The man lay face down midway up the frozen mountainside, the snow crushed by his impact. Around him the full fury of the blizzard continued unabated. The ice seared his skin through the thin fabric of his clothes. A lesser being would have been dead in minutes, frozen from exposure then buried under the snow. But then a lesser man would never have survived the plunge through the concealed crevice, or the titanic energies that had been unleashed upon him. And he had survived.
It was the flapping of his grey trench coat in the gale that called him back to hateful wakefulness, but he first moved, it was on instinct. His mind was fled elsewhere, his gaze unseeing. He watched the rocky mountainside but it did not register with him. Later, his recollections will be fractured and rudimentary. He would remember crawling under the lip of the ledge for shelter. But he would not remember packing the snow around himself to insulate his body from the wind, nor exhausting his stock of drawn cure spells fighting the frost.
Within him a place was empty. He could no longer feel her intoxicating presence inside. She was gone, he knew it intuitively. A Knight's bond with his Sorceress is only completely broken by the death of one of them. She was a wisp now, a memory, nothing more. She had been taken from him, his other half. He could no longer feel her in his mind, no longer hear her voice. Could no longer touch her, her husk lying outside time. His mind struggled with the knowledge, unwilling to comprehend it.
Memories seeped back, tormenting him. He saw again the Castle outside time, at the height of the battle. He had stepped forward, outwardly contemptuous, to meet the challenge of the invaders, his worthless former comrades. Inwardly his heart had been beating however. He had faced the Children of Destiny twice before and failed her both times. It had been his final chance to prove himself in her eyes.
The battle had barely begun when the Guardian Force Odin appeared, and galloped his spirit mount straight at the Fire Cross Knight. Seifer had crushed the GF the under his blade. He remembered savoring the satisfaction of forcing the arrogant spirit knight to acknowledge a human truly his superior as a warrior.
He had turned on the others then, anticipating the golden triumph which lay ahead for him. He would crush the Aspects of Hyne and the others, and then he would join with Ultimecia in her destruction of Hyne's feeble creation. They would jointly inherit the void that remained, the creations that outstripped their creator. They would be locked together, alone in an eternal embrace, the Maimed Goddess and the Warrior, needing no other. Knowing no other.
The momentary hesitation had proved to be his undoing. The spirit of Odin had risen and faced him again. This time he had not prevailed. Gilamesh had struck him a mortal blow, and he had fallen to the floor, fading.
His last direct contact with her in the dying moments before he fell back into time had torn at him. Her scorn at his failure had lashed his pride. Weakling. But pitiful as she thought him, he had caught an undercurrent of something else at the very end. A strange rush of sensations had tumbled from her mind into his as she prepared to make her last stand against her enemies. Disdain at his weakness. Fear at his fall. Despair at her approaching end. And…wistfulness. A wish for what could have been. It had astonished the fading Seifer to learn that Ultimecia had daydreamed.
He had reappeared on this desert mountainside, his wounds vanished. He was alone on the barren slope. But his contact to the events inside the Throne room was not broken; he was still her Knight. Inside his mind he had felt the thoughts and emotions of Ultimecia as she faced the Children of Destiny. The Sorceress's last moments where filled with despair. Twice she slew the heroes facing her, and twice they rose again, up on the fiery wings of a Phoenix.
Seifer had felt her disbelief at their power. The supremely confident Ultimecia had never really cared about the old tales that had filtered down the centuries, about the defeat of a Sorceress outside of time, by mere mercenaries. Forewarned was forearmed she had thought. With complete cynicism, she had thought to fatally divide the Children, by seizing their adopted mother's body, and thereby twisting some to her will.
Seifer had seen clearly then. She had set a trap for them, and of all of them, only he had fallen into it. She had exploited his romantic dreams of Knighthood, his ambition for rank and a command and his towering arrogance. He had found his SeeD superiors staggeringly dull. They had had no imagination about the battles they fought in. No great cause stirred ardent passions in their breast. They had lived and died concerned solely about report deadlines, training schedules or contract bonuses. Seifer's soul had been outraged. What about honor, glory, championing a higher cause? His ambitions for a place in SeeD constantly floundered on their insistence on petty regulations his ideals did not allow him to follow. He had thought himself too good to follow their orders anyway. Surely such rules did not apply to Seifer Almasy! No, she had told him. You are special. Gifted. Follow me….
Now he found the one he had chosen to serve had deceived him. Tricked him out of his place in the ranks of the heroes. He had followed her blindly, for this. Shame and anger had welled up in him. He had been betrayed.
Ultimecia had frozen in her battle with the two remaining SeeDs. Her casting of Curse was fractionally, fatally, delayed by Seifer's mental wail. Squall had unleashed Renzokuken. Lionheart had plunged through Ultimecia's unarmoured chest. Seifer had felt her shock and the searing pair as the blade pierced her. He had also shared why she had frozen. The mad Sorceress, whose keenest ambition had been to destroy the whole world, had felt guilty. Guilty about using a lover whose ambitions had burned as strongly as hers, whose total dedication to her had meant no depth was too low to stoop to if it would serve her cause.
Seifer had been rocked by the successive emotional waves. As Ultimecia lay at dying at Squall's feet she had touched her Knight through their fading link. She had reached to him for comfort at the end, blocking her fear as the darkness came to claim her. Knowing it was the end, Seifer had buried all his other feelings deep within himself, and radiated comfort and love until his Knight's pathways had snapped. He learnt what it was like to lose half your mind then. He had snapped and fled, blind in the dark, and had plunged down through the snow that hid a sharp crevice.
He had stopped running then.
Memory stopped and time began again. He gazed around himself, and found he was lying at the centre of a circle of steaming rock. The snow had evaporated, the rock blackened by the power he had lashed out with in his delirium, when he alternated between grief and fury in the night. Seifer hauled himself upright, and stared up at the blue sky. The dawn chorus sounding in his ears carried on a fresh breeze that rustled his overcoat.
It all seemed strangely remote. He was thinking. He knew she wasn't here anymore; he didn't have a task anymore. Still, he kept expecting to hear her thoughts. He was still listening for her commands to lend his existence purpose. And nothing came. His pathways where red-raw where they had been broken. They would start to heal closed soon, unless he exercised through the pain to keep them open.
His thoughts drifted back to the time before her; the directionless anger, the endless frustrations, the isolation. He wouldn't go back to that. He might have been cast down to a fugitive, with out even a body to honor, but he couldn't go back to that purposeless existence. She had shown him another way, a better one. He would find closure honoring her in that. As a Knight he had failed. As an avenger he would not. He was Seifer Almasy. His foes had never dared face him single-handed. Not even the other Knight.
Seifer marvelled at the clarity of his new thinking. He focused on his new reason for carrying on. Every decision would now be weighed against the new cause. Squall must die. By Seifer's hand.
The man pushed himself up off the mountain floor, and stood shakily. He would get off this mountain, and he would plan this. Carefully. He was Seifer Almasy. He was Seifer Almasy, and he was not allowed to lose. It was not right.
(Four Blue Corners is set in the night/day/night period right after the last battle. It was an old unfinished story of mine and it's been great fun finishing it. But Ithink everyone should stop on a high, andI wanted this to bea shortfic when I started writing it. Plans to dust off another unfinished storyof mine, which includes all this, already swirling about my head.)