"This is bad." Squall muttered under his breath as he dodged a swipe from a blue False Stalwart, only to be forced to block a slash from yet another manikin- a Transient Lion. He immediately spun around, red orbs of energy surrounding him and detonating as he jumped back. The two manikins that had been pressuring him dodged backwards, giving him breathing space to assess his situation.

He spied Zidane and Bartz busying themselves with the silver-haired Kuja while the silver haired genome's comrades, Ultimecia, Mateus, and Kefka looked on. Alongside the three Warriors of Chaos stood several more manikins, ready to strike.

A flash out of the corner of his eye forced Squall to quickly raise his gunblade, causing him and the blue manikin to stagger backwards. Quickly regaining his footing, Squall spun once more, managing to blast the manikin to pieces before raising his blade above his head, channel his magic into his weapon to extend its range before slashing downwards and catching the second manikin straight down the midline.

A pale pink Fleeting Flash suddenly leapt towards him, its replica gunblade bearing down on his head. Squall blocked the strike from his crouched position then quickly fired a blizzard spell point black, knocking the manikin away.

We need to retreat. Squall's thoughts darkened. As much as he didn't want to back down, he knew this battle was already lost. They were surrounded and outgunned. Had Zidane and Bartz manage to take down Kuja, they'd be forced to battle the remaining manikins or even the mages waiting in the sidelines.

As Kuja flew up into the air, Squall quickly made his move. With a roar, Squall once more channeled magic into his gunblade, causing him to fly forward in a jet of blue light that knocked Kuja out of the air. Bartz and Zidane immediately batted away the pink manikin that tried to jump their comrade from behind, turning it into dust as it hit the ground.

"Thanks for the assist!" Bartz cheered as he wiped the sweat trailing down his brow.

"Pssch, we could've taken him." Zidane whined but grinned nonetheless.

Squall stood up, eyeing Kuja as the mage rose to his feet. "Hn."

"How dare you, you arrogant cretin!" Kuja glared hard at Squall. The latter merely twirled his gunblade before resting it on his shoulder, mocking him. "Fine then, I'll take on all of you at once!"

Squall crouched down and tensed. "Bartz, Zidane, we're retreating on my mark." Squall muttered loud enough for only the two Warriors of Cosmos to hear.

The blond looked taken aback. "Wh-what?"

Batz simply nodded before raising his arm in preparation.

Kuja once more flew into the air but Bartz quickly countered him. "Show your flames!" pillars of fire suddenly erupted from the ground as Ifrit appeared, knocking the silver-haired genome out of his high horse. Bartz quickly banished his imitation of Yuna's staff before turning tail while grinning madly. "Time to go guys!"

Squall grunted before chasing after Bartz. Zidane followed suit while laughing along the way.

"Way to go Bartz!" The young genome cheered.

Squall threw a glance back as the trio departed the World of Darkness and ran through the fields of Pravoka. He saw Kuja rising but he made no move to follow them. Emperor Mateus seemed to be conversing with him but otherwise, none of the Chaos Warriors made any indication to follow.

Squall's storm blue eyes suddenly narrowed at the reason why. "We're not yet out of the fire." He shouted at Bartz and Zidane. The two also looked back and saw the manikins chasing after them.

"Guys, look ahead!" Zidane suddenly shouted. In front of them were even more manikins waiting in ambush. "We're surrounded!"

Squall cursed under his breath before charging up a revolver drive, skewering the front liners, and following suit with a fated circle, blasting his way through the manikin horde in front of them to clear a path. "Keep moving!" He shouted at the duo behind him.

The trio kept running as the manikins continued their assault.

"This is endless!" Bartz said as he finished taking care of his foe while keeping his guard up, aware of another manikin running towards him. "What now guys?"

Zidane tackled the manikin he was fighting, digging both his Mage Mashers in its chest before performing a backflip to land behind Bartz. "We'll never make it to the Sanctuary at this rate."

"…" Squall quickly eyed his surroundings. While the manikins individually weren't a threat, the sheer number they were faced with was rapidly becoming a problem. Spying a stone archway ahead, Squall turned back to Bartz and Zidane who were busy fighting. "Get down!"

The two warriors instinctively ducked as Squall swept his gunblade horizontally, lacing it with his magic to extend its range. The red energy blade slammed into the manikins Bartz and Zidane were fighting. "Get moving!" He motioned to the archway. The two immediately ran past him. As soon as the two crossed, Squall once more channeled magic into his gunblade to extend its range and attacked the archway, sending it crashing to the ground.

"SQUALL!" The gunblader heard Zidane shout from across the rubble. "What the hell are you doing?"

"Divide and conquer." He raised his voice. "Go!"

"Idiot! They outnumber us!" This time it was Bartz who shouted. "Hang in there! We're coming!"

"No!" Squall quickly parried a slash by an Ephermal Vision before quickly surrounding himself once more with red energy, the resulting explosion also destroying the rest of the manikins surrounding him.

"Stop being such a stubborn ass!" Zidane growled out. "You're our friend; we're not leaving you here to die alone!"

"I have no intention of dying." He spoke evenly. The manikins had stopped rushing him, instead fanning out and trying to cut off his escape route. Some of the manikins started climbing over the wall behind him, mostly likely trying to reach Bartz and Zidane. Despite the decreasing number, Squall knew he was at a disadvantage with his back against the wall. He needed to take this fight to a more favorable situation. "The manikins will just keep on coming. I will divert their attention while you two make your way towards the Sanctuary." Squall commanded as he raised his gunblade.

"…you better stay alive!" Zidane shouted. Squall felt what appeared to be a surge of magic and surmised some of the manikins managed to reach the two warriors.

"Yeah!" Bartz added. "Promise we'll see each other in the Sanctuary!"

"…" Squall, despite the situation he was in, had the sudden urge to facepalm. "…whatever."

"What was that?" An explosion erupted, making Squall curse.

"I said I promise!" The gunblade user growled out in frustration. "Now go!"

Squall quickly cut to the right without waiting for his comrade's reply. The leather-clad man jumped into the air before dashing forward in a jet of blue light, managing to destroy several manikins that leapt after him. As soon as he landed, he blocked a strike from his right before slamming his fist against the opposing manikin's head. He dodged forward, above another manikins head, and continued making his escape, the manikin horde now chasing after him.

Squall heard a shout from behind him and instinctively dodged to the side, hiding behind a stone pillar just as large blobs of water rained down where he previously was.

More magic. Squall thought sarcastically as the dust cleared. He quickly destroyed the pillar he was hiding behind, scattering his enemies as he continued running. This really is endless.

He quickly surveyed his surroundings, seeing a familiar crystalline structure in the distance. At least I know where to go. He threw a glance behind him, noting he'd finally put some distance between him and the manikins as the army after him had decreased in number. Still, he wasn't taking any chances, knowing it was pointless standing around to fight as more manikins would most likely turn up and join the fray, drawn by the fighting. He continued running down the familiar path to the Sanctuary, entering a ravine. That man mentioned these …manikins… only attack Warriors of Cosmos.

...

This is gonna be a problem.

The wall he was running next to suddenly exploded, knocking him over to the side. His ears ringing, he quickly regained his footing and saw several silhouettes in the dust. Can't be allies. He unsheathed his gunblade and fell into a battle stance just as the ringing disappeared. Has to be manikins…but how?

The leather-clad man turned to look behind him, noting a sudden increase in the number of manikins chasing him.

no… he assessed the speed of his pursuers. They slowed down, making me subconsciously slow down thinking I was able to put some distance while the rest ran around to catch me in a pincer attack. Just as he surmised, the wall on his other side too exploded, showing more manikins. Knew it. The question is, how did they become so organized?

Turning back to look behind him, he glared angrily at the manikin leading the pack. The emotionless face of a purplish-pink Transient Lion met his gaze, as if mocking him with its aloofness. Coincidence. He shook his head. He was starting to think irrationally. Perhaps he was starting to feel fear? But what was he afraid of? Seeing two figures flank the Transient Lion made him realize it; A Capricious Thief and a Fallacious Wanderer. Were everyone else ambushed, too? Imagining Bartz and Zidane lying in a pool of their own blood made his blood boil.

No. he hardened his thoughts. I trust in them to carry out their orders, just as they trust in me to keep my promise.

It seems I have to stop this group here or the Sanctuary will become compromised. Raising his gunblade and pointing it at the apparent leader of the pack, he shouted his war cry. "There can only be one Squall!"

The manikins roared as they ran towards him. Squall quickly surrounded himself with red energy spheres, the resulting explosion scattering the manikins in the frontline, before jumping high up in the air. Two manikins jumped after him. He shifted his weight, dodging a vertical slash from one of the manikins and making it hit the other. A sudden gust of wind made him turn around just in time to block another vertical slash by a massive cleaver, a False Stalwart managing to creep up while he was occupied. The strength of the surprise attack managed to knock him into the ground prematurely.

Quickly doing a one-armed back handspring, he managed to dodge the spell fire aimed where he landed. He steadied himself with the same hand while his other hand held his gunblade at his side. Five more manikins jumped at him from different directions while the blue manikin that knocked him out of the air came down. Squall once more propelled himself in the air just as the five were about to hit while quickly casting a triple fire spell that caught the False Stalwart off guard. Taking advantage of the five manikin's confusion, Squall jumped back into the fray, slashing at the back of one of the manikins before casting another triple fire spell point blank at the face of another, sending the two to oblivion.

Feeling a sudden change in magic in the air, Squall abandoned the three manikins just as beams of light erupted from the ground, destroying the three. He quickly surveyed his surroundings and managed to locate the mage- a Transient Witch- standing at the top of the ravine.

That's going to be a problem. His eyes narrowed. Something suddenly hit him from behind, knocking him forward. He quickly righted himself then turned around to face his attacker, seeing the floating green form of a Counterfeit Wraith. Great, another troublesome prey.

His eyes widened as the Wraith started gathering dark energy. Squall jumped backwards, only to realize he was much too close to the wall. He dug his foot on the wall and propelled himself upwards and over the Wraith's head just as the 0-form particle beam fired, the gunblade user narrowly dodging. A lance of pain shot up his leg as he landed. Squall noted that he wasn't able to fully dodge the attack. He quickly ran forward and beheaded the Wraith as it attempted to recover. A clanking of metal over the Wraith's anguished cry made him turn around to block the False Stalwart from before. The strength of the blow made Squall grunt as it aggravated his injured leg.

He dodged backwards sloppily and fired a thunder barret, dragging the Stalwart with him, and rammed his gunblade through its face. Squall continued on forward as he couldn't stop his momentum with his injured leg. He saw more manikins approaching him and quickly charged up a revolver drive and used his momentum to propel his body forward, slamming into the incoming group. As his attack came to an end, he twirled on one leg, blasting his surroundings with a fated circle, forcing the manikins to pause in their attacks and buying him some breathing space.

Squall stabbed the ground, panting, never taking his eyes off his surroundings. He surveyed his situation, noting that, while the manikins decreased in number, he still had quite a ways to go. He steadied his breath before standing straight, wincing at the small jolt of pain his leg gave. A whistling sound made him flip backwards, just in time to dodge a blue explosion from above.

He glared at the Transient Witch still perched above him as he touched down from his flip. Squall started moving towards it only to raise his blade as a flash of red steel crept out of the corner of his eye. He blocked the attack and glared fiercely at the Transient Lion before having to jump backwards as the two manikins flanking it earlier jumped from behind the Lion in an attempt to catch him off guard. Squall caught the leg of the Capricious Thief as it followed through with a kick and threw Zidane's manikin at the Fallacious Wanderer when it attempted to retaliate. A chilling blue blizzard spell managed to catch him in the chest, knocking him backwards. He blocked the follow up spells before dodging forward as the Transient Lion's thunder barret came at him.

"This it it!" Squall smashed his good heel at the manikin's head as he came out of his flip and used the attack to propel him up into the air, dodging the first volley of red lances from the Transient Witch, which instead found its mark on the Transient Lion. Squall ignored the pain from the red bolts that managed to hit him and pressed forward to destroy the witch.

"Gotcha!" He fired five explosive blizzards spells, one aimed at the witch and others at the stone outcropping she stood on, bringing them both down crashing on the manikins below. Squall charged his gunblade with magic once more and with a roar, dashed downward, destroying the Witch as it stood up above the rubble. Squall staggered forward, digging his gunblade on the ground as he fell down on one knee.

Small trails of blood started seeping out of his wounds as the red magic bolts disappeared alongside the Witch. Panting from the exertion, he did a quick headcount of his foes, approximating at least twenty more manikins left to destroy.

Almost done. Squall pushed himself up, standing to his full height and pointing his gunblade at the manikins. "Come on! I can do this all day!" He growled out.

Half of the manikins charged forward while the rest took off to the skies. Squall idly noted they planned to surround him again.

I have to finish these off now before the rest can get into position.

As the remaining grounded manikins closed in on him from the frontlines, Squall also made his move.

"Lion's Heart!" Squall roared, his gunblade pulsing blue with energy. He dashed forward, adrenaline numbing the pain from his injuries, and cleanly cut the Delusory Dragoon at the frontlines in half when it attempted to jump before moving on to the next manikin. He dodged left as a False Hero threw its shield at him and parried the follow up slash with his gunblade, pushing forward then grabbing its face with his other hand, casting a blizzard bullet with that same hand as he slammed the manikin into the ground.

He immediately jumped upwards as two more manikins descended on him. Quickly performing a mystic flurry, Squall charged his gunblade again with magic to extend its range, sending it crashing down at the three manikins that were stunned by the shocks left in the wake of his blizzard spell.

Hearing the air whistle, Squall barely managed to bring his blade up to prevent himself from getting cleaved in half by an Imaginary Soldier's Buster Sword. The strength of the blow knocked Squall against the rocky wall of the ravine, taking the wind out of him. Squall jumped upwards, gathering his breath, just in time to dodge the light blue manikin's two follow up slashes. Seeing two Counterfeit Youths flanking the Imaginary Soldier, Squall turned around, shooting another round of mystic flurries at the wall, sending it crashing down and burying the three manikins in a rocky grave.

Tiny meteors started raining down on him, making Squall dodge frantically. Spying the culprit, Squall ran towards the Phantasmal Girl, flipping forward into the air as he dodged the fire spell that raced towards him. "There!" He slashed it upwards, knocking it into the air, before slashing downwards then pelted the manikin with a flurry of stabs, the final stab slamming it into the ground. "Going down!"

Two Fleeting Flashes were immediately at his sides. Squall blocked the gunfire from one of them before planting his foot against the nearby wall then sprung himself forward, digging his gunblade into the stomach of the second. Squall pulled the trigger of his blade, making his weapon vibrate violently causing the manikin to burst. He immediately blocked the sword swipe of the previous Fleeting Flash. Just as he was about to counter, something suddenly and painfully lodged itself on his shoulder, sending him crashing to the ground.

Squall groaned as he stood then looked upwards, seeing the manikins from before had already positioned themselves on top of the ravine. He eyed the smoke rising from the Transient Gunner's rifle, deducing what hit him. Squall cursed under his breath when his gunblade lost its blue glow.

The Fleeting Flash, noticing the lapse in its foe's concentration, immediately ran towards him in an attempt to finish the Warrior of Cosmos off. The Transient Gunners and other long-ranged manikins immediately bombarded the gunblader, trying to hold him in place so that its comrade down below could deal the decisive blow.

Squall charged up his gunblade, wincing as he lifted his weapon, and prepared to make his stand. I guess this is it. Sorry guys, I don't know if I can still fulfill our promise.

Just as the long-ranged bombardment were about to hit, a female voice rang through the air.

"THUNDAGA!"

Bolts of electricity erupted in front of him, shielding him from the manikin's attacks. Squall snapped around before releasing a breath he didn't realize he was holding.

The pink haired Lightning's mocking smirk met his gaze. "Points for trying, schoolboy."


A/N: Squall's an unbelievably hard character to write, in my opinion.

Edit (23 April 2011): Chapter 1 finally finished! Not yet proofread. Send me a review/message if there're any spelling/grammar corrections.