Crimson Lies Chapter 14
The Wheel of Time turns, and ages come
leaving memories that become legend,
then fade to myth, and are long forgotten
when that age comes again.
The rain pounded against the small building as afternoon skies turned an angry gray. Being a coastal town surrounded by a mountain range offered Dollet some protection at times; far more common, the location served as a hindrance to calm. Western winds gathered force over vast open seas. When it was peaceful the town equaled the picture portrayed in many a post card. However, when a storm came swiftly upon them it could rival any finger of the gods. Many sailors had perished on the Dollet coast. Pounding waves, jagged rocks, and a natural coral reef compounded in a deadly recipe giving credence to local legends and ghost stories. Even myths are routed in reality.
"What do you mean that this Corrine person jumped to her death below?" Zell stared at the cowboy with confusion, "You are telling me that someone would actually choose to jump off a cliff during a storm like this?"
Irvine shut the curtains, "That's why they are called legends Zell. Nobody knows if it happened or not, but that is how the Galbadian fable goes. Even this region has their history with Hyne. Remember this once was all part of the Centrian Empire, the army of Centra expanded over many continents. But, as in every other culture of the world, all great empires must fall. Centra were no exception they couldn't run from destiny. It's an endless cycle bound to repeat itself."
Zell continued starring at the clock ticking on the table in front of him. Scratching his head, he finally spoke, "So this chick thinks if she throws herself over a cliff that Hyne would grant her another life somehow saving the entire settlement."
"Well Dollet is still here, so I guess it worked and the pilgrims of the settlement were spared. But you weren't listening were you? I said that Hyne never granted her another life; instead, her spirit was contemned to stay trapped in the sea below. Two years and seven days she stayed among the crashing waves, forced to watch as the cruel waters claimed many of her loved ones." Irvine glanced over to the martial artist now staring at the front door.
"Yeah, I heard that story before that's when Hyne took pity on her, because she had shown no weakness and never questioned the word of the gods. So since then, Hyne made every sorceress's spirit travel between the plains of reality for two years and seven days before accepting their place among the gods, to prove their worth."
"Right Zell after they pass the powers on, their spirit stays between the living and dead as a trial to their being. Right here is where that started when Corrine threw herself over the cliff, landing on the rocks below. Her mortal body never to be found again."
"But what's up with this two years and a week thing? Sounds kinda corny to me."
Irvine sat on the hard floor leaning against the cold wall.
"Because Zell, that is when her son died in the ocean. He had never given
up hope on finding his mothers remains and giving her the proper tribal burial.
Corrine never pleaded for her sons' life, never begged Hyne to spare him.
She accepted whatever Hyne determined, but in doing so she saved them both
as Hyne granted her soul freedom that day. For a few moments, she got to
see her family upon the plain of the living before her spirit moved on
along with her sons."
"Thanks Irvine for the history lesson, but let's face it, that's all fiction. Never has there been an account of a sorceress having to wait two years and a week before moving on. I think it's just a story that they invented to make some girl jumping off a cliff not seem well, so tragic. It's more romantic to think of it as a sacrifice for others, rather then what it really was."
"Gee Zell I thought you would be the more romantic. But have it your way. Sometimes I don't think Squall is the only one who lost faith after Ellone died. What happened to that carefree spirit we all used to know?"
Zell watched the door as the thunder reverberated through the small building.
"I'm currently waiting to see why I aided a known felon on nothing more then
a hunch. Alexandra said she would be back by now
we should have never
let her go. Probably skipped town."
Standing from the floor, Irvine walked over to a small adjacent room. Opening the door slightly he could see a tiny figure covered in blankets lying quietly on the bed. Shaking his head at how any living creature could sleep through such a storm, he returned his eye to Zell, "Because we have Allison. Nobody goes through everything she did just to leave now I think your right there is more to this. For some reason I trust Alex."
As Irvine finished his statement, the door opened. A gust of wind slammed the frame against the outside wall; the hooded figure quickly reached back grabbing the metal handle.
"It figures we would be having the worst storm of the century now. Hyne has a sardonic humor that I grant her. I managed to get the supplies that were prearranged just enough gil to pay for it all."
Alex took off the soaking wet fleece looking like the preverbal drowned rat. Immediately setting the knapsack down, she marched over to the small bedroom door that remained ajar. A miniature sigh of relief escaped her, observing the rise and fall of the blanket at the child's rhythmic breathing.
Zell felt a sudden relief now that Alex had returned. Getting off the couch, he approached her, "Okay, a deal's a deal. We held up our end of the bargain about the questioning until today, but I demand you start talking soon or we are heading to the authorities."
Alex rolled her eyes, "You're just as wanted as I am. Please, don't try that on me. I worked for the biggest son-of-a-bitch for the last two years. Trust me, none of your scare tactics will work. Why do you think it is twelve hours later and you are still as in the dark as yesterday? Except today you have a lovely bullet wound to show for your concern."
"You only escaped because we allowed it. Without us, you would be dead and that baby would be back with its parents. Where, by the way, Allison should be. Now start talking."
"It's always about control with SeeD's, isn't it? The poignant detail about the situation is that you have no idea who has the control right now. You're being hunted just like me; it petrifies you. Military life is about meticulous order, without it there is only chaos. Disarray terrifies you Zell. Explanation and rationalization is essential to your survival. Lately that's been taken away from you; right now you are trying to hold on to your sanity with defiance."
Alex walked over and started going through the duffle bag of new supplies. She grabbed a rolled up newspaper tossing it in the general direction of the martial artist never once looking up from the bag. Trained reflex allowed him to grab the paper without as much as a second thought. Irvine watched the events of the last few minutes still leaning against the wall. Something about this almost seemed familiar, but he had never seen this person in front of him. Feelings of uneasiness would not leave him, no matter how much he tried.
Sensing Irvine's eyes on her, Alex looked up from the bag. Standing up strait, she tilted her head to one side and smiled slightly.
you're different. You do not live by the same rules as your comrades,
you may take up arms against your enemies but you're not of true military
blood. You're not technically SeeD, nor can you ever be. Maybe in title,
but never in beliefs. Spirits are a wondrous things, yours is no exception."
"Great," Zell replied sarcastically. "I get shot saving a psychology major, just my luck."
Alex chuckled outwardly, taking a seat on the old torn couch, "It was my minor, but close enough. I think you guys are ready for answers now."
Irvine tipped his hat to the lady as she smiled impishly, "Guess we know who has the control now."
Too many emotions, too many feelings flooded her mind. An emotional dam she
refused to break, no matter how much pressure lay upon it. How difficult
would it be to tell him the truth? A few words that could, and would change
no three lives forever. She trusted him with her life once, she
trusted him with her heart once. Trust. That word and Squall Leonhart just
didn't fit as of now, but she held out hope that someday, they might.
Allison was her number one priority; she would protect her. Right now as much as she wanted to believe Squall to be on her side, tinges of doubt clouded her mind. For two years, he sought to destroy her, now he shows up willing to believe her innocent. If Squall even gave Bennett the slightest notion that Allison was not his, Bennett would not be above murdering the child. Out of spite for Rinoa's betrayal, out of his desperate desire for power. She was a pawn, nothing more then a dispensable piece. There would be fatalities, by gods. And Allison would not be among them.
Rinoa Heartilly had learned many things over the last two years. Most life lessons not wished upon anyone. She dared to look him in the eyes; eyes that told a tale of loneliness, of pain. Now, she would add to that anguish.
"I Allison is my daughter. Richard doesn't care about us. I was nothing more then a prisoner there and he used his daughter to Squall he would kill her. You must believe me. Family means nothing to him."
In saying the word, no matter how incoherent they were. She knew that he would get the basic message. His daughter Richard Bennett's daughter. Simple words; not the truth, yet not a lie. He had raised her for the last year, as a father would. Her reasoning was making her ill. She could feel herself grow nauseous; she could no longer look at him. For the first time since she left that bastards house a few nights ago, she cried. Not for herself, not even for Allison. She cried for Squall. He turned away from her and it broke her heart. She collapsed back in the rocking chair, closing her eyes as tears rolled down her pale cheeks.
The blackness filled her thoughts, continuing in the solitary darkness. She could picture his face, his emotions. She heard the sounds of his boots stepping across the wooden planked floor. Each giving a strange echo that chilled her to the bone. For the briefest of seconds, she flashed to him standing on the Deling stage as she watched from the dark alleyway. That night so much had changed. She had to live the lie, as she had done for two years. For all practical purposes, she was guilty of murder, of herself, of Rinoa Heartilly.
His breathing deepened as he walked away from her. Two years later and he is still the one walking away. Bennett's daughter that fucking bastard's daughter. Thousands of memories filled his mind, times with her, times without her, each more painful then the last. Rinoa was a prisoner trapped within her own life; he realized that now. For a second he glanced back, she sat silently crying. He had done this to her. She would forever remain a prisoner; she could never be exonerated of the crimes.
"Rinoa," he spoke trying to show little emotion. "What what did I do to you?"
Wiping away the tears from the eyes, she tried using the palms of her hands. The attempt futile, as more quickly took their place.
"Squall I never knew it to possible to love someone, yet to be filled with so much contempt for the same person. For two years, I dreamed that you would find me, rescue me from the world I was forced into. Somehow, I would wake up from this horrible nightmare, you comforting me. However, when I woke up I only saw the moonlight filling your side of the bed. On some fucking occasions, I saw Richard. It wasn't just you who did this it was circumstances, events, things that neither of us controlled. It just came down to trust in the end, you didn't trust me. Now, I can't trust you."
The words stung him harder then anything imaginable. He knew it. Yet, to hear it from her Everything he had done since she left was wrong. Nobody was truly innocent in the game, no mortal can be. He hated it when she vanished that day without a goodbye, without a word. She did nothing to prove her innocence, but that alone did not show guilt. He had to know what she had gone through, as much as it would torment him to hear well, he deserved every detail. He deserved so much more pain then she did, yet it was clear to him, over the last years, it was she who suffered most.
Walking back toward her, he wanted nothing more then to grab her in his arms. Easing her fears, easing her doubts. He lost that right; he lost the right to love her. Kneeling in front of her, he watched as she hid her eyes from him.
"Rinoa, I know I don't deserve this. Please, tell me what happened to you. Tell me what happened for the last years," his voice pleaded.
The lighting flashed outside the window illuminating the room with an unnatural light. Darkness again filled the room, only signifying the incongruity of the situation. The hour could've been no later then that of three in the afternoon. Yet, the sky resembled one easily confused with midnight. It was truly a storm of satanic nature; unseen electricity filled the atmosphere.
Yet, the baby slept.
Alex reached for the hand knitted afghan that adorned the back of the couch. For a moment, she reminisced about her grandmother making the coverlet, but when the lighting sparked, she focused at the current task. These two men had risked their lives for her, for that matter their potential freedom. She had so long planned to endure this battle alone. She knew the risks of accepting responsibility for the child; but she held a new awareness, almost spiritual connection, to this collection of friends even if they did not. So much had been revealed in the past four days; an unearthly connection bounded them.
Snapping out of her daydreams, she looked at the men sitting on two folding chairs staring at her.
"Zell did you read the newspaper?"
He looked irritated as she covered up with the blanket.
"Gee I read the front page with our pictures posted nicely on it. I'm so
glad you brought that to our attention. We had no idea we were wanted
by the authorities. Thank you."
Irvine shook his head, "Do I have to put you two in different rooms? Alex we really would like to know why we are risking our careers and our lives. Why is the child in your supposed custody?" He spotted Alex playing with the chain. Visibly he could make out the shape of the golden Griever ring, "Also tell me how you ended up with that ring."
Closing her eyes, Alex felt the cold metal between her fingers, "Zell read me the beginning of the bottom right news article."
Flipping the paper around, he found the report. Zell started reading aloud, "Trabian Council Member Wife Loses Fight for Life: Renee Bennett passed away from complication of a long-standing illness yesterday afternoon. Only three days before her daughter, Allison age fourteen months, was abducted from the couples Trabian home. Richard Bennett has been a sitting World Council..."
"Stop," Alex ordered. "Now I know what you're thinking, but let me assure you that nothing you read is factual. Allison Bennett was not kidnapped. I love her as if she is my own child I would die for her."
Zell continued skimming the article before he looked up, "So you're telling me that Renee Bennett is not dead."
"Richard Bennett would kill for power, do you understand that?" Alex looked back at the martial artist. Eyes serious as a ruby dragon.
Irvine watched as a bystander as the two locked in a competitive glare, each refusing to give a centimeter. Sitting forward in his chair he wondered what information this person had actual given them, so far it was nothing worth risking their lives over.
"You didn't answer my question is she dead? If she isn't why do you have her child?" Zell countered.
"For all practical purposes she is dead. I can guarantee you that we will never hear from Renee again. This publicity was a last ditch effort for public favor and support. Mr. Bennett is growing nervous."
Zell continued to grow angrier at the intolerable riddles, "Okay so you are saying that we will never hear from her again. Yet she is not dead. But, why would Rinoa want you to take her child, especially to somewhere as far away as Dollet?"
Alex smiled slightly as she continued speaking, "Safety Zell, we must keep this child away from Richard Bennett at all costs."
"Excuse me," Irvine attempted to interrupt in a perplexed state. He was drowned out as Zell continued the interrogation.
"Mr. Bennett is the child's father, he has rights! I don't care what kind of asshole he is; it doesn't give you entitlement to steal Allison!"
Glancing at Alex, who was sitting on the couch with a playful grin, Irvine stood. This time, he vehemently spoke, "Excuse Me." Both turned their heads toward the man, " great now that I have your attention. Zell I'm one hundred percent sure you just said Rinoa instead of Renee. And Alex, I'm one hundred percent sure you were well aware of that fact."
Zell shot a look at Alex, who smiled brightly. "Yes Zell, Allison Bennett is Rinoa's child. Peculiar how dreams can be the significance to ones past or future, if one knows how to interpret them. Sometimes dreams absorb into our life, misting the difference between fictional and valid. Your mind figured out what your subconscious already knew."
Alex lifted the blanket off her legs, placing it next to her. Gradually she got of the couch, walking to where Zell sat, bending down to reach his level.
"The dreams you have been experiencing are connected to my aura, they were
meant for both of us to discover truths. The visions are the voices of the
dead wishing to communicate with the living
warning us of our own fate;
or the fate of those we hold dear. I promised Rinoa that her identity would
never be told by me. The words did not come from my lips; they came from
yours. I would not, and did not break my promise. I apologize for the riddles.
It was your fate to discover that truth on your own."
For a moment, Rinoa wanted to scream at him, to yell of all the torture she had endured. Yet, she knew better ways of making him suffer. The truth. He wanted it; he would get every sorted detail of her life with that bastard.
"After I left Garden well I ended up in Deling. Where I wanted to contact you, but when I saw you, I knew you were forever lost to me. The wounds were too deep; it was too soon. I ended hiding on a cargo ship that took me to Trabia. I'll spare you some of the details of living on the street. I ended up with a few gil and rented a room. I made a decision that night, one that would haunt me forever I waited outside a restaurant. Where I basically oh god."
Squall knew what she was saying. She was desperate; she was frightened. The idea of her turning herself into nothing more then a high-price whore made him ill. He wanted to ask how many times she was forced to but the answer may have been more then he could bear. Never had he wanted to die more; never had he felt this level a self-loathing. He didn't even deserve to be in the same fucking room with her.
She stopped crying long enough to continue, "The first man who came along well who was alone happened to be Richard Bennett. Looking back now I was naïve to think him not to know who I was, he was running for World Council at the time I don't know what I was thinking. I introduced myself as Renee, a name that popped in my mind after I started saying Rinoa Hence the wonderful Renee Bennett was born."
"I thought if I made it through the first night physically with him I could handle It was horrifying. I never felt so dirty or cheap in my life. I was stunned the next morning when he asked if I wanted to stay with him. The previous night I had given some story about visiting a friend and we were arguing. I was desperate I had eaten so little; at that point, I didn't know where my next meal would come from. I accepted the offer, however I would never have the opportunity to leave again."
"Rinoa, I'm sor "
"Don't even say that. Don't you ever tell me you are sorry. Trust me, that doesn't cut it. You want to know with what I lived through? You want to know how sorry one person can be?"
Two words would not take away the pain. He knew that fact better then anyone. How many nights had he envisioned her, what she was doing. Too many times, he pictured her in elaborate clothing commanding armies readying for battle such as Edea. That image was easier to handle. The truth was a thousand times worse; she sold her body, sold her soul. No, two words would never take that away. One thing was correct, him hearing the truth was the most horrendous thing she could do. Now every waking minute he would be replaying her words, the sorrow in her voice, and the anguish in her eyes. No "sorry" could ever take that away.
"After the first night in his bed, I ended up making myself ill for what I had done. You know the worst fucking part about it? I still felt like I betrayed you! You were hunting me and I made myself sick for hurting you. I hated myself for feeling that way. That's the day I met Alexandra, she just started working for him. She had lived in Esthar before, well aware of whom I was. Instead of turning me in, she comforted me that night. She knew at that time that somehow, I had become a prisoner of Richard Bennett and nothing could save me. She had friends in the government and managed to get me false documentation."
Rinoa bit her lip, as if afraid to say the rest. Yet she was not afraid to say, rather to remember.
"I married him four weeks later, and then a month later I found out about
the pregnancy. He was well
happy I guess. For a few months, it almost
was bearable; now I had another life to think about. After Ally was born,
everything changed. He knew that he had the power over me, I just didn't
Looking him strait at him she softly said, "Five."
Until now, he had been looking at the floor, or had his eyes closed at the ghastly images that plagued his mind. He didn't understand her last comment. Now he searched her face, he found terror and suffering.
"I don't understand
"That's the number of times he broke my ribs. I can remember each one; I can still feel the pain when each rib cracked in my chest."
If that man had been anywhere around he would be dead. That man would be dead the next time Squall ever laid eyes on him. He could feel himself starting to tremble in anger, at himself and Richard Bennett. His Rinoa would have never stayed with such a vial beast; she was strong. She was a fighter. Nobody could ever push her around, yet he knew she was right about one thing. They were no longer the same people. This Rinoa had stayed. Not because she was weak, but because she was strong.
Rinoa was not the codependent in the marriage. She was a prisoner of war, a war she lost within herself. She stayed because her spirit was broken, her faith gone. She stayed for her daughter, for the food and shelter, for her only reason for living. It was not some bad relationship she could run from; she couldn't seek shelter anywhere. There wasn't anywhere to run. A weaker person would have giving up on life, only a strong person could endure such torture and still come out with sanity.
"I invented a person, I became her. I tried to believe that Rinoa Heartilly was dead, in my mind she died with Squall Leonhart that day at Garden. The life I once had, the person I once was is gone. We are different people, too much has happened."
Her tears stopped, her voice grew from trembling to that with more certainty.
"I'm not expecting to make it out of this situation alive. I once told Alexandra
I was dead either way. Allison was born an innocent in this war; she is the
only one without sin. Richard Bennett will not harm her. I will be the one
to shed his blood if he even tries. I will not be innocent this time; this
time it will be worth it. I will give my life for her."
"Now Squall look me in the eyes and tell me that you're sorry."
No apologies could undo the damage done, not only to her physically, but also mentally. A knight's duty is to protect their sorceress, mind, body, and spirit. He had done none of those things. He was no more a knight, than he was before he met her. Life can be cruel.
For the first time Squall Leonhart did something, he had never done before. He fell to his knees and silently begged her forgiveness. He was not the type to plead; yet the remorse he felt toward her could not be compared in any words he failed.
The day was now turning to evening, what little warmth the sun offered was a fleeting memory. The melted snow on the pavement now turning to ice, as his boot hit a patch of black ice on the street he stiffened up, unable to regain his balance. Seifer despised everything fucking wasteland had to offer. No normal person could live in these conditions year round.
Picking himself off the pavement he cursed aloud, anyone in earshot could hear how upset the man was.
Quistis tried not to laugh, after all that would not be the wisest move.
"Seifer, Nicolas, whoever you are right now. Remember that you're
supposedly a SeeD. When you are wearing that uniform you must act like an
He brushed the snow off his coat, "Yeah upstanding citizens around here seem to have a way of disappearing or dying suddenly."
"You think Squall knows yet? I mean he's been there a couple hours for questioning on the missing child."
Then it hit her, child.
"Seifer does that mean it was Rinoa and Bennett's baby that was kidnapped?"
"I have a few ideas on the subject, but let's see what happens when we get there. As for if Squall knows he knows."
She stopped turning around to him, "I don't get it. We don't see you for five years, now you're the authority on everything. Look, we can't pass judgment yet he might not know."
He exhaled deeply as he watched his breathe form crystals in the air. Then turned again to her, "Commander Puberty knows."
Before she could say another word, she saw a figure running toward her in the snow. By the standard issue SeeD coat, she could tell it was Lauren.
"Instructor Quistis I have been trying to get hold of you and Nicolas all
afternoon!" Seifer gave a slight smile and a fake wave at the sound of the
forged name. The young lady continued, "Why haven't you answered your
Quistis looked at Seifer, "Nicolas was in charge of the radio. SeeD do you still have it on you?"
Seifer fumbled around his coat pockets, and then remembered he had clipped it to his belt. Giving a slight grin, he tried to salvage any dignity out of the situation.
"Yeah got it right here; never heard a single transmission."
He handed the pocket size communicator to Quistis who examined the radio before handing it back.
"SeeD it helps if you flip the indicator switch to receive," she said trying to maintain a chuckle.
Seifer grabbed the radio from her mumbling many adjectives under his breath.
"Never mind about that. This is an emergency It's about Commander Leonhart. He went well, how do I word this? Crazy."
An abrupt fear took over Quistis. This situation could not be good; she dreaded hearing the outcome.
"We questioned Richard Bennett for only a few minutes. Bennett showed the Commander a photograph then threatened the lives of other SeeD members. There was some yelling; it ended up with him literally pushing Bennett to the ground. We left the building and Squall yelled at me but called me Rinoa. That's when he lost it just kinda had a breakdown and ran into the forest. I tried to catch him, but couldn't keep up in the elemental conditions."
Quistis and Seifer exchanged glances, each drawing conclusions to a story they hadn't heard the end of an end neither of them expected.
"Instructor, that's not the worse part. Three hours ago Richard Bennett was found murdered in his study right now the Commander is the prime suspect."
Seifer tried comforting Quistis by gently placing a hand on her should, reassuring her she wasn't alone. He spoke, to nobody particular, re-entreated his previous statement, "He knows "
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