A rivalry at the heart of their relationship, sparked by a mutual regard and an unwavering will to conquer and be the best. A friendship of a stranger sort tying them together. A knowledge of a nearly life-long relationship that was never quite normal. An unsaid challenge that spurned a delicious mix of love and hatred. The mirror the lion looked into.
Each bore a scar echoed across the other's face. Seifer, a rebel stepping out of the bounds laid down by mock battle lashed out and was rewarded with a like reaction from the typically reserved Squall. The scar speaks of rebellion and challenge on Seifer's part, while a dislodging of control on Squall's. Seifer's scar is confirmation of Squall's admission to their unsaid battle: a signed contract, the ink that wrought it blood-borne and itself carved on a surface that wouldn't crumble until far past Seifer's own death. A visual cue: a reminder for each time Squall's eyes alight on his rival. Their connection cannot be denied. The welling of pride that had struck Squall dumb would be forever remembered in the scar.
Squall isn't interested in games. Seifer is a dreamer. Abrasive, outspoken, unreserved, Seifer exemplified with flying colours all that Squall was not. Seifer prods Squall with taunts and accusations, but Squall ignores them or replies with the controlled intensity of the calm before the storm.
Much to the confusion of those around them, Squall and Seifer form a camaraderie. Are they friends? Don't they hate each other? Yes, and yes, and no and no. Their relationship is defined by the rivalry that has developed between them, and rivalry has components of both friendship and animosity. Seifer pushes Squall, shares his dream with Squall, and Squall, despite himself, finds himself interested in what the hothead has to offer—at least interested enough to listen and respond to him.
The way I look at it, as
long as you make it out of a
battle alive, you're
one step closer to fulfilling
Squall isn't sure whether or not to take Seifer seriously. Seifer himself doesn't take much seriously. He's a joke, almost, throwing around tough words and jumping headfirst into trouble. He's not a thinker like Squall, and he hides nothing, revealing his complexity—or lack thereof—for all in the world to see. He's brash and immature where Squall is collected and mature. And yet Squall finds himself unable to be completely blind to his provocations. It's not because he's annoying—Squall can easily withhold from commenting whenever Zell strikes up a conversation—it's a hidden respect for his rival.
The respect they share for one another may contradict the oftentimes startling modes of conflict they entertain, but both exist nonetheless. Despite his not becoming a SeeD, and thus an expected ill regard for his rival who did, Seifer applauds Squall.
While others are confused by Seifer's actions in Timber, Squall's knowledge of his rival pierces the unknown reasons to reveal Seifer's determination. When Rinoa wonders after Seifer, him having been kidnapped by the witch Edea, Squall laughs at her worrying about him, knowing that he'd be angry to be pitied thus. His laughter turns to anger when news of Seifer's execution reaches the group at Galbadia Garden. While the others talk about him, reminiscing, Squall becomes increasingly furious. To be thought of in the past tense, talked about by those who didn't undersand him...Squall places himself in Seifer's shoes and is enraged.
Later, Squall faces Seifer, the latter now Edea's sworn Knight. Battle on the horizon, face-to-face with his newly made enemy, Squall is strangely settled. The rivalry is still in place, a new guise thrown over it.
This has always been
Seifer facing Squall; Squall facing Seifer, in battle. Seifer knows he will emerge victor from the rivalry between them. They fight—and Seifer loses. This was not what he'd foreseen. By the Sorceress' hand, Squall falls, and later Seifer greets him with coldness and disgust in his prison stall.
This was the scene where
you swore your undying hatred
Squall discovers Seifer's romantic dream, the fate he'd created for himself as a child, the path he'd chosen as the Sorceress' Knight. He himself is Seifer's sworn enemy: the evil mercenery that would cause his Sorceress pain and probable death. He tortures Squall—beyond the pain, Squall knows that Seifer has deluded himself, that he is nothing more than the evil he's convinced himself Squall has harnessed for the Sorceress' downfall.
But Seifer isn't the only one suffering from self-sabotage. Despite his inner judgements and disdain, in the face of his aloofness, Squall himself has fallen prey to Seifer's dream. It didn't work out as planned—dreamed, in Seifer's case. Squall's felling blow would have been to turn away from the fight, but he does not, as his anger proves through getting the better of him in faux-battle with Seifer at the onset of the story. Despite his best efforts to remain remote, Squall is taken in by Seifer's endless and pride-pinching banter. Indeed, it had been this way from the beginning.
Squall could have easily
walked away from it,
but always took up
Why allow himself to fall prey to the conjected hostilites? What was the allure? Perhaps Squall was entertained by Seifer's immaturity. Perhaps he was suffering from memory out of grasp and yet distantly in sight: a not-anymore-known truth that provoked certain behavoirs in himself, behavoirs he couldn't understand the existence of. Perhaps he was fulfilling his warring spirit; perhaps he was taking advantage of opportunistic and therefore reasonable violence. Perhaps he saw purpose and dignity—a bit of himself?—in his troubled schoolmate, and gave in willingly.
But perhaps Squall being drawn to Seifer had less to do with the young man in question than with himself. Clearly, Seifer was not someone easy to grow close to. His only friends, Raijin and Fujin, who idolised him, had attained only a close proximity, and all others were disinterested, disenchanted, or kept themselves at a distance, purposefully. An all-but-material barrier surrounded Seifer—and Squall was attuned to it. Self-sabatoge rears its head twofold: as the original problem, the problem of restricted interaction through overreaction and fuzzy bearings in memory events; and as a roaring undercurrent set to dismantle this faulty base in exercising Squall's deeply hidden need for relationships with others. Seifer then would lose his humanity in Squall's mind, becoming nothing more than a device that Squall monopolises for his own benefit. Squall falls prey to the yearnings of his heart, and thus to Seifer's dream.
Things quickly spiral out of control. Seifer is the next thing to deranged, the Sorceress of the future's puppet, discarded and desperate to win back her affections, wanted or not. His knighthood still stands. He has stolen his enemy's most cherished posession, his mistress's most longed-for treasure: Ellone.
Since we can't get
through to you, all we have
now to rely on is Squall!
After standing by his side through it all, Raijin and Fujin step down. They free Ellone of her role as a mere pawn in a game that has reached far beyond what they can deal with. Fujin tries one last attempt to reach out to Seifer, whom, she's realised, has lost the dream he'd lovingly harboured to the Sorceress that was once its star. In no uncertain terms, Fujin calls out Seifer's loss of control and their pathetic reliance on Squall to make things right.
Much to everyone's dismay, Seifer lets his only friends go. His obsession won't allow any other choice. He can't back down now. He's sinking further... He engages Squall in battle, and even when his defeat is realised, he grasps hold of the fledgling strip of a conviction that was once his romantic dream and delivers Rinoa unto the hands of his lady.
But though he suceeds as a knight, his Sorceress falls at the hands of his arch-nemesis.
Still, much later, as Balamb Garden floats over Fisherman's Horizon, its shadow ghosting Seifer, Raijin and Fujin, reunitied once more (and this time over a fishing hook), we see Seifer smile peacefully in response, guessing if not knowing who's on board, and not a speck of malice present. It could be that he's redisovered what had truly made his life worthwhile—his dear friends—and is grateful to those who saved him from himself. Perhaps he's reminded of fond memories. Perhaps the free-going Garden reasserts his own newly recovered freedom. In any case, he is happy, cured of the antagonism that had plagued both Squall and himself.