Minus Six
Prologue: Viva la Vida.

"I..." Lightning closed her mouth, and gave him a scrutinizing look that bordered on surprise. "Come again?"

An array of conflicting emotions danced within his bright, resolute green eyes.

His entire body screamed restraint, though what kind of restraint, she still could not entirely grasp.

For that matter, she thought, the idea he presented was near ludicrous.

"Light - " he said slowly. In his voice, nervousness warred with desire and hope and the possibility of failing. "I think - "

She stared back, waiting.

Hope, the boy-turned-man who was at the age of twenty-two, exhaled, deeply, and looked her straight in the eye.

"I think I may have found a way to wake them up."

"The properties of this - power source - we don't know what it is, yet, per se, but there's something in it that's just - "

Lightning rubbed the bridge of her nose lightly. He had been talking non-stop for the past...half hour? One hour? She wasn't entirely sure, but she knew he had started the moment they got on the transport to get to this...cave.

It hadn't been the most pleasant journey with flying predators roaming about, but Hope didn't seem to mind: he had spent the whole trip muttering theories and calculations under his breath in a way that reminded her of story-book mad scientists (which was actually eerily similar to how Serah acted when she poured over old Pulsian notes).

Now, they were walking in this cool, dark cave, weaving through paths and tunnels marked by dim lamps; and his voice echoed quietly in the silent tunnel.

"Hope," she cut in finally, and he stopped to glance back at her. She gave him a look, and said dryly, "please save me the technicalities."

"Sorry." He grinned sheepishly, and she almost snorted in response - a sign of her amusement and fondness both.

The silver-haired man turned to nod at a fork in front of him then. One side went deeper, and it was darker; presumably no lights set in place. Not fully explored yet, maybe. The other...looked like it was a room of sorts, only more...cave-like, and more lit-up. "And we're here. Sorry about the long journey."

Lightning walked in, and stopped immediately in her tracks.

She knew, of course; Hope had mentioned it the day before and even earlier while he rambled, but actually seeing it after nearly a decade was... well, she thought wryly. I guess I wasn't as prepared as I thought.

Fang.

And Vanille.

The twin crystals before her had been excavated and removed from Cocoon before transported to this cave. And around them was an array of equipments, wires, machines - one of which beeped rhythmically - and below the crystals were the rollers that had been used to move them.

Who would have thought?

All these time, she thought that all she could do was wait. That was what all of them thought. Fang and Vanille had woken up before; they could do it again - it was just a matter of when. But now Hope was saying something else..

She turned to him, and looked into his eyes carefully. "So you really think it's possible?"

He nodded. "From what we found - the old Pulsian books that the excavation team discovered - " Lightning remembered that, vaguely; Serah was one of those involved in attempting to decipher them, " - and actually finding this - " Hope paused, glancing at the pool of glowing green liquid, catching for the right word and failing.

When the silence stretched too long, he grimaced, and instead said, "...this pool of yet-to-be-named-water. If there's a name for it, Serah and her team hasn't found it yet."

Her gaze trailed to where he was looking, and she pivoted to stand before it. She stared at it for a moment before bending down - her right knee pressed on the rough surface of the cave, and blue eyes observed the small, shallow lapping of green, glowing water.

Beside her, Hope continued. "We don't know what it is or what it can do, but there's this - something, that felt familiar to me. Like...like..." He was growing agitated.

She watched white smoke waft up from the pool. There wasn't any smell emanating from it, but it felt...heavy, and dense, for lack of better words.

The soldier waved a hand through the smoke, dispelling it testingly. The smoke was neither warm nor cold when it touched her skin, and she moved to dip her hand in the pool; her finger grazed the surface of the water -

"It's like - like - "

And she felt it.

As with the smoke before, the liquid was curiously neither warm nor cold, just...there, with a temperature that must have matched her hand for her to not feel the heat or chill.

Now -

" - magic."

It was as if something was rushing up her hand, galloping, from her blood and veins and nerves and rushing up rushrushrush - her blood boiled, her heart thrummed, and something was filling her to the core - and she was suddenly dizzy, dizzy, and ancient words, energy, knowledge, thoughts LEAVEwhowhySTAYchildmy she couldn't even begin to understand were floating LEAVELEAVEBEGONENOSTAY CHILD CHILD CHILD and whizzing through her brain and -

- MY CHILDREN -

Lightning jerked her hand back sharply, as if it took all her strength to do so, gasping for breath and she staggered backwards, almost dropping to the ground if it wasn't for Hope grasping her - and her chest - the place where her brand once was, it burned -

She could barely hear his words - he was shouting something, frantically, but nothing of what he said was registering, it just wouldn't get in, and she wasn't breathing -

The soldier blacked out.

A white, white, colorless world..

She didn't know why or how she knew white was all around her, even when her eyes remained stubbornly closed.

Maybe it was because she felt the light and warmth brushing against her face somehow.

You shouldn't have done that, Light.

She was floating, somewhere, ghosts of warm wind lapping against her skin. The thoughts, those ancient knowledge, and everything about that which previously threatened to make her head explode - somehow or some way, it had all been...stopped.

But it was still there. She could sense it. It was there, waiting, waiting, wanting to get in again, just beyond her reach, stopped, blocked by something.

Something was holding it back, and for some reason, hints of blue sari, orange-red hair, spear, rod - they danced just outside her reach -

You are messing with things you can't even begin to understand, another voice echoed in her mind. It was soft, pensive, strained, lacking the joy and cheerfulness it had almost a decade ago.

She struggled to open her eyes. What was..?

You don't belong here either. You have to go now.

Wake up, Lightning.

" - wake up!"

Her vision swam.

"Light! Light - !"

Frantic, blurry green eyes were right in front of her.

Her head throbbed sharply, and there was something warm and thick flowing down from her nose. Distantly, she heard voices - the room spun and she was struggling to breathe properly - someone was holding her against a body - the grip tightened protectively -

" - Sazh! SAZH! Get help - !"

There was something in her hand, the one that had touched the water.

Something cold, round, smooth, and marble-like that she could feel but didn't seem to be holding - she felt a swell of familiarity and comfort emanating from the ball - it was something so intricately tied to her, her soul, and the place where her brand was once seared with hot fire - and it was - it was -

Odin.

It was just a split second of realization, and the pain in her head spiked.

And that thing - the ball-like thing - it rolled out of her slack grip and dropped to the ground - Odin -

For the second time, oblivion claimed her.

Foreword: The first thing you need to know and I should say is that, no, Lightning's not l'cie again. There will not be anymore l'cies, regardless of ex or no.

The second thing you must see is that I'm writing this based on the Japanese Version of the game, hence the label in the summary. Yes. As much as it amazed and exasperated and annoyed me when I found out, the characters are characteristically different to that of the localized English version of the game. It is still beyond me how they can change so much when the scenes are essentially the same, but I'm not going to start ranting here, or it's going to be really, really long.

The tl;dr version: It may not be immediately obvious, but characters will feel odd to you at later chapters if you didn't watch/play the Japanese version. Certain dialogues that were central to the Eng version, it does not exist in the Japanese version. And it's vice versa. I wasn't amused to find a certain wisecrack belonging to Sazh missing from the Eng ver. And NORA actually has a different meaning in the J. ver, and it's...frankly, it paints Snow in a much better light. I actually liked Vanille in the J. ver. Fang fans, I'm sorry, but I'm going to have that Australian slang removed or at least muted. And did you know our band of l'cie actually has a title for themselves? Fang created it. And Lightning...my biggest gripe...bah. I'm already ranting. I'm stopping here before it gets too long and over a couple pages gdsafsfdskj.

Readers, I implore you to find the Japanese ver and play/watch. Yes, translations and subs do exist. This is The Internet, after all.

Okay. Now on the actual topic I should be going into; the fic itself.

Hrmmmmn. If you can actually already figure out where I'm going with this when I barely hinted on it, I'll be impressed. And as you can probably guess, this is going to be a long fic. A good amount of time had been spent to work out kinks and gaps of the plot, with massive help from Rae the Beta who refused to name herself co-plotter but actually is. Though, there are still a lot of other things not worked out yet. And I generally just fail at writing long fics, given how easily uninspired and busy I can get. So, really...the time spent is to ensure that the fic will hopefully not die. So hopefully, and with any luck, this fic will be completed with time.

Reviews and thoughts, of course, would be most encouraging. Thanks to Rae for her help in beta-ing/plotting, and hope it was a good start.

- Extrinsical