The Black Flame

BY : RyuArashi
Category: Final Fantasy VIII > General
Dragon prints: 434
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VIII, nor any of the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

Disclaimer: SquareSoft owns all recognizable characters (not by the time I’m through with them, though). I’m just a poor writer with too much time and hentai imagination on my hands.

Author’s Notes: I would like to thank everyone who has been following my stories. I don’t consider myself a good writer, but I do have an overly active imagination….I’m glad you all think my stories are worth reading. Please, keep reviewing! It keeps the creative juices flowing!

Chapter 3: For the Love of Seafood

Alexander Raphael Shion del Khennan al Dincht, more popularly known as Zell Dincht, sole heir to the throne of his brother, the King of Balamb, leaned back into his chair and patted his flat, washboard stomach with satisfaction. He really, really loved hotdogs, but sometimes, he had a craving for well-prepared seafood.

Balamb, though being a small city-state, was well-known for a number of things. One of them being the University of Balamb, famous (and notorious) as being the home of SeeD, the other being the absolute best place to have seafood in the world. Besides, as one of the world’s foremost martial artists, he needed to have a balanced diet, and hotdogs, as much as he loved them, just didn’t cut it in the well-balanced diet department.
ell ell sighed. Most of all, he liked having to leave the campusind ind to enjoy his own company sometimes. As much as he liked people, having starry-eyed groupies chase him around wasn’t his idea of fun. Not that he didn’t enjoy the attention. He liked women fine, but having to do the dating thing when he really didn’t feel like it was sometimes tedious, at most boring. He wanted to have a good spar, hang out, and have fun, just for once without having girls swarm all around him. To tell the truth, he found the all the girls around campus boring. All they did all day, even the ones in SeeD, between missions (though he had hoped they were better than that) was find new ways to get new boyfriends, gossip about the latest romantic hijinks going on campus and who was committing fashion crimes and such. Only a very few percentage of females on campus had aspirations other than getting hot between the sheets with the cutest guys on campus and getting married eventually. He had hoped their society had evolved beyonat rat rubbish.

As much as he disdained the current student culture, he would be the first to admit that staying on top of the rumor mill was essential. It gave him the lowdown on what was going on in the campus, and he never disdained the power of information, false or not. Heck, info gathering was an art form he excelled at, and it had helped him and saved his life on numerous occasions in his past life he didn’t care to recall. In his past life as one of the most notorious assassins in the history of the Assassins Guild. Zell smirked and traced his fore finger down the black flame tattoo on his face as he thought of how the students of UB would feel to know that they had an expert killer in their midst. Probably they would all bail asap. Not that he had any intention of revealing who he really was. It was too dangerous. It was also one of the few reasons he refused to date anyone, and tried to limit contact with his brother the king as much as possible, much to his older siblings chagrin. The past had a strange way of coming back to bine ine in the ass. Hard. If any body of his old Guild found out he had a lover, family or someone he cared about, they would not hesitate to use them against him.

Zell was a pragmatist. He knew, sooner or later, someone would find him or recognize him, even though he had done an excellent job of covering up the evidence of his last kill and his tracks. It was the height of stupidity to be careless. It was true many people wouldn’t recognize him from that time-maybe not his face, which had grown out and filled in over the years, but the distinctive tattoo on his. Although he had tried to find ways to get rid of it, to no avail. It was part and parcel of his being, the mark of the gods, as his late mother had said. And he didn’t get to be the foremost assassin in the world for nothing. One thing he knew about the Guild was that they had long memories. Memories that still, no matter the passage of time, burned hot and long.

In fact, Zell despised his past. True, he had had no choice in his line of work- but he hated the fact that he had to do it. Taking someone else’s life was wrong, regardless of the reasons, except in self-defense. It was a realization that had come to him too late. Which was why had enrolled in UB. But he ended up in the last place he ever wanted- as a SeeD. Zell sighed again and put his head on his forearms. At least, he consoled himself; SeeD was formed for the greater good, to prevent situations, political or otherwise, from escalating into something truly hideous, like world wars. But that was small comfort. He’d just ended up killing again.
Zell shook his head vigorously. He had come out here to have some peace, not indulge in reminisces about his ugly past. There was time enough for that; right now, he wanted to think of something else entirely. Zell smiled to himself as he recalled running Squ Squall Leonhart. He had wanted to see the guy everyone had been beside themselves about, the new guy Rinoa Heartilly was said to have thrown Seifer Almasy over for. He had expected the guy to be some big bruiser like Almasy. Instead, he had been a surprise. For one thing, he was dark-haired. The info network had stated Rinoa had been more partial to fairer-haired guys, to contrast with her own dark tresses. She was also said to prefer tall men. Leonhart was certainly not short, not like him anyway, but he was shorter than Almasy had been. Almasy had been at least 6’2. From what Zell could tell, Leonhart was barely skirting 5’10. But he could tell what had attracted Rinoa to him. Leonhart had this quality, this charisma about him that drew eyes and people to him. He was very, very good looking-Zell had no problem giving credit where it was due. But there was something about his penetrating silver-grey eyes and scar that made people gravitate towards him. Zell could feel that pull when he had deliberately run into him.
Most of all, Zell had this feeling he had knew him before. It was strange. Zell never forgot a face-his training as a martial artist and assassin assured him of that skill-but the feeling he got from Squall Leonhart was uncanny. Zell was not a great believer in coincidences. He believed in things happening for a reason, and Squall Leonhart intrigued him. Zell jerked. No way, no how. He was not interested in Leonhart, or was he? Zell decided that was a thought he needed to explore more, some other time. Right now, he needed a brisk walk, to get his truly excellent dinner digested. Zell pulled the discreet cord located in the upper regions of his table. The owner of the establishment appeared as if by magic.
“Yes, My Lord?”
Zell winced and sighed. No matter how much he told the people of the kingdom not to call him that, they refused to co. Th. They all respected him too much. Zell wondered how much of that respect stemmed from love or intimidation. He loved and respected his older brother very much-who wouldn’t? The King was his only living relative, after all. But the king was much too concerned about appearances in Zell’s opinion. It was time big brother got married and filled his nursery. If he did that, he would be much too busy too concern himself with stupid stuff. Zell resolved to find his brother a wife from the campus-a young woman who was relatively intelligent, had a head on her shoulders, and was much too busy for gossip and romantic shenanigans….Zell smiled slyly. He knew just the woman. Heh, who woulda thought, that he, Zell Dincht would be a matchmaker?
In any case, he needed to get out of the restaurant.
“Terrani, I need to leave. Could you get me the bill, please?
Terrani stared at the young prince strangely. “Bill, Sire? You don’t need to pay! You’re a royal!”
Zell scowled. “When did that bullshit start? Aren’t you running a business?”
Terrani squirmed. “Well….all the merchants got together in the city and decided we loved our monarchs too much to bill them for something as trivial as this. We pay taxes, sire. You don’t need to pay for anything, ever in the country of Balamb....” Terrani cringed as the Heir to the Phoenix Throne of Balamb’s gaze raked over him with ill-temper.

Great Hyne, political bullshit.

Zell had no illusions about the move the Merchant Guild was trying to pull. By giving their royalty free reign for goods and services, they figured they could get favors from the various court officials and toadies. Heck, from even the King himself. By Hyne, he hated politics. Politics killed his parents, messed up the world. Even SeeD wasn’t free from the stench. But he was a realist. That was the way of the world. But he didn’t have to condone nor support it. He had no patience with hypocrisy-he had seen muchmuch of it in his life. Which was one of the reasons he hadn’t risen to the top of SeeD hierarchy. He refused to be diplomatic, even though he was capable. He left that nonsense to others. He knew this was just a tiny fraction of what his brother had to deal with on a daily basis. If Zell had to deal with this, he would be visiting a whole lot of people at night when they were asleep. This was why he knew he didn’t want to be King if anything happened to his brother. That meant he had better make fucking sure nothing happened to him.

“That has to be the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard, Terrani. I have no intention of getting out paying a bill. For now, I will pay, and you will accept it. Consider it a reward for good service, if you want.” Zell said, placing the amount he felt would cover the meal and a hefty tip. It was too much of course, but like he said, Zell considered it a reward for excellent service. It was really hard to get good service these days.
Terrani bowed very low as Zell stood up to leave. “Thank you very much, my lord, for your patronage. I will mention to the Guild your feelings on the matter.”
Zell wasn’t one to lose his temper for long--in his line of work, getting overly emotional tended to get you seriously injured or killed. In fact, he hardly ever lost his temper. But when he did, there was always hell to pay. For this instance, though, it wasn’t necessary. It was all political posturing, which he intended to stamp out. This meant a trip to the palace. But for now, he was going to take his walk, and he wasn’t going to allow politics, thoughts of the past orughtughts of a delectable, enigmatic someone spoil his evening.
“Yeah, do that, and do it soon. Anyway, I enjoyed my dinner. My compliments to the cook.”
Terrani smiled happily. “I’m sure my wife would be ecstatic to hear that, my lord.”
“Your wife? You’re a lucky man, Terrani. A woman who can cook like that and she hasn’t opened her own restaurant and left you to your own devises? She must be a goddess,” Zell teased the restaurant owner. Terrani flushed with pleasure. “I will pass on your effusive praises, my lord.”
Zell held folded his arms and held his chin. “Better yet, let me meet her to compliment her personally.”
Terrani looked at him, astonished. “My lord, you want to meet my wife?! But there is no need!”
Zell raised an eyebrow at the man’s comment. “Of course there’s need. I can hardly say how much I love her cooking without her here, could I? But I just want to see her, Terrani, nothing else. Go get her, please,”
Terrani nodded and rushed out with excitement dogging his footsteps. A royal Prince, wanting to meet his own Freiya….
Fifteen minutes later, after complimenting a blushing Freiya Terrani (He had kissed the back of her hand in greeting,) Zell finally set off on his walk.

Technically, though Balamb was on maps and geographically considered the smallest city-state in the world, it was actually a continent of its own and was pretty big. A lot of areas of the country were uninhabited and contained some of the most beautiful mountains in the world.
Zell sucked in the salty and tangy air of the Balamb City, his country’s capital and the biggest city in Balamb. It was also where the current reigning monarch spent most of his time. The University of Balamb’s campus was located about 20 miles from the capital. Near enough that the students got a taste of city life, but far enough that their antics didn’t bother the city too much.
As he walked through the city, Zell noticed how busy and bustling it was. He then remembered it was Evening Market day. Zell decided to go for a bit of window shopping-one never knew what treasures (and information) the market contained therein. As he examined fruit and clucked over the price of out of season strawberries, he used his time at the market to get information on the situatin otn other countries. He was lucky so far-none his subjects recognized him, as it was nearing nighttime.

Balamb was a port city, which meant that traders and merchants from all over the world came to buy, sell and trade goods. Even though he was SeeD, sometimes the opinions and thoughts of regular folk took stock of a situation more precisely than intelligence reports could. After all, when a country had political instability, it was the regular citizens who suffered the most. As he walked slowly through the market, he tuned his hypersensitive ears to conversations that contained discussions about politics. People couldn’t help but talk about politics, especially business people. Politics did dictate the wellbeing of a country’s economy, after all.
As he passed a stall, his ears caught something interesting.

“……such an incompetent. Man, if this is how royals behave, maybe we shojustjust have a republic!”

“I agree, but I’m not sure that’s an opinion you should be stating out loud….This is a public place, you know. Anyone could be listening in. Yon’ton’t want to be arrested for treasonous comments.”
The first voice snorted. “This is Balamb, bub. No one is going to arrest me for stating my opinion.”
The second voice chuckled with sympathy. “Now where have I heard that before? This is the problem with you young people today….No subtlety and way too naïve. You don’t need to be in the country to be arrested freasreason. People are always happy to turn you in for a bit o’ cash, my boy.” The older merchant snickered slyly. The younger man, deciding to take the older man’s advice, shut his mouth and decided to talk about something else, but still decided to put in the last word.
“I understand what you’re saying, but…..”
Zell decided to move away from that particularth. th. No info there; just normal political grousing…He
decided to pick up a bag of fruit. While the cafeteria food was good, their fruit was almost always overripe and bruised. As he moved among the stalls, he decided this evening was one he could overlook. He could always spy and gather intelligence later. Right now, he needed to see a certain monarch…….

Downstairs, a certain young main was still wondering who the mysterious voice was. Unfortunately, the person was too quick, and he wasn’t able to determine who the intriguing voice belonged to. Anyway, the person leftleft…it was a moot point.
Squall raised his hand for the bill. A waiter immediately appeared, and Squall quickly paid for his meal, leaving a nice tip. The waiter smiled warmly, bowing as Squall walked away. As he approached the exit of the entrance, something stopped him. He decided there and then to relieve his curiosity.
“Get me the manager of this restaurant. I would like to speak to him for a moment.” Squall told a young waiter, who was passing by. As the waiter had had served Squall had crowed about the large tip Squall had left in the kitchen, the young man recognized Squall as a “Very Important Personality With Money To Burn.” The young man quickly nodded and bowed, acquiescing to Squall’s demand.

Five minutes later, the same Terrani Squall had overheard the mysterious young man address appeared.

“How may I help you, honored sir?” Terrani bowed slightly. The owner/manager was not swho who this young man was, but it never hurt to be respectful. Besides, he had the aura of someone who was important. Terrain prided himself on being able to spot people like that. Besides, being polite never hurt anyone, and word of mouth about bad service could break an establishment very easily.

Squall nodded, acknowledging the man’s presence. “I’m sorry to disturb you, but I just wanted to know who that young man was that just left from upstairs…He looked very much like a friend I know…” People were such suckers for sob stories like this.
Terrani looked a bit uneasy. “Well…that personage was…”
Squall decided to put him at ease. An uneasy person was harder to get information from…
“It’s alright if you don’t want to tell…Sorry I bothered you..” That always got them.
“Oh, no not all, honored sir! It’s not like it is a secret or anything, but he does prefer to go incognito…But I don’t see how my telling you would hurt.” Terrani fell for the polite act hook, line and sinker. He never had a chance, anyway. He was dealing with an expert manipulator.
“That was His honored Royal Highness, Prince Alexander…It was such an honor to serve him…Why, he even condescended to complement my wife….” As soon as Squall got the information he wanted, he tuned the manager out.
“Thank you for the information….I will tel fri friends about your place…”Squall reassured Terrani. Terrani bowed profusely and Squall took his leave.
As he stepped into the street, Squall took a breath of deep air. Balamb City was a beautiful city. The air was smelled salty and tangy, caused by its nearness to the ocean. It reminded him a bit of the tiny island in Centra his family owned, an island inundated with the little belligerent cacti. He had a lot of fun as child chasing and trying to catch the elusive creatures. Later, they were the basis of his speed training before he left for school in Balamb. Squall sighed, as he walked along the street to return to the parking lot he had parked his car. He didn’t want to admit it, but he really did miss his home, his people and especially his father, Laguna, though he acted like an idiot most of the time.

Now that he had had his dinner, Squall’s mood improved slightly, though not by much. He dreaded going back to campus and dealing with Rinoa. He still didn’t want to go to the ball-he detested dancing after all-But really, nothing for him to do. Theere ere no missions for the next couple of weeks, he had finished all his assignments. Squall sighed again. He really needed a hobby…..

Meanwhile on campus…

Rinoa stomped intr ror room, temper flaring. At this point, her bad temper had caused her flunkies to flee to their various quarters. That was alright to her, though. She needed the privacy.
That Squall! How dared he refuse her and then walk away from her like she was some kind of….. regular girl…the nerve of the jerk. She picked up the hairbrush on her dresser and threw it bad temperedly against the wall. What was she doing wrong?! No man in her life had ever been able to deny her anything she wanted-not her numerous ex-boyfriends, not her uncles, male cousins, not even her own father! Whatever the Princess Rinoa wanted, she got. Why couldn’t she get the most handsome, desirable man on campus to give her what she wanted? Be what she wanted-a devoted boyfriend that made all the girls on campus cringe with envy. The miserable wretch.
Rinoa sat down on her bed with a huff and folded her arms, gnawing on a finger nail. She was beautiful, rich and popular. Everyone she knew wanted to be like her, be with her, and be seen with her.
All the guys on campus worshipped at her feet, hoping she’d throw Squall over for them. That wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, but she enjoyed all the attention she got from her devoted fans. Even girls wanted to be in her posse, as it was a sure fire way to get invites to all the cool parties on and off campus. Wherever there were parties, there were man. Where there were men, there were potential husbands.

Rinoa had no illusions about the sort of life she led. At some point, she was going to have to marry-the royal line of Galbadia had to continue after all. At least, she had the privilege of choosing her own mate-only after her darling daddy had approved, of course. It wouldn’t look good for her to show up with some nobody. This was the only time she would ever have any fun. Once married, as sovereign of Galbadia, she could not afford to be frivolous any more (A/N: doesn’t that just scare you? Having Rinoa as a sovereign ruler…).
As Rinoa mulled over the events that took place in the cafeteria, she came to a decision. She was going to find out once and for all who Squall really was. Strangely enough, despite all her powers of gossip and info gathering, she hadn’t been able to find out who he really was. She had a feeling that he was more than he appeared. For one thing, he was totally oblivious to the attention he garnered everywhere he went. He hadn’t been linked to anyone when she had met him, which was strange-no guy that looked like that could be partner less. No matter, he was hers now, and no one but her was getting him. As soon as she made up her mind to get to know her mysterious boyfriend better, Rinoa felt better. Standing up from her bed, she stretched and decided to take a shower and change her clothes. After all, if she was going to harass an inferior, she needed to look her best…..

A/N: First off, I’d like to apologize profusely about the huge gap between updates….I don’t own a computer personally, so it’s hard to find a place to get one. Also, I’ve been suffering from writer’s block. Getting a new job, going to school full time also contribute to the stress. But now, the juice is flowing, so the updates shouldn’t be as long as it’s been.

Phew! That was a long one…I know, I know, the plot is coming! Nothing really happened, but it will eventually, I promise! Please review…I need to feel loved…..

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