Mirror Image

This Will Be the Day We've Waited For

Lloyd and the group left Welgaia and stood before two gigantic doors that led who knows where. (Anna and Kratos knew where but that was irrelevant.) The group halted, but not because of the doors, but because of the gargantuan dragon that blocked their path.

"Aw man," Anna groaned reaching for her swords. Beside her, Lloyd's jaw dropped, as did everyone else's. A fierce roar shook the room as the dark dragon, the guardian of Vinheim, approached them.

"I am the gatekeeper," he hissed in a disembodied voice. "You, who would open the gate, stand forth and destroy me!"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Anna said, rising in the air so that she was nose to nose with the dragon, which held her gaze for a moment. "You're in the way bub! Move!" with that she jabbed her swords right into both eyes, furled her wings and dropped. The dragon reared howling in agony and exposing his chest. Anna lunged in and pierced it right through his heart.

Kratos shook his head as the dragon's body disintegrated. "Was that bravado necessary?"

Anna scooped up the key that had clattered to the floor upon the dragon’s death and unlocked the gigantic doors before them. "It saved us time, did it not?"

"My mom is awesome!" Lloyd exclaimed, leading the way through the door.

They stood on a platform, surrounded by an infinite abyss. Ahead was the Great Seed, perched atop a magnificently constructed and massively proportioned throne. A design mimicking the Derris-Emblem glittered under their feet, reacting to the seal clutched in Lloyd's hand.

"Mithos is just ahead," Lloyd said, his face grim, bold, and determined.

"And the Great Seed is there, too," Colette added.

"This is it, everyone," Lloyd said, turning to face his companions. "Are you ready?"

For a long moment, no one spoke. Were they ready? Were they truly prepared to face their former friend and greatest foe? Would killing Mithos Yggdrasill change anything, or would someone else just destroy the world again? Was all of it meaningless?

Doubt filled their hearts in that brief moment. They had just faced down their inner demons, their greatest fears, their biggest doubts. How much more could their souls take?

Anna looked around at all of them as they stared ahead. We've all changed so much. We've grown up, we've suffered, we've killed, we've saved lies, we've spilled blood and bled, we've cried, we've fought, we've survived. She looked forward with the others. It's such a small thing…looking forward. Yet the concept holds such power that it changes who we are and what we believe in.

"There's no going back," Anna said. "Not for Mithos, not for any of us. As we look in front of us, we see the only direction we can go: forward. I will fight until I can no longer see that horizon."

Anna’s words seemed to break the tense silence as hope rushed filled the void left by the vanishing of doubt.

"I'm ready," Raine said firmly. "I'm prepared to accept whatever happens in the coming battle." She paused before a rapturous grin lit her face. "And we will win!"

Sheena grinned slowly. "Yeah! We're gonna win!" she cried punching a fist in the air. "For Mizuho, Corrine," she grinned sheepishly, "and for all of you who believed in a coward like me."

"And…for myself, too," Colette said bravely. "I don't want anyone else to make the same mistake I did. No one should have to think that he has to sacrifice his own life."

"Everyone should be able to live freely, no matter who they are," Genis said. "Humans and elves and even us." Genis looked at Lloyd and nodded. "It's okay for us to be here, in this world."

"Yes," Regal agreed, surprising everyone with a smile. "That's why we must recover the Great Seed from Mithos and revive the Giant Tree. Without it, not only will we be unable to restore peace between the different races..."

"The world itself will die," finished Presea, her own smile lighting up her eyes. "We can't let that happen. We must reunite the worlds. Afterwards we shall make a new promise to the new world."

Zelos laughed out loud, giddy with determination. "Exactly. The people that I like and the people that I don't both have the right to live in the same world I do. Because that's the way things should be. So count me in. I won't run from this one!"

Kratos's grip tightened on Anna's hand as he faced the end of the road that he had helped to pave for so long. Yet the four thousand years of guilt that he had wrapped himself in were gone now, thanks to his family and now he was left with a determination to make things right. "To atone for allowing this twisted world to exist," Kratos said, looking directly at Mithos's distant and invisible form, "I will fight with everything I have." He looked at his son and grinned fiercely, much to everyone's shock. "And win!"

Lloyd grinned back at his father. "All right!" he cried, facing his foe again. "Let's go! We're going to restore a world where everyone can live freely!"

And as the others took up the cheer, the portal beneath their feet activated and they disappeared.

Yggdrasill's face was serene, his eyes closed, his limbs motionless. As the heroes approached, he didn't move to acknowledge them. All he did was continue to smile.

"Home…" he muttered. "I'm going home."

Genis swallowed hard. He supposed it was useless, but he knew he had to try. There had to be some good in Mithos, if only the young half-elf could find it. He had seen it once and he couldn’t believe that everything his friend had done had been a lie.

"Mithos…listen to me!" Genis said firmly. "We don't have to fight! Please return the Great Seed to us so that we can reunite the worlds."

The seraph didn't move. "Home…" he repeated, monotonously. "I'm going home."

"Pst!" Anna nudged Kratos, who looked at her. "Can I go kick him?"

Kratos refrained from rolling his eyes with extreme difficulty.

Lloyd walked up to Genis and pulled the boy behind him. "Something's wrong," Lloyd said, gazing intently at the angel. "He sounds like a puppet."

Colette suddenly gasped as her neck began to burn with pain. "W…what?" Mithos Cruxis Crystal ripped from her neck and flew through the air to embed itself in Yggdrasill's empty Rune Crest.

Lloyd blinked as red and black light exploded from the angel's body, pooling in a circle at his feet, yet no one else seemed affected. What is that? But he had no time to ponder it, as a terrible, violent, and malicious energy filled the air.

Yggdrasill laughed wildly, his eyes flying open as he sneered at them. "I need to thank you for going through all the trouble to bring me back here," he said in mock gratitude. "I'm finally myself again."

Lloyd swore. "Damn! So that's what this was all about!"

Mithos stood up and stretched, getting a feeling for having a body once more. True it had been a brief separation, but the ghostly form he had been confined to was disconcerting. He had been right to have a reserve body made for himself. The fools had brought him right back so he could continue his work.

Genis looked up at his friend with pity in his eyes, reading his intentions in his cold face. "Mithos," he said consolingly, "Martel is already dead."

Yggdrasill glared—his eyes completely mad. "That's not true!" he snarled. "Martel is alive, just as I lived on in the Cruxis Crystal."

Lloyd shook his head. "That's not living. That's just existing as a lifeless being."

"What's wrong with that?" Yggdrasill asked.

"The scary part," Anna mused, "is that he is completely serious in that inquiry."

"What?!" Lloyd asked incredulously. "Are you out of your mind?"

Yggdrasill shrugged indifferently. "After all, in our bodies flow the blood of humans and elves—the bloods of those that despise us. We're better off casting aside such filth and become lifeless beings."

"That's what you really want?" Lloyd asked.

"Of course." His voice changed to his natural, child like tones as the air around him shimmered. "Watch! When you become a lifeless being, you can even control your appearance and growth."

In a flash, Mithos replaced the adult Yggdrasill form, though the madness didn't fade from his eyes.

"Everyone should become lifeless beings," he said. "I told you before. The only way to eliminate discrimination is for everyone to become the same race."

Anna gripped Kratos's hand tightly before releasing it to clench her swords. This is it. One last line from the heroes and we will enter battle. We will face a Mithos such as we have never faced before. Anna fixed her eyes on the back of Lloyd's head. I will protect him, no matter what.

"What you hope for is nothing but a dream, Mithos," Lloyd said, regret heavy in his voice. "Discrimination comes from the heart."

"He's right, Mithos," agreed Genis as the concern in his eyes retreated behind the façade the young man needed to fight the coming battle. "It's the weakness of people's hearts that causes discrimination. Looking down upon others while placing themselves too high."

Sheena glared furiously at Yggdrasill. "You do the same thing! You look down on humans and elves, treating them like cattle." She pointed a threatening finger at him. "That's the weakness of your heart!"

"Even if people become lifeless beings, nothing will change," Regal said. "Discrimination will continue."

"Then where should the half-elves go?" Mithos asked.

"Anywhere," Anna said. "It is folly to let fools who are too wrapped up with status and appearances decide where you should live and how you should exist. Go wherever your heart desires, Mithos."

"We aren't accepted anywhere!" the boy argued. "We opened our hearts, but no one took us in. Where should we live?"

"Like my mom said," Lloyd replied. "You can live anywhere you like."

Mithos rolled his eyes in scorn and contempt. "Don't make me laugh."

"I'm serious. Anywhere is fine," Lloyd snapped. "If you aren't doing anything wrong, you should just live proudly in the open."

Mithos face fell like that and the painful memories swept over him. For once his face looked like the child he truly was inside, innocent and lost. "It's because we couldn't do that…" he said, almost pleadingly, like a child begging a parent for forgiveness for doing something wrong. "That I…that we wanted a place of our own!"

Kratos sighed heavily as his tormented pupil stared at his teacher imploringly. "But that is not an excuse for the things we have done," Kratos said slowly and clearly. "It is merely a motive, not a justification."

"Uh-uh," Zelos barked, shaking his head. "Sorry, but don't act like you're the only victim here. It doesn't even come close to justifying all the things that you've done!"

Presea withdrew her ax. "What you've done caused meaningless suffering and death to countless people. Can you feel their pain?" she hissed.

"People can change," Raine added. "Even if they don't change right away. Months, years—as time passes, change is inevitable."

"Maybe not everything can be forgiven," said Colette, her hands clasped hopefully to her heart as she spoke. "But one can try to atone for one's sins. Can't you feel it in your heart?" she asked. "The Goddess known as conscience—"

Mithos interrupted her with a cold laugh, the laugh of insanity. "Do you think I'm going to beg for forgiveness?" he snorted. "Ridiculous."

The area around them began to shake as Mithos left his throne, crossing the platform to face them. "There is no Goddess!" he said degradingly. "So I will continue to pursue my ideals. If there is no place where I can live…" he glared at Lloyd "…and if I've been denied my Age of Lifeless Beings, then the only thing left for me is to build a new world on Derris-Kharlan. A world just for my sister and me!" Mithos wings unfurled slowly and he conjured a plain sword out of thin air. Raising it high above his head a huge beam of light tore from it and exploded overhead.

Lloyd squinted upward. A great multicolored haze was filling the air as he watched. His nerves twitched unpleasantly, as though something ominous loomed around the bend.

"Anna," Kratos said, pointing up at the cloud. Anna looked and her face paled.

"Mana," she whispered. "A lot of it...but…" she looked around frantically. "He's not supposed to do that! He never does that!"

"You can see it too?" Lloyd asked in relief.

"Too?" Kratos turned to eye his son warily. "You can see the mana?"

Lloyd nodded. "I started noticing it when we all got separated by those traps."

Kratos stared at his son with such disbelief that Lloyd shifted uncomfortably. How can this be? Kratos thought. Only half-elves, elves, and angels should be able to--

Kratos whipped his head around at his wife who was facing Mithos, her swords out, her face too innocent.

"You know what this is," Kratos said to her. "Tell—"

"Look!" shouted Genis, pointing behind Mithos. Everyone tore their eyes away from the foe and looked to the horizon. What they saw made them all gape in horror, paralyzed by disbelief and shock.

Angels. Hundreds of angels were streaking through the air toward them, weapons raised, eyes dead and cold as they followed Mithos's bidding. Mithos pointed his sword at them, cackling insanely as the great mass of white and gray raced across the abyss, murder in their countenance. "There's nothing anyone can do," Mithos hissed. "Kill them."

Anna gaped at the angels. It was all she could do. She had lived two lives, both fraught with tragedy, fear, and desperation. But it was nothing compared to the sickening bile of fear that rose in her throat. She had played this game. She knew it inside and out and this never happened. Never ever. Until now, she had foolishly maintained the mentality that if she died, she would just come back, as she did in the game, as she had done here twice. But it wouldn't be so this time. There was no fall back plan. No set method, no guarantees, no heroes.

"Oh my GOD!" Anna whispered.

"WEAPONS!" Lloyd roared. "NOW!"

The others blinked and shed their paralysis. There was a rushing sound like wind and those who could feel it sensed the magic building like a cloud behind the approaching swarm.

"No! SHIELDS!" Kratos roared as the magic gathered. Without thinking, Anna dashed in front of Lloyd, grabbing his shoulders as Kratos flung himself in front of them in a nearly helpless effort to protect his family. Their voices all intertwined and ten walls of power sprang up as a bolt of pure mana was fired from the angels.

Kratos winced as bright white light enveloped him, pushing him back. Anna shoved Lloyd down and put all of her energy into their combined shield. Behind her, she felt a hand grab her and saw Colette's own shield adding strength. It gave Anna an idea.

"MOVE! BACK UP!" she screeched over the roar of magic. "COMBINE SHIELDS!"

Lloyd's hand shot out and grabbed Kratos, holding tight as they backed up into Raine and Genis. Presea and Regal were already joined with them and two thumps to the side announced that Sheena and Zelos were in too. The warriors threw as much power as they could manage into the wobbling shields, but even joined as one, it couldn't last long.

What can we do! Anna thought frantically. There was a tug in the air. Looking ahead, a spell circle had sprung up beneath Kratos.

"Sacred Powers, cast thy purifying light upon these corrupt souls! Rest in peace, sinners! JUDGEMENT!"

A beam of holy light erupted from him and immediately disintegrated the evil power enveloping them as their shields collapsed. The angels screeched in frustration eyeing their prey hungrily. There was a terrifying roar and the winged beings flew downward for them.

"Fight!" Lloyd shouted, running through an angel. "Stand and fight!"

It was utter madness. Lloyd and Colette pressed their backs together and hacked at angels with their weapons. Feathers tore like paper from Colette's wings, slicing into angelic flesh. Blood dripped from the air, splattering on to the floor below. Lloyd wielded Flamberge and Vorporeal with a cruel vengeance, the blades starting to go red with heavenly blood.

Raine and Genis were under a gigantic shield that dozens of angels crashed into repeatedly as the two chanted. Water and lights enveloped dozens of the enemies, tearing bodies and drowning those who dodged. Genis's kendama flashed as he shot fire, ice, wind, lightning— everything he possessed at them.

Sheena and Zelos were in close proximity, though it looked like Zelos was slicing his way through enemies to get to Sheena. Guardian seals hailed like rain as explosions of elements, light, and dark, sizzled into the flesh of the deformed bodies. Zelos blade flashed as a silver and crimson blur, his eyes deadly.

Regal was flipping and kicking with the best of him, faster than anyone had ever seen. Crunches of bone and the tangy smell of blood told of his successful hits, while grunts and crashes announced his misses. Presea's ax cleaved through the air, sinking into skin and bone. Dead angels littered the ground at her feet as she swung and chopped.

Kratos sword practically sang as it swung and stabbed, sparks flying when it met an enemy's resistance. The Seraphs eyes were aflame with hate as he ended the existence of the beings that threatened his wife and son, as well as his comrades. Behind him, Anna flipped, kicked, punched, and stabbed as hard as she could. Her face was twisted with desperation as she fought her way through to her son.

It was madness. They fought and angels died, but there were so many. Anna wiped sweat and blood from her brow and looked around. For a moment time seemed to slow. Every punch took an age to land, ever sword swing bled slowly through the air. But she stared at the faces, not only of her comrades, but of the angels, who had once been half-elves…who were dying because they sought refuge from the world's cruelties. There's so many…so many lives ruined because of Mithos Yggdrasill… Anna turned and looked up at the half-elf, who's eyes were alight in the fervor of battle. Mithos Yggdrasill.

"ANNA!" shouted Kratos as his wife didn't move and angels flew towards her. "ARE YOU MAD?"

Anna didn't listen. She saw Mithos laughing at the chaos around him. Something in her fell away and she knew there was only one way to end this.

Ducking low, ignoring the shouts, she took off, her dark rainbow wings furling out behind her as angels swarmed above her. She dodged and slid under attacks, under swords, under magics, her eyes intent on Yggdrasill.

"MITHOS!" she screamed, kicking off and tearing up through the air through the fray. Mithos's eyes widened as the angel of death streaked toward him, too fast for him to block. Anna's swords cleaved the air in two to find Mithos. She slammed into him, the steel blades sinking deep into his body, blood oozing slowly around the metal.

Time stopped. Mithos gasped for breath as he met Anna’s merciless eyes. Anna let out a guttural growl and swung him around, ripping her blades away. The young half-elf flew through the air and crashed into the top of his ill-gotten throne before slumping down to the ground below.

An explosion rocked overhead as Mithos’s hold over the angels broke. The Cruxis Crystals attached to each angel glowed briefly and then every single angel disappeared.

"Is everyone alive?" Lloyd asked, looking around. Regal was unconscious on the ground, Zelos crouched over him, applying healing arts, a large gash on the Chosen’s face. Sheena was burned and badly bruised and Colette's hands were bleeding from hastily using her chakrams. Kratos had a long bloody gash down his chest and Anna, who had landed beside Kratos, was sporting a black eye and bloody nose. Presea was nursing a bloody arm, Genis using some of his water magic to help her clean it. Of everyone, Raine and Genis were unharmed, though physically drained of mana. Lloyd crouched next to the professor, making sure she drank pineapple gels. His throat, his legs, arms, and face were littered with cuts and bruises.

"Healing Stream!" Kratos muttered, pointing at Raine and Lloyd. Raine got to her feet and cast Revitalize on everyone, healing their wounds and their exhaustion.

"Thanks," she said, accepting another gel from Lloyd. "Now what are we to do?"

"I don't know," Lloyd said, turning to look at the huddled form of Mithos, who had yet to move. "I'm sure he's still alive."

Genis squared his shoulders, her mouth tight, his eyes haunted. Hesitantly, he approached his former friend.

"Be careful," Anna cautioned. "Everyone keep your weapons out." The angel army wasn't supposed to exist so who's to say what will happen next.

Genis crouched next to Yggdrasill and examined him. He took a deep breath and reached out.

"NO!" shouted Colette, Zelos, Lloyd, and Anna. Kratos was already moving as the mana signature exploded back into life. Mithos shot to his feet, his hand striking out toward Genis's throat.

Anna, running forward, didn't see what happened next. One minute, Mithos's fingers were inches from Genis, and the next Genis was on the ground, Raine dangling feet above the ground as Mithos hands wrapped tight around her throat.

"You're foolish to think that was the end," Mithos sneered. "Resign yourself to the end. Scatter…"

And Raine was flying, through the air and over the edge of the platform.

"RAINE!" shouted Genis so loudly it hurt their ears.

Anna, Kratos, and Zelos all sprinted towards the edge, but a dash of blue streaked past them from the platform. Anna threw out her arms to stop Kratos and Zelos. Before they could see who it was, the person was airborne, racing towards Raine's plummeting figure.

"Impossible!" Anna gasped.

"Not for him," Kratos muttered disgruntled.

Mithos turned on Genis, feeling no twinge of regret as the half elf staggered to his feet. "Join your sister!" Mithos cried, raising his sword high.


Blood exploded from Mithos’s back as a sword tip emerged from his shoulder. Mithos cried out as Yuan ripped his blade from his companion's flesh, Raine clinging tightly to him. Yuan glared at Mithos with pure hate. "That was for you twisting Martel's hopes and dreams…you sick bastard." Yuan swung back and slammed the flat of his sword hard against the side of Mithos’s head, sending the angel crashing to the ground. "And that's for daring to touch Raine."

Yuan drifted backward and landed next to Lloyd, depositing Raine on her feet. "Are you alright?" he asked concernedly.

"Yes I'm fine," Raine said shakily. She shook her head and hugged him briefly. "We must be merciless, now!" Yuan grinned and pressed her staff into her hand.

"I hope y'all are ready!" Yuan said cockily to the stunned group. "It's past time for him to die."

"We could say the same about you," Anna muttered and Yuan glared at her, until Kratos cleared his throat and glared back at Yuan.

"You…" Mithos snarled, pointing at Anna. "You'll die first! You vile inferior being! You aren't worthy of your wings!"

Kratos and everyone started forward. "HALT!" Anna shouted, raising a hand. They skidded to a stop.

Anna Adalais Aurion had never asked to be an angel. She had to go through hell to use this unwanted power to save those she loved. She'd be damned before she let Mithos tell her what she did and did not deserve. Anna faced him, her eyes malicious over her evil grin as she recalled a poem from her earth days that seemed a perfect tool for her to use now.

"'The angels wings is white as snow,'" said quoted, her voice ringing through the abyss. "'O, white as snow. White as snow.”

Lloyd's brow furrowed. "What is she doing?"

Raine smiled. "Getting inside his head."

"'The angels Wings is white as snow.'" Anna's brown eyes were filled with pure hate, the hate of a mother who had watched her son bleed and the hate of a wife who had watched her husband fall.

Through gritted teeth she now spoke, walking slowly forward. "But I drug ma wings in the dirty mire. O, I drug ma wings all through the fire!" she screamed at the top of her lungs, her black and rainbow wings fanning out behind her, wings that she never wanted but had been forced to have. "But the angels wings is white as snow," she whispered.

"White," she lunged inward and stabbed toward Mithos heart, but Mithos blocked.

"As," her second sword swung low, scoring a long gash in his chest.

"Snow!" She lunged again, but Mithos jumped over, landing behind her.

Anna spun around, panting heavily. "With my last breath, I will break you!" she hissed.

Mithos turned and looked at them all. "You can try. But my sister means everything to me. I won't let anyone get in my way." He hefted his sword as he shifted back to his adult form. "I will revert this entire world back into nothingness."

"You're going to betray the world just for your sister?!" Lloyd exclaimed.

"None of you understand how I feel!" Mithos said solemnly.

"You're the one who doesn't understand!" Lloyd shouted, charging. "Angels! Group Judgment, now!"

Lloyd engaged Mithos in battle, closely followed by Presea, Regal, and Sheena. Raine and Genis began the chants of their most powerful spells.

"Sacred powers…" Zelos began

"Oh Holy One…" said Colette, her eyes closed in prayer.

"Cast thy purifying light…" chanted Yuan.

"Upon this corrupt soul!" Anna cried.

Kratos, though conjuring, hesitated, watching the fight before him. Mithos's swordsmanship was strong, as strong as Lloyd's was in his current exhausted state. As he watched his son encounter his former student, Kratos remembered all the times Lloyd had hurt bled due to Mithos actions.

"KRATOS!" Anna shouted.

Lloyd flattered, turning his head to see what had befallen his father. At that exact moment, Mithos plunged his sword deep into Lloyd's shoulder and Lloyd howled in pain.

"NO!" Kratos roared. He fixed his eyes on Mithos, hate burning into Yggdrasill's flash. "REST IN PEACE!" Kratos thundered, raising his sword. "You son of a bitch…"

"JUDGEMENT!" cried five voices.

"Meteor Storm!" shouted Genis

"Holy Lance!" Raine screamed.

The room exploded, launching everyone up into the air slamming them into the ground seconds later. As the explosion cleared, Mithos was revealed to be kneeling on the ground, clutching his heart, his body smoking. Lloyd was also crouched, attempting to stem the flow of blood from his shoulder as Anna and Raine rushed to him.

Yggdrasill began to shake, his mana signature flickering from black to red and back again. But Kratos paid no heed. As Anna and Raine shielded Lloyd, Kratos walked forward, his eyes hungry for the life of the man who had pierced his heart for the last time. However, there was sadness in the red-brown depths. He did not want to kill Mithos…but he would if he had to. He would never harm Anna or Lloyd again.

As Kratos glared at Mithos with rage, he realized that it was exactly one years ago that he had entered Iselia and met his son. It was mere weeks later that the love of his life was graciously returned to him. Since then, things had changed. HE had changed. A year go, Kratos would have slain his old friend without a thought. But that was before he had met Lloyd, before Anna had returned. My family, he thought, looking at Lloyd's pale face and Anna's worried eyes. My friends… He looked at Yuan, crouched by Raine, whose eyes were worried for her student. He looked at Zelos determined glare as he held tight to Sheena, who looked from Kratos to Mithos in anticipation. At Regal, Genis, and Presea who stared unwaveringly at Yggdrasill, and at Colette, praying fast and furious under her breath for Mithos to see reason. I've…grown soft because of them. His eyes locked with Anna's, her brown eyes pleading.

Save him…save us all, she begged her love.

Yggdrasill's eyes turned a bloody, irate red and he rose in the air. His rainbow wings quivered before fading into an inky black color with streaks of crimson. He was drawing on the last of his mana and his life force. He was dying, his mana and soul corrupted now by insanity.

Kratos looked up. "Mithos, it's over!" Kratos said firmly and clearly. "Don't make Martel suffer anymore. Protect her heart from more pain."

Yggdrasill looked at Kratos, malice in his eyes. "Protect…what would you know of that, Kratos? You were too weak to protect your own family."

Kratos winced as Yggdrasill pierced him through with the truth. But Mithos didn't stop there. "Kratos…you are a fool…" Yggdrasill hissed. "Don't you understand? No matter what you do to protect them, they will only leave you behind."

"That's not true!" Lloyd stood, panting, straightening his spine to glare up at Mithos, the spitting image of his father. "That's not true. No one gets left behind!"

"Whether by their own will, or by the slow decay of time, they will vanish," Mithos said, looking directly at Kratos. "And you will linger on, unable to die…unable to even free yourself from the pain of their absence."

Did he really just quote Lord of the Rings. Anna thought briefly before turning her attention to Kratos. "Don't listen to him, Kratos!" she cried. "He's trying to trick you."

"Am I Kratos?" Mithos asked. "Look inside yourself, old teacher. Search your feelings. You know it to be true."

And that was definitely Darth Vader. aWht the hell? "Kratos!" Anna screamed. "Would you rather we linger on, unable to smile, unable to laugh? Unable to think…to feel…to truly live?"

"To live forever with them by your side, Kratos," Yggdrasill whispered sweetly, his voice enticing as he tried to call Kratos's soul and hope once more into his grasp.

Kratos lifted his head to look at his former companion, his eyes no longer lifeless, but full of fire and hope. "No."

"What?!" Yggdrasill hissed.

"No," Kratos said. "Even after they're gone…they will never truly leave me. They will always be in my heart."

"Kratos!" barked Yggdrasill, fear in his eyes.

"You forget Mithos," Kratos continued. "Those we love…are always with us. Just as the shadow of your former self will always be cherished in my own memory along with Martel."

"Kratos!" Mithos cried, fear permeating from his body.

"Goodbye, my student…my friend."

Kratos drew his sword one last time and, without ever taking his eye off of Mithos, he plunged his sword into Mithos’s belly.

A swift slash followed and Anna had plunged hers into his throat. "Your venomous lies have poisoned everything and everyone. No more Mithos….no more."

Lloyd was at his parents' side now, Flamberge raised.

"You've hurt my friends," said the Eternal Swordsman. "You've kidnapped and tried to kill the woman I love. You enslaved my father. You killed my mother. You've slaughter countless people for your own gain." Lloyd plunged his sword straight into Mithos's heart. "I forgive you."

As one, the Aurion family twisted their blades and wrenched them from Mithos's body. Mithos's eyes never left theirs as he slumped to the floor, the light fading from his eyes as his wings disappeared.

"My dream of a world..." he muttered. "For my sister and me...Martel…"

His body vanished and all was silent except for the soft tapping noise as the Cruxis Crystal fell to the floor and Lloyd's anguished whisper.

"Goodbye Mithos…"

No one was quite sure how long they stood there, staring at the spot where Mithos had died. But finally, Anna stepped forward and crouched down to the Cruxis Crystal.

"Mithos?" she whispered.

There was a flash and the ghostly form of Mithos hovered in the air above his Cruxis Crystal.

"Mithos is…" Colette gasped.

"It's just like Alicia!" Presea exclaimed. "Mithos will continue to live as long as the Cruxis Crystal exists!"

Mithos looked at them all solemnly. "And eventually I will be taken over by the crystal."

Lloyd reached out to the fallen hero, as though he would bring him back if he could. Genis stood just behind Lloyd, a single tear running down his cheek for his friend.

"Mithos…"Lloyd muttered.

Mithos sighed. "I'm tired of playing your game of good-and-evil," he said heavily. "Hurry up and destroy the crystal. If you don't, Derris-Kharlan will continue to drift away."

"Mithos…" Lloyd said again, his eyes sad.

"Do it now!" Mithos demanded. "Before I…" he looked up at his beloved sister encased in the Great Seed. "…too…am no longer myself."

"Lloyd! Please, help him!" Genis begged. "Let him die while he's still himself!"

"Let him go, Lloyd," Yuan said, his voice hoarse.

"Set him free," added Kratos.

"All right." Lloyd walked very slowly up to the Cruxis Crystal.

"Farewell, my shadow," Mithos said, closing his eyes and lifting his face to the heavens. "You, who stand at the end of the path I chose not to follow. I wanted my own world, so I don't regret my choice. I would make the same choice all over again. I will continue to choose this path."

Lloyd slashed out with his father's sword. There was a ringing noise like the shattering of glass. The crystal exploded into fragments, which hovered and turned to light. Lloyd watched in wonder as the pieces surround him like a cyclone before being absorbed into his own exsphere.

Anna went to her son and put a comforting hand on his shoulder. Lloyd looked at his exsphere and covered it with his other hand. "You could have…" he swallowed hard, "you could have lived with us in our world!" He dropped his hand and clenched his fist. "Damn it…"

There was a moment of silence, then Kratos spoke. "Lloyd. What must you do now?"

Lloyd nodded heavily and withdrew his sword. He focused his energy on the Ring of the Pact and the Eternal Sword materialized in his hand.

Origin’s voice rang out. "The old master of the pact is no more. What does the new master of the pact ask of his sword?"

Lloyd took a deep breath. Things were at last coming to an end. They had come so far and fought so hard for this, the one goal to save everyone. When he spoke, he wished, not only with all his heart, but with the heart of everyone who had died, everyone who had lived, and everyone who would one day be born as human, elf, half elf, angel, anything.

"Restore the true form of our two worlds!" shouted Lloyd, raising the sword high above his head.

A blinding white light filled the room, the entirety of existence. Anna threw her hands up to shield her face. The world beneath them all dropped away as wind howled and swirled around them. It felt as though their very beings were being tugged at from a thousand different directions. Anna squinted, determined to see what was going on.

They were there…every single one of the summon spirits, side by side in a great ring. The world below them was solid and whole, restored to normalcy. And as they began to fade, Anna could have sworn Origin had given her a smile and Maxwell a small wink.

Suddenly her feet slammed into the ground and her knees buckled. Kratos caught her keeping her upright. The grass beneath her feet and the sun on her face was reassuring after so long in nothingness…but there was still a task to do.

"Are we back?" Lloyd asked, clutching the sword.

Anna made to reply when the earth below began to shake. Several multicolored flashes of light announced the arrival of all eight elemental summon spirits.

"Wh…what's going on?" Lloyd asked.

"What are you all doing?" Sheena inquired of the spirits.

"Your wish is granted," replied Origin. "But there is no link. Without link, the land will die."

"Just as I thought," Kratos said.

"The world was originally separated into two in order to prevent its destruction," Origin continued. "If it returns to its true form, the world lacks the mana to support itself. The land…is dying."

Lloyd gasped. "I don't need to know why it's dying! What do we need to do to stop it?"

"Support the two worlds by linking them with the Giant Tree," said Origin and Anna, who grinned gleefully as Origin sighed. "That is the only way to stop the destruction of the land."

"We need to restore the Giant Kharlan Tree," Yuan said.

Lloyd nodded. "I get it!"

"Lloyd, quickly!" Kratos urged. "Before Derris-Kharlan flies off into the distant reaches of space, use its mana to awaken the Great Seed! That's the only way to revive it."

Lloyd nodded and raised the Eternal Sword. "All right, then! I'm counting on you, Eternal Sword!"

"Derris-Kharlan is already at the edge of the gravitational field," Origin informed him. "Not even Yggdrasil…" Origin broke off for a second before amending, "…Mithos could stop this from happening. Do you still intend to try?"

"Yeah," Lloyd said.

"Even strengthened by your Exsphere, it is likely that your body will not withstand the forces," said Origin. "Are you certain of your decision?"

"I said I'm doing it, so I'm doing it! It's not like we have a choice!" Lloyd snapped

There was instant uproar. Kratos lunged for Lloyd, but Anna grabbed him.

"What are you doing?" Kratos hissed.

"It's his moment Kratos!" Anna said. "Lloyd is the only one who can do this!"

"But you heard what Origin said!" Colette protested as light began to stream from the Eternal Sword.

"If I thought for one minute Lloyd was in real danger, would I let him do this?" Anna asked.

"GAH!" Lloyd shouted out in agony. Mana was tearing through him from Derris Kharlahn, using his body as a channel toward the Great Seed. But even as the fire in his veins scorched him, Lloyd knew that the Great Seed wasn't absorbing it. Suddenly, it stopped and he fell to his knees, the sword disappearing.

Lloyd struggled to his feet. "It's not working!" he cried. "The mana's being deflected!"

"The Great Seed is…already dead…" Colette said in disbelief.

Lloyd looked up at the Great Seed. His body began to shake. All their efforts…wasted. They had killed Mithos for nothing. He had saved Colette and damned the world. He had failed everyone who hoped for a new peaceful world. He could feel everyone's eyes on him, begging and pleading for him to find a way. That's what Lloyd did. He always found their way.

A hand squeezed his shoulder tight and he looked into the warm brown eyes of his mother. His mother, who even in death had given him strength through his exsphere. Behind her was Colette, whom he loved more than life; Genis, his best friend; Raine, his mentor; Sheena, his comrade; Presea, his little sister; Zelos, his personal reality check; Regal, his older brother; and Yuan, his friendly foe. Last but not least, his eyes locked with their match. He could hear his father clearly, even though he didn't speak, even though he couldn't remember Kratos having ever said the words to him before.

We are with you. Do not give up my beloved son.

Lloyd's exsphere began to glow. Suddenly, everything in the clearing became sharper. Sounds, sights, smells, touch. Strength surged through him as the glow grew brighter and brighter. The air around him shimmered as hope filled his heart. He raised his face to the Great Seed, knowing he was going after it without knowing how it was possible.

"Wait!" he cried. "Don't go! Please, wake up!"

And then he felt it. Something pushed it’s way out of his back, stretching out in relief. Two blue-green, enormous wings stretched out, glittering in the sun. He kicked off instinctively, taking to the sky, hovering near the Great Seed.

"Oh…" Colette gasped.

"My…" Yuan said.

"God…" Kratos muttered.

Light, the light of mana, poured from Lloyd's exsphere, absorbing into the Great Seed. Without hesitation, Colette unfurled her wings and flew up to join Lloyd.

Kratos opened his own and started upward, but Anna grabbed his ankle and pulled him back down, shaking her head.

"Our time has passed love," she said. She winked at Yuan. "Our time has passed." She indicated her son and Colette as well as the young warriors gazing up with hope. "They are our future…it is in their hands."

Colette latched onto Lloyd's arms, staring off at Derris-Kharlahn. "It looks like Derris-Kharlan stopped moving away."

"Yeah, but why?" Lloyd asked. "The Eternal Sword is gone…"

Suddenly, the great sword descended from the sky. Lloyd's eyes widened in amazement as he reached forward and grasped the hilt once more. "The Eternal Sword!"

"Thank goodness," Colette sighed.

Lloyd grinned and kissed her, swift and hard. Taking her hand in his, he wrapped both around the hilt, pointing it at the Great Seed. "This is my final wish. Eternal Sword…" he said.

"Please!" Colette begged. "Awaken the Great Seed!"

Lloyd looked down at his family, staring up at him, their eyes anxious with hope and desperation. "I beg you, please, wake up!" he said.

"Please!" Colette begged again.

Lloyd raised the sword high above his head. "Rise Giant Kharlan Tree!"

The Great Seed glowed brightly as it descended toward earth, its petals opening. They all watched in wonder as the rubble on the Holy Ground glowed blue in its light.

"Look!" Anna whispered, pointing.

In the distance, Tabatha stood atop a large piece of the Tower of Salvation, looking up at the Great Seed. The Seed stopped hovering just above her head. The woman raised her hands above her head, smiling as the petals enveloped her. She opened her eyes to see spirits swirling in the great void. Before her stood a woman of such beauty that it would have hurt to look upon her with human eyes. But Tabatha just smiled at the Goddess Martel. Closing her eyes, she bowed her head in prayer, clasping her hands before her.

This is my life…this is my choice…rise oh Goddess Martel.

Martel smiled at her prayer and embraced Tabatha as a mother would a daughter. In that moment, their souls intertwined with the other souls contained inside and they emerged as one whole…as manna…as life.

Martel opened her eyes unto the morning sunlight, the breeze gently swaying her emerald locks. The rustle of leaves nearby caught her attention and she crouched down next to the tiny sapling that had emerged amongst the ruins.

Lloyd and Colette descended before her, dissipating their wings and staring at her and the tree in amazement. Behind them, their family had climb atop the ruins, looking down upon them.

Martel smiled. "I am Martel, and also the incarnation of the Great Seed itself." She rested a hand on Lloyd's shoulder. "Lloyd your hope as well as those of many others," she looked from Colette to the others at this, "resurrected me."

Lloyd's eyes widened. "So you're Mithos' sister?!"

"No," Martel replied Gently. "Mithos' sister Martel, is one of the many source within me. I am Mana, and I am the Giant Tree. I am a symbol of the many lives sacrificed to the Great Seed. I am the new spirit born to accompany the Giant Tree. And now the Seed has awakened anew along with me."

Martel turned away and gestured with her staff at the Giant Tree. Before their very eyes, the tiny seedling sprouted, stretching high in the sky, its leafy branches striving for the heavens. Thehy twined together, growing and stretching to become an enormous tree that cast them all into shadows as it stretched high into the heavens.

"This is the Giant Kharlan Tree?!" Lloyd said in wonder.

"It's so beautiful and so grand!" exclaimed Colette in awe.

"This is the future form of the Giant Tree," Martel said. "Right now, it is only a small seedling. In its current rate, the tree will wither and die."

"Well then, how do we protect it?!" Lloyd asked.

"You must provide the tree with love and adoration," said Martel. "As long as those conditions are met, I shall always protect the seedling."

Lloyd looked Martel dead in the eye. "I promise! If the tree starts to wither, I'll make sure," he clenched his fist tight, "we won't let it die!"

Martel smiled. "Then Lloyd, on behalf of all living things, I want you to give this tree a new name, as a proof of the pact."

Lloyd looked confused. "What?"

"The Giant Kharlan Tree was planted here by the elves when they first came as a guardian to watch over and protect them," Martel explained. "This newly reborn tree protects elves, humans and the lives of all who have caught in between. Therefore, this tree requires a new name."

"What will he choose?" Kratos asked Anna.

"Watch," Anna replied.

Colette gripped Lloyd's hand tightly and smiled at him. "Lloyd, pick a name for us. A name for everyone's tree!"

Lloyd stared thoughtfully up at the tree. "So this tree is the link that connects the world."

Lloyd's brow furrowed. He thought about the journey, he thought about what it meant, he thought about it all. And among every reason behind the worlds being split and the worlds being reunited, he found one bond. He looked up at Martel, whose smile was so like Colette's. Martel, the name of a girl who had, with, her last breath, wished for a fee world, and her brother, who wanted desperately to give it to her.

" Okay, I got it!" Lloyd said, raising his voice so that all could hear. "This tree's name is…


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