*Hey, this is my first foray into Tales of Symphonia fanfiction. I've already spent more than a year involving myself with some of the better 'what-if' stories on this site, and since craziness is highly contagious, I finally decided to try my own. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping no one has tried this idea in the section yet, but I know all that's relative. The important part is having fun writing it. So without further ado, here it is...
Oh, and I don't own Tales of Symphonia...*
Chapter One: Switched
Lloyd Irving distinctly remembered his dreams that night. For fourteen years of his life, he had hardly dwelt on the memories locked away inside him of a moment in time where he had lost both his mother and father and was abandoned in the forest. He had only been three years old then, and those images that still remained imprinted in his mind were so fleeting and hard to focus on. His mother had a beautiful face full of love for him, so selfless that she had protected him until the dwarf Dirk took Lloyd as his own son. Now that Lloyd knew that Desians were directly responsible for the death of his mother, his thoughts in the dark of night focused on her, and those thoughts flowed directly into his dreams.
He could feel his body continue to toss and turn as the dreams began to fade, and though his consciousness was awake, his eyes had yet to open. Underneath his back was the soft feeling of a mattress stuffed with feathers. He smiled to himself. His dad must have found him accidentally asleep at his work desk after working into the late hours on Colette's necklace, and carried him up to his own bed for the rest of the night. He must have been so tired that he had never noticed until then how soft the mattress was.
Turning on his side, one of his hands grabbed a fist full of the pillow his head was supported by. That was soft too. Usually he liked his head support harder than that, but at the moment, it was comfortable. The only thing not helping his sleep any was the heat now radiating on his face from a nearby window. He turned the other way, hoping to escape it.
There was the touch of a hand on his back, lightly nudging him. Lloyd twitched, clenching his eyes to keep them from opening, feeling way too groggy. That voice didn't sound like Dirk calling him awake. Perhaps he was imagining things...
"Come on, dear, it's time to wake up," the same voice called out to him. The hand at his back roamed up until it was on the edge of his shoulder, and then shook him with a bit more force.
"Give me a few more minutes...," Lloyd mumbled, trying to swat the hand away. That voice definitely did not belong to Dirk. If it had been the dwarf, Lloyd would already be picking himself off the floor after being kicked out of bed.
The voice uttered something like a muffled chuckle. "But everyone's already downstairs waiting for you. It's the day you've been preparing for. The Journey of Regeneration."
Lloyd immediately opened his eyes, the words 'Journey of Regeneration' ringing a clear bell in him. Today was that day, the day Colette would leave Iselia to go break all the Seals until she finally would be admitted into the Tower of Salvation, and then become an angel to regenerate the world. He had expressed to her last night that he wanted to see her off before she left the village. Perhaps that explained the strange voice that woke him up. Colette had sent another villager to bring him to Iselia to ensure that he would get to say a proper farewell to her.
He turned on his back to see the person he should be most grateful to for such a favor. Of all the people he expected though, it was certainly not Phaidra. But there the old woman was, on the edge of his bed, smiling down at him.
"Good, you're awake," Phaidra said. The old woman leaned heavily on her cane as she made effort to stand up off the bed, and then turned to him, holding forth her hand towards him. "Let's get you dressed and ready to go now."
"Wha...," Lloyd stammered, raising himself up on one elbow... and saw blond hair spilling over his shoulder onto the sheets around him.
Phaidra made a slight 'tsk' with the tip of her tongue. "Colette, did you stay up all last night?"
Lloyd hurriedly looked behind him, hoping to see his friend standing on the other side of the bed, about ready to answer her grandmother cheerfully. But there was no one there, and when he looked to the other side, he quickly realized that he and Phaidra were the only ones in the room. And it was then that he noticed that this room was not his. The sheets and covers of the bed were a light blue touched with faint black polka-dots. Some small stuffed animals hung on a shelf above a small desk. A vase of freshly-picked wildflowers was in the window where the sun's rays filtered through. This was not his room. This was...
He could feel the color drain out of his face at that precise moment.
Phaidra must have noticed his reaction, because her wrinkled face began to look worried as well. "Dear, is something the matter?"
Jerking the sheets away from his body, Lloyd scrambled over to the foot of the bed and then almost fell to the floor in his hurry. But he managed to stand, and headed towards the mirror near a small vanity that was just about waist-high. He could feel Phaidra's eyes trained on his back, watching him in bewilderment, but at the moment, Lloyd didn't much care. All that mattered was seeing his reflection staring back at him from the clean glass.
His eyes widened and his mouth gaped open like a fish. But the mirror clearly showed him that those eyes and mouth were not his in the slightest. Blue eyes were staring back at him. Not brown. The face that held them was smaller and rounder. Long blond hair cascaded down past his shoulders and down his back, a striking difference to the bed-tossed brown hair he was so familiar with seeing instead.
That face that was his and yet not his was not Lloyd Irving. It was his best friend, Chosen of Regeneration, Colette Brunel.
And the entire body attached to that face was hers as well.
"Colette! Colette, what's wrong?!" Phaidra was hobbling towards him with her cane, responding to his panic.
Lloyd whirled around to face the old woman. His head was a jumbled mess right now from the intense shock to his system, but there was one clear thing that he knew he needed to do. It was like being caught off guard by an enemy in battle, and having to scramble quickly in order to survive the onslaught that was sure to follow. He had to do... say something!
"I'm fine, Phai..., I mean, grandmother," Lloyd answered, wincing inwardly at his mistake. He had only just noticed his voice coming out as the high-pitched one he was used to hearing Colette speaking with, but he had no time to freak over that as well. Right now, he was on the defensive. He had to get Phaidra out of the room, now, so that he could at least have a moment to think!
The old woman's face didn't look any less concerned. "Are you sure?" she asked gently.
He nodded his head. "Yeah, I'm just fine! I just have to... to..." Nothing was coming to mind, he realized with horrible fear. He looked every which way, trying to think of some excuse, anything to appease the suspicions that just had to be running through Phaidra's mind at the moment. But there was nothing! He could feel the blood rush into his head, and the pounding of his heart began to beat loud in his ears.
"Get dressed, right?"
Lloyd just looked at the old woman.
Phaidra chuckled. "I never expected you to be this nervous." She turned around carefully, and then began hobbling towards the door on the other side of the room. "I'll go tell Raine and Kratos downstairs to keep waiting for you until you're done dressing and gathering your things."
"Ah... o-okay," Lloyd stammered.
When she closed the door behind her after leaving the room, Lloyd just sank to his knees with a dull thud.
One hand gingerly touched his cheek, the cheek that really was not his. It was soft. Too soft. But that was what he felt with hands that were not covered in calluses. And then he jerked, realizing something else.
His left hand. Hurriedly he raised it up and paled for the second time that morning when he found it bare. The red Exsphere that had been his mother's memento, the only thing that had survived with him past her death, was not attached to his hand. There was an empty ache within him just seeing it missing from his hand for the first time in fourteen years.
What had happened to him? He distinctly remembered being Lloyd last night, not just Lloyd in mind, but in body as well. Right after Colette and Genis and the others had left his house for the night, he had sat down at his work desk, drawing out his materials to continue with the project that was a day late for Colette's birthday. He had clapped his hands together, promising to himself that he would have the necklace finished before he would get a wink of sleep last night. Things got a little fuzzy after that, but Lloyd was still fairly certain that he had indeed finished it. Then he had been so exhausted that his head had dropped down hard onto the surface of the desk, and he was out like a light...
And had woken up in the wrong body.
He quickly got back to his feet as another thought occurred to him. If he was here now, in Colette's body... Then where was Colette herself?! It wasn't like her body could carry two consciousnesses, right?
Nothing in his mind answered back, so he figured the answer was a safe 'no.'
That then left one remaining place where Colette's own consciousness would be... It was also the answer to the other imposing question hard on his mind. If he was here now, in Colette's body in her own home in the village, then it only stood to reason that his left-behind body back in the forest had a new occupant to fill it now too. What were the chances that Colette was not going to wake up in his own body today?!
He felt dizzy just thinking about it. It was only when he was under pressure that he was at his most focused. So now he just had to force himself to think on what he was going to do about this very unique situation.
First thing's first. Get dressed.
He thought that was so simple until he looked down at himself and got a full reminder again that this was not his body.
He was... Colette was... wearing nothing but a long white undergown with her black stockings underneath. He was very much grateful that the dress wasn't sheer enough to cause more embarrassment to the blush already developing on his face. But he was still too aware, nonetheless, that Colette had the body of a sixteen-year old young woman. The body was not as... developed... as other women's, but still...
There was one thing he did decide then. He was not even going to think about stripping down to change.
Thus he walked back over to the vanity and opened the first drawer he saw. But he closed that one hurriedly, his blush back again in full force. Next drawer then. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the dress Colette usually wore folded up neatly at the bottom of it. He would have much rather have seen his familiar red suspenders staring back at him instead, but at the moment, he was going for the 'I'm not crazy and everything's normal' look. It was now his goal to act as close to Colette's character as he possibly could before he could somehow meet up with her again. Then maybe that was all they needed to switch back. At least he hoped...
He was supposed to come say goodbye to her just before she left the village anyway, he realized. Then perhaps Colette would figure out to come find him before things started happening... Color drained his face again. The pilgrimage... As things stood now, he was the Chosen of Regeneration...
Quickly he threw the dress over his head, and then focused on fastening it properly to get his thoughts off of panic mode again. He felt like such a nervous wreck today, which was just as unsettling a problem as waking up in the wrong body. Gingerly he zipped up the hidden zipper of the white dress, and stopped when one knuckle brushed against something attached to his neck. It was then that memories flooded him of yesterday's earlier events.
The bright light that had flooded through the window of the schoolhouse, interrupting one of Raine's boring lectures. A band of Desians invading the Temple of Martel in an attempt to kill the Chosen. Kratos arriving in the nick of time to save them. He and Genis accompanying Colette and the mystery mercenary into inside the temple. Colette standing before the angel named Remiel, and the Cruxis Crystal becoming attached to the base of her neck...
Which was now his neck. Holding his hand against the red crystal, Lloyd could feel a faint hum of power emanating from it. Almost like that from which he felt from his own Exsphere attached to his hand.
After fastening the three buttons each of his white boots, Lloyd opened the door to outside his room and appeared in the small corridor overlooking the staircase to the bottom floor. Downstairs were voices belonging to Phaidra, Colette's human father Frank, and Raine. They were engaged in conversation, and from what Lloyd could gather, was just mindless smalltalk. Everyone was just really waiting around down there for him.
He walked down the stairs, and emerged in the kitchen/dining room/living area. Kratos was there as well, propped up against the wall with his arms crossed and eyes closed. But they opened at the sound of Lloyd's approach, and his strange red eyes peered curiously at Lloyd. As if they were searching right through him... This sent a small shiver down Lloyd's spine, but he forced himself to ignore the swordsman as he walked to the wooden table where the other three adults were sitting.
Frank instantly stood up. "There you are," he exclaimed, and came over to draw Lloyd into his arms. At first, Lloyd's mind went blank again on how to respond, but after reminding himself that this man was now supposed to be his father, he returned the hug. He just imagined it to be Dirk instead.
"We set you aside some breakfast," Phaidra said after Frank had released him, indicating a plate of eggs, ham, and bacon set out on the table. There was also a glass of milk and some fruit beside the plate.
"It's going to be a long journey," Raine smiled, looking up at Lloyd from where she still sat at the table. "Better to start it off right."
Lloyd couldn't argue with that, especially with such an appetizing plate of food being offered him. He quickly sat down at the table, picked up his silverware in both hands, and set upon the task of eating it. No one had ever cooked him breakfast before. If he ever wanted food, he either had to rely on himself, Dirk when the dwarf had the time, or Genis when the elf was feeling particularly generous. 'Itadakimasu,' then.
There were a few raised eyebrows as he dug eagerly into the food, but Phaidra just chuckled from across the table. They left him alone to eat for the next five minutes, the adults patiently drinking mugs of coffee, or in Kratos' case, still staring at him.
'Man, he's going to spoil the food,' Lloyd thought to himself, starting to squirm. When he tried to meet eye contact with the mercenary, Kratos simply looked away. Lloyd frowned and returned his attention to the plate. He actually began to wonder if Kratos suspected what had really happened to Colette's body, that Lloyd was playing the part of the Chosen instead. But that was impossible, right? He had only met Kratos yesterday, at the entrance of the temple. How would the mercenary know something was different about 'Colette' when the family who had raised Colette all her life weren't giving him weird looks or being suspicious. At least, that was what he hoped.
He finished the breakfast, cleaning the plate, and then held it out to Frank who had risen out of his chair to receive it. "That was really good," he admonished, giving his best smile. He had no idea how that would look on Colette's face, but apparently it was satisfactory enough for Frank and Phaidra.
"Would you like a second helping before you leave?" Phaidra asked.
He almost said yes, but then he paused to think about it. Truth be told, he wasn't as hungry as he expected he would be. Finishing all the food on that plate had left him more than satisfied. So he shook his head.
Raine rose out of her chair, pushing it back under the table in its original position. "Well then, now that you've finished your breakfast, we can make ready to leave." She was already crossing the room to retrieve the large healing staff propped up against one of the windows, while at the same time Kratos had pushed himself off the wall and adjusted the long sword strapped to his person. "It will be a long journey, so make sure you have everything."
Lloyd hesitantly stood up from his own chair, going blank again on what he was to do now. But Frank came to stand right behind him, placing a gentle hand on Lloyd's shoulder. "We placed your weapons and guard right next to the front door before you came downstairs. There's also a pouch filled with apple and orange gels for the journey."
"And a sack of Gald for emergencies," Phaidra imputed, still sitting down at the table.
"Th-thank you," Lloyd forced himself to say. He had no clue what else to do but go to where the equipment was gathered and start adjusting it to himself. How did Colette even carry around her two rings anyway? And better yet, which arm, the right or the left, did she fasten the guard onto?
In the end, he just put the rings in the pack with the other equipment, and placed the guard on the bottom of his left arm.
"Let's be underway, then," Kratos said, the first one to walk to the door's handle. He pushed the door forward and then held it open for Raine to pass through, and then looked expectantly at Lloyd to follow his teacher outside as well. Even Frank and Phaidra were waiting for him. Taking a deep breath, Lloyd stepped outside into the bright morning sunlight of Iselia.
There was a small crowd waiting for him outside the house. About five children from his school, some of the villagers that had taken time off from their normal working activities, and the Mayor of Iselia at their head. When he stood nervously before them, they started clapping and chanting his... Colette's... name.
Raine came to stand before him, holding out her hands against the crowd. "Everyone, please. You can all come up and give your individual farewells to Colette one at a time."
The small group lined up in a mini procession and began to visit him one-by-one. Lloyd felt like he had been switched to 'autopilot' as each visitor came to say goodbye. He would make himself smile at each one's face, even though he was not familiar with any of them; he knew their faces in passing, but Lloyd had never really known the villagers like Colette seemed to. The adults would wish him blessings of a safe journey, sometimes placing small gifts into his hand like food or small amounts of Gald, and then in turn expect him to pray for their own families. Lloyd stumbled through those prayers, but by the happiness on the villagers' faces, he supposed he could have mumbled anything and they would have been just fine with it.
The children from his school, however, were different. They all were very insistent on hugging him, and then they would express how different Iselia would be without him.
"Are you going to be gone long?" one of the younger children asked, looking up at him with large eyes.
"I guess," Lloyd answered, unsure how long Journeys of Regeneration actually took. In a way, he was just as much out of the loop about this pilgrimage as the child was.
A ten-year old girl gave him a hand full of daises. "For you," she said proudly with a wide smile.
"Uh... thanks," he said, taking them with a hesitant smile. What the heck was he supposed to do with these, then?
After all the gathered villagers were finally done, the Mayor shooed them away back to their homes. Lloyd watched them look back at him hesitantly, as if they would never see him again, and then they turned their heads away and left the area of the house to their earlier business. Now all who remained was the Mayor, who was clearing his throat, Raine and Kratos, and Phaidra and Frank standing right behind him.
"Now, then...," the Mayor began to speak stuffily.
Lloyd hurriedly turned towards the sound of the familiar voice, relief flooding over him to see his best friend Genis running in his direction. "Genis!" he called back.
The twelve-year old elf was upon Lloyd in a heartbeat, although he didn't expect Genis to hug him. "I'm so glad I arrived before you left," Genis exclaimed when he broke away.
"Genis, what are you doing here?" Raine asked, coming up behind Lloyd to speak to her younger brother.
"I came to say goodbye, what else?" The short elf then turned in Raine's direction, giving his sister a small glare. "I was going to come by at the same time you did, Raine, but you didn't even bother to wake me!" He scratched the back of his head with a frown, eyes focusing back on Lloyd. "I almost didn't get to be here in time..."
Awkward, Lloyd tried to avoid his friend's eyes when he was currently... someone else. "I'm glad you came, Genis," he said, meaning it.
"Now if you'll excuse us...," the Mayor interrupted, coming to stand next to Lloyd and trying to push him away from Genis.
"Wait!" Lloyd exclaimed, inadvertently swatting the Mayor's hand away as he just realized something. He ignored the impatient look on the man's face for the moment. "Where's... Where's 'Lloyd'?!" he demanded the elf. It sounded so weird to be saying his own name with someone else's voice, and talking to Genis about 'himself' no less.
Genis' eyebrows furrowed. "Lloyd? Come to think of it, I never saw him around Iselia this morning..."
"What?!" Lloyd could feel panic starting to flow through his system again. He quickly turned away from Genis, his foreign hands coming up to touch the area around his temples. His only hope in a million to find some way to return to normal, his real body with the wrong consciousness to be sure, was nowhere in sight. If Colette was still at his house in the forest, and not even woken up yet, then there was no way she was going to make it in time to stop everyone before both Raine and Kratos forced him forward on the pilgrimage.
"Don't you remember? You said that you were going to tell him to come to the house at noon instead of early morning so that you would have no regrets," Phaidra spoke up behind him. Lloyd whirled around to face the old woman, hardly believing his ears. "It wasn't what I would have suggested you do, but I do understand you wanting to make a clean break with him."
Lloyd pressed his hand to his face. "Why would she do such a thing...?" he murmured to himself. If what Phaidra said was correct, then it was Colette's intention all along to leave him behind in Iselia without even a final word of farewell. Instead he would have headed to her house at noon, necklace in hand and ready to present to her, only to find her long gone.
"You also left a note for him in my keeping, to give to Lloyd when he would come by to see you," Phaidra added.
"Can I see it?"
Phaidra looked back at him with a raised eyebrow.
"Just to make sure there aren't any mistakes," he covered, holding out his hand.
With a nod, Phaidra rummaged a hand through one of the pockets of her dress and pulled out a neatly folded letter. Lloyd snatched it out of her hand, maybe a little too quickly. He unfolded the note and ran his eyes over the distinct writing that he would recognize anywhere as Colette's.
Dear Lloyd, By the time you read this, I will have already left on my journey. I'm sorry for lying to you. The world regeneration journey is full of peril—many Chosens have failed. I care about you too deeply to let you get involved. I'm going to do my best to stop the monsters and the Desians, so I want you to live a happy and peaceful life in the regenerated world. Thank you so much for your friendship and kindness all these years. I'm really lucky to have met you. Farewell, Colette
Lloyd slowly folded the note back into its original position and handed it numbly to Phaidra. "It's fine," he told her, although his voice sounded like it was shaking. Stupid Colette! She knew him so well, knew that he would do anything to go on the pilgrimage with her. Even if Kratos refused, as he was always prone to do, Lloyd would have still carried his possessions on his shoulders and followed them at a distance for as long as he had to. It was his wish to see Colette become an angel and regenerate the world. Well now, by someone's idea of a sick and twisted joke, he just might be going on that pilgrimage after all.
The elf looked back at him curiously, obviously having observed Lloyd's reaction to reading Colette's note.
"Go to Lloyd's house and bring him back here as soon as possible."
Genis, now more confused then before, started running in the direction of the Iselia Forest by the insistent tone in Lloyd's voice. But Lloyd could not breathe a sigh of relief right now. He still had one more thing to do, and that was to try to stall Raine and Kratos before they left the village, and coincidentally, the real Chosen behind.
He turned around to see the Mayor in a discussion with Raine and Phaidra and Frank, while Kratos was back to staring at him again.
Instead of averting his gaze from Lloyd, Kratos approached him instead. "Are you ready to leave now, Chosen?" he asked.
"No, I -"
"Colette, we need to leave now if we want to reach Triet by nightfall," Raine interrupted, breaking off the conversation with the other three adults and coming to stand next to Kratos. She then smiled at him in a knowing fashion. "Don't tell me you're getting cold feet already?"
Lloyd frowned. "I need to wait for Genis and Lloyd to return back..."
Kratos suddenly took the top of his arm and began to drag him forward. "Those two are no longer any of our concern," he said with not even a shred of emotion. "You are the Chosen, and your fate is the undergo the Journey of Regeneration while your two friends live out the rest of their normal lives here in the village."
Before Lloyd could make an angry sound of retort for the mercenary he already disliked from the beginning, or at least seize his hand away from the older man's grip, both Phaidra and Frank were upon him to say their final farewells. The hugs they gave him were brief and a little construed, but Lloyd found them nice nonetheless when he had lived almost all of his life with no family of his own to receive them from.
"Be safe, Colette," Phaidra told him with a soft smile.
"We will protect Colette to the best of our abilities," Raine told Phaidra and Frank, then proceeded to pull Lloyd away from the two.
Frank waved at Lloyd as he and his guardians began to take the path away from the house and towards the plains lying outside the village. Then the man placed an arm over Phaidra's shoulders and proceeded to lead the old woman back into the house. Even the Mayor was walking away, slapping one hand against the other as if he had completed some great task just by getting rid of them. They were all leaving him, and Lloyd himself was now only in the company of his two guardians for the rest of the pilgrimage. For Colette's pilgrimage. He couldn't even drag his feet in the dirt to stall them; it was clear that both Raine and Kratos were set to leave Iselia whether he was in agreement with them or not. And telling them that he was not 'Colette' would change nothing. His neck bore the Cruxis Crystal around it, proclaiming that he was the next heir to the Mana Lineage. And that was all it took to make him the Chosen.
He wished the entire morning had just been one sleep-deprived nightmare he had dreamed up on the surface of his work bench. But that was just one too many wishes to be granted when his first had already gone horribly haywire in the first place...
And that's the beginning. Please leave a review if you find any mistakes, especially story related ones. Tales of Symphonia is a little complicated to get everything right. But most importantly, please review if you liked it so far, and are interested in any more.