"King Rynna," a guard said and the demon king looked up. His face showed the creases of age and his hair was white like a new fallen snow. He leaned forward as his youkai ears twitched in anticipation for the news that was about to be delivered.


"Get on with it," he said and the youkai guard bowed.


"We had finally located your daughter Lenora, sire but she was in the company of Sanzo's party."


"What?!"


"We lost many men in the attempt. We followed the four when they left the town but it appears that Lenora has left their company."


Rynna drummed his long fingers on the arm of his Gothic-style throne. The cushion was beset with exquisite buttons that gleamed in the candlelight that came down from the tall, candleholder behind his throne. The holder was made from the bones of a long since killed animal that the king had killed in his youth. Skulls acted as the feet of his throne as he continued to tap his fingernails in concentration. The messenger shuffled nervously as he waited for King Rynna to speak. The king stood, his long black velvety robe falling to the floor. The guard watched him, hoping that the king wasn't going to punish the bearer of bad news.


"Look, I want you to search for her. Bring my daughter back. I can't believe her mother abandoned her. Just because of my heritage she dumped her. Such a foolish woman. Unaware of the dignity of a youkai. If she had been around when demons and humans lived in harmony, she would have had my child without any regrets."


"Yes, your highness."


***


Rianna ran her fingers over Gojyo's ring and gazed at the town that lay in front of her. Hopefully, she'd be able to find a job there so that she'd have enough money for food. It had been nearly a week since she had had a decent meal and she hadn't trusted her knowledge of wild berries and nuts. She laid a hand on her stomach in a futile attempt to quiet her hunger. She started walking, the full moon bathing her crimson hair. It has been a full moon when she had attempted to kill herself. She stopped and leaned against a tree and sighed, remembering how a certain young man had changed her life forever.


She had been shocked when she had seen him, his blood-stained hair reminded her of the torment that she'd been through but in each other, they had found comfort. A dark shape moved through the forest across the road and Rianna stood up nervously. What the shape was, she could not name, nor did she want to find out what it was. She started walking the sense of being pursued playing heavily on her senses. Her walking switched to a run as she drew closer to the town. She breathed rapidly as her crimson hair trailed behind her like a flame. She ran for what seemed like an eternity and the city had not come any closer. She stumbled once or twice, but was able to regain her footing.


After ten minutes had passed, she finally entered the outskirts of the town. She caught her breath, the knocked at the first door she came to. The owner of the house opened the door a crack, stared at her hair color, then slammed the door.


"Get out of here bitch! We don't need any bad luck!" the owner cried and Rianna slunk away. It was starting again. The persecution was beginning again. She wished that Gojyo was around. He had given her the confidence to go on. But he wasn't with her now...and she felt so very alone.


She wandered to a tree in the middle of town and sat underneath it. She wondered where he was as she brought her knees up close to her body. She gazed up at the sky with tears in her eyes. She hoped that he was safe, no matter where he was underneath the star-filled sky. Something sharp hit her shoulder blade and she drew her breath in sharply. Her vision clouded over and she fell limply forward.