I can become the very first real journalist. I’ll be the star reporter who conducted her fieldwork without regard for the risk of being banished to Pulse, and reported on the truth behind the l’Cie incident and the Purge that has affected so many citizens!
Aoede is one of the main characters in a short story in the Final Fantasy XIII Ultimania Omega titled Final Fantasy XIII Gaiden Shōsetsu: Yumemiru Mayu, Akatsuki ni Otsu, and the central character in the novella titled Final Fantasy XIII: Reminiscence -tracer of memories- that acts as the epilogue to Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.
In Yumemiru Mayu, Akatsuki ni Otsu, Aoede is an aspiring journalist seeking to gain recognition who gets herself involved in the Purge and befriends NORA as she records the events that unfold around her. In Final Fantasy XIII: Reminiscence, Aoede is a reporter who departs on a journey after hearing about people having memories of "another world," as she does, wanting to learn more.
Aoede is described as a young woman with thick, glossy black hair who wears a pair of miniaturized camera goggles similar to glasses, a hat, and an advanced miniature microphone disguised as an accessory.
I’ll place my bets on that Hero of yours. Please, just let me go with you—with NORA.
Aoede is depicted as dissatisfied with the state of the news media in Cocoon and how the public never questions the Sanctum. She is shown to be perceptive as she questions everything the Purge involves. She appears assertive in her initial deductions about the Purge and acts smug as she records the Purgees, believing their display of emotion to be part of a performance. After the truth about the Purge is revealed, realizing the folly of her ways, Aoede becomes bewildered, fearful, and shameful of the way she looked upon the Purgees and only thought of herself. During her time with NORA, Aoede rediscovers perspective and insightful journalism. She becomes considerate of the feelings of those around her and wishes to enlighten the people of Cocoon to the tyranny of the Sanctum and the fal'Cie.
Aoede is an aspiring journalist with some experience as a regional video news reporter. She feels the news in Cocoon is never questioned, so she is waiting for the chance to capture footage for a report of her own that would invite criticism and allow people to make their own judgments. Her chance comes when the Sanctum announces the discovery of a Pulse fal'Cie within a vestige located in Bodhum, and initiates the Purge to remove anyone who may have been "tainted."
Contrary to the rest of Cocoon, Aoede questions everything about the Purge and doesn't believe it to be a forced migration to Pulse as the Sanctum proclaims. Making her way to the outer perimeter of the blockades placed around Bodhum, Aoede gathers bits of information that support her skepticism, such as members of the Sanctum, military, and their families being exempt from the Purge, and that tens of thousands of traceable restraint garments were made for the Purgees to wear, as though the Purge clothing was made in advance before the Sanctum's announcement. Aoede theorizes that the Purge was an elaborate ploy by the Sanctum to instill more fear of Pulse into the populace and maintain control over Cocoon. Believing that no one would be Purged, she fits herself with hidden cameras, sneaks into Bodhum, and boards a Purge train, hoping to make a documentary that would boost her reputation as a reporter.
Onboard the Purge train, Aoede secretly records the anger, fear, and despair of the Purgees. When the train comes to a halt at the Hanging Edge, Aoede discovers her hunch about the Purge was right, but also finds out the gruesome truth as chaos unfolds around her; an explosion sounds in the distance, the Purgees revolt against the PSICOM soldiers, taking their weapons and escaping. After removing her Purge clothing, Aoede leaves the train car and steps onto a skybridge, seeing the Hanging Edge turned into a warzone. She witnesses Sanctum attack ships directing their gunfire at the rebelling Purgees and realizes the Sanctum never intended to exile them from Cocoon, and that the Purge was a way to cover up their plot to take the supposedly tainted civilians to the restricted area and enact a concealed genocide.
Realizing her foolishness for plunging herself into the situation, Aoede can only stand in a daze and watch the carnage. An attack vessel locks on to her but she is moved out of the way before the pilot fires and she escapes with her saviors, the members of NORA. During their flight, Aoede sees the Pulse Vestige suspended beneath the Sanctum Skyfleet airship, the Palamecia. Aoede focuses her camera on the Vestige and records that NORA's leader Snow Villiers is heading towards it. With her will to live restored by Lebreau's confidence, Aoede asks NORA to let her go with them and they accept her into their group. From this point on, Aoede promises herself that she will record everything that happens. Even if she sacrifices herself in the name of journalism, there is the chance her footage will get circulated and serve to shatter the public's blind faith in the Sanctum.
As Aoede runs through the battlefield, a single thought comes to mind: the Sanctum must have known they wouldn't be able to hide the truth about the Purge, and Galenth Dysley and the other Sanctum leaders had already decided they didn't care about suffering a blow strong enough to overturn their authority, whether or not they succeed in strengthening the public's fear of Pulse. Aoede believes the Purge to be nothing more but the beginning of a huge conspiracy, one in which even more people will die, something that would make the Purge pale in comparison. Guided by NORA, Aoede and other surviving Purgees escape the battlefield and take refuge in a crevice in the ground.
After breaking through PSICOM's defenses, Aoede, NORA, and a portion of the surviving Purgees escape the Hanging Edge and hide inside an ancient Pulsian building that was inserted between the layers of Cocoon's outer shell during its construction, a large vestige that "shouldn't" exist and the perfect place for the Purge survivors to lay low and wait out the army's search efforts. Gadot, a member of NORA, leads a combat team to ensure everyone's safety and food and supplies are sent through Lenora's Garage, a shop maintained by fellow NORA member, Maqui. Aoede continues to record everything as the footage could persuade the people of Cocoon to turn against the Sanctum and the fal'Cie. She believes NORA's way of life, refusing the charity of the fal'Cie and looking after themselves, would be the key to help guide the people into a new era as they have been able to protect people and provide for them by using their smarts and resources. Suspicions of a Sanctum conspiracy grow stronger as everyone realizes the Pulse Vestige went uninvestigated for centuries, and that a dormant fal'Cie residing within seems like a coincidence, concluding that the Sanctum knew of its existence and waited for the right moment to fake its discovery and set the Purge into motion.
By hacking the Sanctum's information channels through his own network, Maqui taps into a live feed and projects a hologram of what Aoede recognizes as a broadcast from Palumpolum being captured by a military surveillance camera. The footage depicts a plaza turned into a warzone as a pillar of ice conjured by magic freezes everything, the sounds of gunfire and screams from confused soldiers, and a Pulse l'Cie. Upon closer inspection, NORA recognizes the l'Cie as Snow. Being a friend by association, Aoede considers the feelings of NORA seeing their leader as a l'Cie and considers stopping the recording. Just as she is about to stop filming, Yuj's unexpected response causes Aoede's finger to slip from the stop button on her camera goggles. Having been worried about Snow ever since the Pulse Vestige plummeted into Lake Bresha, the news of his survival brings relief to NORA. Aoede sees all that matters to them is that Snow is alive, not that he was made a l'Cie.
The footage from Palumpolum cuts off and NORA begins planning their next step as Snow's appearance was the sign they needed. Aoede knows Snow is going to take the fight to the Sanctum and NORA most likely wants to build a resistance movement to help him. As the Sanctum's troops are likely concentrated around Palumpolum, leaving holes in the security around the Hanging Edge, NORA and the refugees would be able to escape. Aoede decides to accompany NORA and capture more footage of their quest. After leaving some instructions with the remaining NORA members, they leave their shelter and set out for Eden, the capital of Cocoon and the Sanctum's seat of power.
Maqui broadcasts Aoede's footage from the Purge around Cocoon, garnering support for both NORA and the Pulse l'Cie as the fal'Cie's lies are uncovered. The populace takes shelter in gravity control facilities while the l'Cie save the world by crystallizing Cocoon amid its descent. Planning to make a documentary, Aoede is still filming in the aftermath, and interviews René, one of the people who helped save Cocoon. She believes the essentials inside Cocoon should last a while, but everyone won't be living the easy lives they had under the fal'Cie.
Reborn in the new world like the rest of humanity's souls, Aoede is among the few to possess memories of a past life, and wants to discover the truth behind the phenomenon. Though others believe her to be crazy, Aoede keeps on her search and comes to identify "keywords" repeated by people who share her memories, one being "Hope," which leads her to a researcher named Hope Estheim. After telling him she remembers having been a news reporter in another world, and of being forced into a train and escaping across a crystallized lake, Aoede listens to his story. Hope mentions names some of which she recognizes: Snow, Serah, Sazh, Vanille, Fang, and Noel. When Hope talks about Lightning he ends the story midway at the part where she became the savior. Aoede begs to hear more, but Hope tells her to find Lightning and ask her herself. Promising to finish the story after she finds Lightning, Hope gives Aoede the whereabouts of Sazh.
Aoede finds Sazh who tells her his side of the story of aiding Hope, Snow, and Noel to protect the populace during the beginning of Nova Chrysalia before leaving for the Wildlands after his son Dajh fell comatose. Though Sazh does not tell her where to find Lightning and does not know how he and Hope have retained full memories of "the other world," Aoede is directed to the Nora House restaurant by Chocolina. Ordering the Nora Special dish, its taste triggers memories of her life on Cocoon where she got caught up in the Purge and helped NORA expose the Sanctum by airing Purge footage in hacked broadcasts. The members of NORA remember Aoede and Lebreau tells her where to find Serah.
Finding Serah in a cafe near a university, Aoede learns her side of the story. When Aoede mentions her intention to publish the stories to allow more people to remember their previous life, Serah feels those who remember might be held back from living their current lives. Aoede wonders whether her work is meaningless, but Serah encourages her to find out everything and tells Aoede where to find Snow. Finding Snow in the countryside, changing the subject when the topic of Serah's death comes up, Aoede learns of Snow's history in Nova Chrysalia and how he believes Bhunivelze masterminded certain events to become humanity's symbol of hope. Also learning of the Order believing the savior would purify souls of their memories while guiding them to the new world, Aoede is told Lightning fought Bhunivelze so everyone could hold on to their memories. After Snow tells her he believes the memories of their past life lie latent within each person, Aoede is assured she will have her answers as Snow arranges her to meet Noel.
Aoede finds Noel and Yeul in the subtropics, in a wooden two-story house where Noel relates the story of his life in the Dying World of 700 AF, the Farseers, Caius Ballad, his time traveling with Serah that ended with Noel unwittingly killing the goddess Etro. Noel relates how he helped Snow, Hope, and Sazh in Nova Chrysalia but lost contact with them and became the Shadow Hunter, obsessed with a fake prophecy for the hope of seeing Yeul again. Yeul relates her soul was with Caius and the souls of all the other seeresses named Yeul, and that Caius is not in the new world, but in the realm to which souls return and that Aoede can meet him when she dies. After the interview, the three visit the busy market where they have lunch and Noel writes down where to find Fang and Vanille in Aoede's notebook.
Aoede finds Fang and Vanille in an arid region near a remote village and interviews the pair. Though Fang is initially cold toward her, the two tell the story of how they saved Cocoon and remained in crystal sleep for centuries, and how Hope had their crystal salvaged before the crystal pillar shattered and how the organization he had formed, the Conseil de Renaissance, safeguarded them. When they awoke, they fell under the Order's watchful eye. The pair doesn't know why they awoke from crystal stasis but speculate it to be the work of either Bhunivelze or Lumina. Aoede gets excited about hearing how in the end Lightning saved everyone despite Vanille being misled by the Order and almost erasing the souls of the dead preventing their rebirth, and wants to thank Lightning in person. Vanille and Fang assure her Lightning's wish for the world has come true if everyone is content with living in the new world.
Aoede returns to Hope for a final interview and hears the story of the years before Hope was captured by Bhunivelze, and receives a folder about the "Chaotic Era." At the interview's end she still wants to meet Lightning, but having exhausted all lines of inquiry, Aoede has given up on finding her.
Aoede becomes a war correspondent and blacks out in a missile attack finding herself walking in line with several other people heading to a sea being watched over by Caius. Aoede thinks she has died and grieves the new world has so much hate and people killing each other. Caius asks if they would have been better off as Bhunivelze's pawns and Aoede realizes she was being bitter, but it is a shame that Lightning and her friends fought to give them free will only for humans to end up greedy and cruel.
Caius says she doesn't have to live in an ugly world as she can give up reincarnation and remain in the womb of darkness. He reminds her that people are the new masters of their destiny, not the Gods and that if she wants the world to change she must do it herself. Aoede thinks it too late to stop the war and approaches the water when Yeul's voice asks if she wants to choose death. Aoede asks if she isn't dead already, but Caius claims the dead disappear in silence whereas she is still talking. Aoede makes her decision and is led back to the land of the living by Mog.
Months later, Aoede is on a train heading for a meeting. She meets Lightning by chance and asks for an interview, but Lightning says she is getting off at the next station. Aoede decides to let it go in favor of attending the meeting to find a way to stop the war where she was a correspondent, and assures Lightning humanity will be alright, and that they'll support the world in her and her friends' stead. Lightning leaves and though Aoede has no regrets she gets the feeling they'll meet again someday. Aoede speculates that when she defeated God Lightning was free and no longer needs to fight and that if she truly wishes for it an even brighter future will await her, saying "May this woman, who was once a brilliant flash of light in that 'other world,' chance upon hope—this was my wish and it was like a prayer, a promise."
The name Aoede comes from the Latin name for Aoide, the Greek muse for song and the child of Zeus and Mnemosyne.