A Mist Over Winhill Chapter 19
The Last Revelation
By Kate Lorraine
"SeeD," the words came like a hiss from the elevated throne. "SeeD .. SeeD" she continued, casting the words to the mid day sky. An intricate design of golden coils decorated her throne, the room and her face. They were all together in monstrous unison, in unnatural splendor.
She sat up and smiled wearily at the congregation. She was horrific to the sight in a flaming red dress graced by raven feathers and tentacles.
For Rinoa it was then that the realization finally hit home.
Ultimecia was the one they were destined to destroy. Rinoa had not faced the truth until now but finally there was no avoiding it anymore. It was her, not Quistis, not a misunderstanding, not a mistake. The woman who had taken her in so kindly and held her in motherly embrace . . was a demon.
"So you are the SeeD destined to destroy me," Ultimecia said drowsily. She was a mass of contradictions. Whereas her attire suggested flamboyancy her face and voice suggested the unwillingness of one forced to play a role which no longer fit.
"Squall Leonhart," she continued. "Squall Loire, one and the same. Destined to destroy the villainous sorceress with my Rinoa by his side."
She stood up then and nodded.
"I see. So finally the mist over Winhill has kleared and we see each other in our respektive roles."
"Ultimecia," Squall began. "There are no roles, there is no destiny. You have taken over the world because you chose to not because you were forced to."
She laughed, breaking into a series of helpless giggling fits.
"There is no hope for me, SeeD . ..Squall. Choice is an illusion. I will fight for time kompression even though I know I am destined to fail."
"That too is your choice, yours alone," Squall replied.
That irritated her. Her wings flared out from behind her back and she levitated into air.
"I will exterminate your friends first. Griever! Attakk." She called as she cast a silver orb into the ground. The floor cracked open. Underneath Rinoa and Squall the island of rock lifted high into the sky where a black lion appeared. A fiery mane surrounded his head as he bobbed in mid air, half man half beast.
"The ultimate guardian force," Rinoa whispered in awe as she struggled to get up from her knees. She saw Squall boldly draw his gunblade beside her. He was fearless. With his free hand he pulled her to her feet.
"Come sorceress Rinoa, hold your place here beside me."
* * * * *
Ultimecia turned back to the remaining SeeDs and chuckled.
"Kurse all SeeDs. Swarming like lokusts akross generations. You disgust me."
"Shut up," Irvine ordered as he pointed his Exeter her way and began to riddle her with bullets. Yet the metal had no effect upon her as they dissolved into her shield like raindrops into the ocean. From behind the SeeDs, Quistis was bending over the edge of the hole where she helped Seifer back onto steady ground.
Ultimecia stepped forward, purposely scaring the wits out of the three teenagers as she flaunted the futility of their efforts.
"Your vain krusade ends here, SeeDs."
With one hand she cast hell's judgement on the three. The ground beneath them glowed a bright yellow and drained the life energy from the warriors. She smirked and aimed to cast holy on Selphie when Irvine shoved her out of the way. He collapsed on the floor, unconscious.
"No!" Selphie gasped as she bent over him, her happy go lucky manner finally pierced through.
"The price for your meddling is death beyond death," she proclaimed sadistically.
"Shut up bitch," the young queen ordered as the situation finally got so bad that it could drive her to curse.
"Ah, your majesty," Ultimecia said in glee. "I've been waiting for this moment."
Quistis twisted her face into a frown as she raised her preparing to cast the strongest Ultima spell she had ever. However before she could send the green explosion into Ultimecia, a ring of yellow balls appeared beside her. They plummeted towards the queen and shot her squarely in the chest.
"Apokalypse," Ultimecia said. "The strongest spell of all. Adel's puny power is no match for mine!"
"Quistis!" Seifer swore in fury as she collapsed unconscious at his feet. He turned his burning eyes to Ultimecia and attacked without mercy.
She laughed as the shield in front of her would not be pierced by Seifer's gunblade.
"My knight, my traitorous useless knight."
Seifer stepped back in rage and frustration.
* * * * *
"Squall!" Rinoa yelled as she caught her shooting star right her right hand. "Watch out for his claws!"
Squall ducked as Griever's long nails careened toward his face. He shifted his grip on the gunblade and charged at the lion's mid section. Slashing in a cross he ripped the monster's black flesh open in a gaping wound.
"Raagh!" The mass of muscle roared and attacked Squall with his wild paws. Artfully, Squall ducked the thing's blows, jumping back with not so much as a scratch.
"Stand back Rinoa," he ordered as a beam of brilliant light appeared at the tip of his blade. The entire metallic surface of the ancient weapon lit up in a fiery display as he shoved the thing into Griever's belly. The lion moaned in horrific pain as he batted his paw at Squall, trying to throw the young man off the side of the cliff. Squall ducked past the first blow but the second hit him squarely in the center of his chest. It sent him flying into Rinoa. She tried her best to catch him but in the process lost her own footing on the edge of the rocky cliff.
The two teens fell over the elevated island as Griever drew his last breath and died.
* * * *
"Dammit!!" Zell yelled as he saw Squall colliding into Rinoa. "They're going to die!"
Ultimecia chuckled under her breath.
The three teens were silent for a moment as they watched the couple plummet to the ground. However, no collision occurred. Brilliant snow colored wings emerged from Rinoa's back three quarters of the way down, just in time for them to hit bottom with only a few minor scratches.
Occupied with the sight, Zell did not see Ultimecia hurl a fire spell upon him. He collapsed beside Selphie's still form as he too passed away.
"Dammit," Quistis whispered as she managed to get onto her knees. "Dammit."
Seifer stood beside her, learning from Zell's misfortune to keep an eye on the devious witch.
"Ah, down to four now." Ultimecia chuckled. "So my death is upon us and yours as well."
Squall walked up to Seifer's side with Rinoa trailing behind, limping slightly. Her wings receded into her back as she had never known that she was capable of extending them before. Yet she scolded herself for her ignorance. Ultimecia's raven wings obviously implied that she had them too having inherited Ultimecia's power. But it no longer mattered, the end was upon them one way or the other.
Quistis got back onto her feet beside Seifer. So the picture was complete. Two sorceresses, two knights, in perfect symmetry. They were like a mirror image of each other, darkness and light, innocence and despair, cynicisms and hope.
Twin gunblades were drawn against her. Ultimecia's eyes flared the brightest yellow so that they appeared white. She raised her hand to cast the strongest spell in all of existence but before she could cast it, her eyes suddenly went black. The inferno of light above her hand was snuffed out. Blood came from her lips as she realized suddenly that she had been shot in her unprotected back. She turned to see Selphie standing with Irvine's gun in her hand.
"I killed you," Ultimecia whispered.
"No," Selphie said. "You were careless."
"No," Ultimecia whispered. "Squall Leonhart! I was to be defeated by Squall Leonhart! How kould this be?"
Selphie smiled sadly. "You're a psycho."
"No!" Ultimecia said. "No no no!" she fell to her knees and disappeared in a cloud of purple. Squall turned to grab Rinoa's hand but she was gone. The throne room vanished. The entire world was as white as the feathers of Rinoa's wings. White sky and sea as far as the eye could see.
He heard someone calling out to him.
"Is it over?" A voice asked, Irvine's voice. "Let's go back to our time!"
Another voice pierced the blank landscape, Quistis.
"Squall? Seifer? Are you here?"
"Shut up. Just go to where we agreed!" Seifer yelled in a irritated fashion.
Squall did not reply as he remembered Winhill. However, the scenery changed, it was not Winhill, it was the orphanage. Standing there he could not tell if it was illusion or reality. The columns were lying limp on the ground as solid as real rock was. Winhill. He needed to get to Winhill but he couldn't . . .his friends have brought him here.
"Squall!" Someone yelled in back of him. He turned. Rinoa?
No, it was Quistis, with Seifer at her side.
"You came! Like you agreed. I thought you were going somewhere else."
"Yes I was," he replied in confusion as he realized something suddenly in terror. "Rinoa? Is she here?"
Seifer shrugged. "No."
"Dammit!" Squall cursed suddenly.
"Guys!!" Selphie yelled in the distance with Irvine beside her. "Tee hee! We are all here! At the orphanage! Go Love Courage and Friendship!"
Squall turned away but Quistis grabbed his arm.
"Listen Squall, maybe only one of you could survive. This time, this turn of the wheel, be glad that fate has not killed both of you!"
He glared at her with flaming hatred.
"No!" He roared suddenly as he drew back. "No."
"Come to think of it," Irvine added mournfully. "She's not really one of us. Not the orphanage gang. There is nothing connecting her to us."
Squall took a step back and drove everyone into silence when a tear appeared out of the corner of his eye. Never did they think they would live to see the day when Squall would cry. Never. Yet the tear traced a path on his dark cheek, making its way down to his chin. He grew fainter suddenly as though he was dissolving into air. Transparent, mist like.
"No! Squall!" Quistis yelled as she jerked toward him. Seifer grabbed her but she broke free. Reaching out to grab his arm, she caught only a handful of thin air.
"No Squall," Quistis muttered through her tears. "Come back, please come back."
* * * * *
"Squall?" Rinoa yelled as she ran through the dark tunnel. "Squall where are you!" She ran and ran in the endless night, in space. "Squall! Answer me!" Please don't leave me here, drifting onto death, I can't make it back alone.
She squeezed her eyes shut and bolted through the darkness. Suddenly she tripped over something. A rock? She opened her eyes and realized that she was on a desert of sorts. The ground was sunbaked and chipped although there was no sun in the sky. She wiped the tears from her cheeks and continued to walk.
"Squall!?" She called out. Nothing.
She looked down then at the double rings at her throat. Griever was watching her, he looked like he was smiling, mocking her. She cupped her hand over the rings and tried to remember. But all she could think of was of the look in his eyes as he died in Winhill.
I failed you. I'm sorry.
Her face twisted as she began to cry. Perhaps Ultimecia was right, every turn of the wheel of time ended the same.
A sorceress you shall be when he meets you, a sorceress forever onto death. Will he love you now?
Her mind drifted back to the dance. He met a sorceress there, a sorceress who betrayed him time and time again. A sorceress who placed upon him the burden of a promise to love her. Love can only be given not demanded. She had forced him out of guilt, of obligation to love her. And now it was so clear never before had it been so crystal clear.
Is it a happy story?
No, but maybe one day it could be.
Daddy. He was wrong. Loire was not her destiny. Her destiny was death. Well she would be with her father soon, so soon. Rinoa looked up then and saw a majestic sight before her eyes. A meadow was before her. In the middle of the desert there was a wall, a doorway. All she had to do was step through it.
She walked closer to the other world. With one hand she reached over and touched the invisible divide. The air rippled like wall of buoyant water. She looked through the strange partition and saw her father carrying a baby in his arms as he strolled down the bluffs of Winhill. He was humming a lullaby under his breath.
Rinoa smiled and stepped through the wall. She did not look back until she was halfway across the bluff. Then she realized that the desert was gone, there was not a trace of it left.
She walked closer but that was when she saw a purple cloud appear. A demonic fog that gave way to a sorceress. Ultimecia. Her father tried to shove the witch back as she dug her nails into the infant girl.
"Get away from her witch!!" He screamed but choked on his words as he suddenly grabbed his chest in pain.
Rinoa wrapped her fingers tightly around her Shooting Star and ran. She shoved Ultimecia back in rage.
"It was you!" She screamed. "You killed my father!"
Ultimecia grew back clenching her mid section. She was bleeding all over the grass. Black blood. Ultimecia smiled in mockery.
"Once again he fails to show up, Rinoa." She said gesturing to the horizon.
"I don't need him," Rinoa yelled as she lifted her shooting star. "I'm not the weak child I was in the last time. I won't let you win."
"With your undying faith in him, I'm amazed that you are still standing," she stated sarcastically.
Rinoa pressed the sharp edge of her weapon to Ultimecia's throat.
"Move and I'll cut your damned head off."
"Child," Ultimecia said quietly. "His love for you was based on one promise. One promise not to doubt love. You never allowed him to choose for himself if he wanted to love you. You forced him under the burden of your death to always love you."
"No," Rinoa whispered as something behind Ultimecia caught her eye. "That's not true."
"I don't see anyone here, waiting for you. That's the promise he made to you, the one which he cannot keep because he doesn't love you sorceress. He loves the mortal that you were fifteen years ago!"
Rinoa took a step back and nodded sadly.
"You're wrong Ultimecia. She never made him promise to love me. She made him promise never to doubt my love for him. The choice was always and forever, his alone!"
With that Rinoa shoved herself into Ultimecia and pushed her back three feet, straight into Squall's gunblade.
Ultimecia stared in shock as she realized that she had been impaled by the dark knight standing behind her. In a smooth motion, Squall pulled his blade back out and she collapsed to the ground.
She looked up, throwing back the tentacles of her crown and glared at him.
" I was right," She proclaimed in submission as blood came in rivers from her lips. Her face twisted in pain as she raced towards death. "It was you."
Disregarding all those around her, Rinoa bent down beside Ultimecia and pulled the witch onto her lap.
"Child" the sorceress suddenly whispered as she reached for Rinoa's hand.
"I'm sorry," Rinoa said as she pressed her hand to Ultimecia's bloody wound. "Sometimes there are things in life which we must do no matter how much we wish that we didn't have to."
"I understand," Ultimecia said drawing her final breaths. " because, my child, I committed the same sin as yourself."
Wincing in pain, Ultimecia's hand began to loosen. Her eyes relaxed slowly. Her fearsome purple lips opened once more and her voice came in a sigh. "Because I too fell in love with a mortal .. . I fell in love with you."
Rinoa choked on her sorrow as she finally understood everything. Oh how cruel destiny was, to place them in these roles. She leaned over the sorceress and whispered into her ear.
"Give me your power, Ultimecia. Pass it onto me."
As the last breath went from Ultimecia's body Rinoa felt the power rushing into her, making her a sorceress a second time. It came in a burning river, filling her with pain and ecstacy. The sorceress's body turned into mist. The black blood on the Winhill grass, Rinoa's hands, on Squall's blade, vanished into the fog that now hung over the meadow.
She felt his arms around her suddenly as he hugged her to him. She cried into his shoulder because she was no longer alone, because he had come for her, because her mother was dead. Ultimecia was evil and she deserved to die but sometimes the mortal heart can't separate between right and wrong the way the mind was able to. Although the mind controlled the hands which drove the sorceress to her death, it could not stop the tears that flowed from her eyes.
"There are some people here who you might want to see," Squall whispered into her ear as he held her. He understood too well how she felt for no one on the planet knew better than he, what it meant to lose a mother. She wiped the tears from her face with the back of her hand and turned around to see her parents before her.
"Rinoa?" Her mother asked curiously. Rinoa nodded her head vigorously as she threw herself upon Julia. Squall took a few steps back as he saw Caraway eyeing him suspiciously but to his surprise, the general nodded approvingly.
"Good job son."
He was not given an opportunity for surprised for someone caught him by the arm.
"Squall?" She asked. "Is that really you?" Raine, she was standing behind him, alive again.
"Yes mother," he answered, "it's me." He choked up suddenly, no he was not about to cry twice in one day. That would defy the laws of the universe. But he did. He held his mother in his arms and knew that now her screams in the night would die away. For the first time in fourteen years there would be blissful silence because finally he would be able to bid her farewell.
"You were right," Rinoa said to her father as she hugged him as well. "There was still hope for me."
"I don't understand." He told her with confusion.
"It's okay," Rinoa replied as she held the man by his wrist. "It's better if you don't. If you never do."
He nodded. "I'll take your word for it, angel."
It was then that Rinoa caught sight of a figure in the mist. She left her parents and walked over to the little boy who was standing there quietly watching his mother Raine hug the strange man. Rinoa bent down beside him.
"Squall," she said as she stoked his fuzzy brown hair. "I want you to make a promise to me."
He cast his large blue eyes upon her and watched her curiously.
"Will you promise to keep yourself from harm? To protect your innocence as well as mine. Don't ever let childhood pass away."
He looked at her blankly and nodded.
She chuckled. "You didn't understand a word I said did you?"
"You're pretty," he told her and smiled.
She gave into laugher. She stumbled to her feet and saw the older Squall standing beside her, watching.
"Are you done traumatizing me?" he asked mockingly.
She shrugged. "Look, he smiled, I think I distinctly remember you saying something about a smile being connected to a kiss."
"Go ahead, ask him to kiss you."
She punched him playfully and growled.
Squall turned his joyful eyes to Raine once more. In a way, she knew, watching him, that this would be only time she was ever to see him grown and happy. Somehow, by a twist of fate, time had allowed her this one glance of the future, to see her little boy as a man. One day she will have to give him away in the hope that he may live. However that too was forgotten now as she held him in her arms. Seeing her bittersweet tears, Squall felt his own eyes begin to grow teary. Raine smiled her child and reached up to cup his face with one hand.
"Be still, love, don't cry."
"Mother, I can't stay."
"I know," she answered stroking his tears away with her thumb. "I know you need to go now."
"Time compression. .."
"I understand," Raine responded, disguising her reluctance to allow him out of her arms. "Go now, go home safely."
Raine drew herself away from him. She watched him turn to the young girl who stood behind him, patiently waiting for him to finish his farewell. Raine knew, somehow, at that moment that he would be okay, her Squall, that girl would take care of him. With a sudden sense of peace as she had not felt for a long time, Raine raised her right hand and waved goodbye.
Nodding to his mother in obedient understanding, Squall caught Rinoa's arm and led her back a few steps back. Suddenly, in act of impulse, he caught her by the waist, pulled her close, and kissed her. As the two lovers held each other in a tender embrace, the past vanished. The sky above opened up, the mist parted and sunshine broke through the clouds covering the meadow in gold. The gentle spring breeze brushed a torrent of flower petals and feathers into the air and the perfume of honeysuckle and jasmine wafted across the heavenly paradise.
When Rinoa drew back from Squall's embrace she realized that through his tears, he was smiling.
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