Diamond Dust Chunk 3
Chapter 19: Party
Never, thought Quistis, had she seen so many people, all in one place, all enjoying themselves as much, as there were here tonight.
The plans for the Garden festival had gone forward without a hitch. The Gravity Room Diablos had set up had about a dozen kids in it jumping around the walls, the water section had a collection of swimsuit-clad teenagers sitting around the pool Leviathan had set up. Ifrit had done a fabulous job of the lighting, setting the whole of T-Garden aglow with dancing flames, and she didn't think her ice-figure and figurines looked bad either. Selphie was delirious with happiness, closely followed by Carbuncle, who had been drinking coffee again and was calming down by flying laps around the Gardens perimeter, she could hear the sonic-booms from here. Diablos had been behaving himself for a change, whatever it was that had changed him, she was hole-heartedly glad for it. Squall and Rinoa were cutting a path through the dance floor, both having the time of their lives. Irvine was... there... across the room talking with a group of girls. Selphie will kill him when she sees him. Since the wedding, Irvine had been keeping away from other females, although he still couldn't resist trying to charm them.
Her feelings last month had been ill-founded it seemed, nothing had gone wrong, although she was still dreading meeting Laguna. Zell and Rosie cam over to where she was sitting, both breathless. 'Hey Quisty! Why aren't you dancing?'
'Sorry guys, can't. It's taking most of my concentration to keep these damn statues from melting.' She and Ifrit had been having a competition all night, he was trying to melt the statues with his powers, she was trying to stop him with hers. So far she was performing admirably.
'Oh, OK then! Tell us when you get bored!' He went off with Rosie towards the dormitories (they had all been given temporary dorms for the night) for Hyne-knew-what reason. Actually, I think most of us know for what reason she thought to herself with a chuckle.
Yes, we do. Quistis spun round, recognising the voice. 'Eden!?'
It seemed that Eden had been busy in her time away from Garden, creating a new human 'shell'. It looked much like the old one, except more shiny. Quistis smiled, it had been too long. 'Hey there! It's been a while.' The Guardian looked sheepish.
'Yeah well, I got here as fast as I could after I heard the news, a Guardian now eh? Congrats are in order I think, this is really rare. Alexander wants to pick your brain about how it happened.'
'I don't think so, the memories are... painful... to say the least.'
'Of course I understand, but don't think that's going to stop him, once he gets his mind on a puzzle, he won't rest until he solves it.'
'Then give him a Rubicks Cube.' Both burst out laughing, picturing the gigantic robotic Guardian trying to solve a box the size of Quistis' fist. 'Hey!' Said Eden, 'Isn't that Diablos over there?'
'Yeah, hold on.' She closed her eyes. Diablos! Over here! The dark Guardian looked over at them and smiled, walking over. She could swear the moody Guardian looked almost happy to see her. You're one to talk! She thought to herself. Then she stopped herself. Now why did I think that?
'Hi Quistis, and who is thi... Eden!?' The Guardian had not seen the old avatar before it had been destroyed by that creature in the Quad.
'Yep! Impressed?' She said, beaming.
'Erm... well... I mean... a human form... it's...' He gave up and sighed; 'Silver suits you.'
'Thanks, and... Owww!' This last bit slipped out as Carbuncle barrelled over and bashed into Eden's spine. He looked up at them and started to speak in the fast voice he tended to adopt when on a caffeine rush, only Guardians could think fast enough to understand it, the thing was better than a secret code; 'Heyheyheyhaveyouseenselphieshewassupposedtobehereonlyican'tfindherwhereisshe?' The others tried desperately not to laugh, and Eden replied;
'We think she went with Irvine to their dorm, but you shouldn't...' Carbuncle did not wait for the reply.
'ThanksedenIlikeyournewavatarshameabouttheoldonenevermindbye!' And he flew off. Quistis was the first to speak.
''If he finds Selphie, she is gonna be sooo angry with him...' The others nodded agreement.
Rinoa, Squall and Siren were watching the group from across the dance floor. 'She seems happy.' Said Rinoa.
''Seems to be' is the word...' Replied the blonde Guardian. 'She's lonely.'
'But why?' Asked Squall, surprised at this statement.
'Simple, have you been near her recently? She radiates cold. Her body temperature is several hundred degrees below freezing, she is unable to touch or be touched by other humans, this saddens her greatly.' The human couple thought about this for a while.
'I thought it was just the fact that we were in Trabia...' Started Rinoa.
'No, you notice everyone else is in coats and warm clothes, yet she is walking around in a dress which provides absolutely no protection from the cold?' Siren said.
'Well, thats not really the first thing that you notice when she walks in the room, she is blue after all and.. oww! You hit me!' Whispered Squall quietly, Rinoa having elbowed him in the ribs. Siren seemed not be notice and replied to the comment.
'Yes, she is possibly the only person outside of a mortuary slab who has that colour skin... Oww! You hit me too!' Rinoa looked annoyed at the Guardian, who was now rubbing the place where Rinoa had poked her.
'Only because you were being so mean!' She looked across at Quistis a bit harder. 'Actually, she does look pretty down, she's tying to hide it though...' The reply surprised her. Siren tended to adopt her teacher-like tone of voice when speaking on a subject she knew well, and this was no different.
'The fact that she was killed barely 20 miles from here is not helping her mood. Even if she does not know exactly where she died, her body itself remembers, and it is not happy with this fact.'
Rinoa had a question; 'Siren you said earlier that she was one of the only people to be brought back like this, how did you become a Guardian?' Siren hesitated before replying;
'Yes, it was not a pleasant experience. I have forgotten my given name, I inherited my role from a being named..., what the hell was her name?! Damn! Oh well, I will not bore you with the details, In my teenage years I was ambushed my bandits at night, they... well, you can guess, then they left me to die. I remember a conversation with... something... beautiful, peaceful. I awoke much like Quistis did.'
'Then why is she unique?' Asked Rinoa, confused.
'Her resurrection is unique in that the old Shiva passed on all of her powers to Quistis, and they seem to be increasing, this is supposed to be impossible. When a being becomes a Guardian, some of the power dissipates in the process, about a tenth is lost. Her powers, on the other hand, are increasing amazingly fast.' Her voice became quieter at this, 'To tell the truth, we're a little scared...'
Squall tried to set her mind at ease. 'Siren, have you ever heard of the Blue Mages?'
'Of course, a dead race though, they were exterminated by Adel in the First Sorceress War. Some of my fellow, and I use this term very loosely in this way, 'Guardians' helped her to do it.' She paused. 'wait a minute, are you saying...'
'Yes, she's a Blue Mage. We just never knew what one really was until she told us.'
'WHAT!' Siren screeched, drawing glances from across the room.
'Yep, surprised the hell out of, she was created to...'
'Kill sorceresses, we know, I wasn't there when Hyne created them, but most of the Guardians you know were.' Rinoa and Squall's mouths dropped open. She went on, heedless of this. 'That explains a great deal, I always wondered when we were junctioned with her why her Limit Breaks seemed so familiar.' She paused, thinking about something, then continued; 'That must be why she isn't changing physically!' She thought about this for a second, 'Not drastically anyway... her Blue powers are attempting to keep her human!' Rinoa was first to ask the question. 'Wait a minute, they knew Hyne!'
'Yes, they all did. The oldest Guardians, Bahamut, Diablos, Ifrit, all knew her to some extent. Not all of them liked her, butthey all were at least passing acquaintances.' Rinoa was speechless at that. She would ask the other Guardians about this later...
Squall, meanwhile, was curious about something hinted at in Sirens last fast-paced speech: 'Wait a minute, you're saying you can alter your appearance?'
'Of course, You don't think I originally looked like this do you?' She said with a smile. Rinoa continued this line of thought;
'I thought that was just the way you are...'
'No, in the early years, your mental state greatly affects your appearance, Quistis has not fully accepted her destiny, and her body is reacting to this, and staying mostly human. However, you notice her scar?' They had, it was the only flaw on what was otherwise a perfect (if strangely coloured) body. 'Yes.' They both replied.
'She is still bitter at her death, she still hates the one who did it to her. She does not consciously know it, but she wishes revenge for the one who did that to her.'
'Ouch...' Said Rinoa quietly, then; 'Do you know who did it?'
'Yes, she told me, all Guardians hate him, to some greater or lesser extent, he did kill Odin.' Squall started at this;
'Wait a minute! You don't mean...'
'Yes. Seifer.' Siren said quietly. Rinoa looked shocked.
'I suspected since the beginning of all this, but I never seriously thought...' Siren cut her short;
'Yes, I recall you telling me that just before he left on his last field exam he said that she was on something called his 'List'? well, no prizes for guessing what kind of list it was.' Squall was silently seething.
'That bastard!' He exclaimed quietly, 'Why though? Why did he have to kill her.'
'I suspect it was something to do with the suicide mission Cid sent her on. Maybe you should ask Cid or Quistis what it was.' Rinoa was the one who replied. 'Quistis, definitely Quistis.' She still had not entirely forgiven the aging headmaster for attempting to indirectly kill her best friend.
'Good, and...' They all heard a shout from across the room. Siren smiled.
'I think Mr Laguna has arrived, and seen our newest Guardian... Guys, some damage-control is in order I think.' All 3 moved off towards the racket to try and calm down Squall's shocked-to-the-core father.
Laguna had walked into the room to a rousing round of applause. He basked in it, he still hadn't changed from the clumsy soldier, no matter what office he held now. However, he still wasn't prepared for the fact that greeted him from the corner of the room.
Quis... Wha... He thought to himself, his mouth open wider than a T-Rexaur's. Kiros and Ward came in just behind, and saw the expression on his face. 'Woah!' remarked Kiros to Ward, 'looks like he's spotted some girl already. Ward? Ward!' Ward was not paying attention however, looking only at Quistis. Kiros turned, and was confronted by a vision in blue. His mouth fell open. Quistis on her part was smiling openly at the trio. 'Hi guys, recognise me?' She asked impishly.
'Quistis!!' Laguna went towards her to shake her by the hand, and got a nasty shock. 'We thought you were dea... YEOUCH!' He shouted upon grasping her outstretched hand. She didn't mind it this time, it was worth it for the look on Laguna's face.
'Need some time?' She asked him. Kiros took it all in his stride. 'Quistis, nice to see you again, obviously Squall may have miscalculated the seriousness of your wounds when he phoned us last year.' Both she and Kiros were smiling broadly, at Laguna's expense, who was nursing his frozen hand. Irvine wandered over to him and whispered in his ear; 'Run it under some hot water for a few minutes, it'll be fine.' Laguna went off in the direction of the men's room. Then the cowboy turned to Quistis; 'That thing is better than a hand-buzzer!' Then Squall came up. 'Where's Laguna?' He asked.
'He tried to shake Quisty's hand.' Said Irvine. No more explanation was needed.
'Ok, I'm gonna find him.' He started to move off, but Quistis stopped him.
'Squall?' She asked.
'Yeah?' He replied.
'Give him a chance, OK?' he smiled at her.
'Of course, and thanks.' He went off to find his injured father. Quistis turned to the remaining Esthar delegation. So, you want explanations?' They all nodded. 'Come on, lets get out of the way then.'
That took a while. In the end it took some help and confirmation from the other Guardians to convince them. Laguna was beaming (he didn't try to shake her hand again though) and asked whether she and the other Guardians could help out with the monster problem in Esthar, having actual friendly Guardians around would help a lot, Doomtrain didn't talk to anyone, just appeared, saved someone from the path of the occasional monster, and vanished. They agreed. Diablos said he needed something to do. Laguna walked off, still slightly shell-shocked by events so far. Diablos turned to Quistis. 'So far, so amusing. Who else doesn't know?' He asked mischievously.
'Watts and Zone, but I'm really not in the mood for that.' She replied. She hadn't seen them so far, but she knew they would be here, and probably guarding Rinoa like Rottweilers, only from a distance, and with stomach problems.
'What about Odine's old lab staff?' He asked with a smile.
'Yeah, I'm sure they'll be happy to see me, then when my back is turned they'll knock me out, shoot me full of chemicals, and do experiments on me till the next coming of Hyne.' A shiver ran down her spine, just thinking about that lab gave her the creeps. She remembered when they had visited, before they had destroyed Lunatic Pandora. Some of the lab 'experiments' had given her nightmares for weeks. Diablos saw the look on her face and realised he shouldn't push his luck. What he did next surprised Quistis, the other Guardians, and everyone who knew him at large, but most of all, himself.
'Dance?' She stopped, and turned to look at him very slowly.
'Diablos?' She started.
'Yes?' He said quickly.
'Guardian of Darkness?'
'Gravity, actually. But yes.'
Able to kill huge monsters with a mere thought?'
'Last time I checked; yes.'
'Asking me to dance?'
'Erm, yes.' He replied. She looked gobsmacked.
'Just because I look like an apparition from hell doesn't mean I can't do human things. Anything they can do, I can do better.' He said. She smiled at him.
'Sure, I'd be honoured.' They looked at each other's eyes for a few seconds, neither one saying anything. The moment was ruined however, when Carbuncle interrupted their little scene Guys! I just found Selphie! She was with Irvine, and they were...
QUIET you little piece of useless fur! Diablos snarled in Carbuncle's general psychic direction. He turned back to Quistis, who was desperately trying not to laugh at his outburst. 'Sorry about that.' He said apologetically.
'Not your fault I'm sure, shall we?' She said, holding out her arm. He took it.
'My Lady.' He said only semi-mockingly. They started towards the dancefloor, drawing stares and not a few queries from other Guardians, when...
Quistis, Diablos, Siren!
Quistis looked confused, she could have sworn that that was the Teachers voice, but he was supposed to be south of here, looking for more evidence of the creatures.
Yes, it's me, I need your help! I'm about twenty miles from your Garden. You have to hurry! Get down here! If she hadn't known better, he could have sworn he sounded actually panicked.
Not now you bastard! Quistis thought exclusively to herself. If this is another test, I'm going to kill you!
Siren came over to where the other two were standing, she noticed them linked up, and to her credit only briefly broke stride. 'Erm, did either of you hear that?'
Diablos replied; 'Yep.' He said, resigned, he unhooked his arm from Quistis' reluctantly. 'Quistis, you know him better than we do, can you find him?'
'I'll try...' She closed her eyes, and opened her mind. She reached out with her senses, looking for the Teacher in the surrounding countryside, and found...
'It's him alright, and there's something else near him, can't see what, but I can guess.'
'So,' Started Siren, 'We should go help.'
'Guess so, damn, and this party was starting to get fun, I liked the look on the face of that Estharian guy when he saw you by the way.' Said Diablos, disappointed with the turn events had taken. And it was about to get even better. He thought.
'I have that effect on people, now come on!' She said, moving off
They all walked towards the door, Quistis sending a message to Carbuncle;
Hey Carbuncle, tell Squall we had to go out!
But I wanna help to! Replied the Guardian, who had been listening in as well.
No! We need someone left here in case there are more of them!
But Eden is here and...
OK OK. So what should I tell the guys when they ask about you?
Tell them we've gone to help a friend out of trouble.
And they ran out, into the freezing Trabian winter.
Chapter 20: Departure
'Tell me...' Said Siren, panting, 'Exactly how much of Shiva's powers did you inherit?'
'All of it.' Replied Quistis.
''That... would...explain... quite a... bit...' She said breathlessly.
'Awww, getting tired?' Diablos taunted.
'Would you two stop that! We're nearly there!' Said Quistis, annoyed.
'And... who's idea was it... to run... 20 miles here?' Asked Siren haltingly.
'Mine.' Replied Diablos with a smirk.
'I'll... kill you... you bastard... as soon as I... get... my... breath back.'
'Quiet!' Said Quistis, 'We're almost there.'
They burst through the trees to be greeted by the scene of the Teacher, laying on the floor. One of them stood over him, claws extended, dripping blood onto the floor. Quistis was furious, not here, not now! Everything was going fine!
'You just made the last mistake of your life!' She shouted at it, running full pelt towards it.
On it's part, the creature looked round in time to see a fist made of coldness and sharp icicles hit it right in the forehead. It flew 10 feet away from the Teacher, who got up on his elbows as if nothing had happened. 'Very good Miss Trepe, I had not expected them to try anything here, obviously I was wrong. Hello Diablos, Siren.'
'Hi' They both replied.
'Save some for us as well!' A chorus of voices shouted from behind them.
Quistis looked round, to see Squall, Irvine, Selphie and the gang looking on, and Carbuncle's voice in her head; I'm sorry, they wanted to help.
Thats OK, just tell them to stay back for a while. She got up, angered beyond belief, to see white light gathering round her hands. A long way back.
The creature got up from the snow and addressed Quistis. 'Ah, the inestimable Miss Tree, how nice to see you again.' They cringed at hearing it's voice, those screams were just not right. She stopped for a second, then remembered where she ha seen it before.
'Very good. Tell me Trepe, do you remember this place?'
'Yes, let me jog your memory...' And images appeared in front of them, images of people, people who they recognised. The group looked on as they saw the spectral image of Seifer stab Quistis in the gut and walk away, leaving her 'ghost' to die. The others gasped, except for Rinoa and Squall, they had known that Seifer had done it. You bastard, Squall thought, you'll pay for this. Quistis looked stunned. 'I died here?'
'Very good. This is the place where your humanity died, to be replaced by...' He looked her up and down, 'That.' He finished
Diablos looked around at the others, confused. 'Hey, are we gonna talk all day, or actually kill this thing.'
'Good point.' Said Zell. They started forward, to be confronted by a literal wall of ice. 'No.' Said Quistis, lowing her hand. 'This thing's ours!' The 3 guardians attacked.
The creature on it's part put up a good show, Quistis ran at it from the front, throwing a punch aimed at it's midriff that would have floored a Weapon, but merely phased it for a few seconds. She followed this up with a sweeping kick that knocked it to the ground, as she approached it, the creature immediately struck out with it's foot with a kick that made her fall backwards. She turned this into a backflip and ended up on her feet a metre away. Diablos came up from behind and attempted to strike it on the head with his claws, but the thing sensed this and kicked him from behind in the stomach. Diablos went '..!..' and collapsed on the floor, holding his abdomen. Quistis used the diversion to summon some icicles and let fly at him, one hit him in the leg, the other in the region where his stomach would be, and the one aimed for it's head, he actually caught. He threw it at Siren, who was too wrapped up in casting to notice it, she caught it in the gut, and collapsed. 'Siren!' She ran at it, screaming, throwing as many punches and kicks as she could whilst not tripping herself up. The fight devolved into a flurry of blocks and counter-attacks that the other Guardians had trouble keeping up with. Then Quistis slipped up on the snow. Landing hard, she looked back up from the floor to see the creature not trying to finish her off, but standing over the Teacher, who was not moving away. She saw it raise it's hand.
Come on, do something! she silently screamed at the almost hypnotised-looking Teacher.
Saw it draw it's fist back, and sharp slivers of bone extend from it.
Saw it punch the Teacher in the heart, and throw him to the floor.
The creature turned, smiling, to see Quistis hold up her hands, and a blizzard fly towards it at top speed. When it had passed, it found that it's feet were encased in icicles, and it could not move. 'Oh shi...' The ice exploded, the creature was engulfed in shards of flying ice sharper than glass. However, it seemed to have grown stronger since their last meeting, it was still alive. Barely, but it stumbled towards the exhausted Quistis, and grabbed her by the throat, lifting her from the ground, choking her, squeezing the life out of her. No, not like this!
'Goodbye, Miss Trepe.' It said, drawing back his fist for the final blow. It felt a breeze against it's forehead, and turned to look at the barrel of Irvine's gun pointed at it's face. 'Yep, but it's not her who's going away.' He said. Irvine fired at point-blank range, shattering what was left of the creatures face, and sending it and Quistis tumbling to the floor. Rinoa ran over to Quistis, looking for signs of life, and seeing none.
No, not again please not again!
'Do not worry, she will be fine...' They turned, to see the Teacher propping himself up on his elbows farther. 'Celes was wrong, she does not wish to be a Guardian, she wishes to live. She will not survive those things. She is not strong enough.'
'No!' Shouted Selphie, 'She is! We know she is.'
'She is NOT! They will find her and kill her, she is weak!' The Teacher snarled at Selphie. Squall approached the dying... man?
'Tell us what must be done.' The reply shocked them all.
'Kill her, her powers must be passed on to someone willing to carry the torch. They can defeat the demons instead. Miss Trepe may not be able to! Better a maybe than a sure failure.' Irvine was shaking his head.
'No, she will, I know she can, she has us to help her!'
'That is the POINT you stupid boy! She must do this alone, that is how it has always been!'
'Well, we're not going to let her, the hell with your 'traditions.''
The Teacher was getting short of breath now. 'You don't... understand... She is not... strong enough. She will... die in the attempt.' Diablos had recovered enough to speak now, and talked to the dying man.
'You are wrong.' He stated simply. 'She has her friends, she has us, to help her, she will triumph. I am sure. Your services are no longer needed. Goodbye, old man.'
'No!' He gasped. 'you... must not.. interfere...The risk is too... great...'
And he died. All were quiet. Then, suddenly, his body dissolved into what looked like coloured fireflies.
After a few minutes Diablos was the first to speak. 'Come on, help me with these two.' He said, indicating the prone forms of Quistis and Siren.
'Erm...' Started Rinoa.
'What he said, about Quistis not being strong enough...' Diablos cut her off.
'He's wrong. She has us, she told you not to come, yet you came anyway, fearing for her life, not caring that you might die saving it.' He looked at Quistis, and smiled. 'She is a very lucky person.' Now why did I say that? He thought to himself. He was beginning to wonder...
Falling for her, Diablos? He looked at Siren, supported by Irvine, she was smiling at him from under the cowboy's arm.
Go carefully. He warned her
I think you're very lucky. She told him. You both are. Then Quistis woke up. 'What... happened?' She reached out with her mind, sensing who was there, and seeing; 'NO!' Diablos looked at her, and felt her pain. He tried to explain. 'Quistis, he said... things before he died, he wanted us to kill you.'
'...What?' He explained on for five minutes, Quistis' mood getting darker by the minute. 'Quistis, he didn't believe in you, he wanted someone else to fight them.' She took all of this remarkably calmly.
'OK then... I suppose.' She looked at Diablos. 'I never said thank you, you know...' He looked at her.
'You never had to.' Replied the Guardian.
'Yes, I do. Thank you, Diablos, for everything.' And she fainted in his arms, unconscious. As they walked back to Trabia, he thought about himself, and Quistis, and feelings he hadn't felt in centuries.
Siren, he thought You may be right.
Chapter 21: Preparation
'What did he say then?' Asked Cid,
The entire team, minus Quistis, (who was still unconscious in the infirmary) had gathered in his office to discuss recent goings-on about these creatures.
'He said that we should kill Quistis and have one of us inherit her powers.' Replied Squall.
'No! That must not happen.' Whispered Cid to himself.
'You have not shown much reluctance in trying to get her killed before.' Said Diablos testily.
The others looked round at him, recently he had been much more open. He had also changed his appearance somewhat, and his usual grinning deaths-head form had been replaced by a almost normal, (human-normal that is) fairly attractive, form, although the wings were still there, and his hair and eyes were a solid black. Siren knew why, or rather, for who, he had taken on this, frankly much more appealing, appearance, and the other Guardians were beginning to suspect. They were all as surprised as she had been, Diablos was not known for his emotions.
'Why though? He trains her, teaches her how to use her powers, and then tells us she has to die? Why!?' Asked Selphie loudly.
'Well, using her Limit does tend to knock her out for several days. Much shorter than that recently, but she still doesn't seem to be used to doing it.' Said Siren.
'Yes, but that still doesn't explain why he wanted someone who was.' Selphie nearly shouted at the blonde Guardian.
'The war...' Whispered Squall to himself. The others looked round at him.
'What war?' Said Rinoa quickly. He clarified;
'Remember what he said? 'She will not survive the war.' Maybe he wants whoever is the Guardian to live and... Cid what is it?' He asked quickly, seeing the expression on the old Headmaster's face change quickly.
'I wasn't going to tell you this, but...'
'But what?' Irvine asked quickly.
'There have been... reports... of creatures like the one you fought appearing just outside most major cities. They seem to be heading in the same direction, specifically, here.' The others looked shocked. Squall started to speak, but Rinoa beat him to it; 'For how long?'
'Since yesterday.' Replied Cid. 'They all seem to be coming this way, and killing whoever gets in their way.' He looked out of the window, 'This does not bode well.'
'You are correct old man, not for you anyway.' All heads turned towards the door, and everyone's eyes opened wide as saucers. Seifer stood in the doorway. He walked in, oblivious to the looks of disbelief on their faces.
'Hi everyone, chicken-wuss, messenger-girl, headmaster, Squall, GF's...'
'We prefer to be called Guardians.' Diablos said.
'Tough. And you might want to call Dr Kadowski up here, Xu tried to stop me coming in here, needless to say, she came off worse.' Cid immediately called the infirmary and requested assistance. Squall walked up to Seifer and looked into his eyes. 'What do you want here Seifer.' He said quietly.
'I'm just a messenger Lionheart, don't hate me. Oh, I almost forgot, where's the Instructor? Oh yeah, she's in the infirmary isn't she, shame about dying and all...' Diablos didn't let him finish, he picked Seifer up by the throat and let him dangle there.
'You're the one who killed her, human!' He rasped at him through clenched teeth. Seifer, on his part, still tried to speak.
'It was her fault, she was interfering! Now put me down, or I'll do the same thing to you that I did to your pal Odi...' He didn't finish, Diablos' fist closed even tighter around his throat, closing his windpipe. Surprisingly, Zell was the one to stop Diablos;
'Don't kill him, we still need information.' Diablos relented, and put Seifer back down. He clutched his sore throat, and went on;
'We want to offer you a deal, SeeDs.'
'Deal? We? You mean you're working with them? You... I never thought you'd sink so low...' Irvine said with scorn in his voice.
'Can it Kinneas, like I said, a deal: You give us the Blue Mage, we leave your poxy little island alone when we come through from the Lower Layer in force.'
'Never!' Shouted Diablos vehemently. 'We'll never make a deal with those things!'
'You will have to, what is going to oppose them? Only one of you can even defeat a single creature, and one woman cannot fight an army!'
'She won't have to.' Spoke up Cid. 'We'll get the other Gardens, Galbadia will help when they know the risk, so will Esthar, we'll get every country on this planet united against you! We will never surrender!' Cid was almost shouting at Seifer now.
'Great words old man, but do you seriously think you can do it? Galbadia will not follow a group of mercenaries. Esthar would go back into their shell of isolation, and the Guardians will run away to their Upper Layer. You will lose, you will die, your friends will die, everything you love will be destroyed, only we will remain.; He was smiling, it was all they could do to not kill him now. He got up to leave, then turned around. 'Oh, and give my love to Miss Trepe if she recovers will you?' He walked out, unhindered by the medical team helping up a battered Xu.
My god, thought Seifer on his way out fo the Garden, They were right, this beats feeling guilty any day! He walked off to report what he had told the others. There was probably no hope for him now, but he didn't care, he had everything he needed.
'They will listen to us, they have to!' Selphie was pleading.
'Esthar will, Laguna understands, he knows what happens when evil runs loose, but Galbadia will not, Seifer was, I'm afraid to say, right about that. They will not follow us, they would demand something we couldn't give, Caraway would want us to be in debt to him... Sorry Rinoa...' Said Cid. She just shook her head, knowing the truth of what he had just said.
'What about the Guardians?' Zell said.'They'll help us right?' Siren shook her head sadly.
'They will say, and I quote; 'Leave the humans to take care of human affairs.' Us who have lived with you will help, but the great majority will not.'
'DAMNIT!' Shouted Squall, then, quieter, 'so there's no hope then?'
'They will not listen...' Started Siren again.
'They will listen to me.' Said Quistis from the door. The others all turned to look at her.
'Quisty!' Shouted Selphie, and went to hug her, she stopped just before reaching her however, remembering Laguna's mistake.
'They will listen to me, I will make them listen.' He said quietly. She radiated menace.
'So...' began Cid, 'What now?' Surprisingly, Quistis, not Squall, was the one who replied. 'We get the support of the other nations. Selphie, you go to Trabia, get the T-Garden students up to speed, Rinoa, go to Galbadia, talk to Caraway, make him see that if we fall, everyone dies. And Squall, go and see Laguna, he'll agree to practically anything if it's for a good cause.' The others merely gaped, all surprised at the role of leader Quistis had suddenly taken. The two Guardian smiled at each other, they alone recognised the old Shiva's leadership skills in her.
'So what are we waiting for?!' Shouted Selphie, 'Lets go!'
'Yeah! Lets kick some... erm... thingy-butt!' Said Zell haltingly.
'Well, things were getting boring around here without anything to shoot...' Said Irvine despairingly.
'OK then, you all heard the woman!' Shouted Squall. 'Lets move!' Rinoa shouted her agreement;
'Lets kick these things off our planet!' They all moved off in the direction of the doorway. Diablos hung back however, and approached Quistis. 'Hey...' He started. She turned to look at him. 'Yeah?' She asked.
'It's good to see you back, we were worried, and I thou...' She put a finger to his lips.
'Shhhh, I know. Siren told me.' She looked at him. 'What's this? Nothing to say? I should have brought a camera.' She said mischievously. he smiled at her.
'Just shut up and kiss me you great big depressing oaf.' What the hell... He thought, why not...
He bent over her and kissed her on the lips, the coldness of her lips stung his, but he didn't mind. So, this is life, he thought, Quistis... I understand why you don't want to give it up. He wrapped his arms around her, folding his wings around them to hide them from view, as they stood in Cids office, in each others embrace, unaware that everyone else had left.
'Er, guys...' Started Zell, only to be shushed by Siren.
'Leave them, they deserve some quiet time.'
'It's just, does anyone else see how ludicrous this seems. I mean, a half-guardian, half-human, half-blue mage (Wait a minute... thought Selphie at Zell's working-out), and Diablos? I mean does no-one see the basic incompatibility about that?'
'Is she any more compatible with a human then?'
'Well of cour... Oh yeah...' He shut up. Squall thought about it, then spoke up. 'Leave her alone, there's been too much pain in her life, (and death he thought to himself) she deserves some happiness.' He felt Rinoa squeeze his hand, he looked down and smiled at her. He spoke to the others; 'Now come on, we need to figure out who's getting dropped off first, we're taking the Ragnarok right? So Selphie will have to go last, as she's the only one besides Nida who can fly it...' They went off to the storage bay, talking about planning and preparation, leaving the two Guardians with some peace, if only for a while.
'Diablos?' Asked Quistis quietly.
'Yeah?' He replied, hesitantly.
'We have to go... we have to tell the other Guardians about them.'
'Yeah... Just promise me one thing.'
'Never leave me like you left the others in Trabia. I don't want to see you die.'
'Good, now we'd better go, can you make the journey?'
She smiled at him. 'Of course! I've had more practise now... He told me how to right before he left.' She said, referring to the Teacher. Diablos looked at her. Hyne you're beautiful. He thought.
So are you. She thought back. He blinked, he didn't think he'd sent her that.
Never leave. Ever.
I won't, I promise.
Then faded out of the universe, looking into each others eyes, as they made the trip to the Upper Layer, to talk with the other Guardians about war.
Chapter 22: Reasoning
'But Caraway, you have to listen!' Pleaded Rinoa to the general. He wasn't listening however.
'Rinoa you know I have too much to do to bother sending troops to help you! I've seen the reports of the monsters and there aren't enough of them to pose a serious threat to nation al security!'
'Look at the charts! The numbers are going up, sightings are increasing, murders are rising!'
'Then Garden can deal with them, you're all expert fighters, deal with it yourself.' He said, annoyed.
'That's just it, we can't!' She said. 'We barely managed to kill one of them, and there's going to be thousands!' She could see she was not getting through to him. She tried another approach. 'Where do you think they'll go after they're through with Garden? They'll come here! And none of your soldiers are good enough to fight them!' That got his attention.
'But surely Esthar will be helping you? Their troops are much more advanced than yours, they can help.' He seemed pleased with this.
Rinoa sighed through gritted teeth, when he thought he knew something, a charging Weapon couldn't move him. 'Fine! Sit here and be overrun then! Esthar can lead the invasion, and when Deling City is gone, you can explain to the world why you sat back and did nothing!' She stormed out of the office, slamming the door.
Caraway sat back in his chair. Since the whole sorceress thing, he had taken over and rebuilt Galbadia and reformed it in his image, it was fair now, people had an actual say in the running of his country, and he did not want all of his hard work to be in vain. Hyne help me, he thought, I she right? What will happen if she is? Can I explain how I let our country be destroyed? But what if she's wrong? If the army goes off to fight an imaginary war, and then comes back, what will the people think. Which option is more damaging to the country? Then, more honestly, which option is more damaging to me?
He sat there for about 10 minutes, thinking about this, then he made his decision. He picked up the phone and said to his secretary.;
'Could you be so kind as to get the generals of the Army on the phone. Yes, right now please...'
'Count us in.' Said Laguna.
'Erm... I haven't told you what it is I'm asking for yet...' Laguna cut Squall off. After dropping off Rinoa at Deling, the Ragnarok had flown at top speed to Esthar. It had surprised Squall to say the least when Laguna had jumped on this opportunity.
'For support against these creatures of course. I've seen the remains of the one you brought in, the labs have been studying it, and they're very very frightened. Those labs have kept demons, Weapons and Adel safely in containment, and when they get scared, I think it's pretty serious.' Laguna said.
Squall mentally shrugged, he thought he'd at least have had to argue his case first, but Laguna was making this as painless as possible. Then he didn't.
'I'm going to go with the army as well.' O Hyne no Thought Squall.
''Erm, father, you're not in the Galbadian Army anymore.'
'I don't care, those... things... want to take over my county, they'll damn well go through me first.' Laguna said coldly. 'And besides, I want to see if Caraway will fight to.' He finished impishly.
'Don't count on it, the Galbadians have a long and noble tradition of sending the grunts to be killed whilst keeping high command nice and cosy.' Squall replied.
'Ain’t that the truth... Now come on, I've got something I've been wanting to show you...' Squall looked confused.
'What is it?' Heasked. Laguna just looked at him with a smile.
'Lets just say...' He said, 'We've made a lot of progress since the Ragnarok...'
Diablos watched Quistis talking to Bahamut from the corner of the room. They were all going to help, they had decided that from the moment she had came up to the Layer and demanded to talk to Bahamut, they just wanted to get a rise out of her, and for another reason, that would be decided when she had finished. She didn't know she was preaching to the choir, but the other Guardians did, and were desperately trying not to smile as she nearly ranted at the huge dragon.
'Look!' She shouted. 'If these things take over Earth, then they'll try and get to here next, and then you're all gonna die!' She looked at Bahamut to see if this had any effect.
'But we're safe up here, why should we risk our necks for you?'
'I thought we were called Guardians! I remember you when we fought Ultimacia, we all fought! What happened to you all? We help humans, that's out job, we help them and they take care of us. Thats our world down there as well, not just theirs.'
She said 'theirs', Thought Bahamut to himself, She's one of us now. he let her carry on for a few minutes, by the time she'd finished she was out of breath, and some of the Guardians were clapping openly. She looked puzzled. 'Why are you clapping?'
'Because they admire you. You're a real Guardian now. The Guardians already on Earth will help you, the rest of us, unfortunately, the rest of us can only observe and cheer you on. Two conditions though...' Quistis looked suspicious.
'What?' She asked hesitantly.
'That you lead us.'
'What?' Shouted Quistis and Diablos at once, he approached the dragon and addressed him; 'You can't do that!' He shouted.
'Hello Diablos, I like your new look. I can do it, and I have. She will lead the Guardians, Squall will lead the humans. Everything is as it should be.'
'But...' Started Diablos, but was interrupted by Quistis. 'I accept.' She stated simply. Diablos looked shocked.
'Quistis no, he can find someone else, he can lead them, he's done it for thousands of years...' She put a finger to his lips and whispered in his ear. 'Love, if it'll get them all on our side, then I'll do it.'
'But...' Bahamut stopped him; 'Enough. Will you do it Miss Trepe?' She turned to the Dragon.
'Excellent, I knew we could count on you. '
'And the other one?' She asked.
The other Guardians started cheering, Diablos glared daggers at the King of Guardians. 'Come on Quistis, let go.' He said. They faded out, back to Earth.
After a while, the other Guardians, sensing the show was over, wandered off. Bahamut stood there for a while longer. Then he spoke.; I can't see you, but I know you’re there.'
'Very good... She is not yet strong enough.'
'Diablos and the humans believe otherwise.'
'Diablos is a romantic fool. I trust the... contingency... plan... is in place?'
'Of course. They will be trapped. Victory will be assured, whether she performs on the day or not.'
'Good, I knew I could count on you old friend.
The spectre of the Teacher faded away, back to wherever it is the dead go. Bahamut knew there could be no wind in the Layer, but nevertheless he felt a chill.
'Forgive me Trepe, but it must be done, we cannot afford failure.' He flew off, thinking to himself.
What evil good can be...
Chapter 23: Results
'So where are Quistis and Diablos?' Asked Rinoa. Zell shrugged.
'Don't know, Bahamut might take some talking round...'
'What did Caraway say?' Squall asked her. She smiled at him.
'Easy, he thinks he's so smart, but threaten him with something that'll destroy his precious country and he'll fold instantly.' They all had to smile at that. 'Laguna?' Asked Rinoa.
'Funny really, he already knew what I was going to ask, we've got his support all the way, and something else, if it comes to that...'
'What?' Asked Zell.
'Well,' Started Squall, 'You know how we think the Ragnarok is big now...' That got their attention, but before he could continue, Quistis and Diablos appeared, both looking slightly shaken. 'Well?!' Then, 'Are you alright? You don't look so good.' It took her a moment to reply.
'They said yes...' Squall knew there was more. 'And..?' he asked. The reply surprised them. 'They asked me to lead them!' Silence.
Rinoa was the first to reply, but not in the usual way; Quistis, are you sure about this?
I have to, it was a condition of them helping us. Then more voices.
Heyheyhey! Bahamut just told us the news, congrats! Said Carbuncle.
I have to admit, this from Siren, I never saw you leading an army.
Me neither, she replied, but hey, good practise right. Then another, more insistent voice.
Quistis, we need to talk.
Eden! Whats wrong?
Can't say over the network, Bahamut might be listening. Come see me at the Observation Deck, you know the place. Then silence.
What the..? Quistis thought.
'Whats up Quistis, you look puzzled.' Said Cid.
'Nothing.' She quickly said. 'Just something I have to do.' She left.
'Whats up with her?' Carbuncle asked.
'Don't know.' Replied Diablos. 'She’s not usually this quiet.' The other humans looked at him.
'Erm, actually, she is.' Said Zell. 'She’s not known for her commentary.' The other Guardians just looked at him.
'None that you can hear.' Said Siren with a smile. Then the Guardians all laughed, as if they had just seen a very funny picture that only they could see. Which they had. Selphie looked around at them. 'Aw, not telepath humour! I wanna see! Come on!'
'You're too young.' Said Siren.
'Am not! In case you don't remember I'm getting married in the new yea... hey, where's Diablos going?' She cut herself off suddenly. The others looked round, the dark Guardian had walked out.
'Probably gone to look for Quistis.' Commented Squall.
'Yeah...' Sighed Irvine. 'Have to admit, I'd never have thought of those two together...'
'Hey...' Started Carbuncle. 'Love knows no boundaries nor rules yada yada yada and all that other stuff...'
OK, what is it you wanted to talk to me about? Quistis addressed the living mountain that was Eden. Even though she used human Avatars to talk to most people, she still preferred face-to-face talk for the more important stuff.
You're in danger. Said the huge Guardian.
Tell me something I don't know! I mean, me, leading an army? I appreciate the thought, but...
That's just it! Bahamut is planning something, I know for a fact that he and the Teacher ha something going before he Left...
Wait a minute, you said the Teacher had 'left', not 'died'.
Yeah, Guardians never really die, they just leave, we don't know where to, use Celes as an example.
OK, I suppose, carry on.
Right, began Eden, Bahamut would never, I mean never, put our layer at risk. He says he wants to protect the humans, but all he cares about is keeping us safe from them. I don't know what he's doing, but he wouldn't want war with the creatures unless he was absolutely sure of victory. He has something. Something we don't know about, I've caught hints of it from other Guardians, and it scares me. I think he's willing to sacrifice you to keep them out of the Upper Layer.
Quistis was dumbstruck. Thats encouraging! She thought angrily. So he's going to throw me to the wolves and hope they go away?
No, replied the Guardian, I think something more... permanent... is usually used. Thats all I know. Just... look after yourself up there, OK?
OK. See you later. She walked back into the Garden. She looked normal on the outside, but Eden could tell that Quistis' faith had been shaken. Damn it Bahamut, thought Eden, if you're going to do what I think you're going to do, I'll never forgive you.
Diablos saw Quistis walk back through the Garden from the O-deck, and he could immediately see that something was wrong. He walked up to her and took her hand. 'Hey, what’s wrong?' She said nothing, she just looked at the floor. He held her gently by the chin and angled her face upwards to look at him. 'You know you can tell me anything.'
'But I...' She started.
'No buts. Tell me.' So she did. Diablos listened with growing anger. Bahamut, you can't be planning to use that thing again! You promised! Quistis looked at him and saw his expression. 'What?'
He decided to just tell her. 'Quistis, this is not the first time this has happened...'
'What?' She nearly shouted at him.
'I said...' She cut him off.
'I heard what you said, I just want to know why you hadn't told me!' Diablos sighed.
'Because I wasn't there when it happened, all I know is what Shiva, I mean Celes, told me.'
'You've heard Sirens' story about the World of Balance?' She nodded. 'Wasn't a story, really happened. After everything was over, those... creatures... decided they would try to take over, much like now, wasn't in many history books. Bahamut made a weapon to kill them.'
She said slowly. 'What kind of weapon?'
'It's actually a trap. Bahamut makes a gate, the creature goes through, the gate closes, the creature finds it's in somewhere small, with no exits, just a small pocket of...somewhere... don't ask me where because no-one knows. The creature remains trapped there, forever.'
'Sounds good, why don't we use it here, instead of going to war?'
'Because there's hundreds of them now, and there was only a couple of them back then.' He replied.
'Oh...' She said quietly.
'Yeah, we don't wish that on anyone, even one of them. You'd have to ask Siren for more details.' He finished. Quistis looked downtrodden. He searched through the psychic network to see what everyone was doing, and spotted something that was sure to cheer her up. 'Hey, Selphie is giving Carbuncle some coffee, want to tag along and see the results?' She looked up.
'What kind of coffee?' She asked.
'Erm... Mocha, I believe.' He said. She smiled at him.
'Now this I gotta see...' They walked off, to see the scene of Carbuncle hyped to the gills on caffeine. Both oblivious to what fate had to store for them, if only for a little while.
Chapter 24: Argument
They all looked at the images of Balamb, and they were all silent. After about 10 minutes, Squall was the first to speak. 'Hyne, there's hundreds of them...' No-one disagreed.
'When do they get here?' Asked Caraway quietly.
'A couple of days.' Replied Laguna. He knew that as soon as the Galbadian leader knew that he was coming to the Garden, he would have to show up to, or else be branded afraid.
'Well,' Said Quistis, 'This is it.'
'Don't worry about it.' Said Diablos, wrapping his arm around her shoulder. 'You’ll do fine, Ultimecia was harder than this. She had Griever remember.' They did, no-one replied to this comment.
'Erm... one question...' Started Zell. 'What's this big thing you were going to tell us about, is it a second Ragnarok?' Laguna just looked inscrutable.
'You'll see soon enough' He said.
'Are the Garden defences prepared?' Squall asked Rinoa.
'Yeah, I got all the junior classmen to go to T-Garden for the duration, just in case we're... overrun.' It hurt to say that.
'We're ready. We won't let you down.' She said we, Squall thought to himself, She isn't human anymore, she’s one of them now. The thought saddened him for some reason. Well, at least she's happy. He remembered the conversation he had had with Diablos earlier on, simply put; 'You break her heart we'll hunt you down.' The Guardian had no problems with that whatsoever.
He addressed his father next. 'Father?' Laguna gave hima thumbs-up.
'Ready and in position, Kiros phoned me up, the ship is ready to go.' Squall knew the others were dying to know what this 'ship' was, but he saw saving that. Selphie would only demand a ride.
'Caraway?' More silence.
'Our forces will be arriving shortly.' They all looked around at him in shock. Rinoa was the one to break the silence. 'You said they were already here!'
'They got held up.'
'You fool! They'll have to go through the creatures to get here! They'll get slaughtered!' She nearly screamed at him.
'Don't worry, I think our forces are prepared to..' Quistis cut him off. 'Your forces, general, will be dead and gone by the time you finish that sentence, you haven't even fought these things, we have, and six of us working together could barely kill one them! Six versus one and we nearly lost!'
'Well, maybe standards are falling in the SeeD ranks..' He started. She did not let him finish. 'This conversation is over General.' She looked at Siren and Diablos. 'Guys?'
'Rescue mission right?' Asked Diablos tiredly.
'You guessed it. Go around the Garden, I want volunteers only.'
'Yes ma'am.' He said with a smile. The 3 of them walked out. The others looked at each other. Then Rinoa spoke up.
'Why did we fire her as an instructor in the first place?'
'Lack of leadership skills.' Replied Squall.
'I think Cid was dead wrong about that.' She said. Quietly, they all agreed.
'Erm, Brothers?' Asked Quistis slowly.
'You did tell these people it was volunteers only right?'
'YEAH!' Said Sacred.
'Yeah, we told them they had all volunteered, and they came right here.' Said Minotaur.
Quistis shook her head. You couldn't ask for two more loyal friends. Not too bright though. She gave up. ‘Alright, I suppose.' She addressed the team.
'OK then. The Galbadian team, in all their infinite tactical experience, has decided to turn up late, and since the Garden is now surrounded by those creatures, to get to us, they’re going to have to break through them. Needless to say, they will be killed and...' She suddenly recognised a member of the Trepes amongst the group, 'Simon, what are you doing?'
'Fighting, Miss Trepe.' Replied Simon.
'But you're only a para-magic user, you don't use weapons. '
'I know Miss, I thought I could help out with the wounded Miss.' She looked at him hard.
'Any other reason?' He blushed.
'Well, I saw you fight that thing in the Quad last year Miss, how can we lose?' She noticed some of the others looking at her, and she knew they were thinking the same thing. In Quistis we trust. she thought sarcastically. Bahamut, I'm going to kill you for this.
'Fine, just stay at the back and run away if one of them rushes at you. That goes for all magic users! These things are incredibly resistant against magic! And this next bit is for everyone, when you see them, remember even if they look undead, it doesn't mean they are! These things are alive, so don't waste your healing magic trying to kill them or you'll be in for a nasty shock. Lets move out!' They wet out the main entrance, into the plains of Balamb, to face an unknown enemy. Only Quistis could hear Diablos message. Remember your promise, come back alive.
I will. Trust me.
Diablos watched the others go. Even thought he had helped 'recruit' people for the rescue squad, Quistis had forbidden him to go, and had got Siren to back her up.
Damn you woman, why did I have to fall in love with you now of all times!
'Because fate doesn't make exceptions.' He turned, and saw Bahamut standing (well, kneeling) behind him.
'You bastard.' Diablos breathed slowly. 'You're going to use her as bait for the Trap aren't you?' Bahamut was silent.
'Yes.' The dragon replied simply
'You have got to be the most arrogant, selfish creature in existence. Why don't you use yourself?! Why not you instead of her!'
'I am needed. She is not.'
'I need her you arrogant prick!' Diablos screamed at him.
'You should not have fallen in love, you were foolish. Get over her.'
'I'll stop you. I'll tell her what you're planning, I'll...'
'She already knows.' Diablos stopped dead.
'What..?' He whispered.
'Oh, she doesn't know, but she suspects, since you told her about the Trap, she knows it can't possibly work on it's own.'
'Then tell me WHY! Why are you still doing this?'
'Because it must be done. The race of Guardains must be preserved.'
'I remember you when you would have given your life for any of those six kids, what happened to you?' He said quietly, then; 'Why are you smiling?'
'Because, if you remember, Miss Trepe tried this argument on me recently. In this case, alas, it will not work.' Diablos thought about this, the came up with another line of argument. He smiled nastily.
'Do the others know?' He asked.
'That you're planning to give up one of our own to save their skins?' He could see that he had touched a nerve. Guardians are fiercely possessive, and never forget. They wouldn't stand for it if they knew. Therefore, Bahamut hadn't told them.
'They approve the use of the Trap on this case.' He started slowly. Lying. Diablos smiled again.
'That was not the question, I asked you whether they approve of trapping Quistis with one of those, for eternity?'
'You will not tell them!' Bahamut shouted.
'Are you threatening me, old one?' Diablos said dangerously.
'Yes.' Diablos looked at the dragon as if Bahamut was one of the creatures himself.
'Then we are finished, old friend. Leave now.'
'Diablos, do not let her cloud your judgements, you know it must be done...'
'I said get OUT!!!' He turned his back on the great dragon, and felt him leave.
Quistis. I have to tell her. He ran to find Siren. If anyone would disagree with Bahamut, it would be her.
Chapter 25: Revenge
Damn this feels good. Seifer thought to himself.
After his abrupt meeting with the creature's companion, he had thrown himself into commanding the sub-army of the creatures with enthusiasm, and by Hyne he was actually starting to enjoy it! Here were people (well, things) that actually listened to him! He could tell them to do something, tell them to throw themselves off cliffs, and they would obey him unfailingly. This was power beyond even that which the sorceresses and Guardians had. This was where he belonged. The creatures had shown him the truth. There is no 'good' or 'evil', only power, and those too weak to make use of it.
The battle was a rout. Scouts had reported a small Galbadian force attempting to sneak past the barricades, and he had wanted to have a little fun with them. He had laid an ambush, they had never stood a chance. The only discordant note had been when they had discovered the units were Elite soldiers, and they had taken some casualties until they had adapted to this. Only a few of the soldiers were left now, and Seifer had sent off the rest of the creatures, and left himself only a small mop-up force to finish off the soldiers.
He heard one of the creatures approach him from behind, and turned to face him. As ranking went in the creatures world; the bigger they were, the more creatures they commanded, and this one had to lead a lot. But it still reported to him with deference, regardless of the fact it could probably have killed him instantly. 'Almasy, we report enemy units and some Guardians have appeared from the forest and are assisting the human soldiers.' And another thing, they always referred to others as 'we' as of they were some sort of collective mind. Seifer was bored, this sounded like fun.
'Leave them to me, I think I know who these are, I'll deal with them myself.' He said to the huge creature.
'Understood.' It walked off.
So far everything was going well. A creature had informed him that the Guardian/human was dead, and that could only mean his ex-instructor. I'll never figure out how she survived that wound I gave her. He thought to himself as he walked towards the sounds of fighting. The woman just won't die.
He approached the fighting, and drew the Hyperion. He decided to try an experiment. The SeeDs knew he was working for the creatures, but the Galbadians didn't. He ran straight at the nearest Galbadian solider, screaming. The Galbadian soldier saw him and assumed that he was running from the creatures, it was his last mistake, Seifer swung his Gunblade at the unfortunate troopers head, severing it instantly. The others started to turn towards him, but this only meant that the other creatures had an opening. One soldier got stabbed in the gut by the sharp talon of one of them, and another suffered fatal head trauma from being picked up and being thrown against a tree. Things were going well, the battle was all but over.
Then the SeeDs appeared.
Seifer could see that it was a hastily put-together group, it was not equipped for long-range fighting, but instead for close-quarters-battle, which the creatures excelled at. They didn't stand a chance... Oh, thought Seifer, as the Brothers crashed through the trees and started swinging those bloody clubs, thats why. Two of the creatures were instantly crushed by a blow from Sacred's mace, and another was nearly spilt in two by Minotaur’s. With backup like this they might actually stand a chance of winning. And we can't have that, can we? Seifer thought before charging at the nearest SeeD and swinging the Hyperion at him. The young mercenary only just noticed in time to being his Katana up and clumsily blocked the blow. Seeing him, the SeeDs made the exact same mistake the Galbadians had; they looked around at him. Two of them were killed instantly by blows to the head. Seifer felt white-hot heat at his back, and dropped to the ground so fast his feet nearly left the floor, the firaga passing safely over his head. He looked around and saw the child who had cast it, couldn't have been more than 14, what was he doing on a suicide mission? Seifer approached the young boy, who stood motionless and terrified as this strange man in white brought up his blade. Seifer was about to deliver the fatal blow when he heard the voice behind him.
It was not a loud voice, but the harmonics and tone of it reached all the way down into the small of his back and pressed an ancient button in his spine marked 'Primal Terror'.
'Hello Seifer. Long time since Trabia. I'm back, and I'm very pissed.'
He didn't feel the pain. All he felt was a blast of cold that froze his body and assaulted his senses. Quistis walked up to him to admire her handiwork. She looked across at the boy. 'Are you OK Simon?'
'Yes ma-am.' Said Simon, still terrified by the fact that he had been a hairs-breadth away from death.
'Good. Help the others mop up the remaining creatures, this one's mine.' Simon nearly ran off, glancing back at the Seifer-popsicle. Quistis turned to look at him. 'Well, well, well, not so confident now, are you? I'm sorry, what was that you tried to say? Let me help you with that.' She snapped her fingers and the ice around his face dissolved.
'I said; let me out of here and I'll show you how confident I am.' He snarled. She just smiled at him.
'Seifer, you don't think I'm going to make the same mistake twice do you?' He tried to buy some time, the other creatures would come for him, they were only SeeDs, how hard could it be? Amazingly, Quistis seemed to know what he was thinking. 'On the contrary, we are mopping up your forces as we speak. Only five of those things, against ten SeeDs and two Guardians? You never stood a chance. I've seen your masters, they do not seem the type to let failure go unpunished, so I'm going to let you go out in style.' She snapped her fingers again, and Seifer felt feeling return to him. Quistis threw the Hyperion to him. He caught it clumsily.
'I'm going to let you try again Seifer. You didn't do the job properly last time, so here's your second chance to kill me. And this time I’ve got my own sword.' She closed her eyes.
Suddenly, Seifer saw white energy cascade down her arm. All of a sudden a long-thin blade appeared to extend from her arm, it was white, and he could see the coldness radiate from it. It was the very essence of coldness, and Seifer knew he could not afford to be struck by it. He could see the scar where he had killed her last time, it was nearly glowing black. What the hell, I have nothing to lose. He thought.
They charged at each other.
Both swung their blades. Then Seifer diverted his blade at the last second, realising that Quistis' could almost certainly shatter his. From that moment on the battle was merely Seifer trying desperately not to be hit by Quistis' Ice Blade. It was a losing battle. He tried to keep it up as long as possible. he was good, hell, he was the best, but she was just too fast. Whether anger and hatred or just her new powers were giving her the strength and speed he didn't know, but he knew eventually she was going to hit him with it. What the hell, he thought again, whats the point? He swung the Hyperion with all his strength at her, and she blocked it. The two blades met head on, and Seifer's was not the stronger. She struck back so hard he found himself on the ground, the now-frozen-solid Hyperion pinwheeling through the air. Quistis did not even look at it, she merely looked at Seifer. He watched his favourite weapon spiral down and hit the ground point down, and he saw it shatter into fragments. The battle was over.
He looked up and saw the point of her blade aimed at his throat. Attempting to salvage some of his dignity, he spoke to her; 'Isn't it customary for the condemned to get a final request, Instructor?' He said.
'I do not recall you offering me the same thing, Student.' She drew her blade back, and Seifer shut his eyes.
he heard the swish of the blade through the air, felt it bite into his chest and freeze him solid. Then all was blackness.
Quistis looked at the frozen Seifer, and there was no pity in her gaze. She heard the other students approaching, they saw her standing next to the frozen body of the one who had killed countless other SeeDs during the war, and also killed Quistis herself. She heard the voice of the Brothers in her mind; What now? They asked. She saw one of the smaller creatures being held down and restrained by some of the surviving Galbadian Elites. She made her decision. 'Bring it here.' She said. She looked it straight in the eyes and addressed it. 'Tell your masters, that this is what happens when they try and take over my world.
Suddenly she jumped up, bringing her foot around in a graceful arc that connected with Seifer's chest.
He shattered. The other students gasped. She looked back at the creature. 'And tell them this is what happens when they try and attack my friends. Let him go.' They did, and the creature took one look at the shards of Seifer and ran.
Back at Garden, everyone was watching through a temporary link to the network that allowed the humans to monitor the mission, thanks to some quick tricks from Carbuncle. Everyone was silent. Squall summed the event up admirably;
'Holy shit.' He breathed.
Everyone was thinking the same thing, even the Guardians, who had universally 'tuned in' to watch. Thank Hyne she's on our side. We wouldn't stand a chance otherwise. And the Guardians thinking to themselves; She would make a great leader.
Everyone, including the Brothers, looked at Quistis. Then they began to cheer. The red mist of battle-rage let go of her and she started to blush. She started to shout over the crowd. 'Come on people! Lets get the wounded back to Garden, I don't know how long we have until they send people looking for us.'
'Erm, Miss Trepe?' Simon piped up.
'Yes Simon?' She asked
'What about... that?' He replied, gesturing to the pieces of Seifer lying on the ground.
She thought about this. 'Leave him here for the others to find, maybe it'll give them second thoughts, and us more time to plan.
'Yes ma'am!' They said. Carrying the wounded, they all made their way back to Balamb Garden. Rest, food, and home.
Chapter 26: Plan
Squall struck at the thing in front of him. He was far past caring whether he was doing any actual damage now. There were just so many of them. No matter how many he managed to cripple or kill, another one came to take it's place. He looked across at Selphie, fighting across from him near the elevator, and saw that she was in the same position. The Guardians were helping to keep the numbers down but even they were faltering. He hear a voice from across the hallway. He looked across to see Zell and Irvine run at him. 'Squall!' The cowboy shouted at him.
'Yeah!' He shouted back.
'You seen Quistis?'
'There's something we’ve really gotta show her at... LOOK OUT!' Zell shouted at him, pointing behind Squall. Squall didn't even turn around, he just cocked his Gunblade over his shoulder and fired. He heard a scream and turned to see one of the creatures fly backwards.
'Good shot.' Said Irvine.
'Thanks. I think I saw Quisty at the Quad.' Irvine ran off, leaving Zell and Squall to help the other SeeDs. It was mostly a mopping up operation now. After Quistis' rescue mission had returned, the creatures had came in through the maintenance shafts and attacked, they were scattered however, and whoever was leading them was either bad, or dead, it was so hard to tell.
Even if he would never admit it to himself, or even Rinoa, he knew he was far better at taking orders than leading. He saw two creatures approach a couple of SeeDs stationed near the entrance, and shouted a warning as he jumped towards them. He couldn't help but smile.
This is where I belong. He thought as his Gunblade sang through the air, slicing into bone and flesh. Then he heard the announcement over the PA.
*All group leaders report to the observation deck. We've got trouble.*
This is becoming tedious.
Quistis paused, then smiled at the sheer ridiculousness of that thought. Here I am, surrounded by demons, fighting for my life, and it's becoming tedious? I'm turning into Diablos. Now that was a scary thought.
She saw another one come through the door and swung her blade at it, shattering it in a flash of blue light. Damn I love this thing. She thought. It cut through steel like butter, and through flesh and bone like it wasn't there. She noticed a junior classmen cowering in the corner of the room. 'Hey!' She shouted. He looked up slowly, and visibly relaxed when he saw it was her.
'What are you doing? Juniors and students were supposed to have been evacuated.' She said.
'Sorry ma'am, I didn't hear the warning, and I got left behind when those things turned up.' The poor kid looked terrified. Then something else occurred to her. 'How many other people are there left behind?'
'About ten ma'am, we're sorry, we...' She stopped him there.
'Never mind, too late now, come with me.' She said. 'I'll see if we can get Nida to send the Ragnarok on a evacuation mission.'
'Thank you!' He gushed. Quistis noticed Simon come around the corner. 'Simon!' She shouted at him.
'Hey!' He shouted back. He ran up to her.
'Go around the Garden, there's still students left on board, get them to the first floor, Squall should have most of that area secure now.' He saluted and addressed the student.
'Come on man, lets get the hell out of here.'
'Damn straight.' The ran off, leaving Quistis to finish disposing of the things on the second floor.
That kid, Quistis thought of the departed Simon, is going far. He did what he was told, was a good magic-user, and wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty. This thing counts as your practical exam kid,. As far as I'm concerned, you're a SeeD. Then she heard the PA blare into life. She listened. What do they want now?
She wandered off towards the lift. A creature jumped out of the shadows 10 feet to her left, she extended her hand and blasted it, without looking around or breaking stride.
I'm losing it.
Rinoa could feel it in her head. Diablos had warned her, but she hadn't believed him at the time, about her sorceress powers, it was like a persistent child whining in her mind. If only you would use us, we could show you so much. It was like the creature's presence was awakening something in her mind, something powerful, something evil, and it scared her.
'NO!' She screamed, and aimed a blast of energy at the thing in front of her. The SeeD who had been sprawled on the floor stood up to thank her, then changed her mind when she saw the expression on Rinoa's face.
What's happening to me!? It was all she could do to control her powers. She could hear the voices of a thousand sorceresses in her head telling her to just let go and relax, but she knew if she did that no-one would be safe from her. Not even Squall, and that terrified her beyond words. She raised her Shooting Star, swung it, decapitating the thing in front of her. She had specifically requested to clean up the training centre, as she knew it would have the most creatures in it, and she needed the diversion. She had not trusted herself to go with Quistis, fearing what she might have done while the woman/Guardian/Blue Mage's back was turned.
She heard a noise from behind her, and was about to strike when she heard Diablos' voice. 'Don't worry about it.' The Guardian said. 'I’ve got her covered.' Rinoa knew he meant he was guarding Quistis' back, from Rinoa herself.
'You know?' She managed to say without snarling at him.
'Of course, why do you think I've been following you?' He replied with a smile.
'Why don't you tell me?' The menace in her voice was unmistakable now.
'Because you're losing it.' He said frankly. He turned slightly. 'Behind you.'
Rinoa jerked her head violently, and the creature that had been sneaking up on her disappeared in an explosion of entrails and fireworks. Diablos looked at her.
'You see?' He said. Rinoa had calmed down enough now to be back in control of her mind, and was worried.
'What am I going to do?!' She nearly begged the Guardian.
'There's no easy way to say this, so what the hell.' He leant closer to her. 'If you come near Quistis, we'll kill you.' Rinoa was speechless. We? She thought. Diablos seemed to read her mind and cupped his hand over his mouth. 'You can come out now!' She turned, to see Carbuncle materialise in front of her.
'I know I can't kill you,' began the green Guardian slowly, 'but I can stop you from hurting others.'
'We're sorry.' Diablos said, and Rinoa knew he meant it. These people; Diablos, Carbuncle, Eden, Siren, had been as good a group of friends as the gang. She nodded at him.
'Thank you.' She whispered.
Then he paused, and his next statement was almost begging; 'Please don't do anything stupid.' He whispered. Rinoa smiled sadly,. and knew that she couldn't be trusted, as long as these things were on her world. Well, She thought, If I'm gonna go psycho, then I'm gonna go psycho on THEM! She turned, and her escorts followed her out of the Training Centre towards the hall, and sound of fighting. Then she heard the PA.
What now? She thought testily.
'Is everyone here?' Asked Cid. Everyone was. 'Good.' Quistis was distracted, she could feel Siren metaphorically jumping up and down in her head through the network, she had something she needed to tell her. Just a minute! She thought to her.
But..! Siren began. Quistis ignored her, and listened to Cid.
'We think we have a way to end this thing now,' Silence. Everyone stared at him. 'Right, well, erm... the Guardians have been developing a creation to stop these things in their tracks, they call it...
'The Trap.' Everyone except Quistis looked round.
'Hello Bahamut.' Said Irvine in his best I'm-not-at-all-surprised-by-the-appearance-of-a-dragon-right-behind-me face.
'Greetings. As Cid was going to say, we have a way to solve this...' He explained on. Quistis then turned her attention to the now-jumping-up-and-down-in-her-mind Siren. Yes?
It's about the Trap, and more specifically, the bait...
'...And that's about it really.' The huge Guardian finished.
Finished Bahamut. No-one said anything for a while, then Squall spoke up; 'So basically you want us to commit every person we care about in an all-out assault on their lines, find the commander, and hope we can throw it into this big trap thing?'
'NO!' He shouted. 'I will not get everyone killed on some damn-fool idea like this!' He turned away.
'Quistis?' No answer.
'Quistis!' Her head snapped around.
'What do you think?' Everyone turned to look at her.
'I think it could work...' Interrupted Rinoa. They all looked at her. Selphie was the first to get back the use of her vocal cords. 'Erm, Rinoa...'
'It could, we just need to have faith, right?' She finished.
'Very cheesily put, but broadly true. We Guardians will keep them at bay, then a small team can activate the trap and man-handle their leader into it. All you have to do is hit it with this gemstone.' He opened his hand, revealing a small blue gemstone cupped in his palm. 'What could be more simple?'
'Let me think...' Said Squall. 'How about, not doing it at all!' Rinoa put a hand on his shoulder.
'Squall.' She whispered. 'This could work. We'll never get them all like this, there's far too many.' Squall looked back at the dragon.
'You know that there will be casualties.' He said slowly.
'Not as many as the alternative.'
'And the alternative is?' He asked, knowing it already, but wanting to hear it.
'We lose.' The dragon replied simply.
'Vote...' Everyone looked at Zell, unsure that they had just heard that.
'What?' Asked Irvine. Zell looked up at them.
'We vote. All in favour of ending this now, with as little death as possible?' He raised his hand, and looked at everyone. In the corner, Quistis looked up, resignedly, and raised hers, reflecting on Siren's last words.
The bait... it's you.