Summary: He knew she wouldn't recognize him, not at first. It hardly mattered. He had been ordered to retrieve her so he would. Retrieve the Chosen, retrieve Colette... Nothing else matter
Acknowledgements: To my dear friend, Freakyanimegal. I assure you, without a doubt this story would have never happened if it wasn't for her. It started out as nothing but an idea and it flourished under her persistent nagging for me to write more and many hours of swapping ideas and developing the characters. I wrote it, but she literally fed me the ideas and encouragement for months to create this story. Thank you, Freaky.
Hope you all enjoy.
Disclaimer: Namco owns Tales of Symphonia.
Seven years had passed since the small company, that had strived to bring down Cruxis, disbanded and vanished, slinking into the shadows in an attempt to reorganize themselves. They were like slivers embedded in the tip of the finger, wiggling their way deeper and deeper under the skin. If they weren't dislodged soon, they could pose a problem.
However, only one of them remained the most important. The young female Chosen. She was the only one that never made an appearance. The only one that seemed to have vanished completely. It was unconceivable, at first, to think she would remain in hiding for so long without even an attempt to aid her companions and therefore, Yggdrasill was content to wait. However, with each passing year, he grew more irritated, more frustrated with her unexplained absence. Desians had watched her family, her companions were followed, and save for a brief glimpse or whisper, nothing was ever revealed. Therefore, Yggdrasill had sent him.
Russet eyes scanned the dark trees, watching for the movement they had detected earlier. It hadn't been all that difficult to locate her. A challenge, perhaps, but a simple one when thought about. It was an asset, he supposed, to have had a closer relationship with the Chosen than any other in Cruxis had, but it came as a personal liability as well. He had figured out her pattern relatively quickly, but even then she still managed elude him.
She knew she was being followed and she covered her trail. He had to admit it was impressive how much she appeared to have changed in just a few years. It seemed her naive innocence had finally been disrupted by the cruel reality of the real world.
Perhaps the loss of Lloyd Irving played a role in her maturity. It was foolish to think it wouldn't affect her. Perhaps that is why Yggdrasill had sent him, a sense of familiarity to draw her in and make retrieving her easier. Personally, he knew it wouldn't work. She would hesitate at first, but then she would resist.
There, he saw it. A flash of blonde hair. He followed swiftly, his feet silent upon the ground. He could hear her shallow breathing as she paused, listening as well. He didn't stop, but followed the slight inhales. She moved again and he quickened his pace. He was surprised at her wariness, though he supposed it came from being hunted for nearly seven years. It was reasonable to think the others would've helped her. Sheena Fujibayashi was a likely candidate for stealth, though it amazed him that the young girl's clumsiness could be 'cured', for the lack of a better word.
Her pace seemed to have slowed and he did as well, stepping carefully as she came into his view, but remaining hidden himself. Her back was to him and she was leaning against a tree, most likely resting. He frowned as he studied her. It seemed that the Chosen had forsaken her white church garments, adopting traveller's clothes instead. Brown pants, a simple white shirt fastened by a sash and her long blonde hair pulled back in a messy braid. Her charkams were hanging off her back and a small dagger sheathed at her waist. It surprised him somewhat, but he supposed that it was only natural that should would try to fit in with the general society.
Watching her for a second longer, he detached himself from the shadows and strode towards her. It was almost too easy. She didn't even notice his presence and all he had to do was walk up behind her, disarm her charkams and grab her arm. It irritated him that no one else was capable of completing this simplistic assignment and he was left to finish it.
His foot brushed against some foliage, rustling the leaves slightly intentionally, but the Chosen still didn't move and he refrained from sighing. Perhaps he had been too quick to praise her assumed skill for stealth and survival. Perhaps just small miracles kept her safe for so long.
He was right behind her, when she whipped around, charkams already gripped in her hands and she slashed out at him. Stepping back swiftly, he avoided a chest wound, eyes widening in surprise at her speed and accuracy. There was no hesitation as the Chosen flicked her wrist, releasing one of her charkams spinning directly for his neck. She twisted immediately after and attempted a diagonal slash at his chest again. A sword was in his hand instantly, easily deflecting the first charkam and causing it to careen and embed itself into a tree. His sword flicked upwards again and blocked her second attack with just as little effort, causing her to jump to the side to keep up her defensive.
Blonde hair curved around her cheeks and hung over her eyes as she glared at him. It was both amusing and unnerving to see those once cheerful, blue eyes so aggressive. However, the Chosen left little time to linger on those thoughts as she rushed him again. Her charkam sang as it sped through the air at an insane speed, but its aim was too high and he ducked his head to dodge it only to find a dagger thrusting towards him. Caught off guard, he stepped back, and his hand shot up, grabbing her wrist, the small blade inches from his chest.
She released a grunt of frustration and tried to push the dagger towards his chest, but despite her angelic strength, he held her back.
Seeing her attempts futile, she released the blade and yanked her hand back, or tried to. His fingers enclosed around her wrist tightly to prevent her from pulling away. Her struggles stopped for a second and her foot kicked out catching him in the side of the knee. He grunted in shock as his knee involuntarily gave out and his grip loosened enough for her to pull free.
Before she could turn around and run, he swung his sword around, slamming the flat of his blade against the back of her legs. She shrieked as she crashed to the ground with a thud. She instantly went to push herself up, but stopped as he pointed the blade at her neck. "I wouldn't if I were you, Chosen."
Breathing shakily as she stared at the sword point, she turned her frightened eyes up at him. He merely stared down at her, waiting for the reaction that would undeniably come once she recognized his face.
She blinked in disbelief and pushed herself up slightly with her elbows as she stared at him. He removed the sword knowing that it wasn't necessary now that she recognized him and he wasn't particularly fond aiming it at her either.
He sheathed his sword, staring down at her flatly, as she quickly scrambled to her feet, staring at him in complete shock. "It has been a while, Chosen." A lace of sadness slipped into his voice as he watched her.
She stared blankly at him before tears filled her eyes and she flung herself at him, throwing her arms around him. "Lloyd!" she cried. "You're alive! You're-you're—Lloyd!"
His eyes widened and his arms lifted, caught off guard by the embrace. He knew it would have been one of the possible reactions, but he hadn't been expecting it. If anything he had been expecting anger and fear...
Her face was buried his chest, clutching him rather tightly and Lloyd frowned and pushed her back by the shoulders. "Chosen..."
She looked up at him a smile spread across her face though tears spilled from her eyes, smearing her dusty cheeks. "Lloyd, I am so happy you are alive. Everyone thought you were dead—where have you been? What happened—?" her words cut off suddenly and he stared down at her as she slowly frowned, realization hitting her. "Why did you call me Chosen?" His expression didn't change as she took a step back. "Why were you fighting me?"
"Self-defence. I have no intention of killing you." Lloyd closed his eyes. "I need you to come with me."
Confusion filled her face and Lloyd realized how much older she looked. More mature. He supposed it had been seven years...
"Lloyd, what are you talking about? Go with you where? Where have you been?" she seemed upset and frustrated.
He stepped towards her, staring down at her. He was much taller than she was now, he realized. Nearly a head taller. "Derris Kharlan. I am to take you Lord Yggdrasill."
Not waiting for a response, he reached down, grabbed her wrist, and pulled her behind him, walking back through the trees. For a minute, there was no resistance and he walked slowly, knowing the shock of his response would wear off in moments.
"No! Lloyd, stop! Let go of me!" She shouted at him, trying to tug her arm free. Lloyd tightened his grip and kept moving. "Lloyd, let me go, now! Please!"
"Lord Yggdrasill is tired of waiting, Chosen. Another has been born, but it will take several more years before she would be ready and you are the closest match to—"
"Stop it, Lloyd! Listen to yourself! You aren't one of them! Let me go!" she was clawing at his hands, but he didn't even flinch. In fact, he refused to look back and he didn't reply.
Suddenly something crashed into him and caused him to stumble. As he straightened, Colette used her free hand and pounded on his chest. "Lloyd, please!" her voice sounded strange and Lloyd suddenly realized she was crying. "Please, don't take me! I don't want to die, Lloyd. I don't want to die. I just want to go home and stop running. I want all this to be over."
"Chosen..." he frowned and she gripped his vest, before falling to her knees, her one arm stretched up, still caught in his grip.
Her other hand clutched the ground and tears dripped onto her pants. "I've missed you and waited for you. We tried to fight back, but we weren't strong enough. Then everyone started saying you were dead and—and I—I didn't want to believe it! But it had been so long, I..."
Lloyd stared down at her, his eyes narrowed, but her hair hid her face. She choked and sobbed, her shoulders shaking, releasing seven years of pain and hidden emotions and Lloyd just watched in silence. After a few minutes, her cries stopped, but she didn't move. Her shoulders shuddered with each breath and finally she spoke, her voice shaky, but firm. "I can't go with you Lloyd. I can't. Not this time. Please don't make me. Please."
Lloyd closed his eyes, feeling the tremors through her arm as she cried. He frowned and turned around, releasing her hand as he walked away. He shouldn't have done this...
Colette's head shot up and stared at his back. "Lloyd—"
"Don't try and fight next time. Just run," he said over his shoulder.
"Lloyd, wait! Don't leave! Tell me what happened! I want to help you!" Colette reached for him, still on her knees.
"Just get out of here, Colette," Lloyd sighed as he disappeared into the trees.