~*~*~*~*~*~*The giant red beast ran up the hill, wind streaming through his hair. A little girl chased after him, shrieking happily.
"Wait," the young girl yelled. "Red!"
Nanaki slowed and waited for the young girl to catch up. She was breathing lightly, her summer dressing whipping around her ankles.
"Carry me! Carry me!" the little girl pleaded, holding her arms out.
Dropping down to his stomach, Nanaki allowed the girl to climb onto his back.
"Hold on little one," he said, already feeling her small hands tangling into his mane. "Do watch the headdress as well."
His powerful legs pushed off, claws digging into the green grass. A voice filled with glee filled the air as the two continued up the hill. His tail slashed the air behind him as he ran, carrying the young girl higher up the hill.
"There is mommy!" Nanaki heard her scream happily in his ear.
A tall brunette stood at the top of the hill, the wind tugging long hair into a smiling face. Nanaki felt a sense of calm overtake him. Coming to a stop, Nanaki felt the girl tumble off his back. Giggles emerged from the tall grass the girl had landed in.
Springing to her feet with the energy of a four year old, the girl ran the rest of the way up the hill.
"Mommy!" she yelled, throwing herself into the woman's arms. "Red let me ride on his back. Mommy, isn't that nice of Red."
"Yes it is," the girls mother said. "Did you say thank you?"
Turning away from her mother, the young girl smiled politely to Nanaki, hands clasped in front of her.
"Thank you Red."
"You are welcome," Nanaki replied, a small hand patting him on the nose.
Turning, the three looked down at the rebuilt town of Kalm, people busily moving between buildings. Nanaki froze, sensing something behind him. With a strangled growl, he turned. A tall man stood before him, long hair falling across his face. The woman turned also, hiding her daughter behind her.
"Mommy," the girl whimpered. "It's the bad man, Mommy."
The woman scooped up her daughter, holding her tightly to her chest. The man took a step forwards, waterfall of crimson material shoved over one shoulder. Nanaki stared into the all too familiar face and dropped low, ready to pounce.
"Run," he ordered.
The woman ran and Nanaki jumped.