Chapter 17: Feeling Human

Timber had not changed much since he last visited, Seifer thought as the party approached the tiny little town's back entrance. Seifer admired Timber's local charm and its quiet but subtle atmosphere.

They passed through the entryway, being eyed by the guards on duty as the local hotel and the towns weapon shop came into his view. Timber's hotel was only a medium-sized building made out of concrete with visible cogs and machinery above its entrance.

"This is a quiet town. It reminds me of Winhill". Dahlia spoke.

"Yes, it is pretty peaceful. Timber once had a military force, but when Galbadia invaded many years ago, most of their army was made redundant. It is now home to a lot of rebellious resistance groups, fighting for many different causes". Quistis explained.

"I wonder if the owls are still around". Seifer announced, laughing.

"As long as you don't try and retake someone hostage Seifer!". Quistis replied.

Dahlia was confused with their current conversation but didn't say anything. She just listened to the others as they continued their banter.

"She might have to apprehend you, Seifer". Raijin laughed as he winked.

Quistis was somewhat embarrassed by Raijin's comment. Fujin had taken notice of this and kicked him in the shin. He bounced back, holding his shin in pain as Seifer laughed at his friends' companionship.

"Love hurts, Raijin". Seifer said.

"RUDE". Fujin responded.

Seifer led the party to the east across the bridge that connected the back part of town to the central section, which housed two of its main railway lines. As they passed on by, a young gentleman was startled by Quistis's presence.

"Ohh! umm... Quistis? Hello. Ahhhh. Mmmmm. Please take this". The young man said.

Handing Quistis a potion in honour of her presence, the young man ran off.

"I think he likes you, Quistis". Fujin announced.

"He does not!". Seifer replied.

"Does that upset you, Seifer? A man taking an interest in me?". Quistis asked.

Seifer grumbled, embarrassed to have said anything.

Dahlia continued to watch the others as they laughed and conversed with each other. It allowed her to experience something other than being lonely, an emotion of happiness and belonging. Something she had never felt before.

"What is that big building over there?". Dahlia asked, noticing the most prominent building that towered over the town.

"That is the Timber Maniacs office. It is a publishing business that makes magazines filled with information about weapons, clothing, and locations worldwide". Quistis explained.

"Their magazines are well written. I like their monthly weapon issues". Raijin expressed.

"Do you like reading Dahlia? We could get you a book". Seifer asked.

"It's been a long time since I have read anything. Winhill did not have a large selection". Dahlia replied.

"We have time before our train arrives, Seifer. Why don't you show Dahlia around before we go?". Quistis announced.

Seifer looked over in Dahlia direction as she turned to look at him.

"Oh, that would be lovely. Do you mind?". Dahlia asked.

"Not at all. Let us explore the town. What about you guys?". Seifer asked.

"I'm going to head to the pub". Quistis announced.

"I might join you for a drink, Quistis". Raijin offered.

"SAME". Fujin added.

"Well, after the bookshop, we will come and find you". Seifer said.

Quistis, Raijin and Fujin walked off towards the pub while they waited for their transportation. Seifer was left alone with Dahlia as they entered the Timber Maniacs building. The reception area was small and linear, comprising a counter to the right and two doors off to the left.

"You two better not be here to annoy the staff. The team are in a hectic way, organising Laguna's new "Esthar Maniacs" magazine". The receptionist announced.

"I'm just showing my friend around. She is interested in your magazines". Seifer said.

"Oh, I see. Well, here you go. Take this one. It's all about the history of Fisherman's Horizon". The lady continued.

"Thank you very much. I appreciate it". Dahlia replied.

Seifer and Dahlia headed down the long corridor and entered the only room at the end. They came to see many people rushing around the smoke-filled room as the one lone table was littered with magazines and cut up photos. They watched on long enough to hear colourful language fly and staff members running rampantly up and down the room before they backed out of the room and exited the building.

They watched a young boy run by, chased by his dog, which made Dahlia smile again.

"We don't have many animals in Winhill. Cats and Chocobos are pretty much all we have. Dogs look very energetic". Dahlia expressed.

"Maybe you could get a dog when you return home to Winhill?". Seifer proposed.

"Maybe. And a cat too. I wouldn't be lonely then". Dahlia expressed.

"Where do you live, Seifer?". Dahlia asked.

"I live in the town of Balamb with Fujin and Raijin. It's much like Winhill. Very quiet and peaceful with only a small number of people. It has a beach with a view of the ocean. You should come and see it some time". Seifer proposed.

"It would be wonderful to travel the world". Dahlia replied.

Dahlia followed Seifer to the east, walking past many homes that stood two stories tall—looking at their similar styles reminded her of Winhill. They passed an elderly couple bickering on a parked bench as Seifer could see the Aphorora pub below. Descending the stairs, the pub had a little plaza out the front, which consisted of a small pop up item shop, chairs and tables for patrons and another railroad line.

"Is this the railroad line we will be using Seifer?". Dahlia asked.

A train had just departed Timber, with its noisy horn filling the air expelling smoke from its engine.

"Not unless you want to go to prison. That is heading for the desert near Galbadia". Seifer responded.

"No, thank you. I think I've already been a prisoner in my own body". Dahlia replied.

Dahlia turned around and walked back towards the popup shop, which had many items displayed on its counter. Potions, magical trinkets and magazines were splayed out to interest customers into a purchase.

"Oh, Seifer, they have magazines on dogs". Dahlia shouted.

"Yeh, I know someone who is a dog lover. She collects these magazines. Would you like me to buy you one?". Seifer asked.

"Oh no. You don't have to do that. I already have a magazine to read". Dahlia replied.

"Come on. It's my treat. Here, look, in Pet Pals Volume three, you can teach your dog a new trick involving the moon". Seifer explained, holding the book open to show Dahlia.

Dahlia wasn't sure how she was feeling, but it was positive and different from some of the emotions that she had felt while in Lilith's control.

"I'll take the magazine, a couple of potions and a remedy". Seifer announced.

Seifer traded some Gil for the items and handed the magazine to Dahlia.

"Thank you, Seifer. I think I have plenty to read now on our journey". Dahlia expressed.

"Seifer! Are you spending all our money?". Raijin shouted, standing at the entrance to the pub.

Seifer and Dahlia approached Raijin as he held the door open for their entry. The Aphorora was a dainty little pub with a sleek, modern design fitted with a small bar off to the left, many tables and chairs filling the midsection and a big-screen television hanging on the right. The pink downlights brightened the pubs ceiling, and the bar engulfed in green and yellow rear lights.

Quistis and Fujin were seated at a table closer to the middle with three empty seats waiting for the others. Quistis entertained her Reagan flavoured juice as Fujin sipped on her Sylkis sparkling water.

"I don't think we have ever had a drink together, Fujin?". Quistis asked.

"NEVER!". Fujin replied.

"Well, isn't this fun". Raijin said.

"How so, Raijin?". Quistis inquired.

"Well, when was the last time we sat down in a group and enjoyed each other's company?". Raijin questioned.

Seifer and Dahlia joined the group at the table. As they sat down, all eyes were on them for a brief moment.

"Dahlia, did Seifer show you around town?". Quistis asked.

"I've never been able to move around so freely. Usually, when Lilith would take control, I would lose days at a time". Dahlia expressed.

"WEIRD". Fujin wondered.

"I'm surprised she hasn't come back yet". Quistis said.

"Instructor! How can you say that". Seifer argued.

"Dahlia, I am sorry. Seifer, you must realise that this spirit is attached to Dahlia in some way. It will come back". Quistis explained.

"Quistis is right, Seifer. If she has been in control this long, there must be a reason she has not returned yet". Raijin suspected.

"Seifer, what did happen to Lilith?". Dahlia inquired.

"She was in pretty bad shape by the end of the battle. She had taken a beating from Celsius, and then Ouroboros's light magic burnt her". Seifer remembered.

"Train departing for Fisherman's Horizon in five minutes". Yelled the bartender.

"Man, I didn't even get a drink!". Raijin expressed.

Quistis and Fujin finished their drinks as the party rose from their chairs and headed out of the pub's entrance and back up to the main street. Moving past Timber Maniacs and the Deling City station line, they spotted the pet store over to the left and a souvenir shop to the right. Laying in front of them was the ocean train line that connected Timber with Balamb and Fisherman's Horizon.

They climbed the stairs, noticing the station's futuristic design with its neon blue lights dotted along the walls as the train pulled into the town and halted to a stop.

The party boarded the trains one lonely carriage, which Seifer found quite odd. The carriage's floor lined with red carpet and walls adorned with golden cased lamps as a solitary bar sat on its lonesome in the back corner. With one table and two long lounges placed off to the left of the transport, the party sat down and rested while the train rocked as it began to take off.

"So just one carriage?". Seifer asked.

"Not many people travel using this line yet. Especially to Fisherman's Horizon". Quistis responded.

"SHEIK". Fujin expressed, describing the train car.

"When does a train car have curtains covering the windows?". Raijin asked.

"Well, this carriage is more suited to a president by the looks of it. I'm sure they would like their privacy, hence the curtains". Quistis explained.

Raijin pulled a curtain back as light entered the room. Dahlia rose from her seat and peered out at the scenery flying by. Timber began disappearing into the distance as the water from the ocean and the sky above filled the window's structure.

"It's beautiful". Dahlia expressed.

"If you like that, wait until you see Balamb garden. It's better than Galbadia garden". Quistis giggled.

"Another Garden?". Dahlia questioned.

"Yep. There were three in total. Balamb is where I grew up, training to become a Seed". Seifer explained.

"You were training to become a flower?". Dahlia asked.

"That's a good one". Raijin commented, laughing out loud.

"Which one? Becoming a flower?". Fujin chimed in.

"Or training to become a Seed?". Quistis giggled, adding to the conversation.

"You guys are mean!". Seifer uttered angrily.

"Are you sure these are your friends?". Dahlia asked.

"It's just what friends do, my dear". Quistis said.

"CORRECT". Fujin added.

The train didn't take long to reach its destination as it travelled along the road's singular line. Dahlia took in the view as Raijin stood beside her, watching as the sights started to appear on the Horizon.

"Is this your first time to Fisherman's Horizon, Seifer?". Raijin asked.

"I've never been here before". Seifer replied.

The train continued to zoom by on the Horizon bridge that linked Timber and Fisherman's Horizon as a giant blue sun panel came into existence.

"Wow, what is that?". Dhalia asked.

Quistis rose from her seat and joined Dahlia by the window.

"That is the cities primary source of power. The sun panel collects solar energy and uses it along with wind fans and water refineries. Fisherman's Horizon is very self-sufficient". Quistis explained.

The train pulled into Fisherman's Horizon with a screeching halt as the door flung open and the party got up and left the carriage. Engineers moved through the area, banging hammers and screwing nails as they continued renovating their once rundown station. The station shop had also reopened its shutter, hoping to receive some business in the future from tourists who may decide to visit.

"Wow, it's so busy here. I wonder if they are fixing the train line to Esthar?". Quistis wondered.

"This place is as busy as Deling City". Seifer remarked.

"I've never seen so many workers before". Raijin commented.

The party exited the train station down the stairs to the east leading into the stations square, where the towns welcoming sign adorned the city's entrance above the station's entry. The station square connected the area to the rest of the city but was not very prominent as a pleasant space. Instead, children and cats littered the location, accompanied by rundown shacks and barrels left unattended.

"Hey, Quistis!". A voice yelled from a distance.

A young man ran over to the group, surprised to see them.

"Zell, it's been a while. How is everything?". Quistis asked.

Zell is one of the many trained Seeds from Balamb garden that has battled beside Seifer, Squall and Quistis. Zell is an experienced hand to hand combatant who prefers to let his fists do the talking when his loud and energetic personality cannot guide him out of sticky situations. Zell is a short young man with uniquely styled blond hair and blue eyes. He sports a black vest with baggy denim shorts and red and black tennis shoes.

"The garden is excellent. The Seeds have been helping around Fisherman's Horzion while Squall is in Esthar with Rinoa". Zell explained.

"I see you have brought the disciplinary committee along with you!". Zell replied sarcastically.

"Ah, good old Chicken Wuss. How you doing fly swatter?". Seifer responded.

Zell growled in Seifer's direction, unhappy to see his presence.

"What's he doing here!?". Zell shouted.

"Can't an old friend stop by and say hi?". Seifer replied with a smile.

Quistis stepped in between them before fists and gunblades started flying.

"Zell, please calm your emotions. I understand these aren't the best of circumstances, but I need to speak to Squall". Quistis explained.

"Well, he won't be back until tonight. You might as well stay in the garden while you wait". Zell replied.

Quistis accepted the invitation from her close friend as they started following Zell back to the Garden. The group passed through Drunkman alley and ascended to the town's centre, where Dahlia noticed a singular house in the city's middle section.

"That's a rather odd place for a house to be?". Dahlia asked.

"That is where Mayor Dobe and his wife live. The history of Fisherman's Horizon states that when the engineers were first creating the town, Dobe was responsible for the train lines. Some of the residents call him the station master due to his talent". Quistis explained.

The party continued along the ruins of machines that joined together to create a makeshift pathway leading to the bright and blue Balamb garden's second-floor entrance. Entering into a hallway, Dahlia was surprised by all the young students waltzing around.

"Jack, Zeke, Rebecca! Why aren't you in class?". Quistis yelled.

"Oh no, Miss Trepe is back! Run!". The children screamed in unison.

"Even the kids don't want to take your classes "Instructor". Seifer laughed.

"Hilarious Seifer. Why doesn't the disciplinary committee give Dahlia a tour of the Garden? I'm going to head to the headmaster's office". Quistis replied.

"I know a good idea. Let's go to the cafeteria". Raijin expressed.

"FOOD". Fujin added.

"Hey, wait, the hotdogs are mine!". Yelled Zell.

As Quistis walked down the hallway and left the party, Raijin, Fujin and Zell took off, leaving Seifer alone with Dahlia to give her a tour on his own.

"Hey, come back!" Seifer yelled.

"It's okay, Seifer. My company isn't that bad". Dahlia said.

They moved past the classrooms on the second floor and took a short ride in the elevator down to the first floor.

"Wow, what a view. I like those fish statues." Dahlia expressed.

As the elevator beeped, they exited and made their way east along the first-floor walkway.

"So this first section here is the Library". Seifer began before Dahlia cut him off.

"We must go in. Do you mind?". Dahlia expressed.

"Of course. It wouldn't be a tour if I didn't show you around". Seifer replied.

The pair walked through the connecting hallway into a bright green library filled with many books and students. Dahlia abandoned Seifer and started browsing through the shelves, picking out a book that interested her.

"Seifer! Have you read this book before? It's called "Good-bye Pupurun". Dahlia announced.

The name Pupu hit a nerve with Seifer as he remembered the many dreams he had been experiencing lately.

"I haven't read that one. But Raijin has. Maybe you can ask him all about it". Seifer stuttered.

Dahlia returned the book to the shelf as she returned to Seifer's side as they made their way back out into the main hallway. Seifer continued the tour by showing her the Training Centre.

"I don't think we should go in here". Seifer announced.

"Why? What's in there?". Dahlia asked.

"Through here is the gardens training centre. Students come here to fight the loose monsters roaming inside to better their battle skills". Seifer explained.

"Oh. Well, I think I'll pass. I don't have any fighting experience". Dahlia replied.

The pair continued to walk, slowly passing the garage, which housed many vehicles and the dormitories where all personnel slept.

"Do you have a room here, Seifer?". Dahlia asked.

"I used to, but not anymore. Anyway, let's head to the cafeteria. I bet you are hungry?". Seifer asked.

Dahlia followed Seifer into the cafeteria, where the area was bustling with students talking loudly and enjoying their favourite meals. Seifer noticed Zell scoffing down multiple hot dogs sitting beside a female student with pigtails in the distance and Fujin and Raijin occupying a table in the back.

"Seifer, we saved you and Dahlia a seat". Raijin shouted.

"Thanks, Rai. Dahlia, have a seat. I will get us some lunch". Seifer said.

"Why don't you ask Raijin about that book you found in the library". Seifer continued.

"Oh yes. Raijin, could you tell me about "Good-bye Pupurun"?. Dahlia asked.

"You bet. That is one of my favourites. It's about this little alien that gets stranded on our planet and can't get home because its spaceship got destroyed when it landed". Raijin explained.

As Seifer returned with the food, he overheard Raijin's story and dropped the plates onto the table, startled by the description.

"That sounds so silly, Raijin". Seifer expresses as he cleans up the mess he just dropped upon the floor.

"AGREED". Fujin chimes.

"Oh no, I like it. So does the alien eventually get back home?". Dahlia asked.

"I don't know. The last few pages of the book were missing". Raijin answered.

The group continued to enjoy their food and chatting amongst themselves when Quistis approached them from afar.

"I see you have all made yourself at home again. Dahlia, how are you finding the garden?". Quistis asked.

"It is lovely. Seifer showed me the library and told me about the training centre". Dahlia said.

"He didn't show you the Quad?". Quistis asked.

"We didn't get that far. I thought I better get her some food first". Seifer replied.

"Well, you must see the stage we had built. Students have been learning to use musical instruments and play live music". Quistis explained.

"I've never heard music before". Dahlia expressed.

"I came to let you know Squall won't be returning until tomorrow. So I have organised a couple of rooms for you to stay in. Unfortunately, I must be getting back". Quistis said.

Quistis handed the key cards to Seifer and bid them goodbye as the group rose from their table, stretching their bodies.

"Seifer, I do apologise, but do you mind if we head back to the dorms? I am a little tired". Dahlia requested.

"Sure. How about tomorrow I take you to see the Quad?". Seifer asked.

"That would be nice". Dahlia continued.

The group walked back to the Dormitories and split into two groups. Raijin and Seifer took one of the rooms while Dahlia joined Fujin in sharing the other.

Seifer scanned the card, and the door unlocked, opening to allow Raijin and him inside. The standard dorm rooms were small space that allowed two people to share an area. They included a dining table, two separate bedrooms and a singular bathroom.

Raijin went directly into his room and wished Seifer a good night as he decided to go straight to sleep. Seifer laid on his bed, finding it hard to fall asleep with thoughts swirling through his head. He wondered about Lilith and her whereabouts. Seifer worried about Dahlia's safety and meeting Squall again. Would Squall even acknowledge Seifer after all he has done?