Disclaimer: I am still unable to say I own Wolf's Rain. But I do own my crazy, hectic life…would anyone like to take it?

Racing for Freedom

Chapter Four- Going on Alone

Amber eyes blinked open, still filled with sleep. Turning his head, Toboe scanned the small den the wolves had camped down in the night before. Kiba was curled up in his wolf form at the mouth of the cave, as if watching for any intruders though he was fast asleep. Hige was slumped on wall next to Tsume, his chest rising slowly up and down. And the boy was sitting on top of Tsume, the eldest wolf's head leaning back against the hard packed sand.

Toboe glanced down at his hand, wrapped now with one of his shirtsleeves, the blood momentarily stopped. Unfortunately, he noticed it hadn't gone through his right hand. If that had happened maybe, just maybe, the tracker would have been destroyed. Sure, he could purposely try and step on a cactus now to break it, but what if he sent it through a main vein? He'd been extremely lucky this time…next time he couldn't be sure.

'I can't stay here,' Toboe sighed, coming to the sudden realization. Since he knew Kevin had probably already gone out after him, it wouldn't be too long till he caught up. And when he didn't, he wouldn't hesitate to kill Toboe's newfound friends. And to save them, Toboe knew what he had to do.

Looking up once more at Tsume to make sure the man was truly asleep, Toboe eased himself onto the sand covered floor, sitting perfectly still as the silver wolf shifted in his sleep, before thankfully settling back down. Picking his way carefully across the floor, Toboe stepped around Kiba and exited into the desert, the sandstorm fortunately having lessened quite a bit. Now, only occasional winds swept the sand, making the going much easier.

"I'm sorry," Toboe whispered, staring into the dark opening of the den. "But this is better…for all of us." Deciding to continue heading north, Toboe set off across the barren landscape, feet sinking into the dunes and leaving a rather well marked trail behind them. "The wind should cover it before they wake up," the wolf panted, already feeling faint after several minutes.

His whole body protested, his feet seeming to be made of lead and dragging him deeper into the sand. His back screamed as he trudged forward, the scabs that had formed now tearing open with the strain, trickles of blood streaming from the wounds and falling to the copper sand. His left hand still gave off a sharp ache of pain, and he still felt as though the cactus was embedded in it, hot, spikes of agony shooting through at times.

"I have to keep going," he told himself, forcing his feet to move forward. "I…can't let Kevin find me." Toboe knew that if Kevin did manage to catch him, he probably would have preferred to die out in the desert, his pain and suffering coming to a quick close. His master was not a person who forgave easily or readily. He would beat Toboe till he was almost dead, and then leave him, waiting for the boy to clean up his wounds before he'd start again. By then, he'd be wishing that Kevin actually did kill him.

The wind deterred Toboe from walking in a straight path, the boy occasionally falling to the ground from the heavy gusts of air, a soft cry escaping between his cracked and bleeding lips as he landed on his injured hand. "Have to…keep going," he muttered, struggling to rise once more to his feet after collapsing on the coppery grains of sand. "I can't let…them catch up to me…"

Rising unsteadily, Toboe took a step forward before falling once more, the sand slippery beneath his feet. What scared the boy was he knew he wasn't well…normally, he'd have been sweating by now, but all he felt was cold and clammy. "I'm dehydrated," he whispered, licking his lips to try and find some moisture, but only tasting sand. "But where am I going to find water in a desert?"

Some part of the boy couldn't help but wish at that moment for Tsume and the others. For them to come, scold him for running, but to comfort and protect him…to make his pain go away. But the more logical part of his brain knew that if that happened, he'd only be wishing them a quicker death.

"You're stronger then this," he berated himself, crawling forward a few feet with his hand clutched against his chest. "If you can't get up, you'll just be the runt you've always been told you are." Whimpering, Toboe forced himself to keep moving, to ignore the searing pain he felt with each step, the feel of blood dripping down his back…he had to ignore it.

As he continued, black spots began to dance on the edge of his vision, before they slowly started moving inwards, overtaking the brown of the desert, until there was nothing but darkness. Without a sound, Toboe fell to the ground, this time not getting up.

The first thing that occurred to Tsume was sand was blowing on his face as he awoke, the little grains pelting his body and making him quite annoyed. The second thing was that the weather seemed to have gotten hotter, as he already felt sweat clinging to his brow though he was simply sitting…in the shade. And the final thing he noticed was that the excess weight he'd felt on him all night was gone.

Startled by his newest discovery, Tsume jumped to his feet, looking wildly around the den. "Wake up," he ordered, kicking Hige in the side before doing the same to Kiba before jumping over the white wolf and looking outside for any sign of the kid they'd found.

Only endless hills of sand greeted his golden eyes, a harsh breeze blowing the particles against him and sweeping over the ground. But barely noticeable, the wolf found a russet color on the earth that hadn't been completely covered yet. "The runt left," he said, entering back into the cavern, both Kiba and Hige watching him with interest.

"In his condition?" gasped Hige, red eyes growing large. "But he'll die!"

"We have to go after him," decided Kiba, his face set. "Tsume, did you see any sign of him?"

"No. But there was blood outside…he looks like he was heading north, but with the wind he could probably be blown off course."

"We'll head that direction. Hige, sniff for blood, okay?"

The brown wolf nodded and dropped into his animal form, knowing that it would be easier to go across the desert terrain like this, the other wolves following suit. With Hige leading out of the den, the three began to head in the direction Toboe had gone, Hige's nose pressed to the ground for any scent of blood as the other two steered him in the right direction.

'He can't have gone very far,' said Kiba, giving his coat a good shake to unsettle all of the sand. 'Toboe's injured and probably can't move very fast. I'm quite surprised he's moving at all in fact.'

'I found more blood!' Hige barked excitedly. 'This way! Come on!' For quite a while the group followed the trail, occasionally having to backtrack as they realized Toboe had changed direction and they hadn't.

'We've been out here for over an hour,' Tsume observed, worry tearing at his heart. 'How do we know the runt isn't buried beneath all of this sand?'

'I don't think it could blow that fast,' remarked Kiba, blue eyes scanning the endless desert for any sign of the boy. 'Besides, we would smell him beneath the sand…I'm actually starting to pick up on the blood as well…there is more in each patch…almost like a solid trail now.'

Tsume had also started to smell the coppery scent of blood, and that only served to make him grow even more concerned. And now, the trail was starting to become visible, the blood fresher then it had been. They were getting closer to Toboe…but would they make it in time?

Would the young wolf be dead, lying cold and still on the hot sand, blood still leaking from his wounds? Then what? What would they do? None of them had any idea. Just hours before, they'd met Toboe and had already developed a strong urge to protect the pup, to help him. But if he was dead, then what?

In a way, they would have themselves to blame. Not keeping a better eye on him, not doing everything in their power to heal the cuts and lashes on his stomach and back. But it wasn't all of their fault either. Toboe had chosen to leave, no one had made him. Why, they didn't know, but it seemed that Toboe thought it was best.

Would they feel grief? Oh yes, they would. Overwhelming heartache, seeing the frail body spread out on the ground, a crimson pool around the still figure, fur stained a deep red, eyes closed in an eternal sleep. Guilt? That too. They had been the ones to bring him out here, the reason he was heading for paradise.

The three older wolves stumbled over another dune, six eyes widening as they saw the scene each had been depicting in his mind, though Toboe was still in his human form meaning he hadn't died yet. Racing down the hill, now back themselves to human, they formed a barrier around the pup to protect him from the wind as Kiba began to inspect him.

"He's completely dehydrated," the dark haired wolf announced, "and I think he's running a fever, though that could be from just this heat."

"I think he really is," said Hige. "One of those cuts has to have been infected by now, and that's probably causing the fever."

"He's also injured himself more," Kiba said, looking at the boy's back, wincing slightly at the torn flesh and blood. "We have to get him to a doctor."

"Then let's go," growled Tsume, leaning over and scooping Toboe gently into his arms.

"But where is the town?" queried Hige, eyes scanning the endless desert. "I don't see anything out here except sand."

"A town can't be too far off," said Kiba hopefully. "We'll just keep heading north until we run into something or until we smell humans."

"Isn't that a bit vague?" scoffed Tsume. "We could all die by then if we don't find somewhere to go."

"We won't. I have faith in all of us, even Toboe. We'll get out of here somehow. Now let's go."

Taking the lead, Kiba led the pack in a fast walk across the plains, though the going was harder now that he was in his human form. The wind tore at his jacket and whipped his hair back in his face, the sand getting in his eyes and mouth. Already, he began to feel more parched, the air dryer higher up.

After just an hour of walking, Kiba called a halt, sinking down to the ground and taking a deep breath, careful to keep one hand over his mouth so he didn't inhale sand. "Why are…we…stopping?" panted Hige, falling to the ground with a soft thud.

"I didn't expect the desert conditions to be this bad," the leader said, turning to face his group. "If we were traveling as wolves, we'd be fine, but like this we're going much slower and wasting energy. Though with Toboe like this, I don't think we can transform."

"Why don't you go scout ahead and find a town?" suggested Tsume. "The three of us will stay here until you come back. At least then we'd know what direction we're supposed to go to.

"Good idea," agreed Kiba, dropping to all fours. 'Stay here, don't move. I'll try to be back before nightfall.' That said, the white wolf took off into the distance, disappearing shortly in a curtain of sand. Tsume and Hige watched him go, both wishing for the wolf to travel as though he were flying; quickly over the sand to find help for their new friend.

"There is one thing that's bothering me," said Hige looking warily over his shoulder. When Tsume didn't answer, he continued. "Toboe lost so much blood…there's bound to be something out there that smells it."

Tsume stiffened and then shrugged, trying to make it look like he didn't care. "We can take out anything that comes near. Don't worry so much porky."

"But I sense something," the brown wolf insisted, glancing again back over his shoulder. "Something is out there, Tsume."

"Nothing is going to get us," Tsume growled.

"But it isn't an animal," Hige continued, now standing and staring into the distance. "It's a human…"

"Then we definitely have nothing to worry about."

"But…it isn't a real human. It smells different. And it keeps getting closer…but not from behind or in front of us."

"Then where's it coming from? The sky?" Tsume sneered.

"I think so." Tsume shook his head at the other wolf's stupidity, before the unthinkable happened.

A figure did drop from the sky and landed on top of Hige. The younger wolf, after a second of catching his breath, rolled the person off of him. "It's a girl," he concluded, looking at the figure.

She had light, lavender colored hair and skin so white it almost looked like snow. A pinkish cloak was wrapped around her shoulders, a skin tight suit of white material hugging her body. But the most unique thing about her was the smell she gave off. The smell of lunar flowers.

"It's Cheza," gasped Hige, picking the girl up gently in his arms. "Talk about luck!"

"Where is…this one?" Cheza's voice was soft, and seemed to be tired. Her eyes opened to reveal a pair of captivating scarlet colored eyes that blinked sleepily up at Hige.

"The middle of the desert," Hige said. "Are you all right?"

"Yes, this one is fine," the flower maiden smiled. "But he does not look fine," she said, pointing at Toboe.

"That's Toboe," Hige said as Cheza knelt down next to the boy. "He's been injured pretty bad."

"This one will try to help him," the girl murmured, placing both hands over Toboe's body. A soft, green aura began to emit from her to the boy. As both Tsume and Hige watched in fascination, Toboe began to heal, the cuts on him melting into unblemished skin, the bruises completely fading. "Toboe will be tired for a little while, but he is better now."

"How did you do that?" Hige asked, staring at the flower maiden with awe and respect.

"This one knows how to heal," she said softly, casting her eyes to the floor. "But I do not think that is why the man wanted this one."

"Man?" asked Tsume, looking up at the sky, as if waiting for another figure to drop.

"A wolf," she clarified, "just like the three of you. He took this one away, but this one managed to escape."

"I wonder who it was," mused Hige, tapping his chin thoughtfully. "Oh!" he exclaimed, blushing slightly. "I'm Hige and that's Tsume. And you'll meet Kiba later, he's out right now."

"This one is very happy to meet all of you," Cheza smiled, dropping into a curtsy. "Are you too heading for paradise?"

"We are," said Hige. "But we don't know how to get there. We were looking for you earlier, but you disappeared."

"This one can take you to paradise."

"Will you really?" Hige cried excitedly, hugging the flower maiden. "You're the best, Cheza!"

"This one will be quite happy to take you all."

"Someone new is coming," observed Hige, straightening and peering into the blowing waves of sand. "Oh," he said, sitting back down, "it's Kiba."

Seconds later, the white wolf came out of a curtain of sand and into the little group. "There's a town about a good thirty miles from here," he panted, not yet noticing Cheza. "If we hurry, we should be able to get him there by tomorrow."

"Kiba?" Cheza was standing next to the white wolf and looking adoringly up at him.

The white wolf blinked several times, not believing the flower maiden was right there. "Kiba, this is Cheza," Hige grinned. "She healed Toboe and agreed to take up to paradise."


"This one was flying over the desert," said Cheza. "This one fell out of the helicopter and fell on top of Hige."

"And then she saw Toboe and cured him," Hige grinned. "So, should we get going?"

"We should probably try and wait out the storm for a little while," said Kiba wisely. "There's some rocks that would provide good shelter just a ways up. We can head there for the night."

The group set out again, a new member now with them. With this hope, they would finally reach paradise. And there they could live in peace…forever.

Author's Notes:

Yay! An update! I've been getting e-mails from some very persistent people about this fic, so I decided I really needed to get an update in. I'm now off to hurriedly type up PC and pray it's ready to go by tomorrow. :P

If anyone here is into Harry Potter, I just put up a one-shot today if you'd care to read.

And I started spelling Cheza like that now. If anyone knows if it is two z's or one, could you let me know? Arigatou!

As always, reviews are appreciated very, very much. And we'll be seeing some Kevin next chappie!! Yay!