Zell and Rinoa walked through the gates of Balamb Garden in absolute silence. Both had a stern look on their face. One other student walked past them absent mindedly, he had better things to do than wonder why these two were leaving Balamb in the middle of the day.
Standing before the Ragnarok, Zell inputted a code to bring down the ramp leading inside. He paused and turned to her. "You sure 'bout this? Never too late to turn back."
"I'm sure." Came Rinoa's solemn reply, there wasn't a single trace of doubt in her voice.
"All aboard then." He motioned towards the entrance and followed Rinoa as she stepped inside.
"How long do you think this will take?" She frowned as she watched him securing the ramp.
"You know more about this than I do." He stood to face her. "Y'know, we could pay a visit to this nurse, get the full details, just so we know what kind of shit we're getting ourselves into."
Rinoa nodded and took the stairs up to the cockpit.
Several minutes later Rinoa was piloting the Ragnarok and Zell was navigating. "Welcome to Deling City!" Zell announced. "Fly her to that clearing over there."
Rinoa steered the Ragnarok to a small spot to the left of Deling. "Let's make this quick, Got it?" Rinoa said as she stepped off the Ragnarok.
It was early afternoon, Deling City was bustling with people. Rinoa and Zell pushed their way through the crowds occasionally throwing dirty looks at people who wouldn't get out of there way, and eventually made it to the hospital.
The two of them walked briskly up to the front desk. "Excuse me," The receptionist looked up at Rinoa. "I'm looking for a nurse here, her name is nurse Bridget."
"Nurse Bridget...I don't think there is anyone here by that name, one moment, I'll check our database for you." She smiled at Rinoa just before typing some information onto her computer. "Nope, no-one called Bridget. Are you sure you have the right name?"
"How is that possible? I saw her come to check on Squall...I read her name tag...I can't have gotten it wrong!" Rinoa turned to Zell for support. He shrugged in response. "Who's the nurse looking after Squall? Squall Leonhart."
Now becoming quite annoyed, the receptionist typed Squall's name into her computer. Looking slightly confused, she looked back up at Rinoa. "The nurse in charge of Mr. Leonhart is a man. I think he could be gay...BUT that isn't your business. Anyway, you can't have got his gender wrong. The only thing I can think of is that this Nurse Bridget is faking her identity. I have no idea why someone would do that." She paused to scratch her head. "I'll get someone to look into it. Anyway, that's not something you should concern yourselves with. You can talk to Squall's real nurse if you wish?"
"No, It's O.k." Rinoa frowned. "Could I go and see Squall?"
"Sure thing, I'm sure you know the way." She smiles and gestured towards the lifts.
The two of them walked briskly towards the lifts. Rinoa glanced suspiciously over at Zell for a moment. "I think I'll press the button this time." She mumbled so that Zell could just about hear her.
The lift doors opened on the third floor of the left wing. The corridor was quite packed, there were a few people standing around talking to doctors, it was obvious what kind of news they had just received. Some cried, some smiled.
'It's hard to understand sometimes why life is so cruel to some, yet kind to others.' Rinoa thought to herself as she pushed down on the handle to Squall's room.
"Heeey you guys!" Selphie's eyes sparkled as she saw them walking in.
"S'up? We just came over to say hi, before me and Rin go and-OW!" Zell doubled over as Rinoa punched him in the stomach.
"You can't say anything!" She hissed in his ear.
"I just wanted to see Squall so bad!" Rinoa smiled sweetly in response to Selphie's confused look.
"Oky...ummm...are you O.k. Zell?" She tilted her head to one side as if it would give her a better view of her friend.
"Nggghhh...Hmmm...Ugggghhh..." He made several groaning noised as he slumped onto a chair near Selphie's bed.
Rinoa came over to hug Selphie and turned almost immediately to get to Squall. She sighed when she saw him, it really pained her to see him like this. She sat next to his motionless body on the bed. Reaching out her right hand, she gently stroked his cheek. It was warm, comforting. "We're going to get you out, me and Zell. We don't know how yet, but we will. I promise. Just hang in there, O.k.?" She whispered to him. "I heard that people in coma's can hear everything you say, even if they don't remember when they wake up." She smiled and leaned in towards him. "I love you Squall Leonhart." She sighed and stood up. Turning, she pushed the curtain aside and walked towards Selphie. "Me and Zell are going away for a bit, on a mission. But I'll see you soon, O.k.?"
Selphie smiled at her and opened her arms to embrace Rinoa. "Don't have too much fun without me!"
"Rin, we really gotta hurry this up." He looked at her with a sort of urgency. "See ya Selphie!"
Rinoa frowned and followed Zell as he sprinted out of the door. Just outside she grabbed his wrist and spun him around to face her. "Why are you in such a rush!"
Zell looked at her with the same urgency as before and blushed slightly before looking down again and mumbling something. "I really gotta pee..."
Rinoa looked slightly disgusted as Zell sped off to find the toilets.
One hour later
"Up ahead, there's Centra. Start steering to the right." Zell called out directions as Rinoa sat in the pilot seat.
Soon the Ragnarok was hovering over eastern Centra. Zell peered through the glass. "What are we meant to be looking for here anyways?" he asked.
"We'll know it when we see it...apparently."
After a while, the sky was turning a deep shade of crimson, the two of them were becoming tired.
Zell's head jerked up for the fourth time, it was becoming hard to stay awake. Suddenly, a small glimmer up ahead caught his eye. He stared at it for a while before realising that it had to be what they were looking for. "Rin! I see it, it's gotta be it man! Look, straight ahead, you see that sparklin' thing?"
Rinoa sat upright in her seat and squinted her eyes, trying to make out what it was. She smiled broadly and accelerated towards the mysterious place at full speed.
As they neared it, Rinoa slowed the Ragnarok down and stared at the place in awe. It was a small sort of cottage, surrounded by swirling lights. The lights seemed to be attracted to it as if it were some sort of holy place. The actual cottage in the centre was emitting a strange glow, neither of them could sense any kind of evil in it, yet it did not seem to be good either, balanced seemed to be an adequate word to describe it.
In silence, Rinoa landed the Ragnarok. The two of them exited and walked towards the foreign place. Zell held out a hand, stopping Rinoa from walking any further. "Would you look at this?" He gestured towards a large pile of glowing rocks on the ground and knelt down for a closer inspection. It was not a pile which had been placed randomly on the ground, the stones were in perfect symmetry. There was a large one in the centre, this was the one that glowed. Another four lay around it, one at the top, one at the bottom and two at each side. These four each had a different mark on it. It appeared to be some sort of ancient dialect. Neither of them could understand what it meant. In between each of the four rocks, three clear crystals were placed as if separating the larger four.
"Weird..." Zell muttered.
"Ignore it. It's getting late now, we'll have to make this as quick as possible." Rinoa paused to check her wristwatch. "7:45. If we make it back to garden by 9, hopefully no-one will get suspicious."
Zell stood up and nodded. They then resumed their walking towards the mysterious cottage.
As they neared, the sheer surrealism of the place finally hit them. Every detail of the place seemed supernatural. The place was surrounded by life. There were hundreds of animals, but these animals movements shocked them both. Some had completely stopped in their tracks, there was a panther frozen in mid pounce. A hummingbird flew past Rinoa's face in slow motion. Then there were plants, and trees all over the place. They were growing at an alarming rate. A small root sprouted up at Zell's foot, it then proceeded to grow as much as it would in several years, in the space of a few seconds. And as quickly as it was born, it shrivelled up dead.
"This place is really weird." Rinoa commented.
As they neared the centre, they both noticed that the swirling lights were all attracted to the cottage, more than anywhere else. Hundreds of them were gathered around there. The glow from the cottage seemed to be some kind of spiritual energy which pulled them all in, and they were mesmerised.
Rinoa looked to Zell for reassurance. He gave a small, tiredsmile and gestured his hand for her to enter first.
She walked nervously up to the door, knocked and waited impatiently for an answer.
"Enter my children." A woman's voice called from inside. Rinoa paused, she knew the voice, yet could not place it. She dismissed the thought and cautiosly pushed the wooden door open.
Inside was dark, save a small candle in the centre of a wooden table. The woman who seemed to live here sat in the shadows so that her face was hidden.
"What is it you want child?" She asked.
'Well, she gets strait to the point.' Rinoa thought. "I was told you could help me."
"Help you to do what exactly?"
"My friend slipped into a coma, I want him to wake up."
"Then let time run it's course."
"I'm afraid that he might not wake up."
"If that was the way it was meant to be, then you'll have to deal with it."
Rinoa looked slightly pissed off. "I was told you would help me, I didn't come all thyis way for some lonely old woman sitting in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by some kind of paranormal shit to waste my time! I have been through one helluva lot of grief, more than you could imagine and I want it to end!" Rinoa finished practically screaming.
"More than I could imagine?" the woman laughed mockingly "My dear child, do you even know who I am, or what this place is?" She waited for an answer.
"Does it seem to you like I do!" Rinoa spat back.
"I have been alive since the dawn of time! I am immortal, I have experienced more than you could ever even begin to fathom. I have seen things which could chill your blood. I have felt things that could make you want to cease living. I have endured scenes of pure evil which could cause sheer terror in the hearts of every man, woman and child in Gaia. So don't tell me I don't know what you are feeling, dear child." She scowled.
Zell scratched his head and looked around nervously. Rinoa looked away in embarrasment, "I'm sorry." she whispered. "Please, tell me more about this place."
The woman regainedher calm. "This place is in a sense, immune to time. Time goes on normally around it, however inside the cosmic barrier surrounding this place time has no meaning. As you saw when you were walking here,hundreds of'balls' of time float around here. Each ball has a different time patternsome cause whatever is caught in it to speed up, slow down or stop completely. An odd side effect which occured during the creation of this place. But the overall effect I wanted to achieve came to be, so I don't mind the odd jumps in time. The time balls however is irrelevant. I simply wanted to clear up any confusion you have about that."
Rinoa interrupted her. "Why weren't we effected by the ball...things?"
"You were effected, you just didn't notice, how could you? If time is behaving oddly around you, it is impossible to tell that something is wrong with the timeyou are in. But as I said, that is irrelevant."
"Then what is relevant?" Zell's sudden words made Rinoa jump slightly.
"I can help you. But it is dangerous, you must have a lot of strength, physically and emotionally. You must be determined to achieve your goal. Are you?"
"I am." came Rinoa's solemn reply.
"I can give you a device which will send you back in time. You will be able to change the past, however, to change a current situation, what needs to be changed in the past is not always obvious, so think very carefully. If you do it wrong, the outcome may be dire."
"O.k." Rinoa still sounded determined as ever.
The woman extended a clenched fist attached to a gloved arm. In the candle light, she opened her fist to reveal a small device covered withthe same ancient symbology as on the rocks outside. "Twist the dial 360 degrees anti-clockwise for each day you wish to travel back.You cannot use this contraption to travel forwards in time, so be carefulwhat youchangebecause you will have to live it through. You can gofurther back from any point in time but remember, it only goes back in days, so if you want to go back to the same point in time twice,you have to wait for 24 hours to pass before youcan. Got it?"
"I think so." Rinoa reached forward and took the device from the woman's hand. "Thank you."
She turned her back and left, Zell following close behind.
Ok, well I do apologise for the delay, I've been so busy. I'm sorry! Please RR I haven't got very many for the last chapter and it's not very motivating when I think that people aren't enjoying my fic. But still, I do try. Also, you will notice there was MUCH less humor in this chapter. It's getting serious so expect less. Thanks!