By: Southwest Eggroll
Chapter One: Help Wanted
JORDAN MCCADEN WAS A HARD worker. His father had taught him since he was old enough to understand that hard work always paid off. And so he was a hard worker, always eager to please. That's what Selphie had liked about him.
But he was standing before her, giving her the most terrible news a person like Selphie could ever hate to hear.
"I know it's a bad time, but my father got a transfer to work in a stone mine near Timber," said Jordan, nervously twisting something in his hands. "I'm leaving in three days. I tried to see if I could fly later, but he refuses. I'm sorry, Selphie!"
Forcing a smile onto her face, Selphie replied, "Well gummybears! Hmm...It's a big bummer, but don't worry about it. I'm sure I can find some more help somewhere. The Garden Festival is still a long ways off anyway!" Selphie smiled again, this time it was genuine. Her words obviously made him feel better, and that made her more comfortable. Things would be okay, because the Garden Festival was still three months off, and she hadn't really been looking for extra help.
Sure, Selphie had asked every person at the SeeD ball, which took place a few days ago, to join the committee, and the Quad bulletin board was plastered with ads for help. But no, she hadn't really been looking. Between herself and Jordan, things for the Garden Festival had been coming along nicely. Jordan left, parting with a shy smile and an awkward wave. Selphie sat at the desk in her dorm, tapping her pencil and thinking.
She needed to recruit some help, and soon. There were three months left, but three months could pass by quickly, if she wasn't careful. Last year, Garden Festival had almost been canceled, but Jordan came along and they both came up with something. The year before that, Irvine had come to the rescue, and had gotten the Fisherman's Horizon mechanics to rebuild the stage. Both of her Garden Festivals had been mediocre. She wanted this one to come out with a real bang.
SEIFER ALMASY WALKED INTO BALAMB Garden, ignoring the whispers that went up in a rush around him. A few SeeDs glared at him, other students pointed and made rude noises, and one kid even shouted, "Traitor!" He smirked to himself. In his head, he was daring one of them to make a move against him. Seifer ran a hand through his blonde locks, not bothering with the strand of hair that was forever in his face. Garden was cold, and he was suddenly very aware of his surroundings in a strange way.
The halls were brightly lit, almost blinding. The floors looked like they hadn't been swept in a while, and an angry Staff member was scrubbing orange graffiti off a wall. He grinned at it, recognizing Raijin's artful touch. It was a crude stick picture of a person in a robe, with a cock in its mouth. The writing next to it said Garden Staff sucks donkey nuts for quarters!!! He was wondering where his was posse was, anyway, when a robed Staff member scuttled up to him.
"Seifer Almasy? Headmaster Cid wishes to see you in his office," he said quickly.
"Does he now? Well, I would hate to disappoint," Seifer replied sardonically, and he made his way up the stairs.
The elevator smelled like cleaner, and Seifer spotted a faint blue spot on the wall. More graffiti. Seifer laughed. It seemed like Garden had taken a turn for the worse when the Disciplinary Committee bailed out. He wondered how Cid found out about his arrival so quickly. They were probably expecting him. He stepped out on the third floor, bumped into Xu, who was carrying a bunch of manila folders.
She glared razor sharp icicles at him. Seifer almost flinched- there was disdain in her eyes, and Xu avoided his touch like he was some kind of poisonous filth. Seifer nodded his head to her. "Xu."
"Almasy," Xu replied, her voice dripping with hate. She put her finger to the 'Close Door' button the minute she could, shutting Seifer out of view and into the third floor. Seifer put his chin in the air and walked to the oak double doors. He rapped three times, and the doors opened.
CID'S OFFICE HAD NOT CHANGED much, except for the fact that the bridge was smack in the middle of it. His big, ornate desk was off to the side now, with a chair in front of it. It smelled like wet towels, Seifer noticed, and was immaculate for the most part. He walked to Cid's desk and stopped, eyeing the man carefully.
"Take a seat, Mr. Almasy," the Headmaster said calmly, not even looking up. Seifer was amused by Cid's determination to remain calm, to treat Seifer as though he were just another one of his meaningless appointments. Seifer almost laughed, but sat down quietly.
"'Lo, Headmaster," Seifer said, leaning forward and putting his elbows on his knees.
"Seifer, I won't beat around the bush. What are you doing here?"
The younger man smiled, running a hand through his blonde hair lazily. "I want to come back."
Cid laughed aloud. Seifer's smirk faded. Since he had entered the office, Cid had not looked up at him once, instead he shuffled through papers and stacked them. Now, though, he was looking right into Seifer's eyes, amusement twinkling in his own. "Excuse me?"
"I said, I want to return to Garden. As a student. A SeeD," Seifer said, swallowing his pride. He had intended to stroll back into Garden, resume classes and do so without any complications. But Cid had laughed at the proposition, making it clear that it could not be done without some kind of fuss.
Confirming that he had heard correctly, Cid leaned back and seriously considered the thought. He needed more students like Seifer, with a natural talent. An idea began to hatch in his head, one that the Garden Staff would not like. He looked Seifer up and down. He looked serious, for the most part sincere. Cid was sure he had done his fair share of thinking over the Sorceress Conflict, and was sorry for it.
"Why should I readmit you?" Cid asked bluntly. "I have no reason. All your presence would do is upset the student body. And I don't think many Instructors would fight over the chance at having you in their classes."
Seifer glared. "I don't think so either. But I want to become a SeeD. Life gets boring. SeeD can offer me something, and I have something to offer SeeD," he replied cockily.
"Oh really? Then tell me, what do you have to offer SeeD?"
"I'm the most powerful gunblade specialist anywhere."
"Forgive me, Seifer, but I think I certain young man by the name of Squall Leonhart would beg to differ," the Headmaster said, putting his elbows on his desk and grinning for emphasis.
Leonhart...Seifer's deep green eyes flashed, he leaned back. "He beat me out once, sir. The other times, he had his goons to help him out. One on one, he's not a match for me."
Cid nodded. What he said was partially true. Squall had only beaten him once on his own. Every other time he had the help of two others. Cid was sure that if Seifer wasn't more powerful than Squall, like he had said, that he was equally powerful. Having a soldier like him on SeeD would bring in more money. And, Cid noted, he had also referred to him as 'sir', a sign of respect. He thought, if he had a correct impression of the new Seifer Almasy, that his plan would work.
"Okay. I'll allow you to return to Garden. You can have your own dorm and I'll put you in Miss Trepe's classes-"
"Quistis?" Seifer interjected, surprised.
The Headmaster nodded. "We re-instated her license after the Sorceress Conflict. I think she deserved it. Wouldn't you agree?"
He nodded, somewhat absent mindedly, and leaned back in his chair, obviously content. He had gotten what he had come for- a second chance at SeeD, at life.
THE ELEVATOR, WHICH SMELLED A lot like Clorox, dinged and the doors opened. Selphie stepped out onto the third floor. She bounced to the doors and knocked a few times. She heard a couple of voices, and the doors opened, revealing a beautiful set of emerald green eyes. Seifer. She identified him immediately, and did not try to hide the frown that appeared on her face. It was kind of an unsaid vow of Selphie's to be nice to everyone, but she was having trouble finding kind words to say to him.
"Well if it isn't the little Messenger Girl," Seifer said, opening the doors more widely and grinning at her.
"Well if it isn't the little Lapdog," Selphie replied, sticking her tongue out at him.
For the briefest instant, Selphie thought she saw his smirk waiver. He held out his arm, gesturing for her to enter the office. She passed by him, her gaze not leaving his, until Headmaster Cid called her.
"Selphie? What is it?" Headmaster Cid asked, waving her over with a smile.
"It's about the Garden Festival. I just lost my last bit of help, and I was hoping you could make an announcement over the loudspeaker for help," Selphie chirped. "Can I also have permission to post some ads around the halls?"
Cid nodded. "Of course, of course...Selphie, I don't know how to say this...Maybe you should consider canceling this year?"
Selphie looked scandalized at the mere thought. She shook her head violently. "No, no, no! I can handle it! I was just hoping to get a little extra help on the side, is all. No need to cancel, no, no..."
"Are you sure? It's not a problem..."
"Oh, I'm sure," Selphie said. "I need to start printing out flyers, so I'll give you an update on the progress later, sir."
Cid watched the spunky brunette skip out of his room and out the doors. Another idea was forming in his head...