Chapter 7: The Prevalence Of Tragedy
Now who’s to blame for the lives that tragedies claim,
Whatever you say, it won’t take away the pain that I,
Feel inside, I’m tired of all the lies,
Don’t nobody know why, it’s the blind leading the blind...
-P.O.D.:Youth Of A Nation
As Ragnarok approached Balamb Garden, Squall felt good about returning home. He now knew which way to go. He now knew what he needed. He knew everything he needed to know.
Landing Ragnarok down to the Airstation, Squall got ready to get back to Balamb Garden, and spend days with Rinoa- days, nights... All with her and nobody else. With nothing else but her voice, but her face.
As Squall walked off the spaceship with Rinoa, a bell boy came along to ask if they had any luggage- and froze in the middle of the sentence. He shot them a scared look and considered the possibilities; he would either finish the sentence or run for his life. Taking the second option, he disappeared out of sight.
“What the hell?” Squall muttered.
“Welcome to a flashback of my life in Balamb Garden, Squall.” Rinoa said.
Taking her, Squall started to walk along the corridors. The cadets and the SeeDs around were shooting them either scared, or disapproving looks. Squall didn’t care. Rinoa did expect the hostility, knowing from her previous experience.
As they made their way to the main hall, Quistis, obviously not seeing Rinoa, came along to ask Squall where he had gone by saying, “I’m going to find my salvation.”. She approached to them, and then stopped. Quistis was near-sighted, but she didn’t wear glasses all the time.
“You!?” Quistis asked to Rinoa, her voice almost accusing her of something.
“Yes, me.” Rinoa replied, calmly, “I’m back.”
“You think it’s easy, don’t you!?” Quistis asked, her tone representing her pure rage towards Rinoa, and her love towards Squall was hidden underneath it.
“What?” Rinoa asked.
“You think it’s pretty easy to just walk back to where you told ‘you didn’t belong’? You think it’s pretty easy for us to accept you’re back!? There are two people who really know what happened to Squall in reality, him and me!”
“Look, I just had to leave, for a while, at least! I can’t tell you why of that, but I just had to!”
“Had to! Ha!” Quistis smiled, bitterly, “While you had to walk away, I had to save this man next to you from killing himself twice, and he was damn near accomplishing it!”
“I know that already! Squall told me so!”
“Then why, in the name of sanity, are you still here? Walking back into our lives like ‘Hi, I’m Rinoa. Yeah, I’m back, after leaving so senselessly’!?”
“Oh so that’s what it is!?” Rinoa said, her voice also rising, “Let alone a friend or an instructor, you can’t even face the fact that you’re a young woman. I know you love Squall, I know you want him for yourself! But no, you just give me a mish-mash list of the stupidities he has committed-“
“Stupidities!?” Squall asked.
“Stay out of it!” Rinoa and Quistis snapped at the same moment.
Hell, Squall thought, I’m not very interested in this conversation anyway. I’ll let you two finish your ravaging each other, then I’ll come back here.
Deciding to do so, he walked away, as the argument still went on.
“Yes, I love Squall!” Quistis said, making Squall freeze in mid-step, “Okay!? I love him! And he chose you! You, of all the people, a sorceress, for Hyne’s sake! A sorceress! The one he had been trained to kill, and he fell in love with the enemy!? Bullshit! And you left, saying you didn’t belong in here... This shows how much you love him, you can’t start caring about him, cause you can’t stop caring about yourself!!!”
“IS THAT SO!?”Rinoa screamed, “YOU CANNOT EVEN BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND THE DEPTHS OF MY CARING FOR HIM! THAT’S YOUR PROBLEM, YOU CAN’T GET IN OUR INNER CIRCLE, SO YOU BLAME EVERY LITTLE THING ON ME, EVERYTHING, ANYTHING HAPPENS TO HIM! YOU WANT HIM FOR YOURSELF, CONFESS IT! IF YOU CARE FOR SOMEONE, THEN CONFESS IT!”
Quistis took a step back, “I...” she said “I-I c-can’t-“
“THEN STOP COMING ON TO ME-“ Rinoa stopped. Suddenly, they heard some bells ring somewhere, as Rinoa’s grey wings sprouted from her back, and she rose herself into air.
“Fall and crawl before me, mortal!” she pointed at Quistis. Quistis felt a great pressure on her back, her knees were bending. She fell on her knees, her feet couldn’t stand all the pressure.
A SeeD who ha just got out of the Training Center, raised his Ulysses, and aimed at Rinoa. Seeing this, as her ‘knight’, Squall pointed at him, saying “Blind!”. The spell worked, and the SeeD missed her with great distance.
“Who dares to raise a weapon to me!?” Rinoa asked, and turned her empty hand to the SeeD. A whirlwind of fire emerged from her palm, as the SeeD threw himself into the fountain to avoid it.
Squall clenched his teeth and stood in front of Rinoa. In his moment of knighthood, no suspicions came into his mind.
“Rinoa... I- I’m sorry!” Quistis said.
“Crawl on the grou-“, suddenly, her wings disappeared, and she fell down. Quistis felt the pressure going off her.
“Rinoa, are you alright?” Squall asked.
“I am... Like I was saying, Quistis-“
“Hang on!” Squall said, “You don’t remember anything!?”
“Okay, come with me, we’re getting out of here.”
Taking Rinoa, he started to practically run to the direction of his dorm room. Rinoa saw his eyes bulge out in panic, until he managed to put both of them into his room and shut the door, and lock it.
“Squall, what the hell?”
“Rinoa, how much do you remember?”
“Of saying ‘Fall and crawl before me, mortal’? and making Quistis crawl on the ground?”
“I would never-“
“Or using a magical fire on a SeeD?”
“Squall, what are you talking about?”
She doesn’t remember... Squall thought, she doesn’t remember. But why? I mean, I am sure it was her... But her voice somehow... Didn’t seem so much like her own. I had never heard her use the word ‘mortal’ or ‘before me’ before.
Someone knocked on Squall’s door. He asked, “Who is it?”
“It’s me, man, Zell! Open up!”
Rinoa went over to the door and opened it, letting Zell inside. Zell stared at Squall and Rinoa, then at his own feet... And then, he said, “Squall, Headmaster Cid is calling you. Oh, and you too, Rinoa.”
“Me?” Rinoa asked, “Now, okay, Squall may have a mission report to give out, but me?”
“I don’t know why. Just, go to him okay? Oh, and Squall,” he turned to Squall, “Today, in the evening, Kiros’ funeral is on. And you’re expected there, special request of Laguna and Caraway.”
Me?, Squall thought, I killed him! I’m going to the funeral of a man I have killed!? No... This... I can’t do it.
“I... I’m not going.” Squall said, simply.
Zell raised an eyebrow, “I said, it was Laguna’s special request... And, Caraway’s. You have to come, Squall, I’m sorry.”
“Okay...” Squall said, “I’ll go. Thanks, Zell.”
“No problem man, anytime.”
There was a really awkward silence. Zell, scratching his head, said, “I’m sure you two wanna be alone. I-I’ll just... Go and...” He stopped, “Go and... My mother... Damn.” Zell ran away.
Squall held on to the desk in his room, in order not to fall.
I accepted it cause he told me it was Laguna’s request. I’m... Did I sink that low? Am I doing him favors just to ease his pain? The pain I made him endure?
“Don’t speak.” Squall said, pulling her into his almost violent embrace, “Please, don’t say anything.”
Rinoa just listened to his heartbeat. Squall shook slightly as he held Rinoa.
Great Hyne... Rinoa thought, He sounds deeply hurt. But why did Cid send him to assassinate those two people he knew? I... Can’t change that. I can only help him. Even lions have fears.
When Squall let go of Rinoa, she didn’t see the glare she saw in his eyes.
“I think I’ll go and give my mission report to Cid.” Squall said. He walked out of the room without saying a word. Rinoa just stood there, staring after him.
Squall, she thought, Please, don’t do something stupid.
As Squall walked along the main hall, he saw Zell at a corner, sobbing uncontrollably, as his girlfriend, Amy, was trying to comfort him. The sight didn’t strike him with more pain. Not anymore. Instead, Squall only felt the guilt in him being mixed with anger. Lucid anger.
Squall went on the elevator and almost punched “3F” button. The elevator shook and started to rise, as Squall leant on the wall.
I’ve got questions for you, Cid. And you better have answers. I want to know, were you aware of our targets’ identities? If so, why did you still send me there!? This question just stays here all the time, it just won’t go away. And I will have answers, even if I have to slash them out of you, alongisde with your guts!
The elevator stopped and the doors slid open, inviting Squall to his questions. He walked out of the elevator and faced the door. Even the door seemed smiling to Squall. He knocked on it, his facial expression being fixed on a maniacal smile.
“Come in.” Cid’s voice came in. Roaring, Squall kicked the door open. The double doors swung inside with incredible speed, and shook when they hit the wall. As some cracks were formed on the door’s surface, Squall walked in.
“Ah, Squall.” Cid said, holding his heart and breathing fast, “Come, I’m waiting for your mission report.”
“I bet you were.” Squall said, then, he added, with a dangerous tone, “Sir.”
“Okay, let’s start with your mission earlier that day, the assassination of one of the supporters of the resistance factions.”
“Mission accomplished, with great accuracy!!!” Squall was walking up to Cid, looking flame sabers at him, which he didn’t notice at all.
“And, the assassination of the Estharia- Hyne in heaven, SQUALL!!!” Cid had to scream, because Squall’s hands, like merciless claws, had just grabbed him by the collar and pulled him to the raged soldier, knocking the table over.
“Are you now playing with me!?” Squall asked, “You knew who we were going to assassinate, didn’t you!? ANSWER ME!!!”
“Squall, let go of me this instant!”
Shaking Cid violently, Squall screamed again “DID YOU OR DID YOU NOT KNOW OUR TARGETS WERE JENNA DINCHT AND KIROS SEAGILL!? DID YOU OR DID YOU NOT!?”
“I did!” Cid said, as Squall began to choke him, “I DID!”
Squall let go of Cid, who fell on the ground, clutching his throat. He looked up to see the avenging angel, standing above him. Cid was sure it was hallucination of his recent breathlessness; but he saw something with four, giant wings, and merciless, red eyes.
When the hallucination subsided, Squall was there; demanding an answer.
“I did!” Cid replied, trying to catch his breath again, “I did know who they were! But such information is to remain concealed from those in SeeD! Especially if it can affect their judgements!”
“Judgements!?” Squall asked, “When it works you want us to only follow orders, and now you throw the word at my face!? I won’t take this bullshit, Cid, I want the answer; WHY!?”
“IT WAS A REQUEST!!!” Cid shouted in reply “A REQUEST, I DON’T QUESTION THEM!!! I NEVER DID! DO YOU THINK I WOULD SEND YOU TO CARAWAY TO ASSASSINATE EDEA IF I DID!?”
Squall took a step back, his face and soul in horror.
“Wh-what!? You were the one who made us attempt to assassinate Edea!?”
“Don’t you remember your own mission report to NORG!? Orders from Balamb and Galbadia Gardens, you said it yourself! Who do you think gave the orders in Balamb, NORG!?”
Not again, Squall thought, so much I don’t understand. So it was because it was a request!? I just... Killed them for? No. I need to let go. Let go of it, or else, it’s gonna kill me!
Frustrated, Squall walked over to the now-open door. At the doorstep, he stopped and turned back to Cid.
“Sir?” he asked, “What’s next, Ellone?”
“Who knows...” Cid replied.
As Squall got out of Cid’s office, his teeth and fists clenched, Quistis was with Rinoa.
“What do you mean, he just left like that!?” Quistis asked Rinoa, she then took a step back and said, “I mean, there was probably-“
“Quistis!” Rinoa snapped, “I’m not gonna do you any harm! I didn’t mean to... Sorceress powers... May get out of control, I’m really sorry.”
“Oh it’s fine.” Quistis said, “I was... I mean, I rescued Squall so many times that, I just couldn’t...”
But Rinoa never got to hear what she couldn’t, cause an intercom message had sounded:
“Attention please! Quistis Trepe, Squall Leonhart, Selphie Tilmitt, Rinoa Heartilly, Zell Dincht, Irvine Kinneas, please come to the Airstation and meet with Xu Axerne. I repeat, Quistis Trepe, Squall Leonhart, Selphie Tilmitt, Rinoa Heartilly, Zell Dincht, Irvine Kinneas, please come to the Airstation and meet with Xu Axerne!”
“What’s up?” Quistis asked.
“The funeral of Kiros.” Rinoa replied.
“Funeral!? My dress won’t match with a funeral!”
“Then run!” Rinoa said, smiling, “Run and get dressed up!”
As Quistis took her pace, Rinoa went over to the wardrobe to pick up a dress, thinking why she felt so joyous about everything.
Squall met with others, who had all dressed completely in black, even Irvine had replaced his usual cowboy hat with a black one. Frowning sadly, Squall invited them into Ragnarok, as Selphie, with a definately pretended joy, jumped on the pilot seat as Quistis took the weapon controls, and Zell, navigation, sitting next to Selphie.
They went all the way to Esthar in complete silence. An icy silence of sorrow. Inside them burned the icy flames of sorrow. Inside Squall, burned the smiting flames of guilt and blame.
They landed down in silence. Laguna met them at the entrance of the city alongside with Ward. Laguna greeted them, and accepted the “My sincere symapthy, I’m so grieved.” And likewise expressions. Laguna started to lead them into the city, while starting an argument on the latest events of the week, on their behalf.
Squall didn’t hear their arguments. He didn’t hear Laguna telling him about Kiros. He didn’t see where he was going. He didn’t feel the slight breeze whipping his hair and suit.
Squall felt numb.
As they got closer to the Presidental Palace in which the graves of the government officals that have died of either assassinations or likewise were found, in a seperate part of the place labelled as The Graveyard.
The coffin of Kiros was embraced with the silky Esthar flag. His personal belongings, his double katals were left on the coffin. Squall looked up to the coffin, to his source of late guilt.
I had never felt guilty about anything before. Hell, I didn’t even wonder what happened to those I had killed... What got me to it now? Am I feeling this way just because I knew him? Because he had a story?
Squall looked up and saw a familiar figure. His vision grew clear, his mind filling with a chilling breeze that patched up the damage. Ellone was there. She was in a dark dress, and her white shawl was replaced by a pall. Tears were glistening in her eyes.
“Squall...” she said, looking to him.
Squall’s breath went away, and Squall couldn’t inhale any more air. The sadness he saw in her eyes, knowing he was the only one to blame. Knowing he had killed him. The accusing fingers of guilt were there, and they wouldn’t go away. They were poking Squall, opening little wounds on him. For the first time in his life, Squall had a thought flash in his head;
What difference does SeeD have than a sorceress? We both ruin lives. We both ruin lives for benefits.
“Sis.” Squall said, struggling to keep his voice under control.
“Oh, Squall!” Ellone flung her arms around Squall’s neck and broke down completely, “I can’t stand it! Mister Kiros is... Dead and... I... I never had a chance to say goodbye to him! Who did it?”
For a single moment, Squall seriously thought about screaming: ME!!! And then running off to jump off Dollet Communication Tower.
“I don’t know.” Squall lied, “But I swear I will make him pay.”
“Squall, you’re so-“
“Don’t mention it, Sis.”
“Thank you.” Ellone said, then she smiled, “See? I was right to count on you. I was right when I said...”
...What Ellone said under her breath was...
“You’re my only hope.” ...
“I won’t let you down, Sis. Never.” Squall made a silent promise, to refuse any more ‘assassinations’ if they came in.
Master... came Diablos’ voice. His voice had a tint of fun in it.
Just to tell you, that you’re too late. No disrespect meant, master, but your words would sound a lot better if they had been spoken sooner.
Get out of my sight, or face the consequences!!!
I will take my leave, then, master.
“I know you won’t. You’re not like any of us, Squall. Of all the people I’ve met, I have met a bunch of world heroes. But the true heroes, were two people; Uncle Laguna, and you.”
“Me?” Squall asked, “Sis, I’m no hero. I’m just a soldier.”
“Yes, I know. But you’re heroic.” She smiled.
A hyne priest came into view. He was carrying a little, porcelain bowl. Squall knew what it was, “Holy Ashes” to be scattered on the deceased. He looked up to the sky and wondered if Hyne saw his struggle or even cared.
As Squall stared at the Hyne priest, the robes of the priest were ripped apart as someone in completely black, latex clothes revealed himself (judging by the body shape). Silvery objects flashed in the evening twilight, and flew directly at Rinoa, who had been talking to Ellone.
Squall couldn’t figure out which came along first... A gunshot whipped the crowd’s sadness into two, and a bullet went passing by Squall, who had lunged at Ellone, knowing Rinoa could very well take care of herself. As Squall was in halfway, the silvery objects (as much as he could count, eight of them) buried themselves into Ellone’s chest, and the bullet as well, entered Ellone’s chest. Her blood spilled on Squall’s hands and white t-shirt. As Squall took her in his arms, he saw, with the corner of his eyes, that the black clothed stranger was on the run.
“I know I can...” Ellone choked, “Count on you... Where’s... Uncle Laguna?”
“I’m here!” Laguna said, “I’m here, Elle! Don’t die on me, please don’t! Please!”
“Uncle... Laguna... Raine... She’s... Sk...y...” Ellone closed her eyes and let go. Laguna took her into her arms, shouting her name over and over again to the skies, to Hyne, whom wasn’t listening.
Squall looked at the rooftops, and immidiately spotted the actual assassin; the one who had shot. Gripping his gunblade tightly, he tapped himself on the chest, saying “Float!!!” and he ran a little bit, only to push the ground as hard as he could. Gathering incredible momentum, Squall reached the rooftop as he dispelled the floating spell, and landed on his feet.
Blinded by rage, Squall took the assassin and drove his gunblade right through his chest. Getting his sword out, he turned around to face the black-clothed assassin, who was running.
They stood there, looking at each other.
“Are you on her side?” the assassin asked.
“YOU’RE SO DEAD!!!” Squall replied, as he attacked.
They got into a quick clash, as the assassin drew out double katanas, single-sided samurai-like swords. The assassin knew martial arts, Squall could tell from his acrobatic movements accompanied by slashes. As he tried to keep up with his heavy gunblade, the assassin opened up minor wounds on him. His arms, legs, stomach, back, even his forehead, alongside his old scar... Squall finally managed to catch an opening, and using it, he threw both of the katanas aside. His opponent made a back-flip and in mid-air, threw some silvery objects at Squall. Without caring, Squall lunged at him as three shrukiens entered his right arm. Squall took the assassin by the collar.
“WHO THE HELL ARE YOU!?” Squall asked, as his opponent did a mouth movement, and something clicked inside his mouth. His body went limp, and as Squall let go, he was dead.
Squall stared at his own bloodstained hands. Stained with Ellone’s blood. He stared at the assassin who had probably just gave himself a fast-acting poison. He then stared at the actual assassin.
He was wearing a SeeD uniform.
Squall looked at his hands.
He clenched his fists.
And as the wind whipped his hair and trenchcoat, he screamed at the sky, a scream of sadness and despair...
...And yet, full of rage against the one that was resting in the skies above.