Vanille sat on her bed, staring at the broken pieces of glass on the floor. The scattered images she'd painted over so many weeks, cut into fractions of what they once were.

Her world was gone – she knew that now. But what about everyone else? Were they here, on Gaia? Or could they be somewhere else? She remembered travelling and laughing with the others. They traveled to that new world, the one without fal'Cie. One without the God of Light.

"This isn't fair," muttered Shinra, tied up as he was on the other side of the room. Vanille could swear his hair grew a couple of inches since she last saw him – it reached his shoulders now.

Trey shook his head. "If you cannot control yourself, then you must be controlled."

"Cut the crap with your ultimatums!" Shinra struggled against his bonds. "You guys took everything from me!"

Vanille shivered at the memory of cold running down her spine and confusion clouding her mind. She remembered a vast darkness that reached out for her, uninhabited by even the faintest light. And then…

"Credrayt! I'll have you in pieces when we're done!"

Trey snapped his head Shinra's way. "Such appalling language, and yet you hold no power anymore with which to threaten – you should watch who you target with your animosities."

"And you should stop pretending your speeches will earn you any friends! You have, what, maybe one? At most?"

"Juvenile behavior will earn you nothing. It is merely the sign of a weak mind trying to apply itself forcefully."

"Oh, kinda like your mom?"

Trey paused. "My mother's business is none of yours. Why can't you act a little more sensibly?"

"Only if you untie me! I'm just a kid, you know! This is really over the top!"

Vanille squinted her eyes shut and covered her ears. She thought of the images of herself that plagued her trip, the voice that sounded like hers but the reasoning belonged to someone else. Something other.

A knock came at the door and Trey called, "Who would enter?"

"Only the most important man in Gaia!" came Zidane's voice.

Vanille stood to open it, but Trey moved faster. Past the door stood Zidane with crossed arms and a frown. "Where's Vani-? Geez, what happened to this place?"

She came over and Zidane cast Trey an aghast look. "You're the guy that's been harassing her?"

"No, I-"

Zidane threw a punch and caught Trey in the cheek.

"Wait!" Vanille shoved her way between them. "He's not what you think!"

"But Freya said-"

Vanille scrambled for a response. "She misunderstood!"

"Damn." Trey wiped blood from his nose. "That hurt."

Vanille cast him a look. "I thought you were a god?"

"Not yet." Trey groaned and took a towel from the wash basin to apply to his face. "I can't stay dead, but I'm not… well, immortal, yet."

"Sounds like a load of crap to me!" Zidane took a step forward and Vanille repositioned herself to stay in his way. "What lies are you selling her, huh? Vanille, you realize his goal probably isn't what you think!"

Bit her lip. "I don't think that's quite how this works."

"It is!" Shinra called from the back. "Look what he did to me!"

Zidane froze. "Why is there a tied-up kid in here?"

"That's what I'm wondering!" Shinra cast Trey a look. "See? This isn't cool."

"Stop talking." Trey wiped the rest of the blood from his face and a crunch sounded. He touched his nose. "Ah. Much better. Now, as I was saying-"

"I don't belong on Gaia," Vanille blurted. "That's the short of it. Could you have a seat?"

Zidane's brow furrowed. "I don't get it."

Vanille gestured. "I'll explain."

"Fine." He did as told. "Kinda miss sitting on the ground like this. There are too many chairs in the castle."

"What?"

"Nothing." Zidane looked at Trey. "You told her she was an alien?"

"Not quite." Trey leaned against the counter. "The exact nature of her advent is a little more complicated than that. She was born on Gaia IX-"

"Nine?"

"-But she doesn't belong here." Trey shook his head. "She originally comes from a planet known as Gran Pulse, but its fate has been long since decided. Were a space farer to go looking, they would find only dust and debris lost to the expanse. One of many, she has been redirected from her course of direction to find a temporary home instead of the cold emptiness of the void. My job in coming here is to remedy such and-"

"I caused the earthquake." Vanille watched Zidane's expression. "And I'll cause more if I stay."

His eyebrows raised and he squeezed his lips together. "Oh."

Vanille brushed her hand through conjured, imaginary grass and closed her eyes for the motion. The dew itself seemed to smell just a little different from what it was back home, on Gran Pulse. Perhaps because of the background scent of wood?

"You see that I don't belong here." She shivered in the ghost of an early morning breeze. "And I never have."

"That's debatable." Vanille opened her eyes to see Zidane kneeling beside her, eyes intent on the ground. "I mean, out here? Locked away in some inn in Alexandria? Maybe not."

"That's not what I meant." She sat back and rubbed her arms. "Trey is right."

"You realize I didn't start here, either." He looked up at her and she missed his trademark grin. "I mean, I'm from Terra, you know? A whole other planet. Same place as Mikoto and the rest. Same place as Kuja. Does that mean I don't belong here?"

"But you haven't hurt anyone-"

Zidane laughed, loud and clear, and threw his legs out in front of him. Leaned back on his hands. "I mean, do you have any idea what my purpose was in coming to Gaia?"

"Not this again." Trey touched a hand to his temple.

"I was supposed to kill people." Zidane waved a hand about them. "A lot of people. Garland wanted me to be his Angel of Death or some other nonsense. If it wasn't for the people around me, I would have done at least as much damage as Kuja!"

"On a technicality," Trey muttered. "But fate was designed such that-"

"Yeah, screw fate!" Zidane jumped to his feet. "Lindblum or Alexandria, East Continent or West Continent, Gaia or Terra, none of that matters! It's about the people, the friends you make! Your family. Dagger, Tantalus, and everyone… It's about who matters to you. If it wasn't for my friends, neither myself or a lot of people on this planet would still be here!"

"He's got a point," muttered Shinra.

Zidane turned to Vanille. "You get to choose what – and who – matters to you. If you decide on something, stick to it. Brainstorm, Vanille. What matters to you? Where do you feel like you belong?"

"Where?" She closed her eyes and tried to remember her best moments. She remembered peace before becoming a l'Cie, but that was long gone. There was nothing there she would ever have again. Except…

An image came to mind. A memory of Gran Pulse after it emptied of human life. She remembered dozing in the shade, surrounded by friends. Fang, Sazh, and the others. She remembered the quiet chirping of Chocolina and her tiny body waddling along the ground. She remembered the whispering trees and the breeze on her skin. She remembered a sense of fear, but she didn't care so long as she kept close to her traveling companions.

"I have friends," Vanille said slowly, "from the place I came from. I don't know where they are, but I want to find them."

"There you go!" Zidane clenched a fist. "Make that your goal. Fight for it, and don't give in 'til you get it, okay? This isn't one of those times you can take no for an answer."

I have people I can count on.

There was no vision this time. No hallucination to remind her she might just be crazy. Just a pure memory, one of a girl far braver than Vanille had ever been.

"I'll make sure they know to avoid you."

Zidane finally brought his smile back. "Any pretty ones?"

"Yes." Vanille couldn't help a smile back. "They all are. But one of them is engaged and the other two are… difficult to get close to."

"We haven't retrieved Fang, yet," Trey said, "but Snow's back and they just retrieved Lightning not so long ago. My friend is talking to Sazh on his world as well. They're displaying much different symptoms in their memory and recollections, so I wouldn't expect-"

"Snow and lightning?" Zidane curled his lip as if tasting something unpleasant. "What is this, a weather report?"

"I know Snow," muttered Shinra. "Not that any of you care."

"The point is – there are some already waiting for you."

Vanille nodded. "Of course."

"If you've made up your mind, that's fine, but I'd kinda like to know who this guy is." Zidane pointed at Trey. "I don't like him."

"He's a…" Vanille frowned. "I don't know what exactly he is."

"An emissary to the goddess Mwynn." Trey pulled a blood-red jewel out of his pocket and it lit up in his hands. "One destined to overtake her power and inherit the responsibilities meant for management of the known universe. Together with my eleven brothers and sisters-"

Zidane whistled. "Big family."

Vanille stood. "I trust you. Where will you take me?"

"To Valhalla." Trey pocketed the jewel again. "But I'll have you forewarned, you may not return to this world for an extended period of time, assuming you return at all."

"Oh." Vanille swallowed. "I suppose I expected that, but…"

Zidane took her hand. "You'd better make time to visit anyway."

She gave him a smile. "Of course, I will. I'll miss all you guys – tell Garnet that she's a lucky woman."

Zidane scratched at his head with one hand. "I doubt the message carries the same meaning if I say it."

"Then I'll find time to give it, myself." Vanille glanced around the room. She thought that maybe she should pack up what remained of her panes, but she also wondered if she would need them anymore. "Anything I should take with me?"

Trey shook his head. "Valhalla holds everything you need. Its mysteries expand beyond even my understanding, but its deposits of supplies and knowledge are quite incredible."

"Well, good luck." Zidane slapped her on the shoulder. "Hope you find what you're looking for and that we don't find you dead in a ditch somewhere."

Trey took a step towards the door.

"Time to go, then." Vanille left her bag and walked over to Trey. He nodded, and all three of them left the room.

"Wait!" came Shinra's cry. "Are you really just going to abandon me here?"

Trey came up short and groaned. "Alas. I shouldn't leave a child to starve." He turned around again and Zidane and Vanille descended the stairs alone.

"I'll clear your check for you," Zidane said as they entered the bottom floor. He wandered over to the counter. Vanille kept close.

"Thanks." She threw her arms around him. He chuckled and patted her on the back.

"I'll handle Blank and the rest. I know Alexandria owes Lindblum and we'll make it right, so don't worry about that, okay? Go find those people that matter to you."

She let go. "And you'll propose, won't you? I imagine Garnet's getting impatient."

He froze, cheeks flushing. "Right, uh, yeah." Zidane scratched at the back of his head. "Yeah. I'll, um, talk to her about it." He turned serious. "But don't forget us, alright? I bet Tantalus will welcome you back, whenever you want."

She nodded and turned to leave. "Promise."

Trey and Shinra finally joined them and Vanille left with the two, allowing one final wave to Zidane. Outside, the sun shone bright despite a light and drizzling, summer rain. Trey explained that the gate was near Burmecia and they headed out for the airport.

Shinra had to almost run to keep up, and his hands were still bound. "I hope you're not taking me to this afterlife place."

"We're returning you to your home on Spira." Trey didn't look at the kid. "Those who would care for you are worried."

"If you care so much, why do you treat me like a hostage?"

"Because otherwise you would run off again and get yourself killed."

"Aren't the flying people going to question it?"

"They might, but that's none of my concern."

"Here." Vanille hung back to keep in pace with Shinra. "I'll untie you – just stay close to me, alright?"

"Fine."


"Since you have accepted, you'll need to go through the process," Trey said, staring down at a book. Now that the visions were a little more under control, Vanille could see what looked like cracks in his image. He pretended to be stiff and stoic like some other people Vanille could name, but at least part of it had to be an act. She saw uncertainty behind his façade.

"Could you explain it one more time, please?" She took a seat at the bar of the airship, where she had come to join him after a few minutes of standing alone, watching takeoff. Shinra sat with them as well, nursing a glass of dark juice.

She had sent her goodbyes to Tantalus while above as well, having found a moogle happy to help. She couldn't be sure if she would ever see them again. That was probably for the best, since the letter would be a confusing one, at least when paired with the one she had sent when she thought she was going to go live as a hermit out in the country somewhere.

They were good friends and all, but they weren't… family.

"Mwynn requires a vessel to reside within. She will not take control of you, rather be a voice in your mind, and communicate through you." The ship's bar was fairly empty. Only a couple other people sat within thanks to the early hour.

"Sounds sketchy." Vanille glanced at the bottles behind the counter. She didn't recognize half of them, but if this was her last chance to try them, she wanted to take advantage. "Why can't she talk to you?"

"My peers and I are somewhat incompatible." Trey tapped the wood, frowning at the book. "For a variety of reasons."

Vanille frowned. "Have you eaten?"

Shinra perked up. "I haven't."

"I do not have the same requisites for my body that you do." Trey shook his head. "It would be a waste of your resources."

"So… no?" She grinned and waved for the bartender. "I'd like three pickles, please! Separate cups! And can I get mine with some of that white alcohol?"

Trey sighed, set the book down, and turned to face her. "It is the opinion of my peer that I should apologize," he said, leaning slightly against the bar. "I was… somewhat distracted. There's quite a bit to learn here."

Shinra looked up at him. "Shouldn't that be directed at me?"

"… It should." Trey scowled and looked away. "I got hasty."

"The hell you did." Shinra took a swig of his juice. "But I forgive you anyway."

Trey had told her about his line of communication to some friends of his, but she didn't understand it. Especially not with his… confusingly longwinded explanation. "You'll have to come back someday, then." Vanille handed over a few coins as the bartender placed the two glasses in front of her. She smiled, nodded in thanks, and passed one to Trey and one to Shinra.

Trey stared at his like it was poisonous. "Do you mean to imply that you accept our offer?"

"Yes." Vanille set her own pickle cup in one of the semi deep indents in the bar. With the turbulence of the air, there had to be something to stabilize objects like that. "I feel a little silly. I don't know you and just about anyone would have good reason to call you insane. Claiming you're from another world, and all. But…" She looked up at him and swallowed a lump in her throat. "It would be worth it to find my friends."

He held his pickle her way. "I will reiterate that I have no need of food or sustenance. Perhaps you should eat it before we abscond?"

"Do you not want it? I'm full, but I could eat it later, if you want."

Trey looked at it for another moment, stabbed it, and took a bite.

"So you can eat."

He finished chewing and swallowed before responding. "I can. It's simply that, for quite a while now, I've had no need."

"Can you taste it?" Vanille asked. "Was it good? How long has it been since you've eaten anything?"

He paused. "We are capable of taste. I found it to be relatively enjoyable, in that regard. I do not recall when I last consumed anything. In your time, I would, perhaps, assume either weeks or months." Trey adopted a thoughtful look as he bit down on the rest of the pickle. "Not since Eight found Snow at least, though time gets unreliable across this much space."

"SHINRA!" An inhuman shriek pierced the air and Vanille tapped at her head to get the ringing out.

A blonde girl barreled past them and slammed into Shinra. His head narrowly missed his glass and instead slammed into the bar surface.

"Shinra, where've you been? Your hair's out of control!"

Vanille took a moment to recover from her shock and take in the sight of the girl that whipped Shinra around to face her. The girl wore restrictive belts and a tough vest and piled her hair on her head with a haphazard cloth to hold it out of the way.

"I haven't missed your ugly face," Shinra muttered. He flushed at her attention, though he didn't fight it.

The girl pulled out scissors. "Paine! Paine, get in here! We found our lost party member!"

Another girl, this one with steel-grey hair and covered in black leather, joined with a "humph" sound and, "I was wondering how long it would take."

Vanille didn't miss the tiny, branching scars on the dark-clad girl that looked identical to Shinra's.

The blonde got to chopping off Shinra's hair on the spot. "We've been separated for only a few weeks, and you've gained five inches!" She groaned. "Why can't you take care of this like I told you to?"

"I was kind of busy." Shinra gave Vanille a meaningful look. "With them."

The girl looked up in the middle of her cutting and blinked at Vanille. "Oh."

"Oi." Paine kicked at the hair that started to carpet the wood below them. "You'll sweep this up, won't you?"

"Of course!" The blonde girl shot her friend a defensive look and returned to snipping. Shinra grumbled something under his breath. "When haven't I?"

Paine shrugged.

"Right." The girl finished and plopped down in the seat next to Vanille. She had bright green eyes with odd swirls in them, just like Shinra's, only a touch dimmer. "Did you say 'Snow?'"

Vanille leaned away from the sudden intrusion and Trey jumped to his feet. Shinra shook his head and got to cleaning up the mess that Rikku left behind.

Paine gave an exasperated sigh. "Try to keep yourself in check, Rikku."

Rikku directed her gaze to Trey. "You're a cosmic traveler for sure. I think I saw a friend of yours. He acted kinda like you and it doesn't fit in any better here than it does back home, you know."

"Have you now?" Trey spoke quietly, and his posture was rigid. "You're a traveler, yourself?"

"You betcha!" The girl grinned. "So, are you a number too? Like the other guy? I'll guess that you're more like a 'Five.'"

"It's Trey. And you're a Spiran."

"Al Bhed. But same difference, I suppose." The girl waved a hand and turned back to Vanille. "My name's Rikku. Nice to meet you!" She slapped Vanille's shoulder. "Is anyone here actually from this world?"

Trey shook his head.

"Great! Listen, miss pink hair." Rikku adopted a serious look again and gave Trey a dark glance. "If you're gonna go travelling, be careful. The universe isn't the safest place."

Trey sighed. "Believe me - we're quite aware."

"They're going after Mwynn," Shinra said. "We should follow them."

"Did you not want to avoid Valhalla?" asked Trey with an odd look Shinra's way. "Never mind – I can't allow you to go galivanting about like pups outside their home."

"Newsflash!" Rikku spun in her seat to face Trey head-on. "We're not going to be bossed around by the likes of you!"

"I would not 'boss around,' as you put it, I would exert the depths of my knowledge and expertise. If you would be so insolent as to dismiss my-"

"I would!" Rikku jumped to her feet. "I'm the most insolent person you'll find!"

"How quaint, for your ego to be so overdeveloped." Trey waved a hand. "I should have expected such from your world."

"Oh, you son of a–"

"Wait!" Vanille placed herself between them. "Do I have to do this every time?"

Rikku snarled. "I don't like this guy."

"The feeling is reciprocated."

"Your mom is reciprocated!"

"Guys!" Vanille waved her hands to remind them she was there. "I know you two don't like each other, but we're in this together, aren't we?"

"Maybe." Rikku folded her arms and took a step back. Trey reluctantly followed suit.

"You know someone like Trey?" Vanille asked. "On your world?"

"Yeah." Rikku plopped down in her seat again. "Ran off with a guy that apparently came from another world but grew up on mine. You know what that's like. You said his name a minute ago, too. Snow, right?"

"Yes!" Vanille bounced in place. "Snow Villiers!"

"I didn't know about his title." Rikku shook her head. "But he was pretty cool. Tidus knew him better than I did."

"We should go." Paine took up Shinra's arm and dragged him toward the door. "Rikku."

"Yeah, yeah." Rikku jumped to her feet again and gave Vanille a half-hearted wave. "See you again, maybe. Yo, Shinra, what happened to your eyes? Didn't I tell you about the whole sleeping thing?"

"You did, but I tuned you out for most of it."

Vanille watched them go and frowned. "I wonder what they're up to."

Trey shook his head. "They don't understand the powers in play. You'll find many like them, travelling the cosmos. They have various goals and thus I could not say what it is that they're looking for."

Vanille nodded slowly before she brought herself back to the present. "So, we're getting on a connecting flight in Lindblum, right? To Burmecia?"

"Correct. The gate is near the city."

A gate. Vanille hadn't really seen or used them, but she did remember them through the haze of a crystal dream. Serah and Noel danced in and out of them and for a split second, she could swear she saw the two phase through reality and out again.

"Excuse me." Vanille stood and left to find a quiet place on the ship. Trey let her go without a word.

There were no cabins, so she took to the deck and stood at the mostly-abandoned railing. Wind tossed her hair and whipped at her skirts and she found why most preferred to remain below decks. Over the rails, she made out the distant land below her, dotted with farmland and uninhabited wilderness broken only by the winding trading routes.

"You've been with me this whole time, right?" she asked no one.

As if summoned, her copy appeared in a quiet burst of light. "Of course."

Vanille licked dry lips and looked down. "You're Mwynn?"

"Yes." The copy leaned against the railing. "Or, what remains of her."

"You can bring my friends together again?"

"Not quite. But I guide Trey and his friends to do it in my place. My power is limited to vague influence now."

"Then… why me? Why should… why do the gods insist in disposable servants?"

"Not disposable." The copy turned to face her head-on. "My son has become twisted with time and power and he doesn't value that which he doesn't see. Truly, his children could see souls, but those of us more separated are blind."

"Yet you would fuse with mine?"

"I would." The copy took her hand. "Please – it is the only way. I won't last any longer if I don't bind myself and without me, then Zero will hold no power over Bhunivelze's encroaching corruption. His order and light are no longer the order and light that this universe needs, yet that is the end to which He was formed. It is my own fault and I would mend it for the sake of your existence."

Vanille struggled to breathe. "Will I feel the dead again?"

"No." Her copy straightened her back and lifted her chin. "This is a different sort of binding. You and I will become as one and our thoughts will merge until my presence fades completely and my power is fully allotted to my successors."

"Us?"

"Zero." Mwynn dropped her hand and looked toward the horizon. "To you and yours instead will be granted Bhunivelze's strayed power. You will have eternity to learn the ways of creation and to that end a once-mortal soul will be better attuned to the welfare of the cosmos. You will succeed Bhunivelze and consume His life."

Vanille's blood went cold. "You would have us take your place?"

"I would." Mwynn looked her in the eyes again and for a moment, Vanille saw eternity in those depths. "A pantheon formed of those closest-acquainted with the salvation of worlds and self-sacrifice is what all need at this time. But worry not. It will all be explained in time."

As she spoke, the copy's features fluctuated to show hints of a pale-faced and ghostly figure.

Vanille's mind swam with the words, yet she forced the words out all the same.

"I accept."


A/N: An~d there's Vanille. Stay tuned for the next bridge coming Monday, and then the next story starts Friday!