So…yeah…apparently I haven't updated this in over a year. (Sigh) I would apologize but you all know how that song and dance goes now. Still…sorry guys.
I know I….take a while, I know I get distracted with other things and well, frankly I do have a life as shocking as that seems. Still, as long as it may take me, I always come back. I appreciate you guys, sometimes it may feel like you don't appreciate me, but regardless, it really means a lot to me whenever I see a review, it means a lot to me when someone takes the time to say something nice.
Ah, well nevermind that. Let's get to the part you really care about, hm?
Disclaimer: I own nothing
Lloyd stood there, staring at the stone for what felt like eternity. His father was beside him and they had yet to say a word to each other. Dirk had left them there but Noishe had lingered, whimpering as he gently nuzzled their sides.
"You didn't even bury her." Lloyd's voice cut in through the silence, his eyes obscured by shadow.
Kratos twitched a bit, the guilt eating up through him and he sighed softly.
"No…I did not."
"Why? Why didn't you even bury her? What was so important that you had to leave her-?"
"Saving you." Kratos interrupted flatly, frowning a bit. "I will not make excuses, you are right, it is my fault. I did not stay to bury her, I wasn't even there for her final moments. I thought she was dead and they were going to kill you next. So I fled and left her behind. I was a coward, I will not contest that."
Lloyd fingers curled into his palms, glaring at his father.
"Who was going to kill me? Who killed her? Is that the reason why we left this place? Someone was after us?"
Kratos nodded silently, his eyes downcast.
"Yes, Lloyd, the Desians. They were after us. They were after that exsphere that you're using now, when it was attached to your mother."
Lloyd's eyes widened, looking to the gem on the back of his hand.
"I- what? Why? You-"
"Lloyd, there are many things you are going to have to know now," Kratos said, looking back at the grave. "They will be difficult to accept, and some things I cannot tell you. I know this will anger you but it's a necessity. In time you will understand. For now…I will tell you why they were after your mother."
Lloyd didn't know what else to do but to nod.
He stood there, quiet and stunned as Kratos explained how he and his mother had met. How he had come across an escapee from one of the ranches, his mother, how they had met and she had been recaptured. How he had infiltrated the ranch to save her and how they had run away together, fell in love, had him all while running from the Desians.
"Eventually they caught us," Kratos explained grimly, frowning. "Your mother was killed when they took the exsphere from her. I reclaimed it and fled with you. The Desians cannot have that stone, it was too valuable to them, something that if they could get hold of would cause even more suffering for this world. It was your mother's wish that I keep it from them, even at the cost of our lives….but not yours."
Lloyd hesitated a moment, unsure how to respond. Finally he lowered his eyes and nodded once.
"That's why we need to leave. We'll find Yuan and make him-"
"I'm not leaving."
Kratos cut off, his brow furrowed.
"No. I've made up my mind. I'm not going back. I'm going to help Colette with her regeneration journey thing to stop the Desians. I'm going to help get rid of them to avenge mom and to stop them from hurting people."
Kratos' eyes narrowed.
"Listen to me, Lloyd. I am going to only tell you this once. As soon as we are able, we are going back. We will travel with the Chosen, yes, but only because it is convenient for us. They offered me funds to escort her and she will need to travel, as will we. We will go with her so we have means of traveling while we search for Yuan so that I may confront him about this. Until then we are going to interfere as little as possible, understand?"
"Wait- we're going with Colette?" Lloyd's eyes widened, a grin working into his face. "That's perfect!"
"Did you listen to a word I said?"
"Yeah, I did, and I don't care." The boy retorted, eyes narrowed. "We're going with them so I'm going to help them any way I can, and I don't care if you find that cape-wearing weirdo and find a way back, I'm not going back. I'm going to stay, I'm going to see this through to the end. One of us has to."
The last few words were said not without some ice, Kratos frowning deeply but relenting with a sigh.
"We will cross that bridge when we come to it."
"Yeah, I guess we will." Lloyd crossed his arms and fixed his father with a stubborn glare.
The man regarded his son a moment then shook his head, sighing and giving the grave one last look. Whatever either had to say to each other was cut off when the dwarf approached them, the blonde Chosen and the two half-elves behind him.
"Sorry ta interrupt ya, but these nice folks were lookin' fer ya."
"Oh! Lloyd!" Colette chirped, visibly relieved. "Genis told us what happened and Kratos went looking for you, so we decided to ask around for you both too…I'm glad you're both okay."
"I'm glad you guys are fine," Genis said with a sigh. "I was so worried after we got separated."
"I'm glad to see you're okay, too." Lloyd grinned, walking up to them. "I got in some trouble but Dirk here helped me out, he's a really nice guy."
"No need ta be thankin' me," Dirk shook his head. "Ah'm sure ya would've done the same."
"Yeah, but thanks anyway." Lloyd smiled, then turned to the others. "Sorry for worrying everyone."
"We were worried you ran into trouble," Colette said. "Grandmother was trying to think of what we'd do if you were not going to be able to come with us…."
"Us?" Lloyd blinked. "Who else is coming?"
"The Professor is, you know, you met her earlier." Colette looked to the schoolteacher, who regarded both the Aurions with cool eyes.
"I assume you're going to come along with us then? Assuming that's what your father's plans are."
"Yes, he will be accompanying us. He'll pull his weight I assure you, I can't very well leave him on his own to begin with."
Lloyd cast his father an irritated glance but said nothing, knowing there was nothing he could do to contest this.
"Wait, if you're going then where is Genis going to stay? He told me you guys didn't have any other family in the village…"
"Genis is going to be staying with Colette's family until I return," Raine said with a nod. "You don't need to concern yourself with that. For now though it's pretty late, we really should return to the village. We shouldn't have stayed out this late to begin with, but Colette was adamant…."
"I'm sorry," the girl said with a frown. "I just-"
"We know, Colette, you were worried." Raine nodded.
"Ya shouldn' be out so late in the woods, ya'll can stay here the rest of the night. Ah don' have too much room, but enough fer ya all to have a place to rest yer heads. The young lady can have mah bed and the miss can have the sofa. As fer the fellers I'll find places on the floor…"
"We would very much appreciate that, Dirk," Raine said with another nod.
"I concur," Kratos nodded. "Thank you very much for your kindness."
"Ah, no need fer that," Dirk laughed heartily. "Ah'm familiar with them, if yer friends of them it ain't no trouble at all."
"You're friends?" Lloyd tilted his head to the side curiously.
"Dirk comes into town to assist with building projects from time to time, we see him around." Genis told him. "He's really nice, but I'm sure you know that already."
"Oh yes, Mr. Dirk is very nice!" Colette chirped.
"Ah, well that's mighty sweet of ya. Fer now we should all get some shut-eye, aye?"
Lloyd found himself unable to sleep, staring at the low ceiling of the earthen home. It had been a long, very, very strange day after all. With all that had happened, all he had learned….earlier that day he had been sleeping through chemistry and playing football, now- wait, it had to have been more than a day. That was….yeah, it had to have been more than a day by now, when they left home it had already been dark and when they got here it was sometime in the morning. He'd gone through like…two days already, geez, why wasn't he conked out sleeping right now? Was it that 'nap' he had had earlier after falling in the river? Or adrenaline? Nerves? He just couldn't relax….
The teen sighed, bringing up his hand to stare at the back of it. Due to his father's urging he had bound it in bandages, obscuring the stone from view but he knew it was there, sitting there… His mother's, they had killed her for this stone, it was important. If she had been so desperate to protect it from them, he swore he would, too. Still, these exsphere things were a mystery to him in themselves. They- wait…
He frowned, scanning the room. Where was- Genis and his dad were gone. When had that happened?
Lloyd slipped outside, putting on his coat and shoes. Where could either of them had gone? He didn't have to wonder very long, he had barely gotten outside when he spotted his father.
"Lloyd, get back inside," he said sharply.
"What-? Dad what are you doing out here? Where's Genis?"
"Snuck off, by the looks of it," Kratos frowned, kneeling down to look at a footprint the young mage had left. "It's dangerous in these woods alone, especially at night. Do you know where he might have gone, Lloyd? These tracks aren't headed for the village."
"They aren't? I don't-…oh no," he whispered, feeling the color bleed from his face.
"What is it?" Kratos half asked, half demanded.
No, the kid couldn't have been dumb enough to go back, could he? After what had happened earlier at the ranch, it made sense he would be worried about that old woman, but- no! He couldn't have gone back…
"Lloyd, answer me. Now. This is important."
"I- he…he might have gone back to the ranch, there was this old woman he was friends with and she was in trouble-"
A scary look flashed through his father's eyes and he cut off, staring at him.
"Get back in the house, Lloyd, and stay there. Do you understand me?"
"What- what are you going to do? Are you going after him? Then let me go, I went with him the first time so-"
"Get inside." Kratos said, his voice low, deep, and not just a bit dangerous. "I'll go after him. If Raine asks then say nothing. I'll handle this."
The man turned, took a few steps then paused.
"Yes?" he asked.
Kratos turned back, walking up to him and then taking his hand. The man slipped the gun from earlier from his pack and then placed it firmly in Lloyd's hand. Lloyd's eyes widened, about to ask.
"There are only a limited number of shots, only use it if absolutely necessary." Kratos stated, his expression gravely serious. "You should not have to, but just in case."
"I- Dad I don't know how to….I can't use one of these."
"You will if you need to."
That was that, there was no time for Lloyd to argue. Kratos turned and disappeared into the woods. For a while the young man could only stare after his father and then back at the weapon in his hands, trembling a bit.
Then he clenched it tightly, making sure the safety was on and stuffing it in his jacket before going into the woods after his father. It would be his fault, he felt, if something happened to Genis after all this. Attacking the guards had been his idea, Genis wouldn't have gotten noticed at all, if it hadn't been for him. If he got caught now, who knows what they would do to him? He knew his dad would get mad at him, but so what? The old man was always mad at him, at least this time he'd be mad at him for a good reason, rather he'd be in trouble for a good reason.
Besides, he had a bad feeling about this whole thing.
It turned out, that feeling was correct. When he managed to get to the ranch he climbed up to the vantage point they had used before, peeking down into the fences from behind some brush. Something was going on, he could hear that from where he was. There was shouting and a young voice, Genis' probably. Lloyd's throat tightened when he saw what he had feared, some guards had Genis in the ranch-yard and they were beating him as he lay curled up in a ball, sobbing. His blood boiled with anger and he went to leave his hiding spot when a hand grabbed his arm, yanking him down. A hand slapped over his mouth before he could shout and his father's voice whispered in his ear.
"I told you not to come," he hissed. "For now just keep quiet."
Lloyd nodded quickly and his father removed his hand.
"Stay quiet, stay out of sight," the man said sharply in hushed tones. "Do not do anything, just stay undetected, am I clear?"
"I'll see what I can do, but do as I say. If you don't listen to me it will make it hard for any of us to get out alive."
Lloyd bit his lip, his eyes darting back to the unfortunate half-elven boy but he grudgingly nodded his consent to his father.
Kratos slipped away without another word and Lloyd watched the scene unfold. He couldn't quite make out what they were saying. For the time being they had stopped hitting Genis, who sniffed and peeked out from under his arms. They were saying something to him, and they were looking off down one of the pathways. From the angle Lloyd was at, he couldn't see what they were looking at but whatever it was it had horrified Genis. The young boy let out a scream and had leapt to his feet, attempting to run forward toward it before the guards knocked him back on the ground. Lloyd felt his blood chill when the guard grabbed Genis' head and forced it up, making him look at whatever was happening.
The young swordsman barely registered, briefly, a look of pure horror on the mage's face before a screeching roar shook the area. Lloyd hissed and clamped his hands over his ears, eyes widening as he saw something emerge from behind the building, down the pathway he could not see. It was a monster, that was the only way he knew how to describe it, even from the things he had seen in this world it was a monster. Something about it was- the other monsters seemed….'natural', for lack of a better world. Like they were just animals in their own habitat, like they belonged there. This was not, this was a monster in the truest sense of the word, something abnormal, unnatural, horrific. Genis was crying and Lloyd nearly leapt from his hiding spot when suddenly all the lights shut off.
There were shouts of confusion and panic, quickly followed by screams, then silence. Lloyd panicked a bit himself, unsure of what he should do. Then he heard more muffled screams, from Genis. Quickly, Lloyd descended the cliff-face and headed for the sound. He found Kratos holding Genis just a bit down the path from the open gates, the young boy failing in the man's arms, a hand over his mouth. Tears were flowing from his wide blue eyes, his fair skin even more pale than before.
"Genis- Dad, is he okay?"
Lloyd cut off abruptly once he saw his father's face in the dim moonlight. His father was never the most relaxed or happy person to begin with of course, but the drawn, pale face with the dead eyes told the boy that whatever had upset Genis was equally traumatic for him.
He heard a loud thump behind him, followed by a screech.
Next thing he knew he had been flung through the air and crashed into the ground, the rocks cutting up his face and side. He jerked his head up, his head and vision swimming. The creature from the ranch was currently swiping at Kratos, who was blocking its claws with his sword. Genis was in the middle of what appeared to be a nervous breakdown, sitting on the ground in a heap and staring in numb terror at the scene. Lloyd grunted, struggling to his feet and reaching shakily for the swords he had at his hip.
Then the unthinkable happened. With a great swipe the creature knocked his father's sword away. Lloyd's eyes widened, stunned. He had never, ever seen his father make a mistake, much less one like that, at such a crucial time. Then the claws were coming again, about to impale his father, so he did the only thing he could think to do. Lloyd grabbed the gun from inside his jacket, aimed it at the creature's head and fired. It seemed like slow-motion, the beast crashing onto the floor and Genis letting out a shriek.
Lloyd froze in his tracks, his heart stopping.
Marble? Marble, that old woman? What the hell? What was he talking about?
The creature gave a raspy breath, choking, and Lloyd knew it was dying. It was dying, the monster, but Genis had called it 'Marble'- what was he talking about? There was no way-
The voice rung in his head, without any true words or sounds. Lloyd's eyes widened, his arm beginning to shake, the gun rattling in his hand, still pointing where it had last fired. Then Lloyd realized, the clothes the creature wore. Torn, stretched, tattered brown, like a dress…and…and the thing, the chain around its neck, just like the old woman had worn.
Oh God. Oh God, no…
It was Marble, the monster was Marble, the old woman. They had turned her into this…this thing, this creature, they had turned her into a monster and he had killed her.
He had killed an innocent, old woman.
…Erm…I promise next chapter will be lighter/sooner? To make up for it? Eheheh…heh…