Prologue

My breathing was jagged, my eyes burned as wind and raindrops buffeted my face.

Fast, Serah!

Go faster!

That was all I could think of as I ran with the dagger my boyfriend gave me clasped in my hand. He was in trouble, all because of me once again. Trouble always seemed to find me, he knew that.

I knew that.

I tripped on my long blue dress dirtied with mud. Stinging pain shot up my body as water ran over my scraped knees. Hands on the mud, I mustered some strength to get up. Pain shot up my left arm this time, my wrist hurt. My dark brown hair fell long past my shoulders, it was covered in leaves and filth. I got up ignoring the pain with much effort, ragged my dress to make it shorter and continued to run.

"Please be alright! Please, please be alright." I repeated in my head over and over again. Takeshi couldn't have allowed me to help him right? He just had to take this new enemy on his own. "You don't make things fair, Phoenix."

I followed a golden trail. Not a physical, tangible one. No, I followed his aura. A fading trail remained of it, the closer I got the brighter it turned. I saw him, the source of radiant gold in the distance. The ball of liquid, yellow fire pulsed. Its intensity wavered and lit up time and time again. He was still fighting, fiercely at that, a grey ball of aura. The grey source didn't pulse. It might be because the stranger lacked the ability to use life energy. Or perhaps his power was so great he didn't grow tired from using that sort of magic.

I made my way through the woods and finally happened about the pair of men exchanging blows in the middle of a clearing. Takeshi, the last prince of the Phoenix, was a rather handsome young man, even under all the blood and dirt he was in now. His peachy skin was stained with mud and blood, scratched and torn at places. His suit had basically been almost completely torn to shreds, leaving him with nothing to cover his bare chest and enough of his once long pants to call shorts. His golden nutmeg colored hair was dripping water and I pictured the contrast it made with his shining golden eyes staring mercilessly at his enemy. Despite the eerie red glow intense bloodlust gave it, his usually radiant golden aura had dimmed down quite a lot. Of course, right now his usually shimmering eyes were probably filled with red rage that would only be put out by an opponent's defeat.

The man who opposed the prince was shrouded in darkness. He wore a veil over himself, only his bulky shape and height were discernible. Whoever this guy was, he meant business… business he was dealing with nicely because my Takeshi was gushing life energy from one of his sides. If I could see him closer, I'd probably realize he was bleeding out.

"Stop it!" I screamed holding up the dagger with both hands. "It's me you want leave him alone!"

"Serah what are you doing?! I told you to jump back to the ruins!" Takeshi backed away from the man dressed in black and ran to my side not taking his eyes off his opponent. "You're the last person that should be hurt at the moment, you're the princess! Please let me do my job, let me keep you safe!"

"You can't protect me if you're fucking dead you dipshit!" No time for manners, I had to get my point through to him. "Your aura pulses, his doesn't. Don't think I don't know you're hurt because you're leaking life energy out. All the cards are against you, let me help you."

At the moment I was sure Takeshi bit his lower lip. My boyfriend stood between me and the enemy taking my words into account. He had to know. There wasn't really a choice.

"Serah, please…"

The enemy didn't wait for us to finish talking; he lashed out aiming at me with his pale silver bladed katana. Takeshi stopped him with his own sword, his arms trembled under the pressure the man exerted over the blade.

"Takeshi you piece of human trash!" I exclaimed and dabbed at the man. My eyes glowed red, my blood boiled inside my veins and everything seemed to slow down. I could do anything right now… if, and only if, I knew how to fight properly.

Takeshi backed out as I took on the man myself, the small dagger he gave me for protection being my only weapon. I danced with the man giving him my best. Goddammit, my wrist hurt, my knees bothered me. I had to keep going, I had to win.

But I never got to win at anything. Not without losing a great amount of things I cared about.

Sloppy. My moves were too sloppy and my attacks too predictable even at my speed. The shadow man observed, he learned. And just like that, winning became rather impossible.

"Serah!" Takeshi called my name as I barely managed to block the man's katana as it threatened to slash my head clean off.

The force with which the blades connected sent me crashing into a nearby tree. I hit my head hard, hot liquid treading down the back of my neck and down my cheeks. My Blood Eyes reached their limit, my eyes turned back to normal while tears of blood rushed down my face. Amidst my blurred red vision I saw Takeshi standing before me again.

"Hey bastard!" No, let me recover. It's just a bump in the head. Takeshi don't do anything stupid. "I'd love to know what the hell is your goal. I guess I'll never find out!"

Takeshi you fucking dipshit! You're bleeding out!

My boyfriend engaged with the shadow man once again. I was still having a hard time getting my shit together, but I had to. Takeshi was going to get killed. I couldn't allow that!

"Oh I have a reason," The shadow man's voice was contorted, choppy. I wasn't sure if the hit on my head was playing tricks on me or if the man truly spoke that way. "I wasn't really after the princess though, I hope this makes it obvious."

"What…?" I mumbled finally managing to get the fuck on my feet. The man seemed to be going for my life again but Takeshi fended him off. Not after me? What the fuck?

Takeshi's aura flickered.

Something was wrong. The man took hold of his neck, Takeshi's movements were completely restrained. His aura… what the fuck, it was all grey? That should be impossible!

"Don't you fucking dare!" I screamed. God give me time, please give me time. Serah, just put one foot in front of the other. Stab this bitch in the face!

The shrouded man seemed to look at me through the veil of shadows that concealed his every feature before he drove his katana straight through Takeshi's chest.

"Game over, little princess." Takeshi's body hit the floor, his golden aura, now back to its normal shade, quickly fading away.

Everything shattered. Restraints, self-control.

The world mattered not. Everything was stained in bright red. All I could think of was this shadow man's entrails decorating every inch of my surroundings.

No longer hurt, no longer tied to silly mortal limitations, I straightened up and screamed. I held my dagger as strong as I could and dabbed at my enemy once more, this time in a fit of pure irrational anger.

"DISSAPEAR!" I commanded, the wind and rain stopped while lightning struck close to the shrouded man. No amount of light helped me see how he truly looked like, he was but a mere shadow with form. Oh, but I knew shadows could be vanquished. "YOUR TIME IS UP."

Lightning struck again, a booming explosion took place. This time, I was sure I landed a shot on the man. I didn't stop there, the heavens heard my will and did as I saw fit. Lighting struck the place the shadow man had once stood five more times before all went calm. My anger sizzled down, my body heavy with exhaustion. Not yet, I could not afford to lose consciousness yet. I stretched my aura sensory for miles. The man was very much gone, not a trace remained.

I made my way to Takeshi, he lay on the ground a large puddle of blood around him. He was bleeding out too quickly, too much for me to control. I pressed my hands over the wound, I knew it wouldn't do anything but fuck! I wanted it to work! Takeshi needed a healer, something I was not. With the little strength he had in him he rose his hand to hold mine.

"Serah, it's alright..." Not it's not! I thought while a void opened up in my chest. "…we all die… sooner or later."

"Yes, just not now fucking dipshit. You can't leave me, we are the last of the clan… you have to stay..." I held his hand and he smiled warmly. However could he do that in the most hopeless of times never failed to surprise me. "Takeshi, please… just hold on a little longer and I can get you help."

"Sorry…if only…I had been in top shape… this wouldn't be happening…ah…your hands are warm." I took him into my arms and held him hoping that maybe this was all a nightmare. Shit, I wished that any moment now, I would wake up and he would be beside me healthy and well. That I'd try to dissuade him from holding me so tight overnight and he'd reply with a sarcastic comment about how clingy I truly was. "You're so warm Serah…hey…I have something to tell you…"

"Yeah? What is it?" I was going to break, my voice was coming out as some sort of miracle since a knot on my throat threatened to leave me out of air. "Takeshi?"

Deep pools of gold locked onto my eyes. He grinned and tears ran down his cheeks. And then he exhaled and his body turned limp in my arms. I called to him, he wouldn't move, he didn't respond. I stopped breathing for a full minute before I pressed my forehead to his and cried in silence. My muffled cries echoed across the forest, interrupting the now silent night. He was gone, my last friend on Iris had died.

As proper to a Phoenix, they were to turn to ash. His body started glowing gold… the color of his flame. Like stars, small pieces of him started floating in the air, dust specs. I held him as his body burned, as it turned to stars to join the Life Net. Before I knew it I held only his tattered clothes, staring at his ashes as they floated away towards the infinite night sky.

"Goddess, what am I supposed to do now?" I spoke knowing well my voice would be heard. "Everyone is gone."

My bracelet, a golden trinket adorned with ancient language symbols glowed brightly. I acknowledged this as my answer. I looked at the coding the symbols formed and failed to recognize the place they aligned for. Shitty Destiny must've been brewing a new mission for me.

"Oh no, I'm not doing this for you anymore, not without a reason!" My bracelet grew warm while I pointed at the heavens angrily. "Come the fuck down here and talk to me, you bitch!"

And just like that a portal opened beneath my feet, I fell down screaming insults. A few seconds of being nowhere and then I was falling through tree branches. I tried to hold onto something all in vain. My body was too weak, I had surprised myself by being able to stay awake as long as I had. The last thing I saw was a ceiling full of leaves as my body hit the ground with a loud thud.


Two months had quickly gone by since Takeshi's death. I found myself staring out blankly at a city as I sat on the border of a very tall cliff. Everything around me was forest safe for that circular place, surrounded by tall solid walls.

"Have you finally decided to find out why you're here?" I was a little surprised by the sudden interruption of silence. Behind me stood Andree wearing his preoccupied-parent face. "You can't hide with us forever you know?"

"I might've tried," I replied and stood up shaking the dirt off my clothes. "I'll go, I'm sure I'll find an idea as to why I'm here if I go to that village… I'll find you again if I don't."

Andree's lips curled to form a fox smile. I found it cute how his jet-black, slanted eyes closed shut when he smiled. I sighed and tied my long hair into a high ponytail, the dark green cape that covered my pair of khaki shorts and black fishnet shirt falling back to reveal my outfit and Takeshi's dagger hanging from my buckle. Andree got closer to pat me on the head, he was taller than me by a whole foot and he loved to keep his jaw-length, black hair untied.

With his pale skin and his usual pick of dark clothing, Andree would easily be confused with some sort of thug… and then you'd turn to his brighter and livelier partner Louis. Although I was pretty sure Louis was a guy, I came to be surprised a few days back when I caught him without his bright red cloak. Louis was actually a really pretty lady with short reddish brown hair and round, bright green eyes. She had manly mannerisms but under her cloak she hid many curves to make up for her lack in breasts. Though concealing most of her skin, her clothes stuck to her and under her cloak she'd wear a bright colored turtle neck and a matching pair of long pants. She told me she just didn't mind being referred to as a guy so she didn't feel any need to assert her gender.

This odd couple had found me unconscious in the middle of nowhere and they had decided to do the right thing and save my teenage butt. After being unconscious for two weeks, I finally woke up with a terrible headache and a world of hunger. Louis and Andree helped me recover and for over a month I had been traveling with them. They were mercenaries, I hadn't gotten to see them in real action but I had gotten around to patching them up a few times. Andree found me toying with the dagger Takeshi had given me one day and asked if I knew how to use it. With my answer being something along the lines of yes but no, he took it unto himself to teach me a few things. So, if they didn't have big game to catch, I'd go along with them instead of waiting at camp. Whenever I went along, we caught a few burglars, recovered some missing things and even scooped up intel. The interrogative as to why I was here, in this dimension specifically, remained unanswered.

Incapable of jumping back to Old Iris thanks to my mean to rip a hole in space-time being disabled, I found myself stranded in this dimension. Better yet, I had no clue as to what I had to do to regain my rights to jump from the Goddess. I would have given more shits about it if it weren't for the fact I actually didn't give a single fuck about my duty at the present moment. The last, living heir of the Phoenix who held a flame would be me. That's right, the honorary member who had nothing to do with the clan was all that remained. What was there for me to protect? Two rocks that remained where the Phoenix Capital stood? Boo hoo.

What made me care? Ha! Well, last night I had a dream with the Goddess. She told me I could find one reason as to why I was here at a nearby village. Although I wanted to laugh at her and avoid going anywhere near the place she had mentioned, I processed I was only running away. Two months had gone by since Takeshi passed away. His death marked as the fifth amongst the members of our reformed Phoenix clan. There were still two more aside myself who lived. Finding them might help to figure out this whole mess. Maybe that was what I was doing here, Luna and Daniel could be here and I would have been reckless enough to ignore the Goddess. So I decided, I'd find out why I was here and I'd get over Takeshi's death just like I had in the past with my other friends.

"Don't get into trouble, play it safe." Andree had managed to befriend me faster than Louis, if that wasn't obvious, and as such I had told him what had happened to me. He wasn't surprised and as such he didn't mind me sticking around. "I mean it Serah, keep your head low. You don't know who is looking for the last Princess of the Phoenix"

"Right, tell Louis I said goodbye…" I hugged Andree before I simply stepped back and picked up my satchel from the nearby bush I had placed it by. "I'll keep in touch."

I smiled and dropped down from the cliff doing my utter best to keep my body as close to the wall as possible.

"Dammit, Serah don't give people heart attacks like that!" Andree had run to the edge, although he usually kept his cool, his older brother nature kicked in whenever Louis or I did something really crazy. I looked up from the path carved out of the cliff I had fallen on to not far below the edge and waved goodbye at him. Off I went. The path I was on would sure lead to the village one way or another. Forced or not, it was about time I started on a new journey.

Since this is a new start I should introduce myself properly.

I am Serah Rose, last Princess of Black Flame, heir to the throne of the Phoenix. I also happen to have saved a world from certain doom a couple of months back, not for free may I add. A Goddess, Destiny, bestowed upon me the power to cross dimensions and the last spark of the Phoenix's Black Flame. My duty in exchange for this honor was to serve her as a protector of balance. I thought it'd be nice and then it wasn't. A new path was laid out in front of me and as long as I still lived, I had to serve the Goddess.

So, what kind of fucked up challenge are you gonna make me bear this time, Destiny?