Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy XII or its characters so do not sue.

Author's note: Sorry for the delay in posting I had schoolwork to do. Anyways here its chapter 7 read and review!! Spoilers in Golmore Jungle and Mt. Bur Omisace.

Chapter 7 Jealousy

Before the grouped headed back to Golmore Jungle they made purchases from Tetran the moogle. Tetran's pom-pom bounced with joy for making quite a bit of money from the adventurers. Balthier hated to see all his hard earned money be spent but what other choice did he have? They needed new weapons and items to fight against enemies they would encounter. Letting out a sigh he followed after his comrades, it was a good thing Vaan held onto the money and the loots if it had been him he would have spent the money on drinks. He craved for a cool refreshing drink to quench his thirst and to rid him of these annoying feelings that plagued him.

Heading into Golmore Jungle with everyone else, Balthier stayed in the back to get his feelings in order. He felt rather lost, a feeling he was unaccustomed to all because of a certain Princess whom he just couldn't stop thinking of. Looking ahead he saw Ashe was in the lead as always turning to the left when the path split. Fiends attacked them and they fought back. They went on ahead and found two Viera standing at the side of the path looking with interest at something in the trees paying no heed to the group. When they drew closer to the two Viera one of them spoke, "It is several years now since such as you began passing through the wood, unwelcome, some sought only to flee their pursuers, but others there were who thought to bring ruin to the wood. This wakened in Mjrn a deep disquiet. That she should see this by leave the wood surprises me little."

No one said anything but continued on entering the next path. Balthier increased his steps to reach the front where Ashe was, he wanted to ask if they could take a short break right now. However before he could ask the ground shook terribly under his feet causing him to falter in his steps. Ashe likewise lost her balance and grabbed onto his arm to keep from falling. Balthier glanced at Ashe and saw a scarlet blush appear on her face.

"I'm sorry." Ashe muttered letting his arm go once she was steady.

"No need to be sorry Princess." Balthier said giving her a wink.

Ashe turned her attention from Balthier to see what made the ground tremble. Balthier followed her example and saw a giant stump come to life. The creature resembled Tiamat, the monster they fought earlier. The creature brought down its paw hard to the ground causing several rocks to fall blocking the way out.

"O come on. We just finished one battle already." Vaan whined.

"Quit your whining Vaan. It's not going to persuade this creature from moving." Larsa said unsheathing his sword.

Everyone rushed forward to bring the Elder Wymn down. Two treant appeared to aid the Elder Wymn. Quickly casting Libra on himself, Balthier found out the treant's weakness.

"Ashe cast Aero on the treant." Balthier shouted at Ashe who swung her sword at one of the treant.

Ashe nodded and brought her hand up curling it into a fist as she concentrated on casting Aero on the two treant. Balthier did the same and at the same time their spells hit the two treant causing them to stagger back. Vaan, Larsa, and Basch used this opportunity to attack them and finished them for good. The Elder Wymn used rake and lunge on Penelo making Vaan and Larsa rush to her side to defend her from any further attacks. Balthier cast silence on the Elder Wymn to keep him from using spells on his comrades. The Elder Wymn began to sway wildly thus he was closed to defeat. Ashe struck her sword hard at the Elder Wymn to put him down forever. It worked for the Elder Wymn collapsed to the ground becoming once more a stump. The blocked path was blocked no more letting them proceed on their way.

Unfortunately it was not the exit causing everyone to groan out loud in misery. More fiends appeared to hold the tired group back but they defeated them in a flash for they wanted to get out of the jungle as soon as possible. When at last they exited the jungle icy winds greeted them in the Paramina Rift.

"We should rest here awhile your highness. It grows late we will not be able to see our way to Mt. Bur Omisace if we continue." Basch said to Ashe.

Ashe nodded her head in agreement and said, "Yes, we should rest since it has been a trying day."

Vaan pulled out the tent from his knack sack and began to put it up with everyone's help. When at last the tent was up, everyone went inside to escape the cold. It was warmer in the tent but the cold still manage to come in. Blankets were passed around and eagerly taken.

Penelo weary sank down to the tent's floor ready to doze off to sleep. She placed a pillow under her head and laid down. Vaan and Larsa sat down on either side of her both looking equally tired. However they were not so tired as to have an argument.

"Do not get so close to Penelo Vaan, she needs space to turn around when she gets tired of sleeping in one position." Larsa scolded Vaan.

"Look who is talkin', you're just as close to her as I am. Maybe you're the one who should stay away from her. Besides I have always slept by her like this." Vaan retorted his brows furrow and he struck his tongue out at Larsa.

At those words Larsa's face grew dark with jealousy. Larsa opened his mouth to reply but Penelo stopped him by sitting up and saying, "Let's not argue okay? Everyone is tired and it is okay for you guys to sleep close to me. Just don't overdo it because I will give a good kick to whoever touches me in any inappropriate way."

Larsa and Vaan both gulped and nodded in understanding to Penelo. Chuckling at the puppy love of teenagers, Balthier selected a spot to sleep on. He did not wish to sleep next to the teenagers for fear that he might get kicked by one of them in the middle of the night. Ashe laid down next to him yet she left a space in between them. Basch picked his usual spot next to the door of the tent. Fran likewise picked her favorite spot in the back of the tent.

Sleep did not come easy to Balthier, it was too cold for him to fall asleep even if he was tired. He turned his head to see if everyone else was fast asleep, the tent was dark and only a little bit of moonlight entered through the flap of the tent. Balthier observed each one of his comrades' faces and saw with envy that they were all sounded asleep. His gaze fall to Ashe, her face held a mixture of worried and fear making him want to hold her to make it all go away. Balthier's hand unconsciously went to grab Ashe's hand. His hand found hers easily and he squeezed it gently to reassure her that everything was okay. He felt her shiver and she rolled over to him, cuddling close to him trying to become warm. Her soft hair brushed his cheek and her scent rose to his nose. Balthier let her hand go and wrapped his arms around Ashe possessively, she likewise wrapped her arms around him. She had stopped shivering making it clear she was no longer cold. Balthier glanced down at her face to see if she was awake and saw she was still asleep. Her face no longer held worried or fear only contentment making him ecstatic. His eyes closed on their own merit he really wanted to stay awake to cherish this opportunity of holding Ashe this way but found it hard to.

This feeling of being protected and love was what Ashe had missed more than anything thus she refused to open her eyes when the morning's light shone in her eyes. She buried her head into the warm chest that held her tight without opening her eyes. This dream was really good just like the one that she had a few days back. Dreams were the only place where she could feel Rasler holding her like this. 'Wait this can not be a dream if I am thinking', Ashe slowly opened her eyes afraid of what she would see and saw a tan vest elaborately designed. She pulled back immediately realizing with a blush she was in Balthier's arms. Balthier was still fast asleep, sleeping rather calmly given the situation. She became furious and tried to break away from his embrace. He however refused to let her go so she whispered into his ear angrily, "Wake up this instant you philander!"

Balthier frowned and opened his brown eyes to see a pair of familiar pale blue eyes gazing at him with anger. Balthier gave Ashe a lopsided smile and calmly said, "Good morning Princess. I taken you slept peacefully until now that is."

"Let me go this instant. How dare you grab me in the middle of the night and play it off as if it were natural." Ashe hissed trying to break away from his embrace.

Balthier smirked at her efforts of trying to escape his embrace and only tightened his arms around her. "I think it was the other way around, you grab me Princess."

At those words Ashe stopped her efforts of trying to getting away from him, she looked up at him with annoyance. "I highly doubt I would do that."

"Yes you would. It was cold after all and I was a good way for you to get warmed up." Balthier replied letting his arms fall away from her.

Ashe's eyes widen as she recalled being cold and rolling over to something warm. That something warm was Balthier, Ashe blushed as she realized it was indeed she who hugged him. But he could have pushed her way, why didn't he?

"You should have pushed me away instead of holding me, it is inappropriate." Ashe said at last turning away to hide her flushed face.

"I wanted to hold you. After all it has been awhile since I held a beautiful woman that way, and I also wanted to comfort you since you looked like you were having a bad dream." Balthier purred causing Ashe to become irritated with him once more.

"Why you no good scoundrel." Ashe spat out making Balthier laugh.

"You may want to keep it down Princess or else you will wake everyone. If I were you I wouldn't want them to wake up for they will find out that you woke up in my arms all because you hugged me." Balthier cleverly said.

Ashe huffed at him and stood up immediately. She did not want to put up with this unbearable sky pirate any longer. Ashe stepped over Basch's sleeping form carefully as she walked out of the tent. Balthier chuckled at Ashe's reaction if she knew that the other time she had kissed him she will no doubt be even more flustered and annoyed. Balthier decided to get up since it would be impossible to fall asleep again since his teddy bear left him. It had been awhile since he actually slept good all because of Ashe. Why is it she is always on his mind no matter how many times he pushed all thoughts of her out of his mind?

Balthier stood up slowly and stretched to get all the stiffness out from his body. When he was done stretching he decided to go outside to see how the Princess was doing. Knowing her, she was probably taking out her frustration out on some poor defenseless fiend. Balthier made sure to step over Basch carefully otherwise he would be missing a foot if he stepped wrong. Once outside he fought back a shiver and the feeling of wanting to go back under the covers. The sun was barely rising over the horizon lighting the sky somewhat. Ashe was currently talking to some refugees. Balthier strolled over to them and heard an old man say, "The Kiltias of Mt. Bur Omisace took us in and treated us warmly. Thanks to their aid I'm well enough to return home now."

"That is really kind of the Kiltias to do." Ashe said it was obvious she wish she could help the refugees too but she lacked power to do so.

A Seeq added, "Yes they are kind to all. I even help when newcomers what can't walk on their own arrive, I carry them up the mountain. I'm glad to help the Kiltias, any way I can."

Penelo appeared out of the tent followed closely by Vaan and Larsa who seemed to be arguing again. Basch and Fran exited out of the tent after them. Vaan, Larsa, and Basch quickly took the tent down and Vaan placed it in his knack sack once again.

"Sorry for not waking sooner Highness." Basch said to Ashe when the group went up to her and Balthier.

"No need for apologies. It has barely even dawned and yesterday was rather tiring." Ashe replied.

A Kiltias approached them and spoke to them, "Beyond this rift you'll find the holy mountain. Take each step one at a time, and you shall reach your destination. Mt. Bur Omisace is to the north east. Should you go south you'll enter the rift…take care. Gods guide your path. Faram."

Everyone took in what the Kiltias said and walked off to the north east. The party noticed more refugees walking in the same direction as them. Balthier felt his disdain for the Empire grow even more and could not help the words slipping out of his mouth that reflected his thoughts, "Empires parade down city streets, while refugees walk barefoot through the snow."

Larsa who walked up ahead with Penelo and Vaan turned to look at Balthier and solemnly said, "And so I sue for peace to stop short war and ease their suffering. My father will choose peace."

Balthier frowned at those words and mockingly asked, "Will he now? You sound sure of yourself." Balthier walked around Larsa and added over his shoulder, "You can never know another. Even your father."

Larsa stood in place unsure of what to make out from Balthier's words. He always believed in his father's words and trusted him. Vaan took pity on Larsa and told him, "Don't take it the wrong way, okay?"

Larsa let out a sigh and nodded his head in agreement but still seemed down. Penelo started to talk about what she used to do back home when she was bored to get Larsa's attention away from his father.

Balthier walked on further ahead of everyone else ignoring his guilty conscious which strongly disapproved of what he told Larsa. He did not mean to take out his resentment about his father on Larsa, it just happened whenever he heard someone say they trusted in their father. Maybe what he said was out of envy of the way Larsa had a close relationship with his father. He once had a close relationship with his father when he was Larsa's age and he had learned the hard way who is father really was. It was too much for him to bear so he had ran away from home to escape him. He did not want anyone else to go through that, much less Larsa who is a good kid. Balthier let out a frustrated sigh, next time he should not be so harsh.

Ashe walked quietly besides Balthier looking at him out of the corner of her eye. She saw his cool mask of indifference wavering slightly and his true feelings glimpse out from behind. He looked guilty for telling Larsa not to trust his father and he seemed heartbroken. Ashe realized Balthier spoke out of experience with his own father. She was not sure about what happen but it seemed to have affected him greatly. Her heart ached with his and she wanted to comfort him. Her hand went to his hand on its accord and she gently squeezed his hand to reassure him. His hand responded by squeezing back. Balthier quickly glanced at her his face once more a mask yet he let a sad smile appear on his lips. Ashe met his gaze and smiled back at him, she never thought she would see his face of his indifference falter. Ashe glanced behind her to see if any of her comrades had seen her holding Balthier's hand and found no one looking at them. She sighed in relief but forgot she still had her hand in Balthier's hand. She looked down at her hand and blushed red, she let her hand slip his.

Balthier smiled at Ashe's shy gesture and forgot all about his no good father. He did not think anyone would see that he was heartbroken, the only person he would have expected to know was Fran not Ashe. Ashe really surprised him and she made it easy for him to forget his problems. The long journey of reaching Mt. Bur Omisace was finally over. The party went to the temple of the Kiltias to meet with the Gran Kiltias Anastasis. On their way to the temple they passed many tents where the refugees live. A feeling of depression fell on the group as they pass the tents, seeing how the refugees were reduced to live all because of the Empire. When at last they entered the temple they were greeted by an Acolyte who told them, "His grace Anastasis awaits ahead. He is a dream sage. He has known your coming for some time."

The party slowly walked towards where Anastasis stood. Ashe walked forward with Basch, Vaan, Penelo, and Larsa. Balthier and Fran preferred to remain in the background. Anastasis stood with his eyes closed and did not say anything. Vaan turned to Penelo and asked, "Is he sleeping?"

Penelo brought her finger up to her mouth and said, "Shh."

Suddenly Anastasis spoke silencing everyone, "No my child. I do not sleep."

Vaan was amazed and said, "Whoa."

Anastasis continued speaking, "I dream for reality and illusion are a duality, two parts of a whole. Only the mirror of dreams reflects what is true."

Ashe stepped forward to address him and began to say, "Anastasis, your grace, I'm Ashenlia-"

Anastasis interjected her speech to say, "Lay down your words Ashenlia daughter of Raminas. I have dreamt your dream. Who better than to carry on the Dalmascan line than she who bears the dawn shard? Your dream of a kingdom restored is known to me."

Larsa stepped forward to plead with Anastasis, "Gran Kiltias, then give us your blessing. Grant the Lady Ashe her accession-"

Before Larsa could finished his plead a thickly accented voice interrupted from the back. "I do not suppose this is something you might…reconsider?"

Everyone turned to see who it was who spoke. The voice belonged to a tall, stylishly dressed, dark haired man. He wore dark glasses and he was accompanied by a woman dressed in dark clothing. The man glanced at Larsa and right away greeted him, "Ah, my little emperor in waiting. You called, and I have come."

Balthier had never in his life detested any one from their looks before until now. He could not say exactly why he despised this man he just did. The man exasperated him severely and he could not wait to leave this place. He watched as Larsa held out his hand for the man to shake, but the man instead patted Larsa on the head. Larsa brushed the man's hand aside a look of annoyance on his young face. Larsa turned to Ashe and told her, "This is the man I wanted you to meet." Balthier was shocked to hear Larsa say that, all this time he believed that Larsa wanted Ashe to meet the Gran Kiltias Anastasis not some slime ball. Larsa continued on "Believe it or not, he is a member of the noble House Margrace, the ruling family of the Rozarrian Empire."

The man approached Ashe, getting a little closer than necessary, Balthier thought angrily, as the man spoke to Ashe. "Hah, I am but one of very many. Try as I might, I could not stop this war alone. Thus I've come, seeking Larsa's assistance." The man took his glasses off and handed them to his female servant. The man turned his dark eyes to Ashe and said, "Al-Cid Margrace, at your service. To think, I stand before the Lady Ashe. It is truly an honor." He knelt, took Ashe's left hand in his own and placed a kiss on it. Balthier definitely hated this man with all of his being, how dare he put his greasy lips on Ashe's soft hand. Balthier fought with the feeling of grabbing his gun off his back and shooting this Al-Cid in the ass for thinking he had the right to kiss Ashe's hand. Fran seemed to have notice his confliction and placed a hand on his arm to prevent him from doing anything foolish. Balthier crossed his arms over his chest and looked at Al-Cid with fire in his eyes.

Ashe looked started and just stared at Al-Cid, she did not expect him to be so presumptuous. Al-Cid still held Ashe's hand as he continued with his flirtatious remark, "I see it is true, after all. Ah, stunning is Dalmasca's desert bloom." Ashe allowed a small smile to appear on her face at that remark, this Al-Cid was really a smooth talker but nonetheless she did not enjoy being looked over by this sort of man.

Balthier shifted his stance irritated that he could not do not anything to this Al-Cid for his forwardness. "Does he really think the Princess will fall for him?" Balthier mumbled under his breath. Fran heard what Balthier said and chuckled, she never seen Balthier get so jealous before. It went to show that he had strong feelings for the Princess, he just has not realized yet.

Anastasis spoke again in his dream like voice, "In Archadia, Larsa. In Rozarria, Al-Cid. They dream not of war. Should Empire join with Empire, the way will open for a new Ivalice in our time."

Al-Cid slightly sneered as he replied, "Hah, Gran Kiltias! You speak much of dreams. But in the real world, war is upon us."

Ashe shook her head and glanced at Balthier. She saw him giving Al-Cid a death glare and smiled despite the talk of war. She had to shake her head again to rid thoughts of why Balthier would be upset with Al-Cid, she should not be thinking about such a thing as that now.

"Gran Kiltias, I was told my coming here would prevent this war. I was to assume my father's throne and announce the restoration of Dalmasca…treat with the Empire for peace, and persuade the Resistance to stay their hand. I have not come all this way to be asked to reconsider!" Ashe cried in frustration.

"A word from you and the Resistance would stop cold…and Rozarria's pretext for joining the war…scattered, off to the four winds. This was what we had hoped. Alas, circumstances change. A full two years have passed since your reported death. Were it to become known you were still alive…I fear it could only worsen our current situation." Al-Cid stated.

"Because I am powerless to help." Ashe said dejectedly.

"Nay! In fact, it has little to do with you." Al-Cid said quickly.

"Then what?" Larsa asked but did not wait for Al-Cid to reply before he continued, " If Lady Ashe were to extend her hand in friendship…perhaps I could then persuade the Emperor." Larsa turned to Ashe, imploring her with his eyes as he said, "His Excellency will solve things peacefully-"

"The Emperor Gramis is no more," Al-Cid said suddenly. "His life has been taken."

Larsa's eyes grew wide as he cried, "Father!" Balthier turned his piercing eyes away from Al-Cid's head and looked at Larsa with sympathy. Larsa stood froze in place looking numb and he could not speak. Penelo moved close to him and took a hold of his hand. Vaan went closer to Larsa and did not know what to say to him.

Al-Cid turned his attention to Ashe as he told her, "Let us suppose you approach the Empire with a peaceful resolution. The late Emperor Gramis would have lent you his ear, that much is certain. But we are dealing with Vayne Solidor. Should the Princess return, he would claim her an imposter. All to tempt the Resistance into battle. Vayne wants this war, that much is certain. As our ill luck would have it, the man is a military genius."

Anastasis nodded in agreement with Al-Cid's theory. "The dreams have told me thus," he said. "To reveal yourself would imperil us all. I see war, and Vayne's name writ bold on history's page."

"Archadia's banners fly high. They are making ready for the coming war." Al-Cid's female servant handed him a scroll, which he unrolled and began to read. "According to our latest reports…The Western Armada prepares for war, under Vayne's command no less. The newly formed 12th fleet has already been deployed. Oh yes! The Imperial 1st fleet stands ready. They'll be under way as the Odin's refit is complete. And there is more: the 2nd Kerwon Expeditionary Force is being called in…to replace the missing 8th, so there will be no gaps. The largest force ever seen!"

Ashe sighed heavily and added, "And the Nethicite is the coup de grace." Al-Cid nodded sagely, and Ashe turned back to ask the Gran Kiltias. "Gran Kiltias, your Grace. I spoke to you of my succession. Let us put that aside. Should I become Queen of Dalmasca now, powerless as I am, I can protect nothing. With a greater power at my disposal, perhaps then."

This interested Al-Cid and he asked her right away, "You seek the Nethicite?"

Ashe shook her head and answered him, "No, something far greater."

"To wield power against power. Truly the words of a Hume child." Anastasis remarked.

Ashe held her head high as she responded, "I am a descendent of the Dynast-King."

"Indeed. You have one choice," Anastasis said. "Seek you the other power that Raithwall left."

"Such a power exists?" Ashe asked incredulously.

"Cross the Paramina Rift to the Stilshrine of Miriam. There rests the power you seek. The Sword of Kings…can cut through Nethicite," Anastasis said. "Awaken Ashelia B'Nargin and take up your sword, or your dream will remain but a dream."

Ashe turned to look at Larsa, he still seemed frozen from the shocking news of his father's death. He did not seem to see them or listening to what was just said. Penelo still held his hand and Vaan looked at a lost of what to say to him. Ashe gently touched his shoulder in sympathy and walked away from him. Everyone else followed suit and left the temple behind and Larsa. "Let us make purchases before we head out to the Stilshrine of Miriam." Ashe announced to the group.

Everyone nodded in agreement and went on their way to purchase items and new weapons. Ashe went up to Balthier who stood looking at the temple with a look of distaste.

"Are you still thinking about Al-Cid?" Ashe asked curiosity burning in her to find out why Balthier hated the man.

Balthier looked started and hastily answered, "No. Why do you ask?"

"I just got the feeling you hated him is all. And I was wondering why." Ashe said shrugging her shoulders.

"There is just something about him that I do not like," Balthier stated and then turned to look at her as he asked, "What about you Princess, did you find him charming?"

Ashe smiled sweetly at Balthier realizing he was very jealous of the man maybe she could play around with him. "As a matter of fact I did find him charming. I find him quite handsome actually, he certainty is different from all the other Princes that I have met."

Balthier's mouth twitched at her answer and before he could inquire her of how she could find a scrum bag like Al-Cid attractive, the rest of the group came back. With a smile gracing her lips, Ashe led the way out of Mt. Bur Omisace while Balthier sulked in the back over why Ashe would find Al-Cid appealing. It seemed he had another rival for Ashe's affection but not so threateningly as Rasler.