Disclaimer: I do not own Square Enix's Final Fantasy XII, nor am I making any money off this fanfiction.


Author's Notes…

Whoa, I should be studying for my Japanese final on Wednesday, but I took a break and spewed this out, because I promised myself I'd write about it. When I first came across this "strip of festering flesh" I was quite—shocked. Well, appalled would be a better term for it, I imagine. Anyway. It made me curious—why the hell would they carry that thing around? Even though it sells for decent Gil at that point in the game… still.

WARNING: Spoilers for after Bhujerba and a little after Mt. Bur-Omisace, within the Stilshrine of Miriam.


Strip of Festering Flesh


"What… what is that, exactly?" Ashe dared to ask, holding the fingers of one dainty hand pinched over her nose while her others pointed to the atrocious piece of flesh resting innocently where the last zombie had just disappeared. Oh, by King Raithwall himself, this was absolutely sickening, what were they supposed to do with such a thing?

She looked over to her companions, hoping for an answer, but Balthier was already pulling out a handkerchief, pursing his lips and raising his eyebrows as he delicately knelt before the item. She was about to let out a shriek of, "What are you doing?!" when Penelo got there first, curling her hands into fists and stomping a foot to grab the sky pirate's attention.

"Balthier!" she cried. "Ew, please, don't pick that up!" She had to turn her head away, her face screwed up into a disgusted expression. "We're not so low on Gil that we need that thing!"

"If it can even be sold," Fran remarked, placing a hand on her hip as she swung it out to the side, furrowing one brow over her nose. She trusted Balthier to know what he was doing, but this… Was it really necessary?

Balthier straightened after another moment of ignoring their comments, making sure he was very careful as he rolled up the flesh into a tight bundle and then proceeded to stuff it into their loot bag. Pulling the strings closed and hoping that the refugees back on Mr. Bur-Omisace didn't mind a good stink—because that foul thing was surely going to smell up the rest of their loot—he turned to the others. "Something tells me that we might actually get a good bit of cash for it."

"Are you serious?" Ashe demanded, taking a step forward and bringing herself inches within his personal space. "Put that thing back. Now."

"I believe that that is up to our leader, princess," Balthier replied with such a smarmy smirk that Ashe was tempted to slap it right off his handsome face. "Vaan," he said, raising his voice so that the boy could hear them. "I just picked up a rather grotesque strip of foul flesh. I have an inkling that we should keep it and sell it back at the temple."

Vaan took a hesitant bite out of his fruit, which he had been snacking on since they had all stopped to take a break. He roved his gaze over the girls—well, Penelo and Ashe—who were fuming, the former with her eyes squeezed shut and the latter with her hand raised, as if she was about to wrap it about Balthier's neck. Finally, after another tense moment, he pointed to the loot bag at Balthier's waist. "Is that what I'm smelling?"

"I would say so," Basch announced, stepping forward from his resting place against the wall. He shook his head at the sky pirate. "Balthier, I agree with the princess." He ignored the muttered, "Well, what's new?" and the roll of Balthier's eyes. "That is… quite…" He finally gave up his impassive expression and wrinkled his nose. "Well. We can get better Gil from something else, can't we?"

Satisfied, Ashe lowered her hand and lifted her nose into the air. "There now. You see?"

"I didn't ask you two. I asked Vaan." Balthier swung his gaze back around to the boy. "Well?"

Everyone was looking at him. It was kind of intimidating, not to mention rather scary from Ashe's end of the line.

Raising his half-eaten snack in surrender, Vaan took a step back, unsure of how to approach this situation. "Well, I mean—it doesn't, er, hurt if we can ignore the smell?"

"But what if no one wants to buy it?" Ashe hissed, moving threateningly in his direction. Balthier interfered with a hand on her arm.

"Now, now, Lady Ashe, why have such a pessimistic outlook on things? Do you not trust me?" He placed his hand bedecked with colorful accessories over his chest, splaying his fingers and inclining his head.

"You're a sky pirate, what do you think?"

"Vaan, c'mon!" Penelo grasped at his arm, giving it a tug. "Tell him not to keep it!" She flung an arm out in Balthier's direction. "It's disgusting!"

"Fran?" Balthier asked with the traces of fading hope in his voice.

The Viera gave a solemn shake of her head, closing her eyes.

Vaan tentatively ate another piece of his fruit, making sure to back away slowly as he said his next words, "I still agree with Balthier."

The response was immediate: Ashe rounded on him to go off on a tirade, Basch tried to restrain her, Balthier couldn't quite hide his smug grin of satisfaction, Fran lifted her brows, Vaan stuck his fingers in his ears to block out all the noise, and Penelo suppressed a sigh, placing a hand over her eyes.

"If only Larsa was here to keep things sane again…"