A Moment's Respite
Alphinaud looks over the pieces thoughtfully, taking one of the resin aetherytes from the bag. He turns it over between his fingers, looking at it. The soft glow of the orb lamps makes the resin replica glow almost like the real thing when held up.
"Hmm... I'm going to place my aetheryte on this hex. And... let me see... In addition to the wood and a worker, it costs 30,000 gil to build a starter inn, right?" He pushes forward several Wood tokens from the stack beside him and moves one of his worker pawns atop them. Then he pauses, checking the game's instructions, and takes the paper bills beside him, straightens them, and places them in the center of the table. "... Yeah. So I'll start construction on an inn next to it with the rest of my gil, and I suppose that's my turn. I don't have any more gil to spend, in any case."
"Oooh, big spender," Jihli says, suppressing a laugh. "Guess it's me, then, hm?"
Jahy perks up from the bed. "Oh, you know, Alphi, your name came up while we were in Thavnair!"
"Did it?" Alphinaud asks, not looking up from the board. "In a good context, I hope."
Jahy and Jihli lock eyes, and Jihli laughs, turning back to her cards. "Uh, Jahy, you brought it up."
At this, Alphinaud looks up toward Jahy, and a wary look steals onto his face. "... What was the context?"
"Estinien got hugely ripped off buying a hairband," Jahy says sheepishly. Her hands run over Alisaie's hair. The Elezen teenager is curled up slightly, but she's relaxed, for sure.
Alphinaud winces. "Ah. My reputation lives on." Noticing Alisaie, he smiles, his expression softening all at once. "Did my sister fall asleep?"
"She did," Jahy confirms. She puts a finger to her lips.
"Heh... While you and the others were in Thavnair, she was doing everything she could to help me train with the nouliths," Alphinaud says affectionately. He sets the instructions down, turning fully toward Jahy and Alisaie. "Dear sister. You never were one to give any less than your all."
Jihli hums to herself, fidgeting with her cards. "And how is that going?" She lays down one of her cards. "I think... I'm going to recruit an adventurer for free using my Divine Circumstance, and then use the rest of my turn to outfit them..." She busies herself with poking through her pile of resource tokens and worker pawns. "How much is a tier 1 weapon?"
"It is... at once much easier and much more difficult than I thought it would be," Alphinaud confesses. He flips through the game's book, sliding it across to Jihli. "Here, here's the equipment table."
Jahy grunts. "I know what you mean. It took me a few hours to get the hang of it myself."
"... You never cease to amaze me," Alphinaud says with a laugh after a moment. "You are truly something else." As Jihli sorts through her pieces and sets aside enough equipment for tier 1 weapon and armor and places the appropriate tokens under her adventurer figurine, he tilts his head. "How was the aether sickness?"
"Bwahahahaha!" Jahy bursts out laughing quite suddenly, startling Alisaie awake. She grumbles, lays her head back down and covers her ears. "Sorry, Alisaie. But you should have seen Thancred and Urianger. I've never seen the two of them so sick."
Jihli looks up from the board. "Until you got some lassi in you, you whimpered that maybe the world should go down in flames just to make this agony end sooner."
Jahy laughs, scratching her cheek. "Oh yeah... I did say that, didn't I. Well, you were sick too. You just lay on the floor and didn't move. I thought you were dead, I had to drag you to come with me to find Estinien."
"No. You didn't," Jihli says, but she's grinning. "You could have left me with the others!"
"Ugggh, I guess it's storytime, not naptime," Alisaie grumbles. With a heroic effort, she hoists herself upright again, though her bleary-eyed glare suggests she's not happy about it. "Can't a girl get some sleep around here?"
Alphinaud begins looking over the board, glancing between it and his cards. "No. ... But it's good to have you with us."
"Thanks. I wish I was asleep," Alisaie mumbles, resting her head against Jahy's arm. "If you're going to tell stories, tell us about what happened when we left you alone with Mother."
"That- that really isn't necessary," Alphinaud stammers. "I'm sure whatever stories they heard - or shared - are best kept between them and Mother. Please tell me at least you didn't tell her the swimming story."
Alisaie's sleepy, grumpy mug shimmers with the faintest hint of a smile. "She already knows that one, I put it in a letter the day it happened."
Alphinaud groans, letting his head hit the table (safely away from all his pieces).
"Oh, Jihli did most of the talking," Jahy says. She puts a sisterly arm around Alisaie. "Your mom was really nice, though. She listened to every word of the stories Jihli told her about you and me and her. And your brother was in some of them, too." She winks at Alisaie, a roguish grin crossing her face.
Jihli nods, watching Alphinaud plan his turn. "I would never sell out my favorite baby brother and sister! Now, Jahy, on the other hand. Jahy I sold out at every opportunity."
"It's true. She told the one about how our camp got attacked, and I rushed out to fight in the buff, and she had to drag me back inside to put on some clothes first." Jahy snorts. "I probably could have taken them, though."
"It's not you I'm worried about," Jihli says. She rests her chin on her hand, smiling. "Those poor bandits, though. Think of the mental trauma."
Alisaie rolls her eyes. A massive yawn makes her eyes water. "They deserve it if they're attacking the Warrior of Light's tent. If I was there, I would have handled it for you no problem."
"If you were there, I wouldn't have let Jahy undress all the way in the first place."
"Pants are tyranny," Jahy says simply.
"So... if Alisaie is awake, then I'll ask... what do you think we're going to find in there? In the tower, I mean," Alphinaud asks. "You went in there, right?"
The room falls silent, the happy and friendly energy it had a moment earlier dissipated.
"I don't know," Jihli says quietly. "But it is an unpleasant place. To look at, and to be. I don't even know how to describe how unsettling its interior is. And... the prisoners, they... ... I can't imagine anything else we'll find inside it will be any more pleasant."
She looks down at the pieces of the game she and Alphinaud are playing. Another reminder that come tomorrow, there might be no one left to finish this game. Like their brave companion, they might be snatched up and put to ill purposes or killed...
"But don't forget. I'll be there with you all," Jahy says, a reassuring tone to her voice. "Between the four of us, there is nothing we can't do. Yes?"
"Yes," Alisaie says without a moment of hesitation.
Alphinaud gives an anxious smile. "I hope for the best. My apologies for souring the mood. Now, I suppose it's time for me to actually take my turn, isn't it?"
Whatever tomorrow brings, it is a little later on. For now, there is only the game, and the siblingly companionship in this room.