Vigil of the Fates Chapter 9
On the Way
Zell was getting antsy. Besides the muted roar of the car engine, the short drive to the town of Balamb was proceeding in flat silence. He looked around at the three people who shared the passenger space of the Garden vehicle with him. The pretty instructor seated across from him had been still as a sculpture for the past five minutes, looking directly ahead, maybe thinking about something. How did she ever become a SeeD and an instructor so early? mused Zell. I hear shes only a couple of years older than me... man! think of that. She has to have some major gift. Guess you cant judge a book by its cover... not that I ever read anything much.
Zell looked over to Seifer Almasy, who sat two seats next to the instructor. The bastard looked grumpy as ever, though he didnt seem particularly stressed out about the impending exam, laid back comfortably in his seat with his long legs stretched out. I can NOT believe I ended up with him for my squad captain, Zell said to himself. Somebody up there did not like himsomebody like the staff member who decided on the squad arrangement. Oh, well... I guess with only twelve cadets taking the exam this time, the odds werent exactly impossible for something like this to happen.
Seifers shining gunblade, resting in a slant against the shoulder of its owner, attracted Zells eyes. If one were to dwell on the odds of the matter, he decided, the most notable of them clearly had to do with the fact that there were two gunblade users in his squad. Now that was something one did not see often. Zell saw that this could mean bad news for him. The two cadets, well known in the Garden for their skills as well as their rivalry, could together outshine him easily in the field if he didnt play right. No way he was going to let that happen, he resolved.
Zells thoughts brought his attention to the last of his companions, who had been quietly brooding over something, his eyes fixed on the floor between his feet, once the car began moving. Ever since their quasi-introduction, Squall Leonhart had made it plain that he was not a sociable type of fellow. Yet Zell figured he needed to get along with the tight-lipped cadet to pass the field exam. He could not be enemies with both of his squad members and expect to succeed on the mission. Squall couldnt be half as bad as Seifer... or could he? He clearly hated Seifers guts, so he had to have some redeeming qualities somewhere in him, didnt he? He was no Mr. Friendly, but then he didnt seem to have the kind of chronic attitude problems that Seifer suffered fromlike whipping out his weapon just for display even before the battle began... Come to think of it, he doesnt seem to have his weapon on him at all. Did he put it away or something?
Hey, Squall. Show me your gunblade, wouldya?
........ No response.
Cmon, man. Be a sport.
Zell was persistent. Just a peek?
Squall betrayed no sign that he heard anything. Zell sighed. Tch, fine... A real Uncle Scrooge, arent you?
Still not a twitch of acknowledgment. His exasperation aside, Zell was getting a little desperate now. Hey, say something, will ya? Whats on your mind?
The answer had come from two people simultaneously: Squall and the instructor. Squall glanced dourly at the instructor. She looked down at her lap quickly, hiding the beginning of a smile as well as a stifled giggle. Zell looked at the two of them curiously. What was with them?
The passengers were back to stony silence again, and after the momentary reprieve Zell found it all the more tiresome. What to do, what to do... He decided on continuing his warm-up exercise; after all, the routine of brushing up on his moves anywhere and everywhere was what brought him this far. Getting up, he started to throw punches at imaginary foes in the air.
Stop that... its getting on my nerves, said Seifer. ...Chicken-wuss.
Zell looked at his squad captain with murder in his eyes. What did you call me? he shouted.
Seifer sneered. Quistis rose from her seat, a hand at her side.
Knock it off, both of you. Have you forgotten that attitude and conduct are also parts of your exam scores? Keep in mind that the exam has already begun.
Zell sank back into his seat, sulking. The instructor did the same, shaking her head. This did not bode well, she thought. I figured Squall and Seifer were a lost cause in comradeship, but then to add a third one who is so hotheaded...
Another minute passed. Squall looked up from the floor. Instructor, he called. Who was that girl in the infirmary this morning?
Quistis regarded her student, surprised at his remark. Was someone else there? I didnt see anyone. Now what is this about, all of a sudden?
Seifer issued a mirthless laughter. Well, isnt this just great, he muttered. Ive got in my squad a chicken-wuss and a guy whos hit puberty an hour before the battle. Just lovely.
Squall opted to ignore the remark. Zell was not so successful in doing the same and audibly gnashed his teeth. Quistis sighed, shaking her head once again.
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