Death Beyond Death by LunarCry
The End of The Beginning
The gunblade lay gleaming on top of the coffin, almost mocking me.
It looked brand new.
Even when he’d become too weak to use it, he hadn’t neglected it for a second. An hour at least of every day had been spent with him taking it apart, dusting it down, polishing it until it shone like a mirror.
He’d hated it. Watching me as his skills degenerated, I had felt his bitterness. It hadn’t been aimed at me, I know, but it hurt all the same. Everything was painful these days . . . there was nothing joyous in this world anymore. Nothing.
I filled up again, the tears inside me a flood of despair that threatened to tear me apart. The silence in the room was so heavy that it weighed me down. No one dared to speak. No one knew what to say. What could they say?
I remember once . . . so long ago . . . he’d been angry over the thought of people talking about him in past tense. Now it was for real. The cause of that conversation was long gone . . . the people who had contributed to it departed from this world.
Except for me.
There I stood, alone. Countless people had come to pay their respects to the man who had saved their world. I could count a dozen or so that I recognised . . . two or three that I knew personally, that knew me as more than ‘his wife’ or ‘one of the heroes’.
My fists clenched at my sides. As ever, my sorrow refused to reveal itself in that guise – it oozed from my body as an uncontrollable anger.
The world had begun to spin. I turned dizzily, ignoring the gasps of bystanders, people shouting my name. I ignored them, staggering outside, sucking in deep breaths of air.
A smear of red in my blurred vision.
I made for it, my legs like lead and my brain even heavier. The gangplank was down, and I stumbled up the steps, slamming the control to close it behind me. I was being pursued. Why did they follow me? They wouldn’t . . . they couldn’t know how hard this was for me . . .
Somehow I reached the cockpit. The journey there seemed non-existent. The seats of the ship just appeared before me, and I slumped into one, pulling at buttons automatically. Oh God . . . Selphie had taught me how . . .
Tears burst from my eyes violently, streaming down my face, and I was racked with wretched sobs so painful, so loud that the roar of take-off was lost. I set a course for the place I longed for, curled up into a foetal position, and cried myself to sleep.
A soft, insistent beeping woke me from dreamless, distant sleep. I roused, my head still heavy and my face sticky with tears, and switched the noise off. I saw that I was there, and stood up shakily, almost crawling to the gangplank in my lethargy.
It opened, and daylight flooded inside. Blinking, I descended the stairs, making my way towards the crumbling stone building that lay in the near distance.
How long had I been asleep? It felt like years . . . time had little relevance any more. The grey house near the sea was little more than a ruin now. Edea and Cid had renovated it, a long time ago, but they too were gone, buried within.
It had been a while since I’d visited this place. My hand reached for the cold walls as I walked slowly towards the field, the field where he’d promised me . . .
The ‘field’ could barely be described as one now. Most of the flowers were dead. Edea and Cid lay in bitter eternity under the flagstone floor in the main room, but another grave stood here. It had been covered with grass and flowers when I’d last came here. Now it was just a mound of bare earth with a stone plaque beside it.
I dropped to my knees before the tomb, breathing harshly.
The plaque said, simply, ‘Angelo’.
Memories tugged at my heartstrings, making me retch. How could this be? My friends had held on as long as they could, as loathe to leave me behind as they were to die under any circumstance. But nature had claimed them all in the end. Even Squall . . .
I closed my eyes. Weakness washed over me, and I lowered my head, trying to focus.
The voice came from behind, and I turned groggily.
There were five SeeDs there. I knew each one of them. I also thought of them as young, but they were not. Middle-aged maybe, I didn’t care. Age meant nothing to me anymore.
The sight of them was actually painful. Little Ilfie, not so little any longer, her green eyes wide with compassion. Timmy, Meila, Ayeda, all watching me closely with their blazing blue eyes. I refused to even look at the fifth SeeD.
“You’ve . . . grown so,” I whispered. “They . . . would be proud.”
That caused ripples. The triplets glanced at each other. I could see the fond memories in their gazes. Images of a young, boisterous blond-haired kid lanced painfully through my mind. A gasp didn’t dispel the flashback, which was followed by a smooth-talking Galbadian tilting his hat at me; a bouncy, vibrant girl with eyes as green as her daughter’s . . . A tall, willowy woman, so much younger than she’d ever acted.
“Mom . . .”
The fifth SeeD spoke up gently. I looked at him, at his soft grey eyes and his feathery brown hair . . .
“Why did you have to look so much like him?” I hissed through clenched teeth. Tsu blinked, his cool composure lost for a moment.
“Mom, won’t you come back to the Garden with us?”
“Is that how you got here?”
It was suddenly very hard to speak.
Tsu glanced at his friends, and then back at me. Very cautiously, he started moving towards me, stooping to a crouch when he reached my pathetic figure. The expression on his face told me everything: he knew what was going to happen, how close I was to the brink.
“Stop this,” he said simply.
I looked up at him with disbelief in my eyes. “Stop this? Stop this? What do you think I’m trying to do, Tsu? Don’t crowd me!”
Tsu laid a hand on my shoulder.
“Don’t torture yourself over this . . .”
I slapped his hand away.
“How would you know? How the hell would you know what I went through? Watching every day as your father . . . all of your parents . . . grew older and older! I’m seventy-four, now, Tsu! And I still look like I’m seventeen! If I had known my sorceress powers would do this to me . . . I would have asked to be sealed away! At least then I would never have to remember!”
Tsu was astonished by my outburst. It’s a curse of mine that I find myself unable to be sad most of the time . . . just angry, blaming whatever comes to mind for anything bad that happens to me. I hated myself for saying such a thing to my own son . . . to my friends’ children, whom I had felt obliged to protect, once upon a time.
But loneliness creeps up on you.
I settled my gaze on Tsu, and felt a weak smile forming on my lips. Squall . . . he’d been so surprised when I’d told him about our child. But after Tsu had been born, he’d changed . . . mellowed, even. Tsu had made him whole. Finally, after so long trying to open him up, I’d succeeded in the strangest way. Sure, Squall had been hard on the child . . . but Tsu had always understood why. The legendary SeeD’s pride in his son had finally made him the lion he’d always longed to be.
God, I missed him. His absence was like a hole in my heart, in my soul, in my reality.
Has there ever been a sorceress who has remained pure and true? I still don’t know. I did know that it was so very hard to stay sane when all your friends wither and die around you, and you are forced to live on.
“How can I pass on my powers if I don’t die?” I breathed. “How can I die if I can’t pass on my powers?”
Nodding to myself, I stood up, leaning against the wall for support. I looked Tsu directly in the eye, and then at the gunblade hanging from his belt.
“You brought that weapon for a reason, didn’t you, Tsu?” I turned to the others. “You all did, didn’t you?”
My son cast his gaze downwards, not guiltily but as if assuring himself. “Mom . . . we can’t risk it. There’s a reason that there has never been a good sorceress before.”
“SeeD still has a job to do, doesn’t it.”
“This is more than a job, Rinoa,” Ilfie said softly. “It’s a favour.”
“No, it’s still a job. The Gardens were formed to kill sorceresses, weren’t they?”
Tsu shook his head. “Most sorceresses were perfectly normal before they turned evil. You know why they turned, don’t you?”
I sighed, nodding. “But I can’t let you do it.”
“Why? What have you got left to lose?”
Abruptly, I laughed. They stared at me nervously.
“You, for a start, Tsu. And . . . there are other reasons.”
“I once said . . . that’d it’d be okay if he did it . . . no one else. It has to be his gunblade that pierces my heart! No one else!”
The power was beginning to surge through my veins. I bit my lip, trying to suppress it.
“Squall is dead!”
“No! He can’t be!” I whirled, running into the dead field. “He promised me!”
Brown grass and knotted weeds tried to trip me as I dashed into the centre. Memories of Squall burned in my mind.
“If you come here, you’ll find me. I promise.”
“Rinoa! Come back!”
My own child . . . wants to kill me.
“Mom! Please, let me end it for you!”
Blood roared in my ears. White-hot pain flared in my upper back.
“This is so hard for me, too! They could seal you again, if you want! Dad told me . . . he told me what to do. We just can’t risk the power . . .”
Feathers rained down on me. I clamped my hands over my ears, collapsing to my knees. Anger once again pounded through me.
I . . . don’t . . . want . . . to . . . die . . . Squall, what happened to your promise? You said you’d always be here for me . . . you said you wouldn’t let me get . . . out of hand . . . Squall, you . . .
“You promised!” I screamed, so hard that blood vessels burst in my eyes and my lungs seemed to explode, and then the power was surging out of me, igniting around me. There were screams, always the screams, screams I never wanted to hear. With the power came the memories, memories from before my time, from past reigns of terror, led by past sorceresses. I had never given into it before . . . but a sorceress needs her knight to stop her from falling over the edge.
My knight was dead.
But my power didn’t want to listen. An ever-increasing dome of energy expanded around me, submerging the field in madness. Sobbing, I tried to pull it back. I never meant to let it out, not ever! Time . . . it had stretched my heart and soul to the limit . . .
“RINOA! STOP! YOU’RE GOING TO –”
When Timmy’s voice broke off, I panicked. Practically dragging the magic back inside me, I collapsed, breathing raggedly, my face against the hard earth and my eyes wide with fear. My wings drooped down, softly touching the floor. My pain had turned the tips of each feather a darker colour.
Without even thinking, I leapt to my feet and charged across the field. My blood turned to ice when I spotted the five figures lying motionless outside the Orphanage’s main room.
I reached Tsu first.
The tears came soon after.
Part 2, The Beginning of The End