Chapter Fifteen

By Scarlet Fever

"I cannot believe this...." Quistis trailed off, looking wide eyed at Edea. They were all sitting in the Ragnarok, on their way to Esthar. After waiting for General Caraway to return, and after the painful scene there, with him finding his daughter dead, they all decided it was best to take action. "Do you really think that Laguna is in real danger?"

Edea frowned. "Quistis, don't be foolish." Edea looked out the window nervously. "Laguna is Adel's greatest enemy. And, Squall is the one that defeated her most recently. And, we all know Ultimecia's hatred for Squall...."

Squall sighed deeply. "I should have gotten there faster...."

Nida looked over his shoulder as he piloted over the Balamb Ocean. "It wouldn't have mattered, Squall. Ultimecia wanted her power out of Rinoa, and would have gotten it, no matter what...."

"But, still....." Squall banged the back of his head against the wall a couple of times. "There's no coming back... She's dead.... And, now, Lillith is dead, too."

"Lillith?" Quistis asked. "Who's that?"

Xu cocked her head. "I've never heard that name before...."

Edea looked at Squall, who had his eyes closed, silently contemplating his errors when it came to Rinoa's death. "She was a Sorceress..."

"A Sorceress?!" Xu exclaimed.

Edea nodded. "You are going to ask why you haven't heard of her. It's because she was the Sorceress of the Dead. Ultimecia had stolen her from her family when she was a girl, given to Ultimecia by her mother, Xerampelinae...."

"Xerampelinae?!" Nida blinked his coffee coloured eyes. "Wasn't that Seifer's mother? So, Lillith was his sister?"

"A Sorceress of the dead?" Quistis asked lowly.

"She harvested the souls of the dead, controlled the afterlife. That's why you didn't know about her. Nobody was supposed to know her until they died. Lillith was living as a ghost of sorts, alive, yet not."

"She was under a curse by Ultimecia..." Squall muttered, his voice low and emotionless. "And, Ultimecia, in Seifer's body, took back what she wanted from Lillith."

"So.... Seifer killed his sister?" Nida asked quietly, his beautiful, elfish face crestfallen. "And, Zell killed Rinoa....."

"NO!" Squall cried angrily. He clenched his fists at his sides, the leather of his gloves creaking. "No...." He repeated much more quietly. "Adel killed Rinoa. Ultimecia killed Lillith. Zell and Seifer can't help it....."

"Poor Seifer...." Quistis mused, looking out the window down to the ocean. "Again, he'll have to deal with being hated by the world for something he couldn't control....." She began chewing on her fingernails. "How are we going to combat them?"

"Same as any enemy..." Xu muttered. "We can't go easy on them because it's Seifer and Zell. I'm sure that both of them want us to stop them before Adel and Ultimecia become too strong." The Asian girl turned to Squall. "Right?"

Squall didn't even seem to hear her. He was staring at his hands, sliding down the wall until he was slumped down on the floor.

"They're going after Esthar...." Edea muttered. "It's the best guess. I just hope we can get there before they do."

"Matron, where do you think that Seifer and Zell are hiding when we can't see them?"

Edea shook her head, her golden eyes mirroring her sadness and conflict. "Ultimecia and Adel are both very powerful Sorceresses. Also, Ultimecia is a Time Mage...."

"She used to be known as Intervigilium, during the time of the Dollet Empire..." Squall interrupted. "She could go anywhere, any time that she wants...." Squall sighed deeply. He thought of the anger in Zell's eyes when the small blonde had looked at him. It was unfathomable. Why had Zell looked at him with such hatred? Could it have been because Squall had defeated Adel when the Sorceress had tried to merge with Rinoa during Neo-Sorceress War? Or, was it something more? Squall had sensed some anger from Zell himself. What had Adel said to Zell to make him so wrathful?


He looked up when he heard Nida saying his name. "Huh?"

"Where did you go? Squall, we're going to need you alert...."

Squall looked at Nida, his stormy eyes dull and distant. "Yes....."

"What is it, Squall?"

Squall then looked over at Edea. "Do you think that Adel may have.... said something to Zell... you know, to make him agree to things willingly?"

"What would make you ask that?" Quistis asked. She looked over at Nida. "We're over Fisherman's Horizon now. See if you can reach President Loire on the radio."

Nida nodded, giving a concerned look to Squall.

"Well, no doubt that Adel, as well as Ultimecia would have twisted emotions in both Seifer and Zell, and warped things out of proportion. There was something that Adel may have used, some sort of deep rooted feeling to make Zell angry. We all know about Ultimecia's mind games."

Squall nodded.

"Why do you ask?" Edea asked, narrowing her eyes.

".... No reason...." Squall closed his eyes. Could Matron be right? Could Adel have taken some emotion already existing in Zell, and twisted it to her own use? Had Zell felt some sort of harbouring hatred towards him? But, why? It hurt Squall deeply to think of Zell actually hating him for something.


He looked up when he heard Quistis say his name.

"We're landing in Esthar. We're going to have a Hell of a time trying to explain this to Laguna. After we do that, I want to get in contact with Selphie and Irvine. We could really use their help."

Xu frowned. "Well, at least we know that Adel's consciousness will draw Zell here. She'll want Esthar back, and revenge against Laguna, no matter what."

Quistis looked hardly at Squall. "And, she'll go after Laguna's child for mere fun."

"Yay...." Squall said hollowly, standing up. "I'll tell my father everything. It should be my responsibility.....It's my fault...."

Edea sighed, wrapping her arms around Squall's shoulders. "None of this is your fault. You're only human, Squall...."

He shrugged away from her. His voice was totally void of emotion when he spoke. "It's my fault Rinoa is dead. I should have stopped it." He walked towards the elevator. "I will deal with the consequences. I.... I will kill Seifer and Zell...."

"Squall.... Wait!" Nida called. They all got on the elevator just before it began to descend. "Squall, if you take everything on yourself, you're going to die. Even if you had been there to protect Rinoa with an entire army, Adel and Ultimecia still would have found a way. I mean, from what you said about Lillith, she didn't sound like a pushover, and she was a Sorceress."

Squall took a sidelong glance at Nida. "I still should have been there." He crossed his arms over his chest. "Hopefully I won't be too late to help my father...."

"Why can't we just go after them now?!" Zell asked heatedly, pacing in front of the large velvet chair that Seifer was sitting in. "That little prick thinks he's gotten the better of us...." Zell clenched is fists at his sides. "Dammit! I'm too weak....."

"Human bodies do have their limitations...." Seifer trailed off. "But, also advantages. It's been so long..... So long since I've really felt alive again."

"Do you feel stronger yet? I'm sure your powers were suffering in such a weak body...." Zell snorted, crossing his arms over his chest. He blew up into his bangs, which were brushed into his eyes, dyed crimson with streaks of the blood of Rinoa Heartilly, purposely so. He laughed. "At least her blood makes a good hair dye."

Seifer laughed lowly. "Yes, I kan feel a slight taint of uselessness, but I'll be better soon. And, I'll be even better when I get my power out of Edea...." Suddenly, Seifer slammed his fist against the armrest of the chair, the alizarin velvet of his coat bleeding into the fabric of the chair. "Dammit, she was right there!"

"You were too weak.... No matter what we can say about that defecting cunt, she is very powerful..." Zell drummed his fingers on his hips, the buckles on his black leather trenchcoat jingling. "At least in this body, I can dress the way I want....." Zell's eyes suddenly narrowed to slits. "I could have been powerful in my own body, but I turned into a monster.... Because of Xerampelinae...."

Seifer cocked an eyebrow, nodding in agreement. "Ah, yes, dear old Xera.... Well, she outlived her usefulness....." Seifer made a beckoning gesture with his finger. "Say what you will about how your son's mind works, but his body is... appealing...." Seifer cracked a wry grin. "Tell me how much you hate Squall Leonhart...."

Zell sauntered over to the chair, lowering his body into Seifer's velvet lap. He gently ran his fingers through the wispy boa collar, it's feathers a mixture of red, orange and black, making it look like a soft fire around Seifer's face and wrists. "I hate him with everything I have."

"As much as you hate Laguna Loire?"

Zell sneered. "Like father, like son."

"You're so kute when you sneer...." Seifer traced Zell's sharp canine with his pinky finger. "I'm sure Leonhart is already on his way to Esthar with his merry band."

Zell laughed, a cold, heartless sound. "I'm sure he's tearing himself up about Rinoa's death right now...." Zell touched the red streaks in his hair. "He'll think he could have stopped us if he'd gotten there faster.... What an egomaniacal cunt...." Zell's sneer turned as hard and sharp as a razor.

"You're still sore bekause he defeat you so easily last time...." Seifer said smoothly, running his hands up Zell's thighs, which were encased in vinyl that squeaked slightly under Seifer's palms.

"I had been in suspended animation for 17 years!" Zell shot back angrily. "All thanks to that Galbadian faggot...." Zell growled low in his throat. "Laguna Loire will not escape me, even if I die for revenge... I will have it....."

"That's my girl...." Seifer purred teasingly. "Or, is that boy?"

Zell laughed lowly. "Does it matter?" He kissed Seifer hungrily. "Do you think they'll find us here?"

Seifer shrugged, his hands moving off Zell's thighs to his ass. "Probably not. They aren't clever enough to look here, but I've taken precautions. Not even Edea will be able to sense the barrier I've put up here...." Seifer looked around, smiling as he felt Zell's fingers dance over his collarbone. "And, since I was the one who defeated dear Odin, maybe it's best that we hole up here for a while...."

Zell smiled. "As nice as it is, I can't wait to be sitting in the Presidential office of Esthar, Laguna Loire's head mounted on the wall next to his son's." Zell's lips curled off his teeth into a cruel smirk. "Wasn't it great how Rinoa Heartilly's head just turned right around..."

"I wouldn't get too cocky. Anyone could have defeated her..." Seifer smiled as well, his lips hovering over Zell's. "But, yes, spinning her head around with your bare hands was quite stellar." Seifer's lips were now touching Zell's as he spoke. "Squall and Laguna don't stand a chance against us...."

"Laguna Loire will rue the day he tried to fuck with me," Zell murmured, his tongue snaking out to taste Seifer's lips. "And, Squall will pay for trying to come between us." He kissed Seifer deeply, devouring the scarred blonde's lips with his own, biting them until dribbles of blood filled Zell's mouth. He purred into Seifer's mouth, the feeling of the other man's body against his own, compounded with thoughts of Squall and Laguna crucified before him causing pleasure to crawl through his body. Zell laughed into his lover's mouth, hoping that Squall enjoyed his last days, or suffered miserably. It didn't matter.

Laguna steepled his fingers under his chin, wondering if Squall was joking. But, his son wasn't the joking sort of type, and the expression on his face said it all. Dead. Sad. Torn apart. The conflict in his stormy eyes was so evident.

"You're sure...?" Laguna asked, looking over Squall's shoulder to Quistis. His voice seemed to fail him. "Adel....?"

Kiros stood. His voice was calm in Laguna's ears, but he knew his long time friend and lover was scared, because Kiros's body held none of his usual liquid grace, and his movements seemed tight. "What proof do you have?"

"Only what we saw at Rinoa Heartilly's," Quistis said.

"And, the fact that Lillith said that she could feel Ultimecia in Seifer." Squall looked at his hands, which were fidgeting in his lap. "Haven't you felt it? In the air?" Squall cocked his head at his father. "I can feel her."

Laguna nodded sadly. "So can I. But, why would Adel go into Zell's body? I mean, I can understand Ultimecia's connection to Seifer, because of the Neo-Sorceress War....."

"Zell is Adel's son."

Laguna balked. "What?!"

Squall nodded sadly. "Zell's real name is Zell Viator, and he is the youngest son of Adel. He was taken away from her, and she thought that the Esthar troops had killed him. It's what began to turn her into the monster that we knew her as. Also, Xerampelinae Almasy had a hand in it...."

"Xerampelinae..." Laguna whispered.

"Almasy?!" Kiros screeched. "Xerampelinae was Seifer's mother?"

"And, a servant to Ultimecia," Edea said quietly. "Xerampelinae gave her eldest child, Lillith, to Ultimecia to raise as the Queen of the Dead. Ultimecia wanted to control the undead power, and Lillith became a Sorceress of the Dead, the Grim Reaper. She was living in the realm of the Dead, until Ultimecia went and killed her."

"Whoa..." Laguna held his hands up. "I'm confused....." He kneaded his brow with his fingertips. "Why would Ultimecia want to harm Lillith? Didn't Lillith work for her?"

"Lillith rebelled," Edea answered. "So, Ultimecia put a curse on her, to be like a zombie. Ultimecia also divided her powers for a situation just like this. She could never be truly defeated if she wasn't wholly there. She hid her powers in Lillith, Rinoa, Seifer, and.... myself. Ultimecia, in Seifer's body, killed Lillith, and when Adel, in Zell's body, killed Rinoa Heartilly, Ultimecia got her powers back there, too."

"You're the last one?" Xu asked quietly.

"So, they'll be coming after you...." Laguna muttered. "They'll come to Esthar."

"As much as Ultimecia wants her powers from me, she won't come here for me alone...." Edea narrowed her eyes at Laguna. "Adel wants to kill you just as much as Ultimecia wants her powers back. They also want to kill Squall. Adel wants Esthar back." Edea sighed sadly. "You're the President, and Squall's next in line."

"There's more to it than that..." Squall muttered, his voice so quiet that nobody except Laguna heard him. "So, we'll need to prepare for the worst...." Squall sighed deeply, and Laguna noticed that his son was struggling to keep it together. "I think the best course of action would be to keep Matron safe. Ultimecia will be weaker if she can't get her powers out of Edea."

"But...." Kiros trailed off. "Wouldn't that mean that Ultimecia still wouldn't be dead....?"

Edea nodded. "Sort of. Now that I know I have Ultimecia's power in me, I can absorb all her powers...." Edea smiled grimly. "If it were all in me, Ultimecia's consciousness would cease to exist, and it would all be my power."

Laguna nodded grimly. "I'll set up an immediate meeting with my army officials. We can get one going in an hour...."

"Great," Quistis said sharply. "I'm going to contact Selphie Tilmitt and Irvine Kinneas in Trabia. I'll also see if I can get General Caraway to help us with the Galbadian Army...."

Laguna sighed sadly. "After what happened with Rinoa, I think he'll be out for blood." Laguna looked at Squall. "Are you okay?"

Squall stood up. "Fine...." He left the office. Laguna blinked, and Nida and Xu exchanged glances. Laguna stood as well.

"Are you going after him?" Kiros asked quietly as Quistis, Nida, Xu and Edea began to discuss plans and strategy.

Laguna nodded. "He's really out of it. I mean, if what they're saying is accurate, which is must be...." He looked over at Quistis and Edea. "Then, Squall saw Zell kill Rinoa. I mean, Christ, he broke her neck with his bare hands, Kiros."

"He's probably also conflicted because it will probably be him that will have to fight two of his dearest friends as enemies."

Laguna nodded, patting Kiros's chest. "Get everything organized for the meeting..." Laguna gave the taller man a quick peck, and went to follow his son. Squall hadn't gone very far. He was sitting in the sitting room near Laguna's office, his elbows on his knees, staring out into space.

"Squall?" Laguna asked quietly. "Talk to me... Please...." Laguna sat beside his son, folding his hands in his lap. "We need you lucid right now. You're very distant."

"How can I fight them, Dad?" Squall asked, his voice just above a whisper.

"You said.... There was more to it than that...." Laguna cocked his head, reaching up to cup Squall's chin, forcing his son to look at him. "What did you mean?"

Squall's stony expression crumpled ever so slightly. "That..... the anger and hatred in Zell isn't all Adel's. I can feel it. Zell had some deep-rooted negative feelings towards me, and Adel has brought them out. She's made Zell, the real Zell, hate me."

"Why would he hate you?" Laguna asked softly, cupping the side of Squall's face with his palm. "He's one of your best friends....."

Those words made Squall's eyes shimmer and wobble slightly with tears. "How can I fight them?!"

"You fought Seifer before," Laguna pointed out.

"But, that was before!!" Squall exclaimed angrily.

"Before what?" Laguna asked. "Squall," he began, lowering his voice. "What's going on with you, Zell and Seifer?" Laguna narrowed his eyes. "I see....."

Squall looked at Laguna blankly. "You see what?"

"There's something different, deeper than mere friendship," Laguna guessed. "You feel something for them, and it's hurting you to think that Zell could hate you when you only feel affection for him..."

"Dad...." Squall trailed off. "How can I fight them? I mean, when I fought Seifer last time, he was still Seifer..... But, now....."

"Squall....." Laguna wrapped his arms around his child. "If Zell and Seifer truly are Adel and Ultimecia, I don't think they would want to continue. I know that neither of them would have wanted Rinoa's death, and I know that they wouldn't want to start a war. They need you now."

Squall let Laguna embrace him, but his body was stiff in Laguna's arms. "I should have stopped it...."

"Stopped what?" Laguna asked. "Rinoa's death?"

Squall nodded bitterly as Laguna's fingers gently brushed his bangs off his cheeks, which were now damp with tears. "I was supposed to be her Knight! Even if I wasn't her boyfriend anymore, I should have protected her!"

"It wouldn't have made a difference...." Laguna whispered.

"Like Hell it wouldn't!" Squall exclaimed angrily. "I could have...."

"You couldn't have done anything...." Laguna roughly made Squall meet his eyes. "You put far too much on yourself. You're only human, Squall. If you had been there sooner, Ultimecia and Adel would have killed you, and still killed Rinoa. You're just lucky that Nida, Xu and Quistis got there in time." Laguna sighed sadly. "We're in deep shit, you and me."

Squall looked at Laguna, and he could see fear hidden in those eyes that looked so like his own. They really looked like his own with that distant fear swimming in the stormy irises. Squall then realized that is wasn't comforting to know that Laguna was scared, too. Deep down, Squall had been hoping that his father would be strong for him, because Squall himself felt weak and scared shitless. But, it was true. Laguna had every right to be scared. The rage that Squall saw in Zell's eyes would be nothing to the hatred that would be borne for his father, Adel's most hated enemy. "Dad...." Squall trailed off, wrapping his arms around his father's still muscular body, indulging in some fatherly comfort, the kind he'd missed out on during his entire childhood. He felt Laguna stroke his hair, and whisper inane phrases of comfort.

"It'll be okay..." Laguna whispered, not believing his own words, and knowing that Squall didn't believe them, either.

Squall pulled away. "Thanks, Dad." He laughed bitterly, wiping drying tears off his cheeks. "I don't believe that it will be okay, though..." Squall let his words die in the air when he saw a familiar pair walk past the door.

Fujin turned, looking in the room. "President Loire, Squall....." Her pale face fell, and her thin, steely brow arched over her eyepatch. "What's going on?"

"You were called for the meeting?" Laguna asked. He looked at Fujin, smiling. "You look much better."

"Thank you, President Loire," Fujin whispered. She was feeling better. The tests were supposed to come back from the doctor that afternoon. She hoped that she didn't have cancer or something.

Squall stood, which caused Laguna to rise as well. "Fujin... Raijin...."

"Squall, what's wrong, ya know?! Is Seifer here?"

Squall bit his lip sadly. "That's kind of what this emergency meeting is about...." He looked at Laguna. "I think I should talk to them before the meeting.... Seifer and Zell are their friends...."

Fujin's expression faltered. "DANGER...." She trailed off, her voice returning briefly to her former broken way of speaking. It only happened when she knew something was wrong. "What happened to Seifer....?"

Squall breathed deeply. "I may as well not beat around the bush. Ultimecia has made a resurrection.... In Seifer's body."

"WHAT?!" Fujin exclaimed. Raijin's pierced eyebrows shot up.

"Seifer was researching his past, and found out that a Sorceress called Xerampelinae was his mother. Xerampelinae had been a servant of Ultimecia. Before the Sorceress War, Ultimecia had been trying for Time Compression. Xerampelinae was also responsible for Adel to become the horrible monster that took over Esthar, and essentially began the Sorceress War."

"How did Ultimecia possess Seifer, ya know?!" Raijin asked, his voice hushed.

"Seifer found out that he was a Sorcerer...."

"We knew that...." Fujin muttered. "Did he find out about Lillith?"

Squall nodded. "Lillith had been Ultimecia's pawn in trying to control the realm of the dead. When Lillith and Seifer came in contact with each other, in awoke the power that was hidden in them. In order to save herself, Ultimecia had divided her powers, so I hadn't defeated her entirely during the Neo-Sorceress War. She hid some of her powers in Edea, Seifer, Rinoa and Lillith."

"So..." Fujin trailed off. "Seifer was possessed..... And, what about Zell...? You mentioned him?"

"We also found out something about Zell's past. He is the youngest son of Adel Viator."

Both Fujin and Raijin balked. "What????"

"Zell is Adel's son. And, he is now Adel. Ultimecia and Adel are alive in the bodies of Seifer and Zell."

"I don't believe it...." Raijin whispered.

"Believe it," Squall warned. "I had no doubt when I saw Zell kill Rinoa."

"Rinoa's dead?" Fujin asked sharply. "Ultimecia got her power out..."

"And, Ultimecia now also controls the land of the dead because Seifer and Zell killed Lillith," Laguna said, his voice grim and serious, something it never usually was.

"Dear God...." Raijin muttered. "This is bad."

Squall nodded. "And, there is no doubt that Adel will want to take Esthar back, and get revenge."

"Against her two greatest enemies," Fujin butt in, looking from Squall to Laguna, and back again.

Squall nodded gravely. "We have to prepare for war.... And, prepare for killing Seifer and Zell."

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