He stood for a moment, not quite sure why he was there. This had happened a few times lately, brief lapses in concentration, a kind of blackout in his mind. One minute he'd be hanging around outside the Dormitories, and the next minute he'd be in the Quad. People seemed to have the impression that he was losing it, they would never say it to his face but he just knew that they were thinking it.
It wasn't that people didn't like him, nobody could say he had no friends, it was just that they were a bit unsure about him. Ever since the defeat of the Sorceress Ultimetia people had noticed that now and then nobody seemed to be home. Like, sometimes he'd be talking to someone or playing a game of Triple Triad, then all of a sudden he'd just up and leave, without saying a word. Later, he'd turn up somewhere and be completely normal.
This time he found himself in the Parking Area. Why the Parking Area? He thought to himself. This was all becoming rather frustrating.
"Damn," he said out loud.
"Huh?" there was a startled student standing next to him. "Did you say something?"
"Oh sorry, I was just thinking out loud," he apologised.
"Wow, you a SeeD?" the youngster asked. He was looking at the SeeD with an awestruck expression across his face.
"Yeah, that's right," the SeeD replied. "I'm quite high ranked too." He didn't always boast, but this was a much younger student, so he decided it may be an idea to establish some vision of authority in the little guy's eyes.
"Cool," the student admitted. "I'm quite new to Balamb Garden, to tell you the truth sir, I'm kinda lost." The boy continued, he seemed a bit embarrassed, which was quite reasonable considering it isn't to difficult to find your way around the place, after all, everywhere is signed.
The SeeD considered the situation for a moment before responding. "Well, this is the Parking Area," he said finally. "I don't suppose you needed to be here?"
"No, I'm actually looking for the Cafeteria."
"That's at the other side of the Garden," the SeeD informed the youngster. "There's a map in the hall, just after you come in, you can't really miss it, it's quite big."
"Thank you sir, I'm not sure what I'd have done without your help" he told the SeeD. "I don't know how I ended up here."
"Me neither," admitted the SeeD.
"Wow, you still get lost?" the student asked, hoping that he wasn't out of line.
The SeeD laughed. "Nah, I just kind of, wandered here … I guess."
"Yeah, that sometimes happens to me," said the student. "I just walk around thinking about stuff, then all of a sudden I'm lost, weird huh?"
"It sure is," the SeeD agreed. However, that wasn't exactly how it was for him, but he thought it would be easier to agree than to try and explain. After all, he wasn't quite sure how to explain, even if he wanted to.
"Thanks again for all your help," the student shouted as he ran in the direction of the main hall. "Maybe I'll see you around."
"Yeah, maybe…" the SeeD mumbled, not really paying much attention.
Selphie and Quistis where seated at their usual table in the Cafeteria in the midst of a discussion. Selphie was busy explaining about the latest event she was organising for the Festival Committee. She had promised that it was going to be the "best ever event", but when she had said that it was one of those 'spur of the moment' things. Now she was trying her best to convince Quistis to give her a hand.
"Come on Quisty," begged Selphie, putting on the cutest face she could manage. "I can never do this without you."
"Sorry Selphie, but you've dug your grave and now you'll have to sleep in it." Even as she said this she had the feeling that it didn't quite sound right. Maybe she had mixed sayings again.
Selphie ignored Quistis' mistake and continued to beg. "Please, please, please, please, PLEASE," she begged, getting down onto her knees and putting her hands together in a prayer fashion. This worked most of the time, and it was normally a last resort for Selphie.
"Geez Sephie," said Quistis rolling her eyes. "Oh … very well, I'll help," she agreed, finally giving in. She could never turn down a request from Selphie once she had done her begging bit.
"Yes," exclaimed Selphie. "Quisty, you are the BEST!"
"Yes, I know."
A hand grabbed Quistis' shoulder. "Huh?" she gasped, turning around to see who was there. "Zell, you scared me half to death."
"Hah, sorry Quis," Zell apologised. "I couldn't resist."
"Heya Zell-Zell," greeted Selphie. "Whatcha doin' here?"
"How's it goin' Selph," asked Zell. "I just came down for the hotdogs, well, until I noticed you guy's were here that is."
"Zell," started Selphie. "Could you please lend me a few gil?"
"Sure Selph," said Zell, reaching into his pockets. "You gonna get some hotdogs?"
"Yup," she replied, taking the money. "Thank you Zell," she said in her sweetest voice. "Quisty is sooo stingy with her money."
"Well, I did earn it all myself," Quistis protested.
"Hmm … I'm gonna get me some hotdogs too," Zell decided. "See you in a minute Quis." Zell ran away to join Selphie in the line.
Huh? Zell stopped in his tracks. He was sure there was someone watching him, over at table five. He decided to take a detour and went over to see if he was right. There was only one person sitting at the table.
"Hi," he said.
"Oh … yeah … did you … I mean … I don't want to sound rude, but … were you just watching me?" It sounded extremely stupid and he knew it. Noticing the confused and slightly annoyed look on the guy's face he thought he had better clarify. "Sorry, it's just that I saw someone watching me a minute ago, I was going over to get some food and someone was looking at me."
"Yeah, I understand," said the teenager, not making any attempt to hide his sarcasm. "Are you sure, 'cause I've been sitting here by myself studying for my written SeeD exam for the last three hours. Ain't nobody been over for ages."
"Oh … I must have imagined it then," Zell apologised.
"Uh huh, you must've," agreed the student. "Now if you'll excuse me…" The student signalled with his hands for Zell to leave.
Zell wouldn't normally stand for this, he was the guy's superior after all, but then again he had just interrupted him in the middle of getting ready for his exam, and Zell could relate to that, he hated preparing for his exams. So, instead of getting into an argument about 'proper respect' and things like that, he let it pass, apologised and went to get those hotdogs.
Squall was pacing his office. He was desperately trying to think of a way to get out of helping Selphie. It was times like this that he really wished there was some request for SeeD help, at least then he would have an excuse to give to Selphie, he could only turn her down so many times. Now he was scaring himself, he didn't normally show this much emotion.
The elevator door opened and Irvine strutted into the office. He was wearing the same old clothes, as usual.
"Irvine," Squall started. "Take off your hat."
"Hey!" Irvine protested. "Not the hat, it's my trademark."
"Irvine," Squall insisted.
"How about the boots?" he tried to bargain, sitting in Squalls chair, leaning back and putting his feet up, showing a pair of leather cowboy boots.
"Why the hell are you wearing those?" Squall asked. He was amazed that Irvine would even wear something like that. Even with his fashion sense Squall would never be caught dead wearing cowboy boots.
"Don't they look great?"
It was a rhetorical question of course, but Squall, as always, disregarded Irvine's feelings in order to get his own feelings across. "No," he said simply.
"Yeah, they are great," said Irvine, paying absolutely no attention to what Squall had said. "Can you believe they only cost me 800 gil?"
"What a deal," Squall said sarcastically. This was probably the most emotion he had ever shown in the same day.
"I know," Irvine ignored the sarcasm. "Damn cheap for something so stylish."
The elevator doors opened again. This time it was someone from the latest 'batch' of SeeD who entered the office.
The young SeeD cleared his throat. "Headmaster Squall," he began.
"Just Squall," Squall corrected.
"Sorry … Squall," he said. "But I have some quite urgent news." He looked at Irvine.
"Oh, don't mind me," Irvine said, picking up a Weapons Monthly magazine. "Hmm … April Issue, I guess if this is all you've got … whoa … Squall you gotta get some new mags, this is from six years ago."
"Get out Irvine," Squall said, trying not to sound to annoyed.
"Ok, I know when I'm not wanted," he said getting up and leaving the office. "See you later Squall."
"See you Irvine."
Once he was sure that Irvine had got in the elevator Squall turned to the student. "Alright, go ahead."
"We have … that is to say that … Squall, there's a situation in Balamb," he stammered, not quite sure how to act around the headmaster. "It seems that a bunch of rowdy teenagers have been going around mugging the elderly."
"I see," said Squall, back to his characteristic lack of emotion. "Well, as bad as that sounds, I'm afraid it does not concern us unless our assistance is requested."
"I know sir, the hotel owner has agreed to pay 12000 gil to Garden if we help out," noticing the stunned look on the headmasters face, he decided to continue. "It seems that word has spread and now the hotel is not receiving any business."
"Well, I must say that for 12000 gil we are able to spare a few SeeDs to clear up the mess," Squall informed the low rank SeeD. "Have Irvine, Zell and Rinoa get down there right away."
"Wow, are you sure you don't want to assign a few lower ranking SeeDs to do this job sir?"
"No, things have been moving rather slowly as of late," Squall explained to the cadet. "I think that we can afford to send them in at the moment." Hopefully things will start to get more interesting from now on, he thought. Plus, now he had an excuse if Selphie approached him again.
"Can I ask why you don't just announce it over the speaker?"
"Damn, now why didn't I think of that," Squall asked aloud. "Honestly, lately my mind doesn't seem quite right, I keep forgetting things."
"Yeah, now and then I have those kinds of days," admitted the student. "I think I'd better go, things to do, people to meet." And with that, he turned and left.
"Damn it Selph," complained Zell, as he, Selphie and Quistis walked out of the Cafeteria. "I'm not kidding, that's the third time I've seen someone watching me."
"Gawd Zelly, you're imagining things," said Selphie.
Attention, this is Squall, 1st Class SeeDs Irvine, Zell and Rinoa are to travel to Balamb, your mission briefing will be assigned to you before you leave. That is all.
"Hey Zell, you better get going," said Quistis, hurrying Zell along the corridor.
"Whoa … calm down Quis, I'm goin'," Zell said, struggling against Quistis. "Geez, a guy could get the idea you don't want him around."
"Aw, poor Zelly," childed Selphie. "We'll still be here when you get back."
"Alright, if you put it like that I'll see you two later," said Zell. "I better hurry, don't want to keep the almighty headmaster Squall waiting. Although, it my help deflate his big head."
"Tee hee," giggled Selphie. "You shouldn't be mean to Squall, it's not his fault he's so uptight."
"I guess you're right," Zell agreed. "Well, see you when I get back." He ran down the hallway, out of the corner of his eye he could swear he saw someone hiding behind the fountain, well he didn't have time to bother with that now, anyway Selphie was probably right, maybe it was in his head.
Attention, this is Squall, 1st Class SeeDs Irvine, Zell and Rinoa are to travel to Balamb, your mission briefing will be assigned to you before you leave. That is all.
"Huh?" the announcement took Irvine by surprise, although it shouldn't have really, that young cadet did have 'important' news and this was probably it. He was probably surprised because he had been half asleep. That tended to happen when you were laying on the Dormitory beds, they were far too comfortable, maybe he should have a word with Squall, some young SeeD wannabe might sleep in and miss a vital exam … then again, he did really like these beds, far better than Galbadia Gardens.
"Outa my way," he yelled, as he forced his way through the crowd of SeeDs-to-be, it seemed as though an exam had just finished, all these people chatting about how difficult, or easy the exam was. Honestly, couldn't they find a more convenient place to talk. "MOVE, I GOT A JOB TO DO!" He pushed a hyperactive student into the wall.
"Hey!" he protested. "Watch where you're going, jerk."
Even though he was normally a laidback kind of guy, Irvine did not like being insulted, he wouldn't stand for it. He drew his shotgun and pointed it at the startled student. He wasn't going to shoot, just scare the kid.
"Whoa … please dude, I-I'm really s-sorry, don't shoot," the kid pleaded. "I didn't mean nuffin by it, it was jus' a slip o' the tongue."
Irvine couldn't help the smirk that grew across his face, he would have toyed with the guy a little longer if he wasn't in such a rush.
"Irvine!" a shout came from outside the Dormitory hall.
"Alright Rinoa," Irvine yelled back. "Wait up." He turned back to the quivering student. "You're lucky you little punk, if I weren't in a rush…" he didn't bother finishing the sentence, Rinoa would be getting impatient and the kid seemed to get the message anyway.
"What was that about?" Rinoa questioned Irvine when he caught up with her.
"Oh, just some student who didn't know his place," Irvine explained with a grin on his face.
"I see," Rinoa lied. She didn't want to know, what Irvine got up to was his own business not hers.
"So, you got any idea what this mission could be about?" Irvine asked.
"Nope," replied Rinoa. "Only that it's got something to do with Balamb."
"Well, I guess we'll find out soon enough."
Squall was waiting at the main entrance talking to Zell when Irvine and Rinoa arrived.
"Ah, you're here," he greeted them, if you can call it a greeting. "Let's waste no time, we haven't had an assignment for a while now, we don't want to mess this one up."
"So what's the mission?" asked Irvine. Squall noticed that he was still wearing those ridiculous cowboy boots.
"Must you wear those?" he asked signalling to the boots.
"Yup," was Irvine's reply.
"Very well," continued Squall. "There have been reports of a gang, a group of teenage troublemakers, going around Balamb mugging elderly residents, vandalizing property, breaking into homes, a bunch of things along those lines. You are to apprehend the members of this group."
"Any idea as to how many there are? What they look like and stuff?" asked Zell.
It was a reasonable question admitted Squall, after all, how were they supposed to find these people if they have absolutely no idea who they are. "We have no visual information on the people, but there are only five of them," Squall informed the SeeDs.
"If you don't mind me saying," started Rinoa. "This mission doesn't sound quite thought through."
"We have the names," Squall produced a list and started to read. "James Faod, Xya Yuing, Thomas Grandfild, Kriss Hallow, and Robert Lisart."
"Hey, I know all of them," Zell blurted out. "Well, I don't actually know them, but I know what they look like."
"Good," said Squall. "That'll help, do you need anything else before you go?"
"Nah, we'll be alright," Irvine said. "This job will be over in no time."
"In that case, good luck," finished Squall. He turned and headed back towards the elevator. He had a lot of paper work to do, man, how he hated paper work.
Balamb, Zell had only been back once since they had defeated Ultimecia. They had decided it would be quicker if they split up, he had informed Irvine and Rinoa about the appearance of the five targets, so there shouldn't be any trouble there.
"Ok you little punks, where the hell are you hiding?" Zell muttered quietly.
No sooner had he spoke when who should he see heading in the direction of the station? None other than young Thomas Grandfild. "This is too easy," he said to himself, as he ran after him.
Thomas Grandfild, pickpocket extraordinaire, or so he liked to think. He had decide to go to the station, mainly because it was one of the busiest areas of Balamb. Every day, he and the rest of the group would split up to terrorise the town, it was actually a lot of fun. He enjoyed 'working' by himself, the others cramped his style. James and Kriss always 'worked' together, it was easier to mug people if you were with someone else, it gave you the numbers advantage. Xya and Robert also 'worked' together most of the time, not for any reason other than they didn't particularly enjoy talking to themselves.
Thomas walked up the steps, brushed past a guy wearing baggy denim shorts … denim shorts, that rang a bell. Who else did he know that always wore denim shorts? Dincht? Zell Dincht! Balamb Garden! SeeD! "Crap," he said out loud.
Zell grabbed the little guy and twisted his arm behind his back. "Ok Tommy, let's have us a chat." He said pushing the seventeen year old into a wall.
"Ow, shit," he yelled. "Leave me the hell alone, Zell! I ain't done nuffin wrong!"
"Sure ya ain't," Zell said sarcastically. "Now… tell me where the others are."
"Others, what others?" Thomas said, trying his best to sound sincere.
"Don't give me that bullshit, Tommy!"
"Oh…" he managed to free himself from Zell's grip. "…Those others." He evaded Zell's attempt to grab him and pushed a passer-by into his path, before running into the station.
"Damn!" said Zell, pushing the man out of his way.
Rinoa rounded the corner, she had decided to check out the docks. It was the ideal place to look, she reasoned. Plenty of places to hide, and if they had a boat handy, they could be out of there in seconds. She would have to be extremely careful, catch them off guard, if they saw her coming they could be halfway to Dollet before she got back to Garden.
It had happened again. How the hell did I end up here? He asked himself. Where is 'here'? He had a look around and noticed that there was a train in front of him. Trains? He must be at Balamb Station, either that or he left the island. He noticed that he was behind a barrier. Hidden from anybody who might come in to the station. What am I doing over here? He thought to himself. Maybe he came to get on the train to Timber, but why would he end up in the shadows. No. He concluded. There was something else to do in Balamb, he just couldn't remember what it was, possibly some shopping. When he got back to Garden he was going to go straight to his Dormitory for a lay down.
He decided that he should probably move, the train would be leaving any minute and it would look mighty suspicious if he was spotted down here. He took a step forward, but stopped when his foot caught something laying on the ground. He looked had to crouch to see it properly as there was very little light. He almost threw up when he saw it. A boy. Beaten to a bloody mess, his face in a terrible state, but that wouldn't matter to him, he was dead after all.
Irvine always did have the best luck, and today was no different. He had successfully managed to apprehend two of the hooligans. They didn't put up much of a fight. They were armed with switchblades, and when they saw the 'cowboy' carrying a shotgun, they took one look and gave in.
"You know," Irvine said to the two teenagers. "This is probably gonna earn me a bonus."
"Well, good for you," said one of the teens.
"Shut up Kriss!" said the other. "We don't want any trouble with our friend here."
"That's right," agreed Irvine. "You start anymore trouble and BAM!" He made a firing motion with his shotgun.
"Ok, ok, I was jus' sayin' is all," apologised Kriss. "Hey James, you got any smokes?"
"Oh no you don't," Irvine intercepted the cigarette packet. "I don't want you killin' me with your second-hand smoke." He dropped the packet in a bin outside Balamb Station.
"Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod!" The ticket inspector came running out of the station, and nearly tripped on his way down the steps.
"Hey, hey, hey," said Irvine, grabbing the guy as he ran past. "What's going on?"
"MURDER!" he cried. "There's been a murder, up there in the station, down the side of the train!"
Irvine let go and allowed him to run around in circles for a bit. "Ok, you two," he said to his captives. "We got to go check this out, don't try anything stupid." He waved his shotgun in their faces and they instantly got the message.
"No trouble," James said, nodding his head.
"Yeah, we got ya," agreed Kriss.
The three of them ran up the steps and entered the station. The guy had said "down the side of the train". It sure is dark down there. Irvine thought to himself. They walked slowly down the side of the train, towards the shadowed area. Well, if you wanted to kill someone, this looks like a good place to do it. Irvine admitted, he wasn't sure that he should be admiring a killer's choice of murder area.
"Zell?" he said out loud, noticing his SeeD partner standing over what he expected was the body. "What the hell happened here?" When he got closer to the victim and saw what a mess he was in, it nearly made him vomit.
"I-I have no idea," Zell confessed. "I only just got here myself."
"Did you see who did this?" Irvine asked, still not able to look at the body.
"No, but I know who this is," he gestured toward the body.
"Tom!" James exclaimed, pushing past Irvine, followed by Kriss.
"Oh man," gasped Kriss, seeing one of his only friends laying lifeless on the floor. "We gotta find the guy what did this and cave his goddamn head in!"
"Whoa … not so fast there ya big hothead," said Irvine, quite grateful for something to distract him from the corpse. "What you're going to do is be escorted back to Garden, from where you will be shipped off to the Desert Prison. SeeD'll handle this, not you. And who knows, maybe you'll be able to have your revenge once the bastard joins you."
Irvine and Zell led the two stunned teenagers out of the station and towards the truck outside Balamb. Once they had made sure that the two criminals were safely detained in the back of the vehicle, they turned to each other.
"Rinoa," they said together. Throughout the whole ordeal, they had forgotten all about Rinoa.
"Zell, you go find her, and the other two, and meet me back here," ordered Irvine. "I'll make sure these two don't break free."
"Alright," agreed Zell. "I'll be back in a few minutes."
Irvine watched until he was out of sight, before dosing off.
Rinoa had managed to bind, gag and blindfold the remaining two targets. Not bad, they hadn't even heard her coming, and by the time they realised it was a bit too late. Now all that remained for her to do, was bring her two captives back to the van. They had tried to struggle, but that was to be expected, nobody liked prison. The strangest thing was, they kept mumbling when she gagged them, something about 'murder', well if they had killed someone it was a life sentence for them. She had gagged them quickly, she didn't need to know about the crimes they had committed.
"Hmm … this could be tricky," she said to herself. "Ok, guys, I'm gonna tie a rope round your legs and drag you out of Balamb." She crouched down and started to secure the rope.
This time it shouldn't be so bad. After seeing that body, just laying there. That was a little unreal. He had vomited for a few minutes, but after that, he was fine. There had been one little problem, he had been a witness to a murder, well maybe not a witness, but he had been the first person to find the body. Even he had to admit that he would find it suspicious. Someone finding a body then just leaving it there and not telling anyone.
But there had been another problem, if there were nobody else there that would have been alright, no trouble at all, nobody would accuse him of murder, that would be ridiculous. There's no way he would kill anyone. However, all the time he stood there, looking at the body, frozen by the sight of it, he had the feeling that he was being watched. There was nobody else with him, so to anyone who saw him there it would look like he had killed the boy. No, he had to do something, who was it watching him, he had to think fast, if they told anyone … wait … if SHE told anyone. That's it, he thought he remembered seeing the flash of a blue dress, a girl. Yes, it was definitely a women … blue dress … that seemed familiar, he knew, or had seen someone wearing a blue dress before, but who? Damn, my head's too foggy! He thought to himself. He could feel his blood temperature rising. Blue dress…
SeeD. Garden. That's it, it was Rinoa, it had to be.
He walked past the Balamb Hotel, to the docks, the sea air might help to clear his head. He had to think, what was he doing here in Balamb, anyway? He had remembered a minute ago, but his mind went blank when he tried to remember it again. I can figure it out later. He decided.
He rounded the corner to the docks. He stopped. There she was. Rinoa. Knelt beside to people. They were blindfolded, tied up. They wouldn't see. This had to be done. If she told, it could mean getting kicked out of SeeD, out of Garden, prison. It had to be done. He could do it quickly, he had to anyway, she wouldn't take forever tying that rope. If he didn't act now, he may not get another chance. He had a knife in his hand. Where had he got it? Who cared? This has to be done. He told himself. She had seen him, she would tell, it was her job, the job of a SeeD, she couldn't withhold information like this.
He walked up behind her, slowly, he didn't want her to notice, that would make it much harder. He took the knife in his right hand. He knelt down behind her. Do it now. He told himself. She saw. He clasped his left hand over her mouth. He pressed the knife to her throat.
"I'm sorry," he said, as the knife cut through her flesh, and the warm blood spilled over his hands.
Zell came back to the van about half an hour after he had left. He was dragging the last two criminals along the floor with a rope. But that wasn't what caught Irvine's attention, he was carrying someone in his arms, and wearing a solemn expression.
"Oh Christ!" yelled Irvine. "Rinoa! What happened to her?"
"She's dead," replied Zell gravely. "I found her at the docks, these two were tied up next to her. Her throat's been cut," he explained.
"No," Irvine was having trouble with the situation. "Why … why Rinoa?"
"I don't know," said Zell, hanging his head, he didn't want Irvine to see him cry, even if there was a good reason to.
"These two," Irvine pointed at the two 'hostages'. "The killer, he might have tied them up, they might've seen who did this."
"No," Zell explained. "Rinoa was holding the rope in her hands, she tied them up, they won't have seen anything." He hadn't realised it yet, what with all the shock, but the two teenagers laying on the floor behind him were dead too.
"Damn," roared Irvine. "Why did Squall send us?" He had to think of someone to blame, anyone.
"We better go," said Zell, placing Rinoa down gently in the van. He pushed the last two 'prisoners' in quickly before slamming the door. "We've got to get back to Garden."
Irvine climbed into the front on the passenger side, he was in no state to be driving. "Damn, Squall … how're we going to explain it to him."
"I don't know," admitted Zell, closing the door to the driver's side. "This whole thing's been too unreal…"
Squall took the news as well as could be expected. He had screamed at Irvine and Zell for a while, before dismissing them form his office. How could they have let this happen? He barred the 3rd floor from the elevator for the rest of the day. He wanted to be alone. And think, just that morning he had been complaining about how dull things had been. Now they had four deaths, one of them Rinoa, his first real love … dead, and nobody knew who had done it or why they had done it. He fell asleep at his desk, nightmares haunted his sleep, he kept picturing how Rinoa could have died, over and over again.
The funeral took place the next day, Squall had decided to attend. He couldn't bare to see her like this, just laying in that box, so still. The gash in her neck had been stitched up to make her appear more presentable, but what did it matter? She was gone, nothing they could do about that. And the killer was still out there … free … alive.
He couldn't believe it. He was at the Parking Area again. This was becoming frustrating. Something strange was going on, he had the feeling that they knew, about all of them, not just Rinoa.
He had the strangest dream last night. Nothing big, just images flashing at him over and over, images of people. Irvine, Selphie, Quistis, and others, quite a few others. All the time there was one voice talking to him. They know. They'll stop you sooner or later. They won't stand for it. Kill them, you have to stop them. Before they get you. They'll kill you. They don't like you, they never have. The headmaster, he barely speaks to you. He wants you dead. He knows it was you. He knows. They all know. Kill them. It's the only way. They're coming for you. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. They'll catch you. Maybe in your sleep… It was like that the whole time. The same voice kept repeating the names over and over, on top of the rest. It was strange. Not the type of dream he normally had. They had to be stopped.
Who? Why? The same two questions just kept repeating inside Squall's head. This is a dream. He decided. Soon I'll wake up and everything will be how it was. Rinoa will still be with us, and business will be slow as usual. Even as he thought it, he knew it was not true. Of course this wasn't a dream. It was real, and he hated it.
Squall pressed the button and prepared an announcement, the funeral had put him in a sour mood. "Attention, this is your headmaster speaking," he began. "As you will all know by now, we have recently lost an important ally…"
…During our last mission, Rinoa Heartilly lost her life. We do not know who committed this heinous crime, but we will find out, and they will be punished. Irvine Kenneas and Zell Dincht were also a part of the mission. They may or may not be able to answer any questions that you may have. Don't bother me unless it is important. That is all.
"Not his usual self," noted Selphie. "But who can blame him? Poor Rinoa."
"Hey Zell!" Quistis called out as she spotted Zell coming down the hall. "Over here Zell!"
"Oh, hey guys," he said glumly. "S'up?"
"We were just saying how Squall seems to taking Rinoa's death really badly," Quistis told Zell. "This has come as a real blow to him."
"Yeah, well maybe he shouldn't have sent us," Zell's reply came as a bit of a shock.
"But Zell, he thought you were the best people for the job," Quistis protested. "He thought you'd be able to handle it."
"So did we," Zell confessed. "Obviously we were all wrong."
"But ya got the bad guys," this didn't cheer Zell up at all.
"Oh sure," he said. "I guess that means losing Rinoa was just a price we had to pay."
"Zell," snapped Quistis. "It wasn't your fault, ok! You did the best you could."
"Yeah Zelly," added Selphie. "D'ya think Rinoa would want you to beat yourself up like this. We're all sad, but moping really won't bring her back. We gotta get on with our lives … Zell, are you listening to me?"
Zell was looking over toward the map of Garden, someone had been standing there a second ago, watching him. This was getting a bit disturbing.
"ZELL!" screamed Selphie. "Snap out of it!"
"Sorry Selph," he seemed a little cheerier. "I think I'll go get something to eat."
"Fine, we'll be in the Library," Quistis said. "Come find us when you've finished."
"Ok," said Zell. "I'll see you later." He ran off toward the Cafeteria.
Irvine was sitting on his bed, even if they were comfortable, he'd never be able to get to sleep, not with all that had happened. Rinoa…
He was interrupted when the door opened. "Hey, knock next time will ya," he said to his guest. "You scared the hell outa me." He pressed the 'door-close' button at the foot of his bed. He stood up and looked out of the window, he couldn't stop thinking about what had happened to Rinoa.
Something hit him in the back of the head. "Agh … shit!" he yelled, as he collapsed onto the floor. A fist connected with this left temple. His vision started to fade. The last thing he heard was his shotgun going off…
He sat down on the bed, throwing the shotgun into the corner of the room. They were easier to fire than he thought they would be. The fifth person he had killed … wait. Fifth? No, this was his second kill. He couldn't remember why had done it. Why? Why did he kill him? They have to be stopped. He thought. Yes, that sounded right. Them or me. Now he remembered, but he couldn't remember how he'd got here. Well, at least it's not the Parking Area. He reminded himself.
He did feel a bit guilty. The guy prided himself on his looks, and now, well, he wasn't exactly suitable to photographed, unless it was for the morgue or some police files. At least the hole in his chest was symmetrical. He decided that he had better get going, he couldn't have anyone thinking that he was a murderer. There was a perfectly good reason for what he did. He had no choice, it was him or them. They had to be stopped.
"These funerals are getting a bit tedious," commented Squall, he had reverted back to his old "whatever", "I don't give a damn" self.
"Squall," cried Selphie, tears streaming down her face. "You insensitive jerk!"
"'Whatever', what kind of a thing to say is that?" Selphie screamed at him. "Don't you even care?"
"Damn it Squall!" she yelled. "Just 'cause you lost Rinoa…"
"You leave her the hell out of this," he roared. "It has nothing to do with her, you don't know how I feel, so don't act like you do!" He pushed her over and stormed away from the funeral.
"Selphie," Quistis came running over after witnessing Squall's outburst. "Are you ok?"
"Y-yeah," stammered Selphie, what was going on inside Squall's head, why would he act like this. "I think so."
"Hey," Quistis said suddenly, "What's Zell doing?"
"Alright you bastard, why the hell were you watching me?" questioned Zell, threatening the terrified man. "Who the hell are you working for? What do you want? Speak damn it!"
"I-I don't know what your talking about mate," he said, trying to calm the irate SeeD down. "I ain't never seen you before un my life."
"Oh yeah?" Zell continued, raising his fist. "Then why the hell are you here? If you're from Garden you gotta have seen me before."
"But that's just it mate," he explained. "I-I'm not from Garden. I was a friend of Irvines."
"Sure," Zell said sarcastically. "Forgive me if I don't believe you. You just want me to let my guard down, then it's goodnight Zell."
"Zell!" Quistis came running up, followed closely by Selphie rubbing the back of her head. "Calm down Zell."
"Yeah Zell," said Selphie. "What's up with you?"
"Nuffin," said Zell, dropping the so-called 'friend'. "Sorry man, just been a little tense lately."
"Don't mention," he replied, not quite sure what to say. "I'll stay out of your way from now on."
"Where'd Squall go?" asked Zell, once Irvine's friend had gone away to find the food.
"Don't know, don't care."
Squall was pacing his office again. The nerve of Selphie, talking to him like that. Who had she lost recently? Nobody, that's who. Maybe he could arrange for her to 'lose' someone. The more he thought about it the more it seemed like a good idea. Or… He thought to himself. …Maybe he should just get rid of her altogether…
The funeral had left Selphie feeling too upset to go hang out with anyone. Quistis had gone to Library again, so she could always go find her later. Zell said he had some stuff to do.
She wandered around for a bit. When her legs started to ache she sat down. Wait a minute … where was she sitting. "Oh that's just great!" she said out loud. "I can't believe I'm lost." She decided that she might as well just sit until her legs stopped aching.
She was so tired, just like after Rinoa's funeral. She had gone straight to her dorm then, she remembered laying down on her bed and just falling asleep. But this time it was worse, she guessed it was probably due to going to two funerals in such a short space of time. In fact, she was so tired she didn't even here him coming up behind her…
The gunblade felt unusually heavy, but then again, it was tiring work … you know, killing people. Well, this shouldn't be too difficult, just a simple pull of the trigger and it would be over, then he could go take a nap. Selphie was just sitting there. Crying. Why? Oh, the funeral of course. Hah…I must be tired. He laughed silently to himself.
He stopped suddenly. Damn it! How could he have forgotten to load the gunblade. Oh well, no matter, it wasn't called a gunblade for nothing. He walked over to Selphie. He raised the weapon, the sharp blade gleamed in the moonlight. One good strike would do it. He brought it down on top of her head. What a sound. He thought.
Quistis was reading a book on quantum physics, she had read it once already, but she couldn't remember half of it. She was smart, but she wasn't that smart. There were quite a few people in the Library so she had decided to sit in a quiet corner on her own.
The Library was a bit busy, that would make it more difficult. He walked over to a bookshelf and started 'looking' for book. At least he had ended up where he wanted to be and not at the bloody Parking Area.
The librarian came over to see if she could be of service. "Can I help you?" she asked.
"No thanks," he replied politely. "I'm just browsing."
"Ok," she said with a smile before walking back to her desk.
It was a good job he had ditched the gunblade, it might look a bit suspicious, a gunblade in the Library. He looked around. Where was Quistis? Ah, that's convenient. He admitted when he noticed her sitting in a dark area of the Library reading a book, with her back to him.
He casually strolled over to her. This time he had decided to take a different approach. An approach that he thought was 'cool'.
"Hey Quistis," he said quietly.
She turned around, not surprised, not worried. Why would she be? As far as she knew he had come to chat. She smiled … crack. He left as casually as he came in, nobody even noticed. It looked to everyone how caught a glimpse of her sitting in the corner as if she had simply fallen asleep. He had to admit, breaking a neck was a lot easier than he thought it would be.
Zell woke up feeling really tired. Whoa…He thought he saw someone in his room. He rushed to the door and glanced around the hallway. Nobody. This was getting infuriating. He was positive that people were watching him, heck, maybe it was just one person. But every time he went to look they were gone. It could be a practical joke that somebody was playing on him, but it could be something else. Whilst your in SeeD you never can be too careful, there's always someone who wants you dead. He checked his watch, 2:17am. Still a bit early to be wandering the halls. Zell wasn't particularly sleepy, just tired, arms and legs aching, stuff like that, maybe he should go back to bed anyway…
The elevator, along with everything else, was being guarded by one of those annoying Garden faculty guys. They were everywhere at this time of night, but they would never question someone like him. After all, he was their superior, only a handful of people at Garden could say that. He walked over to the door and pressed the button to call the elevator.
"Evening," he said to the Garden faculty. The Garden faculty did not respond. He wasn't bothered, maybe he should get rid of them.
The door opened and he climbed in pressing the button for the 3rd floor. The door shut and the elevator began to ascend.
Squall was again pacing his office. He still couldn't believe Rinoa was gone. The elevator door slid open.
"Hey, what're you doin' here?" Squall asked.
"What do you mean mister headmaster?" he asked, as he sauntered into the office.
"My office is off limits at this time of night," Squall informed. "Even to you."
"Oh, really?" he asked. "I'll take that into consideration next time."
"See that you do," said Squall. "Now, could you leave me alone?"
"Nah, can't do that." He punched Squall in the stomach. He crumpled onto his knees. "I can't risk you telling anyone." He grabbed the headmaster by the throat and forced him backwards over his desk.
"W-what?" croaked Squall, he could feel his windpipe crushing under the force of his attackers grip.
"Don't worry Squall," he said softly. "She only felt it for a second." He crushed the struggling headmaster's throat, he was dead in seconds. He got up and walked to the elevator…
Zell looked at his watch again, 4:36am. He decided to go back to sleep…
Multiple deaths! Multiple deaths! Xu's voice sounded over every speaker in Garden. Your headmaster, Squall Leonhart: Dead! Ouistis Trepe: Dead! Selphie Tilmitt: Dead! Multiple deaths! Multiple deaths!
Zell heard the announcement blaring from the speaker in his room. He wasn't listening though. The only voice he could here was in his head. It's too late. They all know. They'll be here soon. What can you do? Nothing. It's too late. Them or you. They've won. It's too late.
"But you said…" Zell said aloud. "You said…"
You took too long. They all know. They hate you! They'll kill you! It's too late.
"NO!" he screamed. "They won't…"
It's too late. They saw you. They were watching you. Should have been more careful. They all know. They're coming for you. They hate you! They'll kill you! It's too late.
"NO!" he screamed again, louder this time. He was shaking, his palms were sweating. "They won't…!"
It's too late. There's nothing you can do. They all know. They all hate you. They all want you dead. It's too late.
"B-but…" he stammered. "Why … why?"
How could you do it to them? Why would you? They were your friends. How could you murder them? Put them through pain like that? Squall, he was your best friend. You betrayed him. Rinoa. Selphie. Quistis. Squall. You killed them all. Why? Because it was them or you? It's too late!
"Get out of my head!"
It's too late. Too late for everything. They're coming. It's too late.
Zell opened the top drawer of his desk. He always kept it loaded, for security reasons. "I-I didn't want to do it…" he said quietly. "You made me do it … everything … it's all your fault … everything…" He got to his knees and leant on his bed. He could barely feel the cold metal against his skin, his hands were shaking more than ever now. The voice was still speaking. Taunting him. But he wasn't listening anymore. He could here certain words now and then, but he tried to ignore everything else. He had to get rid of the voice. Cut it out. This was the only way he could think of. He pressed the barrel against his forehead. "I'm sorry," he said as he pulled the trigger.
He wouldn't feel the small piece of metal tearing through his brain. He wouldn't know that the shot was heard around Garden. He wouldn't know that Xu came rushing in and discovered his lifeless body. He wouldn't know that everyone cried more at his funeral than any of the others. He wouldn't know that they had no idea what had happened.