Heading in the opposite direction, Quistis and Michelle were fairing much better. They had raided the compartments in Gerald Clark’s rooms, finding a contract that revealed Clark had owed a mysterious man a large amount of money. Pocketing the slip of paper the two had advanced on three more compartments, using their weapons to set off traps from long distance and arriving at the treasures in safety.
Wiping a droplet of sweat off her brow, Quistis sighed and looked around as the two stood in a hallway contemplating their next move.
“We’ve gone through this whole side, Irvine and Trianon will have done these ones, so…shall we start in the basement?” Quistis asked, her sapphire eyes looking around the map.
“Sounds good to me,” Michelle, sounding a lot more cheerful, began heading for the basement with Quistis behind her.
The mansion was dark in many places but both women had let their eyes adjust to the darkness before advancing anywhere. After descending a flight of stairs they found themselves in a pitch-black wooden hallway. The floor was lacquered wood and the walls a glassy stone, making the area cold.
“I can’t see a thing,” Michelle whispered.
“Do you have any Fire spells on you?” Quistis asked.
Michelle raised her hands and let a large luminous orb of fire grow above her head. As it expanded as larger as she could hold it she wound up her arm as if she were about to pitch a baseball and let the fiery orb fly. The two women watched the hallway be lit up by a gold and amber glow, highlighting a few paintings but otherwise nothing. Until it got to the end.
Their eyes widened as the orb smashed into a large black something and flickered out in a shower of sparks. A low growl emanated from the darkness while Michelle and Quistis stared at the end of the hidden hall in horror.
“Wh-wh-wh-what was that?” Michelle squeaked.
“A very large something,” Quistis whispered.
They fell quiet and then immediately let out twin shrieks. A loud pounding sound signaled the beast’s quick advance.
“We have to get into the light if we stand any chance,” Quistis shouted as she turned and dashed back down the hallway.
They paused as soon as the dim lamplight returned and whirled around, neither pausing to see if the thing was coming, but launching their weapons as soon as they had pivoted towards the creature. Michelle only had two daggers with her, but she threw one with her deadly accuracy and heard a high-pitched wail that ended in a low growl meet the solid thunk of her blade.
An edgy crack echoed in the hall as Quistis let her whip fly into the beast. Both of them backed up more, watching in shock as a massive black dragon-like thing crawled out of the hallway. It was stooped over to meet the small confines but once into the main corridor it began to stand up at its full height.
“I’ve never seen anything so big,” Quistis swallowed, “How did he get that thing in here?”
“It can’t even get to full height…” Michelle gasped in horror.
“We need to get it back in that wooden hallway, it won’t be able to fight properly if contained in the low ceiling,” Quistis hissed back.
“We have to drive it back?” Michelle’s eyes widened, “How?!”
“Magic I’m assuming,” Quistis replied, “Though I have no training on this creature, I have no idea what it is,”
“It looks old,” Michelle said after awhile, watching the dragon glare at them with smoky eyes.
“You’re right, dragons of this age have evolved from their predecessors, but this one doesn’t have the wing spikes, it’s talons are blunt and rounded, though probably harder…this thing must be ancient,” Quistis swallowed.
“It has a collar on, look,” Michelle pointed.
“I wonder how far it can come out,” Quistis wondered.
“Not far enough to wreck the house I bet, whoa, watch out!”
Both girls danced back as a massive arm whipped out at them. Crawling a deeply into the wooden boards the SeeDs watched splinters of wood wrench upwards, revealing a stone floor underneath. Without a word to each other they hopped back several more paces and began their attack.
Selphie and Nida had been grinning when they set out to tinker with the mansion. Although Quistis had stated rather calmly that the entire place had been full of traps, neither had expected the gruesome scene that awaited them. Mouths turned dry and eyes widened as bodies, now corpses presenting final attempts at freedom, lay littered throughout the garden.
“This is bad,” Selphie said softly, “I suggest we hack into the computer, take control of the building and try and turn them off from here.”
“Looking at the floor plan, we’ll still have to go inside. The main control space seems to be powered by a generator in the basement.”
Nida flicked his ash brown hair out of his almond eyes and sighed quietly. The two of them crawled into the back of their van where systems controls were spread out. Linking five computers together, the two of them began to experiment with their mechanical skills to get into the home computers of the mansion.
“I can get into Quistis’ computer, the one she told me about in her office. It seems to be the only room that isn’t trapped,” Selphie said after twenty minutes.
“Can you disable anything from there?”
“No, but I can use that computer to get to others I think,” Selphie squinted for a moment before beginning to press keys.
A silence settled over the van, the only exception being the clickety-clack of keyboards. An hour and a half passed before both of them let out cries of victory.
They shared grins and high-fived. Selphie grabbed her nunchakus from the front seat and Nida withdrew his long bow and a pistol for back up.
“Quistis recommended using float spells to get us through the majority of the traps, do you have any?” Selphie asked Nida.
“I have about twenty left, that should get us through, don’t you think?” The man smiled softly.
Dressed in slate blue jumpsuits, the two undercover SeeDs wandered casually above the air and into the mansion. Soon horrified by the scenery the two of them lapsed into a sombre silence. Selphie felt her soul wither up and clench tightly within her as she beheld frightening stories of torture and fear. Nida had stepped closer to her, both of them suddenly feeling the need for companionship. With all her heart, Selphie wished Squall were there to hold her hand.
“It’s this way to the basement, actually, looks like there are two routes, and both go to the same location,” Nida informed the girl.
“Let’s split up, can you go to the secretary’s office and see if anyone has met up over there? I’ll go straight to the generator and get everything shut down,” Selphie managed to smile.
“Sure thing,” Nida waved and jogged up a flight of stairs, avoiding the corpses that lined the steps.
Neither of them mentioned how awful it would be to wander the mansion alone.
Trianon watched dim hallucinations flicker over her eyes and then blink out in showers of sparks. Her body tingled with a burning feeling, but everywhere an arrow was lodged she felt cold. Her breath came out in shallow bursts as she lie still, eyes closed, fingers curled into palms. Every second felt like a small forever, but for a woman of her age she knew she could wait. She had gone through worse, much worse.
Quietly reflecting through her memories, the Guardian Force was completely oblivious to the presence drawing closer to her. By the time it was ten feet away she had become alert once more and was searching for a weapon. Finding only broken arrows, Trianon realized she would have to use magic, which would hurt. Lying like she was on the stairs she appeared to be dead, and hopefully whoever was coming would think that she wasn’t worth the bother.
The footsteps were padded, and she sensed magic floating in the air. Just as she prepared to blow the presence to bits she felt a much more familiar being. Leviathan. Relief seeped over her damaged body and she waited patiently for Nida to find her.
Nida, meanwhile, was feeling creeped out by all the bodies and blood scattered around the hallways. Limbs torn off what were now corpses were stuck to walls by arrows or lay around the floor with axes jammed into the bone. Feeling repulsed, Nida squinted and tried to block out everything in the hallway but the hallway itself.
The Secretary office had been empty, so he wasted no time in leaving a cryptic message and getting on with the mission. The sooner they were out of this horror show, the better. As he neared a junction in the route, Nida wondered if he should find other SeeDs before he went to the basement. If the maps were right he felt confident that he’d find a few on the next floor. Turning the corner to the staircase, Nida felt all the blood in his body turn cold.
Blood pooling over the stairs was fresh and glossy, and in the middle laid Trianon, her hair slick with crimson and her face paler than it was before.
The man rushed for her and fell at her side, splashing in the liquid that had yet to set into the carpet on the stairs.
“…GF…potions…please…” Trianon whispered softly,
“Oh thank Hyne you’re alive,” Nida fumbled for his belt pouch which contained many more supplies than any of the disguised SeeDs had.
He extracted the other arrows with careful precision, feeling sorry as she winced and whimpered under her breath, and administered five more potions into her body. From this, Trianon was able to stand though she leaned nearly all her weight on Nida.
"Irvine didn't take you with him?" Nida asked hesitantly, scared she might tell him that Irvine had been caught in a trap somewhere,
"I can't be junctioned with physical components inside of my body like this," Trianon coughed and pointed at the arrows Nida had dislodged, "I must only be myself. Irvine couldn't remove the arrows, I ordered him to complete the mission."
“Trianon, would it help if I junctioned you? You won’t have to walk then,” Nida suggested softly.
Her effervescent eyes took him on somberly for a moment, “You can …try,”
Gently taking the sapphire necklace off her, Nida watched her dissolve from the air. He slipped the silver chain around his neck and immediately felt the effects of vertigo launch to his head. The mansion grew fuzzy and he felt disoriented while his stomach turned inside him. The sheer magnitude of her power was overwhelming him, and he found he couldn’t carry her with his other Guardian Force.
Taking the sapphire off with what felt like swollen fingers, he watched Trianon solidify in the air and promptly crumple to the ground.
“How in Hyne’s Court does Irvine keep you with all his Guardian Forces?” Nida asked as he helped her up and cast a float spell on her.
“Doomtrain and Diablos have been with Irvine for so long that they do not require his power, and the link between Irvine and I exists deeply in both mind or soul,” Trianon said softly as she reeled from being tossed in and out of someone’s mind.
“The…soul?” Nida stared.
“Guardian Forces collect their power and house it in a human’s mind, you know this, but the deeper the bond, the deeper we invest in our host’s body. Quistis and Shiva, Selphie and Ifrit, all are steadily becoming soulmates with their Guardian Forces,” Trianon felt Nida’s arm encircle her waist as they began to hobble along.
It was almost too much to comprehend for the SeeD. Guardian Forces were so mysterious to him, and to think that they could bond so deeply…how could you ever unjunction a GF after a bond like that?
“Guardian Forces rest in the memory banks of their human counterparts, if you take over their souls…” Nida began.
“If we can bond to the soul of a human their memories will be left alone,” Trianon said, hesitating at the end of her sentence.
“But…?” Nida prompted, wondering if he really wanted to know,
“Sometimes a bond becomes too solid,” was all Trianon would reply.
Her short answer was clipped and harsh, and even though her voice was musical Nida could sense that she had said all she would. Still, his curiosity was now peaked and so was his worry for his friends.
“Selphie…and Quistis and Irvine, Squall too, they’re not in danger are they?” Nida looked directly into the eyes that seemed to shift colours as different lights reflected off them.
The eyes narrowed and lips pressed into a thin line, “No Guardian Force would ever put their master or mistress into danger,” Trianon replied acidly, taking obvious offence to his comment.
“J-just checking,” Nida backed down and the rest of their journey was in silence.
“Ohh yeah! Selphie the Spy! Selphie the Herooooo…ine! Deep in the dangerous depths of the mansion, our fearless leader…well…our fearless ADVENTURER…yeah that’s right…seeks to save her friends from the perilous traps of the deadly mansion! Yeah! YEAH!”
“She walks carefully, walks quietly, in search for anyone she knows, anything she can use as evidence against the EVIL Gerald Clark. She creeps down the hallway. She slides down the staircase. She is boldly going where only two others have ever gone…wait…THREE others, because Clark’s probably been down here…have ever gone before. Dun, dun, duuuuuuuuuun.”
“The crafty girl advances around a corner. She sliiiiiiides down the hallway. She stops. She listens. She hears…fighting? Our heroine must go to the rescue! Selphie the adventurer gears up to fly down the hallway! She takes her first and foremost ste—”
“She trips but makes a victorious recovery!”