• "You've got to be kidding me."

    "Sadly... No."

    I sniffed in disgust and leaned the back of my head against the tree trunk I was sitting before.

    "I told you we should've done away with her while we had the chance." As soon as the words were whispered to me, the rage from last night boiled upward and I turned toward my partner with furious eyes. I didn't even have to say anything; the expression did enough. Suddenly, and only for morbid moment of curiosity, I wondered what exactly he was seeing on my face.

    "Kidding." The boy held up his hands in submission and laid back down on the mossy forest floor. I felt the growl deep in my throat even before it hit our ears. I was surprised at myself. I had never had this much feeling for any assignment in my entire career.

    Huh. My career. Never thought that one either.

    "Easy, May. Was just joking." The boy repeated cautiously, leaning away from me slightly. I bit my tongue and silenced myself immediately.

    "Geez, you're taking all this too seriously." He resettled into his former position, watching me with careful purple eyes. I sighed and stared upward into the thick treetops above.

    "Now seriously, what's on your mind?"

    "What's not on my mind?" I muttered, not giving him any glances. He rolled his eyes.

    "Well, we just killed the majority of residents down at a village because someone told us to, we let one of them go to warn the next town on the list, and you're suddenly getting all protective over this one. There's ought to be a reason behind it." He rolled over onto his side so he was facing me fully. His black cat tail swished lazily in the ferns, making calming rustling noises.

    I groaned quietly. "Can't you just let it go?" I pushed myself away from the tree and stood in one sweeping motion. My own orange-ish tail trailed on the ground behind me as I took a few steps away from the boy, deeper into the underbrush.

    "Ma-aay." The boy called quietly, watching my every move; I could feel his searching gaze bearing into my back. I wrapped my arms around myself against the gentle breeze that was rustling through the trees. My long red hair that was woven into loose braids swayed in the brisk wind; the tarnished bells that hung from crimson red ribbons around smaller braids tinkled lonely-like, the only thing keeping the air around us from becoming deathly silent.

    "Jaren, let me alone for a second." I paused for a moment. "Please." I added as a second thought. The boy behind me gave a short nod and turned back over, but kept his watch on me from the corner of his eyes. He ruffled his spiked pitch black hair and rested his head on his hands that were suddenly clasped behind his neck.

    "Thanks." I whispered and leapt straight upward into the trees, grasping the nearest branch my hands found. I pulled myself up into a crouch on the thick limb and looked into the thick bunches of leaves.

    Somewhere out there was the one I needed to find, the one that held the information to my family's death. Jaren could question all he wanted, he would never get the true answer for me setting that one girl free. She was searching the villages for any information, always one town ahead of me and my partner. This one time she had slipped, stayed an hour too long, and we had both paid the price for it.

    I absentmindedly stroked the golden key that hung close around my neck. The very surface was worn from me repeating this action countless times, mainly out of habit. My red-brown eyes flickered as they searched the forest floor for miles on end, the endless stretch I called my home.

    When I returned to the forest floor, Jaren was waiting with my coat in one fist and his own in the other. As soon as I landed, he tossed my tawny jacket my way; I caught it just before a sleeve whacked me in the face. I glared at him as I slipped one arm through my old coat.

    "Ready to move on? We need to meet the Master outside the next village before we can actually attack." Jaren informed me, seeming totally at ease. I simply nodded and pulled the jacket close around my body, zipping it nearly all the way shut.

    "Let's go then." He led the way, sure with his steps. I stumbled behind with my nose furrowed in the short fur interior of my coat. Somehow, even after all this time, it still smelled as my older sister had; a sweet scent that you could never get tired of.

    As we both pushed tall ferns and bushes out of our path, I looked again to the sky, or what I could see through the leaves. I made a silent wish right there that something would happen so I wouldn't have to take another soul.

    After all these years, I was seriously doubting something would change.