By Queenie Z

Lloyd knew this area all too well. This wide clearing, located near the forests between Asgard and Luin, was a favorite campsite for him and his friends over their journey. It hadn't changed much - pink and purple star-shaped wildflowers still colored patches of the ground, while a single, lonely oak tree stood erect in the same place it had always been. A small circle of stones - remains of a campfire - still stood in the middle of the clearing.

Lloyd knelt down and reached into the circle, removing a pinch of soggy ash from it. Rainfall had robbed it of its smoky scent, but that didn't stop it from reminding him of warm fires, delicious (sometimes not so) meals, and a band of friends who shared their hopes and dreams on a clear, starry night - just like tonight, despite that morning's rain.

Smiling to himself, Lloyd brushed the soot off of his gloves and turned towards the tree. Once upon a time, the heat of the daytime made its shade a valuable asset for the travelers. It was also the place where, earlier in their quest, he and Kratos would spend hours honing their sword skills.

...Actually, it was less practice and more teaching on Kratos' part.

Lloyd walked to the tree and ran his fingers over the many scars on its bark. There was a time when Kratos' concern with the boy's training struck him as weird, but after a while, he thought he finally understood what the "mercenary" was trying to do.

Watch me. Then, do as I do.

Kratos would make a mark on the tree and leave Lloyd to try and hit it. He never did.

Your form is all wrong. Keep your shoulders straight.

Without much of a thought, Lloyd drew his swords and took on a fighting stance, being sure to keep his shoulders straight.

Now, use the ball of your back foot to rotate your body.

Quickly and gracefully, Lloyd spun to the right, ready to strike the tree.

Now swing.

The sound of blade against bark shot through the silence of the night as the swordsman cut into the tree with his weapon. After extracting it from the tree's grip, he looked at the mark he had made.

He hit exactly on the mark that Kratos had made all those months ago.

If only he were here to see this! Grinning to himself, Lloyd sheathed his swords, knowing that he would have been proud.

It wasn't conceitedness that made Kratos correct Lloyd; it was guidance. He never was a show-off; he was trying to be a model for the son he never raised. Even though he had betrayed them all, the angel would watch over and protect him and his friends. This what made Lloyd realize who Kratos Aurion really was.

He was a loving, caring father.

Relaxing against the tree's trunk, Lloyd gazed into the starry night sky. Somewhere, up there, he would still be watching over him; a bright, shining star that would never know just how much he meant to this world and to the boy he had helped become a man.

So Lloyd, silently praying that he was listening, said into the sky:

"Thanks... Dad."