Some people get religious very quickly once the world's ended. They turn to their god and plead with him to fix all of their problems, to make the trees flourish again, to make the water clean again, to stop the never-ending rain. If they don't have a god, they find one very quickly.

Others lose faith in the face of the apocalypse. They turn from their gods and curse them, declaring that any omnipotent being that could allow something like the apocalypse occur clearly doesn't care what happens to the human race.

One of the few similarities between the two sides is both live in constant fear that one day they will wake up to not waking up at all. The religious ones believe that, if such a thing does occur, the world will blow up in a glorious cosmic explosion. The atheists believe that the earth will simply crumble under its own gravity and leave nothing but vaguely lumpy chunks of rocks for the extra-terrestrial beings to peruse.

Then, in a mildly surprised fashion, the next generation is born and raised. The religious ones are preoccupied with terror that their children might start to get ideas in their heads and start to doubt the Divine Being of their choice, and the non-believers worry that their kids might get religion one day and start trying to convert everything within a ten-mile radius (including dogs, parrots, and the cockroaches that seem to thrive in the new climate.)

Soon generation after generation is flying by. Everyone's a bit more relaxed- they figure that, while technically the world could end any day, it hasn't yet and probably won't today and, following that line of reasoning, it's probably best to plan for the theoretical 'tomorrow'- and there are fewer wars between those with and those without religion.

And, in that fashion, time moves on, as is its tendency.

"Kiba, please, just a few more minutes!" Hige pleaded desperately.

"Face it, Porky, he's gone. There's no way he could have survived this long after falling into a frozen river." Tsume snapped. Kiba nodded his head in regretful agreement.

"We will mourn him. But Cheza might still be alive."

"Toboe might still be alive as well!" Hige exploded furiously.

"He's DEAD, fatass!" Tsume screamed in return, hands clenching into tight fists. Hige was too angry to notice the wetness that was accumulating in the corners of the white-haired man's eyes.

"THEN I'LL FIND HIS GODDAMN BODY! I WILL NOT LEAVE HIM BEHIND!" Both Kiba and Tsume took a step back in astonishment as Hige visibly attempted to calm himself.

"Fine then. Leave. Go find your precious Cheza," Hige growled, not looking at them, "Hell, save the world while you're at it, why don't you?"

"Hige, be reasonable." Kiba tried to soothe. "Is a dead body worth the fate of the world?"

"It is to me." Hige spat venomously. He glared at Kiba in undisguised disgust. "When I was a pup, I was taught that the alpha existed to protect the pack, not abandon them at the slightest sign of weakness." He scoffed disdainfully.

"Some alpha you are."


"Leave." Hige growled. Kiba stopped as Hige's eyes. Disgust, fear, and anger all roiled in his blazing eyes, accompanied by something else. It took Kiba a moment to recognize the protective fury and helpless desperation for what they were: the mark of an alpha male defending his pack.

Kiba took a resigned step back and, without another word, turned heel and ran. Tsume shot Hige one last glare before following.

As soon as the two were out of sight, Hige sank to the ground with a weary sigh.

Oh, Toboe…

There were worse places to awaken than a mostly-frozen cave, Toboe mused as he attempted to sit up. A dumpster, for example. Or a prison cell. Still, it was pretty high up on the list of 'Awful Places to Wake Up,' especially when one woke up there alone.

And unable to move.

He fell back with a helpless whimper as he comprehended his situation.

I really hope they didn't leave me behind…

Hige knew that he had to find Toboe soon. It was nearly one in the afternoon, the hottest part of the day. This meant that it was also the part of the day when the half-frozen river was at its wildest. Huge chunks of ice disengaged themselves with sickening cracks and were sent careening in and out of the current in a fast-paced, nonsensical dance choreographed to the whims of the river. Every once in a while, one would smash into the canyon walls and shatter with a force that shook the ground for miles.

Hige knew that, even if Toboe was still alive, he wouldn't survive the next twenty-four hours. If the deadly ice and the rushing river didn't kill him, the freezing night would.

I give up on the whole 'the chapters will be longer' thing. Clearly, they never will be. Anyway, welcome to the newly-redone version of Painted Over! Hopefully it will make a lot more sense, now. Thanks for sticking with me, lovvies!

Love, Pixietoast