Crimson Lies Chapter 2
Final Fantasy VIII and all the characters belong to Square.
He is the lion,
that I am proud to hunt.
Garden remained quiet as Squall reached his office and opened the large mahogany door. It was chilly inside, and he left it that way. He found the colder he kept the temperature, the less time people would stay. Call it a lesson in human behavior, or just an unspoken way of saying, "get the hell out." Psychology was not his major, but it was a learned trait in military strategy.
The room was dark, and he had no desire to turn on the lights. Walking over to the computer, Squall grabbed the ashtray that lay on a small entrance table. It was, by all means, going to be a long night. For a moment, the only sound in the room was his footsteps walking across the carpet to his desk. He sighed inwardly, and then turned on the main computer. The low hum of the machine gave him a certain type of comfort, one not given by humans.
Yes indeed, the council had already changed course. Astonishing how
a bunch of corrupt politicians could run things from so far away in Deling
City. Currently they were almost 200 kilometers southwest of Trabia,
now headed due south. So much for checking in on Trabia Garden.
"Damn them." Squall slammed his fist on the wooden desk. He had to play their little games, and over the last two years, he had become good at games. He didnt like them. Politics wasnt something he preferred to deal with, but now he was a sitting member of the World Council. This remarkably, was made up of ninety percent Galbadian officials, five percent Estharian officials, and five percent world.
He noticed the red light blinking on his phone. An incoming call at this hour was a rarity, and he debated letting it go into voice-mail. However, figuring it had to be an important message this time of night, and thanks to the emergency answering and paging systems, it would be rerouted to him within five minutes. Delaying answering would be just putting off the inevitable.
"Commander Leonhart speaking."
A voice came from the other end of the receiver. No introduction was necessary; it was Jefferson Mitchell, President of Deling and head of the World Council. Surprise.
"Commander, good to hear youre still working this late, it
is greatly appreciated. Your work ethic is to be commended."
"Thank you, sir. I have been notified of the recent events, Garden is now on its way to Deling. At present speed, we shall arrive in two days' time. A brief stop tomorrow in Balamb for provisions is unavoidable."
"I know, Mr. Leonhart. Your prompt return is what the council requests. We received reports, from a reliable source, that the sorceress was spotted in downtown Deling. We cannot be too careful, she is considered a war criminal and will be treated accordingly."
"With all due respect President Mitchell, I know that. It has been two years since she initiated the attack on Garden. I know she is to face trial on murder, and my previous personal relationship with her will not affect my judgment on the situation."
"Yes, Commander tomorrow is the anniversary of your sister's tragic death. Time is fast becoming the issue at hand."
"Ellone was no true blood relation, but a sister still the same." Even after two years, the next words cut like a knife every time they were spoken, "Sorceress Rinoa Heartilly should be held responsible for the death of Ellone Loire. I will find her for immediate trial."
"I know. You have proven yourself on this matter in the past. Be careful."
"Yes sir, always." Squall hung up the phone hastily, not even sure if the conversation was truly over, nor truly caring.
He sat staring at the hypnotic light of computer monitor for a few minutes, lost in an endless world of doubt. Picking up the phone again, he dialed an all too familiar number.
"Its Leonhart, we have received news shes in Deling. Garden wont arrive until Tuesday, I want our man there tomorrow to investigate, and Ill triple his pay if he finds her first. The council is getting concerned about the time its taking SeeD I have no idea how much longer I can stall. If you find anything, call me on my private line, dont go through the Garden switchboard."
Squall hung up the phone, without saying another word, or allowing any type of reply from the other end. This was going to rip him apart yet.
"Sounds like someone isn't playing fair," a voice spoke from the dark abyss
of the room.
Squall immediately grabbed his gunblade and raised it, ready for the confrontation. Something about the voice was familiar, yet he knew it couldn't be anyone presently at Garden.
"Who is there!?" Squall shouted, "You are trespassing, and will be treated as a threat to SeeD."
"Come on Puberty Boy, Im already a threat to SeeD." Seifer Almasy quipped as he flipped on the lights, blinding Squall momentarily.
The Commander quickly jumped over the desk and pointed the blade of Lionheart to Seifers neck, "One move you bastard, and youre dead."
"You know, this isn't the welcome I was hoping for. Where are the flowers and wine?"
Squall was in no mood for mind games, "What the hell do you want?"
It had been five years since last they met, when Seifer decided to sacrifice the sorceress, to Adel. The blonde ex-knight looked almost the same, maybe a little worse for wear. It was obvious he had been through a few scuffles, but that was to be expected. He had all but fallen off the face of the planet, and for Squalls sake, that was a good thing. The last distraction he needed right now in his life was Seifer. The Commander was a bit taken back at the emotion he felt, for although it was pure hate, it was the only true emotion he had experienced in ages.
"What do I want? I want you to stop pointing your little toy sword at my jugular for one."
"How do I know youre not going to try to kill me? You are still wanted by Garden for acts of betrayal five years ago. There is no statute of limitation on treason, Mr. Almasy."
"Make no mistake, there would be no try. Im not going to kill you Leonhart, what fun would that be? We just were reacquainted. Then again, it was upsetting that I wasnt best man at the wedding. I didnt even get an invitation, suppose it was lost in the mail Commander Puberty."
"Shut up, Seifer."
For some unknown reason, the Commander believed the man did not want
to kill him. Visually confirming that Seifer wasnt carrying his
weapon, Squall took the risk that he wouldnt pull a smaller, concealed
one. Slowly, without breaking eye contact, he lowered his gunblade,
keeping it out to silently emphasize his lingering distrust. That begged
only the question, why was he there?
"So, married Quistis never saw that one coming. How is dear Instructor Leonhart?"
"Fine. Now answer my question. Why the hell are you here?"
Seifer was the first to look away from their locked glare. Turning his back to Squall, he took a few steps and nonchalantly sat on the couch. The Commander was growing more impatient by the second, mentally considering whether to raise arms and get this over with once and for all.
"Youre not going to believe me, even if I decide to tell you Tomorrows the anniversary of the invasion, that fact should be obvious to even you," Seifer paused waiting for a response, yet he didn't receive one, only one that was nonverbal. Squall continued his intent watch, never once taking his eyes off his life-long adversary, never once trusting him for a moment.
The cold, almost heartless stare, made Seifer surprisingly uncomfortable before there had always been a hidden passion within his eyes, but now they just held an empty gaze. He decided to continue before Squalls patience gave way. "Information Ive been spending a few years underground in Deling, hanging out in places not listed with the visitors bureau. Mitchell is stepping up the hunt for Rinoa, going on his own outside the council. But then again, from the phone call, so are you."
"I dont know what youre getting at, Mr. Almasy. Garden is the military force leading the hunt for the sorceress. That is my official and only position."
"Right...you're Mitchells lapdog. No offense."
"Is that what you came to do? Inform me of my job?"
Seifer stood up from the leather sofa and dared to take a step closer to Squall. "Im here to help you find her before they do. Did you know Galbadian forces have been secretly ordered to shoot to kill first, and ask questions later?"
Seifer took yet another step closer, almost tauntingly, towards Squall. "Youre running your own little investigation, I have my sources. In fact, there are currently four separate investigations I'm aware of for our little princess the 'official' World Council's, President Mitchells, and yours."
"You said four."
"Glad to see you can still count
I havent figured out the fourth
yet, or at least who is running the show. My first thoughts were Caraway
or even Esthar
I have no concrete evidence on either, so thought
maybe Id ask the world hero Leonhart
get it straight from the
"Sorceress Heartilly is an enemy of all Gardens and the world, held responsible for the death of Ellone Loire. She is to be considered dangerous. If she shows any sign of resistance, shoot to kill," Squall recited verbatim as if reading a script, with no emotion.
"Shoot to kill!? Listen to yourself, Commander. Shit. Look me in the eyes and tell me thats what you believe, that she murdered Ellone in cold blood!?"
Squall remained silent. For the first time since the unwanted encounter, he turned his back, breaking the eye contact. "Leave now," he stated vehemently. He put Lionheart back into the sheath and reached for the remaining cigarette of the pack. Before he had a chance to ignite, Seifer walked up behind him and grabbed it from his fingers. Squall quickly turned, as Seifer crushed it in his right hand. As he opened his fist, bits of smashed tobacco leaves trickled to the ground like brown snow.
"Dont you know those things will kill you?"
Seifer turned and headed toward the door; Squall still stood motionless in front of his desk. Before the wanted man reached the doorknob, Squall only spoke one word.
Without facing the Commander, Seifer replied, "Because Im a Sorceress's Knight, because Ive already made mistakes, because I must know the truth, and because I still care about what happens to her." He abruptly spun and reinitiated eye contact with Squall.
After a moment of silence, a small smirk appeared on Seifers face. "I thought so. By the way, put Fujin in a long dark wig, sunglasses, and then yell sorceress in front of two SeeDs. Amazing how reliable sources are born. I needed time."
Squall inhaled deeply, it was almost a relief. Walking around to the
chair, he sat down and picked up a pile of papers. Tossing them to
the side, he spoke without looking up, "Garden is docking at Balamb tomorrow
for supplies. I might take an evening walk on the pier around six."
Seifer said nothing else, nor did Squall acknowledge his existence any further.
The Commander sat at the oversized desk for what had to have been hours, without accomplishing any real tasks. All he had managed to do was shuffle documents from pile to pile, pretending to read memos. He was actually just skimming through the paperwork, and signing his name to hell knows what. The events of the evening kept replaying in his head. The only person he had to trust now was the person he trusted least. Irony was a fickle creature. He paused to look at a picture of Ellone, realizing it was after midnight. It was the anniversary of her death and, in a way, also his.
Quistis lay alone in bed; she was always alone. When Squall did sleep
with her, he always managed to turn away. She again found herself silently
crying. Long blonde hair was sticking to her face, yet she didnt
care. He was slowly pulling her down and she was starting to drown.
Would he even notice? So much had happened in the last two years.
Sometimes, she lay there trying to fit together pieces of the giant puzzle
that was Squall Leonhart into place, but nothing ever fit. Only one
thing seemed evident, she didnt seem to be part of it.
The day he asked for her hand in marriage should have been the happiest day of her life. Dont get it wrong, she was happy, but most of the emotion manufactured for the benefit of those around. Why did he even ask if he never wanted her? Maybe she was just a second-rate substitute for what he really desired. She knew, who the hell around there didnt?
Being the ever-patient optimist, she accepted the proposal. Proposal? That term was truly stretching the happy event. Squall walked into the classroom with a sullen, even for him, expression covering his face. They had talked before that evening several times. Well she did, he only pretended to listen. At least she was not told to talk to a wall; although looking back now, there didnt seem to be much difference. No official dating before the offer, only one kiss, she initiated that. Maybe thats why the puzzle never fit. All Squall did was set a diamond ring on the desk. No words. In her heart, she knew he really didnt want this, but over time... Yes, time would solve everything. He would grow to show her the same passion, the same respect, as her.
Thinking of her, bile began to rise to her mouth. Guilt. Guilt sometimes consumed Quistis Trepe-Leonhart. Now on this second anniversary of her disappearance, the emotions were eating away at the instructor. Their problems werent all Squall's fault, she admitted that to no one but herself. What would he mourn more today, the loss of Ellone or the loss of Rinoa? It was now his job, his duty to find her and carry out the execution. The World Council, even she knew, decided this fate long ago and there would be no trial of guilt or innocence. The torment Squall must go through every day, hunting her down like common prey, had to be slowly eating away at his soul. He too was drowning, she realized.
But, he would not accept the life preserver.
Final Fantasy 8 Fanfic