A/N: So this is my -probably- first poor attempt at contributing to the FFXIII-2 fandom. I penned this when a random idea tickled the back of my mind, specifically when Lightning made her appearance as a DLC in the coliseum. There wasn't much story behind it, so I thought, 'Why not make my own version of what the story behind this replica Lightning's like?' and this is what exactly it is. I never intended to publish this, but somehow everything I write ends up on this website one way or another.
Oh, and I made a few more touches here and there, most prominently the omission of Amodar. I only wanted to focus on Lightning, and felt that including Amodar as well was too much of a hassle.
I hope this isn't too crappy.
"And so this time is upon us."
The once amorphous voice that echoed through the foreboding and hollow shell of a coliseum now came from prominent figure in the middle of the dark battlefield, a lurking silhouette that was never there before. It continued to speak as they drew closer.
"From far horizons has the warrior come. You face the knight of thunder's strike."
It was too shady to make out the form clearly, but Serah could tell it was the Arbiter of Time, once again taken his physical form.
"She whom I have summoned is an imitation bereft of spirit."
He gestured with his head, eyes slightly cynical as he studied the two travellers that had emerged from the crystal gate, yet he continued his timbre of rendition, and a new sound emerged.
"And yet, her heart is no less proud."
A steady tap-tap of feet. Noel narrowed his eyes at this new intrusion.
"Her sword arm no less swift."
A low sound of a blade slicing the air. Serah was cautious now.
"A victory against this lady will be no less the sweet."
Lady? She had the impression they would be fighting against monsters. So there were other human beings here, too. Were they dead, wandering the dark void in pursuit of other souls to consume?
"Sisters, older and younger."
They would be fighting two women related in blood? Or perhaps...but no, that's absurd.
"Lies and truth. Dream and reality."
His form was shimmering. Fading. She wanted to call out, tell it to wait, to elaborate, but she dared not risk listening to what next he had to say. She had questions, more questions stemming with each sentence he spoke. But it could wait.
"A clash of resolute wills—a momentous battle."
It was getting louder and closer, the footsteps. Another silhouette was fast approaching, and the Arbiter of Time was nearly nonexistent in physical form.
"Steel your hearts and fight!"
Serah cringed at the sudden burst of fervor. In a blink of an eye, he was no longer there, almost as if he was never there to begin with.
Something—or someone else would face them, he said, and she sensed it was far from favorable and provident. What had he in store for them, especially for her in particular?
Her grip on her bowblade tightened, and she gulped inconspicuously, although she was certain her agitation was rolling off her in endless torrents. Noel looked at her, concerned, but refrained from speaking. He also felt the presence of someone else fast approaching, and was fastidious in maintaining stealth.
"Serah, get close to me! Something's coming!"
His eyes widened as he stared at the figure that came into view.
Her mouth slightly agape, trembling. She looked blatantly dubious with shock, unable to form coherent words. "N-No...it can't be..."
The object of their abounding interest finally came to a halt several meters in front of them, and the dim lighting uncovered most of the figure's physiognomy. It was hard to believe that the person they had been searching for all this time was standing right in front of them, in all her glory and esteem.
She was of the exact same stature as Noel had remembered, although he noted this time she was garbed in a more human taste and less of a sanctified goddess. Now that he thought about it, what she was wearing now resembled very much that of the Guardian Corps uniform; her epaulette gleaming a sinister yellow and a silky long red cape flowing down one side of her back, plus the several buckles adorning her hip, among those the gunblade holster. The weapon itself was mysteriously absent from its sanctuary, and it was awhile later when Noel noticed it was poised readily in the soldier's right hand.
"Lightning...!" Serah gasped, her shocked expression melting into incredulity but at the same time vulnerability.
Lightning reacted by not more than a single blink of an eye, not a single trace of astonishment in her electric blue orbs. It was as if she had expected this encounter to happen. There was an emotion in her eyes that Serah was unable to define, though.
"Wait, Lightning! Is that... really you? This isn't some kind of sick joke, right?" She took a shaky step forward as only silence greeted her inquiry. "After all these years I've been searching-!" All of a sudden she launched forward as she decided on the spur of the moment that the person in front of her was truly her sister.
A hand pulled her back, its grip unrelenting as Serah struggled to break free. "N-Noel! What do you think you're doing?"
"Hold it, Serah. How can you be positively certain this is your sister in front of us? For all we know, she recould be like the different Caiuses scattered across the timeline! And besides," His eyes narrowed as it focused on the glinting weapon confined in Lightning's fist. "Would the Lightning we know point a weapon at us—no, at her own sister? More importantly, she's waiting at Valhalla, not here."
As he held his breath to anticipate either Serah's outbreak or maybe her discernment, he was immensely relieved to find out the result was the latter. She relaxed against his grip. "...Maybe you're right. But still, I have to know."
Gently, she removed herself from his loosening grip, her gaze solemn and fixated on the anticipating soldier. "Light... you certainly look exactly like her, but I don't think you're the Light we're searching for. However, I have a feeling you've a vital connection with my sister, somehow. So please, answer me. Who are you? You can't be the Lightning of this world; she was taken out of history. Are you a duplicate, perhaps? Or an illusion conjured up by the Arbiter of Time?"
She didn't answer directly, instead opting to settle for her authentic battle stance, as if she was going to strike her prey. Them. Noel prickled at this, and his hands edged slowly to the hilt of the blade resting against his back. The lack of precaution would cost us the preemptive strike in the most likely upcoming battle. Judging by the posture she's assuming now, aggressive conflict will likely be inevitable.
"Serah." She finally spoke, her voice cryptic and imperturbable. "I'm glad you've finally begun to take steps for yourself. But if there's one thing you're forgetting," she broke off and struck a belligerent pose. Any minute now. It seemed as if nothing was going to divert her attention.
"-is that you have to try and earn your answer! Face your sister, and prove to her that you're not all talk!"
Noel's head jerked upwards as he stared wide-eyed at the mysterious woman before them, realizing the double meaning she may or may not have intended for their ears. From the corner of her eyes, he saw her acknowledge him with that solemn yet determined gaze of hers. But they lingered a little too long, as if she were trying to invoke a response from him. As if she were sending a signal.
Sensing another motive in the older woman's gaze, Noel nodded ever so slightly. Somehow, albeit the fact this Lightning was a complete stranger to them, he had a feeling she hadn't any dishonorable intentions. What she had planned, the brown-haired hunter would play along in the mean time. "Serah. Remember what the Arbiter of Time said. He said this would be our very first trial. Think of this person in front of you as an obstacle we should overcome to gain answers!"
To his relief, Serah hadn't seen their silent exchange, instead she was absorbed in her own thoughts. "Right... I just hope we know what we're doing." She lifted her head and readied her own weapon, the accentuation of curves in her unique blade-transformed Mog glinting in the murky surroundings. She could feel the metal buzzing lightly in her hands; Mog was barely concealing his excitement. Or perhaps it was anxiety.
She levelled her head to match Light's undeterring glare. "Prepare yourself... Lightning."
A side glance was all he needed to initiate the battle. "Ready when you are."
What happened next was a devastating flurry of action and exhilaration. Blade clashed against blade, its loud screech breaking the tranquil atmosphere of the deserted coliseum. Magic erupted from fingertips as chants were spoken aloud and grazed the previously spotless floor of the arena as sparks flew. Both went entirely on the offensive, aiming to throw their opponent off balance. Countless buffs were cast, and monster crystals appeared to aid in their master's endeavor. In mere seconds, the battlefield was lit and alive with bloodshed and violence.
Noel charged at the anticipating Farron, and traded blows in equivalent to the amount blows she dealt in return him. Despite their previous silent agreement, he suspected she said nothing about holding back, so he dealt with her like he would with any other threat in a hostile manner. He stabbed his smaller sword in her direction, expecting to at least pin her down as he continued with a brutal strike with his longer sword. He all but missed, and instead nearly staggered until she came bearing down on him with the sharp end of her blade as retaliation.
"Whoa!" He cried out as the point grazed his clothes slightly and he stumbled backwards, wiping the sweat off his brow in one swipe. I expect nothing more from any Lightning, was what creeped into his mind as he plunged back into the heat of battle.
I'll need an active buffer. One that'll support me and Noel on the front lines. Serah concentrated in the midst of battle, as she willed a crystal to materialize in front of her. "Microchu!"
A plump, plant-like monster squealed in answer, and without having Serah give it orders, it bounded away to a considerable distance behind them. Ahead of her, she could sense Noel starting to fatigue. Perhaps it was time for her to take over. After all, he was the one who assaulted Lightning head-on just when she had started to make her way forward.
She was risking alot, she knew better than to underestimate Lightning's combat abilities. In fact, deep down she knew she lacked the older Farron's cold steel she was so well-known for. The lightning quick soldier lived up to her name and had, from the start of the battle, precisely aimed for her opponent's vulnerable spot in between attacks, scoring a hit every time and throwing him off balance.
Unfortunately Noel had never heard of Lightning's reputation in the past, much less fought her. He only met her for the first time in Valhalla, and even that particular moment was shattered by the ongoings of a chaotic showdown. Noel had neglected paying attention to the way she fought in the midst of swift panic and impulse as he was plummeting through the sky to what he thought he would be greeted with impending doom, and then suddenly thrown onto the back of a foreign eidolon, immediately engaging in a heated battle he knew nothing about, and eventually encountering the man who had been his mentor.
Now that he had the opportunity to face her, he was shocked to realize even he had trouble fending off the onslaught as he was pushed backwards by her unrelenting force.
Serah prayed a quick plea to the gods above as she saw Noel's defenses waning. He wasn't going to last much longer in that condition and yet, she had to do something. It was only a matter of time before the odds would overwhelm them.
But she didn't quite fully trust herself. How would she react when finally faced her head on? Even though this opponent wasn't the same Lightning, but she doubted it wouldn't affect her somehow.
Perhaps this was where the true test lied. It would explain the meaningful glance the Arbiter of Time passed her way before he disappeared. He most likely knew she was weak and easily bewildered, deterred by a mere replica of the essence of her emotional complication; Lightning.
She was about to prove him wrong.
Noel was thrown backwards from an exceptionally hard impact, Lightning apparently applying more force than he had anticipated. Her stamina was unaccounted for, and the the youth had a tiny premonition that his chances of defeat had just doubled exponentially.
What would happen if he were defeated? Would he and Serah be under the mercy of this vague woman they barely knew anything about aside from her looks that were a facsimile of the guardian?
"Mii? Mii!" A high-pitched squeal made him jerk back up, face to face with a guilelessly curious Microchu as it cocked its head from side to side while bouncing up and down without cease.
"W-What are you-" Noel started as the round monster continued its unremitting springing, reputedly conjuring up torrents of buffing spells that wrapped themselves reassuringly around Noel, granting him a sense of safety. He felt welcomed by the considerate gesture of protection and looked around; expecting to see Serah nearby, since she must have been the one to summon the little critter.
But she wasn't where he expected her to be. "Serah?"
The sound of footsteps closing distance tore his gaze back front, and he didn't know how to react to Lightning's expression. It was cold scrutiny, her narrowing lean eyes exuding demeaning criticism to the man in front of her, enough to shrivel any average person.
He knew that hunter's look; he lived around them all his life, not to mention he was part of them. This expression was what they usually wore, exhibiting the natural callousness they were trained for since youth to refrain from any pointless solicitude, an expression inherently exposed to the prey immediately before their imminent demise.
Was it an just an pretense, or had he voided their agreement by his poor display of offensive capabilities? It was seemingly clear that no amount of negotiating would grant him her leniency. He had just been able to gather his strength back as she lifted her blade, already within his vicinity. He scowled as she met his face with the point of her weapon, daring her to finish him off. Serah, be safe...
Right on cue, a battle cry broke out behind her, and as she looked back in time she saw the younger sister pursue her from above, her blade poised high above her head. The light yet pernicious weapon tore down, and Lightning wasted no time in deflecting her assault, albeit a little forced; she wasn't expecting the interruption.
Lightning's overwhelming impetus threw Serah back, causing her to flip backwards in the air and land on slightly unsteady feet. Already the seeress was feeling the stirrings of giddiness, but the battle had just begun. She needed to gather her wits and think fast on her feet.
A swirl of translucent energy gathered at the tip of her assailant's gunblade. "Ruinga!"
At the very last second she managed to dodge, her reaction immediate as the spell settled into her former spot when it exploded in shards of white waves not long after. She would have been caught in its wake if she had stalled just for a second longer. She breathed a sigh of immense relief as she followed up on her adrenaline and sped towards Lightning, deadly earnest and flaring determination overtaking her generally tender, solicitous demeanor. Once she put her mind on something, there was no stopping her.
She would lay a blow on Lightning, that was for sure. Nothing and no one would tell her otherwise.
She grit her teeth the second she saw the delicate-seeming Farron assuming direct offense. Real or not real, she possessed fond memories of this young woman that albeit it was not from memories of her own, she had agreed that this seeress was one to treasure and protect dearly with her life. Furthermore, she had to hesitate when she had to deal with someone assumed to be her own flesh and blood.
As she racked her head rapidly for countermeasures against the advancing magenta-clad warrior, she barely noticed the cerulean-clad counterpart behind her, up and healed, back in action.
"RAH!" A stinging sensation lingered on her upper arm as her exposed skin had been made target, and in an immediate response, a trickle of blood began to travel down the expansion of her arm. She cursed and leaped backwards, mildly contemplating trying to cure herself but decided against it when she saw the condition Noel was in.
The youthful dual-blade wielder was indeed healed, but still wounded. It was obvious that Serah had just healed him in the spur of the moment, and had not enough time to properly recover him. If she wasted this chance, there was no telling if another opportunity as fortunate as this would reoccur again.
"Army of One!" Her form practically radiated a gold aura as she let herself merge as one with time. It was as she was granted with temporary invincibility, as if time slowed down and she could see all with perfect clarity. Noel moved, incredibly sluggishly, his transitioning of facial features slowing down considerably. He would never
hope to outrun her as she launched herself at him.
This was the end of him.
He didn't have time to blink. It was as if Lightning had manipulated time to her will in those mere seconds. But he couldn't shake away the unending shock and bafflement the tip of her blade greeted him mere centimeters away, which was logically impossible to cover in just a few seconds. The woman defied the natural laws of physics as she hacked and slashed away in endless torrents, a slicing whirlwind having caught Noel in its barbed embrace. He was easily, so very easily overwhelmed, precisely as if he were dealing with an entire army instead of a single person.
The fairly simple meaning behind her shout had just begun to sink into his head right before he was flung to the far wall, his body colliding with a sickening crack.
"Noel!" Serah screamed, watching with unmasked horror as she saw him crumple to the ground, his body recoiling from the impact. Several gashes were seen from afar as it lined up on his skin in neat and crisp lines, the fabric of his clothing ragged and torn upon the assault. Etro knew how much more there were up close.
Tears blurred at the corner of her eyes as uncontrolled fury seeped in to her expression, her eyes darkened with unnaturally violent desire, the urge to inflict bodily harm on Lightning greater than ever before. Without further ado, she knelt on her knee and aimed her bow to the air above the ex-soldier.
"Ultima Arrow!" Akin to Lightning, the fire of her resolution practically ignited out of her as she let loose hundreds, perhaps thousands, of light saber arrows.
Before Lightning could react, she was pelted by a hail of countless arrows from the sky. In a frenzied attempt to deflect as many of the projectiles as possible, one managed to escape her sight and pinned her cape behind her, causing her to halt without her consent. "What!"
The arrows only intensified in quantity as it literally drowned Lightning in their caustic brilliance. Most of them grazed her arms and shoulders, her legs scratched and pierced all over and an overwhelming sensation of searing white-hot pain coated her entire body. She was trapped in this prison of arrows, and there was no escape. It was draining her of the strength she had left. As she vainly tried to block the remaining arrows with her hands above her head, the last of them dissolved and left steaming gas in its wake.
She felt roasted alive, and couldn't stop herself as she fell to her knees, panting. What was this, Lightning beaten by petty projectiles? This was unheard of.
Blearily, she reached for the blade that had somehow thrown itself out of her reach during the brutal salvo, but was surprised by the sudden hindrance preventing her from it. The sole of a foot rested firmly on the blade, effectively pinning the weight on the ground.
As she looked up, she was none than surprised to find that the same treatment she had dealt to Noel was now being returned graciously, plus the humiliation. "That's enough. Give up."
All traces of the previous Serah was all but gone. In her place was no longer the ingenuous and tender, naive woman, but a much more mature woman, perspicacious and callous, born out of the sense of danger and threat it deals to their loved ones. Once it emerges, none could possibly hope to rival it. Her eyes resembled Lightning's greatly, a new kind of determination; reflection of duty, devotion, and an unspoken vow.
It was almost unbelievable at how much she changed in such a short span of time. It was a pity that Lightning had too quickly underestimated this fragile-looking girl without discovering what exactly she was capable of. That was the problem with her; she always judged recklessly. Learning a thing or two from this would benefit her enormously.
She sighed in resignation as she held up her hands in genuine surrender, a hint of a small smile gracing her lips. "Well done, Serah. You've defeated me in legitimacy. I am glad you have proven my doubts to be mere fallacy. Starting from this moment, my power is yours to wield."
"Wait!" Serah interjected. "You promised to tell us who you are!"
"Ah, yes." Lightning stated. "I am simply Lightning. For your information, I may or may not be related to my counterpart in Valhalla, that much I still am unable to fully comprehend, myself. I have been roaming the the Void Beyond for more than I can remember, until only recently I had been summoned by an entity known to you both as the Arbiter of Time. He presented me with a challenge that he said would arouse me from my passive-induced hibernation, and entitled me to commence a trial for both of you.
At first, I didn't understand what that meant, but I let it go anyway. It was awhile before you two came, and I spent most of my time in the Void Beyond seeing someone else's memories. In the beginning, it was only brief, just glimpses and flashes of events that I mistook for hallucinations. Gradually though, it became longer, and somewhat more...intense. These memories I saw were those of a woman that oddly looked exactly the same like me, except garbed in different attire. I had mixed feelings; that woman was me, but at the same time, it wasn't." She started to stand, only realizing how stiff she felt and the clotting of blood on her skin wasn't exactly pleasant. It was a relief that Serah realized that quick enough to heal her, so it wouldn't interrupt her story.
After nodding a silent thanks to Serah, she continued. "It was then I realized. I was seeing the real Lightning's memories. It was as if all of her memories were my own. I don't know how I suddenly came to realize that, but I just did." A shrug. "Then I discovered my true purpose. I finally understood what the Arbiter of Time had tasked me. Even without him informing me, I would still have known, deep inside me somewhere. It was challenging you, testing your resolve for the inevitably grim battle that is to come." For a brief second, her eyes flashed distant sorrow as she caught Serah's eyes, leaving a pang in her heart. "And now you have defeated me through sheer will and strength. I had not expected to lose quite this quickly but I'm not one to complain. You," she directed her gaze at Noel, who subconsciously straightened himself. "It was a wise decision not to let her hurl herself at me without thinking about her actions twice. For all she knew, it could have been a clever trap. Serah, if there's one last thing you're lacking, it is your ability to reconsider another's intent. Hone that aspect more, and rest assured, you will be protected from all sorts of deception." She nodded at the younger Farron, who continued staring at her, expression unreadable.
"If you say so," she started. "But wait. You don't have to give your power to us. I mean, we didn't fight you because we desired your power, but we were just looking for answers. Now that we've got them, you don't have to do anything more..." she bit her lip anxiously, searching for a way to rephrase the sentence so that it wouldn't sound degrading for the proud woman. Events replayed, showing the particular incident in the Sunleth Waterscape between Snow and a crystal gate, and how Snow was unable to join them in their journey, because he was just a paradox restricted to that time. The journey was exclusively for Noel and Serah. If Lightning wanted to come...
The goddess' guardian replica seemed to sense her line of thought, and her lips twitched upwards softly in reply. "Doesn't the Law of Valhalla dictate that the weak must serve the strong?"
"But that's only in Valhalla, and all the beings and monsters that originate from it," Noel finally spoke up as he recalled his previous visit to the barren place to see Lightning. "It doesn't make sense if you're not...wait, what? You can't possibly mean..." His eyes widened in disbelief, his voice trailing off.
Serah also began to catch wind of Noel's trail of thought right as Lightning at that very moment closed her eyes, the most serene expression on her face as her body was bathed in an ephemeral glow, shards of glass seemingly dislodging themselves from her body, physically breaking her apart and dissolving in an array of translucent particles that whirled around a crystal that had materialized from the remains of the glass shards, a soul igniting within the confines of the transparent cavern.
"...Lightning's a monster crystal..." She breathed as her shock slowly began to dissipate and her hands moved to cup the crystal that had come to hover gently on her hands. They moved of their own accord as she cradled it against her chest, her eyes brimming with unshed tears. No, this was not the time to get carried away.
"Serah..." Noel started slowly, moving to comfort Serah somehow. His hand hovered above her for a second, before he let it down again. Overstepping his boundaries probably wasn't the best idea. How tough this must be on her. "I'm sorry."
She wiped away her tears, and remarked simply, "It's okay. I'm alright."
I'm not sure whether to continue this into a two-shot or not. I have this half-baked idea at the back of my mind but I don't know if it's developed enough to qualify as a chapter in this story. You're welcome to tell me what you think.
Thanks for reading!