Taejin Mission 017: Silent Knife | Hope and Squall

“You have got to be kidding me…”

The stable hand flinched under the weight of Squall’s dissatisfaction, and whimpered something inaudible before scampering away with an apologetic dip of his head.

He should have expected it, really, with the out of the ordinary silence as they’d approached the Chocobo stables, but this was beyond ridiculous. How on Pulse was it possible that there was only one rideable Chocobo left?!

Squall shook his head tiredly, the haze of sleep still fogging up his thoughts. He had been working himself to exhaustion every night recently, to avoid the thoughts that came as he lay in bed before falling asleep. The thoughts that had come about, partially because of the silver-haired man standing at his side now.

He couldn’t help but curse his luck mentally. Of course HQ always had the best timing. It had been said that the two would be put on a mission together, but that decision had never been followed up upon, until now. Squall moved towards the supply stall and grabbed a huge bag of feed, loading it onto the bird’s saddlebags with an unreleased sigh.

Having to share a Chocobo between the two of them could only extend the length of an already long journey, and Squall was a little thankful that they had been informed at their paging that the mission would most likely be an overnight one. It saved him the trouble of going back to his house and grabbing his jacket. He looked toward Hope and hoped the other was sufficiently garbed as well.

An overnight mission with Hope…The idea was nerve-wracking for Squall, who could only hope that he wouldn’t do anything that would chase the other man away. He couldn’t let the other too close, he reminded himself, or Hope would be snatched out of his life as well.

Adjusting his jacket which he had taken to tying at his waist under the sweltering afternoon sun, Squall fiddled with the newest addition to his standard garb, a sheathe for his newly created weapon on his left, in addition to the loose holster for his standard gunblade on the right. He hadn’t been able to take it on a test run yet, having barely completed its construction that same morning, but he had confidence in the calculations he had made.

Turning to Hope, Squall could immediately feel his hard gaze softening, and some of the frustration dissipated as he smiled weakly at the other man, heart thumping furiously.

“Right. We’ll take turns riding this Chocobo, I guess? Your turn first.”

Despite his using of the word ‘turns’, Squall had every intention to let the silver-haired man spend a majority of his time in the saddle.

Taejin Mission 010: Floral Escort | Hope and Aerith

The young medic stood in the briefing room by the window, earlier than expected this time. She won’t make the same mistake of being late. Aerith was observing the glass of powdered sage given to her in the clinic, turning it this way and that, letting the light hit the concentrated dust and admired its shimmering.

“I’ve heard there’s been a lot of trouble to get you,” she murmured softly to the round container that was about the size of her fist. Aerith had a habit of talking to flowers, the dusty form of it didn’t seem to hinder this tendency. “Hopefully it won’t be much more trouble getting you to that village.”

She wondered what this Hope fellow would be like. It was only her second mission and Aerith certainly hoped it would start better than her previous one.

“I hope that Hope is nice to us.” She laughed at her own cheesy joke, but meant it genuinely.

Taejin Mission 011: The Night Fight | Noel, Squall, Hope and Aerith

Aerith nearly fell on her face as she hastily jumped off her chocobo, its own labored breathing mirroring the medic’s. She didn’t stop to take a breath—as much as her lungs pleaded for relief—when she burst through the briefing room’s doors. Time was of the utmost essence. Her eyes painfully adjusted to the sudden lighting of the briefing room’s interior, quick to notice the familiar face of Squall Leonhart and the not-so familiar face of Noel Kreiss. In any other given moment, Aerith would have been her usual amiable, cheery self and warmly introduced herself, but Hope’s life was on the line and Aerith was in a sort of frenzy. She needed to get to her clinic. Now.

The medic decided to explain the situation on the way, she hurriedly ran past the two men and motioned them to follow quickly. Her legs burned as Aerith made her way to the infirmary, unfamiliar to the long, incessant duration of her pace.

“H-hope. He’s in trouble. On our way back—Behemoth. Poisoned too and getting worse. On his own right now. Need to help him and—-” she struggled to explain clearly and calmly, her mind spinning in anxiety and adrenaline. Getting to the clinic, she ran toward her medication cabinet and clumsily grabbed for a potent antidote. She grabbed the hand of the closest man to her and closed his fingers around the phial, along with a syringe and its needle. “You have to administer this into his jugular vein—” She demonstrated and pointed to a point in her neck with one hand and to the soldier’s site on his with the other,“—Hope will die in no time if you don’t do it right or soon enough.That specific spot as soon as you see him.” Aerith thought she’d cry when the word “die” left her lips. It was out of her hands now, the obligation now fell on Squall and Noel, and yet she still felt responsible. Guilty even.

She realized how confused the two comrades must have felt, the flurry of words and the sudden given task of jabbing a needle into someone’s neck else they’ll lose their life. But Aerith couldn’t apologize or reiterate herself, she just wanted them gone to Hope’s aid. It was painful to watch Hope struggle with both the beast and the ailment he suffered, to force herself to leave him like this. All Aerith could do was get here, and now that she was all she could do was croak:

“Go. Now.”

Self-Sustaining Cook | Faris and Hope

It was… kind of red and kind of yellow… Very round, overall. Stupid piece of fruit. Was it a fruit? Vegetable?  

This is pathetic.

Faris felt her face flush, an act she rarely partook in being the proud individual that she was. But it couldn’t be helped. After all, she was rarely this out of her element in the first place.

She allowed her eyes to stray from the mountain of kind-of-red-and-kind-of-yellow fruit in front of her and roam over the aisle she was in; it was full of a variety of fruits and vegetables, all of it well out of her regular vocabulary. This was a far cry from the grocery shopping that took place on the Syldra.

It wasn’t uncommon for the crew to just go ahead and pillage whatever they needed. And even when they did shop for food, their options were limited due to the realities of life on a ship. Faris had spent the past several years of her life on a steady diet of dried meat, fish, dried fish, pickles, pickled fruits, pickled vegetables, pickled fish… other dried food… canned food…

Sure, they had sometimes gotten better meals with fresh ingredients (usually when they were docked for a while), but that wasn’t the norm.

Do they have a canned food section? The query caused her to turn left and right, looking around for any indication of the sort of food she’d be familiar with, and that was when she noticed a young man with soft silver hair.

Has he been watching me stand here like some daft sop? She wondered, and subsequently squared her shoulders at the thought—already feeling defensive.

The Long Night | Hope and Squall

He hadn’t been allowed in while the medic was doing her checks. Squall wasn’t happy about that, but not wanting to delay medical attention to the silver-haired man, decided not to argue.

So it was that he had been pacing around the corridor outside the infirmary, the minutes slowly ticking by, feeling more like hours. The quiet of the mostly empty building, a contradiction to the feeling of worried urgency surging through his veins, instilled in Squall a deep sense of displacement. He felt out of place, helpless…lost.

And then the door opened, and emerald orbs looked at him, the woman’s petite face nodding as she signaled to him that he could go in. He needed no further invitation. Immediately, he rushed for the door, slowing only when he confirmed with his own eyes the safety of the Ravager, lying down on one of the infirmary beds, complexion still somewhat pasty.

“Hope. How’re you feeling?”

Taejin Mission 1: Goblin Uprising | Hope and Squall

Squall tossed and turned on his bed, trying hard to avoid the constant onslaught of thoughts in his head. He hated having nothing to do. It meant more time for him to think about things, something he had no real desire for. It was easier to just focus on what had to be done, and avoid those thoughts that made him so vulnerable.

He thought of sis, as was often the case. His memories of her were now faint with the passing of time, but he remembered a bitter feeling of helplessness. Well, he had come a long way from the way he had been as a kid. He wouldn’t cry and wish for sis to come back anymore. He had left that pathetic self behind. He was stronger now, strong enough to fight, to protect.

Protect what?

Squall tried to avoid that thought, avoid the inconvenient possibility that, maybe, he had no real passion for protecting the village. Most times, he simply did it because he was told to. Of course, it wasn’t like he disliked the village, or the people in it. There were kind people here, and he would hate to see any of them hurt. It was his duty to protect them, but was he doing it for the sake of duty, or…

Squall’s pager beeped loudly from his table, breaking him out of his thoughts, and he jumped up, glad for the opportunity to focus on something else other than the mess in his head. It was a mission call. Squall stuffed the pager into his pocket, grabbed his gunblade from the cluttered desk where he had been doing its regular maintenance earlier, and strode out of the room with quick steps.

He would leave the thoughts which were difficult to deal with behind, as he always did.