For Want of a War
Chapter 1: Ramza
It had been a tense day, I reflected. I shrugged off the chain mail hauberk my second-eldest brother had given me for my sixteenth birthday as I entered my chambers.
Delita and I had been included as members of the peace keeping committee which policed the negotiations my brother Zalbag had pushed for. Weigraf Folles himself showed up, alongside his sister and a scattered handful of the less distrustful members of the Death Corps. Myself, Delita, and a few other cadets with a lot of promise from Gariland had been summoned to bolster the guard surrounding the talks at Igros, and we'd found ourselves forced to stare across the room at war-hardened veterans.
Men and women who had not had our training, but certainly eclipsed our experience. I knew Scarlet, the Black Mage in training who copied most of my chemistry notes, was capable of casting a Fira spell, something none of the mages we faced could boast. Yet I knew they'd actually faced life-or-death combat, something our instructors had told us was far more effective at weeding out the weak than any amount of tests or promise.
Yet our abilities had not been put to the test this night.
My father had personally poured the wine for himself and Weigraf, sipping his own drink before the wary man had done the same. The talks had taken hours, but they'd finally concluded late in the evening, my father signing the documents which promised to pay the commoners who'd fought in the war out of his own pocket if Larg refused to do so.
Larg rarely had the audacity to refuse my father anything. Relatively young for his position, he knew that a large amount of the support which he had gained was due to the influence of my family. In him, my father saw something of which he approved, and he made the admiration of the Beoulves aware to anyone he spoke with... And men listened when my father spoke. No matter how outrageous they thought his opinions.
The treaty was affirmed by my father's old friend, Count Orlandu. A man better known by his nickname, the Thunder God Cid. Much like my own father ultimately held the reigns to Larg's rise to power, Orlandu could be said to be the determinator behind Larg's rival, Goltana. Were we to enter into a war, I had my doubts that the balance of power would stay the same... but without that war that few wanted to see, especially after the Fifty Year War being so recently ended, the nobility preferred to look to war heroes like my father or Cid rather than figureheads.
Once the treaty was signed, most of the Death Corps members in attendance had broken into wild cheers. Messengers were sent, and I'm pretty certain I saw tears in the eyes of the dark-haired woman at Weigraf's side, despite the steely-eyed look she'd flashed me the moment she entered the room.
We'd avoided a civil war this night.
Folding my gauntlets neatly on the table where I'd set my chain mail, I unbuckled the sword belt at my waist and laid the fine scimitar my brother Dycedarg had gifted me atop the pile. Sitting on a nearby chair, I folded my legs to unbuckle the greaves that protected me from the knees downward, wiggling my toes as they finally felt air for the first time in nearly a day. I discarded the linen padding which protected my torso from the rough chain mail which had protected me as I rose to my feet, making my way across the room to a recessed door near my bed.
Bastard I may be, but my father made his opinion of any who called me such plain, and the station he insisted I deserved warranted a hot bath ready for me when I retired to my chambers. Servants had done just that: Steaming, rose-scented water rising from a copper tub in the center of a small, tiled room angled so that spilled water drained into a sluice at one end.
I discarded the leather trousers I wore and climbed into the tub with a groan of relief. Even with excellent breeding and extensive training, standing at attention in armor while being prepared to deal with an outbreak of violence at any moment's notice was a tiring affair. I fought the urge to fall asleep as I sank into the tub, merely dozing as the warm water performed its magic on my tired muscles.
The click of the door into my chambers brought me to wakefulness, and I sat up in the tub at the noise. I presumed it to be a servant entering my bedroom proper, perhaps warming the bed for when I exited the bathing chamber. Not something entirely unexpected, but a pleasant surprise after the long day I'd had.
I dunked my hair, vigorously rubbing the water into my hair as I held my breath, purging my golden locks of the sweat and stench of a long day's worth of standing at attention. I broke the water with a light gasp, shaking my head a bit, the excess water flying free.
I grabbed a small towel and began to dry my hair, standing from the tub as I did. By the time I finished, the unseen visitor would have finished with their business and I could retire to my bed and see the end to this day.
I was scrubbing my face when the door to the bath chamber clicked open and a tanned, surprised face framed by chocolate dark hair gaped at my nether regions. The serving girl, a tray with a razor, soap, and a brush, blushed bright red as I stared in shock, the towel held in my hands. With a blush of my own, I dropped back into the tub, forcing the thin linen across my groin despite the barrier of copper between it and her eyes.
"My lord, I'm sorry! I thought you'd like some shaving implements!" She apologized, averting her eyes. I winced. Despite the long day, I had no stubble to shave. In fact, I didn't bother to, yet. Only some feeble whiskers dotted my face. She continued, "I noticed that your bath had none, and..."
We both remained silent for a moment, actively not looking at one another.
"Actually..." I began, blushing and turning my head. It stung my pride to admit it, but my father had stressed that I never lie. "I don't shave. Not yet."
The dusk-skinned serving girl took another look at me, smiling slightly. "So I see. If I may, my lord?" She raised the tray slightly, glancing down at it.
"I'm sure I can handle it!" I insisted quickly, not daring to rise or do anything but try not to look at her.
"My lord, it wouldn't do for you to cut your cheek with the razor. Not with a day like tomorrow on hand," the young woman insisted, taking a slow step forward. She blushed, seeming to flinch back a bit before raising her eyes to meet mine. "Perhaps I could do it for you?"
I thought about it. If I tried it myself, I knew I would cut myself. Zalbag possessed a decade of experience in the matter and he still managed to nick himself here and there, despite the fact he now cultivated a fair amount of facial growth. Attempting to shave the fine whiskers off the edges of my jaw would only lead me to looking like the loser in a fight with a cuar.
"F-Fine," I muttered, sitting forward and leaning my chin out over the edge of the tub.
She came forward, dipping the brush into the water at my side and lathering up a generous amount of foam which she painted my throat and cheeks with. Lightly grasping my chin, she shaved off the light hairs which had sprouted on my face next to my ears. Her grip slid to grasp the left side of my face as the hand holding the razor slid to the right.
The tightening of her hand on my skull was the only warning I had. My hand shot up to grab the wrist of her hand holding the razor, forcing it away.
"Marquis Yarblek, only ten years ago," I noted, and saw her eyes darken as she glared at me. "Found dead in his tub with his throat slit. Did you think nobles didn't learn about tricks assassins use?"
Her hand dropped the razor. I caught her other hand as she attempted to punch me in the face. Standard practice so far. I was quite a bit stronger than her, and, awkward as it might be, I could easily subdue her now that I'd restrained her. She needed to gesture in a specific manner and chant to cast magic, and I was in a position to prevent both.
Which is why the burst of magic which slammed me away from her and displaced most of the water in the tub came as such a surprise.
She was running before I'd recovered, the door slamming shut behind her even as I climbed out of the tub and followed. By the time I got through the door, the only sign of her escape was the open window. Even as I ran to it, I knew she was long gone long before I cast my eyes over the rooftops and saw no sign.
My room burst open, and I dove for my sword before realizing it was Zalbag, blade in hand.
My brother, his face almost always stern, broke into a broad smile at the sight of me fumbling for a sword while naked, still dripping bathwater, and a beard of soap lather running below my jawline from one ear to another.
Some events even the legendary Beoulve stoicism aren't equipped to deal with.
I fumbled between embarrassment and mutual laughter as my older brother collapsed to the floor, cackling like a banshee and pounding the carpet with his fist.
This is basically FFT meets Ranma ½. I saw a Wild Mass Guessing entry on TVTropes and just had to give it a go. This opening chapter was a lot of exposition, basically explaining what's going on in this version of the FFT story and how things have changed. I tried to do it in an interesting way, and I hope I succeeded. The original WMG is as follows:
"Ramza was due to star in a Harem Anime, bound to wind up like Tenchi or Sena, until the war erupted.
The man rescues women left, right, and center and even has a potential Unlucky Childhood Friend or Victorious Childhood Friend in Teta/Tietra. Note that, without the war and everybody in the country going stab-happy, every woman he rescues are people he could have reasonably been expected to meet over the course of his life anyway. He would have met Agrias while she was guarding Ovelia, met Izlude and Meliadoul through Vormav and Dycedarg associating with one another, and probably would have foiled an assassination attempt by Barinten, leading Rafa to fall in love with him in the process."
So... Balbanes being alive and plotting with Orlandu = No War. So the story as a whole is going to be more lighthearted, though of course the Temple Knights who've succumbed to the Lucavi are still up to nefarious shenanigans.
This is basically going to be a lighter and softer take on FFT, with a large, heaping helping of Harem-Anime flavoured comedy poured onto the whole thing. I'm going to keep the sort of stiff, quasi-Propere Englishe tone I had with Purity Amidst Madness while flitting between characters for the first person perspective I'm going to employ each chapter. Check the title (i.e. Chapter 1: Ramza is from Ramza's point of view) if the first two paragraphs confuse you in the future, though I'll do my best to establish things so it's rather plain who's perspective I'm writing is obvious regardless.
Also, writing Rafa as an assassin was strange. And if you didn't notice that the dark-haired, dark-skinned serving girl was Rafa? For shame.
And yeah, I'm going to finish PAM. I just wanted to toss this out there since I'd written it.