I can hear her, in my head, an insistent voice, begging for freedom.
It has been too long, the strain is getting to her. Regardless of what she has become, what she was was human, and she has retained what her human self held most dear, but, in the end, has become her greatest burden. Her memories of life.
In the beginning she had not fathomed what it had meant to become what she was, her transformation, a final 'gift' to her from an old friend, a gift turned into a curse. To remember what she had been, yet to be trapped within our minds, called when needed, dismissed when not.
She had not grasped what fate had had in store for here, even after the Teacher had told her, she still had not understood what would be required of her, the promises she would be bound to, the rules she would be slave to, and the final irony, fate's cruel joke, it's parting shot, of what she would become when it was all over.
We do not envy her, power is hers, more than even the sorceresses can dream of, but at a terrible price.
She knew this would happen, was informed by the Teacher, a being now gone, what was happening to her, and she accepted her fate, eventually. He knew, from the beginning, what it would mean for her, yet still he did not put faith in her abilities to overcome the final choice, the final confrontation. We believed in her, he did not, history will prove one of us right. It may be us.
It may yet be him.
What value can we put on immortal life? People have hunted for it for millennia, driven to find it by the fear of death.
What value can she now put on mortal life?
I hear her still, we all do, from time to time, Rinoa most of all. Rinoa alone must bear the burden of hearing the screams, the rants, the tirades against a prison not chosen by her, but formed by the forces that would oppose her.
She is going slowly mad in that prison, Rinoa may be the only one who hears her, and we know what she can hear, the raw emotion which spills out from the prison. Her pain, her longing for life, all of it.
They deserve to know her story, she gave up life as a human by necessity, but was imprisoned by force.
Our children, my children, must know of the sacrifice that she made to save us all from a force that would have destroyed us without a second glace, or a glimmer of pity or sympathy.
The human trapped in a GF's world, in our minds, in our thoughts, should not be forgotten,
This is her story.
Chapter 2: Death
The strange thing was, it didn't hurt.
Quistis knew this was a result of shock, but she still marvelled at the capacity of the human body to negate those things which it couldn't handle.
Great, she thought, here I am bleeding my guts out in some snowfield in Trabia and I'm pondering the physical processes of a dying person.
She could still feel it though; nothing her friends could do could help her, except maybe to ease the pain.
They had homed in on the rescue beacon 1 hours ago, and got here in the Ragnarok from Balamb 10 minutes ago, 1 hour 9 minutes too late to do anything to save her. The wound Seifer had made was far too deep, and help was too far away to anything about it. She knew she was dying, and she accepted it with a sense of calm that would probably have annoyed Seifer had he known.
That bastard, why did he have to kill me? He could have just knocked me out and left me in the base after they left.
Maybe he wanted no witnesses? She didn't know, all she remembered about her last meeting with him was him smiling and saying something as he plunged the Hyperion into her abdomen, carving her stomach open, and then throwing her out of the airship into the Trabian snowfields to die.
She could hear Selphie now, begging her to focus, to stay with them, to live. But she knew, and so did Rinoa, maybe that was why she was holding back? Maybe. Rinoa's sorceress powers probably let her know exactly what was going to happen, and there was not a damn thing she could do about it.
They had got there far too late to be of any real help, Rinoa knew as soon as they saw the blood, the gaping hole where Quistis' lower chest should have been, and her pale skin, they had not been fast enough. They should have been faster, they should not have waited for Irvine to arrive, they should not have... should not have...
Enough! Rinoa thought to herself she’s dying now, the least you can do is make her comfortable.
'Rinoa, can't you do something!' Selphie shouted at her friend, both near tears.
'I'm sorry, the wounds are too deep, my powers can only heal flesh, they can't put it back in.'
'Maybe we can get her back to the T-Garden, they aren't too far from her.' Said Zell, panicking.
'How long? 2 hours on the Ragnarok, Quisty doesn't have that time to spare!'
'Well there must be something we can do!'
They all looked round, momentarily confused as to who said that, and then even more surprised at seeing it was Squall.
'We can't just leave her to die! There has to be something we can do to save her for Hyne's sake!'
Suddenly Irvine spoke up, a hard and desperate edge to his voice: 'No, there isn't, Qusity is dying and there's not a damn thing we can do about it.'
I can hear them, they’re talking about me, like I'm not here, and indeed in a few minutes I won't be. The pain is making it's presence felt now, like someone's poked a red hot blade into my chest and wiggled it around, which of course, someone has. Damn.
I have to say something, to let them know I'm not dead yet, I want to ask about Seifer, did he get away? Do they even know that he did this to me? Damn Cid, damn that man for sending me on this mission in the first place, 'easy in, easy out' my ass. I try to speak, to explain what has happened to me, but all that comes out is
'Quistis!' shouted Selphie 'What is it?! What about Seifer!?'
I try to tell them, but all that comes out is tears, it hurts so much now, I can see it, something, in the distance, it's faint but it's getting closer. What the hell, why fight it? Rinoa knows, she can see what's happening, I imagine she can see the figure as well, it's close now. Is this death? I never got the chance to do so many things, to have a proper life, to really live.
'Goodbye...Guys, it's...been fun'
'NO!' I don't know who that was, it didn't sound like any of them, it almost sounded like...
They watched, powerless to stop it, as Quistis' blood continued to flow through the gaping wound in her stomach.
Rinoa forces herself to looks away from the approaching figure, she knew what it was, and why it had come. She forced herself to look instead at Quistis, and her wound.
That shae, those sharp edges, they look like Gunblade wounds, but only Garden students have ever taken the time, or have the skill, to learn how to use the weapon, and that means either there's another Gunblade user out there with the strength to cut through bone like butter, or it's...
'Seifer.' Rinoa whispered to herself, unaware that she had spoken aloud.
'What was that Rinoa? I didn't quite catch that.' Asked Squall.
'Nothing.' Replied the sorceress quietly. 'It's nothing.'
If it's him, Hyne help me Seifer, previous friendship or no, I will hunt you down.
But for now all that mattered was seeing her friend off, in as calm a way as possible. The figure was close now, and Rinoa steeled herself to look across at it. She saw exactly what she was expecting, a last desperate chance, she tried to talk to it.
No! Quistis I'm sorry! Please don't take her!
A voice in her head, apologetic, resigned even, but dedicated to it's duty.
'I must, I apologise, sorceress.'
And death reached its hand out for Quistis.
Chapter 3: Successor
Quistis, please pay attention.
Nope, guess again.
Wrong again, here's a clue.
An image of a cave, icicles, a pale blue woman she recognised smiling at her softly from the center of a wall of ice.
Yes Quistis, it's me... You're dying you know.
I can stop it, I can help you. You've always protected me, accepted me in your mind, and I want to repay the favour.
Shiva, what are you...
Please be quiet and listen, I don't have much time left, they are coming for me, for all of us, and I do not want to be here when they do. I cannot defeat them, but you might be able to.
Whos 'they'? You're not making sense.
None that you understand, but you will, soon enough. I am leaving here, but I am going to save your life before I do, my final gift to you.. You can stand against them where I will not.
There's no time for talk! Live, Quistis, remember me to my people.
Who... are... you?
My name was Celes Chere, General of the armies of Vector, Liberator of the World of Ruin, and, most recently, Guardian Force of Ice.
Sorry, doesn't ring any bells.
Well, the world has changed somewhat in the hundred thousand-odd years since I was human. I'm tired of living in other people's heads. You are a worthy succesor to me. Accept this gift, live.
What? Me, Guardian of Ice? But that would mean I would be a...
Yes. Unfortunately you will not remember this conversation when you awaken, to know everything all at once would destroy your mind. A... person... will seek you out, he will help you. Listen to him, he helps people like us, and will guide you in the times ahead.
I... accept your gift. But I still don't know exactly what you're talking about.
You will, now GET UP!!
So she did.
Chapter 4: Rebirth
The trip back from Trabia had been uneventful, nobody really trying to talk to anyone else, no-one really wanted to, all trying to absorb the one thing they had learned from this trip. Rinoa most of all was trying to make sense of the figure she had seen, the spectre of death, and it's strange reaction when it had touched Quistis.
Why did it leave? It just vanished, did I scare it off? Me, scare away death? Don't be ridiculous girl... But nothing's changed, Quistis is still dead, thought Rinoa, sitting at the back of the main storage room.
Or at least I think so...
All of them were dealing with it in different ways, from trying to beat up the Ragnarok's machinery in Zell's case, to staring moodily and silently at the walls in Squall's. Rinoa was dealing with it in a different way however, and knew the one thing that the others did not.
She isn't gone, but why? Rinoa questioned herself. She died, no-one can survive with a wound like that, we have her body on the damned ship, so why the hell does it feel like she's still here! I can feel her presence, it's weak, but it's here.
She intended to take the matter up with Matron at the earliest opportunity, she too had been a sorceress, and regardless of what Edea told the world, sorceress powers never truly went away, they were always with you.
Like scars. Rinoa thought. Listen to me, I'm turning into Squall, next I'll be saying 'whatever' and dressing in black. This served to cheer her up slightly.
What the hell, better go see what Squall's thinking. The last thing she wanted was for him to withdraw into that damned shell of his, the blasted thing was harder than Adamantine when he went inside it. Rinoa walked off to the bridge, thinking to herslef about this new development, and Quistis' last words.
What does Seifer have to do with this? What was the mission Quistis was sent on? And why the hell did Cid send her alone? Did he not trust anyone else to get the job done? Or did he not trust any of us to keep it secret?
But that was ridiculous, Cid loved them like his own children, indeed had been the closest thing to a father most of them had ever known, even in Rinoa's case, Cid filling the role that Caraway had not.
Or did Cid know what Quistis wouldn't be coming back? What mission could possibly be important enough that losing one of his best instructors, not to mention one of his only children, would be an acceptable consequence?
When we get back to Garden, we're going to have a very long talk with Cid.
And with that last thought Rinoa walked off to the bridge to join the others on the final approach to Balamb.
Quistis sat up. And immediately sat down again, slightly wiser and hurting more.
Damn, my head hurts.
She looked about her, and saw immediately that she was on the Ragnarok.
What happened? I remember getting to the base, then Seifer, then...
'Oh, crap' She immediately clapped her hand over her mouth, hoping that no-one had heard her. She moved her hand down to her midriff, feeling slowly for something that should not have been there if her memories of blood and pain were right. Surprisingly enough, everything was there, bone, muscle, skin, etc, where before she had awoken there was only a gaping hole spilling blood into the snow.
Seifer! That bastard! Do the others know? Do they even know if I'm still alive? I shouldn't be, yet here I am...
Concentrating on her most recent memories, she could only distinguish shouts, someone crying, then... nothing, a sense of coldness, resignation, then waking up here, in the Ragnorak's airlock.
Why the hell did they have to put me in the airlock? The one place farthest from the bridge? Oh well, at least they didn't dump me into the ocean.
Attempting to stand, she quickly found out that even though she was alive, her limbs did not think so yet. Hanging onto the walls, and stumbling every few paces, she slowly made her way to where she knew everyone would be, especially if they were heading back to the Garden.
Garden, home, rest. She thought, and more importantly, painkillers. The wound in her stomach seemed to have only been healed partway, instead of being a hole in her chest, it was now merely a very deep slash/bullet wound. Damn the man who invented Gunblades! Talk about overkill.
Slowly, barely on her feet most of the way, abdomen on fire, she made her way out of the airlock, and towards the bridge.
'Did anyone else hear that?'
'Sorry Irvy, hear what?' Selphie remarked, looking across from the viewscreen at the subdued cowboy.
'I thought for a minute I could, well, hear something.' he replied.
'Ain't no-one on this ship cept for us and...' Remarked Zell, stoping short at the end. No-one said anything for a few seconds, then;
'...Wait' Said Squall, 'I think I hear someone too, footsteps?'
'Yeah!' Said Irvine.
Squall spoke in a quick voice, ready for trouble; 'Zell, Irvine, get on either side of the door, Rinoa, you stay where you are, and Selphe?'
'Yeah?' She asked.
'Keep piloting this thing and try not to get hit by any ricochets.'
'Great, I'll just sit here and get shot at then...' She grubled, although she did sink lower in her seat. Thank Laguna for installing bullet-proof seating. She thought to herself.
Rinoa heard it then, sensed it, a lone figure, walking towards the bridge, badly by the sounds of it. She reached out with her abilities, questing with her thoughts towards the figure walking through the ship, and, in a moment, touched their mind, and saw...
Quistis! No! Thats not possible! No-one could survive a wound like that, not even a Blue Mage!
'Yeah Rinoa?' Zell replied.
'Who else did you say is on this ship besides us?'
'I thought no-one, there's only supposed to be us 5 and...' He got it then. 'NO WAY!'
'What!?' exclaimed everyone else at once.
'Guys,' said Rinoa; 'I don't think the weapons will be necessary.'
It's her! I know it is! I can feel her mind! But there's something different about it, it's colder, almost like....
And then the bridge door opened, and Qusitis staggered in clutching her chest.
'...Help...' she whispered, and collapsed onto the floor.
Chapter 6: Arrival
It was a normal field, there was nothing special about the crops growing on it, the farmer, it has to be said, was a vehement Esthar-hater, and had small magical talent, which would explain why he had a sudden urge to run away from his land at great speed (which would extend his life by several minutes), but apart from that, he was a very normal human. The area was on no lines of magical force, Doomtrain had never appeared, smashed something, then vanished again there, the Lunar Cry monsters did not feel compelled to land there.
So it was even more surprising when a huge ball of energy appeared, devastated the farmers crop's, incinerated the farmer's livestock, and left as suddenly as it appeared, with one important difference.
It had left behind a person.
He was of average build, average height, and just about every aspect of him was average, which made him very hard to look at directly, take his eyes, it was as if someone had taken all the colours an eye could possibly be, and then mixed them all together, then divided them by themselves into something not quite... there, which made your eyes water when you looked at them. His hair, skin, and indeed anything on his person which could be various colours, was the same way.
He looked around, seeing this new world he had been summoned to for the first time, seeing farther than most high-powered satellites could, and did not like what he saw.
'GF's again. Curses.'
Meanwhile the unfortunate farmer who had got his livelihood char-grilled by the energy ball had run off to the nearest town hall, gotten some of his buddies, and came back, with shotguns.
The Teacher looked around himself, as if searching for something, but with his mindm and not his eyes, which were closed, which could explain why he failed to see the mob with guns that had formed a few meters away.
The farmer who had his animals deep-fried had been elected leader, by the common opinion that he could be the one to ask the man who and what he was, preferably while the others waited behind the nearest thick stone wall.
'Who the hell are you?' Asked the farmer in question, wondering why in Hyne's name the stranger was so hard to focus on.
The Teacher looked down at the shotgun the man was holding, giving the farmer the worst case of shakes he had had in his life and replied; 'Give me your weapon'
'You can have it,' The farmer said, feeling he had to assert himself against this possible thief, and cocking the shotgun, 'when you pry it from my lifeless fingers.' Making the last mistake of his uneventful life.
'Very well, your conditions are acceptable.'
To the farmers watching from the other side of the wall, the next few events happened very fast. There was a blinding flash of light, and a crack like thunder, at the end of which the strange man was standing a few meters forward of where he had been, with a drawn sword, and the unfortunate leader's head spinning on the ground next to his body, which crumpled to the floor. Then the man was standing right behind them. As one man, they all dropped their shotguns, pitchforks, and, in one poor mans case, sharpened stake.
'You are now in command of this group of people?'
Seeing he would get no help from his comrades, the farmer who had been singled out for leadership spoke up.
'Y...y...yes, w...w...what are y...'
'That matters not, I seek a place called;' He paused for a moment, if searching his memory for information he could not possibly have. 'Ragnarok.'
'Only Ragnarok 'round here's the big flying ship up at Garden'. Replied the terrified farmer.
'And where is this 'Garden?'' Asked the man
It took the farmer a few nervous and stammering minutes to convince the man that if he went east, he could not miss it, what with it 'being bloody huge' and all.
'Thank you, I will leave now, do not attempt to follow me.' (Unlikely, as the decapitated farmer was still laying a few inches from where he was standing.) And he walked off.
A nervous farmer approached their new 'leader'. 'Erm, Bert, what the hell was that?'
'I don't know.' Replied Bert, watching the man walk away. 'But you get Balamb on the phone right now and tell them to get ready for trouble.
Meanwhile, the man called the Teacher walked towards the place he had been directed to. He hoped that in his last conversation with her, Celes had not been overestimating her successor. He concentrated, and, sensing the person he had been charged to help, sent his thoughts out to her.
Chapter 6: Confrontation
'What the hell were you THINKING!' Screamed Rinoa at Cid. Immediately after getting back from Trabia, she and Squall had requested an immediate meeting with the headteacher of Balamb Garden. Rinoa had only told him about Qusitis' close encounter with death (literally, it seemed) after she had advanced in to Cid's room looking as if she was going to slice his head off there and then, and he seemed very relieved, and, much to the astonishment of the rest of the gang, surprised, that Quistis was alive at all.
'You sent her out there without cover, without anyone to back her up, against an unknown force, without telling anyone, and you say you can explain! You'd better start talking!'
Nobody was more surprised than Cid with Rinoa's outburst, usually so polite, she was nearly forcing him back into the wall of his office with the sheer force of her words.
Rinoa my dear, if only you understood. Cid thought to himself.
'I can explain,' he repeated himself.
'I damn well hope so.' Replied Irvine from his position at the edge of the room, all of them were keeping their distance, doubtless trying to avoid being struck by Rinoa'a wrath.
'Quisits is sitting in the infirmary right now with the biggest damn wound I've ever seen in her stomach and you sit here and act like this is a fight between two five year-old about who gets to use the family T-Board!' Shouted the young sorceress.
'Rinoa, I can explain, I'm sorry about Quistis, it was necessary for...' Oops, Cid thought immediately.
'It... Was... Necessary!' Rinoa was nearly screaming now.
'I too would be interested in hearing your explantion for this dear.'
Everyone looked round to see who had spoken, with the exception of Irvine, who had been wondering when the others would notice her.
Edea had walked in during Rinoa's episode, and had been looking at Cid for the last 5 minutes, Cid, who had been understandably preocupied with Rinoa, felt his heart sink a little more. What am I going to tell everyone? They deserve to know, but they can't!
'I would be interested in knowing, dear, why you sent out one of our only children to die, without informing the rest of us why you were doing it.'
The others all looked at Edea with something like amazement, in all the time since the Sorceress War ended, they hadn't heard her speak to Cid in this tone of voice before, it could have cut through diamond. Only Cid saw her silently mouth the words 'I know' at him, although immediately after she did this he lip-read the words 'But I'm still pissed' at him, strange, that was the strongest word she'd ever used in their presence, silently or not.
'Dears,' She said, addressing the rest of the gang, 'I will deal with my husband, and will inform you when he has told me what was going through his mind when he sent Qusitis to Trabia.'
'But...' began Rinoa, then she heard Edea's voice in her mind.
Trust me child, I will get more out of him with whispers than you could get out of him with chainsaws and a bucket of acid. It took all of Rinoa's self control not to smile at this last statement.
'OK then, we'll be waiting for you Matron.' Said Rinoa
'But...' began Zell, who was as surprised as any at this sudden turn of events.
'You heard her guys, lets go.'
The look that Cid got from Rinoa as she left the door was enough to turn his heart to liquid. One day you will know my girl, I'm only sorry it was Quistis who had to suffer, I would have chosen differently if I could.
Squall, being the last one to leave, shut the door behind them, leaving Cid at the tender and unpredictable mercies of his wife.
'Now then dear, shall we discuss why it is that you sent my daughter out to Trabia to die alone in the cold? I understand why you accepted the mission to destroy the base...' How the hell did she find out about that!? Thought Cid to himself. The mission objective documents were kept in the safe! 'But what I do not understand is why you sent Quistis alone, when you knew that she would not be coming back. Sorceress Hero or no, one woman cannot fight an army, especially not one allied with them.'
Cid slowly looked up at his wife, marvelling that no matter how long he knew her, there would always remain parts of her that he would not be able to understand. After a long, heavy pause, he asked;
'What do you want to know?'
Chapter 7: Recovery
Quistis, you have to wake up now.
No time for introductions. You and I shall meet soon, but first you must wake up. Now.
Quistis woke up. Disinfectant, bandages, soft bed. She thought to herself. Garden Infirmary.
'Well good morning instructor! And how are we feeling today!'
Dr Kadowski, bless you, you could make a nuclear winter seem cheery. She tried to sit up and speak, the first action succeeding with only a minor pain in her sides, but the second being less successful, all the sound emerging from her lips being;
'Still not up to talking eh? Well, that's to be expected, you did have your guts ripped open after all.' the doctor quipped.
Not to subtle though. Quistis thought to herself, and tried to suppress a laugh, making her sides feel as if they were trapped in a vice. 'I wouldn't try to do anything much other than nod at the minute Quistis, it's amazing you're alive at all you know.' Said the doctor from her vantage point above Quistis. I nearly wasn't, she thought, and sighed to herself. Oh well, if I'm going to be stuck here for a while, then I might as well make the effort.
'What...' she began to say, before being cut off by the doctor.
'Happened? Squall and the other had to carry you off the ship, you couldn't walk at all. They brought you here immediately, you scared the hell out of the staff and students, we didn't know whether you were going to make it for the first few days. Days?! Thought Quistis, How long have I been asleep? 'and before you ask dear,' continued the doctor, seeing the look on Quistis' face, 'you've been unconscious for about... ah yes, two weeks.'
'Two?..' Managed Quistis weakly.
'Yes,' replied the doctor, 'and I must say, I'm amazed with your progress, I don't think anyone's ever survived a wound that deep without permanent damage before.' Then Quistis' memory caught up with her brain.
'Sorry Quistis? What about Cid?' asked the doctor, looking over at Quistis'. Oops! I didn't mean to say that... Thought Quistis. But I thought I didn't!
'Now that you mention it, Cid did ask me to tell him when you felt ready for visitors, no-one has been allowed in except Squall, Rinoa and the others. Although many of your well-wishers have left gifts. Quistis could see them as well. Probably from the Trepes. She thought to herself.
'Yes, I thought so to.' Replied the doctor, then paused, and looked over at Quistis, as if puzzled.
It happened again! What in Hyne's name...
A memory surfaced in her head suddenly. A woman. The time between her facing death itself, Himself! She thought to herself with a suppressed chuckle, Now isn't that a turn-up for the records! in Trabia, and waking up aboard the Ragnarok, alive, against all probability, and, it seemed, all laws of nature.
A cave, cold, something about being someone's successor, someone called... Celes?
All of a sudden a blinding pain in her head forced her to lay back down on the bed.
What happened? Who was I talking to? What did I agree to?
'Well, if you're feeling up to it, I think there are some people outside who are going to want to see you.' Said Kadowski, going across to the doors, and, smiling, opening them.
'Quisty!!!' Screamed Selphie with joy, and Quistis noticed, relief, as she nearly fell into the infirmary, closely followed by Irvine, Zell, Squall and Rinoa.
It was all Quistis could do to smile back without bursting into tears. You have no idea how glad I am to see you all.
'How glad you are!' Said Zell, 'We didn't know whether we were gonna see you ag... Ow! You just trod on my foot!'
'I did not.' Said Squall, straight-faced, but obviously hiding a smile. The only person who seemed to be hanging back however, was Rinoa. What's wrong? Quistis thought to herself, then felt it. She immediately put on a puzzled face.
'Nothing.' replied Rinoa, then she paused. 'Wait a min...' She began to say, but was stopped by the look on Quistis' face.
I did it again! She thought to herself, And Rinoa heard me, I know she did! Telepathy maybe? But how? The only people who can communicate through telepathy are sorceresses, and I'm sure not one of those. She should know, Odine and the staff of O-lab had conducted thorough scans and physical exams of all the team after they came back from Time Compression.
I could have sworn... for a second there... I heard her in my head. Thought Rinoa to herself.. She put it down to relief on her part. She must have seen me hanging back from the others. That must be it. She would hav been surprised at how wrong she was.
Already Quistis' mind was starting to work on this new problem, and how to deal with it. Maybe I'm a sorceress? But the only sorceress existing at this time is Rinoa, and she sure as hell isn't dying. Then a thought struck her; The adrenaline! Of course! Enhanced magical abilities are well documented among those who have been exposed to a massive injection of the stuff into their system. That has to be it.
At the time she had no idea how wrong she was.
Chapter 8: Appearance
It was a perfectly ordinary wood. At least 5 miles away from any towns, villages or farms that could observe their arrval. There were no people around today, it was not hunting season. They had chosen the spot very carefully.
Why am I doing this? Thought Seifer to himself as he stood, waiting for them to arrive. Am I doing the right thing? Killing the instructor was necessary, He felt a sharp pang in his stomach, however, as he remembered the way in which she had 'disposed' of her. But this... what if they're lying, what if there is no 'them' and no army.
He had been standing in the clearing for several hours waiting for them to arrive. His employers, Admit it to yourself Seifer, masters, had told him to be here at the exact time, to awaut the arrival of some people he would be guiding, though they had not told him where he would be guiding 'them' to. After 5 hours of waiting he had still not heard anything. It would take a lot to spook Seifer Almasy, and if that was their intention, he thought to himself, then this isn't good enough to do it. No sooner did he think this then they, or rather it, arrived.
It was barely noticable at first, a small dot of light, hovering about chest-height off the ground in front of him. The dot soon started to grow vertically, into a narrow strip of light, red light, that grew to about man-height. Impressive, he thought, I thought they stopped using the Warp spell after the interference from space started up. Obviously, reasoned Seifer, since it had stopped due to the destruction of Adel's tomb, people were starting to make use of this spell again.
But something doesn't look right, that thing in the center, it almost looks like... Then the line opened.
A series of bulges became visible in the center of the line, then long sharp claws emerged from them, and the line was slowly forced open, and something stepped out, and the view Seifer saw looking past it into the hole was enough to give him nightmares for the rest of his life. He managed to drag his eyes away from the hole in space, but that only forced him to focus on the thing that came out of it, and that was not an improvement.
It had the rough shape of a man, but it was definately not human. Or alive. Nothing living thought, Seifer to himself, looks like that.
The thing had no skin, muscle and flesh showed where it shouldn't, it's hands ended at the second knuckle, where the flesh had been stripped away and the finger-bones had been sharpened to razor-sharp serrated blades. It's feet were bent in on itself, sharpened toenails scraping the ground where it stood. It's internal organs were visible through it's shattered chest, and Seifer swore he could see the heart beating under the bloody ribcage. The worst thing about it however, had to be the thing's head. The back of it's head seemed to have been blown out at some point in it's life (Death? Wondered Seifer) to reveal the mass of the skull and brain inside. It had no ears. The face had the only piece of skin left on the thing, stretched over it's features like it had been stolen from someone else and nailed into the creatures skull by force to give people something familiar to look at. If this was their intention, it had definately not worked.
Throughout this visual inspection, Seifer had to concentrate completely on describing the thing, to avoid breaking down and screaming in terror.
Hyne, look at it's eyes! He was, and was unable to look away. Where normal, living humans, and even monsters, had an iris and white part, this thing's eyes were a solid black, broken up only by a single point of red light in the center where it's pupils should have been.
A small part of Seifer's brain was screaming at him to GET OUT of that forest, but the rational part of his brain was telling him that he would never make it in time before the thing would catch him, he knew that it could move faster than him, and that it would show him no mercy, guide or no.. He tried to address it, as he had been told to do. All that came out however was a high-pitched whimper.
Then it spoke, it's voice sounded like someone had taken the vocal cords of several different humans; man, woman, child and adult, and crammed them all down it's throat, the effect sounding like a choir being burned alive inside a church whilst trying to hold a conversation with someone else outside at the same time (Seifer could swear he could hear faint screams when the thing opened it's mouth.). Worse still, not all of the voices were speaking at exactly the right time.
'We are here?' It said, or they said.
'Do not speak.' Seifer stopped trying to.
'We were informed. You are the human who will be our guide?' It was all Seifer could do to nod his head in agreement.
'I see your heart. There is much anger and rage in you.' Nod.
'You will obey me now, and only me. The humans you have been recieving orders from no longer matter. Do you understand me?' Nod.
'My appearance. It frightens you.' Nod nod nod.
The thing leaned closer to him, Seifer could see the blood dripping from it's hands.
Chapter 9: Realisation
Why is it always so hot in here? Thought Quistis to herself as she got ready to see the class out. Oh well, one more announcement to make...
'Oh, and class?' Said Instructor Trepe. 'Don't forget that the graduation ball for everyone who passed their practical exam is on this weekend. Yes, I know not all of you passed, but I'm sure you're fellow classmates would want you to turn up.'
The class filed out of her classroom in a chaotic mess of pushing and shoving, Quistis had learned by now not to bother trying to regulate it, it only made it worse.
Well, thats another year taken care of. She thought to herself with relief. So now what? The answer was obvious, get ready for the party! Cid had been easy on her the last few months she knew, delegating much of her responsibility onto Nida (Piloting Instructor Nida! Quistis thought to herself, who'd have ever guessed he was so good at ordering people around!) and Xu, who, Quistis knew for a fact, was enjoying every minute of it. She must live for pressure.
As she waked out she was immediately confronted by an excited Selphie Tilmitt-soon-to-be-Kinneas. Irvine had told Quistis while she was in the infirmary that he was going to propose at the ball, he couldn't have done a better job at cheering her up. She also was blindingly happy about the graduation ball. Since taking over most of the official Garden events, she had dedicated herself to making sure everyone had the most fun possible from the most boring events imaginable.
Thank Hyne she isn't organising the staff meetings, she'd have us all wearing funny hats, she thought to herself with a smile, with fireworks going off outside.
'Heeeey Quisty!' Shouted the excitable party-planner. 'How about helping me organise the graduation ball this weekend, most of them are your students.'
Smiling Quistis replied: 'No thanks Selphie, I have too much paperwork to finish, you know, end-of-year reports and all that.'
The mention of Cid still gave her chills. They had both had a very long talk when she had been well enough to walk around, and she had insisted in seeing him while she was still bandaged up, to remind him. He had apologised profusely and swore he did not know that the group had sent her to the Trabian base. He had nearly broken down when she had told him what had happened, and promised to her that he would never accept work from the group, an environmentalist fringe group, again. She had accepted his apology instantly, but there was still something he was hiding from her, she could feel it.
Selphie carried on, oblivious to the fact that Quistis was barely listening. '...told me he let Nida and Xu do all of that. They seem to be spending most of their time hanging around each other anyway.' She did an immediate double-take. 'Hey, you don't think they're, well, you know...'
'Come on Selphie, say it...'
'Together, do you?'
You have to smile, Quistis thought, When she's planning an event, she notices nothing else. If the moon fell on Balamb, she wouldn't notice until the evacuation of the world interfered with her schedule. Selphie noticed Quistis smiling at her. 'You knew! And you didn't tell me!'
'I'm sorry Selphie, but I've been busy this week, I haven't had much chance to tell you. And these damn headaches. Which she didn't say.
Hastily changing the subject, Quitis tried to steer the conversation towards the party. 'So what have you got planned then? A flyby with the Ragnarok sporting coloured exhaust? A giant dancing T-Rexaur?'
Sephie had obviously been dying to tell someone what she had been planning, and as only to eager to spill the beans: 'Ohhhh no, something much harder! But I'm not supposed to tell anyone, Cid said he wanted it to be a surprise.' That said, she was bursting to tell her friend what she had lined up.
'Come on Selphie, don't keep me waiting.'
So she didn't, but spoke far too fast for Quistis to understand. ''wellwe'vegotthisgiantfireworkdisplaygonnabelitoffby...'
'Woah! Slow down girl!' Exclainmed Quistis, 'I can't understand you if you're speaking at the speed of light!'
Selphie had to visibly calm down and compose herself before she could continue.' I said we're going to have a huge firework display!'
'Sounds fairly normal to me, no exploding Bombs? No captive dragon-spawn? Are you sure you're feeling alright?'
Selphie winced at the reference to last years party, when she had used several baby dragons for lighting fixtures. The dragons, understandably, had not liked being kept in cages on the ceiling, and had shot fireballs at anyone underneath them, leading to no-one daring to venture into the ballroom until Squall, Rinoa, Quistis and Irvine had went in and removed them all under the protection of Ifrit's fire-absorbing influence. Ifrit had been laughing at Selphie for days afterwards. Selphie had been in tears at the end of the week, and refused to to near the mocking Guardian until he apologised.
Seeing the look on Selphie's face told Quitis not to push her luck. 'OK OK, carry on.'
'We're gonna get the GF's to do the lightshows!'
'What!!!' Shouted Quistis, shocked to the core.
'Yep! It's gonna be great, I asked Squall to ask Bahamut to ask the others if they would agree to help out and most of them agreed!'
Three guesses who didn't. Thought Quistis to herself wryly. Diablos certainly wouldn't, he hated optimism, and kids, the only time they had gotten him to appear at an event, to commemorate the setting free of the GF's, he had stood in the corner and glared at anyone who tried to speak to him. Doomtrain was also a bit of a recluse, but by necessity rather than choice, as he was, after all, a giant train. Although he had a much gentler nature then his appearance let on, and gave rides to people struck in out-of-the-way places. Esthar must be thanking Hyne for him. Dozens of people regularly got lost and died in the Esthar continent, there was not much there except plains and monsters once you got out of the city.
Setting free the GF's was the smartest thing we ever did. She thought, Thank you Odine, your last deed on this planet was a good one. It was sheer dumb luck however, that the GF's actually liked people, and not just as curiosities or pets either. Most of them remained at Garden with the 'Orphanage Gang' as they called them, who they had grown to treat as family. Now, Siren was actually teaching the GF Studies course (They like to be called just 'Guardians' now. She remembered.) at Garden, and Carbuncle had volunteered to help Selphie with the Garden Festival arrangements. Their cheery outlooks on life matched perfectly and Quistis knew they those two were near-inseparable now. Hyne help the world if they ever decide to make a business out of party-planning. She herself had struck up an unlikely friendship with Eden, the giant Guardian usually floated next to the Garden, liking the company of those humans who knew her and did not run in terror when she flew down from the skys.
Selphie continued on, not noticing that Quistis was smiling to herself as she watched the teenager speak at length on the subject of the Guardian's firework display:
'...and Leviathan said he's do a huge water fountain all around the Garden from the sea.' (I forgot, we're going to be at sea on the weekend, Quistis remembered.) 'Although we can't seem to find Shiva, she's gone somewhere, Bahamut isn't saying where, the big meanie, and none of the other guys know where she is... Quisty? Are you alright?'
A memory surfaced. Or at least tried to.
Oh no, thought Quistis panicking, please no, not now...
'Selphie!' She gasped.
'What! What is it!?' Selphie asked her, puzzled at this sudden change in her friends behaviour.
Qistis tried to beat down the memories, but they refused to go away. She clutched her head in her hands, hoping to force them to stay buried. 'I really... have to go... now, please... I'm sorry!'
'Is something wrong!?' Selphie looked concerned and frightened now. 'What's wrong! Can I help?'
Quistis near ran away from Selphie, in the direction of her room. 'We'll talk later! I promise!' She said to Selphie as she nearly ran away.
Scared now, Selphie wondered what was wrong with Quitis to make her suddenly drop everything and run like that. I hope she's OK. She chided herself for that comment. Of course she is, she's not going to die that easily. She walked away, and told no-one about Quistis' strange behaivour.
She barely got back to her room in time, collapsing on the bed, she stopped resisting the memories, knowing it to be futile.
A memory surfaced. It came as all the other memorie-sessions had, and she had no choice but to watch as images and feelings flowed into her.
Pain. Suffering. A woman begging with a dragon. Black-and-red eyes. A hole in space. It was the last image, however, that scared her the most. It was an image of herself.
That can't be me! I'm not blue! And I don't have hair like that! Then, she heard a part of a conversation, and a voice she recognised as her own:
But that would mean I would be a... And the voice of the missing Guardian, Shiva, speaking back to her softly:
You are a worthy successor to me. Accept this give, live. Then she heard herself reply:
I... accept your gift.
The memories stopped then, suddenly. She got up off the bed slowly, as if from a mind concussion, absorbing what she had learned. She went over to the bathroom, turned on the tap and started to wash her face in the cold water. She began to think about what these memories meant. This one was the clearest, she finally thought she understood what was happening, her mind struggling to find reasons for it not to be true.
No! That's not possible..! She thought desperately to herself.
But it all fits, Shiva can't be found becasuse she went away! Maybe even... died? She was not an expert on the life-cycles of Guardians, and didn't know. It's always too hot in here, yet it's the middle of January, it should be freezeing, everyone else is wearing sweaters and coats, I'm standing around in T-shirts and shorts! Telepathy, Guardians communiacte with each other through a kind of mind-network, like a telepathy-internet/chatroom. My Blizzagas can chop T-Rexaurs in two, but it almost hurts to use my Firagas
She looked up, into the mirror, and nearly jumped back from her reflection in the mirror. If more evidence was needed, it was staring at her in the face. In fact, it was her face.
My skin is going blue! It's faint but it's there! It shouldn't be possible, but it is..! Being Shiva's... Another faint memory emerged from the depths ... Cele's successor must mean...
Chapter 10: Explanation
No! no no no no NO!!
After the initial shock, Quistis was starting to get scared. I don't want to be a Guardian! I want to live a normal life! I want to grow up and get married and have kids! I want to be HUMAN! After about 5 minutes of sheer panic, she started to think rapidly about what she was going to do about this. Who can I talk to about this? Odine died last year, he knew the most about the life of Guardians. Edea might be some help, she's forgot more about magic transformations than most people learn in a lifetime, but she's away at Galbadia, still helping settle down their new government with General Caraway. Who does that leave? She tried to think about who in B-Garden would know about Guardians. When the answer hit her about 10 minutes later, she could have kicked herself for being so stupid...
The Guardians themselves you stupid girl! Eden was visiting Garden at the moment, resting just outside where the Quad had been repaired after the fight with G-Garden 2 years ago. Siren was probably teaching her course by now, and Carbuncel would, of course, be with Selphie, stringing up decorations, and loving every minute of it. They'll help me, they has to. I'm... She swallowed heavily and said it...
'One of them now...'
She began to get changed for the freezing deck of the outdoor Quad, then remembered what was happening to her; I'm the Ice Guardian now, cold shouldn't affect me. I hope... (it was nearly below zero outside she recalled).
She was about to leave when she heard a voice, coming from the direction of the balcony.
'They will not be able to help you.'
Quistis turned around slowly, drawing her whip from her belt and preparing to strike the intruder. Being confronted by people trying to kill her was nothing new to a SeeD. She addressed the person, turning to face him. 'If you're a student, then this is a very silly practical joke, unless you're here to fight, in which case you just don't know how much trouble you're in.' When she looked at him (it was definately a him, she noticed) however, she hesitated. He couldn't be a student could he? He couldn't be... human could he? No human, she thought, looked like that, so... average... There was something about his voice also; she was sure she hadn't seen him in her life, yet that voice sounded... familiar...
'You do not need that weapon Miss Trepe, I am unarmed.' She could see that, but for some reason it did not seem to matter whether he had a weapon or not. His entire demeanor, his way of standing, gave the indication of a person completely confident in their abilities.
Think girl, where have you heard that voice before, when were you... then it hit her. She knew she would not be needing her weapon. She pointed her index finger at the man's face, as if targeting an imaginery pistol at his forehead, and said; 'The infirmary, right?'
'Very good, I see your memory has suffered no permanent damage from the shock.' Shock? She thought to herself, What shock? I was only...
'I am referring to the receival of your new powers and your recent discovery about yourself...' Of course, Celes said to know it all at once might destroy me. The man moved toward her, seeming to weigh her up, and talking to himself as he did so;
'Fine fighting abilities, good reactions, record time for activation of total memory recall faculties and understanding of Speech. She'll do, I think. Miss Chere may have been right.' This mention of Celes brought Quistis out of her puzzled silence.
'Celes? How do you know that name, are you a Guardian? How did you get it here? What...'
'All of your questions about me and about yourself will be answered in time, meanwhile, I believe the answers to your first questions are, one, she told me how to find you when she left this universe...' Left, that again, but where to? And why? '...two, I am not a Guardian, indeed most of the Guardians don't even know of my existance except as the, and I quote, ''Strange dude who pops up sometimes then leaves without saying a damn word.'' I don't think the small furry green Guardian liked me very much. Lastly, because I can fly, and you were lost in thought and panic when I went up this building's wall to this room. Any more questions?
Only a million and one. She thought to herself, then realised that she's better start trying to make sense of all this, one thing in particular drew her attention; 'What did you mean when you said total memory recall faculties and understanding of 'Speech'?'
'Can you not remember distant things? Things that happened a long time ago?'
Then it hit her, she could remember everything, what Selphie had said to her when they first met, Seifer in Trabia telling her she... Not now, she thought, feeling the dull ache where the huge vertical scar was on her chest. She remembered where she had gone during Time Compression after defeating Ultimacea, something she would rather have forgot. She remembered her parents. I never knew, I always wondered... 'Oh...' She said, then recovered, Later. 'And the other thing about that, what did you call it? Speech?'
'If you listened closely to me, and youself, you would realise that this conversation has not been carried out in English.' Quistis blinked. Hard. She hadn't noticed.
'We're speaking another language? And I haven't even noticed!?' She exclaimed.
Still he replied in the same dull monologue: 'That is correct. Give yourself time, and you will find that there is much to be gained from being a Guardian, the plus points far outweigh the minus points'
This one hard fact brought back her anxiety. 'But how? I mean, why? And what will happen to me now?'
'It will be difficult, you would be wise to keep this a secret as long as possible. I predict however that this will only be possible for a few of weeks, you are physically changing at an alarming rate and you will be completely transformed in a matter of months.'
Hearing this, Quistis finally accepted what she had been trying to deny to herself. This man had destroyed all hopes of this being a dream. She broke down, and sank to the floor. Weeping, she noticed vaguely the man kneeling down next to her. When he spoke, it was without any hint of pity or sympathy.
'This is hard for you, it was hard for Celes too, but you have the advantage over her, the Guardians are free in this time, you have more than she did. I noticed from my observations that you have very loyal friends. Good, they will help to keep you sane.' That, she thought to herself, was not encouraging. 'Your fellow Guardians will help you also. They are your family now, and will help you.' Qustis had calmed down now, and was coherent enough to realise, she still did not know who she was talking to.
'Who... are you!?' She asked.
'I will help you, Quistis Trepe. I will be your guardian while you become accustomed to your new powers. I will help you to accept what you now are.'
'I am called the Teacher, and I have been sent here to guide you.'