Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy VIII... nor do I owe "Twisted Fantasy". That's Revir's masterpiece. I could never have come up with something like that. :D
Chapter 70: Death to the world
"Let her achieve her Time-whatever."
Odine's eyes widened, "Exactly!"
How a low mercenary could come up with that conclusion was beyond him. However, the doctor would not allow the credit of this discovery to be handed to anyone but himself, "Az Sorceress Edea told Odine, Ultimecia's main target iz to achieve Time Compression," before any of the SeeDs could make the most obvious query, Odine shook his head and hurriedly continued, "Vat reasons she may have to try it doesn't matter. Let's just figure out vat Ultimecia iz up to."
Squall's eyes narrowed.
Maybe to the rest of them her motives were not a concern. But he wanted to know why the damn witch had decided to make his life a living Hell.
"In order for Ultimecia to exist in zis time, she must take over ze body of a present Sorceress..." the doctor's voice trailed off and he made a pause as he seemed to be considering something. Soon enough, his eyes focused again and he shook his head, dismissing whatever thought that had been nagging his mind, "In any case, 'Junction Machine Ellone' must have a limit–"
"That's why she's looking for Ellone all over," interrupted Ana thoughtfully, gaining an annoyed huff from the doctor. Noah's eyes hardened at the impolite gesture and Odine gulped again before continuing his explanation.
"Indeed. That iz why we must take advantage of Ellone's power."
"But Sis is being held hostage by the galbadians!" exclaimed Selphie.
Irvine smiled, "No one said it was going to be easy."
Kiros' voice gained the youngsters' attention, "Indeed. But..." he added with a smile as his hand reached the interior of his robe and retrieved a small device, "... we can make it easier," with a tap, the Advisor turned on the gizmo and a bright, blue light lit up the office briefly before molding into a 3D rendering of Lunatic Pandora's inner structure.
"Cool!" chirped Thelma enthusiastically.
"Yeah, way better than our model," said Rinoa grinning.
"We can't leave Elle in the enemy's hands," said Laguna frowning, "And even after rescuing her, we can't just keep her away from Ultimecia... Hyne knows she won't stop wreaking havoc until she either achieves her goal or is stopped."
"I vote for the latter," muttered Zell with a smirk.
The President nodded, "Guess we all do," his eyes settled on Squall's face, "Especially since her options of a body are reduced to one of your comrades or a phsyco Sorceress."
Odine shivered, "We can't let Ultimecia possess Adel. Neither Laguna nor Odine vould be safe if she vere to awake."
"Yeah, guess she's still holding a grudge," said Laguna grinning.
Kiros shook his head, "In any case, we have to stop this Sorceress and neutralize the galbadian army inside the Pandora."
"The best way to enter the protective shield is through the base," added Ward, analyzing the digital structure, "But since you..." his dark blue eyes settled on Quistis, Selphie and finally Zell, "... used that to enter the first time, it's most likely that the galbadians will have it heavily guarded."
"How resistant is the shield?" asked Squall narrowing his eyes.
Odine huffed, "It's of Odine's design! Zo the answer is: VERY," this gained another glare from the Commander and another gulp from the doctor, "Fine, fine! Although it's very rezistant, a big, focused blast could veaken the shield."
"Like the one produced by a V12-class beam cannon?" asked Selphie tentativelly.
The shorter man took a minute to ponder and finally nodded.
"Woo-hoo!" exclaimed the brunette excitedly, "We've got one just like that on the Ragnarok!"
"Too bad the twins are out of comission," muttered Kiros, shaking his head, "With Heimdall and Armageddon, that shield wouldn't have lasted more than a few seconds."
"Well, at least we have the Ragnarok on our side," said Laguna with his usual optimism. Turning to look at the SeeDs, the President added, "So, how about it? Ready to kick a future Sorceress' butt?"
Squall frowned, "How exactly do we make it to the future?"
Before Odine could answer, Laguna interrupted, "That's the tricky part. You must kill Adel first, that way Ultimecia's only option would be to possess Rossane–"
"Rosie," snarled the Commander, his eyes narrowing further, "And no way."
Stunned by the brunet's reaction, Laguna sluttered, "I-I'm sorry, son... but that is the only way to ensure our plan will work."
"Squall..." muttered Quistis, looking at him, "... think about it. This all sounds familiar, right?"
"... with Ellone's help and Doc Odine we can travel through time once she achieves her goal."
The raven-haired's voice reberberated in his head. Yeah, she'd known about this method to anhiquilate Ultimecia... but circumstances had radically changed from what she had known as a fact since the battle against Galbadia Garden.
Rinoa was not the new Sorceress and Rosie was not herself. She wasn't with them either. Instead, she had surrendered her soul to Ultimecia once more. The memory of cold, golden eyes staring back at him beneath raven bangs made his stomach clench.
"This is the last time she stops me from killing you, cursed SeeD…"
And all to protect him.
How could Squall do anything else but trying to bring her back alive? What if something went wrong with the new plan and someone got killed? What if she–?
The brunet shook his head. He wouldn't let himself even think of that possibility.
But what could be done in this situation then?
Controlling the odd of who Ultimecia would possess in the moment Time Compression took place seemed the key of Odine's plan. But that meant Rosie would have to be the one under the other Sorceress' influence when that happened.
She would be practically helpless in the most dangerous moment...
Squall growled under his breath. He knew it had to be done that way if they wanted to have any chances of succeeding...
... But he didn't like it.
Not one bit.
Ellone yelped in pain as the galbadian yanked her arm to make her rise.
Her cry was replaced a second later by the trooper's agonized one. His fingers left the vice grip they had on the tender flesh and her eyes widened in horror as the soldier wrythed in pain and fell to his knees, his body enveloped by a white myst.
"I believe I ordered you not to harm her," a soft, cold voice said.
Ellone's eyes tore from the injured man to the owner of the icy tone and her heart skipped a beat.
She had never seen the ordinarily-clad girl but the incredible power flowing from her and the gleam of malice in her eyes told her all she needed to know.
The raven-haired's gaze shifted from the soldier to the other girl, causing the galbadian's body to stop convulsing and fold into a foetal position, "That is correct, my dear," Ultimecia's voice rose above the trooper's pained whimpers as she took a step towards Ellone, "I have been waiting so long to finally meet you."
Brown eyes blinked in confusion, eliciting a chuckle from the other woman, "I've searched for you all over the world, my child. First as your beloved Matron," her lopsided smile widened at Ellone's growing horror, "And now in this form."
"W-who are you?"
Ultimecia's golden eyes glowed with power and a startled cry left Ellone as she was hurled against a wall. The impact, however, was not strong enough to cause further injure than knocking the air out of her lungs.
Once regaining her breath, Ellone tried to move, only to find herself tightly bound by several semi-traslucent, glowing ropes. The Sorceress' laughter reached her ears once more when her attempts at getting free proved to be futile.
"If you really want to know my identity," purred the golden-eyed girl with sick amusement, "Why are you so eager to leave?" her smile widened as she approached the still squirming Ellone, stopping barely a feet from her, "Worry not, my lovely. The real fun will start very soon. In the meantime," added the raven-haired gesturing to the right, "please enjoy the company."
Ellone's eyes followed her hand and widened as she recognized the still figure cased inside the Tomb. Adel's eyes fluttered open and focused on the frantically squirming girl, a weak smirk darkening her features.
"I see you both have a lot to discuss and I have to get ready for tonight," said the raven-haired with a smile before turning around and gracefully making her way to the door, "I will see you later, dear."
"It will be her choice," said Squall finally reaching a decision. Blue-grey eyes narrowed as the next words left him, "If Rosie agrees to help us out, then fine. I won't force her otherwise."
Laguna nodded in understanding, "Fair enough," his somber features lit with a smile, "So, where is she? I know you probably didn't bring her fearing we would seal her up or something like that for what happened to General Mitchell's troops, but I assure you she's safe here."
"Well..." replied Quistis when the Commander remained quiet, "... that's another problem."
The President cocked his head to the side in confusion, "Uh? What do ya mean by that?"
"She's with the galbadians," muttered Squall coldly, "And as I said before, Ultimecia is already occuping her body. That's why we came here originally... to seek Esthar's assistance."
A brief silence followed as Laguna scanned the Commander's face. Finally, the dark haired man nodded, "You have all our support, son," sighing, he then clung his head slightly and muttered, "It's a shame our paths had to cross in a situation like this."
The brunet didn't reply, though he highly doubted they would have met each other had the circumstances have been any different. Deciding to focus on more pressing issues, Squall said, "Now that we have covered all the background, we should plan our attack."
The crimson sky over Esthar's capitol turned a darker color as twilight neared.
The battle in the streets had decreased its rhythm as most of the threatening monsters within the protective barriers had been aniquilated by both the SeeD and local army.
Rinoa sat in a small couch in Cid's office, watching silently as the SeeDs went over the plan again. The raven haired girl frowned a little at the casual tone they used when referring to the obstacles they'd have to pass to get to where Adel should be guarded. Her heart clenched when Seifer's name was mentioned and she couldn't help the string of images that assaulted her mind.
Seifer laughing hoarsely at some dumb thing she'd said, his jade eyes lit with amusement and that inner passion she'd come to adore; the heavy fabric of his long trenchcoat protecting her from the cold of Deling city's main street as both walked towards a restaurant; the smile on his face as she talked endlessly of her plans to liberate Timber and the softness of his lips when he'd kissed her goodnight...
Remembering those happy moments, Rinoa had a hard time picturing the blond at the front of the army struggling to destroy her new friends: the beautiful Quistis, the cheery Selphie, Irvine, the aloof womanizer, the intense Zell and his kinda looney Thelma, the graceful Ana, the silent Noah and the cold Squall.
Dark eyes wandered from face to face, marveling at just how surreal the whole situation seemed.
What had started like a mission to liberate Timber had led them to a full-scale war between forces that were in an entire different league... to think she'd once believed Vinzer Deling was the worst threat the world could ever face!
She almost laughed at her own naiveness.
Though she had to give herself some credit. Back then, things were simpler, life was happier and troubles were less complicated.
Her brown eyes narrowed at the last thought.
Certainly, the fact that her former – was it too obnoxious to say boyfriend? – was involved and a main part of the problem they were facing now didn't help matters any.
Standing from her seat, Rinoa spared one last glance at the SeeD group before quietly leaving the room. A sigh escaped her lips as she leaned against the closed door. She was tired, but the anxiety she felt made rest impossible.
That was why she'd gone to the reunion. She'd figured that knowing what the SeeDs were planning and witnessing the extent of the power that was being displayed, her worries would finally vanish.
However, they'd done nothing but increase.
Her eyes settled on the crimson skies covering Esthar city and she couldn't help the shiver running down her spine at the ominous view. A thunder lit the blood-like clouds and her heart clenched in fear as the Pandora's far away profile glinted under the lightning.
The blond turned at the call of his name, "Yes, Fu?"
Her crimson eye narrowed in determination. Although she'd decided to stay by his side no matter the outcome, Fujin still held onto a slight hope of bringing Seifer to realize the wrongness of the whole deal.
One shot. That was all she got.
And hopefully, all she needed.
Taking a breath to steady her heart, she took a step closer to him, "TALK."
Noticing not only the albino's tensed stance, but also that of Raijin behind her, Seifer frowned. They looked to be ready for a confrontation… and apparently, the issue was with him, "What's up people?"
"Well…" the bronze-skinned teen stole a glance at Fujin – who didn't acknowledge him and continued to stare at the blond – before sighing deeply and finally muttering, "… we've had enough, ya know?"
"What do you mean?"
"We're quitting, ya know?" Raijin shrugged, "We just don't know what's right anymore, ya know?"
Seifer's frown deepened, "Exactly my thoughts. I believed we were a posse… and now you're deserting me?"
Raijin's eyes lowered in pain and shame. The blond's words had wounded him deeply and he couldn't come up with some way to reply at the harsh statement. The girl in front of him took a step towards the Knight and shook her head.
That was what the whole issue was about!
"Posse…" the lack of the normal edge in the familiar voice immediately gained both men's attention. Fujin's tone lowered even more as she stopped barely a foot away from Seifer, "We are. And will always be. Don't you see that's why we're trying to help you?"
The taller man folded his arms, "Why the lecture then?"
"Is this really your dream?" her barely audible words were enough to make his heart skip a beat, "Are you certain you're not being manipulated?" Fujin's eye locked on his, "Because we think you've lost yourself to someone else's ambitions."
Seifer's jade eyes narrowed further.
What the hell was she saying?!
Of course this was his dream!
He finally was the Knight to the Sorceress, his childhood wish had been fulfilled. Just how many people could say that? And to make things even better, he'd soon become the most powerful warrior alive!
Through the timeless woman's power, Time Compression would start and the entire planet would submit to the new order… and he would be standing at Ultimecia's right.
Honor and Glory would be his.
Seifer Almasy's name would be carved in the stone of History and he'd live forever.
She'd shown him all of this time and again, repeating the images and soft, entrancing words like a lullaby that chased away all his doubts.
… of course this was his dream.
Seifer's tone became as icy as Squall's was famed to be, "So, you think I'm nothing but a puppet, uh?"
"She's clouded your mind! Don't you see?!" hissed Fujin angrily, "You wanted to be the best SeeD, to see the world over. You wanted to be a Hero… not the Villain," her voice lowered at the last part, almost spitting the word as though it was poison.
Her crimson eye wandered through his face, "Honor and Glory, Seifer. That was what you wanted… Tell me what you have now," a thick silence enveloped the trio, only interrupted by the constant humming of the Pandora's turbines.
Jade eyes locked on the girl's face as though seeing her for the first time. Fujin's red gaze was full of despair and fear and Seifer's heart fell at the sight.
She didn't understand…
His best friends didn't share his dream.
The Knight's face was unreadable, not even his eyes were able to tell the white-haired woman what was going on inside that thick skull of his. And this scared her more than any reply he'd have given her, because it meant her words were not even being taken into consideration.
Defeated, Fujin shook her head and softened her gaze almost to the point of pleading, "All we want is to have the old you back."
Seifer's frown deepened, "There's no old or new me, Fu. It's always been the same…" his back turned on his friends and the blond started to walk away.
"So, you're planning on going on?!"
His trademark smirk returned as he glanced over his shoulder at the shocked albino. Fujin's normally composed expression now openly showed all the emotions she kept inside and Seifer felt a small tinge of guilt at the vulnerable state of his friend.
He knew she'd left herself exposed to a deathblow.
Still, he would not be the one to deliver it.
"This is the only path for me…" he said lowly before reassuming his way. As he reached the electronic doors separating the large corridor from the control room, Seifer's head turned just enough so he could look at his friends out the corner of his eyes.
"…You don't have to follow it, though," the doors opened and his tall form disappeared behind them.
Fujin's eye widened and she swallowed hard to force the tears back. She couldn't believe he'd chosen to serve that bitch to the bitter end!
But what hurt her more was the fact that Seifer had discarded their friendship and loyalty without a second thought…
… He'd chosen the Sorceress above them.
A worried voice broke her reverie, "Fu… what are we gonna do now?"
Raijin's query helped her fight the pain back, helped her to bottle her emotions with practiced ease and focus on the issue at hand. They had failed and now they'd have to deal with the consequences of that failure.
The albino considered their options.
Yeah, they could leave… but, they'd nowhere else to go. Garden was definitely out of the question. Even if Cid was willing to admit they back, Fujin knew Squall would press them for information regarding Seifer and she'd first die than betray their friend.
Even if he hadn't had the same courtesy.
"This is the only path for me…"
Fujin sighed, turning her back on the control room's door. Her hands clenched into tight fists and her eye narrowed as she finally made her choice. To her, her destiny was already sealed.
The edge returned to her voice now that she was decided to follow through, "ME TOO."
The roar of the Ragnarok's engine as it came back to life brought a smile to Selphie's lips. Despite the time it had been drifting in space, she couldn't complain of the airship's functioning. It was as good as new.
Her emerald eyes lit when Irvine's tall form slouched in the seat next to hers.
"So, like, you sure all I have to do is push the button?"
The brunette's smile widened at his unsure tone, "Of course, Irvy! The cannon beam practically aims on its own," she turned her head and flashed him a playful smirk, "Besides, I was told you're the most talented sharpshooter of Galbadia Garden… or did I get that wrong?"
He winked back at her, "And you haven't seen anything, little darling."
Selphie laughed, gaining a wide smile from the cowboy. The carefree sound of her amusement entranced him and, for a moment, Irvine forgot where he was; forgot everything about the upcoming battle and the ominous fate awaiting them.
All he could see in that instant was the beautiful brunette seated beside him and the way she seemed to light up the world with her mere presence.
In an impulse, his hand closed around hers and the tall cowboy leaned down to finally close the seemingly infinite distance between them. His lips caressed her forehead and gently trailed down over a closed eye and a heated cheek to end their journey on her lips.
Selphie's cheeks burned even more at the smooth contact and the butterflies that seemed to have nested in her stomach since she'd first met the matured cowboy fluttered madly at Irvine's overly gentle touch.
With a hand still holding hers, Irvine settled another at the back of her neck in order to play with the silk-soft hair of the brunette.
His touch sent a shiver down her spine and her heart into overdrive. Her mind reeled with a thousand words she wanted to tell, but didn't dare for fear of seeming too silly or corny. So she decided to do her best to express her feelings in their kiss. And although, she wasn't as experienced as he seemed, Selphie hoped it was enough.
Irvine's soul took flight as she returned the kiss, shyly at first and with growing determination as seconds melted away into eternity. Happily oblivious to the world around him and completely entranced by her sweetness, the cowboy prayed to whatever entity was willing to listen to his plea to stop time and never allow this moment to slip away from him.
Lost within his taste, Selphie couldn't help but think that her first kiss was as perfect as she'd ever dreamt it would be.
"Get a room, guys."
Startled, the brunette broke the sweet kiss, focusing her attention in anything but the teens entering the cockpit. Her already flushed face turned a brighter shade of red as she realized she'd been so focused that she hadn't heard the small elevator… and for the look of it, neither had Irvine.
The cowboy pulled away from her and frowned in Zell's direction, "You have a knack for being inopportune, Dincht."
"Suck it up, Kinneas," replied the martial artist grinning as he took his place at one of the supportive cannons on the Ragnarok, "You can inspect Selphie's tonsils as much as you want after the mission."
Thelma smacked the back of the blond's head, gaining a loud complaint for the rough treatment. She then settled her hands at her hips in a scolding fashion, "You deserve it for being rude."
Irvine smirked, "Seems we now know who carries the pants in your relationship."
It was Zell's turn to frown. However, before the typical bickering between the two could start, Squall stepped into the cockpit and silenced both SeeDs with a single glare, "Save that for later."
His eyes settled on the still blushing pilot, "The Estharian fleet is already in place. Let's take our position."
"Aye, aye, sir!" chirped Selphie, regaining her usual mood at the prospect of flying the draconian ship into battle.
Squall turned to look at the other SeeDs in the reduced space. Ana and Noah, along with Thelma had joined their group and now stood waiting for his instructions. Blue-grey eyes narrowed as he wondered for the millionth time what he'd done to deserve their trust. Especially as a leader, a position he'd never wanted, but everyone seemed to be certain he deserved.
The Commander discarded his thoughts as Xu's voice echoed in the cockpit, "Trabia and Balamb Gardens are in position, Squall."
He nodded in acknowledgement, even though his counterpart couldn't see him. It was a habit of his, "Understood. Keep your distance until the signal."
"Roger that. Over and out."
Seifer's eyes left the monitor as the heavy metallic doors opened with a woosh. The Sorceress frame glided gracefully inside the chamber, ignoring the numerous gazes that had settled on her.
"Is everything ready?"
The Knight bowed deeply, "All the stations are on battle alert, my Sorceress. The
Pandora's shields are at its max and we have several cybernetic units to destroy the draconian ship once it penetrates our defenses."
Ultimecia nodded and smiled pleased, "Our only concern now shall be the ritual, then." The raven-haired turned around and, after issuing the mental command to the blond to follow her, both stepped out of the Pandora's bridge.
"You are wearing white," commented Seifer glancing at the simple, pristine robes that covered Rosie's body.
The Sorceress smirked, golden eyes glinting with sick amusement as they moved through the main corridor, "It is only fitting, my Knight." As both reached the elevated chamber where Adel's still half-frozen form rested, her voice was heard once more, "White is the color of the sacrificial lamb."
The words had barely left her lips when a loud rumble was heard. Seifer's eyes narrowed briefly as he listened at the noises before a wide smirk lit his features, "Well, seems Puberty Boy has finally arrived."
Excitement and anticipation at the upcoming battle coursed through his entire body and the Knight's hand automatically closed around Hyperion's hilt. He couldn't wait to cross gunblades with Squall again in what would be their final battle!
The low call of his name made the blond's eyes focus on the shorter form beside him. Lowering to one knee, the Knight waited for the orders to come.
Ultimecia's cold voice didn't rise above a whisper, "Protect this room with your life if necessary," her white-clad form turned around with inhuman grace and the heavy doors opened without her even getting near them, "Nothing shall enter this place until I am finished. Have I made myself clear?"
Seifer's head bowed, "Crystal."
The doors closed loudly, swallowing the lithe form behind them. The Knight stood and drew Hyperion. Light danced along the gunblade's dark metal as Seifer turned around and faced the long corridor.
The first sounds of battle reached his ears and he smirked.
"C'mon, Squall. I'm waiting for you."
"SeeD forces incoming!"
The blaring of the alarm echoed through the Pandora's gigantic frame, making the galbadians tense and prepare themselves for the upcoming conflict.
"Commander!" called a soldier saluting the shorter woman, "We are getting different readings than the ones expected."
Fujin took the extended chart, her crimson eye narrowing as she scrolled down the info, "NOT THEM."
"Uh? What ya mean, Fu?" asked her bronze-skinned friend leaning closer to her.
"ESTHAR," replied the woman sharply giving back the chart to the soldier. Nodding in the Pandora's core direction, she instructed, "SEIFER."
"Yes, ma'am!" said the soldier saluting again before turning around and dashing down the corridor in order to find the Knight.
"I don't understand what's wrong, ya know?"
Fujin shook her head a little exasperated at Raijin's oblivious nature. Turning to face the taller teen, she simply said, "ESTHAR. SEED. TOGETHER."
His eyes widened, "Whoa! You mean, Esthar is attacking us too?!" at her sharp nod, he panicked, "But, it was supposed to be only Squall's ship, ya know?!"
"CHANGE," growled Fujin, drawing her pinwheel. The light of the corridor reflected on the beautiful and equally deadly weapon, sending a silver shine over the albino's face. Her frown deepened, "ADAPT."
Raijin nodded and produced his large bo, "I'm with ya, Fu, ya know?"
The girl smiled, "KNOW."
"The shield is intact."
Squall's eyes narrowed. He didn't need the estharian captain's statement to realize the energy field around the Pandora hadn't even flickered at the attack. Although Laguna's air-bound fleet was large, the small cannons that these were equipped with had proved to be useless against the shield.
"Guess it's our turn," said Quistis from her position beside the Commander.
He nodded and turned on the com, "All estharian units, take back up positions."
"Roger that. Wolf unit engaged for battle."
Stormy eyes settled on the pilot, "Selphie, take us in."
"Aye, aye, sir!" chirped the brunette, pulling the controls to raise the Ragnarok over the other airships.
"There it is!" exclaimed a galbadian officer pointing at the crimson, dragon-like shape gliding around the Pandora, apparently searching for a weak spot.
The troopers stood mesmerized by the ship's apparition. Not only was it more beautiful than whatever their wildest dreams could come up with, but also the airship had proved many of them wrong.
But how were they supposed to believe the Sorceress' words about the upcoming battle? How could she predict what was about to happen now when she couldn't before? Was it because the woman now leading them was other than Edea?
That was another thing bothering the galbadians.
What had happened to their former ruler?
Although Seifer had assured them the girl with the golden eyes was a mere vessel for the true Sorceress, the galbadians were still unsure about the whole deal. Still, none of them dared to protest.
They liked breathing.
"All units, ready to fire!" ordered the officer, watching the Ragnarok take an attack position. The sound of tenths of cannons aiming at the crimson ship reverberated inside the wide chamber, making the galbadian smirk.
"C'mon, little SeeDs… give us your best shot."
Ultimecia's eyes narrowed in concentration.
She could feel the magical aura of the woman in front of her, but it was so faint, she highly doubted Adel could aid her during the process. Seemed she'd have to make the entire transfer by herself.
Sighing in annoyance, the Sorceress extended her arms and then, one after the other was crossed over her chest in an X form. The magic coursing through her veins stirred, filling her whole being with its infinite energy.
Ellone's eyes widened as she watched the spectacle, unable to tear her gaze away. The raven-haired's frame was enveloped in a white light, making her body shine and emanate a bright pulse all around her. Her head threw backwards at the very moment the light intensified and a couple of large, pristine wings spread from her back, filling the entire room with glinting feathers.
The captive girl trembled. Despite the resemblance the young Sorceress had with an angel – further emphasized by her equally white robes – the power emanating from her was terrible.
A low hum caught Ellone's attention and her eyes widened again as she realized the other girl was chanting some spell. Shiny, silver lines slowly extended from the raven-haired's feet and spread across the room like glistening roots. Ellone flinched as they crawled near her and continued their journey over the wall without touching her.
Strange carvings started to form all over the place before a wide circle drew itself around Rosie's form. Her eyes turned completely gold, the dark, cat-like irises now lost into the lighter shade.
The shine around the Sorceress increased as her arms slowly extended from their folded position over her chest and pointed towards Adel. Waves of white energy left the raven-haired's body, traveling towards the frozen woman.
Crimson eyes opened slowly as the first wave of power reached her body and Adel smirked.
Irvine complied and the whole Ragnarok shuddered as the cannon released its power. The roar of the blast was deafening as it collided with the Pandora's shield, making the draconian ship shudder again, though this time was due to the backwash of power.
"It doesn't break the shield!" exclaimed the cowboy frowning and keeping his fingers over the trigger.
Thinking quickly, Selphie activated the ship's 'arms', raising the clawed paws before letting them ram into the energy field.
"Now is our chance!" yelled the galbadian officer watching the Ragnarok clawing through the shield's thick veil, "Return fire!"
Tenths of beams left the Pandora's interior, travelling towards their enemy's ship.
"What the?!" exclaimed Selphie, blinded by the galbadians' counterattack.
The Ragnarok shuddered as the energy beams reached it, tearing apart one of its massive claws before the pilot managed to pull the ship out of danger's way.
Squall's frown deepened, "What's the damage?"
Selphie pouted, "They destroyed one of the claws! Awww, no! My poor ship!" her emerald eyes narrowed in an impressive glare, "They're definitely going to pay for this!"
"They knew we would try to break the shield that way," muttered Quistis, folding her arms and looking at their leader.
The Commander's expression darkened, "Ultimecia's using Rosie's knowledge."
"Guess we have one more complication," said Zell grinning.
Squall pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to soothe the headache that was slowly forming. He knew the witch could do something like this… but, just how much more had she been able to anticipate thanks to Rosie's knowledge?
Back during the strategy meetings, the raven-haired had admitted she didn't know details of the battle against Galbadia Garden, just held a general scheme of the situation. Was it the same for this conflict?
Was the galbadians' defense planned on more assumptions than concrete facts?
Whatever the case, Squall knew not to underestimate the enemy's forces. Seifer was a very good strategist and surely he'd more than a few surprises planned, knowledge or not.
Well, two could play the same game.
"Wolf team, prepare your cannons," ordered Squall, switching on the com. His eyes settled on their pilot next, "Selphie, fly around the Pandora again."
A wicked smile formed on the girl's lips, "Whatever you say."
"Here they come again," said the galbadian officer with a confident smirk, "Seems these kids haven't had enough. Prepare the cannons!"
"Yes, sir!" replied the soldiers aiming at the gliding Ragnarok once more. The draconian airship came straight forward toward the Pandora and another blast from its large cannon made the shield shudder.
Like a spear, the remaining claw pierced through the energy field, making the captain's smirk widen. However, before he could order his troops to greet the incoming ship properly, an unearthly screech echoed in the room, freezing the galbadians in place.
A bright light blinded all the presents as the booming roar of a departing thunder announced the Guardian's presence. Fast as the element he commanded, Quetzalcoatl dashed along the galbadian ranks, destroying the cannons on his path, giving the SeeD reinforcements the perfect chance to strike.
Bullets rained over the defending party inside the Pandora as the estharian forces took their positions beside the draconian ship. The Ragnarok's engine propelled it half-way inside the shield before the cannon was fired again. The yellow beam collided against the monolith's metallic surface, melting it away like butter.
"Woo-hoo! We're in!" exclaimed Selphie, looking through the huge hole the beam cannon had made in the protective steel case.
Squall turned to look at his comrades as the Ragnarok descended, "Let's finish this."
"They did it!" exclaimed Xu, clapping excitedly as she watched the crimson ship pierce through the Pandora's frame, the energy field around it flickering several times before finally vanishing.
A victorious screech reached their ears at the very moment a powerful lightning left the monolith's frame and vanished between the crimson clouds.
"That's our signal," said Nida maneuvering the Garden with practiced ease.
Xu nodded and reached for the com, "Attention all SeeDs, we're moving into battle. I repeat, we're moving into battle. Assemble at your designated positions."
Her voice was replaced by the three characteristic chimes that announced the end of the transmission. The dark-haired woman turned to the right, glancing at Trabia Garden's majestic form as it glided towards their intended target.
"Gotta go," said Xu smiling at the pilot, "Keep our course."
Nida nodded sharply and watched the graceful SeeD leave. Hesitating, the young man finally growled in frustration and called her out before she reached the small lift. Xu turned to look at him, confusion evident in her face.
Nida frowned, "Take care, ok?" when she dismissed his concern with a smile, he shook his head and vehemently said, "I mean it. Just… just don't die on me, okay?" almond eyes gazed intently at her face, making the girl blush slightly when she realized the true meaning behind his words.
Xu nodded slowly, her eyes softening as she looked back at Nida, "Don't worry, I won't."
He swallowed hard, feeling his throat dry as she turned around and climbed on the elevator. Suddenly, the dark-haired woman whirled around and flashed him a wide smile.
"I like popcorn and movies," she said, pressing the 'down' button. She shrugged a little and grinned at his bewildered expression, "Just so you know."
The lift carried her out of his sight and, after a couple of seconds, Nida was able to break his reverie. Replaying for his mind's eye her last words and beautiful smile, he couldn't help the way his lips curled upwards.
"Well, guess now I know," muttered the young SeeD, tearing his eyes from her last standing place to settle them over the upcoming monolith.
"Sir Almasy!" exclaimed the trooper as soon as he detected the tall blond standing at the far end of the large corridor.
The Knight straightened from his leaning position against the wall and frowned at the incoming soldier, "What is it?"
The uniformed man took a moment to catch his breath and, after saluting the young General, informed, "Sir! Commander Fujin has sent me to report you that Esthar's troops have allied with the SeeDs. They're supporting them in battle, sir."
Seifer's frown deepened.
This event was certainly unexpected. None of the information Kid had given Ultimecia regarded Esthar's position in this battle.
"Seems Puberty Boy has made new friends…" muttered the blond before looking through the soldier into the large corridor he'd come running from.
He knew the alliance between Esthar and SeeD would bring them serious problems, especially when they'd only prepared to receive the latter. However, the Knight couldn't bring himself to leave his guarding post.
The Sorceress' magic was clearly felt through the heavy doors and Seifer knew that the transfer process had already started, which meant she would be far too vulnerable at this point. Certainly, not a position she wanted the SeeDs to find her in.
A low, irritated growl left the blond's throat.
His instincts pulled him to the battle's front line, to wherever Squall was so they could finish their pending issue once and for all. However, Ultimecia's leash kept him glued to the ground.
It was so fucking frustrating!
Seifer's gloved hand slammed against the crystal wall with enough force to make a small dent in the shinning surface and the shimmering colors to increase their pace. The trooper cringed slightly at the angered blond's reaction, especially since it was the first time he'd seen the man lose his cool.
"Activate the Pandora's defense system," ordered the Knight dryly. He knew Fujin and Raijin had the left wing of the core covered, however, the right side was wide open, "Get all we've got to the main corridor and the nearing areas."
Even if the SeeDs managed to pass through the galbadian ranks, their numbers would be thinner and surely the innate defense system of the Pandora would be able to dispose of them as it had done with Chicken-wuss' team before.
Seifer's confidence returned.
Yeah, with small numbers, the SeeDs wouldn't be able to defeat the Mobile Type 8. Not with the special abilities it had been gifted with.
"Well, what are you waiting for?!" snapped the Knight, startling the trooper out of his stunned state.
"Y-yes, sir!" replied the soldier, clumsily saluting his superior before turning around and bolting out of sight.
Seifer watched as the other man disappeared behind a corner and smirked, reassuming his earlier position against the wall.
Even if the SeeDs were victorious in the end, he was sure the galbadians would be able to delay them enough so his Sorceress was able to finish the energy transfer from Kid to Adel. The older witch's powers would finally be restored to serve Ultimecia's will.
And with Ellone already held inside the confined chamber, it would only be a matter of time before Time Compression started.
The blond's smirk widened.
Seemed Lady Luck hadn't turned on them yet.
ooo ooo ooo ooo O ooo ooo ooo ooo
Finally finished this chapter. Okay, this took WAY longer than I had expected, but at least, it's finally done.
I know, I know, I always promise to write faster, but I just can't seem to find the time. So, there won't be a promise this time. I'll do whatever I can, but there are no guarantees. Again, my deepest apologies for this.
I want to thank all of you who keep reading this huge story and have the eternal patience to wait until the next chapter is over. As I've said before, this story is for all of you.
I still hadn't had the time to reply to your marvelous reviews, but I'll do it right away! Dagger and Aika, thanks SO much for your encouraging words. I'm very glad you're liking every chapter and I promise to do my best so the next chapters are equally enjoyable.
Thanks to all of you from the bottom of my heart.
Lots of love,