|The Princess and the Asch Forgotten
Author: Liberty SleepStorm PM
Sequel to Cherished and Forgotten Revised The myth of the silver flower turns out to be Malkuth and Kimlasca's greatest secret. While Asch and Natalia's lives are at risk, a certain General Curtis spindles the biggest scheme in history, turning Jade, Anise, Tear, and Luke's lives into the battlefield they cannot escape.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Hurt/Comfort - Asch & Natalia - Chapters: 11 - Words: 30,124 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 6 - Updated: 12-03-12 - Published: 07-16-12 - id: 8325967
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Princess and The Asch Forgotten
By Liberty SleepStorm
Summary: The myth of the silver flower turns out to be Malkuth and Kimlasca's greatest secret. While Asch and Natalia's lives are at risk, a certain General Curtis spindles the biggest scheme in history, turning Jade, Anise, Tear, and Luke's lives into the battlefield they can't escape.
Jade's eyebrows dipped. Jade's eyebrows rose. Jade's eyebrows creased. He transferred the head of the stethoscope to my back, inches beside my spine. The cold circumference of the metal made me shift the slant of my shoulders.
"Are we done?"
I took a deep breath to refrain from punching his pointed nose.
Tear and I had arrived at Grand Chockmah at dawn today. We discovered, upon entering Jade's property without notice, that his house was not as warm as it appeared on the outside. If not for Tear's keen eyes, my leg would have been torn off by the carefully hidden traps laying around the lawn.
Needless to say, Tear electrocuted herself as soon as her finger made contact with the front door, and Rene finally awoke to bid us enter. Jade whined about the declining manners of the youth, completely neglecting our horrid state until Tear begged to be medicated.
Jade only laughed at her and confessed the electric charge that had coursed through her body was caused only by the friction of the first fonons on her fifth fonons and nothing more, thus clearing her from injury. She, on the other hand, was too taken aback by the grandeur of his discovery about the first and fifth fonons to remain upset…until he mentioned that the succeeding paralysis she would experience would only last for about two hours.
I had helped her to the guest room when her legs lost sensation, and asked if it was a really good idea to be working with this mad scientist. He was, after all, a necromancer.
Tear relented that we had no choice.
Rene led me to an underground vicinity, to which my initial response was to stop and confirm if she was leading me where we were supposed to have the check-up. She confessed even she was frightened of the metal corridors leading to Jade's various chambers, but once inside them, she was rather safe.
Now I was sitting shirtless on an elevated bed, being poked with a stethoscope by this dangerous man.
Jade returned the head of the stethoscope on my chest. "Hm,"
I slapped his hand away. "You're playing with me," I said. "You've been listening to my heart for an entire hour!"
He removed the earpieces of the stethoscope at last and tossed it back on his table. "Well, Asch, you don't know what I've been listening to, do you?"
Heat climbed my face and flooded my head, making my fingers itch with the desire to cut him. I shrugged. "My heart?"
"Your fonon distribution."
"You can hear that through my heart?"
"Yes," he said. He walked over to the table supporting his medical paraphernalia, picked up a test tube, and hit it lightly against an Erlenmeyer flask. A tiny ring resonated. "Your fonons have different sounds, in fact. I've been listening to them this whole hour in order to determine if your seventh fonons skip even one second of its normal flow into you heart."
I truly wished I had a sword to threaten him with. That way, I wouldn't have to tolerate his methods of suspense. "And? Is anything abnormal?"
"No, not really…" He put his forefinger over his lips and masked a thoughtful expression. "Rather, your deposit of seventh fonons is abundant."
"I'm a seventh fonist."
Jade merely shrugged and took a swig of his tea.
A knock on the door interrupted my upcoming outburst. The knob turned, and Sharon Gymes entered, holding Tear's elbow to keep her standing upright.
I leapt off the bed. "Are you all right now?"
She forced a smile as she was lowered to the nearest chair. "Yes, yes. My legs are a little numb, still, that's all."
"That's normal," Jade said. "It means the friction is receding from your fonon stream well. The next you are caught in one of my traps, you will have a certain immunity."
Sharon walked past Jade and behind the apparatuses, shaking her head. "She's not a thief, Mr. Curtis. You will do better to be kinder to them."
I slipped my arms into the sleeves of my tunic, silently regarding the appearance of this plant expert who had volunteered to help us with our predicament. I watched her bicker with Jade about the purchase of the chemicals she demanded for.
The lack of lines on her face made a part of me doubt if she was truly the expert we were seeking. Petite, flawless, and thin, she fit the criteria of an adolescent military understudy, not a woman old enough to have lived, researched, and witnessed Hod's fall.
My attention averted to Tear, who was rotating her ankles to gain sensation. I cleared my throat. "Have you informed Jade about the trouble in Kimlasca?"
"I have, yes." She turned to Jade. "You called us here to discuss it, correct?"
Jade made an exaggerated sigh and tapped his forehead with two fingers. "How can such a grave matter possibly slip my mind? The trouble in Kimlasca, of course. What is Natalia's plan of action?"
Tear knocked her fists on her knees. "We're uncertain of the details yet, but Guy said she has something in mind. I'm not surprised she hasn't told him; even Luke is being kept in the dark."
I busied myself with buttoning my tunic. That was normal behavior for Natalia. She would bottle every worry in her gut and hold herself steady so as not to tip, and she would manage to keep standing long enough to solve it, just seconds before she crashed on the pavement.
"That's inconvenient," Sharon said with a melodic drop to her voice. "Who can we trust to coordinate us with the princess?"
The damn eighth button would not slip into its hole. I gave up. "Before that, I want to know why your uncle, General Jim Curtis, wants to overtake Kimlasca." I crossed my arms and looked at Jade. "According to Guy's story, he especially implied a threat to Natalia and Luke."
Jade stared back at me, his face vacant, his eyes sharp. "I am adopted, mind you, so I have no blood relation to that ludicrous soldier."
His response stopped me. This was the first time he had countered something in personal defense of himself.
Suddenly, he laughed, and he waved his hand to dismiss the vague discomfort that had befallen us all. "But I am, legally, related to him, so I might as well give you a proper answer. General Curtis is quite the loyal officer, and he'd die a thousand deaths in the name of the emperor. So if it is indeed him behind his whole scheme, rest assured, he isn't doing this to seat himself on any throne, but to expand the power of the Malkuth Empire."
"He might be seeking promotion, colonel," Tear added feebly.
"He is seeking it for himself," I said. "If his plan works and the whole of Auldrant goes under Malkuth rule, and if Emperor Peony dies without an heir, then he would be a valid candidate as sovereign. After all, doesn't the senate owe it to him? He probably has the majority as his minions all ready. All they have to do is to take Natalia down."
"The king is still alive, Asch," Tear said.
"We have to consider the worse."
"Don't think becoming sovereign will be that easy," Jade said. "Once under Malkuth rule and if Emperor Peony dies without a legit heir, then Kimlasca will revolt to redeem their throne. You may think that's the more reason to put him on the throne since he is a military veteran and putting Auldrant under martial law is but a piece of cake for him, but General Curtis is old and is suffering from kidney failure. He will not live long enough to reign."
Sharon gasped, covering her mouth instantly. "Kidney failure? But he looks so well for his age!"
"The magic of fonon transfusion." Jade smiled. "He copied a fragment of the first stages of my work on fomicry – fonon transfusion – and applied it to the legal medical field in order to sustain his kidneys. I'm baffled by your concern for him, Sharon."
She transferred to the stool beside Jade and crossed her legs. "I'm shocked, that's all. I've recently seen him attend a medical seminar in a province– his regiment was donating bricks in Reevia – and I had no suspicion of such ailment in him. If, at all, he looked rather healthy."
"Fonon transfusion does most of its trick on the surface," he explained. "If General Curtis doesn't die of kidney failure, he'll die of drug abuse. He's been taking sleeping pills and painkillers for the last nine years. What's more surprising is he manages to survive. Alas, even if we prove that he is the mastermind behind our predicament, we can rule out the possibility of taking down Kimlasca for his own gains. I told you, he won't do that."
I moved to sit beside Tear. "What if he creates a replica of himself?"
Jade clicked his tongue. "Funny, you asking that. Memories won't hold, as you have witnessed with Luke."
"Using his replica for kidney transplant?"
"Unless he rebuilds the machine and revives the data I had destroyed, there's no way for him to create replicas."
Sharon frowned at him. "Also unless he makes you do it."
Jade swung his head down to see her. "That's another point to consider, but I'd rather die than create another replica."
I leaned on the backrest, grateful for the support of the cushion. "You should have thought that before replicating me."
"Asch," Tear hissed.
I arched my left eyebrow. "First things first: we have to know what Natalia's game plan is before-"
"That's not my problem," Jade said.
I frowned. "What?"
"That's not my problem, Asch." Jade removed his eyeglasses and wiped the lenses with the seams of his lab coat. "I am from Malkuth, remember? I fight for the wellbeing of Malkuth and my emperor, not Kimlasca and its king."
I jumped to my feet. Tear seized my right arm.
"Why am I helping you with the silver flower?" Jade shrugged. "Because I may be your only hope for a solution, and I do want to sustain the peace I had risked my life for. The only reason I'm assisting you is for my benefit and my protection. Luke is my masterpiece, albeit he lacks a little bit in the intellect you seem to possess, but if he gets involved in anything political, he becomes my liability, and if my uncle does have anything to do with this scheme to overthrow Natalia, then I'll handle him, but anything outside of that is none of my concern."
Tear stood in front of me, hissing my name, begging me to look down at her. I stripped my eyes off Jade and obeyed, and she whispered, "Asch, your focus is to make sure Natalia survives this. If she doesn't, then Kimlasca has nothing left to fight for. Listen, Asch. Do you understand? We need Jade's help, whether we like it or not."
I replayed her words in my mind in an attempt to stop my body from shaking, to stop my hands from reaching out to strangle him, to stop myself from lashing on Tear when all she wanted to do was to help me.
I turned my head away. "Agreed. But you will handle your side of this mess, is that clear, Jade?"
"As clear as I expect it to be," he responded.
Sharon stood in the middle of the room. "I don't want to get involved in your affairs any more than is needed, so let us proceed with the task of finding a cure for Asch and the princess. Is that okay with everybody?"
I sat down. Tear mouthed a 'thank you', and sat beside me.
Sharon nodded in approval and fished a handful of files from a brown envelope. She asked Tear to help her rotate the spare table so it was on the center. "These files," she said, laying down a bank of reports on the table, "Are copies of Natalia's last lab tests in Belkend one week ago. If you'll look at report number three, you'll see there that her fonon levels are streaming in her bloodstream at a decreasing rate."
I raced Jade to the paper labeled Report Three, to which he did nothing but grab the next report instead.
"Ah." Sharon Gymes peered at the report he was holding up. "That's Report Four. It's about her seventh fonons. That's the most crucial of all information I had gathered in the labs."
Jade smirked at me, and proceeded to read its contents: "Princess Natalia Luzu Kimlasca Lanvaldear, through the six blood tests undertaken in her two-day examination, has been proven to suffer from fonon anemia, and may be susceptible to various deceases rooting from the slow decline of her immune system. She will be tested for the following diseases every four days: leukemia, multiple sclerosis, polio, brain tumor, meningitis, encephalitis…" he skimmed the rest of the page. "And basically every disease that has surfaced in human history."
I snatched the paper from him. Tear held the other end of the paper in order to see.
My consciousness passed all the technicalities and landed on the doctor's note at the end of the report. I blinked at it to see if it would change. When I read it aloud, I could no longer deny it, and so I regretted it.
"Seventh fonons are infected by a high-caliber poison of unknown cause and origin. Continued infection may result to cardiac arrest or stroke, and may lead to immediate death. Patient is advised to be in constant watch of the Royal Physicians…" Slowly, I put the paper down. It lay so innocently there, watching me, daunting me.
Sharon Gymes handed it back to Jade. "This is what I meant when I sent you a message from Belkend. This is highly confidential, and the princess went to extreme measures to withdraw this from public knowledge."
"Then how were you able to attain it?" Tear asked.
Sharon lifted another file containing a picture of a flimsy man in round glasses. "This is Dr. Charlius Limsey. He was in an accident some two days after Princess Natalia left Belkend. He's just finished brain surgery and he's intensive care right now. I entered his office during the commotion and returned the files just before Dr. Finch was tasked to handle the case."
Jade touched his chin, thoughtful. "And you think that by harvesting a Rugnican Death Crop for the second time, we will be able tweak it and retract the infected seventh fonons in Natalia's bloodstream?"
"I-I don't follow," I confessed.
Jade told Tear to switch off the light. The room fell dark, a click sounded, and a projection of a drawing appeared on the white screen. He pointed at the miniscule thorns protruding from the pores of the petals. "This is the Rugnican Death Crop, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks to Miss Gymes, we were able to determine that this plant is a far relative of our nemesis, the giant tree and the silver flowers. The those thorns you see on the petals of the Death Crop emit fonon-engulfing substances."
Sharon walked over to the projection. "I believe that by re-engineering those substances, we can inject these into the princess' bloodstream and cause it to engulf all of her infected fonons, thus preventing the poison from further spreading and affecting her health."
"Is this the cure?" I had to ask.
"A temporary cure," Jade answered. "This will suffice for the time being. Now all we need the both of you to do is to go back to Mushroom Road to harvest the crop. The sooner you return with it, the sooner Sharon and I will be able to engineer this little monster."
Tear pursed her lips and hugged her elbows. "If it emits those fonon engulfing substances then why weren't we warned the first time we harvested it?"
"Anise was wearing gloves," he said.
"Mother's – I mean, the duchess' physician needed the roots only," I said. "He probably didn't know about those substances. We should…we should leave for Mushroom Road as soon as possible, Tear. We can buy supplies this afternoon."
Jade turned on the light. "You can't go off like you're only going there to play. Sharon will instruct you on how to harvest the crop properly while Asch will go under further examination."
"Why?" I turned around to see him. "You've probed me enough. We have to go!"
The banging on the door cut us short. Jade told Rene to enter, but the person who did was another we didn't expect.
Guy nodded at each of us in the room. "My apologies for disturbing whatever this is, but I've just docked from Keterburg and came here as soon as I can. I have news – very grave news." He paused to catch his breath. "Natalia and Luke are back in Kimlasca. The king had a heart attack."
I didn't want to sleep, because every time I closed my eyes, I feared to see the old
woman with green eyes, holding the paper, pinning the paper beneath the rock, accusing me of betrayal.
And yet, that was exactly what I had done.
Taking back my proposal was the fulfillment of that nightmare.
I shifted on the bed, listening to the groans of my muscles and shifting again until they stopped. This was hopeless, I thought. No position would suffice as long as I was inside Jade's laboratory, attached to that stupid beeping machine overhead.
I jolted, snapping my head towards the door. I didn't even hear it open.
Tear raised her left hand, the other balancing a cup of tea. "I'm sorry I scared you."
I released my breath and overlapped my hands on my abdomen. "You didn't scare me."
"Yes, well," Tear kicked the door close. The clinking of the teacup eased the beeping of the machine into the background.
"Is that mine?" I dared to look at it, at that smooth surface of honey tea.
She sniffed the steam and took a sip. "You can't eat for the next twelve hours, remember?"
I groaned but said nothing further.
Tear set aside her tea and pulled the couch towards my bed. I watched her heave at it with all her might. "What are you doing?" I said.
She paused to pant. "I told Jade I'd be watching you overnight."
"If I die, the monitor is supposed to send off some alarm in his room."
"If you die," Tear said, turning around to face me, "I can wake up and revive you before Jade can reach this vicinity."
"You'll revive me?"
She blinked. "Of course."
I shrugged. "A wonder."
Tear resumed to pulling the couch. Once it was a few feet from my bed, she sat down and drank her tea. Silence stretched, and this one, I thought, I really didn't mind. She was excellent at blending into the background while never being fully absent from my awareness.
In simile, she was like my sword; she was there when I needed help, but she didn't nag me otherwise. Perhaps it had been too long since I had another person care for me as such that at first, it bothered me having her around, but after Keterburg, when she wrapped her arms around my neck and told me I was not alone, I believed her.
I believed that for the first time, somebody understood.
So I didn't mind having her watch me tonight. Besides, I didn't have my sword with me.
"The rest of them are sleeping," Tear said. She returned the cup on the nearby table. "Guy wrote to Luke instructing him to keep communication discreet. No one outside the castle knows about the king's true condition, but as we discussed earlier, the struggle for the throne must be escalating."
"If Natalia has a plan that she's not telling anyone, it means she's found a way to shoulder all the sacrifices that has to be made to meet her goals."
"We can't count on that. Natalia's initial hope was to end the rumors by having you resume your office."
I shook my head at the ceiling. "She doesn't do things that way. She'll correct things without having to depend on anybody's coming and going."
"Hypothetically speaking," Tear cleared her throat, and through the corner of my eye, I saw her straighten her back, "If neither of you were struck by the silver flower…would you have returned to Baticul in order to save her?"
That would have been my last resort, I thought. I would have preferred to work behind the scenes and not disturb the reality Baticul had settled into since I left. There was no place for two Luke fon Fabre, and so I would remain the ashes for as long as I could, and work with the ashes as long as they would suffice. Natalia wouldn't have forced me to return either way. She didn't work that way. Her belongingness was confirmed by her usefulness to other people and her ability to avoid inconveniences for them. She wouldn't have understood me fully, but she would have tried, and she would have depended on what she already shared with me – faith.
She trusted that I would return on my own free will, on the time destined by fate.
The problem was, fate did not exist. If it did, it gave no mercy to a real royalty like Natalia.
I regretted not having told her the answer to Tear's question, because had there been no other way to resolve this lest I returned, I would have returned. I would throw away my pains and be a stronger man for her.
Natalia deserved none of these.
I glimpsed Tear. "Before I forget, thank you."
"What did you say?"
"I won't repeat it."
"Okay. ..What are you thanking me for?"
She sighed. "Good night, Asch. Sleep tight."