Hello. Obviously, this update is way over three years late. Even as I type that (three years!), I'm wincing. Hence, this important update.
Below is the meagre part of the next chapter I had written, but that's not all there is.
I'm sure this comes as no surprise, but I likely won't be updating this again. I've been in denial for every bit of these past three years and three months, thinking that I was going to keep going but never getting to it.
I can't stand letting this go unresolved. Promethes Mneme has been my ghost all this time. So, you can read what I have for the next part, and after that, you can read a synopsis of what was going to happen after that.
My final comments are at the very end.
Luke rubbed his face a few times as they went in, trying to make it less obvious he'd been crying. As he and Jade walked through the doors, he caught sight of a few concerned looks sent his way but he ignored them and instead made straight for Asch.
Surprisingly, Asch showed him courtesy and also ignored Luke's red-rimmed eyes and blotched skin. Not so surprisingly, he started without a greeting and went straight to the point. "The Albiore's in decent shape. Tonight we'll have parts from the Tartarus put in, and tomorrow morning will be the first test flight."
"That's fast," said Luke, blinking.
Aston growled and jumped almost between the two, clearly having taken offense. "We're professionals, boy, we're not banging rocks together! We know how to get the job done right!"
"Er, clearly," said Luke, startled, and sighed quietly when Aston seemed satisfied. From nearby, Guy shot him a smirk.
"Now," said Tamara, "with the help of the two young men here - " She gestured to Guy and Asch, who both nodded. " - the job will be done fast if we take turns through the night. But the second ship is quite a ways behind the Albiore. It won't be done for a while, so I hope you don't need both of them."
"No, just the one," said Luke, and smiled at Tamara. "Thanks for being so accommodating."
"Don't sweat it," she said, waving a hand, and that was that.
Jade made his way over from where he'd been talking with Iemon. "I'd say we should get started. Those working on the Albiore need to get as much done as possible and those who are not should get some sleep."
"Agreed," said Guy. "But how're we going to get the parts from the Tartarus to here?"
"We've got a truck and willing muscle," said Aston, "so don't worry. Iemon will go with them to get the right parts, and me and Tamara will go touch up the Albiore to get it ready."
"Well, if you've got all this organized already," said Luke, "I think I'm going to turn in..."
Asch rolled his eyes at Luke's hesitation. "So go, then."
"Fine." Luke rolled his eyes back without realizing it, and wondered as he left why Guy couldn't seem to stop grinning.
"Room fifteen!" called Tear and Luke waved in acknowledgement.
A quick walk later and Luke took a bed, the one by the window. The sun had set already, so after he took off his shoes and jacket, Luke leaned against the window, wondering how to kill a little time before he went to sleep. He pulled open his travel bag for inspiration and there lay the books he had taken from the Daath library.
The first one he pulled out was a little shorter than the others, being from the children's section, so Luke decided to start with that one. How Lorelei Stopped the Miasma. He flipped through the pages, seeing what was in store. Just a short little story.
Once upon a time... Luke idly turned pages, reading through the story, until he got to the point where the miasma was created. His eyes nearly bugged out of his head when he realized what he was seeing. Lorelei lived in the core of the earth, where he could be part of the world he protected. This place he shared with his counterpart Ganthra, his opposite and equal. He stopped reading for a second, absorbing that.
That was... This was heresy. What was this doing in the Daath library?
He kept reading. But more than the other spirit partners, Lorelei and Ganthra didn't get along. They fought over everything, not letting their rival have anything. Neither was willing to let the other win, neither willing to compromise. As time went on, they fought over bigger and bigger things. Soon, they were fighting over Auldrant itself.
Their battle went on for days and weeks. From the duel that was never supposed to be, something new was born, something also never meant to exist: the miasma.
The miasma was a sickness that spread through the earth, the waters, and the air. It poisoned all that lived on Auldrant, bringing death instead of the life that Lorelei and Ganthra were to spread together. Ganthra, in her misery and fury, used the miasma against Lorelei. Horrified at what they had done, Lorelei called on the other spirits and used all their might to banish Ganthra. She left Auldrant forever.
With a void in Auldrant's core, it fell to Lorelei to maintain the core. He absorbed the world and was absorbed by the world.
Years passed and signs of the lost balance came to pass. Humanity, not knowing what happened, lived lifetimes without feeling the changes. Plants and animals could sense it, though. In the northern forests, small creatures who lived in trees discovered Lorelei for themselves.
One day a girl named Yulia went for a walk in the woods. In the middle of the forest, she found a giant tree surrounded by little animals she called cheagles. There, they taught her about Lorelei. Lorelei himself came and talked with Yulia. In the time they had together, they became friends. They formed a pact and Lorelei told Yulia about the future to come. She wrote down everything he said on seven tablets the size of mountains and Lorelei taught her to use his essence to read them whenever she needed.
That's how we received the Score, where we can read Lorelei's words of our world, forever engraved for us all to learn and grow.
And it went on, further describing how the Score was for everyone and was to be followed as Lorelei's sacred word - Luke just stopped reading and went back to the part about 'Ganthra'. He traced the drawings of Lorelei and Ganthra fighting in what appeared to be a round room, filled with smoke and lights. Their figures were undefined, Lorelei somewhat resembling a man with a sword and Ganthra somewhat resembling a liger.
The creation of the miasma was frustratingly vague, thought Luke, frowning at the pages. But it was more than he would have had before. Not only was Gunthrea real and apparently acknowledged by Daath, she was a part of Auldrant. Or at least, she used to be. But only if this book had any truth to it, which of course, was the kind of thing that was impossible to prove.
Luke reached up to rub his temples as he felt a headache coming on. Yet another variable in the equation.
On impulse, he checked the date it was published, and found it was printed over sixty years ago. It was almost certainly not worth it to track down the author.
Now the only thing to do was... well, sleep. Luke got ready and crawled under the covers. He was asleep in minutes and didn't wake up when Ion and Jade came in later. He dreamed of knights battling wolves.
"Is Luke okay?" whispered Ion. They were outside of the men's bedroom, so Luke wouldn't be disturbed. The boy felt the thrill of adrenaline when he asked the question, the rush when you feel like you're doing something you shouldn't and you're hyper aware of everything and don't want to get caught.
Jade shrugged dismissively and made for the door. "I suppose."
Ion glared up at the colonel and stepped in the way. "I don't believe you."
Jade sighed deeply and let his hand fall away. "Would I be right if I guessed that this is one of those burning questions you just won't let go of?"
Jade thought about the question for a minute and then looked Ion in the eye. "He'll be fine."
"That doesn't answer the question, Colonel." Ion's tone fell in between amused and frustrated.
"Well, at the moment, Luke should be sleeping unless he's developed a case of insomnia since last night, so the question of whether he's okay - "
"Colonel Jade!" With a full scowl in place, Ion stepped a little closer. "Please stop being evasive!"
Jade sighed once more and adjusted his glasses. "He's upset."
Ion stood for a minute, waiting. When it was obvious Jade wasn't going to say more without asking, he prodded some more. "Yes...?"
"He's upset about everything," said Jade, glancing at the shaded hotel room window. "A lot of stress and not enough sleep." He hesitated, which was more than Ion had ever seen before. "He feels responsible for what's going to happen."
Ion couldn't say he understood that. "What's... going to happen? How can he feel responsible for something that hasn't happened yet?"
Jade rolled his eyes. "When you figure that out, make sure I'm the first to know."
"What does Luke think going to happen?" asked Ion.
"At this point," said Jade, "I think Luke has a very good grasp on what's going to happen. He can be peculiarly intuitive at times, but always stubborn. He thinks bad things are going to happen, and naturally, being the type to brood about things and not share with the class, he thinks the world is on his shoulders."
"That's... But he's shared them with you?"
"A little bit, yes," said Jade. "Almost everything with Asch as well, though I have to question what he was hoping to get out of that arrangement."
"Back at Yulia City?" asked Ion, and when Jade confirmed, he nodded. "I had wondered why Asch was so upset with him..."
"So is that it, then?" asked Jade, and Ion smiled.
"Yes," he said. "But what can I do to help Luke...?"
"Oh, I'm sure you'll think of something."
Luke woke up late the next morning. His eyelids blearily slid open as the sunlight that'd been creeping along finally reached his eyes. "Ugh," he grunted, throwing an arm over his eyes. After a moment, he sat up in alarm, realizing that the room was empty and he was alone. For how long?
There was a knock at the door and Luke glanced up. "Hello?"
The door opened and Tear poked her head in. "Good morning, Luke. I suppose I woke you?"
"Ah, no, no," said Luke, scrambling out of bed and very glad he'd slept in his clothes. "I was just about to get up."
"Good," she said. "Can I come in?"
"Sure, yes, of course," said Luke. He started fixing up his bed and straightening out his clothes as Tear got settled. "What's up? How's the Albiore coming?"
"They're testing and it's up in the air," said Tear. " Our pilot is sleeping now, ready to take us to St. Binah as soon as it's ready."
"Oh, good," said Luke, relieved. "Who's our pilot, by the way?"
"A man named Ginji," said Tear. "I haven't met him, but Class M swears that he's a genius."
"As long as they think so," said Luke. He sat down facing Tear. "So, uh... What's up?"
Tear reached into her side-bag and pulled out a book. Luke didn't immediately know what it was, but as Tear opened it and started flipping through it, he recognized where it was from.
"Though unconfirmed until after the Dawn Age began, it has long been suspected that an eighth fonic spirit existed as the counterpart to Lorelei," Tear began reading. "In fact, as soon as the prophetess Yulia Jue began communing with the spirit of the seventh fonon, research into the eighth spirit began. A decade of fruitless searching and testing later, fonologists of the day were forced to admit that there was no such spirit and Lorelei remained an independent fonon. Scientists speculated on what the nature of the theoretical eighth fonon might be - Luke, what is this?"
"Uh..." said Luke, while his brain stalled. "Research...? How did you get that, anyway?"
"All of us carried a book or books from Daath on our way out," said Tear pointedly. "At the time we didn't have enough time to ask questions. Now I'd like to ask you what you're interested in. That's what friends do, right?"
Luke laughed, a little hesitatingly. "Yeah, yeah, that's true. Um."
As he floundered to put his thoughts in order, Tear put a bookmark in the spot she had been reading and handed the book to him. Automatically, he accepted it and put it down beside him.
"So, Tear, do you remember in... in Akzeriuth? At the passage ring?"
"I remember, yes," said Tear, nodding her head. "What part?"
"You told me after, when we were in Yulia City, that some of the memory particles were different colours. Remember?"
Tear glanced up as she thought about it. "Yes... Some of them were black, and they swallowed the rest of the golden particles. You caused a hyperresonance and destroyed them, though."
Luke picked up the book and started fidgeting with the edges. "Someone talked to me there, right when I was fighting Van. This is going to sound crazy, and you can ask Asch, but I'm pretty sure it was the manifestation of this eighth fonon."
"Gunthrea," supplied Tear.
Luke blinked. "How did you know?"
Tear waved a hand. "You know we do talk to each other even when you're not around, right?"
"Yeah, yeah," said Luke, narrowing his eyes as he flushed. "Obviously."
"Jade told us," said Tear. "You mentioned it in Yulia City. So, you think Gunthrea is the eighth fonon and he talked to you the same way Lorelei talks to you and Asch?"
Luke shrugged. "Well, Gunthrea's female, I think, but yeah. I think she's related to the miasma in some way, too, but I just don't know. Hence, research." He lifted the book.
Tear thought for a moment. "It would make sense that Gunthrea is tied to the miasma. At the Fubras River, you collapsed and were very sick. It's not unprecedented, but that was a very extreme reaction very quickly upon exposure."
"Since you and Asch have the same fonon frequency as Lorelei, the opposite fonon being applied would make you sicker than other people."
"That makes sense, I guess," said Luke slowly. "I'll add it to the list of things I know about her. You're not acting like all this is very weird at all. Don't you find this whole 'eighth fonon' thing strange? I mean, the existence of Lorelei hasn't ever been verified or whatever."
Tear smiled, making Luke's breath stop for a second. "I've learned to just take your word for it."
"Thanks, Tear," said Luke, grinning back.
The door swung open, and Guy stepped through. "Hey, Luke, are you - oh, hey, Tear. Am I, uh, interrupting?"
"No," they said in unison.
"We're just wrapping up," added Luke. "What's up?"
"They're just finishing up the flight test," said Guy. "Everything's a go. We're leaving for St. Binah as soon as everyone's ready."
"Oh, that's great!" said Luke.
"I'd better go pack," said Tear. "Is there anything you need from the shops?" She looked at both of them, but Luke and Guy voiced the negative. "Alright. I'll see you both in a few minutes."
When Tear had gone, Guy turned to Luke with a dopey grin on his face.
"Looks like someone's in love," crowed Luke.
"You're not far off, Luke," laughed Guy. "Let me tell you, though, that is a beautiful ship."
"Yeah, I can't wait to see it in action," said Luke. "I guess we should go meet up with the others?"
And that's where I got to.
Here is the rest of the plot.
They go straight to St. Binah where they see that Peony has already ordered an evacuation. Because no one from Malkuth died at Akzeriuth, there was no question of whether to rescue the citizens or not, now that it was disproved as a Kimlascan plot, (except by the paranoid members who think that Kimlasca intentionally passed off their heirs as dead as an excuse to wage war).
They rescue the people, but then they travel to Shurrey Hill in order to save the town. Tear herself goes to unlock it, and Luke freaks out. He goes through a crisis with himself about failing his mission to not let Tera get sick with the miasma. So, he and Tear argue. While Asch writes in the necessary commands with his hyperresonance powers, Luke tries to get rid of the tainted Seventh Fonons. When he can't, he freaks out, but others talk him out of it. Tear and Luke are slightly cold to each other before they make up.
Luke 'comes out' and tells everyone what's up. Appropriate responses to Luke claiming to be from a parallel dimension/the future, ranging from "bitch you crazy!" to "this explains everything!". But it all works out, and they're all pretty convinced by the fact that Jade and Asch seem to be taking this whole thing seriously.
Right after they do that, still in the passage ring floating down to the Qliphoth, Luke, Asch and Jade talk to themselves about what they should do. Jade suggests the Key of Lorelei after a lot of questioning. (Asch suggests as Jade questions.)
There in the passage ring, Luke and Asch use their Seventh Fonons in a way they've never done before and physically travel from the Alternate!world to the Original!world, where they grab the original Key of Lorelei and bring it over. Luke takes it, being the superior swordsman. The two Loreleis talk, and the alternate Lorelei sends the alternate Key to them, which Asch takes; Luke goes to his [original] world and snatches the original Key (the only thing in both worlds which has pure Seventh Fonons) right from original Asch. Asch uses the Alternate!Key to absorb the tainted Seventh Fonons from Tear. Luke holds onto the Original!Key, with the understanding that they may be in need of pure, untainted Seventh Fonons if what he saw in his world is really true.
Important: Due to Gunthrea's presence in the Qliphoth, Luke gets very sick and a little trippy while they're down there in the open, so that's a little bit of an excuse.
There is a major chapter to show the original Auldrant. The damaged Seventh Fonons are causing a lot of problems since there never was a real healing of them. Jade is the only one from the group truly aware of the state of the world. The Seventh Fonons being unstable, they are causing completely randomized hyperresonances and so slowly destroying the original world. This proves that Luke's mission is on a time limit.
Cantabile is in the planning stages to assassinate Ingy (King Ingobert). She's already had the conversation with Mohs, and is now researching everything she can on the party as it is. Reference the injury that almost killed her. Have her focus on Luke and his clothing and have her start organizing. Show off her political standpoint. She will meet with Sync and offer him a way out of Van's control. Sync accepts. (She caught up to him through one of his informants that he told to get closer to the situation.)
The group returns from the Qliphoth and there is no war. Yay! Now Kaitzur, St. Binah, and Engeve are safely lowered. Deciding that they have a little bit of time, Natalia convinces them to go to Baticul and check on Ingy. Esp. since he's kept his word and not started war. Hurrah! (At this time, Luke and Tear are not getting along with each other very well yet again. They make up enough to function together, but it's all strained.)
Ingy is assassinated. Hoowhaaaa! With just the wrong timing, the group comes in, Asch, Luke, and Natalia are declared traitors to the throne (and Natalia's common-born heritage is revealed), and are thrown in the dungeon. The others are deported or whatever.
For one day, they are there. Cantabile went along with Mohs' plan for one day to make Mohs believe she was on his side when it counted, but as soon as he achieved his next goal, C. turned against him. The next day, C. and Sync break the three nobles out of jail. In the meantime, Mohs has forcefully taken command of the Order of Lorelei, kicked Ion out of power. Alpine, the regent of Kimlasca has declared war on Malkuth, backed by the full support of the Order. So this sucks, obv.
They are still not behind in the Sephiroth timeline, but obviously everything is more intense now. Cantabile and Sync take them to C.'s safehouse in Belkend, where they meet up with the rest of the gang, incl Ginji with the Albiore. At this point, they are not going to be asking Alpine's permission to lower the land, but Ion writes him a letter telling him what's going on and to pass the message on to the people. They go to Chesedonia, talk to Astor about it, and then go to Zao Ruins. It's open (Sync opened it a while ago), then they set it to be lowered. Now Tear approaches, and it opens, but the tainted Seventh Fonons are absorbed into the Alternate!Key.
Unknown at this moment, but very important later, the Key also acts as a purifier of the miasma-tainted Seventh Fonons. Ion + Key + presence of Tear = very strong connection to Yulia, so technically, they will be absorbed wherever they want them to.
One of Peony's men was studying Ingobert's (grossly lengthy will), and since he declared Natalia to be the one true heir, it holds up, due to a kink in Kimlasca law that said no matter what info comes to light later, a dead king's will supercedes it. All of a sudden, there's a kerfuffle about Natalia being put back in power. Kimlasca seems to want it, as Baticul is almost rioting because they love Natalia and want her back.
They go to Tataroo Valley and set it to be lowered and Grand Chokmah. Malkuth and Kimlasca discuss the whole issue, and for the moment, they declare a truce as Natalia is put back in power. Natalia declares EVERYTHING on hold until the world crisis is averted, she does intend to pursue war now or after, that sort of thing. She doesn't want war at all, but by saying that, they are technically at war, Mohs is sort of appeased, and they can continue on lowering the land in peace.
This part you will need to write a note to readers explaining, yes, this is a plothole, and yes, I'm ignoring the other God-Generals right now, and yes, I will add to this section ENORMOUSLY later.* What's going to happen is that the group will hurriedly go to the other Sephiroth, link them together, and lower them with little to no fuss. Later, expand to show the other God-Generals, or do something more. It will go much more quickly than you originally intended it to go. Mt. Zaleho, Daath. Mt. Roneal, Keterburg. Meggiora Highlands, Sheridan.
*Yes, while plotting, I write to myself in both first and second person.
They go to the Absorption Gate, confront Van, fight him, he goes down to the core. He takes control of the Alternate!Lorelei, but to them, it's not that big of a deal, because they already have the Key, and as long as they eventually free Alternate!Lorelei before the end, it's all good.
Instead of bothering to sticking an anti-frequency device into the Planet Storm to neutralize the miasma, they figure out that they might as well destroy the miasma now. As the Absorption Gate descends, the more ill more Luke and Asch feel. They use the Alternate!Key that Asch has, as it has several thousand Seventh Fonons from the tainted Sephiroth. (More Seventh Fonons because of Gunthrea. A Wizard Did It.) Luke and Asch do their hyperresonance thing together like on the Tower of Rem, and they completely and utterly destroy the miasma. Now it's gone for good. No Seventh Fonon on the face of Alternate!Auldrant is either tainted with the miasma or broken.
Gunthrea dies. Trippyness, sickness, close to deathness, etc. Can have wicked fever dreams for both Luke and Asch if it feels right.
When the world is settled, and Gunthrea is utterly dead, Luke and Asch are so spent from Gunthrea's death that they're basically out for two weeks. Now the others know, because Luke & Asch told them that Van would still be alive because he leashed Alternate!Lorelei, but they have no idea where to look. They hang out with Cantabile in Belkend while they recover, because Baticul is still strained, Daath isn't exactly totally safe and friendly, and Malkuth is a little risky. So Cantabile's place. Ion and Anise go off to fix Daath, Sync goes with them and tries to put his network back together. Natalia is in Baticul trying to put things back together and play nice with Daath and Baticul, and the others are searching the globe for Van and what his underlings are doing.
Luke and Asch wake up just in time to hear about the party (which was split) finding the Isle of Feres, and also hearing reports from everywhere about this new island, the replicated Hod (Eldrant).
They gather the party together, the ultimate party! Jade gang + Asch + Sync + Ion + Cantabile. They first go to the Isle of Feres, and stop Legretta and Arietta where they're replicating humans. They stop them after a few dozen replicas, then get Daath to rescue them and take care of them.
They rush to Eldrant. It hasn't even gotten started yet. They invade. They fight Van, and he dies. They free Lorelei.
The two Loreleis merge with the help of all the millions of Seventh Fonons from the Original!Key (how's that for Chekhov's gun?), and thus begins the merging of the two worlds. Luke is the only one who stays the same. He comes to this odd limbo, walking through Eldrant and watching the two versions of his friends become one. At the end, some version of the combined two. Luke is in an odd place. At the end of it, is suddenly alone in Eldrant. Walks outside to Tataroo Valley, echoing the ending of the game, where his friends (+ Asch) are waiting for him. Ends with the hellos. And the tackle-hugs.
Wow. I'm drained even just reading through that again.
Well, now I've finally put this thing to rest. It was fantastic in the midst of working on all of it, and I love every single one of who read, reviewed, and/or subscribed. To this day, I still go back and read the reviews you guys left for me. It's the best feeling. You guys inspire me to be better and motivate me to actually spend time on things like fanfiction. You've proven that it's worthwhile.
It's a point of pride that I don't think I had a single flame for this. Not even some of the more disappointed messages were inappropriate, and I am so proud to be able to say that.
I feel terrible that it took me this long to be able to resolve this for you guys. The only thing that I've been ashamed of is being unable to finish this, because I'm a reader, I know what that's like. It's totally unfair to you, and a terrible return on the love this fic has gotten.
Thank you very much for reading, and I am so sorry it's ended this way.