Belongs To Her
Serah took a nervous look around and then glanced back at Aerith. The other young goddess had a broad grin on her face and a twinkle in her eyes as she put one hand to the ground and raised the other to her mouth to muffle her giggles.
"I'm not sure this is a good idea." Serah winced as another passing god gave them a curious look and then moved on. The other residents of Cocoon had learned the hard way that it was better to steer clear of the two young goddesses, especially when Aerith had mischief in mind.
Aerith gave Serah another sunny smile. "Stop worrying. Everything's going to be fine. He might even think it's funny."
Serah wasn't sure about that. Vincent was one of the more aloof gods on Cocoon. For the most part, he seemed content to brood alone in his vast mansion, and his control over various darker aspects of nature had made him something of an outcast amongst the other gods. His surly nature didn't help matters either, although Serah was almost certain that he was being judged a bit harshly. Her sister was often quite surly too, and her powers were extremely destructive, but no one disliked her. If anything people were either terrified of her, or revered her as one of the High Mother's most favoured children. Maybe Vincent just needed someone who could understand him and like him, the way Serah understood and liked Lightning.
Aerith must have felt the same because over the past few weeks, she'd been doing her best to get the older god's attention so she could befriend him. Unfortunately, Vincent had soundly rejected all of her advances, and so Aerith had come up with a plan. Every day, Vincent spent a few hours tending to his plants, and if he didn't want to pay any attention to Aerith then Aerith would make him pay attention to her – by sending a giant, carnivorous plant after him. It had all sounded so reasonable to Serah when Aerith had been explaining it to her back in the library of the home she shared with her sister, but now that they were about to do it, it suddenly seemed like quite a silly thing to do.
"He's going to get angry," Serah said.
"No, he won't." Aerith gave Serah a pat on the back. "And if he does, you can always call your lightning so we can run away."
"I guess." Serah really wasn't good at control her powers yet, although she was happy that Aerith believed in her so much. "But –"
"Shhh!" Aerith glanced back at the small hole in the wall around Vicent's mansion. "He's here."
Serah tensed as Aerith put one hand back on the ground. The air hummed faintly as the other goddess's power filled the area, flowing seamlessly through the ground and into a rose near Vincent. It was strange, but to Serah, Aerith's power had always felt… not wrong, but strange somehow. Her sister's power and even Fang's power all felt like the High Mother's, but Aerith's reminded her of damp grass beneath her feet, or sunshine on a warm day.
A few moments passed, and then there was a growl as the rose transformed into a huge, snarling conglomeration of vines and spikes. High above the red-cloaked god, the petals of the mutated flower parted to reveal what looked an awful lot like teeth. For a split-second, the plant and the god stared at one another, and then the plant lunged forward, its newly formed jaws parted wide to swallow Vincent whole –
Bits of green goo flew every which way as larger, still partially intact pieces of the plant thudded into the ground and against the wall. Vincent's tattered cloak danced in a sudden, unearthly wind, and the shadows around him lashed out again, taking on an almost solid appearance as they grabbed hold of the pieces of the mangled plant and tossed them aside. With a scowl on his face, he stalked toward the small hole in the wall, his crimson eyes utterly inscrutable.
"He doesn't seem very happy," Aerith whispered as she turned to Serah. "Maybe he didn't think it was funny after all." She tugged on Serah's sleeve. "Quick, call your lightning so we can get away."
"Right –" Serah lifted one hand and gathered her power as best she could. But before she could get even close to calling her lightning to sweep them away, there was a flash of red above them.
"As usual, it would seem that you two are up to no good."
Serah and Aerith looked at each other and then at Vincent. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, the pair decided to make a break for it, each of them running in a different direction. However, they got no more than a few steps before Vincent had caught both of them. Lips curling ever so slightly at the edges in what might just have been amusement, the older god lifted both of them up by the backs of their tunics and held them up at eye level.
"Tell me, what exactly were you trying to do?" Vincent looked at Aerith first and then at Serah. "Well?"
Serah's had only one thing to say. "Lightning!"
X X X
The goddess in question blinked and looked back at the High Mother. They had been in the midst of a discussion concerning the most recent movements of the gods that followed Jenova. The rogue goddess had grown increasingly brazen in her rebellion, and Lightning wanted nothing more than to drag her back to Cocoon to face the High Mother's justice. However, Jenova was powerful and her followers were many, so any attack upon her would require not only Lightning, but perhaps dozens of other gods as well.
Lightning and the High Mother had been about to discuss the exact details of such an attack when Lightning had heard Serah's voice in her head. Her sister was calling for her.
"My apologies," Lightning murmured, inclining her head. "Serah is calling for me."
The High Mother smiled indulgently, and Lightning had to fight to keep her expression neutral. Ever since she had given Serah to Lightning, the High Mother had taken quite an interest in the younger goddess's welfare. She had been very pleased to learn that Lightning had finally accepted Serah, and Lightning was all too aware of the whispers the other gods exchanged behind her back. They said she coddled Serah too much, and they wondered how someone so kind and warm could put up with someone so stern and cold. But what did their opinions matter? Serah was hers, and how Lightning treated her was none of their business.
"I see." The High Mother waved one hand. "Go to her then. We can speak of this another time."
Lightning nodded and then took her leave, taking care not to damage the High Mother's palace on her way out. She arrived at Serah's location ready to do battle – she had enemies even on Cocoon – although part of her wondered just how her sister had managed to get into trouble this time. Serah was supposed to be at home with Aerith where the two of them would be safe, and Fang was supposed to be watching them.
However, her concern faded as she realised the exact nature of the predicament that Serah and Aerith were in. Instead, she could only give a deep sigh. She really should have expected something like this. Whenever the two young goddesses weren't in trouble, they seemed to find it for themselves.
"It would seem that I have something that belongs to you." Vincent's small smile was almost mocking as he lifted Serah and Aerith into the air. They looked almost like kittens, Lightning thought, dangling as they were by the backs of their tunics.
Rather than give the two miscreants the dignity of having their feet back on the ground, Lightning simply took them from Vincent and slung them over her shoulders like sacks of potatoes. They had disobeyed her orders to remain at home, and for this some sort of punishment was necessary.
"What have they done this time?" Lightning asked. Lightning would always be grateful to Aerith for befriending Serah. However, she refused to be grateful for all the mischief that the two got up to. Lightning liked to think that it was Fang's fault, since the goddess of the wind seemed to delight in all the chaos, and more than once, she had caught her helping Aerith and Serah plan their little pranks.
Vincent looked toward his mansion. "They attacked me with a plant."
"A plant?" Lightning asked. "How exactly did they attack you with a plant."
"I turned one of his roses into a giant carnivorous plant." Aerith giggled. "Then he blew it up."
"I see." Lightning glanced at the young goddess she'd thrown over her left shoulder. Lightning had spent some time observing mortal customs, and it was not unusual for mortal parents to take their children over their knee and spank them as a means of enforcing discipline. At this rate, she might be forced to do the same, although a part of her was mildly impressed that Aerith's powers had progressed to the point that she could turn a rose into a giant carnivorous plant. Certainly, the High Mother would be intrigued. "In the future, Aerith, you would do well to remember that you are expected to behave in a manner befitting a goddess. That means you do not attack other gods with giant carnivorous plants." She nodded at Vincent. "I will see to it that it does not happen again."
And with that, Lightning returned to her home. The instant, she stopped, Aerith scrambled off her shoulder and ran full speed toward the library. No doubt, she could tell how much trouble she was in. Serah, however, was slow to climb off Lightning's shoulder, and the younger goddess turned her gaze to the ground as she waited for Lightning's lecture. Fang was in charge of Aerith's discipline, but Serah's was left to Lightning.
Lightning looked down at her sister. It was easy to forget sometimes that amongst the gods, Serah was still only a child. Yet there were already great expectations of her. Many of the gods were convinced that Serah would one day join Lightning in the service of the High Mother, and they expected Serah to have the same stern yet regal bearing as Lightning. But that was not what Lightning wanted. Serah would never be happy doing the things that Lightning had to do, and she would never be happy trying to act like Lightning did.
"I'm sorry." Serah kept her gaze on the ground. "I know you warned me not to get into trouble again, but I did, and I ended up having to call you. You were in a meeting with the High Mother, right? I hope she wasn't angry."
Lightning sighed and lifted Serah's chin. "You may always call me when you are in trouble, and you need not worry, the High Mother was not angry." She smiled faintly. "Now go, Aerith will most likely be lonely in the library, and I can scarcely imagine what new terror she is dreaming up on her own."
Serah blinked. "You're… you're not mad? You're not going to lecture me?"
"I have given you enough lectures." Lightning's lips twitched. "No doubt, you have memorised most of them by now." Serah's face flushed, and Lightning knew that she had spoken truly. "I know how persuasive Aerith can be, but you would be wise to talk some sense into her – though that may be a task beyond any of us."
Serah smiled brightly and turned to go. "Thank you, sister. I'll do my best."
"One more word of advice, Serah." Lightning's expression grew serious. "Next time do not get caught, and if you and Aerith are determined to befriend Vincent then you might wish to brush up on your philosophy. If you can impress him with your intellect he might – might – see you as something other than annoying."
Serah nodded and then ran off giggling, most likely to find Aerith's and some books on philosophy. Alone in the courtyard, Lightning almost chuckled. The two younger goddesses would drive Vincent mad once they started spouting philosophy. She supposed it served him right. Regardless of what she had done, no one was allowed to lay a hand on Serah but her.
"You are getting soft." Fang landed in the courtyard and gave Lightning a lazy grin. "The Lightning I am used to would have banished them both to their chambers without a second thought."
Lightning scowled. "You were supposed to be watching them, Fang."
Fang sighed dramatically. "Alas, they escaped without my knowledge. I have been searching for them with all my power."
"Really?" Lightning fought the urge to roll her eyes. "I doubt that those two could have gotten even a few steps without you knowing they were gone. Most likely, you wanted to see what new mischief they could come up with."
Fang smirked. "Well, I will not deny it was entertaining. I wish you could have seen the plant – it was really quite impressive, and Vincent even looked a little surprised for a moment. I had begun to believe he only had the one expression."
Lightning turned on her heel. "Typical. Well, since you are here, we might as well spar. I have another task ahead of me, and I want my skills to be as sharp as possible." She paused for a moment as the sounds of Serah and Aerith's laughter wafted through the house. "Or perhaps we could go to the library."
Fang hid a smirk. "Of course. We can always spar later." Lightning's residence had always been so cold and silent before Serah's arrival. It was nice to see that some things could change, and she could only hope they never changed back.
X X X
As always I neither own Final Fantasy, nor am I making any money off this.
One of the comments that I often receive with regards to Whispers of the Gods is whether I will be expanding on what happened during Lightning's time with first the original Serah and then Averia. Naturally, I will, but only to a certain extent. As it is, the story is already quite long, and going into great depth on two additional lifetimes of experience (literally centuries) is just not going to work.
However, the thought of going into more detail does have its own appeal, and this side story (or side stories if this ends up working) is an attempt to compromise. You don't need to read this story to understand Whispers of the Gods (certainly, how Lightning feels about Serah is already obvious enough in the main story), but if you're curious and want some slice-of-life style insight into what Lightning and Serah got up to during that first lifetime, then this is something you might enjoy. You'll notice too that the tone of the story is a little different (i.e., not as sad as Whispers of the Gods). Remember, in this chapter, Lightning isn't looking back on what's happened – she doesn't yet know how badly things are going to turn out, although I suppose that's sad in a way too.
The title of the chapter is a reference both to Vincent's comment (when he is handing Serah and Aerith to Lightning) and to how possessive Lightning feels about Serah.
As always I appreciate feedback. Reviews and comments are welcome.