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