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H'biki Schwarzer

Tempter of Fate

Cactuar (Aether)

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Alisaie requested I bring back candied worms the next time I visit Norvrandt. "For Ga Bu, of course--they're not for me," was what she said, but......with how much she was protesting, I don't think I'm the only Scion that's tried them.

She sounded like she expected I'd go sooner rather than later, though. The twins' intuition can be scarily accurate......or maybe I'm just easier to read than I think. Probably both.

I'll have to get more details on the process while I'm there, so we can make them in Eorzea, but.....I won't be going yet. I meant to--Alisaie's intuition was right--but a letter has come in from Emmanellain, I'm not actively intercepting a crisis, and.....I did make a promise.

If it was just to look intimidating as a piece in high-class politics, I wouldn't be as hesitant, but.....I wonder if this outfit looks as ridiculous as it feels.



....ugh. Yes. Another reason I ought to leave for Norvrandt instead.

But I'm already here, I'm already dressed, and I already told Emmanellain I would be attending.

---

Honestly, I'm not sure what I expected......food, drink, merchants with excessive egos to match their excessive coin....

Hells, putting it on page feels almost pointless--a superficial banquet, exactly as described in the invite, but......there's something in the "normal", I guess.

In swapping childhood stories about Thanalan with ones about social debuts. In superficial greetings and scripted smalltalk. In sampling food that's expertly prepared, but not life-changing.

It's.....blending in, I think. In omitting a name, in being little more than a ward of House Fortemps again.

To the upper crust of Ul'dah, the ones uninterested in politics, the slayer of Ifrit is still a Miqo'te. A Miqo'te doing grime-covered, adventurer things, not an Elezen sipping wine and pretending to care about their new cloak for the sake of Ishgard's informal relations.

There were those that knew otherwise, of course--the more political of Ul'dah's rich--but even I know that outing me would've been to their disadvantage. Especially with how Emmanellain was introducing us.

But.....as usual, I'm trying to avoid what I shouldn't.

A familiar face, from my time at the fisherman's guild--not a member, but from the consortium that often placed requests. We'd barely exchanged greetings when Emmanellain excused himself. They'd planned the meeting, I suspect, though I didn't realize it at first.

We talked a bit--about the food, about politics....though neither of us are invested in them much. Swapped stories about supply chains--the grime and muck of both the physical and social--and wandered out to a balcony for the view and some fresh air.

She kissed me. I let her.

The Seventh Astral Era didn't come to an abrupt close.

I can still taste it. Cinnamon and betrayal. Spiced cider and missed opportunities.

That's just how life is, isn't it? You think you're on the edge of a cliff--that the next step is impossible--and then you're pushed from behind.

And you'll fall--a little, a lot, more than you thought possible--but you survive. It's different, but not as much as you thought. It hurts, but you can still stumble ahead through it. You're changed, but it's harder than you thought to choose between what you gained and what you lost.

I promised myself to face forward, to not turn away and stagnate anymore, but....it's still hard to record it, like keeping it unwritten will keep it from being real.

It was my first kiss, after all.

Not quite inevitable, but the odds were against me. The bitter aftertaste was guaranteed, though.

I think......I'll pay a visit to Arenvald, while I'm here. Leave for Norvrandt tonight, and tie up loose ends later.

I've rambled about what if's too much already, after all.
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