How long has she been running? Two days? Three? She's not sure. She only knows that if she stops, she'll die. So she keeps running. For the past few hours, she's seen nothing but trees. Her legs feel like jelly as she jumps from branch to branch, and her breath comes in short, shallow gasps. She can feel them behind her. Chasing. She feels like an animal.

She jumps again, but she misjudges the distance. She misses the next branch by just a tad, but the result sends her toppling to the ground. If she was at her best, she could have easily recovered. But her reaction time is pathetic. She tries to turn in the air, and she hits the ground with a hard thud, rolling on her side for a few rotations.

Pain shoots through her body. Her right shoulder is on fire, and even though she knows she shouldn't lie there, the ground feels almost as good as her bed at this point. Her chest rises and falls rapidly, and stares at the sky through the thick branches overhead. She thinks back to how simple her life used to be- how normal it used to be. How did she even get involved with all this anyway?

She can hear frantic shouting coming from the direction she was leaving, and the yells are enough to grudgingly swing herself back to her feet. Her long red hair cascades around her face like a curtain. She has to get moving again. She has to get somewhere safe.

She doesn't feel like her legs can support a jump back up to the trees, so she elects to run. She heads in the same direction she was jumping toward, winding around the erratic pattern of the countless tree trunks. But she knows she's not moving fast enough; the shouting is getting closer.

She weighs her options. Should she try to hide? Should she fight? She's coming up on a tree with a rather large base, and in a second, chooses to hide. She quickly rounds the tree, scrunching her back as close as possible. She tries to slow her breathing down, but that would take a miracle.

The shouting is finally close enough so she can hear it.

"Argh! Damn it! Where is she?!"

"Calm down! We know she was heading this way!"

"Don't tell me to calm down! We've been chasing this brat for almost four days, and we haven't eaten in two! I'm fucking exhausted!"

"Well how do you think she's coping? No food, no rest? She'll start slowing down!"

"Both of you shut up! Hold here!"

She holds her breath. There's a silence as they stop. She can sense them now. Maybe twenty yards behind her? Up on the branches. If they're talking now, it's to low for her to listen. She closes her eyes tightly. She knows one of them is a sensory type, and she prays he doesn't try to find her.

Her prayers go unanswered.

"There she is! Due North! Move!"

She takes off from her hiding spot, but she can already hear them jumping above her.

"We've got you now, you bitch!"

There's a whistling in the air, and she knows one of them has thrown something. She quickly turns around to face them, beginning to jump backwards in an attempt to keep moving. As she thought, several shuriken are flying right toward her, and she pulls a kunai from a holster just in time to block the harmful stars. The one who threw them jumps down toward her, but she takes a rather long jump backward, avoiding him.

She makes to turn back around, but she's not in time; her back slams into the trunk of a tree she was unable to see. The force of the impact ceases her momentum completely, and she drops her knife as she stumbles forward. Her pursuers surround her, a weapon in each of their hands.

"You're a long way from home…" one of them says through staggering breath. "We're taking you back to the Hidden Mist."

When she replies, she's surprised at how foreign her own voice sounds. "I'm never going back there…"

"I'm afraid we're not giving you an option." The man begins to move forward.

She reaches down to her waist, opening a pouch on her belt. In one swift movement, she swings her arm forward. The contents of the pouch, a clear, blue liquid, shoots out, hitting the man in the face. The force of the attack knocks him square on his back, as if she'd thrown a brick.

The two others jump at her, but she tumbles out of the way. She rolls back to her feet, and throws her arm out at these men as well. The liquid shoots out from behind her, hitting and knocking the both of them away.

She smiles to herself despite the situation. She can do this! However, the thought is fleeting as her legs cave right from under her. She falls to her knees, but that's fine. That's okay. She has time to start running again. Just as she begins moving, something pulls her back. A sharp pain shoots through her body. The first man has come up behind her, and is pulling her back by her hair.

"Ugh… You bitch!"

She starts throwing her arms behind her, but the angle is to steep, and her liquid misses by a mile. The other two are back on their feet now, each shaking their heads, which have become soaked.

"Now…" the one pulling her hair says gruffly. "Will you come quietly, or do I have to knock you out?"

She doesn't reply. She only continues to try to pull herself from his grip. Thinking desperately, she produces a kunai knife from her holster, and cuts behind her, aiming for her own hair. It is something she will gladly sacrifice. However, the man is quicker; he grabs her approaching wrist with his hand, keeping his other wrapped tightly around her locks. He squeezes her wrist painfully, and she yelps, dropping the knife.

The man sighs. "It appears you've chosen the hard way. Boys?"

The other two begin to approach her, smacking their fists into open palms. "Gladly…"

She's not proud to admit it, but she's scared- terrified. All her planning and hard work will be for nothing. She can't imagine her punishment when these idiots take her back to the Mist village. She doesn't want to go back. She can't go back… She won't go back.

With newfound strength, she elbows the hair-puller in his…sensitive area. Howling in pain, he lets go of her, and doubles over. The other two mean charge, but she easily flips over them, kicking them both in the back of their heads. The two smash into each other, and they fall on top of the hair-puller. It takes a moment, but they all three pull themselves together, each getting back in a stance.

She slowly turns around to face them, and as she does, a great ring of blue liquid forms around her waist. She holds her hands out, and parts of the ring start peeling off, floating around her fingers. Even her red hair is billowing up, wavering back and forth like a stream.

The three men glance at each other nervously, and she smiles. "What's the matter?" she asks, her voice coated with sugar. "Wet behind the ears?"

She flicks a finger, and a part of the liquid shoots out. It barrels toward the man on the right, hitting him right in the side of his face. He's sent flying backward into the undergrowth, spinning through the air. The two men who remain stare at the spot where he once stood.

With another flick of her finger, a portion of the liquid shoots off at the man on the left, wrapping around one of his legs. In a swift pull, the liquid pulls him up, slams him back into the ground, and then throws him into the forest. The crash is extraordinarily loud.

The man in the middle, the man who remains, doesn't lose his ground. He pulls two swords off his back, pointing them right at her. She smiles sweetly at him.

"Do you like pulling hair?" she asks. She flexes her fingers, and some of the liquid fires at him, but he manages to cut through it with his blades. She raises an eyebrow, and attacks again, this time more forcefully. The man spins and turns, almost as if he's dancing as he counters the shots of liquid. When she finishes, he smirks at her.

"Surely that's not all…!"

She closes her eyes. "Not even close…" she whispers. When she opens them again, the man is struck with such fear that he almost drops his weapons. Her eyes are now glowing a brilliant, and somehow menacing, shade of white. She flicks her finger again, but this time, she's to fast.

His screams can be heard for miles.

-SUMMER 2013-