"We're the good guys." Irvine pleaded. The soldiers seemed willing to listen. "We're SeeDs from Balamb Garden." They lowered their guns but remained vigilant. Kenan cleared his throat. "I'm Kenan Gantt. Commander of Balamb Garden." "Gantt. Yes…I've heard of you." One of the soldiers in the middle of their formation spoke. "But why are you here? A SeeD from Balamb Garden just arrived, so--" -"His name wouldn't happen to be Squall Leonhart, would it?" Kenan interrupted. The soldier frowned. "Why, yes…that's him. He arrived just now, together with a Sorceress I believe." Zell banged his fists together. "Whoa! You let them pass?!" "Dincht, can it!" Kenan ordered, then approached the leader of the squad from Esthar. -"Is something wrong?" He curiously asked. Kenan nodded. "That Sorceress is dangerous, our mission is to capture her." The others stepped up too. "Inform the President please." Quistis suggested. "We'll handle the rest, don't worry." -"I'm sorry," The squad leader apologized. "But our outside Com is down. I can't contact anyone in Esthar from here." "The same thing happened to Balamb Garden!" Selphie exclaimed with wide eyes. Irvine shrugged. "So what does this mean?" "It aint a coincidence, I'll tell ya that." Zell spoke wisely. -"We believe the Galbadians somehow sabotaged our equipment." The squad leader sighed. "They're probably going to attack either Balamb Garden at FH, or…Esthar." Quistis shook her head in disbelief. Balamb Garden wouldn't stand a chance against the main Galbadian army. "What do we do?" She asked Kenan. After all, he was the commanding officer. He narrowed his eyes. "Damn, there's nothing we can do about that. Our mission is to capture Sorceress Skye, I say it's about time we completed this, then we race back." She reluctantly agreed. "Okay. Now could somehow please show us to the entrance, we'll handle it from there." -"Follow me."

 

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"…Ba..am..de … o… ea.. Th…..s……ga…uad. … … … …" Xu adjusted the settings the best she could but the message remained hardly audible. The headmaster walked up to the panel and gave it a firm kick. She looked at him in surprise. "Sometimes that's the best way to fix things, my dear." He explained with a smile. "Now then, let me hear it." Xu chuckled and pressed a few buttons. "I hope it works Sir." "So do I." He said as he looked up at the sky. Something caught his eye…a small dot up high, far away. Nida, who stood behind the Garden controls, followed the Headmaster's stare. "It could be a plane Sir." He said and squinted. "It's too far away to tell." Xu clapped her hands as she looked at the display screen. "Sir! Incoming message from the Airship Ragnarok II!" "--I repeat. Balamb Garden, this is Captain Nagoya calling Balamb Garden. Do you read? Over." Cid pressed the reply switch. "This is Headmaster Cid from Balamb Garden. Can you hear me?" As the Headmaster released the reply switch, cheering could be heard. -"Loud and clear, Balamb Garden. Please report your status." The Headmaster shrugged. "Repairs are nearly completed, Captain. Communications has just been restored." As Nida looked up in the sky again, two big red Airplanes flew by at low altitude with roaring engines. "We see you. Lookin' good." The captain on the other end reported. "Please confirm the transmission of a message from President Loire. It should appear on your screen." Xu glanced at the display screen. "Yes, I think we received it Sir. A message from Laguna Loire." Cid smiled. "Message transmission confirmed." -"Everything is explained in the message. We'll land at the coordinates specified. Can the Garden make it there?" "We should be able to move around Sir." Nida informed the Headmaster. He shrugged. "What are the coordinates Xu?" She quickly read the message. "Somewhere on the Centra continent Sir. Zone Two?" Cid frowned, then his face lit up as if remembering something. "Affirmative. We'll meet you there." "Roger that. We'll be waiting. Out." The captain aboard the Ragnarok II replied as it flew over Balamb Garden one more time together with the Ragnarok III and then headed to the landing zone. Cid folded his hands on his back. "Xu, inform the repair crews from FH to finish what they're working on and leave the Garden. Nida, start up the engine." "Sir!" Nida saluted and turned to the controls. Xu approached the intercom, but hesitated. She looked at the Headmaster. "What about Commander Gantt?" Cid was still reading the message from President Laguna Loire and looked up. "Hmm…yes. It's unfortunate he hasn't returned yet but we have to leave now. I'm sure he'll manage to get back to us as soon as his mission is completed. He is a resourceful young man." Xu smiled sadly. She felt safer with the SeeDs around. "By the way, can you contact the Commander now?" Headmaster Cid asked. -"No Sir, I tried. He's out of our current range." Xu sadly replied and glanced at the panel. "Oh no! Communications is down again Sir. There's no power to the entire console." Sighing, Cid took of his glasses and wiped them clean with his handkerchief. "Well, order the repair crews to leave anyway. We'll have to take care of the rest by ourselves. If we were to stay any longer, we would be endangering FH." He put his glasses on again. "Oh, and I want our forces battle-ready as soon as possible." Xu turned to the intercom, then smacked her head for doing so. Communications was down…again. She'd have to spread the orders some other way. She stepped on the small elevator and it descended. Luckily, Headmaster Cid had downloaded the message from President Laguna to his personal console before the sudden power-outage, and he went down to the desk in his office to read it through again.    He skipped the formal parts and read the core of the message again.    -------------------------- […] The last report Esthar received before our blackout suggested the Lunatic Pandora would soon move out. Despite the fact that this has not been confirmed yet, we will act accordingly. We believe that Balamb Garden could be in danger of immanent attack, and thus we have decided to send two squads to assist you. […] Our two Squads are at your disposal and thus will be under your command. Omega Squad is a SF-Squad (Special Forces) fit for a wide variety of uses, even intelligence gathering and strategic planning. Leading this squad, will be Captain Nagoya, one of the most highly decorated officers in Esthar. The second is Beta Squad, led by Captain Ran Fong. This is a back-up unit, and therefor not experienced in real combat. Unfortunately these two Squads were all we could spare, since Esthar is under threat of attack as well. […] At this time we are still desperately trying to restore Communications, but have been unsuccessful so far. We hope this problem can be resolved soon. But until then, we suggest the Garden hides from the Lunatic Pandora, as a direct battle would almost certainly lead to defeat. Zone Two should be a sufficient hiding place for the Garden to move to -if possible-. We cannot give the exact coordinates of this site, as our enemy may intercept this message. Headmaster Cid and Commander Gantt should know of this location, but if for some reason they are not around, the Ragnarok II will guide the Garden to it. From all of us here, good luck Balamb Garden!   President of Esthar, Laguna Loire --------------------------   Cid sunk back in his comfortable black leather chair. He let his mind drift for a moment.  "I'm Squall Leonhart. I graduated here at this Garden! Why doesn't anyone know who I am?!" The words the young man -claiming to be a SeeD- had uttered still rang through his mind. "Please listen to me." But had he really listened to him? He should have known that the Galbadians would never come up with such a story to infiltrate the Garden. It's too ridiculous a story to have been used by them… "Headmaster, I'm telling the truth!" Squall appeared sure of himself. And he knew things that only Edea and Cid could know about. The succession Squall mentioned, that really happened the way he described. A young man and dying Sorceress from the future. That's exactly what Edea talked about. Cid sighed and looked at the photo of his wife on his desk. If she'd had been around when Squall told his story, she probably would have known he was telling the truth right away. Perhaps even recognized him as the one destined to defeat the evil future Sorceress. But Cid had told his wife to stay at the Orphanage. After she lost her powers to Tia Gantt, he told her it was too dangerous for her to stay in Balamb Garden. As he looked up from his desk, there she stood. Kenan's sister, now known as Sorceress Tia. She was dressed casually, as she didn't want to stand out. But it didn't help, because she still did. It was a curse. "Headmaster Cid?" Tia called softly. "…I was wondering if there was any news on my brother." Cid rose to his feet and put on a smile. "I'm sorry, my dear, we haven't been able to contact him yet." She looked up briefly, as if scanning him with her purple-colored eyes, then humbly looked down to the floor again. "The moment I hear from him, I'll let you know." Cid assured her. She nodded slightly. "Thank you Sir." -"Anytime. My office is always open." Cid replied as he walked her back to the elevator.

 

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"Hi ya Ward, ol' buddy ol' pal!" Laguna cheerfully exclaimed and playfully punched the big guy in his belly. He laughed for a moment, then pointed out something behind him. Laguna looked over the guy's shoulder. A young man with a gunblade stood in the doorway. "Ah, so this is one of our guests?" Ward held up his thumb. He usually preferred it to nodding every time the answer to a particular question was yes. Squall stepped inside the room. He scanned around. Compared to some other rooms he'd seen, this one wasn't all that big. I had a few couches, an expensive looking rug in the middle, some panels on the wall and a painting of a town square. Winhill, so Squall guessed. Large windows on the opposite side of the door let in the rays of the rising sun. There were two guards; one to the left, the other to right. Then there were Laguna and Ward. But behind the President someone sat on the one of the couches. Squall could see a shadow cast on the rug. "So, I take it you're Squall Leonhart?" Laguna asked. "Heh, cuze I doubt the name Skye would really fit you." A bewildered face stared back at him.   Laguna scratched the back of his head. "Uh…that was...just a joke… never mind…" So he doesn't know me either. Squall thought to himself. Or is that clown just joking around…? Ward gestured something to Laguna and left the room. From behind Laguna, a girl stood up and walked up next to him. "Ellone!" Squall shouted. He didn't realize he was that happy to see her up until now. -"Ah, you've met?" Laguna wondered. "Heh heh, I didn't know you had a boyfriend Elly." Ellone blushed a little and folded her hands on her lap. "No Uncle, I don't know--" "…You don't know who I am…" Squall uttered, suddenly feeling like he weighed at least a ton. He frowned. Even Ellone? …Sis??… What happened to me out there!? Laguna raised an eyebrow at the guy. "Uh, you okay? You look kinda pale, why don't you sit down for a minute?" Squall agreed and moved to the couch. Ellone didn't let him out of her sight as he walked past her. "Should I know you?" she curiously asked as soon as Squall sat down. -"Yes." Squall stated as he rubbed his temples. "…It's a long story." He looked up. Both Ellone and Laguna gave him their complete and undivided attention. "Well, you're a SeeD from Balamb Garden right?" Laguna questioned. "So what are you doing here?"  -"I came her to see Ellone." Squall answered. "I hoped that she would have some answers…" "To what question?" Ellone asked and sat down next to the man. She had sensed something strange about him the minute he walked in, but she couldn't figure out exactly what was wrong. With his hands in his pockets, Laguna sat down on the other couch, facing Squall. "It will take too long to explain everything now." He started. "But yesterday something happened to me, out in the fields near Balamb, and everything changed after that. Events in the past had been altered, people didn't know me anymore and worst of all, Sorceress Ultimecia was alive again. Whatever happened, it felt similar to the time-compression I endured a few weeks ago." Laguna stared at Squall with eyes wide. His mouth hung open. "You're saying Ultimecia is supposed to be dead?!" Ellone looked worried. "...Time-compression…" She knew that was what the Sorceress was trying to achieve. This guy endured that? Could that be why he felt, different, somehow…? "Yes. Together with a team of SeeDs, I defeated Sorceress Ultimecia." Squall affirmed solemnly. -"Wow…really?" Laguna uttered. His eyebrows came together in confusion. "Yes." Squall repeated with confidence. "With help from Ellone, Sorceress Ultimecia had been defeated. It couldn't have been done without her. That I'm sure of." "…I helped?" Ellone asked whilst she desperately tried to figure out whether he was lying or not. Squall nodded. "You sent the Sorceress back in the past with your special powers, and then the time-compression began. But our team of SeeDs used this to travel to the future, the time period in which Ultimecia lived…" Laguna stood up from the couch. To him, this tale was too amazing to listen to, sitting. "And you defeated her there?" "Yes." Squall said again, wondering why Laguna needed so much confirmation. "This happened about 3 weeks ago." He looked aside. Ellone was completely dazzled, she didn't know what to say to such a thing. "Somehow," Squall continued. "Things have been altered. Some other guy graduated to become a SeeD instead of me. The outcome of battles in the past have changed…for the worse…definitely." -"You think this has something to do with time-compression?" Ellone asked, catching on quickly. "…With me?" He shrugged. "I don't know. I suppose I didn't know where else to turn…" Laguna gasped. "Gee…that's really quite a…" -"Unbelievable story…I know." Squall sighed. "I know it sounds too strange to be true, but it is true. It happened." "Could you get Kiros up here, please?" Laguna kindly ordered the two guards then turned back to Squall. "We're going to get to the bottom of this, don't worry." As the guards were just about to jolt off, Kiros and Sorceress Skye came round the corner. "In here Sir." The guards said and were surprised Kiros told them they were relieved of duty for now. Having guards in the room was no way to welcome two guests Kiros thought. Laguna chuckled as his buddy stepped in. "Whoa, you're fast!" He crossed his arms. "I was already on my way here." -"Oh. Well, great timing!" Skye entered the room too. There was no bangle around her neck anymore. "Hi everyone." "Hello there," Laguna greeted and shook her hand. "I'm Laguna Loire, the -ahem- President of Esthar." -"He still likes to boast about it after all those years." Kiros explained. Skye shook Ellone's hand too, then plopped down next to Squall. "So, what's up with you? Doctor Odine removed my bangle, see?" She combed back some of her hair and clearly displayed there wasn't a bangle around her neck anymore, even though Squall had immediately noticed it as she walked in. "Now," Laguna said as he calmy sat down on the other couch again and motioned Kiros to do the same. "Could you please tell your story one more time Mr. Leonhart?" Kiros didn't have a clue what was going on, but quietly listened to Squall as he started talking.

 

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"Wow." Laguna exclaimed, impressed by the great tale. The fact that Squall could have been lying hardly even occurred to him. -"So you think forces from Balamb Garden are after you?" Kiros asked. Skye raised her hand. "Not just him, me too." Laguna looked at Ellone and she noticed it. "I can't see why they would think Skye is a dangerous Sorceress, Uncle." She told him. "…I don't think she is." Squall continued to frown. "I don't think she is either." Kiros grinned in disbelief. "You two are in quite an odd situation…" "Tell me about it." Skye sighed heavily, letting her body sag. Laguna exchanged looks with Kiros. "What do you think?" He stood up. "I think our guest must be tired after such a long walk. Let's handle this after they get some rest." After pulling herself up from the couch, Skye felt like she could just hug that man. He was very wise…it clearly showed. "Thanks." She said.  -"I'm sure I can find you rooms." Kiros told their two guests. "There are so many here, Laguna frequently gets lost." "Uh-oh!" Laguna cried out as he quickly reached for his left leg. "Leg cramp!" Ellone, Kiros and Skye laughed. Squall was already walking to the hallway. "Don't move!" A man in the doorway ordered forcefully. -"I wouldn't if I could." Laguna laughed, but as he looked up he knew it was something serious. Irvine, Zell and Selphie rushed in, Kenan and Quistis covered the doorway, making sure Skye wouldn't escape. "Mr. President." Quistis said, while Irvine held both Squall and Skye at gunpoint. "That Sorceress is dangerous, we're here to capture her. Please leave the room." Zell held up his fist like they were as deadly a weapon as Irvine's shotgun. Squall backed up a bit. He made no move to reach for his gunblade…yet. -"What? No, I will not." Laguna replied. "I don't believe she is dangerous." His leg cramp was suddenly subdued with all the excitement and he stepped in Irvine's line of fire. "Sir!" Kenan called. "Get out of the way! Our mission--" He stopped as he noticed the bangle around the Sorceress' neck had already been removed. "Idiot! What have you--" "Shuddap!" Laguna snapped. Even Kiros had never seen him like that. "You're in Esthar now, kid. Lower your guns and will talk about it, but don't expect you can just barge in here like that!!" Selphie felt ashamed for assuming an aggressive posture, and she was the first to stand down. Quistis and Irvine soon followed. Zell still held up his fist but they were shaky. "Commander?" He called with his eyes locked on the Sorceress. Kenan's eyes narrowed, but the President just stared back at him with a furious look. "All right, FINE." "We'll talk." He said and Zell lowered his fists. -"Sorry Sir, but--" Selphie humbly apologized. Laguna smiled and his fury seemed gone in an instance. "It's okay, you guys were only following orders. You thought we might be in some kinda danger, but as you see, we're not." Everyone looked at Squall and Skye. "I--I'm not a dangerous Sorceress…" Skye started to plead. "Why does this have to happen to me? I'm just a normal girl, I don't know what's going on anymore…" Tears formed in her eyes. Ellone walked over and comfortingly threw an arm around her. Quistis and Selphie looked at one another. A feeling of remorse engulfed both of them, but especially Selphie. They'd mindlessly hunted an innocent girl? That was horrible to think of. Kenan still warily eyed the two 'targets' they were sent after. "Listen, the President is right. We're following orders. According to Headmaster Cid this girl is a serious threat." -"I see…" Laguna mumbled as he processed the information. "And Mr. Leonhart?" "And Squall helped her escape," Quistis explained. "But our orders are to escort him back to the Garden. The Headmaster wants to talk to him. He is willing to listen now." Ellone looked at the five SeeDs in front of her. "I believe Squall is telling the truth, even though I don't know him. And I know Skye isn't an evil Sorceress like Adel or Ultimecia…I can sense that she is different." -"That's all fine, but what we believe is irrelevant." Kenan remarked. "Soldiers shouldn't disobey orders." "Soldiers shouldn't be drones either," Laguna pointed out. "They need to think for themselves. Assess the situation…" Zell's eyelids started sagging again. He wished people could just skip the boring talk and get right to the point. Could they, or could they not, capture the Sorceress and take her back to Garden? "I can understand that you have your orders, but I'm not surrendering to you." Squall told the so-called Commander. -"Seems we're stuck." Irvine reasoned. Kiros pondered. "I don't think so. Everyone is on the same side here." Selphie's face lit up. "H-ey, yeah. We're all up against Sorceress Ultimecia." They all nodded. That was a good point Kiros raised. "Tell ya what, we'll let you ESCORT Skye and Squall back to Balamb Garden," Laguna offered. "But only if you'll agree to listen to both of them, and try to help." Kenan rubbed his chin the way he always did when heavily pondering. "…Seems we have no choice but to accept." "Quistis?" He asked. -"I agree." "Pine--uh, Irvine?" -"Whatever you say Commander." "Selphie?" -"Yeah! Let's not fight amongst ourselves and blow Ultimecia to smithereens!" "Dare I ask? …Zell?" -"Hey, what's that supposed to mean? I totally agree to the plan." Laguna grinned. "Okay, seems it's democratically approved." After wiping the tears from her cheeks, Skye smiled again. "Thank you everyone." It gave Selphie and Quistis a good feeling, knowing this would be the right way to approach it. Not with force… Squall didn't want to thank anyone, yet was glad not to be considered an outlaw anymore. … "So, when was the last time you guys were here?" Laguna asked trying to break the tension that still hung in the room like a foul stench. Selphie smiled widely. "It's been a while. Nice to see ya again, Sir Laguna. Tee-hee!" Not long after this, the whole group sat down in the cozy guest room. Finally everyone loosened up and they even got acquainted with Skye. Zell noticed she really wasn't the dangerous Sorceress Headmaster Cid led him to believe. She was actually just a nice girl. And Skye really enjoyed the company. These people were really friendly to her, despite everything they were told. Only Kenan still wasn't fully convinced and didn't let his guard down for a second.

 

-"So you can't remember anything?" Quistis asked. Skye tried her best to come up with something. A name, an image, a certain smell, anything! …Nothing came to mind. "No, nothing." She sadly affirmed. "…Even didn't know I was a Sorceress until Squall pointed it out to me." Ellone looked at her and felt real sympathy. "That's awful, isn't it Uncle?" Explaining the advanced rules of Triple Triad to someone and having to listen to a conversation at the same time was one of those things Laguna shouldn't do. "Uh…Yes, that's right dear." He assured Ellone, then turned his mind back to explaining Irvine how to play a really good game of Triple Triad. Of course, his mind was totally blank thanks to the distraction. Irvine looked up from the deck of cards on the small table. "Your move Sir. Show me what made you world champ at this. I gotta get better at this game…grr.." -"World Champion?" Kiros wondered if he had heard it correctly. "Laguna a World Champion with Triple Triad?" It appeared likely for him to burst into laughter any second now… "You never won anything in your life Laguna, what are talking about?" Irvine suddenly felt betrayed. Whoa, He wasn't a pro at it? Dang! Selphie just had to butt in at this point of course. "H-ey, Sir Laguna isn't a liar!" -"Heh heh. Thanks Selphie." He smiled and placed his next card. His very special card. With his own face on it. Irvine gestured for a time-out. He was losing but that wasn't the point. Selphie chuckled. "There are no time outs in Triple Triad, silly!" "Anyway!" He started. "Are you joking with me or not? You really a world champ?" Laguna started frantically scratching his left leg. Oh no! A cramp? Not now! Aah! "Well?" Irvine asked impatiently. There was no escape for him this time, he had to tell the truth. The whole truth, mind you, because Laguna didn't lie. He could be untruthful, say stuff that was only half-true, say stuff that was really idiotic, but he didn't lie. -"Uh…I…err…had this really nice dream, in which I..uh..won the World Championship Triple Triad." Irvine looked at Laguna wide-eyed. Selphie almost rolled off the couch laughing. "A dream?" "Yup. I still remember the last round." He stated cheerfully, somehow proud he won something even though it was just a dream. "I used this amazing strategy, but I..uh…forgot how it went. I've been trying to rediscover it ever since…" A fed-up, grumpy and most of all tired, Irvine threw down his cards. "Fine, you win. I haven't learned a thing!" He narrowed his eyes. "Zell…Quistis…I gotta beat 'em one day! I lost nearly all my cards to those two!" "Speaking of Zell…" Selphie whispered and pointed to her left. Zell sat snoring as loud as an airplane engine, leaning against Kenan's shoulder. Lucky for him, the Commander didn't really mind it that much, as long as he wouldn't drool on him or anything. They laughed, too loud it appeared as Zell woke up with a fright. "Bleh. Whoa! Where am I?" He mumbled with eyes half-opened. Skye feigned hurt, since Zell had fallen asleep listening to her talk. "Am I that boring?" He threw up his hands. "No nooo ma'am! I just..uh..rested my eyes a bit…!" Selphie got the feeling someone was missing and scanned around whilst the rest continued talking to one and other. She found Squall leaning against the wall, close to the big windows. He was staring out over Esthar. "Hey ya!" Selphie chirped as she approached the dark-haired-mystery-SeeD-guy. "Hee-hee, are you hiding from the rest or somethin'? Seems like it." Squall shrugged. "It's just weird seeing people that used to know me, and now…" "Then tell me something about yourself!" Selphie offered. "So I can get to know you." He didn't reply. -"He's not one to talk a lot." Skye explained from her comfy position in the middle of the couch. "But he's a great listener." She had been watching Squall the whole time, in a looking-out-for-someone kinda way. Sort of like a big sister. Well, he didn't need any sister. Squall stared up at the ceiling for a moment. It was white with a gold pattern across it. Priceless no doubt. "What can you tell me about Rinoa?" Was the question he came up with eventually. Selphie thought deeply. "I haven't seen her since we dropped her off in Timber. I hope she's doing okay. Kenan agreed that we should all visit her some day…when everything is over…" She leaned against the wall, right next to the guy. "Great view of the room from here, huh?" -"…I suppose…" She giggled. "Okay, if you're not gonna talk about yourself, I'll just talk about me." "Don't bother. I already know you." Squall told her, taking a sip of the drink Kiros offered everyone earlier. It tasted horrid. But the fact was he arrived in Esthar practically dehydrated. Any drink would be gladly accepted. She tilted her head with interest. "Really? Hee-hee, then tell me what you know." -"I don't really see the point of that." -"C'mon Mr. Leonhart," She edged. "Pleeease?" He sighed. "For starters, you called me Squall, not Mr. Leonhart." Selphie grinned sheepishly. "Okay! Squall it is. Tell me more." "Well, you're Selphie Tillmit, transferred to Balamb Garden from Trabia Garden. You participated in the Dollet mission, you were in Squad A, I think. You bumped into my squad to deliver a message and--" -"Boring!" Selphie exclaimed. Everyone stopped talking and turned around. Irvine raised an eyebrow. "You okay sweetie-pie?" "Yeah, it's nothing." She said and with that everyone turned back again and continued wherever they left off. She nudged Squall with her elbow. "I didn't mean you should start telling the complete history…I just wondered what you thought of me. I don't care about the dry, boring facts!" He took another sip. "You're really…active. Or hyper might be the better word for it…" Zell roared with laughter, having secretly listened to their conversation with one ear. Worried that he might choke, Quistis slapped him on the back once or twice. "Breathe in. Breathe in Zell!" Selphie didn't pay much attention to Zell and pressed Squall to say some more. He quickly drank all there was left in his glass, giving him a valid reason to not reply immediately. She nudged him again. "Yeah, everyone can tell I'm a bit a hyper, that doesn't mean you know me." "You're always one to look on the bright side." Squall stated under pressure. "Not that you weren't sad at times, but you were always the one to try to cheer people up…" Rinoa was like that too. He thought to himself. "Now we're getting somewhere." She told him, hinting him to continue at the same time. He shrugged. "You proved yourself a capable leader at the Galbadian Missile Base. A good SeeD too." "Thanks!" Selphie exclaimed and smiled widely. Squall looked down. "I don't think I've ever told you that…the other you I mean…" She giggled. "It's kinda confusing to think about it, huh? This must be a whole different world to you." -"Yeah, it feels like that." He nodded. Selphie looked across the room. Everyone seemed to be talking in pairs now. Kenan was no doubt discussing important issues with Mr. Kiros. Then there was Sir Laguna having a fascinating conversation with Quistis, Irvine joining in every now and then, but mostly he was just goofing around with Zell. And Skye seemed to really enjoy talking to Ellone. "So Squall, what do think of…uhm…Zell?" -"Loud and obnoxious." He replied with a straight face. Selphie giggled again. "Okay…and..uh what about Quistis?" -"I think she sometimes pushes herself too hard." "And what about Kenan?" Squall looked aside. "I've never met him before. Whoever he is, he didn't graduate to become a SeeD in my past." She blinked. Oh yeah, that was right. Wow, she found that weird to think of. If Kenan weren't around, who'd lead the squad? Quistis might be the most likely candidate, she considered. Selphie extended her arm and managed to swipe Irvine's hat. "And what about Irvy?" "I guess he's okay. A bit of a jock…but a reliable SeeD." Squall answered. Perhaps this was the first time he really had to think about all his squad members in this manner. Normally he wouldn't be the one to give out compliments, but the fact that they had defeated Sorceress Ultimecia together meant they were good soldiers, every one of them. Why hadn't Squall realized this before? Or stopped to even think about it? Irvine noticed those two were talking about him and jumped up from the couch, walked over to Selphie, and quickly stole his hat back. He couldn't be seen without it; it would ruin his image. Selphie playfully sobbed for a moment, then she realized he wasn't gonna give her the hat back, so she just planted a kiss on his cheek. For no reason other than the fact his cheek got the way of her lips…yeah…that was it. Skye noticed it and clapped her hands in glee. "Hey, I didn't know you guys were in a relationship." Irvine scratched the back of his head. Relationship…it somehow seemed the wrong word for it. He didn't know why. "We are," Selphie affirmed. "Tee-hee, since last night anyway." -"That's great!" Skye exclaimed. As Kiros looked at the time on his watch, he slowly got up from the couch. "I hate to break this off, but I'm afraid the President and myself have business to attend to." Laguna jumped up. "Oh yeah, I forgot all about that! Great goobish goo!" Yawning heavily, Zell crawled up from the couch, leaving behind an imprint of his butt in the fabric. Neat. "Ah yes, I'll show you all to your rooms first." Kiros grinned. "Shall we wake you in time for supper? I'm sure you're all very tired from walking those many miles…" Irvine and Zell exchanged looks. "Sounds good to me." They both replied. -"One thing though," Kenan remarked from the doorway. Nobody had even seen him get up…he was fast. "It's all great we have this pact with Mr. Leonhart and the Sorceress, but who knows what they'll pull off once we're asleep?" Skye felt hurt. She knew the trust in her being a good Sorceress came real sudden. She knew they couldn't just stop fearing her in a split-second. Trust is something that has to be earned. She knew all that, yet it hurt. As always Squall couldn't really care either way. Although, as a SeeD Commander, he could see Kenan's point. Quistis approached Kenan. "I'm sure it'll be okay. Besides, where would they go? Esthar soldiers are everywhere…" Kiros talked it over Laguna and eventually came up with a solution. "What about putting Zell, Irvine and Commander Gantt together in a room with Mr. Leonhart, and the girls in the other? You could even lock the room if you really think that's necessary." Kiros offered. In a state of being half-asleep, Zell only heard the word room. Room…bed. Bed good. Sleep in bed. Sleep good! Kenan run his hand threw his hair. "Yeah, okay. I can live with that." Quistis smiled politely. "It's a good suggestion. I don't think we'll lock the room though..." "I'm okay with everything right about now," Irvine pointed out. "I just wanna get some shut-eye." Kiros walked into the hallway. "This way please." Before leaving, they had to say goodbye to Laguna of course. After all he IS the President of Esthar. -"See ya later, Sir Laguna, tee-hee!" -"Good day Mr. President. Nice talking to you." -"Catch ya later." -"Say, you wouldn't have any hotdogs for supper, would ya? Ah well, later." -"Wake me if you can contact Balamb Garden. And do you think you could place some guards outside, just in case?" -"… … …" -"Bubbye now Laguna." Skye called and gave him half a hug, it having too little energy in it to call it a normal one. After that Ellone was said goodbye to, and finally they were on their way to a nice, warm, well-deserved beds. Just what they had all been longing for. Of course it was early in the morning in reality, but nobody cared. Only one time existed. Time for a long nap.

 

 

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Seifer threw his buddies an annoyed look. "Stop messing around. They'll be here, just be patient." "It's cold y'know? And I'm hungry. My belly hurts…ya know?" Raijin nagged. Fujin stopped showing off her pinwheel in front of the two guys. It's just that she hadn't used it in a while. She had hardly lifted a finger in the battle with Balamb Garden. The Galbadian soldiers did all the fighting. FOOLS. Let them die for the Sorceress if they want, but not Fujin, no way. -"Any minute now…" Seifer muttered under his breath. He looked in both directions of the Railway Bridge. Not a soul in sight, excellent. There shouldn't be a problem then. Not that the Lunatic Pandora wouldn't be noticed anyway, but the longer it took the enemy from knowing where it was, the better. In war, the element of surprise is very valuable. … "FH is a nice town, huh you guys?" Raijin said to break the silence. He'd really thought about it. Fujin questioningly stared at him. Strange how she'd never expected Raijin to say something like that. -"…I suppose…" Seifer answered with his arms folded over his chest. "…Great place to fish too." For a minute, Fujin considered the guys' minds had been taken over by evil space aliens that made them say stuff like that. "FISH?!" A kick to Raijin's shine wouldn't even help to clear his mind from this idiotic idea, so she didn't bother. -"Yeah!" Raijin exclaimed, suddenly seeing in all clearly in front of him. "Think 'bout it. Us living in FH. No Sorceress, Garden or anythin'. We could fish all day y'know?" "UNLIKELY." He looked down. "Well, whadda you think Seifer?" -"…Who knows? I can't be the Sorceress' Knight forever. I'll have to retire one day…" Raijin laughed. "We'll become the best fishermen around ya know!" "FOOL." Fujin called loudly.

 

 

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"Here we go." Nida informed and pushed forward the rudder. The whole Garden shook and slowly picked up speed. He had to be careful not to hit anything on the way out of FH. Luckily it didn't take long to reach the open seas. Nida turned to the Headmaster. "The heading, Sir?' -"Oh yes, yes." He uttered, momentarily confused. "I'm sorry, I wasn't paying any attention. The heading is…" Headmaster Cid saw Xu standing at the Com. panel just out if the corner of his eye. The fewer people that knew exactly the location of Zone Two, the better. It had to remain a closely guarded secret to be an effective hiding place. He straightened his vest. "Just head for the Centra Continent. I'll give you further instruction once we're closer to it." Nida saluted. "Yes Sir!" The Headmaster smiled. Things were starting to pick up. Once they'd reach their hiding place they could finally come up with an attack plan; a preemptive strike. Maybe the situation wasn't as hopeless as he thought. Xu's eyes widened, as the display screen colored red right in front of her. "Sir! Another system failure!" "What??" Cid hurried to the panel Xu stood at it. Error messages and warnings filled up the system status screen. Never before had Headmaster Cid experienced something like this. "I thought the crews had repaired most damage!" In sheer panic, Xu randomly hit buttons on the panel. Some of which she'd never used before. -"Nothing Sir!" She needlessly informed him. He could very well see it wasn't working. Nida started to panic as well, but there wasn't a thing he could do. He had to stay behind the rudder. Xu read the error messages. "Power to the elevators is dropping again! It's being drained!" "Drained?" Cid demanded to know. "What is doing this?" -"I'm sorry Sir, I don't have a clue!" Xu replied with a voice of concern. The Headmaster was startled for a few seconds. "Inform the repair crews, quickly, before the elevators stop again!" She ran off, without saluting even, meaning there was no time to spare.


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