Disclaimer: Final Fantasy XII is a PS2 game developed and published by Square Enix. This story is a fan-made creation and the author claims no rights to their intellectual property.

Starting Over

"It seems Penelo is as cheerful as ever," Larsa mused to himself as he finished reading the letter, laying it down on the table as he leisurely sank back into his seat. "I can hardly wait to see her and the others again. Often in the moments of late, I find myself reminscing of the time I'd spent with you all, fleeting though it was. They are memories I will always cherish."

Basch merely nodded in response. There was a subtle bitterness in his Lord's manner that didn't escape his attention. Some of those memories were not as fond as others. The assassination of Lord Larsa's father by Vayne Solidor, his own flesh and blood, the tragedy at Mt. Bur-Omisace, and the guilt of being powerless to stop them. Lord Larsa's heart was always thinking of others, never hesitant to take on the burden of another. He had worked tirelessly to help the members of Kiltas and the refugees who had lost friend and family in the Empire's brutal slaughter. It was a stain on Archadia's honor, and now Lord Larsa was Archadia. He was duty-bound to make amends...

No, that wasn't it, Basch realized. Lord Larsa's chivalrous valor came not from a codex of rules, but from a genuine desire to help others. Basch couldn't help but let out an audible sigh. He could never hope to be as great a man as Lord Larsa. Basch von Ronsenburg. He was a disgraced knight who had failed his kingdom, not once, but twice. And in all that time he could think only of fulfilling his "duty" and restoring his "honor". Pah. Idle words with which self-righteous blowhards stroked their own egos. He was a fool. But perhaps even a fool like himself could be of use to Lord Larsa. Yes, duty and honor be damned, he would protect the young Lord until his bones were nothing but dust in the wind. Not for "duty". Not for "honor". Not even for the Empire. It would be for himself. For Lord Larsa. And... for Noah...

"Is something the matter, Basch?" Larsa said worriedly. "You seem... agitated."

Basch couldn't help but smile. Lord Larsa truly was always thinking of others.

"No, I'm fine, my Lord," Basch apologized. "Forgive me. I am sorry to have worried you."

Larsa looked searchingly at him for a moment before a light of realization dawned on his brow. "You were thinking about him again, weren't you? Gabranth."

Basch sighed again. Was he that easy to read? Yes, though a year had passed since his brother's death, the wound was still tender. He had never been a very good elder sibling, having always put "duty" ahead of even his own family. Only now, far too belatedly, did he recognize the folly in his priorities. Surely that was the reason they had chosen to walk such different paths. The reason why everything had gone wrong after Landis fell to the Empire...

Bah. He had not the time to dwell on the "what if's" of the past. Lord Larsa was working to build a new future for Archadia and, as strong as a man as he was, Basch knew the young ruler would need all the help he could get to achieve that goal.

"I swore to him that I would protect you, my Lord," Basch said solemnly. "I will not shame him or myself by wasting any time regretting that which has already passed. Though you may find me an ill replacement, I will be your sword and shield in his place. That is how I will honor his memory."

Relief flitted across Larsa's face and he smiled. "I am grateful."

A rustling of hurried footsteps caught the attention of both men and they turned to glimpse their new arrival.

"Emperor, Judge Magister," a soldier in full iron clad addressed them with a salute. "Pardon my intrusion, but the Senate urgently requests your presence."

Larsa groaned exasperatedly while Basch fought to conceal an amused grin. "What is it this time?"

"Forgive me, my Lord," the soldier bowed deeply. "I know not the nature of the Senate's summons."

"Blast it all," an irrate Larsa grumbled. "I'm beginning to wish I'd never reinstated the Senate. Those old men once sought to use me as a puppet, but now they can't even decide on the simplest of policies without my presence."

"It does have a certain irony to it, my Lord," Basch admitted, still in a losing battle against the corners of his lips.

Larsa glared at his companion. "Are you making fun of me?"

"No, never, my Lord," Basch replied with his best effort at a straight face.

"Pardon me," the messenger interjected, "but what shall I tell the Senate, your grace?"

Larsa considered it for a moment. "You may inform them that the Judge Magister and I have already left on a mission of goodwill to Rabanastre. We are attending the coronation of Queen Ashelia B'nargin Dalmasca. You may also tell them that they should not expect our return until her majesty and I are able to draw up a treaty establishing our intent of mutual cooperation for the sake of the future prosperity of our two kingdoms."

"Y-your highness?" the soldier cried in alarm. "Forgive my insolence, but I don't think that—"

"You heard our Lord," Basch interrupted. "We are on a mission of diplomacy. The Senate can manage any domestic matters until our return."

"B-but surely... at least an entourage... bodyguards..." the messenger sputtered, at a loss for words.

"Do you doubt my ability to protect Lord Larsa?" Basch pressed further, bearing down on the hapless man with his imposing visage.

"N-no, not at all Judge Magister."

"Then there isn't a problem, is there?" Larsa nodded agreeably.

The soldier looked around him, as if searching for assistance from invisible allies, but finally sighed in defeat. "Very well, my Lord... I shall relay your message to the Senate. Good fortune to you. By your leave..."

The messanger bowed once more before scurrying off to deliver the news of the Emperor and Judge Magister's departure.

"Well, Basch, we'd best be off before they come looking for us," Larsa commented, rising from his seat.

"The Senate won't be pleased," Basch warned.

"Are they ever?"