Part 106: Part One Hundred and Six: The President of EstharPart One Hundred and Six: The President of Esthar
Here we are, finally. Esthar's president called SeeD before we did all those sidequests, and he's presumably been waiting all this time.
As soon as he enters the room, Squall identifies the president's two aides. We've not seen Kiros around Esthar before, but Ward is the guy the party ran into outside the Sorceress Memorial. Squall must have been pretty harried at the time to not recognise him - Ward is 7 feet tall, he's huge.
The president is facing away from the door, but you can probably guess who he is. Small note, Kiros and Ward are wearing Estharian clothes, but the president is in a regular button-front and slacks.
While crossing the room to talk to these guys, the floor turns transparent for some reason.
: (What is up with this country?)
Squall doesn't understand the floor thing either.
To get his attention for this extremely important mission, Ward uses his telepathy at the president's back.
: Hey there! Been wanting to meet you guys!
Selphie must be over the moon right now.
Oh, did Ellone explain to you that the first time Squall was in your head was the night that you didn't fuck his girlfriend's mother?
: It was like there were some kind of waves running through my head. They gave us so much power during battle. We thought they were some kind of faeries flying over us.
This is a small thing here, but what Laguna describes here mirrors the description of junctioning from the Ultimania:
Final Fantasy VIII Ultimania posted:
Someone whose mind is being junctioned to by another in other words, the person on the receiving end of the junction may experience a sensation like the sound of people chattering entering their head. However, the junctioned consciousness will likely be unable to put what has happened into words. In addition, the body of the person on the broadcast end of the junctioning will fall into a comatose state, with their consciousness gaining a clear view of circumstances on the end of the person theyre being junctioned to.
An effective method exists for the deliberate interference with a consciousness and junction magic, performed by means of accumulating specific materials that interfere in the transfer of powerful waves.
He also mentions that it gave them power in battle. That's another connection to junctions, but it also confuses the issue of how much effect Ellone can have on the past. It's mainly a throwaway line, but it's a little annoying.
And here we are, in front of President Laguna for a second time (he was on the Lunar Base, and told Squall to protect Ellone) but just being introduced.
: Pleased to meet ya.
Laguna, for all that's happened to him in the last 17 years, hasn't really changed that much. But hell, time management ain't number one in this world.
: What do you wanna know?
: You'll never get going if President Laguna keeps talking. So why don't you guys throw out some questions, and he'll try to answer them.
Even after all this time, these guys are as close as ever.
Now we have control to chat with people. Selphie is indeed in awe at meeting her hero.
And Rinoa, of course, has no direct experience with these guys.
: He says to relax here awhile.
There's not really much to pick up in the incidental dialogue here.
Despite the fact that Squall is behind Laguna here, I do like the fact that Laguna immediately gives Squall shit for being dour.
And now we have a chance to put some questions to the man himself. Maybe we can get some answers on why/how he's president and why he abandoned his surrogate daughter to live on an orphanage boat when he's in charge of what's essentially an enormous fortress.
The first option is pretty clearly "give me the plot so I can get moving," but I don't know what LP you've been reading if you think we're doing that straight away. I figure Squall would be most concerned about Ellone, so let's start with that.
I asked about Ellone, my dude. For whatever reason, Laguna opens this explanation with the pictured line instead of this next one. Search me.
: When Ellone was about 2, there was a massive hunt for girls in Esthar. Esthar soldiers came to Winhill and Elle's parents resisted. They were killed on the spot.
It was Ellone's parents' house that Laguna was living in during the Winhill flashback, by the way.
With this, we can also place Ellone's age during the flashback more accurately. Laguna mentions to some G-Soldier that it's been 2 years since Esthar was there, so Ellone would be around 4. That puts her at around 21 in the present day. Does this matter? No.
: Ellone was raised by Raine who lived next door. And I came to know her.
: It's the most painful episode of my life. So I rescued her and sent her off to Winhill. Shortly after that, Raine died. And Ellone was sent straight to an orphanage.
This explains why Ellone wasn't in Esthar, and part of why everyone in Winhill hates Laguna. There's really no way he would have known immediately that Raine had died, so he couldn't just nip out and pick Ellone up.
: But I had my reasons.
: I found out about this afterward, but... The reason why Ellone had to leave the orphanage was because of her special power.
We already knew this.
But we hadn't really heard this part. Odine works for Laguna, so why couldn't he, like, tell Odine not to hassle Ellone?
: You know them better than I do. The Kramers took Elle out of the orphanage to protect her. They prepared a big ship to accomodate[sic] her. Gracious of them, huh?
It occurs to me that Cid and Edea probably couldn't afford that boat on their own, so the money for it probably came from NORG.
: She said her life on the ship was a happy one, but who knows...? I don't know how she could've been happy on a ship.
Well, it was probably better than seeing her parents get killed, then getting kidnapped, then getting sent back to Winhill just in time to watch Raine die. And then being sent to an orphanage because good ol' Uncle Laguna was too busy to take her back to his country that he's president of.
: She was on the ship for over 10 years.
I'm not sure, but I think the White SeeDs dropped Ellone off at Balamb Garden just after Edea got possessed, just in time for the game to start.
At this point, we're basically caught up.
: It was pure luck that we found her. I was out in space at that time. Ellone followed me out to space.
Yeah, and then Squall brought Rinoa to space because he was following Ellone, and look how that turned out. All you had to do was not fuck with the moon, Laguna.
: Little Elle was all grown up... Then she told me everything.
We already know the answer to this question, but this is the official confirmation.
: Our escape pod rescue team was a little late. Ellone was taken into custody by Galbadia. She's inside Lunatic Pandora.
Of course she is. Ellone spends an awful lot of time in danger, considering she's been on-screen for about 10 minutes total.
: We're gonna rescue her. Help us out, ok?
And that's the end of Laguna's story about Ellone. I suppose it was educational.
Now let's ask about Raine.
: Raine's story? Some other time, maybe. No... I can't. It's too much for me to remember.
Laguna will never tell us about Raine, but we already know what we need to. She died and he couldn't be there to see her one last time, and he took that pretty hard. Not to mention that he ended up abandoning two children because of it.
So let's ask another question, probably the second most important one on this list: why is Laguna the president of Esthar?
: You know what I've been doing all my life, right?
Fucking things up for Squall?
: But I understood the bond between the 3 of you. Then you changed, after you went to Winhill. Then Ellone was abducted by Esthar and you went on a journey.
You can see in Squall's summary a couple parallels between the two timelines there. A soldier goes to a small town, where he meets a woman that changes his personality/goal, and eventually ends up chasing Ellone to Esthar. It's no coincidence that Squall and Laguna both ended up here.
: A journey to get Ellone back. You wrote articles and appeared in movies to get by. You were trying to find a way into Esthar. You somehow got into Esthar and rescued Ellone.
: I got a lot of help along the way.
: What I don't understand is... Why are you the president?
This is another good question. Laguna gets by mainly on his great luck and relentless optimism, I probably wouldn't vote for him.
Hm, do I want this sweet lore or not? Let me think.
Gimme the lore.
: I only set out to rescue Ellone, but of course that wasn't the end of the story.
You may remember that he promised to help the resistance when they helped him find Ellone, and Laguna's not the kind of guy to go back on his word like that.
Note the characterisation of Odine as inhumane. This is another thing we've seen a few times; Odine's done great things for the world of Final Fantasy VIII, but he's not really a great guy.
: Both of them were interested in Ellone. We couldn't just pack up and leave.
We cut back to a vision of 17 years ago. This is probably directly after Laguna rescued Ellone.
: Odine only thought about his research.
Ward's not worried about Odine's research, and he chases him away.
The Sorceress Memorial. The fact that we know the Memorial works (except for the radio interference thing) suggests to me that the Odine Bangle from Deling City probably would have also worked. On the other hand, whether it would have or not doesn't make any difference to the plot of the game.
: Maybe Adel can be defeated. I owed a big favor to the Adel resistance who helped me rescue Ellone.
Now we're back to Odine's lab, but the resistance guys are also here. For his part, Odine doesn't give a shit about who's running the country, as long as they let him do his research. We'll see more about it later but, uh, maybe they shouldn't have let him do his research.
: I spoke with my comrades. Two issues came up.
Oh, just those two? That's basically nothing.
You can see in the flashback that Laguna's kind of standing off to the side.
: There is only one goal...
As far as plans for dealing with the Crystal Pillar, I suppose dumping it in the sea is a pretty good one.
They all stand around for a moment as the Pandora slowly starts moving past the window.
Then they cheer, because their plan worked.
: That was easy. But...we were found out. So we gathered for a final battle to lure Adel.
The scene cuts from the Pandora Lab to outside the Sorceress Memorial, where everyone is gathering for the final battle. We also get our first real look at Adel walking around. Adel has an interesting design, but I'll talk about it more when we see it up close.
: Adel appeared as we expected.
Something worth mentioning is that everyone here is prostrating themselves before Adel. Laguna gets up at this point to answer her question.
: Inside there. Ellone's been taken hostage.
And so, Laguna leads Adel into his extremely obvious trap.
No joke, she just walks right in there.
There's a hologram of Ellone in the sealing rings, but it's only visible very briefly.
: Adel realized that Ellone was a hologram...... But... It was too late.
So, yeah, Adel walked into the trap knowing it was a trap.
Like the old saying, pride always goes before a fall. Laguna's plan isn't anything exciting or tricky, he just bumrushes Adel.
I mean, she probably knew this was a magic-sealing facility before she walked in. Odine works for her, she's in charge of Esthar. But there's no way Laguna can take her in a straight fight, so he used her hubris against her. It's a very classical thing, I think. And in a story full of bad plans and long shots, there's something charming about "fuck it, just push her over."
It's kind of fucked up that this place was built basically to carry out a sorceress genocide, but at least it did something sort of good at one point.
: Adel was careless. She may be a sorceress, but after all, she was human. We succeeded... But... we couldn't keep such a dangerous sorceress around as a trophy. We had to do something...
"After all, she was human" really sums up the sorceresses as characters. They all have very human motivations for whatever they do. Adel is power-hungry and she's afraid of losing it all when she dies, so she goes after Ellone. Edea is afraid that a sorceress will do harm to her orphans, so she sets up SeeD. Rinoa is afraid everyone will hate her, so she goes to the Memorial. And Ultimecia, well, we don't quite have all the pieces, but in that speech in Deling City she suggests that she's tired of people being shitty to sorceresses, so she decides to kill them all.
: Some place very far... Into outer space...
I like Laguna's thinking face as he comes up with the idea to shoot the sorceress into space. But you know what? It was a good idea. I wouldn't bet against space as a safe place to put the sorceress, and I sure as shit wouldn't have bet that the whole thing would be wrecked by the possessed teenage daughter of Laguna's old flame.
Anyway, here's the Ragnarok going on its maiden journey.
So, it's a little hard to tell, but the way they got Adel into space was they launched her tomb out of a cannon.
...And then had three spaceships fly up to catch it.
And there goes every air vehicle in the world. Galbadia's over there acting like they're hot shit because they have some missiles while Esthar's just tossing spaceships out like candy.
So what was the plan with the spaceships, though? Did you really mean for that to be a one-way flight, or was the thing with the aliens a surprise?
: But the real work began after that.
Sure, don't tell me about your insane space program.
: I wasn't paying close attention while they made me up to be this hero of the revolution, and I ended up being president.
Fun fact: Laguna wasn't really elected president as much as appointed. I find this pretty funny. It's stupid, but in a way that a lot of stuff in history is kind of stupid.
Odine should have been arrested, dude. You remember the science gulag you were in? Odine should have been in one of those.
: Raine died, and Elle was sent to the orphanage.
The only real explanation for why Laguna didn't invite Raine into Esthar is that he decided to keep the place sealed up. It was clearly a mistake, and he still blames himself for making it.
: Raine was dead. Ellone, missing. My job kept me busy. I was left here thinking about this and that and before I knew it, all this time had passed.
Something interesting about Laguna's story is that, in its most basic form, it's just a series of coincidences. His orders separate him from Julia, and he ends up in Winhill with Raine. He decides to go after Ellone and has a bunch of adventures, none of which are particularly intentional. And then he ends up president of Esthar through no fault of his own. Most of Laguna's characterisation comes through in how he deals with circumstance, always making the best of a (usually) bad situation. Squall's got kind of the same thing going on, where he fails forward into increasingly important positions, but he just keeps on truckin'. And it all caps off with these two here in Esthar, planning how to save the world from Ultimecia. Two of the most important men in the world, completely by accident. Just another way they're not all that heroic, really.
I also like the extremely human idea that he always meant to go find Ellone or rescue Raine but the day-to-day just piled up until it was suddenly 17 years later and Ellone was an adult and some awful teen was destroying his space base.
That's all Laguna's optional text.
And he won't let us leave even if we ask, so I guess all that's left to do is find out what we're gonna do about Lunatic Pandora.