Thinking back, their conversation on the way here spelled bad news.
“Sempai, what did you think about inside the Purge train?”
She thought of saying something to stall him. It was something from a long, long time ago. Although it felt like thirteen years ago, looking back from this era, it was something four hundred years in the past.
“I don’t really remember much about being inside the train, I guess. What happened after was much too intense.”
“I was mad the whole time. Why me? I was someone from Palumpolum, and not Bodhum, so was I getting dragged into this? Why of all times did it have to be when I visited Bodhum?”
“Ah, I might have thought of that too. Why now, of all times, that is. And about how this wasn’t supposed to be something you would run into while you happened to be there on vacation”
“Right? If only they had just put it off by a week, then I would have been back in Palumpolum. With my first journey alone under my belt,”
If only they had visited a week before. Or, if only it had happened after they had left Bodhum. Then, mom wouldn’t have had to die. During their long escape, those thoughts stuck like glue.
“There were a heaps of tourists who visited Bodhum, right? Like, there were heaps of people who didn’t get caught up in it, so wasn’t it unreasonable that only I got dragged into it?”
It wasn’t as if Alyssa was the only one that got dragged into it, but he knew how she felt. He could believe only he was unlucky and misfortunate, and that everyone else was blessed, back then.
Perhaps it was because they were at that age. Because of the differences in their rank within the Academy, Alyssa stubbornly addressed him as “Sempai” but they were the same age. They were both fifteen, and they were both brought up in luxury. He simply thought of himself, without the slightest regard for those around. Looking back on it now, he thought he was all too childish.
“But, after that, all of Cocoon’s inhabitants ended up getting caught up in it.”
“Yes. I suppose that is true. Cocoon was about to fall, and many people ended up dying. I wonder if they died thinking the same things. Like, why me? Or, wouldn’t it be the same if it were someone else?”
“To someone else, something like that would sound ridiculous though. But, why do you ask?”
As he asked why she wanted to talk about these things right now, Alyssa replied, ‘just because.’
“I mean, it was hard to talk about. Because, Sempai, it seemed like you would avoid talking about the Purge in front of me.”
“That’s not it. I didn’t try to talk about it, but I would have answered you if you had asked. It wasn’t something to hide, anyway.”
“Oh, so that how things were. How stupid I was for being so suspicious.”
If she had always been ‘suspicious’ until now, then why did she decide to stop on a day like today? If her reason for bringing this up was ‘just because,’ then why was it today? He had his doubts, but did not verbalize them. Something had stopped him from it. Perhaps Hope himself, had a felt an omen as well.
No, never mind. He wouldn’t think like that. If he began thinking it was an omen, then there would be no end to it.
His thoughts kept drifting and drifting to negative things because the bloodstains came to an end at the walkway on the fifty-first floor.
What had happened here? Where had Alyssa been taken? It was as if Alyssa had disappeared from midway through the walkway.
Now that the lead he had been following--the bloodstain--had run out, he had no choice but to come up with another. Were there still any functioning facilities within the tower? As long as not all of the systems had fallen into the grasp of the enemy, something could be done.
He started off by attempting to access all of the nearby terminals. Using the terminals meant giving away his location, but he had no other choice. Rather, what good would it have been to consider such things at this point? It was highly possible that the enemy had already understood what Hope was trying to do. Even so, he proceeded as cautiously as possible by not using his ID and making unauthorized accesses.
Just as he had feared, the main systems had largely been altered by someone.
“Well, forget contacting the outside. I can’t even control a single duplicate. That’s just great.”
The system’s re-writing had been conducted rather skillfully. Perhaps the enemy had infiltrated the system from when the first error was reported, and then slowly modified it from there. It would probably take some time if he were to do a full scale recovery.
Was there not some part, somewhere, he could infiltrate? He tried to hack his way in a number of times. He only got more impatient. He knew he had to rescue Alyssa as soon as possible. But, it seemed the person who made the re-writes was someone of substantial skill and knowledge. At any rate, there were only a handful of people at the Academy who were capable of re-writes of these proportions.
Through trial and error, he discovered just a single weak point in one program. He had considered the possibility of it being a trap, but since he had no other options, he had to break in from that one location. However.
His hands that were operating the terminal stopped. The location he infiltrated contained nothing but a simple data file. There was no need for him to open the file, as the text within displayed on its own. In fact, he wasn’t able to do anything else from his side. There couldn’t have been more obvious a trap than this.
Only, the problem was the content of the text being displayed. It was a record of Hope’s activities after 2 AF. In 2 AF, he had entered the Academy as a researcher, and in the next year--3 AF--he began researching the ‘Paradox’ Effect and gates, which had begun manifesting. Then, in 7 AF, based on a formula created by Alyssa Z., he predicted the ‘Ruins of Paddra anomaly,’ and in 10 AF, he began researching the Oracle Drive and encountered the individuals, Serah F. and Noel K..
There was no record of the names Serah Farron and Noel Kreiss within official Academy documentation. Even within internal records, they were only listed as ‘female age 21’ and ‘male aged 18’. This meant that someone had secretly created these records. It seems that I was being observed in these previous eras, he realized.
That data was obtained by someone or a fal’Cie from this era. Had they shown Hope this information in order to say ‘I know everything about you,’ perhaps? Also, did this mean that their target was Hope, and not Alyssa?
Or, was perhaps the enemy after more than that? Hope dropped to the ground upon realizing the possibility of that.
It missed him by a hair. The panel of the terminal above Hope’s head had shattered into a million pieces. There was a researcher standing at the entrance. Of course, it was a duplicate. It was possible they were programmed to fire on Hope when he operated the terminal and began reading that data file.
However, perhaps because the program had been altered through unauthorized means, the researchers were moving in a slow, and sluggish manner. That’s why he was unharmed. If he had been operating it normally, he would have been shot before he realized that there might have been a sniper.
He had his gun trained on Hope once again. However, Hope had been quicker. As he had anticipated this kind of a situation, he was equipped with an anti-duplicate gun. With a sound much quieter than a gunshot, the researcher disappeared.
His original was someone close who had worked on the same team. Even though he knew that the original him, as someone of the past, had died long ago, and that duplicates could be reproduced any number of times, Hope still felt a deep sense of regret for having deleted him. He felt angry towards the individual that forced him to commit such an act.
Then, it was faint, but there was a glimmer of light near the entrance of the room. Was there a fal’Cie behind all this, after all? Or, was it perhaps Proto fal’Cie Adam, which shouldn’t exist at all.
“If so, what were they after?”
He simply muttered this to himself without having the slightest of clues.
“I don’t care if someone else is a liar. I just hate lying.”
So there are people who think that way, she thought, shocked. It was a conversation from when she attended a boarding middle school. The girl who was her roommate had said this. In the first year of being enrolled, they would put you in a two-person room regardless of your preferences, perhaps as a measure against homesickness.
I had forgotten what we had talked about, and what I had said; only her words resounded in my memory.
“‘Cause every time you lie, it feels like something being ripped away from you. Like more and more of what’s inside your heart keeps disappearing.”
If that was true, then inside of my heart has been empty since a long time ago. Since, I’m not particularly against lying, or anything. It’s a little different from the truth, but it made others happy, and I was able to be happy, too. I don’t think there is anything bad about this at all. It’s a very important skill for getting along with those around you.
But for I guess her, Elida, things wasn’t like that. Elida was an unbelievably honest person, after all. Looking back, I think it was remarkable that we were able to become good friends.
Ever since I was little, I had moved all over Cocoon because of dad’s work. There were unfamiliar places, and unfamiliar faces.
Nobody knew me. Even if I lied saying, this and that happened in the last city, nobody would be able to figure it out. So, it was better to talk about things that made everyone smile and be happy. Even if they weren’t true, there was no doubt that this was better.
Nina, whom I had become good friends with in Bodhum, was a liar like me. The two of us told lots of lies together. But, nobody even came close to realizing that we were liars. It was difficult to talk yourself out of a lie, but you could smooth over anything as two. We were co-conspirators. The best, strongest and most perfect of partners.
When I went to visit that same Nina’s house, I got caught up in the Purge. On our way through escaping from the Hanging Edge to Cocoon’s exterior, we told a number of lies together. This time, they were all lies that would be discovered immediately. Yet, although the adults were shocked, and they laughed, none of them got angry.
That was because the truth was all unpleasant and tragic.
Who cared about what was the truth. It was more important to live with humor and happiness. For that purpose, I would lie as much as needed.
Hey, Sempai. I’m not wrong, am I?