"MAKAAAAA, MY DARLING! WHERE ARE YOU?"

I ignored my numbskull of a father and gave a huff, adjusting my red hood in the mirror for the umpteenth time. Soft velvet lined the insides while durable oxford adorned the outside. It was still in good condition after wearing it for so many years. Mama had made it for me right before she found the guts to leave Papa though she had neglected to take me with her. But I knew it was for the best and treasured the letters she sent sporadically. I smoothed the hood-even though I was almost grown up, I still wore it whenever I went out as way to be connected to her.

I gave my head a quick shake, trying to rid my mind of unhappy thoughts. Instead, I focused on my reflection. Forest green eyes, fair skin, ash blonde hair tied up in pigtails. Anyone who had dared to comment that they were childish had ended up with a black eye or worse.

Hearing steps on the stairs of our wooden cabin, I backpedaled from the mirror to the door. I never entered a conversation with Papa unless there was an escape route. Especially when all he was going to do was beg me not to go. And the only way out of my room other than the door was the window, which had a thirty foot drop to the ground.

I hurriedly yanked open the door, throwing one last look at my room before opening the door. I wouldn't be home for a couple days and I always liked to leave everything in its spot. Neatly made bed in one corner of the room, homemade bookshelves overflowing with books in the other and a wooden desk organized with papers crammed between the bookshelves.

Cautiously, I stepped out into the hallway. My room was directly situated in front of the stairs, making it easy to who came and went in our house. Usually it had been women, though Papa said he had been making an "effort" to be a better father. I rolled my eyes. Lying cheaters never changed. Curiously though, I didn't see him on the stairs and I hadn't heard him go into any other rooms upstairs.

This was my chance to make a clean break for it. I strode toward the stairs. My feet barely made contact with the steps as I flew down them, grabbing my boots at the bottom of the stairs. Boots in hand, I grabbed my supply pack and package that needed to be delivered.

I padded through the kitchen in my socks to the back door. If he was waiting anywhere, it would probably be at the front entrance in the living room, which was clear across where I was. I made it to the door safely. I paused beside the door, shoving on my boots. In my haste, I didn't see the shadow behind me till it was too late.

"MAKA!" I jumped as Papa practically pounced over me, blocking the door. I held in a sigh and closed my eyes. He wasn't going to make this easy.

Papa's blue eyes welled with tears, his red hair waving wildly with the force of which he was speaking. "Maka, please don't go. If Lord Death isn't happy with me, Papa can find a new job. But I refuse to let you go out into the forest. It's dan-,"

I interrupted. "Don't start with the "Death-Forest-is-dangerous" nonsense again. Each and every one of the villagers has been in that forest a million times without getting hurt."

He looked like he was about to talk or wail again so I held up my hand. "And Lord Death owns all the land in this village. We'd have to move to find a job that pays only half as well as your job as messenger for Lord Death. So now I have to go and deliver whatever this is," I gestured to the package, "to Dr. Stein in his creepy forest house because you don't want to confront an old childhood friend. And without Lord Death knowing you couldn't do your job." I fought against my rising temper. "Please just move out of the way. I'll be back in a couple days."

Papa sagged a little, like my words had actually hurt. Most of his fight had left. Wonderingly, I thought that he might actually move. Then a resolute look settled in his eyes. Internally I sighed while I reached into my pack.

"Now, Maka, I'm the adult her-," An indent the size of my Death Forest guidebook cut off whatever words he was about to say. As he lay dazedly on the floor, I stepped around him and walked to the door. "Right, you're the adult."

I put my hand on the doorknob but I didn't open the door. Without turning around, I softly whispered, "Bye, Papa." Then I opened the door and walked out of our house without a backwards look.


I refused to let myself feel bad, instead letting my anger, my legs pumping with furious energy. The road was empty, wide open fields lining both sides. Papa and I lived at the very edge of town limits in Death's Reaping, the benevolent name Lord Death's family had concocted when the town was founded. But it wasn't really a surprise considering the family surname.

I paused as the houses grew more frequent. Since I had taken it upon myself to do Papa's job discreetly, being seen carrying a package with Lord Death's seal would be sure to invite queries from nosy people in town.

Putting my pack and the package down, I carefully placed the package on top of my supplies in my pack. I had no idea what was in the package for Dr. Stein-it had felt like glass but I could be wrong. It wasn't my business anyways. All I wanted to do was get whatever this was delivered and go back to my normal life.

I slung my pack around my shoulders again and resumed my walk to town. In preparing for the trip, I had tried to dress as inconspicuously as possible, wearing my usual yellow pullover vest with a white shirt underneath and a red plaid skirt. I had added gloves and sturdy black boots because although Death Forest wasn't dangerous, it did have rough terrain. The only thing that stood out about me was my red riding hood but since the gray clouds above threatened rain, there was no way I was traveling without it.

However, I did lower it as the wide road tapered into a bustling street. No need to look shady and attract more attention. Although, in this town, everyone knew everything about everyone. "Just make it through town," I told myself as I stepped from the road to the street.

As I suspected, my red hood did get curious looks but I managed to get half way through town by looking down and staying in the shadows of stores. That is, before being accosted by a certain blue-haired idiot who also was my friend. Sometimes it was unfortunate. Like now. "WHERE ARE YOU GOING SO SNEAKILY, MAKA?"

Startled, I looked up. And there was Black*Star, the last person I wanted to run into while in town. We were the same age, although Black*Star was an orphan and had been taken in by the weapons merchant, Sid, and his wife, Nygus. Even though he was loud and sometimes overly obnoxious, he was a good person. Albeit an extremely unhelpful friend.

Standing atop of a hat shop, Black*Star stood with his hands on his hips, as if surveying his kingdom. Which he probably thought the town was. He began to shout some more but I hissed at him, "Shut up! And get down from there before you get hurt!"

"Ha, a god like me never gets hurt!" Black*Star announced proudly. Sighing, I looked for the one person who could make him be half-reasonable. As if on cue, a tall girl with raven-colored hair came running up the streets. "Black*Star! You know that Sid and Nygus banned you from jumping on rooftops!"

Tsubaki skidded to a stop in front of me and gave me a tired grin. "Hi, Maka."

I smiled back. "Hey, Tsubaki. Black*Star being himself again?"

She sighed. "Well, it's not as bad as when we were younger and he got into that candy shop…" She gave him a half-hearted glare. "But he should still come down right now!"

From above, Black*Star gave a snort. "Even though you're my goddess, Tsubaki, I don't have to listen to you all the time."

Tsubaki's glare deepened. "Get down here now."

In his haste to scramble down, Black*Star lost his balance and crashed to the ground. Tsubaki lost her glare, helping Black*Star up and dusting off his merchant uniform. As the most mature person in her family of fabric makers, Tsubaki's gentle and kind-hearted nature helped temper Black*Star's wild and impulsive one.

Normally, I liked hanging out with these two but as I smiled at the pair, I wondered how much time I had lost. My feet yearned to be on the move again, the sooner this was over with the better. But if I suddenly left, that would certainly grab Black*Star's attention quicker than an unsuspecting customer in Sid's store.

I tried making a nonchalant retreat. "Well, I have some errands that need to be doing. I'll see you later!" Turning to make my exit, I was unsurprised yet annoyed to see Black*Star waiting in front of me.

"You have your riding hood on, which means you're going somewhere for a while." Black*Star grinned. "Where you going, Maka?"

I resisted smashing my pack on his head. "What if I just wanted to wear it? And, besides, where I'm going is none of your business!"

"But your god-,"

"is going to be in so much trouble when I tell Sid who really broke his precious dagger," Tsubaki finished sweetly.

For a moment, Black*Star looked flustered. Then he shrugged. "What tiny mortals do is no concern of a god, anyways. Come, my goddess, we have weapons to sell." With a casual wave, he headed towards Sid's shop.

Giving Tsubaki a grateful smile, I thanked her. "You're really the only one who can handle him. Thank you."

Waving her hand away, she said, "What are friends for?" Her face grew serious. "Though whatever you're doing, please be careful, Maka."

I nodded. "I always am." I hesitated and then added, "And maybe later, we can talk about it."

Smiling, Tsubaki made her exit. "I look forward to hearing about it. Good bye, Maka! Be safe."

With one last reassuring wave, I began walking again, almost running. The sun, hidden by the clouds, peeked from high above. It was much later than I wanted it to be. I hastened my pace.

Luckily, I made it through town without another incident. Hitting the open road, however, was another story.