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(Summer Hiatus) Follow Kio on his perilious quest for answers as he meet new friends and new enemies. He must lay his fears aside if he wishes to change his fate, and save the others. But why did it even happen to him in the first place?

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3. Chapter Three

The late sun shone brightly with warmth, shedding it's red light upon the endless mass of trees that the green forest consisted of. The wind hummed along the swift summer breeze, promising a warm night to come. Dew that had gathered on the few blades of grass were long gone, devoured by the hungry sun or drunk by thirsty animals.

The scent of blood and death still hung closely in the air, but the smell of newly dug earth masked the horrifying scent somewhat.

Piles of soil laid in the most strange places as two animals clawed their way through the brown earth. Both of their coats looked newly washed, but none of the two seemed to pay any attention to the dust that crawled its way under their fur.

Their eyes were locked solemnly onto the hole they were clawing out, scraping and dragging the earth from one end to another. The hole was a large one, big enough for both of them to be in, but only the bodies of dead rats and the two living animals were in the desolated clearing.

Both of them continued in silence, no words being shared between them. The white rat clawed up paw fulls of earth, quickly scooping up a new paw full, doing it over and over. The black cat just clawed at the earth, spraying it over the clearing, obviously tired of all the digging.

The she-cat let out a muffled mew as her paw collided with a hard rock.

The rat looked up from his own work and threw the cat a confused look. “You okay, Aome?” He asked, stopping his digging as he moved to where the black cat sat.

“Yeah,” she answered, licking her bruised paw. “Just a scratch.” Aome meowed, as she inspected her tired limb and let it drop down on the ground again.

“What about you, Kio?” She inquired, settling her gaze on the freshly dug hole. “How are you feeling?” The black cat insisted, flicking one of her ears as a fly buzzed around it, trying to make the noise go away.

“Huh?” The rat looked puzzled at first, his tail waving back and forth, one of the ears lowered while the other was straight up and his mouth slightly ajar. Overall, the white fluff ball looked hilarious, and so thought the cat.

She let out a purr of amusement at the rat's antics, then drew her paw gently over his ear before diving in again. “I said; How are you feeling?” Aome asked for the third time, her patience running low and her body sore.

“Oh,” Kio muttered, having the decency to look slightly embarrassed by the need of having questions repeated. “I'm okay, I think.” He answered with a small smile plastered to his rodent face, eyes blinking uncontrollably as if the dust had decided to rest in his small black pools.

“Think?” Aome repeated, blinking her eyes in a mimicking fashion.

A smirk laced the rat's features as he saw the cat cheer him up wordlessly. She knew this was hard for him. Hard to let go. But she would without a doubt be there for him whenever he needed it.

Kio let the thoughts drift out of his head as he started to dread for their next task. The one they had been preparing together, one that was as unpleasant for him as it was for Aome.

The burial of his friends and family.

“Will you help me?” Kio requested, his voice shaking and his own eyes set on the hole in the ground before him.

“Of course.” The black cat said with a soft voice. “You should never do something like that on your own.” Aome finished, her gaze fixed on the hole.

As if on a lightning strike, the two began their struggle of burying the mass of bodies. Some were mangled and others were torn viciously apart, the fear scent still slightly fresh despite the passing time. But all bore the marks of dog teeth.

Kio winced as he fastened his teeth in the scruff of a brown rat and dragged it towards the hole. It's sightless eyes were turned towards him, glaring at him as thought it was still alive.

The stench of death was almost unbearable as Kio and Aome continued to fill the hole, dragging body after body.

***

The sun had sent it's last golden rays over the horizon and no longer adorned the sky, instead, countless stars shone brightly even though the blue moon was covered by small clouds, dotting the sky here and there.

Kio and Aome had finished covering the hole, now filled with dead bodies, with big stones to make sure no predator would dare to go for an easy meal or two. It was indeed a neat trick, but only few animals found it necessary, not many cared to go through the trouble of dragging rocks.

The two of them now sat in a silent vigil. Their bodies pressed close, seeking comfort in each other. Both of their coats were neatly groomed, no dust, sand or grit.

Kio's white coat gleamed silver in the moonlight that managed to shine through the clouds. His eyes were sad, but confident, as he sat in his abandoned home. One that would only be his home for a short while to come.

Aome sat completely still, paws tucked neatly under her chest as she turned her head to Kio. “Are you ready to go?” She asked gently, breaking their silent vigil.

Kio turned his head painfully slow, eyes swollen and red. “Now?” He asked with a tiny voice, tears rolling down his white cheeks. “So soon?” Kio continued, stifling another cry.

“Yes.” Aome answered firmly, standing up in a quick motion and letting her warmth fade away from Kio's side. She walked in a fast pace, not giving Kio time to recover.

Scrabbling to his paws, he stumbled to her side. “Where should we go?” He gasped out, feeling his body scream in protest as he put one paw in front of the other.

“I don't know about you,” she murmured, her mouth open as the familiar forest scents wafted into the roof of her mouth. “But I'm going to follow that dog.” Aome muttered as she followed the scent trail of the dog.

Kio stopped dead in his tracks. Follow that crazy mutt?

“What!” He all but yelled, the anger clear in his voice. Fur on the end, claws flexing and a defiant glare directed towards Aome.

Sighing, she turned to him, her eyes blazing with irritation. “Got a problem with it?” She hissed, gladly returning the glare.

“Yes!” Kio shouted, his small white teeth visible in the beginning of a snarl. “We just got rid of it! Why should we follow it?” He spat, rage seething beneath his fur.

“And why not?” She snarled, arching her back as if she was facing an enemy. “Look you idiot! I'm not gonna sit around, waiting for someone to track down that fleabag and then do nothing about it!” She reasoned. “I want to find the root of this, not just some puny pawn. We need to get to the bottom of this!” She mewed, her voice soft and pleading. Claws sheathed and her fur flat.

Kio was frozen in the spot. Was this really the right way to do things?

He held back another stingy retort as he looked her straight in the face, his strength suddenly drained by the power of her speech and her strong words. But concern still clouded his mind.

“What if we get too close to that dog? It can't be that far away.” Kio muttered, breaking the shared eye contact. His voice was steady as he spoke his doubts, no longer corrupted by anger or rage.

“I just wanted to get away from the colony.” Aome admitted, trouble welling up in her mismatched eyes. “It wouldn't be healthy for either of us to stay. Not even for one night.” The she-cat said hesitantly, as if she wasn't sure how he would take it.

Kio looked at her. She left because she was scared of staying there?

“Why didn't you just say so?” The rat asked, his voice soft and caring.

The cat shrugged as she looked at him with fear in her eyes. “What did you want me to say?” Aome asked. “Oh, I'm sorry. I'm scared out of my fur by this place. But I also chased away a rabid dog?” She finished in a sarcastic tone, her posture relaxed as she waved her tail back and forth.

Kio lightened up at this. There was nothing wrong with her being frightened by the colony. And no wonder she was; a mass grave filled to the brim with bodies and blood splattered all over the bushes and the grass. He would have been scared out of his wits. Especially when he thought about how she too, had been through an attack.

“It's okay to be scared.” Kio stated, catching her eyes as he shared a look with her. He clearly understood that she didn't want to talk about her own experience. It would hurt too much.

“Maybe we should just stay here for the night?” Aome asked, as she threw a glance here and there. There were good bushes that could act as a fine shelter for the warm summer night.

“Yeah, we could do that.” Kio mumbled quickly. They had already put back quite a distance, their fast pace had obviously been for a reason.

Before he had a chance to look at their surroundings properly, Aome had wandered over to a bush like tree with bright red berries. Her nose almost poking one of the berries, her eyes shining with curiosity. “What are they?” The she-cat muttered in a low voice, enthralled by the beautiful color.

“What?” Kio asked as he turned to face her. His eyes went wide with fear as the she-cat was deadly close to the bright red berry. “Don't!” He snapped, leaping towards Aome and pushing her away from the strange berries.

The cat let out a grunt as she was swept roughly off her paws by the force of the rat. “Don't ever touch those!” Kio demanded in a serious voice. “You can look, but don't ever touch them.” He repeated as he shifted his gaze from the cat to the bush.

Aome stared at him in terror. The intensity of his voice had left no room for argument. He had said it with so much authority and yet, his voice had been filled with fear.

“What's wrong with them?” She uttered, her voice a bit shaken but not enough to overpower the curiosity of her cat nature.

“They are poisonous,” Kio explained as he eyed them nervously, almost as if they would jump him the minute he decided not to look at them. “They may look delicious and inviting, but don't be fooled. The bright red flesh around the seed is harmless, but as soon as you take a nip and reach the seed...” He trailed off, eyes never leaving the bush of danger.

Aome shuddered. They had seemed so bright and inviting, yet now... If Kio hadn't been there to stop her, she might have decided to take a bite after all.

“Thanks.” Aome uttered, as she continued to eye the bush with equal intensity as Kio. “Should we go to sleep for the night?” The she-cat asked, making herself lie in a comfortable position right next to Kio.

Aome released a huge yawn before closing her eyes and tucking her paws under her chest. “Goodnight.” She mumbled to Kio, the sleep evident in her slurred voice.

“Goodnight.” Kio muttered as he pressed his fur to Aome's. He could easily feel her breath that way. As he too got comfortable, his eyelids soon began to droop, indicating the coming sleep.

Aome shifted beside him.

“Tomorrow I'll teach you how to hunt real food...” The cat whispered to the rat, her breath even as she succumbed into a deep and blissful slumber.

Kio had flung his black eyes open at her last minute statement, the moon almost reflecting itself in his white fur.

Hunt? He had only ever hunted berries and nuts before.

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