Everything belongs to Namco. Or Bandai. Or Namco Bandai. Or Bamco. Whatever they're calling themselves these days.
What the heck? This thing is longer than the entirety of my only actual fic! And it's mostly dialogue! Obviously I love Tales of Symphonia more than FFVII...
I love Kratos and Lloyd's relationship, and I hate Namco for forcing me to choose between Kratos/Lloyd interaction squee and not killing Zelos! I'm going to end up writing my own version of the game from that point on where we get both.
FF deciding it doesn't like people using any dividers besides their horizontal lines ftl. Gah.
I was wondering... Before Genis and I caught up to you guys, did Kratos tell you anything about his past? Like, where he came from, about his family, that kind of thing?
I'm afraid not. I've asked, of course, as it would be extremely unwise to hire a complete stranger to protect the Chosen, but he has made it quite clear that he does not want to talk about it. He's a traveling mercenary. That's all we know.
How long do you think he's been a traveling mercenary?
Well, considering his age-
How old is he again?
Twenty-eight. Considering his age, and his skill in combat, it's likely he's been working for a while. Maybe since he was your age?
Since he was my age? Seriously? So I could be a mercenary too?
...Lloyd, is there something you want to tell me?
Uh, no. Nothing. Thanks, Professor Raine.
For once, Lloyd didn't oversleep the day after releasing the seal.
Actually, he hadn't really slept at all. He spent the entire night shifting in his sleeping bag, thinking about Colette and the Wind Seal and the Journey of Regeneration, and Colette.
He was such an idiot! All this time he'd been scolding Colette for not eating! All this time, he'd been practically forcing her to eat, when she couldn't taste the food at all! How had he not noticed? He'd only just realized that there was something wrong, when Colette scraped up her hand and didn't even flinch when he squeezed it- stupid, stupid Lloyd! Why did he have to be so stupid all the time? Colette had been suffering alone, when he swore he would protect her and help save the world by her side.
And heck, he couldn't protect her even when he knew what was going on. He could never do anything- whenever Colette was in trouble, Lloyd could only stand by and watch, and it was always Kratos who stepped up and save the day.
Kratos. If only he was as strong as Kratos.
Lloyd threw the sleeping bag open and stretched with a loud yawn. The sun hadn't fully risen yet: it was only a little streak of red light on the eastern horizon, the rest of the sky retaining the dark blue of the night. When Lloyd opened his eyes, though, he could still see that he was the first one awake.
"Good morning, Lloyd!"
Except for Colette, of course.
"Morning, Colette!" Lloyd jumped out of the sleeping bag and knelt next to it, rolling it up to put it away. The blond girl appeared beside him holding the bag.
"It's kinda early, Lloyd. Don't you want to sleep more?"
"How can I sleep when I know you can't?" was Lloyd's frustrated answer, shoving the sleeping bag roughly into its place. "I've been wide awake all night thinking about you!"
It was the wrong thing to say. Colette's face fell, and she looked at the ground. "I'm sorry, Lloyd."
"Don't apologize, you dork."
"Huh? Oh yeah! I'm sorry!"
Lloyd sighed. "It's just... hard to sleep, when I know you're going to be awake all night."
The Chosen blinked, then plopped down on her spot next to her friend. "It's okay. It's not like I ever get tired. And besides!" She looked around, as though she were worried someone might hear them. When she turned back to Lloyd, she'd lowered her voice to a whisper. "When things happen at night, I know about it. Lloyd, did you know that Kratos went back into the Seal last night and hasn't come back out yet?"
"Seriously?" Lloyd said at full volume, prompting a 'Shh!' from Colette. "Did he say what he was going to do?" he continued in a lower voice. Colette shook her head.
"He knows I can't sleep." she explained. "So I asked him, but he just said he dropped something in the seal and needed it back. He didn't say what."
Lloyd listened to this, then sat back on his hands. "I wonder what he dropped? Usually when we forget things, he always says that we should just forget it and move on, but..."
Something hit him.
"Kratos knew about you not sleeping?" the teenager burst, causing Colette to jump in surprise. "He knew everything about how you couldn't eat or sleep or anything, and he didn't tell anyone?"
Colette covered her mouth. Apparently she hadn't meant to reveal that. "Lloyd, I'm sorry!" she squeaked. "I asked him not to say anything, so he's been pretending he didn't notice-"
Lloyd jumped to his feet, fists clenched. "So all that crap we've been talking about, about not worrying about you- aaargh!"
He stormed in the direction of the mausoleum, Colette on her feet and at his side in an instant. "Lloyd-"
"I'm gonna talk to Kratos!" he said firmly, not stopping for a second. "Stay here and tell everyone where I am when they wake up!"
"What if you get hurt?"
"I'm not going to get hurt, I'm just going to go talk to Kratos!" He paused at the entrance, turning to face Colette. "If I don't think I can fight off all the monsters, then I'll just run. Okay? If I make it to Kratos in time there's no way I'm going to hurt myself."
Colette frowned. Of course Kratos would not let Lloyd get hurt. But if Lloyd was angry while he was steaming through the mausoleum, then he would probably run into something spiky. Colette had almost tripped and fallen into one of the traps herself.
"Alright." she said finally. "But be careful, okay?"
Lloyd gave her his trademark grin, and a thumbs-up. "Don't worry about it! I can run like the wind!"
And with that, he disappeared back into the ancient tomb.
Wow, Lloyd! You've gotten so much better at using a sword!
Haha! I know, right? Look, throw something at me. Come on, do it.
Are you sure?
Sure I'm sure! Just watch!
Heehee. Last time we did that, I hit you in the head.
Sh-shut up! But yeah, pretty cool, huh?
Yeah! You'll be a master swordsman like Kratos in no time!
You think so?
Yup! Definitely! I bet you were waiting for the 'like Kratos' part, though.
Hee, I was right.
Shut up! Kratos is the one teaching me! Didn't Raine say that a teacher's greatest wish is to teach someone who becomes better at it than they are?
She did say that. Do you think you'll ever be as good as Kratos, Lloyd?
...No, actually. I'll never be that good, and Kratos knows it. He's always telling me what I'm doing wrong instead of telling me what I'm doing right! Dammit...
Oh, don't worry, Lloyd. Raine also said that you have to know what you're doing wrong if you want to get better at it.
But why does he have to be such a jerk about it? It's like he thinks I'm never going to get any better!
But you are getting better Lloyd. And I bet if Kratos didn't think you'd eventually become better than him, he wouldn't be teaching you in the first place.
The Wind Seal was much scarier at night. The monsters had all seen the group's combat prowess in their battle against Iapyx the day before and were all currently avoiding Lloyd, but honestly he wished they would come back and attack him again. The sound of wind blowing and echoing in the dark stone corridors was suddenly the creepiest thing he'd ever heard, and with the entire group with him the last time he hadn't needed to notice. Now the darkness and the cold howl of the wind were making Lloyd wish he'd just waited until Kratos came out to talk to him.
...What had Lloyd wanted to talk to him about again?
"Argh, man!" Now he had no reason to be in here! "Why do I have to be such an idiot?"
Lloyd kicked at the ground in frustration, and was surprised to feel his foot actually hit something small and round. He heard it bounced off the stone floor several times before coming to a rest about ten feet in front of him. It sounded like... metal?
He ran over to about where he'd heard it stop and felt carefully around the floor. After a few minutes of searching, his hand came upon a small, egg-shaped object that appeared to be connected to a string. It was hard to tell in the darkness, but it looked as though it were made of gold.
One of those torches around here ought to still be lit...
Now he was running aimlessly about, looking for a lit torch with which to examine his prize. Considering the darkness, it was no surprise that one was easily locatable; he simply ran around until he saw a light, and followed it. It was the torch next to the first tablet on the wall, leading the way to the seal.
He ran up to the light, glad to be out of the dark, and looked down at the object in his hand. It was a gold locket, inlaid with silver and carved with intricate swirls and flowers and a bunch of other things Lloyd didn't know the name for, hanging from a fine gold chain that looked as though it were delicate, but had somehow withstood years of abuse. There was a latch on the side; Lloyd undid it, and opened it.
His eyes widened.
Is something wrong, Chosen?
Huh? Oh, Kratos... It's nothing.
You should be asleep. Do not think that this journey will be easy merely because you are the Chosen.
I know. I'm just having a little trouble falling asleep. These beds are so hard and scratchy...
Hmph. You'll get used to them.
...Yeah. I'm sure I will. Look at Lloyd; he's sleeping like a baby. Hee hee!
Lloyd can sleep anywhere. I supposed it's part of being raised by a dwarf.
I bet! Lloyd can do lots of things, like carve and climb trees and eat a whole lot of food...
Kratos, I don't think I'm going to get any sleep tonight. You won't tell Lloyd, will you?
If you ask, then I will not.
Oh! Thank you, Kratos.
...Count the stars.
If you are having trouble falling asleep, Chosen, then you should trying counting the stars. You'd be surprised how well it works.
Counting the stars, huh? Okay, I'll try that. Thanks! But there are so many of them, I don't think I'll ever finish before this journey is over.
Yes. A human life is far too short to count them all...
The door to the seal room was still open, to Lloyd's relief; he wouldn't have to go around light all the torches and blowing wind on all the windmills again. He dodged past the monsters in the next room- he somehow noticed for the first time that the windmills were made of the precious gems the tablets had referred to- and jogged up the steps to the seal room. It was on the roof of the mausoleum, giving Lloyd the chance to check the time. He'd spent an hour inside the seal. Hopefully the others weren't awake yet, but knowing his luck...
Lloyd never got to complain inwardly about his luck, as the sight of a tall, auburn-haired man standing on the very edge of the roof made him stop in his tracks.
Yep, that's definitely Kratos.
The youth strode his way over to the mercenary, standing arms-crossed as he looked over the edge towards the north. Coming to the man's side, Lloyd followed his gaze to the horizon and blinked; Kratos was looking too high to really be seeing anything. He was staring into space.
"I thought I told you not to stand behind me."
Lloyd jumped. "Huh? How did you know it was me?"
"You have a certain presence."
Kratos's gaze did not leave the empty sky as he spoke. As Lloyd looked up into his face, he thought he saw something like frustrated resignation, and he pulled out the locket.
"Uh, Kratos?" Lloyd held it up. "Colette said you were going to look for something. This wouldn't happen to be it, would it...?"
When he turned his head to look at the object in Lloyd's hand, the stoic man's eyes widened just a little before returning to its usual blank calm. His eyes lingered on the necklace for several seconds, before slowly drifting upwards to meet the younger swordsman's gaze.
"You looked inside."
It was not a question.
"Uh... Yeah, I did." Lloyd admitted, rubbing the back of his head. "I didn't know it was yours..."
Something changed in Kratos's face, turning his unwavering gaze into an unsettling glare that made Lloyd nervous and a little angry after a few seconds. But he turned away from the teenager, back to the northern sky, in silence.
Another few seconds passed, and Lloyd decided it was safe to speak again. He turned the locket over in his hand and pulled the latch open again. When he was quite sure Kratos heard it and did nothing to stop him, he pulled it open.
"Kratos," he began. "this is you. So... did these two actually exist, too?"
Inside was a tiny family portrait, depicting the powerful Kratos on the left- smiling- and an attractive brunet woman on the right, hair braided behind her shining face and brown eyes. In her arms was a sleeping infant. It was so weird, to image that the happy man in the portrait was the cold mercenary standing next to Lloyd right now. "How long ago was this made?"
Kratos did not answer. He continued to stare into the lonely sky in silence, though Lloyd knew that if he was not outright telling Lloyd that it was not his business he was likely to end up telling him the story sooner or later. Lloyd took a deep breath.
"They're dead, aren't they?"
They'd have to be dead. The group had been to every town in the world, and not once had Kratos asked leave to visit any family or friends. It would be easy to believe that he simply thought it would be better not to see them, but Lloyd already knew from the man's forlorn silence that he was right. There was no one to visit.
"The human ranch."
The mercenary nodded in the direction of the aforementioned structure. "They were taken to the Asgard ranch in my absence, while I was off doing a job."
Lloyd felt sick to his stomach now. The human ranch. He'd been to two of them now, and he'd seen the backbreaking work and torture the prisoners went through. Even the elderly and the children were not spared. They were forsaken and evil places, and while he was a little startled he'd had no problems with allowing Raine to blow up the Palmacosta ranch. "How old... How old was...?"
"My son was about three."
For a moment Lloyd could only stare open-mouthed. He shook his head. "I'm sorry."
Several minutes passed in dark silence. Lloyd felt bad- he felt horrible for bringing the subject up now. He thought back to that day in Palmacosta, when Governer-General Dorr pulled the cloth off the cell and revealed the literal monster his wife had been transformed into. Lloyd hadn't noticed it then, but now that he thought about it he remembered the odd, strangled sound of recognition that escaped Kratos's throat.
Now he felt even worse.
"Did they overwork her," he asked slowly, "Or..."
For a split second, the corner of the stoic swordsman's mouth twisted into a grim frown.
"It was inevitable." Kratos said wearily. "She was willful, strong emotionally and physically with a quick temper, and she wouldn't have died in time to stop them from removing her Exsphere."
The more of this story Lloyd heard, the more appalled he became. He hadn't even recognized Marble when she'd been turned into a monster, and now the poor woman's daughter was still a prisoner for it. The same thing had happened to Governer-General Dorr's wife. To think that Kratos's wife had met the same fate...
As strong as he was, Kratos had not been able to prevent his wife and son's death.
For the first time in a while, the man turned to look Lloyd in the face.
"You said that she was willful, with a quick temper." He crossed his arms. "I think that sounds a lot like someone I know."
Kratos lowered his head to the ground and, to Lloyd's surprise, chuckled. As weird as it was for the cold man to be chuckling, it didn't sound unnatural at all. "I would be rather disappointed in you if you did not recognize a description of yourself. Lloyd..."
He cast a sidelong glance at his pupil, who was slightly frustrated to realize that he could not see the other's face properly for those auburn bangs. He had a feeling the effect was intentional, as Kratos seemed unable to think of something to say for once.
"D'you think your son would have turned out like me if he hadn't died?" Lloyd asked, on a hunch.
Apparently it was the wrong thing to say, for the man's gaze immediately hardened. "Who knows. It doesn't matter now." He spun towards the exit and made to leave, a bewildered Lloyd behind him. "The Chosen and the others are likely awake by now, if they weren't already when you came looking for me."
"Wha- Huh?" Lloyd stared after him, and then hit himself on the head. "Aw, dammit! And it was going so well, too..."
Lloyd had caught up to him already. Not that Kratos had really been trying to lose him; it would be highly disagreeable for Lloyd to be eaten by monsters in his absence.
"Kratos," the boy panted, coming up behind him. "Don't you... want your locket back?"
Kratos stopped, causing Lloyd to run into him from behind. When the swordsman turned around the seventeen-year-old was lifting himself off the ground, dusting his jacket off. "Geez, you're like a brick wall, you know that?"
He had no answer for that, and after a few moments of further silence made that clear to Lloyd the student held up the precious locket. "So, uh, you should take this back, before I lose it or something..."
A faraway torch lit the carvings on the memento, and it was on these that Kratos focused. No, Lloyd would not lose it. He would probably treasure it and wear it around his neck until Kratos asked for it back, determined to keep it safe until he could return it to its owner. Lloyd had a way of making sure the truly important things survived.
But Kratos did not want it back. He had forgotten her smell, and her hands, and her cooing at their young son, and her anger when she insisted that he stop treating her like a pregnant woman on the run even though that was what she was, and the sting of her slap when he would not, and her giggles when he sported a genuinely sheepish look at the indignity, but now, somehow, he felt he would not need the locket much longer. He was to be a man of twenty-eight whose days of happiness were gone forever- but he'd found a new reason to live, and he was absolutely positive that she would approve.
He held out a hand and carefully took the locket from Lloyd, knowing that he would give it back before their story was over.