Alaia Skyhawk: This is it, the final chapter! It's been a long road, one filled with many of the potholes known as writer's block, but I've gotten there in the end. I hope you like this send off for Path of Restoration.
I don't own Tales of Symphonia so please don't sue me. I do however own Krishka, Dallinius (Dalli), Aluran, the Alurannai and any OCs, except Sanaro and Annule, who belong to Mr Who 2123, Mika and Fiuras, who belong to WingedWithFireyMana, and Gaea Silverleaf, who belongs to Sparkling Moon Phoenix, so please don't steal them...
Chapter 97: Redemption
Like the city beyond, the castle was deserted but for the corpses that littered its hallways like a macabre trail of breadcrumbs pointing the path to their destination. They ran onwards, Kratos and Yuan leading the way through the maze-castle they'd known for almost four thousand years, the group behind them determinedly keeping pace.
Running just behind his father, Lloyd frowned in concentration as he considered what was about to happen.
"Mithos is just ahead… and the Great Seed is there too. I can sense it!"
One by one, those behind him nodded, each with their own thing to say in this important moment.
Raine hefted her staff, eyes fixed ahead.
"Then I'm ready. I'm prepared to accept whatever happens in the coming battle…and we will win!"
Sheena drew her weapon seals.
Yeah. We're gonna win…for Mizuho, the worlds, and for all of you who believed a coward like me could get over her fear and get this far."
Collette unhooked her chakrans from beneath her hair, flipping off the safety latches.
"And… for myself, too. I don't want anyone else to make the same mistake I did. No one should have to think that they have to sacrifice their own life."
Genis nodded, his kendama in his grip as Regal ran beside him.
"Everyone should be able to live freely, no matter who they are. Humans and elves and even us… It's okay for us to be here, in this world."
"Yes. That's why we must recover the Great Seed from Mithos and revive the Giant Tree. Without it, not only will we be unable to restore peace between the different races..."
"The world itself will die." Presea held her axe in two hands, her grip firm. "We can't let that happen. We must reunite the worlds, and afterwards we shall make a new promise to the new world."
Zelos drew his sword, his pace never wavering.
"Yeah, the people that I like and the people that I don't, both have the right to live in the same world as I do. Because that's the way things should be. So count me in, I won't run from this one."
At the front, Kratos' voice carried back to them, Yuan's as well.
"To atone for allowing this twisted world to exist, I will fight with everything I have, and win."
"I feel the same. We allowed this to continue, and even if we had no choice, I want to atone for that."
Lloyd grinned determinedly, in agreement with his father.
"All right! Let's do this! We're going to restore a world where everyone can live freely!"
They ran on, racing through the castle like the winds of change. Higher and higher they climbed, never slowing until Kratos and Yuan slammed into either side of a pair of huge double doors and forced them open.
The group skidded to a halt, surprised by what they saw within. The Throne Room of the Seraphim had been ripped asunder, only the section with throne of the First Seraphim remaining where it hung suspended by magic among the purple clouds of Derris Kharlan. The fliers in the group grabbed the others, soaring over to the floating platform to land there with weapons at the ready, the Great Seed hovering above.
Genis stepped forward, his voice filled with entreaty.
"Mithos, listen to me! We don't have to fight! Please return the Great Seed to us so that we can reunite the worlds."
Lloyd joined him, sombre.
"Mithos, Martel is already dead… There's no reason for this to continue like this."
Yggdrasil opened his eyes from where he sat on his throne, glaring at them as he slowly rose to his feet.
"That's not true, Martel is alive. Her soul remained in her Cruxis Crystal after her body was destroyed, and it still remains there."
Lloyd clenched his fists.
"But that's not living. That's just existing as a lifeless being!"
The angel regarded him with contempt.
"What's wrong with that? After all, in our bodies flow the blood of humans and elves... the bloods of those that despise us. We're better off casting aside much filth and become lifeless beings, as I learned to do over these many years. Just watch, as a lifeless being I can even control my appearance and growth!" Mana flared around him, the tall man replaced by the young boy with rainbow wings. "Everyone should become lifeless beings. I've said before, the only way to eliminate discrimination is for everyone to become the same race..."
Lloyd stared for a moment, before shaking his head.
"What you hope for is nothing but a dream, Mithos. Discrimination comes from the heart."
"He's right, Mithos. It's the weakness of people's hearts that causes discrimination. Looking down upon others while placing themselves too high."
"You do the same thing! You look down on humans and elves, treating them like cattle. That's the weakness of your heart."
Sheena pointed at him accusingly, Regal stood beside her.
"Even if people become lifeless beings, nothing will change. Discrimination will continue."
Mithos stared at them, hearing the words and the assurance with which they'd been said.
"Then where should the half-elves go? ...We aren't accepted anywhere. We opened our hearts, but no one took us in. Where should we live?"
"You can live anywhere you like."
There was a snort, the angel unconvinced.
"Don't make me laugh."
"I'm serious, anywhere is fine. If you aren't doing anything wrong, you should just live proudly in the open."
Mithos fell silent, thoughtful, before speaking again.
"But it's because we couldn't do that…that I…that we wanted a place of our own!"
Zelos butted in, moving to stand beside Lloyd.
"Nuh-uh! Sorry, but don't act like you're the only victim here. It doesn't even come close to justifying all the things that you've done."
They stood staring at one another, two sides of a conflict four thousand years old. No one moved, not a word was said, until Kratos strode forward to stand alone.
"He is right, all that you have is a motive." He drew his sword, a graceful length of magical alloy covered with Alurannai talisman work, and pointed it at the angel. "Mithos Yggdrasil, we are going to take the Seed regardless of what you think. If you truly wish to keep it, then you will have to defeat me."
Mithos took a step back.
"You want me to fight you? You alone?"
Kratos regarded him gravely, unwavering.
"Is it not the student's wish that they might one day surpass their mentor? I was your teacher, your friend, and now must be the one to stop you. Do you have the will to face your past, Mithos?"
Mithos stood there for a moment, before slowly stepping down from his throne to the floor level on which the Narim stood, a sword of white light conjured into his grasp to be twirled idly as he looked at his challenger.
"Alright, let's do this... old friend."
They lunged at one another, the rest of the group hastily backing up to give them space. Mithos swung at Kratos' head, the blocked blow striking with such force as to lift the half-elf off the floor. With a sharp flap of his rainbow coloured wings, Mithos shot upwards to come slamming back down again with another platform shaking blow. Kratos retaliated, his sword a blur as he parried and thrust with equal force, the purple clouds of mana surrounding the area roiling in reaction to the battle.
Standing back behind a shield placed by Lloyd using the Eternal Sword, the group could only look on as the two former companions continued to fight one another, Raine voicing her concerns.
"Kratos still isn't fully recovered from releasing the Origin Seal, is he even strong enough to do this?"
Yuan put a hand on her shoulder, his eyes on the fight.
"Weakened he may be, in truth it has put the two of them on an even level for this fight. This will come down to skill, to which of them can wield a sword the best... Kratos as the teacher, and Mithos as the student fighting to surpass him. What remains to be seen is if Mithos remembers the lessons Kratos taught him all those years ago, or if he will forget and make the mistake that was always his greatest weakness with the sword."
Presea looked at him, confused.
Vayla glanced at her sidelong.
"His emotions... Throughout all our time as the Nine Companions, Mithos' greatest weakness was always when he lost his impartiality in battle. It would blind him to his actions and he would become careless, and on a few occasions it almost got him killed." She looked back at the fight still raging between her crèche mate and their former friend. "What we have to see now, is if Kratos will take advantage of it."
They fell silent once again, watching as the two swordsmen alternated between fighting on foot and striking at each other from the air. Neither used magic, instead focusing everything they had into getting their blade through the other's defence. Wounds soon dotted both of them, blood streaking azure reta and long blond hair. Breath began to come in short gasps, swings of a sword becoming slower and less forceful, the platform shaking less and less from each impact. At one point their weapons locked, hilt-to-hilt, the two fighters staring into each other's faces with teeth gritted before the broke apart and the fight began anew. Both of them were tiring, and quickly, this couldn't go on much longer.
Finally, as he and Kratos staggered back from a clash, Mithos lost his composure. Facing with defeat at the hands of the one he saw as his betrayer, he blindly launched himself towards him with a yell. Kratos saw it coming, as did his companions standing nearby, their hearts in their throats as he brought his sword down low at his side. He brought it up sideways in a great two-handed sweep, with every last ouce of his strength.
Mithos' eyes widened as he saw it, too late to get out of the way. He blocked it with his sword of light, the blade of magic shattering as the half-elf was struck and flung towards the edge of the great platform by the force of that final strike. He hit the floor to roll towards the fall into the purple abyss below, tumbling onwards until he reached open air and began to plummet with wide eyes as his wings and strength failed him.
Lloyd dropped the barrier in shock when a figure disappeared from his side, a hand whipping out from that individual to grab the angel's trailing wrist to drag them back onto the platform while the group looked on in stunned silence.
Vayla got up, leaving Mithos kneeling on that edge as the last of his will to fight slowly ebbed away into bewilderment.
"Why? ...Why did stop me from falling?"
She stopped, turning to look at him with sad eyes.
"Because long ago I promised a four year old boy that if he ever fell I'd be there to catch him..."
A tear came to green eyes that hadn't known such for almost four thousand years.
"Y-You remembered that?"
The brown eyes that regarded him were filled with sorrow, and regret.
"I never forget a promise, no matter what might have come between us. If I can keep it without endangering the worlds, then I will... Even if it means showing kindness to an... enemy..."
Mithos stared at her, that single tear trickling down his cheek. He looked like a lost little boy, a child who had thought himself bereft of the kindness and love of others... who realised now that if he'd only looked for it, it had been there waiting for him all along if only he'd accepted it...
"Vayla... Kratos... I... I made a terrible mistake, didn't I?" They nodded, the rest of the group remaining silent, not sure what to make of this sudden and strange conversation when moments before they'd been witnessing a battle. Mithos bowed his head, his blood matted hair obscuring his face as he brought a hand up to his Cruxis Crystal. "It's too late... I can't go back... It's gone... forever... the past..." His voice became choked with emotion. "Martel... What have I done? ...What have I done to you and everyone?" The hand on the crystal tightened, as those lost eyed suddenly became focused and fixed themselves onto a startled Lloyd. "...Chosen... of Restoration...The path of the future is yours to walk... but no longer mine... "
Realising what Mithos was about to do, Lloyd light jumped to his side with such haste that he dropped the Eternal Sword on the floor beside them.
The split second Lloyd appeared at his side, reaching out to stop him, Mithos wrenched his Cruxis Crystal out of its mount, his face turning suddenly to the pallor of the dying as the stone came free and dropped onto the floor beside the sword.
Lloyd cradled him, as Vayla took a step toward the pair with a look of horror on her face only to be stopped by Kratos' hand on her shoulder.
He shook his head.
"It can't be put back... Once removed, it can't be put back..."
Mithos gasped, struggling to breathe as the removed crystal leached the mana from him where it lay.
"I can't go back... Even though... I now see... I could never live among you... Not after... what I've done... Lloyd... destroy my Crystal when I'm gone... I don't want to spend eternity trapped... with no way out..." He shuddered. "I'm sorry..."
With a final gasp, and a pleading look to the youth, his green eyes closed one final time, his body going limp as the last of his life fled into the crystal beside him.
Tears falling from his eyes, as his shocked and stunned companions each reacted to what they'd just witnessed in their own ways, Lloyd took hold of the hilt of the Eternal Sword, lifted it up, and brought it down upon the glowing sphere... shattering it. He then placed it across his lap, the purple crystal blade resting against the body of the fallen hero he held.
Bowing his head over the body, he whispered.
"I promise, I'll make sure that all people come to know that you saw the truth in the end... That you truly regretted what you'd done... I promise you that, Mithos." He got up, setting the pale figure he held on the floor before standing straight and lifting the sword he held high above him. "Eternal Sword! Restore the true form of our two worlds!"
It blazed, everything turning to blinding white light as the group covered their eyes to shield them. The air shuddered, the world lurching around them before they found themselves stood near the ruins of the Tower of Salvation with the Great Seed drifting down slowly above them and Origin's voice calling out.
'I have done as you asked, the worlds are once again one... but there is no link. Without a link the world will die.'
Kratos looked to his son, his voice urgent.
"Lloyd, use the mana of Derris Kharlan and germinate the Great Seed! Hurry before it drifts off into space!"
Lloyd gripped the blade, as once again Origin spoke.
'Lloyd, Derris Kharlan is right at the edge of this worlds gravitational field. Not even Yggdrasil... Mithos... could stop it now... The forces involved in calling the mana from that distance may kill you, do you still intend to try?'
Lloyd lifted the sword above him, gazed fixed on the Seed.
"It's not like I have any choice. This is what I was born to do, and I'm going to do it!" He gritted his teeth. "Eternal Sword, germinate the Great Seed!"
The sword once again blazed, mana streaming down from the violet sphere above to surround it. Tighter and tighter it whirled, before suddenly it was flung outwards.
Lloyd looked up in horror, his face tingeing grey as a sickening feeling came over him. Recognising it, Kratos rushed to his side to support him before looking up in horror at the Seed.
"It's repelling the mana, the mana can't get through!"
Collette gasped, a hand to her mouth.
"Do you mean the Seed is?"
Lloyd struggled to try and keep the mana flowing, trying to force it to obey as in desperation he strived with everything he had to maintain his faltering Soul Link to the Seed. The sword vanished from his grasp, leaving him staring at empty hands before instinct had him take flight he fly up to where the dimming Seed still floated slowly downwards. He reached out to touch it, desperate for that silent voice which was swiftly fading from his mind, but was stopped by the sudden appearance of someone totally unexpected.
Mithos, in his child form, hovered before him as a spectre holding the Eternal Sword, causing Lloyd to gasp in surprise.
Eyes sad, the echo of Mithos regarded him.
"My connection to the sword is not totally severed, a part of my old pact remains with it. When you shattered my Cruxis Crystal I used that so I could do this one last thing... My foolishness is what weakened the Great Seed, and so now I will do what I can to save it." The spectre did something with the sword, and suddenly he was holding not one blade, but two. Handing the one of violet crystal back to Lloyd, Mithos kept hold of his old sword from the days of the Kharlan War. "This is the last of my pact, the sword you hold is now completely yours... Lloyd, I genuinely regret what I did, and although I know nothing I could do could make up for it, I will do this for the world anyway... Lloyd, farewell..."
Turning, the spectre of Mithos seemed to absorb the sword he held, the long enchanted blade crumbling as the residual power in it became part of him. Like a stream of crystal motes his spirit flowed away as he gave himself totally and utterly to the Seed... Nearly four thousand years after he spread the lie of his death, like the conclusion of some unknown self made prophecy, Mithos Yggdrasil truly did sacrifice himself for the sake of the world.
Lloyd shuddered, as his Soul Link to the Seed suddenly became rope strong. Taking the chance that Mithos had given him, he reached up with the Eternal Sword one last time. No command was needed as mana came screaming down out of the sky, and like a blazing comet the Seed suddenly plummeted earthward as the power surrounded it and its voice rang out in triumph.
The light was too bright, all those within sight of this event covered their eyes to protect them... That is, all but one...
Tabatha, called to this place by some unknown command, stood directly below the falling Seed. Gazing skyward, she held up her arms as though to catch it, and in response it stopped mere feet above her and enveloped her as its petal like shapes broke apart and dissolved into light. Blazing like a miniature sun, the light slowly compressed upon itself until finally it faded.
Tabatha was no longer there... In her place stood a tall green haired woman holding a staff in her right hand... and in the crook of her left arm sat a seedling Tree with its roots gently twined around her wrist. The woman turned and looked upwards, as the boy of the Prophecy, the Chosen of Restoration, descended and landed before her.
"Greetings, Lloyd... I am Martel."
The alurannai boy stared in surprised, the woman before him truly the image of the woman whose name she claimed.
"Y-You're Mithos' sister?"
She shook her head a little.
"No, Mithos' sister Martel is but one of the many souls within me. I was created by the Mana, and by the Tree. I am the symbol of the many lives sacrificed to the Great Seed. I am a new Spirit born into this world to watch over the Tree, alongside you all, on behalf of you all. As long as it exists, so will I." She looked down at the seedling cradled in her arm, and stepped forward towards Lloyd. "Here, take it. You are the one who must carry it to where it belongs. Take it to Aluran. I will await you there..."
Carefully holding the tiny Tree in his arms, Lloyd watched as she faded like smoke and vanished.
Hearing the sound of footsteps coming from behind him, Lloyd beat his ruby wings and soared into the sky before bearing north-east towards his ancestral homeland. Reaching out with his mind he touched the power of Summon Spirits and whispered in his thoughts.
It's time for them all to come home...
Startled cries rang out across an entire world as the Summon Spirits acting as one transported everyone that Lloyd had willed. A blur of sudden movement later and he was gliding down towards a long abandoned hill, a hill in a vast meadow, a hill that was now surrounded by all of the Alurannai looking around in confusion.
Lloyd descended to where 'Martel' waited beside the last crumbled remains of the old Tree. Walking past her, he carried the seedling into the heart of the bare patch of earth that was left and dropping to his knees. Tucking the seedling in the grip of one arm while he used the hand of the other to dig a hole, he planted it before stepping back from the newly placed Tree and doing as his heart was telling him to do in this moment.
Closing his eyes as he heard his companions running up the hill towards him, again, he began to sing, sing with the voice of the Tree that resided within him. It wasn't just any song though... it was the Song of Bonding.
Behind him Kratos, Vayla and Sheena froze before expressions of sudden joy lit their faces. Like a vast web the Seeding reached out with its spirit as it sang the Song with its Chosen. In seconds all of the Alurannai became Bonded to it, their strength feeding it with the very essence of life.
As fast as it had grown when twisted, so it grew now but as vigorous and filled with pure vitality as the Tree Breuntas had become had been. Branches shot up into the sky as mana poured forth and the Alurannai began to cheer as one in exultation.
Around Martel appeared all of the Summon Spirits. Efreet, Celsius, Luna, Aska, Shadow, Gnome, Sephie, Yutis, Fairess, Volt, Undine, Maxwell, Origin, Dallinius, Verius, and Krishka. All of them looked out over this place that was the heart of their power, the heart of the life of the world, as Martel raised her voice to be heard over the people as slowly they fell silent.
"The time of suffering has ended, Symphonia is as one once more. But the work is not over, there is still much to do to restore this world. I, Martel, the one who hath taken on the name of the first soul to be sacrificed to the Great Seed, stand before you as the symbol of those lost lives. The hopes of those people are part of what made me, and so I, the Summon Spirit of Hope, ask that you each would take one of those dreams and make it real." She fixed her eyes on Kratos', and smiled. "...Let us work together for the sake of a peaceful world!"
She lowered her eyes to where Lloyd and the others stood beside his father, his mother rushing to his side to put her arm around him... and in that moment all of them saw the souls within her. There at the front, Mithos and Martel stood with their arms around each other's shoulders, smiling.
That final message was theirs, and through the eyes of the Summon Spirit of Hope, they would one day fulfil their dream of seeing that peaceful world... together...
Alaia Skyhawk: And so ends book 3... Mithos got his redemption in the end, and the chance to fulfil his and Martel's dream of seeing a peaceful world one day. But that day has not yet come, for now is time for Book 4: Restoration and Redemption. I'll post it in a few hours, in the Dawn of the New World section, so head there to find the continuation of this series.