Journey

Chapter 7

"New friends shall come your way, Murasakino, but do not loose faith in the old ones. They will always return...."

Murasakino

The sun hadn't yet risen and the birds would not begin to sing for a few hours, but Murasakino was up. Sleep had evaded her and electricity ran through her blood. This was the day they would leave. She glanced out the window and stared, momentarily, at the blackened sky. Clouds were building and the air was filled with electricity, a storm would soon break. Murasakino strode from the room and into Ichigo's. For some reason she felt they had to go now.

"Ichigo, wake up!," she ordered with an edge to her voice, "We have to go now."

The mauve haired girl moaned and rolled onto her back, rubbing her eyes sleepily.

" 'Kay," she muttered. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed and made her way to the pile of things in the corner. Murasakino turned and left to get her own things. In her heart she knew they had to hurry.

Murasakino swept up her things and trotted into the main room, barely keeping herself from running. She grabbed the keys, stuffing one in her bag and keeping the other in hand.

"Kiri! We need to go," she called.

There was a rumbled reply and Kiri appeared by the door. Murasakino made her way around the house, checking and rechecking that the doors and windows were locked. Standing in the center of the main room she surveyed the place one last time. The house had grown on her and she didn't want to leave it but knew she must. Dishes sat in the sink, unwashed and a blanket was in a heap on the floor near the couch. It must look as if they had suddenly disappeared into thin air. Satisfied that the room was "perfect" she opened the front door and waited as the others trailed out after her. Murasakino then locked the door and walked across the porch to where the hidden loose board was. The girl lifted the board, carefully placed the extra key on a small ledge of concrete, and replaced the board. No one would ever find it and, if she needed back into the house, it would be there.

"Come on. We have a long way to go."

She walked quickly in the direction of the edge of the village then stopped abruptly. Ichigo ran into her rigid back and exclaimed a small, annoyed "oof".

"Kiri, we need to hurry," was all she said and the cat understood.

Kiri padded forward and lowered her large frame to the ground. Murasakino turned to the other girl. Ichigo's eyes widened and she began to back away.

"N-n-no thanks," she squeked but Murasakino had already hoisted into the air and was setting her onto the giant leopard's back. The girl grabbed tufts of fur in her small hands, her eyes wide with fear.

"Child, you're pulling my fur out," Kiri rumbled with amusment in her voice.

"S-s-sorry," the girl stuttered but kept her death grip on Kiri's fur.

Murasakino vaulted onto the leopard's back and urged the great cat on. The she-cat took of at a trot and Ichigo's face turned a pale colour. The cat rumbled with silent laughter.

"You'll get used to it dear."

Ichigo just closed her eyes and tried to stop herself from being sick.

As the trio passed the border of the village and raced away something else raced towards the quaint house they'd left behind.

Darkness

The woman growled, anger surging through her every cell.

"No!" the word was nearly a snarl

"Guess someone got to them first," a mocking voice said from behind her.

She spun and smacked the man in the face. Blood spilled from his nose and his lip was cut by his unnaturaly shaped teeth. He took a step back and glared at the woman.

"Keep your mouth shut Kuro!" she hissed.

The woman stalked towards the door and tried the handle. It was locked. Taking a few steps back she rushed the door and lashed out with her foot. The door slammed against the inside wall and splintered in place she'd kicked it. She strode in and Kuro followed behind her, angrily. Only a few minutes passed before she returned to the main room, her anger building.

"Where are they!?" the woman exploded in rage.

This time Kuro remained silent.

Murasakino

The sky was dark with both clouds and night as they traveled through a forest. The world around them was eerily silent but maybe it was because of the coming storm. Or maybe not. The silence was making Murasakino nervous. There was a faint russle behind them and the hair on the back of her neck stood up. Something was terribly wrong.

Kiri! Keep Ichigo safe no matter what!

Through their psychic connection she ordered the cat to care for Ichigo. Then the girl leapt from the cat and began to peer into the forest.

"Murasakino?" the younger girl asked, beggining to get down.

"Stay."

That was when Murasakino heard the footsteps behind her. At least five people if not more. The air crackled with electricity and thunder rolled. Slowly she turned,drawing her sword as she moved, and faced six darkly clad people. All were tall and appeared to be male.

"Look what we've found!" hissed a voice from within the group, "Such pretty pets, don't you think?"

Murasakino glared and they laughed. The man at the front waved his hand in a signal that was barely detectible. The others moved quickly and had the three surrounded within moments.

"Shall we dance?" the man,obviously leader, asked smugly.

With another barely visible signal, the group attacked. A man with a kunai in each hand rushed Murasakino. He clumsily struck out at her and she easily side stepped the blow. Then, with a quick movement, she slit his throat. The man's eyes widened as he fell to the leaf covered ground.

The next man tried to sneek up behind her, but he too was noisy and clumsy. Clutched in both hands was a large, axe-like weapon. He swung and Murasakino blocked with her blade. This, however, was a terrible move. The man was stronger than her and used his weight against the girl. He looked up with a smug grin coating his face and never saw the kick that slammed into his stomach. He double over and she smashed another kick into his temple. The man toppled over, unconscious or maybe dead, she couldn't tell.

Murasakino spun as Ichigo screamed in horror. One man was trying to pull the girl from Kiri while the leopard was engaged with two others. She ran forward and sliced through the back of his neck.

Run! Kiri, get out of here!

"No, Murasakino! I cannot leave you here to fend for yourself!" Kiri thought back furiously.

Yes! You must protect Ichigo! She's only a little girl! Now GO!

Murasakino stepped in front of Kiri and battled the two men. The cat gave a low growl that shook the ground lightly and raced away.

"I will be back!", were the cat's parting words.

The raven-haired girl had just struck down another man when an arm was wrapped around her waist and a dagger was pressed against her throat.

"Drop the sword, girl," the leader ordered.

The leader. The only one who hadn't fought. The one she'd forgotten. The one who had her now.

She dropped her weapon and was roughly transferred to the other man. He was wary of her and held Murasakino lightly. He hands were bound quickly and she was slung over his shoulder.

"Let's go," the leader said and marched off into the forest.


Through the forest they walked and Murasakino was bounced about roughly. She had to do something.

"Were are you taking me?" she demanded.

"None of your business," was the gruff reply.

"Well obviously it is, I'm going there aren't I? Now, where is it?"

"You need not know," he answered.

"I think I do," she said in a captious tone.

"Shut up, girl."

"Fine, I will!"

A few moments passed in silence. She decided to try again.

"Please, tell me where we're going. Please," she hoped she sounded desperate and scared.

"Well....." he paused, "I can't say. But don't worry, it won't be.....too terrible....."

He trailed off akwardly and she knew she'd hit a spot. With some effort she began to "sob".

"Now, don't do that!" he sounded worried, " Tei-kun isn't..."

"W-who's Tei?" she whimpered.

"Well, he's-" the man carrying her was cut off by a sharp command.

"She's manipulating you, you idiot! Set her down and I'll knock her out," the leader ordered.

Murasakino was dropped onto the ground with a "thud". She was desperately hoping the leader hadn't meant literally knocking her out. The leading man stepped in front of her, yanked open her jaw and tipped her head back. A thick liquid was poured down her throat.

There was an unexpected roar that caused the forest to shake. Birds shot from their trees, screeching and small animals ran. The men jumped and she was quickly picked back up.

"We have to go before that overized cat gets here. Come on!" the leader spat.

The world around her began to blacken.

Kiri......

Then everything faded to black.