Susanne fone Fabre looked out the window, watching the boys "play" in the courtyard. As the wife of not only a duke, but a warrior one at that, she knew full well the culture of war they lived in, but it was nonetheless rather unnerving to see her son "attacking" his caretaker in such earnestly.

Guy laughed as Luke parried his attack and put his wooden sword to his throat, pronouncing his victory in the unbroken voice of a child.

"That was fun, Guy!" he said, laughing. Susanne sighed in relief—though he was young, Luke was getting to be rather talented under Van's tutelage, and she was worried that perhaps this would get past play at some point. He was staying in the manor so that he would not have to defend himself, so he would not have to kill, so why did he have to learn such a vulgar art?

She forced a smile as Guy noticed her watching them from the window and he and Luke waved at her, grinning, Luke's innocent eyes sparkling.

- + -

"He'll be back, my lady," Tear said, putting her hand on Madam Fabre's knee.

"Will he?" She sighed. "Even if he does, he will be a different boy now. I am not sure that I can stand having a different boy come home once again."

"He is still much the same, I think. I do not think you will miss the old Luke too terribly." Tear said.

"I once had a husband that went away to fight a war and he came back different. Scarred more by victory than one can be scarred by defeat." She sighed. "I made sure that Luke was confined to the manor in hopes that he would not become the same way—that he would not lose sight of the frailty and value of human life."

"The whole journey, Luke had dreams of Akzeriuth, of the replicas sacrificed on the Tower of Rem. He never lost sight of that value. He was sickened the first time he had to fight another human being, though he fought with skill."

Susanne sighed. "He grew empathetic."

Tear nodded. "He willingly sacrificed himself multiple times, but he will be back. He promised."

"Thank you, Tear," Susanne said. "I needed to hear that. I only wish that… that Asch had a friend like you by him, to fill me in on the progress in his character that I missed."

A tear ran down her cheek and Tear took Susanne's hand and squeezed it. The two women sat in silence, watching the sun set over the courtyard where Luke and Guy had played.