Aya wandered friskily in the grass of the woodland clearing trying to catch squirrels. They were rather fast and eluded him most of the time. He could use his flame abilities but didn't want to since he really didn't need the meat. He really felt a little claustrophobic after spending so much time indoors with several worrywarts who tried to baby sit him. It wasn't as if he had suddenly turned harmless. He was an assassin like them, capable of defending himself and he had some abilities. He was especially tempted to give Youji a hot foot just to prove his point but he resisted. He was going to need all the power he had for defending himself if things got out of hand. Then he saw it, a brown rabbit ear twitching just behind the next rise.
Wai, I'm going to catch that rabbit…try anyway…
So off, Aya sprang to towards the twitching ear, ready for another romp with an unsuspecting playmate. It was only after a bit of time when he figured it was farther than he supposed. He had already strayed from the protective circle of Crawford, Ken and Omi and that this rabbit wasn't like what he'd thought it was.
Wow, now that's a RABBIT. It's huge… What's with this place? Even the rabbits are bigger than me! Am I destined to be the smallest creature in the entire Mystical Realm?
The rabbit had a smaller body-head proportion than the regular version and smaller forelegs than hind legs and a long tail that balanced behind. Black eyes looked at Aya curiously.
Aya ran away from the mutant rabbit as fast as his short legs could carry him. However as he ran, he felt something lift him up. He tried to struggle but it was no use. Whatever it was had a secure grip on his neck scruff, and was leaping in huge bounds.
Probably the rabbit… What a world, first deadly clan politics, now killer rabbits…I'll never live it down if they have to rescue me out of this one.
Ran tried to twist out of the grip but it remained firm. His paws dangled ungracefully every which way as he tried to get free but to no avail. Then his struggles became weaker and weaker as the bouncing around made him rather green in the gills. He could not risk flaming the rabbit and getting dropped.
: Brad-chan, Ken, Omi, anybody? Help! :
: Marika, what do you think of this track? : Avri said, he was a large blue male whose powerful shocks were legendary in the pack. His black paw markings made distinctive "socks" very much unlike Iraka's which were white and blurry. He had eight tails and all them were tipped with the same distinctive black and blue swirl-pattern. They hit a rocky bunch of hills and it had given them a lot more choices in pathways. Though the trails more precarious ones since the slate were perilously unstable in some places, they hid them from the view of Void kitsune.
: It's fine. : Manx said absently.
: What's wrong? : Iraka asked, picking up on the red female's mood.
: There's something in the air. I don't know what it is. :
: Oh, it's only sulfur. We're closer to the hot springs. :
: Hot springs? It doesn't smell like any hot spring I've ever smelled. : Manx asked speculatively.
: Aa, there are some in the next, slope but there are something in the rocks hereabouts that makes it smell different. :
Hmmm, I recognized that scent… That's ammonium nitrate and a large enough quantity to make the whole area stink, interesting, very interesting, indeed…
: Can we pass by here when we return to the Rtow Lands? :
: Aye. :
: Where did you last see him? : Rerin, a big blue and white kitsune with a "thunder" mark across his middle tail.
Crawford repressed the worry that was eating at him to be as objective as could be about remembering. He visualized the last time he saw his Ayan.
: He was over there near the edge of clearing chasing squirrels. Ken, Omi? :
Both Weiß Kreuz members yelled their own affirmatives. Despite the protests of Youji, he wasn't included in the search party. In fact, the inclusion of both Ken and Omi had been subject to debate since the hunting leader of the pack, Rerin, wanted an all-kitsune party.
: Senra-- :
: I'm on it… :
All the humans and near-human held their breath as Senra followed the hours old spoor up into a hill and down with the rest of the hunting kitsune trailing after to make sure nothing was lost.
: There's a strange spoor here and a paw print I've never seen before. Rerin, you better come here and see this. :
: Aye. :
The search party all gathered around the paw print, careful not to obscure it.
: I've never seen it before. :
: I--I think I know what made it but better be sure. It's been a century or two but… Let's follow the spoor. : Weryne volunteered. She was an all-blue kitsune with no markings like Crawford and the oldest of the three hunting kitsune left in the pack.
: Shouldn't we let the humans return to the pack den? : Emris asked. He was friendly enough male with blue and streaks of darker blue all over his hide. Though he openly questioned the humans' presence in the search party, it was mostly because of less than acute senses and conspicuousness. Rerin was more distrustful of humans in general.
: No. They can be useful, if my suspicions are borne out. Just let them put on the stinky paste and let us all go. Don't worry Brad-san, Ran-kit is still alive and unharmed. Or at least mostly unharmed. : Weryne objected and that was that. She was the only one who knew what they might go up against and so she had the final say.
Both Ken and Omi grimaced. "Stinky paste" is what the kitsune called a paste of herbs that was used to camouflage their scent from prey. If was rather effective but lived up to it's name, stinky.
Ayan, where have you gotten into now?
Aya felt the rabbit's pace slow down and prepared to run away just as soon as he was put down. The rabbit couldn't hold him up forever. They came to another clearing where another rabbit was making a high pitched sound. Aya looked about in his rather bounced-about view and saw there was two small fluffy bundles on the ground. The two unmoving fluffy bundles…
Oh, I see…poor Mama Rabbit…
Aya felt himself pulled close to the grieving mother and decided to nuzzle a bit to comfort the rabbit. He found himself gently lowered into something furry and was surprised to find himself nestled in some kind of pouch in front of the mother rabbit.
Comforting was one thing but getting stuck with the rabbits was another! Aya tried to wiggle his way out of the furry prison he had been put in. He managed to pop his head out and get a look at his surroundings. His small heart sank to the tips of his tiny paws when nothing seemed at all familiar and darkness was falling.
Maybe I should stay with them for a little while till I can find a way back into the den…
Aya smelled the fresh milk oozing out in the inside of the furry place he was in and suddenly his tummy growled loudly making the mama rabbit jump up a bit. He then felt a tiny lick on his head and a tiny nudge-nudge motion.
Oh, well, I might as well drink up. No telling how long it'll be till I get rescued…
Aya turned around and began to suckle at the nipple.
Hmmm, tastes rather strange…a little less fuller than kitsune milk…but--burp--filling…
With his stomach filled with 'rabbit's' milk, Aya felt his eyes dropping shut and decided to curl up in the cozy nest he were in.
I'll think about getting away from Mama and Papa Rabbit after a nap…
The bouncing motion that made him seasick before felt like the soothing rock of a cradle and the weary little kit fell asleep after all his tiring adventures.
Aya woke to a niggling ache just below his tummy.
Uh-oh, I wonder…how I'm going to pee in this enclosed space?
Aya started to try to struggle out of the pouch, it was comfortable but he didn't want to wet his fur. Then he felt himself being lifted by the scruff neck and slowly lifted out of the pouch into the gloom of the sheltering bush. Slowly, he was being lowered to the ground. He almost couldn't wait until he was on the ground before lifting his leg and spraying.
Hey, I'm on the ground. Maybe I can get away--
Before Aya could even step a bit away, he found himself being lifted again and deposited in the familiar pouch.
Oh, well there'll be other times.
Aya was soon drowsy from the warmth and he curled up again to snooze.
In the border of the Rtow pack lands…
: Halt, who goes there? :
: This is Gria of the court entourage of Alshe of Ku. His Highness is with us. He wants to see his nephew and heir. :
: Emerie of Rai. I'll ask the pack leader first. : The blue kitsune said, ducking his head low as he did it.
: Aye, we'll wait. :
Ken cursed as he smashed through the thick undergrowth. Several irritable kitsune hushed him. Five days of tracking and nights on sleeping on the damp ground were noticeably taking their toll on the search party despite the conjured sleeping bags or maybe because of it. Sleeping bags were no substitute to beds and conjuring the things must be tiring to the kitsune but they didn't dare leave anything that a potential enemy could track them by.
"I hate to ask this, Rerin-kun but how are we sure we--" Omi started.
: There they are. Be careful not to move to noisily or we will have a hard time following them again. : Weryne said pointing with a nod at a small clearing in the heavy underbrush, interrupting the wrangling that was sure to erupt next.
Omi's question was forgotten as everyone zeroed in on peering through the brush.
Crawford peeped into clearing and saw nothing at first. He looked again, still nothing. He was about to say something. Then he saw a bit of movement in the tall grass and then a couple of heads popped up.
Are those kangaroos?
: I believe that's how you humans call them in your world. : Weryne said, good-naturedly. Crawford wasn't even aware that he had thought aloud.
: How sure are you that they have Ayan? They're vegetarians they don't bother other living things. : Crawford snapped, he was certain now that this had been a goose chase and a complete waste of time and effort.
Meanwhile Ayan could be getting himself eaten by something bigger than he is, which is almost anything…
: Because his scent's still with them. Trust your pack mates. : Rerin snapped back. Everyone was irritable for sleeping on the damp ground.
Crawford was about to object to that when a red head popped out of the pouch of the female 'roo.
: Ayan! :
: Brad-chan? :
: Are you all right? They didn't hurt you or anything, did they? Hang on in there, we'll rescue you from those demented… :
: I am. Don't hurt Papa and Mama Rabbit! They had been quite nice to me. :
: Ayan, those are definitely not rabbits. They're kangaroos. : Crawford explained reflexively, forgetting worry over obsessive-compulsive pedantry.
: Oh, is that why they're so big. I thought they were Mystic Realm rabbits. :
Everyone cracked a smile at that, especially at the startled expression on Ayan's furry little face that was close enough to be seen. It defused the tension in the party.
: No, little kit. The rabbits here are quite normal in size, thank you. : Rerin said, still chuckling in his thoughts.
: Well, don't hurt Papa and Mama Kangaroo then. They just adopted me into their little family, that's all. : Ayan huffed.
: They've what? We're going to have a hard time of getting you loose from them. : Weryne exclaimed.
: What do you mean by that? : Rerin asked, curiously, before Crawford could.
: Kangaroos have adopted kitsune kits before and it takes a lot of persuasion for the 'roo to let go of them. They think we might eat them for some reason. :
: So how are we going to get Ayan away from them? :
: We need the humans here. They recognize us as meat eaters. They'll fight to the death to protect their little joey. Humans are less threatening. They can focus on us while the humans can move into position to snatch the kit. Alternately we can wait for them to sleep but that's rather hard to do. Kangaroos here in the Mystical Realm tend to find some low-lying dens of thick brush with several entrances. :
: Why can't we just shock them? : Senra asked.
: Because we might hurt the little kit. A shock big enough to stun a 'roo might kill Ayan-chan. :
: Can't the kit transform to his human form? I heard he could. : Avri asked, curiously.
:Only if he has gathered enough energy to do so and…he hasn't. He can do it only once every two weeks or so. : Crawford replied curtly.
: And why has he done it lately? There hasn't been a need. Oh, I get it… : Avri said from the way his head was bowed, he was as embarrassed as Crawford who was fairly twitching in place.
: So let's get at it… : Crawford was impatient to get his Ayan-kit away from the insane 'roos before more embarrassing things came to light.
Besides… They haven't harmed him yet, doesn't mean they're not going to. Who knows what they could do to him later… they're nutty to kidnap him in the first place.
: Marika…do you think it's wise? We're in unfriendly territory. : Luren asked. They were hiding under a particularly heavy bush as they waited for this most recent argument to finish. Marika was adamant that she needed to consult with the Lady before they got within a few days distance of the Dark Wold Forest.
: And whose fault is that? If you hadn't been so eager to leave… I wouldn't have to do this. : Marika bit down impatiently.
: So do it! : Avri and several of the other blue kitsune said in unison. They, at least, looked tired of the wrangling between brother and sister.
: I'm doing it whether we like it or not. : Marika said, closing her brown eyes, folded her small furry legs, letting her seven tails down as she sank to the earth.
: But… :
: Shhhh. You don't interrupt a priestess going into a trance. : Iraka reprimanded.
: I know that. : Luren replied.
: Be quiet all of you. : Kizie hushed them all.
Marika barely registered the conversation as she sought that place in her soul where the Lady always resonated.
: What is it, little one? : The tinkle of the Lady's voice sent a shiver throughout Marika's being. She dimly noticed the sympathetic quiver of her nose and ears.
: Should we disturb what lies in the Dark Wold, Mother of All? :
: Why ask me that? :
: Because…Reshka, my brother's mate, may possibly be held captive somewhere in that old den.
A thoughtful silence, then…
: You have my permission. :
: Shall I tell them what to expect? :
: No, not until you are certain that the danger is still present. It is too much risk. :
: Aye. : It was grudging agreement. Marika was very unhappy about this.
If the hidden histories are even halfway right… We might soon face overwhelming odds, I hate keeping secrets that can get us all killed…
: Only when the Gate is active, mind you. : Admonished the Lady as Her presence faded from Marika's mind.
Oh hellfire, we'll just have to cope…
* Does anyone know what ammonium nitrate is used for? *blinks innocently at everyone*
* Giant bunny wabbits! What next! Okay, so I just couldn't resist it.
Tot: She took us out Rabbi-chan
but she put in giant rabbits!
To Kyra: Sorry Kyra-san,
no Farfie in this episode.
To Hana-chan (sorry this is late): translation of ages 200 kitsune years == 18 human years. Crawford translated to over 200 since he was human translated to kitsune. ^^;
To Everyone: Thank you to
all you reviewers! I hope you folks got a happy surprise out of this
little twist. ^___^;