Author's Notes: Sorry to everyone still reading for not updating for a while! Having a crazy busy time with work and a touch of writer's block...not a good combination! :[ Hoping to spend this weekend getting lots of words down! Enjoy!
Since reaching the Phon coast, they hadn't met another soul, and Penelo had grown so used to it just being the six of them that the bustling camp below them came as something of a shock. They skidded and slipped their way down the large sand dune that separated them from the hunter's below; Penelo was unable to restrain her laughter as Balthier fell, sliding for several feet.
"Did I ever mention," the pirate asked, struggling to his feet, a furious scowl on his face, "how much I hate sand?"
They fanned out as they reached the bottom of the sand dune; Vaan rushed off as soon as he spotted the hunt board, leaving Penelo alone. Sighing to herself, she wandered towards a hut at the water's edge, trying to ignore the little niggle of jealousy she had felt when she watched Basch walk away with Ashe. Displayed on the deck of the hut were hundreds of coloured glass bottles, shimmering in the brilliant sunshine. Penelo was thinking idly that she should replenish their potion supply when she caught sight of the row of weapons further along the deck, laid out on black cloth. Replacing the remedy she had been looking at, she hurried across to the weapons; she loved her small, worn dagger that had once belonged to her eldest brother, Adano, but now every time she drew the weapon, she could hear Basch's derisive comment about it being useless.
She ran her fingers over the hilt of a short sword, frowning at the pitted blade, conscious that the stall holder was watching her with interest, clearly eager to make a sale.
"Looking for a sword, sweet?" The girl running the stall took a step closer to Penelo.
"Uh, yeah, I guess. I'm not really sure what I want though."
"Well you just holler if you need any help, hon." The girl smiled again and turned away to continue her conversation with a bangaa that stood nearby. Penelo looked down at the array of weaponry again, drawn to a curved sword with an unusual blue metal hilt. She picked up the sword, surprised by how light it was, and gave it an experimental swing.
"Excuse me?" She beckoned the girl over. "How much is this?"
"8500 gil, hon. You want it?"Penelo sighed sadly; she had a fair bit of money, but certainly not enough for the sword.
"I can't really afford that."
"Sorry hon, can't give any discounts." The stall holder smiled awkwardly watching as Penelo replaced the sword. She ran her fingers over the hilt once more, feeling extremely disappointed; the sword had felt right in her hand, in a way no other weapon ever had.
"You are replacing your dagger?" Penelo turned at the sound of Basch's voice.
"I was thinking about it, but I can't afford the one I want." She pointed to the curved blade.
"How much do you need?" Basch reached for his money pouch.
"I wasn't asking for money." Penelo frowned. "Anyway, it wouldn't matter, I probably wouldn't be able to use it."
"How much can you give me for this?" Basch turned to the girl, pulling his sword from his belt and offering it to her.
"Basch! You can't sell your sword!" She tugged on his arm, trying to drag him away from the stall.
"I much prefer my axe." He smiled, refusing to move. "How much?" The girl took the sword from him, running her fingers along the flat of the blade and swinging it a few times.
"How much more for that?" Basch gestured to the sword Penelo had just set down.
"2500." He reached for his coin again but was stopped when Penelo grabbed hold of his wrist.
"At least let me pay the rest if you're giving up your sword." She scowled, tipping the heavy coins from her own money pouch. Basch smiled at her and picked up the sword as she passed the money to the stall holder.
"Have you ever used a katana before?" He asked her, handing her the sword as they walked away.
"Not as such." She pulled a face.
"I could show you, if you like. I do not profess to be the best swordsman, but could teach you the basics."
"Yes please." She smiled happily at him. "Thank you so much for this. I wish you hadn't had to sell your own sword though."
"Do not worry about that. As I told you, I much prefer my axe. I need to speak with her majesty further; but come and find me later so I may show you how to use that." He nodded at her sword, before lightly squeezing her arm.
"Thank you again!" She called happily as he walked away.
"Thank you for what?" She spun around to see Vaan standing behind her.
"I got a new sword. Basch is going to teach me how to use it." Penelo felt she didn't need to let Vaan know that Basch had also paid for the majority of the sword.
"Why'd you buy a sword you don't know how to use?" Vaan asked, grabbing the weapon from her before she could protest. "It's a bit flimsy, isn't it." He added, swinging the katana several times and pulling a face.
"For you maybe! I like it though." She tried to snatch the blade back from him, but he moved quickly, dodging out of her reach.
"I bet I could teach you how to use this. You don't need Basch to show you."
"Yeah, but I want to learn how to use it properly, not just stab rats with it." She lunged at him again, managing to grasp the hilt of the sword.
"Hey, I've come a long way from hunting rats! You should come check out that hunt board with me, there's loads of marks I'm going to hunt down! Maybe once you've learnt how to use this you could help me!" He released his grip on her sword, grinning at her. "Come on, come and look at the hunt board." He reached for her free hand, dragging her behind him towards the large board, chattering keenly about the marks he intended to hunt.