I...really don't know where to start. This is one of those stories that one writes ages ago and promptly forgets about to move on to other things. I spat this out when I first got Tales of the Abyss last year. I loved the game, was inspired, and this incomplete work happened. Imagine my surprise when I found the old flash drive it was stored on just last week. I was sick in bed with the flu, so I spent my time messing around with it (even though I should be working on my other fic...).

This story was really me wanting to try my hand at girl!Luke (because I like that sort of thing for some reason XD) and have it kinda, sorta, maybe believable? On an embarrassing note, I giggled like a immature tween from the moment I saw that Lorelei gave Asch a sword and Luke a jewel. Honestly, that's where it really came from. I wonder if I should be ashamed of myself.

Disclaimer: I do not own Tales of the Abyss. It is the property of Namco Bandai.

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LORELEI

Gender: Feminine

Usage: Germanic Mythology

Pronounced: lawr-e-LIE, LAWR-e-lie [key]

From a Germanic name meaning "luring rock". This is the name of a rock headland on the Rhine River. Legends say that a maiden named the Lorelei lives on the rock and lures fishermen to their death with her song. [1]

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Part I: Complimentary Opposites

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Luke fon Fabre

Luke didn't really want to admit it, but ever since he was whisked out of the manor and dumped into the outside world, he had been utterly terrified.

He thought he did a pretty good job of hiding it, as it was a source of shame and it made him think of things he wished he could ignore. Besides, shouldn't a student of Master Van be more courageous? More sure of himself? As much as he detested it, the manor was his entire world—the only world he knew. Whatever experiences he had before he was placed in lock down were long gone, probably forever, and so he had been forced to learn to walk, talk, read, write, and just exist inside the manor walls for the past seven years of his life. Luke ached for the time he would reach his majority, true, but if he wanted to be honest with himself it was highly unlikely he'd have left Baticul much after that. He wasn't prepared to leave, not by a long shot.

Damn, he was so scared.

And Luke was so sick of being scared but he couldn't help it. The monsters scared him, fighting scared him, the uncertainty scared him, the sheer openness of the world scared him. For the first time in his life there were no walls, and everything stretched out as if it went on forever. There was only space—space, space, and more space and it made him a little dizzy to even look out towards the horizon. He was exposed, open to who knows what with no safe haven to retreat to should something happen. If it weren't for the fact that he wanted to go back home (which was pretty ironic, considering) he'd have probably ducked into some small cave and stayed there just to get some relief. And the only person he had for company was an assassin, the same one responsible for getting him stuck out here in the first place. Not that Luke was all that threatened by her; she apparently thought she could kill Master Van even though she couldn't even kill a boar without his assistance, so he really didn't need to worry about her. Luke remembered the anger he felt then, the petty surge of glee as he imagined what would happen when they got back to Baticul, Van's sister or not. It had dissipated as time wore on, but sometimes he would imagine her getting tossed into the dungeon when her bossiness got on his nerves.

But, still, he learned. He learned how to apply his training to actual battles, he learned how to shop (which was fun, he admitted, and he found himself really enjoying it), he learned little things that everyone else took for granted. Even though the wide open spaces still gave him that shameful feeling of anxiety, he could travel and do things if he just focused on something else. He could do it, of course he could, he just needed to adjust, that was all.

Luke very nearly burst into tears when Guy found them. He was so relieved to see a familiar face it was all he could do not to fall all over him as if he were ten years old again. It was yet another source of embarrassment out here because, dammit, he thought he got over being a cry baby years ago! But Guy understood, he could count on Guy to pay attention to him at the very least. Now that Guy was with him there was nothing to worry about. Things could soon go back to normal and he wouldn't have to kill just to survive and Tear wouldn't have to get herself hurt protecting him. He would be back in Baticul in no time—his father probably didn't care all that much, but Mother must have worried herself into sickness at that point. If things went really well, he could hand Mieu off to Mother and get that thing out of his hair.

Once they ran into Master Van by the border, Luke felt even more assured. It nearly made this entire affair worth it. Now, his safe return to Baticul was a sure thing It was beyond annoying that they were essentially forced to head to Choral Castle due to the God Generals causing trouble, but still, Luke had remained optimistic.

'So why the hell did this have to happen??' Luke thought, trying not to have a panic attack as he was dropped none too gently onto a cold, hard surface. He had blacked out earlier, but the sudden jolt from his head landing on some slab brought him back somewhat. He was still groggy and half-conscious, though, and he couldn't really make out just who took him. Luke wanted to save himself, but even he realized that wasn't possible at this point. He finally had to push his pride aside and desperately wish for someone save him—Guy, Master Van...hell, he'd have happily taken Jade at this point.

And he was never coming back to Choral Castle ever again, dammit.

'I can't move! My head hurts...it hurts why can't...' It really was pure luck that he didn't black out again, although he wished he did when there was a loud, thrumming hum as something above him came to life. It hurt his ears and it was achingly bright behind his eyelids. Luke's heart was racing again, just as bad as when he first woke up and realized he was exposed.

He wasn't sure what happened next, but soon there was this horrible pressure on the top of his head, as if something was trying to press through his skull and shoot down his spine. His teeth chattered and his eyes, ears, and tongue throbbed.

Luke wanted to cry.

He must have finally lost it, as the unbearable humming started to become musical to his ears. It was difficult to describe, but he swore it was some kind of bell—similar to the one that he heard from the city every Lorelei Day. A wave of warmth crashed on him and he was being swept away.

He couldn't even keep his thoughts together...he was being submerged in some kind of feeling. Luke would have gladly endured one of his usual migraines if it meant retaining his identity.

"Luke...my precious isofon."

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Lorelei

Out of all the fonon Sentiences of Auldrant, Lorelei was the youngest, coming to being only from the combination of the six existing forces and memory particles that made up the world; of course, all that power meant nothing much now. He/She/It had been trapped and sealed in the core for thousands of years, constantly feeling the pain from those up above.

The loneliness, however, was the worst. It was a very difficult thing not to give into bitterness.

It was that same loneliness that actually moved Lorelei to use the horde of fonons and memory particles it managed to store outside of the Planet Storm. It took years and years, but eventually Lorelei was able to create a manifestation on the physical plane. It was inevitable, in any case, as Lorelei was even more chained to the Score than the humans who lived by it.

But there were rules, as set by Origin eons ago, and that created some unwanted limitations. Lorelei's isofon was human, in the end, who existed on the physical plane and was subject to its laws. He was capable of hyperresonance, as that was dependent on his frequency, but his human form limited just how much and what he could do.

Unfortunately, the hyperresonance alone would be more than enough. Lorelei truly felt the grips of despair then, only able to stand by as time wore on with the knowledge that his/her/its isofon would soon die, triggering the end of the world with him.

The replication of Luke, now Asch, was a pleasant surprise for many reasons. The replica was, in a sense, another child for Lorelei, another being to love as he came from him/her/it-self. It brought Lorelei pleasure where there was little pleasure to be had. Secondly, Lorelei never saw him coming. It would be impossible to express the sensations Lorelei felt then, to have something unpredictable happen for the first time in a long time. Hope was a large part of it; Lorelei couldn't do much, but Replica Luke's existence could be the turning point, a way for humanity to redeem itself.

Luke was also composed of seventh fonons, and nothing could have been more perfect. A perfect isofon composed of nothing but his/her/its fonons that could truly be an agent on the physical plane. Lorelei eagerly tried to contact Luke many times, but it was difficult—closed fonslots made it nearly impossible, although Lorelei remained ever hopeful. This could be the time when the cycle of destruction would finally be broken and Lorelei could be free and wild as the others.

He/She/It wasn't sure if Luke's birth was ultimately the cause of what happened, but it was surely nothing but luck that led Lorelei to check on him at that moment on that day. Time flowed differently for Lorelei for a variety of reasons; keeping track of what Luke and Asch were doing in "real-time" was actually pretty difficult. Of the two, Luke was easier to locate than Asch simply because he had remained in the same place for a long time. Now that wasn't the case anymore, and it made Lorelei very anxious.

Why did the human world have to be so small? It was like trying to make contact with an ant, and the only thing that separated said ant from the rest was that it was a different color.

Indeed, it must have been luck that turned Lorelei's attention to a fleeting beam of seventh fonons. The broadcast wasn't even particularly strong, but the frequency was the exact same. Lorelei surged forward (as much as Lorelei could surge anywhere), knowing that Luke was the heart of it. However, there was a clear difference this time.

Luke's slots were wide open. Delighted, Lorelei pushed forward, dimly aware of his/her/its perfect isofon's discomfort. With a little more probing Lorelei could sense a machine (fomicry, replication) as well, at the peak of activity.

This was useful.

Lorelei didn't wait another moment, quickly seizing upon the seventh fonons the machine generated and preventing it from shutting down—just in time, as the synchronization was complete. It didn't take long to feel Asch as well through Luke. For once, he was actually close by, only a meter away from his replica. Who knew if there would be another opportunity for this (actually, Lorelei did and there wouldn't be)? Perfect isofons they may be, but distance was the enemy here, and Lorelei wouldn't be able to do this again unless they took a leap into the core itself. As it stood, there wasn't a lot of time to work with even with using the machine as an enhancer.

Lorelei pulled them closer, thrilled to be able to really look at them for the first time. They were wonderful, as perfect as Lorelei imagined. Luke looked scared and confused, which was understandable. Asch was confused himself, but he hid it better by opting to be angry instead. Also understandable, considering.

Now they were all here, and for the first time in two thousand years Lorelei the Sentience could do something.

**********

Asch the Bloody

Originally, he hadn't meant to be here, but after seeing his impostor for the first time in years Asch decided it would be best to come to Choral Castle. Seeing his replica awakened a sense of urgency within him—in all probability, if that thing was waltzing about his uncle must be planning to send him off to Akzeriuth shortly, especially considering the troubling reports that have been coming in recently. Clearly, the time was drawing closer and he had to prepare. It wasn't that difficult to convince Arietta to follow his orders. She was so angry at the replica's group for killing her "Mother," and so desperate to get Ion back, she willingly went along with what he said. Dist also proved to be ridiculously easy to manipulate. The prospect of working with a perfect isofon and obtaining more data in regards to replication was more than enough to convince him to play along.

Sync, however, was an unforeseen addition, but Asch was used to improvising and thinking on his feet.

Dist was puttering about in his chair, operating the machines with ease. The man was eccentric, and ridiculous, but Asch grudgingly admitted that he did know what he was doing. Sync seemed to be serving as extra support. It was a shame that Asch could barely stand the both of them; otherwise he would have had something to do other than brood while he waited for the process to reach completion.

Raw hatred boiled under the surface of his skin. Asch had to take a deep breath and restrain himself before he took his sword and plunged it through that thing's chest. Asch had great cause to be angry, to be angry at almost everyone and everything—the Score being on the top of his list, with the replica vying for a very close second.

Simply looking at the replica made Asch angry, but now that he was so close he couldn't really stop. It stole his life and everything that was his, lounging about in the lap of luxury while he struggled and suffered. He wasn't looking forward to the synchronization of their fonslots even if it had to be done. The fon machine was becoming more powerful as it warmed up, and Asch could already feel the difference. He mentally gave a slight nudge—there was some resistance, but soon that would be gone.

"Van's going to punish you, you know." Sync didn't sound as if he cared in the least about that, however. Asch grunted in acknowledgment. That was true enough; Van didn't want him anywhere near the replica, and he had already pushed his luck by the trouble he caused at Kaitzur. Oh well, Asch wasn't that eager to blindly obey the man anymore.

"I think that's my concern, wouldn't you say?"

Sync hmphed. "Idiot. What do you hope to accomplish by being here?"

Before Asch could answer, Dist's spoke. "I see. Even the fonon frequency is the same. This is a perfect creation." Asch had to roll his shoulders to dispel the chill running down his spine. Honestly, it was as if the man was actively trying to be creepy. Dist's eyes were hidden behind his glasses, but it was easy to identify the greedy expression on his face as he gazed upon the numbers flashing by on the screen. The replica was now writhing on the platform, although it didn't look as if it was going to come to its senses any time soon. Asch supposed he didn't have to knock the thing stupid when they got it down here, but he couldn't stop himself from giving it a well deserved hit on the head.

"That's not important," Sync snapped as he made his way down to the second level. With Asch there he must have saw little need to hang around. "We have to erase the data before they come back."

"Which will be soon, so hurry up already." Asch gave Dist a glare for good measure. Dist was unimpressed, going so far as to scoff at them.

"Odd. If the data here is that important, you shouldn't have used Choral Castle in the first place."

"That idiot came here on his own." Sync nodded in Asch's direction. Asch shrugged and turned his attention back to the fon machine.

Dist laughed and held up his arms at the sight.

"Marvelous! To think that all of those years would finally be coming to fruition--"

"Celebrate after the process is complete," Sync interrupted, leaning against a terminal with his arms crossed.

"What did you say??"

"Silence!" Asch barked. The order was more for Dist than Sync, as he really wasn't in the mood for Dist's flamboyance.

It had gotten to the point where it was difficult to see due to the glow, but Asch forced himself to look at his replica's face regardless. Was he expecting something? He honestly didn't know.

"The machine is at maximum output," Dist announced gleefully, as if he was too stupid to feel the sudden peak of seventh fonons, "try it now."

Asch nodded once and this time gave a mental shove, not really caring if it hurt.

And he was sucked down a vortex of color and sound.

For a moment, he actually flailed in panic as his mind was suddenly swept up into a flow of seventh fonons. He dimly heard Dist's voice as he shouted something about the machine going haywire before that too disappeared.

'That figures, what did that idiot do??' Asch's surroundings were washed in a brilliant glow. The hum of the machine was replaced by the loud ringing of a bell. It was bearable, but only just. After several long moments, Asch finally managed to get his bearings. He couldn't even tell if he was even breathing or not. He felt he should be, at any rate. He could see, and hear, and he swore there was a floor beneath his feet although he got the strangest sensation that he was making it all up. Asch stared at his hands, now bare, and the rest of his clothing seemed to have disappeared into the ether. Perhaps it should have been embarrassing, but the only emotion Asch could identify was fierce indignation.

"Who are you?" Asch's head snapped up at the question. The replica sat before him, just as naked, and was gaping at him in shock. Asch could feel his mouth twisting into a sneer at the sight of him and his ill-disguised fear. This was his replica? Pathetic!

"This is probably your fault, you piece of trash!"

"W-What?? Who are you??"

Asch had never wanted to strike something so hard in his entire life. Before he could make a move, however, a large force was pressing into his mind, cutting off all speech. Then fear cut through him, and it took Asch a while to figure out that it wasn't his. He did everything he could to stop it and pull back. Asch was never interested in delving this deep into the dreck's mind, but nothing he did worked. Its emotions very nearly swallowed his own, making him irrational and teary eyed.

That was more than enough to give him the strength to push the sensations back into something he could deal with. Like hell he was going to cry!

"My precious isofons..."

Asch took a deep breath, surprised to find himself on his metaphysical knees once he came to. He didn't even have to spare a thought wondering about the voice thrumming inside and outside of his head, instinctively knowing who...or what it was. After all, how could he not know, the once Sacred Flame?

The replica groaned and started to paw at his arms and chest. Asch couldn't even summon the energy to fight him off.

'Still, why is Lorelei affecting it this much?' Contact with Lorelei hurt him, too, yes, but he wasn't trying to molest anything either. Was it because the replica was composed of nothing but Lorelei's fonons on top of having its frequency? Asch could only hypothesize.

Lorelei projected dismay then, and concern. Asch scoffed and rolled his eyes.

'Doesn't it realize what its doing?' Lorelei was godlike, and the both of them were drowning in an ocean of sound and memory particles. The only reason Asch could even think straight right now was his iron will. It didn't take a mind probe to know that the replica wasn't so lucky, especially because it was serving as a focal point.

"I am sorry, I am sorry it hurts but I am weak."

Asch choked on Lorelei's sorrow before he was once more inundated in warmth—oh, he could place it now. It was overwhelming love. In spite of himself, Asch felt his heart sing in response. He couldn't help it, it was so pure and it had been so long since...

The replica was trying its damnedest to crawl into his skin.

Asch growled and tried to shove, but neither the replica or Lorelei would allow it.

"There is something you must understand...I have little time left my power is reaching the limit."

Asch once again felt himself and the replica slide together and it was exceedingly irritating. He wanted to shout at the both of them to stop, that he didn't appreciate not being able to discern where he ended and that piece of dreck began--

They stood in the gardens of their manor in Baticul. In a moment of weakness Asch hid his face in his hands and tried to calm down. This was horrible, his mind was already trying to split at the seams and now Lorelei insisted he develop motion-sickness on top of it.

"I'm so sorry, Asch," the replica whispered, looking properly miserable. The courtyard was entirely empty save for the two of them. Asch couldn't even feel Lorelei, not even at the back of his mind. It was simply the two of them, hearts beating and breathing in unison.

Disgusting.

Asch didn't bother asking how it knew his name, nor what it was apologizing for. All he had to know was that his privacy was thoroughly compromised.

The replica's face twisted and he stared at his feet.

"Yeah...I'm not human, am I? I'm just...I wasn't even meant to be born." Its voice cracked at the end and Asch felt his anger dissipating in the face of it. It was hard to remain steadfast when its feelings were repeatedly crashing into him, threatening to swallow him and it up into one being.

Tears began flowing in earnest, and it desperately tried not to break down in front of him, even though its pride was in shreds and it was in the midst of despair. Its hands rubbed at its eyes and cheeks, but Asch would have seen it all anyway.

"I'm not human! I don't know what to do! I'm a horrible copy!" It slowly descended into a crouch and pulled at its hair, sobbing. At that point Asch could see it all, as the courtyard slowly filled with the ghosts of his old house. He recognized Pere, first and foremost, Guy right beside him (Asch sneered at the sight of him, not about to forgive the bastard any time soon). His mother slowly moved around the edges on her daily walk. His father wasn't there at all, which figured. The maids he didn't recognize, but they had always been replaceable. The ghosts moved about them, the replica in the middle of tutors and servants.

It was nothing like Asch thought it was.

Asch felt everything it did, saw everything it did: but he had the privilege of being able to understand what was happening. In its inexperience, the replica couldn't quite put a finger on the behavior of those around him, sensing only enough to know that it wasn't anything flattering.

There was none of the fawning that Asch expected. Oh, the servitude was there, no mistake, but that was simply the nature of the beast. Asch knew those men—they'd been his teachers since he was able to learn, up until his kidnapping. It made sense that they would be brought back in to start over with the blank slate.

But Asch clearly saw the impatience and frustration as the replica repeatedly failed to live up to Asch's own performance years ago. It wasn't as smart, it wasn't as capable. They didn't know it was a replica, no one in that house did, so they treated each breakthrough as something that was resurfacing from his amnesia. The tutors moved too fast, and when the replica couldn't keep up they became disappointed. They never said it, of course, but they didn't hide it either. The other servants made no attempt to be companions save for Guy and Pere. They couldn't be that open about it, however, as Duke fon Fabre was quick to stop that nonsense whenever he was around to see it.

Asch witnessed it all, as Luke grew up not knowing how to deal with normal people. His mother was ill constantly, Natalia was busy with courtly matters and couldn't visit all that much as she grew older and into her responsibilities. Guy was a good friend, Asch admitted that, but he was still lower in rank so the relationship wasn't exactly equal even if the young man practically raised the replica from scratch. His father was rarely there, and when he was he was distant. Asch knew the reason for that, but it wasn't as if the replica did.

Seeing all this really pissed him off.

For once, his animosity wasn't directed at the replica. Asch watched as it became surly and spoiled with nothing but servants to interact with. His mother felt guilt over the entire situation and doted on the replica when she could, and Guy wasn't that much better, unable to really deny the replica anything or lay down any discipline because he lacked the real authority to do so. And even if he did have the authority, it wasn't as if he was some child-rearing expert who could use it effectively. And the Duke would watch and interfere as little as possible. Why bother, after all, when the child was as good as dead in a few years? Best not get too attached, lest he actually feel remorse that he sent his only son to die like a dog miles and miles away from home, taking tens of thousands of people with him.

Asch's breathing grew heavy and he saw red. He couldn't even hold on to that, not with Luke expressing embarrassment over Asch seeing him mess up time and time again. Finally, Asch sent a mental order for the replica to shut up and let him think. What the hell was he supposed to do now?? It had been easy before! He could hate the damn inhuman thing to his heart's content, sure he had every right in the world to do so. But how could he now when they were so close and inside each other and Asch could see and feel everything??

The replica—well, no, Luke—reached for him again, looking desperate for his original's approval. Asch accepted the contact this time, allowing its—his—hands to touch his abdomen and pull them closer.

"Master Van saved me where no one else could...but it's the same for you, right?" Luke whispered. He rubbed his cheek against Asch's chest and sighed.

'I don't know what to say—it goes both ways. He must have seen through my eyes. He must know what Van is planning to use him for. He must have heard how Van talks about him behind his back. And yet he still loves the man. Oh, it's almost too rich.' Asch wasn't laughing, though.

Luke saw his life, too. Saw him crawl and scrape for every bit of authority and skill he had today. Saw him suffer and nearly die countless times to get back home, only to find his replacement already there and taking up space. Saw him lose faith in their master when he really sat down and thought about what Van wanted to accomplish. Luke was so sorry for it, so pathetically sorry even though he was the last person at fault.

'This must be what Lorelei wanted me to see. Well, fine, terrific, but what is the point? It wasn't like I was going to kill the dreck.' Asch's fingers idly ran through Luke's hair.

Luke pressed his face into his shoulder. "It's too much, Asch."

"Bear with it," Asch said simply. What else could he do? Besides, he wasn't about to coddle Luke anymore than he already was. He may be seven, but that was no excuse and that nonsense was stopping right this second. "You know what I know. Bear with it." Ignorance was bliss, but they were out of time. Asch could feel Lorelei eagerly pressing against their shared consciousness, not wanting, and unable, to wait any longer.

'Why am I dealing with this?'

"Now is not the time to falter, do you understand?" Asch shook him a bit.

"Yes, I do. Please, I want to help you. It's the least I can do. Let me make everything up to you, I'll do anything, please?" Luke's hands were pressing against his back. "Tell me what to do, I'm scared. I don't want to kill anyone!" The knowledge one of them was going to be responsible for such a catastrophe had scared Luke right into obedience. Killing that one soldier in self-defense nearly undid him. The thought of obliterating Akzeriuth and causing a world war absolutely terrified him, and Asch was forced to intervene to keep him from having a panic attack.

Van was willing to let Akzeriuth fall out of revenge, despite Asch's wishes. The problem was he simply didn't know what they could do. The Score would probably find a way to make it happen, right?

The manor faded and Lorelei was upon them once more, concern and love washing over them.

'I'm going to get a damned cavity at this rate.' Asch groused. He was thankful for his very human mind right then. Luke was shivering his arms, looking as if he'd imbibed a high concentration of opium.

"We need to do something, this is a good opportunity." Asch wasn't quite certain if that was solely his thought or if he was picking up on Lorelei's wishes. It was difficult, as the fonon of sound was singing at them and around them. Lorelei thought the two of them were the most gorgeous things it had ever seen.

'As well it should, but it's not helping.'

Lorelei wasn't too sure if Akzeriuth could be avoided (Asch stifled Luke's wail, not unsympathetic per se but there wasn't time), but there was something it could do to give them a better chance of saving themselves and humanity.

Luke managed to collect himself enough to address Lorelei directly.

"Isn't there a way you can become unstuck even with the pact? I mean, it must be very bad down there, and if you could come up and see and help I'm sure you'd feel better at least."

"That goes without saying, Dreck," Asch said, rolling his eyes. Obviously, if they could get Lorelei "unstuck," it would solve a great deal of problems. Luke let the insult roll off his back and settled for pressing closer. If Lorelei had a body it would probably be invading his personal space, too. Resigned (though he wasn't protesting too terribly much), Asch simply let Luke have his way.

Meanwhile, Lorelei was running out of time—the machine was on its last legs and its power was stretching thin. So, Lorelei reached down and into Luke and pushed.

"Is this wise?" Asch felt the need to ask even if Lorelei was determined to press ahead. Lorelei ran through Luke freely, the pleasure and happiness becoming so intense that even Asch was becoming light headed. Naturally, his replica was far worse off, becoming a drooling, euphoric mess. Asch felt irritated at the both of them. Luke should have more self control, and, surely, Lorelei should be displaying more sense at the very least.

Clearly, that wouldn't be the case.

And the sensations were building higher and higher in some odd form of a feedback loop, nearly to the point of being self sustaining. Despite being a scion, Asch was hardly privy to every bit of Lorelei's motives, so it was a great shock to witness Luke changing.

"This is all I can do for now, I'm sorry..."

Well, Luke and Lorelei really were a lot alike, it seemed, with their constant apologizing. Asch carefully increased his link with Luke and he knew--

Lorelei wanted Luke to be more than just a copy of Asch. Lorelei poured itself into Luke as fast as it dared. It still operated under the pact, but because of Luke and Asch it was finally able to have options after suffering for millennium. Asch could feel its happiness and love even as the sentience known as Lorelei faded.

Lorelei was beyond a great many things: it was a culmination of the first six fonons, it was time, it was the memory of the planet itself among other things. Unlike the other Sentiences, Lorelei was composed entirely of complimentary opposites, simultaneously masculine and feminine, hot and cold, north and south, and so on. It was an incredibly flexible fonon.

Watching Luke change was absolutely fascinating. It never even crossed Asch's mind to be disgusted, even though the body was in his form. The hips became rounder and he was steadily losing muscle mass. Asch was suddenly reminded of those clay fertility statues excavated back in Daath. They were ancient, having been there just as long as Daath existed, perhaps longer. The Order kept their existence secret, stating they were obscene and primitive as they depicted naked women with pronounced hips and breasts. Yet, for some reason they weren't outright destroyed, which was pretty telling as to their significance. As (oh, so that's how he would look like with breasts—should he be upset?) Luke's fonons continued to shift, Asch half wanted to ask just how Lorelei manifested itself in the world before Yulia and the Score.

"If you really wish to know, Luke can tell you...I was more than the Score, once..."

Lorelei sounded amused, most likely predicting his reaction to the knowledge.

Lorelei's presence was faint now as the final changes to Luke's body were nearing completion. Its fonons would persist in the Planet Storm and Score (they couldn't get around that), but Lorelei as they knew it would be no more. Lorelei took a small loop hole in the pact and forced it as far as it could go.

'I see,' Asch thought as Lorelei faded, 'I almost forgot you were the also the fonon of healing and resurrection. It's painful for you to personally destroy a future—a bit too close for comfort, isn't it? You needed me to remain the same, your weapon. Should I be upset that I'm once again relegated to doing someone's dirty work for convenience's sake? You're weak, aren't you? How can you have such a powerful fonon and be so weak? I won't stand for that, you realize. I'll make you pull your weight.'

Lorelei accepted that.

Luke was slowly recovering, and Asch barely registered the breasts now pressed against his stomach. He didn't have an issue with the nudity, but he wasn't about to go inspecting anything.

"Asch...can I help you now?" Luke whispered. Asch gave Luke's head a pat.

"Will you do what I say?"

"Mmhmm."

"We have no choice but to wait for now. I realize neither you nor Lorelei can lie to save your lives," which was painfully true in Lorelei's case, "but you need to feign ignorance now. Can you do that? You don't even have to spin any falsehoods; just don't offer any pertinent information. I'll have to leave you with them for now."

"Yes, I can do that." Luke sounded so happy, then, pleased beyond measure that someone finally needed him (her, better get used to that). She reached up and pulled his hands down so she could kiss his palms. She had wanted to kiss his feet, but they were tucked underneath them. Asch made a show of grumbling, although a large part of him was very pleased, and pressed his hand on her sternum.

"Wake up and get us out of here. I am your sword, leave it to me."

"I will." And for a moment Asch heard Lorelei.

*

"Asch?? Dammit, get up! You can't be seen right now!" Asch came to with Sync yelling in his ear. He was slumped over a warm body, ears still ringing from the sound of church bells. Experience kicked in then, and he forced his mind to focus as he quickly took in his surroundings. The place was a mess. What was even left of the machine was around them in smoking ruin. Lorelei must have taken it far beyond its limits.

'At least Lorelei went out with a bang.'

He quickly played dumb. "What the hell happened??"

"I don't know, and that idiot Dist wasn't much help either. Did it work?"

Asch looked thoughtful before nodding.

"Yes, it did—but what the hell happened to the replica?"

"We don't know that either, of course. Dammit, this would happen. Hurry up and follow Dist out of here, I have to find some way to salvage the fon disc out of this mess." Once Sync turned his back, Asch quickly checked on Luke.

Obviously she was no longer nude, but the clothes she wore had been tailored exactly to a male form. Needless to say things would be uncomfortable until they got her something decent. Her eyes were half open and—Asch coughed and fought back a blush.

"Stop that at once, you are seven years old." He gently prodded her face until her expression changed into something not so obscene.

'I can't help it...it felt really good and I liked it...'

'I'm going to have to keep track of the both of you, aren't I?'

'Mm...'

'Stop that! Now act your age and be good. Damn, have some self control.'

Luke sounded properly contrite in his mind as Asch heaved himself onto his feet. He was dizzy and suffering from a harsh bout of nausea. Still, there was no time to waste. He stumbled towards the exit in the upper corner of the lab, all but diving out of the room the second Guy dashed in from the other side.

Once he recovered, he was going to have to work hard to stay in Van's good graces while finding ways to undermine the man.

'I'll make you proud, Asch...'

*********

So ends the first part. Thoughts on my interpretation of Luke and Asch, as well as game concepts in general, will be very much appreciated. All reviews are welcome, naturally :)

From what I can recall, and what I managed to find on the internet (if anyone can provide more accurate info then please let me know), there are very few details on the Dawn Age, Yulia Jue, and the Pact itself. Lorelei the Sentience is a recent discovery, and I think Jade mentioned how some believed it was still theoretical by the time the game starts. From what I understand, the Pact dealt with the creation of the Score, possibly the result of the Planet Storm creating the miasma. How long Lorelei was around before then (I assume since Auldrant began or "soon" after, in planetary terms at least), and how the other Sentiences work seems to be left to interpretation...so that's what I did. :)

[1] Information on the meaning of Lorelei's name is solely attributed to behindthename (dot) com. Awesome site, check it out!