To Be Skilled


In Balamb Garden Squall and Seifer are fighting in the Training Center.

“You’ve got to change your technique up.” Squall admonishes beginning the Renzokuken attack. “You’re getting predictable.”

“Really?” Seifer replies guarding with the Hyperion. “I would say the same about you!”

“I’m not kidding.” Squall suddenly dodges left. “You’re going to get hurt.” He goes to Rough Divide Seifer.

“You’ve done this before.” Seifer counters crossing gunblades. “It won’t work.” He wrestles with the black jacketed one.

“It will if you do what I think you will.” Squall groans straining.

“You don’t know anything!” Seifer yells jerking the trigger of his automatic repeatedly.

“Like I thought.” Squall holds steady.

“What?” The Hyperion flies from his hands.

The scene changes quickly. Before the thinner gun-steel hits the ground our combatants are at a stalemate. The Lionheart is at Seifer’s throat while his glowing hand is millimeters from Squall’s face.

“I told you that you would get hurt.” Squall says evenly. “You would be dead now if this were for keeps.”

“Your head would be over there if this were for real.” Seifer retorts. “I would’ve blown it right off.”

“We’re using live ammunition if I pull-”

“I’ll send your skull into that wall.”

“I’m serious.”

“Fire Cross is no joke!” They stare each other down for a while. Neither one moves.

“Simmer down, simmer down.” Says a voice somewhat annoyed. “Calm down, it’s over.”

“Quistis is right.” Squall says.

“Yes Instructor.” Seifer steps back.

“Now, are you two going again?” Quistis asks handing Seifer the Hyperion.

Seifer looks at Squall who nods. They draw back five paces and are in fighting stance quickly. They circle each other warily while Quistis leaves the battlefield.

“Seifer’s so readable.” Squall thinks. “Like clockwork.”

“Crybaby’s a lot better.” Seifer thinks. “But I’ll show him!” He rushes forward. “You ready?” He yells.

Squall nods. “Here he comes.” He advances quickly. “First…”

“Demon Slice!” Seifer yells spinning 1080 degrees. The Lionheart deflects that.


“No Mercy!” Seifer tries a diagonal blow to open an old wound (Like in the intro to the game). That’s a bust.

“Followed by…”

“Ahhh!” Seifer tries the Zantetsuken Reverse maneuver. He attacks Squall over and over. At the end of the combo he unloads a magazine worth the ammunition at his opponent trying to break his guard. Imagine his surprise when the Hyperion flies from his grasp again. In a flash they are back where they started.

“You really are reckless.” Squall says with the edge of his weapon on Seifer’s neck.

“I’ll burn you.” Seifer says angrily in a low tone. His palm is almost touching Squall’s nose.

“Okay, if you two could quit that maybe you could go one more time.” Quistis mentions handing Seifer his gunblade again. “And be more careful with this thing!”

Seifer snatches it away and pops a fresh clip into the weapon while Squall calmly takes his two empty cases and changes them. Never taking their eyes off one another they begin the dance again.

“Try something new.” Squall suggests. “There are better things to do with all those bullets.”

“Don’t tell me what to do!”

“You’ve got to be less impulsive.” Squall insists. “Try thinking sometime; we aren’t beginners anymore.”

“Don’t give me that!” Seifer runs at Squall and swings.

“Don’t do what you always do.” Squall counters his attack easily.

“Damn it!” Seifer swears as the Hyperion is knocked away. “...!” He holds still as the Lionheart is under his chin again.

“Held onto it this time.” Squall says. “Lot of good it did you.”

Seifer says nothing. He knows he can’t raise or fire the gunblade in his defense and his pride is hurt.

“In this case you would be dead. No doubt.” Squall sheathes his weapon. “You should train more.” He walks away.

“Are you all right?”

“Leave me alone Instructor.” Seifer walks off.

Outside Training Center Squall is walking nonchalantly back to his quarters.

“He should be much better. His skills aren’t as sharp as they used to be.” Squall thinks. “The same old tricks, doesn’t he know how to improvise? I trained all this time and he is that weak? I can’t believe he managed to give me this scar-”

“Hey Squall.” A voice interrupts his thoughts. “I saw what happened back there.”

“You did.” Squall replies evenly not slowing down. “So?”

“You showed that braggart!” Zell says enthused.

“I don’t care.”

“How can you not care? Weren’t you rivals? Aren’t you still?”

“It was a waste of my time.”

“I wish I could waste my time like that…”

“You can. Train.” Squall walks into his room.

“He’s got a gunblade. I’ve got nothing but these!” He holds up gloved fists.

“Train. You can always sharpen your skills.” Squall shuts the door.

“Sharpen my skill, sharpen my skills.” Zell mimics. “Won’t help if I get a shooting sword taken to me!” He heads to the Quad.

“You look down bud. What’s the problem?” Irvine asks as Zell walks in.

“Squall the Iceman.” Zell says irritated.

“Giving you guff?”

“I don’t even see why. I congratulate him on beating Seifer and he’s telling me I can sharpen my skills!”

“That’s him. I was in the Center earlier and I shot a T-Rexaur in the eye. You know what he tells me? I could’ve been faster on the draw.”

“You can always sharpen your skills.” Selphie pipes in.

“Sharpen my skills; I’m the best shot in Garden!”

“You’d think he’d loosen up already!” Zell says exasperated. “We defeated the Sorceress!”

“He is still Headmaster.” Quistis reminds them as she walks in. “He believes one should always be prepared.

“Preparation can only do so much.” Zell says.

“How much time does he want us to spend?” Selphie asks.

“I’m the best shot anywhere already!” Irvine exclaims.

“That doesn’t matter.” Quistis says dismissively.

“Not to you!”

“You’re an instructor!”

“One of the only people who trains more than he does!”

“He wouldn’t bother you.” Rinoa joins in. “You are the reason he is the way he is.”

“Why would you complain?” Quistis asks. “You’re not a SeeD.”

“Exactly.” Rinoa replies. “I’m not. So until I am I have to train even harder than all of you!”

“But you’re a Sorceress.”

“You’re his girlfriend.”

“You’re not serious are you?”

“Not even that matters in his eyes.” Quistis says. “We have examples to set for everyone. So we can always-”

“Sharpen our skills!” Everyone finishes.

In the empty cafeteria Seifer sits at a table.

“I lost…” Seifer realizes. “No excuse, he flat out beat me.”

“Ya alright, Boss?” Raijin asks. “We heard what happened.”

“You heard Crybaby kicked my ass?”

“You’ll get him next time ya know?”

“NEXT TIME.” Fujin affirms.

“Man I don’t know…”

“Huh? You’re da best ya know?”


“Why’d I lose then? All this back and forth and now he beats me hands down? What the hell?” Raijin and Fujin say nothing. Seifer draws the Hyperion.

“Whoa man!” Raijin exclaims Bo stick in hand. “Little illegal ya know?” No drawn weapons outside the Training Center.”

“CALM DOWN.” Fujin commands kicking Raijin in the leg.

Seifer ignores them. “What does he have that I don’t?” He mumbles looking over his weapon. “Mine is sharper, lighter, and longer and has more bullets and two edges. There’s got to be something I’m doing wrong…”

“What are ya doin’?”

“What does it look like?” Seifer says fiddling with his gunblade.

“I’m no expert but why take bullets out? Don’t it have to be loaded?”

“QUIET.” Fujin kicks Raijin again.

“There, six.” Seifer says dropping the extra rounds on the floor. “If that’s your secret we can play that game.”

The next day Squall is up early as always. It’s early enough that monsters in the training area are asleep. He notes this with a snort.

“Lazy monsters…what’s the point?” He manages to find some awake and has some fun with them.

“You’re up early.” Rinoa says walking beside Squall.

“I’m always up early. It’s what SeeDs do. Why are you up at this time?”

“Practicing.” Rinoa replies using Firaga. “You tell me a SeeD practices all the time.”

“No matter how good you think you are…” Irvine begins, walking out of the bushes.

“Or how long it takes…” Selphie continues.

“There is always room to sharpen your skills.” Zell affirms.

“Isn’t that right, Squall?” Quistis concludes.

The Garden leader nods. “You’re never as good as you think.” They stop talking. The ragtag elite of the mercenary school practice the techniques that they specialize in. These skills range from the powerful punches of Zell to the flawless aim of Irvine. They are doing this when Seifer walks in.

“I want to try again.” Seifer says. “You beating me had to be some kind of fluke.” He draws the Hyperion. “You ready?” Squall nods and they begin. Everyone fans out to give the two some room to fight.

“Seifer isn’t using any techniques from the texts on gunblading he’s supposed to have studied.” Quistis thinks watching the blonde gunbladier. “Without practice…” She sighs. “It’ll happen again.”

Zell glances over. “I’d love to be the one handing Seifer his head but I don’t have weapons…”

“Squall should really be easier on Seifer.” Rinoa thinks casting Blizzaga. “He doesn’t obsess over fighting anymore.”

“What the heck is this?” Selphie wonders using her slot ability. “I’ve never seen this before.”

“I’ll just remove the ladybug from that leaf…” Irvine takes aim.

“Same moves over and over again.” Squall thinks. “Will he ever learn?” He meets Seifer halfway. “What the-I can’t see!”

There is a bright flash of light. Everyone notices it with an outcry of noise. Chaos ensues and everybody begins to panic.

“Where is he?” Squall demands. “I can’t see!”

“What the heck?” Rinoa wonders. “My spell failed? I’m a Sorceress, how?” She inquires of the air. There is no sound. “I’m silenced…”

“What am I doing? Must kill enemy!” Zell pounces on a T-Rexaur.

“What’s happened?” Selphie asks. “I don’t understand.”

“It’s actually quite simple if you think about it.” Quistis replies coughing. “You activated an ability that has inflicted status changes on everyone else. I am poisoned. Squall is blind. Rinoa is silenced. Zell is berserk and Irvine…”

“Irvine!” Selphie exclaims glancing at him. The sharpshooter is solid rock now. “No…”

“Now is not the time for panic.” Quistis says coughing some more. “We should get some supplies and try to help them.” Selphie nods. “Let’s get Rinoa and Squall and help them out of here. We’ll help Zell and Irvine later.” They leave.

Seifer is lying face down on the ground.

“What the hell happened?” He mumbles. “My head’s spinning like a top…” He looks around. “He must’ve hit me pretty hard; I’m in la la land for sure.”

Seifer takes in the scenery. Tall grass and trees too high to see the top of are its features. The rough coarse nature of the ground is new to him. He walks around in a state of giddiness trying to understand his surroundings.

“I’m so messed up.” He mumbles. “Drugs are bad, drugs are bad.” He reminds himself. “Oh damn…” He is confronted by a Grat. “This is one bad trip…” He turns to flee the mutant foliage. It pursues him but he jumps into the brush where it tries to use its tentacles to get at him. “…and it gets worse.” He shakes his head and closes his eyes. “I swear I quit this crap…”

Suddenly Seifer hears a sound. Like a sledgehammer being taken to a hedge. The tentacles quiver and droop but he can still hear the bashing sound.

“Hi Yah!” Zell yells pummeling the plant. “Take that!” He stomps it a few times for good measure. “Weak!” The karate master storms off quickly looking for more prey.

Seifer peeks out. One look at the Grat makes him shudder. It’s pretty badly mashed. “This is getting too freaky.” He starts walking. “Even for a hallucination.” He walks faster. “There has to be an explanation, no matter how whacked out. I’m finding it.” He decides climbing up a ridge. “There’s Xu, Crybaby’s right hand. She’ll know what’s up!” He goes closer to talk to her. “Oh…” He slows to a stop and looks up at her.

Xu is over one hundred feet tall.

In the training center Xu is practicing her swordsmanship.

“Must be perfect.” Xu thinks to herself. “It is the only way I’ll be able to beat him.” She stops and takes a breather.

“It isn’t fair!” She thinks angrily. “I’ve worked so hard for so long and he gets promoted to Headmaster…it isn’t fair.” She reflects on it a bit. “I had all the disadvantages. I’m short, I use old-fashioned weapons and I’m a girl. Nobody thought I would make a real SeeD but I showed them! I graduated with honors at the top of my class! But still Cid chose him over me. I’ve struggled for so long to be the best only to be denied the title because some apathetic guy with a gunblade was around. He didn’t even want the job! I would’ve jumped at the chance but no!” She starts practicing again.

“You lack the qualities necessary.” Xu says sarcastically remembering Cid’s words. “You aren’t leadership material.” She spits derisively. “You might as well have said ‘it’s because you look like a cheerleader.’”

True enough she cut quite a figure in the SeeD uniform. It was another thing that made her angry. The shirt was too tight and the skirt too short. Every time she walked around in it she felt as though all eyes were on her. The only thing that was worse than that was the awkward feel of swinging her sword around while only four feet nine inches tall in the get up. Being the only female swordsperson in the Garden made it no easier. It was just another thing that made her stand out. She couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched even now.

“All of this makes me sick!” Xu bursts out suddenly. “I can’t stand Squall!”

“Amen to that sister!” A little voice seconds.

“Huh?” Xu looks over and spies Seifer at three inches tall. “I’ve been practicing too hard.” She puts the sword away.

“I wish it was like that.” Seifer says sympathetically walking closer. “It’d make a lot more sense but…”

“You’re serious?” She looks down at him. He nods. “There must be something in the water.” She sits down.

Seifer shakes his head. “This is all I know.” He proceeds to relate what happened as he remembered it.

In the infirmary everyone except Zell is gathered.

“So what do we do now?” Selphie asks. “I’m sorry about-”

“Stop.” Squall commands. “Please.”

“Right now what is important is a cure.” Quistis says coughing. “We’ll need something special.”

“That’s right.” Dr. Kadowaki agrees. “Your illnesses don’t come up on any scan I’ve tried. According to what I’ve seen these would be your natural states.”

“We know that.” Squall says impatiently. “You’ve said it already. What can we do?”

Rinoa raises her hand. Everyone save Squall turns to look at her. “What if we gathered fresh magic from draw points all over the world?” She signs in the language of a deaf person. “If we could combine those powers maybe we could reverse the effect.”

“Great idea Rinoa!” The doctor enthuses. “I’ll get some people on it right away!”

“What? What did she say?” Squall asks clueless.

“She suggested we gather fresh magic from all over the world and combine its power.” Quistis repeats.

“That could fix what that spell did to us. What did you call it?”

“Cataclysm.” Selphie says guiltily. “Sorry.”

“Give it a rest. Can someone lead me to my office?” Rinoa takes his hand. “Who is that?”

“It’s Rinoa. Maybe you should take off the gloves?” Quistis suggests hacking a bit. “Since you’re blind and all.”

“…” Squall appears embarrassed.

“Where’s Seifer?” Selphie asks. “I haven’t seen him since…so what should we do?”

“Organize a Garden-wide search, right?” Quistis proposes.

“No.” Squall says firmly. “Seifer can take care of himself. He wouldn’t want a search done.”

“Are you certain? Anything could’ve happened to him.” Rinoa communicates and Quistis vocalizes.

“Yes. Odds are he’s stumbling around under confusion or zombie status. He’ll be fine.” Rinoa leads him away.

“He is still the Headmaster.” Quistis says walking out. Selphie shrugs and leaves as well.

In the Training Center Xu has just got finished listening to Seifer’s explanation.

“So that’s all I know.” Seifer finishes.

“It makes sense.” Xu replies. “You were present when Cataclysm was cast.”


“Yes. Selphie Tilmitt cast a spell we’re calling Cataclysm.” Xu looks at her watch. “About two hours ago. It inflicted irreversible status effects on everyone.”

“Status effects?”

“Not so much status effects as a change in the base value of the self. Medical equipment can’t detect anything wrong and medicine doesn’t work. But that’s understandable…”

“Why?” Seifer demands. “Now you aren’t making any sense.”

“A good way to explain it would be that eye drops fix darkness, the temporary blindness. They cannot put pupils in the eyes though. The spell has changed the optic nerves base composition.”

“How do you know that?”

“I was there when they all arrived in the medical center. I heard the doctor’s explanation.”

“So everybody’s blind?”

“No, Rinoa has no vocal cords, Zell, has the mind of a reptile, Quistis is having an unexplainable continual allergic reaction to nothing, and Irvine is a rock.”

“Silenced, berserk, poison, and petrified. And none of this can be reversed?”

“No. The odds are you can’t be restored either with the evidence here.”

“Great, just great.” Seifer says sarcastically. “I’m stuck like this.” He looks up at her. “So what are you doing here?”

“Perfecting my sword skill.”

“Looks damn good from here.”

“It isn’t good enough, he still beats me.” Xu says angrily.


“Squall.” She hisses.

“Crybaby gives you trouble too?”

“He is a very powerful fighter. My skills-” Suddenly there is movement from behind. Xu draws and slices it cleanly in equal halves before Seifer can blink. She replaces the sword in its sheathe. “Pale in comparison to his.”

“You can’t be serious!” Seifer says in disbelief. “You did that without even looking!”

“I am serious. The gunblade gives him an advantage. The option to fire leaves holes in my technique that don’t exist that he can capitalize on, not to mention he is still a more than capable swordsman.”

He looks at Xu’s face. She seems very angry. “So him beating you has got you flipping out like this?” He asks.

“I am indeed quite incensed. By him I have been done great injustice time and time again!”

“Like what?”

“It is not important.”

“Come on, it’s not often I meet someone who hates his guts as much as me. Tell me!”

“I would rather not.” Xu stands. “As it is I should take you directly to him.”

“No. Don’t do that. I don’t-” But he is cut short as her petite hands encircle him and he is lifted from his feet.

“Procedure to report strange occurrences to the Headmaster immediately.” Xu explains placing Seifer in a blouse pocket. “Sorry.”

“Sorry.” Seifer mimics as he is thrust into a pocket meant only for pens. “Sorry my ass!” Barely able to move he manages to get one arm free. The ornamental flap of cloth constricts him quite tightly to his captor so getting his other arm free was quite a task. “I ain’t going to see him like this!” He draws the Hyperion and fires. Placing the tip in the hole created he slices the non-functional compartment open and slips out into some underbrush at the entrance to the training center.

Xu doesn’t notice or pay attention to the sound of the bush. She continues onward without Seifer unbeknownst to her. He watches the attractive SeeD’s exit more than a little relieved.

“Not something I want to deal with right now.” Seifer says as Xu disappears in the distance. “Where’s Fujin? She could help me. If I could just remember her room number...”

Xu is right outside Squall’s office.

“I request to see the Headmaster.” She says to the guard.

“You may pass.”

“Thank you.” She notes the guy give her shirt a second look. “Pig…” She thinks to herself walking in.

“Who has come to see me?” Squall asks chair turned backwards as Xu enters.

“Xu, sir. I bring a matter of great importance.”

Squall turns around. As is the wont of blind people he has donned all black shades. Rinoa straightens his chair and one would not even know he is blind except for the slight fumbling about on the desk. “What is it, Xu?”

“I bring an urgent issue before you.” She says reaching into her pocket. “Just a moment.” She digs into her pocket a bit deeper. “I know it’s here…”

Rinoa finds Xu digging in her pocket quite funny and her face shows it. However her laughter changes to disapproval as Xu takes off her blouse and searches through the green garment more thoroughly. Rinoa glances at Squall angrily expecting him to be gawking but he stares straight ahead slightly to Xu’s left.

“What is she doing?” Squall asks turning to where he remembers Rinoa was.

The young Sorceress’s suspicions are confirmed Squall is quite blind. So unable to answer his question she poses it to Xu using Galbadian Sign Language. “What the heck are you doing?” She asks snapping her fingers to get the SeeD’s attention.

“Ah, so that’s what happened…” Xu mumbles finding the slashed pocket not paying Rinoa any attention.

“What happened?” Squall demands jumping up Lionheart drawn facing a wall.

As both Xu and Rinoa turn to the seeing impaired principal the inappropriateness of what she is doing has finally hit her. The mean looks Rinoa gives her remind her that this is never the place. “I had a hole in my pocket…” She says weakly putting her shirt back on. “I’ll explain later I promise!” She signs to the miffed mute magic caster. Then she leaves hastily to look for Seifer.

In the circular atrium that is the central part of Garden Seifer has finally made it to the dorms.

“That was a long walk, Fujin had better be here.” Seifer gripes as he reaches the threshold to the girl’s dormitory. “Crap, how do I open this door? My key won’t work even if I could reach up there…”

His problem is solved as a girl walks out of the apartment section. She doesn’t notice him at all. He stares up at her as she walks past awed at her height and apparent obliviousness of his proximity. He can hardly tear his eyes away in time to scurry in the door.

“Which one is it?” Seifer wonders walking down the corridor. “This hallway goes on a good ways down…” He notices a girl at the other end of it. He pays her no mind. “Can I fit under the doors? Looks painful but I can’t stay out here.” He finagles his way under the door with some trouble.

“Wrong room, Fujin’s room is spotless.” He squeezes under the doorway again. “I can’t go through all these rooms, it’d take too long and it hurts.” Another has joined the girl he saw before and they are walking in his direction. “Maybe they know which room Fujin is. They’d better help.” Seifer tries to signal them.

In the dorms a SeeD is banging on a door.

“Come on! We’re going to be late!” The SeeD yells.

“Alright, alright!” Comes from the other side of the door. “I’m coming!”

“Hurry will you?” The impatient blond insists.

“Be quiet!” The door opens to reveal a brown-haired girl. “Instructor Trepe is cool about tardies.”

“That doesn’t mean we’re not late! Let’s go already!” The ladies proceed down the hall. The brunette stops suddenly. “What’s wrong?”

“Did you hear that, Carol?”

“Hear what?”

“It sounded like a muffled gunshot…there it is again.” She draws two knives from her belt. “Listen…”

“Are you sure?” The blond asks impatiently holding a pistol. “We’re going to be late Jessie!”

“Shh! Listen!” Jessie turns her head. “From…there.” She looks at Seifer who is trying to yell from a few yards away. “What is that?” She puts away her knives.

“Does it matter? We have a class to get to!”

“What’s wrong?” Jessie picks Seifer up. “Aren’t you precious?”

“Hey isn’t that the jerk who runs the disciplinary committee?” Carol asks holstering her gun.

“Yeah you’re right. It does look a lot like him.” Jessie agrees examining him.

“I need-” Seifer begins.

“He’s such a downer.”

“What should I do with him?”

Carol shrugs. “Throw him in your purse. We’re in a hurry.”

“Right.” She drops Seifer in her shoulder bag and they walk off.

Xu is busy retracing her steps.

“When could he have slipped out?” Xu wonders. “Where could he be?” She arrives at the training facility where she was practicing. “I started here and walked this way.” She walks slowly scanning the ground. “Where…?”

Something shiny catches her eye. “What’s this?” Xu moves to pick it up. “…”

Though only about the size of a grain of sand its definitive color and gleam reveals what it is. Upon closer inspection she can see it relatively clearly.

“A shell casing…” Xu says to herself. “This must be where we parted ways. He used his gunblade to get away from me. Now where would he go?” She wanders out into the common area. The midget mercenary is nearly run over by two girls in her scrutiny of the floor.

“Watch where you’re going short stuff!”

“Get out of the way!”

“There is no running in Garden.” Xu reminds them regaining her balance.

“Whatever!” They both continue running.

“Novices…” Xu remarks watching them hurry off. “Must focus.” She reminds herself. “Where would I go if I were in an awkward situation like this? Likely somewhere familiar and quiet…what would that be?” She walks around head down.

“Xu are you all right?” Comes a voice.

“Just fine Nida.” Xu replies eyes still glued to the floor.

“You look tired. You might need a rest.”

“No, I’m alright. Thanks.”

“You’re walking with your head bowed, do you have a headache?”

“No, I’m just thinking.”

“Well maybe you need a nap. Sleep on it. It’ll come to you.”

“Sleep!” Xu realizes. “That’s it!”

“Yeah…” Nida says unsure how to respond.

“Thanks a lot, great idea!” Xu runs off.

“Okay…you’re welcome.”

In the darkness of a handbag Seifer ruminates on his predicament.

“@#$%$!” Seifer swears being jostled about. “It figures I’d find crazy Trepie broads when I need some help. Normally could see em a mile off but here I am. Guess I wasn’t paying attention.” He chides himself.

“But that’s okay; this experience is blowing my mind. Crybaby must’ve cracked my dome wide open and left me in the infirmary in a coma. I ain’t been this messed up in the head since the mind control, damn! I’m feeling pain though, that door and this sack ain’t a gentle ride. Am I dreaming?” He can hear his abductors talking.

“Did you see her?” Carol asks.

“Little miss high and mighty?” Jessie replies. “Almost stepped on her!” She laughs.

“Sure is a push little twerp isn’t she? ‘There is no running in Garden.’” Carol mimics in a low falsetto.

“I’d like to have done more than push her…”

“Careful Jessie or she’ll take her ‘sword’ to you!” Carol laughs.

“That relic? Puh-leeze!”

“She’ll go medieval on you I’m telling you!” Carol continues to laugh.

“She’d do better to go get some real steel like a gunblade or something and get with the times. That thing’s a fossil!”

“She’s A-rank!”

“So what? She passed some stupid tests. I’ll still put these edges to the little nerd.”

“That’s why I like Instructor Trepe; she’s smart but not uppity about it.”

“Seriously. If I ran into her I’d apologize.”

“Mm hm!” They go on about the greatness of Instructor Trepe and Seifer stops paying attention. He’s nearly fallen asleep when he feels a jab in the side.

“…wha?” Seifer says sleepily. “Aaah!” He grimaces as light finds its way into the recesses of the purse. Then he is grabbed roughly and dropped on a desk. “Ow!”

“Answer the question!” Jessie whispers urgently.

“Huh?” Seifer turns to the video screen on the workstation. “Oh, this has been a while, hmm…” He actually ponders it a second then remembers something. “Hey what do I look like?” He snaps standing up. “Do it yourself!”

“What’s the answer?” Jessie insists.

“Screw off!” Seifer retorts looking for a way off the table.

Carol, the next seat over, is laughing fit to split with one hand over her mouth. Being able to hear the conversation is not helping her concentrate either.

“You can’t talk to me like that!” She hisses.

“Shut it!”

“Why you!” She pokes Seifer and pushes him down.

“You’d better stop.” Seifer says getting back up. “I’m out of here!”

“Oh no you’re not!” Jessie reaches for him. He anticipates this and lashes out quickly with the Hyperion leaving a gash in a finger with a bullet in the wound.

“Warned you.” Seifer says teasingly.

Jessie looks at him with narrowed eyes and reaches for him again. He counters opening her palm and leaving more microscopic lead. “You’re going to get it…” She balls up her fist and cocks it back.

Carol is having a hard time staying in her chair. It’s all too funny to her and she’s very close to bursting out and disrupting class. “Must be calm…”

“This was not smart.” Seifer realizes all too late preparing to be paste on the monitor.

“You won’t mind if I ask what you are doing, Jessica?” Quistis inquires standing over the desk. “Or exactly what this is?”

“Instructor! I-” Jessie begins.

“I’ll be confiscating this.” Quistis picks up Seifer.

“You don’t understand!”

“It is illegal to play with toys during class or have you read the Garden Charter?”


Seifer appears to be laughing from Quistis’s palm. This is all Carol can take and she guffaws so mightily that all the students give her strange looks. She doesn’t care and continues to laugh.

“Caroline, may I ask what is so funny? Perhaps you could share it with us?” Carol doesn’t respond she can’t stop laughing. “Disruptive behavior is also not tolerated as I’m sure you know. I believe both of you could benefit from a trip to the Headmaster’s office.”

“Instructor!” Jessie pleads.

“Maybe you could discuss your attendance records as well, they aren’t spotless. Now go.” Quistis commands.

“I thought you were cool…” Jessie mumbles leading Carol out of class.

With the student’s attention on the rule breakers Quistis walks back up to her desk with Seifer concealed in her hands. “You’ll have to explain some of this to me.” She whispers putting him on her desk behind some books. He nods and she goes back to facilitating class.

Xu is acting on a hunch heading towards the dormitories.

“I guess he’d try to go home.” She thinks. “Some quiet time where he won’t be bothered, no better place. I shouldn’t have tried to take him to Squall, he couldn’t have been too happy about that. How could I forget he hates Squall more than me? Procedure smrocedure, I suppose I’d feel the same way in his position.” She realizes. “I just want to apologize and make sure he’s alright.”

Xu arrives at her destination. She walks over to the boy’s side of the dorms and slides her card. No entry. She smacks herself for being silly.

“How could I expect my key card to open the boy’s dorm?” She says to herself. “That isn’t what it does. My key only works on the girl’s dorm like it’s supposed to.” She opens the female apartments and walks in. “But he couldn’t be in here, how would he have gotten in?” Xu reflects on this impossibility as she walks.

“There’s no way I can find him.” She realizes. “I’m looking for a needle in a haystack in the wrong barn. Nida’s right, I am a little tired.” She walks towards her room. “I will take a –hold on…” She sees familiar brass.

“How did he- what happened?” Xu stops and picks up the cases. “Why would he fire?” She starts to think. “To attract attention! Who would find him? In this last hour where would someone go? Who teaches class this late in the day?” Xu runs through a roster of instructors in her head. “Quistis!”

She turns around and heads toward the classrooms. It isn’t long until she arrives at Quistis’s room number. The facilitator is still in there but Xu pays her no mind.

“Hello Xu.” Quistis says by way of greeting. “Is there something I can help you with?”

“No, just looking for something.” Xu scans the floor diligently and the desks as well. She finds two more tell tale shells on a desk along with what looks like fresh blood. She recoils a bit imagination not giving a good picture. “Could you tell me who sits here?” She asks unsteadily.

“Jessica.” Quistis replies.

“What does she look like?”

“My height, brown hair…”

“Kind of rude?”

Quistis nods. “Do you need her for something?”

“Where is she now?”

“I sent her to the Headmaster’s office, she was being disruptive.”

“Right…disruptive…” Xu glances back at the desk and gets a sinking feeling as she sees the blood again. “Thank you.” She walks out.

Xu is heading to the Headmaster’s office now. She is disquieted but focused on the task at hand.

“I should have been paying attention.” She berates herself. “He should not have gotten away from me. It was that girl that bumped me in the atrium. If I had known…” She hears something and stops.

“I had to get stitches, do you believe it?” A voice says.

“It was so funny I was about to die laughing! No I can’t believe it!” A second voice replies.

“What the heck is so funny?” The first voice says. “That little jerk’s dead th-” The ladies round the corner and stop speaking. Xu is blocking the way.

“Seifer, dead?” Xu considers the teen’s words. “No can’t be…”

“You want something, squirt?” Jessie says scornfully.

“Y-yeah.” Xu replies still shaken by what she heard. “I’m looking for Seifer.”

“Haven’t seen him.” Jessie lies coolly.

“I know you had him. There is no point in lying. Where is he?”

“Gone. He got-” Carol begins.

“Killed.” Jessie cracks her knuckles. “Squashed him.”

“What?” Xu is taken aback. “No…”

“You see what he did to my hands? He deserved what he got.”

“…” Xu’s mouth is open in shock.

“Jessie!” Carol begins. “That’s not-”

Jessie pushes Carol aside. “What are you going to do about it?” She draws her knives.

“You monster…” Xu draws her sword.

“I’ve wanted to put you in your place for a long time.”

“You’ll pay.”

They circle each other warily weapons drawn. Jessie’s long knives matched to Xu’s stiletto. The air is alive with electricity, both fighters on edge waiting. Carol doesn’t know what to do and shuffles to one side for her own safety. Xu glances at her as a possible attacker and that’s when Jessie makes her move. Gliding forward stealthily she aims to perforate the shorter SeeD. Imagine her surprise when Xu isn’t where she was an instant before. She had second-guessed Jessie’s first move and evaded without even looking.

“Lucky…” Jessie thinks not deterred. She continues to attack, swinging furiously at the Garden official. All of her attacks seem to have no effect. None hit or even come close. Xu’s sword gives the impression that it is omnipotent, constantly clanging with her blades.

“I can’t believe he’s really dead…” Xu thinks distractedly deflecting maneuver after maneuver. “I was too late…if only I had…” She stops and refocuses her mind. “The task at hand.”

“You’re real lucky but now I’m mad!” Jessie slides toward her opponent even lower than before. “Blood Pain!” She goes for the double-edged frenzy quickly.

Xu doesn’t flinch. Matter of fact she doesn’t move at all. With two moves of her sword she leaves one knife on the floor and the other sticking out of a wall. Jessie nearly impales herself on the classical weapon finding nothing to parry it with. She stands slowly Xu’s sword imminently close to her neck.

“Give me one reason I shouldn’t kill you right now.” Xu says icily. “Tell me right now.” Jessie says nothing. “I thought so.” She is just about to finish Jessie off when she hears the unmistakable sound of a gun cocking.

“She didn’t kill Seifer.” Carol says shakily not happy with the turn of events. “She lied, he’s still alive.”

“Where?” Xu demands voice level sword point not wavering.

“I have him.” Says a voice.

“Quistis!” Carol says turning her head.

“Weapons drawn in Garden.” Quistis says relieving Carol of the firearm with her whip. “On a Garden employee no less. These are grounds for immediate dismissal.”

Carol and Jessie are silent. When Xu removes her weapon from Jessie’s proximity the chastised girls walk away, leaving their own arms on the ground.

“But how?” Xu asks, sheathing the stiletto.

“I can explain.” Quistis replies. “It may be better done in my office don’t you think?”

In the infirmary Selphie sits staring at the statue that is Irvine.

“Selphie, we don’t have a cure yet.” Dr. Kadowaki reminds her. “He won’t suddenly return to normal because you’re watching him.”

“I know…” Selphie replies sadly.

“You’re still watching him.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“That won’t change his condition.”

“I didn’t mean to do this-”

“We know.” The doctor tries to console her. “We’ll find a way to fix everyone. I’m sure of it.”

“I hope so.” Selphie continues to gaze at Irvine who is frozen, as any marksman would be, eye along the gun sight taking aim.

In the instructor’s office Xu sits talking with Quistis while Seifer leans on a book paying them no mind.

“Seifer explained it to me.” Quistis begins. “He told me he had been taken by Jessie and when you came looking for her I assumed he had something to do with it. I wanted to tell you I had found him so I came looking for you but you had already got into it with her.”

“She lied and told me she had…killed him just to get a fight out of me.” Xu explains. “I knew she had Seifer at some point but I couldn’t be sure if he…”

“Like I would let that happen!” Seifer scoffs from his position on the desk between them.

“It could’ve if I hadn’t stepped in.” Quistis reminds him.

“I had it under control.” He says dismissively.

“How do you know about Seifer?” Quistis asks coughing. “I’m still in the dark.” She takes a potion from her desk and administers it to herself.

“He didn’t tell you?” She shakes her head while drinking. “I found him in the Training Center the way he is now. Cataclysm-”

“That explains why we couldn’t find him.”

“Had shrunk him. I picked him up and was going to take him to Squall but he escaped.”

“Escaped?” Quistis is puzzled. “How?” Seifer chuckles to himself.

“He cut a hole in the pocket I placed him in. It made for a very embarrassing moment in the Headmaster’s office.”

“Really? Why did he ditch you?”

“Didn’t feel like dealing with Crybaby and his crap.” Seifer says looking down. “No way was I gonna go see him like this.”

“For that I am sorry.” Xu apologizes. “I should’ve remembered you and Squall have never gotten along well.”

“Hopefully you won’t have to deal with this much longer.” Quistis mentions. “We’re working on a cure right now.” Seifer looks up at the instructor at that remark. “Soon you should be back to normal.”

“That is good to hear but what do we do with him at present? Someone should look after him.”

“You are the obvious choice.” Quistis replies logically. “You’ve been looking for him all day. I’ve got another class to teach anyway.”

“And I don’t want to sit through more of that!” Seifer pipes in. “There’s reason I flunked out of here!”

“You find my teaching boring?”

“I find all teaching boring.” Seifer says as though it is self-evident. “Unlike bookworm there me and academics don’t mix.” He points at Xu.

“Are you certain?”

“He just said that he does not find me stimulating enough to be around. I don’t think there is much question.”

“As long as you aren’t hauling me off to the ‘Headmaster’ we should be cool.” Seifer says scathingly. Xu nods and they depart.

In Xu’s pocket Seifer ponders on the obvious.

“Sure is a tight fit in here.” He thinks. “But it could be worse. At least there isn’t anything bumping into me and flipping me over. Not like anything else could fit in here but that’s a good thing.”

“We’re here.” Xu says pulling Seifer from her pocket. “My apartment.”

“Seifer looks around. “I’ve been here before!” He realizes aloud.

“What? When?” Xu asks the person in her palm.

“Earlier today, don’t get bent outta shape. I was looking for Fujin’s room and found this sty by mistake.” Seifer explains.

“How’d you get in?”

“Under the door. Not the best way to get anywhere. That hurt!”

“I believe that.” Xu concurs. “But this isn’t a sty! It’s organized by…piles…” She trails off.

“Books, books, notebooks, clothes, can you remember what the floor looks like?”

“Very funny.” Xu sits on the bed. “How did you get here?”

“Walked. Then went to class with those trippy broads.”

“You walked? Here?” Xu sounds astonished.

“Yeah, I was looking for Fujin’s room but I wasn’t gonna spend all day twisting under doorways doing that so I asked those girls to help me. They weren’t listening. If I remembered the room number…”

“Do you want me to take you there? I know which one it is.”

“No, screw it.” Seifer shrugs. “All her yelling would probably bust out my eardrums anyway.”

“Am I too loud?”

“Nah, you’re cool. You always were quiet. Everybody else needs to work on their inside voices if you ask me. One of my favorite rules to enforce is the ‘no yelling’ rule, did you know that?”

“You never cite Fujin for it. That’s favoritism.” Xu chides.

“Can’t cite her for it. She doesn’t have an inside voice.” Seifer thinks back. “Never heard her not yelling.”

“You must be exaggerating.”

“I kid you not. The girl can’t whisper to save her life.”

“I always thought she was a little crazy because of that.”

“No, every time she opens her mouth she pretends you’re fifty feet away. I don’t know.” He shrugs again. “She’s not crazy.”

“Must be scary to be around sometimes, huh?”

“Eh, she doesn’t mean it most of the time. Gotta get to know her, that’s all. Not much scares me anyway.”

“Is this scary for you?”

“Not really. Weird yeah, but frightening? Nah.”

“When Jessica was going to hit you, you weren’t scared?”

“A little.” Seifer admits.

“Are you afraid of me?”

“You? Nope.”

“I am not intimidating?” Xu is astonished again.


“Why? I’m much bigger and stronger than you. I could do all sorts of things to you.”

“I don’t see it sweetheart.”

“Why not?”

“You remind me too much of a pixie to be scary.”

“A pixie?” Now Xu is confused.

“Yeah. Whenever I see short little you I think pixie. Cute friendly tiny fairy that runs around Garden.”

“And Jessie scared you?”

“Sorry she was a big nut not a nymph!”

Xu smiles. “Strange word for a drop-out to know.” She teases.

“Hey, I’m not completely illiterate!” Seifer protests. “I happen to like mythology.”

“So am I the kind of fairy that grants wishes?”

“I don’t know, will you tell me what your beef is with my favorite bastard?”

Xu takes a deep breath. “I might as well.”

“It is my wish.”

She smiles again and begins. “A few years ago when we were all novices trying to be SeeDs I wanted to be one.”

Seifer nods. “Everybody wanted to be a SeeD.”

“You and I were opposites back then kind of. You didn’t try too hard or study at all. I did nothing but. I buried myself in my books, studying constantly. I knew I would pass the exam. I had to! You Quistis and I took it the same year. We passed while you didn’t.”

“Yeah, I should’ve followed orders but whatever.”

“Quistis took the test as a prodigy but I was the top scorer in our class. I was awarded the highest SeeD rank you could begin with. That didn’t even matter because I set another record. In ten days I passed every SeeD written exam with 100% on the first attempt!”


“Yes. By the time the next field test rolled around and you and Squall took your exams I had been A-rank for some time.”

“What does this have to do with our social butterfly?”

“He did average on the test. Nothing special. At this point it meant little to me. I’m Cid’s top lieutenant, why should I care? It became a problem when Cid stepped down. He appointed Squall as Headmaster and not me! Why?”

“That got you pretty steamed I’m guessing.” Seifer says noting how her hands are trembling. He wobbles unsteadily.

“Yes! Why him? What did he have that I didn’t? Cid told me that Squall had the potential to be a great leader. Based on what I cannot tell you. He hadn’t said ten consecutive words to anyone! He appoints this guy to lead Garden! Naturally I had questions so I asked Cid why.”

“What did he say?”

“He told me that I did not have ‘the qualities necessary’ and that I was ‘not leadership material.’ I didn’t understand.”

“Me either. Sounds like bull.”

“I assumed the only thing I could. He picked Squall over me because…” Xu gestures at herself.

“I don’t get it.”

“My appearance.” She says finally.

Seifer looks her over. He can see the uniform flatters her pretty well. He notices the torn pocket and the impression it gives. “Because you’re a shapely sprite?” He concludes.

Xu nods guiltily. “To add insult to injury I remain his second-in-command even though I out-rank him! Ironic huh?”

“So you just want to kick his ass?” She nods again. “Well get in line. I’m first.”

Xu smiles again. “I don’t think you’ll be doing that right now.”

“Why not? Let me at him.”

“If that is what you wish…” Xu stands and walks towards the door.

“Hey, I’m kidding alright! What I want to know is how you managed to trail me. I can’t figure it.”

“It took a while but you left clues. Using the shell cases from your gunblade and some deductive reasoning I was able to plot a possible course you took.”

“You didn’t just say that.”

“I did. Detective is in a SeeD’s job description.”

“That’s impossible.” Seifer says flatly.

“Doing the impossible is also tiring. I’m going to take a nap.” Xu stands and places a pillow on her dresser. “Make yourself comfortable.” She places Seifer on the pillow.

“Thanks.” Seifer plops down on the cushion. “Appreciate it.” He rolls over and goes to sleep.

“He’s had a rough day.” Xu thinks. “He’s got to be twice as tired as I am.” She walks over to the closet. “Going to have to sew this up.” She thinks taking off her shirt. “This got torn too?” She slips out of her skirt. “Probably when fighting that delinquent. Good thing I have a spare unifo-” Her thoughts are interrupted by a sound. She looks to its source.

Seifer is sitting up on the pillow staring in her direction whistling lewdly. “Go on!” He yells faintly from across the silent room. “Don’t mind me!”

Xu looks clueless a moment but a glance in the mirror clears it up. “Giving him quite an eyeful.” She realizes standing there in her underwear. She sighs and gets into bed pulling the covers up. She can hear his disappointment from there. She shakes her head. “Shameless!” She calls out. Some hard to make out response comes from the furniture’s direction and she falls asleep.

In Xu’s room Seifer is sitting on a pillow.

“If I hadn’t whistled…” Seifer thinks sullenly. “She wouldn’t have known. But where’s the fun in that?” He thinks back to what Xu said.

“If Cid meant what she thought he meant it’d be a real shame. Why discriminate because she’s hot? What, do people not follow orders from a babe well? People’s eyes follow one pretty good. That’s why people stare, because she’s hot! They’re paying attention I know they are! I think it would be super effective if the little bombshell was leader. But that’s just me.” He chuckles to himself.

Seifer looks around. There are books everywhere. Even on the dresser. One is open and he goes to take a look at it.

“Swordsmanship…” He mumbles. “Must be her style of fighting, let’s have a look.” He begins to read. With some effort he turns the page. “That stance is just like mine!” He reads further. “All these moves are the ones taught to me in basic training!” He continues reading. “Everything up to where I stopped studying and further is in here.” He looks at her sword leaning on the wall next to the bed. “You can do all this with one of those? You’re just full of surprises.” He looks at his hostess.

Xu is fast asleep. She fidgets but remains unconscious. The cover slips off. She doesn’t notice.

“Real easy on the eyes too.”

Xu wakes up a couple of hours later.

“I didn’t finish training for the day.” She thinks yawning. “Why was I so tired?” She looks at the arrangement of her dresser. “How could I forget?” She wonders noting its resting occupant. “Poor guy.” She walks over and checks on him. “I hope he’s alright.” She looks closely at him. “I still can’t believe it…” She reaches out to touch him. Seifer eyes open on contact and Xu is startled. She looks sheepish as he notices her prodding him. “I’m-”

“Even hotter up close.” Seifer murmurs gazing up at her reverently. “Wow…”

Xu can barely make out what Seifer is saying but his apparent gawking is a good hint. She realizes that she looms over him in her lingerie and is suitably embarrassed. “…” She considers what he said and has no words. Her face is unreadable.

“What’s wrong, Pixie?” Seifer asks. “Never been called ‘hot’ before?”

“…no.” Xu says in an undertone.

“You can’t be serious.”

Xu doesn’t respond. She walks over to the closet and begins to get dressed.

“Where are you flying off to?”

“Training Center. Didn’t finish my practice session.”

“Always busy.”

Xu nods. “Will you be alright here by yourself?”

“Yeah.” Seifer replies. “But I’m coming with you anyway.”

“Why?” Xu straps on her sword.

“It’d be boring as heck here alone, what’s the point?”

“As you wish.” Xu places him in her pocket. “Don’t tear this one.” She commands.

“Eh, whatever.” They walk off to the monster enclosure.

Xu is thinking as she walks.

“He actually called me hot.” She thinks to herself. “It’s hard to believe he could even consider me in that way the state he’s in. Should I be flattered? Nobody has ever said anything nice to me before, I don’t know. People stare at me but that’s all. They never speak. I feel like Squall!” She smiles sardonically to herself. “Guess we’re more similar than I would like to believe.”

In her pocket Seifer is ruminating on something plaguing his mind.

“Her style is my style.” Seifer reiterates to himself. “She practices constantly and still can’t beat Crybaby. I know she’s better than me, I can see that. Why doesn’t she use a gunblade? She said it herself; the advantage of having the option to fire is stopping her from winning. If she could turn the tables then wham! He’s down for the count. I don’t get it, why would they give me a gunblade and not her? Unless-”

“We’re here.” Xu says suddenly withdrawing her passenger. “Where do you want to sit?”

“There’ll be alright.” Seifer sits. “Thanks.”

Xu nods and draws her sword. She begins to practice, doing movements from the book and many Seifer had never seen before. A breathtaking display of swordsmanship unfolds and he is in awe.

“Whoa, she’s good.” He thinks to himself. “Didn’t think something so big could be so graceful. Heck anything that agile is beyond me. Now why can’t she beat Six-shooter?” He watches her perform and gains an insight. “I think I know why now.” He waits for her to take her breather. “Hey Pixie, I got a question.”

“What is it?” Xu asks sitting next to him.

“I was reading one of your books on swordsmanship and watching you just now and realized something.”

“What is that?”

“Our fighting styles are about the same.”

Xu nods. “Your make of gunblade’s style is derived from my kind of swordplay yes. Why is that important?”

“I’ve been wondering since you’re so good why don’t you have a Hyperion?”

Xu seems to become dejected. “I can’t use it.” She replies sadly.

“I thought that might be why. Is it because of your height?”

“Yes. As proficient as I am with this I can’t handle what you have. It is almost as big as I am and too heavy for me to wield at all.”

“I know you could beat that bastard if you had one.”

“Though I am a master of my art technology still gets the better of me.” She sighs. “All because I’m short.”

“You’re a master? How did you manage that?”

“Studying. I know every move in all the books in my room backwards and forwards.”

“Could you give me a few pointers? I been wanting to take Squall down a few pegs myself but it’s not as easy as I thought.”

Xu smiles. “Are you asking me to teach you? A drop out asking someone qualified to be an instructor to tutor them?”

“Yeah I guess.”

“If that is what you wish then it would be my pleasure.” She stands. “Let’s see what you know.” She draws. “Follow along with me.” She does five attacks in succession. “Now you.” She observes Seifer.

“I got this.” Seifer imitates what he saw.

“Again if you would.” She sits on her heels to see better. After watching she comes to a conclusion. “The problem is once you get past entry level competency people stop instructing you.”

“What?” Seifer asks defensively. “What did I do wrong?”

“You went too fast. It’s not a race.”

“I did what you did!”

“Too quickly. That’s your problem. You are too rash and impatient. True technique flows, it doesn’t gush and ebb.”

“The faster you go, the faster you win!”

“The faster you lose your weapon too.”

“…” Seifer has no comeback.

“How many times have you been disarmed?”


“The faster you go, the more likely you are to lose control of your weapon when you slow down. Flow and keep your emotions under control then victory is not far off.”

“What about speed? You were going pretty fast!”

“But did I slow? The key is consistency.” Xu stands. “Let’s try again.” She gets into battle stance. “As I do.” Seifer is treated to another bout of beautiful blade handling. “Now you.” She’s back on her heels waiting.

“I can do it.” Seifer tries to emulate her.

“No, all wrong!” Xu says forcefully. “That will get you defeated for certain!” Seifer is startled by the outburst.

“I did it exactly like you did! What else do you want?”

“Do AS I do. You don’t have to be exactly like-” Xu stops. “Let me explain it a different way.”

Seifer looks at her with interest. “Well Instructor?”

Xu looks mystified. “How can I say this?” She comes upon a revelation. “Find your own rhythm.” She says decidedly.


“Do it your own way but with a steady beat to it. Not with all that stop and go. Slip through maneuver after maneuver with fluidity. Speed comes with practice.” She stands. “Sorry about yelling I-”

“Don’t worry about it. I’m notoriously hard to teach if you remember.”

“Right.” She assumes stance. “As I do.” She glides effortlessly through another ballet of flawless technique. “Your turn.” She looks at her pupil expectantly.

“My own rhythm, no hurry.” Seifer begins the attack pattern. He ad-libs a bit but gets through it. “How’d I do?”

“Good. Get comfortable with the idea of practicing. Of planning more than one move ahead. It is the key to good technique.” She stands. “Don’t sweat the little mistakes. At this point we just want continuity. We want to get away from the impulsive random strike and not got to the machine uniformity.” She raises her sword. “Let’s continue.”

They practice into the evening Xu demonstrating and Seifer following. It goes on for some time, neither wanting to rest having fallen into a groove. It got to the point where they didn’t even have to signal one another and the swordplay didn’t stop. Eventually they had to though.

“Seifer.” Xu says suddenly.

“Pixie.” Seifer says finishing up the move.

“I’m hungry.” She says simply putting away her sword.

“Me too.” Seifer sheathes his weapon.

“Let’s eat.” With that they leave the training center.

In the cafeteria the pair manages to get some food before it closes and are left alone.

“I haven’t eaten all day.” Xu says sitting down.

“Famished myself.” Seifer agrees from the table. He looks at the plate. “Who would’ve thought they’d have hot dogs? Chicken wuss would kill to get some of these.”

“How are you going to eat? Cutting off a piece with your gunblade?” She inquires.

“No! I’m not an animal. That’s what the SeeD pocket knife is for.” He pulls out a Swiss army knife.

“Those are only given to SeeDs…” Xu says unsteadily.

Seifer looks up at her blankly. “Your point?”

“You stole that?”

“Confiscated.” He corrects. “Damn this is handy!” He puts it away and begins to eat.

“There you are!” Comes from the doorway. “We’ve been looking for you.”

Xu turns her chair to face her visitors. “Oh, you guys.” She can see Quistis, Rinoa, and Selphie. “Do they know?”

“I told them you have something to show them.” Quistis replies. “So, no.”

“Well?” Selphie asks. Rinoa looks on with anticipation.

“Umm…” Xu looks at the table then unclasps her hands from her chest. Seifer lands on the table on his feet gasping for air.

“Warn me before you do that again, Pixie!” Seifer exclaims up at Xu. “I had a mouth full of food, I could’ve suffocated! Not like there’s much air there any- hey ladies.” He notes the trio.

“Omigodwhathappened?” Tumbles out of Selphie’s mouth. “Seifer? Is that really you?”

Rinoa’s face is the definition of shock. Mouth slightly ajar you could feel the amount of air ripped from the room as she gasped. That is followed by hasty sign language that no one can make out. Her fingers blur with the speed of it.

“What’s up?” Seifer asks the stunned females. He turns to Xu. “What did she say?”

Xu shrugs. “This is what I had to show you Rinoa. Sorry about the incident earlier.”

Rinoa nods and slows her hands down to where she can speak again. “Is he real?” She signs slowly.

“Yes.” Xu replies.

“This is my fault isn’t it?” Selphie asks. “I’m sorry! I didn’t want this to happen, I just wanted to see what the spell did! Can you ever forgive me?” She implores Seifer.

“Are you done?” The diminutive dropout asks. “Because I was trying to eat. But that didn’t go too well. I got yanked up and half smothered and now you’re talking my ear off. Can you leave me alone?”

“You aren’t mad?” She asks hopefully.

“Hell yeah I’m mad! You got me tripping on thumbtacks and Pixie can see over my head! Of course I’m mad but it doesn’t matter now.”

“It doesn’t?”

“What’s done is done, why yell about it? Besides what am I going to do, come and get you?” He draws the Hyperion. “Whoa a paper cut!” He steps toward Selphie threateningly. She giggles.

“Jessie thought it was pretty serious.” Quistis reminds Seifer coughing. “She needed to be sewn up.”

“Wow, a stitch! Watch out you’ll need a stiiiitch!” Seifer rolls his eyes. “Are you done?” He asks again. Selphie is laughing hard now and doesn’t reply.

“I don’t know, let me ask him.” Xu says to Rinoa.

“Ask me what? I’m trying to eat here!”

“Rinoa wants to know if she can hold you.”

“I don’t know, can she?” Seifer replies sarcastically. “Do her hands work?” He puts his hand to his face. “I don’t even see why you bother asking.” He continues exasperated. “I’m only this tall!” He shouts holding his other hand to the top of his head.

“We’re trying to be polite.” Quistis explains.

“Really? Before you came I was trying to eat, what’s the polite thing for you to do? I’ll give you a hint, starts with ‘L’ and rhymes with ‘eve’.” Quistis laughs. “I don’t get what’s so funny. I thought teachers were supposed to be smart.”

Rinoa places her hand on the table in front of Seifer. He looks at it a moment then climbs on. She raises him to her face slowly and peers at him strangely. With her other hand she says something and smiles. Selphie and Quistis find it funny.

“What did she say?” Seifer asks.

“That you’re cute and…” Xu waits for the rest of it. “Just as silly as before.”

“So I’m trying to grab a bite but you people pick with me. Up here picking me up and asking stupid questions and I’m silly? That’s rich.”

“Me next!” Selphie calls. Rinoa extends her hands to her and Selphie snatches him. “You’re light!”

“No, you think?” Seifer squirms uncomfortable in Selphie’s grip. “Hey, watch the jacket!”

“Sorry.” She loosens her hand. “How’s that?”

“Perfect. Now put me down!”


“Maybe I didn’t make myself clear. I’M TRYING TO EAT!”

“Alright, sheesh!” Selphie sets him down. “You’re no fun!”

“Now does anyone else want to bother me? Quistis do you need a turn?” She shakes her head. “Then I’m going to eat.” Seifer resumes his meal.

“We haven’t decided who will be looking after him for the night.” Quistis mentions. “Who is it going to be?”

“I don’t know.” Xu says.

“Count me in.” Selphie vocalizes.

“It should be his decision.” Rinoa signs. The others nod and all eyes are on Seifer.

“Can’t a man eat in peace? What do you want now?”

“Who do you want to be your guardian for tonight?” Quistis asks.

“That’s an easy one. Dryad right here.”

“Dryad?” The tutor is puzzled.

“Pixie I mean.”


“Yeah, her.” He points at Xu who looks sheepish. “You’ll probably bore me half to death.” He turns to Selphie. “You won’t let me get any sleep. As for you…” He regards Rinoa. “You not talking might be plain creepy. And Pixie’s cool, a little wild but that’s alright by me.”

“Seifer!” Xu admonishes.

He shrugs. “See you guys later.”

Later on in Xu’s room they are getting ready to go to sleep.

“Now to bathe before bed.” Xu says running some water in the tub.

“I thought you had a magical spring for that.” Seifer chides.

“No, I have a tub and it looks like you could use a dip in it too.”

“I’m okay on that.”

“What, do you need me to watch you so you don’t drown?” Xu teases.

“No, though you might.” Seifer counters. “Tiny little you in the tub alone just screams trouble. I’ll watch over you because I’m such a nice guy.”

“Right and what will you do if I start to drown?”

“Watch over you, hello? Were you listening?”

“Thanks, that’ll be a big help. No.”

“Aww, worth a shot.”

“You’re shameless you know that?”

“You may have told me once.”


Seifer walks out and the door shuts behind him. “I had to try.” He says to himself laughing. “It would’ve been great if it worked.”

After what seem like an hour later Xu comes out of the bathroom. Wrapped in a bath towel she picks up Seifer and places him on the sink. She begins to run water in the basin for him.

“Fall, fall, fall! For the sake of all that is fair, fall!” Seifer silently commands the towel. “Come on!”

“Your water’s done.” Xu says. “I’ll be right outside if you need anything.”

“Fall damn it fall already!” Seifer demands. Xu leaves the room and just about shuts the door. He snaps his fingers in disappointment and looks around. She left him shavings of soap and a shred of cloth. “Coarse as hell but it’ll do.” He bathes quickly and goes to bed.

In the infirmary Dr. Kadowaki is up early as always.

“No change in condition.” The doctor says checking Irvine. “It doesn’t seem to be wearing off. Our best hope lies with the young people who went to gather the magic.”

Seifer wakes up on Xu’s dresser.

“Huh?” Seifer thinks pressing down on the pillow. “Where the hell is this?” He looks around. “What?” Then it comes back to him. “Oh yeah I remember. Yesterday was off the wall.”

The shower in the bathroom starts and then there is singing. Seifer stares at the room in disbelief.

“She can sing too?” He is impressed. “Not only is she an A-rank SeeD and master swordsman but a siren to boot? How about that?”

After a while the shower stops. Then a singing person clad in only bath linen steps out.

“Hmm, I guess there is a God.” Seifer thinks as the linen begins to slip. He leans forward to get a better look and is rewarded with a refreshing view of the floor coming at him. “Ow…” He moans. “My back…”

Xu continues singing. “Whoops, oh well. Not like anyone else is here.” She goes back to singing.

Seifer lies there on the floor in complete agony. “It’s worth it…” He rasps looking up. Then he takes it back. “I can’t see!” All he can see is stars and spinning blackness. Even as the floor sinks indicating she is standing right over him he can see nothing. No matter how many times he blinked or how hard he tried, nothing. He can’t even see his own fingers. “Why?” He wonders.

Xu can’t hear him over her singing. She continues about her morning oblivious to his plight without even a glance in his direction. She lays out her clothes and makes up her bed while he writhes in pain. “What to wear, what to wear?”

“God you sadistic bastard!” Seifer whimpers.

Later that morning Seifer and Xu are having breakfast.

“There’s something that’s been bothering me.” Seifer says cutting himself a piece of toast. “That I’ve been meaning to ask you about.”

“What is that?”

“Were you serious when you said you had never been called ‘hot’ before?”

“Yes, I have never been referred to in any way similar to it at all.”

“You’re joking!”

“Untrue. When you first called me ‘cute’ that too was foreign.”

“What, hasn’t your boyfriend called you that or is he blind?”

“I don’t have a boyfriend…”

“How did you manage that?” Seifer is genuinely perplexed. He begins to pace. “You are smart, can fight and sing too.”

“You heard me sing?” Xu is suspicious. “Were you-?”

“You’re beautiful too.” Seifer says ignoring the last comment. He stops and looks up at her. “Why aren’t people knocking down the door?”

“I’m not popular.” Xu says simply.

“I know that Pixie, but why? Who do you hang with?”


“Who do you talk to?”


“Think I see the problem.” Seifer sighs. “It’s no wonder you haven’t been complimented, no one says anything to you. People might like you more if you spoke…at all…”

“I have nothing to say.”

“I guess the rumors are true then. You’re an icy little woman.”


“That’s what people say. You’re cold and think you’re better than everybody else.”


“I thought they were lying. I mean you always spoke to me when I talked to you but I guess I’m the exception.”

“I do not feel such a way.”

“You haven’t said anything to disprove it. You haven’t said anything at all and that only makes it worse. What are people supposed to think?”


You’ve never been on a date either have you?”

“Not one.”

“All that studying didn’t leave much time for a life.”

“It may not have.”

“You should try it, living can be a blast.”

“Hmmm…” Xu considers what he has said. “You know what I’m curious about?”


“Why did you call me hot? Do you find me attractive like this?”

“Apparently.” Seifer replies. “That’s why I said it.”

“Don’t you think it’s a little strange?”

“No. You can be very…distracting to say the least.” He chuckles. “Should it be strange?”

“Yes. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

“Let’s pretend I’m me. If a pretty girl is in front of me I’ll probably be sidetracked regardless of her being over one hundred feet tall by perspective. What do you expect? You take up most of my line of vision.”

“And you like it?”

“Makes it a lot more bearable.” Seifer shrugs. “Why shouldn’t I like it?”

“I’m many times your size. You should be frightened.”

“Are you scared of people taller than you?”

“No, but I can’t fit in one hand.”

“That’s supposed to make a difference?”

“Be sensible!”

“You want me to stop enjoying myself and be sensible? What fun is that?” He shrugs again. “Tell me what the point is.”

“You would-”

“Aside from worrying myself stupid.”


“There isn’t one is there?”

“Um well…”

“Why waste my time? I’m getting a kick out of it. Calling you a little pixie is very funny if you think about it. That’s all that matters right now.”

“What about your safety?”

“What about it? Take it as it comes.” He says easily. “I’m more interested in where my next laugh is coming from. I’d have gone crazy if this weren’t so funny.”

“You aren’t being logical.”

“That’s your problem, too logical. How often do you laugh about something?”


“See? When is laughter ‘logical’? It never is. That’s why you don’t do it.” He sighs. “I thought every fairy had a sense of humor.”

“We do!” Xu enthuses.

“Ah Ha! So you admit to being a pixie. I knew it!”


“You’re a pixie!” Seifer concludes pointing at her. “Pixie!” He repeats.

“I guess you’re right.”

“Of course.” Seifer steps closer. “I know what I’m talking about.” Pixie giggles. “Is there something funny?”

“You’ve been arguing with me most of the morning while walking around on my toast.” She continues to laugh lightly.

“Umm…” Seifer looks down. He’s left footprints of butter on the burned bread. “You didn’t expect me to eat crust did you?” He asks weakly.

“Thank you for preaching the greatness of laughter to me while marching around on my breakfast!”

“It’s the only way to do it!” Seifer declares standing triumphantly in the middle of her plate. “So there!”

Xu’s laughter increases. Not too loud but the bubbly sound is vibrating throughout the room. Seifer thinks this is good but now he’s looking at his boots strangely.

“Oh $%#@! My kicks!” He darts off the plate and onto a napkin. “Man!” He rubs and scrapes them on the table setting. “They’re done…” He moans. He looks up at Xu so sadly that she laughs even harder. “You can fix them right?”

In the training center Xu is instructing Seifer.

“Let’s begin where we left off yesterday shall we?” Xu draws her sword. “Follow my lead.” She demonstrates excellent form. “Now you go.” She squats down to view her pupil.

“Cakewalk.” Seifer does as instructed. “See?”

“Very good, you’ve shown a lot of progress. However mastery comes with time. Even so I’m impressed. Do it again.”

Seifer does as instructed a second time. Xu watches closely.

“He does have a lot of potential.” She admits remembering what Cid said about Squall and Seifer. “This may be easier than I thought.”

“What does this prove? I know these moves.” Seifer says impatiently.

“Exactly. Watch me.” Xu stands. “When you fight it is important to remember two things.” She begins the elementary movement. “Attack and defense.” She stops in the middle of the movement, sword in a new position.

“Is that the new move?”

“No, it is a technique with many moves. It is called ‘parrying’.”

“I’ve heard of that. It’s when you guard.”

“Untrue. A guard position is not offensive. It only serves to protect oneself from injury. A parry is a conscious attempt to second-guess your opponent and react accordingly.”

“Nobody told me about this.”

“It isn’t mentioned by instructors. It is thought too dangerous to teach.”


“A parry is not stationary like a guard posture. It is a preemptive counter attack that is designed to intercept the opponent’s weapon while it is moving. Contact training could be catastrophic if done incorrectly.”

“I don’t see it.”

“It would be easier to elucidate with the aid of an opponent. It is hard to practice parrying by oneself.”

“I’ll do it.” Seifer says.

Xu giggles. “I don’t think you’re up to it.”

“Sure I am. You aren’t that much taller than me!”

“Perhaps I can be of assistance?” Quistis walks over to them. “I am quite able.”

“It is fortunate that you have a sword with you. That makes this much simpler.”

“You have a sword?” Seifer says confused. “I know you don’t use those…”

“I have to be versed in all ways of fighting. I know the basics of all combat as an instructor should.” She explains. “Though not my weapon of choice I am still a competent swordsperson.”

“You just so happen to have a sword with you.”

“I practice with them on Wednesdays yes.”

“Whatever.” Seifer puts away the Hyperion and sits down. “You have something to show me?”

“What do you need me to do?” Quistis asks.

“A katana, perfect for demonstrating. Just stand over there and do as I say.” Xu turns to Seifer. “A katana is most similar to Squall’s weapon and his moves are gleaned from those fighting systems.”

“Just get on with it.”

“Let’s begin.” Xu draws her stiletto.

They advance slowly toward one another. Seifer watches from the ground.

“She’s a lot taller than Pixie.” Seifer notes. “Maybe she bit off more than she could chew…”

“Come at me.” Xu commands.

Quistis obliges and begins to attack the smaller woman. Xu raises her sword and guards then begins her assault.

“I recognize that one. It’s the first one.” Seifer thinks watching the large ladies battle.

Indeed it is. Xu appears to be seeing the basic attack pattern to its end. Suddenly Quistis sees an opening and tries to attack. The stiletto intercepts the katana and with a hand motion both combatants are stopped.

“Do you see this?” Xu asks swords still crossed. “This is a parry.” She signals Quistis to continue. “As I attack I can parry and continue without losing rhythm.”

“Wow…” Seifer thinks watching Xu take the fight to Quistis. He’s enjoying the show. With the form fitting uniforms, fast movements and not to mention short skirts he is riveted to the battle unfolding.

“I emphasized rhythm over exact copying of moves because at any time you may have to parry. You must always be ready to defend that is why the style is flexible. This is the art of the dancing blade.”

“Swing a sword at a sword.” Seifer says to himself. “I can see how that could get messy with a bunch of newbies.” He looks back at the confrontation. “So simple it sounds stupid though.”

They practice well into midday. It is hard to tell when they would stop but fate intervened. An alarm on Quistis’s wrist goes off.

“Sorry, I’ve got to go.” Quistis says looking at her watch. “I’ve got a class to teach. I’ll barely have time to get cleaned up and be prompt.”

“That’s okay.” Xu replies. “Do you want to take care of Seifer tonight? You seemed interested.”

“Shouldn’t we ask him?”

“Why? He’s only this tall.” Xu holds her fingers three inches apart.

“I wish I hadn’t said that.” Seifer mumbles.

“Take him for the rest of the day; I’m sure he won’t mind.”

“I won’t mind…” He mutters.

“Alright. I’ll see you later.” Quistis slips Seifer into a uniform pocket and walks off.

Later on in Instructor Trepe’s class Seifer is trying to get some sleep.

“Why would you drag me to class?” Seifer wonders on Quistis’s desk. “It bores the hell out of me.” He walks to the shadows of the textbooks and lies down. “Why do they think I flunked out of Garden?” He closes his eyes but they immediately open again because he’s been poked. He looks to the teacher for an explanation.

“I would just like to remind everyone that there is no sleeping in class.” The facilitator says to her students.

“No sleeping in class…” Seifer mumbles. “What does she expect me to do, dance?” He stands. “Not a bad idea actually.” He draws the Hyperion. “Practice makes perfect.”

“Alright class, can anyone name the three basic GFs for me?” Quistis asks. “You there.” She points to a student.

“Shiva, Ifrit…”

“Everybody and their mother knows that one.” Seifer says. “Seriously.”

Quistis continues to teach class while Seifer hones his skills. Though she glances at him from time to time he pays her no mind. Such is the attention he is paying to his task.

“I’m gonna take a break.” Seifer decides sheathing the Hyperion. “Haven’t had nothing to eat since breakfast.” He spots an apple on the desk. “Good thing everybody likes the teacher. I’m sure she won’t mind if I take a piece.” He whips out his trust SeeD pocketknife and gets a piece of fruit.

Or attempts to. Try as he might he can’t get the blade to pierce the peel. Quistis is watching the development with an increasing amount of amusement from the corner of her eye. So when Seifer gets angry and kicks the boulder-sized apple in disgust, falling to the desktop in the process she has to suppress a chortle. However when he springs back up and assails the produce with his gunblade a giggle escapes her. This does not go unnoticed by the class. In fact it alienates a student who has just explained that Shiva uses Hellfire and is thunder elemental. Everyone begins to laugh.

“Quiet down class.” Quistis says trying to restore a semblance of order to the room. “I’m sorry but your response is incorrect.” She coughs out.

It does nothing to reinstate the calm formal environment required for teaching. The uproar continues and she sneaks a look at Seifer again. Now she can see him eating a piece of apple flipping the fruit off with his free hand. She surrenders to the atmosphere and joins in the merriment. Class is dismissed.

After class is over Quistis and Siefer are back in her room.

“Did you enjoy your apple?” Quistis asks innocently.

“Yeah, it was the greatest!” Seifer replies crankily. “Cheap knife! Blade broke when I tried to use it, garbage!”

“You did seem to have a little trouble.” She says opening her bag.

“You seemed to find it a ‘little’ funny.” Seifer replies resentfully. “I did not.”

“It was.”

“I don’t see why you dragged me to class anyway. Or why you insisted I stay awake through the whole thing.”

“You should, you might learn something.” She pulls a sheaf of papers out of the carrying case. “You need to.”

“Only thing I learned is the SeeD Swiss army knife is a piece of $%&@!”

Quistis giggles. “Your language is most colorful, inappropriate for the classroom environment.” She begins to read the papers from her bag.

“What are you doing?”

“Grading papers. Care to help?”

“Not like I care.”

“Good, then you won’t mind.” She pulls out an inkpad and removes the stamp. “This will do nicely. All I need you to do is step on the pad and mark the correct answers with your feet on the answer key.”

“Why not? My shoes are ruined anyway.”

“The answers are in a pattern. Its-”

“Let me guess…ACBED.”

“How did you know?”

“I took the test before. I stole the master copy.”

“It was the only one you got a hundred percent on.” Quistis admits. “Get started please.”

Seifer begins to grade papers. He walks at first the goes faster. Then finding a dance step that fits his purpose he leaves red marks in all the right places. Quistis laughs and lays another pad down so there is one at both ends and he is done twice as fast. In less than an hour he’s graded all the exams.

“Thanks, it would’ve taken me forever to mark all those.”

“Yeah whatever…aah my back!” Seifer falls over curled up in pain.

“What is the matter?”

“My back’s killing me!”

“Let me have a look.” Quistis picks up the squirming Seifer and takes a look at him. “Get the coat and shirt off.”

“So soon? I didn’t think we were ready-”

“Do you want help or not?”

Seifer complies and takes off the garments. “Well?”

“It appears you’ve been abraded in several places and have a large contusion in the lumbar region causing you distress.”

“In English please, instructor.”

“Your back’s been scraped a bit. Plus you have a big bruise that probably hurts. How did this happen?”

“I fell out of bed.”

“I’ve got just the thing.” Quistis fetches a small potion similar to the ones she’s been taking all day. “Hold still.”

“What are you, ow!” The next few seconds are a solid chain of swear words as the antiseptic takes effect.

“Very colorful indeed.” She reiterates. “Hold still.” She begins to rub the all purpose medicine into the large purple mark.

“OW! That-” The painkiller in the solution begins to work. “Good, this is alright.” Seifer trails off.

“I suppose even a very weak draught is still quite potent at his size. Quistis thinks looking at the incapacitated Seifer. “Might as well call it a night.” She places him on the nightstand and goes to bed.

In the infirmary Dr. Kadowaki is getting her office ready for the day.

“Let’s see…” The doctor checks her e-mail messages. “Hmm…one from the away team.” She opens it.

Doctor Kadowaki

We are around halfway finished with the magic collection. Further research in field suggests gathered energy is key. Continuing task accordingly.

Squad leader

“Good news.” The doctor says to herself. “There’s nothing I can do for them here.” She looks at Irvine immobile with dust gathering on him. “I hope they hurry.”

Seifer wakes up to an alarm clock. The first words out of his mouth are not fit for a public narrative. Let it suffice to say he’s very ticked off.

“She left me on the nightstand?” Seifer gripes. “Not even laying on my jacket, come on! She knows my back hurts so she lays me on hard wood with nothing between it and my skin? I’m half stuck to this damn thing! Owww!”

Quistis comes out of the bathroom fully dressed. She glances at her guest. “Good morning. I though I’d leave the clock ring and see if you woke up.”

“Well it worked…” Seifer mumbles. “Wish I was still sleeping. My back is so messed up…”

“Ready to go?”

“Yeah.” Seifer says glaring at her.

Quistis picks him up and they walk out. “I’m taking you back to Xu. I have things to take care of as a Garden official and can’t watch you all day.”

At the top of the afternoon in the training ground Seifer and Xu are getting ready to begin.

“So what are we practicing today, teach?” Seifer asks drawing the Hyperion. “I’m ready for it.”

“Are you?” Xu asks dryly.

“Yep, bring it. I’m ready for anything.”

“Then put away your weapon. You will not need it for this exercise.”

“Why, what are we doing?”

“Follow instructions first then I will tell you.”

Seifer does as instructed. “Now what?”

“You are still very impatient. You should show more focus and willingness to wait. That is what today is all about.”

“Eh?” Seifer stares up at his titanic tutor in perplexity. “What are you talking about?”

“A fighter’s greatest asset is neither sword nor skill. It is the mind.”

“Okay…where are you going with this?”

“The mind is the driving force behind action. With it all things become possible. Only with its aid can true power be realized. I say this because you fight mind from body.”

“Mind from body?”

“You use your moves and skills but something is missing. Squall is able to perform the difficult Renzokuken technique with his mind and body united. You have a move unique to yourself as well. Your innate Fire Cross ability is very good in its own right but it could be so much more. Soul and sword together can unleash unimaginable force; you just have to unlock it.”

“How do I do that?”

“By clearing your mind and focusing on realizing the true power of Fire Cross.”

“Sounds simple enough. I can handle it.” Seifer closes his eyes. “I can do this.” He sits Indian style on the ground.

Xu watches her student carefully. From her point of view it appears as though he is meditating. She smiles approvingly and goes back to practicing.

In reality Seifer is having a lot of trouble concentrating. He can’t take his mind off his surroundings. “Got to focus…” The sound of Xu’s thin blade whistling in the air serves as a distraction. “Got to tune it out…” He puts more effort into the altered state of consciousness.

It works and sound fades from the background. He is alone inside a white area. Gradually the colors change and it becomes Deling City. “This is when I first fought Squall one on one for real…” Seifer remembers. He watches from the outside. “I can see what I did wrong…” The fight unfolds as it did before and his past self falls.

The scene fades and changes. Now it’s Galbadia Garden during the famous Garden confrontation. He can see himself waiting in the room with Edea. Then he goes to confront Squall and the others. “I can see what he’s saying. I’ve made those same mistakes before…” Though this time he tries twice he still fails as it occurred prior.

The backdrop is different once again. This time it’s the Lunatic Pandora. “I don’t remember this much…” His past self confronts the SeeDs. “This battle…” He watches as he fights with inhuman vigor. “I’m trying so hard…” Suddenly halfway through the memory the vision stops and then there is whiteness. “I can’t remember, what’s the point?” He sighs. “Might as well give up.”

“No, all wrong!” Seifer hears from behind him. Turning to the source of the voice he finds a more recent memory. This one is only two days old. “That will get you defeated for certain!” Xu says sitting on her heels admonishing him. The piece of history disappears as suddenly as it came.

“I can’t just give up.” Seifer realizes. “How would I face her again?” He can see her face before him filling his sight, almond eyes locked with his green ones. “I can’t leave here without my answer.” With her voice echoing in his ears he voyages back into the fragmented memory.

“It’s no use, I can’t remember.” Seifer says. “They told me that when we fought there that right after that time compression thing started. It’s all fuzzy…”

Xu’s voice is in his ears again and her face is right in front of him. “No, all wrong! That will get you defeated for certain!”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer.” Seifer say sadly but her voice comes again and he’s having a hard time saying it. “I’ll try one more time.”

A final attempt into the warped past happening leaves him with nothing. “All these fights I lost. I tried as hard as I could and gave my all every time but it wasn’t-wait! It isn’t the memory I’m after it’s the mindset! I threw my heart and soul into aiding the Sorceresses all those times. I was all for them. In the last battle I used an attack that I never used before. I was so fixated on my goal that one time I unleashed the true fury of Fire Cross.” The memory shows him doing the attack and a crucifix wave of flame hitting the Balamb SeeDs. “It’s my answer!”

Xu is watching Seifer apprehensively.

“He hasn’t moved in hours.” Xu says sheathing her sword. “I would hate to disturb him but I wonder if he’s alright.” She gets down on all fours and peers at her pupil close up. “He’s breathing and should be okay.” Seifer’s eyes open at her observation.

“You’re certainly something to wake up to.” He says appreciatively. “Beats an alarm clock by a long shot.”

“I was worried about you.”

“Worried? About me? I’m touched. Not too many people worry about a troublemaker.”

“Someone should worry since you don’t.” Xu says petulantly.

“Eh, I’m alright. Appreciate the thought, though.” Seifer stands nearly brushing Xu’s face. “But I’m hungry.”

“As am I.” She picks Seifer up. “Shall we go?”

He nods. “I’m starved.” They head to the cafeteria.

In the mess hall Xu is looking for somewhere to sit.

“Certainly crowded right now.” Xu remarks to herself searching for a seat. “Must be that last meal of the day rush. Missed it the last time we were here.” She spots some empty tables towards the back. She makes her way to them past the card players and sits down.

“Hey, can you get me out of here?” Seifer calls from her pocket. “Kind of cramped…”

“Oh, sorry.” Xu withdraws Seifer.

“Not that I don’t enjoy it but I have to eat too.” He says from the table.

“So how was Quistis at taking care of you?” Xu says ignoring his last comment.

“Not too great. Made me sit through class and grade papers. She left me sleep on the nightstand on nothing and woke me up early in the morning via alarm clock. Top it off she doesn’t even have the decency to walk around half naked.”

“Seifer!” Xu scolds. Several Triple Triad players look at her oddly speaking to a table.

“I’m serious, it sucked.” Seifer says flatly. “Not fun at all.”

“You’re shameless.” Xu whispers barely moving her mouth.

“I know what I like. What I don’t like is sleeping on wood and waking up to an alarm clock at 6:47am in the morning! At least you let me have a pillow! Plus you’re hot.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Everything! It adds a lot to the experience! You walking around in your underwear kicked ass on being explained GF facts while marking tests!”

“…” Xu doesn’t have a response for that. She just stares at him.

“Besides you don’t have an alarm clock. I woke to the sound of your voice. That is so much better than a damn buzzer!”

“You woke to me singing? Did you…?”

“No. I tried and tried but I fell off the dresser and cracked my cranium on the floor. I didn’t see a thing.” Seifer shakes his head sadly. “A cruel prank by the Almighty.”

“Are you sure?”

“Why would I lie about that? I tried to see and didn’t! I wanted to but no! The unseen force that governs all thought it would be funny to mess with my head.”

“I don’t understand why anyway. The proportion disparity-”

“Screw that!” Seifer interrupts. “If you don’t know by now, let me tell you! ‘Hot’ isn’t relative, it’s constant! It has nothing to do with size! So do that math!”

Xu pauses and cogitates what Seifer has said. Her conclusion leaves a slight redness on her cheeks. He notices it and laughs.

“Surprised?” He asks drawing the Hyperion and portioning himself some food. “You might be.”

“So now you’re using your gunblade to eat with?” Xu asks changing the subject. “I wouldn’t do that if I had one.”

“I wouldn’t but I got to now. That SeeD piece of crap knife gave out on me. You still want a gunblade though?”

Xu nods. “Something light enough for me to use with both edges and a trigger.”

“How many rounds would you want? Fifteen? That’s what this thing holds.”

“I wouldn’t need anywhere near that many bullets. I would need just a few so I can have the option to fire.”

“So you’re more a revolver person?” Seifer snorts. “Whatever.”

“I don’t have to have a whole lot. Just enough to have that last ace.”

“Something like that would be a custom job. To be as light as all that, scaled down for a teeny little pixie; I hope you’re willing to pay an arm and a leg.”


“Found you!” Comes a voice from behind. “Been looking for you all day!”

“You found me, how can I help you?” Xu replies turning to the speaker.

“Can I take care of him tonight?” Selphie asks. “Quisty had a turn, I want one too!”

“That’s fine.” Xu replies. “You can take him now if you want.”

“Wait, don’t I have a say in this?” Seifer asks of the two girls above him.

“No, you’re only this tall remember?” Xu reminds him. “Why ask you?”

“How many times is that going to come back and bite me in the ass?” Seifer wonders as Selphie carries him off.

In Selphie’s dorm room she tosses Seifer on the bed.

“Whatcha wanna do?” Selphie asks eagerly.

Seifer is trying to regain his balance. Selphie’s skipping the hall with him in one hand swinging him around has him dizzy. “I just ate…” He mumbles. “Geez…”

“So whatcha wanna do?” Selphie asks again plopping down next to Seifer. He bounces up violently.

“I dunno…” He thinks holding his stomach. “I got to say something…”

“Well?” Selphie looks real close at him. She’s breathing on him now.

“A game of cards.” Seifer says finally. “You can’t toss me around doing that.” He thinks.

“Yay!” She goes to fetch her cards. “You can use some of mine!”

“Good. Not that I have any.”

“I’ll deal.” Selphie deals the cards.

Now Seifer isn’t a very good card player but Selphie is notoriously bad. Playing with the open hand rule was only working to his advantage since she can’t think more than one move ahead. Though he can barely lift the cards he wins four times in a row.

“Wow you’re good!” Selphie says.

“No I’m not, you suck.” Seifer says disdainfully.

“Can we play again?”


“Please? Just one more game?”


Selphie deals and the game begins. She starts by placing a card in a corner. “Would you like to place a bet on this game?”

“Huh?” Seifer isn’t paying attention. He’s been dealt a crap hand and she just made a good move. He decides what to do and picks up the appropriate card. “Like lifting a lunch table…” He falls back awkwardly.

“I’ll do it.” Selphie takes the card from Seifer. “Where should I put it?” He points and she places it there. “You didn’t answer my question.” She reminds him.

“Sure, you’ll lose anyway. What are we betting?”

“If I win you do what I say and you win I do what you say.”

“Great. When I win, the first thing you’re going to do is stop making me play cards!”

“I don’t know…” Selphie says mysteriously making a move.

“Well I do.” Seifer points to one of his cards. “Put this one above that one.”

Selphie picks up his hand. “Which one?”

“That one third from your right.”

“Why? It won’t flip my card.”

“With the Same rule it will.”

“Oh. Then I won’t.” She puts another card in its place. “My move.” She plays a card and flips the one she just set for Seifer. Now it’s 4-1.

“Hey that isn’t the card I said!”

“I thought it was.” She says mischievously. “Now which card do you want to play?”

“That one right there. Put it in the middle.”

“That’ll flip all my cards!”

“Yeah, so?”

“Not happening!” Selphie puts it in the wrong spot. “My turn.” She places a card and flips one of his. 6-1.

“What’s the point of playing if you’re going to cheat?”

“To win, dummy! Now which card do you want to play?”

“The left. Put it-”

“The right it is!” She puts the incorrect card in a space doing nothing. “I win!”

“Yeah, good. I’m going to bed.”

“No you aren’t! You do what I say now!”

“Not more cards…” Seifer says dejectedly.

“No, I’ve got something more fun in mind! Hide and seek!”

“You have got to be kidding me!”

“Nope. I’m counting to fifteen then if I catch you we’ll play more cards!”

“No more cards!”

“I’m counting…” Selphie says shutting her eyes. “One…two…”

“If I can dodge her long enough I can get her to leave me alone.” Seifer thinks sliding off the bed. “Where is a good spot?” He looks around.


“Closet’s too far away, under the bed is too obvious, behind the bookshelf is too cramped…here we go.” He decides on a place. “This is perfect.”

“…Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen!” Selphie finishes quickly. “Ready or not here I come!” She leaps off the bed. “Where could he be?” She checks the closet. “Not here.” She dives under the bed. “Or here.” She checks behind the bookshelf. “Or there.” She checks under the bed again. “Hmm…could he have slipped in my dresser?” She starts going through the sliding compartments. “Can’t see how…”

From his hiding place Seifer is chuckling to himself. “What an airhead.” He watches her slide under the bed again after she is done searching the furniture. “If I wasn’t there before, why am I there now?”

“Well looks like I can’t find him.” Selphie says sitting on the bed. “I give up.”

“Like I thought.” Seifer thinks triumphantly sliding down the inside of the bedspread. “Easy.” He walks from under the bed.

“Gotcha!” Comes from above. Selphie is leaning over him smiling a winner’s smile.

“You gave up! I win…” Seifer says weakly.

“I had my fingers crossed.”

“I couldn’t see that.”

“Too bad. More Triple Triad!” She reaches for him.

“Hell no!” Seifer makes a break for it.

“Hey!” Selphie jumps off the bed after him. “Wait!”

“No!” He dodges around a coat rack.

“Come on!” She tries to grab him but he bolts.

“It’s stupid!” He takes cover behind a dresser.

“What I say goes!” She reaches behind the dresser to get him but he scoots away. “Fine then, have it your way!” She withdraws her hand. Next the entire wardrobe is being moved.

“Uh oh.” He flees the fast disappearing shelter.

“Ah ha!” Selphie says elatedly. “Now-where’d he go?” She catches a glimpse of him headed under the bed. “I’ve got you!” She goes under the bed in pursuit.

“Once again the airhead.” Seifer says dropping from the hanging edges of the bedcovers. He tsks at her still searching and climbs up the sheets to the surface. “I’ll wait and see how long it takes.” He decides listening to her rummage about below him.

Five minutes later Selphie appears. “I ransacked everything under there, I didn’t see him anywhere.” She says. “He’s gone, I can’t find him. I give up.”

“Is that so?” Seifer says from the head of her bed. “Your fingers weren’t crossed this time.”

“How? I saw-”

“Not telling you. I win so I say you leave me alone.”

“Spoiled sport.”

“Spoiled sport needs a pillow.” One is tossed on the floor. “Thank you kindly.” He smiles.



“Good. Time for more cards!”


In the doctor’s office Dr. Kadowaki is turning on the lights.

“Let’s see, any over night patients?” The doctor wonders aloud. “None aside from our resident here.” She glances at Irvine. “Let’s see if the away team has any good news for me.” She turns on the computer.

Dr. Kadowaki

We have finished magic collection. Field studies are not conclusive. We are still proceeding as planned however and are returning home. Expected time of arrival is tomorrow morning if all goes well.

Squad Leader

“Inconclusive?” Dr. Kadowaki thinks. “At this point it doesn’t matter. It’s the only chance we have.”

Xu is standing outside Selphie’s room knocking impatiently.

“Selphie wake up.” Xu calls. She can hear movement from inside the dwelling but the door doesn’t open. “Selphie!”

Now there is some noise. There’s a thud then some heavy steps. The door opens a crack and a blanket covered person peeks out. “What do you want this early in the morning?” Selphie asks crankily.

“It’s not early. It’s eleven in the morning.”

“Whatever! What do you want?”

“I’m here for Seifer.”

Selphie snorts and opens the door. She gestures at the other side of the bed and flops down on it. “Turn the light out when you leave!”

“That’s the sun.” Xu says pointedly.

“Hmph!” Selphie puts her head under a pillow.

Xu looks around for Seifer. “I thought my room was a disaster area…” Clothes strewn everywhere, the dresser sitting askew, closet empty and cards all over the floor she shakes her head. “How will I find him in all this?” She spots him on a pillow sitting atop more clutter. “There he is.”

Seifer is tossing and turning. As Xu makes her way to him she can hear him talking. “No, no more cards!”

“What is he talking about?” She wonders reaching for him. “Cards?” She picks him up in both hands.

“Ah!” Seifer’s eyes open quickly. “No more cards!” He sees a familiar face. “When’d you get here?” He asks quizzically.

“Just now. Ready to go?”

“Yeah. I never want to see another one of those damned cards again.”

In the training center Xu is trying to give Seifer a lesson.

“Today is the last- Seifer pay attention.” Xu says impatiently.

Seifer is practicing with his gunblade. “What’s the move of the day?”

“Try listening and putting that away.” She commands. “This is the last lesson I can give you.”

Seifer does as instructed. “So what is it?”

“Listen.” She says. “Observe the area around you.”

Seifer listens a bit. “Chicken wuss rustling in the bushes over that way, some birds, what’s the big deal?”

“I was a bit more focused on that snake right behind you.”

“Snake?” Seifer looks behind himself and jumps back. A garden snake slithers by not interested. The serpent disappears as quickly as it had come. He is flabbergasted. “How did you do that?”

“Awareness.” Xu taps her head. “You’ve got to be alert.”


“By paying attention. Something which is not your area of expertise I know.”

“Cool trick, how will it help during battle? Fearless leader isn’t a ninja; I can see him just fine.”

“If only there were some way I could demostrate- Rinoa! Perfect timing!” Xu turns to face the young Sorceress. “You can help me!”

“Where did she come from…?” Seifer mumbles.

“I can do something?” Rinoa asks with her hands.

“Yes you can. You have a Pinwheel with you right?” She nods. “Go over there; I need you to help me demonstrate something.”

“What are you doing?” Seifer asks from the ground.

“Just watch.” Xu turns to Rinoa sword drawn. “Anytime.”

Rinoa nods and fires. The pinwheel arcs toward Xu quickly. She watches with detached calm as it approaches then lightning quick she knocks it from the air. With nary a sound the projectile falls to the ground.

“Whoa!” Seifer is awed by the display.

“The ability may have some battle application.” Xu says offhandedly. “Those weapons don’t miss and the only option is to knock them aside. Being able to sense the right time to strike is paramount.” She reaches into a pocket and withdraws a blindfold. “Even while unable to see.” She dons the cloth. “Again Rinoa.”

She fires again. Xu stands still as a stone. Just as suddenly as before she becomes animated at the last possible second and the propelled blade falls to the ground.

“If you know what to look for you won’t miss anything.” Xu says.

“That’s how you found the cases; you were looking for them weren’t you?”

“I was searching for very small clues yes. Why don’t you try again? See if you can sense something you didn’t before.”

Seifer looks around trying to see things hidden. He can see the snake from before. “Is that movement?” He wonders gazing at some bushes. “Must be seeing things.”

“Once more.” Xu says to Rinoa.

Seifer closes his eyes. Now he can hear the snake and what sounds like slight rustling. “What is that? It isn’t Chicken wuss…” He feels a rush of trepidation. “What?” His eyes open just in time to see Jessie come from hiding. “You!” He yells.

But that is drowned out as Xu shatters the Blaster Edge attachment. With hands clapped around Seifer Jessie fades back into the brush swiftly leaving only Rinoa the wiser.

“So you see there is more to battle than meets the eye.” Xu says taking off the blindfold. “What’s wrong?” She asks Rinoa, who is very upset. “What has happened?”

“Seifer is gone, someone took him.” She manages to say.

“What? Describe!”

“Brown hair that’s all I could see.”

Xu’s eyes narrow. “I’ve got one guess.”

In Jessie’s possession Seifer is not happy.

“Didn’t see this coming.” Seifer thinks morbidly. “I am totally screwed right now.” He wiggles a bit. “Damn tight grip, feel like my eyes are gonna pop out.” He groans.

“Hope you’re comfortable.” Jessie sneers. “Wouldn’t want to hurt you.” She unlocks the dorm room.

“You expect me to believe that?” He chokes out.

“I don’t really care what you believe.” She raises him to her face. “You’re lucky I don’t crush you right now.”

“If I had a hand free I’d-”

“You’d what?” Jessie opens her hand leaving Seifer lying in her palm. “Try me.” He stands in her hand then looks at her. “Give me your best shot. I’ll let you.” He draws the Hyperion. She laughs a bit at his expense. He looks down at his other option. “Don’t even bother. I’ll squash you before you go two steps.” She says reading his mind.

Seifer weighs his options carefully. “If I jump then I’m finished. If I hit her she’ll probably flip then I’m done anyway. Well…” He gives the weapon a flourish and cocks it. “Here goes…” He stands ready to strike. “Hahh!” He yells suddenly swinging the shooting sword.

“Good decision.” Jessie says noting how he stopped right before touching her skin. “You’d be very mushy if you had chosen badly.”

“I knew that much.” Seifer thinks sheathing the weapon.

“Well it won’t make that much difference, flat now or a little later, whatever.” Jessie walks into the room.

In the training center Xu and Rinoa are searching madly.

“You come up with something?” Xu asks. Rinoa shakes her head. “How could I let this happen?”

The mute one snaps her fingers to grab Xu’s attention. “It’s not your fault!”

“Yes it is. If I had been watching…”

“You were wearing a blindfold!”

“He is my responsibility. I should’ve been more alert.”

“I’m the one who saw it happen.” Rinoa hangs her head in shame. “I should’ve done something.”

“What could you have done? You’re silenced, I broke your weapon and you were too far away. It happened under my nose!”

“Does it matter now? We’ve got to think of a plan!”

“If Jessie has him his time is limited as she is not happy with him.”

“We have to do something. Otherwise…”

“You’re right. Go arm yourself again and look for her. We should split up.”

In Jessie’s room Seifer is looking up at his captor.

“Do you know what you have done to me?” Jessie asks glaring down at Seifer.

“No, what?” Seifer replies sarcastically in the silence of the room.

“You’ve ruined my life.” She says quietly. “Everything is messed up now.”

“How did I do that?”

“I got into a fight with little miss perfect over you.”

“Short little miss-”

“The little wench taking care of you. The know it all.”

“Did you now? Doesn’t sound like my problem.”

“It is if I say it is. Do you know what happened because of that?”

“No, am I psychic?” Seifer snaps.

“I got expelled!” She yells. “It’s over; I can’t wear this uniform anymore!”

“Huh, too bad.”

“They’re going to take me back to my parents! In Winhill! The dead-end nowhere town!”

“What a shame.”

“Do you know how hard it was for me to get into this Garden? How long it took?”

“Nope.” Seifer is starting to get bored.

“Do you realize-?”

“Don’t care.”

“I guess it doesn’t matter now anyway.” Jessie says wistfully. “What’s done is done.”

“Glad you see it my way, think I’ll be going.”

“No.” Jessie says flatly pushing Seifer down with the toe of her shoe. “There is one other thing.”

“What is that?” Seifer asks pinned under the footwear.

“I can get a small bit of satisfaction out of squashing you.” Jessie begins to increase the compression. “Didn’t know that did you?”

“Who would…have guessed…?” Seifer wheezes losing air.

“Good bye you little bastard.”

Seifer’s head is swimming. Red stars are exploding in it from the pressure. His bones are bending under the strain almost to the breaking point. “There has to be something…”

“How does it feel? You’re about to lose everything. I almost envy you; at least you won’t have to deal with it after this.”

“Keep emotions under control and victory is not far off.” Seifer remembers.

“If you beg maybe I’ll spare you a few more seconds.” She says smugly.

“A fighter’s greatest asset is neither sword nor skill. It is the mind.”

“This is what you deserve.” Jessie prepares to finish Seifer off but stops. “Why are you laughing?” She demands.

“Why not?” Seifer asks coughing. “You’re pretty funny.” He coughs harder.

“What are you talking about? You’re about to die very agonizingly VERY soon, how is that funny?”

“That’s the funny part. All the trouble you had to have gone through to catch me. Tracking and planning all for this…heh.”

“Like it matters what you think, smear!” Jessie raises her foot high. “Die!” She brings it down hard and there is a heavy clap. “Stop that infernal laughing!”

“You’re pathetic!” Seifer laughs. “You blame all your problems on someone who can’t lift a bottle cap!” He fades to laughing again.

“It’s your fault!” Jessie protests. “Stop it!”

The laughs don’t stop. They increases in tempo and volume and she is visibly shaken.

“I’ll make you sorry!” She threatens.

“Do your worst!” Seifer chides. “Hahahahahaha!”

“You’ll regret saying that!”

“What are you gonna do, squash me?” Seifer says scornfully. “Don’t make me laugh!”

“You won’t be laughing when I’m through with you! When I’m done you’ll be wishing I had!”

“I warned you!” Seifer’s laughter resounds as loud as it can in the room much to Jessie’s fury.

In the library computer lab Xu is trying to use a computer to solve her problem.

Let’s see if I can use my administrator’s clearance to find what room she’s in.” Xu assesses the room database. “No such student in Garden? Run a guest check then…” She looks through the non-student/faculty residents. “Not allowed to be a guest? I know that but that doesn’t say where she is! There is a serious flaw in the system if this can happen. She’s been expelled but is still technically here in Garden but this doesn’t say where? This period of MIA these delinquents have is disturbing and not helping!” She logs off.

“What was the name of her friend, the one who pulled the gun on me? I can’t remember. Plus she’s been expelled too so I can’t use the computer even if I knew her name, the same thing would happen. I’ve got to find her though; she’d know where Jessie is.” She thinks a moment.

“Quistis knows! She has to know, they were her students! I’ll ask her.” Xu heads off to find Quistis.

In Jessie’s room Seifer is between her feet.

“You asked me to do my worst, now you’re going to get it!”

“I never could wait for the fun to begin.” Seifer says sardonically.

Jessie kicks off her shoes. Seifer recoils from the smell. “You like that don’t you?” She says from above watching him squirm.

“Like hell I do!” Seifer thinks angrily. “Got to keep emotions under control…”

“It gets better!” She slips off her socks and places one foot on him. She can feel him shudder under her sole and laughs.

“Victory is not far off…this is sickening.” Seifer thinks as sweat starts to seep through his clothes.

“Enjoying yourself?” Jessie asks beginning to roll him around. “I am!”

“Must use mind…”

She switches feet and continues to roll him around beneath them. It isn’t long until he is covered in moisture.

“…eyes are burning…”

“Since you’re already down there you can do something for me.” She stops rubbing him with her feet. “Lick my foot.”

Seifer doesn’t reply. “No damn way.” He thinks.

“I don’t feel you licking!” Jessie says singsong. “Go on!” She presses down on him.

“I got her to go this far, I guess I had better give a little or I could still lose out.” He thinks. “She could flip then I’m two-D.” His tongue snakes out and touches her big toe.

“Oh so you do like it?” Jessie laughs again. “Knock yourself out!”

“This can’t be worth it…”

“You may be worth keeping around as a slave a little while.” Seifer breathes a sigh of relief then she presses him again. “Or maybe not!”

Rinoa is searching the Garden for Jessie.

“This is terrible!” She thinks to herself. “Why’d this have to happen? Some girl has is it in for Seifer?” She thinks about it a moment. “Well he can be a jerk sometimes. I don’t suppose he’d let his situation stop him from being him no matter how unwise that is.” She chuckles mentally.

“Xu said his time was short.” Rinoa remembers. “Does Jessie plan to kill him? What could he have done worth dying over especially at that size? I bet Xu knows and Seifer too, I’m just out of the loop. If I had stopped her we wouldn’t be in this situation…” She thinks back to earlier.

“No, Xu is right. What could I have done? I was twenty-five feet away with no magic. She had just broken the cheap Pinwheel I had with me so what was I going to do? I couldn’t yell and get her attention. Running in her direction would’ve been foolish. She could’ve mistaken me for an enemy and where would I be then? Bad shape probably, that would just make things worse. I feel just as guilty though. All I could do was watch as she took him away to what could very well be his end. The best thing I can do now is find him before it’s too late.”

In Jessie’s room Seifer is forced to endure more torment.

“I want to puke.” He thinks. “I can’t take anymore…” He stops his worship of Jessie’s feet.

“Someone’s not doing their job!” Jessie presses down to remind him. “Finish up!”

“I am finished.” He replies. “If you’re gonna step on me then you might as well do it now. I’m done with that.”

“Is my slave tired? Oh, maybe you need a rest.” She removes her foot from him and stares down at the drained person hands on her hips. “So what should I do with you?”

“I don’t even care…” Seifer says jadedly “That ought to make her leave me alone or flatten me, one of those.” He thinks to himself. “Whatever.”

“I think I’ll let you have your rest.” Jessie says stooping down to pick him up. “Then torture you later.”


“I thought you might like it. Now where to keep you?” She looks around. “Though you are a worthless little creep this would be perfect.” She puts Seifer in a jewelry box and locks it. “Good night.”

“What the hell can I do now?” Seifer wonders in complete darkness. “Locked in a wooden jewelry box. If I don’t run out of air before she comes back for me I’ll have to go through more of that again or worse. Of course she might just finish me and have done with it. What to do?” He thinks a while.

“Actually I accomplished a task getting to where I am. I managed to buy myself more time. There’s nothing I can do but wait but that beats dead by a lot.” Seifer sighs. “So I wait.”

Xu is looking for Quistis.

“So far I’ve come up with nothing.” Xu says to herself. “I’ve been searching all day and not a thing. No sign of Quistis or her students.” She walks around the atrium and nearly collides with Nida.

“Hey, are you all right?” The Garden pilot asks. “You seem troubled.”

“No…” Xu lies. “Just looking for Quistis, have you seen her?”

“Yeah, I dropped her class off in Deling City. They’ll be there until tomorrow.”

“No way would I find her in that city in time. The place is too big.” Xu mutters.

“What’s wrong?”

“She…has something of mine. I was wondering where she put it.”

“You check where she last had it?”

Xu nods. “Did that first.”

“What about other likely places?”

“Like every room in the girl’s wing?” She thinks cynically. “That could be a lot of places.” She says aloud.

“Then let’s look at it logically. Is there anything that would help you searching all these places? A sign that would point you in the right direction or help rule some of the options out? Say I left my uniform in the locker room. When I forget my uniform usually that locker is slightly ajar so I don’t have to search them all.”

“I can’t think of – wait a minute…” Xu thinks a moment. “It may be a long shot but…”

“Think of something?” Nida asks encouragingly.

“One thing. I’ve got to thank you for another great idea.”

“I’m glad to help. Maybe when you’re done-” But Xu is gone. “You could tell me about it…”

In the girl’s dormitory Xu is scouring the floor.

“Needle in a haystack again.” She thinks to herself. “Whether you’re in the right barn or not still astronomically low odds. That’s if they exist at all. He may not have had the presence of mind or chance to leave the clue. It’s like flipping a coin three times and having it land on edge twice more. How could I possibly expect-” She stops.

A shiny speck on the ground catches Xu’s eye. Though infinitesimal the gleam of brass is unmistakable. Her eyes are about ready to fall from her head.

“Must be my lucky day.” She breathes picking up the small shell. “That means this is the place…” She looks at the door. “If I’m wrong I could be fired for this. I could be attacked by the occupant of this room too, if I’m not careful I could get hurt.” She gives it some thought and sighs.

Xu walks over to the door and tries her card in the reader. “Darn!” She says for anyone watching. She tries it again. “Come on!” She slides the card again charging the reader with a thunder spell. The door opens and she walks in. “Seifer?” She whispers looking around. She sees Jessie sleeping and a wave of revulsion slides over her. “Seifer?

In the jewelry box on the dresser Seifer can hear her calling. “Huh? Pixie?” He says to himself. “In here Pixie! On the dresser!” He stops yelling a second.

“What are the odds she heard me?” He thinks. “I’m gonna need some racket, there’s got to be something…Fire Cross! I could make some serious noise with that! It’ll just burn up all my air if she doesn’t…” He pauses all of a half second then begins to bombard the prison with his signature move.

“Seifer?” Xu looks at the dresser. “That box is moving…” As she watches it wobbles and shakes on the dresser. She walks over to it. “What is this?” She inspects it as smoke begins to rise from the locked chest. “That’s got to be him!” She whips out the SeeD pocketknife and pries the hinges off.

A smoky and slightly blackened Seifer looks up at her. “The wonders never cease.” He says coughing loudly.

Xu is silent. She says nothing. She picks the gunbladier up and stares at him a while.

“Wasn’t sure you’d find me. But you’re more magical than I give you credit for, thanks-” He is cut off as she hugs him suddenly.

“I am so sorry this happened. I should’ve been watching you closer. I should’ve known she would try something like this…” She continues as Seifer’s attention wavers.

“I told her there wasn’t much air here…” Seifer thinks fuzzily unable to breathe. “But I don’t need any air right now…maybe later…” He passes out.

Xu notes him going slack in her hands with some alarm. “Seifer? Are you all right?” She shakes him gently. “Seifer?”

There is noise from the bed. A yawn then a gasp followed by frantic movement and the sound of steel drawn twice. “Well if it isn’t the little twerp coming to save the littler twerp!” Jessie manages to laugh even though caught off-guard. “I’m glad you-”

“Say one more word and I will kill you.” Xu says quietly patience with the aberrant student at an end. “This is your final warning.”

Jessie stops short. Her face falls and after seeing the look of unmitigated rage on Xu’s countenance her resolve disappears as well. She stands stock still as one under the watch of a venomous snake as Xu makes her exit.

When Seifer wakes up his benefactor is staring him in the face.

“I am so sorry I did that. I didn’t mean to, I mean I didn’t know…”

“Thanks a bunch Pixie.” Seifer says. “But can the mush will you? You’re sorry I get it. I don’t even know for what but I forgive you.” Xu smiles as he shrugs. “I can’t think of why I got to but listen: I accept your apology. There.”

“I let you get captured and you forgive me just like that?”

“I don’t see what the problem is. The last thing I remember you did that I didn’t like was try and present me to the Garden ‘Commander’. You ain’t done nothing to me bad since then.”

“I let Jessie get you. That is unforgivable.”

“What are you talking about? If you’re taking responsibility for stuff that’s other people’s fault you owe me a new knife and boots too. Never mind I ruined those myself.”

“If I had-”

“What? Known the future? Get real Pixie. I owe you because you saved me. You searched for something you could barely see so you could break and enter into someone’s dorm. After that you search and vandalize their things looking for me. Thanks a lot.” Seifer says sincerely.

“You mean that?” Xu asks optimistically.

“No, I woke up to flap my gums, good exercise you know.” He shakes his head and sighs.

“You’re welcome. Glad to-” Knocks are heard at the door. “Who is it?” The knocking continues. “Who is there?” The knocking grows louder. She puts Seifer down and grabs her sword. She opens the door cautiously.

Rinoa is standing there. “You find him yet?” She signs.

“It’s just you.” Xu puts her sword away. “I forgot you couldn’t speak. What did you say?”

“Did you find him yet? I’ve looked everywhere.” She repeats.

“Yes, I have.” Xu points to Seifer on the bed. Rinoa’s eyes light up.

“Are you okay? What happened? What did she do to you?” She picks him up. “It’s all my fault I should’ve- you stink!” She waves her hand over her nose.

“Okay, I know what that means but what was the rest of that?” Seifer asks. “I failed sign language.”

“She wants to know how you are, what happened, and she’s sorry.”

“What is this ‘be sorry day?’ Cut it out! It’s giving me a headache.” He takes a deep breath. “I’ll tell you what happened but wait one moment.” He walks over to the edge of the bed and vomits into a wastebasket. “It makes me sick.”

“Then don’t talk about it.” Xu says. If it bothers you.”

“It’s okay.” Rinoa signs. “But can I keep him tonight?”

“No, I’m a little iffy on that.” She says unsteadily. “I’ll take care of him.”

“I won’t let anything happen to him I promise!”


“What does she want?” Seifer inquires.

“To take care of you for the night. I told her ‘no’.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m still unsure since today…”

“Go on and let her. Everyone else has had a turn. There’s plenty of me to go around!” He says.


“…alright.” Rinoa rejoices and leaves with Seifer in hand.

“Man I wonder what she has planned for me.” Seifer thinks. “I’m tired I just want to sleep now. Today sucked and I want to forget it. She’d better not have a bunch of games in mind or something boring for me to do like the others. Nothing is what I want to do, absolutely nothing.”

Rinoa already has her mind made up as to her plans for Seifer. “I’m going to take good care of him. I still feel bad because of what happened so it’s the least I can do.”

They arrive in Rinoa’s room on the other side of Garden in the guest rooms. Unlike the other rooms it is decorated with a bit of home feel to it. She goes off and runs water in the sink while Seifer looks around.

“Hey what are you doing?” Seifer asks from her hand.

Rinoa looks at him and then raises her other hand. “Running water for you to bathe in.” She says.

“I told you I don’t know sign language!” He says after she is done. “I’m a flunkie remember?”

She shrugs and tests the water with her finger. “Should be good, I’ve got just the thing.” She thinks walking out and leaving her guest on the rim of the sink. She returns with a miniature tub on clawed feet. “Good thing I kept my old dollhouse.”

“I get it already.” He says as a drop of bubble bath and water fills the model bathtub. “I smell.” Rinoa sets it down and hands him a small silk washcloth. “And they say I’m tactless…” She shrugs with a smile. “Give me some space; I don’t want you getting any ideas!” She complies and leaves the room.

“Stuff like this really messes with your mind.” He thinks watching the immense feminine figure leave the room. “I keep thinking I’m gonna wake up in the infirmary with a busted head. This is the most @#$%&* dream I’ve ever had.” He looks at the tub. “Looks real enough, might as well play along.” He hops in the tub.

Rinoa is going through her dollhouse. “This is too good to be true!” She thinks going through the old toy. “I’ve always wanted to do this with a real person! Now where are those…here they are.” She has a towel and small garments in hand. “Perfect!” She walks back into the bathroom.

“I’m in here!” Seifer says offended. She pays him no mind and sets the towel and pajamas down next to him. “Thanks, I guess.” She says nothing picking up his original clothes and looking at them. “Hey, those are mine!”

“These are filthy!” Rinoa thinks in disgust. “What is that smell?” She looks at the water in the sink. “I’ll soak them tonight, that’s all I can do. They are disgusting though, why?” She puts them in the basin and leaves again.

“Where is she getting this stuff?” Seifer wonders looking at what she left. “There’s a toothbrush too?” He shakes his head. “I shouldn’t be surprised, this isn’t that puzzling. I’ve lost my marbles, pretty simple.” He dries off and gets dressed. “It fits too? No surprise there, delusions are one size fit all.” He starts brushing his teeth. “Why this though? I can’t imagine this was in my brain anywhere.”

“Got to get this thing habitable.” Rinoa thinks arranging furniture in the mock house. “All the time I spent playing with it I never thought I would get to do this with an actual guy! I wonder how Squall would act…it would be funny to see.” She imagines Squall as tall as her pinky finger looking up at her and saying ‘whatever’ in that flat voice of his. It’s funny to her.

“I had better find a pen and paper; there are some questions I want to ask him.” She remembers. “He can’t understand sign language.” She procures the stationary and goes into the bathroom.

Seifer doesn’t say anything when she picks him up. He watches her rinse out the tub and toothbrush without a word. When she places the articles back in the dollhouse he nods to himself. “That’s where it came from.”

Rinoa walks over to her nightstand and begins to write with her free hand. “What is this like?” She scrawls.

He reads it then thinks a moment. “Like I’ve lost all contact with reality.” He replies. “When I wake up I’ll be in a strait jacket.”

She smiles at his choice of words and asks another question. “So why was that girl after you?”

He reads the message then looks up to the ceiling. “It’s hard to explain.”

“Have you two met before?”

“I’ll start from the beginning.” Seifer decides. “Then you can make sense of it.” With that he tells the tale of how he and Jessie me. Then he elaborates on how exactly their second meeting went. “That’s what happened.” He concludes.

Rinoa’s face is the perfect showcase of horror. She could’ve seen excerpts from the battlefront of the Sorceress war and not been more aghast. “You’re making this up!” She accuses hastily in barely legible writing.

Seifer shakes his head. “I did as ordered until my tongue was dry, my eyes burned and I would take no more.”

“But why?”

“I guess she blamed me for all her problems. It still is better than what could’ve happened.”


“She was going to smash me flat and get it over with. ‘Luckily’ I managed to avoid that but I would’ve died anyway if not for Pixie.”

“How could someone do that to another human being? She forced you to do all that and was going to kill you anyway just because?”

Seifer shrugs. “I guess that’s how the cookie crumbles.”

Rinoa looks at him sitting in her hand. “That’s just plain evil.” She thinks to herself. “I couldn’t do that to anyone.” She tries to imagine herself doing it. “To revenge myself on someone so helpless wouldn’t mean anything. It would show how weak I am. How can she sleep having done what she did? Not to mention she would’ve killed him in a heartbeat and that would’ve been that.” A cold chill comes over her. “That is not right.”

“Hey, where am I going to sleep?” Seifer asks interrupting her thoughts. “I’m beat!” She sets him down in front of the dollhouse. “Get real!” She only smiles and shakes her head. He walks in and shuts the door.

Inside Seifer wanders around a bit. He flicks light switches surprised that they work. Under his feet is real carpet another marvel.

“Not too bad in here.” He remarks to himself. “The girl is rich I guess even her toys were top of the line. Working lights, real glass windows, Daddy must’ve spared no expense.” He walks into the bedroom. “A real bed, I should expect no less.” He flops in it and realizes something. “It’s better than mine! This has topped the charts for weirdness.” He pulls the covers up. “But I don’t care.” He goes to sleep.

Outside Rinoa watches as lights go on and off. She can hear mumbling but can’t make it out. After all the lights are out she peers in the bedroom.

“He’s so adorable!” She thinks. “The pajamas fit, it’s so perfect! If only I had a camera…” She thinks back to the hours spent playing with the dollhouse in Caraway mansion. “Never imagined anything like this…who would’ve guessed it would take actual use?” She stops looking in the window. “I’ve always wanted to do this.” She glances back at the replica home. “Worth every penny.” She decides going to sleep.

In the morning Seifer wakes up to sun streaming in the window.

“I ache everywhere…” He yawns. “Where is this?” Next to the bed on a chair are his clothes from yesterday. “They do laundry?” He changes into his customary wear. “I’m confused.” He looks around. “I’ve never been here before, what the hell?”

He is just about to go look out the window when he hears a noise. He stops and his ears perk up. It comes again and there is no question what it is.

“Doorbell? It isn’t my house.” It rings again. “But I must be the only one home.” It rings insistently again. “I’m coming, damn! Wait a minute!” Seifer runs down the stairs quickly. He opens the door. “Nobody? That’s stupid as hell! I just got up and ran down stairs to answer someone else’s door and it’s a prank? What kind of bull-” He is cut short by a whistle. “Huh?” He comes out and looks at the house from the outside.

Rinoa is sitting leaned forward draped over the house. She is head and shoulders above the building with her arms hanging over the roof. It looks as though the dollhouse should buckle under her weight. She is grinning fit to split; after all she had heard everything and seen his reactions. If she could speak she would’ve given herself away. “This is too funny…” She thinks.

Seifer sighs as it all comes rushing back to him. “You’re getting a really big kick out of this aren’t you?” She nods languidly. “Thought so.” She picks him up. “Leaving already?”

Rinoa nods. “Xu’s probably worried about you.” She scribbles. “So we should go.” They leave.

In Xu’s room she is sitting on the bed with Seifer.

“Are you alright? I-”

“Stop asking me that.” He says heavily. “I’m fine.”

“Well I-”

“You worry too much. Let it go already.”

“I know. When you were gone I was so worried-”

“I’ll bet.”

“I don’t want something to happen to you while I’m around. I was right-”

“Damn it all Pixie stop it!” Seifer exclaims. “It wasn’t your fault that it happened! Even so you did all you could and I’m fine so stop obsessing!”

“Don’t you know what could’ve happened?”

“Yeah! Because of you it didn’t!”

“But if I had been too late-”

“Do you want to know what happened?”


“Do you want to know what went down? There was time between me getting caught and you freeing me, do you want to know what went on?” Xu nods.

“When she caught me she told me I messed everything up. I didn’t understand but she said that because of me she got expelled. That she got into a fight over me with you.”

“We did have an encounter.” Xu admits. “But she started it by saying she had killed you and drew her weapons first!”

“She said after that she lost everything. I had no idea what she was talking about, it didn’t sound like it had anything to do with me. She didn’t care though; she just had one thing she wanted me to know. Do you know what that was?”

“What was it?”

“That smashing me underfoot would make her feel better. So she proceeded to do that right then. Do you know why I’m alive now?”


“The answer to the million gil question is you, Pixie!”

“Me? How?”

“I followed your lessons. I kept my emotions under control and used my mind. By doing that I was able to trick her into torturing me and leaving me alive for you to find.”

“Torture?” She asks. Seifer describes the event. “You went through that because of me?” Now she’s dismayed. “I-”

“You’re missing the point! If you hadn’t given me that advice I’d have been dead in no time flat!”

“…” Xu doesn’t respond, she just sits staring ahead then abruptly embraces him. “I didn’t want you to die because of me.” She says quietly.

“I’m ALIVE because of you!”

She looks at Seifer. “I guess you learned something from me after all!” She laughs.

“I learned a couple things from Jessie too.” His caretaker stops laughing. “I can’t blame everything on Squall. I may not like him too much but it isn’t his fault he’s better than me. It’s mine; it was my choice to let my skills go. I have no one to blame but myself for the choice I made.”

“How did she teach you that?”

“She said she got into a fight with you. It was her choice to fight that messed it all up; blaming it on me won’t do anything. By the same token blaming my weaknesses on Squall won’t make me any better. I don’t like any more but I acknowledge his skills as a warrior.”

“You’re right. Squall didn’t choose to become Commander of the Garden. Cid chose him. He was only doing as he was told. I don’t have to enjoy being under his command but I can respect his devotion to his duty. He was doing as ordered as any professional would. I will continue to assist him as best I can as is my duty.”

“Still want to take him down though.” Seifer says as an afterthought.

“Me too.” Xu agrees.

They sit for a while conversation having run its course doing nothing. The pair seems content to do this for lack of any other activity so early in the morning.

“Quistis, Rinoa, and Squall report to the infirmary for treatment.” Comes over the PA. “Repeat Quistis, Rinoa, and Squall report…”

“Guess that’s me too…” Seifer says.

“I didn’t hear your name.” Xu says innocently.

“Come on I got to go or I’ll be stuck like this forever.”

“Who will I talk to?”

“Anybody. If you try talking to people they may talk back, isn’t that amazing?”

“I don’t know…”

“That’s because you’ve never tried it before. Are you ready to go?”

Xu pauses for a long moment contemplating. “I’m not ready for this.” She thinks to herself. “I have gotten used to having him around to talk to. I’ve never really had a friend before so what will I do without him? I could keep him here and there would be nothing he could do but…”

Seifer’s spirits fall a little bit as he contemplates the alternative. “It won’t be so bad.” He tries to convince himself. “Being stuck with like this with her will probably be alright. She is hot.” He smiles in spite of the situation. “Forever is a long time though…”

“Yes.” Xu says finally. “Let me get my shoes on.”

“You may need a bit more than that.” Seifer chides. “Unless you think you’re presentable…”

Xu looks herself over. She’s still wearing nightclothes. “You may be right.”

In the medical facility of Garden the entirety of the afflicted are gathered.

“Are all of the ill ones here?” Dr. Kadowaki asks looking around. He can see Quistis, Rinoa, and Squall. Zell is tranquilized on an exam table and Irvine never went anywhere. “Why are you here?” She asks spotting Xu. “You aren’t infected.”

“I have brought someone who is.” Xu replies.

“I don’t see anyone. Are they plagued by invisibility?” The doctor laughs.

“No…” She pulls Seifer from her pocket.

“I see…” The doctor adjusts her glasses. “Hmm…is this an illusion?”

“No doctor.” Xu extends Seifer to the medical professional.

“Quite the ailment.” The doctor remarks picking him up. “Strange indeed.” Seifer gives her a mean look as she examines him.

“What are you talking about?” Squall demands. “Somebody tell me!”

The doctor is about to explain to the seeing impaired person but everyone else signals him not to. “Nothing of special import.” She concludes dismissively winking at Seifer. “No big deal.”

“It is something…” Squall says angrily. “You’re not telling me, that’s all. I’ll have to see for myself.”

“Selphie will be casting the spell.” The doctor says ignoring Squall. “We’re calling it Esunaga it’s a powered up Esuna or so we hope.”

“Is everybody ready?” Selphie asks brightly. “Here we go!” A bright flash of light fills the room. “Esunaga!”

“I feel so much better…” Quistis thinks. “I can breathe without coughing.”

“When did I get here?” Zell wonders. “Last I remember I was fighting a T-Rexaur…”

“I can speak again.” Rinoa says aloud. “That’s a relief.”

“I’m back to normal.” Seifer thinks. “That was too wild!”

“I can see…” Squall realizes. “What were they talking-” He is cut short by a noise.

A gunshot rings out. Everyone draws their weapons and looks at Irvine angrily. The professional gunman looks embarrassed.

“Sorry guys I swear I was in the Training Center.”

“Well you’re not!” Quistis says. “You’re breaking Garden rules is what you’re doing!”

“Plus you broke something else.” Rinoa adds.

“Yes he did!” The doctor yells. “All of you can get out of here with this silliness!”

Everyone files out except Xu. She pulls Seifer aside.

“Something I can do for you?” Seifer asks.

“Yes.” Xu hedges a bit. “Can we get together and talk later?”

“No offense but I’m sorry. We can still be friends though.”

“Why not?” She wonders genuinely puzzled.

“I’m not that easy to be around. I’m actually a big jerk and troublemaker.” He whispers. “We can still talk but that’s it.”


“Face it Pixie, I’m not good enough for you. I’m not the right one. That shouldn’t bother you though. Talk to people, you’ll find someone in no time!”

“People think I’m cold!”

“That’ll change once you start opening your mouth. I bet they’re people dying to talk to you, just give them a chance!” Seifer walks out.

“Just give them a chance.” Xu thinks. “What do I say?” She walks out. “I’ve got no clue…”

“Hey, Xu.” A voice says from beside the door.

“Nida, what are you doing here?”

“I had to tranquillize Zell.” He replies. “I’m the second best shot around. Do you know what was wrong with him?”



“He was berserk.”

“Why did that need special treatment? Did you hear that announcement? Squall and the others needed it too. I’m curious.” He thinks a second. “And what’s been up? Did you find that thing that Quistis had of yours?” He adds as an afterthought.

“Got to open my mouth and say something…” Xu takes a deep breath. “I have a story to tell you…”

Later that day in the Training Center Seifer and Squall face off.

“We never did finish that fight.” Squall says drawing the Lionheart.

“It had just started.” Seifer replies drawing the Hyperion and slamming a fresh magazine home. “Now’s a good time though.” Squall nods and they begin.

The fighters circle each other warily. Nothing happens for a while. They seem to be waiting for something.

“He’s not making the first move…” Squall notes. “He’s waiting for me. I guess I’ll go.” He advances and swings. The attack is met halfway by the Hyperion. “What?” He is equally surprised when it comes back to score on him. Barely deflecting it in time he’s forced to give ground as a succession of attacks seems to be coming. “How is this happening?” Seeing an opportunity to counter he swings hard at Seifer. As he connects with the lighter weapon he is once again on new ground as it doesn’t rebound away to the grass. Seifer rolls with the blow and steps back. “You’re better.” He says to his opponent. The taller fighter doesn’t reply. Not letting that bother him he goes for his Renzokuken attack.

“Got to keep emotions under control…” Seifer thinks. “A good defense would be…Zantetsuken Reverse!” He parries each blow of the Renzokuken with his maneuver. He can feel his gunblade bucking because Squall is pulling the trigger but he holds it together.

Squall goes for Rough Divide. The rising slash is retarded by the falling No Mercy attack. Blades crossed Squall tries to follow through with Fated Circle. The clockwise movement is met by a backspin Demon Slice from Seifer.

“You’ve been practicing.” Squall says drawing back from the standoff.

“You noticed?” Seifer says mockingly. “I’m flattered!”

Squall shakes his head and goes for Blasting Zone. The pillar of energy gathers around the revolver style weapon quickly.

“Got to focus, what is going to stop that?” Seifer thinks back. “Force like that- the true power of Fire Cross!” He flourishes the automatic and a cross shape form of fire stops the stream of power.

Not getting anywhere with Blasting Zone Squall rushes forward for his most powerful attack, Lionheart. From the smoke he materializes ready to strike.

“What now?” Seifer wonders. “I’ve played all my cards, what else is there? How can I stop the-” The Lionheart impacts the Hyperion. It nearly springs free from his grip. “What the-” Without pause the blue weapon comes again toward him. He jerks the trigger on reflex and the opposing gun-sword is halted. “The Last Ace!” He realizes remembering what Xu said. “That’s my final card!”

People have assembled around and are watching the fight.

“Man I wouldn’t want to be Seifer right now!” Zell says.

“Nothing has ever survived that attack.” Irvine agrees.

“Someone should stop them!” Rinoa declares.

“The only way I’d be able to get them apart would be a Shockwave Pulsar.” Quistis says. “That would do more harm than good to them both.”

“Don’t count him out yet.” Xu says. “He has a chance.”

“You sure?” Selphie asks. “Looks pretty bad from here.”

An object lands at Xu’s feet. She picks it up and nods. “I’m positive.”

Seifer is concentrating hard.

“Got to be aware…” He thinks. “Flow with it…”

Squall comes from all sides. Somehow the Hyperion keeps him back and not a blow lands. “I can’t believe this…” He comes across for the final attack. “This is it…”

Seifer’s eyes open suddenly. “There’s more? I’m out!” He realizes clicking empty. He looks again. “He’s doing it just like Rough Divide!” He brings his shooting steel up and parries as best he can. Squall slides past him and he feels sudden pain. He falls to one knee and raises a hand to his face. There’s blood.

“Damn…” He thinks. “He won. Opened the scar back up. Guess I should be glad to be alive.” He stands.

“Congratulations.” Comes from behind him. “You win.”

“What are you talking about?” Seifer says turning around. “You got me.”

“You hit me first, just like before.” Squall replies not having turned around.

“Eh?” Seifer looks and there is blood on the tip of his weapon.

“If you had pulled I-”

“Out. Spent em all.” Seifer kicks the ground and cases rattle. “Good fight.”

Squall turns around and Seifer can see his face. Blood is running freely. “Guess we both got some things to learn.”


In Balamb Garden Seifer is on a mission.

“Finally it’s done.” He remarks to himself. “Now to find her.” He comes to the Training Center. “She’ll be here for sure.”

Xu is in her usual place eternally honing her skills. Seifer watches her a moment still taken aback by her ability as a fighter, regardless of her stature.

“She doesn’t need it. I’ve never seen such-”

“Seifer.” Xu calls. “How long have you been there?” She walks up to him. “Haven’t seen you for some time, what have you been doing?”

“Now or never.” Seifer decides. “Here.” He thrusts a package at her. “Open it.”

“What is this?” She asks opening the parcel.

“Custom gunblade. Just had it finished.”

“It can’t be. It’s so light, how did you get it this way?”

“Let’s just say it took some adamantine, star fragments and a lot of screws!”

“It makes me think of my sword.” It looks like her stiletto but the handle is angled as an automatic handgun would be.

“It should. It’s yours.”

“No, something like this…it’s too much.”

“Consider it tuition, teach.”

“I can’t.” She tries to hand it back to Seifer.

“You’d better take it! I had hell finding a junk shop that would do this job! You know how hard it is to scale one of these down? How many-”

“I’m sorry. I should be thankful.” Xu looks it over. “Hmm…”

“It should be light as a feather. I remember you said you only needed a few shots so there’s just three. Those are long rifle rounds; they don’t have too much kick to them so you should be able to handle it. It looks like an auto but it’s a revolver cylinder in there. Only thing that would let it stay light as it is. Mechanic said I’d have to be magical to get some use out of this thing with no bullets so you know what I said?”

“What did you say?”

“I said just finish it already! What I thought was this’ll be perfect.”

“What is it called?”

“Pixie Dust. What’s a pixie without magic dust?”

“I’m not magical.”

“You got every Sorceress I seen beat. I know magic when I see it believe me.”

“You won’t be dissuaded will you?”

“You admitted it at one point, that’s all I needed to hear.”

“You’re silly.” Xu smiles.

“That’s a fact. Shall we test out your new toy? You haven’t kicked my ass yet.” Seifer smiles and draws.

She laughs. “It is as you wish.”