Wings Of Shadow

Lightning folded her wings and landed on one of the uppermost branches of an enormous tree. Only a handful of worlds had trees like this, so tall that their tops reached the clouds. But this world was covered in them. Their myriad branches grew together to form countless layers of vegetation that stretched thousands of feet above the ground. All around her, birds, insects and a host of other creatures flitted from place to place. Many of them probably lived their whole lives without ever seeing the ground, never mind touching it.

But she was not there simply to admire the beauty of the place – and it was beautiful, even by Heaven's standards. On the contrary, she was there to find a relic that was almost certainly the cause of the jungle's world-spanning growth. In the days before first war between Heaven and Hell, a race of large, highly intelligent insects had ruled this world. Their technology had allowed them to rapidly transform the entire surface of the planet into one gigantic jungle. But eventually the war had come to their world. Within two days, the surface of the planet had been scoured clean. Nothing had been left save ash and dust.

And so the planet had stayed for countless years, silent and dead.

Neither Heaven nor Hell had given the place much thought after that. The war had continued, and the fields of battle had moved. And when the great truce had been put in place, there hadn't been any reason at all to care about a dead world in the middle of nowhere. It was just another casualty in a conflict that had too many to count. However, a few days ago, a routine scouting mission had uncovered something remarkable. Not only had the planet recovered – it had done so without any signs of outside intervention.

Somewhere on the surface of the planet was a power capable of turning a barren, blasted lump of rock into a world teeming with life. The High Father was certain that a relic from the insects was responsible – an ark of sorts designed to protect their planet's life in times of crisis and programmed to restore it when conditions were once again safe. If such a thing truly existed, then it was vital that Heaven secure it before Hell.

Many of the High Father's advisors had recommended a full squad of Valkyries be dispatched to find and retrieve the relic, but Lightning had disagreed. All of their intelligence indicated that Hell did not know about the relic. Any large-scale movement of Valkyries was bound to draw attention, and truce or not, the High Mother could hardly allow them to simply fly down and take it. No, the best option would be for Lightning to go alone and retrieve the relic herself. It would be quick, quiet and efficient.

However, that was easier said than done. Whatever power the relic used to operate also made it almost impossible to locate with magic. The dense jungle also ensured that it would be extremely difficult to locate visually. Her best option was to do a methodical sweep of the planet's surface. Even if her magic couldn't pinpoint the relic's position precisely, she was certain that she would be able to sense it once she got close enough. Anything powerful enough to rebuild an entire world had to give off some kind of energy signature.

"Perhaps it would have been better to bring a few of the others," Lightning murmured as she took to the air again. "This could take a while."

Still, the thought of spending more time on the planet didn't really bother her. It was a chance to spend some time alone. For as much as she had come to love her sister and a few of the other gods, she also loved her privacy, and there was precious little of that for her in Heaven. She had the Valkyries to lead, younger gods to teach and many other duties. There were always eyes on her. Some of them were friendly, but others were unkind. Even if no one had the courage to say it to her face, there were would always be those who thought less of her because of her heritage and would like nothing more than to see her fail. For all its splendour, even Heaven had an ugly side.

As she glided over the jungle, her wings angled to catch the breeze, a flock of small reptiles filled the air around her. They were about a foot long and looked like miniature dragons. On top, their scales were a lush green, and on the bottom, their scales were a pale blue. It was probably camouflage. A predator coming at them from above would lose them against the green of the forest, whereas a predator coming from below would lose them against the blue of the sky.

One of the little reptiles drew level with her face and shot her a curious look. Her brows furrowed. Perhaps she should catch one. Serah loved animals, and these creatures looked harmless enough. She could even have one examined by the gods who specialised in the study of animal life to ensure that it was safe.

A sudden flash of movement from the corner of her eye broke her from her thoughts. To the south, a large flock of these reptiles had suddenly taken wing. Unlike those beside her, their flight was far swifter and more haphazard. Something had disturbed them, something that might be worth investigating. As she angled toward the south, a pulse of raw magical energy swept past her. She swayed in the air and had to brace herself as the shockwave drove more and more of the reptiles out of the jungle and into the sky. Most animals could sense magic, even if they couldn't use it themselves. But who was using it? There shouldn't be anyone else on the planet with magic.

Another pulse rippled through the air, stronger this time, and the sky above the jungle to the south rippled as though torn. A containment field! Someone was trying to hide what was happening to the south. Hell must know about the relic. Her jaw clenched. She could call for reinforcements, but there was no guarantee they would get there in time. No, this was something she'd handle herself.

Quickening her pace, Lightning's breath rushed out in a gasp as another blast of demonic magic shook the jungle, only to be answered by a power that was intimately familiar to her: Fang. Fang was there and she was using her magic to fight, which didn't make any sense at all unless… her eyes narrowed.

Demons could be quite mercenary when it came to winning the High Mother's favour. Treachery was common, and it wasn't at all unusual for demons to sabotage and even kill one another if they thought they could get away with it. If the relic was as powerful as the High Father believed, then there would definitely be demons willing to kill some of their own kind to ensure that they were the ones to present it to the High Mother.

A vast pillar of flame shot upward from the jungle floor and Lightning threw all caution to the wind. That wasn't one of Fang's attacks, and it felt different from the magic she'd felt before, which meant that Fang was outnumbered at least two to one. As the flame cleared, it left a mile-wide circle of devastation in its wake.

"Lightning!" A red headed blur streaked toward her, and Lightning barely managed to adjust her flight in time to catch Vanille rather than run right into the younger demon. "You have to help!"

Under normal circumstances, Lightning would have been overjoyed to see Vanille – it had been too long since they'd last spoken – but these were not normal circumstances. Heaven's protocol demanded that she capture and bind Vanille, but the thought never even crossed her mind. Instead, she had thoughts only for the tears that trickled down Vanille's face and the burn marks and tears in her clothing.

"What's happening?" Lightning asked.

"It's Fang!" Vanille cried as she clutched miserably at Lightning's armour. "We were supposed to bring back this relic, and things were going fine when these other demons came and –"

"I see." Lightning's eyes drifted to the south. Half a dozen demons were headed right toward them. They weren't especially powerful, but Vanille had never been good at fighting. Lightning, however, was very good at fighting. "Stay behind me. We'll help Fang together."

Vanille nodded slowly. "Be careful, there are a lot of them, and at least two of them are Demons 1st Class with Unrestricted Licenses."

"That doesn't matter." Lightning snarled and above them, the sky darkened. "Nobody hurts what's mine."

As the first bolt of lightning surged from the clouds toward the oncoming demons, Vanille felt a shiver run through her. With her teeth bared in fury, Lightning looked less a goddess and every inch the daughter of the High Mother, ruler of Hell.


Fang drove her spear into the gut of another demon and wrenched the weapon free in a shower of gore. The demon clutched hopelessly at the wound, and she put him out of his misery with a blast of power that hurled him a hundred feet to crash into the trunk of one of the huge trees. But no sooner had he fallen than another two hastened to take his place. She growled. These demons weren't nearly strong enough to kill her, but there were enough of them to keep her from getting at the real threat.

"You don't seem to be enjoying yourself, Fang. Perhaps I can make things more interesting." The words came from a female demon as she brushed back a lock of her long silver hair. Yellow eyes narrowed. "How about this?"

The space around Fang rippled, and she let loose a vicious curse before she shot up into the air. An instant later, a vast swathe of the jungle simply ceased to exist as the female demon's magic shredded the fabric of space and time. Sunlight rebounded off the affected area, and for a split-second a thousand different images filled the space where the ruined jungle had been as the flow of time struggled to adjust. Then the spell faded, and in its wake, a huge patch of the jungle was just… gone.

"Well, you are certainly very quick on your feet." The female demon smiled at Fang. She didn't seem the least bit bothered by the fact that her attack had missed, or by the fact that it had killed half a dozen of her allies. "I'll have to do something about that. Seifer!"

And that, right there, was why Fang hated fighting someone like Ultimecia. Not only was the other demon enormously powerful in her own right, she had a knack for rallying others to her cause. And she knew exactly how to bide her time and wait for the perfect moment to strike.

That moment had come only a few minutes ago as Fang and Vanille had exited the elaborate underground facility responsible for rebuilding this world. It was a marvel of technology: a colossal machine designed to safeguard countless genetic samples. But more than that, it also contained equipment for terraforming and accelerating the growth of any organisms based on those genetic samples. Vanille had been all over it, and the younger demon was confident that given a few years, she could probably build one of her own.

The relic was clearly too big to fit through a normal portal – and that was assuming they could get it out of the ground – so they had decided to go back to Hell to report their findings to the High Mother. But as soon as they'd reached the surface, everything had gone wrong. Someone had put a containment field over the area, making it almost impossible for them to leave, and within moments they'd been under attack from dozens of lesser demons.

Fang had fought the lesser demons off easily enough, and that's when Ultimecia had revealed herself. The other demon's first spell would have killed Vanille outright if Fang hadn't shoved the red head out of the way and taken the brunt of it herself. At least, the blast had damaged the containment field as well, and she'd ordered Vanille to run. She couldn't fight Ultimecia and protect Vanille at the same time. Then Seifer had appeared as well, and things had taken yet another turn for the worse.

As the blonde demon shot up into the air after her, Fang cursed herself for letting her mind wander. There would be plenty of time to think about all the things that had gone wrong after she'd finished fighting – that's if she survived. Ultimecia alone would have been incredibly dangerous to face, add in Seifer and the rest of her lackeys, and Fang's odds of winning were far from favourable. At the very least, however, she needed to buy Vanille enough time to open a portal and get back to Hell. She would be safe in the palace there.

Fang waved one hand and dozens of plumes of flame shot through the air toward Seifer. The other demon bobbed and weaved through the hail of fire, and his sword whipped up in a savage arc toward her.

"Fire Cross!"

There was a surge of magic, and Fang's eyes widened as a colossal pillar of fire rocketed up from the jungle floor. She knew, in an instant, that she'd never be able to dodge it, so instead, she did the opposite: she charged right at it. Of course, that wasn't all she did. With a growl, she gathered her power and fired a lance of wind ahead, one scarcely wide enough for her to fit in. The fire parted before her spell, and she folded her wings and dove straight at Seifer.

He barely managed to bring his sword up in time to block the thrust of her spear, but the force of the blow was enough to send him spinning end over end. His wings beat the air furiously, but she had no intention of letting him right himself. A bolt of fire caught him square in the chest, and he crashed through the jungle canopy and into the ground below.


Fang wheeled around just in time to dodge the spells thrown by another group of Ultimecia's lackeys. The other demon was careful to keep them between her and Fang at all times, and with good reason. Ultimecia's magic was powerful, but it took time to prepare; time these lesser demons would buy with their lives.

"Do you really think you'll get away with this?" Fang asked as she gutted one lesser demon and burned another out of the sky. Her lips curled. They were scarcely more than children compared to her, but this was no time for mercy. Besides, they'd thrown their lot in with Ultimecia. "Once I get back to Hell, you will be punished. I can promise you that."

"You are assuming that you'll make it back." Ultimecia fired off another one of her spells, and once again, Fang was forced to dive frantically to avoid the tremendous devastation it caused.

"Even if I don't, Vanille will." Fang streaked into open space and hurled a combination of wind and fire at Ultimecia that seemed to set half the sky ablaze. But the attack barely phased the other demons. Instead, she raised one hand, and the space in front of her rippled and tore. The flames bent around the twisted space like a stream around a boulder.

"Seifer," Ultimecia muttered. "How long do you plan on lying there" You're not dead, so get back to work."

Several ribbons of fire burst out of the jungle below, and Fang slapped one aside before dodging the others. Seifer soared up to meet her, and the air was filled with the clash of their weapons as they exchanged blows and jockeyed for position. He was good, very good, and this time, he wasn't taking any chances. Instead, he kept as close to her as possible, mindful of the greater reach her spear provided, and rather than throwing any of his stronger spells, he peppered her with a constant stream of weaker, but still dangerous, magic.

Seifer alone was bad enough, but there were still a few of the lesser demons left, and they hastened to take advantage of the situation. Fang hissed as one of them landed a deep cut along her side with his sword. She killed him for it, but then another managed to score a gash along her left wing. If they knocked her out of the air, she would be in serious, serious trouble.

To try and buy herself a bit of room, Fang loosed a spherical blast of flame. It was enough to drive the lesser demons off, but Seifer refused to give her the time and space she needed to swing things back in her favour. Behind him, the lesser demons began to pool their power, and she realised too late what they were about to do.

Magic washed over her, and she cursed, caught in mid air. It was a slowing spell, one designed to hold her in place, and it took her less than a heartbeat to break out of it. But that split-second was the difference between victory and defeat. For that extra split-second was all Ultimecia needed to land one of her spells.

As the sky shattered in the wake of Ultimecia's magic, Fang fell. Darkness closed in on her, and the last thing she saw was the flash of lightning in the distance. How appropriate.


Ultimecia allowed herself a moment to savour the sight of Fang tumbling to the ground. The other demon wasn't quite dead, but it would be simple enough to finish her. She might even take her time.

Honestly, it had almost been too easy. For all her power – and Fang was powerful, not even Ultimecia would deny that – she cared far too much for that brat of a demon she called a sister. Vanille might be exceedingly clever, but in a fight, she was practically useless. Fang had taken the brunt of Ultimecia's first spell, and from that moment on, the outcome of the battle had been decided.

With Seifer and a host of lesser demons to keep Fang occupied, Ultimecia had been free to pick and choose which spells she wanted to use. One good hit was all she needed, and she'd finally gotten it. If Fang's dragon had been there, it would have been a different story, but Ultimecia had chosen this mission to make her move for two very good reasons.

First and foremost, Fang and Vanille would be alone and far from Hell. Second, the prize was more than worth the risk. The relic was everything she'd hoped it would be. Once she learned how to properly harness its power, she could transform entire worlds as she saw fit. She would have her own Hell, one with demons born loyal to her and not the High Mother. She could even have her own dragons. Yes, it had been more than worth the risk.

"Seifer," she said. "I will finish Fang. Find Vanille and deal with her."

Seifer nodded, but before he could move, an overwhelming pressure filled the air. Raw hate and fury washed over them, and Ultimecia searched the skies for its source. Above them, the clouds had grown dark, and great, jagged forks of lightning streaked from horizon to horizon.

"What is this?" Seifer murmured.

"I'm not sure." Ultimecia gathered her power. "But I will find out."

She didn't have to look far. Hardly a moment had passed, when Vanille arrived together with someone that Ultimecia most certainly did not expect. It had been centuries, but Ultimecia would recognise that hair and those eyes anywhere. Lightning, daughter of the High Mother had come.

"So you came back," Ultimecia drawled to Vanille as thunder echoed through the sky. "And you've brought help. How interesting."

"Vanille." Lightning jerked her head at the ground. "See to Fang. I will deal with them."

"Deal with us?" Ultimecia laughed. How absurd. "I think you forget who we are."

"And you forget who I am." Lightning spat the words. "You will learn your place, and I will be the one to teach it to you."

"Is that so?" Ultimecia glanced at Seifer. "Tell me, how will you do that?"

Lightning might be head of the Valkyries and the daughter of the High Mother, but Ultimecia was not about to give up her prize. Besides, with Seifer there, she was confident of victory. Lightning had more raw power than anyone except the High Mother and High Father, but it wasn't power she could use.

Oh yes, Ultimecia had studied Lightning well, as she had studied anyone who might prove a threat to her. When she had taken up her mantle as a goddess, Lightning had sealed away almost all of her demonic powers. That alone would have cut her power in half, but it went even further. The seal itself required a considerable portion of her divine powers to maintain, so the actual amount of power that Lightning had access to was only a fraction of what she truly possessed.

"I'm going to rip you limb from limb," Lightning replied. "You have harmed what is mine, and that cannot go unpunished." She smiled. "And you've picked a very bad place to do it."

For the first time, Ultimecia felt a hint of unease. Lightning's smile wasn't cold so much as it was utterly psychotic. "What do you mean?"

Lightning's smile widened, and her crystal armour began to darken. "I love my sister and I have served Heaven faithfully for many years, but there is a side of me that I cannot show them. Here, there is no one to see the darkness in my heart. No except for us, and I have no intention of letting you leave here alive."

"The seal on your power," Ultimecia whispered. "You intend to break it."

Lightning said nothing.

"Seifer! Kill her!"

The blonde raced forward only to be thrown back as shadows erupted from Lightning. When they had cleared, Ultimecia felt her throat go dry. Lightning's armour had turned pitch black, and as she watched, the goddess's lone white wing grew steadily darker until it too was as black as the night. But that wasn't the end. Lightning's wings rippled and took on a new, almost liquid consistency. Instead of feathered wings, two rivers of molten shadow, gleaming brightly with black light, flowed from Lightning's back.

Ultimecia had seen this only once before. The High Mother had wings like that, not of feathers, but of shadow. She had revealed them on the day that Lightning had left to take up her position as a goddess. The High Mother had levelled half the palace with a flap of her wings, along with anyone too stupid to run.

"You are supposed to be a goddess," Ultimecia growled as she gathered as much of her power as she could as quickly as she could. "What about your vows?"

"Be silent!" Lightning roared. Her tenebrous wings lashed the air, and the sky on either side of her rippled. With each moment that passed, her wings grew larger and darker until it seemed night had fallen over the area. "You dared to lay your hands on the one that is mine, to harm the one I love most in creation. No vow can hold me from my vengeance."

The rumours were true then, Ultimecia realised. Many had suspected that the High Mother's daughter and Fang were involved, but until now, none had known for certain. It was pure foolishness to think that such a relationship could work, and yet, clearly, they had attempted it. This wasn't the fury of a friend, but that of a lover, and that meant there could be no negotiation, no quarter given.

She had miscalculated.

Ultimecia gestured at the few lesser demons that remained. " Get her!"

As the lesser demons rushed to obey – more loyal than intelligent – Lightning's killing intent flared out. Half of the lesser demons died immediately, the others plunged out of the sky, driven mad with fear, to smash onto the ground far below.

The sky shuddered as Ultimecia unleashed all of the power she'd gathered in a single, devastating spell. It was enough to crack a planet, enough to break the very fabric of creation where Lightning stood and scatter it to the far ends of the universe. And Lightning tore through it like it wasn't even there.

Black lightning raced down from the sky and annihilated great swathes of the jungle as Ultimecia and Seifer dodged desperately through the storm of Lightning's power. This was the strength Lightning had inherited from the High Mother and the High Father, and for a split-second Ultimecia couldn't help but admire it. If only she could study it, perhaps even learn to copy it. But no, there was no time for that. She needed to escape and quickly.

"Seifer!" she bellowed. "We are leaving!"

The blonde nodded, and threw all of the power he had left into another attack. A cloud of flame enveloped Lightning, and Ultimecia opened a portal. There was no time to stabilise it properly, or even aim it, but anywhere had to be better than here with the furious daughter of the High Mother.

She and Seifer hurled themselves through the portal, and Ultimecia just barely managed to shut it before one of Lightning's attacks followed them through.


Lightning howled and fought to rein in her fury. She wanted to level the jungle, burn the whole thing to the ground. Ultimecia and Seifer had escaped, and there was no way of knowing where that portal of theirs had taken them. Cowards. Next time, she would tear their wings off and rip out their throats. That way, they wouldn't be able to go anywhere.

Another growl left her lips before she vanished in a blur of motion. Fang was down there and she needer her. When she arrived, Vanille had already begun to work on Fang's injuries. Still, the sight of the wounded demon made Lightning's blood boil. Ultimecia's spell had wreaked havoc not only on Fang's body, but on her soul as well.

"I don't know what do," Vanille sobbed as she cast healing spell after healing spell. "It's hard enough trying to heal all the injuries to her body, but I don't even know where to start on the injuries to her soul." She looked up at Lightning desperately. "Do something!"

Lightning knelt at Fang's side. Healing had never been one of her strong points, and even if she had the power, she knew that she lacked the finesse. A damaged soul was one of the most fragile things in the universe. The wrong spell, or even the right spell used even a tiny bit improperly, could result in death.

"I can't." Lightning hissed.

"What?" Vanille continued to cast what magic she could, even as fresh tears began to pour down her cheeks. "But… but…"

"Can't you get her back to your lab?" Lightning asked. Despite the power coursing through her veins, she'd never felt so helpless. If Fang died… if she died… no. She refused to even think that would happen. "There has to be something you've built that can help."

"There might be, but I can't bring it here, and there's no way Fang can go through a portal like this."

"I see." Lightning swallowed thickly. "I know what to do."

"You do?" The hope in Vanille's eyes was almost painful to look at.


Eyes closed in concentration, Lightning created a portal to her home in Heaven. The spells that protected the place fought against the intrusion, scarcely able to recognise her magic through all of the demonic energy, but she forced her way through. A few seconds later, the portal snapped into place, and she reached out to Serah with her mind.

"Serah," she murmured. "I need you. Come. Please."

No matter how strange it must have seemed, Lightning was certain that Serah would come. Despite all the demonic energy that tainted the portal, Serah had to recognise that it was Lightning's doing, and Serah had never once hesitated to come to her side, even in the early days when Lightning had struggled to control her demonic powers.

A few moments passed, and then Serah stumbled through the portal. The goddess took one look at Lightning and the two demons on the ground and then gasped.

"Lightning, what's going on?" Serah's eyes widened as she took in the twin plumes of writhing shadow on Lightning's back. "What happened to you?"

"Never mind me." Lightning looked at Fang. "Heal her."

It was a testament to how much Serah loved and trusted her sister that she didn't even hesitate before dropping down onto her knees beside Fang. Her wings unfurled at once as she began to channel her magic into the fallen demon.

"Her body has been injured quite badly," Serah murmured. "But the injuries to her soul are the worst part. What did this?"

"Another demon," Lightning replied as a wave of affection swept over her. It didn't matter to Serah that Fang was a demon. It was enough for Serah that Lightning wanted her healed. "Ultimecia."

Serah winced. "I've heard of her, she's very powerful." She pursed her lips. "But don't worry. I should be able to heal everything." She glanced over at Vanille. "You did a good job of patching her up, uh…"

"Vanille." The red head grinned. "My name's Vanille, and you must be Serah."

"Vanille?" Serah frowned faintly. That name was familiar. "Wait… you're Fang's sister, which means…" She looked down at the demon she was healing in horror. "She's Fang!"

"She is." Lightning confirmed. "Which is why you have to heal her." She closed her eyes. "Please."

"Don't worry," Serah replied. "I said I would heal her, and I will." She gathered more magic. "But do you think you could maybe change back, Lightning? All of your power is making it hard for me to use magic properly."


Serah flopped onto her back and sighed. Finally, she was done. A few feet away, Fang groaned and then stumbled onto her hands and knees. In an instant, Lightning was by her side, and Serah could only stare as the two exchanged a frantic mix of hushed whispers, kisses and threats.

Her sister had told her about some of her life in Hell. However, she'd definitely neglected to mention that.

"Quite a picture, aren't they."

Serah looked over at Vanille as the red head settled onto the ground beside her. The demon still had her fair share of wounds, but she didn't seem the least bit concerned by them.

"They love each other, don't they?" Serah murmured. How could she have missed something like this, and how long had it been going on?

"They do." Vanille leaned up onto one elbow. "The question is: what are you going to do now that you know about it?"

"What am I going to do?" Serah hadn't even considered that. By all rights, she should report this straight to the High Father and the other authorities in Heaven. Dalliances with demons were strictly forbidden and considered nothing less than high treason. Yet, looking at her sister and Fang, she couldn't see things like that.

There was so much tenderness as her sister and Fang held each other, so much… longing. Their kisses, exchanged with nary a care for Vanille and Serah's presence, were filled with the sort of wild, desperate passion that Serah had only ever read about in those sappy romance novels she'd picked up on one of the mortal worlds. They were in love, and surely that couldn't be against the laws of Heaven.

"I'm not sure," Serah said at last. "I suppose I'll ask Lightning what she wants me to do."

A grin spread across Vanille's lips. "So, you're not going to go running to the High Father?"

"I love my sister," Serah said simply. "And if I did that, she'd never be able to see Fang again. I don't even want to think about how much that would hurt her. She'd be charged with high treason too. They'd strip her of her rank, maybe even imprison her." She swallowed thickly. "No, I'm going to say anything."

"Oh good." Vanille laughed. "Because I'd be really sad if I had to do something bad to you like alter your memories." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "I love my sister too, Serah, and I'd do anything to protect her happiness so I'm glad we're on the same page."

Serah shuddered. "As am I." She forced herself to stand. "Lightning, people are going to ask questions..."

With a groan, Lightning pulled away from Fang, and Serah did her best to ignore the faint teeth marks on her collarbone. Demons, it seemed, were quite demonstrative about their affection. "You're right." She sighed. "You need to go back. Tell them… tell them that I ran into some demon trouble and needed your help to heal myself afterward. It's almost the truth."

"All right." Serah stepped back through the portal. "I won't say a word about what really happened here, but later, you and I are going to talk about this."

As the portal closed behind Serah, Fang gave Lightning a wry smile. "Sounds like you're in trouble."

"Probably." Lightning ran one hand through her hair. "You and Vanille should get going too. Heaven is going to send reinforcements, and you can't be here when they arrive."

"I know." Fang nodded. "Believe me, I know."

"And then there's the relic –"

"You can have it," Vanille said. "I've already learned everything I need to know, and we do sort of owe you for saving us." She hopped onto her feet. "Come on, Fang, we need to go."

Heat raced through Lightning's veins as she and Fang exchanged one last kiss. If only they had more time.

"See you later," Fang whispered. Her lips curled. "And maybe next time, you can go all angry, scary demon when we meet. It looks good on you."

Lightning glanced at her wings. She'd need to change back before the other gods arrived. "Maybe." She cupped Fang's cheeks in her hands and stole what she promised herself would be the last kiss for the time being. "Take care."

"I will." Fang concentrated for a few moments and a portal opened up. Then she and Vanille were gone, and Lightning was left alone.



Author's Notes

As always, I neither own Final Fantasy, nor am I making any money off of this.

The more I write this story, the harder it is to shake the feeling that it's kind of a guilty pleasure. What I mean by that is, I tend to write chapters for this story whenever I'm dissatisfied with the direction some of my other stories have taken, and I feel like I need to change things up a little. This chapter is a case in point. I decided to write it after working on Chapter 13 of Whispers of the Gods. Now, I won't spoil what goes on in that chapter, but there was something in that chapter that I couldn't change because it was absolutely critical to the story (that said, I am quite happy with how that chapter turned out overall). The cool thing about this chapter was that I was able to make that change and have it actually work in favour of the story. If that all sounds a bit bizarre, just read Chapter 13 of Whispers of the Gods and it should make sense.

Now, there are a couple of things to cover about this chapter. First, why is Lightning so powerful in comparison to the other gods and demons? The simple answer (and this has its roots in Oh My Goddess as well) is that she is the daughter of the two most powerful beings in creation. Of course she's going to be ridiculously strong. However, as described in the chapter, she can't always use that full strength because of her desire to be a goddess and stay in Heaven (this is another nod at Urd from Oh My Goddess). But after she sees Fang go down, well, all bets are off. She's angry enough to forget about the vows she's taken and go full demon mode.

For those who aren't aware, Seifer and Ultimecia are from Final Fantasy VIII. Also, you can find links to my blog and deviant art in my profile, along with links to eBook version of Ordinary Heroes.

As always, I neither own Final Fantasy, nor am I making any money off of this.