They were all dead. Love had killed them. And to make any sense out of the situation, I had to go back to where it had started.
I hadn't felt anything as the police force took me in.
They were strip-searching me for any concealed weapons, and my mind wasn't even there. I saw Selphie taken away in a body bag, and managed to shed a single, calcified teardrop.
The only teardrop I could let out for my lost friends.
They took me in, and the night was still howling behind me. The wind was still blowing as hard and piercing as it had always been. The night was howling after me, telling me that this wasn't over. Telling me that, I belonged to it.
I felt like it.
I had became a total wreck. I hadn't felt anything as the officer told me that I was going to be having a trial while remaining as a prisoner. I could take the blow like the breeze of Balamb Town. A forgotten, choking breeze for me.
They put me in a high-security prison where the most dangerous criminals laid. In their eyes, I saw nothing but helplessness. Their despair of everything they had seen in the darkened streets of the night with me.
The first trial was just like walking up to a gyiotine. I knew the executioner's axe was inches away from my neck this time. Two near misses, and this time, Death was about to get me. It would be like meeting an old friend.
”Do you swear upon your honor that you will say the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?”
”I do.” I replied, carelessly. Because their version of the truth would differ from mine. I wasn't the one to whisper the things they wanted to hear.
Especially when all I knew was the whispers I got from my ghosts, one more time.
”...And justice for all.” The judge stated, to complete the oath.
”...And justified violence for all.” I changed it.
My lawyer wasn't too eager to defend me in a court. The legality was something that was just a procedure, a formality. I knew what they knew: that I wasn't walking out of this prison alive.
We were fighting a losing battle in the courtrooms. And since I had more time to think and dig back to the decaying remains of my memories, I saw my life was made of fighting losing battles. At the end of the day, I was still alive, and for what purpose? To defend myself unwillingly to the blind hands of justice? That was a lie I told to myself.
But the strangest thing, suspiciously, wasn't the trial. It was my only visitor.
I was brought to this empty, white room with metal chairs and a metal table, handcuffed. They had taken away my clothes, and put me in my coffin. I walked in from the door, not thinking about anything, feeling the emptyness within me.
When it all blows away, then you were left there to sink to the depths.
It was Ellone Loire. Sis, as I used to call her.
Her face blurred up the whole room as the memories came over me. The stone house was eating my mind alive, ”Edea's Orphanage” sign was bloodstained and gothic in it's own fashion. Everything was falling down on me once again. The sandcastles I had spent my entire life building were falling down.
”Squall...” she said, her eyes almost watering up. For a moment, I wished that I could look away from her. But her eyes were trapping me, knowing it couldn't be lust, I knew it was because she was solid. No knife, no shrukien, no bullet was there to take her away. She was the only thing I could hold on to.
Yet, I couldn't. I was afraid to reach out to the only comfort of my entire life.
I fell on the chair with my dead weight and tried to shake the dust off my heart to get it to beating.
”Sis...” I could get out.
”Squall, what happened to your life?” she asked.
”I...” I stopped. What was there to say? I could've confessed it, my sins and asked for forgiveness. Make amends to a woman against whom I had committed so many crimes?
When I pushed the soft touch of Rinoa's skeletal fingers aside, I could reply as ”This is all a retaliation.” I said, ”Someone had retaliated against me. It's the only thing I can count on. That there's one person responsible for it all. I went on to find the truth. Found the truth.”
”And... What is that?” she asked, holding on to her white shawl.
I started to talk about it. Boring and frightening her with the stories of the night, of murder and revenge, all passed through in a bloody sauce for us to eat. It was hard to swallow, it's taste was bitter.
Ellone was the only one to keep relatively sane for the year I spent in between the prison and the courtroom.
My dreams weren't this empty as they felt now... I remembered it. I remembered how they felt. But now, like the stars and the sun, like Rinoa, they had left me alone for the final time. From now to infinity, my only belief was taken away from me.
They said that a fearless man was a beliefless man, and a beliefless man was a dead man.
This presence kept haunting me. Everynight, when the lights of the cell went out, I tried to sleep. A soft whisper always reached to my ears to tell me that it wasn't over. Not yet.
Too many times I asked myself what else I could give away than everything I had already given.
My entire life had been ripped apart in a single minute.
But the shadows were telling me that, they knew I could give more.
Part Two:Lost Lullaby
At the end of the year, I was sure this was going to an absolute nowhere. All the trials without a reason, the uneasy jury, my nightmares and the drugs I was on, didn't make it easier either.
The only cheer or happiness left for me was Sis.
She was the only pure thing within this sea of darkness which was my mind and soul, intertwined.
I thought this was the end for me. Prisoner life.
I, of all the people, should've known, that life always hunted me down.
It was a gloomy night of December, when rain was falling down. As lightnings lit up the dark room, alone I remained. I had quite some time to stand on the irony of it all. I had all the time in the world.
My inner retaliation was bigger than the actual one. The more I thought about it, the more it felt like an inside job to me. And I was cursing myself for not seeing this. In the land of the blind, the one eyed man was a king, and I was a two eyed man, soon to be Hyne of the Blind, still running in circles.
Someone knew me. Someone had to know me to play such games with my mind. The storm was getting worse as a lost lullaby rang to my ears, telling me that it wasn't over.
This was the feeling I had found in all the emptyness: that it wasn't over yet. Somebody out there wanted me, still. I felt it's presence. Watching. Waiting for me to make a move.
On that night, whatever it was, it got tired of waiting.
I heard the doors bash open as I reached out to grab the letter-opener I had on my desk. If somebody wanted me down now, I wasn't going to come easy. They say Chicobo don't come easy, and I was a wounded lion.
”Squall Leonhart!?” a man with C.O.N.C.E.A.L. uniform asked as he came at my cell door.
”Who wants to know?”
”Agent Glow, I'm from C.O.N.C.E.A.L.! Here, take your clothes!” and he threw some clothes at me.
It was slightly baggy jeans, a white t-shirt and a black leather trenchcoat with large sleeves and a stiff collar. My boots and belts were there, even the necklace and the ring. I put them on. My uniform was back on me. It was time to shoot the questions out.
”Why are you doing this?” I asked.
”Don't ask questions!” Glow replied, as he (was it a she? Hard to understand, due to the unisex uniforms of C.O.N.C.E.A.L.)threw a bag at me too. I laid it down and zipped it open.
It had a gunblade in it. I took it in my hand, and felt a chill travel through me. A writing was carved on the blade, it read 'Raine'.
”You're breaking me out, huh?” I asked, as I hastily stuck all I could within my trenchcoat. They felt just like the warm arms of Rinoa, embracing me.
”Come with me.” Glow said.
As the lightnings lit up the dark corridors, I felt like it was a familiar place. Too familiar. It was the corridor to my moseleoum. I knew it. Of all the times I had walked among the dead, I knew this was it.
The lost lullaby came to me as I stepped into the cold and the rain. The lullaby was now found by myself.
Four words made up my lost lullaby:It's-not-over-yet.
I embraced the wet weather as if it was my hope. As if it was a hot lover making love to me. I ran alongside with C.O.N.C.E.A.L. If someday, they told me that my enemies would break me out, I would say they were more deranged than I was.
I saw someone when we came to a dead end. The agents hit the can. I looked around to see a woman who was standing underneath the rain, waiting for me.
It was Sis.
”Ellone!” I said, as I pulled her in a tight embrace. The beating of her heart against mine gave me a fresh energy. It made my soul crawl back on it's hands and knees from totally crawling on the ground.
”Squall! I'm here to tell you something!” Ellone said, looking around. What was wrong? This was all too familiar.
This was the horror flick. But the black guy didn't die in this movie.
”Yeah?” I asked. I was holding on to a tiny bit of hope like Chicobo hoping the Death Claw will let it go.
”Yeah, the knives! You still don't know, do you?” Ellone asked.
”I don't!” I said.
Suddenly, I remembered it. My head started to swim in questions as I looked at her, as if she was the only ghost left from my past. As if her patience had outranked her hunger for my blood.
”Well, if you go to the source of the thing it-”
The familiar whistling sound brought the lost lullaby back with a deafening scream. But the whistling wasn't the same. It was still there, like the only remaining stain on my gunblade, but it had changed.
The curved hunter knife flew past me. It happened almost in slow motion. I saw the raindrops bounce off it's sexy handle. I saw my own reflection in the blade, and heard it whistle in the air. The tiny street lamp's light reflected itself from the blade as the ghost's face curled up in a sinister grin.
The knife slit her throat, like a flash, and bounced off the lamp light. It then, got buried into her heart.
Her heart which was still full of love for me.
”Sis, NO!!!” I screamed. I bent down to take her in my arms. I got the knife out and slid it to my pocket. My tool of justice was back in it's place. This was the game. I saw the game now.
”Squall...” She said, ”It's cold... So cold.”
”I'll get you something, I-” I reached out to take off my trenchcoat as she stopped me. She stared into my eyes.
”Sis, please!” I said, ”You're the only one left for me! Don't leave me!”
”You're my only...” she could get out ”Hope...”
And she closed her beautiful eyes for eternity.
”Sis! Wake up! Wake up!!!” I screamed as I rocked her back and forth and held her to my arms.
And then, as I was on my knees, I turned my head to the skies and let out my scream of pain, frustration, hopelessness, and helplessness.
But nobody was listening.
Part Three: Nail In The Coffin
Hyne alone knows for how long I stood there, crying my eyes out for her.
She was gone. Sis was dead. The only person I believed that could help me in this hurricane was dead. She could've been the only thing that could make the sanity stay. But with her, all of my sanity had gone away as well.
But the realisation of here and now outranked my thoughts. I let the instincts and the ideas take over my mind. It gave me something to think about.
As I rose up to my feet, I spotted a figure, lurking in the shadows.
A ghostly, demonic figure waiting for me there. It was just like me, just like looking into the mirror and seeing what was in me.
I walked into the dead alley and held out the gunblade to the figure on the dustbin.
The figure with bat wings.
”Well well, servant. Welcome back, sinner.”, it was Diablos, sitting on the trashcan.
”YOU!?” I asked, looking at the Guardian Force, ”Why are you here!? WHO DID THIS TO ME!?”
”The clues lie in your pocket like the benefit of a greedy man, sinner.” He told me, as his tongue traveled across his fangs.
”Who?” I asked, ”I wanna know.”
”Go find the answeres yourself, I am not here to entertain you with a rather violent dinner-teathre.”
”Fine!” I shouted at the devil.
”Only one thing.” He said, as I turned back to face it again.
Diablos looked at me, and then held out his hand like the claw it was.
”You decieved me twice so far, mortal. There will not be a third time.”
”Whatever.” I replied, as I got ready to slip away into the darkness one more time.
”Sooner or later, everyone fails.” Diablos said from behind me as his voice got mixed to the wind that had started to blow, and the rain was turning into a fast snow.
”Sooner or later, a child lets his mother down.”
The Guardian Force's sinister laughter was just like the wind, howling to hail me to my december.
I thought about it. Zak Ament was out, Clint Dincht was known just too much too. After a while, everyone would've memorised my face. A single mistake like using the same names, and they would put a nail in my coffin.
So I decided to use the name Calintz Leonhart. I could tell everyone that I was my own twin brother. What would they know? I went over to a phone and dialled the number of a common dime-dropper. No private informants this time.
Some took it as a luxury, to have a private informant. But as I had seen the way things came, they weren't trustworthy at all. The dime-dropper tipped me of on a known piece of information.
My old friend Evan Agiore.
I wondered what it took him to return to business, unpaid bills or a year of therapy, but it seemed as he had the place of Rico's. Surinel family was no more. And Agiore was making his way from the small time to the big fish.
And the knives went through him on the way. Metaphorically speaking, of course. But when I found him, soon, the metaphors would vanish into the darkness.
I remembered our diologue.
”May Hyne be with you on this one, Leonhart.” He had told me.
”May Diablos take you before I find you again, Agiore” I had replied.
And it was checkout time.
Of all the hideouts, he was still hiding in the open, on Rico's place. Diab Licus had been deprived of the things it had gotten it's name from. A nail in the coffin of Rico Selune, put there by me.
I went straight for the club with unpaid debts and some spare nails for my coffin in my pockets. The place was more magnificent than it had been before, a true nightclub without the demonistic rituals and the occult.
”Levia Than” sign was brand new, incomplete, even. It's message would be delievered like a SeeD killer bullet through the head. Buddy-buddy. Just like me and Evan.
I walked in from the back door as the monsters of my previous visit walked back up to me and offered me some Stealth.
The place was still under construction, but I could smell the blood I had smeared up to the walls when I had first gone in. Back to the depths of another grave like it was mine, I felt really uneasy.
Uneasiness swept over me and a chill in my hand reported 'Raine', the gunblade in my hand. It was a weapon without the sense LionHeart had given to me.
I walked across the darkened corridors as the rain kept coming in from the broken windows. My own reflection in the glass shards was a ghost for me.
I saw no one at the end of the dark corridor, but I knew they were there. I could almost feel the heartbeat of those murdering mobsters like it was close to me as my non-beating heart. I walked on, still the ghost of a man I had always been.
”And this place will be finished soon? I gotta get back to business quickly, the knives are on a stockade here!” Evan told his men.
”No worries, boss.” An ape told him, ”Those knives will be the next best thing on the market since Tina Turner! Ha ha ha!”
The other thugs laughed at it as I leaned on the wall. Their laughters were screams to my ears... Screams of a woman in a suite room. Screams of my friends.
It was all a scream now. But the night wanted me to go on and get Agiore.
I stepped right up like Desperado, and tried to look calm and cold-blooded like a corpse.
”Evan.” I said, my smirk working up to it's own throne made of rusted blood, ”Long time, no see.”
Part Four: Unpaid Debts
”How he hell did you get here!?” Evan asked me, ”You were supposed to be in jail!”
”Luck took me out of there.” I replied, ”And it seems you've done well for yourself.”
”Why are you so damn interested?” he said, starting to back off, thinking that I'm a true psycho.
”It's nice to know someone is cheerful. Let's dance of it, Evan, let's do a jig to Diablos.”
I was standing there, throwing puns like I could back those words up. Didn't matter one bit to me. Because when you fell back into the same hole you were trying to escape from, you would only notice that the hole has grown deeper.
And I was still digging deeper into hell.
”Let's dance!” I said, swinging Raine. It was starting to give a familiar, warm feeling like LionHeart had always given to me. Two thugs were lying down dead as I swung it, smearing blood on the new-painted walls.
”Damn damn!” Agiore said, taking out a handgun, ”You won't walk out of this place alive, Leonhart! Cause I had a year to prepare fo you! Lessee how ya like this, you lousy fuckin fugitive!” he aimed at my head.
I didn't know how I did, but before I knew it, I was sliding forward, my trenchcoat leaving it's own trail like the one of a ghost's, and the gunblade hit the handgun as it took fire. The bullet grazed my shoulder. I was too numb to feel it.
”Damn!” Evan exclaimed as he turned around to run to the stairs. I followed him. My answers laid with him, and with the answers, laid the end of his path. I wanted him as freaked out as to trip over his own feet and fall, perferably into a grave.
I followed him with my ghosts, as the thugs were screaming. As I moved up, an announcement echoed through the sound-system.
”Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce, Squall Leonhart? The man with the highest bodycount of people on this planet.”
Was this my imagination, like a late schitzophrenia? I heard voices all the time in my dreams, those dreams of nightmares within nightmares, in the depths of my skull.
Evan went up to the roof, as I had expected it to be so. I bashed the door open and started to run after him. He was moving fast, but he still had some unpaid debts on his behalf. My steps were the steps of the loan shark after his debts, by Gil or blood.
Evan was running faster than I had ever thought he could. And I had to run too, and allow the wind make my entire body hurt like I was standing under a vertical rain of bullets. Showering with the painful touch.
Evan jumped to the next rooftop, and I followed him, and attempted to slash him open. He barely avoided the move. I knew that he would be attempting to bail, because this cop had just gotten out of jail for him.
I managed to catch up on him at the third rooftop of our chase. I grabbed him by the collar and put the tip of Raine to his throat. I looked into his eyes, and saw the madness and schitzophrenia.
It was like looking into a mirror.
”Where do the knives come from?” I asked Evan.
”Esthar, dammit! You should've known, you idiota! You put Rico outta job!”
”Unpaid debts of yours run high, don't they, Evan? And no Rico or no other choices to back you up this time.”
He looked into my eyes with a hopeless stare. His looks screamed, I don't wanna die you psycho.
But time was on my side now. No suspended case, no nothing. It would take a day for G.L.E. to gather themselves together. C.O.N.C.E.A.L. wouldn't bother taking me out, because they had broken me out of that prison house.
”The million Gil question, Evan. Who?” I asked.
”I dunno!” Evan replied.
”Maybe this'll refresh your memory.” I said, taking out the knife, ”Remember this?”
”I... do.” He replied, swallowing hard.
”Well, I wanna know who put a hit on me. And you will speak, no matter what.”
No matter what. This was the price to play the game. The snowing fastened up and whipped my trenchcoat again. The knife was a frozen lump in my palm, just like Rinoa's dead body.
”I CAN'T TELL YA MAN!” Evan finally shouted out.
”But you know who's into this?” I asked.
”OKAY OKAY! HIS NAME IS HOPE! AIGHT!? HOPE!!!”
”Who the hell is he!?”
”I dunno, look just, let me down!” and a shrukien came at us. I heard the whisling sound and let go of Evan.
Evan Agiore started to run, his only purpose in life from now on was to run. From me, from the angel of death.
Then, I registered the shrukien. But no Fujin this time. Then who?
It was C.O.N.C.E.A.L. ninjas.
”Why are you here!?” I asked, as I got ready to fight.
They didn't say a word. I had heard about them, The Daggerfall Hand, the ninja guild within C.O.N.C.E.A.L., the assassins they had used.
Killer versus killer.
It fit the sick picture just too well. The demons of my past were finding new masks to themselves with every new gamble of my life and I hated it. I couldn't let it all get to me before I learned why Ellone was murdered, and by whom.
”No words.” I said to myself as I raised Raine and took out the knife.
The rain started to fall faster as they closed in. My walls were closing in. The swords and the shrukiens, the battle rods and nunchakus were in their places.
They were here for the unpaid debts left for me.
Part Five: Falling Down
Their shower of kicks followed by punches were beating me down.
Whenever I tried to get away from this circle of abuse, they dragged be back in. I tried to fight, tried to strike back, but with every kick, with every punch, I was growing weaker and weaker. All of the strength I had inside me was vanishing.
My head was swimming in a sea of questions. All were beginning with why.
Why did C.O.N.C.E.A.L. want me dead one more time, after they had broken me out? Why did they get involved with the trafficking of the knives? Why had I believed that? Why hadn't Evan run away? Why did Ellone had to die? Why wouldn't I give in.
My soul and mind were telling me to give in and let the skeletal hands drag me down to the bottomless hell forevermore.
My body was resisting.
I was still standing, but I was bruised and all of the strength I had was leaving my body faster than sands of time had left me when they had died.
What went up just had to fall.
I had went up, hadn't I? To a world hero, the legendary SeeD, the commander of SeeD, Sorcerer-Slayer...
And now who was I?
Just a man caught in the slipknot of lies.
I tried to respond to those assassins; to show them how a broken man could put up a resistance. I couldn't. My guard was down, the nightfall deja-vu was embracing me as they beat me up. Rinoa's whispers were inside my head, alongside with the scream of a girl... When she had died with a shrukien.
”DIE!!!” one screamed at me as a kick landed on my face and broke my nose. I choked as blood came out of my nose and it sent a blinding pain through the outer layers of my skull.
The pain embraced my eyeballs as they blasted open, and the darkness inside me went outside of my body through my empty eye sockets.
As I fell on the ground, I knew that, when I fell to that hole again, I knew the hole had grown deeper, and it had grown it's own thorns to get me through it's stained spikes of hate, and unattainable revenge.
My dreams, my reality, it all shook at once like a bullet in the head.
My vision became blurred. What once was clear for me, even the pain, it slipped away into the darkness. I felt the edge of the roof underneath my feet. The wind whipped me hard, and I lost my balance.
Slowly, my balance shifted. My hair slowly rocked to the wind as the wind rose up in the scream of the demons waiting for me down below.
I lost my conscience, and let the darkness take me home.