"You're crazy," said the grizzled hunter. "Invisible birds? That's nuts even for a blue lady like yourself."

"But it's there," said Kits, who was blue-skinned and red-eyed and purple-haired, with teeth slightly more pointed than a human's, but who otherwise carried herself as any humanoid creature might. She had a fox on her shoulders. A live one, who happened to be her kindred, her literal soul sister. Literal because they shared it. Their soul. "I can feel it." Kits searched her translation spell for the appropriate adverb. "Thermally."

"You mean with magic?" asked the hunter's kid, a scrawny boy in camo clothing who held his own rifle with as much confidence as his father.


"No such thing as magic," said the hunter.

The kid huffed.

Atop Kits' shoulders, the fox, Kaia, adjusted into a better position for pouncing. Kits leaned to make it easier. She knew what Kaia was going to do. Kaia had every intention of proving the hunter wrong by hunting the invisible bird herself, which frankly Kits found excessive. The bird hadn't done anything except sit there on its branch. But sometimes when Kaia got an idea in her head there wasn't anything to do but indulge her. She could be so difficult. Kits braced herself for the taste of feathers. Sharing a soul meant they shared sensations. Not always a good thing.

"Whether it's there or not doesn't really matter," said Kits in the hopes that Kaia would give up her crusade to prove these two humans wrong. "But magic does exist. We're proof." We meaning both herself and Kaia. She gestured appropriately to indicate this.

"Isn't any of my business if someone decides to dye themselves crayon colors," said the hunter. "Or keep a pet fox, though I have to say that'll come back to bite you eventually if you don't keep up with its training. Foxes are wild animals, emphasis on the wild." He shrugged, showing excellent gun control. The weapon's nose remained pointed away from everyone and down at the earth. "Magic is for fairy tales. Fictional."

The kid stared at the ground and shuffled his feet. Kits felt his body temperature heat up with an argument he wasn't voicing. It was slight but it was there, mostly in his heart, neck, and ears, and Kits felt it as a tactile sensation. Her thermal sense was an extension of her sense of touch. She knew Kaia was feeling it too because of the soul connection, but Kits was more sensitive to her own form of magic, so Kaia's experience of the heat rising in the kid would be muted compared to hers.

"Your son disagrees with you," said Kits.

The kid turned red and looked at Kits, stricken.

Oops. Guess that was the wrong thing to say. Normally Kits wouldn't bother correcting anyone about whether magic existed, but the invisible bird wasn't the only invisible thing in the forest. She'd felt another presence, just as warm and much larger, a few miles up the trail where the hunter and the kid seemed to be headed. The larger presence had been stalking this way and that, gobbling up bigger and bigger vermin as it went, and Kits didn't want these two humans to become part of the larger thing's meal. She liked humans. This conversation had started because she'd tried to caution them away from the area.

Problem was, it was becoming more and more apparent the hunter wasn't going to listen to her. Kits might've let him have his stubbornness, shrugged oh well and let him run off toward the danger, but this time she couldn't. He had a kid with him. A kid he'd drag along for the ride who had no choice in the matter.

Kaia's weight moved around on Kits' shoulders. She'd decided not to pounce. Good.

"Want company on the trail?" asked Kits.

"No offense," said the hunter. "But no. Come on, kiddo." He ushered the kid in front of him, putting himself between his son and Kits. At least he had a protective instinct. As they made their way out of view up the trail, Kits turned her face toward Kaia.

Kaia twitched her ears back and then forward again.

"We have to," said Kits.

Kaia let out a canid scoff.

"They can't see it," said Kits. "Even if they have guns, they won't know where to aim."

Kaia scoffed again, but her nose was twitching. Kits smelled the scents of the hunter and the kid in her own nose and felt accomplished. The fact Kaia was memorizing their scents meant she intended to track them, which meant she wanted to help too. Kaia hopped off Kits' shoulders to the ground, leaving the invisible bird to its peaceful existence in the tree.

"The kid believed us." Kits used her magic to raise her body temperature, readying herself for a fight. With Kaia running beside her, they took the forested route and kept far enough away from the trail so they wouldn't be spotted even with Kits' bright coloration. They shadowed the hunter and his kid. "How long has it been since someone took one look at us and believed everything we said?"