Mirror Image

A Battle Between Pride and Shame

As they watched Colette disappear, Anna acted without thinking. Unfurling her wings she rose swiftly in the air, her eyes intense as she focused on Colette's retreating figure.

"Anna no!" Kratos shouted, but Anna ignored him, kicking off and pelting through the air. Suddenly there was a earth-shattering rumble. The very sky seemed to quake as she streaked through the air, a blur of color, heading toward the Tower of Salvation. I can do it…I can get there before it collapses!

She had reached the tower barrier and was about to collide with it when it suddenly dissolved. A great booming noise tore through the air and she slowed to a halt, clapping her hands over her sensitive ears. Deep cracks begin to appear in the stone of the Tower. She was too late.

Well...shoulda known better I suppose…Wait! Fumbling in her pocket, her fingers closed around her camera. Even more cracks were ripping up the side of the Tower of Salvation as she took some pictures. Looking up, great chunks of marble began to fall from the sky like bone white deadly rain. Anna swore and retreated hastily, weaving in out and under pieces of falling rock. A dense cloud of smoke enveloped her, showering her with small rocks as she rushed through the air again.

Back in Heimdall, the others stared up in horror as rocks crashed down on the village. They had just sprinted out of the forest and into a new chaos.

"The Tower of Salvation is collapsing!" Genis cried.

"Anna!" Kratos shouted as Lloyd shouted "Mom!"

"It's Mithos!" Yuan exclaimed. "He's sealed off the route to Derris-Kharlan!"

Lloyd swore. "Damn!" Looking around, he saw screaming elves tearing from their houses, disappearing into the just as vulnerable Ymir forest. "We'll evacuate the elves for now! The entire village will be destroyed unless we do something!"

Lloyd and the others split up, searching the village for remaining elves. Lloyd chopped through fallen trees and pulled others from under partially collapsed houses. He was heading toward the elder's house when he saw an elf screaming and writhing on the ground, his leg crushed by a huge stone.

"Hold on!" Lloyd shouted. He dashed over and pushed on the rock, but it wouldn't budge. He needed someone stronger. "D…Kratos!" No answer. "Presea!…Yuan! Somebody help!"

Stop shouting!" cried a voice as a gray and white figure fell from the sky, catching itself just before the ground. "It's loud enough what with that infernal tower rumbling." The angel coughed and tiny puffs of dust flew from her mouth.

"Anna?" Lloyd looked at his suddenly filthy mother.

"Push!" she shouted, pushing on the rock. Together, they pushed the rock off of the elf and Raine rushed up, quickly healing his leg. She looked up at Anna. "How on earth did you get so dirty?"

Anna wiped her hand down from her forehead, brushing the dirt off of her face. “I foolishly thought if I was fast enough I could stop the Tower from falling. I could not and got coated in dust and rocks for my pains.”

“Your memories are back then!” Lloyd said excitedly.

“So it would seem,” Anna said.

“Is anyone left?" Lloyd asked, looking around.

"The elder," Kratos said, as he and the others came up behind Lloyd. Kratos glared at his wife. "You are absolutely reckless. You're lucky to be alive!"

Anna grinned. "But I got great pictures!" she said excitedly, holding up her camera.

"Let's just go," Raine interrupted before Kratos could speak. They raced for the half-collapsed elder's house and found the elf standing solemnly inside.

"What are you doing?!" Lloyd yelled. "Get out of here!"

The Elf Elder shook his head, his face serene. "I cannot leave without the others of this village. I will remain in the village until the end."

"This is the end!" Anna shouted.

"We're evacuating the remaining people," Lloyd told him. "So run, now!"

The Elf Elder hesitated before finally sighing. "I can't believe I'm being saved by humans and half-elves…"

"How can you say things like that at a time like this?!" demanded Genis and Raine at the same time.

The Elf Elder puzzled this. " Yes," he muttered. "We may have been foolish. I entrust my villagers to you."

"I hate that guy," Anna muttered as the elder ran off.

"It appears that was the last remaining elf in the village," Kratos said hurriedly. "We should get out as well."

They spilled outside into the village. Anna stopped dead, as did Zelos, Kratos, and Yuan. They all shuddered violently for a second before their wings appeared of their own accord. Raine and Genis winced at the surge of mana in the air.

"Look!" Raine cried, pointing upward.

Above them the clouds had vanished. Then the blue sky behind the clouds seemed to crack before their eyes. Sparks of what appeared to be electricity tore across the sky, widening in thick bands of shimmering blues, purples, and pinks until a planet was revealed. A staggering amount of mana was produced from the thing, causing those sensitive to such an amount, such as angles, elves, and half elves to react.

"What is that?!" Lloyd exclaimed.

"That…is Derris-Kharlan," Kratos, Anna, and Yuan said in unison.

"Impossible!" Raine cried. "How could a planet exist so close?!"

"It is the Eternal Sword that makes the impossible possible," Yuan pointed out.

"It was hidden by the protective barrier projected from the Tower of Salvation," Anna said, seeing the confused looks.

"But it has always existed there, for four thousand years," Yuan finished.

"Yes," the group turned to see Tabatha walking towards them. "And now, Mithos, with the Great Seed in hand, is trying to leave this land and take Derris-Kharlan with him." Her voice, though still monotone, had a bit more emotion and wasn't so machine like. Her eyes shimmered with some emotion that Anna could not identify. It was as though the doll had suddenly become human.

"Tabatha!" Presea gasped. "You're feeling better?"

"Yes," replied Tabatha.

Sheena suddenly whipped around and looked at the two Seraphim. "Wait a minute. Derris-Kharlan is a mass of mana," she said quickly. "And the Great Seed is the seed of the Giant Tree, right? If he takes both of them, what's gonna happen to this world?"

But it was Raine who answered. "It will wither and die from mana deprivation."

"This is a much bigger problem than reuniting the worlds!" Genis exclaimed, as everyone looked shocked and slightly panicked.

Except for Zelos, who punched his palm with his fist. "What the hell are you guys talking about? Our friend just got kidnapped!" The Chosen turned to look at Lloyd. "What are we gonna do, Lloyd?"

Lloyd clenched his fist in front of him. "What else? We're going after Mithos!"

"But the Tower of Salvation was destroyed," Regal pointed out.

"Use the Eternal Sword,' Kratos said. "If you really made a pact with Origin, with its power over time and space…"

"But Altessa is not well enough to move," said Yuan. "Who is going to craft the Ring of the Pact?"

"Dad!" Lloyd declared.

Beside her, Anna felt Kratos flinch slightly. In light of everything that had happened, now that Lloyd knew the truth, it greatly hurt Kratos to hear that term directed at another. He didn't begrudge Dirk, for Kratos was eternally grateful to the dwarf for raising his son so well, but what Kratos wouldn't give to hear Lloyd call him dad just once.

"Dirk?" Genis asked, doubtfully.

Lloyd nodded. "Yeah. He's our only hope. We'll go to Sylvarant!"

Anna coughed and nudged Kratos. Kratos looked at her briefly. Anna smiled at him crookedly, winking.

Kratos looked back at his son. "Wait."

Lloyd, who had started to leave, stopped and turned around. His eyes held a degree of hope.

"I'm going with you," Kratos said.

"All right," Lloyd said solemnly, turning away.


"So you want me to forge the Ring of the Pact?" Dirk asked as the group descended upon him, desperate. "A dwarf who's losing his skills by living on the surface?"

"There's no one else," Kratos said. "The dwarf that has the skills is unable to move."

"Dad, please!" Lloyd begged.

"I've gathered all of the necessary items," Kratos said, placing a heavy sack on the table and pulling out items.

Dirk examined the materials. "This is adamantite for polishing…" he muttered picking it up and rubbing it with his fingers. He set it down and looked over the rest before indicating the log on the table. "Hmm? What's this piece of wood?" Lloyd and Presea both leaned forward, recognizing the wood almost immediately.

"Is this sacred wood?" Lloyd asked.

Kratos nodded. "This must fuel the fire."

"Is that why you were traveling all over Tethe'alla?" Lloyd asked, comprehension dawning on his face. "To prepare all of this?"

Kratos said nothing, but had the grace to blush.

"Yup," Anna chirped for her silent husband. "That's why he was in Sybak, and Ozette, and Meltokio, and-"

"Anna," Kratos said wearily.

"And Heimdall," Anna finished hurriedly.

"I see," Dirk said. He looked up at Kratos and Lloyd. "So everything is set. I can't very well refuse after you've gone through so much trouble, now can I? And I suppose it won't hurt me to help out my dearest son.” Dirk smiled and ruffled Lloyd’s hair affectionately. “After all…I'm his father, too."

"Too!" Anna exclaimed. "That's right, I meant to ask…how did you know Kratos was Lloyd’s father? And why didn’t you say anything about me."

Dirk laughed. "I recognized you straight off, but figured you had your reasons for not telling Lloyd." Dirk glanced at Kratos. "And…Lloyd looks just like Kratos so it was easy to figure out." Dirk grinned at his son. "Anyway, it all comes down to Dwarven Vow #1: Work together for the sake of a peaceful world."

"Amen to that!" Anna cried as Dirk and Kratos got to work. Within an hour, Dirk was handing Lloyd a silver, shiny band with strange engravings around it.

Lloyd slipped it on. "So with this, I'll be able to use the Eternal Sword, right?"

“Absolutely,” Anna said. She looked at Kratos who was looking lloyd over, some internal struggle going on in his mind, She looked at Kratos wounds, which had healed very nicely thanks to Rine and saw that he was fit to go with them. She wanted to ask him, to beg, but this was a moment for Kratos and Lloyd alone. She must not interfere.

Kratos struggled with himself for a moment longer. "Lloyd," he finally said. “I have a favor to ask.”

"Hooray!" Anna cried, recognizing the line Kratos gave in game when he chose to go with Lloyd

"What is it?" Lloyd asked. There was no mistaking the hope in his eyes.

"Would you allow me to join your journey once more?" Kratos asked quietly.

Lloyd broke out into a huge grin. "Of course. I was hoping you'd say that."

Kratos's eyes got a bit brighter and he unsheathed his sword, Flamberge, pressing it into Lloyd's hand. "Then, use this." Lloyd looked at his father questioningly. Kratos clasped the boy’s shoulder. "We'll stop Mithos together."

Lloyd nodded his eyes fixed on the fabulous blade. "Okay."

"That's a marvelous blade," Dirk commented, reaching under the table and bringing out a wrapped bundle. “I doubt you have a sword in your possession to match it."

Lloyd looked shocked. "Really?"

Dirk unwrapped the bundle and revealed a blue sword, its blade mimicking the flowing of water, shimmering like the sea. "Take this with you. It's a present I promised you. Now that you've grown all up, I can entrust you with the greatest sword I ever forged."

Lloyd grinned and took the sword, raising it and the other above his head. "Wow…I'll become even stronger with these two swords. Thanks, Dad." Lloyd hugged Dirk and faced Kratos. "And…Kratos."

Kratos smiled slightly. "Well then, let's be on our way. The final battle awaits."

Lloyd nodded and sheathed his blades. "Yeah. Everyone's waiting outside. Let's go, Kratos and Mom."

Anna grinned and hugged her son before reaching for Kratos's hand, twining her fingers with his. He smiled at her as the two angels followed their son outside.

As the group parted, Anna had a sudden thought. She dropped Kratis hand and headed over to Zelos, tapping him on the shoulder as he started to board his Rheaird.

“What’s up, Anna?” he asked, not bothering with his flowery sexist nicknames. That made Anna smiled. He was acting more like a real person now that he no longer had to hide his intentions and feelings.

“In the video game, the only way to get Kratos to join Lloyd for the final battle was to kill you when you revealed yourself to be a traitor. Yet here we stand with both you and Kratos by our sides.”

Zelos frowned. “Well that’s depressing and creepy. Why are you telling me this?”

Anna shrugged. “I don’t really know. I guess i just wanted you to know that Lloyd values you and your life. We all do. You said you didn’t feel trusted before, and maybe that’s true of me and the others.” nn jerked her head back at Lloyd. “But not of lloyd. He really did always trust you. Enough to bring the impossible. Don’t forget that Zelos.”

Zelos looked back at lloyd for a moment and then turned back to Anna with the warmest smile she had ever seen on his face.”Thanks, Anna. Thanks for so much.”

Anna jumped up and hugged the Chosen briefly. “You’re welcome!”

She skipped off to join Kratos on his Rheaird. Kratos was frowning. “What was all that?”

Anna slipped behind him. “Nothing. I was just telling Zelo that he had friends all around him and not to forget that.” She smiled at Kratos. “Everyone else already knew that but both Zelos and you need reminding sometimes.”

“Friends?” Kratos said doubtfully.

“Friends,” Anna confirmed. “Feels good doesn’t it?”

They boarded the Rheairds, and Kratos looked around as the others waited for Lloyd to signal them to take off. He thought back to everything they had been through and the bonds that held them all together.

Friends. I had almost forgotten what that was like. Kratos thought as he followed his son to the end of all things.


When they arrived, the Tower of Salvation was as ruin, pieces of rock scattered everywhere, the grass and ground buried beneath them. The footing was treacherous and the way up impossible. Zelos took one look at the mess and grabbed Sheena and Raine and flew them up and over the rubble. Anna grabbed Lloyd and Genis and Kratos transported Regal and Presea.

"The only thing left is that dais," Presea said as they landed in front of the resting spot of the Eternal Sword. Lloyd approached the sword and took a deep breath. He reached out tentatively, afraid his hand would go right through it again. But it didn't. His fingers closed over the hilt and he wrenched it free.

"You, who possess the new right," boomed the echoing voice of Origin. Anna made a face at the familiarity. "What do you ask of me?"

Lloyd raised the sword. "Carry us to Derris-Kharlan. To where Mithos and our dear friend are!"

The world blinked out of existence almost immediately and then they found themselves in a completely unfamiliar—except to Anna and Kratos—passageway full of a twisting labyrinth of walkways suspended hundreds, or more accurately hundreds of thousands of feet above the surface. The sky bled blue, black, and purple, swirling into an eerie alchemy of color. Instinctively, the band of warriors drew closer together, gripping weapons and looking around warily.

"Let's go," Lloyd his voice echoing in the unnatural stillness that enveloped them. They set off, following Anna's whispered instructions. It was silent as the grave, nothing scurrying behind them, no life anywhere.

"'Can you feel it?'" Anna whispered after a moment, her voice clear with apprehension. Though they kept walking, everyone glanced back at her, fearful of her sanity. Kratos gripped her hand tightly. "'The emptiness that stalk...the silence that talks. It speaks of broken heart and decimated soul.'" She looked up to take in the entirety of the infinite abyss above. “A decimated soul that sucks sound and life and hope from the atmosphere. A soul that follows us.” She gripped Kratos’s hand tighter. “A soul that...traps us.”

No sooner had the words left her mouth than a large, rippling wall of mana erupted before them, separating Lloyd from everyone else. There was no escape.

"Oh, no! It's a trap!" Raine cried.

"Lloyd, help us!" Genis said, reaching out a hand, but to everyone's horror, except Anna's, the half-elf vanished.

Raine looked at Lloyd determinedly. "Forget about us! Find a way to evade this trap!" She vanished too.

"Don't worry about me!" Sheena said, though to Lloyd or to Zelos, Anna wasn't sure. "Just take care of Mithos!"

Zelos's hand was suddenly clenching empty air as he thought frantically. "I see…so this is the…Lloyd! Get the Derris Emblem! With it, you can—" but his words died as he faded from sight.

"This device is not life-threatening," Presea said calmly. "Please…don't worry."

"Lloyd," Regal said firmly. "As long as you're all right, we still haven't lost. You must get to the Great Seed!" Regal nodded once before disappearing.

"Damn it!" Anna growled, holding on tight to Kratos, hoping that if she held him tight enough, she'd be able to go with him.

Kratos clutched Anna to him and looked at his horrified son. "Lloyd!" he snapped, breaking through the boy's terror. " It as Zelos said. Find the Derris Emblem! With it, you can disarm the trap!"

Anna growled in frustration as her hands suddenly clutched uselessly at air. She felt a great tugging sensation. She faced Lloyd and sighed. "Fear not. Everything is alright, I promise. Just hurry up and rescue Colette!" Darkness seeped into the edges of her vision as she reached for her son, right before everything went black.

"Guys!" Lloyd shouted. "Damn! What the hell is going on?! What happened to everyone?"

Origin's voice broke the silence. "Everything is alright. I can feel the presence of your companions. They are somewhere in this city."

Lloyd sighed in relief. "All right. Let's go find them!"

Lloyd turned and dashed toward the portal ahead when something moved ahead of him, drawing him up short.

"Get out of my body!" Colette shouted, her eyes scrunched up as the shadow of Mithos writhed in pain behind her. She was in the middle of the path, facing off against Mithos’s shadow.

"Colette!" Lloyd cried in a mixture of relief and fear.

Mithos clenched his ghostly fists. "Ugh…she's too strong…I can't!"

Lloyd drew his swords. "Mithos! Get away from her!"

Mithos's translucent eyes opened and glared at Lloyd. "How dare you, human! You…son of Kratos!" Mithos was breathing heavily. "How dare you give me orders…" he hissed, his voice low and deadly.

Suddenly, both Mithos and Colette disappeared. Lloyd was standing on a dirt path, trees towering over him. The stench of blood pierced his nostrils. Looking up, he saw four people. One was a beautiful woman, her hair the color of new leaves. Her emerald eyes were open and unseeing as the sun glinted off the arrows sprouting from her corpse.

But an even greater shock was the identities of the others. Mithos was on his knees, sobbing into the woman’s chest

"Wh…what's going on?" Lloyd stammered.

"Martel!" Mithos sobbed. He glared up at Lloyd, his eyes evil and shadowed. "How could you?!" he whimpered.

Yuan's face was dead white, his eyes ablaze with fury and hatred. The very air around him was thick with grief and pain as he raised his hand to Lloyd, mana gathering in his palm. "Human! Your kind must not be allowed to live!"

Lloyd stepped back, his eyes frantic as he looked for help. he immediately looked to the fourth of their group, Kratos, but Kratos was more fearsome and furious than Lloyd had ever seen him. "How far are you willing to go to take control of the mana?" the swordsman thundered.

Mithos ground his teeth together. "I'll never forgive you… You humans are all the same!"

Lloyd began to panic. "Kratos?" he asked, pleadingly. "Why is Kratos…" But it was too late. Kratos charged, closing in on his son. Lloyd didn't even have time to raise his weapons. "Dad!" he shouted desperately, throwing his hands out, as if it would stop his father.

"Lloyd, don't lose yourself!" cried Kratos's voice suddenly in his mind. "The truth is within you!"

Lloyd opened his eyes. The memory was gone, replaced with a very worried looking Colette.

"What…was that?" Lloyd stammered.

"It's…Mithos' memory," Colette said. "After the Ancient War…when Martel was killed."

Mithos roared in pain. "Shut up! Shut up! Why do you interfere?! Both you and Kratos! We both want the same thing! I just wanted to save the world and my sister! To have a world where no one will be persecuted! Kratos knew that as well!" Mithos glared as he faded away.

Lloyd ran over and embraced Colette, clutching her tightly. "Colette! Are you okay?!"

Colette hugged him back. "I'm fine," she replied. "I'm sorry. I'm always causing trouble for you."

Lloyd laughed and gave her a quick kiss, causing her to blush. "Don't worry about it. Let's go."


They arrived in the main city of Welgaia, but it was different from before. It was as deathly silent and empty as the catacombs from whence they had just come. They proceeded slowly through the eerie city.

"Let's check the prison area," Lloyd suggested. Colette only nodded, her blue eyes fearful.

They stepped out of the teleporter and found themselves facing the two prison cells. Someone must have fixed the bars because they no longer were twisted from Regal's attack. In fact they were perfectly capable of containing Regal and Presea, who paced with in.

"Guys!" Lloyd and Colette called out, dashing forward to open the door. As Lloyd fiddled with the lock, he heard Colette gasp. Turning around, he gasped himself. "Colette!" Lloyd cried. She was nowhere to be seen. Lloyd swore and tried to get the cell door open…and noticed that neither Presea nor Regal was looking at him.

"I thought I just saw Lloyd," Regal muttered.

"I'm right here!" Lloyd shouted.

"Yes…he disappeared," Presea said. "What could…?"

Suddenly, the cell door clicked and swung open. Lloyd breathed a sigh of relief that he had been able to pick the lock this time. But it seemed too easy.

"Can y'all really not see me?" Lloyd asked, jumping up and down and waving his hands. What is going on?!

Regal was eyeing the open door apprehensively. "A trap?"

Presea though for a moment. "Even if it is, remaining here indefinitely…"

Regal nodded. "Would not be particularly meaningful. Let us search for Lloyd."

They jumped from the cell and walked warily past Lloyd, who was currently doing a ridiculous dance around them and singing Happy Birthday very loudly in hopes they'd see him.

"I'm so glad you two are safe!" said a female voice from behind.

Presea and Regal stopped dead, the blood draining from their faces.

No… Presea thought.

It can't be… Regal closed his eyes and they both turned around.

"Alicia…" Presea gasped.

Regal shook his head in disbelief. "Impossible…"

Alicia stood there, smiling at her sister and at her lover. She was solid and whole, not the disembodied shadow they had last encountered.

Lloyd scratched his head. "That can't be…she's dead." Something feels off about her…it feels evil. Lloyd blinked twice. What's that shiny stuff flowing around her…it looks like the stuff that shot out of the Sorcerer's Ring at the Iselia Ranch, only reddish black. Lloyd looked at Presea and Regal. They have it too, but Regal's is bluish and Presea's in pink…hmmm...

"Please wait," Alicia said. "I'll take you to Lloyd."

Lloyd's eyes widened. Something is definitely wrong here. She's not Alicia. "Guys, it's an illusion, be careful!"

Regal seemed to agree with his invisible comrade, even though he couldn’t hear him . "It's an illusion!" he snapped. "Alicia is…dead!" Because of me…my own hands.

But there was no disguising the longing in Presea's eyes, which contradicted her words. "Yes. She was murdered. "

Regal didn't notice the hope and wish in Presea and was only relieved that she didn't appear fooled. "Yes," he said firmly. He would never forget the snap and crunch of bones and the tearing of flesh under his fingers.

Alicia looked hurt. "Then what am I, Presea? Even though I'm right here, breathing," and she took a great gulp of air as if to prove it, "my very own sister insists that I'm dead?"

Presea opened her mouth to speak, but the only sound that came out was a confused, "I…"

Alicia smiled. "It's true that I was murdered by Regal." Regal flinched again, though whether at her words, or because Lloyd had poked him in the eye trying to get his attention, Lloyd wasn't sure. "But here I am alive in front of you. Isn't that enough?"

Regal shook his head, furious that Mithos’s trickery would stoop so low. "It's only an illusion! Be gone!" I won't believe it. I felt the life leave her body. I feel the sin heavy on my head. It's a trap, I know it. Regal started forward, eager to end this torment of emotions. It was bad enough that Alicia was being used against him and Presea, but to be tormented and teased by the impossible fact that she might still be alive was more than he could stand.

Alicia cried out and cowered as Regal approached her. In a second, Presea was in front of her sister, her arms thrown out to protect her.

"Presea!" Regal gasped. He saw it then: the fierce ache of longing and hope. Some part of Presea knew this was all a deception, but it couldn't override the heart in her that yearned for it to be true.

"We…don't know for certain it's an illusion," Presea said.

Alicia's smile was heartbreaking with its love. "Presea…you believe me, don't you?! Thank you!"

Regal glared at the falsity. "You!"

Presea drew her ax. "Stop!" she shouted. "If you don't stop…"

"Presea! What are you doing?" Lloyd shouted. "Don't be fooled."

Alicia's eyes welled up with tears. "Regal, I can't believe you'd try to kill me. I can't believe it," she sobbed, her voice breaking.

“Why, he already did it once!” Lloyd shiuted in frustration. Then he cringed. That might have been a little morbid...

Alicia’s tearful voice was almost enough to lure Regal in, but he had to stay strong. "Silence, phantom! Presea, move!"

Presea hefted the ax. "If you want to kill Alicia, you must face me first," she snarled. "Prepare yourself!"

"Stop it, both of you!" Lloyd roared fed up. He drew his sword and sliced it swiftly into his arm, his last thought of how to reveal his presence. Blood splattered to the floor and Lloyd sank to the ground.

Regal and Presea froze, looking at the blood. "Lloyd's voice…is this an illusion as well?!" Regal said, his face confused.

Presea looked from the blood, to Alicia, to Regal, and back to the blood, trying to decide what to believe. "But…there's blood…"

Alicia gripped Presea's shoulder. "I feel an evil presence from that blood! Be careful, Presea!" Presea flinched. Her hand is cold.

Regal backed away from Presea and Alicia warily. "What's going on? What is real?"

"It doesn't matter, just settle down!" Lloyd gasped, clutching his wound. "Why are you fighting each other? You're supposed to be friends!"

Suddenly, Regal and Presea looked right at him, telling him he wasn't invisible anymore.

"You…aren't an illusion?" Regal asked hopefully.

Alicia's eyes darkened. "Why did you stop attacking?!" she spat at Presea. "You hate the one who murdered me, don't you?!"

Presea's eyes were fixed on Lloyd. "But…"

Alicia scowled, feeling her sister's certainty leaking away. She tried a different attack. "And Regal…why won't you just let yourself be killed? You've always felt guilty about killing me."

Regal said nothing. It was true.The guilt pressed upon each and every breath he took. It would be so easy just to die, to not have to suffer any longer. And he would be with her again...

Alicia could sense his resolve weakening. "Here's your chance to end it all!" she crooned sweetly and seductively.

Suddenly, Mithos appeared behind Alicia, smiling evilly. "Yes. It's for the best," he purred. "If you are killed, you will no longer feel guilt, “ he said to Regal before looking at Presea. “If you kill him, you will have your revenge. Crimes must be punished."

Lloyd growled. "Both of you! Get a hold of yourselves! Don't confuse who you should be fighting! Dying won't settle anything! Killing won't solve anything!"

Mithos scoffed. "That is merely logic. People are not moved by logic. If the one you love is killed, you hate the murderer.” Even in his illusory state, the pain was heavy in his voice, coupled with rage and madness. "And murderers must be punished."

Lloyd got to his feet, glaring him down. "But if you keep killing people like that, it will only spawn new hate and new revenge!" he shot back. "Besides, you're just running away if you die. You'll forget the murder and the pain of that crime."

"Spawn new hate…" Presea mumbled.

"Running away from my crime…"muttered Regal.

Alicia started to cry. "What about my feelings?! You murdered me!"

Lloyd looked at his two friends sadly. "It is true that Alicia died. But I know she doesn't want things to end like this. What you're both doing is selfish!"

Regal's face suddenly changed. He was no longer uncertain. "You're…the real Lloyd."

Presea seemed to awake from the illusion as well. "And…that Alicia is a fake. Alicia wouldn't say things like that…"

Alicia stepped back in fear. "Are you…going to kill me?!"

Lloyd swung at her with his sword. "Stop deceiving my friends!" But Alicia and Mithos vanished.

Lloyd turned and grinned at his friends. "I came to get you guys."

Regal hung his head in shame. "I'm sorry. I…lost the will to atone for my crimes by taking comfort in the feeling of being punished," he said. "Death is not punishment. Punishment is living with one's crime and working to atone for it."

Presea nodded in agreement. "I closed off my heart and turned away from people who were trying to atone for their crimes because it was easier to hate than to forgive."

Lloyd smiled. "There are so many things you can do before you die. And I don't think everything has to be forgiven." He clasped their shoulders. "But no matter how painful things may be, you just can't dwell on the past."

"You're right," Regal said.

"I…will stop allowing myself to be trapped in the past," vowed Presea.

"One cannot seek a new world while dragging the past along," added Regal.

Mithos reappeared, sneering down at the jubilant group. "And thus, you forget the past… The countless lives that were lost…and the pain of those that suffered.” He shook his head. “Crimes must be met with punishment," he snarled, before vanishing again.

At that moment, two things appeared. Colette materialized and at her feet was a dagger.

"Lloyd!" she gasped. "Presea, Regal! Thank goodness! I'm sorry I vanished!"

Lloyd hugged her close as Presea picked up the blade.

"What's that?" Lloyd asked.

"A knife," Regal said, examining it.

"There are nicks all over the blade," observed Presea.

"Maybe it's a symbol of your past," Lloyd suggested.

"Let us think of it that way," Regal said.

"Yes…so that we may never fight amongst ourselves again," Presea added, tucking it away as the bigger group set off.


As the darkness cleared from Genis and Raine's eyes, they found themselves before a series of mirrors, their reflections staring back at them.

"Are you all right?" Raine asked her brother, concernedly.

"Fine. You?" Genis replied.

Raine nodded. "We must search for the others."

Little did she know that the rest of the group had just descended behind them. Lloyd began to call out to them, but was distracted as Colette called out his name. Lloyd turned around and saw the others vanishing before his eyes. "No! Not again!" he growled. Sighing he turned his attention to the mirror, and his two friends that were on the other side.

Suddenly, two figure appeared next to him.

"What the-?" Lloyd gasped, jumping back. It was the egotistical bastard known as the mayor of Iselia, and...Genis and Raine's mother, Virginia

Genis's brow furrowed. "Why is the Mayor…?" he muttered, almost to himself.

Raine's eyes hardened as she steeled herself to face her mother, who stared at her children, hate in her far away gaze."Be careful. It's an illusion."

The Mayor scoffed. "You think I'm an illusion? This is exactly why everyone says half-elves are fools!" he spat.

"You bastard!" Lloyd snarled, but they paid him no heed.

Virginia's eyes were sad as she beheld her daughter. "Raine," she said, her voice sad and disgusted. "My pitiful child… A tainted child who received only half her elven blood."

Raine gulped. "M…mother?"

The Mayor's eyes were also hateful. "Half-elves have no place in this world."

"That's not true!" Genis cried.

"It is because you are despicable halflings that I was chased out of Heimdall," Virginia said heavily.

Raine glared, her eyes prickling with tears. "Then why did you give birth to us?!"

"There probably was no choice," said the Mayor. "That's why you were thrown away after you were born."

Raine blanched. There was more truth…no! This was just an illusion. She couldn't allow herself to be fooled.

"Disappear from this world," Virginia said.

"Die!" The Mayor shouted. "There is no meaning for you to live."

"Stop!" Lloyd shouted. "Professor, Genis, don't listen!"

"Disappear," Virginia crooned sweetly, stroking the doll in her hands lovingly.

"Die now!" the Mayor hissed.

"Genis, don't listen to him!" Genis couldn't hear him. "Professor, you know what really happened! Your mom only wanted to save you from the Imperial Research Academy!"

But it was no use. Genis's face went blank, his eyes haunted. "Humans and elves," he lamented sadly. "Neither side wants us…"

The Mayor grinned. "That's right. No one wants you!"

Raine couldn't stop the tears from escaping as she clutched her aching heart. "I didn't choose to be born like this…Yet…"

"It can't he helped," Virginia said. "It's your fault for not being a pureblood."

Lloyd had had enough. "No, you're wrong!" he roared.

Raine and Genis gasped as Lloyd stepped into sight in the mirror.

"No, they are not wrong." Genis and Raine turned to see Mithos, in his child form, appear beside them. "Half-elves are despised and discriminated against for merely being alive. Our existence is a crime."

Lloyd shook his head. "No! It's not the half-elves' fault!"

Genis looked at his old friend, his heart struggling with hope and fact. "But…"

Raine looked from her mother to Lloyd and back again. "We…"

Lloyd looked them dead in the eyes, willing them to see the truth. "People who can't accept those who are different are the ones to blame!" he snapped. "It's because of their weak hearts!"

With that Lloyd backed up a few steps before running directly at the mirror, there was a thunderous crash as glass tore at his clothes. He skidded to a stop next to Genis, glancing back at the shattered mirror. Lloyd grinned at his friends. "Hey you two, I came to getcha."

Genis sighed and his eyes cleared of shadows as he smiled at his friend. "Lloyd…"

Lloyd clasped his shoulder. "Now, let's go."

Virginia glared through the fractured glass, unwilling to let it go. "It's hopeless, Raine," she said. "You'll just be abandoned again. As long as you are a half-elf, the world will continue to hate you."

Raine's eyes cleared of tears and doubt. "Lloyd…came for us," she said softly, looking at her student, "even though he could have left us behind and faced Mithos."

Virginia shook her head. "You'll just be betrayed again. Because you're a half-elf."

"You may be right," Raine replied. Lloyd glared at his teacher, and Raine smiled back. "But then again, you may be wrong." Raine faced the illusion of her mother that she had harbored in her heart for so long. "It wasn't because of my blood that you abandoned me," Raine declared. "It was because of the world that hates my blood and a mother who was too weak to stand up against it. I'm going to stop hating that weakness. My hatred never changed anything." Raine hugged her brother and looked at Lloyd. "In order to change the world, I must first…change myself. I'm glad I was born a half-elf. It was because of it that I met Lloyd and my other dear friends."

"Genis, do you feel the same?" Mithos asked. "Are you happy that you were born a half-elf?"

"That's ridiculous!" exclaimed the mayor. "There's no world for half-elves."

Genis glared at him. "Because humans hate us, I hate humans."

"Genis!" Lloyd gasped, shocked that his friend felt that way.

Genis shrugged. "But I like you, Lloyd. And I like everyone we traveled with. Because…I think they all like me."

"You're an idiot. You're deluding yourself!" The Mayor spat.

"I'm the same," Genis said, ignoring his personal haunt. "Just like those that hate half-elves, I get mad at humans and elves just for being who they are. That's just going to make them hate me more! My heart was weak, too."

Mithos looked sadly at his former friend. "Is it a sin to be weak hearted? Not everyone's strong. Not everyone can stand being despised." He disappeared, as did the mayor and Virginia.

"Hey, you two!" Lloyd said happily, as Regal, Presea, and Colette reappeared as well.

"Lloyd! Thanks for coming!" Genis said happily.

"I'm sorry. I promise to make up for all the trouble we've caused," Raine vowed.

"Don't worry about it! We're friends, right?" Lloyd said. At that moment, a few shards of the mirror sprang up from the floor and hovered before the two half-elves. "Hey, what's this thing that just came floating down?"

"They're fragments of the mirror," Raine said, carefully taking them in her hand.

"Maybe they're symbols of the weakness of our hearts," Genis mused.

"You should hang on to it," Lloyd replied. "It's proof that you guys beat that weird mirror."

"Now what?" Genis asked. "Where are the others?"

"We don't know," Colette said.

"Spread out and check around here thoroughly before we move on," Lloyd said. As they did so, he walked past the other mirror next to the one that held the illusions for Raine and Genis. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his reflection as he moved onward, following him. Suddenly Lloyd froze. In his peripheral, his reflection has stopped moving. Doubling back he gasped.

His reflection was gone…instead, his mother stood looking up and around on the other side of the mirror.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Anna looked around, gripping the hilts of her swords. It was utterly still and silent as she turned slowly, taking in the cold, empty passages of Welgaia. She saw something in the corner of her eye. Without thinking, she whipped out her swords and lunged inward.

Clang!

She sighed in relief as her sword glanced off the glass of a mirror. Sheepishly she sheathed her swords. This had to be the mirror illusion, which meant Raine and Genis were here or nearby.

"Hello?" she called, turning again. "Raine? Genis?" No one answered. She turned back to the mirror frowning at the ground and folding her arms over her chest, waiting for something to happen.

Suddenly she froze. Her reflection had not moved. In fact, it was no longer her current reflection, but a reflection of her dressed in a T-shirt and Jeans. Anna gasped and stepped back as her mirror image grinned maliciously.

"What the bloody hell?" Anna gasped.

"Anna Adalais Aurion," sneered the shadow. "Not content with stealing my soul and life, you stole my name as well."

Anna shook her head. "I know you are an illusion. What are you? The Guilt-Trip? The Annoyance? What folly is Yggdrasill up to now?"

Adalais Orion laughed coldly. "But you're the all knowing Anna! You're so caught up in being the great foreseer that you've lost the ability to face reality…the present."

Anna's ears went red. There was enough truth in her pridefulness for the illusory words to sting.

Ada glared at Anna. "You stole my soul, my life, my very existence!”

"I did not!" Anna spat. "You and I are one in the same!You are in here with me. i promised--"

"That you wouldn’t let me fade away?” Ada asked sarcastically. “Yes, I remember your vow. Yet you destroyed my relationship with William, my life back home when you came back here.” Ada clenched her fists. “Your soul hanging around me made my life a joke. You are the reason i was so lost. You are the reason I never fit in.

"That's not true!" Anna said…but the more she insisted, the more she began to doubt. It was true, she had always felt split in two, out of place, and conflicted. And yes, she had abandoned William when Ada had been given a second chance. She had effectively erased every facet of her life as Adalais Orion.

“I remember it all,” Anna tried to defend herself. “I don’t forget it, or you.”

"Oh good for you!” Ada snarled. “It means nothing. You are fooling yourself. You wanted to be rid of me to escape the pain of your Earth existence. You latched onto my soul like a leech and destroyed me.”

"But…but…" Anna stammered. "I never chose this! I never chose to come back as a wandering, lost soul. I never meant to hurt you. Or William. Or anyone."

"But you did." Ada snarled. "You stained the souls of everyone you met with your darkness. You broke William’s heart. You let our father die. You even dragged Kratos into his own personal hell!”

"No..." was all she could say.

"You cursed my very existence! No one loved me because your tainted soul would never free me!" Ada's glare turned into a sweet smile "You can fix it though. you know you can. Give it all up," she said bewitchingly. "Your soul will never be free if you don't. No matter how many times you die, you'll just come back to haunt this world.” Ada grinned ore as she delivered another blow. “And Kratos and Lloyd will never be at peace."

"That's not true!" Anna repeated.

"Oh but it is!" sneered a cold voice. "Your selfishness keeps the soul of Kratos and Lloyd in eternal torment, for they vowed not to live without you." Mithos, who had appeared next to her laughed coldly. "But you can free them! Offer your body to me…merge with Martel."

"Mithos can restore me!" Ada grinned. "Using Origin he can reunite me with William and give me the soul I've always wanted: the soul without darkness."

"Darkness." Anna gasped. "I’m…darkness?" Unwillingly, she saw Ada's father's dead body, the accusation heavy on Ada's soul, she saw the hurt in William's eyes as Ada was forced to leave him, she saw the pain it caused Lloyd and Kratos to know that she returned after they had failed to save her, a constant reminder of their failure. She even remembered that Kratos and Lloyd’s suffering following her death was her fault. If she had never been born...if she had stayed dead...

"Mom!" Lloyd was suddenly beside her. "What are you thinking?"

"Lloyd?" Anna said, her voice distant.

"Mom! It is not your fault!" Lloyd said firmly. "Mithos was responsible for your death! If he hadn't killed you, your soul would never have wandered and become Ada. Don't be deceived by guilt!"

"But it wasn't Mithos who killed her," said yet another new. Anna spun around and gasped. His red-brown eyes were alight with malice, more red than brown. Blood splattered his armor and naked sword. He grinned maliciously, his eyes piercing her through as he advanced on her.

"I did," Kratos snarled. "And I'd do it again too. You were my fall from Mithos's graces. You were the source of my soul's torment. I did it gladly." He licked the blood from his sword tip. "All of it, all of the suffering of those in your life...it is all your fault."

Anna backed away as Lloyd continued to shout. She looked from her son, to Ada, to Kratos, to Mithos. All of the guilt she had felt for all the suffering surrounding her welled up until she thought she would burst from the agony.

"MOM!" Lloyd roared. "You always told dad not to wrap himself in his guilt and sins! Why are you doing the same? Why would you listen to these fakes?"

"End it," Ada said.

"Suffer," Mithos snarled.

"Give into your guilt and disappear," Ada sneered.

"Die!" Kratos shouted, raising his sword and running towards her.

And just like that Anna’s head cleared and her panic evaporated. She knew what to do. She looked around at the illusory images of the guilt she felt in her past before looking at her son. Then, quick as lightning, her eyes never leaving Lloyd's, she whipped out her sword and drove it through the heart of the fake Kratos. The illusion stared at her, his face hurt and enraged. Anna glared back, fiercer than Lloyd had ever seen her glare.

"My death was Mithos's fault!" she snarled. "Not mine, not Kratos's." She wrenched her blade free and the illusion vanished. Anna glared at Mithos. "And merging with Martel, sacrificng myself won’t solve anything. Both Ada and I will truly die then and drag Lloyd and Kratos with us. I refuse!” she shouted.

Anna spun back around and faced her reflection, her mirror image, herself. "You are me, my other half, the half that always felt guilt for the suffering of others. You are not my darkness; you are my compassion and my empathy for everyone's pain. Nothing more!" Anna punched the mirror with all of her strength. The glass cracked and showered to the floor, cutting her hand.

"Did you really think I'd leave you, Mom?" Lloyd grinned.

Anna smiled and hugged him. "Thank you," she muttered. "I'd spent so long trying to fix others problems and avoiding my own that my guilt caught up with me. I will never regret being Ada and Anna again, nor will I sacrifice one for the other."

Lloyd nodded. "You can't accept everyone else if you never accept your whole self. Running from your heart is impossible. Where you gonna go, right?"

"Right!" Anna said, ruffling his hair. "Come on! I know where the others are."

"We're right here," said Colette, skipping up and hugging Anna tightly. "Almost all of us anyway."

Regal nodded in agreement. "The only ones left are Sheena, Zelos, and-"

"Kratos," Anna finished. She gritted her teeth, knowing that this was truly the hardest one. "Come. I know where to go." She turned and headed for the teleporter, they returned to the main part of Welgaia. "Near the mana fragment warehouse," Anna said, stepping onto the moving floor path.

"Mom?" Lloyd asked. "What's wrong? You seemed scared."

Ann shook her head. "You'll see."

It happened instantly. They stepped off the moving floor and Colette cried out. A great dark circle appeared underneath Lloyd, tugging at him as his friends vanished. Anna alone didn't disappear.

"Mom!" Lloyd cried, as tendrils of darkness raced away from the circle and seized her as well.

"Don't fight it Lloyd," Anna said, as she was dragged toward the circle. "Everything will be all right!"

Lloyd struggled for a moment longer, but something in his mother's face halted him. He nodded and let the darkness engulf him.

He's coming Kratos…and so am I. Don't give in, guys.


Immediately after disappearing, Sheena, Zelos, and Kratos found themselves on an elevated platform, surrounded by inky blackness. A strange bluish light came from below them but there was nothing there or anywhere.

"Is this the location of the Derris Emblem Seal?" Kratos asked, gripping his sword hilt and looking around.

Zelos shrugged, "I dunno. What heck is this funky place?"

Sheena who had been staring around intently at the darkness frowned suddenly. "Hang on a sec. Do you hear a strange sound?"

"A strange sound?" Zelos asked. The two angels strained, trying to hear it. There: a hissing noise, almost like the sound of water swirling down a drain. Looking for the source, Kratos saw a dark circle rippling through the floor, tentacles of darkness stretching out and latching onto them.

"What's this?!" Kratos said, his voice laced with trepidation.

Sheena growled, trying to break free as she was irresistibly pulled forward, toward the dark circle. "We'll be sucked into the magic circle!"

Zelos swore. "Aww crap!"

"We must run!" Kratos said firmly. As one they turned and pulled hard against their bonds…but it was no use. Within minutes, they were waist deep in darkness, unable to break free, barely able to move.

"No!" Kratos gasped. This can't be it…I've got to find Anna and Lloyd. I'm not going to go out like this!

"Sheena!" Zelos reached out a hand to his side, stretching to grab Sheena's, unconcerned for his own safety. "Hold on! Keep moving!"

"I'm trying!" Sheena grunted. "What…is this thing?"

Movement from under his feet caught his eye. "Look below!"

"They see us!" Lloyd cried excitedly to his mom. Anna gripped his shoulder and shook her head. Lloyd sighed. "We're invisible again?!"

"Not exactly," Anna said heavily, looking up at Kratos, whose eyes stared at her with horror. It was a strange thing to be mere feet from her husband, the love of her life, and see him looking at her with fear and desperation. It almost hurt.

"What's is that thing down there?!" Zelos shouted, for the three of them could only see a gigantic red and black spider demon, clicking its pinchers hungrily.

"What's the matter?" asked a voice, dripping with disdain. Sheena gasped and looked up slowly into the masked face of her former comrade. "You'll be caught unless you hurry up and run," Kuchinawa sneered.

"What the-?" Zelos said in unison with Lloyd below, but they were caught off by another voice.

"Such a pathetic sight, Zelos." Zelos tore his eyes away from Sheena and faced his sister, Seles, her eyes glazed with evil.

"No way," he muttered.

"Look away," Kratos warned. "It's an illusion."

"Well, well, what a rare sight, Kratos!"

Kratos froze. Anna winced. Lloyd let out an incoherent shout. Kratos looked up into the coldest eyes he had ever hoped to meet…but they were the eyes of his son.

"Wh…why are Lloyd and Kuchinawa…" Sheena asked, her voice quivering slightly.

Kratos swallowed hard, willing himself to look away from the illusion resembling his son. "Calm down. It's just an illusion."

Zelos nodded slowly, tearing his eyes away as well. "Yeah. There's no way those three would be here."

Seles sneered. "You're so stupid. You've shut your eyes to reality for so long that you can't even tell what's real anymore!"

Zelos looked indifferent, but a glimmer of guilt was evident in his eyes.

The fake Lloyd laughed cruelly at Kratos. "I'm not an illusion. You've spent so long turning a blind eye to Mithos that you've lost all ability to see."

There was too much truth in that for Kratos to ignore, even if it was coming from an illusion.

"You grew up in Mizuho," Kuchinawa snapped at Sheena. "Yet you still can't tell if I'm real or an illusion? You really are a failure."

"It's so sad," Seles laughed, rolling her eyes at her brother. "How did someone so unworthy become the Chosen? It's no wonder he betrayed his friends."

Below, Anna knew what was coming next as it rang clear as a bell in her memory. She clapped her hands over her ears, he eyes scrunched shut, her teeth creaking as she gnashed them together. Lloyd shook her, asking what was wrong until-

"You couldn't stop Mithos," the false Lloyd sneered. "And you couldn't protect Mom. And then you sank to the level of a traitor. You're absolutely pathetic, you know that?"

Kratos stopped moving in shock and stopped resisting. He just let wave after wave of guilt and agony wash over him as darkness crept up his body.

"Kratos!" Lloyd and Anna shouted.

"Hey come on old man!" Zelos snapped. "Don't listen! Keep moving!"

Slowly, agonizingly, Kratos put one foot in front of the other. Lloyd will be all right if I keep moving…Anna will be all right…I've got to keep going…just a little while longer.

But it was by no means over for the three. "None of you should have been born! Everyone would have been so much happier had you not been born!" Kuchinawa pointed a threatening finger at Sheena. "You brought misfortune upon the people of Mizuho."

"I… haven't brought misfortune to—"

Kuchinawa stamped his foot. "Can you really say you didn't? You, the coward who trembled before Volt and killed your comrades!"

Sheena fought back the images of lightning and thunder, but it was useless. Over and over, she watched lightning dissolve the flesh of dozens of her comrades, crying out as her grandfather fell before her eyes and Volt turned his murderous gaze onto her.

"The one who betrayed his friends and came back shamelessly," Seles hissed at Zelos.

"The one who slaughtered her village," shouted Kuchinawa at Sheena.

"And the one who betrayed his wife and son without a thought," Lloyd sneered. "What a fitting end."

Kuchinawa laughed. "Now, if you think you can run, run! You'll be devoured by the darkness and die!"

Kratos shook off his paralyzing fear. No matter what truths were spouted by these terrifying illusions, he knew he had a job to do. As long as Anna was still fighting...But is she? How do you know she's alive? How do you know the Lloyd in front of you is an illusion? Kratos shook his head, glancing below at the spider and at the one logical thing he could get out of this mess. "At this rate, we'll be eaten by that thing."

"Want me to help you, Kratos?" Lloyd asked mockingly.

"Would you like me to save you, Zelos?" Seles giggled.

"Beg for our forgiveness!" Kuchinawa demanded

"Pledge loyalty to Cruxis with me," snarled Lloyd.

"That monster will bestow eternal suffering upon you." For the third time, tormented souls ripped their eyes away from their personal demons to look at Mithos Yggdrasill, this time in his adult form. "If it devours you, you will neither live nor die. You will be trapped in true darkness, tormented in isolation forever."

"Forever?" Sheena mumbled fearfully.

"Allow me to save you," said Mithos. "Just cooperate with us and turn over Colette. Then it will all be over."

"Lord Mithos has agreed to let the people of Mizuho live," said Kuchinawa.

"And he'll remove the title and duties of the Chosen from you and transfer everything to me," Seles added to Zelos.

Lloyd looked at Kratos smiling, his eyes inviting. "You turned a blind eye to what Mithos did once. All you have to do is turn away one more time. Then the world will be saved. Mithos will save it!"

Kratos gulped as Anna's smile appeared on Lloyd's face. It would be so easy to believe…he wouldn't have to fight. "Mithos will…save the world?" he rasped.

"Yeah!" Lloyd exclaimed. "And he'll even forgive you for betraying him. You and me, Dad…let's build a peaceful world that Mithos envisions together."

"Mom!" the real Lloyd growled. "That fake he called him dad."

"I know," Anna said through gritted teeth. "One thing Kratos can't resist.DAMN IT KRATOS!" Anna shouted. "FIGHT BACK!" What she knew about this result didn't make any difference, it did nothing to relieve her fear.

"Seles will gain the power of the Chosen?" Zelos said, his mind already planning out how his life would be without the superficial worship he received and the unbearable responsibility.

Seles's eyes lit up with greed and power. "Yes!" she cried in ecstasy. "What I've wanted more then anything else, the power of the Chosen! You'll let me have it, won't you? Just imagine, your life will finally have meaning and value."

"All you have to do is pledge your allegiance to me," said Mithos seductively. "As soon as you do that, you will be saved from the shadow's grasp."

"The people of Mizuho… " Sheena said longingly.

"Seles will become the Chosen…" Zelos muttered.

Kratos heard himself from far away say, "This is absurd…" But his mind was in chaos as Lloyd called him dad.

"NO!" Lloyd roared. "Listen to me, all of you! Don't be fooled. The real me is down below."

Anna sighed in relief as everyone looked down.

"So it would seem," Kratos breathed, hoping it was true.

Zelos shook his head. "Whoa, whoa, whoa…The only thing down there is that monster!"

"Lloyd, don't tell me you were eaten by that monster!" Sheena cried.

"You fool!" Mithos aid, laughing slightly. "The real Lloyd is here. That voice is just an illusion."

Lloyd stamped his foot. "I'm not an illusion!" He looked at Sheena, hard, his eyes furious. "Do you think it's better for the people of Mizuho to become part of the Age of Lifeless Beings?" Sheena blinked as her darkened eyes lightened slightly. Lloyd stared down Zelos. "Do you think it's okay for Seles to become the next Chosen who could be sacrificed at any time?" Zelos eyes too, lost the evil Mithos and fear had poisoned them with.

For a moment, the spider image flickered and they could clearly see Lloyd and Anna below. At first, Kratos gazed at Lloyd and Anna for a moment as though he didn't know them, his heart taken over by his fear and Mithos’s spell. But as the real Lloyd glared into his father's eyes, they cleared slightly.

"There's no way I'd go along with Mithos' ideals!" Lloyd shouted at his father.

And at Lloyd's words, Kratos woke up from the spell he had been under. He glared defiantly up at Mithos and the illusion resembling his son. "Don't worry. That's just an illusion that lives in my heart. An illusion that tries to appease me for turning my back to reality and going along with Mithos."

Anna sighed in relief and hugged her son. Lloyd grinned. "Exactly! I believe in you! I know you guys can beat those illusions and come back to me! You're here because you're needed in this world. Your lives have value just by existing!"

"Just by being alive…my life has value?" Sheena said, hope in her voice.

"A traitor like me has value?" Zelos asked, doubtfully.

"I…have value? Me?" Kratos said, taken aback.

"Of course not," scoffed Mithos. "No life has any value just by being alive. Humans and those who have betrayed me have no value!"

"I would argue that people who betray you have more value,” Anna said mildly. “I means they are no egomaniacal douchebags.”

"Yeah so shut up!" Lloyd barked. "There's a significance in being born. But if that's not good enough for you, I'll give them another value.” Lloyd grinned broadly “They're valuable because they're my friends!"

Zelos, Sheena, and Kratos all looked up at their embodied fears and glared defiantly. The doubt, the fear, the despair, all of it had vanished with Lloyd's encouragement.

"Heh, that's a pretty pathetic value, but I suppose it'll do," Zelos said, his old grin on his face.

"So you accept me?" Kratos asked hopefully.

"You'd betray me again?" Mithos growled.

"You know what I wish for, yet you still interfere?!" Seles fumed.

Zelos grinned even more broadly. "Sorry, but I've got no choice. The guy who decided my value believes in me and tells me not to run away!" And sure enough, Zelos stopped running and lifted his chin high as he bid farewell to his demons. "I trust you, Lloyd," he said as he disappeared into the circle. "I, the sorta valuable Zelos, am headed your way!"

Sheena laughed and shook her head. "Looks like he beat me to it," she remarked.

Kuchinawa looked highly affronted. "Are you running away again?!"

"I'll raze the entire village of Mizuho!" Mithos threatened.

Sheena stopped running to and glared at the pair. "I'm not running. The people of Mizuho are waiting for us to reunite the worlds. Betraying that trust would truly be running away!" Her eyes never left theirs as she vanished from sight. "Damnation or salvation…guess there's only one way to find out."

Lloyd bit his lip as Kratos continued to hesitate. He knew the one thing he could do…but did he have the courage?

A warm and comforting hand gripped his shoulder, giving Lloyd hope. He covered his mother's hand with his own and smiled up at his father, saying the one word that could free him.

"Dad!"

Kratos looked down hardly daring to believe it, but his son--his real son--was smiling up at him and calling him dad.

"Are you really choosing that fake over me?" Lloyd asked mildly, tilting his head to one side and smirking, as though it were some kind of practical joke.

And Kratos did something remarkable. The stiff, stoic, unshakeable Kratos Aurion, bearer of sin and guilt, held his head high and smiled at his inner demons. "Be gone, illusions of Mithos and Lloyd!” he cried. “My son needs me." Anna let out a whoop as Lloyd held back his happiness at hearing Kratos refer to him as his son. "I cannot run from the sins of my past." And he stopped running, vanishing into the darkness. "Lloyd, allow me to atone for the foolishness of overlooking Mithos' brutality!"

There was a blinding flash of light. When it cleared, Kratos, Zelos, and Sheena all stood before Lloyd and Presea, Regal, Genis, Raine, and Colette reappeared behind him.

"Welcome back, you guys!" Lloyd said happily.

Sheena grinned and clapped him on the back. "It's not like I can really run away from the fact that I was born."

Zelos laughed. "Exactly. Especially since we now have our new found pathetic value and all. I'm gonna try and face my challenges head on."

"I am ashamed for giving up and running away," Kratos growled, clenching his fist. "I convinced myself that there was nothing I could do. I was able to reconfirm that thanks to that illusion."

"Yeah. Running won't solve anything," Lloyd said.

"What value does one burdened to exist with cursed blood have?" Mithos asked, causing everyone to look up. "Sometimes running is the only way to save yourself. Humans are…so arrogant."

"And proud of it!" Anna called to his retreating form. She laughed and ran up to Kratos, who caught her round the waist, spinning her once before hugging her tightly.

"I'm so sorry," he whispered in her ear.

"Shut up and kiss me," Anna said, and Kratos obliged.

Lloyd made a face and caught sight of something at Zelos feet. "What is that?"

"A spider figurine?" Kratos said, glancing down, before Anna hit him for turning away from her and kissed him again.

"It's broken in half," Sheena said, picking it up. "It's kinda creepy."

Lloyd scratched his head. "Maybe it's an admonition to not run away."

"Heh. I guess that's one way to look at it," Zelos said.

"Maybe it is," Sheena agreed. "I'm gonna hang on to it as a reminder." The group started off and it was few minutes before Lloyd realized his parents were some ways behind him, still occupied with other activities.

“Good God, enough already!” Lloyd shouted at his parents. “That’s disgusting!”

“Jealous,” quipped Genis.



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