True to her natural abilities, Selphie was up and at it within two days of her falling. This time she, and everyone around her, was dead-set on staying healthy. Classes were getting harder but the SeeDs planned their own study sessions, and Quistis set it upon herself to get Selphie all caught up. The tall blonde had only been physically hurt, she was otherwise fine, so the two friends sat down in Quistis’ dorm and chatted while they worked on their assignments.
“I wish Seifer stayed,” Selphie said thoughtfully, breaking a silence that had built up.
“Hm?” Quistis looked up, causing a lock of blonde hair to fall in front of her face.
It hung there, cutting her vision in two as she looked at Selphie. The brunette was staring out of the window with a pen hanging loosely from her lips; the knuckles of one hand were balancing her chin while the corresponding elbow was resting on the table. Sunlight from outside streamed in and graced her face with radiant light.
“I wish he stayed,” Selphie repeated softly, “I would’ve liked to see him again,”
“He hasn’t changed,” Quistis told her just as quietly.
When Selphie’s emerald eyes focused on Quistis’ face they were unnaturally bright, “But he still can.”
Quistis couldn’t speak, she only nodded. Seifer Almasy change? She supposed it might be possible, but he wasn’t here anymore. For some reason it made her feel somber and even unsettled. He was out there with that creature, but maybe it wouldn’t attack him, there had been no reports of civilians being harmed after all. The thought was laced with comfort and Quistis was able to get back to her work. Across from her, Selphie had already resumed scratching out the outline of the new ship, completely oblivious to the impact her words had had on Quistis.
Being an adventurous lass with a golden heart, Selphie decided to take Quistis and Squall out to FH and treat them to ice cream. Pulling Squall out of the office was not an easy task, but Quistis finally appeased him by mentioning that they could bring their work to the café.
The brooding man stayed silent for the ride to FH but once there they managed to get one-word answers out of him which both woman found to be a great achievement. Selphie couldn’t help pouting though, Rinoa’s absence was still on his mind, and it had been a long time since she had left. Spooning mint-chocolate chip ice cream into her mouth like a man lost for months in the desert, she was finished before the other two and instantly burst out into her customary babble.
“I finished designing the engine for the ship today! It’s so cool! I can’t wait to get it all moved up and put together, Nida’s gonna be jealous of me!”
“No one would be jealous of a girl that short.”
Selphie looked up with a pout that quickly turned to surprise as Seifer strolled up, a smirk on his face. The amusement didn’t make it up to his eyes though, “That thing from those nights ago got me again. I don’t have any detoxifiers.”
“I have some Esuna,” Quistis offered, kicking a chair out for him to sit.
As Seifer sat down Quistis began to cast the spells over and over again to make sure the weird poisons were out of his blood. While she preformed her magic Selphie continued.
“Anyhow. I’ve made it so the engine will be super-silent! It’s a new model, part of a zodiac line Balamb is just starting, thanks to extra-funding from Esthar. The first one gets to be mine, and it’s the Aries model, the next will be more for Nida’s specifications, he gets to have Aquarius. The Aries is for offensive AND defensive work though, and all with the grace of a stealth ship. Aquarius will be different, she’ll still be stealth, but made more for high-altitude flying, ships like the Taurus will be all-terrain. Eeee! I’m so excited!”
“Sounds like you have your work cut out for you,” Quistis smiled warmly as she finished Seifer’s repairs.
He stood up instantly, surprising them all, “Why don’t you hang out with us for awhile,” Quistis offered with a small smile.
“I have to go,” Seifer shrugged and turned with a flourish of his trench coat.
Quistis frowned but said nothing. Seifer must have lost a lot of time with the poison in his body, but why hadn’t he just come back to Balamb? Were the memories from there too much to deal with? She traced lines into the condensation on her glass as her crystal blue eyes darkened, wondering if Seifer would be okay with only a few rounds of magic to help stave off the strange poison.
“When will the Aries be finished?” Squall asked, finishing his ice cream and pushing the empty glass into the middle of the table.
“The outside plating has been ordered, and it’s simple to just install it, the magic of Aries is the engine, and I’m the only one who knows how to work it,” Selphie beamed with pride.
Squall nodded slowly and settled his grey-blue eyes on the tabletop. Seifer had been walking around with the poison inside him for awhile, yet he had been able to stand it. Perhaps he hadn’t had a big dose, but it still made Squall wonder. If every time they were attacked someone suffered from poison then how would they win? Why was this even happening? They had no leads nor clues as to why they were being attacked.
Quistis was also lost in thought, and hers were not so different from Squall’s. The blonde was trying to figure out how the creature got in, and why it would attack. Though, she supposed, if it was an animal and was trapped in Balamb it’s instincts would probably urge it to fight its way out. There was just something…wrong with it all. It seemed to be staying close to them, regardless of where they went.
“How would it get in?” She murmured absently.
“Oh, that’s easy, I made a specialized cavity in the hull that can support all the artillery we need, the ship will have pulsar guns on every side and twin laser cannons on the front as well as heavier shells on the back…” Selphie continued without skipping a beat.
Quistis looked up and blinked, confused and bewildered for a moment until she realized what had happened. Smiling, she took another spoon of ice cream and reminded herself to listen to Selphie more intently.
As Seifer walked away he could hear Selphie’s perky voice chattering away about the ship and the engine. He wondered how Squall could stand it, he was so quiet and she was so loud. Quistis could tolerate the brunette, but then, Quistis could tolerate anything.
“Probably even me.” He mused absently.
The words shocked him, and for a moment he went ice cold before flushing with heat. Why would he say such a thing? Seifer rolled his eyes and shook it off. It was just a fact. Trepe was like iron. Seifer pushed the thoughts aside completely when he began searching for a place to crash. There was a cheap hotel near the other side of town and he figured he could win enough gil gambling to afford it for a few nights. He had nowhere else to go.
Card games later and a pocket full of extra change, even after purchasing a room, Seifer was touring the scene at dusk to relieve himself of boredom and he found himself back near the docks.
He sat at the very end with his legs swinging over the edge. After everything with the sorceresses he had fucked up his life. There was no home, no friends, Fuujin, Raijin, he had left them just so that he could get rid of some of the guilt. Now he just wandered, and what sort of life was that? He knew they’d let him return to Garden but the adjustment would be too much of a strain for everyone. It would be constant reminder of his past, but what wasn’t? He was recognized everywhere, sometimes left alone, sometimes shouted at. Either way he knew what kind of vermin he was for all the things he had done. But the sorceresses…they had needed him, cared for him, he was important to them. And in Garden he was a number. All but the top elite SeeDs were numbers, he was surprised their instructor’s remembered all the names, but then they had sheets of paper on their desks telling them whom everyone was.
As the night sky cleared and deepened to blackness Seifer was suddenly aware of voices once more. He wanted to tell them to shut up, let him think in peace, but this wasn’t his city so he just lay back on the docks, making himself invisible, and listened to them.
“Cinderella…at the ball…meet her prince…”
Chuckling ended the last statement and Seifer frowned. The conversation had been faint but words he had received made no sense at all. Feeling bored and frustrated he rolled over and stood up only to crouch down immediately.
“What the hell?” He hissed, his eyes wide and palms flat against the docks.
Three stooped over figures were standing half in the shadows of a building, half in the moonlight conversing. All three were completely cloaked with talons on their fingers slicing down out of their sleeves, looking seven inches long and deep burgundy. Their cloaks were layered and trickling across the ground, but what alarmed Seifer more was that they had spoken in common tongue. Which meant…
“They’re human. Or at least humanoid.” He whispered grimly under his breath.
Perhaps it was because the night was so silent, or perhaps the water around him carried his voice, but like a snap of his fingers the three creatures jerked their heads towards him and suddenly flew forward at lightning speed. Seifer cursed, his aqua eyes turning to saucers. Seifer threw his arms up over his head and yelled as he felt cloth and nail streak past him violently. He whirled around and gasped as the three creatures were gone. Not in the air. Not in the water. He didn’t want to find out where they went. Seifer did not waste any time in running over the docks all the way back to the hotel. He slammed the door of his bedroom and tore the trench coat from his frame, staring at the slashes in it. Red scratches lined his arms, criss-crossed over his torso, but they were all shallow. His chest was heaving and he ran a shaking hand through his hair, sitting at the end of his bed and trying to catch his breath.
“Aries,” He whispered, “But isn’t that…fucking poison!”
Seifer closed his eyes and felt a tremor run through his body. It was inevitable. He’d have to go back to Balamb.