Hikaru: I really wanted to write some Luke angst … Wanted to novelize the event in Theor Forest where Sync activated Guy's curst slot, but I don't remember exactly what happened, and I can't find a game script anywhere.

Disclaimer: Do not own, not make profits, etc.

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Luke had been loud and brash. He demanded the floor no matter what was going on, demanded respect and expected everyone to follow his word. He was a selfish, egotistical bastard, and he knew it.

In fact, he wore that proudly as he did that strangely cut coat and his unruly mane of flaming red hair that paled into fire gold at the ends. He acted as he did knowing full well others didn't approve. He did it because they didn't approve.

He trusted only one person—the silver haired Dorian General of the Oracle Knights, the Commandant Van Grants. Van was the only one who had been nice to him, who scolded him, praised him, taken him seriously … even encouraged his rebellious behavior toward others at times.

For seven years … Van had time enough to get close to Luke, to trap the young noble in a cage of his making under the deceptive guise of a mentor, friend, and fatherly figure.

Van had Luke wrapped around his little finger.

It was all so clear now, so obvious. Whenever Luke reviewed those memories of idolizing Van, of his lessons, of what he said and did with him … Luke began to unravel the secrets behind those deceptive eyes of his, what he really meant by certain things.

Even when I think about it … he was so convincing. Had me fooled. When was he lying, and when did he tell the truth?

I don't know.

At the moment Van betrayed him, the moment Van dropped his façade and dismissed him as a useless replica, Luke felt a gaping hole in his chest, as surely as if Van had ripped the live, beating heart from Luke's body himself.

Even now, when Van remained clear as an enemy, Luke could not quite bring himself to think of Van as an enemy.

It was dragging the party down.

And Luke knew it.

He couldn't sleep at night. He sat upright in his inn bed—in Belkend, damnable Belkend nonetheless. The noise of the fon machines was a constant grate in his ears anyway. Only freakishly obsessive fontech freaks like Dist could ever like this noise. Luke cast a sideways glance at a clock. Its digital numbers glowed red in the dark.

Three fifteen AM.

Luke groaned inwardly; it was far too early in the morning to get up and ready, but Luke could not sleep.

He glanced about the room—since his was a party of six, the men and women rented two rooms to each group. He studied the other beds, the still forms of the other sleeping individuals.

Jade slept easily enough—Luke often wondered if Jade really did sleep as well as it appeared, given his apparent guilt on the current situation arising for his creation of fomicry.

Someday, Jade had told Luke, long before Akzeriuth, you may hate me enough to want to kill me. Or perhaps you already do.

Luke might've wanted to hate Jade when he learned that Jade, of all people, created fomicry, the damnable science that had created replicas—human things.

But Luke couldn't quite bring himself to do it. Just like with Van, he admired Jade and would not think badly of him no matter what others said—even if it were true.

But when Luke cast his eyes to look for Guy, he froze. Guy's bed was empty. Why would Guy's bed be empty, this late at night? True, Guy might've left for a bathroom break or something of such nature, but a nagging feeling wouldn't leave Luke's gut.

Fende served the Gardios House for centuries.

Van's been using Belkend as a base lately.

Guy once hated me enough to want to kill me.

Luke sat still in his bed for a time, uncertain about what to do.

When the red digital numbers of the alarm clock changed to mark a minute passed, Luke rose from the bed, reached down and buckled his sword and scabbard to his belt. Stepping lightly as he could he made his way to the door, grabbed the knob.

Turned it.

"What do you hope to accomplish by that?"

Froze.

Luke didn't need to turn around to know that Jade was awake. Hell, now he doubted that Jade had even been sleeping until now.

A chill ran down his spine, shoulders shuttered. His thin fingers felt so very weak as they gripped the doorknob.

"I-I don't know what you mean." Luke said defiantly, with perhaps a touch of his old self.

The sound of rustling told Luke that Jade now stood, glasses perched on his face. Luke could feel Jade's crimson eyes fixed on his back, intent on his every move.

"You know perfectly well what I mean."

Jade's voice was soft, barely audible, but Luke heard, and Jade knew it. For once Jade's voice was not laced with his usual sarcasm. All pretenses were gone, Jade's tone conveying nothing but genuine seriousness.

Luke leaned his forehead against the cool, polished hardwood of the door, his grip on the knob weakening until his hand went lax at his side.

"I'm actually quite surprised at you." Jade continued in that same tone, although a little more leisurely. "How could you doubt him after all those years he's been your best friend, and that he was the one to return to you first."

Luke gritted his teeth, brow furrowing, eyes narrowing. He whipped around to face Jade, who was closer than Luke initially thought. Luke scowled at the Colonel, crimson eyes locked with emerald.

"I don't need you to tell me that," Luke whispered harshly. His blood began to boil when he looked at the Colonel now, towering over him, expression unreadable.

Before he hadn't been able to hate the Colonel.

He absolutely loathed him.

The corners of Jade's mouth teased into a slight smile.

"But here I am, saying it. And there you are, right at the door. It's so nice to see Guy's trust reciprocated like this."

Luke banged a fist on the door.

"Shut up!" He shouted, not caring how loud he was, "How else can I trust him, or anyone else for that matter? Nearly everyone I know has betrayed me and deceived me time and time again, and now I don't know what to make of this!"

Jade's smile faltered, his jaw working for a moment before anything of speech came out.

"Luke—"

Luke squeezed his eyes shut, shaking his head.

"Shut up! You know it's true!"

Please, Lorelei, don't make Jade actually force Luke to tell who had deceived him and when.

First and foremost was Van's betrayal, one of the blows that hurt Luke the most. When he went over in his memory all those conversations and days he spent with Van, Luke picked up other snippets of suspicious happenings.

Jade recognized Luke and Ion as replicas before Luke even knew what fomicry was. He knew the fon machine in Choral Castle was a replication machine. He even knew that Asch had been Luke's original.

And what had Jade done about it?

Nothing.

Next up on the plate was Tear. At some point or another Tear, too, knew of Luke's birth—why else would she stop Asch from telling Luke why they looked so very much alike in Yulia City, if she had not known?

Anise betrayed him, too, but not just Luke, everyone and Ion for being Mohs' spy. Luke immediately berated himself for the thought—it wasn't Anise's fault. Mohs had her parents hostage, after all. She had only done the best she could to preserve herself and her parents.

And his father the Duke and King Ingobert sent him to die not once, but twice, all at the bidding of the Score.

In fact, the only one who had not betrayed Luke was Natalia—she had been betrayed too, when her father rejected her for being a false princess.

Luke pounded a fist against his forehead furiously; he wasn't the only one suffering, he knew that in his head … and yet …

"Luke."

Luke shook his head, opening the door and stepping over the threshold. He heard Jade's footfalls after his and walked a little faster, hoping that Jade's halfhearted jokes about his old age were for once true.

"Luke, come back!"

"I-I just want to make sure!" Luke called back, but he wasn't sure if Jade heard him.

-

As Luke half-jogged throughout the cold streets of Belkend, the cobblestone roads lit by street lamps, he thought of Van, whom he had trusted completely. Who had, without hesitation, without a second thought, ripped out all that had mattered to Luke. Left him an empty husk of who he had been, but perhaps that had been a good thing.

How much had he been lying, how much had been truth?

With Van and his perfect masquerade, it was impossible to tell.

The perfect masquerade indeed.

He thought of Van, how no one could persuade Luke to utter a single word against him. Van just seemed so understanding, so great, so incredible, so just—Luke had looked up to Van.

But he never guessed at Van's true intentions.

Van had the meekness of the dove, with the cunning of the serpent.

Luke turned a corner, toward the fomicry research facilities. There, he caught the splay of shadows in the lamplight, and skid to a halt. He hid himself behind a pole, peeking around it.

There.

By a lamp, their shadows dark and long in sharp contrast to the bright alley lamp, stood Guy …

With Van.

Luke's heart wrenched.

They looked like they were talking. But from here Luke could hear nothing, and he couldn't risk getting any closer. So Luke relaxed his body, bidding his fon slots to become more sensitive than usual. It was a little trick Tear had taught him when he was learning about fonology with her.

Resound.

He felt the vibrations all round him as his eyes were closed, and they reverberated within his fon slots, especially within his ears.

"Finally you answered my call." Van said, sounding relieved if anything.

"For the last time." Guy replied, a little curtly.

There was a strained silence for a time.

"I pledged my sword to House Gardios," Van said carefully, "I cannot strike down the lord whose family protected mine for centuries."

Guy didn't reply for a time. But when he did, Luke was surprised at his words.

"… If you still think of me as your lord, then I give these orders: abandon this ridiculous plan for a replica world."

Van's words to Guy's came quickly, perhaps even harshly.

"My ridiculous plan will bring back Hod!"

Luke watched from afar, the two childhood friends from Hod fighting bitterly. Tears welled up in his eyes.

Van would consider attempting to repair his friendship with Guy, but not with Luke? Was Luke, a mere replica, so revolting and undesirable that none wanted anything at all to do with him?

Dejectedly Luke detached from the post, turning back toward the inn—to what? To an awake and possibly peeved Necromancer? Luke wouldn't blame Guy if he wanted to go back to Van—his family had killed Guy's, after all. Why shouldn't he agree to ally himself to Van?

A deep hole was ripped anew in Luke's chest, at the thought of Guy leaving him. It was not his choice to make, after all … had anything ever been at the mercy of Luke's choosing? Luke all this time lived by the fate others determined for him.

His fon slots still sensitive, Guy's reply startled him.

"No. Hod was destroyed." a strained silence. "Or have you forgotten that?"

"But, I gave my sword—" Van was cut off midsentence.

"Then I'm afraid I'll have to return it."

Silence, and Luke remained rooted to the spot. Somehow, Guy rejecting Van's offer of alliance, seemed too good to be true.

Did Guy know Luke was listening?

Disbelieving, Luke close off his fon slots' state of increased sensitivity; he didn't want to hear any more. Running off down the street back toward the inn, a painful thought came across Luke's mind.

Van had been Guy's servant once upon a time. His servant, guardian, and childhood friend at that.

When Guy entered House Fabre, it was the same thing—Guy was Luke's servant, guardian, and childhood friend all in one.

The one whom he could trust absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Tears blurring his eyes, his foot caught on a stray rock, and he stumbled to the cobblestone ground, throwing his arms out to catch himself.

He hit the cold ground, his vision swimming. He closed his eyes, breathing in deeply. The cold stones of the road kept him aware. Luke opened his eyes again, and this time his vision focused properly.

Vibrations on the street pavement. Mentally cursing, Luke got to his feet, looked over his shoulder—

Guy ran toward him, calling his name.

Luke, resigned, turned to face him as Guy came to a stop.

"Luke!" Guy said, huffing and puffing to regain his breath. "What're you doing?"

Luke's eyes were downcast at his feet. His sword hand brushed the hilt of his sword briefly, a habit he'd first picked up when he was nervous.

"I could ask you the same thing." Luke said monotonously, without emotion.

Guy's voice cracked.

"Wh-what? You know what I was doing. Van kept trying to persuade me to join him, but I don't believe in his vision."

Luke couldn't bring himself to make eye contact with Guy. His hands tightened into fists, the frigid cold of the Belkend night biting into his flesh.

"Do you really?" Luke whispered, almost inaudibly.

Almost.

Guy laughed at this, and finally Luke snapped his gaze upward to look at Guy. A wide grin spread across his face, and he placed a hand on Luke's head like he always did to reassure the redhead.

Always.

Looking at Guy, Luke searched for any signs of malcontent, any signs at all of the deceit that Van had been feeding him for seven years.

And found none.

"C'mon, Luke, don't you trust me? I would never give in to Van."

No, Luke wanted to say, you two grew up together. Of course you want to side with him, you know the pain he's been through.

But the worst part was that Luke believed him. He was probably setting himself up again for disappointment, but there was nothing his mind could do to control his heart.

Still looking down, Luke stiffened as Guy drew closer, cutting away the distance between them. Luke wanted to back away, but his legs were lead, impossible to move for the weight they bore.

"Luke?" Guy asked, hovering over Luke, so close that their noses almost touched. Luke still couldn't bring himself to make eye contact.

"I believe you," Luke murmured.

At once Guy brightened, clapping a hand on Luke's shoulder in what was meant to be a comforting gesture. To Luke it was like the white-hot searing touch of an iron brand against his skin. He shuddered under the touch, and Guy withdrew his hand almost at once.

Luke began to turn to get to the inn, dawn was surely only hours away, but an all too familiar voice stopped him dead.

"I see, Gailardia. You would choose him over me."

Luke whirled around, his tailcoats flapping in a comical propeller motion. Emerald eyes going wide, Luke's jaw dropped.

Van.

Guy turned to face Van, his expression cold and unforgiving. Luke made as if to step toward his former master, but Guy grabbed his arm in an iron grip.

"Yes," Guy spat. "I would. The time for reconciliation has come and gone, Vandesdelca."

But even in light of these new words that should have been uplifting, Luke could not tear his eyes from Van. His instructor. His friend. His idol.

His hero.

Van caught Luke's gaze, and at once those violet eyes that had once looked upon him warmly were no more than chips of winter frost.

"What is it, replica?" He spat, as if spitting poison.

Luke's limbs felt limp, his throat tight, mouth dry. Now he was face to face with Van … he could say nothing. What should he say? What could he say?

Luke broke free of Guy's grip, and despite the blond shouting after him, Luke dashed up to Van, grabbing the hilt of his short sword and pulling free of its scabbard. With a sharp arc Luke pointed the blade at Van's throat.

Tears brimming, Luke's breath heaved in and out of his lungs.

Van looked at the tip of the blade, tapped it with a finger. Luke made no move, his arms shaking.

"What do you mean by this, replica?" Van asked him mockingly, batting the sword away. He grasped the hilt of his own sword, drawing it out of his own sheath with a satisfyingly sharp sound.

Still Luke made no move, shaking, tears streaming down his face.

"You were my hero … my hero …" Luke drew in shuddery gasps for breath.

Guy grabbed Luke's shoulders, ignoring Van even though the former possessed a weapon. A weapon that he was not afraid to use.

"Luke! Get a hold of yourself!" Guy called, shaking Luke by the shoulders. He heard footfalls behind him but paid no heed. "Luke!"

Luke, feeling nauseated, dropped his sword and it skittered on the pavement with a clatter. Suddenly his legs lost all the strength to support him, and he gripped at Guy's arms to support himself.

Guy shot a dirty look at Van, who approached them, still armed.

"See!" Guy shouted, and the cry echoed into the night. "This is why I can't return to you! How am I to know how you'll treat me, if this is how you treat the child you birthed and raised?!"

Bile rose in Luke's throat. It burned, and he tried to gulp it back down, but between shuddery snatches of breath and his wracking sobs it was difficult. All he could do was hold onto Guy, burying his face in the blond's shoulder. Luke leaned on him, the only support he had right now.

"No child of mine." Van retorted. "No human child."

Guy glared at his former servant.

"Then how do you plan for your replica world to work, if that's how you see your very first replica? You tend to treat the originals very well, better than your replicas."

Silence. It was true. Van treated Asch much better than Luke; Luke he treated like the dirt he walked on. He treated Tear, Guy, and many others very well; there'd be no telling how he'd treat their replicas if he succeeded in his vision.

They were right outside the inn Luke and company had been staying in. Luke heard the door opening, and he shut his eyes tightly, gritting his teeth, his grip on Guy stronger than before. He hoped it wasn't who he though it was, but then it again—it always was.

"Dorian General Grants," Jade said calmly as he entered the scene, hands in his pockets like usual. He spared one glance at Luke, Luke could feel it, and he willed for Jade to look away, not to see Luke in such a vulnerable state.

"It's well past four in the morning now, and as dawn is only a few hours away, I'd appreciate it if you'd take leave for now. We must be making ready to our next destination."

Luke opened his eyes slightly. He saw Van through the gap between Guy's arm and his torso, a crooked smile upon his face. He sheathed his sword, bent down to pick up Luke's forgotten blade.

Guy moved away as Van approached calmly, and, feeling ill again without support, Luke fell to his knees, kneeling before the Commandant. Eyes downcast, Luke felt the cool metal of his own blade against his skin as Van forced him to look up at him with the tip of the curved blade.

Their eyes met.

"If you truly wish to kill me," Van said dangerously, "you'll first have to kill the pathetic child in you."

Then, in a gesture meant to flaunt his power and Luke's weakness, he flipped the sword and handed it toward Luke, hilt first. Eyes still streaming with salty tears, Luke shakily grabbed his sword, sheathing it without another word.

As Van turned heel and walked off without so much as a glance at him or even Guy, Luke could not find the strength to stand. So he knelt on the pavement, the cobblestones digging painfully into his knees.

He felt a hand on his shoulder. Guy's hand. His throat choked up again, and he clapped a hand to his mouth, feeling as if he were going to be sick. Jade saw this at once and directed him to a sidewalk shrub, where Luke bent over and heaved the contents of his stomach.

"Luke?" Guy asked, hovering over him, rubbing Luke's back soothingly. Little did Guy know how it hurt Luke, how it burned with that iron brand.

"S-sorry," Luke managed, hating the hot feel of vomit on his tongue. "Let's go back … inside." Shakily he stood, Guy helping him stand steadily.

Jade looked to the horizon. It was beginning to glow with the sun's light.

"Yes, let's go back for now. The women must be awake, after all that racket."

He ventured back inside the inn, leaving Guy and Luke alone.

Luke rubbed furiously at whatever tears were left in his eyes, slapping his face and ironing it out. When his hand brushed his chin, his fingers came slick with blood. He stared at the red liquid dripping down his finger in a small stream, then pressed his coat collar against the cut on his chin.

"Bastard cut me," Luke whispered.

Dammit. Why did he have to be so damn weak?

"Luke," Guy asked, "Are you all right now?"

Luke managed a nod, and, satisfied, Guy followed Jade's suit.

The early morning breeze chilled Luke to the marrow.

The meekness of the dove … with the cunning of the serpent.

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Hikaru: Poor Luke … I hope you angst fans liked it!