The Secret

Chapter One

By Kuttner

Zell Dincht strode down the Garden hall angrily, his muscular shoulders hunched, his breathing heavy with indignant frustration. He'd just had another encounter with Seifer Almasy in which the tall blond bully had mercilessly taunted Zell verbally for being knocked down by one of the Grats in Balamb Garden's training area. He'd recovered from the monster's blow quickly but it didn't stop his embarrassment as Seifer and his cronies, Fujin and Raijin - The Disciplinary Committee - had witnessed his ungraceful fall and, ever the bully, Seifer couldn't help but start with the ribs and the wisecracks - about everything from his height to his hairstyle.

Zell had stormed out, red in the face, without a word. It was seldom he became truly mad, though he was touchy quite often. Seifer's constant insults were taking Zell to the brink of losing his temper to a height it had never been before. His babyface was twisted in an expression of fury that didn't sit well there - he looked too young to be fearsome. A fact which Seifer had often noted, before laughing mockingly.

Of course Seifer didn't have that problem. He was handsome in a mature way that would only look more imposing and impressive with age. When Seifer was angry and his eyes took on that evil glint along with that wicked smile everyone was afraid of him - even Zell. But, right now Zell was so angry he felt no such fear. If he saw Seifer right now he'd punch him in the face.

If only the tall blond wasn't constantly followed by his two henchmen - or henchpeople, seeing one was a girl. The Disciplinary Committee - that was a laugh - calling them that when their leader ironically had no discipline and thought he could do as he pleased, making up his own rules. How many times had Zell been cited for 'running in the halls' he'd lost count, but his enthusiasm seemed to be another excuse for Seifer to pick on him.

He remembered when he got his tattoo two years ago - so bold on his face - partly an attempt to make himself look more formidable; a vain attempt to hide his babyface looks. And he liked the way it looked. It suited him quite well, he thought, even if you could still see his tender round cheeks and youthful, sparkling eyes. However, for a while he'd regretted it deeply as it had given Seifer fresh ammunition, calling Zell everything from 'spider-face' to 'inkblot'. Not very imaginative but it still cut Zell that Seifer was so cruel in his barbs that he couldn't issue one compliment. Even Quistis, who at first had admonished Zell like the instructor she had become for being impulsive about something he couldn't remove easily, admitted later that it looked good. He had received many complimentary remarks but not from Seifer - never from Seifer. Not that it mattered to Zell - he preferred to stay out of the tall bully's way altogether if he could - it was just that they seemed to run into each other no matter where Zell went. Even if he hid out at the library or actually went there to do some studying, Seifer would appear shortly after or was already there. It was like being stalked almost - or so Zell felt at times.

The one time Zell had been pleased to see the other blond there was the time that the cute, pigtailed library girl, Zema, had berated Seifer for an overdue book. Seifer had actually looked rather abashed for the briefest of moments before turning on his unquestionable charm for her, saying he'd just need it for one more week then he promised to return it safe and sound. She fell for his act and relinquished her anger, smiling coyly instead at his mild flirtation. Zell had been annoyed that Seifer could get away with things so easily. All he had to do was smile in that way that made his face glow golden - a much more pleasant smile than the smile he'd give when he was bullying - cock his head slightly and any girl would melt under his gaze. Zell wondered if Seifer got many girls that way - with a smile and one flattering word. Likely, he guessed, though the only girl he'd ever seen hanging around Seifer was Fujin, and they weren't an item that he'd noticed. Plus he'd never heard of a string of broken-hearted girls crying in the halls because Almasy had dumped them - and that's the kind of thing that got around, even though people were generally discrete in the Garden, what with the no promiscuity rule. He knew of the after hours room inside the training centre where would be lovers would meet for a semiprivate moment together. He'd been there, but just to check it out. He'd never been there with anyone. Had Seifer gone there? Zell didn't know the answer to that, besides there was more privacy in their dorm rooms - if you had a decent roommate who didn't mind bending rules or were lucky enough to have an individual room.

When had he become so obsessed with the bully anyway? Maybe because of the fact that Seifer seemed to be everywhere lately and Zell was nervous enough - he was putting in extra training because of the upcoming SeeD test, which he wanted to pass first time. That would show Seifer if nothing else. He knew Seifer had taken the practical test twice and failed for getting out of control; taking on more than he should; not following orders. Even though there were strong rumours that Seifer had aced the written exam and any GF quests, his own lack of discipline was his mighty downfall. He could give it but he couldn't take it - orders, that is. Third time lucky, maybe? Zell hoped that he wouldn't be taking the test with the tall eighteen year old - he didn't want his own chances ruined by Seifer's uncontrollability.

Zell huffed his way back to his room and slammed the door. It was late so he decided to go straight to sleep. He'd deal with Seifer in the morning - and right now, in his current state, a confrontation was inevitable. This had gone on far too long.

He didn't think sleep would come easily in his present emotional turmoil but he'd worn himself out with anger and he was soon breathing evenly, off in dreams of revenge.

Seifer Almasy stalked out of the training ground, followed by his posse.

They'd watched Zell leave in embarrassment and Seifer had laughed again, amused by Zell's frustration.

"Maybe ya shouldn't push so hard, ya know," Raijin had suggested.

Seifer had shot him a look which shut him up tight but still held some merriment at poor Zell's misfortune. Seifer loved the way Zell got so riled up so quickly. He didn't see the shorter blond as any threat. It was just so much fun to tease him, Zell was so easily worked up, more than anyone else.

"Why not?" Seifer snapped, yet he wasn't really mad, he was in too good a mood after seeing Zell fall on his behind, sprawling from the pesky Grat's tentacles knocking him over in a moment of lost concentration. Of course the younger boy hadn't been hurt, that would have made things different. Seifer didn't want to see anyone he knew wounded or killed. He actually was a little afraid of that - of how he would react - and he hid his trepidation with overconfidence, rushing into danger as if to confront his fears head on. It always proved a disappointment - no one seemed a match for his skills as a fighter, except perhaps Squall Leonhart. But Seifer wasn't thinking of the quiet brunette now. He was dwelling on the tattooed blond. For some reason he got the most enjoyment out of seeing Zell humiliated, and that he'd had a private showing tonight was all the more amusing. Maybe it was the way Zell took it to heart instantly; his face in a pink blush from his embarrassment and incompetency with the Grat - which he'd swiftly finished off once regaining his feet - but it had been too late to restore his dignity. The three had already seen his slip up.

"TIME BOMB," Fujin stated, referring to Zell.

Seifer chuckled. Zell couldn't hurt him - no one could. Zell didn't even have a real weapon - only his fists; his metal knuckles, which could pack a hard punch but couldn't slice off a limb or a head as Seifer's impressive gunblade could.

"I wouldn't worry about Zell," Seifer said to his worried looking posse. What was their problem? Turning soft or something?

There had been a time, years ago, when Seifer had gotten more respect. When he and Quistis had been the two most promising and gifted students in Garden. And where were they now? Quistis was an instructor - his instructor, to make things even worse - and Seifer was still taking exams, trying to pass. Now, Seifer and Squall were the two promising students, but Seifer should have been above that by now and he knew it. He could only be 'promising' so long before he became 'has been'. Was he jealous of Quistis? Yes, of course, he even hated her a little for it. Everyone was passing him, getting their glory and he was lagging behind; stuck; not even a SeeD.

And Zell was up for the test this year, as Seifer was for the third time. There was another three weeks for them to prepare. Seifer needed no preparation. He knew what he was supposed to do back to front. He knew to follow orders was his key in, but doing that was hard once he got started. The craving for glory; for adulation; for people to love him and appreciate him was too strong. He wanted more than to be a mere soldier in a unit. He wanted to be a knight; someone special. Maybe it was the fact that he was an orphan that nobody adopted - that much he could remember. The abandonment issue - maybe that was the reason for his need. He wasn't sure. His past was hazy. That was why he needed his posse. They respected him; they looked up to him; he needed that. Someone to listen to him. It wasn't simply someone to boss around - it was much more than that - and he valued their loyalty. He didn't need them turning on him now.

"Let's go," he ordered, and they had obeyed.



Return to Archive | next