He's never been far from trouble
He lives an inch from his demise
Pushes his luck right to the edge
Pulls the bull over your eyes…
John Gorka: Trouble
"After the Garden's gone, the SeeD hunt will begin. I"ll be Edea"s bloodhound and hunt down every one of your kind."
Seifer Almasy: Final Fantasy Eight
Seifer Almasy stared at the map.
He flipped the map the other way up for what seemed like the fortieth time that day
Nope, must have been right ways up the first time.
Fuck. I really am lost. Serve me right for buying a map from that crazy little street dealer over the slice-n-fry joint in Marduk. Damn, if I ever get out of here I'm going to find my gunblade and shove it right up that little creep's…..
Ignoring the fact that his discovery of the map's errors had just significantly reduced his chances of ever seeing civilisation again, let alone that particular street vendor, he continued trudging through the snow, swearing under his breath.
Today looked like being another wonderful day. Just one more in the legions of really shit days he'd had since leaving the city.
He'd heard that some more religiously inclined people considered good fortune to be Hyne smiling on them. Seifer knew She was definitely doing something on him, but it certainly wasn't smiling.
He was fed up of running. It seemed like years since he'd left the city…He wasn't at all sure of the actual date, but from the steadily-decreasing temperature and shortening days he figured it had to be at least a month, month and a half.
He grinned. That was fucking good. Of course, there had been a few close shaves, some so close as to be almost suicidal, but right now he wasn't thinking about that.
A faint crunching sound came from the frosty dead leaf litter off to the right. Freezing on the spot (in more ways than one) Seifer's hand slipped unconsciously under the lapel of his heavy winter coat to grip the hilt of a hidden knife. Muscles taxed from the cold slipped fluidly into a practised fighting crouch.
Focusing on the spot from which the sound had come, he drew the knife.
Damn. Fucking squirrels. Oh well…food's food..
The knife zipped across the clearing and buried itself in the unfortunate twitching corpse of a squirrel that, until two seconds ago, had had nothing more serious to worry about than the next acorn.
Not much meat on that. Seifer resisted the temptation to boot the little furry critter half way across the forest in the manner of a football.
He hated squirrels. They didn't even taste like chicken. And he really hated trees. Through two months of walking through Northern Trabia, he'd decided that trees were only good for two things. Hiding in, and burning.
He wished he had his gunblade. Or even his familiar tattered dragonleather coat that wouldn't have stood a gnat"s change in Hell against the fierce, biting cold.
That first day out of Time Compression in the hills outside Marduk, Hyperion and the old coat had folded into a surprisingly small bundle as he slipped them into a trash bag and sealed the mouth neatly with duct tape. Buried like his past, he'd thought at the time.
Apparently that hadn't been the case.
Seifer had come out from Time Compression two months after the end of the Sorceress' War; dazed,bewildered and still holding onto Hyperion like grim death. He had never thought he'd be glad that a newspaper had been the first thing he picked up. The paper had been stiff with dirt and sodden with rainwater. He couldn"t read half the words, but he didn"t have to. Just a badly copied picture; on the back page. His only formal Garden photograph, three years ago, squeezed into the stiff woollen formal cadet uniform with eyebrows meeting in the familiar scowl.
"WANTED: SEED CADET SEIFER ALMASY, IN CONNECTION WITH WAR CRIMES IN THE SECOND SORCERESSES WAR. INFORMATION RECEIVED LEADING TO THE ARREST OF CADET ALMASY WILL BE REWARDED."
There was a description, at the bottom underneath the headline and photo. Seifer didn"t bother to read it. Hell, he already knew what he looked like. And below that, an address and phone number in weeping black ink. Not Balamb Garden. A Galbadian code. And Seifer didn't even want to think about what that meant.
But the paper was Trabian. At least he knew where he was. And when. The date showed up clearly on the front; two months after when he thought he'd first gone into time compression. Or sometime about that, anyway. He hadn't exactly been checking the date during the wars.
He"d known when the sorceress lost, somehow, even in time compression. Like a thread snapping, like the time when you realise an old wound has at last healed cleanly and you can move without pain.
It felt like he'd been able to see clearly for the first time in months.
Oh, well. Have to sort that out as soon as possible.
He looked around. There was no one, just bleak stony hillsides, the odd sheep, and trees, their leaves just falling. And what looked like a town or a city, far off in the distance.
A few minutes aimless walking led him to a pitted earth track, worn by hooves and the odd bootprint. A peeling sign said "Marduk: Five miles." Someone had scrawled crude graffiti across it "So funny" and a little cartoon of a smiling head and hands.
LOST, Fuujin would have said. STUPID.
Towns meant people. But they also meant food, and shelter, and something to drink, and a way of finding out what the hell had just happened. And exactly where he was, which hopefully was about as far away from Galbadia as he could get here.
Seifer looked down at himself. He was fucking freezing. Warm clothes that didn"t immediately shout "Sorceress' Knight" would be a great idea right now. And some money.
He started to walk towards the city. There was nothing else to do. The trail wound through a confusing mosaic of hummocks and dales, hidden in places by thornbushes and caked with sheepshit.
The sheep fled.
Deja fucking vu, thought Seifer.