Fated to be Free

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Summary: (Post Sealed Fates) Fate and Destiny: two beings of the same creation. Lloyd and Caelestis: two creations of the same being. An account of Lloyd's pursuit of third entity, Freedom, and with it, his own happiness.

(Arc)Rating: K

Spoilers: Do NOT read unless you have completed BOTH: Tales of Symphonia (the game), Sealed Fates (the fic).

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Arc One: Wandering Swordsman

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The tide whispers and the gulls cry out softly as they scavenge the only sands they've known, and the crisp, salty breeze gently brushes over the tiny coastal village. A morning fog rolls over the old, but sturdy, wooden docks. The sun had risen half an hour ago, but with the clouds overhead, it was anyone's guess.

Perhaps lulled by the song of the gulls and the gentle hum of the tides, the townsfolk do not stir from their peaceful slumber. The air remains humid even through the cooling oceanic zephyrs that toy with the weathered wooden chimes at the door to the local Inn. Dancing in the wind, the smooth center piece gingerly taps the hollowed shoots, producing a soft myriad of tranquil, yet lively notes in the foggy morning, melodies that vary with each new gale.

Through the crisp stillness of the morning, a young man surfaces from the ocean waters. He shakes the water from his coffee hair, laughing heartily as he swims towards the docks. His strokes are swift and strong as he moves through the water like the seagulls through the hazy skies. He places both hands on the smooth, weathered wood and pulls himself out as the water slides down his fully drenched attire.

He laughs again as he tries to wipe the saltwater from his eyes. A man many decades his senior stands at the other side of the dock. He holds his hands behind his back and his thin, though still sturdy, frame shakes gently as he chuckles softly at his grandson's predicament.

"Oh… S'nothing like a nice dip in the ocean before setting sail!" his grandson says with another laugh; his clothes leave a trail of saltwater with every move he makes.

"Ruian, you mustn't be so careless. The sea can be very unforgiving." His grandfather reminds him gently, smiling in spite of his words.

"I know," he smiles, wringing the saltwater from his sodden clothes. Noticing how little of a difference he efforts were making, he says, "Oh well. I'll set off wet; I should get going anyway. Guess I'll just hafta let the afternoon sun take care of this!" he laughs heartily as he strides towards a small, wooden ship with a single, unmarked sail. He sets up the sail for departure and checks his rations, making the final preparations for departure with a small beam still on his face.

He moves to untie the rope anchoring his craft to the dock; his grandfather says with a wave of his hand, "Here, I'll get it for you. You just focus on getting out of the port."

He nods, dashing eagerly to the wheel, looking back readily towards his grandfather. The old man slowly unties the ages old rope with a sad smile. "Remember to be ever vigilant, Ruian. You are often too carefree to be sailing on your own, but…" he pauses, looking into the depths of the chocolate eyes of his grandson, seeing a reflection of himself in his younger youthful days, and he smiles once more. "I'll await your return. Please take care."

Ruian smiles. "Don't worry, Grampa. I'll be back in a few days, safe and sound." He waves as the sails catch wind and the craft begins to glide over the crisp morning waters until it disappears over the horizon.

His grandfather sighs, watching him leave; the fog rolls over the wooden planks, lurking with an auguring chill. He shivers before turning away and heading home.

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At home, a couple days have passed. Shortly after the conclusion of events, Kratos left for Derris-Kharlan once again. I can't begin to describe the kind of guilt I felt, watching him leave. I broke my promise to him, and now I don't even know if I could ever tell him it was a mistake. What happened… I did everything in my power to try and sway things in my favor, but I guess I wasn't strong enough.

…No, maybe it wasn't that I lacked the power, but my opposing forces were simply too great. The Goddess Martel, myself, my own Fate—each of those I managed to change at one point in my life, for the benefit of the world; it looks like bending fate is a one-time deal.

Everyone opted to stay at Zelos' mansion for the next few days. I wish they would just joke like old times, but a gloomy haze fell over the house. I hated seeing them all so cheerless, but luckily, they began to part ways once again and moved on.

Where ever I am, time stands still. Alone, in this perpetual darkness, with my thoughts the only sound to be heard… I have to wonder if this is the abyss before the seal back into the world of the living—the world of the dead or the spirit world, I guess one could say. But, a feeling's settled that tells me that it's not. So then, where am I?

I can see everything happening on the planet; if I bring a thought, a place, a person to mind, it plays out before me. I can be anywhere I want to be in an instant… but, I can't be there, either. I can only watch. I can't speak, can't feel, can't exist.

All I can do is stay, watch and listen.

It's been like that now for a couple days back home… I think. Does that time also apply to me, wherever I am? It should, after all, the Professor said something about time being universal… no, wait, that was facial expressions. Never mind. Man, this is confusing.

It's slowly becoming more and more difficult to see or hear what's happening in the present time. Yes, I've tried squinting and tilting my head; to little avail. What I can see, though, is… weird.

For a moment, time simply stopped. Froze.

Then, it started up again, but… backwards. Everything is replaying again from the end to the beginning—people are walking backwards, running backwards, even… talking backwards?! Everything is so messed up! As time goes on (or does it?) things keep going faster and faster! I'm losing touch with reality and everything's slowly getting darker and darker and the jumbled voices are getting softer and softer. Everything that I've known is fading away before my eyes and I can't do anything to stop it! I-I don't even recognize the time or what's happening; everything's spinning out of control!

I can't hear the warring voices of the past or anything else. The only sound to be heard is the sound of my own frantic voice, and even that is somehow fading as well into a single silence. I'm completely surrounded by darkness, and for the first time in a long time, I can feel one sensation beginning to overwhelm my senses.

The coldness. I can feel it creeping over me in shuddering waves, numbing every part I have left of me. It's shrouded my sight, silenced my own voice and has deadened every other sensation, but I can still feel its deadly chill.

I wasn't afraid of dying, because I thought I knew what death would be. I had seen it for myself as I worked for Caelestis in the depths of nothingness beneath our planet…

But maybe I was wrong. What I saw… was only a cruel trick to lure fools into a false sense security with the life they have, giving them the hope that they would live again…!

Now I stand in front of true form of Death, a cold, frozen eternity without sight, sound, or recollection. The Goddess Martel said… no, was there really even a thing? I… I wasn't just imagining it, was I? Every word she told me, her guarantee of happiness… lies? I-I don't know what to believe, what to think! Please, Martel, please; don't let this be the end! I trusted you… I never… I didn't mean…

I don't want to die!