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- "It's not a question of can or can't. There are some things in life you just do."
- —Lightning to Hope, Final Fantasy XIII
Lightning is the main protagonist of Final Fantasy XIII and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII and secondary protagonist of Final Fantasy XIII-2. She is a young woman, who seeks happy life for her and her sister, Serah. In the beginning of original game she joins the Purge train into Hanging Edge to save Serah from fal'Cie.
Lightning's real name is Claire. She has younger sister named Serah being her only family as their parents died in unknown way. The reason why Claire changed her name is that "she thought that by changing her name she could change who she had been".
In the beginning of her journey she joins the Purge in order to save Serah from the fal'Cie Anima who imprisoned her within Bodhum Vestige. Due to her rather hot-headed nature, and to some extent – Serah, she along her companions are branded Pulse l'Cie, enemies of Cocoon. Their Focus, mission of sorts, includes Ragnarok, a being that nearly destroyed Cocoon five hundred years before the events of the game. As they travel through the lands of Cocoon, Lightning starts to develop complex emotions and affection towards Hope Estheim. Then they manage to meet with Barthandelus, fearsome Sanctum fal'Cie, who tells them about their Focus – destruction of their homeland. While traveling with her companions across the lowerworld hoping to find a way to remove the l'Cie brands they end up at Vanille and Fang's hometown which within five hundred years turned into a dead town with wandering Cie'th. There they face Barthandelus once again who speaks of the turmoil in Cocoon and leaves them afterwards with an airship. Once they reach Eden, they discover that Barthandelus released Pulsian monsters in order to kill every human and open the gate into the Unseen World. In the center of Cocoon's source of the fal'Cie power, Lightning and her companions find Barthandelus and Orphan whom they fight. After the fal'Cie are defeated, Cocoon starts to fall and Vanille and Fang sacrifice theirselves in order to become Ragnarok and create crystal pillar stopping the floating shell's crash-landing.
After saving Cocoon she sets on a journey intending to find a way to release Fang and Vanille from crystal stasis, however she ends up finding herself in Valhalla protecting the goddess Etro, the maintainer of timeline, from Caius Ballad. Her long absence leads to a common belief that she is crystallized in the crystal pillar along with Vanille and Fang, however, Serah refuses to accept it and teams up with mysterious man named Noel and starts to search for the lost Lightning. However, due to futility of fighting Caius, and the memorable reunion with Serah's soul in Valhalla after she died at the end of her quest to save the future, she gives up on fighting and turns into crystal to preserve her sister's memories till the end of time.
Five hundred years later, Lightning wakes up in the new world, Nova Chrysalia, created after time was erased and Valhalla merged with Gran Pulse. She is then tasked by another deity, Bhunivelze with the task of the savior who has to guide lost souls to the new world which will be created after Nova Chrysalia ceases to exist within thirteen days. During the final days, Lightning is able to put her friends' souls to rest with the help delivered by Hope Estheim from the Ark. During that time, she is frequented by a mysterious young girl named Lumina, who resembles her dead sister and talks with encryptic tone about Hope and Bhunivelze. During her quest she also slowly learns about the god's real plans. On the final day after the ritual meant to remove memories of the dead fails, Bhunivelze appears and captures Lightning's friends. She learns the truth about Lumina and decides to kill Bhunivelze in which she succeeds with the help of her friends and the humanity.
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- Main article: /Beyond the Void
Lightning makes a minor cameo appearance in ObstinateMelon's Final Fantasy VII comic where she and Sazh appear preparing to fighting against the Guard Scorpion. When Cloud pushes her out of the frame she voices her concern about her Focus. Barret also notes how Cloud's doppelganger is female, a common comparison between fans.