Fly trapping, star gazing, hill tripping
A/N: Not sure how many of you read the authors notes, but I just wanted to that Skewed Destinies was added to the TV Tropes read list for Tales of Symphonia fanfiction. I know it's probably not that bigger deal since anyone can probably add it, but whoever you are that did it, thank you from the bottom of my heart. It really made this writer feel appreciated!
In other news, I also got married! On with the story! :)
Fly trapping, star gazing, and hill tripping
To say that Lloyd was surprised when he let out a yawn after they had made their way out of Sybak and met up with the always patient Noishe was an understatement. At first he just yawned like normal, and then he stopped mid-stride and stared. He opened his mouth and tried to force out another yawn. It wasn't easy to do it unnaturally. His eyelids felt heavy too.
Yuan sniggered from the back of the party when he observed Lloyd opening his mouth wide to try and replicate the yawn. "Try not to be so surprised when you're tired. You'll catch flies if you hang your jaw open like that for too much longer."
Lloyd just looked at his former professor. It was always confusing when Yuan made jokes like that. "Oh come on," Sheelos groaned, walking past and rolling her eyes. She turned back to look at Yuan. "Don't be so hard on him, Mr Serious Chosen."
"Come to think of it," Lloyd started, curiously looking between her and Yuan, "Did you know Yuan was really the Chosen, Sheelos?"
"I've also been wondering about that too," Gesea admitted.
Sheelos laughed a little and crossed her arms behind her head. "'Course I did. As an operative for Mizuho, the Chosen and I have exchanged information vital to Tethe'alla on more than one occasion. I just.. didn't think to bring it up, is all."
"You didn't think to bring it up?" Gesea raised one eyebrow. "Seriously?"
"Well you didn't tell me you were a half-elf either," Sheelos defended.
"That's because it was none of your business," Yuan replied for Gesea. Sheelos glared at him and his lip curled up in part amusement. "Come now Miss Assassin; you know the Gaoracchia woods better then everyone here. Is there somewhere safe we can set up camp?"
"O..oh yeah," Sheelos pointed to the forest they could see off in the distance, then changed the direction she pointed slightly to some grassy mountains on her left. "If we go through the forest entrance and use the sorcerers ring on the weeds to the left of the path, we should find a little secluded spot." She headed on ahead carelessly, waving them to follow. "It's my favourite spot. Nobody around. You can do all sorts of things in secluded spots just like that."
Lloyd wasn't sure what she was on about again and decided to stay at the back of the group with Gesea, Colette and Noishe while Yuan stepped past to walk with Sheelos.
"Lloyd?" Gesea asked when Sheelos and Yuan were out of reasonable earshot. "Do you really not mind that I'm a half-elf?"
"Why should I?" he asked. "You're Gesea. You're always going to be Gesea. Well, as long as you don't split into two people like me anyway."
"That is why I like you, Col," Gesea smiled. When Lloyd accidentally sighed at his old nickname, she looked apologetic. "Oh sorry. Lloyd." She gave him a curious look. "Do you feel any different? You look different, but I can't say it is a bad look.." Her voice went softer and she quickly glanced away. "I..I mean, your new name suits you I think, somehow."
"Thanks," he nodded. He thought about telling her then and there how different he actually did feel. The most awkward part of it all was the angel floating silently behind him at all times. A constant symbol of his change and that he had no real way of explaining it to anyone.
A chill crept up his spine suddenly and he whirled around just as a ethereal ghost monster appeared out of nowhere. He drew his sword and held it with both hands. It felt awfully unnatural. Gesea reacted much quicker and summoned her kendaxe and called forth a flurry of fireballs. The monster flew back but didn't seem quite done. Yuan and Sheelos up ahead were fighting what looked like a giant praying mantis. It spat some kind of green goo at them and they dodged out of the way and quickly flanked the enemy.
Lloyd ran into his own battle with his sword gripped tightly. He drew it back and went to strike with a weighted thrust when the monster disappeared into thin air. Moments later, a tingle of cold air hit his back and he turned to see the transparent white ghost monster right in front of him. He went in for the attack again, seeing Gesea's fireballs leaving her body from a short distance away. Before either attack could connect, the ghost monster let out a gut-wrenching low cackle. It disappeared again, this time leaving some gald on the ground where it had -very temporarily- hovered.
Colette floated slightly off of the ground in front of him, her aura glowing pink for a second longer and then fading. It didn't take a genius to figure out what had happened. Lloyd heard clapping and looked to Sheelos and Yuan, who had just finished defeating their praying mantis. "Colette's a pretty good body guard," Sheelos called with a grin as she put away her short sword. "I would really have some trouble if I still needed to assassinate you now." She stuttered, "Which I'm totally not going to do, for the record."
"That's another thing Sheelos," Gesea pointed out. "Why exactly are you joining us again?"
"Oh," Sheelos blinked in realisation. "The Chief wants me to keep an eye on how you're going with the journey. Once I told him what you want to achieve, he seemed pretty chilled with the idea of letting you live."
Lloyd sighed, "I feel so judged right now."
"Me too," Gesea agreed, sighing too. "Now we have two people keeping tabs on us."
"It's typical of Mizuho," Yuan pointed out. "They're probably trying to figure out whether it is better to side with the King or all of us."
"Pretty much," Sheelos agreed as she and Yuan disappeared into the shadows of the forest ahead.
With some very quick slashes of Yuan's double bladed sword and a few scared whines from Noishe, the group came to a familiar device. As usual, Lloyd felt his sorcerers ring react to the magic it let off. When he pointed the ring ahead of himself, it did just as Sheelos had said. It was like a torch of magic. It was incredibly bright and when he shone it on the ground he could see little bugs on the forest floor scuttling away to the darkness.
"You'll want to be careful with that," Sheelos said. "It only has so much charge and it's night time at the moment."
"What does that mean?" He looked at his ring carefully. It glowed golden at the moment with the magic from the circular humming device in front of him inside it.
"It's probably powered by the sun," Gesea answered.
"Right again, kid," Sheelos said, giving her a thumbs up.
Gesea crossed her arms. "I am not a child."
Lloyd sniggered but didn't dare argue her point. Sheelos and Yuan led them through the forest quickly again and to a flat clearing of land surrounded by mountains and facing out to the sea. As Sheelos had said, there were some thick viny tendrils blocking the path through. All it took was a short burst of light from the ring and the tendrils retreated backward into the brush that surrounded the narrow path they were walking.
"Dinner's served," Sheelos said. "I hope everyone likes curry."
They had discovered that not only had Sheelos decided to join them, she had also stocked up on a bag of food from her home town. Lloyd didn't recognise most of it, but a lot of it was fresh fruit and vegetables and various meats that she said did not require refrigeration.
When Sheelos passed him his bowl of food, he hesitantly took it. It was a light green coloured broth. He could see a yellow slice of something floating in it. Carefully staking his fork into it, he lifted it out to discover that it was a thin slice of pineapple.
Sheelos looked at him. "Don't like pineapple?" She frowned. "Or maybe you don't have an appetite?"
Lloyd shook his head. "No, it's not that." In fact, he felt like the days he had gone without food had all crept up on him at once. "It's just I didn't realise pineapple was an ingredient in curry."
"It isn't usually," Gesea agreed. She smiled a Lloyd, who had started to shovel the food into his mouth. "Looks like you've definitely got your appetite, but maybe your taste hasn't returned?"
Lloyd looked at his half empty bowl and asked why in-between chews. Gesea grimaced. "I saw Sheelos use bell peppers in there."
"You were watching me cook?" Sheelos asked, sounding offended.
"There are?" Lloyd swallowed his mouthful. "Tastes pretty good." He frowned and set the bowl down, realising this was a good opportunity for discussion. He warmed his hands on the camp fire they had pitched and relished in the warmth for a moment before starting. "I think I'm a bit different than I was before I went to the tower." He petted the chakram holder on the ground near his backpack. "I used to dual wield with a chakram and a sword, but now it just feels awkward."
"Twin swords may feel more your style," Yuan said lightly after swallowing a mouthful of his own curry.
Lloyd looked at his backpack and then at Yuan. "You think so?"
"There was a reason you kept them, right?"
He was talking about the twin swords Lloyd had found at the fire seal. He had sharpened them using a stone Kraine had gotten at the market in Palmacosta. He unzipped his backpack and didn't need to rummage far to find the twin swords and their sheaths. He weighed one in each hand. It felt surprisingly natural, just as Yuan had suggested it might. He looked at the blue haired half-elf uneasily. "How did you know that I had the twin swords in my backpack?" He recalled meeting Yuan specifically after he had taken them out and almost sold them to the weapons vendor.
"I saw them when you opened your backpack numerous times," Yuan replied simply, weaving his spoon around his fingers and waiting for the question to snowball into an avalanche of other questions. It did.
"Why did you come to teach at Iselia if you're the Chosen of Tethe'alla?" Lloyd asked, glad to finally ask his first of many burning questions.
"Should the Chosen of Tethe'alla not be allowed to journey?" Yuan answered his question with another question. Lloyd grinned, remembering his long conversations with the man during his early years at Iselia. Yuan called it 'The Game of Questions.' The aim was to question something until you couldn't any more and then figure out the answers between the lines. The person who couldn't ask the next question lost. He suddenly wished for a piece of paper.
"How did you get to Sylvarant?" Gesea asked before Lloyd could think of a smart question to answer Yuan's question. Her gaze travelled to Sheelos, currently blowing on her spoon. "Did you come on a rheaird? If you did, how did you get one?"
"A rheaird would make things a lot more convenient, wouldn't it?" Yuan replied, grimacing.
Gesea looked confused; she wasn't familiar with the game. Lloyd ate another couple of spoons of his curry. It seemed to taste better and better the further down to the bottom of the bowl he got. Not to mention he finally had victory for the game in sight. "The right question is "What colour was his rheaird?"
"What colour were Colloyd's eyes?" Yuan asked. He sighed and bowed his head the second the question left his mouth.
Lloyd laughed and clapped. Gesea blinked at him in surprise and looked at Yuan, who gave a defeated smile. "You win, Lloyd."
"So you did have a rheaird?" Gesea realised, her eyes widening. "A blue one? How did you get one?"
Yuan's eyes narrowed at her. Lloyd recognised the look. He was ready for rematch. "Are you accusing me of conspiring with the Renegades, Gesea?"
"N..no," the pinkette half-elf replied. "I just.."
Lloyd smirked. "Yuan wins this one."
"Now if you don't mind, I'd like to get back to eating before my meal gets cold." Yuan proceeded to dig into his curry again. Lloyd still had lots of questions to ask but reluctantly agreed. He was starting to feel pretty tired. The last bite of his meal seemed like an effort to finish. He yawned and rested back on the fresh grass underneath him, trying to think of all the things he had formulated in his head to ask during their travels from Meltokio and Sybak. First he wanted to ask Yuan what it was like to be a Chosen in Tethe'alla, but before he could get the words out of his mouth, his eyes drooped shut and he gave into slumber.
A short time later..
Yuan looked at the sleeping Gesea and then at Lloyd snoring loudly, then back to Sheelos. "How long will they be out for?"
"Only for the night like you asked," Sheelos replied, looking at the sleepers with an agitated expression. "You do realise this is really risky, right? The kid is sharp as a tack."
"I don't need a lecture from you to realise that. I am well aware." Yuan turned to look toward the forest. "With things how they currently stand and with Lloyd's short lived and yet boundless curiosity for new places, it is important they not journey deeper into the Gaoracchia forest anyway."
Sheelos rolled her eyes. "You're doing that thing again."
"The thing where you use one reason to cover up another." Sheelos gave Yuan an exasperated look when he started to seem disinterested in continuing on in that line of conversation. "Okay, okay. I get it. Let's just hurry and get them to Ozette. I need my beauty sleep." She looked at Colette sitting on the grass, vacantly staring in Yuan's direction. "You can tackle carrying Lloyd, if you dare."
"I'll admit, I hadn't thought of those implications," Yuan said, looking at the angel. "Well, here goes."
Lloyd found himself looking up at stars. He pointed to them and laughed, and heard a laugh back. He looked to his right. A woman in a thigh-length pink dress approached. He couldn't see anything except a dark shape above her neckline, but he knew she was his mother.
"Are you having fun with daddy?" she asked, her voice sweet like honey. Lloyd felt his heart warming at just the sound. He looked down and saw a tall man standing underneath him. He was sitting up on his shoulders. The man must have been his real father. He could only see the shape of his jawline and a strong smile on his lips. In the back of his mind, he noticed something was different than how he'd seen him before. He couldn't place it though.
"Be careful Lloyd. If you fidget too much you'll fall," his father warned in the voice Lloyd recognised as his own.
"But the stars!" he exclaimed as though it were an automatic response. His mother giggled and stepped closer to him and his father. He looked down and watched as his mother put one arm around his father and rested her head on him just below where his feet sat.
"I wish things could stay like this forever my angel," she whispered.
"Altessa is not far from here. We must travel when Lloyd sleeps," his father said, tapping Lloyd's little leg in a "Did you hear that?" manner. Although his adult mind wanted to respond accordingly, he found himself instead not wanting to and focusing on the stars.
"Lloyd will be old enough to walk on his own soon," his mother said. "Will we then be able to travel by day?"
His father shook his head. "He will only be a burden while awake."
Lloyd giggled when his fathers hair tickled his legs and face. He wanted to be embarrassed at the little squeaky voice coming out of his mouth, but it all felt natural and cosy.
"He does ask a lot of questions," his mother laughed. "I suppose my genes are the ones to blame for that."
"Should I be offended?" his father asked, sounding somewhat teasing.
The stars in the sky slowly started to disappear and the scenery became blurry. Lloyd felt a strange weightless feeling come over him. Everywhere went dark..
He opened his eyes and gazed around himself. The scenery was unfamiliar. He was lying under a white blanket with a wooden roof above his head. Gesea slept in an identical bed on his left and Sheelos on the right. Colette sat in a chair near the door to the right with her usual vacant stare on him and Yuan was nowhere to be seen. A grandfather clock next to a burning fireplace on the left side of the room identified the time to be around seven o'clock. He assumed that meant in the morning since he could see daylight from outside flooding in from a square window opposite him. He wondered if he'd sleep walked for half their journey to the next village at some time in the night or early morning and guiltily realised they might have been in trouble and he'd been too tired to be mentally aware.
He started to recall what he could about his dream. It had been a good dream- something that he hadn't had in what felt like an eternity. He thought about his mothers voice and felt warm inside again. Then his memory of sitting on his fathers shoulders and looking up at the stars kicked in. Looking at the stars was one of the only things he could remember from his time with his family. It was a hazy memory at best but he'd always thanked his dream-state self for remembering more about it than he usually could. Something about his dream bothered him though.
Pulling the bed blankets off of himself, he put his feet on the polished wooden floor at the end of his bed and stood to stretch. As he was examining the twin swords on the floor an arms length away from him and wished he could remember the voice of his father, he paused mid-stretch. That's what it was.
"Be careful Lloyd," his father had warned. Whenever he'd dreamed of his family before he began the Journey of Regeneration, he recalled his name being Colloyd in them. Yet his father clearly said Lloyd now in them. It seemed strange but he decided to put it down to how Gesea had explained once that dreams were a mirror to his inner self. He supposed that was why the man who he knew was his father in his dreams did not look like an angel with white wings and a halo any more. Remiel was not his father.
He squinted hard, trying to unblock the darkness that surrounded his parents faces in his dreams until the door to the room opened with a short creak and the only person who hadn't been present when he'd awoken stepped in, Noishe trampling in behind him. Yuan faced him and closed the door behind himself. "Oh, you're awake Lloyd." His tone had the slightly sarcastic ring to it that Lloyd remembered most from when he had asked stupid questions during some particularly long Games of Questions.
"Yeah," he nodded and scratched the back of his head, wondering how to start explaining himself. "I guess me not remembering travelling here means you either had to carry me or I sleep walked?"
Yuan grimaced. "You were not light despite your angel wings."
At Yuan's words, Lloyd suddenly remembered the first question he'd wanted to ask the previous night. "What's it like to be the Chosen over here, Yuan?"
"What's it like to be the Chosen in Sylvarant?" Yuan asked.
The Game of Questions was a great way of dodging questions too, if you were good at it. Lloyd groaned at Yuan. "Come on, it's too early for games."
"Hmph," Yuan crossed his arms, "it's a lot of work. I suppose I have no right to complain though."
Before much more could be said, Sheelos let out a louder than necessary yawn and sat up from her bed. "Morning already?"
"I was about to wake you," Yuan said. "We have dawdled for too long as it is. We should head directly to Altessa's house." He looked at Lloyd. "Wake Gesea. I'll wait downstairs for you." He turned from him and left, his cape catching the breeze behind him slightly and almost getting trapped in the door as he closed it. Lloyd watched the door, a bit confused. Yuan seemed different this morning.
He looked at Sheelos, who sighed and shrugged her shoulders. "You can't blame him for not liking being the Chosen. It's probably better you don't keep nagging him for information."
"...Guess you're right," he agreed eventually, feeling a bit defeated and heading over to wake Gesea.
"You okay Gesea?" Lloyd asked once they were ready to go. Like him, Gesea seemed a bit disorientated about how she'd woken up at what looked like an inn. "I know, weird huh?" He laughed. "We must have both been pretty tired."
"I guess so," she nodded, seeming unsure. She gazed around the inn again but didn't say anything more.
"It's fine," Sheelos waved a hand about while she still lay on top of her bed, appearing to know what the pinkette half-elf was thinking. "Don't worry kid. You were light as a feather!"
Gesea crossed her arms angrily and glared at her. Apparently Sheelos had been wrong. The assassin flinched and excused herself from the room quickly after that.
"Let's go Lloyd," Gesea said, heading out the door with her arms still crossed over her chest. He agreed, not knowing what to say. Sheelos was hard to understand but he could tell that she usually said things to lighten up the mood, not to actually cause trouble. He picked up his twin swords from their place near the foot of his bed and slipped them in to the loops on each side of his belt. and quickly chased after his friends.
Yuan was leaning against a wall next to a shelf full of decorative barrels and vases when they reached the bottom of a small staircase and stepped into the foyer of the inn. He looked at Sheelos, who approached first and then at the moody Gesea not too far behind her. "Been picking on Gesea again, Miss Assassin?"
Sheelos raised one eyebrow and turned to Gesea. "C'mon, I was just kiddin."
Gesea sighed loudly and looked at Yuan. "Where are we?"
Lloyd nodded. "Sheelos wouldn't say."
"Follow me," Yuan replied, straightening himself from the wall and heading out the front door.
They did as he said and stepped out to breathe in air that smelled of freshly cut lawn and to face a small set of steps that led up to a grassy patch on what looked like an enormous grassy vine. Looking up, Lloyd could see the village that surrounded them was filled with trees and large vines that were stable enough to hold other houses. Some large trees that reached high up into the clouds provided some natural support beams here and there as well as a green coloured shade from the sun. Lloyd's breath caught in his throat. It was like mother nature had learned the basics of woodwork.
Yuan gestured around himself. "This is-"
"-Ozette," Gesea said, cutting Yuan off. Everyone looked at her. She looked just as confused as them as she walked up the steps slowly and looked at her surroundings. "This is Ozette. Kraine told me.. that I.. we were from a village called Ozette. We were abandoned by our mother and... " Without warning she ran from the group. Noishe barked and scampered after her.
"G..Gesea!" Lloyd yelled, climbing the steps that led from the inn and hurrying after her.
The moment he stepped on to the main vine, he almost tripped over. He caught his balance quickly but watched as Colette behind him, who wasn't floating and had her pink wings away for a change, wasn't so lucky. She tripped and fell, all without a sound. The footing was very bumpy and steep and Lloyd felt like he was standing on an angle, but he managed to angle himself correctly to help her up since Yuan and Sheelos seemed reluctant to touch her. Gesea hadn't seemed troubled by the footing at all though and before he could do anything, Lloyd lost sight of her as she dashed through the town and down a long vine to somewhere below them.
"Ozette is an acquired taste," Yuan admitted. "Don't be surprised if you trip more than once while you get used to the-" He stopped when Lloyd started to go ahead again and Colette tripped once more, as soundlessly as the first time.
Lloyd smiled and helped her up again. This time he held his gaze with hers. "It's probably better if I just hold on to you, Colette. You're going to hurt yourself if you keep tripping."
She stared vacantly at him with his old eyes and he tried not to let it show that a shiver crept down his spine every time she did that. He stuttered for a moment before turning away and leading her, Yuan and Sheelos in the pursuit of Gesea.
After using one of his swords for balance and holding on to Collete's hand, Lloyd reached the bottom of a very steep branch-like slope to see a large wooden house to his right. It sat on a small mound of concrete and was surrounded by a wooden picket fence. In front of the house sat what looked like makeshift grave, and in front of it knelt Gesea. Noishe stood next to her, panting heavily and looking at the woodcutters axe that was tied to a stake with what looked like an inscription on it.
Lloyd cautiously approached, letting go of Colette's hand gently as he did. Yuan and Sheelos watched on from a respectable distance. Gesea looked up at him, her eyes red and puffy. He sat down next to her and waited for her to tell him, though a grave hardly needed an explanation as far as he was concerned. The name on the grave read "Sieg." It sounded male.
"I..I remember now," Gesea said, sadness in her voice. "Daddy was ill. That was why my sister went to work for a noble." She looked at the axe and the stake. "Kraine told me our father went away, but I remember now." She trembled as tears spilled from her eyes. Lloyd wasn't sure what to do. She was crying but she also had a look on her face like she was trying her best to remember something. Gesea continued, "I was cutting wood here. Every day. This forest is where Sacred Wood grows. I was only twelve when it happened-"
"-Only twelve?" Lloyd asked, sure he'd heard her wrong.
"A man came and told me he could make me stronger so I could chop more wood to sell to Meltokio." Gesea suddenly gasped and looked at Lloyd with such seriousness that he flinched back slightly. "Lloyd! It was that man we saw by the fountain in Meltokio!"
"Him?" Lloyd couldn't help it. He was struggling to remember what man she was talking about. Eventually the image of the man with the spiky blue hair and monocle came to mind.
"I didn't realise daddy had died. I remember now. Kraine came into my house one day when I was tending to daddy... I went to fight him but he told me that he was my brother. Then the next minute he was digging a grave and telling me it wasn't my fault. I could not even answer him or thank him for anything." She held her head. "Is this why he didn't want me to come back to Ozette? So I didn't remember how long I left daddy to rot in his death bed before burying him?" Fresh tears fell from her eyes.
Lloyd clenched one fist and reached to Gesea's head with the other hand. "It's okay Gesea. Kraine was right." He petted her head. "You weren't to blame. I promise we'll find out who is behind the research subjects of the Angelus Project. For you, your sister and my mum. Even for Kraine."
Gesea wiped her tears away, sniffed and nodded. "Thanks Lloyd. I am okay now." She got up from her spot on the ground and gave Noishe a scratch behind the ears before turning to the rest of the group. "Let's head to Altessa's house and hope he can help us make a Rune Crest for Colette like he did for me."
"Are you certain you are prepared?" Yuan asked. "Meeting Altessa again may stir more dormant memories."
Gesea's eyes fell to her feet.
"Of course she's ready," Sheelos chimed in. Everyone looked at her. She glanced down at Gesea. "The little chick already said she wanted to go to Altessa's, so that's what we're gonna do." She started walking ahead. Gesea followed, a smile creeping up on her lips even as she raised one eyebrow at the former-assassin.