A/N: My sincere apologies for the belated update and the small (compared to all the others) chapter. Please note that updates on this story will be less frequent from now on, but they won't take as long as this one did, mmmkay?
But there's a nice cliff-hanger there ^_^ Not my best, as my beta was kind enough to inform me *glares at Chris* but good enough.
This chapter takes place the exact same day as the one before, only it's back in Centra, between Seifer and Edea.
Last chapter summary: Quis leaves Centra in a hurry and goes on a mission with Rinoa. They almost get caught and Quistis falls unconscious all of a sudden… Later on, she discovers that was she dreaded from weeks now, has come true… She's pregnant…
~*The Beginning, is the End, is the Beginning*~
A sequel to 'Love Conquers All'
By: Sickness in Salvation
Chapter 10: A shadow from the 'Book of Shadows'
The same day, back in Centra…
Seifer stirred in bed. He let out a sleepy groan and swung his arm to the other side of the bed. Instead of it coiling around Quistis' shoulders however, his palm fell on something which let out a wrinkling sound. Seifer raised his head from the pillow and only half-opened his eyes. He looked down next to him and found a piece of paper pressed underneath his palm. Puzzled, he grabbed it. Yawning and rubbing the back of his hair, he read the note.
I'm sorry to leave like this, but Squall said that I had to return to Garden for a while
and go for some field work with Rinoa.
I don't think I'll stay for more than two days there. Either way, I'll be back as soon as
- "Dammit…" Seifer cursed under his breath.
The blond rubbed his eyes open and flung the covers off him. He grabbed the pair of black sweatpants and grey T-shirt he wore in bed, which were hanging on a chair near-by. He swiftly got dressed and headed for the kitchen to find Matron. Once there, he found no-one, but noticed a half-empty cup of tea and a plate filled with crumbs on the table. Seifer walked over to the back door and swung it open. He winced as his bare feet made contact with the freezing tiles of the porch outside. He found Matron there, watering the pots of her plants.
- "Morning sunshine." Edea said smiling.
- "Morning. Need any help?" Seifer offered.
- "No, I'm almost done Seifer. You go ahead and have some breakfast and I'll be there in a couple of minutes." she replied.
Edea walked back inside after about five minutes, clutching her long black coat tightly around her body. Her cheeks and nose were flushed from the cold.
- "Hyne it's cold outside!" she exclaimed, taking off her coat and scarf.
- "I bet… Wanna join me for a cup of coffee?" Seifer asked, finishing up his bowl of cereal.
- "I'll get it ready," Seifer said, getting up "You have a seat."
- "Alright…" replied Edea, sitting down and rubbing her hands in warmth.
- "Any cream or sugar?" Seifer asked, opening the cupboard before him, taking out two mugs.
- "Both. But only one spoonful of sugar."
Seifer nodded and poured the hot liquid that Edea had already made earlier into two mugs. After adding some cream and sugar in Edea's mug and just a tiny bit of sugar in his, he brought them over to the table, sitting across her.
- "Thank you." said the older woman, cupping the mug with her slender fingers, taking a sip.
- "Is it good?" asked Seifer, drinking a bit of his.
- "Just fine." Edea replied, smiling "So. How are you today?" she asked one of the young men she considered a son gingerly.
- "I'm good…" replied Seifer stretching "Slept well… But Quistis should have woken me up before leaving…" he said, somewhat glumly.
- "I know; she didn't feel good about it either, but she had to go and didn't want to disturb your sleep." said the Matron "I don't know if anyone has ever told you, but you look absolutely adorable in your sleep." she added, smiling warmly.
- "As I do most of the time anyway…" he replied jokingly, smirking, although Edea noticed a faint blush appearing on his cheeks.
They both chuckled lightly, sipping some more coffee. Seifer felt the warm beverage soothing his tenseness and rubbed his temples.
- "Everything alright?" asked Edea.
- "Yeah." replied Seifer casually, shrugging "It's just that…"
- "Just that what?"
- "I dunno…" began Seifer, rubbing the back of his hair "I don't really feel well that everyone is working to help me, especially Quistis, and all I'm doing is sitting here, hiding like a coward…" he finished, looking down at the table.
- "Seifer, listen to me," Edea said, touching his hand. Seifer looked up at her "They're your friends and help you because you mean something to them. And you're not a 'coward' as you say, for staying here until things clear out."
- "C'mon Matron… Who am I kidding?" he said "They're not my friends. And they have every right not to be. It's not like I've been the epitome of kindness around them. They're just doing all this because I'm with Quistis…"
- "Do you really believe that?"
- "Don't you?" Seifer asked her.
- "I would have, if we were having this conversation months ago, when you were just getting back to Garden." she replied honestly.
- "And what has changed ever since then?" he asked.
- "You have earned their trust and respect." answered Edea "And even though you might not be the best of friends yet, you're in a very good path…" she finished. Seifer shrugged "And it wouldn't hurt to be a bit nicer from time to time, either…" she added smiling, raking her hand through his front locks. Seifer chuckled.
- "You know me." he said.
- "That's right, I do. And just because I do, I'd like to see you show more of your good side to them." the Matron said "The side you show Quistis everyday." Seifer gave her a grin "How are things going on between you two anyway?"
- "If it weren't for this whole shitty situation, I would have said 'great'." the blond replied.
- "Language…" Edea scolded.
- "Sorry Matron…"
- "Are you happy?" she asked.
- "Yes." replied Seifer looking at her "Very."
The ex-Sorceress smiled and rubbed Seifer's knuckles with her thump. Seifer placed his other hand on top of her as well and smiled weakly.
- "How did the research go yesterday?" Edea asked.
- "Well… We didn't come across anything unexpected." replied Seifer "Just Deling and his right-hand man, Robinson, involved in fascistic groups when younger. But that's not anything surprising. We did however, think we'd found a lead on someone else, but we were 'cut off'…"
- "'Cut off'?"
- "Some internet virus, conveniently covering whatever it was we stumbled upon…"
- "Who were you researching on at the time?" asked Edea, intrigued.
- "Some woman named Faris Chang. She used to be Robinson's girlfriend when they were younger, and they're probably back together now or something…" replied Seifer shrugging.
- "I see… What were you looking for?"
- "Just some background info on her. The thing is, that we didn't even think what we'd found was important, but since it was being covered up, there must be something hiding behind it…"
- "And what was it you found?" asked Edea.
- "Some connection of her with a group called 'Aidra'." Seifer answered "Just when we were about to find out what it was though…"
- "Aidra?" asked Edea, creasing her forehead "How do you spell that?"
- "Hmm… Why does that sound vaguely familiar?" she mumbled.
- "You've heard about it before?" asked Seifer, arching both eyebrows.
- "I think I have… Just can't remember where…" replied Edea, falling into deep thought "I might be mistaken though. It just sounds… familiar…"
Seifer was lying onto one of the couches of the Common Room. He was looking up at the ceiling of the room, taking in long drags of the cigarette he rested from time to time on an ashtray on the floor. Edea was sitting on the couch across him, engrossed into a book, although she seemed ready to fall asleep any moment now. It wasn't even late; hardly 7:00 p.m., but she'd had a long day doing chores around the orphanage with Seifer. The blond would have been sleepy as well, but his mind was way too pre-occupied to let him be at peace.
No matter how glad and flattered he was that Quistis was willingly helping him out of this, he hated being alone right now. He couldn't bare the fact that she was out there, struggling for him and he was sitting comfortably on a couch, just waiting for some good news. When she was there with him it was different; he had her comforting presence on his side and could be of some use in addition. Now that he could do no research and she had gone, he felt horribly useless and alone. Edea's company was of course more than he should be asking, but Quistis was a totally different case.
The Matron had asked him early that morning how things were going on between them lately. Seifer couldn't honestly recall a moment in his life when he'd felt happier just being in the same room with another person, much less actually being with that person. Although he'd never dare believe it if someone had told him a few years earlier that a mere glance at her every morning, by his side, would instantly make his day, he would have laughed whole-heartedly. However, he was more than glad to be proven wrong. If only he wasn't facing charges of murder for the second time in his life, he'd be able to say freely that he needed nothing more from life at this point.
Sighing deeply, he exhaled one last cloud of grey smoke, before extinguishing his cigarette on the ashtray. He wrapped his arms behind his head and turned over to look at Edea. She'd already fallen asleep; the book had fallen from her hands onto her lap and her head was tilting against the cushion of the sofa. Seifer got up and walked over to her, covering her exposed chest and shoulders with the blanket which had reached down to her waist. He caressed her forehead and picked up the ashtray from the floor, walking back to his room. Once there, he rested the ashtray on the nightstand next to his bed and plopped on it, slipping his hand in his front pocket to retrieve his cell-phone.
He pressed the first number on his speed-dial and waited. And waited… And waited… No answer. Creasing his forehead, he terminated the call. Where could she be? She could be sleeping, but she always heard her mobile when it rang. Then, he recalled something she had told him on her note, about going on field work with Rinoa. She could be busy right now, although it would be quite late in Balamb right now. Puzzled he dialed Squall's number and waited for a response.
- "Yes?" came Squall's cold voice on the other end of the line.
- "Hey Leonhart." Seifer said "Is Quistis around?"
- "Uhh… Why do you ask?" Squall asked. Seifer got the feeling something wasn't right.
- "'Cause I called her and she wouldn't answer. Is she out on field work or something?" Seifer asked again.
- "Err… *Sigh* Yeah, yeah, alright, I will…" Squall spoke.
- "Who are you talking to?" Seifer asked.
- "N-no-one… *Sigh* Listen, promise that you'll remain calm?"
- "What are you going on about? Is something wrong?" Seifer asked, sitting up on the bed.
- "Just promise you'll be calm." Squall repeated.
- "Leonhart… What the hell happened?" Seifer asked, his voice sounding threatening "Is Quistis alright?" No answer "Is she?!"
- "Yes… She will be-"
- "Whoa, whoa… Will be? What the fuck happened?!" Seifer asked worriedly.
- "She was on a field mission with Rinoa and something happened. She just fainted, that's-" Squall began.
- "What do you mean 'just fainted'?!" Seifer yelled "What's wrong with her?!"
- "I told you! Nothing. She probably just worked a bit too hard. There's nothing to be worried about, honest…" Squall replied.
- "Where is she now?" Seifer asked, rubbing his forehead in comfort.
- "Dr. Kadowaki just examined her. She's in your room, she's fine."
- "Lemme speak to her." Seifer said, sighing.
- "She's sleeping right now. Let her rest. I'll tell her you called. You can call back tomorrow and check on her." Squall suggested.
- "I swear Leonhart, if something's wrong with her and you're not tell-"
- "I'm not. Listen, I understand how worried you must be, but I'm telling you the truth. She's just sleeping." Squall insisted.
- "Alright, OK… I believe you…" said Seifer "Just… make sure she'll be OK… And tell her not to work so hard. Get some rest for a while…"
- "I will. I talked to Cid and he agrees we should relieve her of any duties for a couple of days." Squall informed him.
- "Good, good. You do that. Tell her I'll call back tomorrow, OK?"
Seifer terminated the call and shoved the phone on the nightstand. Great… Juuust great… Now he'd gotten Quistis into more trouble…
With trembling fingers, Faris poured the remaining of the whisky bottle into the short glass encased in her palm. She threw then now empty bottle into the trash next to her, letting it fall with a loud thud. Closing her eyes, she brought the glass in front of her lips, touching her throbbing forehead with her free palm 'Hyne, it keeps getting worse every day… What have I done?' she thought, finishing the contents of her glass in one gulp. She let the glass fall down to the carpeted floor. It didn't break; just bounced lightly and rolled away. She fell onto the sofa, covering her face with both palms. A firm knock on the door made her head turn. Without waiting for an answer, the door opened and a man's tall frame stepped inside.
- "Another headache dear?" he asked sarcastically.
- "Go to hell Kuja…" she swore, turning her gaze away from him.
- "Only if you join me doll…" replied Kuja, smirking "The President wanted to speak to you. Mr. Robinson is there, too."
- "And why the fuck should I care?" the woman mumbled in her drunken slur.
Kuja grinned and walked over to her, grabbing her wrist and yanking her upwards.
- "You'll do as you're told Faris." he said sternly "Don't back out on us now, lassie." he added, running a hand through her locks.
- "I thought I specifically told you to stop calling me that." Faris snapped, slapping his hand away.
- "And I thought I specifically told you I don't give a shit. Now get going… lassie."
Faris shoved Kuja away and stumbled her way out of the room and down the corridor of the Presidential Mansion. She arrived outside of Deling's office and barged inside without knocking. Deling and Robinson turned around abruptly, breaking their attention from a certain document upon Deling's office.
- "I'm here. What do ya want?" she asked the two bemused men.
- "Umm… Genni, could you excuse us?" Deling asked his secretary, who was just picking up two empty tea cup on a tray.
- "Certainly Mr. Deling…" she mumbled awkwardly.
The young girl quickly made her way out of the room, shooting a sideways glance at Faris before exiting the room.
- "So. Are you gonna tell me what you wanted?" Faris asked again.
- "Nothing important Faris, just some routine work." replied Robinson "You OK?"
- "I'm fine…" she replied, staggering over to the desk the two men were standing over.
- "You drunk?" asked Robinson again.
- "Why do you care?" Faris snapped at him.
- "Sheesh, just asking…" said Robinson, shaking his head in disbelief.
- "Whatever Anton, let's just get on with it…" mumbled Faris.
The following morning…
Irvine walked towards the Front Gate of Balamb Garden, holding a suitcase in one hand, and Selphie's hand in the other. His miniscule girlfriend walked him over to the SeeD car waiting for him outside the Academy. She gave him a deep kiss and wished him a good trip. He was going over to Deling City, to visit the man who did the autopsy on Sirius Connelly. After returning from their mission, Rinoa and Quistis had given Shizuka the doctor's name, to retrieve his address in the city.
The tall cowboy made himself comfortable in the back seat of the car, resting his suitcase next to him. The driver had already taken off, taking him to Balamb Train Station. Irvine was staring at the plains of Balamb outside. The snow had already melted from the Christmas and New Year's season… He sighed and looked at the front. The driver looked awfully… familiar… He could only see his back but still… Didn't he… know that back from somewhere?
Irvine squinted his eyes and looked at him more closely. Underneath his black suit, his thin and narrow shoulders were visible. Irvine noticed that they seemed a bit too narrow for a man… There was something else that bugged him though. The man's hat seemed to cover all the back of his head, leaving only his neck uncovered. And what a thin, smooth-looking and tall neck hat was. The young SeeD shook himself mentally and then noticed a few blond hairs protruding from the hat. A few long, strawberry long hair… 'What the…?' Irvine thought.
- "Nice day, ain't it?" Irvine asked, wanting to hear the man's voice.
- "Indeed." the driver replied and turned around for a second.
Irvine's eyes widened. One of the driver's azure eyes winked and him and he… or rather she giggled, turning back around.
- "QUISTIS?!!" Irvine yelled.
- "Morning Irvine…" the blonde replied, smiling broadly.
- "What the heck are you doin' here?!" he whimpered.
- "Driving us to the Station of course…" she replied nonchalantly.
- "Yes Irvine, us. I'm coming too."
- "You should be in your damned bed! Getting some damned rest!" Irvine protested.
Quistis sighed and pulled over, stopping by the side of the road. She turned around and faced Irvine.
- "I'll just ask you something and then if you're still insisting, I'll get back to Garden. I promise. Just be honest." she said, taking off the hat, releasing her hair.
- "Alright." Irvine said, frowning.
- "If Selphie was in really big trouble and everyone told you to stay inside, instead of doing everything you could to help her, what would you do?" she asked.
Irvine looked at her eyes. He tried to say something, but immediately bit his tongue and remained silent.
- "Just… drive off… We'll miss our train…" he mumbled.
Quistis' face lightened up and she lunged forward, giving Irvine a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
- "Yeah, yeah…" Irvine said groaning, patting her on the back "Just get the car up and runnin' again, you hopelessly lovesick person…"
Quistis smiled and sat back on the driver's seat, turning the engine on again.
Seifer was lying underneath the covers in his bed. He'd just fallen into sweet slumber, when a pair of hands grabbed his shoulders and began shaking him.
- "Seifer! Seifer, wake up! I found it!" Edea yelled.
- "Wha-?" Seifer mumbled, still sleepy.
- "I found it!" Edea repeated, still yanking him from side to side.
- "Found what?" he asked, sitting up on the bed.
- "Where I know 'Aidra' from!" she exclaimed, sitting down on his bedside.
- "OK, where?" asked Seifer, rubbing the back of his hair, yawning.
- "Ever heard of the 'Book of Shadows'?" Edea asked.
- "Err… no." Seifer replied.
- "It's a book on Sorcery." the Matron said.
- "OK…" Seifer said nodding, not seeing where Edea was taking this.
- "And I presume you've never heard of 'Ardia'…" said the Matron.
- "Nope. But what does this-" began Seifer.
- "Ardia, or Gospel of the Witches, is one of the first prototypical book of shadows ever published." said Edea eagerly.
- "Aaaand…?" Seifer asked.
- "Think Seifer!" Edea hissed "Doesn't the name 'Ardia' seem familiar?!"
- "Err… should it?" asked Seifer, puzzled.
- "THINK!" Edea hissed again, grabbing his head in both hands.
- "I can't dammit! I'm still too fucking asleep!" Seifer snapped.
- "Matron…" Seifer said wearily.
- "OK, OK… Just put two and two together… Aidra and Ardia…" she said meaningfully.
Seifer creased his forehead and fell deep in thought. Suddenly his eyes shot open.
- "'Aidra' is an anagram of 'Ardia'!" he yelled.
- "Finally…" Edea said, smiling.
- "B-but… what does that mean?! Is Faris a… sorceress?!" he asked eagerly.
- "Not quite." replied Edea "But close."
- "Then what?! TELL ME?!" he shouted, grabbing her from the arms.
- "Faris can't be a sorceress. I'd know her for certain." replied Edea, pulling Seifer's hands down "But once looking at her picture in the paper, I knew instantly who her mother was."
- "You wouldn't know her. Her name was Amelia. She was a sorceress. And from what I knew, she was into a 'secret society' for other sorceresses. Probably what 'Aidra' is all about." explained Edea.
- "So why is Faris in it now?" asked Seifer.
- "I'm not certain, but my guess is this: She must have some powers. But she can't be a full sorceress, because as I've said, I'd know it." replied Edea "When a Sorceress has offspring it's certain that they will inherit some, if not all her powers. That's the reason Cid and I never had children; we didn't want them to have to share my fate. So Faris probably has some limited powers. That's all I can think of…"
- "I see… So then-" began Seifer, but never finished his sentence.
A rumbling noise, coming from outside, cut him off. Edea got up immediately and looked outside the window. What little color was always on her face, abandoned it completely.
- "Oh, no…" she said faintly.
- "What is it?" asked Seifer.
- "Galbadian soldiers."
A/N: Let the revelations begin…
ON THE NEXT CHAPTER OF 'THE BEGINNING, IS THE END, IS THE BEGINNING':
Seifer faces the first great threat after having to escape from B-Garden the day of his interrogations.
Galbadians ambush the orphanage.
Will our hero manage to slip out of this one as well?