Notes: death of innocent little animals where Yagyuu decides to show his cruel side. Some language (like... a word or two, I believe). I don't think it's too horrifically graphic (yet), but do take caution when reading if you're the really sensitive kind (although I've seen worse... just warning you).

Chapter 6 – Niou: Part II

The wound on the little boy's chest took several weeks to heal, and even after the skin had closed, leaving a jagged line of a scar where it had been to last for the rest of his life, it took months for Niou to be able to function properly like the child he was. Learning to walk when he was finally released from the cruel fate of remaining in bed was an arduous task, with him having to slowly learn how to best coordinate his body to minimize the pain that still seized him roughly at the worst of times. Walking evolved into an ungainly hop-skip type of running, which slowly turned into a more natural and graceful run. After pushing himself, it came to the point where he could finally run like he used to, and it became a fun sport for him to run around in the central courtyard. Sometimes, Yukimura's father would catch a small hint of a smile on his face when he was running, and the man couldn't help but smile himself at those times. It was a slow process, the healing of Niou Masaharu, but the elder Yukimura knew that things would work out. He was the son of the high family, and even though he was shy, quiet, drifting along after Yukimura and Sanada, almost like a ghost, there was a small flicker of life about him that had been missing weeks before. Blue eyes peeked out from underneath white bangs, studying everything around him with something that was a lot like suspicion, but from where he spied on the boys from behind a window, he watched as that closely guarded look slowly was lowered, day after day.

It was sometime during Niou's recovery that Yanagi came to the capital and was assimilated into the little group that consisted of the young Yukimura, Sanada, and Niou. Yanagi's father was a mage who had, unfortunately, perished at roughly the same time Niou's own father did, although the exact causes were unknown. Yanagi did not like the topic, and consequently did not ever speak of it. Yukimura hypothesized that the only one who would possibly have known was his father, and didn't pry, although it was obvious that he was not just a bit curious about the nature of how the very mature boy came about. Likewise, although Sanada and Niou expressed varying degrees of interest on the same subject, they did not pry into Yanagi's past, and simply included him in their games and strove hard to have as much fun as they could in said games. It was within the simple complexity of childhood games that they forged their friendships, one that was based on each other's dependence on the other and subsequently grew stronger the longer they were together.

Then came along a little Marui, lost and afraid, staring at the other boys with evident fear in his big lavender eyes, huddled behind Yukimura's father and only offering short, one-syllable answers to any and all questions besides the one asking for his name. He dragged a huge package along behind him; it was easily twice his size and so heavy that he half-carried it, half-dragged it, leaving a small trail in the dust of the road from the movement. Marui was assigned to the same dormitory as Niou and Yanagi, and it did not take long for the other two to figure out that Marui was deathly afraid of the dark, whimpering, tossing and turning, searching for his mother that all three boys knew would not come for him. If she would, then Yukimura's father certainly wouldn't have led him to the capital himself.

Niou constructed a fort for the three of them in the dorms, he and Yanagi pushing their beds against Marui's until it formed one big one. 'Borrowing' a few extra quits that weren't in use, they rolled them up and anchored them at the ends of the bed, forming primitive if not childishly pleasing walls. A sheet borrowed from the storeroom was their roof, and all three huddled underneath, amusing themselves during the dark hours of the night with stories and little word games (which Yanagi proved to be a master at) until they fell asleep, curled together until they were a mess of tangled blankets and limbs from when one boy flung out his arm or kicked in his sleep. While it served its main purpose, taking Marui's mind off of the things that the boy could not change, it relieved the other two as well, who had nearly the same fears and uncertainties, which rose like monsters and threatened to engulf them when the sun went down and there was little to distract them.

A year passed in this manner, and Marui grew out of his fear of the dark, although every once in a while they still revived the fort and did their tradition of storytelling and word games, just for the fun of it. Occasionally they'd infiltrate the other dormitory where Yukimura and Sanada were and drag them over to theirs, having a five-person fort, much to the chagrin of Sanada, who very much liked his sleep and did not appreciate being jabbed awake every once in a while by a poke in the ribs. Yukimura enjoyed these late-night events, though, and was often more than happy to contribute any elaborate legends or stories that he had read from the library. Niou amused all with his ability to spice up the words, Yanagi impressed with coming up with big synonyms for common words, and Marui and Sanada proved to be adept at plot development when given the chance. The five were the bane of the children dormitory assistant's existence, and they (the dormitory assistants, that was) were quite thrilled when the boys grew out of their dorms and moved to the apprentice dorms and a new set of assistants.

No more than a week after they had been moved to the apprentice dorm and with the apprenticing ceremony looming up in just a few short weeks, Yukimura asked, "Niou-kun, what do you want to be?"

Niou looked up from where he was constructing the plans for his latest prank, a quizzical expression on his face while the stick that he held in one hand slowed in its frenzied scratching in the dirt. "What do you mean, Mura?" he asked. Truth be told, he had never given it much thought. The two boys were in the central courtyard, which was surprisingly empty, given the fact that normally there would be plenty of children running around to play in the warm afternoon sun, or to splash in the cold water of the fountain. But today it was only Yukimura and Niou and a few busy ants in the middle of dragging choice crumbs to their nest in a secluded corner of the courtyard.

Yukimura smiled, looking amused. "When you're to be apprenticed," he said again, "what faction would you like to be apprenticed to? Do you want to be a mage? Or a warrior? Or maybe you want to be a healer?" They didn't get to pick what they wanted to be apprenticed to, but they could always dream. Yukimura's father and his advisors would judge where everyone's strengths laid and then divide them accordingly. That was the way jobs in Rikkai were organized. Leadership was always passed on from father to son, although the son would still be apprenticed to a faction and take supplementary lessons in preparation for succession.

His blue-violet eyes shown brightly as he shifted his attention from Niou and to the sky, leaning backwards with his hands on the edge of the stone fountain. "I want to be a great mage, just like my father! I want to be able to rule Rikkai just as well as him!" He paused to consider his words, shaking his head gently from side to side. "No, that's not it. I want to be an even better ruler than him. I want to surpass him." This was a time in each boy's life where he was allowed to dream big, to speculate a life where he achieved great things, grand things, modeled after the hero that all little boys shared: their father. This was a time before the horror of reality really settled in on them like a heavy winter cloak, before they became more firmly grounded to the earth and learned the full meaning of the things called 'logic' and 'rationale.'

Niou stood up, leaving his half-formed plans in the earth with the abandoned stick, lifting his head up to look at the sky just like Yukimura was doing. He was silent, before turning to his friend, offering a little lopsided grin to his friend. "Sounds fun," he said. "If it's you, then I think it's possible." If it was Yukimura, Niou thought that anything was possible. He couldn't say exactly why, but Yukimura always seemed to exude a quiet air of confidence, one that said that he could do anything if he deemed it a worthy cause. It inspired Niou; it really did. Yukimura Seiichi was one of the few boys his own age that Niou really looked up to, be it in the capital or… back at his village. The mere beginnings of the thought of his former home made him swallow, wondering how on earth that big lump got into his throat or why the back of his throat had the disgustingly metallic taste of iron. Finally, he turned to Yukimura, hiding everything with a charming little boy's smile.

Yukimura saw through him, of course. He always did, but he didn't ask about it. Instead, his face blossomed into an absolutely ecstatic expression, and there were not enough words to describe the look of utter and complete happiness present there, so dazzling that the sun in all its glory was put to shame. The young heir held out his hand, pinky up. Curious, Niou brought his own hand up, hooking his pinky with the proffered one. "I want to make a promise, Niou-kun. When we grow up, we're going to create a new order in Rikkai. Rikkai will be the strongest kingdom of them all."

He turned his head to the side, and when Niou followed his gaze, he found Sanada, Yanagi, and Marui standing not too far from them. They stepped forward, putting their hands on Niou's and Yukimura's joined hands when Yukimura beckoned them to him. "We'll be the strongest," Yukimura repeated. "We'll be the strongest because we'll always be looking after one another, and any battle that's one of ours is all of ours, and we will never, ever, ever, abandon anyone.

"Promise," he murmured.

"Promise," they echoed back, five pair of eyes glowing as they dropped their hands.

Later, when they had all gone to bed like the good little boys that they were, Niou snuck out of the dormitory and trotted off to the courtyard. Planting himself right next to the fountain, he stared up at the night sky, eyes riveted on the moon. It was a full moon, white light soft and reassuring, if not a bit cold. "Mother!" he called out, and Yukimura's father, who happened to be going around the courtyard via the surrounding corridor at that exact moment, paused in his steps to watch the solitary figure.

"Mother! I made a promise today!" Niou called out to the moon. "We promised to be the strongest, and to never be alone!"

A small smile tugged across the mouth of the silent observer, and he was about to move on when Niou stopped him by continuing to speak. The man drew back behind a pillar, listening despite that little conscious voice in his mind telling him that it was a sin to eavesdrop on the conversations of others, much less the conversations of others with their departed loved ones. But his curiosity had gotten the better of him, and he had squashed the little voice like a bug.

"Mother, I'll make a promise with you, too. I'm going to work extra hard, and, when I become really strong, I'll destroy the mage who hurt you!"

Even from behind the pillar, in the dark, the elder Yukimura could see the young boy trembling. Closing his eyes, he could feel the radiating emotions coming from the other, the muted rage, the undying sorrow, the bit of bewilderment that never seemed to go away. The emotions gathered around the boy, enveloping him, colliding with each other until they became a spectrum that was undecipherable.

The man stepped out from behind the pillar, making his way quietly over to him so that he could put his hand on the youngster's fluffy head. "It's a bright moon tonight," he noted.

Niou looked up at him, hastily wiping away the tears that had accumulated without him wanting them to, hoping that the man didn't see them. Yukimura pretends not to notice Niou's trembling lower lip. "Yes, sir," he replied politely.

"Shouldn't you be asleep in the dorms, instead of out here watching the moon?" the head of Rikkai asked with a smile on his face.

A tiny, "I couldn't sleep," was his answer, and Yukimura removed his hand from Niou's head, transferring it instead to his shoulder.

"Sleep is necessary for growing boys," he chides, and Niou is silent, before asking him:

"How long will I have to train until I can defeat a Dark Mage?"

Yukimura is taken by surprise at the question. "Pardon?" he asks.

Niou looks up at him, blue eyes seeming to shine eerily even though his face is in shadow. Yukimura cannot help but find it a bit unnerving. "How long will I need to train in order to defeat a Dark Mage?" Niou repeats patiently. "A Dark Mage destroyed my family, so I will destroy the Dark Mage."

And Yukimura does not know why, but there is a tingling in his spine and for the briefest of moments, the stirring of real fear from the power that is enveloping the boy is a bit too much for him to handle. But, as quickly as it came, it vanished, and then Niou was his usual child-like self, apologizing for staying up late and then scampering off to bed. Yukimura is left by himself to ponder what exactly the silver-haired child is like, before silently shaking his head. Niou was the son of the High Family, and there were a lot of things about that family that he did not know about.

But as of now, he thought to himself, turning his face to the moon, he is simply a growing boy. A lot of things will change as he grows older. Old wounds healed a bit, and grudges usually receded slightly with time. "Such an interesting boy you've left behind, Niou-san," he says quietly, giving a small nod of his head.

The little Niou was an interesting boy indeed.

Yagyuu was more than pleased with his plans. Reclining back in his chair, parchment with a carefully drawn map of the capitol spread out in front of him, he traced the capitol's walls lazily with a finger. Haru is curled up on his lap like a pampered Siamese cat, purring contently, pleased that his master was so satisfied. His tail flicked idly from side to side as one of Yagyuu's hands wandered down to stroke his head.

The purring increased.

"Zacharias, you can come out now," Yagyuu says quietly, not looking at the corner of the room where the shadows are stirring ever so slightly. In truth, Yagyuu had found it to be slightly amusing, watching his underling try to conceal himself within the shadows to spy on him. It was a pity that Haru was so adept in finding those who did not belong in certain places. Yagyuu's fingers moved to scratch behind the Shadow Demon's ears before nudging it off of his lap. Haru landed gracefully on the ground and stalked over to the shadow.

Zacharias detached himself from the corner and stepped forward, dropping down on one knee before Yagyuu's chair. "I apologize for the intrusion, My Lord," he says, dark eyes turned politely to the ground, "but your previous orders were for me to return at nightfall. My demons are just outside the room; they are eager to know what commands My Lord has in store for them."

Yagyuu gestures nonchalantly to Haru and states: "Bring them in, Haru. It's impolite to leave such eager guests outside." Haru dives into a shadow, reappearing moments later followed by a score of identical-looking Shadow Demons. They arranged themselves neatly behind their handler, Haru leaping forward to sit at Yagyuu's feet. Only Haru has that esteemed honor; he was Yagyuu's favorite and most trusted, if that man was even capable of trusting deep within his twisted mind and his destroyed soul.

Yagyuu stands, robes rustling as he straightens them. "Zacharias, I am putting you in charge of an infiltration unit. Tonight, we are going to the capitol and taking it. I've sat here waiting for those walls to crumble for far too long. It is now apparent to me that they won't fall without some outside help." He pushes his glasses up to a firmer position, pacing slightly in front of his chair. "Shadow Demons alone do not amount to much power, but we have numbers on our side. The infiltration unit will be in charge of entering the capitol and removing the guards stationed from play."

Here, he tosses a small pouch to his subordinate, who shoots out a hand, catching is expertly. "Open it," Yagyuu commands, and the handler obeys, gently pouring the pouch's contents out onto the floor in front of his knee. Small circular trinkets the size of marbles greeted him, and he looks up to Yagyuu in confusion. Surely his esteemed master didn't like playing with children's toys …?

"That amount is for your demons," Yagyuu instructs. "Each is a thin-walled capsule, which I have filled with poison. Haru, demonstrate how it works." Haru leaps onto his shoulder as Yagyuu presents a capsule to him. Taking it delicately in his jaws, he leaps back down onto the ground, while his master summons a cage onto the table, within which was caged a rather frightened rabbit. Haru slips into the cage through a small shadow, stealing up behind the poor animal, which was quivering with fear in the middle, beady little eyes warily looking out through the bars, completely unaware of Haru even though rabbits were so keen to startle and flee at the slightest mentioning of danger.

A quick snap of his jaws and the capsule breaks, pierced with sharp teeth, leaking its poison over the creature's fur. The defenseless animal squeals and leaps forward, pawing frantically at the bars of the cage. Zacharias can only watch in fascinated horror as the animal tries in vain to escape, throwing itself again and again against the unyielding bars until finally it stops, its fluffy body twitching as it curls up into a tiny ball and the poison runs its course, sliding down through the fur and then going through the skin, carried by the blood to all the essential organs. It hurts, of course, as it burns through tissue and nerves, but all in all it is a fast working poison. A few seconds of pain, several shuddering breaths, violent shaking, and the animal is dead, heat leaving its body as it gives one last twitch of its forelegs. Haru, on the other hand, is unaffected, and calmly spits the broken capsule out of his mouth before leaving the cage and padding over to Yagyuu, where he receives a nod for a demonstration done well.

"I've designed this poison so that the Shadow Demons who use them are not affected. But only they are immune to it, so it would be in your best interest to leave the capsules intact." Yagyuu sits back down and watches quietly as Zacharias hastily gathers up the capsules and inserts them back into the bag, being careful to handle them with care. The fear in his actions is almost laughable to the mage. "The other handlers and their demons have received their instructions already. I have also instructed them to report to you as soon as their demons were in place. As you can see, this poison acts with quite some pain on the part of its victim. I want all of the Shadow Demons to break their capsules onto the guards at the same time in order to minimize the amount of warning the ailing guards can give to their allies."

A slow smile spreads over his face as he talks. "A person in pain's first tendency is to think for himself and figure out how to get rid of the pain. When all of the guards are under such intense amount of pain, they will not care for the conditions of the others. This human trait will buy you enough time to open the gates. An attack unit will enter the capitol itself while the rest of my units will make the walls crumble from the outside."

"My Lord intends to destroy Rikkai's seat of power completely," Zacharias summarizes, beginning to see where this was going. He is pleased; his demon heart thumping with admiration at his liege's utter genius.

"Exactly," purrs Yagyuu. "Just think, when that little assassin returns to a destroyed capitol… his expression will be a sight to see."

"But, My Lord," Zacharias interjects, "what if Rikkai appeals to Seigaku or Hyoutei for aid? Surely My Lord does not intend to fight all three kingdoms at the same time…?"

Normally, Yagyuu would have been irked by such a statement, but excited as he was, he paid it little attention. "I've severed links between Rikkai and the other two powerful kingdoms for the past few months. Any information that can lead one to suspect that Rikkai would face danger from us was destroyed. Border skirmishes and the like I care nothing about." He rests his chin in his hand, giving a small nod of his head. "It is amusing to find that there are many people within Rikkai who have such twisted hearts that they would turn away from all the efforts of that Yukimura. He's a fool, but an earnest and persistent one. His son, too."

A tiny voice in the back of his mind quips, She was, too! Yagyuu's eyes narrow into golden slits, and he chooses to ignore the voice. "I'll have to take extra care to pay Marui some special attention," he murmurs to himself. Waving his hand idly, he states, "You're dismissed, Zacharias. Be prepared to move in an hour."

Zacharias rises, performing a deep bow before leaving the room, his demons scampering after him. When the door fully closes Yagyuu heaves a sigh, removing his glasses and rubbing at the bridge of his nose. His initial excitement is slowly ebbing away; now he is focusing on what kind of resistance Yukimura and his subjects would plan against him. They were not the kind of people to give up without a fight, and Yagyuu certainly did not expect them to simply roll over quietly and let him walk all over them.

That would be no fun.

Hara sits on the little table in front of Yagyuu, tail flicking slightly as he washes himself like a cat, using slow methodic licks of his tongue. He stops when Yagyuu straightens up, and peers curiously at his Master. 'You wish for something, Master?' the demon asks, ruby eyes shining at the prospect of having another job to do.

"I want you to follow our little assassin," Yagyuu muses, as if this was an idea that was only beginning to be formed in his devious mind. "I want to learn more about him. I want to… get to know him. Then I can think of the best way to play around with him."

Hara purrs, bobbing his head up and down smartly before diving into a shadow. Yagyuu watched his tail tip vanish before turning back to his map. "Well, Yukimura," he murmurs into the emptiness, "what will you do, when you witness me destroy everything that you've worked so hard to build?"

His eyes shine with the dangerous light of a predator that has spotted its prey and cornered it in preparation for the kill. "I will crush you and the Rikkai that you love so dearly. You will soon see how human trust is a silly thing. Humans have such fickle hearts."

Niou woke up with a throbbing headache, blinking furiously to bring his world into focus. He was covered with a thin blanket, and there was a cat purring in his ear, annoying whiskers tickling his cheek. His whole body aches, and his back is poked with straw every time he shifts on the mattress, the straw stuffing threatening to spill out of the worn linen that holds it together. Sitting up and massaging his pounding head, he dislodges the cat from his pillow and watches it half-heartedly as it moves elsewhere.

It stops purring, though, and crouches into a hunting stance almost as soon as it relocates itself to a patch of sunlight. Its sharp eyes have spotted a mouse, and in a few short moments the rodent is dead, the cat's quick movements and hunting prowess earning it its breakfast.

Niou decided that he was at a farmhouse. Only farm cats hunted and killed for sustenance; the cats he saw around more populous areas usually hunted for the thrill or simply to appease their wilder nature. They never ate their kills, though. Why eat that when they went home to owners who fed them fish and rich cream?

He watches the cat daintily pick at its meal in a corner of the lofty room that he is in before shaking his head, biting his lip and willing the throbbing pain to go away. It remains, staying stubbornly like a thorn in his side. His bag was placed to the side of his mattress, though, and Niou reaches over, fumbling around in it until he finds Yanagi's herb package, wondering if there was water nearby so that he could make himself a cup of tea. He's torn between using peppermint or rosemary, although he finally settles with peppermint, wrapping the rest back up neatly and tucking it away.

Holding the herb gently in his hand, he does a quick inventory of his bag. Nothing is missing, but when he gets to a side pocket, he lets out a hiss of surprise, accidentally crushing the peppermint leaves in his hand, their scent spreading into the air. The small vial of poison, his revenge tool, his most guarded possession, was gone. He couldn't have dropped it; Niou was far too careful to perform a stupid mistake like that.

"That demon bastard," he growls, shoving his bag to one side, forcing his complaining body out of bed and into a standing position. Hiro takes the time to reveal himself, peeking out from underneath Niou's pillow, glowing gently as the Illusionary takes in Niou's dark mood. The assassin is planning a thousand and one horribly painful deaths for that demon, that stupid demon with the annoying blue snake-like tongue and the mockingly cold black eyes, with his Shadow Demons that followed him around so faithfully. Should Niou break every bone in his demon body? Should he cut off his fingers and then tie him to a tree, leaving him food for the crows? Each possibility gets more and more graphic, until he can barely draw breath, shaking with fury. The demon could have taken anything from his bag and Niou would not have become even remotely as furious as he was now, but the poison… his treasure… he could not be without it.

Hiro lands on his shoulder, tiny wings fluttering, light growing brighter until it bathes Niou in its gentle glow. The assassin's rage subsides, and he collapses, spent, backwards onto the uncomfortably itchy straw mattress. Hiro then migrates to his chest. The dull aches and throbs and general discomforts of his body are erased, one by one, and Niou closes his eyes as Hiro works his magic, although he had not a clue what kind it was. It was stronger than healing, but he couldn't classify it.

Yanagi probably could, though. Niou misses the mage, with his careful and methodical personality and perpetually closed eyes. He misses everyone back at Rikkai, actually, including the usually grumpy Sanada and the annoying Marui who liked to overdose himself on sugar. How were they, he wondered?

"Oh, you're awake!" a woman's voice gasps from the entrance of Niou's current room, just seconds before Hiro dives within the safety of Niou's hair. She doesn't notice, though. "Jo will be so happy! I've never seen him in such a panic before…" Her voice trails off as she leaves, calling for the aforementioned boy. Niou remembers the kid dimly. He had been having a conversation with him about demons before that idiot came along.

"Get in the bag," he instructs Hiro, pushing himself into a more dignified position, straightening out his clothes as he does so. Hiro obeys, and Niou shuts the bag, swinging it over his shoulder as he stands. Jo appears moments later, the child looking immensely relieved.

"Are you feeling alright?" he asks, while Niou asks, "You're not hurt, are you?" at the same time. The kid stops, blinks at him, before shaking his head, turning around and moving his arms and legs to show that he was intact and perfectly fine. "Mister took all the damage," he says. Niou gives a low grunt as an answer, striding towards the doorway and he runs after him, tugging at his arm.

"Mother wants you to stay for the noon meal. She knows you're a traveler, but won't you please stay?" Jo begs, his eyes big and pleading, and though Niou is not in the least bit pleased at hearing that it was at least midday, he can't shake the kid from him. His protests of not wanting to trouble the farming family fall on deaf ears; the mother overhears and promptly proceeds to tell him that it's no trouble at all, that a night's rest and a meal are nothing considering how he had protected her only son from a devastating creature. In the end, Niou just gives up the argument, figuring that he can just make up some of his lost time by travelling at night.

Besides, the meal was delicious, and he was even given a small package of more food to take for his journey. He made a mental note to himself to share some with Hiro, once he figured out how Illusionaries sustained themselves.

"Thank you for the room and the meal," Niou says politely afterwards, fitting his cloak over his shoulders and bowing in a gracious manner. "I hope that this season is a kind one and you have a good harvest."

The farmer's wife smiles at him, doing a quick little curtsy. "Thank you, sir. Have a safe trip!" Jo echoes her statements and Niou turns to leave. Mother and son vanish inside their home shortly after, musing quietly to each other about the mysterious man that was their guest for the night. "Do you think he's a nobleman?" Jo's mother asks curiously. "He's a rather handsome young man, and I hear that the sons of aristocrats train in hand-to-hand combat because they have nothing better to do with their time."

Jo shrugs, preparing to go outside to help his father in the fields. "Whoever he was, he was the coolest person I've ever met!" he says proudly. He is silent for a few seconds, before announcing, "You know what? I'm going to be just like him!"

His mother raises an eyebrow, lips twisting into a dry smile. "Which part? I hope you'll grow up to be as polite as he was."

He huffs, childishly pouting as his cheeks flush with color. "I'm going to be just as strong, just as cool, and just as mysterious as he was! Just you wait and see!" he retorts hotly, before marching out the door, followed by his mother's outright laughter.

As the door shuts and life returns to the usual quiet around the house, Haru detaches himself from the shadow of the cupboard, slinking to another shadow and sliding into it. As he emerges from a shadow outside the house, his nose wrinkles in disgust. What was so great about the assassin? Haru had observed him quietly from the shadows while he had slept and then some afterwards before padding away to steal some food from the unsuspecting human woman's pantry, and nothing had impressed the Shadow Demon. Niou's rage was nothing compared to his masters, and he had just barely managed to edge out an advantage over Zacharius the night before. His tail lashes in frustration as he speeds through the undergrowth, diving into a shadow just before he can see his target and then slipping from shadow to shadow.

Niou was weak. There was nothing to be gained by looking up to weak people. Humans were so pathetically foolish.

What makes you have the ability to be a role model? Are you physically strong? Have you lived long and gained great wisdom? Perhaps you have achieved great success in something or another. No… because you are you, and you matter to someone… that is why you are looked up to.

A/N: Guess what? I still exist! :D

I heard somewhere that rabbits emit horrendously high-pitched noises when they died, but that was years ago on a documentary about lynxs. If that's not the case, feel free to tell me otherwise. I'm all-together too lazy to look it up. It's summer and I just sit in the A/C before dragging myself into the heat and to the hospital to do volunteer work. Life is busy. Life is good. XD

Reviews are still always very much appreciated. Please look forward to the next chapter; there will be epical Yukimuras present! ^_^