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 Resentment, A Symphonia Fanfiction (now with a NEW CHAPTER~)

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Meowzy

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PostSubject: Resentment, A Symphonia Fanfiction (now with a NEW CHAPTER~)   Tue Feb 04, 2014 9:56 am

Well, here we go again! I have to admit, I can't exactly remember the author's note that I put up for this fic in the original topic, so I'll just keep it general this time. What you're looking at is a post-game fanfic centered on Yuan and Lloyd, and what they get up to roughly ten years after the original game ended. They bond over mutual butthurt of Kratos leaving them behind and such. There's actually a deeper storyline that I had just introduced when the previous Tales of Reservia forum went belly-up. Irony!~

Does this fic contain wangst? Oh yes, a whole lot of it. I like to think I wrote it tastefully and subtle, but I'm probably giving myself too much credit. Will there be ships? Maybe. To tell the truth, I still haven't decided. Let's just start with reuploading the chapters that were lost, and we'll see where it goes from there.

------

Resentment
Chapter One

Time was flowing fast- far too fast for Yuan's liking. One moment, he had learned of Mithos' death, the next he was already out gathering information about the recently-awakened Ratatosk, and the next he was back to a dreary routine of keeping watch over the World Tree. For a Seraph, these sort of incidents were like the blink of an eye in a lifetime. Lloyd was twenty eight now. The same age Kratos was when he stopped his metabolism, Yuan realized vaguely, before brushing such thoughts off again. Remembering his old friends was too painful.

When he'd heard of Kratos' decision to leave with Derris-Kharlan, he hadn't thought much of it. He certainly hadn't agreed with it, but he knew he couldn't change Kratos' mind, so he'd given the man his blessing with some reluctance. It wasn't until a few years had passed, when all communications with Derris-Kharlan had been broken off for a while, that Yuan had realized just what sort of life he was condemned to without any of his companions to turn to. He had no one to ask for advice and no one to confide in. Martel, the spirit who bore his fiancée's name and face, only rarely spoke to him. With the tree at such a young age, she had to conserve her energy and lay dormant most of the time. It was good thing she wasn't talkative, Yuan concluded, as he would have to tell himself over and over that no matter the resemblance, she was not the love he'd lost.

It was only Yuan, in a remote location hidden from prying eyes, and a young, lifeless tree.

And on occasion, there was Lloyd. All the other companions from the journey had their own lives and duties to tend to. They hardly ever paid a visit to the World Tree. It was only Lloyd who would stop by at least once a month to assess the situation. Yuan figured it must've been because he'd made a promise to Martel. While he may have been given the title of Guardian, it was Lloyd who'd vowed to look after the tree and ensure it wouldn't wither. A meaningless gesture in his opinion, as Lloyd could only muster about fifty more years of that before it was over. The Eternal Swordsman had no intention of living up to his title by halting his metabolism. In the end, the burden fell on Yuan.

Even with time flowing as fast as it did, he knew he would be stuck here for something similar to an eternity.

---

"You look like you haven't slept in days."

He glanced up at Lloyd, eyebrows contracting into a sort of unimpressed frown at that remark. In the physical sense, Kratos' son had changed over the past ten years. His hair had grown a bit longer, tied back into a short ponytail while messy bangs framed his face. The suspenders had finally been discarded, his pants now being held up by a thick leather belt. The bright red color in his shirt was a thing of the past as well, only to be replaced by a more subtle ruby shade. However, deep down, it was still the same boy who'd reunited the two worlds on a stubborn whim.

"I haven't slept in days," he responded simply.

Hell, he hadn't had a good night's sleep in months. It'd just been getting worse and worse. He could tinker with the properties of his Cruxis Crystal a bit to minimize the damage on his body, but that didn't make it any less frustrating. Sleep was what's needed for a being to sort out their thoughts and impressions. Not to mention, sleep was a wonderful escape from the harsh reality. Insomnia was the worst sort of illness that could hit Yuan.

Lloyd shuffled his feet for a moment. Years of experience had taught him how short Yuan could be and how little he wanted to discuss his own life. The Seraph would insist that it was none of Lloyd's business and, in time, it seemed Lloyd had come to accept that to some degree. Instead of pressing the matter, he just took a seat in the grass beside Yuan and glanced up at the sky.

"... There's something off about my Rheaird," Lloyd piped up after a moment of silence. "It keeps drifting to the left so I have to adjust my steering. Do you think you could take a look at it? I'd do it myself, but... Magitechnology really isn't my thing."

"I'll see what I can do," Yuan replied, though it was more out of reflex than with the actual motivation to fix the Rheaird.

He glanced up at the sky as well. The sun was already setting and the first stars of night could be seen. He faintly remembered Kratos' advice to count the stars when he couldn't sleep. While a human's life was too short to count them all, Yuan was sure he could manage it if he really tried. That only made him feel even more miserable.

Lloyd seemed to be thinking along the same lines, as he broke the silence again. "Do you think he'll ever come back?"

"What?"

"Dad, I mean. If he's done doing what he has to do on Derris-Kharlan... Would he come back?" Lloyd paused, running a quick hand through his hair. "I mean... The comet cycles, right? So in ninety years or so, it'll be back here."

"... He won't come back." Yuan was surprised at how bitter his voice sounded, but he continued to glance up at the sky with determination even as he realized Lloyd was peering right at him.

"But this is his home."

"He can't come back. Even when the comet passes by this world, he's stuck up there."

Among other things Yuan kept telling himself, there was the insistence that Kratos Aurion was gone. Like Mithos and Martel, he may just as well have been dead. When the man had made the decision to travel with Derris-Kharlan, it was permanent and they'd both known that. They'd both agreed to it and said their farewells.

"There's always a way, Yuan." Lloyd pulled his knees up to his chest, turning his gaze back up at the sky. "Maybe we can reunite the Eternal Sword again. Or... find some way to link the comet to Aselia again, just for a little bit."

"No."

"If we just try hard enough, we can-"

"No, Lloyd!" Before his mind had even processed he was doing it, Yuan had jumped to his feet to glare down at the other man. "Kratos is gone! He made the decision to leave of his own free will and he is not coming back!"

He'd told himself this so many times, but shouting it only made it that much more real. His closest friend was gone forever. Everyone Yuan had known and cared about had left him. While Martel and Mithos hadn't done so willingly, he was being hit with a violent surge of anger that Kratos had chosen that fate for himself. Kratos had left everything behind- not just friend, but his own son- his family. Something that Yuan had dreamed of having for an eternity, but never got the chance to conceive. The injustice of it all was stabbing at his chest, making it hard to breathe, and he couldn't even remember the last time he'd gotten so angry.

"Yuan..." The shock was evident in Lloyd's eyes, but Yuan couldn't get himself to calm down. He couldn't make it stop anymore. It was white hot, raw emotion and it was overwhelming him.

"That man condemned himself to a life of solitude and forfeited everything he had for the sake of redemption! He's nothing but a coward! If I could go back, I would've stopped him! I would've forced him to stay for you, or even gone in his stead, but I... I wasn't thinking, and I just let him-"

He broke off harshly when he felt something running down his face and raised a hand to his cheek, only to find it moist. That's when he realized the strong emotion that ripping through him wasn't anger at all. Even after all this, he was actually mourning the loss of a fool like Kratos. The fact that Kratos had chosen to part ways with him forever felt like a jab to the gut, a personal insult. He'd lost everything and he was just so goddamn alone.

His eyes squeezed shut firmly and his thoughts reeling, he wasn't aware Lloyd had gotten to his feet until the other man tried to pull him into a hug. Yuan backed away without a moment's hesitation, shoving Lloyd off him with one fierce thrust of his arm. "I don't need your pity!"

The last thing he wanted was for Kratos' son to feel sorry for him. Kratos' son, who was left in his care just like everything else. Yuan was being overwhelmed by all this sudden resentment of his old friend- Resentment he'd never realized was there.

"It's not pity. I..." There was a moment of hesitation, then Yuan felt a hand on his shoulder. He couldn't be bothered to shake it off, this time. "I feel the same way."

He didn't respond. He only barely processed what Lloyd was even saying to him. He just stood rooted to the spot, eyes shut to try and block everything out. Tears were still rolling down his face and he wished they wouldn't. He couldn't cry. He never cried. Men don't do that.

"He's... He's my dad. He was supposed to care about me. After he found out I was still alive... After everything we accomplished together, I thought he'd want to be my father. Have a place in my life, you know? But he ran. It's like I hardly got to know him at all."

Yuan felt the hand squeeze his shoulder more tightly and realized that Lloyd must bear the same kind of resentment. The same feelings of abandonment. He wished he could give some kind of response, but he feared his voice might not come out right if he tried, so he decided not to risk it.

"But... you know what? I think he misses us too." Lloyd was starting to sound a bit nasal himself. "I think if he were given the chance to come back, he'd take it. That's why we have to keep hoping."

The realist inside Yuan made him shake his head. He couldn't hope for something like that. It'd just drive him mad to think of what might one day happen. He wasn't even sure if he wanted to see Kratos again in the first place, or what he'd say if that day ever came.

Lloyd gave a loud sniff and finally released Yuan's shoulder, taking a step back. "How about you come stay with me for a while? You don't need to stick by the tree every minute of every day. It's almost as tall as I am and there's a barrier that's supposed to keep people away, right?"

"... No." The first word Yuan could manage in minutes, and it was this.

"Come on. It'll do you some good to get out of here. Anyone would go crazy being stuck here for so long."

Yuan rubbed at his burning eyes with the back of his hand before fixing Lloyd with a bit of a glare. "Are you implying I've lost my mind?"

"See, that's more like the Yuan I know." Lloyd smirked and gave the other man a quick pat on the back, earning himself another fierce scowl. "Just for a couple days. Then you can come back here if you want and I won't bother you about it anymore."

Yuan's gaze fell on the World Tree for a moment, then returned to Lloyd. And for a second- just a brief second, he thought he was looking at Kratos instead. Those same fierce eyes, the same features, the same physical demeanor... But then he blinked and the notion vanished. He had to remind himself that, just like the Summon Spirit who bore his fiancée's face, this was not one of his old friends. Those three would never come back.

Perhaps he was losing his mind.

After another moment's silence, he finally gave a stiff nod and followed Lloyd to his Rheaird.

---------------------

Chapter Two


Work was never done. Even after ten years, Kratos was still moving across Derris-Kharlan to undo the damage that Cruxis had done. Welgaia had been the biggest chore- hell, he still wasn't finished with that place. He'd purge one area of Exspheres, dump them, move elsewhere for a while and then return to Welgaia later to tackle the next block of buildings. It wasn't only Exspheres he'd uncovered, either. The things Mithos had decided to put into storage were mindboggling. Malicious spellbooks, books detailing the true history of the Kharlan war, weapons, artifacts that seemed to have been touched by demons from Niflheim...

This was exactly why Kratos had decided to travel with Derris-Kharlan- To dispose of all these harmful materials before they fell into the wrong hands.

It was exhausting work, but above all, it was lonely. There were more than enough lifeless beings scattered across the comet, but they weren't company. They were devoid of emotions and individuality. No unique traits, no likes or dislikes... Just as Mithos had wanted, they were all the exact same empty being. They obeyed Kratos' orders and offered conversation, but none of it was sincere. If they truly did have the ability to regain themselves, it would take centuries, if not millennia.

Kratos had no idea if he would live to see that day. He had damned himself to this fate and he would continue his hard work for as long as his body would allow, but he couldn't predict just how long that would be. The more time passed, the more Kratos came to realize just what sort of a fate he had resigned himself to. He'd never been truly alone like this. There had always been someone by his side- someone he was working for. From Princess Soleille to Mithos, to Anna, to Lloyd...

Now, he had no one to turn to anymore and everything seemed foreign. He found himself longing for true companionship, missing the breaths of fresh air that weren't present on the comet and wondering what would become of his old home after he'd left it. His dreams slowly became plagued with nightmares and at times he would spend hours on end staring up at the dark sky, trying his hardest to think of anything but the things he missed.

-----

It had been another one of those nights. He had slept and he had dreamt. He'd dreamt of Anna and the day she gave birth. He'd remembered how it felt to be a father, how proud he'd been to hold his son for the first time. Not even a student like Mithos could compare to his own child. It was a warm, content feeling. And then he'd lost it all. He'd awoken sharply, tears streaming down his face and a sharp pain in his chest. There'd been no one around to see, but that didn't make it any less shameful.

He'd returned to Welgaia and it was time to clear out another one of Cruxis' storages. This one was close to Vinheim- a dwarven workshop. It was bound to be filled with an assortment of things Kratos wasn't looking forward to uncovering. The local residents could help gather the materials, as long as they were given clear instructions on what to do, but Kratos wanted to destroy and discard it all himself. He wanted to be absolutely certain that no traces were left.

There was a moment of hesitation before Kratos forced the doors open. After so many years of being out of use, the magitechnology refused to function properly, and the dwarves had stopped serving Cruxis long before the organization itself was shut down. The place was cold, dim and as dusty as things could get in Derris-Kharlan. He gave the lifeless beings the same order he always gave them. That was, to gather everything related to Cruxis and take it outside, so he could sort through it himself. If they were to encounter anything that seemed suspicious, they were not to touch it and inform Kratos of its whereabouts instead.

He swerved through the piles of technology in disrepair and the abandoned tools as he tried to hunt down anything that seemed out of the ordinary. He didn't want to be too near the other angels as they worked. Over time, their presence came to frustrate him more than anything else. He'd much rather seclude himself and work on his own.

A metal door in the second floor of the basement caught his interest. It was locked down and secured with a passcode, but Kratos still had the authority to override all these protocols. He had yet to find a door that was so secure only Yggdrasill himself could have opened it, and this one was no different. After entering a few quick codes, the door slid open with a hiss and a reluctant creaking of the internal mechanisms. The room that lay beyond was pitch-black, but even that was remedied with a quick flick of a switch.

At first glance, it was just another workshop, but then Kratos' gaze fell on a familiar sight and his eyes widened in shock. There, in a large case that was half glass, half metal, stood two bodies. Bodies of himself and... Yuan.

Automated vessels, he concluded after the initial, mind-numbing surprise had died down. He'd forgotten that these things even existed. Yggdrasill had ordered the dwarves to create them, as fail-safes of a sort. That way, if something were to happen to their bodies, they would still have a vessel to turn to. The theory was sound, but after seeing what happened when they'd tried to use this method to host Martel's soul, the automated vessels were locked away without a second thought. Though... There was supposed to be a third. Perhaps this was the method Mithos had used to return to his 'body' after his initial defeat at Lloyd's hands in the Tower of Salvation.

After taking a steadying breath, he approached the vessels for a closer inspection. It was eerie, just how lifelike they were. They were dressed in very simple, casual attire- Yuan's vessel didn't even have its hair tied back. Their heads were drooping forward and their eyes were closed, almost as if they were sleeping. Would Kratos have to dispose of these things as well?

His eyes fell on Yuan's duplicate and the sharp pain of loneliness jabbed at his chest again. How was his old friend doing after all this time? Was he standing by Lloyd's side, where Kratos could not be? What would he say, if he could see Kratos now?

He wasn't sure what made him do it. Perhaps it was just idle curiosity, or perhaps there was a small glimmer of hope that he'd get the answers he wanted. All he knew was that a few moments later, he'd opened the glass case and reached out a hand towards Yuan's vessel. Would it still work after all this time? There was only one way to find out.

It wouldn't have Yuan's memories, or even his basic personality, but anything would be better than those damned lifeless angels. He entered the activation sequence and waited.

The fingers twitched gently by the vessel's sides. The head nodded upwards and then downwards again. Dark green eyes began to open. And then... A loud, foreboding crackling sound. The power source broke and lightning mana escaped from the vessel's back, the currents running across the body and frying the inner circuitry before Kratos had time to shut it down again. The knees buckled and the duplicate fell forward, but he managed to catch it in his arms just before it hit the ground.

He'd expected the vessel would malfunction, but he hadn't expected the empty feeling that came with it. He was disappointed- no, even worse. He mourned this opportunity. It wouldn't have been the real Yuan, and yet he felt like he'd lost his old friend all over again. A deep sadness washed over him as he sank to his knees, still holding the vessel close to his chest. Why did things have to end up like this? Why couldn't he have decent company, if only for a brief moment?

Tears began to stream down his face again. He couldn't bring himself to stop them, so instead he buried his face in the crook of the vessel's neck, pressing up against locks of blue hair that were so painfully familiar. Loud sobs escaped him and he could feel his entire body was beginning to shake.

When Origin's seal was released, he'd claimed that he'd learned not to rely on others, but that wasn't entirely true. Living his life alone was a frightening prospect. It was far more difficult to cope with than he'd hoped. Part of him knew that he deserved this sort of pain. That he'd done so much wrong with his life, he just didn't deserve to live the rest of it peacefully. More than anything, he wanted to earn his redemption, but this... This pitiful life he was forced to lead... Perhaps he should've heeded Lloyd's advice and searched for another way when he had the chance. Anything that would've prevented him from being stuck here, while still doing the work he was meant to do.

He'd chosen this path for a reason, but he resented it. He resented it more than he could bear. The worst part was that there was no escape. He'd doomed himself to this loneliness and now he would have to live with it.

_________________


Last edited by Meowzy on Thu Feb 20, 2014 8:49 am; edited 1 time in total
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Meowzy

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PostSubject: Re: Resentment, A Symphonia Fanfiction (now with a NEW CHAPTER~)   Tue Feb 04, 2014 9:58 am

Chapter Three

A week had passed. A week since Lloyd had invited Yuan to stay in his house. Much as he avoided Lloyd himself, he had to admit that it was a pleasant change of scenery. It was two stories tall and while compact, it had plenty of rooms. An ideal home that Lloyd had built for himself, north of the mountain range surrounding the World Tree. There was hardly any sound but the calming splash of the stream running right past the house and the birds living in the trees of the forest.

For most of the time Yuan spent there, it was like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. There was no constant paranoia that someone might invade his terrain to cause irreparable harm to the World Tree and the world in turn. No constant pressure to keep up appearances in the off chance that Martel might be watching him. No constant feeling of being trapped by his duty.

Though, the moment he let his guard down too much, the worry would set in. Worry that someone take advantage of his absence to attack. That Martel could be crying out for him at that very moment and he’d be none the wiser. It’d cause a sort of anxiety to form inside his chest, though as much as he wanted to leave the house, he couldn’t even bring himself to leave the guest room.

Of course, Lloyd now took daily trips to Yggdrasill as a precaution. Yuan could tell that it was more for his peace of mind than the tree’s safety. That these trips were made for the sole purpose of returning home to assure Yuan that everything was just fine. He appreciated the gesture, yet at the same time it made him feel like Lloyd wasn’t taking his feelings seriously at all. He was glad to have company, yet at the same time he despised how dependant he was of a situation that was only temporary. He wanted to leave, yet at the same time he wanted to stay.

The indecisiveness made things so much worse.

-----

On the morning of the eighth day, Yuan managed to drag himself down to the kitchen. He was fully dressed and ready to leave at a moment’s notice, even though he hadn’t decided if he would leave today. Part of him was hoping Lloyd would finally just tell him to leave and make that decision for him. No such luck. Lloyd was as hospitable as ever. He served Yuan breakfast, joined him at the table and started yammering on about some fish he’d caught in the stream beside the house, that morning.

Yuan was only barely listening. Despite the change of environment and absence of responsibilities, his insomnia had remained. He could catch three hours of sleep a night, if he was lucky. If he was even luckier, there wouldn’t be any nightmares, though he never was such a fortunate soul.

Speaking of fortunate souls… Lloyd apparently sensed her coming before Yuan did, as the boy raised his head to glance at the door. A few moments later, there was a knock and a familiar voice calling.

“Lloooyd! Are you home yet?”

The scrape of a chair, the rhythmic tapping of footsteps, the chink of the door and there she was. Colette Brunel had already been similar to Martel in her younger years, but now that she was in her mid twenties, it had only become more pronounced. The same gentle features, the same sort of long, flowing hair… Yuan found he had to look away after a few seconds, to avoid more painful memories being stirred.

“Hey Colette!” Lloyd stepped aside, fully expecting the girl to enter his house. And she did.

“Hey. I just stopped by to-” she broke off mid-sentence as her gaze fell on Yuan. He was sure there was some evident surprise on her features, though he still couldn’t bring himself to look up at her. “Ooh, Yuan. It’s been too long.”

“Over two years,” he replied curtly.

“And you still haven’t changed one bit.”

It was meant to be a light tease and Yuan could tell she meant no harm by it. Still, he frowned in response and glanced up at her for a moment, watching her expression. There was no childish innocence there. Only a kind, warm smile which he did not return. A painful silence followed, which Lloyd decided to break.

“Yuan’s… taking a holiday for the first time in ten years. It’ll do him some good, don’t you think?”

“Oh, yes. Everyone could use a break now and again. Which reminds me!” Colette moved closer to the table, clapping her hands together. “I’m celebrating my birthday next week.”

Lloyd raised a hand to his forehead, then ran it through his hair. At first it seemed like an odd move to Yuan, until he realized it was a nervous reflex, or perhaps just bad cover for his look of surprise. Lloyd had clearly forgotten that his friend's birthday was coming up. If Colette had noticed the same thing, she didn't comment on it.

“Time sure does fly. You’re turning twenty-seven, right?” Lloyd asked.

“That’s right! Can you believe it? It’s been almost eleven years since that day I began the Journey of Regeneration.”

“And almost eleven years since I first met Yuan, too,” Lloyd mused aloud. The half-elf in question gave no response, so he continued after a few seconds of silence. “Man, I remember it like it was yesterday! It was in Triet base. I wasn’t exactly given a warm welcome.”

Much like Lloyd claimed to do, Yuan also remembered it as if it were yesterday. While the brunette could speak of the incident with such fond amusement, he felt very different when he thought back to that day.

“You struck down several of my soldiers, hacked my security systems and barged into my office unannounced,” Yuan spoke, trying to show as much annoyance as possible through his tone of voice.

“Ohhh. That’s right, I did!” Lloyd chuckled, leaning against the kitchen table. “So what would you have done if I hadn’t broken out of the cell?”

“Used you as leverage for Origin’s Seal, of course. Though, it would’ve been in vain. Kratos wouldn’t have released the seal for you or me. He only did it when he thought the time was right.”

Another silence followed. A long, painful one. Bitter as Yuan may have sounded and harsh as it may have been for Lloyd to hear, it was the truth. Kratos had not been persuaded by Yuan’s pleas, nor Yuan’s threats, nor the attempt on Lloyd's life. Not until his son had shown him the light had Kratos realized what needed to be done.

“S-so anyway…” Colette forced a very convincing smile onto her face. “Next Tuesday, my house. I expect you both to be there!”

Yuan frowned. “By both, you mean…”

“Both of you, of course! I’d like it if you could come, Yuan. I’m sure everyone’s curious about what you’ve been up to.”

“Don’t be stupid. They knew where to find me. None of them have showed their faces in years.”

Colette and Lloyd exchanged an awkward glance that they didn’t even bother to hide, but the girl was not deterred by his somewhat passive aggressive insult. “They’ve just been busy, that’s all. That’s why you should come to the party! It’s a good excuse for us all to get together again.”

At this point, Yuan decided to bite back his next retort and give up on his breakfast. He pushed himself to his feet without another word and headed for the stairs, ignoring Lloyd’s protest. As much as he could’ve forced himself to tolerate their company for a bit longer, he just wasn’t in the mood for this. It was best if he retreated now before he soured the atmosphere even further.

He lay down on his bed and the conversation continued downstairs. He could easily overhear it if he strained his ears, but decided to just block it out instead. He had the nasty suspicion they were going to gossip about him and he had no interest in hearing their opinions.

He didn’t need company. He didn’t need to attend parties and spend time with people who didn’t truly care for him. They were Lloyd’s friends, not his. His friends were gone.

... Or were they? As he stared up at the ceiling, he remembered the night he arrived at Lloyd’s home last week. A stable next to the house. He hadn’t gone out since then, but he should’ve realized. How could he forget?

He got up from the bed again and moved over to the window to yank it open. The fresh air was a relief after more than a week of being cooped up inside. His wings came to being on his back and he jumped. There were a few seconds of what felt like ultimate freedom, then he touched down nimbly in the grass below. Lloyd and Colette were still talking in the house, unaware that Yuan had just left it.

Dirt crunched beneath his feet as he made his way over to the stable. There was no door, allowing its owner freedom whenever he wished. However, when Yuan peered inside, he found Noishe curled up in a corner, in a thick nest of straw and hay. A strong, musty scent hung inside the walls of the stable. Apparently, Lloyd didn’t truly understand the concept of cleaning his pet’s home every now and again.

The protozoan stirred and raised his head when Yuan entered the stable, giving a whine in greeting. However, he didn’t rise to his feet and remained in his comfortable little nest. That suited Yuan just fine. He took a seat beside Noishe, leaning his back against the wall and closing his eyes. Not long after, he felt the beast’s head come to rest on his lap. No objections came from Yuan, who raised a hand to pet him absentmindedly.

Kratos was gone, Mithos was gone, Martel was gone… Yuan was all that remained of the Kharlan Heroes, but so was Noishe. He’d never truly cared for the Protozoan, but he’d never protested against his presence either. In exchange, Noishe had never actively sought out the half-elf’s affection, nor did he shy away from it on those rare days when Yuan needed company that didn’t talk back to him. It was a relationship of mutual tolerance and peaceful silences.

It couldn’t have been more than five minutes later when Yuan felt himself doze off. He didn’t fight it, instead allowing the slumber to wash over him. It didn’t matter to him what this might look like to anyone else. At this point, he could honestly care less.

His sleep was calm and soothing for the first time in a year. No dreams to disturb him, no constant waking every other minute. Sadly, it was cut short after no more than an hour, when Lloyd came looking for him and told him off for sleeping when it was barely noon. Surely, this was a severe case of the pot and the kettle.

Yuan grumbled and cursed, leaving the stable with extreme reluctance. However, he knew it was no use to try and go back to sleep now. Lloyd had ruined the calm, once again sending waves of frustration through Yuan’s mind. Colette had gone home and, yes, she still fully expected him to attend her party. As much as he detested the notion and continued to protest vocally, there was a small part of him that actually considered going.

He hated himself for it.


--------------------------------

Chapter Four

“You know, you still haven’t looked at my Rheaird.”

“Hm?” Yuan looked up from his dinner, vaguely confused. Now that Lloyd mentioned it, he did have a faint memory of the boy telling him something about his Rheaird, but he couldn’t remember when or what.

“There’s something wrong with the steering, remember? It drifts to the left.”

“You’ve been using it every day for almost two weeks now. Why didn’t you bring this up sooner?”

Lloyd shrugged. “It’s not that big a deal. I’ve managed to cope, but it’s getting a little annoying.”

There was a moment of silence before Yuan put his fork down. He’d still been listlessly prodding at his food long after Lloyd had finished, if only to pretend he was interested in eating. Now, he decided to give up on it and pushed himself to his feet. “Come on.”

“Where are we going?”

“Outside, of course. I’ll show you how to fix it so you won’t have to bother me next time it happens.” He started on a path towards the door as Lloyd got to his feet behind him. A sudden realization hit him just as his fingers curled around the handle. “Bring some tools.”

---

It’d been quite a few years since Yuan had last repaired anything of magitechnology. He never used his own Rheaird too much, as he hardly traveled anymore, and there wasn’t much other magitechnology to be found. However, he’d always had a liking for tinkering with it. As he was now, lying on his back underneath Lloyd’s Rheaird and tightening a few screws, that liking was rekindled again.

He’d fixed not only the problem with the steering wheel, but a few other faults as well. It was clear that the boy had no knack for working with magitechnology and no desire to keep it in one piece, either. Scratches, dents, bits that were starting to become detached in the engine… Honestly, he was surprised that drifting to the left was the worst problem Lloyd had encountered with it. This was a disaster waiting to happen.

Lloyd sat next to him as he worked, watching Yuan’s actions and occasionally questioning them. It seemed that despite his tendency for neglect, the boy was at least willing to learn more about how to keep his Rheaird in shape and for that, Yuan was grateful. Eventually, he found himself explaining the specifics of the engine and how it drew mana from its surroundings. He could tell that most of it went straight over Lloyd’s head, but some of it managed to stick.

Step by step, he was actually teaching Kratos’s son. Somehow, it made him feel more at ease. Perhaps it was because he was passing his knowledge on to someone else instead of letting it go to waste with himself. Or perhaps it was because while Lloyd had bested him in a lot of ways, there was still one thing Yuan was better at.

“Are you sure you won’t come to Colette’s party tonight?”

The question had come as a surprise and snapped Yuan out of all thoughts related to magitechnology. Colette’s party… That was tonight? He moved out from underneath the Rheaird and sat up to fix Lloyd with a scrutinizing stare, but the boy’s expression was sincere. For some reason, he honestly wanted Yuan to attend.

“I don’t see why I should.” He twirled the screwdriver he was holding between his fingers. “You can go for the both of us. You’re closest to her anyway.”

“I… guess.” Lloyd ran a hand through his hair, frowning. “I wouldn’t say I’m the closest person to her, now. Not anymore.”

Yuan was reminded of the fact that shortly after the Ratatosk incident, Lloyd and Colette had dated. It was the sort of thing that had been rubbed in his face back then, whenever they came to visit the World Tree. However, after a certain amount of time, his girlfriend had stopped joining Lloyd on these visits. Yuan had never asked, but he could only assume that the relationship had ended. It was really none of his business either way.

“So, what, you’re thinking of turning down the invitation as well? You two are still childhood friends, aren’t you?”

“Of course I’m gonna go! I’m just saying Colette’s got loads of close friends.”

Yuan sighed, shaking his head. “Either way, I’m staying here. She only came over here to invite you.”

“She invited you too,” Lloyd argued fiercely.

“Because I happened to be here. If I’d been by the tree where I belong, she wouldn’t have bothered to seek me out.”

With that, Yuan moved himself back underneath the Rheaird to return his attention to the worn landing gear. He had better things to do than consider this matter further. Beside him, there was a crunching sound as Lloyd got to his feet.

“An invitation is an invitation! Besides, it’s no wonder Colette wouldn’t come find you if you keep insisting nobody wants your company.”

The sound of footsteps and the slam of the front door. Now Yuan was left wondering if it was true; If he’d started a cycle by constantly refusing the friendship of Lloyd and his companions.

------

That evening, Lloyd left for the party by himself, as planned, while Yuan remained shut in his room. No matter how he tried, he couldn’t shake the notion that’d been given to him earlier. That he was lonely because he kept driving people away. He mulled on it for another hour before finally acting on his doubts.

He took his own Rheaird and flew to Iselia, to Colette’s house. The lights were on downstairs and the buzz of good-humored, inaudible conversations reached his ears. Yuan kept his distance, but he fixed his gaze on the living room window. And there they all were.

Colette herself was just handing a drink to Raine, whose hair had lengthened to just past her shoulders over the years. She looked about as young as Yuan remembered her, though it’s likely the elven blood was to blame. Genis stood beside her, but he was less recognizable. The boy had grown to be taller than his sister. Regal had aged as well, but in a flattering manner. Grey streaks were visible in his blue hair, which was now considerably shorter. He was apparently sharing a witty anecdote with Lloyd and Zelos, the latter roaring with laughter. Tethe’alla’s former Chosen had hardly changed, from what Yuan could tell. The same hair, the same facial features, the same sense of fashion… It took him a few moments to place the woman beside Regal. Now in her early twenties, Presea’s hair was tied back in a tight bun and she was wearing a neat, business-like suit. It seemed like she was doing well for herself within the Lezareno company. Finally, there was Sheena in a corner, holding a small child to her chest while another young girl with flaming red hair stood by her side, tugging at her sleeve. That’s right, she’d married Zelos, hadn’t she? Another woman came walking into Yuan’s view and much like Presea, it took him a few moments to place her. Dirty blonde hair, a cheerful smirk… It was Emil’s friend, Marta. She picked Sheena’s daughter up from the ground and rocked her in her arms, much to her mother’s relief.

They all looked like they were having the time of their life, being in each other’s company. Where did Yuan fit in their group? Where was he, while they were traveling together, protecting one another? Hidden away in his Renegade base, plotting how to assassinate an important member of their group, how to best corner Lloyd and use him to blackmail Kratos. He was never one of them. It wasn’t him they were hoping to see.

It would be Kratos. Kratos was their final companion, the one who’d been by their side for a great portion of their journey. It should’ve been him, standing where Yuan was standing now. And once again, he found himself resenting his old companion for giving all this up. He had friends who would welcome him with open arms to a party like this- welcome him like family.

Yuan couldn’t bring himself to move toward the door. He was being overwhelmed by a surge of emotions, just like he was when Lloyd came to see him a month earlier. Anger, sadness, guilt… It was all striking at him at the same time. All he could do was turn away from the lights of the party and face the darkness of the gritty path that would take him out the village instead. The sooner he left, the better.

Just as he was about to take his first step, he heard the door open behind him and a painfully familiar voice spoke up.

“Yuan, you came!” Lloyd came striding up beside him and Yuan could see the relieved smile on his face even through the darkness.

“I was just leaving.”

“Huh? Come on, there’s still plenty of food left! And Regal was just about to tell us about this new product that-”

“I said I was leaving,” Yuan tried again, more forcefully this time.

“Why would you come all this way and then not come inside?”

Lloyd gave a soft chuckle, which only caused Yuan to cringe. He turned to face the brunette and he was sure his features were betraying some kind of emotion, as his muscles were so strained it was starting to hurt. He just couldn’t tell what his face was showing. Fear? Grief? A mad grin, as the situation was somehow so laughable? “I can’t.”

And Lloyd understood. He nodded his head, his voice taking on a more serious note. “Then go home, Yuan. I’ll give everyone your regards.”

“They won’t want them.”

The words left his mouth before he could give them a second thought, but once he’d heard them in his own voice he felt white hot shame. Since when did he care what these people thought of him? When did his self esteem drop so low? He shouldn’t be saying these things, he shouldn’t even be thinking them.

“You’re wrong about that,” Lloyd responded, running a hand across the back of his head. “But I know I can’t change your mind. Just take care on your way home, all right? I’ll be there in a couple hours.”

Yuan scoffed. “I wasn’t planning on waiting up for you.”

As he returned to the village outskirts to take out his Rheaird in relative obscurity, he confirmed a notion that had already weighed on him. If he did chase them all off willingly, then he had no right to regain their friendship now.

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PostSubject: Re: Resentment, A Symphonia Fanfiction (now with a NEW CHAPTER~)   Tue Feb 04, 2014 10:00 am

Chapter Five

True to his intent, Yuan returned to the house immediately. There was no point in lingering near Iselia longer than necessary, after all. He retreated straight into his room and lay down on the bed, but sleep refused to come, as it had a habit of doing nowadays. The front door snapped shut a second time that evening not even two hours later, indicating Lloyd had returned from the party as well. However, it seemed the man didn’t deem it necessary to check up on Yuan. That suited him just fine, the last thing he needed was Lloyd fretting over him because of what’d happened. He felt no need to explain why he fled from the party before he even truly attended it.

No remarks came the next morning, either. In fact, the topic was avoided so firmly, Yuan would almost believe that Lloyd had forgotten all about the incident. Not that it mattered. After what’d happened, he’d finally made up his mind about something. His decision to stay with Lloyd had been a poor one, as he now found himself getting far too involved with people he shouldn’t care about at all. Not with the nature of his life being what it was. Besides, these past few weeks of company had done nothing to ease his insomnia, so why should he even bother continuing this façade?

He’d decided he would leave Lloyd’s house to return to his rightful place by the World Tree, which was exactly what he announced at the breakfast table. His host was disappointed, to say the least. Lloyd’s attempt at getting him to change his mind was a fierce one, with arguments ranging from “you still aren’t well” to “you’ll just get bored further out of your mind”. None of these things made Yuan feel even a remote inclination towards staying. Lloyd didn’t relent until he was already halfway to the door, but even then it was only half-hearted. What happened after that came as a surprise to Yuan: Lloyd insisted he should at least take Noishe with him. That way, he wouldn’t be truly alone. Not to mention, Yuan got along better with Noishe than any actual person.

It was an odd compromise, but not one Yuan opposed. He agreed to take the Arshis with him and make sure Noishe was well looked after. In return, Lloyd agreed to stop by and visit as much as possible. Something that really shouldn’t be a problem, considering the man had been traveling to the World Tree every day for the past two weeks in Yuan’s stead.

Several months passed in the blink of an eye. With Noishe by his side, Yuan found that he dozed off a bit easier and when he did, he suffered from less nightmares. They were still there, but fewer in number and less severe. Not that it stopped Lloyd from remarking on how pale he looked whenever the man stopped by. Yuan tended to ignore these comments whenever they were shot his way. He’d lived through far less ideal circumstances, after all. Instead, he focused on continuing to teach Lloyd about the workings of magitechnology. Once he’d explained all there was to say about Rheairds, they moved on to things like mana reactors and holographic projections. He’d never gotten the impression that Lloyd was interested in such things, but the man’s attention never wavered during his lectures. In fact, he was very prone to asking questions, though some were more intelligent than others. It was a good change of pace from the long silences, that much was certain.

While Yuan couldn’t decide if it was out of guilt or a genuine attempt to stay in touch, Colette had paid him a few visits as well. They’d been brief and a bit uncomfortable, but they’d happened nonetheless. He didn’t know what to do about these visits, either. There wasn’t much conversation he could offer Colette, nor could he stave off the piercing notion that she looked very much like Martel. Half her time there was spent praying by the tree and petting Noishe, the other half was spent fishing for information about Yuan’s social life. It was likely just harmless conversation, but it felt very much like prying to him. He would snap at her, he would make unsubtle remarks indicating that he’d like her to leave, he would avoid her gaze… Yet, her response would always be to brush his coldness off with a smile. That was just like Martel as well.

----

“Hey Yuan, do you know how to whittle?”

The only response Lloyd got to his question was a furrowed brow. Yuan barely even glanced up from the book he was reading because, really, what sort of ridiculous question was that? A moment of silence followed before Lloyd tried again.

“I mean, I was just thinking. You’ve been teaching me about magitechnology, so I should return the favor by teaching you something.” His shoulders gave a mild shrug, then his right hand found its way to Noishe’s head. The Protozoan was lounging lazily in the grass, Lloyd by his side and the afternoon sun towering overhead. With summer nearing, the temperature was beginning to rise, which was exactly why Yuan was reading in the shade of an old oak tree.

“You don’t owe me anything. Don’t even bother.” The response was curt, as it always had tendency of being. Even moreso when Yuan was occupied with other matters.

A soft, content whine came from Noishe as Lloyd scratched him behind the ears, but that did nothing to distract him from the conversation. “Come on, it’ll be fun. You must’ve read every single book there is five times by now. Besides, whittling always calms my nerves, so maybe it’ll work for you too.”

“My nerves are fine.” Though that was a bit of a lie, and Yuan knew it.

“Don’t you wanna be able to carve little wooden statues?”

“No, not particularly.” There was a soft rustle as Yuan flipped to the next page in his book. “Besides, even if I did, I wouldn’t need your help. I’m sure I can run a knife past a chunk of wood just fine.”

“Have you ever tried to whittle?”

“No, but-”

“Then you can’t claim to know how ‘easy’ it is. Because it’s not. It takes a steady hand and there’s several dwarven techniques that-”

“Lloyd, I don’t care!” The remark came out sounding harsher than intended, but Yuan found he didn’t regret it at all. “I have plenty of ways to keep myself occupied.”

“Like hell you do!” Now it was Lloyd’s turn to retort. The fierceness in his voice took Yuan by surprise and he glanced up from his book to see that the man was glaring at him. “You must lead the most boring life ever! You don’t get out, you don’t talk to people… You don’t do anything!”

The accusations stung much harsher than Yuan would’ve liked. He knew it was true- that he didn’t spend his time socializing- but that didn’t strike him as a bad thing. He’d never been the kind to go out and meet people, and after losing many of his companions along the years, he’d lost the will to even bother. Why should he be doing something pointless like hanging around in a bar when he was much more comfortable enjoying the silence by himself? To hear Lloyd talk about his lifestyle as if it was something unnatural rubbed him the wrong way and now his temper was rising to a boiling point.

He fixed the man with just as cold a glare as the one that was being sent at him. Two could play at this game and Yuan wasn’t about to let such insults slip by. “It’s none of your business how I spend my time! Go pester someone else if you think I’m boring! I don’t know why you even care!”

“Because we’re supposed to be friends!” Lloyd sat up a bit straighter, his hands curling into fists in his lap, as Noishe shifted uneasily by his side. The sudden shouting was unnerving the Arshis, but his owner didn’t seem to notice.

“Friends?” Yuan scoffed before he could stop himself. Somehow, the idea just seemed ludicrous to him, though he wasn’t sure why.

“Yes, friends!” He drew a deep, steadying breath before continuing in a tone of voice that sounded more disappointed than frustrated. “Or something like that, anyway. I want us to get along, but it’s just so hard when you keep shutting me out.”

Lloyd’s eyes strayed to the ground and a small silence followed. Yuan honestly wasn’t sure how to respond to that. In all these years, he’d never expected Lloyd to care about how much he’d kept his distance. He had his reasons for not getting too close, after all. What point was there in getting emotionally attached to mortals who could vanish in a moment’s notice? For a Seraph, a human’s life is like that of an ant. Yuan thought he’d made it clear from the start that they could never be friends, but evidently Lloyd didn’t get that hint. Or perhaps he’d simply refused to accept it. Perhaps that idealist inside him had hoped Yuan’s mind would change over time.

It hadn’t. While Lloyd had that inner idealist, the pessimist inside Yuan kept insisting that the only person he could trust not to vanish was himself.

Once it became clear the Seraph wasn’t going to reply, Lloyd spoke up again. “I’ve known you for ten years now, but I don’t know anything about you. I don’t know where you’re from, or what sort of life you used to have before you started traveling with Mithos and the others. I don’t know how you met my dad, or what made you decide to turn against Cruxis in the end… I don’t even know your last name. Don’t you think that’s stupid?”

Yuan still couldn’t fathom why this was bugging Lloyd so much. The man was looking at him with an exasperated expression- no, perhaps even a sad one, clearly hoping for some kind of confirmation. One that Yuan couldn’t give him, because really, he didn’t think it was stupid at all. The only reason he even knew a few things about Lloyd was because he’d needed to know them. Because, as the Renegade leader, it’d been his job to verify whether that boy with the Angelus Exsphere was truly Kratos’ lost son.

Still, there was a small portion of guilt boiling up inside him, and he cursed himself for it. Perhaps Lloyd did deserve more than he got from Yuan. Perhaps, for the sake of his old friends, he shouldn’t be this distant to Kratos’ legacy- to the one who helped grant Martel and Mithos their eternal peace, free from the twisted prison they’d all been trapped in for four thousand years.

“… Ka-Fai.”

“What?” Lloyd’s expression instantly turned from mournful to surprised.

“My last name. It’s Ka-Fai.” Yuan’s gaze was back on his book, even if he hadn’t continued reading just yet.

“Oh. …Why didn’t you ever mention that before?”

“I don’t see why I should’ve. Last names are a testament of your family tree, but mine was eradicated a long time ago. …Even if it hadn’t been, I shed the Ka-Fai name of my own free will four thousand years ago.”

“Why?”

Another small silence followed. Yuan felt he’d already shared more than he intended, yet Lloyd continued to ask more questions. It was starting to feel like unnecessary prying all over again. Perhaps, in time, the man might actually be able to force the answer out of him. Just not today.

“None of your business.” Yuan’s fingers traced the side of his book, before he relented and fixed his gaze on the other man again. “So are you going to teach me how to whittle or should I go back to being my boring self?”

For a few seconds, there was only a stunned look on Lloyd’s face. Then he broke into a hearty chuckle. “Sure thing, friend.”


--------------------------------

Chapter Six

From the moment Lloyd had admitted his genuine desire to be friends with Yuan, something had changed. Something small had been set in motion, triggering the grander things, rather like an avalanche. A very sluggish avalanche, but an avalanche nonetheless. For starters, Yuan came to find that whittling was indeed not as easy as he’d previously assumed. Many pieces of wood ended up mutilated beyond salvation before he even got the general gist of the technique. Lloyd kept telling him that he was being too impatient; that he needed to take things slow and really gauge his next move, because once you take a piece off, you can never put it back on. Patience was exactly the sort of thing that Yuan always had trouble with. In a way, that served to make whittling quite the challenging pastime.

Days turned to weeks and as they did, Yuan found himself opening up a bit more. He began by telling Lloyd about where he used to live before he joined up with the other ‘Kharlan Heroes’. The region that was now known as Asgard. Despite the climate remaining the same, the area had been quite different back then. He told Lloyd of the Balacruf Dynasty and the political influence that they had. There’d been an annual festival dedicated to Sylph, even if the people of that time paid virtually no attention to the Summon Spirits, making everything a bit of a façade. The Ancient War that hadn’t been as much of a war as it’d been a thousand years of skirmishes and mutual dislike between two countries. It wasn’t until fifteen years before the end of the ‘war’ that the battlefields truly became occupied. The increased development of magitechnology due to the rising tensions with Tethe’alla became a popular topic as well. If anything, his stories were like history lessons that he was sure Raine Sage might’ve taught, but Lloyd’s attention didn’t seem to sway at all.

It took a while for the conversations to take on a more personal note, because not only were Yuan’s memories painful, they were four thousand years old. Many details had become lost over time and he could no longer truly picture them in his head. The things he still remembered were facts, not images or voices. He began to talk about how Kratos had been a famous knight from Tethe’alla’s capitol, originating from a noble family. Judging by Lloyd’s expression, the man hadn’t had the slightest inkling about that. The conversation turned to how Kratos was banished from his home due to association with the Yggdrasill siblings, who’d learned of the Mana Cannon. How they failed to stop Sylvarant from firing it, turning Kratos’ home to ash. How they attempted to save the great Kharlan Tree and ended up meeting with Ratatosk himself, as well as the Centurions. It was clear Lloyd was thinking of Emil the moment that name came up, so Yuan made sure to explain just what sort of a being Ratatosk truly had been. Not quite as vicious as he’d been after his awakening four thousand years later, but cynical and cold nonetheless. Earning Ratatosk’s trust had been tricky, just as it’d been with several other Summon Spirits.

In a way, it was exhausting for Yuan to share so many personal experiences. He wasn’t quite used to it and there was always that pressing notion that by doing so, he was getting too emotionally invested in Lloyd. Even so, talking about his past seemed to be easing his mind a bit. These were the sort of memories that’d been cooped up inside him for four thousand years, because after Martel died a gap began to grow between himself and his other two companions. He’d stopped confiding in Kratos and Mithos long before he’d even considered starting the Renegades. Meanwhile, Lloyd seemed to realize he shouldn’t push his luck. He didn’t ask any invasive questions, instead allowing Yuan to decide where to take the conversation and what details to include. He was thankful for that.

-----

It was a hot day, one like many others Yuan had lived through. The sort of day that usually wouldn’t be considered special at all, but it was marked by a date. An anniversary. Today was the day of Martel’s passing, even if Yuan had lost track of just how many years it’d been. He was sure that only Mithos had still been counting up until eleven years ago. It was a day of tradition. No matter how he felt about this date, he refused to dishonor that tradition. He was the only one who could still uphold it.

While the Chosen system had been abolished, the Church of Martel itself still lingered. People wouldn’t give up their religion that easily, especially after the ‘daughter of the angels’ had saved their world. Even with the smaller churches closing down, the grander cathedrals still remained. Much of a blight as they were on Martel’s memory, in a way Yuan was grateful that they couldn’t be squashed out that easily. He made his way to the one in Palmacosta, when it was nearing the evening hours and he was certain he wouldn’t be disturbed by other visitors that easily, seating himself on the back row of pews.

The anniversary of Martel’s death… Every year, the three companions that’d been left behind had spent it praying. For the first two decades, it’d been genuine mourning. However, as more time passed, Mithos managed to change it to reverence. Worshipping Martel’s memory as Kratos and Yuan could do nothing but bow their heads. Remaining silent and honoring their late friend in their own way. As the Church of Martel grew into being, so did Yuan’s dislike for the way Mithos spoke of his sister. As Cruxis grew more powerful and Lord Yggdrasill more deranged, so did the abyss that separated the three friends.

And yet, every year, the three would reunite in the cathedral and sit together. The only time when they were ever missing one of their own was during those years when Kratos had severed his ties with Cruxis to be with Anna. However, Yuan was sure that even then, their companion would be praying just like he always had.

Now, here he was, all by himself. Just as he had been for the past eleven years. Honoring the tradition as the last of the four Kharlan Heroes. As he sat there, he didn’t pray for anything in particular. Of course he didn’t; who would even hear him? There wasn’t a single deity he believed in. No, it was the principle of the matter. Sitting in silence, honoring memories that had become so faded they might as well have been dreams.

As the minutes passed, a sudden thought popped into his head. Wherever he was now, would Kratos have remembered? Would he have kept track of the dates at all? Would he even have been able to keep track? Or would he perhaps consider himself too busy to waste time on such a pointless tradition? With the era of Cruxis finally behind them, it sometimes seemed like the lives they used to live were someone else’s. Perhaps such reminders of their dedication to Martel’s soul were unwanted, now.

Yuan’s eyes scrunched shut as he tried to block out further thoughts about his friend. He knew he’d never get answers to his questions, so why ask them? All he was doing was reminding himself of how much he still missed Kratos’ companionship. Much moreso than Mithos’s, which he’d already lost many centuries ago anyway. He shouldn’t care whether Kratos was still sticking to tradition or not, it’s not like he still had anything to do with that man. As far as Yuan was concerned, Kratos might as well be dead. It’d make no difference. Not anymore.

------

The sun was beginning to set when Yuan finally returned to the Tree. His thoughts still scattered and mildly sluggish from the lingering heat, he didn’t notice there was someone else waiting for him until just before the man spoke up.

“Where’ve you been?” Lloyd was sitting by the stream, leaning back against Noishe’s hulking figure as the Arshis slept behind him.

“None of your business.”

“Right, right.” Lloyd closed his eyes for a moment. “Listen, I was thinking. It’s been a long time since we last fought.”

It took Yuan a moment to realize that by fighting, Lloyd meant sparring. It was the sort of thing that they only did once every few years and it’d always end the same way. Lloyd may have beaten Kratos on his own, and he may have beaten Yuan with the help of his companions, but when it was just the two of them, the guy never stood a chance. Yuan had a tendency to use the most dirty tactics in the book. Not because he was so desperate to defeat Lloyd, but because he’d taught himself to use whatever means necessary. Fighting with ‘honor’ could cost you your life if you weren’t careful, after all.

“Is that really something you want to bring upon yourself again?” He didn’t mind sparring with Lloyd in the overall. His own skills needed honing from time to time as well, lest he let them waste away while waiting for an actual threat to show itself. However, tonight he wasn’t quite feeling energetic enough to face someone as brash as Lloyd.

“If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have brought it up.”

“You’ll lose again.”

“It’s not about winning.”

Yuan sighed, then his saber appeared in the palm of his hand. It was a trick that Lloyd had begged him to share several times already, but he’d kept telling the man it was impossible for humans to do. “Fine, then.”

Lloyd smirked and within moments, the fight had begun. With Yuan being the slower one, his attacks were usually dodged by his more nimble opponent. However, Lloyd’s own attacks were often caught by Yuan’s blade and deflected, with the half-elf’s counterattacks packing a much greater punch. It was a good balance like that, he found. Power versus speed. He never used his angel abilities in their fights. He just didn’t see a need to rely on such cheap tricks. Besides, Lloyd couldn’t use his angel abilities either. It was only fair, this way.

Noishe didn’t even bother to watch, instead continuing to doze by the stream. His ears would twitch whenever Yuan decided to throw some lightning magic into the fray, but he’d long since grown past the point of being intimidated by it. The same counted for Lloyd, who could dodge the magic with such ease that Yuan wondered why he even bothered to try this at all.

The longer their spar lasted, the more lost in thought he became, until he was moving solely on reflex, his attention elsewhere. There was something familiar about Lloyd’s fighting style, something that stirred in the back of his memories. It wasn’t until the man jumped up into the air to flip over Yuan and land behind him that the pieces clicked. Kratos. That was one of Kratos’ moves. Suddenly, he felt like he was called back into the old days when he’d often attempted to best his closest friend in combat. He remembered the thirst to prove his worth and he could almost picture Mithos and Martel watching them in anticipation. For just a fraction of a second, he stood frozen in place and that proved to be his undoing. His mind caught up with his body once more and he whirled around only to be knocked off his feet by a Fierce Demon Fang attack- ironically, another one of Kratos’ favorites. There was the brief, vague realization that his fingers had lost their grip on his saber, the sensation of falling backwards and a sharp pain. The next thing he became consciously aware of was lying on his back on the ground, with Lloyd’s voice ringing in his ears.

“-uan! Yuan, are you okay?”

A pair of hands roughly shook his shoulders, so he batted them away even before his mind could process what was going on. “Get off me! I’m fine!”

Lloyd, who was crouching next to him, leaned back to give him some more space. He sat up, his right hand moving to the back of his head. It felt so painful that he was sure he was lucky to have avoided a concussion. Either way, there was going to be a bump and an irritated sound left him once that realization had sunk in.

“I’m sorry, I guess I got a little carried away.” Lloyd bowed his head apologetically, but it seemed he couldn’t stop himself from smiling regardless.

“No, you got lucky,” Yuan snapped.

“Heh. Maybe.” Lloyd pushed himself to his feet and strode over to the fallen saber. He lifted it up from the ground, and Yuan noticed he did so with very little difficulty. The weight usually posed a problem for those who didn’t have Cruxis Crystals. Perhaps the Angelus Exsphere still had more of an effect on the man than he’d been giving it credit for.

“If you want a rematch, you won’t be getting it tonight. You hit your head pretty hard.” With that, the saber was held out to Yuan, who scowled up at the brunette.

“Don’t worry, I’m done for the day.”

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PostSubject: Re: Resentment, A Symphonia Fanfiction (now with a NEW CHAPTER~)   Tue Feb 04, 2014 10:03 am

Chapter Seven

Summer turned to fall and as it did, the usual changes began to occur. The weather turned from dry and hot to wet and dreary. The skies became more grey by the day and the leaves turned to orange. Yuan never particularly minded fall- he didn’t mind any season in particular. No matter how much he liked or disliked it, they’d continue cycling anyway. Fall would pass in the blink of an eye, as would winter, spring and summer.

Lloyd, on the other hand, was a different story. Just as the sky and the leaves changed color, his attitude turned from cheerful to moody. The man would grumble about wet lumber and mud, and how difficult it was to see the stars. Yuan wondered vaguely if he was beginning to rub off on Kratos’ son. Of course, the autumn blues did nothing to hamper Lloyd’s visits.

“So… I’ve been thinking.”

Yuan’s lips curled into a smirk. Oh, the many comebacks he could give to that. Lloyd seemed to realize the same thing, because he frowned and pressed on before Yuan could even open his mouth.

“I’ve been thinking that maybe… I should put my mom’s Exsphere to better use.”

“What do you mean?” Yuan’s knife made a small cut into the piece of wood he was holding, carefully swerving around to slice off a new layer. He was getting pretty good at whittling, if he said so himself.

“Well, it’s basically a Cruxis Crystal right? Or… High Exsphere, or whatever you’re supposed to call it.”

“High Exsphere will do fine,” Yuan replied in a mildly monotonous voice.

“Right. So… Maybe I should use it the way you’re using it and become a Seraph.”

At that, Yuan instantly froze his hands and turned his gaze up to see Lloyd looking at him with the oddest expression. Cautious. Apprehensive. It reminded him of a young child expecting to be punished by his parents. Apparently, Lloyd hadn’t expected this conversation to go fluently and Yuan could guess why. “What are you saying? You want to halt your metabolism?”

“Well… Well, yeah,” Lloyd shuffled his feet awkwardly. “Maybe immortality isn’t such a bad thing.”

“It’s not the same thing as immortality!” Yuan snapped. “And that Exsphere is not a toy!”

“I know that! I just thought-”

“If these are the kind of pointless ideas you produce by thinking, you need to stop doing it.”

Yuan turned his gaze back to the items in his hands and wondered if perhaps Lloyd regretted bringing this up while he was holding a knife. A small silence followed, then the crunching of crisp leaves under Lloyd’s boots. He sat down by Yuan’s side, leaning back against the trunk of the tree that would always provide him with shade during the summer. Now, however, its branches were turning bare and useless.

“I’m sorry. I know it’s a touchy subject for you.”

“Hmph.”

“It’s just that… In about fifty years, I’ll be gone, but you’ll still be right here. Who will be your friend then?”

“I’m used to that sort of thing,” Yuan scoffed, though truth be told, it was a prospect that frightened him. Once Lloyd died, it’d just be him and Noishe, but the Protozoan wouldn’t live forever either. Everyone and everything was destined to perish, even Yuan himself, but he knew he had the rotten luck of living so long he’d be the last one standing.

“That’s not the sort of thing you should be used to!” Lloyd drew a deep breath, before continuing in a calmer tone of voice. “I promised Martel I’d watch over the tree and I feel like maybe I should watch over the world itself too. Because of all the spirits who trusted me and my friends too. And all those people who believed I could make a difference. When I die, all that’s gonna be left to you and I don’t think it’s a one-man job.”

“I accepted the job knowing full well I’d have to handle it by myself.”

“Why are you so against this?”

Yuan didn’t need to think about the answer at all. It came to him immediately. “Because living for an eternity isn’t a blessing, it’s a curse.”

“One that you could end whenever you want. You’ve just gotta remove the Exsphere and then you can grow old and die anyway, right?”

“… That’s not as easy as you make it sound. When you become too attached to life, you become reluctant to give it up.”

Reluctant wasn’t the right word to use there and Yuan knew it, but he’d rather not admit that it was fear that prevented him from removing his Cruxis Crystal. Fear and guilt. A sense of duty and a promise he’d made to Kratos. He couldn’t just up and die. He couldn’t. It was his responsibility to keep on living. A responsibility he wouldn’t wish upon anyone else.

“Oh…” Apparently, Lloyd didn’t have a comeback for that one. He simply folded his hands behind the back of his head and leaned back against the tree, allowing silence to fall once more. For a few long moments, there wasn’t any sound but the erratic carving of Yuan’s knife in the wood. It must’ve been a whole minute before Lloyd spoke up again. “You know, when dad left, he told me not to die before he does.”

“I wouldn’t put too much thought into those words,” Yuan replied gruffly. Knowing Kratos, he was just being too sentimental for his own good.

“Too late for that. I spent eleven years thinking about them. It took me a while to figure it out, but I’m pretty sure I know what he was trying to say.”

Yuan couldn’t care less what Kratos was trying to say. What happened between those two was scarcely any of his business and words coming from a man who would willingly leave his own son behind were empty either way.

Regardless, Lloyd pressed on. “I think it’s not so much that he didn’t want me to die, it’s that he wanted me to live. To really achieve my full potential. When I first met him, I was kinda jealous because I thought he was stronger than me, but… In the end, he was the one looking up at me. He thought I was strong for fighting what I believe in and that’s why he trusted me to take on Mithos. That’s why he gave me his sword and got the materials for the Eternal Ring and… And everything. He must’ve thought I was incredible to give me that kind of trust.”

Lloyd gave a bitter laugh and while Yuan had to concede that the man had a point, it only served to make him detest Kratos’ actions even more. “He was just an old coward.”

“Maybe.” Lloyd gave a brief sigh. “Or maybe he was right. Maybe I have what it takes to keep on living until I’m absolutely sure it’s time to die. …Besides, I think he would’ve wanted me to keep you out of trouble too.”

This time, it was Yuan’s turn to force a chuckle. “Funny. He told me to watch over you.”

“You’re not doing a good job of it. I dropped a log on my foot just this morning.”

Yuan snorted and finally continued carving the little figure in his hands, even if his attention wasn’t all there. An eternity with Lloyd… Ten years ago, he wouldn’t have given it a second thought. He’d find it a deplorable notion- a wretched fate to resign himself to. However, over the years, Lloyd had changed. Or perhaps it was Yuan himself who changed. It took him eleven years to figure out what Lloyd’s companions had known from the start. The man was someone he could depend on. Someone to trust in times of need.

He remembered Botta’s death and how conflicted he’d felt about it. When he first formed the Renegades, he’d told himself to always keep his distance and maintain a professional atmosphere around his subordinates. He’d have to keep his work and his personal life separate, no matter what. Even so, he’d come to depend on his lieutenants a bit too much. No matter how much he tried to convince himself otherwise, the passing of one of them would cause him to experience a feeling of loss. Perhaps not as great a loss as that of losing a companion, but a loss nonetheless.

What would happen when Lloyd finally met his end? Whether it be twenty years from now, fifty years or even five hundred. Would he mourn the loss in the same way he mourned his lieutenants, or would it be the same sort of loss affiliated with his three oldest companions? Would extending the man’s life change anything at all?

“… If you’re truly serious about this, I’ll teach you the proper way to use the Exsphere’s full potential.”

From the corner of his eye, Yuan could see Lloyd sit up so fast it looked like he’d been electrocuted. “You really mean it?!”

“I can’t guarantee you’ll be able to manipulate your metabolism effectively enough to halt the aging process, or even come close. The Angelus project was a highly experimental, unpredictable method of creating Cruxis Crystals. It may not have developed that ability at all.”

“That’s fine! Just giving it a shot is enough for me!” Lloyd paused for a moment, grinning sheepishly, then continued. “Do you think Colette might be interested too? I know Zelos destroyed his Cruxis Crystal ages ago, but Colette still has hers, so…”

Yuan groaned inwardly. He could tolerate Lloyd’s presence for a few more centuries, but Colette was another matter entirely. No matter how much time would pass, he might never stop associating her with Martel. Not that she was as bad as that Summon Spirit, but at least the spirit stayed out of sight and respected his personal space. Perhaps she knew that her features would only cause Yuan pain.

On the bright side, Colette might take some of Lloyd’s attention off Yuan. “I wouldn’t know.”

“But you wouldn’t mind, right?”

“If she wants to learn, I’ll teach her.”

“Great! Then… I’ll ask her tomorrow! I can’t wait to tell Genis and Professor Sage too.”

For a moment, Yuan felt silly for forgetting. Forgetting that two of Lloyd’s closest friends were half-elves and had the prospect of living for over another nine hundred years as well. He hadn’t spoken to those two for so long- it must’ve been a good eight years now. If Lloyd learned to halt his metabolism, he could spend more time with the Sage siblings as well.

His gaze focused on the wooden figure between his fingers. He was planning to turn it into a bird. However, at its current stage, the spread wings were the most pronounced feature. The body looked nothing like a bird’s just yet. If anything, it looked like a human wearing a bulky dress. An angel.

It’d likely be easier to turn it into just that. So he did.


--------------------------------------------

Chapter Eight

Colette hadn’t wanted to halt her metabolism. According to Lloyd, she’d put a lot of thought into the matter, but ultimately decided against it. That suited Yuan just fine. One student was already bad enough- especially one who had no experience with magic. Explaining how the Exsphere affects one’s body and how to use that to one’s advantage is so much easier when the other person has basic knowledge of a body’s internal mana and how to manipulate it.

Lloyd was willing to listen, at least, but it seemed like most of Yuan’s explanations went over his head and, even when they did hit the mark, they had trouble sticking. Had it been this difficult to teach it to Kratos as well? He couldn’t remember. Not very likely.

Two weeks later, after Yuan ended another one of their lessons with the distinct feeling of having made no progress at all, Lloyd decided to ask the unthinkable. Perhaps he was feeling especially brash that day. He stuck around even while Yuan strode towards the stream to fill his hipflask with some fresh water.

“Hey, uhm…”

“What is it now?” Yuan sighed. He recognized that tone of voice by now. It meant Lloyd was about to ask something ridiculous.

“I was just wondering…” He trailed off awkwardly for a moment as he moved to stand behind Yuan. “Don’t get mad okay?”

“Why would I get mad?”

“Because you won’t like the question.”

He knelt down by the stream’s edge, dipping his flask into the water. “If you know that much, then don’t ask me.”

“It’s been bugging me for ages now. I have to know. Why… I mean… Did you ever try to move on from Martel?”

The question caught Yuan off guard so badly that the flask slipped from his grasp and he had to fumble to get it back, cursing loudly and splashing water over his own feet as he did so. “That is none of your damn business!”

“See, I knew you’d get mad.” Lloyd shook his head.

“I have every right to get mad! I don’t ask about your personal affairs either!”

“I wouldn’t mind telling you about them if you did.”

“That’s not the point! I don’t care about your lovelife, or lack thereof!” After plugging up the flask, he gave it a quick shake in a hopeless attempt to dry it off a bit. It continued to drip into his hands, soaking his gloves.

“It’s just… It’s been four thousand years. I can’t even imagine how long that is. Enough time to find someone else, that’s for sure.”

“Seraphim don’t just find a lowly mortal partner on the planet’s surface.”

Dad did,” Lloyd retorted with perhaps a bit more force than was necessary.

That remark rubbed Yuan the wrong way more than anything else the man had spouted so far. Yes, Kratos had started a family. Kratos had had that freedom. And look how fast he’d given that up in the end. Look how fast he’d abandoned his son, the last remnant of the woman he’d loved. A long time ago, Yuan had dreamed of a family of his own. Marrying Martel and having beautiful children. They’d have her eyes. That was what he’d hoped.

“You want to know why I didn’t just move on?” Yuan snapped, dropping the flask to the ground beside him so he could remove his gloves. “It’s because I couldn’t! I lived every day of those four thousand years with the promise that the woman I’d loved would be returned to me. How do you think Mithos would’ve reacted if I’d betrayed his sister, if only for one night? How do you think I would’ve felt?”

“Oh…”

Yuan shot another venomous glare over his shoulder to see that Lloyd’s demeanor had changed instantly. The look on his face was sympathetic, almost like someone in mourning. He scoffed loudly and turned his attention back to his gloves.

“… That must’ve been really lonely.”

“It became a way of life. Things are less complicated when you don’t have a partner to share everything with, that’s for certain.”

He heard Lloyd approaching him and for a second he wondered if the man was going to place a comforting hand on his shoulder, or something ridiculous like that. Instead, the brunette scooped the hipflask up from the ground and flipped the cap off so he could take a sip. Yuan’s face immediately contorted into a disgusted scowl. Once Lloyd realized that, he chuckled sheepishly and held the flask out to him. He snatched it back so fast his nails almost left scratches in Lloyd’s palm.

“So… You’re not ever going to settle down and start a family?” Lloyd asked quietly. One last attempt to get Yuan to see things in a different light, perhaps.

“No.”

------

Sixty years. He’d been traveling with Derris-Kharlan for over sixty years now. It felt like so much longer, but the database didn’t lie. The calendar didn’t lie. It’d only been a bit over sixty years.

This place was driving him to madness. He knew it to be true. The lifeless beings showed no promise of regaining themselves. The vast emptiness of space grew more intimidating by the day. Nightmares had become a regular occurrence, but at times sleep was still a welcome change from the harsh reality he had to face when he was awake. There were times when he felt a chill run down his spine. Times when he felt so cold his body began to shake and tremble, despite the temperature being as moderate as it always was. Times when his chest seemed to tighten painfully and he found himself gasping for air- struggling to breathe to the point where his vision became blurred and stars danced across what little he could see.

He wanted to run. More than anything, he wanted to run, but he had no way to escape. This was the fate he’d chosen for himself. This was the fate he deserved. His guilt was waging war against his fears and loneliness.

What was Lloyd doing right now? Was he even still alive? And what of Yuan? What of the new World Tree? What of the world?

Don’t ask questions that have no hope of being answered.

He strode through the outer rim of Welgaia, pushing his way through angels who seemed intent on getting in his way. They were always in his way. It was like they had nothing better to do than being physical obstacles. Just a waste of space and a waste of flesh, like corpses that refused to decay.

Don’t think like that.

Vinheim’s towers loomed overhead. He’d considered tearing the place down more than once, but he could never bring himself to do it. He still remembered constructing it with his own two hands, alongside his own two companions. A castle worthy of heavenly messengers, that’s what they’d built. Now it was just another ruin, crumbling little by little. Just like him.

Keep it together. Do not submit to these thoughts.

There was a loud cracking sound in the distance, echoing through the streets and breaking the silence. He started, his heart racing and his hand reaching for his sword’s handle, but there was no need to unsheathe it. His eyes surveyed the area, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. False alarm. Again. He’d become exceedingly jumpy over the past years. Perhaps he was hoping for some action- Anything to break the constant boredom. Anything to end this pointless charade of a life.

No. Don’t. There’s no point in dying. There’s no point in dying.

Except that there was. There was more point in dying than there was in living. His eyes scrunched shut and his hands moved away from the sword sheath to ball themselves into fists. Cold washed over him. He drew a deep breath, much as his chest began to protest. Then, he broke into a run. He ran and ran. With purpose. With desperation. With the need to leave his anxiety behind and escape. He knew exactly where to. He’d done it before.

Before long, he stood panting before a door. Nothing but harsh metal and thick locks. He entered the password in the panel beside it and it hissed open, revealing a field of lush grass. It was walled in from all sides, trapped inside an enormous room, but it was a field nonetheless. The vivid green was a welcome change from all the dark, depressing colors he’d become accustomed to, the smell of the grass filling his nose immediately. Already, he felt himself relax. He strode inside and after the door had closed behind him, he let himself sink into a sitting position, leaning back against the cold metal. His eyes slid shut and for a few long moments, all he did was attempt to regain himself. To calm his breathing and focus on nothing but the feel of grass under his hands.

“You’ve returned once more,” a female voice rang out across the room.

His eyes opened to face the tree that lay before him, right in the center of the room. The tree that had grown from the cutting the elves had planted there. A tree just like the one back home, even if it had a different deity spirit watching over it. A tree that Mithos had moved to a more secure location, away from the lifeless society that he’d hoped to build. For its own good, perhaps, but a cruel fate nonetheless.

“Norn.” He nodded his head in greeting, careful to be as respectful as possible. She still hadn’t forgiven him or his companions for what they’d done to her tree, but she couldn’t force him out of this room. She couldn’t do anything to him.

A woman materialized before him, hovering a foot above the ground. Long green hair fell down her back and white feathery wings spread out by her sides. It was a bit eerie how similar her style was to Martel, despite the fact that the two had never met. She watched him closely, her eyes narrowing. “This is the third time this year you’ve invaded my terrain looking as though you are being chased by something truly terrifying.”

“Hn.” His eyes closed again, his breathing deep. “Perhaps I am.”

“This is what’s become of the great angel who assisted with forcing me into this cage. Such a pitiful state.”

Norn’s words had very little effect on him. He’d already accepted them as the truth. He raised a hand to his face, pressing the heel of his palm against his right eye. “I’m aware.”

“Are you burdened with regrets, Kratos Aurion?”

“… Far too many.”


-----------------

Fffff, I'll leave it at this for now.

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PostSubject: Re: Resentment, A Symphonia Fanfiction (now with a NEW CHAPTER~)   Thu Feb 20, 2014 8:47 am

Chapter Nine


Ninety-eight years. It’d been ninety-eight years since the reunification of the two worlds. Ninety-eight years since the abolishment of Cruxis and the Church of Martel. Ninety-eight years since the birth of the new World Tree. Ninety-eight years since Mithos died and Kratos vanished from Yuan’s life.

Many of Lloyd’s companions had passed away over time. Regal Bryant, Presea Combatir, Marta Lualdi, Zelos Wilder, Sheena Fujibayashi… Though, for a great portion of her life, her last name had been Wilder. Colette Brunel had found herself a nice young man from Izoold as well. Children had been left behind, as well as grandchildren. Of the original party, it was only Genis and Raine Sage who were still around. Those two and Lloyd himself.

For the longest time, Yuan had assumed that Lloyd would never get the hang of halting his metabolism, but at the age of thirty, the man had prevailed. He’d looked exactly the same at every single funeral for his old friends that he’d attended. Yuan had joined him there, if only because he’d deemed it necessary to show his respect for the dead. Lloyd would be greeted with warmth and sympathy, Yuan would be greeted with a solemn impassiveness. He was sure that some people wondered why he’d even bothered to show, but it didn’t hinder him. Not really.

The world itself hardly changed at all. The tension between Sylvarant and Tethe’alla decreased, but didn’t disappear. It likely wouldn’t until all memories- all tales of the way the worlds used to be- faded into nothingness. With Sheena’s death, the pacts that’d been made with the Summon Spirits all became void. All except for the one with Origin, who’d included Lloyd as somewhat of an honorary pactmaker. The Eternal Sword could still be wielded if there was ever a need, but so far, none had arisen.

Still, something had changed inside Yuan the moment he realized Derris-Kharlan’s return was only two years away. He began to stare up at the sky more and more. He sat by the World Tree in silence, waiting. Waiting and waiting. He didn’t want to make the first move. He liked to think he was too stubborn to make the first move. Truthfully, he was too afraid to make the first move. He dreaded that it would be in vain and he dreaded that even if it wasn’t, he wouldn’t know what to say. Or that all the anger he’d been holding back for a century would come flooding out.

Kratos…

No messages came. Derris-Kharlan was within range, Martel confirmed as much, but no messages came. Was he dead? Did he resort to ending his own life without Lloyd there to hold his hand, or did the angels perhaps start a mutiny? Or was something vital in the communication channel simply broken?

Weeks turned to months and Yuan became restless. Frustrated. Worried. Angry at Kratos for not getting in touch and angry at himself for caring. He didn’t know what to do with himself anymore. Lloyd noticed, but said nothing for the longest time. Not until he found Yuan pacing back and forth in front of the tree, Noishe watching him with a look that could almost be interpreted as apprehensive. The Protozoan’s ears were lying flat in his neck and his eyes were wide. Tension was rising inside Yuan and he was sure that Noishe could feel it. At Lloyd’s approach, the animal gave a soft whine, but Yuan didn’t halt his pacing. Not until Lloyd made a grab for his arm and he froze.

“Yuan, stop. Stop it. …Just sit down, alright? You’re driving Noishe crazy.”

Yuan grumbled a curse under his breath. He snatched his arm free from Lloyd’s grip and wandered over to his favorite tree to sit down. The brunette had built a wooden bench there, just for him. He let himself drop onto it, leaning back and glancing up at the branches that filtered bright sunlight.

Meanwhile, Lloyd strode over to Noishe to calm him down, but his attention was still on Yuan. “What’s the matter with you?”

“It’s complicated,” was his curt reply. Still, it was a more substantial response than the ‘it’s none of your business’ he used to snap up until several decades ago.

“So explain it to me.”

Yuan sighed. Perhaps it was time to tell Lloyd the truth, if only to get the man as riled up as he was. Kratos was the one who’d forbidden him from divulging the information and where the hell was he now?  

“You should know that up until two years after the reunification of the worlds, Kratos and I managed to stay in touch,” he began, folding his hands together in his lap and fixing his gaze on Lloyd.

“You… What?”

“There was a channel of communication between Derris-Kharlan’s core system and this tree, which was born where the Tower of Salvation used to be. It wasn’t much, but it was enough. It took two years for Derris-Kharlan to be out of range.”

For a good ten seconds, Lloyd was silent. Then he blurted out in almost accusing tone: “You mean I could’ve talked to Kratos for another two years and you didn’t tell me?!”

Kratos. Not dad, but Kratos. Lloyd had stopped calling him dad a good fifty years ago. Yuan understood that sentiment.

“Kratos didn’t want you to know. I don’t pretend to understand what was going through his mind.”

“But… That’s just…”  Lloyd produced some sort of frustrated grunt, then turned to run a hand over Noishe’s head again, ruffling the Protozoan’s fur.

“In less than two years’ time, Derris-Kharlan will be passing by our planet once more. It’s within range again.”

“And?”

“And nothing. That’s just it.” Yuan drew a deep breath to steady himself. “He hasn’t opened the channel yet.”

“Did he forget about us?”

“He wouldn’t. The most plausible explanation is that something’s wrong.”

Lloyd said nothing. He continued to pet Noishe, though he didn’t exactly hide the expression on his face either. It’d darkened considerably, to the point where it looked like the man was in pain. Knowing that someone may be in trouble but being unable to get to them- to even verify it for certain… That must’ve been one of the most gruesome situations a person like Lloyd could be in.

“Can you open the channel?” He finally asked.

“No. Martel might.”

Lloyd wasted no time getting to his feet and striding over to the Tree. He stood before it and waved a hand, looking every bit as restless as Yuan felt. “Is that true? Can you get in touch with Kratos?!”

There was silence. Then, she appeared before them, still every bit a sister image of the fiancée Yuan had lost. Her expression was calm, almost kind, and it aggravated Yuan greatly. “In a way.”

“What are you waiting for?! Do it!”

It’d been a long time since he’d last seen Lloyd get worked up over something this badly, but in retrospect, he could hardly blame the man. The situation affected him just as much as it did Yuan, if not more so. It was Lloyd who’d used the Eternal Sword to send Kratos up to Derris-Kharlan.

“There is very little point. Communications are being blocked from the other end.”

Blocked?!” Lloyd’s voice was filled with confusion. Confusion at the word and at what it implied. “What does that mean?”

“It means that someone in charge of the system’s mainframe refuses to accept the calls,” Martel explained. While her tone was still calm, Yuan noticed her facial expression conveyed something else. Regret, perhaps. “I’m sorry.”

Yuan felt more cold, more hurt and frustrated than ever before. He pushed himself to his feet and began to stride into the forest, away from Yggdrasill without glancing back. Lloyd called his name, but he ignored it. He knew perfectly well what this implied and it stung like a knife to the heart.

The only one in Derris-Kharlan who could still have access to the mainframe’s settings was Kratos himself.

------

The seasons continued to cycle with no news from Derris-Kharlan. Yuan had given up hope. He still cared, but he knew nothing would change. It filled him with anger- far more so than Kratos’ decision to leave with Derris-Kharlan in the first place. Refusing communication was a coward’s decision. A selfish coward who didn’t dare look back at the life he’d left behind. More than ever, he came to resent his old friend.

Lloyd had taken the news harshly as well. They didn’t speak of it, but Yuan could tell. To be rejected by his own father, the man he’d wanted so desperately to get to know… It must’ve been a blow.

By the time the hundredth anniversary arrived, Yuan had stopped paying attention to the dates. He’d stopped counting. What did it matter how close Derris-Kharlan was, anyway? It wasn’t until the sky began to glow purple and mana levels increased globally that he knew it was finally time. It was the blessing of the century. The world would prosper, life would prosper. The World Tree would benefit from this as well. That was, perhaps, the only bright side in all this.

It would last for a whole week.

He went to bed on the night of the third day, expectations as low as ever. Everything was silent. That is, until Noishe began to howl from his stable. He howled and yelped, and a chill ran down Yuan’s spine at the sound. He hadn’t heard Noishe cause such a ruckus before, not ever. Panic began to spread through his mind and he made to get dressed again, having only just gotten ready to step into bed.

That’s when it happened. He could hear the sky itself rumble and he rushed over to the window to see what was going on. In the distance, clouds were swirling like a whirlpool. Much to his horror, the phenomenon was centered right above the World Tree. There was no mistaking that distance. All of a sudden, a beam of light crashed and hit the planet surface, almost like lightning striking a tree. As it did so, the ground shook and mana exploded in all directions. He heard Noishe yelping and he heard himself cursing.  

There wasn’t any time to lose. Whatever it was that just happened, it couldn’t be good. If someone was attempting to harm the tree with magic while he wasn’t around… Well, he’d never forgive himself. No one would forgive him.

From his home, the World Tree was only a few miles away. It was much closer to Yggdrasill than Lloyd’s place was. He hurried into his clothes, but the situation had caught him off guard so badly that he was halfway through putting his pants on when he realized he was trying to put them on backwards. By the time he was putting his gloves on, it finally dawned on him that wearing gloves was hardly a necessity.

Outside the house, Noishe was whining and pacing in his stable, close to clambering over the door. He began to yowl in an agonized tone when Yuan stepped into the cold night air, so the half-elf had no choice but to make a quick detour. He jogged up to Noishe’s stable and gave the Protozoan a quick pat on the head.

“It’s fine, Noishe. It’s fine. I’m going to investigate.”

Noishe settled down to some degree, though his eyes were still wide in shock. Yuan had no time to worry about the animal anymore, he was already running late. He pulled his own Rheaird out of his wing pack and sped to the World Tree, a feeling of dread in his stomach. The area around it didn’t seem charred, or even remotely harmed. Not that he could see Yggdrasill itself. It was still surrounded by a magical barrier that hid it from sight, masking the entire area as dense forest. Who even knew what might be going on inside it? How did anyone even find it?

He made a cautious landing just outside the barrier, his blade appearing in his hand. He had no idea if he needed to be armed for whatever scene might be waiting for him, but it was best to be prepared. If he could just make a silent approach-

“Hey Yuan!”

Yuan froze, grunted loudly and whirled around to face Lloyd. The brunette was looking apprehensive, but definitely not as worried as Yuan felt he should’ve been.

“Did you see that flash of light? I got here as soon as I could. Good thing I was still up, or I might’ve missed it.”

Keep your voice down,” Yuan hissed under his breath.

“Why?”

“Because we don’t know who or what is out there. Draw your swords and approach from the other angle.” He made a quick hand gesture along the barrier’s edge.

Lloyd nodded and unsheathed both swords, then stepped a good thirty five feet away from Yuan. If they both entered the barrier from mildly different angles, they might be able to get the jump on any intruders. If there were only a few of them, that is. If there was a whole group of them… Well, they’d tackle that problem if they got to it. Once he was prepared, Lloyd shot him a nod, which he returned. Then, they both stepped through.

The first thing Yuan noticed was fog. Lots of it, obscuring his vision. The closer he stepped to the tree, the more he realized that he’d been right. He could see a silhouette through the mist. Someone was there. A lone individual, standing before the World Tree. He gripped his saber more tightly as he attempted to sneak up on the stranger.

By the time he was close enough to avoid being too hindered by fog and he could make out what he was looking at, he was struck by the notion that this wasn’t a stranger at all. That mana signature… That stance…

No. It couldn’t be. That was impossible.

The intruder turned to face him. Even through the mist, he could make out the matted hair. He met with sunken, tired eyes. It looked nothing like the man he’d known, but at the same time all the features were there. He’d forgotten Lloyd was even there until the other man was right by his side and spoke up.

“…Kratos?”


---------------------------------------

Chapter Ten


Yuan was absolutely dumbstruck. There was no way this could be happening. No way this could be real. It had to be some sort of trick, or a dream, or…

Kratos took a few steps towards them and he instinctively raised his weapon, assuming a defensive position. Lloyd, on the other hand, lowered his swords entirely. Then he sheathed them.  The two were watching each other with a gaze that was eerily identical. Yuan hadn’t realized how much Lloyd had grown to look just like his father until he could compare them in person.

Kratos’ expression softened from disbelief into something else. Sadness. There was a flurry of movement as Lloyd dashed forward, pulling his father into an embrace. One that Kratos returned only too eagerly, his arms slinging themselves around Lloyd’s shoulders, hiding his face from view.

Yuan felt betrayed. More than anything, he felt betrayed. He couldn’t bring himself to break up the reunion, but he loathed it and found himself looking away. To think Kratos could just come waltzing back in after a century and be welcomed like a hero… It made him sick.

“Kratos, I-I can’t believe it! It’s… It’s really you!”

“Lloyd… I didn’t know… You look…” Kratos’ voice was hoarse. Far more hoarse than Yuan could remember it ever being. Perhaps he hadn’t used it for so long that it’d begun to rust, along with the rest of his body.

He really did look awful. He smelled awful, too. Yuan could pick up the stench even from ten feet away. Had he been taking care of himself at all?

“You really came back for us… I knew you would!” Lloyd began to laugh. It was an odd, strained laugh. Yuan suspected it was a bad cover for his true emotions, because the way his shoulders shook made it perfectly clear he was crying.

“Hmm…”  Kratos didn’t seem to be in control of his emotions either. He was almost heaving.

It took almost a minute for Lloyd to finally break free of the embrace, his face still wearing a pained grimace. “Geez, you reek. When’s the last time you took a shower?”

“Welgaia… is short on water at the moment,” Kratos replied slowly. That struck Yuan as odd. There’d never been a water shortage before. There were plenty of springs in the lands outside the capitol, which were devoid of life yet filled with all sorts of natural resources.

A brief silence followed, then Kratos’ attention turned to Yuan. He couldn’t stop himself from thinking ‘finally’. Filled with a sense of indignation and bubbling fury, he once again met those eyes head-on, wondering about the bags beneath them. Kratos hadn’t been sleeping. In fact, his gaze seemed unfocused. Like he wasn’t all there.

Why was he worried? Why should he care what Kratos had been through? He’d brought it upon himself. He chose that fate for himself when he could’ve just as well remained here, with his friends and family. He deserved whatever he’d gotten.

“Yuan…” Kratos’ lips curled into somewhat of a smile. Hollow, but a smile in the technical sense of the word. Well-intentioned as that was, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back and Yuan found himself shouting before he could stop himself.

“You bastard! How dare you?! How dare you come crawling back here after what you’ve done?! Is your duty that easily abandoned?! This is what you left us for?!”

Whatever attempt Kratos had made at smiling, it was washed off his face immediately. He hung his head, tangled locks of auburn falling over his features, but Yuan could still tell he was gritting his teeth.

“Yuan…” Lloyd tried to place a hand on his shoulder, but he moved away before it could even touch him.

This whole situation was infuriating. Kratos had given up on all his responsibilities to pretend the last hundred years hadn’t happened and Lloyd was actually buying it. Whatever respect he’d built up for the man over the past century could be discarded immediately, it was clearly worth nothing. Lloyd was still that same little boy who was far too trusting- far too willing to see only good intentions, not the underlying motive.

“You stay away from me! Both of you!”

He stormed away, hoping to leave Yggdrasill’s barrier before either of them could object. What stung most was that neither of them did object.

------

It took almost two days for Lloyd to finally come seek Yuan out. Ridiculous. He knew exactly where to find him. What took him so damned long? Kratos wasn’t with him. Of course he wasn’t. That coward.

Lloyd was halfway to the front door when he realized Yuan wasn’t inside the house. He was standing in Noishe’s stable, a pitchfork in hand and an irritated scowl fixed on the brunette. Lloyd drew a deep breath when he noticed, then approached his friend regardless. Noishe whined happily and left the stable to meet him halfway, rubbing his head up against the brunette’s leg in hopes of a good petting. He received just that, though Lloyd continued on his way to the stable door.

“Are you still mad?”

“Are you still not mad?” Yuan snapped in retort, his eyes narrowing to such thin slits it was becoming hard to see.

Lloyd smirked. “Very mature comeback for a guy who’s over four thousand years old.”

“Yet my question remains. How could you just act like nothing’s wrong? Like he didn’t abandon you when you needed him?”

“I’m not-” He broke off abruptly, seemingly realizing this wasn’t the direction he wanted this conversation to go. “You and I both know that’s not what happened. No matter how mad we’ve been at him, the truth is that he had a duty to attend to. He had no choice.”

“He had every choice! And if that duty was truly so important, he should’ve stuck with it.” Yuan jabbed his pitchfork into the dirty straw with perhaps a bit more force than he’d intended, but he masked it by immediately raising the pile up and moving it to the cart just outside the stable.

“You haven’t even heard his side of the story yet.”

“I have no time for petty excuses.”

“You have plenty of time for his excuses, and then some.” Lloyd was starting to become frustrated, that much was obvious, but Yuan ignored it. “… Just come talk to him. Please, Yuan. He… I think he needs you.”

The plea that was so evident in Lloyd’s voice caught him by surprise and he looked up to see that the brunette was genuinely worried. He could feel some of his anger melt away, just enough for him to enquire into the matter. It was with a skeptical tone, but it was an enquiry nonetheless. “Why would he need me?”

“He’s…” Lloyd trailed off, as if not sure how to word what he was thinking. “Well, you saw it  yourself, right? He’s not himself. …He’s not well and he’s not even trying to hide it. I can’t get him to sleep. He barely eats. I could ask Raine to come over and take a look at him, but… I think he’s losing it.”

Much as Yuan wanted to argue that Kratos had never been entirely well and that he’d suffered from hefty depression on several occasions, even he had to admit that it’d never been this bad. Not even after Anna had passed away. Much as Yuan wanted to deny it, worry forced its way into his emotional state again. Not just for Kratos, but for Derris-Kharlan, because it must’ve been something terrible that caused his old friend such harm.

“… Did you get him to shower, at least?” he ended up asking.

Lloyd couldn’t quite stop himself from grinning at that. “Yeah. His personal hygiene is back to normal.”

“Fine. Then I’ll come. Just let me freshen up first.”

Yuan jabbed the pitchfork into a nearby pile of straw, where it stayed in an upright position, then left the stable to head into the house instead. Lloyd waited outside for him, Noishe still by his side. As he changed into a freshly-laundered outfit, he wondered what he would even say to Kratos. And more importantly, what he shouldn’t say. There were many more things still on his mind. Things that would move to the tip of his tongue the moment he got too aggravated. He knew he shouldn’t speak them; it’d just make Kratos’ condition worse. However, he also knew himself well enough to accept that he’d be tempted to bring these things up.

------

Yuan had to take a few calming breaths to steady himself before entering Lloyd’s house, then a second time before entering the room Kratos was staying in. He knew that room. It was the one he’d always stay in whenever he’d spend the night at Lloyd’s home for whatever reason. Even after that little breakdown he himself had had ninety years ago, there were still a few times when the brunette played host because he’d felt Yuan needed company. And perhaps he had needed that company.

Now it was Kratos who needed Lloyd by his side and vice versa. Yuan felt like in the end, he was still only a replacement for the man’s biological father.

Lloyd led the way into the guest room and Yuan followed, not at all surprised by what he saw. Kratos was sitting on the bed by the headboard, legs pulled up his chest and arms slung around them, his forehead resting on his knees. His breathing was so slow, it was almost like he was sleeping. He wasn’t.

“Lloyd, leave us. Go for a walk, or something,” Yuan said, turning to face the man with a piercing gaze. He knew objections would come, and they did.

“But… Maybe I should stay here in case-”

“No. This conversation is private and I need you to leave. If I catch you eavesdropping, there’ll be hell to pay.”

Lloyd bit the inside of his cheek, then nodded. “I’ll be back in a little bit,-” there was a moment of hesitation, in which he seemed to be weighing his next word, then added: “-Kratos.”

Still no ‘dad’, Yuan noted, feeling mildly victorious. He watched Lloyd leave the room, waited for the man to at least make it to the end of the hall, then turned his attention to Kratos again. His old friend had lifted his head, gaze apparently directed somewhere near Yuan’s knees, but still no words came.

Once again, he found himself torn between what he wanted to say and what would be wisest to say. Especially now that he’d gotten a better glimpse of Kratos’ state. He decided to compromise, for now. “I’d say you look well, but you and I both know it’d be a lie.”  

“Hm.”

There was a moment of silence. Yuan debated taking a few steps closer, but decided against it in the end. There was no point in beating around the bush, no point in idle chitchat. He heard the front door open and close as Lloyd left the house.

“I’ve known you far longer than your son has. I have an idea of what goes through that thick head of yours, even if I can’t sympathize with it. Most importantly, I know what you look like when you’re weighed down with guilt.”

That last word caused Kratos’ eyes to widen. Yuan could see right through him and now he knew it too. Was it a sign of friendship or a sign of rivalry? Perhaps a mix of both. A hundred years of absence, but some things never change. Yuan could feel his temper rising because he knew he wouldn’t like what he was about to hear. Even so, he pressed on.

“Tell me, Kratos. What have you done?”


To Be Continued

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