Disclaimer: I do not own FF8.

Chapter 1

Two weeks elapsed since the threat of Ultimecia was put to rest. For just about everyone in the world, it was a time of rebuilding. Esthar, as a result of the Lunar Cry, had lost a considerable proportion of its military. After all, despite having the most advanced technology in the world, beasts like Iron Giants and Elnoyles were not a simple slay. Lunatic Pandora was moved back to Odine's Lab so that he could further investigate it. Following the events of two weeks prior, Esthar thought it best to work diligently to avoid such a catastrophe again.

The Gardens, of course, seemed to be the main topic of discussion throughout the world. Balamb Garden, seeing no need to remain mobile, returned to its original grandeur on the small island of Balamb. However, everyone agreed that the mobility of Garden be upgraded so that, in case the need ever arose, Garden could move in a near instant. The faculty of Garden also deviated, and this placed enormous strains on those who were new to their positions.

Cid was asked by all to return to his position as headmaster, however, having spent too many years away from his wife, he politely declined. Naturally, he recommended Squall for the job, but Squall declined as well, not wanting that much of a leadership responsibility. He could handle Commander since it involved fighting, but a job such as headmaster did not bode well with him. Of course, there was his other hidden agenda- his desire to spend as much time with Rinoa as he could. Squall's decline prompted Cid to next recommend Quistis, who graciously accepted.

Galbadia Garden was still nowhere to be found, having disappeared after the Battle of the Gardens. Finally, Trabia Garden initiated reconstruction as well. Since SeeD was directly responsible for the defeat of the world's most dangerous being, Garden was receiving more than enough funding and income to pursue any endeavor desired, including the reconstruction.

"Squall! Hurry up! You're going to be late!" Rinoa called into Squall's room. She knew he was tired of all the press conferences and interviews. He was not the type to open up about his feelings of experiences unless in dire situations.

"This is the third time today! This crap is more tiring than fighting!" He called back, lying in bed staring at the ceiling. He really just wanted some rest. He did save the world, after all.

"I know, I know. Pleeease? Quistis will get really ticked if you don't. Plus, you're the 'Legendary SeeD'! Everyone wants to know about you. The publicity will be over soon enough, so pleeease?" The young girl pleaded, really not wanting to incur the wrath of the newly appointed headmaster, who consistently asked Rinoa to get Squall to do things no one else could.

"I never asked to be the 'Legendary Seed'!"

"I know. But you are! Pleeeease?" If Squall had but one weakness, it was her. He could not refuse to do anything she asked of him. He knew all too well that in an instant, everything could change. Everything could be taken away. She could be taken away. So, despite his deepest wishes to be left out of the media spotlight, and to get some much needed rest, he crawled out of bed.

"Fine. Give me a minute." This response left a smile on Rinoa's face.

"Headmaster Trepe, the original intent for Garden was to defeat the Sorceress. Now that Ultimecia has been defeated, how would you describe the goals of Garden now?" inquired a female reporter, glasses nearly falling off of her nose.

The SeeDs involved in the Ultimecia affair were standing in an organized line, each SeeD having a podium to answer questions. Squall had remained quiet throughout the entire interview. Most of the questions were directed at Quistis anyways, thankfully.

"Well, I believe that Garden's goal was not just to defeat the Sorceress, as we demonstrated recently. We were involved in a war between two nations. Our goal then, and much of our goal now, is to uphold the world peace that has been established. Should a threat arise, SeeD will step up to the plate to overcome it. There are of course, other goals. All, though, are related to bettering the world," replied the confident Headmaster.

"Headmaster Trepe, it has become public knowledge that the new Sorceress Rinoa has come to reside in Balamb Garden. How do you think the rest of the world will react to this?"

Squall's head perked up. He had heard this question many times over. There was a concern among many in the public that Balamb Garden was using Rinoa as a threat just like Galbadia Garden did with Edea not so long ago. This could be seen as offensive to other nations, if taken in the wrong light. Still, Squall was always defensive about Rinoa, and what he did next shocked everyone.

"Allow me to address that question," Squall interjected. Quistis, as was everyone, was awestruck. Squall never wanted to answer questions.

'Guess I should've seen that coming,' Quistis thought.

"It's none of the world's business," he sternly replied. Xu, standing to the far right, placed her hands over her face in slight embarrassment over Squall's unprofessional response. Rinoa blushed and tried to hold back a smile. Her knight had come to her defense once again. The reporter blinked, confused, wondering whether she had offended the Commander. Quistis quickly stepped in to rectify the situation.

"Let me elaborate on what Squall means. There is a common notion held by people throughout the world that Sorceresses are evil. Indeed, many have been. Ultimecia and Adel were two such examples. However, everyone must remember that Rinoa is a sorceress ONLY because Ultimecia possessed her. Ultimecia has been dealt with, and Rinoa, despite being a sorceress, has no traces of Ultimecia within her. She, just like all of us, fought against Ultimecia, and fought for justice, and I can honestly say that without her, we would not have prevailed. People should NOT view her as a sorceress, but as a person. To directly address your question, Rinoa resides in Balamb Garden because she is one of us."

Again, Rinoa smiled at this response. She was extremely elated that she had such amazing friends.

After a few more questions, the press conference ended, much to the delight of everyone on stage.

"Man, thank Hyne. These reporters really piss me off," the ever-excited Zell commented.

"Seriously. How many more of these do we have to do?" Selphie asked, looking at Quistis.

"No clue. BUT. Irvine, next time we're at a press conference…please do not wear the hat, and please please please stop winking at the female reporters!" Then she turned towards Squall. "Nice reply, Commander Leonhart," she teased.

Unfortunately, not everything was as peaceful as the celebrations and media events portrayed it to be.

"President Caraway!" A short yet muscular man in a suit entered the office of General, now President following the events of weeks prior, Caraway.

"Ah, General Li. Report."

"Our ranks have been regrouped to our previous strength and numbers. Our military is now operating at full strength. Preparations for Operation Phoenix are complete."

A mischievous grin found its way to President Caraway's face. "Perfect. Esthar, and their technology, will soon belong to us."

"President. If I may. I do not believe that now is a good time to disrupt the peace. Esthar poses no threat, and they are in the process of rebuilding as it is. Further, this could trigger low approval ratings. And, if we carry this out, we can be certain Garden will intervene, lowering our chances of success even more!"

Caraway retained his confident, cool smile, and walked over to the window. General Li followed.

"General, you are misunderstanding the operation." The general listened intently, hoping for some explanation.

"We will not attack Esthar. They will surrender before we even lift a finger. If Garden intervenes, however, and they surely will, we will crush them."

"I'm still not sure I follow, President. Why will Esthar surrender without a fight?"

Caraway's cool facial expression now turned to one of sourness.

"General, it sounds like you neither understand nor have much faith in my plan. There are two things I don't tolerate. Incompetence, and insubordination."

"No, President, I'm just saying –`` before he could finish, Caraway took a pistol from his belt, and shot the General square in the forehead at point blank range. He then walked over to a picture on his wall, and smiled once again.

"Esthar will surrender…because we have the threat of the Sorceress on our side."