Disclaimer: I do not own Tales of Symphonia. Understand? I. Do. Not. Own. This. Amazing. Game. Okay? now, read and review please!
I could see Lloyd standing with the Chosen, speaking. Even from a distance I could tell what he was wishing. I wondered what he thought was going to happen – surely he wasn't so naïve as to think that she'd save Sylvarant and walk away unharmed? I was tempted to listen to them, just to see what they were speaking of, but I wouldn't invade their privacy. I was a bad enough father as it was.
Father…what right did I possess to use such a word? I had never been there for the boy. I had assumed he was dead and left, blinded by my own grief.
Lloyd laid down by the fire. I watched him wistfully, wishing he knew who and what I was, although I knew that was a dangerous thing for him to know, that it would haunt him. As I sat there wishing, the Chosen joined me.
"Do you mind if I sit with you?" she asked – softly, so as not to wake those fortunate enough to have the luxury of slumber. I shook my head.
"You should tell him, you know," she said, following my gaze. I looked at her sharply.
"You know I cannot. I should not have even told you, you may let it slip. It would only cause him more grief, grief he does not deserve to suffer." I said bitterly.
"He needs a father."
"I am not a good man, Chosen! I have the blood of countless innocent people on my hand! I murdered his mother! I caused him to grow up without his parents, in the household of a dwarf who hits him! It would kill him to know I was his father!" I ranted, my voice steadily rising.
"Sh. You'll wake the others. And it is eating at you, because he does not know." She said gently.
I gritted my teeth. A mere child admonishing me! But then, she was already a better person than I.
"You're right. My apologies." I said stiffly, wondering secretly which statement I was answering. It held true for both. Noishe, laying near me, whined at my tone. I smiled in spite of myself, and the Chosen relaxed again.
"You do know he's going to find out, don't you? Even if you and I stay silent, Yuan or Mithos will tell him to hurt you both." I sighed. I knew she was right, but I refused to admit it.
"I will not let them. On a different note, though, how do you keep such a happy, calm face? Knowing that you're headed for your own death, that you're speaking to the man who is going to lead you there, betray you?" I asked, shame coloring my voice.
"I handle it because I have to. I know you're doing what you think is right, and I'm glad that you confided in me. It would have been worse, I think, not knowing till then, if you'd lied till the day I…I die." she replied, a bitter smile in place – a mockery of her usual mask.
"I truly am sorry. It feels as though I'm planning on betraying my own daughter…" I said quietly, remorsefully.
"I know that…you are like a second father to me, you know. A better one than Frank. He was always cold, distant, because I am Chosen. He could have cared, but he didn't want to get attached to a daughter born to die. You are somewhat like that with Lloyd…he needs to know that you care, that you're his father." I gritted my teeth in frustration. Our conversation had now come full-circle, but I refused to give ground.
"I cannot tell him."
"Then I will."
"Chosen, please do not! Someday he will know, I swear it, but I could not bear to see the look in his eye when I betray you in a few weeks, knowing that I am his father! He must not know, not yet."
"Alright…but don't break your promise, Kratos."
"I would say 'trust me', but that would be rather hypocritical, since I'm breaking your trust soon."
"I know what you mean."
"I am sorry, Chosen."
She did not answer, and I knew she was trying to find in her heart the ability to forgive me. I also knew she would succeed. She was a better person at 16 than I would ever become, had ever been. I wished I could make her understand why I was doing this, for she in turn could someday make Lloyd see, but I knew I couldn't. I rubbed Noishe's side gently. He whined, sensing my distress. I abruptly stood.
"Good night, Chosen. I will be back tomorrow morning, before the others awaken." I whispered. She nodded, a small sad smile playing about her lips. I walked away, expecting to spend the rest of the night wandering aimlessly. I didn't get far, though, before Yuan showed up to assassinate me yet again.
"Give it up, Yuan." I said wearily, wanting nothing more than to be rid of him.
"You told me 15 years ago to kill you. Can't you let me finish my job, old friend?" complained the blue-haired man. This was too much for me, and for the first time in 15 years, I yelled at him.
"How dare you call me your friend?!?" I shouted. "You betrayed me to Kvar! You now follow me around attempting to kill me! Come to that, I may as well let you! You forced me to kill Anna, my poor Anna, you told Kvar where we were! He tried to kill my son and he nearly succeeded! Then he transformed Anna! That was my family, Yuan! My family! You as good as killed me that day! My life ended when hers did and you caused that, you! Once upon a time I may have considered you friend, but no longer! That ended when I lost my family!" and to my great shame, I broke into dry sobs – the closest thing to crying I could do. Years of resentment came out in the punch I threw at his face. He took the pain wordlessly, not even attempting to defend himself.
"I know Kratos, and I'm sorry. Empty words, I know that, and they will never bring back your wife or your past, but that is the best I can do, the only thing I can do. I should never have told Kvar your location, but…I was…I suppose I was jealous…I missed Martel, I still do, you know that!"
"So you made me murder my wife???" I roared.
"I didn't know that would happen, I swear upon my life! I thought you'd get away, you always got away!"
"BUT WE DIDN'T AND NOW MY WIFE IS DEAD!!"
"I can never make that up to you…I cannot change the past. I cannot fix my mistakes. I will never, never, do such a terrible thing again, but what's done is done and cannot be changed."
"How can you be so cold?" I whispered, suddenly exhausted and unable to yell.
"I am because I have to be." he said harshly.
"That is all you can say when you betrayed me?"
"That is what you are doing to them, soon, too, is it not?" he said, but his voice held no spite or anger. He seemed tired and ashamed, a broken man.
"I am making a terrible mistake, I know that, but it would be as much a mistake to change my mind now. Do you think I haven't been agonizing over this every spare moment since the start of this journey? I must do this, though. If I do not, Mithos will come and kill them. I cannot let him murder my son." I felt dead inside.
"So it's true, then. Does he know?"
I let out a dry chuckle. "I refuse to tell him that. He does not deserve such a terrible letdown. It would only hurt him. It's better for him to fantasize about waking up one day and discovering his father is really someone who rescued his mother from the ranch and saved her for real, not murdering her two years later."
"Doesn't he know about the…death?"
"Of course he's been told, but I doubt he believes it."
"He's going to find it out, everything." I looked away. The Chosen had said the same thing.
"I know. And you will very likely be the one to tell him, knowing how much it would hurt us both."
"I never meant to hurt you. You were like my brother, Kratos."
"And so you destroyed me. I am not like Martel or Anna, or the current Chosen of Sylvarant. I am neither a good person nor a forgiving one. I still cannot bring myself to forgive you. I am sorry, Yuan, but you are a better man than I."
"No…I am as cruel and unforgiving as the next man. The loss of Martel killed me slowly, Kratos, and what I am doing now proves it."
I pulled my sword, expecting an attack, but it was a half-hearted motion; I wanted him to kill me, to end this pain.
"No. I am not going to kill you. That is what makes me such a bad man…Even though it is what needs to be done to stop Mithos, I cannot bring myself to murder a man I respect, a man I wish I could still call friend. I am not as brave as you are. You are the better man here. You were brave enough to eliminate danger despite your own feelings, and I am not."
I shook my head. "I suppose we are both bad men trying to atone for our sins. Do you think, maybe, that could count for something? That it could change things, make us good people?"
"I…hope so…" Yuan said slowly.
"I think that maybe, someday, I could forgive you, that we could be friends again…but just give me more time, I am truly trying, Yuan."
"And that is why you are a good person, my friend. Now I must go. Maybe someday we will meet again." And with that, Yuan flew away into the brightening sky. I sighed and spread my own wings so that I would arrive at camp in time to beat the others awakening..
As I arrived (on foot again), the Chosen greeted me with a smile. I nodded, walked to the glowing embers of the fire, and sat down, feigning tiredness as Raine woke up. I watched as Genis woke up soon after, then as the three of them combined forces to wake up Lloyd. I watched their preparations calmly until, finally, the camp was packed up and the others were ready to go. The five of us set off in the general direction of the Tower of Mana, which would of course be locked. I wondered where the key was hidden…perhaps within the shambles of Luin…or maybe in the wreckage of a Human Ranch…we'd have to search.
"Kratos, can I talk to you?" Lloyd asked, falling into step beside me.
"I see no problem with it." I replied.
"Well…I really just wanted to say sorry, I guess. I didn't trust you, but now I do. You're really a good person, and I'm proud I can call you a friend. You are one of the best people I know. Thanks for helping us even though it's dangerous."
"Listen, Lloyd; you are a good person, you will grow into a strong man someday. Don't give out your trust freely. It will only make it that much harder if you are betrayed. I am sorry. I hope someday I will have the privilege of being like you." I said, bowing my head.
"What? What do you mean?" Lloyd asked, sounding confused.
"…I said too much. Forgive me. I thank you for trusting me. That is the highest compliment you could give, and one I do not deserve." I sped up, leaving Lloyd to ponder my words. To avoid a confrontation that I could not, would not deal with, I joined Raine. I prompted her into what the children called 'ruin-mode' so that I could let my mind drift. Despite my best efforts to avoid it, I soon came to my coming betrayal.
Oh Lloyd, don't give up, don't let my betrayal crush your hopes. I am an evil man, but you don't have to be. Be strong and stay the way you are. And for the sake of all you have worked for, and all you have yet to accomplish, don't die.
Don't die, Lloyd.