PuPu's Saga Chapter 15
by Jeremy Chapter
Setting 15: 2110 DAY
15, Deling City, Caraways Mansion 2F (Master Bedroom)
"It is only with the
heart that one can see rightly;
what is essential is
invisible to the eye.
-Antoine De Saint-Exupery
Rinoa's eyes snapped open,
finding only ivory ceiling boards staring right back at her.
Where am I? she
wondered, feeling the muscles around her stomach tighten
It wasn't until she
suddenly sat up that she realized that she had been lying down.
I'm sitting on
something cushy, she determined by running her hands over the
silky surface while she waited for her eyes to focus. She must
have been asleep for quite some time, judging by how sore they
now felt, breaking away from their previous span of inutility.
A few blinks did the
job, and she gasped with the recognition of the ambience. A quick
check revealed that this was indeed the place with which she was
so familiar and to which she had no reason to feel alien. The
round lamp in the corner of the room that served as the room's
sole light source, the square dresser, the walk-in closet, and
the cluttered bookshelf were all in place.
In short, this was the
last place she expected to be. Concurrently, though, her initial
fear had dissipated and, with the benign surprise that replaced
it, came a wave of reassurance to wash over her.
conceded, "I suppose it could be worse."
She hopped off the bed
and straightened out her clothing. She had always hated the feel
of her shirt after she slept in it.
"What time is
it?" it occurred to her to ask aloud.
Rinoa turned her head
slightly and lowered it to sniff the tip of her glossy, bare
shoulder. She couldn't smell the perfume she had put on in her
quarters in Balamb Garden before heading down to the parking
garage. She lifted her wrist to her nose and did the same thing,
only to find the same null effect. The last test was to lick it.
ascertained. I can't even taste it, which means I've been out
for at least two hours.
Recalling that he had
never set a timepiece in his room, she walked over the blue
carpet to the door, fully anticipating it to swing open and
reveal the grandfather clock in the hallway.
It was locked.
mouthed and spun back around to face the lonely, almost
institutional furniture. She did not understand how anyone could
return every night to the same tasteless furniture and retire.
Her objective still
demanded attention, however, and she put her disbelief and
grievance with the furniture selection aside where she was
determined to let it rest until a more fortuitous time came up
for her to bring it up again.
There was now only one
way left for her to find out the time.
Rinoa walked over to
the far side of the dreary room, grabbing the oaken bedpost that
stretched to the ceiling and swinging herself halfway around in
the process, before reaching the sagging blue drapes that hid the
window through which she could look out onto the side lawn.
Having thrown the heavy
velvet drapery aside, she met her own reflection in the window
behind the fresh metal grating. Had it not been for the light
shower of rain lapping onto the green that drew her focus past
the image on the glass, a stranger to the environs might have
mistook it for a perfect mirror, barring notice of the iron
barricades that stretched across from sill to sill.
"I wonder if it's
raining in Trabia," she murmured and softly bit her lower
lip as she heard her own unwarranted mental addition sound in her
remembered to wear a jacket.
Her intake on that
breath was markedly sharp, unquestionably incited by the
realization that once again her thoughts had beat her to the
suggestion. It was her line, after all, and she
wanted to say it. This way, it was as if she hadn't gotten the
chance to express genuine concern; she had been cheated out of a
sentimental victory and she would have to tolerate that fact while
she stomached the insufferable cost of risking the semblance of
She saw the
characteristic non-responsiveness of her reflection as its way of
She was getting worse
and worse at this; if she continued to lose ground at their
present rate, she would be losing to herself to checkers too,
on top of chess. She had to start practicing moving her
lips faster, and hopefully work her way up to the point where she
could speak before it could think it out.
She glowered at her
reflection, determined to grapple for a least part of her
fleeting dignity. It was amazing how well things came together in
the act of escaping her. At that moment, even the vestige of some
prestige would be nice, and if that was all she had for which to
settle, she would. How elated she would have been had her
predicament been a separate issue!
Hehe, you're on! her
subconscious seemed to rejoin with a half-snigger. The comfort
with which it accepted her challenge could not have been good,
And then the rub: Anytime,
Rinoa was furious; her
mind was taunting her!
"The nerve of
it!" she growled.
The emptiness in any
real movement in the glass brought her out of her thoughts and
back into the world. The image of her inquisitive doppelganger
hazed and to it what was left of the uniscopic observable
framework shifted oppositely, her focus abruptly recalling itself
to converge on the world beyond the plane, pulling along with it
whatever part of her mind she had not foreseen would set itself
up for a downward spiral of self-defeating rumination.
So it's still dark
outside, she noted, but when were these metal bars
Rinoa was torn between
two directions of thought. Half of her wanted to question how
recently the bars had been installed and whether their purpose
was to keep thieves out or keep her in. The other half was busy
figuring out what day it was, the obvious problem being that
there was no way she could have left Balamb that evening and
wound up here that same night- the trip would take at least nine
hours. Yet, here she was, looking at the moon on the other side
of the glass, and Rinoa was sure that unless she had been heavily
drugged, it would have been impossible for an entire day to pass
while she was unconsciousness.
"So how did I wind
up here?" she asked her reflection, which just tilted one of
its eyebrows amusingly back at her.
When the answer didn't
come to her after a moment of staring at the glass expectantly,
she forced herself to accept the fact that there was a rather
potent new drug out on the market, the underground one if not the
Better keep it away
from Irvine, Rinoa considered. That boy always finds the
time of day and the method to abuse to this kinda stuff.
She smiled and
playfully tugged at her hair to test its bounciness as she
pondered further, I wonder how Selphie keeps him on a leash
when he's just dying to escape her all the time.
Her musings were
interrupted by a huge gurgle from her stomach, loud enough to
make her jump and drop the ebony strands of hair that she had
placed in her mouth without realizing it. She blushed, even
though there was no one there except the other Rinoa in the dark
windowpane, hands covering her stomach with an embarrassed look
on her face.
Though she wasn't
entirely sure about the accuracy of her reading because of her
lingering disorientation from just waking up, her initial
conjecture from the decibel level of the groan was that it could
not have signified a hunger one day more ravenous than when she
had previously heard her stomach rumble. Obviously she had either
misheard the growl or what little she had of her sandwich ages
ago in the cafeteria had only sped up her digestive tract.
Her eyes narrowed with
malevolence directed towards the imaginary sandwich that she
recreated to float in front of her, taking care to make it look
as guilty as possible.
scoffed, "you'd better be sorry, you ingrate! After all the
trouble I took to eat you, you evil, evil sandwich!"
Rinoa felt her face
growing red and, to top off her little tantrum, she grabbed one
of the pillows from the bed and flung it at the imaginary,
floating sandwich, just to remind it who was the boss. Next time,
before messing with her, it would remember to be more filling and
less extensive spatially rather than the other way around.
Her stomach growled
again and she began to pout, chastising the rest of her body for
expending so much energy while she was asleep. It took her less
than three seconds after her tirade to decide to look at her
predicament in a more optimistic light.
"At least no one
fed you while I was asleep," she remarked to her belly,
"because that would have completely defeated the purpose of
this strict diet I'm on."
She purposely scrunched
up her nose in the process of chuckling more heartily, priding
herself for being able to find something good in all the
scenarios with which she was faced. Besides, all it took was a
light heart and a quick mouth to conquer the world.
What in the name of-
Having heard a light
rapping, Rinoa turned her eyes from the bed back to the wall from
which the sound had emanated. She lifted her hand and covered her
mouth in surprise, realizing that it was impossible for someone
to be on the opposite side knocking on the wall because this was
one of the outermost rooms of the building. Short of someone
scaling the wall from the outside and slapping it, there was no
Rinoa tensed and
intuitively moved away from her position plainly in front of the
window and slid up against the curtains where she could remain
safely out of view from any voyeurs lurking on the lawn below or
those planning to infiltrate the structure by climbing up its
She tilted her head
cautiously around the sill and tried to peek through the pane to
discover the cause of the noise. Rinoa instinctively moved her
right hand over her left wrist to cock her blaster edge, but
feeling nothing she looked down and blanched upon the realization
that she was weaponless.
She picked up the next
best thing that her cell allotted and held it up against her. As
Rinoa around the edge of the window, her eyes did not catch
anything that appeared to be out of the ordinary. Nevertheless,
she entertained the idea of thrusting the poker she had grabbed
from the fireplace through the three inches of brick and
limestone that separated her and, if she was right, the would-be
It occurred to Rinoa
shortly after that even three inches of paper would be difficult
for her to puncture, so she readjusted her grip into a position
that would expedite her swinging the poker as a bat should the
occasion arise for her to do so.
"This guy has no
idea whom he is messing with," she growled carnally, slowly
swinging the poker back and forth in anticipation of striking
whatever tried to crawl through the window.
Rinoa jumped out of her
skin and dropped the poker when something struck the glass and
caused it to rattle abruptly.
She darted down to
recover it before her mind registered what exactly it was of an
immediate threat that faced her.
checked herself, "that was a rock."
Rinoa found herself
halfway crouched over, frozen in that position from indecision
about whether to actually grab the poker or to just leave it and
investigate the introduction of the rock.
"Up or down,"
she asked herself, "up or down?"
Still unable to decide,
she pulled back her hand every time it sneaked back towards the
"Come on, Rinoa,
up or down?" she urged herself.
She exhaled and then
propelled herself upwards the window grating. Leaning as close to
the glass as the bars allowed, she shielded the part of the pane
through which she was trying to peer from the lamplight behind
her, revealing the reality behind the reflection.
A thought of how
dangerous a position into which she had placed herself ran
through her head. In response, Rinoa rolled sideways along the
wall, away from the window.
The weird knocking
sounds could have been shotgun shells! she chastised herself.
Rinoa ran over to the
single lit lamp and turned it off, cloaking the room in
After waiting a short
while for her pupils to dilate, she returned to the window by
which it was now safe to stand. The dark but distinct features of
the green were illuminated to her eyes, and through the
shimmering raindrops she quickly picked up the recognizable
silhouettes of small trees and bushes. She scrutinizes each shape
and jumped quickly from one to the next, screening out the
familiars and hoping to pick out the oddball.
She found it. Ten
meters out and five degrees over.
Wait a minute!
She realized there was
a second silhouette that did not belong. More shocked than
curious, Rinoa studied the two intruders attentively.
She made out an arm,
no, two arms, two legs, and a head on one. On the other were the
same characteristics. Two humanoids.
"What are they up
to?" she whispered to the glass.
One of the humanoids
drew back its arm and flung it forwards. In the next second,
Rinoa heard the same loud rap coming from wall just off to her
right. The other humanoid followed in fashion and another rap
sounded from her left.
Red-hot embers of
vehemence plunged into the moody waters within her and
flash-boiled the scanty reservoir of composure she had been
storing. Who were these people that were trying to pelt her with
stones? Didn't they realize that they could hit something and
The intake of that last
breath was rather sharp as it dawned on her how shattering the
window was their main objective.
she cursed indignantly.
For a split-second
Rinoa entertained the idea of how she could preclude giving them
the pleasure of defacing the property by breaking the window
herself, after which she could follow up by casting the poker out
through the metal bars and harpooning one of them. It seemed
reasonable enough, so she bent down and picked up the poker.
The cold brazen handle
warmed to her touch just like her rosy fingers blushed in
reciprocal acknowledgement of contingence.
How greatly did this
crimson flush contrast with the snow-white pallor that seized her
face as she rose, her eyes settling on the newest wave of rocks.
Her lips quivered, perhaps feeling the blood rush out of them,
just as she now felt the projectile nearing its intended target,
its well-aimed course dead set upon the diaphanous sheet in front
of her face.
It was definitely going
Even as she dropped her
poker to lift her hands to her face and shy away from the broken
shards of glass that she foresaw would explode before her eyes,
she recognized the option of personally shattering the window
that her flinch had foregone. At that she would have screamed
"Damn!" had she not been preoccupied with cringing.
In that moment of fear,
when Rinoa squealed and raised her hands, the glass vanished in a
blinding flash, leaving her more stunned than before.
hell-" she began to murmur.
In her bedazzled
blindness, the missile sailed through where the pane used to be
and past the bars. She did not see it among the flickering spots
that harassed her vision until it was too late to dodge. The
stone struck her on the forehead and ricocheted onto her exposed
Her body having
registered the jab of pain, Rinoa collapsed with a cry onto the
carpet like a wounded doe onto a grassy cushion.
There was some
commotion below, either revelry or confusion, but more likely the
Sprawled on the floor
and trembling in response to both pain and anger, Rinoa rubbed
her head furiously with one hand and kneaded her leg with the
other. Someone was going to pay.
She struggled onto her
feet and limped over to window, still clutching her forehead
where a nice bruise had sprouted. On the way, she scooped up the
offending rock. If one missed the cursing, the position of her
eyebrows was still clear indication of how she was not happy.
Rinoa grabbed onto the
bars for support and glared down at the two prowlers on the lawn.
They looked up waved, the last thing she expected them to do;
uninvited guests usually bailed out upon their discovery. So who
exactly were these two?
the first called out, jumping up and down.
Though her outline was
slightly blurred by the sprinkling of raindrops, her mellifluous
voice was readily identifiable to Rinoa's ears. Rinoa gnashed her
LeBard," she mouthed. What a name. Geez, I haven't
seen Darby for Shiva knows how long!
After spending ten or
eleven years together in the private and prestigious Trinity
School for Ladies of Galbadia, every moment of which Rinoa had
found to be suffocating and stringent, Rinoa had left on her own
to join the Timber Owls resistance group full-time. Dabel and the
rest of their circle of close friends had applied and gotten into
a highly selective art school located right in Deling City. She
had often wondered how different her life would have turned out
had she spent that last year with the rest of the gang instead of
running off to liberate the town.
Frankly it was tough
for Rinoa to fantasize about going to art school because her
artistic abilities had always been denigrated by her close peers.
Most often her drawing skills were compared to her singing
talent. That made her especially mad because she had always
assumed that the quality of her pipes was hereditary.
Her mother was a great
singer, so why wasn't it obvious to anyone else that she was just
as gifted? Dabel had repeatedly humiliated her by begging that
she not give them a demonstration. The group always sided with
Dabel anyway, so Rinoa did not find it necessary to take heed in
their assent for Rinoa not to open her mouth and impugn the
natural beauty of lyrics. An obsequious, dependent bunch they
were. Of that she was sure.
"Did I ever see
her after that?" Rinoa asked herself softly, trying to
The last activity she
could recall clearly in which both of them participated was her
sleepover party at the end of the summer. It was one of the last
nights that she would stay in her father's mansion. She had
invited the entire crew consisting of Autumn, Belbe, Cary,
Chemie, Darby, Elissa, Glassy, Harting, Jenna, Larissa, Rambey,
Teeny, and Tilly after they raided the Deling shopping center
that afternoon. She secretly suspected that none of them would
have accepted had they not been so curious about her boyfriend
about whom she had been tantalizing them with sporadic pitches,
calling him her dreamy mystery man. Whether or not they believed
a word of her gloating was irrelevant, as they had all fervently
agreed to go home with her. Rinoa had similarly been in so
ebullient a high from the entire day's shopping, all of which she
billed to her father, and from seeing each of the boys who were
working construction over the summer drop their tools and gawk as
the fourteen gi rls frolicked down the side! walk and waved at
them with their shopping bags in hand, that she did not concern
herself with finding out which of the girls actually accepted her
invitation to spend time with her and not the Seifer whom
everyone had heard so much about but had never seen.
From below, Dabel waved
again and then said something to her companion whom Rinoa still
could not make out, as if she cared.
Dabel was going to get
Darby," Rinoa growled as she took aim of her former
Rinoa sent the stone
back down, which whistled as it worked its way through the thin
sheets of water.
Dabel cried out in
surprise but managed to move out of the way.
she screamed at Rinoa.
Rinoa swore, jumping up and down. "I missed!"
Dabel's friend stepped
forward into the gleam of moonlight.
Rinoa scowled, seeing
the signature white t-shirt, torn jeans, and red socks of her
other schoolmate Cary. She was sure that if she had been standing
next to the girl in broad daylight, Cary's sleeve would have
read, "Bite Me."
Cary had also attended
Rinoa's summer slumber party. She was one of those people who did
not mesh well with Seifer. Not only did their personalities
clash, but how seriously they each took the board game that
everyone ended up playing, "FF: World Domination,"
ignited a fiery polemic that Rinoa was thrust into arbitrating.
thought it to be more realistic if, instead of being able to
fortify one territory with any number of regiments from an
adjacent district at the end of his turn, he should be able to
fortify into any district of his so long as they were all
connected, as any military expert would have no doubt extended
supply lines and transport routes throughout secure territory. Of
course, he had figured the weathering of the supply lines by the
length at which it was necessary to maintain, so he proposed the
cost of sacrificing an increasing number regiments for each
additional district traversed. Hence, where players could only
move maybe ten units to one adjacent region before, Seifer's
proposal would have paved the way for players everywhere to move
ten units to that area, then nine to a neighboring sector, then
eight to the next local, and so forth until only one unit
remained, at which point no more fortification could be done.
Cary had thought that
the idea was the stupidest thing she had ever heard of. She would
rather treat the penciled board decorations of the White SeeD
ship and the huge sea monster as transport vehicles between
Galbadia and Trabia and between the Deep Sea Research Center and
the Island Closest to Hell respectively, and she told him so.
Seifer did not take well to being patronized. After stopping
Seifer from ending the dogged altercation "his way,"
meaning going to his Hyperion and lopping off Cary's head, Rinoa
had to restrict each one to a different room.
After enough rain had
fallen, Rinoa greeted Cary calmly, "Hey, what's up?"
Cary coolly took a puff
of the Malboro tentacle roll that she had between her fingers and
handed it back to Dabel.
Cary replied, turning back to her.
"Looks like I have
to light it again," Dabel commented crossly after looking
back a forth between the drizzling sky and the soggy cigarette
Cary took up the bottom
fold of her soaked, white t-shirt and rolled it up in her hands,
making an effort to squeeze the water out. It turned up sorely
wrinkled upon her release, a sight that she found to her
disliking. To rectify the visual disaster, Cary grabbed the
creased area with both hands and wrenched it in opposite
directions. It took one more tear to create a nice triangular
hole in the shirt that she found more acceptable before settling
"So are you going
to invite us in or what?" Cary asked, now with her hands on
"What are you
doing here?" Rinoa returned quickly.
"Was there ever
any doubt that we came to visit you?" Dabel questioned with
an eyebrow raised.
obviously, Rinoa calculated. How she has mastered it!
"Darby, dear, you
came to break the window," she corrected her friend
Dabel insisted and acted hurt before responding, "but to
think you would accuse us of wandering all the way over here just
to break windows!"
Cary snickered in
Dabel added, "I don't even see a broken window."
I," Cary concurred, "but she did manage to get your
"You two geniuses
can't even tell which one is my window!" Rinoa practically
screamed at her visitors. "Did you think this was my
"Geez, don't blow
a fuse," Dabel replied. "This was the only lit room in
That was strange.
"Why are all the
lights out in the rest of the house?" Rinoa asked herself
"Can we talk
inside?" Cary asked again with a noticeably more irritated
tone, "because it is getting awfully wet out here."
"Aren't you afraid
of the dogs?" Rinoa called down, ignoring the question.
"If you let us in
quickly," Cary spelled out for her condescendingly,
"that won't be a problem."
"First tell me how
you knew I was here before I even realized it," Rinoa
Cary took her torn
shirt back up in her hands and thrust it in Rinoa's direction.
"Can't you see
that I'm wet?" she asked.
"If you don't
think it's worth it," Rinoa replied, "you're free to
Dabel shrugged and
tossed her Malboro onto the lawn. She then grabbed Cary's arm and
beckoned her to leave.
Cary shook her
companion's grasp off.
"Darby, can't you
see that I'm just trying to catch up with my old buddy?" she
protested in a way that seemed to be more directed at Rinoa than
Dabel hesitated long
enough for Rinoa to discern from her perch that the girl was
weighing the expected utility of seeing the inside of the house
against the estimated number of additional gallons of water she
would have to suffer before Rinoa would be most likely to consent
to their entry.
thought bitterly, but that require her to lift a finger. That's
the problem with the upper class, nowadays- they consider
themselves royalty and try to imitate it. Stagnation!
Cary saw right through
"Oh, will you quit
acting so melodramatic, Darbs?" she sneered.
Dabel was no less
impressed than she was deterred.
stay here if you want," Dabel spelled out for Cary,
"but I have better things to do than to appease some spoiled
hussy on an ego-trip."
Cary's eyes sparkled
with glee, not believing that Dabel had blurted out their true
opinion of Rinoa that they all had tactfully kept to themselves
for the longest time.
"How does it feel
to get that out in the open?" Cary asked excitedly.
Dabel grinned evilly
and replied, "Surreal."
"Stop talking as
if I can't hear you!" Rinoa shouted violently from her
O Shiva, she
thought with alarm mixed with disgust, is that what my friends
really think of me?
Cary squinted in
response and turned to Dabel.
she said, "did you hear something?"
Fuming, Rinoa debated
whether the clapping sounds of her shoes against Cary and Dabel's
heads were worth the cost of buying a new pair in case the girls
decided to confiscate them.
decided, I can always get my dad to buy me some replacements.
Rinoa bent down
conspicuously to undo her laces. She had no reason to be furtive
if they didn't anticipate her intention to sock them.
"This is going to
feel so good," she giddily assured herself.
Her two visitors were
still chattering when she managed to free herself from her
footwear and let fly the shoes down towards their two
unsuspecting targets. They shrieked at the late realization and
tried to bat the projectiles away. The commotion that ensued
would not go unnoticed. The dogs were sure to be on them now.
Rinoa, little concerned
with the repercussions of trespassing with which her friends
would be faced should they be apprehended by the standard
security procedures that she knew by heart, doubled over
laughing. They had less than fifty seconds.
I was right, she
reveled, it was worth it!
Cary rubbed her head
gingerly and shouted with her fist raised, "You're even
worse than Seifer!"
Dabel took a break from
massaging her wrist where it had been struck while she was
shielding herself. Looking at her companion, she imparted upon
her sagaciously the words, "At least you didn't get hit by a
"Why doesn't that
make me feel any better?" Cary shot back.
Dabel shrugged and
resumed nursing her wrist.
Rinoa had meanwhile
picked herself up and was amusedly listening in on their
exchange. At the mention of Seifer, though, her smile faded and
she assumed a more pensive look.
To her recollection,
Seifer had not threatened more than a few times to hurl that
gun-blade of his at Cary. That gun-blade was trouble. That
gun-blade was competition. It went wherever he did, hugging his
hip. How unfair was that? It was the only thing closer to him
than was she! He even had a name for it- Hyperion. If it had a
name, it was competition.
In the end, though,
Hyperion won out. She recalled wishing that he would just leave
it home one day and save her the trouble of standing between him
and the neck of whoever offended him whenever they went on a
Rinoa never figured out
whether he was so inimical to Cary because she felt the need to
disagree with him on every point and had ventured to keep him
under her surveillance like a watchdog, or Cary was antagonistic
to and scrutinized Seifer because he was so hostile to her. Cary
had warned her about Seifer. He was too creepy, and his eyes were
wandering all over the place. Rinoa had taken that as a
compliment until Cary informed her that Seifer's eyes never
wandered over her.
It was so ridiculous a
notion that Rinoa had laughed it off. Cary had not found the
matter as risible. Rather than push Rinoa past the point
exercising her good graces, though, Cary conceded and left Rinoa
in her deluded exultation. Still, Cary was unsatisfied and added
quickly that Seifer was up to something. More accurately, he was
looking for something, and she should be careful. Rinoa had more
of an idea then than had she now what Seifer could have been
"What a couple you
two make," Cary shouted bitterly at Rinoa, interrupting her
together anymore," Rinoa answered so quietly that Cary was
just barely able to pick it up.
happened?" Cary probed, suddenly interested in what could
very well turn out to be a winning piece of Sunday bowling night
their ten thousand-minute anniversary, Dabel guessed. Matters
a lot to some weird people I know.
"He tried to kill
me," Rinoa muttered slowly.
Cary nodded knowingly
and remarked, "Yeah, that would do it."
This is juicier than
I thought, she acknowledged.
agreed and licked her lips. What a smoothie!
"Was it like for
an anniversary gift or something?" Cary asked with a smirk.
Rinoa scowled at both
of them but was too angry to say anything.
"So who are you
with now?" Cary questioned with a glint of curiosity in her
Rinoa mouth dropped to
"What do you take
me for?" she screamed at them.
"I think Dabel
said it a few minutes ago," Cary replied lightly.
regretted not having a third leg that could provide her with a
third shoe to hurl at her slanderers. She looked around
frenetically for any loose pieces of furniture that no one would
miss. She was sure that she would not miss.
Reading Rinoa's facial
expression perfectly, both Cary and Dabel backed a few steps away
from the window. They could handle the shoes, the books, and even
the lamp, but the fact that Rinoa had access to the freestanding
bed was not an empty threat that they wished to entertain. Dabel
urged the general constantly to nail all the furniture to the
floor, but Cary had pointed out that it would be much cheaper and
more effective to just nail Rinoa down. True, the bed was much
larger than the window, but with Rinoa, one never knew. In their
minds, to retreat a few steps was a small price to pay to avoid
catching the bed with their heads.
temper hasn't improved between that creepy mercenary and the
midget druggie," Cary grumbled to Dabel.
supposed to mean?" Rinoa demanded, putting her hands on her
hips with her jaw jutting out.
Rinoa," Cary laid it out for her, "you can't be
Dabel nodded, adding,
"The only thing that frightens you more than having your
credit card rejected is being by yourself."
"You're the most
needy, dependent, attention-craving person we know," Cary
finished off the thought.
Rinoa was about to
protest out of habit before she felt a hole gnawing on the
insides of her stomach. The emptiness began to spread, growing
quickly in size, and swallowed her whole. She wasn't sure if her
cry was stifled because her body numbed up or because her mind
had. The only thing she could be sure of was that the entire
process took place in no more than a blink of an eye, given that
she didn't even have time to react to the panic attack. They had
become more frequent since that night in the corridor with the
two Iguions. She would freeze just as she froze then.
It's different when
you have company because when you're alone, it's a lot harder to
hide from yourself. That's when you stare at yourself, right in
the face, and see who you really are.
Was this her mind
talking or her now?
If someone chances
upon you while you think you're alone, then it is even harder to
hide yourself from him. By the time you're through staring at
yourself eye to eye, he's seen it all.
Maybe it was both.
I'm just crying to
be discovered. Maybe then, that someone might save me from what I
don't even dare to face myself. I'm so alone.
Was that really her?
I'm so alone. And
I'm so scared. Scared of what I might see when I'm this alone. I
wouldn't know what to do. Can Squall see me? Did Seifer? What do
they think? Can they rescue me? I'm so scared. Don't leave me
Squall. Please, don't.
Rinoa was about to cry.
called, shattering the suffocating, cocoon-like blanket of
despair around her, "Earth to Rinoa."
"That's not what I
was asking," Rinoa clarified numbly, coming back to her
senses. "I meant, what did you mean by the 'midget'
"Isn't your new
boyfriend a dwarf?" Dabel asked with a look of confusion
creeping into her delicate features.
replied, matching Dabel's perplexed expression, "why would
you think that?"
"Some short guy
had to carry you and Angelo out of the car and into the
house," Cary explained in good humor, obviously figuring
that she would have to go along with Rinoa for a length before
"We figured you
all overdosed or something," Dabel followed up. "You
should tell your new lover boy no to drive while he is
Cary slapped her thigh
and snickered, "I can't believe you even gave Angelo a
"That's so typical
of Rinoa," Dabel commented with a hint of scorn in her
Still clueless, Rinoa
began to ask, "What are you two babbling ab-"
She stopped as the
buildings' external lights turned on, lifting the obscurity from
the lawn and startling her two visitors. The sudden flood of
light dazzled Rinoa's eyes, forcing her to squint before her
irises constricted to a more comfortable size of reception.
"There they are!
Get them!" blared over loudspeaker in the courtyard, echoed
instantly by three gunshots.
Cary and Dabel jumped
at the sounds but were too startled at first to move. The barking
of what one would like to hope wasnt a pack of hungry
canines in the area quickly remedied their paralysis, though, and
the two girls took off into the undergrowth. Whether or not they
would leave the perimeter unscathed would depend on how nimbly
they could scale the fence on the other side of the dense
shrubbery. The agility of the dogs was such that it left no room
for error, much less for sloth.
Rinoa was too busy
pondering their cryptic conversation to worry herself over their
perilous situation. Subconsciously she felt justified in her way
of prioritizing, having already allotted a time in the future to
mourn for them should the hounds manage to catch them and proceed
to tear apart their bodies.
"So whoever he is,
he got Angelo too," Rinoa whispered to herself, still trying
to figure everything out.
"Let go, you
mutt!" she heard Cary scream from a distance.
Three sharp raps
sounded from the door. Rinoa spun around and watched as the brass
knob turn a third of a revolution and the door slowly swung open.
The hinges were well greased, and the sturdy wood turned round
about noiselessly, revealing in the doorway a middle-aged man in
a military uniform that sported various medals and an insignia of
a high-ranking official.
"Why did you lock
me in here, General Caraway?" she asked him coldly.
"I would think
that 'Dad' or 'Father' would save you about four syllables,"
he answered dryly, deliberately avoiding answering her question.
"I asked you a
question," Rinoa repeated, not willing to be denied.
did," Caraway agreed, but making no effort to straighten the
Something is up,
Rinoa told herself. He's not being obsequious to me anymore.
Usually he kills himself to succor my good will. Has he given up?
But I need those shoes!
"If you don't tell
me why you had one of your henchmen abduct me, I'm walking,"
she huffed, and made her way to the door with a confident toss of
her hair over her shoulder for effect. She knew how convincing it
looked to men, indexing just the message she needed- that she
wasn't going to put up with any crap and that she had made up her
As she tried to walk
past him, he stuck his hand out, planting it firmly against the
wall, and thus blocking her exit. Lip quivering, Rinoa looked up
at him in shock.
he grumbled without turning his head to look at her.
"Who do you think
you-" she began to protest.
He interrupted her
unexpectedly by shouting, "Sit down!"
Rinoa felt the blood
drain from her face as she fell into the nearby chair, wondering
what had come over her father.
ingrate," he reproached her coldly, "do you have any
idea how much trouble you've caused me?"
Before she could
answer, he continued to vent at her, "You use my own money
to fund your resistance group against Galbadia and neglect to
inform me of your whereabouts for weeks?"
He struck the wall with
his fist, prompting Rinoa to jump out of her skin. She could see
the dents in the tough plaster. Apparently it wasn't tough
enough. This surprised her because it seemed as sturdy as rock
from the outside.
"How dare you? Do
you know how worried I was?" he hollered. "How many
scouts I sent out just to ascertain whether or not you were even
Either he didn't notice
that his daughter was hanging her head in shame, being too scared
and ashamed to look him in the eye, or that tears had begun to
fall into her lap, because he went on, "Informants don't
come cheap, Rinoa! I had to pay good Gil just to find out you
were in good health, and even more to discover where you were
hiding. This is your home you've renounced! And all you can think
about now are your stupid shoes!"
Rinoa felt how dry the
ceiling of her mouth was and realized that her lower jaw had been
hanging open for quite some time. It probably fell when she was
forced into the chair by his lashing words. She had no success
trying to moisten it with her tongue though; her entire mouth was
parched. She felt so horrible for the consternation she had
caused her father to suffer.
Rinoa was not prepared
for her father to force her to her feet by grabbing the back of
her shirt collar. He shoved her in front of the doorway just so
she could peer out at the long carpeted path flanked by numerous
nameless doors, each identical and all indifferent to her
One of the doors at the
far end of corridor was open and the room was lit. If her memory
served her correctly, that was the communication room. Following
a buzz of static, an audio transmission came through clearly from
the transceiver, "Hello? General, are you there?"
Rinoa scowled, trying
to remember to whom that voice belonged. She had heard it
somewhere, that same goofy, half-witted phonation. Could it
possibly be Laguna's voice? It had to be, she decided.
With his iron grip
still squeezing her collar, Caraway told her, "And despite
all of this, here I am, setting up with the President of Esthar
your betrothal to Squall Leonhart, that SeeD."
Rinoa could hardly
believe her ears. The image of her trying on various wedding
dresses in front of her girlfriends flashed before her eyes. Yet,
something about the lighting, even though it was just a mental
picture, was wrong. The entire picture lacked the brightness she
had come to associate with most wedding pictures. Did it mean
anything, or was it just her imagination? Was this a classic case
of the mind playing tricks on the light? Why shouldn't it be, if
so often in reality the light played tricks with the mind?
"So if you know
what is good for you, you self-centered brat, stay in this
room," General Caraway menaced, throwing her back in her
seat. "Otherwise, if you want this job as a father, you can
she managed to utter, teary-eyed and choking up. "I'm sorry,
I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
Feeling that he had
said all he needed to say, the general lifted his chin and turned
away from her, still repeating her apologies, to leave.
"But all of my
dolls and playthings are in my room!" Rinoa wailed suddenly,
lifting her head and gesturing in the direction of her room down
He spun around, lifting
his index finger with a look on his face so serious that it
deterred her from testing him.
Rinoa," he growled, his face coloring slightly. "You'll
live, I'm sure."
Angelo?" Rinoa ventured to ask, not sure where she unearthed
the courage to do so.
"That mutt won't
stop barking in his kennel," Caraway replied to her
surprise. "I'll see to it that he's brought here. Maybe you
can shut him up."
He left with a sinister
smirk on his face. Something about how he curled the edge of his
lips bothered Rinoa. It was almost as if he was sure that she
would fail in the endeavor he had just dared her to take, and he
was humored by it!
He stepped out of the
room, closing the door behind him. There were sounds of the key
slipping into the keyhole and setting the lock back in place.
"Oh, and no other
visitors," she heard him say from the other side of the
Rinoa listened as his
heavy footsteps grew softer until they escaped her auditory
detection completely. A second later she heard the door to the
communication room slam shut. Only then did she let out a sigh,
followed by a few deep breaths.
Where is my father?
she wondered, feeling her arms and legs trembling.
Exhausted by the
lecture, but reliving its horrors as the words echoed in her
ears, Rinoa numbly made her way to the bed. She grabbed one of
the larger, fluffier pillows and slid down on the ground beside
the bed, whimpering softly.
alone," she repeated to herself, burying her head in the
pillow and clutching it close, "Please, Squall, don't leave
I'm so scared,