Her heart was full when she arrived back in Ishgard. Yes, the parting this time had been bittersweet, but she would see him again—“And soon,” he’d promised, to a chorus of cheers and hearty “Hear, hear’s!”
This last trip’s afterglow left Emaile’s whole world full of song and barely-contained bubbling laughter. As if for the first time, she saw beauty in this city that had once seemed full of naught but darkness. The statues of the Architects with brows that seemed so grim now seemed to soften, looking out onto the near horizon with hope. Soldiers she’d pass on the street would turn their scowls into smiles at the sight of her beaming grin. Snowfall only brought her back to that warm evening of hot chocolate with Haurchefant; the cold couldn’t touch her. She even made sure to make extra passes through the Brume during errands, passing out spare meals and sneaking some gil into the baskets.
Perhaps her father and Haurchefant had more ideas on how to help those there. It was such a cold life, and these people deserved to be warm and fed and clothed and sheltered and happy.
As she was walking home from the Brume one day, however, she caught sight of a familiar form: her father, though he was returning from a direction she had not expected. Not from the marketplace to the north… but from the east.
Whatever could he have been up to? The Forgotten Knight was in that direction, but this was early for him to be returning from the tavern. And his face…
His brow furrowed with waves. He staggered as if drunk, though his countenance wasn’t ruddy but pale as cloud.
“F-father?” Emaile cried, even as she saw him stumble. She rushed to his side, dropping her bags of groceries to support him as he folded into her arms. For a moment he looked around the See, his eyes swimming and lost.
“Father, what’s happened?” Emaile asked as she shook him gently, her heart quailing.
Finally his gaze fell to her, recognition lightening his face and distracting most of the dark look away. That, at least, relieved her, but… she did not like the glint of fear that hid in the back of his eyes. “Emaile…” he wheezed, clutching her tightly and leaning on her for support. He was too heavy; she pulled him off to the side so they could both rest against a stone wall.
“Th-the See…” Her father shook his head, struggling to catch his breath. She could barely hear him, he was so quiet. “You hear these things and spit and mutter darkly, but to see them playing out before your very eyes…” Wearily, he covered his face with a shaking hand.
Fear had found her again, lunged its talons into her. “What are you talking about?” she whispered, her lip trembling.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn / 2013-2022
Her father straightened himself against the wall, glancing back and forth for any would-be eavesdroppers. Then he clapped a hand on her shoulders, tugging her close. “Margue de Jonnais.”
The minor noble tried for heresy. The one who had so staunchly argued the innocence of that knight of House Haillenarte, who’d been accused a moon prior.
“The Holy See convicted not only him and his sons, but his wife’s side of the family as well,” her father breathed.
They had proclaimed even his inlaws heretics? “But what had they to do with it?” Emaile asked, bewildered.
“Nothing. They weren’t even aware of the knight who’d been accused. No crucifixes hiding under their beds, either. No evidence at all. Simple guilt by association.” Her father shook his head.
Emaile stared beyond her father to the stone wall, nothing her eyes caught truly registering; she was too horrified. Guilt by association. No evidence whatsoever, yet they’d been tried and convicted of heresy simply for familial ties!
“Well. Thank the Fury there’s a silver lining to heresy,” her father added, venom dripping from his words. His lips twisted in disgust. “It provides shelter and gil for our men of the church. The Holy See seized the family’s assets—home and ancestral lands included—‘to ensure no potential heretics escaped.’ The official reasoning on the report.”
He’d found the official reports? That’s where he’d come from then… the halls of records. “How long have you been investigating this?”
“Since I’d first heard of de Jonnais’s arrest.” He smiled dryly. “Little time to investigate proper while you watched me at the Knight, however.”
She shook her head. “Father…” But what had she been about to say? What did she wish to say? What did she know she should say?
She should tell him to stop this. To turn away. To not endanger himself.
But she could not. It was not right.
This… this was injustice. This was unconscionable. It went beyond corruption; this was stealing people’s livelihoods and lives based on no evidence. And, what’s more… it very likely could have been willfully done, sentencing an innocent man, his family, and his wife’s, to death.
“I cannot allow this to continue, Emaile,” her father whispered, clutching her shoulders tighter. “Something must be done.”
She knew. She knew he was right. And she burned at the outrage of it all.
Outrage… and shame.
For so long she had attempted to protect her father and their family, tried to get him to calm. But this… He was right; he had always been right. Nothing would change here if she remained silent.
Truly, how much better was she than her father’s fair-weather friends? She’d been a coward—so afraid of what might happen to her and her family if her father continued to speak out against the corruption they both saw plain as day. She’d lamented the fact, but what had she done to combat it, change it?
“Power, strength of any kind—it’s meant to be used for others.” How those worse rang in her ears now!
“A knight lives to serve, to save others… There is no greater calling.”
Haurchefant and her father. Truly cut from the same cloth. It was what she loved most about them both; what made her so proud of them.
And now… it was her turn to make them proud. “What must I do?” she whispered, staring deeply into her father’s eyes.
You aren’t alone any longer, Father. I will stand with you, as I should have all along.
She waited for him to glance up. For his eyes to gain their old spark back. For the weight of overwhelmed horror to be replaced by the burning hope of determination while he detailed their plan of action.
Her father did glance up, but… if anything, the look of fear in his eyes grew greater. His gaze, rather than hardening into determination, flickered wilder, more distracted. His eyes filled with sorrow—seeming to gaze straight through her to some point beyond.
Emaile clutched his arm. “Father?” Fearful tears gathered in her eyes.
That terminal look in his eye… It chilled her blood, more than any wrath-filled speech he could have made in the streets.
At last, her voice seemed to pull him back from a brink; he blinked, focusing on her again. He even smiled feebly as he took her arms. “Ah… forgive me, Emaile.” He nodded. “Yes… Yes, everything must be done carefully,” he murmured, seeming to speak more to himself than to her. Breaking gaze again, he pursed his lips, whispering, “We must all play our parts…”
He glanced up to her quickly. Flashed another smile. “You’ll do just as I say, with no questions, won’t you, Emaile?”
Furrowing her brow, she regarded him carefully. What true weight lay behind such a request? What would they each need do, each need to sacrifice?
But it would be a sacrifice for justice. For those who’d had no voice for far too long.
“I’ll do what I can with what power I’ve been given.”
She had a voice. She had power. And she would use it. “Of course, Father.” She nodded.
“Good.” He clapped her arms. “For now…” He trailed off. His words, his gaze, his thoughts… all once again turned down a confused trail: meandered, wandered, and were lost. “Live,” he whispered at last. His gaze turned full on her. Desperation gleamed in his eyes—but beneath it glowed the embers of that determination she knew and loved and had waited for.
So then… why did it also look so sad? “Live, Emaile.”
She stared at him with wide eyes. What do you mean? She begged him silently. What could that possibly mean?
“Come,” he said, suddenly kissing her forehead and releasing her. He seemed to notice her shopping bags for the first time, their contents scattered across the street. “Allow me to help you with these.”
She watched as he bent down, clutching a bag and slipping parchment-wrapped meat and vegetables back inside. But her mind was malms away from her daily errands.
Her father would never give up. He would find a way to make this right.
Without further word, Emaile knelt beside her father and gathered up the remaining bags. Proud of the man beside her.
Proud… and afraid.
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From Him, To Him