Chapter One: The Afterglow Of A Dream
But to make any kind of sense out of my situation I had to go back. Back to the night where the russian roulette spun into my life again.
I was out of it. Out of my mind, out of my nightmares. Selphie had proved my innocence, and I was now a regular citizen of Galbadia. Ridiculously, I had managed to slip through my history of justified violence, unpunished- a hero again.
A hero. What an empty word for such great price to play the game.
I was left drained. Of all the things on this world, I thought getting Rinoa’s revenge would make me complete. Clearly, I was wrong. I felt absolutely empty inside- because all those things that had made me what I am; pain, hate, revenge, murderous hunt for the truth... had slipped away from my hands faster than sand.
Selphie and I used the time to pull ourselves together. Following the newspapers to see what was going on, and crying in the long, sleepless nights, I was not recovering. My body had given in to everything for a month- the fuel of my madness was no more.
Then, I learned that Balamb Garden was re-constructed into a new, slightly improved version. C.O.N.C.E.A.L. had helped it. Selphie and I considered the alternatives; either to waste life in this dark room, or to go back there and face the facts about us needing Gil.
So I went back to where I had started out. Selphie refused to come, but I went to New Balamb Garden anyway. They took me in, no questions, no exams. They knew better. I had managed to go through them with top grades once, and I was damn sure I wasn’t going to fail.
And that’s when it started- the wreck of my past coming back on me.
In the eyes of those I killed, I saw the eyes of those traitors. When I slashed the soldiers as they came, I felt like slitting a ghost open.
I didn’t know for how long I ventured out with a thirst for cure. I then managed to get my hands on something- some ungodly amounts of Prozac. Pills to ease the pain, drugs to soothe me, you name it.
I left SeeD, cause it had been my disease, not my cure. My depression ceased a bit when I left New Balamb Garden. I went back to Dollet, moved in with Selphie, and went back to being a private eye again.
And there, I met someone.
Her name was Leia. She had raven hair like Rinoa. She was so very much like Rinoa in so many ways. It was as if Hyne gave this one blessing to me, to make me get some sanity out of the hurricane. We started dating for a year, and then, we moved in to a seperate apartment, together.
Selphie approved that.
Then, three years ago, some murders started taking place all over Galbadia. The murder weapon was cut out to be some sort of slashing weapon, and they said that it was similar to the gunblade. All of the murders had been women, all of them had been on women with raven hair, like her. But I had been so numb with that “ungodly amounts” of Prozac I was on, that alarm bells remained silent. I invesitaged it all, but found nothing in return.
For three years, I ran around like a headless Chicobo.
Leia was there for me. For Rinoa’s sake, I was more open towards her. We investigated this whole thing together. We stood strong together. I had a regular job, except for the cases I had, and my life was steadying down a bit.
I thought that my life’s train was back on it’s tracks. And I actually believed in it.
The sun was going down as my steps approached to the door of our apartment. The weather reports had said that, rain and snow storms, sometimes together were coming on Dollet.
The sun went down, foreboding something for me. I walked in from our door, and said, “I’m home.”. But no answer came. I listened in, and thought I heard a muffled scream. I didn’t like the way it had all started. I could almost see a plate full of barely eaten pasta on the floor. I was in for the whole show.
Gripping my gunblade tight, I approached to our living room. And there she was. Leia, lying down. On top of her was a black-clothed man( I could tell from his body form, which was a little bit odd), holding a thin knife that was sticking out of the left side of her neck.
“Leia! NO!!!” I screamed as I lunged forward to her body. Leaving the knife, the killer ran off and jumped off the window. I looked down. Leia was clearly dead. I could tell from the empty accusing stare of her eyes. Her throat was slit with the thin, curved knife.
“Leia! Don’t die!” I sobbed as I fell on my knees. I held her to my arms, her skin felt so cold. She wouldn’t call my name again. I then noticed that our living room was completely a mess. She had obviously fought against the killer of hers.
I pulled out the knife, Leia’s blood flowed into my hands. I slipped the knife to my trenchcoat’s pocket, as I turned back to her. “Leia, please! Don’t die! Please!”
And thus... She left.
Part Two: Panic Attack
I don’t know for how long I held on to her dead body, crying my eyes out for her.
It was all an overwhelming sense of a disgusting deja-vu to me. Rinoa’s murder. Leia was the same. She had been taken away from me by the hands of my demons. I had to find out why. I had to find out who.
I barely heard the front door being bashed open as I pressed my head against her chest. I was stroking her raven hair with my shaking hands.
“Holy!” one of the officers exclaimed, bringing me to here and now. The first emotion I could feel in this repeating nightmare was panic. Absolute panic.
“Freeze! You are under arrest!” the G.L.E. officer told me. I ignored it, and got to my feet. I gripped my gunblade tight. A mist covered up the air in front of me. I could only notice that there were SeeDs with the police force.
When the mist ceased, I saw those who had betrayed me. They were mocking me with their undying smiles, the blood of Rinoa rust on their lips. I screamed in rage, in a moment’s madness and charged. My gunblade ripped right through the mist, and the violent, mocking shapes of my enemies.
They weren’t SeeDs. They weren’t of G.L.E. They were my ghosts, they were what wouldn’t let me go after all those things I had given out of myself.
When I had pulled myself together again, I counted ten bodies lying on the floor. Bunch of screams accompanied my scene of violence, and more footsteps came along. G.L.E. had probably had a sattelite lock on my current position. I didn’t think. I turned around and ran to the window as bullets tore the air behind me. I shielded my face with my arms, and threw my body outside. It was a one-story fall.
And as screams, orders and commands rose from our apartment, I was gripping LionHeart. I had just given them a reason to frame me again. Ten bodies, next to the woman I loved. Just like Rinoa. Just like Leia.
I started running in the snow, as it picked up the pace and started to bring it’s cold doom into my life again. I had to get away from this house and the nearby area.
I don’t know for how long I ran in total shock and panic. I was a panic attacker. Any kind of “Boo!”, and heads would roll. I ran inside the new and fresh snow. I was a panic attacker...
In the white wisp of a trail my breath left in the air, I saw the skulls of those who had betrayed me. The smiles that forebade doom was clearly visible through the wisp I left behind. Those smiles proved that, I was one of the damned. I was decieved and betrayed again.
Finally, I held on to the first visible object in front of me- it was a phone. I Remembered Selphie. I remembered her, and concentrated on her to make this nightmare cease.
I fished out for a coin Gil in the pockets of the slightly baggy blue jeans I was wearing. Nothing came out, and my white, slightly baggy t-shirt didn’t have any pockets to begin with. So I dug deep into my trenchcoat’s pockets when one of my hands, it was hard to tell which, found a metal object. It wasn’t a coin though. I didn’t care for it at the point. I let it go and finally found a coin. I inserted it to the phone and dialled Selphie’s mobile phone number.
“Hello?” Selpihe asked, she was breathing fast,
“Selphie! You gotta come here... Something...” I looked at my shaking, bloodstained hands. So much for the stone-cold killer Leonhart.
“What the hell happened!?”
“You gotta come to Dollet Pub”, I said, my eyes fixating to the blinking lights of the pub, “Something happened.”
“I’ll be right there!” she said, and I hung up. As I was taking a step towards the pub, something happened.
The phone rang.
I cast the phone a look, as if it was a huge Snow Lion ready to eat me alive. It was ringing. For me, again. It couldn’tve been Saladin- Kiros was dead. And NTH? Laguna was sleeping with the worms. The ringing tone smiled at me like a horrific music from a horror movie. I reached out to the phone, and gently picked it up. I took the stool and asked, “Hello?”
“Am I speaking to Mr. Leonhart?” a familiar voice asked.
“Y-yeah.” I stuttered.
“My name is Seagill. Come to Dollet Communication Tower, immidiately. The person you’re expecting may wait.”
“How do you know I can trust you?”
“Count on the truth to rest with me, Lion.” And then he hung up. I left the stool and started to run to the Communication Tower. I had to talk to this mysterious stranger and go back before Selphie came.
I ran as fast as I could. I was so eager to walk again in the snow, right into the path that was steadily taking me to my grave. I knew it from the start. I hadn’t like the way the show had started, and I was sitting in the main actor chair this time.
Dollet Communication Tower was still decaying like the cement shoes in line underneath River Styx. In front of it, someone was waiting for me.
It was one of those nostalgic moments you had. Just when you thought someone was dead, you should’ve known, you were fooled again. It was Kiros.
“You died...” I could say, as this ghost from my past found it’s flesh and blood.
“You didn’t check the room for the dead. You left.”
“So, this is where the mighty Saladin goes to? Leaving me inside some panic attack.”
“I knew this could’ve happened. Staying inside C.O.N.C.E.A.L., I know many things. But not all yet. I say, you should look around for the knife in your pocket.”
“Why? And what’s it to you, Brox Sulva and rest of the Project SeeD team are dead.” I couldn’t let myself feel it, but I was feeling a tiny wisp of hope.
“I’m into this in order to-HOLY SHI-” a gunshot tore the air, and a bullet sped by me. It all happened in slow-motion. I saw the bullet, shining in the dim sunlight, and the laser targeting pointer right in the middle of Kiros’ forehead.
The bullet tore through his skin and skull, sent him backwards into the snow. He was clearly dead. His empty eyes looking at the tower, his mouth shaping his next word.
I looked around, and saw someone in black clothes diving into the snow. The snow quickened it’s pace, like an orchestra of depression into my situation.
My only ally was dead. But thanks to him, in a way, the afterglow of a dream was coming back to me, burning with a tiny flame.
A dream of revenge.
Part Three: The Deadly Roulette
I walked back to Dollet Pub in the snowing weather. The wind gnawing at my face like razors, promising me another long night inside my dying day. I saw Selphie in front of the Pub, waiting on me...
Waiting on her friend.
“Squall, what happened!?” Selphie asked, looking at me.
“Leia...” I said. I didn’t have to voice the situation. I looked at her, and she understood.
“Booyaka!” she cursed, suddenly, her sweaty hair throwing droplets at my face.
“How did you sweat so damn much in this cold weather?” I asked.
“I ran!” she said, “You sounded so freaked out that I didn’t have any time to reach to my car, so I ran all the way to here!”
“You must be quite a runner, then.” I replied.
“Who killed Leia?” she asked, catching me in my labyrinth of desires about escaping the topic.
“I don’t know. I do have the murder weapon, though. And I think I can find the source of this weapon-“ I showed the knife, “By contacting JJE. In the meantime, I want you to go over the case of murders, the serial killings I have been investigating. The files are in my office.”
“And you?” she asked.
“I think I’ll go to my lesson of urban discipline.”
Selphie left, and I picked up the phone. I called JJE, my informant, the only man who was mysterious as an ally, but I had learned not to trust him fully. Only a foolish man would not get the info double-checked.
And a foolish man was a dead man.
Half an hour on the phone with my informant, and I have managed to find out the names of some places that could sell likewise knives. JJE had told me that they were easy to get, hard to make. The familiar ringing in my ears told me that, I was going underground once more. Changing my name to Clint Dincht was a nice move- Zak Ament was known too much.
Then, underneath the snow, I moved inside the streets like a ghost, I was one. Dead long time ago- drowned underneath the sea of memories. I had to dodge SeeD patrols, knowing my name would be on newspapers and news first thing in the morning- Murderer at large again. I was itching for a name.
Because in this twisted, deadly roulette, a name could’ve been the safety belt on me. This roulette was spinning recklessly, it wasn’t about to stop until some of us were dead on the ground.
I had a name: Rico Selune.
Rico Selune was a under-the-wraps type of regular mobster with mostly drug dealings- especially marijhuana or stimulants. But somehow, all of the import-export business around Galbadia seemed to be going through him. He was trafficking a lot, and no evidence could be found. We could never link weapon or drug traffickings to Surinel crime family. All of our tracks had ended with Rico Selune.
I went for a hotel he had first, around the back alleys of Dollet. It was sad and decaying, like me, flickering lamps with faded colours on it. It wasn’t my idea of a place to start a search, but it was the best one I had so far.
I walk straight in, taking my place in this deadly roulette, without caring much for my own death. Some people had to get dead over things that had put me in this never-ending cycle of pain.
I came in from the snow and the winds, outside, the city was a cruel monster. Colder than my heart, more empty than my soul. This place was crawling with the “underground” type of people- hookers, drug addicts, loan sharks... It was run by twin mobsters with no sense in joking.
They were known as the Mematile Brothers.
“Can I get anyone’s attention?” one of them asked.
“You can, with that stupid idea of dressin up, dumbass!”
“You’re killin me.” I chuckled, tributing Zell with my lingo, “Was that your own work guys, or did a lunatic have to bring you that punchline?”
It was a dangerous game. The deadly roulette, russian roulette, or who-will-survive-hanging-for-ten-minutes, you name it.
“But I don’ want no answers to dat.” I added, “I’m here with sumthin fo da boss, Selune ‘round?”
“Who’s askin, a con artist?” one of them asked, his hand traveling into his jacket’s inner pocket. The game was getting rough. It was time for action, where your blade would be more useful than words.
“Y’know what, Rico ain’ here, but he has a message; ‘Bye’” the other one said, getting out a large Exeter.
There was a tense pause. They knew what I knew as well; it was now and here. Now or never. Them or me. Only one of us could walk out of this room alive.
I lunged at the one with the Exeter, as it blasted, and a bullet tore the air, nearly missing me. LionHeart tore through his chest, as we crashed on the table and it was in pieces. As I managed to get back to my feet, a bullet so nearly missed me, scratching my arm. I jumped up, and then, turned in mid-air like a Thrustaevis, LionHeart’s tip going down. It entered this thug in the stomach area, he let out a scream. Grasping the thing knife, I swung it and slit his throat, carelessly. I let him fall.
There were two corpses, and I still felt as if the anger within me had ceased.
A letter on the desk caught my eye, anger leaving it’s seat to curiosity.
The letter had been written through Evan Agiore.
Twinkie Twins, listen close!
The boss, Rico, ain’t pleased with your latest knife trafficking screw-up! It was a major deal with the Surinels, and you screwed it all up! We spent some good dough on this deal, but you messed it up! One more mistake and everybody’s gonna get dead, you two in particular!
Another shipment is comin in this week. Don’t screw this up or you’re dead, toe-tagged, finito, understand!?
Evan Agiore was Rico’s second-hand man. He was a panic attacker, he lacked the nerves to play the games we did. He couldn’t place his bet in the deadly roulette without almost losing his life alongside with it.
He was running the business on Evan’s account, but he somehow lacked the courage to do it, he always fell two feet short from his target.
My guess was that, wherever Evan was, there also laid my answers...
Buried inside the path going to my own grave.
Part Four: Tears Of Blood
I had to find Evan Agiore if I wanted answers. And I surely did.
The letter had been written in some place named Shut-Eye Motel. It was supposed to be around Deling City. I knew those places- the places where my first russian roulette with death began, and I had managed to get out of it.
Now, there were two bullets waiting for us. One in the chamber, for you or for me.
I got to the car I had for quite a while, Leia’s gift. Even now, it had been only a night since I had been into this, I could pick up her scent. The bitter scent of death didn’t get into it. My heart and soul were bleeding in a desire too deadly that I would suffocate if I kept it up. Leaning against the steering wheel, I cried out tears of blood.
Because I was the one that had to die. Reckless everytime I picked up a case, Prozac storage, self-mutilating ex-SeeD who is back to his murder days. I was a walking, talking numbness with just enough will to keep breathing. My heart had stopped beating, it was dying within my body. I could feel the pain.
As I managed to gain my control back, I was riding to the town’s exit, as the newly-built outdoor TV sprung back alive in “UPCOMING NEWS”
“Tonight, Galbadia’s war against a single-man army went back to where it had started, as Leia Sedorven was found dead at her home, brutally slain. The post-mortem clearly showed that, Leia Sedorven was murdered with a gunblade, alongside with six SeeDs and four G.L.E. officers.
In addition, Kiros Seagill, a former agent of C.O.N.C.E.A.L., Concealed Opereations Nerve Center Of Estharian Assembly Of Legality, was found dead near Dollet Communication Tower, also slain with a gunblade, although the body was recovered completely burnt down with gasoline.
Squall Leonhart’s gunblade traces are found and confirmed by Galbadian government. C.O.N.C.E.A.L. and S.E.C.R.E.C.Y. have confirmed the re-opening of Squall Leonhart’s criminal file, as it was suspended. SeeD and C.O.N.C.E.A.L. are collaborating on catching this murderer, and bringing him back to justice.”
The picture of me shown was terrible, almost dead- the picture they had taken right after Rinoa’s death. It looked the same me. It was me glaring at myself, telling myself it was over. It was on me one more time.
“Squall Leonhart! Put your hands up and get out of the car!!!” the voice came, as choppers flew past over me. I stomped on the gas pedal and sped away as if I myself was after myself. I managed to get out of Dollet without getting caught, but choppers were after me like Bite Bugs following a dying Glacial Eye. I didn’t know how to get out of this maze, but I knew if SeeD turned up, I had to stop them.
I thought I had managed to get through them when a fireball exploded right in front of me. Screaming a curse, I turned the steering wheel like mad, and the car flipped over. I managed to get myself out of it, as it turned around itself several times in mid-air, right before crashing on a barricade and exploding, turning the snow into liquid gold.
Picking up LionHeart, I picked up a running pace. I had to go on. I couldn’t give u-
A sword swung into my view, and I lifted my gunblade to avoid it. They clashed in the air, jets of flames going everywhere. I held on to LionHeart, more than I was holding on to my life. My trenchcoat swung along with my moves as I tried to free my weapon. I moved my face closer to my enemy.
And he smiled at me. For a moment, his face turned into a mocking skull of a ghost. I screamed in horror, and then, swung my gunblade, ripping his head clean off. He was a SeeD. I knew him. Nida.
“Goddammit!” I muttered as I looked around, there surely would be more. I barely spotted the Bismarks aiming at me. Screaming “Protect!” I barely escaped it. I started to run again, I had to find a vehicle. And then, a motorbike came into my view. It had a female rider with a SeeD uniform, I couldn’t care less. I punched her squarely on her face, and she fell down. Getting on the motorbike, I started to speed up.
SeeDs formed lines in front of me, they formed a valley of flesh to block me out. They raised their weapons...
I didn’t care. Still crying out tears of blood for the hell SeeD had brought me into, I swung LionHeart. It was a piece of me again- melted to my frozen, dead core. I ran a line alongside the SeeDs, and they all fell underneath my weapon like grass falling down under the scythe.
I continued my way to Deling City. The bike was a snow bike, and as the wind started to make my bullet scrape bleed and hurt, I went on, my trenchcoat making a hurricane of cloth behind me. The bike was a frozen lump underneath me, my hands were sticking to the ice, as I held my gunblade tighter. My eyes were watering up of all the coldness.
I came to Deling City and left my current vehicle there. Ducking down as I was a ninja, I looked around. SeeD patrols were there. They were doing everything they could. But why was SeeD so damn involved in this? All of Balamb Garden’s SeeD forces were there. Could C.O.N.C.E.A.L. really have such large budget?
Dodging patrols by turning the city into a labryrinth, I managed to make my way. There was no Brothers in this maze. Only me.
I found Shut-Eye Motel. It was more in shambles than the orphanage. It probably was a safe place for the fools who wasted their last Gils to the hookers on the corners. I didn’t care for sex. Lust to me was taking my revenge with my sexy and soulless knife.
I looked around and checked for thugs. No one was there. There wouldn’t be many people, I knew it.
Three thugs were at the door. Call me paranoid or schitzophreniac- but I had a feeling, something big was going down in this sleazy place. Gripping my gunblade tight, and my other palm tightening on the knife, I walked up to the thugs.
“Yo, hold on. You ain’ goin in there.” One of them told me, stopping me.
“I’m-a go in there if I want to, aight?” I asked, again, imitating Zell. Who was I to act like Zell was still alive? Who was I to fool them?
“Nah, you ain’ go-“ the knife entered his stomach and opened up a gash. As he fell, the knife moved up to the throat of the thug on my right. I felt the blow as the thin knife slid easily in. I didn’t make more mess, my gunblade moved to the other thug’s chest, and slid in easily.
I then bashed the door and walked inside, facing a black haired, blue eyed man in a blue suit. I knew his face from the files I used to have. From the memory I used to store.
“Evan Agiore.” I said, “Just the man I’ve been killing to see.”
Part Five: Fear Effect
“Leonhart!” he gasped, taking a step back. The paid thugs around him were frozen.
“Right for the first time in your life.” I said, raising LionHeart.
“You’re a mad dog!” he told me, “Barking mad! You think you can come in here with that flashy gunblade of yours! You can’t pull that piece on me like that!” he said, and took out a handgun. I didn’t let him shoot. The knife flashed in my hand faster than a bullet out of a sniper rifle. I had to leave him alive, so I decided to open up a small gash on his stomach, and then kick him backwards.
He held on to the table, screaming in pain.
“Aargh! You’re dead, punk! Just what are you lookin at, carnival clowns? Shoot him! KILL HIM!!!”
The apes of his sprung back alive, and drew out their rifles and swords. Knowing the spell had just worn off, I had to either act smarter, or be faster...
“Haste!!!” I said, tapping myself on the chest. I started to move like a shadow, like fast and deadly as Grim Reaper in this Shut-Eye Motel, where shut-eyes lasted forever on my account. In this frenzy of mine, I only heard the door slam open and shut, Evan would be on the run.
After everything ended, I found myself facing a letter on the table. I was crumbled up a little bit around the edges, as if the reader was shaking as he read it.
Man, Rico’s gone bonkers! This crap he keeps takin, it’s messin with his head! He’s mumblin like a lunatic on fire! He hunts Chicobos and tortures pets! He’s a madman that howls! I dunno how long I can last, help me out here, man!
Rico Selune was on drugs? That made sense to me. Anyone who would want to get me back to my constant graveyard shift had to be high to act.
I then remembered Evan Agiore. He was on the run. The fear effect would keep him running for some time. But with a gash in his stomach like the starting cut on a lemon, the lemonade was leaking out as the time ticked life away.
I followed the trail of blood, clearly visible in the snow. It was going through the dark and cold mazes of Deling City. An alley system complicated enough to deploy a thousand demons and manage to hide them from view. I was still following the trail of blood, the only thing I ever had in my life.
Trails of blood. I had followed them when Rinoa had been killed, when Zell, when Quistis, when Irvine, when Fujin and...
No. Nothing I could’ve done or said could’ve changed anything. I couldn’t let it take over me. It gave Evan the time to pull himself together. I couldn’t allow that.
Following the trail like a Hellhound on pursuit, I went on. Moving from shadow to shadow, my footprints were almost not visible in the snow. The cold was going through me like the satisfaction only pain could give to me. It was cold. But I was used to it. In the heart of darkness, my territory lay.
My house. My rules.
I finally found a reasonable place the trail was leading to. It was leading to a suburban area that was almost in the outskirts of Deling City. Some kind of construcion always went on. The machines and the concrete blocks alongside with the bricks were of a dead construction of self-destruction. Like father, like son. Just like I had ended up, just like how Laguna had ended up.
I had to take a moment to let go of the cancer- the memories.
Then, as I went on, two thugs almost jumped on me with swords drawn. I had no chance but to stand and fight. They were under the fear effect, that was to my advantage. Fear would spread like hell fire that had swallowed up my mind a decade ago.
The knife and the gunblade flashed in the cold lamps of the “under construction” sign. LionHeart caught one across the stomach area, the knife went through another’s heart. I didn’t care. They were nothing but mere obstacles to me. I was deadly like Ultimecia, smart like the hero Leonhart.
But I was outnumbered.
I saw all sorts of thugs armed with all sorts of weapons. I could see Evan, still running for it. He should’ve known he couldn’t escape. There was no escape from me. My only friends were the knife and the gunblade.
I sliced my way through like cutting the cards of a deck. They were dying at my sides, as I showed them no mercy. I had a target, and I was only seeing my target.
It was Xu.
I could find a brief moment to stand upon the irony, as I pushed her aside and started to run after Evan. We were like cat and mouse, mouse under the fear effect, cat under blind fury.
Finally, Evan ran out of breath and energy at the end of a dead end alley, and collapsed. I walked slowly up to him, as wind whipped my trenchcoat. I must’ve looked like a ghost coming back for his bloody day. But I had lost my way in this bloody day.
“Where’s Rico?” I asked as I closed in on him.
“Go to hell!” he replied, fear erupting from him.
“Not a good start.” I said, as the knife entered right foreleg.
“Aaah!” he screamed “You can’t do this to me! You can’t kill me in cold blood? Torture me?” his life was precious to him. I could use it.
Because my life had been nothing but a worthless bet on a poker game. Just like Rinoa. Just like Leia.
“Listen good, golden boy. I’m not gonna take the fall without hanging on.”
I put LionHeart to his throat. I was not victorious. No victory could be found in the cold night of Deling City, inside the afterglow of a lost dream. I had no options. Just me and the gunblade and the con-man. I had only one choice.
I moved LionHeart a little bit.
“OKAY OKAY!!!” Evan almost shrieked, “Rico’s in Diab Licus, his own nightclub! The only place he can keep takin the crap he’s doing! Is that what you wanted to know? Diab Licus is around Deling City, but the suburban area that’s closer to the outskirts!”
I rose LionHeart, but I didn’t kill him. Because Evan was a puppet forced by the puppet master.
“May Hyne be with you on this one, Leonhart.” Evan mocked behind me.
“May Diablos take you before I get to you again, Agiore.” I replied.
Part Six: An Avenging Angel At Large
As I ducked to another back alley, I had to stop.
The old, beaten up phone was ringing.
“He-hello?” I stuterred again.
“Selphie!?” there was a strange racket going on in the background.
“It’s me! Look, I found this- these girls were all murdered with the same weapon, a gunblade! For what I know, all of weapon trafficking lies with Rico Selune.”
“I know.” I replied, “I’m off to Diab Licus, Rico’s night club. I’m gonna find answers. Hang in there.” I hanged up.
When I took a step, the phone rang again.
“JJE, is it you?”
“Yeah, listen. You gotta hurry up. C.O.N.C.E.A.L. is on their way. They’re coming for you. Go to Diab Licus, now!”
“I’ll be there in a whistle.” I replied and I hung it up.
I started to run as sirens tore the silence of the snow storm. I could still see, but somehow, mist was falling. My vision range grew smaller and smaller, until I could only see a meter-radius around me and nothing else.
No different than what I was.
Because what had led to Leia’s death was my blindness. As I forced my legs to take the steps and the sirens of G.L.E. closed in, I concentrated on this knowledge.
I was blind enough to believe I was safe. Just like a man devoured out of his sight, I couldn’t see that, I was going to yet another destruction by feeling safe. I had to keep constant watch, I had to find the connection of the murders by paying more attention.
But that was all behind me now. Past. Dead.
As I turned around a corner, I found myself facing a broken newspaper stand. The issues looked like they had just been published, I could smell the ink from my current position. The titles showed a depressing read.
MURDER! Leia Sedorven Was Killed, Squall Leonhart At Large Again!
The Night Of The Killer!
MURDER IN GALBADIA!!! Two Victims Already!!!
Squall Leonhart Returns For More!
They were all screaming, bloody murder. The wind was a scream ripping my eardrums, alongside with the manic-depressive screams of the G.L.E. sirens. It was all one, huge scream to me- when I was down to the line and wanted for murder, again.
But there was one piece of truth underneath those titles. I was at large again. But I wasn’t after death or murders. I was an avenging angel at large. An angel with stained wings and an axe of justice in hand, a bullet buried in my forehead.
“Hey you, FREEZE!!!” a sound came, and I lunged at the next street as bullets followed me. The cops hit nothing but the wall as I quickened my steps. I followed the beat-up, old, graffiti signs that led to Diab Licus. It wasn’t hard- the colours were shining bright for me, if they were decaying signs full of clams to the pack of Bahamuts behind me.
Dodging a SeeD patrol and escaping from G.L.E., and killing a C.O.N.C.E.A.L. agent on my way, I managed to get to Diab Licus.
The club was flashy. It was in better shape than any other thing I had seen in this night. The snow was falling more gently now, the mist had ceased, allowing me to take a look at it. The flickering neon lamps of the club’s name flashed to a fast ammo beat. The club surely carried a message, like a knife sticking out of the throat of the person I loved. Like a killing bullet through the brain.
I had come to this place, where an avenging angel at large would attempt to bring down those who had plucked out the feathers on his wings again, leaving him to take the fall.
I managed to swing my body over the fences and went inside the borders of my enemy’s domain. The door was unguarded. Something fishy was up, and it stunk worse than the dead bodies that would hit the floor soon.
I opened up the door and looked inside. It was emptier than my head, more silent than a graveyard.
I went inside and found a way into the club scene without passing through the regular places, which I knew would be full of traps. As I passed through a corridor of file cabinets, some guy lunged at me, screaming something. All I had to do was to raise LionHeart, and he was dead. He dropped something on the floor. It was a book.
Considering where I was, I found it strange that someone had been spending free time, reading. I suspected these thugs even knew how to read.
The book was entitled; ”The Infernal Wheels Of Nothingness”. The back cover summary showed that it was about the golden age of the first cult that had worshipped Diablos, the first man that worshipped Diablos was named Diablicus by the GF himself.
I was beginning to see where this was going. Diab Licus and Diablicus. All a strange pun, but it worked for me. Now I knew that, I had to do more than just kill thugs to get to Rico Selune.
I passed the file cabinets, and got to a corridor. This place surely was dark, and I hadn’t encountered anyone, strange enough for me. Either they were all waiting somewhere like an army, or I was too good in stealth approaches.
So much for the stealth approach.
The knife and the gunblade flashed in the dimly-lit candle lights as two thugs lunged at me like wild Mersmerize. They died as fast as they had attacked, just like everyone else who was standing between me and my target.
The door had a pentagram of Diablos on it, drawn in black blood over a red, carpet-like holding. The doorknob was almost inviting.
I opened the door up, and went inside the heart of darkness.
Part Seven: When A Dead Man Walks
The door led me to a dark room, full of bright colours that made me wanna vomit. Some sickly smelling smoke was hanging in the air, and it surely was making me sort of psychodelic.
I looked around. So this was the core of my enemy. The core where he crawled like a snake. He was like a spider in his web, waiting for the fly to come right down into his web.
I wasn’t the fly. If such thing happened, a dead man would walk.
And when a dead man walks, the end of the world was near.
I spotted a letter on the sofa Rico might’ve been using for private occasions. Walking up to the sofa, I picked it up.
One of my men isn’t playing with a full deck? You better gather yourself together, Rico, stop taking that crap you’re trafficking. This is a huge business. I will pay more than money for this if you screw this all up for us.
So Surinel family was tired of Rico’s “drug” addiction. I didn’t know what he was taking, but it surely was strong, for the Don to threaten Rico himself. The envelope was nowhere to be seen, and I surely wasn’t going to search for it. There was no place on this earth old chap Chad could hide from me.
I then spotted a notebook next to the letter- a journal. It was private, but my private things were already raped and murdered, and I had to respect for things that were private anymore.
I have seen them! When a dead man walks, the prophecy shall be fulfilled! The dead men roam my room, skeletons dance in my closet! I’m no man. I’m a wolf. I’m a mersmerize, man and woman, the killer of children and the birth-giver! Dead men roam my head in this winter twiligt, for the end is near! Then, I shall be granted with reward beyong imagining- death beyond death!
It was a regular, “mad man trying to end the world cause he hates it” cliché. He should’ve known that apocalpyse was nothing in general. It wasn’t objective. It was subjective.
Everything was personal.
I looked around for another clue that could give me information on what the hell he might be keeping for me. Maybe a Blue Dragon, maybe just a slain baby, maybe Leia’s head for all I knew. But I suddenly realised that, I didn’t need information. Dead men were walking. I wanted to make real sure Rico wouldn’t walk.
I went further in, digging deep into the graveyard of my enemy. I saw corpses here and there, slain in ritualistic positions. It should’ve made me sick. It should’ve made me fall on my knees and puke out everything I had inside myself in the account of “food”.
But somehow, I wasn’t bothered by the scene.
It of course was a random act of violence- the work of a sick bastard who liked to see blood of the drugs that were soothing him down. But it was, in a way, the reflection of my past. The dead men making a parade on my behalf. A show just for me.
My head started spinning as I had to hold on to something nearby. That “something”, unfortunately, was a metal chimney that stood like a coloumn- and it was hot.
Screaming in pain, I withdrew my hand, smoke was coming out of it. The burnt mark was clearly visible. I needed some cold water to clean it, but decided that I shouldn’t. Pain kept me alive and awake.
I finally managed to get to a place that looked like an arena. A pentagram was in the middle of the huge room. I didn’t like it.
The gong of some clock sounded, the sound echoing through the place like a horrific piece of music. This wasn’t going to be pleasant. There were corpses of thugs everywhere, all slain.
But suddenly, they got to their feet and started to swing their blades at me. I had no escape. They were all around me like a pack of Cockatrice, closing in on their hunt. I was trapped.
And a Death Claw would defend himself better when trapped.
The first thug lunged at me from my right, and the knife entered his throat. I stuck LionHeart into the thug that was on my left, and then, threw the knife to the thug coming to me from my front. I was no expert in knife throwing, but somehow, the knife entered the guy’s forehead, and he went down.
It wasn’t a test. Some dark magic was working here- when a dead man walks... Dead men here were fighting. I sliced one’s head off, and stuck LionHeart into another one’s chest. They were still coming. Six thugs closed in on me, six blades tearing the air. I had to roll backwards to avoid getting slashed. I felt a blade right on top of me. I swung my gunblade to my backside, and he fell down.
“Firaga!” I screamed, pointing at the thugs in front of me, and started running. Slashing my way through, I got out of the fireball blast, unbruised. I fell on my feet, and looked around, checking for enemies.
There were none. I had proved victorious in yet another battle. I was like a goddamn Sorceress War veteran- seen it all, done it all.
Now there was nothing but emptyness for me.
When the adrenaline rush had ceased, it had left me inside the empty depression I had before coming here. I found myself in darkness again. Leia... I wish she was here. How I wanted to hear her voice. How I wanted to see her again. How I wanted her to call my name.
The things that I want, by: Squall Leonhart.
I want the sun to go back up, I want the wind to cease, I wanna change the past, I want Rinoa back, I want to take back time, I want my gunblade, and death to those who had betrayed me.
A curtain at my left slid open. As the clock striked midnight, I looked inside.
There was a man with a machine gun in his hand. He was wearing black clothes, almost robe-like and loose on him- enough freedom of movement. He was bald, and an old, devilish tattoo was making it’s way from his neck to his shaved head. He had a goatee, and glistening red eyes.
Rico Selune had made his appereance.
He started applausing to me, I was surprised. Were we here to stage a play act to each other, just like we had just done?
And if this was a stage act, then I had to wait until the afterpiece was done. Until one of us were dead.
Part Eight: Sellout Of Souls
“You were here to congratulate me?” I asked Rico. He was smiling like a skull.
“I am here to end your mere existence...” he said, his eyes were the eyes of a madman, clearly visible from where I was. We knew each other like life knowing death, like me knowing him, like my demons knowing me.
“Because I have been informed of your arrival! Swarming in like Deccal, deadly as the razorblade wind that rains from the sky...”
I was nailed to the ground. What was he talking about? Did he know how I harmed myself with razorblades? This spooky monkey talk was straight from a horror movie script- written in my nightmares.
“You have seen them, haven’t you?” he asked, almost laughing, “The ones that have been devoured by the dark moon... Tasted their blood and ripped their skins... Stroking their raven hair like it was the very essence of darkness, slipping away from your hands, leaving you as an empty shell? Needless of existance!?”
“Shut up.” I muttered, dangerously. This was passing the level of things that could be tolerated.
Death, pain, cold, darkness...
But seeing the one who knew everything could NOT be tolerated by this man.
“What do you know!?” I asked him.
“I know... everything...” Rico said, he was cracking up, he let out this mad laughter. It echoed through the emtpy walls of this temple, the blood of the ones that has been slain on his account flowed into the fountains, filled my mind with scenes of violence.
Random scenes organized themselves, putting me in a destructive deja-vu. The moment I had seen Rinoa’s body. The moment Quistis had died. When Leia...
I couldn’t let the parade of the dead take over me. I had to deal with him here and now.
“DIEEEEEE!!!!” I screamed as I lunged at him. He aimed at me and pulled the trigger. Remembering he had a machine gun in the last second, I threw myself sideways- landed straight in the fountain. Red colour infested my vision. A sweet taste came into my mouth. It wasn’t water. It was blood.
Screaming curses, I managed to get out of the fountain, blood flowing down all over me. He shot again, I had to throw myself out of the fountain. The bullets tore through the blood and dug holes in the stone surface. I had to be quicker. As I got to my feet again, a grenade landed near me. I started to run.
I knew I was too late.
I threw myself, and the grenade exploded behind me.
It happened almost in slow-motion. The grenade ignited the remains of a table that had been there, and in the shades of red and yellow, I saw the mocking faces. The people that had been dead for a long time were mocking me again. They knew I was about to lose, and I couldn’t hang on.
That I needed a miracle?
No miracles existed. As I got back on my feet, I reminded myself that, I had to create a bloody miracle and kill him.
“WHERE DID THOSE KNIVES COME FROM? Protect!”
“The knives came from the sun! Raining on me like raindrops, killing me with their lusty touch!”
He was mad. Insane. He didn’t know anything. I didn’t know what he was taking, but it surely was eating his brain, like the thoughts that ate my brain. He had been one to rush to the sellout of souls, and sold his cheap.
The bullets tore at me, but the spell kept them at bay. I knew I had to reach him to do anything. I ran up the stairs to the stage. When I got to the top, a kick landed on my chest. The spell had softened it’s effect, but I still fell backwards, LionHeart was still in my hand.
I landed on my back.
It would be so easy to stay there. Stay there as he approached to me like my angel of death. So easy to lay on my back and rest, sleep until someone woke me up inside.
“This is the ultimate end!” he told me, like I gave a shit, “This is where you swore upon your undying hatred! This is where I declare my mission- to delete your needless existence, as it’s said in the scriptures!”
He aimed the gun at my head. I could almost kiss the barrel.
Suddenly, gunshots ripped the air, and bullets dug their ways into Rico’s chest. Leaving bloody holes on his new clothes, they made him fell down, right beside me.
I met a dead man’s eyes. They were empty. Victorious glare that was dying was shown on them. It could’ve been me. It can be me.
I got to my feet, as I looked around. A flaslight came on me. I had to move up my hand to shield my eyes from the light. The light was unwanted by me. My soul had resisted the light completely after Leia had died. My clothes and hair still damp with blood, I looked up to the person. I couldn’t see a face. All I could see was the Estharian logo winking at me.
The thought flashed in my head faster than a bullet buried into my forehead:
I turned around and started to run, bullets came after me. I was escaping bullets everywhere. Then, this one member turned up right in front of me. Pulling my knife, I slided through him, his throat was slit. In this act of senseless violence, I couldn’t find peace. All that was filling my head was a list of things I was supposed to do to stay alive.
I jumped right over a table, and the bullets destroyed it. A familiar figure got in front of me, swung her leg at me. Xu charged at me like a rabid bird Mersmerize. I held her off, and punched her squarely on her face to escape.
I saw a window with a diabolical shape carved on it.
I took my chance...
I jumped into the darkness of the night.
Part Nine: Going Under Again
I landed in the snow, the coldness taking over my muscles.
The snow washed away the blood, and left my clothes clean of the stains. I was cleaned once again. But I didn’t count on it. C.O.N.C.E.A.L. was breathing down on my neck.
I thought JJE had sold me out.
But the mistake was in the cycle as a whole- I had allowed myself to be folled that I could trust him. A chopper dropped it’s spotlighs on me, bullets hit the ground near my feet. I started to run, as I put the knife back to it’s place, the pocket of my leather trenchcoat.
“Freeze!” came the voice after the bullets. I dodged sideways to avoid being holed through, and I collided with a SeeD. I didn’t stand on the fact that they were all onto me, I smashed my elbow to his face and carried on. A G.L.E. officer came at me from one side of the street, the other was closing in from the other.
“Float!” I said, and kicked the ground. I rose up in the air, and used the staircases to support my flight. I got to the rooftop and dispelled my floating spell.
“Squall Leonhart! This is C.O.N.C.E.A.L.! Drop your weapon and put your hands where I can see them!”, the helicopter was behind me again.
“Thundaga!” I screamed, pointing at the chopper as it exploded with the lightning spell. I continued to jump from rooftop to rooftop as the snow quickened it’s pace, matching with my escaping speed.
They were all onto me. A whole army of lost souls. I was standing a weak chance against them. But my chances had always been so great that I had to use all I had to win.
I could never win. Who was I to fool myself- in this maze, I was lost without a clue. Left alone without a friend. Without... Without her.
But time was running out. It wasn’t the only thing that was running out, my conscience couldn’t handle all this anymore. It was shutting down slowly. I stumbled, and tripped over my own two feet. I fell in the snow, but crawled back on my feet quickly.
A bullet entered my shoulder. The pain was like a spreading spider web, starting from my shoulder. It was another brick to the house of burden that was resting on my back. My world spun wildly.
I looked for something to hold on to.
There was nothing.
I fell face-down into the snow, the coldness felt almost painful against my cheeks. I managed to crawl all the way to the edge of the roof. I looked down. There was nothing but an empty street. SeeD would soon be there.
I jumped to the roof, and barely catched the edge. Pulling myself up, I had managed to save my life once again. As I continued to force myself to go on, I had questions forming.
If Rico was this insane, how could he govern the traffickings? Evan? He had no brains nor balls to run the business... Then someone else. But who? Why was SeeD alongside with C.O.N.C.E.A.L.? Why was G.L.E. with them too? Who wanted me and had Leia dead?
I didn’t know. All I could register as darkness took me, and I fell into the snow was...
That I was going under again... Under the sea of mysteries to drown with my cement shoes.
Chapter Two: A Hunter In Frozen Hell