Grazhir :: Final Fantasy :: Snafu :: 06

06

Approximately five seconds after they were all standing on the platform it jolted and began to swing in a subtle arc to the right. The changing perspective made it obvious that the ‘room’ was made up of more of those panels. After about a fifteen degree shift they were directly facing a panel and the platform stopped, some clunking noises sounded, and then they began to rise. It obviously functioned as some kind of elevator in addition to whatever else they might discover. After several minutes of ascent the platform jolted again and came to a stop.

“Is that a door?” Selphie said, moving forward to investigate.

As soon as she was within a certain distance the hexagon directly ahead split in half and slid to the sides. Beyond it was a short tunnel leading to another platform. Five seconds after they were all in place a blue sheen of light started up to the right and began to travel leftward, revealing in its wake a magnificent city of such size that Squall was having trouble taking it in.

“Whoo-hoo!” Selphie shouted.

The now transparent wall pieces in front of them slid out of the way, rails slid into place to either side, and the platform moved forward. Squall blinked over what looked like one hell of a drop when he noticed the rails also went down. They did not seem to be there as something to hold on to. He was proven correct when the several clunks were heard and the platform dropped swiftly, causing him to grab onto Seifer to steady himself. The rails curved smoothly and they were soon riding along a horizontal track. Overhead and to the sides were tinted transparent tubes in which rode some kind of hover-platforms, but soon enough they were inside another structure and able to disembark—just in time for that high-pitched whine to haunt Squall’s ears again.

“Argh! Not now!” he snarled before passing out. He woke up feeling really angry. This time they had been treated to two visions, one of Laguna in some town called Winhill where they had been ‘introduced’ to Raine and Ellone, and then of Laguna and his friends captive and forced to work in an Esthar facility researching Lunatic Pandora, and where Laguna got roped into being the leader of a rebellion. At least now he knew the time frame of these visions, and was starting to suspect how they were connected. “Is Ellone Sis?” he mused as Seifer helped him to stand up.

Irvine groaned and sat up. “I think she is. And if she’d been taken because Adel wanted her—”

“Then she may have some kind of powers if Odine was keeping her in his lab,” Selphie finished, bouncing up from her ‘nap’. “I wonder if they came here the same way, or. . . ?”

“I’ll give you the details on what we saw this time later,” he murmured to Seifer, who nodded. “Does that mean Sis is here?”

“The lights in that tunnel over there came on a couple of minutes ago. I think we’re about to have company.”

Sure enough, a vehicle came into view and stopped just outside the tunnel, rotated ninety degrees, lowered to the floor, and opened up to reveal a man. “Please identify yourselves and explain your business here.”

Squall handled the introductions and the explanation, and they were shortly being driven through the city. Selphie just loved the place given her comment of, “Wow! I want to live here!” and Irvine had a hard time keeping her properly in her seat.

Just when a huge building came into view—the crowning jewel in a jewelry box of a city—the driver informed them, “We’ll be arriving at the Presidential Palace shortly.” They were escorted on arrival to an upper level and left in the care of another man in uniform after a short conversation out of their hearing took place. That man turned to them and Squall was struck by the resemblance to Kiros.

“I am Kiros Seagill. I’m told you have come with a request regarding Sorceress Edea.”

That must mean the even taller man arriving from a side door must be Ward. “Yes, we have.” He introduced everyone, then said, “If you’re Kiros, he’s probably Ward, and . . . Laguna is around here somewhere? Did he end up getting conned into being president?”

Kiros narrowed his eyes. “We are a reclusive people. How did you come by this information?”

“That . . . is a long story,” he replied. “Selphie, would you like to do the honors?”

“Sure thing!” Selphie bounced a few times before going into an exhaustive recounting of the visions they had experienced. “So that’s how we knew! It’s really inconvenient and potentially dangerous to keep being forced into them, but at the same time it’s exciting.”

Kiros nodded thoughtfully and exchanged a look with Ward, then said, “Please explain your request.”

Squall went over the fiasco in Deling City, admitted that they blew up the missile base over there on the way out, and then said, “Basically, we came here hoping that Esthar may have technology we could use to subdue the sorceress. The last thing we want to do is kill her. The powers would just jump to someone else. We don’t know what her plans are aside from taking over Galbadia Garden, and probably the rest of the world if she can manage it. But you and the resistance here managed to deal with Adel. If anyone would have some ideas you would, having been right in the middle of the last war.”

Kiros was silent for several minutes before saying, “We may be able to help. However, this is something we must discuss internally before I can give you any kind of an answer. I’m going to arrange for a suite for your team at a hotel near the closest shopping area. Just check in at least once a day with the desk for any messages. As soon as I have a response you’ll be notified and requested to return here. Is this acceptable?”

“Yes. Thank you for taking this under consideration.”

“Good. The city is vast and there are plenty of things to do, and there are a number of places you can visit outside the city as well. The hotel desk is sure to be able to assist you with that. Ward, will you please escort them to the Regent?”

Ward nodded and gestured to them, then headed for the exit. Shortly thereafter they were checking in to the hotel, Ward’s presence there a guarantee of their identity. When Selphie began pestering the clerk for brochures and maps Squall remembered something and caught Ward before he could leave. “I thought I should mention that the camouflage on the west side of the Great Salt Lake seems to be malfunctioning a little. It’s partly how we figured out where the entrance is. The illusion there keeps flickering.”

Ward nodded and gave him a slight smile, then left, so Squall rejoined the party just as a bellhop arrived to show them to their suite. It was an awfully classy place so Squall tipped the young man before firmly showing him out.

“Wow!” Selphie said. “Look at this place! And the city! You could fit a few small countries in a city the size of this one! Do you guys want to hit the restaurant for some lunch or order room service? The clerk said everything is on the government. They all sure wear funny clothes, though.”

Seifer apparently saw an opportunity in that and said, “How about we split up for the afternoon? These people seem pretty peaceful despite the level of technology so I don’t think we’re going to run into any trouble.”

“Oh,” Selphie said, a grin forming on her face. “I get it. That’s a great idea. Here, I got two sets of brochures and a second map. Everyone has their own key? Whoo-hoo! Irvine! Let’s go explore!” She dragged him out the door before he had a chance to say anything.

“Not exactly subtle,” Seifer said dryly. “You want to look this stuff over first? We could plan out—actually, we’ve been on the go since before dawn. Why don’t you tell me what you’d like to eat and I’ll order room service while you shower. We can eat here, go over the places we can visit. . . .”

Squall smiled at him, appreciating the thoughtfulness Seifer was showing. “I’m tempted to say nothing special, but I could really go for a steak right now, medium well. Baked potato, butter, sour cream, chives. Maybe a vegetable on the side. Corn, broccoli, carrots, asparagus—something like that.”

“Any dessert?”

His attention turned inward for a moment, considering. “Cannoli if they have it. If not, maybe a piece of cake, chocolate.”

“You got it,” Seifer replied.

Squall was back in the common room of the suite fifteen minutes later and started examining the brochures as Seifer went for his own shower. Maybe while they were there hotel service could take care of their laundry. Rinsing things out just wasn’t enough after a while. A knock at the door sounded while he was reading about Tears’ Point so he got up and opened the door to let in room service. The employee wheeled a large cart covered in a snow-white cloth over to a dining table and bowed himself out, not even waiting for a tip.

Seifer emerged a minute later, his eyes alight with pleasure at the sight of the food. He hastened over and started investigating, shuffling things over to the table with careful efficiency. He just nodded and smiled when Squall dumped the brochures in the middle of the table. “For a country that probably doesn’t get many visitors they sure do have a lot of tourist-type materials. See anything of interest yet?”

Squall took his own seat and shook out his napkin, then armed himself with knife and fork. “Tears’ Point sounds interesting. There’s also Lunar Gate and the Sorceress Memorial. All outside the city. Inside are the usual things. Shopping, restaurants, bars, etc. The city is so large it’s divided into districts and each has its own set of amenities.” He looked down at his plate and smiled, then dug in.

A while later he was feeling pleasantly stuffed. As Seifer was transferring dishes back onto the cart Squall said, “I almost don’t want to go anywhere yet.”

“We could just watch a movie,” Seifer suggested, then wheeled the cart out so it was parked in the hallway for staff to remove. “There is that huge television, after all.” When Squall gave a nod Seifer sat down and snagged the remote, draping his left arm along the back of the sofa. “Let’s see. . . .”

Squall obligingly took a seat next to him and eyed the screen, shaking his head at movie options until one caught his eye. “How about that one? Fantasy, action. . . .” Seifer hit play so Squall settled back comfortably to watch “The Spirits Within”. Ten minutes in Seifer’s arm dropped down around his shoulders so he leaned against him and propped his feet up on the coffee table.

“Why do movies like this always have such strange names for places?” Seifer asked rhetorically.

“Damn, look at the texturing on that guy’s face,” Squall said a while later. “You’d almost think he was a real person.”

“Did you catch which studio put this together?”

“Uh, Square, I think.”

“Oh! What a way to die!” Seifer commented after seeing a bunch of people get their souls ripped from their bodies.

“Well, at least it’s probably not painful.”

“Ha! They drive like Tilmitt!”

Seifer switched it over to a news channel when the movie was over—having seen during the credits that the studio was actually located somewhere in Esthar—and said, “So, no kinky stuff on the first date, huh?”

Squall laughed and shook his head.

“Damn. Did you notice? There’s a hot tub out on the balcony.”

Now that wasn’t a bad idea. The lack of swim trunks, on the other hand—‘Hn. It’s not like we’ve never seen each other naked before. Why not?’ “Sounds good.” He started to get up in search of towels when Seifer pulled him back and cradled his face with one hand, then leaned in and kissed him. ‘Damn. Just what I needed. A hard-on right before hopping into a jacuzzi,’ he thought, then lost himself in the kiss. Seifer practically had him laid out on the couch when Squall inserted a hand between them and pushed. “Hey, save it for the hot tub. I’d rather not be like this out here and have Selphie and Irvine walk in.”

“. . .Yeah.”

Squall got up, not bothering to try to hide the signs of his arousal, and grabbed some towels before checking out the balcony. The towels got set aside on the surround and he quickly stripped down, placing his clothes on a nearby table, and slid into the water. The controls were easy enough to manage and he had just started the jets when Seifer came in with a few bottles of water. Those were also set on the surround.

Seifer was shortly in with Squall and sighing. “Oh yeah, that feels amazing. The view is pretty damn good, too. I have to wonder if all these shiny buildings are actually sheathed in solar collectors.”

Squall’s mind went somewhere else at the word “sheathed” and he closed his eyes briefly. ‘Slow down, boy. I don’t think sex on the first date is a good idea, never mind that I’m a virgin and in a hot tub. Not a good combination at all.’ “I wouldn’t be surprised. We can always ask later. That is, if Selphie doesn’t come back with a complete history of this country she’s dying to tell us about.”

“I don’t know, Squall. This might qualify as kinky,” Seifer said teasingly. “For all we know there are citizens out there spying on us with their telescopes.”

“An exhibitionist I am not,” he replied, but allowed himself to be drawn in closer to be kissed again. The angle soon became bothersome so he boldly moved to straddle Seifer—it was hell on the knees and shins, but he wasn’t of a mind to care just then. Seifer’s arms snaked around him to keep him in place and attacked his mouth more vigorously. “Ngh. . . .” Seifer’s erection was prominent against his own and Squall could not stop his hips from getting in on the action. The fingers at his neck and back tightened. The last thing he thought before completely losing himself in the experience was that it was good the jacuzzi had a continuous self-cleaning and balancing function. He practically roared when he came and Seifer had to hold him steady when his muscles went rubbery.

“Amazing,” Seifer whispered after a minute. “I’ve never been quite that turned on in my life.”

Squall opened his eyes and smiled lazily. “You’ve taken my first kiss and beyond and I’m pretty damn satisfied with the results.”

Seifer’s eyes widened in shock. A second later he gave Squall another kiss, this time a chaste one. “I’m going to try not to let my ego get out of hand at knowing that.”

“Mm. You’re going to have to help me get back into a seat, by the way. I’ve lost most of the feeling in my legs.”

Seifer grinned and helped float him into position.

Squall groaned as his legs unbent and just relaxed back, letting the massaging action of the jets help. “I wonder if Sis is involved in some way with those visions. If so I have a few choice words to say to her.”

“Agreed. Though I’m glad Laguna was able to rescue her. Imagine being stuck with sorceress powers at such a young age. I wonder how she ended up at the orphanage, though. Oh, I sent off another message to my guys while you were showering. They made it to Timber and were set to hit Horizon Bridge. I let them know how to get past the illusion and warned them about the escort we got.”

“We may only have been escorted because three of us passed out. We would have been well into the city by the time that hover-car showed up otherwise.”

“True.”

A half hour later they were out of the tub and dressed, watching the news channel. One of the stories featured regarded events in Galbadia, a follow-up to a referenced earlier report about the assassination of Vinzer Deling. “They obviously have some way to spy on what’s happening outside Esthar. Agents, maybe?”

The door opened and Selphie and Irvine came in, looking pleased. “Guys,” Irvine greeted.

The television volume was lowered as Selphie set to telling them all about their day, though Irvine contributed just as much to the recounting. They had so much to say that it spilled over into dinner at the ground floor restaurant.

The next two days were spent sight-seeing and generally having a good time, pushing worries and concerns to a back burner for the time being. The people of Esthar were very polite, if not a little odd. The lack of individuality when it came to clothing was starting to get on Squall’s nerves, though. On the third morning a message arrived from the palace and they were off to a meeting.

A functionary met them just inside and escorted them beyond the room they had initially been received in, down a corridor with a transparent floor, and to a door flanked by two guards. “They’re expecting you,” said their escort, then walked away.

Squall arched a brow and knocked before opening the door. Inside were Kiros, Ward, and who he assumed was Laguna—Squall was interested to note that he was the only person so far not wearing traditional Esthar clothing. Ward stepped over to the unidentified man and stared.

“Oh, sure,” he said, turning around to face the team. “Hey there! Heard you got involved in that mess over in Galbadia. So I’m Laguna, President Laguna Loire of Esthar. Pleased to meet you. Let’s all take a seat!”

‘I can’t quite think of him the same way as before,’ Squall thought as he complied. ‘He’s still a goof, but he has a good heart.’ Before he had a chance to introduce his team to the president Laguna started talking again.

“Kiros and Ward told me about those visions you all had. How strange! You’re probably interested to know the rest of the story then, huh?” Laguna did not wait for any agreement and pressed on. “After we rescued Ellone I still had a lot of things to take care of so I sent her back to Raine. It was too dangerous for her to stay here with everything going on. We cooked up a plan and used a hologram of Ellone at the Sorceress Memorial to lure Adel in, then pushed her into a sealing machine Odine created for us. Problem solved! After that we built a space station and sent her up there into orbit next to it. Technicians keep a constant eye on the seal to ensure she doesn’t escape. It’s actually one of the reasons why radio communication doesn’t work right now. And then, well, they made me president.

“By the time I could take a break and return to Winhill I was heartbroken to find out that Raine had died and Ellone had been sent away to an orphanage—probably because they were afraid the soldiers would come after her again. But they didn’t like me all that much there so it was about impossible to get anything more out of them. It took me quite a while to track down the orphanage, but when I did I found out that Ellone was gone. I have yet to find her, but I’ve sent plenty of people out looking over the years.”

Kiros coughed and Ward shot a look at Laguna, who said, “Oh, right, the sorceress. So you guys were smart enough to see assassination as useless, good. We still have the sealing technology in working order, so that’s a point in your favor. Odine could probably whip something up so it was portable. If we know where she is we could try a combination of things to handle the situation without any loss of life.”

“Like how we handled the missile base?” Selphie asked.

“Exactly! Great job on that, by the way. We could—” Something started beeping over at the desk. “Hang on, I need to answer that.” Laguna hopped up and ran over to pick up a phone. “Uh huh. Oh? Really. Yeah, ready the ships right away. We’ll launch in an hour. Right. See you soon.” He hung up and returned to his seat. “Possibly bad news. Galbadian ships have been spotted in pursuit of an unaffiliated and are headed toward Esthar. They can’t get in, obviously, but I don’t like the idea of such an unbalanced fight. We’re gonna have to cut this meeting short, I’m afraid. Sorry about that.” He stood back up again and took two steps before whirling around to face them. “Say, you guys are pretty well trained, huh?”

Squall nodded, unsure where this was going.

“You want to come along? It’ll be fun!”

Squall arched a brow and shot a look at his team. Selphie was grinning—no doubt over the idea of going into battle with her hero—Irvine was nodding agreeably, and Seifer had an excited gleam in his eyes. “Sure.”

*

As it turned out there was a massive cavern beneath the surface of Esthar which housed the Esthar fleet. The entrances (there were four in various directions) were protected by more illusion walls, which at that point was a surprise to no one. Seifer had found a moment before they left to embark to pull Kiros aside and warn about his friends arriving via the tunnel they had used, and the dark-skinned man sent off a message to someone.

When they arrived at the site it was to see a number of ships flying the Galbadian flag approaching a lone vessel which flew no flag at all. The only explanation for it just sitting there was that it had broken down and was unable to flee. Laguna chirpily ordered his ships to drive away the Galbadians. The Paladin would pull in behind the fighting and try to evacuate the target. Once they pulled alongside Laguna ran out and down to the deck, so Squall and his team followed, just to keep an eye on him.

“Ahoy, unaffiliated ship!” Laguna shouted. “You need to evacuate! We can take your people to safety!”

Faces peered across the distance between them and one man in particular gave them a long look before shaking his head. The people on board kept on making preparations.

“C’mon! We’re trying to save your lives!” Laguna shouted. “You have my guarantee that you’ll taken to safety! We can even come back later and see about getting your ship repaired!”

More shaking of heads resulted and Laguna was becoming openly frustrated. “Don’t these people have any sense?” he muttered. Ten minutes later they were still refusing and Laguna shook his head sadly before turning and gazing up at the control room. He raised an arm and gestured, giving some kind of signal.

Just as the Paladin’s engines revved up and the ship began to move another face appeared and eyed them curiously, despite a man on deck trying to pull her back. “Uncle!” she shouted, then disappeared.

“Was that—!?” Laguna said, eyes wide, then started as she appeared again, having obviously gotten free and taken a running jump. Laguna, Squall, Seifer, and Irvine all dashed off to the side and the girl landed right in their midst, toppling everyone over in a sprawl of bodies.

“Uncle Laguna!”

Laguna hauled himself up, pulling her with him, and sent another, more urgent gesture at the control room before engulfing her in a bear hug. “My little Elle!”

Squall was torn as he got back up. Potential bruises aside he was thrilled to see Sis again and wanted to know everything about her life since the orphanage. The other part of him was just raring to ask some hard questions regarding his suspicions.

Laguna pulled away and grabbed Ellone’s hand, dragging her away as she laughed. But she looked over her shoulder and got a good look at them, and stopped dead, pulling Laguna off balance, nearly sending both of them to the deck again.

Squall’s eyes met hers and he knew exactly where he had seen her most recently. At Balamb Garden. “Sis.”

“Squall! And Seifer and Irvine and Selphie! What are you doing here? How did you come to be with Uncle Laguna?”

He stared at her, brow furrowed, until Laguna broke the moment with, “C’mon! Let’s all go talk!”

A few minutes later they were all in some kind of dining room and being served a refreshments. Once the crewman was gone Laguna burst out with, “I’m so glad to finally see you again! What were you doing on that ship? Where have you been? Did you know I’m the president of Esthar now? What about—”

Ellone leaned over and kissed his cheek, effectively shutting him up. “That’s a long story, and I promise to tell you. What I want to know is how you’re with Squall and the others.”

“And I,” Squall said tensely, “want to know if you have anything to do with the visions we’ve been having.”

Ellone looked surprised. “I have this strange power that—”

“Stop right there,” he ordered. “Sis, I am more happy than you know to see you again and know who you are, but I am also, with this confirmation, rather angry with you.”

“But why? I was trying to—”

“Sis—Ellone. Did you even have any clue where we were when these visions happened? Each time we were knocked unconscious, and could have been beset by monsters or potential hostiles. We risked dying for whatever it was you were trying to accomplish. Can you understand why we might be upset with you?”

She looked stricken at that and her cheeks flamed with colour. “I didn’t think—I’m sorry. You’re right. I was so focused on what I was trying to do that I didn’t think about the potential consequences. I hope you guys can forgive me.”

“Uh. . . .” Laguna contributed, and settled back again when Ellone patted his arm affectionately.

“Well, one good thing came out of it. You know more about Laguna now.”

Squall narrowed his eyes at her suspiciously. ‘And what on earth does that have to do with anything?’

“Um, maybe I should start with after Uncle Laguna rescued me.”

Laguna perked up and grabbed a pastry to nibble on.

“My escort brought me back to Winhill. When I was reunited with Raine I found out she was heavily pregnant.” Ellone glanced at Laguna and winced when he started bashing his head against the table. “She, um, died shortly after giving birth. She—she named her son—Squall.”

Squall looked over at Seifer in confusion. “Did I just hear that right?”

“Yes, you did.”

He blinked and let his gaze wander back to Ellone, then to Laguna, and back to Ellone.

She nodded and gave him a tentative smile. “Yes, Squall, Uncle Laguna is your father.”

“I’m what!?” Laguna’s head shot up and he looked around wildly. “I have a son. . . . Oh, Raine! If only I’d been there!” He turned wild, watery eyes on Squall, who held up his hand sharply.

“O—kay. Let’s set that aside for the moment. I need time to deal with that before it gets talked about.” He exhaled heavily and gestured to Ellone to continue, feeling slightly comforted when Seifer scooted his chair over and draped an arm around his shoulders.

“Um, right. The villagers were really frightened that the soldiers might come back to abduct me again so Squall and I were brought to an orphanage. I’m not sure exactly how long we were there when things suddenly changed. Years, though. The children at the orphanage were split up. I and others were sent to the white ship and matron joined us soon after. I assume she saw to homes for everyone else.”

‘Well, that explains part of things.’

“It wasn’t until years later that I was old enough to understand why we were there. It was to protect me and matron. Me from being kidnapped again and matron from—I’m not sure, but I know now it’s because she’s a sorceress. The children were raised to be SeeDs, like at Garden, just on a ship. Not so long ago matron just changed—it’s like she was a different person entirely. She left us! So we sailed to Balamb so we could inform Cid, her husband.”

“What!?” Irvine said.

“Headmaster Cid is married to Sorceress Edea?” Selphie squeaked. “That’s so amazingly romantic and, er, tragic.”

‘That might explain why Cid is so weird. He probably spends half his time worrying about Edea, and he’s been parted from her for years on end.’

Ellone nodded. “It’s also how I knew you guys were at Garden. Well, not Irvine, but since you’re with the others I guess maybe you were at one of the others?” When he nodded she continued, “I stayed at Balamb Garden for a while with a few white SeeDs as my escort, right up until a short while ago. Things got really crazy there.”

Seifer leaned forward slightly. “Oh?”

“I didn’t catch all the details,” she warned them. “But the Garden Master turned on Cid and got the Garden Faculty to whip the students and SeeDs into a frenzy, forcing them to choose between him and the headmaster. The Garden Master wanted Cid captured, or killed if necessary.”

Squall and his team exchanged confused glances.

“Some time during all that Quistis and Zell returned.”

Another look got exchanged.

“Not long after they arrived—maybe half a day—Garden somehow uprooted itself and started moving. We crashed into the ocean, but something prevented the water from getting in and flooding the ground floor. Some kind of barrier.”

“That would make a certain kind of sense,” Irvine said. “If it’s mobile then something would have to prevent people from falling. And since Balamb Garden was on an island, it’d have to protect against water, too, I should think.”

“Unfortunately they couldn’t get the controls to work right, so Garden just kind of went straight ahead, more or less. And then the white SeeD ship returned and fetched me back, so I don’t know what happened after that to Garden. And then, as you already know, we were found by a Galbadian fleet and pursued. We managed to get away at first, but then the ship broke down. You arrived in time to help, and once I realized that Uncle Laguna was the one shouting for us to evacuate I jumped.”

“If Balamb Garden is mobile. . . .” Selphie trailed off thoughtfully.

“Odds are Galbadia and Trabia Gardens can be as well,” Squall finished. “History says that when Centra was hit by a Lunar Cry they evacuated everyone—about eighty years ago I think it was. The Gardens are probably what they used to get away from Centra. And that means Edea has an easy way to move the entirety of the Galbadian Garden students and soldiers, since from what Ellone said they can move on land and sea.”

“Assuming she knows they can move,” Seifer said. “But if they have a fleet out and about, odds are they know by now. And if they went after the white SeeD ship, they were after Ellone. But why? Edea can’t be that old. She can’t possibly be looking for a successor like Adel was.”

Ellone shrugged. “There’s nothing special about me aside from my ability. I don’t see how that would be of any use. I was only taken because soldiers were gathering up many little girls to see if they would suit Adel. Right, Uncle Laguna?”

“That’s what I was told. But Odine was really interested in you for some reason, which is why I sent you on ahead home.”

Squall pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “I’m going out on deck for a while. I need to think.”