With wariness still in the air, Balamb was re-opened completely and the guards were slowly let down. It was another four full days before Seifer returned to natural colour and managed to open his eyes. For a moment he couldn’t understand why Dr. Kadowaki of all people was looking down at him. Then he remembered. And then he let out a blue streak that would make even the most devilish pirate rogue blush crimson.
“Seifer Almasy I won’t have such language—”
“What am I doing here?” Seifer swung his legs over the edge of the bed, peeling off bandages and pulling out IVs, and stood up easily, “I didn’t ask to be brought here.”
“You couldn’t ask anything, you were out cold.” Kadowaki fired back with a dark look.
Seifer shrugged and began to stride out of the office, however he never made it far, because Quistis had been waiting like a bird of prey. She reached forward instantly, her fingers gripping into his arm tightly and pulling him forcefully down the hall until they were alone.
“What were you doing there?” She demanded.
“Stop the interrogation Trepe, I don’t belong here and I don’t owe you any answers,” Seifer looked feral.
“Seifer! Did you know the creature was going to be there?” Quistis continued anyhow, her dark blue eyes turning nearly black with her insistence.
“Creature?” Seifer looked confused for a moment.
“The thing in black, you were fighting it, when I came in all there was to see was a smear of thick blood.” Quistis put her hands on her hips and narrowed her eyes, “Tell me the truth Seifer.”
“I was just as surprised to see it, Trepe, I don’t know what the hell is going on any more than you do and I’m going…going home.”
“You have no home.” Quistis whispered.
Seifer stopped where he was. For a moment Quistis could see through his aquamarine eyes, she could see the pain fresh and alive there. His eyes closed up instantly though, covering into darkness and masking his expression, aside from the sneer he wore so often. She watched his fingers curl to fists at his side as he stared her down.
“I’ll find one then.”
“Seifer, if you’re attacked again and no one finds you the poison could kill you.”
“Don’t tell me, Trepe, that you want me to stay,” Seifer said through gritted teeth.
“I want answers. That thing attacked Selphie, she was out for days, it hurt her, it hurt me, and others as well. It is a threat.”
“Don’t go militaristic on me Trepe, I’m not part of Balamb.”
“Get killed then.”
Quistis shoved Seifer backwards and pivoted sharply, “You’re an unhelpful bastard.”
Seifer didn’t bother replying, he just made sure he was out of Balamb in a hurry. It had felt suffocating to be back in those walls. He would find somewhere else to stay. There were plenty of places to go. He knew exactly where he could catch a ride to somewhere perfect, too.
Garden was parked close to the water, and after hitching a short ride to the transcontinental bridge, coupled with a very lengthy walk in the cool sea breeze, Seifer reached his destination. The town of Fisherman’s Horizon was up and busy, leaving plenty of crowds for Seifer to disappear into. He hated having confrontations with Quistis and dwelt on the short conversation they had had. She wasn’t a soft woman, she was iron-hard and cold. She needed no heroes because she saved herself, Hyne, had Quistis been in his spot she would be living somewhere by the ocean completely independent. Seifer felt his fingernails bite into the meat of his palms. Why couldn’t he put himself back together?
Hearing the water lap against the docks soon calmed the man as he walked to the end of the wooden planks and sat down in the sun. He was feeling tired, a side effect of all the curing magic and sudden travel, no doubt. The glorious day soon lulled him to sleep. For a space in time, Seifer felt peace.
The evening had Quistis and Squall together again, in silence as usual, walking around the perimeter of Garden. Quistis was wearing a knee-length black jacket that was belted around her waist tightly, in favour of her usual attire. Squall had chosen his normal clothes for they were already black. They trudged through the grass, having taken one of the other exits out of Balamb, instead of the main one into the town. The moon above wasn’t full but in a transitional phase between crescent and half, it gave off little light but the stars made up for that.
Quistis glanced around and saw more of the same, darkness. It was all they had found that night and all the others since. Squall unconsciously changed their direction and they headed for the town to look around the empty streets. It was early in the morning, nowhere near dawn and twilight had faded to blackness long ago as well. Quistis and Squall noted the bridge to FH in the distance and decided to expand their search. Being out in the water might also keep the Garden safer, and they returned to move their giant home towards the docks. They would patrol the area first to make sure it was secure.
Meanwhile, Seifer was waking up to the same night and for a moment he didn’t know where he was. Standing up and dusting himself off he looked back into the shrouded town and sighed. Time to find a place to sleep. As his footsteps traced over the docks he heard whispers echoing through the empty streets. Frowning and looking around in the pale blue light Seifer tried to figure out where they were coming from.
Seifer turned around but couldn’t see anything. It was very, very, black. A sudden movement in the corner of his eye had the ex-knight throwing his arm up to shield himself and grabbing for Hyperion. His feet scrambled for purchase on the creaky docks and his eyes widened as a black cloak whisked past his cheek.
“Seifer?” Quistis looked at Squall for confirmation to the shout she had just heard.
He nodded and they broke into a run. They had to dash around several corners and backtrack once before they collided with something and were both knocked down. Quistis rolled to a stop and was on her feet within seconds, sending her whip crashing out in to the night.
Squall stood seconds later in time to push Quistis to one side when a black figure swirled between them, nearing slicing Quistis open with a hooked talon. Quistis spun to one side, and heard her whip coil around part of the figure. It was so dark she couldn’t see very much but her instinct told her that now would be a good time to pull.
And she did.
There was a terrible shriek and Quistis felt claws drag across her cheek roughly. She cursed, Squall cursed and brought his gunblade colliding with the cloak on the figure, and a second blade rang out.
Quistis felt the poison numb her cheek instantly and her concentration began to haze over. Quickly she assumed her casting stance and sent magical Esuna into her own body, but the poison made the spell weak, it did nothing to help her.
She was falling to the street, her whip tied up around her and the figure, locking them together. Her eyes opened deliriously and she mumbled blankly. The poison was in her eyes, in her mouth, making her numb much more easily than it would have if it had entered her side. She felt lips on her own, a kiss?
“Quistis!” Squall was fighting to free his sword from the layers and layers of cloak. He was entangled in all the cloth and there was another person, Seifer, looking blankly as if he didn’t know what to do.
They didn’t want to strike if they might hit Quistis Trepe. She was underneath the figure, not moving, and the figure was trying to get up but it, too, was caught by Squall’s sword. If the cloaks came off it would be revealed. There was an animalistic hiss and a violent ripping of cloth. Squall tumbled back a step and then charged as soon as he caught his balance. The creature’s talons raked across the blade and blood leaked out on to the shiny silver surface. Squall was pushed backwards again and the figure leapt to the buildings lining the street, scaling the hard surface of brick and metal until it had reached the rooftops.
Below Squall swore while Seifer knelt to see if Quistis was still alive. His heart raced with adrenaline. What the hell had that thing been? Squall looked at the piece of cloth left, discarded on the ground, it wouldn’t help them but there was no loss in keeping it just in case. He turned and then wordlessly helped Seifer bundle Quistis up. Her breathing was ragged but after Seifer drew all her Esuna spells and Squall had used up all of his own she was looking much better. Supported by the two men, Quistis was able to walk but she stumbled often and at one point had no idea where she was.
“What was that?” Seifer asked quietly, his voice sounding dead.
“Don’t know,” Squall replied.
Seifer sighed; he was too tired to even put up some sort of argument. They folded Quistis into one of the little boats FH kept for coastal trips and both grabbed a paddle. When they neared Balamb, Seifer stopped walking, making Squall have to hesitate as well, to which the brunette looked annoyed at.
“I’m not going back, take her, here’s her whip,” Seifer announced gruffly.
Squall just nodded. He balanced Quistis in one arm and took her gear in the other. As Seifer turned his back to them he could hear Squall whispering encouragements to Quistis, trying to get her to walk.
Seifer turned around and faded back into the darkness. He didn’t want to get involved.