Chapter 10: Labyrinthine Mysteries
Every morning as I wake to another day,
I bow my head, hit my knees, I begin to pray...
I search for answers that I wonder if I’ll ever find,
Running circles in the mazes deep inside my mind...
-12 Stones: Soulfire
“Squall!” Rinoa shrieked, looking at him.
“Good afternoon.” Squall said.
“Great Hyne, Squall!” Rinoa exclaimed, “What happened to you!? I’m only seeing fear and hopelessness in your eyes! What happened to you?”
“I don’t know, Rinoa.” Squall said, “I don’t know anything anymore.”
Sitting down beside her as Rinoa sat up, Squall stared at the Infirmary’s ground.
“I have never...” Squall said, “Spent much time with Sis, you know.” He said, “And I...” Squall started to sob as the memories flooded him again. Squall sobbed again, and buried his face in his palms as he began to cry. Rinoa leant over to him, and wrapped her arms around him.
“Shh, Squall, it’s gonna be okay.” Rinoa said, trying to comfort him, “It’s going to be alright.”
She stayed with him, shared his pain. Squall was pouring it all out. Everything he had inside. Love, hate, pain, blood, wounds, the search for answers, healing, power, weakness.
“Squall, it’s gonna be okay.” Rinoa said, “Embrace the new day, instead of mourning for the previous one. Squall, this is our world. We chose to stay in it. You chose to stay as a SeeD. You know that you would be running around, assasssinating people from time to time.”
“But not the ones I-“
“Could you have known? Did that possibility ever cross your mind?”
“Nobody can make a difference for me. It’s too late.”
“Don’t be like that, there’s always hope.”
“Nobody can.” Squall repeated, “All the death and madness I have unleashed, all of them for orders? For commands? For contracts, money dealings? I ended lives... Whether they had a future or not... And for what? To prove the world that I wasn’t a stupid show-off, but a man of his job?”
“What kind of a joke is that!?”
“Joke?” Rinoa asked,
“A joke. A sick joke that has been played on me. Something big is going to happen, I can feel it. I was reading the reports early in the morning- strangely, GF’s of ours refuse to act when we summon them. No, actually, they don’t even seem to be in us.”
“When you junction a GF, if you search for it, you can feel it’s presence. I can’t feel it.”
They sat in silence as Squall stared outside of the window.
Yes, he thought, I still need to learn. Why has Caraway killed all those people? Martial assassins... Firstly, I need to find out the origin of these martial assassins. And I must learn what they are after, and what they were before.
Will I find answers?
As he stood up, Rinoa asked, “Squall, where to?”
“The Library.” Squall replied.
“I’m coming with you!” Rinoa said.
“Squall, first of all, I go wherever I want, I don’t need permission-“
“-As long as that’s not the lap of another guy-“
“And secondly, I have figured out that, the only way I can make it out of these assassination attempts is to stick to my knight.”
“Knight?” Squall asked.
“I’m a sorceress, and you are my knight, remember?”
“Whatever.” Squall replied.
In silence, they walked to the library. On their way, Squall didn’t notice anyone, because he was more busy with the things that were messing with his mind. Rinoa noticed the unfriendly looks and the bending-over-the-ear type of conversations, all about them, without a doubt.
Tough luck, Rinoa thought, I’m back. We are back together, and we’re happy, if that’s what you didn’t want, I’m sorry but this is what we want.
Hi! My name is Rinoa Heartilly. I am not a really good fellow of yours, but I surely am not a sinner. I never asked for much so far, and you know it. So can I ask for a little piece of peacefulness?
They walked inside the Library, and Squall approached to the girl at the reception desk of the Library.
“Commander Leonhart.” She said, saluting him and giving Rinoa a disapproving look.
“Amy, I believe, was your name?” Squall asked.
“Amy Lecre, sir!” she said, almost happy for Squall remembering her name.
“You are Zell’s girlfriend, right?” Squall shot another question.
“I am looking for the books labelled as ‘The Sorceress War’.”
“The seventh bookshelf, and an entire set too I must add, on the left, sir.”
Squall walked in the middle of the bookshelves, as they looked around for the seventh bookshelf. As they came to it, a familiar voice came to Squall’s ears.
“Well well, came to do some research, Squall?” Quistis asked.
“None of your business.” Squall replied, as he started to search for something that might be similar to ‘Elite Martial Assassins Used By Galbadia and Esthar.
“I guessed so.”
“What is this, a meeting?” Rinoa asked.
“Not really.” Squall replied, as he continued to search as his eyes got stuck on a book labelled as Concealed Operations Nerve Center of Estharian Assembly of Legality: C.O.N.C.E.A.L. And The Secrets Hidden Behind It.
Squall shook his head. There were books around that only a whacko author of conspiracies or fanfictions would read to get some inspiration. He then got stuck to yet another book.
“The Checkmate”? Secrets Behind The Sorceress Assassinations.
That can make some sense.
Squall took the book out from the shelf, and turned the pages to find Contents.
As he searched through the contents to get a clue by the name of the chapter that has been dedicated to the martial assassins used by both of the governments during The Sorceress War, he came across a chapter, labelled as: Black SeeD.
“Black SeeD?” Squall asked aloud.
“What?” Rinoa asked, “What did you say?”
“The chapter is labelled as ‘Black SeeD’.” Squall replied.
Suddenly, a SeeD cadet nearby pulled on a black mask and ripped his clothes open. Immidiately, shrukiens whistled in the air, and flew directly at Squall.
“Squall, look out!!!” Rinoa said, and tossed him aside, using sorcery. Squall flew in the air and crashed at a bookshelf, knocking it down, and a heavy book fell on his head, knocking him unconscious.
Quistis rose up, her chain whip in hand, “What the hell do you think you’re doing!?” she asked, as three more dark-clothed assassins joined in. One of them comforted Quistis with an adamantine battle rod in hand. Quistis swung her chain whip, attempting to behead her(judging by the tight-fitting latex clothes). She swung the battle rod upwards, and as the chain whip gripped the rod, the other side swung from downwards, hitting Quistis squarely on the chin, sending her off her feet.
As Quistis fell down, her opponent rose up in the air, while rising the battle rod above her head. Quistis leaned sideways as the rod cracked the table’s corner, and a crack traveled through the entire table. Quistis swung her feet to trip her, and for a moment, believed she did- but her opponent had made a back-flip, using the rod as a supporting stick. Rising up in the air, she landed another hit on Quistis’ head, Quistis acted like she was unconscious, and managed to- her opponent had walked away.
A few SeeDs joined in the cattle, but the martial assassins weren’t giving them much chance. Every SeeD that had joined in was either bleeding somewhere, or unconscious.
More shrukiens whistled in the air, as Squall gathered back his conscience. Feeling a wound above his head, he saw the dark-clothed figures throw shrukiens as if they were raindrops at Rinoa.
“Great Hyne in heaven!? Traitors in our own domain!?” Squall asked, as he lunged at the assassins.
One of the shrukiens flew past Squall, but the sudden panic of the unknown knocked him off his feet, as Squall flew and crashed on a table. He felt like he had just been petrified. Praying Hyne for release, he looked at the scene in front of him;
Shrukiens were flying at Rinoa, and they were being put out of business by some sort of invisible shield. Rinoa sprout her dark grey wings, (Dark grey!? Great Hyne, dark grey... Hyne, please, thought Squall) and rose into the air, she said
“Crawl on the ground, you humans!”
“We will not be bowing before your feeble will!” one of them mocked her.
“My feeble will? Witness the power of what’s ‘feeble’!” Rinoa replied, and she pointed at the assassin who had said that sentence. A whirlwind of fire and lightnings covered the assassin up, and Rinoa spread her arms out. A huge radius of fire and lightning came out of her hands, lighting up the Library. As the energy spread out, the assassins began screaming. Rinoa didn’t show any mercy. When the screams were no more, she turned around herself to see the cadets who were still around.
Rinoa raised her hands, and flames coming from the core of the earth came out of the ground, unleashing an inferno within the library. A white-hot tornado sweeped Quistis apart from the others that were running for their lives. Rinoa pointed at a bookshelf, behind which a cadet had hidden. A chain of flames emerged from her hand, and ignited the whole bookshelf at once, while the impact made it collapse. The cadet barely saved himself.
A SeeD came rushing at her, and Rinoa pointed at him. Flames got out of her hand like sand and touched the ground. And, just like a Fastitocalion F making it’s way through the sand, the flames traveled to the SeeD and lit him up. Squall concentrated and said “Water!” to extinguish the SeeD.
“Rinoa! Just get a grip, goddammit!” Squall said, getting ready for a magic duel, which he was convinced that he was bound to lose.
“Shut up, mortal!” came the reply as a coloumn of flames hit Squall on the chest, sending him back against a bookshelf, and he knocked the shelf down, books flew everyway. Squall looked around and heard Quistis, trying to call on Shiva, who refused to act.
“Help me!” Quistis screamed, as Rinoa cackled.
“Goddammit!” Squall cursed, “Blizzaga!” and a huge ice wave covered everything up, and froze the flames down.
Great Hyne, Squall thought in madness, what should I do? Kiss her? Kiss her!? How did this idea-
Refusing to think about it, Squall lunged at Rinoa, and managed to get past her defenses. Locking his arms around her and pressing his lips almost violently against hers, Squall felt the wings disappear. As they landed on the ground, and Squall barely managed to keep his balance.
“Rinoa!” Squall said, almost relieved at the sight of her eyes.
“What is it, did you find somethin els- Great Hyne, what?” Rinoa’s voice was back. She looked around to the burnt down (and now frozen) bookshelves, the carpets, the tables and chairs, even the flames. Rinoa managed to ask, “What the hell happened here?”
“Rinoa, are you okay?” Squall asked, as he walked up to her, and Rinoa’s wings disappeared from view.
“Yeah, sure. I’m just... Confused.”
“What do you remember last?”
“I remember you saying ‘Black SeeD’, I remember the black-clothed assassins, and then...” she stopped, “Gee, I’m drawing a complete blank there.”
“This is not easy to deal with. Rinoa, it’s only a matter of time before you get banished out of Balamb Garden. Cause you actually assaulted cadets.”
“What? I don’t think I want those pretty little cadets dead-“
“Let’s get out of here, now!” Squall put the emphasis on ‘now’ and he dragged Rinoa out of the library. They ran all the way to Squall’s dorm room, and he shut the door, and locked it.
Hyne, Rinoa thought, what the hell happened? Something must’ve happened between those two things... Something terrible, or intense, cause I’ve never seen Squall lock his door, even when we were together.
“Okay.” Squall ran his hand through his hair, messing it up.
“Okay what!? Squall, what the hell happened?” Rinoa demanded.
“You sure, that you don’t remember?”
“Yes. Absolutely sure.”
Yeah, I am sure, Rinoa thought, I mean, it’s kinda wierd, to just jump from a moment to the next minute without living the 60 seconds between them, without knowing what happened. But somehow, this wasn’t the first time something like that happened... I have lived through big blank periods like this before too. I thought I was blacking out... Especially that one moment, when I was in the resistance meeting, and the next, I’m at Tear’s Point.
“Squall?” Rinoa asked.
“I don’t know either.” Squall replied, “I don’t know anything anymore.”
The silence between them. They stared into each other’s eyes, but none said a word. They both were wondering what was going on.
The rest of the day, they didn’t get out of Squall’s dorm room. Rinoa was grateful for the room being spacey. She found enough area to walk up and down as Squall went over to the bathroom to gulp down his long-forgotten anti-depressants out of pure habit. Rinoa asked;
“What are those?”
“You on drugs!?”
“No. Anti-depressant pills. The ones I told you about on Rangarok.”
“My love... What happened to your life?” Rinoa asked, gently fondling on Squall’s cheek.
“I’m having this disgusting deja-vu. About our previous quests. And how you jumped into space.”
Rinoa looked into Squall’s tired, dark eyes, and thought that he looked like a man too old to face the obstacles in front of them.
As evening fell, they were desperately trying to break the silence. The awkward silence was broken by questions, asked by one, answered with a simple answer by the other, and the diologue ended there.
When night came, they decided to go to bed. Squall’s huge bed- a special request made by Rinoa- looked almost too comfortable.
The night progressed, and the darkness covered up the room.
Squall’s suite door opened up, letting a thin figure in a silk, white negligee inside. The footsteps of her bare feet on the marble floor couldn’t be heard as the figure continued to approach Squall’s bed.
Squall was asleep, his eyes closed, his frown gone, his face fixated on an expression of uneasiness. The curtains were left open, and the moonlight flashed on the knife the figure was holding.
The figure approached his bed. The knife rose up in the air, the moonlight dancing on the blade. The knife went down, and Squall woke up, rolling immidiately to the side of the large bed, avoiding the knife. He fell off the bed, just in his boxer shorts. The figure on the other side of the bed lunged at Squall through the bed, while waving the knife.
Predatorial instincts took control of Squall. He also lunged at his enemy, and his punch knocked the knife off her hand, his other hand landing a punch on her stomach. As she lost her breath, Squall leaned sideways and grabbed the knife. As the figure rose up and gave Squall’s face a good scratch, Squall smashed his elbow on her face, and then grabbed her by the throat.
Raising the knife, a growl, a battle cry came out of Squall’s mouth, his face was an expression of pure ‘battle fever’.
“Squall!? Let me go!” Rinoa said, as her hands gripped Squall’s wrist.
“Rinoa!?” Squall managed to ask, pushing his instincts to kill aside.
“What am I doing here? Why are you- Great Hyne!” she gasped in shock, at the sight of the knife in Squall’s hand.
Squall let go of her throat, and sank back into the bed, breathing heavily. Rinoa stared at him with a blank expression on her face, total confusion and shock.
“What the?” Rinoa managed to get out.
“You sure you don’t remember anything?” Squall asked again.
“Squall, how many times do we have to go over this?”
“I’m just making myself a hundred percent sure.”
Squall just stared at her.
“I don’t know, Rinoa.” Squall replied, “I don’t know. But I think I recognize this ‘big blank periods’ from somewhere.”
“I don’t know that either.”
“Gee, I’m the girlfriend of an idiot!” Rinoa said in a forced sarcasm. Squall knew she was trying to get rid of the awful silence that was about to fall down between them.
“Whatever.” Squall replied.
Great Hyne, this is madness!, Squall thought, this is lucid chaos! Hyne, what’s going on? I want to know. Is the truth denied to me? Can you hear me?
Hyne... Please, I know you can hear my prayers. I want to know. I want to know the truth, I prefer the truth to wondering ‘why’.
As Rinoa sank back into pillows and fell asleep, Squall laid awake, staring at the darkness, and wondering what was going on. He looked around. He looked at his own body, his self-mutilation scars. He stared at everywhere.
Great Hyne in heaven... Rinoa, attacked me. Does that mean that, whatever’s behind this has me in the targeting board? Me as the “bullseye”? But why me? I don’t know. Why did this all happen to me? I must...
Squall decided to try to sleep again, when a thought flashed in his head. He immidiately got up and lit up the little desk lamp on his study desk. Taking a pen and paper, he scribbled
Ask Cid about the clientelle of Ellone’s assassin. Suspicion:Caraway again. Check the Library again. If nothing is there, go to Caraway, to Galbadia Archives.
Relieved, he closed his eyes into a hungry nightmare, ready to slit his mind open and eat what’s inside.
The morning came, and it was unpeaceful at the least for Squall. The nightmares of his weren’t backing down by anti-depressant pills. Strangely enough, he remembered not having these nightmares when Rinoa wasn’t there.
A knock on the door drifted him out of his feelings. Squall pulled his trenchcoat on his other set of clothes, and remembered his objective again. He got his gunblade, just in case. He opened up the door to find Quistis.
“Squall, good morning.” She said.
“Hello, Quistis.” Squall said.
“Listen- can I talk to you for a second?”
Quistis dragged Squall out of the room and shut the door.
“If you’re going to ask if Rinoa remembers anything or not, she doesn’t.”
Quistis bit her lip, “Yes, this was what I was going to ask. The thing is, the rest of the orphanage gang are all busy with missions, but I’m the only one having the week off, just to help you. But we feel a little bit left out.”
“Left out?” Squall asked, “Great. Now you’re telling me you were ‘left out’.”
“Squall, it’s not like that. You see, I-“
“No. Stop. I don’t wanna hear it.” Squall said, “Okay? Yes, you were left out, you know why? Somehow, I’m at the center of it. And another somehow is that, I didn’t drag you into it this time. And yet another somehow; I think I have to face this burden all by myself.”
“We have all been so briefly involved, Squall.”
“Be grateful to Hyne for that.” Squall exclaimed.
“No.” Quistis said, “Eventhough Selphie, Zell and Irvine are gone, I have a right to know, what’s going to happen? Will she get out of control again?”
“I don’t know, Quistis, okay!?” Squall snapped, “Leave me alone! You, of all people, should’ve known- I must deal with this alone! Like I did when Rinoa left, like I did-“
“When Rinoa left!?” Quistis shouted, “I’ll tell you what happened- I wasn’t ever noticed there! I tried to help you! I comforted you, saved you twice! What else do I need to do to show you that I love you!?”
“I thought you were involved with Nida-“
“My love towards you is so deep and full that there is no room for a second person, even as a brief moment!” Quistis said.
Squall stood there in shock. He looked at her with empty eyes as she ran away, tears in her eyes.
First them, now you!, Squall thought, It isn’t my fault!!!
Remembering his objective, Squall went to the elevator. On the halls, he saw cadets playing Triple Tirad, Quistis crying at a corner, and the rest of Balamb Garden, stirring back alive. He got on the elevator and pressed “3F”. As the elevator shook and moved, Squall faced the tube and started thinking.
Quistis... I know I haven’t been there for you the way you want to... But the same thing goes for me on Rinoa’s behalf. There is no room for another one. There isn’t enough love for another one.
The elevator stopped. The doors slid open.
Squall stared at the double doors waiting for him. He walked slowly. Everything seemed to be happening in slow-motion. The paranoid feeling of suspiciouns ate Squall up inside out. Squall slowly opened up the doors and walked inside.
“Squall?” Cid exclaimed, looking up from a stack of papers to Squall.
“Headmaster.” Squall said, grinning sinisterly, “I want to know something.”
“Who was the clientelle of the assassin of Ellone Loire?”
A silence fell.
“Squall, I...” Cid said, “Can’t give you that information.”
Squall raised his hand, and pointed at Cid, threateningly.
“I want answers, Cid.” He said, leaving diplomacy aside, “I want answers, and I want them now. Give them, or else.”
Swallowing hard, Cid looked at the man he had percieved as a son. And then, he said;
“Okay, I will tell you.” He gave in. Cid looked around paranoidly. Then, he looked for something in the stack of papers in front of him.
“Caraway.” He said, finally.
“General Caraway was our clientelle.”