A Knight of Spira
Author’s Note: The quotes you’re going to see at the beginning of each part are from books that don’t exist (as far as I know). They’re just made up books that were written about the Orphanage Gang and Yuna’s Guardians after their respective adventures. Italics indicate thoughts or telepathic communication. Hope you enjoy.
All of my life I was alone. So much so, that even when opportunities arrived to change that, I would always take the lonely path. When the Sorceress War ended I was forced to look around and realized that emotionally I was stuck in time from my experiences in the orphanage. I had found friends. People I could depend on. If I called they would answer, if needed, they would be there. I had a choice between remaining the hurt child or learning to grow. I chose the latter.
Squall Leonhart from Conversations with the Orphanage Gang
My name is Bahamut. You think you know me? I have to laugh at that. I am as old as time itself. So much I have seen and done. The clashing of Meteor and Holy, Time Compression, Sin. All these I have seen and participated in one way or another. Often in ways you could only guess at.
How can I have seen all this? The answer is simple. Time has no meaning for myself and my brethren. We are the eternal guardians of this world. Sworn to protect it from an ancient and powerful being who seeks dominance and destruction over all. We work very hard to make sure you don’t even know he exists. Sometimes we fail, and our conflict spills over into your world.
It is at these times we call upon our champions in the mortal realm. One such as I see before me. You would instantly recognize him, if you could see what I see. His hair has grown longer, in unconscious imitation of his father;. and he is five years older since he survived Time Compression.
Physical changes are after all, unimportant. He is far more different in other ways. More open, friendlier, far more at ease with himself and others. He believes he has left his burdens behind him, that he is free to live as he wishes. He could not be more wrong. Squall shall go on a journey soon, one he can’t even begin to imagine at the moment.
Enjoy your last moments of peace my friend. You shall be called upon soon. I, this world, and the future need you, far more than you could ever know. Your story has not ended, it has only now truly begun.
The night was clear and the air was clean. The view from this balcony afforded a view of the entire city of Esthar. No matter how many times he saw it, there was always a sense of child-like wonder. The mishmash of lights and buildings combined for an explosion of color that was unmatched. His thoughts drifted to times past as he remembered the first time he arrived. He didn’t appreciate it as much as he should have, but to be fair he had a lot on his mind. Carrying the girl in a coma who meant everything to you tended to limit your perceptions.
There was no doubt that that was a turning point in his life. It was the first time he had ever cared enough about something to not care what people thought. Squall sighed as he wondered what Rinoa and his friends were doing at that very moment. His thoughts were drifting towards them more and more lately. It had been three years since had left as an active SeeD and entered the reserve program he had instituted as commander.
He always thought it a shame that older members of SeeD were forced out after a certain age. His directive had been a stroke of brilliance as many former members of SeeD who missed the life and camaraderie had entered their applications. His office was swarmed by paperwork for almost a year afterward. The task and administrative details were a lot harder than even fighting Ultimicea. In the end though, the program was successful and he was as proud of it as anything he had been in his life.
As a reserve all he needed to do was participate in missions when he was selected. SeeD reserve members were selected for two missions every year. None was to take longer than a week. If it went longer another reserve or active SeeD were to take over. In return the reserve members received unlimited access to any Garden and their facilities, and could even live there if it was demonstrated that they had a need. Not that any mission was particularly strenuous these days, mostly consisting of guard duty.
The world had broken out in a serious case of peace after the Second Sorceress War. Galbadia and Esthar had signed a truce and the rest of the world had followed their example. All in all it was a boring world, and Squall found that he liked that. Though he doubted Zell did.
He stifled a chuckle as he thought of the most excitable member of his team. He had become an instructor of all things, and in a big surprise, by all accounts he was excellent, though he imagined Commander Trepe had to rein him in every now and then. Quistis the commander, and Zell, Irvine, and Selphie the instructors. And Rinoa… Squall wasn’t known as one for a great amount of might- have - beens but she was the exception. Rinoa had taken and passed the SeeD exam and they were happy for a short time after the war, but after all they were both only seventeen years old. Both had begun to chafe as they realized how much of life they had to see and experience yet. A mutual decision was made that neither of them were ready to shackle themselves to someone for the rest of their lives. The breakup was amicable, and he still counted her as a friend, though he sometimes hoped for more. It had been two years since he had seen her though, not since her last checkup with Odine. The scientist seemed convinced that Rinoa still had some vestige of her powers left. Squall thought that ridiculous. She had manifested no sign of it as far as he could tell. They had gone through Time Compression after all, they were damned lucky Rinoa’s powers were the only thing that had been lost.
She was still a reserve member last time he had heard. He sought to stop the train of thought, as he all he wanted anymore was to lead the life that he had chosen for himself. Not the one that was forced on him. He tugged at the bow tie of his tuxedo and sighed.
“Whatever. ” He said out loud to himself and chuckled.
“Don’t tell me you’re relapsing.”
Squall turned and saw his father Laguna. “Nah, not becoming a moron again are you?”
Laguna faked a leg cramp, and Squall laughed. “No son, just came out to see what you’re doing. Sorry for dragging you into this. I know how much you hate these political functions.”
“Keep the Timber delegates happy. It’s their party after all.”
“Ah come on. Even I can take only so much cocktail party talk. Besides as a soldier, the word party always involved lots of beer and property damage.”
Squall found it hard to keep from smiling, as he found it hard to imagine how close he and his father had become these past few years. Laguna had revealed himself as his father shortly after the defeat of Ultimicea. He had been angry at first, but soon came to realize that being bitter and angry would help no one. The bumbling exterior was just that, an exterior, and Squall came to realize that there was much about his father that was admirable, great even. He came to see him first as a friend, and then later as a father. “I think that kind of behavior is frowned upon among fellow presidents.”
“Yeah, but maybe the world would be a better place if it wasn’t. We’re human too after all.”
“Kiros is taking over in a month right?”
“Yep. Kind of looking forward to retirement. Besides, sometimes I think he was the president anyway. Plus I can finally stop hiding the fact that Mr. World Hero is my son. Never understood why you didn’t want it voiced about anyways. Think how much money you could make?” He winked
Squall smiled slightly, realizing his father was just needling him a bit. They had talked about this many times. Squall really didn’t want a security force trailing after him. It was bad enough that he was considered a celebrity, and recognized almost everywhere he went. He neither needed, nor wanted the extra attention.
“Money’s not an issue dad. The book and movie deals gave me more than I know what to do with anyways.”
“True. Oh, almost forgot. The commandant of the Esthar military academy is going to be starting a gun blade training program. He was wondering if you’d be interested in teaching?”
“Sure. Mind if I bring in another to help?”
“Him you mean?”
Squall nodded and Laguna continued. “Why not?” He grinned. “Oh, there’s some guests inside who are interested in seeing you. I told them I’d bring you along shortly.” He opened the balcony door and motioned for Squall to follow.
Squall rubbed between his eyes absently, afraid his dad was asking him to meet with a member of the media. “Dad, you know how I feel about reporters? What more can I say that hasn’t been said? And I‘m very tired of being asked when me and Rinoa are getting back together.”
Laguna smiled mysteriously. Squall knew he was one of those romantic types who thought that they should be together forever. “Don’t jump the gun Squall. I’ve never set you up like that, and never will. It’s something else.”
He heard a squeal and suddenly found it hard to breathe as arms wrapped around him. “Squall!”
He looked down and saw a petite person with enormously strong arms who went by the name of Selphie Tilmitt. He was really glad to see her but he was attached to drawing breath every few seconds or so. He inserted his arms between hers and broke the hold. He was gathering in a breath when he saw that she wasn’t alone. Quistis, Zell, and Irvine were there as well. Squall was amazed how glad he was to see that Rinoa had come as well. They all gathered around him and Squall found himself engaged in a group hug. They were all laughing and trying to talk at once when Selphie saw her next target.
“Sir Laguna!” she yelled and encased him in a hug. Laguna struggled to draw breath and mouthed the word help to Irvine. Irvine being on the receiving end of quite a few of these, understood immediately and gently disengaged Selphie from the president.
“Friends don’t let friends suffocate Selphie.”
“Oh, sorry Sir Laguna” She continued to bounce happily in place. Laguna was relieved and began to breathe again. He cleared his throat to speak.
“Well kids, enjoy. I have to go and be the good host to the rest of our guests.” He waved and departed, leaving the gang to enjoy their reunion.
They were all still happy and trying to talk at once when Quistis said. “Maybe we should find a table in a corner or something.” She indicated the media who had begun to gather around and the guests who were disturbed at seeing such shocking behavior in high society. They all nodded agreement and found a secluded table in the back.
Squall started by saying. “Not that I’m not happy to see you but what’s going on?”
Zell laughed “We’re having our five year reunion baby!”
Squall mentally counted and found that Zell was correct. It was surprising how quickly the time had passed. He accepted it and concentrated on the conversation of his friends.
The night wore on and they all caught up with what each was doing. All except Rinoa, who was being uncharacteristically silent. She merely glanced at him every now and then, and her lips would move as if she was on the verge of saying something. Squall made a mental note to ask her why later. Suddenly the initial notes of ‘Waltz on the Moon’ began. Rinoa smirked and leaped up and grabbed Squall’s hand. “Come on Squall it’s one of our songs!” Squall struggled to free himself but Rinoa’s hand gripped tighter “Resistance is futile!”
Squall knew when he was defeated and followed Rinoa onto the dance floor. He faked some clumsiness and Rinoa smacked him on the arm. Squall smirked and she said “Meany! I know you know how!”
Squall chuckled and they both began to dance flawlessly. The other dancers stopped when they saw who they were. Squall heard mumblings of “It’s them!” and “I knew they were made for each other.” He tried to tune them out and the dance ended.
Polite clapping followed and an announcement was made. “We have a request from President Laguna for a song. Enjoy it folks.” He turned and saw his father grinning and giving him a thumbs up as ‘Eyes on Me’ began.
He didn’t. Squall thought. He did.
Rinoa turned to him smiling “Shall We?”
Squall looked at all the expectant faces around him. He got the feeling he’d be lynched if he didn’t. “How can we not?” Laguna, I’m going to kill you!
His irritation was quickly overcome when he turned his gaze to Rinoa. She winked at him and offered a hand, which he took. It had been such a long time since they had experienced the simple act of touching. It was almost intoxicating to Squall. Old memories, old feelings rushed through him. He had intended to keep it a dance between friends, keep his distance. Rinoa would have none of that. She pressed herself against him, and laid her head gently against his shoulder, swaying gently with the music.
For just one moment, he allowed himself to forget the attention they were gathering, but it didn‘t last long. It was almost as if a spotlight were shining on the both of them. Squall started to feel a little uncomfortable by the staring eyes, no matter how friendly. Rinoa sensed his discomfiture, and looked around herself. She asked. “Is it just me? Or is everyone looking at us?”
Squall whispered to her. “It’s not just you.”
She snickered. “Know anyplace we can hide?”
Squall nodded and led her to the balcony he occupied earlier. They closed and locked the door. Folded the drapes over so no one could see, and finally relaxed. Rinoa turned to him and they both suddenly began to laugh. “Why are we running like criminals?”
Squall continued to laugh and looked at her for what seemed like the first time that night. “You look… stunning.” She was wearing a blue spaghetti strapped dress that accentuated her best features, but was somehow still tasteful. Rinoa had always been good at that.
Rinoa beamed. “Thanks. You look very handsome as well. The longer hair suits you.” She smiled at him fondly. “I always wondered how you would look in a tuxedo. Knowing you though, I always pictured a gun blade with it.”
“The college tends to frown on students walking into class armed. I’d probably get better grades that way though.”
She laughed and said “Your major is archaelogy isn’t it? Of all the subjects you could study why that one?”
Squall thought for a moment. People who bothered to look beneath the surface were often surprised to find that Squall Leonheart had a hobby, one he was hoping to turn into his life‘s work. “I’ve always had a closet interest in it. It’s just the connecting with the past, trying to figure out how people thought and felt. Imagine their life and dreams.”
Rinoa grinned. “Admit it, you’re hoping to find a cryogenically suspended Cloud Strife, revive him and ask him questions till the end of the world.”
Squall chuckled to himself. He had always regretted telling Rinoa about his boyhood hero. She always found a way to tease him about it. “A lot of archaeologists think the story has some basis in fact.”
“Relax Squall, I’m just teasing you.”
He smiled. It was surprising, even after all this time how at ease she made him feel. It was as if they had never been apart. “So what have you been up to?”
“Well, a couple of things. The others and myself are starting a mission in a few days. Was my turn when the reserve list came up. Can’t talk about it. You know how it is.”
Squall nodded “How about before that?”
“Well, I went back to Galbadia for a while. I had a lot of making up to do with my dad. Yes I call him dad again. Even with all his duties as president he still made time for me. That meant a lot. Since he retired a year ago, we had even more time. Then one day he asked me what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I thought about it for a while and finally decided to go back to school. I decided on Esthar University and veterinary medicine as a major. Got to take care of Angelo now that he’s getting older you know? He misses you.”
Squall chuckled as he remembered how Angelo had adopted him as one of his humans and howled with joy every time he entered a room. “Tell him I said hi.”
Rinoa smiled and said. “You can tell him yourself in a few months. Anyway I’m also here enrolling. So everything dove-tailed nicely together all the way around. Maybe we’ll even have some classes together.”
“I hope so.”
“So Squall? You seeing anyone?”
Squall was taken aback for a second, wondering where that one came from. If this conversation was going in the direction he thought it was, he didn’t mind it all. Just seeing her again was stirring up old memories, old feelings. Ones he had never truly forgotten. “I was with someone seriously about a year ago.” Squall thought about the other girl for a moment. It was something he really thought would work out. Unfortunately, his celebrity caused problems, and she had never been comfortable with the attention. It eventually led to them separating. “How about you?”
Rinoa stared out into the distance. A little nervously, Squall thought “Some girls have a guy that no matter what they can’t forget. You’re that guy for me Squall.” She held up her hand as Squall started to speak. “What happened to us before was the past, but I can’t help but think that maybe there’s still something there. I’d at least like to give it a try.” She looked at Squall pleadingly.
He stared into her eyes. This balcony under the moonlight was bringing back memories of their first kiss, on another balcony far from here. Rinoa was as beautiful now, as she had been that night. It was almost as if a magical moment was recreating itself for their benefit. “I can promise that I’m open to the idea.”
She giggled and said. “No Squall. You’re supposed to get on your knees and thank me for allowing me back in your life.”
Squall fell to one knee and said “Would the lady consent to be with a poor knight like myself. I have little to offer but a good heart and heart felt devotion.”
Rinoa smiled inwardly, and couldn‘t help but think how much he had changed. Five years ago, even getting him to say hello was an almost impossible challenge. Now, he even felt comfortable flirting. She playfully stuck her nose in the air, and assumed a haughty expression. “The lady will consider the knight’s offer and answer anon.”
“Ah my lady, every second will be an eternity. Will you consent to hold my ring as a symbol of my devotion?” He took the Griever ring and placed it in her hand. Suddenly flashbulbs went off and they saw a reporter hanging over the edge of another balcony taking a picture of them. Squall stood up and sighed, not even able to guess what would be in the papers the next day. He looked at Rinoa and noted the smile, and merry twinkle in her eye.
“Come on Squall, let’s go see what everyone else is doing.”
They unlocked the door and strode across the ballroom, holding hands. They reached the table and were unprepared for what they saw. Laguna was sitting at the table and more than a little drunk. The rest of the group were in the same shape and all were engaged in some sort of drinking game. Laguna at that moment slammed a quarter into the table and missed his cup badly. He chuckled and everyone at the table cheered as he downed his glass of beer. The reporters around were all taking pictures and the guests were thinking Hyne knows what. Rinoa had collapsed to the floor in laughter. Squall slapped his forehead. The papers were going to have a field day tomorrow.
Yuna stifled a yawn as the speaker continued. It was something about taxes, and she wasn’t really paying attention. Not for the first time, she wondered why they bothered to bring her things like this. Yuna didn’t have the first idea how to implement or oversee administrative functions.
Her thoughts drifted to the last three years. She only had to look around to see the differences. The village of Besaid, though village was no longer accurate, had expanded greatly and held five times the population it once had. Many were trying to turn it into a seat of government which made Yuna greatly unhappy. The government of the world had been unsettled after the deceptions of Yevon were revealed. Though a few still clung to the old religion the power of the maesters was all but destroyed. Many plans were proposed. The plan that had the most backing however was that the High Summoner would rule. Yuna fought that plan with every fiber of being. She did not mind being a leader, a ruler was something else. She knew some sort of government was required but all she had was a vague notion of people voting for who would lead them. She had no idea how it could be implemented though.
“What did you think of the tax proposal?”
She began to leave and the ever present Kimahri moved to join her. She thought she could see the ghost of a smile on Kimahri’s face. She continued to walk and said to the Ronso. “Kimahri what am I going to do? Everyone seems bound and determined to make me absolute ruler. No one should have that power.”
“Kimahri think that Yuna always live for others. Perhaps time for Yuna to live for Yuna.”
Yuna couldn’t help but smile “Thank you, my friend. I truly do not though what I have to live for though.”
Kimahri was troubled and did not answer for a moment. “Kimahri also think that Yuna should move on. Tidus would want that too.”
“What about what I want? He should be here, beside me! Instead fate took him away! I could bear anything else as long as he was with me!”
Yuna began crying and Kimahri held onto her silently. Instead of time healing the wound it seemed to be getting worse . He had no idea what to do. The spark in her eye had disappeared that day. A day of happiness for the world, but one of unending sadness for Yuna. She often smiled though he knew it was for other’s sake. And the smile never reached her eyes.
Rikku was lost in thought as she stepped off the ferry. She bumped into someone and mumbled an apology and moved off towards the village of Besaid. She still couldn’t wrap her mind around what the sphere contained. She took it our of her belongings and stared at it as she moved along. It was just downright impossible. She decided to try and move her mind onto other things. Like seeing her friends again. That would be good. It had been awhile. Though she could wrap her mind around the sphere better than she could Wakka and Lulu being married. Kimahri was, as always, Kimahri, and Yuna was having her own struggles. The letters she received from her cousin depicted how unhappy she was. They were trying to make her ruler of Spira against her will and the pressure was growing. Yuna was just going to have to assert herself. The politeness and accommodating manner of her cousin put Yuna right where they wanted her .
She was so wrapped in her thoughts that she didn’t see the fiend rush her. She noticed just in time and barely dodged the attack. She almost dropped the sphere and muttered a curse. Yuna would never forgive her if it broke.
Rikku looked around and sought an exit. The only one she could see was behind the fiend. Is it just me or are the fiends getting smarter? The Dingo snarled and began to move closer to her. Every time she started to make a move the creature moved to block her. Definitely getting smarter. She braced herself and prepared to dodge as the Dingo moved close enough to attack. A blitz ball came out of nowhere and struck the fiend broadsides. She breathed a sigh of relief and saw Wakka moving towards her.
“Rikku? You afraid of a fiend? Forget how to be a guardian?”
“No, no. What I’m holding is too important to risk.”
“A memory sphere? Let’s see it.”
“No. I want everyone to see it together.”
“Ok. Ok. Guess I’ll take you there. Place has changed a lot since last we saw ya.”
Rikku nodded and the two engaged in some small talk. Mostly about Wakka’s marriage to Lulu. Wakka was walking about because the two had gotten into a fight. “She only scolds me because she cares ya? Still it’s best to stay away for a bit after. Well here we are.” He indicated a large building. “Ask the man inside to get you Kimahri. He’ll drag Yuna away from the bloodsuckers. Being High Summoner keeps ya busy. I’ll just go get Lulu and then we’ll see what’s on that thing.” He waved and moved away.
Rikku stepped inside and spoke with the man behind the desk. “Kimahri Ronso please?”
“I take it you’re here to see the Lady Yuna? You have to understand that she has many who attempt to see her, and it could take some time.”
She reached over the desk and grabbed his shirt and pulled him towards her. “Listen bub. Do you know who I am?”
He stared at her fearfully and shook his head. “Well. Let me educate you. I’m one of her guardians, her cousin, and her friend to boot. Unless you’d like to lose your head, you’ll get me Kimahri right now.”
Kimahri walked in at that moment to see what the commotion was. He gave one of his rare smiles, as Rikku rushed up and hugged him “How ‘s the big lug?”
“Good to see Rikku. See Yuna?”
Kimahri nodded and led her inside. They soon came to a spacious office. On the desk were piles of papers and behind them were a distraught looking Yuna. Her face immediately brightened when she saw her visitor.
“Cousin! I can’t begin to tell you how good it is to see you.”
The two finished hugging. “What brings you here?”
“This.” Rikku took out the sphere and placed it on the desk
“A memory sphere? From whom?”
“You’ll see. When everyone else gets here.”
Yuna supposed it was a new sphere of her father or something. But why would everyone need to see that?
Lulu and Wakka walked in at that moment and they all took seats.
“I’ve gathered you all here to show you something. Before we see it, let me say that the manufacture date of the sphere is a year old. So the recording was made sometime between then and now.”
They nodded and Wakka said “So show it already!”
“Ok, Ok! Here we go.”
She switched on the sphere and all were shocked at what they saw. A man was seen swimming towards the surface of the water with a joyful smile on his face. A smile they all knew. They watched mesmerized as the figure broke the surface only to be ripped out of the water by something unseen. The sphere then faded to a despondent figure languishing in a cell. The picture ended then.
Yuna’s face was unreadable for a moment and then slowly took on a joyful glow. ‘Tidus! He’s alive here and now.” Yuna felt a light in her soul that she had forgotten had ever existed, but was quickly diminished as she remembered the second part.
“But how?” Wakka said.
Rikku responded “Who knows? Or cares? What matters is that he lives and it looks like he needs our help!”
Kimahri nodded and they all turned to Yuna. Lulu said “What would you like us to do?”
It was so easy to just jump up and go, but Yuna thought about it for a moment. “I… don’t know. I would like to go, but I have so many responsibilities. I can’t just… walk away.”
Wakka exploded “I can’t believe I’m hearing this. I haven’t seen you truly smile since the day he left. You mope and let these people here push you around into something you know you don’t want to do! You’re the most unselfish person I have ever met, but damn it, it’s time for Yuna now! The hell with everyone else!!”
Yuna closed her eyes for a moment. “I… you’re right. He needs our help and nothing will keep me from him! Nothing!”
They all smiled as they saw the outburst they were waiting for. “So, we leave soon ya?”
“Yes. As soon as I explain to the people here. We’ll be on our way.”
They all turned and saw the figure of a small, hooded boy. “Bahamut? I thought you were dead!”
“No, not dead. Merely released from the unending dream. I and my brethren are eternal.”
Yuna turned and looked towards him beseechingly. “Are you here to help us?”
“No Yuna. Not in the way you mean. Not at this time at least.”
“Then why are you here?”
Bahamut smiled “To set you on the right path, and to bring one who can help you. He will come to you shortly.”
“Why would we need help, ya? We took Sin down, anyone else who gets in our way is gonna go splat the same way.” Wakka said
“You do not understand. Yuna, tell them what those reports you have on your desk contain.”
“Reports of fiend activity. They are growing in numbers again. Also in power and intelligence.”
Bahamut nodded and said. “There are some speculations as to why. Let me make it simple and tell you that those speculations are not correct. Sorcery is involved.”
“Sorcery!?” Lulu looked shocked.
Bahamut began to recite “’ The Sorceress Ultimicea had succeeded and gained dominion of all the world. Not being content, she attempted to gain power over all time. She reached back into time to seek her goal. In so doing she roused the Lion, Angel, and companions.. Who came forward to do battle. The Sorceress could not stand before them. She fell to their fury and rage. She fell to the Children of Fate. Thus did the age of Sorcery end and life begin anew.’ Sound familiar?”
Yuna looked at him. “Yes. The Book of Yevon.”
Bahamut nodded “Suffice it to say that the Book of Yevon does contain some truth. That’s one example. Potentially, the power of Sorcery is a greater threat than Sin.”
The High Summoner looked to Bahamut, face a jumbled mix of confused emotion. “You mean the Lionheart was a real person?”
Bahamut nodded, smile appearing broadly from underneath his hood. “He was very real. I know him well.”
Rikku pursed her lips, considering for a moment. “Do any of you know anything about Al Bhed history?”
They all shook their heads. “Our books contain the same legend, though it’s a bit different. The Al Bhed are descended from a group that called itself SeeD. Our history records that one known as Lionheart and companions came forward in time to defeat the last Sorceress. Oooh, I wish I could remember more. I never did get into reading history.”
Yuna was thoughtful for a moment, before stating. “I think our first destination should be to look at these texts that Rikku speaks of. I’d like to know what we’re up against.”
Bahamut said. “An excellent beginning. Continue your journey and the help I mentioned will join you along the way.”
Wakka glanced at Bahamut suspiciously. “How do you know all this, ya?”
Bahamut grinned as he faded out. “Because I was there.”
Squall had woken up a half hour before and was making his way to his early morning training session. It was the same routine he had followed for the last two years and he was a creature of habit. He slipped into the gym’s locker room and withdrew a gun blade from the locker, not the Lionheart, he wouldn‘t be foolish enough to leave it in here. He didn’t see his opponent but guessed he was waiting like usual. He seemed to relish these sessions even more than Squall himself did. He finished changing and moved to the weapons training area. He was right when he guessed his opponent was waiting. They both saluted without saying a word and readied their stances.
His opponent began as he usually did with a side swipe and they soon fell into a rhythm of parry and slice. Neither used the trigger on their blades as people had complained about the noise after their early training sessions. Anyone who witnessed their session would have sworn it was a dance, as both moved with grace and coordination. After about five minutes Squall decided it was time to end it. He spun while bringing his blade crosswise against his opponent’s. Squall parried a sweep against his legs and brought his blade with blinding speed towards his opponent’s neck. It found no resistance and stopped an inch from it’s target. His opponent looked fearful for a second, and then smiled.
Seifer said “Damnit Squall! Will you let me win some time?”
Squall chuckled “Afraid you’re going to have to earn it Seifer. You are getting better though.”
“Yeah, yeah. I will beat you again someday.”
“Nice to have a dream. Better than the last one anyway.”
Seifer said nothing, but stared ahead with a haunted look in his eyes. Squall immediately regretted his statement. The entire Ultimicea episode was a nightmare for all of them, including Seifer. She had subjugated and dominated Seifer’s mind after his initial choice. Forcing him to commit atrocities in her name.
“Sorry bud. Just kind of slipped out.” He sighed, almost wincing at what he just said. “How could you have known what would happen? All you saw was the fulfillment of a dream. You couldn’t have known about the rest.”
Squall waved him off. “Forget it. We did grow up together after all.”
“I hear the whole gang’s in town.”
“Yep. Everyone. You have to face them someday.”
“I know, I know. I just find it hard to believe they could forgive me.”
“I think they would. Only one who would have a problem I think would be Zell, and even he’d come around eventually.”
Seifer chuckled “Good ole chicken wuss”
Squall smiled.. “I don’t think calling him that would be a good start.”
Seifer grinned “Probably not, would be fun though. Think you could set up a meeting?”
“They’re busy getting ready for a mission of some sort. So now is probably not a good time.”
“Maybe not. See you at lunch? The professor is going over some things before we go out on the dig. Heard they hired some better security this time.”
Squall chuckled “That’s a relief. Standing guard last time wasn’t my idea of fun.” The last such expedition, the security forces had been inferior to say the least. After a brief encounter with a Wendigo, they had run like hell. The two of them were the only ones with experience in such matters, and had been drafted as replacements.
“Just in case, I’m going to bring my weapon. Have a GF I can borrow? Bahamut maybe?”
“I would but he refuses to junction anyone else anymore. Never has explained why.”
Seifer shrugged. “See ya at lunch.” He waved and moved off.
Squall nodded, and began concentrating. There were some new moves he was trying to perfect and there was no time like the present. Seifer made him work to stay the best, to always improve. No one else he had ever found could push him like Seifer did. Not that he’d ever tell him that.
Squall had just finished his math class. He never understood how calculus could ever help him with his chosen field, but it was a requirement. Hefting his book bag, he moved towards the lunch room As he traveled several people shouted a congratulations to him. He just waved and decided it wasn’t worth trying to figure out. He entered and found Seifer reading a paper. Squall remembered the happenings last night and prayed nothing about it was in there. No such luck.
‘Hey Squall, forget to tell me something?” He pointed to the headlines. “’Squall and Rinoa to Be Married at Last?” the picture shown was of him on one knee handing his ring to Rinoa. He looked underneath and saw another headline. “Disgrace at the Presidential Palace” The picture showed a very inebriated Laguna having the time of his life with the orphanage gang. Squall scratched his scar and felt a headache coming on.
Seifer looked at him and smirked. “So am I invited to the wedding?”
“Not going to be a wedding. It’s all a misunderstanding.”
“Ah. So you mind if I go after Rinoa then?”
Squall glared at him “Over my dead body.”
Seifer laughed.. “Just your blessing will do.”
Squall rubbed his forehead furiously. Definitely a headache. “We’re not getting married, but we did come to an… understanding. She’s enrolling here and will be starting next term. We kinda agreed to give us another chance.”
“Hey, that’s cool. Be good to have another friendly face around anyway.”
Squall nodded and decided he’d have to call his dad tonight and chew him out. It was extremely hard raising a father. Seifer chuckled and started to talk about the dig that they would be going on. The two discussed it and soon the lunch hour passed and it was time to go to class. He and Seifer walked along and entered the classroom. They both took seats in the back. The professor walked in at that moment and laid his coat over the chair.
“Good afternoon class. I’m sure many of you are wondering where we are going and why. I would like to answer that but I have my reasons for keeping it secret. Before we leave tomorrow, I would like to assign group leaders and assignments. Mr. Leonhart will lead one group and Mr. Almasy will lead the other. Before you two ask no I don’t expect we will need you in a security capacity this time. Part of the grant was a large portion assigned to preserving our welfare and I assure you I’m hiring the best.”
Squall groaned, inwardly wondering why people needed to put him in charge. Seifer grinned at him as if he knew what he was thinking. He probably did.
The professor began to lecture then about preserving site integrity and Squall zoned out. He had heard this many times before, and knew it almost by rote. He passed the time thinking various thoughts until the class ended. As they were leaving each student was passed a list of the teams and team leaders. He didn’t even ask the professor because he knew it was expected for him to figure out duties for each member of his team.
He nodded to Seifer as he left, and departed for his residence. After arriving at home, he checked his messages. Nothing important was on there except one from Rinoa. Quistis was holding a briefing and she would be unable to see him tonight. She promised that they would make up for lost time in a few months.
Squall was disappointed, but understood and decided he would call Ellone. He hadn’t talked to Sis for a while. He dialed the number and she answered.
“Sis. What’s going on? How’s business?”
“Squall! It’s fine considering. Not much call for pubs in a sleepy town like Winhill. A lot of them still believe I’m that little girl. So I got a paper today and guess what I saw?”
Squall groaned “Don’t worry. I’ll talk to dad about it tonight.”
Ellone laughed “No, not that! Uncle Laguna just needs to let loose every now and then. Besides, he’s retiring and doesn’t need to worry about his public image for much longer. It’s the other thing. When’s the wedding?”
“No wedding. It was all a misunderstanding?”
“Oh? How can you on one knee and handing Rinoa a ring be a misunderstanding?”
Squall grumbled to himself a bit. “It’s hard to explain.” He went on telling Sis everything that had happened and after the two engaged in small talk. The conversation ended with the usual promises to visit soon, and Squall hung up.
He decided to give his dad a pass for once, he didn’t feel like dealing with it. He turned the TV on and there was one of the several movies that had been made about himself and his friends. He had a good laugh for a while about how wrong they got it and soon drifted off to sleep.
Squall woke up at his normal early time, and quickly started his coffee. He just didn’t seem to be able to start his day without it anymore. He showered quickly and gathered his belongings . He considered leaving Lionheart behind but quickly decided against it. The years of training as a SeeD were ingrained in him. Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. He checked his junctions and his coffee then started on his way.
After a short drive outside the city, he arrived at the dock area. The other students were milling about the shipyard area. He walked up to stand beside Seifer. Seifer nodded hello, and they both waited silently for the professor to enter. Their teacher entered several minutes later, and began. “Good morning. While I’m still going to keep the exact location secret, I will tell you that we are going to the Centran continent. As many of you are aware that is one of the more dangerous locations on this planet. Therefore, I decided to hire only the best. I’d like to introduce you to our security detail. “
He motioned towards the people who just entered “I’d like to introduce you to Quistis- who will be commanding this mission, Zell, Selphie, Irvine, and Rinoa. Be assured that they all are professional SeeD’s, and I’m sure many of you recognize them anyway.”
The buzzing was profound as Squall heard “Wow! He did hire the best!”, “I can’t believe I’m actually going to meet them.” and the one that irked him the most “Too bad she’s going to marry Squall, I’d like a shot at her!” Squall almost walked up and slapped the guy silly, but Seifer held him back. His friend gestured to the group of SeeD’s and said. “Just go up and say hi. I’ll have a talk with ’The Return of Puberty Boy’ back there.”
Squall nodded and walked up to the group. “Hey.”
“Squall! What are you doing here?”
“I‘m one of the students.”
Squall looked at her curiously. “Since when do the Commanders and instructors go out on missions?”
Quistis chuckled “Cid allowed us to do it as a reunion sort of thing. Plus, it’s not a bad idea to shake the rust off every now and then. Have to keep that edge you know.”
Squall accepted it and shrugged.. A sudden voice of rage interrupted any further conversation. “What the hell is he doing here?!” Zell pointed at Seifer, who had just released the unfortunate maker of the Rinoa remark and was glancing at Zell.
Squall stood before his former subordinate. “Stand down! Now!” Zell backed up. Squall wasn’t his commander anymore, but old habits were hard to break. “He’s a student the same as me. Therefore it is your duty to protect him the same as you would me or anyone else here. Understood!?”
Zell nodded but continued to glare. Seifer merely returned Zell’s stare of fury with one of sadness. Squall placed his hand on Zell’s shoulder, and said. “I will explain later.” Zell snorted and walked away.
The professor at that moment said “It is time to board the ship. Let’s get this operation under way.” The students and SeeD’s began to mill into the ship.
After settling in his bunk, Squall decided to seek out his friends and explain. He stopped to grab Seifer. “Come on Seifer. Now’s your chance.”
Seifer sighed and the two made their way to the SeeD cabin. Squall knocked and heard “Come in”. The two entered and were greeted by profound silence.
Seifer nodded and cleared his throat “Hey everyone. I know it was a shock to see me here. I can’t expect your forgiveness after everything that happened but I would like to offer my apologies, I could tell you that I was controlled by Ultimicea but in the end it is my responsibility what happened. I umm…this isn’t easy but… I know it won’t be today but I hope you do find it in your hearts to forgive me someday.” He sighed and left the cabin.
Quistis looked at Squall and said “I have a million questions but I guess the best one that comes to mind is why?”
Squall sighed. “When I started as a student here, Seifer had enrolled as well. We had a few classes together and I did my best to ignore him. Finally my curiosity got the better of me and I went up to talk to him. I was prepared for a fight but Seifer refused.
“I did some checking and found Raijin and Fujin. They said that after time compression he seemed his normal self but over time he became more and more withdrawn. They had no idea how to help him so they took him to Esthar and took him to a psychiatrist. It took a long time till he was anywhere near what he normally is. Seifer’s mind was dominated and controlled from the time he was taken by Edea. I can’t imagine what that was like, Rinoa’s the only one who probably could.”
“It was like being raped over and over.” Rinoa said, obviously troubled by the memory.
“Seifer had to undergo it a lot longer than you did. I’m asking as a favor that you guys try to understand, and give him a chance at least. He only wants to lead a normal life now, like me.”
Irvine looked thoughtful and said. “Well, he is a member of the orphanage gang like it or not. I guess I can give him that chance.”
Everyone else but Zell nodded and he said “I’m not sure I can forgive that easily. I won’t bother him if he doesn’t bother me, and if he calls me chicken wuss again so help me!!…”
Squall guessed that was the best Seifer could hope for at this time. They made small talk for a while until Squall decided it was time for bed. He waved and made his way to his cot. He woke Seifer and told him what was decided. Seifer promised to retire the ‘chicken wuss’ comment and Squall laid down and went to sleep.
The group made it’s way off the pier and moved towards the group of Al Bhed dignitaries that were sent to meet them. Rikku still had to snicker a bit when she saw her brother in his official uniform. He was now a high official in the Al Bhed government. Her father was still leader but it seemed he spent more time trying to fix the airship than he did doing his actual job. No one seemed to mind as the Al Bhed were a people who were used to taking care of themselves and needed little governance. The only problems Cid encountered were in relations with other nations. He was in no way a diplomat and didn’t even try to be. He had experts in that, and seldom didn’t take their advice. Her brother was trying to be one of the diplomats and had actually learned his job very well. His Yevon had improved greatly at least.
Her brother faced the group and bowed “Lady Yuna, it is a great honor to receive you. We extend the erm..hospitality of Home to you and your guardians. “
Yuna returned the bow and said “Thank you. I trust my request has been granted?”
He nodded “Of course. Such a simple thing. I wish we could do more, but my father would like to see you first, if you could get into the vehicle we will take you right to him. It’s much to dangerous to walk now. The fiends have returned and stronger than before.”
“Yes, that’s one of the things I was hoping to learn more about. It’s happening all over Spira.”
The group piled into the vehicle and they sped off towards Home. They soon entered Home itself and everyone marveled at what had been done here. There were many tall buildings and examples of improvement in technology everywhere. Yuna could one day seeing this city rival the vision of Zanarkand she had seen in Seymour’s study. The vehicle came to a stop before a large three story building. They got out and passed through security and soon found themselves in the presence of Cid. He moved towards Yuna and gave her a big bear hug. “Yuna! How’s my little niece!”
Yuna smiled and said “I’m fine Uncle. How’s the repairs on the airship going?”
Cid frowned and said “Not well. This ship was built with a technology we still don’t really know. We never really did rightly figure out how it flew. That’s what seems to be wrong with it, the propulsion system. We don’t have a clue how it works either.”
The talk continued for a while as Cid told everyone how the reconstruction of Home was going. The talk soon turned to the problem of the fiends returning and the rumors of sorcery. Cid said “I guess that’s why you want to read some of our old history books. I’d tell ya all about it but I never really did read much history and I’d probably forget it if I did. Anyways I’ll have someone take you to where the texts are stored. They‘ve all been translated so you folks should have no problem reading them.”
Several days had passed and they were all tired of reading. Yuna rubbed her eyes as she finally finished her pile. Though boring at times she had learned a lot. She had never guessed that the Al Bhed side of her had such a rich history. The texts told of the first war caused by a horrible sorceress named Adel. She had resided in a city know as Esthar that later became known as Zanarkand. So that’s where Tidus came from. Adel had a reign of terror that was matched by few in history but had quickly disappeared by some unrecorded means. Shortly after the war had ended the first Garden had been established by a man named Cid and his wife, ironically a sorceress named Edea. She briefly wondered why her uncle shared that name.
The purpose of the Gardens was to defeat Sorceresses who threatened the world. The garden residents were know as SeeD’s. The texts recorded the history of the organization through the end of Ultimicea’s reign. Many times had they stood forth against Sorceresses. Often stopping them before they had truly begun. There were those of that kind who never sought power but SeeD watched them nonetheless.
Also included were the exploits of Lionheart, the Angel, and their companions. The Children of Fate. Their true names were not recorded. Yuna shook her head sadly at how much of history had been lost.
Also recorded were the exploits of SeeD after Ultimicea. They had tried to stop the great war between Zanarkand and Bevelle, which had once been known as Galbadia. Their interference had branded them as traitors by both sides and they were ridiculed and persecuted. She marveled at the strength of spirit of the Al Bhed to be able to stay together and thrive in the face of all that happened. She supposed they owed it all to the will of her ancestors.
Most interesting were texts that described the power of Sorcery. The origins were lost in obscurity but the effects of the power were described in some detail. The ability to enhance and control fiends and monsters, powers of mind control, even on a mass level, and magical powers on a scale not seen before or since. Recommended methods of fighting involved something called GF’s. They had not explained what those were since the texts assumed the reader had some knowledge of the subject.
She sighed and looked towards everyone else. “Has anyone found any mention of something called GF’s?”
Lulu looked up and said “Yes, but there is no mention of what they actually are. Though the full name of Guardian Forces is given in one of the texts. Nothing else though. The Sorceress sections also contained mention of Knights. The good Sorceresses were almost always accompanied by one. There are no answers as to why however. I don’t think they knew either.”
Everyone else nodded and indicated that they had found the same. Yuna rubbed her eyes and said “I suppose we have found everything that we’re going to here. Rikku, can you take us tomorrow to where the sphere was found? And bring some maps of the ocean tides.”
“Why?” Rikku asked. She was having trouble with a strange buzzing at the back of her mind, and was having trouble concentrating.
“Well, maybe by backtracking the path of the tides we can find the point of origin of the sphere. Or at least a general area. Maybe then we can find Tidus.”
“Hey. That’s a good idea. Shouldn’t we try to find out what these GF’s are first?” asked Wakka
“Maybe. But if we haven’t found any more information about what they are here I don’t think we’re going to find out anywhere. I think it best to proceed and hope we learn more along the way. First however I believe we should all get a good night’s sleep.” They all nodded and prepared to move towards their lodgings.
Squall stirred as he felt a hand shaking his shoulder. Opening one eye, the form of Rinoa appeared before him. In his mind, there were far worse things to wake up to.
“Just a few more minutes.” He closed his eyes and immediately began drifting back to sleep.
“No you don’t!” She grabbed his arm and hauled him to his feet.
“Why did they have to send you? “ She was always merciless when it came to waking him .
She laughed “Because I’m the only one who has the guts. Everyone else thinks they’ll end up a gun blade shish kebob.”
He half-smiled in spite of himself “Ok. I’m awake.”
“Good. Your professor is meeting with all the students outside in a half hour. I have to go talk to Quistis and the others about security arrangements. Have time to hang out later?”
“Sure.” Rinoa smiled and headed off while Squall walked about zombie-like for a cup of coffee. He found it in the galley. He saw that there were only the little Styrofoam cups. He grunted and looked for something bigger “Hey. Don‘t I always take care of you?” He turned at the sound of the voice and saw Seifer. He handed Squall a 32 ounce cup.
He turned and saw Seifer “Thanks.” Squall poured his coffee. Drained half of it and proceeded to pour more. Seifer just smiled and shook his head.
“I’m going to write a paper for posterity on how to defeat the great Squall Leonhart. Catch him right after he wakes up.”
Squall rolled his eyes and started to walk outside. Seifer fell alongside and the two joined their fellow students waiting for the professor to begin the day. He soon arrived and began to lecture about proper procedure in initial investigations of a site. Squall had heard it all before many times and tuned it out. He drifted in his thoughts until “Squall?”
“Here is your group‘s task. You are to stake out the site and gather preliminary data of outside features. We’re going to do this one by the book. Of course I don’t need to tell you to do a thorough job. You always do.”
“Yes sir.” Squall kind of resented it, wondering why just this once he couldn’t be passed over for a leadership position. Squall’s group gathered around him and he arranged them in sub-groups. One was to take pictures and mark any outstanding features. The others would gather the equipment and begin surveying the site. Marking the stakes, and determining likely spots to dig. They moved with speed. They were all excited to be here. Actually doing what they were being trained to do instead of listening to lectures about it. Squall began walking towards the site with the first group. Someone fell in beside him. He took a sip of his coffee and saw Rinoa. “Hey. Assigned to our group?”
“Yep. Told Quistis I just couldn’t resist protecting you for a change.”
He chuckled and Rinoa continued. “Hey Squall, been meaning to ask you. Why are students doing all the work? I thought they hired laborers and such at sites.”
“They used to. Someone got smart and realized that students don’t get paid. Plus the students actually get to learn something so it’s a win-win situation for everybody. Where’s everyone else assigned to?”
“Oh, Zell is watching the other group and Quistis is patrolling the perimeter. Selphie and Irvine are taking the night watch.”
“Gee. I wonder why?”
Rinoa smacked him on the arm. “Meany.” she said smiling.
“Thought I might have graduated to a four letter word by now.”
“Give it time, Leonheart.”
Squall smiled as they topped the rise and saw the site for the first time. Rinoa exclaimed. “Hey! This is where we found Odin and Tonberry King.”
“I heard Galbadia was going to mount a major expedition here next year. Guess the professor wanted to beat them to it. There’s evidence of another major civilization that was here before the Centran one. Now I know why he kept it so secret.”
“You want to tell the inside team how to open Odin’s door?”
“Nah. Why deprive them of the fun?”
Rinoa laughed. “Guess I’ll go do whatever it is us highly paid professionals do. Enjoy your work Squall. Use this if you need me.” She handed him a walkie-talkie. He guessed every team leader got one.
Squall nodded and began to oversee the preliminary work. Over the next several hours the students worked quickly and the assigned task of preliminary site work was moving along well. The professor checked in every now and then over the radio. He sounded very excited and was pleased with the progress of all teams so far. Every now and then Rinoa checked in with him. She sounded very professional. He guessed she had done some growing up as well. A few years ago she would have just used the radio as a means to tease him. Seifer however, who was leading the inside team, did use it for that purpose. Just a little though. Squall smiled and shook his head. Some things about Seifer would never change. Some students had come up and asked permission to dig at what they had identified as a particularly intriguing possibility. Squall nodded his approval and the students moved off. Quistis was coming near him he noted and he leaned on his shovel, and nodded to her.
The professor came over the radio “Seifer, are you having any luck with that door? There has to some sort of a mechanism used to open it.”
Seifer sounded a little nervous “No, professor. We’re still trying.”
Squall couldn’t help but laugh to himself a bit.
“Squall the ditch digger. Never would have thought it.” Said Quistis
“Whatever.” They both said in unison.
They shared a chuckle. “Thought you were watching the perimeter?”
“ Irvine can’t seem to get to sleep yet. Said he needed to work some energy off. So he gave me a break“ She turned and surveyed their surroundings. “Kind of funny to end up here huh?”
“Yeah, kind of exciting too.”
“Excited? Squall? Has the world ended?”
“From what I hear they’re having trouble figuring out how to get that door open . Should we tell them?”
“Nah, Seifer’s leading that team.”
“Thought you two were friends now?”
“We are. Doesn‘t mean I can‘t be a little mean to him.”
Quistis chuckled and suddenly Rinoa’s voice came over the radio. “Quistis, have something you should see over here.”
Quistis smiled and said “She has changed a bit hasn’t she?” She pushed the button and said “Be right there.” Turning back to him, she noted. “Only a few years ago she wouldn’t have shut up on this thing. Now she’s actually acting like a SeeD.”
Quistis began to head towards Rinoa’s position. “Catch you soon Squall.” Squall waved and started back to work on the hole he was digging.
“What is it Rinoa?”
Rinoa pointed towards the horizon. “Looks like a real bad storm brewing and heading this way.”
“I’ve seen something like this once before. When we lived at the orphanage. That looks like a hurricane.”
Rinoa shuddered. “We’d better warn everyone and get to shelter.”
Quistis nodded. “Go wake Selphie and begin gathering the students in front of the structure. We’ll be safest in there. It’s old but still solid.”
Rinoa headed to her task. Quistis was for once thankful to the GF’s for taking her memories, though this particular one lingered. The hurricane was something she tried very hard to forget. She hurried back to Squall’s position and informed him of the weather situation. He looked surprised and even a little fearful. She guessed that Squall remembered the hurricane too. “I have a few students over that rise. They were going to dig at a new site.”
“Rinoa will get them. She’s going around collecting all the loose people. Now get you and your people moving. I’m in charge of this mission and that makes you my responsibility. So move your ass!”
“Yes, ma’am.” He chuckled and gathered his fellow students to head to the shelter.
The noise of the vehicle droned on and on as they made their way. Yuna looked over at Rikku and was beginning to get worried. Usually there was no shutting her cousin up. However this morning she had not made a peep. “Rikku, are you alright?”
“Hmm. Yes. Just not feeling well I suppose.” I’d be better if this infernal buzzing would stop. I swear it almost sounds like voices. Fithos?…Vinosec?
Yuna smiled and placed her hand on Rikku’s shoulder. “Just don’t push yourself Ok?”
Rikku nodded and the rest of the way was made in silence. They reached their destination and they all piled out of the vehicle.
“Hey, this is the same place we were washed up when Sin caught us in Macalania ya?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact I think it is. Rikku, the sphere was found washed up in this lagoon right?” asked Lulu.
“Huh? Oh, yeah. I Think I’m just going to sit down for a while. Not feeling well, ya know?”
Yuna nodded and gave Kimahri a look that said “Look after her”. Kimahri nodded his understanding. It was funny how the two of them could communicate without words like that. There was only one other person who could… She stopped that train of thought immediately as it would only lead to eventual crying. It had so many times before and she had a job to do. “Wakka, you have the maps of the tides correct?”
Wakka nodded and she, Lulu, and Wakka immediately began to pore over it. One thing came clear after several minutes, it was confusing. Wakka scratched his head and said “I can’t make heads or tails of this.”
Lulu glanced at him exasperated. Yuna stifled a giggle. She had the sneaking suspicion that Lulu secretly liked to be angry with him, and that Wakka knew this and obliged her. The two had a strange relationship but in some unexplainable way it worked. Lulu turned back to the map and said ‘The problem that I see is that shortly from here there are three separate currents that intersect. It could have come from any of the three.”
“Yes.” Yuna said. She traced her fingers across the map. “Baaj Temple, Besaid, and the Moonflow area.”
Lulu nodded “I think we can eliminate Besaid. That leaves the Moonflow and Baaj. Which do we choose?”
Yuna turned to the sound of Kimahri’s cry and saw something that she could not explain. Rikku was floating in the air and surrounded by a strange light. Her arms and legs danced about in the air as if she was a puppet.
What in Yevon’s name?!” Wakka cried and immediately rushed over to try and help. Kimahri was trying to reach her too but bumped into what Yuna assumed was a barrier of some sort. They all gathered around as close as they dared and suddenly it ended. Rikku collapsed back to the ground and laid there, not moving. Yuna slowly made her way towards her and noted that she was almost white in color. She touched her arm. It was as cold as ice.
“How the hell should I know?!”
Yuna yelled “Would you please be quiet!” She immediately began casting Curaga though she had a suspicion that it would not help. “Lulu, do you have any curative items that might help?”
“Well, I do have a…”
They were all silenced by an insane chittering that they had all heard before. But it couldn’t be. They had never been found here before.
A Greater Malboro was coming towards them and moving fast. Wakka readied his stance “Yuna, call the play!”
Yuna was at a loss for a moment. The greatest threat from a Malboro was not it’s physical attacks, though those were deadly enough. The gas that it often emitted from it’s mouth was absolutely devastating. It contained hallucinogenic compounds that caused the mind to see things that weren’t there. Caused paranoia that could cause you to attack your friend as if they were your deadliest enemy. Thoughts of what Auron or Tidus would do filtered through her mind. Then she had it.
“Kimahri, Wakka take the front. Distract it and don’t let it exhale it’s breath. Lulu, in the back and cast Flare and Ultima. I’ll heal and counteract the effects.”
They all nodded and took their assigned places. Wakka unleashed a blitz ball and struck the Malboro near the mouth area. It only looked annoyed. Kimahri was dodging tentacles and attempting to use his spear. Lulu was chanting, and she stood at the ready. She heard a great exhale and the gas seeped out towards Yuna and her party. She was readying an Esuna spell when she felt the cloud overtake her. She hadn’t stood far enough back. Yuna cursed herself for not remembering. Tidus and Auron had always made sure she was in her proper place.
The effects began immediately and the world started spinning. She couldn’t concentrate and only caught glimpses. The glimpses terrified her.
Wakka was laying on the ground after a thrust from Kimahri had struck home. Lulu was walking around in a daze and she wasn’t any better. Unless help arrived soon, Yuna feared this was the end for all of them.
The students began to file into the building. As each entered, the professor took their name and asked Squall to compare with his list. Quistis was impressed by how well the students were taking this. She guessed that Squall was a calming influence. Once a leader, always a leader. She shook herself from her thoughts and attended to her own duties. She depressed the button on her radio “Selphie, how goes the supply gathering?”
“Just fine. I’ve loaded the vehicle with as much food and water as it can carry. Irvine is taking care of making sure the ship is secure and also storing extra supplies in a safe location. We should be there in about fifteen minutes. Way before the storm hits.”
“Excellent. Rinoa and Zell, how goes the student gathering?”
Rinoa chimed in. “On my way with the last group now.”
Zell just came in at the moment and gave her the thumbs up sign. Quistis nodded and went to report to the professor. “Everything seems to be going well. We should be able to last the storm in here. Plenty of supplies are on the way too.”
“Thank you Ms. Trepe. Your team and yourself have done excellent work. We’re more used to our security running from trouble.”
Quistis smiled and said. “So Squall tells me”
The professor smiled and said “This is a welcome change. I hope we have the funds to hire you every time from here on out. Squall and Seifer were getting a little tired of having to play that role.”
Rinoa walked in with the last group of students at that moment. Seifer and Squall led a group of students to help fortify any windows and doors. “Funny, I’ve known Seifer almost my entire life and I never pictured him helping anyone.”
“I have read some of what happened to you during the Sorceress war. While I had my misgivings about Seifer as being my student, rest assured that he has put them to rest. That is not the same man as the one you fought. True he is exasperating at times, but I’ve yet to meet a student who isn’t.”
“Tell me about it.” said Quistis.
She chuckled “You’re not the only teacher here. Earlier in my career I was an instructor at Balamb Garden.” The two began to compare notes on the trials and tribulations of the profession of teaching.
Selphie and Irvine had arrived with the supplies and everyone had proceeded with making the area as safe as possible. The work was soon done and there was nothing to do now but wait for the storm to hit. Zell had just installed some emergency lighting and was now showing off for a group of female students. Quistis and the professor were deeply engaged in a conversation. Rinoa, Irvine and Selphie were seeing to the disposition of the supplies. Squall decided he was feeling a bit crowded and decided to exploring for a bit.
He went to find Seifer and told him “In case anyone wonders, I just went to explore a bit.”
“Ok. Just use the radio if you need to.”
Squall nodded and began to head towards Odin’s door. He had always wondered if there was something that he had missed the first time. He lost himself in thought as he made his way. He couldn’t seem to get Rinoa off of his mind today. Even while working, she just seemed to creep in. She had changed greatly in the last several years. The Rinoa he knew would never have been able to do her job so quickly, or so well. . He had never admitted it to her but the fact that she was always playful and never took anything seriously had grated on his nerves after a time. It was one of the main reasons he had agreed to separate from her. He couldn’t help but think that they could make it work this time.
Squall sat in front of the door that he had entered so long ago. For many reasons this door was a symbol of what happened to him. He entered it and came out forever changed. Defeating the legendary guardian had made him believe that maybe they had a chance to succeed. He wondered what was in there now that Odin had departed. He barely remembered the room as he had been fighting for his life at the time. He vaguely remembered writing of some sort but of what language he couldn’t recall. He lost himself in speculations for a time.
He felt a presence behind him and felt Rinoa’s hand upon his shoulder. It was funny how he could still identify her by a simple act of touching.
Rinoa said. “Mind some company?”
“No. Was just thinking.”
The two passed the time in companionable silence for a time. Squall began to wonder about something. “You’re not going to ask me what I was thinking?”
“No. I figured you’d tell me if you wanted to.”
Squall chuckled. “You did a great job today.”
Rinoa almost fell over in shock. Compliments from Squall were not a common occurrence. They sure beat ‘whatever‘ though. “Thank you. Squall, something’s been bugging me for a long time.”
“Why did you really resign as the commander? I know you told everyone it was because you were sick of the fighting and all, but I’m not sure I buy it.”
“Are you sure you want to hear? You may not like the answers.”
“Yes. I really want to know.”
“From the time I left the orphanage it seemed I never had a choice in anything. I was taught to be disciplined, serious, and hone my fighting skills. After passing the SeeD exam, here I was suddenly thrust into being the commander of an army, to lead the fight against the sorceress. I realized after it was over that I had never had a choice in anything, to a point that even included you.” Rinoa looked hurt and was about to answer. “Please let me finish . I decided that after Garden became stable I would make my own choices, go after my own dreams. As for me and you.” Squall looked into her eyes. “None of what happened before matters. Because this time I have a choice, and I choose to be with you.”
Rinoa looked into his eyes and their lips met. Both were surprised at how natural it felt after so long. They continued for quite some time before they heard the voice of someone singing behind them.
“Squall and Rinoa, Sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes…”
“Selphie!” Squall yelled. Quistis was behind them and trying very hard not to laugh.
“I’m sorry Squall. The professor sent me to find you. He’d like to take advantage of the weather and survey the inside of this site more. He’d like you to lead a group and figure out how to open this.” Quistis pointed to Odin’s door in front of them. “He wasn’t happy with Seifer’s lack of progress.”
Squall groaned and started to head back. “Well, at least this will make me look good.”
Rinoa smiled and strode beside Squall. They soon reached the professor. He saw Squall and said “Ah, excellent. Mr. Leonheart. Seifer and his inside team were having trouble opening a particularly intriguing door. They seem to have run out of ideas and I was hoping that you might.”
“Sir, I can honestly tell you that I know exactly how to open that door.”
“And how might that be?”
“Having a time limit placed on your life can be an amazing inspiration.”
The professor looked confused and Squall proceeded to tell him what had happened the last time they were here. “You mean the legendary guardian Odin was here? Does his presence remain?”
“I somehow doubt that.”
“I will take your word for it. Was there anything in particular about the room that you remember?”
“Yes. I seem to remember writing of some sort on the walls. I don’t remember much beyond that. I was sort of busy at the time.”
The professor smiled. “Yes. I can imagine . Shall we gather up a team and go?”
Squall nodded and the professor requested of Quistis that her team accompany them., and he hastily assembled a team of students. He grabbed Seifer along the way and they all headed back towards the area.
Seifer glared at him a little as they walked. “So you’ve been here before huh? Why didn’t you tell me? And how did you figure out how to open it?”
“You never asked. Somehow I think you’d figure out how to open it too if it was life or death.”
Seifer rolled his eyes and the students began to follow Squall’s instructions. Soon the code appeared and Squall entered the data. The door opened and they all stopped breathing for a second wondering what would happen. Several seconds passed and Squall drew breath again. The professor looked inside and said “The coast seems to be clear. Shall we?”
Squall nodded and they, along with the braver students, Seifer and the SeeDs moved to enter. “You were right Mr. Leonheart there is writing on the wall. Ancient Centran I believe. Yes.”
“Can you translate it professor?”
“Yes. It seems to be a prophecy of some sort. ‘When the guardian is defeated, the vanquishers shall return. In that hour shall one be chosen. The chosen shall make a journey and he shall be the hope of the future. He shall become the Knight.’”
Squall felt a buzzing at the back of his mind followed by a sharp pain beyond imagining. He screamed and felt himself being lifted into the air. All thought left him in that moment and he was swept away by the tide
“Squall” Screamed Rinoa and she began to run towards him. Zell intercepted her. A light had engulfed Squall. It faded and left only emptiness in it’s wake. The Lion was gone.
Squall woke up to a universe of darkness and mist. He turned his mind to what had happened and found he couldn’t comprehend it, and he had no idea of where he was. He stood and surveyed the area. One direction looked as good as any other. He was weighing his options when he heard a voice behind him. “Hello Squall.”
Squall saw a hooded boy. “Who are you?”
“Look not with your eyes. Know me you do.”
He thought for a moment. He was feeling the same presence as when he summoned…. “Bahamut?”
“What the hell am I doing here?!? And where am I?”
“Much have you grown. Still the same passion in you. Though you seek to deny it. You are in the dimensional interval. Home to myself and my brethren”
Squall thought back to the first time they had met. “I know I said then that I was born only to fight. I was wrong.”
“Yes. You were, but only to a point. The need to fight is part of you. You were born with this need for a purpose.”
“Purpose? Whatever. Just send me back. I have a life and I want to live it. Neither you nor anyone else is going to force me to do what I don’t want anymore!”
“Squall.. After everything that has happened. Will you not at least hear me out?”
“Will listening get me out of here faster?”
“Yes. I will not release you until you hear what I have to say.”
“Then go on.”
Bahamut nodded and gestured. A scene appeared on the mist. A girl dressed in pink was kneeling on an altar. A spiky haired man carrying an enormous sword stood before her. The girl was suddenly impaled by a sword from a man dressed in silver and black. That scene faded and was replaced by a kaleidoscope of images . Culminating in the silver and black figure being struck down by the spiky haired man. “Recognize these images?”
“It looks like the story of Cloud Strife and Sephiroth. But how can you show me this?”
“Time has no meaning here. We can see what we wish.”
“You mean Cloud and the others wasn’t just a story?”
“No. He was very real. The stories you heard as a child if anything understate what happened .”
“Can I meet him?” Squall swore to himself. Such an outburst was unlike him but this was something he had dreamt of his whole life.
“No, not at this time. You may yet meet one day. You are both children of destiny.”
“Whatever. What’s the meaning of showing me this?”
“The evil that Cloud faced at that time was known as Jenova. Would you be surprised if I told you that the same force was behind it and Ultimicea?”
“What kind of force?”
“It is the personification of hatred and destruction. It seeks to dominate or end life. Even it is not sure which. Did you ever ask yourself why Ultimicea wanted to compress time?”
“Sure. Odine thought it about the most, but not even he gave a satisfactory answer as far as I was concerned.”
“To answer the riddle you must understand the nature of time. Why does it exist?”
Squall sighed. Though he thought often, he had long ago decided that metaphysics was best left to those who sat on mountain tops. He had little patience for it. He decided to answer even if it was probably wrong. “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.”
“Excellent. There is a fine mind lurking behind that scowl. Your answer is correct, and what would happen if time was compressed?”
“Everything would happen at once. It would be utter chaos. Ultimicea for all her power would be swept away in it too.”
“Exactly. She was deceived into thinking that she would survive. The only one that would be served by it was the force we spoke of earlier.”
Squall sighed impatiently and Bahamut continued “Let me show you what happened after Ultimicea.” The mist again swirled into a scene. It showed two powerful nations going to war. Experiments being conducted on GF’s, and a man who was standing above an enormous crowd chanting a powerful incantation. Power swirled around him and the people disappeared. Only to be coalesced into the form of an enormous and powerful beast.
“I don’t understand. What am I seeing?”
“You are witnessing the birth of an entity that became known as Sin. Esthar and Galbadia later became known as Zanarkand and Bevelle respectively. The experiments you are seeing resulted in the deaths of more than one of my brethren. It was an attempt to make guardians in bondage to humans. In the end it succeeded. Human souls were bonded onto us and we were imprisoned in stone. Only waiting for a worthy human to call and be granted our power. We came to be called Aeons.
“The man you are seeing is Yu Yevon. What he did here was an obscenity that should never have been allowed. Zanarkand was no match for the machina, or machines of Bevelle. The people of Zanarkand knew that they were about to be overrun and joined in Yu Yevon’s mad plan. He lured them into the promise of a never ending idyllic dream. The consequences of this act not only created the monstrosity you see. It damaged the spirit world itself. No longer would people depart peacefully. They could only leave with the assistance of a summoner, or one who used Aeons.”
“Ok. What happened next?”
“Sin attacked the forces of Bevelle. The machina could not stand against him. His daughter Yunalesca knew her father’s plan and sought to escape it. Eventually she created a new Aeon, using the bond between her husband and herself. Their love was strong enough and they defeated Sin. She died in the summoning but was never sent to the spirit world. She became what is known as an Unsent. One of those doomed to walk the earth until a summoner released them. The people thought they were saved, but ten years later Sin returned. Yu Yevon was inside of Sin and joined with the Aeon that Yunalesca had created. He created a new armor for himself and rampaged anew. Thus the spiral of death began. Summoners went on a pilgrimage to Yunalesca to learn the secret of the final summoning. Sin would be defeated but would always return 10 years later. The cycle repeated itself over and over for a thousand years. Until a summoner named Yuna and her guardians finally defeated Sin and Yu Yevon without the final summoning. One of her guardians named Tidus, who ironically came from the dream of Zanarkand, lost his existence in the battle. He was later returned to existence by us. He was to be our champion again but he was imprisoned by this sorcerer. The Guardian Forces were set free and we resumed our natural forms.”
“Ok. This is all well and good. Peace was restored and all that. What’s any of this have to with me? And what are you Guardian Forces anyways?”
“We are servants of the light, simply put. A few of us such as Gilgamesh and Odin are neutral parties, but we all strive to hold the destructive force at bay. As to why you are here…. Much of Rinoa’s powers were stripped from her in time compression correct?”
“Much? I thought all of them were.”
“No, Not all. She has buried it very deep. She doesn’t know it’s still there but it exists. She is still a sorceress.”
“I’m still her Knight then. You have to send me back.”
“No. There is another who needs you far more than Rinoa does now. The power of sorcery floated through time. There isn’t any other way to describe it that you would understand. We sought to stop it but we only succeeded in splitting the power in two. The other part settled into Spira shortly after the events I just described. It was guided into a man.”
“No man has ever been able to gain the power.”
“Yes. We were able to stop it in your time. However our imprisonment and the thousand year reign of Sin weakened us to the point we could not block the transference to him. Sorcery would be more powerful in the hands of a man. Not because a man is stronger. It is a question of compatibility.”
“The essence of sorcery is primal and fierce. Women have shall we say… gentler instincts than men. They are unused to such feelings and have little experience dealing with them. A Knight helps the Sorceress cope. The bond enables the Knight to understand and counteract the negative instincts. Though often he does so unconsciously. This is why Sorceresses who did not have a Knight more often become mad. The confusion in their spirit often leads to disastrous results.”
So that’s what Edea meant when she said I would protect Rinoa’s spirit. “Ok, what’s this have to do with sorcery going into a man? From everything you have told me a man could cope with the power better.”
“No. They can help only when they are not directly infused with the power. Sorcery is insidious. When directly implanted into a male it knows exactly what to do to corrupt. Often using a man’s better instincts against him. The end result is that some part of a woman fights using the power thereby weakening it. A man is more compatible with it and therefore there is no resistance when it gains control in the end.
“Understand that the conflict between us and the force, it has had many names but is most often known as Proteus, is much like what you would see in a chess match, with unfortunate mortals as the chess pieces. I wish it could be otherwise but I have no choice. You are one of my final moves.”
Squall scratched his scar “You said the power had been split into two?”
“Yes, we were able to find a worthy recipient. You will find her… interesting, as well as challenging, but in the end she has the strength to be what she needs to be. She just needs a guide. The people of this time have no experience fighting sorcery. They are at a loss and will be defeated, unless you agree to help.” Squall rubbed his scar. “I’ll go, just don’t expect me to be happy about it.”
Bahamut looked at Squall sympathetically “I wish there was another way. You think you have done enough and are perhaps right. Nonetheless you are still needed. I will go with you. Seek out my brethren. Guardian Forces still exist in the future. Though you will have to find them and prove yourselves worthy. We will be the light in the darkness. Call us when you have need.”
“Whatever. Let’s get this over with.”
Bahamut gestured and a lighted path appeared. Squall turned away and angrily began to stomp down the path. Bahamut gazed sadly after and said “Godspeed Squall. Know that you are never alone. Though it may be long before you know it.”
Yuna was fast giving up all hope. The only two left still standing were her and Kimahri. Neither had escaped the effects of the gas yet. The world was still spinning and she caught a glimpse of Kimahri coming towards her, spear upraised. She was still too disoriented to even attempt to dodge. She closed her eyes as Kimahri’s spear was driving home and she silently commended her soul to the Farplane.
The spear never hit home however. She heard a clank and Kimahri roared in a voice of pain. She felt Esuna being cast on her and she shook her head to clear it. She turned to look into the eyes of a dark haired stranger. She also saw Kimahri laying on the ground. The stranger spoke “He’s not dead. I just knocked him unconscious. Can you heal your companions?”
Yuna nodded and began to cast healing magic. The stranger said. “I’m going to take care of the Malboro. Be prepared to support if I need it.”
The stranger sprinted towards the Malboro, who was moving towards the prone Rikku. He attacked it from the back and Yuna turned her attention towards getting her guardians on their feet. Each finally stood and came to stand before Yuna.
Wakka said “Yuna, what happened?”
Yuna pointed towards the stranger and the Malboro. Lulu exclaimed “We have to help him!”
Wakka grinned and said. “Doesn’t look like he needs it.”
Squall was skillfully dodging each attempt the Malboro made at an attack. His own blows were having a telling effect however as each time he depressed his trigger at the exact time to magnify the damage. The monster roared . He was successfully distracting it from launching it’s breath but Squall knew he couldn’t keep this pace up forever. He would tire soon and the others still weren’t able to help yet. All his frustrations and emotions of the last few days were erupting from him. Lionheart time. He continued to move around the creature and attacking when he could. He just needed a few seconds to prepare himself. The Malboro made a desperate thrust which Squall barely dodged. The creature had overbalanced itself and almost tipped over. It was the break he needed.. Squall readied his stance and launched into the beginning steps of the Renzokuken.
Squall felt rather than saw the blows he was dealing. The Malboro was screaming in anguish with each hit. He launched into the Lionheart, and with each blow the creature began to fall into pieces. The trancelike state ended and he turned to survey the damage. Many of the pieces were still twitching as the Malboro fell. He had defeated it and he fell to his knees. The Lionheart maneuver always exhausted him . After recovering for a moment, he saw the group staring at him with awe in their faces. Squall looked at them for the very first time and couldn’t help but think What a motley crew. Well, people think the same of my team upon first glance. Guess I’ll reserve judgment.
The man with the funny clothes was moving towards him slowly and a little fearfully. The rest of the group followed suit. “Well, Bahamut did say he was going to send help ya?”
Yuna stepped to the front “My name is Yuna. These others are my guardians Lulu, Wakka, and Kimahri” She indicated each in turn. “Might I ask your name sir?”
“Squall Leonheart… who’s the girl over there?” He turned to indicate the prone Rikku.
“She is another of my guardians. We have no idea of what happened to her. She was suddenly engulfed in a light and she fell into the state she is now. Nothing we did seemed to help her.”
“Care if I have a look?”
“Oh, no. Please do.”
Squall nodded and knelt beside her. He felt her wrist. Still a pulse, however weak. She’s so pale and so cold. Just like the time Rinoa… so that was it. She was the Sorceress Bahamut had mentioned. He still had no idea what to do though. The only thing that had brought Rinoa out of her coma was time, and Ultimicea’s possession.
“Do you know what’s wrong with her?”
“Yes. I just don’t know how to fix it. Unless…” He thought for a moment about his conversation with Bahamut in the interval. He said that Knights helped Sorceresses adjust to their power. What if this coma was a result of the shock. He clasped her hand as he did when he and Rinoa bonded. He reached out to her with his thoughts.
I am here. You are not alone.
Who are you? I’m so afraid.
Don’t be. I am here to help you.
Why should I trust you? I don’t even know who you are!
I can’t make you trust me. All I can tell you is that as long as you have need of me, I’ll be here. I promise.
All was silent for a moment and Squall felt the familiar feeling of the bond emerge. Squall snapped out of his reverie and noted that her skin was warming and color was returning. She opened her eyes and looked at him for the first time. She weakly smiled at him “Who are you?”
“Squall Leonheart, your Knight.”