Author's Note: This story is the sequel to "Seifer's Last Chance," and picks up right where it left off. If you haven't read it yet, I'd suggest doing so before reading this one. It can be found in my list of fics on this site.
Final Fantasy VIII
I'll Be Your KnightChapter 1- Risking it All
I walked out of the Training Center that night drenched in sweat. My white undershirt was virtually transparent due to the vast amount of perspiration. It had been an intense duel between Seifer and me, which, unfortunately, ended in a deadlock. He had improved quite a bit since our last confrontation more than a year prior.
Now we were both SeeDs, and that meant there might be the chance we'd end up working together. Quite frankly, I think it scared the crap out of both of us to think that we might actually have to…cooperate. Don't get me wrong. I didn't hold a grudge anymore because I could tell that he was a different man than before. However, some things never change. I didn't work well with him and Seifer didn't work well with anybody. On second thought, it was better than the possibility of him working with Zell. That would be a ticking time bomb waiting to go off at any moment.
As I walked toward the dormitory, I wiped my forehead with my gloved hand. My fingers ran across the scar, my permanent reminder of my rivalry with Seifer. My mind drifted back to that day before the SeeD field exam. That was really the beginning of everything that would eventually lead us into the distant future to defeat a sorceress bent on time compression. My life seemed to have progressed at an unstoppable pace since then. I commanded SeeD, and that meant it was rare to have some leisure time anymore. That night had been an immense relief, but I knew things would pick up again in the morning.
After the end of the war with Ultimecia, we were labeled saviors, and Garden was forced to abandon its indifferent standpoint on events due to the fact that other governments became reliant on us. They believed that only SeeD could provide sufficient defense against all of the world's threats. Sometimes, I wish it wasn't like that. It was a huge burden that had been laid squarely on my shoulders, and I simply couldn't refuse responsibility. Being the leader of the elite mercenary force, I was constantly busy with international affairs. I had learned how to deal with it, but it was extremely difficult in the beginning.
I continued to walk down the dimly lit, empty hall that led to my room. I was so deep in thought that I didn't even notice Rinoa standing at my doorstep until I almost bumped into her. "Looks like you've been thinking too much again," she said with a smile.
She had really filled out over the past year. She had let her hair grow out even longer, and it was halfway down her back. There were still streaks of brown here and there mixed in with the raven black. Rinoa had managed to put on some muscle from fighting in the Training Center. She had no intention of becoming a SeeD due to the destructive threat her sorceress powers bore, but she knew that she needed to be able to defend herself in the case of invasion or some maniac who resented her because of who she was. It was a definite possibility considering what had happened over the past year, and we both knew that.
"Sorry," I apologized. "What are you doing here?"
"Well, I tried to get in, but your door was locked," she joked with her gorgeous smile.
I smiled, too. I couldn't help it. She was the most amazing woman I had ever met, and solely responsible for managing to bring me out of my self-imposed shell. A little bit anyway. It was still a work in progress, but it was becoming easier to confide in my friends. The change was very noticeable at least.
"I keep forgetting to get you an extra key made," I said.
"It's okay. Don't worry about it," she said, waving it off. "So did you win?"
I couldn't tell her it was a deadlock and give Seifer the benefit of the doubt. I knew he wouldn't be telling anyone that it was a draw.
"I knew you would. You're the greatest, Squall," Rinoa said, followed by a quick peck on the lips. "You look tired though. You should get some rest."
"Yeah…" I agreed. I was ready to fall asleep right there.
She wrapped her arms around my neck and pulled me close to her. She kissed me passionately, which I gladly reciprocated. As we broke off the kiss, she placed her mouth next to my ear and softly whispered, "I love you."
I wasn't sure of what to say. It was the first time she had told me that. I think my eyes bulged, but I wasn't aware of it. We had both agreed that we were going to take this relationship slowly, which was why it wasn't progressing in leaps and bounds. Maybe I was afraid of serious commitment, or maybe I just wasn't ready. I didn't know at the time. I knew that I loved Rinoa, too, but I wondered if I was ready to say so.
As she pulled away, she seemed to be reading my mind. "You don't have to say it back. It's just…something to think about," she said with a wink. "Night, Squall." She waved and blew a kiss at me.
Then she turned around and began to walk to her room. I watched her leave until she entered her room, which was at the other end of the hall. She wasn't a SeeD, so she didn't have priority for single dorms. The only other room available when she first came to Balamb Garden was a double with Brianna Harris, a SeeD candidate who had failed the last exam.
I took the room key out of my pocket, unlocked the door, and entered my room. Turning on the light, I immediately headed for the bathroom, where I washed off my face. I dried off with a small towel and then headed for bed. I was burning up, so I took off my leather jacket and sweat-stained white shirt. I would have to change into another shirt anyway. After unhooking my necklace with the Griever pendant, I laid it on my nightstand. Then I flipped off the light switch and went to bed.
I was awakened in the morning by Headmaster Cid's voice over the intercom. "Squall, report to my office immediately!"
It sounded urgent, so it seemed like he wanted more than to get updated on Garden business. I rolled out of bed and fumbled through my drawer for a clean shirt. After finding one, I put it on, and then slipped on my jacket and necklace. I left my room and headed for the elevator at a quick pace. I jogged up the stairs that led to it and stepped on. I rode the lift up to the third floor.
As the doors opened, I walked out, still wondering what the headmaster wanted to see me about. I pushed open the double doors that led to the bridge, and found Xu, Nida, and Quistis standing at the bottom of the lift, which was unusual.
"Morning, Commander," they said in unison.
I frowned. I still hated being called that and they knew it, so there was nothing I could do about it. "What are you doing down here?" I inquired.
"Headmaster Cid told us that what he had to discuss with you was a private matter," Xu informed me.
Without another word, I stepped onto the lift and rode it up. It was quickly becoming more than a routine visit to the bridge, and something deep inside troubled me. At the top, I immediately met the headmaster's gaze and gave the SeeD salute. He smiled, but it was obvious that it was forced. Something was wrong.
He sighed and adjusted his glasses before beginning. "Last night, while all of you were at the SeeD ball, I received a message from the Odine Laboratory in Esthar. It turns out that, before his incarceration, Doctor Odine had invented a machine that could rid Rinoa of her sorceress powers forever without transferring them to someone else," Headmaster Cid revealed.
(What's so bad about that?) I wondered. Then I realized that there was a catch as his expression became gravely serious. I remained silent as I waited for him to continue.
"However, the problem is…The extraction process will…take her life."
(What?!) "Why are you telling me this, sir? There's no way we can even consider this," I told him.
"It's not a consideration, Squall. It's an order."
"…What do you mean, sir?" I inquired curiously. I had no idea what he was trying to say.
"As you well know, the sorceress strikes fear into the hearts of the people. After the war, it seemed to become even worse. There was a dangerous sorceress far into the future that we were unable to reach, but she could get to us. The people want to do whatever it takes to prevent Rinoa's powers from ever getting there. They've demanded that we hand her over to them," he replied. "I'm sorry, Squall. I don't want to do this either, but we have no choice. We must comply."
I was infuriated. Actually, that was a drastic understatement. There was no way I was going to let some unruly mob take my girlfriend's life just so their fears can be assuaged. Besides, why were we going to rely on some machine made by some whacko? Odine was a quack, and I knew that first-hand.
"No! I won't let you do this! It's insane!"
"I don't need to remind you that refusal to obey can result in indefinite suspension and being removed from your command," Headmaster Cid said.
"I don't care! I won't let Rinoa die!" I exclaimed and rode the lift down.
I barged out of the room and into the elevator without hesitation. After reaching the bottom floor, I rushed back to the dormitory and knocked on Rinoa's door. After a few moments, she opened it, rubbing her eyes and appearing very tired.
"Squall? What is it?" She noticed my angry expression as I breathed heavily without a word. "What's wrong?"
"We have to go now," I said, managing to at least sound calm.
"Why? What happened?" she asked in confusion.
"I'll explain later, but trust me…We need to leave right now!"
She knew that something was amiss, so she nodded in agreement. I ran off toward the parking lot and she willingly followed, forgetting to shut the door to her room.
As we moved, I began to wonder what I was doing. I was risking losing everything I'd earned as a member of SeeD, all because of Rinoa. She caused me to do things I normally wouldn't do for anyone, especially when it involved my professional life. She brought out the spontaneous side of me, no matter how small it was. Strangely enough, after thinking it through rationally, I didn't regret what I was about to do.
We hurried into the parking lot, where the Ragnarok was stationed. We'd had this section of the Garden remodeled to fit the airship, and added a compartment that opened up to allow it to exit safely. We boarded the vessel and moved to the bridge. I hopped into the pilot seat and buckled my seatbelt.
"Do you know how to fly this?" Rinoa asked, placing her hands onto the back of the seat.
"Yeah, Selphie taught me," I assured her.
I started up the engine and the back wall began to spread apart while the airship began to lift up off of the ground. Once it was completely opened, I hit the boosters and the Ragnarok sped out of the Garden. Rinoa held tightly onto the seat to maintain her balance until we leveled off and stayed at a constant speed.
"So…Care to enlighten me as to what we're doing?" she asked.
I took a deep breath, and kept my eyes on the sky ahead of us. I didn't want to see the expression on her face when I told her this. "Listen, Rinoa…Doctor Odine made some invention that would take away your sorceress powers forever, but it'd end up killing you, too. Because of all the pressure put onto Headmaster Cid, he ordered me to hand you over to Esthar…" I began to explain.
"Is that why you brought me here?" she interrupted. "You're gonna turn me into them?" She began to cry, and it hurt me severely to even hear it. "I guess you don't have a choice though. It's your job…"
"No! That's not it at all!" I intervened. "We're running away from them so that doesn't happen. You know I'd never let anything like that happen to you," I said in an attempt to comfort her.
Amazingly, she stopped weeping and stepped over to my side. Rinoa wiped the tears from her eyes and looked into mine. "Thank you, Squall," she said gratefully.
"Don't mention it. I only did what I wanted to do," I dismissed.
I caught her smiling out of the corner of my eye. Then it quickly faded as she considered our current predicament. "What's gonna happen to us now?"
"For now, we'll need to find a place to hide from Garden and Esthar. There's no doubt that SeeD will come looking for us," I replied.
"But what about your position as SeeD Commander?" she asked curiously.
"I don't think that means anything now. They'll disregard anything I say to them if they find us. Headmaster Cid will probably take that position away from me anyhow."
Rinoa smiled brightly, realizing what I had done. "You gave up everything…just for me?" She sounded surprised, but I couldn't exactly blame her.
She leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. "So where are we headed?" she asked.
I weighed each of the options in my mind. (Can't go to Deling City, Timber, or Winhill…Matter of fact, nowhere in Galbadia would be safe for a SeeD or sorceress these days. We can't go to Balamb. There aren't many places to hide in a small port town like that. Besides, they all know Zell. They'd definitely tell him about us if he came. Edea's house would be too obvious. That'll likely be one of the first places they look.) I thought.
That eliminated almost all of our possible options. (There's only one man that I can hope to trust outside of Garden, but it'll be a little tricky getting there. It seems like our only choice though.)
"Any ideas?" Rinoa asked after a few moments of thought.
"We're going to Esthar," I said, setting the autopilot for our destination.
"Esthar?!" she repeated in disbelief. "Won't everyone there be looking for us? That's the most dangerous place we could go!"
"But it's also the safest. There's only one safe haven available to us," I said. "We're going to see Laguna."