The Sky Fortress Bahamut limped out of the sky like a Pyrolisk with a broken wing. Balthier braced himself against the side of the control room as best as he could considering he was carrying the full weight of his partner. The glossair rings were functioning again as they should, but the craft had sustained too much damage to remain aloft for long. Crouching down, he shielded Fran with his body as he peered out of a tear in the metal frame of the airship. From what he saw, they were going to crash just outside of Rabanastre. Not quite the graceful landing that the sky pirate had hoped for, but still a far better fate than smashing through the city proper.
He looked at Fran, unconscious in his arms. Trust the Viera to be out of commission at the most inopportune moment. Nevertheless, his gaze was full of affection for his longtime companion. No matter what happened to him, as long as he kept her safe, he could consider this mission a success. Or at least he would have if he hadn’t promised the princess his own survival as well.
Ashe...just the thought of her made him swallow involuntary tears. He felt a stab of regret that his last words to her had been so flippant, a cocky promise that he knew he couldn’t guarantee to keep. And yet the desperation in her voice had prompted his rash vow. He couldn’t bear the thought that she was experiencing so much anguish on his behalf. The only thing he could do was what he had done: reassure her that he was, in fact, the leading man and following that arrogant claim with the even more ridiculous statement that the leading man never died.
Thinking back on it now, he could only cringe at his own stupidity. There were hundreds, thousands of stories where the main character sacrificed his own life for the good of others. How could he have said something so foolish? Was he really that confident in his own abilities? The self-doubt that had settled on him like a threatening cloud quickly blotted out that idea. No, he had said it because that was what he did. His quick-thinking and persuasive words had never failed him in the past, and he had blindly relied on them yet again. It was only too easy for him to manipulate others’ emotions with his pretty speech and empty assurances. He always meant well when he did it. Hell, he usually fully intended to fulfill whatever casual oath he had made in the heat of the moment. But when it came down to actually doing what he said he would do...that was always the difficult part.
The ship suddenly began to judder violently, and he held Fran protectively to his chest as the flying city made final impact with the ground below. Horrible popping and screeching sounds filled his ears as the great metal beast shed sharp metal all around him. White hot pain filled his mind as a large piece of shrapnel glanced off his skull. Just before he lost consciousness, he made one final vow: if he survived this day, he would find a way to fulfill all of the promises he had made to Lady Ashe. He would return her ring and tell her that he had found the treasure he had sought...and that it was her. Darkness closed in over him like a rising tide, and he found that the last thing he heard as he slipped into oblivion was her calling his name..."Balthier!"