Love in Cille by Snorb

Author's note: Thanks to Kaloes and Trenzer for being absolute fun to talk to on AIM, the Fringes of Algo regulars for being their usual cool selves, and Sega for creating one of my favorite RPG series ever (But not localizing it grrrrrrrrrrrrr). Any romantic cliches you notice in the story are completely expected.

AW 2315- The Kingdom of Cille, Aquatica Dome

Mieu knew it, as did her counterpart Wren. Similar thoughts crossed the mind of Rhys, King of Cille, and his queen, Maia.

Something was weighing very heavily on Prince Ayn's mind. They could tell, either through his posture, his walk, the faraway look in his eyes, or his leaning against a wall in Castle Cille, sighing and saying, "God, I wish this were easier."

"Wish what was, Prince Ayn?" Mieu asked, overhearing him one day.

"Oh, Mieu... I don't think you'd understand," Ayn started. "It's just... no. I don't want to trouble you."

"Prince Ayn, it's my job to be troubled!" Mieu approached the cyan-haired prince, offering a sisterly hand on his shoulder. "You know you can tell me anything."

"Well..." He shifted his weight against the pillar, trying to make himself more comfortable. "Mieu, you know the kingdom of Shusoran, right?"

Mieu nodded, her red hair shifting with the motion. "Of course. Lord Lyle rules that kingdom, and has been one of Cille's closest allies ever since your parents' marriage twenty years ago." She raised an eyebrow. "Prince Ayn, are you worried that Lord Lyle will betray us?"

"No, Mieu! My problem isn't Lyle! It's Thea!"

"Thea? Prince Ayn, I don't understand."

Ayn crossed his arms and chuckled slightly at Mieu. "I told you so," he said, satisfied. "It's like this, Mieu..."

Over the next half hour, he told Mieu about Thea, how her emerald hair seemed to dance with an ever-present breeze, her eyes resembling the sea mixing with a clear summer sky, and how she had the grace of a celestial being. Mieu couldn't help but wonder if Ayn was being either poetic or exaggerating when he mentioned that Thea's lips "were more crimson than even the most beautiful rose... and her body! She's got—"

Mieu sweatdropped, and coughed slightly. "I, uh... I think I understand now, Ayn," she stammered, trying to get Ayn back on track. "You have strong feelings for Princess Thea!"

"'Strong'... isn't the word for it, Mieu. It's more like..." Ayn sighed again. "I want to hold her, Mieu. Hug her. Kiss her, be her knight in laconia armor. I... I guess you could say I'm in love with Thea."

"That's very nice, Prince Ayn!" Mieu exclaimed, giving her prince a warm smile. "If just the thought of Princess Thea can move you to such thoughts and emotions... ah, that truly is a magical feeling! But... if I may offer a suggestion?"

"Shoot."

"Please, don't tell me. Tell Princess Thea yourself." She smiled again. "I understand that tomorrow is the festival of Saint Valentine. You could tell her then."

"Whoa, wait a minute, Mieu... practically everyone in Cille and Shusoran is going to be attending the festival." Ayn sweatdropped. "Even the fishermen from Rysel and Agoe are going to, also! If I tell Thea what I told you, and she laughs at me..." He groaned. "I'm gonna get embarassed in front of everyone in Aquatica, Dad's gonna get mad, declare war on Shusoran, there's gonna be fighting and Tech slinging, I'm going to have to fight, I'll get captured by a newbie soldier, sent to Death Row, and I'm gonna wind up sharing a cell with Butch McDick who wants to make me his 'special friend!'"

Mieu sweatdropped again. "My Prince, that's what we'll call a 'worst case scenario.'"

"No. 'Worst case' is if Dad goes crazy like Grandpa Reiki and Grandpa Orin and decides he's going to make me marry Princess Sari of Landen."

"Well... calm down, Prince Ayn. Head into the market, clear your thoughts." Mieu tapped her chin in thought. "I don't know too much about Valentine's Day, but I think the appropriate courting gifts would be a heart-shaped box of chocolates, and a dozen red roses."

"That's good, but all the vendors are going to be sold out by now! Where am I supposed to get a dozen roses?!"

"If I may speak freely, my Prince? You're Ayn Landen. I'm sure someone can spare twelve roses for you. However!" Mieu motioned Ayn away from his pillar, and she pointed to an archway leading to the castle's garden. "It might be a little more heartfelt if you picked some roses from the queen's garden. They should be in bloom by now."

"You're right... now, chocolate... chocolate..."

"You get that from the market," Mieu commented. "Spending some Meseta would be wisest, as opposed to making your own chocolate."

"Yeah... after trying to make Mom and Dad breakfast in bed on their anniversary, I think I got banned for life from the castle's kitchen." Ayn laughed, then asked Mieu, "I should probably write Thea a poem, huh?"

"Yes! Exactly! Good show, Prince Ayn! The perfect compliment to chocolate and roses!" Mieu clapped her hands together. "You're getting the hang of this romance stuff!"

"I learned from the best," Ayn replied. As he headed towards the castle garden, he turned around and asked, "Hey, Mieu? All that advice you gave me... Is it from watching Mom and Dad?"

"Pardon?"

"Everything you told me, did you learn that all from my parents, or was it first-hand experience?"

Mieu averted her gaze, trying not to look at Ayn. "You wouldn't understand..."

"Wren, I see..."

"Wren is just a colleague of mine, Prince Ayn. Dedicated to protecting the descendants of Orakio sa Riik. Nothing more."

"I'm sure." Ayn crossed his arms again. "Mieu, if I may? Why not follow your own advice? Give him flowers and chocolate."

"But—"

"So what if he gets confused? After all, he's a male, just like I am." Ayn laughed. "We're not good with all this emotional stuff!"

"Prince Ayn!"

She was too late; Ayn had already entered the garden, intent on picking out roses. With a sigh, Mieu shrugged and headed down the castle corridors. Prince Ayn thinks Wren and I would make a cute couple, she thought, adjusting a tapestry as she passed it. But I just see him as a colleague. Still, if he thinks it's worth pursuing...

[center]The next night, the Valentine Festival[/center]

Twelve of Maia's reddest roses, six uses of Res (Damn thorns, Ayn cursed), and four thousand Meseta later, the Prince of Cille was ready. Or so he thought, at least. As he mingled among the crowd of gathered Orakians and Layans, his thoughts kept drifting towards Thea. Is she here? She's probably with some noble from Rysel, or... or she's not even here. No, damn it, stay calm. Thea's here. Just stay calm...

"Ayn?" Her voice was soft, nearly angelic, as it reached out to Ayn. "I've been looking all over for you! I was starting to think you weren't coming!"

Mustering all the confidence he had, Ayn turned around, feeling his heart skip a beat as he caught sight of Thea. The princess's grace dazzled Ayn as she curtsied politely, her silver dress shimmering in the last rays of the setting sun. Remembering himself, he bowed before Thea.

"Well... I wouldn't miss this," he nervously said, trying not to think about the scent of Star Mist that seemed to follow Thea. "It's a great festival, isn't it?"

"I suppose it is," Thea sighed, looking at Ayn sadly. "It's just... I wish I could be like Father."

"Hmm?"

She motioned towards Lyle, who was flirting with several young women. Ayn knew that Thea's mother had passed away when they were younger, but as Lyle was quick to remind the women, "Please understand, Luna's gone, but she's not gone... you know what I mean, right?"

"I just don't have Father's confidence," Thea explained. "He's been saying I'm of courting age now, but..."

"But what?" Ayn was confused,

"There's someone I had in mind, but I don't know if he's interested. Ayn... could we go to the sandbar? I don't want to tell the whole region about this."

Ayn nodded, and offered Thea his hand. They left Shusoran's central plaza and headed towards the sandbar that bridged their kingdoms, a few minutes' walk from the festival. Once they arrived, they noticed (to their relief) that they were completely alone.

"Thea?" Ayn asked. "Are you feeling better?"

"I am, Ayn. Thanks."

The moon of Azura was starting to rise in the sky, bathing Thea in blue light, Ayn sighed, then started, "Thea, I... I have something for you."

"You do?"

Nodding, Ayn reached beneath his cape and produced the roses he had picked, offering them to Thea. "These are from my mother's garden," he said. "And, um... these are for you also..." He took out a heart-shaped box. "I don't remember if you liked dark or milk chocolate, so I got one with both..."

Gently, gracefully, Thea took Ayn's gifts, then smiled at him. "Ayn, you didn't have to get me anything," she said. "But... thank you very much. ...There's a card, too!"

Oh, God, please let her not be weirded out, Ayn silently prayed, as Thea read the card.

"'Thea... In my thoughts and dreams/You are my beautiful light,/May I love you, Thea?/May I be your shining knight?' I... Ayn, I..." She looked at Ayn, then back at the poem, reading it again, as if she were ensuring that she read it right. When she looked back up at Ayn, a tear started to roll down her cheek. "Ayn..."

Uh-oh. Thea's crying. Not good. Ayn started to think of something to say to cheer Thea up. "Thea, I'm sorry," he started. "If I offended you, I'm sorry."

"Ayn, this poem... do you mean it? Every last word?" Thea looked at him expectantly, as if the fate of all of Aquatica rested on Ayn's decision.

"Every last word, Thea."

She nodded, and Ayn was certain he had screwed up majorly. His lament was cut short when Thea ran up to him and threw her arms around him, nearly knocking the two of them to the sand.

"I take it you're not offended, Thea?" Ayn asked, sweatdropping as Thea looked him in his eyes.

"Of course not, Ayn! I'm glad... because the man that I was hoping would court me..." She leaned over to Ayn's ear and whispered, "...is the Prince of Cille."

Ayn's eyebrows raised. "Me?!" he exclaimed, surprised.

"Unless Lord Rhys and Lady Maia had another baby when you weren't looking. Ayn, I would be honored if you would court me."

The two had no need for words—their lips meeting in a passionate kiss was all they needed. Even still, Ayn and Thea pulled away from each other, only to say the three words they so dearly wanted to hear each other say.

"I love you."

[center]At the Festival[/center]

"Mieu? What is this?" Wren asked, pointing at the contents of the heart-shaped box.

"It's chocolate, Wren!" Mieu told him. "They're shaped like 3/8" hex nuts. I know you love that shape."

"I only said I found it aesthetically pleasing. And these are 12mm hex nuts..."

"Well, do you at least like the roses?" Mieu asked, her blue eyes becoming starry.

Wren sweatdropped as he looked at the twelve pieces of paper folded into flower shapes. "The rose topographical folding is pleasing, Mieu," he said. "I don't grasp the significance of chocolate and roses, however."

Mieu sighed, amused at her counterpart's plight. "Don't worry, Wren. You'll understand one fine day."

She glanced at the sandbar, where Ayn and Thea continued to share their kiss. After all, Prince Ayn understood. Prince Ayn, Princess Thea... happy Valentine's Day.