[Author's Note] All future chapters have finally been migrated to the sequel. Go my minions of darkness! Go find my sequel!

It was midnight, and Anastasia was running. Not from anything, or after anything, but for the joy of it. She hopped from rooftop to rooftop, clearing the jumps with a certainty—a peace of mind—which other folk never got to depend on. Life was alive while she was moving: If she was ever too tired, she'd know, and if she was ever off-balance, she'd know, and she feared nothing up above the world.

Most people probably had no idea how big traffic lights were, for the same reason the moon looked roughly the same size as the sun. But when she was tight-roping across the street intersection, on cords sturdy and thick beneath her feet, she could see the lights were three and a half feet tall. At thirteen (and still waiting on a growth spurt that might never come) she was only taller than them by another foot and a half; they came up to her chest, and were particularly interesting to try and circumnavigate while fourteen feet above hard pavement and avoiding eyes.

The wind picked up. She lunged forward and grabbed the heavy support cable with both hands, and swung under it as she folded her knees about it in a safety clamp. She'd monkey her way the rest of the distance; besides, she needed to exercise her arms anyway after all this jumping. She slid halfway down the pole at the end and found a nice fire escape to alight on. She sat down and relaxed for a bit; she took a sip of water, and thought about how she was hungry and ought to find a midnight snack. That would probably require putting regular pants and her hoodie back on, hmm.

Then she quickly stood up straight.

Gunshots. They weren't coming from Cashew's, the dive bar down the street. They were coming from overhead and somewhere to the north. She stiffened and then quickly unzipped her backpack and stuffed the water back in. She grabbed a few implements and strapped them into her outfit, and then hung the backpack up on an overhead light and stepped over the escape railing.

She hurried along the shoddy copper wall pipes, darting down the alleyway. Fence ahead? Her gaze wove up the wall and she followed it and hit the brick at a horizontal wall-run. Push. She shoved off the brick, toed the fence, pushed off of it, and landed on the ground beyond. She hit an intersection of tightly crammed buildings. Left? Crack. The commotion was moving. She bolted to try and intercept whatever was happening. She crossed a narrow street, and slid into another alleyway. Where? She wanted to see!

Not to intervene. Just to-

A premonition crested over her and she skid to a halt and backpedaled, and grabbed out two of her throwing knives. An instant later, a heavy and thunderous boom hit the roof of the dumpster just in front of her, and dented it, and then slid off. Her skin prickled at the nearness of it.

"Ow-!" a soft (and almost guilty-sounding) mutter clued her in that the 'heavy' thing had been a person, and probably male, though the darkness nearly occluded her view of him. He wasn't even on his feet yet when two slender men appeared over the edge of the roof. One had a gun and fired off a burst of buckshot into the alleyway (though he missed) while the other jumped down gracefully to pursue on foot, with his hand and boot against the brick to slow his fall. Jesus! They weren't the right build for common thugs and bruisers, and were wearing some kind of martial arts uniform—not a gi but maybe a shozoku—and they seemed to be wearing black masks without proper eye holes. The one dropping into the alleyway was carrying a katana.

Their quarry rolled upright and tried to bolt deeper into the alleyway. The long-barreled shotgun tracked him from high above, and she could already see a messy future.

That left only one thing to do. "Lookie!" she shouted to startle everyone.

Then came the throw: Fingers clasped the handle, elbow wove first back then forward, arm pulled the hand in from the side, body tilted to angle everything up, fingers brushed the handle in a sliding release...! The knife left her fingers, light as a silver feather, swinging out of the alleyway as its trajectory corrected from a ninety-degree angle to a full forward stab. It had a long distance to clear heading upward to the roof, and she was aiming for a small target.

Next, second throw already coming: Fingers pinched the blade itself, weapon held upright with the tip down, elbow wove to pull the full usage of the arm muscles into the snap. Two hundred and seventy degree flip. The knife left her hand like a baseball, rotating handle over tip as it cleared the shorter distance.

Th-thuck the collisions overlapped, each of them as sharp as the other, one in a throat, the other between ribs. Two bodies listed, began to collapse, one in a messy sputter of red. She twisted about, towards the street, where no footsteps gave away that she was about to be 'surprised.' She plucked a third knife from a sheathe on her abdomen: thicker, heavier, because her future reflections were softer-edged.

Another martial artist with a black mask slid into view of the alleyway, and by then her knife was already airborne. The blade hit into something like a leather breastplate, but sank deep, and her target twisted as he fell. Three white spaces in the future. Three bodies.


She stood for there a moment, heart hammering wildly, listening and looking for reflections. No more danger? Not in the near future, anyway. But her brows furrowed and she turned about just in time to hear the heavy, hollow-sounding scrape of a manhole cover being removed.

"Excuse me!" she shouted indignantly at the black alleyway. "Are you actually trying to escape into a sewer without even stopping to thank me!?"

The scrape paused. A meek, male voice responded: "Um..."

She leaned back and deflated a little. Whoever this was, they didn't sound particularly old despite what the dented dumpster had to say about the matter. What had he done to anger people in masks with samurai swords and shotguns? "Because that would be very rude of you," she continued her reproach, still grumpy but now very curious.

"Thank you," he answered tightly, and again she thought that his voice sounded pretty young.

"Well," she cleared her throat and tried to be less mean. "You're welcome. Who are you?"

"I... ...need to go."

"What, just like that?" She wrinkled her nose, for it was she who was normally trying to avoid talking to other people; and at the strange role reversal, she suddenly and very badly wanted him not to flee. "Look, as one peculiar kid out at midnight to another," she began hurriedly, uncertain where this would lead, "you probably can't surprise me."

He made a sound like a laugh-that-wasn't. "Doubt it."

Rack your brain. "Does that mean you're a... mutant or something?" Ooh, good guess; Jean Grey's school for special children is just up the Hudson, after all. Let it never be said that New York lacks for mutants!

He was silent, but she was nearly sure he hadn't escaped down into the sewer without her hearing something. Those ladder rungs made a loud echo when one climbed down them, and she knew from experience.

"You're not going to scare me." Why do I feel like I'm going to panic? Don't run away! "What's your name?"

"...Sandro," he supplied.

"'Sandro?'" Her nose wrinkled because she'd only heard a name like that once before. "Like the painter? Sandro Botticelli?"

He reacted with startled incredulity: "You just know a bunch of painters' names off the top of your head for some reason?"

She scowled a little. "Look I just killed three people to save your sorry ass. You've no business critiquing my Jeopardy skills at this juncture!" What? Wait! Staahpp...! Don't drive him away!

She heard a scrape, followed by the tinny, wobbling echoes of the manhole cover as it slipped back into place. She swore under her breath on the realization he'd used the cover of her sass to escape.

But, a few second later, her conclusion was proven wrong, because he suddenly stepped out into the street lighting. He was tall. She wasn't quite five feet tall, and he was probably just shy of six and towered over her. He wore a heavy brown trench coat with a high collar and a hood, and his face was too shadowed to make out anything. He even kept his hands in his pockets. She could tell his shoulders were broad at least, and his limbs didn't look ungainly, and she could see the edges of some kind of curved weapon strapped against his back.

"Happy?" he asked, and for all that he was the size of an adult, his voice still sounded burred like a boy's did midway through puberty.

She furrowed brows at him, confused. "How... old are you?"

He scuffed a foot for a moment before answering. "Thirteen."

Her eyes widened. "You can't be thirteen!" she squawked, loudly. "You're enormous!"

His body language seemed to fold backwards a bit in surprise, but then he said in a recalcitrant tone, "You haven't seen my father."

She squinted and gaped at him a moment. But he was being earnest, wasn't she? She straightened up and beamed at him. "I'm thirteen," she laughed. "Wow. The height difference is sort of hilarious. I mean. Um." She rubbed at the back of her neck, her hood. "Do you want to get a coke and some food, maybe, and you can tell me what I stepped in?"

"I can't go into a restaurant..." Sandro muttered, though he glanced around at the bodies she/they had left in the alleyway and seemed to agree it was a bit of a mess and deserved an explanation.

She shrugged and looked at the ground. "There's a twenty-four hour pizza stand down the streets. They have a bunch outdoor seating, but it's not really lit up at night cause no one goes there after dark." She peeked up at him hopefully. "Would that work? I'll pay..."

Hmm, looks like she's about to run into trouble ;) But you! You've reached the end of 'Buttercup' XD. That's right! THE END! The story is over!

"Wait!" you say, "It can't be done!" And you are right. But for the next chapter, you've got to go to the sequel! Click on my profile name and look for 'Clown Girl and Ninja Turtle.' And no, I totally didn't spoiler anything with that title; There are only so many possible identities for the mutant trench-coated ninja named after a Renaissance Painter!

We're also jumping categories, from Nolan's Batman to the Ninja Turtles. I have a funny feeling we'll be back one day (psst, I know we will) but for now... TO THE SEQUEL!