her soul embodies grace

Finish the Promise

Asch (and I suppose a little bit of Luke) is implied to be Natalia's main relationship interest. What is my reasoning for discussing him on the same page as Luke then? I honestly think that what Natalia learns from sorting out her feelings for them both and dealing with the past is much more important to her character than her actual relationship with the two of them. It might seem kind of contradictory to put them on the same page if part of her problem is separating them in her mind, but hopefully when you finish reading, you will understand where I am coming from.
"Some day, when we're grown up, let's change this country. Change it so that no one has to be poor. Change it so that war never happens. ...Let's work to change our country. For the rest of our lives. Together."
Natalia absolutely cherishes these words. It was a proposal, after all. Asch said them to her back when they were kids and he was still "Luke" like things were supposed to be. Unfortunately, when the protagonist Luke is "born" and put in the place of Asch, he remembers no such promise because he never said anything like that to her. In fact, Luke simply thought Natalia was annoying and wanted nothing to do with her! Natalia didn't let it get to her. Someday, Luke would remember his promise to her. Someday, they would be married and change the country for the better. It was all a matter of time.

I think as more and more years flew by, Natalia became more and more obsessed with clinging onto those words. By the time the present game plot rolls around she is still very much set on Luke "hurrying up" to remember his promise. Part of the problem is Natalia is an idealist and a dreamer. Of course if the first thing Luke remembered was his promise to her it would be very romantic and make a girl like her happy. Unfortunately, that is not how the world works. And since Natalia is so determined on it happening someday, she is only setting herself up for a major fall.

Now let's put Asch's existence in the picture. Natalia immediately becomes focused on him, wondering if he still remembers her and indirectly the promise that he made to her. For quite some time, you wonder if Luke even crosses her mind. You know, the one that she's been hassling to remember the promise, spending time with and making memories with for the last seven years. But, while Luke is not in front of her face, Natalia wants to support Asch, the real Luke.

The more I thought about her relationship with Asch, the more I realized that for her to care about him so much is a little strange. She hasn't seen him in seven years, and considering the circumstances...there is good reason to believe he has changed a lot. Asch tries to tell her this, but she won't have any of it.

Natalia: ...You haven't changed. Even as a child, you were always concerned about the future of our country...and you helped me learn.
Asch: ...I'm no longer the person you knew. When I was taken away seven years ago, the Luke inside of me died. All that's left is his shadow.
Natalia: No, that's not true! I can tell... You really ARE Luke.
Asch: I said don't call me that. I'm Asch...the charred remains of the "sacred flame"!
Natalia: Even so, I still...
Natalia is still idealizing the situation. It would be wonderful for Asch to come back to Baticul and help rule the country with her, just like they planned so many years ago. But what she fails to realize is that he really isn't the same person anymore. Even if his personality is the same, everything has been taken from him. He has been suffering for seven years, while some "fake" enjoyed the bonuses of his life (including his relationship with her). He is no longer the kid she used to know, mainly because he is seven years older. The rest of the time the two of them spend together without Luke, they occasionally going down memory lane. The only problem is while Natalia is excited to remember old memories, Asch cuts her off and acts like he no longer cares. And while I know he probably does care because he is just as bad as she is with clinging to the past, he knows nothing good will come of it because things will never go back to the way they were. Natalia does not seem to catch his drift, so even though he probably has the same feelings as her, she is not rationalizing those feelings back to reality like he is.

It becomes more evident that Natalia is simply clinging to the past when she desperately defends Asch at any moment the party discusses the possibility of him being an enemy. Asch would never do something like that. He would never do anything bad. Natalia hasn't seen the guy in seven years and yet she is completely convinced that her memory of him is exactly how he is now. Yeah, maybe back then Asch never would have done anything like go along with Van's plans, but he has suffered greatly just like the rest of the God Generals who follow him loyally. She is being blinded by the past and ignoring any other logical possibilities. I don't think she is doing it purposely just to be stubborn. In fact, I'm quite certain Natalia doesn't even realize she is so desperately clinging to the past until much later in the game.

As more time passes after Luke rejoins the party, Natalia begins to struggle. While Luke wasn't the one who made the promise with her, he was her childhood friend, too. She can't ignore the memories that they shared. Especially after being accepted by King Ingobert based on seventeen years of memories together. On one hand, she has Asch. The man she thought she has been with this entire time, the man who proposed to her, the man that wanted to change the country with her. But on the other, she has Luke, who she has been bonding with throughout adolescence and honestly just knows more about in his current state because they've never been separated. Natalia has gone so long believing Luke to be Asch that she still can't clearly make the division in her mind. Nor can she choose either of them. To her, they are the same person because Asch is now just a fond memory blended in with her time spent with Luke. Natalia thinks about it a lot, and she eventually realizes that she needs to let go of the past before she can make any progress with Luke or Asch. Natalia then requests Luke to say Asch's promise to her. I believe having Luke say those words helped her in two ways. First, because Asch said them to her as well, she can use them as a dividing line between the two. Luke is Luke and Asch is Asch. They are no longer the same person to her and she cannot force them into some molded fantasy that she used to carry. Secondly, the past is no longer valid. Hearing the old promise recited by Luke smacked her back to reality. She currently has Luke at her side, only saying those words to help her get over them. The Asch from her memory is no longer there. And though it is harsh, she will never be with Asch the way they planned.

After Asch's death, Natalia is completely distraught. So much so that she almost gets the entire party killed. After being slapped and scolded by Jade, I think she finally takes a big step forward. Sorting out her feelings for Luke and Asch was the last obstacle she had to get over. At that moment, I believe Natalia realizes that she has just been a burden to both of them (well, Jade tells her that she has been...but she thinks about it obviously). She wanted to force them to fit what she wanted rather than letting them grow on their own and allowing things to happen naturally. As the party is saying what they sincerely hope are not goodbyes to Luke, Natalia finally apologizes:

Natalia: Luke, I kept thinking about you and Asch. I wished that Asch would come back to Kimlasca and support Father, together with you. But I was wrong. You and Asch each had your own path. I'd been trying to tie both of you down with a promise that was no longer valid. Asch is inside you now. In the past, I might have mixed you and Asch together in my mind. But you're you. So please live the way you want to live. I'll do everything in my power to support you so you can do that. As your childhood friend.
Natalia: Luke...live...please. I don't want to lose any more people dear to me.
Luke: Natalia...
Natalia: Not to protect Kimlasca. To live your life, understand?
Luke: I wanted to live.
Natalia: You will. You cannot disappear. You cannot.
If this doesn't show that Natalia has grown from her first interactions with Luke in the game, I'm not sure what does. She admits the mistakes she's made the entire time since knowing of Asch's existence and realizes that it was not right. It's difficult to see your own mistake, but admitting it and acting on it to fix it is even harder. I believe that Natalia will truly support Luke as his childhood friend after this because once Natalia makes her resolve, she always stands by it. She wants him to live for himself, not to help rule Kimlasca with her. She has accepted that Luke has a different path to follow than one by her side. Letting go of the past is never an easy thing but I truly think she was able to do it.

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