"Want to buy a flower? I'll make you a special deal!"
She had been saying those words for so long now that the words came out naturally, without hesitation. She smiled warmly, offering her flowers. Sometimes people blew her off, sometimes they would stop to look at her wares, and sometimes… very, very rarely… she would make a sale.
But making money was never her intention. She had plenty, although the people around her had no inkling at all as to her true identity. To them she was just another face in the crowd. Another commoner simply trying to make their way in the world.
But she always made sure to smile.
"Want to buy a flower?"
No matter how often she was rejected, her rebuked, or ignored, every single time she held out her basket to passerby eyes fell upon her. People forgot their troubles for just a little while to stop and speak with her, and look at her flowers.
It made the longing in her heart go away, just a little. Sometimes she almost felt happy.
She stepped along the streets of the slums, basket in hand, staring down at her wares. It was completely full today. No one had been willing, or perhaps able to afford, flowers.
"I wish there was more I could do…." Elise murmured, alone in the quiet streets. "More than what I'm doing now."
"Sometimes that's all you can do."
Elise jumped, the basket falling to the ground. A handful of flowers fluttered from the basket and onto the stone below.
"Oh, I'm so sorry." The young woman said, as she bent over to help her pick them up. "Did I startle you?" She sounded more amused than anything. Her long, beautiful brown hair fell across her face.
"A… little…" Elise admitted, swallowing a little as she bent over as well. She had been quite sure that she had been alone. Perhaps she break the habit of talking to herself.
The woman straightened herself, and her bright eyes met Elise's. They were a bright, beautiful green.
"There." She said softly, as the last flower was put back into place. "No one will ever know." She laughed. It was a tinkling, friendly sound, but to Elise's ear it seemed kind of strange. She offered a weak smile to the woman.
"Ah…" Elise swallowed, wondering what she should say next. "Um, thank you very much." She bowed her head politely, holding her basket out to her. "Um, would you like a flower?"
The woman stared at her. It was a strangely wistful look. She reached forward and took a bright pink flower and held it in her hands.
"These are quite lovely." The woman said. "But I'm afraid I have no need for them."
She smiled as she placed the flower back into the basket. "I sell flowers too." She explained. "So I'm not particularly interested in buying them myself."
"O-oh." Elise pulled away, a little embarrassed. She had never even been aware that there were other Flower Girls in the area. She certainly hadn't seen any. And none of her customers had ever brought the fact up to her. One of the reasons she had chosen to become a Flower Girl was because of how she felt the city desperately needed some cheer. "My apologies…"
"No, you could not have known." The woman said to her. She extended her hand to her. "My name is Aeris, by the way."
Elise slowly reached forward and took it.
"I… am…" She was unwilling to part with her real name. Aeris smiled at her, as if she could somehow see right through her, but did not press her for an answer.
"I need to get back to work." Elise said quickly, as she backed away from her slightly. "I mean… I have so many flowers to sell today, and I-"
Aeris nodded, still smiling that soft smile of hers. "I can see that." She said. "But before you go… I would like to speak with you."
Elise was already feeling a little bit uncomfortable, and that did nothing to sooth her nerves. Something about this woman seemed too radiant to be real. She almost seemed to glow with an otherworldly radiance, a stark contrast to the dim stone streets and buildings surrounding them.
"Speak… with me…?" Elise asked, a little rattled.
"Yes." Aeris said. "Consider it my apology for startling you." She was teasing her. Elise took in a deep breath.
"Okay." She said. "What do you… want to talk about?" Aeris smiled radiantly.
"There's no need to be nervous, Elise." She said. "Come. Talk a walk with me."
Although feeling rather apprehensive about the whole situation, Elise did as she was told. She followed Aeris down the empty, quiet street. Neither of them spoke as they stepped along the streets.
"It is a rather dreary city, isn't it?" Aeris said to her, nodding at a particularly colorless home. They could see a little bit into the house where they were standing, and it looked just as cold and unwelcome inside as it did without.
"My home was no different." Aeris told her. Elise gave a small start and looked at her in surprise.
"Oh, you don't live here?"
Aeris' smile became somewhat sad. "I don't live anywhere anymore." She said. Her voice was as gentle as ever, but she did not elaborate further. Instead she changed the subject.
"My home was, if you can believe it, even darker and drearier than this." She said. "The house my Mother and I lived was the only place in many miles where flowers could grow. And so I began selling them."
She fingered Elise's basket. She looked almost lost in her memories. Elise could not bite down her curiosity.
"Why did you leave?"
Aeris smiled. "Because I dreaded what would happen if I did not."
Again another vague answer. Elise puffed up her cheeks indignantly. "Come on, there has to be more to it than that!"
Aeris laughed again. "Oh, there is." She said. "But now's not the time to tell my story. My story ended a long time ago." She turned her head to Elise, rather suddenly. "But yours, Elise, is only beginning."
Elise froze, her mouth open, the wheels in her head turning. "Wait a minute." She said, slowly. "I never told you my name-"
"Elise." Aeris repeated, cutting her off. "What do you want most of all?"
It was such an unexpected, sudden question. It came out of nowhere, but Elise once again could not push down her feelings.
"I… want my family to be happy again." She said, slowly. "I want this war to end, and I want Corrin to return to us…"
"What would you be willing to do to make that happen?"
"Anything." Elise felt her throat dry up and shake a little. She could feel it deep inside her very being that she was declaring something serious. Something very serious indeed.
"As did I." Aeris said softly, as she raised her hands to her hair. "As did I."
She undid the red ribbon in her hair, and held it out in front of her, between them. Elise stared at it,, taking it in.
"I promise you this, Elise. You will see your family again, and there will be peace. But you must be prepared to do anything to make that happen."
Aeris let the ribbon, and the light blue orb that was hewn onto it, drop to the ground at her feet.
Elise scrambled forward, snatching at the ribbon in vain. The orb bounced a little, off down the street, and Elise chased it, yelling all the way.
It finally did stop, as it pressed against the street corner. Elise sighed as she bent over to pick it up.
"You really should be more careful with your things." She said, as she turned back to Aeris. "I-"
She was gone. Elise frantically ran her eyes up and down the street, desperately trying to find any sign of the woman running off in any direction, but to no avail. She had vanished, as if she had never been there to begin with.
If it were not for the Orb and ribbon that she held clutched in her hand, Elise might have thought it all a fantasy, something that she had dreamed up. But those brief moments with the other Flower Girl made her feel a little less alone.