Categories > Games > Final Fantasy 8 > Not Selphie

Predator and Prey

by Queen000 0 Reviews

Irvine finally gets the whole story... but now he's got bigger problems to deal with, like surviving.

Category: Final Fantasy 8 - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama,Fantasy,Sci-fi - Characters: Irvine,Quistis,Selphie,Squall - Warnings: [!!] [V] - Published: 2008/09/25 - Updated: 2008/09/26 - 7789 words

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Sneaking out of the Garden was no easy feat, especially because of the quarantine, but amazingly enough his good luck had yet to fail him and he was currently heading west of the Garden, hoping he was right about everything he’d thought of.

He recalled the argument he’d had with Rinoa about what they were going to do; he needed her to contact Edea (it was obvious that Zell had been about to make the call when he’d been attacked), and tell her about the situation in case Edea could still help them out while he followed his lead. He’d finally managed to convince her with simple logic; she was a Sorceress and if whatever this was took her out, then they were all screwed. If he figured this all out and he failed to stop it, Rinoa could at least do something.

First, he had to figure out if he was right about where the others were; not much time had passed since Dr. Kadowaki’s attack, and since this thing was clearly after their team, Irvine doubted the perpetrators would’ve gone too far. Even if they had wanted to, there wasn’t many places they could hide out aside from the town and Irvine’s gut was telling him they wouldn’t head in that direction. But there was one place they could have gone.

Irvine recalled Zell and Quistis telling him about the Fire Cavern west of the Garden; how Ifrit had lived there for the longest time until Squall and Quistis had managed to beat him up before the field exam. It was hot as hell and fairly big, but from what Zell had told him, the path was pretty straight forward and it was difficult to get lost. He hoped the brawler was right about it, but he figured the real test would be his finding the way himself.

After all, it was the perfect hiding spot.

It had taken him just over an hour to get to the actual cavern. The entrance was huge, the top of the opening towering even higher than his own 6 feet, but he didn’t let the sight deter him any. Levelling the Exeter, he stepped inside and found the path easily enough soon after that. He continued down the path, keeping an eye out for monster that he knew would be swarming, but after a few minutes he realized that there was something not quite right about this place. For one thing, he was surrounded by lava, but he wasn’t the least bit hot; not by a long shot. It was even stranger that he hadn’t been attacked yet; Zell had told him that about sixty seconds into the cavern, he had been ambushed by Buels and Bombs.

And yet, the monsters had all decided to leave Irvine alone.

Somehow, Irvine guessed that his gut feeling had been accurate, and he continued deeper into the cavern. It was another thirty minutes before he finally reached what Zell had told him was the center of the cavern; it was a very narrow looking bridge and a very large looking pit formed of lava in the very center. It looked really hot, but as Irvine placed his gloved hand atop the sides, it was cold to the touch. The sharpshooter frowned thoughtfully before looking over the edge and noticed a ladder leading down. Shrugging to himself, Irvine lifted one leg over the side before moving his other leg and soon enough he was headed down the object, not knowing where it was going to take him.

Finally after a few minutes of descending, he saw the bottom and, twisting himself around, he allowed himself to drop the rest of the way, landing in a crouch with his weapon raised. All he saw of the place he had dropped into was a rather large room, mostly dark of course, with solid walls of bedrock surrounding him. Irvine suddenly felt fairly claustrophobic, but pushed the feeling away preparing to look for the others.

But just as he started his search, he caught something in the center of the room; it was a figure, sitting crossed-legged on the smooth floor beneath them, its head resting on both palms of the person’s hands. Their elbows were propped up atop their knees, almost as if they had been patiently waiting for someone. The figure was small, eerily small, and as Irvine took a couple more steps into the room, he recognized the figure right away.

Her head perked up upon seeing him and she instantly sprung to her feet with an energy she shouldn’t have had. She grinned at him, flashing white teeth before she finally spoke, breaking the silence.

“Irvy!” Selphie Tilmitt responded, jumping up energetically before her bare feet touched the ground. “It’s so good to see you! I haven’t seen you in a while, haven’t I? You’ve gotta sit down; there’s so much catching up to do!”

However, just as suddenly, her mannerism changed; gone was the cheerful yet innocent expression on her face and her eyes shifted as well her disposition. She placed her hands on her hips and leaned forward mockingly, still wearing the exact same yellow crop top and blue short-shorts she’d been wearing for the last few days. “I’m sorry,” even her tone changed. “Is that what you were expecting me to say?”

“Not really,” Irvine said, and he could tell he’d caught her off guard.

“Not really…” she echoed thoughtfully. “Do tell.”

“I’ve figured it out.” Irvine stated simply. Selphie cocked her head to the side and Irvine elaborated. “And I wouldn’t have done it had Squall not taken the time to write out that message. Didn’t quite understand what he meant at first, but looking at the tapes, I figured it out. He was giving us the answer, and all we had to do was take it at face value.”

“How d’ya know it wasn’t a puzzle?” she asked.

“Squall doesn’t beat around the bush; if he’s got something to say then he says it.” Irvine said. “So when he leaves a note behind sayin’ ‘Not Selphie’, he means that you’re not Selphie. At first we thought along those lines and we ordered a DNA test, but obviously it is Selphie’s body. But Squall saw something when he cast scan and looked around the place; when he looked at you, he saw your true form. So he wasn’t talkin’ physical like; he was talkin’ mentally. Whoever you are, you’re not Selphie Tilmitt.”

“Ding, ding!” Selphie shouted out cheerfully. “We have a winner! Took you a while to figure it out though. I guess my distraction really worked.”

Irvine faltered slightly. “Distraction?”

“Yeah.” Selphie nodded her head enthusiastically. “By now you probably figured out that I’m the one responsible for attacking Selphie and, um… what’s his name? Right. That Squall guy too. But I figured that I’d drawn too much attention to myself; especially when he practically ran outta the room, so after I shut him up, I decided to up the stakes of the game a little.”

“Stakes?” Irvine echoed. “Game?”

“Yep! You see, I’m not Selphie, just like the note says, but he’s no longer Squall. And she’s no longer Quistis and he’s no longer Zell either. I just had a friend of mine do the rest of the dirty work to keep you guys off my back. If only it’d worked for a little while longer, but I figured you two were getting wise to me, so we just picked up and left. I hope he didn’t hurt that doctor too much; she’s pretty nice. For a human anyway.”

Irvine’s eyebrows shot up underneath his hat. That comment caught him completely off guard; he’d expected Sorceresses or some other kind of person behind this. He guessed he was wrong and he was starting to think that he’d bitten off more than he could chew.

Selphie laughed; he had no idea why she was laughing, but the sound was unnatural coming from the petite girl. Cold, dark and shallow. “Confused you didn’t I? No, I’m not human, and neither are the others. We come from a different world than this one. In fact, we saw you travelling between time and space a little while ago.”

Irvine couldn’t figure out what she was talking about, and she seemed to be able to pick up on that, because she elaborated. “What you guys called ‘Time Compression’?”

So Zell was right, he thought to himself. It did involve the team, and that was the connection, only Ultimecia had nothing to do with it.

“Yeah, that two-bit Sorceress wouldn’t know a good plan if it bit her on the—” Selphie started, but Irvine interrupted her.

“You can read minds?”

“I believe the term is Telepathy, but yeah, that’s pretty accurate. I’m not the only one though; the others can too.”

Terrific… “So why’d you come here?” Irvine asked, in a desperate need of a change of topic. This was getting way too weird for his tastes.

“Honestly?” Selphie asked and Irvine nodded in response. “Because I was bored.”

“You were bored?”

Selphie nodded. “There’s not much to do in my world; at least nothing fun anyway. We just get up, gamble, watch other worlds and worship our God, the Pale Night – she’s far more powerful than any of us could hope to dream of, by the way, but I digress. I was bored; wanted a change of scenery and when I saw you guys passing through, I figured I’d have a pretty decent shot of that. I rounded up a small group of us, and we came up with a plan. Just when this Time Compression thing ended, I made my way to your world through the portal that was opened. It was as simple as that.

“Unfortunately, because we come from different worlds, we can’t necessarily exist here. I started dissolving almost instantly, so I just jumped into the skin of some random guy that found me.”

A girl demon possessing a guy? Irvine thought to himself as he tried to get a mental image. Selphie, however, laughed again.

“No silly; you’ve got it all wrong. Unlike the human species, we demons don’t have distinguishing genders; just distinguishing features. I’m comfortable in any body, really, except this girl’s chest is a pain in the back – didn’t think girls’d get bumps on their chests this big, if you know what I’m sayin’.”

Irvine’s mind immediately shot off to the gutter, but he reeled it back as quickly as possible. The amused expression on Selphie’s face suggested that the demon caught it though. “Anyways, I wandered around, hoping to find some kinda clue about you all, but all I managed to figure out is that six people beat up a Sorceress and are living in a garden. Then I realized they were talking about a building, not a patch of flowers – apparently there’s a difference. But I had no way of getting there, so when I learned that the people who lived there were mercenaries, I got an idea and well, it got a little messy when I started killing people for no real reason other than to draw attention to myself. I got the attention of the authorities, but not of the people I wanted of course, so I managed to not get caught until finally SeeD was brought in. I thought it’d be too easy to get one of the people I needed to come, but behold my surprise when I saw little Selphie Tilmitt and her team of SeeDs comin’ to get me.

“Of course I wasn’t gonna make it easy for her; I did what any sensible murderer would do. I hightailed it outta there as fast as I could. I managed to lure her into an abandoned building and just when she thought she had me, I started fighting back. It took a while, but she beat me; I have to say I actually had to try to take her down, but she beat me. She killed the body I was possessing so obviously I had to jump before the death could affect me too, and wouldn’t ya know it?” Selphie grinned wider. “Selphie’s was the only body to choose from. She was caught off guard and so it made possessing her a lot easier. Just when I was about to get away though, her SeeD comrades caught up and I played possum. They reported to their Garden and brought me back with them.

“I couldn’t have dreamed it up; you humans sure made it easy for me. But as I lay in the infirmary, trying to figure out who I should go after next – after all, my buddies were all waiting for me to harvest some bodies for them, the answer practically walked in the door.”

Irvine didn’t need to ask her who she was talking about; there was only one person who it could’ve been, given the order. “I was just waiting for my chance to attack, but somehow he was able to see what my real form was. He flipped out; and while I admit his expression was priceless, it was pretty inconvenient, seeing as how he ran outta there like there was a fire. So I conjured up a shadow, put the soul of one of my buddies in and had the cameras all fogged up so that no one’d see the attack. Next thing I know, I have an instant roommate, and I wasn’t all by myself anymore.”

And she’d be able to talk to him as often as she wanted because she’s telepathic. Irvine guessed. Selphie read his thoughts again and nodded in response.

“I thought he’d had long enough to do something; my friend said he thought he’d seen him slip something inside his jacket, but he obviously hadn’t had the time to check; especially since the doctor took the jacket away and the girl in blue left with it later on. So I figured if he’d left something to spoil our fun, I’d just have to discredit him.”

“And that’s why Squall’s DNA was found under Quistis’ finger tips.” Irvine said. “Your friend used his body to attack her.”

Selphie nodded. “And the doctor was none the wiser since I conjured up a shadow to take his form while he was gone. When he came back with scratches, he was kinda upset, but I told him not to worry; it’d be a form of clue; you humans sure take pride in figuring stuff like this out. So after that, we decided to step up the pace – gosh my friends are rather impatient – and we took down the blonde guy and two days later we booked it. And here we stand today.”

“No kiddin’,” Irvine commented. “So there’s six of ya out there; personally I’m wondrin’ what their take in waiting so long is. How did they take it when you announced you were goin’ first?”

Selphie folded her arms across her chest. “I have the powers to make it possible; if anyone else’d gone before me, there’s no telling what would’a happened to these bodies. And FYI; there are only five of us, not six.”

Irvine frowned. There were six people to choose from; it didn’t make any sense to just have five possessors there. That bad feeling of foreboding he always got during missions gone wrong came up and he was almost afraid to ask his question. “So who’s getting left outta the loop?”

“I’d think it was obvious.” Selphie responded. “As powerful as she may be, none of us are really all that interested in possessing the Sorceress. It’d be too easy; just blow up stuff as a solution.”

Irvine’s stomach sunk; he’d practically fallen into a trap; there was only one demon left and after dismissing Rinoa, he was the only other person who had traveled through time. “Funny, the girl whose body that belongs to,” he pointed towards Selphie. “would hafta disagree with ya.”

Selphie shrugged. “Her prerogative I guess. I have to admit though; I am a touch disappointed with my ‘Merry Band’. You see, ever since they arrived, the ingrates’ve done nothing but complain about useless facts about their new bodies. My feelings get hurt just thinking about it.” She started moving along the room, the slap of bare feet hitting what sounded like concrete echoed softly off the walls as she spoke. “I mean, I’m not too thrilled about this body either, but I’m making due. It does have its advantages after all.”

Just out of instinct to stall and not out of any genuine curiosity, Irvine said the first thing that came to mind. “Which body were you lookin’ for then?”

Selphie grinned at him. “Yours, actually. I’m a conjuror and as much as I can tell you’re not one of the types to use those… what are they called? Right. Guardian Forces, you’re exactly my body type. And you fight from afar; something I prefer actually; close range gets too messy; I don’t understand how anyone can get that up close and personal.”

Irvine suddenly realized something that he hadn’t thought much of originally; they had him in their sights. They coulda taken the shot a while ago, but instead here was this demon using Selphie’s body as clothing, talkin’ his ear off. He doubted it was anything he had personally done as a stalling measure; she just seemed like she wanted to talk. There really wasn’t anything stopping them from taking possession of his body like they’d done to the others, but he was still in control. “So…” he said as another change of topic. “Why ‘m I still in control? Woulda thought your friend’d be almost jumping inta my skin.”

“And they would if I wasn’t stopping him.” Selphie grinned. “I was actually beginning to wonder when you were gonna ask me that.”

“And you’re stopping him because…?” he urged. Selphie grinned wider.

“Because you earned the answers.” She said. “You’ve been working on this pretty much since the beginning, and since I couldn’t actually get control of you when I wanted to, I figured we could play a little game. I give you clues and you try to solve the mystery.”

“And now the game’s over?” Irvine asked. Selphie shook her head.

“Nope; it’s just beginning actually.”

When he gave her a confused look, Selphie elaborated. “You did a really good job in getting the information you needed; even pissing off a couple of people. You really should’ve seen the look on that dark-haired woman’s face when she learned what you’d been doing. I almost broke outta character; I wanted to laugh so hard. And since you did such a good job of entertaining me and my friends, I figured I’d give you a little reward.”

“Nothin’ as high as amnesty, huh?” Irvine asked. He had to try.

“Nah, that’d be too easy. Instead, we’re gonna play another game. Nothing too complicated; actually you might have heard it. The younger humans play it all the time from what I’ve been hearing. It’s called Hide and Seek.”

Irvine was fairly familiar with the game; he remembered playing it when he was at the orphanage. He hadn’t been particularly good at it though. “That’s the reward?”

“It’s a chance to escape.” Selphie explained. “The rules are simple; you have to find all four of us at least once and keep yourself from getting caught during a certain amount of time. We’ll say two hours, just to make things interesting. If you can manage that, you get to walk away without the added demon in your skin. Of course my friend won’t be happy about it, but he actually wanted the Squall guy’s body to begin with, so he won’t be all that disappointed. Or maybe he will…” she shrugged. “Whatever. Doesn’t really matter. You’ve earned it.”

“And if I lose?” Irvine asked, though it didn’t really need to be spoken.

“If you lose, then you don’t struggle or resist; you just take your lumps like a man.” Selphie explained. “Now, there are two conditions of loss. Number 1, obviously if any one of us catches you before the time limit passes. Or number 2, if you manage to stay hidden during that time, but you haven’t found any of us at all. Even if you found three but not four of us and you haven’t been caught, you still lose.”

Irvine got a sudden hint of inspiration and, even though he didn’t think it’d work, he wanted to try. “Two conditions of loss with only one condition of win, and with those high stakes. Sorry, but my own freedom just won’t cut it.”

Selphie frowned. “Self preservation is the highest reward out there. I don’t see how this isn’t fair.”

“Well, for starters, there’s four on one. Then I gotta find all four of you and keep from getting caught for two hours. I don’t know about you but somethin’ don’t seem right about it. Too one sided if you catch my drift.”

“So… what would you want to add to even things out?” Selphie asked curiously. Irvine was surprised she hadn’t thought to read his mind.

“If I win this game of yours, the reward has to fit the challenge rating.” Irvine explained. “So if I win, you let me and the others free. They get control of their bodies back, and you never bother us again. I’d say in the light of things that’d be real fair.”

“Those are pretty high stakes…” Selphie said.

“True,” Irvine conceded. “But I’ve got a lot to lose if you guys win. Shouldn’t you guys have a lot to lose should I win?”

“What makes you think that, for this sudden addition, I won’t just have you get controlled by my friend to save myself the trouble?”

This time, Irvine grinned. “Well that wouldn’t be very fun now would it?”

Selphie appeared to mull it over and Irvine kept his fingers crossed, hoping that she’d buy into it. Finally, she nodded. “You drive a hard bargin, Irvine Kinneas; that’s what I like about you. Okay, I’ll agree to your terms. My friends won’t be too happy about it, but all they’ve been doing is complaining, so I don’t really care. I’ll give you a five minute head start before the rest of us head on in. Use it wisely.”

“Wait,” Irvine said. “How do I know how long I’ve got? You could just keep the game goin’ till you win.”

“True,” Selphie nodded thoughtfully before grinning. “Look at your watch.”

Irvine stared at her critically. The sharpshooter had never worn a watch in his life; but he checked his wrist anyway. Surprisingly enough, he saw that he was wearing a SeeD issued digital watch, but instead of reading the current time, the numbers were blinking 2:00. He raised an eyebrow before turning to regard the demon.

“That way, we can’t cheat.” She said sweetly. She didn’t seem to want to explain where the watch had come from. “You better hurry; we don’t have all day.”

Just as suddenly, the numbers stopped flashing and started counting down from two hours. Irvine quickly manoeuvred around Selphie and continued ahead wondering exactly what it was he got himself into this time.

When he was far enough away, he mentally cursed himself. He had no where to hide and no idea where the others were staked out. He really should’ve thought things through, but he’d been in the spirit of things; knowin’ that there was a way out, he’d opted to take it and not question it. A moment later, however, he walked right into something solid and recoiled, landing on his rear end and rubbing at his face to alleviate the pain. When he looked up, though, he was surprised to see a large stone wall towering before him. His surroundings also appeared lighter than he originally remembered, and he noticed he was already somewhat in a corridor. Judging by how tall the walls were and the fact that they were made of solid stone, he guessed he was in some kind of labyrinth.

Wonderful. I’m trapped in one of Zell’s online games and fighting for control of my body. Just what I wanted to do on a Tuesday night.

Paying attention to his surroundings this time, he went along a pathway, trying to remember the path he was taking. However it was very difficult; the walls all looked the same and the twists and turns he took made him feel slightly disoriented. He guessed that he was lost already, but knew he had to spot the others at least once before attempting to hide anywhere.

The watch on his wrist – because it obviously wasn’t his – beeped loudly; upon checking it he realized his five minute head start was up and that he’d have to get his head on straight if he wanted to come out smelling the best. He picked up the pace; not caring that the bottom of his boots clicked against the hard floor beneath him. The Exeter drawn and held at the ready, Irvine pressed his back against the wall counting backwards from three before finally jumping out, gun raised and scanned the area ahead, finding nothing out of the ordinary. Once he was convinced and absolutely positive that he was alone, he continued on.

It must have been ten or fifteen minutes later when he finally did find something; he had been about to jump out and search the area when a blast of magic almost hit him, forcing him to recoil and brace himself against the wall protecting him. Rubble and pebbles cascaded the ground from where the blast had hit the wall across from him, and swallowing the lump that had formed in his throat, the sharpshooter was increasingly glad that he had moved when he had.

“I know you’re nearby,” a plainly familiar voice sounded from just ahead. “Come on out already.”

The voice was feminine and while it was familiar, Irvine had to remind himself that it wasn’t who he thought it was. Taking in a deep breath and slowly letting it out, he went to step out of the shadows, but was forced to back away as another blast hit the wall across from him. Having kept his eyes open this time, he recognized it as a blast of fire.

“How the hell d’ya reckon I do that when ya keep blasting me with magic?” Irvine shouted out, making sure the Exeter was ready. He didn’t exactly revel in fighting his friends, but if he had to, he didn’t wanna be caught unawares.

A set of dark laughter followed his question before he received a response. “Alright. But make it quick. I get bored easily.”

As he stepped out of his hiding spot, he knew instantly he’d been right; standing before him was a young woman – older than him but not by much. Her long blonde hair had been pulled out of the customary bun it was normally settled in and instead it had been left down, some of the strands falling into her face. She still wore the same outfit she’d been found in; white shirt with black vest overtop it and a dark red coloured skirt and was missing her silver rimmed glasses. She, like Selphie, was barefoot, but that was to be expected, since Dr. Kadowaki had taken off her boots.

Irvine was grateful that Quistis hadn’t been found with her whip; who knew what the demon possessing her would do with it. Instead, however, magic seemed to charge into the blue mage’s hands, this time crackling with electricity. Irvine didn’t have to think about it to know that she was powering up thunder spells.

“So I guess you heard the whole story.” Quistis said, but there was something different about her face; more appropriately it was her eyes that were different. Irvine hadn’t noticed this before with Selphie (and he made a mental note to do just that), but they were a sort of hazel rather than the blue they originally were. “It was inevitable I suppose.”

“I know you’re somewhere in there, Quisty,” Irvine started, but Quistis laughed.

“Oh please. You honestly think she can hear you? None of them can. They can’t see nor feel what is around them or even what is happening to them, so I suggest you save your breath and concentrate on saving your own skin.”

“You know what that one demon’s planning, doncha?” Irvine asked.

“Of course; we’re telepathic. I heard the entire conversation. I must say I’m not terribly impressed.” Raising her arms, she grinned darkly. “But I guess that just means I have to step up my game in order to keep this body.”

That said, she thrust both hands forward, the thunder spell lancing out towards Irvine, who managed to dodge the attack and shuffle to the side. The blast however, began to follow his movements and just as it was about to sheer the top of his hat, he managed to find cover behind another wall of rock.

Irvine frowned thoughtfully though; when someone cast thunder spells, they usually channelled from above and shot down like a streak of lightning; it made for a pretty effective sneak attack. This spell originated from Quistis’ hands, which only happened when she was using one of her blue mage skills…

Irvine felt the colour drain from his face. Shit; this demon knows how to use the blue magic.

“Damn right!” a voice from behind sounded before he instinctively dodged, and two narrow blasts of green energy impaled the stone where he’d been moments ago; blasting two holes into it and the wall behind it.

Irvine gulped audibly. That was Laser Eye.

The sharpshooter was forced to move again; Quistis just wasn’t willing to stop blasting him with spell after ability; one minute the wall in front of him was frozen and the next, he narrowly avoided being hit by an acid attack. That would then be followed by another fire blast and then soon after a barrage of bullets that just shot out from her outstretched hands. Even as he fired off rounds in her direction (not to kill her; simply to incapacitate her), Irvine sincerely hoped she didn’t find Degenerator or Shockwave Pulsar; he’d seen her use the former on monsters that had gotten in their way during the war, and the latter was just plain painful.

One of the bullets from the latest attack hit him in the arm and the sharpshooter was forced to roll in order to avoid another Blizzara blast; the large ice elemental attack shooting up from the ground beneath him in an attempt to impale him. It was an eerie reminder of the Sorceress’ Parade in Deling City when Edea had been possessed; it looked painful when Squall’d been hit with the element, but this ice blast was maybe ten times bigger. Irvine did not want to be on the receiving end of it.

Just as Irvine was loading another couple rounds into the Exeter, he was blasted off his feet by another Micro Missile attack, forcing him to hit the wall behind him and lose his grip on the long barrelled weapon. It spun away from him on the floor, out of his reach. Quistis took a deep breath and just as Irvine was pulling himself back up onto his feet, she opened her mouth, a spray of water catching him off guard and knocking him back into the wall. He was completely covered in water, and was forced to spit some out of his own mouth, coughing as some went down his throat into his breathing passage. He managed to pull himself together just in time to see Quistis approaching him, casting another spell.

Just as Irvine thought he was done for, he felt something sharp tug at his shoulder blades and hoist him up off the ground, where he hovered in mid air at a loss of what had just happened. He also felt something soothing roll across the gun shot graze on his arm, and when he looked he realized it was slowly repairing itself. Quistis herself looked puzzled; it looked like she’d been experimenting again and while, for the most part, it had benefited her, he’d gotten off lucky this time. He remember this ability well; it was one of Quistis’ (the real Quistis anyway) favourites; Mighty Guard.

“You got lucky that time,” she said calmly as she raised both hands again. “But I assure you that this next spell isn’t going to tickle.”

She suddenly cut herself off and screamed in pain; both of her hands had started to spark with electric energy once more, but instead of shooting out to hit Irvine like he’d expected, it was electrocuting Quistis. Irvine couldn’t figure out why until he took a look at the floor; her feet – her bare feet – were wet from the Aqua Breath she’d launched at him previously. He guessed she hadn’t thought about the after affects when she’d readied it.

Finally the spell dissipated and Quistis fell back onto the ground and didn’t stir. Irvine managed to manoeuvre his way towards her (he never was very good when it came to float spells). A moment after his slow attempts at swimming through the air, he finally fell onto the ground, feeling a slight static pinch from the remains of the electrocute ability, and checked the Instructor over. Her hands were charred from the electrocution, but fortunately she was still alive, her chest rising and falling. It helped that she had a pulse.

He checked the watch and frowned; he really didn’t have much time to squander, and he figured that once this was over, he’d come back to find her; the spell had dissipated and her life wasn’t in any immediate danger. Still, he knew he’d have a lot of explaining to do once she came around.

If she was back to normal, that is.

Heading back to where he’d seen Exeter land, he scooped up the weapon and checked to make sure the water hadn’t damaged it. He was especially lucky, and the rounds were still in working order. Thankful he’d had the weapon outfitted with a water proof interior. Once he was positive that the gun still worked, he set off, hoping the next encounter wouldn’t be nearly as painful as this.

Even as he left Quistis behind, he checked his arm, finding that the Regen that had been cast along with the Float spell had fully healed the bullet wound. He couldn’t even feel it anymore and wouldn’t have known it had been there at all if he couldn’t remember the brief lance of pain or seen the rip in the sleeve of his trench coat.

A few more minutes of walking passed before he heard a distant thunking sound; at least he thought it was distant. A moment later, he heard it again, but it sounded like it was getting somewhat closer. It sounded a third time, and Irvine became sure of it; whatever was making that sound was definitely closing in on him. He pinpointed where the sound was coming from and crouched at the far wall opposite it, taking aim and holding his breath as he waited for his target to come out from behind the walls. It almost sounded like they were pounding the walls with something hard, but nobody was junctioned, so that wasn’t even possible. He’d seen how thick those walls were; it’d take nothing short of a bomb to break them apart.

Then again, Irvine thought to himself. One of those demons nearly took out a part of the wall with Quistis’ magic. I guess anything’s possible down here.

Irvine wondered how Rinoa was doing; he hoped she’d somehow managed to get a hold of Edea, but there was no guarantee that they’d arrive in time. He’d just have to make due.

Suddenly, it sounded like an explosion behind him and he was forced to take cover on the opposite side of the wall, waiting as the dust cleared from the wall’s collapse. Irvine was confident that he didn’t want to be on the wrong end of whatever the cause of it was.

When the smoke finally began to fade, Irvine levelled his weapon as he made out a silhouette in the smoke. The figure was pretty tall, but not as tall as Irvine of course, and he couldn’t tell if they had any kind of weapon that’d cause that much damage, but when the smoke finally cleared Irvine recognized the figure instantly. The only difference this time was the eye colour; instead of a metallic blue, they were more of a concrete gray. They were shifty; definitely like they were twitching at every little movement, and Irvine prayed that he wouldn’t find him.

After all, there was nothing worse than a paranoid Squall; the fact that he was almost twitching was definitely not a good sign.

Even as Squall began to search through the wreckage, Irvine decided that it was time to pack up and leave. Ducking behind a nearby slab of stone, he couldn’t help but notice that Squall wasn’t holding onto any weapons; that had to mean he’d taken down the walls with either his fists or his feet, but neither appendage appeared to have sustained any injuries from it. If he hadn’t known that the doctor had removed his junctions when he’d been admitted to the infirmary all those days ago, he’d have thought he’d still had them.

Squall continued his search, his bare feet lightly tapping the floor beneath him and Irvine suddenly decided he really didn’t want to stick around. When Squall’s back was turned, the sharpshooter slunk further down the hallway, hoping to avoid him at all costs. He’d never been very fond of close ranged fighting in the past, but knowing what Squall was currently capable of scared the living shit out of him.

However, just as he got out into the middle of the corridor where he thought it was safe, he heard another explosion down the hall behind him. Turning to look behind him, he saw more dust building up at the end of the hallway. He tried to duck into another corridor, but discovered to his dismay that he had to move down the hall even further. There was no way he’d be able to avoid getting caught now; and at any right his feet refused to move. His grip on the Exeter’s handle tightened so that his knuckles to the tips of his fingers turned white. The smoke cleared away, and Squall stood at the opposite end, clenching and unclenching his fists; he’d spotted him.

“Found you,” Squall said triumphantly in a tone that wasn’t like Squall at all. It almost sounded like he’d had a Berserk spell cast on him; like the time they’d travelled to the Tomb of the Unknown King and encountered a Wendigo; kind of a monkey shaped creature that was missing a head. They’d cast the spell on Squall just because they could and it hadn’t been pretty; like then, Squall seemed to want to rend things to shreds with his bare hands.

Irvine barely had time to prepare; Squall started charging right for him. Even with the images of the torn apart Wendigo surfacing to his mind, he levelled the Exeter, trying hard to stop his hands from shaking and let loose two rounds. Neither one was the dark ammo he’d put in earlier; which told him he’d still had some normal ammo left in the barrel. Both of the bullets hit their target dead on, but Squall wasn’t stopping, so Irvine fired another three shots. The SeeD Commander barely flinched. Just as he’d prepared to fire off a couple more rounds, he was forced to duck as Squall swung with his right fist, hitting the wall where the sharpshooter’s head had been moments ago. The wall collapsed, even as Irvine rolled out of the way and backed into the room he’d first seen Squall; the latter was following closely after him.

Irvine took aim again, hitting the SeeD in the shoulder, but that didn’t even faze him as he threw another punch. His fist landed on the ground, cracking the cement floor beneath them. Nevertheless, Irvine was up again, bolting to the opposite end of the room and firing twice, both shots having no effect at all. Squall charged again, hitting the wall and knocking it down as Irvine continued to take evasive manoeuvres.

Squall didn’t seem too thrilled about Irvine’s ducking and dodging tactic; in fact, he looked brilliantly pissed off about it. “Stand still so I can squash you!”

“No way in hell, man!” Irvine shot back out of reflex and fired off another round. It practically bounced off Squall’s chest, who retaliated by trying to bowl him over. Fortunately Irvine dodge, landing roughly onto his side and opening fire again. Not stopping to see whether it had done anything (he gathered they were doing shit all), Irvine took off running down the corridor, looking back occasionally and shooting just out of the sheer instinct to protect himself. Still, they didn’t seem to be doing anything at all.

Irvine guessed that the demon possessing Squall was nothing short of a berserker; anyone with half a brain woulda utilized the magic the Commander had collected over the course of the last ten months. It was kinda sad; Squall was one of the best multi ranged fighters he knew. Still, he was counting his blessing that he hadn’t decided to start blasting him with Ultima.

In Irvine’s experience (and from what Selphie had told him during the Sorceress War), the best way to combat brute strength was through magic, but since Irvine never actually dabbled in the art himself, he was pretty much stuck unless Rinoa suddenly emerged and decided to haul his ass outta the fire. Still, there was no guarantee that she’d be willing to cast anything against her boyfriend; possessed or not.

Still, there was a chance that the next shot was the dark ammo; if he could somehow blind him, Squall wouldn’t know up from down let alone be able to see Irvine coming. And because of the state he was in, Squall wouldn’t exactly be in any condition to find a way around it. It was his only chance.

So he ran into the next room and stayed his ground, believing he’d just gone Buel Shit Crazy as he waited for the SeeD to catch up. He waited for Squall to emerge in the doorway, but wasn’t against keeping his eyes open in case Squall decided a wall was in his way again.

And it was a good thing too; to his immediate left, a wall crumbled by the insane super-human strength the demon was granting the Commander, and Squall stood, catching his breath, but grinning almost feral-like; it was definitely a sight Irvine never wanted to see again. Cracking his neck as if it was the only real thing that was bothering him, Squall started stalking right towards him. When he was a few feet away, Irvine took aim, sent a prayer to Hyne and pulled the trigger.

The bullet blasted out, colouring the air behind it with a darkish hue, and Irvine almost cried in relief; he’d really gotten lucky that time. The bullet exploded right in Squall’s face, forcing the teenager to stagger backwards slightly, but after a moment his now black covered eyes searched frantically around the room; like he couldn’t make out his surroundings anymore.

His plan had worked; now he had to get passed him, and there was no telling how long the blind affect was going to last.

Squall roared in outrage and started to charge towards Irvine, who dodged to the left. Squall must’ve assumed he’d moved to the right, because the wall that was in that direction was the target of a well placed punch. Trying not to think about what would’ve happened had it been him instead as the wall crumbled to the ground, Irvine stood back up and whistled shrilly. It worked; Squall’s attention was grabbed and the SeeD whirled around, charging towards him.

Muttering an apology, Irvine side stepped and raised his right arm to the side, close-lining Squall in the neck and sending him sprawling to the ground beneath him. Just as he was beginning to recover, however, Irvine brought the bunt of the Exeter down on Squall’s head and the SeeD stopped moving, having lost consciousness from the blow.

Quickly checking vital signs, Irvine sighed in relief when it was apparent he hadn’t killed him.

Two down; two to go, Irvine thought grimly to himself as he left his comrade behind. There was still Zell and Selphie to encounter and who knew what kinda tricks they had up their sleeves.

He’d gotten a little ways away when he finally checked the watch on his wrist; he had just under an hour to finish this twisted game.
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