Transnomad makes a special guest appearance as the author of this frontisepiece. Thanks, Nomad!)
The name of Squall Leonhart would live for centuries, as the SeeD who defeated the Sorceress from the future, saving humanity and time itself from destruction.
And always with that story was another, that of Seifer Almasy, at once Squall's ultimate rival and closest friend. How he was coerced into fighting against SeeD and his own existence, and how he redeemed himself a year later, by giving his life to defeat another great threat, this one the victim of a very different kind of manipulation. And in death he finally achieved the status he had so vied for in life, as a hero and champion comparable to Squall himself.
But all this soon faded into the past and the veterans of these great battles began to settle into some semblance of normal lives, spreading across the globe on the tides of fate as a period of calm settled over the world after nearly a century of turmoil.
Their story ends here.
As time passed on, a new generation emerged to take their own place in the annals of history. Fujin and Raijin, who had remained in Garden, came to adopt a young boy named Kamalyn following the accidental deaths of both his parents, and raised him in Garden, to someday become a SeeD. Zell and Kyra Dincht, now in working in Galbadia Garden on invitation from a General Dyver, become the proud parents of Tam. Crippled by a heart weakness from birth, Tam could never take part in the lifestyle into which he was raised. Selphie's adopted daughter, Dina, chose to learn the arts of medicine and paramagic in the cold climes of Trabia Garden. Cabe, son of Irvine and Jana Kinneas, delighted in his parents' assignment to the protection of Galbadian president Junon and became both the pride and the scourge of Deling City.
However, the most compelling story is that of Aya. Born to Squall and Rinoa Leonhart between the ages of Kamalyn and Tam, Aya grew up in Balamb Garden, known by all to be Squall Leonhart's daughter. She admired her father, and did her best to learn all she could from the living legend.
But as she grew, Aya began to resent always being referred to as "Commander Leonhart's kid," and began searching for ways to differ herself. Abandoning the traditional SeeD methods in which she had been trained, she began to study the dagger and poison, stealth, agility, the art of the assassin. And while she proved herself the intellectual equal of anyone in Garden, she scorned her classes, and frequently refused even to attend.
The story of Seifer and Dyne, the atrocities of Centra and the dark legions of a sorcerer gone mad, is now twenty-eight years old. Now is the time of Aya Leonhart, a young girl who strives to become more than her father's daughter. She desires to make her own mark in the world.
This is her story.
"From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were, I have not seen
As others saw, I could not bring
My passions from a common spring..."
--Edgar Allen Poe, "Alone"
The class was silent, exchanging knowing glances as the teacher read the name for the second time. Silently, Instructor Jemi put down the datapad and looked at the blonde boy sitting in the second row from the back.
"Mr. Nattaka, I don't suppose you would know of Ms. Leonhart's location?"
Kamalyn shook his head gravely. "She didn't tell me this time, Instructor," he said. "I checked out the ledge and the training center before I came, she's not at either one."
"Of course not," Jemi said darkly. Glancing around the room, she shook her head. "Please find her, cadet. You seem to have more luck than most of the Faculty." Glaring around the rest of the cadets, Jemi tapped a foot impatiently. "Today's meetings are mandatory. Our client is expecting a full three teams for the exam, and you will not be allowed to go on the exam if you do not attend. For any of you thinking of skipping out on the other meetings, I would urge you to reconsider."
Kamalyn slid out of his seat, moving to the door and stepping out. As soon as he had moved out of the Instructor's sight, he let his shoulders slump and let his face drop. Glancing around the halls, he tried to guess where Aya could be.
What am I thinking? I don't need to guess. I know already.
Setting off for the gate, Kamalyn spared a moment to wish he wasn't so closely acquainted with Commander Leonhart's daughter. His life would have been much easier if he had never become friends with Aya--or even met her formidable father.
Aya sat on the edge of a rock outcropping, projecting from the rocky face of the Balamb Mountains. Below her the panoramic view of the Balamb Plains spread out, framed on the bottom by the view of the ledge which had now achieved infamy as Seifer's Ledge. The day was overcast, and a chill wind tugged at her as she sat. The gust made ripples dance across the plains below, whistling softly through the mountains.
The calm before the storm,
When the world dies--
And the fate of teardrops
In the heavens lie...
Aya smiled to herself. She didn't consider herself a poet, although she did dabble in the art a bit. She found that if people knew, however, they tended to think of her as a different person than she really was. They would think of her as a bit meeker, a visionary a bit out of touch with the world--the normal poet stereotype. She was really nothing of the sort. She had proven herself in combat, in history, in math, in almost every area of study, she was the highest echelon.
She could hear the faint noises of someone climbing up towards the ledge, and with a glance she identified it as Kamalyn.
Unlike her own carefully cultivated intimidating appearance, Kamalyn rarely looked as if he could willingly injure anyone or anything. Tall, blond, and handsome, with a pair of stunning green eyes that had undoubtedly snared more than one heart in Garden (unwittingly as it may have been), Kamalyn was the type of person who would have liked his lot in life much more if he could retreat to the back and be as unobtrusive as possible.
Aya, on the other hand, was a bit slighter and much meaner, with a particular aura around her that seemed to radiate aggression and scorn. Everything about her was like a spark--a potential fire just waiting to erupt. Her hair, unlike Kamalyn's neatly cropped locks, hung to just brush the tops of her ears, and had that particular look about it that suggested that there was a point beyond which no combing would make it look any better, and that point was reach after rolling out of bed and dragging one's hand through it a few times. Everything down to the way she moved radiated danger of one sort or another.
At the moment, Aya wore a look of sarcastic amusement, regarding Kamalyn quietly before glancing away. She smiled to herself, leaning back to look up at the sky. So, he's here to drag me back to class again, she guessed. At least I managed to evade him for this long.
"Why do you keep doing this?" Kamalyn's voice wafted up. Aya shook her head, aware that he couldn't see her.
"Why do you think?"
Sitting up again, Aya could see that Kamalyn had pulled himself up onto the ledge, standing a respectful distance from the gravestone. "Because you already know what they're trying to tell you," Kamalyn responded. "You've read the books, you've previewed the tests, and there's nothing there you need to be in class to learn."
"Looks like you have it memorized," Aya said, jumping the few meters to the ledge and lading in a crouch. "Took you a bit longer to find me this time," she said, straightening up.
Kamalyn looked around. "You weren't here when I checked."
"That's because I was in the Fire Cavern," she answered evenly.
"I wanted to see the place. Did you know they're going to collapse the entrance? Seemed like I should see it one time before they do."
"Oh," Kamalyn said, trying not to get drawn into a conversation. "You need to get back to class--they aren't going to let you go on the exam if you don't. Trust me, there are some people who won't like that."
Aya glanced back at the Garden. "I know," she said. "You think I don't? I've had that conversation over and over with Mom."
Kamalyn winced. "I guessed," he said. "So, you coming?"
Aya groaned. "Why not?" she said. "I'm guessing that by now Jemi will have given up on the lectures. She has to learn sometime."
Kamalyn turned away, heading back. "She's just like you," he answered. "She never learns."
Commander Squall Leonhart glanced up, looking at the aide standing in front of him. He had aged since the battle at Centra, obviously. The fiery passion that Bahamut had found so intriguing had dimmed into the cool, calculating stare of a Commander. His hair had been trimmed into some semblance of regularity, and he sported a well-trimmed beard as well. Quistis had thought it looked imposing.
Rinoa had said it made him look like a bear.
Squall, in spite of Rinoa's comment, had kept it.
"Yes?" he asked civilly.
"There's--er--a problem, sir."
Damn. Squall stood up, clasping his hands behind his back. One of two things--Rinaul, or Aya.
Hyne, I hope it's Rinaul.
"General Dyver and President Junon aren't so certain about the Rinaul act," the aide said, and Squall mentally relaxed. "They would like to see you and Headmaster Trepe in G-Garden tomorrow, if it's not too large an inconvenience. They apologize for the short notice, but they're rather booked up right now and they're afraid it's now or never."
"Tomorrow," Squall repeated, thinking. "...that should be acceptable. Clear it with Xu. I'll have the roster ready."
The aide saluted and moved off, leaving Squall to collapse back into his chair. A lot had changed since Centra, but he didn't notice it anymore. Only on those rare occasions when he bothered to actively think about the past did he notice the drastic changes which had taken place in his lifespan of circa forty-five years. The Ultimecia mission, the first Sorcerer War, the death of Adel... so many events that he had helped to bring about.
And now, here he was--Commander of Balamb Garden and semiofficial Ambassador to the Guardians, with a family and a responsibility to people other than himself. Other people would probably have paid to live the life of adventure and fame that he had. However, there was always some niggling doubt in the back of his mind--something wrong with the sequence of events that he couldn't quite place. A sense of incompleteness, maybe.
Or maybe I'm just tired of being stuck behind a desk for all this time.
Digging out a sheet from one of the drawers, Squall glanced over it. It was one of the standard regulation sheets for accessing shared Garden funds--which was what they would be drawing from if they were going to put any type of Garden facility on Rinaul Island.
. .Proposing Headmaster
. .Impartial Representative of all Gardens
. .External Mediator as situation dictates
He stopped reading there. That should be easy enough--Quistis was the proposing headmaster--having been appointed by Cid after his retirement. And as he was the one who had proposed it to Quistis, he would be going as well. He and Quistis had already agreed on Fujin as the representative of Balamb Garden--Xu having refused. Pulling out another sheet that had been forwarded to him by Headmaster Torres of T-Garden, Squall felt a slight tugging at the corners of his mouth as he saw why.
Cmdr. Leonhart--read and correct.
B-Garden: Quistis Trepe; (Cmdr. Squall Leonhart)
B-Garden: Fujin Nattaka
G-Garden: Kyra Dincht
T-Garden: Selphie Tilmitt
Galbadia: Amici Junon
Just like a reunion, Squall thought. Selphie will be there as the ambassador from Trabia, and Zell will be there with Kyra for certain. He thought for a moment. Where there's Junon there'll have to be Irvine. Only person missing will be Nida... and he's in Esthar. Isn't much that will tear him away from his job.
And I'll see them all again tomorrow.
If this is a problem, I wish they would happen more often.
Something was nagging at the back of his mind, and he considered it for a moment.
Hah--if I can manage to drag Aya along and Fujin can bring K--K-- he searched his brain for a name, and came up empty. ...her adoptive son, it might be a good chance for them to see Tam, Cabe and Dina again. Maybe one of them will be able to convince Aya to behave--and, anyway, she should be a full-fledged SeeD by tomorrow. She'll be due for a vacation.
Leaning back in his chair, he allowed himself to relax. He didn't anticipate any problems.
There was a noise at the entrance, and the aide stuck his head back in. Squall glanced at him pensively.
"Something you've forgotten?" he asked.
"Er, no, sir. I--there seems to be another problem with--er, your daughter. Sir."