I'M SO EXCITED!!! That special kind of hyperness that only comes from posting new fics. But not just ANY new fic, A ZELOS FIC!

Disclaimer: I do not own Tales of Symphonia!

Chapter One – The Beginning of the End

It had never been quite as cold in Meltokio as it was that morning. The sky was a dismal stone grey and a cool, biting breeze blew through the city. Looking out over the pint-sized city folk, what was once the pride and joy of all Tethe'allans was now a depressing sight. The city's slums had, over the years, spread throughout the entire lower levels. The only building that remained as it had been was the coliseum, which was only kept up to be used for public executions, one of the more gruesome new traditions of the reformed capital.

The fiery redhead turned away from the city view in disgust, and jumped lithely down off the roof of his house. He usually hated looking over the city. It gave him the weird twisting feeling in his chest that he had long ago recognized to be 'duty'. Lately, though, he'd found himself drawn to the spot. Sebastian said it was his 'Chosen One' instincts finally kicking in or something. Of all the possible explanations, he hoped that one wasn't true.

Zelos moved quickly as he went to the door of his house, which had recently joined the list of things he didn't want to look at. While the stores, houses, and even Meltokio castle had been thoroughly ransacked, his house remained almost as pristine as the coliseum. As soon as things got bad, the whole 'Chosen One' thing got taken to a whole new level of craziness. People were honestly willing to die to protect him- and even his house. Of course, Zelos thought this was beyond stupid; it defeated the purpose of the Chosen, being to save people. With the city being what it was, most days the Chosen of Tethe'alla found himself hiding out in his house, but there were always some days when he couldn't. Much as he'd like to be, he wasn't the kind of person who could just stand by while someone was getting hurt.

Not today, though. Today, Zelos sought the solitude of his home. Maybe he'd go to sleep. You can't think so much when you're unconscious…

"Chosen One!!"

Zelos sighed, reluctantly turning himself around. Why sleep when you can talk to obsessive crazy people instead? Already forming his excuse to leave in his head, Zelos was surprised to see that the person in front of him was a girl. Just one, and she was kinda cute too. Maybe he would stay and talk for a while…

"Why hello there little hunny, what can I do for you?" He said as he got into his familiar routine. Heheh, oh yeah, he was getting lucky tonight…

"Ch-Chosen One! I…" she sniveled a little; this didn't look good. "I-" the poor girl tried to choke out before bursting into tears.

"Uh…" Zelos hesitated, his 'moves' didn't usually bring girls to tears. But hey, he was the Great Zelos Wilder, and he could work this.

"Hey now, it's alright," he cooed, gently wrapping an arm around the girl. She fell against him, crying into his chest. Oh yeah, he totally had her. It wasn't long before her tears began to slow, and the caring Zelos slowly led her up the stairs towards his home. "See? Now then, what can the Great Zelos Wilder do to cheer up such a cute little hunny?"

"Oh!" The girl stopped moving to stare up at Zelos, tears seemingly long forgotten now, "Yes! That's why I came!"

Zelos frowned, letting his arm around her drop a little so he could turn to face her. "That's why you came?" He repeated.

"Yes!" She yelled, nodding hopefully for a moment before her face fell, "You see, my whole family… they've all been killed, or… or worse, taken away to those… those things…"

Uh-oh. Zelos squirmed a little; he knew where this was going. Releasing the girl completely, he began his tiny steps towards the door.

"I see…" he said slowly, not breaking eye contact, "Look, I'm really sorry for your loss, but-"

"No!" She cried, grabbing hold of his arm. She looked like she was going to cry again. Zelos stared at the whimpering girl before him. He hated this. The poor girl was breaking down right in front of him, and she wasn't the first to do so. Too many girls had done this, far too many, but there was little he could do about it. He watched her solemnly and waited for what he knew from experience was coming.

"Chosen, blessed Chosen! Surely now is the time! We have waited so long; can't you begin the journey of regeneration?"

She was so innocent, and so hopeless. He could tell just by looking that she had suffered greatly, as so many others had, and that only made this harder. Yeah, the Great Zelos Wilder, crusher of young girl's last hopes.

"Listen, I…" he paused, "I can't go yet."

"B-But, Chosen One, please!" She cried, still tugging on his arm, "I beg of you!"

"It's not as simple as all that! I can't just go out there are start regenerating the world! There are signs that we have to wait for! The Desians have come, and we built the temple, but we still have to wait for the-"

He was interrupted by a blinding flash of light. The girl, still clutching him, screamed. In a moment it had passed, though, and she let go of him, jumping for joy as the redhead sank to his knees, his eyes widened in shock, horror, and most of all… fear.

"… the oracle."

Three years ago, the Sylvaranti Chosen of Regeneration released the four seals and traveled all the way to the Tower of Salvation. The world of Sylvarant was regenerated and saved, and the world of Tethe'alla was doomed.

Three years ago, the Tower of Salvation disappeared from the Tethe'allan sky. In one instant, the people had lost their salvation. They thought it was the worst that could have possibly happened. In the next week, they would be proven wrong.

In the next seven days, the Desians came. It had been 96 years since Desians had been seen plaguing the world of Tethe'alla. In that time, all evidence of them had been removed, and nearly all memory had blissfully faded. It had taken 96 years to erase the damage they caused, and it took about a month for them to reclaim all they'd lost. Human ranches once again poisoned the Tethe'allan landscape, and sucked the life out of the land.

Mana shortages spread like wildfire, and Tethe'allans were forced to again learn the meaning of 'conservation'. The wealthy fell and the poor died out. It took three whole years for the world to fall apart.

But through all this horror and destruction, the people still held on to their last remaining hope: their holy savior. For now, the fate of the Tethe'alla they knew rested on the teachings of the church of Martel, and on their own Chosen of Regeneration.

In their sole hope of salvation, the people poured all they had. They constructed a monstrous temple for the goddess, so that it may house the prized oracle, and they willingly threw their lives down for their beloved Chosen, the only one who could bring peace to their crumbling world.

"Oh! Chosen One! At last, the day of Prophecy has arrived!"

Zelos could barely take in the girl's words. He could barely breathe. This was it, the oracle. Everything was over now. In that five-second burst of light, the angels of Cruxis had condemned him.

The girl quickly sprinted away in her excitement (he assumed to the temple), but he was no longer alone. All around him, people seemed to be coming out of the city's woodwork to gape at either him or the temple in awe. Their Day of Prophecy had come; this was the start of their salvation. These people… they didn't know anything about the full meaning of the oracle, the journey, of anything. They were… fools. Fools to think he was actually going to go through with this! Was he actually going to go through with this? That twisting feeling gnawed at his chest, this time in the form of fear as the now mob of people drew nearer to him. Was he going to go through with this? Hmph. Did he have a choice?

Suddenly he felt someone grab him by the arms, pulling the weary chosen to his feet. Right, mob. Mobs never ended well… Using his trademark grace, the redhead manoeuvred free of the person's grasp, and made his way to the door of his home. One look at the quickly approaching crowd told him that any form of communication that wasn't him running to the temple was useless, so he instead continued his backward movement until he felt the hard wood of his door behind him. Lucky for him, the Tethe'allan Chosen had the gift of speed, and nimble fingers. Using these, Zelos managed to open the tall oak door and get inside before any of the increasingly insane mob-folk could reach him. He leaned back against the door, and slowly slid down its smooth surface till he reached the floor with a heavy sigh. For the moment, he was safe.

"Master Zelos?" He jumped slightly upon hearing the unexpected voice.

"Sebastian, you surprised me."

"As did you, Master Zelos. Forgive me, but I expected you to be well on your way to the temple by now." The old man said politely. He was doing it again. Only Sebastian could say so much with so few words. Looking into the old man's eyes, he saw the full meaning of his message: he couldn't stay here. Suddenly, the face of the girl from earlier, and so many others like it filled his mind. All of them distressed, dying, and begging for his help. Zelos sighed again, stupid conscience…

"Just getting my things, Sebastian." He said solemnly.

"As I thought, Master Zelos, which is why I have your belongings right here," the old butler reached behind him, and pressed into Zelos' hands his stiletto, and a wooden shield.

"Thanks…" Zelos said a little sarcastically as he slowly strapped the sheath to his belt, and so on before standing to face the old man. After a moment, he said, "Heh, no goodbyes yet, right?"

Sebastian nodded, "Not yet, Master Zelos."

Outside was arguably worse than before, so he took the back way out, and to his immense surprise, found no one there. Pleased that his luck had not completely abandoned him, the red-haired Chosen walked the streets in solitude.

The Meltokio streets were even more barren than they usually were; he figured that meant most of the residents were already up at the temple. So, Zelos was alone with his thoughts for the most part, which was perhaps not the safest thing at the moment – but somehow, through all the vast amounts of inner turmoil, his feet managed to carry him down the familiar path. He was headed for the temple, which had once been the city's church. As per the teachings of Martel, they'd replaced the old church with a bigger, better, more grotesque-looking Temple of Martel, almost exactly like the one that had been lost or destroyed somewhere between the last time Tethe'alla received the oracle and today. The last temple apparently stood in a place that was now known as the 'Otherworldly Gate', but the new one had been placed here in Meltokio for convenience more than anything. This was something Zelos was glad of, because he really wasn't a huge fan of being sent off to the middle of nowhere to wait for the oracle. That sounded more like a job for his sister. Shit, his sister…

She'd be at the temple too, wouldn't she? When the church had demanded that his Cruxis Crystal be brought to Meltokio to join him in waiting for the oracle, she had insisted upon coming with it to remain its guardian until the very end. She was probably the only person besides himself that would be upset that the Day of Prophecy had been today, and she was going to be pissed when she had to give him the Crystal now. Although, he wasn't entirely sure if his sister had ever not been pissed...

Suddenly, Zelos heard a sound he'd become all too accustomed to in the city – screaming. With a little help from his Exsphere, he climbed to the roof of the closest building, the party hall, to get a better look of things.

"Whoa…" It seemed like the entire city had gathered in the uppermost level, and the majority of them were either screaming or fleeing in terror. The reason for this appeared to be a group of about 15 or 20 Desi- no, Renegades? Zelos' eyes narrowed. Three years ago the Renegades had had a truce with Tethe'alla; they'd even plotted to take out Sylvarant's Chosen together, but things had sort of… changed. Nowadays the assassination attempts and heartless murders had pretty much killed his love for them. They'd been a pain when it came to trying to stop anything to do with regeneration from happening, and a lot of times that included himself. Though there had been a time when they'd wanted him as an ally, those times were long past.

He was getting sidetracked. Right now he had to focus; the Renegades were attacking, but the city still had a few odd members of the militia left – why weren't they stepping in? One of the Renegade soldiers below shifted, and he caught sight of his answer. One of them, he assumed the leader, was holding a knife to a young girl's throat. Zelos recognized the man, he'd seen him around Yuan a lot before… What was his name? Boat? Bot? Botta – that was it. If he remembered correctly, that man was second only to Yuan, which meant they really were sending in the best. It also explained why no one was doing anything to stop them. Taking hostages was a cruel thing to do, but it did work well. Still, unlike the Desians, the Renegades weren't big on random acts of violence, so what did they want?

"CHOSEN OF REGENERATION! SHOW YOURSELF!" The man bellowed, tightening his grip on the girl. Of course. Of course they would want him. Well, this really was a perfect situation… Trust half-elves to make an already epically horrible day even worse. Frowning, Zelos leaned forward to get better look at the hostage. Oh crap… He knew her. It was his cute little hunny from earlier. She was whimpering again, much like she had when he'd held her in his arms. Hmph. So the Renegades were targeting his hunnies now? That was just one step too far. Trying to kill him was one thing, but going after cute, innocent little girls? That was just wrong.

His fingers danced around the hilt of his sword as he thought about the situation. The soldiers were in the middle of the square, so there really wasn't any option other than charge in and hope for the best, which didn't really sound like an 'I'm coming out of this alive' option. Of course, he wasn't coming out of this alive anyway, he realized as his heart sank. Regenerating the world was going to end him no matter what.

"CHOSEN! Come now, or this girl's blood will be on your hands!"

"Heh, alright, time to put the plan into action!" he said in an oddly cheery voice as he headed out across the few remaining rooftops. He made it to the square quickly enough, and even better was the fact that no one had seen him. He smirked to himself, and in one fluid movement, dove from the top of the building and into the crowd. Gasps of surprise were heard, but mostly they all just stared in amazement as the Chosen landed gracefully on his feet.

"So, Chosen, you were stupid enough to come!" The booming voice yelled through the crowd, which quickly cleared out of the way for the Chosen. "Heh, that was a costly mistake, and for it, you will die."

"You know, guys like you have been saying that for years now," Zelos said tauntingly as he stopped in front of the troupe of men, "and I'm still standing."

"Not for long." Botta sneered, "The Renegades cannot allow the journey of regeneration to take place."

The red head rolled his eyes and unsheathed his sword, "Just leave the girl alone, Botta."

The girl, who had been frozen in fear before now, started to squirm under Botta's grip.

"Chosen One, no! Please, just run away! Get to the temple!!" She cried.

"Don't worry, little hunny, I'll save you," Zelos told her with a wink. "Wouldn't be much of a Chosen if I left you to die, now would I? Not to mention, I don't think our friends with the crossbows have any intention of letting me leave just yet."

She shook her head, but stayed silent. Zelos took this time to close the little distance between them, and readied himself for attack, but first, he glanced over at Botta.

"You gonna let her go?"

The man laughed roughly, "Not just yet."

"C'mon," Zelos argued, "let her go, and I'll forget all about this whole 'regeneration' thing."

"You're lying."

He smiled, "Yeah, I am."

"Then you will die!" The man yelled, motioning to his subordinates, "Attack!"

They lunged, as most lackeys do, and Zelos dodged. He manoeuvred himself in-between them as they charged, and then dashed forward to face Botta. The most important thing was to get his hunny out, though he wasn't sure how to do it; he had seconds before the not-so-clever lackeys caught up to him, and something told him Botta wasn't one of those guys you could deal with in a few seconds. Still, he had to do something; otherwise, no one was going to get out of here alive. Trying his luck, Zelos attacked the half-elf head on, a bad mistake in retrospect; Botta was ready for it with his ridiculously large blade. The man blocked Zelos' attack with ease before coming forward with his own crushing strength. Realizing that one-on-one with Botta wasn't the best idea, Zelos prayed that the large man was slower than he looked and tried to dodge around him to get to his hunny. It seemed to work, and Zelos slashed out against the arm still holding the girl hostage. Botta yelled, and released her while bringing his weapon down upon the Chosen's head. Zelos shoved the girl out of the battle and raised his shield to protect himself. He was watching the girl successfully sprint off to safety when Botta's bombarding strength hit him. The man was even stronger than he looked, and Zelos' knees buckled from the blow. Falling to the ground, he barely managed to roll away as Botta once again brought his monstrous weapon down. Standing now, Zelos examined his situation, and it wasn't good. Botta was coming for him, and he'd successfully managed to roll himself into the centre of a circle of subordinates. Overall, he wasn't really sure how to get out of this one.

"What now, Chosen?" Botta laughed, "Looks like you're surrounded."

"Lucky for me I work best under pressure." He smirked, dashing forward once again. Botta laughed and swung his own weapon – Zelos again tried to block with his shield, and was again pushed to the ground, this time smacking his head against the stone. The small lump forming on his head wasn't exactly attractive, which only made the situation worse. As he stood up once more, though, he realized the situation really couldn't get any worse. Botta was charging him, nearly upon him, and he couldn't get out of the way-

"AAAAAAAAAARGH!" Zelos' eyes widened as he saw the fierce figure freeze in front of him as a blade pierced through his stomach. Screaming in pain, Botta dropped the weapon and fell to the ground as the blade was retracted, revealing to Zelos his saviour. He was tall (though not as tall as himself), and if Zelos had to guess, he'd say he was around 19 years old. He had short brown hair that seemed to spike all on its own, a curious-looking red outfit with a multitude of buttons and belts, and he carried two long twin blades, one of them still gleaming with blood.

"…Who the hell are you?" Zelos asked slowly. The brunette locked eyes with him.


Zelos frowned, "What?"

He didn't get an answer as the mysterious teen grabbed his arm and threw him to the side as Botta somehow managed to attack again, despite the blood that still poured from him. Zelos sat there on the ground, still in shock, and watched as the swordsman fought one-on-one with the half-elf. It was truly something to see; his two blades were more than a match for Botta's one, and despite the brunette's obvious strength, the brunet somehow managed to push Botta back with his furious attacks and seemingly unlimited amount of mana. Right next to the awe and amazement Zelos was feeling was a building irritation as the teen seemed to have no trouble fighting the creature that had completely overwhelmed him.

"Give it up, Botta, you can't win this fight." The stranger said, as he swiped forward again.

Botta blocked the attack once more, "You think I'd lose to a boy like you?!"

The brunet smirked then, "You're injured, idiot, you're going to die of blood loss or my blade – but either way the end is coming quickly if you continue this."

The half-elf seemed to see the reasoning in the words, along with the approaching Meltokio militia, and finally stepped away from the battle, one hand clutching his wounded side. "Very well, Aurion, we'll end this early. But mark my words, I will kill you!"

The brunette laughed dryly as Botta began to back away from the square. "I'm sure you will. Give my regards to Yuan!"

The Renegades managed to escape before the city militia arrived, looking downcast that they'd missed the action but quickly putting themselves to use by disbanding the crowd of people. Zelos watched with a slight glare as the teen who had saved his life walked over to him and held out a hand, which Zelos refused.

"Who the hell are you?" He repeated.

The brunet raised an eyebrow at the clear dislike, and sheathed his swords, "Your rescuer, apparently."

"Tsk," Zelos scoffed, crossing his arms in annoyance as he began to walk away. "Well, you can leave now, kid."

Suddenly the swordsman appeared in front of him, an equally annoyed expression on his face. "Sorry, Chosen One, but isn't the temple that way?" He said, pointing.

Zelos swore mentally as he turned toward the eerie structure of the temple. "What do you want, a cookie? Go away," he said when he noticed the teen following him.

"No, actually, I want you hire me…" He said uncomfortably, as if he himself didn't believe it.

Zelos stopped. "Excuse me?"

"I'm a… mercenary…"

Zelos laughed, "Oh, you want money! Very heroic."

The brunet glared at him, "Hey, whether you like it or not I think this incident proves that you won't be getting very far on this journey by yourself."

Zelos silently continued his glare as the city's militia approached the two men.

"Chosen One, we're so sorry we weren't of more use to you," the apparent captain of the troupe said, eyeing the brunet, "Is everything alright here?"

"It's fine," Zelos said after a moment. "He's not a threat."

The captain nodded, "Very well, Chosen One. Her Majesty has placed us under your command in the event of the oracle's arrival, and we are to do all we can to aid you on your journey."

Zelos rolled his eyes. Yay, Hilda'd given him his own army of tin cans to take with him. Still, this might at least get that mercenary to leave him alone.

"Ya hear that?" he said to the teen. "I've got all the protection I need, and I got it all for free!"

"You really think thirty guys in armour clanking around is the best way to keep you alive?" The brunette scoffed, "The Renegades'll be on you in seconds, and we've all seen how well you held out against them."

Zelos scowled before stomping off toward the tower. Whoever this guy was, he was done talking to him. "C'mon, Captain." He said quickly, signalling for the troops to follow him.

"There's monsters in there you know…"

Zelos didn't look as he heard the teen walking beside him. "I can handle it."

"I'm sure you can, what with your big and shiny troupe of knights and all. But the question is: how will Meltokio and its dear queen fair without them while you're gone?"

Zelos paused in his seething to think about the stranger's words. He was right; these knights were literally all the protection the city had left. Queen Hilda's little 'gift' to him was just another example of people giving up their lives to protect his.

"Wait," he said slowly, turning to face the captain. "He's right."

"Nonsense, Chosen One, our time would be better spent protecting you from danger!"

Zelos shook his head, "Sorry, but if bringing you guys along means giving up the city, I can't do it."

"But, Chosen One-"

"Don't argue. You said you were to follow my orders, so I'm ordering you to stay here."

"Very well, Chosen One, but I must ask – do you really mean to go off with no protection whatsoever?"

"Of course not!" He said then, looking away from them, "I'll just have to… hire a mercenary…"

"Heh." The mysterious teen crossed his arms triumphantly, a smug smile stretching out across his face.

"Very well, Chosen One, if that is your wish; however, I must implore you to take us with you into the temple, in case the Renegades have placed further traps for you inside."

"The halls inside the temple are small and narrow, not exactly fit for huge clanking suits of armour, and I doubt the Renegades would have gone inside the temple," the brunet told them.

The captain stared at the teen for a moment before turning back to Zelos, "Chosen One?"

The redhead sighed, "Yeah, alright, fine, he's right. You guys just wait outside and make sure those Renegades didn't hurt anyone on their way out of the city."

"As you wish, Chosen One," he agreed, bowing slightly. "We shall await your return here."

Zelos nodded quickly and opened one large stone door of the temple, grumbling a little when he saw the mercenary follow him inside. "You know, I never said you could come."

He smirked, "Oh, I'm only here to pray."

Before Zelos could reply to that comment, he found himself surrounded by the temple's over-excited priests.

"Chosen One!! Oh, praise Martel you're safe!"

"We heard fighting outside, and so we were worried you wouldn't make it to receive the oracle!"

How nice of them to not give a damn about anything but that stupid oracle. Zelos plastered a neutral look on his face as he spoke to the men.

"There was trouble outside. The Renegades decided to make one last attempt on my life before the journey could begin."

"I see, then it appears that time is indeed of the essence," the priest with the biggest hat said, herding him over to another tall doorway. "As you know, this is the way to the topmost chamber of the temple, where you must receive the oracle. Do you require any of our order to accompany you?"

"No, that won't be necessary; I'll take it from here," he said as he made his way through the door.

"As you wish, Chosen One," he said with a bow before putting an arm out to stop the stranger from following him. "And who might you be, sir?"

Zelos cringed a little as he heard the reply, "I'm with him."

Whoever this guy was, and whatever he was doing here, it didn't seem like he had any intention of going away – which, to Zelos' eyes, was a shame. Though he had to admit that there was a very, very small part of him that was happy that he wasn't going to be alone to face the tower, and whatever may be waiting for him at the top.


For those of you who want to know, here's how this fic came about:
- My love for Zelos as a wicked-awesome character.
- My need to write an angsty Zelos fic that didn't say: EVERY TIME ZELOS WAS HAPPY, IT WAS A LIE!

And then of course I thought: What could make an angsty Zelos fic even BETTER? But of course! ANGSTY CRUXIS LLOYD!!!

Cruxis Lloyd is also one of those things i've ALWAYS wanted to write. In fact, it's what started me on fanfics in the first place! So as you can probably tell, I'm REALLY excited about this fic. And I hope that you, the readers, will be as excited as I am.

If the ending is a little...sudden, it's because this chapter WAS a lot longer. But, for the sake of not wanting it to be TOO long, I decided to end it here and finish up the Temple of Martel in the next chapter. Which, by the way, is pretty much done, and I'll post it next Sunday if all goes well.

Review please!!! Tell me what you think of my newest fic!