Thank you for the reviews and faves and alerts, and please just keep them coming if you can! :D
Anyway, we have the fateful meeting chapter here, so read~!
Warnings: child!fic, wannabe-serious!fic, angst, animal death in this chapter
Chapter 5: Big Black Bear
He ran like there was no tomorrow.
He jumped over the steep rocky terrain that surrounded the cave, all the while fighting to keep his legs from collapsing. He ignored the many scrapes he'd likely get from his stunt, jumped once more until he crouched and felt cold wet leaves under his hands… and then he ran some more.
His lungs burned, his vision was swimming, but the only thing he could concentrate on was the sound of crumbling rocks behind him, because that meant he was being chased.
'BEAR!' his mind helpfully supplied.
Of course this revelation did nothing to alleviate his panic and absolute disbelief at the situation, but it was the only option available. It must have been the bear everyone was talking about that first evening at the hotel.
Shinichi remembered how he'd once asked Miss Edel what kinds of big animals lived in Scotland (maybe lions or tigers, or wolves or dragons?), but she quickly made him discard all those silly theories. Apparently, in Scotland, you can only be attacked by territorial deer or rabid foxes and wildcats. Bears have been extinct for a very long time, according to her.
Well apparently, taking into consideration what Shinichi had just seen, she had been very, oh so very VERY wrong about that.
He didn't know how long he'd been running, but the next time he checked there were no more sounds of pursuit behind him. A look over his shoulder revealed only lines of trees and bushes. There was no one there.
Despite that he pushed his legs forward faster and faster – he didn't want to risk the bear catching up and having him for lunch. At one point his breathing was so shallow he almost found it easier to not breathe at all, but then the world around him suddenly shifted and he was falling over a large tree root that had mysteriously found its way under his legs.
The impact with earth was a painful one, which he proved as such with a loud broken-off shriek, courtesy of his vocal chords being unable to take the strain. Once he realized he'd fallen down, he also found out that he couldn't get the strength to stand back up. His right leg was in agony.
At some point he'd started crying again, he didn't know when. He stayed on the ground, panting and heart beating furiously, wide-eyed and sniffing and so freaking irritated because his nose was stuffed and he was hungry and thirsty and he just wanted to go home.
However, he also knew that he had to keep going. If he stayed in one place for too long the bear could find him again, and he didn't want to contemplate how that would turn out. He had to keep moving.
Even with that notion in mind, it took some time before he could climb back to his feet. He only managed a step before pain shot up his right leg and he collapsed again.
He was spent. He just couldn't find the strength anymore.
He was just a kid.
It was only then that he seemed to notice he was shivering. Despite spending the night by fire, his clothes were still wet. He tried wounding his jacket tighter around himself, but it hardly helped as it was ice cold in and off itself.
'Great,' Shinichi thought. He'd say he was almost past caring now, if it only weren't for the pain that constantly served as a reminder of the seriousness of the situation.
In the end he laid on the ground for an indefinite amount of time, deciding rest was better than futile attempts at running on nothing but willpower. He cautiously listened to his surroundings during the whole time, ready to bolt at the slightest sound of an animal approaching. Nothing came however, and he slowly started to relax.
When he felt strong enough again, he grabbed a thick branch lying next to him, probably fallen from a tree some time ago, and stood back up. Immediately he could tell that the egregious pain in his leg hadn't been imagined and that he'd probably done something serious to it, like spraining it. He remembered how his mom had once had the same injury – she had to stay home resting or walk around on crutches for a week.
And now he seemingly had it. He shed a few tears at this revelation, but then put it away to worry about later. For now, he just had to continue moving. Later, he promised himself, when he found his parents, he would rest that leg twice as long.
A good part of the daylight was spent exactly that way – moving. He'd walk as far as he could go, and when he couldn't, he'd rest until he felt up to it again. Shinichi tried to ignore his growling stomach, his parched throat and the many stings, particularly in his leg, but it was hard. He wasn't accustomed to his needs being ignored, as he was a five-year-old with a regular predetermined schedule of five meals a day, water in any nearby pipe and dry clothes piled up in his wardrobe, but knowing he didn't have those things made him feel bad he took them for granted.
Meanwhile, the landscape around him had hardly changed. Trees still filled his vision wherever he went, but the sound of the river had long since faded away. In addition to rivers, he was really beginning to hate forests as well.
As time wore on and movements started to grow repetitive in nature (one step, two steps, grit your teeth, keep walking), a cloud of indifference had slowly started creeping over his mind. Soon he wasn't overthinking things anymore, wasn't wondering and panicking about each and every sound of a leaf rustling – just watching the next step forwards, hopefully one that would show him a way out of the place. Insignificant things like his own sorry state had ceased to matter at the moment, leaving only blessed numbness in its wake.
He didn't know how long he had wandered in that state, but it was over the moment he heard a thump resound directly behind him.
And another. And another.
The calmness that had enshrouded him instantly dissipated, bringing back that (quickly becoming familiar) feeling of a quickened pulse and short breaths. For a moment he feared the bear had finally caught up to him, that he would have to run again and most likely not get that far with his hurt leg. However, with the next thumping sound he finally noticed the glaring differences in the steps. The bear had made soft sounds, unusual for such a big-bodied animal and accompanied by scrapes of claws, while these ones were more distinct, more compact.
More like hooves than paws.
When he turned around, it wasn't a bear that he spotted a few feet away. Seeing a deer instead of a big black mass almost had him sagging in pure relief. He wasn't going to end up as bear food! And if the deer was there, it could also mean that the ground he was walking on felt safe enough for other prey to freely wander without fear of any predators.
Just to be sure, he took a look around for good measure. No bears in sight.
For the first time since he'd gotten into this mess, Shinichi felt like laughing in relief. It came out more as a pained gasp, but he could care less. Maybe he wasn't out of the woods yet (figuratively and literally), maybe he had yet to return to his parents and maybe he was still exhausted and starving from hunger, but at least he wasn't in danger of becoming dinner anymore.
Struck by a childish urge, he decided he should thank the wonderful deer for its help. A simple whispered 'thank you' would have done the job.
Upon turning around however, he wasn't sure it would be appropriate anymore.
The fully grown reddish-coated deer hadn't moved an inch from its spot, but its large antlers were now pointed in his direction. Behind the impressive appendages (and fear-inducing, if you were in the boy's current position), the animal's steely gaze never wavered from his small form. The words died on Shinichi's lips before they could even be uttered.
The deer scratched its hoof on the ground. He tensed.
For a moment, they stood still.
Then it roared and lunged forwards, perfectly substituting for Shinichi's broken-off scream as he dove to the side.
The antlers just barely missed him as he scrambled back along the forest floor. The branch he'd used as a crutch cracked loudly under the animal's hoofs, making Shinichi realize he wouldn't be getting out of there anytime soon, especially not with a hurt leg.
His back met a fallen tree bark just as the deer righted itself for a new tackle. Watching those antlers being waved around made his blood run cold and caused survival instincts to kick in. Without thinking he sprung up (as far as he could on only one foot) and rolled over the tree bark. He landed just in time feel the vibration of the loud thud on the other side.
Air coming in quick gulps, the boy stared straight ahead in horrified wonderment, having risen up into a sitting position to lean against the bark. His whole frame shook. His hands balled into tight fists, wet leaves and dirt within them unnoticed. He felt glued to the spot, unable to move for the life of him.
They say in panic you had an overload of scrambled thoughts. At the moment, it depicted him perfectly. A look into his mind wouldn't make any sense at the moment.
'That was too close- it could have been me- oh God is it dead- why can't I- move move MOVE?'
He desperately wanted to check on the possibly injured animal, or to run away and never look back, to stay there and drown in misery until his parents found him, to do something at a time like this, but his body just wouldn't listen. In the end he stayed there a little longer, trying to gather his wits again. Then, just as he thought he had retrieved some semblance of control over his body…
Something scraped against the other side of the bark.
It started with the sound of unsteady hooves, followed by a quiet roar and short blessed silence, then the passage of a dark shadow over his head, which ended with a graceful landing and the sight of that deer again just a few feet away from him. Not even holding his breath could prevent the beast from spotting him hunched against the bark behind it.
Slowly it turned around in his direction, steps unsteady.
Somehow Shinichi expected his life to flash before his eyes at that moment, but nothing of the sort happened. The only thing he could see was that stony gaze and the huge antlers, still like a sculpture. Then, when it gave out a final roar, Shinichi wished he could close his eyes so he wouldn't have to watch it rush at him like death incarnated.
However, had he closed his eyes, he would have missed the falter in the rushing steps when they were already halfway to its target. He would have missed the slight widening of the black beady eyes, and probably, most absolutely, he would have missed the reflection of a dark shape in those same eyes as they fixed themselves upon a spot far above him.
That one moment in time froze just enough for Shinichi to take note of all these things.
One moment, and then time resumed itself in an inhuman screech that was unlike anything Shinichi had ever heard. The hairs on the back of his neck rose as the deer's body was suddenly thrown backwards under an onslaught of weight. The animal's roar abruptly cut off, and Shinichi could clearly see the reason as sharp teeth latched onto a strong neck right in front of his horror-filled eyes.
The deer fought to throw its attacker off. It kicked and pushed, sending leaves and dirt in all directions, but the teeth held firm and black limbs kept it in check until finally, with one last spasm, it fell completely still.
A huge maw detached itself almost gently from the now dead animal, a tongue briefly darting out to lick the accumulated blood there. The large body rose slowly, as if not to scare anyone, and then the head turned to pierce him with inhuman toxic-green eyes.
Just like in that cave.
Shinichi was moving before he even became aware of the fact. It didn't matter how, be it hands or sprained legs or on all four at the same time, the only thing he could see was a tunnel vision to safety, away from the beast. Away from the bear of his nightmares, because it didn't look like a bear at all (since when did bears have scales, and long limbs and tails?).
His ears were still ringing from the screeching, his body only faintly feeling the consequences of crawling on a forest floor. His mind was utterly blank.
He passed by something metallic, not even deigning to glance at it in his stupor.
Noises behind him indicated the bear- the creature had finally disentangled itself from its- its prey and was now coming right at him, but he kept moving without turning back once. When the air was unexpectedly pierced with an ear-splitting screech and followed by a loud crash, he only barely flinched at the vibrations of the earth.
He kept his pace. He never looked back.
At some point his limbs gave out in exhaustion (or he miss-stepped or he broke something again, he didn't know). He collapsed on the ground, his breathing too quick for a proper intake of oxygen. Then, with the pained screams still permeating the air and chilling him to the bones, his wide eyes rolled upwards in a clear show of losing consciousness.
He gladly welcomed it.
So, Shin-chan finally meets Tooth... and it isn't pretty.
I think the animal death in this chapter is the peak of angst, from here on out we have a bit more angsting by Shinichi and then the friendship part can begin. Not much else to say.
Oh yeah... schoolwork's killing me. I mean, for Wednesday I've got at least 150 grammar exercises to do, and I haven't even started! Dx I've been writing ch.8 on and off for a month, and still I'm barely past half, AND I need to stick in a Toothless Interlude between ch.7&8, AND read a book and study and... *starts sobbing* Point is, after ch.7 I may start delaying updates. HOWEVER, I'm writing this. I will write this to the end. I shall not abandon this or put it on hiatus... just have late updates.
That's all. Thanks for your support.