A/N: Tuesday has become "Demon Huntresses" update day. I'll try to have a new chapter up every Tuesday.

Bill: Damn Puberty…

The most fair-skinned of Region 471's most elite Hunter trio didn't habitually worry about every little thing that came his way. (If he did, there was no way Bill would ever have gotten any sleep—between Hunting and doubts, he wouldn't have had much time for anything.) And he wasn't given to wasting thoughts on his Captain—Dylan Winters, no matter what his teammates might mutinously whisper behind his back, could take care of himself and usually knew what he was doing.

But this present situation was hardly little. And if it didn't call for anxiety, nothing did.

In what alternate universe do self-respecting Hunters team up with girls? They'll get us hurt, maybe even killed! Of course, by "us" Bill really meant "me"; the Hunter would never admit it, though, as he liked to seem more social and less self-centered than he actually was.

"Julian, Bill."

The two boys looked up reluctantly. "What?" was their belligerent chorus.

"Tonight—we're cleaning out the old 'Haunted Wood'." There was a slight glint of unmerited excitement and nervousness in Dylan's eyes. Sure, Hunting caused anxiety—in the inexperienced. The trio's Captain was hardly lacking in that department.

"What's got you so..." Julian's high-pitched voice trailed off almost guiltily. After all, Hunters were hardly supposed to be impertinent. While it was true that the Winters' Trio—Hunting teams were named after their Captain—often broke this rule, something was clearly different now. Maybe Julian, in finishing his sentence, would be crossing some major boundaries.

Bill had no such qualms, though. "How about..." He leaned closer to Dylan, grinning incorrigibly, wickedly. "Hot and bothered?"

The taller Hunter looked down at him uncomprehendingly. "I don't know what you're talking about. Why would I be...?"

"Oh, I don't know," Julian piped up in a tone that implied he meant the exact opposite. "It couldn't possibly be that girl—that Huntress; what's her name?"

"Candice Chen?" Dylan hedged disgustedly. "You know we hate each other—"

"No, of course he didn't mean her. I hate her, too—we all do. It's the other one we mean: the short, smart one... Isabella Tsai." Is he playing stupid?

"What about her?"

Yeah, he's totally playing stupid.


"Hey, Captain Winters."

Speak of the devil, here she comes. And, as if that smirk weren't infuriating enough, that cocky two-fingered salute just makes me want to break something—preferably her fingers.

"Hello, Captain Tsai." Was he blushing?

"So, where're you guys Hunting tonight?"

"Oh, probably Wildwood Park."

"I thought you said—" Julian shut up abruptly when Dylan stepped on his foot, not very discreetly. "Geez, what was that for? Just because you're the Captain doesn't give you the right to abuse us like that!"

"And is the Winters' Trio positively dead set on going there?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

"That's too bad, then." Isabella's eyes sparkled almost wickedly. "My team's going to go tackle the old 'Haunted Wood'—but you already knew that, didn't you?"

"What makes you think that?" Any idiot could tell that Dylan was trying too hard to play cool.

The Asian girl just grinned infuriatingly. "That's for me to know, and you to agonize over."

"You're such a tease, Izzy."

He calls her "Izzy"?!

"It's not like you're any better, Dyl. Have you seen the way girls look at you? Anyway, I guess I'll see you around—if you change your mind, feel free to come join us. We could use some help"—she cast him an almost seductive look from under lowered eyelids—"since we are, after all, just girls. Wouldn't want to get hurt if it could be prevented."

Did I imagine it, or did she glare at me just then? No way, she was too busy flirting with Dylan for that! And besides, why would she—

"You know something, though? I've got an idea for a new Hunting formation—if you can drop by tonight, I'll let you take a peek at it in action."

That was pure Isabella Tsai—always coming up with some gutsy new plan for risking her team's lives. The other two girls never seemed to mind, though, despite having higher seniority than their Captain. Bill was sure they didn't know that it was Hunter's Law that you corrected your underclassmen's mistakes, regardless of rank.

"Who's more foolish, the fool who follows or the fool who leads them?"

"What?" Can Dylan read minds, now?

The record-setting Hunter looked surprised. "Did I say that out loud? Never mind me, it's just something that… um, a friend asked me once."

"A friend, huh?" Bill sneered, having a pretty good idea as to who this "friend" was.

"So, he's—they're—not coming? Good," Candice sighed in relief. "We don't need their help, anyway—we're the best Huntresses in our Region, aren't we?"

"Probably," Isabella conceded with amusement. "We don't absolutely need them, it's true. I just thought… it'd be nice. You know I wanted—"

"To take advantage of Hunters' natural superiority?" sneered Bill, stepping around a tree. "Of course you'd want to—girls, no matter how hard they try—"

"Can easily outshine their male counterparts," his Captain interrupted, almost angrily. "Honestly, Bill, I told you to be polite, even if you can't be nice!"

"Yes, sir." The incorrigibly sexist Hunter saluted sardonically.

"I'm sorry about that." Julian made his entrance. "My teammate isn't usually this rude, although I always had the distinct impression that he didn't like girls. However, I didn't think he was this lacking in courtesy—although, I must admit that it's not quite true that he usually more polite. He's even rude to Dylan, actually. Obviously, he has no sense of chivalry." He bowed graciously, like a gentleman from Victorian England. "But I do. And personally, I'd love to Hunt with you—I'm sure it'll be lots of fun."

Trisha smiled shyly. "Thanks, Julian." The dark-skinned girl looked like she wanted to say more, but was too timid to.

"Anyway," scoffed Bill impatiently, "we're only here because Captain Winters ordered us to come. He pulled rank and everything just to get us here. Honestly"—he smirked, recovering his nasty arrogance—"I'm quite curious to see how he'll get us to work with you guys. Well, girls, actually."

"We're going to pair up," snapped Dylan, apparently losing patience with his most impertinent teammate. "Rather than Hunting in trios, we're going to try partners. Smaller groups, fewer people to look out for, greater flexibility, et cetera. Besides, it might help us get to know each other better. So—if you'd care to do the honors, Captain Tsai?"

"Sure." Retying the navy-blue ribbon around her ponytail, Isabella studied each of her Huntresses carefully. "It's only natural for you and me to go together, Dylan—we're both Captains. And Trisha's kinda boy-shy, so I think she'll do much better with Julian." Under her breath, she muttered something about "won't antagonize her". "That leaves Candice and Bill—I think they can handle each other."

"Sounds good to me," approved Dylan.

"Easy for you to say," Bill snarled. She just had to pair me with Candice, didn't she?!

"Well, let's split and meet back here in thirty," suggested the Huntress Captain.

"Okay," Trisha agreed, with a shy smile for Julian.

"Can't it be earlier?" Candice whined.

"Nope. See you guys later!" chirped Dylan—Dylan!—as he headed off. Even though she didn't seem like the follower type, Isabella didn't seem at all annoyed as she hurried to catch up with him.

"So, shall we go?" Julian and Trisha chose a different direction, heading off in a companionable silence.

Candice glared at her assigned partner. "Just so there's no misunderstanding, I hate you."

"Good, because the feeling's mutual."

Then, suddenly, the Huntress smirked. "But because I hate you so much, I don't plan to let you ruin my evening. I love Hunting, and your presence isn't going to spoil it for me."

"Again, the feeling's mutual."

"Hey, here's an idea." Candice's eyes lit up. "How about we split up? We can go separately, and they'll never know the difference."

As tempting as that idea was, Bill knew it was a terrible idea. "I can see why they didn't make you the Captain," he snickered at last. "At least Isabella's plans leave some chance of surviving the night."

"No one asked you." She was kinda cute when she pouted…

Whoa, where did that come from? Candice Chen was. Not. Cute.

"So, how many'd you guys get?" Bill asked cheerfully as the Captain-couple (as he'd dubbed them) reappeared.

The two exchanged an amused look. "Lost count," mumbled Dylan.

"It was an off day anyway," Isabella added, looking impossibly angelic.

Get a grip, man! A girl pouts, or smiles, or whatever, and you suddenly think she's cute? Damn puberty…

"You okay?" Was Captain Isabella Tsai trying to show concern for a boy Hunter she clearly didn't even like? Then again, she was probably just doing it to impress Dylan.

"Yeah, why?" The girl-hater didn't really care how belligerent he sounded.

"Just ask—"

"Because you were staring at her," interrupted the Hunter Captain. "And we all know you hate girls, so…"

Oh. Oh. "Ew! Hell, why would you think I was staring at her?!"

"Maybe because you think she's pretty?"

Bill whirled around just in time to see the blade flying at him. With the smooth ease that came from months of practice, he raised one of his own to parry the blue-handled dagger. "Really, Chen? That's just…"

"Underhanded? Not as much as trying to cash in on my kills, Roberts."

"For the last time, I did not—"

"Seems like they got along okay," Dylan mused to Isabella in a stage whisper. Which meant, of course, that Bill heard him clearly. Just as he was meant to.

"Seems so," the infuriating girl agreed in a tone full of amusement. "I told you it was a good idea, Dyl."

Bill glared at the two, who didn't notice—they were sharing a good laugh, at his expense too! But of course there wasn't anything going on between the Captains—there couldn't be.

And even if there was, puberty was completely to blame.

A/N: R & R [read and review] please! Ideas, constructive criticism—anything goes. Thanks!