Things you need to know before reading this chapter:
- Character thinking; Character reading; "Lloyd's language"
Disclaimer: I don't own Tales of Symphonia and Tales of the Abyss
Chapter 22: Closed Score
"What happened here?" Luke asked as he took in the streets of Chesedonia. "Where's everyone?" The streets themselves didn't change since he last visited here, but with how busy Chesedonia usually was, he didn't think it was normal for the city to be so… devoid of people.
"With the war going on and the disappearance of the Rugnica continent, it's normal for the civilians to prefer not going out unless necessary." Kratos answered.
"Yes. It is similar to the time when the battle in northern Chesedonia broke out three years ago." Natalia added.
"Where do you think Count Almandine is?" Lloyd asked.
"If he came here to get recognition from Mohs, they should have gone to Astor's mansion." Natalia replied.
"Let's go then." Asch said and started towards the aforementioned mansion.
As they went deeper into the city, Luke could see that some of the shops were still open. He remembered how annoyed he had felt when he wanted to visit some of the more popular shops but couldn't as they were so crowded that even Anise couldn't squeeze in. Some of those shops were still open, but he didn't have the mood to visit them now…
He paused when he caught sight of a familiar item in one of the shops.
"Luke?" Guy asked.
Luke shifted his gaze over to Guy and saw that some of the others also stopped to see what's going on.
"I have to use the toilet, I will catch up with you later." He said quickly and hurried off without waiting for the others to reply.
He headed towards the shop in which that familiar item, a pendant, or to be more precise, the pendant Tear gave the coachman so they could ride on the coach to the capital, was displayed.
He pushed open the door and went straight to the counter. "I want to buy that pendant." He pointed at the pendant. "How much is it?"
"That's a hundred thousand gald." The shopkeeper replied.
"Wh- that much?!" Luke exclaimed. He couldn't recall the exact price for that ride, but he was pretty sure it was nowhere near that expensive!
"If you don't have that much gald, I have other pendants that cost less."
"No! It has to be that pendant… wait, let me check how much I have." He took out his purse and started to count how much he had.
He deflated when he found that he only had around forty thousand gald … that's less than half of the price…
He never thought Tear's pendant would cost that much… if he had at least dragged Guy with him… the two of them might just have enough gald to buy the pendant after some haggling, like how Anise sweet talked the weapon store owner to offer a thirty percent discount last time… but Guy's not here, nor did he think he would be able to ask for a sixty percent discount… what to do… ?
"I also have some money here, will that be enough?" A very heavy money bag was placed on the counter next to him.
Luke turned sideways and saw Lloyd grinning at him.
"Lloyd?! Why are you here?"
The twin swordsman shrugged. "Thought you looked a bit weird just now, so I decided to tag along." He grinned sheepishly. "Actually, I don't think anyone bought your excuse."
Luke sighed. "Am I really that obvious?"
"Don't worry about it." Lloyd patted the other's shoulder. "It just mean that you are a bad liar, which is a good thing." He jerked a thumb at the pendant. "So what's the deal with that pendant?"
Natalia crossed her arms and glared at the approaching redhead and brunette with annoyance. That Luke, how could he just go off like this? Did he not think about how she might not be able to convince Count Almandine on her own seeing as she was no longer Kimlasca's princess?!
They had been lucky that Mohs had already left Chesedonia and the Count wasn't notified of her real heritage yet… or maybe Fa- the King still hadn't announced it to the court yet? Maybe it's just wishful thinking… but what if…
"Sorry guys, so where's Count Almandine?" Luke asked once he and Lloyd was close enough.
"We already talked to the Count when you were off doing whatever it is that you deemed more important than stopping the war." Asch replied bitterly. "At least we don't have to explain why there are two Luke's with you absence."
Natalia felt her heart clench a bit when she heard Asch's tone. Asch had to 'pretend' to be Luke again when they were talking to Count Almandine and Astor… Lorelei knew how Asch would feel if Count Almandine had pulled another 'you're a fake' at Asch...
Luke flinched. "Sorry about that… so Mohs wasn't here?"
"He went back to Daath yesterday, just before the Rugnica continent began to fall." Anise replied.
"Hey, where's dad and Jade?" Lloyd asked.
"There's a change of plan. When we went to see Astor and Count Almandine, we were notified by Gnome that this region has also begun to sink. We will go to the Sephiroth in Zao Ruins to lower the lands. " Tear explained. "We need to make sure that the people here won't go into panic when that happens, so we decided to ask the soldiers stationed here to help maintain order."
Luke clenched his fist. "So we are one step behind Master Van again… wait a moment, I get that Count Almandine and Jade went to talk to the Kimlasca and Malkuth soldiers here, but what about Kratos?"
"We have some informants in Chesedonia. We need some of them to get away before the land is lowered to continue their investigation on different things." Asch answered.
"You guys have so many people working for you. It's like you have contacts everywhere." Luke said.
"Right, imagine my surprise when the Dark Wings saved us in Baticul." Anise said.
"Wait, what do you mean the Dark Wings?!" Natalia exclaimed.
Luke raised an eyebrow. "You didn't know who saved you?"
Natalia felt her cheek heat up at the question. When that scantily clad woman saved them, all she was concerned about was how friendly that woman acted towards Asch and how she should face Fa- the King. Then after that, she had been so depressed that she just forgot to ask who it was that saved them… or maybe Asch did mention it before but she just didn't have the heart in her to remember it…
"Anyway, we should head over to the Albiore now." Guy said. "Jade and Kratos will join us there once they finished their task."
"Then we have to spend another half day or so in another Sephiroth…" Anise sighed.
When they were walking towards the city gate, Natalia walked next to Luke. "So what were you doing just now?" Though she tried to tone it down, even she herself could hear the annoyance in her tone.
"That's…" Luke trailed off and turned around, as if searching for something. She tried to follow his gaze to see what he's looking for but to no avail when he turned back to her. "Do you remember when Tear and I were blasted away from Baticul?"
Natalia suppressed the urge to roll her eyes. "How could I, or anyone involved, forget that?"
"Right…" Luke chuckled nervously as he scratched his cheek. "Well, when we first landed in Tataroo Valley, neither Tear nor I had any idea that it had been Malkuth's territory-"
"Yes, I remember that part, you took the wrong coach and nearly ended up in Grand Chokmah. So?" Natalia asked impatiently.
"It's that ride from Tataroo Valley… neither of us had enough money on us to pay for it… so Tear gave her pendant as payment instead." Luke explained. "I remember her looking quite hesitant when she gave that pendant to the coachman. It must be something really important to her."
Natalia blinked. Now she understood where this was going. "You found that pendant here?"
Luke smiled. "It was displayed in one of the shops we passed by, so I bought it back."
Natalia returned her cousin's smile with one of her own. "Although I still don't think it's more important than stopping the war, that is sweet of you, Luke."
Luke scratched his cheek with an embarrassed smile. "Thanks."
Her smile widened. "It's been several weeks already, but it still amazes me when you act so differently nowadays." The Luke from before would have said something rude when someone tried to compliment him, unless it's Van.
"Is it really that weird?"
She shook her head. "No. I like this new you." Now that she knew he was really just a seven year old boy, it was like seeing a child that had been in her care finally grew up into a fine young man.
As they neared the city gate, they saw not one, but two Albiores. Speaking of which, they never told Noelle where to meet up with them once she finished transporting everyone to Grand Chokmah. How did she know to meet them here?
Her thought was interrupted when the earth suddenly started shaking. "Another earthquake?!"
She tried to balance herself, but the shaking was too violent that she lost her footing only after several seconds. She thought she was going to fall when she felt someone holding onto her waist and prevented her from falling.
"Asch!" She exclaimed when she noticed that it was none other than her childhood friend that had helped her.
The earthquake stopped soon and she smiled at Asch. "Thank you." She felt a bit disappointed when he quickly released her and turned sideways. "Be more careful next time." He said.
Natalia nodded even though she knew the other couldn't see it and started surveying the damage done to the area.
She saw some soldiers and merchants lying on the ground while other soldiers that were capable of holding their grounds during the earthquake started helping the others. She also joined the others to help with the aftermath of the earthquake.
"It's the third one this week."
"Maybe it's some bad omen?"
"Is Chesedonia going to disappear like the Rugnica continent?"
"Everyone! Are you okay?" Natalia shifted her gaze to the direction of the city gate and saw Noelle, Ginji and another Malkuth soldier coming over. No, not soldier, from the uniform, he should be of General rank, and he looked familiar… Her eyes widened slightly when she remembered seeing the same General in the audience hall in Grand Chokmah.
"Princess Natalia." The General came over to her and greeted.
"General Nordheim. Why are you here?" Natalia asked as she stood up from where she just casted a healing arte on a fallen man.
"I am here to talk to Count Almandine about the truce." He replied.
"You know about that?" Luke asked as he and the others came over.
"After Noelle brought the citizens of Engeve to Grand Chokmah, His Majesty asked her to take me to General Frings to see how the army is faring." Nordheim replied. "General Frings already told me what has transpired after the land collapsed. I decided to come here myself, the truce should be my responsibility after all."
"That would surely save us time."
Natalia turned around and saw Jade coming over.
"Colonel Curtiss." The General greeted. "What do you mean by that?"
"General Nordheim." Jade greeted back. "You see, the situation has changed quite a bit and we have to go to Zao Ruins as soon as possible."
Jade nodded. "Guy, explain."
Guy sighed. "I should have seen this coming…"
"Ion, I still think this is a bad idea." Dist said with a dejected tone as he dispatched another one of the robotic guardians.
"But it has to be done." Ion said from where he was sitting on the robot that Dist brought with them. The man had insisted Ion not walking at all so as to save his strength for what he's going to do.
"We don't even know if it's possible?!" The man protested.
"It is." He said with conviction.
Dist sighed as he twirled the scythe before him and created a miniature horizontal whirlwind to push the guardian before him back. "This is going to end badly."
"By the way, Dist."
"What is it?" Dist asked as he threw the scythe at the guardian he just blasted away.
"Why are you fighting and not your robot?" Ion asked. He might be sitting on said robot, but he didn't think his presence would make it impossible for the robot to fight. Well, if it's those spherical machines he saw Dist use before, then it might be impossible for it to fight with someone sitting on it, but this one looks very different from those machines and seemed to be able to fight with someone sitting on it. Sure, it might be a bit bumpy, like when he witnessed how Anise fought with Tokunaga, but…
"Oh. That." Dist paused awkwardly as he caught the scythe that was flying back at him after it tore the aforementioned guardian apart. "I guess it's just a habit."
Ion blinked. "Fighting is your habit?" That's weird, he didn't even know Dist could fight before today...
"Wh- no!" Dist whirled around and denied vehemently. "It's just…" He sighed and turned back to continue leading the way towards their destination. The large scythe hanging over his shoulder. Though that scythe was a bit smaller than the one Largo used, Ion never would have imagined it to be the scientist's choice of weapon. He wonder how heavy it was…
"At first it's Kratos drilling into me that I shouldn't rely on my gadgets all the time, then there's Asch who always tried to compete with me to see who killed more monsters and complained how kills made by my babies don't count…"
Dist stopped talking after that. And when Ion thought he finished his answer he started again. "And finally there's Cantabile who always taunted how I couldn't fight even if my life depends on it…"
"I'm sorry for bringing it up." Ion said after an awkward silence. He knew Cantabile would always be a sore topic for Dist, for the both of them.
"No, it's fine. I'm the one bringing her up. I want- I need to talk about it." Dist said.
After a while, Dist shrugged. "You know, when I hear myself put it this way... I guess I do have a habit of fighting, or just making sure that my skill is not getting rusty whenever I can."
Ion hummed as he looked past the thing that looked like a giant fish bone below them towards the bottom. "I see, so that's the reason why we didn't fly straight down to the bottom."
Dist suddenly paused mid-step before quickly resuming, as if he never faltered in the first place. "Of course. Why else would I left my chair outside?" If not for the pause, the smoothness in his tone would have fooled everyone.
Ion fought the urge to laugh when Dist coughed embarrassedly.
Tear fingered her pendant absentmindedly as she watched the memory particles flowing upward. The sight was beautiful. That was also how she felt when they operated the passage ring in Shurrey Hill. But she didn't have the mood to appreciate the beauty of it. Not when this meant that her brother once again tried to kill the countless people living in the outer lands.
At least now with the commanders of both army agreeing to hold a temporary truce, they had one thing less to worry about. Now they could finally focus on finding a way to stop Van. But she had no idea where to start. Like Luke had said, they had always been one step behind her brother…
"Are you feeling tired again?" Natalia asked as she sat down next to her.
She tried to hide how she was really feeling with a tired smile. "Yes. But it is better than before. I think it's because I know what to expect this time."
Natalia tilted her head to the side. "Do you want to cast some healing artes on you?"
Tear shook her head. "I should be fine after resting for an hour or two."
Natalia nodded. "Maybe you can take a nap. We still have another four or five hours to wait before the descend is finished."
She glanced at where Anise was complaining about how they had to go all the way back up after waiting for a long time, again. "Yes." She replied as her hand unconsciously started fingering her pendant again.
"The pendant looks lovely on you, is it new?"
Tear stopped fingering her pendant to held it between her thumb and forefinger instead. She held it up and looked at it with a warm expression. "It's my mother's momento. I lost it due to some incident that was actually my own fault. I thought I will never see it again, but Luke found it in Chesedonia."
"Oh my, isn't that sweet of him?"
"Yes." She had been very surprised, but in a pleasant way, when Luke dragged her away from the cockpit in the Albiore and told her that he had found her pendant in the city of trade. "I didn't think he will remember it after such a long time."
Maybe it's just her imagination or that she wasn't feeling well and was having hallucination, she thought Natalia was smiling slyly just now.
"Speaking of which, I still have to pay him back." She said.
Natalia blinked. "What do you mean?"
"As I have said, it's my fault that I lost it. It's not right for Luke to pay for it, that's why I-"
"Tear, I brought a blanket for you." Tear paused and looked up to see Luke coming over while clutching said blanket in his arm. "We still have several hours to wait, you could take a nap first."
Tear looked at the the redhead in front of him with a warm expression. "Thank you. Luke." She said as she accepted the blanket.
"Luke, you are so sweet!" Anise exclaimed as she bounced over to them. "Where's my blanket?"
Luke deadpanned at Anise. "Why would you need one? You are not the one getting all tried from keeping the control panel open."
"Ehhh?! No fair!" Anise complained loudly. "You should have prepared three blankets! One for each of the ladies in the group!"
"Even if I am to bring blankets for all the ladies here, I will only bring two." Luke rebutted.
Tear chuckled at the two's bickering as Natalia helped her spread the blanket. She looked at Natalia curiously when the archeress sighed and muttered something that sounded like "having it tough" under her breath.
"We are finally out!" Anise shouted with her arms stretched upwards once they exited the ruins.
"You really hate the Sephiroths, Anise." Guy commented.
"It's even worse this time!" Anise exclaimed. "At least the Sephiroth in Shurrey Hill is nowhere near as huge as this one! And it's underground!"
"Mieu also hated it down there." Mieu agreed from atop Luke's shoulder.
"It took us nearly one day and a half just to get to the bottom of the ruins." Lloyd said tiredly. "I am starting to get sick of these Sephiroth."
Luke raised an eyebrow at Lloyd. "Only starting? You were one of the first people to start complaining about all the reputative scenery."
"But it's true! It was the same everywhere we looked! I would never understood why anyone would wanna spend time in such old ruins." Lloyd complained.
"What do you mean?" Natalia asked.
"We have a comrade who is what you would call a ruin maniac." Kratos explained.
"A ruin maniac?!" Natalia exclaimed.
"Something like that exists in this world?!" Anise added.
"Yeah." Lloyd deadpanned. "I bet she would be so happy looking at all the stones and stuff that she wouldn't even notice if and when that old ruin starts collapsing on her."
Anise turned towards Guy with a sly smile. "Hear that, Guy? It's a she, maybe you could be friends with her and have your special condition cured."
"Sorry for being a maniac!" Guy protested. "But… special condition, huh? Well, maybe you are right, I just need a special lady to condition me."
The others all stared at Guy in stony silence.
"Well, at least the ruins didn't collapse on us with all the earthquakes that happened when the land descended." Jade's cheerful tone broke the weird atmosphere and also at the same time made some shudder at the thought.
Asch rolled his eyes at the others' antics. "So what now?" He asked Kratos and Tear, who were the most composed amongst the group.
"Kratos?" He prompted when Kratos kept staring off into the distance.
Kratos slowly turned towards Asch. "There's something bothering me. I'd like to fly through the Qliphoth a little."
"What's wrong?" Luke asked.
"I think we should leave it at that until we're certain." Jade replied before Kratos could.
"Whenever you say things like that, something bad happens…" Anise commented.
They hurried over to the Albiore. Once again, Asch noticed Kratos staring into the distance while the others boarded the plane. "What is it, Kratos?"
"It's just a griffin." Asch nearly jumped when Lloyd's voice came from behind him. That's right, Lloyd was also an angel, so he should also have the same enhanced sight and hearing as Kratos.
"Well yes, but…"
"Dad?" "Kratos?" Lloyd and Asch asked at the same time.
Kratos lightly shook his head. "Maybe I was just too paranoid."
Lloyd laughed. "I never thought I will ever hear you agreeing that you are paranoid." The laughter died suddenly. "But there's something about that griffin that made you feel that way, right?"
Before anyone could say another word, both angels suddenly snapped towards the direction that Kratos had been staring at. Asch squinted his eyes to try to see what was happening but all he could see was the purple nothingless that was the miasma.
"Well, it has been holing up at the same place since quite a while ago, but it finally flew away." Lloyd said and Asch was grateful for his explanation. "Dad, were you thinking that the griffin was spying on us?" Lloyd emphasized the word 'spying' as he asked.
"There's someone in the Six God General who commands monster." Asch answered in Kratos' stead.
Lloyd looked at Asch with wide eyes. "There is another Alice here? Oh wait... I remember seeing Van riding on griffins before."
Asch quirked an eyebrow at Lloyd. "Her name is Arietta."
Lloyd rubbed the back of his head embarrassedly. "Alice was an enemy I once fought who can also control monsters." He then pointed his chin towards where he said the griffin was. "But even if that griffin was spying on us, it flew away already. And it isn't like there's any important information in our conversation just now. Also," Lloyd looked at the Albiore. "I don't think a griffin can catch up with the Albiore. Right, dad?"
"I suppose you're right." Kratos admitted, but Asch could hear the slightest bit of hesitation in his tone. He thought Lloyd caught up on that too.
"It's not a bad thing to be paranoid… Origin knows how many times it saved us in the past. But the others are waiting." Lloyd reasoned.
"What's wrong with that Sephiroth Tree?" Luke asked once the Albiore got high enough that they could see how the Sephiroth Tree was flickering like it's going to die out anytime soon.
"It's shining one moment and fading the next. It's like a fonon lantern that's about to go out." Anise commented.
"So this is what the warning on the passage ring is about." Kratos said.
"Yes. It would seem that the Sephiroth have gone out of control." Jade added.
"Out of control?" Lloyd asked.
"It's likely that something caused the Trees to stop working properly. The frequent earthquakes recently weren't only the fault of the land collapsing." Jade said.
"Wait!" Tear exclaimed. "If the Trees stop working, that would mean the Outer Lands will…" She trailed off.
"The warning said the rings had reached maximum tolerance, likely due to the Sephiroth going out of control. There's not much time before the rings break, the Trees vanish and the Outer Lands fall." Jade said.
"Are you serious?!" Asch half shouted.
"Do the guys in Yulia City know about this?" Luke asked. "Maybe we can find a way to stop the Outer Lands from collapsing in the Score?"
"No." Kratos replied. "The Closed Score did not say anything about the preventing the lands from collapsing."
"Kratos? Why do you know that?" Tear asked. "It should be privileged information that even Grandfather can't view."
"It's another one of the perks working for Fon Master Evenos, right?" Jade said as he pushed his glasses up his bridge. "I assume there's a whole lot of other privileged information you are keeping up your sleeve, am I wrong?"
"Jade! Now's not the time!" Luke shouted at Jade. He then turned towards Kratos. "So?" He prompted.
"I've told you everything I know about the Sephiroth. As for the Closed Score, I only knew of the more prominent events." Kratos said. "If you want to know more, Teodoro could tell you more about it."
"Grandfather?!" Tear exclaimed. "You mean he's also…"
Kratos nodded. "He's also one of us."
Luke blinked. "When I said you have people working for you everywhere, I didn't mean literally everywhere."
"ND2000. In Kimlasca shall be born the scion of Lorelei's power. He will be of royal blood with hair of red. He shall be called 'the light of the sacred flame' and he will lead Kimlasca-Lanvaldear to new prosperity.
ND2002. The one who would seize glory shall destroy the island of his birth, a land namd Hod. War whall persist between Kimlasca and Malkuth for a full cycle of the seasons.
ND2018. The young scion of Lorelei's power shall bring his people to the miner's city. There, the youth will turn power to calamity and be as a weapon of Kimlasca, destroying himself and the city. Thereafter, the land of Rugnica will be enveloped in war, and Malkuth shall lose territory. Kimlasca-Lanvaldear shall thrive, and this shall lead to unprecedented prosperity."
"That's all the Sixth Fonstone says about the collapse." Teodoro said as he closed the book before him.
"All it talks about is Akzeriuth and the war…" Guy said.
"So it's true that we are deviating from the Score…" Natalia said.
"The Sephiroth going out of control might be written on the Seventh Fonstone." Luke argued.
Jade remained silent as he took note of Kratos and Teodoro's expression. Their outward expression didn't betray anything. But he had this feeling that they knew more about it then they let on. He didn't necessarily trust them to reveal the whole truth, but he thought what Kratos said about the Closed Score was true. He was also willing to believe that Kratos and Teodoro's intentions were good.
Asch should also know about this secret they were keeping… but he himself was also a good secret keeper. Then there's Lloyd, either he's in fact a really good liar and had a perfect poker face or Kratos didn't tell his son the full story… or he did but Lloyd wasn't able to fully grasp the whole picture.
There had to be something else, but what was that something else? The Seventh Fonstone?
"Who's this 'scion of Lorelei's power'?" Tear asked.
"Luke, of course. Who else?" Natalia replied.
"But Luke was only born seven years ago." Tear pointed out.
"This is ND2018. It said 2000, so that has to be Asch." Jade said. He narrowed his eyes slightly at his own words. If it was about Asch, then what about Luke? Was the existence of replica, the invention of fomicry, the real culprit that threw the Score off-track? He remembered what Legretta and Cantabile had said in Dao Pass… so the real motivation behind all this wasn't plain revenge against the world, but to overthrow the Score using the destruction of the Outer Lands as a stepping stone?
"Asch was supposed to perish along with Akzeriuth, but he's still alive." Tear argued back.
Natalia suddenly gasped.
"What is it, Natalia?" Lloyd asked.
"Fa- no… the King knew…" Natalia said with a faraway look. She bit her lips and looked straight at the others. "Asch was accused to be a replica of the real Luke in Baticul. They knew Luke's going to-" She clasped her hands before her mouth and looked at Luke.
Jade narrowed his gaze at Luke. It's the leaders' job to make sure the Score was followed if they were told the Closed Score, even if it meant the death of a loved one. He had seen how grave Peony had looked when he had to follow some of the more 'terrible' Score. Reality was harsh. Luke already had a glimpse of how harsh it could be when Akzeriuth was destroyed. And now-
"It's because of me that the Score is messed up, right? My birth took the world off-track from the Score of prosperity. Maybe that's why the Sephiroth are going out of control… and Uncle sent me to Akzeriuth so I can die to fulfill the Score, but I messed that up, too… maybe it's better for me to never have been born."
Jade saw Tear trembling, probably in anger. He had thought it would be her knocking some sense into him, but someone else beat her to it.
"Don't talk like that!" Lloyd shouted at the same time Asch pulled Luke towards him by the collar of his shirt and shouted. "Don't you dare deny your existence, you piece of trash!"
"A- Asch, Lloyd..." Luke gasped.
Asch threw Luke to the ground and stomped away.
"Asch!" Natalia shouted and went to follow after him.
Kratos looked at Lloyd who nodded at him before going after Asch and Natalia.
"I…" Luke said as he looked at the ground before him, having no intention to get back up anytime soon.
"Idiot." Luke looked up at Tear who was looking away from him. "This only means that you aren't bound by Yulia's Score. You have the potential to create a new future, different from the Score!"
"I thought you finally understand. But here you go again, this time even saying things like how you shouldn't be born. Fine! Do whatever you want!" Tear turned around and also left the room.
"Master…" Mieu jumped up to Luke's lap. "It's because of master that Mieu is here… if master was not born… if master never came to Cheagle Woods, then Mieu… " Mieu burrowed his head in Luke's lap and started to cry.
"Mieu… I'm sorry." Luke patted Mieu's head and the sound of crying soon turned to sobbing. "I'm such an idiot…" Luke muttered.
"Well, you ARE an idiot." Guy said as he extended his hand to Luke. "And that's a really stupid thing to say."
Luke placed the now sobbing Mieu on his shoulder. He then took the offered hand and let Guy pull him up. "Thanks, Guy, and I'm sorry."
"I am not the only one you should be apologizing to." Guy said.
"Lloyd, I'm sorry."
Lloyd smiled at Luke. "Don't say anything like that again."
"Thanks, Lloyd." Luke said with a grateful expression and turned to Jade and Anise. "I'm sorry, I won't say anything like that again."
Luke walked up the stairs to Tear's room. His heart getting heavier and heavier with each step he took. He screwed up again. He still remembered what Tear had said after he cut his hair.
~ Flashback ~
"Tear, I want you to watch me from here on out… and then make up your mind. I may not do a good job right away and may make mistakes. But I'm going to change."
A slight smile was on Tear's lips as she looked at Luke with warm eyes. "All right. I'll be watching you."
Tear's expression turned serious. "But don't ever take it for granted. I can give up on you at any time."
~ End Flashback ~
He was so stupid… he hoped Tear wasn't going to give up on him.
He stopped just before taking the last few steps. It's better to announce his presence first than just barging into her room. "Tear, are you inside? I need to talk to you."
No one answered him. Maybe Tear didn't go back to her room? Luke took the final few steps and looked around the room. He then saw Tear standing in the terrace.
He pushed open the door to the terrace and slowly walked towards Tear, who was facing the opposite direction from him.
"Why did you come?"
Luke flinched at the coldness in her tone. "I'm sorry. It was stupid of me to say that."
"Grandfather said you had reacted badly when he told you that the destruction of Akzeriuth is written in the Score."
Luke lowered his head. Yes, he remembered shouting at Teodoro for abandoning Akzeriuth just because the Score… he remembered that he also said-
"He told me you also said you are going to create a path different from the Score."
Luke raised his head to look at Tear when he saw her turning around. He resisted the urge to flinch when he saw Tear leveling an icy glare at him.
"Yet why are you still saying those things?!"
Luke bowed. "I'm sorry!" He raised his head again to look at Tear in the eyes. "I still want to create a path different from the Score! I- I am just scared!"
The icy glare softened a bit. "Luke?"
Luke clenched his fist. "When we found that the Sixth Fonstone didn't mention anything about the Sephiroth going out of control… I only said that it might be mentioned in the Seventh Fonstone because I am scared! What if the Sephiroth going out of control is because of me trying to create a path different from the Score?!"
He lowered his head again. "Then there's Uncle… he knew what's going to happen in Akzeriuth and he still sent me there… what if Father and Mother knew too?! Does that mean they don't care about me at all?! If it's Father, then I-I can more or less accept it… but Mother… it's like knowing that I'm a replica all over again! I- I…" He bit his lips, not knowing what to say anymore.
Tear got closer and placed a hand on his clenched fist. "I'm sorry, too, Luke. It's wrong of you to say that, but I shouldn't run away like that… I should have considered your feelings more."
Luke looked at Tear and saw the warmth in her eyes. "Tear… does that mean you are not giving up on me yet? That you are still going to watch me?"
Tear smiled. "Everyone makes mistakes. This is only the first mistake you made since you said you're going to change. I am going to overlook it this time. But don't say something so stupid again."
Luke returned Tear's smile with one of his own. "Thank you."
~ Skit: Lloyd the millionaire?! ~
Tear: Luke, how much is the pendant?
Luke: Huh? Why do you want to know?
Tear: It was my fault that I had to sell the pendant, it's not right for you to buy it back for me.
Luke: … don't worry about it, it's very cheap, it didn't even cost a tenth of the pocket money I got from mother.
Luke: I said it's fine! It's so cheap that I already forget what the exact price is.
Tear: … Thank you again then.
(Tear leaves, Guy and Anise enter the scene)
Luke: (sigh) And here I thought she had accepted it as a present when I first gave it to her…
Guy: Well, it's Tear we're talking about…
Anise: So how much is the pendant? I promise I won't tell Tear.
Luke: A hundred thousand gald.
Anise: ! Your mother gave you several hundred thousand gald as pocket money?! No wait, if a hundred thousand is not even a tenth, then a million?!
Luke: Of course not! It's Lloyd.
Anise: What?! You mean Lloyd is the millionaire?! (smaller voice) Tsked, should have targeted him from the beginning.
Guy: (chuckle nervously) Anise, I think Luke just meant that Lloyd lent him some money.
Luke: Yes, I still need to find a way to return those money to him…
(Lloyd enters the scene)
Lloyd: Nah, I am not in any urgent need of money, so take your time. I still have a lot, and if I need more, I can just ask dad to give me more.
(Jade and Asch enter the scene)
Jade: Oh dear, Lloyd, I didn't think you are also the type to leech off their parents, no wonder you two are such good friends.
Luke: Hey! What do you mean 'also'?!
Guy: Haha, Luke, you don't have a job yet, so it's normal for the Duchess to give you money. As for Lloyd…
Lloyd: I am a blacksmith back home, but I can't use any of the money I brought from home here… I survived the first few weeks by hunting in the forest. Then I met you guys here, and after that, when I met dad, he just started giving me money. Luckily dad has quite a lot of money from the mercenary jobs he took all these years. He himself doesn't have much use for money anyway.
Luke: I didn't know being a mercenary can earn so much money.
Asch: Like Lloyd said, he just doesn't have anything to spend those money on.
Anise: Say, Asch, is Kratos actually a millionaire?
Asch: (shrugged) Money was never a concern when I was with Kratos… (shrugged) I do know that due to the nature of his 'secret' job, he has apartments in both Daath and Belkend.
Anise: (stars in eyes) Really?!
Asch: He only rented those apartments at first, but it's a bit bothersome to renew the contracts every year, so he ended up buying them several years ago.
Jade: Anise, aren't you glad you never showed your unlady side to Lloyd and Kratos?
Anise: Colonel! Shh!
Anise: Lloyd, do you like spending time with me? Or am I too young for you?
Lloyd: (grin) What are you talking about, Anise? Of course I like spending time with you.
Anise: (Danced around happily) Yeah, Lloyd like spending time with me! Now I'm one step closer to my dream!
Guy: Actually, Anise, Lloyd is already married.
Luke: (grin) He also has two kids!
Anise: (angry) Colonel!
Jade: At least now we know for sure that you aren't desperate enough to go after married men. Isn't it great?
Anise: You are the worst! … wait, what about Kratos? He's single now…
Asch: … is she really that desperate?
ShinyKyu - I never thought about the announcement being April Fool's Day joke… but oh well, we now know that it's the real deal…
Windsbane - Glad to hear you like how Dist acted in this story. As for Anise… I agree that Anise's gold-digging antics are always fun to watch. The part about Anise thinking of marrying Frings was straight from the game's side quest, so I wrote an original one this time in the skit, hope you like it.
Guest - Yes, the brainwashing! It's pretty weird that it was never mentioned in the game.
EvanderAdvent - Oww… I missed that event… in fact, I missed a great deal of events… With the English version of the game closing soon, I will have to wait for the Jap version to re-release the event and have to try my best to understand what happened in those events…
Wow, it's a month since I last updated! But don't worry, I've pretty much finished playing the main story of the Eng version of Tales of the Rays, so now I can finally start to concentrate on writing this story again!
Not a lot happened in this chapter event wise, but I somehow made a great deal out of the part where the party found out the Closed Score. The game didn't elaborate a lot on that part as they were immediately captured and learned about Natalia's heritage after that… well, Tear did scold Luke a bit, but Luke never apologized in the game…
And with the truce happening, we can finally move on to the less boring part (sorry if I offend any readers who think the stopping of the war is important… because to me, that's the most 'boring' part of the game…).
Thanks for reading this chapter and please review if you like it! Until next time~
Uploaded on 23 May 2018