Chapter One

My skinny body couldn't run fast enough.

The demons were right behind me and I tried to hurry, my paws skidding on the slippery leaves that littered the foggy swamp as I ran from them. I was frightened to think that they would try to use me.

"Run," my mother had then said my name, but since it had happened so long ago, I had forgotten my name. She had then stroked my fur with a hairless hand, a hand that I longed for even now, when I should be concentrating on running from the demons.

Her blue eyes had been very dark. "Don't let them catch you and find out that they are wrong." Then she had started sobbing.

I mewled in confusion, snuggling close to her. She looked down at me and sobbed harder and I could almost hear the unspoken plea in my mind. She wished to understand what I could say. And sometimes, she could. But now it was too late.

I was a half-demon. A cross between a Nekomata and a human. My mother was the human, and my father was a full-bred Nekomata. He had fallen for my mother, and she had told me that even my father was a half-demon himself. He changed into his human form every waning moon, and one of those moons, they had been together. When I was born as human with bright blue eyes, my mother and father were joyful, hoping that I wouldn't turn into a Nekomata. Then, on a waxing moon, I had changed while my mother was out fetching water and my father was fetching firewood. I had been asleep with one of the villagers who had watched me.

The villager had said that I hadn't awoken at all during the transformation. When my mother and father had come back to see that I was a Nekomata, my father was perplexed. He told my mother, who was upset because she had believed that I was human, that I was probably half-demon somehow, and that her family must have had a demon ancestor. My mother had shaken her head, but my father had persisted that this could have been the only reason that I could change into a Nekomata like I was a full demon.

From then on, I was a full Nekomata demon. Every waning, waxing, full and new moon, I would change into my human form. But otherwise, I was my 'true' self, as my father had said, every day. The transformations sometimes varied. Some happened in the morning of one of the certain moon phases and lasted until the next morning, and some started at sunset or midnight to last 'til dawn.

My mother had taken those few opportunities to talk to me while she could, because when I was a Nekomata, she couldn't understand me.

My father only could when I was a Nekomata or not, because he was half-demon, and was also in his Nekomata form most of the time.

The rare days when my father and I was both human, my mother would spend all the time she could with the both of us.

Over time though, my mother aged. We all aged, but my father and I would live much longer than my mother because we were half-demons. When my mother was nearly elderly, my father took great care in spending more time with her.

Only my mother's closest friends knew about us. Most of the entire village thought my mother was odd because she always had two Nekomata demons with her. They always asked her why she kept us around, and to them, she said that we chased rats away, though I did once. One villager, probably having seen my father when he was a human slip into my mother's hut, asked about a strange young man he'd see around the same time every night. My mother insisted that the man was her nephew, though it was my father.

Sometimes the villagers complained about how we looked, considering other Nekomatas weren't so different from us.

My father didn't follow the traditional pattern of Nekomatas; he had deep silver markings and the same reddish orange eyes, while I had the normal black markings and dark blue eyes.

My mother was elderly when my father began teaching me how to defend myself. When he was human, and I was my normal self, he had taken me to the village river and showed me show to catch fish. He thought that when he was a human, I was more alert in our lessons.

After I had reached ten human years old, -my father and I aged physically like humans, but we lived longer much lifespans. My father stopped physically aging after he had reached thirty two human years. He was really several hundred years old - I began to worry about my mother. Her health had started to fail, and she was constantly sick.

So she wasn't prepared, no one was, when demons had attacked the village. My father had changed into his bigger form of his Nekomata, his 'battle form' my mother told me, and went to help the demon slayers in our village fight the demons off. I had been in my Nekomata form, and though I was ten and sometimes human, I had my demon instincts.

A two-headed demon with a purple human body, except for his belly, had burst into our hut and reached for my mother with long purple arms. I bit onto the one of the fingers, and the demon screamed. He threw me against the wall and I lay winded when I saw him grabbing for my mother again. He held a wooden spear in his hand-

He had demanded for something. He asked for a girl, with a particular name-

I nearly stopped when I felt water under my paws. I panted when I glanced behind me and ran off for drier land when I saw that the demons were still behind. I was so close to being free from them.

I looked up at the dark sky and saw that the waning moon was almost directly in the sky. I fiercely hoped that tonight would be the one night I wouldn't change.

I had been looking for shelter in a tree to sleep in once I changed into my human form. Once I had found one with branches forming a wide V, I had started looking around for bushes with berries that I could take with me in the tree.

Then I had walked around the wrong tree onto a trail where a man was being eaten by the demons that were chasing me now.

"It's the demon slayer's, Kirara!" One of them had shouted. The demon was similar to the one that had grabbed at my mother and had nearly killed her. "She might know where the sacred jewel is."

It was hard for me to keep my eyes open as I ran. I was exhausted. Being a Nekomata nearly all of my life, and after the attack on my village, I wasn't eating as well as I should have. When I turned into my human form, it hadn't been easy to switch my diet. The only thing both of my forms could stomach was fish, but fish wasn't filling.

Berries were tolerable too, but "why eat berries when there's a river next to you?", my father had asked when he saw me nibbling on blueberries one night on a waning moon. We both had been human that night, and that was the night my father had told me to start waking up early so he could train me to be a full Nekomata.

My mother would be on the sidelines to help me become a full human whenever I changed-

"Forget her." The demon farthest behind me barked to the one closer to me. I could hear their heavy pants from where I stand, my paws halfway sunk into mud. "We've been chasing her for hours. You're the fastest one, Midoka, but even you seem tired."

Midoka had green paint coloring his body except his belly. He turned to the one speaking. "Fadiku, we're so close." He pointed to me. "Kirara is right there."

I shake as I wait for their next move. I backed away a step and shook harder as I waited.

Fadiku rolled his eyes and turned to the one I had no name for yet. "Come on. We have her scent."

I watched in confusion as they turned around and headed off into the dark trees. The fog swallows them up.

I whirled back around, feeling giddy. They hadn't caught me. My mother and father would have been so proud-

I stopped the thought before I thought about it too much, and padded off into the fog. The transformation has been going on for a while now, but is in full force because I can feel my senses dulling. My claws begin to shrink and dull as I walk.

When I can barely see the fog dissipating, I hurry into one of the bushes. My fur has fused into my skin and I wait as night shrouds around me. I touched the top of my head to find my ears gone and long hair in its place. The weightlessness of my hair stuns me every time I touch it, and I stifled a gasp when I run my fingers through the silk.

I huddled in the bush, hoping that no part of me can be seen.

The realization that I've ran for a long time makes itself known in the aching of my human body as my forms begin to reassign themselves. Now I am fully human, and I know this by peering down at my chest. My teats have gone bigger.

Being in my human form makes me feel very vulnerable. I closed my eyes as hunger gnawed my belly, and begin to beg for morning to come.