Tales of Symphonia
Just a bit of writing practice. I'm getting so rusty – the rest of my writing will be back soon, I hope.
Third person, because... might as well.
Takes place during the journey of Regeneration, before certain things were known about Kratos and Lloyd.
The calm quiet of morning was disturbed roughly by the clashing of steel from atop a hill in the Hima region.
Two swords wildly slammed down against a third which was held by far steadier hands than the twin blades. As much as the younger swordsman grinned in his advance, the mercenary did not at all budge. He parried each and every strike without breaking so much as a sweat, his gaze cold and calculating, seeking for that moment. And there it came.
Lloyd ruthlessly aimed to slam Kratos' sword aside to create an opening to finally claim victory, but the man would have nothing of it. He'd seen the change in the boy's motion, and with the faintest trace of a smile – a twitching of the corner of his mouth – Kratos slipped his left foot back, his sword diving underneath the incoming bash and after that he pushed forward. With quite the force, he slammed a hand into Lloyd's right shoulder and then proceeded to grab onto the red fabric of his garments.
With little to no difficulty, the mercenary managed to topple Lloyd right over, having the poor lad's guts meet his knee, after which he pushed him back and away.
"Too wild," was the only remark Kratos let go of as he watched Lloyd stagger back and recover. Lloyd scowled and rubbed at his guts, his breathing rapid.
He bent over to grab the sword he'd dropped with a clattering noise, and without warning, dashed right back at the mercenary, unleashing a fury of enraged and frustrated strikes.
Kratos' eyes narrowed, and each strike he met, save for one. The left-handed sword had come at him with such force, even as his own sword had partially averted its course, it had still cut right into the side of his neck. Right then, Lloyd felt a strange thing in his gut, a feeling caught in between nearing victory, and something much graver. Deciding he'd finally got a hit in, and was thus going the right way, he continued his assault, giving in completely to the moment and each and every thought left him. Kratos was forced to slip back further and further, twice having told him to back off, but Lloyd did not even hear, his mind captured in the dance he was forcing his swords into.
Again, through chance, he managed to nick at Kratos' skin; an arm, the right one, and low at that. It was nearer to his sword than Lloyd had ever managed before. Better even! Almost, he'd disarmed the man, and with a few more strikes he managed to set a clean gash to Kratos' chest. The purple fabric ripped and instantaneously stained red with blood, and with that Lloyd's world went black.
The mercenary had had enough of the childish, wild display, and finally decided that words were no longer enough. He'd simply ignored the duo of swords, pushing them down, ignoring the fact one stung right against the side of his knee, and had gone on to swipe the flat of his own blade against Lloyd's skull. Not so hard it'd crack it, but not so gentle it'd leave him standing either.
Lloyd staggered back and only by the feel in his head and gut, he knew he fell backwards, his grip on the swords loosening and failing him. He heard the clatter of them falling down onto the rock as much as he felt himself fall. Darkness swept over him, however brief.
When he finally managed to drag his eyes open again, the edges of his vision blurred and dim, Lloyd stared right into the man's face. It was illuminated by light that spread from Kratos' fingers, which were pressed against Lloyd's head, mending the wound he'd been forced to inflict. After blinking his eyes a few times more, Lloyd raised a hand to try and push the mercenary away.
"Heal yourself… first…" he grunted, gaze lingering on the deep stain of crimson on the man's chest. Kratos didn't even react to him, the healing light not fading at all. Twice, Lloyd tried to get up, and Kratos simply forced him right back down, not even speaking.
"Look, I'm sorry…" Lloyd began, but was cut off by the strangest look the mercenary had ever given him.
It wasn't hatred or disgust, nor was it the displeasure with which the man always seemed to regard him. It was something different, a mixture of pity and sorrow, as far as Lloyd could tell, and somehow, it made him feel only worse about what had happened. He turned his head away slightly, averting his gaze so as to avoid having to look at Kratos' face. It made him uneasy for reasons beyond his comprehension, and made him well realize what might've happened.
What if that slash had been a successful thrust? He'd have skewered the man, maybe even killing him, just like that.
"How does it feel now?" Kratos' voice was but a whisper, snapping Lloyd out of his thoughts. He helped Lloyd sit back up again, for which he got a small nod of thanks.
"I'm fine. Kratos?"
Kratos shook his head, not wanting to hear it. He got up and stretched out a hand, the glove stained slightly with blood which had run all the way down from the gash in his forearm. With a soft sigh, Lloyd took it and got onto his feet with the help, his head still feeling a bit heavy. He said nothing of it though, merely nodding before he moved to retrieve his swords. Once he'd set them back in their sheaths, he turned around to spot the mercenary a fair distance away already. Training was over.
By the time Lloyd caught up to him, Professor Sage was already fussing over him. With great curiosity, Genis and Colette turned to stare at Lloyd, as Kratos most likely had told them very little. Lloyd shook his head at them and watched as Kratos took his shirt off to reveal the damage, the gloves and split cloak landing on the ground shortly afterwards.
His stomach twisted at the sight of the ragged gash his blade had left on the man's chest but still Lloyd said nothing.
Colette had let out a gasp, and eagerly darted off to get water as Professor Sage had requested, and Genis sped after her to help her, probably to make sure her clumsiness wouldn't wreck anything on their way.
"This was Lloyd's doing?"
With how skeptic the Professor sounded, Lloyd had a hard time to keep his mouth shut, and he bit his lip down briefly but harshly. Kratos merely inclined his head to confirm it and held perfectly still, his gaze on the ground at all times, whilst Raine began to heal the gash.
After a long and unbearable silence, even as Colette and Genis had returned, Lloyd finally dared to voice his curiosity.
"Why don't you heal it yourself?"
Kratos glanced at him for but a heartbeat, his gaze held back to the ground as he answered simply, "It doesn't work too well on myself."
"Moving the healing energy from one person to the next is one thing, but to steer it out of the body and then back in right after, with a completely new task, severely diminishes its effect. It'd take countless years of practice to even do it, and even then, the greatest healers as described in many a book, have never managed to perfect it. I do believe you can seal the gashes yourself, can't you?" Raine asked, the light of her hands dimming briefly by her distraction.
"Yes, I can. But it is merely for emergencies I'd give it a go, as it stays prone to infection a while and leaves scars in its wake."
"Ah. But scars can be kind of cool," Lloyd tried to sound positive about it, a small smile on his lips. Kratos' gaze instantly wiped it off his face, however, and with a deep sigh the man shook his head. Lloyd watched curiously as he moved Raine's healing touch aside – the gash but a thin stripe on his chest now – and got up. He half-turned, and whilst Lloyd had shared rooms with the man, he'd never quite noticed the ragged disarray of patterns on the man's body before. It had always been late at night, dim if not outright dark, and most often, Lloyd had gone right to bed without even a word to the stoic mercenary.
Now in broad daylight, Lloyd couldn't help but frown. The cool scars that some big brutes of heroes had had in children's stories, or the tales Dirk had told, were nowhere to be found. Just ragged old markings, mostly thin and faded, but some were thicker and still visible. All lay scattered across his back and chest, a single one ran across his shoulder.
"Failure," Kratos said. "Failure to defend, or to kill fast enough. If one cannot defend himself, how is he to defend others? Get your swords."
"Kratos? Your arm. Shouldn't you let the Professor heal it?" Colette said, hinting at the unhealed cut.
"After this. Take your swords, Lloyd," and with that he drew his own, beckoning Lloyd as he stepped away from the inn and moved further toward the road. With a small look of confirmation from the Professor, Lloyd drew his swords and followed to face the man.
Lloyd slipped into a stance the moment Kratos did, and even that could not have prepared him for the utter onslaught that came his way. It wasn't rage, it wasn't wild, it was nothing like the havoc Lloyd had almost wrought, but it was no less dangerous than that. In fact, it was all the more dangerous, as Lloyd could not tell at all if the man were trying to kill him or not.
Kratos' strikes remained calculated and precise, even as the assault was rapid, and with that it was unforgiving. Any error Lloyd made went punished, for each slip a nick on his arm or a bruise by the hilt of the long sword. It wasn't before long that Lloyd was completely out of breath and hesitated to even push on, his arms and back aching, thin trails of blood tickling his skin under his sleeves.
"I'd have killed you sixteen times by now. Seventeen, if we were to leave you to bleed out by the cut on your knee, had it been deeper. You'd have no arms left and your lungs long punctured. Possibly, your spine would've been a wreck now, had I truly wished for it, when I tripped you into the dirt."
"But you didn't!" Lloyd snarled, forcing himself forward once more, for which he soon found himself lying flat on his back.
He growled in pain as Kratos almost snapped his wrist with his foot, forcing the boy to let go of his remaining sword; the other already lay in the dirt.
The foot withdrew, the cold tip of the blade no longer resting against the side of his neck. Lloyd merely stared at the man, watching how the cold look in his eyes made room for the same gaze of sorrow they'd held before.
And so he did, holding onto his left wrist with his right hand. Kratos continued to watch him, making no motion whatsoever to help, and neither did the others who'd gotten closer and closer during the onslaught.
"Do you understand now?"
"What!" Lloyd snarled back. Another moment passed, and he found he could not keep his anger up at all. Defeat slid into his senses, and he hung his head, waiting for Kratos to speak again.
"Do not lose sight of yourself."
Lloyd stared at Kratos, who was gazing right into his eyes then, and it sent a shiver down his spine. He'd felt it before, but somehow, he knew he could trust Kratos, no matter how much he ticked him off.
"It'll be the death of you, and worse, the deaths of those dear to you. Had I not kept my calm when you went all out, I could have caused you serious harm. Worse perhaps; you could have caused me serious harm too. Do not lose sight," he repeated in a soft, weary voice, hardly more than a whisper. "Come."
And again, Lloyd felt he could not resist. He followed Kratos toward the inn, not even looking at the others, and once indoors, held quiet as he was healed by him too. Only after the worst of his tiny cuts and nicks had been tended to, he dared to speak again.
Whilst the bleeding had stopped by then, Kratos' right arm still bore the long stripe of the cut.
"A memory," Kratos mused, not even sparing it a glance. "If it scars. If not, that is fine too. I know I won't forget regardless, and I can only hope you won't either."
"I won't. And I won't ever give up like that again. I don't want to hurt others… Kratos?" he said after a moment's pause, the man looking up at him. "Thanks."
And for the first time since they'd met, Kratos managed to flash Lloyd a faint smile. Brief as it was, Lloyd nodded, feeling strangely proud that he'd earned it. Once Kratos finished healing, Lloyd thanked him again, and watched him leave, the door snapping shut before long. As Lloyd went to get his clothes back on, he spotted that a single cut had been left unhealed. A tiny stripe that ran across his right arm. He never dared ask, but perhaps, the mercenary had done it on purpose, even if it didn't leave a scar...
Hope it was enjoyable. As always, let me know of any inconsistencies (grammar or spelling) you might find - much appreciated if you do!