Crimson Lies Chapter 32
Final Fantasy VIII and all the characters belong to Square.
The night has a thousand eyes,
And the day but one;
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun.
The mind has a thousand eyes,
And the heart but one;
Yet the light of a whole life dies,
When love is done.
-Francis W. Bourdillon
For a moment, the world disappeared. All the Commander could see was a small speck in the distant horizon. What once was a helicopter, now a mere grain of sand upon the ocean of the skies. It faded into nothingness, as did his soul.
As quickly as she came, she was gone.
The child's cry finally brought him back to reality one he was completely unsure of. His head tilted as he looked at the toddler, their eyes locked and the child suddenly stopped sobbing. He stared into his own eyes, a mirror of his own emotions. Both had lost the most important person in the world to them, and some mutual understanding passed between. Many would say it would be impossible to empathize with a child, the girl too immature to understand. But they would be wrong. Squall Leonhart was a man who hid his emotions, but no matter how hard he tried, it seemed to be impossible to hide them from the child in his arms.
He closed his eyes, pulling Allison to his chest. Her muffled cries finally faded, as her breathing returned to normal. She listened to soothing sound of his heartbeat, although at the moment it was racing. Squall held her, as if she was the last bit of sanity he had left, and she was. Ally was the one thing keeping him from completely losing all sense of reality.
"I have to, it's my destiny it always has been. I'd give my life for her "
" I would too," he soberly whispered in his daughter's ear. "I'll give my life for you and her. That will be my destiny. Allison you will see your mother again I promise."
"I trust you." Her last words echoed.
"How? I failed you again "
"No you didn't." He turned toward the voice, surprised anyone could hear his pleas. Alex stood, smoothing down the little girl's hair. "She trusted you to protect Allison. You did that it is all Rinoa ever wanted."
"Alex how how do I go on?" It was a rare show of uncertainty from him, one not usually seen, nor heard by others. "I have to go after her I can't lose her again I can't."
"Squall stop. Don't do this right now. You have to get ready to leave for Esthar, you two will be safe there. This war is going to happen no matter what. Leave it to your friends to find her."
"You want me to go to Esthar? You think I can just walk out of here? After this how could I do that? I have to be there to lead the battle. Mitchell took everything from me; I will take everything from him." The sharp reply was concurrent to his usual demeanor now returning, his few seconds of emotion being replaced with his normal persona.
"They haven't taken everything from you yet. If you go after her, then they will." Quistis walked up next to Squall, offering her outlook on the situation. "Allison has a father and grandfather in Esthar that is far more than any of us have. Don't take that away from her. Rinoa knew this all along. You seeking revenge is what she feared."
"So what? Do you all think I should run away? Run away like a child like she did two years ago." The last words didn't mean to slip out, but once they were said, there was no taking them back. "Oh God I didn't mean that."
"Yes you did," countered Alex. "Because you still regret her actions from that day, and you have not forgiven yourself for not going after her. For not believing. Right now, you don't know what to think. You are headstrong, and no matter what you can't be wrong, but you place all the blame upon yourself at the same time it's a paradox. It's who you are, it is what you were trained to be."
"I wasn't trained to be anybody," he insisted. "I am who I decide to be and I decided to be her knight. For that, I will risk my life saving her."
"Squall," shouted Cid from across the room. "Get to your office. Mitchell's on a satellite phone demanding to speak to you right away."
The first thought that entered his head is they had already executed her, and he was calling in celebration. It made the bile rise from his stomach into his throat, but he kept his composure in front of his comrades. However, he reasoned that if she were dead, part of him would know it; their connection had grown. He could feel her anguish, even in the corridor. When the barrel of the gun hit her, the knight felt the sting resonate within him. But the connection was now being repressed with the Odine cuffs. He quickly handed Allison to Alex, before hastily running the distance to his office. He was glade to be alone; no matter what this was now his personal war.
"You bastard." Squall knew it wasn't the smartest way to start a conversation. But for once, he spoke his heart not his mind.
"Nice to talk to you too Leonhart."
"What, what do you want?" His anger outgrowing any sense of reasonability.
"I just wanted to congratulate you on your role in capturing the sorceress; when the story breaks tomorrow in the Galbadian papers I'll be sure to give you credit. Your work ethic is to be commended."
"You're sick," he replied fervently. Then he found the courage to ask the one question he didn't want to hear the answer to. "What what are you planning on doing with her? What good are her powers to you? She'll never help you."
Laughing echoed through the other end of the line, along with the sounds of the chopper blades. "You really think I am going to keep her around? I mean she might be a good screw but after that, she's useless Monday afternoon she will be executed live on television."
"You fucking bastard." Picking up a stapler, Squall threw it across the room. "Damn it, don't I beg you don't."
"Oh the mighty lion begging to me? This is only the beginning Squall I could have killed you, but watching you suffer is a far better game. The moment that life leaves her body, you will never forgive yourself. In her last dying breath, will it be you she thinks of you and your failure?"
His body was shaking; never had he hated so much. Never had he wanted to kill someone out of pure rage. Never had he become someone no better than Bennett or Mitchell. He was turning into them, his hate driving his actions. "Why us? Why Ellone?"
"Oh you mean the attack two years ago? That that was a comedy of errors. However, it turned out for the best. It just took me a little longer than I planned "
"Comedy of errors Ellone is dead!!! You came here to kill Rinoa then, to ruin everything I had. Why can't you leave us alone?"
"Oh Mr. Leonhart you are confused. Galbadia didn't attack two years ago to kill Rinoa far from it. We were there to kill you."
"What?" The answer took him back.
"Oh it was a perfect plan, Lauren made sure we knew the location of Garden. You were to be executed in your office Rinoa's blood would have been found. Everyone including Garden would be asking no demanding her death. It was simple your blood was to be planted on her and hers on you elementary really."
"The vials " Squall realized their intentions. With him gone, Rinoa wouldn't stand a chance, the hate within her easily driving her to the darker side. But when she ran she changed their plans, and ultimately not only saved her life but his. They needed Squall alive if only to find Rinoa. In time she would come back they knew it.
"You had Lauren switch the blood samples. God, the answers were with me all along."
"Yes, it would have been easier then, we wouldn't have to kill Sorceress Heartilly. Now, your connection is too great. Your bond is too strong. So now she dies, I have already handpicked her replacement. The powers will transfer at the execution and then, all will be mine."
"All what you bastard? What more power do you want? You have a country and the World Council at your disposal."
"Yes, I suppose so Mr. Leonhart. But when you beg for your life, and look upon me with utter terror, and I alone decide your fate then I will have all the power I want."
"You'll come after her. It's not in your nature to run you'll fight until every ounce of blood has drained from your body. Until you are more of a corpse than General Caraway. Don't bother sneaking in the presidential palace, I will gladly have the guards let you in I'll reserve a front-row seat in your honor at her execution. So when she takes that dying breath, it will be your eyes she looks into and only sees failure."
"You " he was cut off as the line went dead. Pulling the phone from the wall, he tossed it in the same direction as the stapler. He felt so alone, so lost. No matter what he seemed to do, it was wrong. In his heart, he wanted to go after her, save her be the hero. But that was never how things went for them. They were the tragic love story, the one that could never have the happy ending. Yet if he left for Esthar, he could save Allison. But how could he live with himself it was what she wanted. It was something he promised her. From their first night in the cabin, together, he could feel her pain. Now his hatred was controlling him, and in battle, emotion can be used against you. And he had promised her...
Walking into the chapel, he first noticed the simplicity of the room. It wasn't here when he attended, but truthfully, it was always needed. Leonhart at least got one thing right as Commander. Seifer wasn't a religious man, or one to ask for forgiveness from the gods. He almost felt a sense of guilt even walking into the room, but at that moment, he really had no other place to go. Sitting down on one of the pews, he picked up a small book that lay next to him. He glanced at it only casually before setting back on the bench. He didn't know what he wanted to find here, peace, tranquility or something unknown. The sounds of heels clicking on the wooden floorboards made his body tense, a sound of boots that he had grown used to the last few days.
She remained silent, sitting down next to him. He could smell her perfume, and the scent of her strawberry shampoo. But right now, even her being there didn't seem to help his disposition. He felt like a failure too, the minute Rinoa left a prisoner a part of him died. She was his friend, and somebody he still cared for. Someone who had a hard life, but always tried to be optimistic, almost to the point of insanity. That summer they had talked a lot, it was what they did best a stark contrast to her and Squall's relationship.
"I can't imagine having your entire life crumble like that, in one instant," he finally spoke.
"I know." Quistis closed her eyes, trying not to let the guilt consume her.
"To watch your father executed, to see your child almost dropped thirty feet to the concrete. To watch the only person you ever loved have his heart ripped out."
This time, she said nothing. No words she could articulate would make the situation less difficult. Pushing her hair back, she looked down at her hands, the ones still shaking from earlier today. Hands that had seen battle by the age of thirteen hands that had killed by fourteen. Hands that had sinned, since the moment she walked into Garden. She didn't deserve to be in this chapel; in her mind, she was as guilty as Mitchell. Fighting for the highest bidder, never having the morals to stand for what she truly believed. Rinoa had she fought from her heart over the liberation of Timber. Maybe now, the difference between them was becoming more lucid and why Squall saw the distinction all those years ago.
"I never really have felt comfortable around organized religious settings," admitted Seifer. "I find that most tend to be hypocritical, at least from the stand point of an ex-knight."
Quistis chuckled from the incongruity in the statement. "Like the fact that I never show up here until someone is sick, dying or dead Then expect the Gods to listen to my request. I always promise if they grant me this one thing, I will be faithful to them and change my life...and then I go on as before until something else comes up."
He looked at her with a small grin, "Yeah something like that. We only ask for something when we need it. Heck I'm not even sure what I believe, but you had better believe if I thought this was the end I would be asking forgiveness. When I should have done that long before."
Looking back at him she asked, "Seifer, isn't that why you came back to Garden? To repent for your sins? Not to the Gods, but to those who you had wronged?"
"I suppose, but I think I committed ten more sins in the process." His tone lightened up, and she elbowed him in the stomach. "Okay, at least two."
Her laughter almost turned into tears. "So this is it, huh? This is how it is written for us for them. They didn't deserve this and what becomes of Allison if Squall doesn't make it through?"
"She goes on."
"That's kind of cryptic, isn't it Seifer?"
"No, not really. We could compare our childhood to Allison's but really, that isn't accurate. She still has family us. Plus, I'm guessing Alexandra would take her back to Esthar maybe then Laguna will get his second chance. We all deserve that, right? You and I should know that better than anyone. But Allison is lucky; she will always know the truth about her parents. Who they were and that she was born as a product of their love. She will know their names, and know of them, and know how much she was loved none of us can claim that .except for Squall."
"But how do you know Squall is going to go after her? If he promised Rinoa he would stay "
"Because even she knew."
Seifer reached for something in his pocket. A metallic object shined brightly even through the dim lighting. "She gave me this before Mitchell took her away. I was told to give it to Alexandra because she knew Squall would come. She isn't blind, she knows he won't listen it's his nature, it's his curse. Her last words to me look after Squall when he comes to Galbadia Strange right? I was told to look after the same person I wanted to kill, the guy I scarred for life." He placed the Griever ring in the palm of Quistis' hand. "We all go after Rinoa, and we win or fail all together nobody stays behind. Just like your group when you fought Ultimecia."
Shaking her head at the thought, her blue eyes met with his. "Why is Mitchell far more terrifying than Ultimecia? Why do I feel an apprehension with him that I never had with her?"
"Mitchell is mortal, and because of that he is more dangerous. He might think himself mightier, but he will not underestimate our capability or determination. Ultimecia believed that she was unbeatable and because of that, she was arrogant. Mitchell doesn't rely on magic or monsters to win. He flourishes on our emotions, our deepest fears. That is far more dangerous than any sorceress is. He can think he can plan and he is waiting for us."
She silently digested his words, and took them to heart. All of that was true, and she knew it but one more reason came into her mind. She wasn't sure if she should voice her opinion or not, but before she knew it, the words came out. "Seifer, I was also younger back then, and thought I could take on the world. But now, I am older and learned what is important. I think this time, I'm scared because for the first time I have something more to lose than my life I have you."
The words shocked him for a moment, but he couldn't deny the same. "I'm scared of losing you too I have never felt well I mean Fujin and Raijin, but this is different. The price to pay for failure is far greater this time. I can't lose you either, or I might as well die with you."
He slowly reached and put his arm around her, as she placed her head on his shoulder. Closing her eyes, she gripped the ring tightly. "Until the bitter end we will fight for redemption until the bitter end even if it means our lives together."
The blue skies seemed endless, as did the oceanic waters below. The two colors only reflected off the distant horizon as the roar of the blades cut the air like knives. The chopper was an old Galbadian military issue, Rinoa spent many hours playing on them. Her father never cared, and early childhood hours were spent with the soldiers teaching her about the equipment. She would pretend she was flying; it was almost like a childhood playhouse. Now, those same soldiers wished her dead.
The effects of the handcuffs were equal to a hallucinogen. She found herself watching the water below, lost in its shimmer. Rinoa heard someone snapping, but she didn't have the strength or the will to lift her head. The next thing she felt, more like heard, was a rigid slap across the face. She registered that it should hurt, but still there wasn't much pain. Only a slight sting, although it did direct her attention toward the source of the sound.
"I got off the phone with your boyfriend a little while ago he says hello." Mitchell laughed at her weakened state. How could any one with so much power allow this to happen? It was almost a shame, if I had gotten to her two years ago, she could have been an exalted ruler. Now she was just a shell of a human being, not even worth the cost of the gas to reach Garden.
" Squall," she managed in her drunk-like state.
"Oh you are a winner What did he ever see in you? Hyne, even Squall Leonhart would have had great potential had he not fallen for someone as wretched as you."
"You turned him into an uptight bastard," echoed a second voice sitting next to Rinoa.
"Now Lauren, let's not put too much blame on her he was already an uptight bastard before she got there."
"How much longer anyhow until we land? I never was one for flying, and this open-aired military copter is less than appealing."
Mitchell raised an eyebrow. "You really did good back there. I'm proud of you...for that at least."
"Thanks, you know how much I love you and I can't wait until I'm the new sorceress, together we can take over the world."
"Yes, I am planning to take over the world but not with you."
"What?" The confusion and distress evident in her voice. "What are you talking about Jefferson?"
"Well being in a position such as myself, I am forced to do things that I don't want to. One of those things was being with you. You were good in bed, and we had a great time posing for the pictures. But you were nothing more than an opportunity. I needed you and for the last three years, you did well. Except one thing you let her get away and I don't accept any form of failure."
"But but I found her again. You said you loved me you said if I did this we would be together."
"I lied," he said smugly. Now, for your failures you shall suffer. Again, he pulled out his handgun and aimed it toward her. "Any last words?"
"But I love you "
"Your mistake." He pulled the trigger two times, each hitting her in the stomach. "You know I heard this is one of the most gradual, excruciating ways to die let me know if that is true." Placing the gun back in the holster, he opened the small hatch to where the pilot was seated. Rinoa turned as the shots fired; she could barely make out the collapsed figure on the floor. The sight gave her a small bit of clarity, images of her father raced into her memory.
"No, no " The same thoughts as earlier were whispered.
"Help me ." Lauren's faint cries were barely audible above the propellers. Rinoa looked down at the girl, and saw images of herself in the last few years. In a way, they were similar, each doing what they did out of love but Rinoa managed to remain true to her beliefs. Rinoa's love was real; Lauren fell for an illusion.
"I can't," murmured Rinoa. "I have no powers I have nothing." The tears were streaking down her cheeks. The dirt from the air hitting her in the face each grain stinging against her skin she tried not to think about the girl dying before her eyes. She could taste her salty tears mixed with the grit from the helicopter, and the smell of fuel that filled her senses.
The woman on the ground was coughing up blood; streaks ran down the side of her mouth. Rinoa had been in battle long enough to know the torture she was going through the slow death of drowning in her own blood. The metallic taste that would be overwhelming her senses her taste, her smell.
"Please," begged Lauren. "If you can't save me make the pain stop."
Rinoa tried to lean forward only to realize that she was bound not only by the handcuffs, but by also anchored to the body of the helicopter. Managing to get her feet out far enough, she used the entire force of her body, kicking Lauren to the edge.
"Please " begged Lauren once again. Their eyes locked, as one moment of lucidity returned to the sorceress. Rinoa closed her eyes, giving one more forceful push, until the half-dead body fell from the chopper. She couldn't fight back the tears, or the pain. She just killed somebody, taken their final breaths. She tried to comfort herself that it was for the best. It would be quick It was of little comfort. Rinoa looked back to see a darkened object in the surf below, she never even heard Lauren's body hit the water.
It was dark, he had no idea what time it was. The hours passed, ticked away without remorse. Every second was torture to him. He looked out into the shadowed sky once again, not sure what he was searching for, but whatever it was wasn't there. The night air was of little refreshment, it only caused him more sorrow. The Commander reached to his chest grabbing the chain around his neck, feeling the coolness in contrast to his skin.
She knew this was coming; Rinoa foresaw it. However, he dismissed it, as he dismissed everything about her in the past.
Now his friends were going to be risking their lives once again because of his mistakes. He could see her smile etched in his heart; he could see her playing on the floor with Allison. He could feel her skin upon his the memories were going to consume him. This happened two years ago, and look at the monster he turned into. A bitter man full of abhorrence and remorse, but not again.
He quickly walked back into his office, turning on his computer monitor. There was a risk going after her, but he would be no better off if he didn't try. The blame would completely consume him within a year regret would swallow him. He looked at the blank pages of the word processor, unsure of where to start or even how to start. He only knew that maybe, he could leave one small thing to his daughter. The truth, their legacy and hers He wasn't good at sentiments, but he knew Rinoa would want him to do this at the very least.
For the next four hours, he typed a letter to Allison. Telling her about the moment he first saw her mother, to the moment she was taken away. The mistakes they made, the love they shared. Everything he could type from his heart. He was going to leave Allison something he couldn't offer to anyone but to her or Rinoa himself.
Final Fantasy 8 Fanfic