I am not nearly as cruel as you all assumed. Here is the next installment, just as I intended when I ended Closer on such a cliffhanger. I took a small break to dilly around with Because I Can Make You Smile, which is still in the works for those of you who enjoyed it. But it seems I can't get this particular tale out of my head, so here it is for your viewing enjoyment. :3
My trusty beta has returned! Thanks to SinisterPurr!
"Promise me you'll find a way to turn her back!"
Where do you run when even the walls betray you? When that vast open plain doesn't seem like nearly enough space to escape the fate you bestowed upon yourself? The fal'Cie had nothing to do with the promise Snow took upon himself that moment, when Hope looked at him with empty eyes and a broken heart. Their leader was nothing but an ornament now, on display as a reminder how they had failed.
How he had failed.
The airship hummed to life, engines finally able to convert the energy into pure power to lift the tank off the ground. Snow eyes were downcast, ignoring the rumbling that echoed through the ship as Sazh took them up. That woman, her airship had vanished, taking the boy to some place they couldn't follow.
Not until he fulfilled his promise.
That wasn't true, he could go, they all could, somehow rescue Hope from the woman's clutches. But what would the boy do? He would look at them all, life shattered as the woman who took up a sort of parental figure had been turned to glass. Distantly Snow Villiers found himself wondering if Lightning was even asleep, that maybe she was truly dead.
Where's your hope now?
Snow instinctively reached for the crystal teardrop. He clung to it, almost bitterly.
I need help. He begged; he wasn't even sure he was asking Serah; just anybody who would listen. Tell me how to save her, tell me where Hope is…
Fal'Cie didn't care about humans and the Maker had long left. Who was there to pray to? To Serah? As much as Snow loved her, what could the girl do? She was on the Lindblum, and she was as active as her older sister at the moment. Neither could come running to the rescue and the thought of that terrified the man.
No one is coming to bail you out of trouble, you got yourself into this.
He had friends, but Vanille had been too busy crying to be any use. Fang hadn't said a word, she had disappeared and Sazh had flown them out of there. The only talking there had been was when the four of them struggling to bring the crystal formation into the hold of the airship.
There were quiet footsteps, Snow looked up to see Vanille in the doorway. Her eyes were red and she was sniffling as her eyes slowly rose from the floor to the statue.
"At least…" She tried to be optimistic. "She's sleeping… She never get enough sleep, you know?"
Snow looked at the ground, not even managing a chuckle. "Yeah…"
"It's not your fault." Vanille spoke, tears beginning again. "No one knew what was happening…"
"Lightning is crystal." Snow snarled, eyes narrowing and his tone turning surprisingly cold. He remembered what Serah had told him when he was unconscious, how one of them would die without his aid. Was she referring to the battle, or this catastrophe? "It's my fault."
"No," the girl protested, almost desperately. "It's that woman's fault… She did this, not us. We were just trying to get away."
"Vanille," The man growled, eyes narrowing. "I don't want to hear it."
"Why?" Vanille snapped back, hands forming into fists. "Would you rather blame yourself for something beyond your control?"
"Maybe." He grumbled, looking away shamefully. "Maybe I'm sick of being so fucking positive, did you ever think of that?"
The look in the man's eyes was as cold as Shiva's blizzard from before. He stood up slowly, eyes carving angrily into Vanille's frightened soul.
"Maybe I want to be damn well realistic, Lightning is gone. She's in a crystal slumber, like her sister. We don't have our leader anymore, and Hope was just kidnapped by some woman wielding powers beyond our imagination." He spat bitterly, eyes gazing at the crystal.
I failed you and I failed your sister. If we ever meet again, I hope you can forgive me.
"It's too easy to give up." Vanille bit her lip, wanting to run from the looming man. "You made a promise, we all did."
"Tch…" Snow replied; surprising himself that such a Lightning thing to do came from him. "I'm good at making promises…" He murmured. "I'm even better at breaking them."
The blond perked up, hearing such a faint sweet voice in his hears. Was it Serah trying to reach him? She wouldn't stand for him being this negative or rude; she'd probably apologize for him before she slapped him. He almost smirked at the thought of her profusely apologize and glaring death on him at the same time.
Vanille watched him warily, seeing the confusion and sorrow sweep over his ice-like irises before vanishing. She bit her lip, approaching carefully before placing a gentle hand on his arm. His eyes focused back on her.
"Please, Snow," she smiled weakly. "We need to keep our promise."
He huffed, but didn't pull his arm away.
"I…" He began to walk towards the side room. "I just need to think, time alone. I guess."
"No running away." Vanille ordered him and he gave her a funny look.
Her eyes flicked to the statue and she smiled sadly. "Because soldiers don't run away, they keep charging. They hold the line and they topple the enemy."
"We're not soldiers." He replied, crossing his arms.
"We are." Vanille looked at him, hoping what little confidence she had left would inspire him. "For Lightning, she needs us to step up. At least until she wakes up."
Something about her made Snow feel a tad better. He still needed to be alone, to gather his thoughts and allow himself a private moment of misery. But he didn't feel as hopeless as before. Vanille, as silly as she could be at times, was quite inspiring. Whether or not she truly believed Lightning would wake was irrelevant, she had spoken the truth.
Lightning needed them to step up; they needed to get Hope back.
There was a sharp clang as a spear slammed into the metal wall. The staff shook, vibrating from the hit but it received no break. Again and again, the sharp points struck the wall and the weapon bounced off, shaking in reply.
Fang's eyes narrowed, before she went back to her actions. She needed something to kill and since there weren't any enemies to step in, she had to make due with the wall. It was both a gift and curse that the wall could stand up to her assault, as it let her keep hitting it, but she'd never have the satisfaction of ending it.
Panting, she cursed. Lightning had been turned to crystal, exactly how that had happened was beyond the Gran Pulse-born. That was something reserved for completing your focus, and unless the sergeant's was to be defeated by some psycho chick that kidnaps children, Lightning should be awake. Truth of the matter was though, she wasn't. Still she slept in stasis, waiting for whenever the fal'Cie chose to wake her.
Was the answer really that simple?
"Vanille!" She cried, dropping her spear and hurrying out of the room.
Vanille greeted her with a confused expression. She tilted her head as Fang grabbed her shoulders; her eyes alight with hope.
"You were with these guys, when they were made l'Cie?"
"Yep." She answered, blinking. "By Anima, in the vestige."
"What happened to 'im?"
"Um, I think he died?"
"Well.. No, but there was this massive explosion…"
"Sazh!" Fang hurried to the cockpit while she ignored Vanille's confused questions; she was greeted by a rather confused pilot. "Where we headin'?"
"Nautilus, seemed like the last place that woman would look for us."
The man gave Fang the most suspicious and annoyed of looks. Popping out of his hair was his chocobo chick, who blinked and looked as baffled as its owner at the order.
"'Cuse me? Why?"
"We don't got time to argue," Fang gestured to the controls. "Turn this junkard around."
"And go where? Back to the clearing to put Lightning back?"
"No, head for that crystal lake."
Sazh frowned. "Why? That place will be crawling with real PSICOM."
"Just go." Fang growled, clutching the back of the seat tighter in irritation.
Sazh lifted up his hands in surrender. "All right! Fine, we'll go."
The sky tank swung around, groaning a tad as its engines sputtered in protest. It had always needed an upgrade, but they had neglected it. It puttered for a time, wobbling in the air before it really got going, making its way over the Vile Peaks and back towards Lake Bresha, which even from a distance, sparkled due to its new crystal nature.
The screen fizzled as it connected to the headquarters, she frowned behind her mask. With all the technology they acquired from this act some would think they could afford a stable connection. With a sigh the commander waited, rapping her fingers on the cool blue desk within her quarters. For a moment the screen display a symbol as it created a secure and private signal, ensuring no one would intercept it.
Raiden had failed and failure had cost him not only his life, but his very existence. This wouldn't bode well; many believed the l'Cie they sought were much weaker than their organization, but that was far from the case. It had taken someone of her stature to scare them, to make them think twice before crossing paths again.
The only highlight was she had the boy.
Downside? She only had the boy. Snow Villiers and Lightning Farron weren't in her possession and what had happened to the sergeant, well…
The commander had no doubt in her mind; she was in for it when she returned.
"Commander," The voice was how one would imagine a snake's, charming and slimy. Her eyes focused on the screen, seeing the man before her. "You finally report in, how kind of you."
She bowed her head to the tan, bald man on the screen. "I apologize for the delay."
"Save your apologies, Commander, I have little use for them." He smiled as she scowled. "Did you procure the items?"
"One?" He feigned a pout. "Oh, dear, that won't do… Which one did you get?"
"Hope Estheim?" The man clicked his tongue and his dark eyes narrowed. "Not Sergeant Farron?"
She replied with silence.
"Oh… So she's sleeping…" The man didn't seem to know whether to be impressed or annoyed, his expression was a mixture. "Well I suppose that'll do. How is the boy?"
"I would assume angry."
He chuckled. "Do you know where they are now?"
"Last check on their trajectory suggested they were heading for Nautilus."
"Then bring the boy here and head for Nautilus. I'll send a small detachment there in the meantime…"
She nodded to him, watching as the man paused before he turned back to the screen. He brought a finger gently to his mouth as he thought, smiling darkly at the commander as he spoke again.
"Oh and, Morrigan… I want the hero alive."