Chapter One: The Longest Night
But to figure out what brought this to this point, I had to go back four years... Back to the evening where the mess began.
I was still a SeeD back then. After Ultimecia’s defeat, everyone was treating us like the world heroes. The ultimate goal fulfilled, the sorceress was defeated.
Me in particular, was declared a hero. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear my statue was being built in Shumi Village. I was the Commander of SeeD after all, and I was the one who defeated Ultimecia. I don’t know how, but I was connected with Ultimecia.
People were coming up to me, wanting to have autographs, have a word or two with me, to ask me all sorts of questions. I secretly enjoyed it, I was happy for SeeD, they were finally being recognized.
The most important decision was White SeeD being added to regular SeeD on Balamb Garden. I was still the commander, but White SeeD didn’t want to take me as one. Now that I look back, I saw that White SeeD did have a certain grudge towards me. I don’t know why, but I didn’t care.
Life was good. Headmaster Cid had given me and Rinoa a luxury suite, for our private occasions. Mostly we had to put up with gossips, of Rinoa having an affair with Quistis secretly as I was with Irvine in reality. I didn’t want to listen in, because I was afraid to lose control over such issue. People tend to gossip, and there was no way to stop it. Because they would rather die than change. Anyways, life was good. A luxury suite, I wasn’t so overloaded with missions, Rinoa was walking in her way of becoming a SeeD. Nice payment, leisure time, recreation, and all sorts of things. Parties where alcohol and sex was the cheapest thing.
I hadn’t purposed to Rinoa, but she didn’t want it anyway. We liked the feeling of a bounded independence, and I was not about to let it go in any way.
Our dreams, or my dreams became true.
However, dreams can take a turn for the worst, when you least expect it.
Sun was going down when I was walking towards the suite. The sunset’s colours painted the polished concrete and the water of the fountain into many colours. I hadn’t been the one for sight seeing, because the ugly sights I had seen had blurred up my vision with themselves. The nightmares of old still stayed inside of me, ready to get me at nights.
I opened up the door, and said “I’m home.”, but no answer came. I walked straight in, the place was not a mess, it was tidy as hell, but I didn’t remember Rinoa leaving newspapers down on the floor, getting stained with the plate of sauced pasta she had been eating. The fork laid a little bit away from that.
I didn’t like the way it all started. Something was telling me to run like hell, the other parts were both worried and anxious to see what was going on. As I walked into the living room, I had gotten LionHeart ready.
The phone was the first thing I saw. It was ringing, but the stool wasn’t on the actual piece, it was hanging. “What the hell?” I muttered as I picked it up.
A voice that sounded like it was way higher than the clouds came.
“I knoww itt... She will be miiine... I... Will be rewaaardeed...”
“Who the hell is this?”
Another voice replied “Am I speaking to Squall Leonhart.”
I didn’t know how I knew, but I knew Rinoa’s life expectancy was depending on my phone call ”Let’s say you are.”
“Time is running short, Mr.Leonhart, it’s running short. Soon, there will be none left, and then... Poof!” he hung up on me, leaving me there, wondering what the hell is going on.
I got ready to go upstairs, to where our bathroom, study room and bedroom was. We had never made a room for the non-existant kid, we didn’t need to. Once I climbed up the stairs, the first thing I had spotted was some Galbadian soldier, lying there dead with Rinoa’s Shooting Star on his chest. Rinoa could keep him here, but I didn’t know if there were any other soldiers inside.
“I’M GONNA MAKE YOU PAY!” came a voice from the bedroom.
“NO! STEP BACK! DON’T!”
“Rinoa!” I called out, and ran to the bedroom door. I was there, calling out to her. The masculine voice seemed familiar, but it only brought back my nightmares with a new and extended version.
“Squall! NO! STAY AWAY! NO! NO!”
I put my hand on the doorknob, and turned it.
A bomb exploded inside the bedroom, throwing me with the remains of the door and something totally solid to the wall. I don’t know how I stood against the impact, maybe pure adrenaline, or maybe pure miracle.
Once the dust settled down a bit, I felt the fingers of pain all over me. I saw what that solid object was, it was a high-ranked Galbadian soldier. My guess was that, it was someone I knew. There were some wires dangling from the doorknob, which had melted to it’s core by then.
I walked straight in from the door of our bedroom, which was in shambles. There was no fires, but everything was melted or burnt down. Pieces of the remains carried Rinoa’s dead body in the middle.
I had killed her. The doorknob must’ve been the trigger for the explosive. I couldn’t be sure, but I knew then, that my life had been gone with the bomb.
That was four years ago. One wrong move that had changed everything. It was a checkmate for death on me.
Part Two: Upcoming News
I went to the funeral in the suit Rinoa had bought me. It was totally black, but the tie was blood red. The moment she saw me wearing this was the moment she couldn’t see me at all.
After the funeral, I told our orphanage gang that I would be investigating this. I was no private I, but I was sure damn well in little investigations like that lost pieces of the vase, or Laguna’s past.
The corpses of the soldiers which belonged to Biggs and Wedge, were identified and examined. They had been under no influence of a drug or likewise, but I could’ve sworn that they had been psychodelic. A “reliable source” had told me it could’ve been an external stimulant like a piece of music or something else.
It took me four long years before I could get a break of the situation. Rinoa has been killed by the explosion, which, with no doubt in my soul, that has been triggered by the turning of the doorknob. It didn’t sound right, because it lacked logic. Any mad junkie would do that, but that would either make them stupidly brave, or totally stupid, neither floated.
Anyone who could sneak in from the doors of Balamb Garden must’ve been a good deciever, but the title “Galbadian Soldier” was written all over the two poor bastards.
I had nothing in my hands but the long, sleepless nights and Rinoa’s otopsy. I was keeping myself busy by getting to know the underworld of Galbadia, running around like a headless chicken. I couldn’t see anything but someone who searched for the truth, in the mirror. I had been asking myself the question that if I had killed her, but it didn’t make much difference in my case.
After four long and burdened years, I finally got a steady informant, a dime-dropper as they said in the streets. And he had informed me that the name Brox Sulva could’ve been of some help. I searched it, digging into the underground deeply, only to find out Brox Sulva was a Kyser Soze, just a spook story those lowlife street gangsters told each other around the barrel fire.
Then, when I was about to give up, the same informant gave me another piece of information, Quistis had been doing some research on my behalf. I couldn’t deny the fact that I was disturbed by the news; I had never shown her the love she wanted from me. But she was helping me, and she knew better. We had became friends after our agreement on such issue.
After four years had finally past, the informant called me to tell me I had to meet up with Quistis in Balamb Harbor. I took the opportunity to meet her. I had changed my hair style, I had made it short so she couldn’tve recognized me if she didn’t know me. I had also changed my clothes a bit to a large-sleeved and stiff-collared, trenchcoat like jacket and jeans that gave me freedom of movement. Still had the belts and the boots, and the t-shirt to the necklace. I hadn’t even changed my gunblade, or my name. I used the name Zak Ament in places that giving my name would only get me killed somewhere in a dead end alley.
The upcoming news surely gave me something to hold on to.
I hopped onto a train to reach Quistis. The night was gently falling outside my window, and I knew this would be quite a night, by the feeling inside of me.
When I finally got to Balamb Station, it had only been an hour. It was heavily raining. I haven’t seen rain like this in a thousand years, but like the same, I had forgotten what sun looked like.
The fact that I was here on such short notice had been bothering me. Maybe this had something to do with me being on FH when I got the message, maybe not.
Either way, I had this wierd feeling of something about to happen. I could probably all blame it on my paranoia, the psychological weakness I had picked up after Rinoa’s death. But the feeling kept bothering me, like a splinter in my mind which drove me mad.
But the train had already got past all the way across The Horizon Bridge, leaving everything I had been into for the last four years behind. I had escaped from Balamb Garden, Balamb Town, or anywhere near that place. I made my way to the harbor, noticing only a guard that had had too much Chocobo Wine, he was snoring. The streets were awfully empty, a curious thing for Balamb Town, because it looked as if it was deserted.
I got to the harbor where I spotted a familiar figure. It was Quistis Trepe, standing there in her usual clothes, and with her chain whip. Considering I had my gunblade in my hand, both of us were not very comfortable this night.
I walked up to her, pulling on my “unattainable guy” mask, and playing it cool, without giving it much effort. This could all be a huge scam, and Rinoa could’ve been somwehere else. And I could’ve been Hyne, but neither of the possiblities got even close to the acutal situation.
“Hello Squall.” She said, her eyes fixed on my new appereance. Her voice was unsure, I was surprised by the fact that my new outfit and haircut had got her unsure.
“Hi.” I said dryly and shortly, I didn’t want to linger around in the sea of my memories, pounding against my temple.
“I came here to tell you something I recently found out.”
“The name, Brox Sulva, does belong to someone.”
“No. Brox Sulva is quite alive... And it’s hard to say this but...” she looked around, nervously, as if there was an assassin nearby, “Well, let’s say the name, Jack Bret can lead you. He is the one that has been traficking the thing that had stimulated them.”
“What? It’s actually a drug?”
“It’s named ‘stealth’. Stealth gets mixed in the blood but it duplicates blood cells and cannot be differentiated from the regular blood cells. It was hard to get my hands on this information.”
“I thought this was Brox Sulva’s doing.”
“No, coz if it was Brox Sulva, it must’ve been-“ I noticed the familiar whistling sound too late. The shrukien flew past, grazing my shoulder and burying itself deep into her chest. Quistis fell down.
She was dead. I could tell from her eyes that stared at me, but didn’t see anything, let alone me.
A monster, hardly a Geezard came out of nowhere. I was surprised to find such thing around a sea town. I just slashed the thing into two with my gunblade, and I pulled the trigger, foolishly. The gunshot pierced the night’s silence almost visibly. I ran for it. I ducked down under the rain, and ran to the Balamb Station, hiding my gunblade the best I could. I was hoping to get to Galbadia, perferably Timber before getting noticed. Staying around Balamb would only make me suffer more.
Quistis... I had no idea why that had happened, but I knew Quistis had been through a lot to give me this piece of information.
I didn’t know how I felt. Anger, sadness, doubt, disbelief, curiosity, all mixed up to make a terrible drink for me to gulp down.
But I had a name to lead me, Jack Bret. And I knew Brox Sulva was for real.
But that didn’t calm me down a bit.
Part Three: The Wrong Moves
I had a list of Jack Bret’s places from my informant, NTH, in no time. Once I called the dime-dropper, I got the list. It was basically underground stuff, largely around Timber, and some obvious-looking but all kept under the wraps typa stuff around Deling City.
Either way, it pointed out that this guy must’ve been a major crime lord.
I only knew that Jack Bret or Brox Sulva, I couldn’t tell which, had taken Quistis out before she could tell me anything. I wasn’t sure who made the wrong moves, her, or me, but she was dead and the rest didn’t make any sense anyway.
Jack Bret was a regular crime lord with drug dealings, penthouses, teenager clubs, cults that worshipped Diablos, call-girl lines, porn of all types, any and everything someone could do for money. Most of his drug dealings had something to do with Stealth, and I took the word for it. To have such large source of Gil that would allow him to run a little casino down in Deling Hotel, he must’ve been something major.
I had learned that one of his not-so-sneaky hideouts was around Timber Hotel. There was a little building next to it, it looked newly built, but by the smell of the place, I could tell that the things inside had gone old already.
I knew what I had to do. I had a simple plan: walk in, kill and ask questions later, find Jack Bret, give him enough time to spill the beans about Brox Sulva, and then kill him too before I got back on my track. There was the outdoor TV, which was still functioning, but I didn’t care.
I knocked on the door, and the little plank that they used to peek out opened up, someone asking, ”Who the hell are you?”
I replied as “Zak Ament, Brox sent me.”
I walked in and looked around. It was a sleazy place, lots of tired people who were either drowning in their sorrows or cheap beer, or getting themselves high because of sorrow, or just addiction. I didn’t do many hand moves, and I left my gunblade at the entrance. I knew I couldn’t mess with these guys, coz I was, after all, a world hero. They didn’t know about the little dispersable gunblade I could get back together in a second, hidden in the loose sleeves of my jacket. I didn’t let them strip search me, but they must’ve gotten my bait.
A thug took me upstairs to the room where some guy that looked like a totally sneaky fella sat at a large and expensive table , drinking imported champaigne. Dollet was at the edge of starvation, as I last remember it, but they weren’t in the least bit of my worries at the point.
“Well people, what do you know.” He said, using a little bit of a harsh accent “I never would’ve known someone could get in all the way to here.”
There was something wrong. I had the creepy feeling of me making the wrong moves in this room. There were two thugs at my sides, watching me with expressions that looked like itchy trigger-fingers or itch palms with gunblades or nunchakus in them.
“Don’ worry” I said, imitating Zell when he switched over to his rap lingo, and trying to move like him “I’m-a tell you sumthin important.”
“Really? Shoot, swindler.”
I didn’t like the things were going, but I wasn’t about to go into total shock or fright. I knew better. If I let something slip, these thugs would nail me right there, without even blinking.
“Nah, I can’ tell dat to you.” I said, making a little exaggerated hand move, “It’s fo da boss.”
“The boss ain’ here, dawg.” Said the thug behind me, and I felt a gun barrel to my neck, “But I can tell dat he be droppin a few roses on to yo coffin!”
I wasn’t sure what gave me away, the lingo and my face, or the hand move, but I had definately made the wrong moves. It wasn’t a play act anymore, it was a survival.
Like lightning, I attatched the gun to the blade and pulled my gunblade out, and swinged it. I got one in the chest, and send him back, and caught the rifle which was the same as Irvine’s with one of my hands. As the one with the nunchaku came at me, I kicked him and then sent him back with an upwards slash. It was nothing major, but he had fallen unconscious when he hit the wall. The thug that brought me pulled out a sword. I just ducked down his move and LionHeart nailed him to the wall.
The boss whom I didn’t know the name of, attacked me with a gunblade. I just lifted mine up and aimed at his chest, and pulled the trigger. He was knocked back by the impact, and I didn’t care about the rest. I just looked around. Somebody must’ve heard the voice, but I had been left clueless, except for the little paper that had came at my feet.
Deling Hotel Room #398
Said the little paper. There was nothing else, just the hotel’s name and that was it. I knew by then that my only choice was to go to Deling Hotel. The fact that we were in Timber eased down the tiredness of the trip a little bit, let alone the fact that I was getting tired already.
I knew I couldn’t just walk away. The paid thugs wouldn’t let me. I just had this one clue in my hand, and my little gunblade to the rifle. I dropped the rifle, I wasn’t about to use such thing, unless I had Pulse Ammo. But this guy had seemed like just a regular booze-addict without the generousness to get some Pulse Ammo.
I grabbed my gunblade and peeked outside the window. There was no fire exit, and even if there was, I wouldn’t go nowhere without getting LionHeart. There hadn’t been any sounds coming from downstairs, I was starting to wonder if everyone down there were numb enough from drinking not to hear the gunshot.
And that’s when it happened. Three Galbadian officers walked inside, but their uniforms were coloured in blue with the sign of Galbadia on the chest. D.C.L.E., Deling City Law Enforcement.
“You! You’re under arrest, freeze!” said the one on the front. They got their wrists together, one above the other and connected their little wrist guns. I knew that they were about to shoot first and ask questions later, when I was in no state of even saying a word or making a sound. I would get LionHeart later on, I jumped out of the window, hoping to find a large trash can to break my fall.
I threw my body outside as bullets shattered the glass into pieces. I then noticed that the rain had turned into snow, and the snow level wasn’t high enough to break my fall. But the building was high enough for me to become an on-road pizza. There was a garbage truck, right beneath me.
I landed on the trash, and immidiately got out of there, into the graceful arms of the night. I knew I had to lay low if I wanted to get LionHeart back. But what was there left to gain, I had screwed the whole thing up. I decided to reach out for my spare gunblade, Jushard, hidden somwhere in my so-called office around Timber Maniacs.
I knew the night had just started. As I had read from the newspapers, snow and rain was expected, almost constantly. More gloomy, but it only made it easier to duck down.
I had made the wrong moves...
...And that was all I knew as I slipped away into the darkness of the longest night.
Part Four: Ex-SeeD On The Run
I laid low for a while until I reached my office. The fall had left me kinda sore, but I didn’t care. I was gonna get my gunblade, and that was the only thing I had concentrated on.
Ducking down a couple of patrols, I came to my office at last. I opened the door and walked straight in, and saw my gunblade, lying on the table. I felt the cold handle, and it relieved me somehow, like a shot of Stealth through the main vein.
That was when I realised some beeping was going on. It was going from avarage to fast speed. At my first thought, I acted.
Grabbing all the money I had, I threw myself onto the streets, the paranoid feeling coming over me. The bomb inside exploded, turning snow into liquid gold, and throwing the remains of the glass and concrete outside. I was thrown off my feet with the impact and the sudden pressure, I don’t know for how long I flew until a fence decided to slow me down. When the pain had subsided enough for me to get up, I got up and looked at the building.
So much for my office block.
It had evaporized. Such bombs were not regular, and this didn’t look like a regular street mob job. Such bomb would leave me half dead if I had been smart enough to search for the beeping as it’s speed had increased. I looked around, a crowd was starting to gather around. But the thing that had surprised me had been the Outdoor TV. Everyone was staring at it, and when I figured out something fishy is going on, I looked at it too.
The reporter seemed nicely polished. I wasn’t going to comment on her clothing, I was just some ex-SeeD.
“Tonight, SeeD instructor Quistis Trepe was found dead at the port of Balamb Town. Instructor Trepe has been murdered with a gunblade. Added to her previous appereances in public as an investigator and a fighter against the new nightmare of the world, also known as the ‘Stealth’, her death has left many in sorrow.
However, a suspect was seen leaving the scene, only a moment after the murder took place. The suspect has been identified by Eliza Dincht as Squall Leonhart. Squall Leonhart has also been a suspect of Esthar’s out-of-custody sorceress Rinoa Heartilly, but he had been cleared. The reasons why he might’ve killed Quistis Trepe remains as a mystery.
Also, SeeD spokesman Cid Kramer has told us that SeeD was forbidden to make any kind of contact with their old but distrusted commander, Squall Leonhart. He had been labelled as ‘dangerously unstable’ as his psychological profile. Squall Leonhart is believed to be armed and extremely dangerous, in case you encounter this man,” it was my old picture, the one that had been taken after the SeeD exam. It belonged to a different time, and a different place... A different life. “Report to the local law enforcement office.
Although it hasn’t been confirmed yet, Balamb Garden is about to start a manhunt for Squall Leonhart, and that he will be either captured, or shot dead. The manhunt will get help from all the existing gardens, and the local securtiy forces.
And now, we pass on to the weather broadcasting-“
My head was spinning. Thinking about what had just happened, and what should’ve happened... Made no sense. I hanged on to the fence which bent a little bit under the pressure of me. The world had just turned upside down. Fifteen minutes of fame for me, and a manhunt...
An ex-SeeD. Now I had to change that to “An Ex-SeeD On The Run”. I had to run. The sirens of the patrol cars of G.L.E., Galbadia Law Enforcement was approaching to the street. I then came to notice everyone was staring at me. Armed and extremely dangerous.
I climbed up the fence, real slowly. The siren sounds were approaching to me constantly. I knew the spots would be there. And then, just when I managed to gain my balance, a spot light revealed my panic-stricken face and made me lose my balance.
The ground on the other side of the fence seemed to be leading to my grave for a moment.
“Squall Leonhart! Freeze! Drop your weapon and surrender!”
“Whatever.” I muttered and I jumped down from the fence. There were no bullets yet, but I could tell that they would be on soon. On my left was the fire escape of a house. I took it. I was about to reach out to the rooftops, when the staircase’s top side exploded and the whole thing almost crashed on me. I managed to pull through with nothing more than a gash on my arm.
A spotlight came on me again. I had to put up my arm to my face to shield myself from it. For a moment, the police chopper had seemed just like an angel from heaven, taking me to that place which no sadness ever existed, and never would exist.
“Squall Leonhart! This is your final warning, surrender! Drop your weapon and put your hands up!”
But I’ve been sick to my stomach with angels.
“Firaga!” I screamed, pointing at the chopper. The fireball blasted near the helicopter, and distrupted it’s balance. It was about to crash when I last looked at it, but it was a brief look, I was too busy running for my life.
There was no highway blockade, yet. I encountered some rich guy who was trying to open up the doors of his car with the keys. He was blindly drunk, and I spared him of tomorrow’s headache with a hit on the head with the handle of my gunblade.
I got inside the car. It felt comfortable. I could just sleep there, until death put it’s arm on my shoulder and wake me up. I just stomped on the pedal and sped away to the town’s exit.
They had been waiting for me.
Somebody knew I was going to be aiming for Deling. The exit that led to Deling had been blocked off. I wasn’t about to stop.
“Squall Leonhart! Stop right now!”
“YEAH, SURE!” I replied from the window as I sped away even more. The crash threw two cop cars aside, and almost left he on the road with a broken neck, trying to carry my dysfunctioning body to the next step of my investigation, or legendary escape...
...How legandary. Just a SeeD who took a turn for the worst, I was into the night, embracing the cool darkness. I needed the cold for now, to stop the blood coming down from the wound on my head.
But this or that, I had managed to leave the bounty hunters behind me.
Part Five: Language Of The Night
When the car stopped, I got off it, into the night, and the chilly, yet seducive touch of the wind and snow. Deling Hotel was right in front of me.
It was still full of glamour, and the lights shined brighter than ever. It had never gotten old, and somethings had never gotten any new. It was the same old crap, a drop of Gil in the palms of the guy over the reception would lead me to room 398, my target.
I checked the watch near the Hotel’s gates. It showed 2:00. So it had been just two hours since the nightmare had started. I wanted answers, and I hoped to get them. I wasn’t about to slash the answers out of them this time, I needed to leave at least one alive, if there was more than one.
I looked around. The city was in it’s normal night, without knowing that the suddenly famous fugitive was right there, stealing their pocket money out of there pockets, and then disappearing into the night.
The sharp wind and the rainy snow made a sharp pain enter my temple, and it made my world spin. Everything was going dark, the darkness had been going through the center of my vision from the corners of it. I couldn’t even see. I didn’t scream, but I heard the voices whispering to my ear. Someone at the back of my head, telling me not to give up and to go on.
The nightmare ceased a little bit when someone asked, “Are you alright?”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I felt the ground underneath me, the snow cold inside my palm which was pressing on the ground. I looked up, trying to break the darkness.
A girl was standing there, like an angel from heaven, the stairs above. She had brown hair and blue eyes, just like me. But I didn’t think I had been so full of grace and blessing through my life.
All I had was dark blessings, and the language of the night whispering to me. And was this another thing it whispered to me, to hold on to this angel they had sent to me, as a part of a sick joke?
“No.” I replied “I’m not. But, I have to go on...”
“What’s your name?”
“Elise, can you help me get up?” she did. She held my hand and helped me let go of the sweet arms of the ground. It was hard, but my aching body had never been so fragile, and yet so strong.
She gazed into my eyes like I was the angel from above. I knew I was the devil from above, and I had never met angels.
“What-Great Hyne, look at your wound!”
“To Diablos with my wound!” I said, ready to go, but my feet were not moving.
“Let me help you Mister uhh...”
“Ament.” I said “Zak Ament.” Zak Ament had been a SeeD who had died in a cattle.
“Let me help you Mr. Ament.”
“I have to... Push in. I have to... Go on.” The pain was keeping me awake.
The world started spinning like crazy. The ground was pulling itself out of my feet, and I just stood there, trying in vain to hold on to my vision. The language of the night was inside my head, driving me mad with it’s wailing banshee scream. The language of the night whispering to me.
The language of the night was calling my name...
...But I was running out of pain.