DISCLAIMER: All the characters, places etc., are the property of Square, not me (::sniffs::). I'm just borrowing them for my own nefarious purposes. I promise they'll be tidied up, and sent home all clean an' sparkling.

(For summary, rating, etc., see previous chapters)


Chapter Eight

By Seshat

The hazy morning sunlight fragmented through the shattered window, throwing off hundreds of tiny criss crossed beams across the floor. Amazingly enough, it was still raining; a soft shower of blindingly glittering raindrops fell in a slow curtain beyond the broken glass.

There was probably a rainbow out there someplace. And he was pretty sure that one end culminated right there in the room. Right there in his own personal reward.

Yeah, nothing like nearly gettin' yourself killed to make you turn into a total sap, right Dincht?

But as he watched the sunlight chase the shadows from the room, watched it play across the shimmering tumble of golden hair that was pooled against his chest, he knew it was more than that.

They'd had more than their share of good luck. Had their hands in the pot of gold for so long, they'd almost forgotten what fear felt like.

"You asleep, baby...?"

The head pillowed against his chest shook, sighed.

"No. Just thinking..."

"Me too...Baby, there's somethin' that happened yesterday that I didn't tell you..."

Quistis raised herself on her elbows, and looked up at him, her face impassive, her eyes he knew for certain were mirror images of his own. Hesitant and frightened.


"You remember when you guys arrived at the Quad...?"

"And Rinoa had taken control of you?"

"Yeah...I mean, no...I..." He shook his head, pushing the now limp bangs from his face. Trying to get his thoughts straight, he swung his legs off the side of the bed, tracing patterns in the deep carpet with his toes. "I don't think it was Rinoa. And it didn't just take over my body, it...something - someone - spoke to me Quis."

"But there was no-one else there..." She stared at him. "Zell, are you sure?"

"Oh, fuck no! I hear weird disembodied voices all the time baby, it gets difficult to tell what's real and what's my imagination!" He snapped, turning back to her. "Yeah, I'm sure..."

"And it wasn't Rinoa? Then who...?"

He watched her for a moment, before closing his eyes with a sigh.

"What if Seifer's little dream-buddy Adrasteia ain't quite as much of a dream as we thought?"

"Hyne..." she whispered. "But why would she want to control you...?"

"Hell if I know."

He felt the mattress shift as her slight weight left the bed, vaguely aware that his confession hadn't been accepted all that gladly. He opened his eyes with a start as the wardrobe door slammed. Hard.

Oh, well, that must be what I deserve for questionin' His Highness's word…

"Seifer doesn't seem to think she's dangerous…or at least, she isn't hostile. She wanted to prevent Rinoa from finding and assembling the vessel…why would she jeopardise that?"

Those sparse words replayed in his mind for the hundredth time, making as little sense now as they had then.

"Awaken warrior..."

"Hey, I never said she sounded hostile..." He shook his head. "Never even said she was the one who was controlling me. Just that the one that spoke to me wasn't Rinoa...Maybe it was the Sorceress who possessed her, huh?"

"Maybe..." Quistis paused. "Zell…there's something I haven't been completely upfront about either...Seifer and I..."

"Tch..." he rolled his eyes "How did I know he was involved somewhere..."

"Seifer and I had a long-standing agreement, concerning Rinoa," Quistis went on, ignoring him. "If she ever became a Sorceress, if we ever had to battle against her..." She looked away "If she was ever defeated...I was going to take on her powers."

There was a pause.

The next thing Zell knew, he was halfway across the room, struggling into half-buttoned pants, and a hopelessly tangled shirt.

"What in the name of Hyne are you doing?"

"I'm gonna fucking kill him, that's what I'm doin'. I shoulda fricking done it a long time ago, before he ever - "


" - got so fuckin' stuck on himself that he doesn't even give a damn who he hurts anymore, just as long as his precious Squall's all right...Who the hell thought it'd be a good idea to make a self-centred asshole like Almasy Commander of Garden, huh? Well he's gonna learn that you don't frickin' screw around with people like that, not when - "


He'd been hopping on one foot when she yelled, trying to tie his sneakers. That minor distraction was all he needed to lose his balance entirely, and trip on his laces.

"Will you please, just calm down?" she stared at him, faint traces of amusement on her face. "Hear me out before you start the anti-Seifer crusade, okay?"

"Tch...fine." He stood, and folded his arms across his chest.

"It wasn't Seifer's idea, not really. He was still frantic about Squall at the time, convinced Rinoa had something to do with his disappearance." A small grin tugged at her lips, as she turned back to the wardrobe with a much more acceptable level of aggression, carelessly rooting through the classic, neutral coloured clothes that filled her side of the closet. His side still looked like a bad accident in a paint factory. "Something mystical, anyway. He was determined to find her, challenge whatever she'd become...So to appease him, I agreed. Neither of us ever thought..."

"Until yesterday."


He paced over to the window, shoelaces trailing haphazardly behind him. Funny...the world outside still looked the same, despite the fact that his wife had just announced she was now a Sorceress.

He could almost see his end of the rainbow, fluttering out of reach.

Trying to slip into the comforting persona of Zell Dincht, SeeD Captain was also just as elusive as trying to get dressed while hampered by red mist. It didn't matter how rational it was, how much sense it made, or that he couldn't have come up with a semi-viable alternative. He found it difficult enough to stay objective at the best of times. When it came down to a situation that kept circling around him, his wife, his best friend, and the guy he respected just as much as he loathed...

Wait a second...

He turned back to her, frowning.

"It never happened though, did it?"

She shook her head.

"Fuck, Quis..." he breathed, realising he'd pretty much forgotten to before. "Don't ever scare me like that again...Hyne..." The urge to knock Seifer's arrogant little head clean off his arrogant little neck was subsiding, now just a dim roar, overshadowed by the sheer relief. "Why the hell did you ever agree to somethin' like that baby? And why the hell didn't you tell me?" He caught the look she sent him, and sighed. "Okay, I guess I can figure that part out myself..."

"I told you why. I never though it would happen. I..." she shook her head "I didn't think we'd ever see either of them again."

He would have stared at her, outraged and bewildered, if he hadn't been carrying the same belief for the past six years.

"Maybe...But it just pisses me off that he can still get to you like that. Even now, he clicks his fingers and you go running..."

"That's not fair, Zell..." she said softly. "He gave me the opportunity to change my mind. He even pleaded with me to tell you sooner." She sighed, turning towards the bathroom door. "But it's all academic now. Nothing happened."

"Nothing happened to you." he corrected her. "So...what did happen to Rin's power?"

"I...I don't know." she stared at him. "No-one who was involved in the battle..." her voice trailed off, her eyes becoming unnaturally wide. She stopped by the door, glazed stare fixed on something just above his left shoulder. "No-one...Oh, Hyne...Zell..."

"What?" he frowned, that look on her face shattering the temporary relief faster than his fist could shatter their broken window. "Baby, what's wrong...?"

"I...I thought it was Squall, I though he might have..."

Zell blinked.

"Squall's a Sorceress?"

"Well, a `Sorcerer`, technically, I suppose...That's what I thought, since I'd spoken to everyone else...I even suggested to Seifer that he might have..." Her blue eyes became glassy. "Oh Gods..."


"What if there were no powers? What if there was never a Sorceress?"

"I..." Okay, that was...unexpected. "Huh?"

"We've all been assuming that Rinoa was controlled by a Sorceress. But what proof do we have of that?"

"Uh...the badly-dressed megalomaniacal tendencies, and the fact that she tried to kill us?"

"So explain to me why there was absolutely no power transfer from an apparent Sorceress' death? Tell me where Adrasteia fits into it? And the Vessel? Were any of us having dreams, hearing voices when we were dealing with Edea, Adel, Ultimecia?"

"Not that I know..." Zell shrugged. "Okay, I admit I have no idea why a Sorceress would be interested in the vessel, but...Hell, until we know what it is, what it does, I wouldn't like to rule out anyone's interest in the thing. If it's powerful enough to warrant what happened to Timber, then it's powerful enough to attract a Sorceress. ‘Sides, I thought you said Adrasteia warned Seifer not to assemble the thing? Didn't Rinoa want to do that?"

"I know...But Adrasteia never warned Seifer about Rinoa by name. And now you tell me you've had some kind of telepathic contact with the force that controlled you...What if that force is something else entirely?"

"And what if it's Seifer's little imaginary friend doing all this? What if she's just the next in line on the Let's Brainwash Almasy queue?"

"Selphie ran the name through every database in Esthar. Nothing. And Seifer doesn't think she's a Sorceress...Hyne, Zell, if anyone would know it'd be him..."

"So you're basing some whacked-out theory on Seifer being fairly sure that this chick isn't a Sorceress?"

"He had closer contact with two of them than we'll ever know." Her undivided attention was focused solely on folding, and refolding the conservative white blouse she'd randomly selected from the wardrobe. "You've seen the way he gets when Edea's in the same building, let alone the same room..." She looked up at him, her expression a strange combination of exasperation and pride. "Zell, Seifer knows beforehand when she's going to telephone one of us. If he says Adrasteia isn't a Sorceress, I'm inclined to believe him, yes."

"So you're suggestin' that whoever was possessing Rinoa, not only ain't a Sorceress, but is also whatever the fuck got into my head? Quis, do you realise how crazy that sounds? Hell, it's almost as insane as some of the bullshit he comes out with."

"I hope it is crazy..." she looked up at him. "Because if I'm right, then we've just murdered a friend for absolutely no good reason..."

"We all feel bad about that baby, but..."

He knew it was pointless, knew she'd crossed the same kind of boundary that his best friend used to. She was talking to herself right now, and nothing Zell could say would make a difference.

But whereas Squall's mind was his own little sanctuary, Quistis's was her own personal purgatory. The place she went when real life didn't seem to be blaming her quite enough for it's ills. And no matter what he did, Zell was terrified that one day he wouldn't be able to drag her back out.

She backed away towards the bathroom, eyes vacant and voice shaky.

"I...I should speak to Seifer..."

"Quisty, wait..."

His reply was the bathroom door shutting in his face, and the scrape of the lock sliding into place.


When Quistis finally emerged from her makeshift cell, eyes red but otherwise utterly composed, she had left for the Infirmary. Zell knew better than to try and talk to her once that mask of determination was in place.

He tried anyway.

His efforts were rewarded with a cool stare, and another derisory comment that could have been quoted directly from the Seifer Almasy Fan Club handbook.

"I have to talk to him Zell...he has to know. And you could try being a little less confrontational with him...Hyne, he's been through enough. He needs us to be there for him now..."

She'd been gone before he could reply, which he supposed was for the best. He sure as hell didn't want to fight over Seifer. He didn't particularly want to fight over anything.

Still, as he paced the 2F hallways, cursing the Commander's name, he couldn't ignore the one reply that had sprung to mind as he watched her leave.

"Maybe I need you too, baby..."

Of course he hadn't said that aloud. He knew she'd have accused him of being crazy. And on some level, he had to admit that it was. Ridiculous, as far as Seifer was concerned anyway, to feel jealous, insecure. From the day he'd been left in Edea's orphanage, from the first day he'd met a solemn, serious shy brown haired little boy, the Commander's heart had only ever had one name scrawled across it. Either that, or a neatly printed label reading `Property of Squall Leonhart`.

And those circumstances suited Zell just fine.

Because sometimes he still caught himself wondering. Pointless little what ifs that usually left him in the Training Center for endless hours, killing anything that happened to stumble into his path. Took it out on monsters until he was reasonably sure he wasn't going to cry.

It didn't matter how many ways he looked at it, how many times he thought around it.

He had Quistis totally by default. If either the Commander or the Knight had ever been destined from someone other than each other, then her last name wouldn't be Dincht. It'd be Almasy.

Or, far more likely, Leonhart.

On that score, Zell couldn't bring himself to feel anything other than elation. He wasn't that concerned about Squall's current condition. This was the guy who'd gone up against the most powerful Sorceress in yet-to-be history for Hyne's sakes. He'd pull through. He always did. And Kadowaki may have been confused, but she'd also been optimistic.

Quistis had mentioned trying to pry Seifer away from the Infirmary for a while, maybe drag him to the cafeteria. Unlikely as it was that she'd have succeeded, it would be the perfect opportunity to visit his best friend without said best friend's guard dog keeping watch. His pacing turned into a jog as the idea turned into a half-formed plan, and he headed towards the Infirmary.

He felt it before he saw it.

A slight, imperceptible shift in the air around him, the faintest of tremors in the ground beneath his feet, as if he was standing directly above an underground train track. Something that seeped in through his sneakers, made the hair on the back of his neck bristle, and sent battle-honed instincts wild. A tiny disquieting current that stopped him dead.

Stopped him, just as a beam of metal from the adjacent doorway bent, warped itself free from it's frame, and shot across the corridor, embedding itself in the opposite wall.

If he'd kept walking, he'd have been caught in between.

"What the hell...?"

But even the knowledge that he'd been seconds away from being skewered into the wall paled into nothing, when the air - when something intangible in the air - moved, twisted, curled itself around him like a smothering blanket.

And spoke.

"Give me that which I seek, brave warrior...and you need not fear..."

He spun around, tried to free himself from the cloying, suffocating force that grasped him, that seemed to radiate up from the ground, and wrap itself around him like a vine. For an irrational split second, he was terrified it would drag him down, right through the floor, and into some nightmarish, Godsforsaken dimension.


He tore himself from the thousand invisible hands that seemed to hold him, stumbling awkwardly to the ground, vaguely aware of more debris flying over his head, crashing into the wall, and sending little clouds of broken, crumbled plaster raining down on him.

When he looked up, the whole corridor looked as though it was swaying, felt like it was vibrating to some odd, discordant hum. The fluorescent lighting began to flicker, the doors were all rattling and creaking in their frames, their normally reliable code panel locks beeping and whirring like a remote control car. Something kept pinging around the hallway, with a high pitched bullet-like whine, and it took a second to realise that the screws were being snatched free from switches, door handles, wall panels, and were being fired across the corridor like bullets.

"Oh fuck..."

He had no idea how he made it the rest of the distance to the stairway, without being struck by any of the flying objects. All he knew was that he had to get away, had to warn someone, had to do something. And, taking the stairs two at a time, hearing frantic footsteps and panicked cries becoming louder as he neared the main floor, he realised that whatever was happening wasn't confined to him.

The whole damn Garden was shaking like some wind-up toy.

The seventh time he glanced at his wristwatch, he couldn't help but hear her soft, mildly annoyed sigh.

"It's only been twenty minutes, Seifer."

He glanced up at Quistis guiltily, wondering how, of even if, he could explain that after six years of loneliness, of not knowing, every twenty minutes counted. Every twenty seconds counted.

"I'm sure Dr. Kadowaki would have sent for you if there was any change." She went on gently. "Why don't you go and rest for a while Seifer, I'm sure that - "

"No." he shook his head, staring vacantly at his half empty coffee cup, absently stirring the stone cold liquid. "I'm fine. And I'm going to be there for him when he wakes up."


"Look, Quis, I appreciate your concern," he stood abruptly, the chair scraping back loudly across the cafeteria floor. "But if there wasn't anything else you wanted, then I'm going to head back..."

"Well...actually there was something I needed to discuss with you, but..."

Her sentence was cut off by a low rumble that seemed to permeate the whole room, making the chairs vibrate, and the coffee cup start to skitter across the table's surface. His first reaction was that Garden was moving, but to his knowledge there was no reason for that, and even if there had been, he would most certainly have been informed.

"What on earth is that?" Quistis asked, giving voice to the exact same question that had been running through Seifer's mind. Albeit if his version had a few expletives thrown in for good measure.

"No fucking idea..." he glanced around the almost deserted cafeteria, realising that the few anxious students staring at him probably weren't satisfied with that answer.

Especially when the first table was ripped from it's weak moorings, and sent crashing across the room, followed quickly by one of the potted trees he knew for certain had needed three cadets to move last time they renovated the cafeteria.

"Get the hell out, NOW!! He turned to the terrified cadets with a tone that brooked no argument, only to see that most of them had pre-empted his order, streaming out of the cafeteria in a panicked rush. All apart from Quistis, who stubbornly remained by his side. "You too Quis...I have no fucking clue what's going on..."

"Which is why I'm hardly going to leave you alone to deal with it!" she yelled, her voice almost drowned out as another table was wrenched from the floor, and went sailing through the high airy windows, sending shattered fragments of glass raining down. Weapons armed, they ducked behind the serving counter as two chairs fell like precisely aimed missiles, right where they'd been standing, with enough force to embed the chair legs in the floor.

"I'm not asking you, Instructor Dincht, that's an order!" he turned to her, the only coherent thought in his mind telling him he had to get her out.

Because whatever it is, it wants me.


"Quis, please...Go and find the others, inform all available SeeDs that we're under some sort of attack..." he glanced at her "Go!"

"But you can't..."

"I'll be right behind you Quis, I promise, just please...for Hyne's sakes, get the fuck out of here!"

She must have seen that look in his eyes, her own widening slightly as she started backing away, blue gaze locked on his for the longest moment, before she turned and left the cafeteria at a run, the echo of her boot heels clacking on the tiled floor lingering from the hallway.

Confident she was gone, and more importantly safe, he raised his head from behind the counter, watching in bewilderment as the invisible force continued on it's destructive path through the room, picking up any object that lay in it's way, throwing even the heaviest of items into the air with ridiculous ease, and bringing them crashing back down with a frighteningly deliberate aim.

Squall...oh Gods, I have to get to Squall...

He was about to turn and follow Quistis when the metallic rattling behind him forced him to stop. Funny, it sounded just like the noise the cutlery tray made when one of the cafeteria staff emptied it after a busy lunch rush...

Okay...you're hiding from some insane rampaging poltergeist in a kitchen? Smart, Almasy...so very, very smart...

He didn't have to turn, didn't have to wonder.

Just propelled himself to the side, to the floor, as what looked like every sharp knife the cafeteria kept slammed into the cupboard door he'd just been leaning against, like some surreal rendition of a circus knife-throwing trick.

It hit him, a second before he hit the floor, that he hadn't been fast enough. A wide carving knife was firmly buried in his shoulder, and something else had taken out a good chunk of his upper arm, blood streaming from the gash in his coat sleeve, soaking into the fabric until the cross sword was hardly visible.

I've lost too much fucking blood lately...

Trying to keep hold of Hyperion, and clutch at the bloodied arm that hung painfully at his side, he staggered to his feet, and out onto the cafeteria floor.

Just in time to see the huge concrete pillar that supported most of the roof, bend and sway like a plastic drinking straw, before a wide crack appeared close to the ceiling. The bottom section of the pillar broke away in a cloud of falling masonry, teetering for one, silent second, before it began to fall.

Towards him.

Disorientated, in agony and terrified, he could do nothing but stand numbly and watch as the enormous slab of concrete leaned closer, falling in almost twisted slow-motion. Hyperion clattered from his already feeble grip, one word whispering through his head, "Squall..."

For one, dazed moment, he almost thought his lover's name had triggered a spell, as a sudden gust of wind ruffled through his trenchcoat, striking the descending pillar with just enough force to divert it a couple of feet wide. The impact cracked the concrete into fragments, and sent a shockwave through the floor that sent Seifer sprawling, landing on his shredded arm with a pained howl.

"Shit, Seifer..."

He glanced up at the approaching figure, black dots swimming in his vision, swirling like the trail of Zell's tattoo. For one lucid second, Seifer wondered if it was wrong to be disappointed that it hadn't been Squall after all.

"Fuck..." Zell grimaced, one tentative hand on the handle of the kitchen knife that protruded from Seifer's shoulder, as he offered the Commander a shaky smile. "See, this is what you get for always complaining about the food in the caff..." The smile was replaced by an intense look of concentration as the martial artist prepared a spell, snatching out the bloody blade before immediately casting Curaga.

The pain may have gone, but the dazed light-headedness was a million times worse; something Seifer realised with a vengeance as he tried to stand. Zell handed him back the gunblade, and he was forced to use it as a makeshift crutch until the room's spinning slowed to an acceptable level.

A low, groaning creak from the ceiling reminded them that the room still wasn't stable, without the structural support, the whole roof could come caving in at any moment. And while the chaos may have been tempered, he could feel that the presence was still there. He didn't protest as Zell herded him out, back towards the mail floor, only pausing at the arched entrance to instruct two SeeDs to prevent anyone from entering the cafeteria until it was made secure.

"...the fuck is going on Seifer? Whatever the hell this thing is, it's the same damn thing that was screwing with my head yesterday" Zell frowned. "I heard it, then and now. And don't give me that fucking bullshit about not knowing, cause you have to damn well know something!"


"This...this force, this presence, I don't give a shit what it is, but it's attacking the whole of Garden." Zell glared at him. "For Hyne's sakes Seifer, people are getting hurt! You could have just been mashed into hot-dog meat, and if you know who's doing this, know how to stop it, then you'd better start talking, Commander."

Seifer shook his head. "It wants me Zell, it won't hurt anyone else...and I don't know what it is, exactly...but it thinks I have something that belongs to it..."

"The vessel?"

"Zell, did Squall ever mention something about that to you? Before he left, before..." Seifer looked away. "Because if it's here, then I sure as fuck don't know about it."

"And you think Squall does?"

Seifer shrugged. "Maybe..."

"But if that's true..." Zell stared at him, the sudden uneasy though occurring to them both. "Then it doesn't want you..."

"It wants him..."

He must have shoved half a dozen panicked cadets out of his way on the short journey to the Infirmary, hearing, though not processing, Zell's protests behind him. At that precise moment, nothing else mattered but getting to Squall. Garden could go to hell.

You'd never do that...would you? Always so duty-bound, obligated...willing to give your last breath for them, even if your second to last would have been bitching about not asking for all the responsibility...Was there ever a time where you stood in this same Garden hallway and would have forsaken the rest of the world for me?

In that instant, he knew that for himself at least, that answer would be yes. And he couldn't quite find the will to feel guilty about that.

"I'm not losing him again..."

He barely even realised he'd spoken aloud. Wouldn't have, were it not for the half-angry, half-resigned look on Zell's face.

"And the hell d'you think charging in there's gonna achieve, huh? This isn't just about Squall, Commander," Zell's eyes narrowed. "Whatever this thing wants, it's perfectly willing to fuck over any one of us to get it. Before you start making stupid decisions, we have to get the students out, and - "

Zell's words were cut short by a deafening crash, Garden lurching wildly in accompaniment to the resounding cacophony. A huge cloud of dust and debris blew out of the corridor leading off towards the cafeteria, like some ethereal dragon bursting out of its cave. At least he knew it was empty, at least he knew there wasn't anyone still trapped inside, but that knowledge was small comfort.

"Holy shit..."

"Seifer..." Zell turned to him, an edge of pleading in his voice. "We have to get the kids outta here..."

"No..." Seifer shook his head, glancing briefly at Zell before continuing towards the Infirmary. "If it wants him, then the safest thing for Garden is to get Squall out of here."

"And you're gonna what?" Zell stared after him, incredulous. "He's unconscious, you're like the walking fricking dead, you can't seriously be thinking about taking this thing on alone..."

"It's only attacking Garden because of us..."

"How the hell do you come to that conclusion, huh? For Hyne's sakes Seifer it's not just you it's fucking with!"

Any bewilderment at Zell's comment died on Seifer's lips as he shoved the Infirmary door open.

There wasn't a single item left in the room that was upright, wasn't broken. Screens, equipment, Dr. Kadowaki's computer, all lay wrecked and twisted among the shattered potion bottles and torn books. At first, slightly manic glance, it looked as though someone had summoned Pandemona to kick the shit out of Kadowaki's desk.


"He's gone."

He spun around at the soft, choked whisper, eyes blazing, hand reaching instinctively for Hyperion's hilt.

Irvine sat hunched against the wall by the door, arms anchoring his knees to his chest, and despite the fact that Seifer could see how badly he was shaking, the cowboy still had the temerity to glare irritably up at him through his tears. From the cuts and grazes on his face and arms, and general dishevellement, it didn't take a huge leap to guess that Irvine had seen whatever the hell had torn the room apart.

Whatever the hell had taken Squall...

Crossing the room, glass and debris crunching beneath his boots, he hauled Irvine to his feet, taking momentary satisfaction in the wide-eyed anxiety that stared back at him.

"The fuck happened here Kinneas?" Seifer hissed. "Where the fuck is he?! If you've done anything to him cowboy, I'll..."

"He was already gone when I got here!" Irvine shook his head, helplessly. "I walked right in on somethin' that looked like it was tearin' the goddamned place apart..."

Seifer released his hold on Irvine's shirtfront, shoving him back a step or two. "It was. Because it was looking for him..."


"I don't..." Seifer began, eyes scanning the destruction in the room, his mind seeing similar devastation on a much grander scale back in Timber, and something in his head making a new, uneasy connection between the two.

"...Why does she think I've got the damned vessel?" "Because you do...And then again, you don't. Not completely. She may believe she already has fragments of it but she is mistaken..."

Seifer's gaze snapped back up, darting back and forth between Zell and Irvine for a moment, before lowering. Mistaken...mistaken, but surely not that blind...unless she didn't know, unless it wasn't Rinoa who was searching...


"...Rinoa...There was no power transfer..."

But even then, it didn't make sense...how could she just not know...how could she simply not see what was in front of her...?

"...I just got the feelin' he left Garden to keep it safe..."

Left to keep it safe because he'd known of the devastation that would be incurred in the wake of a seemingly unstoppable force searching for it's elusive trophy?

Oh gods...

"Seifer...?" Zell's voice reached him as if through a haze, distant and faraway. "Seifer what's wrong...?"

He tried to find his voice, tried to find the words to answer...

Then stopped. Stopped and watched as a breeze ruffled through the crumpled, torn sheets of paper on the floor, as it teased through the ends of Irvine's hair, as it sent the corners of his own trenchcoat flapping softly.

"...the hell...?"

Seifer looked up, saw the same confusion reflecting in sapphire and violet eyes.

Before any of them could utter another word, the breeze picked up, swirling until it was howling and pounding almost as thunderously as the roar of his own blood in his head, Seifer's entire world seeming to cant on its axis, before the whole thing went blessedly black.

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