Mirror Image

Between My Pride and My Promise

"Why can you not accept the ideal world I have envisioned?" Yggdrasill asked waving a hand to indicate his lifeless world.

Lloyd drew his swords as his comrades fanned out alongside him, weapons at the ready. Anna and Kratos were on either side of their son. "How can your world be ideal when you've killed countless innocent people?!" Lloyd shot back

Yggdrasill's eyes went cold as a look of deepest loathing crossed over his face. "Human," he spat menacingly, "don't tell me what's right and wrong."

Lloyd looked to his right at his mother, her eyes blazing, ready to fight. He looked to his left and Kratos turned his head at the same time, his eyes meeting with Lloyd's.

"Don't let up, Lloyd," Kratos cautioned.

"I won't," Lloyd said, grinning. "And don't you hesitate anymore."

A look of satisfaction crossed Kratos's face. As one, Kratos and Lloyd ran forward. Lloyd lunged low driving a hard stab at Yggdrasill, who dodged easily. Kratos however, had leaped over his son and slashed at Mithos's arm, scoring a very deep gash.

Anna chose an aerial assault and streaked over Kratos and Lloyd’s head, aiming her strike for Yggdrasill's neck. Mithos stepped back from Lloyd and and raised one arm to meet Anna’s strike. As he did so, the Eternal Sword appeared in his hand and caught caught on Anna's. Mithos grinned at Anna’s shocked look and muttered a spell under his breath. Anna shrieked as a soundless explosion of power rocketed her away from Yggdrasill and into a nearby pillar. Kratos now circled Yggdrasill, nimbly parrying in and out, searching for an opening while Lloyd mimicked him from behind.

Kratos caught Lloyd’s eye after a monet and Lloyd nodded.

"Cross Thrust!" cried both swordsmen, lunging in at the same time from opposite directions. Yggdrasill had anticipated this however and vanished. Kratos swore and swung up his blade, barely avoiding running Lloyd through as he ducked behind his shield to avoid Lloyd's blow striking his chest.

When Yggdrasill reappeared behind the father and son, Presea and Regal charged, Regal aiming a Dragon Rage kick to his foe's stomach. Sparks flew as Mithos’s sword collided with the iron greaves Regal wore. Presea jumped high in the air above Regal's head and brought her ax down hard. "ETERNAL DEVASTATION!" Rocks and bits of tile exploded from the ground as her blade sank in and showered Yggdrasill, small cuts appearing on his face. He backed up, keeping his sword between himself and Regal and Presea as he shook dirt out of his eyes.

Regal, Presea, Lloyd, and Anna all led the frontal assault stabbing, parrying, and chasing Mithos. He disappeared and reappeared so fast that several times he almost had one of them. The group managed to persevere, but so did Mithos. Sheena lead the secondary assault with Zelos, throwing her power into her guardian seals and refraining from her physical attacks since she couldn’t get close. Zelos and Kratos both switched between frontal sword attacks and elemental magics. Genis and Raine launched spell after spell at the deranged half elf with mixed results. Raines was more focused on healing and guarding Colette who was still weak from her brunch with Martel’s soul. Some of the spells and attacks hit and some didn’t but either Mithos was so powerful he could brush of the hits or he was so mentally fargone that he never noticed them and had no reaction despite his body taking the toll.

“Nothing’s working,” Anna shouted to Kratos, who had managed to separate her from Mithos by pushing the madman back with a spell. Mithos changed tracts and focused his own spells on Sheena while fending off Anna, Lloyd, Presea, and Regal with his swordsmanship.

Kratos frowned. Now He’s concentrating on Sheena…why? Of course! The seals! All this time Kratos had wondered why Mithos hadn’t used the power he gained from summon spirits to obliterate them and he remembered why: the pacts were void. Sheena was in a way as powerful as Mithos was now, with the sole exception of the Cruxis Crystal and the Eternal sword, but Lloyd made up for those shortcomings as did Zelos and Anna. It made sense why he was focusing on Lloyd, Anna, and Sheena in particular.

“Zelos!” Kratos called over his shoulder. “The summon spirits! Mithos can’t fight the summon spirits!”

Zelos nodded once, thankfully understanding Kratos and he dropped his magic and ran to Sheena. “Sheena, Mithos has lost his power over the summon spirits. You have it now and he can’t fight them! You need to summon one of them. It can slow him down, even with the Eternal Sword.”

Sheena looked at him for a fraction of a second before nodding and grabbing purple seal from within her robe. “Got it!”

Sheena extended one arm out beside her, the other in front with the seal gripped between her index and middle fingers. "Guys look out!” A dark spell circle began to form under her. "Envoy from the dark abyss! I summon thee. Come, Shadow!" Sheena threw the guardian seal through the air and it actually managed to attached itself to Mithos's wrist. In fact it stuck fast to the wrist of the hand holding the Eternal Sword, just as Shadow himself appeared. The room went dark.

"Damn it!" Lloyd said, pulling back and retreating swiftly. "Pull back! Now!" he heard the others retreat, but then there was a loud cry, followed by a high pitched scream. Something extremely heavy thudded into his chest, knocking him to the floor. Lloyd groaned and sat up. One of his friends had crashed into him, someone small but very heavy. His scrabbling hands traced the curve of an ax. Presea was unconscious in his lap. He pushed her aside and nearly tripped on a steel clad boot. Regal. Mithos had knocked them down and out.

“Sheena hurry!” Lloyd cried, squinting through the darkness.

"Shadow!" Sheena called. "Unleash the fury of thine unknown abyss upon this corrupt soul!"

"Die…" the summon spirit hissed. A dark purple jet of light cleaved the darkness in two, racing for Yggdrasill. It enveloped him and Lloyd could see the angel's outline, clearly writhing in agony as the beam absorbed into him. Then just as quickly as it came the darkness was gone and Yggdrasill was down on one knee, his clothes singed, his skin smoking.

Sheena ran at Yggdrasill, her guardian seals in the air and began to launch another attack. Mithos looked up at her, eyes blazing as he raised the Eternal Sword. The sword began to glow and with a grunt he swung, slicing the blade parallel through the air. A bright blue arc of light ripped through the air and hit Sheena dead on.

Sheena skidded to a halt as her guardian seals split in two and a long gash appeared on her stomach. Her hands flew to the wound, blood gushing between her fingers as she crumpled to the floor. Zelos, who had been next to Sheena and charged with her, took a similar wound to his arm and crumpled, blood coursing down the left side of his body from the incredibly deep wound. Genis on the right took the hit on his shoulder and was flung backward. Raine was directly behind Sheena and the attack did not reach her or Colette and Kratos knew the trick and dodge by taking flight. Lloyd and Anna were just out of range. Lloyd on the side with the unconscious Regal and Presea and Anna behind Yggdrasill.

Lloyd ran forward to engage Yggdrasill in battle again, but Yggdrasill had other plans. He took to the air, abandoning his duel with Lloyd and heading behind him, right toward Anna.

"Fierce Demon Fang" Anna cried, launching her paler imitation of Mithos attack. Yggdrasill dodged. Anna threw up her swords to block, praying to stop the chop of the Eternal Sword.

Out of nowhere, Kratos came from the side, flying through the air straight towards Mithos. Kratos slammed into his former pupil and the two angels crashed to the ground. Kratos scrambled for his sword, pinning Yggdrasill with his knees and swung down to meet Mithos’s block. He pushed hard on their locked blades trying to force them down into Mithos’s neck.

"Don't you dare touch her," Kratos hissed. Kratos pushed harder, trying to end it but something was fighting him. Yggdrasill could sense it.

"What's the matter, Kratos?" Yggdrasill asked after a moment.

"I do not wish to do this," Kratos said tersely.

"Remorse…such an inferior emotion." Yggdrasill slackened his grip and jerked to one side, the locked blades digging into the tile beside his head. Yggdrasill the released his sword with one hand and backhanded Kratos hard, knocking the swordsman off of him.

"Kratos!" Lloyd ran for Yggdrasill. Yggdrasill turned, swinging for Lloyd's neck, but Lloyd was a step ahead. Hitting his knees, Lloyd slid right under the sword and drove his blade deep into Yggdrasill’s leg, so deep that it stuck fast, stopping Lloyd's sliding with a jolt. Yggdrasill paused, looking down in disgust as Lloyd grinned victoriously.

"You…" Yggdrasill hissed, his body shaking. Lloyd ripped the sword free, splattering both the ground and himself in blood. "You inferior being." Mithos hit Lloyd, much as he had Kratos only harder, and sent the boy flying into the wall.

Mithos looked at Colette next, his eyes merciless. "Perish!" A dome of light rocketed up from beneath their feet. Raine didn’t block but instead grabbed Colette by her shirt and flung her away mere seconds before the floor beneath her exploded, sending her flying as well.

Lloyd groaned and got to his feet, panting and dizzy. Anna was there though, sprinting past Yggdrasill to help her son to his feet. She was exhausted, they all were, but she couldn’t defeat him alone. It was down to her and to Lloyd.

Lloyd shook his mother off and limped toward Yggdrasill, glaring and gripping his swords. Mithos smirked at the futile attempt.

“Poor little Lloyd,” Mithos said with a sick smile. “Always trying so hard to be the hero. Always one second too late. You can’t save your friends, you can’t save your parents, and you can’t save the world.” Mithos laughed coldly and nodded towards Colette. “And you most certainly can’t save this miserable excuse for a vessel.”

Lloyd’s glare deepened and he straightened up, ignoring the aches and pains in his body. He pointed one sword at Mithos. “So you think,” he growled.

Mithos frowned, as though Lloyd were nothing more than annoyance. "It is over!" he snapped, his rage suddenly coursing through him thick and fast. "Surrender your lives to me! Then I can go home with my sister!"

"Mithos!" Colette cried from her spot crouched on the floor. Though still weak, she looked the strongest of everyone that was still conscious. Anna was bruised and bloody, Lloyd swayed where he stood, and even Kratos’ s face was worn and bruised as he hauled himself upright. Colette though, stood and opened her wings, floating gently to land next to Lloyd. She looked up at the mad man with pleading eyes. "Stop this! It does not have to be this way! Martel doesn't it want it to be this way!"

"Silence!" Mithos roared. "Don't…" he began to shake in anger, "don't tell me what my sister does and does not want! You…you…worthless sacrificial failure!" He lunged for Colette.

Kratos moved before Mithos could attack, getting to him quicker than even Lloyd could manage. Kratos lunged in and drove his blade into Yggdrasill's stomach. Yggdrasill howled in pain, but Kratos struggled to free his sword. He had used most of his strength to make it to Mithos and deliver the blow. Growling, Yggdrasill seized Kratos’s throat and shot a bolt of pure mana through him before throwing him to the ground.

"Kratos!" Lloyd shouted before rounding on Mithos. He swung at the half-elf, who turned from Kratos to block the boy. Anna ran forward and dragged Kratos and Colette out of the way, taking advantage of Lloyd’s distraction. She ordered Colette to stay back and turned to watch Lloyd fight Yggdrasill, the strength of both swordsmen failing fats. Anna ran forward to help her son, but Mithos shoved Lloyd away, causing him to crash into his mother. They both went down in a heap.

“He is mine! Let me do this!” Lloyd roared at Anna, getting to his feet and stepping forward to take Yggdrasill on again. He made it one step before Yggdrasill disappeared and reappeared an inch from his face. Lloyd scrambled to back up, to get his swords between them, but he was too late

"LLOYD!" Anna and Colette screamed as Mithos drove the Eternal Sword into Lloyd's stomach.

"Pass that on to your miserable father in the afterlife!" Mithos said, wrenching the sword free as Lloyd fell back to the ground. Anna ran at Mithos in blind fury her ears ringing in rage as her son lay bleeding on the floor. Mithos was prepared, despite the gaping bloody wound in his gut. He slashed into her arm, knocking her back. Anna growled, ignoring the burst of pain and rush of blood and flew forward again and again and again. Mithos slowly chipped away at her until she was bleeding from half a dozen wounds, some small, other serious.

“Twice,” Mithos said. “Twice you fail your son. He will die at my feet like the dog that he is and you will watch before you join him.”

Anna growled low in her throat. “Never. You will not touch him.”

Anna lunged again, weakly, slowly, her injuries and mana depletion weighing her down. It didn’t matter. She was going to kill Mithos and rally her strength to heal Lloyd...somehow. She could do this. They could do this.They had to.

She failed.

Mithos sunk his sword deep into her leg, sending her to her knees. She cried out and crawled, raising one sword, trying to stab for his heart as he laughed at her. Mithos smiled cruelly down at her and stabbed his blade deep into her back. Anna collapsed, blood running down her body as Mithos freed his sword.

Anna struggled to maintain consciousness. She lifted her heavy head and saw Kratos dragging himself toward Lloyd. Anna gritted her teeth and got on all fours, crawling over to Lloyd as well. She collapsed on her front, grabbing Lloyd's hand and squeezing, hope filling her heart when he weakly squeezed back. Kratos tried to summon the energy to heal his family, but it was no use and he soon collapsed on Anna's wounded back.

Mithos ignored them all and walked slowly over to Colette, blood still oozing from his wound. Blood was everywhere, on his legs, his stomach, his hands, even his face. He stopped just in front of Colette and smiled through bloody teeth. Colette didn’t move. She remained frozen, transfixed on Lloyd’s immobile form.

"Now, Chosen One," Mithos purred mockingly at Colette. "It's time for you to join the others in death." He raised his sword.

Colette turned her face from Lloyd's broken body. Something had changed in her. Power was suddenly streaking through the air, wrapping itself around her like wind as her eyes riveted on Mithos. "It's not over," she said with frightening calm. She threw a hand out, as though to shove Mithos and he was shocked to find himself slammed back into the far wall, right underneath his sister’s limp form trapped inside the Great Seed. The Eternal Sword dropped from his hand and clanged to the ground as he found himself unable to move an inch. This girl…she has too much power, even for a Chosen…what could cause this? “How?” he shouted aloud, infuriated. “How are you doing this?!”

"I'll tell you how!" Colette said. "Something you once understood but have long blinded yourself to. Something you have for your sister that she had for the world. And something that I have for the world, for my friends, and for Lloyd." She smiled, clasping her hands in prayer. "It's called love. That and the courage I have for those which I must protect." She closed her eyes and began to chant. "Thy power floweth purely, ever unwavering. Accept my soul into thine embrace." She opened her eyes. "Sacrifice…"

Colette's wings vanished and separated into nine beams of light, which absorbed themselves into the bodies of her comrades. More light exploded out from Colette’s entire being as and flew at Yggdrasill. Yggdrasill cried out in pain as the holy light pierced him through all over his already wounded body. It burned him, slicing through flesh and bone and he knew that he had been beaten. Both he and Colette fell to the floor.

"Colette!" Lloyd groaned, sitting up. There was a tugging sensation and he looked down. His body was glowing and his wounds were healing right before his eyes as he felt strength flood him. Looking around, the others were sitting up, blood and bruises evaporating.

"Lloyd?"

Lloyd turned and saw Anna crawling over to him, trying to shed her weakness as her body healed. Lloyd staggered to his feet and grabbed her hand, helping her to her feet. Kratos, already on his feet naturally, came up to them and hugged her tightly. "Are you alright?" he asked, looking from her to Lloyd.

"Yeah," Lloyd said.

"I can't die remember?" Anna joked.

"Apparently none of us can," Zelos muttered.

Raine was crouched over Colette, healing her. After a moment Colette's eyes fluttered open. "Lloyd…?"

Lloyd rushed over and knelt next to her. "Colette! What were you thinking?!"

Colette sat up slowly. "I'm sorry, Lloyd."

Lloyd pulled her up and hugged her briefly. As one they all turned to Yggdrasill, weapons at the ready. After a moment he stirred. Rising to his feet he clutched his crystal as his body began to fade from view. "How?" he gasped through bloodied lips. "I cannot lose."

“Mithos…?” Genis said, lifting his hand as though to reach out for his fallen friend but he was beyond Genis’ reach.

Mithos turned and looked at the Great Seed, a wild hope that was not even sane in his eyes. "I'm going home…I'm going home with my sister." And as he reached for the Great Seed, his body vanished, his Cruxis Crystal falling to the floor.

Everyone stared as the Cruxis Crystal glowed up at them. No one wanted to touch it. They were too afraid. What if it was a trap? What if Yggdrasill was trying to trick them?

But after a moment, the glow from the Crystal went out. The light in it faded. After a moment it was just another exsphere that had claimed the life of its host, Mithos Yggdrasill, Hero of the Ancient War and destroyer of the two worlds.

"It's over," Lloyd said into the silence.

Kratos looked over at Lloyd, astonished at this pronouncement. Yes the battle was over but there was still one more important task Lloyd had to complete. He pulled away from Anna, knowing that she was not going to like this and focused on his son.

"No, it's not over,” he told Lloyd calmly. “The worlds are still split. The Giant Tree has still not yet germinated." Anna frowned, not sure what he was getting at. "You must release Origin."

Lloyd and Anna gasped. "Do you know what that means?” Lloyd shouted. “You might die!"

Kratos turned and stared at the patch of blood surrounding the dormant Cruxis Crystal, the only evidence left of his last student. "I tried to run from everything,” he said remorsefully. “I still need to pay for my past sins." He turned back to Lloyd. "For the sake of releasing Origin's seal, as well as for the sake of settling my past, Lloyd…you must defeat me."

Lloyd glared furiously at his father. "You think I'm just gonna go along with that?!"

"Kratos, enough!" Anna yelled. "You're willing to die just to escape you own guilt? You’re willing to make you son become your executioner?!" Kratos did not respond. "Kratos answer me!"

Kratos looked at his irate son and hurt wife. "I'll be waiting for you before the seal."

He turned and exited the room the way he came, ignoring Anna and Lloyd’s yells as they mingled with protests from the others. He didn’t turn back. He let his feet lead him down the path he had chosen all of those years ago when he had decided to follow Mithos.


"Lloyd, welcome," the elf elder said, his voice not welcoming at all. "Your visitor has already entered Torent Forest, where Origin sleeps."

"…Thank you," Lloyd said quietly. Following Kratos’s departure, and a brief delay that came when Anna let out a burst of mana in anger that nearly brought the roof down on them, the gang had eventually left the Tower of Salvation and headed straight for Heimdall. Anna tried to delay them, but Lloyd would not be distracted. He moved as though in a fog and no amount of protest would prevent him seeking out Kratos for what felt like the thousandth time.

The group started to head in but Raine and Genis turned away. "We'll see you when you get back," Raine said, a little sadly, but more angrily.

Lloyd shook his head. "Wait, Professor, Genis!" Lloyd looked at the elder. "Elder. Please let these two into the village! It's only for now. They're my close friends, and I want them to be there when I face off against Kratos."

"Unthinkable!" spat one of the guards. "No half-elf may enter our village."

Lloyd stamped his foot. "That kind of attitude gave rise to Cruxis!" he said.

"The chasm that separates us from the half-elves is deep and dark," The elder finally said after considering Raine and Genis for a moment. "Nevertheless, there is reason in what you say. Thus, from now until Origin is released, I will grant these two entrance to the village."

"Thank you!" Lloyd said and Colette bowed slightly.

"However, they may not use any of our facilities. Is that clear?"

"That's fine." Raine nodded, accepting the backhanded offer with dignity.

Genis rolled his eyes. "Gee thanks!"

"Then let's go to where Kratos is," Lloyd said as they entered the village.

Colette grabbed his hand. "Lloyd, wait! You should relax a little first. You're about to fight your father, remember?"

"I know that!" Lloyd exclaimed.

"Colette is right," Regal said. "Don't be hasty, Lloyd."

"The fate of the world rests on your battle with Kratos," Raine reminded him. "Let's rest here tonight and you can sort out your feelings. This will be the end of our journey."

"Lloyd," Anna said. "You are in no condition to fight him now. Rest, please."

Lloyd sighed looking frustrated. Anna understood, he was much like her. He wanted to get things over and done with so he could nurse his emotional wounds in private. Nonetheless, he recognized the wisdom in what she and the others said. "All right."

They split up, each heading somewhere to debate with themselves and think in private. Only Anna and Lloyd stuck together, wandering aimlessly for a little while around the village.

"You're going aren't you?" Lloyd asked after a few minutes. "Tonight…to see Kratos."

"Would you rather I not?" Anna asked.

Lloyd shook his head. "M—Anna, why do you think he's doing this?"

Anna sighed. "Lloyd, your father has been on this earth for four thousand years. He has seen more, and lost more, than you and I will ever know. He has done terrible things. He will never forgive himself. Never. The only way he can see to atonement for the things he's done and for losing me and you all those years ago is to release Origin.”

"But we're alive!" Lloyd shouted. "If we're alive then why—"

"Because Kratos did kill me still, Lloyd," Anna interrupted. "He still accidentally left you for dead and in an act of confusion, he went willingly back under the control of the man responsible for our pain. After promising me he wouldn’t, by the way. I forgot about that. Remind me to yell at him.” Anna shook herself and returned her attention to Lloyd. “If you were faced with all of that guilt, all of those mistakes, all of that time you couldn’t erase or get back, what would you do?"

“Not this,” Lloyd admitted. “I wouldn’t make my family suffer more just because I can’t deal with stuff I messed up.” He thought for a moment. "Anna, did you know who he really was…before you married him?"

"Oh yes," Anna nodded. "I knew everything."

"And you forgave him?"

Anna sighed. "Well…I was furious at first. I couldn't stand the sight of him when I learned he was the reason I had that wretched exsphere on me. But…his eyes were so sad and his heart so heavy. I knew that Cruxis wasn't a reflection of who he truly was inside, that he was just lost. He needed someone to guide him back to the light…and I sensed he was worth the struggle." Anna smiled. "Besides, he was the most amazing person I had ever met and he turned his back on everything he had known for four thousand years once I knocked some sense into him. He taught me how to hone my battle skills too and God when we had you, he adored you. I loved him so much, still do, enough to forgive him." Anna grinned. “Granted that doesn’t means I don’t still get inordinately pissed off at him now and then.”

"I see…" Lloyd said thoughtfully and for a moment, Anna suspected he might have understood. The ties that bound her and Kratos were fraught with confusion and madness, but they were strong and unwavering. Kratos had been the calm collected mess she needed to fix and Anna had been the bright optimistic fiery soul he needed to set free.

Anna sighed and unfurled her wings. "Go talk to the others. I'll see you at the seal tomorrow...if I can find it that is,” she muttered almost to herself. She realized she was about to run into a mess of woods that she no longer knew how to navigate.

“Wait,” Lloyd said as she prepared to fly off. “One more question”

Anna looked over her shoulder at him.

“Why me?” he asked and for the first time since she had known him as the teenager--no the adult---he know was, he sounded lost, afraid, and scared. He sounded like the frightened child she suspect he really was when it came to all of this. How could he not be. The man he had admired first betrayed him, then helped him, then betrayed him again before turning out to be his long lost father and reuniting with them to defeat Mithos. After all that, he now was asking the son he claimed to love to murder him.

What a gigantic mess.

Anna sighed yet again,for what felt like the millionth time. “Because your father is an idiot,” she replied.

“That’s not--”

“I know,” Anna said. “He think it will give you closure, to revenge yourself upon him. He also thinks it is the best way to show you that he cares about you and respects you enough to meet you as an equal.”

“That’s stupid,” Lloyd sputtered angrily.

“Yes well,” Anna shrugged. “That’s where the whole ‘Because your father is an idiot comes into play.’”

Lloyd laughed. “I guess so.” He grinned brightly at Anna. “Thanks Mom.”

Anna smiled back at her son before flying off after his idiot father.


Kratos sat within the roots of a gigantic tree deep in the forest, facing the stone slab engraved with the language of the ancients. His eyes were closed, his sword hilt gripped tightly as he abandoned himself to thoughts running through his head.

Lloyd has grown in my absence. Was it out of anger, betrayal, and pain that he was forced to grow? To think that in the beginning when he was born, I sought to protect him from those wretched feelings and now he finds me synonymous to those feelings. He became a fine man while I looked the other way. Why couldn't I stay by his side? Wasn't there a way? A way to spare Colette and defeat Yggdrasill while he called me father? My cowardice has dragged my son into the depths of this disaster and I wish I could take it all back. I wish things would be different. I wish he'd call me dad as you once did.

Kratos sighed and looked up at the leafy canopy. “Why must it end like this?”

“Because you’re an idiot.”

Anna walked through the trees, her hands behind her head, looking up at the sky overhead. Seh stopped just before Kratos’ tree and looked down to the plain marker indicating origins seal. “Definitely an idiot. I mean you’re asking your son to kill you. It really doesn’t get much worse, or much stupider than that.” Anna glared over at him. “Why, Kratos?”

“You know why,” he said simply.

“You’re so hung up on the past you are ignoring what's in front of you!” she snapped. “i’m here, Lloyd’s here. We can find another way!”

“There isn’t one,” Kratos replied. “IYou know this!”

“You haven’t tried!” ann yelled. “You’ve given up. You always give up!”

Kratos did something he normally refrained from doing. Kratos got angry. He jumped to his feet and sheathed his sword before marching towards Anna, who stood her ground glaring at him as he approached. He reach out and grabbed her by the shoulders, not hard, but firmly.

“Fifteen years,” he spat. “Fifteen years since those fateful sword blows shook my hand. Not a day went by that I didn't grieve for your loss, that I did not torment myself for your demise. Not one second went by when i didn’t ache at the thought of Lloyd being...God, I couldn’t ever think the world and I still can’t. But then I found him. I found my son near death in front of an Iselia Chapel. I couldn’t believe it. Even more unbelievable, you fell from the sky into my arms not long after. It was more than I ever hoped for. My family returned to me.”

He wasn’t shouting but Anna wished he would. The quiet desperation in his voice was worse than any anger he could muster. “If you don’t think for one second I didn’t tear the world’s apart searching for a way to make things right so that I could stay beside you and Lloyd, then you are so very wrong.” Kratos hung his head. “I looked for it. I looked for the magic answer that eluded me fifteen years ago when I couldn't save you. The answer that eluded us all 4,000 years ago when we couldn’t save Martel. I looked for anything I could do to stop all of this and keep this miracle I had found.”

Kratos,” Anna said, scared now. She had never seen him so desperate...so broken.

“I looked for the one thing that could undo 4,000 years of damage and keep my family safe and me with them. There had been so many sacrifices over so many years i thought surely the universe would oppose fate just this once. Just one time to balance it out.” Kratos looked up at her, his eyes dark with despair. “And that’s when the answer came to me. sacrifice. I could undo all of this if I sacrificed myself and my heart. My betrayal allowed Lloyd to find the strength he needed to save the world. My continue false allegiance to Mithos allowed me to gather everything I could to help my son wield the Eternal Sword while keeping Mithos away from Lloyd and from you. And now my death will release Origin, the world will be saved and i can never hurt you or Lloyd or another living soul ever again. That was my magic answer.”

Kratos released her and glared hatefully at the seal. “There is nothing I wouldn’t do to save you and Lloyd. My death is everything I can give and asking lloyd to do it is the only thing I want in exchange. I have to know, Anna. I have to know that I am not leaving him unprepared. If he can kill me, he can do what is necessary to reunite the worlds. I have to make sure, as a father, that my son will be alright when I am gone. This is the only way.”

Kratos heard a hearty sniff that released him from the flood of emotion that had overwhelmed him. He glanced over quickly and saw the Anna's eyes were closed and tears were racing down her face.

"Anna?" Kratos said, reaching to wipe her tears away. “Anna I am sorry. i didn’t mean to make you cry.”

Anna shook her head. “So stupid. I don’t do this...I don’t cray.”

Kratos half-laughed at that. “No I know. You’re too proud.”

Anna glared and wiped at her face. “Kratos I understand what you are doing. Even with my removed memories, I still know you. i know your reasons. I just hate them and disagree with them. I don’t know that there is another way to solve this and honestly there probably isn’t. I just hate this.” Anna leaned into Kratos hold and he wrapped his arms around her. She pressed her face firmly into his chest, listening to his heartbeat and realizing the ebats were numbered now.

"I don't want you to die," she said weakly. "I can't bear the thought of living without you. I couldn't bear it, even as Adalais. Don't you see? Every life I lived, I've lived for you. For you and for Lloyd."

Kratos kissed her forehead. “I never deserved you and lloyd. I still don’t.”

“No, you don’t," agreed Anna. "At the moment, you deserve nothing more than a quick death and a crude, unmarked grave. But since when do any of us get what we deserve." Anna pulled back and looked up at him.

"Anna—" Kratos started to say, but he broke off as Anna kissed him, hard, pressing every curve of her body into his. He moaned quietly as she pulled away and trailed kisses along his jaw. He ran his fingers through her hair, pulling the tie out so it spilled wildly around her face. He turned, pressing her back into the tree and nipping at her neck. "Anna…" he murmured, this time an exaltation.

"Don't speak Kratos," Anna whispered, stepping back from him and removing her swords and his and tossing them aside before sliding her fingers down to his belt. "For once let go and let things take their course."



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