FFT Fanfic: Desert Blooms (WARNING: Ramza/Alma)

Posted: 24th January 2017 14:19
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Member of more than five years. 
Hey, I'm Myst Knight, an old poster here. I posted a rather controversial Ramza/Alma fic about a decade ago, but removed it a while back. I've decided to give it another go here.

Once again, this is a brother/sister romantic pairing. If this offends you, or if you are too young for this kind of material, please turn back now! Of course, this fic is not an endorsement of any of the activities within: it' s just a story. The fic was originally rated R, but I decided to re-label it as T, as it's much tamer than your average Game of Thrones episode.

Enjoy!

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Desert Blooms

A Final Fantasy Tactics Fanfiction by Myst Knight


Disclaimer: Final Fantasy Tactics is owned by Square Soft. 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, and some sexuality. For OLDER TEEN AND UP.

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

user posted image

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Zeklaus Desert, Middle Ages
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Below the pale gaze of a noontime sky, a vast desert land spread itself across the horizon and dominated all with its rustic beauty. Cacti and underbrush made their homes in the cavern-like craters, twisting into such beautiful and ethereal shapes that even a dancer would be want to match them. The flashing sunlight brought unto the sandy dunes a sparking radiance reminiscent of gold, as if each grain was a treasure in of itself. But few who traveled the region could find any beauty in this arid setting, and they could only see the beauty around them as a small rose with too many thorns.

Ramza Beoulve trudged like a golem across the desert, taking large, almost violent steps against the seemingly endless mounds of sand. His battered but determined eyes were hidden behind soft, golden bangs that brought an air of serenity to contrast his soldier's grit. A brown cloak was draped over his shoulders and back, rustling with the burden the heavy gales set upon it. All in all, he had managed to become the very picture of a desert warrior, despite having only entered the region a mere half-a-day ago.

The boyish young man brushed a stray lock of straw-colored hair out from beyond his gaze, freeing himself to drink in both the sweltering majesty of the Zeklaus Desert, and the less savory touch of his memories. Truly, it had been only a scant few days ago when the misguided priest Zalmo had confronted Ramza as a heretic, casting the light of sin on his slaying of the monster Queklain, believed to be a holy entity. The defeat of the beast was only one link in the large chain of events that had led him, and those that would follow him, on a long exodus throughout his war-torn homeland in search for the puppet masters behind the violence. But no matter how muddled the path continued to get, or how much the puppet strings would constrict around him, he and his loyal crew continued to sift through the liars and Lions, united in their mutual desire for real, honest-to-goodness truth.

With a small swoosh of his cloak, Ramza pivoted to stare at the figures traveling the sands behind him, sighing with real sympathy. Though the Irgos-born noble had a perseverance that belied his plush upbringing, some of his allies hadn't quite the stamina for the Zeklaus Desert. Ergo, some of his ragtag army had split away to take a different path from their rendezvous point, leaving only his most steadfast companions to join him on the route through the desert. Companions such as the valkyrie-like Agrias, the sure-shooting Mustadio, and...

"Yeek!" a shrill, feminine squeal sounded out from far behind the tightly bound group of allies. Ramza's eyes knotted up at the cry, the voice instantly triggering a protective reflex within his mind. Breaking into a short dash, he sped back across the sandy dunes, leaving the rest of his allies to stop and gaze curiously at their leader. That leader was currently in back of them now, calling after the lone figure that was straggling behind, the newest member of their army. "Alma...!"

A good distance away from the rest of the group was a young, sandy-haired girl, carrying the same soft features as their leader. With a low-bound ponytail, an orange turtleneck, and a coral-pink skirt, she seemed a bit out of place among the collection of soldiers, wizards, and mercenaries. Her skirt was billowing up with the intense winds, forcing her to put a hand down to protect her modesty. A task that was becoming increasingly more difficult, due to the large quantity of elixirs, remedies, and other assorted goods she had precariously balanced in her arms.

Ramza crossed the distance to Alma in a flash, ready to aid her in her predicament. The girl blushed for a moment at being caught so exposed, but he remained placid, stretching out his arms and presenting his hands palms down. Her eyes widened a moment when she got the message, and she quickly relinquished her load into Ramza's arms. With the wind chilling her bare legs, she did away with each of the cumbersome items one by one, until all of them had been transferred to the boy's concerns.

With her arms now free, Alma bent slightly and reached at her flapping skirt with both hands, bringing the garment down with a resounding FWOOP! "Thank you, Ramza." She smiled up at him, her tone a combination between coy and relieved.

Ramza gave a small tilt to his younger counterpart, but with a slight curtness to his manner. Usually an indicator that a firm brotherly lecture was about to begin. "Alma, why did you insist on carrying all of the potions yourself?" he asked sternly, with only a slight curiosity breaking his instructional tone. "You don't enough muscle mass to handle them yet."

His precocious sibling was less than intimidated by the grilling. "Brother, I told you I wouldn't be a burden," Alma insisted, staring up at Ramza with large eyes the same color as his. "The rest of your army is already carrying their share of equipment."

"Yes, well..." Ramza had already broken away from his sister's gaze and was rummaging under his cloak for some object. "In the Hokuten Knights, we would use 'bags' to carry around our essentials." With a flourish that was perhaps a bit too self satisfied, the boy presented a large brown sack and began to stretch out its insides. This action left Alma slack-jawed for a full three seconds before she recovered enough to launch into a mild tissy.

"Ooh, Ramza!" she chirped, putting her hands on her hips and stamping her foot into the sand. "I was walking with my knickers nearly showing, and you had that bag all along!"

"Good soldiers can find the solutions on their own," he tossed behind him, casually dumping the items into the bag. Inside though, Ramza was restraining a soft chuckle. Along with general amusement at the situation, he had noted that Alma's petulant attitude has mirrored their late mother's whenever she would have a mild spat with their father. It was a trait that he often found too endearing within the younger Beoulve, and was something he had missed in his life on several levels.

After leaving the potion-packed bag with Alma, the boy continued back to his spot at the head of the group, trying to make up for the slight addition in travel time. Walking alongside his companions, Ramza noted that the traveling order had changed during his brief exchange with Alma. Agrias and a few of her knights had watched the earlier scene with mild concern, ready to intervene on behalf of the younger girl's feminine modesty. This action lost them their place at the head of the group, leaving Mustadio, the young mechanic Ramza was passing now, to take the lead position.

"Quite the gentleman, eh Ramza?" Mustadio remarked lightly to the boy, readjusting the musket over his shoulder. "Always going after the damsel in distress?"

"Father always told me to never keep a lady in waiting," Ramza told him non-commonalty, not sparing a glance away from the long stretch of desert they had yet to traverse.

The easygoing engineer turned away from the other boy for a moment, running a hand from the top of his hairline to the short ponytail resting on his nape. "She seems to really like you," Mustadio commented, mischievous eyes shifting back towards his leader. "Is she your girlfriend as well as your sister?"

His goofy question was met with a swift gonk to the head. "Don't be daft!" Ramza snapped, puffing up a bit too much for a situation like this. "It's not like that!"

"Sorry, sorry!" the injured one cried out half-sarcastically, rubbing the growing welt on top of his skull. "Can't blame a guy for noticin' things. Stuffy bloke like you needs a cute girl like her, anyway."

Ramza just snorted indignantly, and picked up his pace to carry him farther from the bothersome conversation. He needed to make it more clear exactly what kind of nonsense would fly and what wouldn't. He also needed to make a note for someone to beat Mustadio up in the near future.

After a bit of relaxing, desert scenery to calm him down, Ramza mulled over what Mustadio had said in their stinted conversation. Jokes they may be, but Alma did indeed care for him, no doubt part of the reason she had decided to tag along with them for the present time. No doubt it was part of the problem as well, considering her lack of any real fighting experience. How could a young girl like her hope to survive in the harsh world that he lived in?

He had to admit though, Alma had made a good point about her necessity in this situation, what with her teachings as a Cleric from Orbonne Monastery, the very place they had to go. If ever Ramza hoped to enter the chapel with his heretic status, he would need someone to vouch for him. And even if there were other reasons why his sister was an unwelcome addition to his army, it was becoming more and more difficult to validate them. Aside from the brief fumble concerning the potions, Alma had been nothing but helpful to his friends, treating even the most grievous of wounds with her Healing Staff.

Ramza sighed exasperatedly. He could bloat up his big-brother position all he wanted, but the fact was that Alma Beoulve had him essentially wrapped around the pinky. And truth be told, hadn't it always been that way?

The muffled clomp of boots against sand broke the boy out of his inner monologue, and he turned to find Alma now walking alongside him. The hefty bag of potions had shrunken down to a mere scrap on her shoulder. "Brother Ramza, I've finished giving out the potions to everyone," she told him, presenting him with the empty sack. "If it's alright, may I keep a few for myself?"

"It's fine," he responded, taking the bag from her hands and nodding briefly. "Thanks."

Alma smiled warmly at Ramza's approval, then turned back towards the expanding sands that still stretched beyond sight. Matching her gait with his, the two siblings were again trekking across the desert, meeting the tender mercies of the winds together. The open breeze was still present, parting their bangs and sending a wave of desert debris into their faces. But they both found they could ignore this quite easily, having already been subject to Fate's more bitter attitudes.

The young girl stared after a pair of flowers that had brushed past her nose. "Spring is coming soon," she said, her gaze still tracking the now invisible blooms. "The desert will soon be alive with the March sand buds. It'll be beautiful."

"If they can truly prosper in this environment..." Ramza mumbled, narrowing his eyes to another grainy onslaught.

"They will," Alma smiled at him. "Ivalice won't let its strongest survivors go un-rewarded."

Ramza sighed with a long-suffering attitude, hooking onto a double meaning in his sister's statement. "I can only hope that's true," he said, half to the girl, and half to himself.

The ambiance of the desert had once again taken over the silence, and there was a sense that something had gone awry. The wind had picked up again before Alma found a moment to continue. "We're about halfway to the monastery now," she told him, her voice firm with conviction. "You'll be able to put a stop to the bloodshed."

"The battle has only begun, Alma," Ramza corrected her, staring off into the empty skies. His eyes then narrowed to slits, practically staring into the sun. "Still, I swear by the honor of the Beoulves, there will be no more Tetas."

Alma smiled meaningfully, and gripped onto his arm. "I know there won't be," she said, squeezing his biceps.

Ramza started a bit at the girl's fingertips on his arms, but soon a small smile grew on his face. She smiled as well, and soon the two were back together spiritually, as well as physically. With Alma clutching onto him, Ramza felt both burdened and blessed, as if he were entrusted with a holy artifact. Yet she was a treasure that comforted much more than mere gold and silver, a treasure that made him feel, somehow, that it would all turn out right in the end.

"You really ought to ask her out," a conspiratory whisper sounded out from behind them.

Ramza swiftly elbowed the meddling engineer in the gut. Sometimes, it was hard to believe that Mustadio was actually older than him. Alma's hold on him was made that much more uncomfortable.

"...wooooOOOO!!!" Then, out of the depths of the desert, a low moaning sound crawled up the sands towards the relatively-cheery trio. They all turned their heads at the mysterious echo, each developing a different perception of the noise. Alma's eyes registered confusion, having spend most of their time staring at magic parchments and rules of etiquette. But her brother knew what beast that sounded by cry, and his hand was already moving to his sword.

"Trouble!" Ramza shouted out, disengaging himself from Alma and looking immediately towards Mustadio.

The mechanic got the message quickly. "I'll get Agrias and the others," he said, turning around to dash back to their allies.

Nodding once, Ramza grabbed the fabric of the brown cloak he wore and began to loosen it. The knot was well done, but it gave way easily to the boy's quick and hurried touch. In one swift movement, he tossed the cape to the winds, letting it flitter away at the mercy of the desert. As the now cumbersome garment tumbled to the distance, the Squire charged off towards the unseen threat, his blue battle armor sparkling with the glow of the sun.

"Ramza...?" Alma spoke out, her hand reflexively going to her mouth on awe. "What's going on?"

"It's a monster attack!" the young man yelled, not even pausing to look in her direction. "Get to the back!"

"B-but, brother!" the girl tried again, a somewhat sad look taking the place of the jovial one in her eyes. "Can't I help at all?"

"No!" he shouted, picking up his pace and drawing his blade. "Stay here!"

Before anymore of this argument could play out, Ramza had already disappeared beyond Alma's eyesight. If he had stayed a moment longer, he might have heard a sad, sweet whisper being carried off into the wind. "But I can protect you too..." But he didn't.

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*****
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A gruesome cry of pure evil tore through the cacti and cliffs, chilling the hearts of all that dared to show their presence. The horrific screeches continued, as the creature whom uttered them waved its bony arms left and right to direct the Skeletons and Grenades that had gathered in the desert. The creature itself was a Bone Snatch, a vile being with just enough sentience to hate its foes with a passion. It was the leader of the small group of monsters the army was facing, and ultimately the one they would have to defeat.

Ramza's silvery blade tore through the spectral form of a Grenade, sending a burst of dark flame spreading away from him. Spinning elegantly on his heel, he brought up his sword just in time to intercept the kick of a Skeleton, sawing off the leg and leaving the beast snapping its hideous teeth in frustration. The boy was a whirlwind of artistic death, parrying and attacking as if in some elaborate sword dance. Though the phrase "War is Hell" still struck a chord within him, you would never know he thought it terrible by the killer grace in which the Squire moved.

Though the burden of taking on so many foes was heavy, Ramza always made sure to keep one eye on his party's condition. For what it was worth, they were all doing relatively fine in this random encounter. Mustadio was having a bit of trouble with two aggressive Skeletons, but Agrias had stepped up and knocked them out of the running with a quick Holy Sword maneuver. All in all, this seemed to be a melee that would end as quickly as it begun, and likely with no causalities.

After ridding himself of a few more monsters, Ramza felt it was time to finish off the leader. With a loud battle cry, he charged straight for the Bone Snatch, ignoring the frustrated growls of the beasts he passed. The Bone Snatch had seem him coming, and flung an orb of water-based magic at the young fighter. But he only had to alter his path by a hair to avoid the projectile, and the skeletal-monster was open for a swift, final blow.

"Eyaaaa!" Ramza cried, leaping into the air in a wild attack upon his foe. Raising his sword above his head, he closed in on the hapless Bone Snatch, who had no more time to prepare a second magic assault. With a loud swiping motion, the blade was brought down upon the monster, and the sickening sound of hard metal against shattering bone rang in the boy's ears. A sound with a more positive connotation than one might think, for it signaled the death of a threat and a step closer to victory.

Ramza sighed heavily, feeling some of the tension drain away from his body. There were only a small number of opponents left, foes that would easily be extinguished in a short amount to time if he helped his party out now. He gritted his teeth slightly, and made as if to charge into battle once again.

BZAATTTTT! ...and then, a horrible sensation took over his arm, like a bolt of lightning amongst the heat of Hades. Ramza hollered out in pain, crumbling under the power and onto the blood-soaked sands below him. As quickly as he could, he tried to regain control of the situation, switching his sword over to his good arm for a hasty counterattack. But he had only just begun the motion when he found himself nose to nose with a smoking Wizard Rod...along with the wizard that carried it.

Ramza's eyes were still squinting in pain, but he managed to catch the heavily-garbed features of the foe that had come out of the blue. That foe was indeed a wizard, the famous Black Mage with all-concealing hat and glowing yellow eyes. He has chosen to wear green robes instead of the standard blue, indicating that he served no royal power. Even now, the boy had the feeling that his enemy was smiling under his cloak, all too ready to enjoy the death of a careless opponent.

"Such a shame to fall after such heroics," the Wizard cackled, like some sort of fairytale sorcerer. "But I suppose there is no honor lost in falling before such strategy."

"You mean..." Ramza managed to get out, still trying to find a way out of his predicament. "You were the leader all along...?"

"The mightiest warrior never shows his face on the frontline until the end," the Wizard philosophized, sneering under his hat at his helpless prey. "A lesson you are too late to learn, my friend!"

Ramza just growled in frustration, the blood from his wound wetting the sand around him. The sleazy spellcaster took this as a cue to continue, raising his Rod in preparation for the final hex.

And then, the gasp of a female voice broke through the tension like a knife blade, momentarily shattering the do-or-die situation the two warrior had been involved in. Both the Wizard and Ramza turned to find a girl standing not seven meters from where they were, her hands to her mouth in abject horror. Her eyes, before frozen in fear and concern, had now focused into iron orbs within her head. And then she was running, running, wielding her Healing Staff like a bludgeon.

The Wizard brought his weapon away from the fallen warrior, and narrowed his eyes in anticipation. "Another foolish heart rushes to death," he cooed, pointing the Wizard Rod straight for the girl.

"Alma, run!" Ramza yelled out, exerting all the energy he had been saving for a final strike. "Get out of there!"

"I won't let you hurt my brother!" Alma cried, raising her staff as if to knock her nemesis' head off.

"Worry about yourself, dearie..." the Wizard snapped, bringing his rod back behind him for an assault. "Before worrying about others!"

Convinced that this was an opponent unworthy of his finer talents, the Wizard swung his rod in an attempt to simply club the girl. But Alma managed the dodge just in time, and the weapon merely grazed the first three clumps of her bangs. Rushing past in a flurry of skirts and legs, she rolled over to Ramza's side, and brought the Healing Staff up to bear. Closing her eyes, she let the battle tension wash off her body, and began to chant the only useful words that she had learned at the Monastery.

"For the sake of Ivalice's love and liberty," Alma called out, her voice detached from the raw violence radiating around her. "MBarrier!"

And then, a brilliant green forcefield formed around the girl, enveloping both her and Ramza in its luminescence. Everything in its protecting shell was cool and refreshing, like the waterfalls in central Ivalice. The beautiful bubble felt as if it were a world just for the two of them, as the rushing sands and winds refused to touch the duo. Nor did the curses of the Wizard, who was none too pleased at a magical development that he was not a part of.

"GAWH!!!" he screamed out, pointing his Wizard Rod at Alma in accusation. A burst of fire shot forth from the bauble of the rod, licking at the barrier like a ravenous Cuar. Yet for all of the spellcaster's rage, the flames failed on all counts at entering the magical orb that contained its targets. It just coasted from the girl and boy in a flair of harmless fireworks, cracking along the desert sands until they were mere black ash.

Ramza stared in amazement as his gentle sister. How could she possibly have such power against the nature of magic..and such resolve? But Alma herself seemed to have no knowledge of the calamity of the situation, focused everything on the matter at hand. Her gaze just got harder and harder, as she spent all of her teachings in making sure not one of those flames ever touched her brother...

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Next Up- Part 2
Post #211994
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Posted: 1st February 2017 19:48
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Returner
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Joined: 9/7/2006

Awards:
Member of more than five years. 

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*****
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The calling of coyotes broke through the still air, alerting all that there was another fresh meal to be found. It was nighttime in Zeklaus Desert, and all but the scavengers had turned in for the night, wary of the terrors that had been stalking about. The moon was a mere sliver in the sky, hiding behind a small mass of clouds that had clustered up. As if it, too, had been frightened by the fierce melee that had taken place such a short time ago.

Floating through the meandering currents, the thorn of a slain skeleton's Knife Hand sailed down towards the rocky alcove that served as camp for the night. It flipped in the air for a spell before falling alongside the campfire, resting among the ashes and silt that was spreading around the conflagration. A boy's hand was now plucking the needle-like object, cradling it between finger and thumb like it was a broach of the nobles. But rather than placing it on the prettiest woman nearby, he instead snapped the spire in a careless motion, letting the two halves flip off onto the ground to conceal themselves in a blanket of white.

Ramza's face had lost its usual calm countenance, and was raked with the brewings of mental frustration. Though he made no excessive verbal or physical indication of this, his eyes were twinkling with new memories and experience he didn't know how to deal with. The wound he bore on his arm had already been treated by Alma, forming into a simple white scar that was nearly lost on the rest of his skin. But he continued to stroke it and stroke it, as if the battle-mark was hurting for some other reason...perhaps because of its healer.

The boy put his hand to his chin, gripping the perfectly shaven stub like a much belabored Limberry philosopher. Everything he had known on why Alma should be kept away from battles was correct, from her lack of fighting experience to her weaker physical makeup. And also, she was his sister, the one Father entrusted him to always protect. Doing everything he could to divert her course into the horrors of war was something that had to be done.

Yet, in spite of all his reason, Alma had come running into the fray anyway, as brave as he had been when he left the Magic City as a cadet. And she had essentially won the battle for them, buying them just the right moment for a counter offensive. Ramza knew even now that it had only been Alma that had kept the Wizard's flame from his tender throat. It was just how he had been saved by Delita countless times in the war against the Death Corps, and he knew very few people like Delita.

But Alma had come through for me anyway, even when I didn't wish it. Ramza moved his hand from his chin to his head, rubbing his temple in the first movement of frustration he had shown since that fight. What does this mean?

A moment more had passed, and Ramza soon heard Alma's distinct footfalls arising from the slope behind the rocks. He tilted his head slightly towards the sound, catching the girl popping up just beyond the largest stone. She truly looked no worse for wear, somehow managing to avoid the brunt of the previous battle. With her eyes twinkling in the firelight and her hair reflecting the subtle moonglow, his sister resembled the very angels Ramza had been accused of slaying.

Alma must've caught the boy staring, for she stopped and turned to look at him. "I'm sorry, am I interrupting your thoughts?" she asked, tilting her head slightly.

Ramza gave a brief negative, his eyes darting away from the young woman for a moment. They soon returned back to Alma. "You can sit down, if you want," he said, motioning to the stool-like stones that dotted the area around the campsite.

Alma smiled and nodded, proceeding over to the long rock he himself was resting on. Smoothing her skirt under her rear, she lowered herself upon the granite slab, adjusting her posture a bit as to be more comfortable in her seat. She exhaled a small breath, a small puff of condensed air escaping into the chilly breeze. The desert nightlife is a cold and lonely time, after all, and it was wrong to believe otherwise.

Ramza looked away for a moment, not knowing how to start speaking. He wasn't sure of exactly what he wanted to say to begin with. A minute or so passed, and Alma was shaking with the nighttime shivers. This finally shook the boy out of his stupor, and decided to just come out with it before they both froze to death.

"Alma, what you did today was very dangerous," Ramza begun, already sensing a note of indignation from his sister. "...and I want to thank you." This got a small reaction from the Cleric, who leaned slightly away from him in surprise. "Without your help, our party would have surely met its end." He sighed, rolling his eyes away from her to look back at the campfire. "It's quite confusing, to say the least."

He intended for his speech to end up as some sort of lecture, about how Alma shouldn't get in the way of battle and such and such. In actuality, Ramza realized that he truly wanted to hear his sister's side of the argument, what she thought about all this. It probably wouldn't change how he felt, but he felt she deserved her chance to explain why she wanted to get involved in the Lion War. The conversation had been brewing up ever since the battle with Zalmo, and it had to be seen through.

Alma, too, had picked up the subtle cues in the conversation, and was quite accommodating to Ramza's unspoken request. "Why not let the last battle be a sign of my worth?" she started up, her face becoming a mask of business and earnestness. "Just let me become a part of your group for good."

A grim grimace forming onto Ramza's jaw, his teeth gritting behind his tight lips. "You can't possibly know what it's like out there," he stated, a trail of sadness entering his voice. "There's death and blood, rapes and murders. It's not a fun crusade, it's the prevention of a nightmare." He stared distantly beyond the raging fire, at the twinkling stars that made up the desert's most famous constellations. "It's a path I take willingly, but not something I can ever recommend to family."

Alma lowered her head, a certain sadness taking over her form. "I know about the sadness of battle," she said, her tone mournful and reverent. "One of the girls at school had been assaulted by the Death Corps, giving up her virginity because of it." Her gaze hardened up once again, and she swept her head up to practically glare at the boy. "But that doesn't mean that I don't want to serve Ivalice in the best way I know how. There's much evil being done in my country, and I want to do my part to see that it stops as soon as possible."

Ramza shook his head weakly, the strong words of the girl damaging his resolve. "You don't understand..."

"No brother, 'you' don't understand!" Alma interrupted, a certain desperate ire evident within her tone. "All my life I've had to stay at that stupid school, studying calligraphy while my brother risked his life. I heard the tales of what you were accomplishing out there, knew it was dangerous but so important to the future of Ivalice. That's why I want to be my your side, to help my loved one slay his demons to fulfill his quest."

"Alma, I have to protect you!" Ramza exclaimed, whirling away from the desert sights back to his sister.

"And I have to protect you too!" Alma shot back, leaning forward to look him in his face.

The impassioned cries of the siblings skipped away as echoes, and a cold breeze blew mysteriously through the rustling campfire. Ramza and Alma were suddenly silent, the raw emotion between them too heavy to handle. Alma was now looking slightly away from her brother, a look of worry and trepidation evident on her face. The Squire, on the other hand, stared straight at the girl, reading over the posture, trying to figure it out the source of all this strife.

That's when the truth hit Ramza like a Chocobo gone wild. Alma wasn't being petulant; she was just like him, trying to protect both the world and the one closest to her the best way she knew how: by battle. He had no way of stopping her if this is what the she really wanted to do with her life. She was already so wise beyond her years, a true scholar in the shell of a lass' body and breath.

That's why she needed to hear the truth from him, so she could have the full picture of what he was thinking.

"But Alma," Ramza said, looking away from the girl. "You already protect me."

"W-what?" Alma responded, blinking curiously at him.

"The terrors of battle, the death of comrades," he begun, turning back towards Alma with a face born of sincerity. "I'd never be able to handle them if I didn't know the one I loved was there waiting to reap the new dawn." His eyes shone with feeling and emotion, as he let the beautiful truth flow from his soul. "You are everything that I fight for, everything I wish for the new generation to be. I never want to lose you Alma."

"Oh...!" Alma's own eves were quivering now, and she slowly wrapped her arms around her brother. "Oh, but you know I feel the same way, Ramza." she said, her hands brushing at his hair in a motion much reminiscent of their mother to Balbanes.

Ramza's own arm has secured the girl's shoulder, and was pulling her unto his chest. "Alma, I meant what I said about you going back to Zalbag," he said seriously. "If you truly want to join me in this sad situation, you'll attend Gariland Magic City's cadet school and learn all about the realities of battle." His form stiffen up for the moment, taking the role of a commander. "They'll help you find your place in the units, whether it be warrior or something more defensive. I won't have an unskilled cadet in my army."

"Brother Ramza..." she whispered.

"You always been able to make your own decisions, Alma," he admitted wholeheartedly, gripping the soft skin of her shoulder through her cloths. "If you cannot be swayed from the warrior's path, then I want you by my side where I can protect you."

"As do I," Alma said, beaming brilliantly with trust and love.

Ramza felt his entire body prickle with his sister's shining smile, and could not help but to smile back at her. With her soft features and winsome personality, she was more holy than any of the twisted angels and priests he had fought what seemed so long ago. She was a strength and weakness that, deep within his heart, he felt like he couldn't function without. What had he been missing when he had left her at Igros a lifetime ago?

That was when everything started to funnel down into a tight, almost frightening path. Alma's face was still so close to his, and the rising heat of her body was warm on his arm and chest. Perhaps it was the new closeness they were sharing, or maybe it was just Mustadio's inane comments, but Ramza found himself pulling the girl closer to him. As the girl's eyes sparkled with emotion that was doubtless symphonic with his, he brought his sister up against him and let his lips travel to hers.

The young man hadn't been two seconds into the kiss when he had felt a wave of panic envelop him as he took something from her he was told was never meant for him. But Alma's body remained snug against him, her chest exuding the increasing tempo of her heart's tempestuous beating. And she was now kissing him back, her soft lips caressing his own like they were some form of honeysuckle. So Ramza could do nothing more than continue to kiss her, his hand slowly squeezing her shoulder with the care of a husband to wife.

When at last he found the will to pull himself away, he found that Alma's eyes were shining two fold, and were now accompanied by a loopy smile coasting her lips. "W-wow..." Alma breathed, a rosy flush coming to her cheeks. "Do they teach that at Garliand too, brother?"

At the word "brother," Ramza suddenly started to shuffle away on the rock that they were both occupying. The old proverbs from the Zodiac Brave Story concerning incest had suddenly taken hold in his mind, though it had been years before when he had read through the ancient texts. "Alma...!" he gasped, pulling his arm away from her shoulder. "That was..." He stared after the girl's near-ecstatic face, not knowing how to explain himself.

In another burst of intuition, Alma already knew exactly what he was thinking about. "Ramza, I believed in Ajora," she told him, scooting back to him and taking his hands. "But I believe in you more."

Ramza shivered at Alma's touch, feeling her soft fingers interlacing with his own more woven ones. The romantic nature of her statement was not lost on the young man, and it brought the most curious of blushes to his face. He hadn't realized that the tone of their conversation had switched from squabbling siblings to concerned lovers. Might they resemble their parents in relationship as well as personalities?

And yet...there was something disturbingly right about the intimacy Alma and him were now sharing. Ramza knew in his heart that no lover could fill the large space in his heart his love for Alma occupied. The kiss had incited an ember that brought new light to a relationship that he formerly assumed was something else. But indeed, they were soulmates, whether anyone liked it or not.

"Ramza," Alma's soft soprano broke the silence, and the boy turned to the other with a growing expression of care on his face. Her eyelashes were flitting slowly with the weight of emotion. and her hand continued to apply subtle pressure to his. "Can we stay like this a moment more?"

Ramza sighed and smiled lazily, squeezing back. "As you wish, dearest sister." he said. "As you wish..."

Ten minutes later, they were asleep.

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*****
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The caw of a hungry vulture barely broke through the heavy gales of yet another heated desert morning, sailing haphazardly though the cliffs and echoing away into oblivion. The canyons were acting as a wind tunnel, increasing the sand storm to twice its usual strength. Though the wind was nothing that posed a serious threat, it became annoying when your bangs kept stabbing your eyes over and over. Facts that the small group that traveled this path just had to deal with.

"Eeek!" an embarrassed cry called out from beside Ramza. The boy looked over to where the cry had originated from, and found that Alma was desperately holding her skirt down as it flapped in the fierce wind. The girl blushed as the garment flew to the top of her upper thighs, exposing the edges of her white panties. And this time, Ramza blushed as well, having just started to see his sister in a new light.

His chivalry soon took over, though, and the young warrior soon rushed forward to help her out. As Alma had no belongings that were hindering her, Ramza instead clutched the fabric of the girl's skirt, helping her bring it down to a more reasonable level. Her blush increased a bit at her brother's intimate actions, but she soon smiled as she could now keep the back end of her skirt down. "Brother Ramza..." she murmured, as means of a thank you' to the boy.

Ramza looked towards Alma's face, ready to go into big-brother-mode again. "You should wear more suitable clothing in the desert, Alma," he instructed, though a small blush remained on his cheeks.

"I couldn't very well take your cloak, could I?" she responded pointedly, still holding the back of her skirt down. "You need it as much as I do."

"That is true, but..." Ramza found his voice failing him as he caught site of a young, ponytailed engineer hiking beyond from the previous turn of the canyon, and he briefly let go of Alma's skirt to stare after the new arrival. By the expression on Mustadio's face, he had obviously caught sight of the girl's embarrassing moment. Ramza was wondering why the older boy was always on hand when his sister was being uncovered. If it was what he thought it was, he would have to have a long talk with him, perhaps with the aid of a very hefty sword.

But if Mustadio was engaging in less than scrupulous behavior, he didn't show it, for nothing but playful aid was present on his features. "C'mon, Ramza," he called out, cupping his hands over his smiling mouth. "Show that girl how a Hokuten Knight acts!"

Ramza sighed in reluctance at the boy's comment, and turned his head towards the more emotionally-indulging Alma. He supposed it was just as well that Mustadio thought their closeness was the butt of a joke, especially considering the events of last night.

But when he caught sight of his sister, he found her no safer than Mustadio. Alma's face was lit up with a shy smile, her eyes twinkling before her wind-swept bangs. Her hands were now clasped behind her back, letting her skirt sway freely in the wind. And the toe of her left boot was shuffling back and forth on the sand, like a schoolgirl about to receive her boyfriend's knight crest on the eve of his departure into battle.

Ramza stood agape at Alma a moment more, though he had already comprehended what she and Mustadio wanted him to do. Then, he slowly unwrapped the desert cloak from his shoulder, exposing his blue spiked armor to the vicious elements. Dusting off as much of the excess sand as he could in the brief time he had, he drew the cape around his sister, wrapping her up nice and warm. And with a final tug, he left the young Cleric to finish up arranging it as she pleased.

Alma smiled softly at the young man, and tugged at her gift with a certain bashful pride. With a slow looping motion, she ensnared his arm. "Attaboy, Ramza!" Ramza and Alma both started at the sound, and looked over to find Mustadio cheering them on, as if their interaction was a rugby match back at Igros Grammar School. The boy was shaking his fist wildly, an excited smile on his face.

And Ramza could only smile back, at both Alma and Mustadio. After all why shouldn't he smile. He and his sister were desert blooms, two very special flowers that could flourish even in the face of a deathly world. The holy examiners and Shrine Knights could not break it even if they split them up: their two hearts would always beat as one.

'Fin'
Post #212078
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Posted: 6th February 2017 07:09
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Desert Blooms - A Clear Shot

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BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! The musket seemed to leap from Alma's grip as she fired into the grainy gusts, the sand and smoke striking her eyes and obscuring the small, white flower she was trying to draw a bead on. The arid dunes of Zeklaus flowed like ocean waves, and she almost felt sick from staring at the blazing sun coasting just above the hilltops. Behind her, Mustadio Bunanza lent a steady hand to guide her aim, positioning the gun properly over her shoulder. Her skirt flapped behind her with the wind and was entangling itself in the young man's legs, adding a touch of embarrassment to the whole situation, especially since her brother Ramza was likely nearby.

BLAM! Alma's next shot went far awry, and she gasped as she struggled to hold onto the rifle stock. "Whoa, Alma!" Mustadio laughed, securing the girl and bringing the barrel back down towards the horizon. "A little bit jumpy, aren't you?"

"I'm sorry, Mustadio," she responded, instinctively shifting her diction to that which she used with her teachers. "The winds seem too harsh to get a good view."

"Feh!" The ponytailed engineer scoffed, and Alma could almost feel him shaking his head with disdain. "I've popped off a tin can from a hundred feet in a thunder storm. If you're anything like your brother, you can hit that flower. You're just distracted, is all."

"I suppose so..." she relented, lowering her gaze slightly to stare at her boots.

In truth, it was just as Mustadio said. Alma's thoughts occupied her like a Death Corps raid, and just about as troublous and discontented. The land of Ivalice was split in two, and she had dashed from Zeltennia Castle in a burst of impassioned energy to aid her brother in ending this war. Alma had even kissed Ramza on his very lips a few nights ago, a close shave with an enemy bringing out feverish concern in the form of romantic intimacy.

Her musing must have escaped through her ears, for Mustadio gave her a sympathetic look, pacing off towards the thorny underbrush. "Alma, you've got to ignore everything other than what's in front of you," the young man stated, leaning against some large cacti, then jerking back up with an 'ouch'. "Don't bother with the details so much."

"It's just so much has happened lately," Alma confessed, smoothing her skirt down as it threatened to blow up above her knees. "Brother has rebelled against the church, which taught me all I know about living as a woman of this age. Truthfully, it's confusing."

"You can't trust a singular institution to show you how things really are, especially not one allied with the government," he told her, pulling out his own rifle and popping open the chamber. "I'm an atheist, so I know of the lives that drift under the nose of the church. It's completely foreign to the likes of Igros nobility."

"A life without spirituality?" Alma pondered, recalling the old sermons that specifically branded such thought as blasphemy.

"Or any life you choose, depending on how you figure things." Mustadio shrugged. "The truth is that there's all sorts of ideologies competing in the mechanisms of Ivalice, almost six separate denominations just for Ajora alone, all different from each other. Each will tell you a different side, with none laying claim to the complete picture. You just have to ignore all that, line up your shot, and take aim for what you know is right."

"I never knew..." Alma put her hand to her mouth, awestruck at the engineer's sudden bout of intuition. It was true that she was trying to reconcile her lessons with the contradictory knowledge she had learned from Ramza only a week prior, while simultaneously struggling with her budding feelings for him. But what of the people whom lived underneath the white icing she regularly partook off, who might be all the more knowledgeable for it?

(Could it be true...that I don't know anything about Ivalice?)

Upon hearing the sudden rustling of sand to her left, Alma shook off her contemplation to find Ramza approaching her steadily. He had apparently been watching from just behind a rock cropping, and she once again held down her skirt in the wind to regain feminine modesty in front of her brother. (Though maybe he's more than my brother now,) she thought with a blush, wondering just what he thought of her body.

"Mustadio is right, Alma," Ramza was saying, stopping just two feet shy of her position. "As we head to Orbonne, I'm plagued with doubts every day, doubly so since you're now in danger. But I know what I saw back at Fort Zeakden, and I know what I must do. I must fight what I now know are lies, and make amends for my failings that day."

"Oh Ramza, I know." Alma turned to him with a swish of her skirt. "I just fear I don't understand dear Ivalice like I thought I did!"

"But you love your brother, right?" Mustadio chimed in, moving over to Ramza's side and making a motion as if presenting a prize. "That's knowledge from deep inside."

At this, Ramza smiled one of his rare smiles. "We love each other," he clarified, gripping Alma's shoulder confidently. "That's enough for us, and for Ivalice."

"Brother Ramza..." Alma whispered, a pink flush rising again on her cheeks.

Ramza said nothing, but moved behind her and placed his hands on her forearms. Alma's breath caught in her throat, and she wondered just what he was attempting with her (in front of Mustadio even!) She soon relaxed, though, when she realized he was readjusting her grip on the rifle. Soon, they had pulled the weapon up to bear, focused once more on the single flower that still awaited her next try.

"Don't concentrate on the glare from the sun," Ramza instructed, his husky breath tickling her earlobes. "Just box the flower in your head, and make a clear shot."

Alma took security in her brother's body heat, and was reminded of many a cold night with him in the castle Igros, sharing a blanket over a warm mug. Overcoming her jitters, she slowly positioned the sight over the flower, closed one eye, and tightened her finger on the trigger.

BLAM! The dunes ahead were pockmarked with a small puff of smoke, and the flower burst into a kaleidoscope of blackened petals, which scattered off in the wind until they were indistinguishable from the dirt and debris.

"A clear shot, just as you said!" Alma cheered, jumping up slightly even as her brother still held her.

"Alma, careful!" Ramza cautioned, moving his feet back to keep his sister from trampling his toes.

The girl whirled back towards Ramza, practically glowing with happiness. "Thank you, brother!" she cooed, throwing her arms around him with the gun still in her grip. In her rapture, Alma pressed her lips to his in a quick kiss, then blushed as she remembered Mustadio was still with them. Ramza had surely the same notion, for they both pulled apart and smiled at the engineer in a show of innocence. Still, Mustadio showed no sign of shock and merely smiled back, seemingly chalking it up to sisterly affection.

"So Alma, are you throwing your lot in with us marksmen?" Mustadio asked, a loopy grin forming on his face as he twirled his piece. "I bet I could teach you to bank shots before we leave Zeklaus!"

"I'm sorry, I'd rather not, Mustadio." Alma placed the rifle back in the sack with the rest of Mustadio's equipment, and turned back to him with a smile. "Rifles are a bit clunky for me. I'd prefer to follow my brother in swordsmanship."

"Never squander an opportunity to learn, Alma," Ranza scolded, and then slapped his sister soundly on the thigh in reproval.

"Oh!!" The young lady jumped almost two feet. "Ramza!" she hissed, chasing after him with mock ire.

"...clunky?" Mustadio muttered, as the two siblings laughed among the swirling sands.
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