Disclaimer: Here we go again: I don´t own Final Fantasy VIII... but I´m planning on to.
Chapter 2: New grounds
She couldn´t move.
Not even her eyelids responded.
Surely I´m dead... I´m so numb, can´t feel anything at all...
But what had happened? Last thing she could remember was a light and pain... yeah, the pain was terrible...
At least, it´s over now.
Suddenly a sharp, melodious cry made her focus move from her seemingly paralized body to the abrupt noise. Though the sound wasn´t like the ones she´d grown used to, Rosie could clearly tell it was the cry of a bird...
She had heard it!
Then maybe I´m not dead...
... Or maybe I did die and now I´m in Paradise.
No, no, Rosie. You weren´t good enough to gain a first class one-way ticket to Paradise, so don´t even think about it.
She tried to open her eyes again, and this time she was able to do it... a little. But at least, it was something.
The raven-haired couldn´t make a lot of her surroundings from her laying position, but she did see a thick carpet of greenery, which she gradually recognized as grass. The numbness in her body was slightly receding and she could start to actually feel the lean, large leaves against her face and unfortunately her nose.
Damn! It tickles! I have to roll over myself.
She tried to move, but found she couldn´t even lift a finger. Although her senses had mostly returned, the raven-haired still lacked strength. Groaning at her overly frustrating weakened state, Rosie frowned when she realised she´d have to wait until she had gained enough energy to move in order to stop the annoying tickling in her nose.
I hate to wait... but I guess it can´t b... b... e...
After a couple of minutes (that felt like an eternity to her), Rosie was able to clumsily move and lie face up. The sun bathed her with it´s warmth and she could breathe the fresh air all around her. The random cries of the wild birds she´d heard before mixed with a low humming that she couldn´t quite recognize, the sound reminding her of an over-sized fan. The gentle breeze caressing her face carried a slightly salty scent that made the raven-haired smile. She hadn´t enjoyed that smell since the last time she´d gone on vacation to one of the numerous beaches of her country.
Shielding her still unfocused and aching eyes from the sun with a slender hand, she moved her head to the left, making out what appeared to be a large forest in the distance, the dark green of the trees´ tops contrasting beautifully with the lighter shade of the fields and the intense blue of the unclouded sky.
Where am I? I really don´t remember a forest near my house...
Finally, she had gained enough strengh to slowly sit up and look around her. Indeed, she had seen a forest, and green plains. But from her new point of view, she was also able to see sand and water.
Her eyes narrowed in half-confusion, half-fear when she glanced at the calm, turquoise surface glinting like a thousand diamonds in the bright sunlight.
A beach! But how is this possible?!
Her attention was caught by a flock of white birds that suddenly abandoned their shelter in the thick green foliage of a nearby tree. A rain of feathers enveloped her as they flew by and Rosie couldn´t help but follow their graceful movements through the sky. Resting on the balls of her hands, the raven-haired turned slowly, the small smile that the beautiful show had incited died in her lips at the sight before her.
Her eyes had to be betraying her! There was no other possible rational explanation.
It must be my imagination... finally I´ve gone mad!
For before her widened eyes, lay magestically Balamb Garden.
The huge blue building shined like a sea stone in the warm, morning light. Its golden ring rotated slowly, the sound that had previously reminded Rosie of a huge fan turning out to be the low humming the glowing circle made as it moved around the tip of the large, azure structure. Even from her distance, she was able to distinguish extravagant forms and drawings that complemented the intricate design of the SeeD facility.
The raven-haired was overwhelmed by the inmense beauty that loomed before her. Never in her whole life had she ever seen such a magnificent piece of engineering.
Truly, whoever designed Garden was a genius.
On instict alone, Rosie stood up, only to fall flat on her knees. Although her limbs weren´t as weak as they had been mere minutes before, the raven-haired figured the shock didn´t helped her to stand either. Thus, she remained kneeled there for a seemingly eternity, even to the point an outsider would have believed she was rooted to the place. Her eyes feasted on the beauty of the building in front of her, while her mind was already wandering in memories of its halls, fountains, classrooms and students...
When a familiar face flashed in her mind at the last part of her mental journey, Rosie jumped as though she had sat on something hot. Her entire attention focused in a single idea...
If this truly was Balamb Garden, then maybe he was here.
Her heart raced at the mere thought of the brunet. If the overly improbable scenario was indeed as true as it seemed, then she had to try and find him!
She´ll be damned if she let this one-lifetime chance slip pass her fingers.
Following this primal idea, the raven-haired forced herself to stand up. Her legs felt like jelly and she actually fell twice before managing a first step. Once partially steadied on still wobbly feet, Rosie scrambled her way towards Garden.
The grass around her was taller in certain areas, which she wisely decided to avoid, remembering the monsters that plagued the small island and figuring Bite Bugs and Caterpillars would find the greenery quite cosy. Not to mention, that being a normal teenager walking alone and unarmed through the area, really wasn´t a good idea...
Especially if ending as the monster´s population main course was the furthest thing in your mind.
Fortunatelly for her, the blue building wasn´t far and once she laid foot on the main road, she felt slightly less apprehensive. As her steps carried her closer to the facility´s entrance, Rosie could make out the impressive gargoyles linning the main gate, keeping constant watch on whoever trespassed the treshold. Further down the building´s corner, stood what the raven-haired had seen to be the entrance to the parking lot area, the tunnel seeming wider than she remembered from the game.
Finally reaching the main gate, Rosie noticed a small group of students which seemed to be waiting for someone. She decided to walk cassualy along them and enter Garden unnoticed, but was intercepted by a tiny, slender girl dressed in a grey uniform that resembled Balamb Garden´s blue and silver one. Her shiny, short, brunette hair was curled in the ends and contrasted beautifully with the green eyes shinning like two emeralds attached to a face that was undeniably cute. Rosie recognized her immediately.
Selphie! Oh, god! This has to be a dream!
Oblivious to the raven-haired´s overly bewildered state, the brunette smiled widely. "Hi, my name´s Selphie Tilmitt. Are you a student here at Balamb Garden?"
Rosie stood dumbfounded and completely devoid of words due to the shock, her dark eyes still fixed in the familiar – yet totally strange – face of the tiny cadet. She was so confused! What was she supposed to say to someone she knew quite well and yet hadn´t seen in her entire life?
Selphie tilted her head to the side, curiously looking at the girl in front of her. When the raven-haired didn´t move nor utter a single sound, the brunette waved her hand just before the other´s dark eyes "Hey, are you alive in there?" the casual tone the tiny cadet used gained giggles from the other students at the gate.
Ashamed, Rosie finally recovered from her daze and managed to say "Yeah, sorry... I was thinking about something else, so I didn´t pay attention to you. What was that again?"
Selphie smirked "Yeah, I kind of noticed. Anyway, my name´s Selphie Tilmitt and I was wondering if you are a student of this Garden?"
"I´m Rossane Bennett, but everyone calls me Rosie." She extended a hand, which the brunette happily accepted "Nice to meet you, Selphie"
"Nice to meet you too, Rosie."
The raven-haired bit her lip briefly, tilting her head to the side "And... uhm... I´m not a student of this Garden... yet."
Selphie´s eyes widened "Oh! So you are an exchange student too?!"
"A... Yeah! I am" said the raven-haired smiling nervously.
I arrived just five minutes ago, and I´ve already got into trouble.
Me and my big mouth!
The brunette´s smile widened "Cool! I don´t remember seeing you at Trabia Garden, so you must be from Galbadia, right?"
Rosie nodded and shrugged "Yeah, I.. ah... wanted a change, so I asked my transfer to Balamb."
Selphie took a seat on what appeared to be her luggage. "I see. I asked my transfer because you can´t graduate if you don´t take the Field Exam, and there´s no such in Trabia. By the way, are you going to take the SeeD Field Exam today?"
"Well, I..." Rosie´s reply was suddenly interrupted when a Garden Faculty member approached the group of students. All chater and laughter died instantly, every student standing in attention. Selphie had raised from her makeshift seat and stood silently beside the raven-haired, who tried her best to imitate the other teenagers.
"Good morning, cadets. If you please follow me, I´ll show you to your quarters." This said, the faculty member turned around and all the students gathered their belongings and started after him.
Selphie turned to look at the raven-haired girl, noticing she didn´t carry any luggage Raising a thin eyebrow in surprise, the brunette asked "Hey, where are your things?"
Rosie´s heart gave a somersault. Her brain raced with possible escape routes, bolting from the place not the last of them. Sadly, given her present stunned state, the raven-haired highly doubted that plan would have actually been physically possible even if she´d wanted to.
"I... uhm... well, they lost my luggage at the train station." She cringed inwardly at her reply.
Couldn´t you elaborate a more convincing lie, Rosie?
To her surprise, the brunette smiled knowingly "Figures. Those guys would lost their heads if they weren´t attached to their necks. Don´t worry, I´m sure you´ll have them back in a couple of days."
"Yeah, I hope so. Thanks, Selphie." when the other girl turned around, Rosie couldn´t help the relieved smile on her face.
I can´t believe how lucky I am!
They followed the group of exchange students and entered Balamb Garden´s main hall. The raven-haired was completely amazed by the immense space and rich decorating of the interior. The ceiling´s lights reflected golden beams on the round fountain´s surface as well as on the marble fish-like statues lining its rim. Just in the middle of the chamber, stood a high and equally decorated pillar that served as the elevator´s shaft, the only mean of transportation to the upper levels.
Although Rosie was familiar with the general structure of the SeeD Academy, she couldn´t help but be completely amazed by the undescribable textures and colors her eyes were feasting on. Pixels would never make justice to Balamb Garden´s beauty, no mattering how detailed they could be.
Her dark eyes shifted from the marvelous structure to its inhabitants. Several teenagers moved around the facility in a blue and silver blur, most of them attired in their uniform, while others wore light clothes as Balamb´s climate wouldn´t allow something warmer. There were students everywhere: walking down the halls towards the different areas of Garden, chatting in the main lobby, and boarding the elevator. The sounds of their laughter mixed with the great variety of footsteps, created a lively cacophony that made Rosie smile. Balamb sure was busy, like any other school... though the subjects that were taught here were quite different to what she was used to.
As well as the teachers. Thought the raven-haired as her eyes settled on a male SeeD moving through the crowd. Definitely none of her teachers had a physique like that... or walked around in a black and blue uniform with a saber-like sword sheated at his side.
"WOOOW! This place is sooo cool!" Selphie squealed, breaking Rosie´s reverie.
"Yeah, it´s amazing." whispered the raven-haired. Her gaze wandered through the lobby again and came to a halt when she reached the hall leading to the infirmary.
Then she froze.
Her heart raced as though it was about to explode. Heat ran through her veins like hot lava and a warm sensation filled her entire being. She couldn´t look away.
Nor did she wanted to.
For before her was him, the one who plagued her thoughts and dreams.
"Squall..." his name barely left her lips.
"What did you say?" Selphie turned towards Rosie only to find her staring mutely ahead. She turned to see the source of her companion´s shock and saw two figures at the distance. A blonde young woman wearing the typical dark SeeD uniform, slender and almost as tall as her partner: a man about her age, with dark brown hair and dressed in black leather. What drew more Selphie´s attention was the white fur-lined collar of his jacket and the scar on his face, just between his eyes.
She returned her gaze to Rosie and was amused to see her newest friend still staring at him. The raven-haired had a dreamy smile on her face and Selphie giggled at how cute – and incredibly obvious – she looked, standing there gazing entraced at a complete stranger. She decided to break Rosie from her silent reverie so that they could continue their travel towards the dorms.
"Hey Rosie, you still with me?" Selphie said as she shook the other girl´s arm not too gently.
Waking from her daydream, Rosie turned towards the brunette. "Oh! Sorry, what were you saying?"
"You sure were lost in there!" Selphie giggled making the raven-haired blush furiously.
Rosie frowned, the heat in her face increasing as she couldn´t come with another reply than a childish "I was not"
"Yeah, sure. You were even more lost than a Grendel in a Chocobo Forest." Selphie laughed again at the raven-haired´s dismayed look. After finally managing to settle her laughter a little, the brunette shook her head and offered the other girl a sympathetic smile "It´s okay, I was just saying we should hurry, the others have already left us behind."
After receiving a nod fro her friend, the tiny cadet´s eyes wandered through the hall, stopping at the nearing figures she´d noticed earlier. "Look! He´s coming this way! You should really go talk to him!"
Nervously, Rosie shook her head "I... ah... I don´t think that´s a good idea..."
"Come on! Why not?" insisted Selphie excitedly.
Because I need to think of something to tell him. I don´t want to look dumb.
Instead of speaking her mind, Rosie chose to dismiss herself. "Look, I have to go see Headmaster Cid, okay? I´ll see you later." with this, the raven-haired turned and hurriedly left for the elevator, finally implementing the escape plan she´d thought of before.
Selphie was just about to call her, but thought better and let her friend be. Sooner or later Rosie would talk to him. Though the brunette sincerely hoped it was the earlier. Sighing, the tiny cadet retrieved her luggage and ran for the dorms´ hallway.
Hopefully she would be able to reach her group.
ooo ooo ooo ooo O ooo ooo ooo ooo
So, how is it going? Like? Not?