Pupu's Saga Setting 28

1838 DAY 23, Nova Trabia Garden Quad

By Jeremy Chapter

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art...
It has no survival value; rather
it is one of those things that give value to survival."

-Lewis, C. S.
In Friendship

He had but to call out to her. He hadn't been more than an arrow's flight away.

And yet, between the height of the sun that noon and the chronic ache from his still healing chest wound, there was not a modicum of incentive in the entirety of his body for him to do that. The orphan amongst orphans simply could not be bothered to scoot more than three inches in any direction from where he had planted himself.

With a lazy nod from his head Match beckoned for her to rejoin him on the comfortable patch of grass, but she shook her head, purposely, he thought, just to piss him off.

Bringing her to this canopied glade at the heart of Hodmimir's Forest had been a mistake. Hers was a spirit incompatible to the serenity that the quaintly static ambience offered. It was a curious shelter of foliage that he had accidentally stumbled upon in the "Shawl's Stone" countryside during his desultory, pre-engagement vagrancy. Overhead the circular ring of shrubbery admitted a single golden stream of light, the one welcome intruder from the fenced off outside world, perfectly picturesque and virtually inviolable, all while retaining its all-naturalness, which was not altogether something easy to do.

But apparently she wasn't a big fan of sitting. Her non-stop movement from place to place was as sprightly as her attention was capricious. Her life seemed too short to spend it being stationary.

Annoyed with her deliberate noncompliance, he released a disgusted sigh and lied back down, placing both hands behind his head to cushion it. It was somewhat risky to open his shoulders so wide because he could never be sure about how far he might be able to stretch him arms before they would being tearing at his injured pectoral muscles.

Unconcerned about his condition or merely oblivious to it, Sujie hopped on top of him, knocking the wind out of him and forcing him to shrink into a defensive, fetal, cringing position with a sharp and startled, "Umph!"

A brief sensation of pain shot through him, recalling to his mind the feeling she introduced to him when she drove the dagger into his body. It couldn't have missed his heart by more than a hair's length. Had he been doped up on extra-strength valium in conjunction with half a dozen other anesthetic medicines, it might have felt more like a pinprick than a serrated stalactite, but that was obviously too much to hope for.

Match had heard of Curaga spells that could heal wounds instantaneously, but he didn't have a Guardian Force of his own to show him how to draw and wield magic. He had been on his own since as far back as he could remember. He never had a guardian, legal or supernatural.

Without apologizing, Sujie proceeded to straddle his waist and then leaned down to snuggle against him, plaintively nudging her soft cheeks into the temporary cavity between his ribcage and upper arm. In that position, it was hard not to notice what she was wearing in her hair. After all, it was practically in his face - the cryo-frozen chrysanthemum he had given her she had her fashion designers specially mount onto a hairpiece that was now an indispensable part of her daily wardrobe. Everything else in her outfit seemed to revolve around this ornamental tiara and underscore its charm.

He decided not to chastise her for pouncing on his stitched wound, but grunted to signal his displeasure. In acknowledgment she grunted back in the same masculine octave.

"Isn't it about time you washed this?" she asked a moment later without looking up. She was referring to the blotches of bloodstain that covered his grungy shirt. Mischievously Sujie took a peek under it and poked at the unraveling carapace of bandages beneath.

"I'm too lazy," he answered and fiddled with her hair.

"Then hand it to me and I'll wash it for you," she suggested eagerly.

"I'm too lazy to do even that," he replied.

"Pig," she mouthed disgustedly and tossed her hair back to where he wouldn't be able to reach it.

"Runt," he shot back with an irritated look.

She made a face and then, sitting up, tried to swat him, but he caught her hand and to her pleasant astonishment pulled her down closer to him. In the millisecond before his lips moved over hers, Sujie wondered if she had made the right decision in running away with him before his body had fully healed. It was a lesser concern that she might never see her father again, or that half of the "Shawl's Stone" county constables were looking for them - her to bring back to the Duke's palace and him to shoot on sight. After all, she had a new crown now, and one that she fancied above all others, even if they were studded with all the rarest gems in the world, simply because he had given it to her.

I should probably change his bandages soon, she considered right before she closed her eyes and felt her world melt into a slightly wet, white and gold-painted heaven.

Why did you have to kiss me? You shouldn't have. Why? Why? her thoughts echoed inaudibly into nothing in their togetherness.

"You shouldn't have!" he exclaimed with a surprised look.

Yumey blushed and looked down at her pink toenails.

"Why?" Seifer prodded her, wondering if she would ever look up into his eyes without feeling embarrassed. In his hands he held with fascination the complete Ribbon that she had sewn for him out of the lace blindfold that he didn't even know she kept from their first date on the beach three weeks before. She had been thorough from the looks of the Ribbon quality. Better than any GF refining ability, that's for sure.

"So I can keep this?" he asked her.

She nodded. It was yours to begin with.

He smiled slyly in afterthought and joked, "And I can keep you?"

She blushed even deeper. YES! YES!

Yumey turned away quickly and walked further down the hidden path into what the local map indicated as Hodmimir's Forest. I was yours to begin with too.

Somewhat confused by her response, Seifer marveled at the Ribbon for a moment longer before tucking it away in his coat pocket and following after her into the dense undergrowth.

After the initial rejection he suffered by her hand on the beach, he had forgotten about the blindfold. She in turn had forgotten about giving it back to him. When it occurred to him later that it was missing, he looked all about his A08-Series Galbadian Motorbike and eventually concluded that it was lost for good. The reality was not easy to accept and he had sulked for a full week over the loss. The Ribbon lace had been the only thing of even remote sentimental value that his father left him besides a truckload of Gil that was wisely invested in Estharian stocks and a portfolio full of high-paying Galbadian Government Army bonds. Sporadic expenditures on over-the-top luxuries such as the motorbike was made possible by the proceeds from the stocks alone. However, the Ribbon he could not buy anywhere. There were no mail-order catalogs for Almasy family heirlooms.

Or should I say, the Shojora family heirloom, Seifer corrected himself, since Almasy was just my mother's maiden name?

In his fourteenth year, training at Balamb Garden had become intensive, and so Seifer's request for temporary leave to attend Shojora's military funeral had been denied. It was no real wonder that Cid would refuse because Seifer never revealed the truth about his parentage, and the death of a benefactor was a distant second to a death in the family by stringent Garden standards. The secret training he had been permitted to receive three out of the seven days of the week in Galbadia was also discontinued. A Ribbon lace stuffed in a crude manila envelope had been the sole memento in an otherwise bountiful inheritance, symbolic of all the good-byes that were never said and of an anonymous father who could never be acknowledged.

"Seifer," Yumey's voice interrupted his thoughts. "Are we going the right way?"

"I don't know," he answered honestly. "I've never been to 'Shawl's Stone' before."

"Neither have I," huffed Yumey wearily. "How did you find out about this place?"

"I read about it in the first volume of 'Occult Fan' back in the Balamb Garden library," Seifer explained. "I had to wait for hours before that stupid pig-tailed girl got out of the way so that I could reach it on the bookshelf."

"I can't wait," she mused.

From behind, Seifer was painstakingly trying to maneuver through thicket without brushing his coat across any branches or rub it against the tree bark at close quarters.

No stain, no pain, he kept in mind.

"Sometimes I think you take more care of your white coat then you do of me," Yumey commented lightly.

"It's freaking expensive to have it cleaned professionally," Seifer informed her. "Are you jealous?"

She smiled knowingly but made no answer. She could see the light from the clearing just a little ahead of them.

She tired to list all the reasons she had come up with three weeks earlier that had served to pick apart her resolve. She must have recited everything that was wonderful about him to herself a million times, memorizing them by heart, backwards and forwards, before dispelling all her doubts, suspicions, insecurities, and misgivings and finally convincing herself to let him into her life and to live the past weeks as if they were the last three weeks of her life. She knew she would hate herself if she did, but in order to love him, she had ventured to suffer her own hate.

With minimum rustle, she walked through the last partition of enshrouding leaves and found herself dipping into a flood of halcyon sunlight. Immediately she noticed two lovers lying together in the center of the enclosed glade, chatting in their own language.

"Oh!" exclaimed Yumey, brightening up sufficiently. "There are people here. Let's go greet them!"

"That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard," Seifer remarked. "One would hardly call that a necessity. Besides, they probably want some privacy."

Yumey gave him a knowing look and let go of his hand.

"You still don't understand a thing about us," she mouthed, and began walking towards the couple.

To retaliate, Seifer muttered something lewd in her direction, taking a certain satisfaction in seeing her stiffen slightly at his scandalous suggestion.

From their place on the grass, Sujie had spotted first a teenage girl step into the garden, leading by hand a second figure who gradually emerged from the circumscribing trees.

The sight of the cute couple holding hands inspired a sunny smile across her face.

"That's my boyfriend over there, from a previous life," Sujie whispered to Match, trying to make him jealous.

As if automated, Match grunted in response, keeping his eyes closed.

She wondered if he had even been listening to her.

"Does that vex you?" she tested him.

Determined not to let her usual antics spoil his mid-afternoon nap, he made another noise in lieu of answering.

"Are you vexed, knowing that I have another lover?" Sujie asked.

He grunted again.

"No, you're not!" she whined and started to attack him. "You're supposed to be very vexed!"

"I will be if you keep shoving me," he finally grumbled. Notaque insana mens et ea pendeant...

Sujie pouted for a little bit, decided it was futile, and then leaned down close to his ear and nipped it. He shook out of his play-coma in surprise and she giggled hysterically.

Seeing that the other girl was drawing close, Sujie stood up and brushed a few homeless blades of grass from her skirt. Afterwards she none-too-discreetly looked her visitor up and down before finally sizing her up as being a colleague of respectable birth. Taking the initiative with assurance, then, she politely introduced herself.

"Hello, there. I'm Sujie."

With that, she moved forward and brushed a stray strand of hair away from Yumey's face to behind her ear, subsequently placing a gentle kiss on the other girl's forehead.

Yumey reciprocated by giving her name and repeating the two gestures of brushing Sujie's hair back and kissing her, thus completing the Galbadian greeting ritual between women in the upper-echelon social circles.

Out of courtesy, the man lazily sprawled on the ground made a move to get up.

"Try that same greeting on me and I'll cut off your arm," Seifer threatened him semi-seriously, brandishing the Hyperion gun-blade peeking out from under his coat. As if on cue, it gleamed menacingly.

The humorous caveat managed to solicit a contemptuous snort from Match, a giggle from Sujie, and a disapproving nudge from Yumey.

"Judging from your accent, you don't seem to have been raised in Galbadia," Sujie addressed Seifer with a half-quizzical, half-curious glance.

"I'm from Balamb Garden," Seifer elucidated and stood up slightly straighter.

"We're from the capital," Yumey cut in, hoping to take control of their side of the conversation before Seifer committed another faux pas.

"From Deling City!" Sujie affirmed with a understanding smile. She clapped her hands together as if knowing their origin pleased her immensely.

She's certainly a maudlin one, Seifer analyzed critically.

Reading his disapproving expression, Yumey elbowed him.

"So what are you doing here in 'Shawl's Stone'?" the other girl.

"It was his idea," Yumey answered with a shrug.

Both ladies directed their questioning gazes towards Seifer.

"Can we speak somewhere more private?" Seifer urged Yumey plaintively and, taking her forearm, tried to usher her aside.

"Oh, we're not here," Sujie quickly pretended, pointing at Match and herself.

Match rolled his eyes. Ibidem.

Yumey searched Seifer's pale face curiously, putting her hand over his to give him reassurance. The situation was rare, and perhaps unique. She had never seen him so hesitant, or hesitant at all.

"Honey," she asked him softly, "what is it?"

"I-I had something I wanted to tell you," stammered Seifer with difficulty.

"You're not going to propose are you?" Sujie blurted out. Holy Shiva! Pop the question! Pop the question!

Yumey reacted quickly, looking up at his face with her startled eyes glistening in the hope that it might be true. He's going to take me with him!

The irises of the truest Galbadian blue moistened. He's not leaving me!

A torrent of exhilarations and thoughts blew over her. We aren't over. We won't be over! We'll always be together!

She was bathed for the first time in infinite relief since she met him. We won't end like I feared!

There seemed nothing more that she would ever have to worry about. The locked door had been thrown open and she had stepped out into a fresh, horizon-less future.

Sujie was biting on her lower lip and looked over at Match gleefully, scarcely able to contain her excitement but not wanting to disturb Yumey's moment.

Match closed his eyes, his visage expressing ambivalence, though he was dreading the possibility. Dude, don't set a bad example and weigh me down with another expectation in front of Sujie.

To his relief, the man in the white jacket shook his head, his face reddening a few shades.

"This place has a name. People call it the 'Garden of Good-byes'," murmured the swordsman softly. "Only lovers can come here, and having been here, part their own ways."

She was deathly silent. A dead stare ahead into a space beyond space cast an eerie umbrage over the heart of the garden.

Seifer hadn't anticipated this. The scenarios he had beforehand gone through in his head all included her demanding the meaning of his bringing her here in one form or another. The symbolism for the inevitable reality that they had been skirting and ducking for the past three weeks of blissful, irresponsible elopement had rammed her straight-on like a freight train emerging from a dark tunnel. Whether he had been the train conductor or the one who had pushed her onto the train tracks was uncertain and probably unimportant. They both amounted to the same thing: He was going to leave her in pieces.

Unsure of what to do, he moved towards her as if to take her up in his arms and comfort her.

Snapping to life, Yumey pushed him away violently and began to make her abashed exit.

Seifer instinctively lifted his hand to try to stay her, but she pushed him away for a second time and, turning, ran out of the underbrush in untamed tears.

Beside them, Sujie had uncomfortably witnessed the whole state of affairs. As Yumey fled from the scene, Sujie gathered herself up, shot Seifer a dirty look, and then rushed off after the sobbing girl. The nasty, accusatory facial expression that he would never forget seemed to say, "Congratulations, you son of a bitch. You destroyed an angel."

Match sat up when he heard the sound of fleeting feet and trampled grass. Realizing that he didn't actually want Sujie to leave his side, he reached out, only to grasp wisps of air in her stead. Hey, wait a second!

Neither of them moved for a matter of minutes, trapped in utter speechlessness, both of them dumbfounded, open-mouthed, and barely comprehending. Come back...

He had but to call out to her. He hadn't been more than an arrow's flight away. But she was purposefully ignoring him that day because he had forgotten to sing her a song on her birthday two nights before. Making a delivery in the southern hemisphere of Terra and sending a well-wishing birthday card in his stead hadn't nearly been enough. The distance that her barricading cold shoulder had set up between them must have extended for miles, even though she was busying herself with her Geiger counter right in front of his eyes.

It had to have been some time later, perhaps after a whole year had passed, since they visited the glade in Hodmimir's Forest.

Match glanced around without the slightest interest in his environs. Plundering sacked sites for spoils and pilfering property from corpses was nothing new in their line of work. He considered himself one notch higher than a grave robber because he oftentimes also dug their graves too, metaphorically speaking.

As much as he would have liked to claim credit for the destruction of the much-loathed Galbadian Missile Base, though, it was not his doing. Deserted and half-destroyed, the military ground was nothing more than a wasteland of scrap metal and smoldering junk now. The reduction of the place to rubble had to have been a professional job. No ragtag village resistance group or guerilla militia could have organized and implemented such a blow to the coveted government facility, not even the Timber Forrest Owls.

As much as he sympathized with the cause and disappointments of the puny Forrest Owls club over the years, he was never the type to drift over the lines and into the territory of their civil rights activism. Issues about basic human rights neither interested nor seemed to apply to him. Upsetting the status quo in the political Deling-Timber dynamic made no difference to him, and so he would make no attempt to make a difference for either side. To him, they were nothing more than frequenting clients, and his aim had been to always keep it that way.

Match looked over at Sujie who had for some time stopped over the scorched remnants of a red Kevlar uniform. Most of the body of the soldier who had last worn it having been incinerated, the asbestos-laced suit was now much too capacious for the volume he had to offer. The soldier had lost enough weight to go down four sizes, not to mention his appendages.

She was definitely puzzled by some quality of the dismembered carcass other than its gruesome image. From the arch of her eyebrows, he could tell that she was having trouble laying her finger on precisely what it was. Match glanced distastefully down again at the pieces of charred flesh and decided that he knew precisely what it had been and that he sure as Ifrit wasn't going to place his finger on it, not even to save his life from thirty Tiamats.

He decided to make a closer inspection of the smoking junk heap near the entrance of the base. It had a bluish coat of paint over its metal haul, reinforced with countless layers of armor. This he reasoned from its continued existence and preserved form, suffering only a few dents and escaping the apocalyptic past of the rest of the site.

Match brushed his hands over the metal contraption quickly, sweeping off a layer dirt and char. The plate marking read "BGH251F2". More curious still was an object protruding out of a side compartment that must have fell open upon impact. He pulled it out without much difficulty and studied it.

"Looks pretty worthless," he concluded after identifying it as a rusty antique sword with relatively little attack power.

Sujie could inflict more physical damage with a soup ladle than with this hunk of tin, he thought wryly. So clumsy and bulky too that I can't imagine anyone ever using this in battle. It's obviously a collector's item. I wonder if its age will give it a respectable resale value.

Scarcely realizing why or how the next thing happened, all he would remember later was the BGH251F2 vehicle rumbling back to life. Perhaps he had triggered its ignition accidentally. The damn item compartment had probably been rigged as a trap for scavenging thieves like himself.

It was time to get going before the mechanism did. Match stretched his legs and looked around for Sujie.

He had but to call out to her. He hadn't been more than an arrow's flight away.

But as much as he wanted to hold her, she would have been cold and lifeless, totally unresponsive to his touch and tears.

Her body lay limp, her clothes riddled with bullet-holes hidden only by voluminous bleeding. Around her messy corpse was littered another twenty-odd cadavers, similarly festooned.

He fell to his knees, and choked out a pained cry. It was too wretched and horrible and hateful a cry to belong to a human.

It was truly the cry of an animal.

Match looked up at the ceiling and around at the walls, wondering if this was the same den that they had for so many evenings for convivial drinks, communal dinners, and Galbadian national sports-events television broadcasts. This was where life had been.

The past perfect tense was correct. All that remained here was death, to which he too would succumb if he lingered. He no longer belonged here. He should get going. Judging by their sirens, the police would show up at any minute. The Deling City Civil Authority division was always a convenient twenty minutes too late to prevent any crime. Tardiness seemed integral to their canonical law.

And framing the innocent was derivative. Match tore himself away from the gruesome scene and took off into the night. He tried to come up with reasons to go to Trabia over Centra or Balamb, to weigh arguments for a land-route or sea-route, but his brain was too choked up with misery to function correctly. Determining his new destination and mode of travel seemed nugatory compared to the answers he wished to seek from - wished to beat out of - the perpetrator. All the really interesting questions were those asked at knife-point or at the end of an adamantine baseball bat:

Who hired you?

What was your purpose?

Why did you have to kill them?

Why did you have to kill her, you bastard!?

Why didn't you just kill me too?

Are you proud of what you've done?

Are you sorry?

How many times do you think I am going to run your head into the wall before I am happy?

Match found himself running towards the south gate exit of Deling City at hyper speed. If he kept his bearing, he could eventually make it to the southern coastline of the Galbadian continent and find a port with a passenger ship. He considered how if he took one of the chocobo taxis or called for a chocobo air lift, he would have drawn less attention to himself - the red blur streaking down countless streets and was drawing a small cylindrical cyclone of dust and scraps behind him. Yet, he didn't want to risk any chocobo driver remembering and describing his face should the police conduct an unusually thorough inquest. At any rate, he was almost clear of the urban slums. Match pushed the blistering pace up a notch...

...and screeched to a stop when he saw ahead of him what was blocking the only southern road out of town - a huge mobile contraption fitted with the latest automatic weapons and medium-sized projectile launchers. Match could make out the markings on the side of each of the eight legs of the mechanical juggernaut - "X-ATM095." Reciprocally detecting his presence, the battle tank shifted its weight and stomped towards him.

Someone really wants me dead, was his first thought. Talk about ruining one's evening...and it used to be so nice to be wanted.

The speed of the Weapon surprised him. Its eight legs were smoothly coordinated and the obvious drawbacks from its bulk in maneuvering cleverly minimized. It was probably designed to look like a giant spider in order to intimidate its opponents, perhaps scaring the weaker ones stiff. Whatever he chose to call it - Widow spider or widow-maker - it was upon him in less time that he imagined and almost before he had time to react.

Match came to his senses and rolled out of the way of pavement-splitting Arm Crush just in the knick of time. Even before he could scold himself for underestimating the enemy, though, the robotic Widow had flung out another of its legs.

Match instinctively dodged aside, gasping as the metal appendage flew past his face and took out wall of the building behind him. The white lettering of "X-ATM095" was less than two inches away from his nose, discernibly under the focal length of his eyes required for legibility and too close for comfort.

He spent the next twelve seconds moving from place to place, sometimes caroming off the brick walls that flanked the street, cutting to and fro, weaving between the monster's legs, always eluding its attacks by a split-second and driven on by the sound of concrete being dashed to pieces where he had just been. The threat of a horrible death was more inspiring and moving than any poignant sermon or Haste spell, and it seemed to lend a second set of wings to his feet. It was tepid consolation and amelioration to his foe's next attack - a long series of piston-powered pounces under which it was eight times as difficult as before to avoid being squashed.

His heart rate was soaring. Having witnessed the full exhibition of the Widow's agility and maneuverability, Match doubted that he could successfully flee from the fight without a diversion first. If no such opportunity presented itself, he would have to stand his ground. Match wasn't too keen on staying on the defensive forever, because he knew that without an offensive counterattack he would eventually lose. Yet, he was just as adverse to the idea of striking the metal hull with his bare fists. He judged miserably that that chucking stray pieces of refuse at the beast would be ineffective. If only he had access to magic, he might in fact be able to damage it. Machine-type enemies were especially susceptible to Lightning-based spells, but the intermediary agents popularly called "Guardian Forces" were substances of mere legend. He certainly had never seen any, much less captured and enlisted the help of one. Match wondered how much truth historical fiction actually contained.

The mechanical monstrosity lurched back and forth, placed its armored head forward and tried to ram him repeatedly. Always it would back-pedal with two sets of legs while throwing a barrage of kicks and crushes with its other two pairs. Thus it never gave Match the chance to seize the initiative. The lightning-quick swipes narrowly missed him, but he could feel the weight of the air that the blows carried behind them. Any physical connection between metal and flesh, even if just a slight knick, would have been akin to being nailed by pile-driver or speeding truck.

In reaction to its own near misses, the Widow swept its hind legs around for another assault, leveling three iron lampposts in the process. Match somersaulted at just the right time so that when his body was inverted at the peak of the flip, by extending his right hand, he was able to plant his palm on the killer beams and catapult over it as it sped by. Still airborne, he grabbed onto a protruding branch of a telephone pole and swung himself up into a perching position.

Its light-emitting diode sensors detected and followed his new elevation. As such, it angled its body up to face him, drawing itself to full, frightening height. This was the demonic machine that was supposed to kill him, the technical innovation against whom he was pitted in the arena of life and death. The stakes were high and the odds were completely against him.

The devil drew near. Darker became the black pitch of night.

Then to his surprise and momentary relief, the Widow backed down, if only for a half-second. In that lacuna of time, it managed to prepare, announce, and execute the launch of a "Ray-Bomb Plus." The self-important robotic voice that had crackled over its loudspeakers was cold and lifeless. Match had heard Sujie use that tone of voice during her bad days as well.

Well, at least it's not enjoying this any more than I am, he guessed.

A medium-sized pellet that he deduced to be the Ray-Bomb was propelled into the air with a bang and spiraled towards him. He definitely did not see any pluses in his situation. What he could see was the micro-circuitry on the surface of the projectile switching on as the color indicators changed and the bomb armed itself.

And it was coming straight at him, coming for him, calling for his name...

He had but to call out to her. He hadn't been more than an arrow's flight away.

But it was clear that her attention was purely focused on someone else.

He recognized the man she had meant to tarry by his A09-Series Galbadian Tactical Assault Motorbike. It was the same bike he had scoped out outside the weapons shop and the same bloke who had walked out of it and ridden off on it.

He could have done without all the commotion, though, Match fancied. It was probably just to impress the Miss.

The blue-haired belle had been waiting alone on the marble steps for quite some time before he finally made his grand entrance into the Quad. Even he had expected her to whack him, and she surprised both of them by doing and saying nothing.

His eyes following the blonde's movements now, it was a no-brainer to infer from her body language that she was extremely disappointed. The lithe body so buoyed up and charged with vitality the moment before had been toppled. It was as if the buttress of anticipation had given way and her whole spirit had come crashing down.

He'd never felt so sorry for anyone before. He could hardly believe his eyes. Was this the same woman he had saved on the basketball court by posing as Squall Leonhart?

She must have known that her voice could not possibly have carried beyond the roar of the thirsty engine, and that the man in the smart, black uniform had not ignored her deliberately. Something about the way she was cushioning her head against her palms told suggested to him that she was probably used to it, deliberate or not.

In that minute interstice, he thought he heard and felt an extrasensory pop - the audible and tangible proof of pain. Tender hearts make a louder sound than tough ones when they crack. Ever so gently and ever so sorrowfully she tore the insignia off her vest and let it flutter to the ground. It fell every bit as lifelessly as would a plucked feather. A grave injustice it seemed to trample over the dead, even with steps as light as hers.

Yet, to him her beauty seemed to shine more fiercely after a touch of sadness, as if her frustrations and defeated resilience were a veneer to something more transcendental. Still, Match could not deny that something had transpired in her private moment of epiphany, something that was a cause for concern. The dignity was still there, but the person did not seem to be.

Rinoa, he worried, borrowing the name he had heard her assailants use during their first meeting, where have you gone?

As if on cue, she turned to leave, and he had to strain his neck further out in order to keep her within his line of sight as she walked back into the Garden atrium through the archway.

As nauseated as Quistis was with the idea of her continued employment in SeeD, she spared a moment to allay her paranoia. The premonition that someone was looking over her shoulder had for some time been nagging at her, and under usual circumstances when she was less upset, she might have felt silly giving in and so denied it, but today was different.

Could the setting sunlight be playing tricks on her eyes again between the shadows and silhouettes? Just as she passed under the Gothic portico, she thought she caught a glimpse of someone or something perched over the gable.

When she stepped back to look again, there was no one there.

Setting 29

Jeremy Chapter's Fanfiction