It was after the last week of clean up of the wreckage, that the death toll was counted. At least forty people had died.
This included Headmaster Cid, and Edea Kramer. As well as several students.
What hit the survivors the most was the loss of one of their own popular SEEDS. One of the Hero’s that defeated Ultimicia.
Zell Dinchit. Rumor stated that he was killed trying to be heroic in a suicidal attempt, which could have been true, except
Irvine put the rumor to rest by telling the story straight, during a Balamb Garden meeting with the survivors in a rented
hall used to continue their courses.
However, it didn’t change the view of several people. This included Xu. Next to Irvine and Selphie, she was the one
who took it the hardest, considering the two had grown up together in the town of Balamb before joining the special defence
forces of Balamb Garden. Even so, it did not stop her on taking on the responsibilities with Quistis, in resuming the activities
of Balamb Garden. The two worked tirelessly assigning new missions, and grading students on their performance. On top of that,
was the choosing of the new graduates who used the tragedy of Balambs destruction as a real time SEED exam.
The two had been going over their notes, and deciding on who would graduate and become SEEDS, and then taking the list
of those who failed and offered more training or new faculty positions to replace those that had died.
They were currently in the great Library in the upper levels of Esthar doing this very task when Quistis prompted a question
about the Cadets that were under her command.
"The four that I taught. What are their chances?"
"Well." Xu said as she chewed on a pencil. "Devin worked wonders up in Tech with me, even though his friends were missing,
he stayed calm, and collected. I think he’d be a great asset to the technical side to communications. He doesn’t
have what it takes to become a SEED, but he does have some talent. Put him down for a paying job on the staff for technical
repairs, and monitoring during exams."
"That’s great." Quistis said smiling.
"It’s the truth Quisty. Now, about the ones who were on the Squad?"
Quistis tapped her chin in thought. "Well, I personally think Andrew Bird should be made an honorary SEED. He would have
definitely graduated this year. His reports were precise, and he made sure his squad was in top form, and made a great leader."
"You’re right. So that’s two honorary SEEDS this year. Anna Upton, and Andrew Bird." Xu said as she wrote their
names on certificates, and then placed a golden seal sticker by her signature. "And the other two?"
"Crystal was quite knowledgeable. Her communications were sound, and constant. She didn’t leave a detail out. Not
only that, she utilized knowledge from classes to keep the Squad Leader informed. Not exactly SEED material, but she’d
make a great Instructor. Maybe we should put her down for a job teaching some classes at the start of the new term next year.
For now, she can lead Communications. She worked really well with Devin who was on the technical side."
"Good point, those two work really well with each other." Xu nodded as she filled out another certificate. "What about
"I’m not sure. She did a fine job and did as she was told. However, there wasn’t much initiative. I think in
this case, she best switch her training to something else. Haven’t figured out what yet. Though, I have a gut feeling
she’d make a great personal assistant to the new Headmaster, when we decide who that will be."
"Lets talk about that after we figure out the graduates. So who will be Graduating this year to become SEEDS?" Xu asked
as she over looked her notes.
"Most of the Cadets who stayed behind, died. Except Devin, Crystal and Amalia. We filled Two slots with Anna Upton, and
Andrew Bird with SEED honors." Quistis said as she went over her notes. "In this case, I’m prone to think there won’t
be anybody graduating this year. Just those two who died." Quistis mused.
"Well someone has to graduate..." Xu pointed out. We have to give the Students and SEEDS something to look forward to."
"You have a point." Quistis said nodding her head, and then leaning her chin on her left hand, while tapping a pen on the
table to Xu’s annoyance.
"Would you stop that Quisty, it’s annoying." Xu teased her friend, with a slight chuckle.
"Can’t help it." Quistis replied as she sighed. "It helps me think."
"Bah. It’s just a nervous habit of yours." Xu retorted as she leaned back in her chair and looked out the window.
The two remained quiet for a few more moments, the only sound the tapping of the pen on the table. After about two minutes
of silence, Quistis stopped tapping her pen.
"Xu, I have an idea." She said with a grin.
"If you say something as ridiculous as graduating the only two Students we like, I’m going to slap you." She muttered.
"No, no. It’s nothing like that." Quistis said with a smile, "However it will involve Crystal, Amalia, and Devin.
So just hear me out."
"Okay, I’m all ears, what’s your grand plan?" Xu asked as she leaned on the table.
"It’s like this." Quistis explained, and then outlined her idea.
There are times when a person feels at a loss for words, and there are times when a person is no longer certain if their
wings will carry them anymore. In the case of Rinoa Heartily, the new Sorceress who received powers from Edea, this was more
then the case.
When things had calmed down after the Garden war, she had gone home promptly so she could make amends with her father.
Things were nice for a change, they spent some nice evenings together and talked about her various adventures.
Those memories, Rinoa recalled with a fondness, but there was one memory that she recalled now, as she looked at the Sleeping
Squall, and shuddered. In fact there were a few that un nerved her, and scared her at the clarity of the memories.
She remembered when she last saw her father and how in a fit of madness she had done harm to him, how her father had left
her to her own devices, and stood vigil guard outside the locked bedroom door.
She remembered how in that state of madness, after only a few hours she had used a horrible spell from deep within her
minds consciousness to blast open the door. What became of her father, she did not know, and she was afraid to find out.
After that it was a blur. A blur of chanting voices, and glimpses of her treasured friends being hurt, but what was most
clear in her mind was the image of Zell running towards her his eyes shining in apology before being knocked away by a blast
of white light. What had become of him proved later to be quite the shock. So much so, that for the first week, she was rendered
mute. Not by any spell, but by the horror of what she while mad, and again possessed by Ultimicia had done to Zell.
Sitting now in the infirmary by Squalls medical bed, in a wooden straight backed chair she could only feel guilt.
"Knock, knock." a voice issued from the door as it opened.
"Eh, who’s there?" Rinoa asked as she turned her head slightly to look at the door.
"Just some friends of the boy in the other bed." Olette said with a smile, as she dragged Pence behind her. "This is the
first chance we’ve had to visit him since we heard about what happened." Olette explained as she placed some flowers
on a bedside table and looked at Rinoa. "Hey, aren’t you Rinoa?" Olette asked tilting her head to the left and looking
at Rinoa with a smile.
"Yes. I am she." Rinoa replied as she folded her hands in her lap and regarded the two children.
"Must be hard." Olette said as she brushed aside some hair on Hayner’s forehead. "Both Squall, and Hayner in the
"Oh?" Rinoa asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.
"Well, we don’t know the whole story, we just know that Hayner was with everyone when they all got effected by the
same thing. It’s weird though, because Squall was supposed to be Hayner’s care giver."
"I see." Rinoa said turning to look at the sleeping Squalls face. "It seems I have missed a lot while I was away."
"I’m not so sure about that." Pence said as he pulled up a chair. "We just arrived the very same day this had happened,
further more, that night rumor says that the Garden was attacked by a Sorceress bent on killing SEEDS."
"I, I need to go. Please excuse me." Rinoa said as she stood. "I just remembered that I have something very important to
do." With that the young woman got up and hurried out of the infirmary, leaving Pence and Olette to look at each other and
wonder just what it was they had said that made her react the way she did.