Beginning Notes:  Hello!  Welcome to "Ain't An Angel".  Yes, I understand that the title is in slang.  Please do NOT click that X at the corner of your screen yet because this story is not ghetto or preppy in any way.  I just thought that "Ain't An Angel" has a sort of twist to it, giving the name more variety.  First off, this story will portray Rinoa in a different light.  She isn't that happy helpless girl in the game anymore.  Secondly, this is Alternative Universe.  Okay, do not run off screaming "DIE DIE DIE!" because some AUs are actually really good.  I don't want to give out the storyline because I am not completely sure myself (I make up as I go along), but please read it.  I beg you.  I admit it - the first chapter is a bit... eh... crappy, I promise that they will get better.

Disclaimer:  I do not own the characters from Final Fantasy VIII... yet, but I will some day!  Some... day... *drifts off into a daydream*.  Oh, and let me shamelessly plug you *grins*.  Please go and read my other story "The Hunter and the Hunted"!  Currently, it is at chapter six, and I have a very small number of readers.  Thanks!

And now, the official "onwards to the fic" motion.

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Chapter One - The Beginnings

            A bolt of lightning seemed to crack the sky in half as it burst through the heavens, followed closely by an earth-shaking boom of thunder.  The lightning illuminated the battlefield below, allowing the creatures of the night to see two lone figures standing in the pounding rain that accompanied the warning of a storm's arrival.  Wind howled around them feverishly, but the duo doesn't seem to notice it.  They stood as still as stone statues, frozen in their rigid and foreboding stances.  The air around the distance of twelve feet between them burned with tension, heavy and thick with uneasiness.

            Lightning raced across the skies once more as the shorter of the two spoke first.  "I am extremely grateful that you came."  The voice was easily told as feminine, and it carried a soft, yet cold tone that could chill its listeners.  However, it also has a musical sound to it, as if it was some sort of forbidden song being played by her speech alone.

            "Who could resist your invitation?"  The second one said with a hollow chuckle.  This one was a male, outfitted in a black shirt and black jeans, soaked by the rain, but he didn't care.  Blonde hair glistened damply on his head, sticking to his pale features.  Scarlet eyes stared across at his companion, waiting for her response.

            She raised her head slowly, rain running down her dark hair, and dripping off the ends, shadows hiding her face from view.  Water cascaded down the black material of her trench coat, which was wrapped around her slim body.  She wore black jeans along with a pair of boots of the same color, black gloves covering her hands.

            "I called you out because there is something that I need to do," she answered.

            He smirked as thoughts of food coursed through his mind.  "Which is?"  He laughed.

            Wordlessly, she reached into her trench coat, and pulled out something from around her neck.  It turned out to be a chain with a silver cross hanging from it.

            The smile upon his face quickly faded away as he realized what it was.  Narrowing his eyes, he glared at her with hatred shimmering in his stare.  "You were sent to..."

            "... Hunt you," she finished for him, letting her hand drop from the necklace.

            "Who sent you?!"  He demanded, a sword appearing in his hand, which he gripped tightly.

            "The one that is the world," she whispered.

            He snarled, and pointed his blade at her.  "I am not the one that will lie here in a pool of blood... you are!"  With that, he tore at her, eating up the distance between them quickly.  He swung his sword at her head, to which she avoided by ducking.  Growling, he tried to attack her again by striking where she was, but she was too fast for him.  Slipping through his fingers like sand, she leaped backwards away from him.  Lifting her head to the sky, she welcomed the rain upon her face as silent scream erupted from her throat.  A ripping sound was heard as a single wing emerged from her back, a crash of thunder ringing above as if on cue.  It looked like the ones of the angels from mythology, but something was wrong.  Instead of it being white and pure as angels should be, it was black as night, almost like it was contaminated by sin.

            He watched in shock as this transformation occurred, stunned by the sudden change of events.  When it was done, she flicked her fingers as a double-ended sword appeared in her hand.  It looked like a long pole with a blade at the top along with one at the bottom, completely silver in color.  Holding it, she charged at him, and slashed at his abdomen.

            He cried out in pain as a cut opened up there, blood gushing from the wound.  His mind whirled as he tried to block her next attack, but failed doing so.  Another wound appeared on his shoulder, close to its intended target of his neck.  It seemed to his eyes that her speed had accelerated that even his own vampiric strength and speed could not rival.

            Hard as he tried, he couldn't take out her vicious endless assaults, especially the one that ran into his stomach all together, the blade re-emerging from his back.  She pulled it back, and twisting her wrist, slapped the flat side of her sword against his face brutally, sending him sprawling to the floor on his back.  Black boots walked through the mud, stopping by his side, and quickly disarmed him by kicking his weapon away where it landed several feet away from him.  He cried out in disdain, and then stared up into the face of his demise.

            "Your eyes..." he gasped out as he felt the tip of her blade against his neck.  "Your eyes are red... like mine..."

            "I am nothing like your kind," she said in an empty voice, as if it was an automatic answer.

            "In that case, what are you...?"  He said dully as her sword moved down until it was on top of his rapidly beating heart.  He could feel his blood pounding in his ears... and then the blow came.  With a practiced downwards motion, the blade pierced through him, cutting through his vital organ without hesitation.  Crimson liquid exploded from the wound and shakily, bloody fingers came up to wrap around the very weapon that was in his body.

            "... Are you the Angel of Death?"  He whispered with his final breath before the life that he has stolen from others vanished in his eyes.

            "... No," she said softly, "I am not an angel."

                                                                        ***

            The stereo player sitting on top of a desk blared out a familiar guitar solo, followed by a series of enthusiastic drumming.  Suddenly, it switched key all together, diving into a darker note until a male's voice wailed out of it.  It created a rather up-beat atmosphere in the room, causing the listeners to actually nod their heads in sync with the music.  A light autumn breeze swept in through an opened window, ruffling the modest curtains pulled over them and carrying the smell of the rain inside.  Gentle pattering sounds could be heard as the rain struck against the window planes.

            One of the three females within the room looked up from her computer screen, and then glared at the windows as if it had done some sort of injustice to her.  "Ugh!  I hate the rain!"  She said, causing her companions to look up.  She ran her hand through her short brown hair, her green eyes still narrowed.  "It just ruined the weather."

            A young woman sitting adjacent to her adjusted the glasses resting upon the bridge of her nose, and glanced up with a sigh.  "It has been raining everyday here for the last week, Selphie," the blonde informed.  "You should be used to it by now."

            "But Quistis!" her friend protested.  "Deling's weather never truly agreed with me."

            I laughed softly, flicking a lock of raven hair out of my eyes.  "Is life around here so boring that we have taken up arguing over the weather now?"

            Selphie rolled her forest green eyes at me.  "Easy for you to say, Rinoa.  We all know that Boss loves you to death."

            I laughed again.  Things never ceased to change around here, but I am grateful for that.  I have known Quistis and Selphie for my entire life, ever since we were children, and we grew up together.  We attended the same schools, and twenty years later, here we are, still together.

            "Well, if you go and do more missions instead of going on dates, then she will love you too," Quistis replied.  "Is this the fifth guy that you have ditched this month?"

            The brunette scowled.  "How can you remember that?  I can't."

            "That's one of the many skills of mine, darling."

            Smiling, I leaned backwards in my swivel chair, stretching my arms with a relaxed sigh.  I knew that I shouldn't be slacking off - the pile of papers on top of my desk weren't getting smaller by any chance- but sometimes, I just don't feel like working.  Closing my eyes, I turned my full attention to the music.

            "Why don't you trust in my self-righteous suicide?"  A voice carried through the stereo speakers drawled out, causing me to lift an eyebrow in slight question to his words.

            "I cry when angels deserve to die..."

            Selphie yawned, and got up to pour herself a cup of coffee.  "Anybody else want some?"  She offered.

            "I will take a cup," Quistis piped up, pulling away from the blinking computer screen in front of her.  "I need a break," she mumbled to herself.

            "Rinoa, you want?"  Selphie asked, taking a sip of the hot dark brew.

            "No thanks," I answered, and took a folder from the top of my never-ending pile of papers.  "Goddammit, so much work..." Suddenly, my cell phone rang, and putting down the pen in my hand, I searched for the silver electronic device that was supposed to be on my table.  However, all the papers had managed to bury it somewhere.  Praying that whoever it was doesn't hang up, I finally located it on the opposite side of the desk where I remembered I placed it.  Odd.

            Flipping up the cover, I pressed my ear against it.  "Hello?"

            "Rinoa, you have another mission," the sharp cold voice of a female on the other end said.

            "Where?"

            At this time, Quistis and Selphie were staring intensely at me.  "Who is it?" the blonde mouthed.  I shook my head, and returned my attention to phone call.

            "Esthar.  We have received information that the leader is residing there."

            "When do I leave?"

            "Immediately.  You will be informed of your assignment when you get there."

            "I understand.  Thank you."  I clicked the end button on my cell phone and turned to my friends.  "That was the Boss' secretary," I told them.  "We have a new mission."

            "Where to this time?"  Quistis asked, taking another sip of her coffee.

            "Esthar."

            "Esthar?"  Selphie echoed.  "Why there?"

            "According to her, Esthar is where the leader lives."

            Selphie grinned.  "So after all these years, our efforts are not for nothing.  It all comes down to now, doesn't it?"

            Pulling open the bottom drawer of my desk, I retrieved something that was stowed in the far back of it.  Pulling it out, I twirled it nimbly between my fingers, and then slammed it down on the ground with the blade pressing firmly on it.  "Something tells me that after all this time..." I smiled sardonically, "... the hunt is just beginning."

                                                                        ***

            "There has been another kill last night, sir."

            A man with long straight brown hair glanced up from his work, meeting the gaze of a rather heavyset male in the room.  Placing down his pen, he clasped his hands together on top of his desk with a sigh.  "Ward, this is the tenth one this month, isn't it?"  He said with remorse in his voice.

            Ward adjusted the bandana upon his head and nodded, confirming his good friend and leader fears.  "Yes, it is, Laguna."

            "Where is the location of this one?"

            "Deling City."

            "And what of the body itself?  Is it the work of the same person?"  Laguna asked.

            Ward nodded once more.  "Yes.  There was a black feather lying on the wound where the hunter's blade sank into his heart.  And like the others, his heart was taken out.  Laguna," he swallowed hard, "Maybe it is time that we actually seek out the person who has been killing the vampires.  With all that hatred against us already..."

            Laguna sighed again.  "That hatred was begun by propaganda.  We cannot drop to their level.  If we do, we will never be able to climb out of the hole that our actions will build us!"

            "In other words," Ward said, "It is a no-win situation from both sides."

            Laguna didn't say anything.  Instead, his eyes seemed to be fastened upon the giant painting hanging over the crackling fireplace.  It was a portrait of a beautiful female with flowing dark hair and sapphire eyes.  Upon her face is a tiny smile as if she knows something that nobody else does.  Ward followed his gaze.

            "You miss her, don't you."

            "Seventeen years..."  Laguna murmured.  "And still, I cannot believe that she's actually gone.  It's like everything reminds me of her... the flowers in the garden, wine, Squall's eyes..."  He winced inwardly at the mention of his son's name.  Needless to say, Squall and his father did not have a very smooth relationship.  Squall has never been the type of person that goes to family outings and has Friday evenings at home.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  The twenty year old was extremely independent and strived to be as far away as possible from his sire.  Beginning at the age of ten, he has been in Balamb, going to one of the world's best military schools.  He only went back to Esthar recently, and that wasn't until his sister Ellone had begged for him to come back.

            Ward, as a long time companion of the widower, knew that this would be an ideal moment to change the subject, was about to do so when the door swung open to admit a tall woman with long black hair garbed in a dark purple dress.  Bowing her head slightly to Laguna, she acknowledged Ward's presence with a curt nod.

            "What is it, Edea?"  Laguna raised an eyebrow.  "Is something the matter?"

            "Nothing urgent, but I've just received word that three of my companions from Deling has arrived."  Edea looked up.  "They don't have a place to stay currently so..."

            "They can stay here.  The staff will prepare three guest rooms for them."

            "Thank you, sir."

            Ward frowned slightly.  "Are they vampires?"

            Edea shook her head slowly.  "No.  It is dangerous, I know, but I can't do anything else about it.  My home is here, and I don't have another place they could go to."

            Laguna glanced at Ward.  "I will just have to make sure that the vampires don't regard them as a meal," he said, only half joking.  "By the way, have you seen Squall?"

            "He left an hour ago.  Where to, I don't know," Ward answered.

            This time, it was Laguna's turn to frown.  "He knows that vampires are not as strong underneath sunlight.  Why does he just want to rebel against me so much?  Am I such a disappointing father?"  He sighed.

            "I think it's just a phase.  It will pass," Edea reassured him.

            "I hope that you're right."

                                                                        ***

            "Is this it?"  Quistis stared up at the looming mansion, her mouth hanging open.  It was so gigantic that it looked as if it could scrape the sky easily.  Large majestic windows graced the entrances to the stone balconies on each floor and a courtyard paved with cobblestones stretched before the massive double doors leading into the house.  A stern black gate was placed in the front of the Loire territory to make it as theirs with a golden plate that bore the family emblem proudly, not leaving any type of doubts about the vampire clan's power.  It was a lion with sweeping wings, twin L's looped elegantly in gold next to it.  Tall walls were set around the mansion, eliminating the prospects of thieves and burglars.

            I glanced down at the slip of paper in my hand where I wrote down the information that Edea has called me with.  In a messy handwriting and what looked like a purple crayon that I grabbed out of haste was the address of the Loire house.  "I think that this is it," I said with another impressed look-over of the mansion.

            Selphie whistled appreciatively.  "Wow..." she breathed.

            'Wow' is correct.  Licking my dry lips with the tip of my tongue, I dug my cell phone out of a pocket, dialing Edea's number.  She picked up after several rings.

            "Hello?"

            "Hello, this is Rinoa.  I'm here."  I brushed some of my stubborn bangs out of my eyes.  Sometimes, I really wonder why I don't just cut the thing and get it over with.

            "Is Quistis and Selphie with you?"

            "Yeah."

            "I will be right there."  With that, we hung up.  Several minutes later, the iron gates creaked open by themselves, and upon entrance, I sighted Edea standing on the front steps.  She welcomed us with a hand shake, stating boldly and clearly with that wordless gesture that our relationship was strictly formal.  That's fine by me.

            "How was your journey?"  The older women asked, pushing the oak double doors of the house apart, and revealing the total glory of the interior to us.  High ceilings arched over the lobby alone, crystal chandeliers hanging from them.  The entire place was bathed with light from numerous lamps, giving it a rather cozy but yet fashionable aura at the same time.  The floor was cushioned with red carpet, swallowing the sounds of our footsteps.  A long twisting grand staircase constructed out of white marble gave way to the second floor and continued upwards to all the other landings.  I looked upwards, mentally calculating the floors of the house - I gave up after five.  Heavy velvet drapes were drawn over the glass windows, letting in as little light as possible from the outside world.

            "It was fine."  I told her, still trying to take in all of my surroundings.  There was simply too much to see at once.

            "That's good to hear."  Edea smiled slightly.  She looked at the clock suddenly and seemed shock to see that it was almost six o'clock.  "Dammit, I practically forgot.  Get settled in, and I will see you three later.  Excuse me."  And she left, quickly as that.

            Brushing off her rather rude departure, I continued to examine the house.

            "Look at that!"  Selphie squealed, pointing at the staircase.  I followed her gaze, resting my eyes upon her current object of attention.  To each side of the staircase railings were stone statues of the same creatures that were on the plate on the gates.  Their wings were folded neatly behind them, their heads thrown to the sky proudly, a leg lifted.  However, none were as grand as the one that stood at the top of the second floor.  It was the biggest one of them all, life-size and sculpted so perfectly that each sinew and muscle in its formidable form was done so precisely that I thought that it was actually real at first glance.  The statue's eyes were full of strength, practically burning in a way.  I became lost in thought, so much that I didn't even hear the head of the house walked in.

            "The Griever."  Laguna said, startling me out of my reverie.  To my questioning expression, he pointed at the winged lion that I was so entranced by.  "It's the family guardian," he explained.  "It symbolizes power and courage."

            "Sounds fitting," I said, meaning every word of it.

            Laguna smiled.  "Glad that you think that way.  I'm Laguna Loire."  He extended a hand.

            I took it, giving it a polite shake.  "Rinoa Heartilly.  These are my friends, Quistis Trepe and Selphie Tilmitt."  Quistis nodded at the long-haired man whereas Selphie chirped a 'hi'.  "I am extremely sorry that we have to force our company on you like this," I continued.

            "Oh, it's nothing!"  Laguna waved a hand dismissively, indicating that he was at ease with it all.  "This house is full of members of our extended family and other fellow creatures like us.  Our guestrooms are always being used by Irvine and Zell anyways."

            "Irvine and Zell?"

            "They are just friends of my son, Squall.  They stay here quite frequently."

            "Ah, I see."  I nodded my comprehension.

            "Where are you from?"  Laguna asked.  "I don't think that Edea has told me.  As the person who manages my affairs, she is rather busy."

            "We are from Deling City," I told him, watching as his eyebrow shot up slightly at the mention of my hometown.  "Is something the matter?"

            "That was the place with the vampire kills, isn't it?"  Laguna looked a bit skeptical.

            "The most recent one, yes.  Why?"

            He scratched the back of his neck sheepishly, drawing a gentle quirking of lips from me.  For the leader of the world's most powerful vampire clan, he sure acts differently from the uptight and professional image that I had painted of him in my head.  Odd man he is, that's for sure, this Laguna Loire.

            "Well, you see, since I am supposed to be the leader of the vampires, I'm kind of occupied with that matter," he said in a rather embarrassed manner.  Suddenly, he seemed uncomfortable.  "You DO know about that, don't you?  That you are stuck in a house full of blood-suckers?"

            I exchanged looks with my companions.  "Of course we do.  Edea explained the circumstances involving our stay."

            "And you don't mind?"  He looked uncomfortable once more.

            I shrugged.  "We can take care of ourselves, and I am sure that you wouldn't let them eat us, right?"  I laughed nervously.

            "Of course not!"  He sounded shock at my words.  "I will not have my guests dying underneath my roof!"

            Quistis stifled a giggle at his exclamation and Selphie openly laughed, which drew another neck-rubbing motion from Laguna.

            "Eh, why don't I show you three to your rooms?"  He suggested to the enthusiastic agreement of Selphie.  "You three must be tired from your traveling."

            "Yay!"  She cheered and jumped up and down, acting as if he had just offered her a platter of gold.  "I can't wait to see my room!"

            "It isn't anything extravagant..."

                                                                        ***

            If Laguna Loire was a liar, he was an extremely bad one.  My room was four times bigger than the one that I had back home.  It was also covered with red carpet, and I bet that every single room in the house was.  I bet my suite-like room on that.  Anyways, there was a king-size bed sitting in the center of the room with a canopy with dark drapes.  A canopy.  I never had one of THOSE before, not even in any of those high-classed hotels.  A dresser with a huge mirror was to the side of the bed while another one with a lamp and an alarm clock was to the other.  I opened the door to the spacious closet and hung my trench coat up in it, realizing that all the clothes that I've brought with me would not even take up one-fourth of the available space in there.  Slightly awestricken by how much money all of this would have cost, I looked over black stereo system in the corner with a raise of an eyebrow.  Damn.  There was even a couch in there along with a table.  Chairs stood around the table, practically as if they were waiting for somebody to sit in them.  The south of the room was home to a fireplace, but currently, it wasn't lit.  I pulled open all the curtains hanging over my windows saw that one of them led out to a balcony.

            Sliding apart the glass doors, I stepped outside.  Stretching the cramped up muscles in my arms from the long trip to Esthar, I let the wind swooshed through my hair, tangling it playfully.  I didn't really care at the moment.  The last dying rays of the sun glanced off my pale skin, warming it.  Looking down from my third-floor room, I saw that my balcony overlooked the courtyard from where I entered.  I could see a black car stop in front of the iron gates.  After a few seconds, they swung open to admit it, allowing it to drive through.  The car stopped in the center of the courtyard while a servant came up to it, opening the driver's door.  Somebody climbed out of it, handing the keys to his car to the servant.  The servant got into the car, and drove it away to some other place where it would be parked.

            The wind ruffled the hair of the man standing alone in the courtyard, forcing him to run a gloved hand through it in an attempt to keep it from getting wilder than it already was.  I could see his face from the eagle's point of view that I have of him, but even from this far away, I could tell that he gave off a sort of commanding atmosphere.  Tilting my head to the side, I squinted my eyes to see if I could make out his features.

            Suddenly, as if he could feel that somebody was watching him, he glanced up, eyes fastening upon me.  I swallowed hard.  He was... how could I describe it?  He was sensational.  Stormy blue eyes pierced through my own brown ones, searching for my identity with subtle curiosity.  His brown hair gleamed as sunlight struck it, giving it practically silver highlights.

            After what felt like an eternity of silent questions, he pulled his gaze away as a call from the door drew his attention.  A brown-haired female ran down the front steps, saying his name but I couldn't hear it from my location.  She leaped into his arms, surprising him with a hug.

            I frowned, slightly disappointed.  He has a girlfriend.  Dragging myself away from the balcony, I scolded myself for feeling as if I should care whether or not he had a romantic interest or not.  I am not here to find a possible boyfriend.  Slapping myself mentally, I shook my head, directing my anger at myself.  I need to stop thinking about these things or else it would ruin everything... and I mean that.

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Ending Notes:  Holy shit, I hope that it wasn't as bad as I thought it was!  I seriously hate beginning stories because there is so much explaining involved.  In case I didn't mention it before, this is an Alternative Universe Fanfiction in the Final Fantasy VIII world.  Characters will be a bit OOC, but I am trying to keep their original personalities.  Before I forget, I will like to mention several things.  Vampires could walk in sunlight.  Screw that crap about how they will shrivel up like a prune if sunlight touches them... that is all mythology and legends.  Sunlight will greatly weaken a vampire and they will prefer the night, but that doesn't mean that they can't go about in broad daylight.  It just means that their full power potential will be after sunset.

What exactly is this story about?  To tell you the truth, I haven't decided yet.  I thought that I was going to start off on one thing, but then it suddenly branched into so many others.  You will just have to discover after reading each chapter now, won't you?

Oh yes, that song on the stereo that the girls were listening to in the beginning was "Chop Suey" by System of a Down.

First chapters are always shaky so forgive me if this isn't up to your expectations.  Yes, I know that this is a bit short.  The ones after this one will be better, I promise you.  Please review so that I know people are actually reading this.  See you in the next chapter, if there is any.