Alright, it has been awhile since the last chapter. It wasn't very smart of me to begin updating this story right before final exams. However, I am absolutely stunned at the response I received from everyone about whether to continue this story. I didn't realize how many people enjoyed it, have reread, and continued to wait for an update. I feel completely awful for keeping you all waiting and you have my deepest gratitude for taking the time to respond. Therefore, due to the 25+ reviews, from readers that wish for me to continue the story, here is the next chapter. I had to think long and hard about where this story is going to go and how I'm going to keep it interesting. I think I have found a way.
Of course, I do not have the time to reread all the previous chapters (I'm also afraid if I do, I'll hate the old chapters and lose interest again) So I'll do my best to keep the continuity going. If I do make a mistake that is major and any of you spot it, please let me know and I will double check and correct it right away. I did have to do a bit of skimming to remind myself of what has been said and such, so hopefully, nothing will be too major.
*Note, I don't remember if they made the pact with Undine or not. I've been skimming the chapters, but haven't seen it. If anyone knows or remembers, let me know. If not, I'm writing as if they haven't formed the pact with her.*
Thank you everyone so much for the reviews and interest! You are the best readers ever for sticking with this story for so long. And a welcome to any recently new readers as well. Hope you all enjoy!
Disclaimer: Namco owns Tales of Symphonia.
Their voices slipped through the darkness, prodding him out of it. He grimaced, fighting the pounding in his head as black shifted to dull gray and finally to blinding, orange light. His eyes fluttered irritably, turning his face from the interfering light. He could feel the warmth, although barely, that it seemed to give off. His mind registered it as a fire.
"He's waking up!"
"Don't crowd him, just give him room."
He wanted to tell them to shut up, their voices loud in his head, not helping the drumming in his head that had started up. Groaning, his hand finding his face, he struggled to push himself up. He felt a hand on his back, supporting him.
"Just take it slow. You used too much mana when you warped back here. Here, drink this."
He felt a cup pressed to his lip, not having the energy to fight it, he gulped the cool liquid, easing the pain in his head.
"Where am I?" He grimaced, his eyes opening slowly, blinking a few times to get used to the light coming off the fire."
"We're at the base of the Fooji Mountain. Kratos carried you down when you reappeared on the mountaintop." His eyes lifted groggily to find Raine kneeling near him, a stern frown on her face as she looked down at him. "How are you feeling?"
For a moment, all her could do was stare at her, nearly responding before frowning. "Why do you care—?"
A sharp slap made everyone flinch, Lloyd blinking and grunting as he gripped his already sore head. "What the hell was that for—?"
The second one came just as hard, or ever harder and he winced, putting a hand over his cheek to look up at her in shock.
"Do you even really need to ask that, Lloyd." Her face was impassive and hard, but when he met her eyes, he could see she wasn't mad. She was...
He looked away quickly, gritting his teeth, wincing from the pain in his cheek and ache in his head.
"Miss Sage, I think that's enough. Let me talk with him." A deeper voice from behind him spoke softly, making his eyes widen as he stared at down. He twisted around, discovering Kratos' tall form kneeling behind him, his hand supporting Lloyd. He wasn't looking at Lloyd, his attention on Raine.
"Fine. But don't let him leave your sight, is that clear? I don't care if you have to tie him down." Her tone left no room for argument as she pushed up, walking away from him. As she moved, Lloyd found the others sitting, looking at him as well. They didn't say anything, though it was obvious they all wanted to. For a moment, his eyes met Colette's and he watched her smile, her hand lifting slowly to the keycrest resting upon her Cruxis Crystal.
He looked away, letting Kratos help him to his feet. His father led him away from the firelight, keeping a firm, but supportive grip on Lloyd's arm. They walked slowly, Lloyd's head still aching and his body still recovering.
"Lloyd, I know you're upset." Kratos started softly, his eyes glancing over to the others. "Are you willing to hear me out?"
Frowning, Lloyd hesitated. He had been waiting for this chance for so long. To finally meet his father, his biological father, to talk to him. So why was he scared to? Why was he hesitating?
"You're on their side...aren't you?" He asked quietly, his eyes down.
"Lloyd, this has nothing to do with sides—"
"But you betrayed Lord Yggdrasill at the Tower of Salvation! And then you joined the Renegades! And then—"
"I will not deny that I have left Cruxis. But I didn't leave to betray you. I left to help you." Kratos kept his eyes on his son, helping Lloyd to sit on the ground, then lowering himself down beside him. Briefly, his eyes glanced back towards the others, then returned to Lloyd. "When I travelled with your friends, I learned about you."
Lloyd lifted his head, frowning. "I bet they told you I was a moron and—"
"Not exactly." Kratos gave a weak smile. "They did say you weren't intellectually advanced. But they still seemed to look up to you. They were very concerned."
"I don't believe you." Lloyd looked aside. "If they were, why didn't they come get me—?"
"There are a number of reasons. First, they had no clues as to where you vanished to. Even I wasn't aware that Yggdrasill took you." Kratos frowned for a moment, then looked back to him. "The most logical explanation was that you were in the Iselia Ranch."
"The Ranch? But...I mean, even if I was! Why didn't they come to find—"
"Lloyd. Stop and think about it for a moment. What would your friends have done? And at the time, I was not aware that you were..." Kratos sighed. "When I became certain, later during the journey. I had resolved to return to the Ranch and break you out. Of course, you were already at the Tower of Salvation."
Lloyd frowned, looking at his hands. "B...But none of you cared! Even if I was in the ranch—You and Genis—" His eyes hardened on the older male. "You were more worried about him than me! I...I was waiting for you! For you all you guys!" He gritted his teeth, his voice cracking on his last words. He looked away, clenching his hands. "But no one came. I-I know they couldn't, but I...I just felt..."
He bowed his head, shaking, fighting the emotions. He had to keep control, he didn't want to—to—
He felt Kratos' arms encircle him, pulling him into a rough hug. Lloyd's damp eyes snapped open, staring past his father's arm.
"You felt alone. That place can affect even the strongest, Lloyd. You were alone with Yggdrasill and those lifeless angels. Your reactions are understandable." Kratos spoke softly. "You came to trust him because he was the only one there. The only one you could talk to. He manipulated you.
Lloyd shook, gritting his teeth. "N-No he didn't I—"
"Lloyd." Kratos' tone interrupted him sharply and Lloyd fell silent.
"I...I had to believe him..." Lloyd admitted softly, pushing away from Kratos slowly. His father relented, but kept a hand on his shoulder. Lloyd stared at the ground. "I...was stuck there. Trapped. I just wanted to meet you and...leave. But he said you would never leave Cruxis. That I would have to choose. He kept saying stuff about...about the others and—"
"You understand though, that what he was manipulating you. He was making it seem like it was your choice to remain in Cruxis. But you never had a choice. Even if you had decided to leave, you wouldn't have been able."
Lloyd clenched his hands. "
"You heard me. He's my friend! He taught me things, to fight, the truth about the two worlds. Everything—"
"He told you want he believed you should know. To keep you content, Lloyd." Kratos cut in firmly, his face dark as he frowned. "There is a difference between being nice and being your friend."
Lloyd frowned hesitating. "You're—you're wrong!" His eyes turned to Kratos. "If you had saw me first. If he hadn't taken me to Derris Kharlan, would you have told me you were my Dad?"
Kratos frowned. "I would have protected you in the way I thought—"
"He said you wouldn't. He said you'd rather suffer than interfere in my life!" Lloyd snapped.
"Yes," Kratos answered flatly. "Yes I would have kept quiet to protect you. To protect you from him and his—"
"You're my father!"
"Which is exactly why I would have done it." Kratos frowned. "There is a lot you don't know Lloyd. About me, or Yggdrasill. But if you let me, I'll try to explain it to you. But it'll take time and you have to trust me—"
"Why should I trust you? You betrayed Yggdrasill! He was your friend wasn't he? How could you just turn you back on him and—"
"Like you did to me?"
Lloyd's head snapped around, staring wide-eyed at Genis, who stood a few feet behind him. "Wh—"
"You're my friend, Lloyd! Aren't you?" Genis looked at him anxiously. There was no anger, only fear and desperation in his voice.
Lloyd hesitated, looking at the younger half-elf. He wasn't sure what to say, his mind was yelling at him, berating him, telling him he was an idiot. That is was a simply little word. He still had all the memories, from his childhood years, years of playing and helping each other out.
But he couldn't say it.
Kratos gripped his shoulder and suddenly realized he was backing away, shaking his head. He flinched, glancing back at his father, snapping his head back to Genis. "I-I..."
"Genis, he needs time," Kratos gently answered.
Lloyd had to turn away from the crestfallen expression of the young half-elf, fist clenching at his sides.
"He's going to pay, Lloyd. I'll make that bastard pay for what he did. I promise." The threat was softly spoken, but it seemed to cut Lloyd. He felt joy and horror at Genis' words. Both desiring it to come true, and terrified it would.
"He... He just wants to fix the world. Is that so wrong? Why is it so wrong—?" Lloyd whispered, watching Genis head back to the campfire.
"It's not wrong. But, that's not what Yggdrasill is trying to do. It's not his true goal. You know he wants to revive Martel. You know the truth of the Regeneration Journey—"
"But once she is revive, he'll reunite the worlds and—"
"Are you willing to allow Colette die for that? There is no proof that she will succeed. Dozens of other Chosens have all travelled the same path. You have been in the Tower of Salvation. You have seen the bodies." Kratos sighed quietly. "I know this is a lot for you to cope with, so I'll wait, to explain anything further. Right now you need to decide whether or not you think it is right to sacrifice one life for another. Do you understand?"
"But D—" Lloyd looked up at him, eyes wide.
"Do you understand?" Kratos repeated firmly. "Think about it before you answer."
Lloyd closed his mouth, lowering his eyes, glancing back at the campfire. He could see his old friends, talking amongst themselves. He looked to Colette and found she was the only one not participating. She was sitting quietly, staring into the fire, her hand clasped at her collarbone, right above the Cruxis Crystal.
Her eyes lifted to meet his.
"So what are we doing now?" Zelos yawned, stretching. "It's not like we can head back to Sybak, with the bridge raised an all."
"Well we have to get there somehow. That's where Ozette is right? We promised to take Presea home."
Lloyd refined from rolling his eyes, glancing at his father, standing at his side. Instead, he kept quiet, not desiring to draw attention to himself. It had been bad enough returning to the campsite and getting a long look from those still awake. They hadn't said anything, but he had heard Raine and Kratos talking quietly as he sat to one side, pondering the question his father had given him...
"We can always go to Meltokio." Sheena suggested. "The Elemental Research Institute might have an idea of how to get across."
"Aren't you guys wanted?"
They all looked at him and Lloyd immediately struggled to hold his ground. He wasn't sure why he spoke up. He hated the feeling like they were talking around him. He supposed they were. Why should he have any part in their discussion and plans? He was a traitor to them after all, wasn't he?
"That is a good point." Raine nodded, startling Lloyd. He looked at her, meeting her gaze for a moment, before she turned to Zelos. "Do you think we'll be given much trouble, trying to get into the city?"
"Well, most likely just from the Pope's Papal Knights. The King's guard practically worships me, so I don't think we'll have any problems from them."
Sheena rolled her eyes. "Worship you? Please." She scoffed.
"In any case, is there a possible entrance into the city, should we encounter problems at the gate." Kratos smoothly interjected, making Lloyd frown.
"Wait, we are going with them?"
"Yes." Kratos glanced down at him with a warning glance. Lloyd growled biting his tongue, but lowered his eyes.
"Uh...well there is a way. Little bit of a detour, but I've used it many a night to get back into the city." Zelos flipped his hair over his shoulder. "Of course, is there a reason you are tagging along, Old Man?"
"Since my position in Cruxis has been jeopardized, I think the best alternative would be to join with your group. Unless there are any objections." Kratos meet his gaze evenly.
Lloyd frowned. "I—"
"None at all. You are more likely to be an asset in our journey—"
"Oh yeah? And what journey is that?" Lloyd snapped finally, irritated.
"Excuse me? Weren't you listening—" Sheena scowled.
"Yeah I was listening. "Lloyd cut her off curtly. "So lets say you do manage to get to the other side of the sea. You take Presea home. What then? Do you have any plans at all? Do you think Yuan is going to let you all jump on a bunch of his rheairds and go back to Sylvarant? You think that any of this is going to change? No it's not. So what are you going to do about it? Yggdrasill is just going to send someone else down for Colette and probably me if he doesn't think I already betrayed him! You'll just be a bunch of sitting idiots trying to pretend like nothing has happened!"
It was silent as everyone stared at him. Some with frowns and thoughtful expressions, others with scowled. Lloyd swallowed, taking a deep breath when he heard her voice.
"What do you think we should do, Lloyd?"
He looked at her. She was smiling, her head tilted to the side. It wasn't condescending or mocking. She wasn't trying to provoke him for an answer for his own questions. She was curious, even hopeful. The way her eyes lit up, wondering if he really did have an answer. No doubt she was terrified of what he said, but he knew she hid that terror well.
"W-What?" He didn't know what to say. He didn't know how to respond. She wanted his opinion, after he had tried to take her. Threatened to take her back there to die. Why wasn't she mad?
"Um...well, it's just you usually have really good ideas about these sorts of things." She bit her lip. "Like when we played games back home. You always knew what to do next. S...So, I was just wondering if you had a plan?"
A...A plan? Why would he have a plan? He knew how to fix this problem. Yggdrasill had told him. He had made it clear that there was only one way to fix it—...
Was there only one way?
"Colette, why would you ask him?" Sheena frowned, finally breaking the silence. "I mean, he betrayed us, he's trying to get you back to that Yggdrasill guy. So why would you—"
They all looked at him again, but he barely noticed, staring at the ground. "Y...Yggdrasill said that the worlds were split in order to protect it. Form magitechnology and stuff. He said that mana is the key to the survival of both worlds."
"Yes, that is kind of obvious..." Genis frowned.
Lloyd scowled. "So even if the worlds were like...put back together. It doesn't fix anything. There is not enough mana right?"
"Well...no..." Genis nodded. "But then, how can we get enough mana?"
Lloyd hesitated, frowning. He suddenly recalled the time he had gone with Yggdrasill into the chamber where Martel slept. The giant blossom that hovered in the air with her in it...
"The Great Seed." Lloyd looked up suddenly. "The seed of the Kharlan Tree. If we plant that then—"
"Lloyd, what are you talking about?" Raine frowned. "What Great Seed? The Kharlan Tree is just a myth—"
"Actually, that is incorrect." Kratos glanced at Lloyd. "You know about it?"
Lloyd nodded. "Yggdrasill showed it to me when he was explaining how he was—" he stopped, hesitating. "When he was explaining stuff. He told me it was the seed of the Kharlan Tree, the only thing that remained of it when it died."
"Wait, so, if we plant the seed, and the tree grows, it would give off mana?" Genis asked, looking between him and Raine.
"Well, theoretically, I suppose but—"
"Lloyd, that's a great idea! Then the worlds would stop competing right? There would be lots of mana for everyone?" Colette smiled brightly.
Lloyd looked at her hesitating, so his father took the opportunity to speak instead.
"There are some problems with this plan. Of course, I suggest we currently go to Meltokio and find a way across the ocean first. There is also the opportunity to look into this theory a little more closely—"
"But Dad—" Lloyd started, but Kratos talked over him.
"We have to tread carefully about this idea."
"I agree with Kratos. Though, I would like to talk to you and Lloyd at more length about this Great Seed." She eyed them. "Any and all information about it and Yggdrasill's plans will be helpful in the long run."
Lloyd frowned, despite his father nodding his acknowledgment. He wasn't sure if he was completely happy about that idea. He shouldn't have opened his mouth. Why did he? Why was he telling them everything...
"Well I think we better get heading out. It's a little walk after all." Zelos stretched. "And I for one would like to sleep in a bed for a change. This travelling life does nothing for my beauty sleep."
"It never helped you to begin with." Sheena scowled, walking past him.
"Why are you so cruel to me Sheena?" Zelos whimpered, trailing her.
Genis grinned and turned to Presea. "Don't worry, Presea, you'll soon be home."
The young girl remained quiet, as she had during the entire conversation. Still Lloyd couldn't help but know she hadn't missed a single word during the conversation. She followed Genis, silent to his babbling excitement.
He turned, finding Colette standing next to him. He blinked, noticing his father slipping away after the others. He hesitated, then looked back at her. "W...What?"
She bit her lip, nervously, but then smiled, tilting her head to the side. "I never got a chance to thank you for the necklace."
His eyes lowered to the necklace attached to her Cruxis Crstyal. He could see the charm and markings forming the key crest. She was thanking him...?
"I...I know it must have been hard and scary, being up there alone. I'm sorry we didn't come sooner. I didn't know you were at the Tower. If I did I—"
"I get it. You...didn't know. But you still lied to me." He frowned, watching her expression fall. "Why didn't you tell me what would happen? You knew didn't you? Yet you kissed me that night? On the cheek before-...before all this..."
"You were just going to leave and die. Didn't I matter? Didn't you care about how that'd make me feel?"
Colette looked near tears, lowering her head. "I...I'm sorry. I just wanted to...I just wanted you to be happy. For all of us to be happy. I'm sorry..."
"D-Didn't I say not to apologize—" he stopped, staring at her as she looked up, her eyes wide. "N...Never mind."
He turned quickly, hurrying after his father, who stood waiting for them. He scowled a bit, to himself, wondering why he just couldn't keep his mouth shut when he heard his father say, almost amused, "What did you say? She's smiling at you."
He wanted to look back, but he didn't dare. Not while his face felt like it was burning all the way to his ears.