Mirror Image

Every Truce Has Severed

The next morning dawned bright and sunny. The snowy ground was like the face of a many faceted diamond, glinting and sparkling as Lloyd stepped out into the light. Noishe was waiting for him.

"Oh, Noishe," Lloyd said. "What's that in your mouth?" Noishe nudged Lloyd's hand with his nose, urging his owner to take the item clasped gently in his jaws.

"A pendant?" Lloyd asked. "What is—?" he broke off as he opened the locket. Inside was a picture. Kratos smiled up at him from the tiny pendant, his arm around a laughing woman. Perched on their shoulders was a chubby baby waving two sticks. "It's Kratos and…Mom?"

Lloyd gasped. If he ever had any doubts that Ada really was his mom, this waylaid his fears. In the picture her hair was cropped shorter, she was a little thinner, likely from the exsphere effects, but it was very clearly her.

"Then this baby must be…me." Lloyd said, looking at the tiny toddler with wild brown hair. He looked up at Noishe. "Kratos gave this to you, didn't he?" Noishe barked happily.

"Well, I’d say he gave it to me, I gave it to him, then he gave it to Noishe to give to you," Anna said, coming up behind Lloyd and causing him to jump. Anna looked down at the locket. "He gave it to me on our last anniversary together. You were two, nearly three."

"Then here," Lloyd said, holding the locket out to her. "You should take it."

Anna shook her head. "Kratos wants you to have it, as do I." She smiled. "That way, no matter what happens in the end, we'll both be with you."

Lloyd looked up at his mother in alarm. "Do you know what's to happen? Is something bad…?"

"I don't know," Anna replied, anger flashing in her eyes. "Origin decided to wipe my memory last night. I have no idea what's going to happen today." She put a hand on Lloyd's soldier. "We're heading into danger, obviously. We all know that so that is not very helpful."

Anna closed the locket still laying open in Lloyd’s hand and pressed said hand to his heart. "Kratos has been wearing this for fifteen years, since I pushed it into his hand the night I died. He's tormented by the things he's done to hurt you, the things he did to me, and the things he has done for Mithos. This is his way of showing you how much he loves you and how sorry he is." Lloyd looked down, embarrassed, but Anna continued. "Kratos and I will fight our hardest to help and protect you. But in case it's not enough, keep this close."

Lloyd nodded. "Okay, I'll hang on to it." He hung the chain around his neck and tucked it out of sight. "Thanks Ada. I mean Anna!"

The others emerged from the inn behind them, chatting in high spirits. They only had to wait a few minutes before Zelos, Regal, and Presea returned from Altessa's.

"How is he?" Lloyd asked Zelos immediately.

"Well, he managed to pull through," Zelos said. "Some dudes from Mizuho are hanging out there to guard him, so everything is alright."

“Oh thank God,” Anna muttered, relived.

"Yeah,” Zelos said, looking at her curiously. “Only…wait,” he approached her and looked at her even more strangely. “You would have known that already. Why are you surprised, did we change something? Was he supposed to have died? What gives?"

Anna sighed and shook her head. “Origin wiped my memory. I have no idea what happens from now on."

"What unfortunate timing," Regal remarked.

"We rely too much on Anna and what she knows," Lloyd remarked. "We have to work together as a team and forge our own future, not just the one Anna knew about. We have to do it ourselves if we want to do it right!” He looked around at his friends. “The world is never gonna change if we just wait for Cruxis to make the next move, right? So this time, we're going to strike them first."

Zelos grinned hugely. "Well, so you're finally ready to do it! We're gonna raid Cruxis!"

Lloyd grinned too. "Yeah. I have two objectives: Prevent the establishment of Mithos' new Age…and release Origin."

"But if you release Origin, what about Kratos?" Genis asked.

Lloyd looked confused and thought for a moment. "I don't really know yet." He shook his head. "We don't know for certain that he'll actually die. We also don't know if he'll side with us or not. We don't have the time to worry about things we're not sure of."

"What do you intend to do about the Eternal Sword?" Raine asked. "Even if you break Origin's seal, you can't wield it, remember? And I doubt either Genis or I would be able to handle a sword."

"Don't worry about that," Zelos said, drawing himself up haughtily. "I've got it covered."

"What are you talking about?" Lloyd demanded.

Zelos rolled his eyes. "Why do you think I can use magic swords? I received magic injections with the latest in Tethe'alla technology. In other words, I'm a human with elven blood in me. That should work, shouldn't it?"

"I'm not sure about that…sounds sketchy," Anna remarked. "Perhaps my angelic abilities could allow me to wield it, should you be unable to, Zelos."

"Then I guess this will be the final battle," Raine said.

Presea nodded. "Understood. Let us end this."

"For the sake of uniting the worlds," Regal added.

"Yeah!" Genis said, punching a fist in the air.

"And for creating a place where everyone can live freely!" Anna added, holding up rock fingers.

"I'll do my best, too!" Colette said, saluting.

"Colette," Lloyd said, putting his hand on her shoulder. "I need you to stay behind."

"Why?" she cried.

"They want you as Martel's vessel," Lloyd said. "We'll have either Mizuho or the Renegades hide you."

Colette looked down, tears welling up in her eyes. "If…that's what you want," Colette thought for a moment. Finally she shook her head and glared up at Lloyd. "No, I'm going, too!"

"Heh, I get it!" chirped Zelos, before Lloyd could say anything. "You don't think you can protect her. That is so sad."

"Wh—what did you say?" Lloyd snapped, rounding on the Chosen.

"Don't worry, Colette!" Zelos cried, ignoring Lloyd. "I, the great Zelos, swear to protect you!"

"Zelos!" Lloyd shouted.

Zelos folded his arms and looked at Lloyd. "Take her along, Lloyd. They're gonna be after her no matter where she is. You ought to know that by now. Be a man, show her what you're made of!"

Sheena looked at Zelos in surprise. "Wow, we actually have the same opinion for once. Sorry, Lloyd, but I agree with Zelos this time."

"Me too," Anna said. "After everything Colette's been through, she has the right more than any of us to take down Yggdrasill."

Lloyd sighed. He didn’t like it, but he couldn’t argue with Anna and Sheena at the very least. "All right, Colette will come with us, okay?"

Colette smiled and launched herself at him, hugging him tightly. A blush crept up Lloyd's face. "Thank you, Lloyd. And everyone else, too." She released Lloyd and skipped off to chat with Genis as they made their way out of Flanoir. Lloyd stood frozen in the same position, his face beet red from Colette’s hug. Anna chuckled and waved her hand in front of his face.

"Hello?" she called. "Earth to Lloyd! We gotta go!" Lloyd didn't move. Anna sighed. "LLOYD KRATOS IRVING! MOVE IT!" Lloyd snapped out of it and dashed off, muttering a ‘yes ma'am’ to his mother. Two seconds later he stopped, bewildered.

"Wow," he said, looking at Anna. "You really are my mom aren't you?" Then his face paled. "Wait…my middle name is…"

"LLOYD'S MIDDLE NAME IS KRATOS!" Genis shouted, roaring with laughter.

"Shut up Genis!" Lloyd said, passing Zelos to hit the half-elf.

"All right, let's go kick come Cruxis butt, Lloyd!" Zelos cried.

Lloyd looked around at Zelos, appraisingly. "Zelos, can I really trust you?"

Zelos looked affronted, but Anna saw guilt in his eyes. "What are you saying? Of course you can trust me! I'm the type that responds to people's trust."

"Really?" Lloyd asked, his voice heavy with disbelief.

"Really! Really, really, come on, let's go!" Zelos said quickly.

Lloyd left and Anna glared at the back of Zelos's head. "Don't forget what I said, Zelos."

"Which bit, my amnesia babe?" Zelos asked slyly.

"I may not know what you are scheming anymore,” Anna said, “but if you dare to hurt Lloyd, your life is forfeit."

Before heading to the Tower, they swung by Altessa's to check on him. The dwarf was very pale, but looked much better than he had when they had ran to fetch the doctor.

"Everyone...thank you," he said as they inquired after his health. "I owe you my life. I still can't believe that Mithos is Yggdrasill."

"Altessa," Lloyd said seriously. "We'll settle things with Mithos."

Altessa nodded solemnly. "I see. You're going to Derris-Kharlan." Lloyd nodded. Altessa looked as though he were debating deep within himself. Finally he said, "Lloyd. There is a way for you to wield the Eternal Sword."

"What?!" gasped Lloyd and Anna.

"Despite being a human," Altessa explained, "Lord Kratos is able to wield a magic sword because of Aionis, which can only be mined in Derris-Kharlan."

Raine looked fascinated. "Aionis has that kind of power?"

Anna heard Zelos turn around. His footsteps were heavy, almost hesitant as he exited quietly. Pushing that aside, Anna remembered something Kratos had told her before Lloyd was born.

"Magic transfusion," Anna said. "I asked Kratos once how he could use magic swords and such because not all the angels seemed as though they could." Raine looked at Anna in
envy at her sudden knowledge. "Hey! You wanna marry a Cruxis Seraphim be my guest," Anna told Raine. "You'd be privy to all sorts of knowledge."

"Adala—Anna is right," Altessa said. "Lord Kratos drank Aionis in powdered form. Cruxis does indeed call it magic transfusion."

"Cruxis did it?" Raine asked.

Sheena smacked her forehead in dawning comprehension. "So the magic transfusion that the stupid…that Zelos was talking about must have been passed on by Cruxis through the Church of Martel..."

Altessa nodded. "Aionis is capable of absorbing mana from its surroundings and converting it into magic energy. If you could use that characteristic in some way, you might be able to—" Altessa broke off in a sudden coughing fit, his voice raspy.

"I told you not to exert yourself!" the doctor snapped.

Lloyd stood. "Okay. After we defeat Mithos, we'll search for that Aionis thing."

Altessa ignored the doctor. "Yes...but the only ones who might know where it is would be those close to Yggdrasill, such as Lady Pronyma or Lord Kratos."

"Or Yuan," Raine said, involuntarily. Out of the corner of her eye, Anna saw Raine blushing slightly.

"I forbid you to talk anymore," the doctor informed Altessa. He glared at the others. "If my patient dies on me, I won't get paid for succeeding."

Lloyd rolled his eyes. "All right….Hmm? Where's Zelos? "

Outside, Zelos was looking at a hologram projection of Kratos, who was looking anxious.

Zelos was thinking hard. If I do this, what about Seles? Am I really strong enough? Do I have it in me? If I betray Lloyd, Seles will be freed for sure from that wretched abbey. If I don't…who's to say we all won't die?

"If you want the answer from the question in Flanoir," Zelos said slowly. Suddenly, in his mind's eye he saw Sheena. Beautiful, strong, fiery Sheena.Can I betray her…she who is so different from the rest of the girls I seek out?

Zelos looked up at Kratos and resentment burned in his heart. You were too cowardly to do it yourself, to tell Lloyd who you really were, and now I'm being given a stupid choice. My sister or Sheena. I'm tired of following everyone's orders! Watch them this, follow them that, fetch me Aionis, I've had enough!

Zelos gritted his teeth. "It's 'No.' I'm going to follow my own path. You can do whatever you want."

Kratos sighed. "Lloyd will be sad," Kratos remarked.

Zelos shrugged. "I hope so. Anyways, you're gonna get in trouble if anyone catches you transmitting to this location."

Kratos nodded as he saw Lloyd and Anna emerge from Altessa's "That is true." There was a flash and he was gone.

"Huh?" Lloyd asked, making Zelos jump. "Who're you talking to? It's not..." Kratos? Lloyd thought, but didn't say.

"Huh?" Zelos feigned ignorance. "I've been here by myself the whole time. What're you talking about, Lloyd?"

"But..." Lloyd protested.
"Now, now, stop grumbling," Zelos chided. "Let's get to the Tower of Salvation."

Lloyd studied him for a moment but shrugged it off. It had been a long night and he had Kratos on the brain. Zelos wasn’t that good of a liar anyhow.

Anna was not convinced. "You're up to something," she muttered. "I'm sure of it."

"Heads up," Sheena said, pointing towards the entrance at the Tower of Salvation. Three angels stood guard at the doorway to the teleporter that lead to Welgaia.

"It's no good. It's blocked!" Lloyd growled.

"At this rate, our escape route will be blocked," Raine said.

"Here come some more!" Sheena said.

"Anna, what do you think you're doing?" snapped the voice of Yuan.

Anna whipped around to face Yuan who had appeared at the bottom of the stairs, glaring. "Origin wiped my memory. I've no idea what I'm doing, butterfly!"

"How unfortunate for you," Yuan said sarcastically. "Lloyd! This way!"

Lloyd hesitated, but Raine set off immediately, causing the others to follow, Yuan lead them to a stretch of bare rock. He placed his hand on it and a large section revealed a passageway with a teleporter at the end of it.

"Why are you helping us?" Lloyd demanded of Yuan.

"Now that the truth about me is known to Yggdrasill, the only way left to save Martel is to work with you," Yuan replied, glaring at Lloyd. "Don't think that I want to be your friend or anything."

"You have a real negative attitude, you know that?" Lloyd remarked.

Yuan scowled. "Use those refreshers before you go, trust me." As Lloyd and the others set off, no one noticed that Raine held back to speak with Yuan and that Anna ducked behind a boulder to listen.

"I don't suppose you know what is going to happen in there?" Raine asked.

"I've no idea," Yuan said. "It depends on if he knows you are coming. If so, he's got several traps set up." Yuan looked directly at her. "Some may not come out of it alive."

"I assumed as much," Raine remarked. She looked over at Lloyd. "Lloyd is really our only hope. If I have to-"

"Don't," Yuan interrupted.

Raine looked confused. Yuan looked at her, then looked away, then looked at her again. "Don't talk of such things," he muttered. "You won't…"

Raine looked bewildered, but she began to blush. "Hmm…so you have developed feelings after lurking under my balcony?"

Yuan went red too. "That was…" Raine laughed quietly. Yuan scowled, but a smile tugged at his lips. "Raine…just be careful."

Raine smiled. "Who knew you were so sentimental? I'll try my best." She made to walk away, but Yuan acted on pure instinct. He seized her wrist, and yanked her hard into his arms and kissed her, open mouth on the lips.

"Say cheese, big bird!" Anna muttered, raising her camera over her head and snapping the photo.

Yuan released her. They both resembled tomatoes with oddly colored hair at this point. "Sorry," he muttered.

"Don't be," Raine replied, smiling.

"Good luck, Raine." Yuan turned and walked away.

"And to you," Raine murmured as he left.

Anna skipped out from behind the boulder, a knowing smile on her face. Raine saw her and her face drained of color. "I…I…I…"

"You kept my secret, I keep yours," Anna grinned. "Let's get going."

The Tower of Salvation looked the same as ever. The Eternal Sword sat, glinting in the hazy blue light. But it was different to Anna. Her stomach was churning and dread had seeped into her bones. She strained, trying to remember what was to happen, but it was no use.

"Leave this to me," Zelos said.

Sheena looked at him skeptically. "Leave it to you? What are you gonna do?"

Zelos hitched an unconvincing grin on his face. "I figured something like this might happen, so I prepared a little something the last time we were here." He turned to Colette. "Colette, come here for a second."

Colette looked confused. "Huh? Oh, okay."

Anna felt a tug in the air as Colette walked up to the Chosen. A foreign, threatening kind of energy was starting to form right over their heads.

"Zelos!" Anna cried out. "Colette! Get away! Something's there!"

But it was too late. Pronyma appeared with three angels in a flash. "Good work, Chosen," crooned Pronyma. "Now, bring her to me."

"Sure thing," Zelos said happily. Zelos activated the transporter hidden under the spot where Colette stood and she vanished, reappearing next to Pronyma.

"Zelos!" Genis shouted in shock

"What the hell are you doing?!" Sheena demanded.

Zelos turned around. To everyone, he looked cocky and arrogant, but two people saw straight through it. Anna knew the tricks, having learned with Kratos, but Sheena could see it too. The Chosen's eyes never left her face, boring into her own. The smile didn't reach them and she couldn't feel the anger that was he was forcing so heavily in his voice. All Sheena could feel was an overwhelming sadness, not just her own…but his too.

"Oh, shut up," Zelos snapped, still staring at Sheena. "I'm just putting myself on the winning side. What you're trying to do is hopeless and meaningless." He shrugged. "What's the big deal? Colette wanted to be a sacrifice, remember?"

Lloyd stepped forward, pain and rage in his face. "Zelos! You traitor!"

This time, the anger and pain in Zelos was real. "It's so funny that you would say that. It's not like you trusted me in the first place."

"That's not true," Anna snapped. "It's not!"

Zelos laughed. "You especially, Anna. 'If you harm Lloyd, your life is forfeit.' Remember?"

"But I never thought you'd do it," Anna insisted. It's particularly unexpected now, thanks to a certain summon spirit. "I kept hoping it would give you incentive not to. Why Zelos? Why did you betray us?!"

"Betray you?" Pronyma laughed. "How amusing. Zelos was our spy from the very beginning. Isn't that right, Zelos?"

"Is that true?" Lloyd said quietly, trying to tell himself it wasn't.

Colette's eyes were full of tears as she looked at their former comrade. "It's not true, is it? Please say that she's lying…"

Zelos sneered at the girl. "I side with the strongest. It was a simple matter of weighing the Renegades, Cruxis, and all of you."

Sheena growled and stamped her foot in anger. It didn’t matter what demons were driving him at the moment, nor did it matter the overwhelming sadness--she couldn’t let him do this."You were leaking information to the Renegades, too?!” she spat. “I can't believe you! You were always a pervert, but I never doubted that you were a good person when it came down to it."

She did care. I'd never have believed it. Zelos brushed the thought off. "Why, thank you, my sweet, voluptuous hunny. But in the end, I choose this side, because Mithos promised to release me from my fate as a Chosen of Mana."

Regal pierced Zelos with his own hateful gaze. "You hate being the Chosen so much that you would betray your friends?"

Zelos turned away. He could not bring himself to face them anymore. It hurt more than he had expected, seeing them look at him, begging him to tell them that he was lying. "Oh, yeah, I do. It's because of that title that my life has been a total joke. I can't stand it. I can't wait for Seles to become the Chosen instead.”

"You're lying!" Lloyd said firmly. "I still trust you, you hear me?! You're the one that told me I could trust you!"

"I trust you as well," Anna said. "Zelos, please!"

"What are you, stupid?" Zelos mocked. He turned back to Pronma and exchanged an eye roll with her. "Lady Pronyma! Hurry and take Colette."

"I leave the rest to you," Pronyma said to Zelso, raising her staff as she prepared to transport them.

Colette began to thrash wildly, reaching one hand out to Lloyd. "Lloyd!" she cried. "Lloyd! Lloyd!"

"No! Colette!" Lloyd dashed forward and jumped for her outstretched hand. Their fingers grazed for a brief moment but before he could grab hold, she vanished, his hands closing on empty air.

"So…this is how it ends," Zelos said heavily, stepping off the dais and down to floor. He stopped next to Lloyd and regarded him coolly, one hand on his sword.

Lloyd looked back at his friend, his blood racing in anguish and rage. "Why Zelos? You were our friend!"

Zelos looked skeptical. "Friend huh? I never did get you to trust me, though."

Lloyd looked at the ground, shaking his head. "That was…" he trailed off, unsure of how to explain himself. He had trusted Zelos but something had made him careful. Maybe Lloyd suspected this all along. But he had still called the man friend. How to explain it?

Zelos shrugged off Lloyd’s silence, though it hurt. He can’t even deny it to make me feel better. "Don't feel bad about it,” Zelos told him. “I mean, I did deceive you, after all."

"There's gotta be some sort of explanation for all this," Lloyd snapped. "This is just another joke, right?"

Zeos just smirked.

"What about Sheena!" Anna shouted, desperate to stop Zelos. She knew he was going to fight them. She could see it in his eyes. They couldn't do that. As annoying as he was, as perverted as he was, as wretched as he apparently was, he was one of them, a part of them. Anna had to hit him with the only thing she could think of.

"Me?" Sheena gasped. "You don't think I was in cahoots with him, do you?"

Zelos stared at Anna, surprise she would bring it up, like it would change anything now. "She's better off without me, anyway." It's true. I'll never be good enough for her.

"What do you mean?" Sheena demanded.

“He's in love with you!" Anna shouted, hoping to run Zelos through with the truth of it. "He has been since he met you. He's always acted like a perverted jerk because he was vying for your attention."

Zelos said nothing.

"Is…is that true?" Sheena asked, shocked to find herself wishing it was true all of a sudden.

"No," Zelos said, forcing himself to sound indifferent. "It isn't."

Sheena felt something deep within her crack, as though in anguish. "Zelos, you lying wretched fool!" she shouted at the top of her lungs.

Zelos closed his eyes to hide the pain in them and forced a carefree laugh. "I don't know what to tell ya. I'm just a weak, lazy bum. All I want is a fun, easy life." The air around him began to glow. "That's it." Two orange angel wings sprouted from his back. "Nothing more, nothing less!" He looked back at his wings. "Might as well go all out, right?"

"You…" Lloyd growled, drawing his swords. "You bastard!"

"You can call me whatever you like," Zelos replied. "It's not going to change anything."

For a moment, he and Lloyd faced each other. Lloyd stepped halfway forward…but shook his head, dropping back again. Anna sighed in relief.

Then, without warning, a guardian seal flew for him and attached itself firmly to his chest, followed by a shout of. "LOOK AT ME!"

Zelos turned his head. Sheena stood in her fight position, a circle of power warming up beneath her. "Zelos we trusted you. I trusted you. We were your friends. And I…" she glared as the circle beneath her began to shine brighter and brighter. "Lloyd, everyone, attack at my signal."

"Sheena don't do it!" Anna cried, running for the ninja, but there was a barrier around the summoner.

"You're going to kill me, Sheena?" Zelos asked, finding the seal had rendered him unable to move.

"Only if you insist on attacking still," she said, her voice deadly. “Only if you insist on carrying out your betrayal.”

"Tell me something," he said, feeling the seal's power begin to fade. "You said 'We were your friends. And I…'" Zelos looked her in the eye. "You what, Sheena?"

Sheena glared. "I could have been more than that.”

"I see," Zelos said. "'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.'" He shook his head. "Sorry sweetness, you just weren’t that special.”

Sheena’s face went white with anger and hurt.

“I'm going to fight,” Zelos finished, “You're just going to have to kill me." Zelos finally managed ripped the seal from his chest and charged Sheena.

"Mirage Seal Absolute!" Sheena shouted, using one of her most powerful seals.

"NO!" Anna screamed as a huge explosion rocked the spot where Zelos had stood. As a great black cloud, crackling with electricity erupted from the seal, Anna heard the clanging of weapons. The swish of a staff, the thud of an ax. Magic welled up and Anna could see lightning and fire attacks burst through the darkness. Sheena was muttering, ensuring her spell worked. "Don’t fight him. Stop! Please!"

"Serpent Seal Pinion!" Sheena cried.

The resultant explosion launched everyone up into the air. Anna crashed onto her back and slid into a pillar, crumbling it into the abyss below. She sat up, looking through the clearing smoke.

Zelos was sprawled on the ground, his eyes open and staring off into the distance. Around him, the others were unharmed, evidence of their shields fading as they walked to their fallen comrade.

Zelos coughed and blood splattered onto his shirt. "Th—that was pretty good."

"Zelos," Lloyd said running to the Chosen’s side. Anna looked at her son and noticed his blades were sheathed. He had refused to fight Zelos. Even they who had fought were looking down at him, tears and sorrow in their eyes. Lloyd looked to the professor, who immediately tried to heal Zelos, but it was no use.

"It's okay," Zelos rasped. "To tell you the truth, I was getting pretty tired of living anyway."

"Don't talk like that!" Lloyd growled.

Zelos laughed weakly. "Oh yeah, about Colette. She's below, in the hall of the Great Seed. Make sure you save her." He turned his head to look at Sheena who remain rooted to the spot, her face stern, and her eyes empty.

"Why did you fight us?" she asked.

Zelos closed his eyes. "Because my life was a mistake. But…once I'm gone…Seles might…be happier and…they'll finally let her out of that abbey." He opened his eyes to look at Sheena. "And it's better to die knowing you did care. Thanks to Miss Interfere here that is," he said looking at Anna briefly. Anna felt her eyes well up with tears.

Sheena gasped. "But you said—!"

Zelos smiled at her, a beautiful bloody smile. "I lied."

He gave one last shuddering breath, and he was still, broken and bleeding on the floor of the Tower of Salvation.

After a moment, Lloyd got to his feet. "Let's go. We have to save Colette."

Sheena joined the others at the teleporter. Her eyes never left Zelos's body as she vanished. "Damned idiot."

"Anna, Regal," Raine said, as they wound their way up through the Tower of Salvation. "I need to discuss something with you."

"With me?" Regal asked in unison with Anna. That had become so commonplace that the others ignored it but they paused when they noticed Anna looking forlorn.

"It wasn't even on purpose that time," she explained.

Regal and Raine had no idea what to say to that so Raine continued. "You two are the oldest and more—" Raine glanced at Anna. "—rational."

"I'm too upset to be offended," Anna said.

"We're heading into great danger," Raine said heavily. "We need to decide in advance on whose lives take priority."

"I see," Regal said. "That's the sort of discussion that would likely anger Lloyd."

"Rightly so," Anna snapped. "But I agree, we must decide this…as much as wish we didn't have to."

Raine nodded and glanced ahead at the group. "Lloyd we must protect no matter what. The only force that can hope to challenge Mithos' inhuman powers is..."

"Lloyd's special Exsphere," Regal finished.

"Yes," Raine said. "I don't know what kind of power it really holds, but we must bet on the course with the highest odds of winning."

"No," Anna said. "It's not his exsphere." Raine and Regal looked at her. "Lloyd is our hope not because of that cursed gem but because his heart is strong and pure. As long as he has his life, he will retain his heart. And as long as he has his heart, he will triumph." She looked over the heads of their companions at Lloyd. "He's not your son, so I don't expect you to understand."

Raine put a hand on her shoulder. "We are truly blessed to have you. You are right. Lloyd fights with his heart. And we must ensure he lives to do so."

"Understood," Regal said. "Let us do what we must to protect Lloyd."

"Thank you for helping to protect my son," Anna whispered, slipping away to join him.

After a while, they came to a stop outside an automated door. Raine stepped forward and punched a few things into the control panel and it opened it to reveal a long passageway. The ceiling seemed to be ringed in an arcade that stretched endlessly upward. As they started across, there was a sudden noise. A giant bell began to clang, loudly and steadily.

Lloyd looked up and around.

"Wh—what's going on?" Lloyd asked.

"Lloyd," Anna shouted. "In the arches. Look!"

Lloyd gasped as he saw that every single one of the thousands of arches held "Angels!"

"Here they come!" Regal said. Sure enough, as one the angels woke from an apparent deep sleep and stretched their wings. The rustling sounds of thousands of feathers stirring filled the air. As the group looked up they could see hundreds of Angles diving from their aches and pelting through the air right towards them.

"Dammit, there's no end in sight." Lloyd shouted.

"Make a break for that passage!" Regal said, shoving Lloyd towards the door and hearding the others ahead of him.

They took off running as the angels descended. Ray attacks began to bombard them and Genis had to tackle Sheena to keep her from being decapitated by one. Lloyd pulled Presea out of the line of fire and Raine haphazardly launched several of her photon attacks over her shoulder as they ran.

Anna stopped and unfurled her wings, drawing her swords. "Keep going, I'll handle—"

"No," Regal interrupted. "There's too many. Keep moving."

Anna sighed and flew off after the others, streaking through the passage and landing on her feet.


Anna turned to see the pillars on either side of the door collapse, blocking the passageway…and Regal from entering.

"Regal!" Anna and Lloyd shouted. Anna dashed to the pillars and tugged, trying to move the rocks, but they wouldn't budge.

"I'll hold them off here," Regal shouted from the other side. "Hurry!"

"You know I can't leave you behind!" Lloyd shouted.

Regal shook his head though they couldn't see. "There's no time, you know that. You're the only one who can save Colette."

"I know that!" Lloyd shouted. "But I can't just leave my friend!"

Regal's voice broke. "That's not what you're doing, I…I once wasn't able to protect someone very important to me. So this time, I'm going to succeed. I'm going to protect my friends." A tear slipped down his cheeks as he not only realized the decision he had just made, but as he remembered Alicia.

"Regal…" Lloyd whispered.

Regal sighed. "Lloyd, save Colette."

Lloyd hesitated before turning away. "All right. Let's go guys." Anna backed away, tears in her eyes again. Lloyd followed the others out. Before he left, he turned back to where he had left Regal. "Regal, don't die. Don't make me go through the same pain you did, you hear me?"

On the other side of the wall, Regal closed his eyes and smiled. "Heh. You sure don't make things easy, Lloyd.” He opened his eyes and looked up. “I'm sorry, Alicia. It looks like it's still going to be a while before I join you."

The angels were still coming and he faced them head on, his stance sure and his heart determined.

"You shall not pass!" Regal shouted.

As one the angels raced towards Regal as he charged. He tried to fight, ripping into angel after angel but there were so many. As he was engulfed by the cursed beings, a hoarse cry of agony erupted from his lungs and the angelic fury devoured him. As everything went dark, he heard Alicia's voice clear in his head.

"Master, I'm so happy to see you again before I disappear…"

"I'm sorry. Even after death, you still suffer…"

"It's all right. It's not your fault."


The gang kept running, up the spiraling tower, past broke branches, decrepit hallways, and rickety stairs. They entered a tall room with large chunks of tree dangling from the footpath. They had almost reached the top when some roots sprang to life mere inches in front of them.

"Whoa!" Lloyd cried out. The roots shot out right towards him, aiming right for his chest. He was moving too fast, they would run him through!

"Lloyd!" Anna jumped sideways, crashing into her son and knocking him aside. The roots stabbed deep into the ground where his body had just been. "God damn it!" she cried, jumping up and yanking him to his feet. "Can't you pay more attention?!"

"Sorry, Anna," Lloyd replied sheepishly. He looked up at the tree branch. "This thing won't let us through!"

"Hang on!" Sheena said, examining the large chunk of wood suspended over their heads. "This thing looks like leftovers from earlier."

"You mean one of the Giant Tree's?" Lloyd asked.

"Yep, no doubt about it," Sheena said cheerfully. "Just stand back and leave this to me!" Sheena withdrew a handful of guardian seals, but before she could summon, memories raced across her mind.

"Relax, babe," Zelos said grinning. "If it wasn't going to work, Ada woulda said so."

Sheena glared at him. "Just like she said something about Kuchinawa's betrayal?"

"Ouch," Zelos said. "Fair point."

"Why did you come anyway?" Sheena asked him.

"You get all worked up when you're anxious," he replied. "I thought maybe you could use some company."

Sheena's eyes widened. "Really, Zelos?"

"Of course," he said grinning. "Besides, you're unbelievably hot when you're doing the summoner thing."

Sheena rolled her eyes and smacked him. "You're such a pervert!"

Sheena shook her head. That was the last time I had summoned all of the spirits at once. He was there to support me and now… She gritted her teeth and began to summon, but as she did so, the scene from a mere hour ago replayed cruelly in her head.

"Disciple of everlasting ice!"


Zelos turned his head. Sheena stood in her fight position. Her hands, each with a raised forefinger, out in front of her, a circle of power warming up beneath her. "Zelos Wilder…We trusted you. I trusted you. We were your friends. And I…" she glared as the circle beneath her began to shine brighter and brighter. "Lloyd, everyone, attack at my signal."

"Hammer of godly thunder!"

"You're going to kill me Sheena?"

"Servant of Mother Earth!"

"Only if you insist on attacking still."

"Tell me something: you said 'We were your friends. And I…?'" Zelos looked her in the eye. "You what, Sheena?"

"Envoy from the dark abyss!"

"I could have been more than that.

"I see. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Sorry Sweetness. You just weren’t that special. I'm going to fight. You're just going to have to kill me."

The summon spirits all appeared and turned to face her. “I command thee! Gatherest before me and unleash thine power!" Sheena tried to clear her mind as she felt the burning light of mana fill her veins. The power was great and hard to control, but she held on, concentrating on one thing and one thing only.

"Whoa, what are you doing?" Lloyd asked.

"My impression of the Mana Cannon," Sheena said. "Well, it won't be nearly as powerful, but it should be enough to take care of this thing. Lloyd, everyone, when I give the signal, run underneath it. Got it?"

"All right. But what about you?"

Sheena grinned. "Don't worry, I'll be fine. Get ready, here we go!"

Lloyd signaled to everyone, and they all prepared to run. Sheena pointed her palms at the tree and uttered some word that no one understood. A beam of light erupted from her hands and collided with the tree branch, causing it to writhe in agony.

"Now!" Sheena shouted. They took off, running for their lives. Sheena cried out as the mana drained from her body. With a splintering crash, the Tree root broke, and fell right on the bridge, knocking it to pieces before the whole thing fell into the abyss below.

"Sheena! Are you okay?" Lloyd asked. Across the hole, a very dirty and battered Sheena stumbled to the edge of the pit, a tired smile on her face.

"Yeah, I'm all right," she gasped.

"That was amazing!" Lloyd cried.

"Phew," Sheena gasped, brushing herself off. "Just don't ask me to do it again, okay? That drained all my mana, I'm going to rest for just a—"

Suddenly, a huge tree vine shot up from below, whipping and twisting in the air before latching itself onto Sheena's ankle. Sheena screamed as it yanked her off her feet and across the ground. She scrambled for the ledge as her legs were pulled over and her fingers closed on a vine leaving her dangling hundreds of feet above a painful death.

"Sheena!" Lloyd shouted in alarm. "Hang on!”

Sheena grunted and struggled for a moment before she stopped, the full weight of everything finally sinking in. She began to laugh hysterically, gasping for breath.

Lloyd looked alarmed. "What's wrong with you? Why are you laughing?"

Sheena looked back at him. "No, I was just remembering the time when we first met. It looks like I have a strong affinity for falling into holes."

"Just hang on," Lloyd said. "I'll be right there!"

Sheena looked from his face to the pit below her. I guess I owe it to Colette…and maybe even to Zelos. "Don't worry about me," she said. "Just hurry up and go rescue Colette."

"This is not the time to act all tough!" Lloyd shouted.

Sheena smiled, hoping he didn't see the fear in her eyes. "I'm not acting. It's just like the last time when I climbed up from the bottom of that pit and I took you on. And this time…I won't miss the main event."

Lloyd hesitated, but Colette's cries echoed in his head. "You better be telling the truth."

"Of course!" Sheena said, grinning. "You better leave me a piece of the action!"

Lloyd smiled back. "Okay, I'll be waiting for you, you got that?" Sheena watched as he disappeared from sight. Anna hesitated for a minute, but Sheena met her eyes and nodded. Anna understood, just as Sheena did. Colette and Lloyd were the priority. Without them, all was lost. Anna smiled weakly and ran after the others.

"I'm so stupid," Sheena moaned to herself once the others had gone. "Stubborn to the very end. I really need to start acting more feminine at times like this and let him rescue me." She thought for a moment and smiled sadly. "Heh, that wouldn't be my style, now, would it?"

Sheena felt the branch's incessant pull on her ankle and knew the time had come.

"Lloyd…good luck."

The tiny vine slid from beneath her fingers. She felt the cool air envelop her as she sped downward. The last thing that flashed across her mind before the darkness took her was Zelos, smiling at her as he lay dying on the Tower floor.

"But you said—!"

"I lied."

Confronted with not only another locked door, but with a party now short by four people, Lloyd was getting frustrated and more than a little heartbroken. He was done with Yggdrasill’s games and the angel would pay for all of this somehow.

"Dammit, open!" Lloyd shouted, slamming his fist into the door.

Raine approached a machine nearby and examined it. "It looks like you can control it from here. Leave this to me."

"Professor Sage, hurry," Lloyd said, desperately. First Colette, then Zelos, then Regal, then Sheena. I swear that no one else is getting left behind!

"Don't rush me…" Raine said, steeling herself. "This is it."

Raine Sage had always been extremely intelligent. Indeed it was that intelligence that drove her mom to weakness and madness and drove Raine and Genis into Sylvarant. By now, Raine could gather the outcome of almost any situation…and as she entered the necessary fate into the computer, she was fully aware of the consequences.

The door buzzed to life and slid open revealing another door.

"You did it!" Lloyd exclaimed.

Suddenly the ground under their feet began to shake. Raine fell to her knees, scraping her hands as the floor under her broke from the platform with a great cracking noise.

"RAINE!" Genis shouted, running toward his sister.

"Genis, stay back," Anna cried, seizing the young boy's forearm and holding him back. Raine, fortunately, had just managed to grab the edge and pull herself up.

"Professor Sage! Are you okay?" Lloyd called, as Raine got to her feet.

"I'm fine," Raine gasped, her heart racing. "I just made a minor input error."

"Be careful, okay?" Lloyd said.

"Raine…" Genis said quietly.

Raine looked at her brother, feeling tears prick her eyes. "It's okay now. I'm opening the next door." The next door slid open and a huge plant came flying at Lloyd. Lloyd raised his swords. "Another input error?!" he shouted.

"No! Now hurry up and defeat it!" Raine cried.

Lloyd and Presea ran forward to deal with the plant as another chunk of floor broke away from Raine. Genis had suddenly realized what was going on and was fighting Anna tooth and nail to reach her.

"Let me go. Anna!" Genis grunted. "I've got to stop her."

"She's the only one who can do it," Anna said. "If you go, you may get hurt."

"Stay back Genis," Raine said firmly. "This is quite an intricate trap."

Lloyd looked back, having defeated the monster. "Professor Sage, are you really making that many mistakes?" Raine said nothing. "Wait, are you…"

"There's no time to worry about that! I'm opening the next one!" Raine shouted, a tear racing down her cheek as Anna struggled with Genis.

"Not again!" Lloyd shouted, as the next door revealed another monster. He started forward as another floor dropped away. "What? Professor Sage! I knew it!"

Raine glared at Lloyd. "Lloyd, you need to focus on saving Colette right now. Don't get distracted!"

Lloyd growled and ran after Presea to take care of the monster.

"Raine!" Genis roared. "Raine! Stop it!"

"I can’t," Raine replied. "It's the only way to save Colette and the worlds."

"But I need you," Genis replied tearfully. "Please…"

Raine smiled sadly at her brother and put in the final code, opening the last door.

"Professor Sage, it's okay now! Hurry up and come—" Lloyd broke off. The floors completely surrounding Raine collapsed, leaving her stranded in the middle. As they stared in horror, the room began to shake, tiny chunks falling from the center.

"Raine!" Genis shouted. "RAINE!”

"Professor Sage!" Lloyd cried.

"Anna," Raine said. "Get Genis out of here! Now!" Anna made to protest, but it was all she could do to hold onto as Genis flailed. Presea rushed forward to help. "Genis…I'm sorry."

"Anna," Presea said firmly. "Come on."

"Anna, Lloyd, please save her!" Genis begged, sobbing brokenly. “Please.”

Anna thrust Genis into Presea’s arms and opened her wings. “No. I can’t leave anyone else behind!”

“Anna, go!” Raine shouted. “Take of Genis for me and GO!”

Anna blinked tears from her eyes and recalled what Raine had said as they entered the Tower. What choice did she have? Anna let out a muffled whimper before turning back to Presea and Genis and pulled away the sobbing half-elf away. “Lloyd come on!"

"No!" Lloyd shouted. "Not without Professor Sage!"

"Lloyd, this room will soon collapse. Hurry up and go," Raine instructed.

"No!" Lloyd shouted. "I'm not leaving you behind! I don't want to sacrifice anyone anymore!"

"Sacrifice?" Raine said incredulously. "When did anyone become a sacrifice? I believe in your ideals. A world that would accept those of us caught in the middle. I believe in your vision of the world. It has become my hope. I came all the way here in order to realize that dream. I've no regrets."None but one. I'm so sorry Genis. Yuan’s face popped up in her mind. Maybe two…

"Saving the world won't mean anything if we lose you!" Lloyd insisted.

Raine didn’t cry in the end. She looked close to it, but she stood strong for Lloyd. She had to. "My soul will live on in the world you create. But if your ideals die, then my hope dies as well. Living on without hope is worse than death, don't you think?"

Lloyd shook his head. "I…I don't understand that at all!"

Raine looked at him, willing him to go, to understand, to live on. "If you don't understand, then make use of your remaining life to think about what it means for a person to live. That's my final lesson to you as your teacher. Now, go. Do as your teacher says."

"Professor Sage…I'll never forget you!" Lloyd said. Unable to bear it, he turned and ran down the passage, just as it collapsed sealing Raine's fate.

"The rest is in your hands, my precious student," Raine said, closing her eyes. "Oh Genis…"

"Genis…I promise I'll come back, so please, don't look like that."

"Please be careful, Raine. Don't do anything dangerous and don't go near any ruins."

"I'll be fine."

"Promise me you'll come back!"


"You're going to leave tomorrow, too, Professor."

"Why? Are you going to miss me?"

"Of course!"


"Hmm…so you have developed feelings after lurking under my balcony?"

"That was…Raine…please don't die, all right."

"Forgive me," Raine muttered as the ceiling caved in and she knew no more.

Lloyd fell to his knees, burying his face in his hands. Presea was slumped against the wall. Genis broke out of Anna's grip and began furiously pounding at the rocks, screaming Raine's name over again.

"Professor," Lloyd mumbled. For years, Raine had taught him in her kind but strict way. In a lot of ways, she had been like the mother he had never had. And now she was gone.

A pair of arms wrapped around Lloyd, stroking his hair. Lloyd looked up into Anna's face…the face of his mom. "I couldn't save her," Lloyd rasped out. "I made another mistake and I couldn't save her." Lloyd buried his face in Anna's shoulder, finally crying for his teacher and mentor and Anna held Lloyd as he cried, rocking him gently.

Genis had collapsed and lay utterly still on the floor. Presea had crawled forward and sat with him, rubbing his back. After a moment, he got to his feet, wiping dirt and tears from his face. "Let's go Lloyd."

Lloyd looked up at Genis, who glared ahead. "Raine did this so we could stop Mithos. We owe it to my sister, to keep going." Genis stalked off to the teleporter and disappeared as Lloyd got to his feet.

"He's right," he said. He looked at his mother. "Thanks."

Anna smiled and followed Presea and her son into the teleporter.

Lloyd was getting sick of doors. Very, very sick of doors.

"It's locked from the inside,” He announced facing a door at the end of yet another run down, vine and branch covered room. He tugged again, willing all of his strength into it. Anna and Presea tried as well but nothing worked. “It's no good, it won't budge." Lloyd said.

"Lloyd, look up there," Presea said, pointing at an air duct. "I may be able to enter the room from there. I'll give it a try."

"But it's too dangerous to go alone," Lloyd said, thinking of all of the others.

"I'll be all right. Besides, I'm the only one that can fit through there," Presea said calmly.

"Okay, but be careful," Lloyd cautioned.

"I will," Presea said. She crouched low and jumped surprisingly high. She grabbed the edge of the gap, hauled herself up, and crawled through. After dropping down on the other side she inspected the run-down room, searching for anything that could unlocked the door and noticed an ancient computer sitting in the corner covered with dust and leaves.

“Hope this works,” she mumbled, fiddling with knobs and buttons as she tried to figure out the complex machinery. After a moment there was a beep and the door behind her slid open.

Presea turned to smile at Lloyd, who was now revealed in the doorway, but then a grinding noise from behind her stopped her cold. She whipped around to see the door to the exit closing fast, cutting off their way out.

"No!" Presea cried running to stop it. She didn’t get far before a sharp hissing noise echoed around the room and something latched around her ankles, pulling her down. Looking back, another live branch was winding tightly around her legs.

“Presea!” Genis yelled, stepping forward as though to run after her.

“Wait! Stay back!” she shouted. Presea turned forward and stretched out an arm toward her ax. "I've almost got it!" she grunted, straining for the ax. Her fingers closed around the wooden handle and she levered it upright, wedging it between the door and the floor and stopping the doors descent.

Her victory was short lived however as the vines around her legs yanked and pulled her back across the floor. Her hands scrabbled for something, anything to grab on to as rocks ground into her skin. More branches snaked around her wrist, wrenching her back even harder. With a sickening thud, she hit the wall as the tree limbs snaked around her body choking the air from her lungs.

"Presea!" Lloyd and Genis shouted, rushing forward. More branches were beginning to form and they writhed their way toward Lloyd, Anna, and Genis.

"Stay back!" Presea shouted. Lloyd and Genis jumped back as branches snapped at their feet and Anna ducked as one went for her throat. "Don't come over here. Please, hurry! Go!"

"No! I…I…" Lloyd stammered.

"I won't leave you!" Genis said.

"You must Genis," Presea said. "If you care at all…go!’ She looked back at Lloyd and Anna. “It's not life threatening," she lied. "It won't be like…" Raine she thought but didn't say.
Genis made to protest but gave in, turning away and running to slide under the door.

"I'm not going on without you too, Presea," Lloyd said.

"Neither will I," Anna said. "I can't watch one more person to come to grief."

"Anna, you promised Raine," Presea reminded her.

Anna glared, remembering her promise to help Lloyd and Genis. Lloyd her son. "Damnit!" Anna shouted, running and sliding under the door.

"And Lloyd, you are a kind person," Presea said. "But if you allow your kindness to interfere with your judgment, you're merely weak."

"But—!" Lloyd protested.
"You have something you must do." Presea gasped as the branches tightened. It was becoming hard to breathe. Several ribs cracked and broke as her captors tightened their grip.
"Please do not forget that. Please go.” It was hard to breathe now but she forced herself to sound normal so that Lloyd would not know something was wrong. “If you don't, I'll lose my respect for you. I'll be fine. So please, hurry!"

"I'm sorry, Presea!" Lloyd cried, running and sliding under the door.

"Lloyd, whatever happens, you mustn't give up. Stand and fight. I know you can do it." Presea whispered. "I'm sorry Genis."

"It's a carved wooden bear. It's...my thanks, for saving me, Genis."

"Ah, um, yeah, I love it! R...really! Because it's a present from Presea...a present from Presea for me…um…I have something for you too! H...here!"

"This is...for me...Thank you! It's wonderful! I'll try it out on my ax right now."

"What did you give her?"

"A sharpening stone, Zelos."

"You're an idiot, Genis."

The branches tightened and her vision became hazy. "I'll see you soon Alicia."

Thank you. Presea, please forgive Master Regal. Please!

"I forgive you Regal." She mumbled as the breath was choked from her lungs and everything went dark.

Lloyd watched, long after the door had slammed shut. "Presea, I promise. I'll rescue Colette, no matter what. And I'll make a world where everyone can live freely."

"Presea," Genis muttered, teleporting away with Lloyd and Anna.

Damn you to hell Origin, Anna raged inside her head. How many more have to die in front of me?

Lloyd raced down the corridor ahead of them as fast he could, his eyes alert and wary, for nothing seemed to be halting their progress.

"We may be ok, guys!" Lloyd exclaimed, feet from the teleporter.

The words had barely left his mouth when a great green mass of mana flew up in front of him. Lloyd and Genis had no time to stop and would have slammed right into it, but Anna seized both of their collars and jerked them back, toppling all three of them.

"Another trap?!" Lloyd gasped, sitting up.

"It's coming towards us!" Genis exclaimed.

They scrambled to their feet and raced down the corridor from whence they came…but another wall sprang up at the end, heading for them.

"Split up!" Anna shouted, shoving Lloyd left and racing right after Genis, but it was no good as walls sprang up before their eyes. The three backed away until they stood back to back, with no way to escape.

"It's no good. There's one over here, too," Genis said.

"We'll just have to attack it at the same time and smash our way through!" Lloyd said, drawing his sword.

"We'll attack as one," Anna said, drawing her own.

"Is that gonna work?" Genis asked.

"Dwarven Vow #16: You can do anything if you try!" Lloyd said. "We're dead anyway if we fail. Give it all you've got!"

"Heh, that's just like you, Lloyd. Okay! Let's do it!" Genis said, whipping out his kendama.

Anna gasped. Lloyd’s words rang a bell in her head, jogging her memory from a few weeks back when she had temporarily returned to Earth. Suddenly she remembered why Dirk had looked so familiar when she had seen him in person. He was my professor! So that means…Dirk is going to die in the near future…kinda, if our paths crossed.

"Anna?" Lloyd asked.

"Nothing," she said, focusing on the here and now. "Let's go."

"On the count of three," Lloyd said.

"Lloyd…" Genis said.

"Wh…what?" Lloyd asked in frustration.

"Ah, nothing. I'm ready," Genis replied.

"Okay! One…"


"Three!" They shouted. Anna and Lloyd chose to use Demon Fang, and Genis launched a Fireball. The three took off behind the attacks. With a crash, the barrier separated, just as they reached it. They raced through as it closed again.

"See, look, it worked!" Lloyd cried.

"Thank God!" Anna said, wiping her brow and heading to the teleporter.

"It was pretty good for one of your plans, Lloyd," Genis said. "The only flaw was that you didn't take into account my lack of physical reflexes."

"What?" Anna shrieked, spinning around to face Genis, who was smiling at them from the other side of the wall.

"Genis!" Lloyd shouted. He and Anna both attacked the wall, but it did no good.

"Heh, I messed up," Genis said, hanging his head.

"You…did that to get me out?" Lloyd asked in disbelief.

"N…no!" Genis lied.

"Liar!" Lloyd cried. "You knew it would end up like this. Why did you do it?"

"If you'd been in my place, you'd have done the same thing," Genis pointed out. "You always jump in without thinking to save someone in trouble. But it was that Lloyd that I looked up to. I wanted to be like you."

"Genis…" Lloyd said sadly.

"Now, hurry up! Before it's too late."

Lloyd shook his head. "No way! I can't leave you behind!"

"Stand aside," Anna said. "I'll blast it with my angel attack."

"NO!" Genis said. "It may turn on you if you hit again." Genis began to shake as he realized what he was about to do.

"Genis!" Lloyd shouted.

"I said, go!" Genis yelled, his voice cracking and wavering. "I'm…not like you. I'm a coward. When it comes down to it, my body starts shaking… I don't want you to see me looking pathetic in the end…"

"No!" Lloyd shouted.

"Go!" Genis cried, furiously. "I said, go!"

Lloyd hesitated, before turning his back and running. "You…you fool!" He slammed into Anna,knocking them both on to the disc and activated the teleporter, sending them away before Anna could protest.

Genis fell to his knees. "You were my best friend, Lloyd."

"It's not Lloyd's fault! I'm the one that took him to the ranch. So it's my fault!"

"But it's Lloyd the Desians are after. And besides, Lloyd isn't from this village to begin with. He's an outsider, raised by a dwarf."

"Then I'm leaving, too. I'm just as guilty as he is!"

"I will atone for what I've done. I swear to protect Colette for the sake of those who have died because of me."

"I'll follow you, Lloyd. It's my fault that you were banished. So I promise to stick by you, always."

"I'll see you soon, Raine.” Genis said as the mana slammed into his body and a bright, white light devoured him.

Anna and Lloyd materialized in another long corridor, ending in yet another large, run-down room. "Damn it," Lloyd said out loud. "I don't want to sacrifice anyone any more, huh? I'm so sorry guys!"

"It'll be alright," Anna said soothingly. "They are strong. Maybe they're still alive."

Lloyd sighed. Neither of them acknowledged that Anna’s words were almost impossible. "If I had one wish, that'd be it. Let's go." Lloyd drew his swords at the same time Anna did and they walked down the corridor, every sense alert.

"I don't hear anything," Anna said.

"Perhaps this is the end of the line," Lloyd said.

They reached the end of the corridor and stopped before stepping into the large room. Lloyd edged along the wall and peered around the corner carefully, looking out into the room. It was utterly empty. The only thing of interest was a large hole stretching the length of a wall in front of the exit. It looked to be about twenty feet wide.

"I sense nothing," Anna said. "Let's go."

They crept across the room, looking everywhere for some sign of a trap. There was nothing. Not a sound, not a movement, absolutely nothing. Lloyd examined the gap as they got closer. "I don't think I can jump it."

"Not a problem," Anna said, unfurling her wings.

As soon as she did, the room began to shake. Anna tried to run, to grab Lloyd and get out of there, but she couldn't move. Looking down, a dark shadow had oozed across the floor attaching itself firmly to their skin.

"What the—?" Lloyd cried. "I can't move!"

Suddenly the room was still again. Then, a great inhuman roar tore through the air causing both Anna and Lloyd to clap their hands over their ears. The shadows ripped away from them and shot up into the air in a thick stream, forming a column of solid darkness. As they watched, a giant black demon with bat-like wings, silver claws, and blood red eyes stepped from the darkness, letting loose another roar.

"What is that?!" Lloyd shouted. The thing's eyes locked on Lloyd and Anna and it charged, faster than they would have thought possible. They both dodged to the side as its silver claws swiped at them and they ran back to the other side of the room, trying to keep it distant from them.

"Angel Feathers!" Feathers tore from Anna’s wings and assaulted the beast…but it had no effect. Instead, there was a muffled explosion on impact and the monster grew before their eyes, white light streaking its dark body.

"Holy Lance!" Anna cried. Anna's attack hit and again, it had no effect except to make the thing grow.

"Beast!" Lloyd shouted, but the demon swiped through the attack as though it weren't there. "Nothing's working!" They backed up as it took slow steps towards them until they were backed into the wall. There was no where to go. Parts of the ceiling had fallen blocking their entrance and the monster and pit blocked their exit.

Anna thought hard. He's absorbing my angel attacks. I have to get Lloyd through the door. I can fend the thing off long enough for Lloyd to get away. Anna didn't want to think about what would happen after Lloyd did get away.

The beast charged again, but Anna's mind was made up. She jumped, briefly planting her feet on the wall behind her and kicked off hard, grabbing Lloyd around the waist. Streaking through the air right toward the monster, she accelerated just as the monster swung at her again. At the last possible second, she ducked under its outstretched arm, heading for the door.

"Lloyd! You better save Colette!" Anna shouted. She turned sharply, using the momentum from both her hasty flight and the turn to release Lloyd and hurl him across the pit towards the door.

"No!" Lloyd shouted as he soared through the air. He crashed to the ground on his back, sliding until his head collided with the door, which opened at his touch. Anna hovered on the other side of the pit, facing the beast now as it roared.

"Anna!" Lloyd shouted. "What are you doing? Let's go!"

"I'll hold him off," Anna shouted. The demon roared again and a beam of pure darkness shot at her. She flew down, under it as it collided with the ceiling causing chunks of rock to fall as the room shook. Lloyd dove away from the edge as rock rained upon him. "Lloyd! Go! Just go!"

"No! I lost you once, I'm not going to lose you again!" Lloyd cried.

Anna looked back briefly at her son before turning her eyes back to her enemy. The beast swiped at her, but she deflected the strike with her sword, though the hit knocked her around a bit. "You'll never lose me Lloyd. Never. Now go! You're the only hope for any of us now!"


Anna bit back tears at the endearment she had wanted to hear so badly. She did not want him to see her cry. "Lloyd, do not forget who you are and what you must do in the wake of all this tragedy," Anna said. "You alone can save us all, do not give up hope. We're always with you. And please…" she smiled. "Please forgive your father. He loves you more than you know.”

Lloyd gritted his teeth and nodded. "I love you too…Mom."

"Be safe, Lloyd," she said as he turned and ran out of sight, "my son." She sighed heavily. Forgive me Kratos.

Another crash shook the room as the monster charged. Anna glared defiantly, swooping right at the monster's face and slashing at his head. Her sword clang as it collided with the silver claws. She wasn’t going to give this beast an inch. She smiled as she thought of her husband. "I cannot die until I fulfill my destiny!" she told the monster. And my destiny right now is to make sure Lloyd saves the world.

The monster’s clawed hand flew through the air again and she was a hair slow to dodge it. The claws caught her in the stomach and she was pinned to the floor. Anna screamed as her Cruxis Crystal glow brightened…then flickered. Her wings began to fade and the monster became striped with more and more tendrils of white light—her mana she realized finally. She closed her eyes, thinking of her husband and son.

"A shooting star! Look mommy!"

"We see it, love."

"Daddy, how many stars are there?"

"More than you can count in your entire life, little one."

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