This is what we would call a Shin-level "short story". By no means is it "short", but compared to lengths I usually write to, this is actually a bit terse. It also came from a picture I drew (it's on my DeviantArt account or the talessymphonia community on LiveJournal if you want to see it) that I realized to bring justice to it, I needed a story explaining it.
This takes place about 4 years after the game (making Genis 16 and I actually never learned what Seles' age was). I guess it's arguably AU because something about it feels very deviant from my previous ToS fics (maybe because this is actually light-hearted?). The story will half-assedly explain the setting and what the characters are doing, at least. I just hope it's believable.
But since it is 4 years post-game, expect the usual in spoilerdom. This was an unexpected offering, so please enjoy it!
"Perfect! Those are just… absolutely perfect!"
"Eh?" Genis looked up to his companion; normally as cynical, sarcastic and pragmatic as he was… in an instant, she was glowing.
Seles was glued to a display window of what appeared to be a jewelry shop the pair were passing by. If she didn't have such an enthusiastic outburst, Genis could have very well walked ahead without her, never noticing. Still looking confused over what material possession could turn around Seles' attitude so effortlessly, Genis trudged over to where she stood. Even being a decent amount taller than Seles didn't help much when Seles' outspreaded arms almost completely covered the window she was gazing into.
Commonly, Genis was out-of-touch with… girl matters. He wasn't even going to try to guess. "What's got you all riled up? You see something you want…?"
Seles broke her trance to look up at Genis with a puzzled expression. "Y-you have a problem with that?"
In response to that, he shrugged. "Point them out to me. I didn't think something like jewelry would make you go insane…" After a pause, Genis smirked a little. "How uncommonly ladylike of you."
"Ass." Seles crossed her arms in a huff and gestured towards the desired item in the display case: one pair of globe earrings. Their shade of blue's intensity was only matched by the seas near Altamira. They were round and bulky; seemingly about the size of small oranges… the fact that they were blue only reminded Genis of an Exsphere of the same color he once owned. The very same one that contained Marble's life…
The hue was so dark that it was difficult to tell what was within its shell; if it was full of some valuable jewel or perhaps merely hollow, just like the chocolate bunnies one received on certain holidays.
Either way, the presentation struck Genis as extremely tacky. "Those gaudy things? You actually want them?"
Seles looked sharply to one she would only hesitantly call her equal in wit. "Tell me, are you a girl?" The half-elf shook his head automatically. "Then spare me your views. Besides, Genis, the way you dress, you're in no place to be making fun of any form of fashion."
"R-Raine makes me wear these stupid outfits; I've TOLD you that before…!" Genis shouted back… something of a defensive reaction. There was some truth to it, for Raine dictated his wardrobe and hairstyle for the majority of his short life. Still, it had already been a year since Genis was essentially living on his own (at his own insistence) in a dorm for the rest of his school years in Palmacosta; his sister neither here nor there to force him into anything. Genis simply never got around to revolutionizing his look outside of his hair, which he only resolved by tying it into a small ponytail.
"Not a good sign if the women in your family have bad taste as well," Seles remarked, sneering. "But whatever, right? I'm going inside."
Genis slumped in temporary defeat. "You're buying them, aren't you?"
"I was raised in a high-class society," Seles said, holding her head up high and sticking out her nose. "You know, before I was under house arrest. But I've been shut away from the outside world for so long… would you at least give me the privilege of being able to go into a store for once?" The tone was not at all pleading. It was, in fact, demanding and borderline guilt-tripping.
"I didn't mean it that way!" Genis protested, and then sighed. "By all means, go shopping. I'm not going to stop you."
Seles was amused by how far a little insistence for sentiment went with Genis. Wasting not a single second more, she beamed and went through the jewelry store's entrance. Genis took a moment before following her; he made sure to make a few glances to the immediate areas to make sure no one he knew or would know him from school was lurking around.
The youngest Sage was already ridiculed for easily having the top grades in the entire school. Being seen in such a feminine store wouldn't ease the teasing at all.
As he entered, he noticed Seles not wasting any time with idle window-shopping, and asking for assistance regarding the earrings of her desire. After thinking about it, Genis seemed to piece the logic together, as he watched his schoolmate.
The half-elven teenager imagined Seles in her younger days, just a few years ago when he and his group met her in the S.E. Abbey. Back then, she wasn't much on Genis' mind, but he certainly didn't expect Seles to be freed from her confines after the worlds were merged, much less seeing her end up in the same academy as him.
Despite that, Genis chuckled to himself as he remembered Seles' appearance in that particular time. Her affinity for large hats stuck with her to the present day. But in the past, Genis also recalled her outfit being adorned by a few brilliant azure orb pendants.
It was a stretch, but it seemed to make a little bit of sense along that line of thought.
Seles grinned as she followed the clerk to the cash register. Turning to Genis, she flashed out her prize; the pair of earrings sat snugly in a violet gift box, partially open. It seemed to indeed be the same one from the display case; of course, meaning, it was the only pair of earrings in that style and color in the entire store. The holiday season was beginning to rear its ugly head, so Genis knew it was best for Seles to take the earrings now while they were still available.
Then, a question came to mind.
"Last pair, right?" Seles gave a nod, inching closer and closer to the purchasing location. Her pace seemed to slow significantly the moment Genis opened his mouth. "They look nice. How much are they going for?"
Seles looked annoyed, most likely because she didn't buy Genis' compliment even a little. Not when he just called them gaudy a minute or two ago. However, the clerk answered before she did.
"Seven-thousand Gald," he reported. "That's not including tax, however."
"W-what?" Even though he wasn't savvy in the realm of fine jewelry, Genis knew when something was just expensive for the sake of being so. "Are you serious?"
"They're designer earrings," the clerk explained. "Not to mention they're a limited edition, and the young lady is snagging the very last pair in the store. There's no telling when or if we'll get another shipment."
Seles examined the box holding her prize. She seemed to be reading some small text inscribed on it. "It says here that they're made from sapphires mined right out of the depths of the Ice Caverns outside of Flanoir. And they're hung up by silver pearls harvested from deep-sea oysters off the shores of Altamira!"
Flowery language did nothing to soothe Genis' conscience. Was he going to let Seles squander money like this…? "And that somehow justifies the outrageous price?"
"Hey, it sounds like people put their lives on the line just to make fine jewelry for people!" Seles argued, in no mood for her acquaintance's attitude.
"Yeah, right," Genis muttered, sauntering over to Seles and picking up one of the earrings from the box. Respectfully, he was careful with it, but paled when he felt the earring's weight in his hand. "Th-this is hollow…!" He glared to the clerk. "You really are ripping her off, aren't you!"
Of course, why Seles' spending habits were of such importance to Genis enough to make him want to start and argument in a store was but an utter mystery. Perhaps he liked arguing? Perhaps he knew somehow, being out in the world for the first time in years and knowing that Seles distanced herself from her rich half-brother every chance she had couldn't have possibly left her as wealthy as she once was? There was no way of telling. Even Seles herself was baffled… and possibly mildly embarrassed.
"This is the way of the world of business," the clerk simply said. "The concept of supply and demand. Aren't they teaching you that in that prestigious school of yours?" His eyes briefly went to Seles. "And in these times, when you have only one of a popular item left, you must leave it to the highest bidder. Of course, if the miss doesn't wish to pay, there will surely be someone in within the next day, perhaps even within the next hour, who will do whatever is necessary to satisfy her demand."
Seles looked uneasy as she met the clerk's stare, briefly snatching her one earring back from Genis' clutches. "Let's… say I don't have the money now. Can you hold onto it for me for like an hour so I can go and get some…?"
"I wish I could, but this is no normal circumstance," the clerk said in regret. "It wouldn't be fair to a prepared customer who would have the same goal as an unprepared customer, correct?" His mouth let out a creepy smile. "Perhaps time may be on your side today, if you hurry."
"Of course," Seles consented with a bow, set the earrings on the clerk's counter, and made her way for the front door. Genis was quick to intercept her.
"W-wait a second, how could you possibly have any money!" he asked, exasperated. "Much less enough to pay for… those… is it really worth it to you, Seles?"
She frowned and moved right past him. "I don't see how it's your concern. If I don't have the money, I'll earn it. I'm sure I can do it…" Briefly, she stopped and looked back to Genis. A knowing smile began to form. "Maybe you should go home. You look so uncomfortable in here, anyway. It's okay. I can handle things from here. And I can definitely make it back to my dorm without a babysitter."
Genis rolled his eyes. "Seles, you're being ridiculous. You can't earn money before those things get sold to someone else. You heard the guy yourself! Besides…" He crossed his arms and looked away a bit, acting nonchalant. "I'm not here to watch over you. You're old enough to look after yourself; I mean… you're older than me."
Her smile didn't fade. "So, why are you here?"
"Huh?" Genis looked directly to Seles, surprised to get such a question. A question he didn't appear to have an immediate answer for…
"School ended over an hour ago," Seles said, calmly. "You didn't notice you've been walking with me all this time? Usually, don't you go back to your dorm right after classes and lock yourself in there all night?"
"Um…" Genis scratched his head, trying to regain some composure. Even he hadn't given much thought about why he chose to tour the town with Seles today. It wasn't as if he didn't know his way around Palmacosta, after all. No matter how logically he considered his reasons, it failed to stop an awkward blush all over his face.
Amused, Seles said no more. Her eyes fixated on Genis, as if she were trying to make him more nervous.
"Oh, of course!" Genis exclaimed with enlightenment, and dug vigorously into his pocket, procuring his wallet. "I knew you'd come here and spend all your hard-earned money on some kind of material possession. So… I came along to stop you!" Brimming with truth and justice, he raised his wallet in the air. "I'll buy those earrings myself!"
"Wait, what?" Seles looked puzzled. "Why? I don't think they'll look good on y—"
"Shut up," Genis interrupted, very flustered from his outburst. "You know I meant I'd buy them for you."
Seeing Genis take this matter so seriously both entertained and worried Seles visibly. She only shook her head, not wanting to make too much of a scene in a pristine jewelry store.
"You can't be serious," she remarked, almost laughing. "You'd really go out of your way that much so I wouldn't have to pay for them myself?"
"It's more than that!" Genis insisted. "You said you didn't have any money. And you know those earrings will get sold to someone else as soon as you walk out the door, and then what? If I have money, let me pay for it."
Seles scoffed. "You have this knack for sticking your nose in everyone's business, Genis Sage." Still, she lifted the box containing the earrings without a struggle. "But, that other guy speaks the truth. The most prepared and highest bidder wins the battle. Are you sure you want to buy these?"
Seeing their deep blue hues sparkle before him seemed almost like an insult to Genis. Still yet… he was out to prove some kind of point. Even if it was at the expense of his own limited funds… "I meant what I said, and I wouldn't go through all this if I were just kidding." He solemnly accepted the box. "I'm buying them."
"Ah, the pride of a man," Seles remarked, looking to her peer expectantly. Seeing him continue to blush from the unnecessary drama of this ordeal as he went to the clerk only entertained her more. And though she was sure not to admit it out loud, she couldn't help but think that this half-elf reminded her in many small ways of Zelos… particularly his good traits.
Genis approached the counter and sat the box in front of the clerk, the silent witness in all this. As the clerk calculated the final price, Genis brought forth his mighty wallet.
"What do I owe you?" he asked, popping open the folds in the source of his funds.
"Adding in the city's tax, it comes to seven-thousand, four-hundred and seventy-eight Gald," the clerk read from his register total, almost rather… eagerly.
Oh, there could have not been more proof that this was all a not-so-elaborate money scam. The knowing look on Genis' face told it all. "You're milking this for all it's worth, aren't you?"
The somewhat-innocent clerk shrugged. "Palmacosta taxes have been staggering in these past few years, and it may yet be that way for a while." He leaned towards Genis, as if he were telling a secret. "After all, rebuilding this port city cost a pretty penny. All the residents are aware that it will be ages before all the debts are paid off. Hence, higher taxes to speed up the process."
The eyes of Genis narrowed. "Sounds more like a convenient excuse if you ask me."
"I'm very sorry, but nothing can be done," the clerk countered, extending a hand towards Genis. "Shall we make this transaction complete, in any case?"
Genis let out a sigh, briefly looking to the girl behind him. Seles wasn't displaying any particular emotion; just intensely witnessing the exchange. Perhaps she would not praise an out-of-his-way act of chivalry until she had seen it in person…
"Right, right," he mumbled, his fingers dipping into his wallet to withdraw the necessary amount. It took a moment… then another… and even another. The moments themselves were stacking on top of each other, creating something of a momentous mountain. Genis taking his time was not something appreciated by anyone, made clear when the clerk cleared his throat.
"Sometime today would be nice," he let on, with a clear distinction. Him eyeing Genis warily only made the half-elf more nervous as he fished through his wallet faster and faster. His cheeks flushed again, only this time it was at a horrid realization for his apparent lack of the one thing needed…
"Sir," the clerk began carefully. "You can pay for this, correct?"
Genis shook his head, less of an answer to the clerk and more of a reaction, disbelieving what was happening. "I-I don't understand… I thought I still had some money left over from what Raine sent me for the month! Where did it… go?"
Seles' jaw dropped. "After all that whining, you can't even follow up on your vow?"
"I really thought I had money!" Genis wailed, fumbling with his empty wallet and dropping it as a result. "This… this can't be happening!"
"What a man," the clerk remarked, smarminess and all. "He can't even provide for his lady friend. It must be a disappointment, madam. For that, I give you my most sincere apologies."
Seles only glared in response to that. She momentarily looked to Genis, but that was all she offered. What exactly angered her wasn't entirely clear, however.
Genis, meanwhile, with his crimson-shaded face and pubescent perspiration and wavering voice, his body fighting to contain his confidence-eating embarrassment, shook and stuttered. "I… can't believe this…"
The clerk offered a smile none too sympathetic, as his hand seized the box of earrings and pulled it closer to him. "You came a long way, but it seems you've lost this battle, good sir. Such is the cruel way of the business world." A particular shine of greed flashed in his beady eyes. "Now, perhaps, if you'd like to submit quadruple this amount some time in the future for a possible preorder of another shipment, that could be arranged. Of course, as I said before…"
His voice turned devious and condescending in a heartbeat. "There's no way of telling when or if another shipment will come in. It could be next week, it could be the next decade, there's no way to tell…" A smirk eked out of his mouth. "And twenty-four thousand plus Gald would surely be a task to pay in full up front. Perhaps you'd like a payment plan?"
The defeated Genis fell to his knees; his wallet flopped onto the store's fine carpet. "There's… no hope left, is there? We can't secure that last pair at all…"
"I'm afraid it's borderline impossible," the clerk said in mock-regret, such emotion bubbling up unprovoked. "It's a hard lesson learned, but you know now to never let your overconfidence do you in this way. Doesn't your pride hurt?"
Genis was too ashamed to even reply anymore.
"It's difficult, I'm sure," the clerk continued. "Impressing a girl is no easy feat, but we'd all like to accomplish it and obtain such titles like Gentleman, Beloved Friend, and even Ladies' Man… but there's a reason why there are so few. Failing is a common thing. But if you're generous enough to lend some funds, I can grant you a second chance. What do you say?"
Genis bowed his head, not wanting to look at anyone. He was a big boy, now. But even at the tender age of sixteen and a half, and already at the senior level of the academy, it was hard to hold back on his initial emotions. Honestly, he wished he could cry.
The clerk's attention turned to the other party present in the room. Genis slowly rose to hear what the dear Seles had to say. She didn't look particularly happy, marching forward to the immediate scene and digging into her pocket.
"Beg your pardon, madam?" the offended clerk answered. "I'm not bound by anything to give you a second chance, so perhaps you should…"
"Shut up," Seles repeated. Her hand shot out like a bullet over the counter. The hand spilled out a seemingly endless flow of Gald all over the cherry wood finish. The clerk, aghast at the sight, brought forth his arms to collect the spilled currency, making sure none of it rolled onto the floor. Shortly, he realized the visible amount was more than enough for what he called for. He looked up to meet the eyes of a vengeful teenage girl.
"That should be about eight thousand or so," she said darkly. "If you're that desperate, keep the change, too. Just as long as you fork them over. Please." Her last word was so strained that sounded rather intimidating.
"B-by all means!" The clerk agreed, handing Seles her desired prize and thus busied himself with collecting the individual pieces of Gald into his register. Seles wasted no time and popped the earrings out of their confines and let them proudly hang from her earlobes. She sighed happily and somehow, felt a little more complete.
She was about to call Genis to make their exit, but Genis beat her to it by rising up menacingly; his almost nonsensical angst regarding his failure to impress her had diminished into nothing but rage.
"You…" he breathed, flames almost bursting out of him, and he even made use of his height advantage to loom over his acquaintance. "YOU…"
Absently pushing the pieces of Gald along towards the clerk, she matched his glare of doom with an annoyed expression. "You have something to say?"
Genis furiously shook his head in disbelief. His crushed logic front, his valiant efforts, his abysmal defeat in making a good impression on a young lady… all of it was for naught. For her entertainment. Genis wasn't about to let this go so easily.
"You BITCH," he seethed. "You had money all along…!"
Seles figured it was best to take the remainder of this outside; Martel forbid she let the clerk have any more personal enjoyment of the sorrow and anger of customers than he had already gotten. She turned to make her way out of the door, grabbing on to the tip of Genis' semi pointy half-elf ear to drag him out without a fight. It only further agitated the fury of Genis Sage, which he tore away from as soon as they were in the outdoors again.
"What's with you?" Genis shouted. Seles rolled her eyes at the impending scene that would be held out for all public eyes to see. "Why did you lie to me?"
"I was testing you," Seles calmly replied. She seemed like such a radiant voice of reason compared to her boisterous companion. "You seemed to be so concerned about what I buy and don't buy, I wanted to see if you would put up or shut up in that kind of a situation."
"I'm not your guinea pig!" he retorted. "That was… that was so low of you! You're such a…"
"Bitch, yes. I heard you the first time," Seles fluffed her hair, selling her non-caring attitude. "But I never said I was the nicest girl around, did I? I certainly didn't outright say I didn't have any money, either."
"W-what are you talking about…?"
This disappointed Seles a little. Being Palmacosta Academy's top pupil, she expected a little more insight than usual on the scene that had played out. "I was speaking hypothetically the entire time, Genis. I never directly answered you when you asked if I didn't have any money; you just assumed I didn't. Every time I brought up the prospect, I always said it in the form of a what-if statement. Remember? 'Let's say I don't have any money…'? 'If I don't have the money…'?"
Memories of moments ago flashed briefly in both of their minds. Genis could believe her there. But admitting his own folly was… another story entirely.
"So you just let me get humiliated?" Genis asked wearily. "Why go through all that, Seles…? Do you have something against me?"
"Hey, it wasn't like I knew you didn't have any money!" Seles exclaimed in her defense. "I had to step in if I wanted these earrings, after all. You couldn't come through."
"You still would've ripped me off," Genis muttered. "Now I'm glad I'm broke."
Ah, the joys of manly pride attempting to be preserved. Seles could only wish Zelos had these kinds of struggles so she could get more out of her little sister role. Unfortunately, he always seemed to have the high road in comparison to her…
"Still, you kind of shined in there," Seles admitted, soft in tone. This brought Genis to full attention.
"What do you mean?"
"I'm kind of curious," she said. "Why you wanted me to have those earrings so much. You were insulting that guy to his face and everything because you knew he was trying to take more money than he needed, right?"
Genis, his anger turning into fits of fluttering heartbeats and shaking felt rather… put on the spot by the question. "I-I'm not sure… I guess I just… know your story well enough to know that… you deserve to get what you want every once in a while. Even if it's something… unreasonable and materialistic…"
"Were you that eager to impress me?" Seles asked, looking mischievously curious. "Why, Genis. The way you sounded back there, it was really kind of cliché and old-fashioned. Have you never had to impress a girl before?"
"S-shut up!" he grunted, with his aggravated, blushing cheeks. "I'm wondering if you've had any friends before, the way you acted back there! It's like you think I don't have a right to be upset over what you did!"
Fighting fire with fire, it seemed. Seles, after some hesitation, consented. "Tell me your secret and I'll tell you mine: no, I haven't really had a long-term friend before."
Terse and concise. Genis understood what she meant. "I've tried to impress a girl before, but it didn't go anywhere. Turned out she wasn't even paying much attention…"
"With your temper, I wonder how anyone could ignore you," Seles uttered with a smirk. "Still, even if you fell short at the end, it means something if you go so far to help someone you don't really know. You had heart, at least. I'm just wondering if you had a motive."
Genis looked away; his shyness was coming forward, finally. "I figured if I could look good by buying you something, maybe you'd… I don't know…"
"Be my friend?" Seles finished. Genis wouldn't say another word. "Impress me? Probably both, I guess. You could've just asked…"
"You don't just ask," Genis countered in a somewhat harsh tone. "I had to learn that the hard way when I first enrolled here. But maybe that has more to do with my rank or something… I think every student in the school sees me as a threat."
"Rough," Seles remarked. "I guess from your point of view, I can see how that'd alter your perception. I just thought you'd be admired by everyone from your academic success."
Genis shook his head. He seemed ashamed of himself… "It's the other way around, I think. I kind of remember how you were a few years ago, too. You didn't seem like the kind of girl who'd be so open to wanton relations…"
The common misunderstanding, Seles knew. "You can't blame me back then, and I'm assuming if you traveled with Zelos enough, you got the full story on the why, didn't you?"
Genis nodded. "I think Lloyd told me about it once."
"I've been free for a while now, but I only arrived here recently," Seles continued. "Times change people, places, and things. You know that, right? You've changed over time, too."
"W-where are you going with this?" Genis asked, almost tiredly. It didn't take much to leave the black mage emotionally drained these days.
"I'm saying give me a chance," Seles concluded. "I'll give you a chance. I think you earned it from what you pulled back there, anyway. You seem to want to be my friend enough to endure whatever, don't you?"
Friendships had a knack for making Genis embarrassed for himself. The thing he hated most at this time was looking so insecure in front of a girl like Seles. "I-I guess, but I seemed to fail your stupid test, so…"
"I never said that," said the senior of the two. "Besides," she poked at one globe earring, letting it dangle freely with her movements. "If anyone asks, let's just say I'll tell them that you bought them for me anyway."
"But I didn't…"
"That's just our little secret, though," Seles said with a mild laugh. "It'd be complicated to tell anyone the whole truth, anyway. If it helps you credibility, I'd rather lie."
It was awkward, no doubt. Genis had gone from protective of Seles, to infuriated at her, and right back to the nervous stuttering and blushing in the course of less than an hour, which was where he started when he first saw her walk by during the school day. Displaying so many mood swings at once… no wonder he felt like a wreck.
Nonetheless, he was all for a peace treaty. "That's… really nice for you to do that. I figured I embarrassed you or something, but…" What mattered to him was that he actually made another friend!
"Yeah, but I dragged you, a boy, into a jewelry store," Seles countered. "I think we're even."
Genis had to admit, it was interesting to converse with someone on his level even close to his age group. It had been so long since the last (and only other) time… and now that special someone was watching over him in spirit from the heavens above.
Perhaps things would keep getting better now. "Touché," he conceded, smiling. "Just one last question, though… where did you get that money from?"
Seles looked to the sky, and couldn't help another little smirk. "You said your sister sent you money every month, right?"
"Yeah," he replied. "I'm too involved with my studies to take up a job yet, so she said as long as I was doing that, she'd cover for my school expenses…"
"Well, likewise, my brother sends me a healthy sum of his funds every month," Seles said, not looking too proud of the fact. "He insisted on helping me out even if I had a job. I kept telling him not to, but that jackass won't take no for an answer…"
Genis was impressed. "That's awfully nice of him to do that… and I'm sure he's got plenty of money to spare, too. Still…" He wearily smiled, reminiscing. "I have to wholeheartedly agree with you calling him a jackass."
The jackass' half-sister grinned. "He pisses you off, too?"
Grin returned. "Constantly."
The pair walked on and on. Through the town, through the port, through the market. Even they didn't know or care where they were going, but one thing was evident…
"On that alone, Genis, I think this might be the start of something beautiful!"
Zelos would be proud to be present to see his little sister's happiness finally gained. Even if it was through materialism and a common thread of intense dislike at his expense.