Chapter Twenty-Two: A Truth Revealed

Magic City Gariland.

A city named for its famous Royal Academy of Magic, where war heroes like the Wizard Elidibs—a great magician who fought against the Romanda Army during the height of the Fifty Year War—were produced. It is also said that the King of Ivalice himself had studied at the academy, who later became the hero who brought an end to the Lion War.

And it seemed another unlikely hero will emerge from the academy, a man by the name of Braeden Gallows, Commander of Gallione's Hokuten Knights. He had graduated in the same class as the Lion War hero and had fought alongside him during their time together against the Death Corps. Though he thought himself only a dutiful and loyal knight serving his country, his men and the people of Gallione looked up to him as their hero—the knight who united them against the Church and who freed them from their control.

Tomas Varyn—the Divine Knight who was sent by Father Jaren to quell the rebellion at Gallione—saw Commander Braeden as a threat, watching as the Hokuten formed into ranks.

It's been more than two weeks since he had left on the Cardinal's order to quell the uprising at Igros, only to find out that the capital was all but lost and that the Shrine Knights were desperately making their last stand at Gariland. But the Hokuten was an elite knighthood, equivalent to that of the Nanten. Though he had the advantage of numbers with reinforcements coming in daily from their island headquarters in the south, Braeden knew the land better, knew how to deploy his troops to their advantage. Even with his tactical expertise, he knew that this battle was pointless.

"They're moving." Ash Blayke, the commander of the Shrine Knights stationed at Gallione, sat on his chocobo besides the Divine Knight. "It looks as if they divide their force."

Tomas grunted in reply, the comment reminding him of another problem he faced: division. Besides facing Braeden's force, there's also the possibility of an attack from behind from the instructors and cadets at the Royal Academy. Sources say that there's been some activity at the school, but nothing to warrant concern.

Tomas wasn't so sure about that.

Surrender, however, was not an option.

"We must hold them here, Ash," he stated with certainty.

Ash said, "We must do our best," thinking that sheer weight of numbers must surely overwhelm them. "God is on our side."

Then why, Tomas thought, do the people suffer on our behalf? Is that also God's will? But he said nothing, only watched as the battle standard of the Hokuten was raised to the blare of a trumpet.

"Here they come," said Ash, and Tomas nodded.

The trumpet blared again and the Hokuten charged.

The walls of Lionel Castle were built to withstand more than siege, and even in the depths of the blizzard as now gripped the countryside, they held out the worst of the cold.

The bleak weather seemed to mirror the Cardinal's disposition as he sat still at his desk in his office at Lionel Castle. The room was dark, lit only by two torches burning in sconces at either side of the entrance to his office, which he faced. He stared at those fires, the flickering flames reflected in his dark eyes.

He grabbed the decanter that sat at his elbow and poured himself a cup of his favorite wine. The motions were automatic, placing the flask down and taking a sip of the drink. A smile crept up his lips as he stared at his cup.

Clever, Agrias, he thought, setting the vessel down. You may have managed to escape your execution, but I doubt you'll escape death.

Jaren stood from his desk and strode over to the window to gaze at the roaring blizzard. He could faintly hear the howling wind, seeing how strong it blew as snow constantly pelted the glass pane.

Upon the advent of the snowstorm, he had called off the search of the heretic, saying that the snows will bury her for them. No use wasting good men in such a menial task. Besides, she had been wounded while escaping, and with no one to aid her, her death was assured.

He continued to stare at the storm, savoring his small victory, and looking forward to an even bigger victory when he would return to Bethla. Though no news came of the success of his trap he had prepared there, he was confident that the rest of the heretics were already waiting for his judgment.

Yes, it had only been a matter of time before they would be captured. Patience was a virtue after all, and he had been patient for all of these years.

In the end, good things come to those who wait.

Bariaus Valley.

A barren valley south of Lionel Castle where St. Ajora's first disciple, Bariaus, had hid from the Yudora Empire. It is said that he had remained hidden for forty days after the death of his master, St. Ajora, before he was forced to leave when he was discovered by the Yudoran soldiers.

A fugitive on the run from the Empire, in a land where friends lived in the unlikeliest places where they succored him, as he spread St. Ajora's message, before meeting an untimely death at the hill that later bore his name.

History seemed to repeat itself; a party of fugitives took refuge in the same valley as Bariaus, but unlike the unfortunate disciple, they could not afford to stay for forty days.

Time was running out.

"She's lost a lot of blood." Orlandu's tone was somber, his eyes reflecting the sadness in his voice. "Beowulf and I have done all we could with what little magical ability we possess, and even with Mustadio's bag of potions, the treatment is temporary at best. We must take her to a healer if she is to have any chance of recovering."

"But where could we find a healer in a land that's against us?" Delita frowned. "We may as well surrender."

"And in such wolfish weather, it will be difficult to travel," Malak added. "She may not survive the journey."

The news was disheartening, but none could argue the truth.

"I regret that there is nothing more we can do," Lavian whispered, her voice quivering with grief. She paused to take a breath before asking, "Does Ramia know?"

Galvin shook his head. "Not yet, but…" He sighed. "I know that in her heart, she already knows."

"Where is she?" Raizen inquired as Malak stirred the fire, its light dancing over the group, warming their bodies but unable to thaw the coldness of despair that gripped their hearts.

Beowulf answered, "By her mother's side. It's only fitting she'd be there when…" His voice trailed away, unable to finish the sentence.

"Ramza is with her," Orlandu quickly inserted to fill in the silence that followed, "offering what little comfort he could give."

Lavian said, "That's for the best," and Alicia ducked her head in solemn agreement.

The conversation then took a sudden—and much needed—turn when a gust of wind blew into the cavern, the blanket strung up in a pathetic attempt to block out the elements pushed aside as the scouting party entered.

"In all my life, I've not seen such a storm as this!" exclaimed Wolfen as he came to sit by the fire followed by his two companions, Jovel and Cloud. "This land must truly be protected by the divine to create such a storm."

"It's not so bad," Cloud commented in his cool voice, and the Tenaktwan stared at him as if he were mad. The SOLDIER shrugged and said, "I've seen much worse."

"So the storm's that bad, eh?" Delita murmured, his eyes troubled.

Jovel nodded. "From the looks of it, the blizzard may last from a few days to a few weeks. It's dangerous to travel in such weather. Best we stay here until it clears."

"I see…" Delita's voice was full of remorse, the situation hopeless as it was. Lest the storm breaks soon, their journey would be for naught. He then sighed and looked farther into the cavern where another fire burned. If that fire died, then…

He sighed again, as he shook his head. "We don't have a few days or a few weeks. By then, it may be too late…"

Ramza felt a terrible pang of sorrow, as he watched Ramia spill some broth between Agrias' pale lips.

Beowulf and Orlandu had done the best they could in tending to her wounds. The two arrows had been removed, the wounds cleansed and bandaged. The same went for the slash along her sword arm, the gash deep and wide that it had been difficult to treat. The two men doubted that if she should live, she would not be able to have full use of her arm. What had worried them the most, however, was the cut at her side.

Agrias' robe had stuck to the wound, sealing it, preventing any more loss of blood. But upon examining the wound, it wasn't the question of how wide it was, but how deep the wound had penetrated. Unlike the gouge on her arm that was made by a sword, the wound on her side was made by a spear.

The wound was deep, and they wondered how Agrias still had the strength to run and fight with such an injury. Fortunately, the spear did not hit any vital spots, but the question still remained if she would survive.

Agrias did not appear to be suffering any pain as she slept on, oblivious of the world around her. It was strange to see her so peaceful when just days before she had been suffering.

Ramza soon noticed that Ramia's hands trembled, nearly dropping the bowl of broth. Hurriedly kneeling by her side, he caught hold of it.

"It's all right to cry, Ramia," he whispered, lifting the bowl in his hand. "There's no shame in it."

Ramia burst into tears then, no longer able to contain her sadness. "Why?" she sobbed brokenly. "Why did this have to happen? What went wrong?"

Ramza sighed, his heart wrenching at her sobs. "I'm sorry, Ramia," he murmured, reaching out a comforting hand to touch hers. "Both you and your mother have suffered much because of me."

Ramia shook her head, wiping away her tears. "No, you're not to blame. Jaren used both of us so he could get to you. Mama would still have been executed even if you and your friends were captured. I know that now, thanks to you. But…" Fresh tears began to pour down her cheeks as she clasped Agrias' hand, "I can't lose her now, Ramza! Grandpa just died a few months ago and if I lose Mama now, I lose the only family I have left."

"What about your father?" The question was spoken softly as Ramza stared into the fire.

The sniffles suddenly stopped. He looked at her and saw her eyes had hardened, her hands clenched into fists. "My father…" she sneered as she turned to stare at the fire, her eyes burning bright with suppressed rage.

"When I was very young, my mother told me that he was a great swordsman who followed his heart, fighting justice for others. She said that I should be proud of him." She then snorted. "Who would be proud of a father who abandoned his family? If he was truly a noble man, why didn't he defend Mama during her trial? Why did he run away?"

"Because he loves you both dearly."

Ramia grunted in disbelief. "Does he now?" she snickered. "That's hard for me to believe. If he loved us, then he wouldn't have left in the first place. No," she said with bitter sarcasm, "he left us because he's a coward!"

Ramza began to speak, to argue, but thought better of it. Instead, he said, "You should heed well to what your mother has told you. You disgrace her words by speaking ill of them."

Ramia's face flushed at his chiding, unable to dispute his claim.

"There is truth in what you say, however," Ramza continued, throwing a branch into the fire. "Your father is a coward to have left you, but he left to protect you."

"What do you mean?" Ramia asked in wonder. "Protect us from what?"

"Protect you both from danger." He felt Ramia's questioning gaze, prompting him to explain further. "During the Lion War, your father committed a terrible crime; a crime committed for the good of others. Your mother knows of this, of course," he added before Ramia had a chance to question him. "It is this crime that he left. He knew that if he stayed bearing such a sin, both of you would be in danger because of it."

Ramia remained silent for a time, absorbing the story, trying to make sense of it all. "So my father is a criminal…" she whispered, disappointment tinged with scorn.

"No, Ramia," Ramza countered. "Your mother was right in saying that your father is a noble man. He may be a criminal to most, but to some he is considered brave and just, a good man who sacrificed his nobility for the sake of others."

Ramia stared at Ramza, hazel eyes narrowed in suspicion. "How do you know these things?"

"I know because…" He hesitated, afraid of what her reaction would be, but when he looked at Agrias' pale face, he found the resolve to continue. Ramza fixed his gaze on Ramia, his eyes full of sorrow, understanding, and…love.

"…I am your father."

Wolfen was enjoying his cup of tea that Rae had brewed when he heard a loud commotion from the back of the cavern. Pausing between sips, he turned to look and was surprised to see Ramza on the ground, nursing his jaw.

"I don't believe you!" Ramia stood over him, her features livid, hazel eyes smoldering and mouth curled into a snarl. "I won't believe you!"

Her shouting caught the others' attention, filling the cavern with a grim silence as they looked on in solemn understanding.

Ramia suddenly drew her sword and placed it against Ramza's neck.

"Ramia!" Lavian cried out in alarm. She was about to rush to Ramza's aid, but a firm hand held her back. Looking back, she saw Alicia, who shook her head once and said, "No interfere."

"She's right," Raizen agreed, stepping forward to get a better view of the sad event before turning to look at Lavian, who gazed at him questioningly. "Ramza and Ramia must resolve this on their own. All we can do is to give them our support."

Even with the Prince's advice, Lavian could not help but feel apprehensive as she looked back at Ramza's predicament.

Ramia did not seem to have noticed the shout or the audience she had attracted, her gaze fixed at the man lying before her, tapping her sword ever so closely to his neck. "Tell me one good reason not to kill you where you lay, father?" She spat the label, as she would do a curse.

Despite being endangered, Ramza smiled as he replied, "It's not in your blood and…" his smile then faded, his gaze shifting beyond Ramia to where Agrias slept by the fire. "…your mother would be deeply hurt."

The young Holy Knight had gone white, Ramza's words having kindled a faint memory within her heart that soon engulfed her very soul…

"Mama, where's Papa?"

It was an innocent question, one that Agrias had hoped to not answer until she knew that Ramia was ready. But her daughter was sharper than she thought and when she looked into her eyes—the same eyes as her father's—they brought back the painful memories that she had kept away for the past five years. She looked away, staring out the window, seeing not the distant palace, but the field where she had parted with Ramza.

"He's someplace far away," she whispered in answer.

"Oh," Ramia said innocently. "Will he come back?"

The question constricted Agrias' heart, her eyes slightly watering. She quickly dashed those tears away as she tried to smile, both for her daughter's benefit and in the hope that he will return someday. "I believe he will. Until then, you must believe in him so he could be proud of you."

Ramia's sword shook with the memory, her face a battlefield, revealing the struggle waging within. She shifted her sword away from Ramza then, with an anguished cry, swung her blade towards him…

"Ramia!" Lavian shouted in horror at the same time Delita cried out, "No!"

…only to bury it in the rock next to his head.

Without uttering a word, she walked past him, leaving her sword quivering in the earth.

The others stepped aside as she marched past them, the light of the fire revealing the turmoil on her face.

She did not turn to look at them, her eyes focused at the cavern's entrance. She thrust the blanket aside, the cold wind hitting her full in the face as she stepped out.

The blanket shut out the elements once more as it swung back into place, but it seemed a cool wind still blew into the cavern, leaving everyone paralyzed with concern and sympathy for Ramia.

Lavian was the first to break the uneasy silence. "Are you not going after her?" she asked Ramza.

"No," he answered as he pulled his daughter's sword free. "Let her be alone for a while. She'll return when she's ready." With that said, he turned away to continue his watch over Agrias.

Lavian could not readily agree to Ramza's request, wondering how the Beoulve could act so callous of his own daughter. She grabbed her sword, motioning to Alicia to follow her as she hurried after the young Holy Knight. They were stopped, however, when Raizen walked into their path.

"You should heed Ramza's request," he said, expressing his disapproval. "His is the voice of an anxious parent. Do not be fooled by his bleak manner."

"Then why does he not go after her?" Lavian questioned him in challenge. "To make her understand the truth?"

Raizen sighed as he shook his head. "Ramia needs time to think. Her mind must feel about like the blizzard roaring out there." He then walked forward, pausing for a moment when he reached Lavian's side. "One cannot force the truth upon others," he whispered without glancing at her. "You should know for are you not a heretic as well bearing a terrible truth?" He resumed his walk without awaiting an answer, but before taking his full leave of them, he paused yet again.

"But if it will make you feel any better, I will go and have a talk with her." He turned back to look at Lavian and gave a faint smile. "I understand what she's going through. Perhaps sharing my past experience with her can ease the turmoil within her heart. The decision to accept or deny the truth, however, will ultimately be hers."

"You're right," Lavian conceded, nodding slowly, then with a slight smile, added, "You really are your mother's son. Always finding a peaceful way of solving things." She then bowed and said, "I thank you for what you are doing," before returning to the fire, Alicia following silently behind.

Raizen gazed after them, unsure that the outcome of his upcoming discussion with Ramia would be a happy one.

Ramia trudged through the blinding snow, hunched against the fierce winds that buffeted her, arm held up in a futile attempt to shield her eyes. That proved unnecessary, however, for the snow blotted out all traces of any object from her sight.

Including the monsters that had managed to surround her.

A growl from behind forced her to stop in her path. She looked back to see a vampire approaching her, its dark purple fur distinguishable through the white darkness. She took a step back, her hand instinctively reaching for her sword, forgetting that she had left it back at the cave. Cursing, she backed away from the animal, its fangs bared in anticipation of the kill.

Another growl from behind halted her retreat.

Glancing back, she saw another vampire advancing. "Great," she muttered, shifting her gaze back and forth between the two panthers. "Perfect to be caught out in a storm unarmed."

She looked around, hoping to find something to use as a weapon, but all she could see was a field of snow. The vampires began to prowl about her, savoring her fear. Her hand went back to her sword belt, thinking to use the empty scabbard as a club of some sort. As she began to unbuckle the belt, her hand brushed against something. She looked down and saw it was the hilt of a dagger. In her moment of confusion and panic, she had forgotten about the dagger she always wore at her side.

"Well, I'm not completely unarmed," she murmured in relief as she drew it out and brandished it at the nearest vampire, which roared in turn as if accepting her challenge. It then pawed the air before her, its claws extended. It seemed to be taunting her.

"You've picked the wrong day to attack me," she growled, her confusion turning to frustration as she swung her dagger at the vampire.

The panther jumped back and hissed, its fur rising in anger. Seeing Ramia distracted by its partner, the other vampire charged from behind, roaring.

Ramia roared in answer, turning just as the panther lunged at her, her dagger already moving to intercept, scoring a long scratch across its belly. She then began to run as the panther landed, knowing that only armed with a dagger, she has no chance against the beasts.

She ran, both the wounded panther and its partner at her heels, their roars deafening even in the howl of the storm. They were soon drowned out by a louder roar that seemed to echo all around her until she almost fell to its source. She looked down in astonishment at the river that roared below her.

Water, white-frothed and bubbling, swirled and eddied among the rocks, the current too strong that to fall was to risk being swept away.

Ramia slowly backed away from the edge of the cliff, glancing over her shoulder to see the two panthers had caught up with her. "Great," she muttered again, stuck between a raging river and two angry vampires. She turned around to face the beasts, backing up as she went until her heels touched the edge of the cliff. She glanced back again then at the panthers, brandishing her dagger.

The wounded panther pounced first, looking to even the score, claws extended to make a similar scratch across Ramia's belly.

The young Holy Knight quickly sidestepped to avoid the panther's attack, but cried out when she slipped on a patch of ice and tumbled over the cliff. She managed to grab onto the ledge, avoiding a plunge to the freezing depths below. But now she was vulnerable, watching in dread as both panthers peered over the ledge. Hanging precariously over the cliff, she swung her dagger at the beasts, hoping to drive them back.

"Be gone, beasts!" she cried out, trying her best to keep her grip while slashing her dagger at the panthers' faces when they got too close. The exertion of attacking while suspended above the raging river was soon taking a toll on her, feeling her fingers slip slowly on the rock.

The vampires became aware of her fatigue, waiting her out until she could not retaliate any more as they paced back and forth in a deliberate manner along the rim of the cliff. Her swings began to slow, as she began to lose her grip on the stone.

She was going to fall!

Sensing her distress, the panthers moved in for the kill, maws wide in parody of a smile. One raised its paw, claws extended, and was about to swipe at Ramia when suddenly…

…two brightly fletched arrows thudded into the beast's side.

It roared in pain and anger, its cries later joined by its partner as it suffered the same fate of two arrows. Both vampires recoiled from the attack, hoping to gain higher ground from their enemies.

Ramia was partially relieved when the vampires disappeared from the edge of the cliff, intent now on maintaining her grip. Her arm shook with the strain, beads of sweat forming on her forehead despite the cold. She felt her fingers slip one by one; first, her thumb, then her little finger…

No!, she thought desperately as her last finger gave way and she was plunging towards the freezing waters…

…only to be saved by a strong arm.

"I've got you!" a voice cried down to her.

Ramia looked up to see who had saved her from a watery grave, surprised to see Raizen's handsome face looking down at her. "What are you doing here?" she demanded, all vestiges of panic forgotten in the heat of her anger of being followed.

"What does it look like?" the Prince shot back, taken aback by Ramia's audacity despite the fact that she was suspended above a rampant river. "Saving your behind! Now stop struggling! It's hard for me to pull you up as it is!"

Scowling, Ramia complied, allowing Raizen to pull her up to safety. When she was close enough to the ledge, she grabbed onto it with her other hand and pushed herself up to solid ground, taking a moment to catch her breath before standing to glare at the Prince. "What are you doing here?" she asked again.

Raizen sighed. "As I said, I came here to save you. Is this how you show your gratitude?"

Ramia snorted, either in disbelief or in disgust, the Prince didn't know. He watched her as she gazed around, her frown deepening when she caught sight of his companions. He turned also just in time to see Cloud twirling his huge blade in the air in victory before sheathing it behind his back. Wolfen and Jovel joined him as they began to skin the vampires.

"I see you weren't alone in coming."

Raizen turned back to Ramia, who scowled disapprovingly at him, her arms crossed across her chest. Clearly, she was angry with them for following her at a time she wanted to be alone. He closed his eyes and let out a breath, disciplining patience at her hot-temperedness.

He found himself back at Yardow, at that first meeting he had with the young Commander of the Lesalian Knighthood. Back then, he could not find any words to calm her, but now, he was forced to find them, to ease this young woman's troubled heart. Bitterness had left cruel marks on her, making it difficult for her to heal them and to accept what she had believed to be truth throughout her whole life. To learn that your father was the Heretic that everyone has been searching for, that you've been told to capture, could shatter anyone's vision of the truth.

I doubt any words of mine could clear her confusion, could place those shattered pieces of her life back together, he thought, opening his eyes to face Ramia's fierce gaze.

"Well thanks, for what it's worth," she stated with a shrug before turning away. "Now if you'll excuse me, I want to be alone."

She started to walk away, but Raizen quickly grabbed her shoulder. "It's not easy, isn't it, Ramia?" he whispered in sympathy.

"Easy?" Ramia scoffed, shrugging off Raizen's hand as she whirled around in anger. "Tell me, Prince, how would you feel? How would you feel to know that your father is worse than a brigand? That your father is the Heretic that is the cause of all of this chaos?! Tell me!"

Raizen did not flinch at her outburst. Instead, he stared at her with perfect calm, his bearing exuding a quiet strength like a pillar in the midst of a furious storm. "It's better than discovering your father killed your own mother," he returned softly, his eyes seeming to speak volumes so much so that Ramia immediately felt disarmed, her anger dissipating.

The Prince slowly turned his gaze towards the east, towards that land he had grown up with his father. "Believe it or not, you and I are not so different. Innocent people raised in ignorance. I grew up believing that my mother died from thieves raiding our village, never knowing that my mother was royalty, that both my parents were royalty. My father hid the truth from me until we happened upon Ramza." He returned his gaze to Ramia. "It was then, seven years ago, that my father told me everything including the reason why he had kept silent. Do you know that reason, Ramia?"

"To protect you?" Ramia replied, recalling Ramza's earlier words.

"In a way, yes," Raizen nodded. Ramia looked at him strangely, prompting him to explain: "My father didn't want me to share his burden, his guilt. He didn't want me to be burdened by the past, to keep my honor intact."

"Your…honor…" Ramia whispered. She again recalled the conversation she had with Ramza, the words suddenly ringing clear.

He may be a criminal to most, but to some he is considered brave and just, a good man who sacrificed his nobility for the sake of others.

Was that it, she thought. Did he leave to protect us not only from physical danger, but to also keep our honor intact? Did he leave so that he could bear the shame of his crime alone?

The confusion slowly faded away from her facade and, like the rising sun dispelling the darkness of night, understanding dawned. A door has been opened, revealing those who had also kept the truth away from her…

The time she had asked her adoptive parents about her heritage and how they had lied to her about her mother dying in a riot at Zarghidas Trade City.

The time she had questioned Lord Oaks of why the nobles loathed him before she discovered that he was her grandfather by blood.

Even her own mother had been silent, only telling her the heroic deeds of her father without revealing his name.

The shattered pieces of her life were finally falling into place, creating a new picture, a new view.

It was the image of her acceptance.

"I'm…such a fool," she muttered, shaking her head in remorse. "To believe my father left because he was a coward…"

"There's no shame in that," Raizen said, smiling softly when she looked up at him. "Having left you before you were born, it's only natural of you to think of it. But now," he placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, "will you trust him? Will you believe in him?"

Until then, you must believe in him so he could be proud of you.

That one line brought tears in her eyes, stirring up a sudden longing kept deep in her heart, a longing from her childhood: the longing to know her father. "I will believe in him," she whispered, a part of her—that child who grew up without her father—desperately wanting to know him.

The turbulent storm in her heart finally calmed, Raizen's words guiding her to gentle waters and soft breezes. In an unprecedented move, she hugged the Prince, whispering, "Thank you."

Raizen was taken aback by the unexpected embrace, his body stiffening in response. It took a moment for the shock to wear off and for compassion to take its place, encircling his arms around her in return.

As the two stood in quiet reflection, the biting winds gradually stilled, no longer howling in anger. "Ramia, look," Raizen said softly, wonder in his voice. He pointed to the sky, shafts of sunlight radiating through the parting clouds, the surrounding snow sparkling brightly so that it seems they were among the clouds.

Ramia looked around, seeing how beautiful the valley really was even covered in layers of snow.

"Let's go back," Raizen said, turning to Ramia. "Everyone must be worried."

Ramia nodded, her gaze transfixed at the scenic valley. She then smiled, quickly grabbing Raizen's hand and pulling him along, exclaiming "Let's go!", as she ran towards where Cloud and the others waited.

A myriad of emotions stirred within Ramza's heart as he sat by Agrias' side: self-pity, regret, anguish, guilt… His hand clasped hers, his worn, wearied eyes, gazing intently at her. "I'm sorry, Agrias," he spoke softly to her, his voice cracking in grief, "to have put you through all of this suffering. I shouldn't have left you. I should have stayed to protect both you and Ramia, to have raised her together, to have been…a family." He smiled softly. "Perhaps we can still be a family, but," he squeezed her hand, "you must live Agrias! You have to live! You can't leave Ramia and me now that we are together..."

He then looked down at the naked blade lying on the floor next to him, letting go of Agrias' hand as he took up the weapon. "Ramia…" he whispered, his thoughts suddenly turning towards his daughter as he gazed at the steel. He recognized the sword as it belonging to Agrias, now passed down to Ramia. "Do you think she will accept me, Agrias?" he wondered out loud. "Do you think she will accept me for who I am just as you had accepted me all those years ago?"

The blade glowed faintly in the light of the fire. It seemed to be possessed by a sentience, as if answering him.

Ramza sighed as he placed the blade down and took up Agrias' hand once more. "I wish it to be so. What would I give to hear my own daughter call me—"


Ramza sighed. "It would be nice to hear that from her. It would make any father—" He paused, suddenly struck by what he heard. "Papa…" He quickly looked over his shoulder.

Ramia stood a few feet away, staring at him with dark and burning eyes. She seemed hesitant as she continued to stand, unmoving. Her face, pale and vulnerable and quiet, was that of a lost child.

"Ramia…" Ramza softly called out to her. He stood up and approached her slowly, his arms extended, wishing only to comfort her.

Suddenly, she made a convulsive lunge towards him.

"Papa!" she cried brokenly, and it was not the lady's voice who spoke, but the voice of the child, longing, lonely.

She ran into Ramza's arms, embracing him as she cried into his chest, her tears of joy soaking his tunic.

Ramza slowly wrapped his arms around her lovingly, protectively, comfortingly, like a father should for their child.

"It's all right," he soothed, gently stroking her hair. "I'm here now. Your Papa's here now, Ramia…


Author's Note

Dear reader:

Thank you for reading this far. Unfortunately, like all good fanfics, this one seems to end at the climax. Fortunately, I plan on finishing this one even if it takes me another ten years! But first and foremost, I want to finish up my other FFT fanfic before continuing on with this one. The reason will become apparent when the next chapter comes out.