PuPu's Saga Chapter 7
by Jeremy Chapter
Setting 07: 1417 DAY 15, Nova
Trabia Garden Basketball Courts
"I am become a name;
for always roaming with a
much have I seen and known,-
cities of men
and drunk delight of battle
with my peers."
-Tennyson, Alfred, Lord
"Rinoa! Yo! Whats up!"
That cry surprised Quistis as she
was walking across the basketball courts. She considered not
stopping, but turned to see who was calling for Rinoa anyway. It's
not like they're calling for me, so why am I stopping? she
asked herself. But I could have sworn Rinoa told me that she
was going to stay in Balamb for two weeks to let things settle in
Trabia before coming.
A few sweaty underclassmen ran up
to where she stood, looking her over in a manner anything but
"Hey, Rinoa," they said
amiably, "wanna play a game with us?"
They must be talking past me.
Quistis looked behind her to make
sure Rinoa wasnt standing right there, and then realized
that she was being eyed by at least ten hormone-charged young
men. Looking around, she saw at least three other games had
stopped to gawk at her. She wasnt sure whether to be
flattered or offended.
I think you have the wrong
She heard some shoving, a few
"oohs," "ahhs" and whispering. Someone passed
a word of caution, "Watch it fellas. Thats
Squalls girlfriend. You'd better be careful." The guys
dismissed it casually.
Quistis liked the sound of that
and repeated it to herself.
girlfriend. You'd better be careful.
"Hey, Rinoa," a guy off
to the right chimed in, "when did you dye your hair blonde?
I thought it was black."
He called me Rinoa.
"Yeah," another player
added, "but it still looks great."
That guy called me Rinoa.
"Yo, Rinoa," another one
called, "Squalls not here right now. Do you want me to
show you the ropes?"
Quistis was coloring, and she knew
it. She wanted to make a grab at her whip and teach a few of them
to watch their mouth, but she knew better. Have to control
myself. You used to be an instructor. It doesnt look good
on your report to have slaughtered a team of Garden basketball
"Hey, I think we have her
flustered," shouted someone standing in front of the growing
crowd. "See? Shes shaking all over."
Maybe switching down to a size
2 today wasnt the best idea ever.
There were hoots and some jeers
followed by a torrent of pick-up lines. It was then that Quistis
realized how just how precarious it was to leave her curvaceous
little frame sitting in a sea of testosterone. But a part of her
kind of envied Rinoa as she moved away. Or so she thought. She
heard some disappointed groans behind her, but it was soon
drowned out by the jostling of feet. It was painfully loud since
nearly all of the games had been halted just to ogle at her.
Quistis turned around again and
saw that the distance between the front line and her had closed,
despite the steps she had taken in retreat. Looks like
theres no way out of this one except the hard way.
There were some pretty lusty
offers being openly thrown out now, as well as some dirty
talking. She wasnt sure what the best way to handle the
situation was. Unlike at Balamb Garden, where all her devoted
"Trepies" would only talk about her behind her back and
dream about her when she wasnt looking at them, there was
no such docile fan club here. They also didnt realize here
at Trabia Garden Quistis outranked them even if she didnt
have her instructor status anymore, and that she could have ended
their miserable lives if she felt the need to do it. But as it
was, no one was there to hold them back, and she had to
re-evaluate being jealous of Rinoa before taking off in a mad
dash to the far side of the court where there was at least one
other game still going on.
Abruptly she stopped, realizing
that she had made the wrong choice and now faced a corridor that
led to the mens locker room. Dammit! Diablos take you,
There seemed to be no alternative
so she reached for her whip as they closed in. In another second
their hands would be all over her. She grimaced.
"Rinoa! There you are!"
some masculine voice shouted from the back.
For some reason, everyone stopped
and took a step back as criminals do when theyre caught
red-handed. Quistis stood on the tips of her toes, but she
couldnt see who had addressed "Rinoa." The voice
didnt sound like Zell or Irvines. It had to be
There was a lot of pushing and
complaining as the owner of the voice made his way to the front.
Suddenly a group of students in the center of the multitude fell
cried out in pain and fell to their feet. There was definitely a
scuffle going on, and the ring of students that fell grew larger.
Obviously the stranger had decided that it was quicker to fight
his way to the front than to weave through the swarm of men.
Quistis wondered if her rescuer was Squall, and if he was, where
did he learn hand-to-hand combat like that?
Suddenly her protector took
flight. He wasnt retreating; rather he had used the back of
one of the fallen students as a stepping-stone and was now
running on top of the shoulders of everyone in front of him at an
alarming speed. Quistis, as well as all the onlookers, could
hardly keep up with him as if their eyes could only see where he
had been during his last step. His person was a blur, stepping
here and there while kicking every other head he passed, finally
making a daring leap off the nose of one unfortunate soul whose
face would forever bear his heavy print.
Quistis did not realize how large
the crowd had been until she saw the distance between where the
man jumped and where he landed, three feet from her. Immediately
the crowd made room for their new guest. Two meters seemed a safe
distance from his flurry of kicks.
Holy Shiva, Quistis
marveled, he hasnt even broken into a sweat.
The stranger dusted himself off.
Seeing Quistis, he brightened and ran over to her, beating back
any of the extended hands that had frozen in place when he
initially called out from the very back.
Quistis had never seen this
gentleman before, almost taking him for Squall judging by his
voice and hair. She hadnt been able to get a good view of
his face while he was blur, but now she could see that while his
eyes effected the same profoundly grave look, his mouth was
shaped just a tad bit differently from Squalls. Who is
this guy? she thought.
He pushed her behind him and
shouted back at the horde, "Get the Ifrit away from my girl,
you underclassmen punks!"
His voice and demeanor were
equally frightening, shown by the unanimous decision of the crowd
to back up another meter. Either his earlier performance in the
crowd had convinced them that Quistis was not worth the fight or
every one of them understood that the ominous glimmer in his eyes
meant that he was looking forward to kill someone.
Oh, to Diablos with it,
Quistis thought. She didnt have a choice anyway, so she
grabbed on to the taller mans arm just to authenticate
their mock-relationship. He tensed up when she did it, making her
wonder if she should let go, but the crowd seemed to buy what he
said, so she didnt. If he didnt look so much like
Squall, this probably wouldnt have worked since
theres bound to be some people who have seen him. At
least his color scheme matches, even though Ive never seen
Squall don a cloak.
There were murmurs coming from
various members of the mass. Half of the voices indicated that
they believed him to be Squall. Another part thought it would be
in their best interests to make a run for it. Everyone left over
wanted to stay and see how this affair would end. The wrapped one
arm around Quistis for effect, he kept his sharp eyes on each and
This feels so warm.
Upon realizing that she was
actually starting to enjoy this, Quistis kicked herself mentally.
"Im Squall Leonhart,
and I have a decision to make," the stranger declared
evenly. "As the commanding officer of SeeD, I can treat this
incident as some pretty serious gang harassment, bring it to the
attention of the Disciplinary Committee, and report every face
that Ive seen today to have you expelled from all the
During his deliberately extended
pause, most of those students who were in clear view either
covered their faces or turned around, but no one was ready to
leave the spectacle just yet. Quistis herself, by nature a modest
girl, was starting to wonder whether she was that desirable.
"...or," the man
continued, giving Quistis a quick pat on the head that would have
effected a quick death blow had this been a normal
situation, "as an angry boyfriend, I can use this as the
perfect excuse to wipe these basketball courts with your
The last line came out in a
menacing growl, which dislodged a few of the front-runners from
their places, to the surprise of Quistis. The majority of the
students were still unconvinced though. Someone out of view
mentioned that Rinoa wasnt even a SeeD.
"And neither will any of you
be if I have anything to do with your recruitment, which I
do," the man barked back.
Quistis was too impressed to close
her eyes and fall asleep on his arm. She was starting to feel
like a little girl again, shaking off her respectable shell of
maturity that had encased her since her promotion to SeeD
"The way I see it," the
stranger continued, "your best chance is to disappear as
quickly as possible because Im only going to give you until
the count of five before you get to help me mop the court and
paint the boards red."
It was as fearsome a threat as it
was effectual. As the first count sounded, panic seized the
students and they dispersed, the entire body making a quick 180
with the back trampling over the front in their race to get as
far away from their Squall as they could in five seconds.
For some reason, her bodyguard
skipped the next three numbers, went directly to "5,"
and eluded her grasp. In an instant he was on the other side of
the quad, nabbing three of the slower students, and ramming
anothers face into a stucco column, splattering it with a
new coat of scarlet. He heaved his three remaining screaming
captives over the quads wall into a student seminar and, in
three bounds, made his way back across the courts to where some
of the more daring players had returned to harass Quistis,
assuming her protector had left. They assumed wrong.
That's not humanly possible! she
thought furiously as he punched each of them multiple times
before they could react and slammed all but one aggressor into
the same lamppost, resulting in its bending 30 degrees.
Quistis was more alarmed than
impressed at this point. He had saved her, but she couldn't
excuse him for the body count. It didn't take a genius to figure
out that this last underclassman had no chance of running away
faster than the hurricane could catch him.
I guess it's up to me to stop
him then. Do I really have to? Yes, girl, you're a senior officer
and you have to set an example. Do something before there is
nothing left to save!
"Squall!" she shouted,
throwing her arms around him so he couldn't move. It caught his
attention and as he spun around, still in her grasp, he nearly
dug his fist into the curve of her neck. It took every ounce of
strength in him to stop the blow after he'd thrown it on
instinct. Quistis could feel him tensing up and sighed at how
lucky she was, nearly fainting right there.
The last student had fallen down
in fright, but being too shaken to crawl away, he just lied there
This was the closest thing to a
voluntary hug that Quistis had ever given, and she figured while
she was at it she might as well rest her face on his chest,
signaling to the junior to pick his feet up and split.
Run, stupid! I'll hold him off.
Her last thought was laughable,
and she giggled at it, snuggling deeper into her six-foot teddy
Yes, in order to save the
future of SeeD, I will sacrifice myself to this demon
handsome freak of nature. Maybe running into that crowd of men
dying to get their hands on me was the smartest thing Ive
done this week.
She locked her arms around his
shoulders so he couldnt budge. Without looking up, she
asked shyly, "Well arent you going to tell me who you
"Nice grip," he
Thats a pretty weird name,
she said to herself.
"That was a compliment,"
he added after a few heartbeats had gone by..
"Oh," she gasped,
blushing at her silly oversight.
"There he is!" someone
unexpectedly called in their direction from the main corridor.
Both Quistis and her pillow tensed
up simultaneously. If she had fooled herself into believing even
to the slightest extent that "soft and cuddly" aptly
described any part of his figure, she was proven dead wrong. At a
seconds alarm, rippling muscles filled every inch of the
baggy but still fashionable costume that she wouldnt have
known existed had she not been partially inside his cloak for the
The hall filled with similar
shouts and many portentous footsteps. Quistis eyes widened when
she saw every single member of the disciplinary committee running
towards them, followed by seven, she counted again, seven
sentinel regiments, the entire band armed to the teeth with
weapons ready to fire. Even the stranger had wavered. This was
one fight in which he felt no urge to make an appearance.
Maybe theyre here to
collect these dooshbags that tried to grope me, Quistis
"Stop, thief!" one of
the security guards in the lead shouted, lowering his gun to
about eye level and pointing it straight at her
the man who had just saved her from a very sticky situation. His
reinforcements cocked their guns and aimed them right at her
Okay, maybe not. He must be one
hell of a thief to incur the attention to the entire Garden
Disciplinary Committee and half the schools enforcement
"This is your only
warning," the leader informed him mechanically. "We
will shoot if you move."
"Sergeant Jay," he
called to his subordinate, "apprehend that man."
Quistis was not prepared to handle
this dramatic reversal. Her protective instincts urged her hold
him in fear of what might happen if she strayed too far to shield
him while her danger sense pressed her to push the criminal as
far away from her as possible. Both her mind and body reacted on
reflex to the situation without her making clear which to follow,
so she ended up awkwardly pulling him closer to her with her left
hand and shoving him aside with her right hand.
To her surprise, he whispered to
her, "Dont worry. I never walk away from a
She was about to shout at him,
"Forget the maxim and get moving!" when he slipped
through her hold and zoomed across to the far side of the court
in the same phantasmal manner as he had done earlier, leaving
Quistis with a frown on her face.
Very funny, coward. Chivalry
being dead, Ill try not to feel miffed, she told
herself dryly. Oh, Shiva!
Sergeant Jay had a knack for
reading peoples body language. Today he had a feeling just
by the glint in their burglars eyes that he was going to
make a run for it. So as soon as he saw the rabble-rousing
ruffian bend down slightly and threaten the blonde in the red
skirt, he pulled the trigger of his pistol. By the time he saw
the man rocket away from the girl, moving her slightly, it was
too late to stop the bullet. The girl realized too that the shell
was now headed straight at her. All the armed security guards
"Ah!" she screamed,
feeling the impact whose force now knocked her off her feet.
There were some gasps, and when
Quistis vision cleared, she looked up dazedly, only to see
the cloaked Squall-imposter standing above her, his hand weakly
planted against the nearby wall for support. He turned back!
Oh, hes hit!
The man was bleeding pretty badly.
After he knocked her out of the way, the bullet landed between
this shoulder blade and sternum. There was blood gushing out at
intervals from the corner of his chest where the shot had pierced
his black shirt, some parts of the desultory squirts landing on
Seeing that the bullet ended up in
the right person, all the guards snapped back to life, lifting
their guns once again and pointed them at the wounded villain. It
would definitely be easier to catch him now, having drawn so much
blood with the critical hit. The mans legs wobbled as he
struggled to straighten up.
The explosion of another shot ten
times as loud as the misfire filled the courtyard and adjoining
hallways. The few remaining students that hadnt high-tailed
out of the area at the sight of the Garden militia jumped out of
their skins. All eyes turned to the source of the eruption and
found the smoking gun of a lone cowboy, tipping his hat at his
newfound audience. Behind him in the clearing was Zell,
somersaulting from a dribble and dunking the ball through an
"What the Ifrit are they
doing?" Quistis questioned under her breath.
Irvine had seen the whole sequence
of events and now faked an embarrassed smile, dropped his gun
like he hadnt meant to touch it, and apologized to the
Disciplinary Committee about his gun going off on accident. His
free hand on the far side of his body was not visible to the
company of security guards, but it was visible to Quistis and
their burglar. Irvine hurriedly motioned for the brigand to get
take off, and faster than he thought possible the man traversed
seven meters to a eight-foot wall over which he scrambled and
disappeared. The security guards could not react in time to get
off any well-placed shots.
Only Sergeant Jay was far enough
ahead of his group and close enough to Quistis that he saw
Irvines furtive wave to their perpetrator. Quistis could
tell he was not happy that Irvine distracted the units and
purposely let him escape.
Sergeant Jay marched up to Irvine,
who by this time had gone to help Quistis up, hissing at him so
that only they could hear, "I might not have any witnesses
who can testify that you abetted our criminals getaway, but
had it not been for your meddling, he would have been ours. I
think theyd all agree."
With his last sentence he motioned
towards all the guards behind them.
Irvine coolly looked his addresser
in the eyes and rejoined, "I might not have any witnesses
who can testify that you were purposely aiming for Quistis
head since no one else was remotely in that proximity but her by
the time you fired, and had it not been for that man there, she
would have been dead. I think theyd all agree."
With his last sentence he motioned
towards all the guards behind them. Irvine could see Sergeant
Jays jaw muscles tightening and his fingers closing into a
"This is not over,
trigger," he growled at last, putting his finger right in
Irvines face. Then he marched back to his division and
apologized to his commanding officer for failing to capture their
target. Eventually all the troops cleared out of the corridor,
leaving Irvine and Quistis scowling at the fading sound of
Irvine looked back at Quistis,
gloating. He opened his arms and asked, "So what do I
She had pulled him down and landed
a wet one on his cheek. He was utterly stunned at how little
persuasion that took. Nothing like the cold shoulder she gave
me at the party.
"Geez, you move fast,
Quistis," he said, laughing. "Guess that admirer of
yours isnt the only one with fast moves."
He found himself lying flat on his
back in the dust a second later.
"Thats what you get for
not coming to help me sooner," Quistis carped.
Irvine jumped up with an
incredulous smile. I just saved your tight hiney back there!
He was in the middle of picking
himself up when she kicked away the leg that he was putting all
his weight on. He landed face down this time. Ill never
"And that is for the
smart remark," she added before leaving him and strutting
She only made it halfway before
she felt a cool kiss on her ear. She nearly jumped, and turned
her head quickly but her eyes did not pick up on anything. Irvine
is still deciding if its safe to get up, so who in the
Ifrit touched me?
She felt the cool kiss again and
realized that it was just Shiva, cozying up to her as always. The
icy, voluptuous GF was in her stealth mode, her body acting as a
transparent sheet and thus appeared invisible.
"What are you doing
here?" Quistis whispered. She had to be careful to not speak
in Shivas direction, knowing well how her breath would
become visible vapor in Shivas chilled vicinity, a dead
giveaway of the hidden GFs presence to Irvine.
"Princess, you called me,
remember?" Shiva turned the question around, each one of her
chilly words nipping Quistis cheek. Quistis face
always seemed to be rosier after a touch of frost.
Quistis looked aside and recalled
that she had mentally exclaimed, "Oh, Shiva!" just as
Sergeant Jay unloaded his gun in her direction.
She hissed acerbically to Shiva
but tenderly nevertheless, "You took your sweet time getting
"You called at a bad time. I
was trying to take a bath," the other answered back softly,
caressing Quistis chin.
Shiva was now dancing around her,
playing with her hair and massaging her shoulders. If it
hadnt been so hot outside, Quistis would have told her to
stop, but since it was, each cool stroke felt splendid.
"Just be careful not to step
on the ground while youre flying. In this heat, your bound
to be melting a little and theyll notice your curious
little wet footprints," Quistis cautioned. It used to be
hard to speak without moving her lips, but she had gotten used to
chatting with Shiva day after day in this manner.
Shiva snuggled in for a chilly but
sugary hug, whispering back, "Youre always looking out
for me, but Im the one whos supposed to be the
Guardian Force, remember?"
"Yeah, good job protecting me
today while I was standing in a crossfire," Quistis teased.
"I told you I was
busy," Shiva murmured.
"Yeah, busy waiting for the
bath-water to thaw," Quistis emended playfully.
She could imagine Shiva pouting
with her trademark "Youre no fun" face. For
someone thousands of years old, Shiva still looked and acted like
she was 17.
"Well, I didnt want to
intrude," she explained innocently. "You looked like
you had company."
"Yes, and thanks to him you
still have someone to guard," Quistis rejoined with feigned
"Ill thank the dear in
my own way the next time I see him, then," Shiva replied
smoothly. "He did look kinda cute."
For some reason what the GF said
ruffled Quistis a little.
"Youd better get going.
You might start steaming under the sun and it wont look to
discreet if I approach Zell while engulfed in a fog,"
Quistis said under her breath.
sweetcheeks!" laughed Shiva as she flitted back into
nothingness. Somehow she managed to sneak in a quick kiss before
her Mistress could do anything.
Quistis had now gotten closer to
the court that Zell was occupying, and he looked up from his
practice. Irvine was now just a few steps behind her, his legs
still shaky from her putting him in the dirt. Zell set the ball
down, waved to Quistis, and then looked around with a puzzled
expression. I dont see Rinoa anywhere.
"Wheres Rinoa? I
thought I heard someone call her a few minutes ago."
Quistis blushed and muttered,
"No, just little, ol me. Someone thought I was
Zell reddened and then hit himself
again. Oops, now look what you did, Zell. Stupid, so stupid of
you, Zell. You knew it was a touchy subject, so why
didnt you just shut up?
Quistis realized that they
hadnt paid any attention to what was happening outside
their own game and only Irvine had bothered to go over and check
out what was so noisy in the fights closing minutes.
"Didnt you see all that
commotion back there? Why didnt go check it out?" she
"Its bad luck to leave
in the middle of a game," Zell explained.
"Why did Irvine come over for
a look then?" Quistis remarked.
Zell shrugged and stated the
obvious, "He was losing."
"11-3 is hardly losing,
mamas boy," Irvine chimed in.
Zell raised his fists
belligerently, growling, "Just remember that's in my favor."
"So what are you doing here
anyway?" Irvine inquired, hastily changing the subject.
"What are you two doing
here?" Quistis returned. She was totally unprepared to deal
"He asked first," was
Zells childish reply, unexpectedly jumping in and helping
Irvine. Irvine nodded and shot Zell a grateful look. He bent over
to pick up the basketball before looking back over at Quistis,
just to let her know that they were waiting for her answer.
"The number of robberies in
the past week are skyrocketing. Ive been trying to find
Squall since noon to ask him what precautions should be taken and
whether it was about time to assign a special task force to solve
the problem. I looked in all his usual hiding places, and someone
told me that he frequented the basketball courts, so here I
am," she explained.
"Wasnt that your
problem that we let jump over the wall?" Irvine asked,
shooting a jumper.
Quistis blinked. She hadnt
connected how good at stealing things the stranger was with his
agility and how many complaints of robbery were coming into the
Gardens security department mailbox. After todays odd
sequence of events, she was even less sure how to handle the
situation than at the start when she was trying to solicit
"Ok, your turn to answer why
you are here," Quistis said, moving on.
"Because we finished our SeeD
Lv A-class mission, of course," Irvine shot back with an
overly proud and cheesy grin. Had to answer her somehow. This
was better than nothing.
Just to draw everyone's attention
from his weak answer, he launched the ball towards the hoop.
Zell started sweating. Please
dont ask us why we didnt report back to Balamb
Garden. Please dont ask us why we didnt report back
to Balamb Garden. Please dont
"Why didnt you report
back to Balamb Garden?" Quistis asked, skeptically raising
"Trabia was a lot closer than
Balamb Garden," Zell said hastily. "I mean, weve
been practically ten minutes away from here for the past few
Plus we wouldnt have to
answer to Headmaster Cid directly if we were at another Garden,
Zell added silently, pretending to watch Irvine as he made
another shot attempt.
"Why didnt you guys
rest and eat here then? Theres plenty of room,"
Like we didnt think of
that all that time we were stranded out there, Irvine
"We had, uh, plenty of ration
bars on the ship," Zell made up after an extended period of
silence during which he pretended to be looking at something in
"Yeah, lots of ration
bars," Irvine agreed too quickly to be taken seriously with
overly enthusiastic nodding. He coughed as a distraction and
tried an underhanded toss.
"Like rooms full of
ration bars," Zell repeated, just to make sure she
didnt miss it.
"Youre not in trouble,
kids," Quistis said quickly. "Headmaster Cid said you
completed your mission just as he expected."
Irvine misfired when he heard
that, and exchanged puzzled looks with Zell.
"The Shumi signed the
contract agreeing to fund this Garden to its completion,"
Quistis explained. "Apparently, just as Cid figured, you two
left them thinking how weak-minded and exploitable the new Garden
trainees would be once it was built, giving them every reason to
make the rest of the payments. He also got you two out of the way
for two weeks so you wouldnt screw up anything too serious
to fix during the initial foundation construction."
"Never had a doubt that we
couldnt handle it," Zell beamed. Thank Eden! I was
so scared. Hey, wait, Ive been used. They used me, how dare
they! Wow, Ive been used, thats so awesome!
"Yeah," Irvine added
with a big smile as he threw the ball up again, "we eat
double missions for breakfast."
Breakfast is my least favorite
meal. We lucked out big time. Hey, wait, Ive been used.
They used me, how dare they! Wow, Ive been used,
thats so awesome!
He and Zell gave each other
high-fives and broke out into a big celebration, praising each
other for all the good things that they did and did not do alike.
At the same time they inched towards the archway leading to the
"Back to your second
objective," Quistis cut in before they had a chance to sneak
away, "did it really take you two weeks to check out the
weather?" The two men froze but instantly recovered and
tried to mask the guilt written on their faces with innocent
Dont think I didnt
notice how you two dodged my original question. I still remember,
Quistis thought coolly. She put her hands on her hips and waited
for a real answer.
Just play dumb, Zell
We should play dumb, Irvine
agreed mentally, trying his luck with the rim again.
Dont play dumb,
Quistis communicated with her glare alone.
"It wasnt our fault
that we just got a list of geographical locations and no
directions as to how to get to those places," Zell and
Irvine whined in harmony.
Quistis crossed her arms. They
obviously practiced that for at least three hours.
"I dont buy it. The
place names are unique, there is no other Mandy Beach, regardless
to what landmark you are using as reference," Quistis
scoffed. "Try again."
Irvine and Zell put their heads
together to brainstorm some other possible excuses when Quistis
spoke up, "And the truth this time. Ive already lost a
GF today, was nearly gang-raped by an entire courtyard of boys,
been held at gun point and shot at, so I really dont need
you two lying to me."
The faces of both men grew
interested so immediately and concurrently that Quistis could
tell it was deliberate. Irvine even set the ball down, either
because it would have proved distracting to their conversation or
he felt it better to stop embarrassing himself.
"Gosh," he exclaimed,
simulating a flabbergasted expression, "how did you manage
to lose a GF?"
"Youre not getting off
that easy," she said, just so theyd know, "but I
suppose if youre interested..."
Her two-man audience played the
roles of sympathetic, appreciative, and engrossed listeners too
perfectly to be convincing.
"I lost Alexander this
morning," Quistis said, sighing.
"The GF that looks like a
castle?" Zell asked.
Quistis nodded, her hands closing
over each other in anxiety.
"What do you mean you lost
him? Irvine questioned. "What did the castle do? Get
up and walk away without anyone noticing?"
"Drop the sarcasm,
Irvine," Quistis told him. "He didnt just walk
away. He asked me first."
"So you managed to lose a
very polite castle," Irvine summed up what she was saying,
putting on a serious face and trying to understand.
Zell would have liked to see if
Quistis could grammatically link all the profane expressions, but
he felt it necessary to interrupt Quistis while she was unloading
more rounds of blasphemy on Irvine than he had Pulse Ammo in his
"Didnt you try to stop
him?" Zell asked her, not looking at Irvine truly grateful
"What was I to do? Stand in
front of him and hold up my arms while he mowed me down?"
Zell furtively punched Irvine
before Quistis could turn and see him signaling that the idea had
"No, I meant with your
words," Zell explicated. "Ive never seen you get
outtalked by anyone."
Quistis beamed at the honest
"I did try, but he had made
up his mind already," she elucidated.
"Why was Alexander so eager
to go?" Zell tried next.
"Not to mention," Irvine
jumped into the conversation, "where could he have
"He seemed to think that it
was now or never, so he just got up and moved out into the
ocean," Quistis recalled with a frown.
acknowledged, nodding with comprehension, "so he didnt
just wander off and disappear." I wonder how long it will
take to dry and scratch off all the algae that hell have
picked up by the time he resurfaces.
"No," Quistis reassured,
"he asked me to give him a sabbatical."
"I didnt know SeeDs
were in the business of giving their GFs vacation time whenever
they ask for," Irvine marveled. No wonder you got fired
from being the SeeD instructor.
"This is after he threatened
to quit my employment," Quistis added.
"So it gets better,"
Irvine grunted, obviously pleased.
"What else did he do?"
Zell asked, ignoring his partners air headedness.
"He wanted to go on
strike," Quistis replied.
"What kept him from carrying
out either action?" Zell inquired.
"I told him that the SeeD
manual only allows for the Master to rescind employment, not the
GF, and that the Supreme Court had outlawed GF strikes,"
"So he just got up and
left?" Zell repeated.
"As if Alexander was going to
use the Sit Down as a strike tactic," Irvine
unconstitutional, by the way," Zell whispered to him before
continuing, "Did he say what the purpose of his journey
"It was all
unintelligible," Quistis replied. "I had a hard time
understanding him, but I think it has to do with some book."
Zell and Irvine raised eyebrows
"What book?" they asked
Quistis scowled and tapped her
forehead, trying to put piece everything back together. She
sighed at length and shrugged, making her best guess:
"I think he said it was
titled Alexandria and that it had a face on the
"It must be one special
book," Irvine commented. "Is he in the habit of
"Have you ever seen his
library?" Quistis answered with her own question.
Irvine was apparently too good for
libraries, so he teased, "Im not the one who frequents
libraries to pick up the librarians. That honorably practice
belongs to our mutual friend Zell."
Zell colored, crying indignantly,
"Hey! Mina was a model before she started working in Balamb
"Some model she must have
been if our library can afford to pay her more than she was
making," Irvine criticized.
Quistis saw that the men would
soon come to blows if she did not step in, so she intervened by
describing the library.
"Ive been inside
Alexander a few times and the library is pretty queer," she
began. "It doesnt operate like a normal library,
rather a private collection. No one is allowed to borrow any
books and taking them from the room is prohibited. He kept
referring to Alexandria, so I suspect it is the
reason behind that rule."
"And you think this book
drove him to leave," Zell finished for her, grudgingly
putting aside how Irvine had impugned his girlfriends
"It had to have been.
Thats all he was mumble about," Quistis replied with
Irvine rubbed his chin, wondering
what a castle could mumble about a book.
Quistis read him perfectly, and
reacted saying, "He went on about a blue rodent that lived
inside his book between the pages 165 and 200. No one was to flip
through it under any circumstance because it was dangerous."
"What can I say?" Irvine
admitted smugly as he did some stretches. "Reading is deadly
and should be avoided at all costs. I rest my case."
Zell scowled and said to Quistis,
"Youre right, it is kind of random. Do you
recall anything else he might have said? Any words that caught
your attention? Place names, maybe?"
"Galbadia I heard twice
definitely. Something about waterfalls. Thats it," she
"Why didnt he think it
could wait?" Zell probed.
"Did you see this coming, or
has he never exercised such impulsive behavior before?"
Quistis thought it over before
answering, "He was always the quiet type. You know, he never
Irvine called upon a dreadfully
contemplative look. Ah, yes, the quiet castle, I know the type
He was lucky that Quistis was too
busy trying to recall something about her GF to look at him,
otherwise he would have ended up on the ground again. Her face
suddenly lit up.
"I remember now!" she
cried, beaming. "The moment we reached the Deep Sea Research
Center, hes been volatile."
"Thats a weird reason
to be disruptive," Irvine remarked.
Zell agreed before asking Quistis
if there were other points in time when Alexander demonstrated a
plethora of atypical behavior. It was a tough question, so
Quistis took some time before answering it.
"I believe," she said
tentatively, "he became more withdrawn as time went by, and
even after we left the Research Center I could sense some
hostility in him."
"You should have fed him at
the right times, walked and played with him more," Irvine
chastised, shaking his finger at her.
It would be major euphemism to say
that Quistis was less than pleased. The truth of it was that she
was a hair shy of spitting fire.
Irvine eyes were nowhere near as
dumb as his mouth, and he suppressed his gasp to look dejectedly
at his shoes. I could have sworn at a distance she looked
better than a Red Dragon!
"No," Zell interrupted,
"lets think this through. Obviously what happened
there started to worry him and whatever the rodent in the book
told him unnerved him enough to pack his bags and hit road, so to
speak. What is his relation with the Deep Sea Research
Irvine rolled his eyes and said,
"You arent taking this rodent episode seriously, are
Quistis shushed him, sensing that
Zell was almost on to something.
"There had to be a cause for
his urgency," Zell reasoned aloud. "Did he mention any
names besides Alexandria?"
Quistis licked her lips and
pondered for a bit.
"He was talking rather
quickly, but I think he may have mentioned Bahamut and
Eden," she pronounced slowly.
"So he went into the ocean to
do what?" Zell continued, still trying to figure out the
connection between Alexander, Bahamut, and Eden.
"To find whatever the book
told him to find, I guess," Quistis responded.
Zell looked skeptical.
"Impossible," he said.
"There is no way he could have excused himself and left the
purpose of his trip so ambiguous. If there is an urgency, there
has to be a cause. If he is responding, then he must think he can
still do something to placate the emergency."
Quistis face froze and she
slowly lifted her head.
"To keep Bahamut from
my township and die for Eden," she recalled.
"Did he say that?" Zell
asked. "What township then?"
Quistis shrugged, saying,
"So do you think he was
looking for a township then?"
"Looking for one to claim as
his own," Quistis suggested.
"That will be hard,
considering there arent that many unclaimed towns lying
around," Irvine pointed out sarcastically.
"Thank you, great Irvine,
master of the obvious," Zell boomed with every intent to cow
"Maybe he didnt mean
all the nouns literally," Quistis suggested. "Could
Bahamut, township, and Eden
"As in battle evil for world
peace?" Zell asked doubtfully.
naive," Irvine scoffed, tipping his hat.
"So just to make sure I have
this right," Zell said, "the rodent told him to do
protect the township?"
"I got the impression that
the rodent tipped him off, but that the actual order came from
someone else," Quistis replied.
Zell looked at her curiously. How
in the world did you infer that?
Quistis explained quickly, "I
think Alexander was confused at the time, but he seemed to think
that I had told him to leave."
Irvine smirked at Quistis
words. Id say he was pretty confused then.
"I dont follow,"
"He just repeated over and
over that I had told him to leave, which of course is
absurd," Quistis clarified.
"To leave, but not to save
the town and all that jazz," Irvine observed.
Zell nodded, seeing where Irvine
was going with the issue.
"Yes, so maybe hes
leaving because some other Quistis dismissed him and hes
trying to indulge
"That other Quistis must have
been pretty dumb," Irvine commented lightly.
"I concur with your opinion
about the weak-minded other Quistis," Zell followed up,
Quistis had meanwhile turned
"Stop talking about me like
Im not here to hear you!" she shouted, taking a few
unconscious steps towards them.
apologized, suppressing his laugh while he and Irvine both took a
few unconscious steps back, "but the idea that you told him
to go save the world is even more ludicrous than him running off
to save the world by himself."
"If Bahamut and
Eden arent symbolic terms, why would he mention
them?" Quistis countered.
fellows," Irvine noted, "so why shouldnt he
mention their names?"
corrected, "Alexander secretly hated the two GFs with
This was news to Zell, and it
would have been to Irvine had he not been preoccupied with
catching a midget Bite Bug whose presence had somehow offended
him. Zell leaned in, saying, "Come again?"
"He never spoke to
Bahamut," Quistis informed him, "and every time he
passed by Eden, hed stiffen."
Irvine scratched his ear and asked
how she could tell when a castle stiffened.
"I think we can discount the
symbolism theory," Zell spoke up, directing her attention
away from Irvine.
"Why?" she asked.
"Because there is a more
probable and viable connection between Bahamut and Eden than what
they could mean symbolically if you stretched them," Zell
"We acquired both of them in
the Deep Sea Research Center," Zell stated simply.
Irvine nodded and reminded
Quistis, "Yeah, it took three Red Dragons to get to Bahamut
on the first floor, and we had to draw Eden from Ultima Weapon in
"Holy Shiva, youre
right!" Quistis exclaimed. "But what do they have to do
"Your guess is as good as
mine, but all thats important is that he will
eventually come back after he finds it, right?" Zell
replied, popping his knuckles.
"Im not sure if
hell ever return," Quistis responded, "because he
mentioned settling somewhere above three parallel
"Sounds more like a place of
fantasy than reality," Irvine remarked.
"Did he get this idea from
the book, too?" Zell asked.
Quistis nodded, her body language
expressing clearly, "What can you do?"
"Theres one thing you
can be sure of, though," Irvine guaranteed.
Both Zell and Quistis turned to
look at him.
"Hes convinced that his
time is almost up, and that your time together is definitely up.
Obviously it wasnt a vacation that he requested; it was a
resignation," Irvine concluded.
He hit it right on the mark. For a
long time, no one spoke but dead silence.
comforted, "if it makes you feel any better, you only lost
GF, but Alexander lost his sanity."
"Fine," Quistis wrapped
up abruptly, "Ive said my part. Stop dodging my
original question and tell me why it took you two that long to
Seeing how they had no more
options, Irvine pointed at Zell at the same time Zell pointed at
Irvine. Quistis held up her hands and started walking away,
regretting ever asking. Irvine picked the basketball up for
another shot. Quistis assumed it was because he would not be
satisfied until he lost all face.
"Nutrient bar boy here
dropped the keys in the field and it took us two days to find
them," he answered hastily.
"Save it; I dont want
to hear it," Quistis said, rolling her eyes as she moved out
of hearing range.
Squall, where are you? she
wondered, but still glad to be back on track. It didnt take
long for her mind to wander astray though, and soon, without
realizing it, her thoughts turned to wondering who her tall,
cloaked rescuer really was.
Irvine took one eye off the spot
on the backboard for which he was aiming to watch Quistis
disappear around the corner of some building. He shouted over to
Zell, "Hey, we can keep playing now. What was the score, 6-7
my lead?" he asked.
"You wish. You stink at this
game. Dont think that during her gabbing, I didnt
notice the ten practice shots you took from that same spot where
you're standing now all rattled out," Zell quipped.
"It was actually only eight
shots if you kept count, but okay, 8-5 your lead, then,"
"Its not negotiable,
Irvine," Zell said with finality.
Irvine lifted his nose and
projected his "Who needs you" vibes. Then he smiled
sneakily as he called for his GFs. Tonberry King and Jumbo
Cactuar appeared out of thin air and fell a few feet onto the
court, adorning the originally flat surface with four ugly
"Hey," Zell protested,
Irvine stuck his tongue out.
"No one is saying that you
cant pull out your own GFs, crybaby," he teased.
"You know I dont have
any GFs junctioned right now!" Zell shouted.
Irvine shrugged. Your loss.
"Youre going to get
into some big trouble," Zell cautioned.
"Who would be bored enough to
hang up some "No GFs on the court" signs around
here?" Irvine reasoned out loud. "No one. So its
not against the court rules."
Zell looked anything but
"Besides," Irvine added
with a casual shrug, "Quistis isnt here."
Zell conceded readily, eyes flashing, "but let's make it a
quick game. I gotta go upstairs to the computer room."