Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to the Final Fantasy series. They belong to Squaresoft.
Let Me Make It Alright
Chapter 44: "Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec"
By Angry Angel
Of this world, the end is coming.
Dreams and hopes do not matter.
Inside your heart, you are sleeping,
But you will not wake.
Feel the hand of a future that cannot be changed.
- "ExDream" by Myuji (Thanks Wai!)
'What... why... how...'
Squall had stood tacitly, his hand curled to a rock-hard fist, while his eyes had looked straight ahead, seeing nothing. At the awakening of the shadows and the touch of their prophetic feather, all of Squall's senses had shut themselves off, a futile and helpless defense mechanism that was to ward him against the things that were to come. He didn't want to hear, see, smell or feel the darkness that was enclosing him, nor did he want to taste the reality that his nightmares had become. Subconsciously, he was forcing himself to elide those frightening impressions, spinning out of time and involuntarily forgetting all about Seifer's presence as well.
Seifer, however, hadn't forgotten him.
He had quickly cast away his sullen pride and almost lost his poise at the horrifying image of his friend being enveloped by shrouds of black feathers that had been regorging from the sky like shreds of death itself. They had vanished, of course, transformed into bodily smothers of darkness that seemed to infect everything around them with their fell essence, and Seifer had found that new development no less terrifying. He was continuously screaming Squall's name, but the boy wouldn't do so much as turn a hair at his pleas. Petrified to a statue, the brunette was letting all evil wash over himself without putting up a fight, much like the shores would willingly admit the sea, seemingly accepting the assault like an inevitable spectacle of nature.
When Seifer realized that Squall was not going to offer even the slightest form of resistance, he knew that it was on him to act, or else all of his efforts ever spent on Squall's life would have been in vain.
What exactly those shadows were and where they had come from was yet debatable, but one thing was beyond any doubts:
They meant to destroy Squall.
And thus, Seifer crossed the distance between their bodies, only casually noting the change that their surrounding had been made subject to. His sole focus was on Squall, and the caustic edge to his own voice was an echo of his enthusiastic concern as he called out to the eighteen year old brunette before him. He shook the other boy's shoulder violently, his own eyes searching the emptiness of Squall's for a sign of living, before his attention was diverted by the menacing, vibrant sound humming low and guttural from the nucleus of LionHeart itself.
The sword, indeed.
Fortunately, Seifer's senses were still working quite flawlessly. Quickly, he went to seize the hilt of Squall's gunblade, ready to tear it from the boy's belt before it would cause any more harm, when unexpectedly, Squall's fisted hand unclenched and lashed downward in the flash of a motion. A slender, gloved hand curled itself around Seifer's wrist like a shackle, immediately firming its grasp to where its iron force threatened to snap the blonde's bones.
Seifer winced at the sudden sharp pain evoked by the other youth, desperately trying to wrestle free from Squall's merciless grip, but he stood not a fraction of a chance. He yelled and cussed, yanking at his wrist with all the force he could muster, yet it was but useless. The brunette was still staring ahead eerily, not even heeding him with a single glance, and his leather clad fingers only tightened their excruciating hold.
"Ghh... Squall!! Squall, stop!! Fuck, stop!!"
The blonde begun to see bright lights whirring in front of his inner eye at the pain inflicted upon him, and even screaming was steadily becoming difficult.
He should have been able to shake Squall off with ease, but the SeeD's strength was not from this world.
"Squall... Hyne... ghh... you're hurting me... stop... you'll break my fucking wrist... let go!"
..::: "You're hurting me." :::..
Maybe there had been more potency behind those words than Seifer had thought when he had hissed them through ground teeth, but either way, they were the only ones that managed to sever the veil of shadow that was blearing Squall's psyche.
'... you're hurting me...'
Finally, life returned to the void of greyness in Squall's eyes, as did reason to his mind.
'What am I doing...?'
"Squall, let go!! Let go!"
And as feeling came seeping back into every fibre of Squall's body, his fingers released Seifer's wrist with a snap. Gasping, he drew away from Seifer's blurred figure, and though he dimly realized what he had done, he had no time to apologize, because with the ability to feel came the ability to hurt.
And hurt he did.
At first, it was difficult for him to locate the exact origin of his ache; an ache so violent that it was effortlessly diminishing him to a wreathing heap as he collapsed heavily onto his knees. His entire body was racked with convulsions, panging in every imaginable place that was capable of hurting.
Squall could feel himself shutting down inside, reaching that unique, personal limit of agony that he was able to endure before passing out, when suddenly, everything stopped almost as quickly as it had begun.
Still sitting doubled over, he was panting sharply, his lungs trying to harvest as much oxygen as they could to aid his mind in clearing. Even after he had managed to blink away the last residues of the assault on his mind, it still took him a few seconds to acknowledge the presence of another body next to his own.
His face slanted wryly, Squall looked over his shoulder at the man that was squatting behind him and rubbing his throbbing scaphoid bones. Seifer was displaying a lousy attempt at a half-smirk; a dry smile that got caught on the chafed surface of his lips and never reached his eyes.
Not that there was a whole lot to be smiling about.
Quite contrary, concern was lacing the blonde's words as he finally managed to grind them out through gnashed teeth.
Squall momentarily had to contemplate his vast assortment of possible answers, before he decided on a vague nod.
"What happened?" he inquired shakily.
Grunting, Seifer jabbed his chin in the general direction of Squall's gunblade, which he had torn from the boy's belt only seconds ago.
A task much more difficult in nature than the sounds of it.
At the sight of Squall's torment, Seifer had quickly abandoned his own distress and brought himself to wrench the sword from the brunette's hip. He had been rather stunned by the destructive pain induced from the blade's mere hilt; pain which had been dire enough to annihilate every single nerve in his hand, had he only held on just a little bit longer.
Fortunately, though, Seifer hadn't.
He had chucked LionHeart a good ways into the crook of the mountain ledge, away from Squall and himself. After said accomplishment, he had assured himself that Squall was okay, only severely out of breath and not hurt, before actually attending to his own woes.
Groaning, Squall was now following Seifer's curt physical notion with his gaze and found his gunblade laying a few feet away from him on blackened ground, still surrounded by an eerie sabled glow that was only intensifying.
It wasn't until then that Squall finally became fully aware of the thoroughly maleficent transformation that their environment had undergone.
Grey rocks once dusted with sun-worn grass and framed by a warm orange sky were no more. Instead, Squall found a choppy surface of dark, obtuse stone beneath his bended knees, an impenetrably nocturnal kind of rock that he guessed to be onyx and that he remembered undoubtedly from his nightmares.
"This is bad," he whispered flatly, his eyes yet again glued to the eclipsed image of his sword.
"Ya think?" Seifer replied coolly, with more cynicism to his voice than he had originally intended.
Admittedly, Seifer was downright worried, and he had no intentions of lingering out in that disturbing darkness any longer. Granted, both of them were quite used to such supernatural things happening to them, but though he couldn't quite figure out what it was, something about this was dramatically different from any of his previous experiences.
Seifer hated to run away, but he was wise enough to admit that sometimes, retreat was really the smartest of options.
"We need to get out of here," he thus stated firmly, prodding his arm into Squall's side. "Can you get up?"
The brunette was eyeing him with a peculiar blend of near-hysteria and doubt. Testily, Squall then shifted his weight and thrashed into an upright position, easily unfolding his legs beneath his body and steadying his equilibrium sense.
Not so bad after all, perhaps.
"Okay," Seifer remarked behind his back with a quiet sigh of relief, "Let's go!"
"No! Whatever this is, we can't fight it alone."
"No, Squall! Come on! I'm going, and I ain't leaving you here!"
The young SeeD Commander flicked his head around to gaze at Seifer, who had risen to his feet as well. The older gunblader's face was grim, reflecting the blonde's fierce determination to drag the brunette from that ledge if need be, but Squall was all too willing to comply. Fuck his sword, fuck his nightmares and the filthy little secret that they obviously incorporated.
For now, he just wanted to escape.
Being a hero had become tiresome enough.
Both Squall and Seifer jumped at the sound of a voice that was strangely familiar to both of them, yet seemed to surface from nowhere at all. A voice that was equally menacing and mocking, feeding upon their deepmost primal fears.
Thoroughly irritated, Seifer exchanged glances with the brunette, who was casting fleeting looks around, only pausing every now and then at the profile of his sickly skewed sword.
"Did you hear that?" Seifer finally asked in a low-pitched tone, which had come rather rasp from his throat.
Squall nodded hesitantly in reply, and his eyes narrowed to slate blue slits at the sight of Seifer drawing Hyperion and cocking the silver blade in a defensive, stilted arch.
There really had been no need for Seifer to hush his brunette friend, but the blonde did so all the same. Being quick to panic had never been one of his traits, yet he could feel his heart pounding in his chest.
He knew that voice.
He had heard it far too many times, in a past that he would have gladly forgotten.
You think you remember? Maybe you aren't quite as idiotic as I thought.
Seifer's head swung around, as did his sword, his gaze frantically searching the distance for the source of those condescending words.
At his side, Squall was clamping his teeth down upon his lips, painfully digging his fingers into the leather clad depths of his palms. Without his weapon, he didn't have much to defend himself with. Armed with nothing but a handful of spells, his Guardian Forces and his throbbing urge to protect the man next to him by all means necessary, it was all he could do but hold his head high in childish defiance.
Little did he know that Seifer felt no different.
Your insolence is... almost amusing. As entertaining as your runty display of repugnance might be though, I think it is well time.
As if in a mute agreement, Squall and Seifer huddled closer together, both driving their apprehensive glances into the other's eyes at the silent threat in that bodiless statement. Neither of them could exactly place a finger on their wavering perceptions, but they felt that something was about to happen.
Something of more maliciousness than either of them was prepared for.
When Squall's glare fastened to the pulsating, malevolent aura that was surrounding his precious gunblade, he understood more than he had ever wanted to know.
"Seifer! It's... them!"
The blonde whirled around at Squall's hoarse cry, his emerald orbs immediately dilating at the disturbing scene that was unfolding before their very eyes. There was no need whatsoever for the younger brunette to explain his definition of the term "them".
Everything had become much too obvious.
"No... no, that's impossible!" the blonde gasped.
No, no, no. I'm afraid it very much isn't.
As the vibrant, now flaming black aura filling the deserted form of LionHeart had bled into the ground, fusing with ancient veins of nocturnal gore and doom to form new and twisted life, two blurred figures were borne from the darkness, sucking all feeble power from the once beautiful blade of Squall's sword. Mercilessly, the shadows were reaping their source, and they became the one nightmare that Squall had been fearing for a much too long period of time.
To become what never should have been.
To become what had been deemed destroyed barely twelve months ago.
To become the incubus of an entire generation and any that were to follow.
Disbelief was reflecting from shimmering surfaces of both green and blue, and though Seifer Almasy had never actually seen the ivory skinned woman clad in a crimson tinged dress of heavy velvet, had never seen her long silver hair, burning amber eyes and amethyst tattoo adorned face, he knew exactly who he was looking at. He had beheld her grotesquely black seraphic wings in his most horrendous nightmares, always watched by the cold, arrogant orbs of her ancient eyes.
"This can't be..." he breathed again with weak quietness, before shutting up entirely.
Shadows and flame had formed the bodily incarnation of the sorceress Ultimecia.
The moment that Squall had laid eyes on the queen of all witches, he wanted to scream from the bottom of his soul and unleash all agony that he had been bottling up inside the profundities of his spirit for so very long, always telling himself that it couldn't be, that he was merely driving himself insane over a demon that could no longer do him any harm.
How could he have been so blind?
And though Seifer had not been able to put a name to the countenance of the second shadow that was squiring the sorceress herself, Squall was all the more capable of doing so. The ensuing apparition was much larger in statue than the misleadingly frail frame of Ultimecia, and an entirely different species of life to begin with. It was neither human nor beast, even if its appearance could have suggested a kindredship with the latter.
"Is that... what I think it is...?"
Squall's breathing had slowed to a crawl, and he almost felt himself unable to reply his friend's trembling question.
Of course it was.
"Griever. It's Griever..."
Seifer instantly remembered the story that Quistis had told him; a ridiculous fairy tale of Ultimecia's Guardian Force having bonded with Squall's sword and ending up trapped inside. Great story, really.
There was just one problem.
This twelve feet tall, garnet and ebony furred lion that was towering on his hind legs, framed by a pair of white wings and bladed arms and looking like the personification of death itself, could hardly be called a fairy tale.
Neither Squall nor Seifer knew how, but Ultimecia and Griever had emerged from the abysms of LionHeart, leaving the blade looking dull and see-through like a worthless shard of glass.
It was worse than any nightmare.
"No! NO! We killed you!! This is not possible!! We killed you!!"
Squall's voice was nearly snatching with hysteria, his despair and unbelief so evident that it seemed to dearly amuse the witch. She was smiling coldly, and in a gesture of infinite faith into her own capabilities, she turned her back to the two young men, casually pacing a few steps away from the hollow gunblade that was resting on the stretch of obsidian ground that parted SeeD and sorceress.
"My dear Squall..." she suddenly spoke calmly, an almost serene coloring to her words. "How very cute you are."
Her stride was even and provocatively gentle in nature. Still facing away from them, she was then moving her hands in a cryptic manner, raising a throne of darkness out of the onyx stone that she had manifested all around them. With a whir of her wings, she turned around, slowly lowering herself into the massive, angularly shaped seat while fixing the men with her inquisitive, amber gaze. Griever was looming next to her bizarre throne like the guardian that he was, his animalistic face giving away neither emotion nor intention as he gazed upon the young Commander of Balamb Garden quietly.
Seifer could anticipate Squall's loss of control, and his concern about the brunette's state of mind was almost as great as his fear for both of their lives in general. This was the sorceress that the SeeD had fought barely a year ago, saving the world and becoming the hero that he had never wanted to be.
Squall Leonhart, conqueror of the queen of witches and savior of all mankind.
... What a farce.
"I KILLED YOU!"
Screaming, Squall was threatening to charge for the sorceress' life with bare hands, and it was only thanks to Seifer's quick reactions that he was spared a premature end. The blonde's arm flashed to the side, so rapidly that it was almost invisible, and Squall rebounded from it with all the force he had put into his vain attempt of killing Ultimecia yet again.
"No, Squall! You aren't accomplishing anything like this!"
The brunette had stumbled backwards, only prevented from falling over by his efficiently trained agility. Fretting and fuming in an onset of pointless anger, he was slamming his gloved hand into his forehead, not even feeling the pain of the impact.
"This is not true... this can't be..."
Seifer's glance kept bouncing back and forth between the images of Squall and Ultimecia. The sorceress did not appear as if she was preparing for an immediate attack, but the highly pleased smile on her face was threat enough.
"Pitiful little SeeD. Has your ridiculous illusion finally been shattered? How heart breaking. You should have known all along."
She was shaking her head in pretense gentleness, awakening in Seifer the distinct urge to gag in a fit of nausea.
"Squall, are you-"
The brunette was ignoring Seifer's helpless attempts at caring for him; he could only dwell in his fathomless incredulity and the fact that everything he had ever believed in had been wiped out in the matter of an instant.
"It was simple, really," the sorceress went on blithely. "You and your little friends were so caught up in the beautiful phenomenon of time compression that you didn't even notice how Griever and I sought refuge in the sheltering encasement of your precious gunblade, luckily before our spirits could have vanished in the maelstrom of oblivion. You see, some of the components used to forge LionHeart are very much compatible with mine and Griever's magic. Adamantine... dragon fangs... pulsar ammunition... it doesn't take a sorceress of my proficiency to prey such beneficial circumstances."
Gravely, Squall closed his eyes. The beating of his heart nearly drowned the sound of Ultimecia's jeering words out, but they were echoing from deep inside him all the same. Her presence had been a parasite to his daily life, and yet he had not acknowledged it. His nightmares, his strange intuitions and the constant feeling that something just wasn't right were finally explained, and he wanted to kill himself over being so very sightless.
"Certainly," Ultimecia continued bemused, "You had inflicted quite some damage upon my guardian and myself, but it was no harm that my theurgy could not have cured with time. In fact, I quite enjoyed the months I got to spend in your vicinage. You are so easy to manipulate, with such a beautiful talent for suffering. How could I have passed up the chance to meddle in your petty schemes and self insurgencies?"
"Bitch," Seifer snarled angrily, his focus still wavering between the witch and his friend.
"Ah. Yes. There is you, too. When you returned to the stage, my inapt knight and servant, things almost went out of hand."
"I was never your servant, bitch," the blonde hissed venomously, now boring his virulent green eyes into the woman's physique.
"You are much more skilled at lying than that pathetic, uptight affinity of your's, but contrary to your false credences, it doesn't naturally make you successful. You were my submissive little servant, but you were good for nothing but disappointing the expectations that I held in you."
"Shut up," Seifer growled. "What do you know, you psycho hag?"
While Ultimecia only laughed gently at Seifer's random insults, Squall was still flaring with fury and resentment. He was rancorous to a fault, yet there were things that he had come to understand. He was no longer trapped inside a foul dream world; this was reality, and it was dangerous for both him and the man that he cared for so deeply.
'The man that I care for...'
Immediately, Squall felt his irises widening in shock.
If Ultimecia had been so close to him all this time, did she know about his inmost, secret desires? Had she been prying in the affairs that concerned his heart more than anything else?
As if the sorceress had guessed, known or read Squall's dread from the very lines of his face, her smile was deepening, gaining in calculated spitefulness and arrogance.
And unlike the two young men, she knew exactly how to use their hidden feelings to her advantage.
"The sorceress knight and the sorceress slayer. My, what a couple. I knew of your obsession with this particular SeeD when you were still my menial, Seifer, and I see that it has only grown in vigor. Sadly, he does not feel the way you do."
As much as they tried to hide it, both Seifer and Squall had become very unsettled at those words, and their bodies stiffened involuntarily.
What did she know?
"Indeed, our little SeeD believes that he is in love with you, and very falsely so. Much unlike your feelings, Seifer, his have been provoked solely by my intrusion."
Entirely convulsed and shaken in their faiths, the two gunbladers exchanged fatal glances in the tranquility of time that flowed between them. Neither of them could decide whether they wanted to accept the witch's words as truth or lie, as they bode both ill and well. According to her, Seifer was genuinely obsessed with his brunette friend and rival, yet was obsession really such a positive thing? Also, she claimed that Squall thought himself in love with his childhood rival, yet the stress seemed to lie on the word "thought".
"You talk too much," Seifer finally huffed dismissively, playing down his true state of mind.
"Contrary to your uncandid words, I know quite well how terribly you want me to continue to speak of Squall Leonhart's feeling concerning your person. But then, why don't you ask him yourself about those oh so romantic sentiments of his?"
Though stubborn Seifer was, he could not ignore the nagging urge to comply with Ultimecia's proposal. She had been "living" with the brunette for quite a while, after all, and thus far, her statements did make sense.
Gasping, Squall was incapable of filling the pregnant pause that had followed Seifer's single-worded question. His former desire to tell the blonde exactly how he felt about him had been oddly quenched, and instead, he suddenly realized that he was wavering inside as he shifted uncomfortably from one foot to another.
Did he really only think that he loved Seifer?
"Hello? Is she right?"
"I..." Squall stuttered helplessly, obviously fighting for composure. "I... I don't know."
A content cackle stirred the air, fully bearing the knowledge of having successfully driven a wedge between the two gunbladers that had been struggling so hard to hold on. Little did they know that Ultimecia was, and always had been, a mistress in the deceptive arts, easily possessing and controlling even the strongest of minds to twist them in her hands like clay.
Easy to manipulate, indeed.
"What do you mean, you don't know? It's not that fucking difficult, Squall!"
Seifer didn't know where his sudden anger had erupted from, but it was there and it was clearly gaining control over his behaviour. He wasn't sure whether carving so sharply into Squall was really what he wanted, but...
"I... she... Look, I don't know, Seifer! I'm trying, but..."
Snorting, the blonde retreated a few steps from Squall's figure, and the younger man couldn't do much but gape. He tried to comprehend what was going on and pin down his feelings, but his mind had become so... intractable.
Why were they talking about their relationship of all things when there was a sorceress to defeat?
Frankly, he really didn't know.
"I see. I see how it is," Seifer hissed coldly.
Oh yeah. This was exactly what he wanted.
The expression on Seifer's face had changed, his once warm aura cooled to an icy lowness that could have matched Squall's on a bad day.
The brunette however couldn't see it, didn't want to see it.
"Seifer! Why are you-"
"Shut up, Leonhart."
All wind had been knocked from Squall's chest at the sound of Seifer's frigid voice and the chill in his eyes. This wasn't the caring, thoughtful Seifer whose company he had been blessed to enjoy the previous weeks. This wasn't even the annoying prick of a Seifer that he had known as a child and a young boy.
What was going on?
"What are you-"
"She was right," the blonde spat disdainfully, "She was right all along!"
"You never did care about anything but yourself, thinking you were all that and you could have anyone you wanted!"
"Stop 'Seifer'-ing me. You were always a little cry baby, Leonhart."
"What the fuck is wrong with you, Seifer?!" the brunette snapped helplessly, barely recognizing the sound of his own voice.
"Ah. I forgot you were stupid, also. You never did compare to me, I guess," the older gunblader replied with a humorless smirk.
And finally, Squall understood.
He knew who this Seifer was, even before the blonde had raised his cold voice to a dull, fatal snarl.
"I'm the sorceress knight."
=To be continued!=
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