• Story

    -Episode I-
    Final Fantasy XIII

    "It's a miracle..."

    Wide-eyed with amazement, Lightning stared up at Cocoon.

    It sure is, replied Vanille, in a voice that wasn't a voice at all.

    They had been so desperate to stop Cocoon from falling. There were so many people inside...so many lives... They had wanted with all their beings to protect it. And then, after what must have been a moment, but could just as well have been an eternity, she and Fang had awoken...here.

    It was different from when they had been turned to crystal in the temple of the fal'Cie Anima so long ago. Back then, everyone and everything in the temple – Anima included – had fallen into an impenetrable, dreamless sleep.

    Now, although they were sleeping, they could see the world around them. They could see everything: the warmth and majesty of Gran Pulse, the almost unbearably beautiful people...everything. They could even hear their friends' voices.

    Soldiers poured out from airships, weapons at the ready. She recognised their uniforms from somewhere. Yes, they were...PSICOM soldiers. But they weren't enemies any longer. Now their only desire was to help the people of Cocoon, to get them to safety.

    They wouldn't be pointing their guns at the people again anytime soon. She had no proof of this, of course, but somehow she knew. Somehow their desperation to ensure the citizens' safety rang true.

    "What does it matter if our fate is never to see them again? We can beat fate. We can make miracles happen."

    She heard Hope's voice. She glimpsed sadness in his downturned face, but she also saw determination there. They had truly achieved a miracle – they had saved the people of Cocoon. Surely freeing Vanille and Fang from their crystal prison was nothing in comparison. That was what she imagined he was thinking, at least.

    Thank you Hope, she murmured to herself. We'll meet again...somehow.

    We'll always be watching you. You might not see us, but we'll see you. We can see everything from up here. We can see the whole of Gran Pulse from inside this crystal. So go out there, live your lives... Be happy... And never let go of the people you love.

    Vanille gazed contentedly at her companions, reunited once more, and a wave of relief washed over her. She had finally managed to atone for the terrible things she had done. For causing Serah and Dajh to become l'Cie...

    After a moment, when the joy and surprise of reunion had subsided a little, Serah's eyes met hers...Or so Vanille thought for a brief moment, until she realised Serah was staring at Cocoon. A dark shadow crossed her face.

    Those are my eyes, thought Vanille. The eyes of someone who knows their actions have caused others grief... Who knows that innocent people have been caught up in their fate, and have suffered as a result... The weight of it crushes you... It terrifies you... It's impossible to face up to, and you have to escape...

    I know that face. I know because it was mine once...

    I know what Serah is going through. It hurts just thinking about it. What she must be feeling, staring up at Cocoon right now...

    But then, I remember what she said to me at Bodhum that day... I still remember the look in her eyes when she told me she could overcome anything so long as we were there with her... Even now, weighed down with guilt and regret, I know she'll get right back up and keep on going...

    Silently, Vanille called out to Snow, who was standing besides Serah.

    Look after her, won't you? Be there for her. That way, no matter what happens, she'll be able to overcome it. She'll be able to carry on, even when things get tough. I know you'll probably be shouting about how we can make miracles happen, and that you should find a way of helping me and Fang, but don't. You need to be there for Serah.

    Although he couldn't hear her, Snow turned towards Vanille, and she thought for a second she saw sadness in his eyes, as if her voice had got through to him somehow. As if he was saying sorry...


    When we were reunited, I wasn't thinking about the past or the future. I just wanted to know for sure. I wanted to know that we'd brought Serah back. I couldn't think about anything else.

    I'm a simple guy. That was enough for me.

    I'm sorry
    , said Snow to Vanille and Fang, who to him seemed to be sleeping there in the crystal pillar. He had followed Serah's gaze, and had been brought back to reality with a bang. Two of their companions hadn't been as lucky as they had. They hadn't been saved. This was no time to be celebrating.

    When I was asleep there in the crystal, I had a vision. It was of a future where all of us were laughing together. And Vanille and Fang were there too. Which means this isn't over yet. This isn't the end. It can't be...

    "Cocoon's ruined, huh?"

    At the sound of Serah's voice, Snow returned to his senses.

    "You saved me... And now I'm back to my old self again, and I get to see you and my sister again, but..." Serah said, staring up at Cocoon.

    "I know I have to do something. I know it can't just be me who gets to be rescued. It can't just be me who gets to be happy now... But what can I do?"

    Serah was right. So many people had lost their homes, their livelihoods... So many people were in dire need of help... But just thinking about where to start was enough to make your head spin.

    So, I decided to stop thinking about it. I never was one for over-analysing stuff, anyhow

    "Well, if it's ruined, I guess we make another one, right?"

    A simple answer from a simple guy.

    "Huh? A new Cocoon?"

    Serah looked at him in amazement.

    "No, not a new one. Something else. A new city, instead of Cocoon. Here on Gran Pulse. We can do it."

    It was the first thing that popped into my head, but as soon as the words came out of my mouth, it didn't seem like such a bad idea. In fact, it seemed pretty damned awesome.

    "We can build our own houses, find our own food. We'll be fine. We can do it. We did it at Bodhum, right? Hunting monsters and all that..."

    Lightning, who had been listening quietly, smiled and said, "That's just like you, Snow. If it's broke, fix it."

    She looked up at Cocoon again.

    "Make a new one, huh? Alright, I'm in."

    "Right? This is our new home! Right here! From this day forward!"

    "Great choice. Real cosy." Lightning shot back, and Serah laughed.

    "But, it's like they say, everyone on Gran Pulse is family, remember?"

    Lightning looked at Snow.

    "Of course I remember. Vanille said it often enough."

    "So it's not our home from today. It's always been our home."

    Lightning turned towards the column and smiled.

    "And theirs too..."

    When we wandered across Gran Pulse, hanging on to our last shred of hope, looking for Oerba, we were family. We fought side by side. It wasn't hell anymore, it wasn't enemy territory... It was home.

    Suddenly, the sound of breathing behind me stopped me dead. It was Hope. I followed his gaze, and saw a group of soldiers dressed in blue

    "It's the Cavalry..."

    He just said it, and ran right towards them... Of course. That was before whether we knew his father was safe or not. We'd heard that he was with a detachment of Cavalry in Palumpolom. He must have thought they'd be able to tell us something.

    "We're going too."

    That was Lightning, and off she went after him.

    "Uh-huh. We've gotta help each other out in times of crisis."

    And Sazh picked up Dajh, and set right off after them.

    "Dad, what's...kry...sis?

    "It's when lots of bad stuff happens all at once. Seems to be my default setting, but hey..."

    The little chocobo on Dajh's shoulder looked back at Snow and Serah, and squawked as if to say, "Are you coming?"

    I'm sorry, Snow said to Vanille and Fang again.

    Wait a little longer. Once we've finished what we have to do here, once the folks down here on Gran Pulse are on the road to recovery, then we'll come and save you. The vision I had wasn't an illusion. I won't let it be.

    "We'd better get after them."


    Serah looked different when she said it - happier - not like she did when she was looking at Cocoon. Snow put his arm around her, and together they set off.


    "Excuse me! Do you know Bartholomew Estheim?"

    Hope shouted desperately at the blue-clad cavalrymen. If only Rygdea or one of his men were here, he thought, but this didn't look like Rygdea's unit. He didn't recognise any of their faces, and none of them turned to look his way.

    "I heard he was with the Cavalry in Palumpolum. Maybe one of you..."

    "Haven't you heard?" said a voice, and a hand tapped Hope on the shoulder. When he turned, it was to the face of a man he didn't recognise, yet one of his instincts told him he could trust.

    "Your father is fine. We've received confirmation that he's safe and well."

    He was so relieved that he nearly collapsed. He realised for the first time the terrible weight of having thought that his family was gone. And at the same time he understood... He understood how his father must have felt when he saw his family get entangled in the chain of events that led from Bodhum to the Purge.

    "I'm sorry, but we have to get the refugees to safety. Your father will have to wait."

    "It doesn't matter. Thank you. Knowing he's safe is enough."

    The countless citizens of Cocoon had been made homeless in an instant. The task of getting them to safety was an enormous one, not to mention the fact that they would all need food and water once they got there. And despite all that, this man had taken the time to tell him that his father was safe. It was more than enough...

    Lightning placed a comforting hand on Hope's shoulder. He turned around and saw Sazh and Snow nodding at him with encouragement and relief. They had been worried too.

    "So, do you have a damage report on Cocoon?"

    And in an instant, Lightning was a soldier again.

    "Two thirds came through okay. Two thirds of the people, two thirds of the towns. Looks like someone used some kind of gravitational device to soften the impact."

    Two thirds of them were safe. Which meant that the other third weren't. A third of the towns, a third of the people...gone.

    "Damage was heaviest around Bodhum, but thanks to the Purge, the place was pretty much empty. Seems there weren't too many casualties in those parts."

    Hope didn't know whether to see it as lucky, or as some kinda of horrible irony. Bodhum was Lightning and Snow's hometown, after all.

    "Make a new one, huh? I'm in."

    Lightning's words came back to him. Had she seen the damage to Cocoon and known how badly Bodhum must have been hit?

    "An airship full of refugees will be arriving soon, by the way."

    He lowered his voice before continuing.

    "It might be better if you get out of here. Your cover's been blown."

    "We're still enemies of Cocoon?"

    And they were. Most of the citizens of Cocoon still didn't know the truth. They still believed that Cocoon had been destroyed by Pulse l'Cie. They still thought the l'Cie were responsible for their being driven out of Paradise.

    "I'm afraid so. And there's only one thing they'll want to do if they come across a bunch of l'Cie right now."

    Images of Palumpolum flashed through their minds. The hatred in the eyes of the townspeople...

    "Alright. We'll do as you say. We don't want to cause a scene."

    No one objected to Lightning's reply.

    "I'm sorry. Hopefully this will only be a temporary measure. Once the people know who the real enemy was, they'll realise that they were wrong about you. Until then, please be patient."

    Hope wondered if that was really true. Even if it had been to save their own lives, they had fought and killed PSICOM soldiers. And those soldiers had families. To those families, the Pulse l'Cie were just as much enemies as they'd ever been.

    Those people wouldn't be able to forget their hatred and bitterness towards them. The thought of sticking around to face them filled him with horror, but the idea of simply turning tail and running seemed even worse.
    There was nothing they could do to make up for it. It wouldn't matter to the people that they were no longer l'Cie, that they were just human beings now. But he didn't want to start running away from things he couldn't change all over again. He knew the terrible uncertainty of having thought his family might be gone. And he knew the sadness of really losing them...

    He turned towards the retreating cavalryman and called out.

    "Uh...Is there anything I can do to help?"


    "Hey, soldier! You need pilots?"

    As soon as he heard Hope offering to help, Sazh had asked without a second thought.

    "With that many people to evacuate? The more the merrier."

    Sazh looked at Cocoon. Even with a third of them gone, how many trips in how many airships would it take to airlift the entire population to safety?

    "Well alright, but..."

    "Good. Then it's decided. If you stay in the cockpit, no one will see your face."

    The airships weren't just being used to ferry large groups of people from Cocoon to Gran Pulse. The impact of Cocoon's fall had caused localised landslides throughout its interior, levelling buildings and stranding countless individuals, each of whom would have to be airlifted to safety. In order to do this, smaller airships were needed. And, of course, pilots to fly them.

    "Sorry, but we're short on personnel on all fronts. We came to a pretty quick ceasefire deal with PSICOM though, so it's not all bad."

    The bottom of the crystal column was surrounded by the blue uniforms interspersed with those of PSICOM soldiers, all carrying supplies. Regardless of rank or regiment, all were working to ensure the safety of the citizens of Cocoon. Sazh said a private thank-you for another small miracle.

    "So, what licenses do you have?"

    "If it flies, I can fly it."

    "Well, normally we'd only allow you to pilot civilian craft, but I’d have to be pretty stupid not to let you behind the controls of a military ship at a time like this."

    "You sure would. Oh, and I'll be taking my kid with me, so if you got anything with plenty of room in the cockpit, that'd be good."

    There was no way Sazh was leaving Dajh behind with anyone. Maybe once things had calmed down, and he was back at work, but not now. Right now he wasn't going to let him out of his sight for a moment.

    It was letting him out of his sight that day at Euride Gorge that had started all of this. His easy-going attitude and the carefree rhythm of their daily routine had lulled him into thinking the boy was old enough to look after himself, and sparked a crisis of epic proportions. He wasn't going to make the same mistake twice.


    He put Dajh, who he had been carrying, down on the ground, and knelt so that he was level with his face.

    "Dad's job is being a pilot. What's your job?"

    "Uhh... To eat a lot, to play a lot, nap a lot, play a few pranks, take a few scoldings, say sorry..."

    They had the same conversation every day before Sazh left for work. And every day, when they arrived at the school, Sazh would say, "Here we are! Have a nice day at the office!"

    "Yeah, that's it. But today's a little different."

    "Different how?"

    "Today your job is to watch your dad at work. You just gotta sit quietly next to me and watch, okay? Think you can do that for me?"

    Dajh's face lit up. Until now, he'd never seen his father at work, let alone sat next to him while he flew. Sazh took the opportunity to press home some important points while he still had his son's undivided attention.

    "No standing up, okay? And no running about the place. My job is to sit still and quiet, and now that's your job too."

    He turned his attention to the baby chocobo on the boy's shoulder.

    "And no flying around the place, either."

    The little creature chirped as if to say "Aye, aye, Captain!" Taking this as his cue, Sazh swept Dajh back up into his arms, enjoying the reassuring weight of having him there.

    He wouldn’t be able to hold his son like this for much longer. In the blink of an eye, he'd be grown. In ten years’ time, he would be Hope's age, and Sazh knew he had to make the most of the few short years of Dajh's childhood that remained.

    And when Dajh was all grown up, he'd be able to say to Vanille and Fang, "Now he's an adult, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that my boy was ever a l'Cie."

    He knew that in the fairy tales, everyone lived happily ever after. He also knew that right now, that day was pretty far off. But it would come...

    "Let's do this!"

    He looked up and saw the crystal column glittering in the sunlight - the column where his two friends slept their dreamless sleep.

    "See you soon," he said, then he turned and hurried off after the soldier.


    The sight of a child's smiling face felt like something from another life. It was incredible. And yet, since waking on Cocoon, she'd seen so many children - in the shopping mall in Bodhum, in Euride...

    Fang realised that it must have been her who had changed.

    Changed - or maybe it was better to say she had changed back to how she used to be. How she was when she used to watch the children laughing and playing back in Oerba.

    Kids all make the same face when they laugh. Kids from Cocoon, kids from Oerba... It's amazing.

    Of course they do, silly! Kids are kids - it doesn't matter where they're from!
    laughed Vanille.

    I guess so, Fang replied, but she just couldn't stop staring at Dajh, who after everything he'd been through was now just a normal child again. He was no longer a Sanctum l'Cie. When she had seen his hand free of that brand at last, the relief had been incredible.

    When Sazh told her that what happened to Dajh wasn't her fault, and that the incident at Euride Gorge occurred because he hadn't been looking out for his son carefully enough...those words had helped her so much. They had helped lift the burden which had weighed down on her for so long.

    Of course, she still blamed herself. She had still mixed an innocent child up in all of this. The voice inside her still harangued her, still said that even though the child had been from Cocoon - an enemy of Pulse - it didn't make it any more forgivable.

    The only thing that could silence that voice was not Sazh's words of forgiveness, but to be forgiven by Dajh himself. Or so she had thought. In the end, it turned out to be something else entirely. It was something no words could do. It was just that look on his face...

    Fang's attention turned to the other person to whom she owed an apology. Serah stood beside Snow.

    "Whether we're square, that's up to Serah"

    Lightning has said so when they were hiding out in Palumpolum.

    Will she forgive us for what we did?

    Don't worry
    , whispered Vanille, she's got a good heart. And she's tough. She will.

    Really? Then I guess our work here is done. Cocoon falling down like that fulfilled our stupid Focus, and all the l'Cie are back to being human again

    But their work wasn't completely finished yet. They still had to support the weight of Cocoon. To Fang, though, this could hardly be called work. If all she had to do was give herself up to this so-called “sleep”, she'd be happy for a long while yet. Vanille was by her side, and they didn't have to worry about becoming Cie'th every minute of the day. The two of them could just relax here as long as they wanted.

    This isn't work - this is a vacation!

    She sensed someone smiling.

    Who is that?

    Fang turned just as Vanille cried out in surprise. They'd felt this before. A long time ago. It was somewhere there, deep down in both of their memories.

    Vanille murmured the name of the goddess. That was it. Vanille remembered. She remembered whose smile they were sensing...

    Of course. Now everything makes sense. Guess we know where all those miracles came from...

    She felt as if she'd just started to unravel a particularly complicated knot. Although she still couldn't remember everything, she knew that the mists were finally clearing.

    Fang looked at her companions again, taking each of them in. Sazh would be busy bringing up Dajh... Hope still had a lot of growing up to do... The problem was Snow and Lightning.

    Don't even think of trying to help us, or bring us back, or whatever stupid plan you might come up with. Don't you dare. You worry about yourselves, you hear me?

    Vanille laughed softly.

    What are you gonna do? You know what they're like...

    Fang sighed, and a wry smile crept across her face.


    The image of Fang crying out to leave her and Vanille behind suddenly flashed into Lightning's mind, and she shrugged her shoulders as if to rid herself of the memory.

    "But you know we can't just leave you, right?"

    They had spent enough time together to be able to know what the other would think and say. It was only natural for a comradeship forged in battle.

    I'm sure the others want to bring Vanille and Fang back too. But there's no way humans can bring back l'Cie who've been turned to crystal. And besides, none of us wants to destroy the one thing that stands between Cocoon and its total obliteration.

    Returning the crystal column that supported Cocoon to its original form and freeing their two friends, or finding a way of removing the column while preventing Cocoon from falling... Neither of these was possible with the means currently available to them, especially now that they were human again.

    But she would go out there and find a way.

    There must be a way to do it hidden somewhere in Gran Pulse. Or something written about how to do it, at least...

    They had roamed these lands once before in search of away to rid themselves of their brands, and had returned to Cocoon unsuccessful. But it wasn't like they'd searched everywhere. There were plenty of places they'd never been. If they went and searched those places, they might just find an answer.

    But they weren't l'Cie any more. Traversing the monster-infested lands of Gran Pulse would be far from easy. It would be a long and difficult journey.

    And she couldn't ask Snow to go with her. He had a much more important job to do: making Serah happy. Her eyes came to rest on the two of them, walking side by side.

    Not so long ago it had been her job to look after Serah... Lightning thought back to the days when she and her sister had walked together, hand in hand. But the time had come to pass on that responsibility. In fact, Snow had probably taken it on way before she had even realised...

    At first, she had thought he was all talk, but at some point, his words had actually started to get through to her. They'd given her the strength to keep going. She realised that he really meant them, and that was what gave them the power to drive others on.

    She knew now that Snow was capable. She trusted him. She knew he had the strength and the will to survive down here in the unforgiving vastness of Gran Pulse.

    I hope he makes you happy, Serah.

    Lightning whispered to herself, and smiled. She felt the satisfaction of having successfully seen through one of her greatest responsibilities. But it was a satisfaction tinged with sadness... Not an unpleasant sadness, but a sadness nonetheless.

    Sazh was walking towards the airship dock with the cavalryman. Dajh turned towards her and waved. Such a nice kid... She waved back, and he laughed happily.

    Sazh's job is to look after Dajh now. There's no substitute for parents. I lost both of mine, so I should know... They need to spend as much time as they can being father and son again.

    And even if that wasn't the case, he's also a pilot. He won't have time for anything else now. Airships are going to be even more in demand down here on Gran Pulse than they were on Cocoon. They'll need his talents more than ever. It's not impossible, but I doubt he'd jump at the chance to head out looking for a way to free Vanille and Fang right now.

    Hope's out too. Back when he had Alexander to help him it was another story, but without his l'Cie powers, he's just a kid.

    He might not be able to get back to studying just yet, but once things calm down, hopefully there'll be some kind of school for him to go to. Studying, having friends, being young... That's the life for him now.

    He's not like me. I had to grow up so fast so I could look after Serah, but he needs to make the most of what little childhood he has left. He needs to enjoy himself. He needs to forget the pain of losing his mother...

    So I guess that just leaves...me. Sorry, you two but it looks like I'm all you've got.

    Of course, I knew it wouldn't be over once we'd saved Serah. Yeah, it was all I could think about at first... All I cared about was getting her back.
    But at some point, that changed. I’m not even sure when that was...

    Maybe it was the first time I came down to Gran Pulse and looked back up at Cocoon... It was the first time I'd seen the place where I was born, where I grew up, from the outside. What had seemed like the whole world to me looked like it could fit in the palm of my hand.

    Compared to the vastness of the sky, Cocoon was so...little. But it was also home to thousands of people. Thousands of lives. Thousands of stories...

    I'll never forget that feeling as long as I live. I was freaked out - not to the point of losing it, but I think something changed in me that day.

    My goal had always been to rescue Serah, and for all of us to get through this together. But now, I didn't just mean all of us l'Cie, I meant ALL of us. Everyone on Cocoon. I started thinking about a future for everybody.

    And I'm still thinking about it now. But now it's gone beyond even the people of Cocoon. Now I'm thinking about Vanille and Fang, and all the people who might still be alive down here on Gran Pulse. I want to make every single person out there is safe.

    That's why my journey's still not over.

    And it's why I need to head out right now. I don't quite understand it yet. It's just a feeling, but...

    And before she knew it, she had started walking.

    Why...? What is it that's driving me on...? What is this feeling...?


    Although she knew, although she understood, when she saw it with her own eyes, she was still taken aback. Could this really have happened?

    But it had. It was real. And that meant she could do something about it. She had to. She couldn't just look on, helpless. She had to change things. And when she realised this, she was filled with courage. Serah lifted her head, and took in the full spectacle of the fallen Cocoon, and the column of crystal which cradled it.

    What can you see now, Vanille? What are you dreaming of? Can you see me right now, just like the others can?

    I don't remember much from right around the time I was turned to crystal, but parts after that, what happened at Lake Bresha and later on...that I remember. I was with Snow the whole time. Maybe only in a dreamlike, misty kind of way, but I was there.

    I know he kept my crystal tear with him the whole time. That's why I could hear him, even after I was turned to crystal. That's why I could see the same things he saw.

    It seems as if different people dream different things when they're turned to crystal. That little boy, Dajh - he said he spent the whole time dreaming of playing with chocobos. Maybe his little chocobo friend sent them to him...

    Or maybe his father - Sazh, was it? - was praying for him to have sweet dreams...

    Serah was sure that must be the reason. She had been able to be there with Snow because he had prayed so hard for it to happen. And she had wanted it so badly too. She couldn't know for certain, of course, but it was what she wanted to believe.

    Being with Snow in her dreams had kept her going. If she had been alone in that cold sleep, her heart might have broken before she ever awoke.

    Which was why she hoped that Vanille was having nice dreams too. Serah prayed that Vanille could be with them, even if it was only in spirit.

    "They've given me something pretty big to fly. We'd better be taking off."

    Sazh's voice brought her back to her senses. Dajh was smiling and waving at her.

    "See you later!"

    "See you, Dajh. Have fun!"

    The boy's smiling face had been the first thing she had seen when she awoke, and his carefree, innocent words were the first thing she heard. She had taken his little hand in hers, and walked out into the huge expanse of Gran Pulse. It had been the first step on their journey back to reality. She smiled at him gratefully.

    "Hurry up!" the soldier called out to Sazh.

    "Wow, Dad! They must really need us! C'mon, let's go!"

    Father and son hurried off after the cavalryman.

    "And they're gone..." whispered Hope from beside her. Another soldier rushed in to take the place of the first.

    "We know where your father is. He's on the next flight in. A cargo transport."

    "My dad? Are you sure?"

    "Yes. He'll be here in a few minutes."

    Not many people would be aware that his father, Bartholomew Estheim, had once been branded 'The Father of the l'Cie', but that didn't mean that no one would. That must be why he had chosen to travel aboard a cargo ship.

    "If you're discreet, you can go and meet him when the ship lands."

    "Thank you."

    "Don't thank me, just be quick. He'll need to use the bustle of the landing to make his escape."

    And with that, Hope disappeared, hurried along by the soldier. There was no time so say good-bye. A meeting of eyes, the briefest nod, and he was gone.

    "Seems like everybody's leaving all of a sudden."

    There was a trace of sadness in Snow's voice. He had never liked partings.

    "Well, saying good-bye may be sad, but just think - they're all going back to their families."

    "Yeah, that's true, I guess. Lucky them."

    They may have all gone their separate ways, but it didn't make them any less close. No matter where they ended up, they would always be right there beside each other. Just like Vanille and Fang, up there in the crystal.

    "I'm happy for everyone and all, but this isn't over yet."

    This parting was just the start of another journey. The end of one road was the beginning of other, separate roads for all of them. And some of them would be lucky enough to travel these new roads together.

    I have to do something...

    "Um, Snow... Do you think I'd make a good teacher?"

    "What, like a school teacher?"

    "Yeah. We don't have schools yet, or even homes, but there're so many kids here. They'll need schools and teachers, right?"

    She had been wondering the whole time what it was she could do. And then the answer had come to her: she would help replace the schools and nurseries they had lost.

    "I want to teach them about the world, tell them the things they have to know. Like why Cocoon fell, and what happened to us..."

    They had lived without thinking of the sacrifice of the people given up to the fal'Cie. They had dwelt in blissful ignorance in a paradise built on lies. That had been their biggest mistake. Serah wanted the children who grew up on Gran Pulse to be able to think for themselves, and stand on their own two feet. She wanted them to grow into responsible, free thinking adults.

    "In ten or twenty years’ time, these kids will all be adults. We need to give them the tools to help us build our new home. If it's just us, we can build a small village if we're lucky, but with all of their help, we can make ourselves a city!"

    "A schoolteacher, huh? Yeah. Suits you."

    Snow nodded his assent.

    "So you're gonna train 'em up to help us out in the future, huh?"

    And among the children Serah trained would be some who wanted to become teachers themselves. And those children would teach new children, and so on, and so on, far into the future...

    "Alright then! I'm gonna build you the biggest school you've ever seen!"

    He stretched his arms as wide as they would go.

    "Yeah! A big school, and lotsa houses...a bona fide city!"

    If people believe strongly enough, dreams can become reality. Right now, the landscape that stretched out before them was empty, but Serah could already see the city spreading out in front of her. It might be a long way in the future, long after she had passed away, but one day, this place would be a paradise too. Not a false paradise accepted unquestioningly, but a real one, built with their own hands.

    "Right, Sis?"

    Serah turned, looking for her sister's approval. And at the same time, she felt a twinge of discomfort. It was like something warm that had been surrounding her had fallen away. It was a strange feeling, and one she hadn't experienced before. But it lasted only a moment, and before she could put her finger on it, it was gone.


    Lightning wasn't there. But she'd been there a moment ago, hadn't she? Serah felt an ominous premonition. No - not a premonition...a sensation.


    She turned again, and her eyes widened.


    The crystal column suddenly seemed further away, even though she had been walking towards it. Maybe this horrible feeling was just a side effect of only recently having woken up from her sleep...

    "Sis...? Where...are you?"

    She realised her voice was trembling. Instinctively, she covered her face with her hands, hoping to compose herself, but something unexpected greeted her touch...

    It was a tear.

    A vast, dark ocean stretched out from horizon to horizon.

    Or at least, something like and ocean. Deep, black waves rolled in and out, but no seabirds cries, and she could not smell the sharp tang of salt. It was a deep, thick darkness, seething in the depths of the night. This was nothing like the sea she knew.

    And there was not only the sea. This place was different from any other she had known. She could feel a monstrous presence, but had caught no glimpse of animals or plants. There wasn't a trace of life here.

    There was no sound, and no colour. She did not know whether this was because it was quiet and dark, or because her senses had failed her.

    And not just the usual five - her sense of time had also grown...fuzzy. She felt as if an incomprehensibly long time had passed...but it might equally have been an instant. She felt eternity in a heartbeat.

    So that's why...

    At some point, she had stopped resisting, had started to accept this place. She had realised that it was not a place that the human body could resist. It was a place where everything and nothing existed. If words could describe it, they would be words like 'emptiness' and...“chaos”.

    But she kept walking. She knew that there was something she had to find.

    "Where am I going? Where am I trying to get to?

    No answer. An infinite yet momentary silence greedily swallowed her voice.

    -Written by Jun Eishima