A Budding Flower
Based within the land of Ivalice, where the empires of Archadia and Rozarria planned to wage an endless war, in which was no surprise to either of the kingdoms citizens. Dalmasca, a small kingdom, caught in between the warring nations and thus driving it to partake within the never-ending conflict also. When Dalmasca was annexed by Archadia, its princess, Ashelia B’nargin Dalmasca, created a resistance movement. During the struggle thus far, Ashe met Vaan, a young adventurer who has always dreamt of becoming a sky pirate in command of an airship. Although popping his dream aside for the time being, Ashelia was determined to win back her nation for the better, and so thus Vaan decided to lend a hand in this battle, mainly for his brother’s sake. Both Ashelia and Vaan quickly joined a band of allies; together, they proceed to rally against the tyranny of the Archadian Empire. There was no way Ashe was planning to let Vayne win, not now, not ever in fact. Although when Halim Ondore IV announced Ashelia’s suicide shortly after the death of her beloved Lord Rasler, her late husband, Ashelia created her new alias known as Amalia to conceal her true identity. Not only was she currently a former princess of the kingdom of Dalmasca, she was also a brave fighter, a warrior rather skilled with a blade. She was fierce. Long before meeting Vaan, Ashe retreated underground with the assumed alias, Amalia. Vossler, a captain in the former Dalmascan army, joined her and together they formed the Resistance to reclaim Dalmasca’s independence and recruited many former members of the Dalmascan army. The Resistance moved slowly, not being able to win any major victories or causing enough unrest to be notable until Vayne Solidor travelled to Dalmasca to assume his position as consul in the year 706. Ever since then, Ashelia was determined to surmount Vayne, to win back her position as the true ruler of Dalmasca. She was desperate for this unnecessary conflict to end.
As of now, whilst many citizens of Dalmasca continued to believe the princess was indeed dead, Ashelia was not far from reaching the city of Archades. Despite the lengthy journey, the many meetings throughout it, and of course the many battles with numerous enemies and even Judges. Ashelia feared Vayne’s next move, his next attack, worrying if he would strike sooner or later. She even worried about her current companions, especially since many within the Resistance ended up either dead or turned out to be a traitor. Even though Vaan, Penelo, Fran, Balthier, and even Basch, were more of her friends rather than protectors, Ashe still feared for them nonetheless. Even though they were never part of the Resistance movement, which instead they came together within an unexpected twist of fate, anything could still happen, anything could prevent them from continuing on with this challenging venture. That fear, along with many others, worried Ashelia. She was afraid to admit it, and so thus instead she kept her fear sealed behind a stern facade. Deep down she was frightened of losing her current companions, her friends even. Even though Bhujerba’s ruler, Halim Ondore IV, announced her suicide shortly after her disappearance back then, Ashelia was not planning to reveal that she was still indeed alive, not yet anyway. She continued to live in a lie, for the sake of her wellbeing as well as Dalmasca’s citizens, battling until the war eventually comes to an end. Ashelia was determined to seize victory for a land that was rightfully hers in the first place.
After vanquishing the ice elemental known as Mateus, and thus gaining another Esper to add to the collection so far. After learning that Judge Bergan was nothing truly superior, that he was merely one of Vayne’s loyal puppets, another wicked scoundrel. After gaining the Sword of Kings at the Stilshrine of Miriam, with the next destination being Mosphoran Highwastes. It was still quite a lengthy journey from their desired location, Archades. They were currently venturing through the northern skirts of The Salikawood, with their next area being the Phon Coast. The journey thus far was fairly laborious, not being able to take at least a nap since the episode at Stilshrine of Miriam. Ashelia was determined to continue the adventure to Archades without a wink of sleep, even though that was fairly impossible for her to do so. She was determined to continue the fight without any fear blocking the path of her dream outcome; she yearned for nothing more than to avenge her family that she had lost to the war. Even though she was merely a lost princess of Dalmasca, she was determined to once again gain the royal title that was rightfully hers before. She was the true princess of the kingdom; she was the true queen of the future. Ashelia was not going to let Vayne win, not this round, not even the next. Ashelia was determined to crush Vayne here and now, along with his wicked tactics.
Penelo was still amazed to be travelling with a princess, a princess behind a currently hidden identity known as Amalia, and not to mention a princess who had unfortunately lost everything. Penelo never thought she and Vaan would travel as far as this, to even be able to meet the princess of Rabanastre, the royal leader of their hometown and not to mention the kingdom of Dalmasca as a whole. Despite Vaan deviously thieving from the royal palace, guided by Old Dalan’s advice to obtain the Crescent Stone, Penelo sure hoped Princess Ashelia forgave them for the incident. In which she did, fortunately. Even though Ashelia was still fairly upset by Vaan stealing from her palace, along with Balthier and Fran, their apology would consist of helping the princess win back her kingdom in return. Ashelia hoped for great effort out of the three. The only true innocent member of the team was Penelo, she advised Vaan not to steal from the royal palace in the first place, but of course he never bothered to listen to her. Basch was still dead to Ashe, whilst he gained Vaan’s trust at least. Even though he tried his absolute hardest to help fight alongside Ashe, to even gain her trust as well, Ashe still believed that he was the culprit who murdered her family as well as Rasler. Ashe wanted Basch dead, even if he continued to state that his twin was the rogue who murdered her loved ones and not him.
They were currently on their way to Archades to continue on with their lengthy journey, they were currently located within The Salikawood at this point, their next destination being the Phon Coast where they hoped to rest, even when Ashelia never even wanted to take a break. Although to continue their quest as a team, they needed all of the energy and vigour they could be able to obtain for it, aside from being teemed with numerous potions and remedies found in many parts of the map. Taking a break may not be the best of choices within a situation such as this but it was more than a choice, it was a must even, and everything that breathed needed enough strength to venture on, even the Humes for that matter. Of course, within this dreadful situation Ashelia never really understood what health was. She merely wished for everything to go back to the way it was before, even if her childhood was not exactly peaceful either, but it was surely quieter than this.
Eventually passing the area of the Living Chasm, after taking their time to benevolently help the Moogle Boss mend the treacherous passageway, in which the outcome was fortunately helpful for both the team and of course the Moogle Boss. Was there even a chance to rest, yet? Was there a camp nearby, or were there numerous beasts invested within the desert beyond?
“...How long do we have now?” Penelo complained miserably under her gasp, palms resting upon her knees as she inhaled a deep breath of exhaustion. She felt limp, worn-out, even feeling a temper beginning to bloom within her.
“Not long.” Ashe stated dryly, a stern tone within her voice as per usual.
“Do we have to keep going at this pace?” Penelo asked, almost droning. “I can’t feel my legs.”
“It’s not far ahead, the area where we must rest, I mean.” Basch informed the others, certain. “We mustn’t stop now, the further we travel, the more we’ll deserve a break that is well needed.”
“How are you so sure?”
“Come on, Penelo.” Vaan placed the palm of his right-hand upon Penelo’s shoulder, giving it one firm pat. “Like Basch said, it’s not long now, right?” Averting his gaze towards Basch, a doubtful expression painted upon his features, anxious almost.
“I’m certain it isn’t so far ahead, though I can’t tell for sure.”
“We have no time for chatter,” Ashelia snapped. “We would not be heading anywhere otherwise.” With a snooty huff, Ashelia swiftly turned her back towards the three talkative members of the team, proceeding to stride along the many grains of sand as she did so. “If you three do not hurry, I will continue the journey myself.”
Despite the assertiveness that Ashelia seemed to possess throughout the entire venture so far, Penelo also learnt that Ashe was indeed a loyal person that sticks to her plans, especially a princess who truly cared for her kingdom as well as its people. Ashelia was loyal, determined, despite how domineering she appeared to be at times. Not to mention high and mighty. Although most of the time it seemed like Ashe was oblivious to any form of kindness that would approach her. The princess was broken inside, and Penelo could truly notice that. Penelo had been watching Ashelia for awhile now, without bothering to speak to her about anything else besides the ongoing journey. She was afraid to admit to Vaan that she was somewhat frightened of the princess as well; in which Vaan was not the only one who was. They both were frightened of Ashe.
It was still fascinating to her, to know that she was journeying with a forlorn princess, to help her with the greatest deeds that needed to be accomplished, deeds to help restore the kingdom of Dalmasca. Penelo never knew how it felt to lose a great role, to lose the position of a royal ruler, other than fearing what Vaan’s next mistake would be. Nevertheless Penelo could almost wonder how Ashe must be feeling, feeling within this moment of time, fearing what could possibly happen, fearing Vayne’s next evil scheme. Of course, Ashe never wanted to play puppet to Vayne, she wanted to restore what was rightfully hers, and that was her kingdom, her kingdom, Dalmasca.
What could happen next?
As a few hours pass by glaringly, they eventually found a campsite a couple of destinations ahead, which went by the camp title ′Hunters’ Camp’. Ashe decided to sleep alone within a separate tent from the others, wishing to be left alone for this one night. Vaan and Penelo chose to partner up for the evening, along with Balthier and Fran, which left Basch on his own without a buddy for the night. Nevertheless it was an exhausting journey so far, either of them must be yearning for at least a nap. They were in safe hands at the previous campsites they stayed at, so they knew they would be all right before beginning their venture once again after sunrise. There were at least four or five more tiring journeys before the team finally reaches Archades, which was the fourth stop along the border. They had yet to finish their journey in the Phon Coast.
Ashe truly dreaded what could happen next, even if she held a brave and yet stern persona. She was determined to keep the battle on resume; she was determined to keep on fighting until she is fully satisfied. She was determined to avenge her family, to rescue her kingdom before it ever appears to be too late, even avenge the many lives that would be in danger later on along the line. Although she was anxious within, even Basch knew she was frightened of what the outcome might be. She was a lost princess after all, and their journey mainly focuses on her battling for her kingdom. She was the only and true daughter of King Raminas, as well as the true descendant of King Raithwall, the Dynast King. Ashe was determined to battle for what was truly hers.
Casting a peak through the narrow opening of the tent she was resting in, she heard faint footsteps walk along the sand within the camp. It appeared to be the princess; Penelo automatically assumed she was worrying about the upcoming future instead of focusing on the present, worrying about what could happen in the morning even. All this stress, all this fear, Penelo was worried if whether or not the princess was even well. She overheard Ashe’s and Vaan’s conversation about witnessing Lord Rasler’s spirit a few days back, and from that point on Penelo knew Ashe was overwrought. But, had Vaan also spotted his brother’s ghostly form with his own eyes, too? Perhaps he was only visible to his loved ones. Even though Ashelia only married Rasler purely for political reasons, Penelo wondered if whether or not she even loved him as a person, or if she was only saddened by the loss of her kingdom. Penelo never really knew of her tale, or the reason as to why she even wedded Rasler, but she could sense that Ashelia loved him dearly.
“What if Vayne ever does succeed? What would happen to me?”
Was the princess whispering to herself? The other members of the team were asleep within their own separate tents, it seemed like Ashe was the only one even awake. Penelo assumed it was possibly difficult for her to just drift into a well-rested slumber, not when her brain was packed with all sorts of dilemma. Her family were murdered; her kingdom was taken away from her own hands, and now this unnecessary war had taken place with the only reason being greed.
It was during the late evening, possibly almost hitting eleven o’clock upon the nearest sundial. Had Ashe even slept, yet? Her back was facing the view of Penelo’s tent, in which Penelo assumed she was taking a few precious moments to observe the scenery ahead. Ashe was fairly tall, sandy blonde hair cropped above her shoulders to form a bob, a white and gold cropped shirt over a leather waist swath, along with a dazzling pink miniskirt which was secured with a light-blue belt. She even wore metal thigh-high leg-guards and a pair of gold metal open-toed shoes with darker pink stockings. Penelo believed she was beautiful, even if this was not a time to give such compliments. After all, Ashelia probably would not listen to such flattering remarks, even from another woman.
“Your highness...” Penelo started with a soft, delicate whisper. “Are you feeling all right?” Penelo questioned curiously, worried, as she quietly crept out from the camping tent, only to feel the many grains of sand press against the palms of her pale hands. Penelo was worrying about the poor princess, having to rescue her own kingdom as well as many innocent lives along with it; Penelo truly believed Ashelia was a strong woman indeed.
Jolting with surprise, her greyish hues wandering towards one side somewhat, as her body followed with a swift turn to face the other. Upon catching a glimpse of the young female before her, Ashe raised a hand and placed her palm against the heart of her chest with relief, feeling the continuous beating slow down a tad. Breathing in deeply, only to let a sigh escape her lips as she lowered her shoulders, a bitter smile soon curled along her lips as she viewed Penelo warmly. “I am fine.” Ashe finally responded. “I was merely enjoying the scenery, gathering my thoughts. This time is peaceful; I thought I’d take advantage while it’s still so quiet.”
Noticing the woman crack a slight smile towards her view, Penelo could feel a little warm flame burst within her heart at the sight, she felt flattered. It was the first time Ashe, currently the lost princess of Dalmasca, even smiled towards her. A woman great with power, strength, and yet she still possessed such a strong facade even during this lengthy time of utter grief. Penelo could not describe how she felt, her lips widened into a friendly beam. She felt excited to even get a chance to receive a response from the princess, she felt in love even. “It sure is peaceful...” Taking a few gradual steps towards the noble woman, Penelo kept her hands held closely towards her chest. “It feels quite nice when it’s quiet and nobody’s around... especially when stargazing.”
“It’s beautiful.” Ashe responded shortly with a quiet utter. “The night, I mean.”
Turning to face the landscape once more, observing the many palm trees that surrounded the area of the Phon Coast. Penelo halted her footsteps beside the princess, casting a glimpse towards her, moments before averting her gaze towards the view opposite. Ashelia found it easier to think when it’s silent, to imagine, to even daydream. Sometimes she just wished to sleep her problems away, even if that was difficult within this situation at least. Even though a great handful of the population believed that Ashe committed suicide, there were a few that knew she was still living. Even Penelo thought she was truly dead, until actually meeting her with Vaan.
“It sure is!”
“If only it could remain this peaceful, that would be a dream come true. I smile when I see my people happy, but now it has distorted into utter chaos. I wonder if it will ever end.” Ashe admitted, a frown retreating. “It is needless to say, but I feel I can only hope.”
“I think we all wish for peace.” Penelo responded, holding her hands together behind her lower back. “But I can understand why you say it, with the kingdom and all.” While lightly kicking at the sand, Penelo noticed a small pinkish bud on the nearby green; it appeared to be a tiny flower.
“Of course, everyone deserves peace—” Before Ashe could even continue to finish her speech, Penelo bravely handed her the small flower that was previously seen upon the nearby plant, the stem was pinched in between Penelo’s index fingertip and thumb, while bright pink petals were visible to Ashelia’s view. Ashe was stunned for a second, a faint crimson blush dusting her cheekbones at the sight. Did Penelo just give her a flower?
“O-Oh...” Gently taking the flowering bud from Penelo’s grasp, viewing the small beauty between her own fingers, Ashe was speechless, flattered even. “Thank you.” Ashe finally whispered in response to the kind female, her lips widening into a pleasing smile.
Was this Penelo’s way of confessing she’s beautiful?