Final Fantasy XIII Extended
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII begins with Lightning being woken from crystal stasis by the god Bhunivelze after 500 years. The world is set to end in 13 days, and to this end, Lightning is made the saviour, a figure who will free the souls of humanity from the burdens on their hearts and guide them to a new world that Bhunivelze will create once the 13 days are up.
Lightning undertakes this task to rescue and ensures the rebirth of Serah’s spirit. Hope acts as her guide from the Ark, which houses the rescued souls of humanity: Bhunivelze chose him and changed his physical form to his 14-year-old self from XIII. As she journeys and performs her task, she encounters her former allies and adversaries, many of whom now carry heavy emotional burdens. She is also followed about by Lumina, who both gives her advice and taunts her at regular intervals.
In Luxerion, Lightning investigates a series of murders where all the victims match the physical description of the saviour. During her journey, she is followed by Noel, who has become obsessed with a prophecy that he must kill Lightning to realize a better world and reunite with Yeul. The two briefly ally to rout the Children of Etro, responsible for the murders, then later do battle.
Lightning uses Noel’s rage to make him realize and accept his mistakes, lifting his burden. After this, she meets up with Vanille in the Order’s cathedral. Vanille shows Lightning a place within the cathedral where the souls of the dead have gathered. Vanille is being prepared for a ritual to take place on the final day that will apparently purify the souls.
She hopes to atone for past actions by doing so. In the Dead Dunes, Lightning encounters Fang and goes with her on a journey through the region’s dungeons in search of a relic called the Holy Clavis. When they find it, Fang reveals that it is key to the ritual in Luxerion as it has the power to draw in the souls of the dead and that the ritual will kill Vanille.
Fang attempts to destroy the relic, but the forces of the Order arrive and take it. On the eleventh day, the souls of the dead speak to Lightning through the visage of Cid Raines, a man Lightning encountered during XIII.
He tells her that the Order has deceived Vanille and plans to sacrifice her to destroy the dead, so the living will forget their existence and be ‘purified’ for rebirth in the new world. Lightning decides to stop the ritual, though Cid warns her that she will be defying Bhunivelze’s will.
In the Wildlands, Lightning saves a white chocobo called the “Angel of Valhalla” from monsters and nurses it back to health. The chocobo is revealed to be Odin, one of the Eidolon race who acted as her ally in XIII. She encounters Sazh, whose son Dajh has fallen into a coma and become unwilling to wake because of his father’s current state.
Lightning retrieves the fragments of Dajh’s soul, lifting Sazh’s emotional burden and waking his son. Traveling to the ruins of Valhalla, Lightning encounters Caius and multiple versions of Yeul. After fighting with Caius, Lightning learns that he has become tied to life by the Yeuls and thus cannot be saved.
She also learns that it was Yeul’s perpetual rebirth that caused the Chaos to seep into the mortal world and trigger the events of XIII-2. Encountering Mog as the leader of a moogle village, she helps him fend off attacking monsters. In Yusnaan, Lightning infiltrates Snow’s palace and finds him preparing to enter a concentration of Chaos contained inside the palace.
He plans to absorb the Chaos, transform into a Cie’th, and have Lightning kill him. Though he performs the act and they fight, Lightning manages to renew his hope of seeing Serah again, reverse his transformation and lift his burden. On Nova Chrysalia’s final day, Hope reveals to Lightning that Bhunivelze used him to watch over Lightning and that the deity will dispose of him now that his task is completed.
After Hope disappears, Lightning is transported to Luxerion and enters the cathedral, where Noel, Snow and Fang help her fight the Order to save Vanille. Lightning manages to convince her to free the souls of the dead. This act allows Lightning to find Serah’s soul, kept hidden inside Lumina to keep it safe, but Bhunivelze arrives using Hope as his host and captures everyone but Lightning.
Transported to an otherworldly realm, Lightning meets Bhunivelze in person and learns that he has been conditioning Lightning to replace Etro. After wounding the god in battle, she frees Hope and prepares to become the new goddess and protect the new world by trapping herself and Bhunivelze in the Unseen Realm.
An illusion of Serah then confronts Lightning, revealing Lumina as the physical manifestation of Lightning’s suppressed vulnerabilities. Accepting Lumina as a part of herself, Lightning calls for aid. Hope, Snow, Noel, Vanille, Fang and the Eidolons answer her call, and they sever Bhunivelze’s hold on the souls of humanity, including Sazh, Dajh, Mog, and a revived Serah. The souls then unite and defeat Bhunivelze.
In the aftermath, Caius and the multiple versions of Yeul choose to remain in the Unseen Realm and protect the balance between worlds in Etro’s stead. The final incarnation of Yeul, who alone wishes for a new life, is allowed to accompany Lightning and her friends. After the Eidolons and Mog depart for the Unseen Realm, Lightning, her allies, and the souls of humanity travel to a new world, which turns out to be Earth, where they can decide their own fate.
In a post-credits scene, Lightning is seen in normal clothes arriving in a rural town, going to reunite with one of her friends.