Ten Things I Learned While Saving The World
Penelo reiterates what she erudited while gallivanting around Ivalice with her five companions on their suicidal attempt to win back Dalmasca's freedom and kick Vayne in his external genitaltilia.
One thing must be said, and keep this in mind while reading: I adore Balthier. I also feel extremely horrible for Ashe considering the hardships she had to endure. This story is told through Penelo's POV, not my own, and she is in no way required to agree with anything I say or think (or what I make her say or think, ha ha.) So, that being said, remember these are not my personal theories concerning the characters, they just happen to be theories I think Penelo would foster after having lived through the adventure with them. Okay, on with the show.
1: You can not become drunk off of a sufficient amount of high potions (or any amount of high potions, for that matter.)
To this day, I still say it was all Vaan's idea to break into the rations and ingest all the curative items we could get our hands on. And before you start condemning us for our utter carelessness concerning our waste, please keep in mind, as Vaan so kindly pointed out, that high potions were pretty much useless by the time we were ready to fight Vayne and we were all heavily relying on x potions and elixirs by then.
It was the night before the final confrontation, and it is safe to say that Vaan and I were scared out of our minds. While Basch may have nerves of steel due to his previous adventures as a Knight of Dalmasca, and Ashe would sooner asphyxiate than admit to her trepidations concerning the matter—or any matter, it seemed as though Vaan and I were the only ones who were the least bit worried we would be infiltrating the Bahamut tomorrow without so much as a prayer for our very elusive and unguaranteed safety. Basch taught us some breathing techniques, him being the kind of attentive leader that he is, and I distinctly remember Balthier washing his hands of the entire matter all together and retreating off to his quarters to go and, as Fran said, 'get intoxicated.' He was unwilling to share any of his vintage wine with us, so we were left to learn how to ingest oxygen as opposed to alcohol with Basch.
"This is stupid," Vaan finally concluded. "Geez, I think I know how to breathe seeing as though I've been doing it for, ya know, eighteen years."
"Yes, but you consume enough air to suffice for thirty," Ashe muttered from the cockpit, bent characteristically over her weapon trying to clean it until it sparkled. Some habits never leave princesses, and I suppose cleanliness is one of them.
I stifled a giggle and Vaan glared at me.
Later that night, he came knocking at my bunk bed (he claimed the top because he just had to have the higher one, wanting to be a sky pirate and all) and shook me awake until I was fairly certain my eyes were rolling out of their sockets. He was notorious for this sort of thing, always doing it when we were living together as surrogate siblings in Rabanastre, and it was no surprise that he reverted ten years in age when the freedom of the world was at stake. A pack of dire sewer rates was enough to work that kid up.
And as for us sharing a room, it was totally Balthier's idea, and his word was on par with an esper's, or so he said, considering it was his ship. I don't know if he was trying to kindle a romance that will probably never happen or he just didn't want each of us taking up an entire room, but I did hear Basch try and ever so fervently talk him out of it.
"I do not think you are choosing the proper course of action," he intoned outside in the vacant hallway when the two presumed us all to be asleep.
"And why is that, pray tell?"
"I just do not foresee this ending well; placing two teenagers of the opposite gender within such close proximity can have dire consequences."
That is when Vaan leaned over the side of his bed and whispered in suffocating amounts of satire, "Hey, Penelo, just so ya know, I totally have the hots for you right now. Let's make love!"
I kicked the mattress above me and told him to go back to bed. Idiot.
Regardless, he was harassing me again tonight, only tonight I was trying to get some sleep because I didn't want to end up dead tomorrow. We had both retired for the evening in complete in utter silence, not even fighting over the bathroom like we usually do. (Though, admittedly, we stopped doing that awhile ago. Ashe found it annoying and threatened us with her deadly—albeit clean—Tournesol and we both begrudgingly obliged.)
I asked him what on earth he could possibly want and he said he was scared and needed me. Under normal circumstances, I would have mocked him as he has mocked me so many times for my tremulous approach of various fiends but there was something in his eyes that night; something desperate and urgent and dire, and I just didn't have it in me to leave him in that state. So I sat up in bed and asked him what he hand in mind that I could possibly do, and he blurted out, just like he blurts so many other senseless things on a daily basis, "Honestly? Well, I would really like to get drunk."
I believe I blinked a couple of times in response. It was one of those fabled '...' moments.
I am usually the voice of reason, but Vaan is convincing to say the least. I learned that when he convinced me to ingest a cooked rat's tail slathered in an inch covering of cactaur butter, all the time insisting it was considered a delicacy in Rozarria and tasted just like chicken, and I was sick for a week afterwards. The boy could make harassing an Imperial Judge sound plausible.
I followed him out into the vacant cockpit of the Strahl. We momentarily contemplated venturing into Balthier's room to steal his abundant supply of alcohol, but we didn't feel like provoking the wrath of the taciturn sky pirate who was notorious for negating to supply you with potions in battle if you got on his bad side that morning, and wandered into the supply room to poke around the rations and see if we could dig up anything besides that piss water Madhu wine from Bhujerba to fill ourselves with.
At lack of options, we stumbled across a pile of obsolete potions and hi potions and wondered what would happen if we were to consume a handful of those.
It never stops at just a handful.
While we did see colors and feel alarmingly dizzy, we did not get a buzz and we did not acquire blissful amnesia or even a decent euphoric haze to knock ourselves out with. I remember Vaan turning luminescent green and he kept falling down every time he tried to take a step, but other than that the entire endeavor was in vain (no pun intended) and while, thankfully, we were able to fight properly the next day, we wasted the entire following celebration asleep in our beds because we could hardly keep our eyes open.
While we were stumbling back to our quarters, the ship a dazzling display of neon and me half carrying, half dragging Vaan behind, we ran straight into a stoic Fran, clothed in one of Balthier's old shirts and a pair of scantily clad undergarments that Vaan was astute enough not to comment on.
"Potion Squandering?" she inquired.
We nodded, embarrassed and looking to the ground for reprieve.
"Foolish," she stated. "Does not work. Balthier has already attempted such."
And then she sauntered off.
2: Do not get on Balthier's bad side. In fact, it is best to avoid confrontation at all if possible.
Going back on what I said earlier concerning Balthier's habit of letting you fend for yourself in battle if you so much as irritated him hours prior, Vaan and I learned that perhaps it was best to keep to ourselves and Basch, who seemed to enjoy our company and the juvenile arguments that followed. Sometimes he'd even contribute, usually taking my side rather than Vaan's—which infuriated him to no end, I assure you—but Balthier and Ashe always considered themselves in another league. We were just the dumb teenage orphans tagging along for the ride. The kids that needed to be babysat so they didn't get into trouble. Extra baggage and immature to boot. Fran was neutral concerning the matter, and we actually think she may have clandestinely enjoyed our squabbling at the night time campfires, for every once in awhile she would cover her mouth with her hand and pretend to cough when I proved Vaan wrong or he said something alarmingly stupid.
I suppose Balthier's borderline mean streak comes from his tormented past and him being a former Judge. He was used to dishing out punishment as he saw fit. He would probably throw Vaan and me into jail if he could. But he no longer has the authority and sometimes I think it drives him crazy.
So Vaan and I learned, quickly, that it was best not to hold conversations with him at all. Sure, he was aesthetically pleasing, but he was so caught up in running from his past and his daddy problems that we never got the chance to get close to him—not that we wanted to. While Vaan was always my primary concern on the battlefield (I swear he would be dead if it were not for me, and me if it were not for Basch) I would almost subconsciously throw myself into a stray arrow to protect the likes of the misconceived kingslayer commonly known as Basch, or even on occasions quite possibly Fran, but Balthier and Ashe could fend for themselves. Vaan helped them sometimes, because his mind isn't big enough to remember to hold grudges, but I am an adolescent female and such things come naturally to the likes of me.
I learned to detest the generalization of 'kid' or 'teen' after working with the sky pirate and former princess for so long, and it is probably something I will negate to call my future children even after twenty years have past.
3: Larsa is six years younger than Vaan and eight more mature.
I've been putting up with Vaan all my life. I was there when he accidentally yanked out one of his wisdom teeth, thinking adult ones grew underneath (emphasis on the word wisdom) and I was there when he decided to engage in a vicious wrestling match with Tomaj to see who had more testosterone leaking out of their pores and consequently broke his arm. I love the guy to death but every so often I want to throttle him. I probably always will, and I am sure the feeling is mutual. He hates my singing as much as I hate his logic, so I guess we're equal. And in the end, we are all each other has, so we stay together regardless of how angry we make one another on occasions.
But Larsa? Wow. I mean, I thought Vaan was immature before. After I met Larsa, I felt as though perhaps my companion was borderline retarded. If it were up to Vaan to govern the new Archades, I think Basch would have a much tougher job than he does now. I also think Basch is aware of this and thanks the gods accordingly everyday for finally blessing him with good fortune for a change.
4: Fran's outfit confuses me just as much as my outfit confuses her.
I never understood how Fran fought in stilettos. I still don't. Balthier told me, once while he was amazingly not in a bad mood, that it is because of her vieraian heels or claws or some such nonsense and I simply nodded.
I also do not know how she bends over in all that armor—or lack thereof.
It's a vieraian thing, they all do it, I just don't know why.
"Do you not like clothes?" Vaan asked one day, because he is an idiot.
Though, admittedly, I wanted to know too.
"They itch," she stated simply as we walked along the Tchita Uplands. Well, we walked. She sauntered. She always saunters. I envy it sometimes.
"But don't you, like, worry about not wearing armor and stuff?" Vaan continued, not knowing when to leave well enough alone.
Fran looked at him vacantly, well, I presume vacantly. There's always something going on in her head but she rarely shows it.
"I do not require armor," she replied in a haughty tone. "Why don't you try and wear a shirt?"
Heh. I determined I liked her from there on out.
Later, when we returned to Eruyt village for some reason, I can't exactly remember what, she turned and questioned me about my choice of dress. Very rarely does she initiate conversation (much like Balthier, who only initiates conversation with Ashe) so I guess it must have really been bothering her.
"You reside near the desert, do you not?"
"Yeah," I confirmed. "Rabanstre."
"Then why do you choose to don such abundant amounts of tight clothing? Would it not be cooler to don none at all?"
"Well, that's technically illegal," I giggled.
She did not giggle back but she seemed to smile with her eyes.
"It looks clingy and warm," she continued. "And...boots are uncomfortable."
I paused. "Yeah, I guess you're right..." I trailed off, contemplating my garments momentarily. Why did I dress like this? I know I'm self conscious about my body, always envying Ashe's from afar, but you would think I'd have dehydrated by now.
"I drink a lot of water," I supplied.
This seemed to suffice for she nodded and carried on.
5: Ba'Gamnan smells funny.
I think Balthier got me kidnapped on purpose. I do. Migelo nearly ripped him apart for it, and I'm sure Vaan did to, even though he won't admit it, and I'm almost positive he came after me only out of guilt and perhaps some convincing on Fran's part.
Ba'Gamnan, for the most part, left me alone. I was an object, not a person, and he did not communicate with me. I wasn't scared of him, I knew Vaan would come and kick his butt eventually (or at least try to, anyway) and I'm sure if I got desperate enough I could probably take him on. Not all four of them, but just Ba'Gamnan? Sure, why not?
Which always makes me wonder why Balthier is so intent on running from them instead of fighting them. But anyway.
The only discernable thing I could gather from the crude bangaa was that he hated Balthier for reasons unknown to mankind and he smelled worse than the waterway under Lowtown. If I had the chance to go back and do it all again, I'd still get kidnapped, but I'd ask Ba'Gamnan what it was that made him detest Balthier so. Perhaps we could work out some agreement. At the very least, I am sure we would relate. (Not saying I want to kill Balthier—that wouldn't be nice to Fran, to take her partner and all—but I wouldn't mind scaring him a little.)
6: I want to like Ashe, but she makes it hard.
I understand Ashe lost her husband and her father and her throne and her kingdom and if anyone has the right to be bitter it's her, but she doesn't play the sympathy card well. I try to remind myself she has every right to be angry, but being angry at me? I didn't do anything! I didn't kill Rosler! I didn't stab her father (and neither did Basch, for that matter.) And she likes Balthier, a proven criminal, so why can't she find it in her heart to be benevolent to a lost little orphan?
Now that I think about it, the whole Ashe and Balthier relationship is rather ironic. They were once in a position to throw each other in jail, what with him being a former judge and she being a former princess, and now they seem connected at the hip. Ha ha.
Had he have met her while she was still part of the resistance incognito as Amalia, they'd have been enemies. And right now, they're supposed to be enemies, seeing as though it was illegal to steal things last time I checked.
But Fran would have to follow suit if Balthier went to prison, seeing as though she has never really stopped him, and she amuses me sometimes so I think it's best if we just let them go.
Besides, Balthier would just pull some of his spoiled little rich kid strings and get out anyway. 'But but but do you know who my daddy was?'
I do not like that man.
7: The Ridorana Cataract sucks major goat balls and there is probably a reason the jagd decided to form itself around it.
Oh. My. Gosh.
I can't even look at a stairway now without growing nauseous. Really. The bile just builds up and I can swear I taste it in the back of my mouth. It just went on and on and on and on forever and a day. Neither Vaan nor I wanted to be caught complaining, but we kept shooting each other these deadly looks every time we made it up a staircase only to find another floor. I became so exhausted, even without saying anything, Basch offered to carry me. I knew that would forever provide Vaan with fodder to mock my stamina and reclined graciously. Also; while I did not like Balthier or Ashe, I did not want to appear weak in front of them. It's a strange pride thing, I'm sure.
When we finally did reach the top, much to our great jubilation, we were forced to engage in a battle with Dr. Cid, which put Balthier in a bad mood for days. Well, I guess that would put anyone in a bad mood, killing their father and all. Then again, mine's dead too and I don't take it out on other people. Neither does Vaan. Except for when he thought Basch was the one that killed his brother (which he so did not.) But anyway. I digress.
8: Why does a gun hit with less than a bow?
This drove Balthier crazy.
Also, I found it insanely amusing, if not down right wrong, that all Fran had to do was poke something with a little wooden arrow and Balthier could fill the thing with lead and it still wouldn't hurt as much. Last time I checked, it only took one well aimed bullet to bring someone down. Yet, Balthier can never surpass Fran in strength (at least when it comes to his weapon; but she probably has him in physical strength, too.) I would say it's his aim that sucks, except he never misses. Ever. Fran misses sometimes in the rain. And the snow. And when she does, even though Balthier prides himself on his maturity and cool persona, he always gives a little hop of happiness and adds an extra bounce in his step for the entire day. Okay, so the word hop is probably a gross exaggeration, for I don't think all the gil in Ivalice could make than man hop to save his soul. But he does go so far as to comment on it or nudge her in the ribs upon passing (for which she turns around and smacks him—hard—on the back of the head. We all cringe when we hear the deafening thunk.)
Vaan and I found this hilarious.
9: Magick does not serve practical purposes.
It's great in the battlefield and that is where it should stay.
We discovered this once while camping out in the Feywood and attempting to light a bonfire without wasting a match. We were low on rations and wanted to save the necessities in case of emergency. So, Vaan, since he seems to be the only one who can utilize Firaga with any kind of restrain (the rest of us, save Fran who was exhausted at this point, merely shot fire in the general direction of the fiends and prayed fervently to whatever deity we held holy that the spell would hit its target. Basch always missed and Fran always succeeded. But she was weary and half dead at that point, leaning on Balthier's shoulder for support, and we had more benevolency than to ask her to attempt to start the fire.) So on Vaan went, motioning in that general direction and concentrating on summoning the flames from the mist. I stood next to him and watched as a small flicker began to substantialize in the air before him as it quickly grew to a flame and then a small inferno. He thrust his arm forward and attempted to throw the fire in the general direction of the mound of sticks Basch had so diligently gathered, but for some reason Vaan is much more attuned to aiming at living things as opposed to inanimate objects. The fire ball swooshed across the sticks and ran straight into Basch's chest, his garments beginning to smolder in the aftermath. I screamed 'stop drop and roll!' as I ran over to push him down face first in the snow. Eventually the fire died out and Basch was left sputtering water from his mouth and Fran was doing that hand-covering-the-mouth thing again. Ashe rolled her eyes and Balthier drawled out a very sardonic 'bloody hell.'
Later, I questioned Vaan if he did that on purpose trying to be funny (for gods know the boy has no logic whatsoever and about half a brain cell, so setting someone on fire may be quite humorous and plausible in his mind.)
"Penelo, please," he exhaled under his breath, turning over under his make shift blanket to go to sleep. "If I did that on purpose, I would have aimed it at Ashe."
10: In spite of the fact that we saved the world together, we will probably never see each other again.
We can always visit, sure. But to all be in the same place at the same time? No, probably not. And it's depressing to think of, no matter how much you go through together, friendship is fickle and bonds that previously could have been defined as stronger than steel (like mine and Basch's, for instance) are diminished to nothing by the lone factors of distance and time. Even uniting in a cause to save freedom isn't enough to hold you together, and sometimes I even find myself missing Balthier and wondering if Ashe is doing alright, regardless of our previous disagreements.
I still have Vaan, of course, and in reality, he is all I've ever had. We don't have a bond so much as we are a part of one another. The same person. We can't be split apart because we're not two individuals. We are one in the same, and where he goes I follow, and not begrudgingly, either.
Us, as a group, had so many inside jokes, so many unspoken fears that we shared, and we each witnessed what each other looked like at probably the worst times of their life. We ate together. We fought together. We even slept together (in a totally platonic, non sexual way...ewww.) And to think that now we have all gone our separate paths is disconcerting to say the least.
Will Ashe ever marry again?
How is Larsa doing governing his own nation?
Did Basch ever find what he was looking for?
Will Balthier ever lighten up? (Since he took the Strahl and now we know that he is, indeed, alive. I cheered more for the knowledge of Fran's survival than his. So did Vaan. We think it was her who left the Strahl to us.)
Will Fran ever start wearing clothes?
These are the things that keep me up at night. This is what I ponder. Not romantic delusions every teenage girl falls victim to once in her life. Not whether or not I'll ever be employed. Not whether or not I'll ever be a mother. Not even how long this freedom will last.
I want to know when Larsa goes through that growth spurt he's been looking forward to for the past three years. I want to be notified the first time Fran laughs out loud. And, in spite of it all, I do want Ashe to end up happy with someone given all she's lost.
Admittedly, I don't care too much what happens to Balthier, though.
And in the end, I guess we did what we had to: we saved the world. There were more good times than bad, and Vaan and I like to reminisce on all the times we shared with Daddy Basch (as we so fondly dubbed him) and the ever eavesdropping Fran. I think they were to closest to role models we ever had, and we will remember them for all eternity because of it. Even Ashe, despite her less the cordial nature, showed us how to move on, even when all seems lost. If she could pick herself up and save the world after her trauma, then what right did we have to ever claim life was too hard? Balthier taught me a lot of things never to call my children, by ever so lovingly referring to me with half of the aforementioned endearments, and I'm fairly certain my offspring will be eternally grateful.
When I ask Vaan what he will always remember from the venture, he smiles wryly and quirks and eyebrow.
"Fran's metal thong," he says dreamily.
Author's Note (Again)
I have to thank Touch Of Gray, once again, for making me see that Penelo is indeed more than a bundle of pixels with a frock of blonde hair. Originally, I despised Penelo's lack of originality so much that I let her fall twenty levels behind. Of course, such things came back to bite me in the ass later in the game, and I highly recommend you not do as I did even if you harbor similar feelings. So, yes, for well written, convincing fanfiction, go see Touch Of Grey who is the master of all things Penelo. And Reks.
Also: I, for one, think Penelo and Vaan make a great couple. Or, at the least, a one sided couple. This story I sacrificed all romantic innuendo for the sake of humor, seeing as though I enjoyed having them bicker more than I would have enjoyed having them flirt. I am also aware that Balthier does not, indeed, hate Penelo as much as I made him since he did that whole handkerchief thing in the beginning of the game (and he does, after all, leave the Strahl to Vaan, does he not? So perhaps my take on the group dynamics is not exactly cannon and is subject to change from one shot to one shot.) That and I'm sure he felt horrendously guilty for getting Penelo, ya know, kidnapped and all.
And yes, I feel sorry for Ashe. I was not trying to belittle her loss or make it sound like she has no right to be bitter. I fear Ashe fangirls, for they probably brandish swords and weapons of mass destruction.
Anyhow, it was meant to be a comedy. Don't take it too seriously.
Though it was great fun trying to write negatively about a character I adore so much (Balthier.) I suggest everyone try it once before they die. It's enlightening.
Also: Touch Of Grey inspired the getting drunk option before the night of the big battle in her one shot 'Ami,' which is again Penelo centric and fleshes her out considerably. Yeah; I got converted to Penelo fangirl-ism. The last time a fanfic converted me was when Katherine Frost wrote an Amarant X Freya romance and I was unable to speak for the next five days.
So, anyway. Please leave reviews! They make me squeal with much glee!