Demon's Awakening Chapter 4

Scarred Reminders

By Athana Soulfire

"Hey, Rinoa, are you doing alright?" Selphie asked of her friend. She had noticed the way Rinoa's eyes had softly begun to flutter shut- and then open again with a slight glaze over their depths. She reached across the bed from her own and gently shook her arm. "Rinoa?"

No response.

"She's okay, Selphie." Irvine's voice came up from behind her. "Just sleeping again..."

The three were bandaged- weary, but alive. They lay quietly side by side in a small room that had been set up for them beforehand- nearly thre minutes after Squall had even breifly mentioned their conditions. It had really been somewhat of a stroke of luck that Quistis remembered their was a radio in their Garden car. Selphie faintly remembered her instructor frantically beating the garden's code into it's keypad while Zell carefully packed herself and Irvine into the car. She was very dizzy then- sights and sounds came like fitered images to her senses and the moments passed like hours.

So *That* was what true pain could do to your body...

Quistis had shouted their location into the mic a second or so afterwards. She could have imagined poor Nida realizing what other happenings had occured. Xu's death hit him hard... When she and Irvine had first left with Rinoa, she remembered catching a glimpse of his striken features.


Selphie quietly turned away from her friend and faced Irvine, Reddish brown hair absently clumped about her head. He was in the plain, white bed to her right- her own in the middle of her two frineds. She felt an odd humor crep into her voice as Irvine smiled in her direction with those twin earthy eyes.

"This is gonna be kinda weird don't you think?" Selphie began. "I mean, with all three of us in bed, and then having Squal, Zell and Quistis in here too so we can start a meeting."

Irvine grimaced a moment as his hand moved to tip a hat that was no longer on his head. The discarded part of his attire was probably crushed into the saturated earth back out in the forests, never to be seen again. With a sigh, his hand was content to readjust a long ponytail instead, and then fall back to his side.

"Yeah, guess it might be a litle odd..." He said slowly, twitching a slim nose. "The Doctor is going to be in here to, you know. CHecking all their scratches... I think Seifer and Fujin will be a part of the meetin as well. It's going to be crowded as helll..."

"Seifer too?" Selphie scrunched up her nose.

"My thoughts exactly, doll." Irvine strung out his arm and made a cliking sound- aiming his index finger like a gun towards the single window across from them. "Bang!"

Selphie giggled, which made the would-be cowboy smile through his discomfort. Truthfully, he didn't want to remove the plain white sheet that adorned the most part of his chest and lowerbody. There was a steady trob beating over his stomach.... and he knew similar gashes to the single large swipe he'd endured lay over Selphie's slender form. He'd seen the way those things clawed at her- and hated himself for not being able to come to her aid.

They must have attacked Raijin in the same way... only faster- and deeper. They were playing with us...

He shuddered involentarily, which brought on a worried stare from the woamn closest him. She was about to speak again when, outside, there was a click as a door opened. Selphie could hear boots echoing on the tile floor- and then a voice.

"The others aren't here yet, Mrs Trepe..."

"Quistis-" Selphie began, looking to Irvine. He nodded, having heard the exchange as well.

It was a near twenty minutes later before everyone was actually in the room. Quistis had waited patiently outside in the lobby area of the infirmary for both Squall and Zell to arrive- Zell having brought a humbled Lyra to their gathering without the slightest objection from Leonheart. THeir were breif, quiet words, a couple of questions- and the doctor ended the slight conversation by taking out a large medical kit.

"Get with the others, Squall. I'll be there shortly to take care of wounds among your party. Lyra will offer a hand, I beleive."

None of the group had realized that the small Library girl was also fluent in the medical arts except for Kadowaki herself. Pig-tails bouncing, the girl gave a thumbs up to the doctor.

"I'll also bring Seifer and Fujin to you." The doctor conttinued as Squall, Quistis, Lyra and Zell made for one of the back patient rooms. She looked directly at Squall, making sure it was alright with him before proceeding.

THe commander lowerd his head slightly, jaw tense a moment. Where one side of his conscience knew they should be present- the other screamed Seifer's name and demanded his gunblade to arm.

It was a year ago, Squall. You've heard nothing of him- no one has even seen him scince his exhile.

The words spat out of his mouth. "Yes, it's alright."

The doctor nodded and turned away as the four began into the room Where Selphie, Irvine and Rinoa lay.. A sharp click of the door and it's lock echoed into the still air, and then snapped back again as it closed behind them.

With a sigh, Kadowaki shuffled a few papers on her desk and gazed out the window to her right. A breeze wafted from it's open pane and ruffled her hair- far more gentle then it had been in previous hours.

At the very least- the storm had ended.


"Guys! Sup!?"

Rinoa jolted herself awake as Zell's voice cut through the room. Her eyes opened slowly- speckles of red and black covering her vision before it finally adjusted itself to the light in the room. Her sight was blurry, if not strained- but the young sorceress knew it would improve soon enough. With effort, her face tilted to the side and took in the faces of both Irvine and Selphie. They were smiling towards the door- Selphie then taking notice of her waking and giving the raven haired girl a wide grin. She faintly heard her saying: "Squall- great timing! She just woke up!"


The last she remembered of him was a faint outline aginast a deep black forest. After that- everything just faded. The talking- worried voices. Squall's eyes- it all dulled into peaceful nothingness and took away her pain.


She easily recognized his voice, and tilted her head again to face the four who had just entered the room. Quistis, Zell, Squall- and a woman she didn't fully recognize. The dark haired boy of their party quickly made his way to her bed and bent down. She felt herself smile- but the action only seemed to bring him pain.

"Your so pale..." He whispered hoarsly. Quistis pulled Zell aside- to where Irvine and Selphie were watching. Even if the room were small, it was only respectful to give the two a moment before they began.

Rinoa parted her lips to speak, but no words could come. She wanted to tell him to stop worrying- the others were beginning to think he had to big a heart. And THEN what would his reputation be like? The thought just made her smile again- and her eyes traced the redness of his scar. It had bled- speks of dried blood dotted his face. Didn't he even stop to nurse it's flow? There were many questions she wanted to ask- but then... that was why they had all gatherd together, wasn't it?

Squall gently gripped her hand and then turned a stern face to his other five friends in the room. They were smiling at him- Quistis bringing one hand to the side of her face and tilting her head to regard his glare.

"Grab a chair- Zell, Quistis... Lyra... We've plenty to discuss." Squall began, instantly formal. The SeeD positioned himself at the edge of Rinoa's bed. The girl would have laughed if she'd had the strength.

Selphie watched as the two standing of their group pulled up a pair of matching chairs from the northmost wall of the small room. Lyra was content to seat herself on the floor next to Zell, and folded her arms lightly across her lap. Those two chairs and the three beds were all the room spoke for- they, and the single long window that lay closed near to where Squall was sitting. With a halfhearted sigh from Irvine- everyone lapsed into silence. It was Quistis who broke it, folding her arms and bending over slightly at the waist. She chuckled very slightly.

"God... where should we even start? How can we even begin to sort through this mess?"

Undoubtably, that had been the first question to pass through Squall's mind as well. HIS gaze lingered on Rinoa a moment before passing over his friends. When there was no place to start, Quistis had once told him- start at the beginning.

"This all started...." He began, an edge of weariness creeping up into the deeper tones of his voice. "This morning, upon finding Raijin, Fujin, and Seifer. It was agreed that they should be taken back to garden. It was agreed that the wounds we saw inflicted were not consistant with any other known method of attack. Or, in essance- the inserted "blood-like" corpses found in Seifer's body."

They listened as Squall continued- precariously sorting through his thoughts to come up with an accurate summery of the events that had occured in past hours. He began with the initial attack that started their curiousity and awareness of an assailent. NExt was the sudden storm that had begun- and Rinoa's unease amist it. Seifer and Fujin's treatment- the dissapearance of Xu. He continued with their organized party of three. HImself, Zell, and Quistis. Squall explained Rinoa's fear of his leaving- and how, when they arrived at Balamb town in search of their missing friend- the ocean was found to be rapidly rising. They called to Garden- they found Xu dead...

Then came then first appaearance of the creatures- and questions with it.

"What could they have possibly meant?" Lyra whispered- the first time she had spoken amongst the group. "It said that we nearly destroyed their species- like it's here for revenge..."

Zell made a throaty sound. "Yeah- or maybe they just don't like us! Didn't that one mention that they weren't gonna' stop til we were all dead?"

"The human race..." Quisrtis echoed.

"Kinda dramatic, don't you think?" Selphie cut in, brows furrowing. " I don't wan't to fight anymore crazy magic things! Ultimicia was enough!"

"This couldn't be connected to her death in anyway, could it?" Irvine added.

"I don't beleive so..." Squall said, brushing a peice of deep brown from his head. "But we really can't be sure. Nothing is very clear to us at the moment... we know that whatever these beings are- they are not here on friendly terms."

Quistis nodded slowly, eyes then closing as she searched for a sentence in her mind. Upon finding it, her eyes raised to the group once again, and she leaned back in her chair. "Squall- do you remember what one of them had said? The 'blonde youth' having been labeled for passage- and the last peice was soon to follow, or something along those lines?"

Squall's head bowed slightly. "Yes. There's the next part of our mystery..." His eyes moved softly to Rinoa's face. "Your that last peice. They want you- and I don't know why..."

Her pale features regarded him steadily as a hush swam over the group. Tiny scratces rested along her face and neck- and under the cloth which warmed her were many, many other gashes of much more depth and pain. An arm came out from under that cover- clad in bloody blue. She gently swiped at a peice of hair in her eyes and turned her face over her friends.

"They want both of us. I and Seifer." Came her first shaking sentance. Her voice was having trouble speaking each word- but they still came out clear enough to be heard. Squall moved to silence her- realizing the pain she was in, but she pushed him away tenderly.

"I heard what they were saying to each other in the forests. Their leader is named Isami- The one with the grey-violet hair. She seemed so bent on what she was doing- looking at me as if I were both scum and savior to her entire species..." Rinoa sighed heavily. " There was a point in your encounter when one of them shouted to her; "Quick, insert her with the Groth!" Or something like that. Squall- i think *groth* is what these things are...."

Rinoa lifted her good arm- feeling a pain shoot through the other which had been broken in the car crash. A large gash that Squall had glimpsed beforehand was splayed for him to see- and, sure enough, red was mingled with the black of those blood-like creatures.

"I don't know where she wants to take us..." Rinoa whispered. "But I... I think the only way she can get us there is by-"

"Pumping us full of bloodsucking monsters." A voice growled at the door.

Squall's head jerked around, eyes narrowing instantly. Quistis stood from her chair as Squall began up himself from the edge of the bed. Every head turned- and warily so, as two figures entered the room.


The blonde who had appeared in the doorway cast a grim stare over those within the room- eyes finally content to rest on Squall. Behind him, a Shuriken flashed in the air and then came down in one deft motion. Fujin had silently proclaimed her presence as well.

There was complete silence. Lyra was most aware of the strung tension that had suddenly built in the room- and she gazed from face to face in the silence. She noted how Quistis and Zell seemed to unconsiously prepare for some sort of encounter. Even Irvine and Selphie had risked pain by moving fowards in the infirmary beds- as if ready to defnd themselves. ONly Rinoa seemed unfazed by the distinct presence of an enemy they had not seen or heard from in the past year. She watched him with slightly sad eyes- and Almasy refused to meet them.

Lyra blinked hard- suddenly feeling very out of place and almost scared. The sorceresses Knight had truly returned...

"Crashed your party...?" Seifer spat out a moment or so later, shaking his head as a light smirk faulted his lips. The tall teenager met the peircing gaze of his former instructor and held it. "Not even a hello, huh?"

"I'd expect that kind of remark from you, Almasy..." Quistis breathed in a dangerous way that drew stares from even Squall. Her violet eyes shifted slightly, and a slim jaw worked itself into place so that no other words might escape her.

Watch yourself... Fujin found her mind silently thinking as she took her place at Seifer's right shoulder. This was an inevitable encounter- and they both had known it. For all his confidence- she'd seen the way Seifer had hesitated in front of the door before they entered. HIs hand had dropped to the knob, ready to turn- and then he'd halted in the action. Just a second, that was all.

But a second was all she'd needed for Fujin to silently understand all he thought.

I want to see them, but I don't
I want to thank them, but I can't
I don't want her to hate me, but she should.
Take a deep breath and smile. They'll expect that of you.
Now open the goddamned door like nothing ever happened.

Seifer leaned against the wall as if every set of eyes were not trained upon him, arms folded over his wrapped chest in as much a casual stance as he could manage. His skin was still rather pale- and flakes of blood shone quite well out over his flesh where claws had not marred his body. Save for a pair of loose grey jeans and black boots- he wore nothing else but blood-dried bandages and a smirk.

Squall watched the 6'2 frame of his rival sigh heavily- both of them very aware of the silence. He was sligtly preturbed that Seifer had his gunblade- the dangerous weapon hanging at his side and flashing silver under the infirmary lighting. Fujin was still equipped as well. The shorter girl stood silent next to Seifer- red eye scanning the group with disintrest, if anything. Her silver hair was flecked red- blue and black attire ripped in almost enough skin-exposing places to be considered inapproriate.

Her head turned slightly and caught his gaze.Fujin had a very different look about her now then how Squall had remembered her. Possibly more dangerous- ever cold. A moment later, and she turned her crimson eye away from him to glare at the metallic door aside her. It was Doctor Kadowaki.

Squall and his companions were more then thankful for her entrance- ecspecially with the present moment of akward tension, anger and distrust looming over the room.

She felt it, obviously, as two brown eyes surveyed those gathered and a low whistle escaped her lips. Yes- she knew the potential battleground that had just been created might be a dangerous one. And, with her ever-even voice and perfect look of athourity, the good doctor intended to let her age and experiance carry itself over those withen the room. She was a good forty three years, afterall. Quistis and Seifer were the oldest and only stood at a meager 19. A breif few thoughts entered her mind at that.

They were children, when you really thought about it. Children shouldn't have had to go through what these many did. SeeD or not. Apparently their former headmaster, Cid, cared nothing for the conservation of innocence.

"So..." Seifer dramtically threw his hands into the air and then crossed them back over his chest. "I come in- everyone shuts up and glares at me. The doctor comes in- everyone looks releived and stares at her. Is it just me- or does it seem like this peanut meeting is a little dull...?"

They all glared at him again- to which Seifer innocently smiled back. Fujin irritably shifted her gaze on the doctor- and then Rinoa. The pale girl was slowly drifting off- weariness plastered over her young face..

Squall glanced at her a moment, and then lifted his gaze when Kadowaki touched his shoulder in a light manner.

"Give me a few minutes to check up over Zell, Lyra and yourself. Then I'll begin with my findings. I already tended to Quistis." After a pause she spoke louder. "Irvine and Selphie? You two fairing alright?"

Irvine tipped an imaginary hat and Selphie giggled with a thumbs up. "Yuppers!" Her green eyes sparkled until Fujin fixed her with a stare that could have flayed the poor girl blind. Selphie shrunk back and Irvine just groaned.

"Tell your attack dog to back off, Almasy." The sniper snapped in the albino's general direction.

"Shut it." Seifer bit icilily into the end of Irvines sentence. a chill hung in the air.

Amazing that the first bit of heat to be exchanged wasn't between Seifer and Squall- or even Zell. Still, it couldn't end just there. A throat wound bit into Irvines mind just as his mouth let it fly.

"Sorry Fuj' I forgot the only mut among us was that lapdog by your side... Any sorceress come calling as of late, Knight?"

Squall's gut contracted when a murderous look blinded Seifer's green eyes. He'd seen it before, and he did not need to see it's results compact over Irvine's body. Rinoa let go of his hand just as Squall jumped up and immediatly tried to halt a three step stalk that had begun in Irvine's direction. Selphie gasped releif as Seifer's obvious warpath was abruptly stopped by Squall, Quistis and Zell. The three pushed him back- violently enough to shake Seifer's gaze from his intended prey and let a hand clamp down over Squall's white hemmed jacket.

He was frighteningly strong for someone who'd been ripped open by demons mere hours before.

Everyone went silent and still as the two rivals regarded each other with a lashing cold that seemed to choak the very room. Their mirror scars were an oddity so close to one another, and Seifer's obvious advantage in height seemed no matter with the dangerous way he'd bent his head- looking ready to maul the lion in his grasp.

Squall stood unintimidated. If the former knight wanted a confrontation- he'd give him one.

"Stop it!" Quistis hissed. "Both of you!"

"Squall, man..." That from Zell.

"..guys-!" Lyra and Selphie burst in.

It was Kadowaki and the instructor- moving fowards togather, who had mustered the bravery to try and come between the two men. Quistis took Squall's one free arm- Kadowaki moved to extract Seifer's curled fist from their commander's jacket. Neither moved.


The blonde felt his right eye twitch ever so slightly, hearing Fujin's voice vibrate throughout the room. His hand clenched harder into the clothing of an unwavering leonheart. A second later- and the tiny woman pushed the doctor from her path and gave Quistis such a death-be-told look that she stepped back in surprise. Fujin's single red eye captured Seifer's deadly glazed stare.

"Don't..." She warned in a low voice, normal tone that was commanding and worried.

A taunt pause.

"Don't what." Was his dead-tone answer to her murmer. A question and a statement, both at once.

Squall felt Seifer release him, taking a step back as the tense moment passed. Stalk dripping venom, the tallest figure in the room spun around and exited- the door slamming closed behind him so hard that the single window shook violently in it's aftermath. The infirmary lapsed into familiar silence yet again. This time, all eyes were trained on Squall. All excluding Rinoa's, who was now fully upright in her bed and watching the door until it's trembles subsided.

Squall let out a long breath, and turned slowly on Irvine.

"Lets not press that button again, alright?" Came his weary voice.

The brown haired cowboy ran a hand through his ponytail and hoped he ddin't appear as shaken as he felt.


The doctor felt her hand raise to rub gently at her left temple- her previous twinges of a distant headache now very prominent. This wasn't starting off very well at all. God- the group could just barely keep the peace- never mind what she'd have to tell them. Another realization struvk her.

"We need him here." She said in a low voice, looking back towards the door. "All of you need to hear this. Seifer included."

"And just who is going to bring him back?" Irvine snapped, in more annoyance then he meant. it was by logic only that everyone looked to the firey albino who had broken the dangerous confrontation apart in the first place. She too was looking towards the door- and then turned back around as her mind unconsiously registered all the eyes upon her blue-violet clad back. Silver running into her eye- Fujin brushed it away and glared around her. A hard fist curled around her Shuriken.

"I wouldn't advise it." Came her voice- surprising those in the room who had expected to hear a booming RAGE from the young woman. "I'll stay and listen. I know anything he would be able to tell you." She blinked once, looking around her.

"And let that jerk loose around Garden!? Zell broke in. "HELL NO! He'll probably end up-" Fujin cut him off with words like blades.

"This isn't any easier for him then it is for you."

"And we're supposed to give a damn?" Irvine cut in- just as sharp.

Fujins scathing retort was cut off by Selphie, who threw a pillow at the raging cowboy with a pout over her features. "Can we stop! please!?" She tried to get up- not really knowing why amongst everything- and was met with a short cry of pain as a gash down her left leg split open once again.

Quistis and Kadowki moved to help their injured friend get back into a more practical position as Fujin turned her head to look at Squall.

"Let him be-... commander." She said, testing the new word over her tonge. "Please. Seifer won't want to start any trouble." Her red gaze softened just... *just* barely. "Much has happened this past year."

"YOu gotta be joking!" Zell raved, standing from his chair. "He-!" But Squall held up a hand for silence, and everyone in the room obediantly quieted. With Selphie now upright once again- the doctor signaled to Squall that she would begin a quick check-over of his friends. They had to start making *some* progress, of whatever the kind. In a moment- the quiet Lyra was at her side and helping to keep Zell subdued as she tended his previous battle wounds.

"I'll agree..." Squall said evenly to Fujin- the silver haired girl still pinning him with that ominous gaze of hers. "But there are some things from you I will need to know."

She nodded in the way a sentinel might. Cold and collected. "Thank you."

"Squall? Rinoa spoke up- voice a bit stronger now. He instantly looked in her direction, shifting in place by her bedside. Her gaze, which had previously lingered on the door, locked with his icy blue depths. "Did... you notice?"

He blinked, confused a moment as her good arm ruffled a strand of deep brown that had escaped the hook of his ear. "... What do you mean?"

"His eyes." She said distantly. "They were hollow..."

"OW!!!" Came a startled exclamation from Zell- who glared at a chuckling Lyra and the soft cloth she'd been using to clean a nasty rip over the arm of the energetic martial artist. Squall watched them a moment- and then turned back to Rinoa with his mouth parted to question her. He stopped short upon finding her eyes closed, watching her chest rise and fall softly with the rythem of slumber. Blinking, slightly startled, Squall simply covered the bedding up higher on her body and watched her head fall noiselessly to one side.


"Well- for starters, how did you get out of the infirmary, find your weapons, AND find us?"

Doctor Kadowaki raised her head from where she tended Irvine, obviously wondering as well. Squall, who had asked the question, kept his voice low in mind of the sleeping Rinoa and waited for Fujin to answer. From across him- the albino sat. Her arms were crossed- gaze one of detached thought and certainty when he presented her with the question. When red flickered to regard him- she leaned back against the wall and nodded once.

"I had awoken, and found Seifer to be missing. Doubting he had simply walked from the room, I checked the window and found it to be open when a wind rustled the pane. That being his only obvious method of exit- I knew something was wrong- for he would never leave me behind at a time like this." A slim shoulder raised ever so slightly. "Resonably- I looked for my weapon before departing. I picked the lock to a metallic drawer in the room and happened to be lucky enough in finding both my Shuriken and Seifer's gunblade within. Hence- i left the room (through the window) with both weapon's in tow- explaining our equipped status upon finding your party."

Squall stared at her a moment. A second longer... maybe more. He had forgotten that her normal tone of voice was so emotionless and.. fluent. Not Fujin- whose speaking was a rarity in itself.

"A problem, commander?" Came her words again. Icy- to the point. A don't-you-bullshit me tone that was dangerous enough to send a sudden chill up his spine. Amazing all the levels her voice could fall upon- ranging from the soft plea she'd exchanged with Seifer to the powerful one word boom of a command that she'd bellowed throughout the forest in their earlier battle.

"I'm sorry- please continue."

"To your last question... I found Seifer rather quickly after departing from the infirmary. He was outside, along the garden's western front, crouching low among forest growth. By the time I caught sight of him it was easy enough to tell he were stalking something. And so I to came to his position at a low and quiet pace- attempting to follow his vision. When Seifer heard me approach he was angry at first. Figurable- as I could see he'd intended to deal with this situation himself."

"And the situation-?" Squall asked.

She blinked at him. "Two of those creatures, high up over the Garden walls. Asking him later- Seifer had been sure he'd seen them from the infirmary window, which explains his absence upon my waking. They were toying with the circutry poles near to to bridge. It was hard to make out other such details- as they were so far up and the night was thick."

Squall's eyes narrowed slightly. "Could they have been the phone cables? Communication?"

After a breif flicker of thought behind Fujin's single crimson eye, she nodded. "Yes, it is possible."

Squall sat back over the edge of Rinoa's bed, jaw tense and anger just becomming apartent over a thin frown. "THeir damned smart- I'll give the horrible things that much."

Fujin raised a slim, questioning brow.

"I'll fill you in later. How did you find us?"

She leaned back into the wall. "I was coming to that. After the demons finished their toying- each seemed to vanish. Pure chance of luck Seifer could manage to follow their lightning fast departure. Down into the tree's- streaking towards Balamb's shores. It was then that I noticed a Garden car had begun up the road. We came to the conclusion that they were following it, simply because of the direct line it made for the vehical." her shoulder raised again- a shrug. "I can't say either of us were looking for more then a chance to avenge Raijin's death. That is- Until meeting up with your group. It's rather obvious now that we are all apart of something much larger then simple twisted games among a pack of blood-lusting creatures."

Squall sighed heavily, taking in the information. HIs eyes glanced in a watchful manner to Quistis, then Zell. BOth were intently listening to the conversation as Lyra and Kadowaki finished up with the yellow clad girl in the bed opposite them. Selphie emmited a low- "Cool!" As the doctor wrapped a pink bandage over her injured left leg.

"At the very least- It seems we are safe as long as everyone stays inside the Garden. None of the attacks have occured near to our home."

Fujin blinked again, running something over in her mind. "That is a reoccuring theme. Quistis told you of our tracking of numerous deaths involving these creatures, did she not?"

Squall nodded.

"None of the people we found slain were near any large cities. Towns yes, but places of technology and wealth seemed untouched. It seems that perhaps the demon's fear such large establishments." her head jerked slightly to one side in a nearly robotic action. She was vertifying what she said- making sure.

Squall shifted slightly on his perch, another thought managing to form a question despite the million or so that ran rampant in his head. "Saying this is true then- that we have safty in the garden..." he looked at her warily. "Seifer wouldn't have-"

"Even if he's ventured outside, It won't matter." She said, matter-of-factly.

"And how did you come to that conclusion?"

Her hand motioned to the single window in the room. Faint streams of daylight were finally beginning to peel back the cover of night that had so ruthlessly choaked the landscape for a time that felt an eternity. The storm was over- a breeze hit the glass and made it softly wobble. An actual breeze...

Squall felt a sigh of thankfulness wash over him- guessing that his other friends were feeling much of the same.

"There has not yet been ONE attack..." Fujin began. "That occured in daylight. When I, Rajin and Seifer had first begun to track the attacks from as far away as Galbadia and Dollet, the fearful rumor was that the *night* had been attacking innocents. We know now that it was in fact these creatures, nearly invisable they move so fast."

Silence overtook the room a moment, save for the doctor and Lyra as they busied themselves with making sure everyone was well treated. Squall leaned fowards on his legs, watching the sunlight creep higher into the room, and then turned his gaze back on fujin once more.

"What... made you do it? Tracking these attacks before you knew what they were? Why would Seifer-" And he trailed off, not sure how to ask the question.

Fujin simply watched him, gaze as steady as always. "Quistis had broached the same question, Squall. I suppose I can understand Why you'd find his involvement odd."

"I don't mean for it to sound like-" She cut him off with a wave of her hand.

"And why not? I may not have known Seifer as long as you have- But I still know him far better. Anyone he meets would agree the man cares for no one but himself and that raging ego you find so easy to hate." She stiffened slightly, head turning to one side. "Yet one must realize there is a difference between someone who is heartless, and someone who wishes he were heartless. I would think you'd have an easier time of undersanding this then most, Leonheart."

He stared at her, saying nothing.

"The first occurance we were made aware of took place on the Galbadian plain land- near the desert." She slowly drew her gaze over the others in the room. "A young family. I don't know if it was the first attack- but after leaving Fisherman's Horizon once your battle with Ultimicia was around three weeks old, it was the first we had heard of them." She smiled grimly. "When your considered outlaws by most every city on the planet, travel becomes second nature."

Squall watched her arms cross over her knees, looking over the Shuriken she still held limply in one palm. "It was the same?"

"Yes. Blood everywhere- deep gashes. Raijin and I could only stare a moment or so while Seifer began the task of hauling a young womans body from the peaked spikes of a fence which surrounded her yard. Brutality, is something these demon's practice in full. That i am sure of. The children of that famly were not shown mercy."

Fujin raised her head to see that the doctor had stopped her tending, as had Lyra, and were also now listening to the conversation. She regarded them each in a cool manner, and then turned her head back to Squall. "Tell me you would not have wanted to flay alive a butcher who would string the intestine of a ten year old around the perimiter of his very own house. After that- we began a hunt which would span months. And ultimetly lead to our own attack in the forests."

Quistis, slightly numbed by what she had heard, sat back in her small metallic chair as Fujin chuckled in a morbid way, her single eyes darting to the window.

"Funny- how they were looking for us as we were looking for them. Or, more pointedly, they were looking for Seifer just as they are RInoa. The doctor spoke to us before this meeting was called- and told me a few things that began to fit together with our own experiences in a disturbing way."

"What are ya' talking about?" This from Zell, leaning fowards on his hands and knees after discarding his uncomfortable metallic chair. "You get some of what's been going on?"

Fujin glared at him in her usual manner- but adressed the question while turning her head towards the window yet again. "Think about this. All of you. Almost immediatly after the defeat of Ultimicia, these strange assaults began. The attacks were random- but all closer to the positions of both Seifer and RInoa respectfully." She tossed her head. "It is obvious now that they want them both- but why? What is the one thing that Seifer and Rinoa have in common?" She looked towards the sleeping girl.

"Um... they used to date?" Selphie perked up, smiling in her absent way.

Everyone glared at her.

"No." Squall said, running a hand through his deep brown hair and sighing painfuly as realization dawned over him. "They were both influenced by Ultimicia."

Fujin nodded. "Seifer realized it just as I did, and considering this is strong evidence to suggest the demon's are somehow linked to her, there is no telling what degree of trouble any of us are in for."

For all the silence and quiet words that had been exchanged, the small white room burst into questions as that idea settled in. The absolute last thing that anyone wanted to experiance again was the torment they'd all been put through a simple year ago. No more time compression, no more magic, no more anything. Just the peace they had established after all of that weary struggle.

And here Squall had just been getting used to the fact that Cid had planned some vacation time into his sceduale...

"QUIET!" Fujin growled in yet another tone of voice. She had drowned out both Quistis and Squall- who had begun to shout the same word. The commander of Balamb Garden gave her a thnkful nod and then sighed releif when he realized RInoa had not awoken. Far to many questions- far to many worries. This situation had to take a step in one direction even if he didnt not know exactly in which way to walk.

Squall was their leader, afterall- and, perhaps with the exception of Quistis, they all looked at him expectantly.

Why me?

"Doctor..." Squall began, turning in her direction after standing from the bed. "You had further information...?"

Kadowaki rubbed the back on her neck, medical kit in one hand and a roll of bandage in another. "Actually, Squall, most of what I'd intended to tell the group has been spoken. All I can really give you now is my analysis of the *groth*, as i beleive RInoa said those dreadful demons reffered to it. Most of it is included in paperwork."

"Those bloodlike corpses?" Irvine asked.

"Yes." Kadowki walked nearer to Rinoa, putting a hand on the girl's pale arm. " i think we've guessed already that wherever it is the creatures want to take Rinoa and Seifer- they need to have the *groth* present in their bloodstream for that passage."

"Which..." Quistis breathed. "Would rule out these creatrures coming from a form of Time compression. When we traveled to Ultimicia's future, none of us required those.... things in our blood."

"Who said anything about timecompression?" Irvine asked.

"Considering we'd all like to know where these things come from, and that their linked to Ultimicia in some way, I couldn't help thinking it was possible they came from another time compressed world."

Zell groaned. "Oh man, this sounds WAY to Twilight Zoneish!"

"Noted concern- and luckily dismissed." Squall said, releif on his voice.

"Wait wait wait..." Irvine started, waving a hand. "If these things want Seifer AND rinoa- Why'd Mr. Personality get run through the stomach? Wouldn't that have killed him if Fujin didn't cast Curaga?"

The albino gave him a hostile glance. "It wasn't intentional. The blow was meant for me."

"... Oh."

Kadowaki was the one to silence any further questions by holding up a hand and then lowering it once again when all eight faces in the room turned in her direction. "Even with what we know, there is no way to be certain how to find this enemy, fight this enemy, and try to understand their motives. For now, I ask that everyone get out of those blood garbed clothes and try to sleep. There is nothing more to be done at the present moment in time."

Everyone nodded quietly, and Squall touched Kadowaki's arm just as she made to leave- thanking a humbled Lyra for her assistance. The doctor turned, eyeing him- and Squall motioned towards RInoa.

"Don't worry commander. She'll be fine by this afternoon- if not sooner. I'll get the wicked things out of her..."

He thanked her, just about to rise from Rinoa's side, and then a sharp- terrified cry rose up from the office outside their room.


She was a pretty little thing- maybe 5'3, but very weak looking. Sure, he supposed if she were in the Garden, and wearing a SeeD uniform at that, the broad had to be good at *some* form of fighting. Blonde hair curled into ribbons, makeup plastered perfectly over an innocent face, doe eyes huge and blue- the girl was probably no more then sixteen. A nurses apron was tied loosly around her thin middle- covering her uniform skirt. She was probably a volenteer or soemthing.

With a cry that made him wince- her red rimmed mouth opened wide in horror and she screamed bloody blue murder. Seifer Almasy grimaced in disgust as she backed herself into the far corner of the room and subsided into trembles.

"It's dead, see?" He growled at her pathetic show and poked the corpse with the tip of Hyperion. "Will you shut up!?"

The girl just kept screaming.

"Oh my god!"

Seifer averted his gaze from the shreiking woman to the far more controlled form of his former instructor. Quistis, mouth hanging in shook, had opened the door to the room he'd so abruptly exited just under an hour ago. he could see Squall pushing fowards from behind her- the doctor with him. Zell- that new kid from the library. A smile struck his features when he realized how ridiculous they all looked trying to exit the room at once.

Fujin was the one that waited patiently behind, perhaps already expecting the scene they were all met with. When she finally entered Kadowaki's main office along with the rest of the group- something like a smile floated briefly over her cold features.

The Infirmary had many sections- but the largest of it, entrance to the foyer just past them and to the right, was now reaking of burnt flesh. Even despite the open windows and the breeze that gently wafted through them, the ugly smell was slapped over the walls like a heavy paint. There, upon a blood streaked medical table that had been dragged from one of the others rooms, was a stinking mass of dead flesh. Vaugly in the shape of something that might once have resembled elegance, limbs were jutting forth like sticks thrust into a creamy mud. There was a skull- hanging limp from strings of grey flesh. And there were claws as well. Fizzled hair that had once been grand splayed at the sides of it's body. Some drooped into two empty eye sockets that stared into the nothingness of death. It's skin was cracked, blisters and welts ran rampant along whatever flesh that had not been reducd to a thin, smoking slime.

Seifer Almasy was leaning backwards in a small metal chair- headboard against the wall, boots propped up on the table tray which held the horrific body of the demonling he'd slain that night. Only he could ever look so casual and smug in a situation like this.

"Anyone up for a barbeque?" He asked. Cool as ever.

"Your SICK!" Quistis spat, the contents of her stomach rolling over double, despite it's empty state. Seifer mearly shrugged, looking to Squall with just a breif twinge of satisfaction. Even the commander of Garden had looked horrified- if only for a few moments. Dizzy nearly with the site, Squall's jaw worked itself firm as he fixed Seifer with a deadly glare and shook his head in one enraged motion.

"What in Hyne's name do you think your doing!?"

"Proving a theory." Seifer remarked, nose twitching just slightly. HIs green-gray eyes drifted to Fujin, who didn't look fazed in the least. "The demons never attack in sunlight, and now we know why." He chuckled. "It reduces them to buckets of slime."

Lyra, Quistis, Kadowaki, Squall, and even Zell all remained silently stunned as Seifer stood, streached, and wheeled the tray and body over by the open window and it's fluttering curtains. Direct beams of early morning sunlight streamed over the corpse- and the five jumped in unison as the flesh began to bubble and drip. Smoke, even. Zell folded one arm over his stomach and turned away.

"Whatsa' matter Chicken wuss? Gonna puke?" Seifer grinned.

"Shut up ya' damned Bastard!" The furious martial artist growled unsteadily. he would have stalked fowards with fists raised if it weren't for the unsettled condition of his body.

Seifer could hear Irvine and Selphie calling from he other room- wanting despertly to know what had occured, and didn't notice as he shoved the cart away from the window that it's path would end directly in front of the previous screaming woman. She'd been forgotten in the breif talk- and now her eyes went even wider as the medical table sqeauked towards her. The girl had stopped her shreiks just as the others burst through the door...

Seifer turned, realizing what he'd just done, and was to late to intercept the table before it thumped into the paralyzed woman. "Oh shi-"

Out came the screaming, louder then before.

Kadowaki stumbled over to the girls side as Seifer pulled the corpse away- obviously recognizing her as one of the Nurse's staff. She dragged her back, gently coaxing, but nothing seemed to help.

"Her name is Ami." Kadowaki explained over the noise. "New to SeeD- I'm sorry, I asked her to come so that-"

"Well tell *Ami*" Seifer growled. "That if she doesn't SHUT UP I'm going to personally cram her face into this thing's decaying ass!!"

"Oh, YOUR in a fine mood!" Quistis snarled at him.

Not for the first time that day, Squall was grateful for Fujin's booming incarnation of a female voice.


Even Ami, wide blue eyes and golden hair trembling, quieted on near instant. Kadowaki took the oppertunity to quietly finish the circus of an introduction- slowly backing the tiny girl into one of the patient rooms. "She's our medical scientist. Only recently appointed. Her file is probably on your desk up at the bridge, Squall. I called her in after you left for Balamb to help analyze the Groth."

Squall, rubbing a black gloved hand over his face in an exasperated manner, nodded wearily.

"Before you all arrived for that *meeting*" Seifer cut in, pointing at the door. "Kadowaki was interested in the demon I killed. Figured a specimen would do good in the feild of research I suppose. Not that I myself had intended to drag this thing's carcass back to Garden- but it was either going to be a long walk or a dead cowboy." His ever-present smirk twitched into a frown. "Not saying that Irvine ain't still on my list..."

"Watch yourself." Squall hissed at him, and turned away, looking at Kadowaki. "Is their any specific place we should... put it?" A hand feebly gestured to the stinking corpse.

The doctor rubbed her chin thoughtfully and then pointed to the adjoining room that lay just beyond Lyra. "In there. I'll transfer it to a cold lock afterwards."

Squall nodded and watched as both Lyra and Quistis edged up to the body. The pigtailed girl seemed facinated enough, watching a large bubble of puss suddenly break and ooze out over it's mangled skin. Seifer shot her an odd look and shrugged in his classic way. Enemies or not- there was an odd normality hovering in the room. Afterall- in years passed, though they would never be considered friends, everyone was an ally at the very least.

"I'll take it in..." Almasy said in a detached manner as one of the chared claws fell off the creature's outstreached hand and directly into it's souplike stomach. After raising a brow, Quistis opened the door for him and the creature was hurriedly pushed out of site.


For now, that was that.

"GUYS!?!?" It was selphie- close to screaming from the room next door. Everyone turned towards it at once, either sighing or making some sort of odd face. Again, all eyes fell on Squall- and the black clad youth swept a strand of brown from his eyes before speaking.

"I'll fill them in." Squall said, sighing once and looking out over the group. "Quistis, Zell, Lyra, return to your dorms and try to rest. But expect an anouncement soon enough- we don't want to loose to much daylight. We'll meet again right back here, most likely."

"Um... me too?" Lyra asked in a somewhat disbeleiving voice.

Squall nodded at her. "You too."

"I am *never* going to get to sleep..." Zell moaned, slapping his forhead dramatically. He crossed his arms afterwards and looked warily at Seifer. Lyra, beside him, did similar. Though she hadn't spoken much throughout the meeting- she'd heard and seen enough to keep her imagination running for at least a week straight. Flying plasma balls from hell included, as Zell's mother had so eloquently put it.

"I'm gonna go get a hotdog..." Zell proclaimed in a low voice. "It's around 7 am... sometimes they open early...?"

Lyra just tugged on his arm and nodded her head at the exit. "I could use one too- let's go find out, huh?"

Quistis watched them head off- and was not entirely certain she felt safe with leaving Seifer and Squall alone in one room- despite Fujin's presence. Kadowaki was in the back medical areas now, still talking to the hysterical Ami. God- Quistis wasn't looking fowards to working with their new staff member. Not at all.

Squall gave Quistis a look, of sorts, and then raised a hand to both Seifer and Fujin. HIs mouth opened- voice gathered, and then he found himself able to say nothing. What should he say? What kind of order could he give? Seifer, leaning back on his heels, mouth twitched into a tense thin line, was fixing him with the oddest of looks. Quistis noticed how Squall's hand still hung in the air, pointing towards his rival without words. She cocked her head at him.


Leonheart looked in her direction in an uncertain way. Truth be told- he didn't know *What* to do with the pair. Enemies couldn't just be... let loose. leaving them in the infirmary would work- he supposed- but then maybe guards should be dispatched...

"Hey, Puberty boy."

Squall's head twitched in Seifer's direction, the annoying nickname he just barely remembered echoing slightly in his head.

"You *Can* give me an order, you know." Seifer smiled faintly. "What else do I have to loose?"

Even Fujin smiled as Squall's jaw dropped in an expression of complete and utter shock. Quistis, despite herself, stiffled a grin.

The day Seifer Almasy would ever cooperate with Squall Leonheart was something for the books indeed.

"...What?" HIs hand dropped back to his side in a numb, jerky fashion.

Seifer crossed his arms. "PLease don't make me repeat that- I'll croak. Just consider it a payback for..." And his words picked up some of Squall's own uncertainly. "Saving myself and Fujin. From them demon things."

In the oddest way, the boy who never smiled- ended up smiling. And at his *rival* on top it. Very slightly- with a bit of good humor despite what had occured between them earlier. That was an actual thank you he'd heard- and from Seifer. Maybe not outright and said... but it was as close to plain words as the arrogant blonde would ever come.

"Alright then..." And, just like that, Squall found a place for them. "Your old dorms, there still as you left them. Report there, stay there- and wait for my announcement."

It was Seifer's turn to look surprised. "You mean to tell me that *no one* has touched our rooms since we left? What the hell- that was almost a year ago!"

"AFFERMATIVE." Fujin glared from aside him, eyes wide. "STUDENTS, TRANSFER. DISBELEIVING."

Squall just shrugged. "If you want a why, I can't really give you one. Traffic in Garden has been slower then usual, and considering how much work we had cut out for us after time compression..." He sighed. "At the very least, you should be able to get out of that clothing."

"And here bloody gauze was just my style..." Seifer quipped, shrugging absently.

From the back rooms a door clicked shut, and Doctor Kadowaki made pace up the cool white hallway and out into the area where Squall still stood. Seifer, Quistis and Fujin turned their heads immediatly to look at her, while Squall was a bit slower in the motion. He almost was afraid to hear more bad news- though there wasn't an *immediate* situation to present any at the time. Rubbing her gloved hands together once, she smiled thiny and looked over her still stench filled office. The metallic walls and white tiled floor would be holding it there for quite some time. With a sigh, she gazed through the large windows in this section of the infirmary, and then went to sit at her desk. Just like always.

"AMI?" Fujin asked before the others could.

"Shaken, but quiet now. It was a shock for the poor girl- seeing that thing right in front of her as soon as she entered."

Seifer passed a hand through his hair and resisted the urge to laugh. "Yeah- sorry about that..."

"WOMAN- PANSEY." Fujin growled.

Quistis rolled her eyes. "Didn't Squall give you two an order?"

"He gave you one too, didn't he, instructor?"

She looked over at Seifer, mischevious little smile etched up over his features in an innocent fashion. As innocent as any smile could look on Seifer anyway... It reminded her quite well of those many times he'd be sitting back in her classroom- leaning on his chair as if he owned the place. Everyday he'd always raise his hand when she asked a question- and everyday the answer would end up being some smart-ass comment. She sighed slightly, remembering also that even with his profusion of annoying mannerisems, there wasn't one time when (after his comment had been dealt and the class was in laughter) That he didn't follow up with the correct answer.

"I suppose so." Quistis said finally, glaring, and then with one final glance at Squall she proceeded to leave the area. In all truth- it wouldn't be sleep she were going for either. It was best she find Red, and make sure all the evacuations had gone smoothly.

"I'm going to begin with Rinoa.." Kadowaki said softly, starting back where Selphie and Irvine still waited. It's good you've decided to stay- she might want you with her."

Something in her voice made squall flinch, and he turned towards the doctor. "Will it harm her?"

"Don't worry about it." It was Seifer's voice. he and Fujin had begun towards the door. The albino already stood outside, waiting patiently in the white, brisk hall for her friend. "It's uncomfortable, but not painful- She'll be fine."

The two men exchanged a glance, and then Squall entered the room along with the doctor while both Fujin and Seifer began away from the infirmary. In the early morning glow that filtered in from the glass hall outside- each could see the landscape moving slowly underneeth them. They were headed back to the original position of Garden- leaving behind a seaside town that no longer existed. vast blue, sparkling beautifully under the brilliant early morning sun, told nothing of the devestation that lay under it's waves.

"Looks like our island got a whole lot smaller..." Seifer commented absently, slowing his pace when he realized exactly how *much* of the shore had been taken.

Fujin regarded the sight with a steady eye, blinking once or twice as the spinning axel which kept Garden afloat reflected streams of sunlight into her vision.

"Yes... though I find it almost unsettling how natural beauty can envelope a place of destruction so easily." her thin, pale lips drew tight. "Deceiving."

The two walked the rest of the way- down the hall, through the main chamber, passed the Quad foyer and to the dorms- in silence.


Rugath's thin, deadly talons lay quietly at his sides. It was an oddity for him- as the claws were rarely ever inanimate. Always they would be writing, motioining, killing... there was to much to accomplish, and to little time to waste in rest or play. This was why even he, standing upright on two stong, thin limbs, found his silver-red gaze wandering to them in curiosity. Perhaps it was a good thing- as the elegant leader of the demonlings, eyes now moving to the struture before him, dearly needed a moment in peace.

And what a structure it was...

He'd always been considered a larger demonling by most. Tall, should he decide to stand- and his wing span was by no means of meager proportion. Upright now, though even with his black wings carefully tucked away, Rugath was an impressive sight. Impressive only, however, if he were not standing in front of a tower of ice that could have made the mightiest Redwood appear meek in size. An obisden chamber encased it- as if hiding a jewel from the eyes of any who'd dare near this place of light and beauty among so much black. And there- yet another odity of the day. Pure *ice* closed on all sides by a smooth, shinning rock that had been formed by molten lava.

This column of massive cold had been here far longer then the Obisiden...

Rugath didn't let his mind linger on matters that were, in a word, trival- even if they tempted the very definition of logic. Nothing was so important as what this cold chamber held. Nothing had been worth his life's devotion other then the figure that lay implanted into the frozen water as if it had been meant a tomb. he came here often- the only entrace a small opening in the ceiling above him, simply to watch her sleep. She was Vedima. Their queen. And her body, so small in comparison to her confines, remained a motionless shadow behind layers of blue and white.

What glory his race must have once enjoyed... far before the reign of Hyne, when the planet had still been theirs.

To see the sun!

He just began to notice the sharp clicks of his taloned feet as they walked slowly nearer to the structure. up the smooth, black floor he moved- eyes taking in the delicate patterns of dancing light that bathed the walls. Rugath was so close now that the freezing ice made breathing a hardship- and his breath tinge the air white. HIs hands extended- and touched the surface of Vedima's enclosure more carefully then he might handle a newborn. It burned with cold- so much so that both arms became numb to the shoulders at a near instant. He took no notice, not caring, and found himself speaking to the figure that lay so thickly encased before him.

"It is soon, my Queen, that we shall awaken you. The cold will be gone- your eyes may finally open. The time is so close now that even the skeptical have come to beleive! And despite the humans most recent attempts to twart us, your children will prevail." His eyes closed, jaw tensing. "I swear it!"

Everthing had been calculated down to a certain month- a certain span of days- a certain cycle of the moon. A certain week. They were on the brink of failure and the brink of victory, both at once. All they needed were the two humans... that was all! Just their presence- and the suffering would end!

By the falls- how could they be so close and so far, both at the exact same time!?


His hands disengaged from the artic surface of Vedima's cell almost painfully- as if the cold had sought to claim him. Back straightening, Rugath turned towards the sound of his name, finding it spoken by a short demonling with ice blue hair and swaying white eyes.

"Ah.. Kell-" he said, a smile twitching at his mouth. "You've managed to escape the company of your other scientist friends? I'm impressed."

"Don't be." Kell chuckled. "They can hardly see straight at the present moment in time, what with the recent drawbacks. I've come to tell you that they wish your presence- it seems another hand in this game has yet come into play. Simple- almost."

Rugath raised a brow, interested. "Simple is a good word, I'll be there at once." And he turned fully from the giant structure of ice, beginning down the glistning hallway. "Isami and the others?"

"Stable." Kell said, waiting for Rugath to pass him before keeping stride. "We heal quickly."

They both stopped at the end of the short hall, craning their heads to the hole above them. In a flash of wings- Kell strung his wide and beat to the air. Rugath naturally leapt second in consideration of his own massive span and followed after.

They shot through the opening, both easily gaining ground once again as they entered another hall of their vast colony. Kell quietly watched as rugath knelt to the ground, winds folding back over his body, and sealed the chamber with a magical touch. A sheet of thin gloss seemed to encirle the hole that lead down to Vedima's place of rest- and the hardened instantly. Afterwards, without a backward glance, he stood.

"Well then, shall we?"" Rugath motioned ahead and the two began down a long, worn path. Without the small glow lamps that held their magical fires along the walls- the place would be consumed by utter blackness. Kell watched as Rugath lit one of them with a mere thought, it having breifly fluttered out in their passing. he knew the kinds of magic Rugath possessed... most demonslings, despite their natural powers, could never hope to reach his abilities.

"YOu know that we've come to beleive Isami's efforts of insertion are of no matter... that the humans have extracted the Groth from the blonde- and perhaps the sorceress as well?"

Rugath walked on, talons clicking. He'd expected a brief conversation to form along those lines.

"Yes." he replied after a moment. "Yet another of our present complications. A foolish overlook on our part... I should have been wiser in realizing that they could be extracted. Yet then- I'd also intended to have both humans collected within an hours distance... maybe less." His head shook. "A delicate matter, isn't it?"

"Truly." Kell sighed. "Rugath, If I might ask... YOu know, of course, of the sorceress Edea. Why do we not take her and the other- instead of that boy? It seems easier..."

"As i've said, kell, a delicate matter. The boy- Seifer, is it? He still carries as a more valid choice to our needs. Their are so many levels of magic and para-magic that I've needed to research and understand in knowing that RInoa and he are the specimens we require. Different aspects of strength- different levels of weakness..." Rugath folded his arms. "Edea too has been linked closely to Ultimicia.. but not entirely upon the strings I need to manipulate."

Kell hmphed. "Spoken well. I hope what we have found shall make less these problems and circumstances. Though you understand, we tred a thin line."

"No one understands as well as I, my friend."


"Squall!? Squall, hey, Kiros told me you were on the line- how's it going?!"

Squall winced at his father's voice. God, but it was a cheery one, as if the man had grown but his voice had not. Nida had been quick in repairing the communications channel that the demons had toyed with the night before- but the youth almost wished it had taken a little longer in preperations. Talk between he and Languna were good-natured, for the most part, but their was still a void over 17 years he had yet wanted to span. This certainly wasn't going to be a chit-chat by any means.


"Why does your first reply always gotta be a bored moment of silence?"

Most of Squalls friends wondered that too. With a sigh, Squall leaned back in the dull infirmary chair and let his eyes flicker to where Kadowaki stood hunched over Rinoa. Selphie and Irvine, now completely informed as to what had occured earlier, watched on as the doctor slowly cast another cure spell and moved quickly to clean the horrible black fluid from Rinoa's pale body. She slept on, peacefull as the quiet morning.

"Whatever... I have something important to discuss."

A whoop of laughter came from the phone. Squall could almost visualize Kiros and Ward wincing in the background.

"Alright! YOu've decided to propose to Rinoa!"

Squall felt his body slouch further into the metal chair- exasperatted. "Languna..."

"Kidding! Kidding! How's she doing, anyway?"

Squall's quiet answer left the phone silent in his grasp, so much so that Squall nearly thought he might have hung up. Only- Languna wasn't like that. The answer finally came after he heard his father inform Kiros and Ward of what he had learned. They were always nearby... hell- kind of like Fujin and Raijin were to Seifer.

"Squall, man- I'm sorry. Is she alright? What harmed her? Is there anything I can do?"

"It's alright, she's recovering." Kadowaki smiled in his direction. "But what I need to know revolves around how she was harmed. Languna... there have been killings. Bloody- very quickly dealt. Wide gashes, unseen assailents." He closed his eyes a moment. "I know this isn't going to make any sense at first, but hear me out..."

"No, no.." Languna said quickly, his voice suddenly formal and concerned. "I'll listen, of course I will. Here in Esthar, We've had at least eight people die of mysterious causes these past months. Gashes, like what you were saying. Unseen assailents. I spoke to you about them on my last visit, do you remember?"

Squall's mind clicked, instantly recalling his accounts. Hyne- and he'd been hoping to all hells that the attacks hadn't reached Esthar...

"Is that what's happening down by you? Hell, Squall- What are we dealing with?"

Squall took a breath, and used the word that had been silently agreed upon.



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