The End of a Thought
Lloyd walked through Heimdall in the late evening sun, not really paying attention to much and trying hard not to think about killing Kratos. he found that last to be an impossible task. he could catch sight of his friends around the village, talking, exploring or just wandering, but he wasn’t sure if he should approach them or if he should keep to himself. It was all so confusing so he just stopped dead, staring blankly into space.
"What is it?"
Lloyd shook his head, coming back to himself a bit and looking beside him. He had apparently stopped directly next to Professor Sage who was looking at him a little to knowingly too his tastes.
"Ah, nothing." he finally mumbled
"Are you feeling uneasy?" Raine asked, her indigo eyes kind as she looked him over. Lloyd shrugged but he knew the Professor wasn’t fooled. She had been an almost parental figure to him his whole life, his sort of logical compas, particularly on this journey. he couldn’t fool her.
"If you don't kill Kratos, Origin will not be released,” Raine summarized. “And even if you somehow manage to avoid fighting, you still have to release Origin. If you release Origin, Kratos may die and you're right back where you started."
Lloyd sighed. "Yeah,” he agreed. His options were pretty terrible weren’t they. He wanted to find out if there was another way. “I want to talk with him,” he admitted to the Professor. “I want to ask him if there isn't any other way." He could say that to her. She wouldn’t lie to him to make him feel better.
Raine looked at Lloyd seriously. She wanted to be able to lie and say she was sure they could think of something, but she couldn’t. She didn’t have it in her. Lloyd was shouldering a great responsibility. He was taking the literal weight of the world upon himself. She would do him and that world a disservice if she sugar coated things. He wouldn't thank her if she lied to him now.
"You must prepare yourself for the possibility that there isn't," she said not unkindly but also not gently. She owed Lloyd honesty.
And yet the crushed look haunting his eyes at her words made her wince internally. "I'm sorry. I always say things so coldly--"
"No," Lloyd interrupted. "You say the harsh things on purpose. It's for our benefit.” he smiled at his teacher “Thank you.. Tonight…I'll make up my mind about whether or not I will kill Kratos.”
Raine watched him walk away, his back straight and his face determined. She felt nothing but sorrow for lloyd for the unfortunate turn of events her faced. At least Lloyd would have Anna to get him through it.
Lloyd was considering whether he wanted to be alone or not when Genis hailed him. Lloyd walked over to his best friend, hoping he may have some useful advice since he was the smart one.
"Hey,” genis said without preamble, something clearly on his mind. “You know how they say, "He who chases two hares won't catch either?"
Lloyd scratched his head, not understanding Genis’s meaning at all. "Hairs? How do you chase hairs? You mean chase someone and grab 'em by the hair?"
Genis blinked at Lloyd for a moment, amaze that the world’s savior could be so dumb sometimes. "You know, Lloyd, sometimes I think you are a true genius," he said dryly.
Lloyd grinned. "Thanks, Genis!"
Genis rolled his eyes and facepalmed. "That wasn't a compliment.” He looked back up at his best friend frustrated but willing him to understand. “What it means is if you're greedy and try to get everything, you'll fail. Like me.” Genis looked down at the ground sadly, clenching something thought in his fist. “I wanted to be friends with both you and Mithos. Mithos was the first friend I've ever had that was my race…”
Are you a half-elf?
“But in the end, with my own hands I…"
I’m going home...I’m going home with my sister...
Genis reached again for the phantom of Mithos in his mind and opened his hand. Lloyd looked down at Genis outstretched palm where an exsphere glinted in the fading daylight. Lloyd look at Genis worried and more than a little sad for his friend.
"Is this…Mithos' Cruxis Crystal?" Lloyd asked.
Genis shook himself and saw he was reaching out to lloyd. His true friend, not Mithos. He blushed. "I'm sorry,” he said quietly. “I picked it up in the Tower of Salvation, but I just couldn't bring myself to destroy it.” he closed his hand around it and returned the orb to his pocket. “I took it with me. I thought, I'd at least show him the regenerated world."
"…I see," was all Lloyd could think to say.
Genis turned around and sat back down, gazing at the small creek. "Lloyd, don't do anything you'll regret. That's all I wanted to say."
Lloyd hesitated to leave his friend, but something told him he should let him alone. Instead, he hopped the creek and found Presea sitting on a bench downstream with her eyes closed and her face calm.
"Sitting here," she said quietly as Lloyd sat down next to her. "It just doesn't seem real that the world is heading towards destruction."
Lloyd nodded. "Yeah. But if the Great Seed doesn't wake up, this world will…"
Presea opened her eyes. "What we're doing may be against the laws of nature."
"What?" Lloyd asked in confusion looking around at her in surprise.
"People chose the path of destruction," she explained, her face carefully blank as it had been back when they had first met. "What we're trying to do may be nothing more than meaninglessly extending the lifespan of the world." Like Rodyle and Vharley had done to me...like Mithos tried to do for Martel.
Lloyd looked even more shocked. "Are you saying it's better if the world is destroyed?"
Presea's face held all the sadness of her past as she avoided Lloyd's eyes. "I don't know,” she admitted. “I don't think anyone knows what is best. That's why you're having difficulty deciding." She looked at him finally. "There may not be a correct path. So please, choose what you really believe for yourself."
Lloyd clasped her shoulder and got to his feet. "Thanks, Presea."
Lloyd left her on the bench, thinking to himself as he walked. So far everyone’s advice was to do what he felt to be the best choice. That was no good. He had no idea what the right path was. All this time he fought for a solution that would prevent anyone sacrificing themselves and now he was faced with seemingly no choice. Did that make him a hypocrite? Or did it all boil down to the fact that he just didn’t want to lose Kratos? Was it all selfishness. He didn’t know.
"You’re impossible right now!"
Lloyd stopped at the shout. Looking to his left, he saw Sheena storming away from Zelos, who was glaring moodily after her, not at all his cheerful and carefree self.
"Trouble with Sheena?" Lloyd asked as he walked over to the Chosen.
Zelos glared and huffed angrily. "She's upset, and I'm not helping," he said. "I'm in a really bad mood, just so you know."
That shocked lloyd. Zelos had been fine all the way her, talking and laughing and really connecting with everyone for the first time. now he looked positively murderous. "What are you talking about all of a sudden?" Lloyd asked.
Zelos’s glare deepened" I just can't accept the way he acts!” he shouted. lloyd looked at him confused and Zelos took a deep breath to control his anger. “ You know, Kratos," he explained.
"I'm sorry?" Lloyd said, unsure why he was apologizing. He felt it was the right response. Zelos seemed accusatory and Lloyd couldn’t figure out why he felt like it might have been directed toward Lloyd himself.
"You don't need to apologize," Zelos said.
"Well, yeah, but…" Lloyd stammered.
"Well, I guess you are his son." Without warning, Zelos slammed his fist into a nearby tree with a growl. lloyd jumped back a step. he had so rarely seen Zelso display temperament of any kind that this was surprising.
"The way he's decided to leave the job of settling things up to you is just, like, really irresponsible,” Zelos said hotly. “It's like he's trying to run away from the situation!" Zelos closed his eyes tight and shook his head, trying to put the demons of his own past and his own parents to the back of his mind, but he couldn’t. This all hit too close to home and he couldn’t hide it.
"I think…parents are there to protect their children." Zelos punched the tree again, not hard this time, more as just something to accentuate his point. "But this guy, he just goes back and forth, like he can't make up his mind. Doesn't he realize that it only hurts you? And then after all that, he challenges you to a duel?! What kind of family turns swords against one another?! This whole thing's nuts!"
Lloyd blinked at the chosen. What he was saying made sense but he was shocked to hear it from Zelos. And yet, zelos had pointed out the bitterness lloyd was hiding in his heart over all of this. lloyd couldn’t disagree with the man.
"Wow Zelos,” Lloyd finally said. “When you start putting down people, even Kratos isn't safe."
Zelos laughed slightly at that. He lowered his arm and leaned against the tree, folding his arms and looking at Lloyd appraisingly. He knew Lloyd was faced with a terrible choice and Zelos had no real advice for him. But he owed it to his friend to give it a try, especially since he was still alive to give it a try.
"Lloyd, if you're having trouble finding the answer, just chant my special magic words,” Zelos advised him
"Special magic words?" Lloyd asked warily.
Zelos nodded and grinned. “‘Whatever will be, will be.’”
Lloyd smiled slightly back. Still not the best advice and yet...it was actually wise. Whatever happens will happen, even if Lloyd didn’t like it.
"Thanks Zelos," Lloyd said. he walked away from Zelos and decided it might be a good idea to find Sheena, who was quite the force to be reckoned with when she was angry.After some searching, he found her y the windmill, glaring out over the village.
Everything ok?” Lloyd ask, walking up to lean on the rail beside her.
Sheena growled. "I'm just…not in a good mood." She looked forlornly back at where she had left Zelos. "I shouldn't have snapped at…” she shook her head and refocused on Lloyd. “Anyway, what about you? Are you alright?"
"Yeah,” Lloyd replied forcing a smile.
Sheena laughed sadly. "Sorry. You're not someone who would answer that question with a 'No'… I'm so stupid…"
"No, I'm really okay. I just have…" Lloyd struggled to find the word. "…hesitations."
Sheena nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, of course. Anyone would be confused. This thing with Kratos was so sudden."
"But there's no time for it," Lloyd said, coming to a realization as soon as the words had left Sheena’s mouth. There was no time. he had to choose. Isn’t that what the others had been saying all along. "I have to decide. I can't waiver back and forth wanting to save both, like the way I was with Colette."
Sheena nodded in agreement and gazed back out at the village. "A father and son battling to the death…" she said, her voice distant. "It's horrible."
Sheena had never known her parents. She had been raised by her grandfather and he was all she had until the disaster with Volt. Then she no longer had him, or anyone. Sure the village had trained her but she had been a pariah, blamed for the misfortune. The thought of finally finding her father and being forced to kill him was just too horrible to contemplate.
lloyd understood her thoughts. "You don't have to make yourself feel bad about it," he told her. "But thank you.’ He pushed off the railing and looked up at the windmill thinking. “I'll think long and hard about it. I'll find an answer that won't make you feel that way again," he promised her.
Sheena smiled weakly. "I'm sorry I couldn't cheer you up.”
"No, don't worry about it. Thanks." Lloyd set off looking for the last of his friends. In a way, he was glad he would speak to Regal last. regal, like the Professor, would not tell him what he wanted to hear. And maybe he of all people would provide some rational insight.
Lloyd found Regal chatting with an elven woman who was stirring something in a gigantic pot outside of her home. The woman smiled politely as Lloyd approached and continued her conversation with regal for a few minutes. They appeared to be exchanging recipes and cooking tips. After a moment she bid Regal and Lloyd a polite farewell and withdrew into her home with the pot, leaving Regal to look Lloyd over in concern.
"You look tired," he said finally.
"Really?" Lloyd asked, making a face. He felt tired.
Regal nodded. "Cruxis was destroyed, but a bigger problem still remains. It's only natural that you are fatigued."
Lloyd rubbed his forehead. "This is the end. I didn't expect to fight Kratos in the end," he replied, a hint of sadness in his voice. "But if I don't do anything, the world will wither and everyone will die."
"I understand well your desire for wanting your father to live and your desire to unite the worlds, as well," Regal said. He understood it all to well. He would sacrifice anything for Alicia, but in the end his goal to both have her safe and have her in his life was his undoing. Had he been willing to send her away at the cost of his heart, she’d still live. It was very much a cake and eat it too situation for him and now for Lloyd. Worse was the fact the Kratos had both betrayed and saved Lloyd and was his long lost father. He was just putting his family back together and now he might have to murder his own father. Kratos’s selfishness was worse even than Regal’s.
"In times like this, you have two options," Regal told the boy carefully. "Choose what you desire to do…or what you must do."
That was it wasn’t it. That was what everyone was dancing around. lloyd thought he had a decision to make, but he didn’t did he. He had to save the world. He had long ago vowed not to sacrifice the world for Colette. How could he sacrifice it for Kratos?
Lloyd nodded and smiled gratefully at Regal. He had known that Regal wouldn’t steer him wrong. "Thanks Regal."
Lloyd turned away and headed for the Inn. That was his choice then. He would choose what he had to do, even if it broke his heart in the end. He never really had a choice did he?
Lloyd tossed and turned that night, trying to fall asleep, but it was in vain. The looming thought of the forthcoming battle was heavy in his heart. Each time his eyes closed, he saw Kratos's broken body strewn on the forest floor, his mother sobbing, and his own hands clutching bloody swords. When he his father, the cause of it all. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door and Colette poked her head in.
"What is it?" Lloyd asked, sitting up.
"Are you still up?" she asked, concerned.
"I couldn't really get to sleep," Lloyd mumbled.
Colette nodded. "Listen…the stars are so pretty. Do you want to come see them with me?"
Lloyd swung his legs out of bed, welcoming the distraction from his tormented thoughts. "Okay then, just for a little while."
They left the inn and wandered outside, gazing up at the night sky, where millions of stars twinkled and winked at them, as though all were peaceful, as though the fate of the world didn't hang on tomorrow's battle.
"Wow," Colette gasped, spinning around, looking up. "It feels like they might come falling down at any moment!"
Lloyd smiled, but he wasn't watching the stars. He was watching her. He was always watching her. "Yeah."
Colette skipped back to his side. "You know, it still feels strange. The fact that I'm still here, talking."
Lloyd looked confused. "How come?"
"My grandmother told me that I could never return to the village once I left on the journey to regenerate the world." Colette sat down on a nearby bench. "So when I talked with you the night before leaving Iselia, I thought it would be the very last time. But I'm still here, right beside you."
Lloyd sat next to her. "And that's the way it'll be."
"Hm?" Colette made a questioning noise.
"Cruxis is gone," Lloyd said. "And tomorrow when I win against Kratos and have him remove the seal, the worlds will be reunited." Lloyd looked into Colette's sapphire eyes and took her hand, squeezing it gently. "You don't have to worry anymore."
Colette blushed a little. "So you're going to fight Kratos?"
Lloyd sighed and looked down at the ground. "I…have to."
"But he's your father," Colette said softly.
"It's because he's my dad that I have to fight," Lloyd said. "He wants to settle things. He wants to settle the score with his own past. That's what it feels like to me."
Colette nodded knowingly. "Maybe you're right. After all, he saved us."
"Yeah," Lloyd agreed. "And I also want to settle things myself."
"What do you mean?" Colette asked.
Lloyd sighed. "I've spent this whole time expecting you to do everything. I just took it for granted that you're the only one who could regenerate the world. I never questioned that."
Colette squeezed his hand this time. "You didn't know. It's not your fault. And besides, you saved me, just like you promised you would."
"But because of that, a lot of people lost their lives," Lloyd protested. "Even my own mother. Once I realized you weren't the only one who could help the worlds, I relied on Anna knowing the future, never considering she'd try to change it. I'm just lucky she returned. I have to shoulder their sacrifices. For their sake and mine I have to defeat the Kratos of the past."
"I understand," Colette said,
They were quiet for a moment, absorbing the gravity of both Lloyd’s decision and the responsibility that he was taking on.
"When this is all over,” Lloyd said thoughtfully after a moment. “I hope the world becomes a place where everyone can live together.”
Colette smiled. "When this journey ends and the world really becomes like that, what are you going to do? Will you return to Iselia?" she asked, a bit of hope in her voice.
Lloyd shook his head. "I don't think I'm going back there again.” How could he when he had caused so much pain? “I plan to go on a journey to collect all of these." He held out his left hand, the exsphere glinting in the starlight. "Unless they are all retrieved, there'll be more victims like you and Presea. So I want to gather all of them before that happens. That's my way of showing gratitude to these guys, for using their powers to fight."
Colette nodded and looked out over the small creek that ran through the elven village. Finally she mustered up her courage. "Do you mind…if I come along with you?"
"What?" Lloyd asked quickly, his breath catching in his chest a bit.
Colette looked right at him. "I want to continue to be by your side, just like I've been up until now."
Lloyd fought to keep a grin off of his face. He had wanted to hear that, he had wanted it badly. He never wanted to leave her side, never had since the day he met her. "All right. We'll go together. Let's go explore the new world together."
Colette smiled her beautiful smile. "Okay!"
Lloyd laughed as they continued to stare into each other's eyes.
"Your eyes are really pretty Colette," Lloyd murmured, not immediately realizing he was speaking out loud. Colette blushed harder and Lloyd felt himself grinning at the way her rosy cheeks shone against her pale skin and hair. "I think you are pretty. Really pretty…beautiful."
"Lloyd…" Colette stammered. Lloyd blinked and shook himself. He dropped her hand like it was a hot stone and jumped to his feet. You idiot! he raged internally at himself. You said that all out loud! You know she only thinks of you like a friend. Your such a dumbass!
"uh...I better go sleep," Lloyd said, stumbling away. "Good night, Colette."
"Lloyd wait!" Colette stood up and ran after him, grabbing his shoulder. "Lloyd…look at me."
Lloyd sighed and turned away, facing Colette. Colette looked up at him, her eyes a mixture of happiness, tenderness, and fear. Slowly, she stood on tiptoe and pressed her lips to his.
Lloyd’s mind went utterly and blissfully blank as though one of Genis’s lightning bolts had hit him. Colette had kissed him. Was kissing him. Her lips rested on his for a minute before she started to pull away. The instant he felt her pull back, his arms shot out and wrapped around her. He pulled her back into his chest, holding her tight and crushing his lips to her. There was nothing hesitant or unsure about how he he deepened the kiss, stroking her tongue with his as she wound his fingers into his messy brown locks. They had both waited far too long for this.
Lloyd finally broke away, panting slightly, stroking her face with his hand. Colette smiled radiantly. "I love you too, Lloyd."
"Wh..what?" Lloyd asked, blushing the same shade as his outfit. "Too?"
"I remember when I had lost my soul," Colette explained. "Genis told you to say something to bring me back. You said you loved me. You do right?"
"You dork," Lloyd said, hugging her. "You know I love you, Colette."
"Good, and I love you too." Colette replied. "Come on…you should sleep."
Kratos opened his eyes to the early hours of morning. He looked over at his sleeping wife and kissed her forehead. As expected, Anna tried to hit him, not being much of a morning person. Kratos chuckled and reached for his clothes. Noishe cracked an eyelid and whuffed quietly as Kratos finished dressing and picked up his sword. Kratos looked at the dog.
"It must be done," Kratos informed the protozoan. "Please…take care of her. Of her and of Lloyd."
Kratos retrieved Anna's clothes and walked over to her. I really wish I didn't have to do this. "ANNA!"
Anna sat up like she had been shot, yanking up the sword she had within reach and swinging at Kratos's neck, blinking fast through bleary eyes. "Pox rot it to gut spewing hell, can’t a woman sleep!"
Kratos dodged her swing and waited til she focused on him, rubbing sleep from her eyes. "Get dressed, love. Your son will be here soon, I’m sure.” Grumbling, Anna did as she was told.
"Kratos…" she said, standing up and securing her sword belt. "Are you sure about this?"
“I am,” he said, not liking the despair that gripped his heart like a vice.
Anna shook her head. "I don't want you to leave us."
Kratos grabbed her and kissed her hard. "I never will."
Anna looked down, he eyes tearing. I won't! He mustn't see me cry, not when he's too wrapped in his guilt! Ann pushed him away and went to sit by Noishe, stroking his fur. Kratos crouched next to her, placing his hand on her shoulder, but she shrugged away.
"I refuse to be tainted by your cloak," Anna said coldly. "Don't touch me. Do what you must and to hell with your son. To hell with me."
Kratos gripped her shoulders hard and spun her around. "Do you think that's how it is?"
"I don't care," Anna replied. "You have already explained why you are doing this. I don’t agree with it and while I may have to watch, I do not have to like it!"
Kratos sighed. "It'll be alright…one way or another."
Anna fixed him with her rion gaze. “No it won’t. Nothing will ever be all right again after this.”
The sound of voices reached their ears and a moment later Lloyd and the others came from the trees. Kratos's time is up…dear God his time is up…please don't do this!
Kratos rested a hand on his sword as his son came forward. Something had changed in the boy. His eyes were somber, his face devoid of emotion. He radiated control and calm but in his eyes was regreta and a thousand shades of pain that Kratos has put there. He had never looked more like Kratos in before this moment. Kratos was surprised to see the same heavy sorrow he saw in the mirror reflected in his child. It cut him deeply, but not deep enough.
"So you've come," Kratos said simply.
Lloyd regarded his father, the stoic, seemingly unfeeling man that stood before him. Lloyd knew better though. He had seen Kratos’s gruff display of fatherly love, he knew them for what they were now. He had also seen Kratos with Anna by now and remembered his blood soaked body fighting his way across Mithos’s floor towards Lloyd. He knew Kratos’s heart.
"Is there no other way?" Lloyd asked. He asked it but knew there wasn’t. He never had another option, he never had a choice.
"Are you still thinking like that?" Kratos asked, mildly surprised. Surely by now lloyd saw the path for what it was? "You'll die if you fight me with any doubt left in your heart. If you want the pact with Origin, then you must defeat me." Was he really going to fight his son with everything he had. Did he really have a choice?
Lloyd nodded somberly, not surprised, not even showing his sorrow. "So…that's your way."
Lloyd drew his weapons and behind him so did his friends but he held up one sword, blocking their way but never taking his eyes off of his father. "Everyone…leave this to me."
Kratos's eyes betrayed his surprise. "You're going to fight alone?"
Colette looked Kratos dead in the eye with as fierce a look as anyone had ever seen in the innocent Chosen. "Lloyd won't lose. Lloyd bears the weight of all the lives that you and Cruxis sacrificed."
"Don't underestimate him," Genis warned, glancing proudly at his best friend. "He didn't run. He didn't give up. By that alone, he's already beat you. I believe in him."
Raine smiled maliciously at the Seraph. "You're about to witness something remarkable: the sight of your own son surpassing you. Lloyd is our hope."
"You'd better prepare yourself!" declared Sheena. "Lloyd possesses more strength than you imagine. He's not the same Lloyd you knew back when you were with us." She paused for a moment, and then smiled crookedly at Kratos. "But you already know that, don't you? You see his potential."
"Yeah…this guy's really stubborn, simple-minded, and tough as nails," Zelos remarked. "So he's more than a match for you all by himself. But anyway…try your best!" Zelos chirped, giving Kratos a mocking salute.
"Lloyd is not alone," Presea added. "We are always with him. Even if we do not take up our weapons, we fight alongside him."
Regal stood behind the group with a glare to rival Kratos’s. Of everyone other than Anna and Lloyd, Regal was the most acquainted with Kratos's thought process: it mirrored his own. That made it harder to let his actions pass without comment. "You and Lloyd most certainly should duel one-on-one. Is that not the closure you desired?" he said fiercely, cruelly. Regal shook his head. "You are…even less capable than I am at expressing your feelings."
Anna looked up at her husband sadly. "Lloyd has not hesitated to do what he must, even though it pains him. You know he will rip the cloak of your sins from your back because you know his heart is stronger than your own."
Lloyd drew his blades, holding them at the ready. "If it's your wish to settle things with your past, then it's my duty as your son to see it through. Get ready!"
As they faced each other, they felt a sharp pang in their hearts. Unwillingly, perhaps even unknowingly, they stepped out of their roles as father and son and picked up their swords as enemies. It was a shock to all to see how calmly they faced each other, prepared to fight to the death. Kratos' s remembered very clearly the last time he had been forced to raise a weapon against one he loved and tried hard not to let those memories drag him down. The roles had switched this time, he was begging to to be the victim and forcing :loyd to be the executioner.
So maybe it wasn’t all that surprising when he heard Anna’s words from fifteen years ago leave his own mouth. "I'm not going to hold back this time."
"I know,” Lloyd said heavily, shocking his parents by unknowingly repeating Kratos’s ill-fated agreement form back then. “I won't either."
Then it was quiet, no sound apart from the wind rushing through the trees. Quiet, as though the world knew its fate hang in the balance and had ceased moving. Quiet…the quiet before the storm. Anna turned away, closing her eyes, unwilling to watch.
She couldn’t see it, but she heard it. She heard the running footsteps followed by the clash of metal on metal. The blows fell thick and fast, but each time they met, not flesh, but metal.
Anna pried her eyes open against her better judgement. Lloyd was a red blur to Kratos's purple. Kratos lunged, swung, and stabbed, and Lloyd dodged every blow, attacking with his second sword as Kratos blocked with his shield. Suddenly, Kratos shifted, hooking one leg around Lloyd's, and yanking, toppling the boy to the ground and driving his sword down hard. Lloyd was prepared, as soon as he found himself falling, he turned, landing on his arms and rolling as Kratos blade sunk into the earth. Lloyd was up, swinging his blade up sharply. He caught his father's arm under the shield and severed the straps, sending it flying. Lloyd lunged in, but Kratos delivered a kick to his son's stomach. Wrenching his blade out of the ground, he raised it above his head. "Grave!"
A sharp rock, exploded out of the ground, under Lloyd's feet, followed by more and more. Rather, they erupted where his feet had been. Lloyd had leaped high to vid the attack and came rushing back down, driving his blade deep into Kratos's now unprotected arm by using Rising Falcon. Kratos turned, backing up swiftly, blood coursing down his arm. He attempted to cast healing magic, but Lloyd was upon him. "Sword Rain Beta!" cried the double swordsman, raining blows on the injured angel, most of witch scored shallow stabs. Kratos's eyes betrayed his shock, even as he lunged in.
"Super lightning blade!"
"No way! Tiger Rage!"
Kratos was forced to throw himself flat on the ground as Lloyd's attack soared over him. He stabbed at Lloyd's leg, but Lloyd jumped and kicked at Kratos's wrist hard, copying a technique he had seen Anna do countless times.
"Kratos!" Anna gasped, covering her mouth as his sword flew from his hand. Both Kratos and Lloyd watched it fall in amazement. Lloyd shook himself and stabbed downward, but Kratos rolled away, surging to his feet. Lloyd hesitated.
"It's not over," Kratos said. "Even without my sword, it's not over."
"I know," Lloyd said, circling his father, trying to keep himself between Kratos and his sword.
"Do you?" Kratos asked.
Lloyd glared. "Even now, you're trying to tell me how incompetent I am."
No," Kratos said. "I'm merely reminding you…be on your guard!"
Kratos's leaped sideways and lunged for his sword, a blur of purple as his hand stretched out and grazed the hilt.
Suddenly his side exploded in pain. Kratos fell to his knees and looked down at his ribs. A blade was withdrawing from his flesh, its polished metal stained a deep crimson. Kratos looked up at Lloyd's grim and pained eyes as he wrenched his sword from out of his father's body. "I'm always on my guard," Lloyd said.
Anna couldn’t take it."Kratos! Lloyd! Stop!" she shrieked, trying to run forward, but Raine and Colette grabbed her arms. "No let me go!" she screeched, fighting to get free.
“He has to do this!” Raine hissed. “There is no other way!”
“NO!” Anna yelled. “there has to be. There has to be.” She strained her mind, trying to recall those erased memories, trying to see how all this would end. But it was like someone had built a brick wall in her mind. Again and again she slammed her will into it and again and again it made no difference.
Kratos ignored Anna and seized his blade while pressing one hand to his wound. "So I see…but it'll take more than that." He pointed his sword at his son.
"I would hope so," Lloyd said, pointing one of his blades at his father.
"Double Demon Fang!" they both shouted. The attacks sped across the ground and collided, destroying each other. Kratos nodded in satisfaction while Lloyd smiled grimly. Kratos wasn’t going to last. Even Lloyd could see his strength failing. He was not so naive to think he would be guaranteed victory. Backed into a corner, Kratos was at his most dangerous
But then...so was Lloyd.
‘Stop!” Anna shouted, screwing up every last bit of determination she had. She struck that wall in her mind and it shifted. cracking a bit. She had to figure it out. She had to know!
"So this is it," Lloyd said.
"Indeed," Kratos replied.
"All it will take is one more hit, Kratos." Lloyd smiled grimly.
"Finish it then, Lloyd." Kratos replied, his hand going dark with his own blood as he released his wound and took his stance.
Anna screamed in frustration and lashed out both physically while trying to get away from her captors and mentally trying to get her memories back. Suddenly there was a loud snapping noise in the back of Anna's mind and a whirlwind of images rushed into her head. She fell to her knees, Raine and Colette barely keeping her upright as her head seared with pain. She didn’t have time for the pain. She clenched her eyes shut and sifted through the flood, looking for one moment, the moment before her...there!
Anna’s eyes flew open. "Kratos!" Anna cried, jumping up and fighting her captors tooth and nail. Sheena and Zelos ran over to her, Sheena latching firmly onto her waist and Zelos helping Raine keep Anna's arm captive. Anna thrashed and flailed with everything she had. After a moment, Genis and Presea had come forward to help and Regal was in front of her, blocking in case she broke free.
She was too late anyway. Kratos and Lloyd were moving.
Kratos raised his blade and slashed it downward. "Indignation!"
Lightning exploded, literally, from the sky, charring the place where Lloyd had stood seconds before. But he had moved. Kratos's eyes widened as Lloyd swooped down upon him, his blades crossed in front of him. With a yell, he slashed his swords out to his sides. Blades of mana tore from the metal and flew through the air.
Kratos cried out as the attack tore through him, slashing his chest to ribbons, blood spurting and splattering the ground. Kratos sank to the ground on his knees, coughing as blood ran down his chest, His sword fell from his slackened grip and landed in the dirt at Lloyd’s feet. Lloyd looked down at his blood stained father in horror.
It was over.
Kratos looked up at his son. "You've grown strong."
Lloyd sheathed his blades. "Thanks to you."
Kratos sighed, unsure if that was true or not. "Aren't you…going to finish me?"
Lloyd looked at him for a moment before turning away to look at the mark of Origin’s seal behind him. He couldn’t kill Kratos. The seal had to be released and he had done as Kratos ased. But Kratos had to be the one to make that final move. Lloyd couldn’t and wouldn’t do it for him. He wouldn’t give his father the easy way out.
"I defeated Kratos, the angel, the one who betrayed us,” Lloyd said finally. “And I forgive Kratos, the hero of the Ancient War, who helped us. That's all."
Kratos looked down at the ground. "Humph…and I thought I'd finally earned the right to die. But you're as softhearted as ever."
Kratos got to his feet.
"Kratos!" Anna cried. "Don’t!"
"I'm sorry, Anna." Kratos stood before the seal.
"H…hold on!" Lloyd shouted. "You can't be…are you going to break the seal?"
"That is what you desire, is it not?" Kratos asked, glancing over his shoulder at Lloyd.
Lloyd's eyes widened. "But then, you'll…"
Kratos turned away. he couldn’t look at them in the end. The air around him shimmered and sparkled as his angel wings burst forth. Kratos closed his eyes. Goodbye, my beloved family. The time has come…after an eternity of sin, I can finally die.
A bright blue, warm light suddenly shot out of his body, colliding with the stone tablet. Kratos's wings vanished. In slow motion, or though it seemed to Anna, Kratos swayed. Then he began to fall, his back curving into a graceful arc.
"NO!" she screamed, breaking from her captors shock-slackened grasps and running forward. A blue blur reached Kratos the same time she did and Anna and Yuan caught Kratos before he could hit the ground. Both angels closed their eyes and willed some if their mana into to Kratos's body. Kratos glowed blue for a moment, and then took a great shuddering gasp.
"Kratos!" Lloyd shouted.
"Don't worry, he's alive," Yuan said. "I gave him some of my mana."
"Thank God!" Anna gasped.
“Not quite but I’ll take the compliment,” Yuan said with a smirk. Anna glared.
Kratos's eyes fluttered open and Lloyd looked down at his father, his eyes wild with concern. "Da--" Anna’s breath caught at the slip and she smiled at Lloyd, who looked confused for a moment. "--Kratos. Are you really okay?"
Kratos groaned. "Looks like I failed to die once more."
"You stupid jerk!" Anna and Lloyd shouted.
"You can die any time!" Lloyd continued. "But when you die, that's the end."
"You want him to live in eternal damnation?" Yuan asked mildly.
"Who said anything like that?!" Lloyd demanded.
"Ugh!" Anna snarled. "What is it with you angels? Why do you all have it in your heads that your lives are not anything but 'eternal damnation' and that you must die to atone for your sins?"
"What will you accomplish by dying?" Lloyd asked. "Nothing! There is no meaning in dying!"
Kratos groaned again but even through his pained haze, he could hear the truth of Lloyd’s words. "You're…right." He opened his eyes fully and looked up at his boy. "To think, I had to have my son teach me such an obvious lesson."
"I only tried to teach you that for years," Anna mumbled bitterly. Kratos gave a weak laugh before his eyes closed and he went weak in Anna and Yuan's arms.
"Kratos will be fine," Yuan said to one and all. "Form the pact with Origin."
Lloyd hesitated. "Go on, Lloyd." Anna said. "Remember what you have to do."
Lloyd nodded and approached the seal where the others already stood. Light was gathering and Origin, the rainbow, multi-armed, annoyance of a summon spirit appeared. "You who lack the right," he boomed and Anna rolled her eyes at his lordliness. "I have lost faith in all things. Have you come here to disappoint me as well?"
"Origin," Lloyd asked carefully. "Are you bound by a pact with Mithos?"
"My pact with Mithos was broken the moment I was freed," Origin replied coolly. "Never again shall anyone make use of my power."
"Even if we make a vow?" Sheena asked. "We need the Eternal Sword!"
"I want to use the Eternal Sword to reunite the two worlds and revive the Giant Kharlan Tree!" Lloyd declared. "Unless we do something, the worlds will never stop vying for mana and everyone will suffer!"
"That situation was born from the weakness of creatures who are unable to accept those that are different," Origin pointed out.
"That may be true," Lloyd consented, "but mistakes can be corrected."
Origin looked doubtful. "Some things cannot be corrected." His eyes shifted to Anna for a moment.
"Even so," piped up Colette. "We have to do everything we can."
"Exactly!" Lloyd said. "I'm not gonna give up. From the moment they are born, everyone has the right to live. I want to reclaim that. Humans, elves, half-elves, dwarves, and even Summon Spirits… Everyone has a right to life!"
Kratos was stirring at that point. "Help me up," he whispered to his wife and Yuan. They nodded and got up slowly, Anna looping Kratos's arm around her neck and supporting him. He got his feet under him and stood up straight, releasing Anna and Yuan and walking forward.
"Origin," Kratos said, his voice firm as Origin looked at him. "For almost an eternity, I thought that the only way to save this world was to cling to Mithos' ideals. Just as you once agreed with Mithos' ideals, I, too, thought his was the only way." Kratos turned from the summon spirit and looked at Lloyd. "But Lloyd is different. He taught me that in order to change something, you must do it yourself. It is not enough to merely rely on someone else and go along with their ideals." Lloyd looked questioningly at his father. “I'm sorry I didn't figure that out sooner…" Kratos said, speaking just to Lloyd.
Origin paused for a moment, deliberating. He looked at Lloyd, examining him and seeing multiple futures laid out, all centered around this boy, just as he had so long ago when he looked at Mithos. Yet unlike Mithos, each of the futures he saw were full of courage and the determination to make things right. This boy...even if he failed here today he would never give up until the world was fixed. Even Origin could see that.
"You who possess the right of summoning,” Origin said, looking now at Sheena. “Make your vow."
Lloyd gasped. "Origin! Then--"
Origin nodded. "I will try once more to believe in people. I shall do my duty in order to create a world you speak of—a world in which everyone can live equally."
Sheena stepped forward. "Then I, Sheena, have but one vow. To reclaim a world in which everyone can live freely… A world in which no life is sacrificed meaninglessly! That's all."
Origin nodded sagely. "Then we shall create a pact upon that vow. Pact-maker Sheena…and Lloyd. I place my power in your hands. With that power, transform the Eternal Sword into a blade to save all life!" Origin looked directly at Lloyd. "However, the Eternal Sword remains, as by Mithos' pact, unusable by those who lack the blood of elves. You must master the sword by your own power and forge a new bond with it." Lloyd nodded as a guardian seal formed in the air and Origin's power fused with it.
"Yo, Origin!" Anna called as the summon spirit made to vanish. Origin looked down at her, his eyes revealing his exasperation. "Remember me?"
"How could I not?" Origin asked.
"What are you talking about?" Lloyd asked.
Anna smiled at Origin. "Origin here felt bad about what he had helped Mithos to do. Origin had liked Kratos best out of Mithos's companions and consented for his seal to be attached to Kratos's life, trusting that Kratos wouldn't abuse it." Anna sighed. "That's why I died really. Kratos left Cruxis to be with me. And we were hunted because he was the seal…and I being the Angelus Project didn't help matters. Anyway, when I died, he and Maxwell decided to give me a Mulligan and put me in another dimension. But my soul would not stay and I found my way back."
"So that's how you got here!" Lloyd said.
"But how did your soul find its way back?" Raine asked.
"I dunno!" Anna said. "What do you think, Origin?"
Origin sighed. "I foolishly sent her to a world where the dead can have second chance if the choose it. However, her soul refused to be parted from her family." Origin looked at Colette. "When the Chosen activated the seals in Sylvarant, the poles that Summon Spirits use to get to the other dimensions were affected. Anna happened to have been located by such a pole."
"The tree!" Anna cried. "That huge tree in the woods by William's...I mean…my house," she amended. Kratos looked at her sharply.
"Indeed," Origin said. "It may have been that Kratos and Lloyd were in close proximity to each other, as well as the connecting pole, and thinking of her at the time of her arrival."
"It was!" Lloyd said. "We were on our way to exterminate Kvar."
"Once we had entered the Luin region, I thought almost only of her," Kratos said. "And we were near the Tower of Salvation."
"And I thought of my mom because my exsphere was wanted by Desians in that region," Lloyd added.
"Precisely," Origin said. "Her blood and soul were also connected to the exsphere, as was the Cruxis Crystal inside of her."
"But that didn't appear until much later," Genis pointed out. "Not until after she came back the second time."
"In my research," Kratos said. "It should have logically resurfaced when Anna's soul awoke inside her, after she had been captured by Rodyle, or perhaps even when the exsphere was in close contact with her. "
"It was because you and Maxwell hadn't granted me the right to return or to live as Anna," Anna said. Origin nodded. "That's why I went back to Earth when I drowned. But when that last seal was activated, your power was weakened. Then I met you and demanded to return. You allowed it and thus, the Cruxis Crystal emerged the second Lloyd was in danger."
"Absolutely fascinating!" Raine cried.
"That is the gist of it," Origin said. "This will certainly discourage me from involving Maxwell in such matters in the future. It's been an abhorrent amount of trouble trying to keep you dead."
"That's because Triple A can never die!" Anna crowed.
"Thank you Origin," Kratos said.
"Yes, thank you." Lloyd saluted.
Anna smiled up at the summon spirit. "Ok, so just so we're clear, we're quits right? I don't get any more freebies, and you're not allowed to block my memories."
"Yes, Anna, we are finished," Origin said. "Please try not to bother me for at least another 70 years…"
"Hah! Summon Spirit's got jokes!" Anna laughed. "Oh you won't see me for much longer. I'm an angel now too. But we'll meet again one day, Origin."
"Farewell," Origin said, vanishing from sight.
"So that's it then," Lloyd said. "That's how you came back."
"And that's why your mana signature kept reacting to Kratos," Raine said. "And Lloyd's as well."
Sheena shook her head. "Whew…what a day!"
"Yeah," Genis said, "But we have the pact and the world will be saved!" Genis clapped Lloyd on the shoulder. "You did it, Lloyd."
Anna’s mind twitched and her face went white. She had forgotten!
“Genis get back!" Anna yelled, running for the half elf. "The Cruxis Crystal!"
As fate usually seemed to have it, she was too late. A blinding flash filled the clearing and Mithos's Cruxis Crystal ripped free of Genis's possession and shot forward, burying itself in Lloyd's neck.
"Gah!" Lloyd shouted as his body went rigid. He tried to move, to rip the crystal from his neck, but he couldn't. Behind them, a ghostly shape began to form. It rippled and solidified until a shadow of Mithos Yggdrasill emerged. “There’s no time… I'll take your body!"
"No!" Lloyd shouted.
"No! It's Mithos!" Raine cried. "He survived in the Cruxis Crystal. Lloyd's body will be taken over unless we do something!"
"Lloyd!" Anna reached for the crystal, but Kratos stayed her hand.
"It'll take you," Kratos said harshly.
"Better me than Lloyd!" Anna said, fighting to get to her son.
"With your angel powers, he will destroy everything we just worked for," Kratos said.
"Lloyd!" Colette cried, running for him. Before Kratos could warn her, her fingers closed around the orb and wrenched it free. It sank into her hand and she whimpered as her body went out of her control.
"Damn, you interfered!" Mithos snarled, Colette's mouth moving in time with the words. "Fine. I'll just take this body."
"Mithos! Stop!" Kratos shouted.
Colette fixed cold blue eyes on Kratos. "Kratos…you never really understood me. I won't return this body." Colette's angel wings appeared.
"Colette!" Lloyd roared. "Wait! Let her go! We promised…that we'll go on a journey together when the world is reunited… Let her go!"
Tears were running down her face, but Mithos just laughed. "What do I care? I'm leaving this filthy world behind!"
“Please!” Lloyd begged. He looked at Mithos’s shadow. “Mithos, I love her. You know what love is even if you have chosen to forget it. I know somewhere in you, you don't believe in the evil you have caused. Pleased let her go.
Mithos cackled insanely, long past the point of persuasion. He looked at Lloyd. “No.”
Colette took off, disappearing into the sky.
Lloyd ran after her, into the woods. "Colette! NO!" Lloyd cried. "Colette, I swear I will save you, no matter what!"