Love Him or Set Him Free
Natalia strolled aimlessly through the castle, contemplating all that had happened recently. It was not so long ago that she and her friends had rid the world of the Score; it was almost hard to readjust to normal life after the fact. If you could still call life normal, that is. The Score had been a huge part of everyone's day to day occurrences; it still shocked her sometimes to think that it was now gone. But that wasn't the only thing that had changed. They had found out Luke was a replica, she was adopted in a sense, Guy was actually a noble, and Asch was now dead.
She still couldn't quite believe that last fact.
When they had finally defeated Van, both Luke and Asch had failed to show up for a significant length of time. She hoped against hope that they would come back, but eventually, she had to accept the fact that they had indeed died back on Eldrant. It had been hard to accept, but if finding out she was Largo's daughter had taught her anything, it was that you couldn't dwell on the past.
Which was why she continued trying to convince Tear and Guy that Luke was dead.
It was why she was so shocked when Luke had actually shown up.
But it still failed to prevent her from hoping that if Luke had shown up, Asch would eventually show up too.
He didn't. And what was worse was that she was the only one who seemed to care.
To be fair though, it wasn't like the others had actually known Asch. Well, other then Guy, but he was never exactly on friendly terms with him. And Luke did miss Asch horribly, even if he liked to pretend it didn't bother him much anymore.
But Asch's death wasn't as cruel to anyone as it had been to her. Because she was supposed to marry him. And now he was dead. She didn't even know if she could marry Luke anymore because of Tear. Everyone else had gotten their happy ending except for her, and it just wasn't fair!
She banged her fist against the cool stone of the castle, which turned out to be a very bad idea as her hand began to throb. She probably would have started crying if she hadn't heard a voice behind her.
Luke came running over to her, checking her hand to be sure she didn't have any major injuries. When he seemed satisfied that there weren't any, he turned his gaze to her. "Are you alright? What's the matter?"
Rather than pour out her feelings to him, she avoided him with another question. "What are you doing here? You usually don't come to the castle much."
"Oh it's…" he looked down at his hand, and she noticed he was holding a piece of paper. "Maybe now's not a good time…"
"It's as good a time as any. Let me see." She took the sheet from him and began to read:
Greetings from Daath,
As I'm sure you're aware, the recent corruption and subsequent removal of several members of the Order of Lorelei has left many positions vacant and in need of people to fill them. Specifically, as you well know, we no longer have any God Generals, a Commandant, or a Fon Master. I have been asked to fill the roll of Grand Maestro, and I hope to do so significantly better than my predecessor. I am writing to ask if you would be interested in filling the position of one of the God Generals. I ask that you let me know of your decision, and if you decline, please suggest someone else you believe more suitable.
Grand Maestro Trithem
"…so I was going to ask Uncle if I could go, because it's not really like I'm doing much here and…what's the matter?"
He must have finally seen the expression on her face, because she did not like this idea. It was like her worst nightmare all over again. He was going to leave and become a God General just like Asch. He would forget about her and fail to write or visit just like Asch. And then he'd go on some mission and die just like…
"Natalia, for Lorelei's sake what's the problem!"
"You didn't even ask me!" she screamed. "You didn't even think about it! Did it ever occur to you that maybe I'd like to have a say in this! That maybe I don't want you to go! We're supposed to be engaged and…"
"You were engaged to Asch, Natalia," he said quietly "Not me."
"I don't see how that..."
"Because I'm not Asch!" he exploded. "I can't be like him, I'm tired of trying, and I don't…"
"But you're going to run off and play God General just like he did," she said coldly.
That was probably the worst thing she could have said at that point, because he tore the letter up and threw it into the air where it fell like confetti. "Fine. I won't go. Excuse me for trying to have a life." And with that, he marched away.
"Luke, wait I…" but he either didn't hear her or didn't care because a few moments later she heard him slam the door to his manor quite loudly. It was pretty impressive that she could hear it, even though she had run to the exit of the castle. She wondered what the manor guards were thinking. Actually, the castle guards were looking at her like they didn't know what to be thinking.
She made a small strangled gasp, and fled towards the safety of her bedroom. On the way she passed the scraps of the letter that Luke had torn up. She briefly thought of ordering them burned, he couldn't become a God General if he didn't have that letter after all, but it was short lived. Trithem would send him another one when he didn't hear anything back, or Luke would ask for another one, or something would happen to make the effort pointless. The only way to be sure he didn't go was to talk to her father.
She gathered the remnants and went to seek him out. When she found him, she showed him the pieces of the letter, and explained what had happened.
"Is that the only reason you didn't want him to go, Natalia?" he asked. "Because he didn't think to ask you first?"
"No…it's just…we finally got him back. I'd given up believing he was alive, but then he finally came back. And now he's going to go away again, and I'm going to lose him. Maybe forever like with Asch…"
Her father gave one of his sighs which meant he was either going to ask her a difficult question or tell her something she wouldn't want to hear. "During your argument you brought up your engagement, did you not?"
"Yes…it's the most important reason why he should have asked…"
"Natalia, if Asch was still here, would you have married him or Luke?"
The question was so abrupt that it took her a while to realize what he had actually asked. Even then, she found it hard to answer.
"I…I don't know. Whichever one you wanted me too? Probably Asch since Luke and Tear…"
Oh. She kept forgetting that Luke now had someone he liked besides her, even though she had given him a sort of silent permission to after they realized who Asch was. When she brought up their engagement, Luke probably felt like she was trapping him, controlling him even. You weren't good enough to marry when Asch was here, but now that he's not…
"Natalia, you need to decide how you really feel about Luke. And you need to be honest about it. If you're using him as nothing more than a substitute for Asch, he's going to know, and it's going to create a rift between the two of you. I don't want you to feel as though you have to marry him just because of an arrangement made when you were young. Your happiness is more important to me than that. If you don't love him, let him go, and wait until you can find someone else who will make you happy."
It hurt to hear that, as true as it was. She had been substituting him for Asch when she made that comment, and that wasn't fair to him. Although it made her happy to know her father cared more about her happiness than an engagement, the thought of breaking it off terrified her. All her life, she had known she was going to marry Luke (or Asch) and that was that. There was no uncertainty about it, no question if she loved him. But now she had to think about it, and the terrifying answer was she didn't even know if she loved him or not. And it might not matter even if she did.
When she went back to her room later that night, she decided that she was going to let Luke go to Daath and be a God General if it would make him happy. It wasn't fair of her to cage him here like this, he had complained about it enough when he was younger. Besides, Anise would be there to look out for him, and maybe Tear…
That last thought hurt. If she let him go, she was pretty much forfeiting him over to Tear. Of course, there was always the chance Tear would stay at Yulia City, since Legretta and Mohs were gone now, after all.
It didn't comfort her very much. But she was still going to let him go anyway. She decided she would apologize to him sometime tomorrow afternoon, after he had calmed down a bit. She didn't want Luke to leave thinking she was mad at him.
Sometime the next day, when she was debating whether to approach Luke then or wait a little longer, he beat her to it by coming to the castle and approaching her first.
"Natalia, I'm sorry. I…I shouldn't have said that. I didn't mean it. You were right, I was just trying to be like Asch again, even though I said I wouldn't, and it was a stupid idea and I'm…"
"It's…I'm the one who should be apologizing. I know how much you hated being cooped up in the manor when you were younger, yet I tried to do it to you myself. I'm sorry. It's your life and you should be able to live it the way you want to. Go to Daath. Be a God General. I just want you to be happy. Just make sure Anise dosen't try to take any of your money."
He smiled a bit at her joke, and she couldn't help but smile back. "Are you sure you're okay with me going? I mean..."
"It's fine. And Father already okayed it, so you're all set."
"Thanks," he said and gave her such a heartfelt hug that she was stunned for a few seconds. She hadn't realized it had meant that much to him. "Hey, I have an idea. Why don't you come with me? I know Anise will be happy to see you, and this way if there's anything else they want, I can ask you first."
She couldn't help but laugh a little at his attempt to make up with her, he was so sincere about it that it was touching. "You don't have to ask me first. You're of age now, so you can do what you want. I'd still appreciate it if you'd let me know though. And I think I will go. It will be nice to see Anise and Florian again."
"Oh yeah, I forgot about him. But you're right, it'll be nice to see them again. So when do we leave?"
"Um, does in a week sound good? That should give us time to pack and work out any last minute details."
"Great!" he said and hugged her again. "Thanks a bunch, Natalia. I'll send you lots and lots of letters, although I can't promise they won't be boring."
"I wouldn't mind if they were," she said returning the embrace. Seeing Luke so happy gave her a warm feeling inside, and she couldn't help but feel that she had made the right decision.