Summary; Van is on the run for his past crimes. Worried about more attemps to abduct Asch or Luke to recreate the Akzeriuth incident, Ion suggests that the two of them remain at home under heavy guard until Van is located and captured; Ion's idea is backed strongly by the others in the group and Asch and Luke return to Fabre Manor along with Guy -just incase the unthinkable happens and Van shows his face where it's not wanted. But tensions are high as an entire year passes without result or action by Van.
Asch found himself stalking sleepily round the corridors of his old home, occasionally pausing to scold the maids who addressed him as "Master Luke" not "Master Asch". Oddly enough, over these last seven years he'd found more comfort in that name than he'd had liked to admit. It bothered him somewhat, along with this mess he was in. When he was under guard in Daath he'd been told he was "necessary". What he wanted it to mean and what it actually did meant were two very different scenarios.
Under the advice of his childhood sweet heart (and future wife if he could ever find the chance to propose to her in between all this chaos) young princess Natalia, he had dawned a pair of neatly fitting black skinny jeans that exposed the shape of his mature eighteen year old body more than his age old training wears had. She had also managed to convince him to wear a rather annoying sleeveless black polo neck -which he had to admit went very well with his favoured gloves.
It wasn't that he found the outfit repulsive in anyway, it was just that, whenever he passed someone -anyone- be they noble or servant in the hallway, they stared intensively at him as if they'd seen some sort of phantom. The women were worse than the men. After he was a good distance away from them they'd whisper and giggle and blush; and that, for some reason or another made Asch uneasy which usually caused his slight increase of pace when got round a corner.
A thought suddenly occurred to him and he made a mental note concerning it. It was very likely that sooner or later he was going to run into Luke, Guy or his parents. Any of the previous three would most likely enquire about his choice of clothing, and unfortunately he had a feeling that their light questioning would probably become more like a military interrogation.
Asch sighed deeply and heavily. He would have to avoid all of them if he wanted any peace and of course that meant staying in his room.
Asch made his way up to the second floor. His room luckily was close enough to the stair well that he didn't have to walk that far and further risk the possibility of running into someone. For that, Asch was thankful.
The room was a lot bigger than the one he'd had as a child. A large window stretched across the expanse of the further-most wall. The other walls were plain save for a mirror that hung across a dresser where he kept his clothes. A single bed sat at the far end wedged into the corner under the window. It was unmade since the maids didn't even know this was his room. Weapons of various types, styles and cultures were scattered hap-hazardly under his bed, though he'd been meaning to go into town and purchase a box for them. He left his armour and uniform tidy in corner propped up against the dresser. All-in-all, it was very simple accommodation.
He collapsed carelessly out onto the bed like a rag-doll, shutting his eyes and stretching out to rest his head back on a cotton pillow. His arms were sprawled out either side of him. He kicked his boots off and let his entire form relax. Normally he hated being in such a venerable position but ever since he'd woken up this morning at dawn he'd felt ill and weak. As the day had worn on his muscles and joints had only gotten more painful to walk around in.
"Who do we have here then?" A familiar voice cooed from above him.
Asch strained his eyes open. "Guy? How did you-?"
Guy cut him off. "-Find you? Easy, I saw you in hall and followed you. You locked the door so I figured I'd use the window."
Guy stepped back to let Asch sit up. Asch groaned vulnerbally when he pushed against the stiff pains in his bones. Guy seemed to notice and offered him a hand.
Asch shook him off. "I'm fine."
"You don't sound like it. Maybe you're just stiff, have been to the practice yards today?" Asch nodded surpressing a shudder of pain as he shifted his weight back onto his exhausted arms. Guy continued, "Well, anyways, Natalia has been looking for you and she threatened to hug me if I didn't find you by dinner."
Asch bit back a burst of laughter. Ah yes, he thought Guy's odd phobia of women. Guy wasn't terrified of the sight of them, however, he did act irrationally when they touched him or came close to him.
"Did she say anything?"
"Well she yelled at me for a little while about constantly backing away from her while she's talking but nothing about what she wanted you for. Sorry."
"Don't be." Asch made an effort to stand without hissing in pain. He did it, but it wouldn't be long before Guy noticed something was wrong with him, so he moved as quickly as his body would allow him.
As soon as Asch made it out the door and to the stair well, Guy poked his head around the side of the door frame and shouted, "She's in the drawing room! Avoid the maids if you can and the Duke's hanging around outside the room so use the window!"
Asch raised a hand in thanks before disappearing down the stairs.
Asch hopped down from the window sill onto the smooth tiles of the drawing room floor. His landing was rather awkward but at least he didn't fall over. He looked around, it had been awhile since he'd been in here, but the all the chairs, tables and paintings were in the same positions as they had been the last time he was in here. He supposed nothing had changed because his parents had wanted to 'remind' his replica of home. Not like it worked. Luke still got lost on occasion.
Something struck him as odd. Natalia had asked to meet him here yet she was no whereto be seen. Then again, he might just be jumping to conclusions, Natalia was probably on her way to find Guy and keep the promise she'd made him.
Never the less he decided to leave the matter be and go back to bed; if Nataliya wanted him, she would have to come to him. And in any case, he was far too tired to be running around like a headless chicken.
As he began to approach the door (he'd decided against going out via the window given his current state) something behind whined in an infuriatingly high pitch, "Wait! Mieu!" Asch turned round in time to see Mieu, the chegal, falling down off the windowsill and onto the floor gracelessly with a loud thump. "Please help Mieu!" He said waddling over to Asch as quickly as he could manage.
Asch raised an eyebrow at the creature before asking, "What happened Mieu?" As Mieu reached him, he began jumping around impatiently waving his tiny white tipped paws in the air.
"What? Where? Tell me Mieu!"
Earlier that afternoon, Luke had been studying in the private library with special permission from Natalia. Of course, she was likely to come to him later on and ask for a favour of some sort -which he would have to comply with, given she'd been so kind. Luke wasn't particularly fond of the idea but it had to be done, the Manor's library may have useful but only to a point. He could find good books in it, however, they had a limited understanding of hyperresnence, which coincidentally, was his homework from Tear.
On occasion, when the group returned to Baticle, Tear would give one-on-one lessons, then she would set homework for him to do while she was gone. Sometimes Jade would cip in bits and pieces which helped him understand the course better, but Luke couldn't rely on someone who wasn't always here.
Ion and Anise tried their best to fill in the gaps the books did't quite cover but usually they just made it worse.
Luke was grateful for their company though, for some reason they felt more like family to him than the Fabres ever were. Even though he was related to them in some complicated way and had the same blood and DNA as them they didn't feel like relatives of any sort. Not even the aunt or uncle he'd never met.
Luke's dreams had changed damatically over the last year; now instead of wanting to be a hero and get away from his imprisonment at home, he only wanted a family and to be loved like the child he was by the parents he didn't have.
He felt a pang of sadness buckle around his heart. His and Asch's confrontation with them had not gone to plan. And Luke soon found out how unforgiving the Duke and his wife were. Asch had done his best to dampen their anger, but the words and threats they threw at Luke hurt. He was down right terrified of them now. He hadn't even gone back to his room yet in all the time they'd been here. Though Guy had offered to share his room, Luke had decilined. He stayed in one of the many empty rooms and only really left when he needed something or if Guy dragged him out.
The pain that constricted in his chest tightened it's grip and he choked back the tears that were crawling up his throat. It was partly fear.
At least on the bright side, his formal uncle, the king, had taken the news better. It might of had something to do with the pressing gaze of cold fury his daughter had thrown at him, but at least he didn't yell or do anything too hasty. Natalia and Tear had done their best to cheer him up after the meetings but he still felt awful.
Luke dragged himself out of his dark thoughts and get back to work. He pulled out an old brick of a book -which he guessed had about a thousand or so pages in it then read title aloud.
" 'Fonic Arts and Accessories to Combat Volume 27'... What do you think Mieu should I read it or should I start fishing around for number 1?" Luke managed to choke out a fained laugh. The chegal didn't seem to notice it was fake.
"That sound wonderful Master! Can I read too?" Mieu was standing on one of the solid wood tables, holding up the sorcerer's ring round his waste like a hola-hoop and playing games with his reflection on the table.
Luke smiled as turned to face the little creature, -any warmth from anyone made him smile these days- and sat down with the book. "Yes, Mieu. But if it's no good I'll be putting it back, alright?"
"Alright!" Mieu squeeked while snuggling in under Luke's neck.
After a hour had past Luke's throat had become dry, causing him to cough. He thought it might be an idea to get drinks and Mieu had offered to accompany him to the kitchens. Luke had told him in response to stay and guard the book instead, just in case the maids pass by and take it.
"Don't worry Master! I won't let you down!"
At this Luke had got up to leave. He left his chair out since he wouldn't be long. He wondered vaguely if it had gotten a lot hotter than it was when he came in. He rubbed beads of sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand.
Mieu waddled over to the edge of the table and voiced his concern, "Master are you ok? Your face isn't the colour it was when you came in..."
Luke squeezed his eyes shut as a sudden headache caused him to lose his balance. Before he knew what had happened, he was laid out in a mess on tiles feeling dizzy and numb. In front of him Mieu was jumping around and yelling something. Then Mieu ran off in the direction of the door. Luke's consciousness was slipping...he couldn't hear anything... he couldn't feel anything... he couldn't see anything.
The only thing he was aware of was his own harsh, stressed, breathing.
Asch had to admit it for once, when he saw Luke's body sprawled out on the floor -he panicked. He scrambled across the tiles and kneed beside Luke's body. Placing a shacking hand on the younger's shoulder, fearing the worst had happened, Asch tried to wake him.
"Luke? Luke get up! Get up right now!" Asch's fears melted back into his stomach when Luke's eyes twitched open.
"...As-ch...w-why are you...?" He groaned weakly, his dry lips bearly moving.
"Never mind that! Luke can you stand?" Luke struggled to push himself up and his efforts only proved to be fruitless as the numbness in his limbs prevented him from doing more than lifting himself onto his elbows. Asch picked him up from there turning him onto his back so he'd be easier to carry. He held him close to his chest as he could, his left arm draped over Lukes body holding up his lower back, his right held up Luke's shoulders so that his head rested in the crock of Asch's neck.
Asch's gaze quickly caught the chegal waiting patiently beside him, "Mieu, listen carefully. I need you to find Guy and Natalia. As soon as you do, send them back here without delay."
Mieu was out the door within seconds. After he'd left, Asch's eyes dropped downward to the bundle in his arms as it began moving.
"Stop that Luke, it won't make you any better." Luke ceased his wiggling with a hefty sigh.
After a few minutes, Luke spoke up. "Asch?"
"Does everyone here hate me?"
Asch was startled by the abruptness of the question but felt obliged to answer. "...No Luke."
"...Why s-so hestitant?" Asch couldn't answer that. "Is it because they d-do?"
"No. Luke, we'll talk about it later."
A long silence weighed out over them, Luke was the first to break it, again. "...I'm..." He swallowed, "I'm s-sorry, Asch."
"Don't talk Luke." Asch laid his head gentally on top of Luke's.
"...But, I...I-nnh!" Luke brought his hands up to his mouth. At first Asch thought Luke was trying to stop himself from talking, but then he saw the stain appearing on Luke's gloves. His immediate reaction was to tug away the hands and get a good look.
He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a tissue, holding it onto Luke's face, "Luke move your hands. I need to get at the blood." Luke was in too much of a state to interfere with his actions so he let his hands slide onto his lap.
Luke's eyes began to well up with tears, he couldn't control himself. His body was convulsing from all the coughing he was doing and with joints being as stiff as they were, it was painful.
"Luke, don't fall asleep! I mean it Luke...Luke?" But it was a little late for that, Luke had already fainted.
AN; I'm ending the chapter here. Do not worry, I'm not so cruel that I would leave you without a preview of the next chapter.
"Isn't it amazing what three simple words can do? Destroye love...create friendship...ask forgivness...tell sercrets. All in just...Three. Little. Words.
Next Chapter: 'I am sorry.'"
Try to imagine it being read out by Guy, it'll give you clues to the next stage in the plot.