He tried going around to all of the rooms on the fifty-first floor, but there was no sign of Alyssa. There weren’t even any leads as to where she might have been.
He only knew one thing. The fact that the enemy wanted to lead him to a different floor. All of the terminals on the fifty-first floor were broken. This included the ones that remained intact the first time he had checked. It was likely set up so that the moment Hope was being shot at, all of the terminals on the floor would be destroyed.
“I guess this means I’ve got no choice but to go to another floor.”
If it was just the system that was being destroyed, then recovery would have been possible, but since the hardware had been destroyed, there was nothing he could do.
Then, there was the elevator for travelling to the other floors, which hadn’t been tampered with at all. When he tried activating the control panel with his hand, it operated perfectly normally. Only, it was adjusted so that only higher floors could be selected. It was obvious that he was being led.
It would simple to return the elevator’s settings to normal, but that was all Hope could do. Right now, he didn’t even know the enemy’s purpose, much less their identity. If he took the invitation and continued on to the next floor, then maybe the enemy would give him some sort of clue. Just like how that data file hinted at the existence of an ‘observer’.
Were they enjoying Hope’s reactions, or was there something they wanted to tell him? He could clearly feel its malintent, but he had a feeling that was not all the enemy had in mind.
This time he would search for Alyssa before trying to operate the terminals. However, there was no sign of Alyssa in any of the rooms on the fifty-second floor.
Maybe this meant this floor was a ‘miss’. No, wait. None of the terminals on the fifty-second floor had been destroyed. If the enemy hadn’t intended to lead him to this floor, then all of the terminals should have been inoperable, like on the fifty-first floor.
“Are they telling me to gain access on this floor?”
This time he operated the terminal while being wary of his surroundings. Certainly, when he stared at the display, he would become defenseless. That was especially true for Hope. He would get too absorbed into things. That was how he had gotten exploited, just now. It reminded him of the fal’Cie’s tactic of reading a person’s mind for the purpose of manipulating them.
Although, the enemy ought to have gathered that Hope would be on guard, having learned from his previous experience of being shot at. While thinking that rather, it would be safe this time, Hope attempted a hack. Again, the hackable location was presented conspicuously.
“I see. It would be obvious that an intelligent person wouldn’t fall for the same trap twice. This would mean that the trap isn’t in the hackable location, this time. It was in some other location. Therefore, it would be easier to infiltrate the system than before. Right?”
Before he realized it, Hope had begun speaking to the invisible enemy. The enemy was trying to convey some sort of message. He couldn’t help but think that. Whilst watching his back, Hope continued operating. This time, he simply used his ID instead of a fake. He had a feeling it would be best not to use any sort of tricks.
It happened as he thought he would be in with just a little more. He heard a scream. It was Alyssa. Hope boldly dashed out of the room.
At the end of the slightly curved walkway, he saw a collapsed Alyssa.
He yelled while running. Alyssa wasn’t moving at all. Was she unconscious, or? No, he didn’t want to think the worst…
In the instant he thought of running to her, an alarm triggered somewhere inside his head. Hope instantly leaped to the side. Something had glanced across his arm. What came after was the smell of burning, and a sizzling pain.
From where she was on the floor, Alyssa pointed a gun at him. It wasn’t Alyssa. It was a duplicate. In a movement faster than that of the researcher from before, Alyssa’s duplicate stood up and prepared to fire. But, Hope had been faster.
The duplicate identical to Alyssa had been erased in an instant.
Why were they doing this? Why, of all things, were they making him erase those who were close to him?
On top of that, as if to mock a frustrated Hope, all of the terminals on the floor had once again become inoperable. This included the terminal he had been in the middle of using. That scream had been for drawing Hope away from the terminal. It was likely that Alyssa’s duplicate was programmed to activate after Hope had made some progress.
When he returned to the elevator, its destination had been determined. They would no longer give him a choice. They were such an endlessly aggravating enemy.
They employed sophisticated methods for luring him, and then used illusions of those precious to him to unnerve him. These were methods attributable to fal’Cie Barthandelus. While on one hand he thought that perhaps a fal’Cie really was pulling the strings, he had become skeptical. He couldn’t say for sure. Just, there was a possibility that…
Bodhum was sealed and the Purge was announced, but what was happening didn’t feel real. It was inside the Purge train when I finally thought, I won’t be able to go home.
It was as I witnessed the gunfight between the citizens and PSICOM at the Hanging Edge that I understood that all of Bodhum was to be erased because a Pulsian fal’Cie had been discovered inside the Bodhum Vestige. The military was serious about killing the citizens. I realized that I was going to be killed, too.
The gate to the Vestige, which should have been unopenable, had opened because of the Pulsian l’Cie. Everything had started because of the l’Cie. I had learned that after I had returned to Palumpolum after I had lived in hiding for a long, long time. I was finally told of the enemy that I should been hating.
The adults didn’t always tell the truth. The more important something is, the more they want to hide it. I, who had just barely still been considered a child, didn’t discover the truth until long after. Of course, even if I had been told, it didn’t mean I could have done anything.
Yet, I didn’t want to remain a powerless being who wasn’t capable of doing anything. I had had enough of being made to do things based on someone else’s expectations.
Also. Taking someone else’s place, too.
Hey, sempai. Would you take my place…