|Three Minutes Too Fast
Author: cerespallas PM
Selphie and Seifer/Quistis and Squall - In this altered version of FF8 world, Seifer faces another destiny when Selphie's act changes the course of history. A different fate he never thought he'd have, shaping dissimilar future for the rest of them. A complete tweak of FF8 game.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Humor - Squall L. & Quistis T. - Chapters: 33 - Words: 191,102 - Reviews: 214 - Favs: 31 - Follows: 35 - Updated: 05-02-13 - Published: 03-02-08 - id: 4107312
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
We're All Going to WHERE?
Is this the place?
It was a beautiful village, lush with greens and the smell of spring. He wouldn't be surprised if Laguna really lived here.
Kiros looked around past the gates of Winhill. It was nothing more than wide, wooden arch gates connected with wooden old fences enveloping the houses and dirt pathways. Some of the fences were already rotten, parts of them damp from rains and morning dews. On the right of the gates, he could see a wide area where Chocobos hung around, enclosed in another set of fences from sturdy and thick new woods. On the edge of the railings, inside the herding area, a girl was on the back of a rare white Chocobo. Wide brown hats on her head, thin leather sleeveless top, riding pants and boots on her body, the skin on her arms freckled from the sun. Her back was on him.
"Hey," Kiros called. She turned to him. She was a young woman, no more than twenty. "Is this Winhill?"
"Who's asking?" she asked, turning her white Chocobo to face him. Kiros was impressed to see that up close, the white, rare Chocobo was big and had a set of red flaming eyes and giant brown beak.
"I'm Kiros." He put his hand on the herding fence. "I'm looking for a friend of mine. Name's Laguna."
The girl glanced to the inner area of the village and pointed to a building in the centre of several houses. "That one. Ask Raine. She's in the pub."
The girl tilted her head, red pigtail hair swaying underneath the hat. "Solange. I'm working on this farm until fall."
"Nice to meet you." Kiros nodded and turned.
"You play Card?"
He looked back. "Yeah."
"Good. I'm taking my break in a while. See you in the pub." The girl turned her Chocobo to face her herd.
Kiros raised his brow. "Sure." He was a messy player, but there was no way he'd lose to a kid.
The pub was nothing but a small building with wooden door in the middle of three houses. The sign was old but clean, hanging above the door. A bell sounded on his entrance, ringing a gentle sound throughout what appeared to be an actual pub, with rows of drinks on the shelves behind the bar. The bartender was standing behind the long row of wooden bar, hands on a book, looking up when he walked in.
"Can I help you?" she asked, closing her book and placing it behind the bar. "We're not open yet."
"I'm looking for Laguna," said Kiros. He removed his military backpack and placed it on the floor next to the door. "Are you Raine?"
She looked curious. "I am. Who are you?"
"My name's Kiros. I'm Laguna's friend. We separated after…" Kiros frowned. "What's your relationship with Laguna, if I may ask?"
Raine bit her lips, a hint of colour on her cheeks. "I'm…"
"Uncle Laguna's fwiend is weiwd!" From the stairs leading to the upper floor, a girl chimed in. The toddler ran down the stairs and disappeared through the front door. "I'm calling uncle Laguna!"
"Elle!" Raine said. "Not again…" She turned to Kiros. "I found him on the beach. He was in a bad condition when I found him. Right now he lives in the house next door." She sighed and turned to the high shelves behind her. "Sit down, let me pour you something. It's on the house."
"Thanks." Kiros sat on the high stool and accepted the glass of whiskey.
"So how did you find this place?" Raine put the bottle on the bar.
"He sent me a letter, just saying everything's going well for him and he's out of the military." That he's not coming back to Deling.
That freaked Kiros out. All this time, everything he knew was about being in the military. What else could he do now that he's pronounced unfit to be a soldier anymore? What could Laguna do? That guy was nothing but a soldier. What else would he do?
"So he was in the military…"
Laguna didn't tell her much. "We had an accident and separated. You found him afterwards. I'm here to see how he's doing." Probably he'd drag Laguna back if he could.
"I bwought him! I bwought uncle Laguna!" Elle ran in. Raine walked out from behind the bar. Kiros put down his glass and stood as Raine scolded the little girl.
A man walked in behind the little girl.
"You understand, Ellone? Now go to your room and play." Raine crossed her arms.
Ellone turned to her uncle and said in a mock-whisper, "I got in twouble."
"That's 'cause you broke your promise," whispered the man. "Too baaad..."
"Laguna! Use proper English when speaking to Ellone!"
"I got'n trouble." The man chuckled.
Ellone grinned. "Toooo baaaddd!"
Kiros walked closer to the man as he snickered along with the little girl. "It's been a while, Laguna."
"Kiros!" Laguna's face brightened. He kneeled down to Ellone. "He's Uncle Laguna's friend. He dresses funny, but he's not a bad guy."
Kiros smiled. "You seem well."
Laguna stood up and beamed. "Yeah... You, too. Hey, how long has it been? You know, since our grand escape from Centra?"
Kiros frowned, counting. "Well, I would say about a year or so."
Laguna shrugged. "I was bed-ridden for over six months. It seemed like every bone in my body was in pieces."
"I nursed him back to health," said Raine.
Kiros nodded to Raine. "Thank you, for taking care of Laguna. I was able to recover in about a month or so. Ever since then... I've been searching for you."
"After leaving the army... Well, just killing time I guess. Life's pretty boring without you as entertainment, my man."
"That's a harsh thing to say. I've been living a productive life here."
Raine raised her brow and said more to herself, "I think I understand what you mean, though."
Kiros put his hand on his hip. "So, what do you want to know?"
"Let's see..." Laguna wondered. "How's Ward doing?"
"Ward quit the army, too. Luckily, he found a job and he's working pretty hard. He's a janitor down at the D-District Prison."
"Wow. Can't picture him moppin' floors but I'm glad he's doing well."
"Oh, and he never got his voice back. You could basically tell what he wants from his facial expressions."
Laguna grimaced and put his hand on his own throat. "...How's Julia doing?"
Raine chimed in, "You mean Julia, the singer?"
Kiros nodded. "That's right. Laguna really admired her and always frequented the night club."
"Shut up! So what if I did!"
Raine frowned. "Julia used to sing at a night club?"
"No, she didn't sing. She just played the piano."
"Then the first song she released was 'Eyes On Me'?"
Laguna looked at Raine and stammered, "H-How does the song go?"
"You don't know?"
"Well, you never let me hear it!"
Raine shrugged. "I didn't think you listened to music. The song's about being in love... I really like it."
Kiros smirked. "Heard she recently got married."
"Oh yeah! To some army general, right? General Caraway something?" said Raine.
Kiros glanced at Laguna. "I'm not too sure."
"I read in a magazine that her true love went off to war and never came back. General Caraway comforted her while she was feeling down. That's how they got to know each other."
Kiros gave a sound of a mock sympathy, more to rile his friend up. "So she didn't wait for the soldier to come back...?"
Laguna reddened and waved his hands. "So what! Who cares! As long as she's happy, right? That's all that matters! Ain't that right, Elle?"
Ellone perked up. "Right! Uncle Laguna and Raine are..."
"Ahhhhhhhh! OK, enough talk about this!" Laguna stopped and listened. "...I think the faeries are here."
Kiros blinked. So that was that thing he felt back in Deling Hotel and Centra again. "Faeries? Yeah, I guess so..."
Laguna nodded. "So, what's your plan? You're gonna stick around here for a bit, right?"
"Would that be ok?" Kiros looked at Raine.
"You work for what you eat. If that's fine with you, you're more than welcome."
Laguna motioned him to go out. A bit puzzled, Kiros followed Laguna to the bridge leading out of the town square. Laguna turned and ran to the end of the village, Kiros on his tail.
"Laguna... What exactly do you do here?"
"It's like this. All the working men in this town were sent off to war. The monsters have made their way into town. This here town took real good care of me. So basically, I want to return the kindness. You're lookin' at the Monster Hunter of Winhill! So, as of today, you'll be my assistant. We're to patrol the town up to the town entrance! If we see anyone in need along the way, we help them. That's our basic duty! We're to report to the commander and assistant commander."
"Commander... You mean that woman at the pub?"
"Her name's Raine. She saved my life. And the assistant commander is Ellone."
"She seems like a nice person. But easily taken in by a hotshot."
Laguna grimaced. "A hotshot? OK, Assistant Kiros, let's come up with a plan after we get back to the base."
"Laguna... Are you doing this patrol thing every day?"
"'Thing'! What're you callin' 'THING'!"
"Weren't you aiming to become a world-travelling journalist? You've heard of 'Timber Maniacs', right? I had a talk with the chief editor. He said he's interested in any article related to world travel."
Laguna stopped and turned to face his friend. "That's great!"
"We should go talk to him sometime."
"Y-Yeah..." Laguna looked in the direction of the pub. "Um, it'd be ok if we stay here a bit longer, right?"
"You need time to gather more material? This seems like a really nice town. You're gonna write about this place first, aren't you?"
"No way. Can't make this town famous. Too much publicity and you get all those tourists and stuff."
"You're afraid someone might come and take Raine away? Laguna, you've changed, man."
Laguna jerked and screamed to the empty space, making a scene. "Hey! I see a monster!"
Kiros looked around, but Laguna ran to the direction of the pub. Sighing, Kiros tailed his friend into the pub. He found Laguna wait on the stairs and peek into the room above.
Laguna whispered, "Girl talk... Let's come back later."
At that moment, someone entered the pub. The bell rang, causing Raine and Elle's conversation to cease. Kiros and Laguna turned around to see Solange on the door.
"Hiya," said Solange, feeling the tense situation. She raised her Card box and fidgeted. "Should I just come back later? You guys are on to something?"
"Um…" Laguna turned to the stairs above him to see Elle and Raine walking down. The woman glared at him. "Eh, n-no. We did nothing. I mean… we…"
"We finished our duty," said Kiros. "We beat whatever it was that's need to be beaten."
"E-eh yeah!" Laguna saluted to Raine, who was crossing her arms and Elle who followed suit. "Done for today, Commander!"
Raine narrowed her eyes. "Good job. Go get some rest until I call you two for dinner. Solange, what are you doing here?"
Solange nudged to Kiros with her head. "He's gonna play Card with me."
Raine raised her brow and studied Kiros. "Oh, really? You don't seem to be that good of a player."
"I play Card a lot in the army," said Kiros. "Besides, how good should I be?"
Raine hummed and said to Solange, "Go easy on him."
Solange sighed. "I gotta get my money from somewhere. Uncle doesn't give me anything." She chose a table and sat. "Come on, come on."
"I'm going on ahead," Laguna said, patting Kiros's shoulder. "Don't lose too much, man. You're not exactly brimming with Gil there."
Frowning to his friend, Kiros sat on the chair across from Solange. Laguna left the pub as Raine walked Elle to her room for a nap. Solange opened her Card box and looked to Kiros. "Do you have anything to bet on?"
Kiros reached to his backpack near the door. "I'm not that rich, I don't know…"
"Yeah, yeah. I don't have me any money either." Solange took her Card out. "Let's see… how about my Snow?"
"Snow…" Kiros took out his Card box. "You mean your white Chocobo? Are you insane?"
"Am not." Solange stuck out her tongue.
"I don't have that much money to compare with that." Kiros watched the Card Solange placed on the table and felt his throat go dry. "Whoa. Whoa. Wait… wait a minute, how did you have all these?"
"Meh," said Solange, waving her hands. "If you lose, we'll go on dates on Snow until fall comes. You can do that, right?"
Kiros stared at the young woman. "That's it? A Chocobo date?"
"Dates. As much as I'd like to, I ain't gonna see any other guys until fall. This place isn't brimming with good selection of people to go out with."
Kiros watched the array of freckles on Solange's nose and cheeks, and frowned. Something didn't seem right. "How old are you?"
Solange smiled so wide, showing as many teeth as she could. "Do you really wanna know, Mr. Military man?"
"I'm not dating a kid."
"Good. I ain't one. Now the rules for this round is Open, Same and Combo. Triple Triad…" Solange drummed on the table, waiting for Kiros to choose his Card in panic. "Ready…"
"Mmm?" The sniper looked up, half-dazed. Rinoa stared down at him, swaying from their rough ride through the desert.
"Are you okay?" she asked the man lying on her lap. "Is your head hurt? Why'd you smile?"
"Got a nice dream." Irvine was in no rush to get up. "Must be from my comfy pillow…"
Rolling her eyes, Fujin hit the jeep brake. On the back, Irvine tumbled down Rinoa's lap, groaning and holding his head.
"Careful… I'm still very weak here…"
"Hey, Kinneas!" called Raijin next to Fuu. "Are you sure Seifer's gonna head here, ya know?"
Here? Irvine looked up through the window. Dollet was in front of them. "He's already here. This is the only place in Galbadia they can run to."
Not really, but Irvine's not willing to stay a minute longer in Deling City to find out. At least from Dollet he could take a boat to Balamb. "Yeah, I'm sure."
How mundane is this job?
Ward dragged around his mop and his bucket of water, spilling water all over the metal floor. At least it pays. He could be a bouncer at Deling Club, if only he could speak. Heh.
Headed into the familiar floor, Ward saw a warden tumbled out from a cell, hand covering his bleeding nose. The warden glared at the janitor.
"What? Whaddaya want? Huh!" The warden spat on the floor and walked away. Ward shook his head and moved away from the spit. I'm not gonna clean that up. Let another one steps on it. Crap cleans by itself.
He pushed the cell door open and entered. On the centre of the cell, a blonde haired woman crossed her arms with her chin raised. She saw him and relaxed.
"Oh. It's you."
Ward motioned to the door with his thumb. Another suitor?
The woman rolled her blue eyes. "Shut up. Bring anything for me?"
Ward made a motion of carrying an imaginary tray. He picked up an imaginary rose from it and handed it to the small woman. The woman pouted but accepted the imaginary flower. She smelt it.
"Better than nothing."
Ward pretended not to notice new scars on her bare arms and began mopping. The woman moved to the corner and sat. She watched the janitor working.
"I overheard them," she said. "Death sentence for me next week."
Ward stopped. He looked up from his mop and pointed to the woman.
"Yeah, I heard them right."
Ward straightened. He made a slicing motion to his neck and raised his fist up. How many did you actually kill?
"Does it matter?" the woman said. She scowled. "You killed people too."
Ward saluted and raised his palm up. I was a soldier. Those were on commands.
"In the end their blood was still on your hands, you fool!" The small woman jumped up.
No it's not.
"You're a giant idiot." She walked to the door and peeked out from the small hole. "Okay." She turned towards him. "Listen. I need your help."
Ward tilted his head.
She walked closer and motioned him to bend. She whispered in his ear. "You have to let me out of here."
Up close, Ward could see the wound on her knuckles. He sighed. I am just a janitor. He patted his empty pocket. I don't have keys.
"I don't need keys. I can get out of this cell anytime I want," said the woman. She reached to Ward's hand that held the mop. Putting the mop back into the bucket, she held his hand. "Please. I need to get out. I can't die here."
Ward looked up to the ceiling. Then he turned back to the small woman and made a handcuffed motion and a stabbing move. You're a criminal. You're gonna get back on killing again.
"I'm not!" hissed the woman. "I did that because those men were…" She closed her eyes and huffed. "You know what, you're one of them. Why did I ever trust you?"
Hmm. Ward crossed his arms. He put his index finger on his temple. Trying to guilt-trip me?
The woman gritted his teeth. "Yeah. Yeah, you're right. What was I thinking? Just forget it." She pushed Ward, who didn't budge at all. "I'm a fool to think we're friends."
Ward watched the woman stomp to the edge of the wall and stare at it. After a while, she fidgeted and started punching the air. Ward looked down to his mop and bucket.
Aw, the hell with it. He moved to tap the woman. She spun, almost punching his stomach in the process.
"You scared me!" she said. "What?"
Ward gave a thumb up. I'll help you.
The woman blinked. A smile formed on her lips. "Really? Really?"
"Yahoo!" The woman somersaulted in the air, nearly gutting the giant janitor. The janitor darted back.
She doesn't even need to be conscious to kill people. Ward tapped the woman's shoulder. One thing.
"Huh? Yeah, yeah, sure! Whatever you want!"
Ward pointed to himself and to the woman. I'm going with you.
The woman gave a wide smile, showing her sharp small set of teeth. "You do? You will? Yeah!" She jumped and hugged the janitor. Ward was pushed back from the surprising strength.
"You promise, right? You promise!" The small woman released him and raised her hand, her pinkie finger up. "Promise on it!"
Ward linked his big pinkie finger on her.
...Where am I?
When he opened his eyes, he saw a metal bar. His room didn't have that ceiling. Ignoring the pain in his head and shoulder, Zell moved his hands up to his line of view.
Well, at least he still had his hands working.
Sitting up, Zell studied his surroundings. He was in a huge room made of metal, alone.
Zell stared down at the floor. "The 'dream world' again."
Ward's been all alone. He's working in some sort of prison-like place. And he's bored outta his mind! All he wants is to be fightin' alongside Laguna.
Zell's eyes widened as he looked around.
Hey? Whoa? Wait a sec... I know this place! This is the prison that Ward works at! He's a janitor here! There're so many rooms just like this! It's got to be here!
What's going to happen to us? What's gonna happen to us? And where the hell is that guy, Irvine? And where's Squall...? Quistis… Did the sorceress...
The soles of her boots almost fell apart. Selphie thought it was still better to use it than to walk around Dollet barefoot. She stomped on the floor once more, and glanced to her left. Even if he did hear it, Seifer didn't move an inch. He seemed very content to sleep in a cot half his size.
Last night they spent all their energy running after trains, hitchhiking in the goat-filled cargo, and running to Dollet with nothing but their weapons and clothes on them. Bags and all other belongings were long forgotten. Seifer had his wallet taken in the barracks and there was no trace of it in the cupboard. It didn't matter once they reached Dollet. The kid who had Enya was so delighted when she knocked on their door. His grandfather told them to come in and to bathe before sleeping. The old man had continued painting his Card afterwards, leaving his grandson to run fetching towel and Enya barking with excitement all over Selphie.
"I'm going down first," said Selphie to Seifer. The latter waved his hand, half awake. The girl headed downstairs and peeked to the living area. Enya, who was sitting next to the painting grandfather, looked up and noticed her. It stood, ran up the stairs and barked.
"Hi there." Selphie reached down and petted the dog. "Yeah, I got a nice sleep."
"Hey, kid!" called the grandfather. "Come here, come here." He put down his brush and palette. "You two have to catch a boat, yeah?"
"We are. Thank you for letting us stay, Sir! That's very kind of you."
The grandfather hummed, crossed his arms and looked at Selphie in the eye. "Now, I don't really believe what I see on the TV, but this is really ridiculous."
Selphie blinked and looked down.
"You, killing the President? Heck, there's a limit to those media bullshit!" the grandfather said. He reached into his pants pocket and took out twenty Gil. "Now, that boy, I believe he can do that. You gotta do well to stay out of that kind of trouble once you get home, you hear me?"
Selphie shook her head when the old man reached for her hand. "No, wait; I can't accept this, Sir!"
"Aw, shut it." The grandfather placed the coins into her palm. "You gotta eat sometime. The boat's coming soon, for those stinky goats. You can cross for free if you're willing to share with those smelly buggers."
"Enya! Enyaaa… don't leave me fetching the ball for you!" The door opened, and the kid ran in. "Oh, you're awake!"
"Hi!" The kid grinned. "You have to leave soon, right? Let's go out and play now then!"
"Oh…" Selphie looked to the room upstairs, but there was no Seifer-shape creature walking around. "Sure, for a while!" She followed the kid out. Enya tailed them out, tail wagging at an extreme speed.
"Mom came by a while ago," said the kid while walking to the beach, "she gave me this old dumb Card." He pulled the Card out of his shorts' pocket and showed it to Selphie. "I don't want it. You want it? After three games I'll give it to ya!"
Selphie almost dropped her Gil when she saw Sacred Card. "Wh—eh… sure!"
"Yeah!" The kid ran down the stairs to the beach. "Come on, come on!"
It… doesn't hurt.
Eyes closed, Squall rolled his body, trying to stand up, only to fall onto the metal floor. He sighed, looking back to where he lay. A metal cot hung on the wall…of…
He looked around. Of whatever this place is. He was in a small room. The wall was rounded, creating a capsule-like area around him. A toilet placed on the far end of the claustrophobic room, as if he'd ever use that. There must be a camera set up inside this thing.
...Where am I? I... challenged Edea... My wound...? No wound...? How...? The Galbadian soldiers... We were surrounded. Where is everyone? Quistis… did she…?
When she pulled herself out of the dark, Quistis realized she was standing. But she couldn't move. Her head was pounding, pain in the centre of her skull. Her arms and feet bound onto the wall, wrapped in thick cables leading down to machinery a few feet below her. The pale-looking man stood in front of the machine with a man wearing guard's uniform. He noticed Quistis pulling on the cables, and looked up at her.
"Nice to have you with us, Miss Trepe."
Miss Trepe? Ignoring the bleeding wound on her upper left chest, Quistis tried to place where she had seen the man. A tall, pale teen with thin figure, had dead-looking eyes, thin lips and long hair flowing down his back. Scored A+ in long range weapon, double A+ in tactics and war strategy, pragmatic and materialistic, noted problematic ignorant behaviour. "…Emil Jeffress."
"So you still remember me out of thousands of cadets. A top SeeD, indeed." Emil shifted his weight, no longer touching the machine. "And a master assassin. I have to say, it's not easy jumping down from that height. You're very accurate. Yet Mistress Edea was not an easy target."
"...What do you want?"
"Yes, let's go straight to the point. I like that. SeeD. What is it? Edea demands to know."
"SeeD..."What? "...Don't you already know?"
"I'm not a SeeD. There must be some kind of secret you're given when you become a SeeD."
There is more secret given when you work out of SeeD. "There's nothing. Even if there were, you think I'd tell you?"
"Of course you don't. So I prepared something for you." Emil snapped fingers and the warden pressed the switch on the machine.
Sparks of electricity ran down the cables, up to the woman on the wall, jamming their current into her skin, almost skinning her alive. Quistis gritted her teeth, shutting her eyes close. It felt like the electricity pulled on her eyeballs, crawling behind them and kicking them out of the sockets.
"Even if you don't talk, others will. The gunblader or that short blonde. He doesn't look all that quiet to me, seeing how he was crying all the way when they threw him here."
Quistis breathed out when the electricity stopped. "...They're... here...?"
"Oh, you bet. But since I admire you so much, I thought you should go first. I was hoping you'd be there, Miss Trepe. So... how'd I look in my moment? It's much better to be the sorceress' knight than some murderer working for a worthless company run by the weak fat man."
It was really painful just to breathe. "Better? But now you're just... A torturer."
"Well, if what the gramps watched on TV was right," said Seifer, following Selphie down to the beach. "They can't be in Deling city now. They failed, they would've fled."
"I wonder…" Selphie looked around for a cargo boat. "I mean, they're not supposed to fail. Irvine's a good shooter. Squall should be able to wrap things up if things get messy."
"This is the pouty brat we're talking about. I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't know how to zip his pants. Why'd you think he wears so many belts?"
"There they are!" a shout was heard behind them. Seifer whirled around, hand ready on his Hyperion.
"Where are you guys going?" shouted Rinoa, running towards them. "We need your help! Are you two going to Balamb?"
Seifer blinked. Irvine, Fujin and Raijin showed up behind Rinoa. "What are you guys doing here?"
"We need to go get Squall!" Rinoa caught up to Seifer and held his hand. "He's in prison now! We need to get him out!"
"Prison?" Seifer closed his eyes. "Dammit."
"Quistis and Zell are with him," said Irvine. "Last I saw, she's in bad shape. If we're not hurry, she'll perish."
"Quistis…" Seifer turned to Irvine. "Wait. What do you mean, she's with him? She's supposed to be in Balamb now! She's supposed to part with Rai and Fuu in the G-Garden train station!"
"We're not," said Raijin. "Um. So she's apparently this kinda assassin, ya know, the kind that kills people in private."
"Wh…" Seifer reached out and grabbed Irvine's coat lapel. "This wasn't what I heard. You better explain yourself, you Chocoboy."
"Whoa." Irvine raised both hands up. "Easy. I'll explain everythin', but we need to get goin'."
"Yeah!" said Rinoa, still not letting Seifer's arm go. "We need to head to the Desert Prison now!"
Seifer took a deep breath and turned to Selphie. "…You go back to Balamb with Rinoa."
"What?" Selphie shook her head. "No! No way!"
"I'm not going to Balamb when my friends are in danger!" said Rinoa. "What are you talking about, Seifer!"
Seifer released Irvine's lapel and took Rinoa's hands into his. "Listen. I'm going to say this only once. You are Squall's client. His order is to keep you safe. What makes you think he'll want you to go into the prison to release him?"
"Well, I can't just stay in Balamb and do nothing!" said Rinoa. "I can fight too!"
Seifer glanced to Irvine, who gave a slight shake of his head. "I don't doubt it. But orders are orders. You are supposed to stay safe."
"Well… well I'm not your client!" Rinoa huffed, pulling her hands from Seifer. "I do what I want!"
Seifer turned to the pathway to the city when Angelo appeared and ran to Rinoa's side. "Selphie. Since you're the only one left out of Squall's team, you decide."
"What?" Rinoa turned to Selphie. "No! This can't be!"
Selphie stared at Seifer and turned to Rinoa. "Well… since nobody else from my team can make an adjustment for our mission, I take the command." She turned to Fujin and Raijin. "I ask cadet Fujin and Raijin to accompany my charges, Rinoa Heartily Caraway and Angelo into Balamb Garden and keep them safe, until someone from my team take over the charges."
"No!" Rinoa shouted. Fujin and Raijin straightened their postures and saluted to Selphie. "You can't do this to me! Why?" Angelo tilted her head and whined when Raijin and Fujin grabbed Rinoa's arms and lifted her up. "No! You can't do this to me! You're not in charge!"
"Well, your so-called friends are all in the military," said Seifer. "The boat's that way. It's free, if you're willing to shack up with those goats." Angelo watched him in confusion, before following her master to the cargo boat docked far away. Rinoa flailed and kicked, yelling for the two to release her.
Irvine sighed. "Well, bye-bye my two sweethearts." He stepped back as Seifer reached to his coat lapel again. "Oh, come on, we can talk without your hand on my throat."
"Funny, I think you'll behave better that way." Seifer moved to Irvine. "Now explain what the hell Rai meant by an assassin. And don't give me that wishy washy stupid tale of yours, you bullshit sniper."
"Ah," Irvine chimed when Seifer's hand found his coat lapel again. "Selphie, would you mind drivin' us? I'll direct you there. I gotta feeling I'm not gonna be fit enough to drive."
"Seifer." Selphie grabbed Seifer's arm. "Listen. We're bonded, right?"
Seifer opened his mouth, frowned and said slowly, "…Seems so."
"That means I can't leave you. And you can't leave me." Selphie stared up at him. "Don't try to tell me to go to a safe place anymore. I'm not a civilian. I know how to defend myself. I am not Rinoa." She released her grip and headed to the stairway up to the city.
Seifer watched her leave, and sighed. I just need to make sure you're safe.
Irvine studied his expression and lifted his brow. "Trouble in lover's paradise…?"
Gritting his teeth, Seifer walked away while holding on Irvine's coat. The sniper stammered and followed the gunblader.
It's no use. Zell looked up and winced. None of his stocked magic worked in this room. There seems to be an anti-magic field here.
He turned to the door when it opened. A red lion, the kind that looked like a stuffed mascot out of an old theme park walked into the room. It carried a tray of food. In the middle of the room, it tripped on the metal bar floor and everything it carried fell.
"What was that noise!" A warden walked in. "You again!" He walked to the lion and kicked it.
Zell jumped up. Damn him...that numskull!
"YO! Who do you think you are?" the warden shouted and raised his hand to hit Zell. Zell caught the hand halfway down and glared. The warden pulled back and stammered. "Y-You'll regret this!" The warden turned and ran out of the room.
"You're okay? Here, come here." Zell went to the mini lion and hugged it. The mini lion hugged him back.
"Well now, Miss Trepe. I'll ask again."
Quistis couldn't see anything. Everything was a blur. After the second electrocution, she was just trying to keep herself awake.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
"What is SeeD? And why do they oppose the sorceress?"
SeeD... Oppose the sorceress...?
There was the sound of an opened door. "Sir Emil, the missiles are ready to launch."
The door was closed. In front of her, a blur that should be Emil looked up at her. "Balamb Garden is to be destroyed on charges of training SeeDs to oppose the sorceress."
"It's a pity, really. I grew up there, too... But orders are orders, and Edea wants it destroyed."
"After the Garden's gone, the SeeD hunt will begin. I'll be Edea's bloodhound and hunt down every one of your kind. It'll be fun. Don't die on me yet. Continue with the interrogation."
The blur faded. Another blur that was unmoving in front of the machine yelled at her.
"Ready to talk?"
"I... don't understand... the question..."
"Don't mess with me! Edea says you know something! Now spit it out! Talk! What is SeeD all about?"
Another current. Quistis's throat was so dry, she couldn't scream anymore. Perhaps it's true that once you feel the immeasurable pain, you'll live through the second and the third. She still felt the stabbing on her skin and the crash of the organs inside her body, but it didn't feel like hers anymore.
SeeD... Aren't we... mercenaries... from Balamb Garden... Special forces...?
"What did you say?"
"The true...goal of SeeD... To spread... seeds all over the world... Fill... the world w-with flowers."
"I-It's the truth. See—seeing flowers takes... away people's will to fight." It hurts. Dammit, all her interrogation practices fell out of the window at times like these.
"What then? SeeD wants to bring love and peace to the world...? Ha ha hah! Don't make me laugh! You can't fool me!"
"W-We...steal the will to fight... Then we in-invade..." Quistis dropped her head low.
Maybe it was better for her to just sleep…
The door opened again. Someone stepped into the room.
"You! Watch her!"
"I can't just sit here. We have to think of a way to escape." Looking to the Moomba who sat next to him, Zell said, "Well, I can't rely on magic here, so we have to go with weapons. We have to somehow get them back..."
Weapons... My weapons are these fists o'mine! I could do some serious damage without weapons! It's up to me, baby!
Zell hopped up and pointed to the Moomba. "Play dead!"
The Moomba perked up. It fell onto the floor, eyes open and mouth wide in shock.
Zell ran to the door. "Guard! Guard! I need some help! Open the door!"
"What is it?"
"The Moomba is dead! I think a snake bit it!"
When the warden entered, Zell charged and punched him in the stomach. The warden fell to the floor. Nudging the man with his shoe, Zell grinned.
"Well, I'm off!" Zell waved to the Moomba, who had sat up. It jumped up and raised its hand at Zell. "Huh? You wanna go, too?"
"Aah, I guess... Just don't get in the way!"
Zell peeked outside the door. It was quiet. He looked down and saw number 7 grafted onto the metal floor. The hall was round with stairs up and down on the west and east side of the wall. So he was high up. Where did they keep Squall and Quistis?
The Moomba peeked out from behind Zell, and charged out. It ran upstairs.
"Nah, I don't think he's gonna be up there…" Zell looked to the stairs leading down. Tiptoeing outside the room, Zell headed downstairs. "Maybe on the first floor?"
"What you're saying is…" Seifer kept his head leaned on the back of his seat. "The three of you are some kind of a secret assassin group? You, Instructor and Nida?"
"That's what I mean," said Irvine on the shotgun seat. He pointed to his right. "That way."
Selphie turned the wheel to the direction. "So Quistis was supposed to help Squall in the mission?"
"Not just Squall. All of the main team."
"That's why she covered for Squall when Edea threw that ice at him?"
Seifer groaned. "Stupid brat. This is just messy."
Selphie watched the path they were on. Everything around them was sand; they had left the dirt path hours ago. "You sure you know the way?"
"I… did some pickups every now and then." Irvine shrugged. "Never been in, but I heard stories."
"Pickups?" said Seifer. "I heard nobody gets out."
"And you should believe that official story."
Seifer moved to the space between the front seats and stared at Irvine. "You're an infamous assassin but you're not a SeeD?"
"It doesn't work that way." Irvine fidgeted. "Martine doesn't need SeeD, he needs shadow group. I shouldn't say anythin' more about this."
Narrowing his eyes at him, Seifer slithered back to his seat.
"There!" Selphie pointed at a large pillar ahead. As their jeep got closer, the pillar changed into a massive steel tower. Gust of wind and sand glided around the soaring tower, as if summoned to guard it.
"…Now how do we get in?" Seifer pulled the window down and watched the top of the tower. It was hidden behind the clouds. "Got any idea?"
"Or two," said Irvine. "I'm gonna need a girl to… you know, be the bait."
Selphie stuck her tongue out.
To be continued…
A.N.: Whoa, it's getting too long if I continue. Last time I just did 21 chapters on Disc 1 alone. Hopefully it wouldn't take that much on Disc 2. I don't want to end this in another 60 chapters (no, come on, who wants to do THAT?) Things changed even more drastic than before. But since you've read to this part, I suppose you can accept the changes already, so I'm going to make some other changes up ahead.