Final Fantasy Tactics: Across the Threshold of Ivalice (Ramza/Alma)



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Myst Knight

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WARNING: This fic features a Ramza/Alma pairing (sibling romance), and some upcoming references to sexual abuse, concerning Rafa Galthana. If this material offends you, please turn back now! Of course, I'm not actually advertising the concepts in this story. It's just a fic.

Note: This story takes place in a different continuity than my other fanfic: "A Knight and His Lady." In "Knight", Ramza's allies survive the Graveyard of Airships, but in "Threshold", only Ramza and Alma survive the Graveyard of Airships.

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A Knight and His Lady

A Final Fantasy Tactics Fanfiction by Myst Knight

Disclaimer: Final Fantasy Tactics is owned by Square Enix. I write this without consent, and am making no money off of it.

This story is rated T for Ideologically sensitive material (forbidden sibling romance), violence, some references to sex, and brief mention of sexual abuse (Rafa). For OLDER TEEN AND UP.

No offense intended by the controversial content (and as always, don't try this at home!)


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Orbonne Monastery, Middle Ages
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The sweet smell of cloverleaf washed into the cathedral on the lazy afternoon currents hounding the area. It coasted down the stone walls and through the open doorway like a rain-drenched butterfly searching desperately for shelter. Like that same butterfly, a single flick of foliage fluttered in through the doors into a stained-glass paradise. It looped and somersaulted through a meandering path before landing beside a blond-haired boy who, too, looked like he had been searching for a place to rest.

Ramza awoke to the light hitting his face and the cloverleaf tickling his nose. He thrashed about absently on the cool, marble floor, as if snuggling under a bundle of disheveled sheets. "Alma, not now," he muttered groggily, not quite in tune with the waking world. "We'll play the reed flutes some other time."

"Alma?...Alma!" Upon hearing his own voice call the name of his beloved sister, Ramza opened up his shining eyes to the cold caress of reality. In an almost comical fashion, he flopped and groaned like a fish before managing to find his footing on the floor of the abandoned monastery. Managing an upright landing, the young lad scrambled around the building, looking desperately for some sign of the missing girl.

The memories of the horrific battle upon the fallen Airship has started trickling in. Like a bad dream, the Blood Angel Altima advanced upon young Ramza, knocking aside his comrades like bothersome blood-bugs. He could only watch as the last line of defense, made up of a near-family-like group of friends, were dealt with swiftly and harshly by the wrongly exalted menace to Ivalice. Yet, standing in front of his sister Alma, there was not room for retreat or remorse, only for battle.

And yet, that sister of his was determined to fight alongside him, even as beleaguered she was then. Looking more like a deity than Altima ever could, the girl stood her ground and poured her soul into one last protective spell, sending herself into unconsciousness with the expended energy. The memories were already becoming vague-ish, but he couldn't recall what had happened to his closest sibling and friend. Had Alma given up her much-fought-for existence to save her own rescuer?

He couldn't have it.

Practically tearing apart the quaint little citadel, Ramza went all out in his continuing search for Alma. He had fought so hard for her, and to think she would throw it away for something as simple as his own life. Already his mind was contemplating a way to return to Murond Death City and the Graveyard of Airships, ready to fight off a thousand Altimas if it meant the safety of his sister.

As it turned out, he needn't have worried.

A quiet little sigh whispered to Ramza's right, knocking him momentarily out of his frantic search. Moving away from the confession booth he had been examining, he calmed his nerves and proceeded towards the head of the cathedral. Beyond the new organ tucked away in the corner of the church was a small altar table, engraved with the writings of the fiend he had slain. Nevertheless, it brought forth from the war-born boy a sigh of relief, upon finding the figure resting upon it was alive and well.

Sprawled across the altar like a sacrifice was his sister Alma, a pretty girl perhaps one year younger than himself. Flaxen hair in a ponytail hung from the back of her head, falling behind her like the sands of time. The pink skirt she wore drooped slightly towards the floor, the garment being too long to fit onto the stone bench. And her soft face was relaxed in utter peace, her lips pursed in a calm little line that could even perhaps break out into a sort of smile.

Ramza drunk in the serene beauty of his only family, letting his gaze travel from the tips of her boots to the top of her sweet little head. For a brief moment, he felt awkward for staring at Alma so, but he brushed it off soon enough. His sister was beautiful, something no man, husband or brother, could deny. It was something that had to end, however, for the afternoon was late, and it was time to leave.

The boy was saved from the burden of waking her when Alma's eyes fluttered up on their own, revealing crystalline irises the same color as his. They blinked unsteadily for a moment, still getting used to the difference between the airships and the monastery, when they set sight upon the comforting shape before her. "Brother Ramza?" she asked, wondering if the boy was perhaps a phantom of imagination.

"I'm here, Alma," he said, unable to keep the relieved smile from his sister.

The girl seemed to be processing this information for the moment. "Ramza..." she whispered, her large eyes flickering before bursting open in a complete rush of joy and recognition. "Oh, Ramza!" Alma cried out, leaping up and embracing the boy with a surprising burst of energy. "I thought I lost you for good!"

Ramza was taken aback by her sheer affection, but quickly found it within himself to hug Alma back, bringing her to him. Her chest pressed snugly against his, and he could feel the pitter-patter of her heart bumping in her body. He let himself get washed away in the waves of love, forgetting the pain of battle he had so recently been subject to. The blood of his enemy stained his hands, yet everything was perfect once again in the arms of his sister.

The boy found himself a bit disappointed when he found Alma disengaging from their closeness, though she still held him at arm's length. He opened up his eyes to find the girl staring at him though pleading, almost-fearful eyes. "Where are the others?" she asked, her voice rigid with the tension that had built up in the seconds they broke apart. Afraid of the answer she already knew was coming.

Ramza knew he could not deny her anything that he had had, least of all the truth, as much as he wanted to. "I've not seen them since the explosion at the airship," he said softly, looking into her eyes to convey the harsh facts to her. "They're gone, Alma."

Alma actually scooted away from the boy for a moment, as if not wanting to hear such news even from a loved one. But soon, his steadfast eyes brought forth the tender meaning within, and hers were glistening with the hurt she held for her brother's loss. "Oh, Ramza," she said softly, bringing her head into the boy's chest. "I'm so sorry."

Ramza let his hand bury itself into her sandy blond hair, bringing her close to his heart like the most important keepsake. Letting himself comfort her as well as being comforted. "Now you know the sadness of war," he said with sage-like finality, feeling much older than his tender years.

Alma nodded against him, not looking up to meet his eyes. "I know."

The two sat in each other's arms across the meaningless altar, taking care of each other with tenderness only born to tragedy. It was not clear whether the situation was that of a sister comforting a saddened brother, or a wife caring for a warrior husband. Ramza at last let a single tear escape his stoic gaze, letting it fall upon the marble floor with a shattering pop. A broken tear for allies lost to war, and for friends sorely missed.

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*****
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The outside of Orbonne Monastery was a far cry from its interior, it must be said. While the inside of the chapel prompted strictness and reverence with its restrictive stained glass, the outside seemed to revel in the freedom and frivolity of the open sun. Every daisy planted seemed even more alive, every vine rising in triumph with the glorious day. It was a shame that the two youths there couldn't see past their difficulties and enjoy it properly.

For the Beoulve siblings were still there, even after a whole hour of preparation. And they were arguing.

"Are you crazy?!" Ramza exclaimed, driving his sister back from where she stood. "How could you even think of wanting to come along?"

"I told you before, brother," Alma repeated, managing not to cow down from the sheer force of the other's will. "I want to be by your side always, even if it means leaving my home forever."

"You can't be serious," he said more evenly, turning his back on the girl. "There are horrible dangers out there even the Lion War probably can't prepare you for."

Alma was thoroughly unshakable. "I know I'll be prepared for anything, as long as we're together," she said sincerely, though nothing but an exasperated sigh was received from Ramza.

The two had been engaged in a fierce row involving the nature of their so-called demise. With the explosion emanating from Murond Death City attracting the attention of those that had known them, both Ramza and Alma were assumed dead, giving the older Beoulve just the excuse he needed to slip out of Ivalice now and forever. But there was no reason why Alma had to come along for something as simple as moral support. She could have found some other way to remain in Ivalice, instead of making off with him like the heathen that he had made himself into.

And yet, somewhere deep within Ramza's heart, he knew that any verbal tactics he used would never be enough to convince his sister. Alma was of the indomitable Beoulve nature, the way of the warrior that unfortunately was not transferred well to Zalbag and Dycedarg. Though Zalbag had eventually found it within his heart to be a true Beoulve, that was never any question to where the girl's heart lay. It was as Father always said: nothing happens without a Beoulve.

And that included Alma.

He had to try again, though. "Alma, you always loved Ivalice," he rationalized, adding a new tact in his logic. "Do you really want to leave this beautiful land for a dead man like myself?"

At this, Alma looked away, seeming to consider this for the first time. "I...I do love Ivalice," she said quietly, looking towards the lovely monastery she had spent field trips and summers at. However, she soon lost that glimmer in her eyes, and had quickly replaced it with hard determination. "But I love you more."

Before Ramza could react any further, she took his hand within her own, cradling it like some small, lonely animal. "When I was held captive by Vormav, I made a promise to myself," she started, staring directly into his eyes with crystalline compassion. "I promised I would return to the man I loved, and stay by his side for as long as I could." Her eyes now glowing with love, and even passion, for the one that held such a close place in her heart. "It's you, brother, and I never want to leave your side. Not if you marry someone else, nor if you become the poorest soul in the land."

The faintly romantic touch in her speech was not lost on the boy, and he soon turned various different shades of red. True, it had been a long time since that time they had shared traveling from Lesalia Imperial Castle to this very monastery, but its effect were such that their relationship still had that slight change to it. After some harrowing heart-to-heart in the Zeklaus Desert, they had shared a brief, tender kiss, one that surpassed their status as sister and brother. Alma had obviously not forgotten it, and neither could he.

A cold chill enveloped Ramza's body, like the metallic twang of a holy sword. He wrapped his arms around himself, the ghosts of yesterday wandering through his head. The forbidden love Ramza and Alma were flirting with had been significant to Agrias as well, back when she was still with them. A most unfortunate incident it was, indeed.

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*****
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"How could you, Ramza?" the woman launched at her leader, standing up to her full height. "How could you perpetrate such an act?!"

"Agrias, that's not fair," he responded with all the courage he could muster, though even now he could feel himself weakening. "You know my relationship with Alma has nothing to do with our fight."

"And you kept it a secret from me, too!" she continued, near oblivious to the boy's defense. "Tell me, were you ever going to tell us, or were you and your sister going to run off in the middle of the night like the Death Corps?"

The Holy Knight's accusations bit Ramza's soul to the core. "I...I don't know what to say," he said hollowly, feeling more guilt than he had since the death of Teta. This got nothing more than a snort from Agrias, and she promptly turned away from him in a frustrated huff.

The two were deep within the woods, quite a ways away from the encampment that even now was plotting how to best aid their leader. Alma had just been seized by Izlude, and everyone was in frantic-mode trying to figure out a way to save her. Agrias had been looking for clues among Alma's dropped belongings when she had stumbled upon the younger girl's diary. It was then she discovered the true nature of the relationship between her and her brother.

Agrias was known to be a deeply religious person, reverently following the ways of Ajora. Traveling with Ramza was something she thought her god would approve of, but all she had experienced thus far was the steady crumbling of her faith. Demonic angels, priests gone wrong, it was a disciple's worst nightmare come true for her. And now, discovering a relationship like this was happening under her nose, it must've felt like a final slap to the face.

Ramza heard a brief sniffle emanate from her back, and could now tell she was crying. "I guess it was just a matter of time before you turned your back on the faith," Agrias said bitterly, angrily wiping the signs of her weakness away. "But how can you expect me to turn away? Protecting Ovelia, serving Ajora, my two goals in life are both gone now. What is left for me now?"

The young man growled in frustration as his own mistakes, of letting his trusted ally and friend fall to her own doubts. Gathering up his nerves, he walked over to the braided woman and placed a hand on her shoulder. "None of what I have with Alma was about deliberate sin," he said softly, squeezing her through the roughly woven mail she wore. "But I deeply apologize for hurting you."

Agrias only sobbed roughly, trying weakly to brush his hand away. Determined not to let things end like this, Ramza drew the woman into an embrace, their breastplates clanking against each other. "Please stay by my side, and trust me again," he said, hoping that it wasn't too late to reach her. "I promise we'll find something else to believe in."

Agrias was like a breaking dam, rocks crumbling off her soul into the all-consuming waters of oblivion. Then, very gradually, she began to turn in his arms, embracing the boy as she finally let her own tears fall.

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*****
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Ramza woke up from this brief recollection, though his eyes were still closed with remorse. Although the two had eventually made up, Agrias still carried a region of doubt for a long time, concerning her god and their love. She had eventually grown to accept their attraction and even fight for it, when confronted with the cruel monster that her deity truly was. Those words she said still haunted him, though, as she meant them with all her heart that day she had been hurt so badly.

He shook off his doubts the best he could. No matter what Agrias on anybody else said or felt, his relation with Alma was what it was. There was no way to deny the mutual attraction they felt now; to do so would only be a lie.

And perhaps it was that reason why Alma was destined to follow after him, like the love-struck girl she was.

One more time, just to make sure. "Alma, is this what you truly want?" he asked her, looking in her in the face seriously. "I'm...I'm not sure if I can give you what you need."

Alma looked slightly disappointed in the implications in his speech, but nodded nonetheless. "I'm ready, brother," she said, mustering up some enthusiasm to go with her affirmation. "No matter what happens between us, we'll be together."

Ramza looked into the watery wells of her eyes, searching for any sign of doubt. Then, finally, he turned away briskly. "Then let's get one of the Chocobos ready for your use," he said, walking over to where own trusty Chocobo, Boco, stood at the ready. "We're going to be traveling a lot before we leave."

Alma's brief excitement at winning the verbal battle had soon turned to confusion, as her brother mounted his steed. "Before we leave?" she inquired, wrinkling her nose in a girlish manner.

The Squire peered over to the Cleric, grabbing the reins of his bird tightly. "I'm going to give you one last tour of Ivalice," he said, his expression one again becoming stern. "You may not ever see it again." He yanked briskly on the reins, prompting the bird to raise his head and start walking over to the encampment. "Let's hurry up."

Alma smiled briefly at her brother's go-get-'em attitude, wondering how he never seemed to change, even after all this time. And then she was running after him, where Ramza was keeping her own Chocobo from their brief journey so long ago.

Soon, they were off on their Chocobos, towards the new path they had forged with their words and hearts. And the beautiful sight of the Monastery remained sadly unnoticed, never to be seen by them again.

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*****
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A fresh, summer breeze blew past Alma, rustling the fabric of her skirt around her legs. Brushing her hair out of her face, the girl's eyes roved over the Mandalia plains, catching sight of Ramza plucking a few reeds from the ground ahead of her. She looked longingly towards her brother, much like a fairytale heroine would her prince. A soft sigh escaped her lips, as she wished for something that he may never let her have.

The siblings had been completing Ramza's promise to Alma, traveling across the country for nostalgic memories of old Ivalice. Upon returning to Igros, they had skulked around town visiting the various places of their youth. A trip to the Igros Aristocratic School brought particularly strange feelings to the young girl. Though she still wore the uniform on her shoulders, she felt that she had had grown out of simple school matters, had grown out of them for a long time now.

Even if Alma could permit herself to return to her old life, she knew in her heart that she could never fit in with it anymore. The Lion War had already effected her too much to see anything in the land other than the needless pain and suffering that brought about King Delita's reign. The schoolgirls operated as if nothing had changed, but the war had made Alma into much more than a schoolgirl. Even if it taken her a long time to convince her brother of just that.

Ramza's side is where Alma belonged now.

She turned again to face her brother, and let a wry smile crawl onto her lips. Although Ramza would always claim to be the big, bad, older brother, the fact was that the boy needed someone to take care of him. As a cleric, sister, and friend, she would dress his wounds and heal her own soul at the same time. They were a perfect match: crusading siblings on the path to righteousness.

She sighed. If only she could be what Ramza truly needed...

The clomping of boots caught her attention, and Alma turned to find Ramza returning from whatever errand he had in the fields. He was carrying a pair of newly-broken reeds in his right hand...and something else in his left. As she began to peer at whatever mystery object he held in his grasp, he quickly hid it beyond view, causing the girl to giggle. Secrets, secrets.

Regaining his composure, Ramza walked over to Alma and presented her with one of the reeds. "It's been awhile since you've practiced the reed flute," he said softly, the wind rustling his hair like a wild mane. "Why don't you try it now?"

Alma relented to her brother's polite directive, taking the slender plant from his hand and trying not to blush at his handsome features. The reed was already cut in the perfect position for playing, so she brought the 'mouthpiece' to her lips and prepared. Remembering the technique their late father had taught them, she puckered up and blew into the hole. The makeshift flute rewarded her with a soft, squealing noise that carried across the Mandalia plains.

"You're off key," was the only response she got from her brother, however. Her skirt billowed out as she turned to face Ramza, who was folding his arms and looking like what he was: a stern, military commander. "Try again."

Alma stiffened up with a small ire. "Excuse me, brother," she chanted indignantly, putting her hands on her hips. "But cleric school doesn't leave me much time for practicing. Not to mention being kidnapped."

"It doesn't matter how little time you have, Alma," he responded, shaking his head in disdain. "You practice the reed flute with what time you have." He grabbed a stick, and made like an instructor pointing on a chalk board. "Wake up at dawn, practice the flute. Eat breakfast, practice the flute."

It didn't take a Goug genius mechanic to realize that he was playing with her: a simple joke that Ramza used to infuriate her with as a child. Rather than getting incensed, however, Alma simply decided to play along with him. "And how will you punish me if I refuse, dearest Ramza?" she replied with a mock haughtiness to her tone.

"With consequences," he replied simply, slipping up behind her and reaching down for the hem of her skirt. Alma suddenly felt a cool draft strike her knickers, and she realized that Ramza had lifted her skirt and was preparing to swat her on the underside.

"Yeep!" the girl squeaked, a red hot flush flowing to her face. "Get away!" Snatching back the hem from Ramza's daring hands, she held her skirt against her buttocks to prevent him from uncovering her again. The young man just laughed, and grabbed her arms in an attempt to wretch them away from that which they shielded. Soon, the two were engaged in a mock-wrestling match, giggling like schoolchildren on a break from the teacher's rule.

Ramza was just starting to make headway, due to his superior strength, when Alma surprised him by suddenly letting go of his hands. Confused, the boy stumbled ungainly for a moment, giving her the perfect opportunity to lay a shove on his chest. The boy indeed went sprawling head over heals, but not before grabbing onto Alma's sleeve and dragging her along with him. A slip and two screams later, and they both found themselves on the grass below, one on top of the other.

Alma looked down from her perch on top of the boy, straight into his pool-like eyes. The muddled waters within twinkled with uncertainty, and the girl found herself blushing for the second time that day. This time, the blush was not so much in shame as it was in desire, a resurfacing passion like a desert bloom in the spring. With fulfillment a hair away, she gulped down her own nervousness and let herself travel to Ramza for a tender kiss.

The kiss began someone cautiously, yet quickly opened up into a truly intimate affair as they drunk slowly from each other's lips. Their arms wrapped around the other in an embrace as their bodies melted against each other like candle wax on a cane. Alma found that Ramza was actually caressing her, running his rugged hands over her soft skin through the brownish shirt. All too soon, the two had to come up for air, and lips separated with a final smack.

Alma sighed in bliss, her chest heaving from the sheer emotional overload of the contact. "I love you, Ramza," she gasped passionately, her head entrenched in the boy's shoulder blade.

"And I you," Ramza said, placing his hand on her frazzled hair and running his hands through the peach-like strands.

They kissed again, and sought to explore each other's pleasures.

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Note: No, no, this story won't be going into any risque territory on-screen! It's just a "fade to black" moment, in case you think the ratings going to go up. More coming soon.

Next Up- Part 2
 

KingdomKey

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Wow, it's sad to think in that fight they've lost their comrades. I was used to them being around. And Agrias, I feel terrible for her. Losing what matters to her most, then having a total break down is a shame. I suppose now it's just Alma and Ramza, who are left alive to carry on fighting together in the war. I do appreciate the "fade to black" moment because, we can't get risque on screen due to kids lurking about on KHI. xD Beyond that, I actually really liked that part! You wrote their chemistry and romance incredible well. Anyways, I enjoyed the chapter overall. I'm glad in the aftermath they'll still have each other. Looking forward to part 2.
 
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I was wondering if you're going to go off of FFT's ending, and I'm glad you did. It makes sense that they traveled Ivalice one last time before they left, it would explain how they run into Olan again. But it is sad to see everyone gone, though I suppose Ramza is used to that kind of thing by now. I'm not sure how part 2 will play out, but I look forward to it.
 

Myst Knight

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Thanks for the comments, guys. Writing two versions of the story, one where Agrias and co. survive (A Knight and His Lady) and one where they die (Across the Threshold of Ivalice) lets me do different things with the Ramza/Alma relationship. Actually, I characterize Agrias differently in these two stories; in "Knight" she's more accepting of Ramza/Alma's relationship, while in "Threshold" she has religious objections. "Knight" concentrates on her desire to protect Ovelia, while "Threshold" concentrates more on her holy background.

Part 2:

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*****
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It was turning out to be a hot night in the Mandalia Plains, the balmy weather dragging down the nightlife to a crawl. Not even the predatory monster felt like going on the hunt, preferring instead to wait out the meal another day. Of course, one was never completely safe in the wild, especially on an open field such as this. But the Beoulves always did know a few things about avoiding a battle, and all the necessary preventative wards were set into place.

Ramza rested his back against one of the large rocks that dotted the area, dressed once more in his knightly duds, sans the armor. His gaze meandered back and forth across the starscape, trying to pick out the various constellations that he remembered vaguely from his school days. He looked at Alma in his arms, still clad in her turtle-neck and skirt, still trying to snuggle up to him in her sleep. When her knee started to cut into his thigh, he repositioned the girl in his arms, trying to get them both comfortable for the remainder of the night.

Staring at his beautiful sister, he exhaled a long breath into the muggy air around him. What on earth had changed his relationship with Alma from the strong sib-ship it was then to the unparalleled closeness they shared now? How had he forgotten the dirtiness tales of incest he heard exemplified in the Brave Story he studied as a boy? And why was it so wonderful?

A soft coo escaped from Alma's lips, as she again pressed her legs closer into Ramza. The boy stiffened for a brief moment before relaxing, once more wrapping his arms around the girl. It just happened, he supposed with a solemn smile on his face. It was now something he could not stand to be without.

Female companionship was something that Ramza had never sought, even through the hardships of war. Though all of the young ladies traveling in his ranks were considered close friends, Alma was always the one that could fulfill him, heart and soul. Taking their relationship to the next level was completion, better than having a thousand mistresses from the Igros nobility. Everything he ever needed and was denied truly rested in his arms, and all he had to do was accept it.

Ramza looked away from his sister for the moment, his gaze settling on something far beyond the stars in the sky. Finding out his feelings may have been nigh impossible, save the help of one of those young ladies he had met in his journey. Knowing what such a relationship was truly like helped him indefinitely on his path to Alma's young heart. If only she could know just how much her advice had meant to him. "Rafa..."

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*****
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"What's wrong, Ramza?" a soft, female voice broke through Ramza's silent contemplation, causing the boy to look at his most recent companion. "Is it your sister?"

He gave forth a short, sad smile to the other. "Yeah," he responded with a nod, though his eyes didn't quite lock onto hers.

"You'll get her back," the young woman said, correcting the boy's mistake by gazing meaningfully into his pupils. "I can sense your determination, so I know you'll make it turn out alright."

"I only hope you're right, Rafa," he sighed, staring down at the ground and tracing a jagged path in the dirt with his finger.

Ramza and Rafa were sitting together at the edge of the Fovoham Plains, watching the grasshoppers going flick-flickering by. They had already formed a close friendship in the short time they had been together, perhaps because of how much they reminded each other of their respective siblings. It still amazed Ramza how the young assassin managed to remain herself even after all the horrors she had been through. Perhaps he had taken the resilience of human nature for granted, thinking that only soldier-training could make you immune to such things.

"You love her a lot, don't you?" Rafa said softly.

Ramza felt a small twinge at the potential double-meaning coming from her words, but he ignored it. "Of course," he responded in a causal voice. "She's my little sister."

"No," the young woman reaffirmed, shaking her head and sending her hair flopping to and fro. "I mean you love her in the way a man loves a woman."

Ramza wasn't taken off guard very often, but apparently Rafa also carried Alma's gift of doing just that. "I...that is..." he stuttered, floundering about like a fish out of water. "...how did you know?" he finished up, finally managing to create the illusion of composure.

"I told you I can sense these things," she said simply, then looked down at the ground with a measure of guilty knowledge. "...and Agrias told me."

Ramza sighed weakly. He wouldn't expect the Holy Knight to be a gossip, but the slight animosity that had developed between him and her could show up in surprising ways. Perhaps she was just letting the Heaven Knight know about the details concerning the boy's loss. Though he knew such a thought was wishful thinking, he really hoped that Agrias had forgiven him about now.

Rafa caught onto his sence of discomfort, and put a hand on his shoulder. "Hey, don't get discouraged," she said amiably, trying to comfort him through the thick armor on his shoulder. "I think it's a beautiful thing, what you and Alma have."

Ramza looked back over to the girl, peering at her through the corner of his eye. "You don't find it strange?" he asked her, becoming a bit uncertain in his actions with his sister.

"Not in these times of war," she answered him, "Sometimes, the only comfort you can find is in the arms of someone you know loves you." She looked away for a bit, biting her lip in a cute manner. "I know first-hand how it can feel, the touch of someone you love. It's wonderful."

He nearly gasped at the implication that Rafa was giving him. "You mean...you and Malak...?" he wondered, leaning away from the girl in surprise.

She nodded shyly, amazing without the slightest hint of a blush.

Ramza remained silent for a moment, slowly processing this new information the best way he knew how. "How did it happen?" he asked, once he had regained his poise.

"Malak asked if there was anything he could do to relieve me of the stench of Bariten," she stated, her voice holding a mix between old wounds and new love. "I asked him if he might make love to me instead. At the time, there was nothing more I wanted but to erase the feel of that man's dirty hands with the tender touch of someone I loved. And Malak granted me that."

Rafa raised her head to face Ramza, smiling with a happy flush on her face. "It was like all the love I felt for him had multiplied ten-fold," she told him sincerely, trying to figure out the best way to express her love for her brother. "At that moment, all the pain and fear I had suffered melted away in the heat of the night. When we awoke the next morning, the first thing I could recall was making him promise to never leave me, to stay by my side forever. And he told me he wanted that too."

She took a deep breath, fighting for the right words to tell Ramza. "I don't think one should turn away from something like that," she tried, gesticulating heavily with her hands. "Maybe it's wrong or immoral, but I know your Alma waits for you the same way I waited for my Malak. I know you won't disappoint her, Ramza." Here, Rafa gave the young man a winsome smile, the same one she no doubt gave to Malak in their closer moments. "You're much too good for something like that."

Ramza stared at the girl, the compliment bring an embarrassed smile to his face. "I think I understand," he said, letting some serenity flow into his form.

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*****
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And in that moment on the plains, with his beautiful sister in his arms, he truly did. He brought the girl closer to him, relishing in the feel of her soft skin against his own.

"Thank you, Rafa," he told the stars above, hoping that the gentle spirit of the Heaven Knight could hear him. Hoping that she was together with her brother in whatever world truly lay beyond his.

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*****
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Morning crept above the castle town of Igros, not even bothering to wake the sleepy citizens still tucked in their sheets. The dawn was somewhat clouded, as only a few rays of sunlight broke through the dark overcast hanging over the rooftops. The cobblestone streets were more on less abandoned, leaving nothing but street-lamps as a sign of life. All the better for Ramza and Alma, who were supposed to be dead anyway.

The siblings were strolling the streets together, keeping to themselves and not talking with anyone. With brisk steps, they traveled from the intersections to the alleyways, never staying in one part of the city for long. Both of them wore large cloaks over their clothing, hiding their identities to all but the most observant fellows. None of that curious sort were out at this time, though, so they were spared from having their identities exposed in some way.

Alma kept more or less kept to herself during the journey, but kept looking back towards Ramza, who stared mutely ahead at the road before him. The young man had been dragging her to various underground stores for road supplies, though he never let her actually go inside them. Funny thing was, they had already gotten all that they needed, and he remained silent still. But every time she attempted to confront him about it, she found herself stopping, feeling awkward about disturbing him.

As Alma continued to wonder what her brother was thinking, Ramza was leading them up a small hill, where a quaint little building perched at the top. They were now at the outskirts of Igros, and the mammoth mansions of the rich had been replaced by wooden cottages and dairy farms. In truth, she had never really been in this section of Igros before, having spent most of her life in the high-class section of the city. She mentally cursed herself as having wasted another opportunity to get close and intimate with her hometown.

The climb began to become aggravating, as it turned out to be not such a small hill after all. Step by step, Alma's energy was draining, her legs feeling like rusted pistons in one of Mustadio Bunanza's machines. Could there possibly be anything to gain in such a climb? "Brother Ramza, where are you taking us?" she said at last, unable to take the mystery anymore.

"A place I've often thought about during the Lion War," he responded mysteriously, staring up ahead at the nearing building.

Alma looked away and put a finger to her lips, trying to figure out what he meant. But in the time it took for her to come up with a blank, Ramza had clammed up again, so she had no more opportunity to converse with him.

The two continued in silence up the hill, which somehow grew steeper with every step. The trees were becoming slanted due to the odd angle of the soil, and a few rocks poked up every now and again. Alma bore the burden with admirable resilience however, saying nothing about the beads of sweat rushing down her temple. If there was one thing she was against, it was slowing down her brother.

The top of the hill was almost within reach, and Alma took a moment to gather her strength and wits. Letting Ramza overtake her, she breathed in a batch of fresh air, letting it chill her heaving lungs. Once she was ready, she traveled the few remaining feet to the top...where she was hit with an open-mouth shock. For a small church was standing only a few meters from where she stood, glistening with a beam of light the clouds had decided to release for the theatrics.

"Sorry about the climb," Ramza was saying, walking to her from the front of the doubled doors. "But I wanted this to be a surprise."

"Brother, what is this?" she asked, although in her heart she knew what it was about.

Ramza then blushed a bit, thought outwardly he tried to keep his dignity. "It was always your dream to be wed in Ivalice, was it not?" he asked rhetorically, managing to retain eye contact with his sister. "Before I take you away forever, I must grant you this."

Alma stood stunned at the sight of her brother, now finally ready to give her everything. Right then, she didn't know how to take it. The whole thing was on the edges of her deepest childhood fantasies, a schoolgirl dream that could never come true. Ramza and Alma, together forever.

"B-but Ramza, you've already made love to me," she stuttered, once again turning into a shy, blushing eleven-year-old. "You don't need to do anything more." Because the fact was that Alma had no idea how to take this proposal, couldn't have known how to take it whether it was the Arch Bishop of Ivalice or her darling brother.

Ramza, once again, was unreachable. "It's not the same as being married," he insisted, once again her big brother. Yet, there was a strange change in his stern demeanor, a certain shyness that only came out when dealing with his sister. Alma too was silent, the tears already starting to flow to her eyes. She did not resist when Ramza took her hands within his own, cradling them like the delicate things they were.

"I'll always be your big brother, and I know I'm a bit of a boor," he stated carefully, as Alma silently agreed with him through a glimmer of mist. "But I truly want nothing more than to take care of you, if you'll have me."

Alma smiled and nodded, making a strange noise that was between a sniffle and a giggle.

It was a full three seconds before Ramza managed a deep enough breath to get out the words. "Alma, will you marry me?" he asked steadily, staring straight into her eyes for the question.

It took the girl all of one second to come up with her answer. "Yes, I will marry you, Ramza!" she cried out, laughing as she embraced her brother.

Through her joy, Alma could feel Ramza's arms encircle her once again, the familiar snugness of his arms washing her from head to toe with love. Only this time, she could feel a slight dampness tinge her garments, and it took a moment for her to realize that he, too, was crying. "I'm glad, Alma," he was saying, burying himself in her shoulder. "Truly, I'm glad."

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*****
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The border of Ivalice was a strange place indeed. Where the invisible line that separated this land and next stood, there seemed to be a harsh, immediate change in the surroundings. The large oaks of Ivalice gave way to gangly, windburned trees that clawed their ways unsteadily towards the sky in an attempt to secure their lives. Only the mushrooms seemed to have an easy time surviving, for that popped up everywhere in this unusual, foreign world they found themselves in.

The newly wed Ramza and Alma Ruglia found it beautiful.

"It feels strange to be leaving Ivalice after all this time " Ramza told his wife, staring off toward the distance. "Does it you, Alma?"

"Yes," Alma responded with a smile, still fingering the ring Ramza created for her out of Mandalian roots and twine. "But I know together, we can make this new land our home."

Ramza smiled back at his sister, his love for her bursting just as Rafa said it would. Moving closer, he slipped an arm around her waist and reached down to gather her knees up. With only a small gasp from the girl, Alma was lifted into the young man's arms, her skirt swishing loudly as her legs were cradled under his hand. Soon though, she was smiling once again, and had already wrapped her slender arms around his neck, looking for all the world like the blushing bride she was.

"Shall we go, darling?" he asked her, giving her what he hoped was a dashing smile fit for a beautiful young woman like her.

Alma laughed with adoring embarrassment. "Lead the way, 'Husband' Ramza," she said enthusiastically, playing with his tuffs of golden hair between her fingers.

The two of them then look boldly off into the distance, where a new would awaited them. They glanced at each other for a brief moment, and shared a smile that only they could. Carrying his wife across the threshold of Ivalice, Ramza walked towards his new destiny, where their Chocobos and, no doubt, a world of adventure awaited them. And Alma sighed in bliss, knowing that no adventure could ever replaced the feeling she had in her husband's arms.

'Fin'

Up Next - Extra Chapter "Price for Purity."
 
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Myst Knight

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Price for Purity

Across the Threshold of Ivalice - Price for Purity

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The metallic tang of blood drifting about was intoxicating, urging him on as he vanquished yet another foe. Ramza's sword glittered as red as his vision, and he hacked his way through the castle guards as if chopping firewood. He yelled incoherently as he shoved his shoulder into an advancing soldier, following up with an arcing slice that tore off his opponent's head like a cheap wooden doll. The two guards ahead of him met a similar fate, their lifeless bodies falling on either side as the young warrior continued on a beeline for his nemesis down the hall.

Beyond the blockade of soldiers, Vormav Tingel was escaping the castle with a struggling Alma in tow. The captive girl was tucked under his arm, and all Ramza could see was her skirts and flailing legs as he tried to free herself from the man's monstrous grip. "Help! Ramza!" she cried, straining against her captor to give her brother a fearful look. The terror of his sister incited a boiling rage within Ramza, and he redoubled his efforts in reaching her kidnapper, leaving a trail of red death in his wake.

Ramza growled as he flung a soldier off his bloodied blade. "Vormav, coward!" he bit out, halting the villain momentarily with the sheer force of his words. "There's no honor in kidnapping an innocent girl!"

"Victory does not demand honor," one of the opposing knights interjected, throwing off his helmet to address Ramza face to face. "The only thing is to persevere...and to press your advantage."

Ramza gaped at his enemy. Delita Hyral was now standing before him, dressed in the red and gold armor that had defined his days since the Fort Zeakden tragedy. His face shone like pale stone, much like Ramza's whenever he entered battle. It was Alma herself that said they looked like brothers, and now they stared between the space separating them if through the looking glass.

Ahead of the two, Vormav smirked at his foe, his forearm easily securing Alma as he watched with mild interest. Then, with a bored demeanor, he took his captive around the corner, where the castle drawbridge and escape awaited him. As Vormav's cloak and Alma's skirt disappeared from sight, Ramza's panic set in once more, and he turned back to confront the seemingly passive Delita. The young knight continued to block the way, and so Ramza began chopping away at his oldest friend, blood and gore flying against the walls like the inside of a slaughterhouse.

"Ramza! Ramza! Ramza!" He could hear his sister crying for him as he savagely mutilated Delita's body, screaming out his frustration. His vision grew hazy, alternating between the blood in his eyes and a tidy farmhouse on the countryside. "Ramza, please wake up!" Alma was beside him with her small hands on his arms, shaking him with surprising strength. Ramza lurched up from the sheets, leaving behind a puddle of sweat that soaked his pillow.

The young man struggled to catch his breath, his surroundings coming into focus as he willed his heart-rate to slow. He was in bed with Alma in their small farmhouse, far from the strife of war-torn Ivalice. The two has fallen asleep in their clothes that particular night, though disrobing together was a common occurrence these days. Alma's orange turtleneck felt soft against his skin, and her pink skirt was crushed against his legs as she held him steady, beseeching him with gentle, pure eyes that had survived all the harsh battles.

Ramza sighed, and wiped his hand across his sweaty brow. "It's fine, Alma," he told his sister, remembering to touch her arm as to reassure her. "Just a nightmare."

Alma continued to show her worried face, and sidled up under his chin, pressing her chest against his. "You've worked awfully long days in the fields," she said, drawing closer with a short wriggle. "Take care of yourself, or you'll face more bad dreams."

He nodded laconically, but didn't lay back down. Alma said nothing, and continued to cuddle close, offering up her body heat on this cold night. They had not been able to afford new comforters since fixing the broken shingles on the roof, and thus only had a thin, fraying blanket to share between them. It was of no concern, really; having a warm body beside you made up for trifles such as those.

Ramza grit his teeth, gathering his strength for what he was about to say next. "Alma, what I did during the Lion War..." he began hesitantly, as if in confessional. "Was it right?"

Alma looked at him like he was crazy. "How could you question yourself now, Ramza?" she gasped. "It's only by your hand that I'm with you now."

"That is the short end of it," he agreed, though the scowl was already starting to find its way on his face. "But it was that goal that drove me as the battles continued. I spoke proudly of trying to right the wrongs in my country, but then you were kidnapped, and it all changed. I couldn't stand for anything happening to you."

As if on instinct, Ramza's arms found their way around his sister; he could feel a quiet pulse through Alma's rumpled shirt. "I gave away the Germonik Scriptures," he told her, a twinge of regret evident in his diction. "The secrets held in those passages could've toppled the church, but I chose instead to keep my sister safe. Today, the church leaders prosper unchallenged, with Delita aligning his agenda with theirs." His eyes closed. "And Olan is dead."

"Ramza..." Alma's voice was hushed, her pale, beautiful face wrought with concern for her brother.

Ramza bit back a curse and leaned back onto the feathered pillow, his inadequacies weighing him down like a sword-smith's anvil. With Alma free once more, the two had stolen away beyond Ivalice's borders, opting for a simple farm life where no one knew of them. In lieu of finding Alma a worthy suitor, Ramza had married his sister himself, unwilling to let anyone else care for her. So it went, and a year later, it was still Alma that served as a sympathetic ear for his grievances, a comfort that was paid for in countless quantities of blood.

"If it were you that was taken from this world at Fort Zeakden..." Ramza murmured, his bangs covering his face in shadows. "Would I have traveled a path of vengeance as Delita did?" Again he grew silent, not ready to face the answers lurking deep in the night.

The lovely young lady was not so cowed, and she shook her head resolutely. "Ramza, you think too much," Alma admonished him, her jaw set. "You're still only a man, and a good man at that. Delita...he wanted to be something more, I think. He had such aspirations toward the end, and thus went astray like the other war generals."

"Alma..." Ramza breathed, his hand finding her cheek and brushing away a stray lock of hair. His sister just smiled, holding him around the torso.

"I never wanted you to be a god," Alma said, her face flush with affection. "All I want is for you to be Ramza."

"If it is your wish, then I will honor it," he responded, his voice grave and deep from all the years of strife.

Ramza's eyes grew heavy with the image of his winsome sister. He scooped her soft face in his palm, feeling her stray golden locks entwined in his fingers before thrusting his lips onto her. Ramza and Alma kissed passionately in the moonlight as the young man ravished his love, his hand finding his way under her skirt and petticoats to stroke her bare thigh. "Brother Ramza..." she squeaked, a rosy red blush tinting her cheeks as she fidgeted under his fingers.

"I am your husband now," Ramza corrected her. his voice thick with propriety. "It's my duty to take care of you in all ways, and I will do so until the end."

"Ramza...Ramza...Ramza..." Alma continued to cry his name as Ramza crushed her lithe form against his chest. As passion grew in his loins, he felt pride grow as well, and he returned to himself after a long, sleepless night. Try as he might, he had not lived a perfect life, and there was much injustice that remained unaccounted for. And yet, after following the path of his heart and finding his sister at the end of it, the price for purity was not so steep after all.
 

KingdomKey

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Re: Price for Purity

Part 2.

Quite the surprise to see Alma and Ramza get married. I get the feeling Rafa and Malak aren't around any more. Perhaps they perished from a fight too great for them to overcome? Or maybe it had to do with the war often spoken in Ivalice? Although, I'm surprised to hear that Alma got kidnapped! Anyways, I'm glad Ramza continues to be comforted by those who know his feelings run much deeper for Alma than that of a brother. It seems like he continues to be encouraged to act on his feelings by his friends and comrades. At the same time, I kind of agree a tiny bit with Rafa's thoughts on acting on said love during times of war and more. Definitely a good read.

Price for Purity

Sometimes you have to fight for what matters most to you, even if the rest of the world falls apart around you. Ramza doesn't shock me too much because, he's only human. Alma and Ramza leaving from the tragedy of war feels fitting because, they've been through a lot already as it is. I think it's a decent end for them. And Ramza losing his mind to try to rescue Alma despite facing an old friend wasn't going to be much of a contest. In a way, it seems like the comrades Ramza had have fallen during the amount of time that's passed. It'd take more than Ramza to turn the tides. In the meantime, I'm glad Alma can be there to comfort him and to help take away his nightmares. All in all, it was a good read. :)
 

Myst Knight

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Thanks! Ramza's dream is meant to be a metaphor and not a flashback; he fears that in dropping everything to save his sister, he has become ultimately as self-serving at Delita, who let the death of his own sister drive him down a dark road. It's hard to explain without context from Final Fantasy Tactics complicated story.
 
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