A/N: Let me start off first by asking for your forgiveness. I never meant to keep all of you waiting so long for dumb ol' Steve, but I've been having a bit of a rough time with writing. I don't know why but I've felt pretty… lethargic these past couple of months. I tried to get myself back into a writing groove several times by producing some one-shots but, as you can see, that didn't work out too well. In any case, I hope you can forgive me. I will do my best to keep producing what I hope is quality fan-fiction for y'all.
Well… the host site has taken away my ability to respond to the readers in the fashion that I had always done in the past, so there will, sadly, be no more sessions of "Respond to the Readers". However, starting with the reviews to this chapter, I will use the individual response thingy that the site implemented. It's not what I wanted, but it'll have to do. See, some people ask questions that everyone wants to hear the answer to. Now, if they wanna know, they'll have to ask themselves. This sucks. So sorry. I'll do my best to keep up with responses.
Okay then, enough with the jibber-jabber. Now presenting one of the most anticipated chapters of UL: the battle between the Angel Arm-less Kratos and the lord of Niflheim, Nebilim. For Kratos, this is for all the marbles. His friends, family, and world are on the line. For Nebilim, victory means the end of any resistance towards him. Here we go!
Chapter 28: Broken Wings
The air stood eerily still as the powerful opposing forces did nothing but stare at one another. Whether they were merely waiting for the other to make the first move or just enjoying the calm before the storm was unclear, but one thing for was for sure: if Kratos lost this battle, Symphonia was done for. There would be no middle-ground for other side. Kill or be killed was the name of this game.
Kratos had hoped against hope that it wouldn't have come to this. He had trained himself and the children for what he thought was every possible situation. Every situation, that is, except for this one. The angel Arms were eternal. Never once did he think that his would be broken, even by someone like Nebilim. In uncertain times such as this one, he knew that there was always one thing he could rely on: pure instinct that had done nothing but develop more and more over a four-thousand year span. These days, however, there was one more thing he could rely on: determination. Caring little for his own life, he saw no problem in going all-out, even if it meant his own destruction, as long as he was able to protect his loved-ones.
Despite having the odds stacked highly in his favor, Nebilim was no fool and was prepared to receive the fight of his long life from Kratos. While he no longer had the Angel Arm to protect him, Nebilim had little doubt in his mind that Kratos was still a fierce opponent. Even without it, with his years of experience alone, he may have been just as powerful as and perhaps even more powerful than any of the angels of old. Nebilim had been defeated five-thousand years due to his own over-confidence and would be damned if he would allow it to end again like that.
Not far from where the powerful entities, Lloyd and Sheena sat helplessly within their mystic prisons. More than anything else in the world, they wanted to be able to help their father in battle. Before their imprisonment, the trio of angels had been on a marvelous roll in dealing with the demonic overlord. Given more time, they may have even been able to put an end to him once and for all. However, this was all a moot point now that the trio was essentially decimated by Nebilim's latest trick. All the boy and girl could do at this point was stare helplessly and pray for the best.
Kratos stood defiantly in front of the prisons that held his two children, his spectral wings flapping silently behind him. He swung Hyperion slowly through the air, a faint trail of blue light following in it wake. "Make your move demon."
Nebilim snorted at the calm angel. "As you wish. Prepare yourself." Ready for what he believed would be the fight of his life and knowing full well that he had an uncertain amount of time until the children were freed from their prisons, Nebilim wasted no time in morphing his arms into the grotesque Nebilim twin-blades. The curves of the blades waved in an uneven and almost dizzying fashion. Just looking at them made Kratos feel uneasy and perhaps even nauseous. Nebilim smiled. "Let us begin."
Kratos nodded and lowered himself into a defensive stance. "You will not find me easy prey."
Nebilim's smile changed to a smirk. "Good. I was hoping you'd say that."
Tired of pre-battle banter, Nebilim took it upon himself to go on the offensive. Leaping forward his blades clashed with Kratos' own sword and shield with great driving force. Kratos had prepared himself for the worst but learned quickly that, without his Angel Arm, he was at an even worse disadvantage than he had been before. As such, the mere force of the attack alone drove Kratos nearly ten feet back despite his trying to dig his boots into the ground to hold his ground. Acting relentlessly, Nebilim leapt forward once again toward the ancient angel. This time however, Kratos managed to jump out of the way, just narrowly avoiding Nebilim's brutal attack.
Landing quickly, Kratos planted both feet firmly on the ground as he closed his eyes and chanted something quietly to himself, his sword pointed at Nebilim. Judging by just Nebilim's first two attacks alone, he knew that standing his ground alone would allow him to last nowhere near as long as he had to against the demon. If he was to last, he would have to take the offensive at times. If for no other reason than to have Nebilim pause for even a miniscule amount of time. Every second, every fraction of a second, was precious to Kratos.
Nebilim turned back to his foe, his smirk the same as it was before. "Hmph. Are you even going to try?"
Kratos paid little attention to what the demon had to say, instead focusing his concentration on his incantation. "He has to have a weakness. If I can find it, perhaps I'll have a chance." His spell finished, Kratos opened his eyes. Coursing from his arm to his blade were several small arcs of blue lightning, leaving sparks dancing on the tip of his blade. His target set, Kratos yelled "Lightning!", letting loose a continuous stream of mystic energy at Nebilim.
Lightning slammed into the chest of the mighty demon, lighting up his body as if it were some sort of long-forgotten piece of magitechnology. However, Nebilim appeared to be unfazed by the attack as he walked through the lightning like it was nothing. His sword-arms transformed back into their original state as spiked plates of organic matter covered his shins. "That tickles," he said mockingly.
Unwilling to be disheartened by the failure of his attack, Kratos broke off his spell and took two spells back and began another incantation. "Erup-"
Before he could complete his latest spell, Nebilim moved so quickly toward Kratos that those who didn't know better would have sworn he had teleported. "Too slow!" he yelled as he slammed one of the Apocalypse grieves into Kratos' right side, sending the angel flying nearly fifteen feet away.
Hitting the ground hard but unwilling to succumb to what he believed was a broken rib, Kratos propped himself up on one knee and pointed his sword once again at Nebilim. The demon was not going to give Kratos the time to complete one of his longer spells so he would have to settle for his repertoire of lower level spells. A few nearly-silent words and his next spell was ready. "Fireball!"
Three medium-sized balls of flame shot forth from the tip of the blade and began to home in on their target, Nebilim. Just as before, he felt no sense of urgency in evading the angel's attacks until the very last second. The first ball was dodged with a very shallow duck, the second was avoided by Nebilim simply raising his right arm, and the third ball was actually knocked away with his left arm, sending the sphere of mystic energy slamming into the western wall of the Shadow Temple. Nebilim smirked. "Pathetic. Care to try again?"
A cold bead of sweat trickled down Kratos' now-dirty face. "Damn you," he muttered to himself. Muttering even more ancient words to himself, Kratos prepared to launch his next spell.
"Hmph," grunted Nebilim as the spiked plates on his shins disappeared. He held up his right arm and watched as his hand was slowly replaced by a sinister looking ball of organic mass attached to a long whip-like rope. "Your magic is no good against me."
Once again pointing his blade at Nebilim, Kratos finished his next incantation by yelling "Grave!" Four great spears of hardened earth thrust forth from the floors of the temple in an effort to impale the mighty demon. To Kratos' horror, upon making contact with their target, all four spears shattered into millions of pieces as if they had struck two feet of reinforced diamond.
"No good!" yelled Nebilim gleefully as he launched the whip-like weapon at Kratos' bent knee. Upon reaching Kratos, the organic ball wrapped itself around his leg and quickly tightened itself. Satisfied with the strength of the restraint he placed on Kratos, before the angel could react, Nebilim pulled mightily on the whip, sending Kratos flying through the air. While in mid-flight, Nebilim drastically changed the direction of the pull, sending the bound Kratos slamming into on of the walls of the Shadow Temple.
Still tied to the ball and whip, Kratos struggled to regain control of the situation whilst he fought against the immense pain suffered in his collision with the wall. Before he had the time to formulate any sort of strategy though, Nebilim pulled on the ball and whip and once again sent Kratos flying into a wall. There would be no time for a well-thought strategy in a situation like this. He had to take action if he was going to survive this. Not even knowing if he'd be able to hit his target, Kratos began preparing yet another spell as he was picked up and slammed into another wall.
Nebilim laughed maniacally. "Having fun yet Kratos?" Nebilim pull on the whip once again and slammed Kratos into another wall.
This was it, now or never. "Judgment!" yelled Kratos as he flailed about wildly.
The roof of the temple illuminated at the conclusion of Kratos' incantation, brining at least a dim amount of light to the otherwise dark room. From the ceiling above Nebilim rained down great beams of light which crashed into several of the massive floor tiles surrounding the demon. As he was slammed against the wall once again, Kratos began to wonder if any of the beams would hit. Fortune smiled upon Kratos when the last beam struck Nebilim dead-on. The beam was far too weak to inflict any real damage on the demon but it was enough to at least startle Nebilim long enough for Kratos to carry out his hastily improvised plan to free himself from Nebilim's grasp.
"Now!" yelled Kratos as he swung Hyperion at the whip that bound him. The blade made contact with the whip, cutting it cleanly and bringing forth a cry of pain from Nebilim. Still flying through the air, Kratos slammed into the wall one last time before he came crashing back down to the floor, bloody and in extreme pain.
Nebilim grabbed his hand as it reverted back to its original state minus one of his talon-like fingers. Grimacing in pain, he focused a small amount of dark energy on the wound, allowing a small amount of putrid flesh to cover the wound. He knew it would grow back eventually but was shocked by the fact that Kratos had actually managed to injure him. "Grr…" He turned his attention to the struggling Kratos. "Not bad seraph, but you'll need far more than that if you want to defeat me."
A small knot appeared on his chest seconds later which he then tugged on slowly. The knot grew steadily bigger and bigger until it turned into a longer yet thinner piece of organic matter. He pulled on it until it finally came out of his chest at nearly six feet long. He held the rod of organic material in his hands as it slowly solidified and turned into the Heart of Chaos staff. Tapping the sphere on the end of the staff into the open palm of his four-fingered hand, Nebilim's once-proud smirk turned instead to a look of pure hate. "Killing you alone won't satisfy me Kratos. I want you to bleed… I want you to scream in pain… I want to torment you until you start begging for death." Staff in hand, the mighty demon began walking toward Kratos.
Over in their seemingly inescapable prisons, Lloyd and Sheena could do naught but stare in horror as their father was being mauled by the ultra-powerful Nebilim. They had been trying to free themselves for quite some time now but didn't know where to begin in finding a way to escape. At this point, both would've gladly given up their Angel Arms just for a chance to help Kratos. He had warned the premature destruction of the energy prison would weaken or perhaps even destroy their Angel Arms as was the case with Kratos but it simply did not matter to them.
"Damnit!" yelled Lloyd as he pounded the walls of his prison. "How the hell do we get out of here!"
Sheena shook her head furiously. "I can't summon any of the spirits! I don't know what to do!"
From within her prison, a small puff of smoke initially hid the appearance of Corinne, the physical manifestation of Verius. Sheena's long-time "pet" shook it's head sadly as it spoke. "There's nothing you can do Sheena… or even should do. Remember what Kratos said? If you break out of the prison before-"
Sheena threw her arms outward as far as she could. "I know, I know! But Corinne, we can't just sit back and watch our dad die!"
"But without the Angel Arms, you can't-"
Lloyd pounded the walls of his prison once again. "Who cares! We beat Abyssion without the Angel Arms and we can beat Nebilim without them too!"
Corinne turned to Lloyd and spoke to him in the voice that Verius normally used. "Don't be foolish Lloyd. I'm tied to the hearts of both you and Sheena, so whatever pain the two of you feel, I feel too. I don't want Kratos to die either, but if it's necessary for both the survival of you and Sheena and all of Symphonia as well, then it's a risk that Kratos is willing to take."
Sheena sat in stunned silence as she watched Kratos get knocked across the room by a well-aimed golf-like swing of the Heart of Chaos. Breaking away from her petrified awe, she asked Corinne. "A risk… that dad is willing to take?"
Corinne turned back to Sheena and spoke in the voice that she was so used to hearing. "He had a feeling that something like this would happen. Late last night, he came to speak to me at my altar and asked me to look after both of you. He told me that, no matter what happens to himself, to not allow either of you to place yourselves in danger for his sake."
Unbelieving of anything Corinne had to say, Lloyd asked, "What? Dad… knew this was going to happen."
Corinne turned back to Lloyd. "I don't know if he actually knew or not. All he said was that he had a feeling. I don't think it's possible for anyone short of Origin to see into the future, but…"
Sheena briefly turned her attention back to the fight at hand. Just as she broke away from Corinne, she witnessed Kratos plunging his blade deep into the chest of Nebilim. Both demon and angel stared at each other in silence for what seemed like an eternity before Nebilim pulled himself away from the blade and clubbed Kratos in the right cheek with his staff, sending the mighty angel to the ground.
Unwilling to simply sit by and watch any longer, Sheena picked up Corrine and began to shake him. "Corinne! Verius! I can't take this any longer! You know how to get out of here, don't you!"
"I do," he replied solemnly.
Tears rolled freely down Sheena's cheek. "I'm begging you Corinne… as a friend… please… let us out of here. We have to save our dad."
Corinne shook his head. "I'm sorry Sheena, but I can't… I won't do that."
"Why not!" cried Lloyd in frustration.
Corinne looked over at Nebilim and Kratos, his gaze stern. "Look at Kratos. Do you have any idea how hard he is fighting right now?"
"Of course we do!" yelled Lloyd. "That's why we have to help him!"
Corinne shook his head. "No. That's exactly why you must wait until the prison dissipates."
"What? What do you mean?" asked Sheena.
Corinne never shifted his gaze as he continued to speak. "Kratos doesn't care about anything right now except for the two of you. The salvation of Symphonia is so far away in his mind right now that hasn't once thought of it since the battle began. He's willing to endure any amount of pain or grief so long as the two of you are safe in the end. If you destroy the Angel Arms in order to break the prison just to save him, then all his pain and suffering… perhaps even his death if it should ever come to pass… will mean nothing. He will have endured all just to lose everything that he fought so hard to preserve in the end. Is that what you want, for his life to be in vain?"
Sheena sat quietly, stunned. Unsure of what to say, Lloyd replied, "No, but-,"
"Then I beg you to practice patience and have faith in your father. He loves both of you more than anything. Believe me, I know… I've felt it."
Kratos fell to the ground, his strength rapidly leaving him. His breathing was both heavy and labored, due mostly to the recent breaking of two more ribs on his right side. Struggling to move, Kratos found it extremely difficult to merely prop himself up on one leg. Kratos was losing the battle and there was little he could do about it.
Nebilim held the spherical end of the Heart of Chaos to the gash in his chest and slowly pushed it in. The injury was minor but the insult severe. Again, Kratos had managed to injure the mighty demon, a task once thought to be virtually impossible to accomplish. With every moment that passed by, his hatred for Kratos grew. Furthermore, he knew time was running out before the Angel Arms broke the children out of their prisons. He had to kill Kratos and he had to do it quickly.
Closing his eyes, Nebilim secreted a strange ooze from the many pores on his body that slowly made its way up to his right hand. As it gathered, it grew and slowly took the form of the Diablos axe. Once completed, Nebilim tossed the hideous-looking axe from hand-to-hand, getting a feel for the balance of the weapon. "Excellent." Opening his eyes, he looked at Kratos, the hate in his eyes apparent. "Hey Kratos!"
Kratos finally managed to stand up and stare at the powerful demon. "What?" he grunted.
Nebilim smiled. "Catch." Tossing the axe up one last time and catching it, Nebilim launched the axe towards the battered angel.
Instinctively, Kratos raised his shield to deflect the missile. However, the effort proved to be futile as the demonic axe easily shattered Kratos' already damaged shield and dug itself deep into the right half of his chest, bringing forth a howl of pain that would've horrified even the bravest of warriors.
Nebilim chuckled diabolically. "Nice catch."
"Dad!" yelled Lloyd and Sheena in unison from their prisons.
After his initial howl of pain, Kratos spit out a large puddle's worth of blood on a floor tile between his boots. Under normal circumstances, even a man of Kratos' power would've succumbed to the large number of injuries the seraph had already suffered. However, these were far from normal circumstances and Kratos wasn't ready to give up yet. Mustering a seemingly unearthly amount of strength, Kratos slowly pulled the axe out of his chest and threw it on the ground. Once done, his pain overtook him and he dropped to his knees, gasping for air.
Nebilim's dark smile faded. "Hmph. Why won't you die?"
Even in his mangled
state, Kratos managed a blood-stained smile. "Because you're not
dead yet." At the completion of his sentence, Hyperion glowed with
a holy light, no doubt conjured up by Kratos.
Wasting no time, Kratos raised the blade up as high as he could and quickly plunged it downward into Diablos.
"W-what?" asked Nebilim, confused.
A bright flash of light emanated from Hyperion, blinding all who bore witness to its luminance. When the light subsided, Nebilim watched as Diablos was completely destroyed, reduced to nothing more than a few shining atoms.
"Augh!" cried Nebilim as he grabbed his chest in pain.
"Huh? What just happened?" asked Sheena.
Corinne arched his neck forward as he tried to get a better look. "I see... since the Devil Arms are in fact part of Nebilim, it's only natural to assume that the destruction of the arms would cause great pain to Nebilim."
Lloyd was too busy cheering on his father to listen to what Corinne had to say. "Woo-hoo! Get 'im dad! Show him who's boss!"
Kratos looked on as Nebilim writhed in pain. "This is my chance. It's time to use my last ace. If this doesn't work, there's no way I can defeat him, not in this shape…" He paused. "But… I don't think I can pull this off by myself… not even with Lloyd and Sheena…" He shook his head. "It doesn't matter. I have to try anyway!"
Spreading his spectral wings, Kratos took to the "sky" and looked down at Nebilim. "This is it. Let's do this!" Knowing his time to act was short, Kratos immediately took action by carrying out his plan. He started off by carving into the air what appeared to be some sort of rune that glowed a fiery-red. Next, he carved what appeared to be a rune that glowed an earthly-brown.
"Huh? What is he doing?" asked Lloyd.
Corinne looked on as Kratos carved more runes into the air. "Fire… earth… wind… lightning…light… what is he… oh no…"
"What is it Corinne?" asked Sheena.
Paying attention to neither of the children, Corinne yelled at Kratos with the voice of Verius, "Kratos, stop! There's no way you can pull this off by yourself! You don't have all the necessary elements, let alone enough raw power! Not even with Lloyd and Sheena could you do this!"
Kratos heard Verius but paid him little heed. "I know that Verius…" mumbled Kratos to himself. "…but I have to try anyway. I won't last much longer against him. This is my last chance to destroy him!"
"Kratos!" yelled Corinne helplessly.
Aligning the runes in a sort of pentagonal shape, Kratos carved mystic lines in the air connecting all five of the elemental runes together. Upon completion of his multiple-rune symbol, the edges of his blue wings glowed a very bright white, adding to their size considerably. Thrusting his sword through the middle of the air-borne symbol, Kratos converged all five runes upon the blade, causing it to glow in a prism of the five colors he had used to create the runes. The ritual complete, Kratos' raised Hyperion to the ceiling, allowing its glorious light illuminate the temple.
Nebilim shook his head, his pain still present. Opening his eyes for the first time in nearly a minute, the great demon looked upward and beheld the sight that was Kratos, blade raised skyward. He did not immediately know what was going but it wasn't long before he began to realize what Kratos was up to. "This… technique… I've seen it before, but it's been so long. Was it…" Perplexed, Nebilim focuses his attention not so much on the attack but Kratos himself. Battered, beaten, and bloodied, in this position, he closely resembled Nebilim would have rather forgotten. Now, however, it was too late for him to forget. For a brief moment, Nebilim believed he saw Vazn, leader of the nine seraphim of millennia past, instead of Kratos. The resemblance was so close in fact that Nebilim could've sworn that…
"That attack… no!" Stricken with fear, Nebilim took a step back. "It can't be! Not again!" Shaking his head, Nebilim did his best to regain his composure. "This is ridiculous! This is Kratos, not Vazn! He doesn't even have his Angel Arm anymore! There's no way he can pull off this attack!"
The divine prism of colors swirled maddeningly around Kratos. To anyone who had not seen what had happened beforehand, one might've thought that Kratos was opening a portal to another dimension. His eyes glowing, Kratos wound his blade back, as if he was ready to strike. "Nebilim!" yelled Kratos in a voice that wasn't his own.
"Dad?" whispered Lloyd from within his prison. "Is that really… you?"
"BE GONE DEMON! FINAL JUDGMENT!" Sword thrusted downward, Kratos streaked toward his target, trails of slowly fading light left in his wake.
Nebilim didn't even have a chance to move before Kratos touched-down less than three feet away from. For Nebilim, the world seemed to move in slow motion as Kratos began swinging his blade at the demon and with every blow came a bright flash of light. Every blow connected but Nebilim didn't feel pain from any of them. In fact, every attack had barely left a surface scratch on his armor-like skin. However, Nebilim knew what the true purpose of the "Final Judgment" was. Its focus was not so much to cause physical harm but rather obliterate the forces that bind pure darkness together using all of the elements of the world. To accomplish this feat, a seemingly uncountable number of slashes are required to create a very complex rune. When Nebilim had been sealed away, ninety-three slashes had connected with him before he broke away. Had it been much more than that…
"No! Not again!" yelled Nebilim as he broke out of his nearly hypnotic trance. With all of the demonic fury that Kratos had quickly come to know so well, Nebilim reached out and swung at the seraph with all of his strength, knocking him away and bringing him out of his divine state.
"Dad!" yelled Sheena and Lloyd.
Paying no attention to Kratos, Nebilim looked down at his chest and counted the scratches on his chest, thirty-four in all. However, no sooner did he look at the partially completed rune than every single cut began to light up, one-by-one. Within mere seconds, every single cut was lit up. Nebilim knew what came next.
"Damn you Kratos…"
Upon completion of Nebilim's curse, every cut on his chest detonated into a dazzling array of explosions, all of varying colors, shapes, sizes. The initial blast was enough to temporarily blind everyone, leaving all who observed this magnificent feat of raw destruction wondering if Nebilim had in fact been destroyed by the blast or…
Kratos waited with gut-wrenching anxiety as he waited for the smoke to clear. Moments passed and Kratos both saw nothing and heard nothing. "Did I… do it?"
From their prisons, Sheena and Lloyd could be heard cheering. "Way to go dad! Alright! You did it!"
Kratos slowly got to his feet, using Hyperion to prop himself up. However, he was nearly knocked back down when a strange object came from the arcane mist and knocked Hyperion out of his hands and across the temple. Looking back, Kratos saw what it was that knocked his sword out of his hands: Evil Eye, the dark chakram. He turned back to the mist, his courage unchanged but his hope fading. "Damn it…"
"That hurt, seraph…" said a voice from the mist. A second later, the great demon Nebilim showed himself to all who still dared to look upon him. Reaching his hand out, he brought Evil Eye back to his hand as if it were a powerful magnet. His body scarred by mystic energies, Nebilim's scowl looked even more frightening.
"No!" cried Corinne. "He's still alive!"
The great demon rushed at Kratos full-speed. "Your time is up Kratos!"
Giving the defiant angel no chance to react, Nebilim made two quick but very deep slashes with Evil Eye across Kratos' stomach, sending him to his knees. Before Kratos could even reach down to clutch his abdomen in pain, Nebilim gave Kratos one last slash across his right eye. The trauma of losing an eye summoned an ungodly scream of pain from the dying angel and sending Kratos to the ground on his stomach.
"Dad!" yelled Lloyd in horror.
Absorbing Evil Eye back into his arm, Nebilim took a moment to enjoy the scene. It was over. It had taken much longer than he had anticipated, but Kratos was now dying in front of him. "Heh. I must admit, Kratos… you put up a hell of a fight for a lower seraph. I commend your bravery, however misplaced it may be. Unfortunately for you, you must now know what it means to cross me. You've still got one good eye, right?" He kneeled down and lifted up Kratos' head. With his other massive hand, he pointed to Lloyd, Sheena, and Corinne. "Death is far too merciful a fate for you at this point. As such, you're going to watch as I slaughter your children before your very… eye. Ha…" Nebilim let go of Kratos and began walking away, his right arm morphing into the Soul-Eater blade as he did so. "After all the trouble you've given me, I'm really going to enjoy this."
Kratos mustered up as much energy as he could so that he could look up at Nebilim walking away from him and towards his children. "No…" he whispered. "Please… no…" He tried crawling towards Nebilim but quickly found that he was getting nowhere. "Stop…"
"I… I have to…"
"I… I can't give up…"
"This is… my final gift to you…"
Kratos placed both of his hands palms-down on the floor and tried pushing himself up.
"If you ever need me…"
Through some miraculous feat of strength, Kratos brought himself to his feet and reached into the folds of his outfit from which he drew a small dagger.
"I would gladly die for either of you.""Neb-… Neb-…" He struggled. Clutching his chest with his free hand, Kratos braced himself as he prepared to yell. "Nebilim!"
The great demon stopped dead in his tracks and turned back to Kratos. Smiling, he turned back to the angel. "Unbelievable. A resolve such as yours has never before been seen in this world. A true warrior among warriors. You put Vazn to shame… for what it's worth." He walked toward the angel, Soul-Eater reared back and ready to strike. "I guess I won't get the chance to watch you suffer any longer. You need to be put down… once and for all."
"Dad!" cried Sheena. "Get away from him! You're going to die!"
Kratos smiled weakly. "Try me. I'll never let you hurt my beloved children!" With a surprisingly loud yell, Kratos lunged at the demon with his small blade. One swing, two swings, three swings… Kratos was relentless in his assault, despite the demon's easily performed dodges of his foe's attacks. For what seemed like a feeble assault, Kratos' intense desire to protect his family gave Nebilim more trouble than he thought he would get. Several swings later, Nebilim dropped his guard and, as such, Kratos got in close enough to bring his dagger close to Nebilim's face. The swing completed, Nebilim finally managed to knock Kratos away. Upon hitting the ground, he dropped his knife, too tired to even pick it back up.
"Too little, too late seraph," said Nebilim. "You-" Something dripped onto Nebilim's arm. Curious, Nebilim raised his arm to his face to investigate what had landed on his arm. "…blood?" He brought his free hand to his left cheek. A cut. Shallow, barely bleeding, but a cut all the same.
"My body has been… harmed? By such a mundane weapon?" He clenched his free hand. "Unforgivable! This insult will be your last act of defiance seraph!"
Reaching down, Nebilim grabbed Kratos by the neck as tightly as he could and raised him as high as he could. He reared back Soul-Eater, ready to strike.
"Dad! Dad!" yelled Lloyd and Sheena frantically.
Corinne closed his eyes and lowered his head. "Children, please don't watch…" he said with the voice of Verius.
Nebilim smiled again. "Any last words, Kratos Aurion?"
It was over and Kratos knew it. His spectral wings fluttered helplessly in the air, giving Kratos the image of a butterfly caught in the web of some vile spider. There would be no more defiance from him. His time had come after so many years of waiting. His eyes peered to the side at his children, both pounding on the walls of their prisons, desperately trying to get out. Smiling weakly, Kratos realized that he did have one last act of defiance within him. "Go to hell."
Nebilim chuckled. "Good bye Kratos."
"Dad! Dad!" yelled Lloyd and Sheena.
Nebilim thrust Soul-Eater forward through the chest of the ancient angel. The blood flowed freely and greatly as another unearthly scream erupted from Kratos. His wings slowly stopped flapping and began to fade away, spectral feathers slowly falling from them as they did so. Unsatisfied with the pain he had caused thus far, Nebilim drove the blade deeper and deeper into the chest of Kratos. After several moments, Nebilim swung his blade as hard as he could, flinging Kratos in between the prisons of Sheena and Lloyd.
As if on cue, the walls of Lloyd's prison shattered, giving the young angel the freedom of movement once again. Completely ignoring Nebilim, Lloyd kneeled down next to his father and held his head up. "Dad! Dad! Talk to me! Please!"
Shortly afterward, Sheena's prison broke as well and she too rushed to her adoptive father's aid. "Dad? Please… open your eyes…" She sobbed as he held one of Kratos' hands to her cheek. "Please…"
Corinne walked slowly over to Kratos, looked him over, and lowered his head. "A hero among heroes… I'm so sorry Kratos."
Kratos slowly opened his eyes but could do little else than stare at his children. "L-Lloyd… She-… Sheena…"
"How touching," mocked Nebilim. "Congratulations Kratos. You managed to survive long enough to free your children. Amazing." He smirked and reared back Soul-Blade once again. "Not that it matters now! Farewell weak-"
From the shadows of the stairs leading to the surface came a massive hammer brimming with lightning. Before he had a chance to react, the massive hammer struck Nebilim in the chest, both sending him flying across the room and striking him with an unearthly amount of lightning mana. Hitting the ground, the hammer disappeared as if it had never been.
Shaken by this latest attack, Nebilim shook his head and propped himself back up. "Who dares attack me?"
The attention of Corinne, Sheena, and Lloyd turned to the stairs as they witnessed a sight that they could not believe they were seeing. "Y-you!" cried Sheena.
Two slender, bare feet touched down on the floor of the Shadow Temple. The white gown of a divine maiden was supplemented only by a small, steel-blue breast-plate, shoulder pads, and wrist guards. Her hair, unfashioned yet beautiful all the same, was topped with an ornate helmet of the same colors as her torso armor, well fashioned wings adorning the sides of it. In her small left hand was a golden ring of pure energy, its appearance resembling that of an angel's halo. Her most distinguishing feature however was the large, feathery wings on her back and the familiar bracer on her right wrist that Kratos, Sheena, and Lloyd carried. Despite having the look of one of the valkyrie warriors of old, the unique determination in her face was unmistakable.
"Colette!" yelled Lloyd. "Is it… is it really you."
She turned to her long-time friend and nodded. "It's me Lloyd, Sheena…" She looked down and noticed the broken body of Kratos. Walking over, she kneeled down and let a single tear roll down her cheek. "Kratos… I'm so sorry…"
He turned his attention to her, struggling to simply put the letters together to form her name. "C-… Col… Colette…"
"Damnit!" yelled Nebilim. Absorbing Soul-Eater back into his arm, he plunged his now-free hand into the floor of the temple, sending a large wave of earthen spears at the angels. "Eat this!"
Unsure of how to defend against this attack, Lloyd jumped in front of his father's body, ready to take the blow for him. "No!"
Without anyone initially noticing, a figure dashed past Lloyd and stood stoically in the way. "I'll take care of this!"
Lloyd took a step back. "You're-"
"Omni-guardian!" yelled the mysterious person as he erected a seemingly impregnable wall of force between himself and the spears of earth. Just as he had hoped, the spears smashed themselves into the wall and shattered into a million pieces.
"Damnit!" yelled Nebilim.
The figure turned back to Lloyd. His boots and pants were quite plain, a dull white, but his torso was another story altogether. Although the rest of his body was not armored, the golden plate mail he wore was of unbelievable quality and seemed to be of a higher density than even reinforced mythril. His arms past the shoulder plates were bare but within each hand he held something different. In the left hand, he held a magnificent shield with the image of a kneeling, praying angel on the front. In his right hand was a sword that in all respects except for one, it looked exactly like the sword Kratos wielded in his High Seraph form. Its one difference was that it glowed like the son and, as such, was named "Solaris". His long red hair was supported by a white sweatband, the look all too familiar to everyone in the room save for Nebilim. Like Colette before him, he carried large, feathery wings on his back and an Angel Arm bracer on his right wrist.
"Z-Zelos!" cried Lloyd. "You're here too!"
He nodded. "I know y'all tried to keep us from coming but we couldn't just let the three of you take on this menace by yourselves. We may not be as strong as you guys, but I know we can be of some use all the same." He moved his left arm about… the arm that had been at least at one time been paralyzed. "Seems that the angel arm has fixed up my arm and legs too."
Lloyd grabbed Zelos' hand and dragged him over to Kratos. "Zelos, please! You're the only other person that can use healing magic! You have to save my dad!"
Zelos shook his head. "I… I can't. The physical damage is far too severe and the spiritual damage caused by Soul-Eater can't be fixed, not even with Miracle."
Sheena grabbed Zelos' other hand and shook it frantically. "Please! Isn't there anything you can do?"
Kratos weakly turned to Zelos and tried to shake his head. "N-no… Zelos is… right…" he coughed. "B-but… can you try… anyway? Maybe it will le-lessen the p-pain…"
Zelos nodded and did as he was told. Laying his open palms on Kratos' bloodied chest, Zelos muttered several ancient words to himself. A faint glow surrounded Kratos' entire, mending many of his injuries. "There… is that a little better?" he asked.
Kratos coughed and nodded. "Yes, thank you." He turned to Corinne. "Verius, could you please buy us a few minutes of time? I need to talk to my children."
Corinne nodded. "As you wish," said he said as Verius. "It is the least I can do."
Nodding weakly to Kratos, Sheena turned her attention to Corinne. Drawing the Heart of Symphonia from her sleeve, she threw it on the ground and yelled, "Verius! Heart Barrier!"
Just as it had done before, a large, pink dome surrounded the angels. Corinne braced himself against the barrier as he watched Nebilim. "Please hurry. I don't know how long I can hold Nebilim for."
From outside of the barrier, the irritated Nebilim could be heard muttering, "Hmph. You're only delaying the inevitable."
Kratos looked at everyone and smiled. "Haha… looks like we still have a chance…"
Tried to fight back his tears, Lloyd smiled and nodded. "Yeah… thanks to you."
Sheena leaned down to hug her adoptive father. "Dad, please don't leave us…"
Kratos closed his eyes. "There's so much I want to tell you but I don't have the time, nor do I have the words. I'll… try to be brief…"
He first turned to Colette. "Colette, your bravery knows no bounds. Never before in my life have I met a young lady as strong-hearted as you. Looking back, there is little wonder as to how you made it through your journey across all of Symphonia. I'm sure your father is proud of you."
"Kratos…" whispered a tear-struck Colette.
He then turned to Zelos. "Zelos, for much of your life, you have known only sin. Many thought you to be a lost cause, especially after what happened at the Tower of Salvation." He paused. "However, since then, you have become a man reborn. The noble side within you has finally shown its true colors. Though your body was shattered and your heart was in shambles, you found a way to move on and even learned how to truly live life."
Zelos said nothing but instead gripped Kratos' right hand tightly.
He then turned to Sheena. "Sheena… the daughter I always wanted but never quite had." He watched her blush for a moment before continuing. "Although we met under strange circumstances, it was easy to tell from the start that you had the soul of a true angel. Your kindness and infinite love for those that mean the most to you is remarkable. If everyone in this world had a soul more like yours, our world would be a much better place to live." He motioned for her to come closer to him. She did so and he whispered into her ear, "I would've been honored to walk you down the aisle on your wedding day."
At the conclusion of Kratos' speech, she merely whispered "Dad…" and cried on Colette's shoulder.
Finally, he turned to Lloyd. "Lloyd… my son…"
Lloyd shook his head. "You don't have to say anything dad. I already know what you're going to say."
Kratos nodded. "I see… in that case, I have only one last thing to say to you Lloyd… something I don't believe I've ever told you since we met again…"
"What is it dad?" asked Lloyd.
For the first time ever that Lloyd had ever seen, tears began to roll down Kratos' cheek. "I… I love you son…" Doing his best to fight back the tears, Kratos weakly raised his right hand. "Give me… your right hand…"
Without questioning his father, Lloyd lowered his right hand which Kratos immediately clasped one hand over the Angel Arm and one hand on Lloyd's palm.
Kratos smiled as more tears rolled down his cheek. It was then that his body slowly began to fade away, small parts of him becoming nothing more than shining atoms. "Once upon a time, I thought that… four-thousand years was far too long a time…" He paused briefly and took a deep breath as he body continued to fade. "It is… only now that I realize that…" His body had almost completely faded by now. "…four-thousand years… simply isn't… enough… time…" Upon the completion of his sentence, Kratos finally faded away, leaving behind only a very dim glow in Lloyd's Angel Arm that promptly died.
"Dad? Dad?" Lloyd reached for his father but felt nothing. This was no illusion. His father was gone. "Dad…no…" Lloyd slumped where he kneeled and began to sob. Not knowing what to say or do, Sheena and Colette could do little but hold the young angel as he wept. His face turned away from the scene, tears also began to roll down the cheeks of Zelos.
Presea sat alone in a chair, he mind wandering here and there. She was worried about Sheena, Lloyd, and Kratos and had wondered where Zelos and Colette had run off too. Knowing that she could do nothing to rectify the situation, all she can do was sit… and wait.
It was then the cry of a familiar companion caught her attention.
"Noishe?" she said to herself as she walked to the window.
Outside, she could see Noishe staring up at the sky, howling at something. Although she had no real way of knowing, Presea thought that for some reason, Noishe might be sad.
"Is Noishe… sad?" she paused, pondered. "Did something happen?"
Calvo walked into the chamber that held Yuan's special life-support pod, ready to perform his routine checks on it. He sighed. For as long as he could remember, he had wondered is Nebilim would ever be defeated. Shaking his head and focusing instead on the task at hand, Calvo peered inside of the pod to make sure everything looked alright when he noticed something strange on the cheek of Yuan.
"A… tear?" he said unbelievingly. "What did… how did… what's going on here?"
…whew. And there you have it. I have no good excuses for the long wait. All I can ask is that you please forgive me for the long wait. I will honestly do my best to become more regular with my updates.