Chapter 3: Crushing Blow

Kratos sighed as he leaned against the windowsill in the inn. He was already tired of Lloyd's friends hanging around him, always thinking he was going to do this or that. Something that he obviously knew was not going to work. He told them he would secure the inn while they retrieved supplies, just to get away from them. He somehow wondered how Lloyd could even stand them for so long.

His problems had merely grown, though. He had been watching Colette the past few days. As they hurried to Ozette, he found her to be a little too clingy for his tastes. While he knew she did not know better, Kratos was bent on nipping this problem in the butt before it became too big. He sighed. He knew it would probably hurt her, but it was for the best. He did not need someone clinging to him, mistaking him for someone else.

Kratos rubbed his forehead. Then there was the problem with Presea. As soon as they entered the village, she took off. Of course, they followed her – all through the village. Had that not been enough, they ran into Rodyle. Kratos had to refrain from calling him out, unless he wished to expose himself. So he bit his lip. Now it appeared certain that Rodyle was planning something around Presea. And when they tried to get her to head to Altessa, she would not budge… It only irritated Kratos even more.

On top of all of that, he had to act as leader of the group. He grunted. Since when did he ask to be leader? Last he recall, he never even asked for it. Who were they to give him that position? The only thing they gave him was a headache.

Kratos leaned against the bedpost. He wished Lloyd would hurry up. He did not want to be in the inn when the group came back. Well, their names were in the guest registry; that was good enough. He could just leave a note with the innkeeper. Taking a piece from Lloyd's notebook, he wrote his message and folded it up. He hid Lloyd's stuff under the bed and walked out of the room. "Excuse me?" he said, walking up to the counter.

The innkeeper turned around, returning to the counter. "Yes? What do you need?"

"I have friends that should be arriving shortly. There will be a young girl with blonde hair and white clothes. Would you give this to her, please?" he said, placing the note on the desk. "I have to go out for a bit and cannot wait for them any longer."

"Of course, sir."

"And please make sure that she is the one to receive it. I'm sure that a woman with me that might try to read it, and I do not want her to." Kratos said, turning to leave.

"Of course, sir."

With that done… Kratos turned his head toward the shop above him. He could see they were still inside. Good. He walked down the road until he came to a ledge, a sturdy root running to the lower part of the village. He still had a little time before he would meet with Colette, but without knowing when they would leave the store, he had to be quick.

He looked around, hoping to find a place to talk. Sure, Presea's house sat alone, but he was not sure if people at least walked by it. Despite knowing the locals tried to avoid Presea, he could not take the risk. And the trees were too much of a cover; she could easily miss him. He looked up and smirked. The roof would do. He looked around to make sure that no one was around before he flew onto the roof. He lay back, folding his hands behind his head.

He sighed. How was he going to do this? He knew he could not beat around the bush; the Chosen was… thick-headed, at best. But he could not simply blurt it out; she was only an innocent girl. Maybe he should see what she knew first…

"Lloyd?" Kratos spotted Colette walking down the root and hugging close to Presea's house.

He closed an eye, a light smirk on his face. "Up here!" he said, leaning over a bit to make sure he was spotted. Colette gasped and looked up, smiling. Kratos returned to his relaxed position as Colette floated up toward him, landing nearby. "I'm glad you could make it. Lay down, it's a relaxing view."

"Okay!" she said, walking around Kratos to lie down beside him. She turned toward Kratos, frowning instantly. "Is something wrong, Lloyd? You wanted to meet out here, and I was getting worried…" she said, folding her arms over her chest. She scooted closer to Kratos.

Kratos looked down, biting his lip. "Do I seem… different to you?" Kratos had to hand it to himself; he still had it.

Colette looked at him with an open mouth, tilting her head slightly. Apparently asking such a question was odd. "Different? What do you mean?" she said, lifting herself to get closer to Kratos. She looked at his face, irritating him slightly. She gasped lightly. "Oh, I know! Your hair is longer!"

Kratos almost groaned. Why must she be this thick-headed? "No, I don't think it's my hair, though it could have gotten longer…" he said, grabbing a part of his bangs and pulling on it.

"No? Hmm…" she said, looking back at him once more. "Oh, I know now!" Kratos almost smiled, but he had to keep up the charade. Colette smiled, closing her eyes. "Your voice is changing!"

Kratos felt like knocking her out, but he refrained from doing so. He clutched his fist weakly, hoping to calm himself. "No, I don't think it's that, either…" he said, closing his eyes as he ran his hand through his hair. "I don't know what it is, but I know I feel… different." he said with a sigh; he closed his eyes. He was getting nowhere with her. She obviously did not know. "Wait, I think I know." he said, staring at her with slightly narrowed eyes.

Colette gasped, eyes widening. "Really? What is it?" she said, placing her hand onto his forehead. "Are you warm? You aren't getting sick, are you? Oh no!" she said, pulling her hand back. "It is warm! Should I get the Professor?"

Kratos sighed. Her naivety truly was irritating, and he no longer had the patience to deal with it. He shook his head. "No, Chosen, it's that I'm not Lloyd." he stared directly at her, watching as her eyes widened. He saw her start to shake, her mouth quivering. She was too stricken with fear to move. Kratos grunted softly. So much for taking that lightly... "I figured a change in my dialogue would cause this reaction… But you would not have figured it out otherwise." he sighed heavily, hand running through his hair. He stood, taking a step. "Relax, Chosen-"

"S-Stay back!" Colette shouted, her hands covering her mouth. She was horrified. She was completely shaken. How long was this imposter with them? The mere thought of it terrified her. And he even called her 'Chosen'! Did that mean something about who the imposter was? "W-What have you done with Lloyd? Why are you controlling him?"

Kratos put his hand onto his forehead, sliding it down his face. "I'm not controlling him, nor am I here to take you." He took another step forward.

"N-No!" Her eyes were glued to the imposter, the numbing of her whole body consuming her. She tried to move her leg. She was mentally screaming, yelling at herself to get away. But she found that she just could not move, for reasons beyond her. She could only sit and wait while the imposter drew closer to her. She feared the worst.

Kratos stood in front of her, his face leaning close to hers. He could see the fear in her eyes, the uncontrollable fear that rendered her immobile. He figured it must be hard, knowing that the face of her friend was actually the face of her foe. He had better be careful; pending on what he did, he might cause her to faint. "Chosen…" he paused, listening to his voice. He winced lightly; he just noticed a slight similarity to Lloyd's voice. Hearing the word come out of his mouth sounded… off. It was eerie. He watched as her face flinched dramatically. She closed her eyes in terror. "Chosen, I am not going to do anything to you." he paused for a moment, letting the phrase sink in. "Now then, are you going to listen to me?"

Colette sat there silently, a chill running down her spine. She was not going to be taken? Why? She still felt herself shaking, not wanting to trust the imposter. "W-Who are you then?"

"Kratos." he said simply, blinking. He watched as she gasped, eyes widening. He closed his eyes. "If you do not mind, Chosen, I would prefer that you stop staring at me with that puzzled expression on your face…" she remained silent, still staring at him. "What is on your mind, now, Chosen…?"

She remained quiet, hand now planted onto the roof. She did not know whether she should move or not, or whether she could at all. Several minutes past and she had not said a word; she simply could not. Every time she looked into Kratos' face, she saw Lloyd staring back at her; except it was not Lloyd, but Kratos. And that terrified her. "K-Kratos…?" she heard her voice say, her lips quivering. She looked at her arms, finding them to be shaking as well.

Kratos looked at her, tilting his head. His narrowed eyes had not relaxed in the slightest. "Yes?" What, did she not believe it was him?

Colette winced, feeling her body shake in fear. He was irritated, and she knew why… "W-W-Why… do you…" she paused, finding she could not finish her sentence. Her eyes remained fixed on Kratos' face as it twisted in annoyance; she watched each movement. She knew it was not Lloyd, she knew it was not… But the face proved otherwise. It was almost as if Lloyd had completely changed. Like something happened and he was no longer the Lloyd she knew. And she wanted to cry. She covered her face into her hands, feeling her eyes water. But then she heard Kratos humph loudly and she jumped, her hands flinging away from her face. She was once again exposed to Lloyd's- Kratos' angered face.

"I do not know why I look and sound similar to Lloyd." he said, closing his eyes. "I merely remember being hit by some object while in contact with Lloyd and then this." he said, looking down at himself. He returned his gaze back to Colette, who appeared to be calming down through conversation. He was unsure, though, as her eyes began to water again. "Regardless, I am not going to be doing anything when I look like this."

Colette watched as Kratos handed his hand to her. She gasped, looking up at him. "Were I to do anything now, I would make it seem that Lloyd joined Cruxis, which is something that I would like to avoid." Colette locked her hands together, looking at them. Her eyes shifted back to Kratos. Kratos sighed. "Still don't believe me, I see. Well, do what you will. But I am doing exactly what I said. I merely did not want you to think I am Lloyd and continue to cling to me. Especially when it is the real Lloyd you want." he said, folding her arms across his chest. "And now my job is complete."

Colette looked down. "S-So you knew?"

"Of course. You made it too painfully obvious to ignore." he said, narrowing his eyes. "I did not want to deal with you all over me. Thus, I wanted to take care of this problem before it went beyond my control." he offered his hand once more. "Now come, we have been up here for far too long."

Colette stared at the hand again and then looked back down at the roof. She knew that Kratos wanted her to become Martel; how could she trust him? "I-I… I would like it if you promise not to capture me… Please…?"

Kratos planted his hand onto his face. "Chosen, did you not hear me before?" he said, sliding his hand down his face. "Fine then, I promise that as long as I look like Lloyd, I will not take you anywhere through means of captivity. Will that do?"

She nodded her head weakly. Slowly, she hesitantly took his hand, feeling herself being lifted onto her feet. She tilted over to the right, losing her balance and almost falling off of the roof. She had not realized how immobile she was. Kratos rolled his eyes, grabbing her arm. "T-Thanks…"

Kratos ignored her. "Now let us meet with Lloyd. He will be arriving soon." He saw Colette's stunned face. "Do you earnestly believe that I would let you not see what has become of Lloyd? Now then, do you want to float down or jump?"

"O-Oh…" she said with a gasp, her hand going over her mouth. "I'll just… float down… I'm… still a bit wobbly…" she said, looking away from Kratos. It was bad enough Kratos looked exactly like Lloyd, but what about Lloyd looking like Kratos? How would she feel about that? "K-Kratos?"

Kratos looked back at her. "Hmm?"

"Does Lloyd look like… like you?" she said, trying to look away, but eyes always falling upon him. She decided to close her eyes; it would help her concentrate in unfurling her wings, anyway.

Kratos grunted loudly. "Of course he does. It is probably from his contact with me when I was hit. As it had influenced my appearance, it had influenced his." he said, jumping down from the roof. He rolled forward, not wanting to fracture his legs, or worse. He got off the ground, watching Colette lower herself gently onto the ground. Oh, I suppose I did forget something… "Colette."

Colette flinched. How stern Kratos' voice sounded, and how eerily hearing it in Lloyd's… She looked at his face to find his stoic expression on his face. She nearly gaped. "Y-Yes…?"

"While you know that I am not Lloyd, I would prefer that you would address me as such when not in private." he said, staring off toward the inn. "I would prefer it if your friends did not know about what happened at this current time. It would… complicate things. Of course," he said, turning back to her, an eyebrow lowered, "if you care about Lloyd as much as I believe you do, you will. Otherwise, things that could have been prevented would occur needlessly."

She tilted her head to the side. "What do you mean? What could happen?" She was getting a bit concerned now. What would happen to Lloyd? "Please, tell me! What would happen to Lloyd?"

"Several things could happen, Chosen," he said in irritation, now wishing he had kept that quiet, "so there is no point in worrying too much about it. As long as you address me as Lloyd, everything will be fine." he said, walking up the root. "Now come, we are keeping Lloyd."

Colette silently followed.

Lloyd stood outside of the village, not wanting to risk being seen by the group. He did not know what he would do if there was a confrontation… He tapped his foot, wondering how long Kratos was going to be. He sighed; knowing him, he probably could not leave the group because the Professor ordered him to bed. Perhaps he should contact him…

He sighed; turning around; he half wondered what he should do now. He thought about getting some more practice with this sword and shield style of fighting, because heaven knew he needed it. Then again, I've only been waiting for half an hour. I think… he thought, turning his head back to the village. Maybe I should wait a bit longer… He lowered his head, shaking it. What was he going to do now?

Well, there were some monsters around the village. If one of them came close, he would try and kill it. No, not try… Will kill it; it did not matter if he was not fully adjusted. He had to protect the villagers if he had to. He-


Lloyd flinched, slowly turning around. He felt his eyes widen in horror as his mind registered the stunned voice. His mouth dropped as he started at a quivering Colette, tears streaming down her face. Her eyes were as wide as his own, her hand to her mouth. Lloyd gasped several times, mouth opening and closing. He nearly choked on his words. "C-Colette…? Wh-What… are you...?" he felt her arms wrap around him and looked down. She appeared… so much smaller now… He closed his eyes, wrapping his arms around her. "Colette..."

Colette continued to cry, trying to reach around his back. She did not want to let go. "L-Lloyd… It's… really you…" she said, a light smile on her face. "I cannot believe it…"

"Colette, why… are you here? How did you know…?" he said, when he noticed Kratos standing a few feet away, arms folded across his chest. His eyes were closed, his stoic expression on his face. Lloyd gasped weakly, eyes shaking. It was like staring at a completely different version of himself...

Kratos grunted lightly. "Lloyd, I would prefer it if we could discuss on why you caused me a problem with your friends."

Lloyd stared back at him, mouth open. "A-Alright, but… what's… Colette doing here? Why is she-?"

"I told her." Kratos said simply. "It was an unfortunate necessity, but it had to be done."

"What?!" Lloyd shouted, moving Colette to his side, an arm wrapped completely around her. "Why would you do that?!"

"Why not look at your side?" Lloyd gasped lightly, looking down at his side. He found Colette wrapped around him, her face pressing against his side. When had he even moved her to his side? He vaguely recalled it. But thinking about that now, he wondered if she was ever going to let go, by the looks of how scared she was. "Now picture that on me. She would have been mistaking me for you this entire time, going after me instead of you. So instead of letting her blindly assume that I was you, I ended that notion before it became unstoppable."

Lloyd could not react; he did not know how. He was mad that Kratos told her, yet at the same time, understood why he did it. He looked down at Colette. She would not have known about the incident, and she would love him, yet not at the same time… Perhaps that would have been worse than not telling her. He picked her up into his arms, holding her close to his chest. "Colette… Are you alright?"

She looked up to his face, a weak smile appearing. She buried her face into his chest as a tear ran down her eye. "I… I am… now. L-Lloyd… I'm so glad… you did not change…" she said, cuddling up on his chest. She looked up to his face. "Lloyd… you do look like… Kratos."

Lloyd gasped weakly, blushing. He looked down. "I… I know. I even sound like him. It's… startling." he said, looking back at Kratos. "Anyway, I suppose we should talk real fast before you guys get in trouble with the Professor."

Kratos sighed, hand on his forehead. "That would be nice. Now then, have they grown in?"

"Check for yourself." Lloyd said, unfurling his wings. He watched as Colette gasped, and lightly gasped with her; he forgot she was still with them. "Yeah… I have wings now. It's thanks to Kratos' Cruxis Crystal." he said, shifting Colette a bit so she might see the Cruxis Crystal. "I have to wear his exsphere so that I can pull off being him for a while."

So that was what Kratos meant. While Kratos was pretending to be Lloyd, Lloyd was pretending to be Kratos... Colette was stunned. "But that's…"

"Dangerous, I know." he said, putting her onto her feet. He rubbed the back of his head. "But there's nothing I can do about it. I can't follow you guys when I look like this." he said, looking toward the Tower of Salvation. "And with that Yggdrasill not knowing about this, things would turn bad."

"Indeed, but do not forget, it could have been Yggdrasill who did this to us." Kratos said, walking up to him. "However, I have doubts that it was him. Regardless, we cannot rule him out. Besides," he said, staring at Colette, "this way, we have a way of getting resources from Cruxis if we need it. But for now, I am at some ease that you have your wings. That means I can start teaching you some things that you will need to know."

Of course, he was lying. He was not happy that Lloyd received his wings. In fact, he would prefer if Lloyd had not received them at all, or at least if Lloyd wanted to. Here, Lloyd had no choice, and that irked him. But there was nothing he could do. Perhaps this too, was written by Fate.

Lloyd was shocked. What else would he have to learn how to do? What more was there? "You have to learn to use the angelic warp, for starters, remember?" Lloyd looked at Kratos, an eyebrow raised. "It was easy to tell what you were going to say. It was written on your face; thus I have now told you."

"Oh. Yeah. I guess I forgot…" Lloyd said with a sigh; he would really have to stop doing that…

"For now, though, Colette and I must get back to the inn, or else Raine will irritate me once more. The next time we meet up, which will probably be tomorrow night, I will start training you." he said, walking back toward the village. "Chosen, it would be wise if you followed, though I suppose you may have your goodbyes and whatnot. I shall be waiting in the plaza." he said, walking into the village.

Lloyd stared quietly at Colette, a blush growing on his face. "He's right, you should be getting back." he said, running his hand through his hair. "And don't worry about me. I'll be around, following you guys."

"I know." Colette said, hugging him tightly. "Don't worry, Lloyd, we will find out what happened to you and get you back to normal…" she said, trying to reach up to his cheek. She giggled weakly, finding that she was just a little too short. "Lloyd? Could you…?" she said, blushing.

"Huh? Oh…" he said, chuckling weakly. He lowered himself to her level, allowing her to kiss his cheek. "I'll see you tomorrow night, maybe?"

"Definitely." she said, turning back toward the village. "Good night…" It still felt strange for her. To think that Lloyd was so much older now or at least appeared to be… That would take some getting used to.

But that was something she was willing to work on.

Well, now, this is certainly a surprise, yes? Well, I finally updated after a while. I don't think I'll be in this groove again for a while, so enjoy it. Review if you want.