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Kimi had never believed all of the old legends. They were just stories to make people behave a certain way or do stupid rituals. But she’d humor her relatives every summer when she spent it with them in the country side and listen when they’d tell the same stories over and over. Her cousins took those stories to heart but she just went through the motions.

So when her cousin came back from a camping trip up into the mountains four days early with raving stories of Tengu and their anger at the trespassing, she took it as an opportunity to finally prove to them that they were just stories. He was just too scared to go camping without family and made up the story. It only took a few days to plan out her trip and gather everything she’d need.

Against the advice and warnings of her relatives, Kimi took a car and headed up the mountain. She bypassed all the usual camping areas for a site higher up on the mountain. Camping was peaceful, giving her plenty of time to read and draw to heart’s content. She chose a nice spot, not far from one of the rivers, and settled down for her three days of peace.

It was hard for her to believe that all of her set up and relaxing had only happened six hours ago. Now she was struggling for breath beneath the clawed hand of one very angry mountain guardian. His wings were black as night and blocked out what bit of sunlight was left and flared out behind him.

A crow Tengu, or maybe a raven. Either way, he was not happy with her.

If not for the terror that was filling her mind, she might have marveled at the tiny feathers that floated gently down around her and the Tengu. The action was so peaceful that was at such odds with the fury that danced across the male’s face.

“You’ve gone far beyond the agreed limits of humanity.” There was a scratchy quality to his voice, like he didn’t use it often. Kimi knew she probably wasn’t far off from the truth if what he said was true. His change from mostly bird to his current appearance had looked uncomfortable and unpracticed.

“I didn’t know,” She gasped, clawing at his hand to no avail. He was far stronger than she was and he wasn’t letting up his grip any. At least, not until her vision started to blur; then he’d let up long enough for her gulp down a full breaths and remain fully conscious before tightening again.

“You’re lying.” A shiver of terror went down her spine at the certainty in his voice. All those years of only half listening to the stories was turning out to be a mistake. For the life of her, she couldn’t remember exactly what powers that the Tengu of the mountains held other than their shapeshifting abilities.

“N-n-not.” His grip had tightened again, leaving her with barely enough air to stutter out her answer. The black eyes that bore into hers flashed with a new level of fury and he sneered down at her.

“Liar. You carry the same scents as the male that I chased off a few days ago. Try again.”

Kimi thrashed out with her legs in an attempt to get the tengu off. He wanted answers but he couldn’t allow her enough air to supply the answers. The last time she had tried it, he’d used a knee to pin them down but this time she had a goal.

It was by sheer luck that her knee actually collided with the part she wanted it to. The Tengu was strong and her movements were only making him angrier. But she knew from years of rough housing that it was difficult to keep pinning a struggling person with only one hand to do so.

When his grip disappeared to move between his own legs as he rolled off her in pain, Kimi rolled over and crawled towards her tent. Her need for air stopped that trek fairly quickly and she gulped down air as quickly as she could. Lucky for her, the Tengu had been male or her attack wouldn’t have been so effective.

“Human.” The snarl was enough to tell her that she was going to pay for more than just trespassing but at least now she could speak freely.

“My cousin, he came back raving about Tengu and making them angry. I didn’t believe the old stories and I figured that if I could stay up here for a few days and prove them wrong, they’d finally give up on them.” Her explanation came out rushed once she had enough air to manage one. Expecting to be pinned again, she was unable to keep herself from flinching when the Tengu rose. His dark wings fluttered behind him but she kept her focus on his face, which was where she’d know if she’d get to live or not.

“You didn’t believe?” For a bird-man, he could snort well enough. His eyes had gone from enraged to a devious look; the same one she had seen on crows just before they played a nasty joke on the family cat. “And now?”

“That’s a stupid question.” After being choked out, it was hard not to believe in the stories. Rubbing her neck, she scooted away as he moved closer. Her movements weren’t quick enough and there wasn’t enough open room for her to get far that way. Before she got far, he was squatting down in front of her and had her chin in a vice grip.

“Instead of killing you, we’ll play a game.” Kimi swallowed thickly, games were not a good thing. Even if she couldn’t remember the legends she knew that games were not made to be fair. “If you can make it back to the portion of the mountain delegated to the humans, you’ll get to go free. But if I catch you before then, you’ll be my new pet.”

“But…” She had all of her gear; there was no way she could make it back down the trail quickly enough to beat him with everything.

“You may want to start running now…I’m only giving you a two minute head start.” His hand left her chin and she scrambled for the direction of the trail. Forget her gear, she could buy new things. She couldn’t be a pet for the rest of her life.


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