The Devil's Own
Chapter 1: Ten Million Bottles Of Beer
By Angry Angel
‘Ten million bottles of beer on the wall, ten million bottles of beer-’
"- at exactly 20:00 flat, with a team of four from Galbadia Garden and-"
‘Nine million and ninety-nine hundred thousand bottles of beer on the wall, ninety-nine hundred million... damnit. Have to start over. Ten million bottles of beer on the wall, ten million bottles of beer-’
"- are starting at the Presidential Residence to circle the outer road and-"
‘Eighty-five thousand bazillion bottles of beer on the wall, eighty-five thousand... fucking Hyne, is she still talking?’
"- must lay low and infiltrate the crowd from within-"
"- can absolutely not stir any attention whatsoever!"
‘Oh, don’t you worry, Quisty. You aren’t.’
"Seifer, are you even listening?!"
‘... Damnit, she’s on to me.’
"Hey, I’m talking to you!"
Peridot eyes that had been engrossed in absent-minded reveries quickly snapped back into focus at the sharp outcry of a furious female that had, thus far, been prattling away in comfortable and inconspicuous monotony, never stirring too much attention from her two less-than-avid listeners.
Said monotony, however, appeared shattered at last, and the respective owner of previously mentioned oculates of striking viridian green shifted inwardly, mentally preparing to dodge a possible blow delivered from slender hands with a three-inch heavy binder that could, by any means, cause him a day’s worth of a nasty headache.
It sure as hell wouldn’t have been the first time, either.
The binder didn’t make for his forehead after all, but he could feel someone, or something, nudge into the sides of his legs, which he had nonchalantly propped upon the metal top of a table.
"I’m listening," he declared reluctantly, if only to put an end to the impatient jabs that were still being issued to the poor legs of yours truly.
"Tch, I’m not stupid, you know!"
Twitching lips stretched into a feral grin at the sound of that comment, and narrow peridot lit up with poorly hidden jeer.
"Don’t grin at me like that!"
Drawing his shoulders up in defeat, the male decided to devote at least some form of effort into keeping a partly straight face. Of course, with a face like his, that proved to be rather difficult; an insolent smirk was practically perma-smacked down into his, otherwise, admittedly quite handsome features, and he had never really tried to adopt a different facial expression. To round off his perfect personification of utter spunk, his jade green eyes were always alight with a spark of natural and almost charming sassiness, which managed to work its way into the hearts of the people around him with outrageous ease.
Indeed, Seifer Almasy knew well how to influence his environment to his liking, even if his charm quite frequently bounced off his friend Quistis Trepe’s rigid barriers. Said failure was probably to blame on the fact that she had known him for the greater part of her life, and she knew much better than to fall for his manipulative grace.
"I’m serious, Seifer," the slender blonde female named Quistis announced impatiently. "This is important!"
Sighing, he peeled his right arm from the comfortable hollow beneath the nape of his neck, and he let it snap forward in the flash of a motion, snatching the binder of doom from Quistis’ unexpecting hands.
"Yeah yeah, whatever, lemme see this. I can read too, ya know, I don’t need a two hour long recital, thank you very much."
Next to him, someone gave a low chuckle. Seifer honored the man with a curt side-glance, and his gaze found a tall, cerulean eyed brunette sporting a suede cowboy hat and a matching long coat. Said man, who was generally heeding to the name Irvine Kinneas, had watched the scene silently thus far, again and again amused by the constant struggles that his mutual friends Quistis and Seifer shared every couple of hours or so. This time, the two blondes were bashing heads over their most favorite subject of controversy: mission briefings, or rather, the way that they were carried out.
All three of them were SeeDs, high ranking SeeD officers to even do them any justice, stationed at the beautiful Garden of Balamb, which served as a regular school as well as an advanced academy for the military arts.
For a good nine years now, the two men and their female counterpart had been assigned to the same team of cadets and, later on, battle tested mercenaries that were commonly known as 'SeeDs' and that were committed to the task of turning the world into a somewhat safer place – in return for the adequate amount of payment, of course. The lines of their enemies were commonly filled by simple monsters, political terrorists, renegade Guardian Forces and the occasional sorceress, but those were few and far in between.
It was a pretty decent job, really. They were young, neither of them had breached the twenty-year mark yet, but they were well trained and made a fair amount of cash carrying out missions for various sponsors. They also frequently got to travel all over the world, since the Garden committee owned facilities on each of the three continents that were part of the Galbadian empire. On top of that, SeeDs were quite popular with the ladies, which was always a plus in Irvine’s books.
Oh yes, life could have been so peachy for each of them.
Ah, but alas, Seifer and Quistis always found something to be at strife over. Today, it happened to be an assignment that had been delivered from their very headquarters in Galbadia, apparently asking for assistance at a parade that was to be held at the honors of newly elected Galbadian president Vinzer Deling. Seifer in particular wasn’t exactly very fond of their latest head-of-the-state, for reasons that he usually rather kept to himself than blurt out to the world, hence his already naturally short attention span was extremely lacking in depth as soon as the name "Vinzer Deling" had left Quistis’ lips sometime in the beginning of their briefing.
Which, by the way, had been no less than two hours ago.
From then on, both Irvine and Seifer had spent the time loitering on a couch in Quistis’ office, drifting somewhere between apathy and drowsiness while the blonde girl had been pacing before them restlessly, raising her voice and jabbing her finger at random lines on her assignment notes.
Irvine himself had at least bothered to utter an infrequent "hn", or perhaps even a muffled "uhu" in order to feign some sort of attentiveness, whereas Seifer had given up entirely on listening to their female friend rant on and on about the most basic and self-evident aspects that a mission of such nature obviously entailed.
The blonde SeeD had never been known to be very forgiving in his patience, or rather, the lack thereof.
"Parade in Deling City on May 1st, protect the Vinzer and his family, yadda yadda yadda..." Seifer now summed it up elegantly while rolling his eyes at the papers in his hands, "Hey, why ever did they change the name of Galbadia City anyway? Like that incompetent oaf deserves to have some fucking town named after his ass, like, gimme a break or something."
Quistis’ perfectly plugged golden eyebrows had slanted wryly at Seifer’s idea of a mission briefing, and she was crossing her arms in front of her chest grudgingly as she watched her blonde companion lolling in the corner of her couch and strewing dirt from his boots all over her once surgically clean office table.
"Anyway, back on track," the baritone of Seifer’s voice declared, while the nineteen year old himself flipped through Quistis’ notes carelessly. "'Heed the high-rated risk of resistance faction activities'... duh, what’s new? What sorta complete moron wrote this?"
"I told you it came right from headquarters," Quistis hissed irritably, while starting a vain attempt at prying the binder out of Seifer’s iron grasp.
"Figures. They always manage to whip up the greatest bullshit over there, I really wonder how they pull it off. Must be natural talent or something, inherited by birth, of course."
Groaning, he flailed the binder through the air, showing off a picture of a dark haired young man with cold brown eyes that was glaring into the camera.
"Heed example A, formerly known as Aren Deling, or "the dud". Could he be any more of a brainless dork? Is it biologically possible?" Seifer asked dramatically in his best quiz master impression. "No folks, even nature has its boundaries, but hey, let’s give him a hand anyway!"
After he had groaned in heartfelt agony yet again, he carelessly tossed Quistis the heavy folder, almost knocking the slender girl off her feet as she caught it square before her stomach. Frowning darkly, she straightened out her orange wool ensemble and pierced the ignorant, bulky blonde with a look that could have been aimed to kill, hadn’t it been for the fact that she did not make use of her blue mage’s Laser Eye special.
"So, when are we leaving?" Irvine inquired curiously from his corner of the couch.
After she had regained some of her composure, Quistis cast a brief glance at the train tickets that had been included in the assignment package.
"Tomorrow. We’ll be heading to Timber by train, leaving at 12:00. We’ll spend the night and transit to Deling City in the morning. This is on quite short notice, so you better get your gear ready now."
"Yeah, perish the idea of giving us a week’s ahead notice or something! Dumb fucks."
With a low, rasp growl that was almost common to his voice, Seifer drew his legs off Quistis’ table and leaped onto his feet in one swift movement. He had a habit of cloaking his tall, muscular built in a long off-white trench coat adorned by a number of crimson colored crosses, even if beneath said attire he usually wore form-hugging shirts and loose pants studded with lots of useful pockets.
From the depths of one of those pockets he now produced a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, but before he could have even dreamt of treating himself to a smoke after Quistis’ exhausting lecture, the resolute girl had already fixed him with meticulous eyes that never missed a detail.
This time, Seifer could have sworn that he had spotted the typical Laser Eye spark smoldering threateningly in those cobalt blue orbs.
"Don’t you dare smoke in here! How often do I have to tell you??"
Not even bothering to give a proper reply, Seifer twisted his gaze to the ceiling in silent plea and a not-so-silent gagging sound that seemed to suggest something along the lines of "spare me", before he resumed to fashionably ignoring the girl and marching out of her office only to light his cigarette the moment that he had set foot outside her sliding doors.
Oh yes, Seifer Almasy was a cocky and spoiled young man indeed. However, he was also a brilliant fighter, versed in the use of his weapon of choice, a gunblade model from the ever popular Hyperion series, as well as basic combat spell work and Guardian Force control. His best friends knew of his qualities and usually accepted his quirks, or at least they tolerated them, but even if they wouldn’t have, Seifer probably wouldn’t have been all too concerned. He was who he was and he did what he liked, and he certainly never grew tired of informing his environment of his vast disinterest in their redundant opinions concerning his person.
Indeed, quite frankly, he couldn’t possibly care any less.
"Damn dude, you really pissed her off this time."
Inhaling deeply and blowing the grey fumes from his cigarette back out through his nose rather coolly, Seifer gave a supple shrug at the comment of his long haired brunette companion, who had just emerged from Quistis office as well.
"She’ll get over it," he snorted.
"Yeah," Irvine agreed as he leaned his back against a wall to study his friend from beneath the rim of his cowboyhat.
Seifer was still standing in the middle of the hallway and breathing shrouds of smoke into the air, not bothering all too much about the fact that Quistis would probably have a seizure the moment she'd follow Seifer's example and set foot outside her door.
"I don’t really get why you were so annoyed though, Quisty’s recital left aside," Irvine finally continued.
Again, Seifer heaved his shoulders in a display of indifference and abandon, but the apathy in his gaze had kindled with resentment.
"The prospect of guarding Vinzer Deling and his runt during one of those stupid ass parades makes me wanna choke up my lunch, which, really, I haven’t even had yet. Talking about which, I’m starving."
"Yeah, I can see your point. Still, it’d be a good chance for another career-boosting news appearance, ya know," Irvine replied with a wink and a smirk.
Seifer redeemed him with a guttural grunt, before he flicked his cigarette butt onto the floor and crushed the glinting ash beneath the heavy heel of his boots.
"Like I wanna be any more important than I already am," he hissed in annoyance. "This job is starting to really blow, especially with headquarters always on our asses."
"Heh. Caraway and Deling weren’t too pleased."
"Nope. Not really. And now he’s President, I mean what gives?"
"Don’t know," the cowboy mused, while staring at the flattened cigarette on the marble floor in absent-minded lethargy. "Maybe we’ll get better pay or something."
"Hardly. More work for less dough, more like it."
"I thought your old man was gonna pull out some stops?"
"He’s busy playing golf with the other geezers. Why do you think they handed over Trabia and Balamb?"
"Ain’t it just?"
"Guess we can only wait and see."
"Yep. Be still my beating heart."
Grasping the left side of his chest in mock hysteria, Seifer threw his tanned, angular face into a snide scowl that reached his eyes and resonated in their viridian depths in a faint, cynical glow.
A second later, he dropped his hands almost abruptly, and his features snapped back into a mask of snobbish indifference.
"Anyway. I need some chow."
"Sure, Private, you got my approval," Irvine sneered, but he quickly scurried out of reach and down the hallway before Seifer could have had a go at him for the tease.
The blonde merely gave a rasp chuckle.
Sighing, Seifer followed the brunette’s trail to the cafeteria, and he caught himself praying quietly that he would maybe break his neck on the way, or better even that Vinzer Deling might break his, or that, for any other damned reason, he would find a way to be exempted from his annoying and much-hated parade duty.
He never had seriously assumed though, that somehow, his prayers just might be heard...
=To be continued!=
Sooo, here's the new story. I found myself coming back to it while I was working on LMMIA, simply because it has a very different tone and provides for a nice change of pace. So, I thought to myself, why not post it before LMMIA is over? Alas, I made some minor adjustments to this chapter after I had plotted a little farther into the storyline, but that's about it... I hope you like the beginning so far.
Naturally, there will be lots of questions throughout this read, but they will find answers eventually, so don't be too worried about any confusion that his chapter might cause. I'll try and clear it up (in the next 50 chapters or so... lol).
Also, it'd be nice to have a betareader for this story as I keep having to go back with LMMIA to make adjustments to spelling/grammar in already posted chapters, and I don't know how much I feel like doing that with TDO, too. So, if anyone feels up to the chore, feel free to drop me an email, I don't bite or nothing. I'd also be most happy to serve as a betareader for your stories in return, if you in any way trust my writing skills, that is grins Up to you I could of course bribe Seifer into paying you in naturals for your services, but I doubt he's very inclined at the moment...
Anyway, hope you enjoyed this.
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