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The Men She Loves

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#01 – Air

It isn't until they're landlocked in the Ogir-Yensa Sandsea that she sees how fidgety Balthier gets when he can't take to the air at a moment's notice.

#02 – Apples

She's in the foulest of foul moods, able to focus on little but the heartbreaking lack of weight on her finger, and yet she still manages to smile the tiniest bit when Vaan buys a bright yellow apple to cheer her up (despite the fact that he's spent the last of their precious gil to get it).

#03 – Beginning

When she began her first life, she had her father, her two brothers, Vossler, and Basch; her second, she had Vossler; her third, she has naught but memories.

#04 – Bugs

Once, when she was five, her older brother happened upon the most disgusting of sand bugs and decided to spend the rest of the day chasing her about the castle with it—it was a memory she would later look upon fondly, when she had to fight much nastier sand-creatures.

#05 – Coffee

When Rasler hands her the cup of strange, muddy brown liquid, she can't help but raise an eyebrow at his country's odd taste in breakfast beverages.

#06 – Dark

As she lies on her bedroll one night, she reaches into the darkness, finds a masculine hand, and holds it tight, not caring a whit who it belongs to.

#07 – Despair

Even though Uncle Halim's announcement of her untimely death hadn't been entirely accurate, if not for Vossler's steady hand and constant vigilance, she might have made it so.

#08 – Doors

It's a small memory, only half a moment long, but clearer than most others she has: she stands, hand on the door to her older brother's chamber, listening to the nursemaid sobbing within.

#09 – Drink

When they return to Rabanastre, Ashe fancies herself a drinker worthy of Balthier; she soon learns to regret it.

#10 – Duty

It was her obligation to be a picture of bravery and strength in such dark times, as generations of Dalmascan queens had before her; she might have pulled it off, too, if only she hadn't had to see his body.

#11 – Earth

If Balthier is the air—fickle, ever-changing, impossible to hold down for even a moment—Basch is the earth—steady, strong, and capable of bringing a Dalmascan princess to her knees with the slightest tremble.

#12 – End

Five are lost to death, two take to the sky, four return to their offices, and one departs to follow a new master; in the end, there are none.

#13 – Fall

The sand would not be so painful to fall onto—humiliating, perhaps, but not painful—yet he's gentlemanly enough to catch her all the same.

#14 – Fire

The first time she sees him perform his Quickening—wrapping swords of fire around himself in an intricate waltz before skewering his opponent with them—she's so transfixed that she doesn't spot the hyena sneaking up on her until it's given her a scar.

#15 – Flexible

After watching Vaan twist so expertly about in order to reach into unsuspecting individual's pockets undetected, she can't help but wonder if his family tree contains a Malboro, or else something equally flexible.

#16 – Flying

He lived flying, and as much as she pleaded and begged, she knew in that moment that he would die flying (or, as a note attached to a ring would later hint, perhaps not).

#17 – Food

At first, she was disgusted with the way Vaan ate—hand over hand, barely leaving a scrap behind—right before she remembered that, under Archadian rule, that attitude was necessary for an orphan to survive in Lowtown.

#18 – Foot

Her eldest brother was the one who taught her how to dance in the proper way, and he never complained when she tottered onto his feet.

#19 – Grave

She can see Rasler's grave from her balcony, as well as Vayne's, Vossler's, and what was very nearly Balthier's, and she does her best not to think about it.

#20 – Green

The first time Rasler tried some of Dalmasca's most exquisite cuisine, he turned such an interesting shade of green that, despite it being unladylike, Ashe couldn't help but giggle into her napkin.

#21 – Head

"Where is your head, Vaan?" she spits, glaring at what looks like a harpoon attached to his back before snatching the group's coin-purse from his him—clearly, she will not be trusting him with their hard earned money again.

#22 – Hollow

Despite her fury, his unforgivable betrayal, and the fact that she still retains one loyal knight, Ashe can't help but feel empty when Basch is no longer there to protect her.

#23 – Honor

Amongst a gaggle of thieves and pirates, Basch is the only one who truly understands honor the way she does (though, soon enough, she starts to see that the others understand it better than she ever would have guessed).

#24 – Hope

Rasler Heios Nabradia and Ashelia B'Nargen Dalmasca, together, were the hope for the future, so it was only fitting that hope would die with them.

#25 – Light

He glows under the light of the Sun Cryst as he holds out his hand, and she wants nothing more than to scream.

#26 – Lost

Of all the men that left her during those years preceding her reinstatement to the throne, only two returned to her; the first one she slapped, and the second, hiding out in Bervenia, was long overdue for the same.

#27 – Metal

She only kissed him once, and she had to be brief; any more fervent than that, and the sound of their leg armor clanging together would've aroused suspicion from Basch, and certainly a few knowing leers from Balthier.

#28 – New

The old nursemaids and ladies of the court always said that a husband was best when brand new, and wasn't as fun after the shine wore off—and yet, she still would've traded a million husbands' worth of shine if it meant being with Rasler forever.

#29 – Old

When she was a small thing, barely able to walk properly, she would sit in her father's lap and trace the lines in his face, never knowing that twice as many awaited her in the future.

#30 – Peace

Though peace with Archadia was most definitely an enthralling prospect all on its own, in the days leading up to the treating signing, Ashe often found herself praying to merciless gods that 'Gabranth' would be accompanying his master to the event.

#31 – Poison

Balthier smirked as he held the remedy bottle out to her, as if daring the fearlessly independent Dalmascan princess to actually need him.

#32 – Pretty

On the night that they stayed in Ondore's estate, as she was wringing the bathwater out of her hair and doing everything in her power to keep her tired eyes open, Ondore chuckled and told her she'd grown to be just as beautiful as her mother.

#33 – Rain

It isn't much, but Ashe is thankful for Balthier's subtlety as they travel through the rainy Giza Plains; though it's quite obvious that he's giving her soaked, nearly see-through blouse more attention than is necessary, he's kind enough not to outright gawk (unlike Vaan, who receives a swift whack with the handle of Basch's warhammer around the point when he starts to drool).

#34 – Regret

If she'd known he wouldn't be coming back from the battle at Nalbina, she would've made a point of making his pulse beat to a fever pitch one more time, while it still could beat at all.

#35 – Roses

She remembers when she was a child, her father once gave her a rose that she kept until it was long wilted and dead; it is a pattern that, sadly, she will condition herself to repeat.

#36 – Secret

It was an incredible secret that she and Rasler were actually in love, rather than just tolerant of each other for the sake of their kingdoms, and for her part, Ashe could never really understand why.

#37 – Snakes

At one point during their journey through the Ozmone Plains, one of those blasted snakes comes up right between her feet, and she immediately casts Silence on Balthier to keep him from telling any eloquently filthy jokes.

#38 – Snow

Her clothes were not built for the freezing snow of the Paramina Rift, but she decides it would be best to tough it out, since the lack of preparedness was her own mistake (of course, once it came time to put together sleeping arrangements, all metaphorical bets were off).

#39 – Solid

Basch's strength, his solidity, is a thing all his own, and he needs no armor to achieve it; this becomes quite clear when he's devoid of said armor, but remains just as strong.

#40 – Spring

She first met Rasler in the spring (a move that ended up being a concoction of his mother's, something to do with an ancient Nabradian wives' tale) and, a few years later, she buried him in the spring; it would be a season of many mixed feelings for years to come.

#41 – Stable

Even amongst the stable of pirates and near-pirates that traversed the continent with her, Balthier somehow seemed to stand out; perhaps, she thought with the smallest of smiles, it was something to do with him being the leading man.

#42 – Strange

Vaan was such a strange boy, believing so wholeheartedly that, as she stood before the Sun Cryst with the treaty blade in her hand, she would make the right decision.

#43- Summer

This summer was a broiling one, even by her standards, but she was promptly rewarded for her suffering with the ability to watch the men of the party wander about in various states of undress.

#44 – Taboo

Sufficed to say, in Dalmasca (or any other kingdom, for that matter), it was looked down upon to steal from the royal vault, take the wedding ring of a widow, and make one's fortune pirating; thus, a wandering sky pirate kissing the soon-to-be queen in front of her guards, knights, and escorts was leagues beyond being a simple taboo.

#45 – Ugly

"Rogue war," Balthier says nonchalantly (and yet with a certain pointed-ness) as they make their way through the Tchita Uplands, "is such an ugly thing."

#46 – War

How odd, she thought as she stared at the remains of Bahamut, that entire countries had less success at ending wars than one motley band of pirates, traitors, and long-dead royalty.

#47 – Water

She would always remember the look of adorable confusion that Rasler wore when, on one of his first trips to Dalmasca, he tried to splash water from the sandsea onto his face.

#48 – Welcome

In the many years that followed Ashe's inauguration, Balthier made a habit of overstaying his welcome whenever he came to visit her (and by overstaying, she meant that he stayed at all; the guards were not fond of finding him lounging in her quarters, or anywhere else in the palace, and always made it known).

#49 – Snow

Though she'd caught Rasler doing undignified things several times on his various trips to Dalmasca (quietly mistaking their traditional cooking for the end result of a Clan Centurio hunt, tragically misusing Dalmascan slang while exploring Rabanastre, getting tipsy at a formal dinner after drinking too much of the local wine without inquiring as to its proof, etc.), he had the last laugh when she visited Nabradia and had her first look at a true, snowy winter.

#50 – Wood

As they are heading out of Eryut Village for what will presumably be the last time, a tiny part of her cannot help but wonder how things might have been if Balthier had never had anything to do with this place (after which she immediately hopes that the Wood does not overhear those thoughts, and if it did, that it will not inform Fran).