To Stand Above the World
A Tales of Symphonia fan fiction by Hitokiri-san
A/N: So the sequel to ToS is coming up in September. My reaction to reading the sequel's storyline, I believe, is similar to that of many fangirls - including "WHAT!? Lloyd burnt down Palmacosta?", "Where the heck is Kratos?" and all that. One thing that won't get off my mind, though, is why and how Lloyd became the Church of Martel's leader all of a sudden.
Having known that the whole story about Martel is a bluff, why would Lloyd still choose to become the Church's leader? Leading a ragtag group of fighters is one thing; leading a political and religious organization is another. How will Lloyd cope in the Church of Martel?
This is, thus, a speculation fic in regards to ToS 2: Dawn of the New World. Granted, the release of the game would probably crush this fic to pieces, but I can still try.
In all honesty, he wasn't entirely sure how this had happened.
He had expected his goal to be clear if not simple. After the reunification of the worlds, he'd planned to set out on an expedition to destroy all exspheres. There would be peace and harmony – it was no longer necessary for the world (singular now, thankfully) to vie for mana; discrimination for half-elves would sooner or later come to an end as Desians faded out of existence.
The thought that the reunification of the world would bring about suffering and further chaos was something that had never crossed his mind.
It was only one simple miscalculation, actually. Their regeneration group had neglected to tell the worlds' people how drastically their lives were going to be changed. Now, without warning, people all around Sylvarant and Tethe'alla found themselves facing an entirely foreign world and an entirely different people. It was, in hindsight, quite foreseeable that extreme chaos would ensue.
Lloyd was in the vicinity of Palmacosta when he heard of news of the first commotion. A couple of Tethe'allans, it appeared, had got into a tussle with some Sylvarant people living on the border between the former Sylvarant and Tethe'alla. Somehow the whole thing had escalated into a bloody conflict resulting in near a hundred deaths and many more injuries. Tension had immediately run high.
Sitting across an elderly priest in a small hut – the best one could manage in such untamed wilderness - Lloyd had been shocked to hear the news. The priest had come with a group of armed guards, and Lloyd was briefly spurred into thinking that they'd been sent to capture him for reasons unknown. Sensing his thoughts, the priest had promptly told the guards to wait outside while he spoke to Lloyd.
"What the hell are they still fighting for?" was Lloyd's first question upon receiving the information.
The priest, who had introduced himself as a representative of the Church of Martel, lowered his eyes as though in reverence to Lloyd. He seemed to be doing that a lot since they found the dual swordsman in the plains surrounding Palmacosta. Later, Lloyd would know that "the priest"- as the swordsman knew him now – one of the leading figures in Sylvarant's Church of Martel.
"With due respect, Sir Lloyd," the priest began, and Lloyd would have objected to the strange title had he not been distracted by the grave news; it was almost as bad as being called 'Sir Bud', "people fear the unknown, and will act recklessly when faced with something they could not understand. Tethe'alla possesses a much higher level of technology than Sylvarant. It is understandable that the people of Sylvarant would be afraid of their new neighbour. And Tethe'alla, on the other hand, has good reason to be wary of a rural country that sprung out of nowhere. A conflict like this is the result and – as much as I hate to say it – it will only get worse."
"But there is no point in fighting each other! What meaning can there possibly be in killing off one another when the Yggdrasill tree can supply both of them with enough mana?" Lloyd rose from his seat, brows arching in indignation. While the guards seemed to flinch slightly at his outburst, the priest was unmoved.
"The people from both worlds never knew that the worlds were going to be reunified."
"But that doesn't mean…"Lloyd protested, then paused as he caught the implication," …do you mean that it is my fault for reuniting the worlds without asking for anyone's opinion?"
The priest slowly shook his head. "You merely wanted to – and indeed did – save Sylvarant from its certain destruction. And by saving Sylvarant you also saved Tethe'alla as well. No one can ever begrudge you for that. But then…it is foreseeable that there will be people who reject changes."
There are always those who reject salvation. Lloyd recalled Kratos saying early in the regeneration journey, as an excuse for Sheena's assassination attempt. It had sounded hollow and insincere, even then.
He sighed. "Something must be done to stop this madness. I can't just sit here and watch the people of the two worlds fight to the death."
The priest's eyes were alight. "Which is what brings me here, sir. The world, as it is now, desperately needs a symbol of peace and unity. You are the hero who saved the two worlds – you wield immense influence over the people. Please, Sir Lloyd – will you lead the Church of Martel and bring the message of peace to the world?"
"What? I can't lead anything for my life, much less the Church of Martel!"
"You led a group of valiant fighters from both Sylvarant and Tethe'alla in saving the worlds. We believe in your strength."
"I didn't…" Lloyd started. The dual swordsman wanted to argue that he wasn't the leader of the regeneration group, really; and that the group of "valiant fighters" the priest spoke of were, in reality, a bunch of people who had randomly joined their group for various reasons and ended up saving the worlds. But the priest cut in quickly, obviously sensing his protest.
"Sir Lloyd, we're wasting precious time here. As we are arguing about whether you indeed have the leadership skills required to lead the Church of Martel, another uprising is already on the horizon. Therefore I have a proposal – will you help us in quelling the conflicts in the near future? We will show you how much you can help the world by leading the Church."
"Fine," the brunet snapped, then took a deep breath as though he was already regretting his momentary rudeness, "but if it doesn't work, don't say I didn't warn you."
Despite Lloyd's ominous prediction, it turned out that the Eternal Swordsman was a magical presence throughout the newly united world. Lloyd had decided to pay a visit to Palmacosta and Meltokio, important cities of the former two worlds, to spread the idea of mutual peace. The Church of Martel had attempted to draft Lloyd a speech, but there was such a shocking list of words he couldn't pronounce that they soon had to give up and leave Lloyd to his own device.
Amazingly, the visits were as effective as panacea on poison – the majority of the conflicts had died down speedily as people of both Sylvarant and Tethe'alla remembered what the world saviour had done for them, and made an effort to follow his wishes. The result also clinched Lloyd's position as the Church's leader.
As a last ditch effort to steer clear of a job he was sure he lacked the ability to do, Lloyd had marched into Meltokio and grabbed a hold of Zelos. Zelos, he thought, would at least be much more adept at leading the Church; after all, the Chosen had always held an important position in the Tethe'allan Church. It didn't work, either.
"Look, bud, there're a whole lot of reasons why I can't take your place," Zelos leaned back on the plushy sofa of his mansion, staring across the coffee table at his guest. Knowing the sheer number of "hunnies" who would immediate crowd around the redhead when he was out of the house, Lloyd had vehemently declined Zelos' invitation to meet at a local pub. Being seen with a whole crowd of girls milling around him – never mind that they weren't aiming for him at the first place – probably wouldn't give him any extra credit as the world's peacekeeping figurehead.
"Firstly, Tethe'alla's a serious mess. The people can't decide what to do with all those country folks from Sylvarant, and are currently running rampant. My Majesty, though trying to be nice and all, thinks that the reunited world simply means Tethe'alla's expanded its borders. And of course the Great and Beautiful Zelos Wilder gets to solve this whole thing by himself," he sighed dramatically, and Lloyd was torn between wanting to apologize for the whole mess and bashing Zelos' "beautiful face" with a nearby cushion. The redheaded chosen, as usual, inspired violence even in the most timid of people.
"And secondly…" Zelos' voice turned somber, blue eyes suddenly sharp and intent as they set upon Lloyd, "only you can do this job. I am not you - I don't have that special strength you have. Y'know what I mean?"
"How should I know what you're talking about?" Irritated, the dual swordsman chucked a cushion at his friend. Zelos caught it with one hand, and smirked back at him.
"Dense as usual, I see. But that's our Lloyd. You wanna know what I think?" the Chosen of Tethe'alla tilted his head; it was one of those rare instances when he let his wisdom and maturity show, "I think you're going to make a good leader."
Lloyd had never been sure what had happened next. Somehow, bits and pieces of the Church of Martel had snowballed around him, and soon the Church had risen enough in size and authority to become a world-leading organization. Lloyd, with his ultimate reputation and influence, had held the organization together. He traveled from city to city, reaching out to every person he met, trying to restore order to a world filled with discrimination and hate.
Sometimes, Lloyd wondered if this was how Cruxis had come into being – a snowballing motion, a small ragtag group of people rising to become the world's leaders. The dual swordsman wondered how Kratos had felt when Cruxis had grown and taken shape, four thousand years ago. He wondered how Kratos would feel if he was here now.
His status had changed, too. After his ascension to the position of leader, Lloyd found that the honorific "Lord" had permanently affixed itself to his name. At some point, every single one of his subordinates had started calling him "Lord Lloyd". His request for them not to do that was summarily ignored with a polite "yes, Lord Lloyd", or gently rebuked with a "you are the Church's leader, my Lord, and thus should be given the respect fitting of your status." The dual swordsman wasn't at all pleased. Granted, he was never pleased to be the Church's leader in the first place, but the turn of events was proving to be more and more troubling.
"I think they're weird," Sheena had frowned when he had complained to her about the issue after an official meeting, "if they're going to call you "Lord", at least they should call you Lord Irving or Lord Aurion. Lord Aurion sounds cool, actually."
Lloyd buried his face in one palm. "Sheena, that is so not the point. And Lord Aurion kinda makes me think of dad, you know?"
Sheena laughed. "For some reason 'Lord Kratos' doesn't sound as strange as 'Lord Lloyd' does. You're the kind of person who just shouldn't be called 'Lord'."
"Are you trying to insult me?"
"You know I don't mean that," the ninja girl elbowed him playfully, "and I think you know what I mean."
" I don't quite get it, but I got it. Let's leave it at that," Lloyd finally let up, sighing.
As it turned out, this wasn't the end of Lloyd's troubles. The dual swordsman soon found himself running headlong into more and more problems as he attempted to run the Church in – at least – a semblance of order. The task, however, proved to be more complex than it looked.
"What do you mean, we can't tell the truth to the people? I told you that the whole story about Martel is a lie! It's Mithos who separated the world into two and caused suffering in the first place! People have been duped for four thousand years, are you saying that we should continue lying to them?" The newly-appointed leader of the Church shouted heatedly, rising from his seat of command. At the moment, though, he looked more like a teenager on a tantrum than a mature, rational leader. Nevertheless, his board of subordinates looked down as one, clearly intimidated by Lloyd's rage. At long last, one of the priests spoke up, his head still bowed in reverence.
"Forgive us, Lord Lloyd. We understand that you are loathe to lie to the world, but please understand. The teachings of Martel have existed for four thousand years. A considerable number of the world's population are faithful followers of Martel. We believed in Martel ourselves," he added sadly, and Lloyd felt a pang of guilt at his own insensitivity, "if you were to announce to the world that Martel does not exist, many people would not believe you. Even if they do, such a declaration would throw the world into instant chaos. This new world does not need more trouble."
"I…but this is not right…" Lloyd protested weakly, anger dissipating as he realized the truth in the priest's words. The lie didn't feel right, still, and he eased back into his seat, feeling upset.
It was at times like this that Lloyd felt caged in the Church of Martel; it was as if an invisible barrier had closed itself around him. It wasn't because he thought that his subordinates were manipulating him; it was the exact opposite. They tailored their plans around his wishes, and begged his understanding when his wishes conflicted with the interest of the world.
In a way that was worse – he felt like a wayward child who constantly had to be placated by older people.
Lloyd eventually gave his permission for the Martel teachings to continue. But the decision was made with great reluctance. Lying, Lloyd thought as he recalled Dwarven Vow #11, was the first step down the path to thievery.
He wondered if lying to the whole world, if only for good intentions, would make him a thief of some sort.
Among all the changes he had experienced, one thing that Lloyd could never get used to was the heavy security around him. He was the symbol of peace and unification the world sorely needed, and the Church of Martel guarded him jealously. An entourage of guards – obsessively loyal towards his personal safety despite his protests of hey, if I can hold myself against entire swarms of monsters plus the sword dancer, I can send any assassin packing - followed him everywhere he went. It was almost as though he was walking around with the Guardian spell permanently activated.
Once they'd tried to follow him through Iselia and into Dirk's house. It had taken a tantrum and a semi-serious threat to resign to get them off his back.
It hadn't always been like this, though. Once, the Church of Martel had let Lloyd do whatever he wanted – from travelling around cities all by himself to visiting elven villages like Heimdall. Once they'd believed that his prowess with the sword was enough to ward off any danger he encountered on the way. If there was anything to blame, it was the whole incident at Asgard.
"Is this for me?" Lloyd had asked of the little girl as he descended from the makeshift stage, looking for a moment like the teenager he was than the saviour the world had gradually seen him as. With his speech (which was more like a one-sided conversation, actually) over, he was ready to throw formalities to the wind and just talk with some townsfolk. The girl had called out to him, pudgy hands holding out a wrapped box in offering.
"Yes! Papa said I should give it to Lord Lloyd! " she'd cried enthusiastically, all smiles and innocence. She couldn't have been more than eight.
"Hey, thanks! What is it?" the Eternal Swordsman had taken the gift without thinking, untying the ribbon with one hand.
Then it had exploded in his face.
Amidst the grey smoke that had instantly mushroomed from the box, Lloyd could barely make out the silhouette of a man charging at him, knife raised in one hand. Smoke or no smoke, he could easily have dodged him in normal circumstances – hell, even the obligatory bandit on the Ossa trail was three times faster than this man. But Lloyd was so shocked at the prospect that a mere child could wish him so much evil that he didn't evade fast enough. The blade sliced across his shoulder, drawing a line of blood as it went. For a person hell bent on killing Lloyd, the man had exceedingly bad aim. It was a low price to pay for Lloyd's utter lack of vigilance, as Kratos would have said.
The rest of the day had been a blur. At some point he must have drawn his blades, knocked the clumsy assassin down, single-handedly prevented the situation from turning into some sort of mob hysteria, and found the time to slap an apple gel onto his wound.
When the Church of Martel learnt of this, it descended upon Asgard like a hawk upon its prey. It was furious at the attempt on its leader's life; and would have given Asgard hell had Lloyd not personally interfered.
Lloyd soon forgot the whole incident. He was so used to this sort of things during the Regeneration journey that one or two attempts on his life weren't something he'd normally sweat over. There was something his would-be assassin said in his face, though, that left a distinct impression in his mind.
"Sylvarant would be better off without you and your intervening."
"My lord, the people of Palmacosta seems well enough."
"Eh? Oh, yea…" Lloyd was slightly surprised as he turned to the guard who had spoken to him. As their mission was somewhat an undercover one, his two guards had forsaken their conspicuous armors; they were wearing civilian clothes that allowed the Eternal Swordsman a clear view of their faces. This was something, Lloyd decided, that he could get used to.
Lloyd wasn't nearly halfway as bad in recognizing people as he was in Maths; but as nearly all of his guards wore helmets from head to toe, it was impossible to recognize them in person. It was one thing Lloyd didn't like about the Church's army uniform, apart from the fact that they reminded him of the armor that the Desian soldiers had once worn. In their knightly attires and formal demeanors the guards looked nothing like his companions from the Regeneration journey. They were meant to be Lloyd's servants, not his friends.
Lloyd himself was wearing an assemble that aimed to hide his identity: his hat's wide brim covered most of his face, and his trademark red was traded in for a plain peasant outfit. Disgruntled though he was that the hat was going to ruin his hairstyle, he didn't want the townspeople crowding around him. He wanted to see Palmacosta in its daily routine; a formal visit could wait.
Distracted by his guard, Lloyd didn't look where he was going as he turned around a corner. A startled yelp and a bag's worth of scattered groceries, however, told him that he'd run into someone. It was a strangely Colette-like thing for him to do.
Before Lloyd could pick himself up from where he had landed on his rear, his guards had already reacted. They drew their swords simultaneously, leveling them at the poor person's face.
"You brat! You should watch where you're going!"
Another yelp of protest could be heard, and Lloyd sighed, pressing the flat of his subordinates' weapons so that they pointed towards the ground. Sometimes his guards – ever watchful for his safety – would act too much like school bullies for his liking. Lloyd didn't hold it against them, but it didn't mean that he liked it either.
"I should apologize…I didn't watch where I was going. You alright?" he asked of the person, offering a helping hand.
"Er…yeah…" the person replied meekly, and it was when Lloyd got his first view of the person he had carelessly knocked over. A young boy - a few years younger than him at least - sat upon the ground, seeming dazed at being threatened so abruptly with weapons. Pale green eyes looked up at Lloyd from behind a curtain of straw-coloured bangs.
At Lloyd's smile, the boy seemed encouraged; taking Lloyd's hand he rose and began gathering his scattered foodstuff. Lloyd joined him, snatching a rolling onion before it could make its way off the road and into the canal. He handed it to the boy, who muttered a shy "thank you".
"Hey, no sweat! It's my fault that your stuff is all over the place," Lloyd grinned at him, and the child hid his face behind his grocery bag in embarrassment, "and by the way, I haven't asked your name yet! What's your name?"
"Huh? I'm…Emil. Emil Castagnier."
"Oh, rare name. I'm Lloyd!" the dual swordsman proclaimed, passing a final orange to the flustered boy. Emil offered him a small smile, and Lloyd clapped him on the shoulder, cheery attitude never waning.
"Hey, Emil, I must go now. See you around the place?"
"Okay…" Emil blinked as he watched as Lloyd wandered off into the distance. Despite the death threat he'd received from the strange men, Lloyd had been a good person; it would be nice to "see him around the place", as the teenager himself put it.
Still pondering about the encounter, Emil carried the groceries back to his home.
They parted ways that day, Lloyd and Emil; but fate would soon bring them together in a way neither had anticipated. In a year's time, a war between the Vanguard and the Church of Martel would burn Palmacosta to the ground; numerous lives would again be lost, and - perhaps most importantly – Emil would seek to exact revenge against Lloyd.
Emil would not be able to link the "Lloyd" he met on Palmacosta's street to Lloyd Irving of the Church of Martel. Lloyd would not be able to recall a person named Emil Castagnier. But at the time of their next meeting, it would no longer matter.
One year after the reunification of the worlds, world savior Lloyd Irving was still unused to the burden of being the world's new leader.
Two years after the reunification of the worlds, Lloyd Irving would find himself entangled - once again - in a web of conflicts and revenge.
E/N: I gleaned a lot of stuff from the promotion video of ToS2 in my speculation. The idea for "Lord Lloyd", for example, came from a scene where a leader of the Church of Martel's army said (presumably to Emil or Martha), "Be silent. Lord Lloyd's order is absolute." Like Sheena in this fic, I find the idea of calling Lloyd "Lord Lloyd" rather strange.