AN: Hi there! This is a kind-of companion piece to 'His Special Lady.' It picks up a little bit after where that one left off, but it can also be read as a stand-alone, so it's posted separately, though that one helps to explain Guy and Natalia's relationship. This focuses on how everyone ends up together. Right now, I have to apologize if the writing style is a bit inconsistent at times, for there were a couple of months between me starting and finishing this. This being said, I still hope you all like it! :)
Disclaimer: I do not own Tales of the Abyss. Namco does.
"Do you really think this will work Jade," Luke asked softly, his fingers twirling the small vial between his fingers. Although his question was to the blue clad man that stood before him, his eyes were instead locked on the worried expression that showed through Tear's mask, her own eyes swimming with emotions that she dare not say. Dragging his gaze away from her, Luke forced himself to focus on the solider before him, though the look on the older mans' face did nothing to calm the pounding of his heart.
"To be honest, I really can't say," Jade replied with a shrug, his hand raising to push his glasses back into place. "If it was just a matter of you drinking the potion, then I could easily say yes. However, as it is, people are involved, and they often, as you yourself have shown me, tend to do the exact opposite of what you would expect. That being said, this should work."
"It has to work," Natalia suddenly spoke up softly, her voice low and dangerous as she stared at the glass container in Luke's hand. "For if it does not..." Letting her words trail off, a silent shudder passed around the room as the others read the threat in her voice, clear as the angry glint in her eyes for the circumstances that had led them to this.
"Of course it will work," Guy said with a false confidence he hadn't felt in a while as his arms wrapped around her waist from behind, pulling her close to his chest. Placing a light kiss on the top of her head, he nodded in greeting to Luke, Jade, and Tear before continuing on, his voice light despite the heavy topic they had started in on. "Luke will drink Jade's potion- which, Luke, makes you a much braver man then I'll ever be-he'll pass out for a couple of hours, just long enough to Shu to pronounce him dead, and then Tear, Anise, and I will spirit him away to the safe spot. Without him here, no offense, the counsel will have no choice but to say yes."
"Oh, I agree," Jade cut in, his voice light as he waved his hand in a circle, almost as if he was trying to wave away the issue that had brought them together once more. "You all already have the support of the Emperor Peony and the Malkuthian council of nobles, along with most of the Kimlascan nobles that wish to keep the favor of the two heirs to the throne. Without their main source of conflict, things should settle down nicely for the vote in two weeks, and by the time they find out what we've done, it'll be too late for them to back out without starting a war. Then it'll all be sunshine, flowers, and cheagles for our resident couples."
"I don't like this," Tear admitted after a moment of silence, speaking up for the first time that night as she took a step closer to the group. "Even with the King, Duke Fabre, and General Goldburg on our side, there are too many variables that haven't been accounted for. What if they ask for someone other then Shu, or if they want to hold a service right then?" Her voice trembling ever so slightly as she spoke, showing just how much their plan had been weighing on her mind. Biting her lip, it was with clenched hands that she continued, her head tilted just so so that her hair covered her face, concealing the emotions she was struggling to control. "You all remember what happened when Luke took that medicine in Belkend. The amount was barely off, and he still almost died. Now we're giving him more then enough to kill a rappig, and putting our hopes on the fact that everything will go according to plan. But what if-"
A small smile of amazement that his plan to quiet his beloved had worked passed across Luke's face as he pulled away from Tear, their lips parting with the softest of sighs as she leaned into his chest, hiding her face in it to close out the world as she regained control over her emotions. Wrapping his arms around her trembling frame, Luke buried his face in her hair as they stood there, each gaining strength from the other as they prepared to face their future. Hunching his shoulders so his mouth was by her ear, he softly whispered his question, low enough so no one else could hear, another protection they had decided upon, since Jade had pointed out early on in the planning that, the fewer people who knew where they were going, the safer it would be for them.
"Did you find a place," he asked, softly nuzzling her cheek with his nose as he spoke to draw out a smile.
"Of course," she responded just as quietly, though her voice was calmer then it had been a mere moment ago. "I found a cave we can stay in until this is all over, one that's far enough in the valley that no one will find us unless they know where to look."
"Camping out, huh," Luke joked as he pulled away, his hand cupping her cheek to brush away the slight moisture that has gathered there. "It'll be just like old time." Leaning back down to place one last kiss on her lips, it was with a solemn nod that he turned back towards Jade, his hands tight around the vial that held the promise for his future. "I'm ready Jade."
"Good, good," the scientists said with a satisfied nod, his head tilted just so so that the light glinted off his glasses to conceal his eyes. "I managed to infuse it with a time release fonic arte that should keep the poison from activating for a couple of hours, which will give us more then enough time to set the stage for your supposed death. I trust that you all know your part in the plan?" It was only after he had received affirmative nods from each of the other members of the group that was there that Jade sigh and turned his own nod towards Luke. "Luke, if you would?"
Popping the top off of the vial he had been holding since earlier that morning, Luke shot a cocky grin around the room to hide the apprehension he felt before swallowing the poison in a single gulp, his throat burning slightly as it fled to his stomach. Wincing, it was with a shake of his head that he turned and left the crowed room behind as planned, ready to go meet what he hoped was the rest of his life.
Whether it was out of some sort of twisted kindness or fearful respect, they gave him six months of absolute bliss after he had returned before turning on him, six months in which he was able to learn just how much the world had changed in his two year absence and to find his place in it before flipping it on its head for him once more.
Surprisingly, it was the latter of the two that turned out to be the easiest.
From the moment news of his return had reached the people, replicas from all over the world, both those who had accepted the help offered by the governments and those too afraid of the originals to step forward to obtain it, had poured into Batical to catch a glimpse of the one they had claimed as their own personal martyr, a replica, just like them, who had given his life to save them all. Quickly overrunning the city, it hadn't been long before the capital was populated far beyond its ability to support, and even the few days they were there showed just how ill-equipped the countries, even after two years, were to take care of their newest growth of population.
So, in a brilliant move by King Ingobert, it was swiftly decided upon by him and the council that Luke was to become the Duke of all the land stretching from Kaitzur Naval Port to the border, and that within that land, not just one, but three new cities were to be built, open for not just the replicas that needed places to live, but for all who had tired of their old lives and wanted someplace new to call home, so long as they accepted everyone no matter how they were born. With that decision, within the first three months after his return, Luke found himself personally overseeing the building of the new towns that were to be his to rule, happy just to be able to help as the people, his people, worked to become farmers and scientists, healers and fighters, and teachers and learners.
Unfortunately, it was the former that was working to destroy the small happiness he had managed to gain in the six months he had lived.
At first, it had been unnoticeable, a simple event of one noble or another asking for both his and Natalia's presence when business brought the two of them to the same town and then showing up a few minutes late, forcing the two friends to fill the silence. And of course, it being the two of them, they had just written it off at first, for in the troubled times they lived in, an urgent message coming up just as one was heading to meet guest was almost to be expected. So, while it was rude that they had never at least sent a messenger ahead to warn the two heirs of the delay, the two of them had just shrugged and talked, whittling away the ten or fifteen minutes they were kept waiting with idle chatter that was more comfortable then awkward.
However, when one out of three of every Kimlascan noble began pulling the same trick, which, despite the country's relatively small size, was still quite a large number, even they had realized that something was up. Especially when these delays started to occur at the same time they had plans to meet with their own significant other, resulting in rescheduling or cancellations that became far too frequent for them to just accept as an accident. After a quick discussion with Guy and Tear, it had all too quickly become clear to the cousins that something was going on with the nobles to keep them apart from the ones they loved, though it wasn't until Jade arrived that the fonic arte went wrong and exploded on the wring side of the line.
Although it had taken him a while, during the time Luke had, as the other had taken to saying, 'gone missing,' for 'disappeared' was too childish to capture the realism of the situation and 'died' was too somber, Guy had made leaps and bounds in overcoming his fear of women, a fact that many of the young ladies that had had the pleasure of meeting him in person took comfort in knowing, though their joy had quickly turned to sorrow when, just a few short months before Luke had returned, Guy had requested permission from King Ingobert and Emperor Peony to court Natalia, permission which had quickly been granted by both rulers. It had been clear, even long before Guy had conquered himself to even begin thinking about starting a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, that the Princess and the Duke were close, balancing on the fine line that separated friends and lovers, held back only by his fears and her sense of duty to one who had died long ago. Because of this, once they had been granted the formal acceptance by the courts that they had sought, the two nobles had quickly taken a dive to the other side of the knife that had stood in their way for so long, finally feeding the mutual attraction that had flickered between them since childhood.
So, it had been neither an unwanted nor unwelcomed surprise, when, one calm summers' evening, when all four of the teens had been settling down in the castle garden to chat and catch up on the goings of the world, Jade had arrived from Grand Chokmah with a formal letter from Peony suggesting an engagement between the two, an act that would not only permanently bind the two countries together, but also a move to ensure that war never threatened at the borders again.
The two blondes, and all of their friends, had been thrilled. Many of the Kimlascan nobles had not.
"Red hair and green eyes," Duke La Burn had growled at the emergency council meeting that had been called the next day, his own blue orbs flashing as he looked over the gathered group before him for support. "Ever since time unmemorable, the royal family of Kimlasca-Lanvandier has had red hair and green eyes, the very defining trait of kingdom that has served to set us apart for thousands of years." Letting out a mock sigh of sadness, La Burn had slowly waved his hand towards the group of five that had huddled together towards the back of the meeting hall, their own anger held in check only by a few quick words Jade had managed to impart on them before the council had called itself to order.
"While there is nothing Princess Natalia could have done about the unfortunate events that surrounded her birth, I'm sure the council can agree with me that, should we wish to preserve this, our most sacred traditions, the only one which can be traced back to before Yulia's time, it would be in our best interests to politely decline Emperor Peony's offer of marriage of our Princess to his Duke, with a request that his man be asked to return to Grand Chokmah at once. Also..." Here his voice quickly twisted into a sneer as he turned his gaze to Tear, his obvious dislike of of her clear in the dismissive manner he looked her over and continued to speak. "Also, I believe that it would be in everyone's best interest if we asked soon-to-be Fon Master Anise Tatlin to recall...Ms. Grants to formal duty as an Oracle Knight, and preceded with a short engagement and quick wedding between Princess Natalia and Duke Luke fon Fabre, so as to preserve the features of the kimlascan royal family that have finally been returned to us with Luke's return."
Once again, it had only taken a quick word of caution from Jade to keep the four of them in check, but this time their fury at the council, who had been so quick to go back on their word now that the possibility of keeping the 'royal red and green' had appeared, had only been contained by a promise of a plan from the older man to at least buy them some time to fix things.
Oh what a plan it was.
Somehow, in a very obvious way that no one could confirm but that everyone knew to be true, news of the council's decisions to try to force a marriage between Luke and Natalia despite their objections had leaked its way to the people, causing a large scale up roar unlike anything ever seen before. To the people, while the full story still remained unknown, the six members of the team that had saved the world were more then heroes: they were the saviors of legends that had never existed before a few years ago, but that now every mother swore she had known since childhood. They were the ones destined to bring peace and prosperity to the world through their own happiness, and even those who didn't believe in what was said about them were more then happy to take up an angry fist against those who tried to deny their heroes their so hard fought for happy endings. With riots threatening to break out not only in Kimlasca, but also in most of Malkuth, the council of both countries had agreed to hold a vote of nobels, allowing each member of the royal councils a full month to consider the pros and cons of both matches before giving their final decision on the last day of Rem.
It was this time that they had hoped for, and this time that they had sorely needed.
Although the plan they had created was simple, something born of just a few hours of thought between the five minds and a letter from Anise, who had been unable to leave Daath to help, it was complicated in preparation, something that had required the six of them to work quickly for every moment they had been given to pull it off.
If they wanted it to work, one of them was going to have to die.
Despite their protests, it hadn't been long after the beginnings of their plan was first conceived that Guy and Tear had found themselves shipped respectively back to Grand Chokmah and Daath, the very picture of scorned beloveds putting distance between them and their significant others until a decision could be made. While in public the four took on haunted looks to play off of the people, becoming the 'forlorn, star-crossed lovers' that Anise had suggested they embody to play on the citizens' sympathies, in private, their world quickly began to revolve around secret letters and whispered commands, setting the stage for the greatest romantic production the kingdom would know. Those that were known to be loyal had been contacted, often through a 'misplaces' letter from Noelle that just so happened to find its way from Luke's or Natalia's hands to under their doorstep, where it would mysteriously end up a few days later under the keen eyes of Jade. Gald quickly changes hands as support was bought and solidified, and promises were made to those who still realized that the good graces of the second and fourth in line for the throne could do wonders for their careers.
Within the month, after all the pieces had been laid and all of their cards played, it was all they could to sit back and hope that their so painstakingly crafted plan didn't end in a true funeral.
If they were to be honest, it was a miracle in and of itself that their plan had worked.
When Luke had first experiences the dizzying exhaustion that had come as a side effect of the poison, he had been quick to pass it off to the group of nobels, some of the few that supported the idea of a permanent peace between the lands and the opportunity to claim Yulia's descendants as part of the royal family, as simply exhaustion from the events that had consumed his past few days, an excuse that had earned many murmurers of support and sympathy from those were near. Nodding gratefully as the women fawned over just how romantic his 'struggle between love and duty' was, it was only moments later that he excused himself, claiming a need to refill his wine goblet as a reason for him to break away and begin weaving his way towards the center of the ballroom, where he was sure to get the most reaction.
Twice more the spell hit him as he slowly worked his way forward, each time leaving him paler and more sickly looking them before, eliciting concerned requests about his health from whichever noble had managed to most recently intercept him. Each time he had waved the concerns away, assuring them that he was nothing more then overtaxed at the moment, a lie they easily accepted, though some with questioning glances. Finally reaching the dead center of the room, it was with a quick glance at Jade, who had decided to remain for the past month until he could take a former answer back to Peony, using his status as an official messenger to gain a invitation to this gala, that Luke drained his wine, dropped his cup, and allowed himself to die.
The chaos was immediate and wonderful.
As gentlemen yelled orders and ladies scream out in a mixture of slight fear and a desire to expand upon the excitement, Jade expertly wove his way towards the collapsed red-head, his eyes flashing dangerously as he shooed away those who had wandered too close to his friend. His finger landing upon Luke's neck, a sigh forced itself from the Colonel as a pulse, faint but existent, made itself known to him, reassuring the older man that his potion had worked. Glancing up as Natalia pushed her way into his line of sight, it was with the slightest of nods that he reassured her of her cousin's continuing ability before turning his mind to other matters that were to be at hand. Calmly ordering some of the servants to aid him, it was with an almost practiced rush that the noble was carried from the hall, accompanied by Jade, as Natalia began to pull her political weight and quiet the room so she could be heard.
Twenty minutes later, Doctor Shu, who had just 'happened' to be in Batical and who had been brought into the plan, his services assured by a promise of continuing examinations of Luke, announced to the deathly silent room that Luke, through a rare and previously unknown poison, had perished.
From there, amazingly, things just seemed to fall into place.
Claiming that he needed the body to research the poison more to find a cure, it was with Shu's help that Guy, Anise, and Tear, who had all snuck back into the city and had taken the guise as the doctor's aides, were able to sneak Luke from Batical, his body safely secure in a coffin to keep curious eyes from catching him of the slight rise and fall of his chest. Once they had been tucked away into the Albiore, which had been hidden by the forest just outside of the city, it had been a simple task to deliver the body and its caretaker to cave that had been prepared in Tataroo Valley before returning Guy to Grand Chokmah to await the summons they knew were already on their way.
The moment Noelle had taken off, Tear had been quick to revived Luke, her relief that he had survived the beginnings of their plot almost overwhelming in its simplicity. From then, all they had had to do was wait.
Luckily, they didn't have to wait long.
From the moment Luke had been pronounced dead, an emergency council had been called to meet, an amusing combination of saddened smugness and full out panic prevailing the mood as each member tried to assert itself from the throng. Those who had supported the idea of their heroes marrying those they had fallen in love with were both sorrowed by the loss of the one who had done the most for them all and gladdened by the guilty fact that, with him gone, at least some of the others that remained could finally find happiness. Those that had opposed the happy unions were more concerned with fixing the political damage that had been done to their careers, backpedaling over months of objections to cast what little weight they had left for a union with Malkuth through the royal wedding of Princess Natalia and Lord Guilardia. It was a vain attempt to regain their future Queen's good graces, and all present knew just how little time left those members has before they were gone.
By now, all they could hope for was that they wouldn't fall too low on the political ladder.
Within a week, their hands tied by lack of any other options, Jade was happily returned to Emperor's Peony's side, his pocket heavy with the royal reply that had been entrusted to him just a few days earlier. Maintaining a perfect blend of regret that one of his friends could not be part of such a joyous occasion and joyful smugness that his side had won, Jade had respectfully reported that Kimlasca had finally assented, and that preparations for the wedding had already begun.
It was a few months later, just moments before Natalia was due to begin her journey down the isle that had been prepared for her in the Daathic Cathedral, finally prepared to tie herself to the man that she loved, that Luke made his miraculous recovery from death and showed up to wish his cousin and best friend well wishes and the best of all luck.
Once again, chaos had reigned as nobels protested and fought tooth and nail to get the wedding postponed until this newest development could be properly taken into account, but the moment Luke had begun to glow, silence had fallen and the ceremony was allowed to continue without a single further interruption.
Sitting in the pews, his fingers intertwined with the love of his own life's, watching as two of his closest friends were finally allowed to exchange the vows they had already been holding within their hearts for the past few years, Luke couldn't help but look fondly upon the poison-based future that awaited them all. One that they had created, without the Score, for themselves.
Turning to send Tear the slightest of smiles that still shone with happiness, finally, Luke was content.