Knight of Spira Part 2
Finding a Dream
The four men chatted nervously as they waited for the sender of the mysterious message. Normally none of them would have come at such a summons but the promise was just too much to resist. Promise of the restoration of the rule of Yevon. The four maesters held only a shadow of the power that their predecessors had. Each regretted it bitterly but could do nothing as long as the High Summoner was in the way.
Greetings Maesters. You know why I called you here. My name is not important. All you need to know is that we share the same purpose. The restoration of Yevon and the return of how things should be.
All turned to see a hooded figure dressed in black. His face was obscured as he stood in shadow. Maester Krell, the appointed leader of the group stood forth. We must admit that your offer is intriguing. However forgive us when we say that we have some doubt as to your ability to do so. Yuna still stands and however reluctantly, she offers leadership to the people.
They all felt rather than saw the smile of the figure. Each screamed as waves of pain strode through them. They each dropped to their knees gasping as the pain ended. I trust you will never doubt my power again. That was but the smallest drop of which I am capable. As for Yuna, she has deserted her post.
Simple. I hold the key to her heart. He laid a sphere on the ground and an image of Tidus in a jail cell appeared. It was a simple matter to send the image of him to Yuna. She still yearns for him. I knew her love would overcome her sense of duty.
Each stared at the image in hatred. This more than any other was the cause of their loss. Maester Varai said We demand him turned over to our custody. He is wanted for high crimes against Yevon. Too many to list.
No. You demand nothing from me, or do you need another demonstration. Nervous shuffling accompanied this statement. He may yet prove useful to me. Remember that though you be Maesters, I am the one who holds the true power here. Without me, you will continue to languish in the obscurity you have found yourselves in. Will you do exactly what I say, when I say it?
Each felt there that was no choice in the matter. In truth, each would have made the same choice anyway. Maesters were ever ones who would sell their souls for power. They nodded their acceptance.
Good. We have made an excellent beginning. We yet have far to go. Many things are in our favor though you do not yet know it. Your first task is to make yourselves available to the people more than you ever have. Promote acts of kindness and charity. Yunas departure leaves a void that people will want to have filled. You must provide an alternative. People ever seek the familiar. I will reveal more to you when needed. Oh, and one more thing.
He released a spell he was holding and the maesters screamed their death throes. He stopped the souls from departing and crafted them into the unsent state. The maesters rose as the shock of death wore off and each attempted to adjust to their new life in death.
Spira has ever been ruled by the dead. I see no reason why that should change. He pointed a finger directly at Maester Krell. You will prepare a group of warrior monks to accompany me. I have need of such.
Krell did the best he could to contain his fear of this dark presence. He couldnt help but wonder what he had gotten himself into. It shall be as you say.
A week later, the dark figure stood in front of Tidus cell. The prisoner was sleeping at the moment and he decided not to wake him. Let him enjoy these few moments of peace. There would be time enough to break him later. Tidus would serve him eventually. It was only a matter of time.
Rinoa collapsed to the floor in disbelief. We were so close. We had a chance to be happy. Why did you take him away!?
Zell placed his arm on her shoulder. Squalls old companions all gathered around her in a shared moment of grief. The professor looked nervously about. We will depart after the storm abates. Somehow I have lost my enthusiasm for this project. He gestured to a student to hand him his briefcase. He was looking for the files on emergency contact data. He soon found it and didnt believe what he saw. Does anyone know why Mr. Leonheart would leave President Loire as his emergency number?
Quistis replied No, beyond the fact that the two were very close I have no idea.
The professor dialed his cell phone and got a recording. He left a message explaining everything that had happened. Hyne, that was the number for the private residence.
The group of orphans plus one were all still in shock by what they saw. They were silent for a long time until Selphie finally said Squall, were all going to miss you.
I cant believe I just heard that!! How many times has he saved your life huh Selphie?! He s supposed to be your friend, and the first thing I hear when he gets in trouble is Poor Squall were gonna miss you! This is what I wanted to forgive me?! Fuck you! All of you! Seifer stomped off towards the main area. They were all shocked by what they had heard.
Zell was the first to speak. Damnit!! I hate to say it but hes right!! Hes right
Quistis began to move in the direction that Seifer had taken. Quistis where are you going?
Quistis looked at him cryptically Sounds like someone needs a friend.
Seifer was sitting and thinking Good job, Seifer. You just screwed up any chance to be forgiven . He remembered back to his days as the Knight. From a tiny corner of his mind he watched everything that transpired. The one thing he saw through all of it was a tight knit group. They were just like no they were family. One that some distant part of himself remembered as having belonged to. He couldnt help but think he had screwed up any chance of rejoining it. But Damnit I am not going to give up on Squall. There has to be a way. He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see Quistis.
Need someone to talk to?
Im not sure. Im sorry for what I said back there.
Dont worry about it. It needed to be said. You were right. Squall is your friend too after all.
Seifer half smiled to himself You know, he could have easily thrust me aside, or killed me. After all I had been through even Raijin and Fujin were distant from me. As if they never knew when I would turn on them. Squall though held out his hand in friendship. After all that had happened, he still forgave me. I wasnt whole for a long time after and I never would have been if he hadnt extended that hand. He never gave up on me and damnit Im going to return the favor!
Seifer, I can only imagine some of what youve gone through. Some of the things that were done are hard to forgive, but I guess what Im trying to say is Like it or not you are a part of our family. A black sheep maybe but still Seifer had to smile a little at that.
I feel the same
They turned to see Irvine, Selphie, Zell, and Rinoa behind them. Zell was uncharacteristically silent but at least he didnt stare at Seifer with hostility anymore.
Rinoa looked at Seifer Thank you she smiled.
Seifer locked eyes with her We will get him back Rinoa. You two have a life to live together. Im going to make sure it happens.
Zell chimed in. What do we do first?
Quistis said We go back to Garden. We may need their resources and we need to try and find any mention of anything like what happened to Squall in the library. The storm should be abating in 8 hours or so. I suggest we all try to get some sleep.
They all saluted and moved off but Seifer simply stared ahead, lost in thought. Quistis decided to stay with him and they passed the time in silence.
The storm had passed and the Ragnarok had arrived soon after. Quistis had called ahead for it. They all boarded and the trip back to Balamb passed in silence. The ship arrived in the new hangar built for it and they all piled out. They began the walk to the Headmasters office and many eyes turned Seifers way. Nervous mutterings started but Seifer for his part kept his eyes straight ahead and marched purposefully. They arrived at the Headmasters office and the door opened. Cid had a smile on his face as he turned to greet them. The smile quickly turned to an expression of shock as he saw who entered with them. Mr. Almasy? You have a lot of guts returning here. Im afraid you will have to stand before a tribunal and answer for your crimes.
Quistis stood ramrod straight. Sir, please hear my report before you decide anything.
Squall has disappeared sir. Seifer is going to assist us.
I know. Please let me know the details.
Quistis relayed the story and Cids expression was one of sadness. Im afraid your request to search for Squall is denied. He was like a son to me, but I cant let that stand in the way of my duty. And Mr. Almasy will still have to stand before a tribunal.
Seifer placed his hands on the desk and stared at Cid After Squall is found, I will be happy to stand before any court, you can lock me in chains or whatever. If you try to stop me now, be prepared to lose half your garden. Because thats what its going to take to stop me.
Quistis made a decision If this was meant to be a SeeD, whe didnt want it anymore. Sir if thats how it is, you can have my resignation immediately. And youll lose the other half of Garden, because Im standing with him.
Cid looked uncomfortable You dont understand any of you. Please hear myself and our guest out. He wants to hire you for a job, and I believe youll want to take it.
Laguna walked in at that moment with an expression none of them had ever seen before. I would like to hire you to find my son.
I didnt know you had a son. said Irvine
Squall is my son!
Their jaws all dropped.. Zell was the first to recover Why didnt he ever tell us?
Laguna said. He had his reasons. None of which are important now. What is important is that we find him. I missed seventeen years of his life and Ill be damned if Im going to miss any more! Do you accept the mission?
Quistis smiled. We happily accept sir.
Laguna nodded and turned towards Cid. One more thing. He comes with us. He pointed at Seifer.
Im afraid thats impossible Mr. President. He
Thats enough. He is going to be a valuable resource. He and my son are the two best in the world at what they do. Moreover he is my sons friend and I will not let you waste time with some stupid trial.
Enough! You will accept!
Cid reluctantly nodded his agreement and the group strode out of the office.
Selphie looked at him and said Wow Sir Laguna! Never knew you had that in you.
Theres a lot of things people dont know about me. Laguna half smiled Where are we going first?
Quistis looked at him We?
Laguna chuckled You didnt think Id let you go without me did you?
Squall frowned internally as he listened to everyone tell their story. In many ways it was similar to what had happened to him and his team. In theme, if not in events. So, the basic gist of this is that were going to find and rescue this Tidus guy?
Yes. said Yuna. Squall looked at her and noticed the great sadness that framed her face. So thats how it is. Shes in love with him . Squall supposed he must have grown up a little. He never would have noticed it a few years ago. Yuna spoke again Can you tell us about yourself and how you came to be here?
He sighed. He supposed it was necessary but he still didnt like revealing things about himself, especially to strangers. As you can probably tell by my clothing Im not from here. It would be your past I suppose. How far back Im not sure. Im a college student at-
Wakka spoke up Come on ya? No college student ever wielded a weapon like I just saw you do.
Well, earlier in my life I was a mercenary. A SeeD in particular. Youve probably never heard of-
A SeeD! You might be one of my distant ancestors! Rikku exclaimed and gave Squall a hug. Squall for his part looked uncomfortable and disengaged himself.
What do you mean ancestor?
My people the Al Bhed are descended from SeeD.
Yuna said So youve been trained in defeating sorcery?
Yeah. said Squall And I-
Wakka looked at Squall excitedly and asked Did you ever meet this Lionheart guy who defeated the last sorceress? I always loved that story from the Book of Yevon and wished I could meet him
Squall rubbed his forehead and wondered how much he should tell them. These constant interruptions were getting annoying. He could only guess that this Lionheart referred to himself.
Bahamut appeared in his child form. Squall glared at him, and then looked away.
The Guardian King gave a tiny smile and said. He knows Lionheart very well, as do I.
Wakka said excitedly Wow! Whats he like?
Bahamut smiled and said. You dont get it. He knows him VERY well.
Everyone looked at Squall in awe, except for Wakka and Lulu. Wakka scratched the back of his head in confusion. Lulu looked at Wakka in loving exasperation, if there was such a thing. Wakka, not even you can be this dense. Hes saying he is Lionheart!
Squall sighed, and gave the speech he had memorized to everyone who reacted to him this way his last few years. He used to stay silent and just try to ignore it, but that only seemed to make it worse for some reason. My name is Squall Leonheart. I am a person just like you. Im not forty feet tall, I dont breathe fire, I dont eat breakfast and then go out and save the world every day. I snore, I drink too much coffee in the morning, and I cant cook worth a damn. Im just like anyone else. I was just thrust into some amazing circumstances and somehow came out of it alive, and. I had a lot of help along the way.
Yuna decided to accept that at face value. So how did you come to be here?
Squall pointed at Bahamut. Him.
Squall, you must tell them the rest. They need to know. Especially her. Bahamut pointed at Rikku.
Squall looked unhappy, but nodded. Like it or not, he was her Knight now. He looked at her. Did you wonder why you collapsed like that? And were trapped inside yourself, lonely and afraid? Rikku nodded and Squall continued I saw it happen once before. His thoughts went back to the time when Rinoa was in a coma after the battle with Edea. It stirred long held memories inside of him. All these years Rinoa had staid stuck in his head. Even here, he couldnt get away from her, and didnt want to. He only prayed this would end quickly, so he could get back to her. Its what occurs when someone receives the power of sorcery.
Rikku just stared straight ahead with tears at the seams of her eyes. She didnt know much about it, but she did know it was a burden she didnt want. Squall stared at her a moment, and for some reason he couldnt fathom felt protective of her. It went beyond the knight, sorceress bonding and he couldnt explain why. He stood and walked to Rikku. Placing his hand on her shoulder, he made eye contact.
Rikku, I bonded to you as your knight. You didnt know what that meant when it happened. It was the only way I knew to bring you out of your coma. If you would break the bond I would understand.
Rikku looked at him with a glint in her eye. So what does this Knight thing mean anyway?
It means Ill protect you. I will always be by your side. When you call, Ill be there. Where you command I will go. I hope that the short experience I had as Rinoas knight prepared me. Something tells me she isnt going to be easy .
Nothing thats worth it ever is Squall. Bahamut said into his mind. Squall didnt even dignify him with a glance.
Rikku grinned and decided she just couldnt help herself You mean I get to have you follow me around like a puppy dog? Of course I accept!
Squall blushed in spite of himself. He was right, this wasnt going to be easy.
Yuna tried to hide her snickering. Rikku looked into Yunas eyes and saw something that hadnt been there for a long time. Hope.
Sorceress? What does this mean? asked Yuna.
Squall looked at her and said Rikku isnt the only one who has received the power. There is someone else, and according to Bahamut he isnt going to be very friendly.
Bahamut smiled sadly and said No, unfortunately he will not be. . . Squall, its time to teach them about Guardian Forces. My brethren are scattered around the world and I regret that you must find them. I must stay junctioned to you alone however.
Because I like you. Bahamut grinned as he faded away.
Squall swore a little and turned to see everyone looking at him questioningly. Umm.. What exactly is a GF? said Wakka.
Squall rubbed his forehead. He thought of an endorsement deal he was once offered for an aspirin company. He should have taken it. Squall Leonhart was the perfect poster boy for headaches.
Quistis and Laguna were in the Ragnaroks passenger compartment discussing their next step. Laguna asked many questions about the inscription on the wall. So I gather that Squall was sent to the future. Thats the most likely scenario from what was written.
Quistis was a little confused. She had always known Laguna Loire as a great man, but she never imagined him being as intelligent as he was showing now. Well, if we have to go to the future we already know of a way to do it.
Time compression. Quistis said.
Never, even if we found a sorceress willing, or who had power enough to cast the spell. Laguna said
Think about it. Ultimicea cast that spell. Whatever she intended with it I assure you it was not for the benefit of mankind. It probably has the power to cause destruction on a level we cant imagine. Never, even to save my son.
Then what DO we do?
I would say lets go see Ellone, but asking her to find Squall is like looking for a drop in the ocean. She might have to search for years to find him. We need to narrow it down to a manageable level.
You mean she can connect to the future too?
Yeah, shes never done it before, but I know she can.
Laguna? Im confused. I admit that I dont know you that well. But you seem
Smarter than you thought? Laguna smiled.
Well now that you mention it yes she smiled sheepishly.
Quistis, much of what you know of me is based on Ellones sending you back to my past. Remember that was a long time ago. I didnt feel secure with myself and often hid behind the moron facade. Much like Squall hid behind the bad ass loner bit for so long. Runs in the family I guess. I still act like that on occasion when I want to put people at ease. Its less intimidating to meet a president if hes a bumbling fool, and I do like to have fun. Life can be so lonely at times.
Quistis nodded. She understood. Dealing with the loneliness was an old occupation of hers. An occupation she had become far too good at. She shook off that train of thought. Well. I guess we have to turn our minds to possible locations for Squall, but its the future. By definition its unknown.
Yeah. I know. The only thing I can think of is to go see Odine. I hate the son of a bitch but he is by far the smartest man I know. He might be able to think of something.
To Esthar then. She waved and made her way to the bridge to inform Selphie of their destination. Laguna rose and saw a fully stocked bar. Ha. These SeeDs sure know how to travel in style. He poured himself a scotch and sat back down. He lost himself for a time in thinking of the past. So much had changed in the past few years. In seventeen years of missing Raine he never imagined that he had a son. He had been changed so much by this that he couldnt even imagine life without him anymore. In many ways hes been raising me. Laguna had a good chuckle at this, and turned to see Rinoa enter.
Oh, Im sorry Laguna. I didnt mean to bother you.
No Rinoa, youre not bothering me. Youre my future daughter-in-law. Least I hope so.
Rinoa gave him a grateful smile and sat down. Can I get you something to drink?
No thanks. I dont drink very much anymore.
Huh? What happened to the carefree girl I used to know?
I grew older more mature I understand that its happening to lots of people my age.
Laguna couldnt help but feel there was more to it than that. He decided to let that go however, she would share it when ready. Feel a need to talk about Squall?
I just feel so guilty.
Because its hard to explain. I want to find him, I want to be with him, but I dont NEED to be with him. It would be hard but I know I could go on without him. It makes me wonder if I really do love him.
Good. said Laguna
Laguna laughed Rinoa, so many people never figure out what love really is. It isnt a feeling. or even a need.
I think Im confused.
You ever think about the marriage vows Rinoa? I mean really think about them?
No, I guess I really havent.
For richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. Where in any of that do you hear need or feeling? You dont do you. Who ever wrote that vow was a very wise man. He understood that needs change and that feelings can fade. No, what youre being asked to do in the ceremony is to make a choice. Do I choose to love this person? Do I choose to be with them no matter how they change?
But many people get together based on feeling and need.
Yes. They do, but how many of them actually last? The ones that do are the ones who learn what love really is.
Fine. Then what is it?
Its a choice. Plain and simple. Think of it this way. One moment you feel so much love for someone that you can hardly stand it. The next moment they do something stupid, and you want to strangle them. Over time, feelings change. Needs also change because people are always in a process of growing. They are not the same person over time. Think of yourself now and you at 17. Isnt there a big difference?
Yes. There is. She frowned.
Thats because there are events in your life that have changed you. You dont need to tell me about them. Its not important because you chose to use what happened in the right way. You grew and learned, and I personally like how you are turning out. You feel guilty about not NEEDING Squall, but now you have a basis for a far more healthy relationship. Because you choose to be with him. Because you want to. Choosing to be with a person allows you to weather whatever changes happen to them. It allows you to grow together.
Rinoa smiled. I remember Squalls last words to me. As for you and me nothing else that happened before matters Because I choose to be with you.
A wise man my son. Laguna grinned
Rinoa leaned over and gave Laguna a kiss on the cheek. Thanks Laguna. I feel a lot better now.
Thats what Im here for.
She smiled and made her way back to the cockpit.
Laguna took a sip of his scotch. A young person who actually listened to an old man like me. The worlds going to hell I tell you . A depressed looking Irvine then came into the room. Laguna decided he was going to need more scotch if he was going to keep playing counselor. Here we go again.
Squall had spent most of the day explaining the concepts of Guardian Forces and the draw system. Wakka seemed to have some trouble understanding, but he tried to be as patient as he could. He only wished Quistis were here. There was a reason he had never applied for an instructors license.
Yuna said. So, the basics of everything that you have said is that Guardian Forces are just like Aeons, but they are not imprisoned. To get them to serve you often have to prove your worth by defeating them.
YeAH, I guess you could put it that way.
Ohhhh!. Now I get it! Wakka exclaimed.
Squall smiled in spite of himself. Wakka was a likeable sort if a little dense. Now our only problem is finding some. I have Bahamut but thats not nearly enough. You are all going to have to have at least one if were going to stand a chance against this sorcerer.
We have to find Tidus first. said Yuna.
Im not sure we have the time. Still, Im sure Id do the same if one of my team was in trouble. Do you have any idea on where to start looking?
Well, we used the location of the sphere as a guide and backtracked the ocean tides. We came up with three different locations as possibilities. We eliminated one and were planning on checking the other two.
Uh-huh. Kind of a loony way but I guess its all they had to work with. Mind if I see this sphere you are talking about?
One thing we do in SeeD is see a lot of kidnapping cases. Often the kidnapper sends a video tape or recording of some sort. They almost always leave some sort of clue as to their location without even realizing it.
Rikku nodded and played the sphere. Rather than watch Tidus, Squall watched the surrounding area. Could you pause it for a moment? Thanks.
Squall looked at the image for a moment, he learned a lot from it in just the short time of watching but, he still had no clear idea as to where it was. The cell looked very familiar to him somehow but he couldnt quite place it. Lulu turned to him Learning anything?
Yeah. From what I see the area hes held in is ancient. Look at the rust on the bars and the condition of the walls. The place was built to last however. Indicating that when it was built there was a fairly high level of technology. So hes being held in a ruin most likely.
Tech-a what? Yuna said.
Sorry. It basically means machina knowledge.
Whats this panel over here? Looks like a control board. Is there any way we can focus on that spot right here?
Rikku said No, but we may have something that can do it back at Home. There is a place where they build and research memory globes.
Lulu looked at him How did you learn so much from this. We watched it time after time and we didnt get a tenth of what you did.
Squall sighed. As a SeeD you are taught to always remain objective. You are too close to the situation and kept focusing on your friend. Plus my training in archaelogy was a plus.
He decided to let that pass. Shall we head back towards this Home place?
They nodded and headed towards the vehicle. Rikku fell alongside of him and said You learned something else didnt you?
Squall nodded Yeah. Hes not perfect. He makes mistakes. Which means we can beat him.
They arrived at Cids building and requested to speak with him. The official nodded and led them to the airship hanger. Rikku and Squall were lagging a bit behind the rest of the group. Squall took one look at it and couldnt believe it. They finally did build it. Rikku saw the flash of recognition on Squalls face. Recognize it?
Yeah. I saw plans for this thing on my fathers desk once. Balamb Garden wanted something like this. They were planning on commissioning Esthar to build it for them. Was supposed to be the ultimate in flying weapons platforms.
Yeah. It is that. It did a lot of damage to Sin when we fought him. Too bad it doesnt work anymore.
Whats wrong with it?
We dont know. Something is wrong with the altitude system. We dont even understand how it works. Know anything about it?
No. Im not a mechanic.
Rikku sighed .Too bad.
Wish Zell was here. Hed probably get it working in no time.
A friend of mine. He was with me when we fought Ultimicea.
Ah. One of the companions the books talk about. Along with the Angel.
Rinoa Dont think about it. Concentrate on the here and now. The sooner this is over the sooner you can go back. Rikku saw a momentary flash of pain in Squalls face that was quickly hidden. Want to talk about it? she asked.
Squall replied. Not right now.
Ok. Well then come on Mr. Knight. Let me show you the airship. Then well meet my dad. She grabbed him by the hand and dragged him up the ramp. Why am I letting her drag me like this? Rinoa is the only one I ever allowed to do that . As they walked she pointed out various things and explained them and Squall nodded to be polite. His mind was a thousand years in the past though. They soon came to the door of the cockpit and found the rest of the group waiting for them.
Cid was reading a diagnostic board when the group came in. He noticed a stranger among them. His daughter was dragging him by the hand and he stopped to study her for a moment. He recognized the expression in her eyes. He had never seen it on her before but he knew it nonetheless. I guess all fathers have to face this day. Guessing from the expression on the guys face hes too much of a dolt to realize it. Id better have a talk with him later. How was your trip to the desert?
Eventful, to say the least. said Yuna.
Huh? What happened?
Yuna gestured for him to sit down. She relayed the story to him and at the end he had an unreadable expression on his face. So, my daughters a sorceress and this guys the Lionheart? he said turning to Squall.
Yes sir, I am.
And Im the Angel. Its nice to meet you. Cid said sarcastically.
No sir. Her name is Rinoa. No offense but shes much prettier than you.
Who the hell does this guy think he is! Making fun of our heritage like that, and stringing my daughter along! Lets get something straight. Youre not the Lionheart and someone needs to teach you a lesson. Cid was one of the best hand to hand fighters among the Al Bhed. He had trained his daughter in the same techniques but he was getting older. He was still considered a great fighter though. He slowly edged towards Squall as the others stepped back to give them room.
Dad, stop this. Were telling the truth!
Daughter, I dont know how this guy has he taken all of you in but Im putting a stop to it right now. Cid came closer and was preparing his attack. Squall for his part stood relaxed and easy, on the balls of his feet. Cid struck out with a knife edged blow, that was intended to be a feint. Squall merely stepped sideways to avoid the blow and reached out to grab his opponents hand. He pivoted and gained momentum over Cids body. He extended his arm and Cid flew through the air. Landing in a heap. Cid shook his head and stepped into a crouch.
Ok. You do have some skills, but that doesnt mean youre the Lionheart. Next youll be telling me you carry a gun blade and
Squall reached towards his hip and pulled the Lionheart out of his scabbard. Cid looked at it in confusion. He had never seen one of the legendary weapons. The secret of making them had been lost long ago. There was no doubt that he was seeing one in front of him though.
Ok. You managed to find one. Everything Ive ever heard said that it takes years to master it, and that most people never can.
Squall pivoted and in one blinding motion, stepped into a slice towards one of the side rails. There was a small explosion as the blade went clean through, slicing the bar in half. My God, that was cast iron! Cid thought and really looked at this stranger for the first time. Cid noted the free and easy way he stood. Relaxed but ready to spring into action in an instant. He had never seen such speed during his attacks. He was playing with me. If he wanted me dead I wouldnt have last two seconds. Ok. Im willing to grant you might be useful. I still find it hard to believe you can be the Lionheart though.
Squall had an ironic smile. I can respect your opinion sir.
Well. At least hes polite, and I cant think of anyone else Ive ever seen with those skills. If hes my daughters Knight, I couldnt have made a better choice. If he can be trusted. Well, you guys wanted to see if anyone could enhance the images of this sphere of yours. Luckily we have the ability to do it right here. So lets see it.
Rikku handed the sphere to her father. Cid placed a plug into the spheres receptacle and downloaded the contents into a computer. Cid pressed a few buttons and the images soon appeared. Squall was gazing intently and pointed at the screen. Can you enlarge and focus on this point here?
Cid nodded and made the needed adjustments. Squall looked at it for a moment. There was something very familiar about this panel and the surrounding area., he just couldnt place it. He noted a piece of a symbol that had been faded by time. Does anyone recognize this?
Wakka gazed intently and scratched his head. Think I saw something like this in Baaj Temple.
Yuna had tears in her eyes Thats one of the same places we came up with using the maps. He HAS to be there.
Squall nodded. Odds are good. How do we get there?
Cid said. I can give you a ship. It will take five days before its ready. Garden Festival is coming up in two days. Impossible to get an Al Bhed to do any work during that.
Garden Festival? asked Squall. Out of them all, it seemed Selphie had made the most lasting achievement. Squall had to stifle a smile as he imagined Selphie pumping her fist in the air and yelling Booyaka!
Sure. Its one of our oldest holidays. No one remembers how or why it started though.
I heard it was an orgy of some sort and people did crazy things Wakka stopped as he realized Cid was glaring at him Umm never mind.
Rikku was jumping around excitedly Garden Festival!.. You guys are gonna have so much fun! Its basically a huge party!
Cid couldnt help but give one of his rare smiles for his daughter. Just make sure you behave yourself this year young lady.
Sure pops. I will. she grinned.
Cid groaned and everyone started to leave. The Al Bhed leader grabbed Squalls arm. Could I talk to you alone for a moment?
Squall nodded and the rest of them left looking back and wondering. Cid said How do I know I can trust you? Shes my only daughter. She drives me absolutely bonkers at times but I love her.
All I can tell you is that I have given my oath to her, and I would protect her with my life.
Then I guess youll have to wait for my actions.
Understand this, if you do anything to hurt her or my niece. I will find a way to make you regret it.
Squall did the last thing that Cid ever expected. He nodded and said Shes lucky to have a father who cares for her so much. I promise I wont let you down. He turned and left.
Cid sat down and thought for a moment. That one just might work out. There was something about him he liked. Though he was in for some very interesting times if he knew his daughter. Cid let out a chuckle at that and continued his work with the diagnostic board.
Irvine, its incredibly simple. You ask the girl to marry you. Any fool can tell shes nuts about you.
Laguna shook his head. No buts. If
A cheerful voice came over the intercom. Were landing in Esthar. Please buckle up for safety
Thank God! thought Laguna. I cant take much more of this . He looked out the window and saw the outline of O Lab beneath them. Luckily the rest of the way passed in silence and the ship landed. Irvine and Laguna moved towards the exit and found the rest of the group except for Selphie. Quistis said. Selphies going to stay behind to guard the Ragnarok. The rest of us are going to see Odine. All nodded and moved towards Odines lab.
Upon reaching the lab they were confronted by security personnel. Laguna moved towards the forefront. Mr. President? Its quite an honor. What is the purpose of your visit?
I wish to see Dr. Odine. Now, if possible.
Of course. Come on in and well get him for you.
They were shown to Odines office and they all sat down to wait. Soon they could hear the Doctors voice in the hallway. I do not like zese interruptions. I do not care who it is. My work iz too important to waste time with..
At that moment Odine entered the room and said Oh, its you. He saw Rinoa and brightened noticeably Its you my dear. Have you come for another checkup with Odine?
Rinoa shook her head. No. We are here for something considerably more important. Squall has gone missing. We dont know how, but we think Squall has been sent to the future. We were hoping you would have some idea of how we could proceed?
What? You think Odine has a time machine or zomething?
Laguna spoke No. Would you please listen to our story? I hate to admit it, but maybe you can come up with something?
Odine nodded Make it quick. Odines time is valuable.
Odine listened to the story. He nodded thoughtfully at the end. Rinoa said Is there anything you can think of to help us?
No. Now if you will excuze me, I have important work to do.
Odine rose and made his way to the door. Laguna blocked his way. Let me through. You can not interfere with my work.
Laguna glared at him I get the feeling your hiding something from us.
So, you wish to block Odine. Do you want to fisticuffs?
Odine flew back at that moment from a punch none of them saw coming. Blood streamed out of his nose You hit me. You have broken my nose.
Laguna looked at him I warned you Odine. One of these days I was going to take you up on your offer of fisticuffs. Today is that day. Now, well start again. Is there anything you can tell us?
Laguna began to walk towards Odine threateningly. The Doctor backed up fearfully and said Ze sorceress, ze sorceress!
Her. Odine pointed towards Rinoa.
None of them could believe what they were hearing and began talking at once. Laguna raised his hand for quiet and soon got it. Would you explain that please?
Odine gulped and said Rinoa still has ze power of ze sorceress within her. My readings are not mistaken. That iz not possible. She denies it and hides it deep within, but it iz still there.
Rinoa said No, it cant be.
Seifer glared at Odine So these checkups that Rinoa has been receiving from you werent checkups at all. They were experiments!
Odine closed his eyes and nodded yes. There iz much I have learned. I understand much more of how a sorceress gains and uses her powers.
Laguna looked at Rinoa Did he ever use anesthesia for any of these checkups?
Rinoa bowed her head and nodded. Yes.
Zell scooped Odine up by the cuff of his shirt and slammed him against the wall. What did you do to her, you bastard!?
Nothing, I simply inzerted a device inside of her that would give me data on her bodily functions. It waz for science after all.
Laguna and the rest struggled to remain in control while Rinoa simply slumped to the floor. The hell with control! thought Laguna and slung his machine gun from his back. He flicked the safety off and pointed it at Odines head. Ok Dr. Odine. Understand that you have hurt someone very dear to me. Believe me when I say I have no compunctions about killing you right now. Now youre going to tell me everything I need to know. What happened to Squall and what can I do?
Odine whimpered and stared at the barrel of the gun Ze dimensional interval. It sounds like he entered a portal to it.
What is this interval?
I have studied GFs extensively and found that their essence resides in a place called the dimensional interval. There time haz no meaning. You could go to any time you chose.
How could I find what time he went to?
Rinoa still haz a link to him as her knight. Using that you could pinpoint his location with Ellone!
Laguna nodded and indicated that Zell should release Odine. He did and Irvine said. Were not going to just let this bastard go free are we?
Nope. said Laguna and pressed the intercom. This is President Laguna Loire. I am ordering an immediate evacuation of this facility and the surrounding area. You have 20 minutes to comply. Thank you.
You can not destroy my facility. There is much important work here. Work zat could benefit all humankind.
Dr, Odine, you have experimented on children, committed countless atrocities all in the name of your science. Has some good come of it? Yes, but the price isnt worth it!
Laguna quickly moved to the self destruct and entered the appropriate codes. He turned to everyone I suggest we get out of here. Zell, please bring him along.
They moved quickly towards the exit. Everyone was gathering at the appointed safe location. Laguna then pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number Kiros? You might want to send a lot of transports out here. Something just happened to O Lab. What happened? Oh, I just blew it up. Calm down Kiros. I know Ill get into a lot of heat for this. Im placing Dr. Odine under arrest and charging him with crimes against humanity. Oh, and one more thing thats my last official act as president. Im resigning effective immediately. Yes, I know. You were due to take over soon anyway, just happened sooner than you thought. Goodbye Kiros, I hope to see you soon my friend. Im sure well find Squall. Bye.
Laguna pointed towards a couple of guards You two. Dr. Odine is under arrest. Please keep him detained until the proper authorities get here.
Yes sir. Both saluted. Laguna headed towards the Ragnarok and didnt turn back as explosions went off in the distance. God I should have done that a long time ago. Rinoa caught up to him and asked What do we do now?
You heard the man. Were off to see Ellone. Rinoa I know this is difficult for you, but you have to come to terms with the fact youre still a sorceress. If were going to find Squall we need you to be one. Can you do that?
Yes. I can do that. She said sadly.
Squall left Cid and entered the hallway to find the others waiting. Rikku looked at him and asked with a suspicious glint in her eye What did my dad want to talk about?
Squall looked at her. Guy talk. Not important.
Yuna at that moment stepped up. Sir Squall?
Please, just Squall.
Very well then we have a favor to ask of you.
Lulu answered. Yes. Our experience with the Malboro showed us that we are out of practice in fighting fiends.
Wakka finished. So, we were kind of hoping youd go out with us tomorrow, and give some support, suggestions, and the like ya?
Squall inwardly sighed These people are trying to make me the leader? Why does this always happen? He never expected an answer but received one nonetheless.
He heard Bahamuts voice in his head. There have been many leaders that people would follow into hell. You, however are one of the few who could find a way to get them out again. People sense that. It is a special gift.
Whatever. Squall felt a chuckling and decided to let the rest of it pass.
I can do that. What time?
At dawn, in front of the hangar.
Alright. Ill see you then.
Yuna and the guardians waved and all were shown to their rooms for the night. Squall immediately laid down and his bed and closed his eyes. A voice put a stop to his plans however.
Squall, there is something that I have to tell you.
He opened his eyes and saw the child form of Bahamut before him. What? Youre going to tell me I cant go home or something? He joked. He felt a flash of fury when Bahamut sadly nodded his head.
What?! How?! Why?!
Remember when I told you that our conflict is like a chess match? Squalls eyes burned into Bahamut and nodded. As with all games, there are only a set number of moves. I have used all of mine and only await the outcome. Im sorry, I cannot return you to your time.
Damnit! Dont describe my life like it was some kind of game! Im not a pawn that can be used at your whim! I Squalls anger suddenly collapsed, and he slumped to sit on the bed. Why? I never asked for this. I had friends, a life, a chance with Rinoa again Can you simply tell me why? He looked at Bahamut with pleading eyes.
Squall, words cannot express my sorrow at causing this to be. If there were any other way I would have taken it. I can only tell you that it was absolutely necessary. Without your presence, there is no hope of victory.
Squall sadly nodded and slumped his head unmoving. Bahamut at that moment faded away, leaving him to his sorrow.
Rikku felt an incredible wave of anger hit her, and then a deep sadness. She had no idea what was happening but only one thought one through her mind. Squall. She quickly made her way from her room and found Squalls. She knocked at the door. She received no answer at first but kept knocking. Squall! Its Rikku. I know somethings wrong.
She heard a sigh and a weary Come in. Its open.
She opened the door and saw a despondent Squall sitting on the bed. Squall, I dont understand but I felt something weird and suddenly I thought of you. What happened?
Its our bond. When a knight or sorceress feels particularly strong feelings they can sense it from each other. Im sorry, I didnt mean for it to bother you.
Youre not. I just wanted to find out whats wrong.
Dont worry about it. Its my problem.
Squall, dont push me away. Im worried about you.
I really would like to just be left alone for now.
.Ok, but if you need to talk.
Squall nodded and she left with a final worried glance. Must have been something serious. I wish he trusted me enough to tell me. Guess that will just take time.
The next morning the group gathered in front of the hangar. They milled about chatting until an obviously tired and troubled Squall joined them. Hey, everyone. Sorry Im a little late.
Wakka looked at him. Its ok ya. You alright?
Im fine. Just a little tired. Had trouble sleeping.
Yuna thought to herself. Youre a poor liar. She sensed that any help she could provide would be rejected at this point. Ok. Well, shall we go?
The group then made its way into the desert. Squall stopped them and began covering basic group tactics. He asked each of them to demonstrate their weapons and capabilities. After noting their talents and flaws, he assigned each of them a place in a basic battle formation. Wakka decided to complain a bit Hey, were way beyond the bare basics like this ya?
Squall scratched his scar. What happened when you fought the Malboro?
Well, we did get our asses kicked.
We do this my way, or not at all. Now that weve covered basic formations lets find some low level monsters to fight.
Wakka grumbled a bit but agreed. The group made its way out in search of fiends. They soon found a group and under Squalls leadership annihilated it. Lulu said We did well.
Squall nodded, but added. Dont get cocky. We still have a long way to go. Lets try some new things as we go along. The group continued to find new fiends as they journeyed. Every time Squall added new wrinkles, as the group re-learned how to support and help one another. Each of their weaknesses was covered by others strengths and Squall made sure that they were position to take advantage of this. Yuna soon realized that they were in the presence of a true master of small unit tactics. By the end of the day they were a smooth functioning unit. Better than they had ever been before. She silently blessed whatever power had sent Squall to them. They had just disposed of a greater Malboro and Squall decided it was time to call it a day. They eagerly nodded and made their way back to Home. They were exhausted but in high spirits as they reached the hangar.
In a surprise, Kimahri walked up to Squall and simply said. Kimahri thanks you.
The group was getting ready to disperse and Squall said to Rikku. Id like you to stay. We need to talk.
Aww, come on Squall. Im tired. Let me get some rest.
Rikku, we need to talk about this and now. Squalls tone brooked no argument.
Ok. Ill catch up with all of you tomorrow.
The group nodded and turned to leave. Yunas curiosity had gotten the better of her though and she decided to hide and watch. She had had never been a peeping tom, but for some reason she had to know. She found a good hiding position with a good vantage point and watched.
Squall turned to Rikku you need to start learning how to control these sorceress powers.
Why? Cant I just ignore the fact that theyre there?
No. The powers can manifest by themselves. Some innocent bystander will eventually be hurt if you dont start learning control now.
Rikku nodded her head sadly. She had been afraid of something like that. Ok. How do we begin?
Well start by trying to cast simple fire spells.
Squall had once had the same talk with Rinoa. Both had been on unfamiliar ground, but Edea had supplied them with some basic exercises that helped Rinoa gain some control. Squall led Rikku through the beginning of it, and Rikku started casting fire spells. The first few times she did it, the fire raged almost uncontrollably, until Squall settled her down. Yuna was shocked. The spells Rikku were casting were orders of magnitude beyond what even Lulu was capable of.
Remember to focus. Were trying to learn control. Not letting go with everything you have. Now lets try some thunder spells.
Rikkus eyes widened fearfully. Do we have to?
Im afraid of thunder. My brother hit me with a thunder spell once. Ive been afraid ever since.
Squall sighed and placed his hand on her shoulder. A look passed between them and both their eyes locked. They held it for a moment and Squall shook his head as if to clear it. Remember, this power serves you, you dont serve it. There is no reason to be afraid.
Rikku closed her eyes and nodded. She concentrated for a moment and a flash if light appeared in the courtyard followed by a loud boom. Rikku thought to herself that this wasnt o bad.. Matter of fact, it was kind of fun. She started to run about the courtyard unleashing thunder spells as she went. BZZT! BZZT!
The AL Bed girl took no notice and continued to cast. RIKKU!
Rikku stopped and looked into the eyes of her suddenly enraged Knight. Rikku, you have to take this power seriously! You dont understand what it can do!
Rikku, this is not the only time Ive traveled through time. I saw entire generations decimated by the power you possess. I have taken an oath to protect you. That means even if I have to protect you from yourself!
Rikku stopped and lowered her head. She said in a small voice Sometimes, I dont want a protector. Sometimes, I need a friend. She raised her eyes to meet his. There were tears glistening in the corner.
Squall sighed and turned away. Im sorry. I shouldnt have snapped like that. I know that its a hard thing to deal with. Ill be with you and help every step of the way.
What about you? What about when you need help? Dont think that Ive forgotten about last night. I know something serious happened. Why wont you tell me?
Squall sighed and sat down. He had to tell someone some time. Bahamut came to see me last night. He told me hes unable to return me to my time. Im stuck here. Ill never see my friends again. Ill never see Rinoa again.
Rikku looked at him sadly and sat beside him. Rinoa?
You probably know her as the Angel. She is its hard to explain. We were separated for a while, and then she came back into my life. Its almost as if we were meant to be together. You ever had anything like that?
Not until you came along she silently admitted to herself. She decided now was not the time to tell him that though. She instead shook her head.
Well, its not just her. My friends and I faced something that no one should ever have to. You forge bonds with the people that you go through it with. Bonds that most people cant understand.
Now, that I can understand.
You forget. We defeated Sin after all. One of our group was lost and now were all trying to save him. Theres nothing we wouldnt do.
Not to mention that Yuna loves him.
That obvious huh?
Squall, I know you probably dont want to hear this. We can never replace the friends that you have lost, but I can say that our group has accepted you. Jeez, today you taught us things that most of us never knew existed. Im sure I would speak for everyone else when I say that we wish you would give us a chance. Heck, even Kimahri spoke to you today. Its usually months before he trusts people enough to talk.
Squall gave a half smile. Ill give it some thought.
Rikku snickered. Not too long. Some thing tells me youre one of those people who thinks too much for their own good. She stood and started to walk away.
Rikku turned. Yes?
Rikku smiled and continued on her way. Yuna looked at her cousins smile. So, thats how it was. One thing had always troubled her. Her cousin had always wanted someone to share her life with, have children. Yuna loved her cousin and wished her only the best. Rikku was very picky however. She had rejected many who had come calling. Yuna saw that her cousin had finally made her choice. She laughed. Wondering if Squall understood what he had gotten himself into.
The Ragnarok reached the Winhill area in the middle of the night. They set down well outside of town so as not to disturb the townspeople. It was decided that they would go see Ellone in the morning. Seifer had awakened at his customary early hour, went outside and decided to practice with his gun blade. He started as he always did with some stretching exercises and soon melded into his katas. It was strange not having a sparring partner. He briefly considered asking one of the gang, but none of them used a blade as far as he knew.. As he was training, Quistis came down the gangway. He had forgotten that she was an early riser too.
Hey. Keeping in practice I see.
Yeah. Its a hard habit to break. Me and Squall got together every morning to train.
So, need a sparring partner then?
Yeah, Id ask you to help, but a whip and a gun blade just dont go well together as training tools.
Quistis smiled Ill be right back. She went back into the Ragnarok for a moment and came out with a plain katana in her hand. Borrowed it from Irvine. Shall we?
Seifer chuckled. Sure, why not. Ill go easy on ya.
She smiled mysteriously and held the blade expertly in her right hand while circling Seifer. She suddenly struck out with a slash that Seifer barely blocked and melded into an intricate set of maneuvers. Seifer was surprised and actually had to work to keep up with her. Several moments of parry and slash passed until he finally disarmed her.
Hey, youre actually good. I thought you fought with a whip exclusively.
Quistis laughed What kind of commander would I be if I could only use one weapon? Ive always trained with a variety, though I always use a whip when the fighting is serious. The gun blade is one of the few I havent mastered.
Seifer grinned Yeah. It takes some getting used to.
Youre one of the best with a very difficult weapon Seifer. You should be proud.
Seifer had an ironic smile. Yeah, but not the best. That title belongs to someone else.
Quistis looked at him cryptically You know, Squall and yourself were so close in potential with the blade that I never could tell which of you was better. I dont think that has changed.
Then why does he always win when we spar? And why did he always defeat me during the Sorceress War? Seifer was Squalls friend but that didnt keep him from rankling a bit about his constant losses to him.
Quistis looked thoughtful for a moment. I suppose the difference is what you fought for.
What do you mean?
Squall found something that was worth fighting for. Whether it was Rinoa, his friends, or the world makes no difference. Quite simply, he finally cared for something besides himself. Something worth dying for, but more importantly something worth living for.
How would that make any difference?
Quistis laughed. Seifer, he finally gave a damn about something. Never underestimate the power of caring. She turned and left, leaving a puzzled Seifer to sort out his thoughts.
The rest of the group had finally roused and all gathered in front of the Ragnarok. The group walked the way uneventfully and reached the outskirts of Winhill. People were pointing at them and mumbling to themselves, but they werent confronted. Some people actually tried to hide. They reached the pub, found it locked and knocked on the door. Ellones voice echoed from inside Phineas, how many times do I have to tell you? We dont open until eleven!
Laguna looked at the pub wistfully. He had spent so many happy times here. It was hard to believe how he still he missed his wife.. Is this how you treat all your out of town patrons?
The one and only!
The door unlocked, and Ellone gave a happy cry at seeing all of them. She hustled them inside and the customary hugs and greetings were given. Seifer was surprised when she included him in her hugs. Its great to see all of you, but arent we missing someone?
Yeah, you could say that. Its why were here. Squall is missing.
Ellone looked shocked. and sat down. Laguna told her the whole story and she nodded thoughtfully. So, you want me to find Squall in the future?
Yes. I know youve never done it but I know you can.
The past is so much easier. Its easy to tell where someone has been but finding them where they will be is a whole other story. I have no idea of how to proceed. It could take years.
Could we use Rinoas bond with him as a guide?
I suppose we could. It will still be difficult. Plus if hes far in the future I will not be able to sustain the link for long. It will also be more disjointed than you are accustomed to.
What do you mean? asked Rinoa
Well, when I connect someone with the recent past you can easily read their thoughts and to a small extent they can hear yours. The farther back I send someone the less I am able to cement the connection. You wont be able to read his thoughts or he yours. You will only be able to see. You may not have any understanding of where he is, or what hes doing.
I understand. I still have to know. Will you help Ellone? Rinoa pleaded.
Of course. This is my little brother were talking about. Rinoa, please lay down. Im going to need a bit to prepare myself.
Rinoa nodded and lay down on the couch. Presently she felt very sleepy and closed her eyes. She immediately awoke in a dreamscape. Ellone was beside her. What do we do?
Think about Squall, what he means to you, how much you want to be with him. I will add my thoughts to yours. Hopefully this will show us the way.
Rinoa nodded and let all her feelings of the past week out. She was almost in tears when she noted an image of a faint wire. There it is. The connection, follow it.
Ellone and Rinoa followed the line till its end and Rinoa suddenly found herself seeing through the eyes of Squall. She attempted to sense his thoughts and reach out to him somehow, but all she received were vague feelings. Hes lonely, and confused. A series of images flashed through Squalls eyes and she attempted to make sense of them. A small hooded boy in a mist filled space, he fought a Malboro, that girl, my God shes a Sorceress! She saw Squall bond to her. No, hes my knight! You cant have him ! Later images flew by until one came into focus that sent strong feelings though her. Squall was speaking to the hooded boy again. The feelings were so powerful that she understood immediately. He couldnt come home.
Rinoa stretched her thoughts out to Ellone. Ive seen enough. Lets go back. Rinoa sensed Ellones agreement, and the two woke up.
Seifer moved beside Rinoa. Did you find him?
Yes. Hes stuck somewhere far in the future, and whatever took him there cant take him back. Hes trapped.
Laguna sighed We have to find a way to get to him.
Rinoa said Theres more. A Sorceress in the future. Squall is bonded as her Knight.
Not Ultimicea I hope.
No, its someone else. Wherever he is hes far beyond even the time of Ultimicea. The disconnect was far greater than Ive ever experienced. said Ellone.
Laguna was troubled. He had read a story once of a Knight who was bonded to two sorceresses. He did not share it however as it was just a story. He hoped.
Ok. So we now have some idea of where he is. Now how do we get to him?
Selphie said Odine said we could go wherever we wanted using the dimensional interval right?
Yeah. The problem is finding a way to get into it.
Irvine scratched his head. Well, seems to me we already know a place where a portal exists, we just dont know how to get into it. Cant we head back to the ruins and try to find it somehow?
Laguna smiled. Irvine, youre a genius! I take back all my bad thoughts about you.
Uh. Thanks, I guess.
Ellone said When do we leave?
Laguna looked at her. We?
He may not be my brother by blood, but my feelings for him are as if he is. Im going.
Laguna placed his hand on her shoulder Ellone, you may not be my daughter by blood, but my feelings for you are no different than as if you were. Ive already lost one child. I dont want to lose another. Wherever were going, theres bound to be fighting and you have no experience.
Ellone had tears in her eyes Uncle Laguna Dad. She smiled as she said the word for the very first time. Ive always been left behind. Im begging you. Dont leave me behind this time. You might get stuck there just like Squall, and Ill lose all of you. She swept her eyes to include the rest of the group. All of you are the only family I have.
Laguna sighed and looked in her eyes You can come. Just make sure you stay away from any combat situations. I mean that.
Ellone nodded happily Just let me get a few things. She leapt up and headed upstairs. Seifer looked confused and headed outside. Laguna noted and followed.
Hey Seifer. Whats wrong?
When she said family, did she include me?
Of course she did. She was big Sis to all of you remember.
Yeah, but I held her prisoner and would have sacrificed her to Ultimicea. How can she include me after that?
Seifer, you may not know this, but we have all forgiven you. Even Zell, if he would admit it to himself. Sounds like the only person who still has the problem is you. You still feel you have to punish yourself for what happened. When are you going to let go and realize enough is enough?
Seifer sighed. It was a good question. One to which there seemed to be no answer.
The next morning Rikku finished explaining to the rest of the group what Squall had told her. So, he cant go home again. Lulu said thoughtfully.
Hes just like Tidus when he came, ya?
Yeah. How can we help him?
As far sending him home, I dont think we can. All we can do is be there for him. said Yuna.
Wakka scratched his head. I can talk to him later. Man to man I guess. Least try to get him to come to this Garden Festival, ya? Maybe take his mind off things.
Yuna shook her head. No Wakka, I will talk with him. Its the least I can do. Hes helped us so much already. I feel I have to repay that somehow.
Rikku looked at her cousin. Are you sure? He might get mad. He can be scary when he gets mad.
Yuna smiled. I doubt he would hurt me cousin. I can take a few angry words. I will talk with him tomorrow, before the festival. You are right Wakka, maybe this festival can take his mind off things. Yuna turned towards her cousin with an appraising eye. Kimahri and Wakka, might I speak with Lulu and Rikku alone?
Kimahri nodded and Wakka scratched his head and left. Yuna turned towards Rikku and Lulu. Given any thought to what you will wear tomorrow?
Squall was sitting alone at the edge of the hangar. He was lost in thought, when he heard a voice. Boy, dont tell me youre one of those people who thinks things to death. Cid sat beside him.
Squall half smiled and said in perfect Al Bhed Sometimes.
Huh? Howd you learn our language so fast?
I learned it as a cadet in Garden. Its a code language we use when we know our transmissions or conversations are being overheard. Its a simple substitution alphabet. Instead of U you say I and so on. Its very simplicity kept it from ever being cracked.
Most codes in my day were becoming more and more complex. So complex that most countries kept an army of mathematicians and computers working day and night trying to crack them. No one ever suspected that Garden went the other way.
Well, what do you know? Somehow I thought the founding of our language would be grander than that.
Are you saying you believe me now?
Boy, there are lots of things I dont know. Im willing to grant for the sake of argument that you might be who you say you are. Ive never seen anyone handle a weapon the way you do, thats for sure. If you are the Lionheart, we can learn a lot about our heritage. Theres so much that has been lost.
Ill be happy to help however I can. Squall said sadly.
Missing your life and your friends huh?
Squall sighed, he didnt want to seem as if he was whining, but he nodded anyway.
Well, guess I can understand that. Knew, or know rather someone who was in your same shoes.
Who was that?
Tidus. The guy youre all trying to find. Cid laughed That boy had spirit. We started out on the wrong foot but by the end I respected him and was glad that Yuna was in love with him. I sense the same spirit in you, though you keep it all wrapped up.
Does this have a point?
Yeah, Im just saying maybe you should be like him and accept things the way they are. It wouldnt hurt to let a little of that spirit out every once in a while either. You cant keep moping like this. Youre gonna have to start living again someday.
Squall took that for what it was worth and nodded a thanks. He stood up and began walking towards his room. Im slowly turning into the old Squall again. Damnit I just cant seem to get out of it.
Lulu and Yuna were waiting in the dress shop for Rikku to come out of the changing booth. She finally came out and both were pleased with what they saw. She was wearing a strapless, ankle length gown. Lulu was the first to speak You look lovely
Rikku surprised them both, and cursed Screw lovely. How am I supposed to move in this thing? She kicked at the hem of her gown.
Yuna smiled. I suppose we should find something a little less restrictive. There is going to be a lot of dancing after all.
Rikku looked at Lulu. Hey, arent you going to find something? Just because youre married doesnt mean you cant knock Wakka off of his feet every now and then.
Lulu gave Rikku a withering look. but she just grinned.
Yuna giggled. Shes right Lulu, lets try to find you something for you, too.
Lulu rolled her eyes but gave up, defeated. And I suppose we should try and find something for you Yuna?
No, I have no one here I want to impress.
My happiness is waiting for me. I know it. I just have to wait a little longer. Yuna smiled.
Squall was sitting in his new favorite place. The hangar was quiet and offered an unimpeded view of the ocean. The view was spectacular. Another plus in its favor was there was no one else here today. . He just stared out at the ocean and tried very hard not to think. He failed miserably. His thoughts, no matter where he tried to lead them, went round and round and always ended at the same place. No matter how far Ive come, I end up here again. Alone. The dark and loneliness beckoned to him like an old friend. It seemed to say Im the only one you can trust. The only one who will never leave you. Squall was lost in these thoughts and did not hear Yuna come up silently behind him.
Cid told me I might find you here.
Squall jumped a little. Dont do that to me.
Come to give me the move on with your life speech?
No, Im the last person who should ever give that advice.
She nodded and was silent for a time Squall, I would like to thank you.
Giving me hope again. For a long time after Tidus disappeared, I lost the part of me that remembered how to laugh and smile. I would do these things, but my heart wasnt in it. I would do them mechanically because I knew it was expected of the High Summoner. My job was to give the people hope, but I truly had none to give. When Rikku showed me the sphere, I left my responsibilities and went to chase a dream.
Our stories are actually pretty similar.
What do you mean?
During the Second Sorceress War, I was seventeen years old. I suddenly found myself being thrust into being the commander of an army. I was inexperienced, insecure and had no idea what I was doing. My friends supported and helped me, and without them we would have been beaten. After the war, I was asked to continue as commander. I did so for a couple of years, but I realized I had never made a choice on my own. I had never chased my own dreams. Here I was the leader of the strongest fighting force on the planet and I truly had no idea who I was. I had never been given the time to find out. Sounds like youre the same. You probably would have stepped down sooner or later anyway. Tidus was just the reason you needed.
Youre probably right. Anyway, we left and came here and found ourselves almost annihilated by a Malboro. Then, you showed up. Here you were, like some hero out of legend, which strangely enough you actually are. Squall smiled. I dont think I believed that we could actually succeed until the moment you came. Youre a special person Squall. You give hope without even realizing it. People like you are never alone, unless they choose to be.
Squall still stared straight ahead, and Yuna continued Well, my real reason for coming was to ask you to come to the festival. We would all like very much for you to be there.
Squall sighed. The darkness inside of him said. All you have to do is tell her to go away. Then we can be together again. She and her companions will only leave you. Same as all your friends have always done. Tell her to go talk to a wall. Squall started to say this, but instead heard his own voice. Ill come. He grinned and stood up.
Yuna smiled and said to herself Rikku will be happy.
Oh, nothing. Shall we?
They both walked forward and left a part of themselves there. A part neither would miss.
Lulu, why did you make us wait? The festival started an hour ago.
A lady is never on time to occasions like these.
Rikku asked. Huh?
Lulu smiled. Its always best to leave men waiting a bit. That way they appreciate it more when we do show up.
Ok. I understand. I think.
Youll understand when we get there. Im sure Squall will be fine till then.
That obvious huh? You think hes noticed.
Lulu chuckled. Somehow I doubt it. Men seem to have a blind spot when it comes to a woman being interested in them.
Howd you let Wakka know you were interested in him?
I tried many methods. Finally I gave up and hit him in the head with a brick.
Lulu laughed. No, but believe me I did consider it.
The two finally arrived at the outskirts of the party. Wakka was nearby and pacing impatiently. He turned and saw Lulu and Rikku walking up. He was obviously ready to say something but stopped short. Wow Lu You look well you know.
Lulu smiled mysteriously No, I dont know. Why dont you tell me?
You look beautiful.
Lulu smiled at him fondly. Theres hope for you yet, darling. Shall we?
Lulu accepted Wakkas arm and the two made their way to the dance floor. Rikku stepped inside a bit more and was soon confronted. Wow, is that you Rikku?
She turned and saw Ropp, one of the people she had made the trip with to find the airship. Yes. Ropp. Its me. You can put your tongue back in your mouth now. She walked on and snickered a bit Lulus right. This is kinda fun . She put that aside and continued on her hunt. She could make many conquests tonight, but she had only one prey. She swept her gaze across the area and saw Yuna. She sauntered over. Hi cousin, you seen Squall?
Yuna gave her an amused look. Im afraid your knight needs rescuing. Im afraid rumors of his identity got out and a horde of females has trapped him. She giggled a little. Hes probably scared for his life about now.
No one treats MY Knight that way! Rikku exclaimed and stalked off with a determined march. Yuna smiled. She had no doubt of the outcome. What Rikku wants, Rikku gets. She smiled and continued to soak in the happy atmosphere.
Squall looked around and tried to an escape route. So far, he had tried several times to move off, but was blocked.. These were very determined ladies. Squall looked around and found himself in one of the corners of the square. Damn! First rule of escape and evasion. Never place yourself in position to be cornered . The group of young women were all talking at once, and trying to gain his attention.
He had come to the party, and immediately settled into a corner. It was his customary position during events such as there. Despite the fact that he had become more open, large groups of people always made him uncomfortable. The fact that these ladies were all crowding him, and hoping to attract the attention of the Lionheart, didnt help matters a bit.
Suddenly another hand grabbed hold of his and started to drag him away. Squall turned to see an angry Rikku. She turned to face the crowd Sorry ladies, this one happens to be taken. She pulled Squall along forcibly, as the crowd sadly dispersed.
Squall was about to say thanks when he got his first good look at her. Wow! Rikku you look.. You know.
Rikku took her cue from Lulu No, I dont know. Why dont you tell me?
You look beautiful!
Theres hope for you yet Squall.
The band suddenly struck up an instrumental. Squall was shocked. Why are they playing Eyes on Me?
Is that the name of it? This song is played at every festival. No one remembers the name, the lyrics, or even why its played. Mean something to you?
Yeah. Squall looked at her sadly.
Rikku kicked him and Squall rubbed his shin. None of that. This is a happy time and youre not going to ruin it, Mr. Gloomy. Now dance with me.
Squall saw no choice but to comply and Rikku melted into him and held on tightly. The two danced as Squall thought This is too soon. I know Ill never see Rinoa again, but damn this is too soon. Rikku, I
Shut up and dance Squall. Nothing else matters tonight.
Squall realized the hunt was over. He had been caught. Something about him decided he didnt mind all that much though.
Maester Krell stared at the increased activity in the Bevelle Temple. News of Yunas departure from Besaid had spread quickly. People were confused and uneasy. No one knew what it meant but the general consensus was that Yuna had finally decided that she didnt want to rule. Everyone knew that she served very reluctantly in that capacity. The government, such as it was, centered in Besaid struggled to put the best possible face on it, but without the rallying figure at their head people turned from then en masse.
Stepping into the void were the reborn temples of Yevon. They had simply eased their restrictions on machina and were seen to be promoting many good works.
While true that Yevon had deceived and misled them all, they were familiar. Many had forgotten the deceptions and simply remembered that Yevon had led them all successfully for a thousand years. Krell had seen countless people return to the faith. Many of the warrior monks who had deserted were returning and he quickly re-inserted them into their customary roles. While it was true that many had returned, something was bothering the Maester of Bevelle. The people who had returned were showing subtle changes in their behavior. They were showing far more zeal than to which he was accustomed.
Fanaticism he had no problem with, as it often served him well. Still, many things concerned him. He still did not know what the ultimate price he and everyone else would have to pay. The dark figure troubled him in ways he still could not fathom. He was lost in these thoughts when he heard a familiar and feared voice behind him.
You have done well. He turned to see the dark figure.
Thank you, my lord.
Something troubles you.
Yes, my lord. Im not complaining about it but people are showing more zeal than to which I am used to.
Ah. You are just seeing one of the manifestations of my power.
How so, my lord?
It is much easier to influence minds that have already started to turn towards me. I could do it without these trappings of course, but that is an expenditure of power which isnt needed. Simple deceit often serves as well as raw power.
So, there are limits to your power. thought Krell to himself. The Maester was ever the opportunist. Someday his lord would make a mistake and he would be there to capitalize. Krell did not see himself as a servant forever.
As if sensing Krells thoughts the figure said to him I do not think I need to tell you the price of betrayal. I assure you the cost will be beyond your imagination. Krell gulped and nodded. The figure continued Thank you for the warrior monks by the way. They have proven very useful.
Youre welcome my lord. Any further commands?
No. Simply continue as you are, but do add more warrior monks.
To what purpose my lord?
That you will know when you have need.
Tidus moped about his cell. Every once in a while he would try the bars, although that was more out of habit than any hope of succeeding. Long had he been here and hope was proving to be a more than rare commodity. Still he resisted, still he fought, but it was harder to remember for what he fought every day. He still had Yunas image fixed firmly in his mind and he clung to it as one would hold to a rope hanging from a cliff. He was busy reliving the magical night they had spent before the Calm Lands. Fantasies and memories such as this were often all that kept him going.
Ah. Tidus. How nice to see you again.
Tidus glared Dont you have anything better to do?
As it turns out, at the moment, no. Shall we continue where we left off?
I dont see why you dont give up. Weve done this many times and youre no closer to breaking me now than at the beginning.
Ah, but youre wrong. Each day the image of Yuna becomes a little harder to hold onto. I feel the steady weakening of your spirit. The figure gestured and Tiduss body was suddenly wracked by unbearable pain. He felt several ribs crack under the unrelenting pressure. The Sorcerer was growing more desperate. This was the first time he had caused actual injury. The pain stopped and Tidus fell to his hands and knees. He presently gazed at his tormentor.
Tidus remembered his days on the farplane. He and many others glimpsed a force beyond Sin. An implacable force that roamed through the ages, destroying people and civilizations. I know you were once a good man. We had our problems I know, but we always had the same goal. Im not speaking to you , but to whats behind you. Someday, someone like me, is gonna kick your ass!
The figure merely smiled and gestured again. Tiduss screaming echoed throughout the halls.
Rikku concentrated hard. This exercise sucks. The light she was manifesting in front of her pulsed unevenly. Squall grumbled and said Rikku, youre not concentrating hard enough. You need to make it pulse at a constant rate. Nice and even.
Rikku sighed, and dropped her exercise. Cant we do something fun? I want to try casting lightning again.
In case you havent noticed were on board a ship. You think its a good idea to cast destructive magic now? The day after the festival passed uneventfully. The ship had been readied and they were on their way to Baaj Temple. Cid had decided to accompany them explaining he missed the boy too.
Rikku frowned I can control it well enough now. I wont hurt anything.
Maybe you could, but Id rather not take the chance.
She pouted and Squall turned away scratching his scar. Bzzt! Squall turned around and gave Rikku an angry gaze. Rikku however just laughed at him Squall smiled in spite of himself. This girl definitely keeps me on my toes.
Come on Squall, lighten up. Lets just try something different.
All right. Im not sure if were ready for this or not. Edea once told me she and her husband could communicate without words. Mind to mind.
The woman who raised me. She was a Sorceress too.
You know, youve never really told me a lot about yourself. All I know is what Ive read about you, and there isnt much.
Not much to tell really. I was born to a woman named Raine. She died in childbirth. My father was told that the baby had died by the townspeople. They didnt like him very much. My adopted sister and I were sent to an orphanage. Edea and her husband Cid ran the orphanage.
Hey, is that the guy who founded SeeD? My dad was named after him.
Squall nodded, and continued I lived at the orphanage until the age of ten and was then sent to Balamb Garden. From there I was trained as a SeeD, and the rest is history. I took part in the Second Sorceress War and was with the group that finally defeated Ultimicea. After that, I finally met my dad, and we became close.
Sounds like you left a lot out.
And it sounds like youre trying to keep from practicing your exercises.
Rikku chuckled Ok. You caught me. Lets try this mind thing.
Squall nodded Ok. Now concentrate on our bond. You can feel it right?
Yeah. Kind of hazy, but its there.
Itll become sharper as you get better. I want you to think a thought, and concentrate on sending it to me along the bond.
Rikku closed her eyes and did as Squall instructed. He waited until he heard ringing in his mind. I wonder what Squall looks like naked?
Squall blushed crimson and without realizing it sent his own thought. Stop that!
Hehe. I couldnt help it. Youre so cute when you blush.
Squall sighed Whatever.
Hey, we just carried on a conversation without talking!
Yeah. I guess we did.
Woohoo! Rikku jumped around happily.
Squall shook his head, and smiled I guess thats enough for the day.
Good! Lets go eat! She grabbed Squalls hand and dragged him along. He was going to forget how to walk if this kept up.
Rikku and Squall joined the rest of the group for dinner. Nothing much of consequence was said at dinner, just small talk. Squall looked over at Rikku and noticed she was stuffing her face. One thing was for sure, his sorceress had a healthy appetite. Rikku noticed Squalls glance and a mischievous gleam appeared in her eye. Squall heard a sing song voice in his mind Naked! Squall couldnt help but blush again.
Yuna looked at him. Why are you blushing, Squall?
Its nothing. He glared at Rikku. The Sorceress just snickered and continued her meal. Squall sighed What did I do to deserve this? He was less than pleased to hear Bahamuts laughing in his mind.
After dinner, Squall went up on deck to get some air and watch the sunset. He leaned on the rail and stared out on the ocean. Wakka came beside him. Beautiful, ya?
Squall nodded Wakka, whats this Baaj Temple like?
Oh, just a big ruin. Not much there, not even fiends anymore. It looks like it was all big building once. Lots of destroyed machina, walkways and the like. Youll see for yourself in a couple days.
Theres still something about that sphere image I cant put my finger on. Its familiar somehow, just cant figure out why.
Youll figure it out. This sorcerer guy probably put some things there though. Cant imagine him not leaving defenses ya? If thats really where Tidus is.
Whats Tidus like?
Wakka laughed. Hes got spirit. Makes you laugh. Kind of person who keeps you going when times are bad, ya? I thought he was crazy when we first met. Said he came from Zanarkand and all, when its nothing but a pile of ruins. Turns out everything he said was true though. In the end he sacrificed everything for all of Spira. A better man I couldnt find. Youd like him.
Lets hope I get to meet him.
Wakka grinned. You will. Got a good feeling about this.
The next couple of days passed much as the first. Rikku trained, Squall got headaches and blushed often. Yuna was getting pensive the closer they came. Squall asked Cid to stop when the island just came into sight.
You have anything like binoculars?
Sure. Cid asked Rikku to find a pair. She returned and handed them to Squall. He mumbled a thanks and raised them to his eyes. He was gazing over the area when what was bothering him suddenly struck.
Thats Balamb Garden! At least the ruins of it.
Hey, thats the place where you became a SeeD right? asked Rikku.
Squall nodded and sought to stop the flood of emotions. He had a job to do. He swept over the area and noticed newly built fortifications. There were also movements he could barely detect. Probably people, and a lot of them.
What else are you seeing Squall?
People. Looks like an army has been stationed there.
Cid puffed up Well, only one thing we can do. Blow the island to kingdom come!
Rikku sighed Pops, what did I tell you about restraint? That would kill Tidus too.
Oh, right. What do we do?
Wakka chimed in. I say we go in there and kick their butt.
The rest of the group shouted their agreement. Squall put a stop to it though. That wouldnt do any good.
Lets say we do go in there guns blazing. Theres an army there, and even if you do manage to beat them, all they have to do is kill Tidus. What good will that do?
Oh, right. You got a plan then?
Any of you trained in covert ops?
Squall sighed. He would have to fly solo on this one. Taking someone along who was inexperienced would likely just get them both killed. Thats what I thought. As a SeeD Im trained to infiltrate installations like the one there. Ill go in alone. Cid could you move the ship farther back? They might be able to see us.
Cid nodded and gave the order. Squall took a moment to inventory everything he would likely need for this expedition. Ill need some things.
First off, Im going to need something that lets me breathe underwater. Ill have to swim there. Ill also need a neutral colored body suit, gray preferably, a crossbow, a portable power pack-
Huh? Why would you need that?
I might be able to pick up a GF or two while Im there. I need to access the database.
Ok, think we can do that.
Ill also need two swords. My gun blade doesnt do well with long exposure to water, plus its too noisy for a mission like this.
Yuna nodded and smiled I have what you need. Ill be right back.
Yeah. If this Tidus guy is as good as you say, Ill be glad to have the backup if I need it.
Yuna returned at that moment. This is Masamune. It belonged to Sir Auron. I think he would want you to have it. The other is Caladbolg. Tiduss sword.
Squall nodded and Cid continued with his list to Cid. He made notes of everything and did the best he could to assemble it all. He said it would take a while. Squall walked off to prepare his mind for the mission ahead. He was getting into a mind set when the boy Bahamut appeared before him.
Squall glared at him. And what do you have to say?
Bahamut flipped back his hood. His eyes shone with sadness as he returned Squalls gaze. Promise you will summon me when the time comes.
That all you have to say? Youre unwilling to send me back but all you can do is say summon me?
I never said I was unwilling, I said I would be unable.
Same difference. They both mean the same thing. You wont break a rule in this cosmic game of yours and Im stuck.
Bahamut shook his head. You arent listening, but one day you will understand.. He faded from sight.
Squall shook his head and continued preparing. He came to Cid and found all he required was in front of him. He slipped on the wet suit and placed the rest of the items in a watertight bag. He took one last look through the binoculars and came up with a preliminary plan. Yuna came up to him Squall
Squall gave her an encouraging smile I will come back with him Yuna. Dont worry.
Its not only that. How can we know if youre alright?
Rikku and I can communicate. Ill send her thoughts every now and then to let her know whats happening. No distracting messages alright? He glanced at her.
Rikku snickered. I wont. I promise.
Squall gave the group an encouraging nod and slipped into the water.
Squall came out of the ocean into the night undetected. He swept his gaze around the area looking for a likely hiding spot. That crevice in the rock. He slipped into it. Rikku spoke into his mind. Squall, whats going on?
Just got to the island. Right now Im resting. The swim tired me out a bit. First rule of soldiering, always rest when you have the time. You never know when youll get another chance.
He felt a chuckle in his mind. Which rule is the one about a soldier never skips a meal?
He smiled Thats number two.
After a time he turned his gaze to the surrounding area. He stared straight ahead allowing his eyes to become unfocused, letting his peripheral vision detect any movement. Seeing none, he chose this moment to shed his wetsuit and take some items from his bag. He wore the implements in a manner that would cause the least noise while moving. Checking the area again, he moved patiently ahead. Quistis had drilled these procedures into him while he was still a cadet. Admonishing him every time he broke a rule for the sake of expediency. He silently thanked her for the thoroughness. Her training was probably the only thing that would keep him alive during this.
Squall presently came to the first target he had chosen. He had seen this area with the binoculars and guessed it would give him an excellent view of his first objective. The second floor . He smiled as he remembered Quistis words from a long ago lesson. Rushing in to your target is the worst kind of foolishness. First find a place where you can observe the area undetected. Observe, learn. Plan for every possible contingency you can think of, and a few you havent. This is often what separates a successful operation from a failed one. Squall put his training to good use. There were many guards of course, but they fell into a pattern. Squall silently counted out how long it took one soldier to walk from one end of an area he was walking to the other. There was just enough time if he moved quickly and silently. Luckily there was a pile of rubble next to the emergency exit. Entering would be easy.
The exit would be more difficult however. Never take the same route out that you did in. Squall remembered every possible exit from the Garden. The Quad, the front gate, the training center, the parking lot, emergency exit. The training center is probably my best bet. Its closest to the B1 holding area where theyre probably keeping him. Squall moved as close as he dared to the guard of his entry point and silently began his count. He moved at the opportune time and climbed the pile slowly. He reached the second floor emergency exit and found the door had been blown off at some point. He gave a silent thanks as he had been worried about the noise of opening it. He entered and stared through the hallway and saw nothing. Moving slowly he came to the second floor classroom, turned his body to look inside and saw nothing.
He moved to his old seat and took out the power pack. With any luck, the database still functioned. The information was digital and should last forever. Squall immediately stopped what he was doing when he heard voices. He hid under the desk and listened, hoping to possibly gain some information. The two guards entered the room and began to talk
Hey, why were we sent here anyways? Im a warrior monk, not a security guard.
Ah, quit complaining. Its not that bad.
Yeah, maybe. Whos this guy in charge here anyway?
Lots of rumors. One thing for sure though, this guy is helping the Maesters bring the teachings of Yevon back. Without him, wed probably be under the heathen influence of the Al Bhed.
Yeah. Luckily a lot more people are coming to their senses these days. Never actually did trust that Yuna. Anyway, area is clear. Lets move on.
Ok. Want to make a bet on the next bliztball tournament?
Nah. The last bet I made The voices trailed off and Squall waited for some time after until he was sure they were gone. Rikku he thought.
Squall, could you get in touch a bit more often. I was starting to get worried you know.
Ill try. Just overheard something from some guards. This sorcerer is helping bring back the teachings of Yevon. Whatever they are.
Yevon lied to the people. They would never turn back to it.
Well, according to what I heard a lot of people are returning. Well worry about that later. Contact you soon.
Please, take care of yourself Squall.
Squall inserted the power pack into his personal station. The power in his console flared to life and he entered the proper codes. He hoped the electronic signal that summoned Shiva and Quetzalcoatl still functioned. He wasnt disappointed. He felt the presence of two beings merge with his own. Master! both cried joyfully.
Good to be with you two again. We have another job to do.
We know. I missed you greatly. Shiva replied. Squall chuckled a bit. She had always been possessive of him for some reason. She would junction with others but she was never happy about it.
Believe it or not, I feel the same. Lets get going.
Squall moved out of the room and examined the route to the emergency stairway. Finding nothing, he entered the stairway. Some more of Quistis teaching came to him. Stairs are a tactical nightmare. There is no room to maneuver and they often bend so you lose your line of sight. Always proceed slowly and use your other senses. Learn to listen to your intuition as well. It is often your sub conscious mind trying to tell you what your conscious mind hasnt figured out. If detected your only advantage is superior firepower, so make sure you have a weapon at the ready. He unlimbered the crossbow and loaded it, moving slowly down the stairs. Listening and feeling his way with each step. He soon came to the B1 door. Almost there. Dont get impatient. Take your time.
Squall put his ear to the door and listened for a few minutes. He heard nothing. Opening the door, he was surprised to see a guard to the side who had been rudely awakened. Squall did not hesitate and fired the crossbow into him at point blank range. Moving quickly, he placed his hand tightly around the guards mouth, until he saw his eyes go dark.
Squall was not a casual killer. It was never something he did easily. Standard procedure however was to take down the person who saw you and without hesitation. The moment of surprise when confronted is often to your advantage, and you always made it lethal. Knocking them unconscious was chancy at best. It was impossible to tell if they would awaken if five hours, or five minutes It was best not to take chances. Squall dragged the body to a position it wouldnt easily be discovered, taking the keys he had on him . Luckily the door to the holding area was right in front of him. The person he had just killed was obviously the guard of this area.
Rikkus voice interrupted him Squall, you ok? I just felt a strong emotion come from you.
I just had to kill someone. I dont kill easily. I hate it.
Squall felt a burst of warmth from her. I would think a lot less of you if you didnt. Im sure you had no choice.
Maybe. Talk to you in a few minutes.
He opened the door silently and moved in carefully. There were many torches in the area and it was brighter than the rest of the building. He gave his eyes a few moments to adjust. He saw the holding cells and saw a figure on the pallet in one of them. Obviously asleep, he unlocked the door and gently shook the figure. The person turned over and stared into his eyes. The eyes were not focused. Hyne, hes been tortured. Squall looked him over for a wound assessment. Heavy bruising around the ribs area. Possibly cracked, weak and dehydrated. Quetzalcoatl?
Would you junction to this man? He has need of your strength.
It shall be as you say.
He felt the presence of the GF leave him. Presently the stranger stirred and focused his eyes on Squall. Who are you?
Names Squall. The rest can wait until later. Youre Tidus?
He nodded, and Squall continued. Im here to get you out.
Tidus almost gave a whoop of joy but Squall placed his hand over his mouth. Quiet. There are a lot of people around. Id rather not have them all come at once. I have something for you.. He took Caladbolg out of the scabbard and handed it to Tidus.
Tidus looked at it with undisguised joy. Whered you get this?
Later, can you walk?
To get out of here? Are you kidding?
Do what I say, when I say to do it and I promise we have a good chance of getting out of here.
Tidus nodded eagerly, and groaned as he stood up My mind feels strange.
Youre junctioned to something called a GF. Ill explain
all about it later. Suffice it to say it gives you strength for now. It
wont last forever. We have to hurry. He took a moment to send
his thoughts out to Rikku.
Hes got him! cried Rikku
Yuna bowed her head and unashamedly shed tears of joy.
Tidus and Squall had taken refuge in the secret area of the training center. Squall had noted that the activity had taken its toll and Tidus needed food, water, and rest. He closed his eyes and sent out a thought. Rikku, were going to be delayed a little while.
Whats going on?
Hes in pretty bad shape. Dehydrated, half starved, and probably a couple of broken ribs. Need to let him regain some strength.
What did that bastard do to him?
Well worry about that later. Does he know how to swim or will you need to send a life raft?
Squall felt a laugh. Believe me, swimming will be the least of your problems. Just get him in the water and try to keep up.
Ill take your word for it.
Just take care of yourselves.
Squall opened his eyes and found Tidus glancing at him quizzically. Looked like you were talking with someone.
Squall, no offense, but are you one of those people who hear voices?
No, Ill explain
I know, I know. Later. Tidus chuckled and finished off the last of the ration bars.
Squall rose. Let me take a look at those injuries.
Tidus stood up and winced. Squall examined the rib area Heavy bruising and swelling, definitely cracked, Ive got to risk a Curaga. Just hope no one is around adept at detecting magic. Squall closed his eyes and cast the spell.
Hey, that was a Curaga spell.
Whered you learn how to cast that? Who are you and dont tell me later.
Im a SeeD from Balamb Garden.
Whats that? Never mind. I get the feeling its a long story. Ill take the later.
Squall nodded, and applied a wrap around Tidus rib area. That should help a little. Take it easy though. Curaga wont completely heal it. Youre going to be sore for quite a while.
I know. I feel a lot better. Thanks.
Squall winced a little as he felt a pressure release in his mind. Thats a GF un-junctioning. Which? His question was answered quickly as the boy Bahamut coalesced.
Bahamut. What are you doing?
What must be done. We must run. He sensed your spell. He comes!
Tidus appeared confused. Bahamut? What are
Bahamut cried Enough! We have no time! Flee and now! He began to run and the other two quickly followed. Squall couldnt help but notice some definite differences in the GF. Always when he appeared before, there was an indistinct quality, as if he wasnt completely there. That quality was gone and he was fully in the flesh with them. The group raced out of the secret area, into the training center. Five guards that were patrolling area were surprised as they came out. Tidus and Squall came to the same decision immediately and drove into them, swords swinging. The guards were cut down quickly and they continued their race to the emergency exit of the area.
Upon reaching it, Squall jostled with the manual lock. It was rusted shut. He immediately threw his full strength against it and was rewarded with a groan as it started to turn. He almost had it completely turned when he heard a voice.
Tidus, are you rejecting my hospitality? I had so much fun planned for the two of us. As a good host, Im afraid in good conscience I cant let you leave yet.
The three slowly turned around. Squalls worst fears were confirmed as he stared at the figure in front of him. Draped in dark robes with a hood obscuring his facial features, he reeked of power and menace. And your companions.. He turned to face Squall and he heard the shock in his voice YOU!
Squall had no idea how this person recognized him. He could only surmise that whatever was behind this Sorcerer was feeding him information.
Long have I dreamed of this day! I assure you that what I have planned for Tidus is but a shadow of what you will experience
Tidus stepped to the forefront, and prepared his stance for battle. Blah, blah, blah we know, there is no escape for us, and we should fall down and tremble before your power. Try us, you wont find it that easy!
The Sorcerer extended his arms and prepared to cast a spell. A small hooded boy stepped in front of Tidus. You will have to fight me as well.
The Sorcerer laughed. Oh! This is just too good! The Lion of Balamb and the vanquisher of Sin. Protected by a boy!
Bahamut smiled and cast back his hood Look not with your eyes. Know me you do. His features blurred and enlarged. Quickly taking the form of a massive dragon.
The dark figure stepped back for a moment You. You know there is only one possible outcome to this battle.
Bahamut gave no reply instead unleashing a massive magical attack. The Sorcerer cast protective spells around himself and was preparing an attack of his own. Squall brandished Masamune and took a step towards the conflict. Squall no! You must run! Bahamuts voice echoed in his mind.
Im not letting you fight him alone!
You must! I dont know what happens if I die. I do know what happens if you do! This is not the time! If you fight him now you will not survive! RUN!
Shivas voice added to Bahamuts Will you dishonor his sacrifice? You will run!
Squall swore and turned to Tidus. Tidus nodded, and the two did perhaps the hardest thing in their lives. They ran.
The two were on a dead sprint towards the beach. Cutting down anyone who got in their way. Squall turned his thoughts inward. Shiva, what the hell is happening?!
He became flesh. Part of our essences is always in the Interval. It is why we cannot be truly killed. He needed to be free, unfettered. So he manifested himself completely in your world. It gave him the additional strength to hold the sorcerer at bay to give you the time needed.
Can he win?
A long pause. No. He knew what was to happen. He chose it freely. He knew what the death of Tidus and yourself would mean.
The two reached the beach. Squall quickly put on his wetsuit and breathing apparatus. He looked at Tidus. Were going to have to swim a long way. Theyre going to have boats out patrolling. Were going to have to stay underwater for long periods. Well share the air from the tank.
Dont worry about that. I can hold my breath for a long time. Tidus dove into the water. Squall followed suit and they began swimming for their lives.
They had been swimming for about an hour and Squall couldnt help but be amazed. This guy must have gills or something. Only once in the past hour had he gone up for air. Squall couldnt help but notice that Tiduss strength was fading fast however. He needed a lot more rest and healing than what he had gotten to this point . With this thought, Squall suddenly felt his eyes close. He entered a dream state and looked around to find himself in the Dimensional interval. Bahamut stood before him.
Bahamut, are you ok?
No, what are you experiencing is what you might call my dying echo. I couldnt leave without saying goodbye. Do you remember when we first met?
Yes. You said you feared my using your power.
I lied. I knew this was to happen from the day you were born. I feared my death. When youve lived as long as I have, it is difficult to let go.
Bahamut, you cant die!
All things die Squall. It is my time. Im leaving the way I always wanted. I die as a warrior. Goodbye, beloved master. Always remember me.
Squall opened his eyes and stared into the face of an ashen faced Tidus who was shaking him. He nodded sadly to him, indicating he was alright. They continued their swim.
Tidus was almost delirious with exhaustion and pain by the time they reached the ship. Squall helped him up onto the raising platform and he promptly collapsed, breathing heavily. The platform rose, and Tidus stood up, swaying on unsteady legs. The platform reached its height and he took a step forward. His eyes would not focus and he could only make out blurs. He could barely make out the shape that moved towards him swiftly. He thought about avoiding, but didnt have strength. The shape slammed into him, he felt arms encircling, squeezing. He felt a sharp pain which allowed his eyes to focus briefly.
Youre here! Youre real! My God, youre real!
Tidus looked down at the form of the Summoner he loved. Her arms were squeezing his ribs, but somehow he knew he could bear a little more pain.
Squall was standing alone on the foredeck. Tidus had collapsed from exhaustion and was still sleeping in the forward cabin. All of his old companions were keeping silent vigil over him. He was happy for Tidus and Yuna but there was a great sadness about him as well. A constant companion, no, a friend had died.
He turned to see Rikku beside him. Hi.
Tidus is awake. He told us about Bahamut. Im sorry. He was a friend to us too. Want to talk about it?
Squall leaned his hands on the rail and stared off into the distance. He knew what was going to happen. He tried to tell me, but I wouldnt listen. I was so stuck in myself, I didnt hear. I The emotions of the past finally caught up to him. He felt the first sobs escape. Rikku placed her hand on his shoulder and he fell into her arms. The Lion did something that he hadnt done since he was a child. He wept.
The group, minus Rikku, were busy hearing what Tidus was saying about his ordeal of the past year. He described the tortures and mind games in vivid detail.
Lulu finally said We need to learn more about this Sorcerer. He has to come from somewhere.
Tidus sighed. You know a lot more than you might think.