Author's Note: OK, I'm a beginner. This is my first attempt at writing FF8 fiction and I'd like feedback if you care. Maybe I should tackle a shorter fic, not a super long one with 7 different characters and 7 different perspectives and 5 or more major problems going on at the same time. But hey.
Part IV: Turmoils
“You did WHAT?!”
I jumped up from the bed and landed on my feet. Mai’s eyes were huge and her voice shook. She was staring at me fiercely like I’m some kind of moron.
“What? Whatcha screaming at?” I shouted back.
“Wh - You! YOU! Selphie, what is wrong with you?” Mai paced up and down the room, her hands covering her eyes. “You used Pain and Meltdown together with a Firaga! A Firaga! You moron!”
“I am not a MORON!” Shut up! Shut up! “Stop yelling at me because -“
“I KILLED A FUCKING BLUE DRAGON WITH THAT. A BLUE DRAGON!”
“Your point?!” Something quivered in my heart. Stop it.
“AND I DID NOT EVEN MIX A FIRAGA INTO IT. I used my limit break, and you know how sucky my limit break is! YOU THREW IN A FIRAGA!”
“AND YOU USED IT ON A PERSON! A PERSON!!!”
“SHUT UP!” I covered my ears “SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!”
“NO. I am NOT going to because you know what, she’s dead. I promise to Almighty God she’s dead. AND YOU KILLED HER!”
“I did not! I did not! No!” Tears flowed down my face again. I hastily wiped them up, but they wouldn’t stop. I did not kill Quistis. Please, I didn’t! “I - I didn’t mean to! She deserved it, didn’t she? I didn’t mean to. I really didn’t!”
“Jamaica, you crazy lunatic, stop yelling at Selphie and sit down!” Jen crashed into the room and yanked Mai back from me. Somebody’s arms wrapped around me. I looked up. Matt’s.
It felt familiar. Zell was holding me just like this a couple of minutes ago. He brought me back to the Garden, took me to my dorm, and left. I had no idea where he went. But it made me . . . content and happy. Until Mai came. She saw me crying first, then asked what happened. I told her. And then she just, kinda, went off. Never had I seen Mai jump up like that. It’s kinda scary.
“Me crazy? Ha ha. Me crazy? I didn’t use Pain and Meltdown and FIRAGA on someone. Me crazy? Our dear sweet Selphie here just -“
“We know, okay? Good God, we heard ya from the hallway!” Jen furrowed her eyebrows. “What are you so psyched up about?”
Mai gave Jen the most disbelievingly look ever. “You’re not at all concerned for the life of another human being?”
“She’s probably not dead. And even if she dies, well, okay, I don’t want her to die. But, you know, still. She deserves exactly what she got.”
Mai’s eyes were even bigger and her mouth dropped open. My own ears perked up. Jen! How could she say that?! That’s so mean and it’s a bummer that one of my closest friends could say that.
“Yeah,” Matt agreed behind me. “And that cowboy deserves what he got, too.”
Irvine? What happened to him? I looked at Matt questioningly. He just shook his head. Hmm. I don’t care. Yeah, he’s, yeah, I don’t care what happened to him. Really.
Steve didn’t say a single thing. He just sat quietly down on a chair in the corner and watched us. Mai looked back and forth between Jen and Matt. Her eyes narrowed.
“You know, you two are pathetic. And mean. And selfish to a fault!” Mai suddenly burst out, pointing to both of them. “Jen, I know why you’re so mean to Quistis. She’s the strong, independent woman leader type around here, and that undermines your authority by a notch, doesn’t it? You don’t like her because she’s just as strong as you, both in skill and in position. And also, your tall dark and handsome fell in love with her. Yeah, sure you stood a chance when he broke up with Selphie here, no offense, Selph, but you don’t now! Ha! So you’re just jealous and fuming and you like it when she gets hurt. Which brings me to you, Jocifer. Selph, update check, Jocifer likes you. He liked you since we were about, I don’t know, 14? Oh, well, whatever! He don’t like your ex-boyfriend while he was your boyfriend and he sure as hell don’t like him now that he cheated on you with the person that Jen hates the most around here. So both of you two crazy selfish lunatics want some sort of revenge. Yeah, I know, we’re all human and it’s normal. Well, guess what? I am fed up with your so called normal behavior and normal reactions. I don’t think we should’ve beaten up Irvine simply because he’s in love with someone and out of love, or had never been in love in the first place, with one of our closest friends, no offense again, Selphie. And while I understand you, Selph, might slipped and mixed all those magic together and seriously wounded Quistis, I will not take you two, yeah, you two crazy lunatics’ crazy reactions, or lack of reactions, when I said Quistis may be dead. Okay? And one last thing, Jeep, stop being so freaking homophobic, okay? Yeah, I noticed how you just stopped talking and looking at all the Balamb people once you saw the Headmaster and that other guy on the dance floor, kissing. Big deal! They’re nice. Actually, I find all of them nice and frankly, like to be friends with them. Do I make myself clear?”
She caught a breath.
We all gaped.
Matt likes me?
Mai rolled her eyes. She then stomped to the door. Her hand touched the door handle.
Matt’s voice stopped her. “What?” She retorted without turning around.
“You can’t go.”
“Because we’ve sworn,” he then added quietly. “And we’re family.”
Sworn? Family? What? I was lost. How come I wasn’t in on this?
“Hey, what’re you guys talking about? Sworn? Sworn on what?” I ducked out of Matt’s arm and walked to tap Mai on the shoulder. She just stood there, staring at the blank door.
“Selphie, it’s . . . kind of hard to explain.” Jen’s voice rang behind me. “We’re . . . not exactly just a band. You know how many SeeD missions we get over there in the snowy mountains, pretty much the middle of nowhere. The restoration of Trabia Garden used up a lot of funds. We need to support ourselves.”
Uh-huh. “So? You mean, you have other jobs besides singing and SeeD missions?”
Oh. No biggie. “Okay. What’s wrong with that?”
“Heh heh,” Steve laughed coldly. “Well, Selph, the jobs, they aren’t . . ..”
“They aren’t clean.” Matt said finally.
They aren’t clean? As in . . . Ohmigoodness, oh mi goodness! “Eek! You . . . You guys!!! YOU GUYS!! Why didn’t you ever tell me stuff like this? I mean, that’s dangerous! And bad!”
“Well, we gotta make a living somehow!” Steve stood up. “Mai.” He then said softly.
Mai looked at him. Steve walked up to her and wrapped her in a hug. She clung to him, and muffled a cry. He didn’t let her go.
“We sworn on a mountain near Shumi Village,” Jen continued to explain. “We will never betray another one in the group. We’re family. We’re orphans; all we had was each other. You understand that, Selph. Why do you think so many people left Trabia and came to Balamb and Galbadia? We’re running low on everything. The Garden has absolutely no money left to support us. Selph, we can’t trust anyone outside the circle for fear of being caught, so we don’t. ”
“Why didn’t you ask any of us?” They could’ve asked Balamb and I’m sure Squall’ll lend them something. We had plenty of SeeD missions. Galbadia had even more.
“That’s another objective of ours when we came here. But no, y’all ruined it now. You think the Headmaster’ll lend us money after we . . .” Mai said and wiped away a stray tear.
“Trabia people are not beggars,” Matt said gruffly. “We do what we have to do. But we won’t ask for charity.”
“Selphie, now you know the truth, swear.” Jen extended her hand to me.
“Swear what?” I frowned.
“Swear you will not tell anyone what’s going on. Swear on your life, your friend’s life, and all of your afterlives.”
That’s kinda harsh. “Um, I’ll swear for me, but anyone else I can’t say.”
“Swear it!” Jen grew impatient.
“Okay, okay. I swear.”
I leapt up and fell on the hard train floor. I yanked the phone out from my bag and answered it. It was Mrs. Pratt.
“Rinoa. Where are you right now?” A panic infused in her voice.
“I’m a few minutes away from Balamb. Why? What’s wrong?”
“Oh, good. You still have time. The Galbadians are on the move. A swarm of them just got in here a couple of minutes ago. They locked down the city and blocked the airwave. This is the only phone I can call you with. I guess they don’t want any information to leak out. No one’s even allowed to leave!”
My gosh, it’s like that last time at Balamb! “Are you serious? Are you going to be okay?”
“Don’t worry about me, dear. By the way, Ryan’s here.”
“What? Ryan? I thought he’s at Garden?”
“He came after you. He was going to head to Deling City, but he got stuck here at Dollet. I can’t make him come to the phone. It’ll be too suspicious. Just get to Balamb Garden in time. Don’t let the Squall boy get caught by surprise.”
“Yes m’am.” I mock saluted, even though she couldn’t see me. “Um, how long until they get here, you think?”
“I don’t know. From this speed, I say in less than 6 hours. Don’t let your mind slip; that’s barely enough time if you’re preparing for a major invasion. And from my front door, it looks more than major.”
I smiled. “Yes, Mrs. Pratt. I’m not slipping; I know. That man has gone psycho, that’s what’s wrong with him. I will make sure Squall gets ready.”
“Good, dear. Oh, did you hear anything from your father about Scan?”
Huh? Scan? The magic Scan or what? “Um, no. Why?”
“I just overheard some soldiers mumbling something about the new Scan and laughing. Mention this to the Squall boy, it may be some new weapon they conjured up. You know them Galbadians.”
Yes, I do. That man was the leader. That’s enough already.
“Okay, I will. You be careful, too. Thanks.”
“Bye, dear. Good luck.”
I closed the phone. Just then the train began to slow down. Less than 6 hours. Well, they’re gonna be okay. Because the last time we fought those Galbadian soldiers, hmm, we had like, minutes to prepare. This time it’d be a piece of cake. Well, true, we didn’t fight exactly the entire G-Army back then, just the G-Garden people. And that man did not meet some weird scientists and enhanced the entire army with excellent armors and other advanced technologies. And Galbadia was not nicknamed “Military Center of the World” back then and lived up to that name. But, still, it’d a piece of cake. Yeah. Sure.
I looked at my watch. It was 4:07 a.m. I grabbed my trusty duffel bag and hopped off the train, taking time to adjust my eye to the familiar Balamb Station. Being cooped up in that man’s house was enough for me to miss this place, too.
Garden, right. I walked quickly toward the gate and rented a car. I got in and pushed hard on the gas pedal. We’re gonna need every single second. Several minutes later, I was staring at the white glow of ring on top of Balamb Garden. It looked so peaceful. I would not let it get destroyed by that man. With that woman.
I drove the car into the Parking Lot and made my way into the main hall. No one was there; duh, it’s still middle of the night. I zoomed straight toward the Dormitory. Squall’s door was two down from the last one on the left. And Seifer’s was a couple doors down on the right. I had a feeling they’re both in one room, though. Which one, hmm, that depends on my luck.
Knock knock knock.
Come on, Squall! This wasn’t funny. This was serious!
“Squall, it’s me. Open up, I have something urgent to tell you.”
The lock clicked and the door opened. Squall stood there only in his sleep pants. He didn’t look like he just woke up, though. There’s a hickie on his neck.
Heh, I wonder what’s he been doing.
“I see you’re back. Jumped out a window again?” Ugh, Meanie.
“Can I come in?” I put my hand on my hip.
He held the door open and I slid inside. Seifer was sitting on the bed, also just in his sleep pants. His eyes narrowed when he saw me. “What are you doing back? Thought you said you’re locked up.”
“Gee, thanks. I came here to tell you that the entire Galbadian army is coming this way to kill this place and you’re giving me stupid attitude.”
“What?” Squall’s voice tilted.
“Yeah. You heard me.”
“He’s really sending them after you?” Seifer’s voice was bewildered, too.
I rolled my eyes. “No, he doesn’t care about me. He’s just using that as an excuse so he can crush this place. Why? Ask him, I don’t know. All I know is that they’re already at Dollet.”
“They’re already at Dollet?!” Seifer jumped away from the bed. “And now you tell us? Now?”
“Well, excuse me, I needed to get here. Train rides do take time, you know.”
“You could’ve called,” Squall sighed.
“Well,” my cheeks flushed a little. “I didn’t, okay? I didn’t know about it until I got to Timber. Okay? So, so hush.”
“Yeah, uh-huh.” Seifer snickered. He walked to the other side of the room and picked up his trenchcoat from a chair. “I’ll meet you back here in a couple of minutes.”
“Get Zell on the way,” Squall said.
“Sure.” Seifer opened the door and left. Squall went to his wardrobe and got out his usual fighting gear. I shifted my weight. He paused and gave me a look.
“Do you mind?”
“Squall, come on. I was your girlfriend.”
He lightly scoffed. Then he shook his head and walked into the bathroom. I plopped down on his bed. Ooh, comfy. How come his bed was so much nicer than the rest of the Gardens?
The door opened again. Zell came in, looking like he was still asleep, surveyed the room, and skidded to a halt when he saw me. “R-Rinoa? Whoa, what’re you doing back?”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention. She’s the one that told us.” Seifer smirked. I glared at him. Zell gave me a frown. Okay, and why was I so unwelcomed here now?
Squall emerged from the bathroom fully dressed. “Let’s go to my office.”
“Why didn’t you just tell us to meet at your office in the first place?” Zell tilted his head. “Easier.”
“Are you okay?” Squall ignored him and asked me quietly.
Why shouldn’t I be . . . oh, the baby. “Yeah. I feel fine. A baby is not going to stop me from doing anything. At least not this soon.”
“That’s good to hear,” Squall replied. “Because I may need you to do some fighting once they get here. I’m missing two of my best warriors and all. Maybe three.” He laughed ironically.
I looked quizzically at Seifer. He just shook his head, telling me not to ask. Okay. I won’t. We walked to the elevator and then came up to the third floor.
Squall strode inside his office and walked to the PA system, a frown on his face. Then he changed his mind, turned around, and dropped in a chair. “How big is the army?”
“The entire army? It’s pretty big.” I answered.
“Approximately how many people?” His frown deepened.
“Man, why you so worried?” Zell stomp his foot. “I can take care of them myself if you give me hours to prepare!”
“Shut up, chicken wuss, this isn’t 2 years ago.” Seifer rolled his eyes. “They’re much more advanced now. Squall, what do you plan to do?”
“I’m thinking. I’m thinking!” Squall snapped. He sighed. “Get Selphie in here.”
“Selphie? Man, I don’t think she’s that willing -“
“Get her in here. Somebody!”
Seifer glared at Zell. He jerked his head toward the hallway, eyes narrowed. Zell looked at him, then slumped his shoulders, defeated. “All right, all right. I’m going.”
This didn’t look too good. At all.
I scoffed as I walked back to the elevator. Man, Squall was getting really weird. And he’s being an even more of an asshole than usual. And I still hadn’t forgiven him, them, for yelling at me.
After Irvine stormed off to find Quistis, I wanted to follow him and stop him. He had hurt Selphie! That’s enough for me. He’s gonna get it. But no, Headmaster Squall had to tell me to let it go. And stupid Seifer’s agreeing and blaming Selphie. That’s fair. Yeah, her boyfriend cheated on her and it’s her fault, sure.
So I stumbled back into my room, checked on Selphie before I went to make sure she was okay by then. Her Junk Yard friends were there, too, so I wasn’t worried after that. I hopped into bed around like, midnight or something. Well, four hours later I was up again. And it was nobody but Seifer who woke me. Yeah, don’t talk about my grumpy mood.
There’s Selphie’s room. Knock knock.
“Who’s there?” That wasn’t Selphie, because it’s a guy. Huh? A guy’s sleeping in Selphie’s room? Hey! Nobody sleeps in Selphie’s room. Not without my permission! Um, wait, that didn’t sound right. Oh hell.
“It’s Zell! Who the heck are you?”
“Oh, k, hold on,” The door slid open. There stood Jeep, and all the Junk Yard people were strewn around the room. They were all wide awake, odd. Selphie alone slept soundly until Jamaica shook her from the bed.
“What do you want?” Jen asked.
“Squall want to see Selphie. Uh, it’s pretty important so I suggest we go now.” I explained. Selphie rubbed her eyes and nodded.
“Yeah, sure, just let me wash my face first.”
“What does he want?” Jen asked again. “If it’s anything -“
“Look, Galbadian people are coming, okay? Just come up to the office!” I cried exasperatedly. “They’re already on their way from Dollet.”
Every single person in the room froze. Selphie was not rubbing her eyes. Jamaica and Jeep exchanged a glance. Jen was shocked. And Jocifer grinded his teeth.
“G-Galbadians? Why are they coming here?” Jeep sputtered.
“Because of Rinoa.” I answered.
“Rinoa? Rinoa Heartilly, General Carraway’s daughter?” Jen raised her eyebrows. “Selph, that Rinoa?”
“Yeah, I told y’all about her.” Selphie hopped off her bed.
“We didn’t know it’s that Rinoa. Is she here or something?” Jen stood up.
“Yep,” I nodded.
“Huh? I thought she’s at Deling City. Didn’t her father call her a couple of days ago?” Selphie looked at me.
“Yeah, she was, but then she called us and then . . . argh, I can’t explain. Look, just come up and Squall’ll explain everything. Come on.”
“Uh-uh, we’re coming, too!” Jamaica jumped up. “If it involves Galbadians, then we’re not gonna just sit and watch this place get burned. We’re not!” She gave Jen a stare.
“Is, is Irvine there?” Selphie asked timidly.
I shook my head. “He left. So did Quistis.”
“Quistis? She’s not dead?! Great!” Jamaica clapped.
Dead? What? Why would she be . . . huh?
“Let’s go, come on, isn’t your great leader waiting?” Jocifer started to walk to the door. The others quickly followed. I was still confused. Dead?
I shook my head again. We all walked back to the elevator and started to go in Squall’s office. His door was ajar. Jen was the first one in.
Seifer was sitting on the sofa in the room. Squall was standing, facing away from the door. Rinoa sat on the floor. They all turned their heads, and Seifer immediately stood up. Rinoa gasped.
“Don’t bother throwing us out, ‘cause we’re staying.” Jocifer crossed his arms.
“You - You . . .” Rinoa stammered. “Oh my god!”
“What?” Squall asked her. “What’s wrong?”
“Squall, they’re, they’re criminals!”
“Hey!” Selphie stepped in. “Now look, I won’t let you say that to my friends, okay? Unless you got proof.”
“I do have proof! A couple of months ago an important Galbadian official got assassinated. He was one of that man’s friends, and I’ve seen him around once or twice. Well, he got killed, and from the partially destroyed camera clip, there were four people and he’s one of them!” She pointed to Jocifer.
“I am not. Don’t point random targets. I don’t even know you.”
“I know it’s you! The official got stabbed in the back, and scientists analyzed the wound and other stuff, and drew a picture of the knife. And it’s that knife!” Rinoa pointed to the one in Jocifer’s boots. “I know it’s that knife!”
Aha. “Ahhh, so that’s why you guys insisted on coming.” I said. That explained a lot.
Jen scoffed. “Ugh, whateva. That Galbadian official is as corrupt as corruption goes. He should die.”
“You’re paid assassins?” Squall narrowed his eyes.
“Yeah, so what?” Jen rolled her eyes. “So were you. And you ended up a hero for it. Isn’t that what SeeDs do in the first place?”
Ooh. She should’ve said that. Squall’s brows were knitted tightly once again. That kinda made me mad, too. Hey, I’m a SeeD and I ain’t no assassin. “Um, no.” I retorted.
“Wasn’t talking to you,” She said to my direction. Now waita minute -
“Uh, from what I gathered, there’s a Galbadian army coming. Hello? Let’s talk about that first.” Jamaica drawled. “And by the way, why are they coming again? They can’t just like, decide to show up just because. There’s gotta be a reason for it or the people of the world will like, kill them.”
Actually, I think they can just show up. But Squall sighed and explained it all again. At last he added. “And that’s why you saw Quistis and Irvine together that night, Jocifer. They weren’t dating.”
“They weren’t?” Jamaica exclaimed suddenly. She spun to face Selphie. “Then, wait, then he wasn’t cheating on you! So it’s all normal clean relationship sequence! Oh, no, oh, no, do not tell me that you just almost killed Quistis and it wasn’t even -“
“Shut up and drop it, Jamaica! Jesus Christ!” Jocifer bellowed. Whoa. What’s he so ticked off on? Jamaica looked at him harshly. But hold on, that’s why Selphie said they cheated on her? Then they so didn’t cheat on her. So then, why did Irvine take my beating without explaining? Why didn’t he say anything, period? But I had to make sure. They could’ve done it before.
“So they weren’t ever dating?” I asked. I heard Jen snicker. Jamaica threw up her hands in exasperation and sat down on another chair.
Seifer gave me a look. “Weren’t you there, chicken wuss?”
“No, I wasn’t talking about that night. I was talking before. They weren’t cheating on Selphie before?”
“No shit, dumbass. Would Quistis be that depressed if she’s with Irvine?”
Wait a minute, how did he know she’s depressed. I couldn’t tell until she told me in person. Well, I could tell a little, but this was Seifer we’re talking about here! He never notices stuff like this. He’s incapable of it! Right? “How do you know she’s depressed?”
Seifer just stare at me with the I-so-don’t-believe-you-just-asked-me-that expression. “Not everyone is as dense as you, chicken.”
“Stop calling him that,” Squall said quietly. Seifer widened his eyes. Heh, take that!
“And not everyone is as light as you,” Someone mumbled from the far corner. The comment was directed at Seifer. He looked up, and saw Jeep.
Something was definitely wrong with this guy, though. He was kinda wrapping himself in a hug and leaned against the wall. No, he looked like he wanted to disappear into the wall. He was even trembling a little bit. Dude, he looked scared as hell. Of what? Of Seifer? Naw. If they’re paid assassins, they shouldn’t be afraid anything let alone a person.
Seifer cocked his head and walked up to Jeep. Uh-oh, that didn’t look good. Jen started to stop him, but he pushed her away with one hand and she crashed into the side table. She looked pretty furious, but Rinoa stopped her before anything happened. Seifer stared at Jeep, who crouched even more.
“You scared of me?” He asked after a while.
“No, I’m not scared of you.” Jeep spitted back. I crossed my arms and watched.
Seifer’s eyes went down to Jeep’s toes then back to his face again. “You scared of me and Squall.” More of a statement than a question. Jeep said nothing.
“Leave him the fuck alone!” Jen suddenly exclaimed. She advanced at Seifer. Okay, even though I’m not fond of Seifer much, or him and Squall, okay, they both disgust me to a degree, I still didn’t want some other people to seriously injure him just because they’re together. So I grabbed Jen’s hand. Damn, this girl strong!
Whoosh. A flash of silver. Then slash!
Seifer turned his head just in time when the blade flashed past his face. The knife spun around again and landed back in Jocifer’s hand. I saw a drop of blood landed on the floor, next to Jamaica’s feet. She was staring at Seifer, eyes wide.
Was he okay?
Seifer spun around to face Jocifer. I cringed when I saw that there was a large gash on the left side of his face. Blood was dripping from it freely. He and Jocifer stared at each other, saying things through the eyes that we didn’t want to hear. I breathed a sigh of relief that he only suffered skin injury, and not lose an eye, for I was pretty sure that’s what Jocifer was aiming for.
Then, he reached up to his face and wiped the wound with his hand. The blood stained his palms red. He looked at it for a second, then licked his hand. The blood rolled over his lips, past his tongue, and he swallowed it.
I heard Rinoa and Selphie gasp. Jamaica was still wide-eyed. The rest of them all had disgusted expressions, including Jocifer. I alone remained still. I’ve seen worse. Seifer and I spar frequently. He always pull stunts like that just to get to me.
Seifer turned his vision to my direction. He smirked at the death-quiet room, then walked up to me, and gave me a light kiss. Light enough to be casual, but still adequate to pass me the blood from his lips. Then he sat back down on the sofa, not saying a word. He knew me too well. I licked my lips, tasting the sweetness, and began quietly.
“Look, I know we all don’t want to be in this room right now. And we certainly don’t want to discuss anything together. But we have no choice. The entire Galbadian army is coming, and to say you don’t know what that means would be to insult your intelligence. Whatever their reason is, Gen. Carraway and his people are coming to crush Balamb Garden. It’s too late to run. They blocked off cities and probably had us surrounded in a big circle already. We have no where to run; none of us. Now, due to various reason, I don’t care what they are, but I am missing two of my best fighters. I need every hand I could get. Plus, when the Galbadians found you here, they’d undoubtedly kill you or take you prisoner, as for probably the rest of us.” I swallowed. “We have our differences, but, I need your help. For all of our sakes.”
I watched the entire room. Selphie smiled at me. This must’ve been tearing her apart, watching her friends fighting each other. She looked relieved. I didn’t hate her to the degree that Seifer did. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t there when it happened. To get Seifer to dislike someone like this in an instant would have to take a very impressive instant. I missed it, therefore I wasn’t that furious.
Jen and Jocifer exchanged a glance. Neither said anything. This was good. They didn’t shout in disagreement or storm out the room. Rinoa stood up and saluted. Zell followed. Then Selphie. The other four didn’t move. Seifer still sat. His eyes on me.
Jeep stirred. He turned his face and gazed into my eyes. Then he straightened, his expression serious, and saluted. The other three stared at him. He didn’t flinch and never removed his gaze. Jamaica grinned. She hopped up from her seat and saluted to me, her face broke into a wide smile.
Jen scoffed. “I’m not gonna salute you, Squall, but you’re right on some things. Just don’t order me do stupid crap. And I am still sticking with my crew.”
Fair enough. We were all looking at Jocifer. He grumbled. I took that as a yes, for he could’ve left the room. I let out another sigh of relief. At least I had a team now. A pretty powerful team, in fact. Selphie had informed me the Junk Yard’s fighting ability many times before.
“Well, what are we going to do now?” Rinoa asked. Back to the original topic that got left behind hours ago. “They’re still coming.”
I looked out the window at the fully risen sun. It was probably 6:00 already. I put my fingers to the bridge of my nose. “I’ll figure this out. Um, go get ready. Sharpen your weapons and junction your magic. I’ll announce the battle plan in a few minutes.”
“In a few minutes? You sure that’s enough?” Zell asked. He took everything literally.
“No, idiot, it’s a figure of speech.” Seifer retorted. “Go wash your gloves. It still got Kinneas’s blood on it.”
“What?” Selphie stared at Zell. He fumbled around for words, when finding none, darted out the door. “Hey, waitaminute!” She followed.
“Okay, people, let’s go.” Jen pointed to the doorway with her hands. The Junk Yard disappeared. Rinoa looked at me.
“Well, Squall, can I request something?”
“I request to be not put on the same team as that guy with the knife or that blonde girl. The other two, I don’t care that much, but I still prefer not. I mean, they’re still the most wanted in Deling City and I’m just not sure I’d like to be seen with them.”
She didn’t want to fight her father with people who murdered her father’s right hand. I read it in the news. That official was as loyal to Carraway as anything, which probably led him to a life of wrong choices. No, only choices. “Of course.”
“Thanks. Um, I’ll be going then.” She backed out the doorway and closed the door behind her.
It’s just me and Seifer now.
I dropped my calm façade and slumped on the sofa, next to him. I buried my face in my hands. The dull headache that I had been deliberately ignoring blared in my temples and the back of my head. I had no idea what I was going to do. Nothing.
“Come here,” he said softly. I looked at him, at his outstretched hand. I moved over and lay down on my back with my head on his chest. The rise and fall of his breathing calmed me down a bit.
“Why would they come now?” He said into my hair. “I mean, the Galbadians had enough power to crush this place before. Why now? They’re not at their peak, and we’re certainly not at our lowest. Did they found out something about us that they’d come for it?”
“Yeah, the Junk Yard.”
“I really doubt that. They could use that as a cover-up, but as the true reason it’s kind of off.”
I shrugged. “Maybe it’s just convenient. With Rinoa and all.”
“No. From the look of this, Carraway did not just decide, okay I’m going to get my daughter back. He’s been planning this for a while. To move the entire army is not an easy job. I know. Plus, didn’t he call Rinoa in the first place? He planned this. What do we have that’s worth him getting?”
“We have noth -“
I stopped. My vision blurred then sharpened. I jolted up, startling both Seifer and myself. “Oh, shit.”
“Shit!” I stood up and started pacing. It had to be that. But it couldn’t, but it had to be! “We should, uh, divide the SeeDs up into several groups. Then place them in layers around the Garden. If one layer’s broken, then the remaining SeeDs would meet up with the ones from the next layer. That way the Galbadians would meet more and more resistance on their way in.”
“What about us?”
“You. Um, I think the Junk Yard should be placed in second floor classrooms. I think I’ll put Rinoa there too. No, wait, she specified not to. Should I make her take care of the junior classmen then?”
“Yeah. I don’t think the soldiers would not recognize their general’s daughter. She’d be okay.”
With the baby and all. I still needed to take responsibility for Ryan. “Zell, Selphie, and you will be here, third floor hallway.”
“Third floor hallway? Shouldn’t we be the first in line -“
We both looked at the PA system. I answered. “Yes?”
“Squall? This is Dr. Kadowaki. Have you seen Quistis?”
Quistis? “Uh, she’s not here right now. What’s wrong?”
“She has the condensed Hero potion. I need to give that to Mrs. Dincht now.”
Quistis has the Hero potion? How did that end up in her hands? “Why does she have it?”
“Xu had given it to her when she couldn’t find me. I had thought I needed to give it to Mrs. Dincht last night, but then I realized it might clash with some of other medicines that I gave her. So I waited until this morning. I thought Xu had it all along. She said Quistis got it last night at the party.”
“Okay, doctor. I think it’d be impossible to find Quistis soon, so I’ll see what I can do. When do you absolutely need it?”
“Oh. Well, it’s more helping medicine. I need it before this week ends, though.”
That could be managed. “Okay. Don’t tell Zell this, please. He may flip.”
She chuckled. “No, I won’t. Out.”
I hung up. Seifer had an odd look. “Squall, I think the Heroes got used up during that explosion.”
“You mean . . .”
He nodded. Then it dawned on me what that meant. If Quistis had not had the Heroes on her . . ..
I shook my head. No use dwelling on it. I thought some more, and extended my hand to Seifer. “Give me the phone. I have to call my dad.”
He reached into his pocket and took out the communication device. He wavered before he handed it to me. “Squall, they aren’t just coming to kill the Garden, are they?”
He realized it. I shook my head.
“So,” he paused, “what’s their target?”
I looked at him and smiled. Completely without mirth.
The serene sea gently lapped at the golden sand. I stared out the window of the old orphanage, drinking it all in. I could hear Sis busying with a bowl of warm water. Matron and Cid were out in the back, probably discussing the situation. My situation.
I looked down at myself. Thick bandages wrapped around my chest, restricting my breasts and binding my movement. My hair was cut short by Matron. It used to reach the middle of my back; now it grazed my shoulder. The excess had been charred to an ashy black and therefore would’ve fallen off anyway. Bandages ran down my arms. I felt no pain now, thanks to the various Curaga and Regen magics. Matron had praised the gods for my good fortune with the bag of condensed Heroes. If that bag had not ruptured on me during the explosion, I’d be lying in a tomb right now. The effect reduced my injuries to half of what it could be. I felt fine now. Sometimes a dizziness would attack, but then it would disappear as quickly as it came.
I took a deep breath and continued to stare at the ocean. I was worrying about Mrs. Dincht. Hopefully the Heroes would be only supplementary to her. And hopefully Zell wouldn’t kill me if he found out. If he found out.
“The sun’s going to set soon,” Sis’s voice sounded crisply behind me.
I didn’t say anything. After they bandaged me, I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until well past noon. By then Fujin had left. She was still needed in Esthar, so she took an afternoon boat and rode back. The Ragnorak was still here, though.
“What time is it?” I asked absentmindedly.
“Almost 5 o’clock. You’ve been standing there all afternoon.” Sis walked behind me and put a hand on my shoulder. “It’s time to change the medicine.”
I nodded and turned from the shimmering sand and the low sun. I sat down on the bed and started to undress. That was when I saw a figure appeared in the doorway.
“Quistis,” he breathed.
I gasped and felt my own breath hitch. Our gaze met for a brief second. It burnt. I quickly looked away.
Sis smiled warmly. “Irvine. Seifer said you’d be coming.” She went over and gave him a hug. He returned it and grinned.
“Did Seifer call you?” He strolled into the room.
“No. He told Fujin to tell me when she brought Quisty here. He just said you’d be coming very soon. And here you are. Did you greet Matron?”
“Yes. She let me in.” His grin broadened as he pondered about what Sis just said. I wrapped the shirt around me and stood up. I walked quickly toward the door.
“Excuse me,” I said as I attempted to slide past Irvine. He blocked me easily with his arm.
“Whoa, where ya going, miss? I just got here.”
I gave him a look. I threw off his arm and turned around. If he wouldn’t let me leave, fine. I would simply sit on the bed and ignore his presence.
I heard Sis whispered something to him. Then she left the room and closed the door. From his footsteps I knew he was approaching me. He picked up the bowl of water and moved directly behind me. “Come on, girl, you need to get your bandages changed.”
“Not your business,”
“Well, I’m making it my business. Let’s go.” He walked to the drawers and retrieved all the aids and drew some magic.
I just wrapped the shirt tighter around myself.
“Aw, Quistis, please. We don’t have all day -“ Suddenly he started coughing violently. I turned my head quickly, just in time to see blood seep through the fingers as he covered his mouth with his hand.
“What is wrong with you?” I jumped up. He just shook his head. The smile didn’t disappear from his face. “What happened?”
“It’s nothing. Squall gave me this Elixir thing, right? Well, I thought you might need it more, judging from Seifer’s attitude. Now I get here and you don’t seem that badly off. So maybe I should drink this now, if you don’t mind.” He retrieved the Elixir he was talking about from his coat pocket.
“You idiot!” I beat on his arm with my fists. “Why didn’t you drink this when Squall gave it to you?! Idiot!” He was so stupid. He didn’t need to . . . oh God, what was I going to do with him? He could’ve had the Elixir 20 hours ago. I picked up a cotton ball from the table and started to wipe the blood from his hands and his neck.
He caught my hand. Slowly, he led me back to the bed and sat down with me. His eyes never left my face. I brought the Elixir to his lips. “Drink this.”
“I drink this, you promise me you’ll get the bandages changed.”
Such a bad bargain. I sighed. “Fine.”
He grinned again and drank the potion in one gulp. I shook my head in disapproval. He then stood up and brought all the supplies to the bed. “Turn around, honey.” Seeing the look I gave him, he added. “Unless you don’t want to. It’s fine by me either way.”
I scoffed. Rolling my eyes, I turned my back to him and let go of the shirt. He slipped it off. I heard him took in a breath. Astounded by amount of white strips I bore, probably.
He slowly removed the bandages from my torso. Then he moved to my arms and unwrapped the cloth there. I frowned. “Uh, how are you going to heal me if you’re facing my back? My wounds aren’t on my back.”
“There’s a way, don’t worry.” I didn’t believe that. “’Course, it’d be much easier if you just face me, but . . . well, it’s up to you. And look, if you really don’t want me here, I’ll just go call Sis.”
Something crept into his voice. It’s so rare to hear it from him. The great Casanova. The player. Everyone I knew seen him as the bootyhound. Now he sounded so . . . respectful. And caring. Almost as if . . ..
“No,” I heard myself say. “Stay.” My voice was so quiet that I thought he didn’t hear me. He did.
I took in a light breath, then turned my head to meet his eyes. The indigo showed now signs of desire, only sincerity. I turned my torso toward him. I started to wrap my arms around my chest, but decided not to. What’s the point?
His eyes widened slightly at the injury. I didn’t blame him; I was taken aback when I first saw myself in the mirror. There were slashes of red everywhere, some turned permanently black. My arms were decorated with burnt marks. Any skin below my collarbone all had a yellowish tinge. It looked quite ghastly. His brows knitted - the first time I’ve ever seen Irvine Kinneas in a frown. He swallowed.
“She did this?” He whispered.
I nodded. I didn’t blame her then, I still don’t blame her now.
“Permanent scars?” Another whisper.
I nodded again.
He looked away for a second. I swear I saw something shiny in his eyes, but he blinked them away quickly. Then he started casting magic on me.
Chilly wind wrapped around me as the Curaga worked. I felt some of the remaining blood clotted and scabbed. Then a Remedy tuned out some leftover poison. After he’s done, there were black spots all over me. Needed to wash that off. I was too weak to cast these simple things myself before.
He wetted a towel and handed it to me. I wiped off the spots of debris and dried myself. I felt some strength returning. He then gave me another bottle of Elixir as he retrieved the rows of medicated bandages.
I turned around again and drank the Elixir quietly. We didn’t speak. All I felt was the strips of cloth wrapping around me. His hand never touched my skin, but the bandages were not loose nor tight. How did he do that?
It was not until I buttoned my shirt and he cleaned up the place did Irvine touch me. I felt his arm around my waist and his lips on my neck. His breath traveled gradually up to my chin. Then he spun me around in his embrace and started kissing my jawbone.
My breaths became short and fast as my eyes closed. I wrapped my arms around his neck as our lips met. His lips were soft and warm. I melted against him, as seemed everything around us. The heat surged in my throat and softened my body pleasantly. He felt so nice. So . . . what was this feeling? I couldn’t describe it. But it made me want to smile. I wanted to laugh out loud. Hadn’t felt that for a long time.
Our kiss ended with us staring into each other’s eyes again. I could hear the rapid beating of his heart. Or was it my own heart? I didn’t let go of him, and neither did he I.
A light knock on the wooden door brought us back to the present world. Irvine turned his gaze toward the wooden frame. “Yes?”
“Hey, you two,” It’s Sis. “Uncle Laguna called. He said it’s an emergency involving Balamb Garden. Matron and Cid want to see you in the living room right now.”
Irvine and I exchanged a glance. We both quickly went to the door, opened it, and followed Sis out to the living room. Matron and Cid were sitting there, with the gravest expressions on their faces.
“The Garden’s under attack? Since when?” I exclaimed. Hey, nobody told me about this! Well, I was stuck on a ship in the middle of ocean for 20 hours, but that’s no excuse.
“Laguna called around 2:30.” Matron replied. Quistis raised her eyebrows. “We just didn’t have the heart to tell you, with your injury and all.”
“You should’ve.” She looked distraught. “Why are they attacking? It couldn’t have been because of Rinoa.”
She’s right. It couldn’t have been. “I think they’re just there to crush Balamb. Long held grudges, I guess.”
“We heard from several sources that it’s because Balamb is protecting some most-wanted criminals. And also because of Carraway’s daughter. But I think those’re just cover-ups.” Cid explained.
“Cover-ups for what? Crushing the Garden?” Quistis asked.
“No,” Cid answered the videophone on the table. Laguna’s face showed up. He looked very worried.
“Oh, good, you’re here.” After a pause. “They’re in.”
Matron gasped. Cid didn’t speak for several seconds. Laguna turned and saw me and Quistis. “Oh, great. You two are here, too. Is the Ragnorak there with you?”
I nodded. “You want me to fly it back to Esthar?”
“Uh, Cid?” Laguna scratched his head. “You wanna come to Esthar or we’ll talk here?”
“We have no time to go there now that they’re in.” Matron answered for Cid. “We’ll figure out a plan and we’ll call you back in a few minutes.”
“Sure, then.” Laguna said. “Ow ow, my leg. I’m out!” He twisted but managed to turn off the vidphone. Laguna and his cramps. It’s ridiculous.
“Okay, what’s going on?” I turned to Matron. “Tell us everything. We have the right to know.”
Matron sighed. She looked at Cid, who nodded. “All right. I think you already figure out the Galbadians are there to get something. Or to be more precise, Carraway is there to get something.” She glanced at Cid again. “There is an object that only few people on Earth knew existed before somehow the information leaked out to Carraway. It’s called an Energy Orb, made and refined from thousands of Energy Crystals hundreds of years ago. Whoever has the Orb in his hands will, I repeat, will become the most powerful man in the world, maybe the entire galaxy.”
“How so?” Quistis asked.
“The Energy Orb can convert anything into pure energy, including air molecules. In other words, one who holds it can change whatever they want into a powerful weapon that can destroy everything.”
“Everything?” said I.
Matron nodded. Cid continued after her. “Laguna and Kiros stumbled on it while they’re exploring a deserted region in Esthar. Since the Orb can easily corrupt whoever has it, Kiros suggest to not keep in it Esthar and hide it somewhere discreet and safe. They called me and Edea, said we should keep it in Centra. I disagreed. We need someone capable of protecting it if and when it’s discovered. Edea and I could not protect it well, so we called Squall. He said he’d keep it in Balamb Garden, and we all trust him enough to know he’d never use it.”
“So somehow Carraway found out and that’s why he’s heading to Garden. Not to crush it but to find the Orb. He doesn’t need to bring the entire army there, though.” I speculated.
“Yes, he has to. He wants to make sure the Garden is under his control and no mistakes are allowed.” Matron said. “For the Energy Orb, he is willing to kill everyone in Garden if he is left with no other option.”
“Would he . . . kill Squall first?” Quistis’ voice shook a little.
Matron sighed again. Her tone clearly devastated. “No. Squall is the only one who knows where the Orb is. He hid it himself. No one else knows, not even us. And Carraway clearly realizes that. He will try everything to pry the information from Squall. Absolutely everything.”
“Whoa, then why are we sitting around here! We need to go help!” I jumped up. I didn’t like the sound of her last sentence. I really didn’t like it.
Quistis pulled me back down on the chair. “Irvine, sit down. How are we going to help? The Esthar soldiers are all blocked off by the Galbadian soldiers by the coast. They couldn’t even penetrate the Galbadians, how could we?”
“Actually, you two can.” Cid adjusted his glasses. My ears perked up. We could?
“When I designed the Garden, I was prepared for a total invasion one day, so I left a back-up system.” Cid folded his hands on the table. “Once triggered, it will release a poisonous gas to all the floors in Garden, including the deck and the basement, and will kill anyone. No armor or protection or any junction will defend against it. It’s basically a suicide purging, but sometimes those things are necessary.” He paused. “Like now.”
“But, the students are all in there.” Quistis protested. Yeah, we couldn’t just kill everyone. That defeats the purpose of “help.”
Cid shook his head. “Knowing Carraway, or any invaders of the Garden, they probably use the MD level as a prison and hoard everyone in there. Or they would use the classrooms. The gas will not reach MD level at all, so whoever’s down there will be fine. The reason Esthar soldiers couldn’t penetrate is because the Galbadians are using the Garden against them. Once the Garden comes back to our control, or lose the Galbadian control, the Estharians could easily take over.”
“How do we know they’re all down in MD?” I asked. I didn’t even know Carraway knew there’s an MD level.
“We don’t. That’s where you two come in. You need to get inside and help whoever is stuck on the other four floors escape, if you can. The trigger for the poison gas is in the Dormitory, Room number 148. It can only be activated with a key, here it is.” Cid handed Quistis a rusty, ordinary- looking key. “A door will open beside it, leading immediately outside. It will be a few minutes before the gas reach that room, because I especially padded the room’s door.”
“How are we going to get inside the Garden?” asked Quistis. “There’re Galbadians everywhere.”
“There’s an underground passage from the Fire Cavern.” Matron explained. “It leads to the MD level. You can travel to other floors using the elevator shaft.”
“Wait, if this is so well planned out, why didn’t the Esthar people just go in from Fire Cavern?” I was kinda confused. It would’ve saved us a heck of a lot of trouble.
“They don’t know the Garden as well as you do.” Cid said rationally. “Plus, the passage is long and tiny. If the Galbadians discovered the source, they could simply put some things into the passage and kill everyone in it. And they’re bound to discover the source once 200 people emerge from the same place.”
Yeah, true. Well, so it’s up to me, well, us, to save the day again. Except this time, I actually cared more than superficially. I mean, last time we saved the world, sure, but this time it’s a hell of a lot more personal. Actually, that makes no sense. Last time was worse than now, considerably. We were so on a suicide mission fighting Ultimecia, and all my friends were in danger, too.
But they weren’t, like, defenseless. They were fighting for their lives, but there was hope. This time it’s like, sitting duck. And quick death, promised by Ultimecia’s Time Compression, is much less painful than . . . than . . . whatever Matron had said.
Whatever Matron had implied.
“Shouldn’t we call Laguna now and tell him the plan?” Quistis pointed to the vidphone on the table.
“Yes, you’re right.” Matron replied. She typed in the number to Esthar Presidential Palace. A few seconds later, Laguna emerged, alone with Kiros.
Matron and Cid told Laguna about our plan. He totally agreed with it, and said we would have Estharians’ support 100%. He did say that in addition, once we released the gas, I should fire 3 shots in the air as an invasion signal. And Kiros told us that from what some scout had gathered, Carraway did put most of the students in the MD Level with relatively less security because the students were unarmed. That made our job lessen. We didn’t have to run around trying to get tons of people either outside or down below, with plenty of G-soldiers behind our tails trying to shoot us.
“Quistis,” Matron’s concerned look fell on my companion. “Are you sure you’re -“
“I’m perfectly fine, Matron.” Quistis smiled. “And even if I’m not, I have to go. You know that.”
Matron nodded. “I’m just happy the Hero was on you.”
Hero? I gave Quistis a look. She told me the story in less than 5 sentences. I didn’t quite get it, but I wasn’t going to waste my time at this moment. It just meant that I had something else to remember and do once we get back to Balamb. Oh, by the way, how do we plan to get back?
I asked Cid. He said we could fly the Ragnorak. I didn’t see it on my way in. Matron said it’s in the back. Psshhh, well, let’s see how good I am with flying.
“He’s okay, right?” Someone suddenly asked.
We all turned at the source of the quiet whisper. It’s Sis. She probably heard everything from the doorway. I walked over and wrapped her in a hug. “Yeah.” I answered. Squall was her closest brother, after all.
“Both of them?”
I realized she’s asking about Seifer now, too. There’s something she’s not telling us. I suspect her ability let her saw flashes of the recent past, and it disturbed her greatly. Hell, I didn’t have the ability and I still had a sinking feeling in my stomach.
“All of them,” I reassured her. What else could I say? I gave her one final squeeze and left to follow Quistis. Before I stepped out the door, I turned to Cid.
“Cid, what would you have done if we’re not here?”
He paused. “I don’t know.”
How frightening of an answer was that?
He knew something.
He knew something and he’s not telling me.
I watched my lover as he sat, perfectly still, in the chair in his office with Lion Heart clutched tightly in his hand. He’s completely expressionless. I lightly tapped the floorboard with Hyperion, while outside the door, Zell paced around the hall and Selphie stretched her nunchaku. We all could hear the screams and shouts and machine gun fire from downstairs. No magic, no summoning, and no commands. Somehow those Galbadian bastards casted a veil on Garden and eliminated everything except physical attacks and items. It reminded me of the fucking Ultimicia Castle. Yes, I’ve been there, too late to help my friends, though. Ultimecia, bitch, dropped me from the mind control when she realized I was useless to her. Fuck that.
The sound of the intercom made me jump out of my skin. Squall calmly answered it. It was from the Junk Yard. They’re on the second floor, in the classroom.
“Squall,” Jamaica’s voice crackled. “They’ve broken it. They’re coming up now.”
Fuck. Fuck! Well, I knew they’re gonna do it sooner or later. We’d been under attack for five fucking damn hours now. Five! The Esthar people are all dumbasses. They’d been outside trying to break in for four hours, and still couldn’t. I thought they’re the most advanced country people in the world . . . oh, wait, the most advanced military wasn’t them. My bad. Squall’s brilliant plan held off these Galbadia military machines for five hours straight.
But now they’re here.
I hated this. I hated this more than anything else we’ve ever done. It always had been us going about looking for the enemy. The enemy imposed themselves on us, yeah, but we still held the Ace. We’re active. But now, now it’s backwards. We’re sitting ducks here, and they’re attacking us. Mercilessly. And the damn catch was that we could do nothing about it. Absolutely not a fucking thing but wait until they knock at our door. I hated this.
Squall stood up. The breaking of his last line of defense on first floor made him wore a deadly look. He knew the Junk Yard could not hold off the soldiers for long. Shit, we all did. But we all hoped.
“Guys,” he said, “when the soldiers come up here, and when you realize there’s no way we could hold them off, I want you to run that instant.”
What? No fucking way!
“Squall, man, you crazy!” Zell piped. “I ain’t gonna abandon you!”
“That’s an order! You aren’t abandoning me. They won’t kill me, but they will kill you. The Estharians are right outside. I know with your abilities you can break out quite effortlessly.”
“Then you come with us, too,” Selphie whined.
“How do you know they won’t kill you, too?” I asked.
“They won’t,” There’s that smile again. The same one he gave me when he told me what their target was. I didn’t get it then, and I sure as hell didn’t get it now. “I promise you. They won’t kill me.”
“Okay, no time to talk now, ‘cause here they come!” Zell suddenly exclaimed. Sure enough, blue and red uniforms surged out the elevator. Damn, that many?!
I swung Hyperion outward and snarled slightly. I fired a couple of shots into the elevator, and landed some good blows. Zell jumped to the nearest guy and knocked him out in one punch. Selphie twirled Strange Vision around her in such skill that few could come meters within her. They’re handling themselves well, so I concentrated on my own circle of red and blue bastards.
I heard a gun fire right behind me. I dove downwards and swung my blade around, caught the guy who shot me on the arm. Blood splattered from his wound as he yelped and dropped the gun. The bullet bounced off another guy’s helmet, who was charging at me with a weird kind of blade. I blocked it with Hyperion. We sparred for a few minutes before he fumbled and I stabbed. Fields of red marred my vision. I twisted myself around, only to feel something cold and chilly swept my chest.
Suddenly a hot and burning sensation enveloped me. I looked down and saw my shirt was stained red. Shit. Ah, minor scratches are negligible. I heard another set of gunfire and rolled on the floor, blindly shot behind me. Somebody yelled and the firing stopped. Bingo.
I heard a shout and looked up. Squall had stabbed someone clearly through the chest with his Lion Heart. The guy’s dead. Oh yeah. He pulled out his gunblade, still glistening with blood, and swung it behind him, squarely chopped off some other soldier’s arm. He didn’t even flinch.
A crack behind me told me that Zell’s Ergheiz had opened another skull. And the whoosh of the nunchaku brought down several others.
These Galbadians were dropping like flies. How the Hell did they make it all the way up here if that’s their fighting level?
Something’s not right. I knocked down another blue guard with my bare fist and made my way to Squall. We had our backs to each other soon after while facing several soldiers on either side. I felt his muscles tense. “You feel that?” He asked.
“What?” I shot down a soldier.
“That.” His arms came up and down and I heard another yell.
I didn’t feel anything. All I felt was the weight of my gunblade and the contact of bones and skulls with my gunblade. Soon we cleared up the soldiers around us. I looked to the hallway. Zell and Selphie had finished their batch, too. Stupid bastards. They call that an attack?
“Gee, why did they drop this stupid veil. They’re just hurting themselves.” Zell commented, gesturing at the litter of Galbadian soldiers on the floor.
“This could end up a lot cleaner if they didn’t.” Squall agreed. He started to wipe Lion Heart with his sleeve, but froze. I heard the elevator moving again. Great. Another stupid ass bunch again.
Selphie groaned and flared up her nunchaku. The elevator door opened again, and out swarmed some more reds and blues. Except they seemed different this time. Their weapons looked kind of odd.
Poof! I blinked. What was that? One red thrown a stone of some kind at Selphie, she dodged, but the stone vanished into purplish smoke. It surrounded her for a second, then turned clear. The red looked at it, then grinned. I didn’t like that grin.
Selphie looked confuse for a second. She shrugged it off and went on ahead with her attacking. The soldier dodged skillfully and started sparring her with a string of lead. Okay, it’s probably not a string of lead, but that’s what it looked like to me. Another guy jumped on Zell and they wrestled on the floor. Another poof of pinkish smoke came from the rolling bundle.
I didn’t like it. Whatever that was, I didn’t like it one bit. So I withdrew some Flare stones and threw it to the other soldiers piling out the door. The explosion took out some of them. A particularly quick one jumped out and slashed at me with his curved knife. I jumped back, avoiding the tip of that sharp blade. I swung my Hyperion just as I felt something thrown at my feet. Poof.
A tingling sensation went through me, like I was being scanned. I focused on ignoring it and struck the other guy’s arm. He yelped, rolled back, and landed underneath a table. I saw out of the corner of my eye that Squall was surrounded by pink mist, too. There were only a few soldiers left. I guess they were the top ones, for their battle skills were adequate. I swung downward, hope to push that quickie out from the desk and catch him up. I don’t like fighting low.
Then things changed.
Instead of jumping up or even avoiding, I saw a flash of silver aiming straight toward my groin. No, above that, my navel. I was so surprised that I turned the attacking stance into a defensive block. The blades met with a ding, and my hand shook. The fuck? Then I realized the angle I blocked it with hit the weak spot of my wrist perfectly.
“Aiyo!” Selphie’s high voice shrieked. The guy with that metal whip had wrapped it around her ankles and had dragged her on the ground. Her nunchaku flew out of her hand as she kicked off her boots to get up. The minute her boots were off, another twirling rope wrapped around her bare ankles and dragged her down again. This time it’d drawn blood and Selphie shrieked louder.
I watched in horror as another soldier came up and beat on Selphie with a wooden staff, everywhere it touched a blue bruise formed. She was frantically shielding herself in vain. I dashed toward the door, just in time to see the guy that was wrestling with Zell had him in a headlock. Then I heard a snap.
I froze in midstep. Snap. I saw Zell’s eyes closed and he slumped on the floor. Just like that. It was so clean. He didn’t have time to scream, or even make a single sound. A single crisp and sharp snap and Zell Dincht, one of the most fearless warriors I’ve known, was down. Was gone.
What the fuck. What the fuck?!
I was so shocked by what’s going on around me that I didn’t see the quickie got up from the floor. I didn’t see him creep behind me. I didn’t even know what he planned to do until I heard Squall called my name in pain. I swung around then.
Only to feel the thin edge of metal pushed deep across my stomach. Warmth flooded me, then cold chilly wind. My breathing paused. I heard Hyperion clashed on the floor as everything became blurry around me. The room spun. I felt volumes of liquid leaving my body in a stream, went past my hands, and poured on the floor. I vaguely heard Selphie’s voice calling my name. And saw the desperation burst out from Squall’s face, and the “No” spun from his lips.
I felt the wall behind my back. My knees grew weak. The quickie smirked and stepped out of my dimming vision. The breath that never got past my lips ever since I turned came out in spurts of shallow gasps. I slid slowly downward toward the ground, feeling the old pain opened up under this new invasion. Squall had sliced me on the stomach during our last fight before Ultimecia. It didn’t leave a scar, but sometimes the muscle ached if I overstretched them. My only weak place.
Weak place. Of course. It all made sense. My wrist. My stomach. Selphie’s ankles. The pink mist. Scan. It all . . .
The room suddenly got quieter. And darker. My clothes were soaked, and why were they wet again? . . . Squall . . . I saw some blue guy jumped on his back . . . he was pinned . . . I . . . .
Lights faded more rapidly. Or was it my own eyes closing? Squall . . . I love you . . .. Red . . . all red . . . and then black. . . . . . . Black . . . bl . . . .
. . . . . . .
“Seifer!!!” I screamed the same time Squall shouted “No!” His voice cracked. Tears streamed down my face. Ouch! Another hit from the wood landed on my leg. Stop it! I rolled.
“Okay, that’s quite enough,” Some old man’s voice said. I looked up and saw General Carraway coming with a weird looking woman. She’s definitely not a sorceress, but she just looked so . . . not nice. Bummer.
I struggled to get up but failed. Somebody tied my hands behind my back with a tight rope and hauled me to my feet. OWWWWW!!! My ankles!!!! I yelped.
“Aw, poor dear,” The woman cooed. “Carry her down gently, boy.”
“Where?” The blue-uniform guy asked.
She looked at the General. He thought for a second. “Uh, the same as the other four.”
The other four? Oh no, my friends from Trabia! No! They’re captured too. Mega Mega Mega bummer!
Before I lost sight of the Headmaster’s office, I saw Squall being yanked to his feet. His hands were tied behind his back, like mine were. General Carraway and the woman, gotta be his wife and Rinoa’s stepmother, advanced and closed the door.
I stopped sniffling and looked at the guy who’s carrying me. Wasn’t he supposed to want to kill me or something? Well, he just looked so, sad. I frowned. “Why you so sad? You should be glad you won.”
“Heh, win?” He scoffed. “What kind of win is this, huh? I fought you, and you’re the most innocent and sweet girl I’ve met. I lost my best friend when I came here. I saw one of your friends chopped him in half. What glory is in this win? It’s all bloody, and it’s all a mess.”
Wow. A Galbadian soldier being so sentimental? Who trained him? “Uh, my friend?”
“Yeah. The dancer looking guy with that huge knife with a long handle.”
“Oh. Oops. I’m sorry.”
“All’s fair in love and war.” He quoted a cliché. By then we reached second floor classroom. He brought me inside the room and dropped me gently on the floor. I saw Steve, Matt, Jen, and Mai all cooped up in one big net. Their weapons were thrown far on the other side. Mai jumped up when she saw me.
“Selph!!! Oh my God! Are you okay?”
I nodded. I was sore all over, but compared to my other friends . . . Zell . . . I was okay. Zell . . ..
“No no, hang her up,”
I turned to see an officer in red uniform spoke from the doorway. The blue-uniform guy sighed, and took out another rope. “Sorry.” He whispered. Then he wrapped it tightly around my bleeding ankles, OW!, and then I felt being lifted upside down and dangling from the ceiling light.
“Hey, wait a minute here, you let her down!” Steve hollered. He banged on the net thingy, then yelped when it burnt his hand.
“Let her down? Yeah, then she’ll free you all and we have to fight you all over again. Yeah, right, in your dreams.” I didn’t like the red-uniform guy. He’s bad.
Then they tied my hands tighter together behind my back, and left. The world looked so inverted.
“Are you all okay?” I asked hurriedly. “Y’all are great at fighting! How did they get ya?”
“The same way they got you,” Jen replied solemnly. “They have this item, Scan stone or something, that can detect weak spots. Well, our weak spot is that we’re good if we stick together. So they just dropped this net and voila we’re here.”
“Oh.” That’s right. I always had weak ankles. That’s why I always check my boots to make sure they fit right so my ankles won’t get twisted. Now those Galbadians used it to their advantage. Darn.
“Does your ankle hurt?” Mai asked. Matt glared at her. “Wait, hold on, Selph, have you been crying?”
Oh, the mention of it brought more tears to my eyes. So I poured out and told them everything that’s gone wrong up there. Up to the minute I got carried down. Their eyes all got big on their faces, even though I was looking at them upside down.
“Are - Are they still - I mean are they - You know what I mean!” Mai sputtered.
“I don’t know. I don’t know.” I shook my head violently. I didn’t want to think about it. They’re okay. Nothing a Phoenix Down couldn’t handle. Or a bunch of Curagas. Right.
Whoa. What was that? I twisted my neck and saw a something on the wall had been struck and several boxes scattered on the floor. Someone laughed. I twisted my neck the other way and saw another blue-uniform holding a sizzling, crackling, electric whip. He was testing it out in the room.
“Look at that, man. This thing can hurt!” He laughed with another blue-uniform.
“Naw, for real. Man, I feel sorry for him.”
“Nah.” More laughter. Then they disappeared. Huh?
Crackle crackle. Ding. I stared at the wall. What was that?
“That button he accidentally struck must’ve been a switch. What did it switch on?” Jen conjectured.
We didn’t have to wait long, for a voice was heard clearly from the wall. General Carraway’s, I recognized. Must’ve been the PA system for this room. We could hear them. I wonder if they could hear us.
“I know you aren’t stupid, Squall,” Carraway said. “You know why I’m here. So let’s cut to the chase. Where is it?”
“Where’s what?” Mai blurted out. Jen shushed her, but it seemed that no one on the other side heard. So it’s a one side radio. Cool.
“You think I’m going to tell you?” Squall’s voice sounded so bitter.
“I don’t think. I know, if you know what’s best for you and this Garden. You tell me, I will retreat immediately. That’s a promise.”
“Ha ha. I’m sure.”
“I don’t break promises. Come on, you give me what I want, I’ll let you save your friends who’s still alive. Don’t you want to try to save your lover, or hold him one more time before his body cools, at least. Yes, I know all about you two, unlike what my daughter believed, months ago. But it’s all up to you, Headmaster.”
Silence. Then, “Fuck you.”
“Ooh, tsk tsk,” A female voice joined. “Stubborn.”
“Who’s that?” Steve asked me.
“It’s Carraway’s new wife.” I told him. “Rinoa’s stepmother.”
“She sounds kinda . . . evil.” Mai said. I agreed. We all agreed.
“Come on, be cooperative. It saves you pain.” The woman said. Some footsteps followed. “I heard about you from Rinoa and other sources plenty of times. First time I met you though. Darlin’, he’s quite gorgeous.” Clearly the last statement was to her husband. Hey! She’s crossing the line. That was weird. And wrong.
I heard Squall gasp. Then some more silence and suddenly a ripping. Materials ripping. Whoa, what was she doing?!
“Holy shit!” Mai hopped up, hit her head on top of the net. It burnt her but she ignored it. “Holy fucking shit! No! NO!”
“Shut up, Jamaica! You’re tearing up my ears.” Jen said. But her voice was shaking a bit. Anger or whatever, I didn’t know.
“Porcelain. You don’t want some marks on this fine porcelain, do you?” The woman’s voice turned a degree. Squall scoffed in contempt.
“Huh, well,” she continued. “Suit yourself.” Footsteps mingling everywhere. Then a familiar crackle.
“One,” The woman counted. “What the fuck . . .?” Shock saturated in Steve’s voice.
“Two. Come on, scream for me. Keep going.”
“Psycho bitch.” Mai commented.
A strained groan.
“Three. Scream. I want to hear you.”
“Uh, darlin’,” Carraway’s rough voice cut in. “You do know the limit is one -“
“One hundred, I know. I won’t go past that number, honey, don’t worry. He’ll be jumping to tell us where it is in no time.” Whoosh. Slap. “Four. Is that whip on max, Lieutenant?”
“No, m’am. You want me to turn it on?”
“Glad to oblige.”
“Ahhhh,” Mai gasped. She started jumping everywhere. “bastard! And PSYCHO BITCH! Ohmigod, we need to get out. Like, seriously, like, now!”
I cringed. Poor Squall. “Selph, you’re the only one on the outside, swing or something. You’re not that far from our weapons!” Jen ordered me.
I nodded. Ouch! Ankles still bleeding. Oh, ignore that. I swung hard toward the weapon. Nope.
“She’s still counting,” Steve said quietly. “Ten.”
I swung again and again. It didn’t work. Come on, Selphie, you can do it! Again.
“Sixteen.” Steve continued. He’s half counting to himself because we could all hear it loud and clear.
Come on! I felt the rope began to cut into my ankles. But then it started to move. Huh? I looked up, and saw the loop was slowly sliding off the ceiling light. Great!
“Hop on it! Come on!” Jen noticed the slip and began to encourage me. I swung some more. Yeah! A few centimeters and -“
And Squall screamed.
And we all froze.
It’s rare to hear Squall scream, or even grunt when he was in pain. He always suffered it in silence. I never heard him scream before. But this time. Oh Almighty God.
The beating didn’t stop. Neither did the counting. Squall screamed again. It was so loud and so heart-wrenching! I just needed a few centimeters and I’d be off -
“Whoa, where you plan to go, miss?”
“And what’s this?”
A red-uniform came up. I felt him lifting me up and sliding the loop further back. Then he double knotted it so it wouldn’t move. I wanted to kick him, but . . argh!
He then switched off the radio. But it didn’t matter much, because we could hear the screams emanating from the ceiling. “Ah, pitying your friend, I see. He should’ve just given us what we wanted and then he wouldn’t be in this torture. Idiot. Wait, maybe I shouldn’t . . . “ He smirked, then switched the radio back on.
“Turn it off. Turn it off!” Steve covered his ears. The red-uniform just chuckled and left.
We’re all still stuck. Horribly stuck.
And the screams. God have mercy. Please.
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