No one watches the Princess Ashelia B'nargin Dalmasca as she disrobes. The monsters have been easily dispatched and no more should wander here until the sun comes up and the tide retreats. Her companions are back at the Hunter's camp, sleeping, if they're done listening to Bangaa bragging of their latest marks, and even if they are not sleeping, there's not reason for any of them to walk on this deserted stretch of beach.
So, she disrobes without fear or imagining that someone watches her. Her clothes fold up into small squarish shapes, and they get hidden behind a rock safe from the incoming tide. Her towel covers them, protected from sand.
The night air wraps itself snugly against her skin and the billows back out towards the waves. Her feet, tender from not having gone barefoot since her childhood, trawl experimentally, looking for places where the broken edges of shells and abrupt jutting of rocks are not exposed. Ashe meanders towards the water, pausing to view the world through innocent eyes. Her hands trace the the barnacles growing on the seaward side of the rock. This is Ivalice, just the same as everywhere else, and yet a part of Ivalice stripped bare of the myth and politics that burden the rest of it.
Ashe enters the water gradually. She curls her toes into wet sand and watches the waves break over them. The summer sun has not yet warmed the water completely, and when she enters further, Ashe feels the delicious shock of a chill against parts normally protected by clothing. It's true that she's gone swimming before, but never completely unclothed, and wading free in the sea, nothing between her and the water, nothing spreads out into the water, or clings securely to her skin. She's free, unattached, a state forbidden to royalty.
When the water reaches just below her waist, Ashe dives into the waves. With a few kicks of her legs, she ends her swim where her feet just barely touch the sandy bottom. Just a little farther out, and she treads water. She bobs in the waves. The light from the gibbous moon intersects with the surface of the waves and her bare shoulders. Ashe submerges again, swimming as far out as her arms can take her.
Ashe gets naked to detach herself. She swims now to forget, at least for a little bit, about Archades and Dalmasca, her current companions and the ghosts of her father and Rasler. She swims until her arms and legs ache and her breath comes ragged. Fully exhausted, Ashe rides the waves back to shore, covered in water, wet sand and seaweed. The once-friendly air feels sharp, almost cold even though the early summer night is warm. A chill passes through her, a physical accompaniment to the dizzy elation that she feels. She shakes the sand from her towel and dries herself off.
For a little bit, Ashe stands on the beach, towel dropped at her feet, and faces into the ocean. She touches herself, with the excuse of brushing debris from her body. Though, once it's clean, Ashe doesn't stop. She exposes herself to the sea. She communes. Her eyes close. The sound of the waves breaking against the shore builds up a meditative rhythm. When she opens her eyes again the world looks new.
When Ashe hears the rustling of foliage in the distance, she turns and sees a the flash of a small, pale body (Vaan's? Penelo's?) running away. Or perhaps it's only an errant moonbeam shining down on a monster. No, the figure definitely moves with a Hume's gait. Ashe smiles a bit. She'll make a show of catching her voyeur eventually, but for now she lets it go. She'll have to rinse the salt from her once she returns to camp. For now though, she dresses partially—her armor remains at camp, next to her sleeping bag—walks back and reconnects to the world.