"She's here." Seifer said as he stood at attention. Sorceress Adel appeared on the boat and the purple-colored fog lifted. Raijin back away from her as far as he could, for he knew she wasn't gonna be pleased. The mission failed…and now…she would turn them all into frogs? EEK!! Seifer looked down at the wooden deck. It had sprung a few minor leaks, this was probably one of the boat's last voyages. Ugh, focus Almasy! Focus. He shouldn't be distracted, not now of all times. "My Knight." Adel spoke with an eerie voice. It could no doubt shatter glass if she wanted it, and strike fear in the hearts of her foes. Her appearance wasn't any less terrifying. The muscles she showed could make any body-builder jealous. Fujin turned away from the Sorceress. She didn't dare even look at her, a strange feeling came over her every time she stood close by. Part of her wanted to grab her pinwheel and… No, that would be stupid. Adel was far stronger, even more so when Ultimecia was using Adel as a vessel. "Ultimecia?" Seifer asked. He couldn't be sure if this was the Sorceress he served, or simply Sorceress Adel alone. She laughed briefly, sending a shiver down Raijin's spine, then stepped closer to Seifer. He looked up. Sorceress Adel examined the young man for a moment. He appeared injured, yet not bothered by this. His face…just another one of her servants that showed that face. She'd seen it countless times before. Her arm suddenly extended towards Seifer. He didn't react. "Do not worry," Adel said, grabbing his cheeks with one hand. Her sharp nails dug into his skin. "You have done what I've asked. I am pleased." She smiled, only to show her razor-like teeth. "Things are going as expected." -"I…don't understand." Seifer said in an unusual soft tone, as he was released from her grip. The mission was to capture the girl, didn't he fail? "It's very simple." She looked over her shoulder at Fujin, then turned to Raijin and Seifer again. …Simpletons… Seifer's eyes narrowed. "If I knew your plan, I--" "Very well." She interrupted, sounding annoyed. "…All of our problems will soon be together in one place. That is when we will strike. Ellone and the young Sorceress will be captured, as for the rest…" She laughed. "You deal with the rest." Seifer nodded obediently, beginning to understand her. "Yes, my Sorceress. It will be done." "There is one unexpected…problem…" Adel spoke. "The SeeD Leonhart. His presence could ruin everything!" -"Leonhart? I don't think I have ever heard of this SeeD before." Seifer told her, smirking coldly. "But I can handle any SeeD. They don't stand a chance." The Sorceress folded her arms. "Ah yes, you haven't, it's different here. But make no mistake. Leonhart is not to be taken lightly. He managed to escape you once." "What?!" Seifer exclaimed furiously. "That man is Leonhart?" The only man that ever humiliated him like that. Held down by his own gunblade! Revenge! -"I will prepare my forces for the attack." The Sorceress spoke, raising one hand up high. A sudden bright light. As Seifer and his lackeys opened their eyes, Adel was gone. "Talkin' 'bout creepy, ya know?" Grinning, Seifer shook his fist in front of him. "Leonhart…Leonhart! You're mine!" "Now," He said, his tone of voice suddenly returned to normal. "Have we reached FH yet?" -"NEGAT-" Fujin said, but paused. She noticed lights up ahead. A few were really up high…a tall building? She squinted. No, it was a huge crane. There was something else, beside that crane. It wasn't lit at all. Seifer followed Fujin's gaze. "Heh, looks like we are there after all." "Uh..Seifer, are ya sure you wanna....go on, ya know?" Raijin uttered nervously. He didn't dare speak up against the Sorceress' Knight, but was really beginning to feel it was wrong. The Sorceress only used them. She would just as easily kill them after the SeeDs are disposed of. Fujin had agreed with Raijin on this earlier, but now they had to inform Seifer of their hesitation, cautiously. "It's too late for me to back up now." He responded, self-confident. "If you want to chicken out, go ahead." Raijin took a deep breath. "N-naw, we're with ya man. Y-ya know?" "Good." Seifer smirked coldly.     <<------------------------------------------>>     Skye and Squall abruptly halted. A cat-like creature blocked their path. It warningly swinging it’s tail back and forth. "Where did that come from?!" Skye called, panting with fear. Its blood-red eyes were locked on her. -"Just stay calm." Squall said and threw down his backpack. "I've seen this type of creature before, it's a Torama." Skye hid behind his back. "Are they dangerous?" -"Yes." "You could have lied you know…" She gasped with eyes dilated as the slender cat slowly closed in on them. Without a sign of worry Squall took a firm grip of his gunblade. "I don't lie." "This seems hardly seems the time to open to me." Skye nervously grinned. Squall locked his attention on the Torama. It shouldn't be a hard battle against just one of those, but then again a SeeD is taught to never underestimate an opponent. Instinctively, the Torama released a roar prior to his attack. Squall stood his ground. Skye backed away, her breathing quickening. The way it looked at her, she knew it would go after her. But before the Torama could come any closer, Squall charged at it with gunblade extended. It swung its tail violently, and just barely missed Squall's arm. His gunblade sunk deep into the Torama's body. Taking no chances, Squall fired one shot and then backed up a bit. It immediately fell to the ground as he removed the gunblade from the deep cut.  A final agonizing roar, and it passed away. "Thanks." Skye said in a relieved tone of voice. That was over quickly. Now she knew she was safe with Squall around. -"No time to waste." Squall reminded her, moving to pick up his backpack. "Let's keep going." "Y-yeah." She mumbled. "I just hope we don't run into any more creatures."  -"We still have a long way to go. No guarantees." Her heartbeat and respiration were beginning returning to normal again. "I've had enough excitement for one night."     <<------------------------------------------>>       "Whoa, did you guys hear that?!" Zell yelled, running up to the front of their little formation. -"Sounded like a roar." Irvine concluded. He took hold of Zell's shoulders and shook him around. "SCARY huh?" "HEY! Don't do that," Zell ordered. He shivered as goosebumps covered his arms and legs. "Not funny dude." Quistis took hold of her whip. "What do you think it is?" "Beats me." Kenan replied. "But it sounded kinda messed up." -"Whatever roared should fine-tune its…uhm…roar." Zell said in agreement with Kenan. Irvine stepped away from Zell and stood protectively next to Selphie. "Don't you worry girlie." She smiled. "I'm not worried dear." "Dear?" Zell asked, raising an eyebrow. "Hehehe, dear?" He received a smack on the back of his head from both Selphie and Irvine. "Ouch. They're teaming up on me!" Kenan sighed and held up the tracking device in front of him. Hmm, the white dot seemed closer now. They were catching up on the Sorceress. His eyes widened. That roar, it came from up ahead, Leonhart and the Sorceress were under attack? "Oh no, we're gonna check it out, huh?" Zell whimpered. "And double-time it over there?" Kenan looked surprised. "That's a good plan. Who are you, Commander Dincht?" "Hey, not bad. I like the sound of that." He smiled widely. -"C'mon already you guys!" Selphie exclaimed, starting to run. Where did she get the energy, everyone wondered. "You go on ahead, we'll be right there." Quistis assured her. With that said, Selphie bolted off, dragging Irvine along with her. Kenan felt sorry for the poor guy. How could one ever keep up with such a hyper girl? He sighed as he watched Selphie in action. "Ah, to be young again." -"Kenan, you are young," Quistis giggled. "Not even hit the twenty-one mark yet." "What's so special about that then?" Zell wondered. He and his two comrades followed Selphie and Irvine, just at a slightly lower speed. Smiling widely, Kenan Gantt held up his index finger. "One word. Al-co-hol. When you're twenty-one, you're a full-fledged adult. That comes with certain privileges and such. You know?" "Alcohol is bad for your health." Quistis lectured like a true Instructor, even though she wasn't one anymore. "And besides that, it ruins your fighting skills."   Kenan threw his arm around her, acting drunk. "Actually, dear Quistis, I'm pretty sure it improves mine radically." She opened her mouth to argue, but her IQ kicked in. Hmph, men! "Heh heh, a drunken master!" Zell joyfully exclaimed. "Man, that was a great comeback." And that's our Commander? A drunk? Quistis thought, but didn't feel the need to voice it. "Yo, look what we got here." Irvine called from up ahead, pointing to a shadowy figure lying on the tracks. Quistis gasped, shaking the Commander's arm loose. Oh no! Squall, or the Sorceress? -"Is it Leonhart?" Kenan yelled back at him. Would he mind if it were? Hmm… "No," Selphie responded. "It's a beast. Aw, and it's dead." As the three slower members of the team approached the body, it became apparent a battle must have taken place not long ago. Blood oozed from a wound on its belly. Irvine rested the barrel of his shotgun on his shoulder and stared up ahead. "We're really close now." Quistis bent down next to the creature. "A Torama, killed by a blade." "A gunblade." Kenan corrected. "You can tell by the rough overall cut, yet precise bullet impact there." He pointed to a near perfect round hole in one of the Torama's internal organs. Blood had splattered all around. Zell leaned against the railing of the long bridge, casually inspecting his nails. "Great! Why don't we dissect it next? "Can it Dincht," Kenan ordered. "You could learn a thing or two from this." -"C'mon man, it's a dead carcass!" Selphie chuckled. "Carcasses are always dead dummy, there are no living ones." Funny. Kenan thought. I'm pretty sure Quistis is the ex-Instructor among us. "Seriously," Quistis stated. "The Commander is right. This tells us Squall is quite skilled. A gunblade specialist perhaps?"   -"Well, now we know who we're up against." Irvine sighed.   To everyone's annoyance, Zell jumped up to start pummeling the air. Although it lacked the energy he normally put into it. Kenan looked over his shoulder at him. "Stop it. It doesn't exactly calm my nerves." "On top of that, we're gonna run outta oxygen if you keep it up." Irvine said without looking back at the guy. "Punching the oxygen away is a definite no-no." Zell shook his head and threw his fatigued body against the railing. He decided to just refrain from talking for a while..let them sort everything out. Fine, if they wanted to examine a dead cat, that's just fine. As if they had all the time to spare. Quistis continued with her little biology session by studying the Torama, while Selphie and Irvine snuggled together. The temperature could drop rapidly at night. After reaching for something under his black cape, Kenan held an object close to his ear. "What ya doin'?" Selphie asked slightly shivering. She was glad Irvine was there to warm her up a little. The object appeared very small and wiry. One end…in his ear? Oh, and the other in front of his mouth; a microphone headset thingy. Tee-hee. Irvine wondered what other gizmos Kenan could be carrying around. -"Balamb Garden, do you read?" Kenan called. "Is anyone there? Crud, is this thing even working?" Trying to look as awake as ever, Irvine turned to Kenan. "Are they responding yet?" He covered his ears with his hands and tilted his head down. "Nothing. Except for static." "The Headmaster did tell us communications were down." Selphie reminded with a sad smile. -"Balamb Garden, do you read?" He repeated. They glared at their Commander hopefully. If the Garden replied, at least they knew the repairs were going well, but from the look on Kenan's face they concluded nobody answered him. "Oh-kay," He called, removing the headset. "I'll try again later. Let's move on." Zell had to really pick himself up to get in motion again. His legs really felt like concrete by now, each step he took requiring a lot of effort. Stupid mission, he should be in his bunk now! Was this what being a SeeD was all about? Walking miles and miles in the dark? Oh boy. -"Why did you have to call now?" Quistis asked only loud enough for Kenan to hear as she joined up with him. He frowned. "Leonhart is a threat. Persuading him to help might not be so easy with him holding a gunblade. And I'm not gonna have him endanger one of us, so…" "I think I understand," Quistis said. "You want to know if you can take him out?" -"Put simply, yup." She looked over her shoulder briefly. Irvine, Selphie and Zell were right behind, not talking at all. Poor guys, they really need a good night's rest. "I don't believe he is a danger to us." Quistis stated, somehow glad Kenan still could discuss things. "Squall is doing what he thinks is right, I don't blame him." He laughed lightly. "Yeah, so why does he run from us?" "Come on, you practically imprisoned him personally." She countered. "He isn't going to let that happen again." -"You really got this guy figured out, huh?" Quistis ran one hand threw her hair. "Not really, I try to imagine how I would feel in his position." Kenan's eyes narrowed. "I don't even exist according to that guy. That's like the worst insult there is." "Ah, don't worry." She assured him in a soothing tone of voice. "I'm sure there is a logical explanation for it all." He grumbled a bit, yet shook the matter of his mind. "Let's see now." He said to himself, holding out the tracking thing again. "About five X away…great, what does that really mean anyway? Five light-years?" Quistis looked aside. "You don't even know how to read it properly?" He sighed in frustration. "Heh, not really no. I sort of faked it. Uh..reading this thing I mean!" Kenan frowned. Why do I always talk myself into those things…? Scratching the back of his head with his free hand, he paused. "Hold on, what's this?" "What's what?" Selphie chirped from behind. Considering the possibility he could just be seeing things, he waited for the tracking light to blink again. "Holy hotdogs!" He exclaimed when it bleeped. "They're coming at us!" Everyone sprung into action, Zell already at the mere mention of hotdogs. Quistis took a fighting stance. "Are you sure?" -"Positive. Eyes and ears people!" Kenan, Quistis and Irvine formed a three-man front line. They were spread over the bridge. Nobody would slip by unnoticed, that was sure. "Closing rapidly." Kenan informed them. "Pay attention now." He held out his gun in one hand and the tracking device in the other. Carefully he applied pressure to the trigger even though nothing was in sight…yet… Adrenaline flowed rapidly and abundantly through the SeeDs' veins. An effective wake-up call. "Any second now…" Kenan said with a hint of fear in his voice. The rest nodded. … They waited in utter silence. Kenan glanced on the display. "Practically on top of us." "I don't see anything." Zell said panicky. "What is this?!" Irvine thoroughly scanned to the left and then to right with his eyes, seeing an endless row of lights on the sides of the railway bridge, but nothing more than that. "W-what??" Kenan exclaimed. "It's past us!" -"GREAT!" Zell snapped at the so-called leader. "That's just great. Either it's defective, or you're reading it wrong." He fumbled with the device but the reading didn't change. The blinking dot was behind them, gaining distance. "Check the Z-axis reading." Quistis suggested, remembering her math. Z always stood for height. This just shows math is useful in the every day life. -"Oh crap," Kenan said, following her thoughts exactly. "They're below us! In the water." I hate math! He yelled inwardly. They rushed to the railing and peered down. The waves were restless tonight, and they just so happened to flow in the direction the blinking light moved. "A boat?" Selphie wondered. Zell creeped up to Kenan, wanting to see the device himself. After all he was quite the mechanic, he could figure it out. Noticing Zell hung over his shoulder like a monkey with a bad-attitude, Kenan handed him the tracking device. "See Zell? I'm not reading it wrong." Like anyone with half a brain in this field would do, he first re-set the device then switched it on again. "Yeah, you're not." Zell had to admit. "But you fail to understand this little symbol here." He grinned. "The tracking unit itself isn't receiving power anymore, it's working on a backup battery." Selphie blinked, not seeing how that would be relevant. "This means it has been disconnected from the main unit," He continued. "And then thrown out into to sea, apparently." Quistis crossed her arms. "How can you be sure?" Sighing heavily, Zell waved the view screen in front of her. "I know the Sorceress is still up ahead. I mean, she couldn't just jump on a boat like that, or in the freezing cold water. No way. Just look at this data-replay." The screen showed a blinking light moving at about the same speed Kenan must have been moving with the device when that data was recorded. Then, the Z rating drops to below that of the sea level and the tracking unit must have been picked up in the stream. Or so Zell figured. Irvine frowned, his hat nearly sliding of his head in the process. "The bangle has been removed?" Zell threw up his hands. "Dunno. I'm pretty sure only Headmaster Cid or Doc. Odine himself could remove that bangle, but anything is possible now, I guess." "This just keeps getting better and better." Kenan sighed, looking at his team members. "We're against a dangerous Sorceress able to use her powers and a gunblade specialist." Zell's eyes went wide and he shook his head frantically. "Whoa! Seifer is around too?!" "No," Quistis replied with a smile threatening to show on her face. "He means Squall." -"Oh," Zell grinned sheepishly. "The frowning SeeD guy…" "Well, onwards we go…" Kenan muttered as he gestured them to move out again. They paused a little too much he realized, at this rate they weren't going to apprehend the Sorceress before she reached Esthar. And who knows what could happen if she did. He shuddered. Edea…Ultimecia…Adel…Tia…and Skye. What's with Sorceresses these days?     <<------------------------------------------>>       "What was that anyway?" Skye asked, rubbing her neck just under the bangle. Squall sheathed his gunblade and continued walking. "It looked like some kind of battery." -"So you still can't remove this entire bangle?" She asked, following. "No, just that small piece." He replied matter-of-factly. "It seemed to be working independently." She looked at her hands. "I don't feel any Sorceress power or anything. Maybe the bangle is still on." He stared in the distance. Skye observed him momentarily. He didn't seem worried, just cautious, on constant alert. And so they walked for miles on end. Skye was soon bored out of her mind, but left Squall alone…for a while anyway. Occasionally during their long journey to Esthar he would look at her to make sure she was still okay. Whenever Skye looked back at him, he turned away. "Is Ellone the only reason you're going to Esthar?" She suddenly asked at some point about halfway to Esthar. He looked aside questioningly. "What do you mean?" "Well," She remarked. "Didn't you say the President of Esthar is Laguna Loire? Your…father?" Squall moved one his hands against his forehead and sighed. He remembered telling her the complete story when they were still prisoners at Balamb Garden. So, why did he have to mention that? His father…hmph, what did he care? "Oh come on, you must have thought of it." She reasoned. "If he is your father, then he should recognize you. It might even be him who can explain what happened to you instead of Ellone." He uncovered his face. "That bumbling clown? I doubt it." She laughed. "How can you talk about your own father like that? I wouldn't…not that I remember I had one though." "I don't consider him a father." Squall stated coldly. -"Are you really the cold-hearted guy you pretend to be?" She wondered, then smiled. "I don't think so." Squall frowned as he turned away from her. "I don't see the importance of this discussion." She looked thoughtful for a moment. "Okay, change of topic then. Uh." What could she talk about? Let's see now… Darkness, nothing but darkness all around. Not counting the endless rows of lights, but that's hardly a topic for discussion. "Oh, look!" Skye exclaimed, pointing at something up high. In a quick reflex, Squall reached for his gunblade. "What?" She rolled her eyes and pushed the blade down. "Geez Squall, relax. I meant the full moon." "I see." He said thick with uninterest. Receiving an elbow-nudge in his side, Squall nearly stumbled over. "WHAT was that for?" "You're so dense," She told him with a smile. "Are all SeeDs like that?" He rubbed the wound on his side. That nudge hurt, it really hurt. Strange, he never considered Skye could be quite strong. She really is a Sorceress. She covered her mouth with her hands, not wanting to show her grin. "I'm sorry, did I hurt you?" "Yes, but I might have had an old wound there." He told her. "You are strong though." -"Why thank you." Concerned lined her face. "What kind of strength did you mean, by the way? Human, or--" He stopped. "Sorceress' strength. I doubt there are many other girls with strength like that at your age." Sighing, he leaned against the railing. "Are you fatigued?" "Not really, are you?" His backpack fell to the ground, and he bent down to grab another can of rations. "Yeah. We've been walking for at least three hours. It's best you rest up a little too." Skye nodded and sat down on the railing, next to Squall. She looked back in the direction of FH. "You think they're after us?" He opened his cans and slid a few chunks in his mouth. "Probably. I didn't honestly expect to get this far. They should have caught up to us long ago, I don't get it." "Luck must be with us." She offered not really concerned by their persuaders anymore. They would make it to Esthar, she knew this for sure now. Squall chewed his food slowly. This would be the only break he would allow himself to take. His SeeD colleagues were not far behind, presumably. He heard a man's voice earlier, just after killing the Torama. It was too faint to make out who it was, but at that moment he knew they were being followed. The last few chunks he simply swallowed whole, and he stood up. "Are you sure you don't want to eat anything?" -"Not those things." She replied with a disgusted look on her face. Squall made sure his gunblade was fully loaded with ammo and then stood ready to move out again. "Going already?" Skye grinned, but was met by an indifferent shrug. "We haven't even been here five minutes, but sure, by all means let's keep going. Wouldn't want to be late." He waited for her to join up with him, then continued heading east. "I want to reach Esthar at about sunrise." He explained, seeing her wonder why they had to go again so soon. "And we don't have the luxury of resting up now."     <<------------------------------------------>>     "Can it Dincht." Kenan ordered whilst still trying to contact Balamb Garden. He'd been trying it several times the past hours, but without luck. "HEY!" Zell pouted, waving his fists frantically. "I didn't even say anything yet." Irvine yawned and sat down next to Selphie. "But you were gonna, correct?" He scratched the back of his head. "Well, yeah. But that's not the point." The group sat closely together under a lamppost knowing their targets could be getting closer and closer to Esthar. But they just had to rest up for at least a short while. Troop morale would drop to an all-time low if Kenan didn't decide to this little break. Truth was he needed it as well. "How can they be going this fast?" Irvine wondered in disbelief. "We were really close by a while ago…but now…who knows where they are?"  Selphie rested her head against Irvine's shoulder. "They can't go on forever. Everyone needs to rest at some point." Quistis nodded. "Still, a Sorceress and an experienced SeeD. One could expect them to have great stamina." Clearly annoyed, Kenan threw his headset on the ground. "Crud. Still no response." He turned to find Zell, as there was no obnoxious reply of any sort. A snoozing sound, well, it didn't take a genius to figure this one out. Kenan looked behind him, and noticed Zell just lying in between the two train tracks. He shivered from the cold, but other than that appeared quite content. Despite his bed of gravel stones even. "Aw, isn't he cute like this?" Selphie happily chirped. "I like him quiet." -"So does the rest of the planet." Kenan pointed out rubbing his hands together. It didn't help much; it still felt like his fingers could suddenly fall off at any moment. Zell mumbled something and rolled to the other side, so as not to face the others. Quistis smiled. "This is just like a field trip. All we need is a campfire and something to roast over it." "Yeah, just too bad there's an evil Sorceress who wants to destroy us all." Kenan sarcastically replied. Selphie gave her newfound boyfriend a tight hug. "Don't worry Commander. Irvine is here!" He beamed and tipped his hat. "Kinneas, Irvine Kinneas. At your service." Laughing loudly Kenan gave him a thumbs-up. "We might as well head back to the Garden and let you handle it all." "That would be nice." Quistis sighed as she dusted of her outfit. The railway clearly hadn't been used in a while and dust had settled practically everywhere along the track. Irvine fought to keep his eyelids open. He hated the way his mouth always fell open whenever he slept. Not to mention the drool that comes with it. As his eyes fell on Kenan's outfit, he stared at it for a while. "What's with that anyway?" He asked him. "The clothes and all?" Kenan looked down and tapped at the dark-yellow body armor he wore. "This is for protection, obviously." "That's not what I meant." Irvine said. "I mean, you know, with the worn-out boots, the black cape, long dark hair and red bandanna, you kinda look like…well…a bum." Quistis giggled as she saw the surprised look on Kenan's face. "I think he just likes those clothes Irvine, like we all have our favorite outfits." "Any other comments Pineapple?" Kenan sighed casually removing a few wrinkles from his cape. Selphie raised an eyebrow. "Why do you call him that?" He stared up at the sky briefly, trying to recall why. "Oh, now I remember." "Tell us!" Selphie exclaimed suddenly fully awake with interest. "Pleeeeease?" Kenan crossed his legs, striking the image of an old storyteller. "It's really simple, in the Centra language there is this word spelled a-n-a-n-a-s, which means pineapple. I think this seems very simple to Kinneas. That's all." "Oh come on," Irvine pleaded. "Only the last two letters are the same." He waged his finger. "No no. Notice both names have two N's as well, and consist of an equal syllable amount." "Equal syllable amount?" Quistis asked. "So how is it pronounced?" Kenan smiled and shook his head. "Never mind. It's a strange language. Hardly ever spoken anymore." Selphie yawned. "So its true what the say…you are part Centra?" "Yup. The first Gantt was a great Centra warrior." He replied smiling widely. "I intend to follow this legacy." Quistis brought up her knees and hugged them, hoping it would lessen the effects of the cold weather. "There is a theory stating all humans evolved out of the Centra. So everyone would be part-Centra, maybe?" "Ooh, I know that story!" Selphie exclaimed loudly and woke Zell up momentarily. "The Centra were a great tribe, who used to live on the continent now named after them. They lived in harmony with this planet, and moved from place to place, so not to exhaust its natural resources." -"A nomadic tribe." Quistis interrupted her. "That's right," Selphie continued. "But there were those who had enough of this way of live, and settled down overseas. The first humans perhaps? Anyway, the balance was thrown of scale, leading to the eventual death of the remaining Centra tribe. The land around them died as well, leaving the harsh landscape we now see down south." She looked at the Commander for his approval. He blankly stared back at her. After a few seconds, he blinked and returned from wherever he went. "Whoa, sorry, I was zoned out for a sec there." "It's a great story, but that's all it is. And you left out the part with the magic, GF's, Great Hyne and Sorceress stuff." "And not all Centra died apparently," Quistis added. "Tia and Kenan really are part-Centra. Doctor Kadowaki discovered certain differences in their genes, compared to ours. But it has been confirmed the great majority of the Centra people suddenly died long ago, for reasons unknown." Kenan stood up abruptly and walked to the other side of the bridge. His sudden departure seemed to lower the temperature around the others. "What's with him?" Selphie asked, keeping her voice down. Surely Kenan wasn't affected by all this talk about his ancestors? He long knew most were dead, and just simply wasn't the type to grieve a lot. -"I'll ask." Quistis said and got up. She walked towards the Commander. He peered across the sea with elbows resting on the railing. A gust made his hair wave backwards. Silently, she appeared next to him. He noticed her, but didn't say a thing. … … … "Kenan?" Quistis asked in a gentle tone of voice. "I know when something is bothering you. Want to talk about it?" He looked down at his boots. For a moment Quistis thought he would start to bang his head against the railing, but luckily he did no such thing. Perhaps he did want to. She rested her hand on his shoulder. "Is it your sister?" "I should have protected her!" He called furiously. "Why Quistis? Why did the Sorceress possess Tia? That's what I've been wondering. But now it's clear. Because she is part Centra. That MUST have something to do with it!" -"There is no sense blaming yourself for what happened." She assured him, soothing. He took a few deep breaths and eventually calmed down a bit. "It's my fault the Sorceress entered our Garden. If we had countered them earlier like Leonhart said he had, none of it would have happened." The first battle with Galbadia Garden was still a fresh memory in his mind. He remembered every detail clearly. Especially his orders to only defend, rather than take the offensive. A mistake he will regret for the rest of his life. Sorceress Ultimecia inside of Edea's body, she had entered Balamb Garden at one point during the fight, resulting in heavy casualties. When Kenan and his squad took her on and defeated her, she needed to find a new vessel. Of all people she found Tia Gantt, his sister. "We should probably move on now." Quistis carefully suggested, interrupting his thoughts. "There is no sense in worrying about the past. Focus on the mission." His head lifted up slightly. "Yeah…you're right." "Okay, does anyone want to wake up Zell?" Quistis asked giggling. Kenan pulled himself together and simply buried his emotions for the time being. "Dincht! Wake up." Selphie gave Irvine one more tight hug and crawled up. Waking Zell was definitely a mission for her. "Tee-hee, Zell is such a sleepy-head." She grinned as she moved next to him. He rubbed his eyes and looked up. He gulped as he saw Selphie hovering over him with a mischievous smile. "WHOA! I'm up." Zell exclaimed, hastily getting on his feet. "Phew, didn't even get hurt this time." She scolded him briefly then giggled gleefully. "You learn quickly." Noticing Irvine had trouble getting in motion again as well so Kenan walked over and extended his arm. "Need a hand?" Irvine thankfully grabbed hold of it and pulled himself up to his feet. "Thanks there buddy." -"Don't mention it." Quistis crossed her arms. "Everyone ready? We have wasted enough time as it is, I hope we can still catch up in time." Zell's stomach churned loudly. Heh heh, I probably just woke up everyone in FH with that. "Holy…" Irvine mumbled scanning around. "What creature was that?" He laughed. "Sounded dangerous." "Yeah yeah," Zell uttered uninterested. "Make fun of it why don't ya? Meanwhile I'm starving." Kenan gestured for them to move out again. He felt sympathy for Zell; his stomach was empty too. If he had known this mission would take so long, he would have packed some supplies first. And so they were under way again. Kenan wondered what Sorceress Ultimecia was up whilst they were on this mission. For all he knew Balamb Garden could have been attacked shortly after he had left. Hmm, that would explain why he still couldn't contact them. Then again, maybe Communications was still down. Surely the Headmaster would order the repair crews to fix that first…right? Ah well, no sense worrying about it. He told himself.     <<------------------------------------------>>     The two Presidential aids Kiros and Ward had gathered with a small squad of Esthar soldiers on the south entrance platform. That's where the approaching Sorceress would most likely enter. "Laguna didn't tell us when she would arrive, did he?" Kiros asked his buddy. They'd been waiting for at least two hours by now. Nothing had happened. Ward shook his head. He had planted himself on a nearby supply crate. Every now and then he would play a game of Triple Triad with Kiros to kill the time, but he was hardly a challenge for an experienced player like Ward Zabac. The soldiers were leaning against the metal wall. Normally they would complain about how boring this mission was, but considering the endless battles from not too long ago, they were quite content. Kiros reached for his communicator. "Have you been able to contact Balamb Garden yet, Rion?" "No Sir," The officer currently on duty replied. "I'll keep trying." -"Any news on the Galbadians?" Officer Rion sifted through some papers on the panel in front of him. "I received one unconfirmed report that the Lunatic Pandora is going to move out soon. But this has yet to be checked out." -"Inform me whenever you receive any new information." Kiros said on the other end. "Affirmative Sir." Rion replied and ended the transmission. He sank down in his chair and threw his feet up on the Com-panel. To him this was just another boring shift. Night shifts…how great fun. He thought. "Sir?" His lower ranking assistant called. "Here's your cup." -"Thanks." He said joyfully. At least he wasn't running the shift alone. The part of the building where Communications is located is usually pretty much deserted at nights. Anyone for company was welcome. Especially her, Eliza, the most beautiful girl officer Rion had ever seen. Duty kept him from asking her out. Plus it would be hard for an Esthar officer to show himself with a low ranking ensign. What would the other officers think of it? She smiled and handed him the hot cup of soup. "Drink up now, y'hear?" What kind of soup it was remained an unsolved mystery. "Ow. It's still hot. Just the way I like it." He said as he took the cup. At the same time he felt happy to be wearing his standard-issue gloves, otherwise he might have even burned his hand. The soup practically still boiled. Officer Rion looked up as his assistant eyed him warily. "Anything else Eliza?" The young girl seemed dazzled, but smirked a few seconds later. "Perhaps you could…" She moved her mouth closer to his ear. "Scream for me." Rion's eyes widened and he fell backwards. The hot soup spilled all over his body. He let out a choked cry of pain as it burned through his uniform. "Aaahh! This isn't normal soup!!!" Eliza stared at him with ice cold eyes. Like a predator would observe its prey. "S-Sorceress!?" Officer Rion stammered frozen with fear and shock. He tried to crawl up but an invisible force held him down. It was too powerful for him to fight. Her insane laughter echoed throughout the small room. "…Lowly creature…" Rion moved his hands to his throat, trying to fend off a hand choking him. He gasped in utter astonishment. The Sorceress didn't even touch his neck. She stood in front of him, squeezing her hand close. The Esthar Officer fought for air, but to no avail. He felt his very life force being drained out of him by the young woman he had always loved. "E--li--za!" He managed to utter…moments before his death. The man's eyes rolled back and the struggling stopped. She almost forgot the reason she came because of the petty entertainment. A great streak of lighting emanated from her hands, efficiently disabling Esthar primary Com. equipment. The first step in attacking Esthar, cutting off all outside lines, had been completed easily. "How amusing this was. But this body's usefulness ends here." She laughed. Sorceress Ultimecia left the girl's body and returned to her own time. Eliza regained control over her own body, only to immediately fall to the floor. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She knew full well what she had done. "I'm…sorry…!!" A sudden pain hit her in the chest. She screamed in agony, but knew nobody was around to hear her. Not a minute later…her heart stopped beating.

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