It was strange to Squall to have another lead the way for him through forests, his blonde guide giving soft orders whenever there were areas scattered with fallen trees or the terrain was rockier than typical. Since the main roads were too dangerous given those hunting for the fighter, they had remained in the heavily wooded areas which provided enough hiding space that could prove useful in the case escape would be necessary. But that also implied that the blind man had to rely on Seifer to navigate a safe passage through bush and rivers. It didn't help that the voices were relatively silent for once, forcing the seer to depend on the fighter more than he would have liked.
Except for the directions made by the fighter, there were no other words passed between the two during that first day, Seifer apparently deep in thought about how far to trust his traveling partner. Squall was merely satisfied to avoid hearing more nonsense from the blonde. One does not refuse destiny. If anything, such refusal seemed to only make the fates more determined to gain the person's cooperation. Squall had learned such lessons well, though he still debated with the voices about just what was destined of himself. He saw the future and warned Seifer of danger. That should have been enough, but the voices were insistent that he needed to persuade the blonde to accept his destiny with grace. The seer was fairly certain Seifer could do nothing with grace.
On the second day of traveling, Seifer attempted to begin some kind of conversation, the blonde obviously trying to determine more about his traveling partner. Squall ignored all the questions in reference to his past and family, the memories of his father within his dreams easily helping to quiet his tongue. Frustrated but not defeated, the fighter began to offer pieces of his own history, but that didn't interest Squall. He didn't wish to hear about the mother and father who adored their son, nor about their deaths early in his life. Though the seer did find it mildly curious that the blonde lied about the way they had died. He wondered if the lies were habit or if Seifer truly believed they died at the hands of bandits.
In the following days, the blonde grew more bold with his talk, not bothered in the least that Squall offered few words in reply. Against better judgment, the seer found himself enjoying some of the more death-defying tales. Squall remembered visions of those times, but he had never learned how Seifer managed to get himself into such messes nor how he got himself out alive. If he had believed the large man an idiot before, these stories only reinforced the fact.
"Well, look at that. We're already at the main road to Hiels. Shit, I thought it'd take us another week. You aren't as much of a hindrance as I thought you'd be."
At the mention of the city, Squall found himself suddenly anxious. Seifer had taken him this far, to where they would surely part ways and the seer would simply return to his place hidden within the crowds and shadows. He had been with the overly loud and arrogant blonde for barely two weeks, and yet Squall had grown accustomed to following the man. Scowling at nothing, he realized that it had probably been a mistake to spend so much time within the other man's presence. The man he had hated, the man who had been the source of his curse, was now replaced by the real man who understood nothing of fate and destiny. Squall couldn't find it within himself to hate someone so senseless.
Clutching the shirt that didn't belong to him, the seer eventually decided to break away from Seifer quickly, to first return the damned clothing and then move ahead to the town where the local Church of Hyne could hopefully spare a loaf of bread for his supper and possibly an old shirt to cover his body. He couldn't let himself hope for more than that.
Suddenly a hand was at his chin, forcing him to look upward. "What are you planning now, kitten?"
Squall didn't attempt to pull away from the firm grip and narrowed his eyes. "You know my name."
A chuckle sounded. "That I do, but you'll always be my little kitten." The hand pulled away, fingers trailing lightly against skin. "If we continue from here, we should be in Hiels by early evening. How does a warm meal sound to you?"
"I don't need you to care for me."
"I'm beginning to understand that, but I still have to repay you for those worthless warnings of yours."
Frowning, Squall took a step back from the man.
"Don't tell me that you're running from me now."
The words burned the blind man. "Why do you even care? You don't believe in my sight, thus I have no value to you. I'm only a burden. It would be to your best interest to rid yourself of me, and yet you keep making these meaningless excuses to--"
The breath was suddenly stolen from the seer as he fell limply to the ground, his body no longer his to control as blurry visions assaulted him. Forced to watch yet another attack on the blonde, he was struck with the odd urge to cry. Just as he believed his blindness an ultimate cruelty of fate, Seifer didn't deserve such a dangerous life. Underneath the words and attitude, he wasn't a terrible person. Eternally annoying, perhaps, but no more deserving of pain or death than any other person.
Slowly pulling out of the haziness of mind that proceeded the visions, he was surprised by the warmth surrounding him. Though kneeling on the ground, he hadn't fallen flat to the forest floor as he was accustomed to, but instead, Seifer had apparently managed to catch him at the last moment. A large hand was at his back, rubbing in soothing circles as the other arm was tight at his waist. Squall wished to pull out of that hold, but he was too weak to argue and instead rested his head on a broad shoulder.
"Someone will try to poison you tonight. An offer of wine."
The hand stilled at his back. "Forget that. Are you all right? You couldn't seem to breathe."
"I will live," the blind man said, not bothering to hide his bitterness at going through this event so many times before.
With a sigh, Seifer sat up, depriving the man of some warmth. "Well, looks like that shouldn't matter anyway. You aren't going anywhere like this."
The brunette shook his head. "I can travel."
Light laughter sounded from the fighter. "You haven't even caught your breath yet, and you think you can walk?"
"I have before."
After the honest words, there was only the silence of the forest for many moments. Then without warning, Seifer stood up and stepped away from the blind man. Taking a few deep breaths in readiness, Squall managed to stand on his own power, the slight swaying unavoidable. Unable to determine the exact location of the blonde given the large man was able to walk silently when he felt like it, the blind man waited several minutes before coming to the realization that he had been left alone.
::Call for him, lover. He'd come to you::
Pressing his lips together, Squall refused to acknowledge the woman's voice, and he certainly would never lower himself to the level of calling for help like a terrified child. If Seifer didn't want to bother with him anymore, then Squall was happy enough to be rid of the man.
::You are so difficult. And what will you do now?::
"You can lead me fine enough."
She laughed. ::I shouldn't. It would be best for you travel with him::
Not wishing to deal further with the voice's teasing, Squall focused on the warmth of sunlight touching his skin and determined an approximate direction to where the city should be located. With shaky steps and a hand extended, he walked forward while ignoring the unease he felt with Seifer's sudden disappearance.
It was difficult for that last part of the trip, Squall too accustomed to the fighter's clearer directions about objects to avoid. While the voice could sense obstructions within a certain radius, she couldn't offer suggestions as how to best avoid such obstacles. And now holding his full attention, all the voices seemed to take the opportunity to harass him about changing his attitude towards the so-called Hero. The elder voice was especially insistent that Seifer should be respected and honored. Squall couldn't care less.
Eventually the sound of merchants calling out their goods reached his ears, informing the blind man that he had made it to the town safely, despite the minor scratches and bruises he believed were results of intentional mistakes by his formless guide. After a couple of attempts, Squall was able to find someone to give him adequate directions to the city's Church of Hyne.
Fingers brushing along the walls to count the buildings, he tried to think of nothing, but that seemed impossible. He wanted to know why Seifer had left so abruptly, if he had made it to town or changed course, and if the man would take heed of his warning of the poisoned drink. It didn't appear a lethal poison, but Seifer couldn't afford a moment's weakness. Frowning, Squall then realized that he was actually concerned about the man he was supposed to hate. And yet, he could recognize that it wasn't concern for the Hero, but for the person Squall had learned more about over the short week.
Without warning, a strong hand gripped his shoulder. It was automatic to drop to a low crouch, Squall then twisting around to stand up quickly with a raised knee. But unlike many times before, this unknown person was able to knock the knee aside, thus avoiding the defensive strike.
"Holy Hyne, I almost lost something there."
Stunned, Squall relaxed immediately at the deep voice. "Seifer?"
"Expecting someone else? Sorry about scaring you like that, but you're heading to a bad part of town. They tend to kill first and then check clothes for money."
Crossing his arms, the blind man was reluctant to show any gratitude to the fighter.
"O-oh, that angry at me, are you? Well, it's not my fault you walked off without a word."
Eyes narrowed, Squall refrained from correcting who left whom.
"Wait... Ah shit, you thought I left..." He laughed, while Squall couldn't see the humor. "I'm such an idiot. I had heard something behind us and I wanted to check it out, so I signaled for you to stay quiet, but of course you wouldn't have seen that. I don't know what I was thinking."
A dark eyebrow raised in the question of 'You were?'
A breathy chuckle sounded. "Alright, I guess I wasn't thinking. But you have to cut me some slack. I've had a demon and a dead man hunting me the last time - I was little distracted while thinking about what else could have been following us."
Against better judgment, Squall nodded his understanding.
"So, where are you headed to, anyway?"
"The church? Why go there?"
Squall hesitated before replying, "Some food and maybe shelter for the night."
"A-ah, but I already promised you a meal. And speaking of which, I'm starved. Fighting with a wild boar does wonders for an appetite."
"I don't give a fuck what your pride says. Come on. I'll treat you to something better than what you'd get from those priests."
There was little chance for argument as the larger man took a gentle, but firm hold onto the brunette's arm. As they walked, Seifer spoke occasional warnings about dips and approaching people while also talking about his fight with the large boar that had been the source of the noise in the forest. It wasn't too much later when they stepped inside a rather noisy place, the smells of food and alcohol filling the air. Squall was helped to a chair, and the fighter then took the seat adjacent to him. Not giving the brunette an opportunity to speak for himself, Seifer made the dinner order for them both.
Barely a moment after the server had left, a vaguely familiar male voice sounded from the side and slowly approached their table. "Well, well, well. Look at who has returned to Hiels at last. And already at work, I see."
It took all of Squall's nerve to not flinch when a heavy hand settled on his shoulder.
"Sorry to interrupt your evening, but I'll be quick." An obnoxious laughter sounded. "I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I didn't take the opportunity to schedule a night with this one before he runs off again. So, are you staying in Hiels for long?"
"No. Leave us," the brunette said sharply.
The man chuckled, obviously unthreatened. "Alright, lovely. But ask for Klein the next time you're looking for a buyer. Someone will point you my way."
Green eyes narrowed on the portly figure as the man finally removed his hand from the seer's shoulder. Seifer continued to watch as the stranger then flashed a final smirk in their direction before heading for the bar. Forcing himself to look away with a casual air, the blonde turned his focus onto the tense form of the brunette.
"I would have never thought you were a business oriented man," Seifer drawled, truly unable to believe that the proud man before him would even consider to sell his body for a price.
Stormy eyes narrowed before Squall pushed back his chair with the intention to stand, but Seifer quickly grabbed an arm before the man could escape.
"Hey, now, you aren't going to pass up dinner with me, are you?"
An icy glare was instantly upon him, the message clear that Squall was perfectly fine with leaving hungry.
"Don't give me that, kitten. I know how much you love being near me," Seifer stated as he released his hold.
"I don't," the blind man hissed, though the venom of only weeks previous seemed to be absent.
The fighter smiled with amusement. "Do you really think I'm that stupid? I know at this point it's a mere convenience for you. Either way, I promised you a warm meal. I don't give a shit about anything else."
Squall appeared to relax after the words, though Seifer couldn't be certain given the man's typical stiff posture. At least the blue-gray eyes had soften somewhat, their sightless gaze moved to the table top.
Confident that the blind man wasn't going to leave without warning, Seifer stood from his chair. "I'm going to grab myself something intoxicating to drink. You want anything?"
Frowning, Squall shook his head.
Weaving past the various tables and servers of the relatively large restaurant of the inn, Seifer made his way to the bar. Leaning over the counter, he ordered some ale, but his attention was instead focused on the man to his right. As he waited for his drink, Seifer smirked and glance over at the portly man.
"So, Klein, was it?"
The man hummed out his confirmation with a smile, but the dark eyes didn't move from watching a certain brunette.
"This man I found... I take it he's pleasurable."
Klein laughed the same sickening laugh as before. "Oh, that could be an understatement. I don't know what he promised you, but he'd do almost anything for the right price."
Huffing into his ale, the man said, "He has lines at children and animals, but otherwise, that boy takes any abuse with style."
Green eyes narrowed slightly, but Seifer continued to play his role. "Well, it's always good to know I'll be getting my money's worth. It's bothersome when they back out at the last moment."
"Tell me about it, but you're safe with this one. Though I suggest trying not to stiff him - he knows the difference between a copper and gold piece by smell. And listen, when you're done, send him my way. You know, in thanks for the recommendation and all. It's been years since he's been in town, and I haven't found a single person to replace him."
"Hn. When I'm done with him, he's yours."
At that moment, a stein filled with froth and murky liquid was pushed in front of Seifer, and yet for the first time he couldn't imagine wanting to drink the ale. His stomach felt heavy and ill after receiving more information than he actually wanted. He was only curious if he had jumped to conclusion about what services Squall could possibly offer, but apparently he hadn't assumed far enough. After nodding to the man and resisting the urge to punch the smirking face, Seifer moved back to the table where the blind man waited. Instantly Squall looked up at the blonde's approach, a commonplace scowl marring the attractive face.
Pausing at his chair, Seifer looked down at the man. "About what?"
"You said you didn't care."
A pale eyebrow arched. "You could hear us from over there?"
"An ale comes with your meal. You didn't have to go to the bar."
"Maybe I wanted one sooner than that, hmm?"
Stormy eyes narrowed in a sign that he didn't believe the excuse.
Sighing, Seifer lifted his pack from its place resting against the wall and then grabbed an arm to pull the seer to his feet. "I don't care for the atmosphere here anymore. We're going to have dinner delivered to our room."
"Shit, can't we argue about this later? I don't want that guy offering to pay to watch us or something. How did you ever find such a sick fucker?"
There was no vocal reply, but Squall didn't resist as the blonde pulled him away from the table. After setting down money for the night and informing a server where their food should be delivered, Seifer led the brunette upstairs to an expensive, but private room. There was also the issue of a single bed, but he wasn't going to dwell on that for the time being.
Once behind the closed door of their room, Seifer released his hold on the smaller man and dumped his pack onto the floor before walking across the room to take a seat in a chair. Sipping at the ale he brought up as well, the blonde smiled vaguely at Squall who seemed lost in his current position. Cautiously the man stepped forwarded as he searched for somewhere to sit. Eventually coming across the bed, the dark-haired man froze in place.
"I'm not looking for a whore if that's what has you worried."
The seer's head snapped up at the words, Squall then hesitating in thought before taking a seat on the edge of the mattress.
"I meant what I said earlier, that it doesn't matter to me, but you can't blame me for being curious. And for the record, I still can't imagine you whoring yourself like that."
"... And how else could I make money?"
Delaying his reply by drinking from his stein, Seifer tried to figure out what bothered him about the concept. True, there was little a blind man could do to earn money aside from the occasional copper coins people would probably give as a handout. But to do almost anything for a price...
"What do you need money for?"
Squall stiffened slightly. "Don't be stupid."
Feeling confident he was on the right track, the fighter set his drink down on the small table. "Your few clothes appear years old and your body is too thin to be well fed, so you don't appear to be spending money on necessities. And you mentioned visiting the Church of Hyne for food and shelter as if it were commonplace. So let's try this again - what do you need money for?"
Green eyes intent on Squall, it wasn't hard to notice that the seer was uncomfortable with the line of reasoning, but Seifer knew he hadn't reached the heart of the matter just yet. There was something else bothering him. Thinking over Klein's words, he remembered that Squall had apparently been away from this city for a few years. But that fact became obvious when Seifer realized that he himself hadn't been in Hiels since around that time.
"How long have you been following me?"
The brunette shrugged.
"Informative as always, I see," Seifer said with an annoyed sigh. "Well, I remember coming to Hiels a while back. They used to hold a major tournament in the area. In fact, I think that was the first time I placed in the top three. Fuck, I was so proud of myself, winning that cash prize..." He trailed off into thought while his eyes focused on pale hands as Squall rubbed at the branded symbol on his wrist.
The resulting silence was broken by sharp knocks and a young man carrying a large tray entered the room when prompted. "Your dinner, sirs."
Seifer stood from his chair and retrieved a few coins from his pocket to hand over as a tip.
"Thank you. Oh, and the owner included a free bottle of wine for staying in one of our suites. He hopes you enjoy it and if you need anything else, just ask."
Smirking, the blonde gave his thanks as the youth left the room. Moving to the tray set on the dresser, Seifer picked up the bottle of dark wine and chuckled.
"That isn't something to laugh about."
The fighter turned at the overly serious words. "Of course it is. It's a scam, you know. To make us sick as dogs and force us to pay for this room over several nights. Maybe even a couple of weeks. All the while, they'd play the helpful servants, so very concerned about our health. I don't know what's worse - them taking advantage of travelers without lowering themselves to out right thievery, or the fact that I would've fell for it."
"You... you believe my warning?"
Setting the bottle down, Seifer stepped up to the bed. "How much money did you put down for my sword?"
The blue-gray eyes opened wide, the only sign of confirmation the blonde needed.
"Hyne, I was such a kid back then," the blonde said with a shake of his head. "I win some gold and decide to buy myself a really nice blade. Just by chance, the store owner says he saw the fight and wanted to give me a very generous discount on a specific sword. A sword he said would suit me. I should've been suspicious immediately, but I was so full of myself and my apparent fame that I didn't even hesitate to purchase the weapon. I always counted myself lucky that the dealer was being honest about the blade's quality... Heh, I guess it wasn't a matter of luck."
Stepping closer to the seated man, Seifer asked, "Why? Why do that for me?"
"Squall. Tell me."
Biting his lower lip, the seer then replied quietly, "You needed that sword."
"It's just a weapon..."
Squall shook his head. "No. It has silver within the blade. Only silver can best protect you."
"And you know this how...?"
"I have 'seen' it."
Seifer sneered at the man, suddenly feeling irritated. "So just because you have some vision that I need this weapon, you do... you do anything to earn enough money to make certain that I buy it?"
"Fucking Hyne, would you stop it with this silent act? What else have you done... No, forget that. Why the hell would you do that to yourself? And screw the destiny crap or anything else like that. What the hell do you have to gain from any of this?"
Squall bowed his head at the heated words, his sightless eyes directed to the wrist he continued to rub with his thumb. "I... I don't want my father to die."
The pained voice quickly calmed Seifer's anger. "Your father? Aside from the fact that I probably don't even know the guy, how am I supposed to keep him alive? People die. There's no way around that."
"I don't know if there's anything you can do, but.... in every one of my dreams where you fail, I'm forced to see his mutilated corpse. Maybe, if you succeed..."
"Succeed at what exactly?"
The dark-haired man shook his head. "Don't know. I've never seen that part of the future."
Frowning, Seifer ran a hand through his hair and clutched at the blonde strands out of frustration. "What do you want from me, Squall?"
"Nothing. I can only try to keep you alive and hope it's enough to help you finish your destiny."
For long moments, the fighter stood in place and stared down at the man who had probably saved his life numerous times, a man he hadn't been aware of until recently. And even that was by chance, the seer most likely unable to figure out how else to save Seifer from the huge demon that had attacked him. The warning had seemed extremely vague, but now thinking about it, Seifer realized that it had been enough. Too much information at that point would have only slowed his reflexes, and the fighter doubted he would've avoided the demon's initial attack if no warning had been given by the seer.
Even so, Seifer felt ill with his vague images of what this man must have been through for the slim chance at saving his father. While he sensed there was something more that his supposed success should accomplish, the blonde saw the truth that this was the only purpose that kept the blind man going. And for whatever reason, that responsibility felt too much for Seifer.
"I'm going outside - I need some air. And don't you dare think of leaving this room. I'm far from done with you and I don't want anyone else getting their hands on you. Understood?"
With an exhausted air, Squall nodded.
Seifer moved to the door, but then noticed the forgotten tray of dinner. Lifting it from the dresser top, he walked to the bed and set it on the mattress near the seer. "Go ahead and eat all you want. I'm not hungry."
Not waiting to see if Squall would start into the meal, Seifer turned sharply and left the room.
Long after he had eaten his fill, Squall stood next to a window of the room and pressed his aching forehead against the cool glass. He was exhausted from all the events that had occurred, but he knew of the dream that was waiting for him, a vivid dream of the ruined future which always came the night after a vision. He felt oddly raw this night, and he wasn't too certain that he could handle seeing his dead father yet again. Smiling bitterly, Squall amended his thoughts to the fact that he couldn't handle seeing his father in any form. The seer knew that his leaving the safety of his father's house and protection must have greatly pained the kindhearted man, but for him to return home as a whore and beggar would be beyond shameful.
::You are too hard on yourself, lover. It was only the one time::
Squall scoffed at the melodic voice. "It happened; it's what I am."
::No,:: a growled tone argued. ::We asked it of you. It was necessary given the lack of time::
Wrapping fingers around his branded wrist, the blind man asked, "How much further do you plan to taint me?"
::Your sacrifices serve the larger cause. I am sorry, sweet lover, but you are one man among countless lives. We protect you as much as we can...::
He knew that, how the voices could numb the pain and keep him alive despite his desires otherwise, but there was no comfort in being protected and guided by such demanding forces. Pressing more of his face against the cold glass, he fought against his exhaustion, chuckling bitterly at the idea that he wasn't even allowed a night of peace. He closed his eyes to avoid the frustrated tears that wanted to flow.
::Hush, our lion. You have been so strong, and you will continue to be so::
Squall shook his head as he felt ghost-like arms wrap around his waist.
::Trust the golden one. He... What? No--::
The seer straighten at the yelled voice within his head, panic quickly settling in his chest at the rare event. He silently called to her and the other voices, but none replied. Feeling suddenly vulnerable, he stepped away from the window and debated whether or not to leave the room in search of Seifer. But that option was taken away when he heard the door opening wide and then closed with a quiet touch.
"A-ah, shame on that man for leaving you alone and without protection."
Confused by the woman's voice he had never heard before, Squall shifted to better face the stranger.
"Or should I say with little protection." The woman laughed, something that was lighthearted despite the threatening nature of her words. "Those guardian spirits have gotten slack with their age."
Eyes wide, the seer slipped a foot back away from the approaching woman, but there was little room available for escape and soon a soft hand was upon his check.
"Poor thing, forced to be a servant for that clueless man. Why do you torture yourself like this?"
"A-ah, that's right. You said for your father, wasn't it?" She laughed again and patted his cheek gently. "Silly boy. We can protect him for you. All you have to do is ask."
The seer's thoughts were clouded from the woman's touch, something that was coated with an unnatural aura, but he remained silent despite his desire to know if this person could truly insure his father's safety.
The woman leaned close and whispered into his ear. "You could even regain your sight."
Squall felt something deep within him weakening, but logic never failed the dark-haired man. He learned long ago to never trust the words of strangers, especially when he had no sight to judge a person's appearance and character. And to promise the return of his sight, that was purely irrational.
"Don't touch me," he said in a low tone.
The wrongness of the aura strengthened at being refused. "Oh? Is that because you prefer a man's touch? Perhaps our golden Hero's touch?" She pulled her hand back while trailing her lengthy nails along skin. "You could continue to be his, that is once you lead him to his true destiny."
Something within Squall screamed that this was wrong, and he vaguely wondered if the absent voices were still trying to reach him. "His destiny is his choice."
"I'm trying to be nice here..." the woman said in a voice that rang of a childish pout. "You know, he would listen to you. And you could both gain so much. What reason do you have to refuse? I would even help you."
The blind man shook his head, trying to clear out the haziness of his mind. "No... stop this..."
"You still deny me." The woman sounded surprised by the idea. "Why? Or perhaps..." She laughed spitefully. "Perhaps you enjoy being a whore."
The reaction was over before Squall had even thought about it, the palm of his hand left tingling from the surprisingly well placed slap.
"How... how dare you slap a girl!"
"As if I care," the blind man muttered as he straightened to use what he hoped was a little height over the woman.
"You should," she hissed.
That serving as her bare warning, a hand launched forward to hit hard against Squall's throat, the move pushing him back against a wall. Coughing, he didn't directly notice when rope-like bindings encircled his body and arms to secure him to the wall. When those bonds burned with flame like heat, he opened his mouth to cry out from the unexpected pain, but then opened his eyes wide when no sound left his lips.
"I didn't have to be nice to you, certainly not after you helped that man to destroy my hard work. Do you have a clue what it takes to create a strong zombie?"
Squall stiffened at the comment made in an offhanded manner. What had been at the edge of his awareness had finally come forward - the woman was a dark sorceress.
"Now, let's have a chat about how you properly treat a lady."
With slow steps, Seifer walked up the stairway as his overfilled mind continued to try and sort out the mess of thoughts coated with irritation, anger and pity. He was no closer to figuring out what to think about Squall, but it was getting too dark outside to continue an aimless stroll. And there was also some concern about leaving the blind man alone, the idea continually nagging Seifer no matter how much he tried to ignore it. While not really worried about the man's safety, he didn't like the chance of Squall running off and returning to the role of helping the blonde from an unseen position. As far as Seifer was concerned, he wasn't a child who had to be watched over like that.
Approaching the closed door to the rented room, the fighter paused and stared at the dark wood when he heard an unfamiliar voice from within. He first glanced at the faded number on the door, and once noting it was the correct room, he frown and opened the door without knocking.
Sharp green eyes instantly took in the scene of the seer pressed against the far wall in an odd pose while a raven haired woman paused in the middle of some lecture judging by the hand raised in a scolding point. She turned to face the blonde man and greeted at him with a bright, friendly smile.
"I thought you'd never return. I was beginning to worry."
Though confused by the presence of this young woman, Seifer easily formed a smirk and relaxed into a lose stance as he eyed the lovely person. The dark hair framed her porcelain skin perfectly, accenting the warmth of her doe eyes and gentle smile. While not recognizing the woman, Seifer wouldn't be surprised if he had taken her at some point. Casually, he glanced back to Squall and frowned vaguely at the continued awkward positioning of the man.
"What's happening here?" he asked, choosing a humored tone as if he truly thought he was interrupting something embarrassing.
"I've come to save you," the young woman replied in an almost gleeful manner. "This false seer wanted to lead you down the wrong path."
Seifer couldn't manage to suppress a stunned expression as he stared at the woman.
She wrinkled her nose. "Well, maybe not false, but at least a misguided seer."
"How do you know about him?"
"Hmmmm, I have my own ways," she said with a wink. "But don't worry - I got here in time."
"In time? In time for what?"
Her dark eyes widened in surprise. "What, he hasn't told you about the path he was pushing you down? Well, I guess that figures. He probably didn't want to give you the chance to save your own life."
Seifer looked up sharply at the seer, expecting some kind response, but the man remained silent while glaring at nothing.
"He called you the 'Hero', yes?"
Continuing to stare at Squall, the fighter replied, "Yeah, something like that."
She sighed. "And he never told you what the 'Hero' is supposed to do?"
"He said he didn't know."
The woman laughed. "What a sad little lie. He knows. He wants you dead. But a man like you shouldn't be a sacrificial lamb for an uncaring god."
His eyes still firm on the face of the seer, Seifer noticed when pale lips moved vaguely though no sound came from the man. Before the blonde could try to identify the silent words, a soft hand pressed against his cheek and directed him to look down into the dark brown eyes of the woman.
"No, you should live and become the god you are destined to be."
"A god?" Seifer repeated incredulously.
The raven haired woman smiled and placed her other hand at his chest. "Don't you feel it within you? That force which desires to become more? I can show you how. Let me lead you to your true destiny."
While unable to deny the stirring of energy within his chest, Seifer felt something else at the touch of the woman. An itch of some kind, like something crawling beneath his skin. "And why would I follow you?"
She pouted. "Why would you follow him? You have no real reason to trust him, and yet you kept this stranger, this false seer close to you."
As he fingered the hilt of his sword, a quiet smirk came to the fighter's lips. 'Follow' was hardly the word he would have used. Squall had little choice in coming with him, and the dark-haired man never told Seifer what to do, but rather offered a warning and left it up to the fighter to decide the course of action. No, he certainly wasn't following Squall in the least.
Misunderstanding his expression, the lovely woman smiled. "See, I know you. You desire power and I can show you how to gain it."
His smirk widening as he looked down into dark eyes, Seifer casually slipped a hand to his lower back. "You know me? I doubt that."
The woman dared to move forward to press her body against his and wrap slim arms around his neck. "I would like to know you better..." she said in a quiet voice.
At the move, Seifer almost lost himself, vaguely wondering why his arm was at his back and not around the beauty who so clearly wanted him. But then his fingers brushed against the metal hilt of his father's dagger and instantly everything changed. The room became darker, as it should've been for such an hour into the evening. The darkness of the doe-like eyes he still looked into held a different meaning, shadows of deceit clear in the depths. Then glancing to the seer, green eyes widened at the sight of glowing reds bonds that held Squall to the wall.
"What is this...?"
The woman pouted, but it no longer held the innocent charm of previous. "If you don't know what it means to be seduced..."
As if stung, Seifer shoved her away with his free hand while using his other hand to draw out his dagger from its hidden sheath. The small weapon was then pressed against the slender neck as a thin trail of dark blood slipped out from the minor wound.
"How... how dare you! First I'm slapped, and now this. Man have no sense of honor anymore."
"Shut up," Seifer bit out, annoyed at being played a fool. Uncertain what to do with the woman, he glance to Squall but found the man still unable to speak despite the urgent words he was trying to get across to Seifer. Suddenly the room brightened vaguely, and the fighter returned his attention to the woman to see something glowing within the palm of her hand.
"Tsk, tsk. You shouldn't look away."
And with that, the ball of energy crashed against the blonde, pushing him back against the front wall. Biting back the urge to cry out in pain, Seifer forced himself to forget the burning sensation coursing throughout his body. Flipping the dagger such that he held the tip of the weapon, he then flung the blade at the smiling woman. The dark brown eyes widened in surprise before the dagger neatly pierced through her chest.
"No. This weapon..." She coughed, a dribble of blood escaping her lips. She tried to grip the dagger, but hissed in pain at the attempt. With a wild movement, she waved her arm in an arc before her, a shadow of a portal instantly appearing. After a final glare directed at the seer, she stumbled into the darkness. With an odd whisper of wind, the portal abruptly closed and the silver dagger dropped from vacant space onto the floor below.
Before Seifer had the chance to try to understand what had happened, he looked up sharply at the loud sound of Squall dropping onto his knees. Though stiff from the previous attack by the raven haired woman, Seifer managed to push himself up onto his feet and stumbled to eventually kneel next to the harshly breathing man. He placed a hand gently at a hunched shoulder, but immediately pulled back his hand when the smaller man cried out quietly from the touch.
"What's wrong? What did she do to you?"
"Burns..." he hissed in pain.
Frowning in thought, Seifer pulled gently at wide neck of the shirt and sighed when he saw the angry red line of burnt skin. "Shit. I have some salve that should take care of this, but do you think you could remove this shirt for me?"
The man nodded, and then asked, "What happened to her?"
Seifer stood and moved over to his pack. "Fuck if I know. She attacked me with this light thing, and like hell I'm going to let some bitch push me around, so I threw my dagger at her. I've never seen it slide into a body like that before."
"She's touched by shadows. Silver reacts to that."
After retrieving a covered jar, Seifer turned to look down at the man. "Something weird happened before that, though. I swore I was seeing things one way, but the moment I touched that blade, everything shifted."
"Not surprising. Sorceresses are masters of manipulation."
Green eyes widened at the declaration that the woman had been a sorceress, but he had no energy to try and get more information about it from the stubborn man. He only hoped that there would be time for detailed explanations later on.
Stepping over to Squall, the fighter placed his hand on an undamaged section of an arm. "You'll be more comfortable on the bed."
Tiredly, the blind man didn't refuse the suggestion or help, and was soon seated on the mattress. Seifer moved to sit behind the man and began to gently apply the special salve along the thick red lines that encircled the lean body and arms. Occasionally there would be a sharp intake of breath, but the wounded body slowly relaxed under the careful touch of the blonde.
After spending a few moments on the darker burns, Seifer then said, "Anyway, she escaped somehow. Stepped through this dark hole she created. But she's probably dead by this point. If I didn't nail her heart, I certainly hit a lung."
"No. Only beheading a sorceress can kill them."
Seifer frowned. "You've got to be fucking kidding me."
The dark-haired man shook his head. "But if she was forced to escape, you probably caused a serious wound. She should be healing herself for days."
"Then we're safe for the night?"
"... Why do you trust what I say?"
With a sigh, the large man finished treating Squall's back and then knelt to the floor to treat the chest and stomach. "Don't know if I trust you, but you aren't too hard to handle. As for her, I know the type all too well. She wanted something from me despite all those promises of hers. While I like to play easy to please, I know when I'm being used." He laughed sharply. "And come on, how can I take her seriously when she promises to make me a god. She should've just offered me a good fuck."
"But... if listening to me means your death..."
"I'm not that easy to kill, and I'm not going to let myself become a sacrifice for any reason. Certainly not for that destiny crap of yours." It was silent for several moments after that, Seifer eventually letting his hand settle on the man's waist when he finished applying the salve. Distractedly, he brushed his thumb along the soft flesh. "Either way, you seem pretty good at keeping me alive. Are you going to quit now?"
Standing up, Seifer smirked down at the man. "Looks like you could use some sleep. We'll talk tomorrow."
"No... I don't want to sleep."
The smirk widened at the childish argument. "That's nice, kitten, but you need your rest. We're traveling after breakfast."
"I'll dream..." the man murmured.
"Stop trying to fight it," Seifer said as he gently took a hold of both shoulders and pushed the man flat onto the bed.
"I don't... my father..."
His expression softened as he remembered the man's confession about seeing his dead father in his dreams. "Sorry, Squall, but you can't escape your dreams forever."
Seifer sat at the edge of the mattress as the silent man tried to fight the pull of sleep, but it was a lost battle. For a long time the blonde sat there, doing nothing but stare at the seer in deep sleep. Squall suddenly appeared so young, so fragile in such a state, and for the first time, Seifer wondered just how old the man was. The red lines around the bare chest were already beginning to fade, and should be completely healed by morning. But there were many other markings on the lightly colored skin. One deep slash near the center of the man's chest continually caught his eye, disturbing him for a reason he couldn't name. He was tempted to touch the scar, but decided against it in favor of allowing Squall his sleep. Already the blind man had gone through too much in one day, and even if there was a bare chance in some peaceful rest, the man deserved it.
Seifer, on the other hand, wasn't too anxious for sleep. His mind was still reeling from too much information in too short of a time period. He almost wanted someone else to decide everything for him, to show him the difference between the truths and lies spoken that day, but he knew there was little chance of that. Instead he watched Squall sleep and hoped that his instincts were right that the blind man held all of the answers he needed.
Author's Whining -- Mmm, yes, I think I really needed to return to an AU fic - it actually felt nice to write this chapter. As a warning, though, this could be a rather long fic as it runs with me. I swear that I never intended to have Rinoa in this fic, and but she decided that she wasn't going to listen to what I wanted, and I now have a feeling other characters will take advantage of me, too. =P Anywho, I have plenty planned for this epic of mine, so I hope you all can be patient while I work my way through it.
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