San

San growled and lunged at her brother, colliding heavily with his side and sending him stumbling away from the scrap of meat. The two of them struggled for a time, neither willing to surrender the snack. Moro watched on quietly, allowing her cubs' playful instincts to run their course.

Spying movement away from the battle, she glanced up at the slab of raw meat she had abandoned atop a rock. Her third cub, sleeker than his twin brother but smaller, crept along the rocky crags leading to the den. He hoped to steal the meat while the other two bickered. Moro's ears perked slightly and she barked, alerting her two cubs to the danger.

San glanced in the right direction, but her brother was quicker. Taking advantage of the distraction, he shook violently and threw her off. She cried out in alarm and rolled backward, slamming into a rock.

The two wolves continued the struggle, but Moro found her eyes drawn to San. The girl had curled up where she fell, and though her face was obscured from view, Moro could hear the telltale signs of whimpering beneath her folded arms.

Moro let out a mental sigh. Wolves were never this fragile.

It had been six years since that day in the clearing. Her cubs had grown much since then – they were now three feet tall at the shoulder, and growing every day. San had grown too, looking every bit like the human she was. Her limbs had extended, and some of the fat had fallen away. Still, her crying occurred often and over seemingly small things. Moro suspected that that was just part of being human – fragility, ineptitude. It was still no excuse.

For all her flaws, however, Moro found San's presence surprisingly... bearable. The girl's occasional laughter sent vibrations through her heart, and the trust with which she snuggled to her "mother" was miraculous. The three marks on her face had indeed remained, growing into curving red triangles. Her hair had grown out, a dark blonde curtain that framed her head. Despite her lack of fur, Moro had begun to notice a natural beauty in her.

The sound of whimpering faded, and San picked herself off the ground. After a quick wiping of her runny nose, she charged forward, landing a powerful tackle onto the smaller of her two brothers. Moro was not entirely surprised – she had seen bouts of strength in her daughter before.

Perhaps it is not so bad.

As one of the wisest animals of the forest, Moro did an awful lot of reflection. She now turned her thoughts to the marks the Forest Spirit had placed upon her daughter, and the purpose he intended for her.