Summary: After the journey of world regeneration, Kratos decides to make a visit to the others. But after Raine is attacked, his plans for 'vacation' are ruined.
Rating: PG-13 (T)
Disclaimer: The Tales of Symphonia characters and previous plot belong to Namco & Kosuke Fujishima. I own only the plot of this story.


Salvation Vacation
Chapter Seven : Escape

"Ah, but that would take the fun out of everything, now, wouldn't it?"

Raine spun around to face the newcomer. "You..." she spat, eyes narrowing. "What are you planning?"

Leth stepped through the automatic door; it whooshed downwards to a close behind him. The half-elf didn't need magic to detect how much tenser the atmosphere had become. Was Kratos grinding his teeth, or was that just her anxiety getting to her?

As the son of the Grand Cardinal approached the table, Raine stepped backwards another few feet, picking up her staff as she did so. "I guess we couldn't expect an angel to come from a man – no, worm like Kvar, could we?" she muttered. "Just like him, you find joy and happiness in suffering..." She sighed. "And yet we thought the half-elves were superior to those so-called bloodthirsty humans..."

Leth turned from his position at the table, where his hand rested on one of the books. "Happiness in suffering, eh? Odd you should mention that," he replied, raising an eyebrow and looking pointedly at Kratos. "There's a man who has taken his own pleasure in spilling blood. Yet I don't see you attacking him, Miss Sage."

Kratos stood motionless at his words, transfixed by some memory, no doubt of Anna. Realizing she could not rely on him now, Raine stepped forward. "You wouldn't understand, would you? People change. Humans, elves, and half-elves! We've proven ourselves capable of learning. But not you... you and your father."

"I believe I've had quite enough of this," Leth answered lazily, drawing a dagger from his belt and walking towards her once more. His silver hair barely obscured his elongated ears, those features so similar to her own. "You'll learn soon enough that I'm not like him at all."

Instantly, Kratos unsheathed his blade and moved forward – but Leth threw his dagger to the ceiling just as quickly. Raine swore she saw the slightest trace of a smirk tinging his face before the area plunged into darkness. Seconds later, the mercenary collided with the table and stumbled back with a few muttered curses.

Meanwhile, the healer jumped backwards, surrounding herself with the bookcases for protection. She looked around furiously in an attempt to adjust to the darkness. Think, Raine, think!

Suddenly, she felt herself being pushed to the floor. "Kratos?" she whispered, but the figure muffled her voice and replaced the words with its own. Although she didn't immediately recognize the language, its vaguely familiar, soothing quality held her in a trance. She ignored the cold hand at her neck's base, pushed aside the thoughts that something wasn't right, focusing solely on that voice, those words from long ago...

...until another recognizable voice woke her from her trance. "Raine. Raine!"

Eyes shooting open, he woman looked around frantically, but hands on her shoulders kept her from moving. "What is going on?" she hissed, staring blindly at her captor, who also happened to be her partner in that little mission of theirs. Instant recognition dawned on her. "Oh. Yes.."

Kratos replied irritably, "Oh, yes, indeed. Welcome back, Miss Sage," he said, and Raine heard him getting to his feet and turning around. "I'd suggest a light spell. If you would be so kind..."

She grasped at her side for her staff, pulling herself up using the bookcases for support. "Light!" The magic glyph appeared at her feet. "Photon!"

The shadows vanished, replaced by the spell's unwavering energy. Raine walked to Kratos' side; the mercenary stood over the bare table, observing. "He took everything with him," he noted aloud.

"Why would he do that?" she wondered, eyes skimming the shelves. Only when she noticed his Exsphere research notebook was gone did the truth reach her. She turned to the mercenary, who stared back grimly.

"He's not planning on coming back."

- - - - - - - -

"Man, why did I have to get paired with you," Sheena groaned, walking ahead of her so-called partner – not like he was helping at all. The two were slowly making their way to the manufacturing section of the plant, and the burdens of the last few days lay heavy on her mind. "Come on!" she shouted back.

"Coming!" Zelos called, having stopped once again to look inside yet another room. He silently thanked Martel for modern décor; those unfurnished areas were hard on the eyes. Prancing along ahead, he grabbed onto Sheena's shoulders. She instinctively swatted him away.

"Zelos, this is not the time," she said, whipping around. Her hair returned to frame her face as always, yet something sat ill with Zelos as he looked the ninja over. The red-haired chosen had stepped back out of habit, but he nearly retreated further after realizing just why her eyes looked so watery.

"Sheena, you're..." He returned to her side. "You're crying," he said bluntly.

She turned around again instantly, gloved hand flying up to wipe away the tears. "I am not!" she replied, voice muffled by her arm. But her shaking frame convinced him otherwise.

"Hey," Zelos put a hand on her shoulder. "You all right?" Sheena remained silent. "Look. None of this is your fault. Not Raine's kidnapping... not Seles... not... Kuchinawa." She stiffened. "Quit that! Aren't you listening to what I'm saying? You're Sheena. This kind of stuff doesn't bother you. And if it does, that's where I come in. Right?"

Nothing. "Look-"

"I can't do anything!" she blurted suddenly, turning to face him again. "I couldn't save him. He didn't come back to Mizuho, not even after all these years! I don't know what I'm doing wrong. I couldn't make that pact with Volt, I couldn't keep him from attacking our village, and now – and now I can't even make one person return!" She shook her head furiously. "How am I supposed to save him now if I never could before?!"

"Sheena..." He reached an arm around her, but again she turned away. Unsure, the Chosen finally settled with resting a hand on her shoulder again, speaking to her back once more.

"Loosen up, eh? We need you, Sheena. Not Sheena the village leader, not Sheena the helpless victim, not Sheena the scapegoat for hundreds of deaths. We need Sheena the ninja." Nothing again.

Zelos sighed. "All right then," he muttered. "I'm going to close my eyes, and when I wake up, this terrible dream of being paired with the banshee-gone-soft will be over." He shut his eyes. "Three, two, one-"

Opening them, the chosen looked around, but said ninja was nowhere to be seen. "Uh... Sheena? Sheena!" Silence. "I was just kidding about that banshee thing, you know! And you haven't really gone soft! I was joking!" The hallway remained empty.

"SHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENAAAAAAAAAAAA-"

A gloved hand cut his scream off. "Shut up, idiot!" she hissed in his ear from behind. Zelos nearly jumped out of his skin. "Ahh-!" She hushed him again, and several moments passed before his breathing returned to normal. "This is a covert operation, you know."

A smirk crept across his features. "I thought you said you weren't good enough?"

She ignored him. "What's this I hear about you needing a ninja?"

- - - - - -

The room before Iselia's former three schoolchildren stretched grandly in front of them.

"It's big," Lloyd stated plainly, turning around and around as if trying to absorb it, while Colette stood wordless, looking straight up.

"Really, now, Lloyd?" Genis countered, stepping forward and pushing his suspenders-clad friend aside. "We're supposed to be looking for people, remember? This is the containment facility..." When nobody replied, he turned around to look at his friend. "Uh, Lloyd?"

"It's really big."

"You're hopeless," the young half-elf sighed and ducked behind a staircase, checking each cell. "There's no one here," he called out. "Go check the other side!" he shouted.

"Uh, right!" Lloyd dashed to the other end of the room and looked through each pane of opaque glass. "I can't find anybody either!"

"Huh. That's really weird..." Genis commented, walking back into the middle of the room. "Find anything, Colette?"

"Nope!" the young angel shouted from her floating position above. "There's nobody here," she replied, slowly letting herself down to the others.

"Then why did that guy take Seles and Kuchinawa?" Lloyd pondered.

"Good question," said Genis absentmindedly. "Kuchinawa did mention something about Kratos being bait for someone, but that doesn't make any sense. Maybe..." He stopped his pacing. "Maybe Kuchinawa and Seles are the bait?"

Colette tilted her head. "Why?"

Lloyd's face lit up. "I get it! They wanted to lure Sheena and Zelos in. But what about the Professor?"

"Yeah. Why would they need sis? Was she bait, too?"

"But.. that doesn't make any sense! Who would she be bait for?"

Colette piped up. "Kratos?"

Genis and Lloyd turned to her, horrified.

"Kratos?!" The brown-haired boy raised an eyebrow. "Sorry, Colette, I just don't get it."

"Yeah, what are you talking about?"

"Well, uh, I don't know! Don't look at me!" The boys stared her down. "Well, you know, um, Sheena cares about Kuchinawa, and Zelos cares about Seles, right? So maybe Kratos cares about Raine, and somebody was trying to lure him in." The young men didn't say anything. "Huh? What is it?"

"Yeah, I guess that could make sense," Lloyd answered after another few minutes of thinking. "But what would they need my dad for?"

"Really. He was out on Derris-Kharlan, and that's just a big hunk of solidified mana."

The group stood wordless for a moment. "Ugh, it's just too confusing!" Lloyd ruffled his hair. "I still don't -" The room's sudden darkness cut him off. "Who turned off the lights?" he called out. The room rumbled in response.

Lloyd drew his swords; Genis, his kendama; Colette pulled out her chakrams. The three shuffled together instinctively, staring around the room blindly. "Hey! Who is that?!"

BOOM!

The three Iselians fell to the ground as the floor quaked beneath them. Near the wall – or rather, the wall's remains – stood Sheena and Zelos, accompanied by Aska.

"Nice work, Aska!" Sheena shouted before running over to the others.

"What is going on?" Genis asked, picking himself off the ground and staring at the luminous bird.

"Yeah, what happened?" Lloyd added, taking Colette's hands and helping her up.

"We gotta go," replied Zelos as he sauntered over. "Like, now." This answer did not satiate Genis' curiosity. "Ugh, do I have to explain everything? I thought you were supposed to be smart... Anyway, there's nothing left in the manufacturing plant, and my gorgeous beauty here figured something was up. So here we are, saving your guys' butts again."

A glare from said 'gorgeous beauty' silenced the redhead. "C'mon, everyone! We have to find Kratos and Raine and get outta here!" Sheena shouted, running back to her Summon Spirit. "Grab on!"

Colette extended her wings and flew over to Sheena, who now sat on Aska's back, staring ahead resolutely. Zelos took his spot standing behind her, holding onto the ninja's shoulders. Lloyd and Genis hopped on behind.

"Everybody ready?" The crew nodded. "Let's go, Aska!"

With a deafening screech, the bird took flight, soaring through the room and into the rest of the facility.

- - - - -

Raine hurried after Kratos, who strode ahead of the half-elf almost defiantly. She snorted. Constantly casting her light spells was draining her strength, but in addition to holding her rod, she clutched the left-behind Exsphere books in her arms.

"Hurry up," the mercenary called.

Raine mumbled something indecipherable before doubling her pace. "These might come in handy sometime," she tried to convince herself. "Valuable research lies between these pages!"

But no amount of valuable research could help them now. The professor bumped into Kratos and nearly fell backwards. Regaining her balance, she nearly began to chide him, when she noticed why he had stopped.

The same stone door through which they had entered now blocked the only route of escape.

Wasn't that ironic?

Kratos turned to Raine with a raised eyebrow in challenge. The half-elf tossed her books down with a thud and raced up the stairs, smacking the door with her rod. Nothing. She dropped her staff and put an ear to the stone, trying to listen through, yet no sound reached her. She frowned. No brilliant new ideas came to mind...

Suddenly, a screeching cry echoed through the hallway. Raine dashed down the stairs right as Kratos ran up them, grabbing her books and returning to his side. She noticed the mercenary stiffen next to her, but she smirked; she knew something he didn't, for what seemed like the first time.

Light poured down the hallway from the left, and instants later, the familiar Summon Spirit came to a stop in the grand entryway.

"Raine!" Genis called, and she smiled in relief as her younger brother ran up to her. "Hey, we need to get out of here!"

"I kno-"

"C'mon, Dad, move for a minute, would'ya?" said Lloyd impatiently. Raine turned to see her student at her other side.

"Let's go, sis!"

Raine picked up her staff and walked down next to Sheena and Zelos, Kratos by her side; Colette flew upwards to join the two adolescent boys. The eldest two stared upwards, while Sheena and Zelos sat back, almost relaxed.

"On the count of three!" shouted Colette.

"One..." started the swordsman.

"Two..." counted the young genius.

"Three!" finished the angel.

"Demon Fang!"

"Stalagmite!"

"Stardust Cross!"

The room exploded in a burst of white light from the three attacks, and somehow, when the dust cleared, a shard of sunlight seeped through the now-broken stone.

"We did it!" cheered Genis.

"All right!" Lloyd said, pumping his fist in victory.

"..."

"Well, let's go then, everyone!" Zelos shouted, dashing up the steps to heave the shattered rock aside. Kratos and Raine ran up to join, and moments later, they had cleared a hole big enough to crawl through.

"Thanks, Aska. You did well," Sheena praised the bird, a hand on his neck, as he disappeared in a flash of light. She hopped the steps three at a time and crawled out behind the others, not a moment too soon.

"Hey! Look at the ground!" Raine shouted a warning. The ground seemed to ripple out in waves from the center of the base, throwing her off balance. The earth below rumbled once more, threatening to crumble.

"Everyone, start your Rheiards! Now!" Kratos shouted, and the group dashed to their respective machines. In a flurry of whirs, the four crafts took to the sky.

Raine looked down again to see the earth disappearing in a sort of whirlpool effect. "He wanted us all to die there..." she murmured.

"Well, he hasn't gotten rid of us yet!" Lloyd shouted above the buzz.

Then Raine realized she still held the research encyclopedias in her arms. No, he hasn't, has he?


Author's Note: What's this? An actual update? (Gasp!) Once again, I've been incredibly lazy. Lately, Tales of the Abyss has hogged all my time, and now I shamelessly plug it again - go buy ToA!
But I've worked a little more on how I intend to have the next chapters unfold, so that's a good thing. And I really hope my writing style has improved; the earlier chapters are somewhat imbalanced concerning the ratio of description to conversation, and I hope chapter 7 is different in that way.
Please, ZelosxSheena haters, don't kill me!

Anyway, thank you all so much for reading, and please review.