Summary: He saw her, kneeling upon the cold, stone floor of her cell, features hidden by the shadows. She stared at him, only her eyes visible in the darkness and he paused and approached the metal bars…

Once again, I have broken my promise and started, yet another story… But regardless it hasn't left me alone and I decided I better post it.

Disclaimer: Namco owns Tales of Symphonia.

Chapter 1:

People glanced at him as they walked to their homes, eyeing the large creature curled at his feet. They didn't speak to him, and neither did he long for a conversation. Idle talk irritated him, knowing that people could get much more accomplished without the fanciful gossip they enjoyed and he was content to wait in silence.

His hand dropped to the creature's head as it nudged his leg. "Easy there, Noishe. Not much longer." He soothed. It was the only time he allowed his tone to change. He glanced down and watched as Noishe laid his large, wolf-like head back on his forepaws. He could understand the people's concerns for Noishe's presence, but he didn't care. They would be gone by nightfall regardless.

"Kratos Aurion?" he looked up, straightening. A gangly man stood awkwardly near the fountain holding a worn leather bag in his hand. "Here is your payment as requested." Kratos took the bag, nodding.

Noishe had risen, watching the stranger curiously. Kratos tapped his thigh as he turned, heading back towards the inn where his belongings were kept, Noishe padding after him.

"I guess it is about time to move on." Kratos mused aloud after he entered his room. He deposited the bag of gald into his pack before cinching it closed and shouldering it. For the past month he had been working as a mercenary, simply moving from city to city. It wasn't for the gald, but more or less to keep a low profile. Low profiles were necessary when you were being sought.

Noishe licked his hand, which Kratos lifted out of reach surprised that the he had managed to get past the innkeeper. Kratos lowered his hand. Indeed, it had only been a month since he had abandoned his old life, but it seemed much longer.

Noishe's heavy panting was the only sound in the room as Kratos gave it one last check. An Age of Lifeless Beings… the idea made him shake his head in pity, Mithos had finally gone too far.

Noishe gave a sharp bark, which Kratos ignored, use to Noishe pining for attention. Mithos Yggdrasil, his old apprentice and hero of the Kharlan War. Kratos shook his head sadly; he had fallen far since then…since his sister's death.

But, Kratos could no longer feel pity for the troubled half-elf, only disgust. He wouldn't allow himself to lead another victim to their death simply for Mithos' wish to revive his sister. That is why he had left, if temporarily.

"Left to what though?" he asked the air. Noishe whined and Kratos gave him a look. "With or without me, Mithos will still carry out his plans." He stared at Noishe as he talked. Though the creature couldn't respond, Kratos knew Noishe understood him. He was protozoan, a creature that evolved for its entire life and undoubtedly shared human understanding. They had been friends for many years…

He turned from Noishe, thinking about why he was here. Why was he here? Because he had left Cruxis and Mithos' foolish ideas, yet, even still, he was not free of Cruxis' hold. He never would be.

Noishe barked and Kratos smiled. "You are right, Noishe. We can't run away from this. After all, I am as much at fault as both Mithos and Yuan." The protozoan whined sympathetically. Kratos' smile fell. No, he would never be free of Mithos' power so long as he lived.

It was because of him that Mithos held the power he does; the power over space and time, the Eternal Sword. It had been so long since he they stood in the Torent Forest, forging the pact with the King of Summon Spirits. So hopeful…

Kratos shook his head. Where was the hope now? As far as he could tell, there was none…

Noishe barked again and this time Kratos was about to admonish him when an explosion shook the building forcing Kratos to throw out his arms to steady himself. Noishe paced whining and growling, his fur bristled.

As the tremor ended, Noishe rushed to the door, scratching at it. Kratos straightened, forgetting his pack on the floor as he hurried to the door. The protozoan rushed out, pounding down the stairs, Kratos right behind him.

He winced as he heard the screams piercing the air, followed by another explosion that nearly threw him off his feet. He looked around for Noishe, but the protozoan had vanished.

Smoke filled the air and Kratos hurried to where the flames were hungrily leaping into the air. He couldn't explain why he was running in this direction. Perhaps it was a way of answering the question of why he was here, of what he could do. Or maybe it was just that Noishe may be in danger. He preferred the latter explanation.

His sword was out in a flash as he spotted the first Desian running towards him. He ducked and slashed his sword across the half-elf's torso, barely giving him a glance. The second Desian slowed, recognizing him as a threat. He managed to block the first attack, but Kratos easily knocked aside his sword and ran him through with a simple thrust to the chest.

The smoke was thicker and the screams almost deafening. Kratos shook his head, searching for Noishe. He slowed his pace as he came across group of fleeing people. They halted when they saw him, but he lowered his sword and carried on past them.

Kratos closed his eyes against the burning drafts of air that struck his face and eyes. He lifted his hand, guarding his face when he heard a scream to his left. He spun quickly and saw a Desian stab a young girl through the back as she tried to run. Her screamed died, but Kratos glowered and launched himself on the half-elf, driving his blade deep into his side. The soldier's eyes were wide with shock as Kratos kicked him off his blade.

Kratos looked up as the earth shook and more screams filled the air. He rushed through the cloud of smoke then quickly ducked behind a building. More than fifteen villagers were being herded by a twenty or more Desians. "Move along! Get going!" The half-elves shouted, thrusting their swords at the helpless group.

Watching silently from the building's shadow, Kratos realized that nearly every one of the hostages were young adolescents, many of them too afraid to fight back. He watched as one teenage boy lunged at a Desian only to be struck down with a single slash. The body was simply stepped over as they pressed the rest of them towards the bridge.

Then they were gone.

Kratos didn't move from his place, even after the weeping mothers and other survivors began moving past him. He was a ghost to them. Probably better that way. He stared at the empty bridge wondering why he hadn't intervened. He could have easily eliminated them and suffer little more than a scratch.

However, he felt even more unnerved to the fact that he had indeed involved himself by dispatching the few Desians he had come across. He argued that he had been merely been defending himself. But then again, he could have easily turned and walked out of the city through the southern bridge. Why hadn't he just done that?

Why indeed, he mused thoughtfully. Lately, he had been unable to account for most of his actions. Coming to Sylvarant, avoiding Cruxis, there was little of what he did that made sense to him anymore.

He realized that an elderly woman had spotted him, fearfully looking at his blood-stained sword. He moved off the wall knowing that this town was no longer in his benefit as a mercenary.

Cold and hard. He stared straight ahead as he walked down the street, not at the least disconcert about his surroundings. No one spoke to him, too preoccupied with the shock and destruction that had just occurred.

Cold and hard. Yuan had described him as such on many occasions.

"You are too cold and hard, Kratos. I can see why humans shouldn't live for so long."

Yuan wasn't one to dictate personalities; however, Kratos could see some truth in his friend's words.

Kratos stopped, suddenly shifting his eyes to his surroundings. Again he felt an odd sensation ripping through him. It tore at him and fought, filling him with the same impulse that he received upon rushing from the inn.

Anger.

His eyes fell to the boy lying at his feet, vaguely surprised he had stopped here of all places. The dark mop of hair hid his face, but even without seeing his eyes, Kratos knew he was dead. Blood leaked from beneath his body, gliding around grains of dirt as if it were following an invisible trail before soaking into the ground and overtaken by another trickle of the blood.

Could he have saved him? Kratos liked to believe he couldn't have, it made reality easier to cope with and left him with less guilt. He shook his head as a woman ran towards him, dropping to her knees as she cried for her son. Kratos turned to leave, though he felt as if he wasn't really moving. The air seemed thick and vicious and his movements slow. The woman's mourning pricked his senses like a knife.

But what could he do? It wasn't his problem and yet…

Kratos found he was standing motionless in the middle of the street when Noishe suddenly appear before him; his muzzle a rusty brown, stained by blood. A wide gash on his left haunch matted his thick white fur.

"Noishe." Kratos stated his voice as emotionless as always, though inside he was in turmoil, his muscles tense and rigid from the decision he had unconsciously chosen. "Let's go."

Noishe barked brushing up against his leg, smearing a streak of blood across his white pants, but it mattered little. Kratos gripped his sword tightly and broke into a run across the bridge, the large protozoan easily matching his pace. They headed north, following the flattened and scuffled path that had been left behind them Desians and captives.

There was little hesitation as Kratos mulled on what his exact plans were. He wanted to defy Yggdrasil. He wanted to cause him difficulties. Anything that he could do to prevent or prolong the new Age Yggdrasil wanted to create was his goal. And one way was to accomplish this was to target the Desians.

Kratos didn't look back once. The memory of the dead boy etched into his mind, a constant reminder of why he was doing this, why he was risking his life, why he could no longer pretend he wasn't involved. He had always been involved.

Dark clouds passed over the sun, a dull rumble spreading out above him as darkness dropped around him like a blanket. Behind him, Luin faded into shadows with thin wisps of grey smoke filtering upwards like snakes against the dark sky and gave way to a silence that seems to haunt death itself.

-

Watching as the final patrol passed before the gate, Kratos stopped counting. Five minutes. He sighed, wiping his face clear of the irritating rain. Five minutes between each patrol. That wasn't a lot of time.

He shivered as the chilled, damp air settled around him. It was times like this that he wished he couldn't feel, but he pushed the thought away. That wasn't important. Steadying himself on the branch, he grabbed one above him and easily swung himself down, landing with a dull thud, water splashing from the vegetation beneath him. Noishe jumped back growling slightly, but Kratos ignored him and studied the path to the outer gate.

There was no possible way he could reach the outer wall unseen, not to mention pass through the gate. Along with the patrol, two guards stood above the gate on the wall armed with crossbows and further in, upon the roofs of the facilities, more Desian soldiers were position. He frowned, crossing his arms as he leaned back against the sodden tree, barely sheltered from the consistent rain. Of all the Ranches he had to choose, he chose the Asgard Ranch.

Recalling from previous visits when he was till working with Yggdrasil, Kratos believed the Cardinal of this Ranch was named Kvar. Spiteful man if he remembered correctly. And conceited. Kvar had always been at odds with Pronyma, the Leader of the Cardinals, hoping to usurp her and Kratos figured he hadn't changed since the last time they met.

"What am I doing here, Noishe?" Kratos sighed as he stared at the protozoan. Noishe remained silent for once, watching him intently. Kratos smirked and turned back to the Ranch. He found it odd how his thoughts seemed so tangled; he wasn't as logical and calculative as he once was. Now he acted on pure instinct and intuition. He shook his head, water droplets falling from his hair.

It mattered little now, he was here and he wasn't about to leave. He pushed himself off the tree, feeling the damp material of his clothes against his skin. Noishe let out a low whine, but Kratos shook his head. "Stay here, you will draw attention." Without a backwards glance he moved across the wet leaves that carpeted the forest floor. It was mid-spring, but there was still a chill in the air and Kratos wondered how long it had been since he had really been submitted to such conditions. Years now, not since the last Chosen.

Kratos crouched, gently pushing a branch out of his view. He suddenly remembered that he still had his white Cruxis uniform on, not having changed since he had returned from his latest mercenary job. He crouched lower, hoping the foliage would conceal the white as he studied the gate once again. How much time had passed? Three minutes?

He quickly scanned the gray wall when his eye caught sight of a grating half hidden behind a bush. Intrigued, Kratos straightened, leaning forward to gain a better view when a Desian practically walked right in front of him. Kratos froze, leaning back slowly, breath caught in his throat. His hand twitched where it held the branch, causing it to shed water.

The Desian walked pass talking to the soldier beside him, oblivious to the onlooker amid the bushes. Kratos lowered himself back on to his heels, gradually allowing the branch to return to its original position.

The voices faded and he nearly cursed himself for being so naïve. Five minutes. He should have kept track, instead he simply assumed. He quickly glanced at the Desians, waiting till they turned around the corner of the wall before he stood up and rushed from his cover and reached the grating.

Running his hand across the bars, he looked for a switch. He had been mistaken, realizing this was the secondary door that the patrols used to exit the Ranch easily. He moved his hands to the sides of the door and finally was earned with a sharp click and released his hold on the bars as they rose with a steady whirr.

A low growl caused him to spin around, grabbing his sword. He let out an irritated sigh as he found the protozoan staring at him indignantly nudging his leg with his wide head. "No, Noishe." He pushed the creature back, meanwhile, stepping backwards through the opening. "Not this time. Wait for me in the forest; I might need your help afterwards."

Noishe snorted, letting out a soft growl, trying to follow him, but Kratos had found the inner switch and shoved the protozoan back just as the bars lowered. He whined, nipping at Kratos' hand through the bars, his large muzzle barely fitting through.

"Sorry, boy. Now get out of here before they see you." He rubbed Noishe's head then hurried down the steps, hearing one final whine.

Kratos felt guilty for pushing Noishe away, but he would never forgive himself if anything happened to him. Away from the limitations of walls, a protozoan was a dangerous creature, its initial purpose in life to evolve into a skilled fighting man-like creature. But within an enclosed area, Kratos felt he was placing Noishe at a risk. No, he would have to remain outside. Besides, stealth was more important at the moment.

He descended the stairs which opened up and split into two hallways. Kratos hesitated then headed down the left. The hall was lit at regular intervals by small diamond shaped lights mounted on the wall. Kratos shook his head, knowing how much these Ranches relied on magi-technology. The hallway ended suddenly, splitting once again, but this time he located voices as well. Edging along the right wall, he glanced around the corner and immediately spotted two Desians walking away from him. Why did they always travel in pairs?

Deciding to keep a low profile, Kratos silently slipped to the left again, his boots making the barest of sounds as they tapped against the metal floor. There was no alarm, no shouts as Kratos neared the door. He waited, listening for a moment before quickly slipping through the sliding door. He glanced around, finding himself in a large opened room with a wide conveyor belt passing through the center of the room. The hum of machines filled the air, causing him to flinch as his sensitive hearing adapted to the abrupt change. He was only slightly surprised to find himself in the area where the exspheres were removed. He had been here before, once. Though he had shown indifference to the extraction methods Kvar displayed, much to the Cardinal's disappointment.

But now Kratos couldn't help but stare in disgust and anger. From his position, he could see a Desian practically dragging an elderly woman across the floor, most likely to weak to walk. She didn't call out, she didn't beg, there would be no point.

The Desian passed through a metal door along with the old woman at the far end of the room. Kratos took a hesitant step forward, glancing at the conveyor belt that came out of the room the Desian just entered. In a minute or so, he knew that a large metal container would be sent down it. It was the last step before the extraction.

The containers held the host bodies, as Kvar liked to call them, and then they were transported to a separate room where they were connected with a series of tubes that filled the container with a type of preserving liquid. Then a series of small shocks were sent into the body through a wire that was inserted along with the tubes. The electric shocks stimulated the flow of mana within the victim's body. Gradually, depending on the state of the prisoner when they were placed within the containers, the mana gathered just below the collar bone and another exsphere was created, pushing its way out of the skin. Then it was merely a matter of executing the prisoner and removing both the original exsphere from the hand and the new one.

Kratos hurried along the narrow path between the conveyor belts and quickly walked up the steps to the second level. Just as he was about to slip down the hall where the Desian had brought the woman from, the conveyor thrummed to life and he turned watching as the container was carried slowly along the wide belt.

Closing his eyes, he quickly headed down the hallway, hoping he had chosen the right direction.

Well, the first chapter is done. I hope everyone enjoys it. I tried to start it in a slightly different direction than most Kratos and Anna stories, so we'll have to see how it works out.

Please Review.