A Mist Over Winhill Chapter 6

The Love of a Sorceress

By Kate Lorraine

"Child, tell me what's troubling you," Edea said as the two stepped into her room. Rinoa sighed and tossed her hair back. She hesitated to speak.

"You must never hide anything from me." Edea reminded her as she reached over to stroke Rinoa's pale cheek with her talons. Rinoa looked down, staring at the ground with determination burning in her caramel eyes.

"Edea . . . my father passed away last night." She said in a voice barely above a whisper. "As much as I have never cared for mortals . . he was my father. I miss him. I know what you have told me about being strong but sometimes it's so hard."

"It's alright sweet child," Edea whispered under her breath as she reached out with her slender arms and embraced the girl. "My poor child, life has been so cruel to you." Rinoa stared into space as Edea held her. She felt Edea's arms around her like two ropes of ice, but at this moment she did not care who embraced her. An orphan cannot choose the parents that take her in.

"My sweet." Edea continued, as she stroked Rinoa's bare arm. "Now we must do something for you tonight to take your mind off this."

But I don't want to take my mind off him, Rinoa thought to herself but was wise enough not to say it.

"I know." Edea suddenly remarked. "You'll sit on my throne tonight at the parade. Will you like that my angel?"

* * * *

"Does everyone understand their role in the assassination?" Xu asked.

Beneath the golden archway the small gathering of SeeDs stood. To Xu's question, Selphie nodded, Zell shrugged, Irvine crossed his arms and Squall gave no response.

"Then we'll meet back here at 1200 hours. Until then I guess we are dismissed." Xu said and the group dispersed. After they were gone Squall was left standing by himself near the entrance to the park. It was a good five hours before the sorceress's parade and what he was about to do until then, he had no idea. He had begun to wander away from the archway when a girl in blue caught his eye.

She walked swiftly from the direction of the presidential mansion, taking no notice of him. With one hand she reached up for the ring hanging around her throat and closed her palm over it. He was about to call her name when he realized that she had to yet to tell him what it was. So he did what he had done before, he reached out and grabbed her arm as she dashed by him. She spun around in surprise as she felt his tight grip about her forearm once more.

Her face erupted in a smile. "Squall." she said but quickly hushed herself and glanced around nervously. She leaned closer to him.

"We can't talk here, meet me at the Tomb of the Unknown King, it's not far from here. We'll talk then alright?"

Before he could respond she had already untangled herself from him and had disappeared into the park.

* * *

Rinoa rushed into her father's office and began to look through his files for the name Loire. She remembered him telling her that he had been a Galbadian soldier. After a few moments of going through his files, Rinoa came across an old copy of the rebel paper Timber Maniacs.

Laguna Loire.

He was a journalist for a resistance paper? Rinoa wondered. How was she connected by destiny to the son of a man who wrote for a terrorist publication? Well, it was no more preposterous than falling for a member of SeeD. She opened up the crumbling old pages to Laguna's article. It contained a picture of a bar with a lady in a white sweater tending it. Perhaps her eyes were playing tricks on her but for a moment she could have sworn there was a resemblance between Squall and that lady. Rinoa shook her head to clear her thoughts. Was she so obsessed with that boy that she saw him everywhere she looked?

Reading the faded print, Rinoa began to g ain an idea of what kind of man Laguna was. He was a verbose, optimistic man who was slightly naive and completely clueless. She just hoped that his son did not take after his father. She flipped the paper aside and began to search for the name Laguna Loire in her father's files. She came to file for a soldier lost in battle. Opening it, she saw the chipper face of a young dark haired man looking back at her. He had long hair, about the length of her own. She estimated his age to be about thirty. She folded up the picture and placed it in her pocket. The rest of the file was of no help. It ended when he disappeared in combat at Esthar. She had her job cut out for her. Sighing, Rinoa picked up her Cardinal and walked out of the mansion. Standing on the corner waiting for the bus to arrive she noticed the guard watching her.

"How are things going Joe?" She asked.

"Good evening, Ms. Heartilly." he replied.

An awkward silence ensued until Rinoa pipped up again.

"Were you ever part of the Galbadian army Joe?" She asked.

He nodded immediately. "I served under your father for fourteen years. He was a outstanding leader. Let my express my sincerest ap-"

"Did you ever know a man named Laguna Loire?" Rinoa interrupted.

Joe rubbed his chin looking thoughtful. "I . . I can't say I-"

Rinoa pulled the photo out of her pocket and waved it in front of the old man's face. A look of surprise crossed his eyes

"Oh you're looking for Laguna! That old dirty bastard, of course I remember good old Laguna. He was buddies with Kiros and Ward. The three of them just vanished one day. I wonder what happened to them. Hey, Laguna used to have the worst crush on Julia Heartilly." The guard turned red suddenly as he realized his slip. "I'm sorry." he apologized.

Rinoa shrugged as she realized the man had nothing useful to tell her. She turned as the bus arrived.

"Wait, I'm sorry. He carried a machine gun, had a strange fetish for monsters. He had some strange monster accessories but anyone with hair like that you would expect to be somewhat whacked you know . ."

Rinoa ignored him and left. Sighing, she decided not to ask around for help anymore. She wasn't going to find Loire's son unless there was some sort of miracle and even if she did find him what would she say? Hello, you don't know me Mr. Loire but . . um yes I am the evil sorceress Rinoa Heartilly, hey don't run, come back you little twit. Anyway if they were destined to be together he would have to show up sooner or later, that was how destiny worked.

* * * *

"Hey Selphie." Irvine interrupted as he saw the young girl standing in front of the Deling Hotel. "Whatcha doing?"

Selphie looked surprised to see him, she shrugged and stood on tip toe as she nodded her head to the sound.

"I hear music, nice music coming from .. somewhere."

Irvine chuckled with delight.

"You mean the bar in Deling Hotel?

She widened her eyes. "A bar?"

Irvine nodded and grabbed her hand.

"Let's go inside. They serve a good martini."

"Irvine!" Selphie whimpered at the mysterious gunman. "I'm underage!"

"C'mon." Irvine said, as he began to drag in the direction of the entrance. She planted her heels firmly in the sidewalk but couldn't keep her place as she feedably followed.

He threw his arm over her as they entered the glitzy hotel lobby. The guard standing near the entrance to the red stairs didn't give Irvine a send glance as he tipped his hat at the burly older man.

Selphie felt her mouth open in surprise as she followed him down the spiraling staircase. "You've been here before!" She exclaimed.

"Heck, I come here every time I'm in Deling." Irvine countered as he playfully patted her small hand. Everything about her was so tiny and quaint, like a doll on its shelf in the toy store. She hopped down the rest of the steps, hair bouncing wildy as her shoes tapped on the tile floor. Irvine walked down slowly as though he was absolutely bored.

She drew her hands up to her mouth as she saw a pianist on the stage gently stroking notes out of the instrument.

"Lookie!" She whispered in delight. "It's the music I heard outside."

Irvine shrugged, tipped his hat back with a cultivated nonchalance as he led her to a table.

"It's so dark here." she muttered. "Gloomy."

"It's dark so no one will see you when you pass out from the drinks," Irvine replied.

She stuck her tongue out at him.

"If you get drunk I'm going to leave you here."

Irvine chuckled. "Takes a lot to get me drunk Selphie. We'll have the usual."

Irvine said to the waitress as he winked at her.

"So, ya really like music, huh?" Irvine asked as he sat back and folded his hands behind his head.

"Yeah," Selphie said as she shifted eagerly in her seat. "I'm in charge of the Garden Festival."

"Well, ya know how to sing?"

"I can sing a train song," Selphie said happily.

"Well how about, if you sing your train song for me, I'll sing you a lullaby? Deal?" Irvine asked.

Selphie looked thoughtful.

"Is it a good lullaby?"

"The best." Irvine said with a smile. "When you sing it think of me, and when I sing the train song I'll think of my little Selphie."

She broke into a smile.

"Okay Irvine."

Irvine flicked some soot off his trench as he reflected on the past. Maybe one day she'll remember that she had heard it once before, a long time ago.

'"Selphie? What's the matter? Can't sleep?" Irvine asked as he approached the tiny girl crying by the window.

"I miss my mom," she sniffed sadly. "My dog Danny and our tipsy house by Obel lake."

"Aaawww." Irvine said with sympathy as he patted her gently. "Don'cha worry. Everyone misses there old life sometimes. Things are gonna be alright."

She ran her hands over her teary eyes.

"Did I wake you?" she asked apologetically as she ran her eyes over the sleeping forms of Quistis and Seifer. "I don't wanna be trouble."

Irvine shook his head vigorously. "Never. Tell me Selphie what did you mom back at Obel lake do when you couldn't sleep?"

"She used to sing to me," Selphie whispered. "She used to sing lots of songs until the soldiers came and did something to her. Then she didn't sing anymore, she didn't move anymore either. The neighbors came and brought me here. They said that my mom was gone, that she's somewhere else watching me but I called them liars, she's right here lying on the floor. I just wanted them to help me wake her up but they didn't listen to me. I hope she's okay without me, maybe Danny will take care of her while I'm gone."

Irvine nodded as he pulled her away from the window. "C'mon Selphie, I'll sing to you. I'll sing you a lullaby that my sister used to sing to me."

Selphie nodded at him, "Will you? Please?"'

Irvine looked over at the bouncy haired teen sitting by his side. She peeked at him and smiled. How happy she was, maybe it was better that the past was forgotten. It was wrong to sing this song to her and remind her of all the things a cruel world could do. Here, living here, in her sugar plum world of fairies and trains, it was wrong to wake her. But he wanted her to join him in his memory because he didn't want to be alone, at the windowsill while they were all sleeping in blissful oblivion.

"It goes like this." he said and quietly began to sing.

* * * * * *

"Squall, you came, I didn't think you would" Rinoa said as she walked up to the entrance of the tomb. Standing there in the overgrown weeds of the forgotten ruin, the walls were the only witness to their forbidden meeting.

Squall looked away from her, slightly embarrassed by her gratitude.

"If you don't tell me your name soon I'm going to make one up for you," he said sarcastically but came off less malicious than he usually was.

Rinoa placed her hands on her hips and gave him a taunting smile.

"If you could, what would you call me?" She asked.

Meanwhile Squall pressed his lips together in a gesture of defiance. So she had put him on the spot. I would call you Quistis, he thought but the concept immediately careened into oblivion. He didn't understand why he was suddenly obsessed with that name now that he had joined up with this particular group of SeeDs. Maybe he had made up that name and there was no lady out there to whom it belonged. He was alone so much sometimes it was hard to tell the events in his mind apart from the events of the outside world.

"Squall?" Rinoa asked. "It's okay if you don't feel like answering that question."

Squall realized that he had kept her waiting too long.

"I'm sorry. There are just some thoughts in my head that I need to sort out." he told her but realized suddenly that he had said too much again. There was just something about her that made him want to trust her and he didn't like it. It seemed almost as though a long time ago, before he had become jaded and uncaring, someone had said something that he had etched in his mind as deeply as the scar across his forehead. For fifteen years it laid dormant underneath the snowfield of his consciousness. Now every time he saw her, a bit of that snow melted and the past came closer to his reach.

"Tell me Squall, about your thoughts. I want to know what they are," Rinoa gently implored.

Squall watched her, the ethereal angel standing there in the sunlight with her hair covered with a halo of gold. The streams babbled and chuckled as it flowed over the sharp crevasses and cracks of the forgotten grounds. The walls here kept a secret that the world must never know. For in this desecrated site, a SeeD began to fall in love with a sorceress.

"I have these flashes of memories of this girl. Her name is Quistis but I don't know anything about her except that she connected to my childhood somehow." Squall paused and realized how ridiculous he sounded. "My sister Ellone, she never talks about the past but I know that if anyone would know who Quistis was it would be her. I just wish we were still on speaking terms . " he continued softly.

"Quistis..." Rinoa repeated testing the word on her tongue. She realized suddenly that she had heard the name before as well. Edea had mentioned it, yet under what context she had utterly forgotten. "I don't know," she said to him. "I'm in the same predicament as you, Squall." She said in a joking manner. "My father died telling me to find this young man he had met fifteen years ago. I don't even know where to start looking. He's supposed to be connected to my childhood as well. Funny how things are isn't it?" She asked him trying to draw a smile out of the thin line of his lips.

Only silence emulated from Squall as he lost himself once more in his own thoughts.

"Squall, how about it? When you find your mysterious lady and I find my mysterious man we'll go dancing again. What do you say?" She asked although she knew such a thing could never happen.

"Will that also be when you tell me your name?" he asked in mock irritation.

Rinoa laughed nervously. The conversation was quickly taking a precarious turn. Glancing at the time, Rinoa realized that she needed to get back early for the preparations for the sorceress's parade. She did not want to tell him she had to go but he didn't appear inclined to stay either.

"I'm sorry," he said to her, "I need to be going, I need to meet some people in Deling."

Rinoa nodded, glad that she was not the one to break the moment.

"I hope we see each other soon, Squall."

* * * *

"Zell!" Xu exclaimed, "You're late."

Irvine laughed. "And I thought it would be the ladies we were going to be waiting for."

Xu kicked him. "Stop being a sexist."

"Sorry" Zell said sheepishly, "Hey, check out my new gloves, I had them upgraded to Maverick."

"They look the same to me," Selphie remarked. "Are you sure you didn't get ripped off?"

"Guys!" Xu said, "Okay, you've had your fun, but we need to get into our positions now. Like we decided before, Me, Selphie and Zell are the Gateway team, well trap the sorceress under the archway. The sniper team, Squall, Irvine, you two will take your positions once the gate opens and the parade begins. Are there any questions?"


"Alright," Xu said with a smile. "I guess we move out now. Good luck, Squall, Irvine."

Squall turned and stalked away. However as soon as he stopped in front of the clock tower of the carousel, Irvine piped up.

"Hey Squall, do you think Selphie likes me?"

Squall ignored him.

"Hey Squall, maybe we'll get a glance of the sorceress's killer, Rinoa Heartilly. Not many people have seen her but I caught a glance at her once. She's pretty hot for an assassin."

"You'll fall in love with anything won't you?" Squall asked in a malicious tone.

"Whoa." Irvine said. "No no, you've got it all wrong. She's as lovely as a monarch butterfly. Just wait."

Squall frowned and kept his eyes on the clock.

* * * *

Seifer had never been sure why he harbored such hatred for Squall Leonhart. It's just one of those things that's been happening for so long that you forget how it ever started. It used to be fun actually, back when he had a posse. Maggie, Roger, the disciplinary committee, they used to tease the hell out of the younger boy. The fun ended though, when the disciplinary committee ended.

"You are going to get yourself into deep shit," Maggie had said right before she left.

Funny, only now did Seifer realize how right she was. Sorceresses were dangerous for a reason. Rinoa Heartilly was a sorceress. Simple, elegant, logical. So why did he stay with her? Just to see how many rules he could break before all hell broke loose?

"Let's duel, Seifer," Rinoa had pleaded once, giggling under her breath.

"Sure," he had said. "I'll take it easy on you, girl."

He never expected that she would win. Girls, it was fun to frolic with them and all until they kick your ass. Then it was just plain embarrassing.

So she had been a good sport about it, casting only her weak spells. However, truthfully he had never expected her to be so strong. Why she probably had enough power to take over the world if she wanted.

But she didn't.

She just wanted to be normal.

Until now.

"Sorceresses don't smile," she told him gravely the other day.

"Yeah I know and they melt if they cry. Horse shit."

"Be serious."

"Who the hell are you? The wicked witch of the west?"

She chuckled then. He had drawn a smile out of her as he had not done for months. For a moment, they were back together, like before. Yet truthfully, he was not so sure if he wanted that past anymore, or if it was worth of trouble to revisit. In a teasing tone, she mocked him in good humor.

"I'll turn you into a frog Seifer."

* * * * *

"Rinoa!" Seifer snapped as she entered the presidential mansion from the back door. "You're late again."

"Oh shut up, Seifer." Rinoa countered as she ran into Edea's private room. She caught herself and stood silently at the doorway as she saw Edea's hair shimmering in red as it twisted in midair. The strands shortened as they shrank into Edea's headpiece. The sorceress stood up, drawing her hands over her chest in a dance like gesture. Finally she stood upright and opened her yellow eyes which glowed bright in the dark room.

"Have you brought what I asked?" Edea asked quietly.

"Yes." Rinoa stepped forward with the Odine's Bangle. She handed it to Edea who placed the jewelry around her wrist.

"This will keep the unwieldy owner of this body under control until the parade is over." Edea explained.

Rinoa nodded. "I understand."

Edea walked over to Rinoa and stroked her face. "This is your night my dear. A long overdue reward for my most loyal companion. Tonight, all the savage mortals will hail you as their bright angel."

Rinoa cast her eyes down in modesty. "My gratitude -" she began.

"Hush." Edea suddenly said and allowed her hand to take Rinoa's in a gesture of kindness. "Come with me, I must go speak to them." Edea turned when Rinoa suddenly called out to her.

"Wait, Edea." She spoke up. "I know where Ellone is."

Edea turned and raised an eyebrow.

"Squall Leonhart has her. She is his sister."

Edea nodded. "Excellent. He has followed you here from Timber as expected?"

Rinoa shrugged. "SeeDs, they're not hard to manipulate."

Edea looked thoughtful for a moment. "The fact that he has Ellone calls for a change in plan, but as for tonight, things will go as we discussed." With that she turned and walked through the large intricate door that graced her chamber, Rinoa followed close behind.

The crowds were screaming with joy as Edea took her place at the podium. Deling stood to her right and Rinoa to her left. The wind blew a mess of caffetti into her hair and Rinoa smiled at Edea as she walked higher onto the platform.

From the ground below, Rinoa did not see someone staring at her in shock.

Beside Squall, Irvine whistled with glee.

"Hey, that's girl! There she is!"

"She's Rinoa?" Squall asked in astonishment.

Irvine laughed as he saw Squall's gaping mouth. He reached over and patted Squall roughly on the back. "Hey, you have an eye for women after all. Stop drooling over her, she's not that pretty. Heck if you're getting this worked up over her, wait till you see some of the other ladies I know."

"She's Rinoa Heartilly," Squall whispered to himself, unable to believe his eyes.

"...Lowlifes...Shameless filthy wretches." Edea began "How you celebrate my ascension with such joy. Hailing the very one whom you condemned for generations. Have you no shame?"

Deling looked over at Edea with surprise written on his face. He walked over to interrupt her when Rinoa caught him by the arm.

"Let go of me." Deling hissed to Rinoa as Edea continued her speech.

"I'm sorry." Rinoa whispered. Her eyes flared yellow and the old man stepped back in fear. His mouth wide open as he almost tripped against the elevation behind him. Rinoa smiled, her canary eyes glowing like two streetlights. She reached over and touched Deling on his forehead with the tip of her index finger.

' You are my puppet now.'

Deling's eyes blacked out. He stood where Rinoa left him, in a trance. He swayed slightly with an inane smile on his face. Rinoa returned to her place beside Edea as she finished her speech.

"Let us start a new reign of terror. I will let you live a fantasy beyond your imagination." Edea stepped from the platform in a dramatic gesture and turned back to the presidential mansion with Rinoa following closely and Deling swaggering far behind.

Irvine reached over and tugged at Squall's arm. "Snap out of it Squall, it's time for us to get ready to go. The Gates are opening."

* * * *

The breathtaking float looked almost like a futuristic spaceship with its coils of opalescent artwork. The kaleidoscopic sky, filled with all the colors of the Deling lights glowed in all its dazzling glory. On the throne, wearing Edea's clothing, Rinoa sat like a demonic swan. Her purple lips stretched into a faint smile as she eyed her minions. Standing in front was her knight Seifer who waved his flashing gunblade in a cocky heroic gesture. So, he finally had the fame and prestige he wanted, Rinoa thought to herself. To his right was the president Deling, still in a trance as he grinned into the crowd.

Rinoa cast her eyes about the congregation glad that Squall was no where to be seen. Yet she did realize that even if he were to see her this way he would not recognize her. Her head felt heavy wearing Edea's crown and a vine like design wrapped its self about her cheeks. Her face was pale as that of the nocturnal vampire. The tight raven dress wrapped every curve of her body so tightly that she could hardly move. Yet she felt elation in her heart as she watched the cheering horde of people. For a moment she felt like calling out to Seifer and asking him if he was enjoying himself but she caught herself as she realized that it was a very un-sorceress like thing to do.

Looking upon Seifer's bemused face she felt her guilt lessen. Perhaps this adoration partially made up for what she done to his SeeD career. Maybe in the end it truly was better for him this way, following her orders instead of some inhumane academy. Although she did not love him, she knew that she would take care of him always and make sure no harm came to his chaste heart. She did not want him to know the cynicism that she knew so well, the cynicism that she saw reflected in the eyes of Squall Leonhart.

Look at them, Rinoa, a congregation of fools a voice in her head commented. Rinoa's head perked up. Who said that?

"You do not recognize the voice of your mistress?" The voice inquired.

Edea? Rinoa wondered.

"Ultimecia. The voice confessed. Edea is the name of the weak body I inhabit."

Rinoa nodded in quiet assent. It was better now that she understood. Ultimecia was a sorceress, the sorceress inside Edea. But the sorceress was inside her now, so she was no longer in Edea. The vision before her eyes had blurry edges. Seifer became a cloud of white against the prismatic colors of the Deling night. Rinoa felt her head waving slightly or maybe the ground was waving and her head was still. In the crowd she saw her father. He was waving his hand at her.

"Daddy?" she whispered out loud. "Daddy come back!" she snapped suddenly as she watched his figure evaporate into the winter air. She tried to focus her eyes but she saw nothing but hazy blurs, smudges of color, flashes of objects. She caught a face suddenly. Daddy? she reached out to grab his hand.

"Rinoa?" Seifer asked, his voice twisted before it reached her ears. Seifer knitted his brows as he watched the moronic smile on Rinoa's face. Her hand reached out ant held his in a death clamp. She appeared to be in a drunken state. He shook her gently. "Rinoa are you okay?"

"Don't leave me daddy." she said to him. Seifer frowned as she pressed her face against his hand. "Please don't go." she said with urgency in her voice.

Seifer leaned forward and kissed her gently, "I won't leave. You're sick, I don't know what got into you but I'm taking you home." Seifer reached over to draw her into his arms when she suddenly snapped again. She sat up straight, all traces of the drunkenness gone.

"Seifer." She ordered. "Leave me."


"Go!" She snapped.

Seifer frowned. "If that's how you want it -"

Ultimecia felt Rinoa withdraw into a tiny core within herself as she took over the girl's troubled body. Rinoa was muttering incomprehensibly about her father, about a boy and finally about a town called Winhill. Around them the dancing continued in a twisted celebration of demonic sacrifice. The crowd continued to cheer. The congregation was like one huge monster, laughing in sadistic delight. Pieces of colorful paper fluttered through the air miles up above parade reaching for the very heavens.

'Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec'

"Tell me about Winhill." Ultimecia implored, purring like a cat. Rinoa opened up to her then, holding nothing back in the dam of her own isolation. Her head began to clear slightly and so she began to speak silently in her own mind to the sorceress within her.

It is my destiny to fight an evil sorceress, Rinoa explained, she is the one who gave me my powers. I don't know who she is or at what point in the future this fight will take place. All I know is that I am to do it beside a boy with the name Loire.

"Loire?" Ultimecia asked begging her to continue.

'Excitate vos e somno, liberi mei Cunae sunt non'

Yes, Rinoa continued. My father told me it was so, that fifteen years ago my future self visited my past. Defeating the sorceress is my destiny beside this Loire boy, it is a destiny I do not want. Ultimecia, how can this be prevented?

"What destiny is it that you want child?" Ultimecia asked then.

'Excitate vos e somno, liberi fatali'

One beside another. Rinoa replied.


Squall Leonhart. She answered.

* * * *

The carousel burst into life as it elevated and opened up its top revealing two members of SeeD. From across the plaza, the gates of the archway shook precariously and fell, sinking their jaws into the ground, trapping the sorceress's float underneath the golden arch.

Irvine Kinneas aimed his sniper gun at the figure on the throne who had stood up frowning at the mysterious interruption. He aimed the gun at her, watching her at the center of the cross hairs of his lens. He had the power over life and death now. One twitch of his finger and he was to send a life out of existence. The cross hairs of his lens were transformed from a simple glass and paint to a pen with which he could rewrite destiny. No one should have such a magnificent and terrible power. Watching the girl in the center of the lens, she suddenly turned her head to face him. Her eyes met his. He could not kill her.

"I can't do it." Irvine whispered as he lowered the gun.

"What?" Squall asked in surprise.

"I always choke up like this..."Irvine said. "I'll change the history of Galbadia forever.... I... can't."

"Irvine Kinneas!" Squall snapped but soon realized that it was no use. In exasperation he finally gave up. "Just fire the gun as a signal to attack, will you do that?"

"Just as a signal," Irvine whispered to himself as he aimed the gun once more. He pulled the trigger absently and the bullet shot across the plaza heading for the sorceress. Rinoa raised her hand and deflected the bullet, then guided it straight into President Deling's skull. With one last desperate shriek, Deling collapsed onto his knees, blood pouring forth from a crack in his head. He was dead in a matter of seconds.

Rinoa watched as Seifer stood up from where he was kneeling. A smile grew slowly on his face. She twirled her head around as she heard a screech of tires and a crash when a convertible slammed into the archway gates.

Squall appeared before them, gunblade in hand. Squall's eyes widened as he took a closer look at the sorceress. Rinoa.

"So this is the way it must be." she whispered to no one in particular. She smiled at him suddenly, a whimsical expression born from the shards of broken dreams. "Now you know why, I couldn't tell you my name."

"You're nothing but another obedient lap dog, Rinoa" Squall said venomously.

She nodded and looked down. "You're right, Squall. I guess I am."

"Shut up," Seifer said with a look of disgust on his face. "You're mine, Squall."

Squall drew back as Seifer attacked him. However this time Seifer did not have rage giving him an edge. He made a series of clumsy mistakes and before long Seifer was on his back with Squall's gunblade at his throat.

"You need practice Seifer," Squall said and with that he drew his gunblade away and turned his eyes to Rinoa.

Rinoa had been but a casual watcher since then. "Will you fight me, Squall?" she asked quietly.

Squall watched her placid face and hesitated. His obligation to SeeD called for him to attack her without mercy yet somehow underneath the snowfield of his memory, a deeper obligation called out to him. As he tried to draw his gunblade against her, a recollection suddenly surfaced, like treasure washed up onto shore for the first time in a thousand years. But like anything that collects on the shore, the ocean reclaimed it as quickly as it had come.

He saw a flash of Rinoa dressed in blue, disappearing into the mist over Winhill.

At that moment he knew he would not lift a finger against her. However, he didn't have to because it was already too late.

"Impudent SeeD." a voice said behind him. As Squall turned it was far too late. Edea stood there and cast a round of Ultima on him. He fell into the green explosion and when it cleared he caught only one last glimpse of Rinoa bending over him with a look of pain on her face before he blacked out.

Rinoa looked up and saw Seifer getting to his feet, ready to defend Edea as the other SeeDs showed up suddenly. The Galbadian soldiers had arrived and had joined into the fight. Quietly, trying to attract as little attention as possible, Rinoa wrapped her arms about Squall's limp body and dragged him away from all the commotion.


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