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              Touya had spent the better part of the afternoon in the woods, training.

              He liked training with his friends, but sometimes he needed some peace and quiet. And he liked the woods in the human world. They were so green, even in winter, and they always buzzed with activity. In the demon world, that was typically a call for alarm. More often than not, woods buzzing with activity meant that something in them was coming to kill you. Not here. He loved that these woods gave him plenty of time for rest.

              Or, if he so chose, plenty of time to make some targets out of ice and snow and shoot shards of winter at them. He’d been trying to see how quickly he could fire and how much damage he was able to cause with one attack. His goal was to obliterate the ice sculptures he made. He hadn’t quite gotten that far yet, but he was blasting what he called the “heads” to pieces.

              He was just creating more sculptures when a noise caught his attention. Movement in the bushes. He thought at first it was an animal, so he waited, watching the bushes shake as whatever it was came closer.

              He was a little surprised when, instead of rabbit, a young girl came tumbling out of the woods. He guessed she couldn’t have been older than twelve or thirteen. She tripped over a branch and summersaulted. When she sat up, she saw him.

              A human.

              He wasn’t sure what to do. Koenma had let him and his companions into the human world on the condition they didn’t contact humans too much, with the exception of Yusuke and his friends. They weren’t supposed to draw attention to themselves. He hadn’t expected to run into anyone in the woods, so he hadn’t made an effort to make himself look human. Normally he wears a hat to cover up his hair, and human clothes when he needs to go out. At the moment, his hair was out, and he was only wearing a pair of shoes and pants. He’d ditched his shirt because he’d gotten too hot while training.

              The human was staring at him.

              Strangely, he felt nervous. The thought made him smile. Him, a legendary shinobi, was nervous over a little human girl. If any of his comrades knew, they’d probably laugh at him. Unsure of how to break the tension, he tried a wave. “Hello,” he said.

              The girl’s eyes widened briefly before she stood up and started walking over to him. She stopped about five feet from him and looked at the partially destroyed blocks of ice and snow. He watched emotions pass over her face, they ranged from interested to fear. He tried his best to look nonthreatening, but his best might not matter in his current state. He supposed it didn’t matter, since he wouldn’t pick on a little girl anyway. He wondered briefly why she was running around the woods by herself. She looked dirty and awfully underdressed for it. All she had on was a pair of sneakers and a dress. Hardly appropriate for woods in the winter. He could only guess at her situation. She could be a runaway, maybe her parents were abusive.

             She turned to him, and pointed at the ice blocks.

             Unsure of what to say, he tried for an excuse. “I was making snowmen.”

             The girl raised one eyebrow. She obviously didn’t believe his excuse, and to prove it, Touya watched for five minutes as the girl gathered up snow and stacked three balls on top of each other. Then she pointed at that. He nodded. And again, she pointed at the blocks he made. He understood what she was saying, his ice sculptures obviously didn’t look like snowmen, but what was he supposed to say? Also, why wasn’t she speaking?

             “I know they look weird,” he said.

             She still looked skeptical.

             Touya decided he should distract her for a moment, “Do you speak?” he asked.

             The girl shook her head.

             “Why not?”

             She covered her ears.

             “Oh. You’re deaf. Ok.”

              The girl started waving her hands around, probably sign language, which he didn’t know much of. At least, not the version humans used. Some demons used a version of sign language, but it likely wasn’t anything like what humans used. Quite a few demons, if they were born deaf, learned telepathy instead. Since he couldn’t use telepathy with a human, he could only be honest. “I’m afraid I don’t know too much sign language.” He managed to restrain saying ‘human sign language’.

              The girl huffed, and then wandered over to the edge of the woods to rip a stick off a bush. She came back and started writing in the snow. She wrote the name Kiku in the snow, and then pointed at herself.

              “Hello Kiku. I’m Touya,” he said, smiling.

              Then she wrote “twelve snowmen?”

              “Uh, yes. I did make twelve of them.”


              Touya wasn’t sure what to say. Was there a good explanation he could give for why he would have made twelve snowmen in the middle of the woods? One that a human would be ok with? “I suppose I really like snowmen,” he said.

              “But their faces are broken.”

               “Yeah,” he sighed. So she was suspicious of him. Not surprising, given how he looked, and the state of the ice blocks. He wondered vaguely if she was going to ask about his appearance too. A small part of him just wanted to tell the human the truth. That part of him immediately grew. This girl was clearly troubled. What harm could it do to tell her the truth? Besides, nobody would likely believe one human girl if she told anyone. Alternatively, he might be able to convince her not to tell. “I’ll tell you why their faces look that way, but you have to promise not to tell. Can you keep a secret?”

                The girl gave him wide, innocent eyes, and then nodded vigorously.

               “Ok. I’m the reason their faces are broken. I was shooting ice at them.”

               She just stared at him, with her mouth gaping open. He had to restrain laughter, because he could see the gears turning in her head. She was trying very hard to process what he said. Then she walked over to another clear patch of snow and wrote “How?”

                He debated whether he should make ice in his hand or pick some up from the ground. He decided to stick with his guns. Tell the human the truth and see what happens. If he gets in trouble for it, he could say it was an experiment, or that he had no choice, or that her memory could be erased.

                Actually, that’s probably what would happen if he told someone. Koenma would probably ask someone to tamper with her memories.

               “Ok, I’ll show you. Don’t be scared though, ok?”

               The girl nodded again, only this time more wary. He supposed he shouldn’t have front loaded like that. He grew a single ice shard in his hand and blew it at one of the sculptures, only with considerably less power than what he’d been testing before. The shard shot a small hole in one block. He turned back to the girl and was met with an eager expression. Her eyes were like saucers, she had a big grin on her face, and her cheeks and nose were tinted red with excitement. It surprised him a little, since even skilled fighters tended to cower from his technique. She rolled one hand in a motion that said Come on, do it again.

               So he shot three more shards for her. Elated, the girl threw the stick behind her and ran over to the ice block to check the damage. Decidedly impressed, she then gathered up snow. Touya waited another fifteen minutes, chuckling at the girl, as she made three more snowmen. Actual snowmen. She even ran to the woods and grabbed sticks to give them arms. The she ran back over to him told him to go again. He shot all three snowmen with one shot. The girl was jumping up and down.

              Touya smiled. He had a little cheerleader.

              He noticed she was looking around the clearing. As he discovered, she was looking for her stick. She came back over by him, looking for a clean patch of snow.


             Touya smiled, “Thank you.”

             “Are you a snowman?”

              Touya shook his head, laughing. “No. I’m more of an iceman.”

             She looked pointedly at where his shirt was lying in the snow.

             He waited until she was facing him again to tell her, “Icemen don’t get cold.”

             She stared at him another heartbeat before reaching out to grab his hand. She jumped, and then took her hand away. “You feel cold.” This time she didn’t wait for him to answer, she walked over to his shirt, picked it up, pausing to examine it. She rubbed the material between her fingers. Looking disappointed, she walked back to him and gave it to him.

             He decided to humor her and put it on. Then he studied her some more. Her dress was torn, and it was long sleeved, but it couldn’t have been very warm. At the risk of looking creepy, he squatted in front of her and imitated her actions, taking a corner of the dress and rubbing the material between his fingers. “This doesn’t seem very warm. Don’t you have a coat?” He figured, given the state she was in, she probably didn’t. He didn’t think it would hurt to ask, though.

             She shook her head, starting to make signs with her hands before remembering he wouldn’t understand them. In the snow she wrote “Not with me.”

            “Is it at home?”

             She shook her head.

            “Then where is it?”

             Her eyes dropped and she reached up and scratched her head, kicking snow around. Obviously, she didn’t want to answer. He was concerned about her safety. Humans wandering around in the cold without the right clothes tended to become hypothermic. His worry compelled him to press her further, but his training told him to wait. Silence is a great technique when trying to obtain answers from someone.

              She picked up the stick and tapped it on the ground, as if trying to decide what to write. Finally she settled on “My coat is yellow.”

              Touya nodded, confused as to why she’d told him this.

             “I left it on a tree”

              “Why?” he asked, although he had a suspicion as to why.

             “People were following me.”

               Touya had figured that she must have left the coat out to distract whoever was following her. Her dress was white and green, and since it was stained, she probably would have blended in a lot more without her coat. He decided she was pretty smart, for a young human. He still had questions though.

              “Why were people following you?”

              Again her eyes dropped to the ground. She stood there for a two minutes gripping the stick in a death grip. Then she looked around at the woods on both sides of the clearing. Touya wasn’t sure if she was trying to figure out if she should run or if she was looking for the people chasing her. If she wanted to run off, he wouldn’t stop her, but he wasn’t worried about whoever was looking for her. They were probably human and no human was going to take a little girl while he was right there.

              He wondered which human authorities he should talk to about a wandering girl. The police, maybe?

              Kiku was staring at him again. This time though, Touya could tell she was sizing him up. He did his best to appear nonthreatening and friendly. He had limited experience in that area, but he could do it if required. Then she put the stick down.


              “It’s because I can do this.”

              Very few things can startle an experienced shinobi. Sudden telepathy was one of them. Of course, having any kind of supernatural talent would explain why the girl wasn’t scared when he starting shooting ice out of his palm. “You’re telepathic,” he said.

              “Not really, not with most people. I can read their minds. Sometimes I can talk inside their head. Sometimes I can get them to do things.”

              “I see,” Touya said.

              “The people chasing me work with my Dad. I was trying to keep it a secret, but my Dad found out and told his boss. They want me to do things to people that I don’t want to do.”

              Touya had the urge to ask what things, but he decided not to press. He felt he should consider the most obvious problem first, which was what to do with this girl. He could hardly take her back home if her Dad was the one who got her in trouble in the first place. He also couldn’t take her to the police. What would he tell them? That her Dad wants to kidnap her because she’s telepathic?

              He could take him back to his place for a day. Rinku could use a playmate. And he may be able to call Kurama or Yusuke and ask them what he should do with her. He liked that plan. Plus he could get this girl out of the cold.

              “How about this, you come back with me to my place, and I’ll see about getting you some help.”

              She looked unsure, but then, he figured she wasn’t the trusting kind if she could read minds.

              “It’s perfectly safe there. Read my mind, you should be able to tell.”

              She studied him for a minute and then nodded.

              “Ok, my house is just down the mountain,” he swung around and dispelled the ice sculptures with a flick of his energy, “do you mind if I carry you? I’ll get us there faster if I can run.”

              “No, go ahead.”

              Halfway down the mountain, Touya heard her voice float through his mind.

              “What’s Makai?”

              He almost fell. A mind reader in a house of demons. A human mind reader in a house of demons. This was going to be interesting.