The days were beginning to grow shorter and colder as Taro and Mizuki traveled deeper into the mountains. They saw less and less of the animals that usually dotted the hills and they began to see more and more frost on the ground in the morning. The sky was swollen with snow and Taro knew it wouldn't be long before it fell and blanketed the land in white. He hoped they would be able to get to their destination before it fell.

Mizuki shivered through her robe, "Are we almost there? I don't like the cold."

Taro couldn't help but smile at her ability to say exactly what was on her mind, "I think we're getting close."

"You think?"

"Well it's not like I can just pick up a map and figure out exactly how far away we are. A ninja hideout isn't something you would find on your typical peasant map."

She sighed heavily, "But you've traveled too and from it before, haven't you? Shouldn't you have picked up how long it takes by now?"

"Uh, we're going by a different route."

"Right," she yawned, "Whatever. We get there when we get there."

They walked in silence for the rest of the day. There really wasn't anything to say other than pointless words that just made for akward silences. They stopped for the night in a cave, Taro built up a fire and cooked a caught rabbit. They ate in silence and lay down to bed with only a 'good night'. Mizuki went to sleep almost instantly, she was tired out from the day's walk. Taro lay awake for awhile, wondering what he would do when they got to the hideout and how he would explain Mizuki to the others. Finally he was so jittery that he had to get up and walk it off. He started climbing further up the mountain to see what there was to see so he didn't see the dark figures creep into the cave where Mizuki slept and out again with a still form suspended between them.

Taro made it to the peak and turned around just as the figures disappeared into the forest once more. He sat down, he was in no hurry to get back to the cave where only confusion waited. Besides, it was quieter up there, more peaceful with the thinner air and the breeze and shifting of the trees... he wondered why he didn't do it more often, just go somewhere to sit and contemplate. He fell asleep.

He started awake just as the sun was starting to tint the horizon as he remembered the fact that he had left Mizuki in the cave. What if she awoke? She might assume he had abandoned her and wander off somewhere? And, he had left her unattended last night? What if something had happened? He hurried down the mountain, disregarding care in his hurry. Dirt shifted beneath his feet, threatening to dump him to the ground. He slipped at the bottum and skidded the last few feet. Then he saw the footprints left carelessly in the dust the night before. He glanced into the cave, hoping that his worry would be for nothing and that Mizuki would still be there but his worries were not for nothing; Mizuki was gone. Uh oh, he thought to himself.

Mizuki woke up tied to a tree, one of its knots digging into her back. She squirmed to try and relieve the pressure. She was still half asleep so she thought it was only a rock, when she could not move her mind bolted awake and she immediatly began to struggle, earning herself a rock pegged into her head. She glared at the thrower, a man sitting next to a dying fire. "Who are you? Where am I?"

"I was sent to find you," he said, his voice reminded her of a snake, "You made some people back home very worried."

"I'm not going back," she said definatly, "You can't make me." She looked around the camp. There were three other men, all of them watching the scene with a kind of bored intrest.

"I can't?" the man stood up, "I'm not the one tied to a tree, you are. I'm not the one who's out numbered and out matched, you are. So I appear to be the one holding all the cards so yes, I think I can make you go."

"I'm not going," she said again.

"You don't really have a choice." Then he knocked her out, tied her to his horse like a sack of potatoes, mounted himself, and rode off, back towards Mizuki's hometown and back towards her very displeased mother.