A/N: Getting some sporadic minor fixes to wording and line breaks.
Eye of the Beholder
Shine on a pedestal
For all to see!
No one compares;
I'm one of a kind;
A beautiful body
And brilliant mind!
An angel descended;
A gift to all girls;
Spreading my love
Throughout the world!
My grace is unmatched;
My skills are sublime;
Everyone loves me;
I'm just that fine!
Shine on a pedestal,
My manly beauty!
-"Beauty", sung by Zelos, original lyrics
Lloyd cringed at the racket sounding out from below decks. The crashing of metal, the slamming of wooden doors, the thumping and stomping of footsteps, all of which led to Zelos racing up onto the deck and screaming with laughter, dashing for the bow of the ship. Kratos raced up moments later, wings fanned to propel him forward as he yelled in a strange mix of rage, exasperation and embarrassment. Lloyd sighed and locked the helm in a steady position, watching as the two zipped in circles and hoping they didn't come near him.
"Get back here so I can kill you!" Kratos threatened, arms outstretched to strangle the man once he was in range.
"Whoaa! Lloyd! Bro! Help me out here!" Zelos called, red hair streaming by in a blur as he dashed past the dual swordsman, turned abruptly and zoomed back down the steps to the next level of the ship. Kratos skidded by, crashed into a pile of rope, then shot back after the former Chosen, rope flying after him as one long tail. The ruckus began again downstairs.
"Man, I hope we get to Nealar soon." Lloyd sighed and eyed the rope as it spun out more and more line. He looked over his shoulder at the pile and finally took note of one end being tied to the anchor. Slowly putting it together as the sounds of the two swordsmen chasing one another below continued, Lloyd blinked at the pile. "Uh oh." he finally murmured as the last of the rope fed out and the entire length went taut. Lloyd waited a moment, then tested the rope. Neither end was moving, just quivering ever so slightly. "Maaan." he groaned and marched for the stairs, patience with the two lost at the scene.
The rope was woven all over the hallways, strung several times across and down the area, into other rooms and around furniture. Lloyd carefully navigated the web, peered in confusion at the kitchen table now delicately suspended in the air, then entered the Exsphere holding bay. The large room was completely wrecked! Crates turned over and spheres scattered about, it was a miracle nothing broke.
"Lloyd? Little help?" Zelos pleaded, hanging by his legs from the ceiling as his vest and hair nearly touched the floor. Kratos remained silent, though a bright shade of red at the cheeks as his arms were pinned to his sides and he dangled by the waist from one support rafter, swinging back and forth gently as his wings flapped slowly.
"What the hell's the matter with you two?! I can understand Zelos going bonkers and wrecking the ship, but you, Dad?! Have you lost your mind?!" Lloyd shouted furiously, "Look at this place! How the hell did you get up there?! How the hell am I supposed to get you down?!" Zelos pointed at Kratos, who blinked in surprise at the action, then narrowed his eyes, lower lip jutting out.
"He started it." the Chosen announced, "I am totally innocent!" Lloyd looked up at his father and watched the seraphim struggle to get loose, kicking feebly at the air and succeeding in swinging about like a pendulum.
"Ergh. Zelos started it." Kratos finally grumbled and kicked again. He took on a flustered expression, then finally sighed and bowed his head briefly before bringing it up and giving Lloyd a helpless look through the mussed red-brown hair. "Help?"
"Not until someone tells me what started this, and no pointing fingers at each other!" Lloyd demanded.
"Easy for you to say! At least you CAN point!" Kratos yelled, kicking again at the air, "This is all Zelos's fault! If the idiot had just left that slice of cake alone, we wouldn't be in this mess!"
"Hey, you should thank me for eating it for ya. Old men tend to get love handles snacking on stuff like that." Zelos answered with a grin despite his upside down position. The seraphim struggled even more fiercely and the ropes tightened around them.
"Goddess, all this over a piece of cake?!" Lloyd exclaimed in disbelief and shook his head, "You're both idiots."
"I heard that!" Kratos snapped and seemed to almost break down in tears, "Get me down!" Then as an afterthought, "PLEASE?!"
Lloyd managed to untangle the two older men and clean up the Exspheres scattered by the mad dash through the ship. As soon as they were freed, Kratos pounced Zelos and held him pinned to the floor. Lloyd ignored them, figuring Zelos would eventually convince Kratos that he would make another cake and Kratos wouldn't really kill Zelos, just maul him a little, but not kill him.
"Hey, hey! Lloyd! Don't abandon me! I swear, I'll make you all cakes, just get the ground-pounding angel man off my back!" the redhead begged and wailed as Kratos took on an evil grin and tugged on his hair, pulling his Silver Sword from its sheath and holding it rather close to the strands. "LLOOOYD!"
"Dad! Get off!" the boy yelled from above, "We're here!"
"Lucky brat." Kratos muttered and thoroughly mussed up Zelos's hair before running off to see the town where they hoped to find more Exspheres.
Nealar had received orders from the King of Tethe'alla to have all Exspheres collected and ready to give to Lloyd and his companions. Sheena had relayed the message of the news to Origin, who passed it on to Lloyd. Nealar was a small port town surrounded by forest. Its economy dependent on the wood they cut and the fish they caught, the loss of the Exspheres would weigh on them, especially with their problems involving a local gang of thieves and slave herders.
Lloyd dropped the anchor once they were safe with the docks and sighed in relief. It would be good to have solid earth under his feet again. They could gather additional supplies, pick up the Exspheres and set sail once they learned of their next destination. Eager to stand on terra firma, Lloyd leaped from the ship and landed safely on his feet, then stretched his full body out with a joyful cry.
"Ah, it's great to be on land again! Dad! Zelos! Come on!" he called out, his previous irritation at them gone at the sight of a new town to explore. Kratos appeared on the bow of the ship. He scanned the surroundings, then shrugged and leapt down after his son, his wings already vanished and gone from sight. Zelos was more hesitant, looking warily at the two of them. "Zelos, hurry it up!" Lloyd shouted. The Chosen hurried down the ramp and joined them, but still appeared nervous. "You okay?" Lloyd asked, "You look like Noishe when we're in Iselia Forest."
"It's nothing. Just..." Zelos murmured, eyes holding a flash of fearful recognition that quickly faded, "Nothing. I'm being stupid again." he finished softly and shook his head, replacing his worried expression with a cheerful one. "Let's go and see if there are any Nealar cuties for us! Onwards! To the singles bar!"
A beautiful young woman watched the three walk towards the mayor's office, violet eyes studying them intensely through raven hair streaked with red strands. Behind her, several members of the thieves and slavers' guild watched with her, knives and swords already being sharpened on stones and pieces of slate.
"Have ye picked yer target, Miz Nadilene?" one grumbled in a voice that sounded like rolling gravel. The woman pulled her scarf up closer around her face, leaving only her eyes visible as she turned on the group, her figure-hugging gown of black silk flattering her body.
"You have your orders. I need the one marked as the Chosen of Tethe'alla. Destroy the charm on the Key Crest that serves as the mount for the Cruxis Crystal, then bring him to me." she commanded coldly. "Do not fail me this time. Your efforts to win gald from me by bringing less pleasing hosts for my project resulted in your dwindling numbers."
"'Tis no fault of ours, Milady. 'Tis the fault of yer husband, fer demanding perfection in a world where it doesn't exist." another rogue grumbled, "What do we get out of this job?"
"Your lives, you pathetic little vermin." Nadilene hissed and glanced back at the trio having trouble gaining entry to the building. "Though you can do as you please with the other two with him. All I want is the Chosen, unharmed and still in flawless condition." The men and women nodded begrudgingly and slunk into the alleys and dark corners. She folded her arms beneath her breasts and smiled cruelly at the three travelers, her attention on the pink-clad young man with his hands behind his head. "Absolutely perfect."