Dust and ash whisked through the air around him as he came to yet another city reduced to ruin.

Why do I keep hoping I'll find anybody here?

The earth had been reduced to a charred husk centuries ago, and he'd had a hand in its destruction. Remnants of towns and cities past didn't make him feel any kind of guilt, though. The destruction of material things was hardly anything to mourn. The skeletal remains that hadn't been eroded beyond recognition were swept up by the winds, leaving no trace of the people his Queen had purged her realm of with her immeasurable power.

Still, the same yearning for human contact that had made him build Junction Machine Ellone for the Sorceress pulled at his heart. He knew nothing remained beneath her castle in the sky, and yet, he aimlessly wandered through the wastes, hoping to happen upon someone; anyone.

They'd hate me. They'd know I served her.

He'd fought by her side since the beginning. It was his face that many had seen in their last moments, as Ultimecia could kill from a distance; the wanderer bore a heavy broadsword with a crystalline orange blade. When he sought someone out, few would try to buy time for others and fight him, but in the end, he would eliminate everyone.

Without any indicators as to which continent he'd drifted to, the only thing he could be sure of was that he'd given his pursuers the slip—for now. It wasn't long until he realized that where he had been was, in fact, not a city at all, but ruins of a monument that once stood tall in the heart of…

Centra…I'm in Centra.

Odin's safe haven had always been a decrepit structure in the middle of the Centran continent. It appeared that in her campaign against humanity, Ultimecia hadn't bothered to destroy this place, seeing as no one lived there anymore. The GF had vowed to serve a group of warriors who had bested him in battle. Odin had unknowingly sealed his fate with that decision. When those warriors attempted to fight Ultimecia, it was as he charged into battle that Odin was eviscerated by Apocalypse; or as the Sorceress would pronounce it, "Apokalypse."

If I'm in Centra, then that means…the lighthouse…

Ultimecia's dissenter was eastbound, running to the only place he could remember from so many hundreds of years ago. He had defected from her servitude shortly after the young people she was watching had tried to visit this place, and the images that were projected through Junction Machine Ellone flashed vividly in his mind.

The lily field…

The young people—SeeDs of generations past—had grown up there. Even the rather brash member of their group that she'd made her "Knight" spent the early days of his childhood there. The sight of the lily field, however, held significance to the apostate that none of those children shared. He arrived sooner than he'd anticipated, and to his astonishment, despite sitting under blackened skies, the lilies had remained intact through the countless battles fought over them. He knew blood had been shed here; the Cape of Good Hope had served as a battlefield in the beginning of the war. Yet, there he stood, looking upon the shores and the tattered buildings that were built around them as though they'd been preserved all this time.

Sure, the waters that ebbed and flowed on the shoreline were polluted beyond comprehension; the oceans had turned black even before the sky did. But, there he stood on the ruined cobblestone that made up the perimeter of the orphanage. In that moment, everything was as it should've always been. Calm; free; at peace.

But, I remember when she erected the castle in the sky, the chains that suspend it tore through this place.

Something isn't right…am I losing my mind?

Just then, the man was flung forward into the noxious waters by an incredible force. When he surfaced, he spit profusely and rushed to the shore; filth that had slipped into his mouth and his pores threatened to burn everything they touched.

Esuna should do the trick…

Blue and white energy formed around his midsection, removing virtually any and all poisons that may have infiltrated his body. He didn't have a chance to marvel at his quick recovery; before him stood three massive pillars that rose as high as Ultimecia's castle sat atop the heavens. He craned his neck to see where they led, but they were too far into the dark clouds for him to make anything out.

It was nothing compared to what followed. The orphanage, the lighthouse, and even the lily field began to warp and alter in shape and appearance at a rapid pace. The sands before him became littered with bodies that would alternate between SeeDs from various Gardens throughout the early parts of the war.

SeeDs that he'd killed.

What is this?!

The Cape of Good Hope became ensnared in strange multicolored sinewy-like vines. The giant chain that he had remembered tearing through the area emerged thunderously from under the ground, and threw him back towards the toxic ocean. Thinking on his feet, he quickly cast Float, and stopped just short of being submerged in the waste once again. When he floated upright, a light came from where the orphanage now sat in the sky.

Light? Here? What's happening?

Why did everything look so different when I arrived? And the changes…they came so fast.

The SeeDs; countless battles fought, all lost.

Their numbers thinned and faded with time…

Time…

The man floated back over to the shore, now with a deep schism running through it. The sinewy vines that had wrapped themselves around the orphanage had been forged by powerful magic.

Sorcery…

They led all the way to the top of the chain beside him. Amidst its huge links rubbing against each other, he heard six sets of footsteps traverse the raised ground onto the chain towards Ultimecia's castle.

People?

Within seconds, the man raced over and scaled one of the three pillars that rose into the sky. The columns smooth; he clawed his fingers into the stone, as he had nothing to grab onto.

When he reached the top, he pulled himself up on to a flat surface with a doorway in the center. He walked in front of it and looked through; there lied the past, the present, and the future. They were all struggling to coexist in a now thinly stretched measure of time.

Impossible...time compression? She succeeded?!

Before his worst fears could consume him, in his periphery he saw six young men and women. They stood together bracing themselves, and supporting each other for a fight like no other. Just from the back of their heads, he recognized them immediately.

They…they came here?

From the past? How?

Wait, that girl, the one we were pursuing…Ellone.

Is she safe? Is she ok?

If they're here, than that means Ellone may've sent them here.

His train of thought was broken by a striking visual he'd only seen once before he'd defected. A young woman, clad in a light blue duster with angel wings on its back, stood firmly at the bottom of the steps leading into the castle. Her rich black hair blew lively, even in the dead winds that carried them, and the streaks of brown highlights on opposite sides stood out vividly in a world where such simple joys had been eradicated.

That girl…she's alright. She's safe; free from Ultimecia's clutches...

The girl turned to her side, and the man ducked behind the doorway into time to avoid being seen. Looking out from the side, he saw a young man in a black bomber jacket approach her and tenderly take hold of her hand. In a place that stood as a monument to Ultimecia's horrific campaign on humanity, the young woman gave a smile unlike any he'd seen before. It was for him; that smile was for the man who held her hand.

He saved her. Their leader, the one Ellone looked to for help…

This girl looks to him for more than that, now.

They're in love…but, there's more…

Still crouched behind the door, he closed his eyes and reached out with his mind to see if his suspicions were true. To avoid being detected, he withdrew his mental tendrils the moment he sensed the girl's powers.

She's a Sorceress.

He's her Knight.

Two people. Pure hearts that now carry a burden unlike anyone else will ever know.

Yet, here they are, fighting to protect countless millions in the past; in their time.

Ultimecia's heretic rose up from the ground and shook his head. Even with all of their GF's and junctions set to a tee, the six of them were more than likely doomed to fail. He clenched his fists, furious, but also heartbroken that the six people he'd seen tormented by his former Queen had come so far, only to be inevitably struck down. His grip tightened, when suddenly the inside of his pinky and middle finger began to bleed.

He looked down and saw his ring had cut into the sides of his finger. The ring, his avatar, carried a semblance of his power; power he could've used to destroy Ultimecia himself had he the courage. All he could do was run.

But not them…not you, Squall.

You forced your way, and led the charge with your comrades firmly at your side.

I can't stand by and watch you all run to your deaths.

Maybe…maybe I can make a difference.

What I lack in courage, you lack in power.

But, with this ring by your side, you shall overcome.

The man pulled the ring off his finger and held it in the palm of his hand. He gazed deeply into the roaring lion that had been crafted by the strongest of magic. Even now, removed from his left ring finger, where he thought it'd stay forever; he felt its power call to him. He was not worthy to bear an emblem of great pride and strength, but the one meant to defeat Ultimecia was. He turned and looked into the rivers of time, all eschewed by the dreadful magic that threatened all of existence. With new resolve, he threw himself into the ether. He would force his way to the town of Winhill, to entrust his ring to the one person who loved Squall as much as the woman he'd sworn to protect.

Your victory is assured, Leonhart.

With the lion by your side, you will save us all…


Many thanks to h34rt1lly for helping me tighten this all up with months of beta-ing and structuring.

...Also for helping me make the pic for the story.

...Also for encouraging me to actually publish this.

...All the thanks to h34rt1lly lol.

This my first foray into fanfic, and I'm starting with one of my favorite games. Hope you all enjoy!

Oh, and for the record (not that you didn't know) I do not own FFVIII, or anything related to the original game.