Ambitious but rubbish
The events of this story happened after Laguna and company deposed Adel.
Final Fantasy VIII
“I never left,” he remembered telling his two friends a few days ago prior to departing the cloaked city. In the midst of festivities celebrating the downfall of the tyrant sorceress, Laguna couldn’t derive any joy from all the adulation coming his way after spearheading the movement that finally deposed Adel, the sorceress that terrorized the world with her iron fist and potent magic. There still had been so much to do, from tearing down the infrastructure of her dictatorial regime to planning the construction of the camouflage dome for Esthar’s protection against Galbadia. Being a former Galbadian officer himself, he was aware that battling Adel’s threat was only half of Vinzer Deling’s agenda. And despite all the good brought about by Adel’s deposition, it still left Esthar defenseless against another ambitious strongman who saw the sorceress less of a threat against world peace and more of a rival in his dreams for world domination. Should Galbadia attack, Esthar wasn’t ready to defend itself. And so it had to ‘disappear.’
“Raine’s story? Some other time, maybe. No… I can’t. It’s too much for me to remember.” – Laguna
Job done. And yet the city won’t let him leave. Having been the mastermind of a scheme that succeeded where countless others failed, they now wanted him to lead a new Esthar. And Laguna couldn’t say No. He couldn’t leave.
“I never left. I need to go back.”
Now he couldn’t stop wishing he had come back months ago.
He couldn’t stop blaming himself.
Why does the end always makes one think of the beginning?
“You’re brooding again.”
“Huh? Oh…” Laguna almost tripped on his feet when he tried to stand up, feeling the buttocks of his pants wet from the grass dew. What an embarrassing picture it made. “Sorry, I didn’t hear you the first time.”
“That’s all right.”
“Um… good morning.”
“Good afternoon,” said Raine with an amused smile. “Well, it’s only a bit past noon. But you have been sitting here all morning you missed breakfast and lunch.”
“I did, didn’t I?” Laguna scratched his head. “Can’t eat yet, you know. Haven’t caught any monsters yet so I really haven’t earned the meal.”
Raine scowled, mildly irritated. “How many times do I have to tell you that you don’t have to do that? You’re still recovering from your wounds so working for anything is out of the question.”
“Nope, I’m fine, see?” Laguna raised both arms to his side and tried to flex his muscles. “Healthy as a mule.” He then wondered why Raine began snickering.
“I’m not sure if you’re saying you’re healthy as a horse or stubborn as a mule. But you are quite stubborn. Come back to the house and eat something.”
But Laguna sat back down to the grass instead. “Nah, I’m not hungry yet.”
The air was quite nippy even though the sun was high up in the sky, and Winhill owed the pleasant weather to the cool breeze coming from the ocean, a typical condition in fall afternoons like this. Raine held her long, dark brown hair together with one hand when the gentle wind began blowing strands of it over her eyes, which were fixed on Laguna, as he sat cross-legged on the grassy ground atop the rolling hill that also happened to be her favorite relaxing spot. And as though realizing for the first time that the day was too nice to spend indoors, she opted to sit beside him.
Raine continued to stare at Laguna, whose attention seemed fixed at nothing in particular, just gazing at the distant horizon.
“You’re thinking about her, aren’t you?”
“Huh? Um… no.”
“Yes you are.”
“I’m not thinking about Julia.”
Laguna turned to Raine . “Hah, you like saying that word so much you might end up passing the habit on when you have a child someday.”
“Whatever. It means cut the crap. You’re thinking about her.”
“No, I’m not.”
“And you’re probably bothered by the news of that big-city General… what’s his name… Caraway. You’re bothered by the news of her dating him.”
“No. I’m happy for her. If that’s what will make her happy, why should I feel anything else?”
“Because you’re in love with her?” Laguna didn’t answer. “Why don’t you go back to Deling City? I’m sure she’s just waiting for you to come back.”
“I’m not in love with her. Well, I did like her. I like the way she sings and plays the piano.”
“And she’s very pretty. And General Caraway is also quite handsome. I bet if they have a daughter, she’ll also be very pretty.” Raine nudged Laguna with her elbow. “Perhaps someday, when you have a son you could tell him to date her.”
Raine’s words earned her an annoyed look from Laguna. “Whatever.”
“Hey, relax. I’m just busting your chops. But seriously,” she landed a hand on his shoulder, “If you like her so much, maybe you should go back to her.”
“I can’t…” The way Laguna’s voice faded after saying those words were to Raine, telltale. There was a reason why he could no longer come back to Julia, and it probably had something to do with his leaving for his next assignment without telling her Goodbye. She remembered Julia mentioning a mysterious blurb in an interview somewhere.
“Well, then that leaves you with only one thing.”
Raine slapped Laguna on the back. “Move on!”
“Ow! There’s really nothing to move on from, you know.”
“Said the pot to the kettle. How about you? Have you already moved on from that thing with Zeilgr?”
“Who… the governor’s son?”
“Yeah. I heard you’re no longer dating him. You okay with that now?”
“What? You speak like it was so special!”
“Well, wasn’t it?”
“Um… I’m not really sure.”
“Ooh, the little lady is confused,” Laguna teased. “Come on, tell me about the whole thing.”
“Confused? No. Well, maybe a little. All my friends like him. He’s kind, gentle, thoughtful…”
“It doesn’t matter. Generous, principled…”
“His gut is showing out a bit.”
“I don’t care about that!”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“I don’t know. Everyone likes him, and all my friends love the idea of us getting married someday. And I’m sure…” for some reason Raine hesitated to continue, “I’m sure he’ll be a wonderful father. But…”
“Yeah, yeah. He’s all that. But I think I see your problem.”
“You forget to ask the fundamental question.”
“Do you like him?”
“Um… only as a friend.”
“Nothing more,” Raine said with resolve.
“Well, there you go. No need to be confused. If you don’t like him, then that’s that, you can’t force the issue or hope that someday it’ll be different. That’s the end of it. Unless you’re okay ending up in a joyless relationship.”
“No… I don’t want that,” she said with half-dreamy, half-melancholic eyes. “I want to meet a man I’d love with all my heart. A man whose face is the first on my mind when I wake up in the morning, and the last I’d see before falling asleep at night.”
“Heh, that’s typical. A man who will always bring a smile on your face…”
“No…” Raine smiled. “I’d be happier being the one to always bring a small on his face.” Her smile then lost some of its radiance. “But I’m afraid I might never meet him anymore…”
At that moment, Laguna was surprised to feel something awaken inside him. Something new, fresh, and wonderful, like a beautiful song he had heard only for the first time and instantly fell in love with. And for some reason, the sun shone more brightly than it did just moments before. And the day exuded a penetrating aura of peace, as though, at least for today, everything was right in the world.
Despite that, though he wanted to look Raine in the eyes, he was held back by a shivery reluctance. It was not of fear, though, but rather of an ominous realization that looking into her eyes at that moment will change his life forever.
He braved it, anyway. “You could be wrong, you know.”
Raine looked back at him as her smile regained its radiance. “I hope so.”
His right sleeve had been damp from the same moisture on the grass that invaded his pants. And his heart felt like breaking again from knowing that it was perhaps the only thing similar between that day and now. Laguna sat on the same spot, in the same kind of day when the sun was high up in the sky and its warmth provided a pleasant contrast to the nippy fall afternoon air. The blue in the sky was more vibrant than he remembered. It was much more animated than the day when he and Raine fought for the first time.
Laguna scoffed, recalling how silly it had been when he mentioned not for the first time how disappointed he was when Raine let a friend pressure her into attending her wedding with Zeilgr Markkon as her escort instead of him. He remembered the subsequent fear upon realizing he made a big mistake by imposing on her something that he had no right to impose. Bracing himself for the inevitable “It’s none of your business,” he was instead startled to hear from Raine
“I thought you’d moved on from that.”
“Yes, I have. I’m just mentioning it again because…”
“NO, you haven’t moved on from that. Moving on means accepting that what happened is in the past and we can’t do anything about it anymore. Moving on means no longer mentioning it whatever happens, with a promise that the mistakes of the past will not be repeated again. Because it’s done! If you really have moved on, you’ve accepted that I can’t go back to the past and undo what’s been done. I can’t do anything about it anymore, except to learn from it and move on. But you and I both can’t move on if you keep mentioning it.”
Laguna could almost laugh from the recollection, when Raine’s words felt like a douse of cold water to awaken him to what Moving On really meant. It was perhaps one of the most valuable lessons she had taught him.
Two nights later, at a spot not far from here, Laguna promised to spend the rest of his life with Raine.
A promise he had to break shortly after that night when he had to embark with Kiros and Ward to search for a kidnapped Ellone.
Before a tearful Raine, Laguna swore that he won’t be gone too long. He promised her that once they had rescued Ellone, he’d immediately come back to her.
He also broke that promise.
And the right sleeve of his light-blue shirt was no longer damp only of grass dew. His tears couldn’t stop flowing from reddened eyes that stared on a cold slab of marble on the ground, on where was inscribed ‘RAINE LOIRE.’ His voice, hoarse as flowing sand, could not stop muttering
“I miss you so much…”
Raine was gone. And he couldn’t stop blaming himself. If it hadn’t been for his mistakes – of playing the revolutionary hero, of not getting his priorities right, of taking her feelings for granted – maybe Raine wouldn’t have died.
And now, even if he had the power to destroy an entire country or feed all the hungry people in the world, none of that was enough to bring her back. Even if he cried and wailed and raised his agonized voice past the highest heavens, she will never come back to him anymore.
In all his life, he had never felt so helpless and desperate.
“God, I want her back…”
Again, Laguna wiped off tears with his sleeve. He wanted to believe Raine could speak to him at this moment. If he had to be delusional just to feel her beside him one more time, he’d gladly give his sanity away. But no. She was gone, and that was it. He will no longer hear her voice or feel her warmth again. All he had left were memories…
And even those memories didn’t seem real anymore. Everything was so fast and fleeting, he wondered if she had ever actually been in his life. Raine was here one day. And then in another, she was no more. How come good things ended too soon? How could their time last so quickly?
If he could touch her hands again one more time… if he could just hear her voice… even if it was for the last time…
“Moving on means accepting that what happened is in the past and we can’t do anything about it anymore, except to learn from our mistakes and promise to not let them happen again.
“Moving on means letting go…”
“It’s not that simple…” he murmured, almost rebelliously. He was just about to shout those words out…
But then, Laguna remembered that day when he and Raine fought for the first time. They argued over something that he really should have just let go. But he didn’t, and it almost resulted in their relationship ending even before it began. He almost lost the chance to start a life with Raine just because he couldn’t let go.
Right now, he felt so bitter over losing Raine that he had lost interest in everything, even living the rest of his life. What was the point of the rest of his life if he had to live it without her? He loved her too much to live without her.
But he also loved her too much to neglect the lessons she had taught him.
Even though she was gone, even though she was no longer here to make him smile, loving her means being the person she had always wanted him to be. If that meant moving on with his life no matter how difficult or impossible it seemed…
… Then so be it. Because he loved her that much.
“Raine… wherever you are, I hope I could still bring a smile on you face…”
Laguna stooped to kiss the stone slab where Raine’s name was inscribed. And just as a patch of cloud dissipated to reveal the sun, he began treading back along the old trail. Never to look back, and yet always remembering.