Cities, like dreams,
are made of desires and fears,
even if the thread of their discourse is secret,
their rules are absurd,
their perspectives deceitful,
and everything conceals something else.
–Flash of blue light–
“You may not pass!”
Without warning the Umbrae ceased their unrelenting attack, pausing in their effort to penetrate the barrier she had erected. The wraithlike creatures stood completely still. As if inwaiting. Suddenly, a fell voice slithered into her mind, trying to wrestle with her control… Tired. Yes. She was tired. But not helpless. Summoning all the power in her command, she slammed the doors of her consciousness close to the insidious whisperings of the voice.
(Lady Kiestus Xioma do not make it harder for thyself…)
A Master Caster. She should feel insulted at the slight. Even if Master Casters were at the very top of the hierarchy. But all she felt was relief. In her present condition, the Doma would have broken through her barriers like a sharp blade through paper. However, she could still deal with the likes of a mere minion, even one as powerful as she sensed this one to be. The caster’s foul aura was somewhere nearby… heavily cloaked by a shield of
She was having none of this subterfuge. Lifting her staff high she rammed it down hard against the ground shooting small reverberations of power through the vast room.
A small shriek, and the figure of the caster was revealed. It was unmistakable. This one belonged in the rarefied upper echelons of the hierarchy: crimson mask, black cloak trimmed with the symbols of power, and protected by the fearsome army of unliving warriors it had
learned to control.
(I finally understand the reason they want thee alive, my lady. Thou art indeed powerful, and as such, useful to our cause. )
Some of the Umbrae surged forth, only to be dispersed by another powerful flash of blue magic.
“I repeat. You cannot pass.”
(Now, now, Lady Xioma, what be the use of thy defiance? The Seal of Aleph shall soon be no more, dispersed to oblivion by the very power it sought to contain. With the One gone, ‘tis only a matter of time ere Beth, Gimel and all the rest succumb. One by one all the Seals
of Seven will crumble to dust, and Truth shall finally be revealed!)
She ignored the taunting voice in her mind, and concentrated on keeping the Umbrae away from the Chamber of Rituals. Soon. She could sense its gathering energy –a most wholesome energy– coalesce and consolidate. Soon the ritual would be complete, and the Aleph would regain some of its strength. This, the foul creature did not know.
Time. Time was of the essence. Time to heal. Time to rebuild. To regenerate. It was their sacred duty to ensure this. Odin and herself, as true descendents of the lineage of Seven, were the upholders of the trust. She would allow nothing to stand in the way of its fulfilment. Her own children’s chances of survival depended on this outcome. That knowledge alone gave her strength. She drew up her last dregs of her reserves…
(Thou art becoming weaker, my lady… Please allow me to expedite thy demise!)
Suddenly her eyes flared open. A tremendous force was trying to break through her barrier. Pain. Intense pain. Concentrate! She needed to concentrate. She tasted the saltiness of her own blood as it trickled from her lips to her chin trailing a thin path down her neck. Her aching body had already sustained much damage. It was standing by the strength of her will alone.
“The path is sealed to you.”
(Why art thou so stubborn, Lady Xioma? Surely thou canst last much longer… We are offering thee the choice to live. Serve us and thou shalt regain thy full strength!)
More Umbrae and their casters entered the chamber. Soon she would be surrounded, but she stood her ground.
(What is thy verdict, lady?)
She smiled. She knew their foul leader was perplexed by the aura of calmness she exuded. She also heard echoes of a voice begging her to desist, but there was no time to trace it back to source. The room was almost full with the Umbrae, and their Casters. Good. The Umbrae could not be destroyed, but it took time and energy to train Casters. And talent. Only those with talent could be used. It pained her to see that they had been able to seduce so many… They were getting ready to attack her again.
“Goodbye, beloved.” She whispered.
Raising her voice to its full power, she uttered the forbidden words that blue mages had been taught for centuries to respect and to fear.
As the sound of the words resonated in the room, a powerful flash of blue light engulfed everything…
Strong hands seized her shoulders, and shook her.
“Quistis! Dammit!” –Shake– “Wake up!”
“Wake the fuck up!”
Pain. But not that pain…
“Quistis! –Shake– Snap out of it!”
Suddenly, Seifer felt her arms grab his shoulders while she stared at him blindly, tears running unchecked down her cheeks… She had never looked so afraid nor so vulnerable to him as in that particular moment. He tightened his arms around her.
Deep blue eyes full of shadows, stared up into his but they were eerily unfocused. The voice coming out of her lips sounded odd as well. It was her voice, but not hers.
“I didn’t die?… Why?”
“ –Shake– Quistis! What the hell are you babblin’ about?”
She heard a familiar voice call out a name as if from a very long distance… ‘Quistis…Th-that’s a familiar name…’ She tasted the saltiness of…tears? Tears, not blood. Again she heard that familiar masculine voice.
“Dammit! –Shake– Fucking snap out of it!”
That masculine voice was calling her most insistently.
“Quistis! Wake up!”
‘That’s right…. That’s…me.’
With great effort she resurfaced. She opened her eyes, and stared into a very familiar face. A very familiar frowning face.
Her throat felt raw. His grip on her shoulders was like a manacle.
“Who the fuck d’you think it was at this time of night?!”
His voice sounded rough, but the arms around her were gentle. She was still trying to distinguish between dream and reality, but somehow his presence reassured her… She took a deep breath, and pressed her head against his chest. The steady sound of his strong heartbeat made her feel better. A hand lifted her chin and made her stare into his eyes, eerily illuminated by the strange mixture of city lights and moonlight filtering through the wide windows of her bedroom.
“What the hell was that all about?”
She didn’t know what else to say. All she could remember was a vast sense of emptiness.
She nodded, still trying to shake off the vestiges of a remembered pain, both remote and vague. Now that she felt more like herself, she should really get off his arms, but his closeness calmed her.
“I’m sorry I hit you.”
She moved her head which was tucked under his chin, “No, it’s alright…”
The soothing strokes of his hand across her back made her feel better, more secure. He smelled nice too. His skin felt smooth and so warm… Unconsciously cuddling closer to him, she slipped one hand around his neck and the other across his waist. Her eyes flew wide open.
She drew in a sharp intake of breath.
“OUCH! Fuck! Watch it, Trepe!”
In her rush to place a distance between herself and his nude body, she’d hit her head against his chin!
“SEIFER! You’re naked!”
“What the hell did you expect? … Oh! That’s Trepe screamin’ her head off, but let me see what I’ll wear first…”
“You could’ve at least worn pants or something!”
“No can do, Instructor… I ain’t changin’ my sleepin’ habits just ‘cause you’re such a prude… ‘sides I have all that’s necessary here.”
He got up and grabbed Hyperion to show her what he meant. He smirked when he noticed that her eyes widened before swiftly looking away. The moonlight filtering through the huge windows illuminated the lovely curve of her shoulders and the thin straps of the white camisole she wore to sleep. One of them had fallen off her shoulder. Unable to resist the temptation, he went to her and planted a butterfly soft kiss on her left shoulder, even as he pushed the strap back in place. He not only heard her swift intake of breath, but also felt the slight tremor coursing down her body. Good. In spite of everything, in spite of that little fucker Zone, he still had the power to affect her. He turned to leave before she could recover sufficiently to berate him for the little liberty he took.
“Better get some shut-eye, Trepe. Tomorrow we leave early for Timber.”
The door to her room slid silently close behind him. He hadn’t been able to help himself. He’d spat out the name of where that little shit Zone lived. Maybe in this trip he would find some answers as to why she chose that loser over him. She was certainly not indifferent to him. He frowned, replaying in his mind –and not for the first time– the televised scene of her kissing Zone as that little diptshit let her hotel room late at night. Had it been any other person, that light peck on the lips would’ve just been interpreted as a ‘friendly’ salute, even a comforting one. But this was Trepe, the ‘Ice Maiden’. She’d been the one to grab Zone’s shoulder, and she’d been the one to kiss the little ass… ‘What the fuck does she see in that loser?’
Short of forcing himself on her –and on a purely physical level they were more than compatible– her mind, however, was something else. He knew that to only have one aspect of her would not be enough. Not even close. He’d known a long time ago that with the likes of Quistis Trepe, he wanted the whole package or nothing. He’d forced himself to be patient, when he was truly not that kind of a person. He’d forced himself to wait for her to come to him.
Changing direction during mid stride, Seifer made his way to the kitchen. He needed a drink. He didn’t bother with lights. The illumination from outside was more than enough, besides his night vision was acute.
During their Centra mission, allowing her to go by herself to scout the area had been the hardest thing he’d ever done. After closing the door on her, he has to suppress the urge to rip it open and go after her…if only to cover her back. The only thing stopping him had been Irvine’s warning look. It said, ‘she’ll never forgive you if you do.’ He understood the meaning of pride. ‘The other me would’ve rushed the moment, ready to play hero. I wouldn’t have taken her pride nor her self-worth into consideration…’ But he’d been cured of that, and it was a bitter pill to take. But that was before, when he’d do anything to fulfil his so called ‘romantic dream’ of being a sorceress knight, not caring in his self-righteousness on who he trampled, just so he could believe in the fallacy of having saved the day.
Strange how the fulfilment of his childhood dream made everything fall to tiny pieces, too small for even the smallest of hands to pick up. That bitch Ultimecia had done a good job of impersonating Matron…but not good enough. Had he not rushed so eagerly to become her knight, he would’ve noticed the discrepancies instead of overlooking them…
“Nice going, Chicken-wuss! You and your stupid big mouth! Take care of this mess! Instructor and Mr. Leader!”
He’s been real pissed at Zell for shooting off his mouth, and furious that once again she’d chosen Squally over him! He would just have to show them! It would be up to him to clean up the mess! With his gunblade on Deling he’d stepped into the other room. Of course, miss Goody-Goody Trepe would follow him along with the rest of the losers. That’s when he noticed the flash of light…
“…Poor, poor boy…”
“Stay away from me!”
It was the mysterious sorceress. She ignored everyone present and spoke to him only in a very taunting voice.
“Such a confused little boy. Are you going to step forward? Retreat? You have to decide.”
He saw Quistis rushing to him. Dammit! Did Trepe think herself fucking indestructible?! He yelled at her.
But the sorceress had cast something on Quistis which had paralysed her. The others went to her aid. He refocused his attention on the witch. It was him she wanted.
“The boy in you is telling you to come. The adult in you is telling you to back off. You can’t make up your mind. You don’t know the right answer. You want help, don’t you? You want to be saved from this predicament.”
He was already pissed at seeing Trepe go down, and what she’d said pissed him some more!
“Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Besides, you’re only a little boy.”
That did it! And in front of Puberty-boy too! The bitch was coming down!
“I’m not… Stop calling me a boy.”
“You don’t want to be a boy anymore?”
He needed to get her out of the way soon. Trepe needed help. But he could not leave her taunts unanswered…
“I am not a BOY!”
A strange force compelled him to let go of President Deling. The fucking coward ran away.
“Come with me to a place of no return. Bid farewell to your childhood.”
Good. She was leaving and taking him with her. Once they were away from the others, he would cut her down and he’d be hailed as a great hero! He brandished his gunblade in the air for the others to see he was going willingly. In a flash of light they were gone.
Sorceress Edea had magically teleported them to her rooms at the Presidential Palace in Deling City. Once there, she sat down on a very grandiose and ornate chair that was located in the center of the large room. More than a chair, it looked like a throne. Not knowing what to expect, he gauged his surroundings looking for a possible exit, and tightened his grip on Hyperion. Large amber eyes watched him expectantly.
“You don’t remember me, do you?”
“Huh?!” He was thoroughly confused by the unexpected question.
“Come, child, and kneel before me!”
“I told you…”
Again, that same strange force compelled him forward and made him kneel before her! Against his will, his head bowed down. Scowling at his predicament, but unable to move, he heard her voice… It was an eerily familiar one…
“It saddens me that you cannot remember me, child.”
He felt the palm of her hand cradle his face, and lift it up to hers. The contact made his skin tingle uncomfortably…
“I see you wear the fire-crosses I have drawn for you so long ago…and yet have forgotten all about me…”
It was his fatal mistake to look into her eyes. Her amber eyes, so sad, looked familiar to him. She smelled of the sea and of deep affection. Something he had sorely missed, sorely longed for, but had not known it. Suddenly, memories and sensations long suppressed by the forceful junctioning of GFs rushed back into his consciousness. It was like waking up from a long dream…
“Matron…” He’s said that forgotten name in deep wonder.
“Do you remember me now?”
“Yes. Yes, I do.”
“I’m a sorceress now. Cid Kramer has forsaken me. I have no one, but you, my child. Will you become my knight?”
Her eyes had been so full of sadness when she’d asked him. That was when he decided in the utter arrogance of his youth to stand for her and defend her against everything and everyone that tried to harm her.
“Matron! It will be the greatest of honours to become your knight!”
She withdrew the hand from his face.
“Very well, my knight, this shall be your first task…”
Seifer took a swig of Krakka ale, and let the bitter dark taste of the drink settle in his palate. That was the only time that Matron as the Sorceress had touched him or shown him any sign of affection. At the very edge of his psyche, he felt Tiamat stir… ‘So these memories make you uncomfortable too?’ They have allowed themselves to be corrupted by that witch. All the signs had been there for him to see, had he wanted to see them, but in his blind rush for his own selfish fulfilment he’d left everything behind… ‘I wanted recognition…’ Tiamat stirred again,‘You wanted power…’ He took another long swig of the bitter brew, and looked pensively at Quistis’s closed door, ‘Now we both pay for our selfish desires…’
He looked down at himself and sighed ruefully. Cold shower, then sleep. Like it or not, Timber would be their next destination. Watching Quistis interact with Zone, would definitely be a good test for his newly acquired self-control.
§ § §
Quistis watched the doors slide close, effectively blocking Seifer’s tall powerful figure from sight. Did the man know no shame, parading around in the nude? She snorted, of course not, he was Seifer Almasy, as arrogant and self assured now as the day he was born! And dangerous. She sighed and slid back into the warm covers. Too warm. Her body felt overheated as it was… She squirmed trying to find a more comfortable position. Exasperated at herself and at her own inability to control her emotions, she threw the covers off. It was
too hot anyway… Giving up on any attempt at sleeping, she sat up and drew her arms around her legs, resting her head on her knees, ‘So many lights… Esthar City is beautiful at night…’
It was frustrating, not being able to remember the disturbing dream. At least if she could recall parts of it, she could make some sense out of this irrational fear she felt sometimes. In the back of her mind she could feel Shiva trying to soothe her frayed nerves… Like most
people, she had her fair share of nightmares. Thinking on those recurring dreams she had of Matron, she took a deep breath and decided, ‘Some nightmares are worse than others…’, but they had never made her scream…or if she did, at least no one heard them. At B-Garden all SeeD quarters were sealed to afford its denizens some measure of privacy. Although she was quite sure she those horrible dreams did not make her scream… When she woke from those dreams she was drenched up in a cold sweat, but her throat never felt raw, like it did now.
Those horrifying dreams of mutilating Matron had not returned, but they had been replaced by something else… Something she couldn’t remember at all. Whatever it was had made her scream loud enough to draw Seifer into her room. She swallowed again. Her throat felt sore and her body heavy. She had the strangest of sensations, as if she’d learned something… She felt Shiva’s restlessness, ‘I guess it makes you uneasy too…’ Sometimes she wished she could actually communicate with her GF, but the most she’d ever got was the imprint of an emotion or a strong urge…
She stared at the incredible view of Esthar City at night with Lunatic Pandora’s huge superstructure serving as backdrop, like some bizarre squarish mountain. It was strange how used she’d gotten to a view that used to awe her so much only a few months ago. She thought about the architects of Lunatic Pandora. They had created a monster. Unlike the simplicity of its plain outer rectangular shape, the interior was a extremely complex maze of interconnected corridors going up, down and in all sorts of impossible directions. It had no concept of floors. Still, the various experts working on the LP project had managed to map out the structure’s hermetic interior, and they had facetiously named the areas after the strength of the area’s guardian so that ‘Level 20 Crystal Hall 16J’ actually meant monster level ‘20’, on the y-z axis grid where y was 16 and z was J. Crystal Hall was just a name they used to dub the central x-axis…
Feeling restless, Quistis got off the bed and went to the bathroom. Sensors were activated and the room lit up making her squint at the brightness.
Automatically, the system recognized her voice command and the lights went dimmer. Her own bleary eyes stared back at her from the mirror. Unable to help herself, her eyes strayed to the place where Seifer had placed his lips ever so slightly. Unconsciously, she raised her hand to touch it with trembling fingers, feeling the goosebumps coursing over her skin all over again… She thought about the times he’d kissed her senseless… ‘But that was before I came to Esthar…’ She didn’t want to admit it, but she’d come here with a certain sense of expectation, only to have it suffer a great tumble when she found out about Kiara. ‘I knew he was fooling with me… but I thought… –Sigh– Does it really matter now what I thought?’ She knew she was not his type. She’d known it for a while, but still she’d hang on to her foolish hopes… ‘Quistis Trepe, let that be your reality check… Seifer just likes messing with you.’ There was no way she could compete with the Kiaras of this world…
She needed to go out more… ‘Maybe I’ll accept Fred’s invitation after all…’ When she went shopping with Ellone for Nida’s wedding, she’d literally stumbled upon Frederic Jenssen…
“I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to bump into you!”
“Quistis are you okay?!”
Both Fred and Ellone had spoken at the same time. She had blushed a bright red at her clumsiness, feeling annoyed at Seifer for refusing to come himself to buy the shoes he needed to attend the ceremony…
“Fred? Frederic Jenssen?”
“The same, miss Trepe! From Jenssen’s Café in B-City.”
She’d felt such a huge wave of homesickness to hear Fred refer to Balamb that way! She introduced him to Ellone, who promptly suggested they grab a bite to eat together. She had thought that Fred would decline, after all the last time they’ve seen each other had been highly embarrassing thanks to Seifer’s rudeness, but to her surprise he had accepted Sis’s invitation with alacrity and had even suggested a place!
That’s when she found out that Fred, as he’d asked them to call him, had won a very prestigious scholarship to study International Relations at Esthar Memorial University…
Quistis smiled recalling that meeting. It had been nice to see such a friendly and familiar face from back home! ‘Maybe after I return from Timber I’ll take up Fred’s invitation to go out…’ She wasn’t sure how she’d make it time wise , but she would definitely keep this in mind. Feeling better, she went back to bed.
This time she had a peaceful dreamless sleep.
§ § §
Grandidi City, Trabia
(Hideyoshi Family Crest: A chrysanthemum sliced by a katana)
I’m writing this letter to remind you of the sacred duty entrusted to you since birth.
It has been many years now since we last spoke to each other. I hope you are keeping well in that organization you have chosen over the wishes of your own family. The only satisfaction I draw is that a member of the Naosu clan, and the only niece of Mistress Tahera Ganryu is also part of this Garden organization.
As the last surviving female of our line, the time might come for you to fulfil your duty and pay the debt of honour that has weighted down the Hideyoshi clan for many decades now. The holders of the debt might finally come to claim what belongs to them. If that time comes, you already know what to do. It has been taught to you from the cradle, and in turn you are to teach it to your own daughter if
the debt remains unclaimed.
Xu crumbled the note, handwritten in her mother’s own hand, and hurled it viciously against one of the walls in her room. Even a top notched SeeD could not escape her family history. She sighed uncharacteristically, and stood up to retrieve the crumpled parchment. The letter was short of an order to go home and visit. It could only mean one thing: her mother was seriously ill. Of course, centuries of Hideyoshi pride forbade her to mention it. To acknowledge one’s own mortality and frailty was taboo in her clan. It was part of their coda and stamped on their psyche from birth.
Watching Zell’s casual affection for Mrs. Dincht, or the others interact with the Kramers made her wish for a more normal relationship with her own mother. She sighed again. Did she ask to be born into the
Hideyoshi clan? Did she ask to be the last scion of the freaking line? She would have to get permission from the Headmaster before embarking on her ‘pilgrimage’ home, but she knew already that permission would be granted.
Xu smiled for the first time, ‘The headmaster will probably take advantage of this summons, and ask me to visit Trabia Garden to play politics.’ It was still unofficial, but the rumours had been circulating for months in the upper echelons of Garden organization: Fabiani, T-Garden’s top dog, wanted to retire. She knew that everyone, Cid included, was scrambling to present a suitable candidate for the soon-to-be heavily contested post. She knew who the headmaster thought suitable, and this person had her full approval. She still remembered the little ‘chat’ she had with the headmaster…
“Err…Xu… I was thinking to…”
“I decline, sir!”
“But, Xu! You don’t even know what I was going to ask you!”
“With all due respect, sir, the rumours surrounding Headmaster Fabiani’s retirement have been circulating for quite a while amongst the officers, sir!”
“Oh! May I inquire as to why you decline the nomination? Isn’t your family seat in Trabia?”
“It’s precisely because of it, Headmaster. I think it could generate too much conflict of interest…”
Xu tried not to flinch when the headmaster lowered his glasses to look at her over the thin wire frames. She knew Cid Kramer always gave people the impression of being a very fusty though kindly sort of fuddy-duddy, but she knew better. Behind those gentle eyes and mild demeanour lay one of the sharpest minds in all Garden.
Xu breathed again when the headmaster returned his glasses to their usual perch atop his nose. She was certain he ‘saw’ far more than what she’d wanted him to see. After all, some members of her clan were members of the Trabian Senate… But to be so close to her family, when she’d gone through all that trouble and effort to get away from them as far as she could… It was unbearable to think about going back!
“…Very well. Then what do you think of…”
‘I’m sure Selph will make a great T-Garden Commander…’ She wasn’t too sure about the Headmaster part, but from the rumours she’d heard, there’d been talks of following B-Garden’s example. Just thinking of Selph in T-Garden’s supreme post made her smile evilly, ‘Hah! Those jerks won’t know what hit them! She looks so sweet and gullible! As if she was a pushover… Heh, heh!’ Appearances were always so deceptive. ‘ –Sigh– Anyways, I better go ask the Headmaster now, before I make up an excuse not to go…’
With that last thought in mind, Xu left her quarters to head for the Headmaster’s office.
§ § §
“Voice identification required”
“Please state your name and rank”
“SeeD André Legrand, Rank ‘A’.”
“A moment please…”
André waited patiently for the system to verify his information. After G-Garden had been so easily taken over by dissenters, Martine had become paranoid. Even when summoned to the Headmaster’s office, everyone had to undergo the screening process.
“Voice print confirmed”
The doors to the elevator slid open.
“Please step into the lift, Instructor André Legrand, Rank ‘A’”
After he did just that, the system began to finalize its security check.
“Height and weight… Confirmed with in-file data”
“You may proceed to the top floor, Instructor 0178”
André smiled ever so slightly. The scan also checked for weapons, but he was one of the scant few that the Headmaster and Commander of G-Garden trusted to be armed in his presence. He knew that the system would recognize the magic signature of his twin masamune blades, and not raise the alarm flags as it normally would if anyone were to visit the Headmaster with their weapons. It was a rule that Martine had instituted in G-Garden almost two years ago: No one visiting the Headmaster’s office can do so armed.
André stepped out of the lift. He was greeted by a silver haired lady with very straight posture and a startling set of blue eyes. There was a large screen embedded on her desk, with data flashing down constantly.
“Good morning, Instructor Legrand, the Headmaster is waiting for you.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Zucchero.”
She nodded and continued with her work. Mrs. Zucchero had been in this office forever. Even when G-Garden had been commandeered by Sorceress Edea, she’s coolly performed her duties as usual. As if nothing had happened, all the while plotting with a few people loyal to Martine to have him reinstated at the helm. They, the Martine Loyalists, should consider themselves lucky that at the time, the Sorceress had only thought about the military hierarchy and had ignored the civilian admins. She’d also placed her lapdog, Almasy as Commander. That punk had cared nothing about paperwork. It was an opening. Much as it went against the grain, they had aided Leonhart and the others to infiltrate G-Garden.
The doors to the Headmaster’s office slid noiselessly open. Stepping in, André saluted the man behind the desk smartly. Martine was of middle-height and build, but the power and authority he exuded made him seem much larger. He had all the bearing of a man whose whole life had been and was the military. Unlike the incredible laxity he’d observed in B-Garden, here at G-Garden everyone wore a uniform that clearly identified their status and rank, with any violations severely punished.
Martine gestured toward a chair, “Please sit.”
“Thank you , sir!”
As usual, the Headmaster wasted no time.
“I just got off the phone with Fabiani. He will be resigning his post at year’s end as Trabia Garden’s Commander and Headmaster. This is our opportunity to act.”
“Sir, I heard rumours that the Council wanted to split the post…”
“Nonsense! That’s just mere rumour! It’s not in the best interests of Garden organization to break up such an important position.”
André waited for his superior to continue. He knew he’d hit a very sensitive spot with the Headmaster. Contrary to what anyone might think, Robert Jasper Martine was not a cold man, but he believed in the value of discipline. In the Galbadian Headmaster’s eyes, discipline was sadly lacking in Balamb Garden now and in the past. That flaw had allowed its students to run amuck, and created monsters such as Seifer Almasy. In Martine’s eyes, that punk Irvine Kinneas had been corrupted by too much contact with B-Garden’s denizens. Too bad about that, they lost a superb marksman. It was Balamb’s gain and Galbadia’s loss…
“André, I want you to pick an elite group of SeeD, and lead them in Lunatic Pandora. This should boost-up your profile before Garden Council, and improve our chances of controlling Trabia Garden. We cannot allow it to go the same route as Balamb!”
“While you’re at it, keep an eye on that punk Almasy. It’s unfortunate, but you will have to report to him…”
Martine looked at the serious young man seated before him in the eye. He was not very happy when André reported that Balamb had complied with all Garden regulations to the letter, and that both that upstart Almasy and Kinneas as well had passed the written portion of their exams with near perfect scores. He’d also looked for any misdemeanour or lack of professionalism during the various reports regarding their Field Exam performance so he could fail their SeeD Exam, but that glowing letter by Councilman Tavares had soured his
efforts. It had been a very bitter pill to swallow, having to sign his name on the approval form.
“I don’t know yet what Kramer, and that idiotic president of Esthar were planning when they named Almasy to lead the security side of the Lunatic Pandora Project, but Quistis Trepe has been assigned to him as aide… Maybe if we play our cards right, she might be persuaded to join our side. She cannot be very happy now that such a top-notch SeeD as she is has been overlooked for the post and made to play nanny to that low ranking punk!”
“Sir, as I’ve stated in my report, the Kramers seem to have a very special relationship with Almasy, as well as with Trepe.”
“You can also add Leonhart, Kinneas, Dincht and Tilmitt to the mix, André.” The headmaster began to sound exasperated, “I know all about that! Don’t forget who else is residing in Balamb Garden.”
“Rinoa Heartilly Caraway, the general’s daughter…”
“Exactly. He’s been keeping tabs on her as much as he can. I have to admit that for all their laxity inside, it’s been impossible for him to penetrate their security. In any case, you can rest assured that when the time comes, we have Caraway’s full support.”
“That’s good to know, sir!”
Martine seemed to ponder something before saying slowly, “You might have a point there, André. From my dealings with Instructor Trepe she’s not the kind that can be persuaded to switch sides for anything. I’m also more interested in gathering intelligence than in adding an extra instructor to our roster. There has also been rumours of a huge construction site in the vicinity of Lunar Gate. I find the lack of information regarding such a large site disturbing, as well the level of sophistication used in blocking any incursions from our spy-bots…”
The headmaster looked a his subordinate with a critical eye. André Legrand was quite a handsome young man, and very popular with Garden’s opposite sex or so the gossip that filtered to his office stated. For all her intelligence, Trepe had always struck him as a naïve girl… He couldn’t help but suspect that Trepe’s post was only a decoy for a much larger project. One in which he had not been invited to participate. He didn’t like that.
“See what information you can get from Trepe, André.”
Martine looked at his top SeeD in the eye so that his meaning was clear. The young man being no slouch understood exactly what the Headmaster meant.
“Understood, sir. I’ll do whatever I can to extract as much information as I can.”
“Dismissed. Mrs. Zucchero will fill you in with the details.”
André stood up and saluted his commander smartly. It’s only when his back was to Martine that he allowed himself a wide smile. It would be his pleasure to persuade the beautiful Quistis.
§ § §
To be continued…