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The Sorceress' Knight
"This is the story of one of the most famous figures in Galbadian history..."
The man onscreen was lanky, of a slight yet toned build and -- truth to tell -- an excessively carefree disposition. Not that the child who observed his static-obscured antics could discern that. They could, after all, do the most amazing things with lighting, make-up, and a good actor. In any case, a person doesn't tend to think of these things at the age of seven.
The little boy perched before the screen was abnormally quiet that night. Of course, that probably had more to do with the fact that all the other children were playing on the beach than any shyness on his part. Little Seifer Almasay could never be accused of meekness. He enjoyed the noise, power, and control of being what his foster-father Cid termed "a young hellion".
Back to the television, which was emitting the usual electronic glow as it illuminated both the recesses of the room and a story. The brave, noble knight was protecting his Sorceress from an evil dragon. Look at how he could dodge the searing flame with lightning speed! Marvel at his sword, his wits, his glory! He was just so cool... he could do anything he wanted! And when he came home they clapped, and they cheered, and his Sorceress told him that she'd never leave him. That she'd love him forever.'
Mama and Father, they had said that they would love him forever. But they hadn't - they'd gone away. Seifer had been shuffled like so much baggage from relative to relative, never knowing where he would go next or who would be deciding his future. Whomever it was, they never bothered to ask him.
Not even when they sent him to live with Matron.
"Matron! Matron!" he exclaimed, round face lit up with an innocence that had been burried within malice since the day he had been brought to her.
"Matron, did you see that!"
The thin, delicate woman almost floated into the room. She was smiling that warm, motherly smile that only Matron could give. Seifer was smart, if an utterly exhaustive handful, an had known she was waiting for him to finish all along.
"Yes, Seifer, "she said, attempting to propel him out of the room now that the video had stopped.
"Matron," he whined, squirming out of her grasp. "I wanna watch it again!"
"Now Seifer, you know that it's your bedtime...," she gently scolded him.
Scolding had never been much of a deterrent to the boy. "But Matrooooon! It was so cooool! Didn't you see!?! He beat up that monster so bad, and that gunblade just kicked ass..."
"Where did you hear that language, young man!?!"
"....and everyone had to do what he said, and he was so much smarter than all of them, and..."
"That's enough Seifer," Matron admonished the young boy while giving him one of her long-ago perfected warning glances.
"... when I grow up, I wanna be just like him!"
Inwardly, the weary Matron sighed. If only he knew what he was talking about.
"Yes, yes. I'm sure Seifer...."
"Can I watch it? Pleeeeease?"
"No. I think that..."
"But I want tooooo!"
A sterner sort of gaze was radiating from the birdlike woman now.
Laguna Loire had an odd greenish skin tone. One could, after all, only expect so much when purchasing the digitally rendered copy of an old tape. The recording was rare and considered a b-movie classic by some enthusiasts. Seifer Almasay didn't care what those foolish morons thought of it - it was a damn good movie.
"Hey! Are you, like, y'know, my roomate or somethin'?"
A dark-skinned youth interrupted the film's dialogue with a grin, a wave, and a still cracking voice. Seifer, unimpressed, smirked back with what would one day become the world's most famous malicious smile.
"Who the hell wants to know?"
"Raijin Kasim," the oblivious intruder grinned, flopping down upon the small room's second bed. Their shared chamber was simple despite the general grandeur of Balamb GARDEN, bland grey wall uninterrupted by any decoration Seifer could have given it.
"Yeah. You're staying here."
Damn. The housing comittee just had to stick him with some moron. He had enough problems trying to get into the gunblade program without this. It was no different than anything else in his life; telling him where to go, what to do... one day he would be the one giving orders.
"So what'cha watchin'?"
"The Sorceress' Knight. You're interrupting the best scene," came the chilly reply to Raijin's friendly overture.
With any other twelve year-old, that just would have been that. Unfortunatley, Raijin was never one to pick up on hints quickly.
"Y'know, I always did like that part with the gunblade when I was little..."
At the mention of his favorite weapon, a reclining Seifer perked up slightly, "Yeah, the whole fight scene is awesome, huh? Really historically accurate too. All of the great Knights fought with gunblades. That's why I'm trying for the gunblade training program, 'cause it's the best weapon out there and..."
Raijin shrugged, "That's cool! I'm kinna taking the same type of thing, I guess. I just wanna take strength training though."
"You? A muscle freak?" Seifer mocked in a tone which had stripped countless Kramer Orphanage residents of their self esteem. Currently panning over the other boy, his eyes saw nothing but a scrawny stick of a kid; Raijin probably had trouble lifting a fork to his mouth let alone weights.
If the aspiring strongman sensed any of Seifer's bullying vitrol he certainly didn't show it.
"Ch'yeah. I was gonna look into GF usage, but Fujin..."
Now this was odd. Odd, and really stupid.
"Fujin? Raijin and Fujin?"
"Ch'yeah. We came from the same orphanage. She's..."
"She? 'Fujin' your girlfriend or something? Man are you whipped... she even makes you use a matching nickname...."
"Dude, Fujin doesn't know how to use a whip. And she's kind of like my sister. We were, like, found inna storm or something, and they named us after that. Or whatever. Anyways, when we were sent here she was all, y‚know, 'RAIJIN' and I was like, 'Fujin, dude, I know what you mean and all but I think I should take GF-Studies'. And then she was, like, 'POWER' and then I was all, 'Hey, that's just not me...'"
Just before Seifer was about to snap -- the pressures of his first day at GARDEN and Raijin's blather forming some sort of unholy alliance against his temper -- the automatic door opened once more.
"RAIJIN" a stern voice called out, shadow falling across the smooth blue tile. Looking back, Seifer was surprised to find its owner a pale, diminutive, and pigtailed little girl. After carefully making her way around assorted pieces of luggage, said child gingerly sat down beside a Raijin who had not even paused in his everpresent commentary. Her voice was really strange, but then Seifer supposed that if he had to spend all day with that moron Raijin he would start talking like that too.
Stupid Raijin. Seifer didn't know how he was going to stand this...
"Heya Fujin! How, y'know, are you doin‚ with your new room? Is it nice? Who's your roomie? Is she, y'know, cool and all? D'ya think she'd..."
"ADEQUATE," she replied in the same flat monotone while throwing a questioning glace towards her friend's new acquaintance.
"Fujin, that‚s Seifer, and he's, y'know, my new roomie and all. He's gonna‚ go into gunblade training like that dude on the vidscreen. And I was all like 'whoa' when I heard, 'cause gunblade is supposed to be really hard to get into...."
Seifer, once more on the verge of a scathing remark, was surprised to be preempted by the albino girl sitting across from him.
She seemed to be caught up in something...
Eyes both scarlet and starry, the long-haired albino was half-smiling while she looked past Seifer's shoulder. It was then that the boy's attention was drawn back to his tiny television, revealing in the process that the moron had made him miss the entire fight scene. He also had an infectiously cheery disposition, and thus was quite harmful to Seifer's carefully cultivated bad mood and air of fashionable aloofness.
Giving an inward sight, Seifer resolved that he would at least see if the guy was useful before he kicked him out.
"Raijin. You want to get me a drink?"
"I dunno, y'see I haveta unpack and all and...."
"LIQUID" ordered Raijin's companion, enchanted by the romantic dance between the Sorceress and her Knight and obviously just as eager to watch the rest of the movie as Seifer. It was a disconsorting image, her size and childish vocal lilt considered.
"Fujin! I was talking to Seifer here and..."
As if accustomed to the action, Fujin raised her blue-clad right arm and knocked Raijin off of the cheap Timber-made bed.
Perhaps this wouldn‚t be so bad after all.
Seifer Almasey was growing impatient.
As if sensing his frustration, the chilling north wind howled its displeasure. Blonde locks were ruffled in the gale and the warrior's trenchcoat was likewise punished in the harsh weather. It was white, of course. The good guy, the Knight -- he always wore white.
Content to wait idly no longer, Seifer began movements that had been drilled into his body since before long years of training had even been conceived of. As a kid he'd made vague jumping motions back and for with.... some sort of stick or something. Now he could imitate his childhood hero perfectly.
Seifer fully admitted to himself that the Knight was just an untrained actor while slashing at the uncaring air. It was so easy now to point out all his flaws in technique -- but somehow, that just made it more important. If there wasn't anyone in this world who would protect a woman in distress, who would claim the noble legacy of the Sorceress' Knight, then Seifer Almasey would. The Knight had to embody the best of everything -- who better than one who had trained his whole life for the job? He already upheld whatever semblance of order and justice there was in the GARDEN.
Unconsciously, Seifer began the motions of Sir Laguna's fight with the Fire Dragon. Rinoa... she needed helping, didn't she? And wasn't it his duty to do that? If he could be the knight it would be proof positive of what he was, it would give him everything. Love -- or what he supposed was love. Security. Power. Control. It was all there for the taking of a man who had somehow convinced himself he was the last noble soul in the world.
And she was beautiful, wasn't she? She was as worth of protection as any Sorceress from any tale.
He had been waiting for over an hour on this rough-hewn peak for that loser Leonhart, and he didn't intend to leave without first proving himself. The oddly familiar young man was his only real rival, and frankly didn't deserve to be on the same plane as Seifer. Moronic boy couldn't look past his own little quagmire of angst let alone his pathetic pretty-boy nose. Why didn't he see that he couldn't just live for himself? Squall had to be shown what an unworthy and dishonorable waste he was, and Seifer was just the one to do it. Hell, he would damn well enjoy it.
A Knight would never have exibited such a bloodthirsty smile. Had a mirror been present, Seifer would have been apalled.
He didn't know why he recognized her, but one thing was for certain; this woman, this magical and exotic woman... she was a Sorceress. It was rather obvious, considering that at the moment he was hearing her voice echo through the chambers of his mind.
~ "Seifer, my dear...." ~
It took the trained killer away; up past reality and down through visions to some dreamspace he had been waiting for him all his life. This was his one last chance, what he'd been waiting for his entire life. A Sorceress, someone to protect, someone to stay with him, someone to make him the Knight...
~ "Seifer, you needn't be afraid. Just come with me...." ~
And suddenly he wasn't just a soldier backed like a rat into a corner. Seifer was no longer a lost soul, heart drifting after an attempt at nobility gone horribly, horribly wrong.
~ "If you help me...." ~
He was flying, soaring, secure in the truth that he was...
~ "... I can give you what you crave...." ~
A true Knight, blinding ivory light to pierce the darkness. An army, a place, a purpose. All under his control, all bending to his will....
~ "... you want to protect me, don't you?" ~
For the greater good and that final shining justice. At last the world noble once more - not the harsh, cruel home of heartbreak and pain. Not the place where he was abandoned, left alone to pitifully struggle against the forces controlling his life. Here he was in control. And at his side...
~ "You shall be my Knight, dear boy." ~
Someone who would stay with him forever, who deserved whatever he could give her. And he would grant her anything. He could see her, sheltered on the dais behind him and utterly trusting. Both of them glowing in the sunlight....
~ "Now come, come..." ~
The soldier followed, mind seeing not the distorted matter which had once been a wall but a portal to the future. She had put it all into his mind - just like every single lazy daydream melded into one glorious whole. Perfectly laid out, it was as if he was watching not himself but the legend that his life should be. The legend that only a Knight could live, more perfect than in any motion picture.
Adjust Tracking -- Automatic.
Blocking out the agonized screams of his rival - a young man who had submitted to brutal torture only minutes before - was not as easy for Seifer as he would have liked. A Knight should do anything to protect his Sorceress, of course, but this... this wasn't noble. This wasn't what he had dreamt of. It seemed dirty somehow, as soiled as the hem of his now-worn coat. But Knighthood was by its very nature noble, was it not? Besides, he had to admit that he had taken no small pleasure in finally taking Squall down from his lofty pedestal of childhood trauma and self-absorption. So he thought himself worthy still? What a joke.
Yet that wail, that feral cry which shattered the metallic safety of the bulkhead -- it wouldn't go away. A stain, a mark on his soul he didn't want to see was spreading thought the very fiber of his being. Seifer needed something -- anything -- else to look at.
Which was why the Commander of the Galbadian Army was currently racing across the steel catwalk of Drill Prison. Footsteps life thunder despite the prevailing sandstorm's reign of white noise. Ignoring the salutes and terrified apologies he made his way to the one place where he could find solace.
"Mistress Edea... are you there?"
The screen flickered on, transmission stable although far from perfect due to the aforementioned winds.
"Do you have what we need? Report," an authoritative voice rendered scratchy by bad transmission emerged from the device mounted in the control room.
"No, he didn't seem too..."
"Fool! You know how important this is..."
"I'm sorry, Mistress. Just give me a little more time."
"Mistress, could I...?" Seifer asked, tone containing a the subtle betraying treble of a plea.
"Could you what?"
"Could I maybe dream again, just once? I need to think, I need to regain my vision. Spending so much time around that dishonorable SEED..."
"No. Not until we have it."
That couldn't be. She was supposed to support him, to help him just as he helped her. Once, just once -- that would be all he needed to carry on secure in the knowledge that what he was doing was right.
"I said no. Do you question the word of your Lady?"
Of course not. A true Knight would never do that, and he would act according to a code of honor even if the rest of the planet was moved only by pure selfishness. Seifer was sure that he could suffer thought, if only to stay with her.
"No," he resolved, bearing once more proud and strait. The Knight could master this; he was finally the caretaker of his own fate.
"Good. Edea out."
Alone in the control room, Seifer tried to conjure a lost vision in his mind's eye by himself for the thousandth time. There was nothing, however, to be done about the emptiness of the screen he stared at.
Adjust Tracking -- Manual.
Beaten, scarred, and standing but for the grace of a Cura spell, Seifer Almasey was what could be best described as a broken man.
It hadn't been enough. The work, the conquest, the dreams, the sacrifice -- by looking to his aspirations he had abandoned them. Perhaps it was better this way. To die - torn and filthy coat producing a muffled swish as he staggered towards the sunlit haven of a blown-out wall. It was surprising that there was light here, in the tool of armegeddon of all places. Did he really deserve it? Seifer had thought he created his destiny, controlled his actions, but now...
Now he was a cold, sore, shattered man left to die within the shell of a forgotten weapon. Or was that within the shell of a forgotten dream? Did it matter, really? His breath was becoming ragged, lungs striving for whatever oxygen they could obtain without encountering the overwhelming pain of his recent Firaga burn. Somehow sensing motion behind him - soldier's sixth sense remaining despite his injuries - Seifer turned.
He wasn't alone after all. They... they hadn't left him...
"Fujin? Raijin?" he managed to whisper, the rest of whatever comment he was about to make finding death at the blade of a hacking cough.
Observing his rather more than disheveled state, a pale woman who was not herself in the best of shape rushed forward to meet the former Knight. The man before her was so weak, so helpless, so utterly unlike the Seifer Almasey she had known... but his eyes were focused once more. They no longer gazed upon her with that dead stare, the one that always made her think that he was looking through her body for something else. Something... greater.
Althought somewhat taken aback by the change, Fujin readied a Curaga spell to cast upon her recently returned friend. Seifer, the real Seifer... he was back. She just knew it.
"Seifer, dude! Y'know, we were so worried about you and stuff...!"
"I don't deserve..." he muttered, backing away from the only two friends he had ever had.
"SEIFER," Fujin, as deadpan as ever, had her arms crossed. She was giving him that look. He had ssen it frighten countless students; that firm-as-iron expression that told you that you would do what she said for your own good whether you liked it or not. The mother bear in that lurked in the depths of those red eyes was unstoppable if she chose to be.
Enveloped by the cold tingling of Curaga, a searingly arctic light that he knew far too well, Seifer was forced by some part of his subconscious to ponder the meaning of her words. He was no Raijin but... he thought that he finally understood.
And he willingly followed for once in his life, Raijin babbling all the way as per usual. Idiot...
"So I was thinkin', y'know, what are we gonna do. An' then I thought, 'hey, why don't we go fishing..' or somethin'. Cause when me n' Fujun were..."
Seifer chuckled, "Why don't we go fishing?"
"Huh?" Raijin responded with a delayed look of shock, "Cooool!"
Racing off in both excitement and hunger to secure the trio a suitable aircraft, Rajin left the two to walk through the darkly organic fortress.
"THEN?" Fujin asked with as much expectancy as her method of expression could muster. It was the sort of thing she would done in the old days.
Once more shakily laughing, Seifer ventured a smile as he responded.
"Whatever we want! Mercenary work would be good... we'll be swimming in jobs if that pansy Squall was the best of the surviving lot of SEEDs. Can you believe that he needed to bring two of his wussy friends along just to beat me?" The old auzure fire, was working its way back into sky-blue irises, signalling the return of the soldier's trademark bellicose jovity.
"IDIOTS," Fujin grinned in reply, expression fueled by far more than the simple pleasure of mockery.
Silence reigned then, until they reached the aircraft's door and braced themselves for Raijin's inevitable chatter.
Finally, without one backward glance towards his Lunatic Pandora, Seifer shut the chrome-plated seal behind him with an audible slam.
Maybe it was time to create his own dreams.
"And so, my dear, they all lived happily ever after..."
"No they didn't... there are three more discs on the series..."
"Which you shan't see until you're older. So what do you think now of historical drama? Wasn't that educational?"
"That was soooo coool!"
"Yes, education is 'cool'‚ darling. Especially since the moral was that..."
"Diyja see his gunblade? Didya!!!! And that Fire Cross... that was soo wicked!"
"Now honey, the point was that..."
"And Seifer was wicked-evil, and he did whatever he wanted! I wish I could be as cool as him..."
"Young man, you're not listening to me..."
"Can I watch it again? Pleeeeease? With that wicked fight with Squall -- he sure got Squall good. Wham! Ka-bam! Eat fire, SEED..."
"Once is enough for now dear. Besides, you should admire Squall for..."
"What about the one after it? I wanna know what happens!"
"Son, it's important that you realize Seifer was an anti-hero, not a role model. Since his childhood was..."
"Anti-hero? Cooool! Mom, when I grow up can I go to GARDEN and be an anti-hero mercenary like Seifer?"
"NO! I'll have no talk of that, young man."
"Then can I at least watch the rest of the Seifer disks, Mom? Come ooooooonnnnnn..."
"That's not suitable viewing for one your age. I only let you see this one for the historical value. Didn't that make history interesting like the nice magazine said? Now off to bed with you."
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