"This will all be better soon…," she murmured to herself.

"No it won't," came an unexpected response.

"Things will get better…," nearly in tears now.

"Never," the gruff voice said simply.

"Not my fault," mumbled, curled in a ball.

"Yes, it is," the unwanted voice sharp, slicing through the … "Darkness…"

"And you won't regret it," he smiled.

"Hurry, run!" The familiar voice called. Images flashed before her. Trees and the sidewalk all merged together, specks of orange leaves like fire through her path. "Come on!" the voice called. She reached out for it as she continued on, exhausted and consumed by panic, unable to reach the voice of the person before her that she had once known so well. "Emily." The voice now screamed, piercing sharply through the blur of her surrounding, calling out for help, the last syllable hanging, clawing its way to an unseen light. Then nothing. The world stopped as her voice had, all around her darkness fell at full velocity to be met only by more darkness. A shot had rang out, no pain, just darkness as it all crushed down.

"Emmy…" murmured Neko, the winged Cheshire cat, rubbing against the girl he once was so attached to. "Emmy…" he said again, nudging her tiny form with his little gray head. A small intake of breath was all he was met with, but that was good enough. He smiled his melivious Cheshire cat smile and layed on her back, stretched out protectively of the one who had taken such good care of him in a multitude of shared past lives.

"This will all be better soon…" Emmy whispered to the darkness.

"No it won't" came the ever present response of the gruff and familiar voices combined.

"Yes it will," whispered Neko to his friend as he made himself comfortable on her small shoulder. "It always goes like this Emmy. It'll be okay, just like always." His reassurance helped calm her, but didn't stop her tremors as the shadows passed by her, the small child-witch in the corner of the darkness, in a whelm for none to be said to emerge alive as they entered.

"Neko!" Emily chirped joyously as the little winged cat leapt into her arms. They purred in sync as she twirled him around, then tossed tossed him up to linger in the sky then land on her head. She was full of giggles as she ran down the path, the leaves turning colors for the season and landing with grace on the grass on either side of her, Neko taking an occasional slap at the few stray ones that attempt to land on the road.

"You'll be six tomorrow, as the humans perceive you, Emmy. Are you excited?" The cat had spoken suddenly, and had nearly gone unnoticed.

"I suppose I am, Neko," she murmured, "But this 'age thing' the mortals use is confusing."

"Yes, I suppose it is Emmy, but so is almost everything they do."

"Emily chuckled at this and began to skip along the trail.

" How many lives have we been friends for now, Neko? I can't remember any more…"

"Neither can I Emmy, but I think you've died maybe a dozen timesor so while I've known you, where we end up in that awful place."

"Oh, yes. Neko, I hate it there. But last time was different, was it not? Before it was dark I mean. That voice. Neko, do you recall who I was with when I died?"

"Another little girl that you were engulfed with playing that game of "tag" with, I believe. Her name has escaped me at this time, but the man began to chase the two of you before he pulled a gun on you. The other child was very taken with the event."

"Maley, Neko, that was her name. Her name was Maley. Did the man kill her as well?"

"Yes, Emmy, I'm afraid he did. But you know you can't reappear to her anyway."

"Yes, Neko, I know. I'm aware of the rules. Her soul, though Neko, do you know what has become of it? It was very strong."

"Oh, now I understand. Emmy, would you like to make her like you? Is that what you were up to?"

"Perhaps it is, Neko. Do you think I still could?"

"You might hold a chance." Neko peeked down into her face, their smiles matching. In an instant they were swarmed by colors merely floating, nothing solid as the energy refused to make a stand still, always moving, no destination in mind. The pair scanned the forces until encountering a young soul. Emmy taped into it, seeing the girl's memories and, content with her find, extracted it from its portal into her own.

"I told you it was strong, Neko. Where is her body at? A soul with no body isn't much fun."

Her body is still among the mortal world. When we return, I shall fetch it for you."

"Oh, thank you, Neko! Thank you! Then we can all play again, and this time you won't have to hide your wings!"

"That'd be wonderful, Emmy," purred the cat, happy that the child was so high-spirited, even if it was one of her temper tantrums that had united them, and brought mercy upon his old companion.

"DO you wish I hadn't killed Haku, Neko?" she asked innocently, reading his mind.

"No, Emmy, I am grateful you did. He's with his lover now, and so I know they are happy. And it let me know that a witch could kill a dragon."

"Only a young witch, Neko. The ones who died old before getting power hold none. Only the leaders are more powerful than us little ones."

The winged creature laughed at Emmy's boastfulness as they returned to the human whelm.