Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy XII; it belongs to Square Enix. I am not making any profit off this fanfiction.
This takes place during the events at Jahara, so spoilers to anyone who hasn't gotten there yet. Also, I'm not very sure of Larsa's dialogue, despite how hard I've worked on it, so if anyone sees anything out of place, please inform me. I would greatly appreciate it!
Choice of Words
"The power of men, and of magick. Of good, and of evil. It is often those who desire nethicite whom the nethicite itself desires."
There was the crunch of boots along the hard earth, and Ashe looked up to see a familiar face there, watching her intently, tilted up so that its owner could see her properly. She let out a small gasp, eyes widening in surprise.
"Larsa?" Penelo asked, stepping forward, her heart giving a startled beat in her chest. She wasn't quite sure what it meant, but what she did know was that she was excited to see him again.
Penelo waited until the others had dispersed to get food for the night to rush over to her previous savior. He was standing by himself near the bridge, his hands locked around a mast and his eyes appearing distant as he peered off into the night. He didn't seem to be looking at anything in particular, and when he heard her approach his head turned in her direction.
A soft smile graced his lips. "Penelo," he greeted, turning from the mast completely and beginning to walk towards her. "I am pleased to see that you are doing well. Last we saw one another, we were parting ways in Bhujerba." He made it sound like that had been a terrible time for him, and his smile even turned wistful.
"Me, too," she said breathlessly, and when his smile became amused, she realized what she had said and shook her head, laughing a little at herself. "I mean—yeah, I'm doing fine. What about you, Larsa?" She reached forward, touching her hand to his elbow, the silk of the sleeve there so smooth to the touch. Silk was a very expensive garment, and this alone was a sign of Larsa's royalty, or at least his wealth. She wondered why the others hadn't seen it before in the Lhusu Mines.
Penelo remembered Vaan mentioning something about how no one had really paid attention to what he was wearing, Penelo, and what did it matter, anyway? Clothes were clothes, and he could have easily stolen them from someone. To Penelo this seemed like a half-assed excuse, but that was Vaan for you. Besides, the others hadn't exactly not backed him on it.
"I have been better," he replied, not even tensing at her touch. She took comfort in that—he was familiar with her, even though they hadn't seen one another for a while. And he didn't look down on her touch, either, despite their different statuses in life. Larsa was a kind and caring young man. "But at this moment, I find myself… happy."
"Oh, because we're all going together to Mt. Bur-Omisace?" She blinked, looking back to his face to find him studying her intently.
"Yes, of course, but there is one other thing." When her expression only grew more quizzical, he stepped forward, light on his feet, his hands reaching out to take one of hers in both of his own. "A true blessing, I have the chance to travel with you again, Penelo. You are my dear friend."
"You hardly know me!" Penelo exclaimed quietly, careful to keep her voice down lest the others think that something was wrong. When Larsa tugged her back towards the bridge, she followed him, noting how he was a few inches shorter than her and yet still seemed so much older.
To her dismay, she couldn't stop the faint blush that began to color her cheeks, but like when he had shown up earlier in that afternoon, the answers as to why she felt so—floaty—continued to elude her. It wasn't that she didn't like Larsa, or that she did, it was just that she was normally such a sensible girl. Not to mention that Larsa was younger than her, and yet here she was, getting swept away by his gentle demeanor and flattering words.
You have to remember that he's the son of the emperor that put Dalmasca in the condition that it is now, she told herself firmly, but something in Larsa's green eyes made her remember back to the time he had saved her from the Bangaas in the mines. He had even sworn on his family's line that he would protect her. She could not dismiss something like that so easily.
"That matters not," he was already assuring her, his tranquil voice breaking through her thoughts.
"Larsa, where are we going?" she asked as they began crossing over the bridge and back towards the center of the village. Although she didn't really know why they called it a village, it was more like a fort than anything else. Then again, the Garif were already odd to start with… No, no, she shouldn't think that way…
"It is a small cove I discovered on my way here. Do not worry, it is not far from the village." He paused suddenly, and then turned around so quickly that she almost smashed right into him, barely stopping herself just in time. "You do wish to come, right—oh!" His hands shot out, gripping on to her elbows to steady her as her own hands flew forward, landing on his chest and supporting the majority of her weight.
"I'm sorry!" she cried, pulling away quickly and casting a glance over her shoulder to see where the others were gathered. They didn't look like they'd be leaving the fireside anytime soon, chatting with the Garif and making plans for the journey tomorrow. At least they hadn't heard all the commotion down by the bridge. She didn't want her time alone with Larsa to be cut short just yet.
"No, no, the fault is mine." Larsa shook his head, taking one of her hands again. "Forgive me—I can be terribly clumsy at times."
She frowned, tilting her head a little, eyeing him uncertainly, but when the earnest glint in his eyes didn't fade, she couldn't suppress a smile any longer. "Clumsy? Yeah, right." You're really graceful.
"I assure you, this is normal." When she laughed, he laughed with her, leading her back across the bridge, but this time she fell into step with him, content to be at his side, letting him have her hand. "Truly!" he insisted.
She shook her head, grinning. "No way, Larsa, you're just trying to make me feel better. I've seen how you walk—I couldn't manage something like that, and here people tell me that I've got such a perfect posture."
"You do!" He gestured idly with his free hand, towards the broad sky above them. "But you would think that with all the training they gave me, I would be more graceful in my movements. However, this is not the case. Every time I try to walk, I feel as though I am tripping over my own feet."
Penelo gave him a skeptical look. "Then why are you walking so gracefully right now?"
"I am trying to be impressive," he said with such a completely straight face that she burst out into more giggles. "Penelo!" he admonished. "Would I lie to you?"
"At this point, I don't think I'm too entirely sure," she confessed. "It must be your nobility—do they teach you to keep a straight face in the Solidor household?"
"Dear Penelo, you are too cruel," he said, sounding slightly wounded, although she could tell by the smile fighting its way over his mouth that he wasn't too hurt by her accusation. "I swear to you, however, that a lie will never come from these lips." He tilted his head, and there was sincerity in those green eyes, deep and pure, so much so that she could feel her cheeks heating.
Realizing she was staring, she quickly tore her gaze away, offering an awkward laugh and rubbing one hand over her forearm. She was grateful that the air here in the plains was cool at night, especially with the cold front drifting in from the all the rain in Giza. The gods—this was slightly embarrassing. Larsa was no more than a boy, and yet he could fluster her so easily. Maybe it was because she dealt with Vaan all the time, who was crude and didn't have an easy way with words, unlike Larsa, who made everything sound smooth and just… beautiful. Like a true noble.
"Do you really mean that?" she asked without thinking it through first, then gave a wince. Had she really just voiced that insecurity? Facing up to it, she turned her head back in his direction, offering a weak smile.
"Yes," he promised. She noticed with surprise that a bit of red colored his cheeks, as well, and somehow it made her pleased. At least she wasn't the only one who got nervous whenever they were around each other.
"Well, uh… I guess I have to say thank you," she said, adding a tease to her tone to take the sudden tension off the conversation. It brought an immediate frown of indignation from Larsa, and she giggled at the sight of it, biting into her lower lip.
"You guess?" He sighed heavily, but it was a bit on the dramatic side, so she could tell that he was teasing her right back. "A shame… a true shame…"
"Oh, come on, I'm sure you've heard worse!"
"Mmm, no. Those who would find fault with my intentions are usually—how shall I put it—subtle in their words of insult."
Penelo gaped at him then, placing her hands on her hips. "Hey, I wasn't insulting you!"
"Mmm, right, sure."
She scowled, crossing her arms over her chest instead, feeling her good mood wither into something bitter as she realized that he was walking ahead of her now, not bothering to spare her a glance back. Huffing slightly, she picked up her pace, falling back into step with him, reaching out to touch his elbow. Did he really think that she was insulting him?
"Really, Larsa, I wasn't insulting you."
"That would be Lord Larsa, and I pray that you remember it."
That's when Penelo saw the sly look he was giving her out of the corner of his eye, and when she whirled ahead of him to look him dead in the face, she also caught the smirk that was spreading rapidly across his lips. They stared at one another for a moment, Larsa trying not to laugh and Penelo aghast that she had played into his hand so easily, before the blonde dancer reached out and tweaked his nose hard between her thumb and forefinger.
"Ow!" he yelped, swatting at her hand.
"And that would be 'Please forgive me, Lady Penelo, for being so rude to you'!"
"I don't sound like that, do I?"
"Would I lie to you, Lord Larsa?"
"Penelo, I was only—"
"That's Lady Penelo."
"Pe—Lady Penelo, please!"
His expression was openly pleading with her as he sought to rectify the situation, green eyes wide in his face and his lips slightly parted as he stretched a hand towards her. Finally a smile twitched at her mouth, breaking her straight face, and she burst into another round of giggles, placing a reassuring hand against his shoulder.
"Oh, I'm just kidding, too, Larsa!"
"O-Oh," he said, surprised, before he covered it up with a rather lame, "I-I knew that, of course."
"Hahaha, come on, why don't you show me what you wanted me to see?"
Larsa cleared his throat, regaining some semblance of his composure. "Oh, yes, of course, right this way."
She didn't bother hiding a grin as she followed him the rest of the way out of the village. And when he would send her a questioning look, the grin only grew.