The hours had passed by quickly. It was dead night. Way past closing time. Like it was outside, it was dark inside Balamb Garden. Only a few spots had a light on. All was quiet as everyone was resting peacefully.
"You leave after breakfast, right?" a girl, who slept in the room next to this, asked. Clad in pajamas riddled with teddy bears with drums and in vests of red and white, she sat by the desk, chair turned to face the blonde-haired lady on the bed by the half-emptied shelf. Her green eyes and fluffy brown hair matched her playful disposition, which showed even on serious talks. Like now.
The beautiful genius in the brown suit nodded. She seemed firm, but her expressive eyes of deep azure could only tell otherwise as she had been staring at the half-emptied shelf which she cleared of important books she brought along with her when she left way back.
The girl looked around the white-walled room before asking again. "Quistis, why did you show up? Not that I don't want to see you or anything. Just --"
Quistis heaved out a sigh and frowned slightly. "Not so surprisingly, they knew where to find me. Someone came into my door and relayed a message telling me to come here. And you know the rest."
"Hn. They found you?"
Quistis nodded. The air descended like a heavy rock on her shoulders.
The girl switched positions again, as she could not sit still. She stood by the closet and stared at the cieling for a moment, then she observed the wall opposite the closet. She pointed her finger at one corner, then thinking for a moment before tracing upward to the corner above it. Again, she would think for a moment before putting her finger down. Then, she would trace along one side of the room with the same finger until she reached another corner and repeated what she did to the corner before it and so on. She did these while smiling, without losing the childlike, playful trademark she has had since the beginning. This cycle continued until it began to disturb Quistis a little.
"Selphie, what are you doing?" she asked.
The girl, Selphie, shrugged.
"You're not convincing."
Selphie winked at the serious former instructor and started to laugh.
Quistis raised a brow.
"You have been away for two years, four months, and eighteen days, Quistis," Selphie said while turning to wall again, tone hinting a different side of her, yet still smiling. "And you still haven't told us why you left."
Quistis bowed her head a little. She could not deny within herself that she had been gone for quite a while already. Two years. Has she been gone for that long? She had lost count, despite feeling the cross borne on her for thinking of herself for a fraction of a moment. "I was supposed to change my mind," she said. "But after it, I realized my return would be in vain."
Selphie knew what Quistis was talking about. "But it's over now," she simply said. "The Garden can't stop, remember?"
Quistis said nothing. Selphie was right. There was no need to linger about it anymore. Opting to lighten things up to lighten the load a little, she asked, "Selphie, who is this Jinsei person?"
"Jinsei... why do you ask?"
"I heard some people talking about someone by that name in the lounge," Quistis explained. "That person is intriguing. New?"
Selphie's smile returned, and she laughed once again. "Not so. Jinsei is Dr. Kadowaki's niece. She arrived in Balamb shortly after you left. She's part of the eight-man team hired for the engine maintenance of Balamb Garden. But she isn't here right now. She was deployed to Galbadia Garden."
"She's with Irvine there. They will return a few days from now. You'll be back that same day, maybe even before it," Selphie answered playfully and shrugged. She was now knocking on the wall across the closet. Again, she observed.
Quistis turned to Selphie. Aside from being disturbed by the playful girl's careful examination of her room, something else bothered her. Change? A very unlikely change it would be, if so. And somehow, as her brain signaled, Selphie was not telling her everything. She pushed the frame of her glasses back a little, and said, "I still haven't decided, and you haven't answered my question."
Unmindful of her choice of words because of what she was doing, Selphie innocently shot back, "Well, it depends on how you understand it, Miss Trepe. What do you think?"
Quistis sighed in exasperation and firmly placed three of her fingers on her forehead. With someone like Selphie, why does it now seem so hard to argue? It felt as if she were getting rusty. No. Yes. No. Yes. Maybe. She did not know. She was not sure. And, unsure, in her terms, was bad. She retreated from the mess in her head and opted to stay quiet for a moment. As if being urged, she turned to the window and gazed at the sky of countless, shining fragments.
A white tail shot across the sky and disappeared to the horizon faster even before the human mind could even begin counting seconds.
"Did you see that?" the black-haired beauty wondered with an outstretched arm pointing toward the obscure heavens lit by stars and the bluish silver moon. Her dark eyes still marveled at the moment which passed by. She had not shown that joy since she started staying in Timber.
The other girl, who was next to her, smiled at the sky and nodded. She was as just as tall but of a different frame. She also had dark hair but did not have those streaks the other girl had. One hand rested on the railing as she stood with the aid of a crutch under her right arm. Something seemed to pierce her right leg but showed no hint of it. Nothing. Just a smile to cover it all up. "Did you wish for anything, Rinoa?" she simply asked.
"For you to stop smiling when your leg hurts?" Rinoa replied, as if jesting, and shook her head. "Jinsei Kadowaki..." She giggled. It has also been a long time when she giggled that way, too.
Jinsei sighed and giggled as well, but she did not look back at Rinoa, for reasons her spy of a mind kept. Then, she paused as she remembered that Rinoa had not giggled like so during her first months in Timber. These months turned into a year. The year gave way to other months. And the other months turned into another year. It seemed to take an eternity to get Rinoa back. But Jinsei was not one to give up so easily. She was as determined as she feared failing anyone.
Two years have passed since Rinoa was sent to Timber. The scare had been over a long time before it, everything being completely different as it was then, and Dr. Kadowaki recommended that she stayed in a different place. But almost all the places on their world will remind her. She had been with Squall in almost all those places.
Irvine, since his return to Galbadia Garden, looked after Rinoa in-between breaks. It was a little hard for Rinoa to share much with someone like Irvine, despite the experiences they had together as a team way back. Only visits done by the doctor on a regular basis helped her a little, but it was not enough to restore her. When Jinsei arrived, as instructed by Dr. Kadowaki, however, things seemed different. Rinoa seemed to respond to her. Rinoa seemed to trust her.
"It sure was pretty," Rinoa commented.
Jinsei nodded again. "You did wait for it to come."
Rinoa nodded. "I wouldn't want to waste it. Thank you, Jinsei..."
Jinsei nodded and stared at the sky filled with stars. Her thoughts began drifting with them. In her gazing, she kept silent. One star caught a big fraction of her attention, and her silence lenghtened one moment after another. Her thoughts were focusing away from where her attention should be on these given situations, but right now, her spirit opted to leave them behind. That star seemed to call her. Her spirit responded to it without further thinking. What was in that distant body that made her turn away? Faintly, her rationale tried asking, but her spirit opposed listening to it.
A short moment, for Rinoa, can span an eternity. She turned to Jinsei. Rinoa had never seen her so quiet. The silence seemed to take Jinsei away from her, and she was starting to hate it as much as she hated Jinsei being so secretive about everything. "Your leg, Jinsei... I know you're not okay," she said, as if cracking the silence to break it completely. Her voice hinted anxiety. She knew it was not just the leg. It had to be something else.
Those words entered Jinsei's head, as if prompting her to snap out of it. She shook her head. "I'm fine. You probably are tired, Rinoa. You have been waiting for that meteor for hours. It's past bedtime."
Jinsei hurt her leg when a miscalculation done by a colleague sent the apparatus, which they were repairing months back, counting down. They were able to run far away from it before it exploded. However, they were not able to run far enough as a sharp debris shot through Jinsei's right leg, supposedly rendering her crippled for the rest of her life. Rinoa managed to restore it. But since she had left her training in Balamb Garden, she could not expose herself as often and extensively, as her body could not stand such exposure too much. The leg slowly made its little recovery, thanks to Rinoa's help, and soon enough, Jinsei was able to return to work. She could not escape the trouble with a bad leg, but if there would be one thing she would be thankful for, her leg made healing another wound faster. The ageing wound, which almost locked Rinoa and the rest of her character into obscurity for the rest of the lifetime. She managed to return the old Rinoa little by little through her leg.
"I'm older than you. Stop treating me like a kid," Rinoa said sternly, gathering her strength to be serious but only managed to playfully nudge Jinsei's shoulder.
"I wasn't referring to you when I said 'past bedtime.' I was referring to myself. We have a another day ahead," Jinsei said smilingly, dark grey eyes reflecting uneasiness because of her leg. Then, she felt a sharp, intense pain pierce her quickly. It was difficult to hide it any longer. It seemed to push into her slowly. Jinsei turned from Rinoa and began to limp back to the room.
Rinoa quickly grabbed the sleeve of Jinsei's checkered top. She knocked the crutch off Jinsei's arm, sending it crashing on the balcony floor. Placing Jinsei's right arm over her shoulder and placing hers around Jinsei's waist, she led the way. The sudden displacement of weight almost knocked her off-balance. Jinsei was undeniably heavy for her size, but she and Rinoa made their way. For some reason, Rinoa felt the need to do something... whatever it meant.
"Rinoa..." was all Jinsei could utter. She felt oddly embarrassed and turned slightly red. It was a good thing Rinoa could not see her. No one has ever done that to her before. She was not used to it. Upon reaching the last few steps, she released herself from Rinoa's grasp and sat on the bed. Seeing Rinoa almost out of breath, Jinsei breathed in to refrain herself. But the funny expression on her face could not deny it. Then, she began to laugh.
Rinoa frowned a little and huffed. "Jinsei," she growled and huffed. All her efforts, and she got a laugh in return. She wanted to stay mad, but she could not. She tried to hold her seriousness, but she could not. She sighed and shrugged. Then, she smiled.
Jinsei stopped laughing and hoisted her injured leg up. She looked back at Rinoa. "I'm heavy, remember?" she said, then mustering sincerity and a little guts. "But anyway, thanks..."
Rinoa sat by Jinsei, darker eyes meeting against worried grey ones, gently, yet intensely. She placed a hand on the injured leg. She shook her head. "Don't worry..." she assured in a calm voice.
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