A.N: Ladies and Gentlemen, this as they say, is it. This is the end. Thank you all for reviewing. I shall wait til the end to say what I want, so for now, for the last time, please:
Roiling purple and red clouds billowed about the platform that held Mithos' throne as the group set down in front of him.
The audience room was bare, shattered stone walls and floors, a threadbare red carpet running up the centre of the room to the throne. The throne itself a huge block of stone, the back extending far up, two angels standing protectively on either side.
Yggdrasill himself was hovering in front of the throne, head bent down, eyes closed.
"Home," he murmured "I'm going home…"
Genis dashed forwards to plead with his former friend.
"Mithos…listen to me! We don't have to fight! Please return the Great Seed to us so that we can reunite the worlds."
"Home…I'm going home…"
"Something's wrong. He sounds like a puppet…" Lloyd stated.
"W…wha?…" Colette suddenly exclaimed, jerking as she did, a red light emerging from her, floating over to Yggdrasill and settling into him. A moment later, Yggdrasill's green eyes flickered open, a cruel smile curling his lips as he regained consciousness.
"I need to thank you for going through all the trouble to bring me back here. I'm finally myself again."
Lloyd dashed forwards.
"Damn! So that's what this was all about!"
"Mithos," Genis called "Martel is already dead…"
"That's not true!" Yggdrasill snapped "Martel is alive, just as I lived on in the Cruxis Crystal."
"That's not living," Lloyd countered "That's just existing as a lifeless being."
"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."
"That's what you really want?"
"Of course," Mithos answered, voice switching to its younger form "Watch! When you become a lifeless being, you can even control your appearance and growth."
A moment later, his entire body reverted back to its child-like appearance.
"Everyone should become lifeless beings. I told you before. The only way to eliminate discrimination is for everyone to become the same race."
"What you hope for is nothing but a dream, Mithos," Lloyd shook his head sadly "Discrimination comes from the heart."
"He's right, Mithos," Genis agreed, trying to persuade the other half-elf's mind. If they couldn't… "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!" Sheena accused "You look down on humans and elves, treating them like cattle. That's the weakness of your heart."
"Even if people become lifeless beings, nothing will change," Regal informed the half-elf "Discrimination will continue."
"Then where should the half-elves go?"
No one answered for a moment.
"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." Lloyd told him confidently.
"…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 shook his head.
"It's because we couldn't do that…that I…that we wanted a place of our own!"
"Uh-uh," Zelos tutted "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."
Kratos stepped forwards to face his former friend, his voice soft though his words were harsh.
"That is not an excuse for the things we have done. It is merely a motive, not a justification."
"What you've done caused meaningless suffering and death to countless people. Can you feel their pain?" Presea asked.
"People can change," Raine assured, striding to stand beside Kratos, looking at him briefly as if he were proof of her words "Even if they don't change right away. Months, years—as time passes, change is inevitable."
"Maybe not everything can be forgiven," Colette acquiesced "But one can try to atone for one's sins. Can't you feel it in your heart? The Goddess known as conscience…"
"Do you think I'm going to beg for forgiveness?" Mithos scoffed "Ridiculous. There is no Goddess. So I will continue to pursue my ideals. If there is no place where I can live, and if I've been denied my Age of Lifeless Beings, then the only thing left for me is to build a new world on Derris-Kharlan. A world just for my sister and me!"
Mithos wings burst from his back in a shower of multicoloured feathers, his wings every shade of the rainbow, shimmering as they fluttered.
"There's nothing anyone can do!"
A second later, Mithos was hurling himself at Lloyd, Zelos tackling him as he did so, sending the blonde careening off to the side.
Mithos snarled, pulling himself upright in the air, turning to face the group. Each one of them stood ready for battle, weapons in or at hand, faces set with determination. The angel scanned each face one by one before coming to rest on Kratos. If there was one weak link in this group…
He charged forwards, fists clenched and glowing with charging mana.
Raine shot to the back of the field, Genis and Colette following, each beginning to charge their own spells. The rest of the group scattered, Regal, Lloyd, Presea and Sheena spreading themselves out, forming a circle around Mithos as he charged at Kratos'.
The seraph tightened his fist on the handle of his silver long sword, glowering at his enemy. If he thought he was going to back down and have a change of heart, he had another thing coming. He drew himself back, tensing as Mithos' drew closer.
He leapt back just as Mithos called the spell, propelling himself out of reach of the attack. The moment his feet glanced against the floor, he pushed himself forwards again, sword clasped in both hands. He swung the blade at his student, the other suddenly batting the blade aside with his palm, sneering as Kratos swung, having to follow the direction of his blade.
His triumph was short lived however as he suddenly became aware of the others surrounding him. Regal and Presea charged together, the girl's axe slashing the air just centimetres in front of the angel, Regal plunging down with a cry of:
The CEO's boot clipped Mithos' as he descended but the angel gave no sign of the attack, gathering power in his hand once more and smashing his hand into the larger man's stomach.
Regal tumbled back, winded by the sheer force of the blow and he gasped for breath as he struck the floor, trying to push himself up the second he had stopped moving. Presea leapt back from Mithos, gaining time for herself as Zelos, Sheena and Lloyd followed up Regal and Presea's attempts with the next volley of attacks.
Lloyd charged with Rising falcon, Sheena slapping a card against the blonde as he turned, stunned when the small explosion seemed to have no effect on him and then easily dodged Lloyd's attack. Zelos threw himself forwards, striking out at the angel only to meet a brief flash of a glowing green barrier.
And it suddenly seemed to be Mithos' turn to attack, his behaviour suddenly turning from offensive to defensive.
If there was one element of Mithos' the group couldn't understand it was how he could cast spells…without even a second of concentration and it was that fact that sent Regal, Zelos, Presea, Sheena and Lloyd skywards as Mithos screamed:
Kratos missed being caught by the attack by scant inches, his wings appearing briefly as he jumped into the air again and landed heavily just in front of Raine. She blinked, keeping her concentration, holding the spell until Mithos' attack finished wreaking havoc upon the warriors.
When the black dome had faded she released the spell, watching the floor transform into a mosaic of patterns and colours, magic circles streaking their way across the ground. At the same time, Colette and Genis released their own attacks, Colette's para-ball combining with Genis' Tidal wave, carrying sparking water up over Mithos' head before crashing down in a flood, the water swirling harmlessly about the groups feet.
Mithos fell, crushed temporarily under the weight of the water, electricity sparking along his small form. He clambered to his feet as soon as the water had drained away and the electricity had passed, his wings sodden and weighed down. He snarled again, focusing his eyes on Colette as he staggered to his feet and he cast another spell immediately, fire and stone erupted beneath her feet. She was hurled into the air, her body battered from all angles.
Lloyd charged forwards, catching her as she fell Raine was casting before he even turned to her but the woman was suddenly fired back by a bolt of electricity. Kratos' head whipped, following her travel, wincing as she scraped along the floor.
He pointed to Mithos, instructing them to attack. Regal and Presea followed suit, Sheena charging forwards with them.
"Genis! Don't concern yourself with them, I'll deal with it."
The half-elf bit his lip for a second before nodding resolutely and spinning to face Mithos, his kendama twirling. Kratos settled himself at the back, casting healing stream over Colette and Raine, watching as the two women slowly recovered and staggered to their feet.
Colette hurled herself back into the fray within seconds of regaining consciousness and Raine smiled as she watched the girl. Kratos met her eyes for a second, ensuring Raine was ok before turning and immersing himself in the battle.
Mithos' was steadily batting away each volley of attacks, throwing his own in between but the sheer mass of people clustered about him was proving to be difficult to fend off against.
And then an attack slipped through, the tip of Lloyd's Flamberge tearing through white fabric and slicing horizontally across his thin bicep.
Mithos turned, thrusting his hand out and catching Lloyd in the chest, pushing him back before he spun again, grabbing the first person who came to hand. Sheena.
His small hand somehow made it around her throat and his wings hefted them up into the air. She screamed and kicked as she was carried higher. Kratos' crouched, releasing his wings preparing to launch himself upwards when a sharp bolt of lightning shot through his body, forcing him to the ground, writhing. Lloyd cried out up at the girl, Genis and Zelos desperately casting spells to strike Mithos down.
The angel carried her higher, the ninja shrieking now at the great height, suddenly crying out in pain as Mithos' hand, charged with mana, struck her bare skin, singeing the skin. A hand struck her again a moment later, and again and again.
She kicked out again, getting some power behind the kick, her knee connecting with some sensitive part of his anatomy. His hand released instantly, and Zelos suddenly changed his spell, conjuring wind instead. The strength behind it was just enough to stop every bone in her body breaking as she hit the floor.
Lloyd glared up at Mithos, watching as he began to dive down towards her, intending to finish the battered girl off. She was already on her feet though, black surrounding the magic circle about her feet. Lloyd took a step back. He knew exactly what was coming. It was strange, in retrospect, that Mithos didn't.
"Source of Heaven, Earth, and everything in between, Ruler of all, I summon thee, Origin!"
The magic circle span out from beneath her and a moment later, in a flash of white light, Origin appeared. He stared down at Mithos for a split second, his former summoner, the boy who had betrayed his trust, his hopes… and launched his attack.
The white sparking circle appeared around Mithos, bolts of lightning firing down, trapped within the boundaries of the circle, the bolts ricocheting off the sides, striking the figure trapped inside for a second time before the attack faded. Origin disappeared in the blink of an eye.
Sheena slumped to her knees, breathing heavily, grateful when a wave of healing magic from Raine washed over her. She stood after a moment staring wide eyed at Mithos as he too staggered upright. One of his arms was charred and black, wounds zigzagging across his body, his blonde hair singed.
He seemed suddenly unarmed, harmless and small…
Kratos cast guardian, calling out a warning to the rest of the team as shafts of white light blasted through the veil of stormy clouds above.
Screams echoed around him, male and female and through the shimmering green barrier Kratos watched them fall. Colette, Presea, Regal, Genis, Raine, Sheena…even Lloyd.
The green barrier faded and Kratos looked down at his comrades. They were alive, all of them, in various states of consciousness, some trying to lift themselves, others still too dazed from the attack. The only ally Kratos had left standing was Zelos, the red head tottering about.
His head snapped over to Kratos as the larger red moved away, his eyes focused on Mithos.
"Heal them. I'll buy you some time."
He launched himself at Mithos, sword shimmering in light from the great seed above. There was suddenly a sword in Mithos' hand too, the weapon called from one of the angelic statues watching over the two seraphim as they clashed.
Metal scraped along metal, the sound screeching through the air. Kratos brought his free hand to the blade, pushing against his student. Mithos suddenly shunted backwards, throwing Kratos off balance. The larger angel staggered forwards, leaving him vulnerable for a moment and Mithos took the opportunity to leave a gash in his shoulder.
Kratos wrenched away, grunting, narrowly avoiding the blade from shearing into his neck, swinging his arm in a backhand swing to force the other away. His leg followed, managing to catch the other off-guard. The boot of his heel collided with Mithos' side, sending him reeling backwards.
Taking advantage of Mithos' mistake he dashed forwards, his sword driving in front of him as he charged for the boy.
Raine blinked sluggishly, waking slowly and through hazed eyes she saw a black and white clad figures fighting, swords flashing, expertly wielded.
Zelos' hand was on her bicep, pulling her to her feet.
"You have to help me get the others to fight! Kratos can only last so long against him on his own."
She nodded, watching through the corner of her eyes as she began to cast. Kratos was fast, but Mithos was faster. His smaller frame made him more agile, more able to dive in, strike and dash away again, only receiving minimal damage as Kratos tried to keep up with him.
When swords were knocked from hands the two briefly took to the air, fighting hand-to-hand, until a thick spray of blood splattered across the floor. Kratos slammed hard into the ground, dust and debris rising up around him.
A gossamer, electric blue wing landed on his back a moment later, slender silver tendrils trailing from its severed end.
The sound Kratos made as Mithos landed atop him was nothing short of horrifying to her ears, but all the time his pale, now trembling fingers twitched and stretched, teasing the end of his sword as it lay feet away from him.
Mithos noticed the movement, moving to kick the weapon from Kratos' grasp when, the older seraph reached out, snatching at Mithos' ankle, bringing him down to the ground. Lurching forwards on his stomach, Kratos managed to grab his blade, bringing it round in a clean, sweeping arc. Rainbow wings fell from his back, shattering as they dropped to the floor.
Kratos leapt backwards, his back soaked in blood, a small point on his back where his wing had been pulsing with mana's light, his sword clenched in his hand as he watched Mithos stagger to his feet. No matter the atrocities Mithos may have committed, Kratos couldn't bring the boy down as he lay defenceless on the floor.
Behind him, the rest of his team staggered to their feet, all pacing forwards, weapon's gripped in hands as they formed a semi circle about the boy.
Lloyd looked to his father and Kratos nodded. Turning slowly they faced Mithos as he stared them down. Lloyd stepped forwards a pace, slowly, surely. Kratos followed suit. Then Zelos and Sheena until all the group were moving forwards, gaining speed as they went.
Metal pierced and beat Mithos' body from every angle. A scream ripped from his throat as weapons were retracted.
The body thumped to the floor.
"It's over." Lloyd sighed, stepping back, wiping his sword on his pant leg, letting his eyes drift shut.
"Don't be so keen to let your guard down." Kratos warned, staring at Mithos' body. He was rewarded when, a second later, a contraption started unfolding itself around Mithos, encompassing his form, enveloping it in the body of a machine. It was not dissimilar to those of the fugitives and the damned that they had fought earlier.
"Oh, screw this!" Zelos shouted from the middle of the group. "Everybody take a leg each, or distract it."
For once, Zelos had made a suggestion that Kratos agreed with and they surged forwards, hacking at legs, Genis casting spells in an attempt to shatter the glass that protected Mithos' face.
The machine that now encased Mithos, though large and powerful was spindly legged, its shell brittle and it didn't take long for Presea to shatter one of the legs with a devastating axe blow.
It fell on one side, and once it was down it took only a second for Regal to dash forward and shatter the glass protecting Mithos, just as every member attacked as one.
Beams of white light shot down from a single sphere as Raine threw her staff into the air.
Lightning shot down in staggering volumes from the sky as Genis' kendama spun dizzyingly in his hand.
Metal pierced metal with lightning ad wind as Zelos thrust his sword forward into the belly of the machine.
Fire and stone ruptured from the ground beneath as Kratos plunged his sword into the air above his head.
Black clouds enveloped the machine as Sheena snapped a card into her hand.
Pink feathers, razor sharp sheared along the machine shattering brittle joints as Colette clasped her hands before her and prayed.
Sharpened blade of an axe passed cleanly through the centre of the machine, splitting it as Presea swung her weapon in small, skilled hands.
Leather and steel shattered through glass as Regal leapt into the air and through Mithos' screen.
Fire and ice combined embedded themselves in a fragile beaten body as Lloyd jumped and dived like a raptor, capturing its prey.
The metal casing shattered, turning to dust before them, no organic matter to be seen as the weapon faded. Mithos Yggdrasill, hero of the Kharlan war, half-elf, brother, student, seraph and fallen hero, was dead.
The dust had long since blown away when the group came to terms with that they had done and what faced them now.
The Cruxis Crystal that had empowered Mithos so long, enabled him to strive to meet his goals, now held him from the afterlife, a pale, wavering ghostly form in its wake.
"Mithos is…" Colette gasped, staring, horrified at his form.
"It's just like Alicia! Mithos will continue to live as long as the Cruxis Crystal exists!" Presea exclaimed.
"And eventually…I will be taken over by the crystal." Mithos replied.
"Mithos…" Lloyd breathed.
"I'm tired of playing your game of good-and-evil," Mithos cut in, his voice heavy and weary "Hurry up and destroy the crystal. If you don't, Derris-Kharlan will continue to drift away."
"Do it now! Before I, too, am no longer myself…"
"Lloyd! Please…help him!" Genis begged "Let him die while he's still himself!"
The older boy nodded.
"Farewell, my shadow," Mithos murmured as Lloyd slowly approached "You, who stand at the end of the path I chose not to follow. I wanted my own world, so I don't regret my choice. I would make the same choice all over again. I will continue to choose this path!"
Lloyd's face remained impressively neutral at Mithos words and he took breath, steadying himself before he brought one of his blades cleanly through the Cruxis Crystal. It shattered, fragments falling to the floor in a shower of dust, Mithos' wavering figure disappearing from the air before them.
The new wielder of the eternal sword stared at the shimmering dust on the floor.
"You could have…you could have lived with us in our world! Damn it…"
Silence reigned for a moment, contemplation and grief in the air before events forced thoughts back to the present. Lloyd's swords were glowing and he held them up, watching in fascination as they rose from his hands, forming into a single blade. The Eternal Sword.
Lloyd reached up, taking hold of the hilt in both hands. It was then that Origin spoke to him again.
"The old master of the pact is no more. What does the new master of the pact ask of his sword?"
Lloyd's expression hardened.
"Restore the true form of our two worlds!"
He thrust the sword into the air, holding it high above his head.
Kratos watched as his son held the blade that Mithos had relied on so long aloft. The power could be felt resonating from it and a white beam shot from the blade and then….silence.
White light rose from the centre of the earth, pure and healing. It wound its way along the worlds equators, tethering the two orbs together, bringing planets back in phase. Mountains crumbled, seas changed shape and rivers changed course. Caves and valleys filled with earth and deserts turned to water as seas turned to sand. Forests turned to plains and plains into marshes and all the time the great white light encompassed the earths, churning, returning two to one.
The group were set down outside the remains of the tower of Salvation, the walls on either side of the entrance still present.
"Are we back?" Lloyd asked before staggering when the earth began to tremble violently beneath their feet. Raine grasped at Kratos' arm for supporting, receiving a steadying hand to the small of her back in response.
"What's going on?!"
It was then that the summon spirits materialised around them after a separation of four millennia. They gathered around the group.
"What are you all doing?" Sheena asked, noting that Origin was not present.
"Your wish is granted." Origin answered and heads rose as if they expected to see Origin above them. "But there is no link. Without link, the land will die."
"Just as I thought…" Kratos muttered. The group looked to him but he ignored their stares, knowing Origin would explain in time.
"The world was originally separated into two in order to prevent its destruction. If it returns to its true form, the world lacks the mana to support itself. The land…is dying."
"I don't need to know why it's dying!" Lloyd snapped "What do we need to do to stop it?"
"Support the two worlds by linking them with the Giant Tree. That is the only way to stop the destruction of the land."
"We need to restore the Giant Kharlan Tree." Raine clarified.
"I get it!"
"Lloyd, quickly!" Kratos urged "Before Derris-Kharlan flies off into the distant reaches of space, use its mana to awaken the Great Seed! That's the only way to revive it."
The swordsman nodded, turning away from the group to look up into the sky, raising the sword above his head again.
"All right, then! I'm counting on you, Eternal Sword!"
"Derris-Kharlan is already at the edge of the gravitational field," Origin informed him "Not even Yggdrasill…Mithos could stop this from happening. Do you still intend to try?"
"Even strengthened by your Exsphere, it is likely that your body will not withstand the forces. Are you certain of your decision?"
"I said I'm doing it, so I'm doing it! It's not like we have a choice!"
Streams of mana suddenly travelled to the great seed and for a moment it looked like all was saved, that the great seed would be able to germinate. But then Lloyd noticed. The mana was not being absorbed by the seed; it was wrapping around it but not entering…being deflected. The sword faded from his hands and he clenched them into fists.
"It's not working! The mana's being deflected!"
"The Great Seed is…already dead." Colette wailed.
They stared up, eyes focused on the floating husk, hope dying in hearts as the news was brought to them. But Lloyd wasn't ready to give up. Not yet.
"Wait! Don't go! Please, wake up!"
Light suddenly shone from his exsphere and without warning, a great pair of wings suddenly burst from his back. Kratos jerked, shocked as the glowing appendages stretched around Lloyd's body, many times longer than the boy's height.
Lloyd barely seemed to register that he had wings, save for the fact that he suddenly took to flight, soaring towards the seed, Colette's smaller wings carrying her in close pursuit.
"He….has…..wings…" Genis gasped.
"How?" Sheena questioned, her expression of shock mirroring that on everyone's face.
"He's the son of an angel," Raine answered "The Angelus Project must have been a project to create a crystal that could give anyone the ability to fly."
"But Lloyd is a true angel. He was born not made…the wings are created by the crystal, but the ability to have them was there all along." Kratos murmured, sharp eyes focused on his son.
The Eternal Sword had returned to him and Derris-Kharlan had ceased drifting. For the moment. Squinting, he could just make out Colette placing her hands atop Lloyd's as he swung the sword.
"Rise Giant Kharlan Tree!!"
The remainder of the group watched as Lloyd and Colette sank back to earth, landing where the great seed had sprouted and they quickly followed, watching as a slender woman stepped forward, her long pale green hair reaching down past her waist.
"I am Martel," she informed them as they approached, Lloyd and Colette already standing before them "and also the incarnation of the Great Seed itself. Lloyd, our hope as well as those of many others, resurrected me."
"So you're Mithos' sister?!"
Kratos smiled softly, shaking his head. She looked like her, but Lloyd clearly didn't understand what was happening.
"No. Mithos' sister Martel, is one of the many souls within me," she corrected "I am Mana, and I am the Giant Tree. I am a symbol of the many lives sacrificed to the Great Seed. I am the new spirit born to accompany the Giant Tree. And now the Seed has awakened anew along with me."
She looked back to the tree and it suddenly sprang into growth, towering hundreds of feet above them in seconds, dappled sunlight playing through deep green leaves.
Gasps of admiration erupted from the group.
"This is the Giant Kharlan Tree?!" Lloyd gaped.
"It's so beautiful and so grand!" Colette whispered in awe.
"This is the future form of the Giant Tree. Right now, it is only a small sapling. In its current rate, the tree will wither and die."
"Well then, how do we protect it?!"
"You must provide the tree with love and adoration. As long as those conditions are met, I shall always protect the sapling."
"I promise! If the tree starts to wither, I'll make sure, we won't let it die!"
"Then Lloyd, on behalf of all living things, I want you to give this tree a new name, as a proof of the pact."
"The Giant Kharlan Tree was planted here by the elves when they first came is a guardian to watch over and protect them. This newly reborn tree protects elves, humans and the lives of all who have caught in between. Therefore, this tree requires a new name."
Colette grinned, turning to Lloyd excitedly.
"Lloyd, pick a name for us. A name for everyone's tree."
"Lloyd: So this tree is the link that connects the world. Ok, I got it! This tree's name is…"
They sat atop one of the new mountain regions of the world that had newly formed thanks to their efforts, looking over the new lay of the landscape. Kratos blinked, looking over the world he hadn't seen in four thousand years. He recognised, from the recesses of his childhood memories, faint though they were now, the valley where he had met Yuan…charging at him on horseback as he lead the Tethe'allan army against Sylvarant's…led by Yuan on foot.
Everybody else was gathered about the area, gazing out over the landscape. Raine rested her hand lightly on Kratos' shoulder.
"I can't believe we've done it…" Lloyd breathed.
"It's not over yet, Lloyd," Regal reminded "This will cause massive upheaval of the governmental systems of both worlds. They must come to terms with each other."
"Regal, give it a rest," Zelos answered from the back of the group where he stood alone "Can we not celebrate that we've done something great, for just an evening?"
"Wow, I agree with you for a second time in a week, Zelos. Something's wrong here." Sheena grinned.
"Can we enjoy the peace of the evening and the look of the new world?" Raine sighed. She took in a deep breath. "And each other's company."
"Tomorrow, we shall have to choose new paths." Kratos murmured as his eyes traced over the distant horizon.
Raine sighed and shifted, slowly allowing herself to rest against Kratos' shoulder. He looked at her questioningly before understanding her. She was choosing her new path. He put his arm around her slowly, swallowing thickly.
He wasn't quite sure if he had chosen his own path yet.
The sun rose over a new world, a brighter world with a new path in front of him. And with a new path before the world, new paths before stood before those who had made it.
In the early hours of the morning, the group finally parted ways after months of travelling together. Taking to the skies in their Rheairds, each of the Tethe'allans headed in a different direction to begin restoring order to the new world.
Colette soon headed home too until only those who were related remained.
"So…what now?" Lloyd asked.
"Well that's the question, isn't it?" Genis responded.
"There is no shortage of jobs to be done. Reuniting the worlds was only the tip of the iceberg. Now the real work begins." Kratos answered.
"So what are you going to do? Do you know?" Lloyd asked.
Kratos remained silent.
Lloyd looked somewhat taken aback by his father's lack of response and so turned to Genis and Raine.
"Um, Professor? Genis? What are you going to do?"
"We're going on another journey," Raine answered, surreptitiously throwing glances at the silent figure of Kratos "to promote equality between humans and half-elves. Those from Sylvarant shall no longer fear us and those in Tethe'alla will not look down upon us. It may take some time but…"
"But we're half-elves we have a millennia," Genis answered "So that's what we're doing."
"That's great…are…are you leaving right away?"
"No. I think we have a few details to work out first and we need to make plans and preparations."
"And sleep in a decent bed." Genis quipped.
Raine smiled, though distantly, her thoughts clearly elsewhere.
"So, does it give you any thoughts and what you're gonna do now?" Genis asked.
"I…have an idea. But I wanna talk it through with someone who knows more about it first." Lloyd answered, looking at Kratos. The man got the hint and began walking away, leading Lloyd to a more secluded area where the wind wouldn't carry their voices.
"What is this idea of yours, then?"
"I already know what I'm doing," Lloyd answered bluntly. "I'm going to destroy all the exspheres in existence. That's not what I want to talk about."
Kratos cleared his throat, showing his discomfort.
"What are you going to do now?"
"Are you going to work with Yuan?"
"No. He and I are past the point at which we can work amicably."
"Then…are you going to come with me?"
"Do you wish for me to?"
"It doesn't matter, I just want to know what you're doing now. I thought you already had plans, I don't expect you to come with me."
"Are you going to go with Professor Raine and Genis then?"
Kratos looked over his shoulder to where the siblings were standing, a soft smile curving at his lips as he watched her speak to her brother before he turned back to face Lloyd.
"I don't think so."
"What?! Why not?!"
Clearly, it was not the answer he had been expecting.
"I have my reasons."
"Why aren't you?!"
"Aren't you in love with the Professor?"
Kratos paused, staring at the son who looked so much like his lost lover. The woman he had loved for so short a time, but with such fervour and such passion…and whom he mourned for even now, deep in the untouchable depths of his heart. Just as he did for Soleille, the woman he had loved since he was but a child.
"…Yes, Lloyd. I believe I am."
"That…does that mean you don't love mom anymore?"
"By no means. I still hold a great affection for Anna, and I shall do for the remainder of my life."
"So…how can you love Professor Sage too?"
"Love is a complicated emotion, Lloyd. You can love more than one person in the same way. When you have lived as long as I you realise that there is no 'one true love'. There are many loves and all of them true, even if to differing degrees."
"Well then if you love her, why don't you go with her?"
"Love is not the answer to everything Lloyd. I have my reasons."
He turned to walk away. Lloyd's eyes suddenly alighted on the exsphere on his own hand, and understanding flashed through his mind.
"You're worried you'll lose her, like you did mom?"
Kratos stopped, shoulders stiffening and he turned to look over his shoulder.
"I will fail her. Like I did your mother. Like I did you. Like I did Soleille, Martel, Mithos, Yuan…"
Lloyd closed his mouth, shutting off whatever response he was previously going to utter.
"I'm leaving. Tomorrow. I will travel with Derris-Kharlan as it drifts through space. That is my path. And there will be no return from that."
"Morning, I think. He needs me so he can travel up to Derris-Kharlan."
"I'm going with you."
Morning broke over the new world in almost dull shades, grey clouds blotting out the colours that streaked across the skies.
Raine sat nervously in the burnt shell of her home, watching rain slowly drizzle through holes in the burnt boards overhead. Genis was staying at Colette's until they got things straightened out. Raine was supposed to be there too but she had left the house earlier that morning.
Why was he leaving?
Was she not good enough, or was it his own insecurity that was causing this? After everything they had been through?
Or was there simply no place for him in this new world, a creature of such longevity, an ancient man…could he not survive here?
The Aurions stood at the base of the tower, ignoring the faint mist of rain settling on dark hair and dark clothed shoulders. Kratos' face was solemn as he regarded his son.
He had not told Raine of his leaving, nor did he intend to. She was far better off not knowing.
"Are you really going to Derris-Kharlan?" Lloyd asked quietly.
"If a half-elf of Cruxis remains here, the other half-elves will have no place to live. As a surviving member of Cruxis, I must bear the responsibility for what has happened."
"You know," Raine started conversationally, rising from the pile of rocks behind which she had concealed herself "It's technically the elves responsibility. They are the ones who originally came here on Derris-Kharlan."
Kratos' eyes narrowed, none of the warmth or affection Raine was used to seeing in those red brown eyes present.
"What are you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same thing. I hear you're planning on leaving."
"Did I not just explain?"
"You gave an excuse to run away, not a reason."
"Besides, Yuan is staying. He's a half-elf of Cruxis."
"Yuan is a Renegade. He has not been a true Cruxis member for several centuries."
"Don't be pedantic."
"I believe you were the one being pedantic."
"Do you honestly think that you need to go up there, to leave us?"
"It is my responsibility."
"You know how you would better carry out serving that responsibility? Stay here. Help us restore order to the world to clean up the mess that Cruxis has made."
"Cruxis remaining here will not help that."
"You are not Cruxis, Kratos! Discarding exspheres into out space is a cheap excuse to run away. Why do you need to discard them? How is anyone going to get onto Derris-Kharlan as it floats in outer space? And once you're done with that, what do you do for the rest of eternity? Sit and brood? How does that help redeem yourself? How does that help anyone?!"
"You're doing exactly the same as Regal. You're going to make yourself miserable, thinking that that will make up for your sins, that that is atonement. You'll take comfort in the fact that you are suffering. Now let me tell you, Kratos Aurion, that being miserable doesn't make you special or a better person. It just makes you miserable.
If you want to atone, you have to stay here and help us. Help us turn the world into a world that we can be proud of. That we can all be pleased to be a part of."
"You've been taking lessons from Lloyd."
"So have you. But you've been ignoring them. Like father like son."
"What do you mean?"
"Lloyd told you just two days ago, that your life has meaning simply because of its existence. Are you ignoring that because you think he's naïve or do you just want to believe that your life doesn't have any meaning?"
"I want to know that I am doing something right, just once."
"Then stay. How do you know if you're achieving anything by running away from it? You're not always right Kratos, your first decision has not always been your best."
"The world will not improve because of my presence."
"But neither will it deteriorate."
Red eyes shifted.
"But I can tell you one thing for sure."
She stepped forwards, not caring about Lloyd's presence as she laid a hand on Kratos' arm, standing inches from him.
"You can help improve my life by staying. Come with me and Genis on our journey. We need a swordsman and someone who has a knowledge of the ancient world…and a human that accepts half elves. Lloyd will not always be travelling alongside us to do that."
"This is not my world…"
"Was it ever your world?" She asked. "This one that has existed for the last four thousand years. You are now in your world Kratos, you just haven't had time to get used to the idea yet."
"Are you so bent on dissuading me for leaving?"
"Because I want you with me. Because my life will never be normal, not after this and so I need someone extraordinary by my side…in an ordinary way."
"I'm not saying that I want you to get down on your knees here and now and propose to me, I'm not suggesting we find a home and settle down together. I just… I want to have the chance to have that. I want to try for this instead of letting you just slip through my fingers like I did before."
Kratos closed his open mouth, letting a gentle smile curl his lips instead.
"You are aware of what you're getting yourself in for?"
"A hell of a big responsibility in taking care of you?"
"Something like that."
He met her eyes evenly.
"You are right…as always, you realise?"
"I'm glad that you still have your senses and can understand that."
"This…is not a light decision you're making…"
"Kratos. I understand what I'm doing…what I'm asking of you. I'm asking you to take a risk and turn from the safe path…but you've done that already."
She stepped back, lifting her hand from his arm.
"It's your decision. I won't beg for you to stay with me…but I want you to consider what I've said, instead of clinging stubbornly to old ideals. It's a new world and a new chance for you as one of its citizens."
She turned, walking away from him.
"Genis and I will be staying at Altessa's for a few days, should you decide to join us."
Kratos stood at the base of the tower of salvation, arms crossed over his chest as he looked at the shattered remains, tapping his lip in contemplation. Raine's speech had sent his mind reeling, the question playing through his mind over and over again:
Should he stay or should he go?
His guilt told him he should go. His heart told him he should stay. His head told him both, and that Raine was right in what she had said.
Still, knowing that she was right didn't change how his heart felt when he made a move to make his decision.
A step towards the Tower, as if to leave for Derris-Kharlan, and his heart wrenched in his chest. A step away, towards Raine and his guilt screamed at him, the countless lives lost because of his inability to say no to Mithos.
Could he say no to Raine?
He couldn't say no to Anna, when she had begged him not to leave her and Lloyd in hiding, and divert the Desians attentions from her. It had cost her life.
But there was no question of life and death here, just a choice about whether he deserved to be happy or not. He didn't dare assume that he would stay purely for Raine. If he left…then she would hurt but eventually heal. She had millennia of life before her in which to find someone she loved, to settle down with and marry, to have children with.
He didn't want another child…not now… But…she had specified that she wasn't asking that of him. Maybe it was worth going for.
"Kratos, do you really not know what to do? You've been standing there for hours." Lloyd stated, playing idly with his swords.
"No Lloyd, I don't. That is precisely why I have been standing here for hours."
"But…you said you loved her."
"Then isn't it obvious?"
"As I have said, love doesn't conquer all, no matter what Colette believes."
"But if she makes you happy, and you make her happy then….shouldn't you at least try, or something? How do you know if it'll work out or not if you don't try?"
"It's not a case of that Lloyd. This is about what responsibilities I have and…if I deserve to try for something with her."
"Well…you did the right thing in the end by joining us. Doesn't that count for something? And I think the Professor was right…you won't achieve anything by going up there. Only to piss me off and make Professor Sage upset."
"Are you saying that you also want me to stay?"
"Of course I want you to! I want to know my…. I wanna see the professor happy and I wanna see you happy. You're my friend, not just my father….and I think mom would want you to stay and be happy. I think we all think you deserve that."
"Thank you, Lloyd."
"Can't you just follow your heart for once, dad?"
Kratos blinked, looking at his son. He had never considered it so simply, and in a brief second, he knew instantly what he wanted to do and that was all it took to make his decision.
Releasing crystalline sapphire wings he leapt into the air, banking south as he soared over the new world, his heart thudding in his chest…
"Do you think he'll come?"
"I don't know Genis." Raine murmured idly tapping her staff against her leg as she sat in Altessa's home with her brother. "I don't know…but I have a feeling he won't."
"Because he's been a coward for so many years…and I imagine it's hard to break the habits of a four thousand year lifetime."
"How long are we gonna wait?"
"Until I get the details of our journey sorted. Maybe a week or so. If he leaves…we'll hear about it before then ..."
"I think he will," Genis stated "I trust him to come. I trust him not to hurt you like that. And if he doesn't, he's an idiot who deserves to be miserable."
Raine smiled softly at her brother's words. When the boy got riled about something, it didn't matter who he was talking about, they were going to bear the brunt of his ire.
"He's betrayed us…me…before…"
"But you learnt to trust him again, didn't you? You made the choice that you wanted to be with him."
"So can you trust him just because you love him…or at least give him the benefit of the doubt?"
"I suppose I should," she sighed "but I have to admit…even if it was a childish idea, I was hoping for something more of an enthusiastic reaction from him. I should give him some leeway…this can't be easy for him…but…"
"It shouldn't be this hard either if he really wants to be with you?"
"But…hasn't he come a long way just by falling for you…I mean after Anna, and with the whole thing with Mithos…"
She shook her head
"I don't know."
"He's an idiot if he leaves. I'll never forgive him if he does and neither will Lloyd."
Raine smiled again at her brother before looking out of the window. Evening was drawing in, colour and light fading from the sky and she lost hope each time she saw the sky grow a little darker, the colours a bit dimmer and weaker.
And then, in the fading light a flash of electric blue and silver. Her heart stopped. She sat up straight. Waiting. Hoping. Hating herself for being so obsessed with the wonderful man. Hating him for being so awkward. But hoping. Always hoping.
There was a knock on the heavy oak door, quick and light.
Genis glanced at her before striding to the door. He stared up at the figure in the doorway, the blue wings about the figure plunging him into shadow.
Genis backed out of the doorway and into the house, allowing Kratos access. The man nodded his thanks and then turned his attention to the other half elf. Striding over to her he folded his wings away, bent down before her and kissed her softly.
"I've made my decision."
"Derris-Kharlan be damned. It's you that I want to be with."
A wide smile broke over her face instantly at the words and she sat up, allowing him to pull her to her feet and he lead her to the door.
Outside the sky was black velvet, the silver moon and stars set delicately upon it, lighting it, improving its darkness.
"Would you like to see the world, my world, from an angel's-eye view?"
He smiled gently, slipping his arms beneath her and lifting her gently from the ground, releasing his wings from his back again, bathing them in blue light. Raine gripped at his shirt nervously as he began to rise from the ground and she gasped.
Frowning, he lowered himself.
"Raine…do you trust me?"
She stared at him for a moment, questioning her own feelings. Painstakingly slowly, she released the grip on him.
"I trust you."
They took to the skies, taking in the world that they were about to re-write, one where the couple that soared through the sky together would be accepted.
The story of our lives is the story of the people in them. Ours is a tale of Trust and Betrayal. And learning to trust again.
I really, really, really hope that that lived up to people's expectations. I've struggled with this chapter for so long, trying to get it right, but now it's done and I really hope I've done the game and the pairing justice.
Thank you all so much for reading and reviewing. Those reviews and wonderful comments that you've given me are what kept me going through the hardest times of this fic. Labour of love, it has been, but love nevertheless and I've enjoyed writing it. I hope you've all enjoyed reading it, right up until the very last word.For once, I'm not going to ask for reviews because...a friend of mine, who is a wonderfully talented writer, never recieves that many and he deserves so much more...and he's taught me to value the ones that I get. It's made me feel rather humbled to get the amount of reviews I have, rather than I deserve them. My writing is not the best, nor the most original and I find it astounding that people have stuck with this marathon fic to the very end, so once again, thank you very much for your support.
For the moment, I'm taking a break from writing anything Kraine related. I'm about to move back to uni and have other works I plan on writing (eventually) and I think I need to find some fresh material and inspiration for more Kraine fics. I'm sure, however, that there will be some along at some point, even if they're only one-shots born out of frustration or bursts of affection for certain people in my life. Anyway, all in all....I hope that, should there be more works in the future, that you'll read them and that you'll enjoy them.
Thank you all once again, for the final time.
Link-luvr (a.k.a Ali)