Author's Note: OK, I'm a beginner. This is my first attempt at writing FF8 fiction and I'd like feedback if you care. Maybe I should tackle a shorter fic, not a super long one with 7 different characters and 7 different perspectives and 5 or more major problems going on at the same time. But hey.
Part V: Salvages
“Ouch! Don’t shove me!”
I yelled at the cumbersome soldier who pushed me down the steps. I stumbled but caught my balance. Stupid soldiers. They knew perfectly well who I am. And they still did this? I didn’t deserve to be forced into this dungeon!
That man put me here, of course. And that woman, I seriously could strangle her to death in a heartbeat. I groaned in frustration. But there was not much I could do. My weapon’s neatly put away and guarded so I couldn’t even break out.
I stomped. The place was crowded. I mean, the entire Garden population was down here. All disarmed. I could lead them to a mutiny, but the Galbadian guards, as few as there were, all had some kind of super weapon with them that could knock out all of us in seconds. I’m not very, well, confident that we could actually do some damage.
Plus, most of the capable fighters were either dead or seriously wounded. I was in charge of the junior classmen, Squall put me there, and I did my job and they were spared with few injuries. But the rest of the SeeD candidates and SeeDs were not quite so lucky. Dr. Kadowaki was busy down here, trying to help the ones she could in anyway without equipments and magic. The whole room buzzed with confusion.
Stupid magic barrier.
I paced around and around. There was absolutely nothing I could do! It’s so helpless. I never felt this helpless before. No one here to aid me. I wondered away from the crowd. This is the MD level, right? Well, there’s gotta be some passage way leading outside or something. The sewers are excellent escape routes. Or they are in most movies.
Life’s not a movie.
I turned. It was Xu. “Yeah, what’s up?”
“You’re down here, too? Is anyone else here with you?”
I shook my head. She obviously was talking about the rest of our friends. “They didn’t come with me. I think they’re still fighting up there.”
This time she shook her head. “No. Fighting had stopped at least two hours ago.”
“What?! You’re joking me!!!” No way! I thought I heard some gunfire or something up there, well, I felt like there’s something, well, okay, it’s been pretty quiet for a while. I had led a few junior classmen away from the battlefield. We had hidden in the Training Center; I thought we’re safe. Until them stubborn relentless soldiers found us. We must’ve been in there much longer than I realized. I was too busy worrying and wondering what’s going on on the third floor. I heard bits and pieces of stuff about it, but. Two hours!
Now I began to worry. About Squall. And Seifer. And Zell. And Selphie. I was panicking. They should’ve been down here, too. This was where the prisoners were held. They should’ve been down here, with the rest of us.
“No. They aren’t here.” Xu replied. She’s panicking, too. “When I saw you and you’re all right, I was relieved. I thought if you show up they’ll show up soon. Dr. Kadowaki asked several times about you guys. Where were you?”
“Oh, I was hiding in the Training Center. But the others, my goodness,” I gasped. “They’re not . . . . dead, are they?”
Xu looked horrified. But she shook her head firmly. “All of them? No. Can’t be.”
I swallowed hard. They can’t be dead. No way. I refuse to believe that. They can’t.
I jumped a mile. “Did you hear that?”
Xu nodded. We were standing by a wall. There was a corridor a couple of steps away, and it was unguarded. I remembered the guard saying it was a dead end and left to watch the other entrances. Guess I can’t get out even if there was an oil pipe leading to outside. They’re prepared.
“Should we . . . go and check it out?” Xu poked me in the arm. I looked at the dark passageway. If there was a monster of some kind lurking, we’d be in trouble. We’d be dinner.
But on the other hand, it’s better than doing nothing. At least this would distract me from the helplessness I was feeling right then. “Yeah. Come on. Maybe it’s someone who can help.”
Xu knew how empty of a hope that was, but she followed me nonetheless. Guess the feeling’s mutual for everyone.
“Hello?” I called out timidly into the dark. This part of the oil pipe was particularly black and cold. No wonder the guards all left. There’s absolutely nothing -
Huh?! Who was that!? Xu grabbed my arm instinctively.
“Rinoa? Is that you?” The same whispery voice asked again.
I crept closer into blindness. “Um, yeah, who’re you?”
“Come in closer. Are there any guards out there?”
“No. Who are you?”
“It’s me. Quistis.”
“Quistis?” I restrained my voice so it wouldn’t carry. Someone came in from the outside! “Oh my goodness! What - how - where were you earlier?”
I dashed blindly in and ran right into her. Xu followed closely behind. She checked behind her to make sure no one else had saw us. When Quistis came out a little into the light, my eyes widened. She got a hair cut. And she looked so pale.
“Xu. Is everyone down here?” Quistis asked.
Sadness crept into Xu’s expression again. “No. All the students, those that’re alive, that is, and most of the faculty are down here. Except . . . . “
“Except for the ones that mattered to us most.” Quistis sighed. “Do you know which floor they’re held captive on?”
Xu and I both shook our heads. “I’ll try second or third,” Xu suggested. “First floor is quarantined.”
“Why?” Quistis raised her eyebrows.
“Don’t know.” Xu shrugged. “But, Quistis, how’d you get back here? Does this mean we can all get out and then the Estharians could sweep in?”
“No!” Quistis exclaimed. She then immediately looked around, and lowered her voice. “No. Xu, Rinoa, I’m here on mission to rescue everyone and drive these Galbadian bastards out of our Garden.” She then explained to us probably the most outrageous and craziest attempt I’ve ever heard. It was so impossibly hard that it’s insane.
“You are so joking.” I said as soon as she finished. “You’re gonna go up there and basically take on the entire G-Army, and rescue a bunch of people, and manage to go in a dorm room and release the poison, all with only physical attacks and items? That’s not possible!”
“She’s right,” Xu agreed. “At least let us come with you. It may arouse suspicion if masses of students vanish. Well, no one’s going to miss us two.”
“You’re both unarmed.” Quistis pointed out.
“We could get them back.” I retorted. True, I had no idea where they kept our weapons, but that shouldn’t be a problem once we’re, you know, fighting. We’d find them somehow. Plus, I’m a sorceress. I can use magi - oh, the barrier. Man.
Xu and I must’ve argued with Quistis for a good while before she finally snapped. “LOOK, I hate to be rude to both of you, but you’re not going to help me if you just follow me up unarmed. All your weapons are guarded quite sufficiently, and I don’t think I could get them through the security while looking after you two at the same time. I know the risk of what I’m about to do anyways, I don’t need any additional responsibilities. I’m sorry. And I wasted enough time standing here arguing.” She rubbed her temples. “After I’m gone, go rally up a mutiny. Take those guards down. We have at least a couple of hundred people here and from what I gathered there’s only 10 or so guards. I’m sure somebody has some items leftover. Take them down! Then gather everyone, lock the doors, and don’t let ANYONE in. No one, you hear me? These oil pipes lead to nowhere, except the one I came from and there are Estharians guarding that place. We want them to die. Don’t let them in.”
“What if it’s you or anyone else from Balamb?” I asked.
Quistis’s lips quivered a little. Then she thinned it. “No one, Rinoa. Understand?”
I gaped at Xu. She had a set look on her face. How could she say that?! What if Quistis had to activate the gas and not everyone was out? I mean, there’s a good chance that they get lost in the way and then not have enough time. Or they could be wounded. I’m just gonna stand here and listen to them pound on the door and not let them in? I can’t do that.
“There are always sacrifices. And if I had to be one sacrificed to secure the lives of everyone in Garden, so be it.” Quistis said to me. “I’m sure everyone else up there would agree, too. We have to purge the G-soldiers, or we’ll regret it.”
We will? She didn’t tell us what the Galbadians were after. She just said they’re after something very important. Now it sounded quite serious.
Xu nodded. “Yes. Go. Good luck.” She saluted.
Quistis smiled and saluted back. Abruptly she turned and vanished back into the blackness.
Xu turned to me. “Well, let’s go wreak some havoc.”
“With what?” I was skeptical. All I had left in my items was a Flare Stone and a Meteor Stone. Enough for one soldier. That’s it.
“I have a couple of Shell and Protect Stones left.” Xu took out the glittering spheres. “If we get enough people and compile all of our weak inventories, we’d kill those G-soldiers for sure.”
That actually sounded sensible. I quickly agreed and we made our way back into the buzzing crowd. We found Dr. Kadowaki and told her everything. The 10 something guards were all not paying attention. Their own stupidity.
Soon we had passed the word to everyone stuck there. We actually had a pretty impressive inventory when we had all laid our hidden items on the table, so to speak. We just needed a signal so everyone could throw their stuff at the soldiers in unison. That way before they could even draw their weapon, they’d be all down. It would also mean that after this, we’d really have nothing left. One chance. It’s worth it, though.
I chose to be the signal. I wanted to be it. They’re gonna pay for what they had done to me. To us.
“Hey, HEY!” I called to the nearest soldier.
He turned to me, annoyed. “What?”
“NOW!” I screamed at the top of my lungs.
After the haze cleared. The red and blue colored Galbadians were on the ground. All unconscious. We cheered. I jumped up and clapped my hands in joy. Then everyone found some soiled rope and tied all of them up. We searched them and came up with a bunch of remedies and elixirs. Good thing the soldiers kept themselves stocked.
I climbed on top of the oil ladder and checked the entrance. It was secured. To be sure, I double locked it using another soiled chain picked up from some debris. No one could get in.
Now we wait.
I raised my head and looked at the woman sharply. She simply smiled and met my gaze, undaunted. My breath hitched as another wave of pain washed over my torso. The electric charge zoomed through me, burning every inch of my blood vessels and muscles. I didn’t scream. My voice wore out an hour ago.
“Eighty-Five,” She counted in that liquid voice of hers. “Now, honey, please tell me you’re ready to answer.”
I just narrowed my eyes. This had been going on for two hours solid. I had passed out thrice, only to wake up with cold water dripping down my body, mixed with tinted blood. She asked me the same question over and over. I knew my answer. She knew my answer. She just didn’t give up. Carraway had been long absent. He had no patience.
Another pain jolted me out of the thoughts. She yanked me up by my wet hair, and was looking straight into my eyes. I blanked them. She frowned.
“ . . . .” Not even in your dreams.
She snarled. It looked so similar to Ultimecia’s, yet so different. “Fine. Pretty boy. I have all the time in the world. We’ll see who outlast whom. Lieutenant,” she turned to the blue guy with the whip, “he’s all yours. Oh, bring in your second in command, too.”
The guy grinned. “Yes m’am.” He called into his communicator and several seconds later, the door opened, and in came another soldier. He had several ropes and wires hung on his belt.
“Take him down. Tie his hands up, though.” The woman lazily ordered. The second soldiers dutifully obeyed. I felt my wrist loosen from the shackles that held them and my knees buckled under me. He caught me before I collapsed on the floor.
“Tell me when you had enough,” The woman said. I didn’t look up. “He’s yours.” She said once more to the lieutenant. Then, from her fading footsteps and the slam of the door, I was left alone in the room with the two soldiers.
My mind was so fuzzy then that it didn’t register on me what she meant with her command until a rough wrench jerked me upright. A hand clutched my jaw and soon a pair of greedy lips devoured my own. I gasped and my eyes widened. A hot tongue swept the inside of my mouth and pulled away quickly before I could bite down. Bitch.
The lieutenant leered and rubbed his hands. “You’re expecting another hour of whipping, huh? Well, expect something else, boy. And to be frank, I wanted to do that ever since I laid my eyes on you. Guess I didn’t serve Mistress for 10 years in vain.” His grin broadened. “But I do pity you. Why don’t you just tell her what she want and spare yourself of this thing, huh?”
I glared. He saw my expression and shrugged. The other guy behind me, who had my wrist tied tight enough to bleed, tore off the scantily clad shirt I had on. It wasn’t really a shirt anymore because the whip had rendered it pretty much to shreds. I felt his breath in my ear. It’s disgusting.
I started struggling. For the first time ever since this fix started, I admitted that I was scared. I thrashed with all my worth, but to no avail. The guy behind me had me in a death grip and he started to chew on my earlobe and play with my earring. At the same time, the lieutenant came up to me, and licked his way down my throat.
I wanted to throw up. I was on the verge of puking out my stomach.
“No . . .” I whispered. The reply I got was chuckles. Filthy.
The mouth on my neck moved downward, not before it left a bruise, and went to my left nipple. A lewd hand waved in front of my abdomen, then immediately grabbed my groin muscle and started messaging it.. I shuddered. The lieutenant bit down hard on my nipple, drawing blood. The other guy found a wound on my neck from the whip and ran his tongue along it. I felt his erection jabbing into my back.
I was breathing quite heavily by now. The mild pain radiating from my chest sent a warmth to my own erection. I cursed my body, for betraying me, and for satisfying these slimes. My head screamed as I closed my eyes.
Something warm slid down my cheek. It tasted salty. I bit my lip, not making a sound. My mind blanked out the messages my body had sent, and only saw one image. A pair of jade green eyes. Hard and caring at the same time.
Unreadable, fortified, to most people. But I could see through them as clear as bay. What lies underneath was . . .
The pressure between my legs suddenly stiffened. The hand stopped. The mouth stopped. So did the tongue. It took me a moment to feel what’s going on. I slowly opened my eyes.
And stared right into the barrel of Exeter.
Except it’s not pointing at me, but directly at the temple of the man bending over my chest. I moved my eyes up and saw none other than the ponytailed cowboy, with an amused expression and his usual grin, but there were some intangible hostility carved deep into it.
Relief rose from my heart, engulfing the pain. I smiled appreciatively at him, although I had no idea how did he get in here without making a sound or how did he get back in, period.
The lieutenant’s expression was on the verge of hyperventilation. Coward. “Irvine Kinneas,” He uttered.
Irvine cocked his head. “Recognize me, I see. Then I assume you also know the accuracy of my gun, and how near a point-blank range your head is to this gun. Get off of him.” His voice hardened.
The lieutenant obediently stood up and put his hands behind his head. I felt the other soldier move behind me, but he immediately froze when Irvine pulled out a second gun and crossed his left arm over to point it at his face. “Ah ah ah, you aren’t gonna move anywhere, neither.” He ordered. “Cut him loose and step out.”
The other soldier didn’t budge. Irvine turned to watch him. “Cut the ropes and step out. I can shoot you dead in a second; these are regular bullets. Now, come on.”
“How do I know you won’t after I do that?” His grip tightened around my wrists.
“You don’t. Either way I can free him. You rather be dead now or get a few more moments of breaths?”
Something in Irvine’s tone must’ve unnerved him, for, like the lieutenant, the soldier severed the ropes and stepped away from me obediently. I had to use all my strength to remain standing. Finally, I gave up and knelt on the floor, into the puddles of water and blood.
In a flash as quick as lightning, Irvine twirled both of his guns and fired them. It was surprisingly quiet, but the two G-soldiers fell down unconscious. He then threw an elixir at me, which I drank greedily. The surge of healing liquid coursed through my tissues and started mending. Strength returned.
So did hatred.
When I got up from the floor again, my vision naturally fell on the Lion Heart in the corner of the room. I didn’t know why they hadn’t confiscate it, perhaps to humiliate me more by showing that I couldn’t get my weapon and fight back even though it’s meters within reach. Their loss. I quickly walked to it and lifted the gunblade, feeling a familiar ring in my hands.
I turned to look at the two on the floor. “Are they dead?”
“No,” Irvine shook his head. “I used Dark Shots, the regular one’s too loud and might attract attention. They’re just sleeping.”
I walked calmly to the soldiers and stabbed my blade through both of their chests, one after the other. I made sure it cut the hearts in two and sliced open the backbones. When I was done, I caught the look Irvine gave me. Whatever. “They are now.”
“Um, Squall . . . “ He stopped what he was about to say when he saw my face. “Let’s get outta here.”
“Quistis’ running the back-up system?” I followed him to the hidden door where he had apparently emerged. It leaded to the elevator shaft.
“Yeah, once we get all of y’all outside. The students are all down in MD, it’s only the 10 of us. Quistis is probably getting the people in MD to lock the entrance and take out the guards. That’s the plan. Uh, where’s . . . ?”
“Second floor classrooms,” I replied. I knew that’s where they’re at. Where they dragged Zell and Seifer’s body to and where Selphie and the Junk Yard were imprisoned. They didn’t trust us enough to let us be put with the masses. And they’re right.
Irvine got in first. I didn’t know the shaft enough to navigate through it. We emerged in the hallway and were immediately greeted by swarms of G-soldiers.
Low-leveled ones. Or maybe not. I was too busy killing to care or notice. The bodies started to pile up from my left and right. I had only one destination.
Irvine was desperately trying to keep up with me. He had to load his gun and then shoot, which slowed him down, unlike my blade. It did take me some time to aim for my targets’ vital organs to fatally wound them, but that’s negligible.
“Squall! Squall! Hey!” Irvine, please be quiet. I ignored him and turned sharply. The classrooms were straight ahead. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw some blue soldier raised his hand. I instinctively shot him in the wrist, making him drop whatever he was holding. He howled while the familiar pink mist enveloped him.
I still didn’t know what that was, but it’s him, not me, who was surrounded in it. That’s all I care. I shot at him the second time, the bullet went through his left eye and angled to pierce his brain. Red and gray matter spilled on the floor as the soldier dropped. Whatever.
I dashed into the classroom next to the one where Junk Yard was at. A shot ran behind, Galbadian machine gun. I spun myself in circles and ducked behind the door frame. Irvine zoomed in after me, returning fires of his own. I quickly knocked open a small box by the doorway and typed in a code. The door slid shut, double guarded, and locked. Being Headmaster has its advantages.
I waited until my breathing slowed down before I turned to the room. I didn’t even realize my breathing was above normal frequencies until now. Irvine was sweaty and his face was beet red. He glanced toward the middle of the room casually, then gasped loud.
I didn’t make a sound. I expected it. I expected to see Seifer lying on the cold floor, unconscious, looking as dead as a white sheet. Dried blood caked the ground beneath him, covered a good meter in radius before splattered off. I expected to see Zell against a desk, head turned to one side, and mouth hanging open. A thin trickle of blood seeped out of Zell’s mouth and onto his shirt, dried as well. Neither one was breathing. I expected it.
“My God!” Irvine hadn’t.
I looked at him coolly. Then I reached inside the holster of my gunblade and retrieved an item. Irvine just stared back at me. He shook his head. “Squall, they’re dead.”
No, they’re not.
“Squall, I know you’re listening. They’re -“
He frowned. “Look, it’s -“
I turned away from him before he could finish. They’re not dead. At least he’s not dead. Irvine knew nothing. He didn’t understand the fact that he promised me. He promised.
I slammed the Phoenix Pinion onto the tile.
A bright flame ignited around the space surrounding the feather, enveloping Squall’s lean frame as the fire bolted. Squall vanished as the Phoenix rose from the blaze, burning with color. The temperature had increased tremendously in the small room. I backed away slightly, avoiding being burned. The Phoenix screeched as a curtain of gold wrapped around the two perfectly still bodies. The fire cleansed the blood and made their skin appeared golden. The phoenix turned, risen from the ashes, and flew through the ceiling of the room, disappearing. I saw Squall’s form solidified once more. His expression was unreadable.
Actually, Squall’s expression had been gone for the past however many minutes after I emerged from the elevator. I know he’s not much of a talker, especially when battle’s involved, but now he’s just downright mute. Mute to the point of rude. I couldn’t feel him anymore. It’s like he just blocked off the thing he called a heart and used his head solely.
And his eyes were so blank it’s scary.
I shook the thoughts away when I saw Zell stirred. I ran to him and lifted his form up gingerly, afraid to break or dislodge anything in the process. Zell groaned and opened his eyes.
“Ugh, my neck hurts.”
“Can you move it at all?” I inquired as my hands retrieved a high potion. Zell cranked his neck slowly and it cracked.
“Owowowowowowow!” He immediately yelled. Well, that settled it. I gave him the high potion and started to tear off a piece from my shirt.
“What are you doing?” Zell asked between gulps.
“Wrap your neck up so you can move without moving your neck, duh.” I grinned slightly. “Uh, you do know that we’re still in the war and there are Galbadian soldiers everywhere whom we have to fight and we really need to get out soon, right?”
“We WHAT?” He immediately sat up, cringing in pain as he did this, and looked at his surroundings. “No way! We’re STILL here?!”
“Yeah, Zell, where’ve you been?” I snickered and wrapped the cloths around his neck.
“Unconscious with a broken neck, thank you.”
“If it’s really broken, you’d still be dead.”
I shook my head slightly. I looked over at Seifer and saw he was wide awake already. Squall was bandaging his torso.
But that’s all he’s doing. I mean, I expected them to be kissing and asking things that a couple should ask when one just came back from near death. Well, they should be at least talking. But Squall was just concentrating on the cloth and not even looking up.
I looked at Seifer. He was as confused as I was. He kept on opening his mouth to say something but nothing came out. Finally he just gave up and waited until Squall finished securing the piece of material taken from his own shirt, for Squall himself has nothing left to tear from. Then he lifted up Squall’s chin to make him look at him. Their eyes met.
“Whoa, creepy,” Zell commented to me. I shushed him.
Seifer frowned and looked slightly taken aback. What? Squall calmly stood up and stepped away. He offered his hand to Seifer, who still stared with knitted brows. Just then, a loud bang ran from the direction of the door.
I jumped up immediately and aimed my gun toward that direction. The double doors were forced open, probably with some override code Carraway figured out, and soldiers blocked the way. Time to cut down some more garbage.
Zell hopped with me and instantly hammered some unsuspecting soldier on the head. I noticed he still had his fighting gloves on. They didn’t disarm him? Come to think of it, they didn’t disarm any of the people they considered a major threat. Seifer’s Hyperion was lying right by the chair on the other side of the desk. Can you say stupid?
Squall started killing mercilessly again with his previous tact. I protected Seifer’s back, because he really couldn’t move that easily with that gash on his stomach and the loss of blood. He kept his eyes on Squall the entire time. In the puzzled gaze there were flashes of pain.
I shot one soldier after another, but they seemed to gain in numbers. We’re trapped in one room while they’re all outside, not really good for us. I was just pondering on how to break out the door when I heard a cranking from the back.
“Look out!!!” Someone shrieked from the other side of the swarm.
A wave of something silvery white plummeted down on all four of us. It came from behind the blue and red soldiers, probably from an arrow launcher. I knew the device from my training in G-Garden. I rolled on the floor and covered my head with my coat. Several sharp points lodged in my arms. Ouch.
“Squall!!!” Seifer’s voice.
I looked up and saw just in time that an arrow shot through Squall’s torso from his back. The force was so great that it sent him arching forward and crumbled to his knees. He braced himself with his hands, nails digging into the floor. The arrow struck somewhere between his last two sets of ribs. I heard him gasp in pain, but not once let his vocal cord slip.
Another deep scar to add to his battle-infused body.
On the Galbadian side, commotion broke out from their backside. I heard yells and cries and weapons being weld against each other. Soon the blue and reds thinned out and Quistis’ and Selphie’s figures emerged. Each armed and blood-soaked.
“Zell!!! Seifer!!! My God you aren’t dead!!!” Selphie shrieked and rammed into Zell and hugged him tight. Zell was trying to pry her off because he was kinda in pain. I smiled and winked at Quistis, who started to smile but it faltered when she saw Squall.
Seifer was by him, trying to help him up. Squall violently pushed him away, then grabbed the arrow by the feather, and yanked it out his body. Raw. Dark red splattered with a projectile motion following an arc, and stained the wall.
He nearly tripped when he stood up. Blood flowed down his bare torso and he ignored it plainly. He wiped the blood from his mouth and looked at us.
We all stared at him.
And those dark flat eyes. I shuddered. I had never seen Squall like this. Even before Ultimecia, when he was cold as heck, his eyes weren’t this icy. This . . . crazy. They at least carried some emotions when he and I went to assassinate Matron. Encouragement of some kind. Now it’s just, nothing.
“We need to shut down this place,” Squall spoke. I physically jumped, so did almost everyone in the room save Seifer.
“What?” Zell found his voice.
“We need to shut this place down. Now the Galbadians are in control. They’re using all the Garden’s power against the Estharians. We shut off main power, the whole place is pitch black. Good for our cover if we’re going to carry out the back-up plan, Instructor. We need to split up. One team for the switch, one to give them cover so the soldiers won’t realize what we’re doing. Then we split around the Parking Lot and one head for the Dormitory and the other the Training Center.”
“What back-up plan?” Zell asked. Oh yeah, he didn’t know.
“No time to explain now,” I told him. “You just worry about getting outside.”
“Outside? No way, man, this place is like a metal box!”
“Jump off the Secret Area’s balcony, stupid,” Seifer snickered. “The switch is right by the door of the Secret Area anyway.”
“Hey, how did you know this?” Selphie tilted her head.
Seifer raised an eyebrow. “Please. I know a lot of things about this Garden.”
“There’s no more soldiers, odd,” Quistis gazed at the doorway.
“That’s because my friends are holding them off.” Selphie smiled. She then looked sincerely at Quistis and said, “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry about . . . that.”
“Oh, don’t worry, it’s okay,” Quistis waved her hand in dismissal.
It’s okay? No it wasn’t. Not to me. But I didn’t say anything. Now was not the time. I turned to Squall, “So who’s on what team?”
“Selphie, you and the Junk Yard can go to the Training Center. Seifer, you go with them.” Whoa, what’s he doing?
“I’m not leaving you,” Seifer said quietly.
Squall gave him a look. “It’s an order, Seifer.”
“I don’t care. I’m not leaving you.”
“How about I go with Selphie,” Zell suggested, “and y’all four go on that back-up plan thing? I mean, I take it that y’all know the way better than the rest of us do.”
“Sounds good to me,” I quickly agreed.
“Yeah,” Quistis said after me. We left no room for Squall to argue. He scowled but didn’t say anything more.
“Well, let’s go, come on!” Selphie bounced around and out the door. She could still remain cheerful after all this? Okay.
Seifer gave me a look that questioned “what is wrong with Squall?” I shrugged. I didn’t know.
I didn’t. I really . . . oh hell.
I stopped fooling myself. I know exactly what’s wrong with Squall. No shit, I was there! Damn those two Galbadian sonofaguns who lay cold upstairs. I just didn’t expect it to turn so bad that he had completely shut off his emotions to protect himself. Protect his brain from breaking down because he knew, we all knew, that a breakdown during a time like this is disastrous. But . . .
But I really doubt he can last through this mess acting like that. He needed someone who can help him through this, and he’s ruthlessly pushing that someone away. I couldn’t help him. Quistis couldn’t help him. He needed Seifer. And what he’s doing right now was killing Seifer all over again. And then maybe kill himself in the process.
I sighed. I couldn’t tell Seifer anything since it really wasn’t my place. My eyes traveled aimlessly onto the shiny linoleum. The arrow that Squall pulled out lay there, headless.
I cringed. Geez Louize Selphie! Her yell not only got those Trabia people’s attention, but several dozen G-soldiers flocked at us, too. Another nasty fight at hand. Man.
And my neck still hurts like hell!
So I gulped down another Hi-Potion that Selphie stuffed into my hand. No choice but to throw myself at those ruthless machines of a person. They were so trained out of their humanity it’s hard to label them as people anymore. Anger suddenly flared inside me.
I didn’t know what they did to Squall, but it was bad. Really bad or he wouldn’t revert back to the soulless iceberg he was two years ago. Yeah, I noticed. Know what I honestly think? Somebody just need to knock him on the head really hard and it’ll all be okay again. It worked on several occasions before.
But right now I ain’t got no time. I got two crazy machine guns shooting at me from two different directions. And I couldn’t run or turn quickly because my neck was killin’ me! So I just decide to screw all that and ducked and jumped on one soldier. Then I started beating on him.
The other one yelped and fell behind me. I knocked the soldier I was on unconscious and saw that Selphie’s nunchaku left the other one’s skull open. I flashed her a smile before running off and selecting another target.
“Come, this way!” Quistis’ voice yelled from ahead. She and her group had cleared a path ahead. These soldiers were idiotic. Or seemed to be. Something’s not right. You think among all these people there should be at least ten or twenty really good ones. Where’s those weird stones they were throwing at me earlier? Maybe they’re just . . .
What was that?
“Eeeekkkk!!!!!” Somebody shrieked. I think it’s Jamaica, who’s so ahead that I lost sight of her. I threw the soldier I was beating on off to the wall and ran to catch up. I screeched at the corner, almost ran into Jeep, who just stood there with that long-handled knife in his hand and stared. I looked up.
“Friggin’ Hell?!” I exclaimed.
It was a huge . . . thing. It looked machine-made, but it got that surreal feel, like Alexander. GF? I thought the veil didn’t allow GF summoning. It sure didn’t look like a GF. Looked like an overblown proportioned Shumi, with a big long tail.
And a steel stinger. Whoa.
“What in the fucking mind is that?!” Seifer cursed. We were all pretty much blocked off our course. Seifer raised Hyperion and shot at the creature’s head. Aimed perfectly, but the single brown eye saw the bullet and breathed. Yeah, breathed. And something invisible blocked the shot, melted the bullet into a liquid and it vanished.
“Take it that’s their Ace,” Irvine muttered. “I knew those too easy battles mean something. Now what do we do?”
“We fight it,” Squall stated. Man, snap out of it!! I grunted and tried to draw something. Then I remembered the veil and almost stopped when a cold chill went inside me. Curaga.
I just drew. I just DREW? Whoa. The veil’s lifted?!
The others must’ve saw me taking in the magic. “Did, did you just draw?” Quistis asked in a bewildered voice.
“Yeah, baby!” I quickly casted the Curaga on my neck. Much better. Yes!!!
Squall didn’t waste any time. He immediately turned around and started to summon Cerberus. I was prepared to get out Shiva. Then the creature waved its huge hand in a drawing motion toward Squall.
A loud whooshing sound followed. Something bright came out of Squall’s body and vanished toward the creature’s open mouth. Squall tensed then shook violently. Cerberus didn’t appear. Wait, that stupid thing had absorbed Cerberus? Damn!! I halted before my summoning was complete. I couldn’t risk losing Shiva.
So we can get GFs but we can’t use them. What good does that do?!
“Don’t even try. They don’t work.” A voice came from the top of the creature. I recognized it to be Gen. Carraway’s. “You think I lifted the veil to your advantage? Think again. X can eat your GFs up easily. Even when you’re not summoning. Like this.” He gestured and the creature bellowed. A huge net of colorful air flashed on top of us. Okay, I needed to get out of that thing if I want to keep my stuff!
“WATCH OUT!!!!” Somebody shrieked again and I saw the tail flung up. It connected with Jen’s head and slammed her against a wall. She stopped moving. Selphie tried to run toward her, but I dragged her down just as the tail swept again and knocked Irvine off his feet. The net that I was so intended on jumping away from landed on me and I felt my GF’s being ripped straight out of my brain. Damn, that hurt! NOOOO!!!!
The exact same thing was happening to the others. The creature breathed again. This time shards of molten glass flew out, hardening in the cold air in a fluid motion. Seifer dragged Squall away from the horde, but Squal immediately shook off his hand and rolled away. I’m telling ya, that kid’s gone insane. He’s trying to avoid all help. That ain’t healthy during a battle, no sir! During all this the tail swung once more and wrapped itself around Seifer, and squeezed so hard I swear I heard ribs crack. Seifer screamed.
“NO!” Quistis started to use her Blue Magic, which, thank GOD, still worked since it’s Limit Break. Selphie got up from under me, and along with the help from Jocifer, attacked the tail so it loosened and recoiled. Seifer fell on the ground, coughing up more blood. The tail had lashed open his stomach again. Quistis threw a Hi-Potion in his direction.
This is crap. This is so fucked up! We had absolutely no junction whatsoever and we’re fighting this high tech GF and those pesky soldiers were still here!
The tail’s stinger opened suddenly and streams of putrid acid shot out into us. It caught Jeep directly on his leg, he yelled in pain as an angry hiss ate away his clothing along with flesh. I covered my head and rolled away to the side of the fountain. It missed me.
It didn’t miss Quistis.
I opened my eyes and saw her crouched in a corner, acid all over her arms. Jocifer was trying to pour Elixir on her while Jamaica finally woke Jen up. The beast roared and those shards flew out again, this time to a larger area. I jumped backwards, managed a somersault and landed on my feet. I was a pretty good distance away from everything by then. It seemed that the GF couldn’t move from one spot easily and its target range wasn’t exactly huge.
Everyone else was not so lucky. One extremely large piece of glass slashed the skin of Squall’s bare back open, as if he hadn’t had enough scars already. The creature waved its hand, casting something on Squall. I saw the muscles on his back became wire tight and the red blood turned tar black. He fell on his knees, struggled to stand up, then vomited. Poison.
DAMN IT! DAMN THEM! DAMN IT ALL!
I etched away from the huge mess of blood and sweat and poison. Don’t call me chicken! I wasn’t scared. No friggin’ way. When have you ever seen Zell Dincht run from battle? It’s just . . .
It’s just that . . . if I don’t do something different from these tough-against-tough kind of tactics, we ain’t gonna make it. At least Squall ain’t. We have nothing but our bare hands and some flimsy weapons. And we’re fighting against an almost invincible, magic-casting, poison-spitting, son-of-a-gun-controlled Mega GF. We’re all gonna die!
Now if only I could make it to the Training Center and shut off the main power. It’d be at least dark and then we could all hide. Or escape. That’s our objective, wasn’t it? To escape? The back-up plan should take care of the rest, whatever that’s supposed to be. Power shut-down could buy us time, buy us cover, buy us our lives.
The creature was immobile in front of the curve of the Cafeteria. This Garden runs in a circle, so if I run the other way I should be able to go to the Training Center from the other side. The only problem was all those G-soldiers littering in the hallway. Well, I got my fists and I was relatively unhurt, so let them come and eat dust!
Carraway seemed to be too focused on what’s in front of him to notice my gradual retreat. Perfect. I slipped quietly along the curve of the fountain, not jumping in the water because it would make a loud splash and I couldn’t use my fists while swimming. I made my way past the Quad, then broke into a furious run.
Time was something I didn’t have. Any minute now Carraway could easily kill all of them with one tap of his hand. Then everything would be futile.
Patches of G-soldier appeared ahead. OK, Dincht, your move.
“Hey, catch him!” Aha, jerks. Just you try.
I knocked my Erhgeiz left and right, connecting with their helmets but nevertheless got ‘em down. Between my somersaults, flips, and kicks, I managed to run to the Directory with relative ease. The soldiers weren’t circling at me like I thought. Great.
Here’s the Library. Up ahead should be the Training Center. Come on Dincht! Now I felt like I did when I was running toward Balamb to get to Ma. Why do I always have the running job? And every time it’s someone’s life at stake.
I zoomed past more blotches of G-soldiers, who’s very eager on chasing me and shooting at me, but I didn’t stop. Augh! A bullet lodged in my left shoulderblade. Screw that!
I dashed in the Training Center’s hall. The lush greens filled my views. There was no one here. Huh. Why not?
Pause for a second. Sit down. Take out my last Elixir that I’d been saving for some moment like this and pour it on the wound. The bullet needs to be taken care of after I get out. Afterwards, not now.
Get up. I started running again, to the Secret Area. Then I heard a rustle, and saw something big and red emerged from the bushes.
T-Rexaur! Oh, no. Oh, crap!
That must’ve been the reason why there were no scouts. Okay, time to hide somewhere. I had a job to do, and I couldn’t become Rex meat before it’s done. And I couldn’t fight the Rex; I’d be so dead.
I ducked and rolled into a thick bush. The T-Rexaur roared, sniffed around, and thumped its way toward me. I looked out and saw the door to the Secret Area wide open. And right beside it . . . was the fuse box.
The T-Rex just circled in front of me and kept on sniffing. I think it got my scent, but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. And it wasn’t plannin’ to leave soon.
No good. No good at all. I scratched my head. Distractions. Distractions. Um . . . yo! A rock!
I picked up the rock and heaved it heavily at the beast. It hit it squarely on the nose. Man, I’m good. The T-Rex roared and headed straight toward my direction. I quickly rolled around the shrubs until I saw a huge pair of feet crushing past me, into the thickets and continued to move further.
I jumped up in the air, ouch, shoulder and neck hurts. Ah, hell. Quickly I made my way to the fuse box and yanked it open. I grabbed the mess of wires and pulled all of them off the wall.
“This is your last chance, Leonhart, where is it?”
General Carraway’s voice traveled from the top of the big monster thingy down to us. I winced at Squall, who was directly under the monster’s tail. The stinger was pointed at his throat.
He’s asking Squall that “it” again. I still didn’t know what they’re talking about. I was very close to finding out if the radio had been kept on during the entire time that lady and General were in Squall’s office. All I knew was that the lady stopped whipping Squall and gave her lieutenant some instructions, then Quistis crashed in our captive room and got all of us out. Some soldiers shot the radio when they’re trying to stop her, so I missed everything after that. We were thinking about going upstairs and rescue everyone until we saw Irvine and Squall dashed in a classroom further down the hall. So we all changed course and met there.
And now we’re here.
Blocked off our way. All beat up but nowhere near defeated. No, I won’t allow it! We could still fight!
Squall kept quiet. I looked around and noticed that it got superquiet around here. Irvine was bandaging Quistis’ wound from the acid spit; both of their eyes were fixed on Squall. So was Seifer’s. His eyes looked weird, though; they had been like that ever since I saw him. Mai was damping Jen’s forehead and wiping away drippy blood. Matt was grumbling while taking care of his wrist; I think he broke it. And I was peeling part of Steve’s acid-eaten pants off so I could actually try to clean the wound, then use the last Elixir I had on him. He needed it more than I did. And Zell . . .
Hey, where did he go?
“No?” General Carraway asked again.
Squall was trying hard to stay conscious. His skin looked absolutely blue and from every breath he took it looked like he was in pain. Poor baby! “You’re going to have to kill me and ask me in Hades.” He replied.
Seifer must’ve noticed how extremely strained Squall’s voice was. He started to crawl to him, but stopped when the tail moved closer to Squall’s slender throat as a warning. Bad tail. Hmm, I needed to get rid of it. I needed to throw something. Throw, throw, throw . . ..
“Is that the case? Well then, you leave me no choice,” General Carraway shrugged nonchalantly. “If I can’t have the Energy Orb, then no one else will. Simple as that.”
Energy Orb? That’s what they’re talking about. I figured it out now! Yeah!
What’s an Energy Orb?
The tail suddenly coiled back up and the monster hissed. Seifer took that moment to dove next to Squall, whose eyes shut closed and he collapsed. Seifer caught him, leaving a trail of red on the floor behind.
No no no no! They’re going to get killed! I wanted to jump up and do my Limit Break and everything, but I felt myself glued from tiredness. I can’t get tired! Not now!!
“God have mercy, God have mercy.” Mai mumbled as she and Jen came near me and Steve. “Let it be painless and quick. But please no dying. No dying yet . . .”
“Augh, shut up,” Jen growled at her. “Take it like a girl!”
The monster hissed angrily again and took a huge breath. If the previous breaths were little and still wrecked us to this state, this one’s humongous. Oh Lord, here we go. We’re so going to die. I wasn’t ready to die yet. I wasn’t ready. We shouldn’t. I mean . . .
Buzzzzzzzzz. Crackle. Pop.
Heeeeyyyyyyyy! Why did all the lights go out? It’s dark.
I couldn’t see anything. Pitch black is no fun.
The monster suddenly stopped hissing and roared. But it didn’t attack. Wait, maybe it requires light to attack. Yeah, because it had to focus on one target and then concentrate all its energy to that target, that’s how come it could do so much damage to us in the first place. So if there’s no visual it pretty much couldn’t do anything.
Brilliant plan! Who turned off the main power? Waitasecond, isn’t main power’s box somewhere in the Training Center? Everyone’s here, except . . ..
Zell! My Zelly, of course! He must’ve snuck away and shut off the power like Squall requested. I clapped once, then stopped when the monster roared again.
Okay, monster still here. But it couldn’t see us. And we’re in no condition to run and stab it or something like that because we couldn’t see well and I really didn’t think anyone had the energy left. So wouldn’t it be wise if we -
I didn’t know who yelled that, but my body obeyed as soon as the message reached my head. I hopped up, bumped right into someone, and grabbed that person’s wrist and started to run.
“Hey, where’re we going?” It’s Mai.
I was about to say “I don’t know” when General Carraway’s voice cut in again.
“Don’t let them get away! Attack!”
Shuffles. Movements. Sounds of glass striking the floor.
Glass striking the floor? Glass . . . Yikes!! The monster’s just shooting off random destructions now? Move, move!
“Uh, Selph, which way?”
Good question. Uh, we’re trying to get outside. Training Center leads to outside. To get to Training Center we needed to go past the monster, which was blocking the entire passageway. So by hallway we couldn’t go forward. Backwards was way too long and I didn’t trust anyone fighting in darkness against hoards of Galbadians. What’s this ledge that my hands’ rested on?
Fountain side! Water fountain!! Circling water fountain!!!
“This way!” I said to Mai, quietly. Then I flipped over the edge and slipped in the water. She followed soundlessly.
Poo poo poo, uh-oh, stuff’s falling in the water with us. It’s behind us. And moving.
“Mai, swim as fast as you can!” I murmured to her. Then I started to swim like crazy. The water’s not that deep, but it’s manageable for swimming.
Ouch! Something grazed my left arm and the water stun my skin now. Faster faster!
“Ow!” Mai choked on some water. She’s not that far back. Good.
Uh, where’s Jen and Matt and Steve? I figured Seifer and the rest had gone to carry out that other plan they told us. But we Trabia Garden students all needed to get to the Training Center. Here’s Mai. How did they get past the monster? Where is the monster?
I didn’t like this total darkness idea too much now.
Splash splash splash. Huh? That’s not me or Mai. “Who’s down here?” I hissed back.
“It’s the rest of us!” Mai exclaimed. A little too loudly. More roar from the big bad beastie. I heard Jen shush her from behind.
So we’re all swimming furiously now? You know, if I wasn’t scared out of my wits for fear of my short life being cut even shorter, the whole situation was pretty funny. Swimming in the Garden fountain was unheard of. Unless you count . . . uh, no.
“Um, Selph?” Mai again. “Where’s the Training Center?”
“Right after the dorms!” I replied.
“No, I mean, where do we stop?”
“HEY, YOU PEOPLE! THIS WAY!”
It’s Zell’s voice. Yeah! I immediately stopped, causing Mai to bump into me. I jumped over the ledge and raced toward the sound. I vaguely saw a door connected with a hallway, glowing green. Training Center!
And gunfire and more glass shards. Need to move faster still! My legs’ tired.
“Wait up! Where are y’all?” Steve hollered from behind, which only invited more gunfire and more roaring. The monster thingy hadn’t move, though. It couldn’t move?
“Right here!” Mai called back. Wet floppy sound grazed the floor. We’re all soaked to the bone. Water’s cold.
We all smashed into the Training Center’s lush hallway. All were stumbling and pretty much out of breath. I looked back and saw Mai had slowed down next to Steve and helping him along, because he was limping pretty bad. Jen’s head was bleeding again. Matt’s arm was awkward looking; left wrist definitely broken. My own feet were killing me, especially my ankles. We’re a nice lot.
Oof, I stumbled as my feet gave out under me. Yikes, hard linoleum incoming.
But instead, I landed right into Zell’s arms. It was like a big human cushion and it felt very . . . nice. I looked up and saw him smiling. “You okay?” He asked.
I nodded. “Uh-huh.” I then looked back at my friends. They were all right behind me. I turned back to Zell. “Let’s go.”
“Yeah, let’s seriously get out of here. I’m discovering that I certainly am allergic to Balamb, in all senses.” Jen huffed.
“Hey, be nice,” Mai told her. “But you’re right in way, we need to seriously get out.”
“Well, come on, it’s right ahead.” Zell gestured further into the jungle. We all followed him closely toward the Secret Area. Whee, I’m getting out!
We zoomed past the vegetation, straight to the SA. Zell pushed open the grey door and the humid night air greeted us full blast. It felt soooooo great! I took in a deep breath. Being cooped up in one building for a whole day is like living without sunshine. The sun had just sunk below the horizon. Pretty!
“Yes!!! Freedom!!!” Mai exclaimed loudly.
“It’s . . . a balcony. So how do we do this?” Jen questioned. “We jump?”
I looked at her. Yeah, of course. Jump. It’s not that high off the ground. The Garden wasn’t flying.
“Let me make one small suggestion, though,” Steve looked down from the ledge. “We should partner up. We’re all in bad shape, and this jump is kinda high. Just in case, you know, Imp.”
“Imp?” Zell frowned.
“Like, you never know when they’ll pop up and if they do, they’re quite deadly.” Mai translated. “I agree. So you’re my honored partner, Jee.”
Steve beamed. Aha, I knew there’s something going on with those two! Tee-hee.
A hand closed on mine. Zell. He dragged me up the ledge and we looked down at the ground. Once we jump down, the Esthar soldiers were just a few meters away from the parameter. We could definitely hold off those patrolling Galbadians far enough to be greeted by friends.
“Ready?” Zell asked.
“As I’ll ever be.” I replied.
He grinned and leaned over, placed a light kiss on my temple, and hopped off the ledge. I felt myself being tugged, and gladly followed down.
I stumbled into the dark halls, feeling my way with my hands tightly around the curve of the walls. I knew the Dormitory was ahead. Room number, what was it? 148. That’s right. It should be somewhere further to the left . . .
A rapid succession of gunfire forced me to stop wandering and clung to the surface. Bullets grazed past me, missing by millimeters. I etched forward, only to feel a deep pain invaded my left arm. Oh!
Someone grabbed my wrist from behind and yanked me suddenly into an open doorway. Open? Before I could protest, I was already in the room and lying on the floor. He landed on top of me and whispered in my ear, “Boo!”
Ugh, I groaned. Irvine. “Get off me. You scared the living daylights out of me!”
He chuckled. “I yelled ‘run’, dear, not ‘run toward the gunfire which can promptly kill you.’ “
“Oh, shut up.”
We both jumped and Irvine flew off at the sound of that interruption. I heard him fumbling with something and a second later, a faint light glowered in the room. The flashlight beam landed on Seifer’s blood-soaked form, with a still unconscious Squall beside him.
“I knew there’s a reason that door’s open,” Irvine grumbled. “Isn’t this a nice big coincidence?”
“Nice thought, Kinneas, I left it accessible for you.” Seifer smirked and got up. He walked to the door, punched in a few numbers, then the door clicked. Ah, Squall’s bypass code to everything. It suddenly occurred to me that Seifer knew more than anyone, save Squall, about the Garden.
The idea was . . . comforting. I almost smiled, until I realized what I was doing and stopped myself midway. Now was not a time to be pleased about.
“Girl, your arm’s still bleeding,” Irvine informed me quietly.
Oh, well, that could be taken care of easily. Once I find some light, that is. “Can we have more light?”
“No, the Galbadians would -“
Irvine gazed at Seifer questioningly. “Um, isn’t the power totally gone?”
“We have a very sufficient back-up system, which the Galbadian bastards will never find.” Seifer smirked again. “You just have to know the code to use it.”
At that, he walked to the code box again and typed in something else. Immediately, a faint but very satisfactory light came on in the room. The brightness disturbed Squall, who woke up and rubbed his eyes.
I looked around the room now. It was a regular double dorm room, belonged to two male students, apparently. I took off the jacket I wore, exposing the layered bandages on my chest. I dumped all my items on the floor. Time for some doctor business. We all to patch up before venturing further into our mission.
“What’re you doing?” Seifer came and crawled next to me. More like dropped, he was tired. That and there was a huge gash in the middle of his torso. The blood had already clotted.
“Playing doctor, what do you think she’s doing?” Irvine dumped all his remaining items on top of my pile, along with the bandages he brought. I was very glad that he brought enough gauzes and things. “Yours, too.” He said to Seifer.
We had more items left than I had thought. At least for now. I removed a small scalpel and a tweezer from my belt, then proceeded to take out the bullet that lodged in my left arm. It wasn’t deep, so I got hold of it quite easily and started to remove it. The pain was bearable, but I still received astonished looks from the men in the room. It’s kind of funny that they’re this squirmish.
“Do you always do things this way?” Seifer asked.
“Of course, I’m the doctor’s assistant.” I shrugged as I put the bullet on the floor. “I’m used to this.”
I looked around for an elixir, but Irvine took my arm in his hands. He poured the elixir fluidly on my wound. The pain disappeared and my skin closed, leaving nothing on the skin but a bluish bruise. I smiled and kissed him on his nose. He moved and captured my mouth with his own. I was lost in the kiss for a minute before I remembered how wrong the timing was. I pulled back, still smiling, and started to gather up some items.
“Take care of Seifer. I’ll care for Squall.” I instructed Irvine.
He raises his eyebrows. “Why should I shoulder the responsibility for this dimwit?”
“Don’t value yourself so high, cowboy, it’s not like I’m whooping with joy.” Seifer frowned.
“Because,” I cut in before their insults start again, “Squall’s case is more severe. Plus, judging from you two’s bickering, you’re both fine.”
Seifer scoffed. Irvine smiled a little; he understood me. My big sister attitude for Squall made me deteremined to find out what was wrong. He hadn’t spoken this entire time, probably not even in his own head like he usually does. That itself spelled trouble. I inched next to him and dropped the items by his feet.
“Here,” I handed him a Remedy. “Drink this. You look terrible.”
“I feel like shit,” he retorted, snatchinging the bottle from me and downed it in one gulp. The black tint on his torso lightened and faded into normal skin color. Detoxified. That’s taken care off. Good.
“Lie on your stomach,” I told him.
Squall looked at me and raised one eyebrow. I swear, if I hadn’t know that he’s gay and in love with someone else, and I wasn’t in love with someone myself, and if the circumstances were different, that expression could be misinterpreted into a sign of seduction.
His eyes, however, were still blank, like empty glass. I sighed at that thought. “Lie on your stomach and let me get the arrowhead out.”
This time he looked surprised, “You saw that?”
“No,” I told him truthfully, “Irvine told me.”
He nodded slightly, then complied. I winced when I saw the numerous scars on his body, and the dried blood around the hole where the arrowhead had sunk. I took my scalpel and chipped away the blood clot, which cause fresh blood to again start flowing. That couldn’t be helped. I then took my tweezer and was prepared to use the same method to retrieve the arrowhead as I did to the bullet.
Except this time, when the metal sunk into the wound, Squall audibly gasped out loud. His whole body tensed. Knowing Squall, that pain must’ve been severe. But it shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t be any more painful than what I had gone through, which really wasn’t much despite what my ignorant companion’s reactions were.
“Fuck!” Irvine suddenly exclaimed. I paused and immediately withdrew my tweezer. “I should’ve suspected it! I should’ve!”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Seifer frowned. He was half bandaged up and holding a bottle of Potion for Irvine’s arm. It’s evident he heard Squall’s gasp, even though we’re on the opposite end of the room, and was as concerned about it as I was.
“It’s Anaconda. The arrows they shot at us are Model 7T1 Anaconda, Series F.” Irvine’s eyes met mine. “Once struck, the head stays in no matter how you pull the arrow. The head then connects with the central nervous system, drain the host’s life essence. That’s why when launched it was aimed directly toward the spine. In this case, thank gracious, the arrow missed it by several centimeters. But, any attempt to remove it would tug at the nerve cord and cause tremendous pain; purposely designed that way. Quistis, you need some anesthetics. You really do.”
Which we did not have any access to. “Irvine, you know there’s no way I could -“
“Just get it out.”
Squall’s flat voice sent chillbumps down my body. He sounded as if it’s the most boring topic in the world. He was not just ignoring his bodie’s signals, he was downright abusing it. He wanted to feel pain. Why? Why??
My heart wrenched. I love him like a brother, and he was as close to family as I could get. Now he’s destroying himself. What was he trying to prove? That he is stronger than what the world had done to him? What had the world done to him?
My mistake, what had happened in the so-called interrogation room? I knew Carraway chained him in there and asked him for the Energy Orb. But in what way, I did not have a clue. Irvine, should. I shook my head and took a deep breath. I am a doctor. I had a duty to fill at that moment. No pondering emotional causes and effects. The physical needed to be healed first.
“Come on, we don’t have all night,” Squall frowned at me. All right, all right.
I blotted everything away from my mind except my goal - to get the arrowhead out. I reinserted the tweezer into the open wound, deep. I was well aware the tremor that passed through Squall’s body. I ignored it. What else could I do?
My tweezer’s tip touched something hard. The tissue and bones didn’t feel that way. Another solid grip confirmed my guess. The arrowhead seemed to have a life of its own, though, for it planted firm and would not move. I fused my eyebrows together, tightly pressed the two pieces of metal against the escaping triangle. Slowly I withdrew my hand, hearing the gurgling sound of tissue depart, seeing the sudden surges of blood spraying on the floor, feeling the raw disgusting pain that’s tearing up my own heart, and ignoring all of them.
Ignoring the apprehension that this was hurting Squall like ripping a nerve cord straight out of his spine. Ignoring the fact he was breathing, no, wheezing because of that pain. Ignoring the fact that he was still silent, as if he wanted to hold all the sensation inside. And his shiny back from the cold slick sweat. And the blood dripping from his mouth, onto the floor in front of him.
Ignore it. You’re a doctor. You need to. You have to.
I finally tore the stubborn piece of intrusion away from the flesh and dropped it on the floor. Blinking away the stray tears, I opened an elixir and poured it on Squall’s back. I gently turned him around and pulled him into a sitting position. His hair was plastered on his forehead from sweat. I wiped away some wetness with a bandaging cloth. Then I looked at his face. Any relief that came from the removal of the arrowhead vanished without a trace.
I realized I couldn’t do it anymore. No, that was not the reason I turned away, it was because I couldn’t stand the absolute nothingness in his eyes. I couldn’t stand it! I offered the roll of bandages to Seifer from across the room. “Here, I . . . I . . . just take this.”
I practically ran toward Irvine’s side after Seifer got the roll. I was nauseated, I was frightened, I was confused. Irvine wrapped me in a hug and whispered comforting words in my ear. Why was I so taken aback? Something in Squall’s eyes, lacking in them. I was being totally obsessed with his dead look. It haunted me.
A word perked in my ear when Irvine said it. I pulled back and stared at him. Say that one more time.
He repeated it. So softly that only I could hear it. I think he intentionally did not want Seifer to know.
It was not his place to tell him.
It was Squall’s.
Or Seifer’s own mind’s.
We could do nothing but wait. And watch. As Seifer approached Squall, who didn’t even acknowledge his presence, not even when Seifer started to wrap the bandages around him.
I understood then.
I disentangled myself from Irvine. The cold wall on my back as I watched from our corner.
We needed Squall back.
And only Seifer could do it.
“What the fuck is your problem?!”
I exclaimed as he pushed me away. I finished half of what I was bandaging, but he ripped the cloth off when I was going above his stomach. He would not let me go anywhere near his upper portion. What the fuck!!
He didn’t answer. That’s a surprise. I grabbed his arm so he faced me, and said again. “Squall! What’s wrong, besides the obvious?”
“Why do you care?” He scoffed.
Why do I care? Why do I care? Ha, what kind of fucked up question is that? “You . . .” I was speechless for once. Okay, he needed to snap out of it. Now.
He’s been like this ever since I came back from the dead. There was this . . . mechanical feel to every single thing he had done to me after that. The bandaging. The protecting. The ordering. All fucking monotonous routines. And it’s driving me crazy!
Something’s missing here. Something I’m missing. Some minor detail that you just skim over because it blends well with the surroundings but nevertheless is discernable if you actually notice it. I checked Squall over from head to toe for the nth time. Bruises and scars. Nothing but those and . . ..
Then I saw it.
A strange looking mark on Squall’s neck. No, not completely strange, familiar. I had a hunch what it was, but if that really was it then it wasn’t me who had done it. I cocked my head and reached toward his neck.
He slapped my hand away immediately and scrambled up in haste. Bingo. Heh, he’s not getting away from me this time. I clamped my other hand around his wrist and dragged him back down. He kicked, not viciously but nevertheless kicked, at my leg. I caught his ankles and pushed it away. He wouldn’t stay still, so I just climbed on top of him and held his legs down with my own.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Quistis getting up. Probably to stop us. But Irvine made her sit down again. I was glad. This fight was inevitable.
Squall was getting mildly frantic. His fists landed on me from everywhere, except where I was bandaged. I smirked inwardly. I grabbed his wrists and shoved them away from his body, down on the floor like I did that night on the wall. Was it only 3 days ago? Felt like ages.
Without warning, Squall somehow picked up his knee and slammed it into my groin. I gasped in pain and loosened my grip. He used that chance to half sit up from under me and pushed me with all his might.
I wasn’t going to let him leave. Oh, no, sir, once he get out of my grip he’d be gone. I won’t have that. Plus, that hurts! Seifer Almasy does not take a hurt like that without responding. So I picked up my fist and slugged him across the face.
The impact was pretty heavy, for he was knocked around and had to brace himself with his hands. Angrily he turned back, and I slugged him again, this time to the other direction. Two solid knocks probably got some wind out of him, because the next thing I realized I was staring at his eyes again. He was just lying there, dazed. Not fighting back. His eyes on the borderline of shock, full of anger.
But the fury did not last long. Squall blinked, seeming to gather his bearings. He shook his head, closed his eyes, then reopened them. I think my breathing stopped when the blue light poured again onto me. His eyes were stormy.
Not vacant glass. Not brick walls. Stormy. Emotions swirled around those piercing pupils in intricate patterns that I knew so well. They washed away the emptiness and brought back the sea of life. Relief flooded into me. I let go of a heavy sigh, and grinned. I released his hands and put my forehead onto his bare shoulder.
God Damn it took a long time.
I slid off of him. Squall’s lips were stained with blood, caused by me, evidently. He smiled bitterly, “Well.”
“Don’t EVER do that to me again.” I told him. “Do you know how worried I was? You jumping around trying to fucking kill yourself while I watched. It’s worse than me being dead!”
“I’m sorry,” he apologized quietly, not looking at me in the eye. I extended my hand, gently tilting his face toward me with my fingers, making him to look at me. My fingers traced down his jawbone, and landed once again on that strange-looking bruise.
Squall flinched. I thought he was gonna freak out and back away, but he sighed and closed his eyes, permitting me to do what I wanted. I inspected the wound more closely. I saw darker areas resembling teeth patterns in the midst of the swelling. My eyes narrowed and I grinded my teeth.
I’m not naïve. Hell, I ran the Galbadian Army once before, I certainly knew what a really bored G-soldier do in his spare time. And sometimes he do it even if he’s not bored, but for the fun of it. Whichever mother-fucker did this probably did it just because he can. Bullshit.
“Where else did they touch you?” I asked in a surprisingly calm voice. I even astonished myself. I mean, I thought I’d scream that out in rage. Nope.
“Nothing happened.” He answered indirectly.
“Bullshit. I don’t want to find this the hard way, Squall.”
He rolled his eyes. “Nothing happened, Seifer. Irvine came and got me right after they -“
“Right after? Right after what?”
“Would you just let it go?!” He kicked me completely off of him. “Why are you even asking me this? What, you worried that I won’t be pure enough for you or something?”
“No! I just think I deserve to know.”
“Well, you don’t.”
Okay, not getting anywhere. So I backed off and tried a different strategy. “All right, all right. But at least let me finish bandaging you up.”
He seemed to buy that and relaxed. I picked the roll of cloth back up and started where I left off. My eyes never left his neck though. I let my gaze travel down from where the bruise was and through his body. I paused in my excuse of bandaging when I noticed another set of teeth marks on his nipples. Looked deep enough to cause bleeding. I seethed.
Squall sighed softly. He took the white cloth from my hands and finished off the bandaging quickly. I secured the ending, still fuming inside. He pondered for a moment, then leaned over and put his chin on my shoulder. “Look, just forget it.” He said in my ear. “It’s the past. You can’t change it.”
I placed my lips on his tender neck and started a string of kisses along it. Soon he turned and we started playing tonsil hockey with our eyes closed. This is what we should’ve been doing back in that classroom however long time ago, when he first revived me. Not waiting this many battles after and stuck in a little dorm room. It’s quiet, though, so it wasn’t that bad.
I realized suddenly how tired I was. How tired he seemed. We both needed to go somewhere and . . . well, give in to whatever our body was screaming for us to do. And not worry about the Galbadians outside. Or how to get out of here alive. I wanted so badly just to roll him on the dorm bed, strip him, and make love to him. Right then. At that moment.
He tasted good. Even under the faint blood flavor from the cuts in his mouth he still tasted like the way he did every time I kiss him. Addictive. Sweet. I could never get enough of it.
The moment, however, was disturbed from a light cough originated by the door. I stopped and withdrew my tongue, then glared at Kinneas, who was smirking his little ass off. “Um, glad to see y’all made up and all, but, there’s still this little problem of people trying to kill us and if they find us here, they certainly will.”
Squall smiled. He gave me a quick kiss on my cheek, then stood up. He walked over to Kinneas and offered a hand to him. “I’m sorry. About everything that I had done for the past hour or so. You, too, Quistis.”
“Yeah, it’s cool. Just don’t do it again or I think we’re all gonna have strokes by the time we step out the door.” Irvine took his hand and stood up.
“You okay?” Quistis asked. “Physically.”
“Yeah,” he answered. “I’m fine.”
I stood up, too. I walked up to them and put my arm around Squall’s waist. I leaned over his shoulder to raise my eyebrows at Quistis. “And what have you been doing while we were occupied, huh?”
“Watching a really good romantic movie with a really good friend.” She crossed her arms. “And wondering which way should I go to get to room 148.”
“Augh,” Squall replied. “and this ‘friend’ of yours also happen to be a good - ow!” he twitched suddenly. I looked right and saw Kinneas pinched his arm. He was holding a shirt in his other hand.
“Hey, now, only I’m allowed to hurt him.” I warned Irvine. “Don’t touch my boyfriend.”
“Your boyfriend started it.” Irvine replied. “Here, put this on. You need at least some sort of protection. And you,” he turned to me, “still need to get fixed.”
“I do not.” I let go of Squall so he could slip on the shirt. “Where did you get this shirt anyway?”
“Closet.” He pointed to the back. “And yes you do, I wasn’t finished with that roll of bandages on you, yet.”
Oh, the big gash on my stomach. Okay. Yeah, maybe I could use a few extra paddings there. Just a few. I had forgotten about it.
“I’ll do it,” Squall volunteered.
“Uh, no, if you do it, it may take us another hour to get out.” Irvine replied. Damn him. “Plus, I think Quistis here need to check you up again. Mother hen.”
“Am not,” she pouted. But she did take Squall aside to the other corner of the room so they could figure out how to distribute the remaining items. Irvine took the bandage and started to wrap me up.
“Squall wasn’t lying.” He said to me in an almost inaudible voice. “Nothing happened.”
Ah, so that’s why he wanted Squall out of the way. Clever. “Oh?” was all I said.
“Yeah, but he had shut off his mind anyway when he got spooked. And he did get spooked. Hence the rest of his suicidal battle strategies. But all there was were the bruises you saw. Nothing more.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
He smiled slightly. “Thought you might want to know. So now you know you can stop trying to make him tell you about it. He wouldn’t want to remember.”
I gave him a look as Irvine finished safe-ending the cloth.
“Don’t give me that look. You know why.”
“Why?” I know why?
He shrugged. “’Cause we’re family and family stick together.”
And ‘cause you cared about Squall more than you dare to say. Yes, Kinneas, you do.
“We have 3 Elixirs, 1 Megalixir, 4 Potions, and 2 Hi-Potions left. Along with a couple Remedies. Oh, and here’s a Protect Stone and a Meteor Stone. Anything else you got?”
I looked at the small pile of items on the floor. We hadn’t got much left to spare. “Um, no. I think this is it.”
Quistis smiled bitterly. “Well, let’s split this and get out of here.”
I then turned toward the other two. Whoa, was it me or they’re getting friendly? Usually you can’t put those two in the same room without somebody throwing a fist. And even then, they tend to stay on the opposite ends. I raised an eyebrow in interest.
Quistis nudged my arm. “They’re just talking about you, nothing else.”
“Me?” How did she hear them? Probably some GF ability.
She slightly shook her head, her short hair slid across her shoulders. Why did she cut her hair? Things were so hectic that I did not even wonder about that until now. “Irvine cares a lot about you, you know. He respects you more than anyone else. Why did you think he stopped you and Seifer that night at the Triangle?”
“He told you about that, too?” I was thoroughly surprised. We were just messing around, it wasn’t even my idea. The Elixir I was packing slipped from my fingers.
Quistis caught it in one quick motion. “He knew you were just freaking and he respects you too much to let you do that. You or Seifer.” She looked at the other side of the room distractedly. “He needs to tell people stuff sometimes.” She turned again to me. “A little less like you would be better.”
“Jealous?” I teased.
“Hah hah,” She laughed out loud. “I said respect, Headmaster, and it means only ‘respect.’”
“Ah,” I nodded knowingly. I stuck the last Remedy inside my pocket. Just then I turned my gaze toward the door and noticed that the other two men were staring at me and Quistis intently. “Problem?”
“They’re jealous of us, can’t you tell?” Quistis’ voice turned into amusement. “They’re scared we’re going to run off with each other and desert them here.”
Seifer rolled his eyes. Irvine grinned and walked up to us. “What you got left?” He addressed Quistis.
“For you, a Remedy, two Potions, a Meteor Stone, and the only Megalixir. I don’t trust either one of them with it and I can’t carry it. I have bigger things to worry about.” She gave him the items.
“You don’t trust me?” I pretended to be offended.
She gave me a look. “I need someone who’s relatively emotionally stable so he could preserve a calm mind as when to use this last minute resort. “
“And you think Kinneas is emotionally stable.” Seifer snickered.
“Better than you’ll ever be.” Irvine replied. Here we go again. I scoffed and stepped toward the door.
“We better go,” I said. “Time is still going.”
Fortunately they all agree with me because it was very true. We checked ourselves one more time to make sure we had at least a half-half chance of making it out alive. I wrapped the shirt tighter around myself. The wounds were hurting quite piercingly now. I let a flicker of a frown cross my brows.
Seifer didn’t miss it. He used the opportunity of passing me my gunblade to lightly squeeze my hand in assurance. I returned it, knowing he wasn’t much better off than I.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Irvine took some liquid out of his pocket and gave it to Quistis. She looked quite surprised, but she smiled afterwards and drank it. It looked like lysander fluids, but I wasn’t sure since I didn’t examine it in detail. I shrugged it off. I didn’t have time to worry about why Quistis would need lysander.
“Which way is to room 148?” Quistis asked me.
I thought for minute. “Left, 3 doors down.”
“5 doors down,” Seifer corrected me. “Forgot my room number already?”
“Wait, this is your room?” Irvine glared at Seifer. “That’s why the shirt I picked up looked kinda familiar. So Seifer, you don’t need an override code to use this room, right?”
“Shut up, shut up.” Seifer mumbled. Override code? My master override code? Since when did Seifer know that?
“Did you steal my code from me?” I narrowed my eyes. Doesn’t matter if he’s my boyfriend, no one can have my master code except me. Seifer with that code spells trouble with capital letters on everything.
“No, I was . . . “ he scratched his head. “you know, bluffing a little.”
I rolled my eyes. Him and his ego. I was relieved that he didn’t really have it, though. I cocked my gunblade and slung it over my side, “Okay, people, let’s go.”
Quistis slid next to me. “We’re going to make it, right?” She quietly whispered. I felt her shaking slightly.
“Yeah,” I assured her. My fingers worked deftly on the control pad and the door hissed open a second later. What welcomed us was the dark and empty hallway. Empty’s good.
I crept beside the cold wall. A couple of steps further the door hissed closed. We’re all out. I waited a few moments for my eye to adjust. Then I started running.
And tripped on some thin wire that’s been strategically placed by the G-soldiers. Smart. I felt myself tumbled on the floor, scraping my knees. Gunfire crowded us form all sides. I rolled and slashed without aiming. I hit someone and heard their yell of pain.
“Watch Out!!” Quistis screamed. I couldn’t see what was happening, but I saw the large fire wave nonetheless. I turned immediately and covered my head. A burning sensation swept past me, amplifying the hurt. I looked ahead, focusing on the increasing numbers of soldiers. We’re going to have a tough fight. But we couldn’t go back. What door was it already?
Room 144. One more door and it’ll be it. Irvine’s Exeter sounded next to my ear and I jumped. Everyone else had gotten ahead of me somehow. I then turned around to see what he was shooting at.
Or rather, who. Carraway’s wife triumphantly stood a few paces behind me. She was smiling at something. I was about to turn and fight a road to number 148 when I heard her calling my name.
“I wouldn’t go that way if I were you, Squall.” She projected her voice evenly. “Someone’s missing.”
“Ohmigod!” Quistis gasped beside me. I saw a figure stumbled in between the woman and me. Seifer! She got a long rope around his neck. Not again. Not AGAIN!
“I see you brought him back. Well, this time I’m going to make sure he does not come back. You dare to test me?” She raised her hand, holding a gun. “I’ll also make sure he dies a painful death.”
I took in a breath. Quistis threw down her Protect Stone. A shield formed around herself. What was she planning? I looked questioningly at her. She simply looked at the circles of soldiers around us. Irvine was incredibly calm, too. His eyes were locked on the woman. Aiming, I realized.
Bang! The gun in the woman’s hand fired. Seifer yelled in pain as the bullet went through his right leg. He crumbled to his knees as blood splattered in black spurts. “Enough time!” She hollered. “Decide now!”
My eyes narrowed. I held the Lion Heart tightly. Both Irvine and Quistis were ready for my answer.
Irvine’s gun shot ran out just as Quistis started to glow. The bullet from the Exeter went through the woman’s chest, dead center. She gurgled and her breath hitched. Quistis turned as she charged up her Shockwave Pulsar. I jumped and somersaulted next to Seifer, just as the shockwave passed me and knocked down the surrounding soldiers. I sliced the rope and began to haul him to his feet. He pushed me off.
“Go!” He told me. “I can’t walk and I’m too heavy for you, go!”
“You seriously don’t believe I’m going to let you stay here and die from poison gas, do you?” I ignored his plea and put one of his arms around my shoulder. I wasn’t sure I could pull this off because he was right about the heavy thing. Whatever! I needed to at least try.
“Squall, you crazy shit, quit it!” He grimaced in my ear. “Go!”
His weight suddenly became much lighter. I looked over and saw Irvine sliding on his other side. “I got him,” he told me. “Get ahead and clear a path.”
“You sure?” I was hesitant.
“Yes. Come on, Headmaster!” At that, I let go of Seifer’s arm and started to clear a path for them. Quistis had vanished, probably already in the room with the backup plan going. The soldiers were littering now; her Shockwave Pulsar destroyed the majority.
“You’re both crazy psychos . . . .”
“Shut up and just follow me, Seifer,” Irvine said impatiently. “I’m not paid enough to save both of your asses.”
I would’ve smiled if I wasn’t using what energy I had left to run. My leg felt like lead sticks. I could use some water right now. Ignore that. I licked my cracked lips, aimed my gun to bring down a few soldiers from this sector. They probably had reinforcements on the way. I looked back and saw the two figures coming steadily.
I crashed into the room, startling Quistis from her position on the far wall. “It’s me, it’s me!” I said quickly. She sighed in relief and put down a gun, apparently picked up from some Galbadians.
“My gosh, I could’ve shot you, Squall! Everything’s ready. Where’s . . .?”
“Right here!” Irvine’s voice clashed through with me from the hallway.
Quistis nodded. She punched in several buttons and the door jammed shut. Double guarded. She then pulled open a side door behind the bookshelf. Streams of vanishing sunlight poured through. Scent of grass and the woods tingled my nostrils. Beautiful.
I felt my head being grabbed and soon a pair of hungry lips gave me a full kiss. He broke it a few moments later, his eyes glittering green. I smiled. Then I turned to the outside, where Quistis was motioning for us to hurry. She’s grinning.
We’re finally out of this dungeon. I didn’t know 24 hours could feel this long.. Quistis turned after we all shuffled out, pulled the door shut, and typed in another code from the outside. Total lockdown. Every single entrance.
The Galbadians would have 3 more minutes of life. Then all would be gone. How many lives was that?
I had no more time to wonder when the guards around the Garden started to shoot at us. I spun around and ran. I didn’t bother with return fire; my gunblade was out anyway. I simply raced toward the woods. Behind me, 3 shots ran consecutively into the empty sky.
I didn’t stop to think. To act. To do anything. I didn’t stop running until I saw the flashes of Esthar soldier uniforms appear from behind the trees. I didn’t stop until I made sure I cleared the field.
Then I dropped. Stone on the ground. I lay on my back, staring at the early evening sky, littered with faint stars. My eyes closed shut. And I slipped from consciousness with my heartbeat slowing to an agreeable frequency.
I had only one thought in my head before I completely blacked out.
I needed a vacation.
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