They Lied When They Said The Good Die Young
Kratos ran up the stairs of the Tower of Salvation, his sword in hand, as the angels guarding the way prepared to block him. Kratos's eyes were cold and lifeless as he ran his blade through the first angel. Wrenching it free, he spun, slicing the torso of the additional two before finishing the last with a downward chop. He wiped off the blood on one of the fallen's robes and started off again.
Kratos spun around, glaring at Yuan, who had just materialized behind him. He was fully prepared to kill Yuan, not only for the scene at Altessa's, but for helping Lloyd and Anna find their way to certain doom along with their friends. "Haven't you done enough?" Kratos growled.
"Just listen!" Yuan said, his eyes frantic. "Zelos betrayed them and Mithos knows they're coming for Colette. He has set the traps against them." Kratos face went white. "You need to save them, before you do anything else."
"You seemed largely concerned." Kratos fixed Yuan with a piercing look. "Which of them has caught your attention to instill such a degree of compassion in you?"
Yuan glared. "There's no time. If you don't hurry, Lloyd, Anna, Raine…everyone! They'll be dead and my years of effort wasted."
"Ah," Kratos said. "The half-elf school teacher." He turned his back on Yuan. "I'll bring her back to you, fear not."
Yuan just gave a curt nod as Kratos ran through the door into the seal room.
Kratos gasped, he could not help himself. Zelos's body had been left sprawled on the floor, drenched in blood with a guardian seal plastered across his chest. Poor fool. Kratos walked up to the fallen Chosen and took the sight in. Ax wounds, kick wounds, signs of magic…but no angel attacks and no single-edged sword marks. Lloyd and Anna must have refused to fight. And Colette, unless she was taken beforehand. It looks that way. He can't have been dead for more than ten minutes. That means there's still time to stop the others!
"May you find peace in the afterlife." Kratos muttered quietly as he moved on to the teleporter. Just as he prepared to go through it he noticed something. He drew his sword, spinning around to find…no one? Strange…I'm sure I sensed a mana signature. Hmm…I do sense one! It's familiar and faint—wait. Kratos looked at Zelos, concentrating hard. There it was, the flickering light beneath his body.
"He's alive," Kratos muttered, running back to the Chosen. Kratos reached down and felt for a pulse. It was there, barely. He straightened and pointed his sword at the Chosen, gathering his mana. "I won't let you die," Kratos said as he fixed his eyes on the fallen warrior. "Healing Stream!"
A large circle of magic formed under Zelos, powerful steam rising from it and shrouding his wounded body. Before Kratos's eyes, the cuts and scrapes healed, broken bones mended and set, bruises faded and the dead white face and blue lips flushed with color. Zelos’s chest began to rise and fall, slowly at first, then steadily.
The spell circle vanished. Kratos waited for a moment and Zelos stirred, opening his eyes onto the grim face of the auburn haired Seraph.
"Kratos?" Zelos asked, sitting up. "Aw man, they killed you too?"
Kratos refrained from rolling his eyes. "No. You're not dead."
Zelos raised an eyebrow and looked around. "Psh! Hell no I ain't dead! Where are all the hot chicks?"
"We've got to go," Kratos said, tossing Zelos's sword to him. "They went inside."
"WHAT?!" Zelos shouted and followed Kratos to the teleporter. "Aw man! Yggie's set traps for them. They can't get out alive, it's impossible!"
Kratos activated the device. "That's why we have to save them and get the Aionis."
"Right," Zelos said as they emerged in a passageway. Kratos took off at his enhanced angelic speed, causing Zelos to scowl. But when Zelos ran after him, he found he could move just as fast…and see further away…and hear a mouse running for dear life nearby. "Oh yeah," Zelos said, catching up to Kratos. "I guess I'm an angel now. Which is good cuz I'm so dead when Sheena sees me again."
Kratos ignored that and burst through the doorway directly ahead of him, just in time to see a handcuffed man engulfed by the demonic angels. A howl of pain rose from the feathered fray.
"Hang on Regal!" Zelos shouted, running forward and diving into the midst of the fray.
Kratos sighed. I agree with the summoner…he really is an idiotic Chosen. Kratos ran forward. "Light spear cannon." He drove his sword to the center and a beam of light erupted from it, knocking the angels up and back into the wall.
"Oh," Zelos said embarrassed. "Well, I guess we can do it your way. Healing Wind!" Zelos added, pointing his sword at Regal, who was staring up at him with wide eyes.
"But…" Regal said, getting to his feet. "Zelos…you're dead. I watched you die."
"Actually, you assisted in my heroic demise," Zelos said. "But I forgive you. Kratos happened to save my sorry ass."
"Let's get moving," Kratos said curtly, heading for the next teleporter.
"Thank you for my life," Regal said as he followed the two angels.
Next they arrived at the top of a spiral staircase, looking around for any sign of the group."I see no one," Regal remarked.
"Wait," Zelos said. "I thought I heard…"
Kratos strained, and sure enough he heard a faint female voice. "Lloyd…good luck."
"Sheena," Kratos said, unfurling his wings, but it proved quite unnecessary. Zelos had already jumped, his wings exploding from his back as he pelted through the darkness.
Sheena hold on! Don't you die on me! "Dam nit Sheena! Why are you always trying to kill yourself?"
Sheena's eyes snapped open. Zelos? She squinted upward as she fell. A dark figure, illuminated by the circle of light that was the top of the pit, was coming for her fast. It can't be...
"AAAAAHH!" Sheena screamed as an orange blur streaked past her. Next second, she slammed into to something hard, abruptly stopping her descent. In fact, now she was moving upward, faster than she would have thought possible, until she burst up out of the hole and her supporter landed. Sheena looked up and couldn't believe her eyes.
Zelos's face was dead white in fear, but he was there, there and gloriously, infuriatingly alive. A warmth from a spell that she knew came from him spread through her body, healing her wounds and recharging her mana. "Can I rescue you sometimes instead of Lloyd?"
"But—" Sheena stammered, seemingly unaware that she was still being held in Zelos’s arms. "You…I…"
"I know, I know." Zelos grinned even broader. "Apparently pretty boys don't die young!"
"Argh!" Sheena raised her hand to slap him, making Zelos flinch, but only smile wider. The slap never came. Instead, Sheena locked her arms around Zelos neck and kissed him hard. Zelos was surprised but returned her kiss as vigorously…until they were interrupted.
"Now this is an…unexpected sight," Regal said, blinking at the pair, dumbfounded.
Sheena blushed as she saw, Kratos descending via his wings with Regal coming down the stairs behind him. Kratos dropped to the ground, glaring at Zelos. "Will you stop wasting time?"
Zelos grinned and followed the other two down the passageway, still holding Sheena.
"Zelos?" Sheena asked sweetly.
"Yes, my gorgeous, sweet, lovely babe?"
"PUT ME DOWN!"
Zelos stopped dead and put her down before he even registered moving. Sheena winked at him and ran to catch up with Kratos and Regal.
"I'm glad you're all right Regal," she said. "And thank you for all of our lives, Kratos."
Once more, they teleported away. This time, when they emerged, the first thing they heard was Raine's scream. Kratos caught a brief glimpse of the room, great chunks of it raining down upon a tiny platform in the middle of another pit. As he watched, a flash of silver disappeared as the rocks began to bury the room.
"Damn," Kratos took off, weaving around rocks in flight. "Chosen, get the other two across! I'll get the professor." He landed on top of the pile obscuring Raine. I hope this works. "Stalagmite!" he shouted. A tall, sharp rock burst from the ground, scattering the entire pile as others came forth behind it. As the stalagmites sunk back into the ground, the pile shifted, revealing a bruised and battered Raine. Kratos scooped her up and flew as fast as he could to the other side. With an echoing crash, the room folded in on itself.
Kratos landed by Regal, laying Raine down carefully. This may exhaust my mana if I have to keep healing everyone.
"Chi Healer," Regal muttered. Raine's body glowed white, her wounds healing as the light disappeared. Kratos looked up at the man to thank him for helping but Regal shook his head. “You are not alone in this. It is time you remembered that.”
"Ugh…" Raine groaned, stirring weakly, eyes still closed. "Genis…Yuan…"
Kratos's was the only jaw that did not fly open.
"Professor, what the hell?" Zelos shouted.
Raine's eyes flew open and she jumped to her feet, panic and sigust in her eyes as she rounded on Zelos. "I refuse to share the afterlife with that annoying pervert!" she shrieked, pointing at Zelos.
"Aw man…ouch…" Zelos said sadly.
"Professor Sage," Kratos said. "You're alive, as is Zelos."
"Kratos?" Raine whirled around in shock, catching sight of the Seraph as well as Sheena and Regal. "Wha—how?"
"Yuan told me what had happened," Kratos replied simply.
"Aw geeze, Raine!" Sheena moaned. "Of all the elves, half-elves, humans, and angels, you had to pick Yuan !?"
Raine glared at everyone. "If any of you say a word," she said, her voice icy, "You're dead!"
"Yes ma'am!" Regal, Zelos, Sheena, and even Kratos said fearfully.
Raine smiled. "Let's be on our way."
The teleporter carried them to yet another room. The five rescuers paused, listening for anything out of the ordinary. The room wasn't collapsing, no one was screaming. It was quiet.
"Perhaps there isn't a trap here," Raine said.
Suddenly there was the sound of wood cracking, followed by a gasp of pain. A loud crack preceded a metallic slam and a small voice saying, "I forgive you, Regal."
"Presea!" Regal exclaimed, racing around the corner. Presea was struggling, her hands grasping hopelessly at thick branches wound around her neck and chest. Her face was turning blue. "Hold on!" Regal raced toward the small girl.
"Guardian!" Kratos quickly cast a shield around Presea as Regal's kick descended on the tree branches, severing them all in two. Presea dropped to all fours, sputtering and gasping for air.
Presea looked up. "Everyone…" she said. Her eyes roamed the familiar faces until they rested on Zelos. "Zelos? you're alive?" She shook her head. "The probability of that is impossible."
"I know!" Zelos grinned. "It's cuz I'm awesome!"
"Factual error detected," Presea said, causing Sheena and even Raine to snort with laughter and Regal to smile. "Regardless, I'm glad you are safe and I am sorry."
"If you are all right, we should move on," Kratos pointed out.
"I'm fine," Presea said. "We must get to Genis." Everyone stared. "And uh, the others as well. Thank you, Regal. And everyone else too."
Once again, they teleported away. This time, they found themselves at the end of a room with four long passageways extending from it. However, their way was blocked by a humongous mass of green mana filling the corridor and charging forward toward the central room.
"Wait," Zelos said. "Someone's there, on the ground!"
Raine screamed. As she did so, the four walls of mana came together with a resounding crash. The party watched in horror as a scream tore the air and Genis's tiny body was suspended in the mana. Suddenly, lighting shot through the mass engulfing the half-elf as his skin burned right before their eyes. "RAINE!" Genis shouted desperately.
Raine was already running, her staff pointed before her. "PRISM SWORD!" A jet of light shot through the mana, parting it as she ran through, desperate to get to her brother. The green mass began to shake as it shrank from the holy light, its own magical light fading from around Genis. As the walks pulled away he dropped, right into to Raine's waiting arms. Raine didn't hesitate, but kept running, all the way to the teleporter, where she finally skidded to a stop.
He didn't move, not even as Raine stumbled down to the ground and moved him to her lap. Genis’s body was a mess: patches of flesh had fully dissolved, revealing muscle, and even bone in some places. His breath was fading and his pulse dying. She reached for her staff…but it was gone, dropped somewhere behind her. "Genis!" Raine gasped, tears streaking down her face as she stroked her brother's hair. "Genis, please hold on!"
"Raine!" Kratos rushed forward and jammed her staff in her hand. "Raine, get a hold of yourself. Now!"
Raine gulped and nodded, positioning her staff over her dying brother. "Resurrection!"
The effect was instantaneous. A beam of holy light, which obscured both him and his sister, engulfed Genis. Angel feathers began to rain down on the pair, attaching themselves firmly to Genis's wounds, willing health and life into the boy. "Come on, Genis. Come on little brother. Don't leave me here alone," Raine whispered, holding him close.
The spell faded. Genis stirred, opening his eyes unto his sister's face. "Raine?" he asked, disbelieving. "What the…? I thought you were—I thought I was…" Genis looked around, his eyes growing wide. "Sheena? Regal? Presea! ZELOS?!" He sat up. "You're all ok?"
Zelos nodded. "Thanks to old Kratos here!" Zelos said, clapping Kratos on the back.
"We're glad you're all right," Sheena said as Genis stood up. She waited until he got his balance and hugged him fiercely.
"Me too," Genis grinned. He turned and smiled up at Raine who was still crying. "Hey sis."
Raine let out a wail, scooping Genis up into a bone-breaking hug. "Don't. You. EVER! scare me like that again!" she yelled.
Genis squirmed, trying to free himself. "Yeouch! Raine! Ow! Sis! You're crushing me!" Genis worked himself free. "We need to go, anyway. Lloyd and Anna are up ahead."
"Move out," Kratos snapped, striding ahead of the others and vanishing before anyone could move. They exchanged nervous glances and headed for the teleporter.
"Genis?" Presea said, looking at the ground.
"Yeah?" Genis asked.
Presea looked up at him and smiled. She leaned forward and gave him a little kiss on the cheek. "I'm glad you're ok." She blushed and went through the teleporter after Sheena and Zelos, leaving Genis standing shell-shocked before Regal and Raine.
"Did she just?"' Genis asked, looking up at Regal, who smiled.
"Come, little Casanova," Regal said, heading to the teleporter.
"Yeeeeeeeees!" Genis shouted, punching a fist in the air and racing for the teleporter.
Raine followed. "I think it's time I gave Genis the 'talk,'" she muttered, heading after her little brother.
Kratos's heart was hammering as he materialized into the next room. Anna is all right, she is all right, Lloyd is all right, he is all right… The chant was ingrained on his soul as he raced forward. He could hear roars coming from up ahead and he stopped dead in his tracks.
"What on earth is that ominous sound?" Regal said in a hushed voice.
Kratos ignored him. He ignored every sound except one, one that sank into his very bones.
"Be safe, Lloyd." Anna. It was Anna. There was a pause broken only by the growls of whatever awaited ahead. "My son…Forgive me Kratos!"
Another crash shook the room, followed by a clanging noise and another shout. "I cannot die until I fulfill my destiny." The beast howled, followed by Anna's scream.
"ANNA!" Everyone jumped back at the tortured, wounded howl that ripped from Kratos's throat. The angel's wings were out and he was flying down the corridor, faster than he ever had in his life. He rounded the corner and halted, his body shaking as he beheld the scene before him.
Before them towered an enormous beast of solid shadow, its blood-red eyes gleaming as it beheld the struggling figured it had pinned to the wall. Anna stabbed at the gigantic hand with her swords, kicking and flailing trying to get free. As they watched, her wings were beginning to disappear, and the glow from her Cruxis Crystal was fading. In contrast, the demon's eyes grew brighter and brighter and streaks of white glowed throughout its being.
"No…" Raine gasped. "It's absorbing her angelic power…"
The beast threw Anna down to the ground, where she crumpled, limp and motionless. Her wings vanished and the light from the Cruxis Crystal flickered and died. The Demon roared as the light shot up through his body.
Anna lifted her head weakly. "Kratos. Everyone…it took my mana…run!"
"Kratos!" Zelos shouted. "Get her out of there!"
"Kratos don't!" Anna pleaded. "Take the others and run!" She got to all fours and staggered to her feet. "It's my fate Kratos…I was never supposed to come back. NOW GO!"
Kratos looked Anna in the eye. "You cannot oppose fate." He sprinted forward, unsheathing his sword as he went.
"KRATOS NO!" Anna screamed, just as a gargantuan beam of light burst from the beast's mouth. Anna screamed and covered her head with her hands.
Kratos slid in front of Anna throwing his arms out and shouting "Guardian!" He grabbed Anna by the front of her shirt and flung her back as hard as he could, just as the light collided with his shield. He glimpsed Zelos catching Anna before diving behind the wall into the corridor they had come from. There was a splintering noise as Kratos shield began to crack. He drew his sword and aimed, hoping it would work. Kratos gritted his teeth and threw the sword as hard as he could, straight into the beast's heart. Kratos shield exploded as the beast howled in agony. He felt himself flung into the air as his skin dissolved, before he was slammed into a wall, feeling his ribs, legs, and arms break as blood poured from his mouth. He slid in a crumpled heap to the ground.
"KRATOS!" Raine shouted as the beast disappeared in a cloud of smoke, Kratos's bloodstained sword clanging to the ground. Blue light raced across the ground and was absorbed into Anna's body. One of her arms was blackened and burned, but the Cruxis Crystal glowed brightly. The rest of her body was unharmed. Her wings emerged, glittering beneath her as she moaned, struggling to move.
"Healing Wind!" Zelos muttered, pointing his sword at Anna. A faint glow surround her and her arm returned to normal.
Anna moaned and opened her eyes. I'm….alive…how? She remembered then. She remembered Kratos grabbing her and throwing her through the air. She remembered the beast's agonized cry and the cracking noise as Kratos's shield exploded.
"KRATOS!" she sat up quickly looking around the room frantically. They were in the hall and she couldn’t see into the room so she crawled forward unsteadily, deaf to Raine’s protest. Then, a scent registered in her mind. Blood.
"There!" Genis said, pointing to the corner behind her. She turned and saw a purple figure, huddled on the ground. She didn't even try to stand, but used her wings to rise off the ground and fly to her husband, landing on her knees at his side.
Kratos lay face down on the ground, his limbs sprawled, and vestiges of bone jutting out of his legs and arms. Blood oozed from a wound to the back of his head. Anna bit back a sob and reached for him, turning him over and laying his head on her lap. His face was a mess, completely bruised and swollen, blood oozing from his mouth, splattered on his chest as more oozed down his cheeks and barely moving chest as he struggled to breathe. Patches of skin had burned completely away, some still smoking against the stark white of bone.
"Kratos…" Anna said, trying not to cry, trying to be strong for him. "Kratos…why did you do it? Why?"
Kratos opened one eye, his other swollen hopelessly shut. "I…I…"
"Shh," Anna said. "Don't talk."
Kratos coughed. More blood. "You cannot…oppose fate…" he gripped Anna's hand tightly. "It wasn't…it wasn't…your fate to…die."
Anna let out a wail and pressed her forehead to Kratos's. "You fool."
"Well…I did…marry…you," Kratos said weakly, his voice growing softer.
Anna let out a sound between a sob and a laugh. "Fifteen years of trying to get you to crack a smile and now you suddenly make jokes!"
Kratos smiled, revealing broken and bloody teeth. "Listen…go…Lloyd…"
"No!" Anna said. "Not until we've healed you."
"Too late for that," Kratos coughed again.
Anna looked up at Raine, Zelos, and Regal. All of their eyes held the same assertion as Kratos.
"But," Anna muttered, looking back at Kratos. "But…you can't…you're not supposed to die…I think. I don’t remember. Damn it Kratos! You've got to hold on. Kratos! YOU CAN'T DIE! KRATOS!"
Kratos gripped her hand tighter. "Love you…always have…always will…it's up to you…you and Lloyd." He let out one great shuddering gasp and his grip loosened.
"No…" Anna gasped. Her eyes widened as she shook Kratos. "No! You can't…You can't leave Lloyd and me here alone! Kratos! KRATOS!" Anna laid her head on his chest, breathing heavily. Then she sat up straight, her chin lifted and screamed, feeling her throat tear and bleed as the shrieks tore from her broken heart. She collapsed on his chest, sobbing her heart out. "Kratos…Kratos…don't leave me…"
"Anna…" Raine said gently. "We've got to go to Lloyd."
Anna's head shot up at Raine's voice. "We will." Anna laid Kratos gently on the floor, wiping a hand across her swollen eyes, a fierce gleam in them. "After we bring him back."
"Anna…" Raine said even more gently. "He's gone."
Raine staggered from Anna's hit, looking wounded and rather offended as Anna glared murderously at the half-elf.
"Don’t you ever say that! He's not gone until I say." Anna looked at Zelos, Genis, Regal and Sheena. "The mana hasn't left his body yet, or Origin's seal would have been broken right here. We're bringing him back."
She thought fast. "Genis…when I give you the word, hit Kratos with a Lightning attack. Not Thunder Blade, or Indignation, just Lightning."
"We'll use electricity to jumpstart the heart and other things," Anna said over him. "It will make up for whatever Raine and Regale and Zelos don’t have left to heal with. They do something similar on earth. Sheena, you use Purgatory Seal at the same time. That should call his soul back, if it's even gone yet." Sheena looked doubtful but nodded anyway. "Raine," Anna glared at the woman. "When I signal you, use Resurrection, as much as you can." Raine nodded, not wanting any more pain in her face from an Anna slap. "I'll signal a third time: Zelos, you use Healing Stream and Regal, Chi Healer. After they have activated their spells, Raine switch to Revitalize as fast as you can." Anna looked at them. "Got it?" Everyone nodded. "I know y’all are weak and this will be a drain, but give it all you can ok? Get ready."
Anna looked down at Kratos steeling herself. "All right. Genis and Sheena…NOW!"
A guardian latched onto to Kratos and rocked his chest with vibrations as the thunderbolt shook his body. "RAINE!"
"Resurrection!" Holy light enveloped Kratos, obscuring him and angel feathers rained down on him. Anna watched for a moment, squinting through the light. She could just make him out. His wings had rushed out of his back and he was hanging limply in mid-air. It's going to work! "ZELOS! REGAL!"
A gust of wind, tinted blue, rose beneath Kratos as more light wrapped around him. The Crystal on his hand began to glow faintly…but it was flickering.
The ground below them vibrated as a gigantic blue spell circle raced out from under Raine to envelope the entire room. Mana seeped up from the ground, leeching into all of them as they kept their spells going. The room shook.
Anna closed her eyes and unfurled her wings and took a leaf out of Colette’s book: she prayed to all the earth gods she could name and any other deity listening. Jesus, Allah, Vishnu, Kami, Buddah, someone! Please help this man. He needs a second chance. We all do. Goddess Martel, spirit of mana. I beg of you: please bring him back to us…please! Giant Kharlahn Tree, lend him and us your strength.
Anna opened her eyes, fixing them on Kratos. He still wasn’t moving. The light in his Crystal was fading. Asking politely was doing nothing so Anna fell back on what she could do best. "Damn it to hell Rainbow Brite! You owe me one, Origin!”
There was deafening rushing noise at her words and the room was filled with white light, so bright that Anna closed her eyes and threw her hands up to shield her face. She fell to her knees, struggling to maintain her thought, concentrating solely on Kratos and her belief that he would come back.
“Come back,” she chanted. “Coe back to me. Come back!”
She shouted this last and as she did so the light cleared. Anna opened her eyes. Kratos was on the ground again, his body completely healed, his wings fluttering under him, his Cruxis Crystal glowing. She waited with baited breath.
A groan broke the silence. Kratos Aurion opened his eyes unto the cracked ceiling of the Tower of Salvation. I'm back…but how? He sat up slowly, checking himself for injury and finding none. In fact…he felt better than he had in his entire life.
"It worked!" Genis cried. Kratos looked around and saw everyone staring at him. He got to his feet.
Raine smiled weakly and pointed beside him. Kratos turned and was face to face with Anna, whose face was white.
"Anna?" Kratos asked. Anna didn't move. He held out a hand to his wife.
Kratos fell flat on his back from Anna's slap.
"I cannot believe you Kratos Aurion!" Anna yelled at the top of her voice, jumping to her feet and positively hopping with anger. "You were just up and ready to die and then you come back thinking I'm going to just forgive—"
Kratos shot to his feet and grabbed Anna's waist, lifting her off her feet and spinning her around before hugging her tightly. "You are the most stubborn woman I've ever met." He kissed her hard and more vigorously than he ever had.
"Awwwwwww!" said Raine, Presea, and Sheena.
"Score!" Zelos shouted.
"Ewww…" Genis muttered. Regal just smiled.
"I love you," Kratos said, breaking the kiss.
Anna glared. "I'm going to kill you."
"Forgive me," Regal said loudly. "But…Lloyd…"
Anna shrieked and pushed away from her husband. "Come on!" she paused and looked back at Kratos. “Do you have enough mana to heal them all a bit? They drained saving you.” Kratos nodded and healed as asked, much to the relief of everyone.
"Head for the teleporter," Kratos instructed, picking up his sword and running over to the teleporter. "I'm altering the magitechnological code. It'll take you directly to the Great Seed room once we're gone. You'll have to wait for it to reset, but it shouldn't take long." Kratos looked at Zelos. "The Chosen and I will head for the Aionis while Pronyma is detained."
Anna nodded. "Be careful."
"And you," Kratos said. "And…thank you all for saving Anna and myself." Kratos turned and set off through the teleporter with Zelos.
Kratos and Zelos materialized right before the door to the Great Seed room. Looking over his shoulder, he saw the bridge still intact. Lloyd hadn't gotten through yet. "Give me your sword," Kratos said to Zelos.
"What?" Zelos asked. "Why?"
"It'll help Lloyd get in. He's not of Cruxis, so he needs a relic of a half-elf to get in.”
"Ah, magic swords," Zelos said, unsheathing his and handing it to Kratos.
Kratos grabbed it, unsheathing his own and driving them both through the wall, just in case one alone couldn’t do it. That done, he turned and headed down a side stair, to the Aionis mine, Zelos following close behind. As they disappeared from sight the teleporter at the end sparked to life and Lloyd stumbled out.
"Damnit," he muttered. Rather than take him directly there, the teleporter had sent him to a long maze of passageways…most with angels and monsters lurking in them. "It's tougher to get through all the enemies on my own." He raced forward, stepping onto the bridge in front of him. As soon as his feet planted firmly, the section fell away, causing him to jump back. Arrows flew from the walls as he gritted his teeth.
"From here on out, looks like it's a one way road." Lloyd jumped and ran, ducking as he dodged arrows. He managed to reach the end and jumped unto blessedly solid ground. Panting he straightened and looked forward. Suddenly, a small compartment opened and an arrow shot from it, directly for his heart.
"NO!" Lloyd cried as the arrow struck him. He fell backward, crashing onto his back as his vision went black.
After a moment, Lloyd realized he was alive and that it was dark because he had his eyes closed. He opened them and sat up slowly. "Augh…I'm alive. But how?"
Looking down, he saw a small hole where the arrow had struck. Something gold glittered there. Lloyd's eyes widened as he reached inside his clothes and pulled the locket Kratos had given him. Sure enough there was a cruel scratch on it.
"Kratos' pendant," Lloyd said, getting to his feet. "He protected me." Lloyd clutched the locket. "Dad…"
Lloyd, don't make a mistake. Don't die.
Lloyd gripped the locket grateful for it and for his father before tucking it back into his shirt. "Colette! I'm coming for you! Just hang on!" Lloyd ran up the stairs and stopped at the door. Two swords were thrust in them. He seized both handles, tugging them loose. "What's this? Is it some king of trap? Damn. There's no time to be worrying. I've got to rescue Colette, for everyone's sake!" He thrust the swords into his belt next to his other two blades and ran through the door.
Yggdrasill gazed reverently at the gigantic blue mass that was the Great Seed. Suspended in the midst of it was the beautiful Martel Yggdrasill, the crystal in her hand glowing. Below, the Chosen of Mana of Sylvarant, Colette Brunel, lay, motionless, trapped in the iron confines of a machine, her crystal also glowing.
"It is finally time, dearest sister," Mithos declared. "This body has the closet match to your mana signature. I've failed many times in the past, but this time I swear I'll make it work."
"The mana charge is complete, my lord," Pronyma informed her master.
"Good," Mithos said, his alight with excited anticipation. "Do it!" Pronyma reached for the switch.
"Let her go!"
Mithos spun around, eyes wide in disbelief. Lloyd Irving stood before the angel, one sword, Zelos's at his side, the other, Kratos's, pointed at Yggdrasill's heart. In that moment, fighting for the ones he loved, his eyes ablaze, his soul stained by the sight of his comrades and family falling before his eyes, and the urge to protect permeating his aura, Lloyd had never looked more like his father.
"Lloyd?" Mithos glared, shocked at the change in the boy. "How did you get in here?! The lock to this room can only be opened by a member of the Cruxis high order!"
"None of your business!" Lloyd snapped. "What matters is that your selfish dream ends here!"
Mithos sneered. "A futile effort." He raised his hand, magic welling up as Lloyd charged.
Suddenly a fireball flew from behind Yggdrasill, hitting him in the back. Lloyd skidded to a halt, eyes wide as he stared in disbelief in front of him.
"We won't let you lay a finger on him!" Genis snarled, his kendama held before him like a sword. Behind him, Raine was smiling cruelly, her staff poised to obliterate Mithos. Regal was in his fight stance, calm and ready for battle. Presea had procured another ax, which was ready for battle as well. Sheena's fist clutched guardian seals as she winked at Lloyd.
Yggdrasill glared at them all, before he felt something grab his outstretched wrist. He turned to see an irate Anna glaring ferociously at him, her black rainbow wings flapping angrily. "Get away from my son." With a growl she threw her fist forward as hard as she could and collided squarely with Mithos’s eye, knocking him back so that he stumbled ungracefully and howled in pain.
"Mom!" Lloyd exclaimed. "Guys! How? You're okay?"
Sheena grinned. "I told you I wouldn't miss the main event!"
"You did not want to share the same pain I do, correct?" Regal said.
"I can't possibly miss seeing the new world that's about to be made," Raine added.
"I can still fight," Presea said, hefting her ax. "As long as I can fight, I will stay by your side."
"Heheheh, pretty good, huh?" Genis said, holding up a peace sign.
Lloyd looked at his mom, who turned and hugged him tightly. "I told you, you'll never lose us." She grinned. "And I, Anna Adalais Aurion, aka Triple A, can never die!"
"Bad nickname detected," Presea said as the others lined up on either side of Lloyd.
"Everyone…" A grin lit his face. "All right! Let's take him on together!"
Yggdrasill glared and cast healing magic on his arm. "What a sorry lot. Pronyma, it is your fault they're still alive. Kill them!"
Pronyma looked taken aback but hastened to obey. "Y…yes, sir!" Pronyma withdrew her staff, and summoned two dark beings. "I shall expel you of your flaws"
"Try it!" Lloyd said. "Regal, Presea! Forward, take the subordinates. Professor, work on healing! Genis, throw everything you've got at her! Sheena, do your guardian…thing…just help whoever seems to be in trouble! Mom?" Lloyd grinned at his mother.
"Let's get her, Lloyd," Anna said. They nodded at each other and took off for Pronyma.
"Leonazium!" Pronyma cried, launching the attack at them. Anna and Lloyd, split, veering off to opposite sides as the attack passed between them. Coming back together, they both leaped high in the air.
"Rising Falcon!" they shouted, diving downward and slicing Pronyma's arms as she dodged. Pronyma shrieked and spun toward them. "Agaraz-!"
"Prism Sword!" A jet of light from Genis tore across the room, striking Pronyma and knocking her back, as Genis back flipped away from a thunder blade sent by her minions. Anna and Lloyd ran up to Pronyma and began to circle her, dodging this way and that as she launched spells at them.
Behind them, Regal slammed one minion into the ground with a powerful kick. Sparks flew from Presea's ax as she exchanged blows with the second one. A guardian seal latched onto to Regal's opponent's head and exploded, knocking the beast to the ground. Another seal attached to his chest and sent electricity coursing through its body until it disappeared in a puff of smoke. Presea's opponent pushed her back and turned sharply, its sword slashing deep into Regal's thigh. Regal went down.
"Healing Circle!" Raine cried. Running forward, she pointed her staff at the offending creature. "Photon!"
"Gravity Well!" Genis shouted. The creature was absorbed by light as the earth literally shook him apart right before their eyes.
The others turned toward the fray that was Lloyd, Anna, and Pronyma. Pronyma swung her staff at Anna and Anna blocked it with her sword, knocking it to the side. Lloyd lunged in for Pronyma's side at the same time, but she raised a hand and blasted him with a ball of dark energy, which he flipped up and over.
"You inferior beings!" Pronyma screeched, yanking her staff back. "I'll send you all to hell!"
"See you there!" Anna shouted. "Raging Beast!"
The others had charged, tired of the slog and tired of Pronyma. They had come this close to save Colette and the world and it was time Mithos and his henchmen knew that they would not back down. Pronyma screamed as she absorbed each and every attack, and she landed on bher knees, panting and bleeding.
Pronyma gasped as something impacted her chest. She looked down at the sword protruding from her heart and then raised her head slowly to look into a pair of merciless red-brown eyes. Lord Kratos?
No. No it was Lloyd and while there was no mercy in his gaze as he pulled his sword from her, there was something else: regret. Lloyd never wanted to kill anyone and yet fate had forced him to. He had killed her but still wished he could have saved her. Such a human thought…
"I can't believe…I lost twice…to this…wretched lot," she gasped. She crawled for Yggdrasill, reaching her blood stained hand toward her master. "Lord Yggdrasill…it hurts…Please…help me."
But Mithos eyes were alight with insane happiness as Martel's Cruxis Crystal ceased to glow. As they watched, Martel's body vanished. "I've succeeded! Martel is awake!"
"Lord Yggdrasill," Pronyma begged. "Mithos please."
Mithos eyes suddenly narrowed and he glared at her with ferocity no one would have expected. "Only my former companions can call me by that name! Get out of my sight!" he roared, blasting her with light. Pronyma screamed one final time, but her body disintegrated and she was no more.
"That's so cruel," Presea gasped.
There was a series of electronic clicking noises, snapping everyone's attention back to the immediate problem. As they all watched, the machine holding Colette opened and Colette's eyes fluttered.
"Colette!" Lloyd cried, running for her, but Anna grabbed him and held him back. Something was wrong. Colette's energy felt different somehow…more powerful…
"Dear sister…you've finally come back to me!" Mithos gasped.
Lloyd went limp in his mother's arms as Colette got to her feet and walked up to Mithos. "No! Colette! It can't be true!"
Colette spoke…but it wasn't Colette sweet, innocent voice the echoed in the confine of the room. It was a woman's voice, deeper, matured by age, struggle, and sadness and despair. The voice of someone who had seen too much of life and its sorrows.
"Mithos," Martel said sadly. "What have you done?"
Mithos looked confused. "Martel?" Then he smiled. "Oh, you mean my body. I hastened my growth to have an appearance befitting the leader of Cruxis. Wait just a moment. I'll switch back to my old form." In a flash, Yggdrasill suddenly revered to his youthful form.
"No, Mithos, not that,” Martel said, patiently, but despairingly. “I've been watching all this time. Unable to move, unable to do anything, I watched all those foolish things you've done." Martel looked her brother in the eyes, willing him to hear her. "Have you forgotten everything? We stopped the Ancient War because we dreamt of a world where humans, elves, and those in between could live in harmony."
But Mithos was too far-gone. Four thousand years of desperation, despair, and power had driven everything from him. Martel's words could not register in his mind. His heart was too numb. "What are you saying?" he asked. "This after all the trouble I went to prepare a new body for you?" He thought for a moment. "But I see…you don't like that one, do you?"
"Mithos, please," Martel begged. "Listen to me. What you have done…is wrong. It is not what we strived for."
"Wrong?" Mithos stepped, back, his childish face wounded and sad. "Are you rejecting me?"
"No, I want you to remember. Please stop this and become your old self again," Martel put a hand on his shoulder, but Mithos shrugged it off, backing away, his face confused and scared, every bit the child that he really was inside.
"Martel, even you reject me?" Mithos whimpered. "No…Martel would never say something like that." He suddenly giggled. He giggled again and again, until an insane cackle erupted from his mouth, send shivers down everyone's spine. He broke of suddenly and glared, furious, as the air around him shimmered. "I won't allow that, do you hear me?!" he shouted, launching mana from his body in frustration. The mana bolts collided with the walls and ceiling and the room began to shake.
Lloyd broke out of Anna's grip and started for Mithos but movement above caught his eyes. A red-haired man came running into view, looking down at Lloyd with a grin on his face. "You okay, Lloyd?"
Lloyd's jaw dropped. "Zelos?!"
Lloyd looked past Zelos and saw Kratos coming up swiftly behind the Chosen. "Are you alright?" Lloyd nodded dumbfounded as Kratos jumped off the platform and went to Colette. He withdrew from his pocket the Rune Crest that Pronyma had removed and placed it on Colette's Cruxis Crystal. Zelos jumped down and head over the Lloyd.
"Kratos!" Mithos snapped as Anna ran to her husband, swords out in case Mithos attacked. "You betray me…again?!""
"I do not mean to betray you," Kratos said sadly, looking at his former pupil and tragically lost friend. "I am full of regret." Anna gripped Kratos shoulder as the pain in his eyes shone brightly. "Regret that I could not stop you!"
"Kratos! I knew you'd come back to us!" Lloyd yelled excitedly.
"That's right, Lloyd," Raine said. "He saved us from the impossible situations we were in. Kratos and Zelos"
"Yup!" Zelos said. "Kratos saved my life and risked his own to save everyone else's, too. Especially your mom. I didn't even deserve to be saved." Zelos shifted uncomfortably. "Sorry about all that."
"Zelos did what he thought he had to do for his sister," Kratos said to Lloyd, "and he helped me retrieve this."
Kratos tossed his son the glittering rock of Aionis.
"Refine that with dwarven arts, and it'll let even a human use the Eternal Sword!" Zelos said excitedly."
"You…are you saying you did all that just to get this?" Lloyd said, looking at Kratos and Zelos, awestruck.
"We owe it all to Kratos," Zelos said. "While I may have assisted, barely, I still deceived you." Zelos sighed. "I've held you guys back for a long time."
Lloyd paused, staring stonily at Zelos, who looked partially crestfallen, afraid that Lloyd wouldn't forgive him. Then Lloyd broke into a wide grin. "If you want to make it up to us, hurry up and fight!"
"You got it!" Zelos said.
Mithos growled and turned on Zelos. "What are you doing?! I thought you wanted me to set you free of your fate as a Chosen!"
"Oh, you know what? I changed my mind," Zelos said cockily, moving behind Lloyd and slipping an arm around Sheena's shoulder. "That won't matter after we beat the snot out of you anyway."
Kratos faced his son. "I wish to atone for my sins alongside you."
Lloyd smiled at his father. "I want you alongside me, Kratos." Suddenly Lloyd realized something. He held out Kratos's sword. "This is yours isn't it?" He looked at the other one. "And this is Zelos's."
Kratos said nothing. Zelos winked.
Lloyd tossed Zelos's sword to him and handed Kratos his. "Let's do it…together."
"YES!" Anna shouted excitedly, punching the air.
"Damn you! Give me back my sister!" Mithos shouted.
Colette's Crystal began to glow. "Goodbye, Mithos. This is my final wish. Please, return this twisted world back to its original form."
“"No!” Mithos fell to his knees and grabbed Colette’s hands, his eyes full of tears he begged. “Martel! Don't go!"
Martel's voice began to fade. "If things were going to end up like this, perhaps the elves should never have left Derris-Kharlan. If they hadn't, people like us would never have been born."
There was a flash and mana flooded back into the Great Seed. Colette swayed and collapsed, Lloyd brushing past Mithos to catch her.
Mithos stood stone still, staring at the Great Seed. "So," he finally said quietly. “So that was it." Mithos laughed insanely again, raising his arms to the great seed. "Martel, you just wanted to leave this filthy world and return to Derris-Kharlan." He nodded, his voice becoming firmer. “Yes, of course. That world is the homeland of all elven blood."
"Mithos?" Genis said gently, hoping that he might be able to reach the distraught half-elf.
Mithos sighed happily, his eyes wild. "Yes, dearest sister. Let's forget these filthy creatures and return home together. To Derris-Kharlan."
Colette gasped and stood up shakily as The Great Seed glowed and began to rise. She looked around at the others. "Everyone!" she cried with her own voice now. "We have to stop Mithos! Martel is calling to me! Martel wants us to stop him!"
Mithos glared at her. "Shut up! Martel would never say something like that." He spat at her feet. "You…miserable failure!"
Colette glared right back. "She did say it! She was crying! She said, 'Please don't make everyone suffer any longer!'"
Mithos turned his back on them, his eyes riveted on the Great Seed.
Kratos turned to Lloyd. "Lloyd, do you understand? If we lose the Great Seed, we'll betray everyone's hopes!"
"And the Renegades," Zelos said.
Sheena stepped forward. "And we of Mizuho won't stand it, either."
"Without it, the Giant Tree will not germinate," Raine added.
"Without mana, the land will die," Presea said.
"If we're going to end discrimination…" Anna said, trailing off and hoping Lloyd would draw his own conclusion.
"And if your goal is the reunification of the world, then…" Regal added
Lloyd clenched his fist, his eyes blazing with determination. "I know. We're gonna stop Mithos with everything we've got!"
Mithos turned. "I won't let you interfere," he said, his voice low and deadly as he returned to his adult form. "I will kill you all!" he roared.