Hey Yall folks ! This is going to be quite a heavy one, so hold on to your butts haha. Cause I hink it will be the last chapter in a long time, maybe for this year ...

But who knows ? Tell me what you feel about this one. I'll catch yall in the review section

Chapter X : Stay Safe

Down there

Down below

Where is help ?

She could barely think straight, Diego was marching right towards her.

Should she get out ? Cry for help ? What was he thinking ?

No stay … That's better … No wait …. That's worse

Accept it all ?

He was near, what could one do ?

The eyes grew shut ; maybe that is the best decision.

What a terrible thought …

Death …

What is that ?

Her eyes opened, what was she thinking ?

The instance she could focus again on the view, Diego leapt right above her blind spot, she thought she was dreaming.

A piercing growl erupted right above her, a short while after, two tigers were up against each other, to the horror of Ellie, immobile, paralyzed in fear.

Diego was propulsed back right where he ambushed the foe, the latter joined him quite rapidly, grabbing his chance in injuring the other while he was still on his back.

Luckily, Diego anticipated that and used all the strenght in his legs to toss the assailant some meters away.

Ellie could barely tell what the foe looked like ; both of the tigers were back at each other. The fight was fast paced, it was hard to follow. He definitely looked tall, resourceful in his strenght too.

It began to feel tedious as Diego was looking overwhelmed. He could manage to defend itself at the best of his abilities, but he could barely land a hit, his pursuer was too experienced. He kept on pushing for strikes left and right, dead on hungry for a meal, it was probably the weakness that Diego was overlooking : the foe was not looking in defending himself whatsoever, the fury in his attacks was making up for that defense ; the ambush strongly felt desperate. Claws were out, teeth were too.

A blow to Diego's shoulder made Ellie gasp. She couldn't look anymore. The intruder took a pause to recollect his breath, then plodded towards him.

The fear

He was falling

Struggling to keep himself up, Diego lifted his uninjured arm to repulse the danger, but his attacker saw it coming and brushed it off swiftly while damaging it with the strenght of his claws, forcing every inch of his nails in the skin, right to the bones.

Fear has taken over

Diego collapsed, roaring in horror by the sight of his wound, trying to brush off the pain of his left shoulder while struggling to tend to the maul on his right arm. He couldn't think anymore, he was feeling too much.

Red was not showing any remorse whatsoever, he was only exhausted from the fight. He was tired, but fulfilled : he won.

Still investigating Diego's state, he examined every inch of his body, searching for any hints that would suggest another attack, but there were none.

He exhaled a nervous smile, then contemplated the impact of his claw, drenching in hemoglobine.

Diego was not paying any attention to the danger above him, his trembling arms were in excruciating pain, trembling to the core.

An arm raised

A cry

A whimper

An eye for an eye

Fear has taken over

But there were none

A flood of projectiles stormed Red by surprise, debilitating his killing blow and pushing him off balance for a slight second.

Pebbles, pepper and dangerous berries were being sling shot by a wide number of individuals. His eyes beaming in the direction of the attack, he finally unmasked the culprits of the swarm : hyraxes.

With a dash of blue paint, the hyrax chief congratulated the first wave of attacks, squeaking in pride and excitement.

A row of 8 individuals in total were controlling 4 home made slingshots, each maimed by 2 of the mammals.

Red, disturbed and humiliated, had his ears drawn back, growling in all his might, giving one last chance for the gremlins to make a run for it, but something incredible happened instead.

What could only be described as a haka, the chief in command swung his arms, stomped his feet, than waited for his units to scream in unison, trying to overwhelm Red's growl. They were staying put alright.

The blank filling after this roaring contest instilled the air with sweat and adrenaline. What now ?

As soon as Red started to dash at a dangerous pace, the hyraxes responded instantly.

Projectiles were flying everywhere, but the tiger was agile. He managed to dodge a third of the attacks, but those that hit stung harder because of Red's speed.

Some berries were starting to take effect on his skin, corroding the flesh little by little, couple that to the pepper and the pebbles. He was being overwhelmed.

He stopped, laid low, assessed the situation. He was trying to cover himself behind a small hill, and the thought of running away was chewing on his ego, but he ultimately bailed out. Hitting the ground hard in frustration, Red backtracked and made a run for it.

Hitting his chief stick on the ground, the leader barked for the others to begin the healing session. All 8 of them dispatched to pick some herbs that would be beneficial for Diego's treatment.

All the latest ruckus caught the attention of Ellie, who didn't think twice in getting the boulders out of the way. The sight on Diego was deeply crushing her.

The chief hyrax examined Diego's wounds, and also eyed the effects of the handful of berries that hit the tiger too in the confrontation. There were maybe two corroding berry that hit him, but anesthesic ones hit him close to the face, easing the pain and making him feel sleepy.

Others joined the leader with a handful of bandages, healing herbs.

Diego was eyeing the chief with all the remaining effort he had left. The latter reassured the tiger with a short bark, nodding firmly once.

- Help … her ….

He tried his best to nod towards the pile of rubbles that were being shuffled one by one by Ellie. The chief understood and squeaked at 4 of his units to try in removing some boulders. 4 others were now treating Diego's arms with the most delicate care.

Nodding hastily, satisfied with the effectiveness of his troops, his rather curious eye locked itself on a pool of blood on his left.

Realizing it was the corpse of the capybara, he took a step back from Diego, looked at him again, then back to the lifeless body.

He just stood there

Watching

The stench

The horror

The fear


- Stop that noise Reith, it's embarassing

Those startled blue eyes were looking straight at Mitch from afar, he was feeding himself on the rest of the meal in the clumsiest way possible.

- Sorry ….

Mitch sighed loudly while he resumed his exchange with Zelan, who was calmy laying barely 2 meters from Mitch's spot, licking affectionaly his paw. It was bleeding less, but it still looked infected.

- … As I was saying, no matter how many obstacles you'll manage to overcome, life will keep kicking back at you. You're on a quest for perfection that is infinite.

He let that thought sink in for a while, he didn't know what to respond to that.

- It's … like a cycle then isn't it ?

- It could be some kind of game we're all playing, so we're most likely trailing in circles

- There must be something that would break that kind of circle then …

He stopped caring for his hand and fixed Mitch without uttering a word for a good 10 seconds

- I wish I could answer that …

- I remember Lars always talking about fate being …

- It's a curse

That caught Mitch by surprise. As he glanced at Zelan, the latter was shooking his head in hard disagreement. You could feel that this word was bringing him pain. The eyes were getting humid.

- We'd be slaves tied to something we wouldn't want. Never

It was getting hard for Mitch to follow Zelan's train of thoughts. A silhouette approaching the discussion distracted him from the conversation. He couldn't muster any words

- That's what you would want ? When would be the moment where we'd feel free ? Nev …

Liquid poured itself right on Zelan's injury, at exactly the wrong moment. Kane just spitted all over the chief's arm, his mouth was pouring with the last amounts of water he drained in a pond nearby.

Zelan's eyes were clenched shut, trying to brush off the pain that was just inflicted on him from his relative. His other paw was growing claws instantly. He opened his eyes right after.

- I thought it would be impossible to hate you any further …

Kane had his eyes locked on Zelan's. He wasn't letting go easily.

- I'm not letting you die in the stupidest way possible

"You just made it worse !" as he lifted his injury. Eyes locked on too

- Chase, Lilly, Sutra … You think they had it worse ?

- What does that have to …

- THEY DIED OF INFECTION, THAT'S WHAT

- Don't talk to me about pain, you don't know what it is …

That put Kane on edge, Zelan was now looking away, like he was dodging the problem.

- Those names are all white noise to you ? You think they don't make me feel anything ?

He stood right up instantly.

- Hey there easy …

Mitch got an instant reaction from Kane in the form of a deep snarl, he backed off immediately.

- There's not one second in my life when I don't think of the ones we lost. What do you think I am ? A leader ?

The muscle didn't want to answer that question, he wanted to let it sink in for a while around the area.

Reith was listening, immobile.

Lin was watching the argument with guilty silence, sitting far away from the boys. It was crushing her how unstable the pack was getting.

- The least we can do is to remember these names in silence, even if it means talking about the dead to remind ourselves that we're alive …

Kane was trying his best to shake off this feeling of dread, he replied not long after.

- Then remember my name, because I'm the only family you got left …

By that punchline, he stormed back to his spot, laid himself in a corner, turned his back to the pack, and tried to get himself to sleep.

Zelan just stood there, watching the ground. It almost felt as if he was mourning.

- Chief …

He lifted his head slowly. Mitch on the other hand intervened.

- Reith, stand down …

- I've left you a chunk

He absolutely ignored him. Reith was left with silence and his own fragile dignity. Zelan instead headed towards Kane, who was not moving a muscle.

The youngling was to the brink of instability. Looking down, trembling, he had an enormous lack of confidence.

- Stop blaming yourself …

Mitch didn't get an answer. All he got was a shade of orange light catching his eye. Dawn was calling. The moon is to come up at any second.

- Mitch, Reith, come here …

The two of them looked at Lin. She felt the need to isolate the two while Zelan was having a silent moment with Kane.

He stood there again, not a sound, not a peep, just a look.

Kane could feel his presence, but he stubbornly refused to look back at him. Seeing as that was the case, Zelan decided to leave the crater, out in the dark.


- It's getting cold jeez …

- Man up, sissy

- You trembling too bro, shut up

Crash was trembling alright, all his upper body was vibrating like crazy, so he tried his best to cancel the reaction. But it backfired. Now all the lower body was trembling, making Eddie giggle.

- I'm sorry to break the mood, but what are we looking at ?

- Oh it's fashion week, all of it …

Buck turned to Crash in total confusion which was rare. Yet the exchange was interrupted by the start of a drizzle. Luckily they were hiding in a tree. The brat pack was not : you had Ethan, Steffie, Gunter, and finally Peaches. They were watching helplessly Precious, making back and forths between the cliff and the sea, like it was begging for someone to help.

S – Remind me who had the idea to put him in this mess …

G – It wasn't me

E – Gunter, it doesn't work if you're the only one denying it ….

G – Dang it !

P – There has to be something we can do ! We still can hear him from here !

S – If our kinky butts didn't weigh a ton, I would've tried …

Buck was trying really hard to separate Peaches from the rest.

- Wait is that Peaches in the middle ? She got big !

- Nah that's Steffie …

- Oh dear …

It was a failure

C - New generation is lost, I swear I could invent better looks than they do …

- They actually covered my wife in those hair, incredible …

The possums had to laugh at this one

C - I'm telling you, they're coming up with some weird inventions over here !

E - It's a sad era we live in …

B – Just look at that one there, on the left …

Ethan humiliation coming in 3 … 2 … 1 ….

- That poor christmas tree, it needs watering …

Hysteria was back on

E – It looks could actually make your wife jealous

B – Oh I prefer her better, don't worry

The pineapple jokes were getting out of control

C – It really feels like it has it's own little world …

E – It lives, trust me …

C – Reckon I try some bird calls ?

Covering themselves, it was harder and harder for them to contain their laughters …

Belowing in a high pitched tone, Precious broke the mood. Rain was getting more and more coarse ; it insisted that the band should go cover themselves in the same spot of trees as the trio.

E – Great, now we can't make fun of them …

Buck was now inspecting the whale in careful attention. It looked like it was in panic. From what ? He couldn't tell …

P – Hold on Louis !

A silhouette called for attention. The molehog was struggling to stay balanced on top of Precious' body, hiding himself in it's blowhole everytime it was heading for the Ocean. He tried his best to jump off the animal every time it was close to the shore, but he was too scared. With one false move, he slipped into the hole.

He stopped dead in his tracks. It had hit him all at once, and his mind began to point straight ahead. "Come on, it's probably over there." "Go on..." .

How could it be?

Yes it is

Straight ahead.

The path quickly became clear, he had a mission. As if his head forced him to change tracks. He had a mission...

- Stay here …

- What ?

- Huh ?

Without a word, Buck undoes his pirate scarf to cover his mouth.

- Buck, what are you doing ?

- Does it smell like death in here?

- Where ?

He didn't need an answer.

- You're going to stay here until I get back, do you understand ?

- Woah Buck, you can't do that !

- You won't survive !

Buck took one hand out of both possums, squeezed them tightly, and winked with all the warmth he could muster.

- Always listen to Buck...

He turned and sprinted, ignoring the wandering voices around him and the heads that followed him. Precious began to leave, he quickened the pace and picked up the feeling that he had found years ago, the feeling of being happy where he was. This extreme passion which hastened him towards unknown horizons returned in his legs, which accelerated ... accelerated ...

An adventure of the most extraordinary awaited him, but danger was preying, it did not prevent him from continuing straight ahead, "Follow your path, come on" he thought. He jumped up and closed his eyes. The noises around him diminished, again and again.

"Hello Rudy"

Nobody could say a thing. Eddie, while carrying Crash, close to breaking down, joined the four amazed heads.

P – What … What was that ?

E – A Legend …

He was in it; he was in the whale. She dived back in, and the tip of her tail pointed to the horizon. The wind howled at 60 miles an hour and the waves were crashing down on the sharp coast. A storm was brewing, not far away.


The stranded pair couldn't believe what they saw. But the storm approaching made them hurl for the nearest safe spot. They can't join the pack right away.

- We can't go on … it's getting tedious

Manny was looking tired, so he lazily agreed and tried to lay down and keep his nerves down.

- I swear, if tomorrow gets even crazier, I might lose my top hair.

- Tell me about it …

The mammoth's eyes were still open, still trying to process the amount of events, there was still a good amount of anxiety in that expression.

But surely, after a good half an hour, he went to sleep, covering himself the best he could from the wind.

Shira looked at him still, not any noise from the wind was breaking her focus on him, she was not getting to sleep, she was not getting to sleep.

Not now

Not again

...


A pond … a clearing …

This looked serene

That wind, still blowing

Can it be ?

Can I drink in peace ?

I'm so thirsty …

A clear clearing …

Some clear water …

Yes … It felt good …

So fresh …

So clear ….

Down there …

Down below …

Where the wind can't hurt me …

Wait …

WAIT

Those eyes …

Those eyes were back …

It can't be true …

She made the quickest run for it as soon as she saw him

By the pond …

Wondering …

Drinking …

He stopped

Lifted his head

Maw gaping

Eyes open

Body Still

- Aaron ?

She was just behind a tree

She couldn't understand

Why wasn't she running ?

She could hear him walk in the pond

Stopping

He saw it

He smelled it

Down there

Down below

Right through the heart

Beating alone

Forever

For Aaron