The group arrives at Akzeriuth to find it entirely covered with the miasma, and all the people there are suffering. Natalia and the others start to help out the survivors, but Luke isn’t interested in lending a hand. After learning that Van has already gone into the mine tunnels, the group proceeds forward, though Tear doesn’t go with them because she gets called away by a soldier. Inside the tunnels, the group finds a room full of fallen men and start helping out, but Luke refuses to lift a finger and instead sneaks off to find Van. Tear meanwhile gets ambushed by the same soldiers who had wanted her help, but she’s helped out by the arrival of Asch. Asch then telepathically orders Luke not to proceed to the interior of the mine, but Luke refuses to listen. Along with Ion who had followed him, Luke finally finds Van in front of a door. Van asks Ion to open it by getting rid of the Daathic seal, and Ion does so after Luke begs him to. Asch attempts to stop Luke telepathically again, even saying that Luke is being deceived, but Luke still doesn’t pay any heed to the warnings.
Under the impression that he’s going to neutralize the miasma, Luke follows Van’s orders and stands in front of something called a passage ring. When Van uses the phrase “foolish replica Luke,” a command that he had implanted in Luke’s mind activates and Luke uses a hyperresonance. This causes the passage ring to disintegrate, and Luke loses consciousness soon after. Asch rushes into the chamber too late to stop this, and he is subsequently caught by one of Van’s griffins. Van rides a second griffin, and when Tear and the others in the group show up, Tear accuses Van of betraying her because he had promised that he’d prolong the existence of the Outer Lands. Van counters by saying that she’ll eventually understand the foolishness and ugliness of this world, and he suggests that she use her fonic hymns. With everything collapsing around them, Tear has no choice but to do exactly that to protect everyone while Akzeriuth is completely destroyed. They wake back up in what looks like a different world, but the Tartarus is down there too, so the group boards it.
Luke is shocked when he sees their surroundings, and the others explain that they fell down here. Tear and Ion reveal that they’re in a place called Qliphoth underneath the Outer Lands where everyone normally lives. The Outer Lands are actually in the sky, supported by pillars called Sephiroth Trees that extend upward from Qliphoth. This had been done 2000 years ago after the miasma started to cover the land. The only people who know about this are the high-ups in the Order of the Lorelei and those who came from Qliphoth – Tear fits into the latter category. Unfortunately, Luke had destroyed the pillar that was supporting Akzeriuth. He now tries to blame Van for deceiving him, but the others are disappointed in him, and, one by one, they leave him. Luke is most devastated by how Tear notes that she had thought that he had good points.
Following Tears directions, the Tartarus then heads towards Yulia City, and the group disembarks there. Luke is slow to follow, and when Asch suddenly appears behind him – after having defeated the griffin that Van was trying to capture him with – Luke immediately asks about Van. Asch scoffs at how Luke is still concerned about the person who betrayed him, and he yells at Luke for using the hyperresonance without thinking. He also calls Luke a replica, and since Luke is still confused about this, Asch reveals that the reason the two of them look the same is because Luke is a replica of him. Asch was the one who was actually born as a noble in Baticul and was kidnapped seven years ago by Van. Luke refuses to believe this and attacks Asch in a rage, but Asch easily avoids the sword swings. After knocking Luke down, Asch prepares to kill him.
Well, I can’t say I’m shocked that Van betrayed everyone since there was every indication that he was planning on it (whether or not he ends up being the final boss remains to be seen). Nor was the fact that Luke is a replica of Asch particularly surprising. I did, however, get a lot of enjoyment from seeing Luke finally get what was coming to him after all that whining, arrogance, and trying to boss people around. Too bad he wouldn’t shut up about how it wasn’t his fault. I’m beginning to think that Asch would make a better protagonist, but obviously he’s not going to kill Luke here, and I suspect that all this will end up just causing Luke to change himself for the better and become the proper hero.
Now that I think about it, if Asch was the one who was kidnapped, then doesn’t that mean that Natalia’s promise was originally made with Asch? That in turn would mean that Luke would be free from his engagement to her and could start something with Tear, and that seems to be the pairing the story will ultimately go for. The preview for next week shows Natalia talking with Asch as well as what looks like Luke making up with Tear, so we’ll probably find out more then.