It's weekend. I wanted to go to town, buying necessities while I had free time. As I walked towards Garden main gate , a voice called out.
"Squall," a familiar voice, Seifer. He jogged, approaching me.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"To town, buy something" I replied.
"Can I accompany you?" he smiled.
"Never mind, I can go alone. You must be busy." I didn't want to bother him.
"I'm doing nothing. Relax." he assured me. I nodded and smiled back.
We walked out of Garden, along the quiet paved road. Birds chirping, gentle breeze blowing. Our footsteps, one after another on the sidewalk.
"Rinoa didn't come to visit you?" he asked. I shook my head.
"She has a seminar tomorrow. " I replied softly, bowed my head.
"Oh come on. Don't be so sad, Squall." he laughed, suddenly embraced my shoulder with his big arms, so I got closer to his body. As if something jumped out of my chest. My heart was pounding, by his warm and friendly attitude...?
"Here I am, who can accompany you over the weekend," he continued. For a moment, I turned my head and our eyes met. So close... Suddenly, heat spread across my face and ears.
"Seifer ..." I pushed away awkwardly. What is this feeling..?
"Um, why don't you visit her once in a while?" he asked quickly.
"I did, when I happened to have meeting in Deling. But I couldn't take long time," I replied.
"Huh, you're super busy, Commander." I blushed.
"Long distance relationship, must be hard." he muttered, "Are you happy with her ?"
I didn't answer right away. Rinoa really meant a lot to me. But, since her father retired and Rinoa 'forgave' him, she stayed with him in Deling. We're separated so far away...
"Sorry, you don't need to answer." he felt guilty.
"No, it's okay. Well... it sucks, but what should I supposed to do?" I shrugged.
We kept walking, until the buildings and houses could be seen ahead.
"My Gunblade sharpener is broken," he changed the subject.
"How come?" I asked.
"Dunno. Maybe one of the bolts fell off and got lost. All the parts fell off."
"You can use mine, Seifer." I offered, smiling again. He looked at me with his calm face and said,
"Yes. Thank you, Squall."
The market was quite busy this afternoon. Some residents who recognized me, greeted me kindly when they passed. I looked for items I needed, while Seifer browsed to another aisle. When I finished getting my stuff, I looked for him in next aisle. But, he wasn't there. I walked down several aisles, and finally found him in the "Snacks" section. He was examining one pack in his hand. I approached him.
"Looking for snacks, huh?" I asked.
"Well," he took another pack on the same shelf. "You don't buy snacks?"
I shook my head.
"Hmm, Commander doesn't like snacking," he teased me.
"Who said? I like snacking, a lot." I pouted, joking with him.
Done shopping, we walked out of the market. Seifer let out a deep breath.
"Where are you going next?" he asked. I shrugged.
"How about we stop by somewhere?" he pointed forward, then took a step.
"Where are we going?" I followed him behind. He just kept going. Not far away, a brown tiny dog barked and ran toward us. Seifer immediately crouched down, welcoming the puppy cheerfully.
"Here comes the fur ball!" He raised it up high, "I've bought dog food for you."
The pup was licking his face happily.
(Since when he pet a dog?) I thought.
"Your pup? It's so cute." I asked.
"No, Mrs. Olley's." he put the puppy down. I frowned. Mrs. Olley?
"Her name is Ponpon." he continued walking forward, while Ponpon kept circling at his feet. Not far away, a chubby woman was sweeping terrace.
"That's Mrs. Olley," he smiled broadly, then greeted and waved at her.
Mrs. Olley looked delighted and waved back. Looked like Seifer had known her for a long time. He had to bend down as she put her arms around him and patted his broad shoulder. I approached them. She realized my presence, dumbfounded instead. Seifer immediately introduced me to her.
"Ma'am, this is Squall Leonhart that I often told you about." he said.
(What? Seifer ...?)
"Yes, I've seen him on news. Commander Squall Leonhart. But, never met in person. Gosh, You're here!" I felt awkward by her reaction.
"Nice to meet you, son!" she took my hand and shook tightly.
"You're so handsome. Like Safe." she praised me. I just smiled awkwardly. Seifer grinned at me. I stared at him, I just...didn't understand. He told about me to her, as if I were his best friend ...?
"Well, please come in." Mrs. Olley led us into her house. Tiny living room, with wooden furnishings, created a warm and harmonious atmosphere.
"Sorry here's quite messy. You don't have to take your boots off." she said, "Wait a minute. I'm gonna feed Ponpon."
"I bought this for Pon," he pulled out dog food from shopping bag. Mrs. Olley took it and thanked him.
I was standing in the middle of living room, looking around. From the stairs, two little boys run down and greeted Seifer happily. He took out a big pack of snack, the kids jumped up and down with joy. I just recognized Seifer's true personality, which he had never shown anyone in Garden. The atmosphere in this house was so warm with his presence. Seifer had a small family ...
Mrs. Olley invited me to sit on the soft fur rug. I put my grocery bag on small table, took out Gunblade from belt and laid it on my side. While Mrs. Olley was in the kitchen, I watched three of them joking and laughing. Then, one of the boys turned his head.
"Safe, who is he?"
"Don't you know? He's a hero!" Seifer said.
"The person I often told you about. Guess, who's the Lion Prince that saved the world from evil witch?"
(The heck Seifer!?) I felt so embarrassed.
"Who?" the kids looked at each other.
"Squall Leonhart? No way, He's just a fairy tale!"
(What? I was called a fairy tale? What did Seifer tell them!?)
"Yeah, you're lying!" they argued. Seifer laughed at me.
"Seifer!" I whispered loudly and glared at him, squeezed my gloved-hands firmly. I was so nervous.
"He's your friend. Not a Lion Prince." the smaller kid said.
"The Lion Prince is real. Look at him carefully." Seifer winked. They approached me, then observed me from head to toe. I just shook my head and smiled awkwardly. Instantly, their eyes widened, noisily rushed to Seifer again.
"You must be wrong! When you drew a comic of Squall Leonhart for us, he was carrying a sword! A big, big sword!" hearing that, I hurriedly tucked the Gunblade under my leg, so they wouldn't see it.
"But his outfits are similar, his hairstyle, too-wait, his face in Safe's comic looks fierce, but he's not ?" they argued with each other.
"There's also a scar on his forehead, like Safe's drawing!" the older kid, pointing at my face. I was embarrassed, hoping that Mrs. Olley would show up and disperse them. Suddenly he shouted in front of me,
"Whoa! He's real! Todd, come here quickly !" he called his brother excitedly. His eyes sparkled, amazed to see me.
"Yay! Squall Leonhart is here!" his younger brother immediately rushed towards me.
(Wait ...! What the hell !?) They grabbed and pulled my arm while cheering in awe, asking me with lots of questions.
"Are you really Squall Leonhart !?"
"He comes out of a fairy tale!"
"How did Safe bring him here !?"
"I wanna see his big sword!"
"I ... I ..." I stuttered, couldn't say anything. They were so loud and noisy. I glanced at Seifer anxiously, he leaned against the wall, grinning and laughing at me with amusement. Suddenly, a kid tripped over the edge of Gunblade under my legs. He recognized my weapon, then shouted and pointed,
"Jim! That's the blade! That's his blade!"
"Watch out kids, it's not a toy! It's dangerous weapon!" Seifer warned them, immediately pulled the kid away. Luckily, it didn't take long for Mrs. Olley to appear. They both rushed at her, made her staggered. The drink tray she was holding almost fell down.
"Mom, mom! Lion Prince is here! He comes to our house!" they tugged at Mrs. Olley's skirt and kept pointing at me. She looked at me and smiled.
"Yes, he's Commander Squall Leonhart. Also Safe's friend." I thought my face already turned red like boiled crab. I could see Seifer tried to not burst in laugh.
"He's not a fairy tale, mom! He really exists! Todd, come on! Take the comic, then get his autograph!" they both ran up the attic. I breathed a sigh of relief.
"Sorry to startle you, son. It's all because of Safe." she laughed again, while sitting next to me, then put the drink on the table. Seifer sat across from me, still laughing.
"Well, I didn't do anything wrong. I just told them the truth," he glanced at me. I didn't dare look him in the eyes. I was so nervous.
"Yes, Squall. It's an honor you come visiting us." she said earnestly.
"Ah, it's nothing, Ma'am. " I said awkwardly.
"We went to the market looking for goods, then Seifer invited me here." I smiled.
"Safe often told me about you, but he never brought you here." she said. I looked at him, now he's the one who avoiding my gaze.
"I've considered Safe as my own child for a long time. Jim and Todd's father passed away three years ago due to illness. Safe always comes here and comforts us." her tone became sad.
"I'm sorry to hear that." I said quietly. Pon barked behind me.
"Ma'am, I go upstairs for a sec. Y'know, Jim and Todd," Seifer got up, took off his gloves and coat.
"You can speak to him a lot," he headed to the stairs. Mrs. Olley nodded and smiled.
"Please drink, son."she said. I then took a sip of sweet orange juice.
"During Sorceress war, Seifer apologized and said goodbye to me. He told that he was pursuing his dream of becoming a great knight, so he had to fight." she started with gloomy expression.
"He's not a bad person, son. Although he was on the wrong side at that time, but I believed him." her words made me feel bad for him.
(Yeah, I know Seifer isn't that kind of person...)
"Squall, how long have you been friends with Safe? Must be very close, right?" As if my heart jumped. I didn't answer right away.
(Friends? We even ... Ugh, How do I explain this?) Our relationship had been really bad. It's only been a while we became close.
"Um, since we're kids." I replied bitterly. I held my drinking glass tightly. It felt like my chest was being squeezed to tell this lie.
"Thank Hyne. Indeed, he told rarely anything else, but you. It seems he only has you in Garden. His stories made me wanted to meet the person named Squall Leonhart."
"What did he tell you, Ma'am?" I asked curiously.
"A lot. There's one thing I remember." she laughed.
"At one time,he stopped by here for a while, after taking the SeeD exam. I was shocked when I saw a long scar on his forehead. I asked who hurt him. He answered; "We both promised to incise these wounds each other, as a sign of our eternal friendship." Oh dear boy ... " Mrs. Olley shook her head. I didn't laugh. It was a scar which accurately be called 'hatred' or 'revenge'.
"Safe failed to become a SeeD, but he said he was happy for you graduation. He was proud of you, son, and he wished that one day he'd be as great as you."
(Why ... Why did you lie to me, Seifer ...?)
"After that, he didn't came for weeks. When the Galbadian Army invaded our city, Safe visited us again. That's when he said farewell and apologized to me, that he had to fight." I tried to recall that incident. A flash of memory, when we -SeeD- attempted to rescue Balamb from Galbadian invasion, then the battle between Gardens broke out. I led the battle against Galbadia Garden that was under the control of former Sorceress Edea Kramer, and Seifer.
"Before leaving, he said that he's so sad...he had to face against his best friend, Squall. Actually he didn't want that war to happen. Only that time, I saw him such downhearted ..."
"But, he never said anything to me!" I argued.
(Why are you hiding all of this from me ...? You're not that bad, right? You want to be friends with me ... But, why in front of me, you act the other way ... ?)
My heart wanted to scream, wanted to cry because of this burden. All this time, I thought Seifer was an asshole. But the truth, he praised me ... Prided me as a best friend ...
"I understand the feelings of you both. Luckily, the war is over and everything is fine. I'm so relieved and happy. Seifer returned safely after that. Since then, he likes to tell about his battle experiences, especially the heroism of you defeating the evil Sorceress. He even made up a fairy tale and comic about you to Jim and Todd. " At the end, she stared deep into my eyes.
Instead, my mind suddenly went blank. I was just froze, staring back with empty gaze. I still couldn't believe what I heard from Mrs. Olley. I felt like I had to refute her statement, that we're not friends. We were rivals, and we were enemies. Seifer hated me, and so did I. How could it be...?
I tried to endure this painful tightness in my chest, my eyes quickly filled with tears, blurring my vision.
"Squall, son? Are you all right?" As if got paralyzed, I saw her worried expression, clutching my left hand.
"I'm sorry, did I make you upset?" she panicked.
"N-No. I gotta go. Thanks for the drink." I held back my tremble voice. I hastily sheathed Gunblade in my belt and grabbed the grocery bag on the table, then hurried out the door. For a second, I could hear Mrs. Olley's calling out Seifer anxiously. But, my steps got faster, until I ran away...