Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VIII belongs to someone who is not me, and in fact is Square-Enix. That someone fully owns this property, outside of original, author-created characters appearing in this story. (Yes, that means General Randolph is mine, darn it.) Use of characters or material presented within without author's permission will result in SHOTGUN TO THE FACE. Or legal action. Or something.

"I'll be here . . ."


"I'll be 'waiting' here."

"For what?"

"I'll be waiting . . . for you . . . so . . . if you come here . . . you'll find me.

"I promise."

The field was empty. He had promised to meet her here, but he was gone. And somehow, in some deep, instinctive corner of her heart, she knew that he wouldn't be coming.

He'd promised her. They'd meet here, together, but somehow . . . .

Where was he? Had he failed? Was he lost? She didn't know, and the lack of knowledge tore at her and left her weak with fear and worry.

She looked across the field, lost and alone. A cold, silent wind whipped across the meadow, tossing up flower petals. One floated in front of her, and she absently closed her hand over it.

No, he would never come. He couldn't, somehow . . . .

She released the petal, and her mouth opened in wonder, for it had changed, to a white feather, which the wind caught and blew into the sky. Her eyes followed it, her head turning, a hand coming up to brush her black hair out of her eyes so she could follow its movements into the darkening clouds . . . .

The Gunblade Saga: Reload - An in-depth novelization of Final Fantasy VIII

Book I: The Art of War

Prologue: Branding

Sparks flew as the two blades intersected, the slender, black-bladed Hyperion being turned aside by the parry of the heavier, silver blade of the Revolver. Their wielders backed off slightly, eyeing each other with deadly intensity.

A warm spring breeze, carrying with it the humid dampness of a coming morning storm, weaved its way between them, ruffling one man's long hair, and the other's long coat. To the east, a sliver of silver arose on the horizon, peeking over the mountains surrounding their field of battle. They stood atop a hill of gray stone, flanked on all sides by blank gray rocks and boulders. Overhead, the sky was darkened by the approaching storm clouds, but was occasionally lit by a lash of cracking lightning. Thunder followed the flashes of light, but no rain had yet to fall on the two warriors this morning. Beneath their battlefield, their hilltop was surrounded by tall pine trees, and a thick early morning mist hung over the branches and needles below. In the dim morning light, the two men stood alone, undisturbed in their personal conflict.

Hyperion rang against the Revolver, the slender gunblade's wielder smirked. His white coat flew out behind him as he parried a blow from the heavier gunblade, his steel gray eyes boring into his opponent with a mixture of amusement, respect, and arrogance. His bearing and demeanor, his tall, muscular physique, and his immaculate, slicked back blonde hair exemplified his aristocratic and haughty bearing that belied his eighteen years of age. Details seemed to matter to this man; a lock of hair hung down stylishly over his face, and a pair of blood-red crosses emblazoned his white trenchcoat's sleeves. Beneath this coat he wore a blue vest with a white cross splitting it vertically and horizontally. Black boots, gloves, and loose trousers completed his ensemble, and a slender scabbard for a slender blade rested on his left hip.

His foe deflected a swift thrust, and rushed ahead in an aggressive chop with the heavier Revolver. The two blades collided once more, and their eyes met, the Revolver's wielder meeting his foe with the same respectful look, though his eyes were of a deep blue hue as opposed to the steely eyes of his foe. He was much shorter than his tall foe, only coming up just past five feet and eight inches, with messy brown hair hanging past his eyes and partially down his face, almost like the mane of a hunting cat. He wore a short black leather jacket with thick, soft white fur around the collar, underneath which there was a plain white muscle shirt. He wore a trio of belts, one around his waist, the other two lower down, crossing diagonally over his groin. Pouches and pockets were attached to two of these belts, and the third, crossing over his left hip, was what appeared to be a combination of sword and gun-belt. The hybrid weapon holder was angled forward, as if its weapon was to be drawn like a sword, yet was shaped like a gun's holster, except it was longer, like a sword's sheath. Around the man's right leg was a trio of small bandoleers, each containing many small cylinders, like ammunition for a revolver. Like his foe, this man had black pants, these made out of leather like his jacket, and also, like his foe, his boots and gloves matched his pants. Around his neck was a chain, leading down to a crafted lion's head at the end.

Hyperion's wielder grinned as their weapons met in a clinch. Their blades were not traditional swords, but rather what was commonly called a "gunblade;" an esoteric weapon that combined the features of a long sword blade and a firearm's handle, slide, and magazine. In the Revolver's case, it was modeled after a heavy, oversized magnum revolver, with a long, wide, and heavy blade extending out nearly three feet from the cylinders of the revolver aspect, where the revolver's barrel was supposed to be. A stylized engraving of a crouched, winged lion marked both sides of the wide, straight blade. The blade itself tapered until the last few inches, where the tip was shaped like the end of a scimitar, the curved edge excellent for slicing, yet straight enough for a powerful thrust. On the end of the handle of the Revolver was a short chain, at the end of which was a small, crafted emblem; the head of roaring lion.

Hyperion's wielder smirked once more, and suddenly broke away, his weapon shooting up against the heavier gunblade and smashing against the crafted steel. The weapon was blasted up and out of the hands of its wielder, who was surprised at the power in that stroke. It flew upwards, spinning end over end, and reached the apex of its flight, before descending toward the ground and smashing into the stone point-first. The gunblade stood tall and straight, the chain on the end clinking, and a flash of lightning illuminated the dark morning, followed by a peal of thunder and the gentle whisper of light, falling rain.

The brown-haired man glanced to his enemy, who stood calmly, watching him and waiting for him to recover his lost weapon, smiling all the while.

Arrogant bastard.

His gloved fingers closed around the gunblade's handle, and the brown-haired warrior tore the weapon from the damp soil. Feeling the solid weight of his hybrid weapon in his hands, he raised the gunblade and turned on his foe. The blonde man waited silently, his superior smirk still marking his features, as he waited for his opponent to make the first move. Hyperion, like the Revolver, was a gunblade, although this weapon had the handle of semi-automatic handgun as opposed to a more old-fashioned revolver. Hyperion was long and slender, and was straight, with a shining, chromed edge.

The Revolver's wielder suddenly bolted forward, gritting his teeth as he rushed at his foe. Hyperion remained still until an instant before the Revolver flew across in a heavy, powerful swing. The slender gunblade snapped up, smashing into the heavy blade and stopping it cold. The Revolver's wielder blinked in confusion, as he knew his enemy wasn't strong enough to block his heavy cleave with one arm.

He had no time to ponder the strange circumstances, as his enemy took advantage of that moment of hesitation to spin around on his right leg in a wild, arcing cut. It slammed into the Revolver as the brown-haired warrior brought it up in a deft block, sparks flying through the morning air as the two blades crashed together. Without missing a beat, the heavier gunblade disengaged and chopped across in a countering slash, but the light-footed blonde man spun away once more. Hyperion came out of the spin in a descending smash that knocked the Revolver out of the way, once more with unexpected power. He smirked as his opponent's eyes widened at the energy in his attack, and disengaged his weapon.

The shorter man rushed in with another cleave, and his blonde foe ducked under the attack, spinning around behind his opponent and raising his weapon to his shoulder, the tip of Hyperion leveled at the clouds overhead. As the Revolver's wielder spun around, Hyperion's wielder grinned knowingly and gestured with his left hand, beckoning his opponent to resume the duel. His foe obliged, starting forward, only to have to fall back as his opponent's weapon shot ahead in a sudden, swift thrust. The Revolver snapped across and crashed into the smaller gunblade, knocking it aside, and then had to parry swiftly with the heavy weapon as his enemy launched two more quick thrusts. As he blocked the third stab by Hyperion, the shorter fighter countered, stepping into a brutal overhead cleave that would split his foe from forehead to navel.

Hyperion somehow arced across and over its wielder, the gunblade intercepting the powerful slash with surprising ease. The blonde man smirked, and shoved forward with his weapon, throwing the heavy Revolver off his gunblade.

"Having fun yet?" the blonde man asked with a dark smile, and the brown-haired warrior narrowed his eyes as he started to understand what the duplicitous bastard was doing. He snarled quietly, and rushed ahead, undeterred by his opponent's treachery. His gunblade chopped in once more, and once again Hyperion deflected it with practiced, deliberate ease.

The blonde warrior suddenly shot ahead, his gunblade dipping low and rising up in an arcing cut, driving the Revolver back, and the brown-haired warrior continued retreating as his enemy slashed upwards a second time, trying to attack from an odd angle to throw his foe off. As Hyperion cut past, the Revolver countered in another vicious hack, which Hyperion's wielder nearly walked into. He backed away as the Revolver chopped in a second time, this time ringing against his gunblade. Even with his strength, the larger man had to set his feet and put his hand against the flat of his weapon to absorb all of his opponent's strike. His enemy launched a furious assault, taking advantage of his momentum, the Revolver crashing against Hyperion in a brutal series of blows. Gritting his teeth, Hyperion's wielder snapped his weapon forward as the Revolver retracted and shot ahead, and the weapons met.

The Revolver was shoved back and down by its foe's superior strength, and the brown-haired man leapt back before his enemy would strike out. However, as he retreated, the blonde man finally decided that he was finished with playing around. He clenched his fist as the Revolver's wielder rushed forward, and raised his left hand.

"Dodge this one!" he snarled, his eyes widening with glee.

The brown-haired man's eyes widened as red and yellow light coalesced into an incandescent ball in the taller man's hand. Hyperion's wielder smiled with vicious superiority, and unleashed the blast of energy he was channeling as his foe raised his gunblade. The blast slammed into the steel blade, which deflected most of the power behind the blow, but the potent burst of energy hurled the smaller man onto his rear, sending him skinned backward across the damp stone and soil.

Son of a bitch! He's using magic, too!

As that thought sounded, the smaller man's training kicked in, and he began to rise, not wanting to allow his opponent any time to take advantage of his weakness. A shadow fell over the brown-haired man as he started to stand, however, and he looked up, in time to see his enemy step forward, Hyperion arcing up into the air as his foe's eyes widened with manic glee. The smaller man's own eyes widened an instant before the slender gunblade flashed down.

A curse sounded within his mind, and a line of pain flashed over his face. His head jerked back as he felt his own lifeblood burst from the upper right side of his forehead and down over the bridge of his nose. He looked down, and saw crimson staining the gray stone beneath him, and the laughter of his victorious opponent.

His fingers tightened around his gunblade as instinct and fury took hold, and the smaller man rose in a single, sudden motion. The Revolver dragged forward, slicing along the stone and tearing chunks of rock free as adrenaline surged into his body, sending him into a rising strike that shot into his enemy's laughing visage and cut through his nose, stretching up along the left side of his forehead. Blood flew from the Revolver as his foe stumbled backward, and crimson dripped into the brown-haired man's eyes, blinding him as he rushed forward, raising his weapon to continue their battle. His foe clenched his teeth, ignoring the pain as anger took over, and their weapons collided once more.

His foe's unnatural power, however, was too much, and the smaller warrior felt his weapon begin to be forced back, and then he heard his opponent snarl in anger, right before his left hand balled into a fist and shot across into his jaw. His head was snapped back, and he was thrown off his feet and to the dirt. He heard his gunblade clatter to the stone as darkness swam up to claim his thoughts.

Its been almost two years since I finished the original version of The Gunblade Saga. With over five hundred and ninety documented reviews (lus two hundred and fifty from my reload of the original), its one of the works that I feel defined my place as a fanfiction author. Even today I still get emails and reviews, and the name "Gunblade Saga" pops up from time to time as I browse the Internets. I get gushing praise all the time for what I've written, and its flattering.

I also feel its out of place; when I look back over what I've written, this work that so many people speak so highly of, I can't help but feel...dissappointed. The simple fact is that I've grown as I wrote, and in looking back over the original work, I can't help but feel its a primitive work, something a much lesser person wrote, and it needs - no, demands - improvement. The original is a trainwreck, I'm sad to say, and I need to fix it. I need to make it better, faster, stronger, more - erm, I'll shut up on that tangent.

Final Fantasy VIII is a great game, and it deserves better than what I've written. I was proud when I finished Gunblade before, and now I want to feel proud again. I want to redo it, to write something I feel is worthy of the game it is based off. But fear not for my other works; I'll continue working on Mako, SeeD, and Synthesis. This is a side project more for my personal satisfaction than anything else.

Thus, we begin anew; I'm editing and redoing the entire story, using all the skills and improvements I've developed over the last few years. Brace yourselves; Peptuck's going back into the heart of his defining fanfiction, and he's not going to come out until he's satisfied his worst critic of all: himself.

To that end, I need my readers to help out here: I need you psychotic little darlings to be merciless. Tear my chapters apart and tell me what is right and what is wrong. Tell me what needs improvement. Pull no punches, hold nothing back. You see something wrong, tell me, dammit. Fear not whether you will offend me: I only want to improve, and I can only do that with your help. A ten-page review tearing apart every aspect of a chapter will be welcomed and praised. I value you for reading this, and I value your input in helping me.

Until first chapter...