Balamb Garden - Training Centre
A very long and quiet hallway leads towards the training centre, which is a large, untamed wilderness within the garden where students often come to train. The hallway widens into a large lobby area which branches off to the north and the east and carves a rough trail through an overgrown junglemaze of wild creatures and plants of all sorts and types. At the very end of the maze is a secret entrance leading to a quiet spot where couples like to spend time together.
<Out> [leads to 'Balamb Garden - East Hall']
He'd slipped out from under the surveilance of whomever was supposed to be ensuring that he stayed put just now, and followed the smells of living things to the Training Center. It seemed like they were always hungry since he'd awakened again, and it was all he could do to suppress Eden's ravenous desire to feed enough to refuse the thought of cannibalism. It didn't matter to /her/-- no, of course not-- but to him the very thought was a terrifying reality. It was gross enough, what they'd already eaten.
For example, they'd just found a Grat, and he could almost taste what he was eating; desperately wished he couldn't, but at least it didn't hurt him to eat it. Part of the duality, he supposed, that came with Junctioning something like Eden.
She still didn't use words; there were only images, vast expansive things that filled his mind like a projector's image made larger than the screen it was being displayed upon, but they were gradually becoming more comprehensible. Speech was still difficult as a result, but possible.
And having eaten a Grat whole, they were sated at least enough for Seifer to go to the stream and wash his face, hating his hands and his teeth and the taste that wouldn't leave his mouth, of mildly acidic ichor and grimy tentacle-leaves.
Rinoa, meanwhile, has been back quite peacefully--all things considered--for a few days now, and she's been gradually reacquainting herself with the Garden. After her too-long venture in the Middleverse, even familiar things have begun to seem strange. Unless they're Squall.
And Squall is why, when word first reached her of Seifer's return, she immediately set out to hunt him down. Finding out that he wasn't where he was supposed to be didn't surprise her in the slightest. After all, she still knows him. (He isn't strange to her, either. Except in the way he's always been.)
That's all the warning he gets before Rinoa rushes out of the tangled trees and flings herself at him, latching onto his arm to steady herself. She really ought to know better, but she doesn't.
Startled, he'd half-risen when she caught his arm, and reached out to steady her with the other, hand to her shoulder and expression clouding with worry. Why are you running, are you all right? But he didn't speak right away, steadying her gently instead and not quite stumbling from the force of their minor collision, a bit distant and confused. What was Rinoa doing here? And why wasn't she upset with him-- oh, yes. They'd made some sort of peace before, hadn't they? He'd apologized, anyway. He couldn't recall if she'd accepted it.
"Rinoa?" he answered, after a long moment or two of puzzled silence. "...what--?" What /are/ you doing here? And don't squeeze my arm so tight, I might need it to fight if something's chasing you.
It's funny how time smooths over such things as attempted murder. Time, and the fact that it's Seifer, and Rinoa can't quite cut him out of her life forever, even if she wanted to. And right now? She definitely doesn't.
Nothing follows her out of the trees, but there is concern on her face. She steadies herself and takes a deep breath. For a moment, she calms--but the worry lurking at the back of her eyes makes it hard for her to stay that way.
"It's about Squall," she says, her gaze entreating.
About now, Rinoa might realize that something is not quite normal with Seifer.
That would, of course, be because despite looking mostly himself, the mention of Squall brought no immediate recognition to the surface, his eyes almost glassy with non-response. Gradually, understanding seemed to come, and the puzzled frown on his face smoothed into an expression of comprehension, but there was no hiding that delay. "Squall." It might well have been that he was repeating the name more to solidly recall it than to prompt her to continue to speak; but he followed up with a hesitant, "What about him?"
"He's in trouble. He said--" And she stops there.
As much as Rinoa might like to ignore the fact that something seems to be wrong with Seifer so that she can get on to figuring out what's wrong with Squall, she can't do it. "Seifer...? Is something wrong?" How could he recognize her so easily, but take that long to remember Squall?
Trying to defuse her nervousness, she reaches up to tap him on the head. "Is everything okay up here?"
Blinking placidly, he watched her hand a moment before looking back to her face-- her eyes-- and nodding affirmation. "Just...full." It was frustrating, trying to remember words when Eden had shoved a large amount of the ones he knew best off to the side to make room for herself, but he knew it was necessary for the sake of communication, and sought them out regardless. "Junctioned-- it's." Shaking his head a little, unable to find a word to appropriately encompass the vastness of the thing currently nestled in his mind, he settled for one that suggested the right size, at a loss. "It's big." Very, very big. But he was still home, and sane, which was an improvement on other times when they'd talked.
That said, he lifted a hand-- mutated fingers and all-- to rub at the bridge of his nose, eyes clouding a bit with non-words and Eden's curiosity concerning Rinoa herself. "...Squall," he reminded himself. "He's-- trouble? In trouble?"
"...oh." Now some of the sharp worry tingeing Rinoa's expression has transmuted into a more quiet concern, this time reserved for Seifer--but she lets it go for now. After all, he seems content to do the same.
Instead, she moves on to Squall. "He's...being taken over by Darkness somehow, I think. But he can't talk about it." She glares to the side in annoyance. "He said you'd figured out some of what was going on. All I managed to get out of him is that someone in particular is behind it."
"Mm--" That, he remembered. He even remembered more, he thought, than he had before. "Sorceress." The same one who'd been skulking about Garden before, giving himself and Quistis grief. He couldn't remember much about what had been done to himself, but he gathered that that was the nature of what'd been done in the first place. And Quistis-- well, she was under the Sorceress's control, at least moderately, wasn't she? That was even publically known, or so he'd thought. Maybe Garden had decided to keep it quiet. "Sorceress of Thorns." That's what they've been calling her, anyway. "...s'worse?" Than it was before, I mean.
Dismay slowly clouds Rinoa's face. "Evil Sorceresses just won't leave him alone, I guess," she says, sounding rather sulky about it. *She* should be the only Sorceress with easy access to Squall, thanks.
"I'm not sure," she admits. "I...don't remember much about how it was before, only that it was bad enough for me to go looking for ways to deal with it. Spending time in the Middleverse messed with my head." A beat. "I'm fine, though! It's Squall that's in trouble. And something really needs to be done about it. But if it's just a Sorceress--well, *I'm* a Sorceress, too. I can deal with that." She lifts her chin.
For all that he did understand everything she'd said, mention of her own travels in the Middleverse seemed to strike a nerve for Seifer, and he grew very still, reaching out to take hold of her chin (lifted and easy to get to) with excessive care not to hurt her. Nothing was said, but he looked in her eyes as though checking, to make sure she wasn't lying to him about being fine, some overwhelming concern bleeding past the disconnected distance that had been hindering him lately. "Be careful?" He asked, not denying her abilities or strengths or determination. He, at least, knew better. Squall would likely have been avidly against her doing anything of the sort, lest it put her in danger.
They knew each other far too well. "If you need-- help? Ask me?"
Maybe she's not entirely normal. She *is*...glowing. But she meets his eyes as he catches her chin in his hand, and she says firmly, "I'm fine. I was careful." For once. And maybe she has a misgiving or two about the things that have happened to her in her search to hone her powers--but she keeps them neatly locked away. Before she can freak out about her own issues, she has to deal with Squall's.
She falls quiet for a moment at Seifer's last question. It's true, she *was* thinking of trying to deal with this Sorceress of Thorns on her own. Finally, she says, "Yeah. I'm thinking that I--that *we*...if that's okay...should try to find this Sorceress." She hesitates and looks away for a moment.
As she looked away, he let go her chin, brow furrowing slightly as he considered the possibilities. If they did try, then he could certainly ensure that Rinoa had some extra protection-- and if he went, he would likely take others with him. There was no reason that they shouldn't have a decent amount of help, if they chose to head out and take on the Sorceress full on. "Okay," he agreed, after he'd considered who might be willing to join them, and how much help they might even be able to expect from SeeD as well. "If it's to help-- Squall's important," he would have killed for the ability to just draw what he meant, as the images would have been vastly easier to convey than the spoken word in his current state. Hopefully it wasn't going to be a permanent handicap. "SeeD should-- /can/ help." A very slight smile caught him, though, and he amended, "You'll lead, though." Because he suspected Rinoa wouldn't appreciate being told what to do when it was /her/ Knight (more or less) that was in danger.
"He'd better be," Rinoa declares, fire coming back into her eyes as she lifts her gaze. "And of course I'll lead. Did you think I'd do anything else?" Probably not. But she has to make sure!
After a moment, though, she lowers her gaze again, the worry returning to her face. "I want to try to resolve it peacefully," she says. "But there's always the chance that we won't be able to." That's her brief nod to reality. She doesn't want to spend *too* long dwelling on it, though. "So we should make sure we've got plenty of firepower with us."
Here, he grinned, tapping his forehead. "It's a start." The thing in here, anyway. "SeeD's not...small." They're nobody to trifle with, he wanted to say-- or something along those lines, anyway. If Ultimecia, Galbadia's combined armies, and the Lunar Cry hadn't been enough to eradicate SeeD, he suspected there was very little chance that there was anything that could. It hadn't been sheer luck that things turned out as well as they did.
Still, her gusto was reassuring-- if Rinoa wasn't going to give up, then things were basically right with the world.
Rinoa looks up and frowns slightly as Seifer struggles with his words. Hopefully he'll get over this soon, but it's still a little unnerving. But she pushes the thought aside for now and nods fervently. "SeeD is made for taking down Sorceresses!" She pauses, then adds brightly, "Not that we need to take her down. Just get her to stop messing with Squall."
She turns, preparing to go. "I'm going to see if I can find anything out about this 'Sorceress of Thorns.' Maybe she's got a weakness; maybe there's something we can offer her. Will you go see who you can find to help?"
Nodding, he glanced back in the direction of the Grat he'd...um....Devoured earlier, confirming that Rinoa couldn't see any of the gore from here. He somehow doubted she'd have appreciated it. "Sure." Just give him time to get them all gathered together, regardless of his inability to speak normally just now.
You'd be surprised. Rinoa has been growing more accustomed to blood and guts. It's not what she'd have chosen, all things considered, but if into battlefields is where her life takes her--well, she'll deal with it.
"Great." She starts away, but then she pauses, turns, and lifts a hand to wave at Seifer. "Take care of yourself." A beat. "Um. Don't get your head eaten by whatever's inside." And she dashes back into the trees, back towards the entrance of the training center.
Perhaps if he can find the person he was supposed to be keeping near (so they wouldn't, ah, think he'd gone amok throughout the Garden and all) he could get to work gathering people. "Ah--" As Rinoa dashed off, he waved back, sighing a little. "...you, too." Might be helpful, though, to work first on regaining his ability to speak normally. Bit by bit, if that was what it took.
Eden grumbled quietly and he realized he'd caught scent of another monster not far from here.
...all right, he would help after they'd eaten another monster and silenced the massive Guardian's complaints.