"So, Erk," Sally asked nonchalantly after sidling up to the judges' table. "Who did you vote for?"
Erk frowned. "Like I'd tell you."
Sally started to glower but quickly feigned a smile instead.
"Fine," she said through gritted teeth. "Your vote will be a secret. Jaffar, why don't you tell me who you voted for."
"Nino," said Jaffar.
"JAFFAR JUST TALKED!!!!!!" cried Hector, but he was completely ignored.
"Why am I not surprised?" Erk muttered in response to Jaffar's comment.
"I'm not telling you who I voted for because that would be insensitive!" Wil declared before Sally could even shove the microphone in his face.
"Rebecca told you to say that, didn't she?" Erk put in.
Wil blushed. "Well, yeah… But my vote is still a secret! Besides, isn't it more fun that way?"
Hector shrugged. "Who really cares? It's about to come out anyways. I'll tell you who I voted for. I voted for Florina. She worked a lot harder on her party than Nino did, and you can tell."
"And Lyn told you to say that," Erk added.
Hector glared at the mage. "Would you please shut up for one second?"
"I'm only being honest…" Erk said, letting his voice trail off.
"There you have it, ladies and gentleman," Sally said cryptically as she swiveled to face the camera. "So far, two judges have revealed who they voted for… And it's still a tie. To find out who triumphs, we'll just have to wait through another one of the endearing if loquacious host's infamous speeches."
"Sain isn't nearby," Erk said. "You don't have to say good things about him."
Sally's face became stony.
"You fool!" she cried. "I am being paid big bucks by the network, and if I insult the host of this event, I will look stupid and will be thrown out onto the streets to live with hobos! How do you think that will make me feel?"
"Sad?" Wil suggested.
"Hungry?" Hector wondered.
"…?" Jaffar said.
"Yes, Jaffar, that is right," Sally replied. "I would feel that way. You should all listen to this smart young man!"
As the reporter went stomping off to find more coffee, Wil, Hector, and Erk turned to look at Jaffar. Jaffar merely shrugged.
The audience had gotten seated in the ballroom for the last time. Now, it was time to proceed. The winner of the first ever Miss Elibe Beauty Pageant would be revealed. There was already excitement in the air. Sain strode out to center stage, with the other contestants standing off to the sides. Florina and her team were on his right, while Nino and her team were on his left. The room quieted as Sain struck a dramatic pose and the lights dimmed.
"We are about to discover who has it all," he declared. "Kindness, beauty, skills, talent, intelligence… All of which can be summed up in two words! Miss Elibe!"
The crowd went wild.
"Why are we cheering?" Matthew wondered in the audience.
"Dorcas is making shadow animals using the spotlight!" Pent responded excitedly. "Don't you see that bunny above Sain's head?"
"I have the votes right here," Sain announced, holding up a white envelope. "I'm going to read them… right after this special presentation!"
"Nooooooo!" the crowd wailed, and shortly thereafter, they began to boo.
The lights went out completely, and a projector screen came down. Soon, a movie flickered onto the screen. Words flashed, reading, "A Special Presentation, brought to you by Caelin Cookies". Then, the words changed to read, "A Tribute to the Two Finalists".
The song "Breakaway" – the song Florina had performed in the singing round – came on, and the screen began to show photos of Florina. First, it showed her in her lavender dress, walking out onto the stage, blushing the whole time. Then, it moved to clips from each contest – Florina doing the backstroke, singing "Breakaway", huddling in Merlinus's tent, sitting quietly in the chaotic dining room during Lowen's meal, waltzing with Hector (Hector, at the judges table, grunted and hit his head against the table upon seeing this), stumbling through the basement of Castle Ostia blindfolded, answering Sain's question during Q & A, and posing with the fake Pegasus during her party.
The music then switched to "Tomorrow" from the musical Annie, Nino's song. The first clip showed Nino emerging into the spotlight in her party dress and ribbons. Then it proceeded to review her roles in each contest – struggling to stay afloat in the pool, belting out "Tomorrow", making jewelry out of grass in the tent, laughing at the food that had gotten on Jaffar, being lifted by Jaffar during her ballet performance, falling into the pool during the blindfold challenge, earnestly responding to the judges' questions, and doing the Macarena at her party.
The movie was not over, though. Next, it switched to interviews.
"Uh, Florina, I think you have become a very strong person," Kent said into the camera, looking uncomfortable. "I hope you become Miss Elibe."
"Nino, you are such a joy to have around!" Canas warbled, his eyes nearly filled with tears. "You have been a wonderful student. I am completely behind you in your endeavor to become Miss Elibe!"
"We know we were also contestants," Farina said as her and Fiora appeared on the screen, "but Sis, we are one hundred percent on your side! You rock our worlds and you deserve this win more than anyone!"
"YAAAAY!!!! GO NINO!!!!" Rebecca and Priscilla yelled at the screen, evidently not really having a point to their message.
"I don't think either one of them is very good," Serra said when her face materialized on the screen. "I just wanted to come onto this movie to say… I love you, Erk!"
Erk slapped his forehead as the audience went, "Aww…"
Finally, credits for the movie began to roll. The audience was relieved that the wait was over. They would now discover who had won Miss Elibe once and for all…
"And now for a word from our sponsors!" a voiceover on the movie said as the credits ended.
"WHAT??" the audience cried.
"I love my Caelin cookies," a girl's voice sang to the tune of "I Had a Little Dreidel". "They're really, really great! So go into the market. And put some on your plate!"
"Oh… Cookies, cookies, cookies," a chorus of children chimed in as a visual of dancing cookies popped up on the screen. "They're a delicious treat! But if you drop your cookies… Please leave them on the street!"
"I ate this real good cookie," a boy's voice continued. "It made my taste buds tingle! I spent my money on cookies… And I promote them in this jingle!"
The cookies in the commercial formed a kick line and all joined together to sing the next part.
"Oh… Cookies, cookies, cookies! They are just so fine! But please don't lose your cookies! 'Cause then I might lose mine!"
Finally, the screen became black. The torture was over! Now, it truly was time to see who had won. And needless to say, no one felt an urge to buy any Caelin Cookies.
"Okay, now is the moment you've all been waiting for!" Sain announced as the light's came back up and he reappeared at center stage. "We will announce the winner of Miss Elibe!... In just a few short minutes!"
"SAIN! JUST ANNOUNCE THE STUPID WINNER ALREADY!" someone screamed from the audience, but Sain pretended he didn't even hear it.
"First, we're going to conduct some short interviews with the eliminated contestants," Sain said. "We'll start with Isadora, who was sadly the first to go. Isadora, what is your sister like?"
Isadora looked perplexed. "My… sister?"
"That is totally irrelevant, Sain!" screeched Serra. "Get on with it!"
"Oh, did I say sister?" Sain said innocently. "I meant, what are your feelings like? Are you upset to have gone early? Or are you glad Nino and Florina made it to the final stage?"
"I am very happy for both of them," Isadora replied. "I wouldn't go back and change anything that happened."
The audience clapped politely, but was impatiently fidgeting simultaneously.
"Let's move onto Priscilla," Sain said. "My lady, has this competition taught you anything? Such as… Whether Heath, Guy, or my humble self will become your attentive lover?"
Priscilla smiled. "Well, Sain, you aren't in the running, I'm sorry to say. I heard you were taken by Isadora's sister!"
Sain turned red. "No! That's a lie! Do not let vicious rumors tear us apart!"
Priscilla rolled her eyes. "Well, okay, you're still in the running… But I've got to say, I'm leaning towards Heath. I mean, think about it – he has a wyvern, for Elimine's sake! You can't find anything much cooler than a wyvern."
In the audience, Heath whooped excitedly. Guy hung his head momentarily, but then looked up.
"Why am I upset?" he asked himself. "Priscilla's not right for me at all. I mean, she told me she liked tacos! I could never be with someone who likes tacos!"
"My dear Serra," Sain said. "You have publicly confessed your love for Erk many times… but he was spurned you! He has no desire for your attentions. So why do you still chase after him? Why don't you look for another man who would treat you better? Someone like…"
"Um, Sain, you are definitely misinformed," Serra interrupted. "Erk totally loves me. I mean, gosh, right before we came on stage, he confessed his undying devotions to me and then he kissed me!"
"WHAT?" everyone in the room cried, including Erk.
Hector's shock quickly transformed into amusement. "Erk, I never knew you were such a ladies' man!"
"That never happened!" Erk exclaimed. "Right before we came on, I was in the bathroom! Ask anyone!"
"Um, duh, Erk!" Serra chirped. "We were in the bathroom together!"
"The bathroom?" the audience cried, absolutely scandalized.
Erk's face was the color of his cloak. "No, she's lying! I mean it! I don't know why you would make that up, Serra, but it didn't happen!"
The audience merely laughed at him in disbelief.
"Besides," Erk blurted out, unable to stop himself, "you're not supposed to kiss a girl until the end of the first date!"
Serra's eyes widened. "You mean… You were going to ask me on a date and then kiss me?"
All eyes fell on Erk.
"Say yes, say yes, say yes…" Hector and Wil started chanting as the rest of the room joined in, including Serra.
"Fine, fine…" Erk finally mumbled. "I'll buy you ice cream or something after this pageant. If you shut up, that is."
"Okay!" Serra said agreeably. "Oh yeah, and Sain? That stuff I was talking about didn't happen. But Erk still totally loves me."
"What an inspiring love story!" cried Sain. "Even if it doesn't involve me… Well, then, here we are with Louise! Louise, I've heard a rumor that you're actually married! Is that true?"
Louise merely looked bored. "No, Sain, I merely live with Pent, travel with Pent, spend every waking moment with Pent, and am having Pent's child because we are best friends."
Sain looked fascinated. "Really? Why would you ever do that?"
"OF COURSE I AM MARRIED, YOU IDIOT!!" Louise finally cried, completely losing it. "I am forever bonded to my dearly beloved Pent! So don't you ever hit on me again!"
"You tell him!" Pent encouraged from the audience.
"Wow, pregnant women sure are moody," Wil observed.
"Um, yes, well… That leads us to Farina!" Sain said. "Farina, what are your plans for after this pageant?"
"Um, well… I'm kind of going to become a fugitive and run away so Dart and his pirate crew don't kill me," Farina said. "Oh yes, and I'm going to tell my dramatic and depressing story so that people will generously donate money to me!"
"You'll pay for that!" Dart's voice rang out from the audience. "I'll hunt you down, matey!"
"And now, I have come to my own liege, the dear Lady Lyndis!" Sain said. "Lyn, are you ever going to eat sugar again?"
"I've never eaten sugar in my life," Lyn said, confused. "I can't. I go kind of crazy. I found that out the hard way at age seven…"
"You seriously don't remember that happening?" cried Hector, who then burst into hysterical laughter.
Lyn's face turned red with anger. "Hey! You shut up, idiot! Don't make me come over there!"
Hector quickly ceased laughing and began to cower with fear.
"Fiora," Sain said. "Did this competition lead you to discover your true feelings for Kent? Or did you finally realize that I am the one?"
"Uh, Sain, Kent and I have been an item for about a month now," Fiora said. "If you didn't notice that, I don't know what to tell you…"
Sain looked shocked. "Kent has a girlfriend? And I don't? How is that possible?"
"Finish up the interviews!" the audience demanded.
"All right, all right… Here's Rebecca, then," Sain said.
Silence. Rebecca blinked.
"Well, I don't have a question for you," Sain finally concluded. "So I suppose we should just move on?"
"Good idea," agreed Rebecca.
"All right then… The wait is over!" Sain proclaimed. "No more waiting! No more interviews! No more movies! It is truly time! I will announce… the winner!"
The audience erupted into enthusiastic applause. Sain dramatically displayed the white envelope.
"I just want to say that –" he began.
"Don't you dare start some speech now!" cried Lyn. "Just get on with it!"
Sain, fearful of Lyn's wrath, immediately ripped open the envelope.
"I am going to read the votes immediately!" he said. "The first vote goes to…"
The crowd leaned forward.
The crowd once again applauded excitedly.
"The second vote goes to… Nino!"
The crowd burst into applause for the third time.
"And the third vote goes to…Nino!"
The crowd continued it's excited response.
"If this next vote is for Florina, then the audience will vote to break the tie!" Sain explained. "And so… The final vote goes to…"
Everyone froze, and they all turned to see a new figure on the stage. As the figure gracefully stepped into the light, jaws dropped in awe as eyes widened. Before them was a woman with sparkling blue eyes like sapphires, pale skin like that of a porcelain doll, a blindingly beautiful smile, and long, blond hair the color of sunshine.
"And who might you be, o beautiful one?" asked Sain, nearly breathless.
"I am Saint Elimine," the figure said, and her voice was a musical sound. "And I have come to protest your announcing a winner!"
The crowd gasped. Elimine herself? But how could she be here? And why would she want to ruin such a joyous occasion? Nino and Florina both looked on the verge of tears.
"But why, my dear one?" Sain asked, sounding wounded. "We are celebrating the great talents and assets of these women, all while glorifying your name! Why… Even the TV network I hired to tape this is named after you!"
Elimine shook her head. "No, Sain. You are not honoring talent or intelligence in the way it should be honored. You are merely lifting one girl on a platform and saying that the rest are not worthy! You are putting others down and lifting a particular person up! And based on what? Useless talents such as walking through a hall blindfolded and sitting in a tent for hours. Every person is good at something different. Just because Lyn is not a dancer does not mean she should not be honored for her talents as a fighter! Just because Priscilla is not athletic does not mean she should not be honored for her kind spirit! And just because Serra has the worst singing voice I have ever heard doesn't mean she should not be honored for her, uh, creative fashion sense!"
Serra frowned. "Hey, I took singing lessons, you know! I'm good now!"
Elimine ignored the pink-haired girl.
"Sain, I cannot allow you to proceed with such a horrific way of making others feel bad about themselves," she said. "I must ask you to end this now. Hand over the prize you were going to give to the winner. I will hold onto it for you so that you do not misuse it. I know you are weak-minded and will give into temptation, so this I must do."
Sain sighed regretfully. "As much as I disagree with you, my lovely lady, I will do whatever you say… because you are the best-looking girl who has walked into this room all day!"
"Hey!" some of the other girls chorused, feeling insulted.
Sain pulled another envelope from his pocket.
"Here," he said. "This envelope holds the grand prize. It is quite a special and generous treat. I leave it in your hands. If you ever wish to cash it in, I won't even hold it against you, for you are a wonderful and pure maiden who deserves my utmost praise and respect."
Slowly, he bestowed the white envelope upon Elimine, and she accepted it gratefully. He bowed his head to her as she tucked the envelope in her cloak.
"Do you want to go to dinner with me some time?" he asked.
Elimine's eyes widened. "Uh, no. That is all. I must depart now, my children. Remember to, um, follow the light!"
With that, St. Elimine went flying from the stage and disappeared through the ballroom door.
"That…" began Wil.
"…Was so random," finished Hector.
Moments later, loud chatter resumed.
"Was that really St. Elimine herself who made an appearance?" Sally asked the camera. "Have we really had a visit from such a holy figure? Is making money through fun events like beauty pageants really so bad? I leave these questions up to you, viewer. But remember… If I don't get paid, you don't get entertained!! So find me another venue, got it? I am out of this cursed place!"
Sally and her crew stormed out of the room, leaving Eliwood's army by themselves, completely bewildered.
"Well, you heard Elimine," a disappointed Sain said. "That's that."
"Aw, come on!" cried Hector. "At least read the last vote. Even if there's no prize, we might as well let someone be Miss Elibe. It's just for fun. No one's going to have hard feelings, right? We all had a good time, and we managed to get through a boring rainy day. Heck, all of us were exposed to the public via national television! None of the girls are bitter. They're not idiots – they know what their strengths and weaknesses are, and they knew whether they would get far or not when they heard about the tasks. This was all just a way to enjoy and test ourselves. That's what training is about – to improve. So why don't we just honor the girl who fought the hardest for the title by letting her have it? Seriously, it can't be that big of a deal. Doesn't Elimine promote inner strength anyways? We all respect one another and know we're all talented and everything, so why don't we just give one person a special day?"
"That…" said Lyn, her eyes wide and serious, "…was absolutely beautiful."
Slowly, people in the audience began to clap. Then, others joined in. The clapping grew faster, and soon, everyone was cheering in agreement. Sain sighed.
"Well, if it will make the ladies happy," he said, "I'll do it!"
He grabbed the last vote out of the envelope.
"And the final vote for the Miss Elibe Beauty Pageant goes to…"
The crowd cheered louder than ever as balloons and confetti fell from the ceiling – dropped by Nils and Canas – and Nino screamed with shock. All of the girls jumped up and down happily, even Florina. The two finalists hugged each other, and then Nino stepped forward to hug Sain, who happily accepted this gesture. Unfortunately, he did not notice that Nino had intended the hug to be a sort of brother-sister hug, so he was sorely disappointed when she broke away with him and ran over to the judges' table.
First to get hugged was Erk, who awkwardly patted Nino on the back, but pushed her off when he saw Serra glaring at him. Then was Hector, who Nino couldn't even get her arms around, so she decided to just shake his hand instead. Wil, of course, showed off his usual enthusiastic personality and gave Nino an actual hug. And then, Nino jumped straight into Jaffar's arms.
"I did it, Jaffar!" she cried excitedly, but it was so fast and high-pitched that it sounded like, "Ahdiett, jawfur!"
And then Jaffar did the most shocking thing that he had ever done in his entire life.
"JAFFAR SMILED! THE APOCALYPSE IS COMING!" Hector yelled at the top of his lungs, but no one noticed.
Hector didn't really have time to worry about it either, because Lyn came over then and kissed him on the cheek.
"I forgive you," she said, and then walked away.
"For what??" he cried as she strode away.
"For calling her manly," Wil said matter-of-factly. "Duh!"
Immense amounts of hugging followed. Rebecca hugged Wil, Serra hugged Erk, Priscilla hugged Heath and then Guy (for consolation purposes, although he was still fuming about tacos), Louise hugged Pent, Fiora hugged Kent, Farina hugged Dart (to make him forget about the whole money situation – but it was all good because Dart had already snuck into Farina's room and found all of the stolen diamonds, so he didn't care about that any more), Florina hugged all of the girls but none of the boys, Sain hugged all of the girls and none of the boys, and Nino continued to hug Jaffar so tightly that he looked like he might run out of air at any moment.
When all the hugging was done, there was only one thing to do.
"Let's party!" Sain announced.
The DJs from the two parties set up their stations and began to play "Celebration". The chairs in the ballroom were pushed off to the side, and a random dance party began in the middle of the floor.
In the end, no one really cared who had won and lost the pageant. It had all been in good fun, and everyone seemed as happy as could be. This was definitely going to be a day that no one would forget.
"I did everything you said, Master Raven," Lucius said. "I let Priscilla put all of that awful makeup on me… I wore that itchy dress Serra bought… I practiced those lines you wrote for me over and over again, and I even recited them in a voice a pitch higher than my usual one! Now please, just tell me what was in the envelope that I worked so hard to retrieve for you!"
Raven grumbled to himself and shook his head.
"Trust me, Lucius. You don't want to know."
"If the prize Sain was offering to Miss Elibe wasn't money," Lucius said, "what could it possibly be?"
Raven threw up his arms.
"Fine! You want to know? You can see it. You can have it, in fact. It is yours to use now, isn't it? Well, I'm sure you'll have fun with it. Now I'm going to bed."
Lucius slowly picked up the envelope as Raven stormed off. He slowly lifted the flap and drew out a thin piece of paper. He turned it over to read what mystical message it contained –
Hello, my dear Miss Elibe! Congratulations. You have proved yourself worthy. For this was not only a contest to see who has what it takes to be Miss Elibe… It was also a contest to see which contestant was most worthy of me! I know you will be honored that I have chosen you above all of the other lovely ladies. And so I will bestow upon you the greatest gift of all.
I give you all of my love, time, and devotion! Please feel free to ask of me whatever you wish, and I will not refuse!
Lucius sighed. That Sain… He was just hopeless. Maybe, just maybe, he should be taught a lesson…
At the crack of dawn the day after the pageant, Sain was fast asleep when a loud knock on the door awoke him.
"What?" he grumbled.
"Oh, Saaaaaaain!" cooed a female voice. "Please come here! I have a request for you!"
Sain immediately hopped out of bed and opened the door.
"What can I do for – Serra?"
Sain stared incredulously at the girl before him.
Serra's grin widened.
"Hello, Sain!" she said. "It looks like we'll be seeing a lot of each other now. After all, you're going to be my vassal!"
"Your vassal?" Sain cried. "But my dear Serra… That sounds so menial!"
Serra shrugged. "Well, St. Elimine decided to give me a wonderful gift! She gave me all of your love and devotion! See, it's on this paper – you signed it yourself."
Sain's eyes widened as he saw that she indeed had a paper with his signature on it. Had Elimine truly given his wonderful prize to Serra? No, it couldn't be…
"So I wrote a list of things for you to do for me," Serra said. "I'm going to be very busy today, so you have to keep up! Oh, and I'm also including some requests from the others as well, because they are so kind to me! So pay attention! First, you must sweep my floor, clean my windows, make my bed, pack my things for me before we leave tomorrow, brush my hair, feed me grapes, make me all three meals and two snacks, provide me with a foot massage whenever I wish, prepare a hot bath for me whenever I like, make a picnic for Erk and me, find a perfect spot for Erk and I to have said picnic, make sure no one disturbs us during the picnic…"
Sain's jaw had already hit the floor.
"…go into town and buy a list of all of things on this list with your own money…"
He could feel his eye twitching.
"…give all of the girls facials and also prepare a mud bath for them, clean up the entire castle because it's so messy from yesterday, have a conference with Hector's lawyer because Sally the reporter is suing him for causing her mental problems, sharpen all of the weapons, saddle all of the horses, do a checkup on Louise's baby for her, develop Pent's pictures by hand because his digital camera broke, do all of the laundry, shine Kent's armor, taste all of Lowen's dishes, be Jaffar's punching bag for his training segment, let Bartre take his need to hit things out on you…"
He couldn't take it any longer. He just couldn't.
"What are you doing Sain? Stop fooling around! You need to start those chores if you wish to finish in time…"
It was almost certain that, somewhere, St. Elimine was smiling to herself, happy with the outcome of the first – and probably only – Miss Elibe Beauty Pageant.
A/N: It's done! I have finished it! Hooray!! Thanks to every single person who reviewed, voted, or read this story! It's thanks to you guys I have kept going with this story. I know it was annoying to wait so long for chapters, so to anyone who is still around, thanks so much!
The votes for Miss Elibe were VERY close – Nino beat Florina out by only one vote. The vote for the next beauty pageant fic was also very close, but there is a winner. The next fic is going to be… Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance! And it's going to be a whole new story, with more contestants and judges than usual, new competitions, and so on. I'm not sure when I will start it, but hopefully, it will be soon!
Again, lots of thanks to all of this story's supporters, and I hope you'll stick around for The Miss Tellius Beauty Pageant!