Disclaimer: I own only Amarant and Sanguine. As yet, I own no other characters except the lady in the shop.

AN: I've decided to continue with Falling Inside The Black and am currently deciding if I should keep Sora out of it for a while or put him in at the end of the chapter. If you haven't read it, I wouldn't mind if you read it and reviewed it now. (Hint. Hint. Nudge. Nudge.)

Onwards!


I've always liked trees.

Not because they're pretty or provide shade or keep the air clean, but because I love to climb. When I was little I would climb anything I could; Trees, rocks, roofs, playground equipment.

If I could climb it, I did climb it.

The trees in the forest were no exception.

Less than a day into my trip into the forests between the Mythril Caves and Fort Condor, I'd found this huge tree that I'm pretty sure is some variant of an oak and had built myself a 'nest' in one of the larger nooks. Sangy just settled on a den in between some roots.

I'd finally figured out how to use the eight materia Mama had left me. The Fire was midlevel and was useful since it kept me warm at night and it me cook the food I, meaning Sanguine, caught. Lightning was ok but not my favourite since I was kind of paranoid about electrocuting myself, but that was upper midlevel, so obviously Mama had found a use for it. The Ice let me freeze any meat I wasn't using but was still the most undeveloped. I loved my Restore materia but was a bit leery as to why it was nearly Mastered and decided I really did not want to know. Destruct was my kind of materia; it could cast Death, De-Barrier and De-Spell, so, if I could get close enough, and was focused enough, I could get through a fight (which I still kind of sucked at, by the way) with minimal damage done to myself. Steal-As-Well was pretty damned useful and I'd gotten it from barely used to mid-levels in under a month. Enemy Skill was all-but Mastered prior to me owning it with only two or three skills missing. The one I used most, however, was my Sense materia. I wore it Slotted at all times on a three-slotted Bangle, usually with Steal-As-Well and Destruct or Restore and Destruct. The others were usually equipt to my weapons: Ice with my Swordbreaker, Lightning with my Trident Dagger, Fire with my Butterfly Dagger and my remaining two with my crystal sword thingy whose name I can never remember but translates to 'Seven Swords Of Heaven'.

As said before, I still suck at fighting. I have good speed, stamina, accuracy, reflex and luck, but my defence, attack and offensive magics are mediocre at best. My white magics are so-so but my status and support casting are pretty good. There are times when I honestly wish Mama had thought to pack a gun cause, seriously, I'm more suited to distance and high-speed combat than close-range and blitz combat. I have little doubt that I would lose to most SOLDIERs and pretty much any Turk I know about.

Still, I couldn't hide out in the forest forever.

I about cringed as I used the sewing scissors from the mini-sewing kit to start snipping my lovely silvery-blue hair. I'd already used my Butterfly Dagger to hack off most of it to just below shoulder length, but it was still emotionally painful to even trim it. It was so pretty.

At least it was still soft and fluffy. Seriously, it was like a kitten's fur, soft and fluffy and poofed up on its own by a few inches. I looked like Vincent Valentine in Advent Children, only with slightly fluffier silver hair. Which I was about to remedy with the mixture of pitch, blackberry pulp and some ink I'd mugged from a squid-like monster out on the plains.

I eyed the bowel and sighed. I put away the compact mirror and scissors and tipped the skin holding the remnants of my hair into the fire-

And fell back on my arse when the fire erupted in to bright violent green and purple fire, screaming and crackling.

Sangy, lounging in the dark shadows of the trees, rolled his eyes and sighed, not bothering to raise his head. "You were soaking in mako for most of your life, thus your hair is so soaked with the stuff it won't come out naturally and is pretty much all your hair is made of." He yawned, baring three inch long canines. "When you set fire to something soaked in mako on fire, it goes up like so."

I'm pretty sure the look I gave him was distinctly mulish. "And you didn't tell me this before...why?"

"Some things you just have to learn through trial and error. I can't coddle you forever."

I blinked a few times in disbelief. "If this is coddling then I sure as hell don't wanna know what your sink and swim philosophy would be like."

The hellhound gave me a look that said he was questioning exactly how I utilised my intelligence.

Annoyed, I turned back to watch the prettiful green and purple fire. The blaze stayed multicoloured for an hour or so before gradually shifting to orange.

"Sanguine?" I said abruptly.

His huge ears pricked up and forward, his roving red eyes focused on me.

"They're gonna keep coming after me, aren't they?"

His eyes started roving again. "Probably."

I said nothing and began putting the black-purple goop in my hair.

*****

"It's purple."

"I know."

"Humans don't have purple hair, Amarant."

"They do if they've dyed it. And it looks more like it's been tinted into black hair, so people probably won't suspect me of having naturally silver-blue hair." When Sanguine had first commented that my hair was purple, I'd been afraid it was lilac or some other pale purple. Thankfully, it was a nice rich black with a strong purple sheen.

"It's still purple, Amarant."

I sighed and picked up my pace. I was heading to Junon and from there Sangy and I would take a ship over to the Western Continent where I was planning to make my way to Nibelheim and wake up Vincent Valentine. If I and a fudge-load of fanfics writers were right then Vincent was 'my' father, and thus Sephiroth's.

I was sincerely hoping Sanguine could sneak on and hide somewhere aboard the ship cause I didn't know how, or even if, I could transport Sangy.

I sincerely hoped it wasn't more than a five day hike to Junon, though. Superhuman I may be, but I am still a lazy bum at heart.

*****

I jinxed myself.

It was a seven day hike to Junon, passing Fort Condor, where I stopped off to sell a shit-load of loot I'd mugged off of monsters, buy some second-hand clothes by saying all my other outfits were either shredded by monsters or covered irreparably in blood/goop/god-knows-what and get some proper hair dye via claiming my kid sister did it as a prank. I was also able to get some ID passes under the table and, my most prized possessions, a SET OF HAIR TIES! All purchased with money I'd won by beating monsters.

Sometimes I still wonder why monsters carry Gil around with them.

The dates mean nothing to me. As far as I know the Wutian War is still going strong, but Sephiroth, History's youngest General, has been involved for about four years now, so it should be ending soon. My dear big brother is probably around eighteen at the moment, making me two to three years younger than him.

I also found out that Angeal Hewey and Genesis Rhapsodos are alive here in this world and, since I have never played Crisis Core and have only the vaguest idea of what happens in it, I can't be entirely sure of the time-line.

In fact, all I can say for sure was that Sephy's cheese slid off the cracker when he was twenty-five, Cloud and Zack became permanent residents of Hojo's lab in Nibelheim when Cloud was sixteen and they stayed there for five or so years. So that made Cloud between six and nine now.

Ah, the Glory Years; perfect time for the bullying and backstabbing that crushes your self-esteem later in life.

Worst. Decade. Ever.

*****

Hot.

I swear I don't know how people could run around in those grunt uniforms. I was in jeans cut-offs, a worn tan-ish tank-top that was light enough to float in any light breeze that got lost and a pair of battered army boots that ended at upper-calf and I was still sweltering. My feet were boiling but at least I was out of the body-suit and trench-coat.

I'd left Sanguine outside town and been checking out Junon for a few hours, looking into the shipping schedule, how much it cost for one adult and a large guardwolf to travel to Costa De Sol (a surprising number of rich people travelled with guard- and pet-monsters), how much it would cost to rent a cage for him in the cargo bay, how long the voyage would take (a day and a night) and had just finished my lunch of fish and chips while watching the sea from a shaded bench when a strawberry blonde flash sprinted past me.

Startled, I looked around in time to see two Turks running after the rapidly disappearing form of a kid in white.

Meh. Too hot to investigate.

Air-conditioning. Drool.

Tossing my rubbish, I meandered over to the munitions shop in hopes of solving my gunless problem.

It was a small shop with pretty much a cabinet with a few pistols in it, a door into the back and that was it.

"Can I help you?"

I smiled charmingly at the middle-aged lady behind the cabinet.

*****

Three and a half hours later, I left with a .22mm Dirge and a .48mm automatic pistol called Peacemaker as well as six cases of ammo for each and a weapons care and laws manual. I had, apparently, reminded the owner of the shop, Maria Caltrop, of a young man who used to come in every few months and chat to her about the newest guns and munitions before buying his ammo from her in bulk, because her preferred her bullets over the factory produced ones where the weight wasn't always constant. I'd listened to her for so long that we'd both lost track of time, and it was only as I was leaving that she commented that, while I acted differently for the most part, I couldn't help but remind her of the 'red-eyed Turk'.

As I wandered down the road towards the inn with my box of guns and ammo, I busily pondered what I had to do next.

I was so busy, in fact, that I only noticed the strawberry-blonde blur after it streaked out an alleyway I was passing, knocked us both to the ground and, even then, barely saved us both from the burst of gunfire that erupted from down the alleyway and over our heads.

And that, ladies and gents, is how I met Rufus Shinra.


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