"You failed us Commander!" The Headmaster's voice echoed loudly in his office. Kenan stood at attention in the center. "But Sir, I did what I could!" Laughter. "Did what you could?!" Headmaster Cid stepped into his view. His face showed anger unlike Kenan had ever seen before. "You did NOTHING! You were the one that condemned all those students to death! Because of YOU, we lost!" Kenan looked at him bitterly. "Don't you think I know that Sir?!" He buried his face in hands. "I saw countless being butchered by the Sorceress! Where were you in all that?!" The Headmaster looked up in surprise. "You left command to an inexperienced, just barely graduated SeeD!" Kenan shouted in self-defense, uncovering his face to show his fury. "Why! Were you too scared to carry the burden yourself?!" Shaking his head, Headmaster Cid stepped closer. "You were in command! You are responsible!" -"No!" Kenan yelled back. "You should have never given me command! I did the best I could, but I was never trained to be ordering around so many!" A smell of blood invaded the room, making him sick to his stomach. The Headmaster laughed insanely. "You say it's all my fault then? So you will admit I should have never put an obvious failure like you in command of my Garden?! I should have never allowed you to even become a member of SeeD." He began circling around Kenan like a vulture. "You're a disgrace to this Garden and all it stands for!" "Master NORG was right. We should deliver your head on a platter to the Sorceress!" "There are so little thoughts floating about in that head of yours, you couldn't even blow out a candle with them." Kenan felt himself being lifted up. Two Galbadian soldiers hung him on the torture wall in the D-district prison, making sure the chains around his arms were tightened so much they almost cut off blood circulation.  Seifer gestured the two soldiers to leave him alone with his victim. "Well, well! If it isn't the great Commander Gantt!" He scoffed. "You won't be so lucky this time!" -"What do you mean?!" Kenan demanded to know, trying in vain to free himself. Grinning evilly, Seifer stepped up to the torture console. "There is no escape. Your so-called friends left you here to rot. They won't come in and safe the day. Not this time!!" He pushed the button and Kenan screamed out in agony as the surge of electricity ran through him like a thousands needles methodically stabbing at every nerve in his body. The surge abruptly ended after a few seconds. "Aw. Had enough?" Seifer asked, mimicking sympathy. "I think not!!" Without remorse or compassion he electrocuted his victim once more. Kenan's head hung down. He was moments away from passing out. Seifer smirked and lifted his head up. "What's this?! Going so soon? I'm not finished yet!" "I…won't…tell…you…anything!" Kenan uttered under extreme pain. The tip of Seifer's gunblade was held to his neck. "Admit it!" Kenan fought to keep focused. "….Admit…what?…" More laughter. "Part of you yearns to give in!" Seifer explained knowingly. "The pain is too much to handle! Your friends mean nothing to you now! You're ready to tell me anything, as long as I spare you're miserable life!" -"Liar!" He threw his gunblade away and beat Kenan across his face twice. "You KNOW I'm telling the truth." Kenan coldly stared him in the eyes as blood oozed down from his nose. "I would NEVER betray the Garden! NEVER!!" Sorceress Adel appeared instead of Seifer. "Fool! You SeeDs are all cowards!" He coughed from a severe pain on his chest. "Ha. I'll kill both you and Sorceress Ultimecia." She cut his chains with her claws and let him fall on the hard ground. "Why do you insist on fighting? You couldn't even protect your own sister!" Adel cast a thunder bolt upon his body and he caved in. "WEAKLING!"     Skye helped Kenan get up. "Thanks." He said and scanned around. Countless students watched him standing in the middle of the main hall. Their faces were pale and covered in blood. "Who are they?" He asked Skye. "Why are the looking at me like that?!" -"Don't you recognize the faces of the people that died under your command?" She answered and allowed a little boy to step up. The others remained in the circle all around Kenan. Skye held him by the shoulder like it was her child. "This is Jack. He used to love running around the main hall to work on his stamina, until that one fateful moment…" Kenan seemed puzzled. "He died?" She smiled and bent down to whisper something in the boy's ear. "Bye!" He exclaimed and joined up with the other students. -"He was such a nice little guy." She sighed. "Too bad he's gone now." "Gone?" Kenan asked. "What are you talking about? All junior classmen were…. H-he couldn't have possibly…" Skye tried her best to hold back a grin. "Don't you get it?" He frowned. "What? Tell me!" "They're all dead." She reported cheerfully. "All thanks to you." Quistis stepped up from the crowd. "She's right. Everyone was killed thanks to you Commander." He shook his head in disbelief. "No! That isn't right!" "Afraid so buddy." Irvine spoke sadly. "And to think we all trusted you…" Doctor Kadowaki handed Kenan a list of casualties. Everyone single name written on the first page was crossed out with a red-ink pen. Deceased. Disturbed, he quickly sifted through until he found the name he looked for, under 'G'. The name Gantt, Tia, had been crossed out. Like all the others. Even his name made no exception to this. Gantt, Kenan. Crossed out with a red-ink pen. Deceased. Skye eyed him, tugging playfully with a strand of her hair. "Told ya so. All dead." "This list can't be right." He told her, refusing to believe anything she'd said. "I'm not dead." She placed her hands on her hip. "You will be sooner or later. It doesn't matter when. Time doesn't exist in the realm of the deceased. Besides, everyone is marked with the sign of death from the day they were born." -"Afraid so." Irvine sadly confirmed. Selphie, drained of all color, clenched on to him. "Why did you send Irvy off to die? Why Kenan?" "Yes." Xu affirmed, stepping up with her clipboard close to her chest. "That's is what we would like to know." -"Why did you send them all off to die?" Skye repeated. "I think you owe them an explanation." Kenan looked at the countless pale faces staring at him waiting for an answer. Quistis crossed her arms. "Well Sir? Why did we die?" He wanted to speak up, but couldn't find the words. "Should I tell them?" Skye whispered, coming to his aid. Before he could reply, she placed her finger on his mouth. Like people always do when they want someone to hush. "Allow me." She said softly then turned to the students. He couldn't talk anymore. All he could was painstakingly watch her plead. "This man, Commander Kenan Gantt," She started. "Got every last one of you killed. And why, you wonder?" She grinned. "It's really very simple." They waited patiently for her to explain. "He's afraid of Sorceresses." She repeated over and over. "He didn't dare attack, until it was too late!" The crowd's patient holding back slowly turned into anger and rage. Skye smirked and as she turned around, the students attacked. Kenan fell to his knees and tried to shield himself with his arms. "Now you DIE!" A chorus of voice yelled.   <<------------------------------------------>>     His eyes opened, immediately focused. The dark ceiling of his room was the first thing he saw. He groaned and placed one hand on his forehead. It felt hot. Am I dead? He wondered. After pulling away his sheets, Kenan shivered from the low temperature in his quarters. Everyone is marked with the sign of death from the day they were born? There are so little thoughts floating about in that head of yours, you couldn't even blow out a candle with them? What the… "…Strange dream…" He concluded with a yawn. The light switch was only a few feet away, so he picked himself up and walked over. He had held up his hand in front of his eyes until they adjusted to the light. The next thing he knew, he stood in the bathroom, staring at his reflection in the mirror. His face…it looked pale…like those students in his dream. No. Nightmare. That was a better description for it. He thoughtlessly picked up the scissors from the drawer and started cutting his long hair short. It wasn't until the first hairs fell into the sink that he fully realized it. Nevertheless, he continued cutting his hair. That nightmare…did the Sorceress have something to do with it…? They were all wrong. He thought about the people that had appeared in the nightmare. I'm not afraid of fighting Sorceresses, and I'm not a traitor. I'm sorry for what happened earlier…but I did the best I could… He leaned against the sink and looked himself in the eyes. "Didn't I?" Yes, I did. He was confident. That nightmare only strengthened him. If indeed Sorceress Adel or Ultimecia were behind it, they failed to break his spirit. For now his mission was clearer than ever, and a confrontation with one of his greatest fears was inevitable. "No regrets about the past anymore." He told himself out loud. "I'm a SeeD. I'll fight, no matter what." To signify this, he cut his long hair that he had let grow since the first battle with Galbadia Garden. People died. That happened in wars. Nobody to blame but the one that started all the killing, Ultimecia! Kenan smiled. This getting new insight thing was really great, although next time he hoped the people in his dreams could possible shout a little less. His head was ringing. Back in his bedroom, the tiny digital alarm clock displayed approximately three a.m. He yawned and crawled back in bed. Let's hope my next dream includes some hot chicks… for a change…     <<------------------------------------------>>     The next morning at about seven a.m., the guests from Esthar and the entire SeeD team -with the exception of Zell- had gathered in the main hall, in front of the lobby. "He's going to be late." Quistis said, noticing his absence. "You don't think he's still sleeping?" -"What a sleepy-head!" Selphie exclaimed, despite the fact she had to partially lean against Irvine to stand up straight. Kenan exchanged looks with Squall. "Well…I don't see why he'd be that sleepy. It's not like he risked his life yesterday night trying to save the Garden or anything." Irvine raised an eyebrow. "Uh, what did you say?" He smiled. "Nothing. Never mind." Irvine let it rest, too tired to pursue the matter. Laguna and co. were sitting on a bench close by. Ellone sat protected in the middle. "Isn't someone else missing?" The President asked curiously. -"Are you saying you're hundred percent present?" Kiros grinned. Selphie chuckled gleefully. "The Commander isn't hundred percent anymore either. Tee-hee!" He sighed. "Yeah, yeah. I cut my hair and didn't put on my bandanna. Whoop-tee-doo." The bandanna didn't serve a useful function anymore with his hair short, so didn't bother wearing it. "But you didn't tell us why." She reminded him. He smirked. "And he isn't gonna." Irvine laughed. Selphie pouted. "Aww, come on. Tell us! Don't be such a closed book all the time." "Why don't you tell us what you were doing last night?" Kenan offered instead. "I'm sure that's much more interesting." Quistis threw him a slightly disturbed look. "That's really none of our business." "Sure it is." He reasoned. "Garden rules state that the dorms are only to be used as a place to sleep and study…" He suddenly broke into a short fit of laughter. "Then again, maybe they were studying biology? If you catch my drift." Everyone looked disgusted now. Kenan held up his hands, still partly laughing. "Okay, okay. None of my business." Squall covered his face with one hand. What am I doing here with this clown? I want everything to be normal… Laguna still insisted that someone else was missing. "You know? …Guys? That Sorceress girl?" "Course we know Sir." Kenan replied laughingly. "But since the Headmaster hasn't heard about her being yet, we thought it would be best to bring it up during the meeting, rather than have that scene play out here in the hall. Skye should be in the Training Center now with my sister." There were a few moments of silence as the elevator doors opened. An Esthar soldier stepped out, and not the Headmaster whom everyone expected. It was amazing, Kenan knew, that the repair crews managed to fix the elevator in such short time. -"It's past 7:00." Quistis informed everyone with a concerned look. "It isn't like the Headmaster to be late…" Not feeling much for early morning heroics, Kenan leaned against the railing and looked down at the slow flowing water stream. "If he isn't here in ten minutes, I'll go look." "He'll be here shortly." Kiros assured. "He was already up early today and sent Captain Ran Fong on reconnaissance, and Captain Nagoya on a mission to Balamb. Perhaps he's busy supervising at the moment." -"What kind of mission?" Kenan inquired, having not heard of any such thing yet. Kiros frowned, trying to recall. "I believe to ascertain whether or not parts of Galbadia Garden could be salvaged and to stock up on necessary supplies from the town of Balamb." Irvine started pacing back and forth. "A mission this early?" "We have to act fast or Esthar will fall." Laguna explained. "It's hard to think people are fighting out there, while we get to relax here. I guess the Headmaster thought this too…" A faint sound of a T-board engine emanated from the dormitory area. Kenan tried looking for it, but it hadn't entered the main hall yet. "Hmm, guess who's breaking Garden rules again?" "Zell!" Selphie exclaimed as he moments later hovered past the Cafeteria on his T-board. Several students and Esthar soldiers alike had to jump aside as Zell came speeding towards the lobby. -"Zell!" Quistis warned. "T-boards are prohibited, you know that." He 'parked' besides the bench on the other side of Laguna. He slammed his foot down on the T-board's rear end and held it in his hands. "Sorry. I know…but I thought I was late…." Kenan pointed his finger at him. "Don't let me catch you using that thing inside again." Zell glared at him angrily. "It's just this one time!" "Yeah, cut him some slack Commander." Irvine agreed. -"Sure." He replied, then sighed. "He almost killed a few people with that thing, by all means let's cut him some slack." Squall frowned. Is this guy ever serious? "You're such a smartass." Selphie giggled. Kenan raised an eyebrow in consideration. "Yeah, I suppose my ass does have an above average IQ." -"Compared to what?" Quistis asked, barely being able to hold back a grin. "Other asses?" Squall continued to frown. Even Quistis now? A pack of short-skirted female students walked by. "Speaking of asses…" Kenan mumbled to Irvine. He grinned. "I know what you mean. I just love Balamb Garden's uniforms." Kenan rubbed his chin. "Gee, I dunno. The winter outfits aren't that great, but the summer ones…heck yeah!" "What are you two talking about?" Selphie butted in. -"N-nothing." Both men assured. She shook her head and joined up with Zell. "So, couldn't get out bed early, huh?" He stopped polishing his T-board. "What? Didn't hear what I did last night?" She shrugged. "You…wet the bed again?" "Aaah!" Zell screamed furiously. "For the last time, I DID NOT wet the bed, EVER!!" Selphie looked over her shoulder at Kenan. "But that's what the Commander said…" "And you believe him?!" Zell spat, amazed she apparently did. She shifted her balance from her left leg to her right, thinking. "I don't know. Why would he lie?" "It's okay Zell." Laguna assured from the bench. "Accidentally wetting the bed happens to the best of us." They all stared at him. He scratched the back of his head. "I…err… … … never mind!" Squall began to wonder how he ended up with those clowns. Normally he'd tell everyone to stop goofing around, but that was Gantt's job now, not his. At last, the elevator doors slid open and Headmaster Cid stepped out. Everyone stood up straight. He smiled as he descended down the stairs. "I'm sorry for being late, let's get our meeting started right away." "In the hall?" Kenan wondered. Headmaster Cid shook his head and gestured everyone to follow him. "Since those Garden controls have reduced the available space in my office, I cleared the Cafeteria for our meeting." Zell cheered. "Uh, I doubt we'll be eating hotdogs just yet…" Irvine grinned. -"Oh Man! But I'm hungryyy!" Zell nagged childishly. Squall remembered something and reached in his pocket. Yup, still there. "Here you go." He told Zell and handed him a can of rations. "It's…food." The way he said it didn't exactly sound convincing. Yet with an empty stomach, Zell could eat anything even closely resembling food, so he gratefully accepted the generous gift from Squall. As soon as the can was opened, a foul odor spread. Laguna chuckled. "Ward! How could you? Is the bathroom really that far?" He looked at Laguna questioningly. "I don't think it's Ward." Kiros told him. "…Not this time anyway." Quistis waved one hand in front of her nose. "Are those rations you're eating Zell?" He stopped chewing momentarily and made a strange sort of "uh-huh" sound. Headmaster Cid cleared his throat and everyone immediately paid attention. "Commander Gantt and Mr. Leonhart, please follow me inside. The rest of the SeeDs will have to wait here." Laguna turned to Ward. "You guard Ellone, okay?" Ward beamed and taped himself on the chest. "Leave it to me", being the unspoken reply. "Uncle, I really don't need a bodyguard." Ellone assured again. He pretended not to hear it and entered the Cafeteria together with Kiros. Squall silently followed. "Okay, you guys just wait out here." Kenan ordered the others. "It won't take too long." Zell couldn't really see the logic in it all. "Why order us to come out of bed early if you're not gonna allow us to attend the meeting in the first place?" Kenan smirked knowingly. "You wouldn't have anything to contribute to planning a mission. That's my job." "Commander Gantt?" Headmaster Cid called from just outside the Cafeteria. -"Sorry, gotta go." Kenan swiftly excused himself and ran inside. He took seat at the table where Laguna and the others already sat. As before, several documents and a world map lay spread across the table. The short report Kenan had written the other night in his sister's quarters lay there too, meaning the Headmaster had been briefed on everything that happened during the mission to Esthar. Only one thing wasn't true. Kenan wrote that Sorceress Adel had killed Seifer and Skye. The first could be true, but the second most surely not. "The situation in Esthar is the most urgent. We'll start there." The Headmaster explained and took up the last chair. They agreed, needless to say. "Currently, the Ragnarok III is flying near Esthar, gathering information." He informed. "According to the latest report, it looks like the Galbadians are winning." -"Do we know how many G-soldiers there are?" Kiros inquired. "The exact numbers are unknown." Headmaster Cid replied. "But we know the Esthar forces are outnumbered since the Galbadians have recruited monsters from the last Lunar Cry in their army somehow." Kenan cursed inwardly. "I bet the Sorceress is behind that." -"Most Galbadian soldiers aren't fighting for the Sorceress out of free will either." Squall stated, having read the preliminary findings on the cause of Sorceress's huge following some time after defeating Ultimecia. Despite the fact that Ultimecia hadn't been defeated yet in the mixed-up world Squall found himself in, those findings could still prove to be correct. "Some Galbadians soldiers fight blindly for their nation, hoping it will one day rule the entire world. But most others are forced into cooperating by the Sorceress." Squall explained. "They explained afterwards that they knew the Sorceress would only use them for her own purposes. Yet the Sorceress managed to control them regardless, just like I'm sure Kenan has seen in Deling City." -"Yeah." He affirmed. "I saw how she controlled a whole crowd of people." Kiros nodded, having suspected as much. "Do you know how she controls the soldiers?" -"Magic, I would guess." Kenan answered. "Or, some kind of mind-control?" Laguna looked puzzled. "Then how come she only uses this on the Galbadians?" Squall shrugged. "I think it only works on them. They're patriotic. Sorceress Ultimecia used that to her advantage." "You mean 'uses'." Kenan corrected. "She's still alive here, you know." Headmaster Cid folded his hands on the table. "We should first come up with a plan to liberate Esthar." He then handed everyone a copy of the list of combat-ready personnel in Balamb Garden. "As you can see, even with the two squads from Esthar, we are still no match for the Galbadian army…" Squall looked at the list briefly. "No, the best course of action to liberate Esthar would be to take out the Sorceress with a small insertion squad. The Galbadians should retreat after she's been killed." "That may be why the Lunatic Pandora aborted its attack on Esthar earlier." Kiros suddenly realized. "The Sorceress is afraid of being beaten again." -"Again?" Kenan wondered. "Sorceress Adel, probably under control of Ultimecia, recognized Mr. Leonhart and said she wouldn't be beaten this time." Kiros pointed out, referring to Squall's encounter with Adel in Esthar. "So she must know that Mr. Leonhart beat her once before and know how this happened, by entering the Lunatic Pandora." There was a silence and everyone thought of Squall's story. "If everything Mr. Leonhart has said is indeed true," Laguna began reasoning. "And it surely appears that way, all we need to do figure out is what happened to him, and undo it." -"What if it can't be un-done?" Kenan argued. "I'm sorry, but I think we should focus on the things we do understand Sir. Esthar is being over-run, and if we don't do anything…" Squall could understand his point yet wanted everything to change back to the way things were but than anything else at that time. "I don't have a clue what brought about this sudden change in the past, but I think the President is right. If we can find out what happened, and undo it, everything will be back to normal." "It's strange though," Kiros remarked. "It appears only you and the Sorceress are aware of a change." -"I know." Squall said. "And I think she is the only one that has all the answers." Laguna raised his hand. "Wait, I just thought of something." He got everyone's attention. "The way Squall describes the strange phenomenon that brought about all the changes, well, it sounds a lot like magic to me. You know, with the bright swirling lights and everything, I don't know what else it could be, but magic." Kenan rubbed his chin. "So, you're saying Ultimecia cast some sort of spell on Squall?" "She couldn't have." Squall reminded him. "I had already killed her." -"So what else could it be?" Kenan asked. "An after effect of that time-compression you endured?" Headmaster Cid made up his mind. "We'll have to find out. Any suggestions on how we could do this?" Well, you can forget checking the library. Kenan thought dryly. Nothing you need in there. Kiros crossed his arms. "There used to be an advisor in Esthar that knew all about magic and Sorceresses, besides our Doctor Odine I mean." Remembering the massacre that took place in the Command Center, he assumed Doctor Odine had been killed. Laguna's face lit up. "Oh yeah, I remember her. Wasn't she the leading expert on magic together with the Doc?" "Yeah, I think so." Kiros cautiously affirmed then turned to the others. "But she retired a while ago. I think she lives in Dollet now. But you'd have to check." Headmaster Cid smiled. "Thank you Mr. Seagill, that gives us at least one lead." -"I still say we shouldn't bet all our money on one chocobo." Kenan argued. "In case things can't be changed back, we'll have to attack the Sorceress." "As always, you are quite right Commander." The Headmaster had to agree. "We'll have to come up with a plan."   <<------------------------------------------>>   Zell stared in the direction of the Cafeteria. Still no sign of anyone coming out. How much longer would he have to wait? He hated waiting, since essentially it was doing nothing. Quistis didn't seem to mind as much. Same for Ward and Ellone. And Irvine and Selphie didn't mind at all, seeing as how they were all mushy. "So, Skye is in the Training Center?" Ellone asked, trying to get a conversation going. -"Yes." Quistis replied. "She wanted to learn how to fight. I just hope I didn't force her into making that decision." Zell looked aside at her. "Huh? In what way would you have forced her?" She giggled. "Well, I might have said that Sorceresses should be able to defend themselves." He kept a straight face. "Is that funny or something?" "No, I'm sorry." Quistis apologized and stopped giggling. "That wasn't what made me laugh." -"Then what?" She held one hand in front of her mouth so she wouldn't be caught laughing again. "You were with her in the Cafeteria last night, and not too happy when me and Kenan showed up, correct?" Selphie's face lit up. "Ooh! You were on a date Zellie?" His eyes widened. "No! It wasn't a date!" Irvine laughed. "Oh really? Sure sounds like one. A candlelight hotdog dinner, hmm? Zell slammed his foot down hard. "What? No way! Don't you know I like Shizuka?" "Who?" Irvine, Selphie and Quistis asked simultaneously. He gave them a surprised look. "The pig-tailed girl, don't you remember?" Irvine barely refrained from laughing out loud. "Her name is Shizuka??"* *{{It is according to this FF8 strategy guide I read. But I never completed Zell's love quest myself, can't be sure.}} Ellone smiled. "I think it's a nice name." Irvine frowned, considering. "Gee, I dunno. Selphie sounds a lot better to me." Quistis giggled. "I can imagine."   <<------------------------------------------>>   The monster known as a Grat swung one of his many tentacles towards Skye. As Tia had just taught her, she cast Firaga on its body before the tentacles hit. It let out a high-pitched screech and withered away, engulfed by the flames. She smiled and rubbed her hands together. Wow. Her third kill of the day. She wasn't doing badly. "Great going." Tia called from her position on a pile of construction materials. "But you can't use magic forever." -"I know." Skye assured. "I just don't know which weapon I should choose." Something brushed against a couple of leaves and branches not far from her. "Oh boy, here we go again." She sighed and got ready for another fight. Fully focused, she listened to any and all sounds, trying to distinguish them. Besides her and Tia, there weren't that many people in the Training Center. She'd been told this was because a lot of people had been sent away on a mission by the Headmaster. I'm a Sorceress, I have to know how to fight. She tired convincing herself, even though her instincts told her to run away. Tia said everyone was scared the first few times they fought in the Training Center…but still… She nervously waited for the next monster to show itself. It could happen anytime. It was rather ironic the Training Center looked so much like a nice botanical garden, yet hid so many monsters. There was another sound of a branch being crushed. The ground started shaking a bit as the creature drew nearer. Skye looked over her shoulder at Tia. "What's going on?" "It's a T-Rexaur I told you about." She replied, picking up her flail. "It might be wise to avoid these." She turned back to look in front of her. "No. I'll fight." "If it's too hard I'll back you up." Tia reminded her. A fence line some feet away fell down, and out of the lush green appeared a large reptilian monster. Skye's eyes widened. So that's what a T-Rexaur looked like. No wonder people feared it. All her instincts again told her to run away, but she had already decided to fight. The large beast roared fiercely with its big mouth fully opened. "Sleep!" Skye yelled out and cast a sleep spell at it. The T-Rexaur's eyelids sagged and its head hung down. "Whoo-hoo!" Skye cheered for herself. "Go me!" -"You only put him to sleep temporarily," Tia explained. "You have to finish him off now." She stopped cheering. "Oh. Right!" Tia looked in awe as Skye cast one spell after another. Sure, it were only low level ones, but she had never seen anyone learn as quickly as Skye did. The way she used magic, it seemed so natural. Like she had been doing it for years. Her moves needed work, but her magic seemed pretty much covered already. No need for a GF-junction even. A Sorceress can cast spells by her own power. Was she born a Sorceress? Tia wondered as Skye killed the T-Rexaur by dropping a big chunk of ice on its head; blizzard, so she knew. The beast fell to the ground. Number four of the day…and she had just started learning… Amazing. Such talent for fighting. If she were indeed an evil Sorceress, the Headmaster warnings would be justified. Only one Sorceress by birth existed -as far as everyone knew-, Sorceress Adel. History showed that dying Sorceresses usually passed along their powers to teen-aged girls. It was extremely rare to have that 'gift' upon birth. Yet each time this would occur, the baby Sorceress grew up to be evil… Skye smiled widely and climbed up the construction pile. "Did you see it? It's was so easy!" "You have talent." Tia pointed out, neither sounding cheery or worried. She plopped down next to her teach. "Yeah, seems so." They sat silently for a moment, watching a young man take on three Grats all by himself. He didn't need to use magic, as his attacks were so powerful that he easily knocked the Grats out one by one, each receiving but one slash from his blade. Another student with a sword of some kind…there were so many like him. Skye brought up her knees and hugged them. "You'd think I'd be allowed to join this Garden?" "Yeah, of course." Tia assured, a bit surprised she asked that out of the blue. "You're thinking about joining?" -"I'm a Sorceress. I could help Squall and the others." Tia laughed. "Hey, what a coincidence, so am I." She laughed too. "Figure that, two Sorceresses and a bunch of SeeDs fighting evil Sorceresses." "I bet we'd make a great team."   <<------------------------------------------>>   Back in the Cafeteria, the Headmaster -with help from President Loire, Kiros, Commander Gantt and Squall- had put together a plan. It wouldn't be the last planning they'd have to do, since it didn't mention anything about taking on Adel or Ultimecia. But it was a start. "Does everyone agree?" -"Who will be infiltrating Esthar?" Kenan wanted to know, thinking that was a job for SeeDs like him. "A small team led by Lieutenant Zieg Erhart from Omega Squad." Kiros told him. "He's far more familiar with Esthar than you are, so it'd be best to send him." Kenan looked aside at Squall, then back at Kiros. "Yeah, but we're more experienced in dealing with Sorceresses." Headmaster Cid nodded. "This is true. But you'd never be able to reach her. There are far too many G-soldiers." -"And Erhart can?" He argued. This is a mission for SeeDs! "His mission isn't to fight her." The Headmaster reminded him. "They'll gather information we can use to come up with an assassination plan. Don't worry Commander, you'll get your chance to fight…" Laguna raised his hand. "Uhm, you don't have to do that, you know?" Kiros whispered. He pretended not to hear it and waited again until everyone gave him their attention. "I have a request to make." Headmaster Cid smiled politely. "A request?" Laguna stood up and pointed at his buddy. "We want to come along. I may be old, but I'm still…." "Stupid." Kiros remarked knowingly. He shook his head. "No, I meant a great soldier. And so are Kiros and Ward. We could be of help." Kenan raised an eyebrow. "You think so? Remember, I was inside your body when you pushed your two buddies off a cliff…carelessly detonated bombs…forgot to bring maps and stuff like that." Kiros grinned. "Good point Commander. Let's go Laguna, no need to bother these young people anymore." "Aww, come on." Laguna began whimpering. "Give an old guy a break. I haven't had adventures like old times in years. What else do you want me to do? Just hang around here? No way." One could only call it sympathetic of Headmaster Cid and Kenan to eventually agree to Laguna coming along. "All right!" Laguna exclaimed as if he had never grown up and remained stuck in his puberty forever. "I'll meet you SeeD guys at the Einlanzer in an hour then." Kiros said goodbye to everyone and exited the Cafeteria. "You won't regret it." Laguna called, running out after his buddy. I already do. Kenan thought. The Headmaster stood up, ready to leave as well. "Please wait a minute Sir." Kenan said. "There's something we have to talk about." Squall frowned, yet remained in his seat. We? He should speak for himself. "Certainly." Cid replied kindly and gathered the pieces of paper and documents together on one pile. "What is it?" Kenan had serious face. "You might want to sit down Sir." He didn't want the poor man to pass out on the floor after hearing the shocking news. "It's about Sorceress Skye," He continued as Cid sat down. "What I said in my report isn't true. She wasn't killed by Adel, in fact she's very much alive." -"What?" The Headmaster called out in surprise. "Ms. Trepe said Skye was no longer a threat." Squall wondered if he should say something. He then decided to let Kenan handle it since he apparently loved to argue, and stayed out of the discussion for now. "Skye is indeed no longer a threat, Sir." Kenan reported. "In fact, I don't think she ever was. She's just a young girl with Sorceress powers she didn't know of. I really don't think that makes her dangerous Sir." Cid's eyes widened. "Where is she now?" "Here… in Balamb Garden." Kenan answered truthfully. "The Odine's bangle she wore has been removed." The Headmaster abruptly stood up. "That bangle will have to be out back around her immediately!" His face displayed anger and worry. Both Squall and Kenan got up now too. "Sir." Commander Gantt called in a much lower tone of voice "Can't you explain why Skye is such a danger?" From over the men's shoulders, Headmaster Cid could see Quistis approaching with a questioning look. She figured the meeting was over since Laguna and Kiros were now sitting in the main hall with the rest, and knew Kenan would bring up the Skye-issue afterwards. Just like everyone, she wanted to hear the answers from the Headmaster. She had ordered the rest to stay in the hall while she went inside, not knowing what to expect… "All right. I will tell you everything," Headmaster Cid sighed, more calmed down now. "Under one condition." Kenan gestured to Quistis it was okay for her to step up and so she did. They all watched the Headmaster, their silence meaning they agreed to the one condition, whatever it might be. For the first time in a long while, Kenan felt a true sense of relief. Finally, the explanations he'd been hoping to get…


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