

“You’re alive.” Vanille said in wonder.

“But you can’t be!” Fang said in disbelief.

“Could be more fal’cie smoke and mirrors.” Light admitted.

“Guys, I’m sorry.” Snow apologized.

“We made you go it without us.” Light said, handing Fang her lance back.

“Second time now, isn’t it?” Fang said, shaking her head as she took the lance, the two of them nodded to each other.

“But… where were you?” Vanille asked.

“Somewhere cold and dark, just thinking about everything that happened up to now. And then… and then it was like-” Hope cut off and Snow picked up the line.

“It was like I had a glimpse of the future. Everyone was smiling and laughing. Even Serah and Light.” Snow said. Lightning looked at him surprised.

“I don’t know, it was like a new Focus or something.” Sazh said. “You know, I’m thinking, didn’t really make sense of course. I mean, knowing we were worm bait and all, but… As luck would have it, next thing I know I feel somebody pushing me right along.” Sazh said as his chocobo jumped out of his hair momentarily.

“You were there too Fang. Same side. All of us. Together to the end.” Light said.

“We promised, didn’t we?” Vanille asked. Fang smiled, but Orphan chose just now to finally sink under the pool, moaning.

They approached, pointing their weapons at it. Lightning switched her gunblade to blade-mode. One by one, their brands flashed with light. “The heroes never die.” Snow reassured as Orphan sunk all the way under. “Come on! We’ve got a world to save!” Snow declared.

“If we have the power to destroy Cocoon, then we also have the power to save it. You say you want your Day of Wrath, do you? We’ll it’s coming right up!” Hope called.

“Time we gave the people what they really want.” Sazh said.

Twilight regained her full resolve, and readied her sword. “Let’s do this!” she exclaimed.

Vanille prayed for a moment, then said, “We can do it.” with confidence. “I know we can. We made it this far.” she continued.

“Right.” Light agreed.

“Let’s make a real miracle happen!” Vanille said.

Fang chuckled, before stepping forward. “Well Lady Luck sure ain’t on his side!” Fang declared, brandishing her lance.

Childish, but insane-sounding, laughter rang out as the pool began to shine again. An orb surrounded by the clock the larger body was attached to rose from the silver pool. It turned to them, revealing it’s babyish face, and opened it’s solid white eyes which lacked pupils. “You overreach yourselves.” it said chuckling. It’s voice sounded like multiple voices laid over each other.

“No. We overreach you.” Light said.

“Is that so?” Orphan asked skeptically.

“You don’t believe in anything. You gave up on life before you were even born. You sat poisoning Cocoon from the inside, waiting for someone to come and destroy you. Sure, you think the end of the world is salvation. All you care about is death’s release.” Light said.

“If you’re so desperate to die, then go ahead, but leave the rest of us out of it!” Twi said, pointing an accusing finger at the monstrosity that had been responsible for so much death and destruction.

“We don’t think like that.” Light finished. The others brandished their weapons, getting them into more comfortable positions. “When we think there’s no hope left, we keep looking until we find some. Maybe Cocoon is past saving, but it’s our home. We’ll protect it, or die trying!” Light pointed her gunblade’s blade at Orphan’s face. “We live to make the impossible possible! That is our Focus! Humanity’s Focus!” Light declared.

Displaying a surprisingly childish personality, Orphan simply yelled angrily before attacking with a grin. According to Libra, it had the same immunities to status effects as the larger body, and was immune to both physical attacks and magic. “Wait, what the hell?! It’s immune to damage!” Twi called.

“Well then we’ll just smash it until it isn’t!” Snow said, pounding one fist into the other. Right. They’d hit this thing with everything they had, until it didn’t have anything left to resist with.

“Yeah!” They cheered. Orphan cast Doom on them, and they responded with their most powerful attacks followed by the strongest attacks they could spam. Finally, they punched through it’s immunity. It’s clock disappeared, and it sprouted arms. They blasted it with what they’d broken it’s invulnerability with, pounding away at it until it finally glowed brightly and began screaming as it began to explode piece by piece.

“We’re here to stop him We’ve come to save Cocoon, right?” Light asked.

“Right!” the others responded as a chunk of the wall behind Orphan began glowing, and some sort of portal opened. The light grew more and more intense until it became blinding. They received a massive surge in power, what was customary for felling a l’cie plus a huge bonus for slaying what was essentially a fal’cie Demi-God.

Meanwhile outside, Phoenix dimmed and everything that ran off the fal’cie who’s power source was now gone flickered and blinked out, including city lights and the fal’cie themselves. The ceiling above them practically disintegrated, and they were pulled upward as gravity’s effects weakened their hold.

“Stay together!” Light called.

“Hey, grab my hand!” Sazh said to Hope, and reached out to him.

“Okay!” Hope said, grabbing on. They managed to grab onto each other, but Fang and Vanille were separated from the rest of the group and were falling back towards the ground. Twilight would have teleported down, but the energy from Orphan’s death had probably rendered the surrounding space unstable if that portal was any indication, not to mention the crystal and glass fragments floating through the area. She’d be lucky not to end up with glass lodged in something important if she teleported to them, and that obviously meant she couldn’t teleport them back to the rest of the group even if she made it there unharmed. She could avoid glass fragments once if she was lucky, but it would take a miracle to bring the other two back without a glass shard embedded in something vital in at least one of them.

Fang and Vanille held hands as they dropped lower. “Vanille?” Fang asked as her friend became a bit downcast, but recovered.

Their brands began to glow brightly. “Ready.” Vanille nodded. A massive amount of magic built up, before the two of them were obscured in a bright light. There was a flash accompanied by a pulse of magic, and the Pulse creatures turned to dust, which was absorbed by the bright light. The dust was used to form a creature that resembled Hecateoncheir, but had normal arms in place of the spidery limbs, and was feminine in appearance. That was what they’d seen in the vision when they’d been branded. Raganarok. It roared, then raced down the buildings and through Cocoon’s crust, and mantle, before coming out the other side. A strange liquid spread out from where it came out on the other side across the outside of the planet, and a pillar of the stuff rose from the ground on Pulse. However, the small planet’s sheer weight began to crush the pillar, which began to crumble. Ragnarok roared and the liquid crystallized, and expanded, now able to take the weight of the Cocoon. The five of them were on the ground on Pulse somehow, and had crystallized. A few minutes later, they returned to flesh and blood.

Twilight was first, she settled down to wait for the others, or for her magic to recover and let her free them herself. Her magic was almost completely exhausted after the fight with Orphan and Arcana’s hostile takeover. Lightning was second, after waking up and examining herself, Light looked at the crystal pillar and said. “They did it. They saved the world.”

“No, they gave us a new one.” Snow responded.

“Nice to see you guys up and about.” Twi said smiling.

“Well, that’s one gift I’ll forgive them for not wrapping.” Sazh said.

“Yeah.” Snow said.

“Does this mean… did we complete our Focus?” Hope asked.

“Cocoon’s seen better days, that’s for sure.” Snow responded.

“I’d say that qualifies as a demolition. Focus complete.” Sazh said.

“It really is a miracle.” Light said.

“No one ever said we had to kill everyone on Cocoon, just destroy it’s main battery.” Twilight commented happily. Loopholes were great.

Hope examined his wrist, and exclaimed, “My brand! It’s gone!” which prompted the others to check the spots they’d been branded at. They each found that their brands were also gone, but their l’cie powers seemed untouched with the exception of their rapid rate of magic recovery being gone, and presumably their accelerated growth. As Snow was looking at his branded spot, he noticed a pair of figures approaching, but they were obscured by the glare from the sun.

“An’, an’, an’, there was this whole big bunch of chocobos there!” Dajh said, as he became visible enough to be identified, and while walking alongside Serah.

“There was, was there?” Serah asked, smiling. She leaned over and gestured towards the larger group of former l’cie. “Look there!” she said, prompting a sharp intake of breath from Dajh.

“Serah!” Snow called, grinning as he ran over to her, at the same moment that Sazh ran over to Dajh.

“It is.” Light said as if to confirm it was real, and smiling.

“Dajh!” Sazh said as he embraced his son.

“Daddy!” Dajh said as he hugged his father back.

“Snow!” Serah called.

“Serah!” Snow responded, as he hugged his fiance and laughed.

“They’re gone, aren’t they?” Hope asked somberly, the two absent members of their party being what he was referring to. Lightning put a hand on his shoulder. “I guess they meant for this to be goodbye. Then again, we’ve changed our fates before.” Hope said.

“Don’t worry,” Twilight put a hand on his other shoulder. “I’m sure we’ll be able to persuade Rygdea and Rosch to help us, all I really need is a detailed map and I can teleport in and teleport them out.” Twi reassured. Undoing the crystallization would be child’s play after that.

Serah and Snow came over. The sisters hugged and Serah said, “I missed you.”

“Serah… I’m sorry.” Light apologized softly.

“It’s okay.” Serah responded.

“Hey! Come on, the apologies can wait! We’ve got a wedding to plan! You’re gonna allow it, right?” Snow asked.

“Wow, you don’t waste any time do you?” Hope asked in a very slightly deadpan voice.

“Nope.” Snow answered unashamedly.

“That’s right, just charge in, guns blazing.” Sazh said. They laughed at that.

“I swear to you, I will make her happy.” Snow said.

“I believe you.” Light responded. “Congrats.” she congratulated them, smiling. From her, that equated to permission. A Sanctum vehicle approached from the air, interrupting the moment. It landed, releasing a squad of mixed Cavalry, Guardian Corps, and Psicom soldiers, along with Rosch, Rygdea, and Raines.

“Nice to see you’re all alright.” Twi said, as the Sanctum party approached.

“Well, that’s mostly thanks to your efforts, which have gone a long way to improving the public’s image of you.” Raines said, gazing at the pillar holding Cocoon aloft.

“Don’t thank us, Fang and Vanille were the ones who kept Cocoon from falling.” Hope said.

“Oh, right, we could use your help getting them out of there.” Snow said.

“Who are Fang and Vanille?” Serah asked.

“Some friends and former l’cie like us.” Snow said.

Rosch blinked. “Did you say ‘former l’cie’?” he asked.

“Yep, apparently defeating Orphan was our Focus, and it doesn’t matter that Cocoon’s inhabitants weren’t killed off. Best loophole ever.” Twi said happily. “We just got decrystallized on our own and our brands are gone. We still seem to have the powers though.” she explained.

“Well, we can offer our assistance within reason.” Rosch said reasonably.

“All I really need is some mapping of the crystal near where they are, then I’ll be able to retrieve them.” Twi said.

“How?” Rygdea asked. Oh right, she never did tell him about that.

In answer, Twilight teleported several feet to the left. “I can reverse the crystallization once I get them out. I was studying our brands in hopes of keeping us from becoming cie’eth, but it didn’t really work out. I did figure out how to undo the crystallization.” she explained. That had been relatively simple. Since that was supposed to be undone at some point according to the spell structure, then it was merely a matter of figuring out how it happened normally and following that.

“That’s kind of broken.” one of the soldiers commented bitterly. Being able to teleport was just unfair.

“Think how we felt when we found out.” Sazh said.

“Well it’s not my fault that- well, actually, yes, I suppose it is my fault.” Twi said, a hand on her chin in consideration. The soldiers watched bemused.

“Anyway,” Raines said, deciding to intervene before things devolved any further. “that’s perfectly within reason. We’ll map the point where the pillar connects to Cocoon, and you can retrieve your friends.” Raines said, agreeing.

The next couple weeks passed in a blur. Twilight got Fang and Vanille out of the pillar with help from the three officials after a few days, and restored them to normal. The group’s members were also helping with the efforts to relocate the majority of Cocoon’s population.

Twilight adjusted Rarity’s gem-finding spell for precious/heavy metals and pointed the authorities in the direction of the lodes she found, as well as providing the Bestiary she’d compiled on the native wildlife to help them deal with natural problems of Pulse. She’d also kept the grav-con and purchased a book and parts for it’s maintenance, as well as some manadrives. Normally they weren’t available to the public, but the former l’cie had gone from public enemies to heroes. She was hoping to create a version that didn’t require antimatter to use, as antimatter was both dangerous, and very expensive to produce.

Some of her hacker friends were helping the reformed government shore up holes in it’s security. With the fal’cie gone, much of the reason to mistrust the government was also gone, and her little band of dissidents was cut down by more than half. NORA was also providing security to the town of New Bodhum that was springing up, as were a number of new militia groups in other towns as a large number of Cocoon’s citizens began moving off of Cocoon. Without the fal’cie, Cocoon was going to need a lot of work to keep running. Especially since more than a few facilities had been designed specifically for fal’cie to run them. She provided her research into the magic they’d used in hopes of at least making it possible to run some of the facilities without fal’cie help, but they didn’t have much luck. AMP technology simply couldn’t replace a lot of the power sources involved. Not without some major advances to allow for far greater levels of manipulation.

They all attended Snow and Serah’s wedding and reception. She got to showcase her unbelievably horrible dancing, which they had a good laugh about. A couple days after the wedding, Twilight called everyone over to her house in New Bodhum, which was oddly small. They went inside, and discovered it was slightly but noticeably larger on the inside than the outside.

“I- but- what?!” Hope said, stepping in and out, examining the house’s exterior and interior.

“After everything we’ve been through, this doesn’t even faze me.” Sazh said with a shrug.

“I was looking into dimensional travel as well, and a little examination of that pocket dimension that led to Orphan really helped. The inside of the house is in a pocket dimension separate from normal reality. Explaining in detail would require a degree in theoretical physics for you to understand. Although, I guess it’s just physics now.” Twilight said with a shrug as she walked over to the group.

“So, why did you call us here?” Rosch asked.

“To say goodbye, since you, Rygdea, and Raines probably don’t know, I’m actually from a parallel world. I was about to get back when the Purge happened.” Twi said. She brought out several charms in the shape and color of her cutie mark and handed them out. “Keepsakes.” she explained. “If everything goes well, I’ll come back within seconds from your perspective. Travel between other worlds and dimensions is funny that way. If not, well then you should channel some magic into those if you plan to come after me. They’re designed to take you to where I am. Having someone in physical contact will drag them along as well. I’d normally try and dissuade you, but I’m aware that it’s wasted effort.” Twilight explained.

“You got that right.” Fang said, “After, everything we’ve been through together, you couldn’t convince us to stay behind if we found out you were in trouble.” she said smirking.

“Yeah, and between all of you, you could out-stubborn me.” Twilight scratched the back of her head. “Anyway, you guys probably remember the incident with Arcana.” she said. The others nodded, either having been present, or having had it explained to them later in great detail. “Well, I’ve placed a seal to keep her locked up here.” Twi said, tapping her head. “Since her magic is so different from mine, she won’t be able to undo it from inside, and she can’t overpower it since I’ll always be as strong or stronger than myself. If she does get out, these will turn black.” Twilight said, holding up a keepsake. “Keep in mind that she will try to kill you if you still decide to come after me then.” she warned.

It was not an exaggeration. Twilight and, by extension, Arcana, knew the others fighting styles and abilities, and the Other wouldn’t show any mercy. Since the thing was created mostly from the trauma of killing sentients, that’s what it most wanted to do. It was terrifyingly evil, and that still disturbed her. What did it say about her that something like that could come from her?

“Well, see you guys in a minute. Assuming nothing goes too wrong.” she said, chuckling nervously before charging a powerful spell and vanishing. There wasn’t a flash of light or any strange smells, she was simply… gone. There was a small popping sound as the air rushed into the vacuum she left behind. The rest of those present waited for the verdict from their respective keepsakes.

*** Twilight’s Perspective ***

Twilight Sparkle was intelligent, she didn’t flaunt the fact, but she knew she was. It was rare that she found something she was completely unable to comprehend. Traveling to another world was one of them. The experience could be equated to tasting what purple sand felt and looked like while she was being repeatedly disintegrated and reintegrated. In short, she didn’t get it. Her nervous system apparently didn’t either, since this sort of thing ought to be excruciating, but all she was getting was a rather pathetic tingling.

She hadn’t had this experience the first time, because the impostor had knocked her out first, then sent her to Cocoon. Some tiny fraction of her mind not occupied with the trip itself wondered if it was different traveling between each world, and if it was always maroon to either side. As she thought that, the color switched to a bloody red, then black, then flickered between the two.

When she finally arrived, she immediately staggered over to a nearby trash can, and threw up from the sheer sensory overload. Once she’d recovered, she immediately noticed she was still human, so this was obviously not Equestria, or at least not her Equestria. A look up to see a crescent-shaped moon grinning sadistically simply confirmed it. “Well, at least I’m six instead of four this time.” she said, looking herself over. Either the age thing was random, obeyed a law of physics she didn’t know, or her spell to get back had made some modifications to the effects of inter-world travel… or some combination of the three. She seemed to have retained most of the physical attributes she’d gained in her previous adventure, thanks to their source being magical, but anything that had been the result of exercise or her age was gone. She had about 65% of her former physical abilities left.

She could detect a magical signature nearby, without any better ideas, she decided to grab something to refill her stomach, then check it out. She’d just see after that.

Twilight The Traveler

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