One final blow and it fell. Vixie turned, picked up the fruit, and tossed it into the bushes. A bear appeared, slinking out of the bushes as if it was afraid of her. It had a right to be, for just a few minutes prior, the bear, thinking it was in for an easy meal, had sneaked over to Vixie's camp in an attempt to take some of the greens that she had gathered for food. Vixie was too fast for the bear to react to, and was directly in front of him before he realized that she was even close. Being a bear, he raised up his paw, muscles rippling in preparation for a mighty swipe that would knock the vixen out of his way. Simply holding up one arm, Vixie caught his paw mid-swing. The bear was quite taken aback at this feat, and that was an opportunity for the vixen to perform a leg sweep that floored the bear. "Ha! Wasn't expecting something like that, were you?" Vixie half-mockingly said.

In truth, she was a very kind person, just untrustworthy of new people, so she talked to the forest creatures for company. She had been living on her own for a few months now, after a fire took both her family's woodland shrine and their lives. Having grown up with them, not knowing of any other shrines for nearly one hundred miles in any direction, Vixie had decided to stay behind and do what she could to rebuild the shrine her family had taken care of for generations. Being only 16, she still attended school whenever she could get away from the massive job of restoring the family shrine. She earned money to buy the supplies she needed from the monthly sparring tournaments held in town (which she most often won.)

Vixie tossed the fruit to the bear. "Just don't try this again, you!" She couldn't steel herself to send the bear off hungry.

Vixie walked back towards the ruins of the shrine, her fur blowing softly in the wind. It was not uncommon for her to need to fight off animals like this, for she had a large stash of food. Food was easy to collect in this forest, but there was not much in close range of her due to extensive fire damage. "That's a little odd," Vixie remarked. Normally, there would be a larger number of animals trying to take her food, but only the bear had come out so far. "Well, this looks like the perfect time to work on the shrine some more!" She was not like other girls, for she had a strength that was unable to be matched by even the men in the town, who she thought of as pigs anyway. She had been training in general self-defense and martial arts for most of her life under the study and careful eye of her grandfather. He was an excellent teacher and saw in her an inner strength matching, and even surpassing, his own in his youth. She had continued her training for a while until she could fend off anything she was likely to encounter in the forest. In training, she had formed a gentle bond with the wildlife of the forest. Not much bothered her nowadays anyway, but she noticed a general lack of noise in the air. Sniffing the air for traces of a fire or something else that would have scared the animals off, Vixie continued removing the burnt-out foundation in order to erect a new one in its place.

"Gotta go get more." She was running out of wood to hold the stones in place. She knew of some recently fallen trees, so she went east to where a landslide had taken out some pines. Unnoticed by Vixie, the sky began to darken, and a swirling mass of clouds appeared over the sacred shrine, expanding as she walked away from it. When she reached the fallen pines, she suddenly remembered. "Oh no! I forgot to lock up the food! I have to hurry back!" She turned to run, and it was then that she beheld the clouds swirling, lightning dancing from mass to mass, lighting up the sky with an electric fireworks display. "What the hell?" She had never seen anything like it before. Vixie prepared to run towards it to see what was going on, but she stopped short. She sensed an evil presence: far away, yet strong enough to put her on alert out here. Sweat started to form over her body, her tail started to twitch uncontrollably, and an immense fear swept over her as the evil began to make itself known.

A faint blue-ish glow behind Vixie caught her attention. She turned only to see nothing. Quite confused, she decided that the best thing to do was head into town and alert the people of the oncoming threat. That was when the blue-ish glow appeared again. She stared directly into what appeared to be a hole, transfixed by the beauty of the shimmering colors before her. A darkening mass began to grow within the hole, and the form of a hand came out. It was the hand of a fox, like hers, only slightly larger and with a more muscular arm, and it began to reach through the portal. It reached out and touched her stomach, and everything was sucked into a dark vortex.

When she awoke, the first thing she was aware of was a form standing over her. She instinctively sprang to her feet in a guarding stance, but she was weak. From what, she did not know. She collapsed, the form caught her, and everything went black again.

"You awake yet?" An unfamiliar, yet warm voice spoke to her. She attempted to get up but was still too weak to. "You need to rest more. Would you like some food?" She could only nod yes, her eyesight fading in and out.

She awoke to find herself in a dimly lit room, which she supposed was underground due to the condensation on the walls. Blood rushed to Vixie's head as she sat up at the edge of the bed she had been sleeping on. There was some food on a table that was next to the bed. Having not eaten since that morning, Vixie cautiously approached the food. It seemed good enough to satisfy her, though it was slightly cold. The door to the small room she was in slid open. A male fox walked in, a surprised expression on his face. "Wow! I didn't expect you to regain consciousness for a while yet!" She looked at him, surprised to see anyone at this point. "Are you hurt at all?" he asked her, concerned. He was a tad taller than her (maybe five foot eleven?) and wore simple jeans and a tank top. He had a white patch of fur running from his chest to his stomach (as far as she could see in the dim light), a lean yet muscular build, and a cute face with deep blue eyes. What she noticed the most were the scars adorning his upper arms. They were similar to the one on her thigh, yet he had more of them. They seemed splayed randomly across his upper arms with a few on his lower section.

"Ugh... yeah. I think I'm okay, just a little hungry," she said, not knowing if the food was for her.

"I brought you that food, in case you awoke while I was busy. If you would like something else, perhaps something a tad fresher, I'll fix it for you.

He seemed to be kinder than the men from her village, and he kept his eyes on her the entire time. "Actually, I am a bit hungry," Vixie stated.

"Yeah, I thought as much, after having been through what you have. Hold on here a second, and I'll bring you some thing else to eat. Make yourself comfortable, and I'll return shortly." He then left the room, heading to the right. Feeling a bit dizzy, Vixie propped up the pillows up against the wall so she could lean against them. When he returned, he was carrying a platter with some meat stew and a salad on the side. "I brought you some meats and a salad, since I don't know which you prefer. In fact, I don't even know your name. Well, my name is Tsuyoshi. You can call me Foxx if you'd like. It's shorter. What's your name?" He extended his hand out, provoking a slight twitch from Vixie, who wasn't used to strangers. Seeing her reaction, he pulled his hand back and let it drop at his side.

"What am I doing here?" Vixie asked calmly, not yet sure of his intentions.

"What, you don't know?" Foxx was quite surprised at this. "I thought you would know at least why you are here! Didn't you see what happened earlier? Don't you know what that was?" he asked.

"Well, I live out on my own, so I didn't go into town much, only to win some money for supplies."

"Doesn't surprise me that you're able to live alone; you're pretty strong!" he remarked.

"Do you watch me during the tournaments or something?" Vixie asked, confused.

"No, you just had to be strong in order to survive the trip," he said.

Suddenly, a realization struck her head on. "Wait a minute, where am I anyway?!?"

Foxx remained calm for a few moments before quietly speaking. "OK, this is going to take a little explaining. Can you walk yet?"

Vixie felt her legs, examining for any signs that they wouldn't function correctly. "Well, I can walk if that's all that's needed."

Foxx opened the door, motioning for Vixie to follow him. She did so, cautious of this new person. "This way, and watch your step." Leading her down a small set of stairs, he turned on a few lights which revealed a rather peculiar working space. It contained a chest, which looked as if it had no more room for anything to fit. Also, there was a wide counter with various rocks placed at intervals along the side. It seemed to be a study of some sort, with many samples, charms, and notes scattered about. What caught her attention the most was the blue pinnacle etched into the floor, from which a faint glow was being emitted. There were what seemed to be broken fragments of metal scattered across the floor. Foxx moved to the chest, opening the top two drawers to take out a few pendants. Vixie walked up behind him, trying to see over his shoulder to what he was doing. When he had selected the correct ones, he suddenly swung around to make his way across the floor back to the entrance, only to bump into Vixie, who was already right behind him. She sprang backwards on reflex, grimacing upon landing. "Woah! Are you sure that you are all right?" he inquired, concerned.

"Yes, just explain what happened!" she contorted.

"Ok, no need to be like that." Foxx gave her a slightly pitiful look, which reminded her she wasn't dealing with a forest animal.

Walking over to the center of the pinnacle, Foxx donned all the pendants on one string around his neck. "You know what this thing on the floor is, right?" Foxx asked.

"Actually, I've never seen one of those things before. I didn't leave the shrine much, until now."

"This is called a pinnacle. It contains all the natural elements of Gaia: Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, and Mana. It collects all these energies in one location, so it's very convenient for anything needing focusing to accomplish."

"Woah, he sure knows what he's talking about," Vixie thought to herself.

"I can use these pendants to perform certain techniques embedded in each of them."

A look of familiarity crossed Vixie's face, and she spoke. "I can use some techniques too!"

Foxx did not look very surprised at this. "I know. I can sense an aura about you that tells of your skill. Most of your techniques are strengthening ones, but you can also heal to an extent, I suppose?"

"Yes, I can heal minor wounds."

"Well, there are some techniques that need to be embedded, as they are too powerful to not be contained, like that beautiful crescent on your stomach."

"What?" Vixie asked, one hand on her stomach. "How did you know about that?" She was beginning to doubt him.

"I simply patched up a slash on your side." Vixie checked her side to find a small gauze pad. She gave Foxx a mean look. "I did not touch you anywhere else, so don't worry. Plus, I can sense power emanating from it as we speak."

"Oh," Vixie said quietly, her fears subsiding.

"Anyways, to make a complicated issue simpler, I can use these pendants in combinations to produce different effects. I was tracking the one known as Kahn."

Vixie thought for a moment before coming up with a connection. "I remember my grandfather mentioning him a few times before, but I thought nothing of it."

Foxx looked hard at her which caused her to blush slightly, but he did not notice in the light shimmering from the pinnacle. "To put it as simply as possible, he traveled to your dimension and is currently in the process of reducing it to ashes."

This struck her pretty hard. She seemed to be in shock, as the fur on her tail was up on end. Vixie attempted to get up but collapsed back down to where she was before. "I think I need to lay down..." Vixie spoke quite weakly.

Foxx, concerned for her health, slowly picked her up in his arms, feeling a small electrical tingle as he did so. Making his way back to the room where she was earlier, he set her down on the bed and drew up the blankets around her. He spoke softly, "I'll bring you some food and water." He returned a few minutes later and found her curled up and shivering on the bed. Bringing her attention to the food and water, he motioned for her to eat a little.

Seeing her eat something at last, he stood up. When he turned around, she weakly grabbed his arm, and whispered, "Don't leave again." Turning right, Foxx brought a small chair over to the bedside and, setting it next to her, sat down in it, prepared to watch over her yet again. She seemed very sad at this point. "What is going to happen to my home?"

"Well, nothing, yet. Did you see anything on the floor when I showed you to my study?" he inquired of her.

"Well, a few broken things..." She answered.

"Those were the broken fragments of the pendants that I used earlier today, before you arrived. Kahn, I am a part of a team searching for him."

"Who is he, anyway?" Vixie asked weakly.

"He is an upper-class demon, capable of many destructive techniques, even some that nobody has seen before, yet. For instance, his ability to travel dimensions."

"So I'm from the dimension he traveled to?"

"Yes. He traveled there to absorb the Mana of that planet so that he may become stronger and eventually devour us each, one by one."

"Oh my god!" she was purely amazed.

"Luckily, when interdimensional travel occurs, it leaves a little loop: a sort of fold when the two dimensions bend, so that they touch and travel is possible. When these folds are created, they are not smoothed out, so others can discover and use them."

"Is that how you found me?"

"Precisely. I was in charge of opening the fold, so we could use it to send some people to take Kahn out before he grows too powerful."

"I saw your arm! It was reaching through the hole!" Vixie started to remember the events of that morning, though they seemed so long ago.

"Yes, I reached through the portal and touched you. When we made contact, the power embedded in your crescent flowed through both of us, shattering the pendants I was using to keep the rift open. When the power faded, you were pulled through with me. You seemed a wreck when I came to. I placed you in this bed, and then you gained consciousness later."

"But what about my dimension?" She suddenly seemed about to cry.

"Don't worry," Foxx said with a little smile, which cheered her up a tad. "I was also using a stability and lock pendant. When they broke, your dimension was frozen and locked. Time is now frozen there, and it is locked away from all others."

Her mood dropped yet again at this. "You mean I'll never be able to go back?"

A thoughtful look appeared on Foxx's face, and he spoke only after a long and slightly uncomfortable silence. "If we repair the pendants, we will be able to go back. Now rest, I think you'll need to sleep on this for a bit."

"Okay. I am a little tired."

"I'm going to bed too. This section of the house contains the guest rooms and the study. It looks like you'll be here for a while, so I'll have Sayori prepare one of the master bedrooms for you. The kitchen is down the hall and to the right, in case you get hungry again. My room is up the stairs on the left. If you need anything at all, just knock. Good night." Saying this, he turned the lights in the room down and turned down the hallway, tail swaying, deep in thought.

Back in the room, Vixie was settling down for a nice rest. "Might as well try for some sleep." She moved around a bit before finally slipping into a dreamless slumber. Her last thoughts before drifting out were: "Well, he is kinda cute."

She awoke groggily the next morning due to a gentle shaking of her shoulder. "Foxx?" she asked, not yet fully awake.

"No, my name is Sayori. I am the maid here." The voice chimed quite cheerfully. It belonged to a blonde maid; her hair was tied up in a loose ponytail, with crimped bangs hanging at random spots on her forehead. She stepped away from the bed slowly, helping a slightly scared Vixie get out of bed. "Are you able to move on your own now?"

"Yes. I can move better now"

"You may shower and dress. I will prepare breakfast for you. When you are done eating, Tsuyoshi requests your presence. He is in his study. He has been there a few hours already, so do not keep him waiting."

Vixie realized that Sayori meant her no harm. "Well, she seems to work for Foxx, so she can't be evil or anything." Vixie headed to the restroom and prepared to take a shower. While undressing, she decided that she needed a short bath to relax before meeting with Foxx. She lowered herself into the warm water with a slight mrrrrr. "Hmmm. I haven't taken a bath like this in a long while. It's been ages since I last went into town. I just hope that I will still be able to rebuild the shrine when this is all over." Little did she know that her meeting with Foxx was just the beginning of a series of hardships she would face.

After her bath, Vixie tried on the clothes that Sayori gave to her and found out that they fit much better than she expected. "It's like they were custom made to fit me!" she remarked while examining herself in the mirror, fixing her hair as she thought to herself. Doing a once-over of her body, Vixie found that her injury on the side had been completely healed. "Well, it looks like Foxx can use some magic!" she thought, sensing his power slightly emanating from the place where the slash had been. She went in the direction of the kitchen and found that the house was much bigger than she thought. "Well, I did only spend a night in the guest and study room towards the back." Upon entering the dining room, Vixie came upon a large plate with ham, eggs, bacon, and toast. There was a large glass of what appeared to be orange juice, though she was not sure about any of the food, now that she knew of this other dimension. She found it was very much like the food she ate at home, (if you could call the woods home) and she finished the meal quickly. She headed back to the study, expecting Foxx to be in the middle of some sort of an incantation. Instead, she found him slowly crawling across the floor, his backside to her. "Nice ass!" She thought. He heard her enter the room, and picked himself up, turning to face her slowly.

"Did you sleep all right?"

"Yes, and I met Sayori a little while ago."

"Ah, so you met her!"

"Yes, but, why are you picking those off the floor if you have a maid?" she asked him.

"Well, as I told you before, I am part of a team that is tracking the felon Kahn."

"Yes, I remember."

"Well, we are a part of a private organization. We are housed in these mansions. We live, eat, sleep, and conduct research here. Of course, we go outside for many of our experiments, or otherwise these houses would just be ashes by now. The maids are just here to keep the living area clean so that we will concentrate on our research."

"Well, what do you do?" Vixie inquired of him.

"I am the head of the artifacts and binding team. The only thing is, I am the only person on this team. Take a look at these." He then walked slowly, showing her what he had collected off the floor. "These are the pieces of the pendants that I used to open the hole and consequently bring you here. You cannot return, and the dimension will remain locked until all these pieces are repaired and the spell takes effect once again. There is a slight problem, though. Take a look at this." Saying that, he led her to the dresser and opened all the drawers.

The sheer number of pendants and other items in the drawers amazed Vixie. "Wow! You sure have a lot! Where did you get all those?"

Foxx looked directly at her to answer, causing them both to blush and look away slightly. "Uh... I ... bought them from a friend, the guru Melchior. I bought all these because he is off traveling and won't be back for at least 3 years. That is why I bought off all he had. He is also the only person who can repair them."

"Then I have to wait here while you go fix them?" Vixie said, slightly down-hearted.

"Aren't you the adventurous one! No. You must come with me. They can only be repaired with the power from the crescent on your stomach. That is what broke them in the first place."

"So, I'm coming with you?" Vixie asked hopefully.

"Yes, we will leave to pick up his trail in three days. That is the time I need to collect the supplies we need, and also I suppose Sayori needs some time to make clothes for you."

"Hey, Foxx?" Vixie chimed up suddenly. "How did Sayori make these clothes fit so well?" She looked down at herself, and Foxx did also. "Hey...hello!" Vixie snapped Foxx out of it right before he started to drool.

"Uh! The maid can use a little magic, also. How do you think that that one girl keeps this entire place clean?" They shared a little laugh, then headed out of the study to prepare for the journey ahead of them.

It had been two days since Vixie last saw any sign of Foxx, and she was starting to worry, though Sayori assured her that everything was fine. She couldn't help wondering about Foxx, as he was the only person, besides Sayori, whom she had even seen since arriving. She was beginning to feel a bit lonely, so she ventured back into the room with the pinnacle in hopes of finding Foxx there. She hadn't gotten through the hallway when a friendly voice called to her. "Hey, looking for me?" Foxx came around the back corner, with a smile on his face. "I'm almost set, and Sayori is packing our food and sleeping bags."

This caught Vixie a little off guard. "What? Why sleeping bags?"

"Well, we need somewhere to sleep!"

"But you have this huge house, can't you arrange some small tents or something?"

"Not unless you would like to carry one of those over a mountain, and besides, tents will be too hot where we're going. We're headed south, to the small town of Goad. They have a magicians guild, and I'm hoping we can find some trace of Melchior there."

Vixie's face took on a more serious look, and she asked quietly, "What are the people of this dimension like? I mean, Sayori seems like a good person, though she may have to be, her profession requiring it and all. You're really nice and smart, handsome," she said, catching Foxx's attention, "and you seem to only have good intentions. I mean, you managed to keep your hands off me while I was unconscious. I just want to know if the other people we will meet are like you? I'm not too sure about meeting new friends. I lived with my family my entire life, and most people where I'm from are so rude and perverted! I don't think I want to meet any other people yet."

Foxx considered for a few minutes before replying. "There is one. Are you sure you want to take it? It goes around all the towns until we get to Goad. The path is longer, and there will be more enemies."

"I think I can take down anything we encounter, and I know you can!" she said as she looked over him, head to toe, with a smile of approval.

"You're not too bad, yourself!" Foxx said in a lighthearted tone, studying her as well. He had secretly decided on the path earlier, not wanting her to come to any harm, as she was needed to fix the pendants. He knew there could be disaster if he brought her to a town before he got a little time alone with her to help her develop bonding skills. (That doesn't sound right, but you know what I mean.)

"All the food is prepared and packed to your specifications." Sayori entered the room, breaking them out of their trance-like state.

Vixie was the first to respond. "Well, I guess we're almost set!"

Foxx seemed worried about something. "I feel really stupid now. How are we going to carry all this food and equipment around?"

Sayori had the answer, however. Walking over to Foxx, she produced a small bag from her pocket. It resembled a small purse, though it had arcane runes scrawled all over. "Katana dropped this off. You can use it to store almost anything, as long as it isn't alive."

Foxx sighed. "Well, expect Katana to come up with something like that with perfect timing."

"Who is Katana?" Vixie asked.

"He's another member of our group. He and I have been best friends for about 6 years, when this project had just begun. He is also in control of the artifact department and is always making stuff like this," Foxx informed her. "Well, Sayori, how do we use it?" Foxx asked, not quite confidant of Katana's skill.

"You simply open and place anything inside, then close it. When you need to get something out, just reach inside."

Vixie took it, weighing it carefully. "Does its weight change at all?"

Sayori seemed unsure of that. "Well, put something heavy inside and find out!" Vixie walked out the doors over to a large rock and placed it inside the bag, which instantly shrank down to its original size. Weighing it carefully, Vixie walked back over to Foxx and handed the bag to him. It weighed the same as before. "We'd better get some rest tonight. I suggest you take a nice, long shower, as we won't get to use another one for about a week."

Vixie decided to explore the grounds a bit more before bed. Walking outside, she passed some well-tended bushes and a small garden. She heard footsteps behind her and turned just in time to see a small imp leap at her. She took one arm, charged it up, and rammed it right through the imp, causing it to flame into a smoldering crisp. "Well, that was easy. Almost as easy as the imps at home." Remembering home, she decided to go take her shower to be ready for the next day. She went inside the back entrance and made her way up the stairs.

She stopped halfway, seeing Foxx at a window. It was getting dark already, and some stars were visible though the clouds. Foxx was staring out the window at the sky. What caught her attention, though, was the look on his face. It was the look of longing, the look of being in love with something that has no name. A tear rolled down his cheek before he turned and walked silently into his room. Confused by what she just saw, Vixie made her way to the bath and started to undress, thinking all the time. "That didn't seem like Foxx at all. He's always so cheerful when he is around me. What could be paining him so?" She stepped into the shower, feeling the warm water caress her body, cleansing her, soothing her.

Vixie awoke the next morning earlier than she had the previous days. It was the day they were to leave. Vixie couldn't help but feel excited about a trip such as this one. She ventured downstairs hoping to meet with Foxx alone to question him about what she had seen. She encountered him in the kitchen, packing the food into the new bag. "He seems to be in a good mood," Vixie thought before noticing that Sayori was with him. "Well, so much for a little time alone with him. Oh well, there will be plenty of time for that during the trip," Vixie thought to herself. When Sayori had left the room, Vixie, feeling a little frisky, snuck up behind Foxx, and yelled, "HELLO!"

Foxx was surprised and dropped the sack of potatoes he was carrying. He turned to face her, hair still standing on end, panting heavily. "Don't do that!"

"Aw, come on! I was just joking around!"

Just at that moment, Sayori walked in followed by a large wolf. The wolf was gray in color with white at the tip of his tail. He had a silver patch on his chest with bits coming down to his stomach. He was wearing jeans like most of them, with no shirt on like Foxx was this morning. He was very heavily muscled for a wolf, yet he had a soothing tone of voice. Like Foxx, he had many scars, yet his adorned his chest. "Hey, man, how ya been?" The wolf walked right over to Foxx, and they both shook hands.

"Pretty good! I'd like you to meet Vixie." Saying this, he turned the wolf in the direction of Vixie, who cowered in the presence of his intimidating form. "I'm sorry. She's shy. Vixie, I'd like you to meet Katana."

"Hey, you made that bag!" Vixie remembered, referring back to the magical pouch that now carried all their stuff.

"Why yes, I did." Foxx then sent Katana to go check if Sayori had gotten ready for their departure. That left her and him alone for the moment. Suddenly, a roar caught their attention. It came from outside. "Oh, could he use some patience..." Foxx muttered as he motioned for Vixie to follow him out the front door. It was on the front step that Vixie saw a large, black dragon, approximately eight feet tall. She cowered behind Foxx at the sight of it and began to whimper. "It's ok. This is another of my friends, Ureshii." Vixie looked up at the towering dragon and saw the friendly eyes. She came out from behind Foxx slowly, unsure yet of his intentions.

"Well, there, aren't you a shy one!" The dragon boomed. He then turned, and walked around the back.

"Come on, Vixie." Foxx said to her. "We need to go around back to leave, as the path is there. Are you ready?"

"Yes, I'm ready now."

They walked around the side of the mansion silently until they came upon Sayori, Katana, and Ureshii grouped around a table, examining something. As they neared, Vixie once again shrank behind Foxx. She looked at the table and noticed that there were weapons: a sword and a staff.

"Hey, you two!" Sayori called out. "Ureshii made these for you. Try them out."

Foxx picked up the sword and neatly sheathed it with one quick flick of his wrist. He then took it back out, walked over to a hidden imp, and sliced it in two with one fluid motion. Seeming to be impressed by this new weapon, he headed back toward Vixie with a small smile. "Go ahead. That one's yours." Foxx motioned to the staff. Vixie picked it up, and performed a twirling figure eight in front of and behind her. Leaping through the air, she landed a blow to a nearby tree that shattered it into splinters. The others were quite impressed at the feat of strength they had just witnessed and could only stare with their mouths hanging open. Landing next to Foxx, Vixie took her free left hand, and brushed a few strands of hair back. "Told y'all she was strong." Foxx looked smugly at the others.

"Wow, this staff is so nice! Is it really mine now?"

"Yes," answered Ureshii. "I made that for you yesterday. It has a solid adamantite core which provides incredible power. I made Foxx's sword out of adamantite also. It is the strongest and lightest metal known today."

Vixie seemed happy with her gift and slung it across her back. Foxx looked at Vixie and told her the plan. "Ureshii and Katana will take the route that goes through the towns in order to search for anyone who will aid us in defeating Kahn. You and I will take a different route so that we will not have to deal with any other people."

"But, what about Sayori?"

"Well, she will stay here and take care of the house while we are away. Don't worry, I brought plenty of money for the trip in case we need it."

Ureshii and Katana began to walk down the dirt road, with a backward wave goodbye. Sayori then busied herself with the house cleaning. That left Foxx and Vixie to begin their journey. They both began to walk down towards the backwoods, each having no idea how much their lives would be changed in a few weeks. "Well, let's get going." Foxx and Vixie began their walk down the forest path.

After a few hours, they stopped to eat lunch. Sitting against a tree, Foxx reached into the bag and pulled out two large sandwiches. "What do you prefer, turkey or roast beef?"

"Uh, whichever one you don't want," Vixie said quietly. "Hmmm..." Foxx thought for a moment. "Here, take this one," he said, handing the turkey sandwich to her. She took it from him and their hands touched. It felt like a current was running through both of them, and they started to pant. They slowly let their hands part as Vixie took the sandwich and started to eat. Foxx did the same, and both kept their eyes to the ground. After finishing their meal, Foxx was the first to speak. "We need to get going if we want to find a suitable place to make camp before it gets dark." They packed up their condiments in the bag and continued along the barely worn path towards the mountain.

"Say, Foxx, does the mountain we're heading to have a name?" Vixie asked, thankful for something to break the awkward silence.

"Yeah. It's called Ashida. It's the mountain of tomorrow."

"That's kind of strange."

"Yeah, it's called that because the sun rises over it, bringing tomorrow."

"But I thought we were headed south!" Vixie was confused.

"Yes, but we need to go over the mountain in order to get on the path. If we head directly south from here, we run into a swamp 20 miles wide."

"Oh, that makes sense." The sky began to darken as night approached.

"Well, we might as well set up camp here. There is a stream for water and plenty of space to set up our tents."

"Wait, tents?" Vixie asked.

"Yes, one for each of us." Foxx stared at her strangely, which caused her to blush.

"I can't believe what I'm thinking!" Vixie thought to herself, embarrassed. "I don't even know him that well!"

Foxx pulled each of the tents out of the bag and proceeded to set them up. When he was done, Vixie suggested a walk to the nearby stream for water in which to cook some potatoes. Foxx agreed and slung a canteen across one shoulder. They lightly made their way down a small slope to the stream. Suddenly, Vixie stepped on a loose stone and fell forward. Luckily, Foxx was in front and caught her before she rolled down the slope. "Are you all right?" Foxx seemed quite concerned. Vixie, however, was playing with the fur on his back and seemed quite content in his arms. She unconsciously nuzzled against his chest. "Friendly, aren't we?" Vixie suddenly realized what she was doing and leapt away from him, embarrassed at her sudden show of affection. Foxx, taking the canteen, filled it at the stream, all the while keeping one eye on Vixie. She had walked a bit away, not wanting to speak to him for now, fearing that he would reject her.

"Now he's gonna think I'm a slut!" Vixie thought, downheartedly. Foxx walked to her with the canteen, and they walked back to camp. Vixie took some potatoes, got out a pot, and began to boil them.

"Well, I suppose you would have to know how to cook living out on your own."

"Well, of course, but I don't know how good it is. I'm the only one who gets to eat it."

Foxx thought to himself at this point. "Well, she seems to be warming up to people more. That's a good sign." After the potatoes were done, Foxx took some pastry cakes out of the pouch and handed one to Vixie. "This is a Karada cake. They're delicious and easy to make. In fact, Sayori had time to make as many of them as we would need for this trip."

"How many is that?"

"'Bout one hundred."

Vixie let out a long whistle. "Let me try this," Vixie said as she then took a small nibble of the cake. She ate the rest of it with relish. "Wow! Those ARE good!" Vixie reached for the bag, to get another one out.

Foxx stopped her, saying, "Those cakes have magical properties also. Just three of them can fill you up for a day, so you won't have to cook much during the trip." Foxx then placed his cake back in the bag, and tried some of Vixie's mashed potatoes. "Holy crap! These are good!"

Vixie blushed rather deeply at the thought of her cooking being praised. "You really think so?"

"Well, they're better than Sayori's, and she makes a living out of it!"

"Thank you." Vixie said this, looking directly into Foxx's eyes. He started to fidget slightly. She smiled and began to eat more food.

Foxx relaxed now that her gaze was elsewhere. "Why am I getting so nervous? I won't even be able to see her once the pendants are repaired and she returns to her dimension." He became sad at this new realization, and a small tear rolled down one cheek. Vixie took notice of it and thought back to the night she saw him looking at the sky.

Fearing this was something he wouldn't want to talk about, and yet worrying what could trouble him so much, she asked what was wrong. "Hey, Foxx... What's wrong?"

Foxx looked at her. "When we repair the pendants, you won't be here anymore."

This was obviously not the same thing that had troubled him before, so she made a mental note to ask him later. But for now, she was surprised that he felt so sad. Vixie sat down along side Foxx in order to comfort him. "Aw... Cheer up." She gave him a small hug, which he returned.

A flaming sound behind her caught Vixie's attention as the tree burst into splinters. Foxx sprang up, sword at the ready. "It's a dragon!"

"Holy crap!" Vixie quickly hid behind Foxx.

"You seem to be doing a lot of that, don't you?" Foxx asked with a smile.

"Uh... the dragon!"

"Right!" Foxx sprang into the bushes where a small roar was heard, and then Foxx laughed.

"Hunh?" Vixie was puzzled by Foxx's reaction and grabbed her staff, ready to come to his aid. She did a neat little flip over the bushes, only to see Foxx leaning on his sword, laughing at the dragon which was three feet tall. "What? It's only a child?" Vixie asked.

"Ha ha ha! Yeah, it must have been playing around when it hit the tree." The dragon scampered off into the woods in search of food. Foxx looked after it for a bit before turning to Vixie. "Well, might as well get to bed. Gonna have to walk a lot more tomorrow."

"Yeah, let's turn in," Vixie agreed. Vixie crawled into her tent to find a sleeping bag set up for her. "Aw, Foxx is so nice," she thought to herself before crawling in and falling asleep.

Right outside, Foxx was thinking to himself. "She IS shy about meeting new people, but she warms up quickly, just like someone else I used to know." Foxx thought back to five years ago and started slowly running his arms over the scars, remembering.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Come on, Foxx! You're gonna be late for the carnival!" Kirei called to him.

"Be right there!" Tsuyoshi R. Foxx leapt out the window, landing neatly on all fours.

"Woah! Been working on that landing!"

"Yeah," he answered as he got to his feet. He was younger now, without the scars, yet still possessing his strength and form. "Let's go!" He chased after Kirei, heading to the carnival that only came once every two years. It was a chance to win some money at a tournament or two or some stuffed animals for her. She looked back at him and smashed right into a lesser demon. The demon turned around, not having the temper to deal with much at the moment, and raised a huge claw to kill her. She froze with a look of fear on her face as Foxx dived, pushing her out of the way. A claw slashed across his arm, the first of many scars.

"Oh, so you want into it too?" The demon sneered, motioning over to his assistants. They surrounded Foxx and Kirei. "You and I shall fight then, to determine the fate of that rude bitch!" The demon laughed, pointing to Kirei. This did not go over so well with Foxx. Picking up a large stone, he easily threw it into the air, distracting his aggressors long enough for him to punch the demon in the gut, grab Kirei, and run. He did not get far. One of the assistants had expected something like this, as he knew only too well that lesser demons were strong but not the brightest of fiends. He sidestepped out from behind a tree right into Foxx's path. Surprised, Foxx stopped long enough for the demon to grab him from behind in a bear hug. Being smaller by far, (I mean, this is a lesser demon we're talking about) Foxx could do nothing but be carried to a dirt clearing. "I said that we will fight!" The demon placed him in the middle of the clearing as his assistants brought Kirei from the bushes, a knife at her throat. "I suppose that this assures me of my fight. If you win, she goes free and I leave you alone. Lose, and she loses. Get it?" Foxx could only nod, filled with anger at the thought of Kirei being held at knife-point by an imp.

"Get ready." Foxx assumed the ready stance.

"GO!" an imp shouted. Foxx delt the first blow, a rushing punch to the gut. "Oof!" The demon obviously had not expected such a quick rush from such a small creature. He recovered quickly, however, and brought both hands down to smash his opponent.

Foxx slid underneath the demon, being scratched by claws and imp-thrown weapons all the way through. Dodging a spear, Foxx ran and back-flipped off a tree to land on the demon's shoulders. He then began to mutter a few strange words, raising his arm as a glowing red sphere gathered at his palm. "Kisama, shinee!" He rammed his arm straight down in a deathblow, but the demon shook Foxx off at the last second. Foxx's arm slashed straight down, spiking the demon's arm off his body and to the ground. The demon fell back and cringed from the pain. "I have won." Foxx looked at Kirei, only to see the imp slit her throat and scamper off into the bushes.

"No...This can't be!" Foxx rushed to her, time seeming to slow down drastically as she fell bleeding.

He caught her in his arms, and she looked up into his eyes, whispering. "Don't forget me." Her head fell limp in his arms. All sound in the forest had ceased. Foxx screamed like he had never screamed before, and cried till he could cry no more.

Some time later, he began to carry her body back to the village. Passing the spot where he fought the demon, he noticed that it was gone. In its place was a burning scar on the ground in a demonic K. "The mark of Kahn." Foxx whispered to himself. Feeling both extremes, sadness and anger, Foxx decided then that he would leave the village forever and swore to hunt down Kahn no matter what the price to his own life.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Foxx returned from his memory to find his tears running uncontrollably, Vixie sitting next to him. "What's wrong?" Vixie asked softly. Foxx painfully reran the story to Vixie, who listened, concerned. When he was done, she gave him a small hug, saying, "That must have been hard for you to tell me. It's all right, I understand now, and I promise to help you defeat Kahn when we return to my dimension."

"You mean it?"

"Yes, you said yourself I'm one of the strongest people you've ever seen."

"Well, we'd better get to sleep." They each crawled into their tents, and fell into a deep slumber, dreaming of each other.

End Part 1