Chapter Four: Inside the Inferno
Prologue: On The Edge
As my vision came back, I looked around and felt sick.
Violent shapes laughing at my weaknesses, blood-red walls and carpets, the suite doors with paintings full of unrecognizable, disturbing material. My demons nesting in the shadows of the room, knowing my weaknesses, closing in for the kill, mercilessly.
Irvine was there again. Sitting on my couch next to Quistis, talking to her. Both with empty eyes and their bloodstained wounds, as I had seen them before in my nightmares.
They took no notice of me, as I had spotted the notebook in the middle of the living room carpet. I picked it up and read the entry;
Squall was still busy. Hyne, sometimes I wish we were both old and retired somewhere, so we can see each other more. But I can’t deny that, I miss him so much and it adds so much to the relationship.
I can’t blame him- he’s just busy. Commander Leonhart and all, I just wish he had a little bit more spare time.
I tossed the diary aside. From now on, I had said to myself, I will always find time for her. I promise.
But it was too little too late.
What was done was done, and there was no way to reverse it. It was the past. I couldn’t live in it. I had to leave the past, and carry on to the present, no matter how disgusting the present may be.
Right now it was disgusting enough to make me throw up.
I made my way upstairs. The study room was waiting for me, like a lover that just wanted to have sex again and again until we both passed out of tiredness. It was symbolising agony for me, a twisted rune that represented my biggest failure.
The doorknob almost smiled at me, when the phone rang. I picked it up.
“Squall Leonhart?” asked a voice. It was a bad line, hard to figure out whether if it was NTH or Saladin.
“Whatever’s left of me.” I replied.
“IT’S STEALTH! HAHAHAHA! YOU HAVE STEALTH EATING YOUR BRAIN NOW!!! THE DRUG!!! THE DRUG!!! HAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” the mad laughter was echoing till no end. I smashed the phone off the table, the mad laughter was still going on.
“HEH HEH HEH HEH! THE DRUG! SQUALL LEONHART IS A CRACK ADDICT! HEH HEH HAHAHAHA! TOUCH THE DOORKNOB, TOUCH IT! GAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”
But the voice was no longer on the phone. Wailing, screaming at me. In my head, in this room, around the house... I barely heard Ragnarok pass by, Selphie screaming some curses. I heard footsteps, and heard familiar voices laughing. Quistis and Irvine were laughing at me, though I was either too drunk or too high on Stealth to focus on their laughs.
Distantly tuned and fading in and out, while echoing like a background noise, it made fun of everything I ever had.
“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! YES! YEES! TOUCH THE DOORKNOB, SEE!? THE DRUUUG!!! HAHAHAHA!!!”
The doorknob. The laughs were now muffled with screams of Rinoa, and the mad laughter of another killer, from inside the room. I had seen too much of it already.
I was on the edge of cracking, but also I realised I was on the edge of finding a conclusion.
The laughing sound increased.
Gripping my weapon, I swung it furiously, wanting nothing more in this world than this torture to end. It first got Quistis and then Irvine, and they fell down, I then smashed the phone.
“What does it feel like to be alone, THE DRUUUG!” Selphie screamed outside.
The laughing wouldn’t stop. I went to the door and smashed it, not caring about the consequence. But there was no bomb.
No, it was only Rinoa. Lying there, dead, as paintings of more disturbing material infested the walls of our suite. Rinoa rose and asked, with her burnt body still smoking.
“I LOVED YOU! AND YOU GAVE INTO THE DRUG! GO AWAY! LEAVE ME ALONE!”
The laughter rose yet once again, making fun of everything I was... I was a hero, I had met my downfall, I was a commander, now I was just a fugitive... I was a lover, and now one of us were dead, and I was taking the fall for it.
I realised I was crying...
...Blood dripping out of my eyes.
Part One: Someone Else’s Leftovers
I woke up from the nightmare, and wish I hadn’t waken up at all- my head felt too small for my brain, and I think my skull was cracking of all the pressure.
I noticed I had been crying in my sleep. I tried to get up, and that only made my head spin like Pandemona’s whirlwind. I puked on the floor, emptying everything from my slight dinner in the train out. Red fire eating my conscience still, and blurring my vision. I managed to throw up one more time, and seemed relaxed a little bit. The poison had just been taken out of my body.
I grabbed the first object that came into my view, hanged on to it as I was hanging on to Rinoa. It was a white sink. I pulled myself up. It was hard to do, I was feeling like a carcass trying to move. Every move woke me up, gave me pain. Pain was the only thing I had needed.
When I managed to pull myself on my feet, I was scared of the stranger staring back at me...
But I was looking to a mirror.
I had my hair cut short, and it was kinda longer than it’s first length, still far different than how it was when it all started. In pain, I wondered if it was my hair that pulled Rinoa towards me. I wasn’t that good looking.
Bloodshot eyes, and purple colour underneath my lower eyelids, and in addition to this list, a pale face.
I looked dead.
There had been no sign of happiness, no glow in my dark eyes. Even when I looked at myself, I was taking it all in, even my reflection couldn’t hide secrets from me. I took it all in with my eyes, and gave nothing outside.
I managed to drag my tired body to the doorway, I understood this was a public toilet. Maybe a restaurant, maybe a frickin’ bar full of careless teenagers, take your pick, I didn’t care.
I opened up the door and walked outside, and stumbled at the doorway. It seemed so charming- to fall on the floor and let go, sleep for thousands of years and wake up to a chaged world. I could let go.
What was I hanging on to, anyway? I was feeling just like someone else’s leftovers, like someone had whipped this body good, and just pulled it on my soul and made me believe it was me. I was a fugitive, stuck somewhere, with a new drug addiction. Wanted of several murders. I could still hear the laughters and the sirens.
“Are you going to buy any of them?” asked a familiar voice.
That was when I realised, I had been staring blankly at a newspaper stand.
Squall Leonhart- Killer or Hand Of Justice?
MURDER! SQUALL LEONHART SHORTENS HIS HITLIST!
ZELL DINCHT WAS FOUND DEAD! SQUALL LEONHART STRIKES AGAIN!
The newspapers were all screaming two things that rhymed a lot lately: Murder and me. I turned my eyes to the stranger who had asked me a question.
And I froze.
It was just like it had came up to me, from the heavens, a sign that Hyne still watched over me, still wanted me to take my revenge. She smiled. I couldn’t believe it. She was supposed to be dead, and now she was back.
I could, after all, been imagining it, who knew someone else’s leftovers wasn’t including her?
“Elise?” I managed to ask, talking made my stomach rise in expectation.
“Yes. I made it out of the building.” She said. There was something strange about her... I couldn’t quite name it. Something wierd.
But it had all been wierd, the dreams, the wild ghost chase, and I was still standing here as the pile, a total wreck, talking to a dead girl.
My vision got more clear as realisation hit me. Elise’s voice was different. Elise used to be taller, and a little bit wider. It wasn’t Elise.
It was a ghost from my past, here to whisper me new clues to make me go on. I had been whispered new clues all the time, none lead to a reasonable place.
“Selphie?” I asked.
“Okay, the game’s up, I guess!” Selphie, said, pulling out her nunchaku. She swung it furiously, and I realised I had LionHeart in my palm, and my palm was almost sticking to it. Selphie hit me on my right side, sending me off my hardly gained balance, and I smashed to the newspaper stand, glass shards gave me minor cuts, and my vision grew clearer.
My mind was saying, Let’s run! But my body went; Hell no, I can’t take anymore.
Another hit landed on my shoulder, I let out a moan of pain. I had to let something out, the poison still spinning inside me like a witch’s brew, containing all sorts of disgusting things and my nightmares.
“How could you!?” Selphie asked, “I can understand Quistis, and even Irvine! But how could you do it to Zell!?” she asked, still attacking. I had curled up on the ground, as pain ran through my entire body. I was taking the blows, and waiting for my muscles to get back to life. I finally managed to lift my free hand and get the nunchaku in it. My fingers tightened around the pole as Selphie was forced to stop. I looked at her eyes and saw the fear, she believed I was going to take her out too.
“Selphie, I’m not gonna kill you...” I said “I didn’t kill anybody!”
“Why should I trust you!?” she asked with a bitter voice. I gave up. As I got to my feet and snatched her weapon away, I ran to what I figured out to be the door. I tossed the nunchaku aside, and got out from the door.
I slipped and fell on the rails. I heard a train coming. I saw the light, approaching to me. Light, it seemed so peaceful.
I jumped sideways and avoided the train. I then came to realise where I was. I was back in Timber.
I started to walk in the direction of the town exit. Limping slightly, and dragging someone else’s leftovers with myself.
Part Two: The Flames Inside
As I went to an empty back alley, a newspaper carried itself in the arms of the wind, and hit my leg. I picked it up. Daily Timber, it looked a day, almost two days old. I read the headline;
GALBADIA ARCHIVES STOLEN!!! INCREDIBLE, UNBELIEVABLE CRIME!
Galbadia Archives has been taken away, by Esthar secret service C.O.N.C.E.A.L. Despite it’s alarming name, is Esthar truly trying to conceal something, hush something up?
C.O.N.C.E.A.L. Representative Laguna Loire said that, “Nothing was getting all hushed up, they were just doing routine check.” But General Caraway has stated that, the information taken out of the archives permanently, and the amount of it looked suspicious.
What they are searching for may be secret, but does this have something to do with Squall Leonhart?
Squall Leonhart, the most terrible threat that has came to the world lately, has been a fugitive from law... Etc. Etc. Etc. It was easy to fill in the gaps, when you were the person behind the murder weapon.
I was making my way to the town exit as I noticed the crowd, their gazes fixed on the outdoor TV. Snow was gently falling, and I thought for a moment- why don’t I just reveal myself and get wasted, to end it all?
“And tonight, the war within Galbadia took a turn for the worst, as Jack Bret, Brox Sulva who was the leader of White SeeD, two people identified as Fujin and Raijin, and also Elise Bret were found dead.
In addition to those tragic deaths, SeeD recruit Zell Dincht’s dead body was found. With no doubt, Zell Dincht was murdered with a gunblade.
And now, let’s hear what SeeD spokesman Cid Kramer has to say...”
Cid went on the screen. I had a sense of an overwhelming deja-vu, as if I had seen this all before.
“I am, in sorrow to announce that Squall Leonhart has become a threat to all. He has been charged of the murders of Rinoa Heartilly, Quistis Trepe, Irvine Kinneas, and as his body was found tonight, Zell Dincht.”
Zell was dead!? Then I remembered they had announced it. And now I knew that my senses were not lying to me this time. I remembered his eyes, and his fear that erupted from him like a chilly aura. His seriousness and tense voice. Zell had been killed, but why on earth was I losing every ‘friend’ I ever had?
“I would now like to hand the microphone over to Selphie Tilmitt, the only person left alive in Squall Leonhart’s hitlist, if not some law-biding citizen like Jack Bret.”
Law abiding citizen my ass! Jack Bret had been dirtier than Cid’s hands, I was sure of that. The camera moved to show Selphie, crying, and all the cheap studio make-up ruined over her face like a horrific hunting mask. When she spoke, her tone was harsh, hurt, and sad, while too violent for the Selphie that I knew.
“Squall, if you’re watching this... You won’t get away with it! You just won’t!”
She started crying, and the camera switched back to Cid. He was confident, I could see the richeous grin of Diablos in his eyes.
“To everyone who’s wathing this, I, Headmaster Cid Kramer, am about to announce something. There will be a SeeD manhunt on Squall Leonhart, and I also would like to ask for the help of the citizens. Anyone who brings Squall Leonhart to Balamb Garden, dead or alive, will be given no less than a billion Gil!”
All I needed. A price tag on my head. But the whole situation and the ghost chase had been a list of price tags, like the shopping list of some old lady. Price tag of curiosity, of not being careful, of love, of hate, of pain. And now the price tag had been put on for my head. I knew bounty hunters, vicious like sharks, soaring over you like a pack of vultures in an expectation with a feast.
And if there was one thing you could count on was this: If you had a price tag on your head, and if the whole world knew that, then the next thing you knew was most likely to be an identity tag on your toe.
I ducked down to a back alley. Selphie’s warning and Cid’s little game hadn’t scared me. They only had fueled the flames inside. The flames ate up my soul, hungered for revenge, hungered for answers. Two things I needed to stimulate myself- revenge and pain.
Then, suddenly, something clicked. I remembered that guy in the uniform saying something about The Inner Circle. Then I remembered the newspaper article, the one about Galbadia archives. There were two places this could’ve been taken to: Esthar and Balamb Garden. Which one was a mystery, like everything else had been to this point.
I half-smiled to myself on how ironic things had turned. I would soon be a billionaire. Because something had flashed in my head, like a black-and-white horror flick, in which the only other visible colour was red.
“Sir.” I said to Headmaster Cid, saluting him. He smiled and returned the favor.
“At ease, Squall. You’re like my son, not my pawn.”
“Whatever.” I replied “What was the thing you wanted to talk to me about, sir?”
“Squall, I’m about to start an archive here. But noone will know about it.”
“Because, the world can get the impression that you are Griever and Rinoa is Ultimecia, judging by your ornaments. This archive is a huge stock of information, all hushed up or kept under the wraps.”
“Why risk it, sir?”
“Why risk what?”
“Risk the revelation of the files?”
“That’s no risk. C.O.N.C.E.A.L., the Estharian secret service is with us on this one. I named it ‘The Inner Circle’, y’know, like The Twilight Zone I used to watch.”
I would soon be a billionaire, like cash would come falling on me, crushing the already broken me underneath it’s weight. Balamb Garden wanted me, dead or alive. And I would walk in from the doors, still alive, and collect the prize money myself.
Maybe I was walking steadily to my own grave, ready to forget everything that had happened in it’s cavernous depths, maybe not.
Either way, I wanted answers.
The flames inside wanted answers.
And I would get answers.
Part Three: The Inner Circle
The lights just went on, no flickering, no blinking.
The place that had brought back the horrible memories of my past, now stood before me. The new Balamb Garden, and it had taken us quite some while to settle it down. I had worked so hard to put it back to it’s place.
To put what had crushed my life down back to it’s place.
I looked around, at this time of the night, noone would be around, except for the few SeeDs and cadets wandering around “The Secret Area” in the Training Center. It was horribly surprising to see how quick my memories had infested my mind. Fragments of memories, flowing through my veins like glass shards.
I walked straight in from the front gate, the guy who was supposed to check who goes in and out was asleep, thanks to my Sleep spell. I ducked down, almost crawled to the directory. I looked around, and a Garden Faculty was approaching. I ducked down, almost tried to crawl underneath the directory. The footsteps faded away after some time, it seemed like centuries to me.
After the Garden Faculty walked away, I tried to remember where The Inner Circle was located. I then remembered that, it had to be somewhere below the MD Level, even B2, NORG’s old home and recent grave. Because it wasn’t made of pieces of paper you would wanna walk around, shouting it’s contents. It had to be hidden, but I didn’t have the key for it.
The only choice I had left in my hands was to go and see Headmaster Cid about it. Fat chance as it seemed in the first sight, but who knew if Lady Luck wasn’t about to blow me yet another kiss?
I walked in to the elevator and pressed the 3F button. As it started to rise with it’s familiar humming, I noticed I was about to choke in tears. Gripping LionHeart tight, I tried to bury the pain. I wasn’t very successful, but as successful enough to give myself time to cure, and regain my calmness, if I had any left.
When the elevator stopped, the doors slid open, revealing Nida, waiting there with his back turned on me. I quietly, silently walked up to him from his back, and then gave him a little nudge with my gunblade.
“Hyne in heaven!” Nida jumped up, “Who is it?”
“An old friend.” I replied.
“Squall!?” Nida asked, panic flashing in his voice. I enjoyed it- if they would mess my life up, they better be ready to pay. I was going to show them the price to play the game on me.
“Yeah, it’s me...”
“How on earth did you-“
“I don’t have time for 21 questions.” I said “Nida, if you don’t want to die now, tell me where Cid is.”
“What, why are you-“ I pushed the gunblade a little bit. A droplet of blood ran on the blade, as I had managed to dig a small hole in his back. Nida didn’t even make a sound, but he clenched his fists.
“Answer the question.” I repeated “Where is Cid?”
“In the office, of course!”
“Did you join in the framing of me?” this had just came to me, like a message from heavens.
“Framing? That was justified for Hyne’s sake, justified!” I smashed the handle onto his neck, and he fell down, unconscious. I got close to the door, and a phone rang inside, Cid picked it up. The perfect moment. I bashed the door and walked straight in, looking flame sabers at Cid, as he was still on the phone.
“Who?” Cid asked, and then he said, “Ah, Squall. The call’s for you.”
Surprised, I picked up the phone, while putting LionHeart to Cid’s chest.
“In an inappropriate moment.”
“It’s me, NTH! Man, you made it! Okay, head down to The Inner Circle now, that way you may have a chance until White SeeD gets around.”
“The more the merrier.” I replied as I smashed the phone shut.
“So, Cid.” I said “I want to go to The Inner Circle, and I believe you have the keys.”
“Even if I do, you won’t be getting them?”
“Is that so? It’s not that hard to go to Centra, you know, to slash the crap out of Edea, even if she was Matron.”
His face went white, and he said, almost stuttering, “You can’t-“
I cut him off “So how does it feel like to imagine your ‘loved one’ getting killed, Cid!?” I asked, furiously “Just think how it feels if she really was killed.”
“I- Okay! Here are the keys!” he said, giving me a keychain with eight keys.
“What? I’m not gonna waste my time, which one leads to The Inner Circle?”
“The blue one! Insert it to the elevator keyhole when it stops, and head press the button that is revealed! It should be D9!”
“Thanks.” I said, “Now, get your shoes, pops, you’re coming with me.”
“No! I’ll be here! I can’t leave my office, Squall, White SeeD does a routine check every hour. If I’m not here by then, and mind you the time is 22:45, they’ll kill everyone they can label as ‘suspicious’.”
“Okay, stay here, then. But if you set a toe out of your office, or just simply ‘go fishing’ as I come back, I’m telling you this won’t end so silently.”
I walked out of the office and got to the elevator. I inserted the key to the keyhole, and turned it. A little plank moved sideways to reveal a new button, labelled as “D9”. ‘Deep Nine’ if I remembered it correct. The core of The Inner Circle, core of the mysteries.
I pressed the button.
The elevator shook once and started to move, as I thought about it all. I had come this far, leaving my friends dead. I wasn’t a hero, or a saint, or a murderer for all I knew. And I knew that The Inner Circle would be protected. But who cared anyway, if a hundred more or less died? I could’ve built a mountain of bodies and put on my own flag on the top, without thinking about it much.
And now I was heading down to the core of my questions, ready to get some answers. I was just like Sherlock Holmes in a different way, all heading to my final revelation even if that meant putting lots of people with myself to the grave.
The elevator came to a halt, and the doors slid open as I stepped outside. There was a short corridor, and a bulletproof glass door in front of me. I just went there, and tried to open the door. The panel next to it demanded a goddamn password. I thought about it, it was just a four-letter password. Considering Cid built this place, it could be two things.
S-e-e-D. I typed in, and the panel replied as Access Denied.
I typed in E-d-e-a and it made a beeping sound, saying Access Granted.
The doors slid open, leading me into The Inner Circle.
Part Four: Buried Secrets
I then faced three White SeeD units, charging at me with swords in hand. I didn’t stop, I just pointed at them and said “Griever! Shockwave Pulsar!” and my GF sweeped the three White SeeDs, spilling their blood on the plaque on the floor.
It was a circular room, with computer units everywhere, all screens fixed on a symbol. I got to the middle of the room, and looked down to the plaque. It was the SeeD symbol, but the middle didn’t have that ying-yang type of thing, it was just a symbol of aura.
Project SeeD. S for Stealth, S for SeeD.
I didn’t know how it all came to me, but I knew by then, that SeeD was related to Stealth, it’s production, it’s trafficking...
Then, the three other doors slid open, leading at about twenty White SeeD units inside.
“Squall Leonhart...” said one, smiling. I was shocked as my ghosts let out yet another laughter at me.
It was Elise.
“Dead and back?” I managed to ask, though it sounded spooky as Ultimecia’s Time Compression self, or just a lazar rising from the grave, to just mock me with their appereance.
“Yeah.” Elise said “Dead and back. Since you have gotten our leader, I took over his job.”
“Brox Sulva. He had been one chocobo in the mud, and I needed to clean it up.”
“Pathetic, aren’t you?” she asked, her kindness was gone, as if it was just a bad dream, or the residue of my Stealth experience, “I helped you to this point, ever asked why to yourself?”
Come to think of it, I had no idea why. She had no benefits in helping me. Unless if-
“You were following orders.” I said.
“Yep.” She replied “And I can answer a single one of your questions before you die.”
I could’ve laughed. If I remembered how.
I was gonna die, here and now? So close to the buried secrets they kept hidden from me, so close to the truth.
A single question. Questions shouted inside my head, hollered at me with a banshee scream that was too high-pitched to endure. Why Zell, Quistis and Irvine had to die, why I was being framed, why Rinoa had died, if I had killed her, why did Elise help me out, take your pick, but I just couldn’t decide, until I remembered the question that brought me all the way to here, to this showdown.
“Why did Rinoa have to die?” I asked.
Elise smiled, “Oh yes, I thought it would be that. You see, Squall, SeeD was formed to defeat the sorceress, and the only sorceress we knew was Rinoa. And for the sake of being a White SeeD, I-“
“You killed her, your friend, coz she was a sorceress!? For the sake of being a White SeeD!?” I managed to ask, confused and frightened.
“Oh yeah.” She said, licking her lips, “I was close to the enemy, just like I’ve been ordere-“
Her sentence was cut off, because C.O.N.C.E.A.L. had just stormed inside. I ducked down under a computer unit’s desk, waiting for the slaughter to end. Gunshots, slashes, and smashes were heard, next to screams. When it all ended, someone walked up to the computer unit under which I was hiding, and pressed a few buttons. C.O.N.C.E.A.L. just wandered out, and I managed to get out from my hiding place.
So this was what they were on. To destroy all evidence from the scene, if they can’t save their own asses. I had to be quick. I glanced at the doors, each one of them seemed to lead to a different place. I took the path of Archives, and ran into it.
A horrible scene waited for me.
Estharian scientists, Balamb Garden science club, even Galbadian scientists , they all were sitting in their chairs, their bodies leaning on the keyboards. They were dead, their blood was staining the keyboards.
I walked up to the only computer unit that was on. I clicked on Project SeeD and to my surprise, there was no password needed.
SeeD: An elite force of Balamb Garden, formed to defeat the sorceress.
Stealth: The tactic used by assassins, to move quietly.
Started by C.O.N.C.E.A.L. before the Sorceress War I, Project SeeD was meant to create people with auras, and to use them as soldiers. Henceforth: The Sorceress War. Discovering that the female body was more suitable for magical powers, C.O.N.C.E.A.L. created the first sorceresses.
Then, things got out of hand. Adel escaped, and helped the others escape too, ergo, starting the war. C.O.N.C.E.A.L. figured out they needed a special force to defeat their own creation, and pressured Cid Kramer to start a Garden. They were the ones that have sent NORG, a member of C.O.N.C.E.A.L. himself, to fund Balamb Garden, and Project SeeD.
The project’s purpose was to create a stimulant that would help the ones that have been administered the drug locate any source of magical aura. Three years later, results were found unsatisfactory by C.O.N.C.E.A.L., ergo, Project SeeD was cancelled.
But the file didn’t end there, Brox Sulva had decided to continue to the project, with no doubt, getting help from either C.O.N.C.E.A.L. or Galbadian secret service S.E.C.R.E.C.Y.
Field test, the subjects taken by S.E.C.R.E.C.Y., Biggs and Wedge. Double the dosage of Stealth in blood. Their primary target is Sorceress Rinoa. Squall Leonhart is the secondary target. Use a Time Bomb for equipment.
Should the results be satisfactory, then it will be a new dawn for White SeeD, indeed.
The place they were heading to was our suite in Balamb Garden. The file dated four years ago.
And suddenly, it all made sense, including my salvation. “Time bomb”, so it wasn’t me who had killed her.
It all made sense. But how to shut that little taunting voice in my head that telling me I was going to get my revenge, which was totally justifiable? I had already killed Brox Sulva, and Elise was dead. I wasn’t a bit satisfied by their deaths.
That little taunting voice also told me, that I was damned by Diablos.
I was cursed.
Part Five: Run Like Hell
I felt terrible.
I had always assumed the truth would lead me to my sanity, not insanity. The twist the things had taken made me sick to my stomach, sick enough to throw up all over the blood of the scientists.
Then, an explosion rocked the room, and I realised, time was running short. I ran to the door, waving my gunblade as if it would do me some good. Another explosion blasted the computer units, and threw the corpses of the scientists aside, and another explosion knocked me off my feet, onto the central room.
I fell on my face, as explosions coming from the other rooms shook the place. An alert sounded as “Evacuate Deep Nine! Evacuate Deep Nine! Self-Destruct in progress! Evacuate Deep Nine! All personelle, head to the nearest exit! Evacuate Deep Nine!”
I had to run like hell, because the corridor had enlarged itself, and it was way longer than it was before, not to mention the doors slowly sliding back together.
The elevator was still there, somehow. I had to run like hell to avoid dying inside the inferno. I ran. The doors slammed shut as I lunged forward and hit the glass. I was hopeless, because the explosions and minor fires were turning into something major really fast.
I tried to slash my way through the bulletproof glass. I knew it would crack, eventually. I leaned backwards, and then slammed LionHeart with all I had. A teeny tiny chunk of the glass flew outside, but the chunk wasn’t large enough to even pass my pinky finger through. Fire was closing in on me.
I fell on my knees, I couldn’t stand all the heat. I thought about letting go. Letting the fire eat my body and soul alive. I still had a few mysteries in my head, but that was just it. No more regrets, no more questions.
Then, as if Hyne was there watching over me, or simply Rinoa, my angel there, the doors opened. I knew again, I had to run like hell. I didn’t even hesitate, I just ran with all I could add to my legs. I managed to get inside the elevator as the corridor ignited in a whirlwind of fire, and I pressed 1F hard. The elevator shook and started to move, too slow in my opinion, but a guy who had been ordered food when he was about to starve to death, wouldn’t question the quality of the food.
The elevator shook with an impact. Probably, the flames had reached to it, but it was built so tough, it wouldn’t let the flames enter. In any case, I knew I was out of time.
I stormed out of the elevator when the doors slid open. Explosions started to rock the whole place, I was inside the inferno, I was inside for the ride. Fire was erupting from everywhere, even the fountain. The fish on the fountain were spitting fire. I felt a little sad about leaving the place I had known as “home” for more than fifteen years destroyed, but couldn’t care at the point.
I ran. With all the haste I had, until I reached halfway to Balamb Town, I ran.
Balamb Garden ignited in an inferno behind me, explosions rocking the place, flames swallowing it as a whole. I ducked cover, tried to shield myself from any white-hot piece that might’ve harmed me.
So it had been White SeeD that had killed Rinoa. So it has been the thing I had faith in, SeeD, the one that was guilty. I was free of the crimes, except for those which were open to the public. I still had that price tag, but the news tonight would show the prize melting in flames. I was free of a possible manhunt, free of my own guilt, free of everything that had tortured me all along.
But somehow, I felt chained to pain.
Eventhough my ghosts had loosened their grip, their cold, skeletal hands were still on my throat.