Anise stood in silence in the office that had once been Ion's. The Fon Master's robe, neatly pressed, was hung neatly on the coat rack. The silk of the ribbon that adorned the back slid smoothly between her fingers. Anise swallowed hard as she recalled the events that led to his demise.
She loved him dearly, as a friend and as more. He was gone now, and there was no fixing that. All the Fontech in Auldrant couldn't bring back the Ion that she loved, the one she cherished, the one she betrayed...
He had forgiven her, as had everyone else – but she couldn't forgive herself.
"Fon Mistress Anise?" the voice send her reeling back into the present. Natalia stood in the doorway.
"Natalia," Anise faked a smile. She was happy to see Natalia, but the pain caused by Ion's death had made her numb inside. When Natalia hugged her, Anise didn't move. "It's great to see you," she said dully. Her eyes took more interest in the floor than in her friend.
"You don't seem very happy, Anise," Natalia said softly. "You're not your usual cheery self today."
"It's nothing, honest," she lied. "I'm just really tired. Being Fon Mistress is a lot of work!"
The room went quiet. Anise swallowed lightly, then plopped-down in her chair. Natalia thought to follow suit, but paused; her arm hung in the air as she stopped mid-action.
"You miss him." Her words were soft and kind, but the flood of memories that followed those words – as she dwelt again on Ion – caused her to lose her composure. As the first few tears fell, she raised her eyes to look into Natalia's. "You still blame yourself?" Natalia asked, stepping toward the sobbing seventeen-year-old.
"I loved him – I still do, Natalia," Anise cried. "And all because of me, he's dead!" Natalia simply hugged her as she continued her sobbing for a little while longer. Natalia wiped a tear from Anise's cheek. "Look at me," she sobbed, rolling her eyes, "four years later, and I'm still moping around like he died this morning."
Natalia didn't say anything. She just let her silence do the talking for her. Anise talked for a little while about Ion – about his quirks and his smile, and then a little about the smell of his hair. She had been very close to the Fon Master.
There was one knock on the door and then a second. After a brief moment of stillness, the door opened slowly.
"Anise?" said a familiar voice.
"What is this," grumbled Anise, wiping the tears from her face. "A rescue party..."
She paused when the sound of her name registered in her mind. She knew that voice, but it couldn't be...
"Anise," that same voice echoed in her mind several dozen times. "Anise, are you in here?" She stood to bring herself nearer to the source, but her knees gave out beneath her as her eyes saw him. Ion stood before her, four years older and more mature. "Oh, there you are! Natalia, why didn't you tell me she was in here?" His voice suddenly went very quiet. "My old office..."
Anise's head was spinning. It couldn't be the same Ion that she knew and loved, it couldn't be. He had died, she had watch him die! It had been her fault! His body had sparkled away like fireflies in the moonlight.
"But, you're..." At this moment, words failed Anise completely. "I saw you... and then... you are... replica?"
"Yes," said Ion simply. "I am a replica." Her heart sank a little. She knew it couldn't be true. She had seen Ion die and it had killed her knowing that she had forced him to sacrifice his life for her parents' liberty. "I am the seventh and final replica of the original Fon Master Ion. I was born six years ago today with no memory of the past." Ion smiled in the way that only he could ever do. "You were a great friend to me, Anise – my most cherished."
Anise felt very dizzy as Natalia set her back in her chair.
"It's true, Anise," said Natalia kindly. "He didn't actually die."
"Why did... you... leave me... all alone...?" Anise blubbered. "Ion!" she cried, "How could – ?" as she began to accuse him, she cut herself off. She had no room to accuse him of anything. He had been perfectly kind and honest to her and she had abused that trust and had betrayed him. "I missed you," was the first coherent phrase to escape her lips. "I... love you..."
"I'm sorry, Anise," Ion said, "for not returning sooner. I had a lot to do..." Ion trailed-off and sighed. "I'll explain..."
And explain he did.
The relationship between Anise and Ion interested me greatly, so I tried my hand at this little vignette. I have a few plot bunnies running through my head. If this generates enough interest, I'll take it further.