The girl looked at Ashley's outfit with some fascination. "Where are you from?" she asked.
"A long way away," Ashley told her, wishing that she and the others had blended in a little bit more. WIth the Astro Megaship sustaining unexpected damage on the way home to Earth, they'd had to stop on a primitive planet and land in a forest outside one of the largest cities in the area. The Megaship uniforms were too conspicuous, so they'd all dressed in nice clothing, in hopes that they wouldn't look too out of the ordinary while picking up some lunch, as DECA's synthesizers were offline for a day or so.
"Oh. Did you arrive in an airship? You must have come a long way. I've never seen fashion like that! Are you willing to sell any?"
"Um." She was expecting to have to sell something in order to buy food; just not the clothes on her back. "This is all I have with me."
"Oh well." The girl sighed. "So, are you enjoying Fynn?"
Fynn? That was hopefully the town name, or the country name; Ashley hoped it was the town's.
"It's a very nice place," she said. "Tell me, where can I sell some things? I don't have the right money."
"Where do you live that doesn't have Gil?" the girl asked, clearly surprised. A world with only one money system, great.
"It's a long story," Ashley said, hoping the girl wouldn't pry, and deciding to change the subject. "I'm Ashley. What's your name?"
"Nissa," the girl replied. "Pleased to meet you. Ooh, look!"
Ashley decided that her new friend had the attention span of a butterfly and looked in that direction, hoping that the girl wouldn't steal anything. "What?" she asked, looking. She didn't see anything going on.
"The blond haired man and the woman with them. See them?"
Ashley looked, and did see the two together, discussing something with each other. "Yes?"
"That's Firion and Maria, they saved the world. You know, when the Emperor tried to take it over?"
Nissa clearly expected her to know what she was talking about, and Ashley wished that she did know the place's history. "Oh."
"They're really nice people - we were all refugees in Altair together, and then they ended up saving the world. I can't say we're close friends, but a lot of people know them. They just got married, you know." She was nodding at the couple. "Let me introduce you."
Ashley caught T.J.'s eye, motioning in the direction that Nissa was pulling her, and he nodded. A minute or two later, she was standing with Nissa, and Nissa was saying hello to Firion and Maria. "Firion, Maria, this is Ashley. She's from a land so far away that they don't have Gil!"
Maria and Firion looked at her, and she looked at them. Firion was dressed comfortably in one of the local outfits, a sword strapped across his back and a dagger at his belt. His wife was in a blouse and loose, free-flowing pants, with a bow and quiver across her back, and also a dagger. They were clearly warriors, no matter how young they were.
She suddenly wondered what she and Andros looked like together, to outside eyes. How the newspapers on Earth would deal with their relationship.
"I've never known a place here that doesn't use Gil," Maria said thoughtfully. "Even the people of the Island use Gil." She looked at Nissa, and made a shooing option, obviously being careful and protective.
"This isn't precisely my world," Ashley said. It might condemn her to the local looney bin, for all she knew, or she and the others might have to retreat. "We got stuck here for a little while, and needed to buy supplies. We mean no harm."
Maria sighed. Firion was mumbling something to himself, and after a moment, looked up. "She's telling the truth," he said, looking at his wife. Maria relaxed a little, as did Firion.
"I know... we've been to hell and back," Maria said, and Ashley had to wonder if she meant literally. "Where are you from?"
"We call it Earth," Ashley told her, hoping that the word didn't translate horribly.
Maria just nodded. "You've come a long way?"
"A very long way." Ashley sighed. "We're on our way home." Well, home for her and the others, though she was seriously considering moving to KO-35 if they were too popular on Earth. Everyone knew who and what she had been.
"You don't want to go," Firion said, and she wondered what he saw in her demeanor.
"Let's just say that we saved our world, too." she told them. "And I don't think I want to deal with the fame."
A smile lit up Maria's face, slightly bitter but knowing. "I wish we didn't have to, either," she said, motioning at Firion. "But I guess we have no choice."
Ashley wondered how it would be like for her. Maria and Firion were left mostly in peace, it seemed, though it seemed fame had worn on them. Their world probably didn't broadcast things 24/7, didn't have the internet, didn't have people far and wide speculating on their lives, which probably was happening on Earth now. It had been bad enough that they'd gone to KO-35 for a few days' rest, to tie things up on that end, before returning home.
She definitely wouldn't mind making that world home; it would probably be more peaceful. The people had better things to do with their lives, like rebuilding.
"Nor do we," Ashley said. "And in our world, I think it will be worse." She didn't mind saving the world, but she didn't want to be famous. None of them did.
She doubted Maria and Firion did, either, from their looks.
"I never thought I'd be known for my swordfighting skills," Maria admitted. "I would have liked to be nothing better than a simple farmer. But when people needed me, I heeded the call. I thought nothing of how famous I would be. Now? I still wish I was, but I know I can't go back. People need me." Her fingers twined around Firion's, and he gave her a loving glance. "All of us."
"It wasn't such a bad fate," Firion said. "In the end. A story to tell our kids."
"Most of it, anyway," Maria said, "Unless you want to tell them about that lamia queen...."
Firion blushed. "No." He looked over at Ashley. "We went through a lot. I'm not sure I wanted the fame, either. But it wasn't upmost on my mind."
"No." Maria added. "Endless days of travelling across the land, slaying monsters, freeing people from slavery... I sometimes got tired of the castles and the dungeons. GIve me a simple life any day."
Firion gave her a fond snort. "You were the one who wanted to go adventuring when Princess Hilda said to stay safe in Altair."
"I'd lost Leon. I wanted to find him." Maria's statement was simple, but the pain in her eyes implied that there was a lot more to that story than what she was saying. "I did." The last was directed at Ashley.
"You do what you have to do," Ashley acknowledged. "You be what you have to be." In the aftermath, she'd talked to Tanya, her predecessor, briefly. Nobody had ever thought Ranger identities would be exposed on Earth, not with the code that Rangers lived by. Nobody had ever thought of the fame, because that wasn't what they were interested in. You saved the world, you did what you had to, and then you retired. That was it, until Ashley's team.
Maybe it would be better to settle on KO-35. Their Rangers had never hidden themselves. The attitudes here were like the attitudes of the people of KO-35. She knew she'd eventually be forgotten after her fifteen minutes of fame, but it seemed sometimes that fifteen minutes of fame lasted far longer than it should.
Of course, their story was epic, or at least Andros' was. Losing his sister, losing his world, finding his sister brainwashed... well, it was a classic story at the very least. She wondered who Leon was, what his relationship to Maria had been, how their story had unfolded. How much they shared in common.
"Yes." Maria's expression said she knew the pain of sacrifice, of loss. "You get through it all. No matter what. Sometimes, because you're the only ones for the job."
In their case, there had been former Rangers. But they'd retired, gone on with their lives. That was the entire point. You were Rangers for a while, and then you passed the powers on to a new generation. That was how things worked. So she and her team had been the only ones there to save the world.
But ordinary people could be courageous, too. That's what she had been, before she'd been a Ranger, the thing that had brought Tanya to choose her. And it had been true of the people in Angel Grove, who had stepped forward and been there with them when they were saving the world from Astronema.
"Yes," Ashley said softly.
"There's a pub outside town," Maria said after a moment. "Would you... like to have lunch there? I have a feeling that you have tales to tell. You and whoever was with you."
It said something about Maria, how she assumed that Ashley had a team. "I can't legally drink alcohol in my world," she said, "But if they serve food... yes."
"Of course they do," Maria said, apparently surprised that she'd ask. "The pub is welcome to everyone, from babes on up."
Maybe a world hadn't translated well, maybe customs were different there. But Ashley was never one for turning down a new friend, and she was sure the others would welcome something to eat, too. "Let me get everyone."
And she did, because they were all hungry, and who wouldn't want to hear tales and share adventures?