This is probably my least favourite chapter. *sigh* A lot of this turned out being too cheesy for my tastes, but I couldn't figure out how to cut that out without cutting out plot points. Oh well. (The scene between Zelos and Sheena might get a rework later...)
I really need to put aside a few days to work on art and skits, rather than rushing it like I have. *sigh* I swear, my art is not this bad usually...
Anyway, thanks again to anyone who's been reading this, and I hope you keep liking it!
Chapter Four – It's Beginning To Get To Me
Disclaimer: I do not own Tales of Symphonia or anything related to it thereof. Why I would, I have no idea.
Note: This is a shot at a bunny that's been eating my brain for no particular reason. I've always liked the idea of Zelos going through the Chosen ritual instead, and what that would entail. This is probably by no means a canon take on things, and really just me playing around with a rather odd plot device. *chuckle* Oh, and the title of the fanfiction and chapters come from the songs of the same name by Snow Patrol, which me listening to them is what really got the bunny rolling. Other than that, I really have no reason for this strange thing.
Are you beginning to get my point
That all this fighting with aching joints
Is doing nothing but tire us out
And no-one knows what this fight's about
It's Beginning To Get To Me
"Chosen of Regeneration... You have done well in reaching this far. Now, offer your prayers at the altar."
Zelos sighed, looking at the glowing light over the altar before stepping forward. "Yeah, yeah," he muttered, folding his hands in prayer. "Oh Goddess Martel, great protector and nurturer of the earth, grant me thy strength!" Zelos unfurled his wings, floating up a little, with a grimace of pain on his face.
The light over the altar glowed brighter, dissipating and floating upwards into the ceiling of the cavern. A burst of light appeared from the ceiling, lighting up the dank place as a ball of light floated down. The ball flashed, and then Azrael appeared, hovering down a little, his usual sublime smile plastered on his face.
"The second seal is now released. You have done well, Chosen One," he said, his tone light and airy.
Zelos snorted to himself. "Sure thing."
"Accept this blessing from Cruxis. I hereby grant you additional angelic power," he said, his hand outstretched. Zelos sighed, lowering his head and folding his hands again. The four coloured lights appeared as they did before, twisting and converging into Zelos, causing him to glow briefly and his wings to shimmer.
"The next seal lies far to the northeast, in a place where a storm's power resides on a solitary island. Offer your prayers at the altar in that distant land," Azrael droned, his wings fluttering. Zelos just gave a nod. Azrael paused for a moment, staring at Zelos, but just smiled a bit wider, floating upwards again and disappearing into the blinding light above. "I will be waiting for you at the next seal, Chosen. Hurry and become a true angel," his voice echoed in the chamber, and the light faded. Zelos sighed, floating down to the ground again.
"Ah, glad that's over," Zelos sighed and stretched, rubbing his arm where he got cut from the earlier fight. "Augh, if I ever see another rat again, it'll be too soon," he muttered. The monster of the seal had been a giant, dark mole like creature that had razor-sharp claws. It was horrible to fight, as it took to burrowing underground and then attacking the group while it was hidden, as well as casting dreadful attacks that would cause earthquakes and almost knock down most of the group.
Sheena sighed, also worn out from the fight. "Ugh, I'd have to agree. That thing was vicious," she muttered, looking around the dank cavern, her eyes still adjusting back to the darkness after all the bright lights. Regal and Presea also looked tired, rubbing their own cuts and bruises.
The trip down to the room with the seal hadn't been easy, and they had been stopped multiple times by those strange Gnomeletts. (One had wanted them to cook, another wanted them to guard him as he led them down to a bridge they had to collapse, and only one was actually kind to them.)
"I can't wait to get out of this cave," Zelos whined, the group starting their way back out of the Temple. At least this time they knew the way out. Their first attempts to wander around the Temple got them nearly lost and trying to get back to any place they recognized was difficult since most of the areas looked the same. It didn't help that Zelos had taken to playing with Sorcerer's Ring during their trek through the place, which either caused rocks or monsters to fall on them.
"Just don't play with that ring anymore while we're in here, and we'll be out quickly," Sheena told him, ready to pluck it off his fingers if he tried it again. Zelos chuckled a little nervously, shaking his head. "Believe me hunny, I'm not gonna," he said.
About halfway back to the entrance, Zelos stopped, his face growing a little pale. Sheena stopped as well, worried. "Oh no, you're not going to faint again, are you?" she said, coming off more harsh than she meant to, but starting to expose her wrist to feel his forehead for a temperature.
Zelos paused, but shook his head, continuing to walk. "I'll be fine," he muttered. Sheena pursed her lips, not really believing him, but pulled her glove back on and followed him.
The group blinked in the light outside the Temple, a little blinded from the sudden change in light. "Why are all these places so dark?" Sheena muttered, walking past Zelos, who had stopped short again.
"...Chosen?" Regal inquired, stopping when he noticed that Zelos was not keeping up with the group. "Are you all right?"
Zelos paused, his face blanching again, and shook his head before he tilted and started to fall. Sheena rushed forward, catching him and getting him to balance. Regal sighed, nodding to himself. "Let's set up camp then."
Sheena awoke, shaking her head as some tendrils of a dream still lingered in her mind. She may have been sleeping for maybe thirty minutes, if she was lucky. They had found another clearing not far from the temple and had set up a camp very quickly. Zelos had been passed out for most of the time and didn't even stir when Regal broke a large log in half for the fire. When they had all retired for bed though, Sheena found it hard to sleep, worry and anxiety swirling in her gut. Apparently, she wasn't going to be able to stay asleep, either.
Grumbling to herself, she looked around the small camp, where Regal and Presea were still curled up near the now dead fire. Zelos' bed, however, was empty. A new surge of worry filled her gut, as she looked around the surrounding hills and calmed when she saw him sitting on a hill close to the camp.
"Hey," she called, climbing up the small incline towards him. Zelos turned and looked at her, then went back to looking up at the stars. "Why are you still up?" Sheena asked, sitting next to him.
He shrugged, still looking upwards. "Can't sleep."
Sheena nodded in agreement. "Me, too. Just must be all the anxiety or something," she said, chuckling a little nervously as she curled up a little.
Zelos however shook his head, touching her shoulder so she would look at him. "No," he said. "I can't sleep."
She stared at him, raising her eyebrow. She wasn't sure what he was trying to get at. "Right. Sometimes people can't fall asleep-" He cut her off though, leaning in a little closer, looking exasperated. "No," he ground out. "I can't sleep."
Sheena withdrew a little from him, confused. "What- What do you mean? You can't be serious-" she stopped though when she caught the look on his face. "...you are?"
Zelos sighed heavily, releasing her shoulder and leaning back. "I just can't fall asleep, no matter how hard I try," he began. He looked like he had been dying to get this off his chest, looking at her for some sort of reassurance in what he was saying.
Sheena, however, snorted a little, still not sure if she believed him. "What are you talking about? You were passed out for hours back at camp."
Zelos gave her a look though, shaking his head. "I wasn't really asleep. I just didn't want to get up."
Sheena sighed at him, burying her head in her hands. "That doesn't mean you can't sleep, though..."
"I wouldn't be too worried about it if I could still eat, too," he said, catching her off guard.
Sheena blinked, raising her eyebrow again. "What do you mean you can't eat-" she stopped again, thinking of how little he had been eating lately, as things suddenly started to click in her mind. She turned to look at him, her expression of faint horror and disbelief. "You're... you're kidding."
Zelos chuckled cynically, catching her look. "I wish I was. I stopped feeling hungry after the first seal. Well, at first I thought it was rather convenient – didn't have to stop to eat or anything. But, quite frankly, it sucks," he ended with a sigh, obviously not pleased with what was going on. "And now I can't sleep either." Sheena was speechless, completely unsure of what to say to him. She still couldn't believe that what he was saying was true, but...
Zelos looked at her, raising an eyebrow at her shock. "What? Did you think that your cooking was that bad?" he teased, pleased when Sheena flushed and glared at him in response. He just chuckled sarcastically, continuing. "Heh, it's just all the food is... tasteless. And I don't get hungry, so there's no real point in eating it, is there?" He shrugged. "Makes me feel sick if I do try to eat anyway."
Sheena stared at him, her stomach twisting. "...How... Why are you telling me this?" she said, still unsure of what to say to him. How could something like that be happening to him? How was it even possible? It wasn't right.
Zelos just laughed. "Oh, I dunno. I don't know the big guy or the little girl well, and I wanted your sympathy, hunny," he said sarcastically. Sheena fumed.
"How can you stay so nonchalant about this?" she yelled, making him back up a bit with the force of her voice. "You're..." she trailed off, starting to feel her stomach flip in worry, her fist clenching into the grass beneath her. She stopped, biting her lower lip. Why was this bothering her so much, and why did this man always frustrate her so much?
Zelos paused, a little surprised in Sheena's mood change. He looked at her hands fisted in the ground, and then looked back up at her face, which was partly covered by her bangs as she looked downwards. "...Sheena," he began, his tone quiet and concerned.
"No! You... Stupid Chosen!" she said looking up at him. "Don't you want to eat? Don't you want to sleep when you're tired? What- what is happening to you?"
Zelos shrunk back from her a little, and then looked down at the ground. "...I suppose it's just part of this Chosen deal," he said. He sighed audibly, looking tired. "I may not like it, but I don't have much choice in the matter anyway." Sheena tried to glare at him again, but failed, feeling more and more unsure.
"I'll be fine, I'll be fine," he chastised, waving his hand to calm her as he caught her look. "I'm sure I can think of something good out of this," he mumbled, looking thoughtful for a moment. Sheena stared at him, feeling her stomach flip and her face grow warm when he looked up at her, his face grinning. "I know! I don't get hungry, and I don't get tired! I could be the best lover ever!"
Sheena face faulted, her unease disappearing as fast as it came. "What?" she asked in disbelief.
Zelos grinned, looking very pleased with himself. "I would have the best stamina ever! I'd never have to stop!" He laughed triumphantly, pleased with his discovery.
Sheena just stared at him, getting up. "Augh, you're horrible! How can you think of something like that?"
Zelos just smiled lewdly at her, also getting up. "Well, perhaps we could test my theory," he said seductively, leaning in close to her.
Sheena glared at him angrily, turning away and slapping her hand against her forehead. "Just... shut up, you stupid Chosen," she ground out, walking away from him a little, her face flushed. The man was insufferable! Zelos chuckled, wrapping his arms behind his head.
After a pause, Sheena turned and looked at him again, her tone gentle and quiet. "Are you sure you'll be okay?" she asked.
Zelos paused as well. "...Eventually. You get some sleep," he said, his tone also gentle. "You need it more than me," he added jokingly, grinning at her like always. Sheena looked at him disbelievingly, but nodded, walking down the hill to return to the camp.
Zelos sighed a little, a little bit of a smile still on his face. "...I'll be fine."
The following morning the group dismantled the camp easily after a quick breakfast. Sheena kept to herself what Zelos had decided to tell her last night, still half hoping that it was just some crazed dream due to stress. Zelos seemed tired though, and only ate a small portion of his food, which was quickly becoming the norm.
Once breakfast was done, they all gathered around the small Tethe'alla map that Sheena brought along, contemplating where the next seal could be. "Well, Azrael mentioned that it was 'in a place where a storm's power resides on a solitary island,''" Regal said, looking studiously at the map in front of him. "I believe that may be the Temple of Lighting that he's talking about..."
Sheena instantly froze. "Ah- Ah, but-" she stammered, catching the attention of the rest of the group.
"What is wrong?" Presea asked, looking at her as if analyzing her for damage. Sheena continued to stammer for a moment before turning away, unable to form the words. Regal and Presea exchanged curious glances, and Zelos just looked at her quietly.
"There's always the Temple of Darkness!" Sheena blurted out. "That's much closer, and it's not like we have to do them in the order that Azrael is giving us!"
Regal raised an eyebrow. "Yes, but those clues are the easiest to follow-"
"Ah, stuff it old man," Zelos said, making both Sheena and Regal flush, although mostly from anger on Regal's part. "If Sheena doesn't want to go to the Temple of Lighting yet, we don't have to." He stretched, as if to prove his point. "Anyway, she's right. The Temple of Darkness isn't far from the Fooji Mountains, and we're much closer to it than that dank little island." He grinned. "Besides, I'm tired of following whatever that high and mighty angel has to say."
Sheena stilled. She wasn't sure whether to kill him or thank him profusely for causing this detour. After all, he probably knew about that...
Zelos must have caught her look, because he chuckled, wrapping his arms behind his head. Regal merely gave another sigh. "...I suppose that's true. The legends do seem to mention the Temple of Darkness anyway..." he said, pausing to try and recall what he was taught as a boy.
"Sure does," Zelos said nonchalantly. "Besides, I don't think visiting a Temple is going to set us off track."
Presea nodded mechanically, turning to face west. "While closer than the Temple of Lightning, the Temple of Darkness is approximately 88.4 kilometers from this location. It will take two days to reach the destination on foot in best conditions."
Zelos shrunk away from the girl some, a little creeped out. This girl was way too strange, even for his tastes. "Dear little Presea, how on earth do you continue to do that..." He paused, realizing something. "Two days?! Augh, why are these things so far away from each other..."
"You are the one who decided on this, Chosen," Regal said, already starting to walk.
"Yeah, Zelos, come on. Quit complaining," Sheena remarked, walking as well, Presea close behind.
"Ah, wait for meee-" Zelos whined, chasing after them.
It took a very long three days to get to the Temple of Darkness, mostly since it started to rain the second day of the journey to it and all through that night. They had stopped at a House of Guidance the day before to stock up on supplies, but the flimsy tents they had packed didn't do much to block the rain from soaking them limb from limb.
Near the end of the third day, they finally reached the Temple of Darkness. The whole group had nearly fallen down the steep cliff that led to the Temple multiple times since the whole slope was slick with the rain. Sheena had a near deadly fall at the top when the ground gave way beneath her. But Zelos had managed to catch her, flying down to catch her easily.
"Hey, what do you know, these things are useful," he teased, hugging her tight as he brought her back up to the ridge where the Temple lay. As soon as he let go of her, Sheena gave him a firm smack before walking off, fuming.
"Yeah, you're welcome, too, hunny!"
The group gathered around the entrance to the Temple. The tall domed building almost loomed over them, casting a dark shadow over the group as the sun began to set behind it. Sheena shuddered as she looked at it. "Augh, I hate this place..."
"So, this is the Temple of Darkness," Regal remarked, looking up at the rather imposing structure.
"Yeah," Sheena said. "I've been here once before with the Elemental Research Academy, at least before the Tower of Salvation disappeared, and it sealed back up."
Regal nodded. "Ah, yes. I heard about that. All the Temples became sealed and would not open until the Chosen accepted his journey and opened them himself, correct?"
Sheena gave a nod in response, looking back at Zelos who was looking out over the cliff. Her heart thudded faintly as she remembered what he had told her only a few nights ago. Feeling awkward, she turned away, focusing her attention elsewhere. "...Yeah. Although, what a Chosen we got..." she mumbled.
"What was that, hunny?!" Zelos yelled, obviously hearing what she said.
"Nothing," Sheena whistled innocently.
After coaxing a grumbling Zelos to come and touch the Oracle Stone so they could enter the temple, the group all crowed into the pitch-black temple. "...Is it just me, or is it darker in here than it is outside?" Zelos said, stumbling around for a moment in the darkness, nearly tripping over Regal.
Sheena squinted into the dark, almost hoping that she could try and see something. "Augh, I forgot about this..." Sheena sighed, exasperated.
"Forgot what?! That you can't see anything in here?" Zelos said, still trying to find a way in the darkness and this time tripping into Presea.
Sheena sighed. "We need the Blue Candle. The guys at the Elemental Research Academy have it, so..."
"That is in Meltokio, right?" Regal said, yelping when Zelos crashed into him.
"Augh, sorry, big guy," Zelos mumbled.
Sheena fumed. "Zelos! Quit walking around! You can't see!" She tumbled after him, too, but being careful of their companions.
Regal quickly regained composure, coughing a little as Sheena and Zelos fumbled in the darkness – Sheena was trying to make him stop moving. "Well, we would need to return to Meltokio for that, then."
The movement in front of him instantly stilled, and Zelos let out a long whine. "Back?! Again?! You've got to be kidding me-"
Well, finally got this chapter done. *sigh* I'm not too sure of the dialogue between Zelos and Sheena when he tells her what's happening to him... Right now it feels kinda cheesy. Kinda sad that it's the longest bit in this chapter. Oh well. I might rework it, but for right now it'll do. (I need a beta...)
This chapter kinda feels... pathetic to me. I wanted to have so much more happen, but I couldn't think of anything good for right now. I've got ideas lined up for the next chapter at least, and I'll get the story going a bit faster paced. Right now it feels like I'm writing the Lord of the Rings or something... We're walking, we're walking- *hit* (Not that this fanfiction is comparable by any means to it, but goodness, did Tolkien draw out that journey...)
Anyway, next chapter! It'll be much more exciting, I promise. Will Zelos' return to Meltokio bode well, or is something waiting for them there? Find out next week on- *hit*
...Anyway. Hope you're enjoying this.