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Darth Anarcus

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About Darth Anarcus

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  • Birthday 12/27/1983

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  • Biography
    I am a future writer. Right now, I am using fan fiction as a stepping stone, or a means of getting my foot in the door to hopefully move on to bigger and better things.
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    I work for a bottled water company.
  1. [font=book antiqua][center][b][u][size=6]Chapter 6[/u] The Tower[/size][/b][/center] [size=6][color=red]I[/color][/size]f the boys were as bored out there as she was in here, Quistis could only imagine the moaning she?d hear from Seifer when it was over. Well, perhaps she was being a bit insensitive for feeling this way. A while ago she had assisted Xu in transporting the wounded from the beach to Squad Alpha?s ship, the primary infirmary vessel. She had stayed and leant a hand until a messenger from the squad arrived with news of suspicious enemy activity around the town square. The Galbadians were lingering about, as if waiting for something. Judging it prudent to order her squad not to advance further before they ventured off the signal range, Quistis had hurried back to the ship to contact Seifer. Seifer had whined and protested ? as usual. Wishing her already throbbing headache wouldn't turn into a full-blown migraine, Quistis removed her headset, collapsed onto the desk and buried her face in her arms. Her headache had since abated in however long she had been sitting there. She knew she should not let herself drift off to sleep so she tried different positions, occasionally getting up, stretching and moving around, giving her poor thighs and bottom a break. She wished she had brought along a book or six, but that would have looked unprofessional given the situation. She trickled a few eye drops into her dried-out eyes. Oh, how she hated contact lenses. She preferred glasses, but they proved unpractical in times of exertion. This wasn?t like her. She was always the one giving orders this way and that, commanding everyone to be vigilant even when nothing was happening. She had insured that the ships were well defended and that everyone was doing their jobs. She worried a bit about her students, but she trusted them. They were in good hands. It was Squall she had confidence in, not Seifer. Squall would be the one to pull them through. And now there was nothing to do; nothing to worry about. The more Quistis thought about it, the more she kicked herself for being so insensitive. People were dying out there and the only thing she could think about was how bored she was. If any Supreme Being existed, she hoped it wouldn?t hold judge her too severely. Probably best check up on the boys. Collecting herself, Quistis slipped on the headset and switched on the radio. Boy, how she hated these cheap things. Due to the worldwide interference, radio waves were only good for half a mile. The Galbadians used the info-net cable that allowed communication over great distances, but only worked one-way. The town square was where Quistis had ordered the boys to stand by. It was exactly half a mile off the shore. She had to be certain they could reach the tower meeting the least amount of resistance before the communication was cut. The shouts of ?C?mon!? and ?Hurry the hell up, Zell!? set over the crackling static greeted her as she opened the line. Were they moving? Seifer didn?t listen! What else was new? ?Seifer, where are you?? Quistis inquired, pressing the headset?s microphone closer to her lips on account of the static. No answer. ?Seifer?? She called again. ?Seifer!? ?We?re advancing on the tower,? came Seifer?s irritated reply. That impudent little? ?[i]I told you to stand by![/i]? If she could have reached through the radio and throttle him, she would have. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]S[/color][/size]eifer slowed just enough to cut down another lone soldier before continuing his trot across the long stone bridge leading to the mountains, Squall and Zell close behind. He [i]really[/i] didn?t feel like listening to Quistis chide him right now. Adrenaline consumed his every thought. ?What was that, Instructor?? he mock-inquired windedly. ?You?re breaking up.? It wasn?t a total lie. ?Seifer, get back to the square on the double!? He had had enough. Seifer ripped off his earpiece and chucked down the bridge. This would probably mean yet another field exam failure, and he was sure he would regret it later; but the only thing he could think of was that tower. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] ?[size=6][color=red]S[/color][/size]eifer? Seifer!? Quistis yelled into the mic. ?Seifer, come in! [i]Damn![/i]? She threw the headset onto the desk and buried her face in her palms. There were too many Galbadian soldiers up there! They should have waited. Seifer?s defiance would cost them this mission, and possibly their lives; and considering the death toll they had sustained thus far the mission was already looking grim. Feeling increasingly overheated she undid the first few buttons on her blouse. What to do? Well, one thing was certain: they had to withdraw. [i]Everyone[/i]. The battle was officially over. She hoped Squads Gamma and Delta had been successful at retrieving the prisoners because, the captives free or not, they had to go. Soon. [i]Very[/i] soon. She glanced at the chrono on the desk. 17: 34. She figured an hour and a half should be enough to get all surviving troops back to the beach. They couldn?t afford to wait any longer than that. Making sure the headset wasn?t damaged, she slipped it back on and opened the line to the neighboring ship. ?Xu?? she called out, hoping to catch Xu in a moment away from the injured. ?Yes?? Thank the gods! ?Xu, we have to go. Get withdrawal messages out to the squad captains to regroup here at nineteen hundred hours. I doubt any of them are within the radio range so we?re going to have to send messengers.? [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]H[/color][/size]aving finally reached the mountain path, Squall?s blood boiled at the sight of all the dead and dying Dollet soldiers scattered around. He recognized some of the faces. A few G-soldiers lie motionless as well, but the majority of the corpses were friendlies. He had seen dead bodies only once before in his life, when he voluntarily visited the morgue with a group of students so as to prepare them for the world of war. But that was nothing compared to what now lay before his eyes. The sweet mountain air was defiled by the nauseating smell of iron from all the blood. The dry earth, drunk with innocent blood, shined a sickly crimson. The bodies appeared relatively fresh; there were no flies or signs of decay. His chest felt ready to burst open, spewing forth pure rage and insanity. This was his home. These were people he once knew. The Galbadian were destroying everything he had ever known, and he felt so helpless. Helpless knowing that he was only one person, that for as valiantly as he fought he could not even inflict the tiniest needle prick on the inhuman nation that raped this once peaceful city. They were not people. Squall didn?t even give them the honor of being animals, for animals tended to bring joy to people?s lives. No, the Galbadians were as the abominable savages that scoured the planet, come from the cold, heartless moon. But? no. He should not be thinking this way. Cadets were trained not to get swept away by emotions and to trust rationality. He was no longer a civilian from Dollet; He was a soldier in just one of many armies all over the world, and this just happened to be the side he was on. He had no enemies, he had no friends, he had no feelings. Garden was his home, not Dollet. Combat was his life now. Yes, this was who he was. ?The Galbadians must?ve come this way,? Seifer said. Blood boot prints led up the mountain trail. ?Squall?? a weak voice breathed at his side. Gazing down, it took Squall a moment before he recognized the dark-bearded, agonized face of one of his childhood acquaintances. ?Alex?? Wide-eyed, he dropped to one knee. Alex?s olive uniform had turned black, soiled in blood, plastered to his toned body. He and Alex had not exactly been friends. Alex had hung around with a group of bullies that often picked on other kids, especially loners like Squall. In fact, Squall recalled one instance in which Alex had bloodied his nose when Squall had kicked him between the legs. ?Oh, it?s so good to see your face again, Squall,? Alex whimpered. He pressed a gauze tightly at the bullet wounds on his chest, and had lost quite a bit of blood. Squall knew Alex wouldn?t live to see nightfall. ?Alex, what happened? What?s going on? ?The G-troops came? came through here and?? He struggled to catch breath, wincing at the pain. ?They were heading for the tower. And you know that pla? place has always been a breeding ground for savages. They?re crazy, Squall! They?re? [i]Agh![/i]? ?Easy, easy!? Squall laid his hands on the exasperated man?s arms. ?What are they doing at the tower, Alex?? ?I? I don?t?? Alex wheezed. ?I don?t know. If you?re going up there, be caref? [i]Aaaagghh![/i]? In an instant, the rock Alex had been leaning against was torn away as a monstrous serpent sprung from the side of the cliff and scooped Alex up into its gaping maw, thrashing him about violently in the air as the soldier bellowed his final cries of terror and agony. The creature was truly an abomination: towering over Squall at at least twice his height, the beast?s polished brown-grey scales glistened in the sun creating the illusion of sliminess. Crimson blood gushed down the white underside of the creature?s body as a lifeless Alex disappeared down its throat, a sickening bulge marking his descent down into its belly. Squall frantically clawed his way across the rocky path, his back pressed against the boulders on the opposite side as the beast turned its attention to him, ogling him with its menacing orange eyes. He could smell its foul breath, reeking of filth and death. Its teeth, the size of short swords, gleamed with the blood of his dead friend which dripped to the ground mingled with repulsive saliva and venom. Globs of the nauseating substance sizzled as they fell on the ground. Squall was shaken as he sat helpless in the monster?s shadow, yet he did not panic. He did know where his gunblade had skidded off to, but it wasn?t within reach. Though he had no idea how he would get out of this one, he knew that this wasn?t the end. ?[i]Savage![/i]? Seifer screeched. As the creature craned its neck, preparing to lunge at Squall, he clenched his eyes shut as tightly as he could. The sharp palpitation of Zell?s beege cut through the mountain air. ?Aim for the underbelly!? he heard Seifer bark. Squall opened his eyes to find the serpent?s scaly body twisting into knots as Zell emptied his clip into its thick hide, the piercing noise of metal screeching against metal as it bellowed in pain and fury until Zell was out of ammo. As the reptile regained its composure, Squall noticed Seifer, the latter nodding back at him. He knew what the plan was. Reaching for a rock, Squall hurled it at the recovering monster?s face. It returned its gaze to him, eyes white-hot with vehemence. The savage craned its neck and launched itself straight at Squall?s face. As it did so Seifer dashed under its mammoth body and swiped his blade cleanly across the serpent?s neck, bright scarlet blood spewing everywhere. The hellish beast gasped for air. Not finding any, it thrashed about one final time before rolling its eyes to the back of its head and collapsing into the pool of its own blood inches away from Squall. Relieved to be in one piece, Squall used the wall of boulders at his back to pull himself to his feet. He gazed at the savage?s carcass one last time as he tried to recall the creature?s species from what he learned in biology class. ?An anacondaur,? Zell breathed as he loaded another round into his beege. Yes, that was it. Anacondaurs, like all snakes, hunted only live prey, which explained why it had ignored the corpses. But dying prey was all the more alluring. It was defenseless, an easy meal, and the smell of blood undoubtedly made it all the more appetizing. Squall thought of Alex. He briefly considered attempting to cut him out of the fallen beast?s belly, but then common sense set in. Alex was dead before he was swallowed. Then an epiphany: seeing Alex?s blood dripping from thee creature?s mouth had been the first time he had thought of him as a friend. Squall retrieved the gunblade he spotted lying in the grass a few feet away, and checked it as Seifer checked his. Blood was everywhere, and it had an almost sulfurous smell, far worse than human blood. A few spots stained his boots and pants, and Seifer?s white trench coat was not longer immaculate. ?Let?s move,? Seifer ordered as he spun on his heel and lead the way up the mountain path. They were not running this time. ?Squall, are you okay?? Zell asked as they began walking. ?Yeah, I?ll be fine.? His heart still pounded The tower wasn't far off. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]A[/color][/size] short while later, they reached the cliff overlooking the base of the communications tower. The enormous, lonely tower, its once silver surface rusted brown like a revolting leprosy, stood in stark contrast to the awe-inspiring strawberry evening sky. Parts and fixtures rattled in the wind, loosened by years of abandonment. Atop a grated catwalk near the apex sat satellite dishes that served as albatross nests nowadays. Fearing that the tower would give way and fall one day, the citizens had frequently expressed interest in reinforcing it or tearing it down, but the Galbadian oppressors had forbidden them to touch it. Crouched behind a short wall of rocks at the edge of the cliff, the three cadets could make out two G-soldiers at the base standing guard on either side of a large opening that used to be an overhead door long ago, but the door had permanently rusted open long before Squall?s time. He remembered children had played inside the base of the tower, but that was before the tower had been taken over by savages. The city had tried boarding up the entrance numerous times, but the Galbadians would not allow it. Squall could see three ? no, four other soldiers immerge from beneath the cliff. These must have been the guys they had seen back at the square, but he could have sworn there had been more. Where were the others? Were they hiding somewhere waiting to ambush them? Were they the few Galbadian corpses they had encountered along the way, fallen to heavy resistance from the D-soldiers, or the victims of savages similar to the one that had devoured Alex? He kicked himself for not counting them earlier. He was too upset by what was going on that he hadn?t thought of it. It sickened him to know that he had let his emotions hinder his performance. It would [i]not[/i] happen again ?What are they doing?? Zell asked, a bit too loudly. ?[i]Shush![/i] Quiet, you moron!? Seifer hissed. The two guard soldiers saluted, and one of the soldiers with the group returned it. ?The generator is up and running, Lieutenant,? a guard reported. ?No problems with the boosters whatsoever.? The lieutenant replied something inaudible and entered the tower with his squad. ?Repairs?? Squall whispered. ?Who cares?? Seifer returned. ?You?re not scared, are you?? Squall turned his face to behold Seifer returning a smug grin. Would this guy ever give it a rest? ?I don?t think about it,? Squall spat before returning his gaze to the soldiers below. ?I love it!? Seifer growled, almost hungrily. ?The way I see it, as long as you make it out alive, you?re one step closer to fulfilling your dream.? ?And what dream is that?? ?Come on, Squall!? Seifer shuffled closer, his face just inches away from Squall?s. ?Don?t act like you don?t know. Your dream is the same as mine. We?re the same!? The fire in the Seifer?s eyes was intense enough to burn away Squall?s skin. ?Battle,? Squall said. It wasn?t a question. [i]Being a warrior is not what will save you, Squall Leonhart. You are searching for the wrong treasure[/i], the lion within whispered. Squall looked away. ?I have nothing to say to that.? ?Yo, what are you guys talking about,? Zell wondered, once again a little too loudly. ?Nothing that concerns you, Chicken Wuss,? Seifer mocked. ?And keep it down! I?m not going to say it again.? Zell cursed beneath his breath. 'Squall?s heart skipped a beat as Seifer jumped to his feet. What was Seifer going to do? Was he going to kick Zell square in the ribs? Was he going to throw the poor guy off the cliff? The action that followed was even more shocking: Seifer turned and ran down the path to the bottom of the cliff. Was he insane? ?There goes our surprise attack.? He could see Seifer approaching the tower down below. He thought for sure that this was the end of the young man?s already-ruined mercenary career. Squall gritted his teeth as Seifer moved toward one of the guards, not slowing one bit or making a single effort to sneak up on him. As the guard took notice of Seifer?s presence, it was too late: Seifer ended the soldier?s life with one swift swipe of his blade. By the time the other guard started to react, Seifer had already closed the distance between them and followed through with a chop to the man?s chest, leaving him for the vultures. Some guards. The need to remain concealed was now past, Squall and Zell stood. Seifer turned to face them but he seemed momentarily distracted by something at the base of the cliff, out of their sight. Lifting his eyes, he waved them on with his gunblade before disappearing inside the tower. ?There you are!? came an enervated voice from somewhere behind. Squall and Zell spun to see a petite female cadet atop a mound of rocks, the setting sun shining behind her hazelnut hair. She looked familiar. Where had Squall seen her before? Oh, of course! It was that klutzy girl that had run into him this morning after class. The same girl that had asked the offensive question at the briefing. What did she want now? ?Um, I?m? I?m?? The girl struggled to catch her breath as she began making her way down the steep wall of rocks, gingerly searching for suitable footing. ?I?m Selph? [i]Whoa![/i]? She staggered, pebbles scurrying down the mount with a patter, her boot slipped, and she fell forward. Squall and Zell instinctively rushed to the foot of the slop and caught the tumbling girl before she could roll off the cliff. In a blush of embarrassment the young pulled her skirt down, her face blanketed in humiliation. ?Are you okay?? Squall asked. ?Yeah, I think so,? she said as he helped her to her feet. Raising her face once again, her emerald eyes meeting Squall?s, all traces of embarrassment gone as excitement overtook her. ?Hey, you?re that guy I met in the hallway,? she said. ?Yeah? was the only thing Squall could think of to say to that. It was an awkward experience, to be sure. ?I?m Squall Leonhart. This is Zell Dincht. We?re Squad Beta.? ?Selphie Tilmitt from Squad Alpha,? the girl replied. ?Good to meet you.? [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]T[/color][/size]his is Selphie Tilmitt: Ever cheerful and optimistic, Selphie is a real go-getter. A firm believer in pride and determination, she knows first-hand that if you just keep faith and belief in yourself, you can accomplish anything. Her enthusiasm is what keeps her going, and she?s not slowing down any time soon. Selphie?s ardor has seen her through some truly taxing times. It surely hasn?t been easy, but Selphie never gives up, and that is what has gotten her to where she is today. Selphie grew up in the little, far-removed town of Alru Pyca on the snowy northern continent Durrland. He parents, Jack and Adi Tilmitt, own the restaurant Ruby Light. Her older sister, Keren, is currently studying chemistry at the Delling University. Throughout her entire life Selphie has wanted to fly. Her lifelong dream as far back as she can remember has always been to learn to fly an airplane. At the age of nine, Selphie?s parents enrolled her in Trabia Garden, insisting that it was the best place to learn what she wished to learn. However, this meant her dream job had to take the backseat as the Garden?s main purpose was to produce mercenaries. Flight training a simulation would have to wait a few years as the students underwent intensive combat training exclusively for their first four years. Only in the past two years has she been taking flight classes, but she has certainly made great progress, despite ongoing attempts by her peers to dissuade her from such a ?useless? career choice. It is true that planes are seldom used in today?s world due to the worldwide radio interference inhibiting the use of radar. Without radar a pilot essentially only has his eyes and ears to rely on, and in rain, snow or fog he is fundamentally flying blindly. No one uses airplanes anymore. But that isn?t stopping Selphie from pursuing her dream. She has faith that, one day, she [i]will[/i] soar through the heavens. Now seventeen years old, Selphie is at a crossroads in her life. While she does wish to become a pilot, she has also grown to love the military for what they do for people. Always wishing to help others, Selphie has opted to pursue a mercenary career, her flight skills being put on the backburner for now. She had heard how SeeD risk their lives to alleviate the suffering of others. A classmate had told Selphie the story of how SeeDs passing through her area had defended her home town from an onslaught of savages and then hunted down and exported the all the creatures they had found somewhere far, far away from the town. Many citizens ? and a few SeeDs ? had been seriously wounded but no one was killed, and the town was saved. Where they transported the savages to was anybody?s guess, but the prevailing rumor was that they were kept and bred at Balamb Garden for training purposes. Hoping to join SeeD, Selphie transferred to Balamb Garden four days ago. The candidates normally take a written exam and find for themselves a Guardian Force from certain surrounding locations identified by a map provided by the Alumni Association. Selphie had fulfilled both of these tasks at Trabia Garden prior to her transfer. The administration had accepted her transcripts and admitted her to the program, allowing her to get settled in for a few days before beginning her classes earlier this morning. In appreciation, Selphie wished to do something for Garden in return. The opportunity presented itself yesterday when the chairperson of the annual Garden Festival ? a week-long celebration in the end of the year just prior to summer vacation, complete with various forms of entertainment, both formal and informal ? stepped down due to personal issues. No one else on the festival committee seemed willing to take the responsibility upon themselves, so this year?s festival looked like it wasn?t happening. The Garden Festival is a much-loved event by all of the students and faculty, and lots of time, effort and heart are put into it every year. Everyone would be heartbroken should the festival be canceled, especially the members of the committee. Selphie won?t let that happen. After joining the committee, Selphie immediately volunteered to take on the responsibility of chairperson, stunning everyone. It [i]is[/i] quite an undertaking, especially for someone new to the committee, and new to the Garden itself; but Selphie has never been a quitter. Balamb Garden [i]will[/i] be having the Garden Festival this year. No one will be disappointed. Much similarly, Selphie is determined to pass today?s field exam and be accepted into SeeD. Not only her, but she will try her hardest to ensure that everyone she serves with makes it at well. They are a team, and Selphie will not let them down. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [i][size=6][color=red]T[/color][/size]his guy must think I?m the world?s biggest idiot[/i], Selphie thought. After ramming into him outside the classroom, asking that ghastly question in the briefing that seemed to have offended everyone, and now falling headlong down a hill ? in a skirt, no less ? she imagined she had a pretty good idea how he perceived her now. She had made an utter fool out of herself every time they had met. Yet, there was a certain sense of kindness and understanding in Squall?s piercing blue-grey eyes ? so powerful that she didn?t even notice the salient scar running between them until just now ? that told her he was a lot more than what he seemed on the surface. She could tell this guy was genuine, whether or not he was aware of it himself. ?Um, where?s your captain?? Selphie finally asked, pulling her mind back to earth. ?He went inside.?. ?Oh.? That was odd. ?Well, I have a message for him.? ?Can?t you just tell us?? ?Well? I don?t really know,? Selphie admitted, bewildered. ?I see,? Squall said. ?Well then, Selphie, glad to have you aboard. Now let?s get going.? Moments later they reached the foot of the cliff. The tower loomed ahead, but as they rounded the corner, Selphie?s eye caught sight of a large mechanical construction sitting at the base of the cliff. The boys didn?t seem to notice it, however. At least not until they were standing by the door. ?Whoa!? Zell gasped. Squall spun around. The contraption resembled a slumbering beast, four insectoid legs spread out across the rocky ground, two crab-like claws resting on either side of its polished face. In the shadow of the cliff, red markings stood out sprawled across the massive metal casing, reminiscent of the blotches on a poisonous insect. Selphie could feel goose bumps popping up along her skin. She hated spiders, and [i]this[/i] was one huge spider! ?Uh? what is that?? Zell asked. No one answered. Did they need this for the repairs or something? ?How did they get this thing up here?? Selphie wondered. Their attention was quickly diverted by the roaring of thunder from behind them, accompanied by terrified screams. Flashes of blue crackled within the tower. Someone must have been using magic. Four soldiers sprinted, panic-stricken, from the doorway. Ignoring Selphie and the others they continued their frenzied scamper along the mountain trail, disappearing from sight. Someone chuckled. A familiar white-clad young man emerged wielding the similar type of gun-sword Squall used. Electricity sparked from his other hand before fizzling out. His hair was short and blond and a nasty scar similar to Squall?s ran across his face ? it was like looking into one of those strange mirrors at the circus. His coat was stained with spots of blood ?That?s it! Run!? he called out to the terrified soldiers. ?Run back to that joke of a man you call a president, you cowards!? As he turned back into the tower, Selphie caught a glimpse of the red symbol on the back of his coat. Now she remembered where she had seen him before! ?C-captain?? Selphie called out. ?Captain, wait!? She ran after him, the boys close behind. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]S[/color][/size]quall counted his blessings as they neared the top of the shaft, the light cloudy evening sky looming closer and closer. He didn?t trust the old, rusty lift. The decrepit thing had dislodged from the dusty floor with an ear-piercing screech and a convulsion that had nearly thrown them off. It had been a shaky ascent. Squall half-expected it to falter and plummet at any moment. Upon having been engulfed by the relieving shade of the tower's interior, they had lost sight of Seifer. They had looked everywhere, Selphie's high-pitched voice bouncing back and forth from the dark walls in the cramped space, but only silence had sighed back at her efforts. Squall had a feeling Seifer did not want to be found. And then they had found it. The old lift. Squall couldn't see Selphie in the darkness but her voice had trembled as she suggested they go up to take a look at the top. The lift came to a screeching halt at the grated catwalk, but the noise was drowned by a deafening hum. Squall had never been up here before. The vicious wind ruffled his hair and irritated the scar. The top of the tower was empty, aside from a Galbadian soldier ? his red, bulky armor denoting some high rank ? fiddling with the control panel. Seifer was nowhere in sight. Zell moaned. Squall glanced over his shoulder and saw him holding out the beege, knuckles white, both hands gripping the handle. ?What are you doing?? ?It?s? it?s? being sucked away!? Zell snarled through gritted teeth. Losing grip the rifle was torn from his hands, hurtled through the air across the catwalk and plastered itself on an enormous mechanism's surface next to a soldier?s helmet. An unhelmeted, unconscious ? possibly dead ? young soldier's helmet. He was spread out upside-down across the face of the apparatus. A magnet. Instinctively, Squall tightened his grip on the gunblade, though it was made of mithril and so naturally demagnetized. Something tugged at the back of his neck. His necklace unburied itself from beneath his shirt, the lion trinket pointing straight outward. He gripped it as tightly as he could as it meant too much to him to lose it. He couldn?t imagine what he would do without it. He wished he had left it with his ring back in the dorm room. Next time he would go with his better judgment. ?There we go,? the high-ranking solder called out over the resonance, flipping one last switch. ?All done, Wedge!? The machinery flickered with bright, blue electricity. The tower quaked, the loose panels rattling and clanking. The floor began to move, plates parting, opening holes in the catwalk. Squall jumped the expanding gap followed by Zell, but Selphie was not as daring and was separated on the other side, crouching in terror. Turbines roared to life, pistons fired, gears turned, engines howled and clamps locked into place. The shaking ceased, but before Squall had time to feel relieved an elephantine cylinder shot up the exposed central rotunda, screaming to a halt at the top with a wind so powerful it nearly knocked him flat on his face. An antenna! He squinted up at the newly-manifested antenna poking at the gloomy sky. Just when he thought it was over the antenna leaned to one side as the shaft split into four sections which joined together to form an enormous satellite dish This had to be the most bizarre technology he had ever seen. A giant satellite dish had been packed into the tower and had now unfolded itself at the summit before their very eyes. Just when Squall thought he?d seen everything. And such a thing sitting right next to him all his life. A ray of light emanated from the center of the dish and stretched out into the sky, fading out in the distance. The hum of the electromagnetic field died down to a much-welcome silence, the only sound being the blow of the furious winds. The lifeless soldier was lying face-down under the deactivated magnet. That guy would have the worst headache ever when he awoke. [i]If[/i] he awoke. ?Excuse me,? Squall demanded. The commanding officer whipped his head around. ?Just what do you think you?re doing?? ?Hey, you?re not supposed to be here!? the officer snarled. ?How?d you get past my security down below?? ?Doesn?t matter,? Squall returned. ?We?re placing you under arrest in the name of the Dollet Dukedom Parliament. Come peacefully and you won?t be harmed.? [i]Was that intimidating enough?[/i] ?Heh! Kids,? the soldier chuckled. ?Wedge, take care of these teenyboppers while I make final inspections.? No one answered. ?Uh, Wedge?? The commander looked about. ?Wedge?? Finally he caught sight of the man lying motionless by the magnet. ?Oh, dammit!? ?Well,? the commander gulped. ?I guess it?s between you and me then.? He drew his katana, dropping into a combat stance. ??Cause I sure as hell ain?t letting you take me in!? Squall waved Zell and Selphie back, aware of the fact that they were unarmed as he raised his gunblade in defense. ?If that?s the way you want it.? ?[i]Ha![/i]? The officer took powerful, clumsy overhead shot that Squall easily parried, and then returned to his starting position. This guy wasn?t going to be much trouble. Another ungraceful blow from his midsection, and back again. They began circling one another. Although Squall couldn?t see his eyes on account of the visor, he could tell that the soldier was nervous, unsure of himself. Perhaps he had heard amazing things about SeeD? Perhaps he simply had poor melee training? It didn?t matter. All that mattered was that Squall had the upper hand. Gritting his teeth, the officer took another swing from his midsection, and then from overhead. He was getting braver, it seemed: more than one blow at a time. A few more pathetic attacks from the left, right, and then left again before the frustrated commanded took a step back, his cheeks flushed. How did this guy achieve such a high rank with such poor combat skills? A groggy voice called out from behind: ?Biggs!? The dead soldier had magically revived and came jogging around the catwalk, frantically trying to get his head into the helmet. ?Wedge!? the commanding officer ? Biggs, Squall figured ? yelled. ?Hurry! I need assistance!? [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]Z[/color][/size]ell didn?t like that look of this. Granted this Biggs guy didn?t seem like much of a threat, but could Squall handle both of them at once? The other soldier ? Wedge, was it? ? came running, staggering, still tugging at the helmet. In a flicker of realization Zell noticed that he was unarmed. Time for some hand-to-hand combat: Zell?s specialty! It was time put his skills to good use. Reaching into his pocket, Zell retrieved his lucky gloves, slipping on one and then the other. It was about time, too. His hands felt naked without them. Zell rushed forward. ?Hey, little guy!? Wedge was hardly an intimidating sight. He was about Zell?s height ? shorter than the average male ? did not seem particularly muscular, and his blue uniform bore little difference to that of any common G-soldier. ?You want some of this?? Zell jogged in place, fists at the ready. Wedge dropped into a defensive stance, which surprised Zell. While it wasn?t any style he recognized, it certainly looked authentic. Perhaps the guy wouldn?t be such a pushover after all. Wedge leapt forward, and Zell countered only the first two of five punches followed by a kick to his chest, leaving him gasping for air as he staggered. Wedge was tougher than he looked. The armored boot hurt, but there was no time to dwell on it. Zell?s adrenaline flooded through him, fueled by the power of his Guardian Force as he rushed his opponent and retaliated with blinding ferocity, sidestepped slammed his boot into the soldier?s back. It was not hard to knock the lightweight man down. As swift as a cat Wedge rolled aside and was back on his feet. He rushed forward, but Zell grabbed his arm, for a fraction of a second glaring into the impenetrable black visor, before a punch from Wedge's free hand buried into his rib cage. Zell easily shoved the puny Galbadian off. The armor was a thick Galbadian metalwork, but Zell had studied it enough during his training to know precisely where and how to land those punches for maximum impact. Wedge flew through the air aiming at Zell's neck, but the nimble cadet somersaulted over his attacker. Wedge's balance was thrown and he fell head-first into the machinery, sealing his fate. One down. Zell quickly turned his attention to Squall, who, as an expert swordsman, was having no trouble whatsoever with the clumsy, unsure soldier. Zell knew that Squall was trying to wear the commander out, and it was working. But then Biggs got a lucky shot: he managed to knock Squall?s sword hand aside, and Zell knew what would happen next. Without thinking twice, Zell rushed Biggs from behind and landed a flying kick at his heavily-armored shoulders, knocking Biggs to the floor. His sword skidded away, and Squall stepped forward, pointing the tip of his blade at Biggs? face. Biggs looked up, debilitated. ?Do it,? he wheezed. ?Finish me. Finish me or take me in, it doesn?t matter. My career is probably over. I ain?t got nothing now.? Zell genuinely wondered Squall's next move. ?Guys, we don?t have time for this!? Selphie yelled. ?What are you talking about?? Zell asked. ?Just? come on! We need to find the captain and get out of here!? [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]A[/color][/size]s the lift touched down at the base of the tower, its irritating screeching ghastly reverberating off the walls, Seifer emerged from a door Squall had not seen on the way in. Okay, obviously ?up? wasn?t their only choice after all. ?There you guys are,? Seifer greeted as they stepped off the lift. ?Where were you?? Squall eyed him disappointingly. ?I had to make sure I took care of every last soldier here, so I searched every nook and cranny I could find. Hah! You should?ve seen it. The ones I didn?t kill went running like?? He turned a grin at Zell. ?Like chicken wusses.? ?Oh, shut up, jackass,? came Zell?s retort. Seifer chuckled. Would these two ever give it a rest? There was no time! That reminded him? ?Seifer, this is Selphie from Squad Alpha. She has a message for you.? Selphie stepped forward. ?Squad Beta Captian? Um, I have a message for you.? ?Yeah, I heard that part,? Seifer said impatiently. ?What?s the freaking message?? ?Oh, er?? Selphie was noticeably uncomfortable. ?New orders from Instructor Trepe. We?re to withdraw. All SeeDs and cadets are to regroup at the beach at nine hundred hours.? What? [i]That[/i] was the message she couldn?t tell them before? ?What? Withdraw?? Seifer complained. ?But there are still more enemies around. I?m not finished here yet!? He cocked his gunblade. ?Seifer, we should probably follow our orders this time,? Squall spoke up. ?We don?t want to get left behind.? ?[i]I know![/i]? Seifer growled. ?Wait, what time did you say?? Zell asked, looking at his watch. ?Nineteen hundred hours,? Selphie repeated. ?We?ve got thirty minutes!? Zell screeched. ?Then what the hell are we waiting for?? Seifer said. ?Let?s go!? [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]B[/color][/size]iggs pulled himself to his feet, his every joint aching, and removed his helmet. His shaved head tended to get very irritated after a while. That battle had left him aching. He hated to think how poor Wedge felt, provided he was still okay. He should probably check on him once he was done fuming at his own loss. Every cord of muscle twitched in fury. How did a couple of [i]kids[/i] take down two trained military men? He was not going to let this go. It wasn?t over yet! He pulled his radio from his belt, set it to a certain channel and held it to his lips. ?X-ATM092: activate. Authorization: Delany, one-one-three-eight-dash-two-seven-three-oh-nine-one. Intruder alert! Command: search and destroy. Removal by any means necessary authorized.? He lowered the com and leaned against the nearby support structure, chuckling at his coming revenge. It wasn?t smart to mess with the Galbadian army. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]T[/color][/size]he four cadets emerged from the tower. It was such a relief to get out of the tower into the open air. The mountain trail coiled across the nook of the cliff like a serpent and Squall let out a sigh of relief. The exam was almost over. There was no time to waste! They were forced to a halt as the gargantuan device they had seen on the way in came to life, sprung up and took a few steps toward them, its massive legs puncturing holes in the ground with each step. The arachnid monstrosity towering over them, mechanical noises echoing all around as loose rocks tumbled down the cliff. Squall looked deep into its face, an ominous red glyph beneath its grill studying them with sickening interest. ?Target acquired,? a tinny, monotonous voice announced. [/font]
  2. Here's chapter five, and I apologize for it taking so long. I've been extremely busy with work and such and have not had much time for anything else. I must say that I am quite pleased with how the first half of this chapter turned out. Biggs and Wedge are very fun characters to work with. I even incorporated something that happens to Wedge in a flashback of this event later on in the game (I think it was during the train mission). Well, at least it's [i]my[/i] take on what happened to him in that scene where we see him being dragged off by something off screen. The second part I am not so thrilled about. I don't know, I just think I could have done better. But it was such a boring part that I probably didn't put as much thought into it as I probably should have. I don't know, tell me what you think. Chapter five: [font=book antiqua][center][b][u][size=6]Chapter 5[/u] Biggs and Wedge[/size][/b][/center] [size=6][color=red]C[/color][/size]aptain Tio Demmac tensed as he approached his superior and friend atop the communications tower. Where they stood was a semicircular disk just a few stories below the tower?s peak. All of the tower?s main functions were located here. Tio had attained the rank of captain only a few months ago, nearly simultaneously with his friend, Maximus Delany, who had been promoted to major. The two had been life-long friends since both had enrolled as students at Galbadia Garden at early ages, with Maximus graduating one year ahead of Tio. Maximus was called ?Biggs,? a nickname given to him by his peers at Garden in reference to both his first name and his impressive frame; a direct foil to puny Tio. Tio knew that Biggs had long since embraced his identity as an appellation, and he had no problem calling him that. He was Biggs in his mind, and, he knew, in Biggs? own mind as well. Tio halted behind Biggs? back as his frustrated friend undulated between playing with the controls, going over the instructions and blueprints laid out in front of him, and cursing. Biggs? red body armor and bulky, intimidating shoulder and forearm guards stood in stark contrast to Tio?s own blue body armor, barely different from the attire of a regular soldier despite his rank. About the only identical parts of their uniforms, from what he noticed, were the generic helmets that veiled everything except for their mouths. ?Major Biggs,? Tio said over the low hum of the circuitry. Despite their life-long friendship, Biggs still insisted upon being called by his much-hailed title while on duty, even by Tio; yet he still preferred it to be used with his nickname rather than his birth name. Although Biggs didn?t seem to think anything of neglecting to call Tio by his title. Biggs had always been the more assertive of the pair, and Tio the more benign. ?Major Biggs,? Tio called again. ?Sir, there have been reports of savages being spotted near the base of the tower. ?Quiet, Wedge! Can?t you see I?m busy?? Ah, yes. [i]Wedge[/i]. While Biggs was proud of his given moniker, Tio was less content of his own. He had earned it when he had fallen from a railing during one of his training sessions at the garden and became [i]wedged[/i] between two support beams for almost an entire day. Maintenance had had to very carefully saw him out while remaining watchful that the landing did not collapse. It was utterly humiliating, but everyone had told him that one day he?d look back on the ordeal and laugh. It had been seven years and he [i]still[/i] awaited the day when he would find it funny. ?Sorry, [i]Sir[/i].? Tio spit the word out. It annoyed him that Biggs forced him to speak so formally while they were on duty. ?I?ll continue my rounds.? ?Yeah, do that,? Biggs replied as he held the instructions manual closer to his shielded eyes. ?Let?s see? Since it?s been a while since this thing was powered up, I?m going to need to activate the electromagnetic field in order to kick-start the main engine. So the first thing to do is? activate the demagnetized turf.? Biggs flipped a switch, , and the circular zone on which he and the control panel stood began to glow a neon green. ?There we go,? he said. Watching Biggs work was amusing, but Tio repressed his urge to chuckle. Biggs was an odd fellow. He wasn?t stupid, but it seemed that he didn?t feel the need to think things through before attempting them, or to listen to the advice of others. It had gotten both of them?or sometimes just Tio?into trouble many times. ?Sir, that ?electromagnetic field? doesn?t sound very inviting to me, on account of our armor and all,? Tio said. ?And it doesn?t look like there?s room enough for the both of us in that little circle there.? ?Ah, don?t worry,? Biggs replied. ?According to these blueprints there isn?t a conductor near us. We?re safe.? ?Then why the ?demagnetized turf??? ?You worry too much, Wedge. I?m sure the designers aren?t idiots.? [i]Doesn?t mean the operators aren?t[/i], Wedge thought. ?I suppose,? was all he said, and he walked away. Biggs sure could be stubborn sometimes. Well, most of the time, actually. Why did Tio get the familiar feeling that something bad was about to happen? Turning around one last time, he gazed back at a confused and frustrated Biggs fiddling with the control panels. Tio shook his head at his old buddy?s know-it-all attitude that proved to be quite fallible many times over. ?Got it!? Biggs called as he straightened, jubilant. He had succeeded in completing the first stage in powering up the anachronous tower. Tio didn?t forget Biggs? reassurance that there were no conduits anywhere near the operating platform. That was when he heard a low hum coming from behind. Tio gazed over his shoulder and, sure enough, there was a conduit not thirty away. Why in the world did he have think Biggs actually knew what he was doing just this once? He should have known better. The noise intensified as Tio felt his armor grow heavy, the pulling sensation becoming a reality as his body being pulled backward. He dropped to a sprinter?s position with one leg planted firmly behind him to keep his balance. It did not help at all as the magnet grew stronger, his boots slowly skidding across the surface as he tried to walk forward in opposition to the absorption of the powerful electromagnetic conduit. ?Uh, Biggs?? he called out over the noise. ?Biggs!? ?Not now, Wedge,? Biggs answered from the safety of the demagnetized turf. As the humming grew louder, Tio, unable to stand any longer, fell forwards as he attempted to claw his way against the magnetic pull. ?Biggs!? he cried again. ?Wedge, I?m kind of busy here,? Biggs retorted, ?in case you hadn?t noticed.? ?Turn it off!? Tio called again as the noise grew deafening and the polarity overwhelming. As he was dragged across the grated flooring, he managed to grab hold of an out-jutting piece of appliance. Gradually he pulled himself further away from the magnet, his muscles becoming weary faster than he had ever remembered having experienced. That was when his helmet was suddenly ripped from his head as if by a ruthless beast, leaving his bare ears exposed to the migraine-inducing noise. ?Oh God! Biggs! [i]Biggs![/i] ?Damnit, Wedge, stop whining!? yelled his friend over the all-encompassing noise. ?And it?s [i]Major[/i] Biggs!? ?Shut it off!? Tio pleaded. ?For the love of all things hallowed, [i]shut it off![/i]? Biggs snapped out what Tio figured was ?Shut up, Wedge!? But it was hard to tell on account of the noise that he was certain would make his head explode within a few seconds. Tio?s arms were nearly numb now as he cleaved to the edge of a floorboard, his legs pointed in midair. Not only did he fear being pulled into that monstrosity, but he also feared that Biggs was moronic enough to finally do as he said and shut it off while he was in the process of being sucked toward it, thus hurling him off the platform and being plummeted to the mountains below. That was when he saw Biggs bend over to check the wiring below the control panel, his butt moving outside the circle of the turf. He saw a wrench on Biggs? belt flap wildly and then free itself, hurling right towards Tio. The wrench pelted him between the eyes, at which point he lost his grip and went spinning through the air, wincing as he prepared for impact. After what seemed like longer than it should have been, it was as if all of the oxygen had been sucked out of the world as Tio landed hard on his back against the flat surface of the electromagnetic conduit, suspended upside-down ten or so feet from the control pad. Tio opened his eyes to behold the endless sky below him, and an inverted Biggs still fiddling at the control panel many yards away, completely oblivious to Tio?s predicament. The noise, oddly enough, seemed to be tolerable now, though it was probably because Tio?s eardrums were just about shot. Why did these things always happen to [i]him[/i]? [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]T[/color][/size]here was nothing Seifer hated more than being on standby. In his own world, the action never ceased. Central Square was eerily quiet, save for the distant sounds of warfare all around. No one was around except for him, a half-asleep Squall leaning lazily against a pile of rubble, Chicken Wuss who paced to and fro in front of the stagnant fountain, the bodies of three dead G-soldiers they had cut down an hour ago which now lay lifeless ? two on the ground and one slumped over the edge of the fountain ? and a distraught, orphaned, fidgety dog who whined and moaned pathetically without ever shutting up. Yes, Seifer was bored to say the least. An hour ago, Quistis had radioed in and instructed the team to wait until further orders before advancing. As much as he hated being idle, it was good not to have to listen to that snobby, high-pitched voice in his ear. The dog would often wander from Seifer to Squall to Zell, begging for any sort of pity it could incite. Squall would pat it on the head once or twice, but it was easy to tell that he just wanted to be left alone. Zell would stop what ever he was doing (which was usually nothing) and treat the flea-infested cur like it was his best friend, petting, rubbing, and even hugging the thing. ?Hey, boy! Hey, boy!? ?What?s the matter?? ?Who?s a good doggie?? It made Seifer sick. When the dog would start to bother him, he?d shoo it away. He was here on a mission and he had no time to be playing with inferior life forms. ?Man,? Zell said, ?now this is what I call boring.? ?Tell me about it,? Squall agreed. ?This ain?t right, man!? Zell replied. All Zell was doing was annoying Seifer and pushing his patience to the limit. He could take it no longer. In frustration, Seifer swung his gunblade hard over his head, inflicting a nasty wound on the foot of the unsuspecting statue he had been leaning against. ?That?s it!? he exclaimed. ?I can?t take this anymore! We?re here to fight a war, not sit around entertaining animals!? The dog approached Seifer once again fastidiously, to which he chopped his weapon hard into the cement, startling the dog. ?[i]Get![/i]? he screamed. The dog turned and ran all the way to the other end of the street. ?Well, [i]that[/i] was mean!? Chicken-Wuss had the nerve to say. ?Shut up, you nitwit!? Seifer retorted. ?Just shut you mouth and do as I say!? Zell took a step forward and opened his mouth as if to say something, but the look Seifer shot him shut him up before he even started. So the kid [i]did[/i] have some brains after all. And that damn dog decided to start barking. What the hell was it [i]now[/i]? ?Oh God, just shut up!? Seifer pleaded. ?No, wait! I think someone?s coming!? Zell said. As Squall climbed to his feet, Seifer looked in the direction the dog faced, and sure enough he could see a group of G-soldiers ? there had to be about seven or eight of them ? one-by-one climb over some debris blocking the street straight ahead and make their way towards them. ?Get down!? Seifer called out. The three cadets hit the ground, hiding from the soldiers? view behind the fountain. Peeking out to one side, Seifer could see that the soldiers had not noticed them, thankfully, as they turned down another street. Once it was all clear, the men arose. ?Where the hell they goin??? Zell wondered. ?The TV tower?s that way,? replied Squall. Seifer had heard that this was his home town. ?That?s our destination,? Seifer said. ?But that?s against orders!? Zell retorted. ?It?s our mission objective,? Squall reminded him. ?Okay, it?s against our [i]most recent[/i] orders,? said Zell. ?We were told to be on standby until further notice.? ?Weren?t you just complaining about how bored you were just now?? Seifer said. Zell looked back and forth between the two men, uncertainty in his eyes. ?Squall?? he pleaded. ?I stand by the captain?s decision,? Squall replied. Seifer was slightly surprised to hear this from Squall, of all people, as he [i]never[/i] agreed with Seifer?s orders, if only for the sole purpose of defying him. But Seifer reasoned that seeing his home occupied by Galbadian troops, moving around as if they owned the place, Squall?s desire to liberate the city probably his hatred for his archenemy. Seifer?s laughed. ??Captain?s decision?? You just want to kick some Galbadian ass, don?t you?? His mouth twisted into a cunning smile. What a delicious idea that he had struck closer to the truth than the boy intended to let him know. ?It?ll be a good opportunity to test out my training? was his excuse. He had uttered those words without the slightest crinkle of expression on his face, to stop him from reading his mind like an open book. But Seifer knew. ?Oh, sure, sure,? Seifer teased, his grin widening. Poor Squall. Couldn?t he see how transparent he was? ?Well, thanks to you, I feel like I can take on anyone,? Squall continued, cynically. ?Even if they do fight dirty, like you.? ?You?ll thank me when the time comes,? Seifer replied. ?Listen,? Zell butted in, ?This ain?t no ordinary battle. It?s a field exam. A damn important one, too. I think we need to stick to our orders or we ain?t gonna pass it? or get ourselves killed.? ?Then stay here if you want to,? said Seifer. ?I don?t need a boy scout.? ?What the hell?s [i]that[/i] supposed to mean?? Zell asked pointedly, stepping closer to Seifer. Seifer just smirked. ?Just ignore him, Zell,? Squall said. ?Don?t let it get to you. He enjoys stirring you up, and you?re only giving him what he wants.? He turned to address Seifer. ?Hey, if we?re going to go, then let?s get going.? ?Right,? Seifer said, cocking his gunblade. ?The enemy is headed toward the tower. We?re to secure the summit. Move out!? Squall cocked his own blade as well as Seifer led the way down the street, not bothering to take his beege with him. He didn?t need it. All he?d need was his precious gunblade. And, he noticed, Squall didn?t bother to grab his gun, either.[/font]
  3. Here is chapter 4. I'm sorry it's taking me so long to write this. I'm a slow writer, and I have decided to replay the game so that this information will be fresh in my mind. You'll notice that this chapter is very short compared to the others. This is because I have taken note that many writers choose to break down action sequences into several, smaller chapters in order to keep the excitement rolling, rather than having that feeling depleted by making the reader feel that he or she must now trudge through an incredibly long chapter. You may also notice that I have given Squall and Seifer guns in addition to their gunblades. This is due to a piece of information from the Final Fantasy VIII Ultimania Guide that I've come across stating that the gunblade does not actually fire real bullets, but rather an electrical surge pulses through the blade when the trigger is pulled. This means that I'll have to go back and find the part in an earlier chapter where I stated that Squall would not be needing a gun and change it, for continuity's sake. (EDIT: Taken care of.) I hope you enjoy the first chapter of the field exam. [font=book antiqua][center][b][u]Chapter 4[/u] Dollet[/b][/center] [size=6][color=red]T[/color][/size]he ship crashed upon the shore, nearly knocking Squad Beta to the ground as they stood cramped by the sturdy door. It was a good thing that SeeD ships were made mostly of the highest quality of reinforced mithril steel. Squall briefly wondered who the poor soul was whom the responsibility of paying for the equipment fell on. Xu hit the switch and the heavy door folded open downward. Xu climbed gingerly down the built-in steps on the interior of the door-turned-ramp, followed by Seifer, and Zell who leapt. Squall ran down as he removed his beege from its holster and loaded two. The soft feel of the sand beneath his boots was a welcome opposition to the steel floors of the ship?s interior. The explosions off in the distance made the hair on his arms stand on end. ?Okay. Secure the central square,? Quistis ordered, standing just inside the door of the ship. ?Once that?s done, proceed to the tower near the mountain region. I?ll be here maintaining contact between your squad leaders and Garden.? She produced a headset from her pocket, unfolded it and slipped it onto her right ear. The device consisted of a single earpiece, a microphone and a small antenna. Lightweight, wireless and comfortable, Squall had heard. Seifer and Xu put affixed similar devices to one of their ears, which lacked microphones. Apparently communication would only be one-way. ?Good luck,? Quistis said at last. Xu saluted, and Squall decided that he should as well. Zell apparently had the same idea, but Seifer was his usual disrespectful self. ?Let?s move out!? Seifer called out. The team turned and started up the beach toward the stairway to the road above, where Squad Alpha and a few Dollet soldiers awaited them. As they approached, one from Squad Alpha?likely one of the captains?came forward to greet them. ?Team Beta, I presume,? he said. ?I?m Raymond Malcolm of Alpha Squad.? ?A pleasure,? Xu said. ?Oh. I guess you?re that Crisso-something-or-other, right?? ?You can call me Xu. What?s the situation, Captain Malcolm?? ?Look, just make it Ray.? ?Alright. [i]Ray[/i] then.? ?Well, we cleaned up the beach,? Ray explained. ?It?s not likely there?s any G-guys around here anymore. Consider this a safe zone.? A safe zone. That was welcome news. It would buy the team a little bit of extra time to prepare themselves mentally for the war zone ahead. ?The enemy!? someone shouted, as if mocking Ray?s overconfidence. Two squads of Galbadian soldiers emerged from both ends of the street, weapons blazing, taking out a few Dollet soldiers caught off guard. So much for extra mental preparation. ?Attack!? Ray said as he turned about and fired his weapon, along with all SeeD and Dollet soldiers. ?Run for cover!? Xu shouted as she fired her beege, dodging in and out as she made her way toward the stairs. Zell strafed left as he fired and Seifer stood stationary as he took careful aim at heads. Squall decided to save his ammo and run straight toward the stairs, where he?d have a better shot or could engage them in melee combat at short range. At the base of the stairs, he dodged the falling corpse of a Dolletian ally then took aim at the chest of the soldier?s Galbadian opponent from the nose of his beege and pulled the trigger. A direct hit. As he reloaded, suddenly a Galbadian soldier who had managed to weave in and out of the crossfire drew his katana and leaped over the balcony toward Squall. Squall instinctively dropped his beege and pulled his gunblade from his belt as the G-soldier landed not three feet in front of him. Squall swung overhead, down, then to the right. The soldier was good enough to block his first few chops, but the final swing cut deep into his chest. The thick, blue armor, though durable, was no match for the mithril of Squall?s gunblade. The soldier?s helmet rolled away as he hit the sand, revealing the face of a young, blonde hopeful whose life was cut short in service to his oppressive, tyrannical government. It was all over as quickly as it had begun. Squall reloaded as he retrieved his beege from the sand and joined rest of Squad Beta as they gathered together, making sure everyone was accounted for. ?Ray!? Xu shouted. Catching sight of the fallen captain lying nearly still in the sand, Squall ran after his comrades to Ray?s side. ?Stay with us, Ray,? Xu pleaded with the brave man, kneeling beside his incapacitated body. Ray bled profusely from several gunshot wounds on his chest and legs. It didn?t look promising for this man?s future. ?Xu,? Ray rasped through clenched teeth. ?Get? get your squad to the town square. Protect? the city.? With that, the captain breathed his last. Xu stood up. ?Seifer,? she ordered, ?proceed as planned. I?ll stay here with Squad Alpha.? ?Right,? Seifer said. ?Let?s go!? Squall made final eye contact with Xu over his shoulder, who shot him a reassuring nod, before following after Seifer and Zell towards the stairs. They passed the members of Squad Alpha?most of whom saluted?and climbed the stairs to the road above the beach. They assailed under a tunnel, destined for the town square and ready for anything. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]T[/color][/size]his is how it feels to be Squall Leonhart: Your throbbing heart palpitates rigorously within your fragile chest, echoing through your fulminate body all they way up to your eardrums. Adrenaline overtakes you with each and every soldier you blast or cut down. You would have thought that such semi-indiscriminate massacre would weigh heavily on you conscience, but surprisingly it does not. Not one bit. Yes, you have morals. Yes, you believe in a peaceful solution to any conflict. No, you are not some deranged butcher. But seeing the only home you have ever known set ablaze by these fascist bastards overrules all of that. For seven years, you have hungered for this moment. The thought of finally putting an end to the Galbadian oppression has really been all that has kept you going. You know yourself to be extremely lazy and not easily motivated, and you likely would have given up by now if it weren?t for your burning desire to see justice served. Your gunblade has become an extension of your body. That gun you were required to bring along for the mission just isn?t your thing, and you find it all but useless. You greatly prefer melee combat alongside your only friend, the gunblade. Your sweaty fingers?usually cowled by your emotive black gloves?[i]would[/i] find it difficult to retain their grip on the metal handle and trigger, but their intimate relationship with the weapon has made all of that irrelevant. This weapon is your life, and you guard it with equal surety as you would your own body. As you pass the familiar bakery on your left, you notice its windows shattered. You can see the face of the owner and his wife?childhood acquaintances of yours?cowering behind the counter. As your eyes briefly make contact with the owner?s, his horrified expression turns to one of interest as he stands up to confirm if he is truly seeing who he thinks he?s seeing. Unfortunately, you cannot stick around long enough to see the expression of hope you imagine is gracing his face thereafter as you move on. Just then, three Galbadian soldiers leap from the arch above your squad leader into the street in front of you, two wielding katanas and the third a semi-automatic machine gun; ironically mirroring your current party. Seifer charges one of the melee soldiers, the sound of clashing metal reaching your ears. Zell positions himself behind a parked car, taking pot shots at the gun-wielding soldier who has taken cover behind a barrel. You plant your feet firmly in place, assuming a ready stance with your gunblade held out in front of you as the third soldier rushes you, sword raised. Fainting a block, you spin on your left foot as the soldier chops his weapon down at where you has just been, while you swing your blade at his back. He turns just in time to block your blade with his own as you briefly gaze into that blank, dark visor over clenched teeth. He has focused all of his attention on your blade and has let his guard down to all other attacks. You take the opportunity and thrust your boot into his armored vest, knocking him to the ground. You instinctually chop downward at where he falls, but he turns his fall into a backward roll and quickly recovers as your blade makes contact with the concrete. Your enemy quickly jumps to his feet as you rush him with your blade, but evidently he has not fully recovered from his brief disorientation as your blade bypasses his and makes contact with armor, then flesh, then bone. Falling forward, the soldier is no more. Another strike of vengeance against the empire that had kept your home under its thumb all of these years. Ahead of you, you notice that Seifer and Zell have also cut short the lives of their opponents. The former begins advancing up the street as the latter turns to motion you onward and follows. You start after them as you hear the sound of a door opening behind you, followed by a familiar voice calling your name. You look over your shoulder to behind the couple who owns the bakery waving at you, expressions of hope on their faces. You briefly wave back before turning your gaze back to where you are headed: the town square. You have waited for this moment for a long time, and now you will finally get it. You will [i]not[/i] lose. This [i]will[/i] be the day you see your beloved home freed from the oppression of these Galbadian scum. Furthermore, know that [i]you[/i] will have made it happen invigorates you beyond measure. This is how it feels to be Squall Leonhart. For now.[/font]
  4. Well, I just started writing chapter 4, and although I said I would not post chapter 3 until I'm at least halfway done writing chapter 4, here it is anyway. Now it just means that I've got to work faster. [i]Hoooo[/i] boy... You'll notice that 1. I have decided to skip the fire cavern altogether as it served as nothing more than an introduction to the battle system and didn't advance the plot at all, and 2. I have expanded upon the pre-Dollet mission briefing. First of all, I thought that having them meet in the middle of the hall was unlikely and, quite frankly, [i]stupid[/i], so I transferred it to a briefing room. This allowes for a more hands-on introduction and provides opportunity for students to ask questions. I've also transferred Xu's briefing on the ship to this point because I felt that it was something she likely would have shared with [i]everyone[/i], and not just her own squad. Here's chapter 3: [font=book antiqua][center][b][u]Chapter 3[/u] The Field Exam[/b][/center] [size=6][color=red]S[/color][/size]eifer tapped his fingers nervously against the wooden cafeteria table. He had participated in two other field exams in the past, and had failed. This one would be different. He?d prove to everyone that he was the real goods, especially being put in a position of command. ?Yo, Seifer, you?re a nervous wreck, man,? said his good friend, Raijin Zevvs, as he finished his carton of milk. ?Why don?t you let me buy you a drink, you know?? Seifer looked up. The fact that Raijin had never been fond of wearing shirts repulsed him. He seemed to enjoy showing off his hard-earned muscular body in his leather vest, which he always kept unbuttoned, just barely meeting dress code standards. ?Cid?s made me team captain,? Seifer said. ?He says it?s not normally given to non-SeeDs, but he did it because he [I]really[/I] wants me to pass this time.? He leaned back in his chair. ?And good thing, too, because [I]someone[/I] needs to whip these wusses into shape. The captains I?ve served under the last two times have been very lenient. They need someone tough to get things done.? ?Yeah man,? Raijin said, ?I?m sure you?ll get it this time. Well hey, at least you?re a candidate. We?ve never even made it [I]that[/I] far.? Across from Seifer sat his other best friend, Fujin Aolus, totally indifferent and unempathetic. A half-blind albino, Fujin had no doubt suffered some sort of traumatic experience as a child that left deep mental scars. Whether or not it was the same incident that took her left eye was anyone?s guess, but she had the habit of speaking in loud, one-word, authoritative sentences. Only when she and Seifer were completely alone together were the few times he had actually gotten her to speak like a normal person, and to reveal things of a semi-personal nature. ?Hey Fujin,? Raijin said, ?When do you think [I]we?ll[/I] be SeeDs?? Fujin glanced over her ear-length, white hair as she adjusted her eye patch. ?Ignore,? was all she blurted out. Fujin and Raijin had been Seifer?s best friends since the very beginning. A little over a year ago, they had founded the Disciplinary Committee, with the supposed intent of assisting the faculty in keeping order; but Seifer knew deep down that the real reason he wanted such a position was so that he could [I]legally[/I] boss other students around. ?You know, Seifer,? Raijin whispered as he leaned closer, ?I think Fuu?s even more irritable than you are.? ?What?? Fujin yelled as she jerked her head in Raijin?s direction, her one eye glowing with fiery red fury. ?N-nothing! Raijin whimpered. But it was too late: Fujin had decided to kick him in his shin with all of her might as he screamed, turning the heads of all nearby students. Seifer couldn?t help but chuckle. ?Take it easy, you know!? Raijin squealed. Looking past Fujin, Seifer caught sight of a familiar punk with spiky, blond hair as he ran in from the hall up to the counter. ?Oh, look. Here comes Chicken-Wuss,? he said. Fujin and Raijun turned to look. Seifer could faintly hear Chicken-Wuss?s voice as he placed his order. ?You got any hotdogs left?? Chicken-Wuss wheezed. ?I?m sorry, Zell,? the lunch lady said, ?but I?m afraid you?re a bit late again. We?re all sold out.? ?Damn! Not again!? Chicken-Wuss whined. ?It?s hopeless if you don?t get here early.? ?Yeah, they?re quite a popular item. So sorry.? ?It?s alright. I?ll try again tomorrow,? said Chicken-Wuss as he turned to sulk away. ?I?ll try to order some more,? the lunch lady called out to him, ?but there?s no guarantee.? Seifer, Raijin and Fujin all exchanged glances. ?Running!? Fujin exclaimed. The three arose from their seats. ?Let?s go fine that student for violation of academy regulations,? Seifer said. But he really couldn?t care less about ?academy regulations.? As long as he got to chastise someone, he would be satisfied. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]T[/color][/size]his uniform made Squall?s skin crawl. Though the blue jumpsuit was quite handsome, there was just something about formalities that made him cringe. However, the tolerable weight of his prized gunblade hanging from his belt made it worth it. Also hanging from his belt was a holstered BG-19 semi-automatic machine gun, the standard weapon of a SeeD. While he preferred not to use it, the mission called for everyone to be armed with a long-range weapon; and a melee weapon was encouraged for close-quarters combat As he strolled tumultuously down the second floor hallway, he couldn?t help but fume over his duel with Seifer that morning. Seifer cheated when he used that fire spell against him, since the use of magic was explicitly against the rules in student training exercises, as the student handbook had made quite clear. The question was: [I]why[/I] did he do it? What exactly was Seifer trying to prove by provoking Squall the way he did, making a simple training exercise into something personal? He didn?t know the answer, nor did he want to care. As he rounded the circular hallway past a few classrooms and faculty offices, the open door to his destination--the briefing room--came into view, through which he caught sight of Quistis--no, [I]Instructor Trepe[/I] and Headmaster Kramer standing in the front of the room with a line of seven SeeD members standing at attention against the wall behind them. Of those SeeDs, he only recognized Xu, the renown senior and military strategist protégé. Of the students present, he only noticed the clumsy girl who had bumped into him earlier, and Nida Throl, a classmate. Squall was never one to take an interest in getting to know many people. ?Oh, Squall. Good, you?re just in time,? said Quistis as she took notice of his arrival. All heads turned. At the same moment, Squall felt someone push him from behind. ?Out of the way,? came the familiar voice of Seifer as he entered. As Seifer slid his way past, his eyes met Squall?s as he shot him a boisterous smirk, to which Squall did not no how to respond with anything other than a glare. His eyes followed Seifer as he made his way toward the front of the room and took his place among the SeeD captains. Finding an empty seat to his immediate left, Squall unhooked his gunblade and beege and laid them on the floor in front of him as he slithered indignantly into the blue, padded chair, his eyes locked with Seifer?s for what seemed like an eternity before he finally decided to be the mature one--for once. Breaking the gaze, he composed himself. Seifer was not a SeeD, yet there he was among the squad captains. The rumor was that Cid--feeling sorry for Seifer?s repeated failure in these exams and desperately desiring a gunblade specialist among the ranks of SeeD--placed Seifer among the squad captains from SeeD in order for him to really give it all he had, and hopefully pass the exam. It seemed that Cid was [I]so[/I] desperate that he had even condescended to permitting Seifer to wear what ever he wished as he was the only one out-of-uniform in the entire room. Also, Seifer was the only one not standing at attention as he leaned casually against the wall, his gunblade hanging visibly from his belt beneath his trench coat. That was when he realized that he was staring at Seifer again, who most assuredly was staring back at him. Once again, he composed himself and looked away. ?Alright, I think that?s everyone,? Quistis began. ?Headmaster Kramer will now begin today?s briefing.? She stepped to the side as Cid took his place front and center, hands conjoined at the small of his back. ?Good afternoon,? Cid announced. ?Good afternoon, Headmaster Kramer,? the audience intoned. Squall was not into that. ?I?m afraid the situation is quite dire,? Cid explained. ?Galbadian forces are advancing upon the old TV tower, indiscriminately pillaging anything or [I]anyone[/I] that stands in their way. Captured SeeDs and SeeD cadets are being held hostage in an abandoned underground bunker near the City Hall. While our troops are putting up a quite a fight, their numbers are dwindling and we [I]need[/I] reinforcements. ?This is where you come in. As commander-in-chief of SeeD and Balamb Garden, I have selected this campaign as this year?s field exam. What we need are two recon squads: one to recapture the tower, one to liberate the prisoners, and two for emergency backup. The council feels that small teams would draw less attention and hopefully be able to get the job done quietly and more efficiently than would entire battalions. Once the tower is cleansed and our captured troops liberated, all cadets are to pull out and return to Garden while more SeeD troops will be deployed to carry out the remainder of the battle.? It made sense. As Cid gazed around the room, making eye contact--it seemed--with almost every single person, his posture stiffened as a grave look overcame his face. ?This exam will involve twelve members from squads Alpha through Delta,? Cid continued, his voice deepened with solemnity and sternness. ?You will proceed to a [I]real[/I] battlefield. The battles are real, the enemies are real, the danger is real. Life and death, victory and defeat, honor and disgrace. Each of these go hand-in-hand. There is only one way or the other: success or failure.? Squall could have sworn he could hear each and every [I]gulp[/I] in the room. No one dared look away from the headmaster?s gaze. ?You will be accompanied by eight SeeD members. Should you fail, these members will get the job done. The pride of Balamb Garden: the elite mercenary force, SeeD. Learn from them, obey their commands and accomplish the mission [I]together[/I].? Cid made another scan of all the faces, letting his words ring loudly in their ears and their hearts before continuing. ?And now I?d like to turn the remainder of today?s briefing over to our expert strategist, Chrysovalantou Xulander.? Cid stood off next to Quistis as Xu stepped forward and stood took her place in front of the assembly. Simultaneously, a viewing screen lowered from the ceiling and took its place behind her. ?Thank you, Headmaster Kramer,? Xu said. Cid smiled and bowed his head slightly. ?Lights, please,? Quistis called out. The lights dimmed to minimum as the screen lit up, showing a map of the city of Dollet. ?Our client for this mission,? Xu began, her arms at her back, ?is the Dollet Dukedom Parliament. A request for SeeD?s assistance was made thirty-one hours ago. The Galbadian government--who has been lording over Dollet with little hostility for five years now--has launched an unexpected attack upon the city some seventy hours ago. Forty-nine hours ago, Dollet abandoned their position in the inner city and were pushed back towards the far city limits.? A yellow glyph lit up in the center of the map indicating the former position of the Dollet army, followed by a dotted line weaving its way from that position to the end of the city schematics and beyond. ?Currently, the D-army have retreated into the nearby mountains and are reorganizing their troops. The G-army has dispatched troops to mop up the remaining D-troops in the mountain region.? The line came to a stop at what represented the mountain range outside the city, which began to glow yellow indicating the current position of the Dollet military. ?That?s the current status. Now onto the mission objective.? She turned sideways, her eyes centered on the screen. ?According to our reports, the captured SeeD and D-army prisoners are being held in this bunker [I]here[/I], below the City Hall,? she pointed to a red glowing area near the right side of the map, ?while other G-army troops are advancing upon the tower [I]here[/I].? She pointed to another red glyph. ?We?re to make a landing [I]here[/I] at Lapin Beach. Squad Delta, with Squad Gamma as backup, are to infiltrate the bunker and rescue the captives while Squad Beta, with Squad Alpha as backup, are to eliminate any and all G-troops in or around the tower. Once both objectives are accomplished, we are to eliminate the remaining G-army within the city and liberate it. Afterwards, our SeeD troops will intercept any G-troops trying to make their way into the city from the mountain region.? The screen went blank and retracted back into the ceiling as Cid and Quistis came and stood beside Xu. ?Any questions?? Cid asked. The lights returned to full brightness. ?The people on the backup squads,? one student spoke up, ?if we don?t end up seeing any action, how will we be graded? We won?t automatically fail the exam, will we?? ?Good question,? Cid said. ?I assure you that there will be more for the backup teams to do. For example: Squad Alpha will be in charge of securing the beach along with the SeeDs stationed there while on standby for Squad Beta, who will be infiltrating the tower area. Team Gamma will be responsible for keeping the path from the bunker to the beach secure while on standby to Squad Delta, who will be rescuing the prisoners. You see, while it?s true that the backup teams are there to serve as replacements should members of the primary teams fail or be--? he appeared to choose his words carefully, ?--[I]incapacitated[/I], you will be somewhat responsible for your sister squad?s return by keeping the way clear. Should your assistance not be needed, you will be graded on your performance elsewhere.? ?What if we can?t win?? another student--the clumsy girl who had bumped into Squall earlier--dared to say. Everyone in the room snickered disapprovingly, and rightly so. How dumb [I]was[/I] this girl? Was she suggesting that they were inept? For the first time in his life, Squall realized, he had felt the closest thing to team spirit than he had ever imagined conceivable. Or was it just an extension of his own pride? He couldn?t tell. ?Um, in the event of an impossible victory, the commander--Instructor Trepe--will give the order to the squad captains to abort. They in turn will give the order to their respective squads. If your captain tells you to abort, you abort. No questions asked, just get back to your ships. Understood?? A collective affirmative, albeit shameful grunt resounded. This was the one thing the proud would-be warriors bent on victory were not too proud of. ?Are there any other questions?? Cid asked. A few seconds of silence passed. ?Then Instructor Trepe will now announce squad assignments. Best of luck to all of you.? Cid stood aside, Xu took her place among the SeeD captains aligned against the front wall, and Quistis came font-and-center once again. ?Malcolm and Raana will have Team Alpha with Kang and Tilmit,? Quistis began. ?Almasy and Xulander will have Team Beta with Leonhart and Dincht, Seddraw and Distivali will have Team Gamma with Throl and Izari, and Vogan and Athan will have Team Delta with Bowman and Faire.? So, he would be with Seifer. Somehow he expected as much. Now that he thought about it, at the beginning of his presentation, Cid had mentioned that they would be accompanied by eight SeeD members. He assumed that Cid simply did not wish to embarrass Seifer. After all, it would have been quite rude had he said, ?You will be accompanied by seven SeeD members and one inept, pompous cadet who never seems to be able to pass these exams despite his vaunted superior battle skills, and whom I had mercy on by putting him in a position of command and let him wear his favorite white trench coat in order to--? His fantasized monologue from Cid?s perfect, incorporeal counterpart inside his own brain was suddenly interrupted by the realization of who his squad mate would be. [I]Wait[/I], Squall thought, irritated. [I]Did she just say I?m with [/I]Zell Dincht[I]?[/I] ?Heh! Zell!? whispered the student beside him. ?Now [I]there?s[/I] a character.? ?He?s an idiot!? Squall scoffed. ?Problem, Squall?? Quistis spoke up. Heads turned once again as all eyes gazed in his direction. ?No, Ma?am,? Squall said. ?Good,? Quistis continued. ?Then please proceed to the garage, where four vehicles will be waiting to take each squad to Balamb. Once there, head to the docks where each squad will board a SeeD military ship, and we will then set sail for Dollet. I myself will be riding with Squad Beta.? He saw [I]that[/I] one coming, too. It was quite obvious to Squall that Quistis would do absolutely anything to be around him. It was all just too much to have been a string of amazing coincidences. ?Good luck, everyone.? With that, everyone scrambled toward the door. From the look of things, Cid, Quistis and Xu all stayed behind for a few extra second, probably to talk out the last bits of technicalities. Seifer stayed put against the wall, he assumed to taunt him some more, but that was when he realized that Seifer?s eyes were pointing towards the door. Turning, he noticed Fujin and Raijin--who had most likely been standing out in the hallway the whole time, listening in on the meeting--pushing their way past everyone and scrambling toward Seifer. They may have been mindless groupies, but they were loyal and supportive friends, it seemed. Squall picked his gun blade up from the floor as he climbed to his feet and hooked it to his belt. He walked up to the front of the room where Cid, Quistis and Xu stood conversing to one another. ?Excuse me,? he interrupted. They all turned in his direction. ?Is something the matter, Squall?? Quistis asked. ?Did you say I was with [I]Zell Dincht[/I]?? ?Indeed,? Quistis said. ?Quite a lively fellow, that one.? ?[I]Lively[/I]?? Squall punctuated. ?He?s just loud. And annoying! Look, is there any possibility of switching members so I could be on a different team? It?s not just Zell, it?s Seifer.? ?I?m afraid that is impossible,? Cid said. ?All squads have been randomly selected by the council of faculty members. Putting you with Seifer and Zell was not my doing, Squall. I?m afraid you?ll just have to accept it.? ?That?s right, Squall,? Seifer put in as he and his two friends moved closer. ?I?m your captain. You [I]will[/I] obey.? Squall glared. Seifer would not pass up an opportunity to intimidate him, even if it was in front of the headmaster of the garden with his own career at stake. ?Oh, there?s Zell now,? Quistis said, taking notice of someone else apparently still in the room with them. ?Zell, will you come here a minute?? Squall turned around to behold Zell boxing with air. Zell topped off his aerobics display with a backflip before turning a spry grin to Squall, his facial tattoo standing out in contrast to his spiky, blond hair. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]T[/color][/size]his is Zell Dincht: He knows everything about everything, and that?s all there is to it. Don?t argue with him, because no matter what you say, no matter how much you [I]think[/I] you might know about something, if it?s any different than what Zell knows about it, you are [I]wrong[/I]. Zell has seen it all and read it all, so therefore he knows it all. When he doesn?t understand something, or when there comes a point where he has not studied up on a particular facet of the subject at hand, he fills in that void with his own conclusions; and those conclusions are always [I]correct[/I]. That is what he believes, and he?s sticking to it. No one will ever convince him otherwise. Zell enjoys impressing everyone with his fighting skills which are a hybrid of Tekassi martial arts and boxing. Ever since childhood he had studied these two fighting styles from two different instructors back home in Balamb, and the irony is that those instructors absolutely hate one another. Yet, Zell is able to learn under both of their tutelage without any prejudice against him, though at times it seems that they try to outdo one another in teaching him, or one tries to keep him longer than the other. Apparently, he is that important. His only weapons are his fists and feet. It?s just too bad that he has to use [I]some[/I] sort of weapon for this field exam, like everyone else. Guns are mandatory. Melee weapons used for short-ranged combat are encouraged, but not necessary. He will be taking along a standard BG-19 semi-automatic and a short katana. Fortunately, his hometown of Balamb is only a short driving distance away, so he is a commuter. Although he does not own a car, the roughly an hour-long hike down that road every morning and evening helps keep him in shape, and he loves it. There is nothing more beautiful than the morning sunrise and the sunset in the evening as he walks between school and home. He has lived in Balamb all his life with his mother, Edith Dincht. While he has never known his father, he used to be quite close with his grandfather who had passed away seven years ago. His grandfather, Hogan Dincht, was a famous soldier from Balamb serving in the Esthar army. He admires his grandfather to such a degree that he took the liberty of getting the very same tattoo--the tattoo that Hogan and his friends in the service had had done on their shoulders symbolizing their brotherly love. The only difference is that Zell had had his done on the left side of his [I]face[/I]. When he entered Balmab Garden at the age of ten, the institution was only a couple of years old. When he had first heard of its construction and had gone to witness it for himself, his mother would not let him enroll right away, believing him to be a bit too young. But after a few years of begging, pleading and nagging, she finally gave in and Zell was off to follow in his grandfather?s footsteps. Today, Zell will make his deceased grandfather proud when he passes this field exam and is accepted into SeeD. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]Z[/color][/size]ell felt great! Nothing like a little warming up before the battle to get the adrenaline flowing. Not to mentioned that the onlookers were undoubtedly impressed with his moves, he was sure. He joined the small group of people gathered at the front of the room. The guy with the gunblade--he had heard his name was Squall--looked like he meant business. Hopefully, this guy was a better human being than that [I]other[/I] gunblade specialist who was good for little else than intimidating people. Unfortunately, that intimidator would be his squad captain. No matter. He was genuinely looking forward to the company of this Squall fellow as an alternative to putting up with Seifer?s nonsense. ?Whoa!? Zell exclaimed, trying desperately to get on Squall?s good side from the very start. ?I?m with [I]you[/I]?? Zell extended his hand. ?Name?s Zell. Zell Dincht.? Squall looked at Zell?s hand, then back up at his eyes. The look on his face combined with that cool scar made Zell quiver. He retracted his hand. Maybe this guy wouldn?t be so easy to befriend as he thought. He searched for something else to make conversation. ?Um, heard you don?t get along with Seifer, either.? Squall?s expression did not change. ?Heh! Heard he whooped your ass pretty good out on the mountain this morning!? ?We weren?t fighting,? Squall said. ?We were [I]training[/I].? ?Well, I bet he doesn?t see it that way. Guy?s our squad captain, you know. [I]That[/I] should be fun. Anyway, Seifer?s just an ass. Why do you let him get to you, anyway?? ?That?s--? ?--None you your business,? Instructor Trepe said along with Squall, who turned an annoyed gaze at her. Did these two know each other personally? Well, there [I]were[/I] rumors going around. Quistis cleared her throat. ?Excuse me, Zell, but your squad captain is standing right behind you.? ?Wha?? Zell spun on his heels, shocked. ?Hello, Zell,? Seifer said, flanked by Fujin and Raijin. He knew he was in for it now, especially after these guys had just issued him a detention for running in the cafeteria not too many hours ago. ?H-hey, Seifer.? Zell quivered. Seifer?s scar seemed even more menacing than Squall?s, though they were nearly identical. ?Yes, Seifer. You are the captain of Squad Beta. Good luck.? A smug grin overcame Seifer?s face. ?Instructor. You know I hate it when people wish me luck. Save it for someone who needs it, huh?? ?Very well,? Quistis retorted with a coquettish smile. ?Good luck, Seifer.? Zell couldn?t help but chuckle. Xu, Cid, and even Raijin did so as well. Seifer glared. ?Add Instructor Trepe to the list as well,? he mumbled, apparently to his friends. List? What list? ?Well then,? Quistis said, bringing back an air of professionalism. ?Seifer. Xu. Squall. Zell. You are Squad Beta. I will be accompanying you to Balamb, as well as to Dollet. I can?t stress enough that teamwork is of the utmost importance, so let?s all get through this exam together.? ?Listen up!? Seifer called out, probably more forcefully than need be. ?[I]Teamwork[/I] means doing what I say when I say it and staying the hell out of my way!? His eyes centered on Zell?s. ?And don?t you forget it,? he finished in a normal tone, poking at Zell?s ribs with his finger before spinning on his heels and exiting the room with his goons. Zell felt his blood boil. He inhaled and exhaled vigorously through his nose, but was able to bite his tongue. Barely. One day, his fist [I]would[/I] collide with Seifer?s face. Or his boot. It would all depend on how infuriated he would be, really. ?We have yet to have a gunblade specialist among the ranks of SeeD,? Cid said, obviously to Squall. ?That?s why I?m hoping you and Seifer will join us. Good luck, Squad Beta.? ?Thank you, Headmaster Kramer,? Xu said. The four of them started for the garage on the first floor. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]Q[/color][/size]uistis could see the town of Balamb beyond the three other jeeps up ahead. They were just about there. The jeeps were six-seaters, a bit bigger than standard military vehicles of like design. Xu sat in the passenger seat to her right, her hands folded professionally on her lap. Behind them sat Squall and Zell while the rear seat was occupied by Seifer alone, who sat in the middle rudely stretching his legs between Squall and Zell. All of them men had laid their weapons on the floor for the sake of comfort. ?Hey Squall,? Zell said, breaking over twenty minutes? worth of awkward silence, ?can I see your gunblade?? Quistis eyed Squall in the rearview mirror, who gazed in the opposite direction with the usual irritated look about his face. ?Come on, man!? Zell persisted. ?Just a peek?? Squall did not budge, as she expected. ?Fine! Why are you so stubborn, anyway?? Zell obviously did not give up easily. ?What?s on your mind? Say [I]something[/I], will you?? [I]Something[/I], Quistis thought, anticipating his answer. ?Something,? Squall grumbled. Oh yes. She knew him all too well. Quistis looked at Squall one more time in the mirror, and he happened to look back. She grinned at him before returning her eyes to the road. Balamb?s main gate was just up ahead, and the first two jeeps had already gone through. ?Fine,? Zell said as he gave up at last. ?What?s the matter, Chicken-Wuss?? Seifer spoke up. ?Must you always be so annoying?? ?What did you call me!? Zell yelled. He was far too easily stirred up. It was time she interjected. ?Knock it off, you two!? Quistis raised her voice. ?We?re here. Now, bear in mind that you represent Balamb Garden and SeeD, so [I]try[/I] to act like adults. Understood?? ?Yes, Instructor,? two voices intoned at once. The one missing was most obviously Squall?s. He almost seemed religiously passive at times, as if it were part of who he was. Quistis gazed at Xu sitting beside her, who returned a smile. Xu was always quiet when hostility broke out and was never one to argue. The jeep drove through the gate and entered Balamb as two SeeDs saluted on either side. They followed the others in front of them down a narrow street as small children playing together cleared out of the way and watched in awe, and a few even waved. A grin overcame Quistis? face as she and Xu waved back. That [I]always[/I] made her feel warm inside. They rounded a sharp bend, passed a few shops and finally arrived at the docks, where four SeeD naval vessels were docked. Quistis parked the jeep beside the three others as everyone picked up their belongings and exited the jeep. Quistis was the last to get out as she led the way down the paved docks. ?Alright everyone,? she called out as the team followed close behind, ?ours is the furthest one down. Follow me, please.? As they moved down the docks toward their awaiting ship, Quistis couldn?t help but hear some of the garden staff murmuring things about Squad Beta, the ?problem team,? and the ?rookie instructor.? She didn?t care. She was a successful woman with a successful career, so they could say what they wanted. It wasn?t hurting her one bit. She hoped. They arrived at the ship?s boarding ramp. Quistis stood aside with Xu as she gestured for the cadets to enter first. ?So this is our ship, huh?? Squall said. ?Ain?t no turning back now,? Seifer replied. Apparently, he too thought he was above the others--even though he was a cadet as well--as was apparent when he stood aside, opposite Quistis and Xu. ?Don?t disappoint me now.? ?Come on, move it!? Quistis yelled. Seifer was one of the few people in this world able to irritate her. Zell and Squall entered the boat, followed by Seifer. Xu then entered as Quistis climbed in behind them. ?The cabin in down the stairs and to your right,? she called out to the squad as she sealed the door behind her. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]S[/size][/color]everal hours had passed. Squall was thankful that no one in his squad seemed to be prone to sea sickness, and that the cabin furniture was surprisingly comfortable. It was a welcome luxury on such a voyage where for the past few hours he had had to put up with Seifer and Zell butting heads like two quadruped savages. Quistis would constantly stand up, yell, and then go back to discussing military tactics with Xu. He was surprised she had not come and pestered him yet. As if she had read his mind, Squall looked to his right to see Quistis making her way toward him. Affronted, he buried his face in his gloved hands and rubbed his eyes. That was when he remembered that a fresh battle wound bedecked his face, at which point the stinging returned. He sat back in his seat, his hand clinging to his face in pain. ?Easy Squall,? Quistis said as she sat down beside him. ?You?ve got to be careful with your face now.? Squall sighed. ?I never should?ve let Seifer talk me into ?training? with him,? he said. ?You seem to be easily talked into a lot of things,? Quistis replied. ?Then again, I feel that you?d hardly do anything at all unless someone nags you about it. I mean, you [I]knew[/I] that obtaining a GF was a prerequisite to this exam, and you had a month to do it; yet you kept putting it off until I reminded you about it [I]yesterday[/I]. In fact, I think that if I hadn?t?ve have gone with you, you [I]still[/I] would not have done it. And then what? You wouldn?t have been able to participate in today?s field exam.? Yes, he had heard this before, and he knew it to be all too true. Yes, he had waited until the last minute to obtain his guardian force--one of the only ones left, in fact: the creature at the fire cavern whom SeeD had officially named Ifrit. He could still remember the heat of that battle--both literally as well as figuratively--as the creature forced him to [I]earn[/I] its partnership. It was a tough battle, but Quistis was there to assist him. He may not have passed the creature?s test had Quistis not intervened with the aid of her own guardian force. It may have been cheating on her part, but it was evident that she [I]really[/I] wanted him to advance. Once they had finally bested the creature, it conceded to their strength and agreed to join them. Then there was that sensation: the sensation one would never get used to no matter how many times it happened, as the guardian force transfigured into its pure energy form and shot itself into Squall?s body, knocking him to the ground as it transfused into his nerves, traveled up his spinal cord and took its final abode in his brain. The humming sensation lingered in his head for several hours afterward. Yes, he was indeed a last-minute person, he admitted. A long silence lingered before Quistis decided to change the subject. ?You know, the boys often ten to choke on these exams when I come with them,? she said. Squall could tell that she was half-joking, but he was not in the mood to laugh. ?I guess my charm makes them nervous.? She smiled. He just gazed at her, detached. He was pretty sure she knew what familiar word he wanted to utter. ?I?m kidding! Just trying to keep you relaxed, that?s all.? Another few moments of silence. ?I suppose I was right,? Quistis went on. ?You and Seifer are indeed in a class of your own. You both have amazing strength and potential.? ?Instructor, who was that girl in the infirmary this morning?? He made his own conversation. ?Hmm? Was someone there? I didn?t notice anyone, at least not by the time I got there. Why? Is there a problem?? ?No,? Squall said, leaning back in his seat, ?Just forget it.? ?Oh, well isn?t [I]this[/I] exceptional!? Seifer said as he neared the group and took his seat across from them. ?I?ve got a chicken-wuss and a guy who just reached puberty in my squad.? Some people really didn?t understand the concept of minding their own business. Xu and Zell entered as the latter took his seat next to Seifer. ?Well, we?re almost there,? Xu announced. ?We anticipate a battle as soon as we disembark, so be prepared. Any questions, speak to Instructor Trepe.? She exited. ?So. What exactly do we do again?? Zell asked. ?Here?s a quick run-down,? Quistis said. ?Our goal is to eliminate the Galbadian forces occupying Dollet. The order to withdraw takes first priority. Be sure to make your way back to the shore when and [I]if[/I] this order is given. Your squad leader will be electronically linked with me via headset, so you?ll hear the order from him.? ?Listen up!? Seifer spoke up. ?We?re mopping up all the Galbadians in Dollet. All you boys have to do is take orders from me, your captain. Got that?? [I]Oh, get over yourself![/I] Squall wanted to say. Still, orders were orders, and as much as he hated the idea of taking orders from Seifer, he had to do it. Otherwise, he would never be a SeeD. ?You know, this is my first real battle,? Zell said. ?I?m a little on the nervous side.? ?Don?t piss your pants,? said Seifer. ?Shut up!? Seifer chuckled. ?Bastard!? Zell grumbled. ?Alright, enough,? Quistis said surprisingly calmly. ?Zell, I?m sure you?ll be fine. We?ll be landing soon, gentlemen. Be prepared.? ?Right,? Seifer said. ?Squall, go take a look up on deck.? ?No.? ?That?s an order, Squall. Now go!? Squall begrudgingly rose to his feet and made his way upstairs. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]S[/color][/size]quall stood on the deck of the ship as he surveyed his home city through a pair of binoculars he had found below deck. He boiled with wrath as he beheld his beloved home incandescent with the heat of war. Every explosion and every gunshot made his blood boil with fury. He lowered binoculars. Someone was going to pay for this.[/font]
  5. The next [i]two[/i] chapters, Doublehex. Anyways, you'll notice I have now inserted gunblade icons into the text as paragraph separaters. That reminds me: Is anyone here good a Photoshop? Would you be willing to design a cover for my story? You [i]will[/i] recieve recognition for it. Just let me know and I'll PM you an idea of what I want. I have decided to go ahead and post chapter two. (Hey, Doublehex. How come no one bothered to point out that there was a major typo in it at FFWA? I had forgotten a "[/i]" at the end of a piece of mental dialogue, and as a result the next three paragraphs were all in italics, making it nearly impossible to distinguish the internal dialogue from the narration!) So yeah, here is chapter two. I dare not post chapter three quite so quickly because I've not even started on chapter 4 yet, and I'm a slow writer. Maybe I'll post chapter 3 once I'm one third to one half finished writing chapter 4. [FONT=Book Antiqua][center][b][u]Chapter 2[/u] The Garden[/b][/center] [size=6][color=red]S[/color][/size]quall opened his eyes only to have them forced shut again by the blinding ceiling lights. He let out a groggy moan as he tried to open them again, slowly. ?Well well well,? came a familiar female voice from inside the same room. ?Look who?s finally up.? He knew the voice all too well. It was that of Dr. Kadowaki, the head physician at the garden. The two of them had met several times before, only never for anything this serious. Squall had always come for treatment for minor scrapes and bruises, thus letting him get to know the doctor a bit more. Squall lifted his hand over his eyes to dim the light a bit. That was when he felt the bandages wrapped around his face. ?What?s this?? he asked. ?Easy there, Squall,? the doctor said. ?You?ve got a nasty wound across your face, as well as a minor gash on the back of your head. I?m surprised there?s no concussion. I?m guessing that your ?training exercise? got a little more personal, eh?? ?Seifer? was all Squall said. He removed his hand from his face as his eyes adjusted to the light. Dr. Kadowaki?s familiar form began to take shape. She was a short, stout, middle-aged woman with her hair in a bun. She wore her trademark white physician?s coat which she never seemed to take off, even when off duty. ?Looks like your eyes are focusing. I think you?re going to be alright. Just take it easy training, huh? You may not be so lucky next time.? ?Yeah, try telling that to Seifer.? ?Bah! It?s no use,? Dr. Kadowaki sighed. ?That boy won?t listen to anyone. It?s like trying to reason with a potato. He was in here a little while ago for me to treat his injury. When I told him that he should stay and rest for a while, he shrugged me off and walked out. He didn?t even let me bandage him up after I was done with the stitching.? ?Yeah, that?s Seifer,? Squall said. ?Look. He obviously intimidates you to push you to do something drastic, which always ends with your undoing. Why can?t you just ignore him, plain and simple?? ?What?? Squall sat up. ?Do you expect me to just sit there and take it?? ?[I]Walk away[/I], Squall.? ?I can?t just ?walk away?! Someone needs to show Seifer that he?s not as tough as he thinks he is. His damn egocentric attitude is annoying as hell! Someone needs to put the guy in his place, and that someone is going to be [I]me[/I].? ??Egocentric,? huh?? The doctor chuckled. ?And you don?t think you suffer from that particular ailment as well?? ?What ever,? Squall grunted as he lay back down. ?Okay. You want to be cool, huh? Well that?s fine, but don?t end up getting yourself killed in the process.? Dr. Kadowaki picked up Squall?s student ID from his pile of belongings on the nearby chair. ?Let?s see here. Your instructor is?? She scanned the card carefully. ?Instructor Trepe. I?ll page her now.? Dr. Kadowaki walked out of the ward and into the office section of the infirmary where her desk sat. She picked up the phone and dialed the extension of Instructor Trepe?s classroom. At that same moment, Squall heard the door to the infirmary slide open and someone entered, most likely one of the doctor?s aids. ?Oh, thank you. You can set those over there,? Dr. Kadowaki told whomever the newcomer was. Squall lay back down and shuffled onto his side. As he did so, he caught a glimpse of this person through the window. It was not someone that he recognized. She had short, not-quite-shoulder-length black hair, a slender body and fair skin. What caught his attention the most was her light green shawl, most likely made of silk or some other extremely light fabric, gracing her arms. As the mystery woman set the tray of medical supplies down on a small table by the window, she turned her head in Squall?s direction, making eye contact. Her eyes were a piecing dark brown but yet full of light. A warm, gentle smile stretched across her radiant face. ?Hi there,? she said, her voice a bit muffled by the glass. ?It?s?really good to see you again, Squall.? She turned and left. Unless his ears were deceiving him, he could have sworn she uttered his name. Did he know this person? If so, from where? Although it was the first time he had ever seen that particular woman around here, yet there was something oddly familiar about her. He decided not to dwell on it. Dr. Kadowaki came back into the room. ?I just spoke to Instructor Trepe. She?s on her way.? He said nothing. ?In the meantime,? the doctor continued, ?let?s remove those bandages.? She made her way to his bedside and produced a pair of small scissors from her coat pocket. Sitting down on the stool beside him, she began to delicately cut away the bandages wrapped about Squall?s face. The cold metal of the scissors felt a bit funny against his raw, sweaty flesh beneath the bandages. Once they were off, he felt a bit relieved; though he could distinctly feel a piece of wounded flesh stretching across his face, diagonally between his eyes and across the bridge of his nose. It was an odd feeling, and a second later the pain returned, though it was not as great as it had been on the battlefield. Thank the stars for drugs. ?How?s it look?? he asked. ?Um?well, as expected, there?s a nasty scar. But I wouldn?t worry about it too much.? And worry he didn?t. He closed his eyes once more. ?Well, it?s time for my lunch break,? Dr. Kadowaki said. He could hear her stand up. ?Just try to get some rest until Quistis?[I]Instructor Trepe[/I] gets here.? She walked away as Squall drifted off to sleep once again. Who [I]was[/I] that girl? And why did he feel like he knew her from somewhere? Meh. Better not to think about it. For now, all he wanted to do was rest. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]T[/color][/size]his is Squall Leonhart: A loner. A pacifist. A lone warrior in the midst of a battlefield of enemies round about. A man who sees the world as something distant rather than something he has to participate in. Quite frankly, there aren?t many things that he cares about, and even fewer people that he cares about. In fact, he is quite sure that there is not a single person he knows whom he genuinely enjoys. He has no friends, and he is perfectly fine with that. After all, what?s the point of getting to know someone in a school for mercenaries when there?s a high probability that you will never see them again following graduation, since you?ll enlist in what ever military will accept you, and will be stationed wherever they sent you? No, there is indeed no point, and Squall accepts that truth. He has always been that way, ever since he could remember. His earliest memories are of his three years living in an apartment in the costal town of Dollet with his best friend and legal guardian, Deron Leonhart. Deron was five years older than Squall, and looked after him like an older brother. He and Deron had lived in Dollet from when Squall was eight to when he was thirteen, at which point Deron was found dead in the street, apparently murdered by a Galbadian soldier for talking ill of the Galbadian Empire. Bittered and enraged, Squall had decided to enroll at Balamb Garden in hopes of one day joining the mercenary-student organization known as SeeD. He did not?and still does not?know exactly what it stands for, but he had heard that it was an abbreviation for some ancient Centraic phrase. After having met and getting to know the garden?s headmaster, Cid Kramer, Squall was finally accepted into Balamb Garden to begin his studies as an underclassman. As an underclassman, in his spare time, he read about gunblades: their history, use, function and anatomy. Eventually, he was able to construct his own gunblade from the manuals he had read, and trained himself to utilize one from other resources he studied. It?s funny. He still feels like an underclassman sometimes, even though he only has one more year left at the garden. He hates that feeling with every once of his being. Although he likes to be high-and-mighty a lot of the time, yet his fears are what make him feel inferior at times, and that is one aspect that he despises about himself. As far back as he can remember he has always imagined his fears as a lion caged inside his heart who would often speak to him. While he can hardly hear the lion?s voice in the daytime?the fight with Seifer had been an exception?he most often hears it at night, when the door to its cage is unlocked and it is free to stalk its way around the depths of his inner being, making its way up to the mountain peak of his brain. [I]Why do you waste your time among these inferior brats?[/I] the lion frequently asks him. [I]You are better than them. Or rather, you should be. Your tolerance makes you weak, Squall Leonhart, and that is your only infirmity. You appear noble, strong and free-spirited on the outside, but on the inside you are weak. It is your fear that makes you no better than them.[/I] Squall replies, [I]And what makes you think I?m afraid? I?m not afraid of [/I]anything[I]! I fight bravely without the fear of injury or death, so what the hell are you talking about? Aye, but,[/I] the wise and fearless lion replies, [I]it is neither injury nor death that you fear. What you fear is the wounding of your pride; of not being the valiant warrior in the eyes of others as you believe yourself to be?or [/I]should[I] be.[/I] And then suddenly it all makes sense. This is why Squall doesn?t feel complete at times. Why he doesn?t always feel proud of himself, even though he likes to appear to be of that frame of mind in front of everyone. There is a piece missing to the puzzle of his identity, and in that void exists the fear of what others think of him. He is, however, quite good at masking it. He manages to project such a convincing ?I don?t care? attitude?from the way he talks to his countenance and mannerisms to the way he walks?that pretty much everyone appears to be fooled; when in reality he cares quite a bit. In fact, he is so obsessed with other people?s opinions of him that he has become an expert at judging to what degree he should put on his little show every day, and in every environment. Yet, he can?t help but feel this sense of helplessness at times, and that scares him. He wants to be that perfect warrior he envisions, and he wants it [I]now[/I]. He has never liked waiting. [I]Understand, Squall,[/I] the lion says. [I]I do not want you to be a coward; yet at the same time, you will never be that warrior you desire to be. That?s not you. Being a warrior is not what will save you, Squall Leonhart. You are searching for the wrong treasure.[/I] He doesn?t quite understand it, but he can often hear those words ringing and burning in his ears. He is the ultimate warrior?at least in his own mind. And soon he will be the ultimate SeeD. He is determined. Focused. Clear-headed and reserved. And even though he would never admit as much, he is proud to be a student at Balamb Garden. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]Q[/color][/size]uistis walked down the long corridor to the infirmary. She wondered why the hallways were longer than need be. They were about half a mile long, and that was no exaggeration. Ordinarily, students would greet her in the hallways, but this corridor was empty. No one was going to or coming from the infirmary today, which she took as a good thing. As she strolled down that hallway, she took a moment to appreciate the sunlight shining in through both sides of the transparent walls. Looking to the side, she beheld the hills to the north engulfed in the morning sun. The glare forced her to lower her glasses for a moment, which made the scenery not quite as clear, but still magnificent to behold. Returning to the present, she approached the door of the infirmary. She felt a certain nervousness that she couldn?t quite put her finger on, and she seemed to experience this sensation every time she was around Squall. She straightened out her instructor?s uniform?a handsome ensemble of a black jacket decorated with many militaristic patches of colors, a matching skirt that reached her knees, and black boots?took a deep breath, and pressed her finger against the ?OPEN? plate. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]T[/size][/color]his is Quistis Trepe: A woman in every sense of the word, she is classy, elegant, and wise beyond her years. At just eighteen years of age, Quistis is a natural-born leader. What she lacks in physical strength she more than makes up for in ingenuity. There are few people in this world like Quistis. Having been raised by Professor Winston Trepe and his wife Jaina in the small town of Shanagon in the southeast of the Western Continent, Quistis was destined to follow in her father?s footsteps. At the age of eight, she left behind her parents and younger brother to study at Balamb Garden. In her latter years, she was approached by Headmaster Kramer himself and offered the position of Instructor of War Tactics. She enthusiastically accepted that offer, and that is where she is today. She loves her job with all her heart. Although she doesn?t really feel any type of connection to most of her students, she still cares for the wellbeing of each and every one of them. Especially Squall Leonhart. He is the first and only student Quistis actually has any type of feelings for. Although she can?t really determine what exactly it is that she feels when he?s around, it is quite obvious to her that there is definitely [I]something[/I] there that cannot be denied. In fact, she often worries that she may be blushing when Squall comes around. So she stiffens her posture and assumes the image of an intelligent, dignified woman of high respect?which indeed she is. Squall is a tough nut to crack. He is almost frustratingly self-reserved, and Quistis is dying to know what lies beneath the tough-guy exterior. Yes, she is definitely attracted to Squall for some odd reason, and she doesn?t know why. It?s not like he?s the nicest person in Garden, after all. Yet, there is something about him. Something?[I]familiar[/I]. Something that makes her feel young again. Bah! When these thoughts enter her head, she decides not to dwell on them. She has enough things to worry about. She worries that she is not living up to what an instructor is supposed to be, and fears that her termination is imminent. No, her leadership skills and tactical expertise on the battlefield are unquestionable. What [I]is[/I] questionable is her devotion to her job [I]in the classroom[/I]. After all, she finds herself flirting with her students at times, especially Squall. And that is a big no-no in the Balamb Garden?s Instructor?s code of conduct. But it?s not only that. She?s just?not into it. All-in-all, Quistis is the ideal human being. Yet she is living proof that even overachievers have their flaws. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]T[/size][/color]he door slid open as Quistis entered the infirmary. Having glanced around and not seeing Dr. Kadowaki at her desk or anywhere at all, she assumed it was okay for her to just go right on into the ward. Having rounded the corner into that room, she spotted Squall lying asleep on the nearest bed to her left. His shirt had been removed, and she salivated over the contours of his shapely chest muscles and abs. She shook it off. Such thinking was unbecoming of an instructor, especially in regards to one of her students. Having come to her senses, it was then that she finally took notice of that quite hard-to-miss scar running across his face between his eyes. So [I]this[/I] was what happened when two massive egos butted heads. She sighed. When would these guys ever grow up? Didn?t they realize that they were playing with real weapons and magic?things that could have gotten them [I]killed[/I]? Boys would be boys. Spotting a nearby stool with all of Squall?s belongs and the remainder of his clothing placed on top, she reached for his shirt and threw it at him, careful not to hit his wounded face with it. ?Wake up, Tough Guy!? She said. As Squall squirmed and moaned, shaking the post-nap grogginess off, Quistis suddenly realized that she was being inappropriate again. She immediately composed herself, folded her hands at the small of her back, and reassumed her instructor?s posture and manner of speech. She cleared her throat before continuing: ?You?re lucky to be alive, Squall. Had the hunters not spotted the two of you, I?m not sure what might have happened.? ?Hunters?? Squall whimpered, rubbing his eyes. ?Now get dressed,? Quistis said, ?Today is the big field exam. I wouldn?t want one of my best students missing all the fun.? She shot him a flirtatious smile as she walked out into the office area. Finding a mirror on the wall behind Dr. Kadowaki?s desk, Quistis gazed at herself as she smoothed out the long bangs of her golden hair which she always let hang, and adjusted the bun tying back the rest of her hair. She removed her glasses and took this opportunity to gaze deep into her pale blue eyes, which stood out against her fair skin and dark attire. For some reason, she found herself hoping she looked alright, though she could not put her finger on exactly why. That was when she noticed the blurred form of Squall inside the patients? room climbing groggily out of bed and slipping into his black leather pants. She put her glasses back on for a clearer picture, and she was glad she did. Squall looked absolutely divine, even when injured and drugged up. ?You know, Squall,? she called out to him as he slipped into his white tee-shirt, ?I?ve noticed that you?ve been quite distracted lately. Is there something on your mind?? She waited for his customary irritated reply. ?Not really,? they both said in unison. Squall looked at her over his shoulder with that look in his eyes that she found priceless. She giggled. ?What?s so funny?? Squall grumbled. ?Funny?? Quistis said. ?No, no, it?s not that. I?m just?[I]happy[/I], I suppose.? ?Happy?? She turned around. ?Yes. I feel like I?m finally beginning to understand one of my students a little better.? She smiled. ?And believe me, that?s not an easy thing to do. You?re a hard nut to crack.? Squall sat down on the bed as he put on his socks. ?You can think what you want,? he said. ?But don?t think you?ve suddenly figured me out. I?m a lot more complex than you think, Instructor.? ?Oh, really?? Quistis said. She walked back around the desk and stood in the doorway of the ward. ?Then tell me, Squall. Tell me more about yourself.? Squall gazed up at her as he tied his boot strings. He bore the most begrudged look anyone could ever possibly bare.? ?Tell me,? Quistis went on flirtatiously, ?about your childhood.? ?My childhood?? Squall looked confused. ?Yes! Your childhood. Your sensation. Your words. Your emotions.? Sure, it sounded completely nonsensical, but hey, it was better than nothing. Quistis may not have been much of a poet, but she [I]was[/I] persistent. ?You know, from back then, I mean.? ?It?s none of your--? ?--Business!? She finished for him. She couldn?t help but giggle once again. Squall was silent. He had apparently had it up to his eyeballs with her. And it was damned [I]cute[/I[. ?Let?s go,? she told him as he put his jacket on. ?You wouldn?t want to be late for class with your [I]favorite[/I] instructor.? She shot him one final flirtatious smile over her shoulder as she walked out of the infirmary. As she strode back down the hallway, she realized something: she did it [I]again[/I]. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]C[/color][/size]id sat tapping his pen against his desk as he went over the final preparations for today?s operation in his head. He had faith in his students, but he couldn?t help but be a bit nervous every time something like this came up. After all, there was always a one hundred percent chance that people on his side of the conflict would be injured or killed. Though it usually tended to be the allies in what ever battle his students took part, there was always the danger that some of the students would not return to Balamb Garden. It didn?t happen often, but when it did happen, it was always a big deal. No one liked sending [I]kids[/I] off to war, much less seeing them killed. Still, what had to be done was what had to be done. Sometimes sacrifices had to be made. It wasn?t fair, but then again the world was not a fair place. Just then, his pager rang. He pressed the button on his desk. ?Sir, Xu is here to see you,? the voice of his secretary called in from the intercom. ?Thank you,? Cid replied. ?Send her in.? Ah, yes. Chrysovalantou Xulander--better known by her infinitely more manageable nickname, Xu--was truly an indispensable human being. What [I]would[/I] he do without her? A fully-fledged SeeD and student in her last year--and most likely Quistis? heir as resident military strategist--Xu was practically Cid?s eyes and ears. Whether that was good or bad, he could not decide. Cid rotated completely around in his expensive office chair as the fancy double doors opened and Xu came marching in with all of her paperwork clutched against her chest. Clad in the usual female SeeD uniform consisting of a mostly black coat and skirt with various designs, Xu had shoulder-length brown hair, piercing dark eyes and light skin. She almost reminded Cid of a younger version of his wife--or rather, his ex-wife. Every time he saw her, mixed emotions boiled within him. He had to smile at the pleasant memories conjured up from her appearance, but at the same time he winced at the painful reminders of what had become of his beloved. ?Headmaster Kramer,? Xu began. Cid snapped out of his daydream. ?I have the reports from the Dollet Army?s central command intelligence.? ?Thank you, Xu,? Cid said warmly as he reached out and took the papers from her hand. ?How does it look?? ?Not good, I?m afraid,? she sighed. ?The Galbadians have pretty much taken over the town and are presently advancing upon the old military communications tower. It appears to be their main interest.? ?The tower?? Cid pursed his lips. ?What in the blazes could they want with [I]that[/I]?? ?We don?t know, Sir. I?m guessing they?re trying to use it to make some large-scale military broadcast.? ?Probably.? He sat silently for a few seconds, going over it all in his head. ?Thank you, Xu. That?ll be all.? She nodded and left the room. Cid polished his glassed with his tightly-fitted wool vest as he gazed at the sky through the large, glass roof of his huge office. He tried to appear on top of it all, but in reality he felt like he never quite knew what he was doing. He knew he was a pushover, and that aspect of his character bothered him more than anything in the world. Still, important decisions had to be made, and they had to be made [I]now[/I]. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]S[/color][/size]eifer sat at his desk, gazing at his reflection in the blank computer screen. The scar running diagonally between his eyes was almost as red as his short, buzzed hair. To his surprise, he didn?t really mind the wound much. After all, it was not uncommon at all to see SeeDs walking around the school with freak battle wounds drawing all of the attention away from their otherwise attractive faces or figures. His injury was nothing to be too worked up over. He snickered at the reminder of how that scar got there. Apparently, he had underestimated Squall quite a bit. He didn?t think the guy had it in him, but he was obviously mistaken. But he was glad. Glad not because Squall had managed to deflate his ego a bit, but glad because the kid was learning. Speaking of Squall, Seifer looked up to behold his opponent enter the classroom, followed by Instructor Trepe close behind. Everyone was quick to take their seats. ?Good morning,? Quistis announced. Some students retorted, while others didn?t even care to acknowledge her. ?As you know, there will be no class today. That being said, let?s go over today?s schedule so that you can get out of here as soon as possible and do what you need to do to get ready for today.? Squall took his seat across from Seifer. He never returned his gaze, or even looked up from his panel. Seifer had to chuckle to himself. That was when it hit him: he and Squall shared matching wounds. The only difference was that Squall?s scar ran diagonally in the opposite direction of his own. ?I?m sure you know that today is the field exam for SeeD candidates. Team assignments will be announced in briefing room two at sixteen hundred hours. Those not participating are free for the remainder of the day. Those who failed last week?s written test are to remain here in study hall where the makeup test will take place in approximately fifteen minutes. This will be your last chance to make yourselves eligible for today?s field exam. Otherwise, you?ll have to wait another year. Are there any questions?? ?Yeah,? Seifer spoke up. ?I?m just wondering who?s going to be so lucky to serve under me in the field exam?? He did so enjoy giving her a hard time. ?You?ll be given your team assignment along with everyone else, Seifer,? Quistis said. He could sense a bit of irritation in her voice, and he loved it. ?And Seifer? Do not injure your partner while training! The same goes for you, Squall. You could?ve [I]killed[/I] each other!? ?Fine. I?ll be careful,? Seifer yawned. ?Class dismissed,? Quistis announced, coming to her feet. As everyone gathered their things and headed for the door, Quistis called out once again: ?Squall, may I see you a moment?? Was he in trouble? Was she favoring him? Seifer did not care. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]T[/size][/color]his is Seifer Almasy: He is the best of the best. End of story. There exists no other like him, and no one can be as good as he is on the battlefield. He disregards orders because he makes his own rules. He is not afraid to let his emotions show, and he will stand firm on what [I]he[/I] believes should be done in every situation. Although he has taken the SeeD field exam many times and failed, it is not because of any sort of inadequacy in his performance, for he is the best. Rather, it is because those stupid higher-ups make harebrained decisions, and he is man enough not to go along with them when he knows that he is right. It?s not his fault that he isn?t a SeeD. It?s [I]never[/I] his fault. He grew up in Deling City in the far west, the adoptive son of one Kann Almasy, a Dollet military veteran. His father taught him to be a roughneck in every sense of the word, and it was his father who taught him how to use the attenuated gunblade. Kann taught Seifer to get what he wanted no matter what length he had to go to get it. It was only natural that Seifer decided to become a mercenary, and thus enrolled at Balamb Garden at the age of twelve. Since his arrival, he has made it quite clear that he kowtows to no one. Within his first year at Garden, he met and befriended a boy named Raijin Zevvs from Esthar, and a girl named Fujin Aeolus from Trabia about a year thereafter, and the three have been best friends ever since. Three years ago, the three founded the Balamb Garden Disciplinary Committee; a club where Seifer would be free to exercise his love of ordering people around. Although he finds most non-war subjects boring, he [I]does[/I] take a mild interest in history. Ever since learning of sorceresses of old, he has taken up an intensive study of sorceresses and their knights. It has been his dream to one day become a sorceress? knight, though it is unknown if there are any more sorceresses left on Adama; and if there are, they probably live a life of secrecy. Though he never misses home, he does go back to Deling City every summer to see how his pop is keeping up. His stay is usually limited to two or three weeks, but this past summer he met a certain young lady, which ended in his staying all summer long. She was the daughter of some military general. But he tries not to think about that. That relationship ended in disaster, and thinking about it only hinders his performance. He is being placed in a position of command in today?s field exam, much to his delight. The decision came from Headmaster Kramer himself. Kramer told Seifer that the reason for his decision is that he really wants him to pass this time. Evidently, even the headmaster thinks he?d be an indispensable asset to SeeD. He?d be foolish to think otherwise, for Seifer is the best. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]Q[/color][/size]uistis pulled Squall aside to the corner opposite the door. As she did so, Squall could hear a group of students gathered near the door whisper to one another, and he knew it was about him because he could feel their eyes on his back. Whether they were gossiping about the scar on his face or about something supposedly going on between him and Quistis--or a combination of the two--he did not know. All he knew was that, while he tried to project an air that he did not care about what others thought of him, the truth was that he was quite tired of all these rumors. Then again, it was inevitable. He [I]did[/I] feel that Quistis had some sort of unhealthy obsession with him since she was always on him like flies on honey. In fact, it annoyed him quite a bit. ?I need to talk to you about something,? Quistis whispered. For a split second, he was worried. Worried that Quistis--his [I]teacher[/I]--was about to make some sort of major confession of undying love for him. What was worse, he wondered how he should respond to it. ?I just wanted to make sure you?re feeling alright.? Quistis continued. He let out a sigh of relief. ?Yeah?yeah, I?m fine,? he replied. ?Good to hear,? Quistis said. ?It?ll be a while. Maybe you should get some rest before the field exam?? He shook his head. ?But not too long.? she went on. ?The last thing we need is a groggy soldier on the battlefield.? She shot him a final smile before she gathered her things and walked out of the classroom. Oh yes. The field exam. While he didn?t particularly look forward to it, it would be a nice change of pace from the everyday routine. His first [I]real[/I] battle. Yes, it was a big deal. It was a big deal not only because it would decide if he would be accepted into SeeD or not, but also because he was anxious to drive those damned Galbadians who killed his brother out of his home city. Not to mention that it would be nice to be back in the old city again, even though he?d be busy fighting a war. He had never taken a field exam before, and this would be the last one offered this semester. Other students who have taken it had failed every single time; others did not come back. The few that did make it and were made SeeDs have all unanimously expressed that they while they were glad it was over, they knew that other, tougher battles awaited them in their futures. Squall looked out the corner of his eye as he exited the classroom to behold the same group of students gazing and snickering at him. Before he had a chance to return his gaze to watch where he was going, someone bumped into him--hard--and fell to the ground, books and papers scattered everywhere. ?Oh my goodness! I?m so sorry!? the other person said. It was a young girl with shoulder-length brown hair turned up at the ends, and attired in a SeeD uniform. This was the second person within the same day whom he had never seen before. Are you okay?? Squall asked, pretending to care. ?Yeah, I?m fine,? the girl said as she picked up all of her things and came to her feet. She met his gaze as she smirked embarrassedly. [I]Cute girl[/I], Squall thought. [I]Wonder how old she is?[/I] ?Sorry, I was running late,? the girl said. ?Is the registration for the field exam over?? Squall nodded. ?Oh no!? she whined. ?Don?t worry about it,? Squall said. ?I?m sure if you leave a note for Instructor Trepe, there shouldn?t be any problem. Did you pass the written test?? ?Yeah, I did.? ?Then I think you?re okay.? ?Well [I]that?s[/I] a relief,? she breathed. ?I?m new here. Just transferred from Trabia Garden.? She took a look around. ?Gosh. This place is so much bigger than my old school. And it?s a lot warmer here, too. Hey, do you think you?d have time to show me around?? He tried not to roll his eyes. He didn?t know the girl, but she was already annoying him. ?I?m sorry. I don?t have time.? ?Bummer,? she looked down. ?Well, maybe I?ll see you around sometime?? She giggled as she entered the classroom. What was with all the new people? As he strode toward the elevator, his mind went back to the girl he had seen in the infirmary that morning. Who [I]was[/I] she? How did she know him? He decided it best not to think about it. Instead, he focused on the task at hand.[/FONT]
  6. Hello, everyone! I’m Darth Anarcus, and I am pleased to bring you (as my first post at these forums, no less) a project I’ve been working on for the last few months: book one of my monetization of my favorite game of all time: Final Fantasy VIII. This novelization was inspired by Mathew Stover's Revenge of the Sith novelization, and is quite different from my first attempt. I was quite impressed with Stover's use of second-person, as well as using symbols to describe a certain scene, or certain characters in action. Readers may also notice a symbiotic relationship I've introduced between a character and a metaphorical beast inside his heart, which is inspired by Anakin and his dragon. (I enjoyed that bit very much.) My style of characterization is also greatly influenced by Stover. While it may seem that I tend to borrow everything from the man, I can assure that that is not the case. I have developed it to such a degree that I have created my own style from it which is not a carbon copy of Stover's style. Based on the feedback I've gotten from friends so far, this story definitely has a lot of passion behind it and sounds like I am [I]really[/I] enjoying writing it, which indeed I am. However, I should tell you that I am an [I]extremely[/I] slow writer, having to live with ADHD and all, so sorry if it takes forever and a day to get this thing even halfway done. This story will be separated into three parts, forming a trilogy. These "books" correspond roughly to each disk of gameplay, with the fourth part being tacked onto the end of Book Three as it is too short to be a piece in and of itself. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I am enjoying writing it. So far, I have written a prologue and three chapters. For now, I’ll post the prologue and the first chapter, followed by consecutive chapters every one to two weeks (but without any guarantees). Since the first three are done, I may post the next two chapters as soon as tomorrow or the next day depending upon how much feedback I receive between now and then. Please feel free to “rip it to pieces” as they say, and offer any constructive criticism you have to offer. Enjoy! [FONT=Book Antiqua][center][b][u]Introduction[/u][/b][/center] [I]The nation of Galbadia initiates inexplicable hostilities against nearby nations Dollet and Timber. Both request aid of Balamb Garden, an elite military academy that trains mercenaries called SeeDs. Three newly-commissioned SeeDs, led by Squall Leonhart, are dispatched to deal with the conflict, which proves fortuitous: Galbadia, as it turns out, has fallen under the power of a Sorceress named Edea. Sorceresses are extremely dangerous, and the Gardens were founded to counter them. And Edea does not seem content with only one nation to rule. Squall and his friends are thus drawn into a conflict far greater than they could have imagined, a conflict which threatens the world itself.[/I] [center][b][u][size=6]Dramatis Personae[/size][/u][/b] [size=1][i](To be updated with each new character introduction)[/i][/size] [b][u]Balamb Garden[/u] • Faculty[/b] Headmaster Cid Kramer Dean Berry Borza Instructor Yosh[i]i[/i]taka Aki Instructor Quistis Trepe Doctor Kyoto Kadawaki [b]• SeeD Mercenary Force[/b] Chrysovalantou “Xu” Xulander Raymond Malcolm Seifer Almasy Squall Leonhart Nida Throl Zell Dincht Selpie Tilmit [b]• Others[/b] Fujin Aeolus Raijin Zevvs [b][u]The Forest Owls[/u][/b] Theodosius “Zone” Zographiou Rinoa Heartily Emmanuel “Watts” Watson [b][u]The Republic of Galbadia[/u][/b] President Vinzer Deling Sorceress Edea General Malacus Caraway Commander Havalus “Biggs” Lightdimmer Captain Tio “Wedge” Yhdemmac Laguna Loire Kiros Seagill Ward Zabac [b][u]Galbadia Garden[/u][/b] Headmaster Dodona Martine Irvine Kinneas [b][u]Others[/u][/b] Ellone Jeremias Dobe, Mayor of Fisherman’s Horizon Flores “Flo” Dobe Zorba the Fisherman Julia Heartily Edith Dincht Garden Facility members [color=blue][size=16][b][u]FINAL FANTASY VIII[/u] THE LIONHEART[/b][/size][/color] [b][u]Prologue[/u][/b][/center] [size=6][color=red]I[/color][/size]t was finished. The battle was over. The Devil of tomorrow had been slain, crucified on the cross where past, present, and future intersect. The saviors born of the battleground—matured seeds that had been planted in their infancy into the Earth of War—had descended into the Hades that is the future where they engaged in an apocalyptic battle with the Devil of the world to come; and had arisen victorious, bestowing light upon a world in chaos. The sins of the past had been annulled by the grace of the present. The curse had been blotted out, and the world had been restored to its previous state, before death had reigned. Hades had been despoiled, the veil of darkness had been lifted, and the people of the world had been freed from the tyranny of the Slanderer. Yet, the Angel’s heart was not at peace. The man she loved was not here. He had promised that, once the battle was over, he would be waiting for her [I]here[/I]. [I]If you come here[/I], he had told her, [I]you’ll find me. I promise[/I]. Yet, he was not here. Why wasn’t he here? Had something happened to him? Had he gotten lost in time, had he or walked into the wrong time period? Or was he… No. He could not have been dead. It was impossible. He had [I]promised[/I] to meet her here. He would [I]not[/I] break that promise, for he had made the vow from the depths of his soul. She had gazed into his eyes—those deep, dark, piercing eyes which told no lies, that reached out to her, captured her and pulled her into the abyss of his very being—and she felt the power of his words in her heart. He [I]would[/I] be here, no matter what. In that very field, painted with the vivid colors of red and white lilies and cooled by dancing winds, was the very place where she would find him waiting for her. But why wasn’t he here? Something was definitely wrong. She could sense it in her heart. The once-gentile wind turned to violence, as if it had sensed her pain. Hundreds of flower petals danced in the wind, blowing towards the Angel as she shivered. That was when a brilliant idea whispered into her ear. She reached out and gently snatched a dancing petal from the air. For a moment she gazed at it in the palm of her hand, studying the inanimate product of nature with a newfound awe. It was not sentient, yet it served a purpose, however minute it may have been. Now, she had a job for it to do; a higher purpose for it to serve. [I]I know you can’t hear me[/I], she said to the petal without any words, [I]but I need your help.[/I] Delicately, she closed her hand, safeguarding the flower pedal in her loving, almost maternal grip. She let power flow out of herself, channeling through her arm, into her hand, and eventually out of herself and into the pedal. She imputed a bit of herself into this insentient marvel of nature, pouring her heart out to its deaf and dumb likeness, infusing its simple substance with her otherworldly power. She could feel a transformation taking place in her hand, like a caterpillar undergoing metamorphosis in its cocoon. She could feel [I]life[/I] being created in her delicate grasp. The Angel opened her hand to discover that the flower petal no longer existed. Instead, a soft, immaculate white feather sat in her hand, glowing with an angelic aura. But the main difference was not the change in appearance. That meant nothing. Rather, the aspect that made all the difference in the world was that this pedal-turned-feather was now [I]alive[/I]. Not alive in the sense of being a part of nature, but [I]alive[/I] in the same sense that human beings live: it could now [I]think[/I]. Not only was this newly-created angel feather now a creature in and of itself, but at the same time it was also an extension of the Angel’s body. They were two creatures, yet at the same time they were one. Two minds in one body. [I]What is it that you need of me?[/I] the feather asked her in spirit. [I]I need you to find him,[/I] the Angel replied. [I]Find my love. I don’t care how far away he is. Travel to the ends of the universe if you have to! Just [/I]find him[I]![/I] [I]My Lady,[/I] the feather said, [I]I will do as you ask. Only look, and you shall see. I am your eyes. Look with the eyes of your heart, and you will see what I see.[/I] With that, the feather flew from the Angel’s hand—whether the wind carried it away or if it flew by its own power, she did not know—and danced its way skyward. She followed it with her eyes as the feather drifted its way towards the heavens. As her eyes lost sight of her creation, the Angel began to visualize the last few moments she had spent with her lover and their friends. She remembered the nearly impossible battle they had fought together against the Devil. She remembered the last time she had gazed upon his face, surrounded by a heavenly light, after he had run his sword through the beast’s heart. She recalled the anguish she felt as his visage faded away into the infinite abyss of light. For only a few weeks had she known him; but in that short amount of time, an entire lifetime had passed. When she met him, her life began anew. He had given her a gift that no one had ever, or ever will again, be able to give. Oh, how she longed to see his face once more… [center][b][u]Chapter 1[/u] The Lionheart[/b][/center] [size=6][color=red]T[/color][/size]he sky was hidden from sight behind a thick blanket of clouds. It was a wonder that it had not begun to rain yet. Lightning illumined the firmament briefly, shedding a single second of daylight upon the rocky cliff above Balamb. Thunder roared like a menacing dragon, drowning out the far more intimidating silence momentarily. The hair on his arms stood on end beneath his thick leather jacket, as Squall Leonhart stared deep into his opponent’s eyes from meters away. The tension thickened as the rivalry between the two young warriors culminated in this very moment. He knew that this was no longer a simple training exercise. This was now a battle of egos; a sparring of pride; a contest to determine who was the greater. “Well now, isn’t this a delicious turn of events?” said Seifer Almasy, the Anti-Squall. “Mr. Greater-Than-Thou is too afraid to show me what he’s got. You’ll never make it into SeeD with that attitude.” “I’m [I]not[/I] afraid,” Squall purred slowly through his teeth. “Alright,” Seifer said, lifting his gunblade high over his shoulder in an attack position. “Let’s dance.” Squall looked down at his own gunblade, wedged into the rocky ground in front of him. He found himself in awe of the weapon he had used for years, studying its every detail with a newfound intrigue: the shiny wonder-metal known as mithril that glistened in the dim light; the curved handgrip and trigger; the barrel affixed to the side of the blade, identical to the one on the other side which he could not see. But most of all, the symbol engraved along the length of the blade held special significance. It was the likeness of a lion’s profile, identical to the insignia on the ring he wore beneath his black glove. He had had the gunblade decorated with that symbol years ago, after the same pattern on his ring. This was not the time to be lost in thought. He gazed back at Seifer, who smirked mockingly at him, beckoning him to charge at him with all his might. Squall grabbed his gunblade from out of the ground at rushed at his blonde-haired **** of an opponent with all his fury, his blade held high above his head with both hands. As he drew near, he swiped his blade hard downward; his blade was met by Seifer’s as it was knocked away. Seifer chopped at Squall’s side as Squall parried with an upward swing. Seifer stepped to the side, spinning around like a whirlwind, his white trench coat fluttering outward in all directions. Squall’s reflexes served him well as he lifted his gunblade over his head and behind his back just in time to block Seifer’s ferocious attack. Squall turned to discover the sharp end of Seifer’s gunblade flying upward toward his chin. He swung his own blade down fast and hard in time to stop Seifer’s blade inches away from his face. Squall and Seifer pressed against each other’s gunblades in a powerful lock. Squall gritted his teeth as he pressed as hard as he could, his face so close to Seifer’s that he could feel the warmth of his opponent’s breath. He gazed deep into Seifer’s eyes as a million emotions surged through him. “Give up, Squall,” Seifer snarled. “It’s over. Nothing can help you now. You will always be second-best!” That did it. That was the stimulus he had been looking for. Finding new strength in his increasing anger, Squall felt confident enough to remove one hand from his gunblade’s handgrip and swing around the locked blades at Seifer’s jaw with his fist. Seifer was stunned for an instant, but that did not break the lock. He countered with a punch of his own, landing upon Squall’s left cheek. The world spun as Squall was knocked backwards and the blade lock was broken. Shaking off his disorientation, Squall leaped back at Seifer, gunblade swinging wildly. Like a madman, he slashed, chopped and stabbed at Seifer at blinding speeds; and amazingly Siefer parried every single blow. Squall kicked Seifer square in the chest, which sent him staggering back a few steps. (Finally, an attack that Seifer did not anticipate.) As Squall rushed Seifer once more, Seifer extended his gloved hand towards him as a ball of fire shot out from his palm into Squall’s chest, sending him flying backwards and to the ground as his gunblade flew from his grip. Squall frantically patted out the flames, but just as he tried to get up, there was Seifer standing over him, a look of superiority about his face. “Now,” Seifer said, “I will show you who the best is.” Slowly he lifted his blade above his head with one hand, as Squall cowered in fear. This was it. His life ended right here, right now. All of his hopes and dreams would now be smothered out like the flame of a candle. He was not ready to die. It wasn’t fair. This was [I]not[/I] the way his life was supposed to end. The rest of the world blacked out as the only thing he could see, Seifer’s gunblade, came down violently at his face. He closed his eyes. He held his breath. He waited for the end to come. Instead, a sharp pain suddenly shot down from his forehead diagonally across the bridge of his nose as his head was jerked along with that motion down to the side. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] [size=6][color=red]T[/color][/size]his is how it feels to be Squall Leonhart: Your entire life flashes before your eyes in one millisecond. You can’t even recognize half of the images that you see, but you know that they will be your last. You open your eyes to find yourself staring at the rocky ground on which you sit, gazing at a shimmering puddle of blood. You don’t understand what the vision means. Does it symbolize the blood that was spilled upon your death? Is the blood that was spilled from all the people that have died through your heroics as you trained to become a SeeD? Is it the immeasurable more blood that would have been spilled had you been accepted into SeeD, but had been sparred from? Is this Heaven or Hell? You don’t know for certain. The only thing that you are certain of is that you have [I]failed[/I]. You failed to live up to all of your hopes and dreams, only to meet your demise in a stupid [I]training[/I] exercise. You feel something between your eyes. It feels like…a bead of water or sweat dangling from your skin. The droplet of liquid lets go and falls as your eyes catch a sight of it. It appears to be crimson-colored, so it could not be water or sweat. It is when the droplet splashes into the puddle of blood that you had been staring into upon your entry into the world beyond that you finally realize what it is. It is a drop of blood. [I]Your[/I] blood. And if it is your blood that you see, and that you are apparently still shedding, logically that must mean that you are [I]bleeding[/I]. And if you are bleeding, that means that your blood is still flowing through you. And if your blood is still flowing, that must mean that you are…[I]alive[/I]. You sit up and remove your glove from your right hand. With your sweaty fingers, you feel your face for a wound. Indeed you do discover a lash across the bridge of your nose. But what else you discover upon contact is something that is an undisputable testament to your vitality. [I]Pain[/I]. [I]Lots[/I] of pain. Indeed you are alive. Good. Now there’s plenty of time to accomplish everything you’ve ever wanted to do. You gaze down at the blood—[I]your[/I] blood—that covers your fingers. That’s when you notice the ring about your finger. You turn your hand over to behold the likeness of the lion that has been living within your heart all of your life. From deep within your heart, the lion speaks to you. [I]You are weak, Squall,[/I] the lion says. [I]You have been beaten. Is this the way you want to be remembered for the rest of your life? As a [/I]coward[I]?[/I] You shake your head. [I]I, on the other hand, am strong and mighty,[/I] the lion continues. [I]I am the king of the forest. I never lose.[/I] “Yes,” you admit. [I]You must not be so weak, Squall Leonhart. You must stand strong; be more aggressive; take what you want, and make no apologies. You are the Lionheart, and no one can defeat you. You will destroy them all.[/I] “Yes,” you snarl with confidence. The lion claws at the inside of your heart. [I]Let me out![/I] it cries. [I]Use me. [/I]Become[I] me. Let us be [/I]one[I]. Together, we will conquer all of our adversaries.[/I] “Yes.” The lion claws again. [I]Arise, Squall. Take up your pride. Do not sit on the ground defeated like a coward![/I] “Yes!” You climb to your feet. The lion claws ferociously at you heart. A hole is forming, and he is almost free. [I]Look, Squall. Look at him. Look at your victim. Look at your [/I]prey[I]![/I] You behold Seifer, walking away with his back turned to you and his head held high. Your blood boils with rage. Your heart jitters with wrath as it bursts open and the lion is free, controlling you like a puppet. You bend down and pick up your gunblade. When you straighten, blood from your battle scar trickles into your mouth…and you [I]like[/I] it. You want [I]more[/I]. You [I]thirst[/I] for blood, but not your own. The lion roars, and from the depths of your soul its mighty bellow echoes through your being, and escapes from your lips. Your opponent is startled and spins around as you charge at him with all of your animal instincts, the lion inside you feeding you all of your thoughts. With the taste of blood on your lips, you grit your teeth and let yourself be driven completely by rage, dispelling every rational thought from your being. Your prey lifts his weapon, and you swing at him with your mighty claw—your gunblade. He blocks a few of your attacks, but his pathetic attempts are no match for your strength. You are the Lionheart, and he is but a fox soon to be devoured by you. You knock the blade out of your victim’s hand. Defenseless, he staggers back. You can [I]smell[/I] his fear, and it makes you all the more hungry. You scream as you slash your blade across his face upward diagonally. Then, he bleeds. He [I]bleeds[/I], from the exact same place that you are bleeding. There is no need to devour him. Just seeing him defeated and bleeding is good enough for you. Your thirst is quenched. The Lionheart is victorious. This is what it feels like to be Squall Leonhart. For now. [center][img]http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y94/Darth_Anarcus/Gunblade-avatar2.jpg[/img][/center] “[size=6][color=red][i]I[/i][/color][/size] win,” Squall said, panting through his teeth. He wiped blood away from his face with his sleeve. Seifer dabbed at his face with his finger. He gazed at his blood on his fingers for a moment, and then he started to chuckle. That chuckle soon turned into a loud belly laugh. Squall tightened his grip on the handle of his gunblade. What was he up to now? “Squall,” Seifer laughed, “you never learn, do you?” What? That was when Seifer thrusted his hand outward as an invisible wall of powerful wind slammed into Squall, sending him flying backwards, slamming him headfirst into the rocky face of the cliff. As Squall lay immobilized, he could faintly make out through his fading vision the silhouette of Seifer rising to his feet. Darkness veiled his eyes as he drifted out of consciousness.[/FONT]