"You want me to do what?" asked an incredulous Gaffgarion, halting his whetstone mid-stroke in surprise as he stared at Ramza. A sly smile spread across his face, and he snorted in amusement. "You really had me going there for a minute, boy. Me, a white mage! Heh, that's rich."

"You made me your aide de camp for a reason, Gaffgarion," Ramza stated calmly, waving an arm at their companions camping in the Araguay Woods. "You've always approved of the way I've handled our unit's equipment and training—"

"Wait, you're serious?" interrupted the grizzled warrior. He scowled with displeasure as he went back to sharpening his blade. "That's the stupidest idea I've ever heard."

The young swordsman crossed his arms. "Why is it stupid?"

"Do I look like I need healing magic?" Gaffgarion growled, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "I have a rather potent technique that lets me drain the life out of my enemies! Maybe you've seen me using it!"

"But you need a sword to perform it, right?" Ramza asked patiently, unfazed by his superior's outburst. Agrias looked up from tending to Boco, but the squire gestured for her to let him handle the matter.

"What's your point?" grumbled the mercenary.

"Just that you can't rely on always having your sword with you," Ramza explained. "What if you're caught without a weapon, or you're disarmed?"

"That's precisely why I've picked up a smattering of black magic over the years," Gaffgarion shot back, his irritation mounting.

"And what if you need to heal yourself?"

"Will you stop it with the 'what ifs'?" the Fell Knight snapped in frustration, lowering his blade and turning to face the source of his anger. "I've survived so many battles the number would make your head spin, and I did it without seriously considering every wild notion that passed through my head!"

"No, you survived by being the canniest and craftiest fighter in Ivalice," retorted Ramza in an uncharacteristically stern tone, "and losing your sword is hardly outside the realm of possibility." When Gaffgarion didn't respond, he pressed him again. "So, what if you need healing?"

"I'd drink a potion," Gaffgarion responded peevishly.

Biting back a harsher response, the youth ran a hand through his short blond hair. "And if you run out? Healing items are a finite resource and, like weapons, you can't always count on having them. No one can ever take away your knowledge of magic."

"And what if I can't speak, or I run out of magic power?" the old knight countered.

Ramza laughed wryly. "If you're in a fight where you're weaponless, have no healing items and can't cast magic, I'd say you're pretty screwed." Getting a smirk out of Gaffgarion with that, he went on with his argument in a reasonable tone. "You've often told me that no one can defend against a weapon they don't know you have, and everyone knows that you rely on your sword techniques. Heavily."

The ex-knight pondered this for a moment, but couldn't find fault with the lad's logic. "Okay, fair enough," he grudging admitted.

"I'm not saying you should be a white mage forever," Ramza continued. "I'm suggested that you get just enough white magic under your belt for emergencies. The best part is, who would suspect it?" Deepening his voice, the young nobleman adopted a skeptical, mocking attitude. "'What? Tough, ruthless Gaffgarion learning that sissy white magic stuff? Balderdash!'"

"Alright kid, you've sold me!" the mercenary answered, chuckling. Giving his blade one last swipe with the whetstone, he rose to his feet and returned his sword to its sheath. "I'll give this white magic thing a try, starting next battle." Looking back at Ramza, he noticed that the lad was holding his hand out. "What?"

"No sword," Ramza responded. "Hand it over."

"What do you mean, no sword?" Gaffgarion bellowed, attracting odd glances from the troops and causing several birds to take flight. "How do you expect me to fight?"

"I don't expect you to fight, I expect you to practice white magic." The younger man gave Gaffgarion a small smile. "Come on, sir – we both know that if you can use your sword techniques, you'll use them to the exclusion of everything else, and you'll never learn anything new that way." Ramza's smile shifted into a patronizing smirk. "Or are you too old to learn any new tricks?"

The Fell Knight glared at his assistant for a few moments, then unbelted his blade and slapped it into Ramza's outstretched hand, grumbling all the while. "At least I still have my armor."

"Actually," the blond soldier interjected, holding up a white robe he had pulled out of a small knapsack, "that has to go, too. You'll want to wear this instead."

Gaffgarion's eyes bugged out at the sight of the unprotected outfit. "Just that flimsy piece of cloth? Are you trying to get me killed?"

"No, I'm trying to help you learn something," Ramza replied, still exceedingly calm and patient. "'The best teacher is doing something for real, with the adrenaline surging and your blood pounding in your ears,' remember?"

"I liked you better before you started quoting me," the graybeard groused. He reluctantly took the robe from Ramza, though he handled it as if he expected it to bite him.

"You need to be able to survive with your wits and magic alone, and nothing else," said the former nobleman in a firm, yet soothing tone. "Think of how powerful you'll feel when you're fully equipped again. Like you could take on the whole world, I'll bet!"

"Knock it off with the flattery, you've made your point," Gaffgarion griped as he tossed the offending clothing on his bedroll, mentally resigning himself to wearing it the next day. "Anything else?"

"Just this book of basic spells," Ramza remarked, pulling a small tome out of his knapsack and handing it to his superior. "You're already familiar with black magic, so this shouldn't be too different."

The ex-knight idly thumbed through the pages briefly, then snapped it shut. "Alright, I'll read this over tonight. Doesn't look too tricky."

"Good," Ramza declared, seemingly quite pleased with himself. "I don't care if you spend a whole battle only casting spells on yourself as long as you're casting something. And don't forget, you'll have a full squad to back you up in case things get hairy."

"Yeah, yeah," Gaffgarion answered, waving dismissively. "Get outta here, kid. I've got some reading to do."

The swordsman grinned and shot off a quick salute with a twinkle in his eye. "Yes, sir!" With that, he walked off to join the others.

Gaffgarion watched him depart, then turned his attention back to the book and robe. The boy was a smooth talker, despite his age and general lack of experience. The thought suddenly occurred to him that this could be a trap, a ploy to catch him off guard and betray him...but he rejected that notion with a snort. The ex-noble might be intelligent, and a decent fighter besides, but he didn't have a dishonest bone in his body. No, he was a gullible goody-two-shoes through and through, one who didn't know two things about how the real world worked One of these days he was going to have to disabuse him of some of his naiveté.

Anyway, the idea was sound – good, even – and he wasn't expecting any trouble when they passed by Zeirchele Falls tomorrow. How bad could things possibly go?