Chain Reactions

[03.28.02] » by Silvyrwing

"No, nonono. That's WRONG! Hey!" I threw one of the ten scripts I had at Seifer as he launched into another one of his famous improvs. Scowling playfully, he threw up his arms in defeat, one hand haphazardly fending off the launched protocol. "Look, we've been here for..." I glanced at my watch. "Three hours! Do you have any idea how HUNGRY I am?"

     "Look, I can't help it if the script sucks. Damn. Who ever heard of lines like, 'Oooh! I wilt save thou, My Pretty Pretty Princess!" Seifer made a rude noise, grabbing my script off the floor.

            “You know just as well as I do that line isn’t in the script. You’re just tired. Take five everyone…” I sighed, collapsing into a heap on the stage floor, and wishing for a brief moment that the Garden Festival was over. I leaned forward, and my long cocoa-colored braid fell over my head and in front of my eyes. Cows could act better than these people. There was no doubt in my mind that these actors had been sent to me from Diablos himself.

            Garden had not been kind to me thus far. I’d arrived several weeks ago, and had been offered the job of “Garden Festival Coordinator.” That’s right. Fujin Mikayla Arless was going to be the director. The star. I was going to be behind the most glorious production ever in Balamb Garden!

            That was the sentiment about three weeks ago. After trying the “bossy, tortured director” approach, then the “I’m everyone’s friend!” approach, I had now resorted to the “Please do something right… Once?” approach. No matter how much begging occurred on my part, these students just didn’t know how to act. Of course, it didn’t help that half the cast were men, and they all had their eyes on me. They think I’m pretty, especially the one called Raijin. He’s an okay guy, considering the fact that he’s just about as dumb as a toadstool. Strength is definitely his biggest asset, though he’s funny in his own way. The truth at hand, though, was that he and Seifer were an inseparable pair, and right now, during our break, they were acting out a scene from the script. I’d have been flattered if they were actually practicing, but no such luck. They were acting out the scene where Prince Gerad kills the Medusa. Raijin was the Medusa, and he’d somehow acquired the Medusa’s headdress prop.

            “I shall vanquish thee…” Seifer squinted at the script. “What the hell… OH! “Evil bringer of rocks! Wait… what?”

            “I think you skipped a line, ya know?” Raijin peered over Seifer’s shoulder at his script. “Yeah, see? It’s ‘evil bringer of destruction. I shall dash thee against the rocks.’ Ya know?” He smiled, satisfied with himself. Then he dropped his script, and started dancing around Seifer, waving his arms and gurgling incomprehensibly.

            Medusa Speak? I don’t know. Seifer dropped his script as well, and adlibbed some more. This consisted of threats to ‘rip out one’s guts,’ and ‘Send the beast back to hell, where it belonged.’ Actually, I was beginning to like Seifer’s rendition more than what was written, but a script was a script…

            “Alright!” I shouted, rising to my feet. “Raijin, give the headdress back to Mandy. Seifer, pick up your script. Let’s take the scene from the top!”

            “Fujin, Fujin, Fujin.” Seifer’s voice reached my ears amidst the groans of the cast members. “Look, it’s late. We’re all tired and hungry. Let’s just call it quits, okay? We’ll pick it up tomorrow.”

            For a moment, I didn’t know what to say. I was livid.

            “This is what happens every damn day!!” My voice escalated with each word. By the end of the sentence, the whole theatre was silent, everyone staring at one thing.


            “Fujin…” Seifer started, taking a step forward.

            “No. No, don’t give me any of your crap, Almasy. This rehearsal is over. Be back here tomorrow at five o’ clock, PROMPTLY. We’re going to do that scene until we get it right.” With that, I stormed off, throwing my own unbound director’s script over my shoulder. I didn’t care as I listened to the papers flutter to the floor. One of my many admirers would retrive them like the dogs they were.

            I headed through the communal area of Garden, around the front of the fountain, and toward the dorms. Perhaps it was the scent of the flowers… Perhaps it was the need to release my tension by beating up at Grat or two… but I found myself walking the path toward the training center. Angrily, my mind called upon a Firaga spell, which badly scorched an errant Grat to my left. I finished it off with ease.

            The air was heavy with humidity, so much so that even the leaves were dripping with moisture. It had been known to rain in here from time to time, according to some of the students, so advanced was the climate control. It had impressed me since I transferred here. The training center at Galbadia garden was nothing compared to this. Plus, the monsters here were predictable and much easier to train against. They were tough enough so that I got a workout, but not so easy that I was bored by the time I was done.

            I readied another onslaught of spells as the grove of trees in front of me rustled. For several moments after the initial noise, all was silent again. Puzzled, I took a step forward. Grats were predictable, brainless plant creatures. Stealth was not in their repertoire. The leaves rustled again, and not three seconds later, I saw the eyes. The yellow, cold, calculating, INTELLIGENT eyes. My mind had barely grasped the fact that this was not a Grat before one huge talon darted forward, and then all I saw were stars.

            My left eye was a blur of red, and the vision was fading. I’d be okay, right? Staggering to my feet, I launched that pre-readied volley of spells I had - Two Firagas and an Ultima. The monster didn’t seemed to be phased, as a hoarse growl issued from deep within its throat. Then, as if things couldn’t get any worse, it stood up, shook off the leaves, and revealed the fact that it was actually a monstrosity; it was a creature that shouldn’t even be living in this time. I’d heard about their existence in my Monsters 3010 class, but had conveniently packed that little bit of information away in the far corner of my memory.

            It was huge, standing tall at nearly seven times my height, and fifteen times my height in length. Gaping mouth was filled with sharp, pearly daggers, and a foul, carrion-like scent wafted from it to fill the immediate area. I gagged, and that gave the Tyrannosaurus another chance to attack. I didn’t even have time to recover, then T-Rexaur’s whiplike tail knocked me clear across the training center.

            It was charging at me, ready to finish me off, when the white trench coat and the blue shirt arrested its path. My head hurt… I couldn’t… hear… what was going on… I remember a sleep spell being cast, then someone lifted me off the ground. Gratefully, I slipped into unconsciousness, where it just didn’t hurt anymore…


            “So, she’s gonna be okay, right?”

            The voice sounded familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. I opened my eyes and instantly noted that something just didn’t seem right.

            “She lost her eye, but other than that, she’s doing well. We were able to heal the bruises and broken bones with some low-level cure spells, but the eye… Oh, It looks like she’s coming to. She’ll probably want to talk to you first. After all, you saved her.”

            Lost my eye?! I recognized the voice of Dr. Kadowaki. Panicked, my head turned to look at her, and I noticed that my left eye saw only a thick, gray haze.

            “Wha…?” I began, trying to blink it away. “Oh, no! Make it stop! Dr. K? You can do that, right?”

            “Fujin!” Raijin was at my side, kneeling down, and hugging me before the Doctor responded. “Oh, my god, ya know?? Don’t ever do that again!” I didn’t pull away, so thankful was I for his closeness, but somehow I felt a distance. A fear.

            “Give her some air, man,” Seifer said. He had been the one who spoke first, and now he placed a hand on Raijin’s shoulder and guided him to the side. “Fujin, you had me scared, and I don’t ever get scared.”

            “Sorry…” I mumbled.

            “So am I,” Kadowaki said, her motherly voice full of remourse. “I could not save your sight, Fujin, but I did manage to… shall I say… save the eye itself.”
            I stumbled out of the blankets and shook my head to attempt to clear the dizziness away. My eye fell on the reflective surface of the tinted infirmary windows, and stared back at me with the normal, warm caramel brown color. The other eye, the left one, was swollen shut. So why did I still see grayness?

            I forced the eye open, only to discover that it had become as pale as the sky on a cloudy day. It was a dead, inanimate gray color, and a short gash ran from my eyebrow to the top of my cheekbone. I still saw that blank gray color.

            “Doctor…” I began. I had to clear my throat because my voice was trembling. “I… see gray. That’s all I can see…”

            “I know, Fujin. What you’re seeing is residual light. The light is reaching your retina through your eye, but it’s not making any pictures.” Doctor Kadowaki paused and looked at the clipboard she was holding. “The grey light will go away after the retina stops functioning.”

            I stared at the reflection of my dead eye until I could no longer hold it open. It snapped shut, and as pain filled my consciousness, I started to collapse. Seifer reached forward to catch me, but I waved him away.

            “I’m… fine…” I said, steadying myself on the bed. Painstakingly, I rolled up the bandage on the nightstand and wrapped it around my head and over the injured eye. There was already light coming through the windows, meaning the night had already passed.

            “…Time?” I asked. Seifer held his watch up to my level, and I looked. “Three o’clock? We have… a rehearsal to do! Meet me at the stage in a couple hours.”

            “Fujin, ya better rest, ya know? You ain’t gonna get any better if you’re up n’ about like y’are.” Raijin reached out to drag me back to bed, but I wouldn’t have it.

            “I’ll be fine,” I said, managing a smile. “And if I can’t handle it today, I’ll step down, okay?”

            “Yeah,” Raijin said, looking at Seifer for support. Neither of them seemed convinced.


            “…Top.” I managed to say, ragged breathing and fatigue threatening to undo what had otherwise been a very successful rehearsal. Everyone seemed to feel sorry for me, and I hated it. I found myself frowning more than usual.

            When they looked at me, I wondered if they were looking at my eye.

            Seifer and Raijin seemed to get the hint that I was down. They were much more composed than usual; a big help, to say the least. Seifer even got a smile out of me when he said that Raijin had very efficiently and systematically distributed the wrong props to every single person in the play. It was interesting to watch the guy playing Gerad’s escort attempting to use a piece of the scenery as a sword, but he didn’t complain. Nobody did. In fact, it was awfully quiet for this normally outspoken group. Everyone seemed… afraid.

            They were afraid? Of me?

            “Alright, everyone,” I said, absently trading one of the cast’s fishing poles with the spear that he should have been holding. The grayness was closing in on my vision. I needed to lie down… I needed to…

            “Hey, Fujin, your bandage too tight? I asked you if you wanted me to start it from the top.” Seifer.

            I chuckled along with the others, good-naturedly, of course. “Maybe it is,” I said, and now that the though crossed my mind, it DID seem like I’d wrapped my injury too tight. I started to unwrap it, and eighteen pairs of eyes glanced my way. Some lingered, others turned quickly away. They all wanted to see what happened. Of course! I smiled to myself. That’s why they’d been so quiet. They were concerned. After the bandage was removed, the lightheaded feeling dissipated. It really wasn’t so bad, this seeing out of only one eye. My balance had been a bit off all day, but that was normal. I was only seeing in two dimensions now.

            “Alright, people!” I shouted, feeling renewed and making my way to the edge of the stage. There, everything was in my line of sight and necessary movement for me was all but eliminated. “Go to Act two, Scene four. This is when Medusa first appears. Props ready? Places…! Action!”

            “Uh… Oh.” Seifer flipped to the proper page and puzzled over it for a few seconds. After practice, I’d tell him to get his eyes checked.

            “Ah. So, you’ve come to this world, spawn of Diablos?” Seifer took the written cue and shilded his eyes from “Medusa.” The girl playing her was hidden in the fake plants next to our prop of a boat that had run aground. Just as I was thinking about how familiar that was, I was hit by a flashback. The rustling in the leaves…

            “Son of Man!” Medusa countered in a hissing voice. The leaves rustled…

            The leaves rustled. I saw the yellow eyes. The intelligent yellow eyes. I tried to cry out, but…

            Seifer, as Sir Gerad, peered forward into the rustling ferns, perplexed. Confused.

            …The beast leaped out and attacked! One talon, that was the last thing that my eye saw…

            “No! Gerad! Don’ look at her!” The plucky trainee/Gerad worshipper ran in from stage left and warned her hero that one look at the medusa would turn them to stone forever. While they were distracted, a powerful arm whipped out from the bushes…

            …And the tree-trunk sized tail hit me square in the chest. I went flying… Flying backwards into…

            The orchestra pit. I landed headfirst in a tangle of trumpets, trombones, and flutes. My own flashbacks had gotten the better of me.

            When the ringing in my ears stopped, I heard the laughter. Everyone was there, staring down at me… Laughing… I saw Raijin’s face through the mob. Only he looked concerned. Only he reached down a hand to help me up. Seifer was at the back of the crowd, trying to get everyone back in order. We were like a posse, us three, even though we’d only known each other for a short time.

            And… the others. They had laughed at me.

            “REHEARSAL OVER,” I snapped, surprised at cold force in my voice. The others looked at me with a mixture of pity and humor. I hated it. I loathed it. I was not some kind of freak!

            “C’mon, Fujin, ya know?” Raijin pushed me off toward the stage. “Let’s take ya to see Dr. K. You ain’t ready for this yet.”

            “What the hell was that about, Fu?” Seifer asked, coming up on my right side, the side with the working eye.

            “Flashbacks,” I said, still with that precise coldness, though not as loudly. I couldn’t make myself say anything else…

            Dr. Kadowaki was in her office as she always was, sitting at her desk. There was a boy there, just about a year younger than me, playing cards with her. Squall was his name. I didn’t like him much, as he’d always been somewhat indifferent to me since I’d arrived. Now, though, his blue eyes showed concern, and as Seifer and Raijin dragged me through the door, he ran back to prepare the bed so I could rest. He leaned against the doorframe to the cubicle that served as a patient’s room while I was deposited onto the bed.

            “Hey, Seifer…” Raijin whispered to Seifer, and the latter looked over to Squall. From what I could gather, they didn’t like each other much. Seifer was older and stronger, but Squall was wiser and had more skill. Rivals though they were, Seifer would often comment to me about how “Little Squally” was still besting him in combat. It wouldn’t be derogatory, either. His voice was almost praising.

            Having completed the private conversation with Raijin, Seifer picked his way across the room to where Squall was leaning, and nodded toward the outside. Squall nodded back, and they left. I had the feeling that Seifer was telling Squall what had happened.

            Dr. K. entered as the two students left, shaking her head. “Fujin,” She began, her warm smile easing my worries. “I heard you had a little fall.”

            “CORRECT.” I said. Confused, I tried again. “FALL.”

            Doctor seemed as confused as I was. “It seems you’ve suffered more Trauma than I thought, hun. It’s catching up with you now.”


            Raijin made an exclamation from my left, and I looked over to him. He pointed to my hair. “It’s comin’ in white, Dr. K!”

            “You had quite a scare, I wager,” Doctor said, smoothing a hand over my braided hair. “Turning your hair white, so it is.”

            I sat for the longest time. It seemed I could only speak one word at a time now. I had to make the best of it.


            Dr. Kadowaki’s face broke into the most pitiful, defeated look I’d ever seen. “Fujin Arless, don’t you EVER let me hear you say that about yourself again, do you understand?” She drew me into an embrace, and I accepted it, gladly. She believed in me…

            “Is she ever, ya know, gonna get better, Doc?” Raijin asked. I looked over at him, my mind asking the same question.

            “Well, that’s up to Raijin,” the doctor said, looking at me and smiling. With friends that care about her…”

            “I’ll always care for Fujin!” Raijin spouted, his rough hand resting on my shoulder. I smiled. He believed in me.

            “That goes double for me,” Seifer said, returning with Squall. Squall looked at Seifer, then nodded to me as well. They believed in me.

            “So, Fujin, ya gonna be okay?” Raijin asked. I tried to think of a word that was stronger than just a simple ‘yes.’ Something positive. Something strong and forceful to convey the closeness that I couldn’t seem to physically express.

            “AFFIRMATIVE,” I finally responded.

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