Chapter 2

The Core, Jowy thought, was much like the place hidden by Althena’s temple. The same stark metal walls, the same constant light - and the same stale, unused air.

It was much like it, but different in one crucial respect. Here, the hallways and rooms, nearly all identical, stretched for what seemed like miles. How big was this place?

He must have spoken aloud, for the Star Dragon Sword answered. "There are two thousand five hundred all-purpose chambers within the Core facility, four transport stations, two medical centers and two military bases. And the Core itself, of course."

L'Renouille castle had been considered huge with its two hundred rooms. The Harmonian royal palace was said to be twice that size. But two thousand? More even than that? And, according to Sephiroth and Aeris, buried beneath who knew how many tons of rock? He shook his head. It was inconceivable.

The sheer size of the place certainly wasn’t revealed by looking at any one room, though. Each chamber was small and bare.

And uninteresting. They’d split up when they arrived here - Aeris, Sephiroth, Ghaleon and him. The others had gone to look for information, but Jowy didn’t have any way to operate the strange devices, or any way to read their text.

He had nothing to do but think.

And as the marvel of this facility wore off, his thoughts drifted back to a blood-stained village square, to a man, a beast, cutting down the innocent and the guilty alike, awash with the blood of his ‘prey.’

Jowy looked at the Beast Rune inscribed on his palm. Even inactive, it gave off a palatable sense of menace. The design itself did not help, the wolf’s head crest that seemed to be snapping at his fingers.

But it was more than that. It was the knowledge of what it was, what it could do - and had done - that made him fear the Rune.

Ever since he’d last used it, he’d felt like it was eating away at the fringes of his mind, trying to claw its way back to dominance. Was it just his imagination, his guilt for the murders he’d committed while under its power? Or was the Beast Rune becoming dominant, taking over his body?

Jowy was afraid to find out the answer to that question.

And there were plenty of others, after what he’d done.

How could he ever face Jillia again?

Sephiroth had told him that only in saving the worlds could one who had destroyed a world find redemption, perhaps not even then. But the attempt must be made. Jowy knew he was right, and he would make the attempt.

When it was over, though...

An oath to those he loved. A guilt they should never face. He shook his head, wishing he could clear it of these problems. He would gladly face a whole army of Espers if he could just be free of the need for such a decision.

But life was not that simple, and there were no answers to his questions, not yet.

Until the task was complete, they would only distract him. He was still alive for a reason. He had a destiny to fulfill. Until he’d done so, there was nothing to do but soldier on.

"You know," the Star Dragon Sword said, "I am equipped to interface with these systems in the same way as I did with those in Althena’s Temple."

Jowy looked up at the blade floating in the air in front of him. "What?" he asked. They’d been in there for hours!

The sword, though its face didn’t move, somehow gave the impression of a shrug. "I am equipped to-"

"Why didn’t you tell me sooner?" Jowy demanded.

"You didn’t ask."

"I didn’t just now, either."

"It seemed you needed to know," the sword said. "It will expedite matters, I suspect."

"Then..." Jowy let his voice trail off. There was no point in debating with the sword. Whether he was right or not, it would win any argument. "All right," he said, suppressing a sigh at its antics. It had its reasons, but it wouldn’t share them with him.

He watched the sword go about its silent business. It was frustrating to know that there was nothing he could do to speed up the process. He was, for all intents and purposes, a spectator.

He wondered if Sephiroth or Ghaleon were faring any better.

Sephiroth had been here before, and, along with Aeris, had found the way to Althena by searching through the information contained in this place. Surely, there would be some clue?

And Ghaleon...

Jowy wasn’t entirely certain he wanted Ghaleon to find something important. There was no way to know what he would do with the knowledge he gained from the Core, and if he turned it against his fellow Destined Ones...

There was no use worrying about that, either.

Jowy had to admit, Ghaleon did seem to care for Althena. Perhaps, at least until she was safe, Ghaleon would not betray them.

It wasn’t much of a hope.

But at the moment, it was the best Jowy had.