Princesses aren’t supposed to love mercenaries
Or, 20 facts about Ike and Elincia
Despite the outward optimism she’d showed, she hadn’t expected to survive Daein’s first strike. She hadn’t expected that, after her entourage was slain, a young blue-haired man – who was part of a mercenary group, no less – would find her and help her.
She hadn’t thought that she would be saved.
Then again, in retrospect, she hadn’t thought she’d ever become the acknowledged princess of Crimea, hadn’t thought she’d regain a throne once forever lost.
When they were little, she and Lucia laughed over many childish stories and ideas.
“And one day a prince charming will sweep you off of your feet!” her friend said with a glimmer in her eye, giggling.
“Hahaha, if he could ever find me. I’m a princess hiding in secret, remember?”
“’My dearest lady, love knows not any boundaries! Keep the shutters of your heart wide open and sooner or later it shall come and perch upon that windowsill!’ You know Bastian would say something like that,” she replied, and they dissolved into another fit of giggles.
“Well, he wouldn’t be a real prince by blood, then,” she managed to say once they’d calmed down a bit.
“He’d have all of those princely qualities, though. Strong, tall, handsome, and he’d swear upon his life to protect you and would fight an uphill battle to win your heart...”
“Lucia!” she cried, throwing a pillow at her, halting the conversation yet again.
But that was years ago, when they’d all been foolhardy and young.
Now, she finds that she needs to redefine what “prince charming” means to her all over, and the images and adjectives can’t swarm into her mind fast enough.
She finds herself thinking of blue more often than not, and wonders.
(if it’s an uphill battle for him, or if it’s merely one-sided for her)
It wasn’t until Ranulf returned to them that one serene summer night and made the joke about lovebirds under the stars that she started to realize the possible depth of her feelings for Ike.
Unfortunately for her, she couldn’t forget that wayward comment afterwards, ever.
Princesses aren’t supposed to nurse semi-murderous thoughts.
The two of them would always find time for each other. Even when they were busy fleeing from Daein through the forests, and even when Ike had become the General and both of them had an extraordinary amount of tasks to tend to. At the beginning of the day, save for the emergency tactical meetings, they’d both take their meals and sit together in comfortable silence. At the end, they’d talk to each other in the near-twilight, whether it was a long conversation that dissolved into everythings and nothings or hardly enough for a pleasantry and a good night.
Always, always, always.
She never told him about the feeling of security she got from their meetings, mostly because it’d be meaningless to do so and that perhaps he’d start to think that he was merely a security blanket to her.
She was a good liar, to herself.
(and to everyone else.)
After all, to be a good princess, Elincia knows that she’s had to lie to herself and to everyone else as much as she’s had to tell the truth.
The truth: she will never leave this part of Crimea, never be acknowledged as Princess or Queen, never have a chance at anything else besides living this life of exile.
The lie: she is Crimea’s true princess. And is happy to have her role, with everything (and everyone) that said role encompasses.
Lucia is her best friend. When they were young, she would tell her everything, could tell her anything. Giggles over their latest exploits, laughter over air, smiles over sea; it kept her afloat. When they were young, she and the others were all she had in life, and she knew this, knows this still. They would do anything for each other, and Lucia had already pledged her life long ago.
“Elincia, I’ll always be there for you. So will Geoffrey, and Bastian. We are always going to be there, so all you have to do is ask.”
I’m sorry, Lucia, but I cannot tell you about this, she thinks. I cannot.
Princesses aren’t supposed to do a lot of things, Elincia knows.
Which is kind of ironic, because by the definition, shouldn’t princesses be allowed to do many things that ordinary people cannot? But truth is truth. They’re not supposed to mingle with commoners and anyone of lower than regal status or bearing. They’re not supposed to be able to fight, to be able to use magic, to be able to pack at a moment’s notice and to be able to ride on horseback for anything other than ceremonial purposes. They’re not supposed to wax a bow or sharpen a sword.
They’re not supposed to do many things.
(They’re supposed to sit, and look pretty, and flounce around in dresses with ruffles and ribbons and regality, and prim their hair and proper their face and do so many things with such empty meaning; that’s what she thought, that’s what she might’ve thought.)
They’re supposed to be dolls. Simply ceremonial dolls with wind-up smiles.
They’re not supposed to feel. They’re not supposed to love.
That’s her excuse, she knows believes thinks hopes hopes-not; that’s her excuse.
Ike always was ever so slightly amazed at how, despite her regal bearing and the fact that she was a princess, she was one of the most atypical members of royalty that he had ever met.
She’d laugh and blush and explain her hidden status, telling him stories about learning to ride on horseback and fight with a sword, about packing and doing menial chores, about studying and poring over tomes in the various seasons, about running in the fields under the summer sun and –
She gets to Lucia, Geoffrey, and Bastian, and stops.
(it’s not her story to tell, she thinks, but she’s really not sure why)
Lucia is ever so slightly amazed at how, despite her regal bearing and the fact that she’s a princess, she’s managed to fall in with such a mercenary group and become accepted and loved by everyone.
She laughs and explains how that status doesn’t really matter, telling her stories about how they first saved her, how they dashed through the woods in a race to Galmia, how they sailed for months and met the dragon laguz, about reassurances in the Begnion courtyards and talking under the twilight and –
She gets to Ike, and stops.
(it’s not her story to tell, she can’t tell this story well, she thinks, but she’s really not sure why)
“You’re doing a good job as Queen, Elincia.”
She hears this from her courtiers every day, but it’s only after Ike says it that she feels so warm and full of smiles like she’s actually done good work. Because she knows he will only say things he means.
It’s not to say that she thinks her courtiers will only give her empty flattery and untruthful compliments. It’s just that, when Ike says it, he means it. And that means a lot to her, coming from him.
That’s all it is.
That’s all; it is.
The restoration effort takes time and he won’t leave the employ of Crimea until he’s seen the whole thing through, so he eventually leaves the castle and tours the countryside, going where he is needed.
Why he’s so obligated to do so, she doesn’t know. It’s been a long time since she’s decided – discovered – that he does things because he thinks they’re right, because they help people in need, because he wants to – but other than that, she has no idea, no inkling of what goes on in his mind. He’s a mystery to her, ever as enigmatic as he was the day she met him, the day he saved her.
She fully trusts him, has trusted him for so long, and lets him come and go like the wind, like the tide, like an uncontrollable force of nature that goes back and forth but never stops or pauses.
(Lets him go because if she loves something and sets it free, she knows it’ll return to her eventually, a small part of her mind whispers.)
Sometimes, he doesn’t come back for months, and to her it feels like years.
It’s always the same, every time he departs. Always the same.
She wonders when this endless cycle will end, if ever.
(and wonders if she even wants it to end at all)
If Ike ever loved her, and if they ever got married, the repercussions of that would be severe. So severe.
She’d never thought of that idea on her own. What would be wrong with her marrying a man, the future King of Crimea, further securing the throne of the land? What would be wrong with her following such a folly, the folly of her heart? Wasn’t that what she was supposed to do, after all?
But then she heard the rumors. The whispers through the hallways in passing that she was never meant to hear. How an average, ‘lowly’ mercenary (her mind wants to respond to that insulting description, oh it does) could rise up to the status of a Lord, gain the command of a country’s entire army and defeat the warlord of another.
How unfair it all was, how he usurped a class barrier that was never supposed to be breached. How he rose past courtiers and royalty to be the veritable right-hand of the Princess Crimea, who was he to think he could do such a thing –
At times like these, she’d feign the need for a breath of fresh air and would run out into the countryside, run towards freedom and everything that she had been used to, towards all the things she used to be that now she was not.
But even still, there was no respite there; everything was the same, except from the other side of things. Whispers of how, if one lowly mercenary like them could do it, they could as well –
She kept running, running running running, looking for respite and hoping for a way out.
(but there’s nowhere to go, nowhere to hide.)
When she gets back to the castle, she falls onto her bed and doesn’t wake up until an eternity afterwards.
The next morning, really; the servants and Lucia decided that she had needed the extra sleep.
Elincia would have liked to say that it was because she was exhausted, that it was a dreamless sleep – but she knows better, and doesn’t mention how in her dreams she scoured skies and seas for a hint of blue.
She tries to forget by the next day, but she knows herself better than that.
There comes the day when Ike leaves Castle Crimea.
Oh, no one says it like that – of course he’ll come by to visit, of course they won’t forget each other. He just wants to do the mercenary work that he used to do, wants to get back to his old life.
(wants to breathe free, fresh air again)
Elincia’s also heard the whispers about how there’s no way that the Greil Mercenaries can ever go back to the lives that they once had, but says nothing. It’s not her place. It’s never her place.
She stays silent with a strained smile, and waves until he’s out of sight, until he’s ridden into the clichéd sunset off in the distance.
In reality, the only reason she doesn’t shed a tear is because she’d sensed his intentions long ago and has been bracing herself for it ever since.
Sometimes, when the nights are long and her bottom lip curls in emotion unidentifiable, she wishes that he’ll never come back.
And sometimes, when the days are short and the sun feels discomfiting and cold against her back, she wishes that she could take that wish back.
The day that she’ll have her ceremonial wedding to tie herself to some man of royalty and to continue the Crimean bloodline, she’s sure that he’ll attend it. She’ll smile like she’s really happy, and he’ll present to her some sort of gift that will make it all the harder for her to swallow down her memories of another time long ago.
She’s sure that when he has his own humble wedding ceremony, somewhere far away from the castle and out of the public’s eye, he’ll send her the invitation some way or another.
Of course she’d have to attend. Of course she’d greet the bride warmly, tell her stories to emphasize what a lucky woman she is.
Princesses aren’t supposed to love mercenaries.
For good reasons.
They’re scruffy, they’re ill-mannered, ill-bred, and usually dishonest. They’re willing to make a living by whatever means necessary, any job, any way. They’re unkempt, they’re unkind.
Mercenaries aren’t supposed to become lords, yet he did. And mercenaries aren’t supposed to become the general of a country’s entire army, but yet he did again.
Still, most lords aren’t like him, never are. And despite the title, Ike is, and always will be, a mercenary.
And princesses aren’t supposed to love them.
So therefore, she doesn’t. Love him.
(but she does.)
(she does, and that’s the problem.)
Sometimes love stories don’t have happy endings.
Elincia’s not sure if this – whatever it was that happened between them – was even anywhere near a love story in the first place.
But one thing that this not-story cannot deny her: she’s good at dancing with her illusions, as she dips them a curtsy and they leave her with their bows.
(because this is the end of their never-ever dance.)