A/N: Uhm, this was a crack pairing (among many) thought up on a conversation on Deviantart ... and I was cheered (egged, ha ha) by my friend everything-anime. And TyLowell on the Tales oekaki board turned me into an Aster fangirl. Also, spoilers.

Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with Namco Bandai or the Tales studios, nor do I make a material profit from this work. It it purely fan made (crack) fun.

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Part I: Thesis

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The full moon shone radiantly in the dark nighttime sky, the sea of stars hidden by unusually thick cloud cover. Even the silver moonlight fell on the earth only in dappled droplets. The island was uninhabited, a mysterious place with centuries of legends and premonitions about it.

The ocean roared as its foamy waves crashed on the rocks, what could be called the shore of the island nothing more than a dangerous sheer cliff of jagged stones. The ship anchored off the rocky shore swayed in the sea's thrashing maw, but it would not sink.

Two men in white coats hiked up the shore, followed by a young woman dressed in like manner. The night was cold, freezing, even, and the salty winds whipped their clothes about. They had to raise their voices almost to the point of shouting to be heard over the roaring ocean waves.

"Martel's blood, it's cold," one of the men folded his arms tightly, teeth chattering as he tried to find reprieve from the weather. The other man was silent, but the woman turned, appearing quite oblivious to the cold. She hiked ahead of her companions, pointing to the horizon of the island.

"It's only a little farther. If our thesis on the dimensional boundary is correct, the gate to Sylvarant will be opened on the night of a full moon."

The shivering man shuddered, but this time it had nothing to do with the lack of heat. "But we won't actually go to Sylvarant, will we?" he asked, voice quavering with fright. "If what those Renegade men reported is true, then the declining world of Sylvarant is being ravaged by Desians this very moment!"

"This is necessary for the good of Tethe'alla," the other man, silent until now, spoke. "His Majesty the King ordered us to find out whether the declining world actually exists. Those Renegades could be lying. On the other hand, if the declining world does exist, then it means if their Chosen regenerates their world and seals the Desians, the Desians would again come to Tethe'alla, and our era of prosperity would end."

The woman shook her head, hands on her hips. "Our job is to prove that there is a gate to Sylvarant. If the King does wish for their Chosen to be assassinated in order to protect Tethe'alla, we won't be the ones to do it."

"Yes, of course you're right, let's go." The shivering man said. The team of researchers continued traversing the island. Soon enough the looming pillars of stone, carved in curling patterns, came within sight, easily towers on this isolated spit of land east of Altamira.

Sybak researchers who had gone to the village of the elves, Heimdall, reported that the elves themselves had legends of this Otherworldly Gate, legends that coincide with superstitions handed down in generations by the people of Altamira. Legends like those that surrounded the Otherworldly Gate existed for a reason, and the fact that elves believed the Gate indeed led to other worlds meant there was definitely some truth behind the "old wives' tale."

The team of scholars craned their necks to better look at the stone pillars arranged in a triangular fashion, the patterns engraved on the columns a complete mystery. The woman, however, was looking at the sky worriedly.

"Will all this cloud cover prevent the Gate from opening? We spent a lot of resources to come here this month's full moon ..."

"I dunno," one of the men said. "This just looks like some heathen structure to me. Maybe it's the work of those druids, those descendants of elves who left their village."

The other man shook his head, studying the glyphs carved on the stone pillars. "No, I've lived in Heimdall for two years. This kind of magic circle ... it's an extremely archaic kind, the kind only the elder elf tribe originally from the Great Motherland of Derris-Kharlan used." He walked around the pillar, touching the grooves. "This pattern ... is reminiscent of magic circles that manipulated the fabric of time and space to an extremely small extent."

"You mean like spells such as Negative Gate, Gravity Well, and Black Hole?"

"Yes. It looks like this could very well be the Gate to the legendary Sylvarant."

"The clouds are moving," The woman said suddenly, "the full moon will be completely visible to the Gate! Move out of the way!" At her demand the two men scurried away a good long distance from the Gate. The original foundation of stone the Gate had stood upon was buried under the earth by now, and they had no way of knowing the radius of the Gate's magic circle if and when it opened.

After the clouds moved, the silvery blue light bathed the three pillars in unadulterated moonlight, and when the moon's radiance fell on the glyphs carved in stone, the Otherworldly Gate shuddered and began to glow. At first the magic circle's light was like that of the moon, then it changed--from silvery blue to red gold, and then with a great shake of the earth the light warped. The red gold faded, replaced by an ebon color, like a negative illumination. A dark light.

"Is that ... the gate to Sylvarant?" the woman murmured.

"Look, there's a shadow!" One of the men pointed. "Has someone come through the Gate?"

The other man shrugged, looking skeptical. "That shouldn't be possible unless there's a like Otherworldly Gate in Sylvarant, but ..."

With a flash of light the shuddering of the earth stopped, and the glowing of the magic circle inscribed on the stone pillars faded. The dark of night pressed against their eyes, but the woman staggered forward, a small frown on her face.

"It's a person ..."

There were collective gasps. The three researchers rushed to the Gate, now inactive with clouds cloaking the full moon. The men knelt, almost afraid to touch the unconscious person on the ground. Almost. They turned the person to face upward--a young man. The woman's blood ran cold.

"What ... ? You?"

One of the men sucked breath between his teeth. "It's impossible. He should still be in the city."

"And why's he dressed like this?" The other man, the one bothered by the cold, asked. He eyed the broadsword belted to the unconscious young man's waist. "I've never seen him hold a sword, much less actually use one."

"This clothing ..." The man who had stayed in Heimdall eyed the young man's apparel. "It reminds me of elvish garb, but it still looks different."

"Do you think he was investigating the Gate for the elves?"

"No, that can't be." The woman said. She folded her arms, staring at the young man they found. "We'll take him back to Sybak, as proof of the existence of the Otherworldly Gate's power, and the declining world of Sylvarant."

One of the men met her eyes. "Are you sure?"

She nodded. "Yes. If we take him to Sybak, we'll know for sure."

--

Of the three great cities of Tethe'alla--the Imperial City, Meltokio, the University Town, Sybak, and the Seaside Paradise, Altamira--the Lezareno Company's resort city on the island, Altamira, was often hailed as Tethe'alla's pride and joy, second only to Meltokio, the capital and seat of the royal family. The Company controlled much of the commerce of Tethe'alla's sea trade routes, and tourists were abound every single day of the year to have a taste of the infamous amusement park, the world's greatest investment in machinery thus far.

A rather unfair assessment, Aster would think. Of the most important cities, he felt that the University Town, Sybak, was undermined in value. The most prestigious private schools and colleges were aggregated here in Sybak, it was here that the world's best and brightest resided, whose work continued to benefit Tethe'alla. It was thanks to the professors in this city whose degrees in real world mathematics and civil engineering made Altamira's amusement park possible.

But the best accomplishments of Sybak so far were the reviving of the summoning arts carried out in the Elemental Laboratory branch in Meltokio, the creation of a manmade summon spirit in the selfsame laboratory, and of course, the Grand Tethe'alla Bridge.

Though the technology of Exspheres was brought over by the Renegades, it had been researchers from Sybak who first thought of attaching Exspheres to machines instead of people. It was safer than putting them on people, and more efficient. The Grand Tethe'alla Bridge was operated by an estimated total of 10,000 Exspheres.

Thanks to funding from both the royal family and Tethe'alla's Mana Lineage, the scholars of the Sybak Imperial Research Academy were now studying the Chosen's Cruxis Crystal, something the Church of Martel staunchly opposed. With this newest breakthrough, there would be nothing the researchers of Sybak couldn't accomplish.

Of course Aster was inclined to be a little biased toward Sybak. He lived in Sybak, working for the Imperial Research Academy for seven years now, from the tenderly young age of nine. He every day witnessed the intellectual miracles that forever changed the face of Tethe'alla, and continued the change the world still.

Not to say that these discoveries came quickly or easily. For a number of years Aster had been studying the relation between mana and monsters. But there hadn't been any monsters in Tethe'alla, as the world was flourishing, so he had settled for summon spirit research. But now things were different.

"Monsters really have appeared in Tethe'alla?" Aster asked, eyebrows disappearing into his hairline. His raised voice earned glares from other researchers in the library, and he smiled apologetically. Lowering his voice, he addressed the other researcher. "Are you sure of this?"

"Yes," came the whisper, "merchants and travelers all report monster sightings. Director Schneider sent multiple teams to verify this already. Hadn't you hit a wall with your mana-monster research?"

"Yeah," Aster replied quietly. He leaned on the table, brow knit together with thought. "That's because all I had to work with were fossils and remains of monsters from the last time Tethe'alla was in decline." Studying the remains themselves wasn't always enough, either, there had been much searching for accounts left over from the last regeneration, even talking with elves or half-elves who were alive during that time.

Aster was lost in thought. "Hmm. I can work with live monsters now ... but I'm not doing badly in my summon spirit research, either."

"Oh, yeah. Didn't you study that manmade summon spirit at the Elemental Laboratory a couple of years ago?"

Aster nodded. "Yeah. But the results weren't anything new or unexpected--as they'd always thought, summon spirits are just sentient concentrations of mana. Corrine didn't have any elemental affiliation because the mana that composed him was taken in equal parts."

"Well," the other researcher said thoughtfully, "Director Schneider sent survey teams to collect live monsters. They should be back by now. Why don't you see the Director to find out whether or not another research team was assigned to study the live monsters?"

"That's not a bad idea." Aster ceded.

He left the library, emerged into Sybak's plaza. The normally congested cobblestone streets were empty, devoid of life but for the single group of white-coated scientists who were bringing into the city large cages mounted on wheels. Instantly Aster knew this must be one of the survey teams the Director had sent to collect monster samples.

The cages were lined up before the library, the placards on the front reading the species name, the genus, and where the specimen had come from. Aster knew he should go see the Director immediately, but his intellectual curiosity won him over, and he strode to the line of monster's cages.

In the first cage, he actually thought the monster within might have been dead. It was a plant monster, a dark little thing with gnarled bark, long woody tentacles coiled about its body. The placard said this specimen was collected from the Gaoracchia Woods just north of Sybak. Aster recalled that those woods had a thick canopy, and thus sunlight hardly penetrated to the floor below.

Aster looked up. A clear blue sky, hardly a cloud in sight to dim the impossibly bright beacon that was the sun. Perhaps the plant monster didn't like sunlight. But that was kind of backwards, wasn't it? Didn't plants photosynthesize to make food for themselves? But maybe this monster wasn't an actual plant--maybe it just looked like a plant as a form of camouflage.

Aster's examining of the monster was interrupted by the survey team.

"We have to move these to the labs within. The Director will assemble a research team later."

Aster nodded, moved aside. "Of course, don't let me keep you." The cages started rolling again, flanked by the scientists of the monster survey team. He began to follow them to the Imperial Research Academy--he had to ask the Director if he wanted to study those monsters.

As he neared the entrance of the main building--the survey team went around to the back for the garages for the monsters--a young woman in a white lab coat rushed out, looking quite flustered, as if she had been running a marathon. She may well have been, with her face flushed and her usually neat blonde hair mussed out of place, unrestrained by her loosely tied purple ribbon.

"Rilena?" Aster asked, brow quirked. "What's wrong? Did something happen on your field study?" Rilena had chatted nonstop about her upcoming field study to the Otherworldly Gate, how it was an important mission granted from the King of Tethe'alla himself. Aster had envied her to some extent, but her area of research wasn't his field of expertise.

Rilena doubled over to catch her breath, panting rapidly. When she had started breathing properly again, she stood up straight, her hazel eyes locked with Aster's bright emerald green.

"There you are! Yes, something did happen. The Otherworldly Gate opened on the night of the full moon, just as the legends from the elves and Altamira said it would--and we found someone unconscious there."

Aster's eyes went wide, his eyebrows shooting straight up to disappear in his hairline. "From Sylvarant?"

Rilena nodded. "Yes, we think so. But that's not the only thing ..." She dropped her voice to a whisper, and Aster had to lean closer to her to hear what she had to say. His jaw dropped, and his heart skipped a few beats. His mouth went dry, his throat hitched.

"What do you mean he looks just like me?"