Cheza, still grasping our hands, now makes her way out the door and to the other three wolves who still seem frozen in awe. Kiba and I let her lead us without a word.
"Who the hell is this?" The rugged voice from before I can now see comes from a tan man with white hair and a rather large X shaped scar on his chest. Looking even closer I can see his true wolf form, a large dark grey wolf with the same distinctive scar.
Kiba looks over at me with his fierce grey-blue eyes, though now with the flower maiden in his possession they seem softer now, waiting for me to answer the question. I look from him to the grey wolf. "My name is Sora." I make myself sound strong, confident. Looking for Paradise or not, these wolves were still strangers to me and I couldn't show any weakness.
Kiba looks out at the others. "Sora is looking for the same thing as us so she will be joining us."
"Wow-y she sure is pretty." The one with the collar says, sagging his shoulders a bit.
I raise my eyebrow. "Don't listen to Hige, he's just a bit girl crazy. My name is Toboe!" The younger boy steps up to the three of us with his hands behind his back, grinning widely. "And that over there is Tsume." He points back to the man with the scar. He walks to Cheza and, standing in front of her, puts his hands on his knees. "I can't believe it's actually her! Kiba says with the flower maiden, we can really find Paradise. How did you manage to get her all by yourself?" He glances back up at me.
With my free hand I tuck a long stand of hair behind my ear and sigh, thinking back to just hours before. "It defiantly wasn't easy but I managed. We should probably head out. Now that this storm is dying down they will more than likely be sending out some of their guys to find her. The humans that kept her, these scientist people, aren't going to let her go easily." Cheza is looking up as me as I speak.
"This one does not want to go back." She says softly, looking down at her boots.
"We won't let that happen to you, will we guys?" Toboe says, offering her a big grin.
Kiba takes his hand from hers and sets it on her shoulder, giving it a comforting squeeze. "Of course we won't." He smiles at her and from what I know about him so far, it's not something he gives out too often.
Cheza is smiling again and just seeing her happy increases my mood as well.
"Then let's move already. Unless you guys just want to sit and wait around to get killed." Tsume grumbles, taking off towards the woods. Toboe gives me another smile before letting out a giggle and running after Tsume. Hige stays directly where he stands, staring at me with a dreamy look in his eyes and smile. Toboe runs from Tsume's side, grabs Hige by the collar, and drags him along. "Come on Hige, pull it together."
"Let go of me runt I can walk on my own!" He responds.
I let out a soft giggle and Cheza, Kiba, and I, walking hand in hand, follow behind.
A few hours later it was well into the night. The six of us found a small cave for us to stay in for the night. We all figured we were far enough from the dome and there was no way they could track us to our location, especially with there being hundreds of possible places we could be.
"Boy do my feet ache." Toboe said, collapsing at the end of the cave.
"And we barely had anything to eat. Only a couple a can from that cabin Sora found. And splitting food between the five of us doesn't give us much to go off of. I guess it's better than splitting it six ways though. It sure is a good thing Cheza only needs light and water, since there's plenty of it." Hige says as he takes a seat next to Toboe.
Kiba sat down at the entrance of the cave while I took a seat at the opposite side. "Tomorrow we will look for something to eat before we continue on."
Tsume lies down at the center of the cave. Ever since I started tagging along I could feel his eyes burning on me. He didn't seem to trust me yet. It didn't bother me in the slightest though.
"I'll keep watch for tonight, the rest of you get some sleep." Kiba says, turning to the group. At this point I know they see him as their leader. On the way, Toboe had told me the story of how they all met up back in another city and how together they were able to escape, barely. Just the way he spoke of the rest of the group, the way he would light up when their names came up, made me smile. They truly were like a pack. And I was simply just an outsider.
From behind I can hear everyone settling down to get ready to sleep. I can hear Cheza speaking to Hige and Toboe and the three laughing silently. Tsume still lies where he first was, looking up at the grey ceiling, but it doesn't seem like he's comfortable enough to go to sleep. I can guess it's because of me.
From the entrance of the cave I look up at the clear, blue sky. The storm had finally come to a complete stop a couple hours before leaving us to rest under the blanket of endless stars up above. I let out a soft, content sigh as I bring my legs up to my chest to wrap my arms around and rest my chin on one knee. Even with these strangers around, just having Cheza safe was enough to put me as such an ease I hadn't felt since I was a pup. I was so close to my dream, to finding Paradise.
"Hey, you too." Kiba says from the opposite side of the entrance. I break my gaze away from the sky and get a good look at him. He was incredibly handsome, though boys wasn't really on my mind at the moment. His eyes were always incredibly fierce, filled with determination. Of course they were all determined to get to Paradise, but there was something different about him, or at least from what I could see.
"I took a pretty long nap before you guys showed up. I'll stay up and keep watch with you." He nods and stares straight ahead though I know he wasn't looking at anything in particular. He was lost in his own mind, just like I would get.
I can feel the corners of my mouth form a soft smile as I face back forward.
An hour or so in the wind began to really pick up. Toboe, Hige, and even Tsume were fast asleep. Cheza sat between Hige and Toboe, gently petting their heads. Tsume had refused to sleep by Cheza despite her best efforts to get him to come. Kiba glared at Tsume when he had rejected her offer. It was obvious he felt just as protective over her as I did.
Now it was just the two of us, only a few feet apart at the entrance of the cave.
"I haven't met very many wolves on my journey so far, but you're the first white wolf I have seen beside myself." I hesitate as he glances at me. "Did you come from the mountains too?" From what I can remember as a pup, several different packs lived up on the mountains. I wondered if his pack was also affected by the fire or if somehow they managed to escape the very thing that had killed my whole family.
I can see now I have his full attention. "Yeah, I did. There was a fire that swept through the land." He seems hesitant. I assume he's not one to talk about his past.
"I know. I remember." I say quietly, looking down at my feet.
"The other packs that lived in the mountains were able to survive but one, the one I was from, did not. Their escape routes were cut off and…I was the only one to return." He stops himself and yet again I can see he's lost in his own thoughts and memories. Maybe it was because it was night and he was tired or maybe it was because he finally had Cheza with him after all of his days of searching but I was truly surprised at how much he was sharing with me. Its then, when I recall back on my own memories, that I remember my father saying something about burning logs cutting off our escape routes. I slowly lift my head to look at him. "I was the only one to return from my pack as well. Our escape routes were cut off as well and we were forced to look elsewhere. But at that point…" I can see something new in his eyes, something I had never seen or ever expected to see. "the fire had spread too far." He finishes for me. Kiba is looking at me with such a desperate look and something in the air has changed between the two of us. Its then that I realize what he has discovered. I twist my head to stare him in the eyes so fast my vision blackens for a bit.
We had come from the same pack.
"All this time…I-I thought I was the only one…" I'm in such shock I don't even realize I'm on my feet. He soon rises to his as well. "How did you get out? Where did you-". He's cut off suddenly as we stare deep into each other's eyes and I can almost literally see the lightbulb go off in his head. "Sora...Sora I remember…we used to play as pups. A small, almost unnoticeable smile lingers on the corners of his mouth but shine the brightest in his eyes. I think back to the time when I was a pup, memories I tried to forget. Because thinking back to this time, with my mother, father, brother, and the rest of my pack, put my gut into knots. But this time, for the first time, I try hard to remember. "I-I do!" Our whispers must have turned into shouts at some point because now Cheza looks up at the two of us with a questionable look. I didn't think this day could get any better. First the flower maiden, then an old friend from a pack I thought I had lost forever. He opens his mouth to speak but in that same moment, I catch a hint of something in the wind. I gently put my hand on his chest to silent him.
"Somethings out there." I whisper, now just realizing how loud we had been.
He breaks his gaze away from me and looks out into the forest. Now Tsume is at our side. "She's right, they're close."
"How could we not have smelt them?" I ask turning to see Cheza now on her feet.
"They stayed downwind from us." Tsume takes a deep breath. "They're wolves for sure, that's how they knew to stay downwind."
All three of us fall silent, waiting for whoever was about to appear.