Here's the final part! Hope you enjoy, and the ending's suitable. Thanks to all of you who've stuck through the whole 63 (yes, 63!) pages.
Hopefully this'll wrap up all the previously mentioned plot points.

Hope's POV

I ran my tongue across the back of my lip again, feeling the slightly warmer surface.

"Garmr, you said fal'Cie magic wouldn't work?" I was smiling now. Just like the old days.

"Of course. Just give up" he replied, pressing Asura against the crystal.

"What about l'Cie?" I grinned, feeling the brand Asura had put on my lip.

When we'd kissed, she'd focused and put a l'Cie brand on the inside of my lip; out of their sight, but I felt her put it there.

Garmr shot a surprised, angry look at me as I felt the familiar, fiery currents pour from my hands, making the Surtr holding me stagger back. Next, I brought up sheets of ice, imprisoning most of the fifty strong Surtr rabble, leaving the one holding Asura who held Asura up as a human shield. Growling a little, I threw a bolt of lightning at Garmr-

-who held up a grey, metal device fitted over his knuckles, which absorbed the spell.

"I'll give your Sanctum this" Garmr, nodded, "They know the fal'Cie. Like this device, built in conjunction with the manadrives. Absorbs all magic thrown at it" he smiled, punching the air towards me. The electrical current I'd sent to him bounced back, and I skipped to the side, feeling the heat of the wave.

"And shoots it back" Garmr finished, giving a grim smile, leaving one of the Surtr to hold Asura.

Garmr paced towards me, moving slowly. He had the metal band fitted smoothly over his knuckles, and kept it pointed towards me, preventing me from getting any spell to work.

Air. I kept moving like normal, but subtly focused on the element air, dragging a stone along the ground, blowing it with a created wind. I could hear the Cocoon and Pulse armies cheering outside. Then, inhaling deeply, I moved my right arm, back, yanking the stone at lightning speed across the ground, to strike Garmr.

He span around, holding up the hand with the device and catching the stone, absorbing the momentum. Twirling again, he thrust it towards me, into my hastily upraised shield.

"You're inventive, l'Cie, I'll give you that" Garmr stepped towards me, and I stepped back, curving, circling around the same few steps.

"I've had plenty of practice"

"So I've heard. But whatever you do to me, I'll do back to you. One of the few good things your Sanctum ever achieved. Well, that and the Purge: imagine, so many pets screaming and dying all because of her" Garmr used his other hand to point at the struggling Asura.

"Shut up!" I shouted, calling in waves of fire in a circle around Garmr, bringing them towards him, and extinguishing them before they came too close to Garmr: he'd just send them back at me.

"You're learning" he nodded, smiling slightly.

"You're not" I retorted, cracking the ground beneath his feet.

"Is that it?" he asked, lowering his hand, pointing his palm to the floor and stabilizing the quake.

He raised his hand to force the same energy back at me and, as he did so, I brought a gust of wind moving from behind him. My spell knocked him sprawling forwards, but his reflection of the quake knocked me back.

"Nice" Garmr nodded appreciatively, dusting himself down as he got to his feet. "Any more tricks?"

"Wait" I murmured, thinking. I could only knock him over with that trick: any other spells and he'd be able to absorb the energy from them, like if I used fire, he might be set alight for a moment but the Sanctum device could take the flames in.

"Waiting" Garmr shrugged, calm.

"Try this!" I shouted suddenly, bringing in a lightning bolt from the cloudless sky. Garmr absorbed it, and held his device up to take in the ring of fire I'd called in, at the same time neutralizing the quake I'd built beneath him. Panting slightly, I finished off, bringing two stones towards him from different directions. He held his hand over his heart, and the stones dropped to the floor either side of him. The energy propelling them had been lost.

"You know what this means" Garmr smirked. "It's payback time!"

I braced myself, creating an energy shield as quickly as I could, as waves of fire and lightning cascaded towards me. I staggered back, the force of my reflected blows surprising me with their strength.

"You don't stand a chance" Garmr murmured as the smoke cleared. He was completely still now, and hadn't even broken a sweat.

I wasn't going to run after him for a punch-up; I could never fight very well like that, even after Mom's best efforts, and he came from Pulse. I knew he could doubtless fight off a behemoth, so what chance did I have? If he came towards me for a physical fight I'd just run away, throwing as much magic at him as I could.

I needed an edge. Sighing, I closed my eyes, recalling that old trick. A faint red aura emanated from my branded lip, dissipating into the air. I lifted my arm exceedingly quickly, checking that the spell had worked. It had; I never learnt its name, but that bit of magic let me move at a much quicker speed.

I lifted my hands, bringing them together in a clap. Two waves of water, rolling slowly from my speeded up perception, came out of the air, crashing towards Garmr. He lifted his hand, but I was quicker: I cancelled the attack, turning the water to steam, and threw a stone up from the ground, striking his knee. The combo took less than a second.

Garmr fell to his knees, chuckling slightly.

"Nice" he smiled, getting up again. He rubbed at a bruise on the back of his knee.

We stared each other down for a few moments, before he took one step towards me, device raised.

I stood stock still, waiting for the right chance for another combo. Garmr took another step towards me, leaving him four paces away. The slow, measured pace took him one second from my speeded up perspective. He slowly moved one foot forwards, keeping it hovering in midair.

In a flash, half a second even from my view, he pushed towards me touching me with the Sanctum device. I felt the speed leave me, and I fell back, slightly disorientated. Thinking fast, I moved back a further few steps from Garmr.

"Had enough?" he smirked, twiddling his fingers. A red aura spread out from them, the remnants of my spell becoming infused with the device. Now the device would be quicker, as best I could tell. It would be harder to hit Garmr with anything.

"I take it there's more to come?" Garmr tilted his head, glaring it me. I stared back, panting.

Maybe this wasn't going to be too easy.

Asura's POV

"Let me go!" I said, writhing in my captor's grasp. She was holding me very close, half afraid that Hope would throw a spell or something at her.

Oh come on! Hope was a l'Cie and dealing just fine with the head of the Surtr. I'm a flipping fal'Cie and I'm struggling with some underling.

You're not a fal'Cie any more the silent voice in my head murmured, you're as human as Hope. More so: your magic won't work.

And why wouldn't my magic work? I tried it, just to be sure. Nope, definitely wouldn't work; she had part of the crystal.

For half a moment I was tempted to actually free Vanille just to get rid of the annoying, limiting crystal shards. Naturally, I didn't though: it would be more annoying to have Cocoon fall towards us, frankly.

"You can stop this, Anima" my captor whispered savagely in my ear, "just free the Chosen from crystal sleep"

"My name is Asura!" I kicked back. Even with the fal'Cie's memories, I still had the sense of self that belonged only to Asura, belonged only to me.

"If you're so obsessed with Ragnarok, then let me go and you can become it" I groaned, "You know, drop the crystal and let me brand you"

"I don't think so, somehow" she smirked.

My captor had one arm curled around both of mine, and the other arm firmly holding my hips back. Her chin was resting on my shoulder, letting her whisper her threats as Garmr and Hope duelled. The rest of the Surtr were in the ice shell Hope had conjured, but they were chipping their way out.

I reached back with one arm, bending my elbow uncomfortably, trying to reach for the crystal shard my captor held. I didn't know where she kept it, but if I could find it and get rid of it, I could crystallize her. I wouldn't turn her into a Cie'th: I was human, a temporary death, a sleep, was all I'd do.

I was human…why could I think those words but when someone else said them I went mad? Really, isn't that self-defeating?

"What do you think you can achieve? Your friend is failing" my captor whispered slyly.

I hated to admit it, but she was right. Hope was panting, weakening, while Garmr was just moving one arm.

I could help. I had to. I bent my elbow awkwardly, gripping the base of my captor's wrap, pulling on a jewelled clip. The crystal shard had to be somewhere; I just had to disguise my searching as general resistance.

"He's a l'Cie branded by a Gran Pulse fal'Cie" I retorted, palming a brooch from her jacket. I threw it in front of me, just to see what it was. No crystal. "Your boss is using a Sanctum trick; some Pulse pride"

"We do what we ha- hey, stop that!" she grabbed my hand, just as my thumb and forefinger grabbed a jewelled clasp. I pinched the clasp and dropped it, focusing as my captor forced my hand back in front of me.

Still couldn't brand her. That wasn't the crystal.

"Those would be mine" she whispered.

I had a brainwave suddenly. I needed to find where the crystal was to start with; and it would take in any magic I tried.

Closing my eyes, I visualized fire, a pale white sphere in the air in front of me. Opening my eyes, I saw the blaze start up, almost instantly turning into a strand of spaghetti, twirling over my left shoulder. It was moving in a pretty much straight line, skimming over the tip of my shoulder, though there was no heat. The crystal had taken the danger out from the spell. Clever.

Well, I suppose the crystals were made to protect.

So, the crystal was on a badge or something just above my left shoulder. How was I supposed to reach there? My arms were pinned to my sides.

"Watch him fall" my captor had her head snugly placed on my right shoulder, whispering. "Watch your friend fall and die"

"Yeah, that's not going to make me Ragnarok, I'm no l'Cie" I twisted my neck, to the right, hitting my captor's face with my cheek. She withdrew, cackling slightly.

Taking advantage of the moment, I turned my neck as fast as I could, as far as I could go. My chin was right on top of my shoulder, slightly further than a normal human could manage. Si guess a fal'Cie created body was slightly more flexible; yet another reminder of how inhuman I was, no matter how hard I tried.

I exhaled the doubts and fears, opening and shutting my teeth over the crystal bade. It was a circular gold frame, with the jagged shard of crystal framed in the centre. And the emblem was clenched in my jaw firmly. I turned my neck back, suppressing a scream as the cold, sharp metal dug into my gums, but as I tore the fabric of my captor's wrap, I finished turning my head.

I spat out the badge, seeing slight stains of blood on the crystal. Licking around my mouth tentatively, I tasted the metallic tang of blood. That much was human at least.

"You-" I never got to hear the end of my captor's insult. Her hands were holding my wrists; enough physical contact to brand her. And her Focus was just to live a microsecond more.

As her body weakened, I fell forwards from her limp, unresisting muscles: didn't want to be held by a crystal statue.

Now she was crystal. I turned, seeing her frozen face. I guess I'd free her soon; otherwise I'd as good as killed her. And Anima was the killer, not me.

Blinking and sighing a little, I looked up, before gasping. The Surtr were almost finished breaking through the ice shell Hope had erected.

Hope's POV

I got off my knees, panting. Did I know any more tricks? Garmr could take whatever I did and reflect it back: the combos I'd done before never worked more than twice before he came up with a countermeasure.

And though Asura was free, she was using her fal'Cie magic to strengthen the ice around the Surtr. Which meant she couldn't help. I was alone.


No I wasn't. The last time I'd felt so alone, I'd asked to be alone. Back when I was a l'Cie, I'd told Light and the others to go, to leave me alone. And my anger, despair, had made sure I couldn't be alone, not as a l'Cie anyway.

My despair had summoned my Eidolon, Alexander.

I wonder, did the ability to summon him carry over from one branding to the next?

We'll see.

I concentrated, opening my mouth and getting slightly annoyed with Asura: it was really annoying to have a brand on the inside of my lip.

The star shaped crystal formed just outside my brand, dropping onto my tongue. I let it drop, moist, onto my palm.

Garmr shot a slightly scared look at me, though he tried to hide it.

"Don't forget, I've had practice" I flashed a cocky grin at him, before bring my other hand down to crush the crystal.

Familiar glyphs surrounded me, and I felt the drain of energy that was always accompanied by…

Him! I looked up as the bulky Eidolon stepped forward, moving towards Garmr.

There was a moment's pause as Alexander looked down on Garmr, the Surtr man shaking slightly in what might've been the first trace of fear he'd experienced. My Eidolon started to shine slightly, lifting up a thick, golden arm. He flexed brutish, white fingers, a ripple of energy passing through them. Then it punched forwards, unstoppable fist thrust towards Garmr.

Garmr lifted his hand, the arm seeming like a twig against a tree trunk.

A pale light spread from the Eidolon's fist, expanding, engulfing Garmr and the Eidolon. I took a few steps back, panting, watching the almost opaque light. I could just make out silhouettes, but no details.

A scream of rage, of effort, sounded from within the light, a human battle cry. I saw the titanic bulk of Alexander move close to Garmr and…was it fading?

The light started to weaken, and the two figures gradually became visible. Garmr had his hand outstretched, the Sanctum device shining, emitting sparks, as the magical energy making up Alexander started to dissipate.

"Eidolons are magical creatures!" Garmr seemed almost hysterical, emotions turning to a mad joy, flipping from his previous, concealed fear. "They're composed from magic. Magic I can use!" he slowly moved his palm back, as Alexander turned into a stream of pale energy, swirling through the air and into Garmr's palm.

As quickly as it had started, it was over.

I stood, facing a smirking Garmr on a plain field, at CrystalPoint, mere steps away from the pillar holding Fang and Vanille. His hand was glimmering, jolts of energy shooting out. The device hadn't overloaded, and yet it was holding a whole Eidolon.

I knew I hated the Sanctum for a reason.

"You know what happens now" Garmr smirked again, sinister grin broadening.

"Not yet" I threw a ball of fire, but my heart wasn't in it. I needed to conserve energy: he was going to attack me with my own Eidolon's energy.

A lash of energy struck my spell, created by Garmr's stored up energy of Alexander. The two bits of magic dissipated.

"Bad move" Garmr glared at me.

I hastily focused, constructing a resilient, invisible wall in front of me. One done; that should block the stronger bits of energy, though some might get through. I made another of the walls, just to be sure. I kept the constructs invisible, so Garmr wouldn't trigger his attack too soon.

"You're about to summon my Eidolon for me again" I bluffed, "He'll help me" by now I was making all the impenetrable shields I could. How powerful would this blast be?

"I don't think so. I'm shooting out pure energy, all the magic that composes your Eidolon. But no form. Its cells are based on magical energy, just as ours are based on chemical energy. That magic I can absorb, without the constraints of a physical form" he twiddled his fingers for a moment, before closing his eyes.

As he opened them again, he was glaring straight at me, about to unleash Alexander's energy.

"Say goodbye" he whispered.

And sheer chaos broke out from within his palm.

A blinding white light shot through the air, curving around me. I felt a physical pain as most of my barriers were shattered, and I lifted my palms, sheltering my face like I would in a sandstorm, building more shields, one after the other.

The energy kept coming. It seemed the entire world was made up solely of the white magic, magic I was barely holding back. My shields shattered the instant they were created, and could barely keep up a constant barrier in front of me. And I could still hear Garmr laughing outside.

"No!" I shouted, running my tongue over my brand, feeling it burn.

My last shield shattered.

The energy burned; like searing fire. I was flung back but, just as I felt I couldn't take any more, mere seconds, the wave ended.

I fell a few metres to the grounded, burned and bruised, panting. Garmr stood a few metres away, standing proud, looking down.

"Any last words?" he tilted his head. He still had a tiny bit of energy stored in his weapon: I could see the sparks, my Eidolon trying to be free.

I creased my forehead, throwing faint wisps of smoke at Garmr. It was supposed to be a spell.

"You can't harm me" she swaggered, moving a few steps closer.

I panted, falling to the ground, my body pressed to the warm, sun-baked surface.

There was a loud crack, and I saw, just out of the corner of my eyes, the Surtr breaking out from the icy shell, the whole swarm of them free. They moved towards the fleeing Asura.

And the worst part was, we could do nothing. I was too tired to do anything except conjure a tiny bit of lightning, or fire maybe. Not enough to hurt any of the Surtr, and Garmr would just swat it aside.

Hopeless. I felt truly hopeless.

Garmr was right I couldn't hurt him.


I. Couldn't. Hurt. Him.

I couldn't hurt him.

So why hurt him? Why aim for him?

I closed my eyes, relaxing, using what energy I could. I couldn't see my target, but I could make a guess. I created a thin spark of lightning, a tiny jolt of energy, but enough to cause a fire and enough to cause an overload.


The Atomos. Kept prisoner by Garmr, being forced to create the shield that kept the army out. A machine kept it prisoner.

A machine with my lightning magic within it, turning it into a smouldering mess as the Atomos, the very angry Atomos, broke free, leaving its pit in the ground, moving furiously.

The shield around us fell.

Asura's POV

Hope. Was. Brilliant.

No other way to say it' he'd freed the Atomos and let the rest of Cocoon and Gran Pulse in. Let's see the Surtr deal with all of those!

The Atomos shot out of the ground with an uncanny resemblance to a hyperactive moogle, darting from side to side, leaping off the ground, unused to being in the open air. I saw it freeze in midair momentarily, eye rolling around until it saw what it was looking for.

Garmr. It recognized Garmr.

The fal'Cie rolled towards Garmr, who turned around, away from Hope, to throw a beam of light.

I looked away once I saw Hope start to flee. Sighing, I turned to the remains of Hope's ice shell, with the Surtr leaving and pouring across CrystalPoint. But now we had hope, in both senses of the word. Cocoon would not fall today.

All of the New Guardian Corps, made up of Gran Pulse and Cocoon soldiers alike, had been called here, once they'd heard of people in CrystalPoint. It was the most sensitive area of New Cocoon; everyone knew that, if it wasn't for the sacrifice of Fang and Vanille, then none of them would be here. They would defend CrystalPoint with their lives.

Some of the soldiers were on foot, some stood astride huge vehicles, some were on bikes, some kept their distance and fired weapons, some were equipped with manadrives, some were keeping their distance from the Atomos as it fought Garmr, and some were prancing around like monkeys. It was an odd feeling, relying on others; it was such a, well, human trait. As a fal'Cie I'd always had to be perpetually alone, not counting my l'Cie. I still felt immeasurable guilt for those l'Cie: I'd made them my slaves, and they were the only kind of companionship I had. Everyone else had kept away from me, and even those l'Cie had shunned me.

I felt pity for the Atomos in front of me, visible from my vantage point near the crystal pillar. Did it feel as alone as I had before? I never even realized how alone I was, not until I knew friendship, and love.

Was that why we made l'Cie? Not to complete some task, but out of loneliness?

A tear splashed onto the crystal, a pitifully inadequate gesture for all those lives I'd ruined.

"We forgive you" Vanille's voice sounded in my head, emanating from the pillar.

"Thanks…Mom" I murmured, smiling through the tears, "But you're not the only ones"

"Hey, no one's perfect" I heard Fang start to speak, "I was Ragnarok. I still can't forgive myself for that, but I have to live on. You made yourself from me, so find a way to do what I've done: forgive yourself"

"You can't change the past" Vanille added, "but you can change the future."

"Thank you" I murmured, bare audible even to myself, as I sunk to my knees.

Was I grateful or scared? My mind was such a blur of conflicting emotions that I really couldn't see how humans could bare it. Happy, sad, guilty, relieved, angry, peaceful…

"Should've known you'd be at the heart of this" a slightly groaning voice stated, stopping next to me.

"Lightning!" I looked up, smiling at the familiar face. "You know, Hope's here too"

"I guessed. Just like before, he could never stay away from anything. If he hears of danger, he's there, everything he does is towards that aim. He never stops"

"It sounds scary when you put it like that" I sighed, watching the battlefield. The Surtr were retreating, the Atomos had left after deciding Garmr was too much hassle, and Garmr had tossed the smoking Sanctum device aside. Hope was running after him.

"It is scary" Light responded. "You never saw him last time; he was willing to kill himself to get back at Snow. Don't you tell him this, but I was scared, scared of losing him when the only thing on his mind was revenge"

"I know how you feel"

"I don't think so. You probably feel very differently: I saw him kiss you"

"You…don't mind?" I frowned slightly, remembering the possessiveness of her sister NORA had mentioned. I guess she was softening; she treated Hope like her son.

"Hope needs someone; last time it was me, but he's older now. He needs you"

"Thanks" I nodded, slowly, watching as Hope neared Garmr of a relatively distant point of land.

"You know" I turned back to Lightning, "If that's how you feel, you should talk to Serah" I flashed a smile, before getting up.

It was a human emotion again, one Light had reminded me of, and now I couldn't get it out of my head.

Hope was near Garmr. I ran up, feeling the land around me seemingly blur. Some fal'Cie magic activated unconsciously. I sprinted up to them, heart pounding.

Garmr had hunted me, he had killed my parents. That thought went through my head again. He had killed my parents, just to try and make me remember. He had almost killed Hope's father, in fact, he had killed Hope's father: I barely managed to save him.

I hated Garmr.

The three words stuck in my thoughts. I hated him. Not just dislike, but a strong emotion of sheer hatred.

I was human now, in a good way and the bad ways. I felt love, joy, contentment, but I also felt the negative emotions…like hate.

And that emotion could be triggered by just thinking of Garmr.

I could see and hear Hope clearly, even though I was at a distance. Garmr was on his knees, one arm held out, restrained by Hope, while the other arm was pinned to his side. Hope was speaking, just a few last words before, presumably, Hope knocked him out to go to some Cocoon prison.


My vision was tinged red, as I remembered the story Light had mentioned; Hope had wanted revenge. And that was one human feeling pumping through my veins. Garmr had killed my parents.

"You gave us unity" Hope was saying, "a common enemy. You brought us together, Pulse and Cocoon."

I stopped next to Garmr. Hope looked up at me, slightly surprised, before recoiling at the rage in my eyes.

Was that really how I looked? Like a monster? It wouldn't surprise me, but I wasn't: I was as human as him. Just, that made me a monster when faced with the man who'd killed my parents. Adoptive parents, but the only parents I'd known.


I took one step towards him.

Touched his cheek with one finger.

And branded him.

With no Focus.

I stepped back as he started to shake, skin decaying, changing, glowing. Anyone branded with no Focus only had one fate. To become a Cie'th.

"You-" Garmr pointed a rippling hand at me as his flesh practically bubbled, darkening, decaying, turning to the crystal grey of a Cie'th. I stared at him, as the word was spoken slowly. He never finished the sentence.

His skin was a dark grey, with jagged pieces of crystal littered over it. He lunged at the empty air, a mindless action. Garmr was a Cie'th, by my hand.

So why didn't I feel any better? He was the man who'd killed my parents, who'd tried to destroy New Cocoon and Gran Pulse, and now he was a Cie'th, in eternal regret, with no chance of respite: no one else could do his Focus for him, because he had none. But I didn't feel any happier.

I only felt, well, sadness. Regret even.

I felt guilty enough making someone a crystal-a temporary fate. But no fal'Cie could cure a Cie'th: that was the point of the punishment. Inescapable. Did Garmr deserve it? Seconds ago I could have given an answer without a second thought, but now…now the rage had quieted, and I could think clearly.

I did know the answer to that question: did Garmr deserve to be mired in eternal torment? I knew the answer, I just didn't want to say it.

I felt guilty. Very guilty, regretful. If I could've, I would've changed his fate. But no one could: not even the Maker.

I'd done things I regretted before: I was human then, but I'd been able to undo all of those things. Just human damage, which I'd been able to undo. But now I was a fal'Cie with human emotions. Like anger. And with that much anger, I'd thought of the worst fate I could.

And it was too much.

How did Hope see me now? A monster? The Anima creature he'd fought?

No, wait. He never fought Anima, fought me, back then. He'd kept his distance.

Did that mean anything? Had he been unwilling to fight? But why?

"A-Asura?" Hope asked. I opened my eyes, to see that I was kneeling on the floor, sobbing.

"Don't talk to me" I curled up tighter, feeling Garmr's Cie'th lumber towards me. It struck a hard, firm blow on my back. I gasped, but didn't stop it. I deserved it.

Strange to think that the one person who'd made me feel guilty was the one who killed my parents.

"How do you bear it?" I sobbed into the ground. "Look at what I've done"

"Don't, Asura" I felt a whoosh above me, as he used the l'Cie magic I gave him to throw Garmr away.

"I…I hate him, Hope. I hate him…but I just don't, don't…why did I do it? No one deserves that, and yet I did it without a second thought." Hope touched me tenderly. "No!" I shouted out, moving away, "I'm a fal'Cie, look at what I did to him"

"I know. And that just proves you're human" he spoke softly

"What?" I peered up at him, eyes drying

"If you were a fal'Cie you wouldn't be like this now. If you were a fal'Cie you'd have done it to the rest of the Surtr, not just him, and you wouldn't be crying right now" he knelt down beside me and lifted my chin with two of his fingers. A brief, endless second passed.

"A human is more than just happiness. The fact you feel sad is all the more reason for you to be Asura, and not Anima" Hope whispered, leaning forwards.

Our lips met in an explosion of delight, the instant feeling of joy at the thrill of contact, with all the wonderful, subtle twirling patterns of emotions within.

My heart, my human heart, melted at his touch.

"Hope" I murmured, smiling as he withdrew. He moved a step away from me, frowning as he started to glow, before he turned to crystal.

I giggled slightly, before biting my lip. Had I really been like that back when I'd first remembered? I'd given him the Focus to kiss me again.

I moved forwards, kissing his crystalline lips, awaking him as I did so. I removed the brand, freeing him from the crystal, and felt his arms embrace me before I withdrew from the kiss.

We stood like that for what felt like hours. The Surtr and the Guardian Corps doing whatever they were doing elsewhere.

"Going to erase your memories this time?" Hope murmured, seemingly sad.

I stiffened, moving out of his embrace. Was I? Of course I should; fal'Cie mind in a human body. Plus I couldn't face living with the guilt of what I'd done to Garmr. I just…couldn't. Could I?

Wasn't this just the easy way out?

I keep saying I'm human. I keep promising myself that I am human.

So face up to it. Face up to what you are, Asura. Stop running and live, feel, like a human. Humans couldn't do it; and humans had no doubt done unchangeable, irredeemable sins. They couldn't just forget. If they could live with it, then so could I.

My name is Asura, ex-fal'Cie. I am a human. I know that for sure. And I will remember that.

I will remember. How could I claim to be human if I didn't?

"I mean" Hope said, watching me, "it seems a bit of a waste if you're just going to remember every time I kiss you"

"Why? Planning on doing it often?" Ok, I was flirting. I just like seeing him blush.

"Ah, uh-um…" he looked around awkwardly. Mutely, he nodded before blushing again.

"Good" I smiled, stepping towards him, grabbing his jacket and pulling him closer.