Well, after a minor password recovery crisis, I once again have access to my username!! YAY! And a sudden urge to continue this little fic despite the fact that it's 4 AM, I have no plot ideas and I have to go to work at 8 in the morning! YAY! Oh, the joys of being a writer! So...here goes nothing.

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Honoo leaned against the door jam, eyeing the man in front of him suspiciously. He hated humans. But...money meant food and warmth and most importantly, getting the hell out of this place. If this guy was stupid enough to waste it to get some little girl back, Honoo had no problem with using him. It would be perfectly easy: pick up girl, drop at weird guys feet, take money, be on way to India or somewhere.

The annoying voice of the man who was trying to buy his help abruptly shoved its way into his thoughts. The man sounded like he was explaining something he considered important, but Honoo didn't bother to listen clearly. He really wished the man would just shut up and let the chase begin so it could end already. There was no sense in waiting around since it was only going to get colder.

"Heeeeeeey! Are you even listening to me?" Ryoko loudly demanded.

"Are you paying me to pay attention to you?" Honoo stared out at the approaching nightfall as he waited for some kind of response. Several moments of silence passed. A tad confused, Honoo glanced in the man's direction. Ryoko was sitting on the floor now and seemed deep in thought. After several more seconds, Honoo kicked a rock at him.

The man looked up. "I'm not sure. Does it cost more that way?"

Blink. Blink. "Get out."

"Wait! I get it now! That was a play on words, right? PAYING you to PAY attention. Right?"

Not having any desire to argue the point, Honoo just nodded. The man seemed happy with his conclusion and stood up, brushing off his pants. "All right then! Since it's dark out, we'll resume our hunt for the girl tomorrow. Beware what I warned you of."

With that, the man shook Honoo's hand firmly and left, whistling a jaunty tune.

"Why the hell did I agree to do this?"

Honoo mentally kicked himself. How could he hope to deal with such stupidity? With a sigh, he resolved not to worry about it until tomorrow. Whatever happened would happen whether or not he worried about it all night. He relaxed and let his body slide down to a sitting position on the floor, allowing himself to slip back into his childlike form. It took too much energy to stay as an adult. Energy that he was going to have to save for tomorrow, when he'd need it to keep his sanity. Yup. Humans sucked. In lots of new and irritating ways.

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If anything good could be said for this area, it would be that it had such a beautiful environment, Yuki mused. She had slowed to a walk once she was sure that no one had continued to chase after her and began to enjoy the magnificent flowers around her. Most of the buds had closed even before twilight fell, but it was still pretty. Somehow untouched by the madness she'd just escaped. Yuki gave an aggravated groan at the unfairness of the situation. It wasn't likely that she could enjoy simple things like this for much longer. That bastard might not be really intelligent or strong enough to do more than piss her off, but he was stubborn and probably rich. He'd figure out something someday and she felt her luck was beginning to run out.

She was walking on thin ice. Oh, the irony of such stupid phrases. Enough to make one sick. So all her depressing musing had led back to the original question.

Since speaking aloud was supposed to help one organize incoherent thoughts, Yuki addressed the trees. "What can I do to get rid of annoyingly persistent rich boy that I haven't already tried...?"

The trees weren't very forthcoming with ideas, so she continued on her own. "I tried being nice about it. I tried freezing him and running away. I tried throwing random things at him. I tried to incite a riot against him by screaming "help, rape." bribable peasants have NO sense of morality... That leaves things like pretending to give in or finding some nonbribable peasants for a mob... and maybe tricking him into thinking he's having a very weird dream and I'm not even real. He COULD be gullible enough for it to work. Or I could..."

"FUCK!"

Her eyes went a bit wide at the thought of that and she looked accusingly around as to which tree had dared to put forth such an idea. But everything around her seemed normal. And the convenient thing about talking to the trees was supposed to be that they couldn't talk back, right? Or maybe it was that they didn't listen? Yuki's intentional sidetracking search to remember the correct saying was interrupted by a sudden crash, followed by a flow of more curses. Curious, she wandered off the path she had been taking and followed the continued smashing sounds and yelling.

The way sounds echoed through the trees made it a bit difficult to pinpoint exactly where the chaos was going on, but Yuki knew she'd stumbled into the right place when she was nearly beheaded by a flying tree trunk. It was only the tuck and roll instinct saved her from being impaled.

It was perfectly obvious that this was not merely a bizarre animal mating ritual or a lumberjack on drugs, there was a fight going on.

When Yuki was sure that lifting her head wouldn't be met with instant decapitation, she peeked out of the bushes she had dove into for cover. To her right was a grey haired man, glaring daggers at a funny looking blonde guy farther on her left. They were at that part of the fight where they both needed to take a break, so they would stand by and use petty insults.

"How DARE you dishonor your entire bloodline with such betrayal!?" The creepy blonde guy was pretty pissed off about something.

Grey-haired, slightly more sane man was fairly grumpy as well. "Betrayal! A bit strong coming from a being that irrationally believes that he's so superior that he can use anyone as if they were pawns in a chess game!"

"Pot calling the kettle black," Yuki muttered quietly.

Both heads turned immediately in her direction. With a startled "meep!" Yuki tore out of her hiding place. She was saved by the blonde's attempt to attack the other while he was distracted.

The fight had resumed, and she had thankfully been forgotten.

"How do I manage to get myself into even more trouble?" she mumbled after making absolutely sure she hadn't been followed. "Don't they say that spending too much time alone is bad for your sanity or something like that?"

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About a mile west, Honoo was laying awake, thinking the same thing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ There went nothing, indeed.

It's too early in the morning for me to be optimistic or funny. I apologize for my depressing characterizations and my overuse of bad humor.

Don't ask where I'm trying to go with this, because I have no clue! *Does the insane author dance*

I'm rather skeptical about my characterizations, so if you think they're off in some way; say so in a review. Don't worry; I won't bite. I'll just beat the computer, refuse to accept that my writing isn't perfect, set a few things on fire, cry, admit you may be right and then try to commit suicide because this fic isn't 110% perfect in every way. So, have fun! Destroy my sanity! Help me fix this humble little fanfic!