Chapter 4 of Angel-Puss
Disclaimer: DO NOT OWN!
D flipped through the pages, his eyes glancing over the names of fantastic creatures inked into the worn paper, searching for the golden lion. He knew he had seen it when he had once skimmed the book. It had to be in there… Ah!
Having found the chapter he was looking for, he snuggled into the comfort of his armchair and began to read.
"…" D stared in dismay at the extraordinarily short description below the entry "Golden Lion -
"The Golden Lion is a rare breed of semi-mammals which hold an almost infinite amount of possibilities to its owner/s, due to the flexibility of both the body and mind of the creature."
D almost snorted at that. Leon was hardly someone you'd call flexible minded.
"The main characteristics of a Golden Lion are, of course, its lion-like appearance. What defines the Golden Lion from its less-magical cousins, however, is the vast variety of styles the Golden Lion appears in. Like the Gryphon or the Sphinx, Golden Lions often possess claws, tails, and pelt patterns similar to those on other animals, both mythical and non-mythical. The type of differences between the Lion and the Golden Lion depends on the mind of the creature, as the Golden Lion is born in order to fulfill the dying wish of the mind reincarnated into the Golden Lion's body."
And that was it. No more than what D already knew. In fact, it was even less, since D at least knew that only humans could come back as a golden lion. He sighed and shut the book, placing it on the table as he sunk deeper into the armchair. What was he supposed to do now? The person he had been running from for nearly fifty years had dumped himself on his doorstep, and this time, there was no denying him passage. He was here for good.
Or… was he? D sat up suddenly as a thought struck him. A golden lion was born to fulfill a purpose, a wish, one might say. If D could figure out that purpose, perhaps he would be able to part ways with Leon quietly. And although a piece of him wanted Leon to stay with him in the petshop, he reasoned that it was not the logical thing to do. He had heard from his Grandfather that the longer golden lions were distracted from their goal, the more unpredictable they could get.
Ugh, an even more unruly detective. The thought of that alone was enough to make D shiver in a mixture of disgust and fear.
"I need time to think," he sighed to no one as he got ready for bed. The sun would be up soon, and it was not the brightest idea to sail across the sky in broad daylight. Even as blind as the humans were to the obvious, they would still notice something.
As he fell asleep, a stray memory rose to the surface of his thoughts. A young boy with blonde hair and blue eyes, playing with a totetsu and a raccoon…
At that time, Leon was also getting ready for sleep. Since he was fostering Anya and Arianna now, they had agreed to share the den they lived in.
"Technically," Anya had pointed out, "our species usually live in the forests, so we don't have dens. But, since we came to the shop and found the savannah to be the most comfortable place, we stuck around and made our home here."
Fortunately, Anya had seemed pretty supportive of the idea of having Leon as a father. Leon had been worried after he had made the agreement with Arianna that Anya might get offended. After all, Leon knew that he was no father figure to begin with, and added to that was the fact that he had killed their father. It was in attempted defense of D, even though D didn't need it… but Leon didn't know that at the time…
Leon had dealt with a lot of angry families in his line of work. More than once, he had discharged his weapon in order to defend himself, ending ultimately in the death of his attacker. Those people had been sons, lovers, brothers… and fathers, like Kenshiko.
He glanced over at the twins, already asleep in their side of the small but cozy den and wondered. If he hadn't shot Kenshiko, they would have stayed back in their own time, lived, and died long before Leon was ever born. He tried to imagine life for them in the jungle, which only confused him as he tried to imagine two little girls living with a saber tooth father in the middle of a wild jungle. But, as he started to slip into the world of dreams, he began to see the vague outlines of saber tooth tigers behind the girls.
Anya was the first one to wake up the next evening, and seeing that her two den mates were still fast asleep, she quietly slipped outside to stretch. Padding gently away from the den, she picked a spot with some nice, tall grass and flopped down in it, kicking out her legs and reaching out for a stalk that danced elusively in the grass. Rolling over to her stomach, she flattened herself out and stretched, first her front legs, then her back. Shaking each leg in turn, she yawned and trotted over to the pond a little further away. Anya studied her reflection for a moment before leaning down to take a drink. As her tongue hit the water, however, something large and furry pushed her from behind, and she tumbled head over heels into the water.
Anya floundered for a moment, trying to figure out where was up, and finally pulled herself to the surface, gasping for air. As she pulled herself over to the shore and shook the water out of her fur, she could hear a harsh barking laughter. Giving one of her rare glares to the prankster, Anya began to clean her muddy wet fur.
Meanwhile, the prankster stood a fairly safe distance from the saber tooth, laughing like only hyenas can. Her tangled brown mane only got more tangled and dusty as she rolled over on her back, folding her grey paws over her stomach as she laughed. "You- you should have…" she gasped, "should have seen your face!" She burst into uncontrollable laughter again, not noticing a tan shadow slipping through the grass behind her. Anya stopped washing herself and watched closely, a slightly amused look on her face.
The hyena was so caught up in the aftermath of her joke that she didn't notice the shadow behind her until it was too late. As she perked her ears up and turned her head towards the slight rustle in the grass, Arianna leapt out of the tall brown grass, tackling her and, as they rolled, kicked her up into a tree branch.
Anya watched all of this with a little smirk on her face, and trotted over to congratulate her on tricking the trickster. She sat next to her sister and rubbed her head against Arianna's shoulder affectionately. "Good move, sis," she purred. Arianna just rolled her eyes.
"You should have been more careful," she scolded. "Not paying attention to things like that would get you killed out in the jungle." Anya sighed in exasperation. She had heard this so many times before. "You have to be alert when you're by yourself."
Broken laughter from the tree cut her off before she could say more. "Hahaha, you don't – ouch! You don't have to worry about that he—ooh! Here!" the hyena giggled as she tried to disentangle herself from the tree's branches. "After all, the Count—yeowch! Count looks after us!"
Arianna glared at her. "Even the Count won't be there forever," she snapped. "Even he will leave the store."
The hyena's humorous countenance became serious in a blink of an eye. "And you presume you'll outlive one of the Count's line?" she asked, her grey eyes suddenly narrowed. "That's impossible, unless you're one of the immortals."
"I know that!" hissed Arianna, looking hurt. "I know we're not immortals. But with the rest of our species extinct…"
"I may be a joker, but I'm no fool," the hyena replied. "Even if that time jump extended your lives, they will all end some day."
Anya looked away from the conversation, not wanting to get caught up in it. It was true; since coming to the petshop, they had lived an abnormally long time for a pair of sabers, but all life must come to an end, even that of immortals. A golden shape moving towards them from the den caught her eye, and she nudged Arianna with her paw.
"Dad's coming," she commented, watching as the golden lion emerged from the grasses. Because of how he saw himself, she hadn't seen him in his animal form yet, but now that she could see it, she had to admit he shaped up pretty nicely, for someone who was once human. He wasn't as big as Papa had been, but he was a fairly large lion. His golden fur was thick and rich, and his mane in contrast looked light and fluffy, like his human hair had been. Two magnificent white wings sprouted from a joint just above his shoulders, both edged in gold and tucked away against his back. His eyes were the same color as the sky on a bright, sunny day, and they looked at the trio in surprise, lined with black.
"So… what's going on?" he asked, looking a little confused. Anya and Arianna glanced at each other, wondering what he was talking about.
"Just a little pranking!" laughed the hyena in the tree. "I don't suppose a nice, strong lion like you would mind pulling this branch down so that I can get down, would you?"
Leon, as some may know, does not wake up quickly. He had woken up to find the den empty, and, after many attempts, had finally gotten up to find the twin saber-tooths. He got a strange feeling as he exited the den, although he couldn't place his finger on it. But, instead of pondering it, he merely stretched, hoping to get some blood flowing to his brain. He stretched his front legs and his hind legs and his back… and then he realized what was off. He looked at himself in surprise. He was a lion. A real, fucking lion.
Of course, his first instinct was to panic. After all, he hadn't exactly dealt with being a lion upon coming here… heck, he hadn't even seen anyone else as an animal! He paced back and forth in front of the den anxiously. What if he didn't understand what the other animals said because they were different species now?
And then he realized how stupid that was. He was riding a magical flying boat that was a petshop where the animals looked human and the owner was immortal, (kinda,) and he was worried about not being able to talk? He gave his head a shake, feeling his mane fluff out as he did. It was a stupid worry. But, it wouldn't hurt to check. And besides, if he could see himself as an animal now, he would probably be able to see everyone else in their animal forms too.
As he trotted off through the savannah's tall grasses, he wondered if this was a step backwards or forwards. He hadn't been able to see any of the animals in human form until he had arrived on the boat for the first time, and he remembered feeling as if he had been let into some secret. Had he somehow degenerated from that during his time away?
Leon stopped and sighed. "I'm still thinking like a detective," he told himself aloud. "I've got to break that habit. I'm not on the force, or even human anymore." Ouch, that sounded harsh out loud. He remembered thinking the same thing about D, and even though he was a Golden Lion now, he still felt very human, and very far off from D.
"I just have to adapt, that's all," he muttered to himself as he resumed walking. He stopped abruptly when a scent hit his nose. It was rather familiar, and after a minute he recognized it as the same smell in the den. Following it with a surprising amount of ease, he found himself near a small pond with a tree nearby. In the tree, a hyena was squirming around, giggling, while the two saber tooth tigers laughed on the ground. All in all, it was a very, very, odd sight.
They looked at him expectantly as he looked at the scene in confusion and some amusement. "So… what's going on?"
The hyena, predictably, laughed. "Just a little pranking!" Leon noted that Arianna smirked a little at that, and guessed that the pranking had probably backfired on the spotted joker in the tree. "I don't suppose a nice, strong lion like you would mind pulling this branch down so that I can get down, would you?"
Leon looked at the hyena, then turned to the two girls. "Well?"
Anya laughed. "Why not? She's learned her lesson for today, I think." Her sister only huffed in annoyance.
"She'll never learn her lesson." When Anya looked pleadingly at her, however, she rolled her eyes and gave in. "Oh fine, you can let her down. But don't say I didn't warn you."
Leon nodded, and then looked up at the tree. "Uh, do you want me to fly up there and get you?"
"Well," the hyena drawled, "unless lions have suddenly become really good at climbing, then yes. That would probably be best."
Leon flapped his wings, shooting up about three feet in the air. Another flap brought him up six feet, where a branch whacked him in the back. He dropped again and flew backwards a bit to clear him self of the branches.
"Very smooth," commented Arianna sarcastically from the ground. "Why don't you fly straight into the trunk now?" Anya stepped on her tail with her hind foot, and the saber let out a yelp. "Ow! I was kidding!"
Leon rolled his eyes, flying up around the branches to where the hyena was sitting. The hyena launched herself at him, grabbing on tightly with her claws around his neck.
"Yikes!" He wobbled in his flight, nearly hitting another branch, then quickly lowered them to the ground. The hyena jumped off and out of the way just before he landed.
Leon sat on his haunches, folding his wings (which felt surprisingly natural) and rubbed at the claw marks on the back of his neck with one paw. "What was that for?" he growled, trying to ease the stinging. The hyena just laughed, bounding away.
"Thanks for the help!" she giggled, disappearing into the fields. Arianna growled at her retreating back, and Anya just rolled her eyes.
"Don't worry, she's always like that," she told the lion. "It's not just you." She trotted over to him, propping herself up on his shoulder to look at the back of his neck. "Wow, she really dug in there, huh?" she asked, prodding the scratches with her nose. "Don't worry, it'll only hurt a minute though."
"What do you—?" Leon began, but stopped with a gasp as he felt his skin pulling back together over the scratches. He craned his neck, trying to look at where they had been. "Wh-what just happened?" he asked, awed and slightly alarmed. Was this some new ability of his, or…
"It's the petshop," Anya informed him. He looked over at her, curious. "No pet can really be harmed in the petshop, if it doesn't want to. Not by another pet, and especially not by humans." She nudged the back of his neck with his nose. "Little things like this, heal very quickly. Bigger things, the Count might have to tend to, but they usually heal within a week." She stepped back, taking her front feet off of Leon's shoulder. "It's all part of his magic, you know."
"D's?" he asked, even though he already knew the answer. Anya nodded, and Arianna bounded over to join them.
"Are you done talking yet?" she asked in an exaggerated manner, giving a lazy yawn to show just how bored she was. "We've got a whole day ahead of us with nothing special to do! It's playtime!" She dropped to a crouch, growling playfully as she batted at her sister's feet. Anya patiently moved one foot, and then the other, until Arianna stopped.
"We still have to help him get acquainted with living in the petshop," she responded sternly. Arianna pouted grumpily, prepared to complain, but Anya gave her a light cuff with one paw. "We have to make sure he knows what he's doing and where stuff is."
Arianna was making such a put-out face that Leon couldn't help but feel bad for her. She might not have liked him much, but he saw a lot of himself in the ready-to-tumble tiger, and at the moment, she was making a face that very much resembled Chris when he looked her age. No one had ever accused him of it, but he really was a softie at heart.
"It's okay," he said to Anya. "Showing me around the petshop can wait, right?" He glanced over at Arianna, who looked hopeful. "It's been a busy day or so; a day of playing around wouldn't be bad." Arianna, grinning, now pulled a pair of hopeful eyes to Anya, who was studying Leon with a serious face. After a moment, she smiled.
"Alright, let's play." Arianna let out a shout, bounding off, and Anya followed close after, glancing back to beckon Leon on. As Leon stood and followed them, he couldn't help but think that he'd passed some sort of test. There was no doubt; Anya might look like she was only five, but her appearance hid an intelligence that matched her many years.
Author's Notes: So... I'm back. I don't blame you if you've all moved on. Finally got over my writer's block for this story, finally have a concrete plot in my head.
Thanks for everyone who reviewed. It really means a lot to me. :) But rather than answer any, I'll get this up five minutes faster!