A/N: I've decided to incorporate various things from different FF games, so please don't get confused if I mentioned something that wasn't in FF7...that's just where the main setting is.

Fragment 3: Gate of the Hunter-Part I

That night...Hotaru dreamt of the Farplane.

She'd never been to this place before, not once in her life. And she definitely had never heard anyone talk about this place before. Yet, somehow...everything was so familiar. She even knew this place was called the Farplane...but how?

She stood in the middle of what looked to be a large garden. Beautiful multicolored flowers sprung up all over and swayed in the non-existent breeze. They seemed to sparkle in the light, but where that light came from she didn't quite know...there was no sun glowing and there definitely weren't street lamps or anything of the sort around. It took her a moment to realize that shining spectacle was made possible by the many glowing spheres that floated here and there.

Hotaru marveled again at the beautiful site. These glowing spheres were so beautiful, but...what exactly were they? Some kind of glow bug, maybe? Like the fireflies that existed back on Earth? Something about these things seemed so mystical and wonderful, and yet sad and tragic at the same time.

It wasn't until then did she realize that there was no sound. It was dead silent. Nothing was here...but her. Then, almost as if someone had flicked on a switch, she heard the rushing of a waterfall, and with a quick spin, saw the magnificent view come to life. The two giant fountains nearby, who had already been running and spouting water, suddenly burst out with sound. She smiled...this place was so beautiful.

Then, she heard it. It sounded like...crying. No, screaming. Maybe a combination of both. It wouldn't have been a far stretch to describe it was wailing or moaning. It sounded so painful that she immediately began to look for the source...there might have been an injured person around here or even a small child. She knew this was dream, it had to be, but helping people was her life.

She walked only a few steps, the full brunt of realization nearly knocking her backwards. She gasped loudly, hands coming up to her mouth. These glowing spheres were souls...and they were crying in agony. It hurt her heart to hear them wail, but what could she do?

"What...what should I do?" she mumbled, nothing more than a whisper as her hands fell from her mouth and her eyes cast towards the ground. She jerked her head up almost instantly, "Please, tell me how I can help you. If you're in pain, then please, I want to help you!" she wasn't quite sure exactly who she was addressing and spun in a circle as she talked. She received no response...only the moaning of the dead souls remained.

"You can't help them..."

"Who's there?" Hotaru started, turning on her heel. It was the first response, or rather, the first thing she'd heard since she'd come here. "And what do you mean? Please, tell me who you are." her reply fell on deaf ears as if the voice has never existed in the first place. She was getting pretty miffed that no one cared to listen or talk to her, and because she just couldn't figure any of this out. With a clench of her fists, she bunched the ends of the white shift she wore until her knuckles turned the same color; the girl holding back the urge to scream her lungs out. Maybe if she did scream then someone would hear her.

Hotaru awoke slowly, the sun's rays stirring her as they came in through the window, no curtains there to block it's path. She arose quickly and did the same to her morning routine, throwing a rather plain but familiar outfit. As she went into the hallway, she stopped and turned her attention to the cracked door of the guest. Rubbing sleep from her eyes, she decided just a quick check in on him would do, but the boy was nowhere to be found inside the room. She even took a few extra steps inside. The room was in complete disarray. The bed and its covers lay askew every which way...almost as if he had had a nightmare or something that caused his sleep to be disturbed. Not that she cared really, she just noticed was all. The closet and dresser drawers had been ransacked, almost as if he had been looking for something. He'd mentioned a weapon, but it wasn't like she was keeping him prisoner here or anything. So what on Earth had he been after? Either way, he seemed to be gone now. He must have left sometime last night or early this morning.

Well, thought Hotaru, her one bit of "excitement" had come and gone without notice.

She headed downstairs to make breakfast, actually feeling rather hungry this morning. She honestly couldn't remember eating much last night if she did at all. What she saw as she descended the steps though made her stomach turn in bitterness. The silver-haired boy was still in her house.

He was situated over by window, something clutched within both of his palms. If his grunts of dissatisfaction were any indication, whatever he was holding was irritating him greatly. Hotaru had barely made it halfway down the stairs when he seemed to sense her and turned around in a great flurry, the leather of his jacket swirling as he did.

"You, come here! Tell me what you've done to block out the transmission on my phone! I'm growing very tired of this." he spoke so quickly that Hotaru almost had trouble following him...something told her that he had bad habit of doing that.

"A cellphone?" she questioned, settling her feet from the stairs to the floor, "I've never had one so I can't help you. Sorry." Hotaru shrugged, brushing past him to head for the kitchen.

"Why you..." she heard him growl angrily, stomping the whole way behind her.

"I have to talk to my brothers! What if...what if they've found Mother already? No, they couldn't...but if they...no..."

At this point, it was too hard to tell if the boy was talking to her, himself, or someone else entirely. Hotaru decided to let him be until he directly addressed her...by name, preferably. But...he did say he had brothers, and that did hit a little string within her. Although she had no siblings of blood relation, she understood how important that bond was.

"You said you had brothers?" she asked, moving away from a cabinet where she had absentmindedly been browsing through things.

"Yazoo and Loz." he said simply. Hotaru decided it must their names, although strange ones.

"And you're trying to call them? Haven't they tried to call you at all?" Hotaru asked, daring to draw closer to him as he continued to hurriedly tap away at his cellphone.

"I don't know," he growled, "if you would stop blocking the transmission for my phone, I could see."

"I'm not doing anything!" Hotaru shouted, a flush of red adorning her face. Why was he so...stubborn and thick-headed acting? If he wasn't the angry one, then it was her getting angry for no reason. Ugh, he just made her so angry. He was thoroughly unphased by her outburst. With a breath that sounded almost like a sigh, she spoke, "Your phone was probably broken during the crash. I've never had a cellphone before so I don't know how to fix it. I'll take you into town later to get it fixed since you probably don't trust me to just take the phone, okay?"

Kadaj eyed her suspiciously...well, at least she knew where they stood as far as things went. "Fine." he muttered, slapping the phone closed and stuffing it into his jacket pocket. He took a seat at the wooden dinner table nearby, despite Hotaru's informing that he could sit on the couch. She offered him breakfast, but he ignored her, scowl permanently locked onto his face. He just wasn't going to do a thing until that phone was fixed. She'd better just go ahead and get it over with lest his sizzling temper get the better of him.

"Will you please stop yelling?" Hotaru asked politely, a bit on edge now thanks to her pounding headache. The return of the rain certainly wasn't helping things at all. Hanging up her coat, she turned to the boy, careful to watch him and keep him from breaking things. The reason for his anger? The store they had walked to earlier had never seen a phone model like Kadaj's, dubbing it as archaic and yet somehow new. The man had used a lot of other fancy words she couldn't remember, nor cared to really, but all it had done was made Kadaj angry. The clerk must have explained a thousand times over that they didn't service his model, saying it looked like it might have been made someone's basement somewhere.

Her head was pounding too much to worry about this now. They'd wasted pretty much the whole day walking into town and back, with her stopping to get something to eat on the way there. Kadaj refused again her offer to eat, causing the petite girl to worry about him. Just a little, anyhow. If he didn't want to eat, it was his business really...but what if he got too weak to move? Even worse, what if he starved himself to death? No one was going to die in her house.

"Look, I'm not a great cook," she began, starting once she noticed a dip in his tantrum, "but if you tell me something you like, I can probably make it." he stopped, craning his neck over his shoulder to look at her, maybe in disbelief.

"Why on Earth..." he started slow, but quickly regained his composure, "Pass." he said affirmatively, quickly, heading up the stairs. Hotaru gave a slight glare at his vanishing figure up the stairs...it did irk her a bit that he'd become so accustomed to her house, like he'd just made himself at home while still treating her so lowly. Fine then...she'd be the bigger person here and set some food outt for him. That way, when he decided to sneak down to the kitchen (and she just knew that he would), he wouldn't have to rummage in the cabinets and give away his actions.

Hotaru heaved a sigh when she was done, why did he have to make things so difficult? Why was being nice a task all of sudden? Either way, her brain and body told her that sleep was a definite cure for her symptoms. As she neared her room, practically taking the steps two by two, she could hear the shower running. She wouldn't wait for him to get done much preferring to do her washing in the morning. Besides, he was already so accustomed to the place that finding a towel should be no problem to him by now, she remarked coldly...then immediately felt guilty. But what if he didn't? Ugh, what if he came barging into her room? Naked...? Hotaru blushed and turned her attention from the guest room and headed for her own.

He was on his own tonight.

Kadaj leaned his head against the cool material of the shower stall, continually being made warmer than the hotter-than-necessary water he'd decided to run. He felt awful...his head was pounding. Why couldn't he figure this out? Why couldn't he get back home? Where were the Shadow Creepers...refusing to appear despite his beck and call...and what about his brothers? He didn't so much care for their well-being as their location. What if they had found Mother? What if they didn't mention him to her, or even tell her of his existence? It was already bad enough having Sephiroth chosen over him and now...

Kadaj let out a mixture of a howl and a grunt, the sound slightly muffled by the glass walls of the stall. He pounded a pale fist against the side of the stall that wasn't glassed in. He pounded against it until he was sure his knuckles were bleeding. When he decided to look he saw a bloody pulp, dripping red drops that feel from between his fingers down to the bottom of the shower to mix with the water.

Why? Why? Why? Why?

It was all his mind could repeat, stuck on that question like a broken record. What he had done to deserve this punishment? What about Yazoo and Loz? Surely they were just as deserving, whatever this punishment may be. And what of the strange girl? Why her...why here? She was weak and kind-acting...a push-over really. She was boring, she posed no challenge. The weak had no quarter in this world, only the strong did. He couldn't even sense of sprig of energy within her. There was no way she could use a weapon properly. Then why the hell was he still here? Trapped with her...it didn't add up.

He could leave now, get on his bike and leave, but where? He didn't know this place. It was almost as if he had been flung into the future...or maybe the past. This was a different world entirely. How did one go about traversing worlds anyways? Was there some trick? Some method that had been developed in this time or world? Maybe there was a machine? The girl chose to play the fool and act as if she knew nothing...then again, perhaps she didn't. She was a very bad liar otherwise.

Kadaj winced as the pain in his bloody hand finally set in. He stumbled as he removed himself from the shower stall, a slight dizzy spell from the overexposure to the heat and steam. Unsteadily he made his way over to the sink where he let the cool water wash over his hand. Dammit...he remarked, just now remembering about the bandages wrapped around his head. They were soggy and limp now, sticking to his hair. Either way, they'd have to come off as they hadn't been changed in a while...he having refused her help on this as well. He couldn't leave his left hand like this...he was left-handed and couldn't bandage it properly with his right. Last thing he needed was to be injured and needy at the same time.

Finally wrapping a towel around his waist, and swallowing his pride, he walked to her door. It was shut tight, probably locked, as no light could be seen from underneath nor was there any sound. Kadaj turned the knob with his right-hand, holding his left hand like an injured puppy might and went on inside. He didn't need to announce himself...it was her job to take care of him after all. Wait, not like that, it was her job to keep him from dying. Yeah, that sounded better.

The room was dark, pitch black, as the curtains had been drawn to keep any light out. The darkness the storms from earlier had still not disappeared yet either, small droplets still panging against the window frame. It made a rather somber melody. Still, thanks to the light from the hall, he could perfectly make out a figure lying under the covers. Dammit, she was asleep. It would just be another fight if he woke her up.

He should just leave and try to bandage the damn thing on his own. But he could already feel his body closing the door, the uninjured hand wrapping around the knob so the door would close silently. He should just leave, he told himself once more and yet he crept ever closer.

What's so special about you, he mouthed silently to himself, straddling her body. It was a miracle he hadn't roused her by joining her on the bed, but his light frame assured him that he wouldn't be caught. Kadaj stared at her in the darkness, hands coming to either side of her face on the pillow, using them to keep himself propped up over her. Even at this distance, where she could more than likely feel his breath upon her face, he could just barely make out her features.

Kadaj felt no feelings for her, not the slightest hint of attraction. But being here with her right now made him feel...safe. He guessed that was the word. Any outsider might have compared this to a scared child running to their parent's bedroom after a loud crash of thunder or a bad nightmare. Suddenly his hand began to sting again, the angle at which he was resting upon it causing him great discomfort. He grit his teeth though and decided to bear it...he felt like staring at her a bit longer, not feeling "creepy" in the slightest...not that he'd have any idea of the concept either way.

Finally, he pulled back. Kadaj had almost been praying she'd wake up and show him the rare fire that sometimes sparked behind those odd-looking purple eyes. He never dared look at her eyes during the day or when she accosted him, he might end up staring too long and frightening her. It was an odd set of circumstances to be sure as he could explain none of it. Still he straddled her, although a very noticeable mark had been left behind on her pillow. Blood...the blood stain...would she freak out? Become terribly frightened at the sight? Maybe she'd just be angry and immediately go to wash it out? What would it be like to kill Hotaru, he pondered, turning his head to the side. Would she scream and cry in agony? Beg him to stop, saying please all the while? Maybe she would curse and spat that she hated him, possibly swearing revenge upon him. Would it bring him pleasure or leave him feeling empty like killing so many other people as he had? They meant nothing to him, but...what would it be like to kill someone you actually had a connection to? His only real connections were his brothers and Mother, and he could gain nothing from their destruction, he knew. His mind was running wild with ideas and possibilities, sick and twisted though they were. However, he had no sword with which to commit this deed.

The loss of his sword saddened him to a degree. Who knew how long it would take for him to find some semblance of a replacement? Did they even have shops or sword smiths in this town? He preferred to kill honorably with a sword, not with a kitchen knife like some petty thief...although he wouldn't deny that the thought hadn't crossed his mind.

Hotaru twitched and stirred beneath him. She writhed, possibly finding it hard to breath to some degree as he was still on top of her. Kadaj knew he didn't weigh much, preferring to be light as it gave him the advantage in battle. It caused her discomfort though, meaning she could awaken from this, and so he shifted his body backwards to avoid such actions...or at least, he would have if she hadn't brushed against him like. It felt oddly good. What would it be like to rape Hotaru? Would she scream and cry then too? What if he threatened her with death while he did so, slowly making cuts along her skin? But what if she enjoyed it? Would she enjoy it? No, she was probably still very pure despite her age.

He could take no pleasure from this despite what his body was telling him. No, he couldn't. Making his way carefully off of her body, he decided once and for all to leave the room and let her sleep. Kadaj would simply wrap his bloody hand in one of the sheets on his bed and wait for the morning to come. He could ignore his bodily needs for now, he decided, thinking how odd everything had been in retrospect.

Dare he say it felt like...no, he couldn't. He couldn't know what anything felt like regarding Mother as he hadn't really met her yet.

He awoke.

He stretched his fingers, reflexively maybe. His left hand felt strange, no longer the injured feeling it had had last night. He cracked an eye open, turning his eyes downward. A bandage lay wrapped around his hand, the bed sheet he had been using as a make-shift one was nowhere to be seen. In fact, all of the sheets on the bed were gone, leaving him exposed.

Dammit, she must have come in here last night...or this morning. It didn't matter really. He had slept through the entire thing and that alone was enough to anger him.

Kadaj would hurriedly dress himself and prepare to head downstairs, but stopped when he made it to the door. How would she react? Be angry? Had she noticed the stain on her own pillow? What would she say?

He headed for the stairs, not thinking to stop at her room at all, and found her in the kitchen. She appeared not to notice his entrance. The stairs did not creak or shift under his weight and so he remained motionless to watch her. She looked as if she were pouring something out, cleaning up after a meal most likely. It wasn't surprising that she might have taken breakfast before him as he had refused her so many times in the past. It didn't bother him really, he was used to going awhile without food, his thin frame not needing much of the stuff to begin with. Yazoo didn't eat much either, but Loz was another story.

"So you're awake," she began, turning to face him with a small smile, "I haven't eaten breakfast yet...are you hungry?" So, that stuff she was throwing away must have been from last night.

"If it will get you to quit pestering me then I suppose so." he sighed, with a roll of his eyes. She was so obvious...why didn't she just say something already?

"Is your hand alright?" she asked, suddenly right in front of him. How did she sneak up on him like that? "How did it...how did you do this?" she asked, concern littering her voice.

"Accident," Kadaj mumbled, "I hit it on something. Now are you going to make something to eat or what?" he questioned, almost a demand, slipping past her and heading for the table. He didn't look back at her as she scurried past the table and into the kitchen, simply resting his head on his propped up arm.

How much longer must he stay here?

"Kadaj...?" she must have been waiting for a response, but he wouldn't give her one, "...have you ever heard of a place called the Farplane?"

"No." he answered simply, still avoiding her gaze.

"I-I see...never mind then."

He couldn't leave this place soon enough.