Chapter 15

Asch

Luke stared out his window into the night's starless sky. He could never see the stars properly from his bedroom, the mannor courtyard was just too brightly lit. Dispite this inconvieniance, the twinkling in the abyss above the world that he could see gave him contentment.

When he was younger, the stars were one of his greatest envies. Guy told him that they traveled around the planet and could see the whole world from the sky.

"Hey Guy."

"What is it Luke?"

"I know what I want to be when I grow up."

"And what might that be?"

"I'm going to be a star!"

"A star in the sky?"

"Yep! And I'll travel right round the whole world!"

"Is that so? And what will this star do once he's finished his journey around Aulderant?"

"I'll come back home and tell you about all the amazing things I saw."

He felt so nostalgic. Thinking about these little things. How, shortly after he'd told Guy all of his aspirations as a star in the sky, the elder had curled up next to him and rubbed his back softly until he fell asleep.

"What's wrong Master?" Mieu quirked from the bedside drawer he was sleeping in. A maid had fitted it with a blanket and cushion for the little creature to sleep in.

Luke turned back from the window closing the curtains as he did so. "Nothing, nothing." He assured, "I'm just a bit giddy, that's all."

"That's not unusual." A gentle voice called from the door. Luke turned to see his mother.

"Mother? What are doing here, I would have thought you'd be sleeping." She smiled softly and entered the room.

She wore a white nightgown underneath a plush ruby robe to keep herself warm in this colder weather. In her right hand she held a small box and with her left she closed the door.

"I could say the same thing to you Luke Fon Fabre, what time do think it is?" She sent him a motherly glare that told Luke he should be in bed, sharpish. He clambered in under the covers as she took a seat by his side. She pushed his fringe behind his ear gently. "Now, Luke. What were you doing up so late?"

"Sorry. I couldn't sleep."

She shook her head. "You're as bad as your brother."

"Asch isn't sleeping either?" Susane shook her head in response. "I wonder what's keeping him up. He's not exactly a heavy sleeper but..."

"Luke," Susane interupted. "There is something we need to talk about."

"What is it, mother?" Luke asked, concerned. His gut started to sink as he heard the serious tone and feared the worst.

"You've been moping around a lot recently. When your friends are gone this mannor is nothing but stuffy and uncomfortable for you now, isn't it?"

Luke looked down mournfully at his hands. "I'm sorry. But I shouldn't be here. Asch is the one that was-" Susane cut him off.

"Luke Fon Fabre don't be so ridiculous. I brought you up to think better than that." She put her arms around him and held him close to her side in a tight hug. "Now let me tell you this; eight years ago I lost my only son who I couldn't bare to think of life without him. I was worried sick and I thanked Loreili when he was brought home to me. Then he was taken from me again and I feared the very worst had happened, but he came home with his new friends. And seeing him smile when he walked in to see me made feel as if I would never have to worry again. But I did. And when I did, it was because the very worst had happened, when my baby boy died. I could not smile. No good news was good enough to make me."

"Mother..." Luke reached around to smooth his mother's deep brown hair as she seemed to relive that moment.

"Then one day, your father came into our room and announced the truth about you and Asch which he told me he had heard from Mohs. I couldn't understand a word of it. But he presisted in explaining it to me patiently. He said, "We were sent a replica of our son, and our real son elsewhere." All that meant to me then, and what it still means now is that instead of having one son who died, I have been blessed with two very much alive little boys who Yulia was kind enough to send me."

"Mother, do you still think of me as your son?" In responce Susane rolled her eyes while placing a kiss on his forehead. Luke could have cried when she answered.

"Ofcourse Luke. Now, go to sleep. Eight year olds need more rest than you're giving yourself."

She waited patiently for Luke to doze off before she left the box she'd entred the room with just beside his bed, on the nightstand.

/

Asch, however tried he found himself, could not settle into an undistrubed slumber. Shifting nightmares which he forgot the moment he woke plagued him and exhausted his already waining strength. He could not even be sure if they were his own mind's creation and concidered the possiblity that Loreilei was trying to contact him.

That can't be the solution... Loreilei is trapped somewhere, that's why it hasn't been bothering me or Luke, unless... There was always that one other possibility. One which seemed to be encroaching on him much faster than before.

Asch sat up in bed. He wiped away the slap from his eyes and the sweat from brow. though it did little to help him appear in any way presentable, as he climbed clumsily out of bed. He started pulling his wardrobe appart for his old uniform or at least something which his master had given him.

Eventually he found it. The tabard was unusable given the state it was in when he last wore it but the undergarments, gloves and overcoat wear in decent shape.

Carefully he balanced all but a single glove on his right arm. Inspecting it carefully he traced the symbol with his thumb and suddenly felt a stab of guilt run through his chest.

The clothes had made him feel so much stronger as a child. He'd watch the processions of the Oracle Knights with his master in Daath. Van would always lift him up into his arms so he could see over the crowds. They filled him with an emmence rush of excitment and he saw new dreams engraved in their silver armour.

Asch loved Van as a son would his father when he was that young, but now that he had grown and such feelings were alien to him. Van had protected him from the moment he walked through the gates to the Cathedral, he'd taken care of him when Lorelei forced it's way into his mind. But he'd also done it for Luke, and that burned Asch up with rage from the inside out.

He never called it jeolousy because it went far deeper than that. Fake or not, Asch couldn't stand his master feeling any pride in another.

Asch's hand clenched around the fabric of the glove. His feelings on this issue were tangled up in some sort of horrible nightmare.

Asch had been reared by Van on principles of vigilance and honour. Two things his master had thrown to the wind in his madness to destroy the Score.

He had been trained to fight for the honour of his name, the lives comrades, the glory of his nation... not some demented replica world.

Luke aside, Asch hated replicas. They were created to be stand-ins nothing more, but they couldn't be. It didn't take an idoit to realise that. Replicas only looked the same. They didn't act the same.

It was memories that made them recognisable. Van could not, for the life of himself, grasp that idea. He could not believe that any replica was it's own rightful being. He still couldn't believe that Asch and Luke were separate. It was his greatest flaw and far outranked everything else he had done to the world to achieve his goal, and it was the only one Asch could never forgive him for.

A twinge of pain shot straight to the back of his head suddenly, and Asch reeled backwards to the floor. Imediately his hands shot up to source and to grab vainly at the internal agony. But they never reached it, something stronger, heavier, pushed down on his shoulders and pinned him to the floor. Asch gasped when the movement pushed the air out of his lungs.

He couldn't focus his vision on what was in front of him. The room was nothing but a nausiating void of black.

He felt himself turned onto his stomache as a hauntingly familiar voice spoke from behind him. "Stay still, Asch. And I promise this won't hurt more than it has to."

Asch tried to pull his thoughts together enough to coriograph a coherant response. In the end all he came up with was, "Get. Off. Me. Bitch."

"Now, now. None of that language. I'm only following orders." The assailent behind bent his arms around to th small of his back as she spoke.

"Your orders-" Asch broke his speech to curse as rope cut into his wrists. "Your orders stopped mattering when you stopped paying attention to what you were really doing." She tugged sharpely on his bindings. "And when you stopped thinking about what you were doing, who you were killing for some shit reason-" Another pull and he felt damp trickling down his arms, "-that you don't even care about. All because of your fucking orders. The only reason you've ever followed them was-"

Legretta pushed her thumb into a very uncomfortable pressure point in Asch's back between his spine and his rib. Although the pain immoblised his body, Asch felt the need to smile in triumph. After all, getting a direct strike at Legretta's nerves was always a very difficult thing to accomplish, since the woman was constantly so self determined with her control.

Now all he had to do was get her to drop her guard low enough to allow him an oppertunaty to throw her off and escape...

Unfortunately, he wasn't the only one who knew what he was doing.

"Don't think I don't see what you're trying to pull here, Asch." She suddenly pulled him up onto his knees. The sudden movment jerked his head, and vision again became mangled as he swooned slightly. "You forget far too easily who taught you that trick."

When his head finally calmed and his vision settled, he realised he was blind. Or rather, blindfolded and on the goddamn floor again?

There were several voices around him now and that narrowed his margin for escape. Asch gritted his teeth, the only thing he could think to do was sit tight and wait patiently for one of them to slip up or get cocky enough to give Asch the opertunaty get himself out of this mess.


AN: Like I said on my profile, it's been a while, a very, very long while. If you're still there let me know. I can't find spellchecker on Fanfiction anymore and that pisses me off a little bit. That also means I'm relying on anyone still reading along to please keep an eye out and tell me if you see any errors or anything like that.