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Empathy: Chapter One

The Memories of Others

A Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic by Hika-chan

Ralena swiftly removed her rapier from the body of the last frog as she looked up to find another opponent. The girl was younger than herself by at least four years and had what looked to be a large ninja star strapped to her back. The ninja-girl wasted no time and got straight to the point. "Hand over your materia now!" she demanded.

"And why should I?" Ralena asked using the conversation to reach out with her abilities and feel the girl's emotions. She was a obviously little nervous, but she had done this before, the little bandit, and still seemed confident in her abilities to deal with Ralena.

"Because... If you don't, I'll be forced to take it from you," the girl replied taking the star off her back.

"Well you shall have too," Ralena grinned taking up a fighting stance.

The ninja raised an eyebrow at her, "Are you getting ready to fight or dance?"

"Fighting is dancing girl," she responded wryly, "Allow me to give you your first lesson." The girl began the fight with a throw of her weapon. Ralena dodged easily before darting in for a thrust, which the girl ducked before catching her weapon and throwing it again. Ralena jumped over the low blow and tried to slash at the girl who blocked it with the large padding on her arm and kicked her in the side. Ralena stumbled back as her loose red hair covered her view. She got up in time to see the ninja catch her weapon again, and she'd be damned if she let her throw it again. She jumped in and thrust again, getting her rapier in one of the spokes of her star and cutting the girl's right arm.

"Ite!" The girl pulled back, but Ralena's rapier had a hold on her weapon keeping the two together. The ninja dropped to her back, put her foot against Ralena's stomach and flipped the woman over her. When they both got up Ralena realized she was unarmed. The ninja grinned as she separated the rapier from her shiruken, "Looks like I win!"

"Not quite, Elies meran, snow of the north come and aid me against my enemies. Freeza!" As she chanted the words to the second level Ice spell, the materia on her wrist band shined with power.

"Uh-oh... AHHH!" The ninja tried to run from the spell but failed, as the ice hit her she collapsed to the ground.

"What a mess..." Ralena picked up her rapier and put it in its sheath at her side, she looked around at the scene. She looked down at the unconscious ninja-girl and then at the other dead bodies of the forest creatures. "Well I guess we better get out of here before some thing comes around to eat the carrion." She picked up the girl's weapon and hung it on her belt. Then she brought her fingers to her lips and let out a whistle, in a few moments a sky colored chocobo came out of the brush. She put the girl over the large bird, after tying up her hands and feet, and began leading it through the woods. When she reached the river the sun was high in the sky. She stopped there to set up for lunch, thinking to catch some fish to eat. First she took the girl off the Chocobo and strapped a feed bag around its head. "Good girl Haretia."

When the fish was nearly done the ninja slowly woke, "Ohhh... what hit me?"

"The second level spell of an Ice Materia," Ralena answered plainly.

"You!? Hey! Why am I tied up!?"

Ralena looked at the girl, she was confidant she'd be ok, but was still a scared. "I just wanted to make sure you wouldn't try and attack me again."

That helped her ego, "Of course you wouldn't want to fight me again! Ummm... now could please untie me?"

Ralena looked at her, "Maybe when lunch is done. So, what's your name?"

The ninja gave her a 'you've got to be kidding me' look and said, "Excuse me? You've got me hog-tied, laying down in the dirt and you want to know my name?"

Ralena looked at her, "Yes and your going to tell me."

"And why is that?"

"Because I've got you hog-tied and I'm not going to call you 'ninja girl' throughout lunch"

"Oh yeah.... sorry, I'm Yuffie, who're you?"

"I'm Ralena, and that," she said gesturing to the chocobo, "is Haretia. And if you promise not to attack me or try to steal my materia I'll untie you." Yuffie nodded, and she didn't seem to be lying. "Alright." Ralena drew her other weapon, a Main Gouche, and cut the ropes at the girl's wrists and ankles. As she did so she emanated an aura of friendship and trust. "What?" she asked looking at Yuffie's expression.

"The fish are on fire," She said flatly.

"Oh Shit!" The two girls ran over to the fire and grabbed the skewered fish and waved them around in a attempt to put them out.

A minute later they were eating the slightly charred fish, "Say -munch- why'd you take me with you if -gulp- you were worried about me attacking you again? -munch-"

"Well I figured you'd know the area and I was wondering if you could tell me where the next town is?"

"Well there's Gongaga Village just off that way-"

"Well not there, I just came from there."

"Oh, well there's a town in Cosmo Canyon and the next one is further north just before a valley. I think it's called Nibblehelm or something."

"You mean Nicklehein right?"

"No, wait, It's Nibleheim. That's it, I'd probably go straight on to Rocket Town though if I were you."

"Why?"

"I stopped by there once about a month ago, the people there were kinda creepy."

"Really how so?"

"I don't know, for one thing they're not all to hospitable, and there's this weird mansion up there, I think it's haunted."

Ralena leaned forward interested, "Really? Sounds intriguing."

"Are you nuts?"

"Nope. I'm just weird, but then again who isn't?"

Yuffie just looked at the older woman, "Hey why don't you stay around here. We could team up you know, I bet no one could get passed us two, and we could split whatever we get 50-50 whadda ya say?"

She could feel Yuffie's excitement, and loneliness, though it hadn't been made a major priority in her life yet. "No... it doesn't seem like the right job for me."

"Why not?"

"Trust me, I'm an empath, I really wouldn't feel right."

"Empath?"

Ralena sighed and thought, 'I can't believe I just told her that! Well I may as well explain it to her now.' She finished swallowing the food in her mouth and asked her. "Do you know what a telepath is?"

"Isn't that someone who can read minds and stuff?"

"Yeah, see an empath is kind of like that only I can feel other people's emotions, and I can make them feel mine?"

"Really?"

Ralena smiled at her amazement, "The problem is it's hard for me to block, I can keep other people from sensing my feelings but it's a little harder the other way around. Also it kinda works almost... I guess you could call it post-empathic."

"Post-empathic?"

"Well when I go to a place or touch something I can feel the stronger feelings that might have been felt at such places, sometimes I even get quick visions of what happened. It's actually pretty scary sometimes."

"How'd you get to be able to do these things?"

"I don't really know, I've had them as long as I can remember but I don't know anything since before I was about fourteen."

"Oh my god... that must suck."

Ralena laughed a little, "I suppose it does. How far is Niblehiem anyway?"

"About five days by foot."

"And to Cosmo?

"a day, maybe... day-and-a-half on foot."

"Maybe I can make it by dark on Haretia. But only if I leave soon." She stood up and checked the gear on her chocobo.

"Leaving already?"

"Yeah. It was nice talking with you Yuffie," she said while getting on Haretia, "Maybe you'll try and mug me on my way back."

***

She had stayed a breif night in Cosmo Canyon, leaving at sunrise. It had been a gorgeous sight to see the sun rise over the red rocks and jagged peaks, the light made the colors seem even more vibrant. An interesting adventure would begin for her soon she could taste it. The town of Niblehiem was about 3 miles away when the sun began to set, but she had to push Haretia pretty hard to get there. She stopped the large bird and dismounted not far from town, "Well girl you stay safe? I'll find you and check on you tomorrow ok?" The chocobo squawked in response and lovingly nuzzled against her shoulder. "Don't worry, I'll be fine, stay close by so you can here the whistle ok?" The bird squawked again. "Good Girl, now go."

When She stood at the entrance of town she saw a man appear with white hair. "...I don't have a hometown so I wouldn't know. So how does it feel?" He was talking to one of the three men behind her.

"What about your parents?"

"My mother, Jenova, died after I was born. My father..." He almost started laughing then, "It doesn't matter." The man then disappeared and she entered Niblehiem.

She walked into the town and immediately got a sense of secrecy, she went into the inn and asked how much it would be to stay the night. She knew she was instantly regarded with suspicion, which the innkeeper then wrote off as coincidence. The price was one hundred gil, she paid it and took her things upstairs.

She woke up in the middle of the night, something was wrong. She threw the sheets off, they were on fire as was the rest of the room, she looked out the window. The whole town was going up in flames! Suddenly she noticed something, everything was on fire.. but she wasn't hot. She took a deep breath, realizing it was a flashback. Still looking out the window she saw a man in black, with long white hair and a wicked looking curved blade, smile and walk off into the fire. As he faded so did the vision, she shuddered and held herself. Just the image of that man sent a chill down her spine, especially his cold eyes, though they were hard to see from this distance. Slightly shaken, but still tired she decided to go back to sleep.

"Hey, Hey Cloud wake up, come on man we gotta get going." She woke to the past, apparently she had slept in the same place as this "Cloud" person. She got up and the vision faded much quicker than last nights. She took off her nightshirt and put on her white button down blouse, followed by her green pants and then her black vest, she went over to her pack and pulled out a brush, trying to get the tangles out of her long red hair. She took a moment and thought about the visions, it was odd for her to have two in the first twelve hours of being anywhere without purposely trying. 'Ah well,' she thought, 'I must be letting my guard down.'

She concentrated more on keeping out the feelings and memories as she sat down on the bed and put on her boots that were just above her knees. Then she strapped her weapons around her waist and headed out to check out that "haunted" mansion Yuffie talked about. "Excuse me?" she asked as she walked up the front desk.

"Yes young lady?"

"Has this place ever been on fire?" Boom up went the man's suspicion like a rocket.

"What makes you say something awful like that?"

"Oh nothing, I just had this really weird dream last night," she lied, "The hotel room was on fire, but when I left the room and came back everything was normal. Oh well, dreams don't ever really mean anything anyway." Yep.. that did it, his suspicion had gone down, but not completely. Regardless the man just smiled and wished her a good day.

She walked outside and stopped a to look at a well, suddenly there was an image of two kids a boy and a girl. The boy, a blonde looked to the girl, smiling as he stated his future plans, "I'm going to join SOLDIER. I'll be the best there is, just like Sephiroth." then they faded, she smiled slightly. Every memory of children warmed her heart. It always gave her some sense of her lost childhood. Then she turned seeing the large mansion that Yuffie had spoken of, but first her hazel eyes drifted over towards the store next to the inn. 'Well I guess I better get some food before I check out those ghosts.'

She walked into the building, once again being greeted by that same "it's a stranger" feeling, but the people inside acted like they didn't regard her as such. "Hello young lady, and what is it I can help you with?"

"Well I was hoping I could get something to eat." After a reasonably priced breakfast Ralena was ready to check out that building. She found out the abandoned building was called the ShinRa Mansion, apparently owned by the corporation in Midgar. She didn't know much about ShinRa, only that she didn't like Midgar, it was too polluted and too crowded.

She pushed open the old gate to the mansion and started up the walk, getting a brief flash of a man in a suit with short black hair walking up the same path when the house was still in good condition. She slowly reached for the handle and braced herself, usually when a house was deserted, something dramatic had happened to cause it. She opened the door and stepped in.

She was no where near prepared to deal with the flood of emotions and memories that overcame her. Brief flashes of things that had happened overlapped each other. One starting before the previous had stopped. It was like a dam had burst in her mind. Her hands grasped at her head, she needed to find something to vent on, anything. She forced herself to look around, then she saw what would do it. She stumbled into one of the rooms, a grand piano sat there, some old music covered in dust on the ground and on the stand. She made her way to it, almost slipping on the paper that was on the ground. As soon as she sat down her hands flew across the keys, pounding out an unwritten song that seemed to put the visions in order. It was a tune that spoke of joy and forbidden love, which flowed into betrayal then revenge, then joy again of a return home, followed by curiosity, a realization of a false truth, then insanity.

Then as it came down off a crescendo she heard something behind her. She stood and turned quickly, weapons drawn, to see and odd creature hanging on a rope above her. It had no feet but what looked like a blade below its waist. It didn't take much to realize this thing wouldn't be very good on the ground, so when she jumped up to attack she aimed at its strong arms. When she got it on the ground it tried to reach for the rope but she was able to kill it before it got back up. She sheathed her weapons, before looting the creature's body. Thankfully after the fight and the piano most of the emotions had gone through her system.

She walked back out into the foyer where she looked up at the stairs. And there at the top of the stairs was a young woman holding a white haired child. She looked down behind Ralena, who turned to see the dark haired man who walked up to the house earlier. "Vincent!" the woman greeted him happily, "How are you?"

"I'm great, and yourself?"

"I'm wonderful," she said heading down the stairs carefully. They met at the bottom of the steps.

"And how's Sephiroth?" the man smiled, reaching a hand up to mess up the boy's hair.

The boy made a face and reached up to get Vincent's hand off. The woman smiled, "I'm glad you could make it."

"I always have time for you and Seph, Lucretia... always." His eyes met hers and they looked at each other till she uneasily broke contact. The love and tension she felt was so thick Ralena felt like she could cut it with her blades.

"Umm, well you know I asked you to come and take care of Sephiroth. Hojo has actually taken a break from science and wants to go out tonight."

"I see... Of course I'll...." The image faded then and Ralena knew what it must've been between those two, just by the brief look they shared. The forbidden love of her song. She then walked up the stairs running her hand along the banister and getting a hand covered in dust for it. She wiped it off on her pants and looked back down into the foyer. She glanced into a room with a safe and then walked across to the other side where there was a large stone structure in the corner. She was slightly confused as to it's purpose, then another flash came to mind as there was now a man in a ShinRa uniform sitting in the chair as another man in uniform with blonde hair came up. They greeted each other, the blonde being Cloud, the same one who had been woken up in an earlier flash. Then Cloud went to the stone structure and pushed something opening the wall.

Ralena grinned "Sometimes I'm actually thankful for these abilities," and then pushed the same panel as Cloud did, and the door opened. She went down the old wooden stairs carefully, one of the stairs gave out on her way down, but she caught herself and continued down. She raised a brow at the skeleton she saw in the corner and walked further down the hall and found a library. Then she saw Vincent, once again in the room apparently threatening another man dressed in a lab coat, she was able to read "Hojo" on his name tag. Hojo then pulled out a gun and shot Vincent, Ralena gasped, and almost ran to Vincent's aid, only to remember an instant later that it already happened. Then Vincent and the laughing Hojo faded, replaced with a worried Cloud as he looked at the same man she saw disappear into the flames. She held her breath, hoping she would not have to witness another murder. Thankfully it didn't happen the vision faded too quickly for anything to happen, but it was enough for her to get the identity of the white haired man, Sephiroth.

She heard something else, as she turned she was beginning to think the number of flashes she was getting was about to border on ridiculous, when she realized it wasn't a flash. Her eyes widened as she saw some odd creature behind her, it was gray with two heads. She decided she wanted to end it quickly. "Fabure, Burane, I call upon the fires of Advan and the sun, strike down on the fools before me. FireRain!" She was a little disappointed that it didn't kill the creature, and even more so that it seemed to have no effect. It took a while but she finally destroyed one of the heads, luckily it was the one that casted the Bolt spells. She smiled when she felt her body reach its limit, she decided to use her "payback" ability. All the un-healed damage done to her by the creature would be done to it. When it was over she took a minute to wrap up her wounds and look at some of the books that Sephiroth had apparently stacked up on the floor some time ago.

".... Hmm... The Jenova Project..." she flipped through a bit of one of the books and then went further back into the library and glanced at some of the papers lying on the table. She wasn't a scientist, but she got the idea that whatever "jenova" was it definitely wasn't good what Hojo had done with it. "My god... this couldn't be a good thing." She picked up a picture of Jenova. "He put the cells of THAT into people!" She dropped the picture and looked around again, "What a lunatic."

She walked back out to the first room of the library, only to hear Hojo's laughter again. She followed it out and saw him in a room, which she hadn't noticed there being a door too. She saw Vincent, after having been a victim of Hojo's experiments. "And here, Vincent, you shall sleep here as penance for your sins," he grinned evilly. She started to walk into the room to get a better look at what was going on, only to walk into the actual wall and cause the flash back to end. "Damn," she muttered rubbing her nose.

Then she noticed a lock in the wooden beam, the next thing she knew she saw a hand withdrawing a key from the lock. Hojo grinned walking up the stairs, the key in hand. Curious as to what was in the room she followed him to see what he did with the key, careful to go over the broken step. She followed him out of the secret passage, opening it up as he did, and out to the room with the safe. Ralena wrote down the combination as he opened it realizing what a pain it would be to open in twenty seconds. She saw him place it in the safe, noticing as well the red materia within. Then he placed a tube in it with some weird little creature inside, undoubtedly another of his twisted creations. "Hojo..."

"Yes Lucretia?"

"Have you seen Vincent?" from there the vision faded again. She couldn't quite place it but she knew something was different about Lucretia. She was obviously fatigued, perhaps even sick. Had the vision continued she might have gotten something out of it, but as it was she wasn't sure.

She then considered her options, she could very well open the safe and get the key, but chances were that creature Hojo put in there had grown, if it had lived throughout however long it had been since that happened. She took a moment to check her Materia, putting in a 'time' one in place of the 'all', believing there to be only one monster inside.

It took her several tries but she opened it only to be pushed back as a large half purple and half red creature pushed the door open. 'My god... how did that thing fit in the safe?' The first thing she did was cast "haste" on herself then drew her weapons and thrust and cut at the creature. After a few exchanged hits the red half of the creature hit her with a lightning spell. "This thing knows magic!?" She seathed her weapons again and cast a healing spell, only to get hit again. "Why you lousy...Ivisa, poisona, killer and bane of life now take your next victim, Bio!" She then pulled out her weapons again and struck it again, then the red side dissapeared. "Well I guess it's half over," she hit the creature again, realizing the physical attack didn't affect it as much. "Great," she muttered putting her weapons away, "I hate having to use spells too often." She then cast another healing spell, griting her teeth in breath pain as her flesh knitted itself back together. Next she used a fire spell followed by an ice one. The creature was still up but staggering, "Dammit just DIE already!" Just then the bio spell finished off the creature and it fell to the ground dead. "Well... thank you."

She stepped over to the safe and picked up the key and the Materia inside. As well as some other thing which looked like a barette that she couldn't identify, and probably couldn't use, but she took it anyway. "Gee he must've left in a hurry to leave materia behind." She put the key in her belt pouch and leaned against the outside of the safe, exhausted from the fight and casting so many spells at once.

She glanced at the knocked over table as it was suddenly back up as another vision made itself present. She really didn't feel like it now but she didn't have the strength to block it out. Then in walked Lucretia, followed by a pre-experimental Vincent, "Lucretia please."

"No, Vincent! I'm married to Hojo, I made a vow, 'for better or for worse'... even if he is the worse."

"But Lucretia I love you," he pleaded.

Lucretia looked up at him, "I know Vincent, I... I love you too but I can't just leave. What about Seph-"

"Lucretia, do you know what Hojo is doing to your son?" The vision disappeared again and Ralena cursed to herself, 'Why do they always do that when it's just getting good!' She stood up slowly and pulled out a vial and downed the potion within it. "-Ugh- these things always taste awful. Well time to see what Hojo's got in the basement."

She made her way back down to the basement, downing another potion on the way. I wonder if he's still alive, she thought, that thing in the safe sure lived a long time on it's own, of course this guy's human... or was anyway. When she got to the hidden door she stuck the key in and started to turn it, it took a little work since rust had set in. Finally the lock clicked and she slowly pushed the heavy door open.

The air was stale, and it seemed obvious that no one had been in this room for years, In the middle of the room there were two large cases that looked like coffins more than anything else. She went over to the sealed coffin and knelt down beside it. "Hmm... now how do I open this thing?" She moved her hands around the edge and located two latches. She undid them and pulled open the case. The Coffin gave a hiss and some of the air came out, blowing back her hair a bit.

When the mist settled she nearly lost her breath at the sight of the man inside. She didn't expect him to still look so young, since she had already seen images of the child he took care of as an adult. She assumed that it had some kind of device that kept him from aging in the coffin. His long black hair was spread over him like smooth black tendrils. A red cape covered his clothes and there was a red piece of cloth wrapped around his forehead. He certainly was a handsome man, but his features were sad and brooding, even in sleep (or was it death?). She reached over to brush some hair out of his face when his right hand shot out and grabbed her wrist. She gasped as he opened his blood red eyes and looked at her.

"uhh... Hi, I'm Ralena," she stuttered with a nervous smile, "Vincent I presume?"

"Why did you wake me? What are you doing here?"

Her expression turned from one of surprise to confusion. "Don't you want to be let out?"

"I am here to atone for my sins, now go away and leave me be." He let go of her hand and reached over to close the lid once more.

She gave him a perturbed look and shoved her hand up on the lid so he couldn't close it. "And how can you atone for anything just lying here in some form of living death? Dead men can't right wrongs," she told him seriously. "The way I see it it's Hojo's fault, not yours."

She pulled her hand away from the top and he sat up and narrowed his eyes at her, "How do you know about Hojo?"

She grinned and stood, "Well at least I got your attention. To make it simple, I have powers and I saw some of the things that happened here. And I know you did nothing to deserve this."

"But that is what I did wrong, I did nothing," he responded without showing any emotion.

She stomped her foot in frustration. "Dammit what is with you? How can you feel such despair? It's making me depressed!"

He stood and pointed toward the open door. "Then leave me to my own hell here and go." He was a little more than a half head taller than her, the clothes her wore under the cape were black, and his left hand was still lost in the folds of the cape.

"Argh! You don't understand do you? It's not your fault Hojo is some mad scientist! It's not your fault he put cells of that… that THING in people! And it's not your fault Sephiroth went nuts because of it!" He turned to her at the mention of Sephiroth and she noticed his expression was almost one of surprise. "Now listen, the way I see it you have two chocies. One- you can come with me, when can find this Hojo guy and dispense some indiscriminant justice, and maybe even find Sephiroth, or Two- you can stay in this tomb and ROT!" As she spoke she used her powers to make him feel a little more curious about what had happened to Hojo and Sephiroth. It seemed to work.

"Hojo is still alive?"

She shrugged, "I believe so. I heard he works in Midgar for Shin-Ra, but I'm not really sure I haven't been there in at least five maybe six years. I didn't like the place, too polluted.

"And Sephiroth?"

Ralena thought a moment, "Well, the last vision I had of him was when he looked in his mid twenties, this town was burning down around him, and he was enjoying it. Creeped me out honestly. I tried asking a few people here about it but they just act like it never happened and got really suspicious."

"How do you know?"

"I can sense people's feelings. The people here are keeping a secret, but I don't know what." She looked up at Vincent who seemed to be thinking. "If... umm," she started, "If your wondering about Lucretia-"

He cut her off abruptly, "I'm not."

At that moment she decided to change the subject, "Well are you coming with me or not?"

Vincent looked passed her then looked down at her, "I am not sure I belong in that world out there any more. Hojo has turned me into a monster." As if to make his point he pulled his left hand from his cloak revealing to her that it was a gold claw and made a fist with it.

She looked at it with little concern, and wondered what all the fuss was about, "I don't see what's so bad about a metal hand."

"My claw is not what I speak of but... I will go with you."

She grinned at her small victory, "Well then is there anything you need? A weapon perhaps?" He turned and bent over the coffin he had been in and pulled out a gun. "Well I guess that settles that."

As they headed up the stairs she pointed out the broken step. "Ralena..."

"Yes?"

"Do you know what I'm feeling?"

She turned a moment and looked at him and then flashed him a little bit of smile before heading back up the stairs. "Well, since you asked. You have hope again. It's not much, but it's there. And you're a little scared, I'm guessing it's because of what you see yourself as. I only sense emotions not the thoughts behind them." Vincent digested this silently, as they headed down to the foyer. He was so distracted he didn't hear the rest of what she said. "As soon as we get some lunch and supplies I say we get outta here. The people in this town give me the cre-"

Suddenly she stopped and Vincent nearly ran into her on the steps. "What is it?" She carefully moved herself towards the railing and grasped onto it with both hands, her now green eyes wide. "Ralena?"

Ralena felt the adult Sephiroth pass her more than she saw him. The emotions running through him were so strong. The insanity, the need for vengeance, the lust for power, and the malicious desire to destroy. "So... much," she whispered through trembling lips, "...such... strong..." She put a hand to her head and nearly collapsed. Had Vincent not been there to grab her she probably would have fallen down the stairs. She took in a deep, shaky breath and closed her eyes once again. Then she stood and placed the hand Vincent had grabbed back on the railing. "I'm fine now," she said reassuringly, "It's over."

"What Happened?"

"Remember I told you I had powers?" He nodded. "Well I'm not just an empath when I visit a place or touch something I can see what happened there, or to it sometimes, and I feel all the emotions associated with the event as well." She paused a moment longer to take another long breath, "I just never... experienced anything like that."

"Like what?"

"Sephiroth. He just walked down these stairs and out the door. It must've been just before he burned down the town." She then started heading down the stairs again, faster than before. "I have to get out of here before I go crazy." She opened the door and looked at Vincent as he continued to walk towards the door. She looked at him, annoyed, "Can we hurry it up please?"

When she was outside she saw the image of several people walk up a path. "Vincent where does that lead?"

"That path goes up to Mt. Nibel."

"Come on, let's go!" She turned and looked at Vincent who hadn't moved and looked at her oddly. "Just trust me," she grabbed his hand and ran up the path with him.

'Someone was here not long ago,' she thought, 'and they were following Sephiroth.'

***

As they walked through the interweaving caves, Vincent began to wonder if Ralena wasn't already insane, but she did seem to have a good heart. Nonetheless he would keep an eye on her, she seemed to know a little too much, and he wasn't sure if he believed she had powers. After they left the town she had pulled out a materia and used it to amplify her voice and whistled, soon after a Chocobo came by and she talked to it a bit and it went off again. As he watched her back ahead of him he thought about how strange she was, he found it odd how she had been so ready to help him, as though she had decided to do it before hand. 'But can I truly be helped? I am a walking nightmare with no family, no friends, and barely a soul. Is there anything that can be done for me? Or is this just a useless chase to raise false hopes?'

"Is something wrong Vincent?" She asked turning to him once again.

"No."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes." She looked at him as he passed her and then she walked up after him. It was then he realized he had yet to ask where they were going, or rather why. "Ralena, why are we heading up to Mt. Nible?"

She thought a moment, "Didn't I already say?"

"No."

"Oh. Well just as we left I had a vision of some people who came up this way about a day or so ago, they were after Sephiroth." He turned to her in silent response and she continued. "I figured at the least we could find out why they were after him and what they know."

"Who did you see?"

"A blonde guy, with spikey hair, a big guy with a gun attached to his arm, and..." she bit her lip a moment as if she wasn't sure what she saw.

"And?"

"A cat holding a megaphone riding a stuffed mog?" she answered in a way that asked if he believed it. His was response was a look that questioned her sanity.

***

When they got to the Mako Reactor she went pass the image of a girl crying over her dead father, declaring her hatred for the ShinRa, Sephiroth and SOLDIER. She followed the girl who ran up the steps to Sephiroth ready to kill him with his own sword, but he slashed at her gut and she fell down the stairs. Sephiroth went into the room with "JENOVA" written above the door. A spikey haired Brunette was the next to face Sephiroth only to be cut down after sticking his sword into Sephiroth's back. The white haired SOLDIER then limped down the stairs with Jenova's head, pass a young blonde boy in a ShinRa uniform who had moved the girl. The blonde, who she believed to be the same one who she saw traveling up the mountain, what was his name?.... Kyle, Clyde... Cloud! That was it. Cloud chased after him with the other man's sword only to have the Masamune stuck through his torso. Ralena gasped in amazement as the boy grabbed the sword's blade and, using his body as the turning point, picked up Sephiroth on the other end of his sword, and tossed him and his bloody masamune into the Mako pit.

Vincent watched her and followed her silently while she narrated the vision to him. "From what I can tell he thinks Jenova is his mother." she paused a moment then said, "Not long after..." she concentrated a bit more, "some ShinRa soldiers, probably under Hojo's orders, came and took the rest of Jenova. She squinted again picking up distant emotions. "… There's something near here."

When they got back outside Vincent heard a distant battle with his keen senses. "There's a fight, this way." He led the way, and they had just seen the three people (if a cat riding a stuffed mog counts as a person) she previously mentioned fighting a dragon, when the large man with the gun arm shot out a grenade at the creature they were fighting. That wouldn't have stopped them but the avalanche that the explosion caused did.

"Damn... Guess we have to go around. At least we can get some supplies on the way."

***

When they had bought the supplies, she carried the large pack out into the plains that spread out before the town of Niblehiem. "I suppose you're wondering how we're going to carry all this, after I let my chocobo go." she let out a loud whistle. He looked at her somewhat confused, "Well just give her a second." Soon Haretia came running up to her, Ralena pulled out some greens and gave it to her, and then put the harness on. "Hello girl, told you I'd be back for you." She put the pack over the chocobo's back and climbed on, then she pointed to her new companion. "Haretia this is Vincent." Vincent looked at her like she must've been crazy before she let him out of the mansion again. The bird tilted it's head and looked at him and back at Ralena then it walked over to him, tilted it's head to the other side then squaked at him. Ralena laughed, "She likes you."

Vincent looked up at the bird than back at her as if to say, "Are you sure?"

"Oh don't worry about it come on," She offered her hand so he could get on. He took her hand and did so. As soon as she started riding Vincent mentioned that the way to Midgar was the other way. "I know, but I want to go to Rocket Town to get some more Materia. Besides Sephiroth probably headed that way."

They decided to go straight through to the mountains on the other side of the forest and then follow the mountain around to Rocket Town. "At the latest we'll be there by tomorrow," she said as they entered the forest. "Haretia's tired, let's get off and walk while we have the shade."

Vincent agreed and got off. They only got into one fight on their way through the forest, each time Ralena had commanded Haretia to stay back. Halfway between the forest and mountains they got into another fight against six large insect-like monsters. As one of the creatures hit Vincent again he doubled over, alarmed Ralena ran over towards him to defend him. "Stay back!" he shouted. Too busy with the other two monsters not to obey his command she did so. She glanced back over in time to see the third ready to strike him. "VINCENT!"

She shouldn't have worried, just then she saw why Vincent felt he was a monster, at that moment he transformed into a purple horned beast with a red mane of hair. "Oh. My. God." She could feel the blood lust of the creature he had become, and watched as it tore apart the monster that had been attacking him. Then it turned towards the two she fought, her eyes widened and she quickly jumped back just in time to avoid being fried by the flames that exploded around the creatures.

She nearly froze in terror as the beast turned on her. It stalked towards her, sensing its hostility she dropped her weapons. It helped calm him, though not as much as she would've liked. She let out feelings of calm and peace, and talked easily to him. "Vincent, it's me. Remember? Ralena? Annoying psychic chic?" She thankfully noticed the recognition in its eyes. She cowered as it threw back its head and let out a roar, when it finished Vincent was on his knees panting. Ralena ran to his side. "Vincent are you ok?"

"Now you see what kind of monster I truly am," he responded wearily, "I understand if you want me to leave."

"You've got to be kidding me." She whistled for Haretia and told him to get on.

"You're not scared?"

"Terrified," she grinned, "but no more so then you probably are."

"Probably?" he asked getting on the bird, "I thought you could read feelings."

"I can, but I usually try not to violate other peoples lives like that." Ralena then said something to the bird. She started a slow run, little more than a jog, which Haretia easily matched. "What are you doing?"

"Running. What's it look like?"

"Get on the chocobo with me, you'll tire yourself out."

She laughed, "I can run like this all day. Besides it's Haretia, not 'the chocobo'," the bird squaked in agreement. She ran for another half- hour before she gave into his parenting tone. Though she didn't show it, she was happy that he seemed concerned about something other than his "living hell."

They found a cave to sleep in that night, "You want first or second or third watch?"

"Third? Who else is there?"

She gave him an annoyed look, "Why do you ask so many questions?"

"Why are you always so optimistic?"

"Hey, I'd rather be an optimist and a fool then a pessimist and right,"

He gave her a blank look and repeated his question, "Who is the third?"

".... Haretia!"

"The bird?" he asked incredulously

"Yes, we've done it before. She is very smart, she always wakes me when she hears or sees something." She heard Vincent mutter something under his breath. "What was that?"

"Nothing, I'll take first watch." He sat down on the opposite side of the fire. Ralena took off her boots and vest and pulled out a blanket. She walked over to the chocobo who was already sitting in one corner and laid down putting her head against her pet.

"Well, wake me up in a few hours for second watch. G'night."

"Good night."

***

Not long after they left Rocket Town was in sight she took the equipment off Haretia and sent her off before they entered. They approached the town from the back of a house where a plane was parked, and a fat man was messing with it. Next thing they knew Cloud and two Brunettes, both women, came out. A few words were exchanged and then they started fighting. "Aww gee," she looked around wondering which side to take. Her eyes lit up as she saw something. "Vincent help them, I have an idea," she said running off.

"Where are you..." He trailed off as she ran around the house. He ran over and jumped the fence before shooting at the fat man.

He squealed in pain as the bullet hit, "Ohh, why you," Palmer than shot Vincent with his Mako gun, pushing his limit. Cloud and his friend's weren't sure who he was but they seemed to appreciate the help, needless to say they were surprised when he doubled over, Vincent looked up enough to give the fat man an evil, red eyed glare, before once again transforming into the Gilian Beast. His opponent and the ones he was helping all stepped back. The beast roared and fire burst around Palmer. As he continued to whimper Vincent pounced on him and got a shot to the gut several times for his efforts.

As soon as the beast let go Palmer began to run away, unfortunately for him Ralena had found a truck and hit the man with it. "Wow I think he bounced..." she muttered before looking out to where the battle had previously taken place. "Oh no, Vincent!" She ran out of the cab to his side, as the beast knelt on the ground.

"Who are you?" one of the girls asked.

"I'm Ralena, I'm here to help you," once she answered she turned back to Vincent once again using her powers to calm the injured creature. "Vincent... it's all right" with a low moan the creature changed back into her traveling companion.

"The plane isn't stopping!" Cloud yelled, "Quick get on!"

Tifa reached to help Ralena and Vincent who was still weak and bleeding from his side. Then she saw a ShinRa soldier come around the house. "Go on without us, we'll be fine."

"But-"

"I'll meet you at Gold Saucer if we ever get away, just GO!"

"Tifa Hurry!" Cloud yelled.

"Good Luck," Tifa said to them before running to the plane.

"Same to you," she whispered. Ralena watched them as they flew into the sky and saw another man jump on the plane before smoke came from the back.

It wasn't long before soldiers surrounded her and Vincent, and a blonde man in white approached them. "Miss you do realize it is a crime to steal a vehicle in order to use it to hit a ShinRa executive don't you?"

She looked back up from the injured Vincent to the man, "And who are you?"

"I'm Rufus, President of ShinRa Inc. And you are under arrest."

***

As they rode the Tiny Bronco near land Tifa turned to Cloud, "Cloud, there was something weird about that women's eyes."

"What is it Tifa?"

"Well they almost looked like Mako Eyes, but there was something different about them."

"Hey!" Yuffie called from the land, "What's up?"

"Two people just helped us get away from the ShinRa, we think the girl had Mako eyes."

"Really what'd they look like?"

"Well the man was very creepy, he even had red eyes, and the girl had red hair and hit Palmer with a truck."

Yuffie turned to Aeris, "Did she have a white shirt and green pants?"

"Yeah."

"I know her! I meet her not long before you guys, her names Ralena right?"

"As a matter of fact it is." Yuffie was about to say more but then several ShinRa soldiers came from across the bridge with guns.

***

Vincent slowly opened his eyes to see the metal ceiling, he had passed out not long after they were arrested. He felt something under his head and tried to sit up but a wave of dizziness hit him, the pain in his side was still there as well. Just then he heard the door open and another person was tossed inside was tossed inside. "Ralena?" he muttered.

"Vincent! You're alright!" She walked over beside him, her hair shadowing her face in the dim light of the cell.

"That," he groaned, "is quite debatable."

She noticed the injury he had still wasn't taken care of. "Oh here let me take care of that, take off your shirt."

He did so then asked, "Where are we?"

"We're in the ShinRa HQ, somewhere around the 60th floor, I think." She looked at his wound, the Mako gun had not only gone through his flesh but it also left burns around it as well. She sucked in a breath through her teeth, "Ohh this looks bad." She took the sheet from the bed and tore part of it off. She got it wet at the sink and began cleaning the wound. She looked up at his face and noticed a slight grimace. 'Damn the ShinRa,' she thought, 'If only they hadn't taken all our materia this wouldn't be a problem.' It took a little while but she had finally cleaned it out, the whole time Vincent remained silent. "I'm going to have to rip up the rest of the sheet to use for a bandage."

As soon as she finished wrapping him up she suddenly stopped and looked towards the door. Vincent looked at her confused, seeing nothing. "Here's another one for you," she heard a soldier say, "Go on in."

Just then a little girl with red hair, who couldn't have been much more than six, came in holding a stuffed Chocobo. "And who might you be?" a woman asked, she had long brown hair and wore a red dress, though she looked extremely tired.

The girl held up the doll, "This is Haretia." Ralena looked shocked at the name of the girl's chocobo.

"Oh I see, and how did you come up with that name?"

"Mommy told me that, her mommy was my gardening angel, so I named it after her."

The woman smiled and pointed to the bed where a young girl slept, "That's my daughter, Aeris, but she's taking a nap right now, and my name is Ilfana." The young red head looked over to the bed then back at the woman. "Are you going to tell me your name or do I have to ask Haretia?" The girl looked down at her feet and mumbled something. "What?"

"If I tell you, do you promise not to give me shots like that one man did."

The woman looked at the girl, now very concerned for her, "I promise."

"Ralena."

If she had not been kneeling beside the bed Ralena would have fallen to the ground, "Oh my god," she whispered hoarsely. She brought her hands to her mouth and repeated, "oh my god."

Vincent put his hand on her shoulder, "Are you alright?"

She turned to him with wide eyes, "Vincent I've been here before!"

His expression told her he didn't know what she meant, "You've been arrested before?"

"No, you don't understand, I must've been five or six at the time. Before now I never knew anything before I was fourteen. Just one day I woke up, somewhere in the slums, and I didn't know anything, all I had was a necklace with my name carved on the back, I lived there for about a year before deciding to leave Midgar." She reached into her shirt and pulled out the charm, it was on a long string so that it hid under her shirt. It was a smoothed green rock where the leather string looped through a hole in the charm. "For the longest time, this was all I had..."

"Ralena?"

She shook her head, tearing her eyes away from the stone charm around her neck, "I'm ok Vincent, I'm just tired. I hardly slept the whole way back from Rocket Town."

"Take the bed," He offered.

She refused, "No you're injured, I'll be fine." As she turned he caught a glimpse of her face and grabbed her arm. She winced and let out a small yelp. "What?"

He pulled her down and pushed the hair out of her face, his eyes widened as he saw the bruises. "I'll be fine." she insisted again.

"What happened?"

"It's nothing," she pulled herself from his grip, putting her head down so her hair blocked her face again, "They just got done... asking me a few questions is all. Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to go to sleep."

"What time is it?"

"I don't know, but I'm tired." Not long after that Ralena was fast asleep leaning in the corner at the foot of the bed. Vincent looked at her silhouette in the corner, he noticed that he was actually angry that the ShinRa had beaten her. 'No,' he thought, 'I would be angry if those creatures had beaten any woman.' He lay back down and soon found himself in his nightmares of sleep.

***

Vincent awoke again, It must have really been night now, because the lights were off in the hall. Then he realized he heard something in the corner. He slowly sat up and then noticed that Ralena was crying quietly. "'Fana," she seemed to be talking like a child, "'Ris.. I want to talk to 'Fana." He got off the bed and kneeled next to her. "It hurts 'Ris... Where's 'Fana?" Upon closer inspection she was curled up in a fetal position, as close to the wall's corner as she could be.

"Ralena..." He kneeled down beside her, not sure what to do.

"That man, 'Ris… he used some lights on me. 'Ris... it hurts. It hurts in my head, and it hurts in my chest."

Not sure if it would make a difference he asked her, "What man Ralena?"

"Th… the man who gave me shots, the one with the white coat and glasses" She started crying again. Not sure how to comfort her. Gently he reached out and put his hand on her shoulder, he uneasily pulled her closer and she cried into his shirt. "'Ris, I want my momma. It... it hurts."

"Everything will be alright Ralena," he whispered, "Don't worry, Hojo won't hurt either of us ever again." His red eyes glowed in anger, "I promise."

----------------------------------------

Hika-chan: Hey Ral

Ralena: *eyes her suspciously *Yeah?

Hika-chan: Could you say it?

Ral: What? No, it's stupid.

Hika-chan: Do it or I'll make your life a living hell.

Ral: Too late for that.

Hika-chan: *superior grin* I can always let Hojo keep you

Ral: You wouldn't.

Hika-chan: wanna test that theory?

Ralena: *mutters* I see dead people....

Hika-chan: YAY!!

Ralena: *sighs, sweatdrops* -_-'