Ch 16 and Epilogue
When the dust cleared and visions returned, the first thing that came to mind was 'what happened to our enemies?' Upon first examination, it was discovered that the Cruxis Crystals of both Sérno and Nadilene had lost their shine, the souls of the ancient couple drained from them. Their demise was confirmed after both Sheena and Seles each took a crystal and calmly ground it to dust beneath their shoes. It seemed fitting that they carry out the execution.
Next was Caleb, who was in surprisingly excellent condition, despite being in a robotic form of unconsciousness. Presea breathed a sigh of relief upon finding that he was still intact. In fact, other than the fact his clothes were in tattered ruins, there was no evidence that would lead one to believe that this doll had been in a fierce battle to the death. Altessa would get Caleb back, repair him if need be, and life would go on.
The third discovery sent a cry of sorrow throughout the group as they raced to the fallen bodies of their comrades. Zelos rested in a half-curled state, eyes closed and face peaceful; Kratos lay face-down, head using one arm as a pillow as the other just seemed flung to one side for no reason; Lloyd mirrored Zelos's curl and pacific expression, his hand resting on the redhead's own. Colette sobbed pitifully as Raine held out her staff and the horn, focusing the last of her strength into her Resurrection spells as Sheena tried using her Purgatory Seal cards through her tears.
Still the three remained lifeless on the floor, unresponsive to every call of their name, every spell that was cast, every potion and stew that passed their lips. Raine sighed and sat back, a downcast expression on her face as Seles ran by and threw herself onto her brother, sobbing so hard it seemed she would cry her soul out to join the last of her family.
"Goddess Martel, why?!" Colette screamed at last, "We wanted no more sacrifices! Why take them from us like this?!" There was a collective gasp and jump as a shaft of light shot down from nowhere and lit up the three figures. Slowly, two spirits floated down hand in hand, stepping down beside their respective bodies. Lloyd and Kratos looked down at themselves, then over at their friends, then up at the light.
Curiosity won and the others followed their gaze, eyes widening as an angelic figure, majestic dove's wings spread from her back, descended from on high with a third soul in her arms. Raine placed her hand over her heart in shock, then shook her head furiously.
"I-Impossible! The only angels that exist now are those here on Derris-Kharlan and the ones in our team!" she exclaimed.
"Who are you?" Sheena whispered fearfully, eyes straying from the woman's gentle features to the silent spirit of Zelos in her arms, appearing to be in a deep slumber.
"I am Anna Aurion. I was the one who interfered with this man's transformation, as Nadilene so put it. I was also the one to tell him of this spell, the divine judgment called down by a family to save a world." the angel answered softly. She gazed down at Zelos with a loving smile. "I have seen my son and lover accept this man as a part of the family. As such, I will too. Zelos Wilder, I accept all the sacrifices you have made for my family and my son's friends. From this day on, you are my son as well." She gently laid the spirit down into the still form on the floor, then reached out to hug her birth son tightly.
"Mom, don't leave. Please stay with us." Lloyd pleaded as he held her just as tightly.
"I'm afraid I can't. You know that. But I will be with you in the Crystal you possess until the day comes that you can safely set me free. It is only because of your combined sacrifice that I was able to take the form of an astral angel. I can only do this once to lead you all from heaven back to this world." she answered and kissed him on the forehead. "Now back you go. We'll see each other again someday." Lloyd nodded sadly and fell into his own body, vanishing. Anna straightened and looked to the seraphim who stood his ground and gazed at her with an agonized expression.
"I don't want to leave you. Why can't I take this path and be with you now?" Kratos whispered, voice trembling. The woman smiled and stepped up to him for a hug.
"Because it is not yet your time. When you have recaptured who you were, the man I fell in love with so long ago, then will the curse of eternal life be lifted and you will live a normal life, free of the Cruxis Crystal that has frozen your body." she replied and lifted herself on her toes, pressing her mouth lightly to his in a final kiss farewell. "Until we are reunited in true heaven, guide our sons well."
"I still love you, Anna. No one will ever take your place in my heart." the mercenary whispered tearfully as the astral angel rose from him, fading into nothing. He looked down at himself, momentarily looked as if he was reconsidering his choice, then sighed and allowed himself to fall back into his body.
Only when the light faded with the angel did the three figures stir and get up, groaning in discomfort as they worked out kinks in their joints. Zelos stretched one way, then another and grinned as Lloyd and Kratos both rubbed their heads.
"Well, that was a weird way to go! Let's never do it again! Agreed?" he remarked brightly.
"Agreed." both Kratos and Lloyd answered in one voice.
"Zelos!" Sheena and Seles exclaimed happily as they hugged him together. Lloyd laughed as Colette clung to him with joyful tears. Kratos gazed skyward with a tired expression, then closed his eyes and smiled slightly, shaking his head almost imperceptibly.
"I can't say I'm fated to be alone any longer, can I, Anna?" he whispered and stood up.
"Amazing!" Raine could only say as the others broke into cheers of joy and victory. Zelos managed to free himself from the hugs and looked surprised when Sheena pressed the Topaz Ring into his hand and closed his fingers around it.
"As a sign of forgiveness. Keep it once more." she murmured.
"Ah! What about Caleb?!" Lloyd suddenly yelped. Zelos blinked and looked over at his mirror image lying on the floor. Leaving the group behind, he walk up to and knelt by it, studying the doll staring lifelessly up at him in silence. The party gathered around him, waiting to see what he would do. Reaching out carefully, Zelos lifted a lock of the red hair and fingered it, a pensive expression on his face. Setting it down, he then placed a hand against the doll's cheek and closed his eyes, concentrating as his wings appeared and flapped behind him a few times.
"You may be just a doll, and a copy of me, but you came through for us when hope seemed lost. First Aid! For that, I won't complain about you using my face." he murmured and opened his eyes with a smile, "In fact, you could help me coordinate my outfits in the future!" he joked as the light seemed to return to Caleb's eyes.
"GOOD MORNING. HOW MAY I BE OF SERVICE?" Caleb asked automatically and blinked in what appeared to be surprise as he sat up and looked around. "OH, LLOYD! AND HIS FRIENDS! WAS THE RESCUE A SUCCESS? DID WE WIN?" he went on to ask.
"Yup! We saved the world and got Zelos back! Now, let's go home." Lloyd answered and called upon the Eternal Sword. "Eternal Sword, please take us to Altessa's house and release Derris-Kharlan from its orbit. Send it back on its normal course!"
Light engulfed the group as the sword obeyed its master's wishes.
Altessa sighed heavily as he took in the sight of his doll rubbing his head sheepishly in tattered clothes. Lloyd explained what had happened and the dwarf's eyebrows went up in mild surprise.
"Ah, the Magitek Cannon. He must have discovered the blueprints for the cannon during his isolated existence. That cannon is used purely for destructive purposes, a more powerful variation of Thor's Hammer." he remarked, "As for this 'Age of Empty Souls', well I assume that Sérno's lack of caring for anything except his own beauty stems from the emptiness of his life. Zelos's life is a very close mirror of what Sérno's life was like. In essence, he was trying to recreate himself through Zelos."
"So then why didn't it work? Why wasn't he able to keep control over Zelos?" Lloyd wondered, "If Zelos's life is supposed to be as empty as Sérno's to generate the darkness for the cannon, why did it change?"
"Seles." Altessa answered simply as Caleb entered the house to repair his clothes. "Because Sérno interfered with the birth of Zelos by fathering him, it is possible that he did the same with Seles. And if he has been doing this over several generations, he may have caused a good amount of bad breeding."
"Ah! I see! The genetic line was weakened by that and it would explain why Seles is so easily taken by illnesses!" Raine exclaimed in understanding as the others stared between them in confusion. "Yet, Zelos didn't suffer from it. Why?"
"The Aionis I drank added with the magic injections I've received all my life strengthened me greatly over time." Zelos murmured, "So I wasn't susceptible to diseases like she is. But that doesn't explain how my sister is involved in my conquering Sérno."
"You said that he was doomed to fail because you were a healer." Lloyd remembered, "Other than the fact that you can heal, you and Sérno were exactly alike!"
"I became a healer to help Seles. I see." Zelos remarked and smiled brightly, "It was my love for my sister that led me to love giving her life by using healing spells and medical herbs to help her. That's the edge I had over him!"
"Lloyd, did you get the Key Crest?" Kratos asked the brunet. Lloyd blinked and dug it out of his pocket, then held it out Zelos.
"Here. Put this on over the mount that was scratched up and it should be fixed. Then you can take the other one off." he told him. Zelos took the replacement and put it on, watching it seem to ripple and melt as it fused with the original mount and contain the power of the crystal. With that, he lifted his bracelet and unhooked the chunk of ore that had kept him free during his battle against the mad angels.
"Let us return to the ship. We have our paths to resume now that the danger's passed." Regal announced.
"Yes. Take care, Altessa and Caleb." Presea added. The doll had emerged from the house in repaired clothing, looking good as new. He smiled and waved. The group said their goodbyes and turned to leave, waving back at the dwarf and his new assistant.
"Bite me, sinners?"
"Waaah! It worked, didn't it?! Aaah! Not the face! Help, help!"
Raine, Genis and Sheena offered to take Seles back to Meltokio on the Rheairds. After many hugs and well wishes, Zelos waved to his sister as she vanished into the distance, well on her way home. Regal and Presea confirmed the shipment of Exspheres, then took a pair of Rheairds themselves. Colette accepted one to resume her journey, though she could fly well enough on her own back to NeOzette to help the people there. Lloyd set the ship back out to sea and sighed in relief as the wind filled the sails and pushed them towards Altamira. Kratos stood by him, smiled wistfully at the stars that began to appear with the setting sun and pat his shoulder affectionately.
"We did well today. And I'm quite proud of you." he murmured and looked over at Zelos as he stood nearby, watching the sun for a moment before turning to them in a questioning way. "Both of you." The redhead grinned and laughed as the wind lifted the streaming white strips of cloth on his and Lloyd's collars.
"I hope that nothing else happens while we're on this journey. At least, nothing we can't handle ourselves." Lloyd remarked and shook his head, "The last thing I need is for me to turn all the way into an angel. Who's gonna keep the two of you from attacking each other?"
"Well, if the old man would loosen up and have some fun, I'd have no problems!" Zelos called back and yelped as Kratos stiffened and grabbed for a nearby bucket to chuck at him. "Yaaaah! Help! Not again! Waaaah!" Lloyd only laughed as Kratos chased after him, broom in hands to swipe at him.
"You guys are a riot!" he cried and kept the ship steady. After deciding the lesson was sufficiently taught, Kratos stopped swinging the broom around and made his way back to his son's side, followed soon after by Zelos as he danced his way up from the bow of the deck. "Well, that's the end of one adventure; what more awaits us in the future?!" Lloyd exclaimed joyfully, eyes shining brightly in the glow of the sinking sun.
"Who knows?" Kratos answered, watching the horizon with a slight grin. Zelos's hair caught the light of the dying day, shimmering as brilliantly as his angelic mana wings as he kept dancing about in laughter, glad to be among people that he knew loved him for who he was.
Working in union
To set things right,
A father, two sons;
Oh, what a delight!
An angel descended
To guide our way;
He'll teach us to fight;
We'll teach him to play!
A hero to life,
A heart of pure gold,
His love for all kinds
Can melt the fierce cold!
Behold, in my eyes,
That's true beauty!
- "Beauty" revised lyrics, as sung by Zelos Aurion Wilder, found in a journal excavated by the Alvanista research team.
Well, that's the end of it. I've had trouble putting chapters up lately, the quickedit sometimes fails to display my documents for touchups. But there, now it's all done. And if you think I'm done with these three, think again! Here's a bit of a teaser for my next installment of ToS fics!
"Kratos has brought this upon himself. Learn to live with it." Origin answered and the voice faded from the air. Kratos stared at nothing as Lloyd and Zelos blinked at him. For a moment, he was silent, then Kratos's face twisted in a fury.
"I don't wanna live with it!" he screamed at the top of his lungs, displaying a powerful set of lungs for someone his size.
Well, till next time, see ya!