Downtown Fishermens Horizon was a place of perpetual dark. The buildings were old, crumbling, decrepit with age; the streets were cracked concrete that had given up hope of a repaving long, long ago.
Fujin wasnt going to let some landlord toss her and Raijin out onto those same streets. The indignity of it!
So now here they were.
Fishing wasnt an alternative she had ever considered before, but anything had to be better than their previous brief stint as bodyguards-for-hire. Especially their last job, when Raijin had punched Mr. Big-Shot-Executive in the face. When she had asked later (RAGE! EXPLAIN!), he had meekly muttered something about overhearing a conversation.
They were talkin bad stuff bout Seifer, Fuj!
Apparently, Raijin had decided to teach the poor man a lesson. Never mind the fact that they descperately needed the money the job paid.
Fujin shook her head with a half-smile. Raijin was an idiot, but a lovable idiot.
The air was alive with the scent of summer; clean, smelling of cotton sheets and freshly done laundry. The cool breeze ruffled her platinum hair, stirred the nape of her neck. There was peace in this place, this quaint white cottage with its rose garden and plentiful sunshine and twittering birds.
It was a peace that Fujin had rarely known in her life. It had always been Garden, Garden, Garden. The hectic life of a SeeD cadet: the training sessions, tough classes, tougher missions. Everything she had done, everything everybody had done, had been for the good of Garden. And in the end, they hadnt even made it in.
Raijin followed behind her, unusually quiet. She supposed he was wrapped up in his own thoughts. Briefly, she wondered at what he was thinking. It was probably something important if it could keep his mouth shut for so long.
They strode up the path towards Mrs. Hannils cozy little home, passing under clusters of fragrant roses. Thick vines wound their way through the white picket fence, and the blooming flowers, heavy with morning dew, turned their white faces up into a clear blue sky. There were roses overhanging the entrance of the house, draped over a delicate wooden arch, home to birds--hummingbirds, darting from one flower to the next, tiny throats a deep red, and delicate wings a blur.
Fujin rung the doorbell; leaning tiredly against a white pillar, she watched as a tiny squirrel the size of a baby cactuar bounded in front of her, its nose twitching and bushy tail twirling acrobatically. It froze, and then suddenly exploded away for shelter, as if it had sensed something.
And perhaps it had.
A shifting of clothes, a stifled moan.
Hey Fuj, you think Old Lady Hannil will sell us that boat if--
Sh! She cut him off sharply, gesturing for him to be quiet.
She had heard something; she was sure of it. SeeD training was the best in the world, after all.
Again, the noise, this time a pained hiss.
A flash of gray and gold, among the leafy foliage?
It couldnt be possible.
But she was running, running towards it (him?), before she could tell herself not to get her hopes too high.
(The harder they fall)
A cold wash of fear; excitement, hope flooded through her, and she thrust aside thorny bushes, white pedals bursting and falling to the ground in a fragrant shower, and it was like a
(gift from the faeries)
Raining down, soft velvet caressing her cheek, barely noticed stings as thorns bit into exposed skin, the rush of blood in her ears, and then
Fujin was on her knees beside him, checking for pulse, for injury, for all the things they taught you to check for in training. She could barely feel his heartbeat, it was so weak and thready, and his eyes were closed. Instead of his usual healthy glow, his face was pallid, almost as white as a statue carved of alabaster: still, perfect, and dead.
Not dead. Not yet.
The shallow rise and fall of his chest was enough, and she felt relief, an overwhelming relief, that of the protective love of a mother, or a sister, but not of a lover.
She wondered about that, about her sudden shift of her feelings.
Dimly, in the background, she could hear Raijin reassuring a dazed Mrs. Hannil, who had been home after all, and who had been just as shocked as they had been upon discovering Seifer Almasy in her front yard.
Oh my, she said, and her voice seemed to come from so far away. Oh my lord! Frank! Frank, call the ambulance!
She murmured a Curaga, and the warmth of the healing spell glowed an intense spring green in the center of her palm. She felt the power flow from her veins into Seifer, her supply of magical energy straining, rusty and unused to such high level magic.
It had been a while, to say the least.
His breathing seemed a little less labored, although that may have been a figment of Fujins hopeful imagination. It was odd, really. There was not a sign of physical harm on him, not a single cut, or scrape, or broken bone. But then, magic was a strange mistress.
He had made it back. From Time Compression. From Ultimecia.
She made a mental note to herself to mail a thank-you note to B.Garden--to Squall and the rest of the darlings of the media, more specifically, for getting rid of that power hungry bitch in the first place.
Fujin stroked his cheek, reassuring herself with the reality of the beard, however dirty and bristly, beneath her hands. Seifer,she whispered again.
Distant sirens split the air, angry wails that punctuated the serenity of the rose garden.
Youre safe from her now.
The tiny squirrel was nowhere to be seen.
It was Ultimecias bond. She died, and nearly dragged me down into hell with her.
So we took you back here, and you had this terrible fever, ya know? We thought we lost ya for sure, man! But youre a survivor!
My ultimate curse.
They had never really talked about how they had found him before; he had only gleaned the basic details, that he had been found in a rose garden, and that he had been near death.
A fucking rose garden. It was too ironic for words.
MORNING!Fujin said, carrying in breakfast, which consisted of pancakes and blueberry muffins. The heavenly smell wafted through the small bedroom, and Seifers stomach gave a protesting grumble.
Hey man, I heard you tossinand turninlast night.
There was a short silence, and Seifer scowled.
It was a strange dream, as his dreams went, and stranger still was the fact that he could not get it out of his head, no matter how many times he told himself all it was was a product of his overworked imagination and paranoia.
Damn Galbaldia. They put a price on my head, and now I gotta look over my shoulder every time I go ten steps out of this goddamn apartment...
He wished he had never had it in the first place, so that he could live out the rest of his life in peace, with Fujin and Raijin keeping him company. That was all he wanted now. Just a place, for himself, for his friends. A little corner, away from the hell the rest of the world loved putting him through.
But he of all people knew just how futile wishing and hoping and dreaming was. The only thing that came of dreams was the agony of failure.
And the only thing worse than being a fuckup was being a fuckup that the whole world knew, and scorned, and hated.
But the dream had also brought back memories of Balamb Garden, and just the other day, when the three of them were fishing, Garden had passed over them, its majestic rings of light glowing blue, yellow, gold as the mid-afternoon light struck it at odd angles.
Seifer had never remembered feeling so nostalgic in his entire life.
Then again, what was there to feel nostalgic about with a past like his?
It was nothing.
A man has his needs, ya know. You ever have trouble with anything, just ask me! Raijin looked proud of what he probably imagined as his subtle advice.
Fujin, being too far away to kick him, instead opted to chuck a muffin at him. TACT! she yelled.
She turned back to Seifer, the feral look in her eye fading. NIGHTMARE??
He hesitated, shaking his head, concentrating on the taste of the pancakes instead.
Fujin just looked at him. If she was standing, she wouldve been tapping her foot impatiently.
He looked back at her, watched as her crimson eye gentled, from an amused irritation to a motherly concern, and felt unease. Scared, even--of the dream, of wanting to go back, of what they would say if he did.
Who was he kidding? Balamb Garden would sooner lock him up in some jail cell and throw away the key than take him back. He was, after all, Seifer Almasy--the dull black spot that marred their squeaky clean reputation.
The morning light streamed into the small apartment they had rented, a somewhat homey place, with its seashells, windchimes, and freshly sanded floor. The walls, so recently repainted, smelled only faintly of the sea now, and the sounds of a new day filtered in through the half-drawn curtains: seagulls squawking, fishermen yelling, the muffled roars of boat motors.
His voice was soft, an uncertain tone that was rarely heard by anyone outside their little circle. He told them, trying to fish out the important bits and pieces buried within a confusing pile of images, like a fisherman sifting through the junk of a shipwreck.
A white rose...and lilacs. She smelled like lilacs.
Hey Fuj, werent the roses in Mrs. Hannils garden white too?
Fujin slowly turned towards him. WHAT?
White, Fuj, the roses were white. Ya know?he said.
COINCIDENCE, she said, then threw another muffin at him. Dont scare me like that.
Everybody concentrated on their pancakes, and their thoughts.
Seifer felt disturbed.
It was a white rose. And then it burst. And there was blood, and lilacs.
He didnt want the damn dream. What he wanted was to live out his life without worrying about death, and people hunting him, and white roses, and what they could possibly mean.
Liar. What is life without death? What is life without death--to you? And what was it to them? Those poor, poor people who were all in the wrong place at the wrong time. The innocents you slaughtered. For her.
Shut up! He yelled at the jabbering voices, the corner of hell of his head. More than once he had jolted awake, sweating at night, plagued by dreams, nightmares, of the blood Hyperion had shed, and it was always blood, and her eyes, the golden eyes, with an unholy light burning behind them, that would laugh, and spit venom, and curse him. For being a failure, for being weak, for not being there when she needed him the most.
Seifer, Fujin said, and he started at her serious tone. Ultimecia...she controlled you right? All the things you did...they werent you.
No,he shook his head. It wasnt me. It was her.
I only killed
Slaughtered, butchered, murdered
(the pregnant lady the eleven year old with the rag doll the old man with a cane)
because she told me to. She had me under her control.
Hyne, if Fujin and Raijin knew that he was arguing with disembodied voices inside his head, they would dump him in the nearest mental hospital and that would be the end of freedom. Going from Ultimecia to a loony bin was an improvement, but it was a small one at that.
Well, when we going back to Garden, Seifer?asked Raijin.
They both turned to look at him.
Why you staring at me like that? Makes a man uncomfortable, ya know, he said a touch defensively.
What gave you the idea that I wanted to go back?
Well man, the other day, we were fishing, ya know? And B-Garden passes by, nI saw you n you had this look on your face. N you could just tell that you really wanted to go back and...ya know... he trailed off lamely.
Raijin was a lot more perceptive than most people gave him credit for.
He gave a bitter laugh. You guys forget the minor problem that Garden sees me as traitor, failure, ex-lapdog, etc, etc?
Wordlessly, Fujin pulled out an old copy of Horizon Times from underneath a stack of magazine. She handed it to him, and an article caught his eye.
War Criminal Pardoned
In a statement today, Headmaster Cid of Balamb Garden declared Seifer Almasy, one time promising SeeD cadet, officially pardoned for all crimes committed during the Sorceress Wars. Citing reasons like mind controland instability, the headmaster...
Seifer tried to conceal the whirlwind of emotionsregret, anger, shockthat welled up inside him.
Just like that. My life takes another turnif I want it to.
But all he said was, One time promising SeeD? and made a halfhearted attempt at a smirk.
And theres this one lady, Matron, who was really supportive of Gardens decision. Ya know her?
Matron. Yeah, I know her,he said.
A pause. Fujin and Raijin looked at him expectantly.
Well then...He stood up from his half eaten muffin, stretching luxuriously.
Screw it. Who the fuck cares what they think? They offer you a place back. Be a shame not to take it.
Puberty Boy, Chicken Wuss, the instructor, Rinoa...
A second chance...
So wheres Gardens next docking point?
He had been accused of being many things, but never of being a coward.
Damn if he would give them an excuse to start now.
Danica Li's Fanfiction