Heritage Part 2

Jules rolled over in bed, hoping that whoever it was who was ringing her doorbell would give up and go away. Leave me alone… She thought, self-pityingly. However, despite Jules’s best efforts, the annoying person simply wouldn’t go away. Giving in, Jules got out of bed and, clad in nothing more than a night-dress, opened the door to find a panicked-looking Alec standing there.

“Alec,” Jules began, tiredly, “it’s half past five in the morning. What the hell are you doing?”

“You’ve got to come quickly,” Alec said, rushing his words slightly, “its Sarah. There’s been an… incident.” Jules eyes widened, and she quickly got dressed before following Alec down to the infirmary, not knowing what state she would find her beloved sister in…

Meanwhile, in another room in the infirmary, Selphie and Irvine were laid, asleep, on a couch next to where their son laid, still unconscious. Suddenly, Selphie yawned, and opened her eyes. She unwrapped herself from her husband’s strong arms and sat up on the sofa, staring at her still-unconscious son. Then suddenly, as if by magic, Connor began to stir, rolling his head from side to side. Selphie gasped.

“Irvy!” She whispered, excitedly, shaking her still-slumbering husband. “Irvy! Wake up!” As Irvine slowly began to wake, Selphie jumped off the couch and ran to Connor’s bedside, watching as he finally regained full consciousness. Selphie grinned, and almost jumped for joy as Connor returned her grin.

“Good morning, mom,” the young man said groggily, before Selphie temporarily left his field of vision, only to return seconds later, dragging a still-sleepy Irvine with her. She quickly sat Irvine down in a nearby chair, before hugging her son tightly.

“Oh, Connor!” She exclaimed, as the young man grimaced slightly.

“Mom?” Connor asked, urgently, “Ribs?”

“What?” Selphie said, before realising, and laying her son back down on the bed sheets. “Oops,” she giggled, “sorry!” Connor simply smiled, and leaned back onto his pillow, but leaned forward again as Irvine stepped forward and gave his son a manly hug.

“Welcome back to the land of the living, son,” Irvine said, barely holding back tears of joy.

“I’m glad to be back, dad,” Connor replied, before adopting a more serious expression. “How are Sarah and Zell?” He asked urgently. Selphie and Irvine looked at each other worriedly for a second.

“What?” Connor asked urgently, trying to sit up. “What’s happened?” Selphie walked over to Connor, and gently eased him back onto his pillow, while Irvine answered his question.

“Zell’s fine, son,” The tall sniper replied, before replacing the smile on his face with a more serious expression. “Sarah, on the other hand, isn’t so well.”

“What’s wrong?” Connor asked, desperately trying to suppress the worried tone in his voice. Irvine took a deep breath, and prepared to tell Connor the bad news he’d been told by the nurses a couple of hours earlier.

“It seems,” Irvine answered, “that her powers have escalated out of control.” Irvine then averted his eyes from his son’s gaze. “She’s being treated in the white wing right now.”

“The white wing?” Connor whispered in reply. “But they only use that for-“ Irvine sadly nodded, confirming his son’s fears.

“The criminally insane,” Irvine whispered. Connor’s face fell, and even another hug from his mother wasn’t going to set his mind at ease. Then, he took a deep breath.

“She’s gonna be fine,” Connor stated, defiantly. “She’s my friend, she’s gonna get better.”

“Son,” Irvine said, seriously, “she’s very unwell right now. The doctors say there’s very little chance of her ever recovering.” However, Connor simply shook his head in defiance.

“No,” he replied, smiling confidently. “She’s gonna get better. I know it.” Selphie looked at Irvine, then hugged Connor again, all the while wearing a concerned expression on her face. Connor was supremely confident virtually all of the time, but he could also, at times, be the most stubborn person in the world… Nonetheless, Selphie prayed that Connor would be right…

Jules followed the nurse down through the Infirmary’s “White Wing”, and although the nurse had been talking to her for several minutes, Jules had not heard a word she had said. The White Wing? Jules thought to herself, in a state of pure shock. No, there has to be some kind of mistake. Surely, some kind of mistake…

“…And when we found her,” the nurse continued, “she was lying in front of the directory, wearing only her night-gown. She was twitching almost uncontrollably, and wasn’t even remotely coherent. Kept mumbling something about ‘Time Compressor’, or something along those lines, anyway. Her pupils were also fully dilated, and her pulse was up to almost 150 beats per minute.” Jules merely grunted in reply, having not heard.

“This is the door, ma’am,” the nurse said, as they arrived at the padded cell. “We’ve thrown up as many anti-magic barriers as we could, but she could still potentially be very dangerous.” Jules nodded, having caught the final part of the nurse’s monologue.

“Open the door,” the eighteen year-old SeeD ordered, before bracing herself. However, an audible gasp still escaped her lips when she saw the condition of her beloved sister…

Sarah was hunched up against the wall, gripping onto it tightly, and she had an almost psychotic look in her usually sparkling brown eyes. Her mouth was twisted into an angry frown-come-pout, which struck Jules as being very similar to the one her mother wore before she hit Jules with a thundaga spell the previous day. What was most worrying for Jules, though, was that the frown and the psychotic-looking eyes were staring straight into Jules’s. Before Sarah’s gaze caused Jules to break down, the nurse stepped between the two sisters, and approached Sarah, hypodermic in hand.

“Now, Sarah,” the nurse said, barely disguising her fear as she approached the demented sixteen year-old, “this may prick a little…” Before the nurse was able to inject her, however, Sarah thrust her palm out in front of her, and out of that palm shot a length of fire, which completely engulfed the nurse. Screaming for her life, the nurse ran out of the cell, where the flames that had engulfed her were swiftly extinguished. However, this now meant that Jules and Sarah were alone in the cell…

“Sarah?” Jules asked, cautiously. “Sarah? It’s me, Jules.” Jules slowly stepped around Sarah, whose eyes were once again staring straight into Jules’s, as psychotic as they had been before. “Do you recognise me?” Jules kept a safe distance away from Sarah, far enough away, Jules reckoned, to be able to dodge a magical attack such as the one that had nearly killed the nurse.

“Ti-time…” Sarah muttered, barely coherently, “Time… compression…” Sarah huddled back closer to the wall, and drove her fingers deep into the padding that lined the cell’s walls.

“What is time compression, Sarah?” Jules asked, hoping that if she humoured Sarah, she’d be more likely to snap out of her mania.

“Everyone… dies…” Sarah continued, “No one… lives…” Sarah’s stare suddenly wavered for a second, her eyes darting about the room, before locking back onto Jules’s eyes. “Take me to my knight.” Jules took one cautious step away from her sister as she heard those words.

“Your knight?” Jules asked, hesitantly.

“A goddess cannot be complete without her most loyal servant,” Sarah continued, her voice gaining coherency with every word. “Take me to my knight.” Slowly, majestically, Sarah stood up, and strode toward Jules. “Or would you rather stand in my way?” Jules could see the rage begin to build in Sarah’s eyes as she came ever closer, and she could see the magical energy building in her fists. Even with her vast experience as a SeeD, and even with the only partially-effective magic blocker in place, Jules correctly guessed that Sarah had enough magical energy in her fists to inflict a lot of pain on Jules, possibly even death. Slowly, Jules clenched her own right hand into a fist, and when Sarah was just a few feet away from her, Jules swung her fist at Sarah, catching her squarely on the jaw. Stunned, but otherwise unhurt, Sarah staggered back, the magical energy in her palms flickering as she fought to regain her concentration.

This was the chance Jules had wanted- with Sarah dazed, Jules dived to her side, and, in one smooth movement, grabbed the hypodermic that the nurse had dropped, and jabbed it hard into the back of Sarah’s thigh, depressing the plunger as far as it would go. Sarah started to wobble as the drugs and potions entered her body, and the magical energy in her fists all but disappeared, but she was still very much conscious.

“I’m sorry, Sarah,” Jules said, before she karate-chopped her younger sister on the back of her neck, knocking her out cold. Jules knelt down over Sarah’s unconscious body, and began to restrain her wrists behind her back, when she caught a glimpse of the young woman’s face as she slept- far from the psychotic pout that had been present previously, Sarah’s face was now that of a young girl sleeping peacefully, showing no signs of the mania which had gripped her mere seconds earlier. Letting out a sigh, Jules prayed that when Sarah awoke, the mania would be gone…

A few hours later, Sarah still slept peacefully, albeit with her arms and legs securely tied to the sides of her bed. As she slept, she was observed by her elder sister, her aunt, and her grandfather.

“This is not good…” Ellone mumbled, as she observed her niece. Ellone, like everyone else, could see the resemblance, both physically and in terms of character, between Sarah and her mother, but she never thought for one second that both would eventually become as dangerous as they were right at that moment.

“How long has she been unconscious?” Laguna asked Jules, tiredly.

“Just over four hours,” Jules replied, making no effort to disguise the worry in her voice. “The doctors are keeping her drugged, in case…” Laguna nodded knowingly, sparing Jules the task of completing her sentence.

“She can’t stay drugged for the rest of her life,” the old man declared. “Have they scanned her yet?” Jules nodded.

“Yes,” she replied, “both medically and magically. Both types of scan show abnormal levels of magic in her brain, but nothing else. It’s as if the magic has somehow taken control of her…”

“But this magic has been gradually dissipating, right?” Laguna asked in reply. Jules nodded, as cautiously as before.

“Yes,” she said, “but there’s no way to tell if our Sarah is still in there or not.” Laguna sighed, and closed his eyes.

“There’s only one way to find out,” the old man said, gesturing to Ellone, Jules, and a couple of nurses to follow him into the room where Sarah lay. Slowly, the five of them approached the still-sleeping girl, worried about suddenly waking her up. Once they were all stood around the bed, they all waited for Laguna’s command, which he was prompt in giving.

“Wake her,” he commanded. Nodding, one of the nurses pushed a hypodermic containing a clear liquid into Sarah’s arm, and slowly depressed the plunger. A few seconds later, Sarah began to stir. The nurses withdrew the needle, as Sarah started mumbling to herself, incoherently.

“Sarah?” Jules whispered to her sister. “Sarah? Can you hear me?” Sarah did not reply to Jules- instead, her mumbling became louder and more coherent, until it became clear that she was repeating the same word, over and over.

“Daddy…” Sarah mumbled to herself. “Daddy… Daddy… Daddy!” Sarah yelled, as her eyes fully opened, and her pupils contracted at the sudden brightness she found herself in. “Daddy?” She whispered, hopefully.

“Sarah?” Laguna asked, cautiously. “Sarah? Is that you?”

“Granddad?” Sarah asked in reply. “Where am I? Where’s my Dad? I want my Dad…” Laguna had to choke back tears as he answered his granddaughter’s question.

“Your father’s been dead for some time, Sarah,” Laguna said, his voice wobbling ever so slightly. Sarah was visibly upset by what Laguna said, and she shook her head in defiant response.

“No,” she said, shaking her head in a panic. “He’s alive, my Daddy’s alive!” Barely fighting back tears, Jules strode up to her sister, and placed her hands on Sarah’s shoulders, trying to calm her down.

“He’s gone, Sarah,” Jules said, emotionally. “We have to accept that, no matter how hard it might be…” Slowly, Sarah stopped panicking, and let her head flop onto her pillow, where she began crying. Before too long, the tears flowed freely from her eyes, dampening her pillow. Jules was now crying also, and, as far as the restraints would allow, she wrapped her arms around Sarah, holding her as tight as she possibly could…

“No…” Sarah wailed, “Daddy…” Jules continued to hold Sarah as, gradually, the effects of the stimulant she had been injected with wore off, and she drifted back off to sleep. Jules laid Sarah back down on the bed and, wiping the tears from her eyes, turned to face her Aunt and her Grandfather.

“I think,” Laguna started, “that it would be stating the obvious to say that she’s distressed. Understating the obvious, in fact. She needs her family here with her at all times.”

“That’s not going to be easy, uncle Laguna,” Ellone interjected. “We all have responsibilities elsewhere. I’ll be needed back at Esthar Garden very soon.”

“Perhaps,” Jules said, butting into the conversation, “but first and foremost, she needs us here at her bedside. And I for one am not prepared to just leave her alone.” Laguna and Ellone both nodded- in their hearts, they knew they couldn’t simply abandon Jules in her hour of need.”

“I’ll keep the rest of the girls away from here,” Laguna stated, “it’d do them no good whatsoever to see Sarah like this. Best to say she’s caught an infectious virus and none of them can come to see her.”

“That won’t work for very long, granddad,” Jules retorted. Laguna wearily nodded.

“That’s true,” the old man conceded, “but hopefully, by then, we won’t need to lie to them any more.”

“Hopefully,” Jules whispered. Just then, the three relatives were interrupted by the sound of a pair of crutches coming toward them, and as one, they turned to see the large frame of Zell Almasy hobble toward them.

“Hi,” he said in his trademark whisper as he approached the family gathering. “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help but overhear, and I was wondering if there was anything I could do to help, at all?” Nobody doubted the sincerity of Zell’s offer; however, Jules was in a state of confusion.

“How did you get in here, Zell?” She asked, inquisitively but with no coldness in her voice whatsoever. “This is a restricted area.” Nervously, Zell smiled, and produced an official-looking document, which Jules immediately recognised as being a SeeD licence.

“I got my licence this morning,” Zell quietly said. “Rank 9, not bad for a first attempt, so I’ve been told.” Jules managed a weak smile, as a means of congratulating the tall SeeD.

“Well done,” she said half-heartedly, before her attention was finally drawn back to her sleeping sister. Shortly afterward, Zell found his attention drawn there as well.

“It’s impossible to believe the reports, if you just look at her sleeping there,” Zell whispered, hoping that he had not said anything out of place.

“I know, son,” Laguna said in a friendly manner, quashing Zell’s fears. “But she’s very ill, and there’s too real a possibility she might never get better.” Laguna noticed Jules’s head droop as he finished his sentence, and he immediately wished he’d never even thought about saying it in the first place.

“No,” Zell whispered, defiantly. “I won’t believe that. I know she’s still in there, somewhere.”

“Well your offer of help is gratefully accepted, anyway,” Laguna said, trying to settle Zell’s nerves. For the first time in a while, Zell smiled.

“I guess there’s no time like the present, then,” the young man said as he sat down next to Sarah’s bed. Shortly afterward, Laguna, Jules and Ellone all departed, having other commitments that needed fulfilling, but Zell remained at Sarah’s bedside, continuing to observe the sixteen-year old woman…

“Enter,” Jules heard Quistis mumble half-heartedly as she knocked on the door of the headmistress’s office. Entering obediently, Jules was not surprised to find the blonde, middle-aged woman frowning at what was written on the screen of her laptop, while simultaneously gripping a cup of coffee in her hands- in recent years, it was all she seemed to do in her office. To the best of Jules’s knowledge, Quistis hadn’t smiled in over three years, and Jules had become quite adept at sugar coating any suggestions she may have had so that they didn’t raise the headmistress’s ire any further than necessary. Unfortunately, Jules couldn’t see any way to sugar coat what she was about to suggest…

“How can I help you, Jules?” Quistis sternly asked Jules, as the young woman approached her desk.

“I’ve come to request a week’s leave,” Jules replied, trying her best not to fidget under the older woman’s fierce stare.

“Absolutely not,” Quistis replied after two seconds’ consideration, “you have duties here, and they are your first priority. Request denied.” Jules was taken aback.

“But-“ Jules tried to retort, before being hastily cut off.

“What part of ‘request denied’ don’t you understand, Julia?” Quistis asked disdainfully, using Jules’s full name as she always did when she talked down to someone, regardless of whether it a pupil, a SeeD or, most notably, her ex-husband.

“Sarah needs me, she needs her family around her,” Jules shot back, abandoning any prior attempts to sweeten her headmistress up in favour of cold, hard reason. “Granddad and Auntie Elle can’t be there for her 24 hours a day, they’re needed elsewhere.” Quistis nodded, raising a small spark of hope in the young woman’s heart.

“I agree,” Quistis said, causing the corners of Jules’s mouth to raise slightly. “However, you’re also needed elsewhere, here to be precise. In case it’s escaped your attention, the dark SeeD have begun an all-out campaign of terror against Gardens the world over, and I need my best and my brightest by my side. The three of you aren’t needed elsewhere 24 hours a day, you can visit during any free time you have. I hear Zell is also helping out, so should she recover, there will be plenty of friendly faces surrounding her.”

“But Auntie Ellone is needed back in Esthar,” Jules retorted, desperation starting to creep into her voice, “and Granddad can’t be constantly travelling in between here and Goldenrod, not at his age-“

“None of which is my problem,” Quistis snapped at Jules, before returning to frowning at her laptop.

“The well-being of one of your SeeDs isn’t your problem?” Jules asked angrily, stepping closer to the headmistress’s desk. Quistis simply looked into Jules’s eyes and shook her head.

“Not a SeeD, Jules,” she replied, casually.

“You’re not making her a SeeD because of what’s happened to her?” Jules asked, confused.

“No,” Quistis answered, matter-of-factly, “I’m not making her a SeeD because she failed her exam. Improper conduct in a hostile area which resulted in severe injuries to three Garden cadets.”

“So that’s just it?” An exasperated Jules asked.

“Yes,” Quistis retorted. “That, as you said, is ‘it’. Sarah failed her exam, and is therefore not a SeeD.” Quistis then returned her attention to her laptop screen. “And I’m not surprised,” she murmured under her breath, “considering who her mother is…” However, Quistis did not lower her voice enough, and Jules’s eyes narrowed as she heard Quistis’s comment. Even though she did not like the woman, Rinoa was still Jules’s mother, and she felt she had to stick up for her.

“Would you care to repeat that last comment?” Jules asked Quistis threateningly. Enraged, Quistis stood up and stared Jules straight in the eyes.

“How dare you talk to me in that tone of voice!” The older woman hissed.

“I want to know what it is you have against my mother,” Jules demanded, not backing down an inch under Quistis’s angry stare.

“GET OUT!” Quistis yelled, thumping a button on her desk and opening the doors to her office. Remaining silent all the time, and seething with anger, Jules turned her back on the older woman and marched out of the office, not looking back. Once she was outside and the doors had slid shut, she hung her head and let out a sigh. Nice going, Jules, she self-pityingly thought. Is there anybody else you want to piss off today? Sighing again, and mentally drafting the apology she knew she’d have to send to Quistis, Jules headed toward her quarters, where she’d have to get changed into her uniform- it looked like it was business as usual for her…

Rinoa sat at the window, staring out at the fields, just outside Goldenrod Village. It had started to rain again, just as it had the night she had been told her love would not be returning to her side. In all the time that had passed since then, she had stared out of the window, silently praying to anyone that would hear her, in the vain hope that Squall would come over the fields and into their house, and he would take her into his arms as he had done so many times in the past. She waited, and waited… and waited. She knew the likelihood of Squall still being alive was minute, but she felt she had to try. She was a sorceress- he was her knight. That was all there was to it.

However, even sorceress’ powers are not infallible…

“Angel?” Rinoa heard a familiar masculine voice say behind her. Rinoa gasped, and span around in her chair- there stood Squall, her one true love, standing before her, large as life.

“Squall?” Rinoa asked, hopefully, rising from her chair. Squall simply smiled, and spread his arms wide. Rinoa ran forward, toward the man she loved, ready to receive his embrace…

…And ran straight into the wall behind where her love had been standing. Stunned, Rinoa fell down onto her backside, where she began to quietly weep- once again, he had tricked her. Once again, the man who was standing behind her at that moment had twisted and played with emotions for his own amusement. And once again, he simply stood there, laughing at the sorceress as she sat on the floor weeping, unable to do anything about him, unable to send him away, unable even to block out his twisted cackles from her mind.

“Shut up!” Rinoa screamed, jamming her fingers into her ears as deep as they would go.

“That never ceases to amuse me,” the evil man said, continuing to cackle straight into Rinoa’s ear. “The most powerful sorceress who’s ever lived to date, and yet you still fall for that.” He walked around the sobbing sorceress, eventually kneeling at her side, his lips mere centimetres from her right ear. “You are so pathetic,” he spat at her, before resuming his demented laugh. “You actually believe he’ll come back, don’t you?”

“He-he will return to me,” Rinoa stuttered, standing up and staring her nemesis in the face.

“That’s it, Angel,” the evil man continued, making Rinoa squirm as he used the name only Squall was allowed to call her, “you keep believing that. It’ll just make my existence that much more fun.” At that point, Rinoa snapped, and letting out a scream of pure hatred, she extended her hand, firing a lightning bolt out of her fingertips. However, the lightning merely circled around the man, not even grazing his skin.

“You rescue me from the eternal fires,” the man said, advancing toward a now-terrified Rinoa, “and that is how you treat me? I’m saddened and appalled.”

“I swear,” Rinoa started, her voice exuding a mixture of fear and hatred.

“You swear what?” The man asked, once again laughing.

“ I swear, one day,” Rinoa spat, “I’ll send you back where you came from, Duncan!” However, the man who had killed her only son, the man who had killed her friend Zell Dincht, the man who had captured, tortured and raped her, merely continued his advance.

“Bite me,” he spat, as Rinoa finally collapsed to the floor in terror, weeping for all her worth…

A week after Squall’s death, Rinoa began experiencing dreams about her lost love. Surreal, intense, often erotic dreams, in which he would return in a blaze of glory and take her back to Balamb Garden, as if he were the King and she were the Queen, and their daughters were princesses. However, the dream would always end the same way- Squall would hold her tightly in his arms, and lean in toward her. Her heart would race as she felt his breath on her skin, his hands gently stroking her cheek. Then, just as he was about to say “I love you”, she would wake up in the real world, alone in bed in the middle of her night. Eventually, Rinoa couldn’t take any more, and one night, shortly before waking up from her dream, she summoned forth all of her magical powers and, with her mind, “grabbed” Squall and held onto him as tightly as she could, figuring that if she held onto him tightly enough, he wouldn’t go away when she woke up. Unfortunately, the plan went horribly wrong, for when Rinoa woke up, she found she was not alone in her bed- in Squall’s place, at her side, was Christopher Duncan, the man who had, seventeen years earlier, turned her life into a living hell.

“Good morning, Angel,” he had whispered into her ear. From that moment onward, Rinoa was never the same again. Every opportunity he got, Chris would torture Rinoa, laugh at her, even turn her against her own daughters.

“Look at you, so pathetic,” Chris said to Rinoa, as she lay weeping, curled up in the foetal position on her bedroom floor, “not even your daughters want anything to do with you.”

“That’s not true!” Rinoa sobbed, merely causing Chris to laugh even more.

“Oh really? Well I don’t see any of them running to your rescue, do I?” Chris retorted. “Especially not your eldest daughter- you know, the one who you assaulted yesterday? How could you do that to a poor young girl like that?”

“She had it coming,” Rinoa retorted, not realising that she was playing right into Chris’s hands, his reverse-psychology mind game twisting her mind into the exact shape he wanted.

“What did she ever do to you?” Chris asked, incredulous.

“As far as I’m concerned,” Rinoa spat at Chris, “she isn’t my daughter anymore.”

“You know you don’t mean that,” Chris said, smirking. “Next time she comes here, I want you to tell her you love her.”

“No,” Rinoa sneered, defiantly. “Next time she comes here, I’ll kill her.” Staring at her tormentor with a new-found sense of purpose in her eyes, the sorceress strode back to her chair and sat back down, once again praying for the return of her love, and also hoping that her daughter would also come, so that Rinoa could finally put her out of her life…

Seifer stared down at the letter he held in his hands, the letter he’d received that morning from an old, dear friend. However, the letter was not a simple “how are things, hope to hear from you soon” type of letter. The letter was making a request of Seifer, a request that, despite the fact that it went against Seifer’s morals, he found impossible to decline. Sighing, Seifer quickly stuffed the letter into the pocket of his trenchcoat and headed toward Balamb Garden’s infirmary. Upon his arrival there, he was pleasantly surprised to see Irvine sitting, asleep, in the waiting room, his hat tipped over his eyes. Smirking, Seifer quietly approached Irvine, and in one smooth move, whipped Irvine’s hat from off his head, exposing to the world the fact that Irvine was almost totally bald on top.

“What? Hey!” Irvine exclaimed as he was suddenly woken by the fresh air on his scalp. “Gimme that back, Seif!” Almost wetting himself laughing, Seifer handed the humiliated cowboy his hat back, and took a seat next to him.

“You know,” Seifer said, still chuckling, “ponytails and chrome domes really shouldn’t be put together.”

“Ha ha,” Irvine said, irritably, “very funny.” Seifer laughed a little more, before sobering his expression up.

“How’s the young one?” Seifer asked the bald, ponytailed sniper.

“Connor?” Irvine responded, grinning slightly as he mentioned his son’s name. “He’s fine, getting out of here this afternoon. He’s also a fully-fledged SeeD, now. Graduated at rank 8.”

“That’s great!” Seifer exclaimed, shaking Irvine’s hand. “Zell graduated with a nine. Not to rain on your parade, of course.”

“Ah, give it a couple of months and they’ll both be seniors,” Irvine commented. Chuckling, Seifer nodded his head.

“I wouldn’t be surprised, I really wouldn’t,” Seifer said.

“I take it,” Irvine said, in a slightly more sombre tone, “you’ve heard about Sarah.” Solemnly, Seifer nodded his head.

“The daughter of a sorceress, any sorceress, was always going to have immense magical powers,” Seifer stated, “it’s just a shame they’ve manifested themselves in this way, at this time. It may sound cold, but we could’ve used a magic user like her, what with the dark SeeD and everything.”

“I agree,” Irvine said quietly. “Zell’s in with Sarah right now, if you want to say hello to him.”

“No,” Seifer said, quietly, “I’d best not disturb them, in fact, I have to be going pretty soon. Could you pass on a message to Zell for me?”

“You’re not going to say goodbye to your own son face-to-face?” Irvine asked, incredulously.

“…It’s complicated,” Seifer muttered. “Just tell him from me that I’m proud of him, and that I love him very much, will you?”

“Of course,” Irvine said, still confused, as the tall author suddenly walked out of the infirmary. Sighing he turned and headed toward Sarah’s room in the infirmary’s white wing.

Zell sat at Sarah’s bedside, watching the young woman as she silently rested, her body totally still except for her breathing. Sighing, Zell leaned toward her and brushed a stray lock of hair from her forehead.

“Sarah,” Zell whispered quietly, “why did this have to happen to you, now? I’d always hoped that one day, when we passed our exams, you and I…” Zell trailed off, and lowered his head. When he raised them again to look at Sarah, he gasped, as Sarah’s eyes were wide open, and staring at him. Subtly pressing a small button on Sarah’s bedside table, Zell leaned in closer to the young woman.

“Good morning,” Zell said, cheerfully. However, Sarah merely maintained the same neutral expression on her face, her eyes continuing to bore into Zell’s soul.

“We were worried about you,” the young, tall martial artist continued. “Worried that you might, well, never…” Sighing, Zell hobbled over to the food tray, which had been placed on the opposite side of the room, and grabbing a couple of glasses from it. “Would you like something to drink? You must be thirsty.” When Zell turned round to face Sarah, however, he gasped again, and almost dropped the glasses- Sarah was on her feet, and slowly striding toward him, the broken remnants of the restraints still tied to her wrists and ankles.

“S-Sarah?” Zell asked nervously. The tall young man tried to hobble past Sarah to the button by the side of her bed, but before he reached it, she shot her hand out, and grabbed onto his arm, tightly squeezing it.

Irvine was heading toward Sarah’s room to pass on Seifer’s message when suddenly, out of the blue, a loud, masculine scream was heard coming from the white wing. Oh, hell, Irvine thought as he heard the scream, she’s awake…

Irvine rushed into the room, accompanied by three rifle-toting Garden security guards, to find Zell lying on the floor, clutching his injured ankle and grimacing in pain. Sarah, however, was nowhere to be seen. Irvine rushed over to where the fallen youngster lay, and helped him into a sitting position.

“What happened, son?” The cowboy asked the young blond boy.

“Sarah, she-“ Zell grimaced, as a fresh bolt of pain surged up his ankle. “She just stood up, then was gone.” Irvine nodded, and moved aside as a medic started magically scanning Zell’s ankle for signs of further damage.

“Where is she now?” Irvine asked, not disguising the urgency in his voice.

“I don’t know,” Zell said, shaking his head. “As I said, she stood up, approached me, the next thing I know, I’m on the floor and she’s nowhere to be seen.”

“This ain’t good,” Irvine muttered to himself, before approaching one of the security guards. “Get Lieutenant Commander Leonheart down here on the double,” he ordered the guard, referring to Jules by her official title. As he did so, however, he heard a gasp come from behind him- from the medic who was treating Zell’s ankle.

“What?” He asked, keeping the urgent tone in his voice. “What is it?”

“This ankle,” the medic said, almost dumbstruck, “it’s- it’s fully healed! There’s no sign of bruising, no swelling, no ligament damage, nothing!”

“How is that possible?” Irvine asked, incredulously.

“It’s not,” the medic said, shaking her head, “but it’s happened.” Irvine shook his head again, before turning his attention to the young man whose ankle the medic was scanning.

“Zell,” Irvine started, “when we came in, you were clutching your ankle. Is it possible Sarah did something to it before she left?”

“Maybe,” Zell said, shaking his head, “it all happened so fast…” Just then, Jules rushed into the room, immediately going over to where Irvine was crouched.

“I came as soon as I heard,” Jules said. “Where is she?”

“She’s run off,” Irvine said, standing up and addressing the young woman. “She just woke up, attacked Zell, now we can’t find her.” Nodding, Jules immediately sprang into action, and gathered the security guards together.

“I want you to find her, I don’t care if you have to take this Garden apart brick by brick, I want her found. Ashley,” she said, addressing the lead security guard, “round up as many people as you need, this is now top priority.”

“I understand, ma’am,” Ashley responded, nodding and leading his security team out of the room.

“She could be hiding anywhere,” Irvine commented, shaking his head again.

“She won’t stay in hiding for long,” Jules stated, confidently. “If she’s on the run, she must have a target in mind.”

“Who?” Zell asked, struggling to his feet.

“I don’t know,” Jules admitted, shaking her head. “Me, perhaps? Given her state of mind right now, it’s impossible to guess what her goal might be, but one thing’s for certain- she’s got all that power, and she’s not afraid to use it.” All of sudden, klaxons began to sound all throughout the Garden. Irvine, Zell and Jules all exchanged glances- there was only one thing it could have meant.

“Attention, all SeeDs and students,” the disembodied voice of Lucas, one of the Garden’s senior SeeDs said, “there is a renegade student on the loose.” There was a pause before Lucas continued- obviously, even he was finding it as hard as the rest of the Garden. “Her name is Sarah Leonheart. You are instructed to use extreme caution- she is extremely powerful and currently in a disturbed mental state, but she needs to be captured as soon as possible before she strikes again.”

“Again?” Zell asked, confusedly. “I thought you hadn’t reported my assault yet.”

“I haven’t,” Jules said, as confused as Zell.

“Then that means-“ Irvine began, before being cut off by Lucas’s voice again.

“In addition, would SeeDs Zell Almasy and Jules Leonheart report to the headmistress’s office as soon as possible.” Zell looked at Jules, his face awash with fear- there was only one thing it could’ve meant…

“Out of my way!” The usually quiet and reserved Zell yelled at the security guards who were guarding the headmistress’s office. Dutifully, and out of not wanting to irritate someone the sheer size of Zell, the guards moved aside, allowing Zell access to the office, where he gasped at the sight that greeted him- his mother was lying on the ground, bruised, beaten and burnt following her assault at the hands of Sarah.

“Mum!” The tall young man yelled, running over to where her mother lay. “What happened?” He yelled at the medic who was treating the 41-year old woman.

“She was badly assaulted, magically and physically,” the medic said. “Fortunately, she’s a tough one, if it weren’t for her quarter of a century as a SeeD, there’s no way she’d have survived. As it is, she should be alright in a week or so.” Nodding out of relief, Zell gave the medic a quick pat on the shoulder, before heading back to where Jules was stood, along with Irvine, who had tagged along.

“Is my father still here?” He asked his fellow SeeDs, anxiously.

“I’m afraid he had to leave, son,” Irvine said, quietly.

“I need him back here, right now,” Zell stated, firmly.

“I’ll see what I can do, but he left in a hurry,” Irvine stated, before his face lit up as he remembered something. “Before he left, son, he asked me to pass on a message to you- he wanted me to tell you that he’s proud of you, and that he loves you very much.” Blushing slightly, Zell nodded.

“Thanks,” he whispered, back to his usual quiet, stoic self.

“Sir! Ma’am!” A member of the investigation team said, running up to Jules and Zell. “We just discovered this, it was left on the headmistress’s chair.” The investigator handed Jules a folded-up piece of paper. A memo from Sarah, maybe? Jules thought to herself, as she unfolded the paper. As she stared at what was printed on the paper, however, her eyes almost filled with tears. There on the page, in black and white, was a perfect negative of the SeeD crest.