So I came up with this story 4 years ago and recently stumbled across the few chapters I had written. It's not half bad so I decided to pick it up again. I really enjoy writing for animals and Oki/Amaterasu is one of my favorite pairings. Plus it'll help me put the brakes on my Hunger Games story I'm currently writing. I tend to get ahead of myself and I really wanted to save it for summer so I can enjoy writing it and put more effort into it.

By the way, the title is based on World So Cold by Three Days Grace, which matches up quite well. :) And the awesome cover picture is "Okikurmi the Hero" by RevitytSiivet, who was kind enough to let me use it.

Not much else to say. This story will probably be relatively short compared to anything else in my queue, making it quite refreshing to write. I hope you enjoy it!

CHAPTER 1

"There. Can you smell that?"

"Of course I can smell it. What am I, hard of smelling?" Samickle growled, eyes ablaze, nostrils flaring as he drew in the scent of the intruder.

Oki flattened his ears, but said nothing. Kai was gazing at Samickle expectantly. With a flick of his tail, he whipped around and took off into the fog. The other two plowed after him, their heavy paws spraying snow into the air. Despite the poor visibility the day had to offer, Oki tracked his pack with his expert nose. It wasn't long before they came to a steep hill, where the ground dipped down and was free of the fog.

"Stop." Samickle gave a low bark and they skidded to a halt, hiding within the cloud cover. Directly below them was a dark shape, padding steadily along the bottom of the hill. It was a black male wolf. He had a lithe body, but upon closer inspection, muscles rippled under his well-kept pelt. Still, this imposter was no threat. Not to the three of them.

Samickle took a flying leap and pounded down the hill at full speed towards the black wolf. Oki followed, keeping to his pack leader's left, as he usually did. The wolf below them halted, a paw raised, as if he were unsure whether to flee or not. He hesitated one second too late, because they had him surrounded almost instantly.

"You've trespassed into our territory." Samickle said smoothly, but the fur raised on his back betrayed his hostility, "It would be wise of you to leave."

The wolf looked at each of them in turn, crimson eyes coming to rest on Oki. "Forgive me," He said softly, not taking his piercing red gaze off the Oina warrior, "I must have crossed over your boundary without realizing it. This fog is quite muddling." He paused, then added, "By the way, my name is Kage."

Oki stared back at the black wolf, feeling ruffled. By the way Samickle had spoken first, he had made it clear that he was the alpha. Yet, this Kage fellow had addressed him, ignoring Samickle completely. The icy-blue wolf seemed to realize this. He stepped forward, shouldering Oki aside so that Kage was forced to look into his eyes.

"There will be no need for introductions," Samickle said, with just a hint of a snarl in his voice. "Our pack is extremely selective and wary of strangers, so I suggest that you leave." The skin around his nose wrinkled ever so slightly.

Kage blinked, as if he wanted to say something in his defense. But then the corners of his snout furled into a grin and he simply said, "As you wish."

A growl arose from Samickle's throat. "I want you gone within the hour. And don't even think about hunting on our grounds—if you do, I'll know about it." Then he turned around and strode away, tail lashing. Kai hurried after him.

Oki turned to follow, but then paused. He could feel Kage's eyes boring into his back. "Goodbye for now…Oki." The dark wolf whispered. Oki whipped around, but the stranger had disappeared.

"Oki!" Samickle called from atop the hill. Oki trotted towards him, aware of his heart pounding in his chest. Samickle was staring at him, as if trying to read his mind. "What did you say to him?"

"I said nothing." Oki replied, wondering how Kage knew his name. The strangeness of it all shook him to the core.

"We should go," Kai said quickly, "I can smell a blizzard on the way."

"Then the tribe will just have to do without meat for tonight." Samickle sniffed, and the trio returned to the village.


Later that night, Oki rested in his hut, warming himself by the fire as the blizzard raged outside. In his hands rested his beloved sword, shining faint silver as he cleaned it with a cloth. It was rather reminiscent of Kutone, the sword he had once wielded in order to open the heavens six months ago. But he had to give up Kutone, putting it back where it belonged on its pedestal at the shrine. After he had returned the stolen sword, Samickle had welcomed him back into the tribe with open arms. He had abandoned his hut on the outskirts of Kamui and come back to live in the village of Wep'keer.

Ever since, life had been rather tedious. He spent most of his days confined to his house to avoid socializing with others. Hunting trips were enjoyable, but they never produced the same rush he felt when smiting a demon. As for the sword he had now, he never brought it on hunts so that the stronger prey could have an advantage at escaping and surviving to reproduce. And so there were never any opportunities to use it. It was nothing more than a decoration these days.

A fierce wind shook the shutters of his home violently, then passed. Blizzards still frequented their frozen country, but none had ever been so bad as the one that the Twin Demons had created. It had nearly destroyed their civilization, killing off many of the older folk in their village. Everyone could have died, if not for…

No.

He refused to think about it. He was alive. He had to focus on the present. As if changing the subject in a conversation, he forced himself to think about something different. His mind drifted back to the strange wolf they had come across earlier that day. 'Goodbye for now,' he had said. What was that supposed to mean? Did he plan to return?

Oki clenched his teeth, hand tightening on the hilt of his sword. That wolf will pay for it if he shows his face here again… He felt no pity for it, despite the fact that it was a loner. Wolves were intelligent enough to know pack etiquette. Encroaching on another pack's territory is forbidden.

"Oki!"

Oki's head shot up and he stared at his door, straining to hear over the blizzard. Had someone just called his name?

"Oki! Please open the door!"

He jumped to his feet and opened the door, letting in a shivering Kai. Snow had settled into her chestnut hair and her face was flushed bright red. She wasn't wearing her deer mask. "Thank you." She squeaked out, teeth chattering.

Oki guided her towards the fire. "Is something wrong?"

"Yes," She said quickly, "Our sheep have broken out of their pasture. Lika had been playing with them today and forgot to lock up. And now they've gotten lost in the blizzard! Oh, the poor things. They'll freeze to death out there."

Oki highly doubted that, thinking of their soft wool coats, but he knew saying so wouldn't comfort Kai. "Stay here," he told her, "I'll get them back."

"But it's snowing so much! I could barely see more than two feet in front of me coming over here."

"Thank you for your concern, Kai, but I'll be fine." Oki reassured her, "Lika would be upset if we lost those sheep."

Kai nodded in consent. "All right. I'd better get back to her." She stepped reluctantly away from the fire and the two headed outside into the storm.

As soon as Oki stepped outside, the fierce cold bit into his skin like a knife. He braced himself against the wind, thanking the gods that his mask shielded his face from the snow that came down in sheets. He glanced at Kai. She was wreathed in the white powder that assaulted them, but he could see her smiling. Her lips moved as she said something, and she reached out and squeezed his hand.

Then she was gone, hurrying back in the direction of her house to comfort Lika. Oki went in the opposite direction, morphing quickly into a wolf as he went. He sighed inwardly as fur sprouted on every part of his body and warmed him. He bounded away from the village, snow packing itself in the crevices of his paws. At first it stung and every step was painstakingly difficult, but then he became numb to the cold, just as he always did.

His first thought was to look for tracks, but he realized that was a ridiculous idea. Their tracks would be covered by now. Besides, visibility was poor. Hearing was also difficult, as the wind battered at his ears, rendering them useless. As usual, he was going to have to rely on his nose. But as he went to take a whiff of air, he inhaled a mass of snowflakes. He snorted at the sudden freezing sensation and pawed at his snout to clear it.

Suddenly, Oki was feeling rather hopeless. He looked back the way he had came, but he couldn't see the village of Wep'keer anymore. Only a wall of white. He couldn't go back now. So he forged on, through the deep drifts of snow, squinting his eyes and searching for the sheep.

It must have been at least an hour later when he found them, their pelts blending with their surroundings. Their terrified bleating is what gave them away. They were huddled in a tightly knit group, shivering fiercely. Oki padded up, circling them. They didn't bolt, accustomed to their owners' alternate forms, but watched him with frightened eyes.

One, two, three, four…wasn't there supposed to be five?

Suddenly, the scent of blood reached Oki's nose. It was just for an instance, perhaps by the trick of the wind, but it was enough. Keeping his nose low to the ground, Oki followed the scent trail. If the sheep was injured, it couldn't have gotten far. If a bear had gotten to it, Oki could deal with the bear—he knew how to use speed to his advantage in that situation.

As he forged on, the scent grew stronger and stronger. Finally, he came to a halt, fur bristling, and breath coming out in visible puffs of air. He had found the sheep.

It was laying on its side, half buried in snow that was stained a brilliant scarlet. Its fear-glazed eyes stared upwards at its killer. Kage lifted his broad head from the throat of the creature, his jaws dripping with its blood. At the sight of him, his eyes brightened. A sly smile crossed his face and he licked his chops with relish.

"Oki. Such a pleasure to see you again."

With a roar, Oki launched himself forward, but Kage was faster. He reeled backwards, disappearing into the safety of the blizzard. Oki held his ground, standing protectively over the sheep, but he knew it was no use trying to hunt down the wolf in this storm. Instead, he leaned down, resting the side of his head on the sheep's chest.

No heartbeat. It was dead.

"What I want to know…" The voice made Oki jump and look around wildly. With the disorienting snow and wind, he couldn't tell where the voice was coming from. "…is why you aren't the leader of your pack. Surely you haven't wondered the same thing? After all, you're the strongest wolf in your tribe, yet you don't even deserve to run to the right side of the alpha! How sad…"

"Show yourself, coward!" Oki snarled, baring his teeth at the snow that blinded him.

Kage merely chuckled. "You must feel awful. You saved this land, yet you get so little respect for it. It's tragic."

"I don't need respect." Oki replied, holding his head high, "I'm proud of what I did for my people. I have no regrets!"

"We both know that's a lie…" Kage laughed softly.

As if on cue, there was a lull in the blizzard, revealing the black wolf to be standing a mere ten feet in front of him. Oki tensed every muscle in his body, preparing to spring, but Kage just stood there, looking relaxed. Oki hesitated, and the black wolf saw his chance to speak once more.

"It's only a matter of time until I'm the new alpha of your tribe. If you join me now, I'll let you run on my right flank. I won't disrespect you as Samickle does. I'll even let you lead the pack when I'm unavailable to do so."

Oki's lips pulled back as far as they could go, displaying all of his razor sharp teeth. "Never!" He roared, launching himself straight for the throat of this evil wolf.

Kage leapt lightly to the side as Oki landed on the spot he had stood but a moment ago. Before he could regain himself, a heavy weight plowed into his side and he was bowled off his feet.

Kage pinned him down, snarling, eyes narrowed to red slits. Oki fought back, raking the black wolf's belly with his claws. Kage pulled back, howling with fury, and Oki shot forward, sinking his teeth into his shoulder, just missing the throat. Blood spurted forth, warm and wet. Then the black wolf slammed his full body weight into Oki, causing him to lose his grip. If only I had brought my sword! Oki thought regretfully, as he went to meet Kage's onslaught.

The two wolves writhed in the snow, a whirling mass of fur and claws. Oki could feel gashes opening up on his body with each hit, causing him to grow weaker as the fight dragged on. Yet no matter how much blood he lost, Kage seemed just as strong.

Fatigued, Oki was easy prey. Kage dove for his legs, catching a blue forepaw in his jaws and crushing it. Oki yelped and tried to leap away, but his leg hindered him. Kage easily caught the other one in his mouth and that one fell victim too. The great blue and red wolf slumped to the ground, now only supported by his back legs. Still, he managed to lift his head and growl defiance.

Kage circled him, looking pleased with his work.

"Just finish it!" Oki spat, scarlet eyes ablaze with fury.

"Oh no, never! That would be such a waste…" Kage said, eyeing him as if he were a freshly cut steak.

"You might as well," Oki spoke between guttural growls that ripped their way out of his throat, "I'll never be apart of your pack."

Kage sighed, but a smile still played at the end of his lips, "Well, if you insist."

He stepped forward. At that moment, Oki used his back legs to propel himself forward. This time he was right on target. He sunk his teeth into Kage's throat…but only came away with a mouthful of fur. The pelt was so thick around the jugular, that he had fallen short of piercing the flesh. He clung there, snarling, trying to dig his fangs in deeper, but Kage threw him off with a great heave.

He landed heavily in the snow, and Kage was instantly on top of him, crushing the air out of his lungs. Oki struggled in vain, snapping his jaws on nothing but air. Suddenly, a sharp pain shot through his body as teeth sunk into the back of his neck.

Then, nothing.