Hunching forward against the bar, Asch drained his glass and gestured for another. The barkeeper shook his head and left the bottle. At least the staring was bothering him less than it had three glasses before-- sure, he did kind of stand out in the remnants of his uniform, but some of the other patrons weren't dressed any better. And besides, wasn't the whole anonymity schtick what these kind of places were for? He couldn't imagine coming here for the ambiance; the entire place smelled like burned stew.
A body settled on the stool beside him. Asch had a moment to wonder whether he should tell the guy to piss off or just glare instead, before the newcomer spoke in a familiar voice. "What are you doing?"
Asch blinked, then reluctantly turned in his seat. "I'm getting drunk," he snapped, "because that's what you do when you save the world and no one notices."
Jade smiled back at him cheerfully. "Oh, that's hardly fair. Quite a lot of people noticed. What with the earthquakes and all."
Giving Jade his best withering stare, Asch poured himself another drink. "What are you doing here, anyway? You're Luke's fairy godfather, right?"
"Don't remind me. I still need to have words with His Majesty for giving me that assignment."
"Shouldn't you be looking after him, then?"
"Actually, he's quite content to be off gallivanting with young Guy. He seems to have found his own happily ever after, and who am I to argue?"
"What?" Asch whipped his head around to stare at Jade. "What the hell is he thinking? He should be with Na-- in Baticul, helping them rebuild."
"Oh, he does that, too," Jade replied easily. "Never fear."
"Oh." Asch slowly went back to staring at his drink. "Well. Good."
Jade gave a heavy, theatrical sigh. "You really shouldn't mope like this, you know. It's hardly befitting a prince."
"I'm no prince." Asch glared into his glass. "They have Luke for that." Luke, a golem made from his hair and blood at the hands of a sorcerer. The one who was still living his life, or was supposed to be, anyway, though apparently he couldn't even get that right.
Asch tossed his drink back and reached for the bottle.
"You could go back."
Asch laughed harshly. "Cursed, remember?" And the one who'd done it in the first place, the one person who could have lifted it, was now dead. Quite deservedly so; Asch had been working for that just has hard as everyone else. He hadn't really intended on living through the whole mess, of course, but being cursed did tend to make one's plans fall through more often than not.
The silence held for a moment, then Jade reached out and snagged an empty glass, pouring himself a shot from Asch's bottle. "This is quite unsatisfactory, you know," he said, his voice uncharacteristically solemn. "You looking so miserable. Perhaps I'm getting soft in my old age, but I do wish there was some way for everyone to end this happily. Even you."
"Yeah," Asch muttered. "Me too."
"Ah." Jade carefully set down his drink. "I was rather hoping you'd say that."
Asch frowned, and opened his mouth to ask just what the hell Jade was looking so smug about, but before he could get the words out all of the alcohol he'd drank took a roiling lurch in his stomach. Or maybe it was the room that was lurching, because Asch himself suddenly felt fully sober and the bar was looking distinctly classier than it had just seconds before. The scorched-meat smell was fading into something light and flowery and heartbreakingly familiar, and all of the staring patrons were suddenly much better dressed. In fact, Asch realized, blinking hard in an attempt to get his eyes to focus properly, the seedy bar he had sought out looked less like a bar altogether, and more like-- like the throne room of the King's palace in Baticul.
Asch swallowed hard when he noticed Natalia standing at the top of the dais, both of her hands over her mouth as she stared at him. Asch's throat felt tight-- maybe because his bloody uniform had become some sort of fancy, high-collared coat when he wasn't looking, but maybe not.
"It's a funny thing, really," Jade's voice murmured to him, though the man himself was nowhere to be seen. "I was assigned to be Luke fon Fabre's fairy godfather. And I had rather thought that assignment over and done with when we left Hod. But it seems as though someone else laid claim to that name, recently. And yes, yes, I know you didn't technically say I wish, but let's agree not to argue over semantics, shall we?"
Asch couldn't think of a single thing to say in response. At least, nothing that wasn't you damned sneaky bastard, and he was starting to suspect that he should be a little more grateful than that.
Jade's voice chuckled like he'd heard the thought anyway. "Don't screw it up," he warned. "I can do far worse things than turn you into a frog. And I would quite like to go home for a while instead of traipsing around the world after stubborn children."
An invisible hand pushed Asch in the small of his back, making him stagger forward just as Natalia started down the steps towards him. There were tears in her eyes, streaming down her cheeks, but her smile was wide and brilliant enough that he barely noticed them.