By: Koorino Megumi
Happy graduation, Dagas Isa! This contains spoilers through the end of the game but is in no way related to Revenant Wings.
When she first saw him, her breath caught in her throat. He was leaning against the wall of the cave, exactly where he'd said to expect him. His clothing was the same as what he'd been wearing the last time she had seen him. The same earring hung from his ear, the same rings covered his fingers. The familiarity was comforting but also made it almost unreal.
She walked up to him a bit awkwardly, unable to convince her throat to produce a sound. For three months now she'd known that he was alive, but still, it was hard to erase a year of thinking otherwise.
"I see you got my letter."
It seemed nothing could put him at a loss for words. She nodded. "We brought it." And, after a pause, added, "Thank you for returning the ring."
"I promised I would." He was suddenly right next to her, his face just a little too close. "And I never break a promise to a lady."
She took a step back, her chest tight, and offered out the object that she owed him so that no words would be necessary.
He took it from her gently, turning it over in his hand a time or two before snapping it up in his grasp and stowing it away so briskly that she didn't quite see where it went. "Thank you, fair queen." He inclined his head slightly.
She scoffed at his behavior, although she couldn't keep her heart from fluttering inside. He hadn't changed a bit. "Is that all, then?"
He straightened, raising an eyebrow. "All?"
She felt her chest growing tight but fought to ignore it. "All you wanted? All you were waiting here for?"
His expression softened a little. "Ah. You mean, 'Are you coming back to Dalmasca?'"
She wasn't quite willing to nod. "You wouldn't come back to pick it up," she pointed out instead.
"No." He smiled faintly. "Of course that wouldn't slip past you, would it?"
Her heart surged into her throat at this affirmation. "Balthier-"
"Shhh." He lifted a finger to her lips, making her heart flip so that she couldn't have continued speaking if she'd wanted to. "Don't say it. You and I live in two very different worlds. You know that."
She pushed his hand away angrily, ignoring the feeling of his calloused skin against hers. "I do! But that doesn't mean-"
"Yes, it does."
She fell silent at the finality in his tone, staring at him wistfully. Then, gathering her courage, she stated quite firmly, "You had better not stay away on my account."
He grinned. "I wouldn't dream of it, my queen." He even added a shallow bow to complete the impression.
She rolled her eyes, opening her mouth to reply, but for a second, no words came out. She swallowed, trying to clear the dryness from her throat. "Will I see you again?"
"Oh, someday, I imagine," he responded airily, waving a hand as if to say that it didn't matter.
She wanted to hit him. Instead, she gave a curt nod. "All right. Enjoy your treasure then, pirate."
His expression slipped just slightly. "On that note, dear queen, I expect Dalmasca to be prosperous and happy--when I do return."
The promise was clear in his words. For a moment, she simply looked at him, knowing that he could sense her gratitude. Then she turned away. It was not easy to do. "See you then."
"Yes. Until then."
She managed to leave the room before the tears began to fall. Standing against the wall of the tunnel outside, she hid so she could cry before returning to the others. She couldn't help wondering if he had waited for her exit to do the same.
Deep down, she knew that he hadn't. But it was that knowledge that gave her the strength to leave.