Drawing his sword, Ramza charged across the dilapidated airship, the moldy, rotting wood creaking ominously under the force of his footsteps. It felt like an eternity since he had last seen his sister Alma, and he could hardly recall all the failed rescue attempts and dead-end leads he had followed in the wake of her kidnapping at Isilud's hands. He had finally found her in the airship graveyard of Mullonde, but she was dead to the world, ensorcelled by some manner of magical slumber. He didn't know if killing Formav, now the lionesque Lucavi Hashmal and the mastermind of the whole gruesome plot, would break the spell, but it would be eminently satisfying regardless.
The warrior unleashed a powerful blow on the towering devil, opening a large gash down the fiend's side. Hashmal roared in pain and fury before retaliating with a flurry of rapid-fire strikes. Ramza narrowly managed to evade them all; one particularly close swipe of the monster's razor-tipped claws had torn gouges out of his shield. The two exchanged several more blows before Ramza's companions arrived to take the heat off him, laying into the demon with devastating attacks of their own.
Over the pandemonium of battle, the blond leader heard a faint moan. Glancing over his shoulder, he was amazed to see Alma stirring. He quickly disengaged from the fray and raced to her side. "Alma!"
Sitting up with Ramza's help, Alma shook her head to clear the cobwebs from her mind. "Wh-where...where am I?"
Ramza threw his arms around his younger sister, embracing her as tightly as he dared. "It doesn't matter now, Alma – you're safe! Oh, thank the Gods, you're safe!"
"Ramza?" the blonde woman stammered weakly. "Is it...truly you?" Rising with some assistance from her brother, she scanned the area in an attempt to get her bearings. "How...how long have I been asleep?" When her question went unanswered, she turned back to see an embarrassed expression on the swordsman's face. "Ramza?"
Ramza laughed sheepishly and rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, uh, it's been about...fifteen years."
"Fifteen years?!" Alma exclaimed, suddenly fully awake.
"But y'know, you look good," the knight said, brushing off his sister's dismay. "How've you been?"
"I've been asleep," she replied, still struggling to comprehend the revelation.
"Well, I know," stated Ramza awkwardly, "but how've you been?"
"I don't know, Ramza, I've been asleep!" Alma exploded with suppressed rage. "What you do mean, fifteen years?!"
"Okay, maybe it took me a little longer to find my way here than I thought," the warrior admitted in a somewhat defensive tone, "but there were a lot of important things that needed doing."
The noblewoman crossed her arms, appearing entirely unconvinced. "Such as?" she inquired coolly.
Ramza scratched his head. "Let's see," he recounted thoughtfully. "I averted a major battle at Fort Besselat, sprung Count Orlandeau from jail, killed most of the Lucavi—"
"Count Orlandeau?" interrupted Alma eagerly. "How is he? Is he here?"
The fighter winced. "Actually, he passed away a few years ago – caught a bad case of pneumonia. It was a real shame, but he was getting up there in years, so..." He trailed off, trying to remember where he'd left off. "Oh yeah, Dycedarg and Zalbaag are dead, too. Dycedarg killed Zalbaag, and then we killed Dycedarg, though we had to kill Zalbaag again..." He grimaced at the memory. "You don't want to hear about that, it was pretty unpleasant."
Alma looked horrified. "Our brothers...dead?" she croaked.
"You shouldn't feel sorry for Dycedarg – he turned out to be a right evil bastard," Ramza said with a shrug. "But yeah, it's just you and me now. Anyway, after that I stormed the Church's headquarters at Mullonde, helped Beowulf find his fiancée and change her back from a dragon – it's a long story—" He smacked his fist into his palm. "Say, you haven't met Beowulf yet, have you?" Spinning around, he waved at the ensuing conflict. "Hey Beowulf, this is my sister Alma!"
"Little busy right now, Ramza!" Beowulf yelled back, plainly occupied.
"He's a cool guy, you'll like him," the soldier said as he turned back to face his sister. Behind him, his crew finished pummeling Hashmal into the ground, causing the devil to explode and illuminate the dark environment with brilliant yellow incandescence briefly. The Zodiac Stone dropped to the floor of the airship, giving the combatants a much-need chance to chance their breath. Without warning, however, a blinding pillar of blue light engulfed Alma, causing her to scream in soul-rending agony. "Ooh, that can't be good," he said, stating the obvious.
Alma stumbled free of the beam just before it vanished, revealing a triumphant Ajora, the phony saint. She collapsed into her brother's arms, clinging to him for support. "Ajora!" she gasped, enfeebled by her ordeal. "You must kill her...quickly!"
"Yeah, yeah, in a minute," replied Ramza dismissively. "So—"
"To thwart my coming," Ajora began, "you would dare—"
The nobleman turned on the archdevil, giving her a withering look. "Hey, gimme a minute here, will you?!" he bellowed. "It's been awhile since I've seen my sister, okay?!" He returned his attention to Alma, ignoring the outrage radiating from the ancient evil and the shock on his sister's face. "So as I was saying, we killed the celebrant who cursed Beowulf's fiancée – he kidnapped her because he thought that would make her love him. Talk about creepy, am I right? Also, we picked up some other new team members, like a sky pirate, a robot, some weird horned monster from deep underground, a guy from another dimension..."
"What?" Alma groaned, confused. She leaned away from Ramza and attempted to stand on her own, though she was still unsteady.
"...mopped up some Northern Sky deserters," Ramza continued blithely, "explored an unfathomably deep cave network – that's where we found the monster – collected almost all of the Zodiac Stones, including a thirteenth one I'd never heard of before, finally got around to celebrating Agrias's birthday – Mustadio gave her some very nice lip rouge—"
"I don't understand," the blonde aristocrat broke in. "Was all this really that important? Formav's plan could have come to fruition at any time! I thought time was of the essence!"
"Ha!" the swordsman chortled, highly amused by his sister's statement. "Let me tell you something about villains: they can't get anything done without a hero around to watch them do it! Isn't that right, Ajora?"
"I suffer spite—"
"See?" Ramza cut in, leaving the archfiend spitting with indignation. "I had all the time in the world." He rubbed his chin as he tried to think, paying no heed as she transformed into Ultima the High Seraph and summoned four Ultima Demons to assist her, his squad scrambling to reform their ranks. "What else, what else...we mastered every form of combat and six schools of magic – did you know you can cast spells with math? It's crazy!"
"Please tell me you're almost finished," Alma whimpered, shooting nervous glances at the assortment of impatient and thoroughly pissed off fiends nearby.
"I think the last thing we did was about a million errands: salvage, investigating, some contests, exploring..." The blademaster puffed out his chest with pride. "I'm a Master Treasure Hunter and Adventurer now. I've got medals and everything!"
Alma had finally had enough, and could contain her anger no longer. "You mean to tell me that you spent fifteen years wandering around Ivalice doing odd jobs?!" she shrieked.
"Noooo..." Ramza answered slowly, holding up a hand, "I spent five years doing odd jobs. The rest I spent doing all the other stuff I mentioned."
"I can't believe you!" the noblewoman screamed, flailing her arms in impotent rage. "I was a teenager when I was put under, and now I'm thirty! I should have been a mother by now, but instead I'm practically middle-aged! All because you were gallivanting around the country doing everything but resolving the crisis that's been plaguing Ivalice for over a year!"
"You mean, over sixteen years," the blond knight corrected automatically. He opened his mouth to comment on how well she seemed to have aged, but quickly changed his mind when he saw her turning red with apoplectic fury. "Look," he said, trying to mollify her, "we're almost done, really. All we have to do is kill Ajora, and then we can go home. You've seen my team in action – this is going to be a pretty one-sided fight, especially with your help."
Alma glared fiercely at her brother for a long moment, then turned her back on him. "I'll be over there," she stated stiffly, gesturing at the far end of the assembled group tensely waiting for them to finish, "casting Aegis on everyone but you." As she stomped away, one of the demons made a move to intercept her, but when she gave it the evil eye, it wisely decided to get out of her way and let her pass.
Ramza sighed and reluctantly rejoined his companions. He glanced at Alma, but she refused to even look in his direction.
"I told you we should have gotten here sooner," Agrias commented dryly.
"Ah, shut up," groused Ramza grumpily.