For some reason, Amarant had thought that once Garnet and Beatrix were gone, he would feel much less stressed out about his current situation.
He finds it incredibly disappointing that this is not the case.
He's panicked over the thought that, at any moment, an Eidolon could come over the ridge and wipe this shitty little rundown village off the map. He's worried about Garnet, and worried about what had happened the night before, and worried about what it all /means/. But more than anything, he's pissed off because the Genomes keep staring and Steiner has been glaring from across the Village. He can feel a fight brewing between them and that only serves to drive him up the wall.
So he takes to stalking around the Village. At first, it doesn't seem like there are many places for him to go - there's the graveyard, but Zidane's Sister is there with Lani and he really fucking hates Zidane and doesn't want to deal with him. There's the forest, but there's nothing there to hunt and there's nothing there to see, with all the owls gone.
And then, there's the clock tower where the chocobo had been kept. The bird is now pulling a cart across the desert, towards Madain Sari, and the only thing in its place is a stale Burmecian guard and a few dwarves. At first, they don't serve any interest to Amarant, but he soon finds himself wondering just what the hell they think they're doing.
Eumol has forgone his normal Burmecian attire and is in a patched pair of breeches that probably belong to one of the Genomes. His fur is matted and he looks a little sick and out of sorts, but the dwarves are keeping him entertained with some goddamned drawings on planks of wood.
"What the hell are you doing?" Amarant growls, earning a jump from the Burmecian and a few surly glances from the dwarves.
"Ah, we were just..." Eumol fidgets and then says, "We're thinking of ways to build a new ship to get off the continent."
"You want to build a fucking ship this far from the sea?" the bounty hunter growls, crossing his arms and narrowing his eyes. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard a rat say. Are you getting a heatstroke under that fur coat of yours?"
"May be a wee bit far fer a boat, but a'least yer friend here is doin' soomthin' praductive with 'is time."
Amarant glares at the dwarf, who chuckles and adds, "Mar praductive than glarin' a mite tae much, thae is."
Eumol glances between them and Amarant decides that the Burmecian isn't doing anything wrong. He's probably the only one of their entire group who isn't. So he shakes his head and mutters, "Do whatever the hell you want," before leaving them alone.
He feels fucking tragic and it makes him want to hurt someone, so when Steiner comes into view he goes for it.
"So you couldn't bitch your way into the adventure this time, huh?"
The knight visibly stiffens, something Amarant bets he wouldn't have seen if there had been armor. But there's no armor, just cotton and a stupid sword. He can read the other plain.
"I figured you'd at least try to fuck your way in, you seemed so desperate." Amarant stalks towards the knight, who has turned to face him with a dark look. "But your little miss war hawk was at Her Majesty's hut all night."
"Are you expecting to get a rise out of me?" Steiner growls.
"Oh, fuck no. I'm just passin' time. After all, what's more fun than talking with good sir one-arm?"
Amarant doesn't acknowledge the stone in his stomach when he says this, and ignores Steiner as he puts his hand to his sword. "Are you truly this eager to fight me?" the knight asks and Amarant wants very badly to tell him he's more eager to get that sword shoved in his throat than to have an honest to god fight.
"Fuck, fight you? You can't handle your sword and you're such a helpless twit. It'd feel wrong fighting a cripple like you." He smirks and spits out, "After all, I've got the advantage here, don't I?"
The bounty hunter isn't prepared for a punch and so when Steiner socks him in the jaw it sends him reeling, falling back against the planks. Before he can even speak, Steiner has his sword against Amarant's throat, eyes narrowed and there is something definitely wrong.
"You might have both arms, but what good can that do you if you can't properly use your only eye?" the knight hisses. "I should kill you."
Amarant snarls. "You couldn't kill a man, you fucking moron. You've never even got a man's blood on your sword before."
Steiner looks mockingly aghast and snaps, "But you're hardly a man - much more a beast than anything."
Amarant hates that so much.
He grabs the sword with his bare hands and snarls, "You would fucking think that, you fucking country bumpkin."
And he pushes the sword violently backwards, dislodging it from Steiner's grip and throwing it to the side. The knight gains his balance but Amarant's already on him, fighting nail and tooth because /fuck it/, if the fucker doesn't think he's - then he won't be, /fuck him/!
Steiner cracks one of Amarant's ribs so in return Amarant punches him in the ear, sending the other reeling slightly -
The knight grabs a few of Amarant's dreadlocks, puts a knee to his back, pinning his arms, and forces him down on the ground, pulling his head back and glaring viciously at the bounty hunter, who tries not to wince because that really does fucking hurt.
"I am sorely tempted to remove your other eye," the knight snarls.
"I fucking dare you, you piece of shit."
Steiner yanks violently on Amarant's hair and the hunter involuntarily yelps.
"What the fuck are you doing?"
Amarant can't turn his head all the way but he can see Lani in his peripheral vision and immediately regrets getting into this fight.
"Get the fuck off him, knight," she snarls, coming forward. Steiner immediately removes his knee and stands at attention, letting Amarant push himself up. It feels like his hair is falling out. Fuck, that fucking knight could have -
"Red," Lani's saying, "Are you alright?"
He doesn't realize he's backhanded her until she lands on the ground, completely shell-shocked and unable to respond.
"Stay the fuck out of my business, you deaf bitch," he hisses, trying to stand but finding Steiner's hand around his neck. He can't breathe and it's one of the most refreshing feelings he's ever experienced. A long look at Steiner shows that there's not much left holding him together.
"I should /kill you/, you filthy pig."
He wants to respond but he really can't breathe, and Steiner squeezes tighter. Everything goes kind of black around the edges, and he gags.
"Stop it!" Lani shouts, "Fucking stop, you fucking lunatics!"
Amarant feels suddenly, violently sick so he puts a bit of force down and shoves himself out of Steiner's grip, rolling onto his knees and forearms and dry heaving against the planks.
"You are pathetic," Steiner growls, and then he stalks away and Amarant tries to breathe again. It doesn't feel right.
"Amarant," Lani mumbles. She puts a hand to his back and he regrets laying a fucking finger on her.
He waves a hand as he tries to stand and the other bounty hunter puts her hands against him, giving him balance. "Why?" she asks.
He shakes his head because he can't tell her through sign language. So instead they walk silently to one of the huts, the one he probably was supposed to use last night instead of sleeping outside like a bum, and she helps him sit down and feels out his cracked rib.
He looks at her and realizes she's already bruising around the bone and it makes him feel almost sick again. He never does that. He /never hits Lani/, it's a fucking unspoken rule, he fights her and spars her but he doesn't hit her just because he fucking /feels like it/-
"Amarant," Lani rasps, grabbing his shoulder, "its okay."
He's not - he doesn't /just hit /Lani -
"/Salamander/," she tries again and now he hears her.
He looks at her and shakes his head and mouths "I'm sorry."
"It's okay. I get it." She steps back and says, "But stop fucking attacking the knight, would you? He's on a thin rope already and you don't want those women coming back and finding him snapped and you dead."
He almost tells her he does but knows better than that.
He waves her away after a few moments and she complies, giving him only one last look before leaving the hut.
Lani doesn't see Amarant or Steiner for the rest of the day and this kind of mellows her out. They're both on edge and completely fucked up right now, and she doesn't think hanging around them will help her mental state either way, so she stays at the graveyard and kind of lays around. It's the first time in almost a month that she's had both time to lay around and a secluded place to do so, so she takes full advantage of it.
She's on her second smoke in as many hours when her world goes black and her breath freezes in her throat. It's cold, really cold, and she jerks up into a sitting position, trying to make out something - anything - around her, before it fades away and she has nothing to tell anyone -
She drops her smoke and it lands on her thigh, burning her and knocking the black out of her eyes.
Mikoto is leaning over her, looking completely unworried.
"Did you have a vision?" she asks, sounding vaguely interested.
"Fuck," Lani growls, grabbing at her smoke and rubbing at the burn on her leg, "No, just a blackout."
"I can assure you, you were quite awake." The Genome sits down across from Lani. "You were yelling. What did you see?"
Lani doesn't remember yelling. She takes a drag and shrugs. "Nothing."
Mikoto looks at her for a long while and after the huntress puts the smoke out she says, "These visions you have... Your companions spoke of them, briefly. Do they always come true?"
Lani frowns. "I don't have visions."
The blonde shakes her head and says, "I have them when I'm asleep. But you... You have visions even when you're awake. They mean something, don't they?"
"I don't have /visions/, you brat," she growls in response, "I just hallucinate things. It's a coincidence."
"Each thing you've seen has come true, hasn't it?" the Genome asks.
"I don't /see anything/!" she snarls. "I don't fucking want to see anything!"
Mikoto frowns. "Do you think that, if you don't acknowledge these visions, they'll stop?"
Lani shakes her head and looks away. "If I don't acknowledge them, they're not my problem," she mutters, before looking back to Mikoto and exclaiming, "I didn't ask to do this, you know! I didn't ask to be the resident mystic! I don't want to deal with this shit!"
"Lani," Mikoto drawls in that kind of flat voice, "I don't think you have a choice in the matter."
The bounty huntress wants to explain to the Genome that she has every choice in the matter - all she has to do is ignore them, and they'll go away. But then Carbuncle dances across her vision and then Leviathan and -
"I... shit," she mumbles awkwardly, putting out her smoke and standing, "I need to go talk to the knight."
Mikoto raises an eyebrow and then nods. "Do what you think is right," she says, turning her head to look at the graves as Lani slinks off into the quickly settling dark.
The hut is dark and Lani is almost deterred from knocking, but can't help it. She's told the knight everything she's seen so far, and doesn't see any reason in stopping.
So when he answers the door and sees her standing there, he already knows what she's there for and is already letting her in. But before she can tell him anything, he is sitting and looking at her in a dull, unbecoming way.
"Why do you constantly come to me?" he asks quietly.
Lani shrugs. "You started it."
She looks around and notes that the place has only one bed, unlike the hut she has, and it's a nicer one. That kind of annoys her, but she shoves the thought to the side.
"I saw the black again," she tells him. "It was freezing."
Steiner frowns and looks out the window. "The same as in Lindblum?" he asks, "With feathers?"
"...No feathers this time. I think they might've been there but... I don't remember them."
"Simply a blackout," he mumbles, "That's what you get for constantly smoking."
Lani looks at the knight and wonders if he's just saying that - or if he really, honestly believes it. If he believes it, she could too. He's pretty good at convincing people he's ignorant to facts, after all.
She crosses her arms because it's getting kind of cold, and Steiner is sitting on the edge of the gloom in the hut.
"...If you..." She shifts, looks at him, and then continues, "If you tell me you think it's just a blackout - that these are just hallucinations - I'll believe you and... stop thinking about them."
The knight sighs. "My opinion should hardly be of consequence to you."
"Quit talking like a goddamned knight, would you?" she growls in response, "No one gives a shit how you talk anymore."
"Maybe I'm just refined."
"You were talking about gutting Amarant like a /pig/, o' refined sir knight. I doubt you really care."
The man scowls and responds in a sharp, clipped voice, "He not only attacked me but you as well, and you expect me to speak to him as I do anyone else?"
"Did you ever consider that maybe, just /maybe/..." Lani looks around the room and shakes her head, "He's scared out of his wits right now? Just like everyone else?"
It doesn't really surprise her that Steiner looks nearly confused at this idea - after all, people don't always think of Amarant like another person - but it does kind of piss her off. She hates that people can't - don't - think of him in their terms.
"What does he have to be afraid of?" the knight asks, almost weakly.
Lani doesn't know, honestly. Amarant's not her forte. She knows him but doesn't know his mind - and that worries her.
"Death?" she tries, "Being helpless? The same things we're all feeling, I guess." She shrugs and turns to the door. "I should probably go."
"...It was just a blackout," Steiner says into the darkness, and something about his saying that pulls at her violently.
"...I...Yeah, I guess it was. Nightmares, I guess," she mumbles, moving the door and stepping into the dead light, "Just nightmares."
One thing has been bugging Amarant throughout the past two days, and by nightfall he's using it as an excuse not to think about more pressing issues - like why he keeps imagining Steiner's blade through his throat, or why he keeps getting a bad feeling when he thinks about Garnet.
So he decides to settle it once and for all, and stalks through the dark, listening to muted conversations between dwarves and genomes alike. They're all talking about the same thing: what's going to happen next?
He knows exactly what's going to happen next, just as well as they do. The difference is that he would say it aloud if asked.
He finds the object of his thoughts sitting next to the creek by the mill, vacantly staring into the water and not listening to the frogs or the crickets. He thinks vaguely of the androgynous Quina before thinking about how he knows more dead people than living ones now.
It only takes a second before he makes up his mind and sits next to Lani on the embankment, makeshift claws drooping and his eyes only casually glancing at her. She looks vaguely confused but still at ease and turns her head to look at the candlelight coming from the village.
"I'll give you to the count of three, and then I'm going to stab you in the chest," he drawls easily, head turned the opposite direction of hers. He takes a breath, and then counts, slow and deliberate. "One. Two. Three."
He twists his upper body and looks at Lani for a moment, with her arms raised over her chest and eyes narrowed sharply.
"That was fucking rude," she growls.
"The fuck didn't you tell me?" he snaps, grabbing her arm roughly, "Why the fuck didn't you say anything to me?" A shake, and then, "We wouldn't be here right now, we could have stayed home for the love of-"
"No we couldn't have, Red, and you know it." She looks away and she can read him too well. "Besides, I didn't get it back until after we were on the ship. So we were fucked either way."
"Why the fuck didn't you say anything, then?"
She shrugs. "I don't know. Just didn't feel like it."
It's a lie, but he decides that for the sake of everyone, he's just going to fucking buy it for now. He doesn't care enough. Or, he cares too much.
"What now?" she asks him, after he lets go of her and stands up.
Hundreds of things run through Amarant's head, but he gives up and says, simply, "I don't know."
And then he walks away.
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