A/N – Hello everyone! Sorry for the delay! StarlitFire's laptop charger broke, so she was unable to write the chapter. She's asked me to take over the chapter, so here I am! After this, StarlitFire will write two chapters, and then we will be back onto our regular 1 chapter per two weeks. Anyways, hope you enjoy our latest chapter! ~ SnowArabian
10/16 – OH. MY. GOSH. I'm SOOOO sorry for this update! Truth is, I finished this chapter on July 29th, sent it StarlitFire and it got lost in her inbox of emails. She didn't have her charger by then, so I guess we both forgot it was there. Anyways, we owe you guys a major apology! Considering school's starting, and some of us (cough, cough) need to work on our other FF's, we might not be updating super quick. ~SnowArabian
Toklo glanced at the worried panda bear staring at her reflection in the river. She had been sitting for a few minutes, while the others had went a short distance to explore the new terrain. The brown bear padded up behind Asuki, nudging her. "Hey, are you okay?"
"H-huh? Yeah, I'm fine.." The panda bear murmured and cast her gaze to the river again.
Toklo gave up trying to break through Asuki's tangled thoughts. "Do you recognize where we are? It might help us find our way back."
Asuki pulled herself off of the ground and examined the forest surrounding her. Confusion clouded her dark eyes, with a hint of regret. "I'm sorry. I don't remember this part of the forest. My birth den was.. in a dark stony cave. But I was so young then, I wouldn't have memorized where it was. It was my whole world at the time, I was oblivious that there was an even bigger world outside."
Toklo felt a tinge of sympathy for the panda, she hadn't had nearly half of the experiences he had with Lusa and Kallik. "It's fine. C'mon, let's go see if Kallik and Lusa found a place to stay tonight. It's getting dark out, and we don't know what awaits us in the forest." Toklo ran off, kicking up clumps of dirt behind him. Stopping up ahead to see if Asuki was following him, he saw the panda take a longing glance at the river, then running to catch up with him not looking back.
"Kallik," Toklo greeted the snow white bear standing as lookout.
"Hi," Kallik casted a look back at the other bears. Lusa was snoozing, but her paw was twitching signaling that she'd be waking up soon. Asuki had crashed momentarily after they reached the spot they would stay, and she had been in a deep sleep ever since. "Do you.. do you trust Asuki?" Kallik asked hesitantly.
"I-I haven't known her as long as I've known you and Lusa. But I feel she was meant to be on this journey, maybe she's even our guide like Ujurak was."
"Even with… those 'powers' of hers?"
"Ujurak had powers, don't forget that." Toklo growled roughly, reminding the polar bear. "She's very careful about the personal information she shares. I think she may be hiding something, but I think she's just at a point where she isn't capable of sharing it. It took us all a long time to talk about our past stories with each other, she just needs time."
"I.. Okay, I'll try my best to include and trust her," Kallik agreed, ducking her head apologetically to Toklo.
"Huh? What's going on?" A tired Lusa called out softly, still half asleep.
"We're.. talking about.. where we'll travel tomorrow!" Kallik improvised.
Waking up, Lusa rubbed her eyes. "No, you're not. Tell me." Lusa shook her tired and sore paws and repeated, "Tell me."
Toklo and Kallik exchanged a hesitant glance and stared at the defiant black bear.
"Well you see.."
"It's sort of a long story.." Both bears began at once, realizing they had different stories to share.
"Please tell me? We've been through everything together. I have a right to know."
"It's about Asuki." Kallik said.
"Asuki? Why her? I know she's new and all, but now she's a part of our group."
"She's a bit.. strange and we think she's our guide, like Ujurak," Toklo explained. "This is her homeland, and who is best to guide us home than her?"
"That's not it.. There's something else. Something that you're not telling me." Lusa said, narrowing her eyes at the two larger bears.
"I… I don't really like her.."Kallik confessed. "I don't trust her, and I don't feel she belongs with us."
"Why not? She's really nice, you just have to get to know her, that's all!"
"I know. She does seem nice and all. She.. knew about my past. And I guess that scared me since I thought only I would know it.." The polar bear explained.
Lusa gave her stressed friend a affectionate nudge and gazed up at the bright twinkling stars above their heads. "We all were surprised about the way she knew our pasts, I felt freaked out at first too. But she's a really kind, sweet bear and I feel like she's meant to be with us. We have to take care of her. I have a feeling that her past was hard too, considering she never talks about it.."
"I'll have to apologize to her tomorrow. I was rude to her and I had just met her." Kallik murmured, noticing her mistakes.
"I'm sure she'll forgive you." Toklo commented.
"And if you need someone to talk to, you can always talk to Toklo or I." Lusa whispered as she noticed Asuki stirring in her sleep. "Now, some of us need some sleep, or otherwise we'll end up spending another night here.."
"I'll take watch. You both get some rest. I'll wake you at sunrise." Toklo volunteered. Kallik shot him a grateful glance, then padded over to their resting area and curled up. Lusa lingered beside him, staring at the cold, bleek stars overhead.
"That was nice of you. Standing up for Asuki like that," Lusa whispered.
"What! I wasn't standing up for her. I just didn't want us to be fighting, that's all." Toklo said gruffly, trying to cover up his embarrassment.
"I wasn't accusing you.. I just thought it was kind of you to do that for her, especially since you don't get along very well with.. new.. bears."
"Hmph." Toklo pointedly ignored the black bear sitting next to him.
"Uh-huh, yeah that's right. Ignore Lusa. That will solve allllll of your problems.." Lusa teased. The black bear shoved him, trying to get a reaction out of his frozen face.
Noting that she wasn't getting through, the look of glee faded. "I'm sorry. I just thought.. that you've changed a lot since we first met.. That's all." Lusa turned to the sleeping area, murmured "Good night" and started to curl up.
"Hey.. Wait." Toklo called after her.
Lusa opened her eyes and stared at him, still curled up.
"I'm.. You're right. I just didn't really want to know I've changed. My mother Oka thought of change as a weakness, and I guess I started to think that way too. And.. after Ujurak left, he made me vow to welcome any new bears into our group. I wanted to fulfill that vow till the end, as it was something special to us." Toklo quietly explained. "I'm sorry.." The large brown bear, turned away shuffling his paws on the ground.
Careful not to disturb the others, Lusa walked up to Toklo's side and rested her head on his side. "Thank you, for telling me.. It means a lot.."
Toklo looked down, surprised at the affection from the black bear. He nudged her softly and whispered "Go rest. We have a big day tomorrow."
The black bear nodded sleepily and curled up. In moments, she was sleeping. Toklo sat, watching the stars.
A/N ~ Hope you guys liked it! ~StarlitFire