Mirror Image

The Mirror's Edge

"Get it off! Get it off! Get it off! Get it off! Get it off! Get it off!" Ada screamed, running around in circles, desperately trying to untangle herself for the gigantic spider web. It actually wasn't gigantic, but since they had entered the Meltokio sewer and shrunk themselves, it was big on comparison. Only Ada had the misfortune to get tangled as they made their way to the final door.

"Good grief!" Sheena snapped. "Will you hold still?" Ada stopped running. "Cyclone Seal!"

"AAHH!" Ada let out a fresh screech as she was launched in the air, sharp breezes burning, but not cutting her skin. The spider web dissolved just before she hit the ground.

"Thanks," Ada growled, stumbling up. "I think…"

"Sheena did that on purpose," Lloyd whispered to Colette who giggled. They proceeded through the dark and smelly sewer. Ada saw the steps as they crossed the apparatus that returned them to normal size. Ada was growing more and more excited as they neared the stairs, singing softly under her breath, "Regal, Regal! Regal, Regal, Regal!"

On cue, three dirty convicts dropped from above, landing in front of Lloyd, demanding Colette. Lloyd and Sheena silenced their wants before the others could even unsheathe their weapons.

Ada inched up to Zelos, who was standing beside her, just out of reach of the soon to arrive convict. Whistling innocently, she gave Zelos a push and he stumbled forward just as a certain blue haired convict dropped from above, landing directly on the Chosen.

"One move," said Regal Bryant's properly educated and upper-class toned voice, "and the Chosen dies."

Ada was mildly surprised at his appearance. She had always loved Regal's character; he was a voice of reason in the game and he was very much like Kratos in manner and in wisdom. What she didn't notice in the game was that he was kind of hot. His long blue hair may have been scruffy, but it suited him. The white half-shirt he was wearing revealed firm abs and a heavily muscled torso. Who knew eh? Why are all these guys muscled? He mind drifted back to Kratos's callused hands gently running through her hair, the feel of his strong chest pressed against hers, his soft lips eager…GAH! Focus! You'll miss one of your favorite lines!

"Whoa whoa whoa!" Zelos exclaimed, struggling under Regal’s considerable weight. "You think you can get away with doing something like this to the Chosen?"

Regal looked down at Zelos in disgust. "One who plots the destruction of the world can no longer be deemed the Chosen."

“Oh.” Zelos laughed nervously. “Hey, Lloyd! If you abandon me here, I swear, I'll come back to haunt you!"

"I just had a sudden, violent urge to abandon you," Ada said in unison with Lloyd. Everyone looked at her with the now frequent "it's so creepy when she does that” look. Presea was the exception. Instead of paying attention to Ada's insanity, she raced forward, swinging her ax at Regal, who was forced to back away from Zelos.

Regal froze when he saw Presea, his eyes roaming her face. His entire persona changed. His angry face turned to that of surprised disbelief. He dropped his fight stance as he looked Presea in the eyes. "You're…" he broke off. Genis took the opportunity to launch a fireball at Regal, who took the hit in his distracted state. "Damn…” he said, looking around at the others. “Retreat for now," he barked at the stumbling convicts who were regaining consciousness. The men fled, Regal following with one last glance at Presea over his shoulder.

It took surprisingly little time to procure the EC from the research acdemy and before Ada knew it, they were at sea. She roamed around the cramped deck, finally having two seconds alone to think. The only problem was that there was too much to think about and too much that hurt to think about: Kratos, her strange familiarity with this place, watching Lloyd grow strong knowing one day he would face his father in battle, and what was happening to her.

This place…She thought as the ocean churned steadily below her feet as the bot sliced through the bright blue waters. All of these places, but the Asgard Ranch and Luin especially…they feel like fragments of dreams I had long forgotten. God what's happening to me?

Suddenly, Ada doubled over as a sharp stab of pain lanced through her. She braced herself, expecting some other hallucination, but this time it was worse. It was a voice, a voice that sounded both familiar and unknowable, like the voice in your head when you read or think.

You know what’s happening to you said the other voice as Ada leaned heavily against the rail. You know what this is. Your brain won't let you remember. Those responsible for this twist of fate were foolish to think your soul wouldn’t awaken and find your way back to him.

Kratos’s smiling face swam up from the dregs of her mind. There was only one explanation, both for the voice and for the pain. Anna Irving, I presume? Ada thought back at the voice.

Anna Aurion and Adalais Orion, at your service.

What do you mean Anna and Adalais?

Come now, surely you've guessed.

Your soul and existence are linked to mine aren’t they? We’re a match in our mana signature’s, like Colette is to Martel, and I can hear you like Colette can hear her.

Ooooh, so close. Anna said excitedly. But I am much more than that.

Then what are you?

It's not for you to know yet.

Damn it all! Why not? Isn't it galling you that I'm…?

Falling for Kratos?

No?

You will understand Ada. Don't forget that before you came back, you had these chats in your head all the time, I just couldn’t respond fully but now…their souls are pulling me back. Soon, he will make a decision. Then you will know.

"Ada?"

The voice and the pain vanished as quickly as they had come, leaving Ada both illuminated and more confused than ever. She was channeling Anna Irving—or rather Anna Aurion somehow but for what reason? At the sound of her name again, Ada turned to see Raine come up beside her. Raine hesitantly approached the railing, her face white as a sheet.

"Professor Raine" Ada said, backing away from the rail. "Come away from the edge. I know you hate being on this." Raine nodded gratefully and drew back from the waves below. "What's on your mind?"

Raine looked at Ada strangely. "I would think that would be obvious," she said simply.

Ada sighed. "If it's about my existing on another—"

"No," Raine said. "Not that. And not your lying to save us either." She looked Ada dead in the eyes. "Like elves, half-elves have heightened senses, including the ability to feel and identify mana and mana signatures." Ada still looked puzzled. "When you arrived, your mana signature was constantly shiftingunable to maintain solidarity. Now it is practically at war, undulating and twisting, but one side…one side appears to be winning now."

"That explains more than it doesn't. But what does this mean?" Ada asked, hopeful that Raine could shed some light on this.

"I've noticed that there are periods were mana signature is steady and strong," Raine replied. "I think you may know when those times are."

Ada shook her head, though a grain of dread crept into her throat.

"The more you interacted with Kratos, the stronger it got. It was particularly strong at our last encounter," Raine folded her arms. "And thanks to my elven blood…I saw what happened when you two fell, Ada."

Ada's stomach plummeted. She was terrified now, utterly afraid that Raine would think she had deceived them. Oh if she told…this would kill Lloyd! "I suppose you declare me a traitor now?"

Raine smiled at her. "Declare you a traitor? After you saved my brother's life and mine? After you got Colette's key crest? After you stood by us when you could have left with Kratos?" Raine shook her head. "I was angry at first, but I know you are not our enemy. But there is a reason or two why I bring this up."

"Which are?"

"Adalais," Raine said, resting a hand on her shoulder. "You may know what the outcome of our efforts is, but you don't know the outcome of the effect you may have on Kratos's heart. Be careful. He may not be evil, but he is deceitful and he is our enemy. Don’t let him fool you." Ada nodded. "Secondly, do not let Lloyd know. Kratos's departure hurt him the most. Lloyd viewed him as a mentor, almost like a brother. He's hurting. Imagine what he would do if he found out that you, the person he admires in a similar way, were…fraternizing with that man."

Ada watched Raine walk away, stunned at what had just taken place. I do not care what anyone says, opposing force he may be, enemy he is not. They'll know that in the end…and I'll eventually know what my soul is trying to tell me.

It began to rain when the boat docked by Sybak and Lloyd had returned it to the wing pack. They crept back toward the university town, grateful for the rain that put would-be witnesses indoors. Ada was biting her nails nervously, remembering her last visit to Sybak. She would head back to that alley in search of her attacker, but what if it had been—?

"Kratos!" Lloyd snarled, startling Ada out of her reverie. Sure enough, the angel stood there, garbed in white, looking as indifferent as ever. Ada's heart thundered madly in her chest. She longed to speak to him to reach out to him, but knew she could not. "Are you trying to take Colette away?!" Lloyd demanded, drawing his sword.

"I have no intention of fighting you inside the city," Kratos said coolly, drawing his own blade. Instead of striking Lloyd with the blade, he caught his son in the stomach with the pommel of his hilt, knocking the wind from the boy and sending him into a puddle. "You still lack the skills to defeat me."

Lloyd got to his feet, glaring ferociously. "Don't insult me!"

"I merely speak the truth," Kratos said, brushing past him. The group parted to let him through, but the Seraph paused before Colette. "Chosen One. If you wish to live, you must remove that worthless Key Crest."

Colette gripped the pendant around her neck and glared, actually glared almost a frighteningly as Kratos himself. "No." It was as much a refusal as a warning. "I'm never taking it off. Lloyd gave this to me."

Kratos was surprised at how angry the sweet, innocent Colette had gotten. "Foolish sentiments," he sighed, before walking away. Ada watched him go, utterly distressed that he hadn't so much as looked at her.

"Man, what an arrogant SOB. Talking as if he knows everything…" said you know who.

Sheena growled and smacked Zelos upside his head. "While we're on the subject of ways of talking, why don'tcha do something about the vulgar language?"

"Ummm…you guys go on ahead to see Kate," Ada said. "I don't think I should interfere here."

"How come?" Lloyd asked.

I just need a moment," Ada said absently, already staring off in the direction Kratos had gone. “Y'all go on ahead." Lloyd looked confused and started to protest but Raine ushered them away. Ada chose to deliberately ignore the look Raine was giving her and waited until they were all out of sight setting off into the rain washed streets of Sybak.

She walked only a few moments before a patch of shadow to her left caught her eyes. It was the alley she had stumbled upon before, now almost pitch-black under the cloudy rainy skies. Hesitantly, she approached it, looking around to make sure no one was watching.

Ada drew her swords and proceeded forward, listening for a sound other than the pounding rain. There was nothing. She sighed and slumped against the wall, dejected. What did you expect? she thought.

You knew he'd be here, Anna replied.

He’s not.

Are you sure?

Ada growled in frustration and spun around to look at the darkness behind her, determined to smack that voice in her head down a peg or tow. However…

"JESUS!" Ada shrieked, jumping a foot in the air as a figure loomed in the shadows against the wall. There was a brief flare of light and Kratos was illuminated by a fireball in his hand that he transferred to the stone beneath their feet, casting a dim light in their little alley. He was still dressed in his Cruxis outfit, but donned a hooded cloak to blend in with the darkness. "Jesus, Mary, Joseph! You sacred the life out of me!" Ada growled.

Kratos hid a smile as a memory came to him.

Anna was sitting by the rain splotched window, sewing a baby quilt and humming. Kratos crept forward and pecked her swiftly on the cheek. Anna screamed and jumped up, dropping her sewing. Kratos laughed as his wife fixed him with a death glare. "Martel, Origin, and Spiritua! You scared the life out of me!

"May I ask why you are alone in a dark alleyway, Adalais?" Kratos said as Ada sagged against the wall, willing her adrenaline to die down.

"May I ask you the same, Kratos?" Ada snapped. "Or is it Lord Seraph Kratos?"

Kratos shook his head at the title. "Disgusting."

"As is my full name to me," Ada replied.

"Point taken," Kratos said. "But I would have an answer as to why you are here, please."

"I was…looking," Ada said lamely.

"For?"

"You," Ada said finally. "I was looking for you."

"I assumed," Kratos said.

"Why did you attack me here last time?" she asked.

Kratos looked at her confused. “I did not.”

Ada scowled. “Yes you did. I went for a walk and fell down in the alley and you attacked me. No one else could move with that speed.”

“It was not me, Ada,” Kratos said sincerely.

Ada frowned. “Then who—?”

“The better question is why you were alone?” Kratos snapped. “You promised to protect Lloyd. It's a poor lookout, wandering by yourself down suspicious alleys."

"I’m still alive to tell the tale aren’t I?”

"Through luck, something you should not rely on."

Ada held up her hand and made it open and shut like a puppet talking while mocking Kratos deep voice. “Ooh, I’m Kratos, I think I know everything because I am such a bad as, merh.” Ada rolled her yes. “Quit acting like I can’t take care of myself,” she said seriously. “You know better.”

“That isn’t the point,” Kratos insisted. “You don’t understand what you actions…” He broke off, frustrated and determined to make her understand. "Ada…we are in a dark alley in the middle of a downpour because you came looking for me and were drawn to this place. Do you have any idea why?"

"Sort of," Ada said. "It has something to do with Anna's soul being connected to mine."

"Close," Kratos said.

But no cigar, said Anna, which caused Adalais to repeat it aloud. Kratos's heart jumped.

"Tell me please," Ada begged.

"I can't," Kratos said. "Not yet. I have a theory that, until proven, could end up destroying…this."

Ada tilted her head to one side. "This…this being?"

Kratos was exceedingly grateful for the darkness that his blush. "Fate."

"Fate?" Ada repeated. "You always turn it back to fate. Is this fate Kratos, us meeting in this way?"

Kratos thought for a moment, weighing his words carefully before taking a shot in the dark. "It would seem to be fate wouldn’t it…Anna?"

Ada's eyes glazed over and she slumped against the wall, unconscious for a moment. Finally she looked up at Kratos and smiled…Anna's smile.

"I will find a way back Kratos.” Anna words spilled from Ada’s lips. “I promise."

"Anna…" Kratos said breathlessly, desperately, but the moment passed. Ada straightened up, the smile fading as she groaned and clutched her temples.

“You did something,” she growled, glaring up at him and wincing in pain. “You did something that woke… her up didn’t you.”

“Yes,” Kratos replied. “I’m sorry. I had to be sure my theory was approaching accuracy. Am I correct in saying that you awaken to strange memories and feeling with increasing frequency?"

"Yes," Ada said both bitterly and with a hint of sadness. "It’s so confusing. I feel these things in my heart and I feel them just beyond my reach. For the last 21 years, I've been Adalais Orion. But I have apparently had this other person stuck in the back of my head. Why? How?” She looked fearful. “Who am I, Kratos? Am I really me or am I just a puppet for Anna’s soul to control, just like Martel’s vessel.”

Kratos thought for a moment. "Ada, Adalais, Anna. You are all of these. I assume you know your mana signature is constantly shifting?"

"Raine said something like that…"Ada muttered.

"Your mana signature is based off your mana and your existence: where you were born, your parents, your memories, your heart, and your soul. That's why we wipe those things from Martel's vessel." Kratos avoided her eyes, knowing he couldn't look at her until he was finished. There was too much temptation to reach out to her, as there had been since she entered the alley. "Somehow, you ended up here when you shouldn’t have and linked with Anna’s soul. It’s probably because the mana signatures are such a close match. Your mana has something like a crack in it through which Anna’s soul is trying to break through and as it comes back—"

"I lose myself," Ada finished. “I lose Ada and get fragments of Anna. "I see…well that explains why I never like the name Adalais Orion. I remembering telling my father it was the wrong name."

Kratos laughed softly. Wait a second…laughed? Kratos Aurion was laughing. Ada glanced up into his eyes, completely breathless by his laugh. To her, it was the most beautiful sound she had ever heard.

Kratos finally looked up, his mahogany eyes locking with her chocolate ones, so much like Lloyds. Is it possible that they have both come back to me? My son and my wife? He mentally shook himself. It changes nothing. If Anna awakens, she'll be able to stay with Lloyd. My duty is clear.

“It’s not fair,” Ada said suddenly, interrupting Kratos’s marginally happy thoughts.

“What’s not fair?” Kratos asked.

“I’m sick of feeling this way,” Ada burst out angrily. “I’m sick of feeling conflicted, sick of feeling like I don’t belong, sick of feeling like…like…like someone else!” Ada slammed her fist into the brick wall next to her, relishing the pain because it meant she could still in fact feel something as herself, as Adalais Orion. “I just want to be me, not some puppet controlled by a dead woman.” She turned on Kratos, fire in her eyes as she wrestled with her torrent of emotions. “I know you’re going to try to get Anna back, why wouldn’t you, but what happens to me?”

Kratos started to reply, to what end h wasn’t sure, but she cut him off.

“Believe it or not, Kratos, I have feelings for you independently of her. But now I have to wonder, how much of it is because she’s riding along with me and how much is actually coming from me? Not like it matters to you. She’s the only thing that matters to you and it’s not fair that my entire being is the price!”

“You’re wrong,” Kratos replied. As soon as he spoke the words, he could feel the truth of them. “You’re wrong, Ada. Yes, I want Anna back. How could I not? But I see you independently from her. It was Ada I asked to protect Lloyd, it was Ada I jumped off the cliff to save, and it was Ada I sought out in this storm. You matter to me just as much as she does, but just in different ways.”

“You kiss her,” Ada said bitterly. “When you kiss me, you’re kissing her.”

“Not that first time,” Kratos replied honestly. “That first time was about you. And even the second time was still about you. Yes I want Anna back, but I know better than to hope it would happen. I know better than to have you sacrifice yourself. I’ve watched too many Chosen die for such a thing. I’ve watched Yuan suffer too much on that account. I’d never ask it.”

Ada pierce him through with a look that demanded the truth. “And if I chose to saty me. If I fight her and never let her come back…what happens to me and you?”

Kratos shrugs. “We go on as we would have done if you hadn’t fallen from the sky into my arms. We go on like we are now. We both know there will be no reconciliation for me and no happy ending so we go just…go.”

Ada thought his words over, choosing not to address the fact that there was no happy ending for him. She believed him and his expression, despite the doubts about her own self and it did go a long way towards cheering her up. But Ada also knew that so long as Anna was trapped with her, Kratos would never forget it and neither would she. Ada didn’t want to be a puppet, but neither did she want to deny Kratos and Lloyd the one person they needed most. What could she do? What would she do? How long did she have to choose?

"Kratos," Ada said softly. "When do you think I'll… ah…ah…AH-CHOOOOOO!" Ada banged the wall hard with her head as a gargantuan sneeze tore from her. It was then that Kratos noticed that she was soaked to the bone and shivering violently.

"You must be freezing," Kratos said. He unhooked his hooded cloak and wrapped it around her shoulders. "There."

"Thanks," Ada said, clutching it around it her and sitting on the ground, huddled in the cloak. It smelled like him. She smiled up at him, wondering what to say when she sneezed again.

Kratos hesitated. He really should send her back, or leave…but he didn't want to. Not yet. Instead he turned and sat down next to her, stiff and awkward about what he was about to do. He wanted to put his arms around her so she would stop shivering…but could he do it?

Ada sighed in exasperation before scooting over and leaning against him, laying her head on his shoulder. Kratos was taken aback, but only for a moment before he finally put his arms around her, resting his head on hers.

"You were always scared of this…" Ada whispered. "Scared of intimacy. I remember that much. Or I have learned that much. Either one."

"It does not matter," Kratos said softly. "It doesn't matter what you remember versus what you have learned. Just like it doesn’t matter what happens with your soul. Either way, just as Lloyd always says to Colette, you are still you."

But who is that really? Ada thought. And who do I want that to be?


"Nice cloak, Ada," Lloyd said. "You never said where you got it from."

Ada blushed and quickly took of Kratos's cape, stuffing it in her bag. "I found it.”

After finding her way back to the Research Academy, Ada followed the others into the depths of the Gaoracchia Forest. They wound their way through the maze of trees, fighting the odd plant monsters and using the sorcerer’s ring to cut through branches with beams of sunlight. Or rather Raine was cutting through the vines. Upon arrival in the forest, Lloyd had changed the Sorcerer’s ring and was ecstatic to use the light beams. He managed to singe an inch off of Zelos’s hair before Raine snatched it away from her student and entrusted it to Ada. Unfortunately, that did not last long as Ada took the ring and immediately began making light saber noises and pretending to be Obi Wan Kenobi. Zelos lost another inch of hair before Raine took it and kept it to herself.

Now they were trekking up the path to Altessa’s and Ada was grateful no one else had noticed the cloak until now.

"Wait," Colette said as they came to the last crossroads at the edge of the forest. The Chosen stopped and stared down the path directly ahead. "I hear something…footsteps from far away…"

"I don't hear anything," Zelos replied, looking at the girl strangely.

"Colette still has her angel senses," Raine said, musingly.

"They're definitely footsteps," Colette said, straining to hear. "Also, the sound of clinking armor. There are lots of them. It's coming from that direction."

"That can't be good," Lloyd said. "Altessa lives over there. Could it be more of the papal knights?"

"I'll send Corrine out to scout." Sheena called forth her companion and Corrine dashed off into the woods.

There was a rustling from a tree overhead. Ada sighed and unsheathed her sword. Walking over to the tree, she glanced up into its leaves and pointed her blade upward. "Wind Blade!"

Harsh winds severed a tree limb and Regal dropped ungracefully from the tree, a quick twist being the only thing saving him from a face plant.

"That's the guy from the Meltokio sewer!" Genis exclaimed angrily.

"Man, it's just one thing after another with the Pope!" Zelos sighed. "Am I really that much of a problem to him?"

"I do not wish to fight you," Regal said, holding up his shackled hands in surrender. "I just want to speak with that girl."

"With Presea?" Lloyd said suspiciously, glancing at the girl in question, who gave no response.

"You've got to be kidding!" Genis shouted, stepping in front of Presea protectively. "Or did you forget that you tried to kill us?"

Regal shook his head. "I cannot speak for any others, however, I, at least, never intended to take your lives. My orders were to retrieve a girl named Colette."

"Me?" Colette asked.

Regal looked them each in the eye. "I will do you no harm. Presea is her name, correct? Please let me speak with her." Regal approached Presea and caught sight of the cursed orb at her throat. "An Exsphere? You are yet another victim!"

Presea looked at Regal with the blank creepy eyes that were a sign of the spirit being sucked from her body. Instead of responding, she swung her axe, almost killing Regal were he stood.

That was enough for Genis. "Presea's in danger!" Genis exclaimed, shoving Regal away from the girl and gripping his kendama as a spell circle formed beneath him.

Lloyd drew his swords and signaled to the others to do the same. "I don't know what the heck is going on, but we have to stop this guy!"

Lloyd charged just as Genis launched icicles at Regal, who leaped back and looked at the charging foes with tormented eyes.

"We have no choice but to fight then," Regal said. He kicked out, catching Genis in the stomach. That got Raine into the battle. Raine launched a Ray attack at Regal, which hit him dead on but he could use healing arts and use them quickly, almost quicker than Kratos, and he was not deterred for long. Sheena raced forward, her guardian's flying as she repelled Regal back. Lloyd was trying to get in a hit, but he didn't want to kill the man. Interestingly enough, Colette, and Zelos all stood apart from the fight and Presea just stared blankly ahead of herself at the fray.

"Why aren't you fighting?" Ada asked Zelos.

"Same reason you aren't," Zelos grinned back. "Creepy as he is, he seems all right."

"He is all right, isn't he?" Colette asked. Ada nodded. "I thought so. I wonder why we keep trying to attack nice people."

"CRESCENT MOON!"

"OW!"

"SPIN KICK!"

"YOU'LL PAY FOR THAT, SMELLY!"

"EAGLE DIVE!"

"Maybe because nice people keep trying to kill us," Zelos said dryly. Ada laughed just as Lloyd’s hilt connected solidly with Regal's temple and Regal dropped unconscious to the ground.

Raine walked over and kicked him to make sure he wasn't moving before looking up at lloyd. "He sounds like he has reasons for his actions. Perhaps we should take him prisoner? I'm sure he has much to tell us."

"Sheena!" Corrine had returned, looking frantic. "There were a lot of soldiers and they're all coming this way! Run away, quickly!"

"Looks like Colette was right," Sheena said.

"The footsteps…keep getting louder." Colette said.

"Shouldn't we get out of here?" Zelos said nervously.

"But the Papal Knights are waiting for us if we go back!" Lloyd reminded them.

Sheena chewed her lip, bouncing from one foot to the other. "It looks like we have no choice. I'll take you to the village of Mizuho," she said heavily.

"Whoa there, Sheena." Zelos put a hand on her shoulder. “Isn't Mizuho a hidden village, kept secret from outsiders?" Ada was shocked. He’s concerned about her! He is sincerely concerned about what could happen to Sheena if she reveals the location! Surprising. But he’s…he's a lair and a traitor…isn’t he?

"We'll be trapped from both sides if we don't do something!" Sheena said frantically. "There's nothing we can do but take shelter in the village."

Lloyd sighed as though he did not like this idea. That made sense—he didn't want anything to happen to Sheena either. "Okay. Please show us the way, Sheena."

She nodded. "Hey, Zelos, carry the big guy for us."

Zelos crouched and tried to pick up Regal by himself. "Me?! You want me to carry this ogre by myself? Are you kidding me?"

"Here, I'll help. Zelos will have a hard time by himself." Colette said cheerfully.

"Aww, you're so nice, Colette!" Zelos said with a flirtatious smile. "We Chosens have to look out for each other, right?"

"Yeah!" Colette walked over and lifted Regal with one hand, much to Zelos's chagrin, which Ada luckily caught on camera. "Oh, he's lighter than I thought. I can carry him myself."

Zelos laughed in embarrassment.

Raine sighed. "Men are so useless these days."


Regal groaned, attempting to push back the darkness covering his eyes. All he wanted was to speak with the girl who had looked so like Alicia. He didn't want to fight…certainly not to add any more blood on his hands. He could see a splash of red and blue above him as he opened his eyes. The two double swordspeople, who looked so alike they could be siblings, peered at him questioningly. The girl broke into a smile. "Hiya Regal!"

"Wh…where am I?" Regal said, hauling himself up to his feet.

"You're our prisoner," said Lloyd "Don't try anything funny."

Regal looked offended. "I like to think that I'm smart enough not to start trouble when I don't understand the situation." Everyone turned to the second voice who had muttered those words. Adalais covered her mouth with her hands, grinning and looking delighted with herself and this turn of events.

"I don't care how many times she does that," Zelos said. "It's still weird."

"Shut up," Ada said, slugging him in the shoulder.

Orochi approached the group. "Travelers from Sylvarant, you may enter to speak with the Vice-Chief Tiga."

The group left Regal under the guard of two ninjas and followed Orochi to the side of the largest house in the village where he bowed and waited.

Lloyd’s eye brows furrowed. “I don’t understand. Where’ the doo-?”

“I KNOW!” Ada jumped forward and leaned against the wall, pressing her back into the rough wood. There was a faint click and a whirring noise and the wall spun inward sharply, yanking her around with it and depositing her into the main room of the chief’s house.

Outside, the others heard a loud whoop followed by delighted giggles.

“Why do I feel like she is having too much fun these days?” Raine said heavily before lining up with the others and entering the hut.

Tiga sat cross legged on the floor. Ada perched in a corner, and Sheena to the vice chief’s left, her head bowed in submission. In the corner of the room was a large canopied bed, screened for privacy that held a frail looking old man who breathed slowly and steadily though he never moved or woke.

"Our leader, Chief Igaguri, is ill," Tiga explained, noticing their stares. "I, the Vice-Chief, Tiga, shall speak on his behalf." The others sat around the room on the floor and Lloyd sat directly in front of Tiga. Assumming Lloyd to be the leader, Tiga focused on the double swordsman when he spoke. "People of Sylvarant, what do you plan to do in Tethe'alla, the land of your enemies?"

Lloyd sat up straight. "I've been thinking about that for a long time," he said seriously. He gazed at the wall, thinking and remembering, half way smiling, as though at an old friend in a fond memory. Unconsciously, his eyes sought Ada’s and he took some kind of strength from her steady gaze, knowing that she would not judge him for dwelling on the words of an enemy.

"Someone asked me why I came all the way to Tethe'alla…what it is that I want to do." Ada crookedly back at Lloyd as they both thought of the man who had said that. Lloyd returned his gaze to the Vice-Chief, courage and determination in his eyes. "I want a world where everyone can have a normal life. I'm tired of people having to become sacrifices. I'm tired of discrimination. I'm tired of people becoming victims. I'm tired of it all."

"You are an idealist," Tiga observed. "The worlds of Tethe'alla and Sylvarant flourish only by victimizing the others. So long as that structure remains the same, anything you say is mere sophistry."

Lloyd jumped to his feet in an instant, for Tiga had struck the very heart of the matter, asking directly what Kratos Aurion had wanted to know of his son. "Then we need to change that structure! This world was made by that Yggdrasill guy, right?! If a human or elf built this, then we should be able to change it as well!"

Tiga's face softened and he laughed. "You speak like the hero, Mithos. He was a sublime idealist. He ended the Ancient War by insisting there was a way for the two warring countries to coexist in peace.” Tiga looked at Lloyd with something like amusement. “Are you saying you can become the next Mithos?"

Lloyd shook his head. "I'm not Mithos. I want to save the two worlds my way, with the help of my friends."

"So you aren't worried about following past methods," Tiga said. He rubbed his chin in thought and stared out the window. He saw the village he had sworn to protect, the men woman and children who dealt in Shadows and relied on secrecy. They needed a better future and this you man and his friends seemed just stubborn enough to change things. "Well then,” he said finally. “We shall search for a new path as well."

Sheena jumped up in relief, her eyes flitting to her grandpa for a moment before returning to Tiga. "Vice-Chief, do you mean—"

Tiga nodded. "Yes. We will use our information network to aid you. In return, when the path of prosperity for both worlds has been found, we wish to move our people to Sylvarant."

Lloyd looked uncertain. "But I don't have any right to decide something like that."

Tiga grinned. "All we need is for you to aid us in our move."

Lloyd nodded and turned to the others. "Is everyone okay with us joining forces with the people of Mizuho?"

Colette smiled and nodded. "If it will change the relationship of the two worlds."

"Well, it doesn't sound like a bad deal," Raine said.

"Let's hurry up and decide, so we can go rescue Presea," said Genis, glancing at the poor girl.

Zelos shrugged. "As long as Tethe'alla is safe, I don't care what you guys do."

Ada punched her fist in the air, grinning broadly. "Let's do it!"

"Okay then, it's settled," Lloyd told Tiga. "We're going to look for a way to change the two worlds. Let's work together."

"Agreed." Tiga also stood. "Then I hereby order Sheena to continue to accompany you. This time, however, not just as an observer, but as a representative.” He looked at Sheena, his face impassive but his voice containing a hint of pride. “Make us proud."

Sheena saluted. "Yes, sir!"

Zelos looked unsure however. "But Tiga, are you sure you wanna turn the Royals and the Church against you like that?"

Tiga regarded the Chosen coolly. He suspects it of Zelos too, Ada thought. He suspects that when it comes down to it Zelos is self-serving. "How about if I ask you?" asked the Vice-Chief finally. "Given a choice between the forces which wish to sacrifice one of the worlds, and the force that wishes to preserve both worlds, which would you side with?"

Zelos sighed and grinned sardonically. "I'd like to say, 'the one that's likely to win,' but I suppose I'd want to help the side that wants to preserve both worlds."

"Exactly,” Tiga said, though his untrusting expression remained. “Now, the first thing we shall do is devote all our resources to locating the Rheairds. Fortunately, it appears that Sheena attached a guardian to the Rheairds, so we should be able to locate them shortly."

Lloyd nodded as the others got to their feet. "Understood. Thank you for your help." They trooped back outside, Ada voicing her disappointment at not be able to take the wall. The group surrounded Regal, who remained stoic and unfazed.

Lloyd looked the convict over, eyes lingering on the shackles and the solemn face. "What's your name?"

"Regal."

"Regal, huh?" Lloyd rubbed his chin in thought. "I'm sorry, but we're gonna have to keep you prisoner for a bit longer."

"Lloyd," Zelos said, keeping his eyes on Regal's face as well. "How about letting pops here fight, too?” Raine and Gemis started to object, but Zelos cut them off. “He has business with Presea, right? Then, he's not going to try anything before he gets a chance to speak with her, you know?"

Raine looked at Zelos in shock. "Actually, that's not a bad idea."

"Well?” Lloyd asked Regal doubtfully. “Will you fight alongside us for now?" Lloyd asked.

Regal did not hesitate. "All right. I swear upon my good name, and these shackles that bind me, I shall not betray you."

Genis stepped in front of Presea and glared a surprisingly dark look on his young face. "If you do anything even the slightest bit suspicious, I'll burn you to a crisp, got it?" Genis spat.

Colette clapped her hands in delight. "Well, then, welcome to our group, Regal!"

"TO ALTESSA’S!" Lloyd crowed.

"I want to go home…" Presea moaned.

"Or Ozette," Lloyd said, dejected. "That's fine too…"

The group made excellent time back through the forest. As soon as they entered Ozette, Presea took off, leaving the others behind. Naturally, Genis suggested they followed her. They were briefly held up by the scum Rodyle, but made their way inside the small hut where Presea seemed to live with Ada still glowering from the Grand Cardinal’s appearance.

As soon as they crossed the threshold, a terrible, foul smell met their nostrils. Ada stopped dead, her mind reeling. Pain shot through her skull as she doubled over, another memory fragment surfacing at the smell. God that smell, so horrible and so familiar… The room around her went dark.

She could smell the awful stench of rotting flesh and days-old blood. She crawled to the tiny barred window through the darkness, pulling up to gulp great breaths of unsullied air, but it was no use. The stench of death had her dizzy and nauseous. Her hand ached fiercely, the cursed exsphere glinting cruelly in the moonlight peeking through the bars that held her captive.

"Ada!" Colette shouted. "Ada!"

Ada opened her eyes slowly, head pounding fiercely. She saw dirt beneath her nose and she way swaying gently from side to side. After a moment she realized that she was dangling over someone's shoulder. Turning, her head she saw—

"Oy! Put me down Zelos!" Ada smacked the pervert upside the head, causing him to stumble and fall, dropping her on her back. She jumped up and looked around, taking in the mountains around her and the dark passage way before them. She knew where they were. "We're at the Toize Valley Mine already?"

"As soon as we got to Presea's you passed out. You kept muttering about getting to Altessa so we just decided to carry you here,” Colette explained. The professor said you were fine, but she didn’t know why you wouldn’t wake up.

“Wait just a minute,” Zelos said hotly, rubbing the side of his head. “Like Colette said, you were unconscious the whole time so how could you know we were at the mine?” Zelos glared. “In fact, you always seem to know everything before it happens. How?"

"Long story," Ada muttered. "To sum it up…I'm from the future of an alternate dimension and know what comes to pass on this journey, yet if I reveal the future or interfere too much, it will destroy everything."

"Well that certainly cleared that up!" Zelos said sarcastically. Ada ignored him. She looked around and noticed only Zelos and Colette were present. "Are the others inside?"

"Yup!" Colette said. "Me and Zelos have been taking turns carrying you. We figured we'd wait out here."

"So Altessa refused to help after all," Ada said. Colette nodded.

"Miserable old dwarf," Zelos growled before rounding on Adad again. “So you really expect us to believe you came from some other world and just happen to be able to tell the future?”

“I don’t expect you to believe anything,” Ada said cooly. Her head was still hurting and she was in no mood to entertain Zelos. “I don’t care what you believe Zelos. You are of no significance to me.”

Hurt flashed on the Chosen face but he masked it quickly with a laugh. “You’re a real piece of work aren’t you, Adalais? Miss high and mighty, miss know it all. You may have some creepy ability to see the future but you are incapable of seeing anything else unless you’re looking down your nose at it.”

Anger flared up sickeningly in Ada’s stomach. How dare this lecherous traitor lecture her and insinuate that she thought she was better than anyone? Pot and kettle, that’s what it was. “Colette, please go check on the others. I’d like a word with Zelos.”

Colette hesitated, reading the tension like a book.

“It’s all right,’ Ada assured her, but it wasn’t until Zelos’s curt nod that she actually departed. Ada waited until she was out of ear shot, both human and angelic, before hissing at Zelos. “I don’t know who you think you are to lecture me. I know your future Zelos Wilder and I know your past. I know what you are doing, who you are spying for, and what you will do. I know about that bloody day in the snow and about the sister locked away in the alley. I know you. So if I look down my nose at you, it is only because you are so vile that you are on level with the dirt beneath my shoes.”

Zelos was stunned, but he recovered quickly, just like before. “You say you know my past and future, about the skeletons in my closet and the things I am doing even now. Fine. Clearly you do. But if that’s true then you know the pasts of Regal, Yuan, Kratos, Presea, everyone. They have all done things they weren’t proud of, things they felt they had to do to survive or protect someone one. So why is it I alone am judged unworthy by you?” Ada made to reply but Zelos cut her off. “You think you know me and my reason, but you don’t. You haven’t ever made any attempt to know. The moment we met, you treated me like dirt. Never gave me a chance. How is that fair?”

“Because you’re a pervert and a creep,” Ada spat. “You could betray us at any moment.” And will.

Zelos rolled his eyes. “All the flirting, all the double dealing, and all the swagger—it’s just means to an end. It’s all just a game I play to try to come up with the winning hand. Instead of judging, maybe you should try to understand. Maybe you should focus less on what you think I am going to do and more on trying to convince me not to do it.” Zelos sighed heavily. “Do you think I want to be a bad guy? I don’t. but right now…it seems like the only option.”

And there it was, in terms so plain that Ada felt foolish. All this time she had hated Zelos on the premise of actions in a video game. The actions were true, the motives were trues, but as she had found in the game, simple choices could change those actions. She was so wrapped up in gaining Kratos that it never occurred to her that they could also save Zelos. Ada recalled that moment in the forest, when Sheena agreed to bring them to Mizuho and Zelos had tried to talk her out it. He cared about Sheena and maybe there was redemption in caring about someone other than himself.

“You’re right, Zelos.” Zelos didn’t even try to hide his shock this time. “Not entirely right, but mostly right. I have been rather judgmental of you, based off of what I know. You ask me for incentive, for a reason for you not to be a bad guy and here it is: these people you travel with are your friends. They can help you if you would only trust them.”

“They don’t trust me. You don’t trust me.”

“Give us a reason to then.”

Zelso sighed. “Trust is such a pain,” he moaned. “Can we go back to me being a selfish jerk?”

Ada was fairly sure he was kidding and for once decided to play along. “Nope. Now I have to tell everyone what a big softy you are under all that douchebaggery.”

"CRUSHED! UTTERLY DESTROYED THANKS TO YOUR FOOLISHNESS! A PRICELESS RELIC OF-"

Ada began to laugh as the shouts reached their ears. "Raine's chewing Lloyd out because he crushed the Naploosa Bacura."

“Bless you,” Zelos said as the gang came out of the mine, scratched and dirty, except for Colette.

"All right already, Professor!" Lloyd shouted. "Let's just get Presea her key crest!" He saw that Ada was awake and grinned. "Ada!" he exclaimed. "We were getting worried. You've been out a while."

"Yeah…" Ada trailed off, unsure how to explain her passing out, or how to reconcile the revelation she had just had with Zelos. "Yeah, I guess it was the smell. I’m ok though. Do you have the ore?"

"Yeah," Lloyd said, holding up the inhibitor ore. “Let's hurry up and save Presea!"

They returned to Ozette, Ada preoccupied as memories of the Asgard Human Ranch drifted back into memory. It was so utterly frustrating to have flashes like these, not helped by Anna's voice in the back of her head. Ada was torn still. Who was she? Was she Ada or Anna?

"That's them! The wanted criminals!"

Ada swore, forgetting about that man entirely and about the Papal Knights as well. "I'll get you later," she vowed to the fleeing man, drawing her blades.

"Ah crap, not the Papal Knights again!" Zelos cried.

"Why do they always show up where we're going?!" Sheena asked.

"Couldn't be that bastard Kuchinawa's charm could it?" Ada muttered, but no one heard her.

"Well, well, if it isn't Master Zelos," sneered the commander. "I trust you are well." He turned to his fellows. "Remember, capture Colette alive!"

"Not on your life!" Ada cried. She leaped in the air. "Rising Falcon!" Her blades dug deep into the knight's flesh, the man gagging as blood welled up in his throat. She wrenched her blades free as the dying man crumpled. Regal went for the commander, driving his foot into his neck with a sickening crunch. Lloyd decapitated the second papal knight with a Beast attack. Wow…Lloyd has gotten so much stronger, Ada thought.

Lloyd looked sorrowfully at the broken bodies and bloodstained swords. "We managed to win."

Colette hung her head. "It's my fault again. I'm so sorry, everyone."

Zelos shook his head. "Don't be silly. They're after my life, too. The Professor and Genis are wanted because they're half-elves…or well I guess Ada is, but they would be if the papal knights knew. Sheena is from Mizuho, now considered a village of traitors, and Regal is considered a traitor as well."

Lloyd put his hand on Colette’s shoulder. "Stop thinking everything's your fault."

Colette looked at him sadly. "I'm sorry, Lloyd."

"You don't need to apologize for it—" Lloyd began, but Colette crumpled suddenly to the ground.

"Ow! Ugh! Ow! Ow!" Her eyes scrunched up as she knelt, clutching her torso in pain.

“Colette?!" Lloyd crouched, putting his arms around Colette. "Professor!"

Raine rushed over and examined her student. "She's running a fever. But what could be causing this much pain?"

“Get down!” Ada shouted drawing her swords. To hell with the timeline, Rodyle wasn’t getting Colette. “Lloyd, get Colette to cover, now!”

“What?” Lloyd asked in confusion.

"Move," said a soft voice from behind. "Please leave this…to me…"

"Presea?" Raine looked hesitant as the young girl approached suddenly. "A…all right."

"Damn it, no!" Ada reached out just as Presea swung at Colette and manage to get in between the axe hilt and Colette. Ada felt as though a boulder had hit her as pain spread through her body and she slumped to the ground. There was another thump and Colette slithered down, Ada turning to catch her as she struggled to remain conscious. Then she heard the high-pitched voice of madness.

"Good work, Presea!" Rodyle cackled. "That foolish girl actually thought she could withstand your axe!"

Ada did her best to glare. "Do…what you like…to me. But you're not…getting Colette!"

There was a shriek above. Ada gripped Colette with all her strength as the two Dragons descended.

"Damn! Corrine!" Sheena shouted. Sheena summoned Corrine and Corrine tackled Presea to the ground, knocking her out. Rodyle laughed.

"Fine," he cackled. "I'll just take you both." The dragons opened their claws and Ada felt the sharp points close around her body as she refused to let go of Colette.

Rodyle boarded the second dragon and looked at the shell-shocked friends of his new prisoners. "I am Rodyle! The most cunning of the Desian Grand Cardinals! I hope you don't mind me taking the Chosen One and this foolish wench!" The dragons took off, Rodyle cackling madly.

Why do I always lose consciousness? Ada wondered as her vision went dark for the second time that day.


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