Kratos should be standing here. Instead he's off to do God knows what on Ygdrasill's orders. I'm sick of him being at the beck and call of that ridiculous freak of nature when he should be trying to stop him. He thinks he can absolve himself by assisting Lloyd from the shadows. Well that's fine for Lloyd, but I've died twice because of Yggdrasill, yet Kratos can't break away. What is he so afraid of?
Anna let out a frustrated growl, digging her nails into the unyielding wood of the tree limb serving her as a seat. She had decided to test out some flying skills and after crashing into this particular tree three times decided just to sit there. It was morning and she was waiting for the others to emerge from Dirks’ house, eager to get started on the next phase of their journey. Kratos had departed hours ago, much to her protest, and despite having forgiven him of his post murdering her actions, she was growing increasingly angry at how he was running to and from his family now whenever it suited him. Having played the game, she understood why it was happening in such a way, but she also knew it was illogical and more the result of Kratos’s cowardice than anything else. That and her temper was creeping up on the whole thing and it very rarely heeded logic.
Lloyd stood beneath her tree squinting up through the leaves at her. “How did you get up there?” There were no limbs anywhere near the ground and even with an exsphere, such a jump would be unlikely.
“Very carefully,” she said.
Lloyd scratched his head as the others joined him, looking up strangely at the tree-bound woman and the twenty-foot drop below her boots. “Uh-huh.”
“Well how do you plan on getting down?” Zelos asked.
Anna grinned and stood up. “Catch me Zelos!” She jumped right for the Chosen causing him to let out a high-pitched shriek as he ran away. The others stepped aside as she landed lightly on her feet, wielding her camera. Zelos scowled.
“Ah,” Raine said, her sharp mind putting the pieces together. “You have an exsphere now too. You can do many of the things we all can.” Raines frowned. “Though such a jump is still remarkable.
“There’s more to it,” Anna replied. “It seems as though I may have this exsphere cultivating inside of me all this time, but why or how I do not know.”
“It does explain how you were able to use all those special attacks without one,” Raine said thoughtfully.
"Exactly," Anna said, "But there is still more. There’s something…something else I need to show you. Something that you may not like."
"What is it?" Colette asked.
"Well…" Anna looked down at her hand. "Judging from the effects I was feeling yesterday—the inability to feel, taste, or sleep, I have guessed that this is actually a Cruxis Crystal that has emerged from within me." Anna paused as they absorbed this. “So, because of this—."
"You're not going to die are you?" Colette asked fearfully. "You're not going to end up like me…are you?"
"No," Anna assured her, "I will not get Chronic Angelus Crystallus Infoconium."
"Inofficium," Presea corrected.
"Yes that, thank you," Anna said. "But I will be like you in other ways." Closing her eyes, she withdrew her wings to audible gasps. "I have angel abilities just like yours, Colette."
"You're wings are really pretty!" Colette exclaimed.
"Wow…" Raine said in awe. She appeared to twitch for a moment before she whipped out a pair of scissors and a scalpel. "I SIMPLY MUST EXAMINE YOU!"
"GET AWAY!" Anna shrieked, running from the deranged half elf.
"Come back here at once!" Raine roared, chasing after her.
"Ada, you can fly!" Sheena reminded her.
"Haha!" Anna cried, taking to the air out of Raine's reach.
"You have to come down eventually!" Raine said, shaking a fist at Anna.
"I’m still confused,” Genis said to Anna. “Why did a Cruxis Crystal suddenly appear on you?"
"I've been wondering that myself," Lloyd said, looking at Anna. "Come to think of it…Kratos didn't look surprised when it happened. He knew exactly what was going on."
"Indeed," Regal added. "In hindsight, he acted quite concerned. I know little of him, but I've never seen him show emotion like that before."
"He looked…" Colette said. "He looked like he was scared…but not surprised."
Everyone looked at Anna, who had followed the conversation with increasing tension and fear. They had noticed more than she had given them credit for. She gulped and looked directly at Lloyd. Moment of truth—do I continue the façade or do I admit my secret?
Anna adopted an appropriately annoyed look ad flapped angrily. “What Kratos does or does not know has nothing to do with me,” she said. “Frankly, he probably knows everything we need to know and he refuses to cooperate unless it suits him, you know?”
Everyone blinked at her confused.
Anna rubbed her forehead wearily. “Ok, anyway, as to the sudden Cruxis Crystal, I have no clue. I honestly don’t. Maybe in my dimension crossing, I picked up something I shouldn’t have.” She shrugged. “Everything else about me is bloody impossible so this really isn’t all that weird, right?”
“Much of your presence and existence is unexplained and illogical,” Presea said and the others nodded. “But how do you know you will not get the Inofficium?”
“That only happens when the host rejects the key crest and crystal, as Colette’s body has,” Anna explained. “It’s very rare; only one in a million people suffer that fate.” She held up her bracelet. “I also found this among my possessions when I came back from the dead,” she said, showing them the key crest carved on it. “Does anyone know why?”
“No,” Raine said. “We also don’t know why your belongings vanished and reappeared as you did. It doesn’t make sense. Yuan said that should not be possible.”
“Yuan?” the group asked as one, whipping around to stare incredulously at Raine. Raine scowled defiantly back.
“We discussed several theories when we met him in both Flanoir and during the Iselia Ranch infiltration,” Raine said dismissively. “He may be a traitor, but his mind is sharp. It’s prudent to make use of knowledge where we can.”
“Agreed,” Anna said, pondering this latest development in the Raine/Yuan relationship and choosing not to comment. “This is exactly why we need to go see Altessa immediately. He knows what we need to save Colette, so let’s make use of his knowledge.”
A quick stop by Altessa’s sent them in the direction of the Sybak library and much to Anna’s annoyance, Mithos insisted on coming. She could feel him scraping at her mind every so often, but either her determination or the Cruxis Crystal was stopping him. She stayed far away from them as they researched and quickly cut off anyone who attempted to ask about her own Cruxis Crystal. She already forced the group not top tell Mithos, which Genis severely disliked, but they did as she asked.
"Look at this," Sheena said, peering over Raine's shoulder at the Sybak library. "One of Mithos's companions was afflicted with a disease that crystallizes the body."
"That sounds the same as Colette," Genis said.
"Colette is sick?" Mithos said, feigning shock.
"Now that you mention it," Sheena was saying, "the unicorn did say he lived for healing Martel's sickness, or something like that."
"It's just as Kratos said," Lloyd piped up. "'Remember the unicorn's words.'"
"I wonder who Kratos really is?" Colette said, idly turning some pages in the book she was looking through.
Zelos scoffed. "What are you talking about? He's a traitor.” Colette and Lloyd looked ready to argue, but Zelos cut across them. “What are you gonna do if you trust him and wind up regretting it?"
"I trust Kratos." Lloyd said, firmly. Anna wasn’t entirely sure when he had made that connection, but she was glad he had.
"Face it," Anna said, closing her book and stuffing it back onto the shelf. "He's helped us more than once and has had multiple opportunities to kill us. He's yet to actually do it."
The other looked like they were in a hesitant form agreement, except Zelos, but Mithos observed Lloyd is something like puzzlement.
"Lloyd…you're strong," Mithos said.
Lloyd looked shocked. "You think so?"
"You can trust someone who's betrayed you once," Mithos said quietly. Anna felt a scraping in her head as the angel tried even harder to break in. "That's amazing."
Lloyd turned away and stared out the window. "He…feels special. His eyes don't feel hostile when he looks at me."
"I envy you, Lloyd… I wish I could have been like you," Mithos sighed.
Genis laughed, clapping a hand on Mithos's shoulder. "Oh, no, you don't want that. If you became like Lloyd, you'd turn into an idiot."
Lloyd growled and bopped Genis in the back of the head. Eventually, they found the list of items they needed, somewhat in part to Anna’s gentle prodding, and they decided to set off to gather them up.
They had to make a few stops first. First, they saved the bigoted king from the two-faced bastard Thethe'allans called the Pope. In the process, they witnessed the “second coming of Spiritua,” which a delighted Anna caught on camera. Then they located Zircon and found the locations of the other ingredients needed for Colette and Anna. Sheena also had her showdown with the traitor Kuchinawa and defeated him easily. Now at last they stood deep in the Ymir forest on their way to get the mana leaf herb. Lloyd immediately ran to the Sorcerer’s Ring pedestal, converting the ring’s power excitedly.
"I wonder what it'll do this time!" Lloyd said excitedly, holding the Sorcerer's Ring aloft. With a grin, he activated it. A strange drumming noise, like that of hooves, emitted from it. Almost at once, there was an identical sound as a boar raced around the corner, heading right for them down the narrow path.
Unfortunately, Anna was crouched on the edge of the path, examining the beautiful crystal-clear water below them. She looked up just in time to see the huge thing racing for her with no time to scramble out the way. "AUGGGHHH!" she screamed, diving straight forward into the water as the boar roared past and disappeared around the bend.
Lloyd and Genis roared with laughter as their sputtering friend surfaced and hauled herself out of the lake. Anna glared, mad at their laughter and mad that she had forgotten she could fly.
“You think it’s funny?” she asked, her voice dangerously low. She reached out, grabbed Lloyd and Genis by their shirt collars and threw them both into the lake. Lloyd surfaced first, flailing his arms and she snatched the Sorcerer’s Ring off his finger. “This is not a toy!”
“Geeze,” he said, pulling himself out of the lake. “You sound way too much like the professor.”
“And you’re twice as mean,” Genis said with a scowl, wringing out his shirt.
“Hey!” Raine shouted indignantly.
Anna turned away and rolled her eyes. "Whatever. We need that fruit thing and I utterly loathe this puzzle of a forest. Wait here." Unfurling her wings, she took off, located the fruit in about thirty seconds, wondered why they never made Colette do that in the game, and then led the others out of the forest and into the village of Heimdall. However, a very predictable guest blocked their way.
"So you've finally made it here," Kratos said mildly, observing them coolly.
"Oh brother," Anna said. "Kratos, do you have to act like an insufferable know-it-all all the time?"
"I don't believe I addressed you," Kratos replied curtly, looking at Anna with hate in his eyes.
"What?!" Anna shouted. "You—"
"Ada, hush," Raine said, giving her a stern look.
"If you knew we would come here that means that you do know how to cure Colette's illness!" Lloyd said to Kratos.
Kratos tried his best, but could not bring himself to berate his son. It was hard enough to push Anna away. He couldn't do it to his son. "And if I did?"
Lloyd gnashed his teeth together in annoyance. "Why are you helping us?!" Lloyd demanded. "Why are you giving us clues about how to save her? And how did you know that Colette's Angel Toxicosis was the same illness that one of Mithos the Hero's companions had?!"
Kratos sighed exasperatedly. "And what do you hope to accomplish by asking that?"
Lloyd blushed and stammered. "Ah…well…"
"There's no time," Kratos said, cutting off his stammering. "Hurry."
He brushed past Lloyd and did not look back, astonishing the others with an aura of hate emanating from him. Anna stepped in front of him, her mouth open to insult him into next week.
"Get out of my way, Adalais."
Anna gaped. For a moment, she felt the world dropout from under her. Never before had Kratos spoken to her like that. Never with such anger or derision. He looked and spoke to her as if she was dirt beneath his feet. And he didn’t even care. He just walked right by her. No, not quite walked. When she refused to move, he shouldered her aside roughly, causing her to stumble.
"Lloyd, I’m following him,” Anna snarled, rage seeping into her. “Something’s not right. I’ll meet you at the entrance to Latheon gorge.”
“Be careful,” Lloyd cautioned. Anna nodded and slipped off after Kratos. As soon as she reached the Ymir forest, she unfurled her wings.
You are going to pay for that, Kratos.
"Mana Leaf Herb, you said?" the Elder asked.
"We need it." Lloyd stood before the aging elf, daring him to refuse. The twin swordsman was not to be crossed, particularly when a prickly Kratos and a racist village of elves had already crossed him.
"That is an important plant that we elves use in our magic," the elder said haughtily. "We can't simply tell anyone where it grows."
"Isn't there anything that can be done?" Regal asked, attempting a kind, but firm tone. "Without that plant, a friend of ours will die."
"What do you mean?" asked the elf.
Lloyd's brow furrowed. "We have a friend who is sick. She has…uh…angel…effect…"
Zelos scoffed at Lloyd’s stupidity. "No, no, it was chronic angelus…" he scratched his head, trying to recall the difficult name and feeling bad for mocking Lloyd.
"Chronic Angelus Crystallus Inofficium," Presea supplied.
"Yeah, what she said," Lloyd said triumphantly.
"What?!" the elder gasped. "That's Martel's…so that's why Kratos…"
Sheena jumped in. "What? Did you just say Martel?"
"And what about Kratos?! What did he come here for?" Lloyd added.
The elf elder's attitude suddenly changed and he was equal parts resigned and disgusted. "Don't worry about Kratos. Mana Leaf Herb grows in a region southeast of here known as the Latheon Gorge. It lies deep within mountains covered in mist. Show this staff to the watchman." The elf extended his hand bearing a withered old walking stick. "I have no more to say to you, humans."
Everyone except Colette left without a word, refusing even to thank the racist old man.
"Kratos," Lloyd muttered as they headed for the Gorge. "Just what are you up to?"
Anna was tearing through the Ymir forest, winding through trees as fast as she could fly, though scratches on her face and leaves in her hair gave testimony to her lack of flying skills. She was seething with rage at her husband and his suddenly atrocious state. As soon as she found him, he was in for a world of hurt. On cue, there was a flash of purple below her through the trees and sure enough, it was him, staring despairingly down at the lake of the forest.
Kratos sighed inwardly. He saw Anna's hurt face flash over and over in his mind's eye. I am so sorry Anna. Pronyma now has orders to follow me and I can’t lead her to you. Not when Mithos already knows you’ve returned. Not when he already suspects me of defying his orders. I’ll have to hurt you and Lloyd to save you. His mouth twisted in a wry smile. That’s nothing new, is it?
Anna took a deep breath. Here goes… She shot out of the trees, her arms outstretched as she raced across the distance between her and Kratos.
And suddenly Kratos was gone. Anna halted in midair for a fraction of a second until her angelic hearing picked up a faint rushing noise. She flew upward sharply as the Ray attack zoomed under her. She whipped around, trying a new spell for the first time. She focused hard on her wings and imagined feathers tearing from them and slicing into her foe. "Angel feathers!" As soon as she cast it, she streaked off after it. Kratos ducked under it, searching for its caster, but unable to find her. Suddenly something collided with his chest, knocking him from the air into the hard ground below. Shaking dirt from his eyes, he tried to get her off, but her new strength was on display as she grappled with him, punching every inch she could reach.
"You arrogant-" she punched him again. "Cowardly-" she slapped him. "Despicable man!" she slapped him a third time before jumping to her feet and putting her wings away. Kratos got slowly to his feet, staring at Anna's livid face. His heart began to ache as he saw tears racing down her cheeks. In the distance, he felt Pronyma's eyes on him and knew that he had to keep up the façade.
His hand shot out, almost as if someone else was controlling it and he wrapped his callused fingers around her slender throat. Kratos lifted Anna off her feet, choking the air from her lungs as she tugged violently at his grasp.
"That was a foolish thing to do," his voice almost as cold as he felt in his heart.
Anna screamed as Kratos slammed her hard into the ground, dirt, rocks, and dust flying up from the crater caused by the impact. Pain lanced through her like knives and the world spun sickeningly as her brain rebounded from the impact. She tried frantically to drag air into her lungs.
Kratos’s face swam above her spinning head and his face was full of hate…hatred directed at her. Kratos scoffed and walked away, leaving her there in the dirt.
Kratos had hit her. Kratos had hurt her. How could that be? She didn’t know. It was likely that he was either being controlled, or had a momentary lapse of reason, but right now fury was overtaking her, beating the logic out of her brain. She didn’t know why Kratos had suddenly turned on her, but all of the anger she had kept buried about him turning back to Mithos suddenly came rushing back in, despite all those quiet moments she had where she had actually forgiven him. That fool. First he is a coward, now he is turning on them! How dare he!
Anna stood up and flapped open her wings, racing to catch up with the others. She’d help them first and then take care of Kratos the next time they met. She wouldn’t let it all slide again!
"I…hate…that…damn…PLANT!" Anna shouted as the group stumbled out of the cave. Every single one of them was covered in dirt. Regal, Presea, and Lloyd were sporting nasty rashes. Colette, Genis, and Sheena were covered in green goop. Anna was limping, and yanking severed vines from around her legs, arms, neck, and torso. They all jumped as a howl of pain preceded Zelos racing out of the cave, holding his backside. Raine emerged holding a handful of rather large thorns that had just parted company with said backside.
"Oh honestly," Raine muttered. "Revitalize." Everyone sighed in relief as their wounds healed. Everyone except Anna, who let out a growl and ran back toward the cave housing the giant demon plant that had once guarded the mana leaf herb clutched in Lloyd's hand.
"I'm not even going to ask," Raine muttered as she passed Anna and followed the others into the storyteller's house. As the door closed there was a shout of, "Gimme back my camera you overgrown Brussels sprout!"
"So you've made it back safely," the storyteller said.
Lloyd looked at him shrewdly. "You knew about the giant plant guarding the Mana Leaf Herb, didn't you?"
The storyteller shrugged. "Yes, but even if I had told you, your actions would not have changed. I felt a very strong will from you."
Lloyd nodded. "Of course. It's for our very important friend."
Colette blushed. "Lloyd..."
Raine cut across her. "By the way…have you lived here for long?"
The Storyteller nodded. "Yes. I am the one who passes on the lore of the elven village to the next generation. Here I weave various stories into the mana leaf cloth."
"What kinds of stories?" Presea asked.
"Legends of elves descending from the sky, and the birth of humans… The arrival of angels. The Giant Kharlan Tree, the Kharlan War…" he trailed off before adding hesitantly. "…and the story of the hero, Mithos."
Zelos looked panicked. "Hey, hey, hey! I thought the hero, Mithos was taboo in Heimdall!"
The Storyteller glared. "This is not Heimdall. I live here to pass on the legends without being bound by the customs of Heimdall."
"Just who was the hero, Mithos?" Lloyd asked. "We hear his name everywhere we go."
"His name came up in the pacts with the Summon Spirits," Colette added.
"The legend of Mithos was involved in curing Colette's illness, too," said Sheena.
"Mithos was…born in Heimdall," the storyteller began. "He was an outsider who was cast out of the village when the Kharlan War began. He ended the Kharlan War with his three companions so that he could return to the village."
Raine regarded the storyteller with cool eyes "An outsider? Does that mean…he was a half-elf?"
Zelos snorted very loudly. Not good! Not good! They're going to find out! "Mithos was a half-elf?! That's impossible!"
"Yes, Mithos was a half-elf," the storyteller confirmed. "Only one of his companions was human, and the others were half-elves. They were treated as outcasts, but overcame that and put an end to the war."
"Then why is his name taboo in Heimdall?" Regal asked.
Genis stamped his foot in outrage. "It's because he's a half-elf," he snarled.
The Storyteller glared arrogantly at Genis. "No, that's incorrect. It is because the hero, Mithos, loved by Origin, is also a fallen hero."
"A fallen hero?" Lloyd repeated. "What do you mean?"
"The ones who betrayed Origin and used the power of the magic sword given by Origin to split the world in two," the storyteller looked at Lloyd as he said, "were none other than Mithos and his companions. Mithos Yggdrasill, his older sister Martel, and their companions, Yuan and Kratos. The four angels changed the nature of the world, and that is why their names are taboo in Heimdall."
At that moment, Anna burst back in clutching her camera and looking worse for wear. Everyone stared at her in a mixture of shock, horror, and a little outrage. In an instant she knew they were all wondering why she had kept a certain piece of information from them and felt stupid about forgetting the storyteller’s revelation.
"Um…” she said nervously. “By the way…did I ever mention Yggdrasill is the hero Mithos, Martel is his older sister and not a goddess, Yuan's a half-elf like them, and Kratos is a 4,000 year old human and friend to the aforementioned people?" she said in one breath.
"We heard," Zelos said dryly.
"Good," Anna replied with a nervous jerk of her head. "Saves me explaining."
The group exited the storyteller's house before rounding on Anna. Anna sighed. "You know I can't tell you these things."
"Can you at least tell us about the sword?" Regal asked.
"A bit…" Anna said. "It's known as the Eternal Sword and controls time and space, much like the powers of Origin himself. Mithos used it to split the worlds."
"Making it a necessity to reunite them, in other words," Raine said.
"Exactly," Anna replied. "We need to form the pact with Origin."
"All right," Lloyd said, studying Anna for a moment but choosing not to comment on her withholding information. Anna was grateful for that. The boy really was growing up. "Let's head for the mana fragment for now."
In order to get to the Tower, and thereby into Cruxis, they needed Zelos Cruxis Crystal. That meant visiting his sister Seles in a remote abbey far out to see. The brief exchange was filled with tension but underneath the hateful act that both of the siblings put on, Anna could sense the very buried affections they had for each other. The rest of the group were now looking at Zelos in somewhat f a new light as they slowly pieced together more of why he was the way he was.
They didn’t have time to ponder it much as they headed straight for the Tower. They stated gloomily up at the cold white walls. Tower of Salvation. Raine was in slight archeological mania in spite of everything, but Genis, Sheena, and especially Lloyd and Colette were all looking apprehensive. Anna didn't much care for the place either. Not only did an aura of infinite sadness permeate from the place but…
"My god the architecture and interior design is so terrible," she muttered as Zelos placed his hand on the oracle stone. There was a flash as the door opened.
"Oooh, yeah!" Zelos cried. "Check me out! It's my time to shine! Do I look like a Chosen or what?"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Lloyd said distractedly. "Let's get going."
Zelos let out a very startling cackle. "Roger!"
"That's a very disturbing laugh," Regal said in unison with you know who.
Presea looked up at the idiotic Chosen. "Zelos…is something wrong? You're even more…um…"
Sheena rolled her eyes. "Even more obnoxious than usual? Nah, he's always like this. Just ignore him."
Zelos cackled as they made their way inside. "She's pretty sharp." He started forward but was quickly intercepted. Anna yanked his hair as he made to follow and dragged him away from the door.
"Listen up, lecher," she snarled. "I hope for your sake you're choosing the right path. If I think for one minute you're on the wrong one, I'll snap you in half like a twig. The wrath of Cruxis and the Renegades and Kratos will look tame next to what I'll deliver."
Zelos surprised her with a devious grin of arrogance. "Will you really Anna?"
Anna nearly lost control of her emotions, but managed not to show any sign other than confusion. "It's Ada. Do not test my-"
"I know very well who you are," Zelos said. "Anna Aurion…dear Lloyd's mom and Kratos's wife. Yggdrasill knows it too."
"Think what you like," Anna said, still hoping he was bluffing.
"I wonder what Lloyd would think if Adalais Orion turned out to be his mom." Anna glared and let go. Zelos smirked and headed off. Anna gritted her teeth and chased after him.
"I wonder what Sheena would think if I told her where your oh so many loyalties lie!" Anna shouted.
Zelos froze. When he turned around, his face was smooth in his façade, but his frightened eyes gave him away. "You can't reveal the future to them, anyway," he said.
"But if it comes between you and Lloyd," Anna snarled. "I'll do it in an instant." She glared at the red-headed man. "Go. My silence for yours."
"Agreed, my sweet hunny!"
They caught up with the others by the most horrible room in the tower, the coffin room.
"Ghastly," Regal said, backing away.
"Such a sad place," Presea whispered.
Sheena's hands were clenched tight. She turned slowly on the spot, looking up and around. When she spoke, her voice was fearful. "Wait a minute…is this really Tethe'alla?"
Genis was on edge as well. "Yeah! It looks identical to Sylvarant's Tower of Salvation!"
Colette was staring wide-eyed at the altar. "My body…I can't stop shaking. This is the same place!"
"It can't be!" Lloyd gasped.
"Lloyd!" Raine called. "Remember this?"
The group ran over to the professor, who stood before a broken pillar. Lloyd was horror struck. "That's…wait, I broke that!"
"The two worlds are connected here. Of course it's the same place."
Oh that voice and it’s love of sneaking up on them, not that Anna was surprised. How could she be? Even if she didn’t know the story so well, it would not have surprised her a bit to find Kratos before them staring right through them all, even Lloyd.
"Kratos,” Lloyd said, also unsurprised by the man’s arrival. “It's you again.” He looked Kratos over once, his face more thoughtful than angry. “Who are you, really? Are you really one of Mithos' companions from 4,000 years ago?”
"Good,” Kratos said indifferently. “Since you figured that out, it saves me the time to explain. Instead, we will take the Chosen as the new body for Martel."
Lloyd grit his teeth and planted his feet firmly in front of Colette, who huddled behind her friend, though she kept her eyes on Kratos. "You're still trying to do that?” Lloyd demanded. “Are you so intent on resurrecting Martel that you're willing to distort the entire world in the process?"
Kratos crossed his arms and looked away from Lloyd, disgust on his face. "I have no need to explain."
Lloyd growled out a curse. "So in the end, you really are our enemy!” he said, his anger tinged with sadness. “I kept thinking, hoping that you might be good…” he looked at Kratos with all the betrayal he felt in his eyes. “…but you're not!"
"I should think that would be obvious at this point." Kratos sneered. Actually sneered at his son.
That was all the antagonizing Lloyd need. He pulled out his swords. "Don't hold back this time!"
Kratos drew Flamberge and raced towards Lloyd as Lloyd ran him down. He didn’t say a word and his face revealed nothing.
“Lloyd no!” Anna drew her own weapons and used a powerful swoop of her wings to overtake him. She met Kratos’s strike with her own, sparks flying from the sheer force of the hit, the hit that would have connected with Lloyd. Anna pushed his sword aside. “Stop it Kratos!” Kratos didn’t listen, he just continued to strike at her quickly and she just barely blocked him.
Lloyd finally caught up as Anna knocked Kratos back a few feet and he leaped over her, stabbing sharply with one sword towards Kratos head while he was distracted. He dodged left quickly, getting nicked on the arm as Anna leaped in front of Lloyd. “Get back, stop this!”
It was no use. Lloyd kept moving and dodging around her to get at his father and Kratos seemed hell-bent on attacking his son. Twice she was knocked aside by both men and once when all of the others rushed forward she rounded on them screaming for them to get back. They were so shocked, they listened to her.
Then suddenly, Lloyd stumbled and Kratos had him. He lunged forward, sword raised, but Anna got there first and shoved Lloyd out of the way
The sword plunged deep into Anna’s shoulder.
Kratos and Anna’s eyes met, both shocked and slightly horrified. Lloyd was staring at the wound where Kratos’s sword still was. Both Anna and Kratos slowly looked down at it as if it wasn’t real. It couldn’t be real, right? Kratos would never…could never…
Anna raised her hand and gripped the blade, ignoring it as it sliced open her hand. She held it in place and took two slow steps backward until it slid neatly out of her.
Lloyd ran at Kratos and Kratos turned and slammed his hilt into Lloyd’s stomach. Anna’s knees buckled. She felt minimal pain thanks to her new angelic form, but blood oozed from her shoulder and the rapid loss of it was making her feel dizzy. Lloyd crashed to her feet and she followed a second later. Everyone else in the room stared at Lloyd and Anna horrified, including Kratos.
Anna looked up at Kratos, who swallowed hard and looked away from her, slipping the mask back on as four angels descended behind him.
"I would advise against resisting," Kratos said coolly to the others, "for there will be no mercy this time."
Anna must have passed out because the next thing she knew, Raine was crouched over her applying a steady stream of healing magic to Anna’s shoulder, which had stopped bleeding and was knitting before her eyes. Without Raine’s staff to focus it, it was slow going, but it was working. Anna blinked fuzzily a few times before smiling tiredly at Raine.
“Bet you’re grateful for the unicorn horn, huh?” Anna asked.
Raine laughed weakly. “I am more grateful we didn’t lose you. Angel or no, you can be killed. What you did was foolish.”
“You know why I had to,” Anna mumbled. “Kratos and Lloyd would never forgive themselves for killing each other, despite all the betrayal. And i thought...I thought he would stop if i stepped in.”
“I know all of this,” Raine agreed, “But Lloyd doesn’t. Don’t expect him to take it well,” Raines said.
Anna sat up just as someone behind her moaned. Colette, Sheena, and Presea were all laying on the floor of the cell they currently occupied. Colette was the one who had moaned as she sat up holding her head. On cue, Presea and Sheena started to move too and Anna’s enhanced hearing picked up rustling noises from the cage beside them containing Lloyd, Regal, Genis, and Zelos.
"Are we still alive?" Lloyd asked groggily, standing up inside his cell.
"Well, it looks like we'll have our lives at least until they finish preparing Colette's treatment," sighed Zelos, looking around. "Apparently, she's useless the way she is now."
"Maybe we were tricked," Genis said savagely. "He had us gather the materials to treat Colette and then had us bring her here. That sure saved them a lot of time and effort."
Lloyd gripped the bars and looked out. All he could see was cold, monochrome walls and emptiness. His voice echoed as he asked dully, "Kratos used us? Did he betray us again?"
Zelos turned to the boy. "Lloyd…"
Regal sighed. "I feel guilty for letting this happen to Colette and the others."
Lloyd shook his hand and turned around. "I really want to know why I keep getting captured and getting thrown into jail all the time!"
Zelos tried to make a joke. "You sure you haven't even doing anything to deserve it?"
Regal rolled his eyes. "We should just be glad we have our lives."
Lloyd leaned against the bars, straining to see anything. He could hear the girls talking in the cage beside them and a sudden thought occurred to him. “Ada, are you ok?”
There was a tense moment of silence before her voice answered. “Yeah. I am ok. Professor Raine patched me up.”
“Why did you do that?” Lloyd asked, more than a little angry. “Why did you stop me? Why were you protecting Kratos like that?”
Anna went to the bars, fully aware of Raine’s gaze on her back as she pressed her head to the cold metal. Beside her Presea, Colette, and Sheena were tinkering with the lock, trying to break it while she focused on Lloyd. “I wasn’t protecting him,” she said. “I was protecting you. You weren’t strong enough to beat him yet.”
“Yes I am!” Lloyd shot back.
Anna glared even though Lloyd couldn’t see her. “Then why are we in this cell, Lloyd? Why did Kratos defeat us yet again?”
“Why did you tell me to stop when I had him?” Lloyd yelled. “Why do you always defend him when we see him? Even after he stabbed you in the shoulder and threw you in the cell, you defend him!”
Anna closed her eyes. “I don’t know,” she whispered. “I don’t know.” But she did know. She knew too much. That had been the problem from the start.
Lloyd decided not to comment. For some reason, he felt like he understood Ada’s dejected answer. He let the whole thing go and instead turned his attention to the cell door.
"Dammit!” he growled, tinkering with the lock and yanking on the bars. “This thing's built solid as a rock! And I can't open the lock either."
"Same here," Sheena said, stepping back from the lock as Presea and Colette took turns using their enhanced strength to pry it open. "It won't budge at all."
"Can Colette or Presea break it?" Lloyd asked.
"Nope…" said Colette sadly, stepping back after failing.
"I'm sorry I couldn't be of use," Presea added, still tugging on the lock.
"Ada?" Lloyd asked.
Ada sighed and squinted at the lock, tugging on it a bit and not feeling it budge. "No. Not without some proper lock picks, which we don’t have."
"So we're completely trapped,” Lloyd replied weakly.
"Move," Regal said sharply.
Anna had a sudden thought. "Hey, Presea, stand aside for a moment." Anna went to the bars and thrust one arm out, holding her camera and pointing it toward the boy's cell.
There was a great roar, followed by a click from a camera, and an electric fireball erupted from the convict's hands, obliteration a large chunk of the bars.
"Wh…whoa!" Genis cried.
"How did you do that?" demanded Lloyd.
"I originally specialized in fighting with my hands, not my feet," Regal informed them. "And since Exspheres amplify their user's abilities far above their maximum limits, this result is to be expected."
"Then why don't you just fight with your hands?" Zelos asked.
Regal sighed. "I swore I would never fight with these hands again. This time, I used them in order to save you, Lloyd. You're going to unite the worlds and save Colette, right?"
Lloyd grinned and hopped out of the cell. "Yeah, that's right.” Lloyd and Regal ran over to the girl’s cell and repeated the display of power until everyone was free. “Everybody, grab what you can and let's get out of here!" Their weapons and bags had been left nearby in an unlocked, open crate so they easily retrieved their belongings before following Ada’s instructions to a teleporter.
They materialized in another room and Lloyd immediately swore and dove behind some crates. The others, except for Anna mimicked him, clutching their weapons as dozens of angels floated around the room in complete silence.
“Ada!” Lloyd hissed. “What are you doing?” She was just standing there giving them a puzzled look.
“What are you doing?” she hissed back.
“There’s only about 500 angels out there!” Zelos whispered, annoyed. “Get down before they see you?”
Anna, finally catching on, rolled her eyes. She walked up to the nearest floating zombie of an angel and looked him dead in the eye. She plastered a big grin on her face and waved cheerfully.
The angel did absolutely nothing.
“They have no soul,” she said to the others. “They can’t even react to our presence unless directly engaged. Stop wasting time before someone who can react us comes along.”
The group looked uneasy, but it did seems as though no one was paying them any attention. They carefully came out from under cover and fell in behind Anna.
"You know," Anna remarked as they crept uneasily through Welgaia, "Cruxis is very sloppy."
"What do you mean?" Lloyd asked.
"For example," Anna gestured at the angels floating around. "Since they wiped these poor people of feeling, they can't tell that prisoners broke free, or that strangers are even in their midst. They also left us with our weapons nearby because they cannot discern common sense. And frankly, after all the things we've done to Mithos and His Four Seraph-idiots, you'd think they'd kill us whilst we were unconscious."
"You expanse of knowledge in the area of prisoners and warfare is quite disconcerting," Regal remarked.
Anna sighed. "I grew up in a much different world from this one." Combine that with my experiences and you will find that the resulting knowledge is to be expected.
They followed Anna to the mana fragment warehouse, pretending to be under Colette's imprisonment. Lloyd suggested Anna participate, but she decided not to unless it was necessary. She didn't want to risk Pronyma or Yggdrasill knowing she was an angel herself just yet.
"Hi," Colette said cheerfully to the guard, who made no response. "Could I please have a fragment of mana?"
"Fragments of mana are no longer being distributed," the angel said flatly. "Return to your area."
"You won't give us one?" Lloyd said in disbelief.
"A human?" the angel asked.
Raine chimed in, her voice monotone, yet authoritative. "We need the mana fragment for hi-exsphere research, including the Chosen's ritual. Do you claim not to know of it?"
The guard hesitated at that. "Now that you mention it, I've heard that research involving humans were being conducted," the angel said.
"Yes, exactly. And we require a fragment of mana for that purpose," said Raine.
"Understood. Then please show me your identification," the angel said.
There was a buzzing noise and behind them, Kratos appeared on a projector.
"Lord Kratos!" the angel said, bowing.
Even on the projection, Anna could sense the disgust in his eyes. She wasn't sure if he could see her, but she was sure to keep a stony glare on her face just in case.
"We need a fragment of mana for the ritual of the Chosen," Kratos informed the subordinate. "I've sent a courier over to pick it up."
"Understood," the angel said. Kratos vanished.
"Yeah, that," Lloyd declared. "That's us!"
"Are you saying you're Lord Kratos' couriers?"
"Silence, human." Raine did a convincing Desian.
"But just a moment ago, you said you were going to use it for hi-Exsphere research…"
"SILENCE!" Anna said loudly, though she kept her voice even. She stepped forward and unfurled her wings, out of patience with this guard. "Do you dare defy not only the wishes of Lord Kratos, but the very wishes of our Lord Yggdrasill?"
"But without identification…" the angel replied.
"While you're complaining about these little nitpicky details, you're keeping Yggdrasill waiting. Do you want to tick him off?" Lloyd demanded.
"That's right. Lord Yggdrasill is scary if you cross him," Genis added.
Anna sighed and walked over to her son and Genis. Fixing a hateful glare on her face, she drew her swords and stuck them under the boys' chins, pushing just enough to draw thin ribbons of blood. "If either of you filthy inferior beings utters another sound, I will obliterate every last one of you."
Lloyd and Genis gulped. Anna turned back to the guard. "Am I not making myself plain?" Anna said dangerously, doing her best Kratos impression. The others actually took a step back. Her voice, temperament, and eyes were cold, colder than Kratos at his best. "If you deny me once more, I will see to it that Lord Yggdrasill feeds your dead carcass to the Vinheim guardian."
"A…all right," the angel stammered, finally handing over the shard. "Make sure you get it to them."
"Thank you," Anna said, drawing on Yuan’s cocky, egomaniacal manner this time. "I shall see to it that you are rewarded handsomely."
"Ada that was amazing!" Sheena said once they were clear of the guard. "You actually sounded like a Cruxis big guy!"
"It was very impressive," Raine said. "You sounded even harsher than Kratos and Yuan."
"Thank you thank you," Anna said smiling. "I kinda mixed Yuan's attitude with Kratos's mannerisms. I'd say it was effective."
"I'll say," Genis muttered weakly.
"I think I nearly wet myself," Zelos added.
"Me too," Lloyd groaned.
They reached the transporter soon after, noting with relief that they weren't followed. Of course, Anna knew better.
"It looks like this is the emergency exit," Colette said.
"Okay, let's go before anyone sees us," Raine replied hastily.
There was a shout behind them, as if Raine’s words had conjured up the worst possible scenario.
"It looks like they already found us," Regal said. He and the others turned and sure enough, their old mana fragment hoarding buddy from earlier stood (floated?) there with four guards.
"That's them!" cried a guard.
"You're the ones that pretended to be working for Lord Kratos!" said the warehouse angel, looking offended that he had been tricked.
"Well it all depends on your perspective,” Anna muttered, unfurling her wings. “Lloyd, you guys take the other transporter. The guards in front of us vacated the teleporter and I am NOT doing the ridiculous anti-gravity puzzle!"
"Go!" she shouted. "Sacred powers," she began as the others scurried off. The angels flew straight for her, intent on stopping the spell. "Cast thy purifying light upon these corrupt souls…" She felt them all grab her by her wings and one by her throat and she wondered idly why Yggdrasill wiped common sense from his guards.
"Rest in peace you stupid idiots!" she unsheathed her swords with the arms the dumb angels had not thought to pin down and swiftly drove them into the first two angels, who dropped like rocks. She kicked up into the air, wrenching out of the grasp of the angel at her throat and decapitated him, and the remaining two, in one blast of Tiger Blade.
Anna stared for a moment, knowing that her strength had multiplied exponentially since becoming an angel. While it was unsettling, she could not help but like the rush of strength.
"I’m the man!” she chirped excitedly before darting off after the others, just in time to see them vanish in the other warp portal. She saw a flash of white in the corner of her eye and hastily furled her wings and dropped under Kratos's sword chop. She landed on her feet and side stepped his second swing, relishing in her advanced speed.
"Return to your respective areas," Kratos commanded. "I'll deal with this myself." He landed and faced his wife, standing between her and the portal.
"Get out of here. Go the other way while you can," he whispered.
Anna smiled coyly and raised her swords into the ready position. "And miss making you pay for this grievous mistake? I think not."
"Now is not the right moment to—"
"And it was never the right moment for you to return to Yggdrasill," Anna said.
“Stabbed me in the shoulder,” Anna growled. “Yeah I know. However, do not worry Kratos. Blood for blood and all that.”
Kratos looked at her pleadingly and Anna looked at him with hatred in her smile.
Suddenly they both ran at each other, Kratos desperately trying to find a way to get her out of Welgaia as it would be mere minutes before Yggdrasill or Pronyma arrived. Kratos swung Flameberge, but Anna had already dodged to the side and scored a scratch along his arm. Kratos pivoted and struck out with his foot, connecting solidly with Anna's leg. She faltered, leg buckling and sending her to her knee and Kratos lunged, hoping to knock her unconscious and get her out. Anna brought one of her blades up and locked her hilt with Kratos's, pushing up to her feet. She assaulted him with a series of small stabs with her other blade, each of which, he dodged while trying to free his hilt. He didn't actually want to hurt her. Seeing an opening, he turned into Anna's body, griped their locked hilts, and flipped her over his hip. She landed on her back and brought her swords up, just in time to block Kratos's kick. Anna kicked out and hit his supporting leg, which sent Kratos sprawling. She surged to her feet and kicked his sword from his hand. Kratos rolled away before she could kick him in the face and dove for his sword.
He was too slow. He forgot that she was faster now.
Anna slammed Kratos in the back with one of her sword hilts, hitting his spine squarely and sending him face down on the hard tiled floor. He rolled onto his back as he reflexively choked and gasped for air, but Anna was not done. She stomped her foot down as hard as she could, but he blocked her again, barely. For a moment, they struggled, and then Kratos reversed his grip, twisting her ankle and causing her to fall. Not wasting time trying to punch or kick, knowing she could best him in those areas anyway, Kratos went for his sword. Anna recovered and Kratos turned just as she swung, throwing a sharp upward thrust her way.
The hit was either too hard or Anna had slackened her grip intentionally. He met no resistance and as a result, both his and Anna’s swords went flying. This shocked him just long enough to hesitate, which Anna had counted on when she had intentionally loosened her grip on her sword. She punched him in the face, throwing her entire arm and her upper body into the hit, just as he had shown her all those years ago.
Kratos reeled back and crashed to the floor.
Anna scooped up her weapons and leaned into Kratos’s line of view for a second grinning evilly. “You deserved it. Now we’re even.” She blew him kiss and gave a cheery little twiddle of her fingers in a mocking wave before flying off towards the teleporter.
Kratos lay stunned for a minute before getting to his feet and healing his throbbing nose. He walked quite casually back to his room, knowing very well he'd be long gone by the time anyone of importance showed up. Closing his door, he leaned against it with his eyes closed and abandoned himself to the images in his head. Anna was truly beautiful when she fought with everything she had and Kratos remembered with a smile why he had fallen in love with her in the first place: her heart and her spirit. However, the sad part was that he had driven her to this extreme. Part of her hated him, he knew that even when she denied it. How could he deal with that? How could he change the course fate seemed to have cruelly mapped out for them?
It was too much to think about and the whole thing left him weary. For the first time in weeks, Kratos was able to sleep that night, actually quite exhausted from dealing with not only his rambunctious son, but also his wild wife. He was lost in a dream of the past when he was suddenly jolted awake.
Kratos lay perfectly still. If someone was in his room without his leave to be, then it was likely a foe. There were remnants of mana energy in the room. Someone teleported in here. Someone who can manipulate mana. Kratos got out of bed, gripping Flamberge tight in his hand. Perhaps Yggdrasill has decided he was now expendable.
Suddenly, a bolt of energy hit him hard in the back, jolting his body and bringing him to his knees. The lamps flared to life as four men appeared in a haze of energy. Kratos looked up as four blades pressed into his neck and he glared at the fifth man who materialized before his eyes.
"So this is what it comes down to Yuan?" Kratos asked.
Yuan smirked and hauled Kratos to his feet. "You left me no choice. Come quietly, or son dies."
Kratos sighed. "You can't do it, can you? Not even you have lost enough soul to kill your former comrade for your own ends."
Yuan, who had turned away, froze in his tracks. He turned and looked at his old friend for a long moment. "Make no mistake Kratos. I will do what I must to save Martel. Even if I have to dirty my hands as you did fourteen years ago."
Kratos darted forward, intent on flaying Yuan alive but Yuan was ready with a mana bolt. Kratos fell back to his knees. The last conscious thing he heard was Yuan's voice sliding in and out of hearing, explaining things to his foot soldiers.
"...had Zelos put a sleeping drug in the food...the mother as well."
"Anna," Kratos muttered as he was hauled to his feet and teleported away.