A/N: 'Ello, loves! I realize I still have my other story to continue, but, this has been tickling my brain for awhile. Suffice to say it's successfully blocked any furtherance of that one. Anyway, this is just a one-shot of what I imagine Lightning and Fang would believe if religion was a part of the XIII world. I never really got the sense that they had any religion as I played the game - except for, perhaps, Vanille, with her weird hand signs. Anywho! I hope you enjoy this weird little tidbit that is slightly FLight towards the end :P
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy XIII or anything to do with it.
How do you begin to describe something so abstract, so illogical, that it makes no sense?
How do you form it into words, shape and mold it into something comprehensible?
How can you convince another with such words if they don't even convince yourself?
Lightning did not know.
What she did know was that Fang seemed to have an awful lot of these words despite her continued denial of any sort of belief. It made Lightning, devout and steady in her faithless beliefs, want to hit something. It was like talking to a wall, trying to get Fang to pick one or the other. To believe or not believe - such a simple little choice. Yet it was a choice Fang continually avoided.
Sitting by the campfire for warmth against the nightly chill, Lightning absently threw more twigs into the maw of the flames as she brooded. For all her life she had practiced her parent's religious beliefs, partly due to guilt and partly out of obligation, with no real faith in it all. Her parents had been exasperated when she'd been unable to reciprocrate their zealous faith. Serah had soaked it all up like a sponge at first, but after their parents' death..she abruptly turned away from faith. Lightning felt it was because Serah thought Etro was responsible for taking them away and hated Her for doing so. The mere thought had baffled the soldier to no end at first, but then she had seen the signs - a disturbing anger, scoffing at the texts, a darkness that arose upon mention of Etro and anything to do with Her. As the elder sibling, it had been her job to set these feelings right, to protect her sister, to love her. She had failed.
In retrospect, Lightning supposed she had done so because she, to this day, still harboured such feelings. How can you help someone who doesn't want to be helped, someone who is like a mirror image of yourself? The answer was clear as day - you just can't. Serah had eventually managed to outgrow her anger, pouring her frustrations into her studies. It was Lightning who had ended up bottling in the hatred, the guilt, the anger - the consuming need for vengeance. They had sat and festered, growing worse with each passing day, with each muttered prayer that left her lips with no given answer. Gone unnoticed for years, they were now resurfacing and making themselves known with Fang's oxymoronic skeptic faith. How she could possibly be a skeptic full of faith drove Lightning to insanity.
Oh Heavenly Etro, deliver unto us the promised salvation
In the Impending Days, restore the lost faith to the disbelievers
Lightning turned to look at the caves as she heard the whisper of cloth on stone, the brush of feet on dirt and stone. She watched as Fang emerged, impossibly wild hair impeccable as ever, emerald eyes glittering in the moonlight. The exotic Pulsian approached at a leisurely pace, her usual lazy grin absent from her face and replaced with a weary contentment. Lightning merely turned back towards the flames as Fang sat down and proceeded to ignore the huntress as she languidly stretched out upon the ground too close for comfort. Silence reigned for many long moments, allowing Lightning to wander in her prayer-heavy childhood memories until Fang finally spoke.
Guide the hands of the lost shepherds, wandering ages long
Bestow the forgotten knowledge upon the faithful and devout
"What's up, Sunshine? You've been out here for awhile."
Lightning flicked her eyes towards the exotic beauty next to her, shunning and basking in Fang's presence. She did not reply at first, mulling over her thoughts as she threw more twigs into the fire. "How do you do it, Fang?" she asked. Fang snorted, shifting closer to soldier as she responded, "Is that what's got you so hung up? Geeze, Light, ya act like it's such an impossible thing." Lightning sighed. She never could get a straight answer.
Cast aside the evil and impure in Your Heavenly flames
Restore to us Your Love and endless Wisdom
Running her hands through her hair, she turned and somberly looked Fang in the eyes. The huntress's eyebrows raised off her head when she noticed the emotions dancing behind azure walls, realizing Lightning was struggling heavily with something. She sat up attentively and faced Lightning completely, never breaking their gaze. "This is really bothering you, isn't it?"
Lightning remained motionless. "How do you do it?" she reiterated. Fang ran a hand over her face. "Well, Sunshine, it's simple. I believe what I believe and disbelieve what I don't. Real easy, yeah?"
Oh Heavenly Etro, we pray You protect and help the faithless
To lead them back into Your embrace
Lightning shook her head in growing helplessness. "No, Fang, it's not. I don't understand. I've lived my whole life around faith and the texts, the nonexistent proof and the persistent believers. How can you not believe and be faithful at the same time?"
Fang tilted her head to the side. "So you practice the beliefs you've been taught without any real faith in them, and you can't understand how I basically do the same in reverse." She chewed on her bottom lip and inched closer to Lightning, grabbing one hand in her own. "It's like this: growing up, we were never without stories of divine acts, the Eidolons and the Maker, Her creations and the fal'cie. When my family was taken from me all I had were those stories. I clung to them with a fierceness that scared the other children because I so desperately wanted to believe that my family hadn't died for whatever reason. I wanted to believe Etro had taken them away for a reason fit for legends, a reason that was beyond any comprehension of my young mind. I didn't want to think that their souls were wandering in some limbo or lost for eternity because they lacked the proper guidance. The adults didn't understand my drive, my need to cling such silly tales. I rather think they only continued to feed it because they thought I'd gone mad.
"As the years went by and reality began to set it, I realized the stories were just make believe - a sort of coping mechanism for those who couldn't deal with the War. Vanille never really believed them, I think. Even as a child she was too sharp for her own good, and knew that all the death and destruction caused by the War was not brought to be by the wills of some Goddess. No, she had her head on straight, and despite my obsession with the lies, she stayed right by my side. When I was of proper age and knew the difference between a child's fancy and the harsh truth of the real world, I stopped believing. I stopped believing Etro controlled everything, and started believing in something else. Do I believe She exists? Damned well I do. Do I believe She has Her fingers in everything, controlling our destinies? Nope. Do I give a flying wyvern's ass of what the damnable texts say? Absolutely not." She paused and stared hard into Lightning's eyes, squeezing her hand. "Faith isn't manifested and driven by simple words written by some half wit drunk on power. It's born and nurtured in the heart from a genuine belief and feeling. You just can't force it, Light, no matter how many prayers you mutter or how well you recite the texts."
Ever are we Your faithful servants
Lightning lowered her eyes, taking in Fang's words. It all finally made sense after so many years. She wondered why she had never thought of it before remembering the endless hope her parents had had that she would develop her faith if she went through the motions of prayer everyday. She'd been trying to make herself believe for the very same reasons she continued her parents' practices. Pulling her head back up, she grabbed both of Fang's hands and tried a smile. "Thank you, Fang. You've helped me realize some things."
Rest in peace, Divine Etro
Fang grinned back and pulled Lightning towards her, enveloping the stubborn woman in a warm hug. "Yer quite welcome, Light. If you were so confused about it all, why didn't ya ask? You didn't have to sit out here in this miserable cold all by yourself to figure it all out on your own," she exclaimed as Lightning relaxed into the embrace. Absent fingers ran along Fang's back underneath her sari. "For all these years," Lightning murmured, "I've simply continued my parent's faith out of guilt and obligation, trying to make myself believe like they always wanted me too. Never once did I think of what I wanted for myself or even if faith was something to be created."
Fang laid down on the ground, Lightning pressed close against her. Together they soaked in the warmth of the fire, the peace of the night, the beauty of Gran Pulse as the others slumbered, the ever-growing affection they could feel between themselves. Underneath the starry sky, Lightning slumbered in trainquil dreams as Fang held her and stroked her hair. Never had the two been more at peace.