On Earth as it is in Hell Chapter 17
By Caleb Nova
"Seifer and I had always had a strange hot and cold relationship back at the orphanage, and the little game of insult and counter-insult continued when he returned. You'd think one of us would get tired of it after awhile, but we never did. Maybe we should have learned from that sooner."
-Quistis Trepe, The SeeD and the Sorceress
Seifer lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling. The room brought back so many memories, some good, some bad. When had it all gone wrong? After the Sorceress Affair. Where it had gone wrong to start with was abundantly clear. When Time Compression had faded he had found himself on the Balamb docks. Fujin and Raijin had been there too, and that had been a good time, healing the wounds inside him. Then Balamb Garden had returned, and they had been forced to leave before some SeeD on leave found him there. Too many SeeDs knew him in Trabia, they couldn't get into Esthar. So it had been Deling City.
He had grown a beard and didn't cut his hair for a few months, leaving his trademark trenchcoat safely in the closet. It hadn't been so bad then, getting a low profile street job and spending the nights in bars with his only friends. But something had happened, somehow somebody found out.
They had an apartment downtown, it had been after midnight on a Saturday, all three of them basking in the warm alcoholic glow before the hangover and reminiscing on the old times that they cared to remember. Then the door was kicked in, and armored police swarmed the room like locusts.
If they had been prepared, then maybe things might have been different. Maybe Raijin wouldn't have stared in shock for a second too long and have avoided that shot to the head. Maybe Fujin would have reached her Pinwheel in time to kill the soldier in the entryway before he riddled her with bullets. Maybe Seifer would have been able to kill more than three of them before he was brought down from behind, the butt of a gun slamming into his skull.
He had been given a 'trial'. It had been nothing more than a sentencing. It had taken place in front of the top members of the Galbadian court. They should have killed him. Instead, he had been doomed to life in prison, sent to rot away in the bowels of the D-District holding facility. He supposed they had chosen not to kill him in light of twisted politics. He could have been useful someday if the public execution of a famous war criminal and SeeD would sway the people back in their favor.
The thoughts were like a burning crack in his brain, a bright light too painful to look at directly. Beneath it all were the harsh sounds of cold laughter and the barely remembered touch of black lacquered fingernails. What would he say if Cid ever asked him? 'Sorry Cid, I can't remember if I fucked your wife and my surrogate mother behind your back, and did I mention it's tearing me up inside?'.
Try not to think about it, roll over and study the glow of the digital numerals on the clock face next to the bed. Three-thirty in the morning. Three hours to go before daylight gave him respite from the torture inside his head. Maybe two hours and thirty minutes. Too long either way.
He tried to shift his thoughts to something else. Trepe. His new babysitter. He had been back for a day and she was already telling him what to do. Wonderful. His only comfort was that he could make sure she would hate it as much as he did. Push some buttons. Make it fun. For him, anyway.
In that frame of mind, he was almost looking forward to it.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Selphie tiptoed around the dorm getting ready for the day ahead, trying not to wake up the still softly snoring Zell in his bed. She giggled quietly at the sound. But she didn't have time to stay in bed today, she had people to lampoon into working on the Garden Festival, which was just six weeks away. And there were two people in the Garden she hadn't asked yet, Scott and Seifer. She didn't think Seifer would be amenable to the suggestion, but Scott seemed like a nice enough guy to lend a hand. And if he didn't want to, he seemed like a little bit of a pushover too. After all, they had brought him back to Garden, so he owed it to the Garden to help with the Festival, right? She thought so.
Keying open the door, Selphie looked at the piece of paper she had in her hand, on which she had written Scott's dorm number. '63' it read. It didn't take long to get there. She rapped out a cheery little beat on his door, and almost screamed when it opened.
To say Scott was disheveled was to say the least. He had bags under his eyes that were bigger than the eyes themselves, and his blond hair stuck out in every conceivable direction. Rough stubble adorned his face and it looked like he could barely keep his eyes open.
"Not a morning person, hmm?" Selphie asked, bouncing on the balls of her feet. Scott winced. How could anyone sound so alive and perky at this time of day? He was used to getting up early from his time in the service, but that didn't mean he was pretty about it.
"Well, cheer up!" Selphie chirped, making him wince again. "I've got just the thing to wake up sleepyheads like yourself!"
"How would you, like to be.... on.. the.. GARDEN FESTIVAL COMMITTEE!"
"The what now?"
"The Garden Festival Committee silly," Selphie said, beeping him on the nose. "It's only the best committee ever, and it's goal is one we can all enjoy!"
"Weeell... Every year we have a Garden Festival, which is the best party ever next to the Graduation Party, and between you and me, I think it's way better. Anyway, we plan and build a stage in the Quad, get a band to perform, arrange catering and bingo! We have a Garden Festival. I'm in charge, and I just need some volunteers to help me make it happen!"
"What do you need me for?"
"I knew you'd come through for us!"
"Whoa, wait, I didn't say-"
"Just show up this morning at ten o' clock sharp and I'll put you to good use!"
"Just a minute-"
"We're going to make this the best Festival yet!" She exclaimed, throwing her arms around his neck in an impromptu hug. "Right Scott?"
Looking down into her excited green eyes, he knew it wouldn't matter if he said no. Looks like you got yourself a committee. "Right."
"Thaaat's right! Later!"
She skipped off down the hallway, no doubt to find some other people to 'ask' about the Festival. Oh well. It would take his mind off his other problems anyway.
Ten o' clock rolled around a few hours after he had forced himself to get dressed and eat something. He stopped to consult the directory before heading off to the Quad, descending the short flight of stairs into the large auditorium space. It was fairly bland now, not much happening scenery wise, but he could see construction had already started. He spotted Zell lugging timber into carefully stacked piles for the stage flooring and Selphie and Rinoa busy assembling the various attachable pipes that would make up the structure itself. From the amount of pipes still stacked in their various boxes, it was apparent it would take a long time. He sighed and rolled up his sleeves, walking over to give Zell a hand.
Over the next half hour a few more students rolled in to help out. Irvine had of course been roped in by Selphie, and Nida dropped by too. The whole situation seemed somehow bizarre in it's normality, just a bunch of people putting together a stage for a big show. Weird after all the other things he had been doing lately, like fleeing for his life out of Deling. Taking a break from the lumber, he walked over to stick some pipes together for Rinoa and Selphie, both of whom were crouched over a large blueprint of what it would all look like once completed, a extremely thick book of instructions lying unused nearby. That couldn't be a good sign. He could only hope Selphie might know what she was doing, having done this sort of thing before.
Soon he was lost in the incomprehensible jumble of seemingly unrelated pieces that would somehow form a stage. In order to preserve his sanity, he zoned out all distractions, concentrating fully on fitting together things that might be supposed to fit together but most definitely did not.
Close by Rinoa was talking animatedly to Selphie. "I don't know, I think those pieces might be in a box we haven't opened yet. Hyne, you'd think this would get easier after all this experience. I remember back in D.C.-"
That jerked Scott out of his stupor. "D.C.?"
"Yeah, Deling City."
"Oh...... Right, right- D.C., of course."
She gave him a strange look. "What's wrong?"
Rinoa gave him another look before she turned back to the diagram, continuing whatever tale she was telling about 'D.C.'. He shook his head and tried to get back to the pipes at hand. Lousy pipes.
Nida had also quit hauling wood and was trying to put the stage together. His frustration was evident as he banged two pipe ends together in an attempt to force them to fit.
"These pipes suck ass!" He grunted, one of said pipes slipping from his grasp to clang noisily on the tiled floor. "We do this every year and we never learn a damn thing. Goddamn fucking pipes-"
Nida realized how ridiculous he sounded swearing at the pipes. He laughed at himself. "I suppose there's a morale to be learned in all of this."
"And that is?"
"Pipes suck ass."
They worked in silence for awhile longer before Nida spoke again. "I always love the Garden festival. You should have seen the prank Zell pulled last year with the cake. Well... Maybe it's better you didn't."
"What did he do?"
"I've been sworn to secrecy along with everyone else who witnessed it. If you really want to know, better ask Zell himself."
"You, uh, ever into pranks? Just cause you know, I'm partial to the occasional one."
"I used to run around and do stupid stuff on camera with my friends in High School."
"Good times, huh?"
"Not really. Well, when I was doing that it was. School was always boring for me. I skipped a lot of days, but always got good grades because I did everything."
"Rebel without a cause, huh?"
Scott laughed, and it sounded bitter.
"No," He said. "Just a dumb fuck without a cause."
"Well, it looks like you straightened out alright."
"I suppose so."
Another stretch of silence.
"Hey, Scott," Nida said.
"These pipes suck ass."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
It had only been a matter of time before Spreading Sun finished the task it had been made to complete, and now the only remaining rebel factions left in Galbadia were decimated and leaderless. A strange sickness had fallen upon all of them, and the total loss of life was staggering. There would be no recovery for them, and the government troops that descended on them shortly after only finalized their doom. Galbadia was whole once more, and on the road to regaining it's full power. Julian was pleased.
He set the report aside, now turning his attention to the next matters of business. A city called Timber, and a recent escapee from the downtown prison, a Galbadian General named Caraway.
Caraway had killed the deposed Poleground, and had somehow overpowered a guard and escaped shortly after. While Caraway had been an important political figure at one time, Julian did not feel this was of any import at the moment. Caraway would only become a concern if he attempted to regain power, and should he resurface Julian would be quick to step on it before it became out of hand. He would still inspire loyalty in his troops, and Julian was disappointed, since he knew Caraway could not be persuaded to work for him even if he was recaptured. No matter, to be dealt with another day.
Julian knew Timber was a revolutionary state on the edge of Galbadia. Timber had been it's own country until annexed only a few decades past. Currently, it belonged to Galbadia only by paper alone, since all the forces that had been occupying Timber had slowly been removed, either by mutiny or legitimate order. Julian supposed he could order a reoccupation, but for what? While Timber had at one time been a rich source of wood, now it's thick forests were a thing of the past, and it's only real value lay in the railways. No, he would not waste time and manpower trying to conquer Timber. One country was enough for now.
So much had happened before he had come to take charge. The former government had left it's fingerprints everywhere, and Julian was still trying to sort through the aftermath of the sordid affair which had taken place during the nights leading up to the invasion, an attempted kidnapping of four SeeDs. All of the SeeDs in question had been implicit in the Ultimecia Affair, and Galbadia had good reason for wanting them removed, no doubt part of their larger campaign against Garden. A campaign whose remnants Julian planned to put to good use. The SeeDs had escaped, fleeing the city the very night Julian had entered it, their flight recorded by the city limits security. He found it fascinating how close things had come to turning out very differently. But it was another piece of information gleaned from the newly printed files that interested him. A fifth SeeD, someone not involved in ventures past. Someone the SeeDs had called Scott. Someone who had been inexplicably in Deling City. Julian had a photo of him.
He reached for the com on his desk, studying it for a moment before remembering how to correctly operate the device. It was just a phone really, but the dialing was a bit different, using lettered switches instead of numbered buttons. He wondered if it was different outside of Deling. The com rang only twice before there was a pickup on the other side.
"Michael. Something of interest has come up. I've found our wayward soldier."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
After three hours, Quistis felt she would rather go another round with Ultimecia than face another pile of paper work. So many tests, so many new students. Gardens' population had increased nearly a hundred and twenty percent, and they were forced to turn away more students than ever, many capable enough to have made it in the past. The eventual reconstruction of Trabia Garden would ease some of the burden off Balamb, but that was years distant, the Gardens coffers still hurting from the recent trials.
Really, she would even like to go down and help Rinoa and Selphie with the stage, as nightmarish as she knew that would be. Still, it was good that Rinoa had joined the committee.
When she had first come back to Garden, the fact that she was a sorceress had caused quite a bit of trouble. Most of the SeeDs involved in the entire affair knew, but it was a fact kept from the newer students, and wisely so. Those that had been there knew that Rinoa had helped save the world. Those who hadn't would only see a Sorceress. The first few months had been rough for her, but with Squall's constant support she was eventually accepted. The Commander could do no wrong, and if it was okay with him, it was okay with everybody. Still, she was sure there were always a few holdouts, hate secretly seething under a facade. They knew this, so discretely one of them was always with Rinoa.
When she went down to the cafeteria every morning, Selphie or Quistis would talk to her. If she wanted to exercise in the training center, Zell would be innocently nearby doing some training of his own. If she was reading in the Library, Irvine just happened to be flirting with the girls behind the counter. And of course anytime he could wrench himself free from his work, Squall was attached at the hip with her. Even Nida was sometimes called upon to play watchdog. He may have often been ignored, but he was still a top-level SeeD, and a damn fine one.
She looked at her watch. Eleven thirty. Half an hour away from her extra assigned duty. Putting up with Seifer. She hated being handed the responsibility, but she knew she was the only teacher who could probably handle it. She knew Seifer better than anyone else from her time as his teacher. Now she would be his teacher and parole officer. Just like old times.
She spent the next half hour trying not to fall asleep at her desk. She had inadvertently slipped into a doze when she was rudely awakened by two booted feet dropping on her desk in front of her face. She looked up to see the now cleaned visage of Seifer sitting in a chair on across the desk, feet up, attitude on.
"Instructor," He began, trademark sneer gracing his face. "I didn't want to disturb you before since you were busy, but I see that was a misconception."
She looked at the clock in horror to find that it was twelve forty-five. She had slept unknowingly for over an hour, and of all the people catch her at it, it had to be Seifer. She didn't let any of her feelings reach her face.
"I didn't hear you knock."
"That makes sense, because I didn't knock. Should I assume this is nap time everyday?"
She didn't deign to reply. Getting up, she smoothed out her clothes and motioned for him to follow.
The Headmaster first wanted her to take Seifer to the training center and evaluate his present skill level. From the incident at the front gate, she could tell he was far from top form. The trip to the Training Center was left in an unusual silence, and Quistis began to think that it might not be as arduous as she had assumed. The halls were empty at the moment, for which she was thankful. No doubt some sort of trouble would have erupted had the students seen Seifer.
The Training Center was also devoid of other people, and they tramped through the thick underbrush towards the bridge. Halfway there, the bushes rustled and the telltale chittering of a Grat could be heard. Quistis stepped behind Seifer in a good position for support, and Seifer readied his gunblade.
The Grat burst forth from the foliage, tentacles waving in menacing patterns. Moving quickly, but without his former grace, Seifer easily ducked beneath it's guard and brought his blade up through it's torso in a crippling blow, the bullet speeding through whatever organs the Grat called it's own and out it's leafy back.
Arms still moving feebly, the Grat slumped to the ground and died. Seifer pulled back and she could see he was panting heavily, and wincing with pain from his ribs. He had refused bed rest. Even such a simplistic assault tired him at this stage. It was clear he would be no match at this point for the more powerful creatures that roamed the enclosed jungle. Making her notes on her clipboard, she looked up at Seifer as he turned around.
"I think that's all for today."
Even as she said it she could see the anger rise in his eyes. Seifer despised weakness, and none more so than his own. He would never admit he was exhausted.
"What the hell are you talking about Trepe?" He spat, eyes narrowing. "We just got here."
"I have enough information to make my repor-"
"You'd have more if you hadn't been sleeping on the fucking job. Stop trying to duck out of your work, Instructor, and instruct."
She stiffened, eyes flashing. "Perhaps I would have more to report if you had any skills worth reporting."
He almost winced. Almost. Like usual, she managed to hit him harder than anyone else. He opened his mouth to fire back but she was already walking away. He frowned. That was new. Usually she would fight him until they were forced to stop for some outside reason. He could remember back at the orphanage sometimes he would hurt her feeling enough to make her cry. She had outgrown that, and now apparently she had outgrown the need to bother with him.
He shook it off, sheathing his gunblade. He headed off to the weight room, a small smile on his face. Next time, Quistis.
Final Fantasy 8 Fanfic