And finally! I thought I would have these fics done before the end of last year, and now it's almost halfway through this one… Ah well.

At least I'm still holding to my promise to never leave a fic unfinished. Hopefully, I'll be moving on to my Ar Tonelico fic next because it's almost done.

You know, an Ar Tonelico/Tales of the Abyss crossover would be interesting. Magic music, after all. Tear (and Van), likely Ion and Lukeling too would push Lyner's reyvateil buttons (reyvateil abuse, in chibi!Van's case). Also, Lyner's (warrior) therapist skills are actually a gameplay mechanic via the cosmospheres that help people get more powerful hymns, and heaven knows the ToA people need therapy.

Also, Lyner and Peony's costume-making skills. I'm pretty sure you can equip Ayatane with the Sailor Bunny Dress, although Ayatane is the type to just be amused by how people react to this.

"Hey, there you are, guys!" Anise came in riding Tokunaga. "Come on, Colonel, it took you this long to break out? You're slipping."

Arietta followed her a second later, riding a bounding young adult liger queen along with Ion, who happily waved hello to Luke, and a trussed-up Sync. "We need to do something about all this miasma, I promised Baby Ion a uniceros ride and it's making them sick. I had to tell all of them to leave since they couldn't help evacuate Akzeriuth." Not when they kept attacking the sick people they were supposed to carry.

"Mmm mm MM!" Sync demanded, or tried to, since the sheets he'd been rolled up in and then tied muffled his voice.

Arietta put her hands on her hips, which she could do because she'd given her stuffed animal to Baby Ion. "Absolutely not. Ion's babies are my babies too, and Van let you get sick!" From opening Daathic Seals. "I let you go with him because you wanted to and I trusted Van and I was busy tracking down the poor little Ion Mohs kidnapped, but I am your mommy, Baby Sync, and mommies don't let their babies get hurt!"

"Move out of the way!" an annoyed (and annoying) voice said behind her. Arietta obligingly moved her Lyger aside, although since there was only so much space in the room Anise had to dismiss her Tokunaga and climb up with Arietta. "Jaaade," Dist said happily, floating towards Jade. Wearing a dress.

Nephry sighed, pushed the top of Saphir's chair forward so that it tilted and he slid out of it, then started dragging it out of the room behind her. He looked like an old maiden aunt in a dress like that while sitting in a chair like that. "Right now, this chair should be Vandesdelca Musto Fende's only way off this barge," she informed Dist before he could protest. "Do you want him ruining your moment?" Since the answer was clearly no, she started hauling it out of the room behind her. "Come, Frings."

"Yes, your Imperial Majesty." As the general scurried after her, they resembled Nephry's husband and Jade himself, although Jade was never so obvious about it.

"Barge?" Jade wondered why the insult to his Tartarus was what he chose to object to. Yes, it was a very old model, but he'd made several improvements despite his dislike of fontech, or rather what was associated with fontech.

"Yes, she shouldn't insult dear Jade's fontech masterpiece. I knew you appreciated my discipline!" Saphir flew into Jade's arms (over) dramatically. "I've already named our first two creations! We'll call them Barrelow and Anise."

"Aww," Anise said, touched. Dist was embarrassing, but he definitely was a softie. "Fontech-Anise will have all the best toys and weapons, right?"

"Of course!"

Jade sighed. Barrelow was obviously out of the question, but, "Twins. Anise and Peony. Who will also be a girl. Or at least look like one." Since this was fontech dolls they were discussing, after all. "Just like the real one."

Dist scowled.

"I get to be fontech Anise's sentiencemother!" Anise declared.

"And the boy will be Nephrite," Jade went on, ignoring Dist's objections like always. "So it's obvious whose fault this is." Jade refused to be held responsible if their creations were Dist-level insane, Jade-level monsters that took over the world, including the empire.

Ion frowned. "I was supposed to perform the ceremony right away, but Nephry isn't back yet, and she has to give Jade away."

"Whoa!" Anise exclaimed, clinging to Arietta as the Tartarus shook under their feet. The temperature here under the Outer Lands was normally disturbingly warm, like that of an inflamed, infected wound, like they were surrounded by the world's diseased flesh as it struggled in vain for survival. But the temperature suddenly dropped enough that Jade, who never showed his discomfort, and Dist, who let it make him cranky, were comfortable.

"I'm sure it won't be long at this point, one way or another," Jade said with a sigh as the battle continued to rock the boat and Luke and Natalia moved closer to Asch, who now felt pleasantly toasty.

"Do you really think she can win? This is Van we're talking about," Dist asked worriedly. Nephry was formidable, but she wasn't a genius like him, much less dear Jade.

"This is also my little sister we are talking about. I wouldn't have left her behind if I wasn't sure she could take care of herself." The hellish training Jade had inflicted on her without bothering to explain the reason for the torment (wasn't it obvious?) was another reason Nephry had less-than-pleasant memories of her big brother. "All of you, try to avoid touching metal." Insofar as that was possible aboard the Tartarus.

Oh, Luke knew this one! "Because our tongues will stick to it?" he asked excitedly. He really wanted to see that!

"No, because metal conducts electricity and if she uses that other arte, I don't know if the charge will be able to earth itself through the miasma." Not when he didn't know its fonon composition. Could it dissolve the third fonon, when the air here was still mostly breathable?

"Get back here!" they heard Nephry yell as Van ran past the door, then turned around and ran though it, towards his target.

Jade tried to look behind him. "Hiding behind me won't work. She won't hesitate to strike through me to get to you."

"You're fon slot sealed, and I'm not hiding behind you, I'm taking you hostage," Van forced out through gritted teeth.

"As I said, she won't hesitate to attack through me," Jade said as Nephry and a blue-skinned woman ran through the door, followed by a blue-uniformed Frings. "Let me guess: ten percent of the empire's annual military budget is still less than you saved by not letting Peony hold a grand state wedding?" he asked his sister.

Nephry raised her eyebrow. "Are you suggesting that I couldn't defeat this man without using a fon slot seal?"

"No, I'm suggesting that you wouldn't be able to capture him alive without one." That was what fon slot seals were for. "Not someone who obviously craves death. He should have moved faster than that," Jade said remarkably casually for someone with a sword to his throat. "Luke?"

"Is this really right? I mean…"

"Haven't we had this discussion?"

"What are you…" Van demanded, his sword drawing a single drop of blood from Jade's throat, only to stop when Luke slipped around to touch his cheek.

Stop and fall to the floor.

"With his fon slots sealed, Lorelei wasn't able to protect him." Jade did like it when a theory was proven correct.

"What did you do?" Guy asked, because this was his former friend.

Luke bit his lip and avoided his eyes.

"Both the curse slot Daathic Arte and replica programming are derived from the same principle. When memories make up so much of who we are, to control memory is to control people: that is the basis of the Score, after all." Jade grinned. Yes, he'd just arranged for something evil to happen to Van, who had already suffered because of Jade's inventions. Two wrongs didn't make a right, but then, was there such a thing as right in this world? "Now there's just the question of who looks after him," Jade said as the body on the floor began to shrink. "I nominate Guy."

"I'll fight you for him," Arietta declared, catching on amazingly quickly. If it weren't for Van, she would never have met her Ion.

Oh dear, Luke realized, looking through the stolen memories. "Uh, guys? We'd better get to St. Binah. Fast."

He's so cute, Tear thought, blushing as she looked at her now-little brother.

Asch growled because no one was paying attention to him and the wing-scritchies had stopped.

"Oh, I'm sorry dear," Natalia said, giving him a peck on the cheek and getting back to work, which drew a placated rumble from him. "This reminds me of when I thought Luke was you, remember? How I promised that I'd protect you and wait for you to be yourself again no matter what? I do hope it is really you this time, however. If Lorelei is presuming on our relationship, I will be very put out." Ah, in-laws.

Asch wasn't the only one annoyed no one was paying attention to him. "Peony wanted to send you another costume, but I want our ceremony to be just like this," Saphir said, snuggling Jade. "There's something just so dashing about a man in uniform."

Frings frowned. Like this, he could actually see the family resemblance. Not between Dist and Colonel Curtiss, but between Saphir and Nephry. The haircut, for one thing, although it was hard to imagine the Empress in a dress like that. It was a little… Alright, it was very disturbing.

It wasn't as though he had anything against gay people: he could have sworn the Emperor was one and he was the best Emperor in the history of the Empire, most likely. Not to mention that if Nephry was right, Frings might not have any straight friends. The thing was that although he did agree that the Score was a bad thing now, since it had condemned all those innocent people in Akzeriuth and separated the Emperor from his love, Frings had been dreaming of his destined romance since he was a child. But what if it wasn't a romance? What if she found him completely unattractive or he spent the entire time pining after the Emperor, or worse, Jade? The Emperor could have concubines, while it was already obvious that Dist was the crazy jealous type.

Frings knew he should care more about the fate of the Empire than his own fairytale ending, and yet… Not to mention what could he possibly have been thinking, marrying an enemy when the people of the Empire were being slaughtered in the Scored future? Was he a war prize, dragged to the altar against his will?

Well, he thought, at least that meant there had to be some attraction on her part. He just hoped it wasn't attraction to the idea of taking advantage of a defeated enemy, because he really couldn't approve of that sort of thing. Perhaps she would have done it to save his life, keep him from being killed with the other prisoners?

Finding out the truth about the score turned his promised happy ending into a nightmare. No wonder the Scorers only told people the happy things, hid the true reality.

This wasn't a true happy ending, not when there was still a war to stop and what Prince Luke said indicated that Van's plan was still in motion. But better not to have a happy ending than to have an ending. Of everyone and everything.

He was sure that Princess Natalia would rather her fiancé stay like this forever than die and be lost to her.

Well, Frings thought, he'd joined the army to fight, hadn't he? In this uncertain future, he would fight to protect the empire from its destiny. If they were truly to have choice, then couldn't he choose to fight for the happiness he wanted?

Like everyone else here.