Chapter I – Diamond Dust
When happiness ran…
Tears and dust were left behind…
All because of one man.
It was close to midnight as torrential rain pelted down on Quistis's head, which made the burdens in her mind seem heavier than before. She shivered once as she stepped out of the train station in Balamb Town, and pulled at her coat collar to keep the chilled wind from kissing her neck. Quistis Trepe hadn't expected such weather. She shifted her backpack to a more comfortable position and walked toward Balamb Garden.
Her mission at Esthar had been simple enough. All she had to do was lead a team of SeeDs to guard Dr. Odine's Laboratory for a week while he, a few scientists, and his entire security crew went to conduct research at Tear's Point. Quistis hardly called it a mission. She could have handled it herself without the other SeeDs, but Headmaster Cid insisted that she take some newly instated SeeDs with her so they could have an opportunity for more experience. After several boring reports to the Headmaster, Quistis received permission to relieve her squad of their duties a few days early, which explained why she was heading back to Garden alone.
Alone… I'm always alone. Nothing ever changes.
Before long, Quistis reached the Front Gate of the currently stationary Garden. It had only been a week but she missed the place. Her shoes made wet noises as she walked; water dripped from the tips of her hair and made a trail of droplets on the floor like the breadcrumbs of the lost.
Once inside her dorm, she dropped her backpack on the floor and sighed. Cid's report can wait until tomorrow. Quistis wanted a long shower. Rainwater always made her skin feel sticky, and Quistis had the word 'comfort' written near the top of her mental list of favorite things.
After the shower, she changed into a white cotton nightgown, blow-dried her long golden hair, and collapsed onto her soft bed only to stare at the ceiling. One look at the clock on her small dresser told her it was late and that she should sleep, but she couldn't. She lay there and thought…about everything.
It had been three months after they had saved the world from Ultimecia's reign of terror. The world was at peace once again, as much peace as a world could have. Quistis had confronted Headmaster Cid one day to tie up some loose ends, and had asked for the reinstatement of her Instructor's License. The scene was still fresh in her mind.
"Come in," Cid Kramer beckoned Quistis inside his office. "Have a seat, Quistis. You wished to speak with me?"
"Yes, sir," Quistis began, taking the offered seat. "I would like to know if it's possible to have my Instructor's License back, sir."
Cid rubbed his chin, exhaled through his nose, and said, "Quistis, I'm afraid it's not possible at the moment. I've already brought up this matter at the last Garden Executive meeting. The board members have kept all your personal records and, frankly, they still think that you might lack leadership skills. Unless they finally decide to listen to me, there's not a very good chance. But since you were once an Instructor and you've had plenty of experience as a mercenary, especially following the events of the recent war, we've already made you a Rank A SeeD. That's the best we can do for now. I apologize, Quistis."
Her heart sank and she knew better than to argue. Maybe if she didn't let on that she was disappointed, they just might give her the license back. After all, it really seemed as if they wanted her to be sad. Quistis faked a smile. "It's all right, sir, I understand."
Cid nodded. "All right. You're dismissed. Have a nice day, Quistis."
Quistis's eyes closed. "Have a nice day?" That ruined my week. Her utter disappointment had to be stopped short when she was sent on various missions, more than she could keep track of. It must have been Cid's way of trying to take my mind off that license and letting me believe that I'm useful.
Her thoughts eventually drifted to the others. Squall, Rinoa, Selphie, Irvine, Zell…
Squall and Rinoa had been together for quite a while, resulting in some commotion at Garden. "A top-notch SeeD dating a sorceress?" they would say, astounded. But after time passed, everyone became accustomed to the combination. Because of Squall's accomplishments in the war, Headmaster Cid permanently promoted him to Commander, and would be in charge if anything were to happen to Cid. Squall didn't seem to mind. I wonder if he even cares.
Selphie had gotten the Garden Festival Committee up and running, and was quickly elected to become the President, while Irvine (pulled in by Selphie unwillingly) became Vice-President. Irvine didn't object as much as time went on. "I get to spend more time with my Selphie this way," he once said with a wink while a blushing Selphie elbowed him in the ribs.
As for Zell, he was no different than he used to be, except that he began to notice things other than hot dogs: the library staff. Quistis never pictured Zell to be another Irvine, but she always caught him chatting to some of the ladies at the front desk of the library. It seemed as if the Ultimecia incident had given him some kind of newfound courage. Not long after, he found himself a girlfriend whom he really liked: a cute and shy girl by the name of Lydia, who always had her shoulder-length hair in a pigtail.
It was only typical that they were all paired off in some way while Quistis was left alone. But she preferred to remain that way: no relationship hassles, no commitments, and no worrying about hurting anyone. Sure, there were the Trepies, but Quistis knew that most of them did not talk to her, but only watched her from afar. Even if they did relay their intentions, she would turn them down. Though she was no longer an Instructor, those very same Trepies still admired her for her intellect and calm demeanor. She'd give them a wave or a pleasant hello whenever they addressed her in the halls, but the stoic expression she so often wears rarely came off her beautifully serious face.
A sudden noise in the hallway snapped Quistis out of her thoughts. She lifted her head. Footsteps…who could be up at this time of night? She waited until the footsteps faded then lowered her head back down to her pillow. Quistis tried to quit thinking like an Instructor, but sometimes she couldn't help herself. I hope it wasn't a student, breaking curfew. Surely, they would've been caught if the Disciplinary Committee were still around.
The Disciplinary Committee. She hadn't thought of them in a long time. I wonder where they could be now. Fujin, Raijin…Seifer. She sighed. Not that I should care, but what if he's getting into trouble again? He was my student, after all...my favorite student. Quistis had realized that out of all her students, it was Seifer whom she always thought about the most.
Seifer, not Squall.
Quistis had liked Squall because he gave her the least trouble. In fact, he didn't give her anything at all. Squall was an introverted and anti-social boy, who kept to his textbooks and studied hard, always thinking but never talking.
Seifer, on the other hand, preferred the hands-on approach to learning, and knew that direct experience and knowledge could not be found in textbooks…not that he didn't read his textbooks either. Quistis had seen him at the library once or twice extremely close to curfew. She figured that Seifer was sure no one could catch him being such a bookworm that late at night. She saw how he would turn the pages carefully, to minimize sound so that he wouldn't draw attention. He was a fine man, even if he was arrogant. His written test scores were stellar, and yet the field exams were always no good. Quistis sometimes wondered what good the hands-on approach really did, but everything always narrowed down to one key point: He couldn't (no, wouldn't) follow orders.
Seifer… It's unlikely I'll ever see him again. Besides, why would he want to see his mediocre ex-Instructor?
"…went smoothly. Dr. Odine was very happy when he returned, and said that he wished he had SeeDs as his security guards instead of his current team," Quistis finished.
Cid seemed more than satisfied. "Very good, Quistis. You always return from a mission with positive results. I'm very impressed."
"Thank you, sir," Quistis said with a nod.
Cid turned to the window before speaking again, somewhat awkwardly, "Quistis, are you happy?"
The question startled her. "What do you mean, sir?"
"I know you really want your old job back. You seem unhappy about not teaching. Edea and I…we love you like a daughter, and it hurts us to see you unhappy."
"Thank you, sir, but I am fine," she lied.
Cid sighed. "All right, but if you need anything, please don't hesitate to let us know. You're dismissed."
Quistis walked out of the office more downcast than usual. She allowed herself to be lost in thought as she stepped into the waiting elevator. She decided to visit the Training Centre, and wanted to calm herself by hurting a few unfortunate monsters.
After a few Grats and Raldos, and drawing from them to stock up on some spells, Quistis got tired of fighting. Quistis coiled her Save the Queen around her waist and strode towards her dorm.
Is this all my life is now? Train, go on missions, sleep and wake, eat, and generate mission reports?
Quistis Trepe, I'm disappointed in you.