Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to the Final Fantasy series. They belong to Squaresoft.
This chapter is dedicated to my friend Kail, who is a wonderful person, a talented artist and writer, and who has been going through the roughest of times. Even though she had a "man to save the day", I know that things are not easy on her right now. My best wishes go out to you Kail, I hope that they will reach you :) May you always have a guardian angel watching over you, wherever your life may lead you, and may you never stop smiling.
Let Me Make It Alright
Chapter 48: Liberi Fatali
By Angry Angel
Ever since the carefree laughter of their childhood days at the orphanage had faded, there were many things that Squall Leonhart had come to understand. Unlike the little boy that he had once been, he knew well that life was fickle and death often only a spell or a sword strike away. Maybe he had never taken either very seriously - neither life nor death - but somehow he had always expected to find a bloody end on the battlefield, alone and abandoned by everybody else.
Anything else just would have felt unnatural to the untouchable "ice prince".
Hence, something about this current picture was very strange and very surreal, because Squall no longer stood alone. Instead, he found himself embraced and protected by the same blonde gunblader that had worked at wounding him on countless occasions, and that had never expressed even a glimpse of concern over his fate.
Perhaps Squall had simply been blind.
There were certain truths that one could only find within oneself; truths that would stay hidden forever if one looked away just long enough, and Hyne only knew that Squall had looked away as hard as he had been able to. Laying there that very moment, cradled in the crooks of Seifer's arms, he realized that he had never understood the real important things in life.
After everything that had happened, he should have been thankful that he had finally learned to love and to accept love in return, and deep down he was indeed bursting with gratitude, but there was also a bitterness inside his heart that couldn't easily be effaced.
Was it better to have loved and lost, or was it better not to have ever loved at all? For a long time, Squall had possessed nothing that had been of true meaning to him, and he could have cared less about the possible answers to that ancient question, but things were no longer so.
Suddenly, some things had become scarily meaningful.
One needn't be a pessimist to recognize that Squall and Seifer were doomed at last, and that they were probably already as much dead as they were alive. The prospect of his own demise didn't stir too much fright in the brunette SeeD's soul, for his words to Seifer had been true - Squall was not afraid of dying. Yet, he did fear for Seifer's life, for the love that was between them and for the future that perhaps they could have shared, had they just been granted enough time.
In almost nineteen years, his heart had never hurt so very much.
Now, he'd rest quietly in the arms of the man that had crouched down next to him as soon as Ultimecia had ordered her minion to their obliteration, but while his body was already defeated by the poison, his soul was still unwilling to give in.
His emotional resistance didn't help much, though. His mind was covered by a thick, impenetrable mesh of pain and numbness, and he found himself unable of spiriting it away. He couldn't even cast the simplest of spells; they would slip through his fingers like the sand of an hourglass, melting away without even giving him the hint of a chance.
It was so pointless.
"So, this is it, huh," a bitter baritone voice then snarled closely to his ear. "Never thought we'd end this way."
Seifer was still positioned between him and the approaching shadow of the Guardian Griever, and Squall had trouble forcing his sight past his friend's grave expression to keep their enemy in sight. He really wanted to just forget all about the sorceress and her slave, and instead only focus on Seifer's gorgeous face, but the warrior in him forbid it. He'd keep drifting from apathy to revolt, fighting a battle with himself rather than their true enemies.
Just what should he do now, at the end of all time? Surrender, or defy?
Somehow, neither seemed appropriate, or very promising at that.
Meanwhile, Griever's form had come much closer. The spirit force was walking firmly on its hind legs, its ebony-furred chest swollen and its silver wings swaying softly with each step; a carnal angel of death, sent from the very caverns of hell to kill them without mercy. It wouldn't even take much to finish the job either, for it seemed as if their tombs had already been shovelled.
Their blood would kindle with the obsidian rock to their feet before long - Squall had definitely understood that much.
Inwardly, he shivered at that perception, and he could feel once more how the liquid venom that the onyx inside his body had become was surging through his veins, desecrating him from within. He was starting to feel very dizzy, and locking his focus upon the approaching enemy was straining his last bits of energy.
Really, the only comfort that he could find in the progressing darkness of this nightmare was the man at his side, the same one that had his left arm wrapped about his figure in the fragile impression of protection. Seifer really was a good-hearted guy, he always had been, despite his cocky behaviour. Squall almost managed to smile at that thought, but even the smallest of movements hurt horribly, so he quickly let his features snap back into a lifeless frown.
'Yeah... this is it.'
"Are you that sure?"
"Did you forget already?"
Hesitantly, Squall narrowed his eyes and tried to turn his focus inward.
'Am I starting to hear things...?'
"That's not quite the correct way of putting it, though it isn't essentially wrong, either."
He knew that unimpressed, even voice. Although, he had almost forgotten all about the first time that he had heard it - the moment in which he had screamed out to Seifer during the blonde's attempt of killing sorceress. Squall couldn't actually recall the words, but the guttural, low tone to that voice was easy to recognize.
'Who are you?' he asked carefully in his mind.
"You know who I am. The real question is, who are you?"
Suddenly, Squall felt something around his finger go very hot, and he almost flinched at the painful impression. Dropping his gaze, he saw that the silver ring he wore on his right hand had come alight in an iridescent blaze of crimson, ebony and amber. Those colors were glimmering off sleek metal that should have shone in purest silver, and yet was not.
And then it dawned him.
His slate blue eyes widening in disbelief, he looked up and past Seifer's head at the approaching Guardian. Griever had stopped in his path, still a few feet afar from them, and he was gazing back at Squall with the patience and wisdom of a spirit that had seen ages, worlds and dimensions fly by as only a small shard of its lifeline.
Waiting - for something, for some sort of response.
'Why are you talking to me?'
"Because you are the Child of the Lion and the Bearer of the Seals."
'What? Child of... what? Seals...?'
Confused to his very core, Squall followed an instinctive notion and glanced at the necklace around his neck, which had ignited in the same twist of colors as his ring.
'What is this?' he winced, almost stumbling over the words in his head.
"The seals that reveal you as the true heir."
'The heir? The heir to what? I... I don't understand.'
"You are Squall Leonhart. We have met before. Once when you were just an infant, and once merely a year ago. And now, we meet again, and this time you are both of age and in the possession of the Seals."
'What... are you?'
"I'm a Guardian Force, though slightly different from most that you know."
'Why do you say that you've met me as an infant? I don't remember.'
"Of course you don't, you were quite little. Your parent sought to protect you, for she knew of the strength in your blood and the difficulties that you would have to face in due time. Hence, she appointed me your Guardian."
Shock and confusion crept into Squall's features and his eyes, and he twisted slightly in Seifer's embrace. For some strange reason, though, the blonde did not react to his struggles. More precisely, he wasn't moving at all, and his limbs were oddly stiff.
'What's going on here? Why is he so still?'
"I stopped time."
"It is a capability I rarely put to use, but I do on certain... occasions."
'Guardian Forces can't just stop time! Nobody can play with time like that, only...'
Again, the brunette attempted to lift himself from his friend's arms, but he fell slack against the petrified muscles. Groaning, he raised his face to meet Griever's, and a dangerous glint came alight in the corner of his eyes.
'How do you know her? What did you do to-'
Griever's seraphic wings were whirring very softly, as if stirred by a wind that was non-existent in this dark nightmare, and he replied calmly to Squall's suggestive question.
"She was my bonded, at least for a little while. I can adopt certain skills from my bonded, as long as they are receptive to my efforts. Ellone was quite so. She was willing to do anything to keep you safe."
"Before her death, your mother Raine gave me into Ellone's keeping. I was to stay with her until you would be old enough to bear the burden. However, Raine did not know that the orphanage you two would reside in was frequently haunted by witches. I would blame this on the fact that your matron, Edea, was a sorceress herself, but even I cannot tell you for sure."
'My... mother... you...'
Even in his mind, Squall had become unable to speak. Hearing of the mother that he had never known tore deep wounds into his now so vulnerable heart, and though he did not understand what the Guardian Force was telling him, he was suddenly eager to hear more.
"Yes, I knew your mother. She was a Leonhart as well, one in a long line of brave hearts. I have been the Guardian of your family for a very long time now, but after your mother faded, your line has become very thin. You are the last."
The brunette swallowed dryly, and anger begun to kindle with his childish confusion and the urge to hear all there was to tell about his mother.
'If you're really our guardian, then why didn't you help me...? Why... why all this...'
"I only answer to my bonded, or the bearer of the seals of the Leonhart family. When I was violently drawn from Ellone by a sorceress named Kendrana, so was my loyalty, and it seceded even her to move and stay with Ultimecia until this very day. However, the Crests have always had more meaning than the mere concept of being junctioned."
'You... you're saying...'
"I obey you."
The meaning of those words just wouldn't ease into Squall's tortured mind. Thoughts were whizzing through his head at dangerous speed, causing it to spin in endless pandemonium.
He wanted to scream.
'You... you OBEY me?! You did nothing to help us! Not this time, and not a year ago!!'
"A year ago, you were in the possession of one Seal, but that is not enough by any means. Neither is owning both seals, if you do not show the independence and valour that is so common to those that carry your name. However, on this date of today, you have proved yourself worthy in every aspect imaginable."
'You're not making any sense, you just-'
"You are the Child of the Lion. Born under the sign of the Leo, you're like a predator - strong, valiant and always aloof. Your will to survive and live on should have been stronger than everything else, and even though it was almost broken once before by Ultimecia's hands, it never quite faded entirely. But today, you offered your life in return for that of the Child of the Hunter. That was never meant to happen."
'What? Who... says that? I don't even know what you're talking about. I don't understand anything!'
"Every child that is born to this world has a certain path to take, a certain destination to reach. Sometimes, those paths cross, sometimes, those destinations clash. On your path, you lost your innate will to survive, but you also found something of much greater value. You found love. You found what neither you nor your archrival, the Hunter, was ever meant to find, and you found it inside each other."
"The one you call Seifer Almasy. His path was much different from your's, and still you managed to find a way to walk your roads together. That is very unusual. We know well of foreordination, and we were astonished to find the liberi fatali willing to sacrifice themselves for and to the hands of one another."
'"We"? What?? Liberi fatali? What do you mean by-'
Apparently though, Griever did not feel inclined to answer every single of the brunette's questions, and Squall couldn't shake off the impression that the Guardian Force was keeping certain things secret.
"Even though you did not act in conformation with your destiny, you still proved yourself worthy of your name and your servants, of which I am one. Today, you showed genuine courage, selflessness, honor and strength. You lived up to your heritage, Squall Leonhart, and you possess both of the Seals. I am at your command, whichever it might be."
Again, the distinct urge to vomit over this sick charade tingled through Squall's body, and he begun to repulse that 'Guardian' with every fibre of his being. Why should he even consider trusting and listening to a spirit that had done nothing to help him thus far, and that could very well just be playing a trick on his mind?
'I don't believe in destiny... and I don't believe you, either.' he snapped back rancorously.
"You're stubborn, but even that is a trait of your bloodline. Your mother was a very headstrong and proud woman, and though she never used me in battle, she was no less of a warrior than you are... and no less intractable."
"It is of course not my duty to push my services onto you. If you wish to refuse, I will respect that wish."
Even though he didn't like it very much, Squall was starting to waver, and yet again he became aware of Seifer's motionless arms around him and the frozen body of the sorceress in the distance.
Maybe there still was one simple reason to grasp even the smallest of straws.
'What could you even do...?' he finally sighed. 'You haven't done anything yet...'
"I cannot directly turn against my bonded, nor can I turn against my true bearer. I will not kill you, no matter what she commands, however I must eliminate your friend if the witch queen specifically orders me to do so."
'Then you're useless. Why are you even telling me all this? There's nothing you can do.'
"That is incorrect, young Leonhart. Though I cannot essentially turn against Ultimecia and attack her, I can still grant you my powers to use them against her. If I give up myself and my immortal life to be of your service, then you can use the strength I've been bestowed with at your free will."
'I... I see.'
"I also adopted one of Ultimecia's abilities during our residence within your sword, when her energy was vulnerable and she could not simply push me out. I can erect barriers the same way she can, and I can use them to protect you, the true bearer."
Suddenly, Squall felt as if the air around him had quivered, rocking hard against his chest and robbing him of his breath. Gasping through his aching throat, he wrestled for composure, and he stared helplessly at the golden-eyed Guardian Force that appeared slightly concerned, though its features looked as arcane and careless as ever.
"Your powers are fading, Squall Leonhart, and so are mine. I cannot keep this void of time up any longer."
'Okay... okay, then let's do it,' the brunette hissed arduously inside his mind. 'Grant me your strength and I'll kill her...'
"If that is indeed your wish, then that is what I will do. However, there is still one thing that you must know, and though it may not change your mind, you have to be fully aware of it."
'Then tell me.'
"... As you wish."
=To be continued!=
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