The sun was setting over Marzipan city, Wolf sat quietly on the wrecked balcony of the small house where the valley animals had been using as shelter for the past couple of days. Wolf had retreated up to this quiet little spot after his outburst at the dinner table. He just felt like he needed to get away from everyone for a while, get away from the stares, and get away from the quiet murmurs being traded sneakily between individuals while his back was turned. He found peace in the quiet and the dark orange of the sunset, a peace he hadn't felt in what seemed like an eternity, the sun caressed his face and warmed his body, when he felt that familiar lump of sadness return to his throat. Rose loved to look at the sunset; she'd stand outside and watch it for hours. He never really thought about it much…but now that she was gone, every time he saw the sun begin to go down he could see her gentle smile on the horizon. He felt his eyes begin to swell with tears again, yet he quickly wiped them away. He couldn't cry, wouldn't allow himself to cry. He had to remain strong, if not for himself than for everyone else. Yet he couldn't help but feel a tight not of guilt in his stomach when he thought of his sister, he should have known better than to have let her stay here, he gave her all the things she needed to live out in New York. But he gave in to her demands; she wanted to be with her family. That he could forgive. What he couldn't forgive was his own actions, he personally had let each of his surviving family members die, and he'd broken his promise, that's why he could never forgive himself.
He sighed as he heard the door to the balcony creak open; the door was in terrible disrepair and the damage done by the flying rocks didn't help. Fox stepped out beside him, he didn't bother to look at who had come to join him outside, he already knew who it was. Together they waited in silence, gazing out as the sun fell behind the hills and knight had finally begun to fall. The wind picked up gently, carrying a slight drop in temperature with it. Fox shivered against the cold, the wind was surprisingly colder than she anticipated it to be. Wolf looked at her calmly, his face showing no emotion, just deep and cold thought. He unzipped his green jacket before calling her over.
"Come here." He told her quietly. She did as she was asked and stood in front of him. He gently draped the jacket around her shoulders like a blanket, the extra warmth comforting.
She looked into his eyes for what felt like a year, but what was in reality just a few seconds, before leaning her head into his chest. They spent another eternity in sweet silence, their warm embrace saying much more than words ever could. Wolf felt like they could hold each other together like this forever, but he knew that they needed to talk. They had something very important to discuss.
"Fox, I need to ask you something." Wolf said sullenly, feeling a little sad at the fact that to tell her what he needed to he had to break the beautiful silence.
Fox sighed deeply in response; she didn't need to speak to show she was listening.
"Tomorrow I'm leaving for the Valley, whether Panda and the rest want to come or not is something I don't have time to think about. What I want to know is whether you'll come with me or not."
"Wolf, of course I'll come. Wherever you go is where I want to be, you know that." Fox told him softly, not a single word of what she said was a lie. Her love ran deep, and she knew their connection would never allow them to truly ever separate.
"You know I won't argue with you. But this is a dangerous task, and not one I choose to share lightly. Our enemies plan to kill us, they will show no mercy, and neither can we. The odds aren't in our favor. And there's a good chance that one or even both of us," Wolf swallowed a lump in his throat, he wanted anything but to say the next few words that had to come out of his mouth, "might die. And that's why…I want to give you this."
Wolf bent down on his knee, Fox held her breath. Wolf didn't plan on doing what she was thinking he was doing right? She thought to herself, she'd never really seen the human way of proposing before, but from how Squirrel described it this looked REALLY close to what she expected. Wolf gingerly reached into his pocket and retrieved a small ring. It was of extravagant beauty, it was made of amazing gold. Seven silver sockets with four shining diamonds placed inside was certainly an eye catcher. The ring shined in what little light was left in the sky and she found herself wondering how Wolf had kept the beautiful piece of jewelry so shiny and clean when they were wandering through the wreckage of Marzipan.
He held onto the ring so gently and carefully that it seemed as if he clasped onto it to hard with his fingers that the precious metal would crush into dust. Fox felt her breath get caught in her throat; she felt all her emotions rushing forth like a great torrent breaking through a dam. There were so many she wasn't sure which one to express. Joy, curiosity, surprise, bewilderment, fear, all of them just mixed up into a strange bundle of emotion. Wolf gently slipped the ring on to her finger, she didn't know what to do but switch her gaze back and forth between him and the ring in awe. After a few minutes she opened her mouth to speak.
"I don't want you to decide right now. I know it's a big step in a relationship and a tough decision; I just want you to know that no matter what happens…I do and always will love you. And I would like to spend the rest of my life with you. If," Wolf caught himself before he continued, he didn't want to sound so confident that he wouldn't make it back from his trip. "When this is all over, we can have a proper wedding back home, with everybody there. You know…if you say yes that is. Just think on it okay." Wolf told her before standing up and leaving the balcony.
Fox looked down at the ring on her hand in deep thought; her heart told her to chase Wolf down, throw her arms around him and scream the word yes at the top of her lungs! Proclaiming her love for him to the entire world! But her mind thought a little more sensibly, she loved Wolf, that was certainly unmistakable. But was she ready for marriage? It was a big leap in a relationship; she didn't know if they were prepared for this, they were both still teenagers after all. Even though recent and traumatic events had aged them both much farther in the mind then their bodies were able to show. Wolf was close to eighteen now, just a few short months away. Fox however had just recently turned seventeen, a few days after Wolf arrived actually.
Fox played with the ring with her fingers as she thought to herself; she looked out towards the sky. The sun had finally gone down and a few gentle stars began to shy their way into the night sky. She shivered as the wind picked back up. She pulled Wolf's jacket a little tighter around her shoulders, she decided that she wouldn't be solving any of her problems by catching a cold, and she decided to retire to the little makeshift room the rest of the valley animals had set up as a bedroom.
Squirrel sat in the living room quietly. She was joined by Panda, Splinter, and Donnie, who sat in the corner analyzing the strange piece of rock she had found upstairs. Everybody else had wandered off to do their own thing, Rabbit was out back beating up a group of dummies he'd set up himself. From the sounds coming from out there she almost felt sorry for the dummies. Panda sat quietly on the couch next to her, scratching his beard and muttering to himself on occasion. It seemed what Wolf had said or maybe shouted was a better word, really got the old bear thinking. She sat on the couch, in boredom. Letting her mind wander and think back to happier times, she found herself wondering where Fox had gone off to. Searching for Wolf would be the obvious answer, but after his little stunt at dinner he'd disappeared to, so that only left more questions that begged to be answered. He'd left his armor in the corner of the living room; Crow had taken it and scrubbed the blood off of it. It still shined when the light caught it just right, but a long battle had made the armor lose its original luster.
"This is fascinating, truly fascinating!" Squirrel heard Donnie say to himself excitedly.
Squirrel got off the couch and walked over to him. Putting her hand on his shoulder she stared at his little experiment he had set up over a computer desk. Vials of odd liquid and strange concoctions were set up in neat little rows. The strange stone sat idle on a piece of paper while Donnie typed at his computer.
"What is it, did you find something interesting?" She questioned him.
"Ha, interesting is an understatement!" Donnie stated happily.
"Well don't keep me waiting in suspense. What did you find?"
"Well, this stone you found is completely amazing. It seems pretty harmless right; well it's actually emitting a large electrical charge as we speak. The amazing thing is that it's clean energy as well; it doesn't do any harm to the environment at all. Actually upon further studies the energy can be used to purify the environment if used correctly. I actually have it powering my computer as we speak." He made a quick gesture towards his computer, Squirrel looked and to her surprise she saw that the power cord wasn't plugged into anything.
"So, you're saying that we have just discovered an alternate power source! Donnie this is fantastic!" Squirrel shouted in joy, wrapping her arms around her turtle's broad shoulders. "Can you imagine what this stuff is capable of?" Suddenly she remembered how large the explosion was when Wolf blew the original stone structure up. "But none of that explains why it created such a big explosion."
Donnie's face changed from joy to slight disappointment.
"Yeah, that's about the only drawback. You see alone the rock is completely harmless." Donnie picked up the rock and dropped it on the desk to emphasize his point. "But combine it with an explosive substance and it changes from something great to something deadly. Here, check this out."
Donnie reached out and scrapped a few bits off of the rock and placed it in a small reinforced glass box. Then grabbed a small jar of gunpowder and dumped a small, almost microscopic amount onto the stone shavings. Then gently lifted the box off the table, and casting one last glance back at Squirrel, who was watching his actions intently. Then threw the glass box to the ground! There was a loud almost deafening sound, like thunder had struck the ground just a few feet in front of them! There was a flash so bright Squirrel had to look away, or she suffered the chance that her eyes might melt out of their sockets. The light gaze lasted for another minute and a half before finally dimming and fizzling out.
Squirrel was staring down at the box in pure astonishment, it was glowing red hot, and for a minute she thought the box might not hold the immense amount of power that exploded inside, but against all odds it had sustained the damage. She looked down at the now empty box, what looked like little lightning bolts seemed to race around inside of it.
"Wow…" Was all Squirrel could say, still staring in amazement at the glass box.
"Yeah, when I ran the tests that the size of the original stone had the explosion radius equivalent to an atomic bomb. It's a good thing when Wolf did whatever it was he did up there that it was up in the sky or Marzipan, along with us would have been vaporized in an instant." Donnie finished quietly.
"Maybe we could find a way to make it a little safer to use." Squirrel offered it was a shame to let such a good source of energy go to waste because it was dangerous.
"Maybe…I'll stay here and run a few more tests. You should go to bed; you've been through a lot today." He looked up to her with kind eyes. "You could use a bit of rest."
She didn't feel that tired, bored yes but not tired. She bent down to Donnie's eye level and gave him a kiss. "Okay, I'll go upstairs. But I'm not going to bed until you come up too, deal?"
Donnie chuckled a little before returning the kiss. "Deal,"
Squirrel quietly made her way upstairs, she could steal hear Rabbit punching away in fury at the dummies he'd set up. She figured that the dummies must be close to falling apart by now. As Squirrel walked through the hallway of the ruined home she spotted Wolf making his way down the hall. She tried to ask him where he was but he just kept on walking, he walked like a man on a mission. And in that brief instance she knew he was on his way downstairs, whether to tell off Panda or set out on his own was a question that was left to be answered. Judging from how well she knew Wolf she couldn't help but guess the latter category. He was always a bit of a loner, and she found that the term 'lone wolf' actually fit his description rather well. She could feel a waft of air flow out from a hole in the building on her right. The air chilled her to the bone, the cold seemed otherworldly…unnatural. The day before the attack the sun had been shining and the sky was clear. Now the town lay in ruins and the sky was filled with dirt and smog, the destruction was almost enough to bring a tear to her eye. This city was once so beautiful and lush with life, but in a single instance all of that was ripped away. She sighed, there was no use dwelling on the past, she had other things to think about right now. She continued walking down the hall, looking for a room that wasn't either crumbling into pieces or filled with rats and bugs. When she heard someone whisper her name.
"Squirrel…could you come in here for a sec?" Squirrel could hear the familiar whisper of Fox.
Squirrel quietly made her way into the small room Fox and Wolf had claimed as their bedroom. Fox sat on the dusty mattress in the room with her back turned away from Squirrel. She played with something in her lap, seeming rather nervous as to what she was about to ask. Squirrel sat on the mattress next to her, curious as to why she was acting so strange. She gently placed a hand on Fox's shoulder.
"Fox, you know you can tell me anything. We're friends right?" Squirrel asked in a friendly tone.
"Yeah…It's just, I'm not really sure what to do about…about," Fox said nervously, she hadn't wanted to tell anyone, but she needed advice. She figured Squirrel would be the person to ask.
"Fox, what is it?" Fox asked firmly but not meanly.
Fox took in a deep breath; she could feel her face burning up. Was it right to tell Squirrel about Wolf's gift?
"I…wanted to ask you about….this." Fox held up the ring for Squirrel to see.
Squirrel's draw went slack; she could barely believe what she was being shown. Did Wolf really propose to Fox? All she could manage to do was look at Fox, then at the ring, then back at Fox again.
Fox was blushing extremely heavily now. So much that it even began to show through her red fur.
"Fox, is that what I think it is?" Squirrel asked in surprise, pointing at the shining bit of jewelry.
All Fox could do was give a very brief nod and swallow hard.
Wolf made his way down the wooden stairs which led to the living room. He needed to get some air; the building they were in was cramped and filled with dust. He needed to get out into the open, go for a walk maybe. He just needed a little time to be off on his own, do a little thinking. He had to find out some way to get to Viper. If Panda and the others didn't want to help fine, but he would get his revenge one way or another.
As soon as he hit the bottom step Panda got up off of the couch and walked over to him. He sighed when he saw the old bear begin to approach him. The last thing he wanted right now was to have to spit out an apology and an excuse as to why he wouldn't be coming back the next day.
"Wolf…I believe you and I should talk." Panda stated quietly, trying not to disturb anyone in the room.
Wolf stood straight and eyed the elder skeptically. "You want to talk, well here I am."
"Well first of all I want to say that I owe you an apology."
Wolf raised an eyebrow, that wasn't what he expected. He had figured he'd be the one giving the apology, not receiving one.
"I had let it slip my mind that your sister was one of the many unfortunate casualties of this war. But you must understand that I was only doing what I thought was best for us. But I believe what you said had a point, the valley is our home, and we should fight for what is rightfully ours. That's why," Panda paused for a moment, seemingly in thought. "That's why I believe anybody that wishes to join you on this mission of yours is free to, I know for a fact that they are willing to fallow you to the valley and fight for their home. I just want you to make sure that they all come home."
Wolf placed a hand on the old bear's shoulder with a smile. "I will, now let's get everybody together, we need to see who's willing to fight for what's right."
Within minutes everyone had gathered inside of the living room. A few had walked in from a midnight stroll; others were wiping the sleep from their eyes, annoyed from the fact that they had been awoken from their dreams. Everyone sat quietly in the cramped room, whispering to each other here and there.
Wolf looked at Panda with a grin. "So what now?"
Panda looked back at him mischievously and raised an eyebrow.
"Why ask me, I'm not the one their looking at."
Wolf gazed back at the crowd of onlookers, to his surprise each and every one of them had their gaze placed on him. They all stood at attention, as if awaiting an order. Even Rabbit, although doing his best not to show it had his gaze placed on Wolf, not his usual hatred filled gaze either. More like, "Well now what?"
Wolf stepped out in front of them, not exactly sure what to say.
"I'm sure you're all wondering why you're here." The room grew quiet as he spoke. "The truth is that the world faces a threat far greater than it's ever known before, and we're the only ones who have the chance to stop it. This man, Viper…he holds the key to a weapon so great that he could wipe out the entire planet and us with it. Now I won't lie to you, the odds of fighting him head on aren't great, and I know that the chances of us all coming back are slim. But I can't face him alone; I won't force a single one of you to come with me, but I need to know right now. Which among you are willing to stand with me?"
For a moment everyone was silent, Wolf thought that maybe nobody was willing to fight for their home. Then…Fox stood up, she still had Wolf's jacket around her shoulders. And to his joy she had the ring wrapped snuggly around her finger, it wasn't a definite answer, but it made his heart leap up with joy.
"I've stood by your side since we first met. I know for a fact that my heart tells me to stick with you no matter what happens, and I won't turn my back on you now." Fox finished and stayed standing.
Rabbit stood up next, "If you think I'm going to let you ride off, win this fight and take all the glory then think twice. I'm going too." Rabbit announced, his white lie caught a couple grins from the rest of the crowd, they all knew why he was really going.
Squirrel stood up next and, swallowing a lump in her throat began to speak.
"I've already taken two lives for this cause of yours." She paused for a moment, thinking of what she was going to say next. She looked up bravely, her fate now set. "If I have to take a few more to save the world, then I'm willing to do it."
Donnie stood up after her. "I'd gladly stand beside both you and Squirrel; saving the world is just a bonus." Donnie called out proudly.
His brothers were up next. "We're not going to let our brother run off and fight all alone, we're in!" Mikey shouted excitedly.
Old Mr. Turtle got to his brittle legs next. "Battle means injuries, and injuries mean you need a doctor. I'll gladly join you in this little quest of yours."
Mrs. Duck shot up next. "Warriors fight stronger on well fed bellies, this I know for a fact. So why not?"
One by one the valley animals stood up and declared their loyalty. Each standing proudly in front of Wolf, ready to fight for their home, Wolf looked at each of them with a strong smile.
"Then everybody get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow…we're taking back what's ours!" Wolf shouted proudly, holding his sword up in the air for effect. They each returned his cheer with their own, it seemed like life and strength had returned to the Valley animals. This is what they needed! He didn't know where Viper was right now, but he better watch the hell out! Wolf had amassed a force to be reckoned with!