Ch. 1. part 2

1.

"Excuse me Miss, but the library is closing...you're going to have to step out," said the clerk politely.

San slumped in her seat and gave the table leg a frustrated kick, "Why can't I find it?! I've checked every single book in your library, Ma'am, and for some reason I can't find it!"

The clerk shrugged her shoulders, "I've never heard of the thing you're talking about...maybe you should see an expert on rocks." She folded her hands together and gave San a gentle push out the door. "Come back tomorrow, dear!"

San sighed and jammed her hands in her pockets, it had only been yesterday when she came out of the trap door and still no luck with this 'Uoy' thing. She kicked her shoes on the ice twisting her face in thought.

"There has to be an answer...a source! A place called Ether? A stone that is a Uoy? It doesn't make any sense to me? It exists I just can't..." she lowered her head. "...just can't get Ms. James to believe me..."

She blew into her scarf and shuffled to the sidewalk wishing she had brought gloves instead of her pockets for warmth. Cars passed her by with their headlights glaring into the winter night. She kept walking, if she didn't walk she would freeze. Simple as that.

San made it home by 10:30 according to her watch, she opened the door with her key and stepped inside. School was a complete drag, she had lunch detention today for spending too much time in the school library.

She walked up the stairs and dropped her backpack on the floor. Then she flopped on her bed and dug under the covers without taking anything off, coat and shoes alike.

2.

She waited until Ms. James had gone in the shower before knocking and saying, "Bye Ms. James! The bus is here-I'll be coming home late today because I have to go to the library to study!"

"All right dear, have a good day!" said her muffled voice.

San tip toed to the parlor and peeled the green rug off of the trap door, she still had her backpack on her back, but not full of books, clothes and other things inside! She opened the trap door and slid the rug over the top before shutting herself inside it.



3.

"That's a good boy," he said stroking Nitro's head. He took another handful of oats and brought it up to its lips. "Take your time, boy...these oats aren't going anywhere..." he said with a half smile on his face.

He ran a hand through his hair and stroked his black neck, Nitro snorted and shook his head waiting impatiently for another handful of oats. He blinked his large black eyes and shook his mane snorting.

He spun around grinning at Nitro, "Don't be greedy now, there are plenty more for lunch, Nitro. The sun has just rose up!" he said pointing to the rising sun. "Do you want to be as fat as a pig by afternoon?"

Nitro snorted and shook his head, he threw his head back and laughed. "Don't be stupid, Nitro...you don't want to lure a demon now, would you?" he said crossing his arms over his chest and whipping around his bushy tail. Nitro snorted impatiently and stomped his hooves, he sighed and turned away.

"Don't follow me, stay where you are, Nitro...I'll be right back, I thought I heard something over by the well..." he said waving to the horse.

He jumped into the field and broke into a run, he was sure he heard it... "Nitro! Come-!" he called stopping for his horse, Nitro galloped out into the field and past him. He growled, "Stupid horse! You passed me, again! How am I supposed to ride a horse that won't stop for me, Nitro!" he didn't really need Nitro, he was just as fast as his horse but nonetheless the beast provided him with some company. He ran faster just fast enough to catch up with him, Nitro blinked his black eyes at him and galloped faster.

"You want to race me again? All right then, I'll show you!" he said speeding up his pace. The wind felt good in his hair and lungs, racing Nitro just so happened to be one of his favorite pastimes, it was always a tie no matter how fast they ran, but it was a good excuse to feel the wind in their hair and the dew on their faces.

They passed the pool at the same time, no surprise there, he thought sinking in the grass. Nitro shook his head and trotted over to him and stared at him with those large black eyes of his.

"Ah Nitro," he said raising his hand and stroking the beast's head. "I'd say I loved you if I had a heart..." He sat up and patted the horse's face standing. "I don't see how anyone could kill such a grand horse..." he said sadly peering into his dark eyes. Nitro snorted and nipped at his fingers. "Poor Nitro..."

He looked into the sun sighing, "What do you say boy, just you and me like last spring, right?" he said climbing on the horse's back. "Off to kill demons, eh boy? Hiya! Let's go!" With a rear Nitro was bounding off, he took out his sword from his pack while gripping Nitro's mane with the other hand. "To the haunted forest by the river!" he commanded. "I have some unfinished business to take care of there..."

4.

San climbed out of the well shielding her eyes from the morning sun, with a groan she toppled over on the ground and looked around. From her perch she could see the tall mountain peaks and the glinting sun rising off their lean edges.

"The land of Ether...right? Today, and any day to come is information day," she said adjusting her backpack. "Just where to look is the question..."

San sighed and started her walk into the mountains, she figured that a village would be nearby and she would find her information from there.

She was well prepared this time, she had brought the kitchen knife and a box of matches so she would never have the same problem she had yesterday with the 'hands of evil taking her to hell.' San shuddered at the memory and continued up, the mountain wasn't as steep as it looked, she only hoped that mountain demons wouldn't grab her and eat her, this time there would be no one to save her but herself.

Speaking of which, she thought with a frown. I wonder where the yellow-eyed boy is staying...does he live around here, she thought squinting into the sunlight. She tried to remember what he looked like but couldn't, most of the time he was covered in shadow and darkness. He never told me his name, she thought suddenly.

Birds squawked overhead, San cringed and kept moving along up the mountain.

"I hope this is the right way to the village..." she said with a sigh.

5.

He gripped his sword tightly in his hand and ignored the whispers of the leaves, he narrowed his yellow eyes and gave Nitro a reassuring pat on the head. "They are only ghosts, Nitro...do not be afraid of them and they cannot harm you...do not attack them and they will not hurt you..." he whispered, Nitro closed his eyes and nodded his head. "That's a good boy..." he said smiling.

"Little boy wants to play in the forest..." the wind whispered. "Little boy and his horse want to play with us?" sighed the trees and the grass.

"I am looking for my good friend Snake..." he said above the wind. "There is word that he passed through this forest, is it true?" he asked dryly.

"Snake is your friend...?...Since when did half blood befriend demons?..."sighed the wind. "Since when did the half blood take trespassers out of our forest?..." howled the wind through the trees.

He rolled his eyes and counted to ten silently in his head, if he lost his temper he would lose Snake. "Did he pass through here or not...ghosts?"

Laughter rippled through the breeze, the grass swayed with quiet laughter. Nitro gave a quiet neigh in fright, he steadied him with his hand. "Settle down boy, it's all right."

"Snake came...and went...he didn't want to play with us...so we sent him on his way..." the voices laughed.

"Where did you see him last?" He patted Nitro's head and jumped on his back.

"Through the forest and the trees...down the ravine and into the water...he was chasing the human girl you stole from us...!" the voices screeched. "Bring her back to us!"

"I don't have time for this, Nitro...come on let's go," he said to the horse. Nitro stomped his hoof and reared back, once all feet touched the ground he was off!

"Noooooooooo! Come back and play with us!..." the wind moaned and sighed. "Come back! Come back!"

"Go faster, boy...the spirits are getting angry with us, they will try to catch us, run!" he whispered into the horse's ear. Nitro snorted and bounded off the hill tracing the trees. "To the river, that is where we will find Snake!" he commanded.

"You cannot run away little man...we will find you and stop you..." laughed the trees. "Just give us the girl we lost and our friendship will be restored..."

"Faster, Nitro! Run faster, the trees are waking up!"

Nitro skirted the brambles and jumped over the trees falling in his path, he gripped Nitro's mane with a steady hand and eased his sword in fighter's stance.

You just try it, he thought narrowing his eyes.

The wind howled in his ears and whipped his hair about his face, "How dare you show such disrespect! Come back here little man...we will kill you!"

"I can't give you back the girl you lost, ghosts of the forest!" he yelled over the screaming wind. "She has left this place forever and will never return! And besides, that was a long time ago-why does the forest hold grudges?!"

"NEVER COME BACK?!" the wind roared. "We will find her! You have hidden her from us...tell us where she is!"

"The forest isn't going to listen, Nitro...pretend that we are racing...try and beat me-!" he said quietly in his ear. "That's a good boy, I'll beat you at that pace!"

Against the hissing wind in his ears he could hear the roar of the river from ahead, the trees became alive, they swung their branches in his face and fell over to trip the horse.

"Run, Nitro! Go faster, go faster! I'm going to beat you! I'm going to win!" he taunted into Nitro's ear. Nitro was beside himself with anger and bounded away in a faster pace. "Can't you run any faster? You're the slowest horse in the world!"

"Little man and his horse can't get away from us...we are the forest of the dead! Anyone who dares enter our forest is a fool...little man and his horse will die!"

"We are close to the river, don't slow down, boy-you're doing a great job! Look for Snake in the water...he couldn't have drowned..." he said tightening his hold on his sword.

All at once the trees parted away to a vast valley, something was behind them, chasing them. He turned on Nitro and gasped, "Faster Nitro! The forest has summoned Phantom! If you don't hurry you'll be turned into a demon or fade into hell-!" he screamed in Nitro's ear. "You're a ghost, Nitro! Why can't you tell them to leave us!"

Nitro snorted in reply while skirting the river's edge, his pace was wild and fast, he looked over his shoulder and saw Phantom crashing after them.

"Phantom of all demon souls and ghosts..." he screamed at Phantom. "Leave us alone, we haven't disturbed your forest! Lay back down and rest, there is no reason to chase us!"

Phantom was a large red bull that breathed fire, its horns could rip through any metal, Phantom ignored his plea and pursued in a faster pace.

"Run Nitro! Phantom is going to kill us if you don't hurry up, why in the seven hells can't you run any faster?!" he screamed at Nitro.

The horse neighed angrily at him and bounded into the river, he was about to scream out loud. "YOU STUPID HORSE! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU-" he hit the water with a gurgle and a splash.

He swam upward and seized his horse by the neck, "Nitro! Nitro-!" the horse neighed and reared out of the water. He turned around and checked to see if Phantom was following and sighed with relief when he saw Phantom turning away with his tail whipping angrily about his flanks.

Suddenly it occurred to him that fire ghosts couldn't go into water, they would evaporate and die. Smiling with his gleaming fangs he threw his arms around the horse laughing. "You're a smart horse, aren't you boy! That's right, you're a good boy," he said with bright yellow eyes. He looked for the shore and swam for it, Nitro followed at his heels.

He dragged himself to the bank and sighed with relief, luckily he had replaced his sword in his pack before diving into the river. He took out his pack and scooped out a handful of oats, Nitro's eyes glittered and he greedily chomped them up.

"That's a good boy, Nitro. You're a smart horse, a smart goodie horse," he said reaching in his pack for more. He fed Nitro three more handfuls before climbing back on his back. He shut his eyes and concentrated on his ears, he picked up something coming from the human village not far from where he sat.

"Hiya! To the village, run Nitro-Run!"

6.

Smoke circled from the huts, she cried out with joy and ran up to the villagers.

"Hello, does anyone here speak English? Hello, can someone help me here?" she said to the Asian villagers.

"What is English?" an old man asked her crossly. "What do you need, stranger?"

San took off her backpack and wiped her brow, "I've come from the...the west!' she said nodding her head gravely. "I am new to this country and would like to ask you some questions..." she said.

The old man nodded and motioned for her to follow him into one of the grass huts. He sat down by a fire and motioned for her to sit on a straw mat.

"Now what can I do to help you stranger? Do you need directions?"

San shook her head, "No, no, no, I need information...about your country...Ether..." she said looking around the inside of the hut.

"Ether?" the old man croaked. "Ether isn't a country, child! Ether is a forest, a forest you must never go to, it links to the haunted forest," he said waving his hands in front of him. "Ether is a forest for demons...the haunted forest is a resting place of the dead souls, angry spirits and ghosts live in Ether."

San scratched her head, "Oh! Then what is the name of this country?"

The old man leaned forward and hit her across the head with a stick, San cried out and held her head glaring at the old man.

"What are you talking about foolish girl, there is no country! Only tribes and clans...the people will never come together to form a country! What place do you live in?" he croaked at her.

"There are no countries?" she whispered. "What is the name of your village?"

The old man pursed his lips together and squinted at her wavering his stick in the air, "You don't sound like a traveler to me, you look like a spy from another tribe!"

San laughed incredulously, "Me? A spy? I'm not a spy, sir...I have no tribe, I'm in my own tribe by myself...I travel to different tribes to get rest and food," she said nodding her head and wiping the hair from her eyes.

He didn't look convinced.

"I want information...for instance...I'm trying to figure out what a 'Uoy stone' is," said San cocking her head.

The old man frowned, " I have no idea."

She was crushed, " Do you know of anyone else I could ask that might know what it is?" she asked.

"They wouldn't know either," he snapped.

San opened her mouth in shock.

"If it is food and rest stranger, I'd best be getting to it," said the old man rising to his feet. "This village don't like outsiders...especially strange ones like you," he said through slitted eyes. "Now I'd offer you my hut to stay in, but I got grand children and my wife staying in here...there is no room for you, so get!" he said waving her away with his stick.

San lowered her head and pushed the flap open, exiting out. She sighed and walked absently through the village. She would stop and ask someone every once in a while and they would drive her away with shouts or waving sticks.

"This bites!" she said flatly. "I'm not getting any information out of this village! It is as if they are afraid to tell me what I want to know..."

San sighed and looked into the afternoon sun deciding that she would find another village. She wandered into the market and asked for where the nearest village was, a young woman pointed to the west and told her that the next village rested in the sand dunes of the ocean.

San could see the ocean from where she was standing, she thanked the woman and went on her way.

7.

The village was in ruins before he arrived, he looked from side to side in alarm, Nitro neighed and reared up.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! It is the smell of burning human flesh you smell, my friend," he said patting the beast's long, slender neck. "It seems we got here too late!"

Nitro threw his head around and snorted, he drew his arm over his nose and winced. "He's trying to ruin my sense of smell...that idiot, once I find Snake, I swear I'll..." he said blinking rapidly. Nitro trotted over the smoking huts and bodies. Dead humans were piled into large stacks with smoke billowing from the cracks; the smell of blood and death was thick in the air. "Stop here, I thought I heard something..." he said jumping off of his horse.

It was a soft moan he had heard, he followed his ears to a brook where a human man sat crying into his hands. His straw hat fell off of his head and tumbled to the ground as his shoulders trembled.

He cleared his throat to let the man know he was there, the man turned around and screamed. He hobbled to his feet trying to get away, he wasn't worried about that old fool, there was no way he could outrun him.

He grabbed the human's clothes and jerked him close to him so he could stare into his face. "What happened here to your village?"

"Oh it is you, the half demon! Let me go! Do not eat me, please spare me!"

"I don't eat humans you stupid fool," he growled. "Quit blubbering like a coward and answer me! What happened to your village?" he shook the man harder. "Tell me!"

"I-I-I don't know!" he sobbed raising his hands to shield himself.

"You know," he said lifting him up by the throat and dangling him in the air. " You're just afraid I'll kill you...here's the deal human fool," he said dropping him on the ground. "Tell me what happened and I won't kill you."

The man was sobbing harder in fear for his life, he watched him with his mouth curling in disgust.

"Please! If you are the mighty Lord, Shou Lang, show mercy on my soul! Don't turn me into a demon, please! I don't know! I wasn't here when it happened!"

He felt his temper snap, growling and baring his fangs he grabbed at his throat and lifted him back in the air, "Tell me what happened you whimpering simpleton! You better come up with something to say because your time is running short!"

He kicked his legs screaming and crying like a woman, he dropped him in disgust and turned, walking away.

The man crawled behind him grabbing at his feet and pants, "Don't leave me here! Whoever did this will come back and kill me too! I have nowhere to go! Take me with you, I'll be your slave!"

He kicked at him and continued walking. "Nitro! Come!" he commanded. The horse trotted to his side and snorted at the human man.

"Please! You are part human, right? You can slay an entire forest of demons, so take me with you! I can wash your clothes and shine your sword..." he begged reaching from his knees to his feet.

"Save your whining for someone else!" he snarled as he jumped on Nitro's back.

"Please?!" the man cried.

"Go Nitro, follow the river, I have a feeling more demons will be here soon to scavenge this land..."

The man wailed and tore at his hair screaming. "Nooooo! More demons?! You can't just leave me here, Lord! Please help me, if you are part human you must be able to feel!"

"I haven't got a heart!" he snarled at the man with flashing eyes. "Get going, unless you want to join your buddies over there," he said nodding at the smoking piles.

The man's eyes were brimming with tears he sank to his knees crying bitterly.

He gave Nitro a kick and the horse was off, then he turned Nitro around and plucked the man off the ground and on his back behind him.

"I'm not helping you, so don't get the wrong idea, coward!" he said looking over his shoulder at the man. "I'll drop you off by the ocean, there is a village there."

"Oh thank you my lord and master! You cannot be a demon, demons have no heart at all...you have a good heart!"

He felt sick to his stomach but didn't say anything...



8.

She was famished and fatigued, the sun was so hot she thought she would crumble up into a pile of dust under its rays. She wavered then regained her balance, "I can do this! I have to make it to the next village! Maybe they can help me prove to Ms. James that I'm for real...I have to make her see..." she said wiping her head with a face cloth.

Although it was extremely hot there was wind, she had taken the route the woman in the village had told her take, now she regretted taking the way through the open dried grasses. The yellow grass swayed with the wind, San lifted her head to the breeze with her eyes closed. She could smell the light aroma of salt in the air, she had to be close to the ocean.

From behind her she heard the faint sounds of drums...puzzled she turned around and faced the direction of the sound. It was a low steady beat, it seemed to be coming from the forest that was nearly a mile away.

"It could be a demon or something," she said aloud and running. "If it is another crazy pig I'm going to scream!" she cried running faster.

She was running on an open field and was in plain view of anything if anything was after her, the pounding of drums actually sounded like hooves beating. She skipped past a branch on the ground, the beating grew louder and she heard shouts behind her.

San looked behind her with wide frightened eyes, a black horse with smoke billowing from its mane and nostrils bounded toward her. She could see a large sword from the driver of the horse and screamed.

The shouting grew louder and the hooves stopped, she peered behind her and looked at the horse that had stopped and the driver waving the sword in the air shouting something at her.

"Oh no! He's going to charge at me!" she cried stumbling into a run again.

The shouting stopped and the hooves started up again, the horse's hooves puffed out smoke as it galloped close behind her.

"Leave me alone! Go away! I haven't done anything to you!"

She could hear the horse's snorting and the pounding of the hooves from close behind, all of the sudden she was lifted off the ground and thrown behind the horse's back.

The first thing she saw was a tear stained faced man with crooked teeth, "Hello," he said with a crooked smile. He was backwards on the horse and she was riding the proper way, San gripped the sides of the horse looking wildly around.

"We'll be at the village soon, cretin!" said the driver, "Faster Nitro!"

She saw the dunes of the ocean ahead, the salty air stung her eyes and she covered her eyes and lowered her head down to the man.

"Where is this guy taking us?" she asked him looking back at the driver.

"He's taking me to the sand dune village, I don't know what he wants with you," said the man licking his lips.

San pulled her backpack off her back and unzipped it, sand flew in their faces and all of them coughed. She took out the kitchen knife and hid it in her jacket sleeve, the man gasped.

"Slow down, boy-" she heard the driver say, then a clawed hand reached behind him and jerked the man off the horse.

San screamed, "Sir! Are you all right?! What's going on?!" she cried.

The man was waving his hands with a crooked smile on his face, "THANK YOU!" he shouted out. He disappeared as the horse and horseman moved on.

San whipped out the knife and scooted up the horse, she raised her arm and prepared to stab him in the back. She threw her arm down just as he jumped off the horse and into the dunes.

The horse reared up and threw her back against the sand, she screeched and fell on her hip. The knife fell out of her hand and into the air, where it landed in the driver's hands.

"Well, well, well..." he said as sand swirled around them both. "I thought you weren't coming back over here...San."

How does he know...my..."Yellow-eyes!" she cried happily. She let him help her to her feet before hugging him.

"Ergh! What are you doing!- Get off me, what did I say about that hugging thing!" he growled pushing her backwards and tossing her back the knife.

"Why didn't you say it was you, you scared me half to death!" she cried letting her anger bubble in her chest.

He looked different, maybe it was because she hadn't seen him in a while and didn't really see his face before. He still had the scar and the yellow eyes, she was so glad to see him.

He shrugged his shoulders and grinned, "I was yelling your name but of course you were too scared to hear me. His tail swished around his legs, he crossed his arms over his chest staring at her. "So..."

She found herself staring at him, "...uh-what?"

"Where are you headed, human girl...I guess I could drop you off too."

"Wasn't that a human on your horse? What were you doing with him?"

His eyes flashed angrily, "None of your business, San. Do you need a ride or what?"

San dusted the sand off of her jeans and flashed him a smile, "Not anymore, I'm just going to tag along with you!"

"I'm busy, " he said turning away from her and replacing his sword in his pack. "I'm trying to find your little friend...he stole all of my Uoy stones."

Little friend? She thought following him to his horse, she looked up at the horse and cocked her head. "When did you get him? The last time I saw you he wasn't with you."

He looked at her and jumped on his horse, "I suggest you stay here, human girl. Where I'm going is to no importance, and I don't want you whining behind me like the last time you were here."

"You left me!" she cried angrily at him. "I wasn't following you, anywhere!"

He narrowed his eyes so they were yellow slits, he leaned into her face and snorted. "You can't come with me this time, and the next time some demon endangers your pathetic life, I won't save you!"

"I am going with you!" said San defiantly. "You can kill me first before you leave me alone in your world again."

"Why didn't you just stay in your world human?!" he said rolling his eyes. "Why are you here?"

She pulled herself on his horse and sat behind him, "I need information on your world. Let's call it research, I suppose," she said heatedly.

He looked back at her blinking and twitching his ears, "If you want to come along with me, then fine. It'll be you that dies, you're on your own, got it?"

"Crystal clear," she told him with a sneer. "And I don't need you saving me anyway."

He gave the horse a kick and started toward the water's edge, "We'll see about that, because where I'm going, most humans don't come out alive."

San remembered the hands that tried to carry her off and shuddered, "I'll be fine, don't waste your breath on me, little man."

She heard him chuckle quietly and whisper something in the horse's ear, the horse went into a gallop. "By the way...my horse, his name is Nitro."

"Nitro..." said San airily. "Did you name him, he's a beautiful horse..."

"He isn't mine," he said bitterly. "He died a long time ago, by human hands..."

Nitro went faster and faster, she held onto his shoulders panicked that she would fall off.

"So he's a ghost horse?" she said over the roar of the wind, the yellow-eyed man nodded his head.

"He disappears from time to time into the spirit world, then he comes back whenever he wants..." she watched his hand stroke the neck of the horse. "He's a good friend of mine..." she thought she heard him say.

"How was he killed?" she asked looking behind her at the sand village.

" He was tortured and abused...since he is an eternal beast he replays his death on the day he died. I hate having to watch him die again and again," he said over the wind. "He is a tortured spirit that will never rest...he is cursed to walk both the world of the spirit and this one forever..."

San lowered her head, "That's very sad...does it hurt him when he dies?"

He sneered, "You're stupid, if you died by being abused, would it hurt?" he looked back at her with cold unblinking eyes.

"But no one is abusing him! No one is killing him, I don't see-" she started.

"His soul replays his death, although I can't see his attackers they are there, killing him, torturing him so he dies again. He dies over and over again, replaying his death more than once on some days..."

San patted the horse's back, "Poor horse, isn't there a way to save him?"

He sneered at her again, "And why would you care? I shouldn't have told you..."

San was going to argue but thought better of it and kept her mouth shut.

9.

They rode by the ocean the entire day, by dusk he was angry and upset, he kicked a tree and slumped on the sand cursing at the sky.

San petted Nitro staring into his black eyes feeling sorry for him, she stroked his head and patted his nose.

"Damn it! Where is he?! That damn forest told me he washed out in the river! That cursed forest! When I find him I'll kill him! I'll kill him!" he bellowed punching at one of the boulders. San stared wide -eyed once the boulder cracked.

San calmly looked over in his direction, "You should calm down,"

He whipped around glaring at her, in one motion he had his hand around her neck and her body dangling in the air. "Don't you tell me to calm down you nasty witch!" he spat in her face. "This is your entire fault anyway, he was chasing you wasn't he?!" he snarled at her.

San gasped and kicked her legs, he dropped her suddenly and turned away cursing again. "He chased you to the river, didn't he?!" he demanded spinning back around and grabbing her arm. "Did he have my bag?! Was he talking about my bag?!"

"No-! I don't know who you're talking about!" she cried in pain. He shook her harder, "Please let me go! Calm down, I can't understand what you're saying! Why are you so mad?-!"

"Shut up! I'm talking about Snake! He was chasing you wasn't he? Did he have my bag?! You were the one who saw him last-!" he snarled in a ferocious growl. "Yes?!" he pulled her up to her feet and shook her harder. "Tell me if he drowned in the river!"

"I-Oh I don't know!" she cried, he gritted his teeth and pushed her on the ground.

"You're worthless! You're useless to me! Stupid, stupid human! Where is he?!" he took out his sword and pressed it against her neck. "I'm giving you one second to live!"

San began crying on the sand, "Go ahead and kill me..."she sobbed.

She heard him leave and climb back on the horse, "Hiya!" she heard, and then the hoof beats fading away into the night.



Ch. 2 part 2

San stirred, she sat up and looked wildly around. A fire crackled in front of her on the sand, the roar of the ocean deafened her ears. She looked into the fire and back out into the ocean.

The yellow-eyed man, she thought swallowing. Did he start this fire, because I didn't do it...

She felt a salty breeze touch her face and the sound of the fire crackling, she sat back down and felt something push against her back. It was Nitro, she stroked his lowered neck and pressed her cheek against his. "I thought you left me again..." she whispered.

"You know, you shouldn't be spoiling him like that...he isn't supposed to respond to anyone else but me," said a voice from the cliff.

She looked up and found the yellow-eyed man sharpening his sword, he looked down at her and then went back to his sword. "I thought...you left..." she said quietly.

"I went to get firewood, that's all," he said with his tail swaying.

San looked at the fire and then back up at the man polishing his sword, "I don't know where Snake went. It was right after you left me by the tree when I woke up and found myself with him. He chased me to the river-and pushed me off...I thought he fell off too, but I don't remember...I don't ever recall him having a bag," she said.

"Why are you still talking about that, forget it..." he replied.

She looked at Nitro and kissed the top of his velvet head, she gave him a pat and sat back down. "What did he take from you?"

He remained quiet and still, she looked up and saw him gone! Where did he go, she thought standing up. Oh who cares, she thought sitting back down. He nearly strangled me back there, why am I with him anyway? He's right, I don't belong here in this world...I need to be back home...

She heard footsteps in the sands, it was him and with two fish in his clawed hand and a gleaming sword in the other. He threw down the fish and moved over to Nitro feeding him oats.

San looked at the fish, to her surprise it was already gutted, cleaned out and cooked. He returned and sat across the fire from her nodding carelessly at the fish. "If you don't want the head or tail I'll cut them off and eat them myself."

San looked up from the fish to him but he was already gorging in another raw fish, she didn't quite mind it so much and smiled at him, watching his tail swish this way and that way.

She bit into the fish and actually enjoyed it, it was salty and flaky, just the way fish should taste. In this world, words weren't necessary, no apology needed or granted, it was expressed in quiet ways, subtle ways that only a world like this one could express itself and yet cover their true intentions, and even uncovered feelings.

You know San, she thought biting into the fish. He's not so bad, not so bad at all.

2.

"Wake up, wake up," he said gruffly shoving his foot in her side. San rolled over and yawned. "Get up! The sun is up, the rule stays the same...I leave if you don't get up!"

She sat up scratching her neck and giving a big yawn, "It isn't my fault you don't need sleep," she said groggily.

"Not my problem is it? It's yours, now get up!" he said pulling her to her feet.

San wiped her eyes and pushed away from him, "It is your problem, because whenever you leave me by myself something bad happens...to the both of us."

He twitched his nose and ears and blinked several times before snorting and striding to Nitro. "Come on San," he said holding his hand out for her to take. She took it and he pulled her up on the horse. "Let's go Nitro, we're going to find him today...I'm ready to end this!"

"Did he take your Uoy stones?" she asked wiping the corners of her mouth.

Nitro started into a gallop, "Yes he did...all of them...and I'm going to get them back, I'm also going to kill him too."

"What is your other half, Yellow-eyes?" she asked after a while.

"Demon."

"YOU'RE A DEMON AND YOU DIDN'T TELL ME?!!!!!!" she shrieked falling back on the horse.

"I'm also human, so it doesn't matter..." he told her bitterly. He began laughing, "I bet you're wondering how it is possible, right?" he asked.

"Well yeah...it's kind of....unnatural, " said San making a face.

"I might as well tell you, sooner or later you'd find out anyway since I'm such a celebrity around here nowadays..." he said slowing Nitro into a canter. "Oh yeah, and you may call me Shou Lang," he said quietly.

"That's your name?" she asked in awe. He nodded. "WOW! You're name is cool!"

He looked over his shoulder and gave her a half grin, he shook his head and sighed turning back around. "My mother was human, my father was Yeh Lang...the wolf demon of the Ether forest..."

San tuned in with childlike awe, it was like something out of a book what she was hearing from him.

"My father would look human on every full moon, he met my mother in a remote village and they-they-" she felt his muscles tense up. "...Fell in love, I guess you could say," he said disgustedly.

San giggled.

"Anyway, they well...you know!" he said looking back at a giggling San. "...Then I was born, my father couldn't bear the thought having lowered himself to do that with a human and killed her, I was seven or eight years old...I think."

San felt her insides twist, "He killed her, why? I thought he loved her!"

He fell silent and still, Nitro raced on in a light pace making the wind whip through her hair and flap his ears.

"Shou Lang?"

"Demons don't feel anything, San...he only seduced her into having me...I think. He killed her in front of me and ate her," he said coldly.

San gasped and fell silent herself she suddenly felt out of place and fearful of Shou Lang who looked back at her with a fanged smile.

"Shortly afterwards he drowned himself in a river and here I remain!" he turned around laughing. "Remember what I'm telling you San, it will save your life one day. Never, ever, trust a demon..."

"He killed himself? That meant he must've loved her and couldn't bear the guilt having killed her!"

He sighed in a irritated way and shook his head, "San, you think like a human. It is no wonder why your race is such a pathetic one..."

"How can you say that? You're part of my race too!"

His muscles tensed up, "No...I'm a demon, San. I'm telling you not to think of me as one of you, got it? I'd kill you in a second if I knew it would help me somehow."

"I think he loved your mother," she said defensively. "Demons don't seem the type to kill themselves..."

"You're feeling and not thinking, San," he told her shaking his head. "Demon's don't have hearts, this feeling thing you're talking about doesn't make any sense to me or any other demon. It isn't possible for them to feel, they are made out of evil, San."

"Maybe not all demons are evil," cried San.

"Yes San, all demons are evil. We have no purpose but to destroy and spread our hatred feelings into others, it is our purpose."

"You speak as though you're one of them! You aren't that way!" she cried.

"Yes I am, you don't know me, one of these days you're going to take a wrong step in your judgment area...then you'll die like my poor excuse of a mother..."

"Didn't you love her?" asked San in a little voice. "I'd give anything in the world for a mother...how couldn't you love someone that takes care of you like a mother would?"

"I thought I told you, " he said with his voice becoming harder and angrier. "I can't do that! I don't know what it means! You are human, and I am half...no matter how you explain it to me, I wouldn't understand it."

"You must have some human emotions," said San desperately. "You saved me more than once, I don't know of a demon that would save another person that-"

"Shut up!" he growled at her.

"See? You're getting sensitive about it! That's an emotion, Shou Lang!"

"I'm going to throw you off this horse..."

"And Nitro, don't you love him? You're not as hard and heartless as you think..."

"He's just a horse!"

"And I'm just a human!"

"What does that have to do with anything?! I know you're a human," he shouted.

"You wanted to protect-"

"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! I'm going to throw you off this horse and run you over if you say another word!" he snarled angrily.

"You'd save your horse from harm wouldn't you? Wouldn't you? I know you would, you said yourself that you don't like watching him die again, and again, and again, didn't you say that?"

"San, don't force me to kill you! SHUT UP!"

"There is sadness and remorse you feel for Nitro, isn't there? You feel horrible when he dies, you pity him don't you? You want to help him and want him to be happy, don't you?!"

"SHUT UP, SAN!"

"I know you can feel, Shou Lang. You can pretend you don't but I can see that-"

"I'm going to fling you off this damn horse and slit your throat myself if you keep talking! You don't know anything about me! You just met me!"

"But I know you can feel...you aren't completely demon-"

"I KNOW THAT, WOULD YOU JUST SHUT UP?!"

San fell silent and lowered her head, she had ticked him off again, but it was a different kind of anger she had started. This one wasn't just irritated rage, this was something else.

Nitro had stopped walking altogether once they had started yelling, now he stood completely still with his ears back and quiet snorts coming from his flaring nostrils.

Shou Lang ran a hand through his hair sighing, he patted Nitro's head with the other, "It's ok Nitro...keep going, we were yelling at each other-not at you..."

The horse refused to move and stomped a foot on the sand neighing at him, San let out a breath she had been holding and gave the horse's back a pat. "Come on Nitro...I'm not mad at you...I'm not even mad at your master here..." Nitro turned his head to the side to look at them.

"You heard that, didn't you, boy? She isn't upset with you...now hurry on we have to find someone, you're wasting time!" said Shou Lang.

Nitro's eyes blinked but still he didn't move, Shou Lang grunted and jumped off his back and walked to the front of him. San scooted up to the front of Nitro and rubbed his mane.

Shou Lang pulled the beast's head against his own and murmured something just so they could hear, San watched with a fluttering heart. Shou Lang's expression had completely changed from spiteful to an affectionate smile that seemed to make his whole face change. The horse nodded its head and he patted Nitro's cheek with his hand. He came back to the side of the horse and looked up at San.

San's heart fluttered again and she swallowed hard, "Come here," he said motioning her to come down. San's eyes widened but she did what he told her to do nonetheless. San pulled one leg over the side of Nitro and jumped in front of him.

He gently put his hands on her shoulders and steered her to Nitro's head, "What am I supposed to be doing?"

"He thinks you're mad at him, you just talk to him for a while and he'll start moving again," he said from behind her.

"What should I say?" she asked looking up at him from behind her shoulder.

He gave her a rough push towards him, "Just assure him that you aren't upset with him."

San swallowed hard and stroked his head aware that Shou Lang's observant eyes were watching her. "Um...that's a good boy," she said looking into Nitro's long-lashed eyes. "I'm not mad at you...you're such a pretty horse...how could I be mad at you?" she cooed rubbing his velvet cheek. "Whoever abused you was wrong and mean, wasn't he..." she said smiling at him. "I would never, ever, ever, ever to infinity-hurt you!" she whispered hugging Nitro's neck. "You wanna know what," she said in an even quieter voice with her cheek against his and her lips in his ear. "I know that Shou Lang loves you...he's just being difficult...and stubborn like most tough guys I know...whenever he isn't looking...I'm going to sneak you some oats! Ok?" she cooed patting his chin.

Nitro neighed softly and nodded his head, he nuzzled her hair and she laughed sneaking a handful of oats she had in her pocket to his mouth.

Shou Lang was on top of Nitro when she came around the side and back on the horse's back. He was squinting at her with a blank expression on his face, "How'd you do that?" he asked finally.

"Do what?" asked San avoiding his gaze, she felt him turn around and then Nitro starting off into a happy trot.

"Never mind," he said over his shoulder.

She averted her eyes from him for a minute, then looked at him with a thoughtful expression on her face. With the wind riding with Nitro his clothes billowed out in ruffled puffs, his hair in a wild mess about his head. San looked into the sky and closed her eyes and wondered what time it was in her home.

They still skirted the waters edge, gulls circled around them with their squawks and screams, and water splashed her in tiny droplets, she laughed.

He looked back at her then back ahead of him, she pointed her face to the sky and smiled, "You know, this is my first time on a horse..."

He was silent, Nitro snorted and sped into the shallow end spraying water in the both of their faces.

"NITRO!" Shou Lang shouted angrily.

"WHEEEEEEEEE!" cried San.

With a neigh he reared back throwing San off into the water, San fell into the water laughing.

She looked up at the horse and saw Shou Lang whooping and yelling as Nitro tried bucking him off his back. "Come on Nitro! Is that the best you got?" she heard him yell.

Nitro pranced in the water kicking and jumping but still he held on laughing and taunting him.

"Knock him off your back, boy! Show him whose boss!" shouted San cupping her hands over her mouth.

The horse was smoking at the tail and smoke was rising from his mane and hooves as he bucked and thrashed, Shou Lang whooped and flew off his back laughing at him. Nitro charged for him, Shou Lang landed in the water and they were both off!

San watched them go, it was then that she realized they were racing each other! Shou Lang and Nitro had great tails of water trailing behind them as they ran. She had never seen anything so fast in her life, How is Shou Lang able to keep up with that horse?!

San ran after them then stopped, they were heading her way again, with a scream she ran trying to get out of their way.

Nitro popped her on his back and now she was apart of the race, she looked over at Shou Lang laughing, he looked up at her and gave her a partway smile. Then he gave her a boyish mischievous grin and splashed water in her face so hard causing her to topple off of the horse.

She heard his laughter bounce off the waves and into her ears, "You just try that again!" she cried wiping her face with her hand. "Come back here Nitro! Get back over here Shou Lang!"

They circled again and were coming her way, she stood in their way with her hands on her hips, both the horse and Shou Lang skidded to a stop.

"What are you doing?! You trying to get killed or something?" shouted Shou Lang breathing hard. "You're ruining our race!"

She gave him an innocent smile and treaded over to him placing both hands gingerly on his cheeks. He suddenly looked mortified and shocked, he opened his mouth but nothing came out of it.

Then she shoved his head in the water laughing at him, "You're such a dope! You fell for that one!" she laughed when he popped his head back up.

"That was unfair!" he said reaching for her face and pulling her head into the water.

"It's Ok that you fell for it," she said popping back up. "All guys fall for it," she said grinning at him.

He looked ready to argue but a wail stopped them both in their tracks. San looked over at the shore and saw a blue figure running the opposite direction. "It's Snake!" she cried pushing him toward the shore.

"That bastard is in for it now," she heard him growl. "SNAKE! GET BACK HERE YOU SIMPERING SIMPLETON!" He flew in the air and withdrew his sword.

"Nitro! Come here, boy!" she called to the horse, she didn't expect him to come but he did, she pulled herself on his back, "Follow Shou Lang!" the horse started off after him.

They ran behind the rocks, "To the rocks!" she said gripping his mane. Her backpack bumped against her back.

Just as Nitro trotted to the rocks Shou Lang was flying through the air and against the jagged rocks.

"SHOU LANG!" wailed San jumping off of Nitro.

Snake picked him back up and threw him against the rocks, San screamed.

Shou Lang seemed unconscious then he was dragging himself up and pointing his sword at him.

Snake looked in her direction and reached for her, "YOU!" he hissed jumping on her back. San screamed and kicked, "Shou Lang! Get him off me!"

There was a whizzing sound and a gurgle, blood sprayed in her face, the tip of Shou Lang's sword stuck out of his chest. Snake's eyes bulged and he toppled on top of her, "Shou LANG!" she howled.

"Stop that damn whining," she heard him say. "He's a heavy little beast isn't he?" said Shou Lang.

She could hardly breathe he was so heavy, all the air seemed to come out her lungs. Blood poured out of his mouth and on her face, she screeched. "Get him off-NOW!"

She heard him groan and then strain, Snake slowly rolled off of her body, Shou Lang had him above his head. "Stay there, San...we need to get out of here, get on Nitro," he said walking toward the water, he threw Snake inside then grabbed a knitted bag that laid in a pile by the rocks. He jogged over to her and onto the horse.

"Go, Nitro! Hiya! Hiya!" he commanded, Nitro snorted and bounded out of the beach.

4.

"For once you're in a good mood!" she cried up to him.

Shou Lang had chosen to fly than ride, he circled around Nitro and San laughing his head off. "Don't you see what this means?! I have the most Uoy stones! I'll get my wish after all!" he whooped.

"What's the big deal with these stones anyway? Why are they so important to you?" she asked sneaking Nitro a handful of oats.

He flew lower to the ground so he was at her level, "When I calm down I'll tell you..." he said. He gave another whoop and spiraled into the air. "I am INVINCIBLE!" he roared.

"Is he always like this?" she whispered in Nitro's ear. Nitro snorted and nodded his head. San threw her head back laughing.

Shou Lang dove onto Nitro then wrapped his arms around San's waist, San cried out in surprise. "Faster Nitro! Pretend we are racing, and I am winning for once!"

Nitro broke into a fierce gallop with San screaming for her life and him laughing insanely behind her.

He whooped again and shot off into the air yipping and laughing.

San was screaming bloody murder. "Stop, Nitro! TOO FAST! SHOU LAAANG!" she cried.

Shou Lang hovered in front of Nitro blowing into his eyes, "You can run faster than that, can't you? Come on Nitro, show me how fast you are!" he taunted, then flew back on his back whooping and shouting.

She watched everything pass in a blur, the sand shot from under Nitro's pounding hooves leaving a wall of sand behind him, San squeezed her eyes shut and screamed again.

Shou Lang had one arm securely around her waist and the other gripping Nitro's smoking mane, "Faster, boy! Run like the horses in the spirit world! Fly like the wind!" he shouted happily.

Nitro obeyed and went like lightning across the sands of the beach with flaring nostrils and pounding hooves.

"SHOU LAAAAANG! MAKE HIM STOP! TOO FAST! I'M GOING TO FALL!!!"

He pulled her closer to him laughing like a maniac, "I am invincible! I will become immortal and rule all of Ether and humans alike!" he shouted with his sword in the air. "I am the new ruler of the forest! Yes! Yes! Yes!"

"NITRO! I'M GOING TO FALL OFF-!!! PLEASE STOPPPP!" she cried kicking her legs and screaming, she teetered off his back and nearly fell but Shou Lang had yanked her back up laughing.

"Enjoy the ride, San! Just let go and fly!" he laughed flying back into the air.

San fell forward and clenched Nitro's mane in her hands with trembling hands, "Shou LAANG! Make him stop, if I fall off it will be your fault!"

She looked up and saw him swinging the knitted bag around with an insane grin plastered on his face, he jumped on Nitro in a standing position and pointed to the mountains. "To the forest of Ether my friends-! Let the search begin!" he shouted.

Nitro bounded in the air and to a small plateau stomping his hooves and then jumping off into the trees.

"YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" San shrieked.

She hugged Nitro's neck screaming for her life and crying for the horse to stop but it didn't stop, he seemed to run faster.

Shou Lang returned on Nitro sighing and patting San happily on the back.

"You've gone mad!" she cried.

"Now, now, I am by far a mad person right now- I am the most powerful demon in the forest...that is a reason to be happy isn't it?" he asked flashing her a mouthful of teeth.

San gripped onto Nitro's neck moaning to be let off, "He's gone crazy! Let me off!"

Shou Lang pried her off the horse's neck and held her hands so she wasn't holding onto anything. "Enjoy the ride, human comrade! This is fun!"

She squeezed her eyes shut and screamed.

"Come now, San...you're taking this ride the wrong way! How could you be screaming? This is great! Spread your arms out-it's like flying, San!" he said pulling her arms out horizontally.

"You're going to kill me this way!" she screamed.

"Faster, faster, faster-!" he shouted to Nitro. "You're so slow!"

"NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!" San wailed.

"You're doing great, boy! You just might win! Just a little faster!"

"SHOU LAAAAAAANG!"

"What's wrong San? You're screaming like I'm trying to kill you or something!" he said letting go of her hands and standing on Nitro's back.

San reached for Nitro's neck but he had already yanked her to her feet, "No! Shou Lang-! I'm going to fall off and die! Do you have any idea how fast we're-"

He ignored her and pulled her into his chest, "It is about time I taught you how to fly, San..." he said looking down at her.

"You've lost your mind! Let me go!"

"Are you ready?" he asked giving her a toothy grin with his eyes flashing. "On the count of three I'm going to push you off the horse-"

"NO! NO! NO!" she wailed beating her fists on his chest, he ignored her.

"- And then you're going to fly, understand?" he continued. "Remember, you can't be a sissy about this, it is either you fly or die, all right?"

"Shou Lang! If you're joking with me please stop-! You can't push me off!"

"ONE...."

San tried to move away but he overpowered her and forced her back on her feet, "Shou Lang-! Please don't..."

"TWO...."

She screamed and tried once more to grab onto Nitro's mane but he forced her to her feet again. "You know humans can't fly, Shou Lang!" she cried pounding her fists on him.

"TWO AND A HALF...!"

San kicked his legs, but again he ignored her hits of protests.

"TWO AND THREE QUARTERS..."

"Shou Lang-don't!" she pleaded looking into his yellow eyes. "Don't throw me off the horse! You're insane, you've lost your-"

"THREE!!!!!!!!!!!!" he yelled shoving her off.

San screamed and flailed her arms, "SHOU LAAAAAANG.......!!!!" She watched his figure disappear from the swirling smoke behind Nitro. The wind rushed to meet her face and she shut her eyes shrieking.

All of the sudden a blur of blue streaked by and she was back in Shou Lang's arms. She was so scared and frightened all she could do was gasp and shake, his eyes snapped at her in a disappointed stare.

"You didn't even try to fly," he said shaking his head. "You just fell and screamed, you could have flapped your arms or something like that..." he said grinning.

Nitro was waiting for them with his head inside the oat bag munching busily away.

San narrowed her eyes at Shou Lang, "I hate you!"

He laughed in that same careless manner he did when he was teasing her about the foods he ate in the forest. "You thought I was going to just push you off?"

"You told me to never trust a demon, even a half one like you!" she snapped slapping his arm. He grinned and crossed his arms in front of his chest watching her. "You're so...so...that wasn't even funny! You can't just bully people whenever you feel like it!" she shouted taking in a breath to calm her beating heart.

Still he watched her with that unconcerned grin on his face, she wanted to tear it off and beat him with it.

"You think you're so tough don't you?" she said adjusting her backpack. "But you just wait, Shou Lang! Someday someone stronger and better will come around and knock all of that cocky arrogance out of you!"

"Has that day come? Is it you that will knock out my cocky arrogance?"

She was so mad she wanted to scream and break something, instead of yelling at him she turned abruptly on her heel and strode behind Nitro.

"Hey, San," he jeered pouncing on top of his back and staring down at her, "Just how exactly are you going to knock everything out? Are you going to hit me again?"

San ignored him, she blew air in her face and patted Nitro's side.

"Are you going to tear down a tree and beat me to death with its twigs, huh?"

She narrowed her eyes and pushed him off of his balance on Nitro, he fell over but in a flip and came around the side of the horse whacking her arm with his hand. "Just tell me how you're going to knock everything out? Are you going to hire somebody?"

"Shut up Shou Lang, " she snapped at him pushing him from her, he grabbed her hand. "Tell me..." he said with a thoughtful expression forming on his face. "...Just when did you ever stand up to me? You know you can't," his expression turned into a curling scowl. "I've never had a whining human beat the anything out of me!"

"Maybe it's about time for one," she said pulling her hand from his, Shou Lang tightened his grip until she winced.

"Is it really, San? Just what can you do to me, hmmm? Let's make a list of all the ways you could hurt me, shall we? Start!"

"I'm not making a list!" San snapped at him heatedly.

He tightened his grip even harder, "Wrong answer, dear..." he said grinning.

"One day, I swear I'll bring a gun and shoot you with it!" she cried hitting him with her other hand.

He released her and circled around with his arms stretched up to the sky, "A gun? I've heard about guns...they died out a long time ago, though, " he said stopping and jumping on Nitro's back.

San scoffed while rubbing her throbbing hand, "Cruel pig..." she whispered.

His ears twitched and a smile formed on his face, "We still need to get the forest San. Let's go...unless you want to get carried off to hell again," he said smirking.

"I-I don't need you!" she snapped angrily.

"Again with you stupid humans, you're feeling instead of thinking...if you had any sense at all you'd realize that you do need me, you'd die out here otherwise."

"Why do you care?!" she shouted turning her back on him.

He cocked his head, " I don't...and don't try to link this with that human emotion thing you had earlier," he said with his lip curling. San ignored him. "I think of you as a challenge to be honest," he said laughing. "You're always getting in trouble, my chore- you!" he jeered pointing a claw at her.

"You're a retard if you think I'm going with you back into that forest!"

San heard him jump from the horse and felt his hands around her shoulders, "I don't think I'm giving you a choice, San," he said spinning her around. Without warning he scooped her up into his arms and over his shoulder.

"No! No! Let go of me! Let me go, you bully! Put me down, pick on someone else for once and leave me alone!" she shrieked beating her fists on his back.

"I like picking on you," she heard him snicker, Nitro snorted from beside her. "Believe it or not San, I kind of admire you..."

San thrashed and kicked, "Put me down! Let go of me! Shou Lang- let me go!"

He shifted her on his shoulder and stroked Nitro's head, "Go on boy, I'm going into Ether...I don't want you getting hurt," he said smacking Nitro's side.

San watched and gasped, "Did you hear what you just said?! You said that you didn't want to him to get hurt! So you do care-!" With that he dropped her, he looked like he was about to argue with her but turned to Nitro instead and pulled his head against his own.

"I'll be fine, Nitro...go on! Go to the wilderness if you want, go on, now!" he said, the horse nodded his head and trotted off evaporating into a smoky cloud.

San crawled away from Shou Lang before he could reach for her, he set his jaw and seized her ankle. San screamed and thrashed around. He pulled her up from her backpack and into his arms again. San kicked at him, Shou Lang threw her over his shoulder and threw her backpack over the other.

"Stop screaming, stupid girl...by now you should've guessed I don't want to kill you-yet- anyway," he said calmly. "Besides...who will wash my clothes and polish my sword," he said in a dry laugh.

San knew it was useless fighting him, he was stronger than her, faster, and bigger. She let him carry her into the woods in defeat, he began whistling.



4.

She had fallen asleep a while ago, he looked over his shoulder at her sighing. "Stupid girl...in fact I have no clue why I put up with her..." he shrugged her off his shoulder and she hit the ground with a little cry. He ignored it and took her backpack in his hands examining it. "What does she have in here? This is the strangest looking bag I've ever seen in my life!" he exclaimed.

He sat down and checked to see if she was still sleeping, she was, he grinned and shook the backpack upside down. To his surprise nothing came out, there wasn't even an opening in it!

"What a stupid bag, how does she get stuff inside it?" he said shaking the backpack harder. "She's hiding something in this thing..." he narrowed his eyes and examined the zipper. "What in the seven hells is that?" he poked a long fingernail in the zipper. Nothing happened...

Sighing he dropped her backpack shaking his head, "What is the point of having a bag you can't get into? Humans are so stupid and wasteful..." he said growling at her.

She was on her side with her mouth partly open and small murmurs coming from her throat, he frowned at her and turned his head away sighing. He saw her curl tighter into a ball from the corner of his yellow eyes. He watched her shiver and on impulse took off his shirt and draped it over her, then realizing what he had just done snatched his shirt back and threw it back over his head.

"What the heck was that all about!" he said drawing back from her. "What was I doing?!" he cried hitting his head. He took a peek at her and found her shivering again. He shrugged and stood up, "Should've brought warmer clothes," he said looking away. Somehow no matter how hard he tried to ignore it he couldn't, she was cold and shuddering from the cold.

He looked into the afternoon sun sighing then back at San hesitating, he knelt beside her and poked her with a claw.

She swatted at his hand and turned over in her sleep, I wonder what humans think about when they sleep...he thought after a while of staring at her. When she shivered again he let out a breath and took off his shirt, making a face he draped it over her shoulders and scooted far away from her.

San murmured something and nestled into his shirt pulling it over part of her head, he watched all of this with frustration lining his face. No matter how many nights he tried to ignore it he couldn't, when she was cold it was the little things he did that startled and scared him. He would start fires, other nights he would move her closer to the fire, or sit next to her and warm her up with his hands, and the scariest part was when he would take off his shirt, like he was doing now.

Shou Lang made a face and drew his tail on his lap, then he lowered his head and stared back at San. He moved next to her still making faces, then sighed and looked into the trees.

What if my father really did...no-! Why am I even thinking about that? He thought shuddering from the idea. This girl planted this thing in my brain...and now I am cursed with her...he watched her sigh and cuddle against his shirt.

By instinct, he drew out a claw and traced her cheek with it, she gave a contented sigh and settled down from her squirming. Then with wide eyes he drew his hand back in shock and mortification, gasping he scooted as far as he could but just close enough to see her in view.

What on earth and heaven am I doing?! Have I gone crazy or something?! What is wrong with me?! I'm losing it-! He thought taking a deep breath.

Enough of this, she's waking up! She's going to drive me mad squirming and kicking around like that all afternoon, he thought kneeling back beside her and stabbing her with the same claw he had touched her with.

"YOW!" she shrieked sitting up and rubbing her back. "What was that for?!"

He ignored her and yanked her to her feet, it was then that he realized she had his shirt and he hadn't taken it off before waking her up!

He turned around horrified, San drew his shirt closer around her like a cloak and gave him a smile. "Thanks..."

"Oh no you don't!" he snarled snatching his shirt and pulling it over his head. He watched San glare at him. "What was the point of giving it to me if you won't let me wear it? It's cold out here!"

"Bring warmer clothes," he jeered grabbing her wrist. "I don't feel like carrying you around, so you can walk today," he told her dryly. San pursed her lips together.

He pulled her into a stumbling walk, "Let's go, come on...from this point on you do exactly what I say if you want to live...we are entering the Ether forest."

He heard her say something but ignored it and kept walking, he tuned his ears keenly and sharpened his eyes all senses were on alert.

"Why are we going in here? I thought you killed Snake already," sighed San from behind him. His mouth twisted into an irritated frown, Shut up, he thought. "Why are we back in the forest, Shou Lang?"

He faced her abruptly and glowered at her, San's face went meek and she lowered her head. He turned back to the forest narrowing his eyes, listening for a sound.

"I have to find the rest of the Uoy stones," he told her after a while. "Most of them are in the forest...sometimes they hide in human villages but humans, being the stupid creatures they are, are afraid of them, and they give it to other demons," he said jerking San harder by the wrist.

"Why are the humans afraid of the stones? Are the Uoy stones, evil?" she asked.

He twitched his ears trying to locate a sound, "No...the Uoy stones are anything you want them to be...for good or bad, it brings immortality and any wish of its owner once everything has been collected."

"Immortality?! And a wish?! How come you are the only one after it?"

He chuckled and peered at her grinning, "I wish that were true...but sadly it isn't, most demons are looking for it...so I'm not alone in this race."

"Why do you want the stones, what would you wish for?" she asked from behind him. He flattened his ears then twitched his nose uncomfortably.

"None of your business, woman!"

He heard San's heart quicken pace and her quietly gasp, he hid a smile, and if only she knew how good his ears were she wouldn't talk to herself so often.

"Why do the Uoy stones have so much power? And how can you find more of the stones without a map or something?"

"They are my maps," he said quietly. "They sound off in siren, or it seems like...they make a noise that I can hear...and it gets louder the closer I get to any other stone," he said brushing his tail against her by accident. He swished his tail back to his legs, "The rest you're just going to have to figure out..."

"You don't know anymore about the stones?" she asked him.

Shou Lang snickered, "I just don't want you after my stones, that's all."

She jerked back on his grip, "What would I want with immortality? Living forever doesn't sound all that powerful to me..."

"That isn't everything those stones can do...I just gave you a sample..." he faced her with a grin forming on his face. He yanked her into a walk, "You're either on my side or against me, nothing will stand in my way, San." He faced the woods," I will be unstoppable once I get them all! I'll rule the forest of Ether and the human worlds...!"

Joy bubbled in his chest, he let his mouth part into a wistful smile.

"You have nothing to worry about, I'm going home and never coming back once I get back to that well, your world is too dangerous and scary."

"That's because you're weak," he said snickering at her. "You can't even start a fire, there is no way you would survive out here if it wasn't for me..."

She grunted behind him and snorted, "I can start a fire now...I have matches with me!"

Matches, he thought. What in the seven hells is a 'matches'?

He scoffed, "You have no clue what you're talking about. I think you're delusional, my worthless companion," he said shaking his head and pulling her faster into the trees.

"The next time you want to start a fire, let me know and I'll show you that I can start a fire!"

He smirked, "We'll see about that, San. I think you're a lunatic," Poor girl, he thought with an unconcerned shrug.

"I'm not the lunatic that wants to rule the world!" she shouted over his shoulder.

He hated to admit it but he was beginning to admire her audacious behavior toward him, he looked back at her with a mild look of surprise on his face, then continued to pull her through the trees.

"It'll never work, you know..." she continued. "No one can live forever in happiness by themselves, it is impossible!"

"Then you don't know me as well as you pretend you do, don't you?" he said dryly.

"When the world falls apart and you are the only creature standing, you'll understand what I mean by that," she said in a crisp voice.

He shrugged and kept walking, he knew they were close to the hot springs, he could hear the steam rising off of the water.

"Everyone you care about will die and leave you here alone, is that what you want?"

"You're such a human," he cried in disgust.

"Think about it...Shou Lang, why do you want to rule the world? Have you ever thought about what you would do once you had the world in your hands?"

For starters, how about throwing you off a cliff, he thought grinning.

"I mean, it would get boring after a while, wouldn't it? All by yourself?" she said.

How about shutting up and letting me find these stones, he thought.

He jerked her closer to the hot springs, from here he could see the steam rising out of the cave he was dragging her into.

"Where are we going?" she cried looking up at the cave and the mountains it connected to. She tugged on his shirt, "Shou Lang...?"

"Stop your whining, damn it!" he said pushing her hand away in exasperation. "It is only a cave! A dark cave with bats and hot springs, that's it!" he said looking back at her.

"Why are we going in here?"

He made a face at her, "Quit complaining and get in there-!" he said shoving her toward the cave's mouth.

"Shou Lang, I don't like this, why in a cave?"

"Shut up."

"Does this cave connect anywhere? Why are we going in here?! There could be demons inside of there!"

He listened intently before pulling her after him inside, he heard footsteps and rapid talking, and from in his pack he heard a light buzz. He looked back at San grinning, "There are demons inside here...and Uoy stones..." he watched the color drain from her face. "Be very quiet..." he said putting a finger against his lips.

She nodded her head.

He tightened the grip on her wrist and pulled her inside the mouth of the cave.

"...him floating face down in the ocean, it was pathetic," said a childlike voice, Shou Lang twitched his ears and withdrew his sword.

The steam floated in his face, as he moved against the wall he felt San hug onto his arm, he narrowed his eyes trying to locate the speakers, the smell of dead human flesh hung around the steam.

"He was always a stupid one...just like Nago," said another voice in a deeper baritone. The deep voice and the childlike one went into giddy laughter.

"Shou Lang..."

"Shhh..." he whispered to her and tuned in his ears.

Her grip on his arm grew tighter, "Shou Lang...!" she whispered again.

"San, I need you to be quiet, Ok? Shut up!" he hissed.

"...Nago died not so long ago...it seems all the demons in the forest are dying off! It's that damn half blood-!" the childlike voice sounded angry.

"Not only Shou Lang...also Monde is killing off the forest," replied the deeper voice.

He felt her tugging on his sleeve but ignored it and waved her off, then he gripped his sword with both hands.

More steam went into his face, the smell of death was so thick he could hardly smell them at all.

"Shou Lang...!" San hissed again.

He reached for her face and closed his hand over her mouth, it didn't feel like San, the skin was too rough, he narrowed into the steam but couldn't see her.

"San?" he whispered, he heard a grim laugh.

Before he could move away his hand it was twisted and was grabbed at the neck, it was a demon, he could tell by the stench of him that now clogged his nose.

"...What was that?!" cried the childlike voice from the back of the cave.

"Shou Lang!?!" he heard San cry.

He punched the demon in the face knocking a hole in his head, blood gushed out onto his face, he took his sword and stabbed it in the dark lump on the floor.

"Someone is here-! I heard a human!" cried the deep voice. "Come on, Mew!"

He stabbed the thing over and over again, he felt hands around his arm and knew it was San.

"To the back of the cave-hurry!" he pushed her in front of him.

"I tried to tell you-" she was saying.

"I know..." he said grabbing onto her wrist and pulling her from behind him.

The steam cleared and now he could see, a child and a large dark bird stood near the hot spring. The reflection shone on the walls of the cave, a small opening was at the top allowing sunlight to stream through.

"Nice place you have here..." he said casually. The hum from his pack grew into a loud pulsating rhythm. "I think you know why I'm here," he said menacingly.

The child was white as the clouds, she looked nearly like a ghost- she had a third eye in her head and orange bright eyes. The bird was a vulture looking creature, Shou Lang tossed his pack at San.

"I suggest that you turn away, San...this could get very bloody..." as he said this the girl demon lunged at him.

He was ready for her, he blocked her attack with his sword and kicked her in the forehead, she spun in the air and against the cave wall.

"Give me the Uoy stones you have or I'll let my blade take you to hell..." he said in a low growl.

The demon girl was ready for him again, she lunged back at him clawing at him with her long fingernails, Shou Lang flipped over her and thrust his sword in the back of her head, the demon girl howled. He took out his sword and kicked her into the hot spring.

The bird ran deeper into the cave, Shou Lang's eyes flashed.

"GIVE ME THE UOY STONES YOU HAVE, SIMPLETON!" he hollered after the squawking bird.

He flew after him with his sword in the air, he jumped in front of the bird cutting him off, the vulture screeched. "Shou Lang-! I-I have no Uoy stones to give you!"

Shou Lang's mouth twisted in a smile, "Don't lie to me, vulture...tell me where you have the stones and I might spare your life..." he said narrowing his eyes.

The bird hopped to the red hot spring where the girl was floating and pointed his wing at her, he took his sword and swiped at the beak of the vulture.

"Pointing at her isn't helping me! Tell me where it is!"

Part of the beak fell to the floor and the demon squawked staring at Shou Lang with murderous intent in his eyes.

"In the water...the very bottom!" it said through screams of anguish.

"Go in there and get it for me," he said pushing the vulture in the water.

His eyes followed the bird under the water and to the bottom, from under the water he found a blue bag. "Don't need you anymore," he said throwing his sword in the water. The bird thrashed and squealed with pain.

He looked up and found San cowering in the corner, he shook his head and dove into the spring. He had painted the pool a deep dark red, he opened his eyes ignoring the sting in his eyes. He had to get the stones and his sword before they died completely. It was already starting with the girl...black slime covered her body and she began to sink.

He took his sword from the bird and swam farther to the bottom, the bag was shimmering, he took it and swam back up tossing the bag at San. Then he pulled himself up and looked over at the girl whose skin began to turn black with slime.

San, he thought looking up at her. Have to get her out of here-now!

He took the pack from San's hands and put it on his back, "Now you get on," he told her.

San jumped on his back with a trembling grip around his neck.

He emptied the stones in his hands and tossed them in the pack, "Hold on, I'm going to fly us out of here!" he said lifting off the ground.

The demon girl screamed suddenly and thrashed around covering the pool with the slime, with bright black-filmed eyes she looked up at them. Her mouth opened in a piercing unearthly scream and she was out of the water and panting on the shore.

"Shou Lang-! She's still alive! You didn't kill her, yet!" cried San.

"She is dead, she just died...now what is left of her is after you," he said flying deeper into the cave.

"After me?! WHY?!"

"Remember how I told you that the life of a demon is only to spread their hate into others?" he said looking over his shoulder at the demon girl. "She wants to take your soul and feed off of it, she's been dead a while...it was the stones that kept her alive."

The demon girl ran after them with her claws outstretched and her mouth open in a twisted, angry moan.

He flew faster and moved past other springs and caverns until he found an opening out of the cavern walls. He shot out of the hole just as her hand shot out to grab them.

He stopped flying and took out his sword, San jumped off of his back, he walked close to the hole and poked the demon in the head with it.

Her eyes widened at first, then she screamed in anguish and pain. He turned away from her and replaced his sword. San was glued to the grass watching her, he knew what she was watching, he turned his head and gave the demon a shrug.

"She's going to hell if you're wondering why she's melting like that," he said.

San's mouth moved with no sound her lower lip trembled, he draped an arm over her shoulder and turned her away from the sight.

"What about the bird...isn't he going to do the same thing...?"

He looked ahead nodding, "Yep, it happens to all of them, it might even happen to me!"

"You're going to hell?" she asked looking into his face, he looked down at her laughing, "Well not now! I meant when I die...you understand?"

"Is there a heaven?" she asked in a small voice.

"San...there is no such thing as heaven or hell," he said quietly. "It is just a storage of energy...if you die and you lived your life with positive energy then you go to positive whatever. If you die and you lived your life using negative energy, then you go to hell."

"Your world...is...so different and dark...from my world..." he heard her say in a quiet voice. "My world...has no demons..."

He put his arm around her shoulders again, "Demons are everywhere...in your world...I'm sure they just know how to hide better...they aren't as evil as the ones on my world."

He watched her shudder against him, "I want to go home, Shou Lang..." she whispered.

"Ok...will you be back?" he asked releasing her shoulders.

"I...don't know..." she said quietly. "If I do come back I'll most definitely be with you again," she looked up at him smiling. "I don't mind it as much anymore!"

He felt his ears twitch and his eyes widen, "Stop saying stuff like that!" he said pushing her. "Now let me get you back home so I can see Nitro again."

He watched her face beam, "For a demon, you aren't all that bad," she said.

"What did I say about that! Quit talking to me like that!" he said picking her up, he lifted off the ground and into the air.

5.

San shut the trap door and pulled the rug over the door with absolute quietness and stillness. She looked up at the time and sighed with relief, it was only 5:00. San tip toed outside the door then peeked to see if Ms. James' car was in the driveway. It was.

She turned around and rang the doorbell, Ms. James answered the door and kissed her lightly on the cheek. "Hello, Ms. James," she said sighing.

"Hello dear, did you study for that test," she said patting her shoulder. San nodded and smiled. "Well...that's nice," croaked Ms. James waving her inside. "I baked you cookies while you were away! Your favorite, right?"

"Yes," answered San hugging the old woman. "I missed you."

The old woman nodded and seated herself by the table, "Sit down and eat these, love. I made them for a reason," she said.

She did what she was told and bit into a chocolate cookie nodding her head and giving Ms. James a thumb's up.

Ch. 3 part 2

1.

"...I still don't know the answer to the mystery of Shou Lang's world but only time will tell..." she finished folding her papers on the podium and looking into the blase faces of her class.

"That was very creative, San...let's give San James a hand," said Mrs. Yurts clapping her hands together. San gave her a polite nod and sat down in her chair. The class clapped for a few seconds then another girl went to the podium and began her story.

San took a deep breath and stared at her papers, Shou Lang...she thought. I wonder if he is all right and taking care of himself...what if he gets killed before I come back?! San shuddered and stared back at the podium.

She remembered how he had looked in the tree...how helpless and small he had looked, she had taken care of him-even for just that half and hour it seemed as though Shou Lang needed more help than he let on, he had saved her from the pig...that was why he was hurt...Shou Lang.

"Let's give Katie Walker a hand, you may sit down Kate," said Mrs. Yurts clapping her hands and patting Katie on the back as she sat down in her seat. "David...would you please step up to the podium please?..."

I don't understand how Shou Lang can have so many personality traits...one minute he's angry...the next he's joking around...and then-then-it's as if he is a demon when he is fighting...the way he killed that demon girl...and Snake...

"...You may sit down David, yes sit down. I don't want to hear it, if you aren't going to come to class prepared then why bother going to class at all?!" Mrs. Yurts was saying.

He's a good person at heart, I think...he just tries not to show it as much as he should...I've seen him with Nitro and he's a completely different person...why does he need to have the Uoy stones so badly?

"...And this goes for the entire class! Please come to creative writing prepared and ready to learn...I'm not paid to teach a bunch of monkeys in my class room...!"

Snickers and snorts came from the classroom, Mrs. Yurts was pointing at someone to go to the podium.

"The Magic Door..." started Patrick Ronald at the podium. "There was once a boy..."

San sighed and looked out of the window, What can the Uoy stones really do? Why does he want them so badly...?

"San...Pay attention please," Mrs. Yurts chided tapping on her desk. San sat up straighter and looked back at the speaker behind the podium.

He doesn't want me to know...what can they do? I don't understand why he needs them so badly...he doesn't seem the type to want to hurt people, she thought lowering her head. Well...except for demons with the Uoy stones...she thought sighing deeply.

"...the boy didn't understand...slowly he reached for the handle of the door..." Patrick droned on. "...flashes of light blinded his eyes and he stumbled back..."

I can't let anything happen to Shou Lang, he's a good person and once he sees that he won't need to find the Uoy stones anymore, she decided firmly. He has protected me and now it is my turn to protect him from himself...

"...He kissed his mother happily and then his sister..." Patrick continued.

San looked at her hands and thought of Ms. James, she knew she had gone down the well herself, she remembered the warning she had told her before her coma. She was saying 'Uoy,' maybe she had a Uoy stone with her...

"...He had never been so happy in his life, he looked back at the magic door and touched the handle..."

In her room she might have a Uoy stone...or maybe it is in the trap door...

"...the boy said quietly, then he let go of the handle and faced his family..." said Patrick swallowing.

San looked up at the podium still absent in thought, then the class was clapping and she did so herself looking at the wall clock.

"Very moving, Patrick...good job," said Mrs. Yurts patting his back. "I'm afraid that is all the time we have today..." sighed Mrs. Yurts looking at the clock.

The students pushed in their chairs and started out of the classroom, San scooped up her books and followed the herd outside.

2.

"Hey! Hey! Hey!" called a voice from behind her, San shut her locker and turned around.

"Patrick...hi..." she said awkwardly. "Um...great story, it was really good," she said giving him a polite smile.

"Oh yeah, thanks..." said Patrick shyly, he took off his glasses and wiped them on the sleeve of his shirt. "Yours was really good too...actually that was why I came over here," he said putting them back on his face.

"Um...Ok..." said San with sudden alarm in her voice. She smiled and shrugged her shoulders. "What about it, Patrick?"

"I've heard something about that before...about a well and time warps," he said narrowing his eyes at her. "I know how you got that story..." he said.

"W-what do you mean?" cried San incredulously. "You mean you know about..."

Patrick nodded his head and took off his glasses glaring at her, "Mrs. Yurts thought your story all came from your imagination, you got an 'A' didn't you?" he demanded.

San rolled her eyes and ducked from him, "I'm going to miss my bus, Patrick. I have to go!" she cried breaking into a run.

"You cheated San James! You cheated on your story! I know what you did at your house! You went in there, didn't you?!" he shouted.

San whipped around with her eyes wide, she jogged back over to him. "You went down there too?" she asked.

"No...I'm not like you," said Patrick angrily. "Tell Mrs. Yurts that you're fraud."

San scoffed, "Why is that important?! Tell me if you went down there...what did you see?" she cried shaking his shoulders.

"So you did get it out of the Arcade, didn't you?!" he accused.

"What?"

"You copied the story from this video game, it is almost exactly like yours! You copied it off the arcade didn't you?"

"I-?" San rolled her eyes and groaned. "So that is what this is about!" San threw her hands in the air and turned away.

"I'll tell her! You cheated San, that isn't fair to the rest of us in the class!"

San ignored him and jogged outside the school building and into the bus parking lot.

That was close, I thought he had gone inside the well at first...she thought seating herself in an empty seat. The bus started off and was soon parked in front of her house.

San ran inside the house and into Ms. James' room. She threw down her backpack on the floor and started looking through her dressers and closets.

"Where is it, she has to have it here! She must have a Uoy stone somewhere, where is it?!" she cried picking all the contents out of her reading table drawer. She moved from the dresser to her bathroom.

Frantically she opened every door and checked every shelf before slamming it shut and running into the guest room.

San checked every room upstairs, then raced downstairs and looked through all the drawers there too. She ran into the parlor and pulled back the trap door, mist swirled around her legs. She ran down the 24 steps and into the dark room with the well. She took out her flashlight and flipped it on, nothing.

Unfazed she searched every corner of the room and then ran back to the well and looked down inside it. The mist began to change colors again, from gray to a dark red color.

"Crap! Where is it! I know it is in here! I don't want to go back in there," she cried looking around franticly for the stone. The mist changed into a deep blue, it was her last warning color before she would be off into the land of demons.

Then something caught her eye in the next little sectioned area of the room, she found a chair and a table, the mist began to swirl and pull.

San picked up the glinting thing on the table but couldn't see it through the thick blue fog, she felt tired and sleepy, and her legs seemed to force her to walk to the well. Then her legs went over the well and a gentle touch pushed her off the edge and into the spinning blue foggy bottom of the well.

3.

Something was touching her face, something soft and warm...she opened her eyes and found a large pair of black ones staring back at her.

"Nitro! Hey there, boy!" she said laughing.

Nitro nuzzled her face and nipped at her clothes, he stomped his foot and blew smoke into her face from his nostrils.

San coughed and sat up stroking his legs gently, "Where is your master, boy? Did he leave you again?" she asked standing and patting his cheek.

Nitro nodded his head and snorted, "Do you know where he is?" she asked pulling his head against hers. Nitro blew smoke into her face and shook his head neighing at her.

"Oh yeah! The thing I found under the trap door," she said looking around for it. In the grass she found the glinting of light, she picked it up and turned it over in her hands. "Look Nitro, it is a dagger..." she said looking up at Nitro. Nitro neighed.

It was a black stone dagger with a silver handle, it looked sharp enough, San found string in the handle and a clip like a necklace and put it around her neck. The obsidian-looking dagger glinted in the sunlight. It was truly a beautiful craft, it looked like a Native American artifact to San.

"How does it look on me, Nitro?" she asked turning for him to see. Nitro nodded his head and snorted, "That's a good boy," she cooed rubbing his neck. "Now I have a weapon and jewelry item in one!" she laughed and kissed his neck.

The wind blew against her face and chilled her, she climbed on Nitro patting his back. "Will you be a good boy and take me to your master?" she asked him.

Nitro immediately began galloping down the hill and out of the mountains. San held onto his mane and giggled, "Good boy, Nitro! You're such a fast horse!"

Nitro galloped into the rising sun and into the sand dunes, he skirted the water and bounded across the sands leaving a trail of sand behind him.

The dagger bounced on her chest in light bumps, Nitro moved past the rocks and climbed up the cliffs from the rocks, San held on tighter to his mane.

Nitro reached the plateau by early afternoon, he stopped and peered back at San. San squeezed her eyes shut and threw her arms around his neck, "Go ahead!"

On command the horse was in the air and sailing away from the plateau, San screamed for her life then broke into giggling fits once he landed on the boulders and hills to the ground, without stopping Nitro bounded away into dark wooded forest ahead of him.

Nitro neighed and whinnied through the trees calling him, San patted his neck. "Shou LAAAAANG! Shou LAAAAANG! It's me, San! Shou LAAAAANG!?!" she called.

Her voice echoed off the trees and was carried off into the winds, Nitro flattened his ears and snorted.

"Shou Lang!? Shou Laaaaang?! Shou LAAAAANG?! " she cried, Nitro whinnied and neighed louder. His hoof beats echoed against the ground as he ran, he jumped over logs and brambles snorting.

4.

He raised his head from the water's surface perking up his ears. He heard it again, it was familiar, and something was out there, it wasn't just his imagination.

"San!" he cried jumping up.

She better not be in any trouble, stupid girl- how come she can't just stay home?!

5.



"Shou Lang?! Shou Lang!!!!" she called, she sighed and gave Nitro a flick. "You said that you knew where he was, boy..."

Nitro stopped galloping and stood completely still, San cocked her head. "What are you doing? Do you hear something?" She listened herself and heard a low whirl coming from above, San squinted her eyes and peered harder into the sky.

The whirring stopped and a flash of blue streaked across the clearing, Nitro snorted.

"Shou Lang! Over here!" she shouted.

The blue blur zipped back around and stopped, "Over here!" she yelled at him.

She saw him and waved, he landed a couple of yards away and strode up to her huffing and puffing.

"Are you all right? Are you hurt anywhere?" he panted.

"No," said San with a smile. "I asked Nitro to find you...that's all," she said. She watched his expression darken with anger.

"You aren't hurt?! You were just yelling my name for the fun of it?!" he growled.

"No...I'm here to help you. I decided to tag along and help you find all of the Uoy stones..." said San hopping off of the horse and up to him.

"So...you just...yelled my name over and over just to tell me that?" he said with his yellow eyes blazing and his chest moving up and down with big breaths.

"Um...yeah, if you want to look at it that way," she said looking from side to side.

He grunted in disgust and brushed past her he took Nitro by the neck and whispered something to him, Nitro trotted off. He looked back at her narrowing his eyes, "You have a lot of nerve coming back here, don't you know that the haunted forest is looking for you?"

San shrugged, she watched him turn away then turn abruptly and grab her shoulders. "Where did you get this?" he demanded looking at the dagger.

"In my world...why? Is it a Uoy stone or something?" she asked watching him poke at it.

"Yes it is..."he said thoughtfully. Then he turned angry, "I need that! Give it to me, take it off."

San felt anger well up in her chest, "No! I found this, it's mine! And you aren't getting it, Shou Lang," she told him moving out of his grasp.

Shou Lang's eyes turned a dark yellow, almost into an orangish-yellow color.

"San! Give it here or I'll force it off of you, I need all of the Uoy stones!" he snarled pulling her back in his hold. "Take it off, San!"

"No! You're not having it! It's mine, you can't have it!" she said pushing off of him.

He pulled out his sword and raised it to her neck, "I'm giving you a chance to live, human..."

"You can't bully me around anymore!" she said knocking the sword from her neck, his eyes went from orange to red and his tail stuck straight out from behind him.

His breathing became hard and shallow, he looked as if he would burst with rage, with a growl he threw her on the ground and reached for the dagger.

He pinned her wrists against each other above her head with one hand and put his knee in her stomach so she couldn't breathe. "Now we'll see if I won't be able to get it!" he said with a smirk on his face.

San wriggled and squirmed but he was too strong, she felt like a helpless worm.

He reached for the dagger all of a sudden a wall of electricity surrounded San and she heard him scream out in pain as he pulled his hand away. He glared at her and tried again, the same thing happened. Light exploded from the dagger and a wall of electricity blocked her off from him, his hand shot back to his sides.

San was scared of the dagger and now she was afraid of him, of what he would do to her...

Shou Lang held his hand breathing hard and staring accusingly at her, "You put a curse on it-! Didn't you, you insignificant little twit!" he snarled at her.

"No-! I found it! I don't how to put a curse on anything! I swear!" she cried, she felt Nitro nip at her hair.

He looked back at his hands and then at her dagger that glinted in the sunlight. "It is no matter...it only stops me from taking it off of you...I have other ways of getting it off..." he murmured picking up his sword.

San crawled underneath Nitro whimpering.

He grabbed her ankle and the same thing happened, light came out of the dagger and a wall of electricity parted them, Shou Lang howled and fell on his back. Nitro wasn't affected by it, he leaned his head in the grass and continued to munch away.

"Shou Lang-! I'm not doing this, I'm not trying to hurt you! I-!"

"SHUT UP!" he panted, then his eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed.

Nitro continued munching, San covered her mouth from screaming. "Shou Lang?! Did he die? Is he dead?!" she crawled from under Nitro and beside him.

He was murmuring something and opening his eyes, he looked up at her with a faint smile on his face, "I'm...sorry...San..." he said rolling over on his side. "I won't take...it...from you anymore..."

"Don't die, Shou Lang!" she cried shaking him.

"Don't be stupid...San..." he said with a hoarse laugh. "I'm...just near unconsciousness...I'll wake up and...I'll..." he closed his eyes.

"What can I do to help you?! Shou Lang?! Shou Lang?!" she cried.

"Don't...need...help..." he said barely over a whisper. "Leave me...alone..."

San felt more anger well in her chest, "Rest up Shou Lang, I'm going to take care of you until you wake up!"

"No..." he said dropping off unconscious. "Go...away..."

San stood up and rummaged in his pack and found his cloth, she pulled out a jug of water and a rolled up bundle of clothes...to her surprise they were hers!

"My stuff...the clothes I left in the haunted forest...he has them?" she cried looking back at Shou Lang.

He remained motionless and still, Nitro looked up and trotted over to the pack sniffing for oats.

If Nitro isn't worried about Shou Lang then he's fine, maybe it just stunned him, she thought sighing at Nitro.

San returned with everything and knelt beside him dabbing his head with the wet cloth. She picked up his hand and gasped, it had large red burn marks running down it, she placed it over his chest and lifted his head to slide her clothes under his head so he had a pillow.

"How come you have to be so driven and stupid?" she asked him picking up his hand and rubbing the cloth on it. "Why do you have to be so stubborn with me...why didn't you just leave it alone?" she asked him quietly.

His mouth opened in a murmur and he squeezed his eyes shut wincing, "Serves you right," she said pressing the cloth over the burn. "You should have just left me alone the first time...but you didn't, and know you're passed out on the ground..."

Nitro was munching in the oat bag he had found in Shou Lang's pack, San looked up sighing. "Aren't you ever not hungry?" she asked the horse.

She finished with his hand and went for the other one, Shou Lang winced harder and sighed, San watched him. "And of all things you've forced me to actually care about you in some way...I don't even understand why..." she told him making a face at him. "You're mean to me, you leave me all time, and you tease me!" She finished with his hand and put it on top of his other avoiding his long nails.

She tipped his water jug on the cloth and set it back down on the grass, Shou Lang murmured something else and twitched his nose. San wrapped the cloth in a rectangle and gently placed it on his head.

"There! And if I wasn't here you wouldn't have anyone to help you when you pass out and get hurt..." she told him sitting back watching him. "I guess you have no choice but to have me tag along with you..." she said looking back up at Nitro.

San smiled at the horse and then back at Shou Lang, a lock of navy hair fell in his eyes, San moved it out of the way with her hand. Shou Lang murmured something else and let out a light groan. She looked back into the trees, Maybe if he wasn't so...so...she looked back at him sighing. So...so adorable I wouldn't be doing this, she thought tugging on his ears and giggling.

Nitro snorted as he trotted over to them and rested his head on Shou Lang's chest, San stroked his muzzle smiling fondly at him.

Shou Lang's eyes fluttered open, she watched him open his eyes and look over at Nitro with a partway smile on his face, he patted Nitro's head. "Good boy..." he said. Then he looked in her direction and rolled his eyes. "You're still here..."

"Yes...unless you want those Uoy stones you're going to have to tag me along with you," San said softly. "Are you all right?"

"No..." he answered rubbing his hands. "Your fault..."

"I told you to leave me alone, why'd you have to go psycho on me?"

He sat up putting his hands on the grass and looking at her, "Did I hurt you?"

The question startled her, she felt her heart flutter, "The dagger protected me..."

He snorted and rubbed his ears, "My ears are very sensitive...why'd you have to pull on them?"

San giggled and pulled on them again, "Because they look adorable on you!"

He made a face and stood to his feet swiping at her hands.

"Well San, I guess you're apart of the group..." he said holding out his hand. San shook it, "I guess so," she said.

"This is a truce..." he said in a matter-of-factly voice. "I promise that I will trust you if you promise to trust me, alright?"

"Ok, truce," said San. Then she thought about something and pointed a finger at him. "And you have to promise that you won't try and kill me again," she said sternly.

"I wasn't trying to kill you before, I was trying to take that dagger away from you..." he paused and cocked his head. "I don't think I've tried killing you before...I think... Anyway-" he said waving it away. "Besides the point...yes I promise."

"And..." said San placing both hands on her hips. "...You have to promise not to just leave me places that I have no clue about!"

He shrugged and nodded his head with a grin on his face.

"Remember what you promised, now...or I'm in that well and you'll never get your Uoy stones without me."

"Blackmail," he said darkly. "Not fair, not fair, not fair!" he protested.

San shrugged, "Sorry...that's how I roll the dice."

"Roll the what?"

"Never mind..."

"Ok, enough with it already- I understand the rules...now I want something from you, and you have to promise me or I won't protect you from anyone else again..."

"Ok..." said San crossing her arms in front her chest.

"Before the full moon I want you out of here and in that well, got it?"

"Full moon?"

"And new moon..." he said darkly.

"What happens then," she asked enthusiastically. He turned away ignoring her.

"Time to go, we've chatted long enough..."

"Why won't you tell me what happens on the full moon and new moon?" she asked following him on top of Nitro.

"None of your damn business, that's why!"

"You're supposed to trust me!" she cried gripping his shoulders, he looked back at her then shook his head.

"Hiya! Hiya!" he shouted.

6.

"I'm serious Shou Lang! You have to promise me that you won't look! Ok?!"

He sneered at her, "Why would I want to look at you? I have better ways to waste my time," he said leaning back with his hands behind his head.

"I'm warning you," she said leaning over him and glaring into his face.

He scoffed and snorted, "Take your bath already...I won't look," he looked away from her and rolled on his side.

"I'll be watching you the entire time, Shou Lang," she warned sternly.

"I don't want to look at you, got it? Now move on, the demons are on the move," he said. "I don't see why you need a bath anyway...you've been here for three days."

"Stay on these rocks, if I scream or something don't just turn around and look-ask if I'm Ok first, then turn around..."

"How old are you? 10? 12? It's not like you have anything to look at..."

WHACK! WHACK!

"OW! What was that for?!" he cried looking back at her.

"I'm 15 years old thank you, now...any other perverted comments?"

"I'm not a perv-"

San hit him with her shoe again, "If I see you looking at me I'm going to kill you!"

"Ok! Ok! Got it! Go away, already!" he said shielding himself with his hands. He heard her stomping down the boulders, slipping, then getting back up.

He let a smile cross his face without really knowing what he found so funny about the situation, then he sighed and looked off the cliff's edge. The pool lay at the bottom, it was a small cliff that was about 16-20 feet high up. He watched her walk up at the waters edge and look up at him.

He waved at her, "Turn AROUND, Shou Lang!" she yelled at him. He grinned and turned his back.

It was a sunny afternoon with a little breeze, Shou Lang sighed and fell on his hands that rested on the back of his head. He looked in the sky in pensive thought.

All of the demons have left the forest...not all of them but most, he thought staring hard into the sky. That means that there aren't anymore Uoy in the forest...the rest of those greedy bastards must've cleaned the forest dry! Now they've probably moved into the human areas of this world...

He heard a splash from below and perked his ear behind him, he moved his ear forward again and sighed.

"Aren't you done yet?!" he yelled sitting up but not turning around.

"NO!" San's voice yelled back.

"I thought you didn't know how to swim!-!" he yelled at her, he flattened his ears for her voice but didn't hear it....must be underwater, he thought sighing.

"Shou Lang...! When are you going to teach me how to swim?" came her voice.

"Learn that in your world...I'm not a good teacher, period-!" he shouted turning his head partway. "Are you almost finished, yet?! I'm going to go in there and drag you out myself if you don't hurry up!"

"You'd better not!" she shouted.

"San...the demons have spread out...I need to be out there finding them! You're wasting my time...I'm leaving without you!" he bluffed, standing so she would see him.

"If you leave, you'll never get all of the stones, will you?" she shouted.

"Come on," he groaned throwing himself back on the ground. "What is taking you so long?! What is it with girls, they take forever with everything!"

He heard another splash and then San humming something, he forced his ears in front of him, but they kept moving backwards.

"Stop singing!" he angrily shouted.

San ignored him and hummed louder, a normal person wouldn't have heard anything but with Shou Lang's ears he could hear a pin drop from a mile away.

He groaned and waved his tail in the air.

The splashing stopped and he heard footsteps on the shore, he flicked his ears in front of him. "Finally you've come out!" he shouted.

San screamed.

He turned around staring down at the pool, "What's wrong?!" he heard her scream again. "Where are you?! I can't see you!" he cried looking into the water.

"THAT'S THE POINT YOU PERVERT! TURN BACK AROUND!"

Shou Lang whipped his head back embarrassed, "Why did you scream?!"

"You said that 'finally I've come out' meaning you were looking at me!"

"No, San...I wasn't looking-I heard you get out and said it!"

"I don't believe you!"

Suddenly he grinned and broke out laughing, San was screaming something but he wasn't listening to her.

"When I get up there I'm going to hit you so hard you'll-" she shouted from below.

"I didn't see anything!" he told her honestly.

"I can't believe I trusted you not to look-you-! YOU....!" She shrieked.

"San...I give you my word I wasn't looking at you," he said propping himself up on his elbow.

"I SAW YOU!" she screamed, "You're whole head was around and everything!!!" she shrieked at him.

"But I didn't see you!" he yelled back with a grin on his face.

"Why was your head around?!"

"I heard you scream and looked to see if you were all right..." he said back.

"LIKELY STORY, YOU LITTLE CREEP! YOU JUST WAIT-SHOU LANG!" she screamed.

He sighed and fell back on the grass looking into the clouds, Where was she anyway? He thought perking his ears up. He heard her stomping back on the cliff, slipping twice, then marching in front of him with her shoe raised above her head.

"No-wait! Really, San-!" he cried backing away. "I wasn't- I swear to you I wasn't!"

San narrowed her eyes and gritted her teeth, "Then why are you grinning like that you little pervert?!"

"I'm-! Uh-" he had to think fast, he couldn't tell her that he was laughing at the situation, it would only make him look more guilty. "It is such a wonderful day, isn't it? I mean look at the sun, San...I'm just so happy! That's all..." he said giving her an even wider grin.

"I know what you're happy about, you twerp!" she said stomping up to him.

"Man, is she serious? She really isn't going to-ahhhh! That hurt-!" he cried shielding himself from her shoe.

She hit him again with it yelling incoherently at him and shrieking at the same time.

He reached up and grabbed her arms trying to get her stop, he was in between laughs and painful shouts.

"No wait-! San...Stop hitting me," he said holding her arms, she paused breathing hard in his face. "Why should I?!" she snarled hitting him again.

"Whoa! Hey-San! Guess what..." he said getting her to pause again. "I mean, look at you, you look amazing today! You really look prettier after a bath..." he said scooting away to get some leverage for himself.

She hit him with the shoe, "You're a bigger pervert than I thought!"

"No-Wait! How is that being a pervert?! I was complimenting you!" he said trying to get hold of her arms again.

She looks like an untamed beast with her hair against her face and her eyes all wide like that, he thought laughing. The funny part is that she thinks she's hurting me this way, he thought trying to get her arms to a stop.

"San...you're going to tire yourself out...calm down! I wasn't looking at you!" San paused again trying to catch her breath. "I promise, remember the truce?" he said thinking of anything to say. "You said that you'd trust me, remember?" he said pleased to see that it was working once she lowered the shoe and a blank expression returning on her face.

San took a deep breath and jerked her arms out of his hands, " And you told me to never trust a demon, no matter how sincere he seemed..."

"Yes... that's true" he said nodding. "But I'm different...I made a truce with you, right? We're partners...right?" he said offering a smile.

San narrowed her eyes at him and slipped the shoe over her foot, she looked up at the sky and then at him. "You said we needed to move? Well then-Let's go!" she said crossly.

"You're a saint," he told her draping an arm over her shoulder, San pushed it off.

7.

Shou Lang looked back at her shrugging his shoulders, "I honestly don't know, I guess they know that Monde and I are after the rest of the Uoy."

San patted Nitro's head while fingering with her dagger, "Who is this Monde guy? Is he a half blood like you?" she asked looking down at him.

Shou Lang sighed, "There is a lot about me that I'm not going to tell you about...but I'll tell you who Monde is since I absolutely hate the guy..." she watched his tail zigzag behind him.

"Is he your rival?" she asked peering into the setting sun.

Shou Lang nodded his head, "He is also my half brother..."

San dropped the dagger and squinted her eyes at him, "You hate him?"

"If I had him right now, I'd kill him. I hate him! He hates me too, so the world turns round and round doesn't it?" he said dryly.

"What happened to make you want to kill your own flesh and blood?"

Shou Lang snickered, "He's no brother of mine..." San scratched her head and sighed.

"Is he the oldest?"

"Aren't they all?" he said with a snort.

"Why does he want the Uoy stones, do you know?" she asked looking down at him.

He remained quiet and kept walking.

"Just how old are you, anyway?" she asked after a while. "You look my age..."

Shou Lang shook his head, "I'm way older than that, San...I'm old enough...to be your...I don't know, I've been around for a while, you forget I am a demon..."

"How long can demons live?" asked San kicking her legs gently from Nitro's back.

"Hmm..." she heard him say. "A very long time, maybe the average demon can live up to be 200 or 300 years old...but the gods of demons, like Phantom, for example can live to eternity."

"How old does that make you?" said San with wide astonished eyes.

"I'm turning 57," he said looking back at her grinning. San gasped and pointed at his face.

"You look from 16 to 21 years old!" she cried.

"In human years I think I am 17 or 18, I'm not sure..."

"That's impossible! So you're going to live to be really old?" she said incredulously.

Shou Lang turned his back, "My father was the god of the wolf clan," he said quietly. "He would still be alive now if it wasn't for my mother..." He looked back at her, "I don't know how long I have to live...my father lived an eternal life...and my mother lived a mortal one...I have no idea where that brings me..."

San lowered her eyes, his tail swished and whacked Nitro on the leg, she gave Shou Lang a sad smile. "What happened to your wolf clan? Why aren't you with them?"

"Monde, "Shou Lang answered coldly. "I refuse to be in a group with him ruling over me-! The day will never come when I rejoin them...they left Ether a long time ago..." he said darkly.

"Where is Monde and his wolf pack? Is there another forest of demons?"

"There are many demon forests..."

"So you know where he is?" asked San in a light voice.

"I have a pretty good idea where he is...but I refuse to go there...I have no reason to."

"Doesn't he have some of the Uoy stones himself?"

"San...I would go there and kill him, but with you it would be impossible."

San cocked her head, "Now why would you say that? I'd get in the way?"

He didn't answer.

Why does he do that? She thought angrily. Why won't he just answer the question and be done with it?

"Shou Lang?..." she said looking down at him.

"...Monde and I are too different..." he said after a while. "He lives in a place where there are more demons than humans...his forest is..." He looked up at her sighing, "His forest is an evil one...The Dark Forest...that is where I think he lives..."

"I could help you get him!" said San touching her dagger.

Shou Lang shook his head, "He is a true demon, San...he is more powerful than I am...and has more allies than I do...If I ever do go to the Dark Forest it would be to kill him once and for all...otherwise it is suicidal for the both of us to go there..."

"I'm sure you could take him on..." she encouraged brightly.

"Yes...but with you I would lose..."

"Why?"

"It is difficult to explain," he said gruffly. "Just leave it at that..."

They were both silent for a while, Nitro was the only sound in the field with his snorting and beating hooves. Shou Lang reached out and pet his side, "That's a good boy, Nitro...you'll be able to rest in a little bit."

"Don't you have any friends, Shou Lang?" blurted San all of the sudden.

"A demon learns that friends become foes and that is wiser to be alone..."

"So it is just you and Nitro?"

"I have one friend of mine that we are meeting now, her name is Kithara," he said petting Nitro's neck.

A flare of jealousy sparked inside of her chest, San was startled by the sudden spark and held her head up scoffing. "You never said you had a lady friend..." she said with sudden crispness in her voice.

Shou Lang's yellow eyes flashed at her, "There is a lot about me that you don't know, or will ever know..."

San straightened on Nitro's back cutting her eyes at him, "I don't want to know about you anyway. Or your little friend..."

He was laughing quietly at her, "Jealous already?" he said grinning at her.

San turned her head in the opposite direction ignoring him, "You wish, I'm sure."

Nitro neighed softly and nuzzled his head against Shou Lang's, he stroked his head and motioned for her to step off. "He's tired...he needs to rest..." he said. Shou Lang offered his hand to help her down but she ignored it and hopped on the ground by herself.

He smirked as he took Nitro into the tall grasses and spoke quietly to him, Nitro trotted over to San and pushed his head against hers, and San stroked his forehead while slipping a pocketful of oats to his mouth. Nitro trotted back to Shou Lang and neighed softly at him.

"Take care old friend...tell her that we'll be there soon, Ok?" he said pushing the horse away. Nitro was off in a gallop with a snort, San and Shou Lang watched him go.

"Are we far from her place?" she asked looking up in his face.

"No..." he said looking down at her. "We'll walk the rest of the way."

San nodded and sighed, Shou Lang adjusted his pack on his back sighing as well. "She lives in a temple...not far from these fields, she is a demon herself so be careful what you say."

"She doesn't like humans like you?" she asked quietly.

Shou Lang shook his head, "She isn't as bad as I am, she helps humans that need medical care and stuff like that...anyone that comes to her temple is welcome, as long as they are a friend."

San nodded her head trying to hide the jealousy that wanted to burst out of her mouth. "She seems nice...this Kithara person..."

The crickets began to chirp and crick, San waved away a fly that was buzzing in her face.

"She is a nice person...nicer than any demon I know," he said whisking his tail over the grasses. "But I warn you, San...she is as nice as she is cruel...like all demons," he told her looking in her direction. San looked straight ahead, looking at him from the corner of her eye.

"Kithara is an excellent fighter so no smart remarks, you have to treat her with respect or she will break off a leg or two, I've seen it happen before..." he said.

San felt jealousy mix with anger, Just quit talking about her-I get the point, she thought frowning.

"You shouldn't have to worry, though...any friend of mine...which are few....are good friends with her...I think you'll like your stay in her temple..."

The sun had set and the stars began to prick the sky, darkness was falling down, and fast! Shou Lang grabbed her wrist and threw her over his shoulder again.

"I thought we were done with this! Put me down!" she cried angrily.

"You're slowing me down, and I promised not to leave you..." he said picking up his speed. "If we're out here by nightfall you're done for, I can see well, but these fields get pitch black, and if I can't see you I can't help you if anything should happen."

San blew the hair from her face and told herself to enjoy the ride.

"I'm flying, so if you get sick you just let me know-" he said lifting off of the tall grasses. "We're going to go fast, shut your eyes if that helps you."

"Oh no, you're going to go as fast as you did when you were racing Nitro?"

"Yep, hold on, here we go-!" he said shooting into the sky.

San covered her mouth so she wouldn't scream, everything was in a blur so she shut her eyes from getting dizzy. They whipped through the air and against the roaring wind, San was getting dizzier and dizzier by the minute, she was ready to be on the ground again.

"We're almost there, San! I can see the temple from here!" he shouted against the wind.

"Good! I'm ready to be on the ground, again-!"

Shou Lang pulled her off his shoulder and into his arm so he was holding her by the waist with her arms and legs dangling in the air. He was right, the temple was right in front of them, he landed on a step and jumped the rest in a single bound.

Nitro was waiting for them in a stable, San ran up to the horse and cuddled him.

"Hey there, boy!" she whispered slipping her hand in her jacket pocket and taking a handful of oats. "Look what San's brought for you!" she said bringing her hand to his mouth and watching him munch at her hand. "That's a good boy..." she said stroking him.

Shou Lang was behind her and petting Nitro's neck, "Sleep well, boy...we'll be off early morning..." he said giving the horse a final pat.

San turned into Shou Lang's hands and was steered into the temple's entrance, "It is time for us to say hello to Kithara..."

The first thing San noticed was the glittering curtains drawn about the ceiling making the place look like a sparkling spider's web. San gasped, "...Pretty..."

She heard soft laughter from the back of the room, Shou Lang's hands fell to his side and he looked down at San giving her a nod.

He looked ahead of him, "Kithara...it is me, Shou Lang...! Come out here and say hello to my..." he looked down at her making a face. "...friend..."

San felt an invisible warhead go off on her head she narrowed her eyes at him and sighed staring ahead to the center of the room.

A wonderful scent filled the air and the curtains parted leaving the room open and shining in her eyes. Kithara was standing in the center of the room walking toward them.

"Ah...Shou Lang...finally you have come back to see me..." said a deep soft voice from the woman walking toward them.

She felt Shou Lang leave her side and move into the center of the room with the woman, "Kithara..." he said. She couldn't see the woman's face but she could thin, white, arms going around his neck and her hair glinting from the soft candlelight above them.

Another nuclear warhead went off on San's head, it was just eating her up and building more and more dislike for this Kithara lady.

Her hair was jet black and skin ivory white like the demon girl Shou Lang had killed earlier in the cave. San took a deep breath and released it trying to control herself. It isn't like I like him, she thought angrily. So why am I so pissed off at this Kithara girl?

"I have a person I'd like you to meet," he said in a soft voice. San's insides twisted into a tight knot. He pulled back from Kithara and looked at San.

"Come here child..." said Kithara in her deep sinuous voice. "Let Kithara get a good look at you..."

As if in a trance San walked forward into the center of the room, Kithara was beautiful, her face was a complete mirror of the other and she had the pinkest lips she had ever seen. This only sent another bomb off on her head, with her long white fingers Kithara pulled San's face into hers and gently kissed her forehead.

"I didn't know you had human companions," she said looking at Shou Lang. Shou Lang shrugged his shoulders and smiled gently at her. "Things change..."

Kithara looked into San's face with delicate elegance, her eyes were shining black gems that sparkled appearing magnetic. "She's pretty..." she said after a while. "Now I see why you hang around her..." she said laughing.

Shou Lang was shaking his head, "Pretty? I haven't noticed...and I am with her only because she holds a Uoy stone..."

San swallowed and stared into Kithara's face unable to take her eyes away from her, the hands on her face took hold of her chin and tilted her face close to hers.

"Very pretty..." she said smiling at San. "But Shou Lang always likes looking at pretty things...don't you Shou Lang..." she said releasing her face and grabbing onto her hand.

San felt like she was going to faint, she felt so tired so dizzy...she could barely keep her eyes open. She swayed and blinked with unseeing eyes...

"I wouldn't say that," she heard him say.

Kithara looked back at her placing a hand on her shoulder, "My name is Kithara...what is yours, child?"

Her voice was like being lured to sleep, San opened her mouth but only a gasp came from it and her eyelids closed over her eyes...Her eyes, her voice, that smell is so...comfortable...I just want to sleep...she thought.

"Kithara...what are you doing?" she heard him say, she felt arms around her-supporting her. "She is only human, Kithara...she is weak, you shouldn't hypnotize her," said Shou Lang's voice. "You could kill her..."

"I'm sorry...I don't mean to..."came Kithara's liquid soft response. "She'll be fine..."

San closed her eyes and relaxed against the strong arms that held her, suddenly she was lifted in the air with her head against a shoulder.

"Yes well...she'll need to sleep so where should I put her?" came his voice again.

"There is a cot outside...let me show you," cooed Kithara in San's ear, "Such a delicate little thing...isn't she?"

"She can't help it, it is her human nature..." replied Shou Lang.

San opened her eyes and stared up at Shou Lang blinking slowly and murmuring something, he carried her outside and placed her on a small mat on the concrete balcony that overlooked the mountains and fields.

"So...tired, Shou Lang...you won't leave if I...don't wake up will...you?" she whispered.

"No," she heard him say and then felt a blanket being put over her. "I won't wake you up tomorrow, so you can sleep as much as you want..."

She closed her eyes and fell asleep.

Ch. 4 part 2

1.

He walked with her not saying anything, he didn't know how to answer the question so he decided no to say anything at all.

Kithara was laughing quietly at him, "You never change do you Shou Lang? You don't have to hold everything inside you know," she said softly.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he said looking at her.

"Oh yes," she said looking over the edge of the railing again. "I think you do..."

He watched her for a moment, Kithara looked up at him smiling. "What?"

"Nothing..." he said looking out into the mountains.

Kithara placed her hand over his, "I know what you are thinking about..."

He looked at her through the corner of his eye not saying anything.

Kithara was laughing again," You don't have to pretend, child...it is as plain as day and night on your face...it has started again, I see."

"I don't know what you are talking about," he said blankly.

"Yes you do..."

He set his jaw and watched her rest her head on his arm through the corner of his yellow eye. Something inside him made him feel uneasy and he gently pulled away from her while squinting into the mountains.

Kithara chuckled, "You see...? It is true, while my back was turned you put that blanket over her...it is already happening to you..."

"I don't know what you're saying."

"You grow softer and softer Shou Lang..." she said looking up at him. "You're father did the same thing...you remind me so much of him sometimes..." she said with a sigh.

"I'm not getting soft!" he growled angrily at her. "It is you that grows softer and softer! You opened a temple to help humans and demons alike...a pathetic excuse of your softness..." he said looking back into the mountains.

Kithara laughed, "I do not hide it, Shou Lang...yes...I am softer than I used to be...but what is wrong with that?"

"Everything is wrong with it!" he snapped angrily.

"Why?" she whispered in his ear.

"You are weak!"

"Deep inside my demon heart, yes, I am weak...but I am older than I used to be...I can be weak..."

"No you can't!" he said vehemently. "It isn't possible for you to have a heart..."

"Everyone has a heart, Shou Lang..."

"I don't...." he snorted.

"I know that even as you say that you don't mean it," Kithara said laughing. "You have a heart...I know you do..." she said.

He gripped the wooden rail with his hands snapping it in between his fingers.

Kithara gave his hand a squeeze, "You checked on that girl three times now tonight, and even now you are thinking about her...I can see it on your face..."

He closed his eyes laughing unbelievingly, "You're crazy..."

"Deny it as many times as you like, Shou Lang...but you care about her..."

"I care about the dagger around her neck."

"Maybe you do..." said Kithara hugging his arm. "I guess I was expecting this to happen...you are a half human and half demon...on both sides-" she started.

"Not true..." he said pulling her into a hug.

Kithara pushed back smiling at him, "You have human feelings, Shou Lang...you just choose not to show them, but you have them."

"Why does everyone keep telling me that? I'm mostly demon!" he told her.

Kithara shook her head, "I would give anything to be like you, Shou Lang..." she whispered.

"No you wouldn't..." he said back.

"I can't feel...my heart is as cold as stone but yours...yours is warm and strong...I'm sure the girl feels very safe with you around her..."

"Stop talking about her."

Kithara rested her head on his shoulder sighing, "You'll figure it out one day."

"Why do you want to feel?! Feeling hurts..." he said quietly, "It confuses and overwhelms you...and then it makes you feel depressed and hurt..." he said. "It isn't fun, Kithara."

"If I could feel the positive emotions rather than the negative ones..." she trailed off.

"You're starting to sound like a human girl!" he told her drawing back.

Kithara sighed, "I sometimes wish I was human..."

"WHY?! Kithara-!" he cried grabbing her shoulders. "Humans are the most weak and stupid race on the planet, all they are are whining pests..."

"But they look the happiest of all the races...and joyous! I've been fooling myself into thinking opening a temple would bring me happiness when I just feel the same..."

"Kithara..." he said looking into her face. "You don't want to be human, " he whispered. "Humans are-are just worthless, you remember my idiot mother, don't you?" he asked shaking her thin shoulders.

"Shou Lang..."

"Humans are...are gay and stupid. They spend their entire lives running from every animal in the forest-why...how could you want to spend the rest of your life running away from everything?"

"I want to know what positive feelings feel like, all I know is sadness and anger...jealousy and hate...I'm tired of being that way, Shou Lang...aren't you?"

"Oh Kithara..." he sighed feeling his heart break for her. "If only you knew what it felt like, then you would learn to hate it! Kithara...happiness doesn't exist...there is no such thing...!"

"Yes there is," she said swiping at his face. Her black eyes shimmered in the moonlight, "You've felt it before haven't you, Shou Lang?"

"No...I've felt light...but never exactly happy..."

Kithara floated into the air looking into the mountains, "You have the best of both worlds, Shou Lang...you can feel the ways of a human but posses the power and the heart of a demon...once you find all of the Uoy stones you will be invincible..."

"I'm not human! I don't even look human!" he cried in frustration.

Kithara disappeared," In the morning Shou Lang..." whispered her voice and then she was gone.

2.

Like every night he sat next to her watching her sleep, she was curled in a tight ball murmuring something in her sleep. He felt a heavy weight on his chest, just what did Kithara mean, she had him feeling for her in a pitiful way. He lowered his head swallowing.

"Poor Kithara...if only she knew what she was asking for..." he looked up at San. "How can you do it? How can you handle all of these emotions running up and down in different directions?!"

San rolled her head to the side, her hand dropped from her side and on the concrete. Shou Lang looked over her with a slow sad smile forming on his face.

He watched her until the sun was up and in the sky shining down on her, like every morning she would yawn first, then sit up stretching and opening her eyes. He watched her with the same awe he had with every morning, How is it possible to waste 8 hours of your life each day lying still and with your eyes closed?

She looked over at him still yawning and stopped- her eyes widened and she looked around her like she did every morning, she looked back at him. "What are you doing?"

"Watching you sleep..."

"The entire night?!"

"Most of it," he said standing up.

"Why?" she asked blinking.

"You're interesting to watch..."

San's mouth opened in quiet surprise, he watched her lower her head and smile shyly at him. "Was I talking in my sleep?"

"No...just making little noises"

"Little noises?!" she cried.

"Forget I said it, are you up?" he asked her quickly.

San nodded her head and stood to her feet, "Where is Kithara? Or whatever her name it..." she said rolling her neck.

"She left while you were asleep...she expects us gone by afternoon," he said twitching his nose. He remembered their discussion last night and sighed, poor Kithara...

"I never told her my name!" she cried while he took Nitro out of the stable.

"I'm sure she forgives you, San-don't worry about it..." he said hoisting her up on his back. Nitro snorted, Shou Lang pat his head and smiled at him.

"Hello boy...good morning, our next stop is to the Forest of Unicorns," he said patting his head. He walked around the horse and jumped on behind San. "Hold onto his mane," he told her. Then he slipped one hand around her the waist and the other in Nitro's smoking mane. "Hiya! Hiya!" he shouted giving Nitro a kick.

3.

"Are there a lot of unicorns in this forest?" she asked looking back at him.

His yellow eyes went to her face, "There used to be...a very long time ago...maybe centuries ago..." he answered.

San faced to the front sighing, "Were they all killed off?"

"I don't know much about the Unicorn Forest...but I know that it is one of the oldest forest in this world..."

"Do you think some of the demons went there for the Uoy?" she asked.

"Most certainly, it is the oldest forest in the planet...I think that most of the most powerful Uoy stones are there..." he said from behind her.

San patted Nitro's back and looked back at him, "Just why do you want these stones so bad? What can they do...?"

His features remained blank and emotionless; his eyes stared ahead, ignoring her again.

San faced the front making a face imitating his, "Stupid ass..." she said to herself.

"I heard that..."

"Why won't you tell me, Shou Lang? It is as if I'm on a wild goose chase without knowing what I'm looking for-!" she said peering back at him.

"You don't need to know...it doesn't concern you."

"Yes it does, I have this dagger and I don't know what it is for."

He shrugged and she turned around aggravated. Nitro slowed to a canter and peered back at them neighing.

Ahead of them was the forest, it had huge mountains around it and lush green grasses sprouting out of the ground, she felt Shou Lang leave from behind her and swoop into the air.

Looking at the forest took her breath away, It's so pretty...she thought with an open mouth. I've never seen anything like this before..." she thought stepping off of his back.

Shou Lang landed in front of her and looked back at San, "We have arrived...from this point on I want you to stay close to me...imps live here and they can be awful tricky."

San felt the dagger burning her chest, she cried out and picked it up.

"San?" she heard Shou Lang say.

"It is hot!" she cried watching the dagger light up with light, the handle was burning and she dropped it.

"San? What did I just say? You have to be-" he said.

"It's burning me and lighting up!" she ignored him.

"What?" he said making his way to her.

The dagger turned black again with a circle forming in the middle, an arrow pointed into the forest. Suddenly the dagger became cool and light against her chest and she picked it up looking at the arrow.

"It looks like a navigator or something..." she said holding it up for Shou Lang to see. He squinted his eyes and hesitantly reached out to touch it.

San pulled it out of his reach shaking her head, "If you touch it, it'll burn your hands again, remember?"

"Yes I do," he snapped at her. "Bring it here so I can look at it..."

San moved it in front of his face and watched his brows knit up in hard concentration. He looked up at her with a grin on his face," It is a signal...I was right! Do you have any idea what you've just found?" he asked her.

"NO, because you didn't tell me," she snapped.

"I thought it was a locator and I was right! You've found the only map to the Uoy stones...! You're brilliant!" he cried throwing his arms around her. "Yes! Ha!" he cried pulling her back to look at the dagger. "I will be invincible-hahahahahaha!"

"Hey look macho head, I found it- so I am the invincible one!" she informed him.

He shook his head, "San, you don't need the Uoy stones...so when we find them all you'll just have to give them to me!"

"I want a souvenir!" she cried walking away from him. "I'm not helping you for free you know...I guess since I hold the only map you're going to be nice to me now, right?"

"Anything you want!" he said happily. "Just say the word and I'll have it for you!"

San gave him a click of her tongue and crossed her arms over her chest, "You're pathetic and hypocritical Shou Lang..."

"You have something I want..."

"I want to go home...I'm tired..." she said yawning, she gave him a sideways glance waiting for his reaction.

"WHAT?! You can't want to go home, you have the map to the Uoy...you can't leave! I'm not letting you!" he said matter-of-factly.

San's eyes blazed, "I want to go home! I miss my Ms. James!"

"That doesn't matter...I need you now!" he said desperately.

San was enjoying this, "So if you beg me to stay...then I'll help you, " she told him with a grin coming over her face. "Get on your knees and beg me to stay..."

His ears twitched and his eyes turned a dark orange his tail was at a complete 180-degree angle from his body. "I-don't-beg-for-anyone-!" he said through clenched jaws.

"Then I guess I'll just get back on Nitro and ride home," she said turning away.

"Nitro won't take you anywhere without my command," Shou Lang snapped.

"He's part my horse, too."

"S-Since when?!" spat Shou Lang angrily.

San looked over her shoulder at him and giggled, "Good bye Shou Lang...I'm leaving and never coming back...I mean it this time..." she said walking over to Nitro.

"You...You can't just leave!" he cried hysterically, "You have to stay here!"

San jumped on Nitro's back giving Shou Lang a nod, "You've never been nice to me, so why should I help you with anything? If you need so much help, why don't you try asking for it rather than threatening all the time?"

"Get off my horse! I'll have Nitro kick you off..." he warned.

"Get your little friend to help you...I'm sure she'd be more than happy!"

Shou Lang's mouth opened, "You...can't be serious!"

San gave Nitro some oats, "Take me home Nitro, back to the mountains by the sand dunes in Ether forest..." she said gently to the horse.

Nitro started off in a happy trot, Shou Lang ran in front of him angrily.

"Nitro! What are you doing?! You're my horse! Don't listen to her!"

Nitro snorted and impatiently stomped his hoof, San looked down at Shou Lang smirking.

"You're my horse! I'm the one that found you! You can't just leave me here!" he said pointing up at San. "Nitro...come on, we're going in this forest..." he said.

Nitro turned back around happily trotting beside Shou Lang, San gasped.

"Nitro! What are you doing, boy?! You have to take me home, Shou Lang is only using me!"

"I am not!" cried Shou Lang at Nitro.

Nitro snorted and looked from San to Shou Lang, he shook his head neighing.

"Take me home, Nitro...You can go back here later!"

"Don't listen to San, she is only a manipulative little witch, you're my horse and I'm your friend..."

"Shou Lang is a bully, don't listen to his lies."

"I've never bullied you, have I boy?"

"He tried to kill me!" she shouted in his ear.

"She's lying, it's a trick! Come on, boy!"

Nitro reared back throwing San off his back and on the grass, San rolled over rubbing her back and sitting up. The horse gave a final snort and trotted into the trees. Shou Lang was running after him and shouting something at him.

San groaned and laid back down, "Stupid horse...why did he throw me off?"

She heard the sound of hooves beating and saw Nitro trotting back with Shou Lang seated comfortably on his back. Nitro stopped in front of her where Shou Lang snatched her off the ground and in front of him on Nitro's back.

"I told you that in the end he is my horse and will listen to me," she heard him jeer.

San crossed her arms in front of her glaring as Nitro cantered into the trees.

"I'm going to have to go home sooner or later..."

"Yes...but not right now."

San looked back at him and scowled, "You are a bully...! No wonder you don't have any friends around you!"

Shou Lang winked at her, "Yep...I don't want friends."

She made a dark face at him and turned back around staring into the lush forest. Her anger quickly subsided, the scenery was too beautiful to be angry at.

"It is so...beautiful! Do any humans live here...or is this forest only for demons and gods?" she whispered looking around in bewilderment and ponderous awe.

"I guess it's all right," came his dry response. "And yes, there are humans here...but they live in little villages in the mountains, a very long way from where we are now."

The dagger on her chest began to burn, San looked down at it and saw the arrow swing to the north, "The arrow is changing direction..." she said to herself.

"Which way? Are we close to it?"

"Well...I don't know..." she said looking harder at the circle. Inside the circle was a small speck of light that faded and grew brighter, as if in a pulse. The arrow was pointing to the north. San looked behind at him, "The arrow is pointing to the mountains..."

Shou Lang sighed then rolled his eyes, "Figures it should be in a human village."

"Come on, Nitro!" said San jerking on his mane. "Head for the mountains!" she said dropping the dagger and holding both hands in his mane.

"Hiya! Hiya!" commanded Shou Lang from behind her and Nitro sped off in a circle toward the green peaks. San felt his hand slip around her waist and watched the other hold on Nitro's mane, her heart fluttered.

"Look at your dagger! Is it saying anything else?" he shouted.

San released his mane and picked up the dagger staring into it, "Nope...I don't think we are close enough to it yet, tell him to go faster."

"Nitro...faster! Faster! To the mountains! Faster!"

She dropped the dagger and held back to Nitro's mane, smoke swirled off of it and in her face, and she coughed. More smoke came from his hooves as he pounded harder into the forest.

"Does anyone know you around here?" asked San over the wind rushing in her face.

"Yes...I have one person that I know lives here...but other than that not really! I've only been here once in my life!"

Automatically she assumed that the 'person' he knew was a woman, she picked her head up higher and snorted.

"I have a feeling I'll be seeing him again," he said loudly. "He is also collecting Uoy stones..."

"Does he live in the mountains-?" she asked with sudden relief.

"No- he lives in the forest...but he is far away from here-we'll be paying him a visit after this...I need his stones..."

"Just how many Uoy stones are there?"

"13..." he said.

"Then how can you have so many stones?" she cried.

"I can't answer you that-you'll have to figure it out!"

San turned around, "Why won't you tell me? Why are you so secretive?" she asked.

"The more I tell you, the more you'll want my stones! Now turn around!"

San did what she was told and picked up her dagger, the speck of light was brighter, "We're getting close!" she told him looking ahead into the mountains.

"Nitro-! Drop us off here!"

He tightened his hands around her waist and jumped up letting Nitro run out from under them. San watched Nitro disappear into the woods, "Why'd you do that?"

"I smell demons, I don't want him getting eaten or turning into a demon..." he said gruffly. "I'm faster than Nitro anyway..."

San put her arms around him as he speeded up his pace, the mountains were getting closer and closer, the dagger was warming up again.

She watched his ears flap in the wind and his hair whipping around his face, he had a solemn expression on his face, San looked down at her dagger.

"Do you love Nitro, Shou Lang?"

San knew it in her heart that he did but he still refused to answer. She looked up in his face already knowing that he wasn't going to answer her-ever.

"Why do you want to be hard all the time? Don't you like Nitro?" she asked.

He remained emotionless with his eyes staring straight in front of him.

She gave up, she was never going to get anywhere with him. She knew guys like Shou Lang in the orphanage, tough loner guys...they always seemed to be the last ones to leave the orphanage. Guys like that attracted people to them, but not in a friendly way, it was in a wondering curious way...it made you wonder about them, and then fear them.

I wonder what he's thinking about...she thought looking back into his face. I wonder if Uoy stones are all he cares about...and if he really does feel the way humans do...I think he can feel...I've seen him with Nitro, and with his little friend...he has feelings, he just doesn't want to acknowledge that they're there...I feel he is a good person...

Suddenly the dagger's heat surged and raged into an immense searing pain. San's hand shot to the dagger, the pain was agonizing.

"San?"

"It's burning me...! It's so blazing hot!" she cried lifting the string so the dagger left her chest. "We...must be close!" she said looking into Shou Lang's face.

"Should I land?"

San shook her head fiercely, "Keep for the mountains...we're getting close..."

He nodded and shot ahead so fast that everything around them looked like a blur.

She looked into the flashing speck in the circle, the arrow swerved into a circle and into a hard right, "Go right! The stone is moving!" she said tugging his shirt.

"I see him..." he growled. "It's a demon who has it..."

San gaped into the treetops trying to see what Shou Lang was talking about, "I don't see anything!" she yelled.

"He's running from us...San, stay here, alright?" he said suddenly.

"What do you-" she was thrown into the air and into the treetops. She screamed and fell in a nearby tree branch, "Shou Lang-?!" she screeched up at the blue blur that disappeared farther in the sky.

She had fallen on her back, she was caught in the leaves and branches in an awkward position, she grunted and fought the branches trying to free herself. She heard a snap and felt the branch under her fall back, she screamed again and fell farther down into the tree.

She heard birds cawing at her and squawking, San readjusted herself on her side groaning from the soreness in her back. "How come he just threw me into the tree? He could've missed and I would have been lying dead somewhere..." the next branch snapped under her weight and she was tumbling down the tree kicking and grunting again. She didn't stop until she was in the middle of the tree.

At this point she was aching and hurting all through her body, her new position was on her stomach. She pushed off the branch and screamed when it snapped and left her falling all the way down and thudding on the grass.

San rolled over on her side groaning and moaning, she opened her eyes and looked up into the tree. "Well at least I'm not in the tree anymore..." San pulled herself to her feet while picking up the dagger.

It felt cool in her hands and light, the speck was as bright as a little star, San looked in the direction of the arrow with a sigh. She forced her sore legs to walk in the direction of the arrow, she looked behind her shoulder every so often and then nervously in front of her.

The dagger began to grow hotter and hotter until she dropped it and lifted the string so it wasn't touching her anymore, the dagger vibrated in a slow pulsing beat. San looked up when she heard a wail coming ahead of her, she started into a sprint.

From ahead she thought she heard a crash and another angry roar, blindly she ran for the sound, she had to get to Shou Lang.

A tree fell and went crashing down in the direction of the shouts and hollers. Another tree fell nearly catching on San's jacket. San jumped over it and resumed running into the trees. It was then that she saw Shou Lang's figure and a towering other object in front of him.

San ran behind a tree and peered out at the site gripping the dagger in her hands. Too far, she thought darting behind a tree closer to the area. She peeked out from the tree's edge gripping the bark in her hands and running her tongue over her lips to keep them from getting dry.

Shou Lang was in plain sight with his long sword in his hand and his other in a tight fist by his thigh. The beast in front of him was in a cloak dressed in all black with a large black hood covering its head. In its hand was a gigantic axe, the creature itself was incredibly tall. It was well over Snake's height and looked the height of a telephone pole.

San felt the dagger burn on her chest she ignored the pain and pulled back from the tree so she wasn't able to be seen.

"I'm not going to ask you again, simpleton..." she heard Shou Lang snarl. "Give me the fragments that you have now!"

"Ask as many times as you want, but the stones are mine! Try to take them from me and my axe will sever your head!" the hooded creature said in a low hiss.

San licked her lips and peered from the tree squinting hard at their surroundings.

From behind them was a loud wail, San squinted, and behind the tall hooded creature was a metal cage with a small animal in it.

"You are a stranger in this forest, tailed-foe...I am well known here. Attacking me is a foolish thing to do, I have many friends..."

"Well your friends aren't here right now, and I think none of them will be able to stop my sword from finding them anyway- I could care less how many friends you have..."

San watched small hands grab from inside the bars and shake it, another wail came from the cage as the whole cage began to rattle.

Gasping she looked back at Shou Lang then at the cloaked thing's axe, blood dripped from the edge of it, San's eyes widened.

The cloaked man swung his axe at Shou Lang's head that blocked with his sword, both strained.

San felt fear welling inside her, the dagger around her neck began to warm.

The hooded creature growled and swung his axe over and over at him, he blocked each time and the fight started.

The metal cage fell over and a sharp cry sounded the air, San looked back at Shou Lang.

Shou Lang was dodging and ducking with incredible speed, the creature would turn around and he would be there ready to strike his sword in his body, but the creature would block with his axe each time.

San's eye caught on the cage that was rolling away from the place it sat and down in the battlefield, she gasped.

Shou Lang was suddenly thrown on his back and the hooded thing throwing his axe down on him, San covered her mouth from screaming.

Metal against metal pierced the air, both were straining. She watched Shou Lang throw his axe away and jump to his feet again. The hooded thing swung at him just as the cage began to rattle and roll closer to its foot.

She darted past the tree and behind the log beside where Shou Lang and the cloaked creature were fighting, the cage was picking up speed.

Shou Lang jumped on the thing's shoulders sticking his sword in his hooded head, the cloaked being was making guttural sounds and wavering its axe in the air. Shou Lang was smacked against the hand of the thing and flown in the air.

San's eyes widened even wider and her heart stopped, she watched Shou Lang land against a tree, the tree fell over from the blow and on the ground.

Shou Lang, she thought looking over the log and to the spot where he fell, then she looked back at the hooded being that was lifting its axe and making its way to Shou Lang.

The cage rolled past the cloaked feet and toward the log San was looking over.

"Shou Lang! Get up! He's coming!" she burst out standing up.

The hooded thing snapped its head in her direction and roared, it lifted his axe and came toward the log.

San screamed and fell backwards on her elbows and feet, still the thing moved closer for her, the axe glinted in the sunlight.

"Shou Lang! Help me!!!" she shrieked.

There was a crash from ahead, the hooded thing turned his head in the spot where Shou Lang had fallen just when a tree went whizzing by and knocking into its hooded head. The creature howled as it was flung over her head and several yards away, a crash then a rumble...San dodged just as the tree crushed the log she was kneeling under.

She rolled in the grass and in front of the rattling cage, the dagger was lighting up and buzzing, "The Uoy stone must be in here...!" she said moving closer to the cage.

She felt a whoosh over her head and knew it was Shou Lang flying over her, she followed him with her eyes. She saw him kick the tree away and stab the sword into the black lump that laid unmoving on the grass. A thunderous yowl was the response.

"Where did you put the stones?!" she heard Shou Lang snarl. "Answer me!"

She heard the cage rattle and looked back at it, the speck in the circle was red, the dagger was a triangle of light.

"The Uoy are in here!" she yelled at Shou Lang.

Another wailing howl rumbled in her ears and she knew it was Shou Lang stabbing at the creature again.

"Where are your friends, Huh?!" she heard him say.

With trembling hands San reached for the handle of the cage, the hands returned on the bars and shook at the cage. San licked her lips hesitating, she took off the dagger around her neck and gripped it tightly in her hand. Her other hand was pulling at the handle of a small door.

A crash sounded from behind her and she saw Shou Lang roll on the ground not so far from her. "Shou Lang!" she cried.

He was groaning and pulling himself up just as the axe went swinging by him, he shouted in surprise knocking San and the cage out of the way.

"I thought I told you to stay in the tree?!" he shouted from on top of her.

"From behind you!" she cried looking over his shoulder. Shou Lang was on his feet and slashing his sword at the cloaked figure once more.

San rolled on her side and looked at the cage, the dagger was still glowing and the arrow pointing at the cage in a glowing red color. The cage rattled and started to roll.

She heard the creature yelling and then another crash shaking the ground from behind her, San picked up the cage, before she could get a good look inside the creature was flinging into her knocking the both of them on the ground.

The cloaked thing's face was still hidden from the hood, black liquid pooled from the bottom of the hood, it remained still for a moment and San thought he was dead. And then it made a sharp cry as its black hands scratched the ground reaching for her.

San stabbed her dagger in the thing's cloak screaming in fright, the dagger lighted up and sent a wall of white, crackling, electricity between them, the cloaked being screamed in pain.

She shut her eyes from the bright light falling back with the dagger in her hand and the cage in the other. She heard a growl from above her and then the creature's scream in her ears.

San rolled on her side looking up, Shou Lang was on top of the creature slicing huge splurting walls of black liquid in the air.

The cage rattled and the wail from the cage forced her eyes back to the cage, she raised her dagger and pulled at the handle. A bushy tailed animal sprang out of the cage and into the air in a streak of gray.

San was startled and fell back the animal's claws were at her face slashing and snapping at her, she took her dagger and pounded it inside the animal's flesh. The dagger launched electricity between them and sent San rolling back on the grass from the force.

"San!?!" she heard Shou Lang shout. "San!" she felt his arms lifting her to her feet. "Where is the Uoy stone? What was that electricity about?"

Her whole face hurt she felt something warm running down her face, his face became angry. His hands released her and she fell to the ground, she heard him running in the grasses. A loud wail shot through the air and then his growl and snarls.

San was on her feet and jogging to where Shou Lang was crouched on the ground, the animal was under his shoe with its tail thrashing around from under it.

"You little rat!" Shou Lang was snarling. "Where is the Uoy?"

The animal was snarling and snapping he lifted his foot and lifted the animal by its tail, San gasped. The animal turned out to be not an animal at all, it was the size of a large cat but had the face of a human's.

"What is that thing?!" cried San drawing close behind Shou Lang.

The thing was all in a gray tunic and a large bushy gray and brown tail sprouting from behind it where Shou Lang was shaking the thing. It's arms dangled in the air and its face was in a mean growl as it snapped and clawed at Shou Lang.

Shou Lang dropped it and stepped on its body again. "Where is the Uoy stone?"

San suddenly felt sorry for it, she knelt behind Shou Lang placing a hand on his back, "Let it go...you're going to kill it. I already stabbed it before..." she said feeling her heart break for the snarling thing.

Shou Lang looked at her with wide yellow eyes, "How can you feel sorry for this miserable little rat? It nearly tore your face off!" he said nodding at her.

"Yeah...but it is so little...and helpless, I'm sure if we leave it alone it'll run away," she said drawing her hand from his back to his shoulder. "Let it go Shou Lang...it isn't moving anymore..."

"That's because I'm suffocating the pathetic little rat," he said with a laugh and turning back to step harder on it.

The thing had its mouth open and eyes closed, it had red hair in a bush falling into its face and pulled back into a long ponytail, whiskers quivered on the thing's freckled cheeks.

"Shou Lang..." she said looking back at him. "Please just let it go, you're going to kill it!" she said giving his shoulder a small squeeze.

He looked incredulously at her and shook his head, "It has the stones, I can't just let it go," he said with a dry laugh.

"The stones are in the cage I found it in, that is where the arrow is pointing," she said lifting her dagger in his face for him to see.

He looked irritated, "It's almost dead anyway, just let me put it out of its misery..."

San looked back at the thing and then back at him, "Please let it go...I don't want you to kill it..." she said pleadingly.

"Why? You don't know a thing about this rat? He could be an imp..." he said looking back at her and grinning mischievously.

"Let him go Shou Lang...just let him run away so we can get the stones...this is wasting time, and it's mean!" she said squeezing harder on his shoulder. "Shou Lang...?"

His yellow eyes blinked and then he snorted in disgust letting his foot off the thing's body, he got up from his crouching position looking at her. "I don't understand you."

San watched him go for the cage, she looked back at the thing and watched his eyes open and close, the snarl on his face was gone and a wondering look came in his bright green eyes that blinked rapidly at her.

"I'm not going to hurt you anymore..."she said quietly. "You can run away now, he isn't going to hurt you either."

The thing sat up on his knees sniffing and cocking his head at her, it looked like a little boy of five or seven years old, the bushy tail swished behind him. His face was a light peach color where it darkened in a red at his cheeks, it cocked its head.

San slipped the dagger over her head and stared at his wound, dark red blood splattered his arm. She heard footsteps behind her, "San...what are you doing? Let's go!"

"Were the Uoy stones in there?" she said without taking her eyes from the little thing's face.

Shou Lang's hand closed around her shoulder and squeezed, "Yes, San. Now let's go, you're starting to scare me with that rat...you can't possibly have feelings for that disgusting thing?"

"It's so little and helpless...we need to help it, it's going to die if we don't!" she said looking into Shou Lang's surprised yellow eyes.

"Absolutely not!" he said firmly. "If I see that rat in my sight I'm going to squash it!" he said pulling her to her feet.

San jerked away and knelt back to the thing that looked back at her, "It's going to die, Shou Lang...we just can't leave it here to die!" she said sadly.

Shou Lang was sighing disgustedly behind her, "We can't help that thing! The best we can do is squash it and rid of its misery..."

"No...we have to help him, maybe he can take us to your friend..." said San looking up at him. He had his arms crossed over his chest and his tail whipping in lazy swags behind him.

"If I look at that miserable rat again I'm going to squish it and eat it..."

San watched the thing fall on his stomach, San gasped and picked it up looking at Shou Lang with sad pleading eyes.

"He's going to die...if you won't help him, then at least let me try...I can bandage his arm..." she said.

"You're not wasting my bandages on that rat!"

"Please let him stay with us...look at him, Shou Lang! He's so helpless and small!"

Shou Lang snatched the thing from her arms and withdrew his blood stained sword.

"NO!" she cried taking the thing from his hands.

Shou Lang was shaking his head and snorting, "Let me just the kill the damn thing and put it out of its misery, San. It is better that way, I will not tolerate that disgusting rat skimpering around behind me every second!"

"Just until it gets better," she said pleadingly. "And he isn't a rat..."

"Sure as hell looks like one," he snapped.

San put on her best puppy dog face, "It would mean a lot to me if we helped him, please do this for me! I'll never ask you for anything else if you let him stay..."

Shou Lang made a face.

She walked up to him and looked up into his face, "Please?"

"Fine. But if the thing gets in my way, just once, I'm cutting off its head and tossing it off a cliff, got it?"

San nodded happily and hugged him.

"Ok! Ok! OK!" he shouted angrily. "Get off me before I change my mind!"