A/N: A breather chapter for the things to come in the next chapter… This story is really long, wow. I'd expect to be finished around chapter 20 or so. But look at me and my brain; it wants more D: Once again, I had to give in to my brain's ideas and what not. I can't argue with the organ that pesters me every night so yeah. Anyway about this chapter, this is a prelude for the next thing to come. It can be happy or it can be sad. You'll just have to wait XD For now this is a filler chapter, yo.

I still can't thank you enough you guys for sticking along with me. It's almost been a year since I started this story! Thanks again! You guys are the best :D

Disclaimer: I don't own anything.

Summary: A dark fantasy that will never taste the light within a darkened realm, harbored by black hearted beasts. May she be the one to rise above it for freedom all with a blood stained sacrifice.

Chapter 23: Interlude: New Bodhum 700 AF

The shores of New Bodhum contained two sets of footprints embedded in saturated sands. The two footsteps appeared out of nowhere marking the arrival of the first humans to touch a semi-wasteland. Lightning knew exactly what time period Caius took her to: New Bodhum 700 AF. There was nothing; no humans existed in this time period other than rebel Cie'th twitching in the shadows. Gazing across a scarred landscape, Chaos had overtaken the entire area once known for its lush trees and pristine waters. Now it was just an epoch filled by silence.

Delicately walking over a low barricade, Lightning's eyes scanned the area again and locked on several decrepit structures. Out of all the structures in New Bodhum, one stood out to Lightning: NORA house. Slipping her hand beneath her belly, she carefully approached the crumbled structure. This was not how she imagined returning 'home' to be. No welcoming party or smiles from the people she ever cared about. No NORA members… No Serah, waiting for her sister to come home.

"Welcome home," Caius stood beside her.

"Home," Lighting repeated. "I can't believe I'm here…"

Then she shot a death glare at him.

"I can't believe you had the nerve to bring me here!" Lightning exclaimed at Caius's insensitivity.

"You always wished to return home, do you not, Lightning? I honored your wish."

"Not like this." Lightning shot. "I wished to return to a place where everybody I cared about is still alive."

Walking away from Caius, Lightning summoned her sword. Materializing within her hand, she spun around and pointed the blade at him.

"Is this some kind of sick joke?" Lightning questioned. "You brought me to a time where the entire landscape is filled with death and decay. You had the nerve to bring me to a place where humanity is completely extinct?"

"You will remain here until you give birth, Lightning," Caius spoke firmly. "I did this out of your best interest to protect both of you."


Lightning was frustrated. She was angry. Biting her lip out of rage, she spun around and marched across the cluttered beach. Fallen trees and rocks scattered the landscape with every five steps. Where was she supposed to live? The NORA house was in shambles and the rest of the structures barely stood the energy of the ocean waves. How could she even possibly survive here when everything was dead? Using her blade to cut down several vines entangling an exit, Lightning marched through dried grass. At the back of her mind, she cursed Caius to the pits of torment.

How dare he bring her here knowing full well of the situation. Slicing an arched tree, Lightning ducked under vines then stepped over a moss covered rock. Cradling her stomach with her left hand, she was reminded everything was done for the living heir inside her. Lightning had to wonder: What would happen if she gave birth? Would she be disposed? Would her son be taken away?

"No," Lightning spoke quietly.

The thought of her son being torn away from her arms was unbearable. Lightning was subjected to her maternal instincts insisting Lightning to protect her child regardless. She was going to be a mother, just like how her mother was to her when Lightning was growing up. She faintly recalled how her mother was like but then when Lightning really thought about it, she barely remembered the things her mother did for her while she grew up. Pausing mid-step, she closed her eyes to remember the face of her mother. With eyelids covering aqua eyes, Lightning tried imagining the face of her mother or listening to the sound of her voice. Nothing. There was absolutely nothing.

Opening her eyes, Lightning could only remember one thing: The funeral that took place on a mist covered morning. Lightning remembered well, the news of her parents' deaths when she was sixteen.

"Damn you Caius,"

Lightning was disgusted; she was wedded to a man whom took away her family. Everything he did was for the damned prophecy. Every single plot concocted was to purposely hurt her, to break her and to eventually to save Yeul. Breathing out a sigh of frustration, Lightning hacked away tangling vines from her path. Ducking under a rotten branch, Lightning's ears picked up the distinctive sound of waves.

"The ocean?"

Her pace increased, propelling her fragile frame forward. Her strides increased, wanting to see the ocean with her very own eyes. Emerging into a clearing, Lightning's eyes focused on the ocean waves sliding against the sand leaving a trail of bubbly foam in their wake. But the ocean blue was not the most shocking thing Lightning saw; it was the small hut and a fire pit by the waters which caught her attention. Taking a hesitant step forward, Lightning gripped tightly onto the sword.

"This is your new home,"

She spun around ready to strike him down. Caius gripped onto the blade allowing the silver blade to slide through his palm. Folding his fingers around the blade, Caius lowered the sword and met with Lightning's enraged eyes.

"You should be grateful, Lightning."

"Grateful?" Lightning hissed pushing the blade deeper into his skin hopeful to slice off his hand. "How is it even considered 'grateful'?"

Caius was amused watching Lightning clench her teeth in hopes of wounding him further. "I am saving your life, Lightning and along with our son. Do you not appreciate the effort I placed into building your abode?"

"I never asked for it!"

Caius abruptly yanked the blade away from Lightning and hurled it into the foliage. She was going to go after it but he already had secured her within his grasp. "And you should not be holding sharp objects."

Lightning was beyond pissed at his words. About to retort, Caius's hand slipped around her only to land on her stomach. Frozen by the gesture, she felt his hand rub the underside of her belly. Biting her lip, she had to suddenly become sensitive there and each caress drove her nerves insane.

Lowering his voice, Caius whispered, "The last thing I want is you to injure this…"

Gathering the pieces of her broken dignity, Lightning slapped his hand away and shoved him a good two feet away from her. Not in a million years she preferred to duel with him rather than this. Quite hostile, she took several steps away from Caius, eying him with much distrust. Making sure he would not follow, Lightning stormed toward the small hut by the shoreline. Pushing aside the curtained entrance, Lightning was met with a small makeshift bed in the corner of the room and a small dressing table with a mirror on the opposite side of the wall. What stood out the most was a small cradle in the corner carefully crafted with strong wood and soft beddings. Etched on the side of the wood were Pulsian words—a phrase Lightning was unable to decipher. Yet, nothing was more eye-catching than the revolving mobile above the cradle with seashells laced through turquoise beaded threads.

Hearing shuffling from behind, Lightning spun around to be greeted by Caius. Without words, he threw in Lightning's duffle bag to land at the base of her feet.

"Since you packed your necessities, I believe this is sufficient enough for your stay."

Glaring daggers at him, Lightning gritted her teeth and spoke, "Get out."

For once, Caius listened. Exiting out of the hut, Lightning was left to seethe. What would she give to return to Valhalla? How ironic; all this time she wished to come 'home' and now that she was here, the thought of Valhalla shot through her mind. Walking over to her duffle bag, Lightning gently bent down and unzipped the bag to pull out her personal belongings. Removing her clothing, Lightning was unable to stop glancing over at the cradle.

"Moron," Lightning muttered. "Insensitive bastard. How dare he—!"

What was she suppose to feel? Lightning was infuriated with Caius. He was the one who tangled her in this entire mess! All Lightning ever wanted to do was to live a normal life. But yet everything had been planned out down to the last detail.

"Is there no way to escape destiny?" Lightning asked aloud. "I went against my destiny and I thought I conquered it. Served a Goddess and now I'm…"

She refused to utter the word. Placing down a piece of clothing, Lightning mused how weak she became over the past months or so.

"I tried to redeem myself time and time again asking for second chances. What did I ever do to deserve this kind of fate? Is it because I challenged the Fal'Cie? Orphan?"

The answers were limitless. Shaking her head, Lightning involuntarily approached the cradle. Lightning was never good with children. Every time there were children around Lightning purposely distanced herself in fears of saying something inappropriate. She found children to be a nuisance. For the most part, Lightning always wished she were to stay single and carry out her career working for GC, escalating through the ranks. Nonetheless, she was unable to lie to herself when she saw couples together happily walking down the shores of Bodhum hand-in-hand. To see them happy with each other bothered Lightning. It bothered her when she watched a perfect family smile to one another like nothing was ever wrong with the world. Lightning always told herself she needed nobody but Serah in her life. That was all she ever needed.

Reaching out to the cradle, her fingers held onto the wooden bar as her eyes scanned the bedding. A soft creak echoed from the cradle as it began to rock according to Lightning's movements. Reaching out to the bedding with her other hand, the fabric between her fingers was soft to the touch. It oddly reminded her of something she remembered: Behemoth skin flaps.

"Did Caius do this?" If Lightning remembered correctly, when Lightning was thrown into Ellinoir's dream, Caius told her Behemoth flaps were the desired material to wrap infants.

Backing away from the cradle, Lightning felt her emotions were about to burst. The change in Caius's behavior disturbed her greatly. Lightning had to wonder if the change was because of the child in her belly. Was he going to change—to end the madness of tearing the world apart due to his sudden 'fatherly' instincts? Something was definitely not right. Caius was plotting something and Lightning knew it. She needed Caius to tell her the truth if he wanted her trust. Suddenly, Lightning felt a strong kick from inside. Then she felt another kick followed by another. Cringing, Lightning tapped the side of her belly prompting the kicking to stop.

"Enough," Lightning whispered. Feeling another kick, Lightning tickled the side of her belly.

And it stopped. Rubbing her belly, Lightning promptly cleared her mind after hearing footsteps crunching the sand outside. Without hesitation, she leaned by the entrance and pushed the curtain aside to spot Caius sit by the fire pit and began to skin two freshly caught hares. The moment he glanced up at her, Lightning darted into the shadows. Crossing her arms, she needed to escape. There should be an artifact in this time, should it not? And then it hit her: Noel. Noel was expected to appear in this time period yet, Lightning had no clue when. She crossed her fingers hoping the hunter would appear so that Lightning could escape, maybe. The idea was risky exposing herself in this pathetic state. Yet anything would do at this point in time to escape Caius.

Noel traced the footprints with the tips of his fingers. It was bizarre spotting footprints in front of him. He had arrived to New Bodhum a while ago expecting to see nothing but monsters. Hearing Serah from far behind, Noel quickly pulled leaves to cover the tracks. Emerging out into the open, the pink-haired girl's eyes were glazed over; Serah never expected to see New Bodhum like this. It lacked the beautiful scenery and life from its inhabitants. Serah could barely accept the fact the NORA house was in shambles. Mog bobbled nearby, scanning the horizon as his small paws spun the tip of the staff unsure of what to say to Serah's beloved hometown.

"Serah?" Noel called out. "You alright?"

"I am, I think," Serah replied quietly unsure of what to feel. "It's difficult taking it all in."

"Understandable," Noel crossed his arms fixing his eyes on Serah. "I'm sorry."

"It's alright," Serah replied and took a step away from the shambles. Lacing her fingers over her heart, she spoke sincerely, "Seeing New Bodhum like this makes me want to save the future even more. With our actions, the world can be saved and nothing should be like this,"

Serah referred directly to New Bodhum. Both Noel and Serah had travelled across the Timeline saving on era at a time. With so much behind them, to give up hope now was unacceptable. They were close to ending the realm of paradoxical madness. Within her heart, Serah felt as if she had accomplished so much travelling with Noel. She was able to open her eyes to new places and interact with so many people whom all had dreams of their own. To allow the prophecy to come true and shatter their dreams was heartbreaking. People had too much to live for in a world with a bright future ahead of them.

"Noel," Serah said sternly. "We will save the future."

"We will, Serah. We will."

Noel weakly smiled at Serah, watching the fire burn in her eyes just like Lightning. The sunset across the horizon burned brightly illuminating Serah's physique covering Serah with a divine glow. Spotting several stars in the sky, the hunter realized sunset was upon them.

"Let's rest here for a while then we can plan out what to do next tomorrow. Sounds good?"

"Sounds good," Serah smiled. "But how do we get food? It seems like nothing's here."

"Serah," Noel shook his head. Pointing a thumb toward himself, Noel boasted, "I'm a hunter, remember? Finding food is my specialty."

Serah smiled. Walking a couple of steps away, Serah bent down and began picking up dry sticks with Mog's help. Nodding to one another, Noel pulled out his twin blades and distanced from them. Truth be told, he wanted to distance from them because he needed to think. Slipping out of sight, Noel was determined to locate the originator of the footsteps. No human being was expected to live in this era. Noel had to wonder; if anybody survived in this era, would they be nomads like him?

"It makes no sense. Who else is here?" Noel mumbled. "Who else—"

Noel paused. His blue eyes stopped at strangely cut leaves lay scattered on the mossy ground. Bending down, Noel picked up the leaves and examined them.

Someone was here. From the looks of it, I can only tell there's one person here, in New Bodhum.

Looking up, Noel saw the trail of carnage snaking deeper into the woods. Unsure of what to make of it, he could follow the trail to discover people but another problem arose: Would they be friends or foe? Serah would be delighted to know there were people living here yet; the chances of running into hostiles were too high. Conflicted, Noel decided to not follow the tracks. The last thing he wanted was to leave tracks of his own and allowed them to be discovered. Backing away, Noel headed in another direction to gather food for the night.

Lightning sat by the crackling fire pit with her hands around the hot wooden bowl. When she emerged from the hut, Caius was nowhere to be seen. Instead, he left her with dinner and dessert. Lightning was beyond irritated at Caius's behavior. She wanted to punch that stupid smirk off his face. Prior to this, he was a ruthless madman trying to get everything he wished for. Now that Lightning carried an heir, it was as if his humanity returned. Though Lightning had to wonder: Was he acting this way because he allowed Ellinoir to die in the past? She remembered Caius killing his wife with his bare hands, losing the one chance at a having a family. Rubbing the sides of the bowl, she continued to wonder other than serving Yeul, was having a family the one thing he wished within the depths of his human heart?

"Caius wanted a family. I had a family."

'Had' stung Lightning. The loss of her family reminded how much she missed them. Lightning remembered after her parents passed away, Lightning immediately took the role of an adult. She took on the housework and extra jobs in order to get Serah through school. Lightning was lucky to have Serah but things were not always peachy; the sisters every so often engage in screaming matches. Doors slammed shut or plates knocked onto the floor; by the end of it, Serah would storm out of the house and head directly to the beach where the soothing waves calmed her down. Lightning knew she was too stubborn, pig-headed even to understand the feelings of her younger sister. Lightning tried to be there for Serah through everything but because Lightning at times had tunnel vision, friction erupted between the two.

"Serah… I miss you so much. What would I give to see you again?"

Lightning turned her attention to her belly. Lightning was going to have a family of her very own in a soon-to-be world consumed by darkness. She was going to have a child without her own family to see it.

"Where do I even begin?" Lightning exhaled and tilted her head toward the stars. "I don't know what to do. When Serah was growing up, mom did everything. I just helped her here and there."

Lightning never expected to watch a shooting star zip across the skylines. She was one to never believe in wishing but right now, a simple wish seemed appropriate. Placing down the bowl beside her, the warrior closed her eyes for a wish. She wished for peace from the depths of her heart. She wished for things to return to normal, just the way they were before she fell asleep in her crystallized prison. She wished for peace to reign and humanity to survive. But most importantly, she wished Caius would end his reign of madness and disappear from her life, forever.

Upon a distant cliff, a young girl stood from the highest rock and stared down at the warrior. She merely observed Lightning's delicate movements trying to not cause any harm to herself or the child within.

"You brought her here like I told you to?" Yeul asked quietly.

In the shadows, Caius kneeled on the ground and looked up at Yeul. He responded with a firm nod.

"Very good," Yeul said dryly, moving several strands of her azure hair behind her ear. "She will be safe here."

"Thank you, Yeul," Caius whispered. "I thank you for allowing me to keep Lightning alive."

"Think nothing of it," she spoke. "After all, it is what you wished for isn't it? You wanted a family and staying here is the safest place."


Yeul turned around and commanded Caius to stand up. The Time Guardian did as he was told, walking to Yeul's side. "Keep her safe, Caius. You don't want the same thing to happen to you again, don't you?"

"No," Caius replied, fixing his eyes on Lightning's form moving into the hut. "This time it will be different."

"You always wished for a family, right? This is your opportunity to redeem yourself Caius. For all the sins you caused in the past with your previous wife, this is your time to make up for it."

Caius clenched his fists. "I will not fail her. I swear it."

Yeul tapped the side of Caius's arm to reassure him everything would be alright. "You won't. All you have to do is follow what I tell you. Lightning will open her shackled heart to you."

Yeul remained silent and watched the trees sway gently with the incoming wind. Tilting her head up to the sky, Yeul spotted a second shooting star dashing through the dark night. The Seeress closed her eyes and knitted her fingers together for a wish. She wished for Caius's happiness. For centuries he had been drowning in a pit of sorrow. It was about time Caius to receive the happiness he deserved even if his hands were stained in deep crimson. Yeul saw Caius's future. Yet, Yeul had no desire to tell him the visions she saw. Instead, Yeul wanted to watch the events unfold to test her guardian's loyalty. She wanted to know what he truly wished for; a man who was deeply wounded through time killing those he ever came to love and cherish. In the end, who would he choose? Lightning or Yeul?