(Djinn)

"When the night-wind bewaileth the fall of the year,
And sweeps from the forest the leaves that are sere;
I wake from my slumber and list to the roar..."
--Epes Sargent

(Fujin.)

Garden respected Fujin. It granted her a quiet awe--a tacit admiration for who she was, how far she had come. Her one eye, her demeanor, her style of speaking--they were her trademarks, things that put her aside from and beyond anything of the normal student's ken. If anyone was asked why she was accorded such recognition, the answer would be instantaneous--because she was Fujin.

It wasn't the whole answer.

Most people didn't know her story--most people didn't wonder. Fujin was Fujin--what was there to wonder about? She was a constant of Garden life, like the winter storms or the T-Rexaurs in the Training Center.

No one remembered how she had become that. But somewhere, locked behind her silence, was a story.

This story.

(Tornado.)

Her name had been Sora.

She remembered vividly her arrival to the academy. It had been a grey, blustery day--the kind of day that always left her feeling as if her life had been taken and spun around like a leaf on the wind, taking her breath away.

Balamb Garden was huge.

When her father had said that he was taking her to a school where she could become a soldier and her mother had, as ever, looked quietly away and declined to object, she had imagined that she would be taken to a canvas tent in some godforsaken desert, like the kind that they showed in war movies where the soldiers had to sleep. She didn't know what an academy was before she saw the Garden, and she had been amazed.

It was her oldest brother, Setzu, who dropped her off there, unhappily. He had taken her aside before he had taken her into the building, pressing a brown-paper package into her hands and promising not to forget her. It wasn't her fault that she had been born a girl--wasn't her fault that she had been sent into a kind of exile by a father who could scarcely care less. He told her to remember him, too--and not to tell anyone her name. She had never seen him that superstitious. She promised.

And then he took her inside, spoke at some length with a severe woman he called "Registrar," and, with a last embrace, left her alone.

And she was more afraid than she had ever been before.

She was ushered into a lecture hall along with the other new students, and placed in rows of seats according to rough age groups. Most of them squirmed and fidgeted, not paying too much attention to the Headmaster or anything he said.

She was seated next to a largish boy with heavily-tanned skin, who looked loud even when he didn't speak. After he had tried unsuccessfully to listen to the orientation for a moment, he turned to her with a grin.

"They call me Raijin, ya?" he said--leaving it up to her imagination who "they" were. "Ya new?"

She nodded. Why else would she be here?

"Me too. We can be partners, ya?" he asked, eyes brightening at the thought. "Buddies. Ya have a name?"

Remembering Setzu, she shook her head.

He frowned. "No name?"

She nodded, mutely.

"That's no good, ya?" he looked at her, exceptionally earnest. Then he brightened again. "I'll give you one, ya? I'm Raijin, ya can be..." He looked around, catching sight of the elements outside the window. "Ya can be Fujin!"

"Fujin?" The word had an odd feel on her tongue. "What does it mean?"

"God of Wind." He smiled, proud in his knowledge. "Raijin means God of Thunder. Cool, ya?"

She didn't tell him that on that first, terrifying day, it had been the wind that scared her the most--roaring and scraping outside the windows, sealing her inside, taking her family and home away and making everything seem so terribly empty. "Maybe," was all she said.

Later, in her dorm, listening to her dorm-mate shuffle things around in her room, she carefully unwrapped Setzu's package. The folded paper fell away to reveal supple blue cloth--she unfolded it with a care that verged on reverence to reveal her brother's uniform--one that their mother had carefully sewn for him before learning that Galbadia provided their own uniforms, which his was nothing like. (She had put down her needle, then, and thrown up her hands. Her other sons, she said, could go off without home-tailored clothes, if they weren't going to be appreciated. Her daughters, on the other hand, went off without them as a matter of course.)

It was far too large for her, by far, and fit to Setzu's narrow waist and shoulders. But, fingering the gold gilt on the shoulders and hem, she couldn't help but believe that she would grow to fit it as perfectly as it had fit him.

Gold, he had told her once, was the color of bravery and nobility. Blue was a color of sky and wind and water, of cool, of calm. Those qualities were what their mother had tried to give him--and now, what he was giving her as his parting gift.

She ran her hands over the jacket, and tried to fulfill his wishes. Tried to be calm, cool, and brave.

The next day, at breakfast, Raijin found her. "Fujin!" he greeted, as if she had already agreed to the title. He gestured urgently across the room. "That guy is signing people up for class partners. I'll be yours, ya?"

She looked around, but--not knowing anyone other than her dormmate and suspecting that she might have other friends already--hesitantly agreed.

And Raijin was off like a shot, as if he had to claim her before anyone else did.

The reason that Garden assigned class partners was to begin building student-to-student bonds--so that the student body was as close as family, inter-reliant and looking out for each other.

Fujin and Raijin became like brothers. (She had had many brothers, and had never thought of herself as a sister. She did what they did. They shared the same toys, the same clothes, the same room. She wasn't a little sister to them. She was a little brother with a girl's name. The only thing that made her different was that when she was old enough to live away from her parents, she would be sent away. None of them remembered how many sisters they had.) That was why she had, in the end, accepted his nickname for her, and why she consented to the strange partnership he seemed to be insisting upon. And that was why, when she saw him being pushed into a wall by the sheer force of another boy's insults, she had to step in.

The first words she heard out of Seifer Almasy's mouth were "Stupid idiot." The next were a surprised "You hit me," after his equilibrium had adjusted to his new position on the floor.

Then he had stood up, and tried to hit her twice as hard.

In the end it was Raijin who ran off to get a Faculty member, who broke up the fight and escorted them both up to the Headmaster's office for discipline. By then, each of them were rubbing bruises.

Seifer left that day with a new grudge, Raijin with a new respect for Fujin. Fujin left with the burning realization that, from here on out, she would have to fight for her own at Garden.

(Zan.)

The day they were assigned combat knives of their own felt like a right of passage--a symbol of adulthood, of maturity, at ten and eleven years old.

She went to the Training Center that very night, almost giddy with the prospect of being allowed--and not just able--to. Even if combat knife tactics were as basic as hand-to-hand, even if the weapon she had been issued was scratched, scraped, and had seen better days, even if she had been coming here with Raijin long before today, to be allowed to granted a feeling of legitimacy that she found very palatable, indeed.

She should have known that Seifer would be there, his own knife in his hand.

He grinned when he saw her, fingering the handle of the weapon. "Wanna spar?" he asked.

She knew that they didn't have nearly the skill to spar with each other safely. She also knew that they had all been expressly forbidden from sparring with each other.

But, standing there in the entryway, she could see that Seifer didn't care. And, given that, neither did she.

The fight was a vicious one, each party throwing themselves into it as if they were mortal enemies. It was frantic, faster than anything she had ever seen reproduced by her instructors, a thousand times as vivid seen first-person. It was a bit haphazard, true, due to the fact that neither of them really knew what they were doing--but the heat behind the strikes fueled a coordination that was only trumped by their arrogance, in the end.

She didn't even see it coming when the downward sweep cut her forehead to the bone, passed through her eye, split her cheek, and ended somewhere in her throat.

And Seifer froze in shock, in an absolute panic as she tried to scream in pain and the noise came out like a vibrating gurgle instead.

She was only half conscious of him grabbing her arm and dragging her toward the Infirmary, rushing his steps in the realization that this time he had broken the rules so badly he didn't know what they were going to do to him. She blacked out somewhere passing the Library. But at least he had gotten her there, one way or another.

Later, they told her that it was only the speed with which he had done so that had saved her, and allowed them to even partially heal the scars on the skin of her face. There was nothing they could do, however, for the damaged organs--her eye was lost forever, and with it her depth perception. And her voice would probably never be the same.

She had tried to protest that, but the most she could manage was a feeble whisper that rattled around in her throat and hurt, it seemed, even more than the initial wound. They gave her a strict warning not to speak until it had healed.

That said and done, they released her from the Infirmary. There was nothing more they could do for her there.

Seifer wasn't in any of her classes when she returned to them. After it became obvious that she wondered where he had gone, one of her instructors took her aside and explained that the Faculty was still deciding what to do with him. From what it looked like at the moment, though, he was going to be expelled--parents or no parents, he had acted inappropriately for Garden, and it was miracle that she had survived at all. Cid was in the process of arranging his transfer over to a boarding school in Galbadia, and that would be the end of his stay in Balamb.

As soon as her classes got over, she found the nearest Administrator and demanded to talk to Cid. The man was remarkably easy to convince--or maybe he just took pity on her and didn't want her to force her voice any more than it had to. She was admitted to the third floor office without delay, and Cid hastily put aside his other business to receive her.

"Don't expel him," were the first three words she rasped.

Cid blinked. "Excuse me?" he asked.

"Don't expel Seifer."

Cid frowned. He took in the eyepatch, and the mass of bandages around her neck. He was probably wondering what had made her so eager to have Seifer stay, after what he had done to her. "Why not?" he asked, looking over the rims of his glasses as if he was her father, and she was asking for another fifty gil in allowance.

"I don't want you to." She fixed her good eye on him and glared, as if she could convince him that she hadn't come up here and torn her request up through an agonized voicebox on a whim. After a moment, he raised his eyebrows.

"Well," he said, not sounding sure of himself at all. "I suppose, if it's you making the request, I'll cave in." He gave her a thin smile. "I didn't want to expel him much, anyway," he confided, unaware of how little she cared. "I don't like throwing orphans out on their own. Although I do rather wonder what's prompted you to ask..."

Fujin didn't respond, although she had a feeling it might have to do with how much she liked the idea of having him indebted to her.

And besides, good enemies were hard to come by.

(Sai.)

It was a slow day just before Semester began when the combat-oriented classes were allowed to register for weapons. One by one, the students were ushered into the Armory, where the Weaponsmaster stood--taller than most adults in Garden, grizzled and scarred, it seemed as if he could take any weapon in the extensive Armory and use it adeptly. He had access to the results of the preliminary testing, and half of the students who went in left with the idea that he knew far more about what they were good at than they did.

As soon as she stepped into the Armory, Fujin resolved that that wasn't going to be the case for her.

"I want to use a shuriken," she said, every word hurting in her damaged throat.

The Weaponsmaster shook his head. "Absolutely not."

"Why not?"

He reached out with his calloused hand, touching the patch on her eye as if he was passing judgment. "You're never going to be able to use that for anything," he pronounced surely. "You might do well with a mace, or a flail. Ranged weaponry is out of the question. Feel free to look around the Armory and decide. Formal sign-ups are tomorrow."

And with that, he dismissed her.

Late that night, she snuck out of her dorm while her roommate was sleeping. She snuck over to Raijin's room, knocking on the door just loud enough for him to hear without attracting the faculty. He wasn't unaccustomed to her late-night visits, although she didn't come around as often now that she was beginning to be instilled with Garden's military discipline. He had opened the door and pulled her inside well before any faculty member could check the hallway for disturbance.

"You wanted quarterstaff?" she asked, throat still screaming pain at her when she tried to talk at anything approaching a normal volume. She was beginning to learn, however, the value of conserving words--she sacrificed grammar, aiming instead for the least painful clarity she could find.

"Yeah," Raijin responded. "Seems like an easy weapon, ya know?"

"Take shuriken," Fujin said.

"Wha...?"

"Won't let me." She blinked, eye burning fiercely. "I'll take quarterstaff. You take shuriken. Teach me."

Raijin looked apprehensively at her eyepatch. "Ya sure that's a good idea?" he asked.

Fujin stomped, feeling angry and a bit betrayed that Raijin, too, would doubt her. Depth perception or none, she wasn't about to let any person, class or institution think she was any less capable than anyone else. "I can learn," she said, finding to her further aggravation that her wounded throat wouldn't let her snap as loudly as she wanted to. Taking a deep breath, she attempted a yell. "CAN LEARN!"

Raijin looked dubious, but nodded. "Sure," he said. "I guess."

Fujin nodded, face tightening into an expression of grim satisfaction. With a brief pause to listen for sounds outside the door, she slipped out and back down the hallway to her room.

For months of training, Raijin put up with what had to seem very strange to him. Every day Fujin would insist upon their going to the Training Center well after curfew, sneaking in like fugitives with their practice weapons on their backs. Fujin imposed a regime upon herself that was far more strenuous than the normal classwork, and Raijin could hardly believe what she was willing to put herself through.

Much of what she had him do seemed strange to him--having him stand next to her and then walk away--paused every few steps--time and time again, for example. Or having him stand across the room and throw the shuriken so close to her that he was afraid he might hit her, training notwithstanding. It wasn't until several weeks later that he finally realized what she was doing--memorizing the sizes of familiar shapes at different distances.

At her prompting he brought in a frisbee one day, with crudely painted-on dashes along the circumference. They spent what seemed to be hours tossing it back and forth, as Fujin learned exactly where to grip it and how not to catch one of the "blades."

When he finally tossed her the shuriken, she caught it perfectly on her first try. And any doubts he still harbored began to melt away.

The single-mindedness with which Fujin applied herself to the task of learning two weapons was incredible. Even if her skills with the quarterstaff increased only as quickly as the rest of the students--if not a shade slower--her skills with the shuriken increased even faster than Raijin's, to the point where he decided he was incapable of teaching her anything more. He practiced what she had passed on to him about the quarterstaff, and watched in fascination as she pushed herself harder and farther than he would have thought possible.

Something about her was changing--and it wasn't just the way she was learning to ration her words, or the beginnings of her growth spurts, or the usual maturation of a Garden student. Everything she did spoke of decisiveness, every action she took had more purpose behind it that Raijin could add up in a day. Even her gestures belied the new muscles--figurative and literal--she was developing, and she seemed to be sharpening and focusing into something that he couldn't touch.

By the time proficiency testing rolled around, she was without a doubt the most skilled student in Garden with the shuriken. And even if she and Raijin were the only people to know that, it didn't escape anyone's notice that the burning light of determination was beginning to shine in her eyes.

The instructor frowned as Fujin stepped into the arena. "Where's your quarterstaff?" she asked, giving her a disapproving stare.

"Don't need it," she muttered, and then amended "USELESS."

The instructor shook her head. "You have your proficiency test now," she said. "You can't take it without your weapon."

Fujin ran a finger down the side of the shuriken. "MY WEAPON," she pronounced.

The teacher sighed. "Fujin," she said, attempting to sound reasonable. "I remember as well as you do your first-choice weapon. I thought you had gotten used to the facts when you took up quarterstaff. Now is no time for an emotional regression."

Fujin turned, facing the staggered row of colored mannequins. "RED," she snapped, and proceeded to execute a perfect Sai attack.

The instructor had taken a breath to say something. She didn't close her mouth.

When she had rediscovered the fine art of breathing, the instructor tried to regain some of her composure. "Green mannequin," she instructed. "Zan."

And Fujin's testing began.

The news spread like wildfire.

In a matter of hours Fujin found herself going from being a moody, scarred girl who sat in the back of classrooms to an entity worthy of respect. Students stared when she walked by, new shuriken strapped soundly on her back and eyepatch in stark contrast to her pale skin. Instructors accorded her renewed respect--underclassmen accorded her awe.

She was beginning to find it very much to her liking.

She headed to the Training Center as soon as she got the time, and began to test the new shuriken she had been given. It was a beautiful piece of work--elegant without being delicate, light without being weak. She marveled at how easily it flew, and how easily it cut. She could split a leaf in two from her spot in the Training Center entryway, and she smiled at her own, personal victory.

It wasn't much later that Seifer entered, newly-issued gunblade looking a size too large for him. She didn't stop practicing, ignoring her old enemy and letting him pause to watch her. She executed all the most difficult attacks she knew, just to spite him. He had probably been hoping that she would fail.

After a bit, when Seifer hadn't moved on into the Training Center proper or made any move to challenge her or practice on his own, she turned to face him. The shuriken was held lightly in one hand, still cool from passing through the air.

He nodded, looking strangely satisfied. "Fujin, right?" he asked, as if it wasn't even an insult to cripple a person and then forget their name. "You're pretty good with that."

"YES." She was acknowledging that he had noticed a simple fact--she didn't consider it gloating. Gloating was beneath her. It was something he might do.

"I'm setting up a posse," he said nonchalantly. "Only the best fighters in Garden. Wanna be in it?"

Fujin stared. She knew as well as anyone else Seifer's character and place in Garden--she knew all about his rivalries, and could reason that this was probably just one way to smirk in the faces of everyone who he wanted to insult or lord over. He came after her because he recognized that she was someone, now, who could help him get to that place. She was someone other people could fear.

And that recognition was why she accepted.

On the condition that Raijin would join, too.

(Posse.)

Whatever illusions Seifer had harbored about pulling together his own personal army disappeared within the first few days of trying. Fujin had joined because she wanted to. Raijin had joined because Fujin had told him to. No one else joined, because no one else liked Seifer.

In the end, he had just shrugged it off and said that three was plenty big for a posse, and that they were like an actual SeeD squad this way, anyway. Taking an immediate liking tot hat idea, he reminded them both in no uncertain terms that he was the squad leader.

Fujin had, at that, simply rolled her one eye and cast Raijin an aggravated look. He returned it uncertainly--he was still not sure why he was being called into this team, and if Fujin seemed annoyed with it, he really wasn't sure. But he had been told that this was a posse, and that probably meant that it was important to at least try to put up with one another. So, he did.

In the first days and weeks the Posse was nothing terribly special. They gathered once in a while, listened with varying degrees of disinterest to Seifer's megalomaniacal ravings, and dispersed. By the time they did anything worthy of any attention, Fujin had almost begun to think that the Posse was entirely for show.

Then one day, at dinner, Seifer had instructed them both to come to the Training Center at midnight. He said he had "something big" planned--as that he would tell them the rest that night. The look on his face seemed to suggest that he thought it would be something that would secure them everlasting fame.

Fujin, as always, rolled her eye and agreed, sure it would be nothing nearly as exciting as he thought it was.

That night, when they gathered secretively inside the Training Center gates, he informed them that they were going to be the youngest students ever to kill a T-Rexaur.

Raijin immediately balked, seeing all the reasons it wouldn't work. Seifer was adamant, however, and after some time, Raijin agreed.

Although they had been given permission to use the Training Center quite some time ago, they had still been instructed to flee the area if they so much as heard a T-Rexaur. But, standing there with the Posse, Seifer didn't care. And, once again, neither did she.

In the end, they had managed to kill it. Fujin's precision with the shuriken had allowed her to mostly blind the lumbering creature, and after that it was just a matter of staying out of its way and taking it apart. Coming out of the Training Center, however, they ran into a Faculty member--who immediately took their names down and sentenced them to detention for the week following.

Their infamy was beginning to grow in Garden even as they were confined to detention, quietly resenting the fact that they were there. Muted whispers and quiet glances communicated their discontent, and soon turned to bragging and congratulations--over a good shot here, a narrow escape there. They had impressed themselves--and each other--with their capacity to fight together.

Intentional or not, the Posse was beginning to become a team.

One night, a few weeks after their stint in detention was over, Seifer told Fujin to come with him to the Secret Area in the back of the Training Center. She obeyed the summons, as she always did--it was a matter of Posse business. She didn't wonder why Raijin hadn't been invited--she was the one that Seifer respected, and she knew that.

No one was there that late--the Posse generally met after midnight, when almost all of Garden was trying to sleep for the coming day. It was a crisp night, a few thin clouds obscuring the sky. Seifer walked up to the edge of the Area, staring off at the distance.

"...you have a Dream, Fujin?" he asked, and there was something about the way he said Dream that made her hear it with a capitol D.

"NO," she stated.

He shook his head. "Sad."

She crossed her arms. "YOU?"

"Of course." He nodded to the horizon, as if his Dream was written in the constellations. "I'm going to be a Knight."

"KNIGHT."

"For a Sorceress." He drew Hyperion, gesturing out across the Alcauld Plains. "The most powerful people in the world are Sorceresses. And the most noble are Knights. They can fight anything, and they champion the Sorceress's cause--they're even better than SeeDs at fighting. And I'm going to be one."

He nodded again, as if to reaffirm his last statement.

"That's my Dream," he finished, shouldering the Hyperion and still looking off across Balamb Isle. "And I'm gonna make it. No matter what anyone says."

Fujin watched him critically. He had talked about his "dreams" before this, but she had never paid much attention to it. She had little use for dreams, really--but the way he talked about his tonight--something to be pursued, something to be challenged, something to be conquered--reminded her of something in herself.

No matter what anyone says.

The shuriken was a comforting weight on her back, one that she had become so familiar with that it was a shock when it wasn't there or in her hands. And she remembered the steps she had taken to get it--how she and Raijin had conspired, and how they had both stuck it out to the end. Like partners. Like brothers.

Like the Posse.

She watched him carefully, and found herself respecting him more than she ever had before. He had something he wanted, and was willing to go against the world to get it.

And if he was willing to do so, then the Posse would be by his side.

She didn't tell him. She didn't say anything. But she stood there, watching the horizon with him, until he decided it was time to leave.

(Metsu.)

The Lunatic Pandora wasn't an inviting place, in structure or in name. But Fujin had always done her best to ignore things like that--she held no stock in omens and portents, or in superstitions. She refused to let herself think that the Lunatic Pandora was a sign of things going wrong--even when Seifer relegated her to the position of guarding their prisoner, a girl who didn't look as if she could hurt anyone if she tried, and had them follow him into a back room where he could await whatever it was he needed to further his Sorceress's aims.

She wasn't finding her efforts terribly successful as Seifer's old rival burst into the room, two other SeeDs about whom Fujin didn't care in tow. She felt annoyed, partially at the SeeDs for coming back here after she had fought them once already, for making her fight them again--but that wasn't the only thing that was bothering her, not by a long shot.

"Looks like we got company," Seifer said, the smirk audible in his voice and disgusting her. "Show 'em your hospitality."

Raijin pulled his quarterstaff from his back, advancing upon the SeeD team. They fell automatically into their ready positions, ready for a fight.

All at once, Fujin snapped. "RAIJIN, STOP," she snarled, startling him. She could hear Seifer take a step forward on his platform, as surprised as Raijin had been.

"What's up?" he asked, sounding as annoyed as he did wounded.

Raijin turned and sighed, and it was obvious that he and Fujin shares at least some sentiments. He gestured tiredly, shoulders unusually bowed. "We've had enough, ya know..." he said, plaintively.

Fujin released Ellone, giving her a small push. "GO," she instructed. Ellone looked back at her, as if fearing a trick. A cursory nod sent her on her way before Fujin turned to deal with the Knight behind her.

"Hey, hey! Come on, people," Seifer urged, as if he could coax them into cooperation. Raijin shook his head.

"Seifer, we're quittin', ya know? Don't know what's right anymore, ya know..."

"Exactly my thoughts. I thought we were a posse."

Fujin watched him, and tried to remember what the word meant. And all she could come up with was one night in the Secret Area, watching him stare off toward the horizon. "POSSE..."

Seifer turned to her, awaiting her explanation. She stepped forward, face twisting into a wildly pained grimace.

"We are," she said, trying to force a normal voice out of a throat he had ruined so long ago. "We always will be. Because we're a posse, we want to help you. Whatever it takes to fulfill your dream, we're willing to do." She shook her head, swallowing. The speech was beginning to hurt already--it tore at her throat, drying her mouth. "But..." She had to resist the urge to spit. "You're being manipulated, Seifer. You've lost yourself and your dream. You're just eating out of someone's hand."

Raijin was nodding sadly. She didn't feel sad as she continued--she felt angry. Angry at him, angry at Ultimecia--

"We want the old you back!" she snapped. "...since we can't get through to you, all we have to rely on is Squall." And Seifer, of all people, should know what that meant-- "It's sad. Sad that we only have Squall to rely on..."

Seifer was shaking his head incredulously. For a moment she recalled the days when they had been enemies, and whatever words they exchanged were only a prelude to violence.

"Seifer!" If he was going to attack her now, she swore on her name that she would take the shuriken and cut him down where he stood. "Are you still gonna keep goin'?"

Seifer took a few moments to absorb all that she had said. Finally he shrugged--and swept Hyperion up into a salute. The motion was shallow, hollow--it had ceased to remind Fujin of glory and purpose, and was now just an empty motion that spoke of one more thing he had lost of himself.

"Raijin, Fujin! It's been fun!"

...and that was that. With five words, he had dissolved the Posse. She bowed her head, willing herself not to lose her composure to anger. Then she turned and fled the room.

Raijin followed her through the tunnels of the Lunatic Pandora. She didn't care where she was going, and he only trailed after her--they ended up nowhere in particular. She ripped the shuriken from her back and sent it racing down the tunnel behind her, catching it as it returned with all its force. Anger was working up to wrath now, and Raijin moved off to one side and tried as hard as he could to stay out of the way.

"LET--" She almost roared the world, harsh voice echoing in the crystal tunnel and only serving to remind her of him, the idiot-- "--SQUALL--" She threw the shuriken again, watching its path, automatically gauging the distance as it reached the apex of its curve, "--BEAT--" and she caught it as it came whistling back to her, the impact jarring her wrist and arm, "--HIM!"

She stood for a moment, shuddering under the force of her own emotion. After a moment, she deliberately picked a small boulder, stalked over to it, and sat down.

She didn't enjoy getting angry. It was a loss of control, and control was something she prided herself on. So she sat down, breathing steadily. Raijin looked at her cautiously.

"...we're still partners, ya know?" he said gingerly. "...I'm sure Seifer will come around."

Fujin shook her head. But she didn't say anything.

They sat in silence within the Crystal Pillar, waiting. For what, neither of them really knew.

It was some time later, when the noises of sorcery and of stranger things had ceased to ring through the halls, that Fujin finally stood up and walked back down the path she had taken. After a while she came back to the juncture that lead up into Adel's chamber--and upon the exact person she had expected to find.

Seifer had collapsed against a wall, looking beaten and disillusioned. He looked up at her as she came into his sight, as if he expected that she was just the last person to show up and try to claim his life. He looked perilously close to not caring if she did so.

She watched him, not allowing anything to show in her eyes. No pity, no contempt--nothing whatsoever.

He raised both hands, palm-up, in a gesture of defeat. "Going to say 'I told you so?'" he asked, voice gruff.

Fujin shook her head. She didn't need to say anything.

Raijin came up behind her, and--taking his cues from her--made no move to help the fallen Knight. Seifer's eyes flicked over him, and he managed the ghost of a bitter smile. "You told me so," he admitted, with a kind of self-mocking sarcasm that was painful to hear.

She folded her arms. He winced, pushing himself up off the floor. He was probably injured somehow or other, but he made no complaint.

She jerked a thumb back over her shoulder. "HOME," she said. Her voice wa just as rough as his had been, given how much stress she had put on it. But he understood her, and what she was trying to say.

"Yeah," he said, looking over the Posse as if he had never realized what, exactly, it was. "Let's go home."

(God Of Wind.)

Seifer was in Balamb, Raijin was with Seifer, and the world was good.

She walked the length of the coast slowly, casting glances back to where the Garden was coming to rest after sailing in from the sea. Seeing the Garden in flight was an odd feeling--she didn't know if she would ever get used to the changed that had occurred in the last few weeks.

Then again, she had gotten used to so many changes over the course of her life...

She was on her third trip across the beach when a man caught up to her, triggering her trained reflexes and prompting her to draw her shuriken before he could get within three metres of her. He held up his hands, looking her up and down. There was... something familiar about him, in the slant of his eyes, the pale color of his hair. It seemed as if she might remember him from a long, long time ago.

At last, seeing that she wasn't immediately going to attack, he lowered his hands. "Sora," was all he said.

She blinked. She hadn't heard that name in--

"After all these years."

She came close to dropping the shuriken, but she didn't. "SETZU."

"I heard," he said, stepping forward into arms-length. "I heard all about what was happening at Garden. I thought of you. ...after all these years." He smiled, gesturing softly. "That uniform gave you away, otherwise..."

She watched him. It was strange to meet him again--he was as much stranger as sibling, now, but there was still something there--she could still remember the day he had pressed the uniform into her arms, dropping her off at Garden where the trail of her life had begun. "LONG TIME," she pronounced.

He reached out, touching the eyepatch and raising her chin to see the faint scar on her neck. His lips pressed together. "If I could catch the bastard who did that--"

She laughed--a harsh, rasping sound. Then she shook her head. "PAID BACK," she said.

He nodded solemnly, trusting her judgment. "I want to catch up on times," he said. "A lot of times."

She nodded in agreement. He stepped back, looking her up and down again.

"That uniform," he said. "It really fits you."

Fujin looked down, inspecting the colors again. Blue, for coolness and calm. Gold, for bravery an nobility. She thought about the girl she had been, unwrapping the package in her first days at Garden, alone and afraid. And she nodded. "YES. IT DOES."