Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with Namco or anyone who hold rights to Tales of the Abyss. It isn't mine, I'm just playing with it.
Spoiler Warning: Up to the search for Spinoza, with just the hint of a few smatterings of bits and pieces from later on to add flavor.
Note: This part was actually written over the space of two days, because November still has Saturdays and I raid nearly all day every Saturday on World of Warcraft.
Tear couldn't quite manage to fight back a yawn as she walked down the Albiore's gangplank and into Daath's port. The fact that she had to actively force herself to pay enough attention so that she wouldn't trip herself up on the way down did not sit well with her either. She was exhausted, more than exhausted. The worry and the not knowing were bad enough, but having to spend several hours in a small, enclosed space with an emotionally charged man would try even the patience of a saint. Later, she would forgive him, after all, she more than understood the sentiment, but at this very moment she was feeling vindictive and Guy would pay. She could still hear the pacing even now! Somehow, someway she would make him pay for those few, harried hours of her life that she would never be able to reclaim. And she'd force Luke into helping her get back at him too, it would only be proper since this was all Luke's fault anyway.
After all, Guy wouldn't be on the verge of hysterics if anybody else was missing. He'd be concerned, of course he'd be concerned, but he wouldn't be anywhere near the muted panic that he was at right now. Really, by the way he was mother henning, you'd think his first born child had just dropped off the face of the planet. That or his lover, and wasn't that a nicely disturbing thought. Tear scrunched her nose up at the very idea. The concept of Guy and Luke in that way verged on her suddenly considering her brother in a new, bizarre and wholly wrong light. Ew. Then again, the thought of Guy with anybody was vaguely disturbing. He was practically everybody's exasperating, yet adorable -idiot- brother, or mother in Luke's case. Maybe they should have a talk about that sometime later. The gynophobia was bad enough, he didn't need to add to it by being so... so lovable and clueless. He'd never get anywhere like that.
Tear mentally smacked herself at the tangent her brain was going off on. Yes, getting some sleep soon would be the best thing for everyone involved. The way her mind was going she'd probably be thinking up ways to make Guy cuter pretty soon. She didn't want to make him cuter, she wanted to make him suffer for making her morning completely miserable. Though, now that she really thought about it, those two concepts might not actually be mutually exclusive. They may, in fact, go quite well hand in hand. It would certainly be... scarring for him, at the very least. Yes, that did bear further consideration. Tear couldn't help the evil, little pleased smile that worked its way across her face as she followed the trail leading out of the port and up towards Daath proper.
Jade hummed curiously as he watched the expressions flitting over Tear's face, then smirked in amusement as he followed her line of sight. It looked as though Guy would be having quite the interesting experience sometime in the near future. Poor fellow. Perhaps he ought to offer his considerably well experienced assistance. After all, what was a little revenge amongst friends? Blowing off a bit of steam, as it were, might indeed prove beneficial in the long run. Even he had gotten a bit tired of the constant pacing and the endless parade of inane questions about Luke's whereabouts and his health and what the hell had he been thinking, and so on and so forth ad nauseam. They were all worried to one extent or another, but Guy had taken it to a whole different, and extremely annoying, level. Yes, aiding Tear in some well deserved vengeance might indeed be quite fulfilling.
Reaching out with a gentle hand, Jade steadied Anise when it seemed she might trip. The former Guardian had been her usual chipper self for the majority of the journey, though she too had gotten just a little bit snippy with Guy there towards the end. Her happy go luck persona was wearing thin around the edges, alas, enough that the others might have even noticed, but certainly more than enough for him to have done so. Of course, he knew her quite well to begin with so any act on her part was as transparent as glass to him. She was tired and worn. It might be best to send her off to bed after they had met up with Ion, though she'd probably fight the suggestion the entire way. But then, getting Anise to do what was best for her was half the challenge.
Natalia watched the entire proceedings with something that verged on a scowl. She wouldn't give into it, of course not, she had an image to maintain, but she certainly more than felt like it. Guy's antics had given her a headache on the way over and she just wasn't feeling very charitable anymore. If Tear wanted to have her way with him, who was she to argue? It's not that she was surprised at Guy's overbearing concern, she'd personally seen it in action several times before, but she had always managed to escape it back then, not so this time. Oh, she was worried, who wasn't, but she knew Luke well enough to know that, yes, he was probably hip deep into trouble, but that he would ultimately worm his way out of said trouble and return to them hale and whole, more or less. It was the more or less part of the equation that tended to cause the most problems.
That idiot had better be all right.
Ion grumbled in growing irritation as he slammed the book he had been flipping through shut and placed it on top of the swiftly growing pile beside him. The Order of Lorelei, not surprisingly, had many, many books based on research of the seventh fonon, both in public records and confidential reports. Yet, regardless of the wealth of information present in the cathedral libraries, there were only a scant few that touched on the subject of hyper resonance and even fewer that had anything other than a few basic facts about the phenomenon. None of them gave him the least idea of what he had witnessed the night before, nor what he saw each and every time he entered his bedroom. He didn't even have the slightest inkling of an idea about what had happened nor what to do about it. He was now resigned to the fact that he would most likely have to wait for the others before he could actually do anything about the problem, but that didn't mean he couldn't try to find something, anything, on it at least. They couldn't stay like that indefinitely, there was no telling what it would do to them. Asides from the very obvious and dire need for medical attention, someone would eventually start to get suspicious about his locked door. There had to be some explanation somewhere that could help him figure out what to do, he just had to find it.
Grimacing, Ion hefted another book, this one rather thick and dusty, and thunked it down on the tabletop in front of him. There was no help for it, he'd just have to keep looking until he managed to find something. If he didn't at least try to do something, he'd go crazy, which he might not be very far from at the moment.
"Pardon my intrusion, Fon Master."
He didn't even deign to look up at the acolyte who was no doubt giving him a polite, respectful bow. "I told the last one of you in here that I'd think about lunch later. I'm too busy right now to take a break. Please leave me," Ion sighed, his tone thoroughly aggrieved, while making a blatant shooing motion with his right hand.
The acolyte winced slightly and shook her head. "It's not that, Fon Master. A group of people have come to the cathedral and are asking for you. I thought you might wish to be informed of their arrival since their number includes your former Guardian."
"Anise!" Ion cried happily as he whipped his head up and smiled in pure relief. "That must be the Colonel then. Thank you very much for letting me know." The acolyte blinked in surprise as the Fon Master practically leaped out of his chair and hurried past her. Thankfully, it appeared as if she had been the deliverer of good news and not just another nuisance, after all.
Ion did his best to not just flat out run out into the cathedral proper, though it was a test on his nerves, which were quite frayed at this point, not to. Help had finally arrived, whether it knew it or not. Thank the Score, he wouldn't have to do everything on his own now. Surely the Colonel would be able to figure out what had happened, as well as what they needed to do to fix it... and them. Ion unconsciously chewed on his bottom lip as he flew out of the library and made a beeline over to the rather colorful assortment of people standing in the middle of the entrance hall. His friends. They'd know what to do.
"Ion!" Anise squeaked, swiftly disengaging herself from Jade, whom she had been leaning on for weary support, to zoom over and pounce on the hapless Fon Master. After a second of back breaking hugs, she pushed him out to arm's length so she could get a better look at him, and wasn't too pleased with what she found. "What have they been doing to you? You look like hell."
"Ah ha ha," Ion laughed weakly as he vainly attempted to extricate himself from his former, overzealous Guardian's grasp and failed miserably. "Nothing really, just... something came up last night and I didn't manage to get any sleep afterwards."
"Last night you say?" Jade asked curiously as he narrowed his eyes and gave Ion a pointed, scrutinizing look. Obviously finding the unspoken answer he was looking for, the colonel nodded grimly a moment later and offered, "Is there anything we can do to help?"
"Yes, there is!" Ion said forcefully, barely managing to keep from yelling his relief as he broke free of Anise and determinedly started to head towards the residential wing of the cathedral, only briefly sparing a glance behind to make sure the others were following after him. "Follow me, please."
It took only a few, harried strides through the door and down the corridor to reach the crest that led up to the upper reaches of the wing. "Uh, Ion," Anise interrupted before the young Fon Master could step onto the glyphs, "This leads up to your rooms."
"Yes, Anise, I know," Ion responded in mild exasperation, doing his best to keep ahold of his wrecked patience. They didn't know what he knew... not yet anyway. But did that really matter in the long run? They would know soon enough because they were here now and they could help and they needed to get up there now and fix it! "But the problem is up there, so please, follow me."
"Okay," the former Guardian grumbled halfheartedly before stepping out onto the soft, glowing colored glyphs that would transport them up to the protected rooms of the Fon Master. The others followed after, strangely silent now that they had arrived. Or perhaps not so strange, since even through their ever present worry for Luke and overriding exhaustion, they could all see that something was up with Ion, something important enough to garner Jade's full attention.
It took only a few seconds for the transport spell to take effect and whisk them up to the top floor of the residential wing, the only means by which it could be reached. Once there, Ion strode purposefully over to his quarters, quickly passing through the door into the outer office, but stopping before his bedroom door as he dug the key out of one of the many hidden pockets in his robes.
"You locked your door?" Anise asked in abject shock. "You never lock your door." The ever-trusting Fon Master had locked his door?! Something really bad must have happened.
"Mmm, yes," Ion answered absently as he finally drug the key out and inserted it into the lock, "I thought it was for the best. I didn't want anyone sneaking in and finding... them."
"Them?" Natalia blinked in confusion, her sleep fogged brain finally catching up to the present events. Could "them" have something to do with Luke's disappearance? Maybe they wouldn't have to go looking for him after all.
"I see," Jade murmured softly, gesturing the others to silence before they could pipe up with further questions. "Well then, Fon Master, perhaps you should show us what you've been guarding so diligently since last night."
"Yes," Ion nodded hesitantly, his shoulders drooping as it finally occurred to him just what he was about to show them. It wouldn't be a pleasant surprise, not in the least. "It's just... uhm, perhaps the rest of you should wait out here until Colonel Curtiss is done. I think, maybe, that might for the best?" He worried at his bottom lip nervously, eyeing them all sadly as he slowly turned the key.
"No, I don't think so," Guy interjected before Jade had the chance to agree. "This has something to do with Luke, doesn't it?" He blew out a heavy breath when Ion hesitantly gave him a pained, almost guilty nod. "Then I think we should all go in, because I don't, no, I'm not going to wait out here if there's something wrong. So please, just let us in."
Ion sighed wearily and shrugged, "All right, but I'm warning you now, it is a rather... disturbing sight." And then it was too late for further conversation because he was pushing the door open and showing them all the end results of his rather harried night.
The brilliant golden glow was the first thing that anyone saw upon entering Fon Master Ion's room. It was all pervasive and drowned out almost everything else. In fact, it took several seconds for their eyes to adjust to it enough before they could actually see the source of the glow.
Crammed into the corner of Ion's bed and the wall was indeed their errant friend, and curled up in his lap was a remarkably bloody looking God-General. They were both thoroughly drenched, appearing as if they had just stepped in out of the rain. Luke's cheek rested on the crown of Asch's head, and both their eyes were closed as if in sleep, but the concept of sleep didn't quite fit with the nigh desperate hold Luke had on his distorted mirror image. And nothing accounted for the solid seeming golden glow that enveloped them both.
"What the hell?!" Guy somehow managed after spending a moment frozen in pure, unadulterated shock, his outburst easily encompassing the reactions of the others. This wasn't anything near what he had been expecting. Then again, he had never expected Asch, of all people, to be involved in Luke's little disappearance, though it did make a sick sort of sense when he really thought about it.
"Ah, I was afraid of that," Jade murmured quietly, more to himself than to any of the others. Stepping over, he kneeled down beside the glowing pair and studied them intently. "How long have they been like this?"
"Since last night, around midnight or so," Ion said helplessly as he plopped down beside Jade. "They just appeared out of thin air, but Luke collapsed before I could even ask him about what had happened and then this started." He gestured futilely at the glow. "It's like everything just stopped in there. They've been in here for hours now, but as you can see, they're both still sopping wet. They haven't dried up any at all. And they're not even breathing, but I know they're not dead."
"You do?" Jade asked with distinct interest, one eyebrow arching quizzically behind his glasses.
"Well, of course I do," Ion answered matter of factly as he reached forward, his hand easily passing through the golden light to gently stroke Asch's soaked hair. He sighed sadly when he withdrew it a moment later and showed his red streaked palm to the group. "The dead do not bleed."