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Final Fantasy VIII

Predestined
By Batgirl


Chapter Two: Forgotten Lifetimes

After everyone had boarded the Garden, Squall had Nida land it in a small clearing nearby. They walked outside, per Rinoa’s request, to talk about what was going on and what to do next.

Squall stepped outside. “...This place just has rubble lying among the grass...” He sat next to Rinoa on a giant stone slab. The others gathered around, finding rubble to sit on.

“So the question is,” Squall began, “how do you defeat God?”

“...and why was she afraid of ‘us four...united’?” added Rinoa.

“...And what is the ring she ‘must’ have?” said Ellone.

Squall put his head in his hand. He couldn’t even ask God what to do, since that was who he was fighting. Slowly, the rubble began to swirl in and out...he thought he could see tall marble buildings, a small town...being attacked by monsters....

He passed out.

Suddenly he was traveling through nothingness. Colors and pictures flew before his eyes, it made him anxious as to how much this was like the time warp he had fallen into after the battle with Ultimecia.

“What’s happening?!” it was Rinoa.

“Rinoa?!” he called out, searching in vain. Finally, he saw her up above him, floating, with her back toward him.

“Squall?” she called out. Squall swam through the air until he was next to her.

“What’s going on?” Squall and Rinoa turned to see Seifer and Ellone. Ellone had spoken. “I can’t disconnect,” she continued, “I don’t even know where I am going. I’m sorry you all got dragged along,” she said, puzzled and lost.

Seifer took her hand and brought her over to Squall and Rinoa. “So, what do we do?” Seifer asked Ellone.

“I don’t know,” she said, shaking her head. “We’ll just have to wait until I can disconnect.”

As if in response, they landed in a time period, finally.

Squall looked around. He was standing in a dark room, lit by torches. He paced back and forth. Whoever he was, he was waiting for something.

“Squall, Rinoa, Seifer, can you hear me?” Ellone’s voice echoed in his head.

“Yes,” all three of them replied together. That was strange, he thought.

"Squall, we weren’t able to communicate before when Ellone had connected."

Ellone continued, “I think we can all communicate because I’m here too.” She seemed to answer his questions; he wondered for a brief second if she could hear his thoughts. He then canceled it out. If she could hear his thoughts, he’d be able to hear hers. “The only thing that’s bugging me is...” she continued, “I don’t know these people. I can only send people I know in the present to people I knew in the past.”

“Don’t worry, Ellone,” said Seifer. “You’ll disconnect eventually. Maybe then we’ll make some sense of this.”

Suddenly, Squall’s “host” had looked up. A woman entered the room. She wore a long purple gown adorned with silver. She had long, blonde hair and blue eyes. Still, despite that they looked nothing alike, he knew it was Rinoa. No matter what she looked like on the outside, it was always her soul shining through her eyes. Just as it had always been. Rinoa had just entered a room and Squall was standing there. Even though he had long black hair and bright green eyes, she could tell. She was sure of it.

“Keara...” whispered the man as she entered the room.

“Rinoa...”

“Meallan...” Keara replied as she approached him.

“Squall...”

Meallan held Keara tightly in his arms and kissed her as if her kisses were the nectar of life. Squall and Rinoa had no objections.

“Have Aidan and Kealan arrived yet?” Keara asked.

“No, not yet,” Meallan replied, obviously anxious.

“Don’t worry, they’ll be here. Have they ever let us down?”

“...I suppose not.” Meallan still continued to pace. Keara rolled her eyes. Squall tried to look around, but it was hard for him to get a clear picture because of Meallan’s pacing. Still, he was sure he recognized this place.

“Rinoa,” Squall asked, “do you know where we are?”

“It seems familiar...” Rinoa replied, “but I just can’t put my finger on it...”

Squall’s thought was interrupted by another entrance. A man with dark brown hair wearing armor entered along with a girl with blood red hair in a long white gown. Both Rinoa and Squall recognized them as Seifer and Ellone, immediately.

What does all this mean? thought Squall. Back when Ellone had connected me to Laguna, I couldn’t tell who was Kiros or Ward. Why is it so blatantly obvious now?

The brown haired man fell to one knee. “King Meallan, Queen Keara, please forgive our tardiness.”

Keara smiled. “It’s alright, Sir Kaelan. However, we must hurry,” she said.

“Thank you, your highness.” He kissed her hand.

The four of them walked up onto a platform. When they all stood on it, there was the sound of a gear switching, and a door opened in front of them. Inside was a small room made entirely of white marble. The far wall was lined with huge windows, making it possible to view the city below. It’s design was similar to that of Esthar’s, though the technology was not nearly as advanced. Now, however, there was fire and destruction everywhere. Monsters were attacking. They could see Hyne flying above it all.

Is this the Lunar Cry Hyne mentioned? thought Rinoa. Then this must be Centra and we’re in..."The Centra Ruins,” she said out loud.

“What?” the other three chorused.

“We’re in the Centra ruins,” Rinoa repeated. “Squall, you said you had recognized this place; this is where we got Odin. The platform we all stood on was the elevator. The door just looks like a very decorated wall...”

“You’re right,” said Squall, remembering the room. “Then we-”

He was interrupted by Meallan’s voice. “Aidan, would you do the honors?”

Aidan gracefully walked up to the candle covered altar. She began to say some words in a language none of them recognized. Suddenly a glowing image of a woman appeared before them with radiant gold hair and a long, flowing gold robe.

All of them fell to one knee. “Meliora,” Aidan said, “Goddess of all, we ask for guidance.”

“What is it?” When Meliora spoke, it also sounded like a million voices, but instead of a million voices screaming, it was a million voices singing.

“The Cult of Hyne has finally risen against us,” Meallan began.

“They have invoked Hyne, the demon of death and destruction,” Keara continued.

“She now wreaks havoc on the city of the Centra and the followers of the light,” Kealan added.

“We ask you for guidance on how to protect your people and chase this demon away from the mortal realm,” Aidan finished.

“It is not yet time for the final confrontation,” Meliora replied.

“Then what should we do?” Keara asked.

“You must flee. But first, take these.” Four rings appeared in front of them, glowing white. Squall recognized his Griever ring. Rinoa could see her angel feather ring her mother had given her just before she died. Aidan had the ring Raine had given her when she was very young, a silver ring with an emerald eye inlaid upon it. Kaelan had a ring, however, that Seifer had never seen before, two silver swords, crossed at the center. When Kaelan put it on his finger, for the first time since Seifer had been the Sorceress' Knight, he felt complete. “These rings,” continued Meliora, “will open the sacred temple in the North. Now leave Centra before all is lost.”

In a flash of white light, Meliora was gone. So were Rinoa, Squall, Ellone, and Seifer. They awoke on the grass of the clearing. “Dude,” said Zell, “one sec you’re all fine, then BOOM, you’re down!”

“Did Ellone send you to the past?” asked Quistis.

“Sort of,” replied Squall, rubbing his head.

“What happened?” Selphie asked.

Squall went over to help Rinoa up. “We need to go to the Centra Ruins. The next piece of the puzzle lies there.”

-----------------------------------------------------------

When they arrived at the ruins, Squall, Rinoa, Seifer, and Ellone entered, alone. Just as they had in the past, all four stepped onto the elevator. Again, the gears switched and the door opened. They walked in. The windows had been all blown out, and the marble was cracked and burnt and missing, but it was the same room.

“Sis?” said Squall. Ellone looked around, not sure what to do. Aidan had spoken in a language she didn’t understand. Still she approached the altar.

When she arrived, the words came to her effortlessly, “Guthre, Adowa, Kelekea,” she said under her breath.

Again, the room was filled with white light and Meliora appeared.

“You have returned,” she said. They all fell to one knee.

“Meliora,” Ellone said, “Goddess of all, we ask for guidance.”

“What is it?”

“Hyne has returned to the mortal world,” said Squall.

“We do not understand the past,” Rinoa continued.

“Yet again, the survivors of the Centra and Followers of the Light are in danger,” Seifer said.

“We ask for the knowledge to end this once and for all,” ended Ellone.

Meliora looked perturbed. “What do you mean, you do not understand the past?”

Rinoa stood. “In the world we have been raised in, we were taught that Hyne was the Great Creator of all life, that the Centra civilization had been destroyed by a natural event called the Lunar Cry, and that these rings were mere family heirlooms,” there was a brief pause as Meliora absorbed all this. “We now seek the truth.”

“In the time of the Centra,” Meliora began, “the Cult of Hyne was a small group with very few followers. They believed that Hyne would cause the end of the world, and that only those who worshipped Hyne would be spared. Overall, they were ignored. However, after years of building their forces secretly, they went and summoned Hyne into the mortal realm. 80 years ago, she came, and she brought down the plague of monsters from the moon, destroying the Centra and sparing her followers. From what you say about the world today, it seems that the Cult has overtaken the world and spread their beliefs to everyone, using the destruction of the Centra as an example, leaving very few Followers of the Light remaining...”

Meliora paused again, taking in everything. “All of you turned to me for guidance 80 years ago, and now you all return to me for guidance now that the final confrontation is upon us.”

“Meliora,” it was Ellone who spoke. “When the Centra people had been destroyed, it was not we who came to you, but King Meallan, Queen Keara, Sir Kaelan, and Lady Aidan. However, we did see what happened due to my...special abilities...”

Meliora smiled at this. She had had no idea how little they had known. “My children,” she said, “you are Meallan, Keara, Kaelan, and Aidan. Throughout the ages you have always been my chosen ones, and defended me and the Followers of the Light against numerous forces of evil. And though you have been called by many names, you have always had the same souls.”

That was how I saw Rinoa in Keara, thought Squall. They are the same person.

“Now that the time has come, you must go to the sacred temple in the north. However, Seifer, you do not have your ring?”

Seifer hung his head, “...No Meliora.”

Meliora’s face became stern. “You must find that ring,” she said with urgency. “That ring contains a piece of you inside it. Whoever owns it, owns you, and all my powers combined could not bring you back. It is more powerful than if they owned a vile of your blood. As long as it is in the hands of a Centra descendant, you should be safe, but should it fall into the hands of a follower of Hyne, terrible things could happen.”

Terrible things have happened, thought Seifer. He remembered how complete he had felt when he was the Sorceress' Knight. He thought it had been because he was living out his dream, but after Adel’s death, he had felt empty again, without purpose, except now, not only did he feel empty. He had seen the damage that had been done and felt guilty too.

“We will find it,” Ellone said gently, more to try and support Seifer than to Meliora.

“Then go,” Meliora said as she began to fade away. “ Once you find it, go to the sacred temple in the north where the Shumi, Followers of the Light, protect the entrance.” She disappeared.

-----------------------------------------------------------

When they returned to the Garden base, their friends were waiting for an update.

“UNINFORMED,” stated Fujin.

“Yeah, ya know? Keepin’ us in the dark ain’t cool, ya know?” chimed in Raijin.

“I must say I believe we are all curious as to what is going on,” Quistis said, arms crossed and one eyebrow raised, using her Instructor voice.

Squall put his head in one hand. This isn’t going to be easy. “Alright,” he said out loud, “let’s go to the Library”

They all walked over to the Library and sat in the back area. Squall began to tell them everything that happened from the moment they were at the remains of the small village to their encounter at the Centra ruins, with the others filling in the details. Besides an occasional “Dude!” from Zell and a “...ya know?” from Raijin, followed by a kick in the shins from Fujin, they were silent and attentive.

Once Squall finished there was a long silence.

“...Dude,” Zell finally said.

“Yeah...ya know?”

“INCONCEIVABLE.”

“Uh...Squall...?” began Selphie.

“Yeah...?”

“Well, this is really confusing, for us. I mean. Hyne. And...?” she began to mumble in a high pitched squeak.

Irvine laughed, “Must be a bit too much for her.”

“Are you not disturbed by this Irvine?” Quistis asked.

“Well, considerin’ I wasn’t all that religious in the first place, I don’t really care either way. Personally, I didn’t think ya’ll were all that religious either.”

“Well...” Quistis began, “...I never really was, but... it’s still relatively disturbing. That, all this time, ‘God’ has actually been a demon.”

Irvine shrugged. “As the saying goes, 'only difference between a cult an’ a religion is one hundred years.' Or in our case, eighty.”

Selphie seemed to have regained her composure. “...Squall...?” she began again.

“Yeah...?” he replied, doing his best to be patient.

“How do you four feel about this?”

“Yeah, dude. Isn’t it like weird?” chimed in Zell.

They all paused for a bit. They hadn’t really thought about how they felt...

Rinoa shrugged. “I don’t think we really know how we feel about it. I know it feels...comfortable, like slipping on a worn in pair of boots.”

Squall raised an eyebrow at her. Worn in pair of boots? I wouldn’t exactly call it that...but... “I don’t really have any feelings about it. After what I saw in the past, I know Meliora is right, or at least she is better than Hyne, and right now that’s good enough for me.”

“...You sure about that?” Irvine asked. He wasn’t sure if Squall was just hiding his feelings or if he seriously didn’t have them.

“Yeah,” said Ellone, “It’s weird. You’d think we’d be more surprised or something...but...we just...aren’t.”

“So you don’t feel...anything about it?” Selphie asked.

They all shook their heads.

Seifer stood up. “Well, I’d love to spend all day in a frickin’ religious discussion, but I believe we have some things to actually deal with, in case you all forgot.” He marched out.

“He has a point,” said Rinoa, watching him leave. “There’s a lot that needs to be done...and I’m exhausted. Good night everyone.” She got up to leave, Squall following her.

Everyone began to flow out of the room.

“Speaking of your room Rinoa...,” the picture of Rinoa’s destroyed room came to his mind. The crew had just finished fixing the blown out wall, but the rest of the room was still a shambles.

“...why don’t you stay in my room tonight?”

“Sure,” Rinoa said almost instantly, “but...um...is there a reason I should sleep in your room?”

“Yeah, well, uh...” Squall began to explain what happened as they walked toward the dorms.

“Yeah Selphie,” said Irvine, putting his arm around her. “Why don’t you stay in my room tonight.”

“Nice try, Irvy,” she said playfully poking him in the ribs.

“Hey!” he said. “I just wanna protect you! What did you think I meant?”

“Sure Irvine, sure...” she said, going to her own room.

“Darn...” he said, waving as she left.

The next day Seifer had been pacing around Garden all day. The Garden in general put him in a bad mood. He hadn’t spoken to anyone, including Fujin and Raijin who had been hurt when he blew them off. Eh, they’ll get over it, he thought, they always do.

“Hey Seifer!” called Rinoa from behind him. She and Squall were walking toward the cafeteria.

“Hey,” he said, straightening from his hunched posture. He figured since he’d be working with Squall and Rinoa for a while now, he could at least try to be nice. Besides, Rinoa looked exceptionally beautiful beaming next to Squall.

They caught up and all began walking together. Rinoa was in the middle of a discussion with Squall and didn’t pay too much attention to Seifer. As Seifer watched her hold on to Squall’s arm and talk to him, he thought he began to understand what she had told him back at Obel Lake. There was a powerful feeling between them, but it wasn’t love. He knew that now. What he felt for Rinoa was a sense of duty, like a brother to a sister. He had finally felt love, he thought. He was almost sure that back when he was Kaelan and he was wearing his ring...that he had loved Aidan. However, he didn’t think he loved Ellone. She was nice, and pretty, almost beautiful too...but...

“Got that Seifer?” Seifer stopped his daydream to the sound of Rinoa speaking his name.

“What?” he asked.

“Ellone wants us to meet her in the Library at one o’clock”

“Yeah, yeah, I heard you,” said Seifer, walking off. He didn’t feel like dealing with being “nice” right then. Maybe when he got his ring back, things would change, but for now he still hated Squall.

Ellone entered the library promptly at 1:00. Seifer was sitting hunched over on a desk. He looked as if he had been sitting there for quite some time. When he saw her enter, he stood and pulled out a chair for her.

“Thank you,” Ellone said, sitting down.

“No problem,” said Seifer, leaning back on his chair and putting his feet on one of the desks.

“Where are Squall and Rinoa?” Ellone asked as she looked around.

“Heh,” laughed Seifer, “probably making out somewhere-”

“-Sorry we’re late,” Rinoa said, panting as she ran in. Squall was right behind her.

“It’s alright,” Ellone said, suppressing a giggle because of Seifer’s expression. “Okay,” she said, gathering herself. She motioned for Squall and Rinoa to sit. “Seifer, I am going to send you into your past. Tell me when you find your ring. Understand?”

“Of course,” said Seifer, using his usual cocky attitude. Seifer, however, hadn’t expected going through his past to be so difficult. He saw when he failed the SeeD exam, Rinoa dancing with Squall at the SeeD ball. He had snuck in, and when he saw Rinoa and Squall had regretted it.

Then he saw millions of things he had done as the Sorceress’ Knight. Damn it, he thought, isn’t it enough I have to put up with it now? Can’t she send me to any time I was happy? But when he thought about it, there wasn’t any time he was genuinely happy. Finally he was back to his childhood. At least he didn’t have to worry about feeling guilty then; all he ever did was make fun of Chicken-wuss, and who couldn’t help doing that? Suddenly he was at a table. Everyone was there. Chicken-wuss with cake all over his face, Irvine watching Selphie play with a few colorful balloons, Squall was sitting diligently next to “Sis” and Quistis was handing brightly colored packages to Edea, who sat at the head of the table. I remember this, thought Seifer. It was Matron’s birthday. Everyone had gotten her a gift except me. I had forgotten. Still, I had to get her the best gift. He watched as the little version of himself handed his ring to Edea.

Ellone disconnected. “Edea has it,” Seifer said right away. “However, she must be a Centra because I never had any problems as a child.”

Squall raised an eyebrow at him. “Shut up, Squall!” he said with venom.

Ellone looked shocked by his anger. Seifer inhaled deeply. Like it or not, he had to try and be civil with Squall. “I meant I didn’t have any problems with-”

“-Until she became possessed,” Squall interrupted.

Seifer looked at Squall. Of course, Seifer had figured out it was because of his ring that he had become the Sorceress’ Knight, but how had Squall figured it out?

“That’s right,” pointed out Rinoa.

“How did you know about it?” asked Seifer, sullenly.

“Meliora made it pretty obvious,” said Ellone, smiling. “The question is, why did you remain the Knight after Edea had transferred her power?”

Seifer shrugged. “Wait,” said Rinoa, “...Seifer, what did your ring look like?”

“Two silver swords crossed,” he said, putting his elbows on his knees. "Why?”

“After we defeated Edea in Galbadia Garden, I remember seeing that ring in front of me before I became possessed.”

“I remember it too,” said Ellone. “You had dropped it in the control room at the Lunar Base,” she said to Rinoa. “I had it until Raijin took it away from me after I was kidnapped, and gave it to Adel. Then after Adel had been defeated, I took it back and gave it to Uncle Laguna...meaning...”

“Laguna has it!” All four stated in unison.

-----------------------------------------------------------

As the group walked through the presidential palace again, the building's roof and some walls had been blown out. They approached with caution. When they entered, the lobby was a wreck.

“Uncle Laguna!” Ellone cried as she ran toward his office.

Laguna was lying against the wall. He was bleeding a little, and was pretty banged up, but he’d live. “Uncle Laguna!” Ellone ran to his side. "Are you okay?!”

Laguna looked up. “Who, me? Heh heh...I’ll be fine. After all, I survived falling off a cliff. I think I can survive being thrown against a wall.

"OWOWOWOWOW!” he cried as Ellone hugged him.

“...Sorry,” she blushed as she let go.

“What happened?” Squall asked, even though he could tell exactly what happened.

“That Sorceress you guys had been chasing came asking for ‘the ring of the chosen one.’ I tried to tell her I had no clue what she was talking about, but she just slammed me into the wall. Then she stood above me, called me a ‘Centra Fool’, and took that ring you gave me, Ellone. Then she left.”

“Damn!” Seifer slashed his gunblade into the wall. He turned on his heels and left.

“Seifer, where are you going?” called Rinoa.

“Fujin, Raijin, let’s blow this popsicle stand!” he shouted as he marched out.

Rinoa looked at Squall. “Shouldn’t we follow him?”

Squall shrugged. “He feels he needs to handle this on his own. I say we let him.” Squall knew what it was like to want to deal with things on his own.

Rinoa bit her lower lip. She really didn’t think now was the best time to separate.

“Sorry to sound rude,” began Laguna, “because the last thing I wanna be is rude, but, am I missing something? After all, I thought you guys, didn’t like that Seifer...”

Ellone sighed and began. “Well, Uncle Laguna, you know about the ‘Great Hyne’, right?”

-----------------------------------------------------------

Seifer began to travel north to the Mordred Plains. He decided until he knew what he was doing, he’d have to follow his instincts.

“QUESTION.”

“Ya know? Seifer, why’d we finally ditch those Garden Geeks anyway, ya know?”

“Because,” said Seifer, “There’s something that needs to be done, and whenever something important needs to be done, they bring in the best guy to do it.” He was still very good at being cocky, despite the fact he had no idea what he was getting into. Especially because, when they arrived at the top of the cliffs that separated the Mordred Plains, all they could see below were black cloaks.

-----------------------------------------------------------

Squall was alone in his dorm. They were heading east, the direction Nida had seen Seifer going. He had turned down Rinoa’s invitation to the Quad, much to both her and his surprise. He was too busy thinking about the people he would take to get the ring back. The biggest problem was Rinoa. Hyne needed her. So taking her with the party to get the ring would be putting her, and the party, in danger. However, Hyne might be coming toward Garden right now, and if Rinoa was here, he wouldn’t be here to protect her. He couldn’t just send three random people to go get the ring either. He had to go with. He’d been thinking in circles all day. That’s it, he thought. I’ll ask Rinoa, and whatever she says, goes.

He walked toward the Quad. Rinoa was on a bench next to Ellone.

“Alright,” he said, sitting down. “Rinoa, what do you want to do?”

“Do what?” asked Rinoa.

“Do you want to be in the battle party or not?”

“Yes,” Rinoa said instantly.

“Are you sure?” Squall asked, surprised by her certainty. “It will be very-”

“-Yes I’m sure,” Rinoa answered again. “I’m involved in this, and I’m going with.”

“Me too,” said Ellone.

“Ellone?” Squall asked. Rinoa he could understand; she was a good fighter, but Ellone...

“Squall, I’m involved in this too. Besides, remember last time all four of us were together? She’s afraid of us united. Therefore, now is not the time to go our separate ways.” Ellone looked at Squall with the scolding look she used to use back at the orphanage.

“... ... ... ...Whatever...” he finally replied. “We better get geared up to leave.” He walked off to go back to his room. Ellone and Rinoa... he thought. I’m going to have my work cut out for me.

-----------------------------------------------------------

The Garden arrived at the Mordred Cliffs at sunset. Squall, Rinoa, and Ellone exited, only to be greeted by three cloaks. Squall pulled out his gunblade.

“Hey now, Squall, I do still want the chance to show you who's the better gunblade master, but now’s not the time.”

“Seifer?” asked Ellone.

“In the flesh,” replied Seifer, removing his hood. Fujin and Raijin removed theirs also.

“PRESENTS."

“Yeah, ya know? We brought ya something, ya know?” They all pulled out black cloaks from underneath their own.

“DISGUISE.”

“These guys are idiots,” said Seifer, laughing at the cloaks below. “All it takes is a black cloak and you’re one of them.” Rinoa, Squall, and Ellone put on their cloaks. “She’s keeping the ring with her, over there.” Seifer pointed toward the far north side of the plains. “I don’t know when she plans on using it...” Seifer’s voice trailed off.

“GET MOVING,” said Fujin. Squall and Seifer nodded to each other and began to climb down the cliff.

As Ellone struggled down, Squall began to regret allowing her to come. She didn’t have the training for it. On the other hand, neither had Rinoa when he had first met her, but she had become quite an accomplished fighter since then.

Everyone was at the bottom, except Ellone, who was still a bit of a ways away from the ground.

“Come on,” Seifer called up to her.

“JUMP!” yelled Fujin. They were still quite far from the other cloaks; Fujin didn’t need to worry about being heard.

“Don’t worry, I’ll catch you,” Seifer said.

Slowly, Ellone nodded and jumped off.

Seifer caught her effortlessly, as if she were a falling pebble instead of a falling person. “Thank you,” she said quietly. Seifer couldn’t see her blush under her hood.

They began to walk toward Hyne. Hyne’s voice boomed. “Soon it shall be nightfall, and then it shall be the beginning of the end of all the Centra!”

The cloaks all gave a great cheer. Squall and the others did also, though they were cheering for their upcoming victory.

They slowly approached the throne. Hyne’s blood red fingernails were tapping the gilded arm of her throne, impatiently awaiting nightfall. Seifer saw his ring glistening on a small pedestal. He could no longer contain himself. The piece of himself he had always been missing was sitting right in front of him. He ran out and grabbed it.

“Seifer, no!” Squall whispered. Seifer ran back and slipped the ring on his finger. He felt whole. However, now was not the time to celebrate his victory. He had been lucky Hyne was so busy waiting for sunset she hadn’t noticed. However, soon she would, so they had to run. They were halfway through the crowd of cloaks when the sun set.

“And now...” Hyne began reaching for the ring “...WHAT?!?” she bellowed.

She scanned the crowd and saw the six that were running. “Kill them!” she screamed, pointing toward the Renegade cloaks. This command confused the cloaks, however, because all they could see was their own kind. All the cloaks began to fight one another. The team was getting away without a scratch, until a cloak tripped Rinoa and her hood flew off. The cloaks immediately recognized her as a threat and began to attack. Squall instantly covered her and began to attack the swarming cloaks as Rinoa put her hood back on. Once her hood was back on, the cloaks no longer saw her as a threat. She looked back at Squall. He had come just in time, but barely. He had been too late to block the first attack with his gunblade, resulting in a nasty gouge in his right arm. Rinoa bit her lower lip, knowing it was her fault. She hated always being the damsel in distress.

She wished for once she could save herself.

Ellone gawked up at the dizzying cliffs. She had barely made it down; how was she supposed to climb up?

“Come on,” Seifer said, reading her mind. “Get on my back. I’ll climb fast enough for both of us,”

Ellone nodded and climbed on Seifer’s back.

Squall was the one to reach the top last this time. By the time he was at the top, he could barely walk because of the blood loss. Rinoa did her best to help him to the Garden, until Raijin came and carried him on board.

-----------------------------------------------------------

Squall opened his eyes to see Rinoa above him. In the bright, fluorescent light of Dr. Kadowaki’s office, she looked like an angel watching him from heaven. “Rinoa...” he said, lifting his hand to touch her hair. Suddenly, he became aware of a shooting pain up his arm. He brought it down immediately and winced.

“Shh...” Rinoa said, putting her fingers to his lips. She smiled at him as she continued to unwrap the bandages. “We used a few Curagas after Raijin brought you on the ship,” she said, answering the question his eyes were asking. “Dr. Kadowaki said you’ll be fine, but you’ll have another scar to add to your collection.” She fingered the scar on his face and smiled.

Squall smiled and grabbed her wrist with his good hand, then pulled her down and kissed her gently on the lips. Her lips tasted of vanilla, as they always did, and he didn’t want to let her go.

“Well, I see Squall’s doing fine,” Dr. Kadowaki said as she entered.

Rinoa jumped up and blushed. “I was just taking off the bandage,” she replied to the ground.

Dr. Kadowaki laughed. “It looks like you were doing more than that.” She laughed again. “Anyway, I was just checking in, and now I’m going to go out...AND LOCKING THE DOOR,” she suggestively called back as she left. She had always thought those two looked cute together.

Rinoa smiled at Dr. Kadowaki’s implication, knowing there was no real reason the door needed to be locked. “We’re heading toward Shumi village now, like Meliora told us,” Rinoa said, looking back at Squall.

“How’s everyone else?” Squall asked. He hadn’t remembered a lot from what happened.

“Everyone’s fine-”

“-and Seifer?”

Rinoa laughed, “I can’t say I notice any difference in him with or without his ring, but at least we can enter the temple now-”

“-and you?”

Rinoa looked into his eyes then looked away. “I’m fine, thanks to you. You know, that gouge should be on my arm, not yours...” Rinoa still felt really guilty and angry with herself.

The thought of Rinoa bleeding made Squall cringe. “I’m used to it,” he replied with a shrug. “Besides, chicks dig scars, right?”

“Oh, definitely,” replied Rinoa, running her fingers through his hair, something she always loved to do.

Squall put his left arm around her waist and drew her closer. Maybe having the door locked wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

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