Mirror Image

Family Portrait

"People will stop treating us differently? Really?" Genis walked toward Yggdrasill as though in a trance. They had exited the teleporter ahead of Anna only to cross the Cruxis Leader himself. Yggdrasill had given a creepy speech trying to entice Genis and Raine to follow him and looked for a moment like it might have been working. The young half-elf wanted so badly to believe that Yggdrasill was telling the truth, that he'd finally have a place. All he had to do was help Yggdrasill…

"Genis!" Lloyd shouted at his best friend. "Don't fall for it! Think about how the exspheres are made! They're made at the cost of people's lives, like Marble. Don't you see what's wrong with that?!" Genis shook his head at the mention of Marble's name, shedding his strange hypnosis at Mithos’s words.

Yggdrasill scoffed. "With revolution comes sacrifice. If you cannot understand that, then you deserve to die with the others. However, first you'll hand over the Chosen."

Lloyd drew his swords. "No! I won't let you!"

Yggdrasill sneered. "You have no choice."

Suddenly, Yggdrasill gasped as a blade sunk into his left arm. The angel spun around and swung his unwounded arm, knocking a very angry, very ruffled looking Anna to the ground at Lloyd's feet

"Ada!" Lloyd exclaimed as Anna stood, panting and bruised from the fight with Kratos. "Are you all right?"

Anna nodded. "I had to fight off angels. It was slightly tiring."

There was a slight thumping noise from behind them and Lloyd turned in time to see Colette collapse in a heap. "Colette!"

"Now!" Genis shouted. Genis launched a fireball from his kendama and it went straight for Yggdrasill, catching him in the stomach.

"Lord Yggdrasill!" Pronyma screeched, materializing from thin air. "You little vermin!" she glared at Genis and pointed her staff at the boy. "You may be one of us, but you shall pay for your treachery!"

A twisted ball of darkness erupted from her staff. Anna heard Raine cry out and dash toward her brother, who had no time to escape.

"Ugh!"

Genis stumbled as Yggdrasill pushed him hard in the chest. Yggdrasill collapsed again, the darkness tearing into his back.

"W—why?" Genis gasped at Yggdrassill, unable to fathom why the man bent on murdering them would actually save him.

"Lord Yggdrasill!" Pronyma dropped her staff looking horrorstruck.

Yggdrasill's eyes locked with Genis's for a moment before he looked away, glaring at his subordinate. "Pronyma! Why are you here?"

Pronyma stepped back, her face pale. "Sir. Ah…new activity in regards to that certain matter has—"

Yggdrasill grunted in pain. "Understood." He straightened and hitched the haughty grin on his face once more, looking directly at Lloyd. "Not always is there a way to save everyone." Yggdrasill's eyes slid from Lloyd's face to Anna's, who glared determinedly back at him. "Remember that. The path you seek is nothing but an illusion." Yggdrasill turned away, but glanced back at Genis one last time before vanishing with Pronyma.

"Lloyd, we must treat Colette as quickly as possible," Raine said from where she was crouched next to the angel. In the corner of her eye, Anna saw Genis scoop up the panpipe and saw the horrific comprehension dawn in his young eyes.

"Let's head back for now," Lloyd said, picking up Colette once more.

As they made their way out of the Tower of Salvation, Anna realized that she was out of time. Kratos would soon be revealed as Lloyd's father and she had a feeling that she had but mere hours left of hiding her true identity.


"I wonder if Colette is going to be okay," Lloyd mumbled, pacing Altessa's house frantically.

Sheena turned away from the fire she had been staring at, lost in though. "We've done everything we can."

Zelos, who was arranging food on the table, smiled cheerfully at Lloyd. Too cheerfully, of course. "She's right, Lloyd. Have something to eat and calm down."

"I can't eat at a time like this!" Lloyd snapped.

"It would be the first time," Anna said, half-heartedly attempting a joke.

"Fair point my lady gorgeous!" chirped the pervert. "How about some carrots? Or a potato?"

Lloyd glared. "I really don't want any."

Zelos scowled. "Hey, what's with you and Genis? Why are you both acting so gloomy?"

Anna left at that. She couldn't bear to listen to the psychotic Mithos shamelessly lie and betray Genis. She flopped down on the ground, leaning against one of the boulders that had failed to crush Mithos Yggdrasill. Looking up at the sky, she could see stars, more than she would normally thanks to her angel abilities. Somewhere up there was Kratos, likely being forced into submission by Yuan. She sighed at the thought, knowing what Lloyd was about to go through.

Anna's thoughts subsided into dreams as she dozed off under cover of nightfall, exhausted from the long day of fighting, even with her new angelic insomnia. A few hours later she awoke with a start, looking wildly around. The hair on the back of her neck was standing up and her stomach was churning with fearful anticipation.

"It's time," she muttered. Anna ran back inside and pushed the shutter on the camera she had positioned in the window. She made to go back outside, but stopped. She turned toward the room where her son and friends all slept, drugged by Zelos. Anna hesitated before walking into the room.

Lloyd was collapsed, fully clothed on his bed, snoring. His face was relaxed and innocent while he slept, not knowing what was just around the bend.

He looks just like Kratos . Anna stroked her son's hair gently, and Lloyd didn't stir. Swiftly she kissed his forehead and whispered, "I love you, Lloyd. I hope you can forgive us." Anna tiptoed out, closing the door behind her.

"Touching," sneered an all too familiar voice.

"Yuan," Anna said, turning to face the bluenette. "Your treachery knows no bounds, does it?"

Yuan sneered as guards came up on either side of Anna and grabbed her arms. "I think you'll know what I'll do to your precious son and your husband should you struggle. Lloyd will be the first to go, should you try anything funny."

Anna stared stoically back at him, not moving or giving any indication she had heard him. Yuan raised an eyebrow questioningly and that was all it took.

"You son of a BITCH!" Anna snarled, diving for Yuan and breaking free of the guards. "You dare to lay a finger on my son! I'll tear your black heart out with my bare hands!" She wrapped two hands around his neck and squeezed hard, willing the life out of his body.

"Restrain her!" Yuan choked out, as three more guards rushed inside and seized the struggling woman. They pried her off and had trouble hanging onto her as Anna thrashed with everything she had to get at Yuan. Something collided with her temple, and though the blow didn't knock her out, it made her stumble, her vision spinning.

"Take her outside, but keep her out of sight and quiet." Yuan turned and headed into Lloyd's room as the Renegades dragged Anna from the house.


Lloyd lay with the comfortable black blanket of sleep around him. He dreamed of his mother and father. He was three again, perched on his father's shoulders, looking up at the stars, his mother singing softly from the house behind them.

Suddenly, Lloyd was jolted awake for seemingly no reason. He went to sit up, but found he could not force his limbs to obey. "My body! I can't move!" he gasped. Lloyd looked around frantically and immediately caught sight of Yuan, who had Lloyd bound with his mana manipulation skills.

"Do you want to meet your father?" Yuan asked, his green eye glittering in the moonlight

Lloyd froze, shocked and infuriated. "What have you done with my dad?!"

Yuan said nothing but vanished. Lloyd, finding he could move once more, seized his swords from under his bed and raced outside without bothering to wake anyone. The door shut behind him and he found two blades blocking his path, both pointing directly at his heart as the Renegade soldiers glared.

Looking past them, the first thing he noticed was Kratos, standing deathly still but appearing as indifferent as always. He too was held at sword point. Yuan stood between Lloyd and Kratos, looking quite pleased with himself.

"Kratos!" Lloyd exclaimed, part angry, part confused. "The Renegades and Cruxis are enemies, aren't they? So why—?"

"Quiet," Yuan snapped. He thought for a minute and shrugged. "Of course, the drug should have everyone sleeping soundly."

Lloyd looked confused. "Drug?" We were drugged? How? Ugh! Focus! "Wait, where’s my dad?” When Yuan said nothing, Lloyd felt his temper rising. "If you've done anything to my dad, I'll tear every last one of you to pieces!"

Yuan smirked. "Now, now, is that the way to act when you're about to meet your father for the first time?"

Kratos's mind was racing. He suddenly understood: that person who kept sneaking into their rooms back when he acted on the world regeneration, the assassin at Hima. He knew it was Yuan's doing, but he had thought it was a subordinate on Yuan's orders, not Yuan himself. "So it was you. You were the assassin who tried to kill me at Hima." He wants to release Origin obviously, but he is going to lengths I never thought. And now he’s going to tell Lloyd…no, he can’t. He mustn’t.

Yuan turned back to Kratos, a gleam in his eyes. In that moment, Kratos knew his worse fear was realized. "Kratos," Yuan said, barely able to contain his triumph. Kratos closed his eyes, willing his former friend not to do what he was about to do.

"If you value your son's life at all, do as we say."

"What are you…talking about?" Lloyd's voice was full of confusion, but deep within him, something was stirring. A horrible kind of realization that he wasn't sure he wanted to identify.

"Release Origin's seal," Yuan demanded of Kratos. "Otherwise, Lloyd will die right here."

Kratos clenched a fist. Yuan dared to threaten his son! Anger burned in his veins at the thought of anyone harming Lloyd…but his rage was interrupted by one word.

"No."

Kratos looked past Yuan to see Lloyd. The boy was staring at him in utter and complete horror, his face pale. "Kratos can't be my dad!" Lloyd rasped out. "I c—I can't believe that!" Lloyd shook his head. "I won't believe that!" he shouted.

Kratos kept his face blank but inside he was screaming. He had always known, that it would be a miracle for Lloyd to ever accept him as a father. But at the sound of Lloyd's words, everything inside of him went numb. There was a terrible, wrenching pain through the gaping wound that had been his heart. My only son can't even bear the fact that I am his father. Kratos looked defiantly at Yuan, refusing to let on that he was dying inside.

"How does it feel to have your own son reject you like that?" Yuan asked evilly.

Kratos tried several times to make his voice work, but to no avail. Finally he managed a strangled "Humph."

Yuan glared, frustrated with Kratos’s lack of reaction. "I'd guess from your attitude, you don't plan on releasing Origin." Kratos still said nothing. He looked now, directly at Lloyd, who turned away, his face contorted in pain.

"If that's the way it's going to be, then you'll just have to die!" Yuan spat. There was a slicing noise and Lloyd cried out.

Kratos felt his body kick into overdrive as pure hate pumped through his blood. "One move, and your son dies!" the Renegade soldier shouted.

Yuan walked up to Kratos, malice in his dark green eyes. He stopped until his face was inch from Kratos's. He could see and feel the energy building inside of the fellow Seraph as Kratos stared blankly ahead. "You changed once you got a family," Yuan said, taunting him now, trying to force something, anything out of the stock-still angel. "Just like that time fifteen years ago. When Anna was transformed into a monster, you lost your ability to fight back. If she hadn't been together with you, she would have never turned out like that." Yuan leaned close and stared right into to Kratos's eyes, which finally focused on Yuan. "Such an unfortunate woman."

Lloyd started forward, but Kratos acted in the same instant and Yuan realized he had gone too far. Before his guards even knew what to do, Kratos had unsheathed his blade and had it at Yuan's throat, poised to run him through. "Release my son or I'll turn this grass crimson with your vile blood!" Kratos pressed the blade harder to Yuan's throat. "And don't you dare speak of Anna like that ever again."

Yuan raised his hands slowly. "Now now, Kratos. Let’s not be hasty. Would it help if I said such things to Anna in person instead of behind her back?"

There was a scufflimg noise and Kratos and Lloyd both looked to see two more Renegades drag Anna from behind one of the boulders. She was held fast and gagged but as soon as she came into sight, one of the guards ripped the gag away.

"Let me go!" Anna screamed. She thrashed wildly, kicking, biting, and punching to break free.

"Ada!" Lloyd shouted, stepping towards her, but he was cuffed back. "Damn it Yuan, let her go! She has nothing to do with this."

"So you think," Yuan said, gazing at Kratos. "What'll it be, Kratos?"

"Kratos!" Anna shouted, straining to get at him. "Don't lower your sword! Kill him! I don't care if they hurt me, but I'll be damned if he gets away with hurting Lloyd!"

Kratos looked her in the eyes. He looked at Lloyd, who was straining almost as hard as his mother to get at Yuan.

Clang!

Kratos sword hit the dirt and he stepped back from Yuan.

"A wise decision," Yuan said. "I wouldn't want to kill your wife a third time."

"Wife?" Lloyd yelped. "Ada and Kratos? What are you saying Yuan?"

"Shut up, you overgrown butterfly!" Anna screeched.

Yuan turned toward the woman. "You don't want him to know?" he asked. "You don't want Lloyd to know who you truly are?"

"It's better he doesn't!" Anna shouted. "It'll…It'll only…"

"It'll only hurt who?" Yuan asked. "Him? Or maybe Kratos? Or maybe you?"

"Ada!" Lloyd shouted. Anna turned to look at Lloyd, who looked straight into her eyes. He stared at the woman he'd come to look up to as a friend, as someone close to him, like a sister, like family. "Ada…what does he mean?"

Anna stopped struggling, looking at Lloyd as tears welled up in her eyes. She turned to look at Kratos, who looked just as afraid as she did.

Yuan sneered. “Her name isn’t Ada,” he said before Anna could speak. “Her real name in Anna Aurion. Your mother."

Lloyd was silent for a long moment. Finally he said, "My mother is dead." He looked at Anna for a moment before turning to Kratos. "He killed her."

"She may have died once…or twice rather," Yuan said, "But somehow her soul was reborn in Adalais Orion and found its way here." Yuan turned back to Kratos. “She was trapped for a while, but then Anna’s soul took over the night Rodyle kidnapped Colette. She is Anna Aurion now."

“That’s insane,” Lloyd said. “And impossible. Tell him Ada. Tell him who you really are. You can’t be my mom.” He was begging now, unwilling to accept that both the parents he thought he had lost were right here this whole time. How could he begin to wrap his head around that?

Anna looked at the ground and said nothing.

“It can’t be true,” Lloyd repeated numbly. “It can’t be.”

"Enough of this,” Yuan said, bored with the family drama as he returned his attention to Kratos.

“Release the seal. Or I will kill this pitiful woman first. You failed to do so properly last time. I will not."

Lloyd shoved his guards aside in anger and ran at Yuan. Whether or not Ada was his mom, Lloyd didn’t care. Yuan believed that she was and Lloyd found it insulting to his mother, whether it was Ada or not. He wasn’t going to stand for that. "Don't mock my mom!"

"Lloyd no!" Anna screamed, breaking free of her own guard. Yuan had already turned, the mana was gathering in his palm. She knew how this would play out, but in reality it seemed impossible. How could Kratos possibly make it time? It didn't matter, she had to stop Yuan.

Anna drew up when she heard Lloyd’s panicked shout of "Kratos?!"

The bolt had fired and Kratos was there. He was in front of Lloyd, his arms flung wide, taking the hit to protect his son. Kratos eyes never left Lloyd's face as he fell to his knees.

"Are you alright?" Kratos asked. He raised his head and inspected Lloyd. He was unharmed. "Good." Kratos grunted and fell backward, sprawling on the ground at his son’s feet. Anna ran to him and flung herself to his side on the ground, clutching his hand.

Lloyd swayed. It was all too much and he let out a pained cry.

"Lloyd?" Anna looked up to see Colette emerging from Altessa's house. "What's wrong? What's going on?!"

Lloyd had his head in his hands, tearing at his hair in frustration in pain. "What am I?" he rasped through sore vocal chords. “What am I supposed to believe?!"

"Lloyd, calm down!" Colette said.

Lloyd shook his head, not hearing her. "It's not true! Kratos can't be…" Lloyd felt angry tears prick his eyes. "The man who betrayed us and made you suffer, he couldn't possibly be…my dad." He gritted his teeth. "Ada’s our friend. She can’t be my mother. My mother died. My father killed her. Kratos killed my mother. Kratos killed Anna….Ada? What is real?!"

"Lloyd, don't lose sight of who you are!" Colette said. "No matter who your parents are, no matter your background, you're still you!"

Lloyd looked up at her, finally hearing her words. "I'm…me?"

"You're the one who told me that no matter what I look like," Colette bit her lip at painful memories, but soldiered on, "even if I become an angel, I'm still me." Colette smiled at him and then looked at Anna with an open and forgiving smile. "And don't forget…Kratos saved you. And Ada—um, Anna—she died to save us all. She always has our back."

Lloyd gulped and looked between his parents for a moment. If anyone else other than Colette had said the same thing, Lloyd might have continued to fret. But he trusted Colette before anyone else. He took her words to heart and knew she would never steer him wrong.

"Yeah, you're right," he finally said. Lloyd crouched down next to Anna and put a hand on her shoulder. "Ada…Anna…wow, this is awkward."

Anna gave a weak chuckle. "I'm going nowhere, Lloyd, we'll figure it out." She clutched Kratos’s hand tighter and kept a watchful eye on Yuan, daring him to move. Yuan was still looking at Kratos shocked, as though he couldn’t believe the lengths Kratos would go to for his son.

For his part, Lloyd stood over his semi-conscious father a mixture of confusion and anger on his face. "Thanks," he finally muttered to Kratos.

Kratos tried to speak, to tell Lloyd he'd do it a thousand times over, to tell Lloyd that he'd give anything to take back all the pain he'd caused, to tell Lloyd that he was proud to be his father. He couldn’t though. Whatever Yuan had hit him with had robbed him of mobility and speech. He was struggling just to stay conscious.

"I still can't call you Dad, though," Lloyd said. "I hate what you…what Cruxis does. Too many people have died. People from Sylvarant, people from Tethe'alla, Desians and Renegades and members of Cruxis—they're all victims. I refuse to accept the idea that it's okay to sacrifice people for a cause. It's not okay to lose your life. No life should be born for the sole purpose of dying. I won't sacrifice the world to save Colette. I'm not giving up until I find a way for everyone to live."

Kratos knew he was right. He understood completely, but as the darkness became complete in his mind, he couldn't help but wish that Lloyd would call him dad, just once.

"Wow, that was an amazingly corny speech," said the high pitched nasally voice of Mithos. "Congratulations."

Colette and Lloyd looked up at the boy as he emerged from the house. Yuan's face drained of color as Mithos obliterated his soldiers before their eyes. Mithos walked up to Yuan, who actually backed away in terror. Mithos smirked before blasting Yuan with mana, launching the angel into the air. Yuan hit the ground hard on his back.

"Hah!" Anna shouted, standing up and planting herself firmly between Mithos and her family. "Now, Mithos, I can finally treat you like the conniving bastard you are!"

Mithos rolled his eyes at her and stood over Yuan's sprawled form. "Did you think I didn't notice what was going on? How pathetic. I had Pronyma keep tabs on Kratos, since it seemed he was leaking information to Lloyd's group."

"Wait a minute," Anna's mind flashed back to her encounters with Kratos at Heimdall, the Ymir Forest, and Welgaia. “So that's why he was so cold and evil. Because Pronyma was following…oh God, I totally forgot!" She was ignored.

Yuan groaned and rolled onto all fours. "Damnit! Yggdrasill! How the hell did you find out?"

Mithos smirked. "That was a pretty amusing scheme you had going. Hard to believe those filthy Renegades that were always getting in my way were actually led by you." Mithos glared at Yuan with pure hate. "If it weren't for my sister's wishes to spare your life, I'd kill you right now." Mithos kicked Yuan hard, a maniacal laughter tearing through the air as the door opened and Genis, Raine, Presea, Regal, Sheena, Zelos, Altessa, and Tabatha all appeared at the scene.

"What's going on?!" Altessa demanded.

"Mithos," Genis moaned sadly. "So it's true…"

"What's true?" Mithos mocked. "That you shouldn't have trusted me? Good guess, Genis. Because I didn't trust you either!" Mithos raised his hand at Genis, who braced himself for the hit.

It never came.

Damn it all! Mithos thought, aiming at Presea instead, who had no time to move.

"Altessa!" Anna cried as the dwarf jumped to shield Presea. But there was no one to shield Tabatha as Mithos aimed at her next. The bolt hit her just as it had her master and both crumpled to the ground.

"MITHOS…SAVED ME…" she said brokenly.

"Shut up!" Mithos shouted.

"MITHOS…SAVED…ME…MITHOS…"

Raine looked at Mithos incredulously. "How could you do that?! You even risked your life to save her!"

"Mithos, why?" Genis cried. "Why are you doing this? How could you hurt Tabatha and Altessa! You got along so well with them!"

"Tabatha!" Mithos spat. "That doll looks so disturbingly like my sister, I never could stand her! She's a failed vessel who couldn't accept my sister's soul! Just looking at her makes me sick!"

"You little bastard!" Lloyd snarled. "How dare you betray my best friend?!"

"Lloyd, stop!" Genis shouted, jumping in between the two. "Please! You're both my friends!"

Anna felt a disturbance in the air. Angels. They're coming, as is Pronyma. She unfurled her wings and called forth her power. "Sacred powers," Anna began to chant as Pronyma appeared.

"Lord Yggdrasill," the slut said. "Your wounds are not yet healed. Please leave this to the angels."

Mithos raised his arms, his body engulfed in a shimmering light. With a flash, the adult Yggdrasill stood before them. In another instant, Yggdrasill and Pronyma had vanished, though they left Kratos as three angels descended.

"Rest in peace sinners!” Anna shouted “JUDGMENT!"

Holy light erupted from the sky and crashed over the angels. In a puff of loose feathers, the twisted beings had gone. That done Anna turned back to Kratos’s collapsed form, but it vanished right under her fingers.

"No life should be born for the sole purpose of dying?” Mithos disembodied voice echoed around them. “What do you think those Exspheres are that you're using?"


Things moved quickly after that. They ran to Flanoir immediately to fetch the conceited doctor and bring him to Altessa. Once the escort left with the Doctor, the remaining heroes took rooms at the inn in Flanoir. Throughout all of this, Lloyd had not once said a word to Anna.

It was late and Anna tiptoed past Lloyd's door, knowing that he was still awake, pacing the room, digesting all of the information that had been thrown at him in the past 24 hours. Ahead of her, a door opened and Anna quickly ducked behind a large potted tree.

"Hi Ada!" Colette said brightly, peering around the tree. "Oops…I mean, Anna. Or Mrs. Aurion."

Anna sighed. "I forgot about your angel senses. And call me Anna, though I'll respond to Ada too since I've been under that name for so long."

"Okay Anna," Colette chirped. "What are you doing out here? Did you see the snow outside?"

Anna couldn't help but smile. "I did. I thought I'd go for a bit of a walk." She eyed Colette. "I suppose you're going to ask Lloyd to accompany you outside?" Colette blushed and stammered, but Anna put a hand on the girl's shoulder. "Lloyd cares about you very much Colette. I'm not here to act parental…at least not until he accepts me as his mother."

Colette looked relieved. "I'm sure he will. You've saved him, and the rest of us so much, he'll be fine. Don't worry."

Anna smiled at her and left, stepping out into the snowy landscape. White covered every inch of Flanoir, reflecting the streetlights, engulfing the city in a warm glow. It was utterly still and very peaceful, everyone having taken refuge by the warm fires of their homes. Everyone except a lone, blue headed figure lurking in the shadows of the inn. Anna grinned and unfurled her wings, flying up to perch on the balcony just above Yuan's head. Between the curtains, she caught sight of Raine, discussing something with Genis.

"Spying Yuan?" Anna asked.

There was a hiss followed by a thud as Yuan jumped and slipped face-first into the snow. Anna snickered and floated down to join him. "You really think your presence is at all welcome here?"

Yuan scowled. "I was trying to stop Yggdrasill. I did what I had to."

"Your excuses mean nothing to me," Anna said, throwing a bit of Kratos into her voice. "It'll be sometime before I forgive you. I swear you'll pay for it."

"Do as you like," Yuan snapped.

Anna glared. "Spying on Raine again?" Yuan tried to keep his face as blank as possible, but Anna wasn't fooled. "You're nowhere near as good as Kratos is, so don't even try it on me. I've seen you anyway. Every time we all meet, you always stare at her when you think noone is watching."

"I do not," Yuan argued.

"Oh yes you do," Anna replied. "And I know full well that she thinks you're attractive. She was kinda jealous when we found you looking for your engagement ring at Mount Fooji."

"How did you…wait, do you have my ring?" Yuan demanded.

Anna sighed and fished it out of her pocket, and gave it to him. "We are putting Martel and her memory to rest." Anna looked up at Raine's room. "Perhaps you should do the same."

Anna unfurled her wings and departed, soaring over the snowy landscape until she was perched high on the church, next to the steeple, leaning on it as she sat down and closed her eyes.

It happened immediately. The slight cold she felt from the snow, the thoughts racing through her mind, the feelings of pain, anticipation, happiness, they all ceased to exist and she once more found herself in the white void where she had spoken to Origin what seemed like an eternity to go.

"Really?" Anna said out loud, scowling. “Are we doing this again, Rainbow Brite?”

"Do you not know proper manners, girl?" Origin replied. This time, the multi-armed, rainbow colored summon spirit showed himself in his tangible form before Anna.

"I apologize," Anna said, not sounding apologetic at all.

"I shall skip pleasantries," Origin replied stiffly. "You're interference in this world has caused problems that neither I nor Maxwell could have foreseen."

"What kind of problems?" Anna asked quickly, a cold dread seeping into her bones.

"Problems that will prevent these worlds from being saved and problems that will further them to destruction."

"What?!" Anna shrieked. "Destruction? But…but…"

"Perhaps had you remained in the planet of the dead…" Origin trailed off.

"Planet of the dead?" Anna asked. "You mean, I was on Earth because when Symphonian people die, that's where they go?"

"I've said too much," Origin sighed. "The point is, as little faith I place in people, I've decided to do one last thing to ensure this world isn't immediately destroyed."

"What?" Anna asked. "Is it something I can do? I would do anything to save Symphonia."

"Anything," Origin repeated. "Very well…then you must give up your prior knowledge of the forth coming events."

Anna gasped. "But…that could help…"

Origin went to Anna side and pointed straight ahead. An image formed in front of them. Zelos, his orange wings glinting in the light from the Tower of Salvation, was locked sword to sword with Lloyd. As Anna watched, Lloyd plunged his other blade into Zelos chest, tears racing down her son's face as Zelos died on the floor. The picture vanished. It was Regal now, fending off hundreds of angels as stone crumbled, covering the passageway behind him. He was fighting with everything he had, but he was no match. Anna watched in horror as he was stabbed from behind. He collapsed, broken and bleeding, dying in the dirt. The image shifted and showed Sheena, in the clutches of a branch of the crazed Giant Tree. She released her lifeline branch and plummeted into to darkness. She hit the ground, a huge root tearing through her body, leaving her corpse dangling limply from its pike. Origin showed her everyone. Raine being crushed as the room collapsed on her. Presea being strangled by the branches wrapped around her tiny body. The green walls of mana dissolving Genis's flesh. One by one she watched them die until Mithos stood over the bodies of Lloyd and Colette, ordering the angels and Pronyma to decapitate the bound figures of Yuan and Kratos.

"STOP!" Anna shrieked, as Pronyma's weapon sped toward Kratos's neck. "Stop this!"

The picture faded. Anna was on her knees, panting and shaking.

"Now you know what is at stake," Origin said. "If you warn them, no one can rescue them. And you can't help but try to warn them. Worse, if you try to save them, it will throw off the precarious timing that Kratos and Zelos’s choices will bring. Therefore, you must forget what is to come."

Anna clutched her head. "All right…" she moaned.

Origin placed his hand on her head. "You will forget everything from this point forward. You will know I took these memories, but you will not know what they are. You will forget what you've just seen."

Anna nodded numbly as Origin chanted in some foreign language. There was a flash of light and Anna was back on the roof of the church. She squinted through the snow, trying to see, but it was his voice that reached her first.

"Her Exsphere was removed," Kratos was saying. Anna caught sight of Lloyd staring up at his father, listening to the tale of his past. "Lacking a Key Crest, the mana in her body went out of control, and she turned into a monster. When it tried to devour you, Noishe protected you, and Anna regained control of herself…momentarily."

Lloyd appeared startled and glanced back at the watching protozoan. "Noishe saved me?"

"That's probably when Noishe became sensitive to monsters," Kratos mused. "Noishe and Anna were both wounded. You mother begged me to kill her."

Lloyd blanched at that. "I've heard enough."

But Kratos soldiered on. "Anna went out of control again and turned on you. Then I…"

"That's enough!"

"I…killed her."

"I said, that's enough!"

"After that, Kvar attacked, then you and Noishe fell down the cliff along with the Exsphere. I fought off Kvar and his men, and descended the cliff, but all that was left were the Desian corpses, half-eaten by monsters." Kratos looked at his son sadly, his eyes haunted by the pain of that night. "I thought there was no way you could still…be alive."

Anna winced as she too fell into memories of that painful night…

No!" Kratos moaned as Anna shrieked and writhed in agony. Her eyes flew open and slowly faded into crimson. Her thrashing limbs elongated and bulged, her skin tinged a scaly green. He stared in horror as the beast known as an exbelua rose from the ground. Lloyd whimpered for his mother and buried his face in Kratos's shirt as the exbelua raised a deadly claw. Kratos backed away in horror, but the claw swung in. He dodged and raced forward, but some of Anna's reflexes must have carried over in her transformation. Her other claw connected solidly with his back. He flew through the air, Lloyd flying from his grasp and landing at the edge of the cliff.

The monster turned on Kratos, attempting to deliver another crushing blow.

CLANG!

Kratos grunted as the flat his sword collided with the claw. Using all of his strength, he pushed the monster away and surged to his feet, staring up at the creature that had been his wife. Lloyd sat behind them, sobbing as Noishe licked his face. Tears raced down the scaly green face of the exbelua. Somewhere in there was Anna…meaning there was a chance to bring her back.

"Anna!" Kratos yelled, blocking as she charged him again. "Anna, snap out of it! You know me! Kratos, your husband!" He blocked another swipe, cutting her hand open and wincing as green blood coursed down his blade, burning his hand. "You know me. You must! Remember!

Remember Lloyd, your son! Your son Anna!"

The monster halted, staring around. "Kratos…" the disembodied voice echoed with pain. "Lloyd…"

"Yes…" Kratos whispered. "Remember Anna…"

Anna let out a roar and turned, charging toward her son. Noishe leaped at her, but was cuffed aside, hitting a tree and collapsing in a bloodied heap. Anna raised a claw, tears coming thick and fast now, as Lloyd ducked and cried out, "Mommy! Don't!"

"Lloyd!" Kratos raced forward without thinking and lunged in with his sword. An unearthly shriek and a child's cry echoed around the clearing. Blood exploded into the air landing on everyone in drops that burned. The claw crashed into the grounds, rocks flying up. One hit Lloyd, knocking the boy unconscious as Anna slumped to her knees, Kratos pulling his sword from her back. What have I done?!

Slowly, the monster shrank, the green blood turning red as Anna turned to face Kratos, her eyes, brown again, full of tears. "Kratos…" she crawled to him blindly and he rushed to her, ripping his cloak off and pressing it to Anna's wound. Anna coughed and clutched something in her bloody fingers. Around her neck hung the locket Kratos had given to her what felt like a lifetime ago.

"Kratos," she moaned. “You must finish me!" She ripped the locket from her and slipped it into his free hand. "Take it so Lloyd will know what I look like…so you two won't forget me."

"Anna!" Kratos cried. "You're back, you're okay. Surely I don't have to…"

Anna shook her head and shuddered. "I don't have much time, love," she said, tears streaking down her bloodied cheeks. "It's going to take me again, I can feel it." She looked at him and fixed him with a determined glared. "I won't die on my knees. I can't!" She shuddered again.

"You're not going to die!" Kratos said. "I can—"

"Please Kratos," she begged. "You must kill me. If you don't, I'll hurt Lloyd again." She sighed and stroked his cheek. "You swore to protect us, remember? Protect me from myself, my love."

He couldn't refuse her, even in the end. He nodded, tears burning his eyes.

Anna reached over and seized the cursed exsphere. "Destroy it along with me." She smiled. "Don't forget me. Tell Lloyd I will always be watching over him."

She pushed away and got to her feet, straightening against the pain. Kratos picked up his sword, numbness creeping over him at what he was about to do. He faced her and she was smiling at him, her face just as lovely as it had been when her first lay eyes on her..

"I'm not gonna hold back this time," she said, as though this was just another sparring exercise between them.

Kratos smiled for her one last time. "I know. I won't either."

"It's funny," she said as her eyes began to change. "We met as foes, you of Cruxis, me in the human ranch. Now we part in the same way."

Kratos shook his head. "Never! You are my life, Anna. My life, my world, my soul, my love. Never my enemy."

"Protect Lloyd." Anna cringed in pain. "Don't let Yggdrasill win, my love." In a flash, the exbelua was back charging him…and he ran to meet it, crying out silently, Forgive me, Anna! Forgive me!

"Goodbye.”

The first hit shuddered through his entire body, burning into his very bones. This had to be done, he had to protect their son. He felt the blood burn on his hands as the guilt he knew so well wrapped around him. He was the fallen angel, forced to slay the woman he loved, the woman who had come to grief because of his tainted soul.

The monster swung, Kratos parrying each and every blow. He winced as his blade snaked in and out like lighting, severing flesh, scraping across bone. The monster, for he could not think of it as his Anna, roared in fury, trying to fight him off, but she could not. No one ever could, Kratos thought bitterly. He looked for an opening, the swordsman in his mind controlling him while his heart screamed. There it was. In he lunged, piercing the beast in the chest. There was a roar and a crash as it collapsed, inches from Lloyd.

Kratos lowered his blade, horrified at what he had just done. The monster faded once more into Anna who was lingering just before death. He collapsed at her side and kissed her wasted lips as her breathing faded. "Forgive me."

"Always," she muttered. “I love you, Kratos. Forever."

"I love you Anna. For eternity."

Kratos didn't know how long he sat there, waiting for her breath to fade as she lay once more in his lap…but she soldiered on. There was no healing her, he tried and it failed. Yet she waited to die as Kratos willed Lloyd to regain consciousness.

"Well, well, well!" said a cold voice behind him. Kvar stood there, line after line of Desian troops gathered behind him in the dark. “The mighty Seraphim kills his lover and his bastard son. How tragic."

Kratos said nothing, but the smell of blood welled up inside him as his black heart demanded the life of the man who had caused it all. Kvar looked coldly back into Kratos's dead eyes and smiled. "Kill him!"

They charged and Kratos rose, his sword like a song as it whistled through the air so fast, the first fool didn't even know what hit him. "Blame your fate!" Kratos roared as he plunged into the fray. He sliced, hacked, stabbed, kicked, and punched, battling his way through wave after wave of lackeys toward Kvar, the heart of everything. And after Kvar fell at Kratos's hands…Mithos would soon follow.

Kvar crept around to where Anna lay dying, looking disdainfully at the pitiful human. Noishe hobbled over to Anna, growling at Kvar. Lloyd stirred.

"Where is it?" Kvar asked the dying girl.

Anna smiled. "Gone."

"Gone?"

"Yes. You failed your master." Lloyd opened his eyes and saw the cold man grinning evilly as Noishe growled.

"Daddy...Mommy…"

Kvar growled, gathering fiery blue mana in his palm. "Then I have no use for you. Any of you!" There was a flash as he released the bolt at Anna.

"Daddy!" Kratos turned as a flash of blue light illuminated the scene. He stared in horror as three silhouettes were launched into the air, stark against the mana's strong glow. Kratos raced toward his son as Lloyd, Anna, and Noishe plummeted. His wings burst from his back.

"JUDGEMENT!" Light exploded from the sky, vaporizing everyone and everything around him. He kept moving toward the cliff, preparing to dive after Lloyd. He jumped.

"I think not!" Kvar appeared behind him and struck Kratos with another bolt of mana. Distracted as he was Kratos didn’t see it and didn’t dodge. Kratos crashed to the ground and skidded just short of the cliff, his vision swimming.

"Lloyd," he murmured as his world went black.

Anna could hear Lloyd screaming as the air rushed around her, but it sounded odd. It was fading in and out as though from a badly tuned radio. She reached out, trying to grasp in the expanding darkness for her most precious child. Lloyd. Her fingers brushed cloth and she pulled her son into her arms, shielding him as he cried, just before he back met solid rock, driving the breath from her dying lungs. Everything went white and she knew this was it.

NO! she thought frantically, fighting her way back towards Lloyd. I won't die! Not until Lloyd is safe. She struggled, willing herself to inhale. Her lungs filled. Exhale…Inhale…Heart beat…once…twice…faintly. She saw the starry sky through a haze. Lloyd was unconscious in her arms, clutching her tightly. Someone…Kratos…Anyone…

She heard footsteps. A short, bearded man was speaking to her, asking if she was ok.

Thank you… "Please," she whispered to the stranger. "Lloyd. Please."


"If you feel that way, then you must have realized it by now!" Lloyd exclaimed, jerking his mother from the reveries. "Mistakes can be corrected. It's not too late. Let's look for a way to release Origin without sacrificing your life…together."

Anna smiled.

Kratos turned away from his son, a faint glimmer of pleasure and hope in his eyes. "I still have something I must do. Until I am able to entrust it to you, I cannot fight alongside you."

"Something you have to do?" Lloyd asked, confused and dismayed.

"The Eternal Sword," Kratos replied. "Until I am able to entrust it to you…do not die, Lloyd."

"Kratos!" Lloyd shouted. "Where are you going?"

Kratos did not stop. His voice dripped with sadness and pain as he looked up at the angel, perched on the church roof. "Do not allow Yggdrasill to continue as he pleases. He is capable of sacrificing any number of lives. Stop Yggdrasill…stop Mithos…before Colette is taken from you again."

Lloyd watched his father disappear into the snow. "I'll stop him," Lloyd said, clenching a fist. "I'll head to Derris-Kharlan and put an end to this." Lloyd sighed, watching the direction Kratos had left in. "I guess I should talk to Ada—Anna too."

Lloyd leaned on the balcony over-looking the city below. "Mom…did it hurt…what Kratos was forced to do?"

"You've no idea how horrifically painful it was," said a solemn voice from behind him. Lloyd spun around to see Anna perched next to him on the banister, her wings flapping gently, her face somber. "It was awful."

Lloyd sighed. "No one ever mentions that it hurts to die."

Anna shook her head. "It wasn't dying that hurt. It was knowing what I was leaving, who I was leaving." Anna met Lloyd's eyes. "Knowing I was leaving you, knowing that I would never see the man you would grow up to be…words could never express that pain."

Lloyd said nothing. He didn't know what to say, so he just looked at Anna as she went on.

"I tried to hold on," Anna said. "I held on as long as I could after Kratos had done what I asked. I had to make sure you'd be all right. Then Kvar blasted me off the cliff. When I hit the ground, I know I was dead for a moment. But I refused to go until you were safe. Then Dirk came." Anna hopped off the railing and looked Lloyd up and down. "I never thought I'd be here. I never thought I’d see this. I am so very proud of you and and proud to fight by my son's side."

"Ada…Anna…um…" Lloyd stammered, trying to find the right thing to call her.

Anna looked at him, a sad smile gracing her features. "You can call me Anna…I understand if you don't want to call me Mom."

Lloyd thought for a moment. "I do though…" he said awkwardly.

"Really?" Anna asked, her voice hopeful.

Lloyd nodded. "I've been thinking about it a lot," he said. "I've always felt that there was a reason you were so protective of me and why I felt close to you. It's not like it is with Sheena, and definitely not Colette…more like the Professor…only, you know…more than that." Lloyd grinned.

"I see," was all Anna could say.

"But it’s still weird," Lloyd continues. “I just need a little bit. To adjust.”

“I understand,” Anna said with a smile. “I’ll be ready when you are.” She grinned cheekily. “But you do realize as soon as you do…I have the right to exercise parental authority, right?"

Lloyd rolled his eyes. "You already do. I already consider you like a mom anyway. What’s the change?"

Anna laughed and hugged her son, who patted her awkwardly on the back.

"Oh, I'm sorry," squeaked a voice from behind them. Anna released Lloyd and smiled behind her at Colette.

"Don't worry," Anna assured her. "I was just leaving."

"See ya in the morning Anna," Lloyd said, smiling.

Anna nodded and flew away. She chanced a glance around Flanoir and saw, to her excitement, Kratos, sitting in a shadowy corner, leaning on Noishe.

Anna pelted through the sky toward him. "Kratos!" she shouted.

Kratos looked up and saw Anna flying full force toward him. Kratos got to his feet just as Anna furled her wings and dropped in front of him. Rather than let her land, her caught her, making her giggle.

“You are far too reckless," Kratos chided, setting her on her feet.

Anna raised an eyebrow at Kratos. She yanked her ponytail loose and shook half of her hair in front of her face, similar to how Kratos's hair was. She folded her arms across her chest like he did. "You are far too serious," she said, in a dead on imitation of him. Kratos shook his head, but Anna could see the amusement in his eyes.

"So…" Anna said, peering up at her husband. "Lloyd knows now."

"Indeed," Kratos said heavily.

Anna put her arms around him and rested her head on his shoulder. "He said he wanted to call me mom, she told him. “But he had to adjust into it first."

Kratos closed his eyes and stroked Anna's hair, trying to tell himself that it didn't hurt to hear this. Lloyd had mostly accepted Anna. He would never accept Kratos. "Good. There's no reason for him not to."

"Kratos—"

"After all," the Seraph continued. "You did not deceive him. You didn't betray him. You never hurt him, or his friends. He should be proud to call you his mother."

"Kratos," Anna said sternly. "Everything you've done has been for him, in the end."

"I left him at the bottom--"

"How were you to know he'd gotten away?"

"I should never have returned to Cruxis…"

"But you never would have found him if you hadn't!"

Kratos looked down at her ferocious glare. "Why can't you despise me as well? It would be so much simpler if you did."

Anna punched his shoulder. "Have I ever simplified things?" she demanded. "Besides he doesn't despise you!"

"You don't know that," Kratos said.

“Yes I do!"

"You're knowledge isn't fool proof, Anna."

"What about my motherly instincts?" she shot back. Kratos said nothing. Anna smirked. "Score 1 for me!"

"Utterly absurd," Kratos muttered.

Anna gritted her teeth. She knew that until the moment came, Kratos's mind would not be persuaded. She changed the subject. "My ‘knowledge' as you call it isn’t the reason I know this anyway. Especially when Origin wiped my memory."

Kratos looked at her. "Wiped your memory of what? And why would he interfere."

Anna glared up toward where she hoped Origin could see. "He wiped it of the foresight I have about the rest of the story. I've no idea what's going to happen. He said I've altered things too much." She remembered Lloyd's words on the balcony. "And thanks to you, our noble, bone-headed son is going to go tangle with Yggdrasill!"

"He must," Kratos replied. "Or Yggdrasill…Mithos…he'll just attack again, and who knows what innocents may get hurt?" Kratos lifted her chin up with his long fingers. "Can I ask you not to go, my love?"

Anna buried her face in her hands. "I'm going with him," she replied. "I must."

"You don't know what dangers await you in the tower!" Kratos argued. "You could…he could." Kratos trailed off. "What have I done?"

"You're right!" Anna said. "I don't know the danger! I'm going in blind and it is absolutely terrifying because our son's life, as well as seven other people's, hang in the balance!" She grabbed Kratos's shoulders. "What do I do?!"

Kratos opened his mouth to reply, but the sound of footsteps reached their ears. Kratos looked at Anna and gestured upward. Anna nodded and flew up onto a nearby roof and out of sight.

"Ugh," Anna groaned to herself, seeing who was approaching Kratos. "What is he doing here?"

"Chosen," Kratos acknowledged. "You're late."

"I beg your pardon, Kratty!" Zelos mocked. "What can my gorgeous self do for you?"

"I have a request," Kratos said. "Not from Cruxis. I ask you this as Lloyd's father, in opposition to Yggdrasill's wishes."

"Hmmm," Zelos said. "Traitor eh? Well it wouldn't be the first time for you would it?"

Anna had to bite her lip to keep from screaming obscenities at the idiotic Chosen One.

"Clever," Kratos replied dryly. "I require you to fetch Aionis for me."

"And how do I do that?" Zelos asked. "Only Pronyma could get close to it in light of recent events, and it's being used in the event they capture Colette."

"Exactly," Kratos said.

Zelos looked at him in confusion, before comprehension dawned on him. "I see."

"Your decision?" Kratos asked. "You can choose what you do…but know that if you can help, it would be easier for everyone."

"I'll let you know," Zelos said. He turned and walked off into the snow. Anna growled and rejoined Kratos.

"I wonder what he will do," Kratos said.

Anna gritted her teeth. "I don't know! I should but I don’t."

Kratos sighed. "Anna…I must go now, preparations must be made." The auburn haired man gripped her arms and pulled her around to face him. "Promise me something?"

Anna smiled. "Anything," she replied. "Within reason, of course."

"Just…don't do anything brave," Kratos asked. "I couldn't…I couldn't bear it if I lost you again and neither could Lloyd.”

Anna looked him in the eyes for a long moment. She could see the shadows in his eyes, the ones her death had imprinted in his soul forever. She thought of Lloyd, crying as Anna fought death to get him to safety. She heard Kratos's whispered goodbye all those years ago. She heard Lloyd desperately hacking at the impenetrable glass in Rodyle's ranch as water filled her lungs. She could feel Kratos's heart, broken but eternally beating, pieces coming back now that she was alive.

Anna stood on tiptoe, pressing her lips to Kratos's and kissing him gently. He pulled her to him, returning the kiss vigorously.

"It may be unavoidable," Anna whispered against his lips

"Anna," Kratos said, holding her hands in his, his eyes almost pleading. "Just…stay behind. Please, my love. Don’t go into this trap.”

“I must," Anna said, pulling her hand from Kratos's. "I have to keep Lloyd safe. I'm sorry.”

"Anna…" Kratos felt her hands leave his.

"I will not plunge headfirst into death, Kratos," Anna said. "But neither will I not fight with everything I have. I love you.”

Anna turned and walked away from him in the snow. She had to stand by Lloyd’s side, even if this was a trap. She knew deep down Kratos could understand that.


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