Chapter Two: A Hunter In Frozen Hell
Prologue: Sleeping Awake
The nightmares came back into my vision as the deja-vu came over me once again. Those nightmares of mine. I was sleeping awake, awake when sleeping.
They had never left me alone. There were portraits on the wall. Portraits of them. Their mocking, mutilated, bloody faces laughed at me, as their paint traveled on the carpet to make a disgusting, red shape.
A faint echo came to my mind. I tried to catch the words. It only said,
“When you wake up, it’ll all be well... For me.”
I didn’t know who was talking. All I wanted to do was to rescue some sanity out of this wreck. They laughed at me. The ghosts. They danced around me.
I found myself in Balamb Garden. Leia was there, in Rinoa’s dress. She approached to me. I started to dance with her, we were doing a waltz to the moon. Suddenly it changed.
It wasn’t Leia. It was her dead body. Skeletons were dancing around me, they were laughing.
“Heh heh heh. It’s really funny what you can do when you have the tools.” That same voice echoed in.
I let go of the skeletons, as they mocked me more.
I was here.
This was my dream.
Those dreams of coming close and failing, and feeling the past not letting go of you. And now my dreams have changed themselves- I was dancing with the skeletons in my closet.
Haven’t I given enough of myself? There was nothing left in me but pain. Was I safe? Was I alright? Why did I have to hear the sounds of breaking bones and screaming Rinoa when I closed my eyes, and see her die again and again in a sick, repeating movie flick?
The horrid, morbid laughters of my demons filled my ears.
I knew then, I was decieved again.
Part One: Brute Force
The nightmare backed down as I saw another skeleton with it’s eternal smile in front of me.
I shook my head, and my blurred vision got clearer on some guy with a suit- and a cane in his hand.
“Squall Leonhart. Pleased to meet you.”
I felt like I was tied to a chair. My head still was sore from my fall into the nightmares.
I shook the visions of the past, and tried to let them go as their calcerous fingers wrapped themselves around the ribs that were next to my heart.
“My name is Crois ‘Canite’ Lanagre.”
“Lanagre? Like you had your mother gangrened?”
He had the cane, and I was tied to this chair. Pissing him off would mean getting into a pissing contest of brute force.
The cane smashed on my head, making my headache go even worse. The second blow landed on my left upper leg- a payback from Evan, I took it as. The third blow smashed on my chin.
“I like to crack jokes too, as much as I love to crack heads.” He said.
“Sure, I bet you liked getting ripped out of that snatch.” I replied. It was a game of brute force after all- we were racing puns.
“I’ll leave ya here.” He said, “I gotta go and take care of some business. But I’ll be back for the dues, loan shark. Then, it’s checkout time.”
As he left, I muttered, “You play, you pay.”. I tried to force the ropes, they stood firm as ever. I looked around myself. I looked up to the ceiling. Somehow, this sadness creeped in me like a tapeworm. I was feeling the pain in my heart, as my tears started to fall down.
I couldn’t save her.
A hero. They said I was a hero. I wasn’t. I wasn’t a hero, I was just a man caught in the storm.
I moved a little bit more, and noticed that the chair was wooden. It could be broken then. I moved and tried to force the ropes, as my thinking process fastened up.
Rico Selune was mad, and Evan was informing someone of it. But who was that bloody letter adressed to? I had no idea. My feeling was that whatever that was going down, it was going down with me.
“Ugh!” I exclaimed as the chair was finally broken, leaving me free of my restraints. I have been free of restraints since my birth, why bound to a chair now? I wasn’t held back when I had killed those who had betrayed me.
They had taken my gunblade, my only friend in this world. In the core of reality, the truth cut like LionHeart’s cutting edge.
Brute force? Think it over. I was in the middle of a basement, without any weapon at all, only the chair I had broken. And the little pieces of a wooden chair wouldn’t be so much use to me.
The chair was broken, just like me.
And they had no clue how far a broken man could go on pure brute force.
Part Two: Gloves And Piano Wire
I opened up the unlocked door and peeked outside.
There seemed to be nobody there. The corridors were as empty as my mind. I was feeling the emptyness inside me again... I hated it. The desires that were finding their lives in my heart, my thirst, addiction, even obsession for revenge was swallowing me up.
If this had been a story, it was a story of murder and revenge. Of blood and price tags.
I then remembered that, I had a weapon in my pocket- that curved hunter knife. I dug deep into the pocket of my trenchcoat; there it was. Waiting on me a like a hooker waiting for her pay.
I looked at the knife again. It was the tool of Leia’s death. And I would get my revenge with this knife. I would kill the killer of hers with the weapon she was killed with. I could’ve laughed, but I didn’t think I could do it.
Because it was becoming an obsession. The first rule of revenge was not to make it personal- it was way beyond “personal” for me. I was inside this empty and dark, gloomy corridors of my pathway to revenge- I hoped to make it ultimate this time. The knife seemed sexy and soulless...
Just like a lover, desperate to make love again.
I got it up, and gave it a brief, gentle kiss. It was my ally. Opening the door, and looked outside again. Nobody was coming, no footsteps, no drunk sounds. Where was I? Who was this Canite guy? The other questions got out of their hiding places, like zombies inside my mind. My sanity was caught in the middle of a river.
“Heard her, right?” a voice came in, slowly, as footsteps were heard, “She’s a freakin’ witch. She’s hot and all that, but since Rico is put out of business, we need her.”
“Yeah, right.” Another one replied, “She’s not a witch, she’s a lunatic. I mean, to get Canite here to beat the crap out of some fugitive-from-law? It sounds like a goddamn cliché. If I could just understand it, I-“
“Understand this!” I said, as I lunged at them like a rabid bird Grand Mantis. My jump had succeeded, and I had managed to use the thin knife. It fit perfectly. If it was any bigger, like a sword, then LionHeart would be my ex-girlfriend. It did it’s job. I didn’t waste time. I couldn’t. I just killed them, and took one of the guy’s sword, just in case.
I creeped through shadows, for I was one of them. It felt comfortable in shadows, no light, no danger, no wild animals. Going as silent as death. All I needed was gloves and piano wire. And the ability to take back the things which were already said and done.
“Hey, you! Stop!” a voice said. I looked at my left, and here was a sworded thug, charging at me. I lifted up the sword, and noticed that, he had LionHeart!
To see the only thing I had left in my hands in someone else’s dirty hands... It made me mad. After I realised that guy was dead, I knew then, I hadn’t managed to rescue any sanity out of the wreck- myself.
I looked around and spotted an elevator. I went over to it, no noise came to me. LionHeart, once more in my palm, was there for me.
I pressed the only visible button. It said “G”, it could’ve meant “Ground” but to me, it was “Grave”. The elevator went up. I tried to get my dead brain to work. I drowned under the dark flooding of my memories.
The elevator door opened, showing me a dimly lit corridor. There was nothing here but decay and the “good old days” of this place might’ve had. None of us had seen “good old days”.
“Hello? Oh, it’s you. What? What do you mean, he’s here? Where? Heh, right. Smart-aleck. Right behind me, right. I-“ as LionHeart slipped through his body, he could only take out a sound of surprise. I picked the phone up.
“The line just went dead.” I said, “So if you don’t want to get dead too, identify yourself.”
“You’ll never make it out of that building alive.” The voice said, before hanging up. I looked at my left, and saw a bar. So this place had a bar.
Drinks. The only thing I could drink up was pain- it tasted bitter to me. But then I realised that, I had just ran out of pain. I had none left. I was like a man fighting a losing battle- I was too old for this. For a moment, my revenge seemed even useless, and meaningless.
No. It was everything I had. As I was walking over to the bar, the TV sprung back alive.
“Tonight, Galbadia’s war against the nightmare fugitive, Squall Leonhart, worsenes with the death of SeeD member Nida Quer, alongside with Rico Selune, himself a fugitive from law, and the wanted suspect of several murders around Deling City.
Now we will contact with New Balamb Garden Headmistress, Sabrine Mematile.”
A woman came into view. She was wearing a flashy SeeD uniform. I couldn’t make it out quite well, but her facial figure did seem familiar to me.
“-Ms. Mematile, what will be done about Squall Leonhart?
-Squall Leonhart has become a threat to all. The rumours about him may be providing a service to Galbadia on the long run are absolutely false. His file indicates that he has been on ungodly amounts of Prozac.”
So my journals have been read by our trustworthy Headmistress. When I looked at it, I saw just my own ruin, prepared and served to myself by myself.
“-And what is the precations SeeD will take?
-Right now, SeeD is locked on Squall Leonhart, we are doing all we can to stop him, get him dead or alive. We are working alongside with local security force and C.O.N.C.E.A.L.”
SeeD was more involved in this then I thought they were. I had to either find this Canite guy and slash the answers out of him, or I had to dive into Balamb Garden, the core of SeeD to find out answers.
This was what I wanted; answers.
As I was leaving for the bar again, a beaten-up phone rang, foreboding many things to me. It was another call from another person in this world, who was either on my side or against me.
“Squall Leonhart? JJE here. Something urgent has come up with Chad Surinel. You have to meet with Selphie, immidiately. She’ll be at Deling Train Station in an hour.”
We had barely seen each other in these days. I had an hour to reach to the Deling City Station. For that, I needed to know where I was.
If I wasn’t inside a maze that was full of traps...
And all I could count on would be my experience with gloves and piano wire.
Part Three: Justified Violence
I was walking towards the bar when a letter lying on the ground caught my attention. I picked it up.
Framing me for Leia and Kiros hadn’t been enough, it seemed. Surinel had put a hit on me. He wanted me down underneath the soil, and he was giving Crois written instructions about how to do it.
Squall Leonhart should die like a goddamn gutter dog for all the trouble he has caused on our behalf. Crois, I’m sure you can handle it your way. Make him suffer a lot. Use all of your skill.
It made no change in the current situation. I was still at large and alive. I was about to damage their business a lot more before I went to my own grave.
I walked in from the door of the bar, Canite had his back turned on me. True to his words, he was surely taking care of some business- he was doing his regular dose of drugs.
I smiled to myself. He was just like me, a downer who was taking uppers to lift himself. But not to heaven. Just when I thought I was one step closer to heaven, I had fallen all the way down to hell.
“Hey, Canite.” I said, as I gripped LionHeart tightly. No nervousness was on me. I knew better. Justified violence would be the reason why blood would flow.
“Hey, how the hell did you get free?” Crois asked, grabbing his cane.
“I got bored down there. There was no fun. So I decided to kill those men in the corridors, and come looking for some answers.”
“Whatever answers you’re looking for... You won’t find them with me.”
“Is that so?” I asked, as I slashed his cane into two pieces.
“You...” Canite swallowed hard, “You can’t-“
“Don’t tell me what I can or can’t do. I was supposed to stay, bound to the chair, right? Like a gutter dog? Put this in the gutter!” LionHeart was in my hand. Crois managed to reach to the bar stand and take out a shining Exeter. It’s handle was deadly, it could’ve been used for slashing. I stopped the handle, and my leg came swinging up to his face. I managed to hit him. He fell on the bar stand, his head there, waiting.
I grabbed a glass jug nearby, and smashed it on his face. He screamed in pain, and fell down, holding his face.
“Look, Canite.” I said, “I don’t have time for this. Tell me where I am. Tell me where I can find your pal, Chad Surinel, and then, a merry Hyne’s Eve to you.”
“You’re in the old location of Galbadia Garden, this place is now a small town! You’re in our hotel!”
“Where’s Chad? I’ll have a little, friendly chat with him.”
“I can’t tell you that man-“
“It’s your turn to ‘die like a gutter dog’, Crois.” I said, as the knife flashed in my hand. It was quick, and painless. I could feel his pain, but didn’t care. As I turned away from the dying Crois, I stared at the knife in my hand.
It was stained with blood now, the redness of it glared underneath the lamp lights. It still felt like... Her body. It was ironic, how everytime I took out one of these traitors with this knife... I got a little piece of that life back.
Galbadia Garden. The road between here and Deling City would take at least half an hour, and it twisted and turned. I had no wheels. I checked Crois’ pockets, and there laid the keys to a Deling. It jingled like the best piece of music I had ever listened to.
The backdoor of the bar suddenly opened, letting Xu, and her SeeDs inside. The other door had already been blocked by C.O.N.C.E.A.L. I was caged in. I was like a caged animal, ready to strike.
“Squall!!!” Xu shouted, “Stay right where you are!”
“I don’t have time for this!” I stated.
“We don’t care!” Xu replied, “You’re under arrest in the charges of murdering Leia Sedorven, Kiros Seagill, Evan Agiore, Rico Selune, and now, Crois Lanagre!”
“I-don’t-have-time!” I repeated, and then I pointed at the C.O.N.C.E.A.L. members at the door, “Tornado!!”. The whirlwind tore them apart, threw them to the walls. My way was clear.
Lunging at the opening exit like it was for my life, I got past them. Bullets came after me as usual, but I had learned a trick or two to dodge them. Running to the place that was marked as “Parking Lot”, I had to find Crois’ car. As C.O.N.C.E.A.L. followed me, I heard their curses and shouts. I didn’t care.
I found the car- a completely red Deling with “Cane” written all over it. I opened up the door and went inside. It didn’t carry Leia’s scent. Lucky me. I turned the engine on and stomped on the gas pedal to speed away. A SeeD came in front of me, and I just run over her and continued.
Driving like hell, I was doing my best to reach Deling City train station. I only had ten minutes left, and I had only passed half of the way, when the phone in the car rang.
“Hurry up! You have to hurry!”
“Thanks alot!” I replied.
I stormed into Deling City like a Thrustaevis lunging for it’s hunt. I was a hunter in frozen hell, the winter winds were whipping the car, I could hear it.
I stopped the car at the station, and got out of it. Winter winds whipped my face, as I barely saw the sun. The snow clouds were blocking the light. Outside was freezing, but I felt more home than the inside.
I walked at the station. It was crowded. Unusually crowded. I had to dodge two SeeD patrols and a C.O.N.C.E.A.L. team. It was hard. I was wearing a black, leather trenchcoat and my face was half in blood that was on it like a horrific hunting mask.
Selphie was looking around, nervously.
“Selphie.” I said, walking up to her.
“Thank Hyne you’re here!” she said. There was something wrong about this whole thing. Selphie was acting wierd. She would never take the name of “Hyne” to her mouth.
“You depressed or something?” I asked.
“No. Why?” she asked in return.
“Whatever. What was this thing? This is Chad Surinel’s doing?”
“This is Surinel’s doing, Surinel’s men? Really?” she asked, “But we gotta go, cause if it’s Surinel, then it’s-“
It wasn’t a gunshot. It was a familiar whistle. Too familiar. The whistle brought back memories of old.
I saw the shrukien in mid air. I saw it in slow-motion, my own, confused reflection glaring back at me, as they all died before my eyes... Once again.
The shrukien entered Selphie right in the chest. Blood rushed onto me, it washed me down like a dark blessing on me. She fell down.
“Selphie!!!” I screamed.
Her innocent face was still staring at me. Her eyes full of happiness were empty now. There was neither joy nor life left in her.
She was dead...
And another part of me had died with her.
Part Four: Dreams That Rot In My Heart
I walked back to the car, numb, dead, deaf and blind.
I entered the car and shut the door. I inserted the car keys to get it to work. But couldn’t. My hands started shaking as tears of pain started to flow out of my eyes. Memories wouldn’t leave me alone this time. They were all over me like a pack of wild leeches, memories of them.
I was sobbing uncontrollably where I sat, my hand was covering up my face. My sobs were echoing in the car, the absolute core of my silence.
So this was what it had come to. I now had absolutely nothing to lose.
I cried for an hour, at the core of the dreams that rot in my heart. The dreams of revenge had all melted away in the sadness; I was grieving after Selphie’s loss. She had been the only one to keep me relatively sane for some time. Now she was gone. I could never see her smile again.
But this was my fate with women. They always had to die, leaving me alone. They had to die and leave no smile on my face, year after year, killing me with their absence. As my thoughts of this disappeared, I could feel one thing.
Somehow, Selphie had found out something big. And ended up stepping on Chad Surinel’s toes. If he wanted Leonhart, he would see the LionHeart.
But when I finally managed to hit the road, my sense came back to me.
I had to make up a plan. For that, I had to reach to the files of the murders. The murder chain that has been taking place might’ve had a more significance in this whole thing. Maybe there could still be a way, that I could excuse my own survival.
I didn’t want to think about it. As I made my way to our office block in Dollet, I tried to keep myself out of it. I read signs on the road, looked at passerbys, fondled the knife... But I tried to keep myself away from the thoughts and memories of Selphie.
I reached Dollet, and the first thing I realised was the “ungodly” amounts of SeeDs around. Considering I had the car of a murdered man who was a fugitive, and who was murdered by me, I wasn’t safe. But somehow, I managed to slip through the SeeD patrols like flies slipping through spider web gaps.
I parked the car somewhere near my old office. I got out of the car, LionHeart confidently disappearing through the sleeve of my trenchcoat. I looked around in the cold. No one as there. Cold and dead, like the core of my dreams. The snow was slowing down for a second, then it unleashed apocalypse on me again. I got inside, unlocking the door with the key I always kept in my keychain.
The corridor greeted me with a sinister smiled of bloodstained teeth.
I was not ready for this.
Even it had been an hour since it had happened, I was still bearing the pain. Even it had been years since Selphie and I have stood in this place, I could still see our steps like a movie flick. The corridor was drenched in gloom where Selphie had become a mere memory- a ghost nowhere to be seen.
I carried on. Each step was harder than the previous one. And there it was, the rusty, old door waiting for me. I was trying to avoid getting back to this place all my life. It had been three years, but it was as if it had happened yesterday.
This was the place I had run to when I was broken again. When I had failed myself, when I couldn’t stand 24/7 torment within the hands of the demons, produced by the dreams that rot in my heart. I had run to... Selphie.
And now, she wouldn’t be there.
I opened up the door, and glanced inside. A warm breeze greeted me. A mocking, mad laughter sounded. I knew I had to ignore the laughters, no matter how significant they might’ve been. If I followed the whispers, and the next thing I know; I’m following a path to the grave.
I closed the door and turned on the lights. The desk of mine was still as tidy as usual. The files of the latest murder cycle- left there by Selphie for me. I sat down, and laid LionHear to my side. Taking a deep breath and wiping away the broken tears, I got to work.
Digging inside the files like a grave digging necrophile, I tried to make out a connection. And there certainly was one. Because these murders having no connection would mean that G.L.E. and I had ran in circles for the past three years. I had never searched for connections, I was too busy with trying to take back my life with Leia.
But now, it was as if someone had removed the blindfolding.
For a start, all of the victim’s names ended with the letter “a” like Amira, Sabrina, Leia... They had all been to places too familiar to me- Timber, Dollet, Deling City, even Winhill. They were all Timber resistance faction members, all had hired a SeeD at one time.
SeeD... Somehow, it all turned round and round until it finally got back to SeeD. Why was SeeD so damn involved in this?
As I asked the question, the answers flooded my mind; Cause I had been their commander, cause I had betrayed them, cause I had loved a sorceress, cause I had killed their top-notch members, cause I had burned the first Balamb Garden down...
Leaving the slipknot of answers which was choking me, I got back to the files. But the peculiar thing about these files were that there were no photos. Absolutely none. No face, no portrait, no dead body or autopsy pictures were there. No... nothing.
It had been almost an hour when a knocking at my door woke me up. I was just about to see another connection that can help me out. The door was knocked on again.
I cautiously got LionHeart, and approached to the door like a ghost. I would take a peek outside from the eyehole. I did. And there was Xu there, with SeeDs.
I smiled to myself. I looked around to the corners where Selphie’s tears had dried out, where my tears of blood had flown.
I was standing in the middle of my own grave.
In the core of the dreams that rot in my heart.
Part Five: An Addict To Revenge
It all happened in a flash.
I opened the door, grabbed Xu by the collar, threw her inside, and slammed the door shut again. I locked down the door, and it was locked down tight- it had at about twelve locks. Selphie had thought about it.
I stared at Xu’s eyes. Her eyes were full of rage. She only knew that I was the killer of my own friends. I knew also, that I was a killer. I had killed my own self, hanged myself from my study desk with the noose made of my love.
“Long time, no see.” I said.
“Screw you!” Xu replied as she got back to her feet. She raised a fist. She was a fighter- like Zell. She threw a kick at me, which I stopped with my left arm. LionHeart’s handle smashed into her face, sending her back.
I climbed on top of her, using my weight. My dead weight.
As the knife flashed in my hand like a flashlight that darkened my soul up more, it instantly was up against her throat.
“I want answers, Xu, answers.”
“Go to hell, you addict!”
She was right. I was an addict. An addict to revenge.
Cause the last seven years of my life had been a story of revenge that couldn’t be taken. Not completely. The monsters that rested in the dark had came back after me one more time to add death and blood more to my actual burden that was pressing me down under it’s never ending pressure.
This addiction had made me careless against violence, obsessed with pain and death- my two friends who were still alive. They kept me alive.
“I’m an addict to revenge.” I replied, calmly, “And I want answers now, why is SeeD involved in this?”
“I-“ was the only thing she could tell. The windows of the office were smashed, and steel shrukiens flew right at us. I managed to jump sideways. And that was when I saw, that they were aimed at Xu.
Her blood was on my hands. I looked at her. She looked so much like Quistis. Competent and perfectionist. But she was so much like her again- she was dead. I had failed to get any information, again!
I was sick. Sick of this merry-go-round of questions with no answers. I was caged in this place, bars of questions around me. Who had killed Leia, Selphie, Xu? Why did Chad Surinel want me dead so badly? The knive-
The knives. I remembered the knives were the connection. The connection between murders- the gunblade wound on the throat. This was business of Surinel’s. I surely would give them a lesson or two about slashes and gashes.
I managed to pull myself together and get out of the window, pulling myself to the cold earth from the depths of the warm soil. I looked around as wind whipped my hair and clothes, I was in the fire exit. No fire was in the building, but I damn was sure there soon would be.
A bomb exploded in the office.
The impact threw me off the staircase, and I almost fell down. I managed to jump to the staircase of the building that was right across from the office. Hanging to the metal staircase as it had some meaning for me to stay alive anymore, I tried to get up.
Then, another bomb exploded, right in the building I was holding on to. I let go.
It was so peaceful to fall, knowing death would be waiting for me. It would be like seeing an old friend. I knew I still had a few spare moves and bullets labelled as “questions” and “revenge”, but I didn’t care. I was ready to die.
Then why was I holding on? When I was in the nightmare once again, and in for the ride? Was I too desperate to find the answers that I wanted to stay alive and figure out why? Knowing I was still one step away from the darkness and the grave.
But how can one step be enough, and where does the error ratio start and end?
It had to end now.
“Float!” I managed to land on my feet. Another explosion just came from the set of trashcans behind me. As the firy inferno came at me, I saw the smiles...
The smiles that were reminding me of the things I had in me: anger and hunger for revenge. I was an addict to revenge. I didn’t have much will in me to go on...
Would Leia and Selphie be left as unavenged?
I started to run. Laughters exploded in my head as explosions followed me, coming at me from all angles. I tried to keep my balance, but it was slowly distrupted. One by one, my steps stumbled, and I managed to fall down. I got back up, because the two buildings were crashing into each other like me crashing to darkness.
I lifted up my arms above my head to shield myself- instinctally. And even in that moment of actual catastrophe, my mind fixated on one thing;
They had kept me from knowing again.
This didn’t seem like the random act of a mad bomber. This was planned, to the little detail of me jumping to the other building’s fire exit to escape. It was like the exclamation mark to everything that had happened; corpses in the fire. The fire was burning me hotter than molten metal.
I looked around. C.O.N.C.E.A.L. was closing in to the “bomb site”. I had to get out of there. I ran to the car and managed to get inside. Turning the engines on, my mind started to make up a plan to get the information I wanted to get. It would be risky.
But risk made it fun.
Maybe I could get some wounds that bled and killed me this time...
...If I got lucky enough.
Part Six: Urban Discipline
I had caused so much trouble to old chap Chad Surinel, that he wanted me dead. And I knew, according to my well-learned urban discipline rules, he wouldn’t pass on a chance seeing me begging for my life.
I had gotten his phone number from JJE since this all began. I went over to a phone booth near Doller Pub and dialed his number.
It rang for seven times before I got an answer.
“Chad Surinel here.” He replied.
“I wanna cut a deal.” I said.
“Squall Leonhart... You’re a dead man!”
“That’s what I heard too many times... From myself.”
“So you wanna cut a deal? Why should I-“
“I know enough to pull your slipknot, Surinel.” I said, “Either name the time and place, or this Red Dragon flies away.”
“You know my Restaurant in Timber?”
“The Spicy Dish?”
“That’s it. Be there in an hour. Hurry up, the time’s ticking... Tick-tock-tick-tock.”
“Time’s ticking for you.” I replied and I hung up. I had sixty minutes to reach Timber. That was long enough.
I couldn’tve made sure there was no trap- there would always be one. Urban discipline required traps. And I surely was headed to one. But I was well-trained in the matters of revenge and encounters, I would surely make it out of there alive enough to cut Chad’s throat myself- not to let the vultures feed on the carcass.
I got to the car of Canite and sped away to Timber. One hour was barely enough to find the restaurant he had. But somehow, the wind was speeding me up. The cold gave me an advantage- I was the hunter in this frozen hell. I had mastered the skills to survive.
Any help Chad might’ve had would be too little, too late. I was no expert in making up plans- but this one would work. I could sense it. The cold winds of war were at my side like dogs of war, barking to help their trainer.
It had been almost an hour when I reached the restaurant. I had to get down to business fastly. I smiled to myself, Jack Bret would say the same. And Rinoa would-
No. She’s dead. She was dead for seven years. She would be dead for another seven centuries. There was no way I could bring her back. But as I stood in the cold hart of Diablos, alone with only myself and nothing to lose, I just thought how much I had missed her.
I came across the door of The Spicy Dish.
It was “posh” as hell- high class hookers and pimps would throw parties here, recklessly taking drugs and high amounts of alcohol. There had been a few shootings, all hushed up by S.E.C.R.E.C.Y. My guess was that, the secret services were into all of the crimes that went “unnoticed” through underneath their noses, and they were actually helping them be committed.
But no evidence was at present. No evidence, no case, no victim, no convict. The only convict who had gotten executed without trial was me.
I stepped in from the door, the warm air greeting me like Rinoa in our bed... It was embracing me, giving me back some of the things I once had- the feelings I had inside myself. The feelings that held back the pain.
There were thugs and guards everywhere, not even attempting to hide their weapons- two gunblades, four swords, six Exeters, and three nunchakus. I felt my ego rising from it’s grave. So, Chad Surinel had sent all these people, just to meet with a single-handed me...
...Who was there to pull their slipknots single-handedly.
Someone went to the back to inform the boss of my arrival. Chad Surinel made his appereance, h,e was wearing a black suit, a black shirt, and a red tie to match. It came to me as a blow- the same exact suit I wore to Rinoa’s funeral.
“So, Mr. Leonhart.” Chad said, “What’s the conditions on that deal?”
“Easy. You give me answers and I spare your life.”
“The questions, please?”
“One, who are you working for?”
“Now, this, I truly can’t tell.”
“Who was Evan working for?”
“Look, Chad.” I said, coolly, “Heads will roll, but less heads will roll if you give me a name.”
“And that’s all you can give me?”
“And, of course... This...” he threw something at me. I catched the flying shiny thing while it was still flying at me. I observed it.
And my life crushed down on me once again...
Because, what I was holding was the Griever ring to the necklace... Rinoa’s necklace. It wasn’t a duplicate, I could tell from the familiar touch of the metal.
“You...” I said, looking up to him.
“Oh yeah.” He replied, “A memory of old, isn’t it? Gives joy to me.”
“You BASTARD!!!” I raised LionHeart.
“You won’t make it out of this building alive.” He told me, “Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?” he added, and then, calm as hell, he disappeared.
I looked around. I was outnumbered. All these thugs with weapons and me alone with a gunblade and hunter knife. The knife could be thrown, but that was all. I didn’t have to do anything.
A bomb exploded, and ignited the remains of a table and seats. Another bomb followed it, and some other fifteen or five million bombs. They all exploded as a mocking laughter in my head as I saw the unentertained skulls of the dead inside the flames. The thugs were burning now, and the hell fire was closing down on me. I had no time to extinguish the flames. I had to show to my ghosts that- even if I had lots of chances to give up and even wanted to, I was going on.
I turned around to run. Another bomb exploded right in front of me, knocking me back. I was trapped, caved in. I was wrong. I had just acted like Ultimecia, ready to unleash hell on us. I had underestimated my enemy.
I ran through the flames to a window. I shielded my arms to my face and jumped out of the window as the inferno closed behind me. I fell face-flat in the comforting coldness of the snow. I could see Chad Surinel driving away in satsifaction.
He couldn’t get away.
No one could get away from the angel of death.
Part Seven: Revenge #7
I approached to the Surinel manor like a ghost under the heavy snow. The whiteness of the day made my vision grow less and less clear every passing second.
I had found his hideout. It probably was guarded like a fortress. Chad Surinel was confident, probably thinking about what he should treat himself over with, now that he had killed me.
But he was deceived by the same darkness that had deceived me.
We had both been betrayed and deceived, and somewhere, we shared this one grim connection- death was a friend to us, and even betrayal. It wouldn’t be long before I reached him.
The trick in my current situation was that there were no tricks up my sleeve. No sewer passage map, no road map, no secret entrance. It would be fast, and brutal. I got out of the car, somewhere near the manor, which was located in the outskirts of Timber.
I looked at the manor as wind whipped my trenchcoat. It was getting late. The darkness was covering me up like a sweet lover. I looked at the dark, gloomy manor as a lightning lit up the night, turning the scene into a horror movie. But there would be no survivors this time.
The manor stood there like the fortress of Diablos itself. A fortress to get trespassed. A fortress to ruin. Chad Surinel’s hideout, the core of the enemy, my enemy’s domain.
It had many names, but to me, it was the bottom line of River Styx. River Styx was going around Necropolis, the land of the dead, seven times as it was told to us in scriptures. I had seven dead people’s blood on my hands to take the revenge of: Rinoa Heartilly, Leia Seldorven, Quistis Trepe, Zell Dincht, Irvine Kinneas, Selphie Tilmitt... And myself.
It was ironic, gothically ironic how it turned out: 7 people, the river of the dead that went around the land of the dead 7 times, 7 deadly sins, 7 deadly pleasures, 7th house on Timber, 7 rounds of this deadly roulette and I was still standing.
And now, it was time for Revenge #7.
As I approached to the back door which was left open, somehow, I concentrated on the irony. My feet led their own steps through the garden, and as I passed from shadow to shadow like one of their own, nobody noticed me. I made no sound- I was thin as death itself. Death for me, death for them.
I got to the front door of the manor, still unnoticed. Whether it was dumb luck or sheer fate, I was still alive, and hadn’t fought any battles yet. I thought, of all the things that were onto me, Diablos was smiling at me. He was making my way easier in exchange of one thing I had already lost- my soul.
As I crawled in from the window, I knew then, I had lost my soul. Bits of it had been bitten off by these crime lords in this never-ending retaliation. Nothing was left.
The hall was crawling with thugs, all waiting with swords. Irony again, it made me sick this time. So they wanted me to die with the most honourable weapon ever?
“Lead me to Chad, and save your lives.” I warned.
“Ha, heard that!?” one of them asked, “He wants us to lead him to the boss! Ha-ggkkh!” he had to choke, cause his throat had just been slit with the knife. Crouching down like a ghost, I looked at them, the blood dripping down on the cutting edge of the knife. I had LionHeart too- but the knife gave me more satisfaction. LionHeart had done it’s actual job three years ago. But the knife still had a destiny to fullfill.
“Are you going to let me or not?” I asked. They attacked in return. I used both the knife and the gunblade to avoid their attacks, and kill them. Everytime I killed one, everytime one went down, I felt a certain amount of satisfaction in my soul. I slayed almost twenty thugs there without blinking. Their blood was staining my hands, as a menacing smile rest on my face. I knew that I was slowly losing my mind.
As I crawled up the stairs to reach to the rooms of the manor, I knew it. I was going insane, mentally ill, deranged, you name it. I had started to take pleasure from pain, pain from pleasure. Both the same. I enjoyed killing these people. They were mere targets standing between me and my revenge.
And there was another one, as I opened the door and went inside a bedroom. The thug lunged at me like a wild Mersmerize- I just held out LionHeart and it went right through between his ribs. The knife entered his chest, and they both got out at the same time. I looked at the bed.
A woman was lying there, maybe one of Chad’s victims, maybe not. She was clearly dead, her throat was slit. I covered her up with the bed sheets, only stopping to say a single, short prayer to her soul.
Just seeing her lying like that... It reminded me of another woman in another bed... It reminded me of a plate of barely eaten-pasta and a diary entry; “Should’ve told Squall.”
I looked up to see a door. Maybe he would be in there, maybe not. Even if he wasn’t there, maybe I could still find an object to kill. I opened up the door. But there was no one inside, it was a bathroom. The bathtub clean, the walls cleaned and all... It was my ideal bathroom.
I turned around and went back to the house like a worm going through the tunnels of soil, colliding with dead bodies. I felt an excitement running through my veins- a sadistical expectation of pleasure. A hedonistic desire- to enjoy revenge as much as I can. I finally found a study room of some sort, at least it seemed so. The door was more like an office door, someone talking to someone else on the phone.
“Yes, he’s here!” came Chad’s voice, “Hang in there!? He’ll kill me! Give me back up, now, bitch! I mean it! He will come for me, I know! I know! Yeah... Fair enough... But I need it now not tomorrow! Or this night, now, this moment, you get it!? WHAT!? IT DOESN’T SUIT YOUR PLA- Hello?”
I kicked the door open, and went inside, the knife flashing in my hand. I looked at the man who had crumbled up like a really dirty, untidy desk. He knew what I was there to take.
Revenge #7, as I said. It was my revenge.
The one I was trying to get.
The one I just couldn’t get.
Part Eight: Some Sort Of Magna Carta
“Please...” he begged me, “Please, I was just doing what I was told, couldn’t refuse... She has my children-“
“Like I give a damn. You didn’t care for my children.”
“You didn’t have any-“
“I might’ve had one.”
I enjoyed his expression of fear. After all, there had to be some kind of pleasure in it- for it was revenge. I kept telling myself the same thing like a cliché, or a rhyme that got stuck in your head: revenge, revenge, revenge. I was living to learn as well. I was in for the information and the kill.
“So, Chad, who is this Aya Boko?”
“She? She’s just a... Someone high up. S.E.C.R.E.C.Y. maybe, I don’t really know-“
“S.E.C.R.E.C.Y. deals with mobsters?” he was trying to buy more sand for his hourglass, I was no salesman. His sand had run out, I just let him think he could survive.
“No, of course no- NO! PLEASE!!!” the door had just been kicked open and people had slid in from the windows. SeeD to the fullest.
Why were they here? Was SeeD, was everything I once was had been bounded by some sort of Magna Carta, to prevent me from knowing!? I was sick of it. There had to be a reason why they were sacrificing and risking so much to keep me from knowing one simple thing.
There was a really tense moment when they looked at me, and I, back to them.
It was tense because we all knew it was no game. It was real. Bounded together by some sort of Magna Carta, we had sworn that it would be either me or them. I stared at their eyes, and the knife was slowly sliding into place in my right palm. I was ready to make them fall. Make them crawl.
“I wanna know why SeeD is everywhere.” I suddenly said.
“We’re doing just what we’ve been ordered to do so, murderer.”
“Let’s say you are. Who does your orders come from?”
“Sabrine Mematile, New Balamb Garden Headmistress.”
So the New Balamb Garden Headmistress was after me.
As the snow turned into rain and we stood there, alone but ourselves lost in our battle, I looked outside the window. The rain was falling down fast, like inside my heart. I was now inside the core of everything I once had, being self-destructed, killed by it. As my heart slowly and weakly pounded against my temples, I walked over to the only window that was in one piece. The SeeDs just stared at me.
“So this is a... vendetta.” I said.
“What?” the one that had spoken to me earlier asked.
“A vendetta!” I said, as I returned to them. I was feeling the madness boil down in my blood like a living fire. I was feeling pain. Feeling my heat rise, I knew I had caught a cold.
My trenchcoat swirled in the air like my second skin, and I knew, I was in for life or death this time. I charged at them, screaming something. My own scream ripped my eardrums open, I couldn’t hear or see anymore. Just when I was about to dig the knife into the chest of the one that had spoken to me, a gattling gun fire dug the air and the concrete- and I had to shield my face with my arms to avoid the glass shards. The ground was shaking underneath me.
It was as if soil called out to me.
I fell, crashing on my arm. Bullets flew every which way, but I had only managed to notice, that they weren’t the usual size bullets. They were so huge that only one thing could shoot such bullets-
I got to my feet as the manor shook, it was falling apart on me. Crumbling down on me like the physical expression of what I had become- a wreck. I started to run to the staircase, and from there, maybe I could reach to safety. Bullets follwed me, creating minor blasts everywhere. I wouldn’t give up...
Because if SeeD risked taking out Ragnarok to such mission, then SeeD did have something in their hands. I heard Ragnarok charging the main cannon. It was a deadly shot- and I only had one shot. If I failed, then all would be in vain. I jumped forward, and heard the cannon unload that one huge ray of energy on this concrete manor. The hall blasted behind me.
The fires of hell reached out to me with their molten fingers, melting me down. The pressure threw me off my feet, and I came flying in the air with the flames following me like the dark swarms of my own life. I fell on my face, at the bottom of the stairs, as more flames came on me to join the cattle. I got back on my feet and started to run to the door, feeling the heat on my neck.
I saw the door right in front of me. The ground shook again, and I had to put my left foot forward and lean on my right foot to keep balance, but failed eventually. I saw the flames blast a door open, throwing it straight at me. I ducked down the best I could. The door in flames flew past me, and blasted the front door right open.
I got back at my feet, and started to run to the exit... The ultimate exit, the gates of hell stood open waiting for me. My lips curled up in a smile- Diablos was way too generous for me.
I got out of the door to the cold arms of the night, biting my skin off my bones, as the heat inside me rose enough to give me physical pain. It must’ve been 40 degrees or something, because my conscience wouldn’t last long.
I had started to run when a huge blast took the mansion, and the pressure of the blast threw me over the fences of the manor, face-down in the snow. The coldness of the snow was like putting a normal man in deep-freeze, the cold and the heat gave me phsyical pain beyond imagining, because it was inside me.
Something choked my throat. I bent down, and caughed up blood. Getting back up to my feet, I started to take steps, all of them digging deep holes like graves in the snow which was turning into mud under the rain. Each step required more and more energy than the previous one.
The flames inside were consuming me. I could barely feel the knife slipping back into my pocket and LionHeart’s handle was a frozen lump inside the grip of my fingers.
I had left SeeD, what I still was, somewhere deep inside in the flames.
And as I tried to slip away into the arms of darkness, that was all I could think of;
To die. To sleep.
Part Nine: Rhetorical Questions
I was slipping away into the cool, biting, painful arms of darkness, as I barely could register anything.
I saw the faces of the people who were looking at me, but they came blurred to me. The smiling skulls of my ghosts were upon my face- mocking my blindness.
Why hadn’t I thought of going to investigate the SeeD connection in it? Why had I stayed here, killing people like Evan Agiore, Rico Selune and Chad Surinel? Why had I not seen Selphie’s death, Leia’s death? Why couldn’t I think about SeeD might’ve had the actual answers for me? Was someone controlling my every step? Feeling the paranoia in me again, I thought, if this much I believe is a lie, how much more of it could be a lie!?
The questions were screaming inside my head, but they found no answers. Swimming in a sea of rhetorical questions, I felt my legs shake, the ground slipping away from me...
And the only thing I could think before collapsing on the ground, unconscious was...
Was this a retaliation?
Chapter Three: Mata Léao