Alright, time to unload all of the feels about the Stormblood expansion and what all happened during it.
The Story’s Impact
Two sentences from Stormblood have really stuck with me throughout the expansion. The first is, “Don’t ask for forgiveness; for it weighs as it should.” My phrase for a long time has always been to adventure freely and to play in a way you won’t regret. I’ve made just as many mistakes as anyone else, but it’s better to carry that weight and move forward. To learn from your mistakes and never forget them–to use those as learning experiences to become a better version of yourself.
The second sentence is, “For those we’ve lost, and those we can yet save.” I can sit here and think back on all of the people I’ve met along my journey in Eorzea. There’s so many people whose paths no longer line up with my own, and when those paths break apart it hurts. But now, it’s fine. I can think more clearly about those around me now who I want to hang out with. And prepare myself for those friends I’ve yet to meet, who hopefully I’ll make a good impression on.
Cutting it Down
There were a few especially memorable moments of Stormblood’s story for me. The first is really a job quest–all of our time with Musosai. He’s the one who teaches us what it means to be a Samurai. At first, this is to simply mete out justice and cut down evil, to protect the people by allowing them their freedom. Well… okay. But by the end, one of the things we can cut through the most admirably is the pain of regret.
This continues on with the 61 to 70 Samurai quests, where we get to see the pains between a bond being cut. There are some things we need to endure, punishments we need to have carried out. We need to feel that weight to learn from it so that we can grow. But we don’t need to have that weight preventing us from moving forward, either. We learn to cut that down to reveal a path to the future.
The Light Within
Another memorable part of the story was between Gosetsu and Yotsuyu. On one hand, Yotsuyu definitely should have been able to answer for her crimes against the innocent. She led a tragic life, and ran from it–trampling down anyone along the way as she scrambled for freedom. And somewhere along the way, she was granted it for a brief moment, as Tsuyu.
Gosetsu was a soldier and a Samurai, unbendingly loyal to his Lord. He did not get a chance to be a proper father–he did not get to be there for his children. He holds this regret close to his heart, but carries on in service anyway. The one moment he allows himself a drop of selfishness, he stands up for Tsuyu and protects her. He’s helped her along the way, and in doing so has helped to ease his heart. Through her, he was able to be a father for his daughter. Through him, she was able to have a loving parent.
In the trial, we see her light and darkness bending and twisting. Both are fighting for control, but eventually darkness grasps control. Before the darkness can conquer her completely, a light shines from deep within–surprising even Yotsuyu herself. Gosetsu appears and protects her from the depths of her heart, showing that he did manage to reach through to her. She had that light within that not even she realized, and I absolutely wiped that first attempt as I was bawling the whole time.
The Road to Hell
Then there was Fordola. I feel like she was written extremely well, but not given nearly enough. We had within Garlemald a soldier who was badass and complex, but carried out orders even when she knew they were unjust. She did everything that she felt was right, and along with her friends they took blood upon their hands so that other Ala Mhigans might not have to. That Garleans might recognize their people as equals, and give them the proper rights and respect as such. She would’ve died for that dream.
It makes me wonder… just how different she would have been, had we been there. If the Warrior of Light showed up in Ala Mhigo, to protect them from Garlemald. She stepped up to take the sword and her path because it was the only option she had. The only way she could resist, in a sense. We’ve seen how long it took the Ala Mhigans to rise up along with us, against their oppressors. Hope was not something they could easily afford. But what if they had been given it? Would Fordola stand, a proud champion of Ala Mhigo now?
Fordola did all she could for her people. She was twisted in her own way, and she knows it–she wants to pay the price for her crimes. And if given the same scenario, she’d do it all over again just the same. Yet I think Fordola has a lot of potential as an anti-hero down the road. I’m hoping this thought is true, and that we can see her again someday.
I started Stormblood in still kind of a weird place. My heart was still full of regret, and I wasn’t able to really move beyond that. The desire to create something was always held back by the thoughts of all the times the result went wrong. It really sucked, even if that was just background noise. I wasn’t really able to work through the funk, but I tried my best not to let it prevent me from living either.
Eventually I started trying to work through things, with Nikki helping at each step of the way. Friends would come to me and say the words I needed to hear, even when I really didn’t wanna hear them. Aud especially, even if I got mad at him for it–I was mad at myself. Nikki and I both figured a lot of my problems were attached to my anxiety, so I tried approaching my doctor about that. While she was supportive, it just didn’t feel like the answer fit. So we talked about it for a really long time, and came to another answer. One fit for my own journey: HRT.
Not a Miracle Cure
After plenty of stress and anxiety about phone calls, e-mails, and supply, I took my first dose on August 21st, 2018. I knew, and Nikki had confirmed, that these wouldn’t be just an instant fix. Maybe I’d need something else, but this was a good first step. It didn’t take long at all for the noise to settle. For my crushing anxiety in crowds to be reduced to finding it rude that people don’t care about personal space. For the day when I could look in the mirror and finally had an emotional attachment to the person looking back at me.
It’s been a long journey thus far, and I’m still on the early steps of mine. But I know these little pills aren’t a miracle cure, either. They aren’t a heal-all to fix my problems. They’re a tool that I can use to handle things that I couldn’t, so I can be at a place where I can work through problems on my own. With my brain wired properly, I can take the time each day to figure out why things bother me. Why I feel the way I do, and try to move forward and grow as a person, as a friend, and as a soon-to-be wife.
Another Set of Problems
Of course, being trans and especially taking steps along my transition comes with another set of problems. “Coming out” never gets easier. Ever. It’s always attached to that rush of nerves and anxiety, the worry about how the person will respond. But you do get stronger. You become able to endure, and to move forward. To accept that not everyone you’ve known is necessarily “your tribe”.
I’ve had a lot of raid groups in Stormblood, and being that I don’t have a particularly feminine voice at all, it can be understandably difficult for new people. But others have gone way farther than that, ignoring the consideration because it isn’t important to the raid and getting clears. And sure, you can feel that way–but don’t you think the comfort level of your fellow raiders is important? If you’re that uncomfortable with how I sound and my name, then I’m going to stand by that the problem here is you.
Life isn’t too bad thus far, because offline I’m still presenting masculine. Yet wait staff will, for the most part, either gender me with feminine pronouns or forgo them completely. I’m a bit disheartened when they ask if we’re on one check though, because it used to be assumed on the same.
Thanks to Nikki I even get to go to the beach and pools and swim! She found a compression swim top that works like a charm. Work is a different story though–I’m still uncertain of how forgiving my office would be. So I endure the layers and buttoned shirts even in the sweltering heat of summer to help prevent folk from noticing anything.
Overall I’m very happy with my path! It just takes work. I can’t pop some pills and expect it all to be better.
Through thick and thin, no matter what friends come and go, Nikki and I are there for one another. When we start a new journey, it’s always together. Getting this house with her moving halfway across the US. Going to Excalibur. Even starting FFXIV and going through its wonderful world, we’ve always been there together. Our agreement on main story quest is, proceed solo but wait for one another at each instance. That way no matter our varied interests or responsibilities, we can enjoy those together completely blind.
She and I are two different people, however. There’s plenty of things we both like, and plenty more things we have to ourselves. But even on the different things, we support one another as best we can. Sitting in a room together on our phones, reading different topics? Both sitting in the living room playing games, on two different consoles? Having different places for meals because I’m picky about texture and my stomach can’t handle a lot? Yep!
Our journey together, no matter what detours we need to take, eventually made its way to another huge step. We were going to the North American FFXIV FanFest 2018 together, and had decided no matter who we met it’d be our trip. Our vacation. Our journey.
Despite having our credit card stolen, we did eventually get our room settled and were able to enjoy FanFest properly. Even if a little more cheaply than I had originally intended! I remember when we got into the big room on day one, we were waiting in line for the 3D photo booth. This was the first recommended spot for a thing I had planned with several friends unbeknownst to her. Yet… it spun around and was a small platform. Pass! I glanced around the room and then I saw it, the perfect spot: the aetheryte.
I messaged everyone in on the plan, and of those who could respond, Tsuki and Ryan were able to show. Nikki was pretty psyched to see them both, thinking I had planned a meetup of a bunch of friends without her knowing. I mean… sort of? As the talking died down a little bit, with both of them knowing my goal here, I took her closer to the crystal and just let all the words in my heart then and there out. Even including a silly “expansion of our lives” pun because, well, y’know. And kneeling down, I asked her to marry me.
Time stopped. No one else was there. Just Nikki, myself, and the glow of the aetheyte crystal on us. She said yes, and moments after I put the ring on her finger, she reached into her bag. Through crying, mumbled speech she spoke to me… and knelt down as well, holding out a ring. She then asked me to marry her. It’s really difficult to surprise me, given I manage our budget, but by Azeyma she did it. And, yeah, of course I said yes! She put the ring on my finger and we hugged and kissed, and then everything returned.
People were all around, clapping and cheering. Wait where the heck did they come from?! There weren’t so many before! Ryan and Tsuki took pictures as I had asked–thanks again you two! I couldn’t imagine a better place to take this next step on our journey. In an environment made for the world we both love, a successor to the one we met in. Surrounded by friends and those who endure the same trials that we do each day. And in such a wonderful place with fantastic weather like…! It was perfect. Beyond perfect.
The rest of FanFest was really fun, too! Neither of us were expecting to meet many people, really. The way that some social circles overlapped, we didn’t want to make anything awkward for friends who had friends that weren’t our friends. And, relatively speaking, we’re both not really that well known. Yet there were so many friends we met during our stay there! Nikki managed to meet more because I was being old and slept a lot, missing out on some of the drinking parties and the like.
We managed to join a party of friends and not-yet-friends to conquer the trials together. The hardest part of those initially was definitely setting up the keybinds and controls… and not all of the stations were always reset. I had a hell of a time our first attempt at Yojimbo, not only without my gaming mouse but also on an inverted camera setup that I didn’t have the time to fix.
In the roulette we got Susano, where you had to get up and randomly switch chairs to start playing the other person’s character in their setup. It was tough if you had to play a job or role you weren’t familiar with, and even worse switching between controller and keyboard! Yet we managed it–barely. I’m a little upset we couldn’t get t-shirts from the trials like they give in other events, but oh well.
As our final, post-FanFest event we shouted into the abyss of twitter if anyone wanted to get hotpot together. Our initial expectations were like, maybe we’d get lucky and have two other people show up. Our party ended up with ten people and one Bean, including us. That was spectacularly fun! We even managed to meet up with Eva the following morning, getting some Korean food for brunch. Tako, Cinna, Rubi, Bean, and Ryan joined us–and then Ryan’s raid team did too. It became an unexpected extra event I suppose.
I’m so glad that we got to meet so many of you there at FanFest. All the hugs, smiles, chats and good food with y’all made what was already beyond perfect even better. I don’t know if we’ll be able to go to the next one, but know that if we can’t we’ll both be missing everyone dearly and looking in the crowd on stream to find familiar faces.
So, overall, Stormblood gave me a lot of things. It taught me to move forward with that weight as a platform to leap from rather than an anchor. It reminded me that people come and go, and that paths can cross again once broken. Stormblood taught me to live in the moment and enjoy that for what it is, even if I’m still crazy for organization and preparation. And it gave me the perfect opportunity to take another important step forward together with my now fiancee. 💖
I’m looking forward to more happy adventures with y’all, together in Shadowbringers!