By nightelfcrawler

Warnings: Tasuki's foul mouth

Okay so... in chatting with an rp partner, we ended up discovering that we had been a part of the same fandoms some 10+ years ago. She ran a website that hosted some of my old fics... which made me drag out some old dvds that I'd saved my webpages on... and lo and behold, I found these old fics hanging around still and decided heck why not bring them back. So here they are, a trip down memory lane! These were written in the late 90's and early 2000's when I went by too many psudonyms to remember. I actually forgot who I was until I physically saw the fics listed and went 'oh crap I remember those!'. Ahh memories.

Be warned... these were my first attempts at writing and are likely riddled with grammar, spelling and other noted errors. I've read through them, blushed furiously that I used to write like this, and decided to put them up anyway as-is with no revisions. So please enjoy, but don't bother correcting or whining, they shall be ignored!

Standard disclaimer: These characters aren't mine they're created by the wonderful Watase Yuu, although I wish they were, Houjun-chan is such a hottie! So don't sue me, I need o-ka-ne right now...

The sound of shattering filled the stony silence that had pervaded the room, like a graveyard before dawn. The couch lay overturned, battered from numerous bouts with stuffing hanging out in places, dark stains, and rips running through it's fabric. The only sound, was the low whimpering of the small beagle pup beneath the radiator in the corner.

It had stopped.

After what had seemed like hours, and very well may have been, the horrendous cries, screams, and pleadings had ended in a deathly stillness which made Amy's heart flutter even more rapidly than before.

What had been the outcome?

From her hiding spot up in the small attic lined with insulating and dust, she lay curled up in a small blanket beneath the low sloping roof, barely breathing, barely daring to move or make a sound, lest he should hear her. She knew her life depended on her stillness now, even more than ever.

This had been the worst of it.

He had never come home this drunk before. Every day, he would come home angry, upset, and usually drunk. Every day, her mother would try her best to soothe him, despite the repeated outcome that always followed. Yet her devotion to him was unrequited. She would still come to him, love him, not complain despite the bruises that raised many a question among co-workers. Still….she loved him.

But that was over now.

Amy closed her eyes tightly in fear as she heard him clomping up the stairs heavily, running into the small table at the foot of the stairs, and kicking it aside with a profane curse.

She hugged the small pendant in her hand tightly to her chest, praying for it to keep her safe like it always had. Downstairs, she could hear Stormy's whimpers stop, and she hoped that the pup was alright. He was her only source of solace in the fierce storm she had named him for. Her father hadn't been pleased when he found out they had inherited a dog. But at least he had left the pup alone, unlike the fate of her mother.

Her heart quickened when she heard his fierce shout directly below her upon finding her room vacant. She had never told anyone of her hiding place. No one. Except her Aniki.

She told her Aniki everything. Her fears, her pain, her frustration, and her terror. And he always protected her when she needed it the most. That was why she loved him so much with all her heart. Of course, she didn't even know what he looked like. She had been only 7 when she had last seen him. The only thing she remembered about him was his smile. The same smile she held when on the rare occasions she could bring herself to smile.

She couldn't even remember why her Aniki wasn't with her anymore. All she had to remember him by was some strange symbols carved into a small teardrop shaped polished stone dangling around her neck on a silk cord. She didn't know how she knew, she just did.

She tensed up again, holding her breath, and willing even her heart to stop beating as her father passed beneath her. She heard his thudded footfalls fade as he went down the stairs, and she heard the rumble of his motor, as he skidded off in his car. She must have waited a full hour before daring to move. Daring to uncurl her limbs from their stiff position that they had remained in for the past 5 hours.

And then she slowly lifted the portion of the ceiling away, and softly as a cat on it's feet, lowered herself to the ground.

It was quiet. Far too quiet.

Her eyes darted alarmed back and forth as she silently crept down the stairs, afraid that he might still be there. Afraid that he might have tricked her out of hiding. Her crimson eyes held fear in their brilliant depths, which usually were praised for their extraordinary beauty. Everyone always marveled at her eyes. They were naturally that color, and people found it astonishing. She could recall somewhere in the depths of her unconscious mind that her Aniki had had the same color as her. Even her hair, a near jet shade of black, held a mystic air to it. People often used to tease her about it, for in the light there was a hint of indigo blue in it. She was an enigma to many. But not to her father.

For some odd reason, he had never managed to touch her.

He always threatened it. He would throw things at her, but they would always miss. He would move as if to hit her, then change his mind. He would search about screaming her name, but never find her. He couldn't touch her.

But her mother…..

As she slowly reached the bottom of the stairs, still glancing around frightened, she saw her mother lying huddled in the far corner, a vase laying shattered around her feet, blood trickling from numerous cuts and slashes.

Moving quickly, Amy knelt beside her, reaching out to put a hand on her mother's shoulder and shaking her gently. She did so, again, again, again, again…..before finally, her mother's head slowly raised up and her eyes opened, staring dully back at her.

"Mother…." Her voice was a strangled sob. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she leaned forward and pulled her mother into a tight embrace. She could feel wetness with her fingers as she clutched her mother to her, and didn't bother looking to see what it was.

Then softly, gently and almost non-existent, her mother's voice floated to her ears. "A….my….pl….ease….run….away…..get …a…w…ay…."

Amy shook her head violently, sobs wracking her body in fierce waves. "NO! I won't leave you here! I won't, I won't, I wont'…"

Her mother gently raised a hand and placed it on her back, a gesture of a weak hug, before it slid limply to the ground with a dull thud, as her body went limp in Amy's grasp.

A low moan of sorrow escaped her lips, as she buried her face in her mother's still warm chest, crying long and hard, letting her grief and pain overwhelm her. She didn't even let go when she fell asleep still clutching her mother's body to her….

A cold nose was pressed into her hand and a low whine made her slowly open her eyes. Stormy was staring up at her with wide eyes, and a sorrowful frightened look in them, intelligence very rare in such a young pup.

Amy slowly sat up, gazing down at her mother's still cold form, and letting more tears fall endlessly down her cheeks again.

Then a sharp sound broke into her thoughts. She sat up startled, just in time to see the door break open, and see her father standing in the doorway, glaring hatefully down at her. "There you are you strumpet!" He started towards her, a bottle of whiskey in one hand, half full, his eyes bloodshot and red rimmed, a leering smile on his face. "Stay put now and I'll be nice."

Suddenly, a cold wash of anger flooded her mind in a sudden burst of fury. She stood up quickly, a boldness and calm demeanor on her face. Startled, this made her father pause and stare at her uncertainly. She merely squared her shoulders and stared him right in the eyes, the pup cowering behind her ankles, his small body shivering. In a flat, cold, expressionless voice, she spoke what she had been wanting to say for the many years since the abuse had begun. "Go to hell you bastard!"

A transformation of his features then went underway. From shock, anger flooded his face, turning it beet red and his eyes turning deadly white. She just returned his gaze expressionlessly, her hand gripped firmly on her pendant as he began taking large storming steps towards her.

She felt nothing. The world had ceased to exist to her. All she could see was a calm meadow, with someone sitting against a tree smiling welcoming at her, a lunch spread out on a cloth, and his smile. Her Aniki.

Of course, her father hadn't been expecting the crimson explosion of light that suddenly erupted from her and engulfed the entire house in a brilliant illumination. And he hadn't expected to see her vanish right before his eyes, leaving no trace behind her, even having Stormy vanish right beside her, like ghosts into twilight….

Her eyes opened slowly. She was staring at a raised ceiling with wooden beams. She blinked a few times, not sure if she was dreaming or not, before slowly sitting up in the bed that she was laying in. The room she was in was small, sparsely furnished, with a small paper covered window to her right. A small table was beside the large bed, and on it was a bowl of water and a cloth. Other than that, there was nothing else in the room, but the architecture alone was enough to make her look around confused. It was oriental in style, including lanterns with a candle flickering inside it.

When she had sat up, Stormy had raised his head from it's resting position on her legs. He gaze up at her, his tail wagging happily that his mistress was awake at last. He immediately bounded over to her, and began washing her face with wiggles of joy and happy bubbling yips. She managed a smile and hugged him to her, managing to quelch his bathing of her face.

Then she heard footsteps and strange voices speaking outside the room, and before long the door was pushed open and two people stepped into the room. Immediately she tensed up, beginning to get over her wonder and having it replaced by fear.

The first man who stepped into the room looked over to her, then smirked and glanced at his fiery headed companion who held a tray of steaming food in his hands. Giving his dark haired companion a glare, the red-head stepped forward and placed the try on the small table beside the water bowl before turning to her and speaking in a rich mellow voice. "Daijoubu?"

She blinked, not understanding him. "What?"

The red-head looked confused for a minute, then frowned and spoke something rapid in that foreign tongue to her, then seeing her blank look threw a glance to his friend who promptly shrugged and folded his arms, replying in the same tongue.

She looked nervously between the two. They were dressed oddly. The dark haired one seemed to wear some over jacket and a head band. He also had a long scar running down his cheek, but his eyes danced merrily. He was leaning back against the wall observing her casually, but she felt no threat in his gaze. The other man had a full head of bright orangy red hair, and wore just a plain white shirt, but it was unlike any she had seen. It was loose, and buttoned on the side of his chest, and tied around his waist with a loose maroon piece of cloth. Both of them wore black pants with tall leather boots.

Seeing that she wasn't understanding him, he pointed to the tray and nodded to her. "Taberu." He then stood and looked down at her with his amber almond shaped eyes and smiled friendly at her, a pair of small fangs glistening, then turned and headed for the door, his darker haired companion exiting before him, and closing the door as they left.

She swallowed nervously and slowly pushed the blankets off of herself, sliding out of bed. She was still wearing her own clothes, though her jacket had been taken off and was laying across the foot of her bed. She cautiously stepped up to the tray, and examined the food. It was Chinese cuisine she discovered, complete with chopsticks to eat it with. Suddenly realizing she was famished, and having no idea where she was or why she was there, she decided that she couldn't be in a worse situation than she already was, and so hesitantly began to eat the food. It was delicious, and in a short time, gone.

When she had finished, she lay the chopsticks down, then wandered over to the window and slowly pushed it open. The sight before her astonished her profoundly. Outside, in the dim light of the fading sunlight, a huge range of mountains spread out beneath the structure. Small clouds dotted the crevices of the jagged peaks, and she could see the night birds beginning to stir around the trees. Feeling overwhelmed, she almost didn't hear the polite knock and the door opening.

She turned to see the red-head step in and smile at her. She turned to him and watched in amazement as Stormy bounded up to him with his tail wagging. The man seemed unsure of the dog, and glanced down with a strange expression on his face that was almost comical. She managed to smile as the man walked over to her tray and picked up some leftover meat and tossed it to the dog, who dashed after it yipping eagerly. He grinned then, and said something lightly in a joking voice winking at her. She managed to smile back, getting his gist.

Then he turned back to her and looked her up and down. She felt a feeling of hesitation and squirmed uncomfortable under his scrutiny. Noticing this, he just grinned again and looked back to the dog. He knelt down and stroked the pup's head, and promptly received many slobbers over his face, which made a disgusted comical look pass over his face, making her laugh softly. He gazed up at her and snorted, then grabbed a chair and sat backwards in it looking over at her. "Tasuki." He said pointing at himself.

She nodded and grabbed another chair and sat down as well crossing her legs casually, feeling slightly more comfortable around him now. "Amy." She said, with a faint smile.

He nodded and glanced at the pup with a raised eyebrow. She smiled and lowered her hands, and the pup bounded into them and she hugged him to her. "Stormy."

He nodded faintly, obviously wanting to ask her more, but not sure how to go about it. She herself had many questions, but with the language barrier, it was near to impossible. Deciding to try it anyway, she gestured around the room. "Where am I?"

He seemed to think for a moment then answered. "Leikaku-zan."

She wondered what that meant, obviously getting that it was her location, but what did that mean then? What country was she in if they spoke this weird language. "Is this China?"

He looked confused. "Naya?"

She sighed quietly and shook her head. "Never mind." She stroked the pup hesitantly not looking at Tasuki. There was something about him….she felt different looking at him than she had before. She wasn't sure what that meant.

Then he suddenly stood from the chair and gestured for her to do the same. "Iku." He grinned and nodded outside. She gathered he was going to show her around, and so stood with Stormy in her arms and nodded following him outside.

She was slightly startled when he opened the door and half a dozen other men, the dark haired one from before among them, scattered away looking like deer caught in the path of oncoming headlights. Tasuki snorted and shot something at them showing his fangs and glaring jokingly. The dark haired one sauntered up to him, and draped his arm around Tasuki's shoulder and grinned patting his back and speaking in a saucy joking voice. Tasuki shoved him away with a fierce blush rising to his face, and she caught the idea that the guys were teasing him about her, and this made her blush a bit, causing the other guys to laugh heartily. Tasuki just looked even more angry and stormed past them speaking something harshly, causing the guys to laugh more.

She stood there uncertainly, holding the pup and watching them. The dark haired one saw this, and put a hand on her shoulder and smiled warmly down at her. He said something in a warm voice and elbowed one of the guys in the ribs then winked at her. She had received the impression that while these men liked to joke, they wouldn't hurt her, and so she smiled tentatively as he nodded for her to follow Tasuki. She did so, glancing hesitantly back to see the dark haired man thwap a few guys on the head before dragging them off down the hall in the opposite direction.

Catching up with Tasuki, she saw his face was still red and his eyes avoiding hers, and that caused some merriment to rise up inside her. She smiled. "Your friends are interesting that's for sure."

He just looked at her, a disgusted look on his face having gotten that she was probably teasing him too and shrugged speaking something and grinning lightly.

They walked along silently, and she gazed out across the mountains now fairly dark and dim with the light vanishing with the day. The air was turning colder, and she wished she had brought her jacket, but shrugged it off. With each step, they seemed to come across new things that amazed her. By the time they had gone through the entire structure, she had come to the conclusion that this was a place consisting only of guys, and that was probably the reason they had teased Tasuki so much.

Then, they were back at her room again, and he stopped and leaned against the railing looking at a loss for words. She stood there, having put the pup down who was now snoozing at her feet, and just waited uncomfortable. There was so much she wanted to know. She sighed lightly and reached up to her neck where the pendant dangled, and hugged it with her hand wishing that her Aniki would help her through this.

Tasuki saw this, and raised an eyebrow. "Nan da?" He reached out a hand questioningly, and she hesitantly looked at him before untying the pendant and holding it out to him. He took it and looked at it. Then his eyes promptly widened in surprise and he looked sharply up at her. She blinked and gazed back confused. "What?"

He glanced down at the pendant, then stepped forward and held it out to her, pointing at the symbols. She looked up, a spark of hope shining in her eyes. "You can read it?"

He frowned slightly, and shrugged, then ran a finger over the symbols speaking something softly and almost reverently. She looked up at him, eyes pleading. "What does it say….I want to know so much. When someone can finally read it, I can't understand a word they say!"

He looked slightly startled at her tone of voice, pleading, desperate, and hopeful. He gazed back at her evenly his eyes looking her up and down questioningly, then a grin tugging at his mouth. "Yosha!" He handed it back to her, and she held it in her hands watching him questioningly. He spoke rapidly, pointing at her pendant, and then out across the mountains. He grinned at her, then walked to her bedroom door and opened it, gesturing for her to go in and bowing slightly to her. She hesitantly went in, glancing back as he said something, then smiled and shut it gently after her, and she heard his footsteps walk off.

Confused and worn out, she slowly walked over to her bed and sat down, petting Stormy absently as he bounded up to her wanting attention. She had no idea what was going on…apparently something on the pendant had made Tasuki become excited. She wondered what it said, and sighed quietly falling back on the bed with a thump and staring at the ceiling for a long time before slowly tugging her shoes off and sliding beneath the covers with Stormy snuggling beside her. It took her some time to fall asleep, but once she did, she slept well and soundly.

She was awoken abruptly by the door opening and a light shining in her face. She opened her eyes and squinted up, seeing Tasuki dressed in an over coat with some strange thing strapped to his back, a lantern in his hand and a grin on his face. "Ohayo! Mezate!" He threw something down on the bed as the crisp cold air wafted in causing her to shiver. "Hayaku ne." He placed the lantern down along with a small tray of something hot, and grinned, then closed the door, leaving.

She shivered and got out of the warm covers and picked up the cloth he had thrown down, and found it to be a large jacket. She quickly put it on, though the sleeves were to long for her, and found it kept her quiet warm. She then ate the food, and had barely finished when Tasuki opened the door again and stepped in grinning widely. "Sumasete?"

She looked up with a questioning look on her face. "Where are we going?"

He just grinned wider and started out the door, turning to wait for her. Sighing, she whistled to the pup, and followed him, wrapping the warm coat around her as she stepped out into the cold air. She was slightly shocked to find a fine blanket of snow covering the ground. Following Tasuki through the halls, she gazed out and found she could see a lush green valley spread out beneath the mountains below. She could see that farms were spread all over, and marveled at the vastness of the landscape. She almost missed it when Tasuki turned a corner and stepped out into the snow.

She quickly caught up with him, almost slipping on the slippery patch on the steps when she saw two horses standing saddled and laden with supplies being held by the dark haired…BLUE? He had BLUE hair….. She rubbed her eyes just to make sure, and stared in astonishment. Blue hair…..He had dark blue hair…..Thoughtfully, she ran a hand through her own dark hair, and looked down, nearly jumping out of her skin when she saw that it's own indigo color was brighter than usual. There was no doubt about it, her hair was much bluer here than she had seen it before….

She suddenly snapped back to reality when she heard Tasuki ask her a question, and she glanced up to see all the men gazing at her bemused. She quickly smiled and shook her head. "Aaahh..I'm ok!" They shrugged and Tasuki turned to her and nodded to the horse, asking her a definite question. She glanced up at the horse uncertainly. She had been raised in the city. She had never ridden, let alone SEEN a horse in person before. She looked at him helplessly.

He snorted and the other guys began laughing teasingly, punching him in the arm, and his face reddened. He turned to her, and spoke in a serious voice to her nodding at the horse. She gathered he was asking if she'd try it, and hesitantly she nodded. "I guess, though if I don't stay on…." That seemed to be enough for him, and he knelt down making a cup with his hands for her to step on. She grasped the horse's mane, and put a foot in his hand, and nearly found herself flying up and over the horse as he boosted her. Luckily she managed to land in the saddle and straighten herself out, still sitting uncomfortably and glancing down at him. He was grinning up at her, until someone tugged his arm speaking to him. He glanced down and looked at the pup staring up at them with his tail wagging. He frowned slightly, then went over to her horse and tied another satchel on, then lifted the pup up and put him in, tying the bag around his neck loosely, so he could move, but not jump out of the bag. He grinned and winked at her, making her smile at him warmly.

Then he walked over to his own horse, and leaped onto it, jerking it around to face the others and shouting something to them. The all grinned and shouted something back and he nodded to her and started walking his horse down a path hidden in the snow. She nearly fell off when her horse started to move, and managed to maintain her balance by grabbing to the saddle and the mane of the horse. She held the reins, but didn't do anything with them since she really didn't' know how to control the horse in the first place.

And so they headed out. She glanced around admiring the view once she had gotten a hang of riding. They were making their way slowly down the mountain, Tasuki rambling off just to fill the silence, even if she didn't understand. She appreciated that, hearing his voice made her feel more at ease. She wondered where she was. Not that she minded, but she would like to know how she had gotten here, where here was, and what was going on. Tasuki seemed nice enough, and by now she had decided to trust him. She had little others to trust, and with her mother dead, she certainly had nothing back home to go back to.

Absentmindedly, she clutched the pendant to her wondering what was in store for her.

Tasuki pulled up his horse when a low rumble droned through the air. She pulled her own to a stop and looked around nervously. They had been riding most of the day, going who knows where, but they had passed beautiful fields, farmers working, and many new and interesting things that fascinated her because they were foreign, but yet something flickered in the back of her mind that stimulated something like a memory. It was new, yet somehow familiar, like she had experienced it in a dream before.

But now, they were in the midst of a forest, and all afternoon it had grown constantly overcast and threatening. Now as thunder rumbled thickly, Tasuki sighed and glanced at her speaking calmly. She figured he was saying they'd better stop and make shelter, since the grove of trees they were in was fairly well sheltered.

He dismounted, and she slowly slid her leg over the side of the horse, and promptly found herself in a pile on the ground. Tasuki rushed over and knelt down next to her, a look of concern on his face. She smiled shakily, and accepted his hand and pulled herself to her shaking legs. They hurt like they had never hurt before. She nearly collapsed again, but managed to save herself by grabbing onto him for support. He seemed a bit surprised, but helped her to stand up more and grinned down teasingly speaking to her. She groaned but smiled. "Yeah, so I'm stiff. Is it always like this when you ride? Geeze." He shook his head in amusement, and making sure she could stand well enough now, he led the two horses to a nearby tree and tethered them. She leaned over and stretched her legs one by one, groaning as her muscles screamed at her. Then she hesitantly went over and untied the bag where the pup was curled up asleep in it. He had enjoyed riding about, and had pleasantly yipped at the animals as they had passed by. But after many hours of seeing these new sounds and smells, he had grown tired and curled up, pulling his head inside the sack and falling asleep. Now as she lifted him out, he yawned sleepily and stretched, then trotted off to a local tree to do his business.

She walked over to a tree, and sat down, groaning as her bottom ached from hours of riding. She didn't know if she could get on a horse again…..

She heard Tasuki approaching, and opened her eyes to see him dump a pile of sticks on the ground with some branches and grass. She crossed her sore legs and leaned forward as she heard another rumble of thunder. He crouched down arranging the wood, then reached back to the strange object that had been strapped to his back and pulled it out. It was a large metal fan of some sort, and she almost laughed aloud. "What are you going to do with that? Strike rocks against it? Or is it some cooking tool?"

He stared blankly up at her, confused by her joking demeanor, then grinned and gestured while speaking for her to back away. She did so, amused and watched with her arms crossed. He pointed the fan at the fire and said two words fiercely. "Lekka Shinen~!"

She nearly jumped out of her skin when the fan flared to life shooting flames into the wood, glowing a fiery color before fading, leaving the sticks burning with bright warmth. Tasuki grinned seeing her shocked expression, and laughed in that irritating way he tended to laugh. She smiled nervously. "Geeze…what next….fire from a fan….that's probably the weirdest thing I've seen." She shook her head, scratching the pup's head who had come seeking attention.

Tasuki crouched down by the fire arranging it a bit, then stood and grabbed something from the satchels on their horses and brought out some food. He heated it a bit sitting it on the fan over the fire to warm it, then passing it to her. She smiled her thanks and ate gratefully, completely famished. Ever since she had come here, her appetite had magnified completely. She had been eating more, and feeling entirely revitalized. As if she was back in her natural habitat…she then realized….she was happy. She really was. After so long, after so much pain and heartache, she had found a peaceful place where there were nice people who cared for her, despite that they couldn't understand one another or know who each other was other than names.

Tasuki gave a whistle and cried out to the pup who had gone off exploring. "Sutorumi! Kuru!" She couldn't help but laugh. The way he tried to pronounce Stormy's name was ludicrous. Of course he called her Ame since Amy was different. She couldn't help but laugh.

Tasuki stood up and looked about. The pup wasn't coming. That was unusual. She called out herself then, for he always came at her call. "Stormy! Here boy!" They waited, but still the pup didn't come. She frowned, beginning to be a bit worried. Tasuki shrugged and said something, then started off into the woods after the pup. "Be careful!" He grinned and winked, then disappeared into the darkness.

She sat there, the coat wrapped around her tightly for some time, listening to the rain patter softly down around outside the tight grove of trees. Lighting flashed occasionally, and thunder would rumble back and forth from time to time. She waited a long time, but still Tasuki didn't come back, and she began to worry about him. What if he had gotten lost or hurt? He was her only source of safety in this strange world, and if she lost him she didn't know what she would do. So she lay down and curled up by the fire, feeding it branches from time to time to keep it going, and eventually drifting off to sleep.

She woke with a start when she heard someone approaching, and lifted her head. "Tasuki? That you?" But her heart skipped a beat when she saw the form of someone who was not Tasuki come into the small grove. The firelight was dim, but she could tell it wasn't Tasuki, and she sat up pulling the coat around her feeling frightened. This man was slightly shorter, and wore a strange blanket draped over his shoulder, a wide brimmed conical hat, and carried a strange stick. He smiled as he stepped into the area and spoke in a friendly smooth tenor voice.

She watched him uncertainly, and then realized the man was soaked to the bone. Then she heard a small pitiful mew, and both the man and herself looked down to where a small feline head poked out of his blanket, also soaked. He spoke softly and picked the cat up from his hiding spot, and gently set him down on the ground next to the fire. Smiling, Amy watched the cat shake it's self off spreading water everywhere getting droplets on herself, and causing her to laugh softly. The man also laughed, and removed his hat which hadn't kept the rainwater from leaking through onto his head very much, since his hair was plastered to his head.

She smiled and gestured for him to sit down. "I'll get a blanket for you and your cat." He looked up at her curiously as she spoke and walked over to the horses and pulled out a couple of blankets and tossed them to him. He smiled gratefully and picked the cat up in one and ruffled it's fur dry then wrapped it around it and put the cat by the fire. The cat promptly sat down, wiggled out of the blanket, and began washing itself. She smiled and tossed some more wood on the fire as the man removed his sopping wet blanket and wrung out his shirt as best he could before wrapping the blanket she had given him around himself. He then smiled at her, a rather comical effect. It seemed this man's face was ever smiling, his eyes were turned up in the most peculiar way making it seem like his face was frozen in a sunny smile. He spoke to her, and she could hear the gratitude in his voice, and she smiled and nodded slightly. He then asked a question and watched her reaction.

She shook her head uncomprehendingly. "I'm sorry, I don't understand." The man seemed to nod at this, and reached up to a strange set of beads around his neck and made some strange gesture, grunting slightly as his hand moved. Then he lifted his head back towards her. "This better no da?"

Her mouth promptly fell open in astonishment. "You….you can speak my language?"

He chuckled slightly and a small smile tugged at his mouth. "Not really. I just used my magic to act as a translator no da."

She blinked. "Magic?"

He nodded and ran a hand through is dripping wet hair, squeezing some water out of it. "Yes."

She realized that what he said was true. Though his words came out in English, his mouth was moving in a different pattern. It reminded her of watching old movies from foreign countries that were dubbed into English. Relieved, though she was still having a hard time coping with the idea of magic, she smiled. "Well, thank goodness. I was about to go insane cause no one could understand me around here!"

He nodded and smiled again. "I can understand how that would be hard on you no da." He rung out his blanket and stood and draped it on a low tree branch to dry. "Thank you for letting me borrow your fire no da."

"No problem. I'm glad for the company." Then she thought of something suddenly. "Say, you haven't seen a guy with red hair and a metal fan attached to his back wandering around have you?"

The man turned looking surprised. "Tasuki? You mean Tasuki?"

It was her turn to look surprised now. "Yeah! You know him?"

He nodded, a fond smile flickering onto his face and a look of nostalgia arising. "Hai! Tasuki's a close friend of mine no da! I haven't seen him for a while though no da." He chuckled. "Well, strange that our paths may cross here no da!" He sat back down stroking the cat who promptly climbed into his lap and began purring.

"Great!" She grinned. "He's a nice guy, even if I couldn't understand him. Say, what's your name?"

"Ah! Forgive me for being impolite no da. I'm Chichiri no da. And this is Tama-chan."

She smiled. "Hello there Tama-chan." She scratched behind his ears and the cat lazily licked the tip of her finger and purred louder. She smiled and sat back. "He's cute." Then her smile vanished. "I had a dog…..his name is Stormy, but he wandered off somewhere and Tasuki went to go look for him…." She glanced out into the woods. "He's been gone for a long time….I'm really worried."

Chichiri frowned and lowered his head slightly, his hand moving to his necklace again. She watched him as he frowned slightly in concentration, then looked back up. "I can barely pick his ki up….. he's some distance away no da…." Chichiri looked worried. "I can't say for sure where he is though no da…."

She felt her heart quicken in fear. "God….what happened to him….." Her voice shook slightly, enough to make Chichiri lay a hand on her shoulder reassuringly. "Don't worry. I'm sure he's ok no da. Tasuki gets into trouble often, but he can take care of himself, don't worry no da." Chichiri smiled at her. "It's a mess out there tonight no da….why don't we catch some sleep, then we can go after him in the morning no da?"

She nodded slowly, hearing the wisdom in his words. "Yeah….yeah you're right. I guess there's nothing we can do tonight…." She sighed and moved over closer to the fire and lay down staring into it. "I guess we'll just have to wait."

Chichiri sprawled out on the ground opposite her. She could just barely make out his face on the other side of the flames. "I wouldn't worry about him no da. If he were in trouble, then I would know it no da."

She looked over at him lazily. "You two are close aren't you?"

He smiled fondly and propped his head up on one elbow. "Well, we've been through a lot together no da."

She smiled and folded her arms under her chin watching the fire. "Like?"

He chuckled and shook his head. "We are both something called Seishi no da. We have special abilities, and were chosen to help protect the land's guardian when she came no da. That all ended a little over a year ago, and we went our own ways no da."

She nodded slightly, not really understanding. "So….that metal fan that shoots fire? Is that his ability?"

Chichiri nodded. "Yes, it's called a tessen, and Tasuki uses that as his weapon no da."

"And a convenience to light fires."

He laughed. "And that too no da."

She smiled and closed her eyes sleepily. "And yours is magic?"


"Mmm…" She felt warm and drowsy. The world was swirling around her in many different colors, and she smiled to herself as it faded away. She could vaguely hear Chichiri's soft voice saying goodnight before she fell asleep beneath the canopy of trees.