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Running through the city's lower-class alleys and ducking through the streets, a young Cross girl hurried with near-reckless abandon. Anyone looking at her cared little what her problem was after she was out of sight: not only was she a Cross, likely a mix of Jackal, Coyote, or possibly both, but her mixed black, dark blue, brown, and patchy gray fur was quite dirty, as were her clothes, which had no small amount of wear and tear on them, marking her as certainly impoverished and possibly homeless. She was also quite on the lean side, but as she hopped over garbage, the occasional crate, and other obstructions and as she weaved around and through crowds, she was surprisingly agile for a youth her age, possibly only a couple years shy of her teen years.

She eventually came to a stop in front of one of the many run-down buildings, and banging on the door, she called out, "Kaska, it's me!"

The door eased open a little for whoever was inside to look out at her, and then a hand beckoned her in. "Well, what happened?" the Fox man now standing before her asked.

"I got in and all, and I was looking for the coin box, but they came back to the store and saw me!" she said, panting. "I got away, but-"

Kaska gave her an angry glare. "You blew it?! After how important I told you this is?!" he snapped.

The Cross whimpered a little, but still managed to give him a more frightened glare back. "I'm sorry, Father, but I'm tired...you've been sending me to do too much...I need a break...."

"And after you messed up that other job the other day..." he trailed off.

Taking a deep breath, she yelled, "You're pushing me too hard! Why are you asking me to do much?!"

Kaska rubbed his temple and leaned back against the wall. "Well...time to move on. Go get your things together, then take a minute to catch your breath. I'm going to watch for any guards," he half-mumbled.

The Cross nodded and hurried to their current bedroom, throwing what few worldly possessions she owned into her backpack, mainly her clothes, some food, and a little money. When that was done, she sat down and closed her eyes, taking a few deep breaths. She knew she was not going to hear the end of this one for a long time yet...she would have to do perfectly in whatever jobs Kaska gave her for a while to get him to calm down. As she tried to think of how she could impress him to make up for this failure, something occurred to her: why were they waiting at all? Why was Kaska not helping her, even? They had to leave now! Hopping back to her feet and running back to the other room, she called, "Father, why are we wait- whuh?"

She stopped short upon seeing the Fox nearly out the door with his backpack on. He froze and looked back at her, looking much as she did after being caught stealing. "...Ready?" he asked.

"What are you doing?" she asked as she slowly approached him, already having a feeling what the truth was.

"I was just getting ready to go and keeping a lookout," he replied.

The Cross could pick up from his tone and posture that he was lying; he flicked his tail a bit when he lied, and this was no exception. "You...weren't going to leave me here, were you?" she asked in disbelief.

He rolled his eyes and sighed in exasperation and frustration, turning to face her. "...Yeah. It's your fault you screwed up, and it's either you or me, so...yeah," he said simply.

She just stared at that, her gaze slowly moving down until she was just looking straight ahead, her expression changing from one of shock to a one that was nearly blank.

Kaska cocked an eyebrow at the now very quiet Cross. "Something you're just dying to say?" he asked condescendingly.

After a brief silence, the Cross shook her head. "No," she answered flatly.

"Good. Now get-"

"I mean, no, I'm not doing it," she interrupted.

Kaska's eye twitched. "What?"

"I'm not staying here and dying for you. I've worked and fought too hard to die for some coward who won't own up to his failures," she told him. "'Sides, you don't deserve my loyalty anymore."

"If it weren't for me, you would have stayed a lump of unwanted meat in a ditch, you filthy mongrel!" he barked. "It's time for you to pay what you owe!"

"What were your rules...'Never get caught,' 'Never steal what you can't hide,' and...one other. You always told me, 'If you rat me out, I'll kill you,'" she continued, looking up at him. "It's time for you to live up to your own rule...'father,'" she half-whispered, the last word dripping with sarcasm.

He growled at her. "What's that supposed to mean?"

She said nothing: the narrowing of her eyes and the curl of her lips into a snarl said enough.


Shultz approached the building, looking about for trouble. The Wolf soldier had been given a routine task: a young Cross girl had been caught stealing and had managed to get away, and he had been ordered to find her and bring her in. No one knew where she lived or had even seen her until recently, and she had also been seen around a Fox man nobody recognized either, suggesting she was a derelict with the Fox so he would have to be brought in for questioning as well. She had been seen enough in this area that, after a quick look in the other buildings, the process of elimination said she was in this one. As he walked, he paused, sniffing: the faint scent of blood was in the air, and as he approached the entrance to this building it became stronger. Ready to draw his sword, he eased it a little out of its sheath and kicked open the door, and was stopped short by what he saw.

The Fox he was asked to bring in was laying slumped over a backpack, his blood having pooled around him from a wound in the middle of his back. The Cross was staring up at him, and there was no doubt in his mind that she was responsible: a knife was clutched in her hand, and both the knife and her hand were bloodied. The Fox hadn't gone down without a fight, either: a black eye, a few cuts, and a swollen bruise on the Cross's cheek showed that she certainly had to fight for her survival. Keeping a hand on his sword's hilt, the Wolf walked over to stand across her from the dead Fox. "What happened?"

"I killed him," she said simply.

"I can see that. How, and why?" he asked.

She looked down at the Fox for a moment before returning her gaze to the Wolf. "He was gonna leave me here for screwing up a job he gave me, so he had a chance to get away. I didn't like it, so we fought. He beat me up and thought I was out cold, then I sneaked up on him and stabbed him in the back."

Shultz nodded slowly. This was pretty open-and-shut: some Cross had been caught stealing, fled to her keeper (for lack of a better word), and then was betrayed by him, so they fought and she killed him. But an idea came to him suddenly that made him weigh some options. "How old are you?"

The Cross blinked at the unexpected question. "Don't know. Thirteen I think," she said.

"And where are your parents? Your real parents?" he continued. "You're a Coyote and...Jackal Cross, aren't you?" he reasoned.

"That's what people say, but don't know 'em," she replied.

He rubbed his chin in thought as he looked the girl over. A youth who already knew how to be quiet and stay out of sight, and who not only had no family that she knew of, but was also a Cross, so who would really miss her anyway? The corner of his lips curved up in a smirk. "Did you enjoy killing him?" he asked.

She looked at the Fox again, this time for a bit longer. "Not really, but he deserved it, and I wanted to live."

"Perfect. Now, come with me, I have some people to introduce you to," he said.

The Cross could pick up from his tone that he was scheming something not on the up and up; her until-recently father had done a lot of scheming and lying. "Your commander, right?"

Shultz kept smiling at her. "One of them. Not the one you think: he's not the one who punishes criminals like you. Of course if you'd rather I can just turn you over to that one and that'll be the end of you," he replied happily.

She cocked her head slightly at him, squinting as she tried to think of what he was planning to do with her, but whatever it was, she only had to consider his offer for a second: she had just killed to live, so there was no sense in letting herself be turned over to the law now. "Fine."

"Good. Now put down the knife." When she didn't react right away, he repeated more firmly, "Put down the knife. You got him with his back turned but you can't kill me." Narrowing her eyes at him for a moment, she obeyed and dropped the weapon. "That's more like it. Now come here." Not waiting this time, the Wolf reached over and grabbed her by the arm and one ear, making her yelp in pain and try to pull away. "Quiet. You have to look like a prisoner," he said as he started leading her outside.

She panted and hissed through clenched teeth, but soon calmed down enough to understand what he meant and half followed and half was dragged behind him.

"By the way, Cross, what's your name?"

She shrugged, grunting from pain. "Nng...he called me lots of things since we moved from place to place."

He nodded. "Probably so your name didn't catch on...but what did he call you when you were alone?"

"...Umi," she answered.

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