The Show Must Go On
It had been a few days since their victory over Kvar and everyone had been rather quiet, lost to their own thoughts after the horrors they had faced. After several days on the road, the weary group stopped off in Asgard to restock and resupply. Since Ada knew what supplies were ultimately worth keeping, she helped Lloyd and Genis sell some of their old weapons and extra materials, gaining the group quite a bit of cash. Raine, Colette, and Sheena went after the necessities—food, survival equipment, and spare clothing. Kratos disappeared for a few hours and returned with a package that he thrust into Ada's arms.
Ada pushed back from the table where she had been chatting with Lloyd and Genis and looked at the package quizzically. "What's this?" she asked, shocked.
Kratos’s hands flexed and released for a moment and he actually looked somewhat embarrassed. "Well,” he said before clearing his throat loudly and saying somewhat in a rush “You can't continue to fight with those poor excuses for swords so I took the liberty of helping you out."
Ada tore open the package and gasped, both touched and surprised. In her hands was a plain black sword belt with two swords in well-made wooden sheathes. The hilts were simple leather wrapped grips that fit the size of her hand perfectly. Ada immediately put the belt on, admiring the fine quality of the leather and wood before taking a deep breath and drawing the swords.
"Oh my…" she gasped. The blades also were perfect for her size, made of highly polished metal that glimmered in the light from the inn's lamps. Ada sheathed one and plucked a hair from her head and dragging it across the second unsheathed blade. It split neatly, testimony to a fantastic edge. The weight of the swords was perfectly balances as she extending her hand and balanced the sword on one finger. They were extremely well-made and looked to be brand new.
"Wow Kratos," Lloyd said. "Those are nice." Lloyd looked at Ada and smirked. "Not as nice as mine, but…"
Ada scowled and sheathed her wonderful new swords. "Yours are Dwarven made, so be quiet." She grinned up at the angel, happiness welling up in her chest. Without thinking she threw her arms around Kratos and hugged him hard. "Thank you Kratos! Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
Kratos stiffened in shock at her hug and patted her awkwardly on the back. "Y…you're welcome." Genis and Lloyd laughed at his awkwardness, earning them a Kratos glare.
Ada came to her senses after a second and leaped away from the seraph, both of them blushing awkwardly. Talk about your heartbeat racing, Ada thought.
A hug. She hugged me. Why would she hug me. Should I have hugged back? Did I want to? No, I am not entertaining these thoughts. Kratos shook his head and folded his arms across his chest. "Use them well, Adalais. Now…where are the girls?"
"Tada!" said Colette as she, Raine, and Sheena appeared, their arms also filled with parcels. Colette bounced over and dropped a box in Ada's lap, as did Sheena and Raine.
"What's all this?" Ada asked.
"Your clothes," Sheena explained. "I saw that you earned us quite a bit of money today and we realized you needed better outfitting than what you have. Not that they aren’t isn’t well made but…"
“They are unsuitable for combat.” Raine finished. “So we got you some things. Think of it also as a way of thanks for your assistance in the ranch."
"Open them!" Colette cried with excited squeal.
Ada opened Colette's bag and pulled out a blue collared shirt, the same pure shade of blue as her t-shirt, and a black leather jerkin that laced tightly up in the front and came down about mid-thigh. Sheena’s gift was a pair of long black pants, sturdier than her fashionable jeans, which would easily tuck into the calf high boots she already wore. Raine had gifted Ada with fingerless leather gauntlets that were similar to Kratos's as well as a messenger style bag to carry her supplies in and…
"What's this?" Ada asked, holding up a long strip of black fabric.
Raine shrugged. "It was Sheena's idea. You tie that around your head like a headband and--"
"It's a ninja headband!" Ada squealed tying it around her forehead so that the ends of the fabric dangled down to one shoulder.
"Exactly," Sheena said. "Legends say it is supposed to encourage poise, stealth and…um…reduce clumsiness."
Ada looked down at the wonderful things she had received before jumping up and hugging the life out everyone, including Kratos a second time, and Noishe.
"Thank you, guys," Ada said. "You have no idea what this means." They trust me…that's worth far more than presents.
They set off the next morning, Ada excitedly donning her new gear and eager to continue the adventure. The group did seem slightly more cheerful, Ada’s enthusiasm rubbing off on them. Raine lead the way, Genis and Sheena behind her, discussing summoning. Corrine was out, riding on Sheena's shoulder, which might explain why Raine was twitching. Lloyd was walking with Colette who was riding Noishe at Lloyd's insistence. Ada was behind them walking next to the one and only Kratos.
To think I'm but a breath away from the mighty Kratos Aurion. I could die of happiness.
Kratos looked at the insanely grinning Ada for a moment before returning his gaze to the sky. She was wearing her new outfit, her hair swept back into a high bun and her eyes shining in the sun. She's…pretty…very pretty. She's beautiful actually. A warrior in black. Even there, she resembles Anna so much, from the clothes she favors to her mannerisms to her smile. But Ada is not Anna. It is painfully obvious.Kratos scanned her mana signature again as though convincing himself. Her mana signature…constantly changing. Why?
"Umm…isn't that the Tower of Mana there?" Genis said, snapping Kratos out of his thoughts.
"Yes!" Raine said excitedly. Like a shot, she was off, dashing up the stairs and running around crying "MARVELOUS!"
"Yeah, yeah," Lloyd said, pulling out the key. "Let's just get inside, find the book, and heal Pietro."
"Sheena?" Ada walked up to the summoner and dropped her voice. "Um…have you made the pact with Undine yet?"
"Yup," Sheena said. "We did that just before you got here, actually."
"Oh, okay," Ada said. "Good. Although I wish I could have seen the summon spirit. It sounds cool!"
Sheena laughed. "You sound just like Lloyd sometimes." Ada grinned and the two women followed the others inside.
Ada took one look around and felt excitement rise in her chest. "Books!" She dashed over to the nearest shelf and ran her hands along the well-worn spines. Behind her, the other stared before returning to the puzzle of opening the path to the seal. A title jumped out at her. The Heroes of the Kharlan War.
"Hmmmm…this one wasn't in the game." She pulled the dusty volume down and opened it. On the first page was a picture of a young boy with long blonde hair and blue eyes, a sword at his side as he lifted his head in self-confidence. Mithos Yggdrasill, the hero who brought about the end of the war in the Holy Ground of Kharlan. Ada examined the fallen hero with a pang. He was hopeful once, she thought. He's lost all thought of light, immersed in darkness forever.
Ada turned the page to examine the picture of Martel. It was strange, but she did look, as Mithos put it, disturbingly like Tabatha…and the actual Goddess Martel. On the next page was her favorite blue headed Seraph, Yuan…there was a smudge over the last name. No wonder you never find it out in the game. So this means the next page is…
And so it was, Kratos as he looked today, down to the purple outfit. The only difference was…"Smiling?" Ada said aloud. The Kratos was smiling, a small smile, hope in his eyes. They all were hopeful…all of them…until Martel met her demise.
"Something inside of us died that day," Kratos’s voice said inside her head. "Mithos lost all belief in what was good and just…Yuan turned hard and bitter, though not enough to stand for Mithos's twisted vision."
"And you turned cold," another voice said, female and familiar. "You felt lost didn't you? So lost, you had no idea how to stop your student."
"Ada!" Lloyd shouted. Ada jumped and closed the book, stuffing it in the pack she had picked up in Asgard. She'd ponder about that strange…almost a sort of memory…later. "Come on!" Lloyd said. "You're coming with us!" Kratos and Colette stood behind Lloyd, and Genis, Raine, and Sheena stood on the circle apparatus.
"Coming!" Ada dashed off after the others. Was that another fantasy, a hallucination? Or was it…a memory? How could that be?
"What was the book you were reading?" Lloyd asked.
"Oh…um…just the legends about Mithos," Ada replied. "While I already know them, they're still fascinating."
"You sound like the Professor," Lloyd said, shaking his head.
They wound their ways through the puzzle that was the Tower of Mana. While Ada was reluctant to help, since she didn't want to affect the story, she was able to make thing move a bit faster. When Raine and the others caught up, they headed to the altar.
"Phew," Lloyd panted. "Man, I'm tired."
"That's because you're always overexcited in the beginning," Kratos admonished.
Ada lipped up between Kratos and Colette, thinking hard. She could feel the tug of mana in the air. Huh, that’s weird. I probably shouldn’t be able to feel that, but then, this particular monster is very powerful.Ada brushed the thought away and focused on a personal dilemma. She had to make a decision that could alter the chain of events and she had to make it now. She bit her lip, thinking. I can't just stand by and let them suffer!"Colette," Ada muttered in the girl’s ear, so only Colette, and probably Kratos, could hear. "No don't turn around. Listen…you're going to lose your voice. If have something important to say to Lloyd, without giving away your eventual fate, say it now."
They approached the altar. "Lloyd?" Colette called. Lloyd turned and looked at her. Colette bit her lip and looked at the ground. "Be careful ok? And don't worry."
Lloyd looked at her, confused. "Yeah, okay. What's up all of a sudden?"
"Nothing," she sighed. There was a flash of light as mana started to issue from the seal.
"It's mana…" Genis stated, pointing out the obvious. "Powerful mana."
"Oh God, I hate this dog," Ada muttered, drawing her swords as a huge winged dog with lethal looking appendages on his tail materialized.
"Don't let up!" Lloyd cried before charging.
"Thy faithful servant asketh for thy blessing. Honor us with the splendor of thy song…" Colette chanted.
"Why does she always do that?" Ada muttered dashing forward, keeping her eyes on the thrashing dog. Kratos and Lloyd were trying to get close, but the Iubaris kept rearing, sending his shadow dogs out at them. Ada skidded forward, and slashed at his tail, before backing away swiftly. Iubaris roared and charged, faster than she expected.
"EEK!" The dog leaped in the air, heading straight for Ada who wasn’t going to get out of the way in time.
Lloyd jumped in the air and grabbed the dog's tail. Kratos dashed under Iubaris and fired lightning attacks at its underside. "Ada move!" he barked. Ada dropped and rolled, the dog's paws crashing on the spot where her head was moments before. The gigantic animal turned, taking in all of his opponents.
"Kratos!" Ada called. "Raine! You both know Ray, right?" They nodded. "Start chanting. Genis and I will follow up with tidal wave and-"
"We'll hit him with a double attack of prism stars," Kratos finished. "Wait...can you do that?
"I...I think so!"
Ada wasn't sure what to do, but she knew she had to try. She closed her eyes, breathing slowly and emptying her thoughts of everything except the coolness of flowing water. She made that water a part of her, gathering her mana, that source of energy inside of her, and willed it to bend to her will. "Form a torrential vortex," she yelled, Genis in unison with her, as Iubaris rose in the air, "and engulf the evil spirits…TIDAL WAVE!"
"Ray!" Kratos and Raine shouted.
"Ready?" Genis asked.
"PRISM STARS!" Four voices shouted. Bolts of light in the form of stars erupted from the four individuals and hounded Iubris relentlessly. The beast dropped, crumbling to the ground and lying motionless.
"Whew," Ada gasped.
"It's not over…" Kratos muttered. Sure enough, the wretched animal struggled back to his feet taking to the air once more, its eyes fixed on Ada as it opened its mouth.
"Guardian!" she cried, but her shield was no match and she cringed as a blast of power exploded from the dog's mouth.
"Ugh!" a male grunt came as a figure darted in front of her.
"Kratos," she cried, as Iubaris dropped back to the ground. Kratos crumpled, having taken the full blast of the hit. "YOU JERK! WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?!"
"Ada, Kratos! MOVE" Sheena cried, trying her best to keep Iubaris at bay. The animal seemed determined to take on the Seraph and the girl. Colette launched her angel feathers at him while Raine cast Photon repeatedly. Genis was calling forth blades of air but…
"What the heck?!"
"It's not working!"
"Damn it," Ada swore seizing Kratos around the waist and pulling him away from the battle. Neither of them was in shape to fight without getting medicine. "Lloyd! Wait…WHERE IS LOYD?!" she shouted. At that moment, Iubaris let loose another of his beams of light and-
"Augggh!" Raine went down.
"Sis!" Genis right behind her.
"Uh-oh," Colette cried as the dog charged again.
"Light!" Ada cried suddenly. "It's immune to light. We need a diferent attack!” Think. There’s no black quartz in this reality and he won’t go down by light. We need a weak spot. Where’s is the weak spot on a giant dog.
Iubris sent another wave of shadow dogs at her, which she just managed to dodge. She stared up at the aimal, searching past it’s crested head, the spikes that rose aeround it’s face like armor.
“Around its head!” she said, realization dwaning. “Its weak spot is the back of its head!” she looked around for help but she was alone. Kratos was on his knees as she maintained her defensive stance in front of him. She couldn’t allow him to be hurt. She need help. “Lloyd! Where are you?!"
The dog turned toward her shout, preparing to charge. Ada crouched over Kratos, wanting to protect him and knowing it was no use.
"NO WAY!" Lloyd shouted...from above?
Ada looked up. "YOU CREEP! HOW DID YOU GET UP THERE?!"
Lloyd grinned from atop Iubaris's head and raised his sword. "Outta my sight!" he shouted. "Rising Falcon!" Lloyd's blades pierced the gigantic monster through the head and erupted out of its jaw. There was a great roar and Iubaris crumpled, disappearing in a flash of light.
"Here!" Lloyd said, tossing two bottles of medicine to Ada. She uncorked one and crouched down next to Kratos, who was sitting with his head in his hands.
"Stupid of me…taking a full brunt hit after using so much mana in that prism stars attack." he shook his head. "And I forgot he was light based. What on earth was I thinking?"
"I forgot too," Ada said, pressing the medicine into his hand, and drinking her own. "That thing is the toughest seal being to beat, even tougher than the summon spirits I think."
“Summon spirits?” Kratos asked sharply.
“Never mind,” she said quickly. “Drink your apple gel. Which incidentally taste disgusting, how disappointing.
Kratos did as he was bid. After a moment he looked at her. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah," she said, biting her lip and frowning. "Why'd you take the hit for me? I had my shield up. Better me out of action than you."
Kratos got to his feet and helped her up. "The truth is, I don't know. It was pure instinct. Mymind was telling me….” he trailed off for a moment and then shook his head. "I suppose I didn't want you to be hurt."
"I see," she said.
"Chosen of Regeneration!" boomed an arrogant voice. Ada rolled her eyes. "Well let's go listen to Lord of the Flies babble. I swear that dude is such a turkey, it’s a miracle no one has plucked his damn wings!"
Kratos chuckled, then immediately tried to hide the fact that he had done so. Ada jumped. I made Kratos laugh!
They retired under a campfire that night, a subdued group since Colette had lost her voice. The silence had been deafening without her cheerful chatter and it grew even more deafening when Sheena finally piped up and told them about Tethe'alla.
"Wait," Raine said after Sheena’s explanation, looking at Ada. "Are you from there as well?"
Ada shook her head. "That's why I said when I first met y'all that I wasn't from the moon."
"Hmmm…I wonder if Earth, as you called it, is also affected by this system." Sheena muttered. Ada shrugged and drifted out as the conversation continued. By my silence…I'm dooming Colette. Yes they will save her, but could Lloyd forgive me for withholding the truth of her fate? And what of Kratos? His betrayal will cut Lloyd deeper than the boy can imagine. Do I have to keep silent?
"Do not interfere," Kratos said. Ada looked around to find that only Kratos was awake, the others having settled and Colette and Lloyd having walked off to “talk”. Ada rested her chin on her knees, looking forlorn. "You know what's going to happen, just as you know your interference could ultimately affect the outcome. Unless this journey is destined to fail and your interference can save Lloyd…do not interfere."
"I know," Ada said. "But you don't know what it's like to know the truth and be sworn to silence." Kratos raised an eyebrow. "Heh. Or maybe you do."
They next morning they set off for Hima for what they all thought would be the last leg of their journey…but Ada knew better.
The mountainous view was truly beautiful and the town small but quaint. Really they should have all felt more relaxed here in Hima, but they didn’t. Kratos and Ada knew the truth of this final visit and could not bear to look Colette in the face. Sheena had her entire world to worry about. Colette had the same problem, plus Sylvarant to worry about. She carried the weight of both worlds. Raine carried the terrible secret and Colette’s fate and couldn’t face Lloyd or Genis with it. Genis and Lloyd thought that tomorrow would bring peace, but both of their instincts told them that something wasn’t quite right.
Needless to say, they all kept to themselves that last day for tomorrow they would head to the Tower of Salvation…
Where we will face catastrophe upon catastrophe.Ada though as she wandered up the mountain path. How can I be silent and just let this happen? I will lose the trust of everyone. They know I know, even though they never ask. True I told them that revealing my knowledge would probably doom the world but will they ever forgive me?
Voices were nearby as she paused by the graves of those who escaped from the ranch. She listened hard as they approached, but she had an idea who it was.
"Your journey is finally coming to an end." It was Kratos. Kratos and Lloyd.
"This isn't the end I hoped for," Lloyd admitted. They were getting closer. Ada jumped up and dashed behind some nearby boulders. She hesitated then peeked around to see Lloyd and Kratos stop by the graves.
"Really?" Kratos asked. "It's the journey you started by clinging to the Chosen. This was to be expected."
Lloyd looked confused "Clinging to the Chosen?
"Don't you remember? It was you who said we have the Chosen on our side, the savior who will regenerate the world."
"Yeah, that's right. I said that. And that's why I have to protect her."
"If relying and depending on the power of the Chosen at the most crucial time is what it means to protect her, then the meaning of the word 'protect' must have changed significantly from my understanding.” Kratos said dryly. “And now the Chosen is trying to resolve everything by sacrificing herself."
"What are you trying to say?" Lloyd finally demanded.
"Lloyd…."Kratos paused. Ada gasped quietly. He wants to tell Lloyd now! He wants to badly, but he can't. Poor Kratos."Don't make a mistake."
Lloyd scratched his head. "I don't quite get it, but I got it. But hey, if I make a mistake, can't I just do it over again?"
"Humph. Do it over..." the Seraph muttered. Ada snorted. "If it's something you can do over again, then…feel free."
Lloyd nodded and left.
"Don't die, Lloyd," Kratos murmured.
Ada leaned against the boulder, breathing heavily. Kratos…are you really going to leave us? There has to be some way to…I don't want you to go! The void will come back. I need you! Lloyd needs you. He needs you more than anything!
Ada dashed out of her hiding place and ran up to Kratos.
"Ada?" he asked in concern. Her face was pale, her eyes shining with unshed tears. "Ada what is it?" Please do not ask me not to do it.
Ada looked down and clenched her fists tightly, shaking her head. She walked up closer to Kratos and stared into his eyes.
"I wish I could say, 'Don't do it,' Kratos," she said. "But…" her voice cracked and she swallowed hard, "I can't. If you don't…you will never get your son back."
Kratos gulped. "What do you mean by—?"
"Don't ask me!" she cried. "Please don't ask me, my resolve to watch you leave is too fragile, my heart hurting too much." She put her hands on his shoulders. "Hurt him, Kratos. Hurt Lloyd, to save him…and save us all." Kratos's heart was pounding. She was much to close. If she came any closer…
Suddenly his hand was at her back, his fingers lifting her chin. She gasped just before their lips met.
This was it. It was this she had felt was missing from her life…because strangely…it felt familiar. This feeling of undying passion and love was a real for her, and him, as though they had lived it before. And as he pulled away, Ada heard that voice in her head.
Everything leads me to you Kratos. Everything.
"No!" Ada shouted, tearing out of his arms and racing up the mountainside, before the tears could fall.
Kratos just stood there and watched her leave. He pressed his fingers to his lips for a moment before striding up the path. For once in his life, his fate was clear, his path was set. For once in his life, he knew exactly what he had to do.