Disclaimer: Tales of the Abyss is copyright Namco Bandai.
Lord Teon had raised dogs all his life, but he had never seen one quite like the sixth and last pup in the litter of his prized red setter, Molly.
They were all beautiful puppies, to be sure- Molly came from a long line of fine hunting dogs, and Teon's manor was known through all of Kimlasca for the quality of its animals- but the sixth puppy was especially so. His fur was the brilliant red of fresh blood, and his eyes an emerald green, the likes of which Teon had never seen before.
But something wasn't quite right about him. He didn't play like the other puppies- he seemed quite content to sit by himself while his litter mates romped about the kennel, snarling and snapping should one of them invite him to join in their games. Indeed, he only interacted with them when he absolutely had to, such as when it was time to eat or at night when he claimed a sizable portion of the blanket for his own. At these times he was quite vicious and mean, biting to the point of drawing blood, and only Molly's intervention- a disciplinary nip of her own- would stay his aggression. He always listened to Molly, contenting himself to glare at his siblings instead. Eventually, however, the other puppies learned to avoid him, and he was left in peace.
Teon would have worried that this aberrant behavior was a sign of brain damage did the puppy not also seem to be incredibly smart. Almost from the moment he opened his eyes he seemed to become fascinated by the latch on the kennel door; as soon as he was big enough to reach it he had undone it and let himself out. His escape was foiled by his siblings, who also escaped through the opened door and were running all about the manor's grounds. At first Teon thought that the unhinged latch was due to the carelessness of the kennel boy, who was duly disciplined; only later did he realize the truth, when he just happened to catch the pup in the act of opening the door- being careful this time to close it again behind him. When this second attempt failed and the latch was reinforced, the pup seemed to give up his plans for escape- until Teon found the halfway dug tunnel hidden by a strategic placement of the kennel blankets.
The sixth pup, for his part, was also unsure what to make of himself. From the moment he could perceive almost everything had had the strangest tinge of familiarity, even though he was new to the world and had never left the kennel beyond the unsuccessful escape. He found that the utterances of the large bipeds- the humans- had meaning. They formed words, and sentences, and usually concerned things outside the kennel he couldn't possibly understand- harvests and bandit raids and the stablemaster's secret affair with one of the maids that everyone seemed to know about. But he did understand them, down to every illicit detail of the stablemaster's capers. During his first escape, he discovered that he could even read the signs he came across before being recaptured.
In part because of this, he found kennel life to be boring and rather insulting. His litter mates might be content to play, eat and sleep within its confines, but he knew that there was much more to the world than a small cage with a flimsy latch. All of his escape attempts were thwarted; the latch was now reinforced and the flooring replaced to be impenetrable he ceased his attempts.
But then there were the dreams. The pup had never gone a night without being haunted by strange images and emotions- happiness, love, fear sorrow, anger, and hate, so powerful that many nights he'd wake up with a cry. At first the images were vague and inscrutable, but as he grew they continued and gained more focus, and he began to make out people- two with hair as red as he supposed his fur must be (dogs can't distinguish the color red, but his dream eye could; it was yet more supposedly unknowable knowledge he possessed.) Then there was a girl, with auburn hair down to her shoulders; he got a strangely warm feeling every time he saw her. Yet there was a sadness surrounding the dreams of these three, a regretfulness and a sense of loss. Sometimes there was a large man, with gray brown hair and a goatee- the pup's feelings of admiration, respect, and anger were as vivid as they were varied when he thought of him. There was also third red-head, a male youth, who appeared a little after the others, and his feelings toward him were stronger than any other. He hated him on sight. There was something about his appearance that was simply infuriating, as though his very existence was a mockery and an insult. As the dreams became clearer, he began to interact with the dream people, as though he too were a human, and as if these dreams were memories...
It was not until several months later, however, that the pup had a revelation. He had a new dream, more distinct than any other, and he was fighting the red-headed youth with a beautiful but somehow incomplete sword. He fought fiercely, but lost. He threw the sword to the other, and they began to talk. For the first time, he began to clearly hear words. He was urging the other onward and staying behind to fight a rush of oncoming soldiers.
"Promise me you'll survive! If you don't, Natalia and I will... never stop grieving!" the red-head shouted to him as he left.
"Shut up! Fine, I promise! Now go!" he replied in an eerily similar voice. "Humph... no time left... I'm going to disappear soon..." He turned to face the soldiers.
"Out of the way!" one shouted.
"No. Your fight is with me, Asch-"
-no, Luke fon Fabre! the pup awoke with yelp of shock. It came back to him all at once, as clearly as if it had just happened- he was dreaming he was a human because he had been human, born Luke fon Fabre to a noble family in Batical. He was a perfect isofon of Lorelei, the Seventh fonon. He'd been kidnapped at the age of ten and replaced by a replica of himself, joining the Oracle Knights and taking the name and title of Asch the Bloody. The people in his dreams were his parents, the treacherous Van, his beloved Natalia and his own replica, who had taken the name of Luke in his stead. Despite his hatred for his replica, he had helped him in saving the world, for the sake of his Kimlasca, his Natalia... he had died for them... A slight shiver ran through him as his memories reached this conclusion.
And now he was here, a half-grown puppy in a Kimlascan lord's kennel. Asch had no idea what had happened to put him in this position, but he did know one thing: he definitely couldn't stay here knowing the truth. He stood up and walked to the door, examining the new latch. The old one had only required him to lift it with his nose; this one had to be twisted in a certain fashion. Carefully, he rose up and tried to manipulate it with his forepaws, but try as he might they weren't dexterous enough to to fully open it. Eventually, he grabbed it with his teeth to finish turning it, blanching at the metallic taste. Silently he stepped out of the kennel and into the night. He looked back at Molly, who was awake and staring at him perplexedly. All of the other puppies had been sold; prospective buyers had complimented Asch's beauty but been put off by his antisocial nature. Feeling strange, he walked back and touched his nose in farewell. Then he exited again, this time for good, closing the door as best he could behind him.
He stealthily made his way across the manor. His night vision was much better than that of the human guards, and he had little trouble slipping through the hedges and under the wall via an abandoned burrow.
Once outside of the manor grounds, Asch paused, considering his next move. He had no place in particular to go- one direction was as good as any other. Making his choice, he padded silently into the night.