The Headmaster took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "I should have know it couldn't be kept a secret forever…" "A secret, Sir?" Quistis asked, having no clue what he meant. He started cleaning his glasses with a handkerchief. "Yes. It…it is something few people know of. I was foolish for trying to hide it from you. I realize this now." What is he talking about? Squall wondered. He smiled faintly and put on his glasses. "The condition is; whatever I say to you three now does not leave this room." -"Sir, but that means we can't even tell Skye…?" Quistis thought out loud. He folded his arms on his back. "After you hear what I'm about to say, you might choose it'd be better not to tell her." She looked at him, surprised. "It started long ago…" The Headmaster began to explain. "Before the Second Sorceress War had ended. Before I had married Edea. I hadn't gotten the idea of building Gardens and training SeeDs yet." "Things were different back then. Most people didn't think the war would ever end. If it wasn't for the young Mr. Loire it might not have. But what I'm talking about happened a few years before that…"   ~~~~~~~~~~   "Zat iz good!" Doctor Odine said joyously, after sifting through the first results. "It iz going better than expected." "As you know, Doc. Odine did studied Sorceresses in those days, and discovered what we call magic. What you don't know is what he used this data for…It's been kept a secret by everyone involved, including me." Martine smirked and tapped against the glass of the in-vitro chamber. "Excellent. I knew it, this is going to work." "The later Headmaster of Galbadia Garden, Martine, was there too." Oxygen bubbles traveled upwards from the bottom of the chamber to the surface of the special cocktail inside. A green colored display screen on the console beside it showed all kinds of readings. Cid jotted them down on his clipboard. "I don't know if we should be optimistic about it." He said, reading the display again then writing down some more. "Now, don't think I was ever a real scientist. I served as a lab-assistant to Doctor Odine. He and I shared the same goals so I decided to work with him for a while. Looking back, I shouldn't have." Martine shook his head. "What? Don't tell me you're backing out now Cid. It's too late." "I'm not." He said confidently and readjusted his silver-rimmed spectacles. "…It's just that this seems so wrong. By what right can we humans interfere in the work of the Great Hyne?" After running his hand through his blonde uncut hair, Martine smirked. "I'm an atheist. Perhaps it's easier for me." "Despite the fact that Martine and I had our differences, I considered us to be friends back then." Cid looked in the direction of the doctor. He was busy processing the latest data, holding pen and paper, and didn't pay attention to his two assistants. The flickering light coming from the lamp up high cast an eerie shadow of him. The shadow almost appeared as if streaming, just like the liquid in the in-vitro chamber. Cid silently placed the clipboard on Odine's desk. "We will win this war because of her." Martine tried cheering up Cid. "She'll be stronger than Adel and Lumia." "Lumia was an evil Sorceress from Galbadia. She hated Adel even more than she did humans, which is why there was a constant war between the two nations. When the Sorceress War abruptly ended, she was killed." He stuck his hands in his lab coat and sighed. "I don't know about that Marty." Martine eyed him. "Don't be like that. It will work, it has to." He laughed, making a square with his index fingers and thumbs, and lined it up with Cid like he was a camera director. "You'd look good on the front page of newspapers, you know? Imagine that, the Sorceress War ended by an Esthar Doctor and two Galbadian lab assistants." "Martine was always like that. He wanted to be famous, get credit for his work." Cid didn't so much as smile. "That wouldn't be the truth, would it?" "Suppose not." Martine replied and crossed his arms again. "You really want the people to know the truth of what we're doing here? What do you think they'll do with us then?" He didn't say anything in reply. "So you see, we can't tell them." Martine pointed out and walked over the metallic grind on the floor towards the second in-vitro chamber. He didn't bother peeking inside, as the sight sometimes turned his stomach. Steam gushed again from the pipelines above Cid's head. It would happen about ever minute, most everywhere in the Deep Sea Research facility. Except the lower level, where other scientist worked on something. Cid never found out what, they too kept their research a closely guarded secret. But it didn't matter exactly what they were working on. Cid knew they had the same ideals as every scientist did on the island. "Lots of people would later say they studied purely out of human's natural curiosity. It wasn't true, they did what they did for only one purpose back then…" To end the Sorceress War. To finally be able to stand up as humans, against the immensely more powerful Sorceresses whom thought to be superior, and thought to be born to rule over the other species. "Cid!" Martine called. "Stop day dreaming and check on number One." He nodded and made sure everything was going as planned. "We're still in the green." He reported. "The process is over fifty percent now." Over fifty percent meant it was too late to abort. The subject would surely die if they stopped before the hundred percent. But there were now guarantees of success even if the process had been fully completed. Martine checked the other five chambers. "It's all going according to plan. The rest is at ten percent." It was a fail-safe precaution. If the process didn't work, only the first subject would die. The others would still be under fifty percent and chances were aborting the process then wouldn't be lethal. Cid read the small inscription just under the glass. "Seed One…?" "Korrect." Doctor Odine affirmed proudly and stepped up to the in-vitro tank. "Zat is the name I have given them." "Seeds." Cid looked thoughtful. "As in, seeds of hope?" Doctor Odine nodded. "Korrect. Also, the letters stand for something." Seeing his colleague's puzzled look, Martine grinned. "Special Energetically Enhanced Disciples. You didn't know?" The irony in that name wasn't hard to understand. Sorceress Lumia often referred to humans as her disciples. "That's the true origin of the name SeeD. Though, SeeD today has nothing to do with that project. It's just that I must have thought of that as a fitting name for the elite squad I envisioned." "Seeds…" Cid repeated, knowing that name would forever be engraved in his memory. He read the inscription again. "Seed One." "But, they used to be humans." Cid said in a soft, amazed tone of voice "They had names…not numbers…" Both Doctor Odine and Martine wondered why their colleague said such things. Knowing full well what the project did to the subjects, Cid joined their research team. If he couldn't stomach it, he should never have joined. "Okay, okay." Martine grinned a bit. "What was her name then?" He pointed at the number one in-vitro chamber. The first subject. Cid sighed and took of his glasses, but didn't look inside the chamber as he thought about the girl. The girl that he had found in the high grass near timber, shortly after Lumia's attack. Her parents had been killed, she said. But it didn't stop there. The resistance group she belonged to was publicly executed. At the time he had found her, she was malnourished and injured. She told him she had no reason to live anymore, and lay waiting in those fields…to die… He felt sympathy and wanted to care of the girl. She wouldn't have it. She'd rather die than live another day with the images of everyone she once knew and loved being killed in front of her. "In a way, she was the first orphan I ever helped. Or at least tried to help. Seeing her despair might even be what inspired me to build the Orphanage together with Edea a few months later." That's when he told her about the project. He told her everything, all the dangers and risks involved, but she agreed almost immediately. It would her chance to have revenge upon Sorceress Lumia. He felt bad, really bad 'recruiting' her like that. Like the Grim Reaper, choosing which person would die. He never asked for her name and she never gave it. Now it was too late to ask. "You don't know her name, do you?" Martine asked, in a slightly mocking tone. Cid shook his head. "No. I only know the name of number five. The rest, I couldn't ask. I was afraid." "Afraid?" Martine asked. "Of what?" Doctor Odine stepped up before Cid could answer. "Number five? Zat would be Edea, yes?" He nodded, then for the first time since the nameless girl had stepped inside the chamber, he looked at her. It looked like she floated in the glass tube, her long blonde hair waved. The liquid she was suspended in hardly showed, and Cid never knew exactly what it was, but it might have just been water. The oxygen masked hid most of her face from Cid's view. She was wearing a tight blue uniform with a strange symbol on it, one that he had never before seen. It looked vaguely like the old Centra's black and white circled yin-yang symbol. But the end of the white color didn't stay in the circle, but rather led down, looking like the blade of a sword. The end of the black color led up. "The later symbol of Garden…I never realized I copied it from the project…" He pasted on a smile. It was a visible lie. "Let's give her a name." Doctor Odine agreed to this, but for other motives. A real name would give the subjects an identity. Bitter irony, killer machines with identities… "That's how I always imagined Odine to think about his creations. He forgot that after the process had been completed they were in fact still human, only with magic power. That didn't turn them into killers" "Well?" Martine asked after Cid had remained silent for about a minute. "Know a good one?" Cid looked aside at him. "What's her affinity?" Martine shrugged and looked at the display screen. "Wind." "Brilliant!" Odine exclaimed. "Ze subjects will be named according to their affinities." -"How about…Skye?" Cid suggested.   ~~~~~~~~~~   Kenan looked wide-eyed and so did Squall. Too stunned to speak. Or too appalled. The Headmaster couldn't see Quistis, she had taken a seat at the table and had her head turned away. "Things were a lot different back then, you have to understand." He spoke, trying to ease the anger Quistis must now feel. "The project was our only hope, we thought." After taking a deep breath, Kenan could hide his strong emotions. Although part of him wanted to yell out. Headmaster Cid looked him in the eyes. "I'm sorry. I should have told you…but…" Quistis turned around. "How could you? You experimented on human beings. What did you do to them?" He looked down at the floor. "The process had been invented by Doctor Odine. He called it energy enhancement. A scientist shouldn't use the term magic. But it was exactly that, giving the power of magic to humans…" "No way!" Kenan called out in utter astonishment. "Artificially creating Sorceresses?" He nodded. "…Yes. That's true. We were desperate. You can't possibly fully understand it now. But lots of people had grown up, witnessing constant misery and death caused by Sorceresses. Humans were told that they were inferior, since they had to rely upon GFs to be able to use magic." "So Odine invented a way for humans to use magic," Squall summed up. "By creating Sorceresses?" Headmaster Cid closed his eyes. "The most unethical deed in the history of science. And I was there, observing it all." Quistis shook her head in disbelief. "…Skye is Odine's creation?…" Kenan sat down next to her, trying to be comforting. "Things were different back then Quistis, humans had to struggle to survive in the old days. It was a desperate attempt to safeguard their continued survival." Squall thought deeply, his face showing no strong emotion. "What about the other five? Edea wasn't--?' "No," The Headmaster answered before he had finished his sentence. "After Skye's process had been completed, the initial results weren't as good as expected. Her power was too weak. The project was deemed a failure and aborted. All other subjects were released. I eventually fell in love with number five…Edea." He cleared his throat. "The war wasn't over yet then. But that's when together with Edea I came up with the idea of SeeD. First, we started an Orphanage…what happened hereafter you know." Laguna trapped Adel, and ended the war. Edea did become a Sorceress; A real Sorceress, by receiving Ultimecia's powers. Squall knew from first hand experience. The Headmaster traveled around the world to find funding for building his Gardens that would train the SeeDs. An elite force that would prevent Sorceresses from ever doing harm again… "What happened to Skye?" Quistis asked in a soft tone of voice. -"She did kill Sorceress Lumia, despite the fact we deemed her a failure." The Headmaster said, knowing full well that it would shock them. "After that, the Sorceress hunt started. Everyone went crazy…" The Sorceress hunt. The humans' rebellion against the Great Hyne's creations. Everyone thought to be a Sorceress was killed on the spot. No fair trial. It was sheer madness. A dark page in the history of mankind. "How did she end up here?" Kenan asked further, keeping a caring eye at Quistis. "How come she didn't age?" -"We suspended her just like Esthar did to Sorceress Adel." Headmaster Cid stated. "But we couldn't let her be shot in space, that would alert to many people. The project had to remain a secret. So we sealed her deep down in the Research Island, hoping we would never need her again. The containment device must have failed after that explosion five days ago. According to reports I received someone or something was rampaging inside the Deep Sea Depository. My best guess would be that Skye was someone thrown into the sea and the currents brought her to Balamb of all places. It's a very strange coincidence." … … … … "Why didn't they kill her?" Quistis said, almost whispering. "In a way she too is a Sorceress…" The Headmaster rubbed his eyes, as if hiding tears. But as his hands moved away, there was no evidence of him crying. "I wouldn't allow it." He explained seemingly calm. "I couldn't let that happen, I just couldn't. It would all be my fault. I was the one who got her involved in the project." Kenan sighed heavily and rested his elbows against the wooden table. A war orphan…an experiment…an artificial Sorceress…a killer? So this is why he thought Skye was dangerous. Quistis buried her face in her hands. It was too much. When she thought about having to tell everything to Skye… "But why did you imprison her, Sir?" Kenan continued with trying to learn more. The Headmaster rested his hands on the table, like they were his anchors. "She is powerful. Her skills hadn't developed yet so short after the process had been completed, we should have known. She showed but a glimpse of her potential when she killed Sorceress Lumia with a magic spell called 'Super Nova'. Imagine the power Ultimecia would have if she were to take control of Skye's body. It would be disastrous!" Squall crossed his arms. "Skye's been without the Odine Bangle since yesterday morning. Nothing strange happened." Quistis's face lit up. So that's why Doctor Odine followed us to the mall. He too must have recognized her. "Is something wrong Quistis?" Kenan asked, concerned. She stood up and looked at the Headmaster. "Sir, Doctor Odine removed the bangle himself." It didn't come as a real surprise to Cid. He had some suspicions Skye was different. "This means he is confident Ultimecia can't get to her. He would never have removed it otherwise." "By Odin." Kenan gasped. "Ultimecia sacrificed Galbadia Garden to capture Skye. Now I get it." -"If she is captured," Headmaster Cid spoke slowly. "Well…there are other techniques Ultimecia could use to obtain Skye's power. THAT's why she is so dangerous. Not because she abuses her own power. I know she is a kind person, I met her. But because other people could take advantage of her power." He looked out the window at passing students. "The sealing process must have wiped out her memory somehow." Quistis shook her head in awe, finding everything almost too unbelievable to be true. "All right." The Headmaster spoke, suddenly a lot louder. His mind made up. "If you will take responsibility for her, I won't let anyone take her away, or do her any harm. I will allow her to stay in our Garden for now…" "Yet I urge you to be careful." He added with a warning. "Somehow Ultimecia must have found out about Skye's power. Maybe Esthar was attacked just to get her. Look out Commander." Kenan couldn't see why he decided that she could stay, out of the blue, but accepted his offer. "Yes Sir." The Headmaster smiled. It didn't look fake this time. "There is one other thing." -"What's that?"     <<------------------------------------------>>      "You guys are probably breaking a few rules, you know?" Selphie chirped warningly. -"Ah, it'll be okay." Zell assured her. "It's just a test of his ability. Sort of like a SeeD test." He placed his empty can of rations on the railing. "Ready Irvine?" "Ready." He said confidently from further down the hall and aimed with his gun. Zell made sure nobody got in the way of his line of fire. "All clear." He reported. "Take the shot." Irvine closed one eye and made sure his aim wasn't off. His imaginary crosshair aligned perfectly with the small can. Even a baby couldn't miss that shot. Yet, he hesitated and lifted his head up from the stock. "What are we bettin' for again?" "If you miss, you'll have to pay my date with Shizuka." Zell explained, beaming. "Should you hit, I'll pay your date with Selphie. How's that Mr. Sharpshooter? " Laguna, standing beside Irvine with his hands in his pockets, frantically nodded. "Ooh, good offer. Take it." "I like going to expensive places," Irvine reminded Zell and rested the stock of the gun on his shoulder again. "You'll find that out when you get the bill." "Yeah, yeah" Zell cooed. "Just shaddap and shoot, will ya?" Kiros grinned. "You should consider yourselves lucky Laguna isn't the one taking the shot." "Hey!" Laguna pouted, shaking his fist and feigning anger. "What is that suppose to mean? I have near perfect aim!" Irvine ignored the background noise and focused on his shot. A lot was riding on it. Maybe not as much as the time he had to shoot Sorceress Edea in Deling, but still…a lot. But before he could pull the trigger, Kenan and Quistis entered the main hall. Zell wanted to grab the can so they could play that same betting game later yet accidentally knocked it over. It fell in the water and was picked up by a slow stream. "So, what did he say?" Selphie immediately asked, running up to Quistis. She kept a straight face and remembered the one condition. "Nothing really. He doesn't know Skye either, but thought her to be dangerous since she is a Sorceress without knowing it." "Oh! That explains a lot, I guess." Selphie exclaimed, still cheery. The fact that Quistis wasn't as cheerful didn't bother her. Irvine hid his shotgun under his coat and jogged up to Kenan. "Hey ya, have you decided on a plan?" "Better yet." Zell interrupted. "Do you know when breakfast will be served?" Kenan smiled and held up a plastic-covered document map. "Yes, and yes. I have the preliminary plan right here. And I hear breakfast will be served as soon as Squall and the Headmaster have cleared out all the stuff." "What stuff?" Zell wondered, drawing a disgusted face. One could but guess what he was thinking of. -"You know, valuable info…" Kenan tried to explain. "Top secret, for my eyes only stuff." He watched Laguna, Kiros, Ward and Ellone heading to back to the dormitories. "We'll assemble at the Einlanzer in an hour," He told the others that hadn't heard this yet. "I'll brief you guys there." Zell took a few steps back, ready to dash inside the Cafeteria with light-speed when Kenan realized he had forgotten something. Guardian Forces messing with his head? "There is one mission I have to complete right away." He said with a serious face. -"And what's that?" Selphie for one liked to know. Kenan put on his gloves. "Bringing Edea here. I'm gonna drive to the Orphanage in one of the APCs. It should be reachable from here. I hope so anyway." "Matron!" Selphie exclaimed jumping up and down, pulling Irvine's arm. "Can we come too?" Kenan didn't see why not. "Sure. Eat your breakfast quickly then head to the Parking Lot, I'll wait for you guys." "I have some things to take care of." Quistis excused herself after hearing all she needed to know and walked off in the direction of the lobby. They turned to Zell. "How about it?" "Naw, I think I'll stay here too." He replied and his stomach churned. "I..uhm…have to stock up…" Laughing, Kenan walked of towards the Training Center. Selphie, Irvine and Zell waited a few moments and then both Headmaster Cid and Squall exited the Cafeteria, carrying cardboard boxes filled with secret documents, no doubt.  "Hey Squall." Selphie chirped in a greeting fashion. The flaps of the cardboard boxes nearly hid his face but they could see a faint smile. "Hey." "You can go inside now." The Headmaster informed the three waiting SeeDs. Zell saluted and quickly made sure he got the best seat. Which wasn't hard, considering the Cafeteria was empty. Of course, that also meant the lunch ladies hadn't arrived yet. So again, Zell would have to wait…     <<------------------------------------------>>     Just as Kenan was about to enter the Training Center, looking for his sister, Tia and Skye stepped out. Skye looked a bit exhausted but otherwise fine. "So…" Kenan started as casually as he could. "How did it go?" Tia smiled. "Great. She kicked ass. But, more importantly…did you talk to the Headmaster?" "Yeah." He reported, as if he were foretelling the weather. "Skye is allowed to stay here in Balamb Garden, as long as we look out for her." -"Look out for me?" Skye wondered if she heard correctly.  He nodded solemnly. "Yeah. After all, you're still a Sorceress and…uhm, you could be dangerous. Sorry." Tia placed her hands on her hips. "Dangerous? That's nonsense. Is that the only reason the Headmaster locked her up?" Kenan shifted uncomfortably under his sister's gaze. "Uh..well, she didn't know she was a Sorceress. If you don't know about your own powers, you can't control it, right?"   Damn, I wish I could tell you the truth. He thought, looking at Skye. But, I can't. You'd best not know about your past. You can build a future for yourself here, in this time. Forget about what once was. Skye heard it. Every word of thought, directed at her like non-verbal speech. But nothing beyond that. She didn't know why he had to lie, why he couldn't tell her about what happened in the past. Though, she trusted him, like he had trusted her in his own way. Sometimes, it's better not to know certain things. A lie can be better than the truth...right? Tia eyed the document her brother held in his hand. "You're going on a mission again, huh?" He looked down at the floor. "Yeah. Sorry. I know I'm not around much lately." "Yeah." Tia sighed. Skye hesitated slightly but decided to ask anyway. "Uhm…Commander?" He looked up, smiling. "Call me Kenan. What's up?" "I want to go with you and the others on the mission," She said. "I can help, I know it." He crossed his arms. "Great, first Laguna, now you too? This isn't a free-for-all squad, you know." Tia glared angrily. "Don't be so rude. Either say yes, or no." "I'm only endangering everyone if I stay here." Skye added. "I can use magic, maybe I can help you guys." Kenan rubbed his chin. She does have a point…and the Headmaster did say we had to take care of her. What better way then taking her with us? Hmm…but still. She could be a liability. "She single-handedly beat a T-Rexaur." Tia offered, hoping that would persuade her brother in taking Skye along. I'll probably regret this later. "Okay. All right. She's in. Only on this one mission, mind you." She smiled and saluted. It was a perfect SeeD salute. Tia had proven herself quite a good teacher. "What's the mission?" Tia asked. -"Nothing serious." He replied offhandedly. "We shouldn't run into any trouble." Skye beamed. "Thanks anyway." A sweat scent reached Tia's nose. "Hey, is that breakfast I smell?" "Yup." Her brother confirmed and then watched the two girls walk away, eager to eat after their workout. Sighing, Kenan looked up at the ceiling. "Skye too, huh? …Does anyone else wanna come along?!" Someone pulled his cape. He looked down…further down…a bit further down still…then saw a little kid. "NO." Kenan told him, way too harshly. "You STAY!" The boy's lower lip protruded and he whimpered. "I just wanted to play Triple Triad." He received a pat on his head. "Oh. Sorry." The kid looked sad then ran off. Great going. Kenan thought dryly, watching the young one ask someone else to play. Now I'm scaring little kids… Just then, his nose picked up something else. Something bad. Really baaaaaaaad. He couldn't quite place it, but the smell was more repelling than even a heap of garbage. "Holy…!" He muttered realizing he was the origin of the smell. Despite the fact that he'd taken a shower he could kill a T-Rexaur instantaneously with the odor he spreaded. His clothes, he hadn't washed them for days, that must be it. Time for a quick change. He told himself.     <<------------------------------------------>>     Some minutes later, after Selphie and Irvine ate breakfast they entered the Parking Lot. There was only one APC parked near the exit with a dark haired student leaned against it. The rest of the cars were parked way in the back. That would be safer when traveling around with Balamb Garden. Seeing as there was nobody else in sight, Irvine tapped the student on the shoulder to ask if he'd seen Kenan. He took a step back in surprise as the man turned out to be Kenan himself, dressed in a standard student uniform. Neither Irvine nor Selphie recognized him because his change in outfit and recent hair cut. "You guys ready?" Kenan asked, wondering why they looked at him so strangely. Selphie near fell over laughing. His face blushed red. "What? WHAT?" "You're…wearing a student uniform…?" Irvine mumbled, pointing. "Why?" He scratched the back of his head. "I dunno, my shabby outfit didn't feel right anymore. Besides, blue suits me." "Why didn't you put on your SeeD uniform?" Selphie asked in between fits of laughter. -"Hey, I'm not stupid." He answered. "That'd be like walking with "TARGET" printed in big neon letters on my arse." "I…see…" He made a never-mind gesture and opened the door. "I'll drive. You'll sit in the back, kay?" "Kay-none." Irvine grinned, remembering that's how Kenan said his name is really pronounced. Selphie stopped laughing and stepped inside the car. Just as she recalled, there were three big seats on one side, and three on the other. She chose the seat furthest away from her, to her left. As Irvine stepped in too, he had to squat down a bit since he was too tall for the car. Selphie being a short sprout naturally didn't have that problem. Kenan stepped in on the driver's side, and sat the behind the wheel. "We're off." Selphie and Irvine heard him report. Perhaps true a communicator of some kind. The wheels screeched, Kenan geared up and they drove out. "You're gonna feel a slight bump." He warned his passengers in the back. -"Bump?" Selphie asked, worry creeping up. He steered the car past the front gate and drove off the low-hovering Garden with foot down on the gas-paddle. Irvine held onto his hat, feeling in his stomach something wasn't right. But from where he sat he couldn't see outside. They literally flew in the air for a few seconds with the car, before landing on the muddy land below. Everyone was jolted up, then quickly down again. Luckily, the APC had great shock absorbers. Breathing out in relief, Selphie and Irvine sank back in their seats. "Don't ever do that again." Selphie warned Kenan, with a less than genuine threatening tone -but not by far-. The car turned hard right and she nearly smacked against the left side. "Sorry, my mistake." Kenan laughed from the driver's seat.     <<------------------------------------------>>     Meanwhile, other members of the team still hung around in the Cafeteria. Though breakfast had already been consumed. Squall sat on one side of the table, Zell and Skye on the other. Since a lot of Esthar soldiers were on a mission and students were receiving special classes, it was very quiet. Kenan's sister -being a student- didn't have the time to hang around. The whereabouts of the President and pals was unknown. Shortly after they'd finished breakfast they left the Cafeteria again. As if they didn't like being seen in public… "That's great." Zell told Skye after hearing she would be coming along on the next mission. "It's great having a Sorceress on our side every once in a while, right Squall?" -"Yeah." He said with a serious face, scanning around a bit. Zell let his shoulder drop. "Ah man, are you always like that?" Squall frowned. "Like what?" What does this guy want from me? "Like you don't know." Skye said, eyeing him. -"You seem so indifferent." Zell explained. "Like you don't care about what's going on." "Of course I care." Squall remarked. "That doesn't mean I have to keep worrying all the time." You don't understand, everything I have ever feared has come true. I have lost everyone dear to me, what do you want me to do? He frowned. Do you want me to pretend like nothing happened? Should I try to be social and get acquainted with you people again? It's no use… -"So you are worried, like, sometimes?" Zell asked, desperately trying to figure out what was on Squall's mind. "Yeah." He sighed, finally revealing himself a little. "And scared." Zell banged his fist together. It was like his nervous twitch or something. "So am I." Skye smiled sadly. "Me three." "What are we talking about here?" Quistis asked from behind them and moved to sit down next to Squall. Zell grinned nervously. "Basically we all just agreed that we're scared." "Oh. Count me in as well." Quistis said knowingly. "I really felt scared in Esthar yesterday. I thought we weren't…" -"Hey, come on." Skye exclaimed, suddenly cheery. "We made it, didn't we? We should be happy." Quistis nodded, then looked at the various empty plates on the table. "Hey, how was breakfast?" "Nice." Zell replied, barely holding back a burp. "You're too late though, the hotdogs are all gone." She smiled. "Oh, I don't mind. They're too greasy to my liking anyway." His eyes went wide. "W-what?! How dare you call these delicious gifts from Hyne greasy!" Squall furrowed his eyebrows. "Since when are you religious?" "Since about five seconds ago." Zell estimated, casually resting an elbow on the arm of the chair. -"Goof." Skye grinned. He blinked. "H-ey, quit listening to everything Selphie tells you, I am NOT a goof." "Of course." Quistis grinned. "And Selphie isn't hyper." -"She is to!" He yelled. Squall turned his head aside and held one hand on his forehead. Somethings never change. Quistis looked around. "Say, where is President Loire?" "He left." Zell explained. "It's like he doesn't want to be seen. I have no idea why." She had a good hunch why. "Oh, he might feel guilty for abandoning Esthar. As we speak, Esthar soldiers are giving their lives defending the city against the G-army. And it's not looking good." Zell gulped. "What's our next mission? They're not sending us to Esthar all by ourselves, are they?" "No, that's not the mission." Squall stated, being the only one at the table that was present at the entire meeting. "I'm sure Gantt will explain it in the Einlanzer. Although I hear a small squad has been sent to Esthar, led by Lieutenant Zieg." The question is, why didn't the Headmaster send SeeD? He thought, staring at the Garden symbol up high. Too many G-soldiers in Esthar…tch…that was just an excuse. He was afraid. But of what? Skye's face lit up. "Oh, Zieg. That's the soldier that joined us at dinner yesterday." "Yeah," Zell scoffed. "How could I forget?" Quistis looked concerned. "They're going in alone?" "To obtain more information on the G-army, and the location of the Sorceress in Esthar." Squall explained. -"She shouldn't be hard to find." Skye sighed. "The Presidential Palace." Zell mumbled. "I bet she's there."     <<------------------------------------------>>     Adel stared coldly with her dark red eyes at the kneeling soldier before her. "You have not won yet?" "N-no ma'am." The soldier reported, shaking to his very bones. "The Esthar soldiers continue to elude us. We have them outnumbered but they're using hit-and-run tactics." -"Useless fools." Adel said with anger and sat down on her old thrown. It looked the same as it did almost eighteen years ago, when she last sat on it. Her throne, from which she ruled the whole of Esthar. They had preserved it for her…the humans must have known she'd be back one day. How nice of them. Maybe now she'd spare a few. Maybe. She smirked evilly. "The people will bow to their rightful ruler eventually." The soldier saluted and ran out the room, back to the battlefield. "The SeeD Leonhart is proving to be a unforeseen problem." Ultimecia spoke to Adel inside her head. "If we don't stop him…we will lose again." Adel gritted her teeth. "I will not let that happen. We won't lose to mere humans twice." In fury, she bashed with her fist against the arm of the chair and it broke off. "How did Leonhart survive in the first place? He should have been eliminated for good." "I don't know." She heard Ultimecia's voice say. "The spell must not have been fully effective. It is strange…nearly all Centra died…but young Leonhart did not…" Adel crushed the arm piece in her one hand. "That girl. Did she help him?" "Possibly. She is powerful. I need her…alive."   "Yes Ultimecia." Adel spoke obediently. "It will be done."  She got up and walked over to the window. There were blazing fires all over Esthar. It colored the sky a strange orange. "Leonhart will not survive." She said out loud. "We cannot lose."


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