Negotiations

Part of the Final Fantasy: Clouded Horizons Storyline


"Have a seat."

The man sitting on the other side was currently wearing an Estharian ceremonial robe with reds and oranges prominent in it. Nothing too offensive to the eyes, and he wore it well. His dark brown hair was tied in a ponytail behind him; his brown eyes seeing and searching everywhere and everything without moving a micron. He was fit, though the robe was careful to hide it, as if the man was trying to hide his true identity from anyone's peering eyes.

His attractive face held a subdued smile that quickly told the newcomer that this man knew he held the power in this office; more so in this building. It was his office, his Garden, and his word was absolute.

But then again, he was the head of the DeValle Family, Darius Elric DeValle Sr., one of the most powerful aristocratic families in the Trabia region. And he was now one of the three most powerful people in the Garden Network, next to Cid Kramer and Mathius Martine.

And not for the first time, Liam Bayloh wondered exactly why he was there. But, instead of vocalizing his concern, he took the offered seat and looked at the Headmaster, a very subtle frown on his face.

"Thank you, Headmaster," Liam replied.

It was unusual, after all, for a Balamb Garden SeeD to be summoned to another Garden, especially Trabia so recently after its reconstruction (funded entirely by the man sitting in front of him, Liam noted). However, Headmaster Kramer had approved of the mission, so it must be something of import… Or so he hoped.

"I've been studying your file, SeeD Specialist Bayloh, and I must say I am impressed. You have commendations attached to your file both during the education process, as well as from the missions that you've been assigned to. You bring in good results on the missions your assigned, and you're certified to be an instructor. I wish to ask you why you are not currently instructing," The Senior asked, his voice calm, cool, collect.

Liam was unnerved to say the least. DeValle had started into his commentary, never once looking away or blinking. He was a master negotiator, the back of his mind noted. He had a point… and Liam was concerned he knew what it was. He'd be honest with the Headmaster though, just as he'd been honest with Kramer.

"I've found that other instructors don't like my way of teaching, and because of that, they often countermand everything I teach in my classes in theirs. It's counterproductive, and instead of attempting to fight the way they think, I'd rather they just teach while I do the gruntwork in the field."

The Senior's smile twitched before he responded. "…I see. What is your instructing specialization, and why does your style differ from others so extremely?"

Liam suddenly felt as though this was more of an interrogation, rather than the interview that he thought it was. "I teach combat, both with bladed weapons and projectile weapons. Mainly, I teach on one on one combat with those weapons, but I do have some focus on other areas of expertise."

The Senior's eyes narrowed. "And what qualifies you to teach those subjects? How did you earn your certification?"

Liam smiled for the first time since he walked into the office. 'Finally, a question I can answer…' he thought before answering. "May I borrow your desk, sir?"

"By all means."

Liam cleared a portion of the desk before opening his leather trenchcoat, revealing the two rifles strapped beneath it. DeValle's eyes widened just slightly, the only revealing factor that he'd been surprised by the appearance of the two rifles. Liam tugged the rifles free, putting them down on the desk. Then, he flicked his wrists, revealing two knives on each wrist (which he placed on the desk.) After that, he quickly hit his right foot to the side of the desk, removing it (and the blade protruding from the front of the boot) and placing it on the desk.

And as if that wasn't enough, he unsheathed the massive broadsword from his back (which to the Senior's eyes seemed to have a strange cerulean aura) and laid it gently on top of all the weapons he'd already placed there. "The knives are simple enough, hunting knives picked up in Arias. The boot uses a similar knife, but I had it special ordered in Deling City to fit the boot. The VIPR-237 rifles I'm testing out for both Balamb Garden and the Estharian Presidential Guard for the next few years. They use pulse ammunition, and they need to see how they work on the field for an extended basis," he finished, then looked at the broadsword. "Finally, there's my blade, which was enchanted by an old mage friend to fit my purposes," he smiled, and then continued. "As for how I earned my certification… ask the Galbadians. I was in the Garden Conflict at Centra. I earned my license soon after."

The Senior chuckled.

"Understood. Why is your teaching style different?"

Liam shrugged. "Simple enough. I teach practical application, I show the results of what happens when you screw it up. I work 'em to the bone, and I'll have the most serious of cadets laughing by the end of the period. I'll take them anywhere and everywhere to show what you need to be willing to do in order to survive in this line of work. And say what you will about my style, but my cadets don't just survive, they thrive."

Darius looked at him for just a moment, and then slid a folder across the table. Liam opened it, glancing over the information inside. As he did, Darius began to speak. "I'm prepared to offer you substantial reimbursement to transfer to Trabia full time as an instructor and a field officer. You'll receive the salary of a SeeD officer, plus the benefits of an instructor. As you can see from that documentation… it will be well worth your while."

'Just as I thought,' Liam before he looked over the documentation, before finally shaking his head and closing the folder. "It sounds nice, Headmaster DeValle, but I can't. I swore after I saw how the battle at Centra was handled, that I'd serve under no one else but Squall Leonhart. His expertise and ability made that battle possible and winnable, where no one else could've. Your offer is generous, but I can't accept it."

He stood to leave, (noting that the Senior's smile hadn't changed) when the person in question spoke. "Liam Bayloh, we're both reasonable and intelligent men. You won't receive any other offers better than the one I'm giving you," he commented, to which Liam shook his head as he gathered his weapons back into their various sheaths and holsters.

"Sorry. I really appreciate the offer, but I'm perfectly happy where I am," Liam replied, his hand touching the ornately silver handle. The words that came out of the Senior's mouth next though, stopped him dead in his tracks.

"Besides, I can't believe that it'd be easy for a vampire to find a better offer," Darius commented off-handedly as he began to look through some other paperwork. Liam whipped around, staring at the man who'd somehow known one of his darkest secrets. That information was kept to himself, and Cid Kramer who he had originally approached to join Garden. If anyone else found out… "How do you know that, DeValle?" he hissed, the menace of a past life whispering into his voice.

Darius DeValle Sr. looked up from the documents he was perusing. "Hm? Know what?"

Liam slammed his hands on the desk, unable to contain his range. "How did you find that out? How do you know that?!" he yelled, his voice echoing in the fairly large office. The Senior finally gave Liam his full attention as he answered, the smile still not leaving his lips. "I'm still not sure what you speak of. Perhaps you misheard me, old man." Sliding the folder across the desk, he flipped it open to the contract with the Trabia insignia on it.

"Is it really smart of you to dismiss this offer so easily? Consider who it is coming from, how generous it is considering the connections I have, and the people I know. Also please consider that I called you specifically to have this position when there are so many others that would've begged me for it," he said, calmly continuing to peruse the other paperwork on his desk.

Liam took a seat at the other side of the desk. "You're blackmailing me into this. A headmaster of Garden, and you're blackmailing me into this." Darius looked up, mild confusion crossing his face. "Blackmail? I'm offended you'd accuse me so baselessly of such a terrible act. I merely am watching out for your best interests, as well as the best interests of Trabia Garden."

Liam folded his arms angrily, allowing just a little bit of the vampire to come out in him; the demon he called Angelus spoke. "I could kill you."

And for the first time, Darius looked almost irked. A trail of fire wound down his arm, gathering in the palm of his hand. "No, you couldn't. You can't even dream of power on my level, boy." And just like that, the flame was gone, and the paperwork was back in his hand as if nothing had happened. A pen slid across the desk.

"So, what do you think, Liam? Care to sign on? The benefits are fantastic."


A few hours later, Katanas DeValle, the oldest DeValle son, entered his father's office. He sat down and waited patiently for the Senior to acknowledge his presence. Finally, after five minutes of silence, Darius looked up. "I don't know why you wanted the vampire here."

Katanas showed no outward response, only stating: "Why does it matter, father? You needed a combat instructor, and he fit the bill." The Senior scoffed, putting his paperwork off to the side and glaring at his son. "You specifically requested Liam Jacob Bayloh, from Balamb Garden as an instructor for our combat division, and I gave into the request."

Katanas showed little response again, his lips curving into a small smile. "I'm not sure I know what you're speaking of, father."

Darius closed his eyes, folding his hands in front of his face. "Don't play this game with me, boy. I've been playing it far longer than you." He didn't receive a response, and finally sighed. "He starts in two days."

Opening his eyes, he looked over to see his son excited that his choice had accepted. Except in his place he saw nothing, replaced by a little note written on a pad of paper. He ripped the top sheet off and read it quietly.

"Are you sure?"

Crumpling the paper, it turned to dust in his hand. He didn't notice the door closing the rest of the way, a far-too-knowing smile on Katanas DeValle's face.

"Just as planned."