By Scarlet Fever
"Holy shit..." Squall mused.
Lillith laughed again, seeming to find his surprise funny. "I'm a Sorceress, Mr. Leonhart. Things shouldn't surprise you." She paused, cocking her head. "You look like your mother."
"Raine...?" Squall asked distantly.
"I saw her when she died. She would have been proud of you."
Squall looked at his boots, sadness washing over him.
Seifer's eyes bore into Lillith's. "This is the kingdom that Ultimecia left you."
"Korrect." Lillith smiled. "Sorry." She made a motion with her arm. "Shall we go?"
"Go where?" Zell asked, suspicion rising in his gravely voice.
"Xystus?" Seifer repeated hollowly. "The palace of the Inaudax."
Lillith nodded as she led them up a foot beaten path. "You've done your homework. You always were bright." She turned, walking backwards so she was facing them. It looked more like halted gliding. Her hard hazel eye looked at Zell briefly, hidden meaning in her gaze.
Zell just blinked. Why would Lillith look at him like that? Because of his near brush with death after the T-Rexaur attack? He would have logically guessed so, but there was something else in her good eye. He could tell that the milky eye was still her real one, because he could still see it moving under the gossamer film of blindness.
"So, was Ultimecia really Intervigilium?" Edea asked. "I thought I knew all about her when she shared my body..."
"Ultimecia is an enigma. Nobody can ever know all of her. That's her whole plan..." Lillith trailed off as Hyperion rested on one of her broad shoulders. "You couldn't have known Ultimecia because she was never wholly there."
"What do you mean?" Squall asked. "We fought many incarnates of her, and defeated them all." He crossed his arms over his chest, feeling a cool wind pass over him. He knew it must have been something post mortem because there was no wind rustling the dead grass. He kept close to Zell, wanting to feel something warm and alive next to him.
"True. But...." Lillith cocked her head as she spoke. She looked at Seifer, who was running his palms over the tops of the tombstones that lined the road. "You can feel them, can't you?"
Seifer looked up, dropping his hands. He immediately curled his fingers in Zell's palm, thankful for his lover's warmth. The tombs were so cold. "Yes."
"Life and Death go hand in hand. Ultimecia purposely chose someone who wasn't a whole Sorceress. It's fitting."
"What do you mean?" Zell asked.
"Seifer is Life, I am Death, so sanctioned since birth. I'm still not sure if Xerampelinae planned it that way..."
"Why would she plan it?" Squall asked.
Edea answered. "She was in league with Ultimecia before either of you were born."
"True, true, Edea." Lillith suddenly became stiff, as if a wave of nausea hit her. Her face clouded briefly, but it passed. "Sorry. Yes, Edea was right."
"What's wrong?" Seifer asked. He wasn't concerned, but more surprised. He couldn't be concerned about someone he just met, even if she was his sister.
"Nothing..." Lillith answered, her voice distant. She waved her hand. "It is Ultimecia's nature to separate her power over time. Since she's a Time Mage Sorceress, she can do this, even without the aide of Time Kompression." Lillith looked at Seifer and Edea. "You are both evidence of that. It's like a safeguard. So, if Ultimecia is defeated, she can collect the pieces of herself again. I believe Edea took her powers when she 'died', so to speak..."
"What do you mean?" Squall was confused. "She did die. I saw her die."
"As did I," Edea echoed.
Lillith laughed harshly. "I think I know a little more about death than either of you." Her eyes became as dead as the surroundings. "If Ultimecia had truly died, she would have released me of my kurse."
"Huh?" Zell asked.
"My kurse is to live in my korpse. I'm dead, but I kontinue to live. I should be truly as death, but I age, and my body grows. A living zombie. Only two things can release me. Ultimecia's death is one..."
"Her personally removing it is the other..." Seifer muttered, finishing her sentence.
"Yes." Lillith spit out that word bitterly.
"So, if she's not dead...?" Squall trailed off. He almost wanted to take Zell's other hand.
"She's in dormancy."
Seifer inhaled deeply. "Until when?" He looked behind Lillith as they approached a grand mansion. It actually looked like Ultimecia's castle, but it was warmer, which was disturbing. This was a land of things dead, and this house, Xystus, was warmer than Ultimecia's castle.
"You can't stay long..." Lillith mused. She sounded like she was trying to control her voice, to push the accent down deep so she wouldn't sound like her former Mistress.
"Why not?" Seifer asked. "I want to know so many things..."
"Oh, you'll find out. I have every intention of answering your kwestions. But, things that live can't exist in the land of the dead. This place will steal your life if you stay too long."
"How will we know?" Zell asked.
"I will know. So..." Lillith led them up a cobblestone path to the front door. "What do you wish to know first?"
"Well, actually... What you were saying about Ultimecia. Who all has her power now?"
Lillith paused. "Edea, of course. Myself... Rinoa...."
"Adel?" Zell asked.
Lillith looked at him, sadness in her eyes. It passed. "No, Adel does not have any of Ultimecia's powers."
"That doesn't make sense..." Squall trailed off. "I figured that Ultimecia would willingly share her power with a Sorceress like Adel."
"I think she wanted to, but I think Ultimecia's true plan was to complete herself, then join forces with Adel. They would make a fearsome team, and when Adel had outlived Ultimecia's usefulness, she would have been disposed of."
"You trailed off after Rinoa..." Seifer noted. "Is there anyone else?"
Lillith gave him a long, hard look. "I hope not. Possibly Ellone, but I don't think so. Ellone isn't a true Sorceress, in the sense of the word. She has a psychological gift, but it's not Hyne's gift."
"Could I have it?" Seifer asked.
Lillith opened the door, biting her lip with perfectly straight teeth. "Possibly."
"Is that why you felt ill?" Edea asked.
"Possibly..." Lillith ushered them into the house. A servant came to Lillith's aide, and they could tell that the person was dead. A zombie. He wasn't in a stage of total rot, but the dead look in his eyes was evident enough. They all silently counted their blessings that these creatures would be magic based, and wouldn't smell. The foyer itself was warm, and had a buttery light filtering into it. A large chandelier hung from the ceiling, and they could almost hear it tinkling like a distant lullaby.
"This way..." Lillith turned her back to them, walking down a hallway. Her feet fell on the flooring, which made her seem more real. Seifer wondered if she did it on purpose to make them feel at ease. "You obviously came to learn about your past. About Xerampelinae."
"I'm curious, yes..." Seifer muttered. He suddenly felt warm, like he was going to be ill. His grip on Zell's hand tightened. Squall noticed that the tall blonde swayed slightly, and moved to his other side, wrapping an arm around Seifer's waist. He looked at Zell with concern. It was mirrored in the tattooed martial artist's icy irises.
"Are you okay, sweetie...?" Zell whispered so Lillith wouldn't hear them.
"I can hear you."
Zell blushed, gasping at the sound of her voice. "Is he alright?"
"I'm fine..." Seifer stood up straight. "I'm fine." He looked up as they were led into a room. A very ornate study. Shelves upon shelves of books lined the walls. There was a kerosene lamp casting eerie, yet almost friendly shadows. Seifer wondered if the room was real, or if it was just more of Lillith's sorcery.
"It's real..." Lillith mused. "I'm the Reaper, half in, half out of death. I kan still touch life. I need something to pass the time."
"Will Xystus disappear with your death?" Edea asked, lowering her body into a soft chair lined with rich red velvet.
"I believe so. Once I'm free of my flesh body, I'll truly be death, and only exist when someone passes to this realm. Or, maybe I'll be otherworldly, like how GF exist. I'm not sure."
"Death's even uncertain for you..." Edea noted.
"As it should be."
"I keep having this dream..." Seifer trailed off, sitting in a chair that matched the one Edea was sitting in. "Everything's burning."
Lillith nodded, purposely remaining silent as Seifer spoke.
"I can smell ashes, feel fire, smell burning flesh. I'm running. You're holding my hand..." He sighed. "We run into a house, and you make me hide under the floorboards."
"You hear Ultimecia?"
"It wasn't a dream. But, it wasn't really Ultimecia you heard."
"Who was it?" Zell asked.
"Xerampelinae..." Edea whispered.
"It was Ultimecia in Xerampelinae's body."
Squall cocked his head. "I've noticed that you don't call her Mother."
Lillith looked at Squall harshly. "No, I do not. Ultimecia tried to take that role with me as well, and I will never call her mother. Xerampelinae doesn't deserve such a loving mantle."
"What exactly did she do?" Seifer asked.
"That's what you came for, isn't it?" Lillith asked, dark amusement lacing her voice. "You want to hear all the horrible things your mother did? Will it make you feel better about yourself, prove that you're not a real monster?"
Seifer frowned deeply, his anger rising. "Don't put words in my mouth." He could feel his own power crawl over his skin. Lillith must have felt it to, because she stiffened noticeably.
"Xerampelinae always had desires for great power. She was a Sorceress from birth, passed down when her mother died in childbirth. None of the midwifes took the power because her grandmother didn't tell anyone. From what I rekollect, she was a good woman. Xerampelinae was korrupted by power early, always greedy. Some people are just born evil."
"When did she hear about Ultimecia, or do you know?" Squall asked. He was standing behind Seifer's chair, his hands resting on Seifer's shoulders, again, wanting to feel something alive under his hands.
"I do know. Ultimecia taught me about my mother when I was in her 'kare'. Xerampelinae prayed to Iudicium, and Ultimecia caught wind of that."
"Is Iudicium a real God?" Zell asked.
"There isn't one real God, Zell." Lillith crossed her arms. Hyperion flew off her shoulder, and perched on the windowsill, which overlooked more headstones. "I guess Hyne fits that bill best."
"Are you a God?" Squall asked.
Lillith paused. "I'm not sure what my status is. I'm the Goddess of Death. I am the Grim Reaper. A God would need me... But, to answer your question, Iudicium is sort of like how Shiva and Bahamut exist. As Guardian Forces."
"Iudicium is a GF?!" Squall asked, his fingers gently curling into Seifer's shoulders. "Who has her?"
"Why didn't Adel use Iudicium against us?" Zell wondered aloud.
"From what I gathered, Mrs. Viator wasn't completely lucid when you first fought her."
"Mrs. Viator?" Zell asked. Something inside him curled. "The name on her grave."
"I know Adel as Adel Viator, not as the horrible beast she became. She was very kind to me as a child."
"You knew her before she changed?" Edea asked. She knew what Lillith was getting to, and hoped she wouldn't go there.
"Adel was actually very kind. She was funny..." Lillith's eyes clouded over with remembrance. "I was betrothed to her eldest son, Vigil."
"Betrothed?" Seifer asked.
"It was Xerampelinae's idea. She knew that Adel was a Sorceress. I think she threatened Mrs. Viator." A wistful smile crossed Lillith's set lips.
"What happened to Vigil?" Zell asked, his voice sounding small. He wondered if it was something in the air, because he sort of felt woozy.
"He died in the fires." Lillith cut the air with a hand. "Xerampelinae called Ultimecia to this world, almost like calling a Genie, or GF, or whatever. So, when Ultimecia came into this world, in Xerampelinae's more than willing form, she razed the city of Ignus, her former home. I'm not sure about what else happened. I'm assuming that Ultimecia sucked in Xerampelinae's powers, and she convinced Adel to join her. I think it was because she told Mrs. Viator that her children were dead, killed by the Esthar soldiers. This caused Adel to become infuriated."
"She changed on the outside to reflect the angry monster she'd become on the inside..." Edea mused.
"Yes. And, this also started the Sorceress War. Adel wanted control of the city that took her life away, and she ruled Esthar with an iron fist. She also searched for children with Sorcery blood so she could have someone to use in her plans with Ultimecia, who went into dormancy again at this time."
"She was with you in the future..." Seifer said.
Lillith nodded. "Korrect. Adel also wanted a child to replace the ones she'd lost. And, stealing the children of others seemed a suiting revenge."
"So, do you think Ultimecia is in me?" Seifer asked, his voice sounding frightened.
"It's a great possibility..." Lillith's face became dark. "If that's the case..."
"It could be dangerous for us to remain in contact with you?" Edea asked.
Lillith cocked her head. "I felt wooziness with Seifer, but not with you. I know you have parts of Ultimecia in you... Maybe it's because Seifer carries a part of me that's been lost."
"Even without Ultimecia's curse, you'll always be the Reaper..." Squall whispered.
"Yes." Lillith became briefly sad. "I've always had one foot in the grave." She looked out the window to the endless sea of graves. "It's a very lonely existence.
"How many children did Adel have?" Zell asked distantly, out of the blue.
"Two." Lillith looked at him hard. "Two sons. Vigil was my age. He would have been 25 by now. And, a younger boy."
"What happened to him?" Zell's voice was a whisper now. The hot, nauseous feeling was returning in full force.
Lillith's hazel iris bore into Zell's wide eyes. "I'm looking at him."
Her voice, her confession sucked all life out of the room, leaving it as dead as the world outside the walls of Xystus. It echoed off the walls, and caused Seifer and Squall to gape at her. Edea looked into her lap, finding her fingers most interesting. Zell broke that deathly silence, the quiet of disbelief with a small snort, followed by a harsh laughter.
"That's funny..." Zell muttered.
"You know it to be truth, Zell...." Lillith muttered, utterly serious. "You are the son of Adel, and your real name is Zell Viator. The youngest child of the most horrible Sorceress of her time."
Zell immediately closed his mouth, rendered as voiceless as the dead that Lillith harvested.
"You're lying!" Seifer exclaimed hotly. He glared at Lillith, then looked over to Zell. "Don't worry, angel...." His gaze travelled to Edea. She was purposely looking away from them. Seifer tried to hold her gaze, catch her eyes. But, Edea still looked at her fingers. "You're lying....?" He looked at Zell again.
"But...." Squall looked at Zell. "I mean, why didn't Adel do anything...?"
"She wasn't lucid when you fought her...." Lillith began.
"I also didn't fight her..." Zell trailed off. He looked sadly at Seifer. "Squall, Quistis and Irvine fought her. I stayed by Seifer when he went into shock after Ultimecia left his body..." He continued to look at his lover, his eyes narrowing sadly at the painful memory. He squeezed the other blonde's hand.
"She also wouldn't have remembered you, Zell," Edea mused, her voice barely above a whisper. "She believed her children to be dead."
Zell bit his lip deeply, and he felt the coppery zing of blood on his tongue. Adel, his mother? No, Saffron Dincht was his mother. But, she wasn't his real mother. He wasn't a real Dincht. He knew that he wasn't a real Dincht. But, he'd only expected to hear about Xerampelinae's life, as well as Lillith's dealings with Ultimecia. He'd never expected in his wildest dreams to hear that some vicious tyrant like Adel was his real mother. But, part of him wasn't surprised, and he knew it. He didn't want to admit it, but Zell knew it. Deep down, his body echoed Lillith's words as true. He wasn't truly Zell Dincht. He was Zell Viator, a child of Adel, a child of a Sorceress.
Seifer blinked at Zell. "Sweetie....?"
"It's true..." He whispered blandly.
"But... How do you know?" Squall asked, utterly dumbfounded.
"I didn't..." Zell grappled for words.
"He can feel that I'm not lying. Somewhere within himself, he remembers." Lillith's face became distant and happy. "You and Seifer used to be best friends. You met when you were under two. It was when Adel and Xerampelinae betrothed me to Vigil." She laughed. "Even then, you guys fought. But, it was more play than anything else."
Seifer blinked at his sister, then looked at Zell once more. He smiled happily. Even though he knew it was like a house crashed down on Zell, his heart felt warm to know that he'd known Zell his entire life, even before the orphanage.
Zell smiled back, but it was tight around the edges. He was glad that Seifer was there with him, because he didn't know what he would have done if he was alone at that moment. Probably scream in disbelief and deny its truth endlessly. Seifer seemed to be his pillar of strength, even if he was just sitting there, hand joined with Zell's. "Adel....?"
"She may have given birth to you, Zell, but it's been so long. Saffron Dincht is your mother. And, the Adel Viator that was your mother is dead. Only a hollow shell remains." Lillith stared at Zell, her gaze drilling a hole into him. "You owe no loyalty to her."
"I know that!" Zell exclaimed almost angrily. "But... I guess... It just makes me see Adel in a new light...." He huffed pensively.
Lillith's eye suddenly became dark, as black as her cloak, as black as Hyperion's feathers. "I feel her..."
"Who?" Squall asked.
Edea stood, the chair skittering back with her movement. "I feel it, too."
Lillith stared hard at Seifer. "You do have a piece of Ultimecia in you." Lillith's eyes almost looked afraid. "You can bury her, you know."
"Bury her...?" Seifer's flesh tingled with his own power, which was rising as his fear did. Whenever he thought of Ultimecia, he thought of all the horrible things she'd done to him. It was almost too much to think off at once. It was too much to think of at once. He took a few deep breaths, trying to calm himself the way Odine told him to.
"Yes..." Edea looked at him. "I have a piece of Ultimecia in me, because of me taking her powers after Squall defeated her. But, I can bury it, kill it. You have to do the same."
"How?" Seifer whispered, sounding a little desperate.
"Find the source of your own power..." Lillith mused, closing her eyes as she spoke. They all could feel her dead magic washing over them. "When you find the core of your own Sorcery, you can flood your body with it, and it causes all your cells to be filled with your own energy. Ultimecia's power within you is divided between time and bodies. It's not strong enough to hold up to power that's from your own mind." She opened her eyes. "Now, you have to leave."
"Leave?!" Squall asked.
"Yes. Remember...." She cocked her head at the auburn-haired SeeD. "You can't remain for long in the realm of the dead." She narrowed her eyes. "And, with me existed in this world, and you in the world of life, Ultimecia can't rebuild herself."
Seifer slowly stood. "Will I ever get to speak with you again?"
"I think you can whenever you want..." Lillith frowned, her elegant face hard. "You're a more powerful Sorcerer than you believe yourself to be. I think you could contact me whenever you wanted. It's just that you don't know how to control your powers yet. You just need practice."
Seifer nodded, and looked at Zell, who was still sitting, staring off into space. Seifer placed a hand on his lover's muscular shoulder. "Zell?"
"Huh?" The tattooed blonde's head snapped up, and he stared at Seifer with blank eyes. "What...?"
"We have to leave now....." Squall whispered. He looked sadly at Seifer.
The taller blonde nodded, and helped his lover to his feet. He noticed that Zell was a little shaky. He was probably in slight shock from the news that such an awful 'woman' like Adel could be his birth mother. Seifer knew it would take Zell a while to understand, to comprehend something like that, and maybe he would never come to terms with it. Seifer himself knew that hearing about Xerampelinae was hard, but she seemed like such a distant figure, and he'd never seen her first hand. Zell had seen Adel. He'd known all about Adel before this news was dropped in his lap. Seifer wrapped a strong arm around his lover's waist, and held Zell's body close to his own.
Zell sighed deeply, Seifer's body heat a nice comfort, but he felt like he was away from his body, like he was only thinking about being touched by Seifer. He sort of noticed the cobblestone path, and heard the faint cawing of Hyperion. Then, as if a blink, he was standing on the ruined steps of the entrance to the Tomb of the Nameless King. Zell blinked his vacant, icy eyes, and looked up at Seifer, who also seemed confused.
"That was fast..." Squall muttered, glad to be back in the sun. It warmed his bones. His stormy gaze looked to Zell, who was totally out of it, and with good reason. He wrapped an arm around Zell's shoulders, and gave him an affectionate squeeze. "It's going to be okay...." He kissed Zell's temple, but shared a worried look with Seifer over the top of Zell's head.
"Will it?" Zell asked hollowly.
Seifer tilted Zell's face upwards so he could stare into those eyes that he knew as well as his own. "I promise."
"But, what about Ultimecia's power...?"
"I'll deal with it..." Seifer muttered hollowly.
Zell hugged his lover tightly. "Thank you, Seifer."
"I love you..." Seifer kissed Zell gently, running the tip of his tongue gently over the sweet seam of Zell's lips.
Zell smiled despite himself. Seifer could always make him feel better, feel warm and fuzzy even in a horrible cool darkness, like the one he was currently in. Adel, his mother?
"Come on..." Squall murmured gently. "We'll stay at a Hotel in Galbadia."
"Are you going to see Rinoa?" Edea asked.
Squall shrugged. "I don't know. I don't know if I'm ready to see her..." Squall sighed unhappily. "I don't know if she wants to see me after what I did to her...." He stared out to the ocean. "The Hotel will be better."
Seifer nodded. "Ready to go, sweetie?" He kissed Zell again.
Zell nodded. He just needed to lay down. He wanted to curl up on a bed with Seifer and process the fact that his mother was Adel, that his last name wasn't Dincht, but Viator. He also knew that Seifer would want to mull over what he'd learned from Lillith. Zell squeezed Seifer's hand, feeling reassured by it, and let Seifer lead him away from the Tomb of the Nameless King.
"Huh?" Zell cocked his head. "What?"
Seifer and Squall blinked. "Huh?" Seifer's gaze narrowed in concern. "Is something wrong?"
"Did you say my name?"
Both Squall and Seifer shook their heads.
The blonde looked over at Edea. She was walking behind them, admiring the flowers and waterfalls, totally oblivious to Zell, as if she purposely wanted to give him his space. Or, was it that she wanted to avoid him because he was now tainted, that he was the child of a horrible monster? Would his newfound status as Adel's youngest son make others want to avoid him like a leper? He squeezed Seifer's hand again, deathly afraid that Seifer would do the same.
Seifer must have sensed Zell's worry, because he brought his body closer, holding him in a tight embrace as they walked. "It'll be okay..."
Zell blinked again. "What?"
"What?" Seifer echoed. "Is something wrong?"
Zell paused. He couldn't hear his name reverberating in his head anymore, like a horrible, distant tartan. "It's nothing," he whispered, burying his face into Seifer's collarbone as they walked. Or, at least, he hoped it was nothing.
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