The Orphan Chapter 12
The Choices of One
By Kate Lorraine
The shades of dawn had already passed as Squall Leonhart walked over the rocky ground of the Winhill bluffs. Birds fluttered by disturbing the quiet solitude of the path. Squall walked on tirelessly, not unlike the way he had trodden through the desert during his near encounter with death.
Rinoa, he had left her asleep, there in that abandoned house. She had looked so peaceful as he tucked her under the covers. He knew the sorceress was coming. That seemed inevitable now. It didn't matter. He needed to take a walk to clear his mind.
*"It's just beyond that hill."*
Laguna, Squall thought, if only you could see me now. It has been only a few a days ago when he had hiked down the same path beside that man. How things have changed since then. *Except the fact that you are still not my father.* Squall thought to himself. *nothing, no sorceress from the future or monster in deep space can change the fact that I will never be your son.*
Squall walked up to the tombstone. He had always wondered what his mother was like. He was glad that she had been a strong women. One who resisted Laguna's childish charm. He would have liked her - Raine Leonhart, she seemed like the type of person who could understand him. But she was dead. Disappeared just like the rest of them. He could talk to her now, but she would not answer back. It was tragic irony, he had found his mother only to realize that she was dead. He wasn't much better off before when he was still looking.
Squall crouched down beside the tombstone and traced the letters with his gloved hand. Raine Loire. Raine Loire. Raine Loire. Why had she agreed to put that? What was that man's name on her monument to eternity when she had named her son Leonhart? What a mystery that had died with her.
Raine, mom, I've never spoken to you before, at least not by name. I came to ask your advice today. I hope you can hear me, despite the fact that I'm not talking out loud.
He took his hands off the tombstone and turned his glaze from the horizon back to the slab of marble infront of him. Is this what it was like to sit with your mother? He wondered. All through his life he had seen people praising their mothers. He could only grasp that abstractly, by faith, the way you had to have faith that the desk was made of molecules although you could never see it. He had to have faith that there was such a thing as unconditional love, one which no one can take away.
Mom, I'm lost I don't know what to do.
Raine Leonhart. Raine Leonhart. Beautiful Raine. What would it feel like to be hugged by her? Did she love him when she held him for the last time? Or maybe he was just a burden, just a momento her lover had left her after all the romance was gone. But she had named him Leonhart hadn't she? So surely there was some degree of love, of possessiveness.
Garden or Rinoa. Mother, which one should I choose?
What would she think if she saw him today? Did she know that he had his father's eyes? Would she praise him for hating Laguna, the man that had abandoned them both?
Mother are you going to answer me?
Maybe she was just dead and there was nothing after death. The entire illusion of having a mother was no more real than the room on the other side of a mirror. However, for a moment amid the lingering colors of dawn, he wanted to step through that mirror. It was a place where there were no sorceresses. No paradoxes. Where you did not have the burden of a nation on your shoulders. The stories made it seem so simple. Rescue the lady and save the world. What if you can't have both? What then?
Mother, I'm so lonely. I wish I could lay down there in the deep earth beside you.
I never wanted to be the hero, Raine. I just wanted to be loved by someone. To never be so painfully lonely. I wish I could have lived my life beside you in this tiny village. I wish I had never seen the wide wide world and all its evil. I wish I never knew the meaning of rival, of death of Garden. For that I would give up all my skill, my pride, my victories.
If it was my choice, mom, I would choose to be with you.
Suddenly he heard a voice behind him, a female voice.
"Squall, it's me."
Rinoa felt the sorceress awaken inside her. It wasn't like last time when she simply went out cold. She could feel the sorceress spreading inside her, through her right arms first, then her left. She could still move her toes of her own will by the time it was taking over her neck and chin. It was like being paralyzed. She was able to wiggle her toes as much as she wanted but it was impossible to move her mouth to take a breath. Pretty soon, her toes stopped moving too and she couldn't will them to start again no matter how hard she tried. The sorceress began her moving now. Rinoa felt her legs swinging over the side of the bed. Her fingers reached down to put her shoes on. She tried as hard as she could to resist but it was like a dream when her body got heaver and heaver as the monster came closer and closer. She couldn't budge an inch.
"Stop resisting me." The sorceress ordered.
Rinoa felt a jot of surprise. She could talk to the sorceress.
"Where are we going?" Rinoa asked her, through her mind.
"To find my prince," the sorceress answered.
"You're not going to harm him are you?"
The sorceress thought that was funny.
"I'm going to help him, Rinoa. So he won't be so unhappy."
Rinoa felt her body getting up now. Slowly, unsteadily, her body began to take step by step towards the door. The body tripped over the rug and fell upon its knees. Rinoa could see herself in the mirror across the room. She looked like she was drunk. It was terrifying to see herself, a body she recognized so well, but to realize that it wasn't her inside. It was worse than meeting an evil twin.
"Steady Steady," the sorceress whispered to herself.
"You're not like Ultimecia," Rinoa thought but said as well since there was no longer any
difference between thinking and saying. "She was better at it than you."
"I know," the sorceress replied. "She was a powerful witch. My powers are but a fraction of hers. That's why I'm not wasting my strength knocking you out this time. You can stay with me until I find him. Then I'll have to talk to him alone."
"What do you want with him . . Alexandra?"
"I want him to love me. He doesn't love you, Rinoa. Haven't you figured that out yet? You're not good enough for him."
"Child," Rinoa began sadly, "Squall is a man, you're . . a child. A child without a body. "
The sorceress was quiet.
"I'm going to send you away to dreamland soon, Rinoa. But just wait. I'll show you. You'll see."
Rinoa felt herself gaining speed. She ran down the stairs and out onto the street. It was fast, she was afraid that she would fall. But the sorceress didn't. She kept running, down the bridge, over the chocobo crossing and outside the village into the bluffs.
"I know where he is." The sorceress said triumphantly. "He went to visit Raine."
"Please stop." Rinoa begged the sorceress.
"I'm sorry, Rinoa," the sorceress said. "I need him. I need to be with him. I'm so alone. I need your world. It is the only place where I can be happy. My world so barren. This place is like a fantasy world. The great and final fantasy."
"This place is my reality and you are destroying my life. Can't you understand that? Give me back my body, please. This is not a game."
The child was quiet, as though she was contemplating what Rinoa had said. Rinoa felt her legs picking up speed as they went over the last hill and she saw Squall kneeling there beside his mother's grave. So he had come here, she thought.
"I knew he would be here," the sorceress said.
Rinoa felt her mouth move.
Rinoa saw Squall turn around. At the sight of her there was an intense look of annoyance on his face. His thin delicate brows arched and he stood there stiffly waiting for the sorceress to catch up to him. So he knows too, Rinoa thought. At least he knew and she won't trick him. Alexandra was annoyed by his unhappiness to see her. Meanwhile, Rinoa began to fade out to "dreamworld" as Alexandra promised. I trust you Squall, she thought as she went into oblivion.
Squall turned around to see Alexandra running up the Winhill bluffs. He knew it was Alexandra. Rinoa was gone. He watched her coming, her long legs skipping over the rougher rocks.
"It's me." She said, out of breath.
Squall stood there with his eyes on Alexandra. She waved at him. It wasn't hard to pretend that it was Rinoa running towards him. That it was Rinoa's raven hair blowing in the damp morning wind. That it was really Rinoa's smile gracing that pale oval face. That it was Rinoa's long swan like legs carrying her towards him, into his embrace.
But it wasn't.
He had to remember what was real.
As long as he still had a gripe on reality the sorceress would have no power over him.
"Squall, so you've come to visit Raine?"
` He shrugged, turning back to the tombstone, ignoring her.
She crouched down beside him, the way Rinoa used to. It was irritating him to no end.
"You left without me. I was worried."
There was a moment of silence before she spoke up again.
"I miss my mother too. We are alike aren't we Squall? Two orphans lost in time."
She sighed and flicked her hair back, away from her face.
" There is no one we can depend on to pull us out of trouble, no one to care whether we are dead or alive."
She paused, watching the ground and the red letters etched in stone. When she spoke next it was in a quiet sincere voice, the same one that Rinoa used to use.
" Rinoa can't understand your loneliness, Squall, or your despair. What does she have to be afraid of? Her general father will always be there to pull her out of trouble. But what about you Squall? If you were to fall who would catch you?"
"I have myself." He whispered. "And my friends, Ellone, Rinoa, Quistis. I'm not alone. You are the only one who is alone, Alexandra, there is no place for you here."
She nodded. "You have no place here either. You wander amidst them but you feel like you can't touch them. Night after night, trapped in a glass box, screaming out loud but completely silent. Weren't those your own words Squall? You compared it to being wrapped in layer after layer of flannel. But when she asked you what you were thinking, you lied. You lied because you knew that she could never understand. She came from a sugar coated childhood of lollipops and flowers. You can from a sun cracked desert, devoid of tenderness or love."
He glared at her. "How dare you intrude on my thoughts. You witch. I won't give in to your illusions. I'm not Seifer."
"You're right, you are not Seifer, but you wish you were. You want his brashness his confidence and his immaturity. You wanted that because your thoughts brought you so much pain so you choose not to think at all, just like Seifer."
"You lie. Stop playing with my mind. Shut up."
"Really I lie? Tell me, why is it that you love Rinoa? Why were you so eager to have her despite the fact that she was so much trouble and so distant. You choose her because she was Seifer's. You want to be him, even during the Dollet exam, you were looking for a way to have his approval. That is why you gave him that scar so that you would be identical. His dream was always to be a great warrior. You claim never to have wanted that yet unconsciously that is the goal you accomplished - a great warrior you are, the end product of Seifer's dream."
"The circumstances made me this way. I just did what was needed to be done. I won't be manipulated by your sorcery, Alexandra."
"I pity you Squall. You are better than them, all of them. Yet you choose to be like them.
Seifer is nothing but a shell, he is a thousand mirrors, living up to a standard that doesn't exist. That's how my mother was able to control him. But not you, I could never manipulate you. I only seek a friend. Someone to understand my loneliness. Do you know Squall what it is to be truly alone?"
"Don't, Alexandra." He whispered. "Don't use my own weaknesses against me. I won't have it. I won't be your knight."
She frowned and reached over to touch his shoulder in a gesture of sympathy. He angrily shook her off.
"You won't be my knight but will you be Rinoa's? You will keep on walking through the play of life reading Seifer's script? Seifer choose her for you, Squall. You said that you didn't want to be a puppet anymore well the time has come for you to make a choice. Don't say simply what you think you think the leader of SeeD would say. I'm Alexandra not Ultimecia. I'm your friend not your burden. A child not a monster. I'm just alone, so bitterly alone that I came back in time to find you, my prince."
Squall shook his head. "Do you really expect me to believe that Alexandra? That you are not evil? That you are just lonely? And even more preposterous - that you are here for me? This is my mother's tombstone. Don't desecrate this place by telling me any more lies here. I love Rinoa, I love her of my own will and nothing you say will change that."
Alexandra chuckled. "Then why won't you tell her the truth? Why do you keep lying to her? You told her that you would be waiting for her in the meadow yet you never showed up. Squall, the truth is that you never loved her enough. You went back in time to seek your childhood instead. If these are lies then why do they sound so true? And if it is really love than why does it feel so fake? I'm only a child Squall, and even I can see that what you two share is not love. She's nothing but an accessory to your mask."
Squall got up and turned away from her. He stared at the stretch of grassland before him as the wind ran its fingers through the his hair.
Mother, what is the truth? He wondered. Do I really love her? Or is it just another illusion. The good illusions and the bad. It was so hard to tell sometimes. What was love really? Did he even know? Maybe Alex was right and he was just playing a role all along. But it was all just illusion. A web of dreams.
"I don't believe you, Alexandra."
Alexandra nodded and stood up.
"All right, Squall, since you won't be persuaded by my words. Let me show you my true power."
Squall turned around and his mouth fell agape in surprise.
Author's note: Alexandra comes from Alexandros, another name for Paris who kidnapped Helen and started the Trojan war.
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