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Sunday, August 23rd, 2009 11:02 pm
Title: Blood Sin
Fandom: Vagrant Story
Rating/Pairing: PG-13, gen
Summary: Post-game, there's something that Ashley needs to share about Joshua's true identity. Spoilers for the game. (D)

At first, Callo Merlose thinks she's just seeing shadows -- not uncommon for her, not after everything that happened in Leà Monde -- but then a hand closes around her arm, warm and callused and carelessly strong, and Ashley's voice murmurs in her ear, "I am not here to hurt you. Don't turn around."

"Agent Riot," she says, before remembering he isn't a VKP agent any more. The VKP wants him, has labeled him insanely dangerous, but Callo has seen her share of true danger and insanity, and her voice is steady. "Should I be afraid?"

He laughs, low and deep. "That depends on whether you're planning on turning me in."

They both know she won't.

"They will question me, you know. Again. About you." She takes a breath and, against his orders, turns. He lets her, but the hand on her arm turns cool and metallic, and when he speaks it is with Sydney's mesmerizing voice, tinged with sardonic amusement.

"Then it is a good thing you haven't seen our dear friend Ashley Riot." He releases her and takes a step back, moving from deep shadow into moonlight; she can feel Dark energies swirling about them, and suddenly the person who stands before her is John Hardin. "Is this better?" he asks, a little mockingly.

Callo's throat closes up, and she can't speak. Hardin had been her captor, not her friend, and a Müllenkamp cultist; but he had been gentle enough with her, and gentler still with the boy, and loyal, and deep-hearted. And dead, dissolving into Darkness in front of her and Joshua both. Seeing him here, even -- perhaps especially -- because she knows it is illusion, feels like being stabbed. She finds words to fling at Ashley: "Why are you here?"

He shifts back to Sydney's appearance, perhaps because it is slightly more neutral territory. "I need to talk to you," he says, and everything about him is grave and serious. "About the boy."

Instinctively, Callo glances down and to the side, even though she knows that Joshua isn't there. The boy has spent much of the time since Leà Monde clinging to her leg, as though afraid she too will disappear on him. "He will be cared for," she says, her words clipped and angry. "You needn't trouble yourself about it."

Whether or not he will be fine is, of course, another issue. She was having enough trouble coping with what she'd seen in Leà Monde, and she was a trained VKP Inquisitor; Joshua was but a child, and beyond that had bonded strongly with Hardin, and she could see the echoes of terror in his eyes even still.

But Ashley, still in Sydney's guise, is shaking his head, not so much denial as redirection. "You don't know who he is."

"He is Duke Bardorba's son," she shoots back, "and soon will be mine by common-law even though not by blood, and," she adds fiercely, stamping her foot, "do not laugh at me!"

He raises an eyebrow and schools his expression into blandness. Still, for all the silent laughter that had quivered through his body and now lingered in his eyes, his voice is grave. "Perhaps I phrased that badly." He ducks his head, considering, and for a moment the illusion falters, and she sees Ashley even while she's seeing Sydney. "Tell me," he says finally, "how old is the boy, would you say?"

"Young." She has no idea; she has no experience with children. "Five summers, perhaps?"

"Duke Bardorba," Ashley says softly, "has had a five-year-old son for the past twenty-odd years."

It takes a moment to sink in.

"I don't know if you remember hearing anything about the illness that struck the Duke's son, back then. Mysteriously begun, and mysteriously cured, and ever since then, Joshua has not aged."

Callo shakes her head, but it isn't quite denial. The Dark is capable of creating many illusions, and Ashley Riot might have inherited Sydney's quicksilver tongue as well as his powers, but what he says feels uneasily like the truth.

Ashley's voice is quiet, almost compassionate, as he continues. "No one ever notices. The Dark protects its secrets. But I thought you should know. Although," he adds slowly, "it's possible he will age now that Sydney is dead."

So Sydney had died with Leà Monde, after all. Callo had heard rumors, but no one knew for certain -- no one found a body, after all, and Lea Monde was strange when it came to death. Then she realizes what Ashley said, and frowns. "What does Joshua have to do with Sydney? Besides being his brother."

"Joshua isn't Sydney's brother."

Callo blinks at the flat denial in Ashley's voice; but then, of course, he hadn't seen the things she had. Hadn't seen the mind-ghost echo of Sydney, looking so much like Joshua that they could have been twins but for the age difference between their physical bodies. Hadn't heard even Hardin piece together that the Duke was Sydney's father. She starts to explain, but he holds up one finger, and the blade on it glints oddly in the moonlight.

"Joshua isn't Sydney's brother," he repeats, with a faint stress on the last word. "Joshua is Sydney's soul."

"I don't understand," Callo protests, even though she thinks she does. Sydney's mind-ghost, that could have been Joshua's twin...

She wants to stop thinking there, but her VKP-trained mind puts the pieces together ruthlessly. The timing works. Twenty years ago, something happened to Joshua, something that kept him from aging; twenty years ago, a charismatic unknown preacher calling himself Sydney Losstarot rose to power within the Müllenkamp cult.

Ashley is silent for a moment, and then when he speaks the words are as quiet and hollow as the wind. "The Dark takes a sacrifice. To yield to the Dark is to split your soul. Sydney -- Joshua -- was a child when it happened, and so that was the form his soul took."

"When what happened?"

Her answer is a wry smile and a half shrug. "I'm not sure. But there was ancient magicks involved, and whatever happened, whatever ritual or sacrifice or contract was made, it tore the Duke's son in twain: one his soul, youthful, innocent, unchanging, and the other a body twined with the Dark, as much a part of it as a controlling force."

Callo feels her chest tighten as she takes in the implications. Her first impulse is that it isn't fair. Wasn't fair, twenty years before, and isn't fair now.

She says nothing.

"The boy may continue as he has been, unaging; or he may start to age like any child; or he may even die." Ashley's voice is carefully neutral. "As I said -- I thought you should know. It seemed..." He pauses, and then looks intently at her, mouth quirked in a half smile that is suited to Sydney's face. "...fair." And then he turns to leave, a swirl of shadow in deeper shadow.

"Ashley." Callo hesitates, but he does not turn back to face her, just pauses. At least he is giving her that. She takes a deep breath. "If the Dark always takes a sacrifice... what was yours?"

He does turn, then, at least far enough that he can meet her gaze. The illusion has dropped, and it is just Ashley that looks back at her, something that is almost a smile flickering across his face. "My soul was split a long time ago, I'm afraid. I think that is why--" He stops and shakes his head. "It is no matter. Fare well, Agent Merlose."

"Wait," she says, but he is gone, and she is talking to shadows and rustling leaves. "Wait," she says again, a hopeless murmur.

And then she turns and goes home, and when Joshua gives her a look of panicked delight and throws his arms around her in a tight hug, she rests her hand on his head and says nothing.
Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 02:04 am (UTC)
ZOMGZOMGZOMG this is great!! Another fandom we don't know much about but we adore this fic. Adore adore adore.
Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 04:27 am (UTC)
I don't know the source for this at all, but oooh, I really like the story and want to know more about Joshua and Ashley!