PuPu's Saga Chapter 19
by Jeremy Chapter
Setting 19: 0744 DAY 16, Trabia Coastline
are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dream.
by lone sea breakers, and sitting by desolate streams.
losers and world forsakers, for whom the pale moon gleams.
we are movers and the shakers of the world forever it seems."
seemed like he had been waiting forever.
Forever being four minutes and twenty seconds.
Squall checked his pocket watch again and
then scratched his head. Afterwards, he
It did not look any different. The door to the women’s room had not opened
and the girl in the white dress had not stepped out.
Why am I waiting here anyway? he
Squall replayed the events in his
head. First the travesty of an attempt
to befriend him by the really impulsive SeeD Zell Dincht. Maybe he should have high-fived the poor guy
when it had so earnestly solicited.
What came after that? he
Squall thought hard.
The really animated SeeD Selphie Tilmitt
had then confronted him and tried to rope him into some lost cause. He had never seen so much energy directed to
such pointless ends. Whatever it was
that she was trying to set up was, in his opinion, a serious misallocation of
And what then? he pushed himself.
A cute face that he thought he should
recognize had scuttled over to him. The
tight-fitting white skirt she came with was already making him uncomfortable,
but the overbearing manner with which she carried herself downright unnerved
him. This stranger was like Quistis
with no inhibitions. All he was trying
to enjoy a moment of solitude; watching the uncultured swine in dress uniforms
try to do the two-step was entertainment enough for him.
After some lackluster wizardry- he was
not yet ready to call it enchantment- she dragged him onto the ballroom
floor. The song they danced to ended
with a fireworks and she left him to socialize with her own entourage, or so he
thought. Before he could make it back
to his home base by the corner column, she had once again emerged, taken his
arm, and led him to the restrooms.
“I’ll be right out,” she, motioning for
him to wait by the benches just outside.
It had been four minutes and twenty
seconds since she disappeared into the ladies’ room. In Squall-time, this translated into forever. Possibly more.
Time waits for no one, he
reasoned, so why should I?
The bench was becoming too friendly with
Squall took his chin off of his palm
where he had been propping it, and then got up from the bench. Sensing that some intolerable amount of dust
had settled on him during his hiatus from movement, he spared a moment to vigorously
dust off his uniform.
What are you doing here? he
brooded, shaking his head.
He had to get away.
Squall left the restrooms, the girl, and
the noise of the party behind, seeking instead the serenity of the
balcony. Under the blue moonlight, he
realized how tranquil the Balamb night was.
Someone came up from behind him. Her high heels clicked against the marble
tiles. He debated briefly whether or
not to turn around since he already guessed who it could be; the scent of rose,
vanilla, and something he couldn’t quite put his finger on filled his
nostrils. Only one person in Balamb
Garden wore that kind of perfume.
He had to admit she actually had on a
pretty nice jupe that night. Maybe one
of the guys in the ballroom would notice.
For an instructor, she looked too alluring and too needy. Neither aspect was very professional. If things did not change soon, she was sure
to lose her instructor’s license. It
would be a cruel irony indeed should that happen, she being the prodigy and
It seemed like he had been waiting
forever. Forever being four minutes and
Squall checked the clock hanging on the
wall again and then scratched his head.
Afterwards, he looked up.
It did not look any different. She was still lying there, motionless. She had not moved since he last remembered
to check the time. Perhaps he had
fallen asleep and just woken up?
He buried his face in his hands. It was driving him insane.
Dr. Kadowaki had not told the nurses to
change her out of her blue and black outfit until they could diagnose her for
something. To Squall that meant that
the infirmary staff had no idea what was wrong with her. It was a glaring failure in the system, and
he hated failures.
Why can’t she just wake up? he
wanted to shout.
But then he was familiar enough with himself
to know that he was not really annoyed with her; he was annoyed with the fact
that nothing was going right. How the
second to best medicine and technology in the world could not revive one little
girl from a coma was a situation that vexed him greatly. It made him wonder to where and for what
good all the Gil from his universal welfare pay cut was going.
No, that’s not it, he corrected
He felt responsible for everything- that
was it. He was, after all, the head of
the team that she had paid for, the leader of their ambiguous mission to free
Timber and to assist her in all ways possible before its completion.
Is she merely a client then, or more
than that? he questioned. When
did she become a friend?
Since when did I begin to consider her
a friend? he pondered with a tinge of alarm.
Evidently somewhere along the way she had
come to mean more to him than just a pushy, spoiled brat with some serious
paternal issues that she was intent on dispelling in some deranged fashion that
involved her father’s credit card. Now,
as her friend, he felt responsible- responsible, and very, very guilty- as if
he owed her something.
It was not that he was adverse to
responsibility; rather he just did not like being responsible.
No, that isn’t it either, he
He did not like being responsible for
Squall grabbed his hair and contemplated
tearing it furiously.
There had to have been something he could
have done. And it was obvious that
whatever it was, he had not done it. He
held back when he shouldn’t have. He
had failed as a leader.
He gazed at the casualty that lied
lifelessly before him. With such a
cost, was it even truthful for them to say that they won the battle? Seifer would pay dearly. He would see to that.
Suddenly he felt something. This feeling he felt, was it ineffable or
just not yet able to be articulated?
There was a subtle difference.
He was scared of one and scared to do the other. Slowly though, it came to him what to call the
It was the irresistible urge to kiss her.
He had not planned for this. He felt fear grip his heart, among other
Yes, it was fear. Fear of what it all meant or fear that she
would never be the same, it was fear all the same. Squall was afraid. One
would think that he would be used to it by now, but fear comes in many forms
and many definitions.
She is really lovely when she is
asleep, he observed, flopping back in his seat with a sigh.
But she had not moved the entire time.
It seemed like he had been waiting
forever. Forever being four minutes and
Squall checked the alarm clock by his bed
and then scratched his head.
Afterwards, he looked up.
It did not look any different. The door to his personal bathroom was still
shut and the faucet running. He
honestly had no idea why she insisted on showering in his room.
Squall made a face.
Better my room than someone else’s,
He flopped onto his bed and looked up at
the formal SeeD uniform hanging on the wall over his head. He debated whether or not to change into it
before they went over to the ballroom.
The surprise celebration of the defeat of Ultimecia was Cid’s idea of
Squall hated surprises, truly.
His thoughts were interrupted by her complaints
about feeling so grungy after Time Decompression and not having her white dance
skirt into which to change. According
to her, it was stooping to a subhuman standard to go about feeling that
grungy. Her griping was loud enough to
penetrate the bathroom door, and even his head.
We’re going to be late if she carries
on like this, he realized.
He checked the clock again and estimated
how much time they would have to make up on the way. He tried to visualize the route to the Garden’s ballroom and every
possible place to shave off some time in order to optimize the trip.
At least she doesn’t wear heels,
he comforted himself.
I guess there is nothing to do but
wait, he concluded.
With that, he tucked his hands behind his
head and stared blankly at the little indentations in the ceiling.
It seemed like he had been waiting
forever. He did not know exactly how
long it had been, and at the present there was no feasible way of uncovering
Where am I now? he wondered.
He was shrouded in darkness. He knew this first of all because he could
not see anything, and secondly because some luminous body was appearing some
distance in front of face. The amorphous
object brightened in intensity, which he took to mean that it was drawing
nearer to him, taking a haphazard path as it advanced.
It glowed so brilliantly that he might
have mistaken it for a comet had it taken a straighter course and vanished
before he could draw his breath.
Instead, it stuck around long enough for him to discern its identity
based on its telltale movement and a little guesswork.
It was a golden feather.
How eerie, he remembered thinking.
He was naturally drawn to it for some
reason. He even reached out to catch
it. It landed right in the middle of
his palm and the world suddenly exploded into being around him.
Squall looked down at his outstretched
In place of the feather he found two
feminine, ivory-colored fingers.
He could smell the beach and feel the
sand on his arm and skin. His back ached
profusely. He must have slept on top of
something as innocuous as a rock or seashell, though it felt like a continuous
overnight dragon noogie. The rising sun
and reflective ocean surface had entered into a joint marriage for the sole
purpose of blinding him.
Squall reached up with his free hand to
cover his eyes.
To his surprise, he did not have to. A warm body had curled over him and cast a
shade over his face. With fingers
softer than he could have imagined, his companion brushed his hair out of his
eyes and proceeded to lean down and settle over his lips.
Before theirs met, Squall caught a
glimpse of a cascade of long, blue hair.
Rinoa? he desired to ask. Is that you?
Her lips felt like cotton but even
softer. Perhaps it would do her more justice
to say that they exhibited the perfect balance between suppleness and
gentleness that could only be reproduced by either swan down or flower petals.
They also felt moist, as if there had
been fresh dew on the petals. He could
feel the morning setting upon his mouth.
It was as sublime a taste as it was a feeling. He would have to classify her as watermelon candy. A night spent soaked in ocean water had not
been able to mask the sweet fragrance in which she now drowned him.
It had ended. She lifted her head up and set it against his shoulder.
It was then that Squall realized that the
girl of perhaps eighteen years was lying on top of him.
What a light little thing! he
marveled. Given her stature and the
feel, she would have to try very hard to fool him into thinking she weighed
even 45 kilos.
What was more to his surprise was that
she was whimpering the whimper that one whimpers before one breaks down into
tears, a sort of transition between a sniffle and a sob.
Squall began to sweat.
Had she been hurt? he wondered.
His eyes widened.
Had he hurt her?
He shook his head and dismissed the
idea. After all, he had saved her from
the pack of Fastilochon-Fs.
He sighed. So at least she was alive; he hadn’t failed.
The thought echoed in his head. I did not fail. She was not my failure. I
am not that.
After relaxing for a bit to the rhythm of
her quiet sobs, he realized that he still hadn’t seen her clearly since he had
woken up. He initially wanted to roll
over but thought the better of it. Next
he tried to maneuver out from under her.
The jostling did not go unnoticed because she hushed herself and looked
up at him.
He found himself staring into a pair of
large, aquamarine eyes. It was
Squall’s mouth was dry, a condition which,
for the moment, he ascribed to natural dehydration instead of what he was
Grow up, you sissy, he reproved
himself. This is so unlike you.
Indeed, to be staring at anything was
uncharacteristic of Squall Leonhart. He
could not remember the last time he stared at a girl. Had he ever done it before?
Maybe once, many moons ago.
She had held his gaze firmly until now
when she finally caved in first. She
averted her eyes with a deep blush. In
that moment though, he had learned all she had wanted him to know. She seemed to say, “Thank you.”
Not really knowing why, Squall brought
his index finger up to her chin, then brushed it gently over her cheek and
moved aside a strand of strikingly turquoise hair. At first she shied away, not modesty, but eventually she
yielded. Argue as she might with
herself, in the end, it came down to one simple fact: He was her savior. He had leapt off a cliff for her. He had committed himself to a silent promise
to protect her with his life.
Though she had already balked, Squall was
long from tearing his eyes away from so beautiful a sight. His lips trembled at the thought of marring
it by his smallest influence. She was
so innocent, and that innocence was integral in the untouchable beauty about
her. The operative word there was
“untouchable.” One could not very well put the petals back onto the flower once
it had been plucked. In fact, he was
almost afraid to clasp her against him now, dreading how she might vanish like
a mirage, or he might wake up from this second dream.
Yet, when, in the face of discouraging,
self-imposed ethics, Squall tried to sit up, she clung to him, harder than
before. She was not ready to let him
It must be the trauma, he guessed.
The scene unfolding before him seemed too
familiar, virtually reminiscent of something just beyond his memory.
Squall shook his head. He was drawing a blank.
Getting back to business, he asked her
what her name was.
“Do you have a name?” he reiterated when
she stayed silent. That was dumb. Of course she has a name.
Other questions of the same nature
garnered no different results.
Perhaps she speaks a foreign tongue,
he theorized at last. I mean, so far
she has been relatively unresponsive to any of my prompts.
Her dress resembled Ellone’s in color and
simplicity. She had the complete
wardrobe set, white sash included. From
neck down they could be the same person for all practical purposes. It was probably impolite to stare at her for
as long as he had been, but the uncanny resemblance, on top of other things,
would not release him.
The girl was not blind to this fact, and
being prompted by either inherent shyness or imaginative playfulness, she
covered her face with her hands and peeked at him slyly through her
fingers. Whether or not it was her
intention to do so, she passed herself off as being extraordinarily cute, which
had the ancillary benefit of putting Squall at ease, thus breaking her spell
and his gaze.
Thus freed, Squall quickly looked away
and made a mental note to check up on Ellone.
It had been so long since he had last seen her. Instinctively he reached over to his
opposite hand to feel his ring. When he
did not find it on his finger, his hand moved up to his throat, expecting to
find it dangling on his chain necklace.
When both attempts were frustrated, Squall looked down and realized what
he had been doing subconsciously.
Of course I
don’t have Griever on me, he remembered. It is still with Rinoa.
Even after Zell made her a replica of the
ring in her size, she had refused to give the original back to him.
Wait, he stopped himself.
The memory of dashing across the main
courtyard of Galbadia Garden while dodging bullets and fire spells with her so
close behind him that he could smell her strawberry bubblegum breath settled
upon him. He had told her to keep
it. The next time he saw it after that
was through his space outfit visor, hanging around her neck, strung neatly
against her own small-sized duplicate.
Ellone give it to me?
Squall tried to recall. It was so long ago.
He saw himself in the same style, orange
t-shirt except he was pint-sized. He
had been noticing for some time that Matron and Mr. Kramer had been acting
strangely. Their entire attitude
towards the children had changed, as if they suddenly had a reason to be
detached. It might have started after
the day when the man dressed in black came to visit Matron. He had run past them, gone into the house, and
the next time he stepped out, it was a man dressed in white who was talking to
Matron. The bully Seifer had been
spying on them too.
Matron smiled less after her encounter
with those two men. Now she mostly kept
to herself. As for Mr. Kramer, he left
the orphanage a lot to visit the Balamb shipyards, or so he claimed. On occasion, his clothes would be ridden
with sawdust or paint smudges.
Sometimes people with egg-shaped heads would come by and discuss
Gil-related matters. Squall even had to
open the door or Mr. Norg a few times and pretend to be hospitable. Even Irvy, who was always in his own little
world with Sephy, was beginning to catch on.
An eerie atmosphere settled over the orphanage, a sort of indescribable
gloom that Seifer thought it best not to inquire about.
As Matron became more distant, Ellone had
to step up and fill the void of responsibility. Squall did not care what sort of evil spell was taking over the
orphanage as long as he was with Ellone because it was their own little
universe that no one else could touch.
Limitless security and warmth flowed from her smiling face. It was as if she had never been taught to
put on any other countenance. Squall
spent the majority of the blissful part of his childhood in her glorious world
bereft of frowns and sorrows. Only on
two memorable occasions did he see his Sis affected by fear or grief. Looking back now, she seemed like the
bravest creature on the planet, to have shouldered so much on her own and hid
so much from him because she did not want to hurt him.
She had tried to deceive them with a
casual laugh when Sephy blurted out to the group how she overheard from the
grown-ups that they would have a flowerbed soon, but Squall was the only one
who caught the nervousness that had crept into her voice. How her eyes darted to the side for a
split-second also belied her cheery demeanor that promised how “all would be
well.” It was the one lie perpetuated
through history. From then on, each
time the subject was mentioned, Ellone would try to deceive them in the same
Squall picked up a small rock and threw
it into the sea. Apparently Ellone had
reason to dread the idea of planting seeds in a garden, and now Squall
understood her concern. After all these
years, he had finally pasted together the pieces of her life that the GFs had
returned to him. Guardian Forces could
not steal one’s memories forever. They
gave them back in fragments, usually in the form of dreams. Of course, one could always order the GF to
relate all the critical events that had happened in one’s youth, but Squall had
never relied much on his hears. Hearing
was a liability because of all the necessary and unnecessary lies that pervaded
their civilization’s communication. If
one was there, he should remember best what he witnessed, without need of
anyone to narrate it to him.
The second time Squall saw her sister in
a moment of weakness was by the coast.
He had been chucking stones into the ocean behind the orphanage by
himself all afternoon when she came out and found him.
“Still trying to build a bridge, Squall?”
Ellone asked him.
Little Squall nodded and hurled his
handful of pebbles as far as he could- about four meters.
“You told me that if I filled up the
ocean and walked across it, my mother would be on the other side,” he huffed
He then stared at Ellone intensely as if
to daunt her from challenging her previous promise to him.
It was her turn to nod.
“There’s always hope,” she commented.
Within those words Squall found a renewed
vigor that prompted him to run around and gather rocks twice as fast as before. He was not ready for what was to happen
Ellone threw her arms around him and
broke down into tears. He was more
startled than distressed at first, but he soon melted and tried comfort
her. She was holding on to him so
tightly that it was becoming hard to breathe, and no matter what he said, she
just seemed to cry harder. She was not
cheering up, not even when he patted her on the back, and that worried him a
“I’m right here, Sis,” he reassured her
over and over again. “I’m not going
There was nothing else he could do but
clasp her just as tightly and wait for her to stop sobbing. It was quite a wait, enough for half of his
youth to fly by, but he stuck with her, and in the final sniffles, she wiped
away her last tear with her sash and whispered in his ear, “Have you ever
considered looking for your father?”
Squall recoiled with a puzzled look on
his face and replied, “I don’t have a father.”
Ellone looked right into his eyes and
told him the contrary.
“I thought only Seifer had a father,”
Squall insisted skeptically. Ellone was
the notorious prankster of the orphanage, and he was wary of becoming another
Zell whom she had tricked for two whole weeks into thinking that he had descended
from a long line of glorious Wendigos who did not believe in bathing. Ellone was a wily one.
Ellone nodded, having seen the tall man
that came to pick Seifer up once a week and brought him back late in the
evening. She had not successfully
wheedled out of the Kramers any actual confirmation that the man was Seifer’s
legitimate father, but the implication was definitely there.
“But you also are your father’s son,”
Ellone informed Squall.
“Why are you telling me this all of the
sudden?” little Squall asked suspiciously as soon as he perceived that she was
“Because if you ever want to find him,
sweetheart, I want you to know that he is on the other side of the ocean in
that direction,” she replied, pointing beyond the orphanage to the far side of
“You may need to build another bridge,
Squall,” she murmured.
“But you told me I could find my mother
over there,” Squall argued, pointing to the sea in front of them. He stuck his lower lip out in defiance.
Ellone sighed and decided she had been
keeping the truth from him for so long.
“She was, but I don’t know if she is
still there, dear,” Ellone told him.
For a moment, Squall just stood there,
silently looking at the waves and trying to sort out the emotions of anger,
betrayal, disappointment, loss, and inadequacy that were wrestling with his
soul. He looked back at her suddenly
and said with the smile that one gets when he has thought of something clever,
“I’ll always have you, Sis, right?”
“You’ll find some nice girl to take care
of you, I’m sure,” she diverted.
“But I don’t need anyone else! Just you!” Squall cried covetously.
Ellone did not respond immediately, which
made him take a step back. She saw this
and moved forward to take him back into her arms.
“Oh, Squall,” she wept, “yes, you always
will. I’ll be here always. I promise.”
Squall smiled cheerfully and hugged her
“Promise me one thing in return, though,”
Squall squinted in curiosity.
“Promise me that you’ll take care of
yourself,” she continued. “You have to
be strong for the both of us.”
“Of course I will,” Squall beamed over
her shoulder. “I knew that already,
even without you telling me.”
Ellone smiled wistfully, knowing her face
was out of view from him. She then
released him but looked on with a guilty expression as he continued to pile up
all the nearby rocks on the beach, hurling them some of them out to sea every
“I can’t just leave you like this,” she
cried finally and began to look around for a keepsake to give to him.
“You’re leaving me?” Squall asked,
dropping all of his rocks.
Ellone searched her person but could not
come up with anything except what she knew she should not give. She still remembered the warning of the
errant fortune teller who was present when Raine Loire passed it to her on her
deathbed in Winhill.
“Don’t let it fall into the wrong hands,”
the hooded figure had cautioned them.
That was a
rather vague warning, Ellone reflected.
She had had no idea to whom the “wrong”
or “right” hands belonged, but against every instinct in her body, she
unlatched her necklace and slipped a silver ring off the chain. This she handed to Squall who received it
with both hands.
“What is it?” the little boy asked
“It’s a ring,” she replied.
“You wear it on your finger,” she
clarified in jest when he didn’t move.
He gave her a wry smile and then tried to
put it on his finger. It was clearly
too big for him.
Ellone handed him the rest of the
“Keep it around your neck until you can
put it on your finger, then,” she suggested.
“Does it have a name?” Squall questioned.
Ellone thought for a minute before
shaking her head.
“That is up to you, whatever you think it
symbolizes,” she answered. “It could be
the best in you, or the worst in you.
Just remember, though, it won’t have a name until you give it one.”
things about us can also be the best things, but usually it is the other way
around, she reflected dolefully.
“And if someone should ask you where you
got it, just tell them that you bought it from a pawn shop,” she added in
“Where did you get it?” the boy inquired.
“It belonged to your grandfather,” Ellone
responded. “If you ever see your mother
again, she will be able to recognize you by that ring.”
Young Squall brightened up at the thought
and nodded fervently.
“Now listen to me carefully, dear,” she
told him with unmistakable urgency In her voice. “There is something about that ring. You may only have one heart to lose, but you would rather lose
that than this. Keep it safe.”
For a moment she wondered if she was
going into too much detail for him to handle.
He was so young, after all.
Whether he fully understood her or not, the boy nodded and strung the
necklace around his neck.
Ellone looked up into the evening
sky. Dark clouds were approaching from
“I need to leave now, Squall,” she said
“So you’re really leaving?” Squall
From her countenance, Ellone clearly did
not want to do so. It simply was not
her decision to make.
“Let’s play a game of hide-and-go-seek,”
she suggested, “starting tomorrow.”
“Really?” Squall replied in relief. “So long as you aren’t leaving. I’ll find you!”
“Now come on inside with me,” Ellone
implored. “There is a storm coming.”
And that was it. The next morning she was gone.
The day came when Squall was adopted by
Balamb Garden and placed on a ship against his will. He remembered the horrid experience vividly.
“You are going the wrong way!” he kept on
shouting to the sailors who could not have cared less.
“I don’t want to go this way!” Squall
hollered. “My mother is in the opposite
He tried to jump over the side but one of
the buffer sailors restrained him.
Squall would remember the face of the man who stepped between him and
freedom that day. He vowed to take
vengeance on him for separating him from his mother. One day, when he had honed the skills that this Garden of theirs
was going to teach him, he would hunt that man down.
“Just let me go!” he shouted without the
use of any of his limbs to back it up.
As they left the orphanage further and
further behind, Squall felt his heart being wrenched from his chest and tossed
into the ocean. He did not speak
another word on the black ship. He did
not speak another word even after he arrived at Balamb unless he had to. And he did not cry. They could snatch his dreams from him, but
tears were worth their weight in gold, so those he kept to himself. Once enrolled in Garden, he frequented the
beach and tossed pebbles in the direction of the orphanage during seventh
period break each day, but he never cried.
Squall let loose another zinger and
watched it whistle though the air.
Diablos coughed on purpose to get his
attention before it packed into the deep.
“Nice throw,” the demon rasped.
His mind still on the past, Squall did
not bother to answer. He never did
carry out his vow to kill the sailor.
As it turned out, Squall recognized him years later as a friend of his
father. Squall could assume now,
looking back, that Laguna had wanted Ward to go to the orphanage and personally
guarantee the safety of his son to Balamb Garden prior to giving him the post
of his presidential aide. Ward had not
changed much except for the scar on his face, which was how Squall could pick
him out of the crowd after he graduated.
His thoughts were broken by the girl’s
pulling at something he was lying on.
He moved aside just as she put her weight behind one great tug,
inevitably resulting in her falling back with a surprised cry. When she sat back up, he saw that she was
clutching onto a small purse. From the
way they glimmered under the sun, Squall guessed that the prime composition
material was dragon scale.
The girl rubbed the parts of her body
that she had bumped from her flop crossly and then turned her attention to her
purse. At first she was just fingering
with articles inside but soon she turned to fumbling around in alarm.
“What are you looking for?” he inquired
with concern in his voice. “Have you
She did not answer but he noticed that
her sounds of anxiety intensified.
“You don’t even know how to communicate
with me,” he muttered, unable to conceal his disappointment, “much less talk
and tell me who you are or what you’ve lost.”
There has to be other ways to ascertain
her identity, Squall assured himself. She must have something on her of some
In a last ditch attempt to find whatever
item had seized her, she dumped the entire content of her bag onto the
sand. Squall found himself looking at a nice array of fish fins, water
crystals, orihalcons, and turtle shells, beyond the given female
necessities. At least that is what
he assumed all the mystifying things
were if he had not seen them in Trepe’s Monogram of Items Dropped By
Monsters, which he had memorized as a prerequisite back in his days as a
Her cache of items gave him
no clearer picture of who she was or what she did for a living, but the common
nature of the items led him to believe that she was not hydrophobic.
Or maybe she
just likes the color blue? he considered
He heard the sound of clapping from
behind him and spun around.
“Excellent deduction, my lord,” Diablos
applauded in a way that could have passed as brownnosing except his nose was
black and he was way too sarcastic.
“Hide yourself before she sees you and
has a heart attack!” Squall hissed, trying to glare at the GF and look back at
her with deep concern at the same time.
She was still flipping through her things
with the same amount of agitation.
“So pushy,” Diablos huffed, steadily
fading into transparency as if thin layers of paint of the surroundings were
being coated over him one at a time.
“And I was just about to congratulate you
on discovering that she is rabies-free,” the Guardian Force continued to sneer
in his invisibility.
“Leviathan,” Squall called out, deciding
to ignore the comment.
The serpentine GF materialized from a
“Yessss, master?” it responded with a
“Humor her for a while,” he
commanded. “If she really has a penchant
for the water then she has probably heard of you.”
“What a lofty purpose I have today,“
Leviathan murmured dryly.
Squall’s expression settled somewhere
between a frown and a scowl.
After grumbling about being crossed with
his being forced to skip his ritual sun-basking exercises and about his
master’s total lack of sensitivity to a cold-blooded creature’s needs, all of
which he did just below Squall’s range of hearing, Leviathan slithered over to
his fretting assignment and introduced himself.
There was some initial panic but a few
reassuring gestures from Squall quickly assuaged the problem. Squall sighed in relief and then got to his
He had to get away for a few
minutes. He had to collect his
thoughts. He had to check his
bike. He had to get back to Garden.
He had to take her with him.
I can’t just leave her here, he
Why not? he argued in the negative
just for the sake of fairness. After
all, this is where I found her. She can
walk back to wherever she came from.
Well, genius, the affirmative side
defended, she obviously can’t be from anywhere in the locality if she can’t
even speak the language.
Then taking her back to Nova Trabia
won’t help her either because we are short-staffed in the translating
department, was the rebuttal from the negative.
“I hear you, boss,” Diablos hissed
Squall lifted an eyebrow.
“Actually, I don’t, so stop looking so
worried,” the GF pacified him, “but by all means, think aloud.”
“I’m wondering what to do with her,”
Squall informed him.
Diablos looked over to the object of his
master’s dilemma and devoured her with his eyes, an action which would have
communicated to any onlooker that he found her good enough to eat.
“Oh yeah, boss,” he running his tongue
over his lips, “she certainly looks ripe to me.”
Squall ran his fist into the demonic
Guardian Force’s stomach.
After a muffled cough, Diablos emended,
“I meant she looks riparian.”
Ingenious save, Squall thought.
It was all happening so fast that it was
making his head spin. He could hardly
believe it himself.
Sensing the trouble, Diablos grinned and
asked in mock disbelief, “Don’t you believe in love at first sight?”
“No,” Squall replied flatly, “I prefer
not to put too much stock in clichés.”
“You have to believe in something,
master,” the dark speculated.
“Misconceptions,” answered Squall,
“followed by deception and betrayal in one direction or another, and oftentimes
Diablos whistled, or attempted to. Because of his fangs, the noise he ended up
making sounded more like a sickly rasp.
“I think you two are a perfect pair,
master,” the GF ventured to say.
“I do not pay you to think,” commented
“You don’t pay me at all, sir,” Diablos
“Then what is this free assessment you
are giving me?” Squall asked, settling back to receive the GF’s newest keen
“It is the perfect romance,” explained
Diablos. “In the only place where words
speak louder than actions, neither one of you speaks, and so you can never do
each other harm.”
“He has a point there,” Leviathan hissed.
The girl looked up from Leviathan to
Squall and blinked in confusion.
“That’s your definition of romance?”
Squall repeated. “Where words hurt more
“You’re right on the Gil,” affirmed the
“What would you know about romance?”
Squall posed caustically and resumed his observation of the mystery woman. She was patting Leviathan on the head.
The memory of Lunar* flashed before
Diablos’ eyes. The elfin queen
bedizened in a gown of the purest platinum.
He had not seen her since Hyne stripped her of her and banished her to
forever walk in the mortal realm at some undetectable frequency. Over the epochs he had tried to find her,
wandering around without a destination and randomly switching to different
frequencies, but he never succeeded. He
might have even walked right by her or through her without either one the
wiser. Eternal life without interaction
with either man or GF was virtually a punishment worse than death.
But it was not worse than his guilt. Diablos would have chuckled sinisterly here
if the joke weren’t on him. For duty,
he had informed the Great Hyne of Lunar’s seditious motives, but instead of a reward,
Diablos only garnered the addendum of another curse- the curse of a conscience. This gift he won for betrayal, and guilt was
one cruel master who collected triple of what debt was owed to romance. Thus, in a single breath, he not only lost
the one being who cared about him, but his self-respect as well.
Hyne was truly devious. Morality was the worst thing that could have
happened to him. A broken heart was the
second. Now he possessed both.
A single tear rolled down his cracked
face and dropped to the sand with an acidic sizzle.
gives the full account of Lunar’s exile in
“The Exiled Guardian."
“Diablos?” Squall checked when there was
no answer. I can smell the sulfur so
he has to be lurking around here still.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t know anything about
it,” Diablos replied clumsily.
Squall checked the position of the sun in
relation to the horizon and quickly estimated the time. It looked to him like it was the right time
to leave. He left Diablos and walked
back to where the young sat, still amusing herself with Leviathan.
It took some persuasion to get her to
leave without whatever it was that she had lost, but in the end, she let it
go. The SeeD commander helped her
gather up her scattered belongings from the sand and led her back to his
It met them halfway, he having activated
the auto-ignition, autopilot, and key-holder auto-find with the radio remote on
his keychain. Wordlessly she took the
spare helmet that he produced from the glove compartment and offered to her. She then copied his movements and climbed
onto the bike behind him.
“Did you want to stay out here and finish
sun-bathing, Leviathan?” Squall asked while he flipped his visor down over his
The armless serpent tried to make a
Squall understood just the same. He revved the bike, checked to see if his
passenger was safely aboard, and then took off.
He couldn’t very well talk to her through
his helmet, and even if he could, the wind would have drowned out what promised
to be a lively conversation. In all
probably, though, it would be a monologue because he doubted that she would say
even one word. On the other hand, given
that he was not to prone to long speeches or any speech at all, it could just
as well turn out to be an embarrassing silence.
Perhaps Diablos actually had a point,
Even though he had already accelerated to
a dangers 210 kilometers per hour, Squall felt compelled to check the digital
clock on the A09’s dashboard. Quistis
was sure to have another class lined up for him.
Differential mathematics, sociology
with eigenvectors, logistics, war stratagems, or physics with applications most
likely, he listed in his head.
He remembered that the deadline to
declare which weapon skill one wanted to “major” in was today by 1700. Declaring majors was always a mystery to him
because it only applied to those pursuing a weapon’s major whose prerequisites
were so many in number that unless the student committed himself entirely to
those courses, he would not be able to graduate. For all other majors, no declaration was needed because there was
still time to take the courses needed to meet to the requirements. To him, the entire process was a moot, but
SeeD was all about being systematic.
Without the system, you would turn out like Seifer, the classic
cautionary tale against having dreams and chasing them blindly. Hold fast to dreams before they get a hold
Squall’s eyes narrowed at the
thought. He chose to focus harder on
navigating the road.
If his information was right, Seifer,
Raijin, and Fuujin were participants in a missionary expedition to uncover some
religious artifacts right on the outskirts of Nova Trabia.
He was made aware of how much harder he
was squeezing the throttle because the girl suddenly tightened the ring her
hands made around his waist.
Squall still did not know what to make of
Seifer Almasy after all these years.
Idealists and hopeless romantics were so much easier to exploit, and
Squall was sure Ultimecia knew that. He
tried not to have dreams anymore, seeing how well his own fared in his
childhood and further confirmed by the nightmare that Seifer’s turned out to be
for everyone. If there were to be any
more dreams for Squall, he would not be foolish enough to put his faith in
them, much less be foolhardy enough to chase after them.
The last time he and Seifer was fighting
on the same side was back during the SeeD entrance exam- the Dollet run. Since then he had crossed swords with the
deluded ex-Disciplinary Committee head three times and tasted the old-fashioned
goodness of Seifer’s generosity in a torture chamber. Seifer was not on Squall’s list of favorite persons. Being Seifer’s counterpart, foil, and
doppelganger was to be the bane of his life, but despite this fact, to add
insult to injury, fate had perversely assigned him the role of being Seifer’s
playmate. And having anything to do
with Seifer Almasy was like playing Russian roulette with all sex chambers loaded.
The only thing they had in common, literally,
and that would probably also be a significant burden in his life, was
Rinoa. Perhaps his life would be easier
if these two great antagonisms of his ran off with each other without either
one plotting to kill the other.
When Diablos was sure that they were out
of distance, he readjusted his frequency so as to partially restore the
visibility of his body. From there, it
took some work, but he managed at length to rip off his mask. He then leaned over a puddle left by the
receding tide and checked his face. A
handsome face bedizened with golden curls but with a pair of blue eyes that
spoke of the deepest woe stared back at him*.
With an angry cry the Guardian Force
flung the ghastly mask in the air and blasted it into immateriality with a Demi
spell. Afterwards, he waited dejectedly
in front of the pool for the accursed lock to reappear over his face as it
always did since the days of Hyne.
“Yeah,” Diablos repeated to himself
emptily when it did, “I wouldn’t know anything about it.”
The demon fell to his knees and raised
his arms. When he felt the
charcoal-textured face that was not his own with his claws, the ageless
Guardian Force began to sob.
The curse had not yet been lifted.
gives the full account of the Diablos’ face
“The Face Behind The Mask.”
The resonating chamber on the custom
exhaust pipe thundered all the way to Nova Trabia Garden as the pair raced
back. Squall knew from the few silent
lessons in aerodynamics from Ward that the rumbling was even louder for
bystanders that he sped by because the A09 motorcycle actually created and
carried with it a widening, low-pressure wind tunnel in the volume of fluid it
moved through. The original reasoning
behind getting it custom fitted was because the dealer at the shop promised
that it would strike fear into the hearts of those who heard it. So far, though, it seemed to only inspire
looks of annoyance. Squall was sure
that had he been someone like Zell instead of the Commander of SeeD, Sergeant
Jay would have slapped him with a 40-Gil boom ticket for unruly noise pollution
The A09’s console had issued a blinking
warning light when Squall topped 250 kilometers per hour, but he had ignored
it, knowing full well that the vehicle’s top speed was in the range of
320. He was also aware of the
tremendous compromise the speed was to directional maneuvering and horizontal
translation- as in he would have less than a second to dodge obstacles 70
meters away- but for the price he paid for the bike, it would most certainly
come equipped with various safeguards against otherwise unavoidable collisions.
Such an emergency situation was unfolding
before his eyes. Because Nova Trabia
Commission of Wildlife Safety had been marginalized in the previous year’s
municipal funding distribution process, they were not able to post as many
“Chocobo Crossing” signs as they would have liked so far away from the
city. As a result, Squall did not catch
sight the tawny mother chocobo and her line of chicobos against the withering
saw grass until he was nearly on top of them.
Let’s test the hydraulics on her,
shall we? he thought as he reflexively punched one of the red buttons on
his left handle. If he had estimated
the mother chocobo’s height correctly, they would clear her scruffy head by
five centimeters and coast sixty meters in the air before landing.
The bike quickly reacted and the
anti-gravity propulsion boosters fired up with a loud roar. The girl yelped at the sudden jerk and
tightened her hold yet again. Squall
took the time to check his rearview mirror as they left the ground and sailed
over the biped birds. After they landed
with a soft bump, he congratulated himself at having avoided making a bloody
mess on the prairie.
As they drew closer to the Garden, Squall
tried to ease up on the throttle and maneuver as quietly as possible around to
the back. There he pulled into the
Garden’s garage and zipped past the automated security checks. After a few more turns, he pitted the bike
in his privilege parking space on the first floor.
“Okay,” Squall told his companion while
setting the bike up on its prop, “we’re here.”
She seemed to understand the gist of what
he was saying because she steadied herself with his arm and hopped off
He had to change out of his grungy,
orange t-shirt, rolled up jeans, and sandals before he could walk around the
Garden as the authority figure Cid was paying him to be. As much as he did not want to make condoning
his being squalid a part of his being Squall, the shower would have to wait; he
was late enough as it was.
As his foresight had dictated for him to
do, he kept one of his regular outfits in the lockers in the garage. Squall headed in that direction, handing off
his new companion to one of the garage attendants with the explicit
instructions to escort her to the cafeteria and find a public relations
representative to find out who she was and where she needed to go to get home.
Just as he was done changing, he spotted
a pack of Malboro cigarettes lying at the bottom of his locker. Squall paused for a second and remembered
that on Selphie’s schedule, the smoke detectors in this locker room would not
be installed for another three days.
Squall estimated how much more time he
could allocate for a little break that he was confidant he could make up for
during the rest of the day. Finally he
decided that he could afford to burn five minutes, and so he sat down, opened
the pack, and carefully drew out a Malboro roll. He nearly dropped it as he was lighting it because Quistis’
authoritative voice boomed over the Garden intercom:
“Commander, please report to the front
Though she did not say how urgent the
situation was, Squall could sift it from her words. He rolled his eyes, pocketed the cigarette, and threw the rest of
his articles back into his locker.
After giving the locker door one final slam, he hurried out towards the
quad. He spotted the signature pink
skirt and velvet vest pacing back and forth across the bridge from across the
He waited until she had her back turned
towards him and was heading back over the bridge for the umpteenth time before
he went over and caught up with her just so he could have the initiative and first
“What situation are we looking at?” he
spoke even before he tapped her on the shoulder to turn her around.
There you are!” Quistis exclaimed, her face flushing.
“What is the situation?” he repeated.
“How like you,” she remarked resentfully “Not even a hello.”
He did not say anything. Instead, he just waited for the answer to
“The Shumi sent us a video message
earlier this morning,” she then informed him.
“Something of theirs was stolen.”
“How long ago?” Squall questioned.
“They aren’t sure,” she replied.
Squall turned to get off the bridge and
headed for the corridor to the officer’s lounge. Quistis ran after him with a frown on her face.
“Irvine and Zell?” Squall guessed at whom
the Shumi were targeting their grievances.
“At last look at me when you talk to me,”
She sounded hurt so Squall slowed his
steps. The few Garden students that had
risen early for a morning job around the quad looked over in the their
direction with curious eyes.
He turned and looked at her. She was trembling slightly like one who had
accidentally said what she hadn’t meant to say aloud.
“I just wanted to know why you didn’t log
back in last night,” she finally found the courage to add. Was it because of me? Please don’t let it be because of what
passed between us last evening.
“Why?” Squall countered. “Did you miss me?”
She did not answer, not that he expected
her to. In fact, he knew she would not
verbally confirm what they both already knew to be true. Yet, the question, once voiced, had sounded
more rhetorical than he had intended, and after seeing the helplessness on her
face, he regretted his choice of words.
I should apologize, he thought.
She did not give him the chance.
“I don’t know what to make of you,”
Quistis confessed in frustration. “You
change your attitudes so quickly that I can’t even follow. Who were you yesterday? What were you trying to tell me?”
He was not sure how to proceed so he took
her hand in his. She started, not
anticipating his touch.
“Look,” Squall started over less formally
while drawing her closer to him, “you shouldn’t take anything I do or say to
heart or we will both end up regretting it.”
“What are we, then, Squall?” Quistis
wondered sadly and softly.
This discussion was making him feel
uncomfortable. He was never comfortable
when he did not know the answer to a question, and Quistis was one SeeD test
that he could not study for.
Dropping her hand, he concluded, “Some
things are better left ambiguous.”
For a moment she produced no visible
reaction, but had he placed his ear against her chest, he might have heard
something breaking on the inside. At
length, she nodded.
Squall could not think of anything else
to say to her, but the air between them was awkward, as if the conversation had
not yet ended. He desperately needed an
A girl with pink eyes and silver hair had
been staring at him over Quistis’ back through the glass windows in the Garden
Noodle diner. Having never seen her
before, Squall took the opportunity to nab one of the passerby students who
looked like he was in need of something to do and told him to ascertain the
identity of the girl and to then take care of her accordingly. In the process, he conspicuously dropped
“Uh, how do I do that, sir?” the student
asked nervously, immediately recognizing who Squall was. Quistis almost felt sorry for the kid.
Squall hated when the trainees acted like
it was their first day at the Garden.
The SeeD commander took out a note from his jacket pocket and scribbled
on it while laying out his directions to the student:
“If she is a transfer student, check her
ID and transcript, or, if she claims to be enrolled here, quiz her on something
she would only know if she was an actual student, like rooming assignments,
names of teachers, class times, the lunch menu, and whatnot. If she is an imposter, detain her without
revealing your intention to do so, and call for the Disciplinary Committee before
she has a chance to sabotage our facilities or engage in espionage. Sergeant Jay will handle it from there. If she is a client, however, call the PR
reps, get her some meal tickets, arrange for a personal tour guide to escort
her around for the entire day, and then reserve a room for her in the guest
suite sectors until one of the officers can debrief her. Here is your tardy excuse slip because
you’re going to be late for your first class.
This ought to get you out of trouble.
The student took the slip and hustled
into the Garden Noodle and Squall continued on his way to the officer’s lounge
to view the Shumi transmission that was growing older by the minute. He just hoped the series of delays so far
had not exacerbated the situation or escalated the conflict.
The moment of tension between them having
passed, Quistis watched as Squall disappeared into the corridor. With the air of hopelessness and defeat, she
parked her forehead in her palm and whimpered.
“Oh, Shiva,” she moaned sadly. “What do I do now?”