Nausicaä hid in her secret room below the castle, sitting cross-legged on the floor with Teto in her lap. She had turned the water back on as soon as she returned to the castle and had managed to salvage a few of her plants. She'd gotten rid of the dead ones, and now was working on growing new plants from new spores.
She wasn't working today, though. She was wrapped up deep within her own thoughts, the sleeping fox-squirrel in her lap all but forgotten.
Her father, the king, was dead. It was Nausicaä's responsibility to take care of the Valley and its people now. They mourned the loss of the king, of their comrades, even of their forest, and they turned to the princess for guidance. She was doing all that she could, but she, too, was grieving.
Teto awoke and climbed up to Nausicaä's shoulder, nuzzling her cheek and wiping away the single tear that slid down her cheek.
"You're right, Teto," she said quietly, getting to her feet. "I shouldn't stay down here alone."
She ascended the long flights of stairs back to her bedroom. Just as she let the secret door fall shut behind her, there was a hesitant knock on her bedroom door.
Nausicaä steeled herself for a long talk with another bereft villager and opened the door, but let her guard down when she saw Asbel.
He smiled half-heartedly. "Hey. I just came to… see how you were doing, I guess."
She returned his sad smile and stepped back to let him into her room. "I've had better days." Teto hopped off her shoulder and wandered over to her chair by the window, curling up to continue his nap in the sun. Nausicaä and Asbel seated themselves on the edge of Nausicaä's bed.
To break the silence, Nausicaä asked, "When are you going to go back to Pejite?" She felt a twist in her belly as she said it. She didn't want him to leave.
Asbel shrugged. "I don't know yet. My people don't depend on me the way your people depend on you. They're already rebuilding the city, with the help of the kind volunteers you lent us."
"It's the least I could do," she answered, not meeting his eye.
"I kind of… I really like it here," Asbel said carefully. "I'd like to stay awhile longer, if you don't mind."
Finally she looked up at him, a small smile tweaking the corner of her mouth. "You can stay as long as you like," she told him. "I like having you here."
He smiled back at her, sliding his hand over top of hers. He squeezed, offering a moment's comfort.
"I'll stand by you tomorrow, Nausicaä," he said to her, sombrely.
The sadness returned to her eyes. "I don't know if I can do it," she confessed quietly.
The next morning, the Valley of the Wind was holding a huge funeral in honour of their king. Lord Yupa was to look after the burial and blessing, but Nausicaä was expected to speak to the Valley about her father; to tell the story of his life and rule and to say a goodbye for all of their people. She had been thinking for days about what she would say, but couldn't stay at it without crying. Yupa, Mito and Asbel had all been trying to help her through it.
Asbel moved her hand out from in between them and scooted over on the bed to wrap his arm around her shoulders. "You'll make it, Nausicaä."
And then she couldn't help it; she began to cry again. "I can't believe he's gone," she sobbed, leaning into Asbel's side. He hugged her tightly against his side and let her cry into his jacket until she calmed down. When she finally wiped her eyes and looked up into his face, he was crying too.
"I lost my sister," he said quietly. "My twin sister. She's gone, and I wasn't even there. I never said a proper goodbye."
Tears still running down her cheeks, Nausicaä reached for Asbel's far hand and held it tightly, wishing she could make something about this right.
He squeezed back and then reached up to wipe her tears with his thumb. "None of this should have happened to you. I hate to see you cry."
She swallowed, unable to respond without crying again.
He pulled on her side, stretching out on her bed and tugging her down to join him. He laid on his back, and she on her side with her head on his chest. He kept his arms around her, one hand rubbing her back to comfort her.
They laid in silence for a few minutes, and Nausicaä began to feel drowsy. She was barely awake when Asbel spoke again.
"We'll make it through this together," he promised, pulling her up and lifting her chin so that he could look her in the eye. His face was so sincere that Nausicaä had to believe him.
Then Asbel tugged her up just a little bit closer and kissed her soundly. After a moment he pulled away and dropped his head back onto the pillow, eyes still shut.
Nausicaä watched his face for a moment, but his expression was unreadable. Finally she stretched up and kissed him on the cheek. He didn't move or open his eyes, but a smiled twitched at his lips.
"Promise you'll be here for me?" she asked.
"I promise," he answered.