Actions

Work Header

heartbeats

Chapter Text

Her travels took her far and wide, but they always seemed to bring her back here — to the land that reminded her of home. Ishgard always welcomed the Warrior of Light with open arms, as if she’d never left.

After settling things back in Ala Mhigo and feeling things won’t fall apart if she’s not around for a couple of weeks, the Warrior of Light set out on a journey. The woman had some ties she should finally try to start wrapping up before the winds of change beckon her to fight once more. However, she would feel she’d need all the help she can get with this new adversary.

She would come here, not just as a Warrior of Light, but as a daughter…

The realization that she’s about to face the woman she’s been avoiding since the Dragonsong War ended sank deeper in as J’lihmu strolled through the doors of the Fortemps Manor. Her arrival, already known by Count Edmont and co. welcomed her immediately with opened arms as her cold and stony exterior melted away into a small smile.

This place… there was no better feeling that could describe this place as home. To truly not worry about Eorzea and her people, what may come next morning… Within these falls, she felt safe; to be able to let other people bring her that sense of feeling and trust … truly, no other greater feeling.

She wondered momentarily as Saulette helped her with her belongings, a small smile upon her face, if this how Haurchefant wanted her to feel.

Safe. Warm. Protected. Loved.

Shaking those thoughts away, J’lihmu waltzed towards Count Edmont and sat upon one of the couches near the fireplace. Her emerald orbs taking in her surroundings as she got comfortable while the lord sat across from her.

The elezen smiled warmly at the sight, but then his eyes narrowed slightly until they widened in surprise, his mouth forming a shape of an ‘o.’

“Your hair!” Count Edmont exclaimed loudly, whilst J’lihmu remained confused.

Green eyes softened upon the realization hitting her and she chuckled gently. Grabbing some of her now short crimson hair, she messed with the lock of it, doing gentle twirls before turning her attention back to the elezen.

“Yeah — it’s a loong story…”  It was clear in her tone that Li did not want to overwhelm her friend with information too quickly, but, eventually relented.

And so, the Warrior of Light recounted her tale of liberating Ala Mhigo, with the help of her friends and eventually fighting her fated foe, Zenos Yae Galvus.  Her tale was brief, albeit vague, but it was to be expected. The warrior didn’t want her friend to know the details that are seared within her memory— how Zenos’ words still haunts her every waking moment.

‘Hear me, hero —’

‘Endure, survive, live —’

‘The rush of blood

‘The time between the seconds—’

‘Live!’

 

However, the topic moved to a rather lighthearted one: her hair.

“...And to think, you were maintaining so well as of late” the older elezen mumbled, shuffling slightly in his seat. It seemed he missed the warrior’s flowing locks, but she could not care less.

“I don’t have to put much effort into it as before. If anythin’ Zenos did me a favor.” J’lihmu grinned while Edmont rolled his eyes, muttering under his breath about ‘young people’ and their ‘rebellious spirit.’

He could see why his late son fancied her, and would hope that if Haurchefant was watching right now, he would be overjoyed to see how far she has come, truly.


However, it was not so obvious to her of his affections. Bearing the mantle ‘Warrior of Light’ gave her little time to find comfort in another person’s bed or rather, little time to think about matters of the heart. But, this did not deter Haurchefant Fortemps, not in the slightest. Edmont has kept that memory, tucked within the deepest corners of his mind.

How she would always put up a barrier, placing people at arm’s length. The Warrior of Light, the hope of the people, the warriors of warriors—she could not simply bring anyone else into her heart. To become the wall that keeps Eorzea and her people safe—

And yet..

His smile cracked through her walls, like shimmering rays of gold and broke them apart, bringing her into his arms.

It was well into the night, but didn’t seem to deter the Warrior of Light continued as she continued to talk. The topic at hand was the reconstruction of Ala Mhigo, and her fellow companion, Doma. However, she paused momentarily, feeling the a yawn slip through her ruby colored lips.

“It seems your exhaustion has finally caught up with you. We can continue another time, if you so wish.” The charcoal-haired male told her, smiling in amusement as her forest green orbs locked eyes with him and scowled.

“I am not tired, Edmont.” Her reply was short was brief and with a gentle tone unheard of from these walls. However, her body betrayed her once more and she yawned and immediately glared daggers upon Edmont’s amused expression.

“Of course, of course. Whatever you say, dear.” A moment of silence between the two before Edmont spoke once more, his expression turned serious.

“However…” He started, tapping his cane lightly on the floor. “Please remember you are not here to idle chat with me, or did you forget?” Edmont’s reply was blunt and swift, making J’lihmus expression harden.

Immediately right after she sighed and shuffled, slumping her shoulders against the cerulean couch. Her gaze drifted towards the Fortemps Manor before closing her eyes for just a moment before opening them, avoiding Edmont’s inquisitive gaze.

“...I know.” The warrior stated, and left it at that. Her green hues were momentarily directed towards the fireplace. The crackling of the wood bringing her uneasy beating heart into a steady, yet soothing rhythm.

In the letter J’lihmu had sent out many moons ago to Count Edmont explained in great detail on the reason for her visit. Before he read it, he thought of what could possibly bring the red-haired warrior back to the lands of Ishgard.

... I am here not as a Warrior of Light, but as a daughter. I’ve put this on hold for far too long, and, truth be told, my father would be very disappointed in me, knowing I’ve been avoiding my birth mother for so long.

Going through the letter—passing by pleasantries and how are yous— his eyes landed upon certain key words that made his eyes widen in realization. It was clear as what she came here to do, and yet, there was an uneasy feeling at the back of his mind as he read the contents of the letter.

Véronique Dzemael. A woman with a heart of gold, wavy crimson locks that seem to be on fire and having mesmerizing forest green eyes. He could truly see where J’lihmu got her appearance from— and, quite possibly, her temper. A wildwood elezen with an affinity for the Black Arts; an adventurer with wanderlust who, much to her dismay, had to eventually settle down.

Ever since the Warrior of Light help end the Dragonsong War, she’s been more welcomed throughout the city. Those especially in the slums favor her, and, in turn, she favors them. However, there is still lots of bump in the road when it comes to the other High Houses, save for House Fortemps and House de Borel.

... I know I do not talk about my mother. I care not for her, or so I say. Why should I care about a woman who was never in my life? My father was both my father and mother. I did not need any female figure in my life.

It was all true, the crimson haired warrior did not need any female figures in her life to be a guardian that she never had. Her father, J’zahlu provided her with everything and more - and from the stories Edmont has heard of her share, J’lihmu has always proved herself she was a competent woman without ever having felt the need of a mother’s touch.

And yet..

And yet, I write to you. Because something is telling me to try and fix things. To… try to be the daughter she never had. You, of all people, know her. You, of all people, I trust with this information. I know not of her whereabouts, even after the Dragonsong War ended… except she is married to an utter buffoon from House Dzemael.

The brunette haired elezen chuckled at that, letting his fingers graze through the letter as he recalls who J’lihmu is specifically talking about.

Odant Dzemael, one of the many people who, one one hand, are grateful for the Warrior of Light’s efforts to help reclaim Ishgard and end the Dragonsong War. And on the other hand, they are one of those close-minded fools who don’t believe in change and are stuck in their ways of the past.

However, the representative of House Fortemps tries to be cordial and accepting, given the fact he is married to J’lihmu’s mother. It is nothing new to him in the land of politics, or as his friend would like to say—“ass kisser.”

The warrior from Abalthia has proven people time and time again that clinging to the old way of life is wrong, when it came to liberating The Holy See of Ishgard. Having no other alternative, she faced off against the great wyrm Niddhog, to release not just the people from the horns of war, but the dragons in Dravania.

And now, she lives to tell the tale that she liberated Ala Mhigo. Some call her a monster, others call her a hero. Whatever you call J’lihmu, everyone can come to an agreement that she is not to be trifled with.

And yet, here she was, avoiding the woman who had brought her upon this world as if it was the most treacherous primal she’s ever faced.

“Would you rather face off with Aymeric de Borel instead?” Edmont said, letting his eyes glaze over the young miqo’te who’s attention was directed at the food in front of her.

Finishing off a piece of meat, J’lihmu tilted her head to the side. Curiosity and lethargy laced within her forest green hues, no doubt just woke up moments prior.

“Why would I need to face him? Did he want a rematch?” Carefully raising one of her eyebrows, J’lihmu looked puzzled. Surely, Aymeric did not have that much of a competitive spirit after the grand melee, did he? And that was many moons ago!

To this, the charcoal-haired elezen sighed and resumed eating his breakfast, musing over his thoughts.

There is another reason he was glad J’lihmu was back in Ishgard. However, it could wait until she has dealt with her mother. But, really…

Has she never noticed the Lord Commander’s affections?


 

Count Edmont has only seen J’lihmu and Aymeric together with him in tow on more than one occasion. The Lord Commander, while amazing at his job and what he does—a sweet lad, really—he tended to...fixate himself on the Warrior of Light every so often. As subtle as he was, he could not hide it from the Count. However...the red-heads attention was elsewhere, fortunately or unfortunately (it really depended on who you asked).

The three of them were threading through Foundation, passing by fellow Ishgardian noble and commoner alike. They would notice both lords and smile, but when their eyes passed by onto the Warrior of Light, they seemed to be overjoyed at her presence. It was an odd feeling for J’lihmu, as she does not like being the center of attention when she is out and about, but will make an exception for moments like these.

They were making idle banter, sometimes the warrior joining in on the conversation to put her input, but most of the time it was Edmont and Aymeric. Dull topics involving the High Houses, and other similar things. It was boring, yes, but hearing them talk still gave Li a sense of peace she has not felt in a long while.

Passing by shops that seem to be a heaven for Ishgardian nobility, they noticed the Warrior’s of Light expression dimmed. It was obvious her distates of elegant silk, dresses and the like but, it did not stop her wandering emerald hues to look every now and then—especially if it involved jewels, or weapons.

However, when her eyes peered through the glass of a certain blacksmith shop, it seemed like shine returned to her dull green eyes and made them shimmer like emeralds. As if feeling a pull, the Warrior of Light waltzed in, the twinkling of the bell as she opened the door sounded her arrival.

Immediately the cyan eyed elezen followed, while and amused Edmont was right on his heels. The shop was a little smaller than most blacksmiths in The Pillars. It made this one feel more homey, more down to earth; something that the Warrior of Light liked more than anything else.

As they closed the door, their noise picked up a stinging scent that was familiar for the Warrior of Light. Iron and steel in-sync, smelling like the earth and fire in one. The acrid smell of cold cut steel meeting with sweet smell of iron, blending and becoming one to create something more.

“Welcome, welcome — ah!” The young blacksmith noticed the esteemed guests that have entered their small shop.

The receptionist up front noticed their arrival, and his eyes widened and quickly shuffled from behind the counter to the front. His eyes landed upon the warrior with the crimson axe, golden hues displaying warmth within them. “Ah—Mistress Rh— Li. Mistress Li! It is so good to see you again!

After greeting the Warrior of Light properly, the young elezen turned his attention towards both lords and bowed to them respectfully. “Lord Commander, Count Edmont—to what do I owe the pleasure of both of you being in this fine establishment with the Warrior of Light?”

“It seemed the shimmer of your most recent weapons called to her, like a siren.” Was Aymeric’s reply, his cerulean eyes twinkling with mischief as he stifled a chuckle. J’lihmu’s eyes narrowed at him, and he playfully lifted his arms in mock surrender.

“More like a puppy who wants a shiny new toy, truth be told.” Obsidian eyes met with forest green, ones filled with amusement and the others filled with anger, and embarrassment as the red-haired cheeks flared up. If looks could kill... Edmont would be on the floor right about now.

Before J’lihmu could retort to both of them, another voice stopped her train of thought.

“Alexandre! Who are you talking to — oh?”

An older elezen emerged from the back and upon inspection, everyone could see he had smudges upon his cheeks and forehead. Tanned skin, albeit lighter than J’lihmu’s but she could not tell the difference. Layered, messy blonde locks that reach to the base of his neck, hair parted sideways and piercing blue orbs that seem to retain their glimmer as they landed upon the eikon-slayer.


“Maxim,” J’lihmu nodded, a grin upon her face as the older elezen rolled his eyes but chuckled gently.

All the while, the silver-haired assistant directed his gazes at both lords, noticing how one of the elezens kept their gaze peaceful, serene even. The other… azure hues stared intently at the warrior with the scar on her right eye. An expression Alexandre could not quite decipher until he looked at him more intently.

The man’s stare was somewhat suggestive, but Aymeric hid it pretty well. Alexandre’s eyes narrowed, crossing his arms together as he rose his eyebrow momentarily before returning to his blank expression.

Interesting. The white-haired elezen thought as he moved back toward his original position — behind the counter. Pretending to be busy, he started checking up some inventory, grabbing parchments and the likes and giving them a quick glance, as to avoid being caught.

Feeling eyes upon his form, the Lord Commander broke free of the spell the miqo’te bewitched him with and turned his eyes towards the perpetrator. However, seeing said culprit appeared to be busy taking stock, it made Aymeric quite confused and tilt his head — but suspicious nonetheless.

How odd. Aymeric made a mental note to keep his guard up, and not let his wandering eyes be noticed. The man didn’t need to be flustered near his people just because the woman he is enamored with is right in front of him.

Grabbing an old towel from one of the far-off corners in the room, Maxim cleaned his hands before turning his attention to the Warrior of Light and the lords respectively.

“Well, well — you’re a sight for sore eyes.” The elezen smiled at her and right after gave both Edmont and Aymeric a formal greeting. Navy eyes stared at his friend, whose attention was stolen away by the weapons that was showcasing by the window.

“I see you found another axe you want, no?” It was a simple question, one that he never got an answer to.

Feeling as if the spell between her and the weapon broke, the woman blinked once then twice. Shaking her head vigorously, the Warrior of Light turned her attention to the master blacksmith.

“I came here to look around. My money is tied up at the moment. So, as much as I want to spend all of my coin on your wonderful children…” Trailing off, J’lihmu’s hands caressed the belly of the axe, before letting her finger slide across the shoulder.

The design felt special, but every one of Maxim’s designs were if you asked Li. Cerulean colors darted across the eye. The intricate accents going over the hook and edge, she speculated they were Ishgardian design. Blue and black decorated the weapon well, even if they were not here colors.

The warrior of warriors values axes above all else when it comes to using them. It reminded her of home, of the snowy mountains that never seem to reach the skies, no matter how hard they try. The pain of swinging her axe until the sun seared her skin—her father who never stopped the onslaughts coming her way. The feel of the dirt between her fingers as the young woman tried to get up, every muscle in her body screaming in agony to stay down, teachers giving her a look that said: “Get up, you’re not done.”

It brought memories that have been hidden in the deepest corners of her mind. Brief flashes of her childhood, of her voyage — how close death had her in its clutches.

Piercing blue. Her back in agony. Her right eye blind, momentarily.

Her sorrow.

Expressionless, yet intense cyan. The man with an X-shaped scar across his face.

That man.

“...I cannot. However,” the Warrior of Light spoke once more, removing the ruby battle-axe from her back. The lords watched her quietly maneuver the weapon that’s a little big on her form with such ease. Two seemed neutral, one cocked his eyebrow and the other’s expression was betraying him.

“Can you take a look at mine when you have the chance? I still don’t have the tools, or the confidence to mess with it. Can only trust someone with enough expertise.” Holding her axe by the strapping, the miqo’te flipped it, and the toe was now touching the hard-wooden floor of the shop.

Maxim took the warrior’s most precious weapon carefully, as he knew the drill. Taking it from her arms, he lifted the battle-axe lightly, gave it a glance and placed it upon the desk where Alexandre was currently at.

The young elezen stared at her weapon carefully, looking mesmerized by each and every detail it had. Obsidian, gold, crimson and forest green were the main colors, with a hints of azure-like jewels dotted across the edge. The designs ingrained near the edge, red and gold mixing together. Alexandre’s eyes continued downward, seeing the small emerald jewel sticking out near the shoulder. It was slightly chipped, but it still kept up its splendor as if it wasn’t brought into war; into battles.

Not an expert like his master, he could still see the haft has seen better days. The crimson sash that was neatly tied around it originally was breaking apart, yet stubbornly held on. The strapping was similar, but it mostly had battle-scars edged into it — which are nothing but power and pride to a warrior.

The evidence of coming back alive.

“No need to worry, she’ll be safe with us.” Giving a nod towards the Warrior of Light, the master blacksmith turned his back, grabbing the ruby-tide axe and bringing it with him to the back room.

“How long does he usually take?” His voice betrays his curiosity; an inquisitive tone laced upon his words.

Golden eyes locked with intense blue, as Alexandre finished taking up stock. Thanking his unwavering facade, he spoke. “Depends. We haven’t seen Mistress Li in so long. Might take a week, maybe more…” He trailed off, placing his hand under his chin, deep in thought.

“I’ll be in Ishgard for awhile, no need to worry.” The woman waved her hand dismissively, her tail moving back and forth, slowly. “I have some matters to attend to. Maybe by the time I’m done, it should be finished…?” The question was left hanging in the air, knowing there was no need to answer it.

Lord Fortemps already knew of Seeker’s stay in Ishgard, but his friend seemed to be surprised at it. Aymeric tried to hide it extremely well, but the temptation to tug his lips upwards was clear.

He liked the idea of her staying around for a long time.

“Should be fine, yeah.” Maxim’s voice broke off everyone’s train of thoughts as he came from the back, handing the woman a piece of paper.

Getting a quill from his assistant, she wrote down the necessities — where she will be staying, who can pick it up if she is unavailable, and so on and so forth.

They exchange pleasantries, all the while a smile ever-present on the upon her face. It was refreshing to see the female miqo’te not scowling at every thing and every one.

After they leave, they see a familiar looking face waiting for them outside. A certain light-haired second-in-command and to this, Aymeric’s smile faltered — if only slightly.

Lucia noticed, but makes no comment.

“Free time seems to be up, Lord Commander.” Subtle teases leave the eikon-slayer’s lips, followed by a soft laughter.

His heart ached at leaving her side so soon.

It was still surprising to see this side of her; free from worries, free from her duties and he wanted it to be ingrained into his memory forever. Happy and serene yet they seemed somewhat forced.

As soon as he noticed, it went away. A feeling rousing from the depths of his heart, clinging onto this small ray of hope that maybe the Warrior of Light didn’t want to part ways so soon?

Before they leave, all four of them attempt to reconvene at a later date—dinner the following weekend seemed to be the best bet. However, both Count Fortemps and his second-in-command say they have other matters to attend to.

Nonetheless, the Warrior of Light and Aymeric agree to see each other within five days.

All the while, the garlean woman and the charcoal-haired Count exchanged knowing looks, smiles dipped in secrecy.

From then on, whenever the Warrior of Light came back to The Holy See, the cyan-eyed elezen was ready to welcome them with open arms. However, he could not leave his post for just one woman — he had a certain reputation to uphold.

Even if that one woman could capture every single one of his soldiers—himself included—with a stern gaze and a thundering voice; assuring victory and bringing an end to the thousand year old Dragonsong.

Edmont has tried countless of times to talk to his friend whilst J’lihmu was preoccupied with Ala Mhigo. Every time the topic would come up about the eikon-slayer, the Lord Commander avoided the topic, saying there was no need for them to simply ‘talk’ about it.

“You are thirty-two summers old. I am sure you can confess your devotion towards her.”

“I do not feel thirty-two until you remind me, Count.”

The Ishgardian Highborn’s preservance did not waver as he cornered the young Lord Commander. It was an amusing sight — seeing both elezen running all over the Congregation of Our Knights Most Heavenly. Edmont was able to finally corner him into his office, with the help of his second-in-command, Lucia.

“Enough, Aymeric. I’m too old for this.” He started, placing his hands upon the elezen’s desk, eyes narrowing at the younger elezen before him who did not meet his eyes.

“I don’t see why it’s so difficult to just... talk to her.” Aymeric rolled his eyes at the comment, preferring to not answer him in the slightest. He oozed confidence, but his facade was cracking and his anxious heart ached within his chest even more.

“A simple talk will solve nothing, Edmont.” Aymeric started, sighing as he leaned against his chair. Uninterested blue glanced down at the hard-wooden desk, seemingly uninterested. “My attempts at gaining her attention have failed time and time again. They are fruitless; she is uninterested."

It kinda hurt his pride, too. Considering most women were at his beck and call if he so pleased, and yet the threads of his heart were so intwine with the Warrior of Light’s — that the idea of trying to woo another woman bothered him.

“Or — hear me out. She could be completely blind and cannot see your attempts, feeble or not, Lord Commander.” His title dripped in sarcasm, azure eyes stared at cobalt defiantly until he admitted defeated.

Silence filled the room after that. Aymeric, knowing he had lost the battle and the war turned his gaze towards Count de Fortemps.

“Very well. You have my undivided attention, Count Edmont.”

“Good, because I have something I think you might find interesting…” Edmont trailed off, and pulled a letter out of his coat. Aymeric looked at the parchment within his hand, curious eyes noticing a familiar red sash tied around it.

“Li sent word she was coming to Ishgard to settle on family matters.” The Count was vague, but Aymeric knew all too well what that meant.

“She’s finally going to talk to her mother?” Aymeric questioned, surprised laced in his tone.

Edmont scoffed and muttered something under his breath. “More like run away from her once more, truth be told.” .

The obsidian-haired elezen closed his eyes, placing his arms upon the desk, lacing his fingers together in deep thought. Aymeric wondered what to do with this new information — remembering the look of fear stricken across J’lihmu’s face knowing her mother was here. In Ishgard .

Fate was either undeniably cruel, or just trying to be funny.

However, that was many moons ago. To know your birth-mother is in the city you’ve helped liberate — alive and well?

Yet still married to another?

It was not grudge that laid deep within the caverns of the eikon-slayer’s heart. It was fear; rejection , to know that it was finally time for her to cross that bridge and face her past, so she may move on into the present, and future.

It was not his place to announce that J’lihmu had come from Gyr Abania to finally face her maker. There was no need for secrecy that they’ve come to the Holy See — people would be talking about it, going from person to person until it reaches her mother’s ears.

He has time to put plans in motion and for that, he will need to get in touch with a certain blacksmith....