Spoilers for pt. 3 of the contamination sidequest, in which Jade talks to Spinoza and finds out why Asch is acting so willing to die. Spinoza gave him a 'simple' explanation of the Big Bang effect, talking about how he'd slowly get weaker, and didn't go into the more complex and distressing stuff like how yes, he would die, but his fonons would transfer into Luke's body and take it over then. This is an AU of that conversation at the beginning, and it goes from there.

When playing the game, do NOT miss out on the sidequest. It is why Jade acts the way he does at 'Luke's' return and transforms the game's ending from ambiguous into Miyazaki-style both victory and tragedy.

Also, there is a real species called Selenicus Grandifloras, a species of night-blooming cactus. Since they not only bloom at night but, being cacti, are able to live in conditions where other plants would have trouble, they are almost certain to be the basis of the selenias. The Japanese name, Gekka Bijin, means beautiful woman under the moon.

Also, this is actually complete, I just feel like releasing it a chapter at a time for some reason. Haven't done it that way in... over a year, minimum.

Disclaimer: I don't own Tales of the Abyss or any other intellectual property referenced in this fanfiction. Namco and the other rightful owners do.

A/N: Something I dislike about ToA is that they have all these great emotional conflicts and the characters are constantly saying they don't matter, the fights matter. Wrong. The fights, and Akzeriuth, and Eldrant, and Sync, and Dist, and everyone else is happening because of the emotional conflicts and if they took a month off to compare notes and get everyone's heads on straight things like, oh, Akzeriuth, Ion's death, the Anise/Arietta conflict, and so on wouldn't have happened and everything would have been wrapped up much faster and less bloodily. Luke can blow up cities and no one was investing any effort in making sure he wouldn't suddenly snap when he was under that amount of pressure?

The headdesk quality of the actions of those he's surrounded with are a lot of why I so admire Luke. He's surrounded by well-meaning sabotage his entire life, start to finish, and he still manages to muddle though. It's not as severe as Naruto's unreality (not being held and played with as an infant equals severe mental retardation), but it's on the limit of what's humanly possible.

Luke's the only who grasps that his issues ARE the problem here. He'd be a lot more effective if he wasn't moping around and no one's even willing to give him five minutes to cry and get it out of his system when somebody dies. 'Get over it' requires actually getting over it: it takes actual work to get something and they aren't giving him any chance to do said work.

I don't really write for Harry Potter because I was worldbuilding an earth with secret magical societies (lots of 'em, they have a UN) in elementary school and Rowling is mostly focusing on characters and, sadly, a really stupid government makes for great opportunities for individual heroism. Because she's not focusing on that she's not taking the flaws in her system to their logical conclusions, and since I've been studying flaws and their effects for so long I can't take her world seriously. My equivalent of the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement in my Prism universe is firmly of the opinion that the entire planet should have been scorched rubble by 1700 BC.

Of course, given that the HPverse is very anti-science and their magic is still at the technological development level of slingshots as opposed to refining those principles into, eventually, the strategic nuke perhaps 1700 AD would be a better bet. A bow and arrow is rocket science compared to Avada Kedavra. Those things are very, very highly refined and studied. We learned how to control lightning and the entire world changed. The people in HPverse don't appear to know why their magic works at all, let alone be researching how to colonize Mars & get away from the muggles with the power that lets them have quasi kitchen appliances.

The message? It's hard to realistically have the world's problems be simple enough and the leaders stupid enough that the only person who can solve them is a clueless abused child. I have to applaud Tales of the Abyss for pulling it off, I really do.

ToA's worldbuilding is much better than HP's. The Score is their magic, it and fonons, and they research it and take advantage of it the exact same way we did with their equivalents (electricity, economics) But if Peony assigned them a decent therapist the game would be a third as long, I swear.

-

If Asch had come by earlier, before the New Order had flooded the world with replicas and Belkend's lab had, no, Spinoza had felt compelled to do what he could for them, if Asch had asked about the Big Bang then Spinoza would have thought about it as still a theoretical possibility. Something far too complicated for a layman to grasp.

But the originals of some of the replicas had survived having their replica data extracted for just long enough, and they came here.

The majority of the replicas had blank eyes, too young to have any personality but the programming. The eyes of those whose originals were dying: children so young shouldn't have to bear a pain so great before they came to understand anything else. The one like them who took them in and protected them when they were alone and lost and wandering was dying, and everyone said it was because of them and it couldn't be, right? Please?

That anguish.

The fact that they didn't mind what saved their originals made it even more painful.

If he hadn't lost one yesterday and been in the process of losing another Spinoza wouldn't have dropped the very, very expensive piece of fontech he was carrying.

"So, it's that bad."

"But, it's been seven years. Surely if it were going to happen it would have by now." He wanted to reassure himself, but he was a scientist. "Perhaps it's because of the power of hyperresonance that you've held out this long. Luke always has been weaker than he should be. Oh, that poor boy. That poor, poor boy."

"Him? You're feeling sorry for him?"

Spinoza needed to sit down. Trying to salvage the equipment could wait until he… oh, the poor boy. "He's the one that's going to die. You'll be fine. The symptoms, are you sure about… No, Luke has grown stronger recently. If you're also growing weaker…" His grimace confirmed that Asch was. "So it has started."

"If I'm growing weaker and he's getting stronger, than how come he's the one in danger?"

It was counterintuitive. The technical details Spinoza would have glossed over as academic became what he focused on, trying to calm down. He might have had a heart attack there, and then where would they be? "Replica data is the original's seventh fonons. They contain the memory of what the body looks like, down to every scar. If a perfect isofone is created, they are, to the original's seventh fonons and their own, part of the original's body that was removed, not a separate individual. Removing those fonons weakens the original's memory of their body and can kill them. If it is only a small amount of damage, then seventh fonons from the replica will be moved to the original's body to compensate, creating the normal phenomenon where the replica is weaker than the original even in cases where the replica should be sturdier." Van had built to last. "If the damage is too much," and Van had wanted the human race to end: only those with a large amount of seventh fonons survived long enough that their replicas could be created before they died, "then the flow will reverse, as to save itself the original's personality and memory will transfer to the other body. Once that process starts, when the original dies the replica's personality, which is separate from the original's, is erased over a few days, until the original wakes up in their new body with nothing left of their replica but their memories."

Spinoza didn't look up at Asch, staring at his wringing hands. "I wish I'd never… it was only academic. I didn't…" He had so much to regret. "That poor boy. I've had three cases since this started, we tried everything, but… There's one who is losing himself now, and I can't watch. I don't have much else to do right now, I should at least be there in case there's something Dr. Shu misses, but I can't watch. They don't mind. None of them have. If it's because they were created that the people they love are dying, then it's only fair that they die if that will save them. And they smile. They were ripped out so recently, they don't have their own selves yet, they don't understand what it is to be alive. They only know that their original made them feel complete, because they were a piece that was ripped out of them, and when the original takes them over… the first one said it was what she thought people meant by going home. Maybe, maybe since Luke's so old compared to them he'll retain something of a self? But is it any better to be a voice in someone else's head? Oh that poor boy."

"How long?"

"That depends on how severe the damage to the original is. If it took this long for it to become unfixable, perhaps he has months. If he were to… at least then he'd die himself. But no, I'm not going to even raise the possibility." Ten thousand seventh fonists could be used to get rid of the miasma. Or ten thousand replicas, in combination with the sword and someone with hyperresonance.

"The possibility of what?"

Spinoza was silent now, he wouldn't discuss that with Asch, not after what Jade had written about the effect telling him had on Luke.

"Destroying the miasma?"

"It would require the deaths of ten thousand seventh fonists or replicas, the sword of Lorelei and his own death." But if he was doomed anyway… He didn't want to think this way, Jade would dissect him, but they needed the key, Lorelei had to be freed. "If he does it, he'll die and then you'll die. If you do it, he'll die and you'll live."

Asch didn't understand what Spinoza had just proposed: why was it so horrible? Surely this was the rational choice, and he clearly resented Luke, which was strange. Perhaps because they had been separated? Luke acted far more normally. "Come with me," Spinoza told him sadly.

Belkend's replica lab. What had gone on here… now there were cots everywhere in the areas that had once been cages and cells. Most of them were just so they had a place to sleep, but not the room Spinoza took Asch to.

The original had finally died three hours ago. They hadn't even removed the body yet: they'd called for the family to take it. There was nothing more that could be done.

The programming only included words. Tone of voice, facial expressions: they didn't know them. A replica needed to even learn to recognize their own emotions, and they would often hang onto what seemed like paranoid control because they simply didn't know how to express them. They didn't know how to laugh or cry, they didn't know that those actions would let out what they described as pains in their chests. The ones that found their originals learned quickly, perhaps by some form of osmosis as the fonons circulated between the two.

If they'd still been emotionless perhaps it would have been easy to see this man as a thing. But he was smiling, eyes closed, focused on what was happening as though it was a good thing. The two of them had only been brought in a day ago: the faster the process the faster it was completed. "Rel?" Relan and his family had named him that, Relan's son excited about a daddy that was a little brother until Relan had gotten sick.

He touched him. Dead to the world already, not dead yet but unconscious. He bowed his head in mourning. "The first one, she lasted the longest. She was so happy. She'd been beaten, and her original had saved her. She was crying when she carried her in, she begged us to do something, and then when she died she kept crying, but she was relieved that she could feel her presence, that her original wasn't dead, that she wasn't responsible for her death. She was so happy when she began to wake up. They're all just children, she was like a little girl who was so very happy… She helped her original consume her. She said she was giving them herself, and she was so happy to be accepted, to help, to be of use, and she smiled. When her original woke up, they didn't want it. They tried to keep her alive, but she was heartbroken. Trying to save her was a rejection. She'd cry and cry and…" He paused. Good. It couldn't be heard here, he hadn't wanted to disturb Relan and Rel with what would happen. "Come with me." Outside the door to the room where the first two were restrained they both could hear the screaming, the sobbing. "They remember everything," he told a silent Asch, who now might begin to understand. "Someone so young, just a child, who loved them so much and so purely, was so willing to give up everything for them. And they ate them alive." The sedatives didn't grow in St. Binah anymore and the seventh fonists were overworked: he didn't know what they were going to do. "They know that their replica didn't mind, far from it. But that just makes it worse." Especially for a grandmother with grandchildren about that mental age. The old, like himself, weren't supposed to outlive their children. Not like that.

"I doubt my replacement would be happy about doing his job: he never is." But even Asch's contempt and old rage couldn't cover up a slight hint of something else.

"I hope you're right, for both your sakes."

"There's no way to stop this, and no other way to stop the miasma?"

"I haven't been able to find one." Not even Dr. Balfour himself had any real hope.

And that was it: Asch left Spinoza to his regrets.