Welcome Home, Jihli
(Endwalker spoilers, Lv.80-S4) Being home is fraught with mixed feelings for Jihli Mihgo. Her friend Jahy Relanah is just excited to be here.
The little nap room in the Baldesion Annex is quiet and peaceful, the first such place they've found since arriving in Old Sharlayan. Everywhere is a-bustle with scholars and researchers and students, scurrying about and chattering. And they haven't had a second's rest, constantly being shuttled about among the Scions as they try to investigate the little matter of the coming end times.
"Oh my gods, did you taste that burger at the Last Stand? Raha was right, it's amazing!" Jahy Relanah tosses her scythe in the corner and sits on the bed, bouncing a few times to test its firmness before grabbing the waist of her leather pants and wiggling out of them. "I want another one already, and I'm not even that hungry!"
Jihli Mihgo laughs without turning to face Jahy. She unbuckles her sword and shield, setting them on the table, then slides off her gloves and tosses them onto the counter. She begins opening the snap-squeeze buckles that hold her armor in place, starting with the ones securing her cape to her back. "Yeah. It really is that good. One of the few not just edible but enjoyable things here."
"I bet you used to spend, like, all your time reading books at those little book stands, too," Jahy says, grinning. Now that her leather pants are caught on her boots, she pulls open the knots that tie them and tosses the whole thing - pants, boots, and all - to the side. "Just like Raha was going to. Wasn't that cute, the way he got all embarrassed when Krile told him we were leaving without him?"
"Mm, maybe a little," Jihli says with a chuckle.
"And wow! What a view! I would have stayed sitting up there the whole day just taking it in if Krile didn't drag me along!" Jahy giggles, pulling her long-sleeved shirt over her head. "I almost got away with it, too, since you followed my doppelganger out of there and Krile followed you..."
Jihli's cheeks warm, and she actually turns to acknowledge Jahy. "I told you I'm bad about that, you know!"
"Uh huh!" Jahy's shirt hits Jihli in the face. An impressive shot from the bed. Now in only her underwear, Jahy reclines back onto her hands. "It was a nice view, though, I'm surprised you didn't sit and enjoy it for a while wih me and Raha. What, you're too good for it? You're tired of it already? Come ooooooon, that's not the kind of view you get sick of. Eh?"
"Hey, I didn't judge you for not reading any of those books!" Jihli fires back. She grabs Jahy's shirt and tosses it towards the rest of her clothing, then resumes opening up more buckles on her armor. Seeing Jahy naked is not new, and she doesn't comment on it. "There's only one bed, so I'll sleep on the couch tonight."
"Oi oi, what's this about sleeping separately?" Jahy asks, getting to her feet and walking over to stand behind Jihli and help her out of her armor, getting the buckles Jihli can't easily reach herself. "We've never slept separately before. What's got into you, anyway? You're all weird today. You didn't even laugh at me yelling 'Echo!' in the big dusty library."
Jihli shrugs, suddenly finding her voice has deserted her. She steps out of her combat skirt and begins unbuckling her sabatons as well.
"Oooh, no laughs at that either, that means it's bad. It's cause we're in Sharlayan, isn't it?" Jahy asks, bending over her much shorter companion and peering at her upside down. Her long, floppy Viera ears brush against the thin gambeson Jihli was wearing under her armor, twitching as they do. "Weird feelings?"
"Weird feelings," Jihli confirms, her tail wrapping tightly around herself.
Jihli undresses in silence for a good few minutes, Jahy apparently not knowing what to say. Once all her adventuring gear is in a pile next to Jahy's clothes and her nightgown is in place, she sits down on the bed. Jahy sits beside her, putting an arm around her.
They sit in companionable silence for a few minutes longer.
"I thought it would be... better than it was, coming back here," Jihli admits, breaking the silence. "I used to think of all the stuff I'd do, all the stuff I'd show you, all the people I'd see again. But... it all feels so foreign now. Like I didn't live here for most of my childhood and the beginning of my adult life. Like I don't have a hundred happy memories of all these places."
Jahy nods silently.
"I thought it would be more... coming home. Showing you what I loved. Not... seeing all these little things that changed. Feeling like an outsider just as much as you - maybe even more than you - even though my name was on the citizen roll. But no one else saw it. Did they just forget? Or..."
"Maybe it's not them that changed," Jahy says quietly. "Maybe it's you. Seeing them with new eyes. They're the same, but you... you're different."
A lump forms in Jihli's throat, and she leans her head against Jahy. "Yeah."
"Doesn't mean it's for the worse." Jahy pulls Jihli close with her other arm, bringing her into a tight bear hug on her lap. "You're just too good for these herbs. You belong with us, in Eorzea."
Jihli laughs, her eyes misting up briefly at the outburst of emotion. "You're right. I'm here with the Warrior of Light herself. Champion of Eorzea, you said, right?"
"It's not just my profession," Jahy says solemnly. "It's my calling."
"You are such a dork," Jihli says, laughing and leaning against Jahy. "I can't believe you're the hero everyone looks up to. We're so doomed, aren't we?"
Jahy beams and pulls Jihli into bed the way a child might pull a large stuffed animal, dragging her into a spooning embrace. "Now. Shut up and cuddle with me. Let's get some sleep. The sooner we sleep the sooner we wake up, and the sooner we wake up the sooner I can have another burger. I can already taste it!"
When the light goes out, though, Jihli's head doesn't empty. Instead, it wanders further.
What if she'd never left here? What if she'd stayed, continued living those happy memories? She wouldn't know the danger the world was in. She'd be no different from those patrons of the Last Stand, with their cavalier attitude toward the end of the world.
And she wouldn't be here with Jahy. She would never have met Jahy, in fact. Maybe this would have been the part of her life where their paths would have crossed... but when? How? She probably would have ended up just another anonymous researcher. Having discovered nothing of importance. Maybe having a partner... more likely being alone. So much of her social development came of the things she had to do to reach Eorzea. So much of her knowledge has come from exploring and doing, not researching.
She tucks her butt back into Jahy's stomach, letting the sensation of her muscular companion's strong arms envelop her.
Maybe Jahy is right. Maybe Sharlayan isn't home anymore.
Maybe... her heart and her home are in Eorzea now.
But not really.
Because Jahy is right here with her.