Artryru: Hiya - sorry it took so long:( A lot has happened in these past couple of months, which included a writer's block, moving into a new apartment, loosing my job, searching for a new job, as well as a birth and a death in the family. With all those problems heaped on my plate I could have abandoned the story, but this was the last chapter and I owed it to you to continue. And also a little forewarning: Lloyd will have a moment during this chapter in which he become incredibly OOC, though you'll know and understand why when you get there;P
On another note, there will not be a sequel to this story as originally planned.
Thanks to everyone that reviewed. I wouldn't have been able to do it without you! This final chapter is dedicated in loving memory of my beloved aunt, who passed away two weeks ago - she will be missed. Also an extra speical thanks going out to The Sage of Spirits, Li-chan0767 and SilverMoon888!My gratitude goes out to these three in particular, as it was their encouragement above all that gave me the inspiration to get me this far! It's been great working with you all. Thank you!
Disclaimer: I do don't own Tales of Symphonia!
Prt. Seven: Keeping Promises
Iselia Border Forest; Dirk Irving's House; 13:30 local time
When Lloyd awoke, he realized that he had slept much later then he had intended. It was past midday by the looks of the light shinning outside beyond his bedroom window. It took him a few moments to comprehend its exact meaning, but once he did, his sleep addled mind sobered and kicked into overdrive.
Flailing frantically, the teen struggled violently against the blankets, the smothering fabric seemingly unwilling to release their captive. He toppled out of bed, feeling nothing as he hit the floor, but letting loose a series of curses nonetheless.
Oh spirits, he was late!
Getting to his feet, he hunted for his boots in a panic and hopped around on one foot as he put them on once he found them. It was just after he had snatched up his swords and headed for the stairs that he froze.
Something wasn't right…
Though he was unable to describe it with words, he felt it regardless. A chill raced up his spine, despite the fact that he unaffected by the temperature. On top of that, but and butterflies beat their wings against the inside of his ribs - fighting to brake free.
"D - dad?"
Cautiously descending the stairs, Lloyd entered the deathly silent kitchen with sickening feeling in his stomach. He glanced around the empty room, the furniture and dishes appearing as though they hadn't been touched since the night before. It wasn't until he finally noticed a pair of objects on the table that he realized what exactly the emotions he was feeling were.
His father was gone… again.
Frowning, Lloyd wandered over to the table, his hand brushing lightly over the familiar locket that he had been parted with yesterday afternoon. As he picked it up, he vaguely noticed that it had been repaired and set to re-clasping it around his neck where it belonged.
After a few moments of silent deliberation, he reached for the letter and opened it.
By the time you read this, I will already be gone.
Please understand that I have not abandoned you.
I was hired by the church to protect the Chosen for the
duration of her journey and if this mission was not to be
so perilous, I would have allowed you to join the party.
I do not, however, wish to endanger your life again so I
must ask that you remain in Iselia and out of danger.
The brunette had gone numb halfway through reading and the letter slipping from his fingers before he was even finished.
"He… left me…" he murmured, his eyes blankly riveted one the innocent piece of paper on the ground. It was only then that he realized that he had wandered out of the house while reading the letter and come to be standing next his mother's grave.
What was he going to do now?
"If you're quick about it lad, you'll catch up with them within a day or two."
Lloyd yelped, falling back on his rump. Looking up, he found himself staring at the stout figure of his foster father. The teen had no idea how Dirk had managed to sneak up on him, despite how he now possessed heightened hearing.
"Ah said," Dirk repeated. "'If you're quick about it, you'll catch up with them within a day or two'."
Lloyd gapped, wide-eyed and speechless.
Not giving him the time to find his voice, the dwarf proceeded to toss his stunned fosterling a loaded traveling pack and pair of scabbards complete with a new pairs of swords.
"And don't worry about packing - Ah took the liberty of doing it myself whilst you slept. There's enough provisions and Gald to last you until Trite."
If the brown haired youth had been expecting anything, it hadn't been this.
The diminutive man smiled, his expression on of joy and remorse at the same time - a look that made Lloyd's heart twinge. He felt very guilty all of a sudden, completely ungrateful. Dirk had been his father when his own could not. He had taken a stray and raised it as his own, never complaining and never asking for anything in return.
"But… I…" he stammered. "You didn't have to…"
Dirk shook his head, placing a callused hand on Lloyd's shoulder.
"Of course Ah have to. Lloyd, you are just as much my son as you are your father's. Ah knew what Ah was getting myself into when Ah took you in my home. Ah raised you the best Ah could in the absence of your parents and while it was frustrating at first, Ah don't regret my decision. You're a good kid and Ah would hate for you to suffer like you did when you were small."
He helped the teen to his feet, the smile never leaving his face.
"Ah won't let you be left behind this time. You need to be with your real father now. He's the only one capable of helping you recover what you lost. Ah don't mind being an uncle, so don't forget that you'll always welcome my home, no matter what."
Patting him last time on the arm, Dirk turned without a word more and started back for his workshop. The teen choked, his throat constricting. It wasn't a 'goodbye'; it was a 'see you later'.
"Thanks… Uncle Dirk."
Just as Dirk was disappearing around the corner, he heard the familiar sound of the dwarf's rough chuckle.
Smiling, he bent to pick up the letter and paused to look at his mother's grave a moment.
"You too mom. I promise I won't let dad get himself killed."
Shivers chased up his spine, as if she was laughing too. Laughing himself, Lloyd turned to Noishe, who had silently sidled up next to him. "So what do you say, Noishe?" he asked. "You in for an adventure?"
The protozoan eyed him skeptically - an 'I will come, but you protect for your own ass when the monsters arrive' look - then gave his toothy lupine grin.
"Come on than - we gotta go get Genis!"
It was almost like a swarm of wasps had infested Iselia's small, one room schoolhouse that morning. The buzz of chatter was almost tangible; the occasional shriek of laughter or groan of despair echoing over the chaos that was the start of a soon-to-be-boring school day.
Of all the village children attending their morning classes, single child sat detached from whole, his attention elsewhere.
Although he had lived among them for the past almost two years, he was the foreigner. It wasn't that he was still new, or even that he was smarted then everyone else (only five years old and already speed-writing perfectly handwritten notes - who wanted to be associated with the 'nerd-baby', after all?) No, it was his appearance that set him apart.
Dressed in odd blue clothes, his large gray eyes started out from under shaggy silvery hair that hid the pointed ears; the telltale reminder of his half-elven heritage (though they need not know that, of course).
Everyone once in a while, however, the little boy would pause a moment and twitched anxiously. When he did so, his eyes would flicker towards the doorway at the rear of the classroom, waiting.
He was waiting for Lloyd, one of two fellow classmates that actually went out of their way to play with him. The other was Collette, the Chosen. Together, Lloyd and Collette were able to ease his nervous worries and genuinely make him feel as though he belonged. They were the outsides, each for different reasons.
He was a half-elf pretending to be an elf and while no one the truth, being an elf was no better. As the Chosen, Collette was segregated because of the duty she may one day have to perform. Lloyd… well be wasn't so sure about Lloyd. He knew the older boy lived in the forests beyond the village and raised by a dwarf, but that was as far it went.
Right now, all he wanted was for Lloyd to arrive for school. Collette wouldn't be here, seeing as she had teachings with the priests at the temple today, so all he had was his other friend to rely on.
By lunchtime, he knew Lloyd wasn't going to be coming…
By the time school let out for the day that afternoon, he was miserable. Without a buffer to block the all the taunts the older children threw their younger classmate behind the teacher's back, the boy felt ever word. They mocked his intelligence and generally making fun of him. So rather then stay with his sister after class ended, he decided to go for a walk to try and ease some of his distress.
The little boy flinched, whirling around and forcing himself to smile as Collette cheerful jogged towards him from the direction of the Martel Temple.
"G-good afternoon, Collette…"
The blonde frowned cutely.
"Why so gloomy? It's too pretty today to gloomy!"
"Err… I… umm… its just that… well…Lloyd…"
The blue-eyed girl gasped, a hand over her mouth. "Oh, no! I'm so sorry! I forgot to tell you!"
Silver brows furrowed with confusion.
"Tell me what?"
"I'm sorry!" she continued to babble apologetically. "I was supposed to tell you yesterday that Lloyd wouldn't be coming to school today! He won't be coming for the rest of the week!"
The little boy blinked. "Huh? Why?"
" 'Cause this is 'Found Day'."
" 'Found Day'? What's that?"
The blonde tugged on the lapels of her jacket and chewed fretfully on her bottom lip.
"Well… grandma say that the Desians took his parents away - that's why he lives with Mr. Dirk in the forest…"
Falling silent, the little boy registered nothing that his friend said from that point on. Instead he thought about his own parents - the ones he had been too young to remember. Raine, who had become both mother and father in their absence, barely spoke of them. Whatever had happened that night, it was painful enough that she often cried in her sleep.
Despite not having known Lloyd for very long, it occurred to the boy how sad his older friend really was behind his smile. Even at his happiest, Lloyd was sad.
Now he knew why.
And even though he was only five years old, the silver haired child promised himself that he would find a way to help his friend… somehow.
Iselia Village; Raine and Genis' House; 14:10 local time
Genis sat on his front doorstep, sulking.
While it was a well know fact that he was very mature for his age, Genis was still very much a child. It would rear its ugly head from time to time, landing him in predicaments he would have preferred to avoid.
Yesterday evening had been a prime example. After Collette had gone home and the mercenary, Kratos, had left to find Lloyd, he and Raine had returned to the house the two of them shared. There was no room for negotiations while Raine packed and no amount of pleading could barter him the chance to accompany his older sister as she journeyed with Collette.
When she had left, he had cried. He just couldn't help it.
There had never been a time when Raine hadn't been at his side. She was more his mother then his older sister - though he would never admit it - and the separation hurt him deeply.
The sound of rapidly approaching footsteps brought the boy out of lamentations and he glanced up in time to watch as rather an exuberant Lloyd, and panting Noishe, raced up the hill toward his house, waving excitedly.
"Hey Genis!" Lloyd shouted. "Hurry up and go get packed!
It took him a few moments to actually comprehend what his friend had just said. If he had been in a clearer state of mind, he might have berated himself for sinking to an all-time low.
"Lloyd…" he replied. "They… well they - "
The brunette stuck out his tongue and wrinkled his nose.
"I know, I know - they left without us. But since when have I ever listened? I'm going after them, whether they like it or not. What I want to know, however, is if you want to come with me."
The half-elf stared, stunned.
'Hunh… I should have expected something like this.' Genis thought, inwardly cheering and doing a happy dance with glee. He had, after all, packed his bags as soon as Raine had left, just in case…
"Did you decide this on your own?"
"No. Da - err Uncle Dirk… told me to go."
"Because of Kratos?" he asked. "Your real father?"
Lloyd spun and stared at him sharply.
"How did you know that?"
Genis answered with a teasing leer. "Umm Lloyd, it was kinda obvious - you called him 'daddy' yesterday."
"Hey!" the older boy's face flushed a fiery red. "Shut up, Genis! Why I otta - "
He never finished.
The silver haired youth frowned. His friend wasn't the kind of person to just suddenly freeze in mid sentence. With trepidation being to curl in his stomach, he watched anxiously as his Lloyd's eyes narrowed. He then turned in the direction of the village, as if hearing something Genis could not.
He twitched as the brunette's expression went from confused to grimfaced. It wasn't a look that suited Lloyd well.
The younger boy gulped.
"We've got trouble. Desians are here."
Trepidation was suddenly replaced by icy terror. He didn't know how his friend could have known such a thing, but he trusted those words to be true. Lloyd never lied, especially not about such things like the Desians.
'Oh Martel…' he panicked. 'Did they see me giving Marble those cookies? Is this something to do with the Desians that tried to kill Collette? Goddess, please don't let this be my fault…'
It was a combination of fear, guilt and determination that gave fight to his feet. Kendama in hand, Genis tailed closely behind Lloyd as they raced down the slope and towards the steadily growing sound angry voices. Eventually the pair drew short of the village center as they caught sight of a whole platoon of Desian foot soldiers. Hiding themselves in the shadow of one of the houses, they spied in silence. Along with the solders, well over half Iselia's resident population was also present - currently being harassed for some particular reason.
"You can't do this!" one of the villagers protested. "You're violating the non-aggression treaty!"
The leader - a vicious aqua haired half-elf - sneered.
"No, no - that is where you are wrong, human. We have not broken the conditions of your precious non-aggression treaty. We are conducting an investigation - one that you are delaying with your lack of cooperation. But by all mean, keep resisting and give me a reason to kill you."
If it weren't for his cool head, Genis' blood would have been boiling right now. It was half-elves like him that gave humans a reason to fear them.
Lloyd, however, was well known for his short temper
"Leave them alone!"
The silver haired winced; panic surging in his heart as his friend step out of hiding in defense of the very village that had scorned him his whole life. The very village that, in fact, treated him no better then they treated half-elves.
There was a moment of silence that followed Lloyd's defiant proclamation, then a peal of laughter as the Desians burst out laughing. After all, they were all battle hardened soldiers with a bone to chew and the stubborn teen standing before them was just one insignificant human… or at least that's what they assumed.
"Lloyd…" Genis hissed, tugging on the brunette's sleeve.
Although he wanted to help too, his instincts were screaming at him to run. Unfortunately, his sudden appearance only made matters worse.
"Oh… I know you." the leader spoke, pushing the villager he had been harassing out of the way. Stalking purposefully towards the two boys, he leered at Genis with his one good eye. "Why, you're that little brat who keeps sneaking into my Ranch and fraternizing with the prisoners. What I haven't been able to fathom, however, is why a half-elf like ourselves chooses surround himself with inferior human trash…"
The Desian sneered. "Do you take me for a fool, brat? I know a fellow half-elf when I see one. No amount of pretending to be an elf can protect you."
There was outrage amongst the villagers as the information sunk in. They cried out angrily in protest, most furious that they had been duped for so long and others because they realized that they had let their children be taught by one - one that was currently escorting they their Chosen! If it wasn't for the fact that they surrounded by horde of highly dangerous half-elves that we're only a breath away from slaughtering them all, the villagers would have attacked the boy where he stood - no questions asked.
The suddenly declaration caused everyone to freeze. Genis nearly chocked as Lloyd suddenly moved protectively between the Desians, the village and himself.
"So what if Genis is a half-elf!?" the brunette snapped, furious. "It doesn't matter what kind of blood you have! Human, elves, half-elves - we are all the same! I'd even give my life for him if I had too." he turned to man before him. "And I sure as hell won't let you ruin my best friend's life just because you hate humans!"
The Desian bristled, but remained silent.
"You dare?" one the soldiers growled instead. "Grand Cardinal Forcystus should cut you down where you stand!"
Lloyd wasn't fazed. "Yes, I dare!" he snapped back. "All of this is wrong, no matter how you look at it! Do you wish for more suffering? The vicious circle never ends if no one tries to stop it! There will never be peace if this continues!"
"Cease your blather, you stupid human! Enough of your honeyed tongue!"
Everyone, save Lloyd, flinched as they heard the acid in the Grand Cardinal's voice. There was no warning given as Forcystus lunged forward and with a sweeping downward arch, brought his mechanical arm down on the teen before him.
Lloyd dodged, parrying with his blades as he leaped out of range.
"I've seen the likes of you before!" Forcystus snarled. "Spewing such poetry… I will not allow myself to be deceived into lowering my guard. You humans are all the same!"
Genis watched, his already pounding heart beating like a terrified butterfly.
The severity of the battle playing out before him was insane. It resembled something of a savage dance, completely untamed and brutal. The air was filled with the sounds and sparks of clashing steel and the flash and boom of cannon blasts. Even the dust that billowed in their wake was razor sharp.
Stranger yet, Lloyd hadn't even begun to brake a sweat.
Yesterday, the older teen would have been exhausted by now - done in by his lack of physical endurance. Today, however, he was like a gladiator. Despite having been peppered with numerous tiny lacerations, the brunette moved with a grace he hadn't had during their previous battle the day before.
Yesterday, he was failing to fend off a Desian underling. Today, he was holding his own against one of the five Grand Cardinals!
For Genis Sage, it was yet another layer to be added to the enigma that was Lloyd Irving.
"Lloyd! Watch out!"
It happened so suddenly, but he watched it happen as if in slow motion. The silver haired youth cried out in horror as Forcystus spun, his cannon arm coming down hard and striking Lloyd directly between the shoulder blades.
In response to the devastating blow that sent Lloyd reeling, the teen let out a keening cry that resembled the shriek of a wounded hawk. He stumbled and dropping to one knee, a burst of mana pressure erupting from his back that was so powerful it was enough to send the Grand Cardinal sprawling.
Mouth slack, Genis goggled dazedly as a pair of luminescent purple wings materializes from Lloyd's upper back in a flash of blazing light and feathers. Desian and villager alike paused in the midst of the confusion, staring at the brown haired youth beset with a combination of shock, awe and fear.
Forcystus, on the other hand, smirked. "So… you're the one I was sent here for. I guess I have to take you seriously now, brat."
Without another word, he renewed his attack.
If it was possible, the battle had become fiercer. Houses exploded or burst into flame due to the combination of spells and cannon blasts used by the Grand Cardinal. Lloyd continued using his sword techniques, as he wasn't sure if it was possible for him to use magic (it wasn't like he knew any spells, anyway). Only now he had the aid of his wings. Somersaulting in the air, the youth dropped back to earth directly behind his opponent.
Lloyd was on autopilot, he realized.
He had seen his friend fight like this before, but only when he became so immersed that he became oblivious to anything non-life threatening. Guided by instinct alone, the purple winged teen fought back against the aqua haired half-elf, unable to attempt to spare any soldier got in the way. Everyone save Genis and those unfortunate enough to get caught in the crossfire had long since fled to a distance where that the explosions, fires and slashing blades could do them no immediate harm.
And for a spectacular grand finale, a pillar of violet light and a pained scream rose to the sky like a beacon. When it dissipated, silence remained. The dust was slow to settle and the afternoon sunlight had turned a bloody red.
"Leave here," Lloyd hissed, his right-hand sword pointed at Forcystus' throat. "Now."
The defeated half-elf said nothing, only glared back in reply.
"If it comes down to killing you, I won't kill you because you are a half-elf, I will kill you because you threatened this village."
He turned to the closest pair of Desians and jerked his left-hand sword at Forcystus. Getting the hint, a pair hastily stepped forward and pulled their fallen leader to his feet. They might not have liked it, but the boy did have a sense of honor. They had been defeated and rather then kill them; their human enemy was letting them go. It wouldn't do to look a gift horse in the mouth and not live again to fight another day.
"You will regret this, boy!" Forcystus hissed as his subordinates hauled him away. "We will hunt you down, mark my words!"
The teen scowled.
"At least I am not a killer like you."
Silence returned once more as soon as the Desians had vacated Iselia. The damage was devastating, but miraculously, none of the villagers had been killed - everyone coming out alive with only minor cuts and bruises. They gathered together, huddled like a herd of sheep surrounded by wolves, and stared at the two boys that remained in the wake of devastation that had befallen their home.
One was a half-elf, and the other was… an angel.
The mayor stood at the front of the ensemble, his jaw hanging slack.
"The Desians will not bother you again, if they know what is good for them." Lloyd spoke, sheathing his swords and cutting off the mayor's attempt to stutter out some form of coherent sentence.
"B… but our houses - our village." the mayor finally babbled. "He… you…"
"Are you blaming for me this?"
He had yet to learn just how Lloyd had developed wings, but he was certain that his friend was no holy angel.
To the villagers though, Lloyd looked nothing less then a heavenly harbinger was his ethereal, glowing wings. As he approached the mayor with such an air of authority that it had the man trembling, the aforementioned bigot looked as if he was about to piss himself.
Despite being morally wrong, this was one opportunity to change Iselia for the better that couldn't be passed up and if Genis hadn't intuitively know better, he would have actually believed it was real.
Lloyd was, of course, the best damned actor he had ever known.
"It was unfortunate, but necessary." the brunette replied curtly, his red-hued eyes glinting as he began circling the mayor like a predator. The man was sweating feverishly. "You and your people have survived, that is what counts. Houses can be rebuilt. Now tell me mayor, what would you have done had you been in my position?"
"I… umm… I… well… I…" the man spluttered, unable the form a answer.
The teen tisked softly and shook his head.
"Just as I suspected - too gutless to answer my question. How unfortunate, seeing as I am the son of one of the four Seraphim."
All those gathered gasped in shock, even Genis.
"You see," he continued smoothly. "I was we separated from my parents during an assault that the Desians dared launch upon us. My mother perished as a result and my father was forced to leave without me. Being as young as I was, I appeared to be no different from any other child. Had it not been for unconditional kindness of Dirk Irving, I surely would have died."
The villagers shifted uncomfortably where they stood, most of them having the decency to look relatively guilty.
"Do you realize that you have put yourselves in a bad position, treating my as an outsider? You shunned me and turned a blind eye. However, Iselia has shall be spared. Why?" he glanced at Genis and smiled. "You have Collette Brunel and Genis Sage to thank for that. They gave my they're friendship and in return, I gave them my protection. So be a peace knowing that I hold no grudge against you."
Before anyone could sigh with relief, the young 'angel' continued.
"The persecution of the half-elves must come to an end, however." there were protests, but they were soon silenced. "In order to atone for your sins, you must learn to be more accepting of those who are different. I demand no immediate results, as it is a proven fact that nothing happens overnight. But even one small act of kindness goes a long way. Be accepting of others, no matter their race. If you can learn to do that, salvation will be yours."
Genis did his best to refrain from gapping like a fish. Damn, who'd have thought that Lloyd was such a talented public speaker when he put his mind to it!? Goddess, where was the loveable idiot he knew so well?
Without a word more, Lloyd abruptly turned away from his audience, folding the purple wings into his back and causing them to vanish. In a few strides, he had retrieved his pack from under a pile of rubble.
"Come Genis. Let us leave here."
The half-elf snapped to attention. Shouldering his pack hastily, he moved to Lloyd's side instantly.
The pair turned back towards the mayor.
"Where are you going? You can't leave us!"
"Oh?" the younger boy flinched at the sudden acid that had been injected into his best friend's voice. "I disagree. I can leave here, and I will leave here. If you try to stop me, I will be forced to kill you."
Having used enough killing intent to leave the mayor as nothing more then a trembling puddle of goo, Lloyd began walking purposefully in the direction of the village gates - as if daring someone else to make the same mistake.
No one made a move to stop Genis as he rushed to follow. They simply watched; far to stunned by what had just transpired to do little else.
Enroute to Trite; 14:56 local time
As soon as they were a fair distance away from the village, Lloyd let out a dramatic gasp from breath and fisted his hands in his hair.
"Never again, dammit! I sounded like a bloody stuffed shirt!" he bemoaned.
The brunette looked down and immediately noticed the particular look that Genis was giving him. He sighed heavily, looking much older then his meager seventeen years.
"No Genis, I'm not an angel. But I'm sure you already know that."
"Then what - "
He held up a hand to silence his friend.
"I'm not trying to turn you into an atheist or anything, but believe me - angels don't exist. I might have wings, but that's irrelevant. I just got them yesterday. It happens to be a really long story, so I'll do my best to tell you about it along the way. Just not today. Anyway, I'm sure… umm… my dad would be able to do a better job telling you then me."
The silver haired boy nodded.
"Okay. I'll believe you… for now."
Lloyd grinned. "That's all I can ask for!"
Unable to hold it back any longer, Genis finally gathered up the courage to ask the one question that had really been bothering him.
"Did you mean all that stuff you said back there?" he asked softly.
"Every word of it."
"Of course. Do you have any idea how long I've been waiting to say it? Just remember: everything, no matter how it comes into being, has a purpose - a right to exist. Regardless of what happens, I'll never turn my back on you because of the circumstance for which you were born."
The younger smiled. "You promise?"
"Yes, I promise."
Artryru: I hope you all enjoyed reading "I Promise"! This was the longest chapter yet, wrapping up with eleven full pages!XD Now that I have come to the end of this worthwhile mission, my conscience can now rest as ease knowing that I have completed what I set out to finish. Thank you all ever so muchly for reading this story and perhaps we'll see each other again in the future!:3