The next time she came into Rabanastre after the war, Drace could have passed for any civilian.
For the duration of the Airship trip, she had laid her tired eyes on the desert’s sand, looking at nothing in particular. Her dress, made of a light fabric because of the heat flowed around her with the wind. Everything about Drace was Archadian, from her stance to her voice, but wasn’t she just another tourist?
She walked the streets, spending too much time watching children steal goods in the Muthru Bazaar. She must have seemed peculiar, smiling fondly at scrawny kids. None of those kids, none of those merchants would have guessed who she really was. Not even the imperial soldiers patrolling the streets, looking at her as if she was yet another bored bourgeois lady on a trip. Better that than having them crawling at her feet. There, in the midst of Rabanastre, Drace was not a Magister anymore, for a few hours. She did not feel like the victor owning these sandy streets so full of life and colours.
Maybe it was because she had not approved of this war in the first place.
On the steps of the Palace, she watched the sun go down below the walls. Watched the nocturnal crowd, people passing her by. Tomorrow they would look at her, the same merchants, the same children and beggars.
Tomorrow she would stand under the scorching sun, looking at the city through metal.
Tomorrow they would hate her.
What Ghis liked the most about Rabanastre were the colours. The city was of course missing some panache and modernity, but he liked it. There were beautiful people all around him, the accented voices of Kerwon, Ordalia and Valendia music to his hears. It seemed to Ghis that Rabanastre would never truly be part of the empire. The city had a consciousness, a breath of life –he was not thinking about potential resistance groups, no, no– there was something. Rabanastre was a flower of the desert, and it only bloomed for those who knew how to look at it.
Ghis could spend hours in the Sandsea, listening.
Or outside, not caring about the sun, watching. The Palace’s roofs glistening under the heat. The ballet of people. The view from the streets was better than from the Palace’s balconies.
Sometimes, Ghis would daydream about giving back its freedom to Rabanastre. To feel another breeze flow in the streets. A man like Gramis, a man like Vayne… they could not understand. They never would. They tried to throttle the city, to have its people step in line. Ghis was no such fool, and Rabanastre would love him back for it then, at last.
Zargabaath spent his first day in the Palace’s library. He was interested in the city but it was too hot outside. It was hot inside too, thanks to his black clothes, but Zargabaath found that he actually did not care much about the heat in the end. He was learning the city’s past and architecture through records, books and maps. Dalmascan history was more interesting than walking through a crowded Southgate. Several times, he looked through the library’s window… he was just not in a hurry. His presence in Rabanastre was not mandatory, so he was letting his free time slowly slip by.
Maybe Zargabaath would go to Lowtown later. Tomorrow. He would check if the maps of the sewers were accurate. He would take the old dusty tomes to read in the warmth and compare two very different cities that were the same. He would colour the pages and fill them with past lives, before closing the book. He would put it back in the palace’s shelf, in his mind-shelf to remember Rabanastre when would come the time to leave.
And when that time came, Zargabaath wondered how many cared about those who had made Rabanastre, the knights and scholars and adventurers that now walked the streets beside him.
Gabranth tried to spend as little time in Rabanastre as possible. Vayne would soon be appointed Consul here, so Gabranth had a few loose ends to tie. Many which involved intelligence and arresting people at night. Dirty work, typical of his bureau. Gabranth then did his duty there, and leaved as quickly as possible, to get back to Arcades.
It was not so much that Gabranth did not appreciate the city, but he felt like he was trespassing into enemy territory. He felt watched. There was a ghost in those streets, walking behind him, an unrelenting voice in his head.
He would have liked the view here.
He could have been sitting there, drinking with fellow soldiers.
Over there, giving money or bread to a street urchin.
Proud on a chocobo, helmet glistening under the midday sun.
Inside the Palace, by the Princess’s side.
No matter how many wars the Empire would win against Dalmasca… no matter how many times Gabranth would see Rabanastre, it would be his brother’s city. The streets had his smell and every man his face. Never would Gabranth feel peace here, and he hid it beneath the Magister’s armour. The thought brought a bitter smile to his lips. The conqueror hiding in plain sight, hiding from a dying man’s judgement. No, it was not that Gabranth despised Rabanastre. But the city’s walls would always be closing on him until he was breathless with guilt. The city did not want him here, and never would.
Bergan did not visit Rabanastre for tourism.
He had been assigned duties there by Lord Vayne. He stayed a few days, left, came back, left and came back again. Repeat. Everything had to be ready. He had to manage the army, the men. Verify the security. Keep an eye on Gabranth, this one could take care of the insurgence. Ghis could take care of the petty missions. Bergan had no time to lose. There he would smell alcohol, catch the sunlight’s reflection in a dancer’s tambourine. But for the moment, none of this mattered.
The world was on the move, and Rabanastre was just another pawn on Ivalice’s chessboard. Bergan was the player’s hand. The hand moved, obeyed without looking back nor caring, faithfully. Later, when the game would end, Bergan would look, and think, and care. He would take time…
On some evenings, Bergan thought that one day, when he would be by his victorious Lord’s side, they would look at the city. Then, when the wars would stop to preserve a few seconds of perfection, Bergan would enjoy the calm noise of the city. Its people, its colours, its history. Its beauty, of which he had only caught a fleeting glimpse. He would see Rabanastre.
Dalmasca was too linked with Nabradia for Reddas’s taste. Too close to Nabudis. He had accepted the hunt without looking where the patron was. He did not really regret it, because once in the Clan Centurio’s headquarters, there was nothing to remind him of the outside. The sun had been replaced by the artificial light of magicites, the desert’s air by smoke and an enclosed atmosphere. It was better this way. The Pirate King of Balfonheim was alright there, sitting in a chair and talking monsters. Hunting techniques.
No, Reddas did not want to go outside. There were too many imperial soldiers here, and what if one of them recognised his voice, his face? It was improbable, still the possibility plagued his mind. There were too many war orphans outside, had Reddas been the one to kill their family and send them in the streets?
There were people he... had known... walking in the streets, and this was even worse. He was not ready for them.
At last, he excused himself when he and Montblanc finished discussing the mark. Reddas would leave the city tonight. His ship awaited in the aerodrome, there was no time to waste. On his way, he would not look at the Palace, nor the streets. Keeping his eyes straight ahead and Elza close by, as if she would have blocked the view. As if she would have blocked the Empire’s shadow, looming more over Reddas’s own mind than over the invaded capital’s walls.