Stories always end with happily-ever-after.
It is generally accepted that when you have a boy, a girl, and a villain, the boy and the girl fall in love, defeat the villain, and live – yup, you got it – happily ever after. Because that's what's supposed to happen, right? So it will. It has to. There's a rule.
As it turns out, there isn't. There's fate, and there's coincidence, but there's no such thing as destiny. That's the great thing about being human, right? Your choices define who you are; you create your own life through what you're willing to put into it. Who you are and what you choose to do with the chances presented to you is what shapes the world you live in. Of course, there are some things you can't change, some problems you can't fix. World hunger, for example. War. Human greed.
Maybe the biggest problem is the lack of guarantees. When you're born, your birth certificate doesn't say, 'We guarantee your satisfaction, and if you don't like your life, if everything just gets shot to hell, bring this form back to us and we'll get you a newer, happier life at no charge.'
Perhaps that's pessimistic. Most people have their bad moments, but most, when given the choice, want to go on living. Most don't get swept away to an ideal, but most, in the end, have a happily-ever-after.
Most. Not all.
And perhaps an even bigger problem is that there's nothing that says the good guys win. Your success isn't measured by morals, or virtue, or kindness, or courage, or loyalty.
Or even love.
No, the winner isn't determined by those things, because it isn't about them. It's about power. It's about who has the most of it. And it's about who is willing to use it – and what they're willing to use it for. This story is about that. It's about virtue and courage. It's about loyalty and love. And it's about power. And who knows? Perhaps it's even about having a happily-ever-after.
But I don't guarantee it.
What if you found out that, once upon a time, you were someone else...
She looked up into a mirror.
I could feel, despite the fact that I was dreaming, my heart contract painfully. It wasn't the child's heart; it was the heart of the Rinoa Heartilly I knew myself as, lying asleep somewhere.
Lying asleep, and dreaming of a self she didn't remember.
This child had my face.
...and your soul was nothing but a mistake?
"You know," Ultimecia said, "you weren't supposed to happen. Rinoa Heartilly was supposed to happen."
"I AM Rinoa Heartilly."
"But you weren't always. You were supposed to be Rinoa Heartilly, and no one else. You were supposed to be nothing but some stupid, insignifikant little human girl. You weren't supposed to be a sorceress, you weren't supposed to be a senshi, and you weren't supposed to have a soul."
"EVERYONE has a soul." I snapped.
"Ah," she replied. "That's where you're wrong..."
What if that very soul was obligated to its destroyer
...and you didn't know why?
"You will," she finally said.
"Remember." Another horrible smile. "You served me, fought for me, died for me, in far more lifetimes than I kan kount. Your loyalty to me and mine was unlimited."
Rage and terror gripped me. What the hell was she talking about?! "Never!"
"Ah," she breathed, "denial. It will simply make the end more...dramatik. In previous lives, you would have killed Leonhart yourself if I'd asked it of you."
I found myself weeping, for she quite obviously believed every word she said.
"Never," I repeated, this time a whisper.
What if the line between good and evil suddenly vanished...
...and YOU were chosen to redefine it...
"What are you going to do? Fight me?" Her smile seemed wider because of the jagged purple lines that ran down her face; her eyes seemed darker because of her pale silver hair.
And I trembled.
Because how could I fight her? It wasn't a question of power. I knew, now, that I had far more power than she. Technically. I could win a battle against any enemy that she would have no hope to defeat. But my power was that of destruction and death.
And her power was power over my soul...
...and who are YOU to judge?
"So, you have some sort of spiritual connection to Ultimecia," Seifer said. "And the magic that binds you to her is stronger than you are. Why should we even trust you enough to turn our backs on you? Look at those scars on Quistis's face and tell me we can believe in you…"
Prepare for the future you never expected...because it's about to start. Or end. Because the ending is what makes the story, right? That's why happily-ever-after is so important, whether it happens or not.
Once upon a time, there was a boy.
His name was Squall, and I fell in love with him. And we had this whole big exciting adventure together. It had just the right mix of danger and romance and intrigue, and our sidekicks were great, and our villain was appropriately powerful and evil. Her name was Ultimecia, and she came with all the required malice and world-domination ambition. So Squall and I trotted off to meet her with our trusty sidekicks in order to win the battle, save the day, and go home to a happily-ever-after.
But then something happened that wasn't supposed to; something that kept us from completing our fairy tale.
The heroes are supposed to WIN, right? Well, the problem was, we didn't.
And that's where the REAL story begins.
There are an infinite number of roads that the future can walk; any one of them is equally possible. The turning point is the final battle. There are thousands of stories about life after Ultimecia's defeat; some of them happy, some of them sad. This victorious path turns towards a brighter future: whether this brighter course leads to more light or back down into darkness is up to those who tell us these stories.
But if the story begins in darkness, is there any way to find your way out?
You never know...it may be possible.
But don't bet on it.
Because our heroine, always thought of as the light, is in truth a study of contrasts...and while she may be bright now, she was once darker than you'd ever imagine.
The battle between light and dark within the lost soul that we know as Rinoa Heartilly has begun. And the big question isn't which will win.
It's whether she can discover which is which...
END OF PROLOGUE; R & R! (I promise the rest of the story will make sense. ^_^ Sorta.)
First of all: credit where credit is due. I don't own anything, except the plotline – the characters in here aren't mine, much as I'd like to own Squall or Irvine or…okay, digression. A series besides FFVIII will make an appearance in this story, but since you'll enjoy the fic more if you are NOT familiar with this other series, don't worry about it. Some of you will probably guess anyway. While on the subject of the stories that inspired this story, big credit for inspiration goes to Lord Chaos, author of 1101 (not found on fanfiction.net, sorry, and not a FFVIII fanfic anyway) whose prologue style was so far beyond cool that I had to try it out myself and who, in general, is the master of darkfic. Chaos-sama, you're king of inspiration.
Next up, thanks-wise: my prereaders! Chris, Diana, and Natalia. Usually there's Greg, too, but since he just started playing the game, he (wisely) decided to forgo this fic, at least until he beats the game, since he doesn't want spoilers.
I've never written a Final Fantasy VIII fanfic, as I'll probably say time and time again. (I'm hoping no one's done this before…) In fact, I've never written anything other than Ranma…Speaking of which, I'm terribly insecure when it comes to my writing, so if you could review, that would be splendid. I love constructive criticism, but please, no flames.
And yes, Squall is dead at the start of this fic, but that doesn't mean you won't see a lot of him. He's my favorite character, after all.
The first chapter should actually be up in a week, which will be a new record for me…by, like, a mile. Usually, a month is the minimum, but I seem to be ahead on this one…