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A Crush

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It had been six months' time since that night. Six months of having that young man trapped in her thoughts. Every night she would think of him, and almost every night she would dream of him. He had captivated her in the worst possible way. The young princess, Ashelia B'nargin Dalmasca, was lovestruck. She had her love for Prince Rasler Heios Nabradia and this… love, this crush for the young Judge named Ffamran – Ffamran Mied Bunansa. She would often wonder if she would see him again at some function or other like her wedding in the future perhaps, but even the swiftest of glances had proven futile. He had not been anywhere in sight, and with that, her hopes had begun to die.

Today, she was in the royal library in the western area of her father's palace. Her attendant, Argas, had informed her of some… choice morsels about this young man of hers and so, without having anything else to do, she made herself busy perusing the various texts on Archadian families, praying all the while to the Gods that his family wasn't a common family that wouldn't be cataloged if he hadn't become a Judge.

The royal librarian wasn't anywhere to be seen when Ashe pushed open the heavy doors engraved in ancient Ivalician text. They were words that bespoke of a kind of chilling magnificence – at least Ashe thought so. She was still learning the ins-and-outs and the ways of the ancient scripts so their real significance was unknown to her. The air inside the library was cold, but welcoming, and wafts of Galbana lilies lingered on the air as the royal gardens were not far away. Oftentimes the young princess would spend time in here, absorbed in the texts about Ivalice's history and the history of Dalmasca, its people, and her family. Would her bloodline continue down through the ages as it had for so many centuries? Perhaps the Gods would keep it so. She prayed to them in any case. The mere thought of her family dying out was enough to scare her.

Now finding the texts she needed would prove difficult. The system of the royal library was difficult to understand, let alone figure out for most people. Ashe had been "most people" a while back until she had pushed herself to learn the system. One day she would rule all of Dalmasca, and with all older brothers dead, the day would probably be much closer than she could imagine especially with the powers of Archadia breathing down their neck each and every day. She shook those thoughts from her head and found the aisle she needed and breathed a sigh of relief that it was just her here. She supposed the royal librarian would give her an ear full if she were found perusing documents on Archadia – especially some of its people. Unfortunately for her, the aisle she wanted was not empty. Her fiancé, Rasler, was there with an open book in hand studying some of the ancient languages in Ivalice.

When he sees Ashe, he chuckles to himself. His cheeks are flushed; his gaze downcast and places the book he was reading on the shelf. "I admit," he begins. "I was not expecting to see you here, but you always manage to surprise me." He turns toward her then and looks her in the eyes. There's a small smile on his face and Ashe immediately begins to feel guilty over her thoughts to look for that young Judge she had met so many moons ago.

Now it is her turn to be embarrassed and with cheeks as red as Galbana lilies, her hands are pressed together behind her back as she thinks carefully about what to tell her beloved fiancé. "Rasler! I… I could say the same about you. I did not expect to see anywhere here. I thought… Well, I believed the library to be deserted. Don't you find it strange that Lady Rose is nowhere to be seen?" This prompted her to put a hand close to her mouth as her voice dropped to a whisper. She wasn't entirely sure why she was whispering. Perhaps it was because Lady Rose always seemed to pop up unexpectedly when they did know she was around. Who was to say she wouldn't do such a thing now?

The young prince of Nabradia lets out a laugh. It is like the clanging of bells – loud, but gentle, too. Her expression changes to worry and she reflexively steps forward, grabbing Rasler firmly by the arms. "Rasler! Do be quiet! Who knows what she would do if she found us here, alone, in this aisle? She would probably tell my father!" But Ashe knows her worry, while well-intentioned, isn't the least of their problems. The roar of trumpets is much louder than their two voices, and these trumpets weren't just any kind. They were the ones that sounded when Archadia was come to visit. Archadia. Emperor Gramis. Judge Ffamran… Ashe's thoughts begin to wander so she wasn't entirely aware of what she was doing.

"I wonder if I'll get to see him again…" Her grip on Rasler's arms tightens for a moment before letting go when she feels Rasler's touch of her arms. It's soft but worrying. Oh no. What had she done? What had she said? Taking a few steps back, suddenly she can't look Rasler in the eyes and turns away from him with tears springing to her eyes. No. She wouldn't cry. She had to hold it in. She couldn't let him see.

"Ashe? Is there… something you want to tell me?" Rasler's question was full of confusion. He didn't understand what was going on and why his fiancée looked so happy to hear the trumpets of the neighboring empire that wanted to oppress them all. His mind is full of unasked questions when he wonders if she had always been like this or if it was something new. He thinks back to all the events and the meetings they had gone to and one instance strikes his mind as important. At the parties and festivities, they attended, she was always looking for someone. This someone, he had thought at the time, had to have been him. She always looked so joyful to see him, but now he was wondering. Was she happy to see him? Or had she been searching for someone else and put on a façade for the people? No. She couldn't. Not her. And then he remembers the night they had been to Nalbina to discuss important affairs with Rozarria, Nabradia, and Archadia. She had gone back to her room, complaining of a headache, but she had not been herself when he had gone to check up on her afterward. She seemed dazed and with her head in the clouds. Rasler had just chalked it up to her supposed headache, but now… Had she met someone he didn't know about?

What had she done? How could she do this to him? It wasn't right. Turning back towards him, she wipes the unshed tears with the backs of her hands and takes a deep breath. "I… I apologize, Rasler. I have been… unfaithful to you. The night we were in Nalbina when I retired to my room with a headache, I…" Ashe's hands balled into fists at her sides, but she never waived. "I met someone. An Archadian Judge. He was… most kind to me and took me back to my room, but he… I… Well, I… was careless and he stole his way into my heart. I was hoping to see him again, to learn his name, and in that, I committed a most grievous crime. My heart was split between you, my most beloved fiancé, and him. My heart wholly belongs to you and I won't make excuses, but… I do ask for your forgiveness in this matter."

There. It was all said and done. Now she just had to wait for Rasler's response. Hopefully, they would be able to fix this mistake of hers… together.

She didn't have to wait long. His eyes had gone large when she had told him her story and now he was calm, and the smile she had grown so used to seeing was back on his face. "'Tis alright. From what you just told me… It seems like you developed a crush on this young fellow is all. The heart wants what it wants. Do you remember that one time when Basch tried to stop me from eating five helpings of montblanc even though I was sick?" He laughs. "I imagine your predicament was similar to that."

Ashe finds herself laughing, too. She's not sure how similar the two events were, but she's glad he forgives her.

"Now I suppose we should see what the procession is for," Rasler said, his hand extended to her as he began to make his way towards the door.

"Of course," She nods and takes his hand.

When the two had made their way down to the entry hall, they were surprised to see Vayne Solidor, one of Emperor Gramis's only remaining sons. He was accompanied by two lower rank Judges and Ashe felt her heart contract. Even if she had apologized to Rasler, she still wanted to see Ffamran. If only to say goodbye one final time.

"Do forgive me for intruding upon your beloved home, but there are pressing matters that must be discussed at length."

"It is… most all right, but perhaps you could give us a warning in advance next time?" King Raminas asked.

This was when Ashe started to pay close attention.

"Did you not receive my letter? Forgive me again. That was something I entrusted to one of our former Judges. He must not have sent it before he was dismissed."

"Dismissed?"

"Yes. Young Judge Ffamran was convicted after he plotted to destroy our airships and our research at Draklor. 'Tis a shame, but it has to be done. Now if we could discuss these matters privately…" Vayne's glance shifted to look at Ashe and Rasler who had come to stand behind King Raminas.

The king glances behind and nods his head "Yes, of course." Turning to Ashe and Rasler, he says, "I'm sorry, my children. I will see you two at dinner." And with that, he joins Vayne and his guards. Their voices fading as they walk further and further away from the two.

Dismissed? Convicted? Those two things were completely different. What was the truth? There was no way Ffamran was guilty of such things. It was… It was completely ridiculous!

In the Nalbina Dungeons, Ffamran was weak from hunger and signs of scars littered his naked torso. He had been here five and a half months and always, always he wished to escape. To be free from the reigns of his father, but who'd have thought that his father would be the one to put him here? The screams for the other inmates made it difficult to sleep and when he did sleep, Ffamran dreamed of his younger sister, his dream of his late mother, and what he had always wanted his father to be, and he also dreamed of the princess of Dalmasca. Someday he'd see her again. Someday he'd make things right, and maybe even someday he would get to take her out on an airship, his airship, and he wondered how happy she would be to see his dream fulfilled.

END