When nature has work to be done, she creates a genius to do it.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Prodigy is exceptional talent, most of which we confine to the faculties of the mind. But what of the other talents that are ignored? I say with certainty, that for all the myriad things a mortal can do, there is a specialist, a refined expert from a young age, in most, if not all of them. We simply have not found them all.
"Mrs. Trepe… we have something to tell you. And before we begin, let me tell you that it's not bad news."
The man in white robes with green trim looked toward the blonde sitting before him, four feet tall, her bright blue eyes staring back at him, expression full of curiosity. He ran a hand through his sandy brown hair, wondering how they'd missed her. He looked back up at her parents, their faces expectant, anxious to hear what he had to say.
"First of all," he said after clearing his throat, "Your daughter is an extremely sweet-natured child. I've never seen someone so cooperative and obedient before, and she certainly knows how to make friends. Just on her first day here, she connected with many in her class, which astounds me to no end." He gave them a smile. "What's more, she has a remarkable capacity for learning and retaining information. We're not just talking about one specific type, either. Give her any subject, and she will take it to heart faster than most."
He sighed, his face filled with resignation. This was the hard part. "That's why we can't have her in this school anymore. She'll accelerate too quickly."
The mother gasped, shocked that he would just pull her out. "This is absurd! We can't just move her, that would slow the progress she's already made! And she'd have to acclimatize to a new school, and we'd have to pay for it all, and—"
"Calm down, dear." The husband put a hand on her right shoulder, giving her a squeeze. "I'm sure there's a way to resolve this…" He gave the man behind the desk a stern look, blue eyes turning cold. "…And it'd better be good."
The girl looked around, confused instead of curious. She had no idea what they were talking about, but she certainly didn't want to leave. "Momma, what's going on?"
The man smiled at her. "I'll try to explain as best I can, Quistis, but let me talk with your parents first." He looked toward them again, giving them a calculating expression. "What if I told you that there is a government-funded program that would get her into a specific academy tailored for children like her? You wouldn't have to pay a single gil for it; it's all on their tab."
He smiled as that got them to thinking. If he had anything to say about it, she would be marvelous. "Before you decide, let me throw this in. If she passes through the high-school level, she'll have her pick of any college she wants, whether within Esthar or elsewhere. Of course, I'm confident she'll want to stay in Esthar, we have the best universities in the world."
It wasn't long before they made their decision, and the school supervisor asked them to leave so he could speak to the girl whose eyes seemed to start watering over. As he feared, she began to understand just what they were saying. He sighed as soon as the door closed.
"How do you feel about all this?"
She shook her head, eyes hidden by her bangs. "I hate it! My friends are gonna miss me so much, and I won't have anyone to play with, and…"
He smiled and placed a hand on her head. "How do you know that? I'm sure there will be someone new you can play with and make friends with. But you have to leave here now, okay?" He wouldn't explain that she was too smart for everyone else, as true as that was. She needed to learn with students of her caliber though… as painful as this was for him, personally. He'd come to love her curiousity.
He tilted her head up to look at him. "Listen to me… of all the things I want you to keep, it's that look you get when you find something new and interesting. I'm sure if others see that, they'll be just as happy as you are. Don't ever lose your personality either, because that is what makes you special."
She sniffed even as she nodded at his advice. It was the least he could do for her, after breaking her heart so. He patted her head and sent her out of the office.
His robes felt heavy once the doors closed, as if fate added a burden to his shoulders. If this failed, it would be on him. If she didn't like her new environment, it would be because he sent her there, got her parents to agree. But if it succeeded…
He let himself smile at the possibilities. She would be the most brilliant mind the country had ever raised. And that, in part, would be due to this decision.
He prayed it was the right one.
Esthar. The second most powerful nation in the world, next to Galbadia and its affluence.
It was a nation of vast technological advancements born out of a thirst for knowledge. The brightest minds gathered here from all over to share theories, conduct experiments, argue their points. Their military was equipped with the latest results from field tested weapons and biological enhancements. They bolstered their economy with their medical achievements and engineering marvels.
The best education system in all the land resided within the confines of the massive city limits, producing the next generation of bright minds that would further shape the world.
One such school was meant for the elite, the top-shelf from a young age. Not due to simple circumstance or chance, but potential. This was an academy for the prodigies, the geniuses, those that had the rarest gems of sparkling talent and the drive to use it. It was a sterile enclave to rear up the greatest thinkers.
And Quistis Trepe, eight years old, did not like it one bit.
No one spoke with her between classes. No one seemed to speak with anyone else, either. It was boring, and scary. Every day she came in was another day she wanted to get out. But the classes, the teachers, they were interesting. The curiosity bug bit her every time she heard something she'd never known before, never even thought of, and she asked questions as if there weren't enough questions to ask.
After all, that was the only way to know, right?
Through it all, she kept her promise to her former principal. She didn't let the situation dampen her spirits, though they definitely tried as the days turned routine. He said it would pay off, draw kids to her, if she just kept smiling and being nice.
Apparently, he knew what he was talking about.
"Hey, can I sit here?"
She looked up from her food to find a dark-haired girl with brown eyes staring back at her, lunch tray in her hands, the white Estharian clothing with blue trim, and a smile that lit up her features. Quistis smiled back, glad that someone was actually talking to her for the first time in months.
The girl took the grin as her cue to sit down next to the blonde. "Hey… don't you think this place is weird? I mean, it's too quiet here."
Quistis nodded. "I came from another school where it was all noisy and fun," she whispered. "I don't think anyone wants to play or anything. It's like they're zombies or something."
The black-haired girl nodded, scooting closer to the other girl at the table. "My name's Xu."
Xu looked up from her tray. "That's a weird name… what did kids at your other school call you?"
Quistis blushed as the nickname came back to her, as if they'd called her that yesterday. "…Quisty." She shook her head, trying to ward the memory off. "It's silly, right?"
Xu beamed at her. "Yeah, it's really silly. That's why I like it!"
For the rest of the day, nothing else happened. But after school, Xu sat next to her on the tram that led away from the academy and gave her another toothy grin before continuing their conversation from lunch. Tired from the day's lessons, Quistis only heard half of what Xu was saying. Still, just listening to her speak instead of staying quiet… Quistis felt part of her loneliness and isolation chip away.
"So what's your specialty?"
Quistis looked toward Xu as they ate lunch at the same table, again. They'd even picked it as their designated place to meet up every day, seeing as they'd been doing so for the past week. "What do you mean, my specialty?"
Xu leaned closer toward her. "It's what you're best at. Everyone's got a specialty; some people have more than one. Mine's numbers."
Quistis lowered her head for a moment, giving the question some serious thought. What was she good at? Did she stand out in any one thing she did? Her brows furrowed as she tried to put more of her mind to the problem of what exactly her specialty was.
"It's okay if you don't have one."
Her eyes widened as she turned toward Xu, a knowing smile on the dark-haired girl's face. Did she just…
"No, I can't read your mind. Just that the chances of you not having one went up every second you didn't answer the question." Xu giggled and took a bite from her lunch plate before speaking again. "If you don't have one, this is a pretty good place to find one. You might even find out you're good at everything!"
Quistis gave Xu a blank-faced stare. "No one can be good at everything."
"I dunno about that." Xu took a sip from her apple juice. "My brother sure thinks he is."
Quistis's smile returned. "You have a brother? Why didn't you tell me before?"
Xu scoffed. "Because he's a brat, and he makes fun of me. You won't like him at all." She looked over her right shoulder. "I bet he's looking for me right now, trying to get me to sit with him again."
Quistis shrugged. "So let him come over. I wanna talk to more kids than just you." She broke in before Xu could get another word in edgewise. "Not like I don't like talking to you, but there's gotta be others that don't just sit there and chew their food like there's no one else but them."
Xu sighed. "Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you." She put her hands to her mouth and yelled, "Hey Nida! I'm over here!"
"So, Miss Class President, how's it feel to be the most powerful woman in school?"
Fourteen year old Quistis scoffed at the title Xu constantly gave her, refusing to believe it really meant anything. "It means I have more to do, which is the last thing I need. Everyone's gonna come to me with every little problem they have, and it's gonna interfere with my studies."
Xu glanced over at Quistis as she railed on about all the new problems she'd run into. "Come on, it can't be that bad."
"Actually, it is."
They both stopped and turned toward a black-haired boy, a whole head taller than them and wearing the academy's high-school uniform. He stopped a few feet away from them, hands folded in front of his chest. "You're right about everyone wanting to come to you in order to settle disputes and crap like that. But you're also in charge of putting everyone's ideas to the Student Council in the best manner possible. On top of that, you have to lead cabinet meetings, keep everyone else in line…"
Quistis groaned. "Way to reassure me, Nida."
He gave the both of them a cocksure grin. "Wasn't meant to reassure you." He closed the gap and ruffled Quistis's hair. "Look on the bright side, though. You pull all that off, and you will be unquestionably the queen of the 8th grade. Loved, respected, genuinely admired."
Xu scowled at him, hands on her hips. "Did you pull it off?"
Nida stood silent for a few seconds, the words robbed of him. Then he smirked. "No. But that doesn't matter. It's on my record, and that counts more. I didn't care for the job, I'm glad someone else took it from me the year after." He walked on, waving over his right shoulder. "Hope you're ready for some major torture, Trepe!"
Quistis straightened out her hair, glowering at his back from under her eyebrows. "I'll show him," she muttered. "I'll be the best Class President ever."
Xu smirked. "Just to show him, or to be popular?"
Quistis couldn't answer that question. The anger still boiled. Lazybones took his job for granted, passed it off on someone else. She wouldn't, no matter how hard it was. Quistis went to this quiet, self-contained prison of a school for a reason, maybe one that she didn't know or care about years ago.
Maybe this was the reason… to change how the school worked. To give it life.
Xu went quiet at the sudden determination on her friend's face. "You really are taking this seriously, huh?" She sighed. "Well, I guess that means I'll have to try to be Vice President, if no one's taken the post yet. After all, you need someone to keep your feet on the ground, right?"
Quistis nodded. "You better be ready to put some pretty heavy weights on me, then. Once I show that smart-mouth brother of yours that I can be a good President, I'll probably grow wings and start flying."
Quistis stepped down from the podium to an explosion of applause, her Estharian robes and graduation cap shining in the overhead lights, the gold sash around her right shoulder a symbol of her valedictorian status. She waved majestically to her personal fan section as they screamed their lungs out.
Xu shook her head as the blonde sat next to her, in the front row of box seats, high above the stage and floor benches. "You're really something, you know that? Class President in eighth grade and now look at you." She smirked. "You think Nida's jealous enough now?"
Quistis laughed. "That was me just being angry at him way back then. You know my motives have changed." Still, she couldn't help but feel proud she'd proven him wrong five times over, as she'd won the position of President all through high school since her reign in eighth grade. Of course, it was president of the Student Council instead of just class, but she handled the job efficiently.
The cheers for her were proof of how well she'd done.
Xu broke her from her musings. "So… where are you going?"
"College, you mean?" Quistis nodded, convinced of her decision a long time ago. "I'm not going anywhere in Esthar."
Xu nodded. "Didn't think you would. This city… it's big, lots of people, lots of tech… but that's all they're about, just science and stuff. Sure, there's a mall, a nightclub, things to do that are fun… but you get tired of them after a while, y'know?"
Quistis raised an eyebrow. "You mean you're not going to school here either?"
Xu smiled. "You leave, I leave." She rolled her eyes, giving an exasperated sigh. "And so does my brother, since he wants to take care of me and shit. Probably gonna make my life hell forever."
Quistis placed a hand on Xu's right shoulder. "We both know he loves you. He just has a… unique way of showing it."
"Oh yeah, he's 'special' all right." Xu shook her head. "Anyways, where are you planning to go if not in Esthar? As much as I agree with your logic, this place does have the best schools in the world. I'm sure our folks would…"
"Okay, stop right there." Quistis squeezed Xu's shoulder for emphasis. "We have minds of our own. If we want to go somewhere else that we've thoroughly researched and is somewhere that has a more active social scene, then that choice should be exempt of anyone else's opinion." She turned toward the black-haired woman with a grin. "You know I'm right."
"You always have to be right, don't you?" Xu chuckled and nodded her assent. "All right, I see your point. Where are we headed, then?"
Quistis's face took on a calculating expression. "Galbadia."
Chapter 3: Prologue 3 — Prodigies
All right, there goes another one.
I found it very easy to set Quistis up. Hell, the game already did it for me; child prodigy, mentally gifted, youngest teacher to grace the Garden. Why not make her something like this? And Xu sticking around was definitely a bonus, because I got to write her as her best friend in the whole wide world.
Nida though, was a challenge. They didn't really make him do anything worth doing in the game, besides pilot the Garden. I had to give him some kind of personality aside from that, and that right there was why it took so long to write this. But still, good output, nice turnover rate for this one.
At least I think so.
Anyways! Thanks for the hits, guys! I sure do appreciate you reading this, even though LionHearts is much more exciting. Don't worry; I'll do the next chapter on that one before the month is over. Hell, if I'm lucky, maybe I'll throw out two-per-week, like I used to.
This is your Slayer.