The Orphan Chapter 1

Inherit the Wind

By Kate Lorraine

Laguna Loire walked down the dirt path behind Winhill for the umpteenth time. Yet even the sight of the worn beaten path did not mollify the stone burden that weighed down his heart. Raine Loire, neglected, lonely Raine whom he had left to die alone. Raine who he had loved the most second to none, not even Julia Heartilly. But today was no ordinary visit to Raine, today he was bringing someone special, a young man who's life he had intercepted too late.

Laguna turned to his side and nodded to his companion.

"It's just beyond that hill." Laguna offered helpfully.

The young man nodded and did not reply. His perpetual frown had been replaced by a look curiosity which had dominated his face since his return from his last mission. It was a new look that he was uncomfortable with but sported anyway. These were changing times after all. He had grown rapidly the past few days yet he found it hard to break out of the old habit of keeping to himself. The longest period of time spend with his friends were too short to them. Today he had come here with his father, Laguna to visit his deceased mother, one whom he had seen only through Laguna's eyes in the dreamlike states Ellone had put him under. Although he did not attach any special meaning or importance to visiting a tombstone, it appeared that people usually did. He had agreed simply to placate Laguna. That was the way he had gone through most of his life, going through the actions and rituals that were so important to others. It was horribly tiresome. There was going to be no special resolution in visiting a stone with marked her grave, why couldn't he see that?

Squall realized then that he was thinking too much again, as Rinoa would point out. It was like a terrible addiction he was trying to kick.

"There it is." Laguna whispered with a touch of sadness as he approached the lone grave amid the tall grass. It was an elegant slab of rock with the words Raine Loire inscribed in the light stone.

"So we are going to have our talk now?" Squall asked, referring to the comment Laguna made back in the Ragnarok, before they infiltrated Lunatic Pandora and destroyed the infamous Adel.

Laguna sighed and looked at young man whose face had once more returned to its natural frown. "Well, I suppose that you've figured out by now that me and Raine are your parents. That you were sent to an orphanage with Ellone while I remained in Esthar because of my own selfish desire as well as practical necessity." Laguna scratched the back of his head. "You don't know how happy it makes me to see you and Rinoa together. Julia Heartilly was my first love and even when I married your mother, I never really stopped thinking about Julia."

"I didn't come to listen to you talk about your affairs, Laguna." Squall replied in his usual monotone voice.

"Then what did you come to hear? For Christ's sake, I have nothing earth shattering for you to hear, if that's what you cam for. I'm taking Ellone back to Esthar with me, you know that. What is there that I can tell you?"

The young man paused, as if a bit taken back by the other man's response. Finally he did respond.

"Is Rinoa safe? Does Odine know if she is still susceptible to possession? Because, I want her to be . .to be . safe."

Laguna hit his forehead in exaggerated gesture.

"Squall, son, if I knew this was the type of long talk you wanted to have I wouldn't have brought you here." Laguna, laughed quietly, under his breath. "We'll sit down and have a talk about women sometimes."

"Whatever." Squall replied, not giving to his father's pitiful attempt at humor.

"Are we done here? I have some SeeD duties to attend to."

"A regular SeeD workaholic, I see." Laguna replied giving him a sarcastic smile. However, as Squall turned to leave, Laguna grabbed him by arm. "Wait, before you go, I have something I want to tell you, it's a bit corny but I want you to know that love goes on, even when the form does not. Julia is dead and gone but I see my love for her whenever you are with Rinoa. I wanted you to know that and .. . that I hope we can have another talk soon. A longer one than this."

Squall nodded absently and walked away, down the path, toward the Ragnarok.

* * *

Rinoa Heartilly frowned deeply as she watched Zell and Irvine place their cards one by one on the Triple Triad Squares.

"You cheated!" Zell yelled at a smiling Irvine. "Yo, how is it possible that you have three face cards in your hand when we are going random?"

"Calm down Zell," Selphie said, in her usual cheery mood, sitting nearly with her legs folded under her. "We're not playing for real, just going through the actions to teach Rinoa a few things. She wants to be a worthy opponent for Squall remember? He's defeated the entire CC club I heard."

"The whole CC club?" Asked Irvine, sheepishly, as he reluctantly handed Zell back the Bahamut card which he had taken a few seconds ago. "I guess Squall has a few skills up his sleeve other than his ability to throw around that gunblade of his."

Rinoa shrugged. "He's pretty quick up here." She said tapping her temple. "I, on the other hand, am just the opposite. I still don't understand the plus rule, can you show it to me again?"

"Sure." Zell said eagerly, as he began to shuffle the cards. "When I am about to do a plus against Irvine, I'll call you right over Rinoa."

"That will take forever!" Selphie complained.

"No, it won't." Zell said with wink. "Watch my master skills."

"Yeah right Chicken wuss," Irvine muttered under his breath,

"What?? Did you call me?" Zell inquired angrily.

"Let's get out of here before the furniture become airborne," Selphie said as she pulled Rinoa out of the dorm. The two girls were walking down the hallway, toward the entrance as Rinoa spoke up.

"How is the second garden festival coming Selphie?"

"Not good. I need more volunteers. You would think that since the whole sorceress thing blew over, there would be more people who are willing to show some garden spirit."

Rinoa giggled "I'll be glad to help, even though I'm not officially part of garden. It looks like I'll be here for a while parasitizing off of the privileges of your leader. My father always told me to marry rich." She joked.

Both girls laughed as they crossed the doorway exiting the garden.

"I hope that doesn't mean that you are planning to marry me." A voice said in back of them.

Rinoa's heart jumped to her throat as she turned around and spotted a dark figure standing there behind them. He was holding his gunblade like a cane, with the tip making contact with the ground.

"Squall." She whispered, as she flowed toward him. The sight of him never ceased to shock her in magnificence and elegance. She wandered closer to him and a spontaneous smile began to spread across her face. Mine, she thought, that beautiful figure of a man was all mine . . . for now.

"I don't marry sorceresses," he replied "it doesn't bold well for my SeeD career."

She laughed and hugged him.

"Well, that's just too bad Squall. I guess you'll have to take up a job as a choco boy or something. That little brat makes plenty of Gil."

Their conversation was abruptly cut short when Quistis walked up to the trio. She was dressed in her casual clothing, unlike the rest, however, Quistis seldom acted casual and today was no different.

"Squall," She began "I have news for you Seifer, has resurfaced. He's been seen at a local bar at Fisherman's Horizon with Raijin and Fujin."

"Leave him alone." Squall replied, without hesitation. "As long as he's not causing trouble for us there is no cause for us to go after him."

"Yes, that is that I said as well, however, it happens that him and his group were last seen buying supplies for a long journey and heading in the direction of the current location of Lunatic Pandora. One of our spies even overheard Raijin asking a store manager is he carried detailed maps of the land south east of the great salt lakes. What do you make of this, Squall? Do you think that there is a chance Ultimecia is alive and that she is summoning him somehow?"

"No, that's impossible. I saw her pass on her powers with my own eyes. There is something else behind this."

"Maybe he's not heading for Lunatic Pandora at all." Selphie offered. "Maybe they are going shopping in Esthar. There are some great shopping malls there and Seifer did look like he needed a new trench coat."

Quisitis frowned and Squall shook his head.

"I don't believe that Seifer would turn on us again." Rinoa said quietly from her place behind Squall. "He learned his lesson from Ultimecia. Anyway, Raijin and Fujin would never go through that mess another time. No, I don't believe that is possible. Just let them be."

"He learned his lesson from Ultimecia not to be manipulated by witches anymore but that does not rule out the possibility that he will turn on us." Qusitis added. "Seifer can't live without power, he said so himself that he always needed to be doing something "important." Raijin and Fujin can't be trusted to think for themselves. We need to do something, Squall."

Squall shook his head, not entirely sure which way to turn.

"I agree with Quistis that Seifer needs supervision. He is a dangerous warrior with skills that are equal to that of my own. However, I cannot go on this mission. I have duties here. Quistis, take Irvine and Selphie with you and go after Seifer. Make sure that he is really harmless and then we can forget about him."

Quistis nodded "you are getting good at this leader thing, Squall. You are even faster learner then I thought." She smiled and walked away with Selphie to gather Irvine.

Rinoa watched them leave with a feeling of foreboding in her chest. She suddenly wanted to tell them not to go. She closed her eyes and felt a strange sensation in her head. She leaned weakly against Squall, who mistaken it for a gesture of affection.


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