"MEETING – I Hate You"

When the Grand Maestro summoned Arietta to his office for a brief conference, she knew something was wrong from the start. Terribly wrong. Although she was thankful for Ion's recovery, she couldn't ignore that awful feeling, that foreboding. Oh how she hated all this suspense! It almost drove her to tears as she stepped into the elevator with the commandant, gripping her stuffed companion as if her life depended on it. She didn't even have the nerve to ask General Grants what this was all about. It was nigh impossible.

Van paused before pulling the elevator lever and glanced back at his shaky underling, sighing. "Please, Arietta, try to calm yourself. You've done nothing wrong."

"T-Then what does he want with me? And why haven't I seen Ion yet?"

"Don't worry; you'll get your answers." He cranked the handle back and they made their ascent towards the tower of the cathedral. A shiver trailed along his spine as he turned away from the child beside him, guilt chilling his very blood into ice. He knew damn well what awaited the girl, and the frustrating thing was he could do nothing about it. When they were finally admitted into the Maestro's office, all Hell broke loose…

"Thank you for bringing the Fon Master Guardian, General Grants," Mohs spoke in a ridiculously pompous voice and nodded towards the taller man with a smile. He beckoned two figures out of the shadows of the setting sun, each standing on either side of him as he addressed Arietta in a grave tone, "Come closer, little one…"

Like a frightened animal, Arietta crept across the room and slowly approached Mohs' desk. Her bright eyes narrowed as she studied the images of the boys that stood beside him. A stab of panic shot through her chest as she backed away, shaking her head wildly about and murmuring, "I don't understand."

"Of course you don't, dear child," Mohs answered matter-of-factly.

Van rushed to Arietta's aid, placing his hands over her shoulders, trying to calm her fury and confusion. Were he to voice his hatred for the Grand Maestro at this moment, he would surely lose his head. All he could think of was Arietta's well-being, her sanity. "Don't you think that's enough, Mohs?"

"Quite the contrary, I intend to tell her the facts. Such knowledge will be vital to her new position, will it not?" Waving them forward, Mohs pulled the boy on his left side further into the sun's fading light. He was identical to the Fon Master, from his head to toes. The only feature that distinguished the two of them was the look in his eyes; that glazed, hollow gaze screaming for identity, for some sense of being. It disgusted Arietta.

Finally, the girl spoke in her own defense, "I don't need a new position."

"Arietta…" Van quietly reprimanded her, his voice tight with anger. Before he could explain the situation, the Grand Maestro cut him off with another sermon,

"As you may well know, Ion has been ill for some time. Thus, we created a replica of him, a replacement for when he suffered his untimely end. After all, what would Daath be without her Fon Master?"

"He is not my Master," Arietta rasped again, tears filling her eyes.

"Now, now…"

The replica flipped his head to the side and mumbled, "She has a point, Mohs. Since I'm garbage anyways, you don't need to go to the trouble of getting some third-rate nutcase as my guardian, now do you?"

"A surly little beast like you could easily turn treacherous if not watched. I've already tried to dispose of you once and utterly failed. Who knows what would happen should I try again?" The Grand Maestro's obvious distrust brought a smile to the boy's face, much to Arietta's delight. Now she had a reason to dislike him, for sneering so at her superior (Not that she considered Mohs much of an influence, but necessity called for it at the time.)

"Ion is my Fon Master. And only Ion," The hopeful girl turned away from the replica and looked to her beloved leader for reassurance. He stood in the shadows near the window, far behind the desk. As she was unaware, this particular Ion held no emotion for her; he hardly knew her, and thus it would be easy to turn her aside. Arietta's confidence slowly began to fade when she approached him with a more direct inquiry, "Y-You've always preferred me as your guardian, right Ion?"

His vivid, green eyes slanted as he gently replied, "I'm sorry, Arietta, but change is necessary for the sake of the Score and my safety…"

Change? Necessary? Blood drummed in Arietta's ears like hoof beats, her terror heightened. Was someone going to take her place? Was Ion going to die and be replaced by this mockery? Would she be arrested? Exiled? Executed?

"Sorry I'm late, Grand Maestro! The guard in the corridor was being a real bastard and – "

"Anise…?" Arietta choked on her name, tears rolling down her cheeks and plopping on the marbled floor beneath her. Her mind was in frenzy, her conscience in chaos. It wouldn't end like this. She refused to let all of her hard work be for naught.

Ion called out to her from across the room, frightened by the wild look in her eyes, "Please, Arietta, don't be so upset…"

Ah, but she couldn't hear the sweet, soothing voice of her beloved anymore. It was cold and distant, like a star on a winter's night. Instead of heeding everyone's advice, she broke free of Van's gentle hold and charged Anise, negative energy crackling between the palms of her hand…

Then, nothing. Her futile charge ended in defeat as the replica jutted his fist into her stomach, prompting a sharp cry before she passed out. The boy lifted her limp body over his shoulder and signaled to Van, indicating that they take their leave now. Mohs didn't seem affected by the outburst, but Ion looked quite shaken; he didn't understand what caused her to fly off the handle.

"You didn't have to strike her so…" He shouted in a timid voice to his counterpart, finally stepping out of the shadows he so adored, his self-righteousness obvious. His brows creased as if he were angry, and he continued, "I don't understand why you're so cruel all the time, Sync."

The Storm Seeker glanced over his shoulder and narrowed his own eyes in disgust at what he saw: A mere replica like himself, a pompous wind-bag and some petty cut-purse who made a deal with Van to 'protect' Ion per their plans. The only innocent one among them was Arietta. She was the only one worthy of his pity.

A crooked smirk passed his lips as he asked, "Who's the real monster? You or me?"

Their silence attested to their guilt, and without another word, Sync left them to their own foolish devices, carrying Arietta on his shoulder as if she were a sack of flour. When Van asked if he would like him to shoulder the burden, he declined, citing mere pity as a valid excuse. It was better this way, with everything out in the open. The last thing he wanted to do was play masquerade like the fools in Mohs' office. He hated those games.

Because he was a monster and nothing gave him greater satisfaction than the simple truth.

Notes: This is supposed to be a 'what-if' story. Based off of the 7lies challenge at Livejournal as it will feature seven different points in the game that could have been different had Arietta known that Sync and Florian were actually replicas. Hope everyone enjoys~ Leave a review on your way out!